Previously: Character Profile: Laurynn Lee
Crimebuster High School was a lie. Students there did not learn how to fight crime. They learned algebra, and social studies, and English. They supposedly learned these things. Some of them learned these things. Most did not. Nobody cared. These kids already knew what they were going to be when they grew up, and only their mentors, usually their parents, were qualified to teach them anything about that. Every set of superpowers came with its own special cluster of educational needs, after all. There was no common pedagogy that could simultaneously prepare, say, a waterbreather, a cosmic surfer, a mind-reader, and a humanimal for a career as a superhero. That’s what the Sidekick Program was for: one on one, hands-on instruction in the streets, or the oceans, or the jungles, or the skies, etc. Crimebuster High School really was exactly what its most cynical students (Sky Prince first among them) said that it was: a glorified daycare, a sort of quarantine for kids too powerful, or too weird-looking, to go to school with normals.
Sky Prince knew everything, and not just because of his superpowers (which were, anyway, inferior versions of his dad’s powers, and hardly ever worked right). He made a point of knowing. He came to school early. He hung out with the custodial staff: One Leg, Fluffy, Fig Face Jimmy and Slow Flo. Most kids never acknowledged the custodial staff, or even realized that they existed. He hung out with them in their break room: a tiny windowless closet with a microwave and a card table, no chairs, no sink, no windows. It smelled of green onions and scorched plastic. It smelled of Lysol. Sky Prince always knew when the pop quizzes were coming. He always knew when there would be fire drills. The custodial staff kept him in the know.
“Hey it’s the kid!” they would say when he showed up. “Hey kid! Have a seat!” One of them would get up, stand in the doorway outside the tiny closet, to make room for him. “What’s cracking?”
At first Sky Prince thought that they welcomed his presence among them. He thought that they appreciated being noticed by a student. He thought that they fed him gossip, played cards with him, called him their friend, out of gratitude for his attention. Later, he realized that they were only tolerating him because of who his dad was. He realized that he made them nervous. He realized that they were making fun of him, just a little bit, whenever they talked to him, that their very enthusiasm itself was a way of expressing contempt. Not a lot of contempt. Just enough.
“Nothing much,” he would say. “What’s cracking by you?”
Everything in Sky Prince’s life, for good or for bad, came to him because of who his dad was. He had stopped fighting this a while ago. There was nothing he could do or say that would change the fact that he was the only son of the world’s most powerful superhero. The world’s most powerful anything. People did not think of him when they thought of him. They couldn’t. They always thought of his dad.
“What’s your real name, One Leg?” he said one day.
“My real name is One Leg,” said One Leg, stiffly. “What’s yours?”
“I don’t have a real name,” said Sky Prince. He could have said, “My real name is Sky Prince,” echoing One Leg’s response, making a joke of the whole thing, but that would not have been the truth. “Sky Prince” was just a knock-off of his dad’s name. It didn’t mean anything on its own. Sky Prince was only interested in the truth anymore.
“That sounds about right,” said One Leg, making a hop down the hallway, pushing his electronic broom in front of him, then making another hop, looking back. “I didn’t figure you would.”
Sky Prince was pretty sure that he didn’t like that response. That there was an edge to it, somehow. He couldn’t have said, though, exactly what kind of response he would have preferred.
Next: A Good Idea, Part Two