Biff! Bam! Pow! He Stole His Face!

“You’ve got to listen, you’ve made a big mistake. I’m not him!”

The words had the same impact as the last five attempts to convince Doctor Killerwatt. Namely, the villainous doctor simply snorted disdainfully and made another adjustment to the broken death ray.

Well, Doctor Killerwatt thought it was broken. For some reason, the mysterious purple tyranite rays which were supposed to devastate the hero High Flier weren’t having any effect. Not an iota. No writhing in pain, no screaming for mercy, no being consumed in violet radiation.

Lucas Lopez, who was getting very sick of being mistaken for High Flier, hoped the tyranite rays didn’t cause cancer. Also that the chains he was bound in wouldn’t cause visible bruising on his wrists. He didn’t look forward to explaining that. If he lived.

Things had gone straight to hell ever since someone snapped that photo of High Flier and the first of Lucas’ coworkers had said: gosh! He sure looks like you, doesn’t he, Lucas? And now here he was, in a supervillain’s lair full of mysterious chemicals, crackling tesla coils, countless safety violations, and a death ray pointed right at him. A tyranite death ray. Small mercies it wasn’t the normal kind.

“I’m just a fashion blogger,” said Lucas. “I used to be the social pages reporter. Maybe you saw my name? And how I’m not a hero? I only care about nice pants and brand names. I hate blogging. It’s a transitional period while the paper readjusts its market strategy since pivoting to video didn’t work. I mean, if I was going to be stuck blogging I would rather have had the political beat because you know, opinions! But Clara wanted it more, like I thought she was going to knife me in an alley more, so now it’s hers and I’m narrowed down to fashion so please stop trying to kill me.”

“Shut up,” said Doctor Killerwatt. Lucas considered giving Killerwatt some costume advice. The navy blue with light stripes and non-matching mecha backpack with… satellite dish? And metal arms sticking out just wasn’t working for Lucas.

“I won’t even press charges. Just untie me and point me at a bus stop,” said Lucas. “Which I need Because I can’t fly.”

“You expect me to believe someone who dresses like you is some sort of fashion expert?” said Killerwatt snidely, hitting the death ray with a wrench.

Lucas looked down at his ill-fitting white shirt with bonus side-fanny pack and khakis. “…It was my day off and I was just going out for a jug of milk when you decided to kidnap me. Because you’re a lunatic! I know what I’m doing! It’s a real job!”

Doctor Killerwatt ignored him.

A few minutes later, the death ray was back in action, humming and glowing shades of colour Lucas didn’t even know could exist, but primarily purple.

“Aha!” said Killerwatt, turning to monologue at Lucas. “What luck! I discovered the identity of High Flier, none other than mild-mannered reporter–“

“Blogger,” correct Lucas.

“–REPORTER Lucas Lopez! Who would have thought that a mere pair of glasses could fool the great Doctor Killerwatt! And now? I will destroy you and take over the pathetic Harbour City.”

He set the ray off again. Lucas closed his eyes tight as he was bathed in a strange purple light.

After five minutes of this, Doctor Killerwatt turned the death ray off again.

“What on earth is wrong with this thing?” he muttered and dove back into fixing it. His machine backpack whirred, handing him tools and moving around a lit limb to illuminate the depths of the machine.

Lucas shook his head. His mouth tasted like onions from his ray bath.

“I suppose I should try an old fashioned bullet,” said Doctor Killerwatt, turning to face Lucas. He pulled out a gun.

Lucas cringed. The chains held him in place.

That was when High Flier burst in through the skylights. And through Killerwatt’s machines. High Flier grabbed a falling piece of roof and whipped it away from himself and into the death ray, sending it flying into a far wall.

Then he landed in front of Lucas.

Lucas had to admit they did look similar. Somehow High Flier even had the same curl of hair on his forehead that Lucas did. And Lucas liked to fancy he was nearly as muscular as High Flier. He did work out.

High Flier flashed him a huge cheesy smile, reached out, and snapped the chains holding him like strips of paper.

“Time to go,” he said, hefting up Lucas and ascending rapidly through the hole in the ceiling. Was it Lucas’ imagination or did High Flier have a faint purple blush going on? “This is no place to dawdle.”

Within seconds they were high in the night sky, High Flier holding Lucas to his chest while the stars twinkled above them.

Below them, the lab exploded.

“Ha! So much for Doctor Killerwatt!” said High Flier. “He must have hit the self-destruct. Never can bear to be arrested, monsters like him. Well, time for me to take my leave. Stay safe, citizen!”

“No!” shouted Lucas as he was dropped off on a nearby roof. “He was a witness that you’re not me!”

“Farewell, citizen!” said High Flier, saluting Lucas with a grin completely unlike Lucas’, on a face just like Lucas’, and he flew off with Lucas’ fingers missing his cape by inches.

Lucas sat down hard on the grimy rooftop and put his head in his hands. The lone bit of luck in this whole debacle was that his glasses were miraculously unbroken. It was bad enough putting up with the disaster that was his current life, but if he couldn’t even see to escape it… he hoped this building had rooftop accessible stairs.

In the distance, emergency vehicles converged on the burning lab.


“I see you were busy yesterday,” said Clara Kensington when Lucas came in to work. She held up her phone to show a report on Doctor Killerwatt’s lab exploding and reports of High Flier on the scene. Behind her thick horn-rimmed glasses, her piercing eyes glared at him. Lucas had no time for said eyes today.

WAREHOUSE EXPLODES – HIGH FLIER ON SCENE, POLICE INVESTIGATING

“Still not him, Clara,” he said, sitting down heavily at his desk. He didn’t technically have to come into the office with his current job position, but it was better that he did. He’d tried working on the blog from home, but that had just ended in lots of naps and the same pajamas for six days straight.

Or, at least, it had been better before that damned photo.

“The boss wants to see you, Clara said.

“What did I do?” Lucas asked the world as he rose. He jolted the desk and Clara put the post-it note count for ‘days since Lucas destroyed a coffee mug’ back at 0. Lucas looked pitifully the remains of his latest two dollar mug.

“It’s what you’re going to do,” said helpful Unpaid-Intern-Timmy-Who-Had-Just-Shown-Up-One-Day, getting to work cleaning up the porcelain victim. “She’s got plans.”

“I don’t like her plans,” whined Lucas.

Silently debating whether the ringing in his ears from yesterday’s explosion meant he should just give up and go home, he finally went to face his destiny.

Peri Black, their dedicated editor-in-chief had kept the Daily Galaxy going through constant news industry turmoil, saving their jobs and livelihoods in the process. She wasn’t a bad boss. She was a great boss. You just had to do two things: Never cross her, and never insult Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Part of what made her great was her willingness to try anything to keep the paper afloat. Unfortunately for Lucas, lately this meant odd or dangerous situations because for some mysterious reason, his co-workers were convinced he was invincible.

Lucas would find High Flier, and he would end him. He’d do what no supervillain had managed. He knew it in his heart.

He opened the door to Ms. Black’s office.

“Lucas! So, about Friday’s fundraiser,” she started without preamble. “I want you to make sure that the winner is London Hyatt, and I want an exclusive about her new fashion line.”

Lucas took an unoffered seat and blinked politely at his boss.

“I need to hear a yes, Lucas,” she said.

“I need to know what you’re talking about, boss,” he answered.

“The fundraising Gala? At the Keystone? You’re doing a draw for a date with you?”

“I’m going to be what.”

“Fine, ‘High Flier’ is doing a draw. You know who I want to win,” said Ms. Black.

“I’m not High Flier.”

“Lucas, don’t lie to me. No one as clumsy and lazy as you is built like that unless they’re engaging in a mass deception.”

Lucas clutched his head. “I’m not–and I’m not–you know what? Get me a ticket to this fundraiser. I’m going to prove I’m not him. And I’m going to blog about how awful his costume is. Is that fashion enough for you?”

Peri Black tilted her head and regarded her employee.

“Fine. Let’s see how this plays out , Lopez. Bring me a scoop, one way or the other.”

Lucas took an extra long coffee break after that meeting.


Lucas wasn’t, despite the late and unlamented Doctor Killerwatt’s claims, a fashion disaster. At all.

His wardrobe was just adjusting, slowly, to the ‘new Lucas’ after his bodybuilding began paying off in spades. He was getting really good at it, and only dropped the weights on his foot once a session now. He had a limited budget, so he didn’t exactly have fashion-spread clothes for quick runs to the grocery.

But that didn’t mean he wasn’t prepared for the Gala. Oh no. He had the perfect suit, tailored (by him, with blood in the hems from needle pinpricks to prove it. Thank goodness it was black) to fit New Lucas, and he looked good. He looked very good.

Maybe, he thought, he could pick up a rich husband or wife at this shindig and convince them to move far away from High Flier’s turf. Most people didn’t know about his High Flier issues – but he was sure that luck couldn’t last. Or it was already gone, now that he’d been kidnapped by a murderous supervillain. His left eye twitched.

But! This Gala would solve everything. If High Flier really was going to be there in search of a date, the guests seeing Lucas and himself in the same room would lay to rest the myth they were one and the same. It was perfect.

“Garish white costume after labour day, with godawful blue and red highlights,” he muttered to himself, composing his High Flier article in his head as he went up the elevator to the Keystone Gala. He didn’t know which of the many possible reasons the bellboy was giving him an odd look and he didn’t ask. He toyed with his camera.

He stepped out of the elevator into opulence.

Everyone who was someone in Harbour City was there. Heiresses, billionaires, actors. Lucas pulled up his camera and started snapping photos, because no matter what there was a lot of material for his job here. London Hyatt, for instance, laughing in a gorgeous pink number. What WAS the mayor wearing? What was the governor wearing? He loved it. Another of Hyatt, because hell, why not.

His fifth photo was his own face.

He lowered the camera and took in High Flier, standing in front of him and out of costume. It had to be him – Lucas had no twin brother.

High Flier wore a grey coat over a strange blue shirt – the collar cut so so it should have flopped uselessly to his shoulders, yet stayed close to his neck instead. The coat descended to his thick waist and over his muscular arms.

His grey pants had seamed sections, and a pair of seamless black shoes finished off the outfit.

“Hello,” he said to Lucas. “Fancy seeing you again. You won’t believe how happy I am that you’re here!”

You,” hissed Lucas.

“It’s seriously great you’re here, I need a favour,” he said, gently but forcibly pulling Lucas out of the party and into a broom closet. “No one’s realized I’m here yet and there’s a crisis on the river. High Flier’s needed. But I have a commitment…”

“No,” said Lucas, eyes widening.

“Anything you want, I’ll pay you back for this,” said High Flier. “You just need to go and get me a date for charity while I’m out dealing with the kraken.”

“Kraken?” said Lucas.

The broom closet was very cramped and the light was dim, but he could discern High Flier’s serious expression.

“Kraken. Everyone who lives along the riverside is in danger right now. Please, this charity does a lot of good for the children of Harbour City.”

“I… fine.”

“Great! I’ll go plainclothes, you can borrow my costume.” And, with a flash of superspeed and a lot of hands touching Lucas in a whirl, he was suddenly in High Flier’s costume.

He was also, he realized, missing his glasses.

“You can’t go on with these,” said High Flier, holding the glasses. “I’ll be back! Good luck! Choose someone who isn’t a villain!” And with that he was gone.

Lucas stood there, getting his bearings. He touched the costume. The material felt different than anything he’d ever touched before. Also it was loose around the waist. Apparently there were some differences between him and High Flier.

He felt his way gingerly out of the closet and back among the crowd. He couldn’t make out any faces, let alone where the stage was. Fortunately, he was swept up by High Flier’s designated event ‘handlers’ and deposited on stage in short order.

“Where were you!” a female handler demanded. “You’re an hour late!” Lucas had the hysterical thought that High Flier might have sought him out so he could avoid all this. That was the final straw.

“I have to go. Quickly,” he hissed at them. He wasn’t sure how long he could maintain the charade, and all he needed was another Doctor Killerwatt wannabe for this to end in a bloodbath.

“We’ll speed things up,” whispered a male handler, obviously assuming the city was in danger. He then vanished from Lucas’ poor eyesight and into the blurry crowd.

He tried to smile at the crowd, as if he weren’t in the middle of encroaching disaster. He wondered where his camera was. And his glasses. For all he knew, High Flier had simply put them on a shelf in the closet. He’d never convince anyone he wasn’t High Flier if he was actually posing as him. He was going to end that man.

That kraken, he said to himself, better be worth it.

A woman tapped on the microphone.

“We’re adjusting the events of the evening!” she said perkily. “The draw for the date with High Flier is happening right now! Everyone, cross your fingers and hope for a night to remember!”

Lucas was led to a rotating wheel filled with paper. He reached in to pull out a name and realized if anyone got close enough to ‘thank’ him for picking them, they would definitely realize he was a fraud.

So he read off the only name that couldn’t give him away:

“Lucas Lopez!”

And then he got the hell out of there.


“I asked you to do me a favour,” said a disappointed voice just outside Lucas’ bedroom window, much later that night. Lucas pulled his pillow over his head. “Why did you interfere with the contest results instead?”

Lucas winced.

“If you wanted a date, why didn’t you just ask?” continued High Flier. “I said I’d pay you back, and that could have been it.”

He sounded confused. Hurt, almost. .

Lucas burrowed further under his pillow.

There was a creaking noise, and he heard a soft thump on his nightstand.

“Your camera, clothes, and glasses,” said High Flier. “I’ll pick you up for our ‘date’ at five. There was no way to give the prize to another person, and if you want it so badly…”

With the sound of his window being repaired, High Flier was gone.

“I am a disaster,” said Lucas into his pillow.


At six am, his cellphone started buzzing. Groaning, Lucas reached out for it.

At this hour, and he knew it was exactly on the dot, the only person texting him would be Clara. Her code of texting honour meant phone silence from midnight to six am, unless it was a work emergency. The fashion beat was low on real emergencies, except that one time when the Mayor wore a mind control gem as part of her inauguration outfit. But that had been during normal work hours.

He couldn’t find his cellphone.

Or his glasses.

All his hand kept hitting was… fabric?

Last night’s ‘adventure’ smacked his waking brain with a rush and he moaned, putting his face back on the pillow. There was no way Clara was texting him about anything else. And now he had… a date? A scolding? With High Flier.

His phone kept buzzing.

Finally he forced himself up, scavenged through the blurry pile High Flier had left him, and found his glasses. Then his phone.

Too many messages for this time of the morning. Most of them from Clara. And true to her pattern, they started at nine pm (“Oh,” said Lucas, “That’s when I ruined my life.”), then cut off abruptly at midnight and resumed at six on the dot.

He opened to the latest and typed: “Please stop while I backread.”

Then he went to make a cup of coffee, ignoring his phone for fifteen minutes. He ate half a self-pity chicken (those muscles didn’t fuel themselves) and finally mustered up the energy to read and respond.

The first message was a photo of Lucas on stage, pulling out ‘his’ name.

“You expect me to believe that’s not you?” said Clara’s text.

He scrolled to the next.

“Your own name? What the hell?”

The next few messages were sequences of ??? and demands he answer his phone, which he really would have done, if at the time his phone hadn’t been in a storage closet and he hadn’t been enduring an incredibly awkward taxi back to his condo – that the driver refused to let him pay for, because ‘anything for High Flier!’ – He was just glad he found the right gnome with his key under it without the aid of his glasses.

The newest messages warned that his jig was up, that there was no way that wasn’t him on stage.

“That was me,” he answered. “I’m not High Flier. He had me stand in for him.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“He had to go deal with a kraken attack.”

“Metrowoman fought off the Kraken. It’s all over the news. High Flier was at the Gala.”

“Well maybe he was keeping a low profile so no one realized ‘he’ was in two places at once. It’s what I’d do.”

“Uh huh.”

Lucas cursed when he realized what he’d typed.

Clara was sending him pictures of Metrowoman fighting an enormous, horned octopus, with her trademark enormous cape whipping around and, unlike that damned High Flier’s costume, succeeding in obscuring her identifiable features.

“Where do you even get these?” he asked.

“I have my sources. Confess, Lucas Lopez. I’ll even help you make a new costume with a mask as a prize for coming clean.”

“I am not, and I will not ever be, High Flier. I’ve got to submit my pictures from last night and make an article to make that ordeal worth it.”

“You going to talk about pulling the name for the date with yourself, HF?”

“Bite me,” he sent back.


Ms. Black wasn’t exactly thrilled to have an article consisting solely of puffed-up summaries of the four photos he’d managed to get before a superhero stole his glasses (a fact he’d chosen to omit). But she said it was publishable, and that was that.

She had been the non-Clara phone messages, asking him what game he was playing. He had no good answer, beyond telling her the truth. Which she didn’t believe.

“I’m not gonna press you, Lopez, but you’re playing a dangerous game with well… everything,” she said. “This supers business isn’t safe. That explosion the other day was some kinda mad science lab. If you’d been near there – there was a ton of tyranite in the building, and some of it went sky high. Watch yourself when you go around the city in case you run into some in the debris.”

“Still not High Flier,” he said.


Five o’clock was coming. High Flier was going to ‘pick him up’, whatever that meant. He wondered what kind of car a superhero drove. He considered hiding in the cellar with the door barred. But curiosity was more powerful than dread, so at five he was outside his front door in a light leather coat, his nice green scarf, and some tight jeans which would hopefully be a lot harder to steal at superspeed.

He didn’t see any cars coming. Going back inside was still a possibility.

Suddenly he was airborne, caught in High Flier’s arms as they rose above the city.

“Hello,” said High Flier.

“Oh Jesus!” yelled Lucas.

“Not exactly,” said High Flier. He held Lucas closer to his chest as he flew. He wasn’t in the costume Lucas hated. He was in civilian clothes – from what Lucas could make out at his angle, with the same weird style and cut that he’d worn to the Gala. Lucas realized he might actually have the only costume High Flier owned still dumped on his bedroom floor from the night before.

“Listen, I just panicked when I realized they were gonna get a good look at me. I’m sorry I messed up your plan. Please don’t drop me.”

High Flier looked hurt. “I wouldn’t drop you. I may have been upset last night, but I put you in that situation in the first place.”

“How’s Metrowoman?” asked Lucas.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, she was out there fighting the kraken too…”

“Ah, we… didn’t cross paths,” said High Flier. “I don’t know her. But she’s quite the woman. A real spitfire.”

“Yeah, well, you should pass on some advice to her if you do get to ‘know her’: she better keep her face hidden in case she looks like someone else too. Why do you look like me?” demanded Lucas.

High Flier considered it.

“It’s more I wondered why you looked like me,” he said finally. “When I saw you on Doctor Killerwatt’s table, it was certainly a surreal moment.”

“Yeah, my life has been a surreal moment since that photo of you came out and my entire office decided they had a hero in their midst. They keep trying to trick me into ‘revealing who I am’ so they can crow about being right.”

“And the kidnapping.”

“Yesandthekidnapping.”

“I’m truly sorry for the trouble I’ve caused you, Mr. Lopez,” said High Flier, adjusting his flight so he could land on a grassy hill outside the city. “Please let me make it up to you?”

“All I need is a photo of us together and we’re good.”

“I can’t do that,” said High Flier.

Lucas put his hands on his hips and glared as forcefully as he could.

“And why exactly not?”

“I’ll do you better,” said High Flier, evading the question. “I’ll personally drop you off somewhere, your choice, as long as there’s no photos.”

Lucas paused. As long as he could have Clara present, she was enough of a witness to bolster his story. He gave a short nod of assent.

“That’ll do.”

“Excellent!” said High Flier, clapping his hands. “And now for our date!”

Lucas looked around at the grassy hill and nearby trees, turning gold and fiery orange from fall.

“We really don’t need to.”

“Please,” said High Flier. “I realize it’s all been a misunderstanding, but I don’t really get a chance to date much in my line of business. I’ll be right back.” He stood back to take off.

Lucas got his first good look at High Flier’s ‘I’ve lost my costume’ outfit. A long, neck-to-toe black coat gave him the aspect of a dramatic priest. Lucas had to admit, he liked the look.

And with a nod at Lucas’ smile, High Flier vanished into the air. Lucas hoped he actually intended to come back and this wasn’t revenge.

He texted Clara.

“On a date with High Flier. He says no pics.”

“Sure he does,” she answered.


When High Flier got back, he was in his garish costume again and had a bag of fast food.

“You broke into my house. Again,” said Lucas.

“I fixed it. Again,” said High Flier.

He pulled off his cape, which seemed to grow as he shook it out and set it on the ground as their picnic blanket.

“Dinner is served,” he said with a flourish, presenting the bucket of fried chicken and fries. He set down two soda bottles.

“Romantic,” said Lucas, grabbing a drumstick.

“It’s not like I can take you to a restaurant right now,” said High Flier. “I mean, I might be able to in the future.”

“In the future?”

“Life is full of endless possibility,” said High Flier, opening his soda.

“Were you actually trying to get a partner from that charity date?” said Lucas between bites. What an idea.

“It… seemed like a good idea. Then it all sort of fell apart. Then you showed up,” said High Flier brightly. “Before I had to go on stage.”

“…was the kraken actually why you left, or a handy excuse?” said Lucas, light dawning.

High Flier shifted awkwardly, and looked away .

“Why no photos? The one that ruined my life looked fine.”

“They won’t all look fine,” said High Flier. “Please, I don’t want to discuss this.”

“Then what do you want to discuss?” said Lucas. “I don’t know anything about sports and the weather’s nice.”

“You really think my costume is garish?” asked High Flier.

“I hate it,” said Lucas. “I’d have gone with something that showed off your arms and more gold to go with your skin.”

“Gold’s not garish?”

“Not when it’s matte.”

High Flier looked down at his costume. “I’ll think about it. There’s no rules about redesigning.”

“Maybe wait after winter for the arm thing,” said Lucas with a touch of empathy.

“Oh, I don’t get cold,” said High Flier. He sat a bit closer to Lucas and sipped his drink. “You’re comfortable out here, right?”

“Fine and dandy,” said Lucas. “Nice fall weather.” He looked over at High Flier. It was narcissistic, but he really was an incredibly handsome man. They didn’t look that alike though. For instance, Lucas was pretty sure he didn’t have what… what was that? Purple stubble? Wait, the purple was rising on High Flier’s skin. Then he noticed High Flier’s eyes getting unfocused.

He found out how heavy High Flier was a second later when he collapsed directly on top of Lucas.

Tyranite.

There had to be tyranite nearby. He shoved High Flier away with a muttered apology and leapt up. He had to find it quick – as far as he knew, that stuff was deadly to his date. That’s what they all said about High Flier. It was one of the only things people knew about High Flier.

The first time it had really come to Lucas’ attention was when… was it Doctor Killerwatt? It had been some madman with a tyranite powered robot, at least, who tore through the city challenging High Flier.

It had been a battle for which Lucas had no alibi. He’d been working at home, alone in his pajamas, watching on television as a giant tentacled robot smashed through buildings and cars trying to crush High Flier.

Eventually High Flier came out in a suit made of lead, grabbed one of the robot’s tentacles, and sent it flying out of the atmosphere.

Before that, though, it had looked like High Flier was doomed, lying there poisoned from the tyranite powering the robot before Metrowoman came to his rescue. No wonder he clearly admired her, despite his ‘I don’t know her.’

Purple, Lucas thought. He had to look for purple. That’s what that death ray had emitted. And High Flier must be able to handle it for a short amount of time, as he’d managed to rescue Lucas from Doctor Killerwatt’s lab without perishing.

He saw it in a small crater halfway down the hill. The glowing purple tyranite. He seized it in one hand, flinging it as hard as he could down the hill and away from High Flier.

There was a groan behind him. Either it had worked and High Flier was coming to, or Lucas was about to be found with the corpse of a superhero. When he’d talked about wanting to end High Flier, he hadn’t meant it! He raced back up the hill.

High Flier had dragged himself over to a bush to be sick.

“You okay?” said Lucas, crouching down to rub his back as High Flier heaved.

High Flier shot him a thumbs up, gasping for air.

“That– that stuff is– I hate it, Lucas. Thank you. Now I owe you again,” he said.

“You don’t owe me anything,” Lucas protested. “Not letting someone die is actually part of the law.”

High Flier laughed and hugged Lucas close. “I mean it. I owe you.”

“We’ll see,” said Lucas.

He finished off the chicken while High Flier made arrangements on the phone for the tyranite to be recovered and destroyed, then they finished off the evening watching the sun set on Harbour City.


Things did not go smoothly after that. True to High Flier’s word, he tried to help Lucas. And while he was always there when Lucas happened to be about to be hit by a bus, or falling down the slippery steps on the pathway home, or being kidnapped for the second time (unrelated to High Flier, he’d followed a scoop about a new line of blouses too far), he wasn’t there when Lucas really needed him.

When Lucas needed him to stand beside him with his co-workers, to make them take his word about who he really was.

He did like the attention (and the lack of injury) since it didn’t come with with any more bedroom window break-ins.

But that wasn’t enough of a social benefit.

Each time Lucas arranged for High Flier to prove their individuality, something went wrong. The first time, it was the Crocodillians in the sewers. The next time, the Atlantean queen needed him deep in the harbour. By the third time, he didn’t even get a chance to explain that High Flier would be right there once he was done with a mission on the moon before his co-workers just walked away.

“It’s not working,” said Clara. “Just admit it.”

“I’m not High Flier,” Lucas said through gritted teeth. “He just keeps having to help people.”

“Off camera? With no way of proving he’s where you say he is?” said Clara. “You could at least get someone to pose as him, running through the brush like Bigfoot. It’d be easier to just snap a selfie of you two together.”

“He… doesn’t like photos,” said Lucas.

“Right,” said Clara. “You don’t like being identified.”

Lucas sighed and opened his laptop while Clara walked off, laughing. The first photo he pulled up was the one that had started all his troubles: High Flier squinting, face mostly in profile but with the same dark curl of hair and facial shape that had convinced his co-workers that Lucas was a hero.

On impulse he pulled up the photo he’d taken at the Gala, that he hadn’t really bothered with. Maybe he could find enough differences between them without needing High Flier around at all.

He knew right away this was the first time he’d really looked at the photo. Because in the camera’s flash, High Flier did not have Lucas’ eyes. Instead, he had two yellow reptilian eyes with red slits.

Lucas slammed down his laptop’s cover. He felt like he’d seen something he wasn’t meant to. Ever.


On the walk home, Lucas was extremely careful. No close calls. No near misses. No need for High Flier to appear and rescue him. No way that they’d have to talk, and Lucas ask about what he’d seen.

Had High Flier stolen his face? Was he some sort of alien?

Of course he was an alien, realized Lucas. That robot that attacked him with the tyranite as good as proved it. That rock wasn’t from earth and it didn’t hurt anyone else, unless they ate it. Not like High Flier, who couldn’t even look at it without passing out.

Was High Flier planning to eat him and take his place?

Was High Flier going to lay eggs in him? Not that they’d done anything more than the one date and certainly hadn’t gotten as far as egg laying, thank you.

By the time Lucas got into his condo, he’d worked out an entire backstory for High Flier – the last of his planet, come to Earth as his new home, given a generic identity by the FBI. Lucas’ identity, some kid from New Mexico who’d never leave the family farm. Then, by chance, Lucas moved to Harbour City after discovering a taste for high fashion and lattes, and now was face to face with the alien he was never meant to meet.

Yeah, thought Lucas. That made sense. It was almost poetic and didn’t involve eggs being laid in anybody.

And he definitely didn’t need to confront High Flier about it, and would continue to not confront him by never needing help again. Ever. And High Flier would have no need to show up. Probably monitoring him for his disguise.

Lucas felt a little pang at the thought of cutting off contact with High Flier. Which, he told himself, was ridiculous. He didn’t even know the man – alien’s – name. And it had been one date. That High Flier spent a good portion of puking in a bush.

When he entered his bedroom, wiping his glasses on his shirt, he noticed something was wrong.

The smell. The smell was wrong. Usually his room smelled comfortably of clean laundry and sunshine.

It didn’t smell like rot.

He put his glasses back on.

Doctor Killerwatt was in his bedroom. Or, what was left of Doctor Killerwatt. He was being held together primarily with machines, his long greasy brown hair now only a few hunks of sickly grey. And his face! Oh god, his face!

“Hello, Lucas Lopez,” slurred Doctor Killerwatt.

Lucas backed up. His back hit the bedroom door. His hand scrabbled for the handle. But before he could get away, the new metal implants sticking up from Doctor Killerwatt’s back pushed Killerwatt high into the air and he flew forward, grabbing Lucas with his horrible bone-exposed arms.

“You’ll want to hold on,” he said, with his ruined mouth.

A metal ‘arm’ pointed at the wall and blasted a hole through it.

Then Killerwatt and Lucas took to the skies.

It wasn’t like being carried by High Flier. Doctor Killerwatt made no effort to make it comfortable – or safe – for Lucas. He felt like the Doctor’s grip was cutting him in half.

“I’m not High Flier!” he yelled.

“I know,” said Doctor Killerwatt. “That’s why I’m going to kill you.”


It didn’t make sense, thought Lucas groggily. High Flier had always been right there to rescue him, after every other small incident. How could he let Lucas be kidnapped by what remained of Doctor Killerwatt?

He was in the secret basement of the destroyed lab, tied up only with rope this time and mouth gagged. For reasons unknown to him, Doctor Killerwatt had given him an injection. He was feeling pretty woozy.

Doctor Killerwatt stood by a hole in the ceiling, head twitching like he was having an invisible conversation. His… his face was pulled back in a parody of a smile.

“He’ll be here soon,” said Doctor Killerwatt. “Not even Metrowoman’s help could get him out of that jam fast enough to stop me.”

Lucas would have answered, if he could. The gag felt awful in his mouth. And tasted like onions, for some disgusting reason. There was a weird purple haze in front of his eyes. He shook his head to clear it. No luck.

“His little crush is his downfall,” said Doctor Killerwatt. “His narcissism. Oh, what man thinks himself so perfect that he can only love his own mirror? I’ve been watching him. Watching you. Your own guardian angel. And you’re going to destroy him for me.”

Lucas head dropped forward.

“I suppose next I’ll have to kill Metrowoman,” said Doctor Killerwatt thoughtfully. “Just need to find her weakness. His was so… simple.”

His arm throbbed purple where Doctor Killerwatt had injected the tyranite.

“Goodbye, Lucas Lopez. I hope it hurts. Like I hurt,” slurred Doctor Killerwatt and he blasted away into the sky, sending the ceiling falling down behind him.


“Lucas! Lucas, I’m here!” High Flier shouted as he ripped apart the rubble to get to Lucas. Lucas tried to call out a warning, as disoriented as he was, but the gag continued to exist.

High Flier burst through with sunlight and flew to Lucas, ripping apart the rope holding him and carefully removing the gag.

Then he kissed Lucas in relief.

The purple spread across High Flier’s face, veins glowing as the poison spread through him. Lucas couldn’t hold him up. Couldn’t hold himself up.

They collapsed to the ground.

Thankfully, they both had a friend in Metrowoman. She’d been on High Flier’s heels to help in the rescue.

“Lucas!” she yelled. She grabbed them both up and Lucas got a good, close look at her face.

“Clara…” he muttered, “glasses are a terrible disguise.”

“Shut up,” she said. “I’m going to save your life and you’re never going to speak of this.”


When Lucas woke up, he was in a hospital bed hooked up to a surprising number of IVs. One glowed green.

Clara, back in civilian clothes and her thick glasses, was napping in the chair by his bed.

“Hey?” he said. His mouth tasted mercifully onion-free.

She snorted and woke up. “Hey, you didn’t die in your sleep.”.

“How’d they–“

“Ever since that tyranite got scattered across the city, they had to come up with ways to deal with poisoning from accidental ingestion. You’re lucky there was a breakthrough.”

“High Flier?” said Lucas, twisting his fingers.

“Some government people said they’d take care of him. I guess you were telling the truth.”

“Of course I was.”

“Seriously, though, why are you making out with your twin?”

“That’s a new development and also none of your business. I feel awful. Can I have water?”

Clara nodded and fetched him a glass.

“They said he’ll be okay, Lucas.”

“I hope so. I don’t even know his name and he nearly died because he wanted to protect me,” Lucas sighed. He sipped the water. “I figured out his secret. He’s some kind of alien.”

“Huh. Identity theft? Didn’t consider that angle.”

“Are you gonna put this in the Galaxy?” he asked.

“Of course not. I do politics, not local interest. I tread the line enough when I sell photos of myself as Metrowoman.”

“That’s good money, though.”

“It’s great money and I’m glad you realize that. There’s hope for you yet, Lucas.”


He didn’t dare go home once he was discharged. Not just because there was a huge hole in wall, over which a neighbour had helpfully taped a giant tarp. Because he knew Doctor Killerwatt was still out there.

Clara solved the problem by inviting him to stay in her quote unquote ‘secret sanctum’: another high tech hole in the ground, but one with a secret entrance.

It had a cave system. He almost fell into the river.

Clara set up a cot for him and told him the wifi password.

“Boss says it’s okay for you to ‘work from home’,” she confirmed. “So while I protect the city alone and hunt down Doctor Killerwatt…”

“He says you’re next,” warned Lucas.

“No, he’s next.”

When she left, Lucas scanned headlines for any High Flier sightings. None. He wished they’d at least had a second date. He wished he knew High Flier’s name.


Clara kept him supplied with pizza and found the gnome and condo key to retrieve his clothes, so he at least felt human as he hid in the ground like a mole person.

Focusing on work and industry minutiae only distracted him half the time. The rest he spent contemplating everything he didn’t know about High Flier: who he was, what he was, and was he okay. And his own concerns, specifically whether a supervillain was coming to kill him.

On the eighth day, he came across an article about a surge in tyranite poisonings from corruption of a nearby township’s well.

“It can’t have flown that far…” he said to himself, checking the distance and his own personal estimate of how far a blown-up lab could have sent the tyranite. As far as he knew, there’d only been the one purple meteor, of which chunks had gone ‘missing’ shortly after High Flier made the scene.

He texted Clara. He had to hand it to her; even in costume, she never left him on read.

“I’ll check it out. No sign of your boyfriend yet.”

“He wasn’t my boyfriend.”

He hit send with mixed feelings.

He’d wandered all over Clara’s secret base over the eight days he’d been hiding, and felt he knew it pretty well so far. The training room, he’d immediately marked a no-go zone after he found out she trained with firing spikes and spikes on fire. The costume room was fun. He’d tried on a few masks, but they’d looked silly with glasses on top. The neat thing was, there were no buttons for Lucas to operate. The equipment, doors, everything seemed to open for him automatically.

“I put you in the system,” Clara explained.

In the comics heroes always had a huge monitor bank, but that was where Clara let him down. All she had was a police scanner and a lot of online newsfeeds. And he had to use his own laptop.

“I have it set up just the way I like it,” Clara said. Fine, then.

He’d asked what was up with the design of the base and she’d just said she was from a hidden civilization, like that explained anything.

He gave up on distracting himself and checked for an update on the tyranite poisoning. He checked for sightings of High Flier.

No, and yes.

Yes? He checked again. Just a social media hashtag, but he’d been sighted dodging drones over downtown.

#HFLIESAGAIN

“Yeah ’cause HF is that slow lol” said the video’s first doubting comment.

Tyranite again. Lucas had a sick feeling. And Clara was out of town now, thanks to him.

He slammed his laptop shut. He wasn’t going to be the victim this time. The bystander.

He knew what he needed to do.

Clara had many wonderful toys. He’d found one of them by hitting himself in the face with it. An invisible mini-jet. She’d laughed at him, then shown him how to open it.

At the time, he couldn’t figure out why a woman who could fly would even need it. But that didn’t matter now.

He raced to the armoury, which also contained the base’s second exit.

Hoping he was ‘in the system’ for the jet, he opened the door and climbed in. The controls lit up and the outside door opened. His heart fell into his stomach as the jet roared off, his mind auto-directing it to his destination: to save High Flier.

He hoped High Flier wasn’t out of the game yet.

He hoped the jet had weapons and he wouldn’t have to play whack-a-mole with what was, essentially, his face.

High Flier was up ahead, being dogged by the last drone. He was moving slow. For a man faster than sight when he needed to be… Lucas felt sick.

The mini-jet didn’t have weapons. He didn’t have time to find another solution.

He plowed into the drone head-on. It shot one last feeble purple ray and plummeted straight into a trash bin.

Then the jet crashed.

Well, almost.

Inches from the ground, it hovered. Lucas popped the door and scrambled out. Holding the sparking, now-visible outer shell was High Flier. He’d looked better.

“You couldn’t stay out of trouble,” he said.

“Of course not,” said Lucas. He held out his hands. High Flier placed the jet softly on the ground, floated to Lucas, and took them.

“Is it safe to kiss you now?” he asked. Lucas nodded.

They kissed.

Another drone showed up. High Flier broke contact for a half second to destroy it with the thrown remains of the jet, and went back to kissing him.


“Well, you’ve got cyborg zombie on your tail, HF,” said Clara, after making Lucas grovel for destroying her invisible miniature jet.

“I noticed. I wonder what made him so determined? He was just another villain in the crowd.” High Flier took a sip of his peppermint tea. He said it helped him feel better after coming close to tyranite.

They were gathered in Clara’s base, in the makeshift kitchen consisting of a microwave, a tea kettle, a mini fridge, and a card table. Lucas was on a crate, Clara had the only chair, and High Flier was floating in midair, legs crossed to imitate sitting.

“You may have blown him up,” said Clara. “From what Lucas told me.”

“Nonsense. That was the self-destruct sequence,” protested High Flier.

Clara crossed her arms. “And you’re absolutely positive it had nothing to do with you destroying most of his lab within one second of entering it?”

High Flier looked suddenly unsure.

“This is why I engage in close combat with minimal property damage, HF,” said Clara. “Shit like this.”

“He had tyranite! I had to keep it away from me!” said High Flier.

Lucas looked back and forth between them like he was observing a table tennis match.

“Who are you, anyway?” demanded Clara, slamming her hands on the table. “I haven’t been able to find shit on you ever since I found out Lucas didn’t have a double life.”

“That’s my own busine–“

“Um,” said Lucas.

Both superheroes turned to look at him.

“I took a photo of you. At the Gala,” said Lucas. “I have questions.”

“Mnng,” said High Flier.

“What does ‘mnng’ mean?” said Clara. “What was in the photo, Lucas? Talk.”

“My own business was in that photo, Metrowoman,” said High Flier stiffly. “And any discussion of it will be in private, with Lucas.”

“Like spit!” she said.

“Please don’t fight. I don’t think this base can take it if you do,” said Lucas. “I just want to know if you stole my face. And what your name is.”

“Ah,” said High Flier. “I guess I owe you that.”

He set down his tea.

“I didn’t steal any face. The only disguise I wear is over my eyes, the one thing I didn’t have in common with the people of this planet when I arrived. Which, annoyingly, does not work when viewed digitally. My name is Ressop, and I am from Venus.”

There was a long pause.

“What?” said Lucas.

“Well, I thought you’d guessed, that’s where tyranite comes from,” said Ressop.

“That’s where it comes from?” said Clara.

“Where else?” said Ressop.

“Uh… space.”

“Everything,” Ressop pointed out, “is in space.”

Lucas scooted his crate a little closer to Ressop. “So you’re a Venusian?”

“If you want. Our planet, which you call Venus, had a war. I was one of the few survivors, a small child in a ship. I learned from the programs on it, tuning into Earth’s frequencies as it was the inhabitable planet I was aimed at. By the time I’d arrived, I was grown. That was a year ago.”

“I knew I would have noticed a double earlier!” said Lucas. “I knew I wasn’t crazy!”

“Now that that’s sorted, I really don’t want to talk about my people. Let’s focus on the important part – Doctor Killerwatt.” Lucas made a mental note that they would be discussing this again. He had a feeling Ressop needed it.

“He said he wants to take over Harbour City,” said Lucas.

“Hmm,” said Clara, rubbing her chin. “We do have all those warheads.”

“What the what?” said Lucas.

“I pick up things doing the political beat, Lucas,” she said.

“I pick up things too!” said Lucas. He thought for a moment. “Like that time I looked closer at the stitches on the jacket in that Marilyn Street photo, and found out not only had she lied about the designer – which, wow! Major hubris – it was laced with gas packets to pull off a heist. That was the best red carpet livetweet of my life.”

“There’s no dresses on a nuclear warhead, Lucas,” said Clara in a patient voice.

“Well, if there were, I’d know who made them.”

“Anyway,” said Ressop, rubbing the bridge of his nose, “the city has a great many resources besides its destructive capabilities. But with just those warheads, he could create a city-state by holding it hostage. And with those drones I saw today? He might have his own personal army.”

“He wants you next, Clara,” said Lucas. “What did those army guys do to you, High Fli–Ressop?”

“Lots and lots of vitamin K,” said Ressop. “Only solution for tyranite poisoning.”

“Is that true?” asked Clara.

“Of course it isn’t,” said Ressop, “but I’m not telling a reporter anything. Not my civilian name, not my medicines, nothing. It was a reporter who broadcast my weakness in the first place.”

“That wasn’t me!” protested Clara, while Lucas just got his phone out to do a websearch. On the edges of his attention he heard the two superheroes arguing as he dug up what he could on High Flier. He’d mostly ignored the hero until their resemblance was discovered, and even then focused only on finding out who High Flier really was to ‘clear’ his name.

He’d known about the weakness to tyranite, before Doctor Killerwatt. Cultural osmosis. He’d known it was rare and had come to Earth in a single meteor that took out an entire used car lot. And then most of it had disappeared and ‘citizens should be on alert, because if ingested tyranite can prove fatal to humans’. And somehow it had gotten out that it was fatal to High Flier too.

Finally, an article in a dead blog dated almost a year ago yielded results.

‘Exclusive Interview With Harbour City’s Latest Hero!’

“Huh,” said Lucas as he read. Clara and Ressop stopped arguing.

“What?” said Ressop. He looked as stressed as anyone got when Clara wanted answers.

“I don’t think Killerwatt’s a real doctor,” said Lucas.

He held up the phone to show the picture in the blogger’s profile. When he’d met Doctor Killerwatt strapped to a table, the hair had grown long and greasy, but there was the once-chiseled face of the good ‘doctor’ staring out of the bio picture. Of course, that face was now long gone.

“That little shit,” said Ressop. “I trusted him.”

“An ex?” said Clara.

“We didn’t get that far,” said Ressop. “He contacted me early on. Then he went and published how to kill me as a big scoop. That, as they say, was that.”

“I thought it was pretty tasteless, I didn’t pay too much attention to the details,” said Clara, taking Lucas’ phone for a closer look. “Look at his writing, no paper would have hired him. No wonder he ran this blog by himself. Says here in his charming ‘about the author!’ he switched from a career as an engineer to prove that journalism could be done ‘correctly in the right hands.'”

“He’s kind of a dick at both,” said Lucas.

“What’s an engineer’s weakness?” muttered Ressop, taking his turn with the phone and glaring venomously at Doctor Killerwatt’s once handsome face.

“Bullets,” said Clara.

“Face punches,” said Lucas.

“I can do the second,” said Ressop. “With pleasure.”

“I think he’s a robot zombie now,” said Lucas.

“We can both facepunch him,” said Clara.

“And he’s poisoning entire towns as distractions,” added Lucas.

“Hrm,” said Ressop.

Lucas retrieved his phone. “So, he’s a techie who couldn’t hack his new career and now he wants the weapons hidden in Harbour City and he wants both of you dead. And me, I guess. I would very much like a plan, so I can do anything other than hide in a hole in the ground.”

Both the heroes looked at Lucas. It was Clara who spoke first, in as gentle a tone as she could manage: “Lucas, whatever we do, you are not going to be involved.”

“I saved High Flier!” protested Lucas.

“You crashed my jet. You just happened to crash it into something useful first,” said Clara.

“I save you from your own clumsiness as a hobby,” added Ressop.

Lucas crossed his arms and glared.

“Come on, let’s plan,” said Clara, activating a giant holographic map that Lucas would have loved to play with during his base confinement if he’d known it was there.


Lucas watched them fly off that night, trying not to sulk. He’d even gotten a goodbye kiss from Ressop (Res? Ress? Soppy? He had to find a nickname for High Flier and soon) but they hadn’t yielded to let him come along to help. Something about being the token hostage of the social group.

Lucas kicked a takeout wrapper and muttered. “And I was the one who even found Killerwatt’s old apartment for them to ransack for clues anyway.” Clara had chosen the words ‘internet creeping skills’ when thanking him for that. Ressop had asked how to hide his own tracks.

Well, no reason to sulk in here, thought Lucas. If he was going to be left out, he was going to be left out with a damn latte. Now that he knew better how Clara’s hideout worked, getting the front door to open and let him out near a handy bus stop was child’s play.

“Okay, phone,” he said, “tell me where the next bus goes and where I can eat.”

“Oh, I think you won’t be needing that,” said a distorted voice behind him.

Lucas Lopez threw the first punch of his life. It had no effect on Doctor Killerwatt. Lucas bent over hissing in pain, clutching his hand. Then yelling in anger as Doctor Killerwatt prepared to kidnap him. Again.

Then with a whoosh of air, Lucas was stuck in a bush beside the sidewalk and Killerwatt was pinned against the pavement by High Flier.

“Hello there!” he said, in his big jolly voice. “Here I am coming back to see if my boyfriend wants me to bring him something and I meet you! You really get aroun–oop!” He took an electrical blast to the chest and didn’t flinch.

“Not enough tyranite to just carry it around?” High Flier said, leaning in close to Killerwatt. “Yeah, my army friends have been helping with that, scuttling your supply. As for whatever plans you had for Lucas, well, they’re on hold.”

He reached out, grabbed the limbs of Killerwatt’s tech backpack, and crushed them like Play-Do.

It wasn’t that Killerwatt had been silent while High Flier talked, it was just that he’d only been screaming a string of unprintable obscenities. They got increasingly more unprintable as High Flier disabled his suite of electronic weaponry.

“I think he’s down,” said Lucas, pulling a leaf from his hair.

“Yes,” said High Flier, “you know, I think he is. Thanks for being the best target I know.”

Lucas let that pass and kissed High Flier on the cheek.


Lucas had a lot to say about prison uniforms, which sadly never got printed because Ms. Black wouldn’t let him cover the trial of the madman who’d kept trying to kill him. ‘Emotional distance,’ she said.

But Killerwatt going away for a couple hundred years with medical treatment wasn’t the best thing to happen to Lucas that month. No, the best thing to happen to Lucas was High Flier showing up at his place of work with camera-defying sunglasses on, walking up to Clara’s desk, and demanding she be his personal reporter.

He hadn’t even glanced at Lucas’ desk. Not only was Lucas’ name cleared, now the High Flier association was Clara’s problem.

She’d dealt with this by hitting Lucas with tiny balls of paper every time he turned his back on her. He felt this was a fair deal.

And he continued to date High Flier. Ressop. He even, in the most romantic gesture Ressop could have given him, got to redesign High Flier’s costume.

In fact, life was pretty good. They might never be anything more than a secret due to Ressop’s nature, but it was still a good deal. Their dates always took place at night. He didn’t even have to take a cab to get there, not with Ressop’s fondness for carrying him through the air.

There was just something about flying through the night sky in someone’s arms. Lucas nuzzled High Flier’s throat as they headed to tonight’s date spot, enjoying the warmth of his neck and chest in the coolness of the wind.

Somewhere in a field the devil got into Lucas, and it wasn’t just Ressop’s throat he was nuzzling. Holding tight to Ressop, just in case, he adjusted himself to slide his thigh between Ressop’s legs and rubbed his cock very deliberately.

“Ah!” But heroic instincts kept Ressop’s grip on him and Lucas didn’t end up as a human-shaped crop circle below. Lucas grinned and did it again. Ressop’s face – like Lucas’, but not – was lit by the full moon, and his expression was very encouraging.

“Should I land?” Ressop asked.

“You know what? No,” said Lucas. “I want to stay up here.” He got a hand loose to slip beneath Ressop’s costume. Another happy gasp from the hero. Ressop flipped them over, flying on his back with Lucas on his chest. Safety first.

Lucas gave High Flier’s throat a quick nip, stroking his cock with his hand. “Don’t fly us into any trees.”

“No promises,” said Ressop, who’d adopted a holding pattern of flying in a circle.

Lucas laughed, then resumed kissing Ressop’s throat. Ressop’s arms were busy keeping Lucas from plummeting to the ground below, so Lucas decided to take care of himself, grinding against Ressop’s hip, while trying to make the hero come at the same time with his hand.

High Flier started circling higher. As did his voice each time Lucas stroked. Lucas liked it. If Ressop had to be alien, better vocally like this than if, say, he had a cannibalistic flower in his pants.

And then, quite quickly, Lucas’ mind whited out and he stopped thinking about alien possibilities as he came against Ressop’s thigh. He muffled the sound against Ressop’s neck–this was no time to become a sky sex cryptid, with a farmer catching them above her fields–and ran his thumb over the head of Ressop’s cock to get him to join in.

And Ressop did, stopping abruptly midair but still afloat. But Ressop didn’t think to muffle himself like Lucas did, and abruptly the various birds and bugs of night went silent.

“Go go go!” hissed Lucas.

“Got it!” said High Flier, and off they zoomed through the air to somewhere more private .

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