#FlashFiction: Captain Fantasy vs Bureaucratic Reality

Another fantastic prompt from Chuck Wendig’s site: write about a superhero, but add a genre to the mix. I took this concept and wrote what I am calling a ‘superhero legal thriller.’ Prepare… to wait in line.

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The old lady pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and squinted at the little laminated card for the fifth time.

Tim waited, drumming fingertips on either bulging bicep, arms crossed.

“Are you sure?” she asked, giving him a look. Once again she held up the card.

“Yes, I’m sure that’s mine,” Tim said. He did not turn around but sensed the line growing behind him.

“But you’re Captain Fantasy,” argued the woman. She moved her hand to indicate his costume, the shirt imprinted with a designer logo, his trademark jeans, the leather bomber jacket too hot for this time of year.

When she said that, the crowd behind Tim stirred, as those close enough began to realize Tim was not another Fantastical cosplayer.

“I always hated that name,” Tim muttered.

“Say again?” The old woman leaned into the desk between them, cocking her head.

“Look,” Tim said, glancing at the nameplate hidden behind a computer monitor. “Mildred. I just need it renewed.”

Mildred raised her creased brow when he identified her but did not miss a beat. “Captain Fantasy,” she said again. “Why would you even need a driver’s license? You just fly everywhere, don’t you?”

“New law,” Tim said. “Practicing heroes need photo ID. And my name is Tim, please.”

Mildred gave Tim a knowing smile. “Oh, they wouldn’t hold it against you. Not after rescuing that gaggle of baby seals from that oil spill. Is a group of baby seals a gaggle? I saw it on TV and they said that—”

Tim held up a hand. “I just want to keep to the rules.”

Mildred opened her mouth, then clamped it shut, her wrinkles deepening.

“What?”

“Well, y’see, Captain—uh, Tim,” she hedged. Tim leaned closer and gave her his best intense look, or at least the best one that would not set her on fire. “About the rules…”

“Yes?”

Mildred held up the paper then set it on the desk. “This was issued in New York state,” Mildred said.

“That’s right,” Tim confirmed.

“In 1910.”

Tim nodded. “Yes, I was a chauffeur then.”

Mildred pursed her lips. “Understand, it’s the policy of our branch that you must have a current identification, if it is possible.”

Tim tapped the license. “This is my current ID. I got my powers shortly thereafter and never bothered renewing.” He leaned close again, fake whispering, “It’s hard to be patient with traffic when you know you could soar over it.”

He got a polite laugh, no more.

“Look at the picture,” Tim insisted. “It’s me.”

The sepia-toned portrait on the back of the license sat next to a listing of Tim’s physical characteristics. The boy in the photo had a lean face, almost gaunt compared to the broad Captain Fantasy of today, but looked pretty much the same. Or at least, Tim thought it did.

Mildred spot checked each feature, eyes bobbing between the card and the man kneeling before her—Tim had not trusted the dinky plastic chair to take his heroic mass without protest. Then she turned to the computer, an ancient piece of machinery even from Tim’s perspective.

Her pace with the lumbering electronic beast was slow but deliberate. Tim took a deep breath, then another.

A tentative tap on his shoulder distracted Tim from his waning patience.

“Excuse me,” whispered the tapper, a middle aged woman clutching a purse that might have contained a nuclear submarine. Tim raised his eyebrows in response. “My daughter is a big fan.” Her whispers were so loud as to void the point of the tone, but Tim smiled and nodded.

The purse opened and emitted a plethora of coupons, three water bottles, and a foot long sub sandwich, before the woman found her target: a plastic binder and a permanent marker.

On the front of the binder, Captain Fantasy punched an explosive graphic that read “LEARNING IS FUN”. The woman gestured with the pen and smiled.

Tim resisted the urge to roll his eyes and signed the binder. “Thank you so much.” He nodded again.

“I’m sorry,” Mildred said. Tim turned to face her again. She massaged her scalp, staring at the monitor. “I just cannot seem to find you in our system.”

“I guess the computer records don’t go far enough back?” Tim offered.

“Even if they did, this is California. New York records are in New York.”

Tim ran his hands through his hair, which fell back into its perfectly coiffed form in response to anything short of Lord Dementoid’s Hypermortis Beam. Tim wished that he could chew his Fantastically invulnerable nails; it seemed to help other people. Instead, he set his hands on the desk and sighed.

Mildred looked at him with sympathy, patted his hand. “There, there,” she said. Tim tried a smile, but it fell short of the Captain Fantasy standard.

Looking over her shoulder, Mildred eyed her busy coworkers. She set her jaw, then nodded, making a silent decision.

“I think I can help,” Mildred said. Tim knelt straighter at that. “I just need a few things from you.”

“Anything,” Tim said. His heart pulsed at the idea that he might solve this problem.

“Do you have two pieces of mail,” Mildred asked. “Addressed to you, at your current residence?”

Tim considered that. “Not with me,” he said.

Mildred sighed. “I’m sorry, but without—”

“Be right back!”

Tim vanished in a streak of color, breezing through the open door of the license branch.

Several seconds passed, and Mildred started to wonder if she should help the lady with the gargantuan purse now.

Before Mildred could call her forward, a streak of light brought Captain Fantasy back to Mildred’s desk.

Tim dropped a sack of fan mail onto the desk, all opened and resealed with tape. “Will this do?”

In defiance of policy, Mildred smiled and nodded.

“Now, let’s go out for a drive,” she said. “How’s your parallel parking?”

The color drained from Tim’s face.

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