Asset – A Superhero Short Story


Ultra Man has had enough. He’s given everything he has to the planet he made his home, and in return they give him nothing but scorn and hatred. It’s time to leave…

I’m empty. They’ve taken everything. I didn’t have much, but now I have nothing. I stumble through the house, searching for something that isn’t broken. I’m not successful. Even my bed has been torn apart, pieces of fluff all over the floor, scattered with shards of the wardrobe and chest of drawers.

What were they looking for? Did they think I was so naive as to leave the secret here when I was away? Perhaps they did. Or maybe they were leaving me a message. ‘We know where you live.’ Lived, I correct myself. This was barely a home when I had furniture instead of firewood.

I leave the front door open and climb into the car. It hums to me as I power up and the shard of ice making its way into my heart stops its progress for a minute. They haven’t got my car yet. They will, soon, and then the ice will sink all the way in, but for now, I have my sanctuary.

I rack my brains. Was there anything for them to find? I come up blank. The house was devoid of anything approaching the truth. I could never have left it knowing there was even a clue, a vague hint, to what I know they were searching for.

They’ve been searching for decades, centuries, now. Since the first moment I stepped foot on this wretched planet, they’ve been searching. And still I know not why.

As I hover up above the level of the houses and point the nose towards Central, the same arguments play through my head.

They’re human. They hate anything that is stronger than them, faster than them, smarter than them. They hate anything they cannot control. It’s why I came here. My people couldn’t stand to see an entire planet of people rushing towards such self-indulgent, blinkered extinction.

I wonder, as I have done in my darker moments, whether my coming here was wise. Perhaps these people needed extinction. Now that I’ve made the necessary changes, this planet will support life for millenia, millions of years in fact. So maybe humans were supposed to be a cautionary tale for those that followed.

But I discard it as irrelevant. The fact is, I came here and so they survive, though they thank me rarely and only in the grudging way to which I’ve become accustomed. They have, in fairness, made the changes themselves. But without my technological knowhow and the information I brought with me, demonstrating without a doubt the things they still argued about, they would be long dead.

My Ford Ferrari Z series 14 breaks the sound barrier as I come in over the Rush zones. I’m not the only one out this early in the morning, but I’m by far the fastest. Their on-board micro-sensors track my passage and get out of the way, but I’m tweaking all the way in, dodging their wake to save those precious few kph.

I’ve saved their planet and still they search for a secret that exists for them only in legend. And it’s not only one or two of them. I am aware of at least 7 different corporations all seeking to discovered my weakness, all seeking to gain control.

I am an asset. The American government were the first to use that term, but it’s been taken up by plenty of others since. I’m not a person, or even a resource, though I bleed the same as anyone… actually, I don’t, but that isn’t the point. I’m an asset. To be used as one might a weapon system or a piece of engineering.

So whoever controls the asset, controls pretty much everything. Because I’m the asset that beats all others. I’m the weapons system you only have to fire once. So they search and, every few months, one of them gets through my house security and tears it apart in the hopes of finding that elusive secret.

I grin and crank up the power, eating up the remaining miles to Central. Normally I take it in my stride. They won’t find the secret, because I’m neither naive or stupid. But I’ve not had the best weekend. I spent Saturday fighting in the L’Lelis system and those bastard things stink to high heaven.

So Sunday morning began with me scraping green shit off my costume, only to get a call from the President demanding my presence at a Gala dinner. Apparently they said on the invite I’d be there without actually checking it with me first.

I nearly told him where to go, but he’s an okay guy, and the money was going to a kid’s charity, so I could stomach a few hours hanging out with the bigwigs.

Then Celia was there. Why no one thought to mention that little detail was beyond me, though they probably didn’t even think about it. She caught my eye across the room, then sashayed and elbowed her way to the front of the queue. I was mid photo with the Prime Minister of Argentina when she took my elbow and led me away from the throng.

‘Hello, lover.’ She murmured in my ear. I sniffed.


‘Don’t be so uptight. This is supposed to be fun.’ It wasn’t the first time she’d said those words to me.

‘I’m having as much fun as I can knowing 73 people have died due to gun crime in the time I’ve been here a—’

‘You couldn’t have stopped them all. You probably wouldn’t have stopped any of them.’

‘Doesn’t mean I like it.’

‘But it does mean you can have fun.’

‘What are you doing here?’

‘Catching five minutes with my husband.’

‘In case you forgot, we’ve been divorced for nearly a year now.’

‘Well, funny story about that. You see, I might have forgotten to sign the papers.’

My exit through the roof wasn’t popular. I spent an hour on the phone to the President explaining all the ways I was sorry and another half hour agreeing to a bunch of crappy fundraisers I could have done without.

So when I got home this morning, I wasn’t happy. Seeing my front door broken in was the icing on the cake.

I’ve given it everything for nearly two hundred years and I don’t have much left. In fact, I have nothing left.

Central towers before me, the Dome bearing its multi-coloured flag shining in the sun. It’s always sunny in Central. I didn’t have anything to do with that particular piece of tampering.

The ramp opens automatically and I cruise in and park. From here, the elevator takes me straight down to just under 1500 metres below the Earth, where the President hangs out when he’s doing useful things.

The secret service men outside his door normally know not to stop me, and they can see from my face I’m not in the best mood, but still they have to try it on.

‘I’m sorry, Ultra Man, he’s in a meeting.’

I don’t bother growl a response. They step aside before I can touch them, which is a relief for me. I don’t like hurting humans at any time, especially when they’re good people doing their jobs. I shove the door open and march into the Oval office.

The president is at his desk, talking on screen phone to someone I can’t see. He glances up, spots me, and returns to his call. I eschew my normal seat and stop right in front of him. He looks up again, sees me properly, and ends his call.

‘Ultra, I’d love to say it’s good to see you, but I’m still cleaning up from your hissy fit yester—’

‘I’m leaving.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘I’m leaving Earth. I’ve given you two centuries and the continued existence of your race. I’m done.’

‘I see.’

It’s not the response I expected. I narrow my eyes at him and wait for something more fitting to the imminent departure of mankind’s protector. He sits back down and shuffles some paper. There’s no reason for me to stay, but my feet won’t move.

Eventually, he clears his throat. ‘You’re serious about this?’

‘I am.’

The President lets out a long sigh, stands, and wanders across to a filing cabinet against the far wall. He rifles through a drawer a few minutes before pulling out a small plastic wallet. He flicks it to activate the screen and reads in a clear, though awkward, voice. He never reads his speeches.

‘Ultra Man. File 34.

This report is concerned with the details of Ultra Man’s weakness. Recent investigation has determined he suffers from a rare disease that is exacerbated by—’

‘That’s enough. Where did you get that?’

The president gives me a sad smile. ‘Surely you didn’t think we’d allow you to leave? Do you have any idea how much money we make from you? Let alone the impact your leaving would have on society. I’m sorry, Ultra, but you aren’t going anywhere.’

I bend my will and twin bolts of energy shoot from my eyes. The plastic wallet bursts into flames and the president drops it to the floor, waving his hand and shouting in pain.

‘I’m leaving.’ I turn to the door and his shouts turn into a wry chuckle. ‘That wasn’t the only copy. And I’m not the only one who knows. How far would you get? Out of the atmosphere? Out of the solar system? Your guess is as good as mine. But you wouldn’t get far enough.’

I turn back to him, snarling. He shakes his head, a look of mock sadness on his face. ‘Poor, naive Ultra Man. I’m sorry, my friend, truly I am. Now, go back to your home, clear up the wreckage, and get some sleep.’ He claps his hands together like he’s had a brain wave. ‘On the plus side, now our little secret’s out, you won’t have to put up with anymore of those pesky house trashing incidents.’

The lift feels slower as I head back to the hanger. I’m an asset, an empty asset, worth something to everyone but myself. I hit Mach Two on the way back out, but it doesn’t feel like it should.

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