“I’m in. Absolutely in.” She extended a hand to shake on it. “I’m M—”
“No real names!”
Fantastic Man recoiled, and a weariness emerged from beneath his sunny façade. In that split-second, Miranda noticed how much older he was. Mid-thirties at a minimum, maybe early forties. What was he before this? What was he when he wasn’t this?
Whatever he was, it all receded behind that cheesy grin, which he doubled down on. “We must become something more than we were. We can’t inspire the good citizens if we keep reminding each other of our … less super selves.”
“Oh. Okay.” The rule struck her as odd, but what did she know? He was the expert on these matters.
“You can’t tell anyone else about your secret either,” he continued, “no matter how tempting it may feel to do so.”
Miranda blanched at that. “What? Why?”
“Being a superhero is a burden you must shoulder on your own. It wouldn’t be very heroic to place such a weight on anyone else,” he said in a gentle, counseling tone.
“But if I just told my—”
Fantastic Man’s patience slipped a bit, supplanted by slowly escalating urgency. “Then you wouldn’t be a superhero, not in their eyes. The effect needs to be airtight. Whenever you don your uniform and answer to your superhero name, you will bury all your personal foibles and daily concerns. You must brush your ego aside and become this new persona.”
Miranda had heard similar advice from a few bad directors.
“We have to be perfect,” he said. “Nothing can interfere with that. Promise me you won’t share this secret with anyone.”
The hell with that, Miranda thought. He didn’t want to know her name? Fine. Fair enough. He had no right to dictate anything beyond that.
But if he expected her to lie to her family and friends, then how was lying to him any worse?
“Sure. I promise,” she said.
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