Sidekicks Test Scene I

While I was writing Sidekicks, I wrote a bunch of demo snippets about Dodger visiting various parallel universes. Here is one that didn't stick:

Dodger’s never seen the city look this good. It’s gleaming, topped with a few delicate skyscrapers that are impractical in a place that is routinely stomped by horrible monsters. He’d almost think it was a different place altogether except for the old landmarks he can pick out from the previously feeble skyline. He’s so lost in the sights that he runs headlong into a well-dressed guy with light brown hair who instinctively shoves him back on contact. Dodger gets only the barest flash of a mind, but it’s one he knows by instinct if not by memory. “Brooks? Brooks Black?”

 

Brooks’s eyes bounce from head to toe. “Who told you my name?”

 

Dodger hugs his chest reflexively. He’s wearing a pair of ratty jean and an old wife beater. He doesn’t look like someone who belongs in the same place as a man wearing a suit. “Do you know where I can find Alex Manners?”

 

“You know Alex?” Brooks shakes his head and laughs. “God, that figures. I’ve been meaning to drop in on him anyway. I’ll show you to the HQ.”

 

HQ, as Brooks calls it is a tiny shop on the edge of the supervillain district—the warehouse district. Dodger eyes the sign nailed above the door. It’s an unfinished slab of wood that someone has carved Evil Lair into the grain. Brooks follows his gaze and rolls his eyes before pushing open the door without knocking. “Manners!” he calls. “You around, Alex?”

 

It’s Malcolm Quick who emerges from the back room. The real Malcolm Quick, not the one wearing the wrong skin. His dye job’s about a week overdue, red poking out from under black. He pushes a pair of goggles up on his forehead and wipes his hands off with an already filthy rag. “Brooksie! You interrupt my lab time, you bring me coffee. Them’s the rules.”

 

“Up yours, Quick. I was coming to see Alex and I found this nice fellow looking for him.”

 

“You brought us a hobo!” Mal says, looking bewildered. “I mean no offence, dude, but we don’t exactly have the capital to start hiring.”

 

“We would if you’d stop using all our grant money to build robots,” Alex says as he makes his way out of the back room. “I mean seriously, how many do we actually need?—Hey Brooks.”

 

Brooks pulls himself up so he’s sitting on the edge of the lobby’s ratty couch. “Hey, I told you going into business with guy you met when he tried to mug you was a terrible idea.”

 

Alex shrugs. “It’s worked out well enough for us so far. If he stabs me in the back, I’m going to stab him right back.”

 

“Mutually assured destruction,” Mal drawls.

 

Alex shakes his head fondly and approaches Dodger, hand outstretched, smile on his face. “Dr. Alex Manners. You’ve already met my associate, Malcolm Quick.”

 

“GED.” Mal smirks. “Also, the brains of the operation.”

 

“Sam Suzuki,” Dodger stammers. “You two aren’t what I was expecting.”

 

“I know right. They just give doctorates out to everyone nowadays. Biologists.”

 

“My Ph. D. is in biomedical engineering,” Alex corrects, unperturbed. “What can we help you with, Mr. Suzuki?”

 

Dodger glances at Brooks, but there’s no threat there, none of the ire he associates with the man. He doesn’t like Mal, but Alex’s fondness for him shines through his every motion. Mal himself moves too fast for an accurate read on his mind, but Dodger’s never doubted his loyalty to Alex. He takes a deep breath, takes a chance. “I’m here to talk about Good Guy.”

 

He’s met with three blank stares. Finally Alex says, “Who the hell is Good Guy?”

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