Chapter 1

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"Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Heroes GNN. I'm Regina Smith.

On this day, we mourn the two-year anniversary of Benjamin Conall's death and the thousands of lives lost during the K.L.L. terrorist attack. Benjamin, known as the hero Light Wire, is most famous for bringing down the terrorist leader Espen Reid. In retaliation for the death of their leader, the K.L.L. was responsible for the stealth missile that struck Ben's hometown in Savannah, GA USA, killing over three-hundred thousand civilians. Tragically, Ben lost his life trying to save the city of Savannah. He was a brave..."

I down my last shot of vodka and slam the empty glass on the bartop. "Turn it off."

"Miss, it's Heroes GNN," the bartender says. "Everybody loves—"

I stand abruptly, my stool screeching against the tile. The chatter in the bar goes quiet. "Turn. It. Off."

"Um... I'm sorry, miss, but I don't have my boss's permission to change the channel. He says Heroes GNN is what keeps the customers happy." The bartender cleans a glass, studying me. I try to look away, but it's too late. "Wait a damn minute, you're her, aren't you? The one who dated Light Wire? Oh my gosh, it is you! Leia..." She frowns, pondering. "Roberts! Yes, Leia Roberts is your name. I used to envy you. Every girl did, now that I think about it. What was it like dating a superhero? Before he failed to save that city, I mean. It had to have been—"

"What's your name?"

"Clarice Sparks. Pleasure to meet you." She holds out her hand.

"Well, Clarice, I can't say the same. My drinks are on the house, yeah?" I leave the bar, with Clarice still awkwardly holding out her hand. Whispers follow me on my way out.

"Is that who I think it is?"

"Poor thing. She looks awful. Nothing like their photos together."

"Rumor has it she's responsible for his death. They were on a date right before..."

I step outside, taking a shuddering breath. A man hands me a flyer, but I shove it into my pocket without looking at it. The holographic billboard across the street displays a video of Ben waving at the camera. Whoever selected the clip must not have known how much he hated the way he looked in it.

"They wouldn't even let me do a second take!" he complained to me one night. "That's the smile I force whenever I have to see my aunt on the holidays."

"Aunt Sue?" I asked.

"Oh, don't even get me started on what she did over the weekend."

It had been the week after his last Christmas. I won't forget the present he gave me when he returned to our apartment—four words and a ring that promised forever, but that forever ended before the year did.

A group of people wearing cheap capes with the Heroes logo on it clink their drinks together and salute the giant image of Ben. They're undoubtedly pregaming for the festivities tonight. Children run past, giggling as they play with an action figure of Light Wire.

"Pew, pew, pew!"

"Ah, you got me!"

"I get to play Light Wire now."

"No, I want to!"

"But it's my turn."

"It didn't sound like that," I say to them. "His superpower, I mean. It didn't sound like movie lasers. More like electricity crackling."

The children shrug, then chase after each other yelling, "Pew, pew, pew!"

730 days. That's how long he's been gone, and nobody mourns him. His death has already become commercialized. A holiday. An excuse to host hero-themed parties and take the next day off of work to nurse the awful hangovers that will surely come. Nobody cares that he was real. The people he saved, maybe, but the rest of the public? I heard the awful things they said about him when he failed to stop the stealth missile.

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