It’s summer, the hottest day of the year. A white guy in dark sunglasses and a baseball cap and a shirtless black guy in yellow pants wait in line at the New York Department of Motor Vehicles to register their new car.
“How long have we been waiting?” Luke Cage, the black guy, also known as Power Man of the Defenders, asked. “Why don’t they have a clock up in here?”
“Like two minutes,” the white guy, Nighthawk, replied after checking his watch. He tugged at his sweat-soaked t-shirt. “I don’t think they have air conditioning either. It’s hot as hell today.”
“Not to me, man. “ Power Man replied. “I’m the coolest!”
About that time the elderly DMV security guard arose from his slumber and noticed the huge shirtless black man at the end of the line. He cautiously approached the offending party and tactfully asked him to leave the premises until properly attired. “Man, you can’t be in here without no shirt on! Get on out of here until you’re dressed properly!”
“But it’s hot,” protested Power Man, rubbing a hand over his glistening, muscled chest. “And the temperature’s high too.”
The security guard just looked at Power Man for a few seconds, then calmly announced over his walkie-talkie “I need backup here at the front.”
“Okay, okay, calm down man, I’m leaving.” Power Man said, turning toward the door. He shook his head and muttered under his breath “Man, this is a funky cold medina.”
Nighthawk checked his watch again as Power Man left the building. The line hadn’t moved an inch. I’m going to be late to the meeting, he thought.
Patsy Walker unlocked the door to Nighthawk’s apartment and stepped inside. As Hellcat she was acting chairman of the Defenders this week so it was her job to get there first and set up the snacks.
She was taking the Ruffles and sour cream dip from their plastic grocery bag when there was a buzzing at the door. She asked over the speaker “What’s the password?”
“Oh crap, I don’t remember. I think I’m still drunk,” a female voice answered. “Look, just let me in, it’s hot as hell out here.”
“Okay, but don’t tell Nighthawk I did this,” Patsy said, buzzing the second woman in. About thirty seconds later Patsy opened the door and let Barbara, the Defender known as Valkyrie, in.
“Man, it is so freakin’ hot. I cannot wait to get into my costume!” Barbara exclaimed. “Where is everyone?”
“I’m the first one here. I was just about to melt the cheese dip. Nighthawk is still at the DMV registering the Firebird. Everyone else should be showing up soon.”
“Good. I need to just relax a little. Rough night.”
“Oh?” This got Patsy’s attention. “Did somebody see a certain Giant-Man last night?”
“That walking misnomer? No, I haven’t talked to Hank in a while.”
“Meow. You’ve got your claws out, girl!” Patsy made a clawing motion in the air to emphasize her point. “Look, you gotta just play with a man like a ball of yarn then forget him like something you buried in your kitty litter.”
“Okay, enough with the cat stuff already.”
“Sorry. That’s really all I have anyway.”
“It’s okay. It’s just that Hank said there was this new group he was interested in and I don’t think he’s coming back.”
“That’s too bad. It was really cool having a real super-hero on the team,” Patsy lamented.
“Yeah, the Ultimates are the whole reason I got into this thing in the first place,” Barbara replied.
“For me it was the Fantastic Four,” Patsy said, putting the cheese dip into the microwave.
“Really? They’re so new though.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been around them right from the start. See, I used to have aspirations of being an actress, but the only gigs I could get were in dinner theater and commercials. I did a tutorial for Teletech Security Systems once.” Patsy paused to take the cheese dip out of the microwave. It was still cold in the middle so she put it back in. “Well, after the Fantastic Four crashed their space ship in Vegas they were obviously on the fast track to being famous. It took a while after that because I guess they wanted the Human Torch to finish high school first. Anyway, in the meantime they moved everyone else out of the Baxter Building and turned it into, like, an Epcot Center for the Fantastic Four. I got to be their Walter Cronkite, and hosted a tour through the building for visitors.”
“That was you? I’ve been through that!” Exclaimed Barbara. “That is so cool!”
“It is cool, but it didn’t really lead to any more jobs, and listening to those kids’ stories really gave me the itch to do something more with my life.” The microwave beeped, the cheese dip was perfect, and the Son of Satan walked into the apartment.
“Hey,” Son of Satan said.
“How did you get in here?” Patsy asked.
“I have my ways,” Son of Satan responded mysteriously. “It’s hot as hell out there.”
“You would know!” Barbara joked. Son of Satan glared at her. “Anyway,” Barbara continued, “That reminds me, I’ve got to put my costume on.”
“And I’ve gotta pee,” Patsy added. Both women hurried into the bathroom. Son of Satan shrugged and sat down on the couch.
Power Man walked back into the DMV with a New York Mets 2000 National League Champions shirt on. He went right up to Nighthawk, at the end of the line.
“Nice shirt,” Nighthawk said.
“Two bucks at the Speedway on the corner,” Power Man said, “so you haven’t moved at all?”
“Actually, I did. But then they told me I was in the wrong line, so I had to go all the way back.”
“But at least I got to ask about our vanity plates. DFNDR1 is already taken.”
“Who would want that?”
“Apparently some guy named Owen Dufnider. My new nemesis.”
“Whoa, be cool brother.”
“That’s not likely. I’m burning up in here and I have to go potty.”
“Well, give me your stuff. I’ll hold your place in line.”
“I don’t know. I have personal information there.”
“It’s cool man, I won’t tell nobody.”
Nighthawk considered this for a while, weighing his options. At last he decided to trust this man who he had fought beside on a couple of occasions. “Here,” he said, handing his paperwork and information over to Power Man. “I’m trusting you with the most important secret of all, my secret identity.”
“Thanks man. It really means a lot to me.”
“No, thank you.” Nighthawk clapped a hand on Power Man’s shoulder. “You’re like a brother to me. I mean,” he stuttered, “an actual brother! Like we have the same mom!”
“Just go to the bathroom.”
Nighthawk went to the bathroom, and when he returned Power Man was still at the end of the line.
“I can’t believe this,” he said. “I better call in, let them know we’re going to be late.”
Nighthawk took out his cell phone and called his apartment. Son of Satan answered, “Hello?”
“Son of Satan? It’s Nighthawk. Is everyone else there?”
“Just Hellcat and Valkyrie,” Son of Satan replied. “They’re in the bathroom. I think they’re lesbians.”
“That’s. . . interesting,” Nighthawk wasn’t sure what to say beyond that. “Uh, this is taking longer than expected here.”
“Well, if you want, I could get in touch with someone who could speed things up.”
“You mean. . . ?”
“That’s right. The Big S.”
“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. . . “
“Would you rather be there all day? I know I don’t want to be here all day.”
Nighthawk thought about this. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but he felt it was the best one for the team. To have everybody at the meeting. That’s what he told himself. What he told Son of Satan was “Go ahead, do it.”
Son of Satan hung up the phone. This was taking forever. He wanted this meeting to end so he could get home in time to watch 24. Clearly, this called for drastic measures.
Son of Satan took out his cell phone, his special cell phone, and dialed his secret code. Someone answered on the other end and Son of Satan responded “This is Agent Damien. I have a problem I need you to take care of.”
“What did he say?” Power Man asked.
“He said he would get in touch with someone who could help us out.”
“You mean. . . ?” Power Man asked, pointing toward the ground.
“That’s what I assumed.”
“Hail Satan,” Power Man whispered.
“Hail Satan,” Nighthawk agreed under his breath.
It was a red light, so the Black Knight opened his car door to let the air in. “I’m sorry again,” he apologized, “but these damn windows have a mind of their own. When it’s hot they won’t go down and when it’s cold they won’t go up. It’s like they’re trying to kill me.”
“It’s all right,” his passenger responded, “I’ve been slowly lowering the temperature of the car since I got in. I’m actually more worried about my wheelchair in the trunk.”
“It’s fine,” the Black Knight said, closing his car door and driving forward when the light turned green. There was a loud thunk from the back as the car pulled forward. The sound of the trunk closing violently on a wheelchair. “You know, I think I can kind of feel it getting colder in here. Thanks, Whiz Kid.”
“No problem,” Whiz Kid responded absent-mindedly, craning his neck to look over his shoulder at the source of the thunk. “As you know, I have the power to thermally affect certain non-organic materials. That includes most of your car.”
“That’s really cool, man,” the Black Knight said, with the kind of grin on his face that one only gets after they believe they’ve successfully punned. “I’m glad it’s my turn to drive you to the meeting.”
“I’m not too good at stopping the process once it’s started though.”
Nighthawk and Power Man took one step forward when a group of fully armed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents burst through the windows of the DMV, announcing there was a gas leak and everyone needed to leave the premises immediately. The civilians in the DMV panicked and started running for the doors in a highly disorganized fashion.
“We need to help here!” Nighthawk said. “Too bad I don’t have my costume.”
“I have mine!” Power Man declared, taking off his newly-purchased shirt.
“Hold on guys, we’ve got it under control,” one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents said, putting out a hand to stop Power Man from doing anything rash. Other agents were already forming the civilians into a single file line and helping them out the doors.
“But we want to do whatever we can to help,” Nighthawk protested.
“The best thing you can do now, sir, is to get to your meeting,” the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent replied, handing Nighthawk all the necessary registration paperwork he needed. “Compliments of you-know-who.”
“What just happened?” Power Man asked.
“I don’t know, but I need to call my apartment.”
Son of Satan hung up the phone as Hellcat and Valkyrie emerged from the bathroom in full super-hero regalia. “No one else is here yet?” Hellcat asked.
“Well, that was Nighthawk on the phone,” Son of Satan replied, “Power Man and him are on the way now, and I just buzzed in Whiz Kid and the Black Knight. Were you two making out in there?”
“In your dreams!” Valkyrie protested.
“More like in my bed.”
“Yeah, right. When hell freezes over.”
The door to the apartment opened and Black Knight pushed Whiz Kid inside. Both were noticeably shivering and their breaths were visible. Through chattering teeth Black Knight announced “Could you turn off the air? We’re freezing.”
Son of Satan turned to Hellcat and Valkyrie with a wide grin on his face. “I’ll see you two tonight.”