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Heridfel

Using the muscle between his ears

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Icarus frowns as he looks at his surroundings. Truly, this is one of the more hostile environments he's found himself in within the last couple of weeks.

Computer training class at the local county library mostly consists of those in their late 40s through their mid-70s. Although Sean squarely fits within that demographic, he doesn't look like it, and he can tell that he's getting a few stares from people who don't understand how a young man can't already know how to use a computer. Making sure that the teacher isn't looking at him at the moment, he starts to hunt and peck on the keyboard. Maybe touch-typing is faster, but it sure doesn't seem like it to Sean.

Back in his villainous heyday, if that's what it should be called, villains didn't really need to gather information. Reading the newspapers, listening on the grapevine for when a shipment of bearer bonds was coming in... that was good enough. These days, nobody reads the newspapers, even villains, and it's all about the Internet (not the Internets, as he was corrected on his first day in class). It gives both sides an advantage, as long as you know how to use it.

With Google in front of him, Sean types in "water hero freedom city", and then clicks on the "I'm feeling lucky" button. Almost immediately, a website pops up.

"See Siren nude!" it blares. Frantically, Sean clicks the little X in the upper right, but more screens keep popping up. He mashes the button on the front of the machine just before the teacher comes around. He smiles weakly at her.

"Uh, it froze," he says.

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The teacher just gives him a dirty look before walking down the row to help one of the other students. Sean sits and waits for the machine to reboot. Finally, it stops at the login screen. He consults his library card (which states his name is Anthony Jones to anyone who cares enough to look), and types in the bar code for his user ID. His password ("password") takes him back to the desktop. Most of the machine is locked away, and the programs are run by clicking on large buttons that say "Word" or "Netscape Navigator". He double-clicks on the large ship's wheel, and Navigator comes back up.

This time, as he goes to Google, he's more careful. "Freedom City aquatic hero" seems to give better results, especially when he does a regular search instead of feeling lucky. Proving that there's a page on the Internet for everything, a result on the first page lists a number of heroes and villains from the Freedom City area with an aquatic theme.

Sean stares at the screen in disbelief. Sure, there's Siren, and the teen dream Nereid (whose popularity he still doesn't get). And there's that kid he saw at the last heist he pulled, with some sort of dragon thing going. But there's also Devil Ray, a guy called Raindance (who might be a weather controller, after reading up on him, rather than a strictly water hero), a martial artist known as Naga Fist, and an entire race of mer-people who seemed to hang out on the Eastern seaboard right near Freedom City. And those are just the ones that are known!

He sighs to himself and thinks, "I just know there's going to be a hero there. It's just a question of which one."

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"Pay attention, Mr. Jones."

The voice comes from just behind him, and Sean involuntarily jumps in his seat. Maybe he's not completely over the neurosis that led him to stay in his armor for well over a decade. He certainly feels more nervous than when behind a half-inch of magically tempered metal. He looks back guiltily at the teacher and then over to his neighbor to see what they're working on. It looks like a grid of some sort. The teacher sighs, then reaches down to his keyboard and hits a couple of buttons. Microsoft Excel starts itself up.

"If I didn't know he didn't know..." she mutters to herself. Sean can overhear her and scowls. What's he going to need this for? E-mail, using Google - that's all he really needs. He stays with the class for now, though. If he were to cause a scene leaving, then people will remember him. Being remembered is fine when you're in a disguise, but not so great when you're just being yourself.

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Despite being singled out by the teacher and not really caring about the subject matter, Sean realizes that he's starting to understand it. He had been a hermit within Freedom City for over a decade, and the PC revolution had passed him by. He knows that he looks a lot younger than he is, but learning these sorts of things actually makes him feel younger too. Self-improvement doesn't just mean learning how to use superpowers (though he's been making more progress with them in the past year than he had for almost twenty-five years before that). It's a sense of accomplishment that is earned, rather than taken from someone else. When he gets up, he stops by the teacher.

"Listen. I want to thank you for putting up with me," he says. "I never really got this computer stuff, but I'm starting to."

The teacher looks a little startled, but then she gives him a sincere smile, "That's what we like to hear. We have more classes if you want to learn more."

Sean shrugs a little, "I think I'm good for now, but maybe some other time. Thanks again." And with that, he leaves the library and starts to walk home.

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