Imagine Grand Central Station during it's heyday at the turn of the century, now add a bunch of high-tech gadgets, superheroes in colorful costumes milling about, and put it all underground; if you can envision that, then you've got a pretty good idea of the basic design of Shreveport branch Superhero HQ. As we stepped out of the art deco inspired elevator I noticed our other friends Velocirapper and Showbiz stationed at the central rotunda; Velocirapper (real name Drake Barnum) got his powers after signing up for one-too many not-so-secret government test programs, so now he can turn into a velociraptor-human hybrid and dresses in a sort of gangsta/ghetto-fabulous style of clothing. Showbiz (real name Rialta Tiber) is the daughter of the Sensational Caesar and Lady Luxor, two of the most famous superheroes in Las Vegas, but whatever causes superpowers (it's still up in the air what causes people to be born with special powers) didn't pass onto to her; nevertheless, she still had her heart set on being a superhero, and he parents were more than willing to help.

To this end, her parent's used their connections to get Showbiz a genehack (slang term for genetic engineering) to give her powers; they were originally going for a theme combining sharks and Las Vegas, and had even picked out the name Card Shark for her, but then the Nevada state legislature passed that ban on genehacking in state, so they had to pull Showbiz out of the genehacking program (Sensational Caesar and Lady Luxor were just too attached to their city to go elsewhere for genehacking, that and it violated their ethical code); because genehacking takes a while to kick in, the most Showbiz got out of it was a set of razor-sharp teeth (which she hides under a set of fake teeth in her civilian identity). Fortunately, Showbiz wasn't about to let this get her down, and being a bit of a mechanical wiz, she was able to fashion various gadgets themed around Las Vegas (exploding poker chips, a cane with a hidden blade, etc.), and along with some intense training was able to reliable herself as Showbiz. Unfortunately, since most Las Vegas based superheroes are sponsored by the various casinos, and she didn't really fit any theme in particular, she found people lacking in need for her; Sensational Caesar and Lady Luxor then decided they felt like a change in scenery, and moved to Shreveport so Showbiz could find somewhere that needed her. Showbiz's costume looks like a feminine version of a typical stage magician's costume, but decked-out with neon lights of eccentricity.

Anyway, there we were, Velocirapper leaning back in his chair with his iPod cracked full blast (it baffled me to no end how he was able to fit the earbuds in his earslits), and Showbiz practicing one of her many cards tricks; Showbiz looked up at up and then yanked Velocirapper's earbuds out of his earslits.

"Yo! What's the big id…oh hey! When did you dawgs get her?" asked Velocirapper.

"Just now. Looking to settle a dispute," I said.

"Fire away, and let's see what we got," said Showbiz as she accessed Shreveport branch's database.

"See what the verdict is on flying around in costume, with no supervillains around, and when not on patrol," said Venusian Girl, shooting a mean look to Athena.

"The jury's split. Some superheroes advise against that because it attracts villains with inferiority complexes, but others say it comforts the citizens to know you're looking out for them and really makes their day. Goes on for a bit more, but the nutshell is that it's okay as long as you do it in moderation and mix it up so that you don't compromise your secret identity," said Showbiz.

"Yo! Who wants to help a playa goof-off?" asked Velocirapper with a mischievous grin.

We passed many items once belonging to famous superheroes; the flying carpet of The Sarasin, the twin rayguns of Mister Mars, a life-sized replica of Hypercane …wait minute, did it just blink? I did a double-take and saw that it wasn't a replica, but the real Hypercane himself.

"Greetings fellow heroes! Say, weren't Thoth and Athena on the news today?" asked Hypercane with all his usual charisma.

"Just about every other day it seems," said Thoth.

"Well that's just dandy, and good that the people of Shreveport have supergods looking out for them! Say, would it trouble you too greatly if I barrowed Carter for a minute?"

"Okay, but he'll be begging for your autograph and a lot more!" teased Showbiz.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect as Hypercane led me down one of the many hallways; usually he thought of himself as too much of an A-list hero to be associated with the likes of my friends, which consequently meant him interaction with me was limited; convexly, you'd have to be living under a rock not to know who Hypercane is. I considered how whenever he shook someone's hand he'd always hold it for a while, but I'd seen him around plenty of girls; batting for both teams perhaps? No, that was just a bit farfetched, and if he was trying to make a move on me I'd have noticed by then.

We were at one of the doors and Hypercane had his hand on the scanner, the doors opened with a hiss and my heartbeat grew with anticipation as I was greeted by…Hypercane's superhero team.

"What's going on?" I asked, more than a little confused.

"Carter it is a superhero's job to give back to his/her community, and I want to give back to you for all you've done!" said Hypercane.

"And I did what exactly? Can't really say I'm that remarkable," I admitted.

"But you don't to need to be, you just need to be yourself! And in honor of you just being the best Carter Travels you can be, I'm gonna do something special. Carter Travels, do you recognize this face?" asked Hypercane as he took off his mask.

"Hey Jeremy, Mr. Hendricks says your English paper's over a week late," I said, totally unimpressed so far, but with a satisfied smirk none the less.

Hypercane was completely flabbergasted at this. "H-how did you know?"

"Your mask doesn't even cover your face all the way! Frankly I'm surprised more people haven't noticed by now."

Hypercane clearly favored flashiness over practically in designing his costume, an orange mask the left most of his face and well styled blonde hair exposed, an aqua bodysuit with white trim around the edges and a white hurricane symbol in the middle of the chest with an H on it, orange boots, an orange cape with the same hurricane and H symbol, orange gloves, and a white belt with a certain symbol as the buckle.

"Well you'll keep this between friends right?"

"We aren't exactly friends," I pointed out.

"Acquaintances?" ventured Hypercane.

"Yeah, I guess that's more like it, and you can relax, because I won't reveal your secret identity."

"Thank you Carter! That show's you're a true man of character, and that precisely the sort of thing that hero truly needs!"

"You're going somewhere with this?"

"Carter Travels, how would you like to be a superhero?" asked Hypercane, sound dead serious.

I couldn't believe it, this was my dream come true; here I was standing before on of the most famous teenage superheroes in all of America (if not the world), and he was offering me a chance to be a hero alongside him. I heart was beating so fast it felt read to burst out of my chest, but as I was about to form the words to say yes I began to feel doubts forming in my mind.

"Wait a minute, I don't have superpowers!"

"You don't need powers to be a hero, you just need to be yourself!" laughed Hypercane.

"But I will need gadgets, and the Superhero Registration Act states that unless I build them myself I can't legally be a hero. Plus, I'd need a tone of physical training before I could get anywhere near any serious action," I pointed out.

"You don't need training to be the best you that you can be!"

"Maybe no, but I do need it to be a hero; Article 13, Subsection J."

As I was rattling off these facts I noticed Hypercane counting the members in attendance, and he seemed to be coming up one short, but before long I figured out who was missing. Everything about her stunning beautiful and oh so alluring, her golden blonde hair, her sapphire-blue eyes, her perfect figure, the intriguingly high hemline and low neckline of her costume, the battle stilettos (not exactly sure how practical high heels are for crime fighting, but I wasn't complaining), and she was…incredibly well endowed, shall we say (which seems to be quite common among superheroines for some weird reason); she was none other than famed teen crime fighting sensation, Miss Fanservice (no seriously, that's her name).

"Hey everyone! Sorry I was late, but photo shoots don't make themselves."

"Feel no need Miss Fanservice, by the way have you met my fri—er, my acquaintance Carter Travels," said Hypercane.

"Ooh, fiery red hair and bottle green eyes, that's a really good combo you know," said Miss Fanservice in that oh so seductive voice of hers.

"Oh really? I mean I'd heard before, but I guess that a superheronine like you knows what she's talking about," I said, surprised I was actually forming words instead of babbling like a complete idiot.

"Totally, and you know what they say about redheaded heroes being the best," said Miss Fanservice as she gave a flirtatious wink.

I knew I had to choose my next words carefully, but Miss Fanservice was making me feeling like a kid with ADHD next to something shiny; I tried to form cohesive thoughts, but there was nothing but static, static and Miss Fanservice. After gazing at Miss Fanservice for several minutes of intense mental concentration that made pushing a bolder up a steep hill look easy by comparison, I said what had been on my mind for a while.

"Damn you're hot!"

"I get that a lot!" giggled Miss Fanservice as she twirled a strand of her hair, and made it even harder to focus.

I strained every neuron in my brain to say. "What I meant to say was, I appreciate the offer you guys are making, but I want to be a hero because I got that way on my own, and that way even when the world get to me I can always look to that accomplishment as a way of saying that as long as I persevere I'll be able to tackle any problem."

"Can't say I'm not disappointed, but that's quite the noble reasoning," said Hypercane.

"But if you ever reconsider, you know where to find us," said Miss Fanservice as she turned around and gave and oh so, so, alluring wink.

I left the meeting room and did my best to retrace my steps to where I'd last seen my friends, which was, if memory served, over on the by Great Spirit's totem pole. Turned out my memory was spot on, and I found everyone, sans Thoth and Athena, right where I'd left them.

"Is this your card?" asked Showbiz as she held up a card to Velocirapper.

"Dang girl! You sure you don't got superpowers?" exclaimed Velocirapper.

"A true magician never reveals her secrets!" said Showbiz as she wagged her finger and smiled mischievously. "Hey Tin Man, you've got a flame thrower, right?"

"Sure do," replied Tin Man.

"What's the lowest setting on it?"

"Pastry torch, care to see?"

Tin Man emitted a small blue flame from the tip of one of his fingers as Showbiz help a cigarette up to it and then took a puff!"

"Showbiz! You know what tobacco smoke does to me!" exclaimed Venusian Girl as her legs began to grow so wobbly she had to lean on Tin Man for support.

"Oh yeah! You Venusians go all powerless when you're around tobacco smoke. My bad," said Showbiz as she snuffed out the cigarette with her cane.

"Uh, where'd you get that?" I asked.

"The cane? Built it as one of my gadgets."

"I was talking about the cigarette."

"Oh that? Remember last week when I foiled Chuck Tesla's plan to bring all the animals from the natural history museum to life as part of his evil scheme? Well while I was waiting for the police to come arrest him I noticed he had a pack of cigarettes in his pocket, and I figured he wouldn't be getting any use out of them any time soon…"

"Showbiz! Number one, that's stealing, and stealing, is wrong even if it's from a supervillain, and number two you stole cigarettes! Do you have any idea what those things can do to you?"

"Probably a lot less than some of the other things superheroes encounter!" quipped Showbiz.

"But if nothing else underage smoking is illegal, and as a superhero it's your job to uphold the laws and serve as a good example for all citizens," I pointed out.

"Alright Captain Rulebook! There I threw them away, happy now?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I am," I said with a satisfied smile.

Good thing Showbiz threw the cigarettes away when she did, because not too long after that Texas Ranger (one of the mentors to my friends) rushed up to us like he'd just see an all-you-can-eat buffet, but I could tell by panicked look in his eyes that something was terribly wrong.

"Thank Stephen F. Austin I found y'all! There's trouble at the Alamo, it's Union Jack, and he's haven't on of his episodes again!" explained Texas Ranger.

This got my attention instantly; see Union Jack was a superhero created back in World War II as part of Britain's effort to stop the Nazis, but after the war he found street-level crime to just not satisfy those hero tendencies of his, so he was put into cryonic storage until he was later needed. Unfortunately, decades later when he was unfrozen he was more insane than ever; whether it was the freezing or thawing is still up in the air, but he had clearly suffered some damage and gone insane in the membrane. Union Jack was transferred to Shreveport branch in hopes he could be rehabilitee, or failing that, keep him out of the British government's hair; for as long as I'd been coming to Shreveport branch it had been noted that I seemed to be the best at calming Union Jack down whenever he had an episodes, so I was the go-to guy in these situations.

We found Union Jack in the science research sector of Shreveport branch; he had hauled himself up in the particle accelerator and seemed to show no signs of coming out anytime soon.

"Oh good, Carter's here," said Dr. Isotope (she's another adult superhero that helps mentor the younger ones). "You know the drill, just get in there, calm Union Jack down as much as possible, and get him out before he does any damage."

"And call for back up if needed."

"You've got the routine down to a science."

I was careful to adjust my speed, not too fast so I wouldn't appear to be rushing in, but not too slow so that I wouldn't appear to be sneaking up on him; I did my best to control my heart beat, but havening to get within close range of a shell-shocked superhero who could bend pipes with his bare hands always made me a little apprehensive. The cool metal of the door made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I had to stop being so on edge, just was a routine assignment, nothing could possibly go wrong…or so I thought. The main circular tube of the particle accelerator had the metal shades on the exterior drawn, and my only lighting was the dim green lighting along the ceiling and floor; the tube was large enough that I had plenty of space to stand up and the ceiling was well out of reach, as I continued I paused every so often so that my footsteps would stop echoing and I could guestimate where Union Jack was.

"Union Jack, are you in here?" I called.

I felt like I'd just been slammed by an NFL linebacker, I'd been caught completely by surprise, and as my head slammed into the cool glass of the of the tube walls I found myself face to face with Union Jack; he was wearing his typical costume of a World War I style helmet, a British flag (aka a Union Jack) mask, British redcoat uniform for the main body of the costume, British Flag cape, a belt the resembled Parliament Tower, a sword he claims to be Excalibur, and a Roman-style shield he claims was owned by the legendary Trojan warrior Brutus.

"Carter me lad! Thank goodness the traitors haven't captured you!" said Union Jack, seemed ecstatic and panicked at the same time.

"I'm glad I found you too Union Jack, say you wouldn't happen to remember what year it is would you?" I asked, trying my best to ignore the throbbing pain in the back of my head and how tightly Union Jack was gipping my shoulders.

"Why it's 1605, and I have uncovered a secret conspiracy against his majesty King James, I call it the Gunpowder Plot!" said Union Jack.

Okay, this was seriously bad, because the further back in time Union Jack thought it was typically indicated how unhinged he was, and if he thought it was 1605…

"Union Jack, when were you first a superhero?" I asked, hopping answering basic questions would snap him back to reality.

"When Churchill was prime minister, why I believe it was 1941 if I recall correctly."

"So that was in the 20th century, and what century is it now?"

"Hmm…21st and I believe the year is 2012."

"And how many years is that from 1605."

Union Jack frowned at this. "About…oh goodness, about 407!"

"So what does that tell you?"

"Goodness, I let my little fantasies get the better of me again! Jolly good that I should have a sharp lad like you to get me out of these situations Carter me boy!"

"I'm glad too Union Jack," I said as we walked towards the side door of the particle accelerator.

What happened next was so fast if I'd blinked I probably would have missed it; Union Jack charged forward and jumped though the opening like an Olympic athlete, and then on the turn of a dime he slammed the door shut. I pulled at the handle with all my might, but it just wouldn't budge.

"Union Jack, you forgot to wait for me," I called as I pounded on the door.

"Don't worry Carter me lad, you'll be safe from the Nazis in here!" called Union Jack from the other side of the door.

Well, Union Jack was still off his nut, but as long as…uh oh, that flashing red light couldn't have been good. My blood turned ice cold when I heard the announcement over the speaker system.

"Gene slam commencing in t-minus two minutes."

I knew there was something odd about the particle accelerator, and it all made sense now; the DNA sculptures outside, the green (symbol in the branch for biological science), the shape being different that I'd expected; this was a gene slammer, a machine used to combine DNA at high speeds to test various things. At this point I was pounding on the door till I couldn't feel anything, not even the pain and I kept yelling even after my face was turning red from lack of breathing.

"Carter! Just stay calm, we're going to get you out of there!" shouted Dr. Isotope from the other side of the walls.

"Hurry up Doc; we got less than a minute before I turn into a one man zoo!" I called.

"Well look on the bright side, you always wanted to be in a freak lab accident, right?" called Texas Ranger.

"Well that is a possibility…but there's potential to make a monster out of me!"

"Showbiz, Tin Man, what's your status?" asked Venusian Girl.

"There's a lot of codes to hack and firewalls to dismantle, might be a while," said Showbiz.

"T-minus thirty seconds till gene slam," called the intercom.

The metal shades pulled back and I was able to see Tin Man and Showbiz frantically typing commands into the main control table for the gene smasher, Dr. Isotope and Texas Ranger must have been trying the door, but to no avail, and Venusian Girl and Velocirapper seemed frozen with fear.

"Gene slam commencing in ten, nine, eight…"

"Where the f**k are Thoth and Athena?" I thought to myself as beads of sweat, formed in panic, rolled down my face.

"Seven, six, five…"

Venusian Girl and Velocirapper stepped forward and placed their hands where mine was on the glass; if these were my final moments at least I had friends by my side.

"Four, three, two, one, zero. Gene slam commencing."

I turned around just in time to see the green beams of the of the energized DNA (in know, sounds like something out of a bad science fiction movie, but it's legit) forming and then heading in my direction. I know it was completely pointless, but I ran for it; time seemed to stand still and everything else seemed to be completely blocked out of my mind except for those beams and out running them; the pounding of my heart was a like a drum in my ears, each step felt like it my feet were in blocks of lead, but the beams were getting closer. I didn't really feel anything we the first beam hit me, but as more and more of the beams made contact with skin I began to feel nauseous, my legs began to give out from under me, my vision was beginning to blur, and it felt like every cell in my body was going completely insane.

Just when it seemed like my body was about to go completely unstable the beams faded away and the door burst open, my last image before I completely blacked out was of Dr. Isotope and Texas Ranger rushing in and carrying me out of the gene smasher. I felt like only a few seconds, but I knew it had been much longer when I next opened my eyes and found myself being wheeled into the hospital wing.

"Thoth? Is that you or am I hallucinating?"

"Don't worry, you're not crazy," said Thoth as he gave a weak smile.

"I'm scared Thoth, thank gods you can just cure my ailments with your magic."

"I can't! You're immune to magic, and that includes healing magic!"

"Oh you've got to be…" but I never got to finish my thought, because at that point the sedatives I was hooked up to kicked in and I was out like a light.

When I awoke for a third time I found myself in a hospital bed with a bunch of wires attached to my…whoa! I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, because not only was I not hideously deformed, but I'd gotten perfectly toned and muscular!

"So I see you noticed the effects the gene slam had on you," said Athena, who was sitting in a chair next to my hospital bed.

"So far so good, anything I should be concerned about?"

"Not really, all your systems are functioning at peak condition. You've really got the golden stander, the term they used in ancient Greece for having a perfect body. Of course you've got some other features as well, for example take a look at what you're doing to the bed railing."

I saw what Athena meant; I'd snapped it in two! I was obviously a lot stronger now if my new muscles were anything to judge by, but even that shouldn't have made me capable of snapping a metal bar in two with my bare hands.

"Proportionate strength of well beyond that of my enhanced muscles, must have been some insect DNA in those gene beams."

"You never know, a professional ballerina can break someone's leg with a well-placed kick, and they're all lean muscle."

"And it takes the strength and endurance of an NFL linebacker to dance a full ballet, which goes with the lean but powerful angle, like you mentioned last week," I added.

"You do listen we I talk to you!" teased Athena as she playfully punched my arm, but then I accidentally sneezed on her and she jerked her arm back in pain.

"And it feels like I just rubbed pepper on the inside of my nose because…"

"Bombardier beetle DNA, thankfully your body rerouted the chemical sacks to your sinuses rather than your butt like the beetle has it."

"Ouch, shooting burning chemicals out of my butt would kind of suck," I grimaced. "Sorry about sneezing on you."

Athena shrugged. "I've faced worse, and that burning should go away as you get more use to shooting chemicals out of your nose."

I looked down at my arms and noticed that they'd turned the same color as the bed sheets. "And there was octopus DNA too?"

"And squid DNA, your skin is now covered in chromatophores that will allow you to blend in with your surroundings."

"Can't wait to see what other goodies those gene beam left me with! So uh, since I've got powers does this mean…"

"Yes Carter, you're going to be superhero."

So what did you think? I know the concept of the gene slammer might have been stretching it, but I needed a way to get Carter superpowers, and you know what they say, genetic engineering is the new nuke. Also, on the topic of how Thoth and Athena talk, I figured that as wisdom deities they'd be familiar with the language patterns of modern teenagers, and having hung out with them for a bit they might have picked some of it up. Be sure to leave a review!