That means Alec Farley, the star of my first superhero romance, Rise of the Firestarter, had to be heroic as a romance hero and as a “super” hero. Since this is the first book in my Phoenix Institute series, Alec also had to set the standard for the heroes in the series.
That means I had to lead with hope. More, with kindness.
Alec needed to be Superman or Captain America-type, not with a grim-n-gritty Batman. (Later, I used a Gotham City style universe for the novellas in the series.) But the first experience for readers had hope, one where Alec’s optimism and idealism would eventually win out.
He’s not quite there when I introduce him. He’s got all the physical attributes, though…
If God reached down to create a superhero, he would look much like Alec Farley. His shoulders were wide and strong and his dark blue T-shirt hugged his flat stomach.
She’d expected to be fascinated by him but not to be so impressed.
He moved like a dancer, in perfect balance, and his wavy dark hair half-hid an unnerving gaze as his blue eyes seemed to notice everything all at once. She wondered if Alec was using his telekinesis to explore the room. From what she’d been told, he was capable of using TK to poke into corners, check under objects like the two chairs and even under the carpeting. Something beyond his pacing definitely seemed to be happening. She could practically feel power oozing out of him.
Soon after, we get a look at his powers in action, from film of one his training missions:
Fire erupted around him, circling him. The close-up remained on his face. He grinned. He actually grinned as he was encircled in flames. But maybe it was the destruction, not his gift, that brought Alec such fierce joy.
She hoped not.
In the video, men scrambled from the trench, throwing down their weapons in defeat. Alec waved his hands, as if holding a wand, and the fire disappeared. He jumped from his place on the top of the embankment to the defeated “enemy”, and raised a hand in victory. The rest of the assault team arrived, crowding around him, all smiles, giving him claps on the back.
They must be his F-Team, the Resource’s elite private assault squad.
Alec pointed and they parted for him, all of them staring into the clearing. The camera panned away from the soldiers and focused on the grass in the clearing.
The grass burst into flames, racing in perfect straight lines, making specific shapes, as natural fire never did. Her jaw dropped open as she realized the flames were spelling out words. The fire vanished, leaving charred grass that spelled Ready to Roll.
Alec is a bit unusual for a paranormal hero in that he’s a fascinating combination of competence and innocence. He’s been trained to be a weapon but was raised in isolation. He’s essentially a kind person, one who is happy to comfort a child, or joke with friends, but he’s not yet learned how cruel the world can be.
That vision gets shattered a bit by the heroine, Beth Nakamora, who kidnaps him from the Resource to show what he’s been missing. She wants Alec free to make his own choices. Even then, even confused about the lies he’s been told all his life, he’s kind:
The girl behind the counter briskly handed over their breakfast, the turnover in a bag and the bagel wrapped in wax paper. As they turned to leave, the little boy knocked into Alec and a bottle of lemonade flew out of the boy’s hand.
The bottle froze in midair. So did the lemonade spilling out of it.
Alec grabbed the bottle and the liquid went back inside without spilling a drop.
“Hey,” Alec said, staring at the kid. “Be careful.”
The boy’s mouth fell open in disbelief, exposing his lack of front teeth. Beth froze, having no idea what Alec would do next. She glanced around, checking to see if anyone else had seen Alec’s trick, but nobody was staring.
The boy’s mother rushed forward, yelling “Kyle!” and the boy hung his head. He walked the two steps to his mother looking so dejected that Beth wanted to hug him. His mom took his hand.
“I’m so sorry,” the mom said.
Alec nodded. “It’s okay. No problem.”
Kyle’s mom leaned down and whispered something in the child’s ear. He nodded, solemn, his blond hair falling over his messy, blueberry-muffin splattered face.
“Kyle, tell him you’re sorry,” she said.
Kyle said, “Sorry,” still hanging his head.
Alec leaned down so he was eye level with the boy and held out the lemonade. “Hey, no problem. You just startled me.”
The boy’s voice dropped to a whisper. “How’d you do that trick with the bottle?”
Alec smiled. “Magic.”
The boy giggled and took the bottle back.
What Beth eventually realizes is that Alec is always going to choose to help, even with the odds against him, and he’s always going to choose to believe he can win, a choice that gives her hope when, eventually, they must confront impossible odds to save a city, where Beth gains the power to confront her fears from Alec’s example.
“Don’t be sorry. All my life, I’ve been afraid of people finding out about my telepathy. I’ve been afraid of myself too, of what my telepathy could do. I’ve been running or hiding since I was eight. I’m glad not to run anymore.”
“You hate that I’m a soldier. You must hate this.”
“No, I hate that you were given no choice about becoming a soldier.”
“I thought I could walk away from this. But it wouldn’t be right.”
“I know. You’re a hero. It’s part of why I love you.”
Alec took a sharp breath. He brushed the back of his hand against her cheeks, enveloping her whole face in that energy. So warm. She closed her eyes. She probably shouldn’t have said that. She didn’t even realize how she felt herself until it had slipped out.
But it was true.
As steeped in comic book stories as I am, two superhero quotes were in my mind as Alec came to life. “I don’t like bullies,” from Captain America: The First Avenger, and “You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me,” from Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman comic, in which Clark is offering quiet words of comfort to a suicidal teen.
That’s what a hero means to me.
Someone who fights for what’s right and, more, inspires others to do the same. Alec is just coming into his powers in this book, and it was a joy to write that evolution.