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chapter one:
the disorienting feeling of a world on the brink of collapse

The water tower, rust-blood brown and pocked with jagged holes, had stood on the edge of town for as long as anyone could remember. Erected as a sign of modern ingenuity in the infancy of Rapids City, when timber still tased down the river and every warehouse on every cobbled street built dressers and school desks, the tower now symbolized little more than the passing of time; a reminder that all things fade.

Vance Waters recalled that when he was a young boy, his grandaddy, Joe, would go on about the tower often.

“It’s a bit of a local icon,” the gentle old man would croak between hits of a cigarillo. “A landmark. Why, when it was decommissioned back in ’43, it looked damn near fit to fall any day. Yet still it stands proud.”

Indeed, defying fate and molecular breakdown, destined to become a relic of a forgotten age, the water tower outlived even Grandad.

But it wasn’t just the tower’s refusal to die that intrigued Vance; it was that there hung around it an air of mysticism. No one still alive could remember why it had been shut down in the first place, and why it had been left to stand as the eyesore that it was.

Vance had a few good ideas on the matter, though, for that water tower became the place that changed his life forever. And it all happened when, in the summer before his sophomore year, his best friend, Leonard Cabot, climbed the ladder to the top of that rickety old behemoth and jumped inside.

 

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In the dark of night, hidden within Rapid City’s corroding old water tower, Vance Waters waited, as he had many nights in over the past two years, for his friend to arrive. The tower had become a second home, one he had almost grown to like more than his first. But something about this night felt different. There was an unsteady feeling in the air, a vibration Vance couldn’t put his finger on.

He let his gaze drift to the moon above, visible through one of the larger holes in the tower’s conic roof.

“I'd do anything to take that ride to the moon. To fly through the skies, into outer space.” Vance shook his head wistfully. “To just soar.”

There was quiet for a moment. Then Jim Young spoke.

“You can make it up there, Vance. You’re a smart guy.”

Vance looked over to where Jim sat at an old wooden desk, its surface littered with notebooks and photographs, sketch pads and art supplies. The younger lad hadn’t even looked up from his work. Even he seemed unconvinced by his own words. Vance just chuckled to himself and went back to the moon.

“You don’t get it, man. I don’t have the options you’ve got. Guys from my neighborhood don’t just become astronauts.”

Vance began to pace.

“It’s getting real bad in Southside. The cops, man, it’s like they’re out for blood. No one talks to each other anymore. I probably won’t even make it out of high school before my ass gets shot.”

Jim looked up then, setting his pencil down. He slid his glasses back to the correct position on his nose.

“Vance, we’re ninety-nine percent sure you can’t even be shot!”

Jim's eyes were sincere, but his words meant little.

Vance dug a rough palm into the back of his neck. He was tense, something about the atmosphere really had him bent tonight.

“Yea, well, that doesn’t stop me from flinching every time a gun goes off in the night, does it. I may have powers now, Jim, but I don’t feel very powerful. There’s just...”

Vance sighed, shook his head.

“So much I can’t control.”

“You’re right," Jim said with a sad little smile. He shrugged. "That’s life.”

Jim was the youngest of the trio, though overly mature for his age. Vance was the oldest. They got along fine, but were friends by proxy, having both been pals with Leonard first, their paths forever tied together by their mutual acquaintance. They really didn’t have much in common, didn't really see the world in the same way, and it showed in moments like these.

Silence settled between them again.

“Leon’s pretty late tonight,” commented Jim after a few moments, swerving for a subject change.

“He’ll show,” replied Vance.

“I know.”

More silence.

Vance watched the moon.

“Hey, check this out.” Jim raised one of his notebooks up for Vance to see, who crossed through the inch or so of murky rain water pooled on the floor to take a look. “Pretty cool, right?”

It was a logo Jim had drawn, like a crest of arms or a family seal. Bright reds and oranges, dark blacks and grays. A title arched above the logo.

“‘The Valor Society,’ eh?” Vance smiled. “Not bad. Got a nice ring to it.”

Jim took the notebook back. “It was your idea, you know.”

Vance cocked an eyebrow at him. Setting the notebook down, Jim went on.

“One of those first nights, after we realized what was happening to us, you said that it’d be cool if we became a team. Like... a team of heroes. Crime-fighters. Recruited others. We would bring a bit of valor back to the RC.”

“You remember that?” Vance asked. “That was like two years ago, man.” 

“At least,” Jim said. He shook his head. “I don't know. It stuck with me, I guess. Always wondered why you used the word ‘valor’. You don’t hear it much anymore.”

Vance cracked a grin.

“Maybe that’s the point, right?”

A loud clang snapped the conversation then, the sound of a stone striking the side of the metallic tower. It was Leonard’s signal, his head’s up. Nobody could figure out why he did it, since no one but Vance and Jim should ever be up here. But that was just Leonard. Once he got into a pattern, he sorta just stuck with it.

Leonard Cabot stuck his head through the opening in the ceiling and flashed a winning smile down at his friends, perfect pearly whites visible even in the dim of dusk.

“Fellas, do I have something to show you.”

Leonard was everything the popular kids tended to be: white, wealthy, athletic. The only thing he seemed not to be was a giant jerk. Even still, Vance should’ve hated him out of principle. Instead, he sorta hated himself a bit for just how much he admired the guy.

Leonard landed with a small splash. He stood, fists on his hips, and looked from Jim to Vance and back again. His chest seemed a little more puffed-up than usual.

“I did it.”

And he waited, huge grin on his face.

When Leonard didn’t continue, Vance finally caved.

“Did what?”

“It.”

Jim curled up his face, confused.

“Like... with a girl?”

Vance chuckled to himself at that one, as Leonard stepped forward with excitement.

“I flew, fellas!" he blurted out. "Like, for real. Like a bird or an airplane or something!”

Vance’s expression changed grew cold instantly at this, the idea of it washing over him like a icy wave washing up on shore. This is what felt so different tonight, this new energy now in the water tower. A primal protectiveness, like a lioness guarding her day-old cub.

“What?!” Jim exclaimed, his eyes like saucers behind his spectacles.

“You flew?” Vance said quietly, shaking his head. “When?”

“This morning. I was up before anyone else, so I headed out here and stood in the water. I levitated for a bit, just working on my balance like I have before. Then... I don’t know, I just felt this surge of power or confidence or whatever, so I pushed off the air like it was solid ground and away I went!”

He pointed with gusto to one of the holes in the ceiling, the very hole Vance had been looking at the moon through.

“Left that bad boy in the roof there and cut my hands up pretty bad, but I was off like a rocket.”

"Unreal!" Jim exclaimed, his grin as wide as the hole above his head, and he ran forward, blabbering all matter of questions, to inspect Leonard’s bandaged knuckles, to touch the hands of the god-boy.

For his part, Vance just felt the wind rush from him. No excitement came to him, only the disorienting feeling of the world on the brink of collapse. It was enough of a strain on things that Leonard was faster and stronger than anyone who had ever lived. But now he could fly? There was no way this would be kept a secret much longer...

“Show us!” Jim shouted finally.

Leonard just laughed. “Not now, you spazz.”

“Come on, don’t be a dick. Do it!”

Vance turned. “Yea, Leonard,” he said without a hint of mirth. “Do it.”

Leonard looked at him then, for probably the first time that night. Vance knew he could see that something was up, but Leonard didn’t address it.

“Yea, okay, Vance,” he said and managed a smile. “For you, buddy.”

Jim took a step back as Leonard took a deep breath. Leonard began to lift off the ground, slow at first, as he had practiced. His red-sneakered feet were about four inches from the water’s surface when a low rumble began to rattle the water tower. Then, like a shot, Leonard erupted up and out the same hole he had made earlier that day.

Jim lost his mind. He shouted and whooped and leapt in the air, like a kid at a football game, splashing nasty rust-water everywhere. Vance just shook his head, the vibrations he had first felt stronger now than ever, causing the hairs on his arms to stand at attention. There was some kinda fire burning here.

“Did you see that?” yelled Jim, looking to Vance for confirmation of his sanity.

"Yea I saw it," muttered Vance.

"He really did it!" Jim said again, his eyes wild with possibilities. “Now we gotta start the Valor Society!”

Vance scoffed.

“Knock that Society shit off, man," he said as he paced away, kicking at the mirk-water below.

Jim just looked at Vance, his excitement fading. “Knock what off?”

Vance pointed meaningfully to the sky. "That dude won’t want a team. I’ve seen it before with him, and that's just on the football field. He'll want the spotlight, man. He'll want to give orders and expect us to fall in line. Shit, that's if he even needs us around anymore.”

“Come on, Vance,” Jim sighed, brushing it off. "That's not—"

"What are we, Jim?" Vance spit. "What are we compared to that? I might be bulletproof, maybe, but too chickenshit to find out. And no offense, but the only thing that's happened to you so far is you got smarter. That makes you real damn smart, don't get me wrong. But for real, man. Is Leonard really gonna team up with the geeky freshman and a black kid from Southside who can't get shot?"

Jim just stood silent, processing this, his shoulders slumped.

"Leon's not like that, Vance," Jim said at last. "Not really. You know that." But it was more of a question than a statement, a half-felt belief suddenly coming under stark scrutiny.

Vance just chuckled. "I don't know that, Jim. But what I do know is this sorta thing... it changes people, man. Folks get caught up."

"Caught up?"

“Caught up in the glory!” Vance shouted. He punched the wall of the water tower and sent it ringing, his ultra-thick skin protecting tendon and bone from the impact. Still, it stung a little. He shook it out and spun back on Jim.

"Whatever this weird little trio was, it's over, Jim! And think about this. Leon could barely keep his mouth shut about what happened up here before he could fly. Now there's no way he don't make the front page in a month. There won't be anymore secret meetings and playing around with superpowers. This will be real. Are you ready for that? To be called a hero? Or worse, to be called a freak?”

Jim got real quiet then, looked down at his feet. He shrugged meekly.

"I guess we just get secret identities if we have to. Masks, you know. It's what they all do in the comics."

Vance laughed ruefully.

"In the comics. Are you for real? I can't keep straight the one life I already got, man. And if anyone in my neighborhood found out what I could do... I'd never live a normal life again. If I ever decide to do this hero thing, it ain't gonna be in Rapid City. And it ain't gonna be with Leonard Cabot. It's gonna be on my terms."

Vance turned away, his frustration filling his head with a dull pain. He heard Jim behind him, his feet slogging through the water. He looked and saw the younger boy back at the desk, staring down at the logo he’d made, the dream he'd held fading.

Vance sighed.

“I'm sorry, Jim."

Jim looked at him then, hope still in his eyes.

“But it doesn’t have to happen like that, Vance... does it?”

Vance shrugged “Maybe not.”

And he looked up at the moon again. There he caught a small silhouette of Leonard whizzing by, high in the cloudless night.

Had he forgotten about them already?

The cold feeling in Vance’s gut turned to solid ice.

“But it will.”

 
 

 

chapter TWO:
Your press-approved acts of kindness will not save you

 
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They erected a statue honoring the life and works of the superhero known as Magnificent Man on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late August. A sizable crowd had gathered to watch the dedication—the press, the public, the police. Looking back, the event itself, like that brittle old water tower on the edge of town, was in many ways an antiquity, even then. Civil engagement. Community involvement. These ideas would soon go the way of the hand-written letter—a nice idea, but one too fanciful for modern sensibilities, what with our need for instant response. 

Indeed, there would be other statues, other events. But the cohesiveness of Rapid City, spurred on by the great and infallible Magnificent Man, would soon give way to doubts, to divisions and frustrations. Some justified, but others not. Crowds would later form, but they came with protest signs and Molotov cocktails; police would congregated, but carried with them riot gear and rubber bullets.

Not that August afternoon, though. The Golden Age, as they call it these days, was still in full effect.

It's a fitting title. For as the saying goes,

nothing gold can stay…

 

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Leonard Cabot, the man hidden behind Magnificent Man’s yellow and orange mask, sweat nervously beneath his nylon suit. The bombastic costume felt even more awkward than usual, standing there in front of slices of the city’s demographics, at a dedication to a statue of his likeness, a bronze idol on display for all to see. He had never gotten used to being a spectacle, even during everyday hero work, and this event was well outside the norm.

Rutger had insisted on a costume from the onset. Protect your identity, he told Leonard. Magnificent Man is the city’s now. He can handle it. Leonard Cabot, on the other hand, is just a politician, a smiling face in a tailored suit. The city eats politicians for breakfast; like punk-rock, they would never trust The Man. But a bonafide superhero, brightly colored costume and all? That would inspire people.

Leonard had to grin thinking of that now, as he watched his old friend deliver the opening words of the dedication.

Mayor Rutger Morning, elder statesman of Rapid City, stood proud at the podium, his silver-fox hair almost reflective in the high, hot sun. You’d never know it to look at him, but he, too, wore a costume, and he wore it well. The grey three-piece, double-breasted suit, the blood-red tie and matching pocket square. He looked like a young grandfather at Christmas Eve mass. The people trusted this suit, because this suit was the costume, and on some lizard-brain level, they all knew it. What Rutger Morning truly was lay beneath.

Not so for Leonard. He, at his core, was the politician. He had always wanted to work for the people in that capacity. The costume (yellow and orange like a fireball, emblazoned with a gaudy “M” right in the center of the chest), the superpowers—strength, speed, and flight—this was the stranger to him; this was the mask.

Magnificent Man. What a title. What a ludicrous, self-indulgent moniker. But the people needed him. And the people loved him. And so he led in the way they needed, with guts and brawn and unabashed heroics.

At least that’s what he told himself at night, when the world was asleep and he was not.

The crowd joined in polite applause as Rutger finished his remarks and called for Magnificent Man to say a few words.

It took Leonard a few moments to realize he was being summoned, so lost in thought, so far away in his mind.

“Magnificent Man?” Rutger said again, endearing patience. “Mag, my boy, come forward.”

Leonard jostled the dust from his head and smiled that winning smile. He raised a hand to the crowd as he walked to the podium. They cheered their loudest for him. He shook Rutger’s hand, dutifully, but gave him a knowing wink, a gesture not for the cameras and the papers. A sign of friendship. Understanding.

Magnificent Man took to the microphone.

“Sorry about that,” he said after clearing his throat. “I was lost in thought. Seeing a bronze likeness of yourself will do that.”

A few chuckles came from the crowd. Magnificent Man shifted his weight and continued. If there was one thing he did better than anything else, it was speak to an audience.

“As I stand here this morning in front of you, beneath the brightest sun I’ve seen in weeks, I can’t help but wonder at the providence that has brought us together. I could have landed anywhere. I could’ve wound up at the bottom the sea. But when I crashed into your planet, the fates chose Rapid City.”

The crowd cheered.

In truth, of course, Leonard had never crash-landed anywhere. That was Rutger’s idea, too. People love aliens, he said. They can swallow that easier, frankly, than a man from means like their own being greater than the best of them. Envy is a human emotion. Take away the humanity, present them an alien, and it settles better in the minds of mere mortals.

“Rapid City is my home," Mag went on. "And you have adopted me in kind. This statue, this honor, means more to me than you will ever know. I will be your protector until time or circumstance no longer allows it. I live to serve you.”

They looked poise to erupt in applause again, but a stern voice cut all that short.

“Oh do you now?”

The assembly fell quiet.

Magnificent spotted the man then, pushing his way through the crowd, removing his cap with an air of respect, even as his voice was cutting, a deep baritone bellow.

Leonard recognized his face almost immediately and the sight of him spun his world.

Vance Waters cleared his throat and continued.

“You live to serve me?”

Leonard just stared at him, this figment from a half-forgotten past, tongue-tied for the first time in a very long time.

“I doubt, Mr. Magnificent, that you have ever served me. Or those that look like me. See, we don’t much matter in the grand scheme, do we? Tossed to the wrong side of the tracks, ignored. Out of sight, out of mind, right?”

Leonard stammered to a start.

“I’m s-sorry, sir, how ca—” but he was cut short.

“Every day in the neighborhood where I’m from, people suffer. Children starve. Teenagers become drug mules, or junkies themselves. Men die in the streets. Women are attacked in their beds. It was like this back when I was coming up, and it’s still like this even now, even after your ass showed up.”

There was an audible gasp from the crowd at that. Leonard tried to interject again, but Vance continued coming forward, insistent that his voice be heard.

“In fact, when’s the last time you actually stopped a crime? You fly around the city, thwarting men who steal from the rich banks in town, rescuing well-to-do high-rise residents from fires. But have you ever stopped a man in my neighborhood from being murdered? Have you ever put the hurt on a an actual thief? On a drug dealer?

“Your service, Magnificent Man—“ (and Vance said the name with such venomous derision that it actually hurt Leonard to hear it) “—is lip service. I don’t know how an alien is judged, but a man is not judged by good intentions. He is judged by his actions. And your press-approved acts of kindness will not save you. In fact, they won’t save any of us. Not really. So let me ask you this, Mr. Magnificent…”

And Vance was almost to Leonard now, a foot from the metal barrier that separated the crowd from the podium and stage. A cop keeping watch of the situation took a few long strides forward. But Vance, ignoring the officer, reached the barrier and leaned out as far as he could. He stuck an angry finger at the center of the “M” on Magnificent Man’s chest.

“Where is your heart, hero?”

Before Mag could respond, the officer was there, grabbing Vance’s arm and twisting it back. The crowd reacted with a unified inhale, and Vance’s eyes went wide. Instinctually, he pulled back his free arm to sock the officer square in the jaw.

But Leonard was there in a flash and reached out his hand, catching Vance’s fist in his palm.

“Officer, let go of this man!” Magnificent Man—all Magnificent Man—ordered with a booming voice. The crowd, if it could grow any more silent, managed to.

The cop, wide-eyed and pale, released Vance’s arm and stepped back. Magnificent Man locked eyes with his accuser, his friend from all those years ago. He saw bitterness there, but less than he had expected. And something else, too.

Determination. A fire like a thousand stars. Mag leaned in.

“What are you doing?” Leonard asked in a voice barely above silence, cognizant of the press and the prying eyes surrounding him.

Vance just stared back at him.

“Do you really want to do this here?”

Vance cocked an eye to the left, the right. He seemed to at last realize the public scope of the situation.

“What is your name?” Magnificent said.

Vance just blinked, confused.

“What is your name?” Magnificent repeated, a little louder this time.

Vance looked around fully now, began to understand.

“Uh…” he said, and cleared his throat. “Vance,” he said. “Vance Waters.”

“Well, Mr. Waters,” said Magnificent. “You are entirely correct. I haven’t done enough for this city as a whole. It’s not a… purposeful oversight. But it’s there nonetheless. We—” and he included Rutger in this with a gesture of his hand “—have failed you.”

Vance just stared at him. 

“... Thanks?” he said, unsure how to act.

Magnificent feigned a bright smile. 

“Your words were heard here today. They are words that have bounced around in the back of my own mind for far too many nights. It took you to remind me that I can no longer afford to ignore them.”

Vance just gave him a skeptical look.

Magnificent wordlessly reached out a hand, a knowing look in his eye. Vance, hiding his disgust at how things were shaking out, shook the man’s hand. But he pulled Magnificent to himself, an awkward half-hug. Leonard had forgotten how strong Vance was.

“The water tower,” whispered Vance. “Tonight at ten. Call Jim.”

Magnificent pulled away from Vance, stared at him with bewilderment, overwhelmed at once with the sudden strangeness of the request, the circumstance of it all. Leon, Jim, and Vance together again at the old water tower?

"Thank you, Magnificent Man," said Vance. "Thank you for listening."

Then Vance mouthed the words YOU OWE ME, and it all sunk in. This was really happening. Leonard nodded, then crouched slightly, pressing into the cement beneath his feet.

A burst of air pushed Vance back a step as Magnificent Man, without another word, launched into the sky and disappeared from sight, a cry of questions and shutter clicks chasing after him.

 
 

 

chapter THREE:
Though it seems unlikely a bunch of misfit vigilantes can tear down their differenceS and learn to work together

James Timothy Young stood in the hollow cavern of the ancient water tower and checked his watch. Everyone else was late. Guess some things never change.

It had been almost two decades since last he stepped foot here, going back to that fateful night Magnificent Man first took flight. He was simply Leonard back then. He wouldn’t be Magnificent for another two years or so. But even then, on that very night, there had been a shift.

The meetings at the old water tower, the testing of powers, the joking around and playing at hero. It all vanished almost at once, almost exactly as Vance said it would. Jim and Leonard remained friends, but Jim had never been close enough to Vance to convince him not to burn too many bridges. A self-fulfilling prophecy on Vance's part, perhaps, but the guy went his own way and as soon as he graduated, he was pretty much gone from Jim’s life for good.

He’d hear stories, though. On the news out of Crawford, a town a few hours north of Rapid City. News of a hero cleaning up the streets, looking out for the little guy.

He called himself Bulletproof.

There came a sound near the hatch above.

Jim turned to see Vance Waters pull himself through the opening and place his feet on the internal ladder. He looked much older now—older than he was—with a stubbly salt-and-pepper beard and black-rimmed glasses.

“That was a hell of a lot harder than I remember,” Vance commented as he descended. Jim chuckled.

“Agreed.”

When Vance reached the floor, he and Jim shook hands.

“Good to see you,” said Jim.

“You, too,” said Vance.

“How have you been?”

Vance shrugged.

“I'm living. Got a wife, couple of sons, steady job. The usual. You and Anna Maria doing well?”

Jim gave a smile at the mention of his longtime wife. "Couldn't be better.”

An awkward silence then, the catch-up chatter now out of the way. Vance cleared his throat and paced off towards the old desk near the far wall, still standing after all these years.

If Vance and Jim didn’t have much in common as kids, the difference in the trajectory of their lives since then left a chasm between them. For about a decade after college, Jim operated the Young Agency, a private investigation firm, with his wife, Anna Maria. Those days were over, but Jim still found inspirations in detective work. He’d take the occasional job still, but his steady gig was parlaying the old cases into best-selling novels. He also taught literature at the university.

Vance, for his part, had met a nice woman named Mabel about a year after arriving in Crawford and the two had a couple of sons together. By day, Vance worked at the DMV, enjoyed playing rec softball and spending time with his family. By night, Vance was Bulletproof. He and his crew had developed quite a name for themselves, becoming real local heroes and an inspiration to many. Things in Crawford were finally looking up, and Bulletproof was a huge part of that turnaround. 

“I can’t believe this old stuff is still here,” Vance said with a chuckle, leafing through moldy, moth-eaten notebooks filled with the writings and sketching of a boyhood Mr. Young. “Even then you spent more time writing than anyone I’ve known. You still drawing, too?”

Vance held up the sketch of the Valor Society logo, ambitious and kiddish in its gaudiness. Jim grinned.

“A little.” He walked over and took the notebook from Vance. He looked at it fondly. “Now there’s a blast from the past.”

A voice came from above them.

“What the hell were you thinking, Vance?”

Vance and Jim looked up to see Leonard Cabot perched like a gargoyle on the rim of a gaping tear in the metal roof. Dressed in a stylish suit jacket and open-collared shirt, the orange and yellow costume left behind, Leonard was still every bit the imposing presence. His face was hard; his eyes gleamed angrily through the shadows.

“Had to get your attention somehow,” Vance said, his arms outstretched in challenge. “Looks like it worked.”

Leonard dropped to the floor of the water tower with a wet thunk, kicking mirk water into the air. He strode quickly to confront Vance.

“You have no idea the damage you could’ve caused with that stunt,” said Leonard, his finger in Vance’s chest. "If anyone—"

Vance slapped Leonard's hand away.

“Back off me, man,” he spit, incredulous. “This ain’t high school. I don’t take orders from your punk ass.”

Leonard's eyes burned bright for a moment, wide, but he pulled his face together and took a deep breath, trying to calm his adrenaline.

“Now try coming at me with a little more respect,” suggested Vance, his voice softening, if only a little. Leonard broke his stare and spun away. He shook his head, his hands on his hips, sweat on his brow.

"Unbelievable," he muttered.

"I'm sorry?" inquired Vance.

"You're the one that dropped by out of the blue, Vance. I'm not allowed to be a little ticked off?"

"You can be mad, Leonard," Vance said calmly. "But you can't put your finger in my face like I'm your kid."

There was a pause then, long enough for the water tower to catch its breath.

"Besides," he continued. "I didn't come here to pick a fight."

Leonard breathed a heavy sigh.

“Neither did I, dammit,” he said at last. “I'm... sorry about my attitude."

He shook his head and cleared his throat. "So, what are we doing here, fellas?” He looked to Jim for any indication. "Hmm?"

But Jim was as clueless as Leonard. It was Vance who had called this meeting. On cue, Vance walked back over to the desk and snatched up the drawing of the Valor Society logo. He held it up.

"We're here for this," he said sharply.

“For a twenty year old doodle?” scoffed Leonard.

“For an idea,” corrected Vance. “Started long ago, right here in this water tower. An idea that was bigger than ourselves. Bigger than our differences.”

Both Leonard and Jim were quiet, waiting for the man with the stage to elaborate. Vance lowered the picture.

“I’m talking about what we should’ve been talking about years ago. The team, man. Rapid City needs us. This town is violent, divided. And Leonard, you don’t do shit about it! Not as a suit or as Magnificent Man.”

“And what have you been up to, Bulletproof?” Leonard shot back, taking a step forward. Vance cast his eyes away. “You don’t think I’ve kept an eye on you since you left Rapid City? Saw how fast you moved to leave Southside in the dust? To do your hero work somewhere else, somewhere you’d be noticed? Somewhere without competition?”

Vance snorted. “Man, you think I left because of you?”

“I think I had something to do with it.”

“Of course you had something to do with it.” Vance said, shaking his head sadly. “But not in the way you think.”

Leonard paced away again, ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

"Then what is it, Vance? Why the renewed interest?"

“My nephew got killed,” Vance blurted out. “Alright? Two nights ago. Right outside the house I used to live in.”

Silence. The water tower groaned beneath their feet.

Vance turned his back on the others, tears and anger welling up.

“You’re right, Leonard. I did leave. I left to do some good for a place that really needs it. But I was so quick to be different, to make out, to be seen somehow as noble… that I forgot where I came from. And it cost my nephew his life."

Leonard looked at Jim, a new kind of steeliness in his eyes. Something behind them was shifting. He looked back to Vance.

"So what do we do, boss?"

Vance turned back to Leonard, a bit of disbelief on his face. Jim piped up.

"Vance, the Valor Society was always your idea, right from the start. So how do we make it happen?"

Vance was wide-eyed, caught off guard. He thought, if anything, the three of them could work this out together. He didn’t expect them to be looking to him for answers.

"I mean, I don't know, fellas. It’s just a dumb little dream. When you think about it—“

Leonard stepped forward.

"Then don't think about it, Vance," he said. "Don't sell this short. You believe in this. The way you spoke about it just a minute ago... you’re not wrong. The RC does need something more from me. It deserves better." Leonard placed a hand on Vance's shoulder then, looked him in the eyes.

"You deserve better."

Vance just stared back at the man, this man he had built up so much bitterness for over the years, so much resentment. Maybe it was the magic of the water tower, but Vance felt the bad begin to melt away.

Vance cleared his throat.

"Well," he began, "We need a team, like I said. Different powers and abilities. Strengths and speeds. We need to be organized around one goal: to be wherever we're needed when no one else can get there. Not the cops. Not the suits. Just us. Track down the leads that are hard to see. Break the strongholds that are hard to break."

"So where do we start?" Jim asked. "Recruitment? Wanna hold auditions like my theater group did back in college?"

"Yeah," said Vance simply. "I think that'd be a way to get the ball rolling."

Jim laughed and shook his head. "Oh, man. Open casting call for a superhero team. That should make a good one-sheet."

Vance chuckled, too. Leonard started to pace. It was what he did when the wheels were turning.

"We should start with our own networks, though," said Leonard. "Reach out to others we know. I've got a few colleagues worth chatting with, but do you guys have anyone?"

Jim and Vance thought about it a moment.

"I know a crew back in Crawford,” said Vance. “They don't have powers like we do, but they're hard nosed dudes. Loyal as hell. Always looking out for the little guys. Maybe a couple of them would be down to relocate."

Leonard nodded. "Definitely could work. Superpowers are a plus, but it's hard to say what's out there, which of the up-and-comers would play well with others. Dedication is top priority."

"For sure," agreed Jim. He squinted. "I know this one woman. Sorta. I've done a few cases with her now but she's hard to pin down. Goes by the name Lady Love, for whatever reason. She's a bit of an enigma."

"What do you mean?" asked Vance.

"She's got this... thing. Like, you can see her and talk to her—you could study her face for an hour if she'd let you—but the second she walks away its like you never laid on eyes on. You know she was there, you remember what was said, but you couldn't describe her to anyone if you had to. Not really. It's bizarre."

"Sounds like it," said Leonard. "But you trust her?"

Jim shrugged. "So far so good. She comes in handy for that whole 'get in unseen, get intel, get out' kinda job. Which I happen to come across a lot these days."

“She sounds like trouble,” Vance murmured.

"Oh, she most definitely is," agreed Jim.

Leonard chuckled. "Well good, we have a few names at least. Even if they are a bit shady at the moment. We can still get the word out," he lifted a hand to Jim, "hold some auditions, like you suggested—"

"That was a joke, Leon."

"—We'll keep our identities secret still, amongst the team. Just to be safe. But we'll find a way to work together, to present a united front, one with more eyes. Even I can’t be everywhere at once. And, like it or not, I have certain appearances to keep.”

Vance rolled his eyes a bit but flashed Leonard a grin nonetheless.

“There's strength in number," Jim picked up. "If there’s a team, we can fan out, cover different parts of the city."

Leonard clapped his hands suddenly and pointed at Jim. "We could get Salamander involved!"

Jim grimaced. "I'm not sure if Anna Maria is ready to come out of retirement. But she'd probably aid us on the tech side of things." 

"Perfect," said Leonard.

“It’s not a bad start,” Vance said, pondering it all. “Though it seems unlikely a bunch of misfit vigilantes can tear down their differences and learn to work together.” He grinned, his eyes drifting meaningfully back to the moon, to that hole in the roof that started it all. “But I have seen you do a bit of tearing back in your day.”

Leonard grinned. "Then let's do this."

 
 

 

chapter FOUR:
Because you'd rather be down there doing good than be anywhere else

Over the next month or so, Leonard, Jim, and Vance—in disguise as Magnificent Man, The Detective, and Bulletproof, respectively—fielded thousands of potential candidates from around the country. They saw the strangest of abilities and powers. Some were superhuman, others just crazy talents or skills. A wide variety of people showed interest in putting their gifts to use in Rapid City, but in the end, the three founding members of The Valor Society chose five others to join their ranks.

Lady Love made the cut, of course, and true to the tale, not a single member of the panel could describe what she looked like. She also wouldn’t give her real name, which was a point of contention for Mayor Morning, who insisted on overseeing the process. But Leonard managed to talk him down off his high horse.

Then there was Walter Green, a young man with x-ray vision and some pretty cool tech, who possessed a genuine smile and a sort of wide-eyed optimism Leonard admired and had all but forgotten in himself. Walter brought with him a buddy from high school, a junior named Judd Vanderbilt. He was a bit cockier than Walt, but a nice kid. Plus he could fly, though not in the same way Magnificent could. Judd floated, as if the earth’s gravity had no hold on his mass; he drifted quickly through the air as a fish might through the water. It was no wonder he was the captain of the swim team; the kid could move like lightning. Leonard liked the idea of having another flyer on the team, and so Judd made the cut as well.

Vance’s vigilante friend, Renegade, was the only one from the Crawford crew to make the final cut. Already an established presence by the moniker, Renegade, too, refused to give his real name. But Vance knew it and could vouch for him. Renegade was a typical biker dude, dressed from head to toe in leather, with long black hair pulled into a ponytail and a black mask that came down to his nose tied around his head like a bandana. He was a sour dude at first blush, but he seemed eager to help.

“Bulletproof invited me,” he said with a shrug during his tight-lipped interview when asked why he wanted to join the Valor Society. “I’d go anywhere with that big bastard.”

Then finally came the matter of the Hollywood starlet, actress Alexa Con, who came in weighed down by a large hat, big sunglasses, and an overcoat. Two burly bodyguards flanked her. She introduced herself—though she really needed no introduction—and, after seeing there were no press or public present, proceeded to show Leonard, Jim, and Vance her true colors. She told the group that she had been born Alexis Constantine and that when she was ten years old she discovered that she could change her shape into any person she encountered. To prove it, the slender blonde bombshell, America’s latest sweetheart, provided a demonstration. Her entire form began to shift and change, molding and remolding, like clay being kneaded by a potter. When the swift process was over, Alexa Con looked exactly like Magnificent Man, orange suit and all. Everyone was blown away by her abilities. She made the cut without question.

The team now assembled, Leonard worked out the details of naming and costuming each new member, including Jim and Vance who had never been properly uniformed. Leonard would describe what he was looking for, and Jim would draw them up. It was a fun process, actually, like being kids again, creating worlds and heroes in their minds. Jim, of course, was on cloud nine, able to stretch his sketch legs.

 

the valor society!

MAGNIFICENT MAN

[LEONARD CABOT]

LADY LOVE

[IDENTITY UNKNOWN]

CLOPTIC

[WALTER GREEN]

BULLETPROOF

[VANCE WATERS]

RENEGADE

[IDENTITY UNKNOWN]

WINDRUSH

[JUDD VANDERBILT]

THE DETECTIVE

[JIM YOUNG]

ALTERA

[ALEXA CON]

 
 

The team made its debut on a Friday afternoon at a press conference on the steps of city hall, where they stood dutifully in line, shiny new costumes hardly broke in, and let the press have its way with them.

Renegade was the most uncomfortable of the lot, standing there in brand new leathers, cameras popping off around him and an eighty-degree sun overhead. He leaned over to Jim, who stood next to him, and spoke through a fake smile.

“What the hell was wrong with my old jacket?” he asked under his breath. ”I love that jacket.”

Jim waved to the press as they took their photos and returned a grinning, side-lipped answer. “You can wear that dirty old thing whenever you want, except for today. Today is special.”

Jim looked at him then from the corners of his eyes.

“But don’t ditch the mask. I’ve installed some neat gadgets in that mask.”

“I look like a raccoon in this mask.”

“Well you looked like a dread pirate before, Renegade, and nobody pulls off that look. Besides, a raccoon fits you.”

"Yea? Why's that?"

"Because I know how much you like to eat garbage."

Renegade bit the inside of his cheek, felt his fists clench. Walked right into that one.

“You’re lucky there’s an audience, Captain Comedy. By the way, have you taken a look at your own getup?”

Jim chuckled, his mouth hid beneath his own mask, his expression unseen by the crowd. “I happen to really like this costume.”

Jim looked like he had stepped from the pages of some Victorian-era mystery novel, draped in an Irish greatcoat as thick as a London fog, complete with an inverness cape. His deerstalker cap, plaid to match the jacket, was pulled low, so as to conceal his eyes in shadow. The rest of his face was blocked by a white handkerchief. Renegade shook his head.

“You’re gonna sweat your sack off in that thing.”

“It’s more breathable than you’d think.”

“Right.”

Mayor Morning took the podium then. The approved members of the press took their assigned seats while the amateur shutterbugs and online gossip-hounds slinked to the peripheral. The general public lined the sidewalks and streets, filling up the block, as they listened in.

Morning tapped the microphone and was rewarded with a howl of feedback. The audience groaned, but the Mayor just chuckled.

“Gee, you might think I would know how to do this by now.”

That earned him a nice little laugh before he dove in to his prepared remarks.

Leonard listened as the Mayor introduced the team and laid out The Valor Society’s plans for the city. He breathed it in—the sun on his skin, the citizens of Rapid City gathered around, the new chapter of his life opening wide for the world to see. He had never felt like himself standing in front of a crowd as Magnificent Man. But all that seemed to wash away in the light of that new day. He felt like himself again, living out his calling, on his way to finally making a real difference.

In short, Leonard Cabot finally felt whole.

 

When the press conference was over, the team, flanked as always by Mayor Morning, was invited to a private luncheon at Bigg Industries. Located in the heart of downtown, Bigg Industries’ corporate headquarters stood taller than any other building in Rapid City, a glistening glass and steel obelisk reaching towards the heavens. Bigg Industries was a global player in the science and technology fields. It dabbled in software development, pharmaceuticals, weapons technologies, robotics engineering, cyber-kinetic enhancements, private-sector space travel—you name a cutting-edge technology, and chances were good that Bigg was steam-heading the research and advancement of it.

From the banquet hall window of the twenty-ninth floor, Renegade looked out on the city below and audibly scoffed.

“Talk about your ivory tower,” he muttered to himself.

He had never wanted anything to do with these corporate-type pricks, and now he found himself a guest of honor at one of their silly soirées. He spit out the toothpick he was chewing on and returned to staring out the window.

“You mind picking that up?” ask Magnificent Man as he approached. Renegade rolled his eyes.

“Sure thing, Captain,” and he bent to retrieve the toothpick. He stuck it in his pocket as he stood and whistled for a waiter's attention.

The waiter arrived just as Mag did, two lone mimosas on his tray. Renegade helped himself to both before the bossman—if he had even wanted to—could partake. He downed them hastily and bit on the sweet-sour taste of it.

“Damn. Does anyone actually like these things?”

Magnificent Man smiled. "I've never been a fan, either." He looked at Renegade then, studied him. Renegade didn't like that kinda look. People were always trying to figure him out, and it bothered him.

“You know why you’re here, don’t you?” said Mag after a moment.

Renegade shrugged and looked back out the window.

“Because I foolishly listened to Vance about your little help wanted ad?”

Magnificent Man pointed towards the street below. “Because you'd rather be down there doing good than be anywhere else. Your mind is always on the mission. I respect that. It’s a testament to your character.”

Renegade rolled his shoulders, uncomfortable with the compliment.

“Yea, well, Vance tells me Southside is in pretty bad shape. And we could be doing something about it finally, the seven of us, but here we are sipping on noon-day cocktails and taking photos with millionaires.”

“This is just a special day,” said Mag.

Renegade laughed. “Yea, everyone keeps saying that.”

“It won’t always be like this,” said Mag, chuckling himself, “I promise you. We're just getting the elbow rubbing out of the way. A little bit of diplomacy with people like Stanis Bigg can go a long way towards the cause.”

Renegade nodded. “Making friends with the money men. Spoken like a true politician.”

Mag looked hard at him, and Renegade just smiled and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender.

“Don’t worry, cowboy, your secret’s safe with me.”

Magnificent squinted.

"Did Vance tell you?"

"Hell no, man. Vance would never do that."

“Then how’d you find out?”

“I have my sources.” And he winked at the big man in orange. Mag sized him up again before cracking a grin himself. He slapped the man good-naturedly on the shoulder.

“You should’ve been a cop, Renegade,” smiled Mag as he left his leather-clad comrade behind

Renegade called back to him.

“Who says I’m not?”

“Man, that cat’s a character,” Leonard said to himself, shaking his head.

Stanis Bigg approached him, overhearing the remark.

“Who’s that? Renegade?” Stanis smiled. “I like the guy. He’s got a lot of fire in him.”

Stanis shook Magnificent Man’s hand. He was a tall man, as tall as Mag, and he carried himself with exceeding confidence. He was a man of great power as well, though of a different kind. Stanis Bigg had social power, power that didn't require a story or a costume to yield. Leonard respected that. He knew from experience that such power could come in useful.

"You should hear what he thinks of you," said Leonard. Stanis laughed loudly.

"I can imagine! I've never really gotten along with the punks and ruffians, if you know what I mean, though we have much more in common then they'd like to think."

"Yea you're a real scoundrel, Stanis. Motorcycle and all."

"We all need a hobby," Stanis grinned. "Can't get much better than a bike."

Stanis shifted gears then as he plucked an hors d'oeuvre from a passing tray. "Anyway, thank you for accepting my invitation. Rutger tells me you loathe these sorts of things."

“I'll survive," replied Leonard. "It's an honor to be invited."

"Well, you're welcome anytime."

A sudden commotion came from the doorway then. Leonard turned to see the doors burst open. A man in a black suit—head of security or something, from the looks of it—came toppling through the doorway head over heels, as if he had been tossed in.

"What the—" started Stanis, but fell short as a second man, his face beat red and his eyes wild, burst into the room after the guard. The man was on the short side, but stocky, built like an ox, his huge arms etched with purple veins.

Only, Magnificent Man noted, they weren’t purple. Not really. They were... silverly. Metallic.

In his meaty paw, the man held a metal-handled hatchet. Magnificent Man watched as the party-crasher stooped and snatched the guard up. He pulled him up violently, holding him out in front of him as if the man weighed no more than a child. The ox pulled back his hatchet, ready to deliver a death blow.

Magnificent Man pushed forward from the crowd, his chest swelling, his adrenaline already pumping.

"Put that man down!" he bellowed.

The crowd of party-goers fell hushed, stunned into silence. The red-faced man locked eyes with Magnificent and his jaw tightened, his eyes burned with hatred.

"Magnificent Man!"

He tossed the guard to the side and pointed his hatchet at Mag.

"I've been looking for you."

 
 

 

chapter Five:
To all the onlookers frozen in place like so many deer in so many headlights, this seemed like total insanity

“Well you found me,” boomed Magnificent Man, his arms outstretched. “And who are you?”

The man roared with frustration.

“You don’t even remember me?!”

“Should I?” Magnificent asked. Jim was standing at his side now and answered the question.

“His name is Benjamín Méndez,” whispered The Detective. “He auditioned for us. Was deemed... unstable.”

Stanis stepped forward then, his suit coat discarded. He looked strong with his jacket off, stronger than Leonard would’ve assumed; muscled arms and chest defined beneath a thin baby-blue dress shirt. He held an empty champagne bottle in his fist.

“This is a private engagement, friend,” spat Stanis derisively, pointing the champagne bottle at Benjamín. “You’re upsetting my guests.”

“I wasn’t talking to you!” screamed Benjamín and he hurled the hatchet at Stanis’ head.

The weapon cut through the air with startling speed, but Magnificent was faster. He spun and caught the hatchet just before it could split his host’s skull. The crowd gasped as time seemed to freeze. Magnificent looked to The Detective.

“What’s his ability?”

“Physical osmosis.”

“Come again?”

Surprisingly, it was Stanis that answered. “The ability to absorb the elemental makeup of any non-organic matter the subject’s skin comes in contact with.”

“Copy that.”

And Mag set his sites on Benjamín, taking a few powerful strides towards the intruder. Benjamín looked afraid for a moment, despite the metal adrenaline coursing through his veins, and for a moment Mag thought that perhaps this dog’s bark was worse than his bite. But then Magnificent saw Mayor Morning to Benjamín’s right. He looked poised to leap, to try and tackle the man, take him by surprise. And Magnificent realized in a heartbeat what would happen if he did.

“Rutger, don’t!” he shouted, but it was too late.

The Mayor grabbed Benjamín by the forearm, planted his feet in hopes to whirl him to the floor. But almost immediately something shifted in Benjamín’s eyes, as a power unlike any other began to pour through him. Rutger’s eyes went wide as well, wide with confusion and fear, and he tried to release his grip. But it was no use. Benjamín reached around with his free arm and grabbed a hold of Rutger, making sure he couldn’t run. He then turned to face Magnificent Man, picking Rutger up off the ground and putting the Mayor between himself and the advancing superhero. Mag pulled up quick.

Benjamín began to grow, he body surging with energy. He grew eight, nine feet tall; his head nearly touched the ceiling. His muscles swelled with power and his skin grew hard, changing into a burnished grey-black material, like hardened lava or onyx stone.

To all the onlookers frozen in place like so many deer in so many headlights, this seemed like total insanity. And it was insane, Benjamín’s powers. And the Mayor’s secret ones. Hell, superpowers in general were nuts, Leonard realized with an odd flash of clarity. After all, Rutger’s skin had the ability to turn into rock. And that rock, whatever element it was exactly, was now being absorbed by Benjamín Méndez. If that's not a crazy set of circumstances, Leonard didn't know what was.

Magnificent, his mind whirling with what to do next, watched the Mayor go limp in Benjamín’s grasp.

As the black-rocked giant tossed Rutger to the side like a discarded napkin, and the Mayor hit the floor with a sickening thud, the tension in the room final broke like a wave and all sense of order capsized.

Magnificent snapped into action, commanding The Detective to round up the guests and get them out the back door of the room.

“I’m on it!” Jim called, taking Anna Maria by the hand as they began to usher the crowd.

“We’re with the Dic!” shouted Renegade, and he and Alexa rushed in to help get the civilians out as well. The rest of the team came to Magnificent’s side, where Stanis Bigg was still standing.

“Well,” said Windrush through a crooked smile, “it seems a bit early in the narrative for our first pivotal test as a team. Who wrote this shit?” He looked to Mag and bounced his eyebrows up and down.

“Shall we dance?”

And with that the teenager jumped into the fray, the rest of his teammates on his heels.

Windrush floated past Benjamín’s first haymaker, but caught the second swing—a back hand—right in the ribcage. As light as he was, the force of the blow flung him shattering straight through a window.

“Windrush!” Cloptic called out and ran to the window to assist his friend. Magnificent and the rest refocused on Benjamín.

They fought hard, dipping around most of Benjamín’s arrant, wild movements. He was like a caged animal, no idea what he was doing in general, much less in a fight. So The Valor Society landed many blows, but they just didn’t seem to do anything.

At one point Lady Love managed to land a devastating kick to the side of the rock monster’s melon and he stumbled to one knee. But all that seemed to do was enrage him more; he flung out a fist that caught Bulletproof right in the jaw, sending the big man sailing into a line of banquet tables, silver serving platters and glassware flying. Mag pulled the team away from the flailing fighter so they could regroup.

From his place near the serving line wreckage, though, Bulletproof had an idea. He whistled loudly, catching Mag’s eye, and held up a large, glass serving tray, undamaged by the collision. Mag’s eyes lit up with the same idea.

“You’ll have to be quick,” shouted Bulletproof.

“When am I not?” Mag said with a smile.

Bulletproof grinned back, and with a grunt hurled the glassware at Benjamín Méndez. It whipped through the air like a frisbee and, just as Bulletproof had hoped, Benjamín instinctively caught it. Surprisingly agile fingers caused the glass not to break, but on contact the material began to do its work.

Benjamín’s skin began to shift again as the new matter coursed through him. He was losing his rock skin and replacing it, unwittingly, with glass. He was shrinking as well. Magnificent took his shot.

In a flash, he took off like a missile and collided full-force into Benjamín, shattering him into pieces.

The shards of glass that had once been Benjamín Méndez skittered and skipped to the carpet, lifeless and still. Magnificent stood slowly, his skin covered in tiny cuts, his face and fists bloodied and raw. A stillness settled on the room.

All the guests had been evacuated successfully, and the only people that remained in the room were Magnificent, Bulletproof, and Lady Love. Coptic was near the window, helping Windrush climb back inside after his ejection.

“I floated three blocks away, dude,” laughed Windrush as Cloptic helped to brush glass-dust off his shoulders. “Guess I’ll need to work on that.” He looked around. “Where’s the big guy?”

“Everywhere,” remarked Stanis as he gestured to the broken glass littered about the room. Windrush’s eyes just went wide.

"Damn."

As Magnificent rushed to Mayor Morning’s prone body, Lady Love smacked Bulletproof on the chest with the back of her hand.

“Nice plan, big guy,” she said and she headed across the way to help Mag with the Mayor. Bulletproof grinned.

“Indeed it was,” said Stanis, extending a hand. “I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure of a formal introduction. Stanis Bigg.”

Bulletproof shook the man’s hand.

“Van—“ he started, but cleared his throat and tried again. “Bulletproof, sir. Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Stanis said. “That was some damn quick thinking, Bulletproof.”

“I'm just glad I could help.”

“Me, too.”

Then Stanis also went to tend to the Mayor. Vance could hear sirens wailing in the distance, the police on their way. He looked around the room, disheveled and deserted when just moments before it had been filled with guests. He sighed and shook his head.

Their first fight as The Valor Society. He and Mag working together again, just like old times. Sure, it was messy, and chaotic, and a fellow super-powered man lay in pieces around his feet. But somehow it all felt… meant to be. A promise kept to protect and serve.

Vance closed his eyes and said a silent prayer for Benjamín Méndez and for the craziness of the situation, for the Pandora’s Box the Valor Society perhaps had already opened. And he prayed for Mabel and the kids back at home. He knew in that instant that the world they’d grow up—their Rapid City—was about to change forever.

 
 
 
TFRC1header.png

so, book of matches... what is tales from rapid city anyhow?

TALES FROM RAPID CITY IS AN EXCITING NEW SUPERHERO UNIVERSE TOLD AND SHARE IN AN EXCITING NEW WAY.

Written and developed by Book of Matches co-founder, Geoffrey Young Haney, with creative assistance from Matthew A. Rodriguez (Defenders of Eden), Tales From Rapid City vol. 1: Magnificent, tells the tale of Rapid City's most illustrious hero, Magnificent Man, and his tragic fall from grace.

On the dedication of a statue raised in his honor, iconic superhero, Magnificent Man, is challenged by an old friend, Vance Waters (who secretly fights a few towns over as the superhero known as Bulletproof), to start making a real difference; to stop playing it safe and to bring his power and influence to areas of the city that really need it—areas like Southside, one of Rapid City's more forgotten neighborhoods.

Accepting this responsibility, Mag teams with Bulletproof and their estranged friend Jim Young (The Detective) to form The Valor Society. They set out to recruit other heroes from around the nation to join in their cause, and together, these heroes will stop the crime and corruption the police and politicians seemed unable—or unwilling—to address.

But with the formation of a team of masked heroes comes powerful resistance. From the onset, The Valor Society finds itself up against a range of super threats, including Benjamín Méndez, a wannabe super with erratic and terrifying powers who didn't make the cut for the VS, a cocky bank robber with super-speed who goes by the name Blaze, and a shadowy counter-organization, The Mirari League, whose media-grabbing methods and appealing rhetoric bring into question which team of supers really has Rapid City's best interests in mind.

It's an all-out struggle for the hearts and minds of the people, a struggle that leaves the titular Magnificent Man forever altering the path of his life, the lives of the ones he loves, and the city he calls home.

Tales From Rapid City is a universe in the truest sense of the word, one with a vast storytelling scope. Comics, short stories, films... we're building our own little Marvel/DC here. Of course, that vision lies a ways down the road, when many minds can come together to fully flesh out the world of Rapid City. For now, it's just a few of us and a website. And that's just fine to get this introductory story told. Hopefully you'll see as much potential in this as we do.

RELEASE STRUCTURE

Throughout 2018, the tale of Magnificent will be available FOR FREE in five, six chapter "parts", with new chapters coming every week. Valor (Magnificent #1) begins March 27 with Chapter One: The Disorienting Feeling of A World On The Brink of Collapse and continues every Tuesday with new chapters until May 1st.

Valor (Magnificent #1) will then become an ebook, available on Amazon, with preorder beginning April 19. On May 10, when Valor is officially available to own as an ebook, the chapters available here on our website will be removed, and the next segment, Mirari (Magnificent #2), will kick off (again, FOR FREE) here on our site on May 15.

By releasing in this fashion, both as a free story and a more traditional ebook, we hope to reach multiple audiences—those "early adopters" excited about this story who want to read along as we go on this journey together, and those in the wider reach of the ebook market, who will hopefully join those "true believers" reading along right here on our website.

Tales From Rapid City vol. 1: Magnificent, will conclude in time for Christmas, with an illustrated TPB (trade paperback) collecting parts 1-5 available in print and digital formats on December 17, 2018. We hope you'll come along with us on this exciting adventure. Tales From Rapids City (volume 1 and beyond) has been percolating in different ideas and formats since 2013, and we're very excited to be able to bring it to you now in this unique way.

So excited, in fact, that from now until the ebook release of Masquerade (Magnificent #3) on August 16, anyone who emails heroes@talesfromrapidcity.com to tell us what they think of the project will receive both a print and digital copy of the final collection in December. That's a thank you from Book of Matches for supporting this dream (and a bit of an easter egg for reading this boring "info" section for this long. :D)

Also, be sure to sign up for the TFRC mailing list, and to follow Book of Matches Media on Facebook to stay updated. Thanks again for your readership, and enjoy the show!


ARE YOU INTERESTED IN CREATING IN THE RAPID CITY UNIVERSE?

Book of Matches Media is a collective, a group of artists all about collaboration. And Tales From Rapid City is no different. If you're a writer or artist who would like to get involved in this project in someway, feel free to email us. As stated before, to see this universe to its ultimate end, we'll need lots of talented people on board. So if you dig what we're doing and think you could contribute, give us a shout!

spark@bookofmatchesmedia.com

Creative Commons License
Tales From Rapid City, unless otherwise expressed, is a work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This means, in short, that you are free to play with it—to adapt it, remix it, remake it, and share it. But there are a few rules. To learn more about Creative Commons and the culturally important work they do, click here. If you have any questions specific to our license, to Tales From Rapid City's specific rules under that license, or would like to know more about how Book of Matches Media at large uses Creative Commons, please feel free to email us.

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