by Martin Maenza
My name is Zac Ammen, and I work as an airspace controller at one of the shipping ports just outside of Himalayas, one of the largest cities in Earth’s western hemisphere. Sitting at a comp-console five days a week, helping various crafts takeoff and land successfully isn’t the most exciting of occupations, but it does bring in the creds.
Still, it was hardly the way I had planned to spend the rest of my life.
I had dreams, big dreams. Like so many teenagers, I wondered what it would be like to be a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
For almost three years, I had watched them on the holos, thrilling to their exploits as they stopped criminals, averted disasters, and made the thirtieth century a better place to live. The team was growing quickly from the original three founders, and it seemed like they were holding open auditions for members a couple times a year.
Upon my sixteenth birthday, I talked my grandparents into letting me come out for a visit. In truth, I was more interested in coming halfway around the world for another reason. I can still remember the day vividly, nearly eleven years ago. It’s not a day one easily forgets.
I was full of excitement as I arrived in Metropolis and soon dressed in a homemade costume of my own design. I had kept it hidden in my luggage on the trip over to North America. Then, that day, I had told my grandparents I was going out for some sightseeing and took the costume with me. I changed in a restroom at the hover-bus station once I got into town.
The pants were orange with black stripes, flared out at the bottoms, with a hint of the black boots underneath. The jacket was a matching orange with wide shoulders, open so that a black tanktop was visible underneath. Looking back at it now, the fashion was probably a little bit advanced for the time, but that all fit in with the image I wanted to project. It tied to my powers and the code name I had given myself.
I approached my destination, the now-famous inverted yellow rocketship with the red fins. The sign above the door simply stated Super-Hero Clubhouse. I thought to myself how cool it would be to hang out there, to hang out with those amazing heroes. I was pretty certain all the rest of the applicants who tried out that day were thinking the exact same thing.
We all waited in a group, about ten of us or so, that morning. Some folks were a little more impatient that others. All of us were nervous, though we never would have admitted it. That just wouldn’t have been cool. For about an hour we waited for the heroes to come out.
Finally, they did so.
There was Chameleon Boy, the orange-skinned Durlan dressed in blue. His look was rather exotic, with pointed ears and antennae at the top of his head. A blob-like form sat perched quietly on his right shoulder. I think it was his pet or something.
Beside him was Ultra Boy, the brown-haired youth in red and green. He was chatting with the raven-haired beauty known as Phantom Girl, an ethereal vision all dressed in white. She smiled and laughed at whatever it was he was saying.
The green-skinned genius known as Brainiac 5 was discussing some project with the blond-haired Element Lad. The former wore a purple lab uniform, while the latter was dressed in a costume of pink and white.
And there was the legendary Superboy, who came from the ancient past to participate in adventures with the team. The history holos mention his exploits as a grown-up in his own time. He was considered one of the greatest heroes of Earth back then. Seeing him here, now, and so young, was odd but exciting. Superboy was introducing a pair of young men around to the others. One was blonde and the other was red-haired. Both were dressed in clothes so out of style that they had to have come from the past with the Boy of Steel on this visit.
Finally, Saturn Girl stepped from the clubhouse. As the current leader of the group, it fell to her responsibilities to call the event to order. “Everyone,” the blonde young woman in red and white said, “if you could form a line, single file, we’ll get this program started.”
The Legionnaires and the two guests gathered about in a half-circle before the clubhouse as each applicant came up in turn to present themselves and demonstrate their abilities.
I was at the back of line, which was fine by me. I wanted to concentrate on what was going on, to truly observe it. I hoped that perhaps some insight, some revelation would come to me. Something to show me how I could do better than the others, show me how I could be the next lucky teenager to be inducted into the group.
I wasn’t truly paying attention to the events as they unfolded, in part because I had a strong inkling as to how they would turn out for the others. I was trying to look past them, to get a focus on my own performance. I was uncertain, but I was not about to let that deter me.
“Why do you call yourself… Spider Girl?” Saturn Girl asked of a red-haired applicant dressed in a black skirt and a green top. The young woman’s collar had a web-like motif in white and black.
“I’ll demonstrate, Saturn Girl!” she replied confidently. “Watch me will my hair to expand…” And, indeed, the tendrils upon her head stood up and moved as it they had a life of their own. Then this modern-day Medusa focused on two of the assembled heroes. “…into a web that can be used to entrap foes — like this!”
“Hey!” Phantom Girl exclaimed as the hair lashed out at her. The red locks were everywhere, grabbing and squeezing hard.
“Stop, before you strangle us accidentally!” Brainiac 5 growled. As if that would have been an issue; everyone knew the genius had developed his own force-field belt to protect himself.
“Oolp!” Spider Girl said, frowning. “It’s g-getting out of control!” Indeed, her hair was acting out as if it had a mind of its own, not responding to her initial requests. With some difficulty, the young woman was eventually able to retract her hair-strands, much to the relief of Phantom Girl and Brainiac 5.
“Rejected!” pronounced Saturn Girl, hardly to my surprise. “We wouldn’t want you around, in our hair… or vice-versa!” The criticism might have appeared harsh to the young girl, but it was to be expected.
When called forth, the next applicant appeared. “I am… Double-Header!” said a man with two bald skulls held together by skin, rising up from his neck and shoulders.
The other head then added, as if picking up from where the first left off, “My motto is… ‘two-heads are better than one’! Ha, ha!”
The Legionnaires all looked incredulously at this guy. What was with him? What could he offer to the team?
But before Saturn Girl could ask for a demonstration, the two heads began to argue.
“Of the two heads, I’m the smarter one!” said the right one.
“No, you aren’t… big-mouth!” countered the left one.
“Yes, I am, stupid!“
“Conceited ape! I hate you!“
“Rejected!” shouted Saturn Girl, breaking up the bickering back and forth. “Not only would your uniqueness be worthless to the Legion, but your constant arguing would drive us daffy!”
Double-Header skulked away, still talking with himself. “Now see what your yackety-yak has done!” the right side said.
“I’d punch you, except it’d hurt me, too!” the left side admitted. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Eight Impossible Missions,” Adventure Comics #323 (August, 1964) for the original tale featuring the above exchanges.]
Again, I was hardly surprised by this rejection. Even without my special abilities, I could have seen that one coming a mile away. There were a few others ahead of me, so I continued to wait patiently.
I closed my eyes and tried to envision my own audition. I wanted to focus, to get that extra added bit of confidence. If I knew how it would turn out, perhaps the butterflies in my stomach would subside. But things were not coming into a clear focus, not a good sign.
But I was so lost in thought, I barely heard Saturn Girl call out, “Next! You there, in the orange.”
I snapped back to the moment, a bit unsure. It was now time, time to go for it and give it my all. There was no turning back. I approached the group of Legionnaires.
“What is your name?” Saturn Girl asked.
“Zac,” I said nervously. “Zac Ammen.”
There were a few chuckles from the others. Saturn Girl ignored that and continued. “That’s your code name?”
“N-no… no,” I said. “I thought… Foresight. I call myself Foresight.”
“Well, Foresight,” the leader said. “Why don’t you demonstrate for us what you can do?”
“Well,” I started to say, “that’s kind of difficult to do.”
“Yes, see, my powers… they’re not visually dazzling or anything.”
Saturn Girl frowned a bit, growing slightly impatient. “Then what can you do?”
“I can see into the future,” I said.
There was murmuring amongst the other members of the team. That seemed to have gotten their attention.
“I see,” Saturn Girl said. “We met another person with powers along a similar vein earlier this year. We offered her membership, but she declined, as she felt her control over her precognitive abilities could still use some work.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Menace of Dream Girl,” Adventure Comics #317 (February, 1964).]
“Let’s put him to a test,” Chameleon Boy suggested. He whispered to the creature on his shoulder, then picked up some paper and a writing instrument. “Here, Foresight,” he said as he handed the applicant the items. I’ve instructed Proty II, here, to change into a specific shape at my command. But before I do, I want you to write down what he will become.”
“Uh, OK,” I said. I took the paper, closed my eyes, and concentrated.
“Proty, do it!”
The image was blurred for a moment, so many possibilities for the shape-shifting creature. Then the image zoomed into complete focus. Got it! I quickly wrote down words on the paper. “Ready.”
“Proty, do it!” Chameleon Boy commanded. The little creature suddenly became the exact image, height, and weight of its master.
I smiled and turned over the paper confidently to show the group. On it I had written the words Chameleon Boy. There was some surprised murmuring from the group.
“A lucky guess, perhaps,” Brainiac 5 said skeptically.
“How about another test?” Element Lad suggested. “We’ll be having a meal in a few hours. Let’s see if he can tell us what will be served.”
I closed my eyes and concentrated for a moment, then let out a sigh. All that came to me was a simple image, clear and focused.
“You want the works on this rocket dog, kid?”
“Something wrong?” Phantom Girl asked.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s just, well…”
“Well what?” Ultra Boy said. “Out with it. Is there a problem?”
“Kind of,” I had to admit. “See, I can see the future, but it’s limited. My future sight, that is.”
“Limited?” Saturn Girl asked. “How?”
“Well, I guess it’s limited to my future, or really the events that might happen near and around me.”
It didn’t take Brainiac 5’s advanced intellect to come to a conclusion. “You cannot describe the meal we shall eat, because you won’t be present to partake in it,” he said flatly. “Correct?”
I dropped my head slightly. “Yes, I suppose so. Plus…”
“Plus?” Saturn Girl asked.
“Plus, it’s kind of limited to how far in the future I can see, too. The closer something is and the more likely something is to occur, the sharper and more focused my visions are. If something has a high degree of improbability around it, it’s not as focused. Eventually, if I concentrate, I can see the outcome, but sometimes then it’s only moments before it occurs.”
This brought disappointed looks to the faces of most of the group. Saturn Girl frowned, too. “Rejected,” she said. “A power like yours is too limited to benefit the team.”
I nodded. I had a strong feeling this would happen. As I was waiting with the others and trying to see into my own future, it was jumbled and unfocused. That should have been the first hint that failure was probably going to occur.
Like the others who were rejected that day, I, too, was given a flight belt as a consolation prize, a keepsake of my tryout attempt. And though I kept it all these years, I rarely used the belt for its intended purpose. It looked like an ordinary belt, and I would on occasion use it for that. But I didn’t ever feel like using it to fly. It didn’t seem right. Too much of a reminder of the shattered dream.
So I put away the costume forever and buckled down in my studies like my parents wanted. I eventually got my degree and was hired on to work at the spaceport. And that’s where I have been for the last four years or so. For the most part, it’s been uneventful.
That is, until today.