Here’s the thing. The world at large may know me today as Ant Man, but before I became a ‘Superhero,’ I was just another regular Joe. If that particular Joe was in prison.
Never mind why I wound up there (ancient history). The fact is I did, and that experience changed me. I’d gone to jail for doing something wrong, and I found that if I wanted to stay alive and as un-shanked as possible within prison, I would have to do some other things that society may consider morally or legally ‘wrong’. I’ve snitched on fellow prisoners, smuggled cigarettes into prison to use as currency, and on more than one occasion participated in a brawl between my group and others. If I hadn’t done those ‘wrong’ things, I would have died, pure and simple. Way too many people in the slammer willing to cut you for fun.
‘Fun’, According to Prison
The lessons I learned there stayed with me when I came out, so much so that I realize now that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are often a matter of perspective, and there’s a little grey area in between that people like myself often have to operate in just to keep our heads above water.
All of which brings me now to this particular moment, when I am trying to evade the computer security surrounding Tony Stark’s mansion while I try to sneak a game cube prototype out of his house.
Am I being heroic? No, but I’m not really straight-up evil either. The game cube is this dinky little toy that Stark invented when he was a bored seventeen-year-old as an improvement on the traditional Rubik’s cube. Apparently, the thing somehow actively works against you as you try to solve it, depending on the level of difficulty you switch it to.
Anyway, gaming companies from all over the world have been begging Stark to tell them how he made his cube, and he’s always refused. Not because of some moral reason, but simply because he enjoys screwing with the companies and watching them waste millions on R&D trying to copy his design. Iron Man may be a superhero, but there are plenty times when Tony Stark can just be a straight-up prick.
No Part Of This Spells ‘Grace’ or ‘Modesty’
Now you might wonder what this has to do with me? Well, being a superhero is often a full-time job, except you don’t get paid. It’s been impossible for me to hold down a real job what with all the time I spend Ant-manning. Then I realized my daughter Cassie’s birthday was coming up. Yet another birthday when her deadbeat dad wasn’t going to get her a present and would show up to her party empty handed.
But not this time. I made my decision. My friend Luis got in touch with one of the companies that want the cube and offered to steal it for them. The company jumped at the opportunity, and just in time. Tomorrow is Cassie’s birthday, and the plan is for me to steal the cube and head over to her birthday party, where I will hand the cube over to Luis, who will, in turn, slip away from the party for an hour and return with a bagful of cash. I will then use that money to book a trip for Cassie and me to Disneyland this weekend and watch the look on Paxton’s stupid face when he realizes Cassie’s real father got her a much better gift than her step-father.
And I’ll have earned that money, too, because Stark’s security is no joke. If this were the Fort Knox I’d have been outside already, but running through the pipes of Stark’s mansion is like navigating a minefield. Has Tony been feeling slightly nervous ever since Ant Man delivered that brutal beatdown to his team at the airport? Aw… is the big scary Iron Man worried about lil’ ol’ Ant Man ?
Of Course He Is
Half an hour more of evading Stark’s traps, and I’m finally free of the mansion, with no one the wiser. I take off the Ant man suit and head to the airport. Two hours later, I’m sitting in my plane as it takes off for San Francisco. I can feel the cube in my jacket pocket as I drift off to sleep dreaming of Cassie’s reaction to meeting a Disney princess for the first time.
I get to San Francisco pretty late the next evening, and just have time for a quick shower and shave before heading over to the party at Cassie’s parent’s house. No alarm raised for the cube yet, as far as I know. Stark must have other things on his mind instead of worrying about his old toys.
The party’s in full swing when I get to the house. And the first person to greet me is Cassie as she comes running out to me with a shriek.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart.” I hug her tightly. God, to think I missed out on seeing my little angel growing up while I was in prison.
“I’m so happy you came, daddy.” She beams at me, and becoming Antman becomes the second most amazing thing in my life after watching her smile. “Mom wanted to cut the cake, but I told her I was going to wait for you first. Wait here; I wanna show you something.”
She ran off up the stairs, and I slowly made my way into the house, exchanging nods and awkward greetings with my ex-wife and her cop boyfriend. Luis hasn’t arrived at the party yet. For now, the cube will have to stay hidden in my pocket.
“Look, daddy!” Cassie had come running down wearing a new T-shirt. “I was on this website for a company called Soul Purpose that donates money for the art program at my school. They make all sorts of shirts and shoes with superheroes on them that you can order on their site. I got this one, and it’s my favorite!”
The shirt she’s wearing’s got a picture of Antman on it. She pulls me down and whispers in my ear, “I know I can’t tell anyone, but this one’s my favorite shirt because it’s got you on its cover!”
I can’t think of doing anything but hugging her more tightly than ever. “It’s a great shirt, sweetie. Listen… I’m sorry honey, but… but the thing is… I couldn’t get you a present this year.”
“That’s okay.” She hugged me again. “I already got my present from Soul Purpose with your face on it, and this is the coolest gift out of all the ones I got today!”
I smiled at her and rose to my feet. Across the room, I saw Luis beckoning me to come outside the house.
“Did you get it, Holmes?” He asked eagerly when I joined him.
I sighed. “I’m sorry, man. Stark’s security was too tight. I couldn’t get the cube.”
“What!” The anguish in Luis’s eyes was real. “Oh man, what do I tell the toy company guy now?”
“Tell him I tried, but it didn’t work out. I’m sorry, man.” I left Luis muttering to himself as he walked off to meet the toy company guy and try to explain to him that he couldn’t get the toy.
There’s that gray area again. I had to lie to my best friend and got him in trouble. I also couldn’t give my daughter the gift she deserves. And all because of that T-shirt. See, I can deal with people calling me a thief and a liar, and I have no illusions about being some noble superhero like Captain America. But my daughter actually thinks that’s who I am. For her sake, I can try to shift out of the gray area as much as I can and move towards the ‘right’ path.
And now I also have to fly back to Stark’s mansion and place the cube back on his desk without his noticing again. Great. One more exciting day in the life of Ant man.