((Author's Note: One of the main characters is from the South, but don't be offended; she won't be another stereotypical yokel. For the most part.))

The sun was just rising over the desert, showing the unconscious form of a young man. He was dressed rather normally and had fairly average features, but being average wasn't normal for him at all, because the man was a superhero.

Super Dude!, he was called, with a flourish of trumpets, exclamation points, and a flowing cape. "Used to be called" was a better phrase, after the cataclysmic battle with Super Evil Dude that had only happened yesterday.

Super Evil Dude had been planning to take over the world, as usual. Super Dude! had flown in to save the day, also as usual. He had picked up Super Evil Dude with his telepathic powers, preparing to turn his laser eyes on, when the unthinkable happened: he became mild mannered.

The giant Doom Machine turned out to be part of a plan to trap Super Dude!. It was used not to enslave the earth, but to rob super heroes of their powers. Super Dude! had turned into Daniel Keyes, a boring twenty-something who could barely pick up a large stone with his hands, let alone his mind.

Super Evil Dude had promptly kicked the shit out of him, had the longest monologue detailing his plan for world domination that Daniel had ever heard, and deposited in the middle of an Arizona desert.

Daniel woke up just as the sun had fully risen, feeling very disoriented. All he could see were some cacti and a long, lonely rode. He heaved himself up and tried to fry the ground, but he only felt hotter. He stared at a cactus for five minutes, but it just gave him the cold shoulder and didn't move an inch.

"Fine, I didn't like you anyway!" he spat. Daniel unsteadily rose to his feet and looked around. Was there a tour bus on the road, or was it a mirage?

The bus stopped beside him and the driver called out. Did mirages affect the ears?

"Hey! Y' lost? Need a lift?"

The driver was a girl who looked somewhere between twenty and twenty-something. She was wearing only overalls and dirty white t-shirt, and her corn yellow hair was frizzy and unkempt. If it were not for her bright grin, she would look out of place in the tour bus, which was painted a bedazzling green and gold. A proud slogan on the side cheered on the Telepathic Tigers of Elmwood High School. Basketball playing tigers were thrown in random corners, all very bright and oddly colored.

"Do I…?"

"Sure y' do! Come in and take a seat!" she said, with a slight Southern twang.

The girl clicked a button and the door to the bus slid open creakily. "Tell me your name, stranger." She waited a few seconds before continuing. "Shy, are y'? That's okay! I'll tell y' mine! Lillian Hicks of Mayfield, Alabama, pleased to meet y', call me Lil. This here's my—no, no, this creature that is sitting here is my cat, Parsifal, and my doggeh, Yvette. Say howdy, Yvette!"

"Hello, stranger. In case you haven't noticed, I'm telepathic, and so is my friend Parsifal. I hope you don't mind?" Daniel noticed a yellow Labrador and a tabby cat for the first time.


"Yup—I mean, indeed!" She patted the seat next to her and Daniel plopped down. Parsifal jumped into his lap and Yvette ran off.

"So, who are you, again?"

"I'm Super—well, I'm Daniel, Daniel Keyes."

"The Daniel Keyes?! Mild-mannered reporter for the New York Times? What're you doing in Arizona?"

"Oh, you know…reporting."

"What?" Lil had turned the bus back on and was trundling away happy.

"Something on Super Dude. Top secret stuff, can't tell it." Daniel realized with a sinking stomach that the word "Super Dude" was no longer followed by fanfare and a cape-blowingwind.

"Why do y' look so upset?"

"Oh, I'm lost. I need to get back to New York to get to my…deadline on time."

"Shucks, that's where I'm going!"

"Really? Why?"

"Well, I'm a superhero."

"What?" Daniel wasn't really shocked that she was a superhero, but that she was admitting it.

"Indeed! Isn't that awesome?"

"Why are you telling me?"

"Am I not supposed to?"

"Yes! This is your secret identity, isn't it? If it's not, that, seriously, you need a better name than Little Hick Girl, and a costume. Have you even heard of spandex?"

"That's the shiny stuff, right?"

Daniel stared at her. "Please tell me you're new at this."

"Yeah, I am, how'd you guess?" Lil laughed and flexed her hand. The radio turned on and then off.

"Well, you break all the rules of being a super hero. Never give up your secret identity unless you want a crap load of angst."

"Angst?" Lil stopped smiling for the first time. "I don't do angst. No angst for me."

"But then why are you a superhero? Most of them are orphans."

"My ma and pa are very alive, thank you very much!"

Daniel stared at her suspiciously. "You must be one of those fancy-shmancy Japanimation super heroes. They aren't the same as Western ones. Has your family honor ever been soiled?"

"Nothing, I'm happy as a jack rabbit on a hot griddle."

"That makes no sense."

"I know. I get a bit Southern when I'm upset; I try my best to be grammatically correct, but it's so hard not to say y'all!"

"Listen," sighed Daniel, "why don't you tell me about yourself? Maybe I can sort this out and figure what kind of superhero you are."

Lil had started grinning again. She took a water bottle from the glove compartment and started to gargle. With the other hand she was starting the car.

"Oh, you'll regret that!" a voice whispered into his ear. Yvette had parked herself by his feet, panting lightly in anticipation.