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|Jim stirred in my arms, looking at the city below as we flew by. �Not home, Dan � over there.� He pointed in the direction of Twin Peaks. I followed his point and caught a glimpse of a steel door, cleverly concealed in a thick growth of underbrush; I shot down towards it, the door creaking open, hurtling into a long cave which dove straight downward, then horizontally�.then broadened into a large chamber, lights coming on instantly as we entered.
�What in the�..� I stared around at the cave walls, the imprint of hands that had gouged out the solid rock clearly visible�..computer equipment, a wall of flat screens showing various views of the city�.a meditation alcove.
Jimmy laughed. �Put me down and I�ll explain.� He stretched as I complied, gently lowering him to the ground, then helping him up as he struggled to his feet. He looked me up and down, shaking his head in amazement and amusement. �My God, look at you!�
I stared down at myself�.and noticed that I was now wearing�..holy smokes�.red spandex tights clearly outlining my pulsing femoral muscles��two leather straps wrapping, coiling around my bulging biceps��a red cape billowing softly in the breeze blowing through the chamber�.reaching up, feeling a mask on my face��.my chest and nipples hard and defined under a blue metallic shirt, stretching a tight logo of � it can�t be �
�It�s OK, Dan,� he said, gently pulling me close. �The ring must have�.accepted you, just like it did me the first time I put it on. I know it�s a shock�but�.you�re now�.super. Just like I was.� His eyes softened. �Matilda � Milan�s grandmother -- was a friend of mine. She was a healer and a witch in the Haight � thought it was just mumbo-jumbo at first, but she really did have the power. She helped me and countless others � but the last time I saw her, she asked me to take her ring.� He smiled. �Little did I know that that was where her power came from -- or what would happen when I wore it.�
�So this�.this is the �complication� you were talking about,� I said, flexing my arms tentatively. God, I feel like I could lift this whole darn mountain! �This also explains why you were late so often�.why you were �almost�never there when I woke up in the morning�.you were off being Superbear.�
�Exactly,� Jim said, his face falling. �Dan, I�m so sorry�.I didn�t want to lie to you. But I also didn�t want to put you in danger.� He grinned wryly. �Looks like I blew the last anyway. But you handled it�..like you always do�.and now you�ve got the power to do what you wanted, to help others.� He looked quizzically at my chest. �Well, aside from a slight color scheme change, looks like you can step in and assume the mantle of Superbear.�
I looked at him�..and sensed the slight undercurrent of disappointment in his voice. �No, I can�t.� I walked back over to him and hugged him close�.sheepishly backing off on my grip as his eyes bulged�..whoops, forgot about that strength part. �Jim, you�re Superbear. I can�t be that, nor�..nor will I take that away from you.� I reached up�..making the motion I�d seen him do�..the ring appearing on my finger. �I believe this belongs to you.� Gritting my teeth, I pulled it off.
I stood there looking at the ring, dumbfounded. �But�.I�.you�.when you took it off�� I flexed my arm�..still strong. I lifted off the ground�..still flying�.�What the heck?�
Jim�s eyes widened. �I�.I don�t know. Maybe�..maybe the fact that you gave it up willingly��
�Actually, the fact that you accepted it freely AND gave it up freely,� came a voice from behind us. Jim and I both whirled to see an old woman in a wildly-colored shawl, long stringy gray hair, a basket draped over her arm, smiling beatifically at the both of us.
Jim�s jaw dropped. �My god�.Matilda!�
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