The Bro ran his finger down the scar that stretched from his left ear to his chin. In the six years since he got it, it had become his habit to do this whenever something bothered him.
“I don’t understand this, bro,” he said.
“What don’t you understand?” Fanboy asked.
Fanboy, like all the other lab coat wearing minions in this strange place, had been given his new nickname by The Grenadier. As soon as they had arrived, The Grenadier pulled out his phone and called Sean – the guy who likes to give nicknames. The Bro was uncomfortable with that, considering… events, but he wasn’t going to be the one to tell The Grenadier not to talk to the guy anymore, so he ignored it. Soon, everyone had a nickname. There was Fanboy, Fuzzy, Beakers, The Lab Accident, Comma Chameleon, The Brown Nose, and several others.
“Well bro, there’s this big panel on the wall. It’s got numbers, schematics, and flashing lights, but I don’t know what any of it means.”
“Yeah, those are some pretty complicated readouts. I’m not sure I’m the right one to explain them to you,”
That sounded like a diplomatic way of saying, “I don’t think you’ll understand.” People always assumed The Bro was as dumb as the characters in his action movies. He had purposely crafted that image, but occasionally, it got in the way. His tendency to talk like a frat boy didn’t help, but he couldn’t stop that. It just came out.
“Fine bro, but what are all those things on the racks over there. Like, some of them kind of look like guns and some look like weird sci-fi gizmos.”
“Oh, those are some of our prototype armaments and equipment, but I don’t think it’s OK for me to let you handle any of it… or to talk about it,” Fanboy said.
The Bro rolled his eyes. “Is there anything in this room you can tell me about? What about this chair? Is it too advanced for me to grasp?” He plopped down into a large, comfy chair which sat in front of a wall-sized screen.
Fanboy’s eyes went wide. “Don’t touch that!” he squawked.
There were some panels on the armrest which housed dozens of buttons, knobs, and even a joystick. The Bro assumed it was a game controller. He didn’t blame Fanboy for getting antsy. He hated it when people touched his games too.
“Those are the missile controls,” Fanboy hissed
The Bro leaped from the chair. What was wrong with these people? Why would they weaponize the most comfortable chair in the room? He gave up on trying to understand his surroundings and found a chair that (he was reasonable certain) was just a chair. Fanboy followed him and stood awkwardly nearby.
“Dude, you’re obviously not here to explain anything to me. What do you need?”
“If I knew you were going to be here today, I would have brought a movie poster for you to sign,” Fanboy said as he pulled something out of his pocket. “Could you sign my grenade? Right here next to where The Grenadier signed it.”
It was probably the first grenade he had ever signed, but The Bro had signed weirder things. Once, he had signed a horse’s butt. That almost ended poorly.
After Fanboy left, The Bro watched the Grenadier for a minute. He was having a much different experience. One person discussed a schematic with him, while another kept bringing him things from the armament rack. People had always gravitated to him and expected him to lead them. It had been the same way during the war.
A tall, skinny man who was now known as “The Brown Nose” entered the room and aimed himself at The Grenadier. He handed over a small object that probably hadn’t been asked for. It looked like an extra-thick credit card with a transparent center. The Grenadier accepted the card and tapped it against the wall panel. This caused a rotating schematic of a building to appear. For the next few minutes, The Grenadier and The Brown Nose inspected it, occasionally swiping it to make it turn.
A door slammed open and Government Steve popped his head in.
“Grenadier, Bro, I need you two in the War Room,” he said before disappearing again.
As they were leaving, The Bro leaned to The Grenadier and quietly asked a question.
“Wait bro, this place has a War Room and it’s not the room with a chair that launches missiles?”
The Grenadier shrugged, but didn’t answer. He was too busy planning and considering the mission. He used to get that way during the war.
They soon reached a pair of double doors marked by a plaque that read “War Room” in neat letters. Inside, they found a long table with enough room for maybe thirty people, but currently only one person was seated – a beautiful woman whom The Bro had to get to know as soon as possible. On the table were various models of buildings and terrains. There were also model soldiers arrayed for battle, tanks surrounding buildings, and some aircraft that actually floated midair. The Bro guessed no one would explain those to him.
“Dude! I get it,” The Bro said. “This is where you play Dungeons and Dragons!”
Government Steve rolled his eyes. “This table and the models on it help us visualize situations and plan strategies. It’s a tactical tool, not a place for playing games.”
“You’re a tactical tool,” The Bro muttered under his breath.
The woman at the table snickered. She hadn’t heard him, had she? No, she was too far, but there was something strange about her. Whatever the case, she was hot! She would look great on the tabloid covers. He liked she that had sleek black hair and tan skin, because he’d been meaning to break his streak of pale redheads. It was better not to get stuck in a rut like that.
“Hey, Government Steve, who is that?” he asked.
“She does tactical support.”
The Grenadier immediately pulled out his phone, but Government Steve pushed his hand down. “You won’t need that. I’ve already talked to Sean – the guy who likes to give nicknames. Her name is Beholder.”
The Bro’s BS alarm went off. He knew for a fact that Government Steve had no such conversation.
“When do you talk to him, bro?” he asked.
“Earlier,” Government Steve said. “You were busy.” He nodded to The Bro to speak in private. As the pair moved to the side of the room, The Grenadier sat next to Beholder and introduced himself.
“Dude, what was that about?” The Bro asked.
“You know how The Grenadier gets about nicknames,” Government Steve said. “My other assets already have nicknames and don’t want new ones.”
That made sense. The Grenadier couldn’t spend five minutes with someone without giving them a nickname. The Bro shrugged his shoulders and asked about something else that bothered him. “Why do you keep calling everyone ‘assets?’ I’ve heard you call The Grenadier that like five times now.”
Government Steve nodded. “Sorry, I guess you don’t know all our jargon yet. ‘Asset’ is what we call an ally with super powers.”
That made no sense. The Bro watched Government Steve like he would watch an opponent in a fight, looking for some indication of what move was coming. None came, so he asked, “Super powers? Dude, are you serious? I’ve known him for years, and I’ve never seen him do anything ‘super.’ I mean, that stuff with he grenades was pretty awesome, but that was just his quick reflexes.”
Government Steve looked him in the eye. “What is your name?” he asked.
“That’s a dumb question, bro. I’m The Bro.”
“No. What is your real name? Who were you before you were The Bro?”
The Bro gave Government Steve a look that was a mixture of “Are you stupid?” “Do you think I’m stupid?” and “This conversation is stupid.” He shook his head and said, “What are you getting at, dude? My name is… uh… hmm” It was like not being able to remember a simple word – on the tip of his tongue, but it wouldn’t come. “Uh, bro, this is going to sound weird, but I’m having a brain fart right now. I can’t remember my name.”
Government Steve put his hand on The Bro’s shoulder and gave him a fatherly look, which was annoying coming from someone younger than him.
“I can’t remember my name either,” he said. “Nobody can. It’s been gone since the day I met The Grenadier. Once he gives you a nickname, the entire world forgets your real name. Most people don’t even realize they’ve forgotten because everyone else automatically uses the new name too.”
After a moment of soaking that in, The Bro asked, “So, uh, what exactly are The Grenadier’s powers?”
“I have no idea. I’m hoping we can figure that out while we’re rescuing The Princess.”