Push All the Buttons
Tanner Lerner paused in front of the television screen in the Fro Yo dining room. He
put his tray down on a nearby table, and started rolling up his sleeve. He started
toward the door.
“Where are you going, squirt?,” asked Darla Huitt. She wore a sweatshirt with their
school name on it, and shorts. A headband covered the tattoo over her eyes, and her
“There’s an emergency in New York,” said Tanner. “I have to get out there and lend
Darla looked at the screen. She looked at her cousin.
“What do you think you’re going to do that the Mark can’t?,” she asked.
“I don’t know,” said Tanner. “Maybe they’ll need someone who can do rescues really
good. See you.”
“What do I tell your folks?,” asked Darla.
“Tell them I had some volunteer work to do,” said Tanner. “I’ll be home as soon as
I am done.”
“I don’t think so,” said Darla.
She followed him out into the parking lot. He ran his finger over his forearm as he
walked away. He didn’t turn around as she grabbed his sleeve. He would have
shrugged her off except he had stepped to somewhere in Missouri, and dragged her
along with him.
“What are you doing, Darla?,” asked Tanner.
“What are you doing?,” asked Darla. She looked around. “Where are we?”
“I’m headed for New York,” said Tanner.
“Not without me,” said Darla. “You can’t leave me in the middle of nowhere.”
“Take a bus back home,” said Tanner. “I’ve got things to do and not enough time.”
“No,” said Darla. “Either we both go home, or neither of us do.”
“I’m good with that,” said Tanner. He started walking again.
Darla grabbed his arm as he crossed a variety of landscapes and they wound up on a
building in the middle of New York. She looked around. A guy in a mask pointed a
bow and arrow at her face.
“Keep pointing that at me, and I’ll shove it so far up inside you, a proctologist
couldn’t find it, buddy,” said Darla.
“Don’t mind her,” said Tanner. He glanced at his forearm. “She’s moody.”
“I’m not,” said Darla.
“I can’t have you civilians up here,” said the bowman. “There’s an invasion going
“I know,” said Tanner. “I’m here to lend a hand as soon as my timer runs out.”
“I, the Queen of Genn, the Sister of the Destroyer, the Mother of the Myriad, the Sun
of a Million Lands, pronounce sentence on this miserable place for the crime of
accepting my rebellious daughter as one of your own.” The image of a burning tree
held up its prize in its grasp. The image covered the world so everyone could see what
was going to happen. “You will all be exterminated just like this hero who tried to
The net around the Mark caught fire as magic poured down on him. He felt the green
spark in his body being ripped out. Then he blew apart in a cloud of ash and smoke.
“And you want to take that on?,” asked Darla.
“Nobody else can,” said Tanner.
“The Lamplighters have a plan,” said the bowman. “I don’t know what the two of you
think you can do, but the Scouts and everyone else we can round up are trying to keep
the enemy forces from overrunning the city while they do what they do.”
“Timer is almost done,” said Tanner. “Give the Scout a hand, Darla, until I get back.
If I don’t make it back, tell the folks what happened.”
“Don’t be crazy,” Darla said. “You don’t have a chance against that thing.”
“Sure I do,” said Tanner. He looked up at a streak of light descending from the sky.
“It looks like I’m not the only one joining this party. Try not to get hurt. Your mom
will have kittens.”
Tanner counted down the last of his circular clock on his forearm. He knew what he
had to do, but didn’t know what would happen. His body might explode from the
power he was going to summon up.
He hoped the Scouts gave Darla a ride home after this was over. He doubted she
wanted to explain how she got to New York if he didn’t make it.
“What are you going to do?,” asked the bowman.
“I’m going to push all the buttons,” said Tanner.
He ran his finger on all the buttons on the keyboard tattooed to his forearm. Each one
lit up at his touch. He had kept his power output to three keys because that was all
that was usually needed in the situations he faced back home.
Now as the giant tree and the giant hero in a space suit swung at each other. He
needed more than the usual amount of power.
He paused before he pushed the activate key. His cousin looked furious, but she
almost always did. The bowman looked confused, but that might have been because
he wore what looked like a scarecrow outfit with the bag over his head under a jacket
with the Hazard Scout hourglass on it. He smiled. Then he pushed the button.
Tanner exploded upward, becoming metallic and huge in flight. He slammed into the
Queen of the Genn as she knocked the other hero away. He punched her in the face
as energy blew against her body.
He didn’t have long. The Scout said they had a plan in operation. All they had to do
was hold the Queen in position. His timer said he only had three minutes at best. He
hoped he lived long enough to see what the side effects were.
A hundred wooden hands smashed into his metallic face. That sent him stumbling
back. He grimaced as energy struck at him. He raised a shield and let the beam wrap
around it without touching him.
He noted that Darla had started using her eyebeam. It was perfect for knocking down
the mooks while he went toe to toe with the big cheese. Purple splashes of color sent
flying machines to the ground with a couple of hits.
Tanner retaliated with explosive splinters. He didn’t get to use that power too often.
It felt good to give the Queen a face full of spikes. And then the spikes blew up.
He would have laughed, but something caught him in the chest and he started
worrying where he was going to land.
Tanner brought himself up from crashing into a few skyscrapers. He winced at the
cracking of some of the windows. He couldn’t help that.
Thunder shook the air. A giant bipedal lizard stalked the streets. Fins on its back
glowed with fury. It roared, then emitted a beam of fire from its mouth. Then it
charged right at the Queen.
“What the heck is that?,” Tanner asked himself as the giant lizard and giant burning
tree met. The biting and roaring that followed was enough to deafen people.
Tanner and the other giant added to the havoc by blazing away at the Queen as the
reptile bit and tore. The burning tree blasted them away with a wave of her arms. Her
bark regrew as they watched.
They didn’t have anything to shut her down, even with the giant lizard helping out.
How could they win this?
A mental beeping went off in Tanner’s head. He looked down at his arm. His power
was about to shut off. He looked around for a building he could land on before his
combined abilities went away altogether.
He grabbed a roof with one hand. Once his power went away, he would have to wait
before he could use it again. He had never used all of the buttons at one time. He
didn’t know how long it would take to power up again. He could be dead by the time
he could use the keyboard again.
The other giant slammed into the Queen, combining his attack with the lizard. He
covered his face as the counter attack ripped at his metallic skin. He burned the air
as he stood there.
The lizard exhaled at point blank range. The dragon fire burned against a hastily
erected shield, blowing it apart. It followed that with a headbutt.
Someone had taught the monster some wrestling moves before it came out to save the
world, thought Tanner. His power burned up. He shrank as his body returned to
normal. He pulled himself on his target roof and rolled away from the edge as he
looked up at the sky and wondered what else he could do.
A jet of blue flame hit the Queen. Tanner looked back at the source of it. He saw
something like a cannon in the distance. Blue lights flicked on in a spider’s web as
the jet burned through the wooden body and the green energy roiling within. The
animated tree stumbled from the almost lethal attack.
The remaining giant slammed a fist into the tree, pushing her back into the clouds that
formed the door between their realms.
Tanner had been too busy to notice, but other flying heroes were on the scene. Had
they been there the whole time. He realized that he had been caught up in the struggle
and had not noticed other displays of power while trying to hold the Queen back.
Light from the street extended into the air in letters, combining into a symbol of light.
It capped the cloud cover. Then it shrank, taking the door with it.
Tanner sat on the roof for a second. He looked at his arm. The keys were cold. He
couldn’t get home until the keyboard became warm again. He shook his head. How
was he going to get down?
He could already hear Darla complaining now. He wished the best of luck to the
bowman Scout. That and some earplugs might be enough to salvage the rest of his
“It’s transformer boy,” said a familiar voice. He turned as a costume in red and silver
dropped out of the sky.
“It’s Scarab Girl,” said Tanner. He smiled. “How’s your dad?”
“Grounding me when this is all over,” said Scarab Girl. She looked out over the city.
The lizard had turned into a thunderstorm heading out over the ocean. She pointed at
the lightning arcing to the water.
“I have to pick up my cousin,” said Tanner. “And then I have to wait for the keyboard
to activate again. I used up a lot of juice doing what I did.”
“The Scouts are regrouping on their command point,” said Scarab Girl. “They live out
your way. Maybe you can hitch a ride.”
“I doubt they want tagalongs like me and Darla,” said Tanner. “Especially since I left
Darla with one of their guys, and she is not the friendliest person ever.”
“You can see if their guy took her to their command post,” said Scarab Girl. “I’ll give
you a lift over there myself.”
“Thanks, Scarab Girl,” said Tanner. He looked at his forearm. “That’ll be a great
“Does your parents know you’re out saving the world?,” asked Scarab Girl. She fired
a line to the next building over.
“No,” said Tanner. “Just Darla, and I wouldn’t have told her except she got something
“Mutual blackmail of silence?,” said Scarab Girl.
“Exactly,” said Tanner.
Scarab Girl grabbed Tanner under one arm and swung out from the roof. She
descended to the street and dropped him on the sidewalk.
“It’s this way,” she said. She pointed at the glow in the air. “Better hurry if you don’t
want your cousin messing things up for you.”
“As long as she doesn’t splatter anybody, it should be good,” said Tanner.
He walked down the street. Others joined him. He looked at the masks and costumes.
They were as cut up and torn as his own clothes. He nodded at a man in a suit and hat
with a clay mask over his face. The other nodded back.
“Do you want to have something to eat after we check in?,” Scarab Girl asked.
“I don’t think your dad likes me,” said Tanner. He thought the expression under the
full mask could be a smile, but he couldn’t tell for sure.
“Hey, kid,” said a man in a dun coat. He puffed on a cigar as he came out of a side
street. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Scarab Girl. How’s it going?”
“It’s going fine, Mr. Nobody,” said Scarab Girl. “How are things with you?”
“No mister,” said the smoker. He smiled, eyebrows in a quizzical lift over his eyes.
“I think things will settle down for a while.”
“Seen Darla?,” asked Tanner.
“She flew over with the Scarrow and Emerald,” said Nobody. “I expect she’s waiting
for you to show up.”
“I can’t take her home yet,” said Tanner.
“I’m sure she’ll understand,” said Nobody. He opened the door for them to head up
to the roof.
“Have you met my cousin?,” Tanner said. He walked across the lobby, checking the
keyboard as he went. “I don’t think understanding is what she does best.”
“It’ll be fine,” said the man in the coat. He smiled around his cigar.
Tanner and Scarab Girl exchanged a look. They both knew empty assurances when
they heard them.
The three of them made their way to the roof. The man in the coat opened any doors
that stood in their way. Scarab Girl saw her father talking to the Mark’s daughters.
He looked up when she arrived. She could tell he wasn’t happy that she was still in
And then he saw Tanner and the man in the coat. He definitely didn’t look happy
despite the mask.
“I think your dad is mad,” said Tanner in a low voice.
“Really?,” said Scarab Girl. “What was your first clue, Sherlock?”
“You,” said Darla. “Where have you been? How could you leave me with someone
stupid enough to call themselves Scarrow? What is your problem? Is this your
girlfriend? Can we go home?”
“Not yet,” said Tanner. “This is my cousin, Darla. Darla, this is the Scarlet Scarab,
and Scarab Girl. Scarab Girl was asking if we would like to eat with them, and
anybody else who wanted to go now that the emergency is over.”
“Are you crazy?,” asked Darla. “No, I don’t want to eat with bug people. I have to get
home before my curfew, dipstick.”
“That’s not going to happen anytime soon,” said Tanner. “I busted the keyboard.”
“What did you say?,” said Darla. Her hands reached for the headband concealing her
“Who did we lose?,” asked Tanner.
“Marty Morgan, the Animal, and the Mark,” said the Scarlet Scarab. “We lost a
couple of others fighting in the street. We’re hoping they’ll show up some time and
let us know they’re still out there.”
“So we didn’t save everybody,” said Tanner.
“Couldn’t be expected to,” said the man in the dun coat. “You two still did okay
“If you can call running across the country and nearly getting killed fighting someone
that killed the Mark okay,” said Darla. “What the frack was that?”
“It needed doing,” said Tanner.
“Exactly,” said the man in the dun coat. “Some things need doing. Have a safe trip
back home. I doubt things will be this bad for a while. This Earth has beaten two
menaces from beyond. The others might decide to leave us alone for a bit.”
“What if they don’t, Mister Mysterious Mister Who Likes Crappy Smelling
Smokes?,” asked Darla.
“You’re the heroes who have to fight for the world,” said the man in the dun coat.
“I’m just a nobody comedy relief.”
He raised his cigar in a goodbye gesture and walked away.
“That guy gets up my nose,” said Darla. “Especially those cigars and the mysterious
mystery act. What’s next? He’s pulls a rabbit out of his coat and says presto.”
“The city is going to be cleaning up for a while,” said the Scarlet Scarab. “None of
us seem to have the ability to help with that. And the Scouts are going to want to bury
their dead. We can get a meal while we wait on your power to come back.”
“If it ever does,” said Tanner. “We may be stuck here for a while.”
“What did you say?,” said Darla.
“I said let’s grab something to eat while we can,” said Tanner. “Then we can talk
about getting home, and covering for leaving like we did.”
“This is all your fault,” said Darla.
“No one asked you to come along,” said Tanner. “Act like a decent person and let’s
have a dinner with two of the best heroes in the city without embarrassing ourselves.”
“This isn’t over,” said Darla. She glared at the three of them. “Let’s go.”
The four of them walked down the stairs in silence.