FAMILYMAN vs THE WORK WIFE

FAMILYMAN is a comedy series that chronicles the home life of Sun City’s favorite superhero, THE I-CON as he struggles to nurture his marriage to LAKEISHA CAGE, a hot-headed vigilante turned stay-at-home mom, and raise their two boys all while continuing to save the world.
Art by Federico Guillen / Color by Chiara Mazzone Colonna (links below)

Two years later…

(Click here to read FAMILYMAN’s origin story.)

On a beautiful morning inside the Cage family’s ground floor apartment, LAKEISHA CAGE rummages through the kitchen cabinets with one hand while balancing KEVIN, our couples six-month-old son, on her opposite hip. Lakeisha is wearing her best — not really — comfy house-sweats while Kevin wears the lungs of a banshee as he wails louder than a siren with a stubbed toe. Still, Kevin’s screams only succeed in making Lakeisha’s super-sensitive ears glow red in pain. She got the message a long time ago and yet… he persists.

Unable to find what she is searching for, Lakeisha makes a desperate choice. “Kenny! Where’d you put the teething tablets?” She projects into the moderately-sized apartment loud enough that he can hear her wherever he is.

LEMON, now a 45 lb Retriever, trots into the kitchen even though he wasn’t called and sits down right in front of his food bowl. He pushes it in Lakeisha’s direction with his paw, “WOOF!”

“Tyler! Come feed your dog!” Lakeisha screams before going back to digging through more cabinets as if the dog isn’t even there. Not one to be ignored Lemon barks again. Firmer this time.

“Tyler!” Lakeisha yells in a way that’s almost a threat. Whether it’s toward Tyler or the dog remains to be seen.

Familiar with that tone, Tyler comes stomping out of the boy’s bedroom, “Stupid dog.” Whether that was for the dog or his mother is also unclear. Tyler stops in front of the dog food bag and pulls out his cell phone. More attitude, “Mom, we’re gonna be late.”

Lakeisha, who is now dumping everything out of the kitchen drawers, doesn’t even look up, she just knows, “It’s seven-o-five Tyler. We never leave until seven-fifteen. And you wouldn’t even have to worry about being late if you’d stop telling me that we’re gonna be late and just feed your dog.”

Defeated, Tyler rips open the bag of dog food and scoops out a bowl of kibble for his mutt, “Well we wouldn’t have to leave so early if I could fly like Areo.”

Trying to remain calm Lakeisha breathes through her explanation, “Even if you could fly like Aero, we’d still leave at the exact same time because we don’t use our powers in public. Or for personal use, remember?” Lakeisha finally gives up on the tablets, “Kenny!”

On cue, Kenny appears from the master bedroom in half of his superhero glory. He’s wearing his black cargo pants, ninja shoes, and the black symbiote top.

Tyler puts Lemon’s bowl down on the floor. As soon as it hits — in what seems like slow motion — Lemon dashes towards the bowl clipping Lakeisha’s leg. She tips over with Kevin in her arms, failing to regain her balance.

Kenny recognizes that his wife is in danger and flings his arms towards her. His symbiote sleeves slide around his hands like black snakes and shoot across the room to stick on Lakeisha’s back. As soon as the symbiote makes contact it stiffens to prop Lakeisha up long enough for Kenny to dash underneath and catch her and the baby before they get completely horizontal.

Our husband and wife duo ends up in the classic romantic movie pose with Kevin in between them. Kenny puckers up for his hero’s kiss, but all Lakeisha has for him is, “Eww Kenny. I asked you not to use those oozy tentacles in the house. They get everything all gooey. I can feel it on my back!”

Lakeisha stands herself up and removes the burp cloth from her shoulder to clean the sticky symbiote goo off the back of her shirt. Right on cue, Kevin spits up on the front of her shirt where the towel should’ve been. Kenny swallows a laugh, “Yea, cause we’re not used to ‘gooey’ in this house.”

Lakeisha starts to respond and then stops herself. She’s not in the mood to go to jail today, “Anyway. Where did you put those teething tablets I asked you to pick up last night?”

Kenny freezes, “Shoot.”

Lakeisha sighs. She already knows, “You forgot didn’t you?”

Kenny surrenders, “Yes. I did. I’m sorry. There was this psychopath with all these clocks downtown, babbling about space and time and trying to kidnap a bunch of nuns and… whatever, it’s cool, I can go get some right now.”

Lakeisha stops him. Defeated, “No, you can’t.”

Kenny ushers Lakeisha towards the couch, “Sure I can, I have like twenty minutes before — ”

Lakeisha cuts him off by turning Kenny’s shoulder so that he can see out the window. There is an Avenger-like skyscraper in the distance flashing the “Halo Squad” symbol on its digital tri-screen. It’s like a modern-day version of the Bat-signal.

Kenny gets it, “Oh.”

“Right,” Lakeisha surrenders. “You gotta go.”

Still, Kenny is unsure of what to do. This smells like a trap.

But Lakeisha accepts her fate, “Go on, get out of here and save the city.”

Kenny smiles and gives his wife a big hug, “You’re amazing, you know that.” He tries to add a kiss but she doesn’t kiss back. She accepted her fate, but she doesn’t like it.

Kenny tries to smooth things over, “I tell you what since Reggie is picking up Tyler and Lemon for the weekend I’ll make sure I come home on time tonight and hang out with Kevin so you can relax or maybe even prepare that speech for your art premiere tomorrow night.”

Lakeisha’s anger evaporates and she warmly hugs Kenny back, “That would be amazing.”

Satisfied that Lakeisha is happy, Kenny lets her go and heads to the door, “And I am really sorry about forgetting those teething tablets. I have like the worst memory in the world. It’s my one true weakness.”

Kenny opens the door, exits and closes it behind him as his phone rings. He stops to answer it, “‘Sup Chief?”

“It’s the Claw. He’s resurfaced. The ETF tracked his location to that old hangar where we found his weapons stash four years ago. Do you remember where it is?”

Without missing a beat Kenny rattles off, “you mean the 14th hangar at the Rexford Aviation Center on 65th and Del Rio in the beige building with the seven rust spots on the southeast wall shaped like Liam Neeson’s beard from Star Wars? Where Claw tried to escape to Mexico on that blue candy-striped propeller plane while he was wearing that ridiculous neon green Gene Simmons leotard with the three loose strings on his right shoulder?”

“Affirmative,” Chief confirms.

“I’ll be there in ten,” signs off Kenny before he calls the I-Con armor to action and blasts off into the sky.

Fast Forward to the early evening when the infamous super-villain THE CLAW and his henchmen are being ushered into the back of a police van parked in an alley. Kenny, in his full I-Con suit, shakes hands with COMMISSIONER RICE as the bad guys are driven away. Commissioner Rice can’t help but grin from ear to ear while thinking about the job well done by the I-Con, “Thanks again I-Con. I don’t know what we would do without you.”

Kenny feigns modesty, “Oh you’d do fine, sir. Your men set ’em up. I just knocked ’em down.”

“Still… I’m glad you’re here with me,” notes Commissioner Rice with the weirdest starry-eyed look plastered on his face.

Kenny pulls his hand out of the commissioner’s grasp and backs away a little creeped out, “okay, well I’m gonna get going now.”

As Kenny exits the alley and comes out onto the main street, a crowd of admirers erupt in cheer. The only thing keeping the super-fans from running up on the I-Con is a bunch of semi-sturdy police barricades. These types of crowds form a lot but always seems to take Kenny by surprise. Still, it’s part of his duty so he waves back at the people.

Commissioner Rice can’t help but come out of the alley and applaud the I-Con with the crowd, but he gets so caught up in the moment that he wraps his arm around Kenny’s shoulder and pats his armored chest as if they were partners or best friends. Maybe they are in the commissioner’s mind, but not in Kenny’s.

Kenny gently pushes off of the commissioner once more and steps forward to address the crowd, “Thank you. Another crisis has been averted, folks. The Claw is safely in custody. So let that be a lesson to any Evo out there who might be considering using their powers to follow in the Claw’s criminal footsteps. You will not succeed. Because remember, wherever there is trouble, you can expect to find me: The I-Con.”

The crowd roars for Kenny. One fan screams, “We love you, I-Con!” and another takes it two steps too far with, “Can I have your baby, I-Con!?!”

Kenny waves bashfully to quiet them then suddenly snaps to attention, “Oh shoot, the baby! What time is it?” He grabs the wrist of a fan in the front row to look at their watch, “Good! I still have time.”

Unwilling to accept boundries, the commissioner comes back over to Kenny before he can leave, “You really are an icon for this city I-Con.”

“Thanks, Commish. That’s why they gave me the name I guess,” Kenny jokes to hide the awkwardness.

“I would’ve voted for ‘the Angel,’ Papi,” says super sexy Afro-Latina E.T.F. (Evo Task Force) Agent CARA CARTER as she sashays out of the alley to give Kenny a big hug. “As many times as you saved my life, including today, you are definitely my angel. You might as well just become my personal bodyguard I-Con and save us both the commute. Plus it would give me a proper way to pay you for your services,” there is a hint of flirtation in Cara’s voice (okay a big hint).

Kenny totally misses it, “You’d be paying me all day everyday Cara. You’re like a magnet for trouble.”

“Hmph. Is trouble the only thing I attract?” Cara playfully wonders.

Before Kenny can answer the thigh pocket of his bio-suit glows and vibrates. He clutches it, “Ah shoot, look I really gotta go, guys. Duty calls. But thanks for the assist out there!” He flatters before running to his high-tech supercar. The I-Con car isn’t as weird looking as the Batmobile, but it’s still futuristic. It’s like an American-made muscle car from the next century.

“And Cara I’m serious,” Kenny punctuates before closing the car’s top, “really try to follow protocol every once in a while. I could seriously use a day off.” With that Kenny does a quick donut and speeds away.

About a half hour later, back at the Cage’s humble abode, Kenny walks up to the front door of his apartment still in full superhero costume. He’s holding a bottle of champagne, Tiger-lily flowers and two grocery bags with an assist from additional symbiote limbs. “Alright, no dog and no Tyler. The only thing between my wife and a peaceful quiet evening is a 15-inch scream machine. I can do this. You got this Kenny.”

Kenny ducks his head over to his front window to see his reflection and look himself in the eyes, but he let’s out a startled scream when he does. He wasn’t expecting to see the I-Con mask, “Oh! You’re not Kenny. So that’s why the checkout lady was looking at me funny.” Kenny retracts his mask and enters the apartment as his symbiote suit peels back to form the black Under Armour style shirt. Then —

WHACK!

— the symbiote creates a quick shield in front of Kenny’s face to protect him from a wooden baby block that was launched at his head by an over-excited Kevin.

But Kenny’s not even mad, “That’s some arm you got there Kev!” Kenny looks to Lakeisha who is laying down on the couch, vanished underneath its arm while Kevin sits on her chest, “Maybe super-strength will be his superpower.”

Kenny stops joking long enough to take notice of the condition of the apartment. There is unfolded laundry all over the place. Hard to tell if it’s clean or dirty. Lakeisha is in a zombie-like state, not moving a muscle or responding to his comment. Kenny walks around the couch so he can see her face, “Are you alive?”

“Yes,” is all he gets.

“Then why aren’t you moving?”

Lakeisha gets up and Kevin starts crying. She sits back down and he’s quiet. Lakeisha gets up again. Kevin starts crying again. She sits back down. He’s quiet. Lakeisha stares exhaustedly at Kenny.

“I see,” he acknowledges.

Lakeisha vents, “He’s been like this all day. It was hell trying to pick Tyler up from school and trying to walk Lemon. And making dinner was absolutely out of the question. Tyler just had cereal so I don’t know what you’re gonna eat.”

Kenny walks toward the kitchen and sees Lemon trying to get at the overturned cereal box on the counter. He uses his symbiote to push Lemon off the table and gives him a dirty look. The dog smartly slinks away into hiding not willing to cross the I-Con.

Lakeisha gets up and Kevin starts crying again. The noise finally draws Tyler out of his room. He’s wearing a smock, “Kevin! You’re driving me crazy. I can’t concentrate!”

Kenny ignores Tyler’s complaint and turns to Lakeisha, “Why is Tyler still here?”

Tyler can’t wait to vent, “My dad had to go in for last minute ‘training.’ He said he was too new to say no.”

Kenny looks disappointed, but we don’t know if it’s for Lakeisha or Tyler. Lakeisha notices Tyler’s smock, “What are you doing back there that you need a smock for?”

“Nothing?” Tyler lies.

Lakeisha doesn’t fall for it, “Uh-huh. If nothing involves another crazy experiment to jump-start your Evo powers, you better stop it! Last time the explosion you caused had your brother’s ear ringing for two weeks!”

“I didn’t ask for a brother,” Tyler defends.

“You know what. Come do your homework. Now,” Lakeisha blurts out. Tyler breathes a heavy sigh, rips off his smock and plops down on the couch to open up his bookbag.

Seeing the stress on his wife’s face Kenny goes to take Kevin from Lakeisha, “You know what, why don’t you go rest.”

Having had enough she gladly hands the baby over, “That sounds like a good idea.” Lakeisha snatches the bottle of champagne from Kenny’s hand and heads for the master bedroom.

“And don’t worry about a thing La-La. I got this for the rest of the night,” Kenny adds.

“Oh, Kenny… my hero…” Lakeisha trumpets sarcastically as she pops the top off the champagne and takes a swig. “I had it all damn day, but you got this for the last couple minutes before everybody falls asleep. Father of the freakin’ year.”

Trying at add levity to the situation Kenny adds, “Don’t forget ‘husband!’”

Lakeisha slams the door, not in the mood. Just then Tyler steps on Lemon’s chew toy. The squeak provokes Lemon to get up and dash toward him, but the dog is so reckless that he knocks over an end table on his way. The crashing sound startles Kevin into a cry. The cry startles Kenny and Tyler.

“Ugggh. I can’t do this with him screaming like that!” Tyler complains kicking the chew toy away. Lemon picks the toy up and brings it to Kenny ready to play. Between the baby, Tyler and Lemon it’s chaos in here. But Kenny faces the chaos head on like a true superhero should.

His eyes narrow.

Familyman is ready.

Kenny pulls out his car keys and slides over to Tyler jingling them, “You want quiet? How about you do your homework in the supercar? It’s soundproof.”

“Cool!” Tyler answers, snatching the keys and running out the front door.

Realizing a fault in his plan Kenny notes, “Just don’t touch any of the controls!”

Next Kenny takes the squeak toy from Lemon. He looks around and then goes over to the open front door. With his symbiote enhanced strength, Kenny chucks the toy miles down the street, “Go get it, boy! Go get it!”

Lemon dashes out the door and off to the races following his chew toy.

Now it’s just Kenny and the crying baby. Kenny tries rocking Kevin, checking his diaper, offering him a bottle and singing to him, but nothing works. With no other ideas, Kenny pulls a gas pill out of his symbiote belt. “These are harmless, right? I mean they’re definitely organic.” Kenny confirms with himself before he gently squeezes a light mist out of one of the pills and into Kevin’s face. Kenny’s symbiote forms a mask over his mouth and nose to make sure he doesn’t inhale any himself, “Shh, shh Kevin. Just breath it in. Let the sleepy time fairy do its thing.”

Kevin breathes in the mist and almost instantly goes to sleep. Kenny takes the opportunity to go into the boy’s room and put Kevin down in his bassinet. He’s out like a light. Finally, the apartment is completely quiet.

Rather proud of himself, Kenny heads for the master bedroom unwilling to celebrate his triumph alone. He creeps inside and sees Lakeisha laying on the bed with her back to him seemingly unaware of his accomplishment.

Lakeisha looks mighty sexy, even in her house clothes so Kenny creeps up on the bed and in his most swaggerific voice proclaims, “Hey, I just wanted you to know that Tyler is doing his homework, Lemon is outside and Kevin is sleeping, so if there is anything, anything at all, that I can do for you tonight… like a massage or a bubble bath or you know, anything else that might help you relax… just lemme know, alright?”

Lakeisha doesn’t answer.

Finding Lakeisha’s non-response strange Kenny gets closer and looks over her shoulder. He sees Lakeisha holding her tablet, watching videos. On the screen, a news clip from today shows Kenny in his I-Con suit Tarzan swinging to safety with Agent Carter wrapping herself around him like she’s Jane. When Kenny lands on the ground Agent Carter reluctantly detaches from him and give the I-Con a big hug and an almost bigger kiss on his masked cheek as the crowd cheers for him (or rather for her) and whistles at their perceived chemistry.

In real life, Kenny grimaces and backs away from Lakeisha already aware of how she’s going to react, “Okay, I see how that looks but — ”

“How does it look Kenneth? Please tell me,” Lakeisha dares.

Kenny’s too smart for that, “Okay, you’re mad.”

Lakeisha pops up on the bed, sitting up straight with her hands folded on her lap. She blankly stares at Kenny, “No. I’m not mad. Tell me how it looks.”

Kenny smiles to himself, shaking his head, “I am not falling for that.”

“Okay,” Lakeisha jolts up and hops toward Kenny to show him the tablet once more, “I’ll tell you how it looks. It looks like I’m here at home working myself silly raising your child, while you’re out there playing ‘stupid reporter chick’ with that Barbie Cop!”

Kenny is a little insulted, “Playing? I’m working! That’s all work. You know… saving the city!”

Lakeisha doesn’t care, “Okay, but why do you have to save it with her? I thought she was reassigned off the Evo Task Force?”

“Me too. I guess she’s back. I don’t know. You know I don’t get to choose which agents respond to the Evo calls, right?” Kenny reasons.

Not to be outdone Lakeisha fires back with, “But you do get to choose who you go swinging around with like Tarzan & Bimbo Jane.”

“Not really. I didn’t have a choice. We were on the 12th floor and the building was on fire. What was I supposed to do? Tell her ‘my wife said you gotta take the stairs’ and let her burn?” Kenny quips.

“Yes!” Lakeisha punctuates with all seriousness.

“Well that wouldn’t work because she doesn’t even know I’m married!”

Lakeisha’s eyes go wider than the ocean. In the silence, all types of calculations play out in Kenny’s head. Most are just intricate analysis of where the best exits are. Luckily, the doorbell rings. “Umm, I should get that,” Kenny spits out to save himself.

With that, Kenny leaves Lakeisha’s stewing in the bedroom as she puts her finger to her lips to give herself extra time before she responds to that bomb.

Kenny walks through the living room and opens the front door. It’s Reggie, Tyler’s father. Reggie is too busy looking down at his phone to acknowledge Kenny, “Hey, where’s Tyler?”

Kenny’s mood changes from frightened about Lakeisha to annoyed at Reggie, “I thought you were on a training op with the Guardian Force?”

“It got postponed a few hours so I wanted to come by and take Tyler to get some grub. Good lookin’ on the hookup wit’ the Guardian Force, by the way. I just wanted ta tell you, you got nothin’ ta worry about. I’m goin’ straight fo’ real dis time.”

“You don’t have to thank me, Reggie. I didn’t do it for you. I did it for Tyler. He needs a stable father. Or at least one that can stay out of supermax. So make sure you actually do take advantage of your second chance. Because there won’t be a third,” Kenny warns.

Reggie nods.

Lakeisha comes to the door and hops into Reggie’s arms. Kenny frowns. “Can you take me to the store to get more champagne Reggie? Apparently, this is how ladies are getting around safely these days,” Lakeisha mocks.

Reggie is confused. But he smiles and turns around to take her anyway. It’s Lakeisha turn to frown as she stops him and hops down having made her point, “Anyway, I’m glad you’re here. Tyler’s been dying to see you. He’s gonna be so happy. Where is Tyler, Kenny? — ”

BOOM!

— A massive hole blasts through the apartment wall.

“What the — ! We’re under attack!” Reggie screams while ducking to take cover without giving a moment’s thought to protecting Lakeisha or Kenny.

Kenny on the other hand actually does cover Lakeisha, “Shoot! That grocery lady must’ve sold me out! I knew I shouldn’t have given her my ID.”

After the dust and debris settle and no enemies attack, Kenny, Reggie and Lakeisha all look at the hole. On The other side of the wreckage, they see Tyler examining the hole himself, while digging his fingers in his ears. The supercar is behind him. Its cannon is still smoking.

“I didn’t touch it, Kenny, I swear. It just went off.” Tyler lies.

Kenny takes a closer look at the hole while Tyler walks past him to his mother playing the victim for comfort and sympathy. And Lakeisha falls for it bending down to encase Tyler in her bosom. She turns her disappointment where it really belongs… On Kenny, “You let Tyler play in that death car of yours? What is wrong with you?”

“Yea homie, you tryna kill my son?” Reggie piles on.

Just then Lemon comes jumping through the hole with a flat chew toy in his mouth and a sad look in his eyes. Somehow he’s blaming Kenny for the flat toy as well. And to top it off, Kevin suddenly wakes up crying.

Lakeisha lets go of Tyler and heads into the boy’s room to check on Kevin. When she picks him up she finds the empty symbiote pill in his bassinet. “Did you drug our son!?!” Lakeisha screams through the walls.

Tyler’s adds to the complaints, “My ears won’t stop ringing.”

Lakeisha comes back out of the boy’s room with Kevin in her arms. Now everyone is shouting their gripes at Kenny and all Kenny can do is throw his hands up in surrender. We pan over to Lakeisha’s tablet on the end table as the news recap comes up to the part where I-Con faces the crowd and says, “…Remember, wherever there is trouble, you can expect to find me: The I-Con.”

And find him we do.

The next day, at HALO SQUAD headquarters, the I-Con trains in a simulation room with fellow Evo-hero OAKLAND LANDIS aka BURNER. Oakland is a big strapping, 26-year-old, dark-skin man with long luscious locs, an extended goatee, and childlike innocence.

On the course, Oakland plays it safe and secure using his ability to absorb and project energy to blast the training bots from a safe distance, while Kenny intentionally takes a few direct phaser blasts to his armor so that he can get up close and personal and destroy the bots with a primal aggression.

“Yo I-Con, take it easy bro-bro,” cautions Oakland, “We trainin’.”

Kenny doesn’t listen. He goes after a few more dummy bots even harder and more reckless, absorbing their best shots but finishing them off before Oakland can even engage his. Satisfied, Kenny lets his guard down.

“I-Con! Watch out for tha — ” Oakland warns before turning away and closing his eyes —

BEEZZZZZZZZZZZU!

— When Oakland opens his eyes Kenny is rolling toward him with his singed I-Con suit still smoking. The training simulation deactivates. The bots win. Kenny retracts the suit into his back freckles until his casual wear is exposed again and he reverts back to being plain old Kenny.

Oakland helps him up. “I-ight, what’s up with ya bruh? You don’t never lose track of the mega-century. In fact… you usually fly through this course without gettin’ a scratch on ya. So, what’s goin’ on?”

Kenny pauses. Oakland doesn’t waver, he wants to know. Realizing that this isn’t gonna get dropped, Kenny walks into an adjacent room where punching bags and other fight gear hang. This is how Kenny talks. And Oakland already knows to go hold the bag and open his ears.

Symbiote gloves form over Kenny’s knuckles and he goes at it, both physically and emotionally, “It’s La-La, man. She saw that clip of me rescuing Cara from the burning building yesterday and freaked out on me. Like, like… like I’m choosing to hang out with “Barbie cops” over spending time with my family or something.”

Oakland gets it, “Ahh, are you serious? Bro, I ain’t never seen a daddy as dedicated as you are. I Almost wish you were my daddy.”

Kenny stops punching. Just looks at Oakland.

Oakland recovers, “You know what I mean. Look, you’re a hero. You’re the I-Con. What did she want you to do, let Cara burn?”

“Thank you!” Kenny exhales with one last super-punch. Feeling validated.

Just then CHIEF, an old retired Korean-American Guardian Force Agent that now mentors the Halo Squad, walks into the training room, “Who’d you burn this time Burner?”

Oakland gasps, “What? I ain’t burn nobody Chief, he did. Well, he was supposed to anyway.”

“What?” Chief is confused.

“Lakeisha saw Kenny and Cara’s swinging video. The Tarzan-lookin’ one,” Oakland explains.

“Oooooh okay,” Chief puts it together. “I warned you about marrying her I-Con.”

“Don’t start with me Chief,” Kenny warns.

Chief is not deterred, “Why not, it’s the truth. There’s a reason that pointy-eared-cave-dweller never settled down. It get’s in the way of the job.”

“Aww, you really gon’ use that psychopath as an example Chief? Even you tried to lock him up. Dozens of times,” Oakland blasts.

“And yet I couldn’t. Because he’s focused.” not sure that made sense even to Chief, he rephrases, “He’s focused on his objectives. Like you should be I-Con. Your problems with Diamond — ”

“Lakeisha” Kenny corrects.

Unmoved Chief finishes his thought, “Regardless, your personal problems… are becoming ours.” Chief points up to the scoreboard. Kenny’s latest training room scores are much lower than his averages (even though his low scores are still better than everyone else’s mode scores).

Kenny is irritated, “Chief, If you want the armor back, you’re gonna have to talk to it yourself, because I don’t think it wants a new host just yet.”

“And would you let it if it did?” Chief wonders. “You busted your butt preparing to take over the mantle of the I-Con after your father died, God rest his soul. I thought this was what you wanted.”

“It is what I want. But so is Lakeisha and the boys,” Kenny confesses.

Finally to the point Chief orders, “Then go home and fix it. Whatever ‘it’ is. I don’t care. Just make sure you come back ready to train and fulfill your obligations to this team… and this city.”

Chief walks away. I-Con and Burner just look at each other. Burner doesn’t disagree with what was said.

Later that evening, at the Cage family’s apartment, Kenny walks in the door and has to duck another block that Kevin throws at his face. Kenny smiles about it until he looks up and sees MONICA SHERMAN, holding Kevin. Monica is Lakeisha’s 33-year-old sassy white friend. And Monica was so ready for Kenny to come home, “If only your father could dodge floozies as well as he dodged that block.”

“Hello to you too Monica,” Kenny high roads.

Monica doesn’t acknowledge him, “Keish! Romeo’s home.”

Lakeisha comes out of the bedroom dressed to the nine’s. She cleans up hella nice. Lakeisha finishes putting on her earrings and looks around for her necklace, without even looking up she says, “Your suit is on the bed.”

Kenny’s surprised, “You still want me to go with you?”

“You don’t have to,” Lakeisha says without a hint of bother.

Kenny clarifies, “No, no, no. I’ll go. I just wasn’t sure we were cool.”

Lakeisha lies, “We’re cool.”

Kenny notices, “Right. Umm… Can I talk to you for a second.”

“We really need to get going,” Lakeisha dodges.

“Just one minute. Please.”

Lakeisha relents. The two of them head to the master bedroom for privacy. Kenny is the last one in and closes the door behind them, “Look, I just want to make sure that you know that there is nothing going on between me and Cara. You are the only woman for me and always will be. I love you and I’d spend every waking moment with you if I could. When I’m away from you and the boys, it’s because I’m working to take care of you and the boys… and this city… hell, this world. That’s the only reason. So again, just to be clear: there is no place I’d rather be than here, and no one I’d rather be with than you. So there is nothing for you to be upset about.”

Lakeisha points out, “You think you get to tell when I should be upset?”

“No.” Kenny laughs, “I’m just saying, I think it’s kinda silly to be worried about Cara. I have no interest in her.”

“And does she have any interest in you?” Lakeisha prods.

Kenny stammers, “I… I don’t know.”

“Then that’s what I’m upset about!” Lakeisha fires off as she walks past Kenny toward the bedroom door.

“Oh my God, so what if she does have feelings for me. Nothing’s gonna happen. Because I don’t want it to. You really think she can force herself on the I-Con?” Kenny jokes. “I bench press buildings.”

“This isn’t a joke Kenny.” Lakeisha stops. “And she can sure as hell try the way you drop your guard around her. I’ve seen you deflect away speeding bullets, but somehow you can’t seem to stop Ms. Thang from putting her nasty paws all over you.”

Lakeisha has a point. It gets deeper, “And honestly, I don’t even blame her anymore. She doesn’t even know you’re married.”

“No one knows the I-Con is married. If I told people that it could blow my cover or worse, be used against me. Against us.” Kenny warns. “Look, I know you felt some type of way about me working with Cara when you and I were just dating, but we’re married now. I already choose you. That’s not enough?”

Lakeisha’s jaw drops in disbelief, “well thank you for the privilege your majesty.” She storms out of the bedroom.

“That’s not what I meant La,” Kenny swears before following her.

In the living room, Lakeisha grabs her coat, “Monica, would you like to accompany me to the art opening tonight. It’s probably too uncouth for your royal highness.”

“La-La stop,” Kenny begs.

“Open bar?” Monica questions.

Lakeisha nods.

“I’m there,” Monica confirms handing Kevin over to Kenny.

Kenny fumbles to put his son in a comfortable position while also trying to stop Lakeisha from leaving, “Lakeisha! Would you just stay a second and talk to me.”

Lakeisha doesn’t stop, “I don’t have time to talk to you, Kenny. I don’t want to be late for my work since work seems to be the priority around here.” With that, Lakeisha and Monica walk out the front door leaving Kenny alone with the children. Kenny plops down on the couch defeated.

Kevin’s happy to see him though.

Later that night at the Cage’s apartment, Kenny sits on the couch watching an NBA game on TV and eating chips with Lemon snuggled up next to him. Kevin is tucked away in a car seat on the floor that Kenny rocks with his foot. Then Tyler comes out of his bedroom, “Kenny, do we have any aluminum?”

Without taking his eyes off the game Kenny responds, “Are you trying to jump-start your powers again?”

Tyler sighs. He’s tired of being asked that question, “No.”

“Alright well check the cabinet,” Kenny trusts.

Tyler goes into the kitchen. A few moments later… “Found it!” He declares before strutting back to his room.

“Good. Now, remember to look next time before you ask me,” Kenny chastises.

As Tyler passes the living room window he sees a tank whiz by followed by a few police cars, “Uh, Kenny. There’s a super-villain outside.”

Kenny doesn’t say anything, just stares at the game.

“Kenny!?!” Tyler repeats.

“It’s my night off Tyler,” Kenny says as if that explains everything to a 9-year-old boy. Tyler just shrugs and heads back into his room.

Kenny eats the last of his chips. Confirming that the bag is empty he tries to get up to get more but stops himself realizing that he must continue to rock Kevin to keep him asleep. Without even considering an alternative Kenny throws his symbiote-coated arm toward the kitchen cabinet. The symbiote flies and sticks to the cabinet door. When Kenny pulls, it opens. Kenny repeats the process with his second arm and the symbiote grabs the bag of chips on the shelf. However the bag wasn’t closed properly, so when Kenny pulls and the bag tilts, it spills chips all over the floor. Kenny drops his head in failure, “Smooth Kenny.”

Kenny gets up to pick up the chips and Kevin wakes up on cue. “Even better Kenny.”

Kenny goes back to the car seat and picks up Kevin to stop him from crying then heads to the kitchen to clean up the chips. But when he closes the cabinet his hand it comes away with a palm full of goo, “eww, La-La was right.”

Kenny grabs a dish rag and wipes the goo off of his hand and the cabinet when —

KA-BOOM!

— There is an explosion in Tyler’s bedroom. Kenny rushes to the boy’s room with Kevin in his arms to see what’s going on. He jogs through the smoke and immediately identifies Tyler to make sure he’s okay. Tyler looks more embarrassed than injured so Kenny relaxes, “Not doing any experiments huh?”

Tyler coughs but says nothing. Kenny guides him out of the bedroom and into the living room for some fresh air. He takes Tyler to sit on the couch and catch his breath, “Are you okay Tyler?”

“Yea.”

Kenny genuinely asks, “You know you could’ve seriously hurt yourself right? I mean, how many times do your mother and I have to tell that this place isn’t big enough or more importantly, well-ventilated enough, for you to do your experiments in here?”

“Then where am I supposed to do them?” Tyler vents. “I wish I was still at my old house.”

Kenny softens. He understands the situation, “I know. But that old house you were living in didn’t belong to your mom, so you guys couldn’t stay there.”

“Well, I don’t want to stay here either. I can’t do anything. I always have to be careful or be quiet because of him,” Tyler gestures towards Kevin.

Kenny offers some perspective, “Tyler, what are you talking about? You get to do so much more because of Kevin. I mean, your mom never used to let you go outside by yourself before Kevin was born. She always kept you so close to her. But now she’s so busy watching Kevin that she can’t monitor your every move and you get to explore the world. Just last week you found that cool piece of alien tech that was left in the park, right?”

Tyler doesn’t answer, but it’s true.

“And you weren’t eating nearly as much pizza before. But your mom is so tired from taking care of Kevin that she rarely cooks and has you guys eating out almost every night,” Kenny jokes.

Tyler laughs this time. True again.

“See, your little brother has brought a helluva lot more into your life than he’s taken away, dude. So look… it’s okay if that means you can’t always do things the exact same way you did them before. And you know what… now that we’re one big family… I really think it’d be super cool if you tried to be a little bit more respectful about how the things you do in this house affect everyone else and…” Kenny pauses. He thinks, “Ah crap.”

Kenny just sits there pondering. Tyler is confused. “And what Kenny?”

Kenny looks at Tyler. He tries to speak, but just goes back to reflecting.

Elsewhere in the city, on a gorgeous night at a downtown art museum, Lakeisha stands at a banquet table all by herself. She struggles to finish writing her speech on her tablet when Monica comes over to the table laughing and having a ball, “Keish, why didn’t you tell me rich men are into art?”

Not in the mood to sugarcoat things Lakeisha answers, “You’re not into art.”

“I’m into rich men. Anyway, what I’m saying is, anytime you need company or an assistant or whatever, at one of these gallery events, I’m here for you,” Monica manipulates.

Lakeisha breathes a sigh of relief, “Thanks because I really don’t know what I’m supposed to say tonight. My speech is — ”

Monica disregards Lakeisha’s needs, “Girl, you’re fine. Who knows this art better than it’s ‘secret anonymous donor’…” she pauses to look around making sure that no one is listening and then leans into Lakeisha with a grin and a wink, “Diamond.”

Lakeisha gets noticeably uncomfortable. Monica continues oblivious to it, “I just don’t understand why you’re giving it back in the first place. You went through a lot of trouble to steal that piece. And now you’re just handing it back to the people you took it from?”

Lakeisha clarifies, “I’m not giving it to the people I took it from, this place is under new management. The owner I took it from was more of a crook then Diamond ever was. He had no respect for art or people for that matter. And Kenny put him in jail for a long time. This new guy that bought the place though… he’s different.”

“But you already gave back all the other pieces. They add up to more than enough to give whoever this new guy is a successful gallery.” Monica changes her tone back to devilish, “Why not keep just this one? You loved it so much.”

Lakeisha sighs. She definitely thought about it. She answers matter-of-factly, “Because if anyone ever found out that I used to be Diamond and then found this priceless painting in my possession and in the I-Con’s home for that matter, it would ruin Kenny’s reputation. He’s worked so hard to live up to the I-Con’s legacy after his father died and it was passed to him. I do not want to be the one that messes it all up.”

The hostess makes an announcement, “And now to present the grand opening of the McClane exhibits is this galleries newest curator… Lakeisha Cage!”

Lakeisha is caught off guard. Her speech is not finished. Monica is again oblivious, “it’s showtime girl!”

Lakeisha freezes, “No. I’m not ready. I can’t do this.”

“You’re gonna be great! Forget the speech. Just tell them why you love the painting so much,” Monica sages.

Lakeisha hesitates, but the spotlight finds her in the crowd before she can run. Everyone is looking at her. She swallows hard and moves to the stage to avoid embarrassment. Or to walk right into it. We shall soon see which it is.

Lakeisha gets up to the podium and looks at the painting longingly one last time. Suddenly her nerves relax. She takes a deep breath and looks at the crowd. Then back to the painting. Lakeisha finally knows what to say, “Many people don’t understand this piece. They can’t pinpoint its era or it’s technique or it’s style. But that’s what I love about it. It’s undefinable. It doesn’t fit into anyone’s expectations. See, some artist spend a lifetime on a single masterpiece, but this painting wasn’t finished in just one lifetime. It took several to get this painting right. Over the course of multiple generations, it was passed down from parent to child and has taken on so many different styles and so many different periods. But what makes this painting truly special is that it combines the best of all of them, pulling out each separate artist’s uniqueness and putting it all together in this one frame. It took the McClane family nearly a hundred and twenty-five years to complete this piece. And while each artist was skilled enough to complete a masterpiece in their own right, in coming together they’ve created something much more beautiful than any of us could’ve ever imagined.”

Lakeisha takes another look at the painting seeing it in a whole new light, “This painting represents our community and our city because we are that family. We are unique people brought together to make this masterpiece that we call Sun City. And that is why I think that this painting should be viewed as a symbol of our unity and our common goals to everyone in Sun City and beyond.”

The crowd applauds. Lakeisha smiles. Just then Kenny sneaks into the audience and raises his hand. When no one sees him he speaks up, “Excuse me, I have a question.”

Everyone stops clapping, startled by Kenny’s interruption. Clearly, he’s never been to an art gallery before. Still, he continues when it’s quiet, “Do you think that any of the artists who worked on that painting ever ask the next artist to not paint with a certain brush?”

Lakeisha squints her eyes. She’s extremely cautious of where this is going and slightly annoyed that he’d bring their argument here, “No, I don’t think they did.”

Kenny realizes how she’s taking his question and quickly corrects course, “Well, I bet if one of them did ask the next artist to not paint with a particular brush… that new artist would’ve respected the other artist’s feelings about the brush and… maybe not made them feel undervalued or unheard about it.”

Lakeisha thinks she gets where he’s going. She’s hopeful, but remain silent just in case she’s wrong.

Kenny continues, “Even if he wasn’t at first, I’m sure that new artist, given time, would’ve realized that he was willing to get rid of any brush that the other artist wanted him to. Because they’re family. And your family’s happiness is… all that really matters.”

The crowd is confused. One attendant whispers to another “What was wrong with the brushes they used?”

But Lakeisha gets the message. She smiles, “Yes, well thank you for that commentary sir. Anyway… I would like to say thank you to the anonymous donor of this long-missing piece. We are all very lucky to be able to admire such a wonderful work of art up close for generations to come. Please, Enjoy.”

Lakeisha walks down from the podium, leaving everyone to enjoy the art. She steps up to Kenny, “Are you trying to tell me that you’re done having your brush stroked by another artist?”

Kenny laughs, “I think that’s what I’m saying. I kind of lost myself in that metaphor.”

“I could tell,” Lakeisha giggles. “What changed your mind?”

“I just realized that regardless of why Cara makes you upset, my interaction with her is making you upset. And that should be enough for me to stop,” Kenny confesses.

Lakeisha nearly tears up with joy. She’s touched. Kenny looks her deep in her eyes, “Because there isn’t a thing on this earth worth your tears. I mean, I can’t promise you that I’ll never work with her again, but I can promise to make more of an effort to keep things 100% professional between us. No more flirtatious banter and no more allowing her to ‘paw all over me.’”

“Will that blow your cover?” Lakeisha asks.

“I don’t think so. I mean, worse case, she might think I’m gay for ignoring that hot body of hers,” Kenny teases.

“Oh, so you did notice,” Lakeisha retaliates.

“Well I’m not blind,” Kenny laughs.

Lakeisha’s eyes flare up, “You could be.” Jokes over.

Kenny straightens up, “Luckily I’m not dumb either. I know when I’ve found a ‘Diamond’ in a world full of stones.”

Lakeisha smiles. Kenny looks up at the painting, “Hey, isn’t that the painting you told me you didn’t steal that night we met here.”

“Why you gotta go bringing up the past?” Lakeisha questions. Then she smiles, “But I am impressed you remember.”

“Oh I never forget the important things,” Kenny explains before putting his arm around her.

“You mean like how I got the drop on you that night and left the great I-Con tied up and helpless on the roof,” Lakeisha brags.

“Nope. I don’t remember that part. But I do recall the great I-Con letting Diamond get the drop on him so that she’d be so overconfident she’d tie a half-assed knot and lead him right back to her client,” Kenny reveals.

Lakeisha isn’t buying it, “Okay, well, we’re here right now. Do you wanna go up to the roof and try again?”

“I mean, you know I always got the I-Con suit with me. Do you have your Diamond gear?”

“I’m sure I can work something out,” Lakeisha grins. “I didn’t wear much back then.”

Kenny gets a tantalizing visual, “Ummm-um. Well if that’s the case, I might just let you tie me up again.”

Not to be outdone Lakeisha flirts, “Well isn’t that a coincidence, I was thinking of letting you tie me up.”

“Good. So I can leave you helpless and alone this time,” Kenny jokes.

Lakeisha playfully slaps his arm as they run off to the door. Then she stops to adult for a minute, “Wait, where are the kids?”

“Don’t even worry about it. I got a sitter. For the whole night. They’ll be fine,” Kenny soothes then kisses Lakeisha before they head to the roof.

“So you got a rope?” Lakeisha asks.

“I always got rope.”

Lakeisha frowns, “aun-uh, you touch me with that symbiote and the old Diamond is gonna come out of me and whoop your butt for real.”

Kenny laughs as they disappear into the night, “Umph. Don’t threaten me with a good time.”

Back at the Cage apartment, Tyler is up on the roof leaning over a folding table full of beakers. Oakland holds a wrapped blanket stuffed with Kevin, “Yo Tyler, you sure you’re allowed to be doing these experiments again?”

“Kenny said that there wasn’t enough ventilation in the apartment. But there’s plenty of ventilation up here,” Tyler reasons.

Makes sense to Oakland. Oakland stands over Tyler as he mixes the formulas together. Oakland looks down as if he understands what Tyler is doing, but he doesn’t. He pretends to though, “Nah, nah young fella. That’s not how you do it. Here lemme show you.”

Oakland uses his free hand to pour a couple of different beakers into Tyler’s formula, “I seen Vanessa do this dozens of times. What’s happenin’ is you’re adding too much stimuli into the potion and not enough inhibitors. If you tryna jump start your Evo powers, you gotta suppress ’em first, ya know? That’ll make ’em wanna bust free on they own.”

Oakland stirs the mix together and hands it to Tyler. Tyler accept Oakland words as truth, “Cool!”

Tyler looks at Oakland for permission. Oakland nods in approval. So Tyler drinks it. Oakland looks on curiously, suddenly realizing that he may have poisoned the child. Tyler takes a moment to digest the formula and feel its cool liquid working its way through his body. Then he feels a tingle. And another. The tingles inspire Tyler to jump around a little. He notices something, “I feel lighter.”

Tyler bounces more and more, jumping higher off the ground, “I think I can fly now!”

“My man!” Oakland celebrates.

“I knew it! I knew my superpower would be flying! This is so cool!” Tyler jumps a little higher, but he certainly isn’t flying yet.

Oakland gives Tyler a high five anyway, “Way to go young fella. Welcome to that Evo life! Imma tell Kenny he needs to bring you over to Headquarter so you can practice some — ”

“I wanna practice now,” Tyler runs to the edge of the roof and climbs onto the ledge.

Oakland freaks out and scrambles to put Kevin down in his car seat, “N-n-no. Hold on a second Tyler. Tyler! Get down!”

But Tyler doesn’t listen. He contemplates jumping. Oakland rushes to the ledge, but just as he gets there Tyler jumps —

— And immediately realizes that he cannot actually fly. He drops like a stone screaming all the way down. Oakland dives over the ledge after Tyler. Both disappear into the night.

There is a beat of worry and more of Tyler’s screams then —

— Oakland, with his whole body glowing from the absorbed energy, flies into view and back onto the roof holding Tyler in his arms. Tyler is white as a ghost. Oakland is relieved.

“How ‘bout we don’t tell Kenny about this,” Oakland offers while catching his breath.

Suddenly Tyler snaps out of it. He schemes, “What’s it worth to you for me not to tell him?”

Oakland is shocked. Then angry, “Probably about as much as it’s worth to you for me not to tell your mom’s you jumped off the roof.”

Tyler thinks. Oakland watches the wheels turn in Tyler’s head.

“Deal,” Tyler decides.

They shake on it.

The next day, Lakeisha is vacuuming the living area. Tyler darts out of his room and toward the front door, “Bye mom!”

Lakeisha responds over the vacuum, “Don’t go too far, sweetie!”

Tyler rips the door open and closes it behind him. Lakeisha cuts off the vacuum and soaks in the clean home around her. She breathes a sigh of accomplishment.

Lakeisha’s next stop is over at Kevin’s playpen. She peeks inside and hears… not a sound. This is Heaven. Walking on cloud nine, Lakeisha sits down on the couch and picks up her tablet. She swipes and taps it a couple of times until she gets to live video of the local news. A news anchor reports, “We now continue our live coverage of the I-Con attempting to contain the nefarious Evo that the people have nicknamed the Grave Digger, who was being transported to supermax by the ETF when he broke free of his chains and went on a rampage right inside the courthouse.”

The field reporter chimes in, “That’s right Bill, uhh… we can’t get our camera’s inside the courthouse at the moment, but even from out here you can see visual evidence of the clash of these two titans, as chunks of cement from the walls just continue to rattle off of the building with every thunderous blow they exchange inside.”

Lakeisha covers her mouth worried. Her peace has been ruined.

The new anchor continues, “Hold on, I’m now being told that the I-Con has finally subdued the Grave Digger. But wait… oh no. That building doesn’t look very stable! It looks like — ”

“ — Oh my god! Get those people out of there. That building’s about to collapse!” the field reporter alerts.

Lakeisha’s face goes white as we hear the building crumbling. There is a second of tension before —

“Wait a minute. What’s that?” says the anchor.

“Yes, it’s him! It’s the I-Con! My God, the I-Con has made another last-second escaped! And look, he even managed to save Agent Carter again!” the field reporter rejoices.

Lakeisha’s face suddenly morphs from worry to anger.

“I mean this has got to be like some form of foreplay for Sun City’s sweethearts, right?” the field reporter adds.

Lakeisha is ready to crumple the tablet into a ball when —

“Not judging by the way he’s carrying her?” the news anchor comments.

“Oh you’re right, it looks like he’s using a… traditional fireman’s carry?” the field reporter explains after taking a closer look.

“Nothing sexy about that,” confirms the anchor.

“I guess that’s why she’s flailing around like she is,” the field reporter piles on.

“Oh my, that’s not why. Uhh, our producers might want to cut away from camera three,” warns the anchor.

“Wow, you’re right. Looks like camera three has caught Agent Carter doing her best Marilyn Monroe impersonation,” jokes the field reporter. “It is unfortunately breezy out here today. How embarrassing for her.”

“She’s definitely regretting putting on that skirt this morning,” piles on the anchor.

Lakeisha can’t help but crack up. She puts the tablet down and kicks her feet up on the table and leans back to expel a huge belly laugh. She is thoroughly enjoying her new day.

FADE OUT:

Early sketch of Kenny Cage drawn by Pierre Feitoza (link below)
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this story please make it clap one time. And if you want to read more please come see us at defaultent.com. Or follow us here or on Twitter, Facebook or IG.
Artist links:
Federico Guillen — (www.tfguillen.com)
Chiara Mazzone Colonna — (https://www.behance.net/ChiaraMazzoneColonna)
Pierre Feitoza — (http://pierreproxy.tumblr.com/)