What happens when a superhero and a villain both discover that they suffer from the same kind of memory loss? Well, in Mike Chen’s We Could Be Heroes, they decide to join forces.
The upcoming novel sees archrivals Zoey and Jamie — better known to the citizens of San Delgado as "Throwing Star" and the "Mind Robber" — run into each other at a memory-loss support group. This chance encounter results in an unlikely partnership as the duo goes on a quest to uncover what happened to them that caused all their memories beyond the past two years of their life to be erased.
However, as they discover over the course of the book, the only way to unlock their pasts, and take on an emerging threat, is to trust each other and rely on their new and fragile friendship.
We Could Be Heroes doesn't hit stores until Jan. 26, but until then, SYFY WIRE is pleased to exclusively reveal not just the cover of the action-packed superhero tale, but also an excerpt of the first two chapters, each from Jamie and Zoe's points of view!
The cover was designed by Elita Sidiropoulou, with art direction from Gigi Lau, and features both Zoe and Jamie on it front and center, as well as sideways cityscapes of San Francisco, the city the novel's setting San Delgado is based on!
"Besides the sheer fact that it's a great design, I can't really wait for readers to notice the cat," says Chen about the cover, which includes the silhouette of Jamie's cat Normal, who is based on Chen's own cat Nermal. "That one detail signifies that something's a little different about this book. It's a superhero story, and it's got intensity, fights, and thrills, but it's also quirky enough to be something unique in tone and character."
We Could Be Heroes flies into bookstores Jan. 26, 2021.
Read the exclusive excerpt below: Chapter 1
The way the bank teller shrunk back in fear captured everything.
After all, Jamie Sorenson was a villain.
Not just a villain. He was the Mind Robber. And he terrified the people of San Delgado. The mere whisper of his name summoned panic, and when he incapacitated security guards with a brain-stun (his own term, which he thought was quite cool), that panic made robbing a bank as easy as handing over a bag—or in this case, planting a backpack on the counter.
“Tell me, who do you love in your life? Husband? Boyfriend?” Jamie reminded himself to not assume. “Girlfriend? Child? Parents? Who are they?” he asked. He put a hand up, then dramatically turned one finger toward the bank teller. Her eyes widened, clearly aware of the modus operandi documented last year in the San Delgado Times: a front-page feature breaking down his robberies and “extraordinary ability to stun people into a frozen stupor or worse, blank the memories of witnesses.” They’d even given him the name Mind Robber, though he’d added the eye mask and hoodie himself.
From the corner of his eye, he made sure the remaining bystanders hung on his every word.
“My…my…wife,” the woman said with barely a whisper.
“Do you want to lose her?” He stepped forward, and as he waved his finger, she winced. “Erased forever? Your whole relationship lifted from your brain? Your mind—” Jamie took a deep breath “—robbed of the very things you love?”
“No, please, don’t.” The teller’s lips trembled, and her eyes welled up. “We’re in the middle of the in vitro process. We’re going to have a family. Please, don’t.” With each word, her hands shook.
Focus, he told himself. To get out of here clean, he needed to keep everyone else quiet and scared.
Only one way to accomplish that: threaten the things that people held most dear. With the slightest flick of a finger, he peeked into the teller’s memories. He needed a name as the coup de grâce. Images flew by, but about half of them had a woman—a woman with dark brown skin, black curly hair and a gracious smile. Probably her wife, but what was her name? Voices came through as he focused, and during a conversation about in vitro costs, he heard it.
“Then get the cash. Every register. And the safe. And no silent alarms. Remember, I can track what you’re seeing. I know what you’re thinking. The police can’t help. She can’t help you.” Jamie hesitated, wondering if he should clarify that he referred to the Throwing Star. Given the context of things, it seemed unnecessary. Besides, better to keep with the personal stakes. “One wrong move and…” Jamie went with the educated guess. “Victoria is removed from your memory. Forever.”
Okay, this stroked his ego a little bit too. When you wake up in a dingy apartment without any of your memories, you really don’t have much else. His only other accomplishment at this point was returning library books on time and being a good cat owner. Remember your lines. And a good American accent, practice makes perfect, he told himself.
The way the bystanders pointed and stared said everything.
After all, Zoe Wong was a hero.
Not just any hero. With strength, speed, the ability to hover, even thermal vision, she was more than a person with extraordinary abilities. The local newspaper called her the Throwing Star after smartphone footage of her emerged on social media.
Zoe told herself that she was going to live up to the name. Even though her heightened sense of hearing picked up gasps and exclamations below her, only one thing sat in her mind: she was out to catch a bank robber.
The bank robber of San Delgado.
Zoe scanned the scene of the city’s Banking District, hands outstretched at waist level. Air pulsated beneath her palms, keeping her afloat, though a slight burn crept into her shoulders and worked down to her biceps, her elbows, her hands.
Zoe had seen all of the security footage online about the Mind Robber, read the endless comments about motive and identity. His first robbery started simple, barely a word out of him. But by the most recent one, he had a full persona complete with stupid catchphrases and a ridiculous eye mask and hood, his gestures becoming grander and more theatrical, seemingly posing for the security cameras.
Unlike her. Her attitude—nothing but business. Her schtick—beating the crap out of criminals fast (though she did consider adding a catchphrase since people were paying attention). Her outfit—purely functional. She couldn’t exactly sprint at extraordinary speeds in yoga pants. She’d tried, and they tore right apart. Hence, black leather, each piece held together by interconnecting zippers that unintentionally looked like a silver star.
Zoe scanned through the mass of humanity on the ground, doing her best to tune out the sounds that simply wouldn’t stop: a several-block radius of voices, the rumble and horns of cars filling up the streets, even the random dog barks in the distance. The wall of noise lacked clues as to where he might be. And the colors, a cloud of reds and whites and yellows, heat signatures of all types overlaid the people in her view. She’d learned to read some of it as intensity and emotion in people, though in this case it worked best sensing outlines at a distance.
Her arms burned, screaming to release the air and guide her down, but she persisted for several more seconds, observing the crowd as more and more people drew to her like a magnet.
All except one person, a silhouette in a hood and backpack—the only person walking in the other direction.
She tilted her palms back to propel forward. But she failed to burst ahead the way she expected, and instead, her powers wavered, her hearing range fuzzied just a hair even when concentrating.
The hiccup forced her to rotate her body, catching herself before hitting the ground less gracefully than she would have liked, especially with a broad-daylight audience. She stood and realized she’d just managed to avoid colliding with a security guard who’d stumbled out of the bank while rubbing his eyes and holding his head.
“Sorry,” she said to him. He looked up, then recognition flashed across his groggy face, and he started babbling. Zoe stopped him. “Yes, I’m her. Gotta go.”
Zoe pushed herself, and while she still moved way faster than the rubberneckers jogging down the street to watch her, it became clear that something dialed down her swiftness and power. Of course, she knew what caused it.
A beer. Six in fact, a whole pack that she’d noticed sitting in the hallway on her way up to her apartment’s roof. The original plan didn’t involve finding the Mind Robber, or even to drink all those cans. She’d donned her speed-resistant suit and pulled her FoodFast delivery polo shirt over it, en route to pick up an order from Noodle Tent. Sprinting atop buildings proved to be the fastest way to deliver food, making her the only person in San Delgado qualified to do such things. Her five-star rating probably topped the list of Best Things about Zoe Wong.
From We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen. Copyright © 2021 by Mike Chen. Published by MIRA Books.