Last time, I wrote about how I created a car chase through Santa Monica without ever having, um, been there in person. (If you missed it, you can catch up here.) 

If you’ve read Alter Ego, you know that Niagara Falls plays a central role in the book. Every superhero organization needs a secret hideout, after all, and the League of Independent Operatives makes theirs behind the falls. 

Unlike Santa Monica, I have been to Niagara Falls. My sister and I road-tripped it almost ten years ago, in an epic vacation weekend that involved hiking, wine tasting, poncho wearing, and trying to figure out how the heck to play a slot machine. (I want to say we were kids, but I still don’t know how to play a slot machine, so there you go. Any kids reading this may need to teach me.) 

Anyway, Niagara Falls is a place that intrigues me, because it revolves around polar opposites. It’s this show-stopping natural wonder which, for some reason, became a magnet for kitschy wax museums and casinos. Not to mention barrel-riding, tightrope-walking daredevils. 

And it gets even weirder. Every so often, they even have to turn off the falls so they can fix bridges and stuff. 

They turn them off. How’s that for a plot twist? 

I love weird stuff. Anyway, as I’ve been writing this series, Niagara has evolved into a character in its own right. Mary drives her submarine-slash-smart-car under the falls. (None of us are here for realism, OK?) Dolly stares out her window to watch the rushing water from behind. Eloise keeps the wall-sized screen in her office locked on the outside view, to keep an eye on the league’s precarious secrecy. 

And it makes sense, really. If you’ve read any of the LIO books, you know that these heroes are walking contradictions themselves. Especially Mary, because of the way she balances her flashy celebrity lifestyle with a shadowed vigilante persona. I didn’t really mean for Niagara Falls to represent that contradiction, but come on–they shine rainbow lights on it at night. It’s hard not to see a correlation. The falls even straddle two nations. 

Everything about the place is a dance between natural beauty and human… whatever it is we do. I mean, sure, hydroelectric power began there. Innovation! Add in the haunted houses and the slot machines, and it becomes a strange mishmash of tourist-drawing weirdness. 

I’m not sure I’d want it any other way. 

Niagara Falls appears in Alter Ego and Anti-Hero, and I’ve just written a super fun couple of chapters that highlight it in Mastermind

I’ve got plans for Nemesis, too. 

If you want to read what might be the most ridiculous scene ever to include Niagara Falls (it’s a dubious distinction, I assure you) scroll on down for a snippet from Alter Ego

Entering Niagara Falls:

A Scene From Alter Ego

They jetted off the highway, landed on the narrow grass median, and skidded over the access road toward the thin row of trees that separated the parkway from the river.

Mary loved this part.

Jenna, however, pulled her seatbelt tight around her waist and scrunched down in her seat. “Are you sure this is a road? I was here a couple years ago. You’re supposed to follow the signs to the Rainbow Bridge.”

“Relax,” Mary said. “You’ll like this.”

“I think you might be headed toward the water.”

Maybe there was hope for this one, after all. “Good sense of direction. You do have the serum on you, right?”

“If you’ve really been watching me since god knows when—”

“Since Portland.”

“—then why didn’t you know I had a potion—since Portland?”  

The car slammed through a gap in the guardrail and into the trees. Jenna screeched as branches assailed the windows, but it only lasted for a few seconds before the trees vanished, and the car jerked and jolted into the tunnel.

Mary would have loved to see the charts that had gone into engineering this thing, the machines that had secretly drilled through the earth. How had they managed to hide its construction? She flipped a switch and another pair of lights flashed on, illuminating the dirt tunnel. “I always forget the second lights,” she said.

“Oh, right, as one would,” Jenna said, her voice squeaky. “Shouldn’t you slow down?”

“Have fun. This is fun. It’s not like there’s oncoming traffic.” Who wouldn’t want to enter their home via roller coaster every day? Mary bore down on the gas, and they careened forward. The car flew up a small hill, went airborne for a second, then landed and continued steadily downward. The headlight beams bounced with the car, sending increasingly frequent flashes reflecting from the end of the tunnel.

“Where does this go?” Jenna asked. “Is that some kind of mirror?”

Mary pressed a button on the dashboard. The familiar grinding sound of the car’s dome kicked into gear, like a blender crushing ice, followed by the arrival of a clear cover that descended over the windows and doors like a tight bubble.

“Hold on,” Mary said.

“That’s water,” Jenna said. “You’re driving us into the water.”

The car hit the river and they spiraled backward with the current. Jenna braced one hand on the ceiling, and whimpered. “Please don’t kill us.”

Mary flipped the lever next to the steering wheel, and a few seconds later an engine whirred to life behind the back wheels. The car stabilized and began to putter forward.

Jenna took a deep breath. “Your car is a submarine?”

“One of my better vehicles.” They pushed forward against the flow of water that rushed down from the falls, the headlights revealing two streams of white bubbles.

“Yours as in owned or yours as in invented?”

“The patent would be all mine if I cared about that kind of thing. Which I don’t.”

“I can’t see anything.”

“Don’t need to.” Mary pointed to the GPS screen on the dashboard, which displayed a grid with a bright green dot representing her car. A few other dots were scattered around the squares. She selected one, and the view zoomed in to show an especially large rock. Nothing unexpected. “This thing has 360° camera coverage. No blind spots. And the computer basically drives us, anyway.”

One of her best designs, this car.

“Please tell me this is a shortcut and we’re going to head back to land before we hit the falls.”

“Nope. We’re going behind them.”

“Are you insane?” The pressure against the car grew more intense, water assaulting them from all sides. Pure exhilaration, though Jenna obviously didn’t feel the same way. “How does this tin can not cave in?”

“Tougher than it looks.”  

“What if we hit rocks?”

“We’re not going to hit rocks.”

The car jammed to a stop. “What do you call that?”

Mary grinned. “I call it home,” she said, and unbuckled her seatbelt.

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About Kate Sheeran Swed

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