Death of a Hero, Chapter 25

Dinner was awkward as hell. Mom was never much of a cook, but at least she rarely ever tried to be. At most she’d throw some pork chops or chicken and breading in the oven and wait until the timer beeped. This time, however, she went all out and attempted to make lasagna while I was banished to my room.

The meal was technically edible, and that’s about it. The bottom layer of noodles stuck to the pan, which made it the only solid part of the meal. The rest was so much cheese covered slop.

Despite the condition of the food, nerves, and power induced lack of hunger, I ate it anyway. Out of fear of making Mom even more pissed. She ate it because throwing it out and ordering a pizza would have required admitting she made a mistake.

Hopefully, the huge steaming pile of leftovers would find a chance to myseriously vanish in the night. The thing about pasta dishes? They’re generally meant to feed five or six, not two.

The home phone went off around eight thirty, near the end of my meal. I got up to grab it, but Mom’s glare put me right back in my seat. She got up, taking the time to check the caller ID.

“It’s your sister.” She answered the phone as she brought it to her ear.

“Hello, sweetie. So did you see your brother on the news? He says he’s fine, but I’m not through with him yet.” She glared daggers at me, but that was her default state at this point. “Same here. No! If he did, I would have chained him to his bed.”

And she wonders why I never tell her anything?

“That sounds nice. Sorry, I can’t this weekend. I came home early to deal with Zach’s mess, and I’ll need to make up for it by working Saturday.” Ah, the guilt trip, I was wondering when that would come up.

“Yeah, we’ll talk then. Sure. Love you.” She held the phone out to me. “Your sister wants to talk. Maybe she can talk some sense into you.”

I took the phone, ignoring Mom’s barb for the moment. This wasn’t going to be pretty. “Hey, Laura.”

“I thought you said something about not doing the superhero thing.” She sounded like she was going to cry, which made me feel worse than anything Mom had pulled thus far. “First it was supposed to be Flux. Then it was supposed to be Kitten. That was supposed to be the only thing you used your powers for. Why are you on the news?”

I pretended not to notice Mom eavesdropping. “I’m not thrilled either.” I really wasn’t.

“Mom’s hovering so you can’t talk, right?” Wasn’t surprised she caught on so quickly, she lived with this woman even longer than I had.

“Yup.” I made a pop sound with the ‘p’. “Remember when I told you about my powers, how they went off in class and blew any hope of me keeping them secret.”

“Yeah.” She waited a moment. “This is part of that?”

“Kinda.” I pointedly ignored my mother’s presence, and tried to figure out how to explain things to Laura without coming out and saying ‘oh, yeah, and if Kitten gets bored waiting, she might murder everyone I care about for the fun of it’. “It’s complicated. Sorry.”

Laura was quiet for a few seconds. “And I’m sure you know how much more dangerous this is going to be now.”

I took a breath, picking a way to say everything that Mom couldn’t get too much information from. “Painfully.”

Less dangerous than it was yesterday. Now the gangs would know I’m capable of holding my own against actual supervillains. It was impossible for me to guess what Kitten thought about all this, but that doomsday countdown started the moment my powers activated in school.

“I know, you’re doing the best you can in a hard situation.” Finally! Someone who gets it! “Listen, I have to go now. I just wanted you to know that I trust you. And that you can trust me, too. I shouldn’t have had to hear these things on the evening news. I love you, bye.”

“Love you too. Bye.”

The line went dead. Proving once again that Laura made Mom look like an amateur in all things. Especially the guilt trip.

….

My triumphant return to school was not to be, since Mom drove me. And unlike my sister, who was kind enough to drop me off a couple blocks away to spare me the embarrassment, my mother parked right up front. And, to really seal the deal she got out of the car and walked with me straight to the main entrance.

I mostly watched the ground. I couldn’t look at her, she’d see it as a challenge, and I couldn’t look at the students because I just couldn’t. “You really don’t need to do this. I mean, you’re going to miss a lot of work.”

“Roger was nice enough to give me the day off. I can make it up later.” Her voice was ice. “I want to hear from your principal how you managed to ditch school and I wasn’t informed.”

I almost rolled my eyes. “Mom, this is Adams High. There are kids around here who snort lines of coke off their desks. And they only get in trouble because they never bring enough for the rest of the class.”

“Stop exaggerating and take me to the offices.”

How am I the one exaggerating? I glanced at a cluster of kids. Whatever they were doing, it involved hushed whispers and using their jackets to block it from sight. A teacher, I think for Spanish, walked right by them without so much as trying to see what they were up to.

To be fair, they were probably just showing off dirty selfies from their girlfriends or something. That didn’t change the fact that they could be doing just about anything. All I knew was they quickly decided that smiling and laughing amongst themselves while watching my mother lead me into school was more interesting than whatever they were up to.

Mom didn’t seem to notice or care, she simply waited until I spoke. “Fine, you win. Right this way.” I picked up my pace, hoping to get this over with as soon as possible. She was successfully ruining all the effort I put into developing a reputation in the first place. When one thinks ‘badass superhuman’, their mother is never in the picture with them. That’s why action heroes are always orphans.

It was maybe thirty feet from the entrance of the building to the office doors. With everyone staring, it was the longest thirty feet of my life. This is what a death row prisoner must feel like, only without the promise of sweet oblivion.

She opened the door, then turned her head to me. “I can take it from here. I want you in class. And remember to stay there this time.”

Sure, why not? It’s not like I suddenly have a reason to never show my face in public ever again. What would ever give anyone that impression? “Yeah, grounded for life and this is my work release program.”

“Don’t get smart with me.” She pushed her hand out, offering me my own cell phone. “Remember, I want you to head straight home after school. On the bus, I don’t need you jumping into some stranger’s car. And in case I forget later, I’ve already talked to your father. He’ll be picking you up tomorrow after school for his weekend.”

Oh, Right, it’s Dad’s weekend. Holy shit I’m actually happy that it’s Dad’s weekend. I grabbed the cell phone and resolved to start making some calls the moment after she was no longer able to see me.

Mom must have noticed my expression change, because as impossible as it sounds, her frown deepened. “And don’t you dare think that just because you’re at your father’s that you can get away with going out in costume again. I will find out, and I will make your punishment ten times worse.”

I wasn’t sure how she expected to do that. Anything past what she’d already done had to be illegal. “Heard loud and clear. Besides, what are the odds of another bank robbery in the same week?”

I ducked out before Mom could say anything more. Well, if she wanted to teach me about consequences, she’d come to the right place. Now I had to deal with the consequences of her actions until god only knew when.

My first act was a text sent to a number Muwth gave me. Grounded. Need new plans later.

Algebra wasn’t so bad, probably because the news hadn’t spread yet. And for once, I wasn’t behind on the material. As usual it was boring as hell, but it was kinda nice to be caught up on the classwork and able to just coast. The teacher ever so nicely told us what chapters to study for our test on Monday. As you might imagine, I was practically hyperventilating with excitement.

I made my way to art, where Ben was all smiles. “Dude, I saw you on the news! I can’t believe you went two to one against supervillains!”

See, that’s what I’m talking about. I smiled right back. “Well, I mean, I did have some backup.”

“Weren’t you scared?” That was one of the girls. I didn’t know her name. Our grade had like four hundred people in it, more than thirty to a class. It was easy to forget names. She was merely ‘that slightly chubby Italian looking girl’ to me.

“Not really.” Shockingly enough, that wasn’t a lie. Of all the things I felt during the fight, I wasn’t scared of them. Probably because I couldn’t help but compare them to Kitten. And by that standard everyone came up short. “It was actually kinda fun to really cut loose.”

Ben didn’t look impressed. “I’m calling bullshit, dude. There’s no way you could do that without being a little scared.”

I shrugged, sitting down as the class filed in. A bunch of others had started listening in, which was even better. “Well, I was worried they might try to take hostages, if that’s what you mean. But I can’t be hurt, and White Lady was there to make sure everyone else was safe, too. They never stood a chance.”

Except the part where they totally stood a chance and the only reason I beat Nano was because he burned himself out. If he was a little smarter, or I was a little less lucky, they’d have walked and the whole thing would have ended in failure. At the same time, I wouldn’t be grounded, so maybe it would have been better that way.

“Speaking of White Lady, you should see all the speculation online about her.” Ben whispered conspiratorially. I already had, but why tell him that? “So, what does she look like under the costume? I bet she’s a total babe.”

“Dude, it’s not cool to give away information about secret identities.” Better answer than ‘don’t know’. “Besides, I already have a girlfriend. The only opinion I’m allowed to have about other women is that Cassie’s hotter.” I spoke just a little louder. “Especially when we know she has informants in class who will tell her everything at lunch.”

Not far away, Margaret giggled. “Guilty as charged.”

“What about Sapphire? I bet she has a sexy MILF voice. Or Sympathy, no one even knows what her powers are. What was she like?”

Like I’d rather be trapped in a cage with a dozen angry menstruating badgers, that’s what Sympathy is like. “Dude, if you’re that hard up for a date, you should just say so. With a little effort, I bet I could get you Shadow Boxer’s number.”

“No thanks, I’d prefer a girlfriend that’s a girl.”

I smirked. “At this point, you should probably just settle for a girlfriend that has a pulse.”

“Fuck you.”

“Once again, I point out that I already have a girlfriend. Who’s hotter than you, by the way. Not that there was ever any doubt.”

NEXT

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10 thoughts on “Death of a Hero, Chapter 25

    1. Well, powers in this setting DO reflect the needs and personalities of those who have them. The wrong kind of person could get nearly the same kind of recipe as Zach and end up with the ability absorb others as fuel for superhuman physical and mental power.

      Like

  1. Do you have this up in TWF yet? I voted for a few of my favourites there now and couldn’t see price. If you do get it on TWF can you put the link on the chapter.
    Still really enjoying this story :)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tana I am always pleased by just how natural you make your characters dialogue, both internal and external. Zach’s interactions with family and peers sound exactly like I would expect from a highschooler, and his thoughts are very much in keeping with the whole “using comedy to deflect/steer interactions” persona.

    As always, kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It has occurred to me that on the subject of sacrificing things for power, there is one other major attachment besides Laura. His life after killing Kitten.

    So far, he does not even consider the possibility of being trapped by circumstance to live a hero life for the rest of his days. He treasures the idea of living a more normal life after Kitten is dead.

    I think that there are two real options here. He has either unknowingly already paid that price as part of the cost from his last surge, or he will have a second surge that directly causes him to never have a chance at a normal(ish) life.

    Liked by 1 person

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