Death of a Hero, Chapter 38

I spent the rest of the day laying in bed nursing a headache. I may have drifted off to sleep, I’m not sure. It’s amazing how soon you forget what sleep’s like when you don’t need it anymore. My power kicked in and respawned me around three in the morning and I was back to feeling amazing. Sure, there was still Kitten and being grounded and all those I failed to save, but at least it no longer hurt to think.

I spent the rest of the night playing video games and arguing with people online. It was a good way to kill time, and I even managed to get some loser temp banned without so much as an infraction. It was nice to have a victory, however minor, that didn’t come with more problems.

Mom knocked on the door a bit after five in the morning. “Zach, are you up?”

Translation: I don’t want to walk in and catch you spankin’ it. “Yeah, just checking my homework.”

The door opened, I didn’t bother closing the website. It’d look more suspicious than leaving it up. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You seemed pretty out of it yesterday, and…”

And it reminds you of what my life was like before my powers. “Back to a hundred and infinity percent,” I said with fake cheer. “I was thinking maybe I’d jog to school today. The fresh air might do me good, or at least maybe I won’t smell like fresh baked asbestos when I get to class.”

Mom stood there, studying me for a moment. “Very well, but if you feel any problems at all, you know my number.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” I dismissed. My mother worried way too much. “Now I’ve just gotta get ready for class.” I grabbed my backpack and started loading it up to make the point. I heard the door close behind me, and knowing I didn’t have to worry about my mother was a weight off my chest.

The jog to school felt amazing, despite the air being frigid and stinking of car exhaust. Some people even pointed at me as I ran by. The attitude was different, now. The bank robbery only mattered to a few people. It earned me a rep that I could hold my own in a fight, but that only mattered to supers and the geeks who cyberstalked them. The fire was different, the sort of scenario that normal people actually cared about. I had no idea how to feel about that kind of fame, but when someone waved at me, I smiled and waved back.

The first thing I did when I got to school was look for Cassie. It didn’t take long, she was right inside talking to a few of her friends. “Zach!” she shrieked when she spotted me, and her gaggle of girls followed right after. “Ohmygod! I saw you on the news and the fire and now everyone knows your secret power!”

I smiled and shrugged. “Not that big a deal.” Right now, I was more nervous about trying to stay cool while Cassie’s friends gawked at me. “Honestly, I’m surprised it stayed secret this long.”

She wrapped her arms around me and gave me a kiss. Not as long as the ones we got up to alone, but enough to get in trouble if the teachers in this school actually cared. “And now how am I supposed to feel special without knowing secrets no one else does?” she pouted brilliantly.

I almost felt guilty that she never did know any true secrets. “Well, your videos are all over the news, that has to be worth something?”

“Those were yours?!” one of the girls shouted. I couldn’t see which one, because there was a hot blonde in the way. “I told you that journalism class would totally pay off!”

Cassie broke our cuddle to look at her friend. “All you said was Mister Andrade was a dreamboat.”

“It got you in the class, right?” the girl smiled. She was one of the seniors, another well built blonde. “Besides, it’s totally true.”

“Umm,” I raised a hand. “Should I be listening to this?”

Cassie gave me a peck on the cheek. “Oh, don’t worry, you’re still a cutie, right girls?”

There were murmers of agreement from the crowd. I forced myself to just grin and act like I believed them. I didn’t hate my looks or anything emo like that, but years of being ignored by the fairer sex was all the proof I needed to know I wasn’t a babe magnet. I knew none of these girls would be talking to me if not for my powers, and I was okay with that.

“So, what are you doing here early, anyway?” Cassie whispered. “Is something wrong?”

It was a fair question: Cassie had started waiting for my bus so we could talk before classes. “Don’t worry, everything’s fine. After the fire, Mom backed off,” I whispered back. Then I spoke up. “So, want an interview for your journalism class? Or is it still cliché for the superhero to date the unfairly hot reporter?”

“No, but it’s totally a conflict of interest,” the blonde from before cut in. “How about if I do the interview?”

“Back off, Kayla, he’s mine,” Cassie squeezed me possessively. I would have asked if I had a choice in the matter, but the answer was obvious.

“Aww, but Cass, I’m a real journalism student! And we have to do an interview with a local business owner or celebrity. It’s worth like half our grade!”

“Fiiine,” Cassie sighed. “But you totally owe me.”

“Thank you!” Kayla bolted forward and hugged Cassie. I was caught in the hug as well, not that I was complaining. The image of Kayla’s body appeared in the weird mental map of my power. This told me she was light enough that I could pick both her and Cassie up at the same time. “Okay, I’m going to class now. I’ll get your number off Cassie later.”

I watched her run off. “So, she seems friendly,” I whispered after a moment.

“Yeah, she is,” Cassie sounded far less amused. “Just remember that if you oggle my sister too much, I will gouge your eyes out.”

Wait, that’s her sister? “Consider me properly terrified,” I quipped. After a moment to think about it, the resemblence was obvious. They were the same shade of honey blonde, plus they had amazing figures.

We went our separate ways for class after that, and not much of interest happened. Lit was a matter of sitting and listening to others do their ideas about the themes in The Great Gatsby. I already did mine, and we were all repeating the same thing by this point.

Personally, I hated almost every character in the story. Daisy was a shallow bitch, the narrator just sorta stood there and watched everything happen, and everyone else was an asshole. Gatsby himself was just pathetic, spending his entire life obsessing over a woman who clearly never gave a shit about him.

Still, it was a nice, easy grade. Not so nice that I didn’t jump to get out of class when the bell rang, only to wait in physics for the next bell. On the plus side, our physics teacher wasn’t the type to make us do anything, so it was just a fancier math class.

By the time I got to the lunch room, ‘my’ table was crowded with people. There was even a round of applause as I found a seat. The usual suspects were all there, only this time the rest of the table was surrounded by people who just wanted to hear what we had to say.

“I knew you were holding out on us!” David accused the moment I sat down. “You’re all witnesses!”

“Of course I was,” I answered. “The hero always needs a secret power that he hides until the moment he needs it to save the day. It’s a law, I looked it up.”

“I knew,” Cassie said as she leaned her head on my shoulder. “I have the power of girlfriend privileges.”

“So how does it work?” Amy leaned forward, no doubt certain her innocent smile would work on me like it worked on her parents.

“Hey, I have to keep some secrets,” I protested, but I already knew I was going to tell them. I waited for the appropriate amount of cajoling from the crowd, then pretended to cave.

“Fine, fine. I can teleport anything I’ve touched recently.” I poked my plastic fork and then respawned it to my other hand. “It works on objects or people, but using it on people really wears me out. Don’t tell anyone, I’m hoping people don’t figure out the weak points in my power.” I was, of course, hoping they’d tell everyone. Anything to keep people from guessing it was the fire that caused me problems. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t fool Kitten.

Judging by David’s look, he suspected there was more to it than I was saying, but he said nothing. I just had to hope he wouldn’t put together how effective my power was; or if he did, that he wouldn’t tell anyone. I was doomed.

Bear snickered before speaking. “So, you’re saying you can punch the clothes off people?”

Cassie fidgeted next to me. “Uh, I guess I can,” I reluctantly admitted. I should have known that would be the first thing they thought of. “I mean, I’ve never tried it. Why, are you volunteering?”

“No! Not me, man.” Bear raised his hands to ward me off. “I’m just saying there’s a lot of hot villain ass out there. If I had naked punches, I’d have to at least try it.”

“Wow, Bear, I didn’t know Nano was your type,” Alex cut in, to a few laughs from the rest of the group.

From there, the conversation was easy to answer stuff; like whether I was scared or how bad the fire hurt. I told the usual lies about how I didn’t feel pain, so a burning building wasn’t even a problem. By whatever rule, the fact that other heroes didn’t follow me in meant I was more badass than any of them.

The chatter meant I didn’t get to spend any time actually talking to Alex or Cassie. I found myself longing for yesterday when people left me alone with my friends and girlfriend. I was more convinced than ever that fame sucked.

When gym finally rolled around, I hit the weight room immediately, and the coach didn’t so much as bat an eye. I don’t think he cared what I was doing in here. I couldn’t participate with the class, and he couldn’t make me quit or give me a bad grade for fear of the law. He was happy to have me in here, where the rest of the class couldn’t see me.

Alex dipped in as I was doing deadlifts. “You still aren’t keeping your back straight when you do those.”

I set the weights down with a grunt. “Well, they made me sign that stupidity waiver for a reason,” I joked back.

“Umm, did yesterday cause you any problems?” Alex asked.

Oh, great, it’s going to be one of those conversations. “Actually, it kinda helped,” I replied. “Mom realized she can’t stop me, not when it matters. I mean, really, what was she gonna say? ‘No, you’re not allowed to go out and save small children and their parents from burning alive, go to your room. Oh, and no supper because that’s totally a punishment that works.’?”

Alex chuckled, more at my shitty voice acting than anything. “Yeah, I guess that works. So you’re free to be back out doing your thing, huh?”

I shrugged a shoulder. “Well, kinda. I may have accidentally told her to shut the fuck up.” I paused to let Alex grimace theatrically. “So I’m in trouble, but Respawn is free to do his thing at night.”

“Talking about yourself in third person?” Alex snarked. “Isn’t that the sign of a mental illness.”

I looked at him and smirked. “I go out in the middle of the night dressed up like a cosplayer and pester criminals until they stab me. At this point, choice of pronouns is the least of my symptoms.” Wait, why is he asking about this? “Umm, listen, I’m sorry this kinda stole your spotlight. I mean, you’re going to state and-”

“Hey, it’s cool,” Alex interrupted. “I’m not doing this for fame. Even if I was, this is high school. In less than two years we’ll be out of here. Well, I will. You’ve got at least another three years.”

“Asshole.”

“Just callin’ it like I see it.” Alex stepped back toward the door. “In all seriousness, don’t worry about me. It doesn’t matter how bigshot a hero you become, you’ll never be a football player, and I’ll never be a superhero. The fact that we went to highschool together will just be a bit of trivia our future fans tell each other.”

“And some day, someone will create a documentary entitled ‘Are bad schools good for kids? Adams High: a case study’.”

Alex laughed, then looked back toward the door. “I’ve gotta go before Murray has a panic attack. See you after class?”

I shook my head. “Sorry, still in trouble. I’ll see if I can sweet talk my way out this weekend.”

“That sucks, good luck.” He left the workout room, and I went back to my weights. I was up to almost five hundred pounds, now, and planned to stop at that point, for fear of bulking up too much. I couldn’t afford losing agility, not against an opponent like Kitten.

NEXT

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11 thoughts on “Death of a Hero, Chapter 38

  1. As an athletics coach I protest the negative correlation between muscle mass and agility. You just need adequate stretching to go with it, and Zach would probably have the same advantages stretching as lifting.

    True there is a point where this breaks down but it is a very long way down the bulk path.

    He may not know this, but Alex seems like he would.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fair enough. But Zach has been doing “constant max reps” training- the sort of thing used by body builders, not athletes- in an attempt to have more strength.

      Not being an expert in Zach’s obviously inhuman muscle growth rates, Alex decided 500 was a nice, safe, stopping place for pure bulking, and a good point to switch to more complex exercises, like a boxer’s routine. Which is what the next step in plan, as far as Alex is concerned.

      “The Bastard” has been providing more well rounded “how to make things hurt” training, but he doesn’t have the “environment” to do “real drill instructor”, and is simply focused on showing him the “cool stuff”. (The goal IS to get the kid to enlist, after all.)

      Now, to be fair this training *might* not be the best way to go about it… I’m not a fitness trainer, but have about as much experience on the subject as Alex does. So any mistakes made seem like realistic ones to be made.

      Like

  2. I just kind of noticed that the only real description I can think of for Cassie is blonde and “hot.” Can’t remember if there was an actual one earlier in the story and I just forgot, or if it just hasn’t come up at all.

    That isn’t meant as a criticism, by the by. Zach as a narrator would be more likely to describe her as hot then to go into exacting detail on her looks. It just struck me that most of the time when she is described her defining feature seems to be this nebulous hotness that everyone agrees she has.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zach’s descriptions are pretty crap, huh? Scattered through the story are the following details.

      Blonde, duh. Specifically, wavy honey-blonde hair that goes down to her shoulders.
      Nice face, looks older than she really is.
      Almost as tall as Zach. Puts her at 5’7 or so.
      In good enough shape to have abs to show off. Being a cheerleader, no surprise. In general, toned but not muscular.
      Green eyes.
      “Plenty” of cleavage to “show of”. (It’s never mentioned, but she’s about halfway between C and D)
      Wears revealing clothes, but avoids looking trashy. Well, by high school standards of trashy.

      Like

  3. The interactions between cassie and zach are as campy as you could expect from a pair of teens. You’ve encapsulated high school relationships well. That being said, I still find it grating at times to read. I honestly think that this story would not suffer in the slightest if you left her out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. At this point, I’m inclined to agree. But I have Future Plans!!! And to make that payoffs suitably believable and significant, I must lay the groundwork here and now.

      Like

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