When their news-worthy display ends in an innocent civilian getting killed, a villain begins questioning himself and the motives of his lazy, egotistical 'hero' partner.
The fire shot toward him like whips, but with a short gesture of his hand he sent them back into the building where it blazed through wood and stone. Come on, where are you? Hurry up. From his position high above the city street, where he hovered just below the seventh floor of the burning ‘Tomorrow Tech INC.’ building, Corjun searched the crowd of screaming people for someone heading toward the disaster instead of away from it. Where are you?
Corjun spun toward the voice but not before the hero slammed a fist into his face, sending him crashing into the flaming building and through several charred walls. Wood and plaster turned to ash and dust where they touched his skin. “Ow,” he whispered, staring up at the melting ceiling for a moment. Flames licked at the hooded cloak hanging off his shoulders, almost encouragingly, as he stood and walked across the floor which shuddered and cracked under his feet. Suddenly, all the fire from the building swooped out past him like a storm. He braced himself against the twisted metal of the window frames as the fire circled in the sky. Several yards away, Evron hovered majestically in the air, hands thrown out as if he could pick up the entire world in his arms. He ushered the fire into a tight molten ball and with silent command, turned the entire thing into water. Spreading his arms, he sent torrents of rain down on the head of the cheering crowd.
Hair wet and body cold now, Corjun watched him pose for photos, kiss a reporter, then fly away, praise trailing him like a comet. Corjun sat. He hated being wet, hated being cold. But he couldn’t leave until he could go home unseen, so he sat in the disrupted building, feeling its unease against his back like it was his own. He remained there so long, he was still waiting when the emergency vehicles finally made it through the barricade set up several blocks down the road. He was used to the firetrucks, used to the ambulance, but he’d not expected the hearse. He watched them load the sheet covered body. Then, with his palm pressed to his mouth, he watched it drive away.
A twenty-minute shower did little to wash the screaming out of his head, Soap would not wash off the sickly, death colored gray of his skin. And nothing in the world would wash the image of the hearse from behind his eyelids every time he shut them. He wasn’t sure how long he stared at the bathroom mirror afterward, seeing nothing but that car and the body put inside it. But finally, he dressed and left the bathroom. Evron was in the living room midway through a round of Spartan Crush. He hadn’t even changed out of his superhero clothes yet and sat on top of his own cape, which pulled his already chiseled shoulders back even further. “Oh good, you’re out,” the hero said. “I have some notes. Like maybe try using a convincing amount of fire next time? I mean, really? Our stove top’s more impressive and it’s electric. You’ve got to sell it, man.” He paused the lecture long enough to focus on demolishing the opposing team via cyber assault rifle.
“We killed someone,” Corjun whispered.
When he went unheard, he walked around the couch to the TV and pulled the plug.
He stood thee a moment, power cords in hand. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d gained Evron’s anger, last time was over a cup of noodle soup. “We. Killed. Someone.” He spoke loudly this time, clear, despite the words catching somewhere between his stomach and the back of his tongue. Evron paused, then signed long-sufferingly. He set his game controller on the coffee table atop one of his large stack of comic books. “It was bound to happen eventually.” He frowned at the floor a moment then looked at Corjun. “I’m assuming you enjoyed it at least.”
“Is t-that what you think?” Corjun swallowed hard. “I like fire, sure. But I don’t like hurting people just because you think you’re a hero.”
“Excuse me?” Evron threw his hands to the side and stood to his full height. “How am I not a superhero?”
Corjun looked away. “You. . said I’d never have to kill someone. You said that.”
Evron snorted. “Well gee, I’m sorry that when I gave you freaking amazing superpowers I forgot to also make you a psychopath. Won’t happen again.” He stomped away, taking one of his comics with him. He was already flipping through it as he left.
“That’s it? That’s all you’ve got to say about this?!”
Evron turned back to him in annoyance. “I get it, you’re mad. But honestly? Here’s the thing. I created you, I control you, and that means I don’t have to explain myself to you. So, go find somewhere else to cry about it while I plot a revenge that will make history. Goodnight.”
Corjun pulled his gray hoody over his head, pulled the hood low over his eyes and walked toward the front door of the apartment.
“Wait. Where in the world do you think you’re going? Don’t you take that ugly skull face of yours out there. Hey, I’m talking to you!”
But, five more steps and a closed door muffled the yelling. The cold air hurt his throat, stabbed at him like pins against his skin, but it was better than standing there saying nothing.
It was a fifteen-minute walk before Corjun found a place that felt safe enough to say out loud what he’d wanted to say to his creator’s face. “I’m not going to kill people just so you can live your psychotic fanboy dream,” he whispered to the grass and purple flower weeds at his feet. He was sitting on a small stone bench in a park. Parks in this area where a hybrid of sorts, playgrounds and parking lots, but also trees and dirt trails. This one even had a pond. It was as if those who built it had decided to scoop up a piece of forest and pluck it down in the middle of the city just for the entertainment of others. He wondered if maybe there was a spot in some woods, somewhere far away that had nothing but an empty crater in the center. Missing.
He let out a slow breath, glaring at the sun which did nothing to warm him. It never did. I don’t care who I was or how he did this to me…I’m-I’m not a…” But he couldn’t bring himself to say it. Because nothing he said would fix this—any of this.
His half-made promise hung hauntingly in the air. It shattered; however, as the distinct scent of smoke drifted across his face. It was faint, but he could taste it on his tongue. Drawn to it like a magnet, he rose in the air above the tree line.
His every sense was drawn to it, and all the more so as he grew closer to the source. He could see the burning townhome from his position in the sky, hear the familiar wail of the firetrucks as they tried to maneuver the looping roads of the community. It was beautiful down there. The fire. Everything from the blackened roof to the spitting embers spoke of warmth. He let himself land right in the driveway between the small family car and the pink bicycle next to it. The tires shimmered with a melting shine. He was so drawn to it, he didn’t even notice the crowed on the street until someone shouted at him. “They’re still inside!” The neighbors had gathered on the street, some tried to get close to the home, edging the sidewalk worriedly. But Corjun? He only wished the fire would grow bigger and warmer.
“Well, do something!” He wasn’t sure who had shouted that. But it seemed to wake Corjun. He’d known there were people inside, could see the evidence right here in the parking lot, and for a moment he stared at that bicycle again, hating himself for being so enthralled by the melting rubber that he’d forgotten someone owned it, someone inside the house.
Yes. Yes I can do something. The realization was more frightening than he’s expected, making his heart pound far more quickly than even the warm smoke in his lungs did. He ran up to the building and stuck his hand into the fire. The flames twisted and spun around his fingers like a wild animal sniffing his palm. And once it decided to accept him, he yanked it all away from the house. It wasn’t compressed, wasn’t forced to be tame, but came out in individual ribbons of light, dancing in the air. He rose upward where the heat naturally wanted to go, and so it followed. The fire twisted around his arms and shot upward, higher and higher. “I’m sorry,” Corjun whispered, watching the sparks snap and fade out the higher he rose. Before the rest could be frightened away, he led it all the park and directed it to the cold depths of the pond, where it hit the water, sizzled, and died.
For a moment he just floated there above the steam, breathing hard. A world of cold wrapped itself more tightly around him. And with that sense of sadness and loss, also came a sense of dread. Shooting into the air again, he hurried back to the house, landing on the sidewalk just as the paramedics brought the stretchers out of the home. He held his breath, only releasing it when he saw them put oxygen masks on the victims. He even heard one coughing. He closed his eyes, sighing deeply in a kind of relief, he’d never felt before.
“I saw what you did.” A feminine voice said beside him, he glanced at the woman, then quickly away to hide his face. “Um..”
“I’m a reporter,” she said, voice tinged with suspicion, as if she would never in all her life truly believe anything she heard. He looked at anyone but her. What if she found out who he was? What if they all found out? In the crowed, he swore he saw Evron mixed among them, looking at him darkly, and shaking his head.
“I asked you a question,” the reporter said grumpily, “Who are you?”
If it was Evron, he was gone now. As if he hadn’t been there at all. Corjun found himself clasping his hands close to his own chest. feeling his heart beating rapidly, adrenaline, relief, worry, fear… Strangely, It didn’t really feel bad. In fact, it was nice being reminded that despite everything, it was somehow still beating. “I… I think I might be a hero.”
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