Authors: Lucas Flint
Tags: #Superheroes | Supervillains
“But why did Mom want you to retire from crime-fighting?” I said. “Why couldn't she work while you fight the bad guys? You could have still raised me even that way, right?”
Dad looked down at his helmet, like I had asked a question that he was not sure how to answer. “Well … she was worried for my safety. She was worried that I might get killed and she would have to raise you on her own. I didn't want to put her through that kind of stress, so I retired after defeating Master Chaos and putting him behind bars.”
Now I could tell that there was another reason Mom wanted Dad to stop crime-fighting. It was obvious. Dad wasn't looking at me and he was clearly only telling me about half of the truth. But I also knew that Dad could be tight-lipped when he wanted to, so I decided to ask him some other questions instead.
“So you haven't done any superhero stuff at all since you retired?” I said.
“Occasionally, I get requests for help from some of old friends who are cashing in a favor,” said Dad. He tapped his forehead. “My super intelligence and memory give me a unique skill set among neoheroes, but I have never gotten directly involved in superheroics since retiring except for one time, no.”
“So how did you know that I had punched that Robert jerk through the cafeteria wall?” I said. “I didn't call or text you or anything like that.”
“I put a tracking device on your smartphone that lets me listen to your environment,” said Dad. “Based on the screams I heard, I guessed that you had knocked Robert across the room, although I wasn't sure how until I actually got there and saw the situation.”
I pulled my smartphone out of my pocket and looked at it from every angle. I didn't see any tracking device on it and it didn't feel any heavier than it normally did, but Dad didn't sound like he was lying.
Looking at Dad, I said, “You mean you put a tracking device on my smartphone
Dad shrugged again. “I was worried about you. This is your first day at a new school, after all. I just wanted to make sure you didn't get into trouble. I would have removed the tracking device tonight, after you went to bed, once it became clear you didn't need my guidance.”
“Dad, that is weird,” I said. I held out my smartphone to him. “Get rid of that tracking device right now.”
“Later,” said Dad. “I don't have the tools to do it at the moment.”
I scowled, but put my smartphone back into my pocket anyway. “It's still weird.”
“I was just trying to make sure you were all right,” said Dad. “I knew something bad was likely to happen on your first day of school, something you wouldn't be able to deal with on your own, but I couldn't just follow you around the school in person. So I came up with a way to monitor your day without having to actually be there.”
“What were you afraid of happening?” I said. “Asking a girl out and then getting rejected? You're worse than Mom sometimes, you know that?”
“I was worried about what
happen,” said Dad, “namely, that you would suddenly manifest your superpowers and hurt someone in the process.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You knew I was going to punch someone out?”
“I did not
, because no one can ever know the future with perfect accuracy,” said Dad, shaking his head. “But the probability of you manifesting superpowers was extremely high.”
“Why?” I said.
“Because you are my son,” said Dad. “There is still much scientists don't know about us neoheroes, but one thing that is obvious is that our kids tend to manifest superpowers when they turn sixteen or seventeen. I thought you were due, so I was just watching for the right moment so I could help you avoid getting into trouble.”
I looked down at my hands. I no longer felt as strong as I did back in the cafeteria, but if Dad was right, then that power was still somewhere within me. “But I don't get it. If I inherited my powers from you, shouldn't I be super smart and great at technology like you?”
Dad shook his head again. “Not necessarily. While that is a logical inference to draw, that's not what experience and data have shown us. Most children of neoheroes like yourself usually get powers that are entirely different from their parents.”
“Why?” I said. “That doesn't make any sense.”
“We don't know,” said Dad. “It may be that the so-called 'neogene' manifests differently in different individuals. Or there might be environmental factors that affect how an individual neohero's powers develop. There's a lot of conflicting research in that area and no one agrees on the reason for it.”
“Is there any way to know ahead of time what powers children of neoheroes will develop?” I said.
“No,” said Dad. He rubbed his forehead, which he always did whenever something frustrated him. “And that's what makes our children so dangerous. We don't know if you will literally sprout wings and fly away or if you will just suddenly explode for no reason in the middle of a crowd and take dozens of people with you. It's the reason why a lot of neoheroes like to homeschool their children or send them to the Neohero Alliance Academy, where the sudden manifestation of their powers can be handled by experts.”
“Why didn't you homeschool me or send me to the Academy?” I said. “Didn't you know that I was going to get powers like this?”
Dad suddenly frowned, like I had walked into yet another sensitive subject. “I wanted you to live a normal life, Kevin. To get the childhood I didn't get, because my powers developed at an unusually low age and alienated me from my peers. Besides, there was always the small chance that you might just be an ordinary human, because there have been reported cases of children of neoheroes who do not develop any powers of their own or develop powers and then lose them later in life.”
“Is that why we moved from New York?” I said. “Because you didn't want me near Hero Island?”
“Right,” said Dad. “I thought we could just live a normal life if we moved to a town that doesn't have any neoheroes or villains of its own. Silvers, Texas isn't exactly known as neohero central, unlike, say, New York or even San Francisco.”
“Well, we can't live a normal life now,” I said. I slumped in the couch. “Everyone in the school knows about my powers now.”
“No, they don't,” said Dad, staring at me like I had just said that the sky was polka-dotted. “Only you, me, and your mother know about your powers now.”
“Um, Dad?” I said, returning Dad's strange look. “I punched someone all the way across the cafeteria and through a wall in front of every student in the school plus Principal Thomas and a few other faculty members. Unless everyone suffered amnesia at the exact same time, I'm pretty sure everyone knows about my powers now. And probably posted about them on the Internet, too/”
“Actually, they did suffer amnesia, of a kind,” said Dad. He tapped his gauntlet. “Or rather, a memory wipe. It's a special device I designed, the only one of its kind, that allows me to alter or outright erase certain memories from people through hypnosis.”
“Really?” I said in surprise. I touched the back of my head, but could not feel my memories. “How come we weren't affected?”
Dad gestured at the shades in my lap. “Those special shades protected you from its effects and my helmet's visor uses the same material to protect me from it. That's why we remember it, but no one else will.”
“Won't anyone think it's kind of suspicious how Robert has a fist-shaped dent in his chest from where I hit him?” I said.
“Why would they?” said Dad in an innocent-sounding voice. “After all, you're just an ordinary high school student who just moved from New York to Texas. You're a healthy and fit young man, of course, but everyone knows that ordinary high school students can't punch their much larger classmates across the cafeteria and through the wall on the other side.”
The way Dad spoke, it sounded to me like he had done this sort of thing before. It made me wonder if he had ever altered my own memories or Mom's memories before. Before today, I wouldn't have taken that idea seriously, but now, I couldn't be sure, because if Dad could keep his superhero life a secret from me, what else might he be refusing to tell me?
“So when I go back to school tomorrow, no one will call the cops on me?” I said.
“Everyone will treat you like a normal high school student,” said Dad, “though I can't guarantee that the popular kids won't treat you like dirt for being the new kid. Still, no one will even suspect you had anything to do with the fact that Robert Candle is probably going to have to spend the next few weeks in the hospital. His head trauma alone will probably make him forget that you were the one who punched him.”
“That's a relief,” I said with a sigh. Then I looked down at my hands. “So what kind of powers do I have? Just super strength?”
“I don't know,” said Dad. “Super strength is the most obvious one, but you probably have other powers we don't know about just yet. It often takes years of training before you discover and master all of your powers, but there are ways to figure them out sooner.”
I looked at Dad excitedly. “So you'll be training me to use my powers? Will I get to become a superhero? With my own costume and name and everything?”
Dad bit his lower lip. He looked down at his helmet again. “Well … yes. You will need training—there's no getting around that—but I don't want you going around town fighting crime.”
“What?” I said. “Why not? Isn't that what superheroes do?”
Dad looked at me sternly. “That's what adults who fully grasp the consequences of their actions do. You're not an adult yet. Being a superhero isn't all fun and games or glamor and glory. For that matter, you can't go bragging to your friends or on the Internet about your powers, either.”
“Why not?” I said.
“Because neoheroes always receive unwanted attention from those who would hurt us,” said Dad. “There are a lot of supervillains—and other types of people—out there who don't mind harming minors if they feel that they might be a threat to them in the future. I've known more than few younger heroes in my time who ruined, and sometimes lost, their lives by revealing their secret identities to the world before they were ready.”
“But everyone knows who Omega Man is,” I protested. “And he's doing all right.”
“Omega Man is the most powerful neohero in the world and has thirty years of experience fighting crime and supervillains under his belt,” said Dad. “Not to mention that he is the head of the NHA. He is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. You, however, are not, at least not yet.”
I folded my arms across my chest. “So I can't even help other people with my powers?”
“Not until you can control them without hurting other people accidentally,” said Dad firmly. “All right?”
I frowned. I was thinking about how easy it would be for me to attract hot girls if I could show off my super strength, but I couldn't rationally disagree with Dad's point. Besides, as much as I liked attention, I wasn't sure that I wanted to attract the attention of supervillains just yet.
“All right,” I said, although without any enthusiasm. “When do we start training?”
“On Saturday,” said Dad.
“Why not today?” I said. “I'm ready to start as soon as possible.”
“Couple of reasons,” said Dad, holding up two fingers. “One, you need to go back to school and get your education. I don't want you dropping out, at least not yet. And two, I need to get something for you and it will take a few days to arrive, so we won't be able to begin right away.”
“What is the thing you need to order?” I said.
Dad smiled. “You'll see.”
I hated it whenever Dad acted that way, but before I could interrogate him further about the thing that he needed to order for me, Mom rushed into the living room. At first, I thought she was going to shout at Dad again, but then she said, “Ted, turn on the TV. You have to see what's on the news.”
I had never heard Mom speak in that tone before. She sounded terrified, like she had just seen a ghost, or something much scarier than a ghost.
Dad, however, didn't even ask her what she was so worried about. He tapped the touch screen on his gauntlet and our flat screen TV suddenly turned on to the news. It showed a pretty news anchorwoman, with the headline 'BREAKING NEWS: INFAMOUS CRIMINAL ESCAPES FROM ULTIMATE MAX PRISON' directly beneath her.
“...authorities have confirmed that Bernard Candle, also known as the infamous Master Chaos, escaped Ultimate Max prison yesterday,” the anchorwoman was saying. “Master Chaos's current whereabouts are unknown, but a note was found in his cell with a message on it. The police have released pictures of the note and its contents, which police analysts are still trying to decipher.”
The anchorwoman's image on the screen was replaced by a yellow sticky note, which had a single sentence on it:
I'M COMING TO AVENGE MY SON.
he image of the note on the screen faded and was replaced by the anchorwoman again, but then Dad turned the TV off with another tap of his gauntlet and the screen went blank.
But Mom and Dad certainly didn't have blank expressions. Mom covered her mouth with both hands, tears starting to appear in her eyes, while Dad looked like his worst nightmare had just come true. I didn't really understand it. Sure, Master Chaos was a well-known supervillain who had caused a lot of trouble over the years, but the way they acted, you'd think he was going to come after them personally.
“What do we do, Ted?” said Mom. She wiped away her tears. I hated seeing Mom look so scared. “Should we call the NHA?”
Dad shook his head. “No. As far as I know, Master Chaos doesn't know where we are. He never learned my secret identity, so we should be safe.”
“Um, hello?” I said, causing Mom and Dad to look at me. “I'm feeling a bit out of the loop here. Why would Master Chaos come after us?”
Dad stroked his chin, a look of deep unease on his features. “Because I was the one who put Master Chaos behind bars sixteen-years-ago. He swore he'd come after me as soon as he got out.”
“But you said he doesn't know your secret identity,” I said. “That means he can't track you down. What's the problem?”