Authors: Lucas Flint
Tags: #Superheroes | Supervillains
“The problem is that message he left,” said Dad, folding his arms across his chest. “Did you see it?”
I nodded. “Yeah. 'I'm coming to avenge my son.' What does it mean? Is it a code?”
“That's probably what the mainstream media and police are thinking,” said Dad with a sigh. “But they're giving Master Chaos too much credit. He can be clever when he wants to be, but this time, he's being straight and to the point.”
“So something happened to his son?” I said. “I didn't even know he
“Not too many people do,” said Dad.
“So what happened to his son?” I said. “Did someone kill him?”
Dad pointed at me. “
happened to him.”
“Huh?” I said, blinking in confusion. “I don't understand. I've never even met his son.”
“Actually, you have,” said Dad. “His name is Robert Candle and you punched him through the wall of your school's cafeteria.”
“What?” I said. “No way. That doesn't make any sense. Robert's just a bully. He's not the son of one of the most dangerous supervillains in the world.”
“Actually, he is,” said Dad. “I know it's hard to believe, but Robert is indeed Master Chaos's son. I've done my research. There's no denying it.”
I ran my hands through my hair. “But … he doesn't have any superpowers, does he?”
“As far as I know, he doesn't, though he's at the right age to develop them soon,” said Dad. “But it doesn't really matter, because Master Chaos is going to avenge him regardless.”
“Avenge him?” I said. I put my hands on my chest. “Hold on. Are you saying that
Master Chaos's target?”
Dad nodded grimly. “It appears that way. I'm not sure how Master Chaos learned about you punching out his son so quickly, though. He must have some way of keeping in contact with Robert even in prison, which is odd because Ultimate Max was specifically designed to prevent prisoners from using telepathy, radio signals, and other forms of communication to contact people outside of the prison.”
“But why did we move here if you know Robert was Master Chaos's son?” I said. “Didn't you worry that something like this could have happened?”
Dad shrugged. “No, mostly because no one knows who we are. I knew you'd be in the same school as Master Chaos's son, but I doubted you'd get into a fight with him or that you would be able to harm him enough to motivate Master Chaos to break out of Ultimate Max. Apparently, I was wrong.”
“Honey, we need to move,” said Mom, causing me to look at her. She was rubbing her hands together anxiously. “We can't stay here. If Master Chaos is after Kevin, then he's probably on his way here even now. If we move—”
“To where?” Dad interrupted her. “Ashley, I know how worried you are, but the fact is that Master Chaos doesn't give up. When he decides to kill someone, he won't stop until they're dead. We could even go to the moon and he'd find a way to get us there.”
“Then we need to contact the NHA,” said Mom. She sounded like she was getting a little hysterical now. “Ask them to protect us, maybe give us a few of their strongest, and—”
“And let everyone know who we are?” Dad interrupted. “I will definitely contact the NHA, and the government, too, but I think it is more important that we remain calm and think rationally about this before we do anything.”
“Rationally?” Mom repeated in shock. “Master Chaos is coming after us. How can you call me irrational when you know our history with him?”
“I'm just saying that Master Chaos thrives on chaos,” said Dad, holding up his hands. “And getting too emotional can throw your rational mind into chaos, so I'm just advocating that we take a moment to calm down and think this through.”
“Calm down?” said Mom. “How can I calm down knowing that our son—our one and only child—is the target of … of that bastard?”
Bastard? Mom never used that kind of language before, at least around me. In fact, Mom always used to scold me whenever I used that language around her when I was young. And what was up with her tone? I knew we were in a dangerous situation now, but it seemed to me like she was taking it a bit too far.
Dad just said, “I'm just as worried for Kevin's safety as you are, but I'm just approaching it differently. Why don't you sit down so we can talk about what we need to do?”
Tears started flowing uncontrollably from Mom's eyes as she said, “Sit down and talk? We know what we need to do. We need to keep Kevin safe.”
“I know,” said Dad, “but—”
“I just don't want to lose another family member to that monster,” said Mom.
Then, without warning, she ran from the living room again, leaving Dad and I sitting alone on the couch in awkward silence.
Dad told me to go to my room for now while he went and comforted Mom. I asked him what she meant about losing 'another' family member to Master Chaos, but Dad said he'd explain later and that right now he needed to comfort Mom and contact his friends in the NHA to find out what they knew about Master Chaos's escape. He didn't say anything about my training or whether we were still doing it, which frustrated me.
Nonetheless, I returned to my room and plopped down on my bed. My room was pretty bare, furniture-wise, mostly because most of my stuff was still unpacked and I was too lazy to unpack it all. I pulled out my smartphone, intending to read news reports on Master Chaos, but then I remembered how Dad had bugged it and I decided against it.
I tried to take a nap—because I was dead tired from having to get up early to go to school today—but I couldn't. Everything that had happened today kept replaying in my mind: me punching out Robert, Dad revealing that he is a legendary superhero, Master Chaos breaking out of prison and declaring to the world that he was coming after me. Moves are always stressful, but I was sure that this was not the sort of thing that happened to most kids who move from New York to Texas.
I looked up at the white ceiling, imagining Master Chaos bursting through and falling on top of me. Even though I knew about my powers, I still worried that I wasn't strong enough to defeat him. Back in his day, Master Chaos had been one of the most powerful and dangerous supervillains, evading capture from the NHA and even killing several heroes, such as the Crimson Fist. I didn't really know the full details surrounding his final defeat at the hands of Dad, but considering how seriously Dad took his return, I guessed that his first defeat hadn't exactly been a walk in the park.
How long would it take for Master Chaos to get here from Ultimate Max? I knew Ultimate Max was near New York, because it was run by both the NHA and the government, so I figured it would take him at least a few days before he got here. Of course, it could take longer if the NHA and government hunt him down, because that might force him to lay low for a while.
But that still put me—and Mom and Dad—at huge risk. Master Chaos had been active for years prior to being defeated by Dad. He had years of experience battling supers. If I went toe-to-toe with him in a fight, I doubt I'd even scratch him. I needed my training, but I wondered whether we'd even be doing that now or if we were just going to be put under government protection or something.
I couldn't handle this. I know I complained to Dad about moving to a boring Texas town in the middle of nowhere, but I didn't mean I wanted to become the target of one of the worst supervillains in the world who was apparently also a caring father. I especially hated seeing Mom so distressed, even if I didn't know exactly why she was so upset.
But I didn't know what to do, so I just lay on my bed for a while, trying but failing to sleep, before I heard a knock on my bedroom door. Sitting up, I said, “Come in.”
The door opened and Dad stepped through. He wasn't wearing his Genius costume anymore; instead, he was wearing his usual blue button down shirt and black slacks. Out of his Genius suit, he resembled me even more, just older and wearing Dad clothes.
“How are you doing, Kevin?” said Dad as he closed the door behind him. “Get any rest?”
I shook my head. “No. How's Mom doing?”
Dad rubbed his forehead. “Better. I managed to calm her down and told her what I was going to do. I assured her that we would be safe and that Master Chaos would be stopped long before he set foot in Silvers, much less reach our front door.”
“How can you guarantee that?” I said.
“I contacted the NHA,” said Dad. “They said they're still working with the government to investigate Chaos's breakout, but they've already sent out a team to search the area around the prison for him. They think he can't have gone very far, because he just escaped recently, so they're hoping to catch him before he leaves New York.”
I sighed in relief. “Whew. That's good to hear.”
“Don't get too comfortable,” said Dad. “There is a reason Master Chaos didn't stay captured until I caught him. He's cleverer than his name suggests. He's not quite my intellectual equal, but he's not an idiot, either.”
“What are Master Chaos's powers, exactly?” I said. “I don't remember learning much about them in school.”
“Master Chaos can turn any area into chaos,” said Dad. “For example, once he caused a fifteen car pileup on a freeway simply by desiring for one of the drivers to lose their cool.”
“So is it like reality warping or mind control?” I said.
“Both and neither,” said Dad with a sigh. “Master Chaos has unique powers, to say the least. There isn't any other neohero quite like him. It seems like all he needs to do is just step into an area and will it to fall into chaos and it will.”
“Is that all he can do?”
“He also has super strength,” said Dad. He rubbed his face. “I learned that the hard way when I first fought him.”
“So what are we going to do while the NHA and the government look for him?” I said. “Am I still going to do my training?”
Dad nodded. “Yes. While I have faith that my friends in the NHA will be able to capture him before he gets here, we still need to be prepared for his arrival. Therefore, you will need to learn how to use and control your powers so you can defend yourself if he manages to get here.”
“Will he make it here?” I said.
Dad shrugged. “I don't think he should, seeing as the NHA and the government are both searching every corner of New York for him, but like I said, Chaos is smart. We need to be prepared for the worst case scenario, whatever it is.”
In my opinion, the worst case scenario was that Master Chaos attacked and destroyed our house and killed us all. I wasn't quite sure how we were supposed to prepare for that, but I hated the idea of sitting around doing nothing and I was excited about the idea of learning how to use my powers, so I nodded.
“Okay, when do we start?” I said.
“We'll start your training on Saturday, like I said,” said Dad. “I would prefer to do it sooner, now that Master Chaos has escaped, but I still don't have everything I need in order to train you effectively, so we'll have to wait for a little while.”
“Will I still have to go to school?” I said. I was thinking about Robert and wondering if he was going to be there and, if so, whether he would remember me punching him through the cafeteria wall.
“Yes,” said Dad. “Master Chaos will likely lay low for a while, at least until he is confident he can evade the NHA and the government. School is still a safe place to be for the moment, so you should go there and try to behave as normally as possible.”
“Okay,” I said in disappointment. “No dramatic displays of my superpowers in public to impress girls?”
“No dramatic displays of your superpowers in public to impress girls,” said Dad. “Remember, superpowers are not to be shown off like expensive cars. They are meant to be used responsibly, which is why I am going to train you.”
I nodded again, but I was still thinking about whether I would be able to use my powers to impress girls anyway. Super strength would probably make the girls go crazy, though I doubted I'd ever get to show off like that.
“Now today has been a long day for all of us,” said Dad. “Mom is making dinner, which should be ready soon. For now, I'm going to retire to my study and order what we'll need for your training.”
“All right,” I said. Then I remembered something and, pulling out my smartphone, I handed it to Dad. “Hey, can you remove the tracking device from my smartphone, like you said you would?”
Dad took my smartphone and put it in his pocket. “Of course. I'll give it back to you after dinner.”
“Thanks,” I said.
With that, Dad turned and left the room, closing the door behind him. I looked back up at the ceiling, feeling anxious about Master Chaos but excited about the fact that Dad was going to train me to be a superhero. I didn't think I'd be getting any sleep tonight.
aiting until Saturday was pure torture. I was never any good at patience, but this was worse than usual, because how many kids get to be trained as superheroes? It was like waiting to go to an awesome concert you've been looking forward to all year or for Christmas, except ten times worse.
I tried to focus on school, but it was hard. Returning to school the next day, I found out that Dad was right: No one remembered what I had done. No one looked at me and ran (though the popular girls, as usual, ignored me). No one seemed afraid that I would punch them through the cafeteria wall if they annoyed me. I was treated like the new kid, like nothing strange or out of the ordinary had happened on my first day at school.
But that didn't mean there weren't any clues about what happened on my first day. The most obvious was the Robert Candle-shaped wall in the cafeteria, which had been covered with a tarp until the school could hire someone to repair it. Some of the wiser kids outlined Robert's hole and drew stupid-looking faces on the tarp, which I guess meant that Robert hadn't been exactly popular.
The biggest clue, in my opinion, however, was Robert's complete absence from school. Malcolm—who had basically become my best friend—told me that Robert suffered some pretty critical injuries from the 'air bomb' that had gone off and was going to be in the hospital for the next few weeks. That meant that I would probably not see him for a while, which was fine by me, because I didn't want to see Robert ever again. It wasn't that I was afraid of him, necessarily, because I knew I could beat him in a fight if he came after me again. It was just that I knew that Master Chaos would probably get even angrier at me if I beat his son again and I was in no mood to give him another reason to kill me.