Chapter 9: The Burning Man
“I feel like I live in a world of, cardboard. Always trying not to break something, or someone. Because if I lose control for a second, people could die. But you can take it, can’t you big man?”
~ Clark Kent (Superman)
“So, if we want to make you a real sidekick, we need to find something for us to save. Usually robberies and supervillain attacks are the most common.” Oliver directed.
We were sitting in the Man Cave the day after Oliver had originally told me who he really was during his past-time. Eric was listening to the police scanner, trying to find a bad guy for us to help stop, while Oliver was teaching me the ways of being a hero.
“Yeah, why is it that the bad guys are always robbing banks?” I wondered aloud. “Even in those old comic books, the super villains always attempted to rob a bank. I mean – why?”
Oliver sighed. “Money is a great motivator for crime. Trust me, our job would be much easier if criminals decided to not rob a bank for once.”
It still shocked me. Oliver Storm, White Lightning, was now my sort of boss. I still could barely wrap my head around the fact that I was a super, but to be the unofficial sidekick of the hero who worked under Captain Impossible? It was almost a dream come true.
“Besides, if a villain isn’t robbing a back or taking hostages, they have a personal vendetta against me and try to attack or provoke me. That was how Andromeda first started in this city. She attacked Delinquent to get me to come.”
“You mean your girlfriend.” I corrected him.
He grimaced. “Yes. I guess you could say that.”
I smirked. “How does it feel to know your girlfriend was also a super with questionable intentions? Don’t people still think she’s a villain?”
“Yep.” Oliver said with a strained voice.
“Do you think you two would’ve ever told each other who you were? I mean – that is a pretty big secret to keep from your significant other.” I wondered aloud again. “I feel like you would’ve told her first, being the self-righteous guy you are.”
“Aden, this is time for you to learn how to be a super, not time for you to try and decipher my relationship with my girlfriend.” Oliver warned.
I smiled. “Oh, but this is so much more fun, Oliver.”
“Fun for you maybe.”
“And me,” Eric entered into the conversation.
“Yes, because both of you obviously find so much pleasure in me being uncomfortable.”
Eric grinned. “Definitely.”
Oliver sighed. “Can we just not talk about my relationship with Elise? We’re supposed to be finding someone or someplace to save so Aden can get the training he needs and to be exposed to the public eye. The last time I checked, Elise had nothing to do with that.”
“Fine.” I smirked. “But you’re the one who brought her up in the first place.”
He gave me a look full of warning, but I could see the playfulness there.
It was surprising how fast we got along. Before I had only known Oliver Storm as a popular junior who once saved me from bullies, but now? Oliver Storm was more than just a nice guy. He was a super – White Lightning. He wasn’t a privileged, conceded rich kid like the rest of our school. He liked me, and he wanted to help me with my own powers.
“Maybe I should make you go through the superhero rules again.” Oliver smirked.
I groaned. “Why is there so many rules to being a hero? Doesn’t it normally go, get power, get costume, save people, and beat villains, save more people? I didn’t know it would be this taxing on my memory.”
Oliver sighed. “It’s not all comic books and movies. Those people make the job look easy. These rules will help you get out of many situations.”
I scoffed. “When will I ever need rule #27 – Don’t risk your life over something stupid? Isn’t that a given.”
“You’d be surprised how many times supers need that rule.”
“I think I’ve got something here.” Eric exclaimed, interrupting our session. “Detective Pearson texted. There’s a hostage situation at a charity event in downtown DC. The event was supposed to raise money for firefighters, but it looks like a kid claiming to be a super interrupted it. The kid is holding all the very wealthy patrons hostage. He’s claiming he’ll kill a hostage every thirty minutes unless they all wire transfer to him their money.”
Oliver whistled. “Are you sure we should let Aden in on this one? It seems pretty big.”
Eric shrugged. “You need to let him out in the field eventually. He’ll have to deal with attacks like this soon anyways. What makes this time any different?”
“I am right here, guys.” I argued. “And there is no way I’m not going. You said you wanted a sidekick? Well, you can’t make me not come after that. Tons of hostages and a new possible super villain? I am definitely coming.”
Oliver nodded. There was no time to argue.
I was confused at first as to how we were supposed to get there, considering the fact that neither of our powers involved travel. It would also be kind of stupid to drive his own car because it could identify him. Taking a bus or taxi would be even stupider. I mean – superheroes really shouldn’t have to take the bus.
When Oliver ran to his car, I stopped. Were we really going to take his own identifiable car to the scene?
“C’mon, Aden. What are you waiting for?”
“We can’t take your car. Someone could trace the license plate or something.” I reasoned.
He sighed and pressed a button on his watch. Suddenly the car seemed to transform in front of my eyes. The rusty exterior turned a vibrant blue. The windshields became tinted and the wheels somehow stronger.
“It’s a perception field.” Oliver explained. “Daniel’s father was a scientist who invented many things, including the perception field around the car. It usually makes the seer see the car as an old unidentifiable car, but this is how it really looks. The Captain Cruiser. Too bad his dad isn’t around anymore to make cooler tec.”
I remember from the news stories surrounding the released identity of Captain Impossible. Apparently his father was one of the leading scientists who were killed during the Great Battle in Empire and Iris Cites between The Avenger and Smith so many years ago.
We learned after Nemesis, the sworn enemy of the League of Legends, was revealed that the entire battle was just choreographed to hide the planned assassinations of everyone on a secret project to create a super soldier serum. Arabella Jones, whose father was Nemesis, was injected with the serum by Tornado (the guy who was a villain, but had a change of heart and is now her boyfriend for some reason) which turned her into the super, Sonic. And, not to mention that her mother was one of the scientists on the project. Her own father killed his wife and made her a super, even though his whole mission in life was to turn the entire population against the supers.
(I know, confusing, right?)
We got in the Captain Cruiser and Oliver drove us out from the parking lot and towards downtown in under ten seconds. The car was traveling fast, but I still saw many complications.
“Aren’t you like sixteen?”
“Well,” I started, “are you even licensed to drive anyone who isn’t a family member? Aren’t there rules against that?”
“You know? I really don’t care at the moment. All that matters is that we have some people to save and need a way to get there.”
I furrowed my eyebrows. “Well, doesn’t this car’s paint job still represent Captain Impossible? I mean – shouldn’t it represent you in some way now?”
He sighed. “Well, I haven’t exactly had time to warrant it a new paint job. Besides, people recognize this car and move out of the way in traffic for it to get by and save people. Just like they do with first responder vehicles, like firetrucks, police cars, and ambulances.”
“I know, but wouldn’t it be easier if you had motorcycles or something? They could go faster and zoom in and out of traffic in between cars. Plus, it would be much faster to get on and off one than this hunk of a car. And, as an added bonus, we would look so much cooler.”
Oliver sighed as he parked in front of the building. “You know? I appreciated you more when you were quiet and star struck. I am not getting motorcycles, and that is final.”
I shrugged my shoulders and got out of the car before doubling back.
“Umm, dude? Your friend, Eric, didn’t tell me that the event was the Dashner Firefighter charity event. This thing is run by my mom. My whole family is in there.”
I had gotten out of coming by claiming my side still hurt from the accident. (I had only gotten out of the hospital on Thursday after all.) This charity event was held by my mother every year in honor of the firefighters who saved her parents’ lives in a fire at her childhood home.
How I didn’t connect the dots earlier, I didn’t know.
“I knew I shouldn’t have let you come.” Oliver muttered. “It’s personal for you now.”
“No way, Olly.” A voice came from the earpiece in our ears, Eric. “You’ve had many personal saves under your belt. Mary and Elise at the bank and Elise from Andromeda are just to name two.”
Oliver sighed, but didn’t argue.
“Detective Pearson!” Oliver called. I looked over to see a detective who was about in his mid-forties walking our way. I recognized the last name. His daughter went to Eldredge Academy on a scholarship. She was perhaps the most innocent girl in our grade, mostly due to her father’s job as a police officer. She was pretty too.
Detective Pearson was the leader of the super task force, or that’s at least what Oliver told me. He likes Oliver, but doesn’t know his identity.
“Hey, White Lightning. Who is this?” He pointed at me.
I smiled. My super suit was light blue with dark blue boots, belt, and gloves. Oliver had it ordered yesterday before I left the Man Cave. The overnight making and shipping of the suit was paid for by Daniel Jackson’s old money, which he had left to Eric before he died. If he left the money to Oliver, it would be a little suspicious seeing as he was only sixteen. So, Eric, his cousin, got the money to continue using it to help the heroes.
Many fashion companies all over the world practically beg for the chance to make a super’s costume, good or bad. To have that kind of publicity over your work was amazing on both sides.
But, in this costume, I felt unstoppable.
Normally in front of authority I would stutter or shrink down, as noticeable whenever Dylan and his friend Bryce got to me. But with a mask hiding my identity, I could be anyone I wanted to be. I didn’t have to be little old Aden Dashner who was bullied and underappreciated. I could be a super, brave and confident.
“He’s my friend, a sidekick if you will.”
The detective looked me over and seemed to be satisfied, because he turned back to Oliver.
“Someone in red and black with a mask is standing on the stage right inside. They don’t seem to have any weapons, but if he is a super, then he’s got all the weapons he needs. He has the orchestrator of the event, Marie Dashner, at the front. He says she’ll be the first to die if they don’t hand over their fortunes.”
I cursed silently. Of course my mother would be hostage the first time I go out on hero duty.
“Alright, we’ll go in first. We’ll contact you for backup if things go out of hand, but I’m sure we’ll be alright.”
I followed after Oliver. “So, what’s the game plan?”
He sighed. “I’ll get this one. Try and stay back if you can, okay? I don’t want you getting harmed on your first mission, especially since it’s now personal for you.”
I groaned. I guess being a sidekick isn’t as fun as being the hero after all.
Oliver and I sneaked around the back, entering through a side door on the building. It only took passing through a couple hallways until we reached the great hall of the building, where the very rich hostages were being held.
About a hundred well-dressed hostages were huddled together on the dance floor. On the main stage to the side of us was a guy dressed in black jeans, a red hoodie, and a black mask. He was standing behind a blonde woman in a sparkling blue dress I knew all too well.
Oliver walked out, getting the guy’s attention. “You know, there is an easier way to get your money.”
The guy turned to Oliver and smiled. “Ah, so the hero finally shows up. I was starting to wonder if this case didn’t seem intriguing enough for you or something, White Lightning.”
“Let the hostages go. There are only a couple ways this situation can go for you, and none of them end up good on your end.”
He laughed. “Yeah, that might be what you think, but I have a card up my sleeve. You see? These rich aristocrats will have to give me their money or I kill their city’s savior. Does that seem like a fair trade to you, White Lightning?”
I understood what he meant immediately. This was no normal criminal. He had done this to lure Oliver here. He meant this to be a trap for Oliver all along.
“If this grievance is between us, let the hostages go. You can have your fair fight, without civilian casualties.” Oliver reasoned.
The man chuckled. “I don’t think so. It’s so much more fun this way.” Suddenly the man shoved my mother out of the way as fire overtook his body. “My name is Inferno, and your doom.”