Chapter 14: Secret Identities aren't so secret
“I have been living this life for almost eight years, encountering things that you can’t even fathom, and I am still alive. Not because super-speed kept me out of the ground. It was because I realized that I needed to keep learning, keep training, keep getting smarter, and until you get that, despite your best intentions, you will do more harm than good.”
~ Oliver Queen (Green Arrow)
Two weeks after the Thanksgiving holidays and I was already begging for Christmas.
Seeing as next week was finals week, the teachers were cramming in as much information as possible. If we passed the finals, they looked like good teachers. The only problem? We were being given stacks and stacks of homework.
I was barely finishing it all with passing grades. Olly looked like he was getting no sleep at all. Elise was strangely alert due to her own massive lack of sleep. Heather looked perfect, as always, but that was probably due to some secret service agent or another doing her homework for her. Nicole looked unconcerned with the homework load, without a crack in her porcelain façade. Mary was, well, Mary looked horrible.
Mary had only been turning in about half of her homework, and the stuff she did turn in was half-assed at best. Mary was the one of us, besides Olly, who turned everything in with perfection. She didn’t want to risk a college education on bad grades.
Something was seriously wrong.
She was barely sleeping, like everyone else, but when it was put on top of her newly depressive mode, she looked like death. She wore no makeup, something that never happened, not even on weekends. Her hair was in its natural curly state, a style it hadn’t been since she learned how to manage it in middle school.
The circles under her eyes were deep, and her normally bright eyes were glossed over. She was sluggish and uninterested in anything anymore. I mean – I mentioned White Lightning the other day and all she did was grunt.
Sometimes, when I was up late doing homework, I would go to her room, to check up on her, but she wouldn’t be there. The window would be open and her biggest coat gone. Mary wasn’t the type to sneak out, was she?
I didn’t know what to expect from my sister anymore. Something was wrong.
(I mean – she hadn’t chided me on not doing my homework for weeks.)
I knew we fought all the time, but I still loved her. I was worried about her. I had never seen her act so strange.
She would only visibly brighten whenever Nicole talked to her. Nicole seemed to be just the right dose of friend Mary needed to get out of her stump.
Elise and I were in in the back of American History when one of us finally brought up the topic of her best friend.
“You know, Mary hasn’t been acting herself.”
“How so?” I asked, feigning my usual ignorance.
Elise sighed. “She hasn’t worn makeup in weeks. Her hair isn’t in a much better state than her personality. It’s like the life has been sucked out of her. She hasn’t asked about my latest date with Olly, which would be strange enough if she hadn’t totally forgotten that we were dating in the first place. Hell, she hasn’t fangirled over a single superhero since before White Lightning got his new sidekick. Something has to be wrong.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “Plus, she hasn’t even brought a salad for lunch for weeks. I’m kind of starting to actually miss her controlling personality now that it seems to be gone.”
Elise shook her head and furrowed her eyebrows. “You know, all of this started when that new girl came, Nicole. She’s been blowing off hanging out with me for weeks because she’s been with Nicole everywhere. I knew she liked her, but that doesn’t mean she has to forget about her old friends, especially if it’s Nicole who’s making her in such a bad state.”
“Wait. Likes her as in like-like?” I asked hesitantly.
Elise scoffed weakly. “Where have you been, Ian? It’s so obvious. But, if Nicole is the cause of her depressive state, then she isn’t a good influence on Mary. I don’t think it’s good for them to be hanging out anymore.”
“Are you sure that’s not just the jealous best friend talking?”
“What? No. This is the concerned best friend. I’m certain Nicole has something to do with Mary’s behavior lately. What else could it be?”
“School?” I offered.
“Please, Mary thrives during finals week normally. Remember last year when she made everyone cupcakes on test day?”
“But, you can’t be serious. This isn’t some conspiracy theory, Elise. No normal person can cause another person to be moody and depressive.” I argued.
“I know. But I’m not wrong.” She sighed, sounding exasperated. “Maybe she’s not a normal person.” She tried, implying about Nicole.
I scoffed. “Why would a super with powers that somehow drain people’s energies be targeting a normal person like Mary? I am the expert at supers, Elise. I’m pretty sure I would know if a super went to our school.”
Elise shrugged. “You never know.”
The bell rang for lunch and we headed to the cafeteria with the rest of the class. I wasn’t looking forward to another awkward lunch with my sister and tired students trying to finish homework as fast as possible.
Perhaps Aden and his friend Tyler were the only ones without baggy eyes. They were freshmen, so their teachers weren’t freaking out as much about their scores. Junior year was the year of ACTs, SATs, class ranks, and college applications. Aden and Tyler should savor their freshmen year while they could.
“So, anybody else hear about Kratos saving that bus from falling off a cliff the other day?” Aden asked eagerly.
Olly sighed. “Yes.” He paused for a yawn. “Too bad White Lightning couldn’t come as well.”
Aden smiled. “Yeah, but at least Kranos held on his own. I mean – he’s practically a superhero himself.”
“Sure he is,” Tyler laughed, “but we all know he’s just a sidekick.”
Aden frowned but didn’t argue.
“Well, I think he’s doing a mighty fine job.” Elise said, supporting Aden’s view.
I didn’t quite know why Olly invited Aden and Tyler to eat at our lunch table. I mean – for freshmen I guess they were okay, but why them? Just because Olly saved the kid from a sophomore bully?
I wasn’t complaining too much though, Aden was pretty cool.
The lunch conversation went on, with Mary mostly silent and Heather more talkative than normal. It was only when Olly’s phone started to buzz that things started to get interesting.
He looked down at a message on his phone and tensed. I didn’t know who was texting him during school, definitely not his overprotective mother who would faint at the sight of him using his phone at school. And it wasn’t any of his best friends either because we were all siting at the lunch table.
“Umm . . . Elise? Remember about that extra credit English project you wanted to work on in the library? I think we should go work on it.”
“Now?” She questioned.
He nodded vigorously.
“Oh, right!” Aden exclaimed. “I have a research assignment too. I totally forgot about it. Do you mind if I go with you guys?”
Olly and Elise both nodded, already gathering their backpacks together.
“Wait, can I go with you?” I asked. “I have a small homework thingy for AP Biochemistry that I forgot too.”
Panic flashed in Olly’s eyes for a second before he shrugged. “Man, you know Mr. Tier. He’ll let you off the hook. Remember, you’re one of his favorites.”
I frowned and sat back down while they headed off to the library. I had a sinking suspicion that Oliver was doing something else, but why would the star student skip school?
Nicole smirked, “I wonder what they’re really doing. I’m in their English class, and there was no extra credit project assigned.”
“Maybe they asked her specifically for it.” Heather supplied.
Nicole scoffed. “Please, Oliver and Elise are at the top of the class. Why would they need extra credit?”
She had a point.
“Maybe they’re just trying to get some alone time. I mean – they are dating.” Tyler argued. “With all of the homework you guys have been assigned, they probably haven’t had time to hang out and go on dates like normal couples do.”
He also had a point.
“Fine, but I still believe they’re up to something.” Nicole stated.
Oliver hadn’t shown up to AP Biochemistry.
He eventually showed up in the middle of Political Science, his hair a bit disheveled and a dirt smudge on his right cheek. Elise had shown up five minutes before him in an almost normal condition.
The rumor around the school was that they skipped class to do the dirty in an empty classroom, but I knew it wasn’t true. Olly wasn’t that kind of guy.
So, if they hadn’t been doing that, what had they been doing? I knew for a fact that the librarians wouldn’t let you stay during class hours unless you had a note from your teacher.
(I had tried to hide in there during Algebra II last year. There was a test I hadn’t studied for and you can figure out the rest.)
Tonight was one of the only free nights that I had without homework, and I gladly used that time to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes – trying to find out White Lightning’s secret identity.
Now, you see, I wasn’t really crazy for trying to find out his identity, there were countless others also trying to figure it out as well. And they couldn’t all be crazy, right?
Anyways, I was making serious progress.
This afternoon White Lightning, Kranos, and Delinquent all saved some children from a burning foster home caused by Inferno. Luckily, Delinquent was able to teleport all the children out while White Lightning and Kranos attempted to take down the supervillain.
Inferno ran away from the scene before he could be caught, sadly.
But the fact that the attack happened in the middle of the afternoon helped me to narrow down the suspects.
When your mom worked for the government, you could access more channels and government websites, which helped immensely when you were searching for someone who relies on their identity being kept a secret.
White Lightning was 15-25, based on his body structure. He was somewhere around six feet, taking in for account the fact that he might be wearing lifts in his heels to hide is real height. He most likely got his powers in an accident involving electricity when he was younger. He also had to know Daniel Jackson (Captain Impossible) in his real life. Captain Impossible wouldn’t ask just any old random kid to be his sidekick. He probably doesn’t have many hospital records, unless you can count when he was originally in whatever accident that caused his powers to show up. Supers, as Olly reminded me the other day, would be careless to go to a hospital and risk getting their identity shown.
So, whoever was White Lightning most likely missed work or school this afternoon to fight Inferno. That meant I could cross off any suspects who weren’t absent.
I had the same precedent set up for every other White Lightning save as well. And each time I was able to narrow down the suspects even more.
I was down to ten suspects, one of which was Oliver Storm.
I knew he was my friend, and I knew he was most likely not some superhero, but I had to keep him up there just in case. Until the evidence pointed against him, I had to leave him up on the wall with the others.
But, against my better judgment, Olly was at the top. He was very close to Daniel Jackson, working for him and all. He also had an accident when he was younger involving being struck by lightning. He was seventeen and five foot eleven. Heck, today at school proved it even more. He left as soon as he got that text message. But if my best friend really was White Lightning, then why would he take Elise and Aden with him? I mean – they weren’t supers either, were they?
I gasped out loud as the dots connected. The main reason I couldn’t name my best friend for being White Lightning was because he was put down as working one of the days White Lightning was seen saving the city. But, if his boss was Captain Impossible, couldn’t he just fake an alibi for him?
I pulled down the newspaper clippings from the wall and spread them out on my bed. Why had White Lightning been so insistent on saving Elise when she’d been kidnapped by Andromeda? Why hadn’t he shown up to save Olly and I from the would-be kidnappers? Why had Delinquent saved us?
I knew I was venturing into crazy town, but I couldn’t stop. If Oliver was White Lighting, and if Elise was Delinquent, it would make sense. Elise had ADHD – that much was obvious. Her parents were very wary of anything out of the norm, so it would make sense that they would give her medication to hide it. Paramount Pharmaceuticals was found out for accidentally giving some kids powers with their ADHD and ADD medication, and then Delinquent attacks their trucks. She then saves White Lightning from Andromeda starting a supposed partnership.
White Lightning fights off a super villain to save only one citizen, even if she was the daughter of the White House Physician. Then Delinquent fights off regular kidnappers to save the son of the Secretary of State and his best friend. The police said that someone had given them the location of the warehouse we were being held in. Unless we were being tracked, how would someone have known where we were?
It would make sense for a super to have a tracker. If Oliver’s constantly flashing watch had been a homing device, Delinquent would’ve been able to find us. I remember what she had said when I asked where White Lightning was. She said he was “a little tied up” at the moment, right before cutting Olly’s zip ties.
And then Olly invites this freshman to sit at our lunch table. He had been in an accident involving a Paramount Pharmaceuticals truck the week before too. He’d been saved by White Lightning and Delinquent, and suddenly Elise and Olly were all cuddly with him. Then Kratos starts showing up as White Lightning’s sidekick.
I took a step back and leveled my breathing. I couldn’t be right. Olly would tell me if he was White Lightning, wouldn’t he? We were best friends, right?
Has my best friend really been lying to me for years?