Chapter 15: Publicity Stunts are no fun
“You wouldn’t have survived, much less come out the other end a hero, somebody who wants to do good, if you didn’t have a light inside of you.”
~ Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow)
I was starting to feel what Oliver meant when he said he had no social life out of school.
When I wasn’t busy saving the day, I was finishing up homework and sleeping when I could. I barely had time to hang out with Tyler anymore, but all we did when we hung out was play video games, so I guess he understood.
Tyler was also a bit busy lately. He’s been taking more of his karate or Tai Kwan Do classes (honestly, I couldn’t remember which one it was). He was a black belt to the extreme because he’d been taking those classes since he was little. He never said why he loved them so much, but it was a good way to get his anger and frustration out.
(Maybe I should start taking those classes.)
(Though it would be kind of hard to explain when I accidently break the punching bag with one punch.)
(Yeah, no karate.)
I had found a rare moment of free time after school on Friday when my mother announced we would be having our weekly dinner with the Danvers at our own house instead of at one of the prestigious restaurants around Washington DC.
I mean – I already had to spend enough time with Dylan and his thugs at school, but at home too? I was saving the city with all of my spare time – shouldn’t karma reward me with something better than this?
But, all the same, I would still have to sit through an hour of let’s-make-Aden-feel-worse-about-himself time.
But this time something else happened.
My father was talking all about his business, per usual, but then he said something that peeked my interest. “. . . An interview with this new super would bring our ratings through the roof! I don’t know how another newspaper or show hasn’t gotten this interview yet.”
My father sighed. “Don’t you listen, Aden? White Lightning got a sidekick not too long ago. And, of you haven’t noticed, not too long after Captain impossible died. The public is dying to know anything about this new super, Kratos. How did he get his powers? How did he become White Lightning’s sidekick? How is he related to White Lightning outside of super work? An interview with this new character would be great for Dash Corp.”
I was shocked. Why was my dad, a hater of supers and their ideologies, wanting an interview that would make the supers look better?
“Harold,” Dylan’s father started, “won’t an interview with this new super fool the public into thinking that they’re all heroes?”
He shrugged. “The company needs a big story to sell. Right now the millennials love their heroes. They also love the media. Combine them together and you get money.”
I panicked a bit. My father wanted an interview with Kratos. My father wanted an interview with his son, though he didn’t know it.
“Now, I’ve been spreading the word around. Since those damn supers keep their identities secret, I have no way of asking them for an interview. They do have a hotline, but what are the chances they actually listen to that? What I’m asking for is a way to contact these characters.”
Mr. Danvers furrowed his eyebrows. “But if you got the word around, surely Kratos would’ve seen it by now.”
“Yes, but what are the chances this super knows ay of the elite in DC?”
My dad had a point.
“Wait,” I entered the conversation again, “Why don’t you just ask White Lightning for an interview? Isn’t he the one that is known by the public?” In other words, you wouldn’t recognize him as your own son.
Dylan scoffed from across the table. “Please, you know how many interviews that sucker turned down after Captain Impossible’s death? You would think he would do anything to put his name out there after the big hero died, but he was quiet if anything. He turned down some serious money and media time for nothing.”
I widened my eyes. “Are you kidding me? His boss had just died. Why on earth would he be ready to talk about it on live television? I know I wouldn’t.”
“Well, I think both supers aren’t worth the time. I mean – if they can’t even show the public that they’re trustworthy in an interview, how can he trust them to save our city? I don’t think Kratos will come, even if you ask nicely. He’s just like his new boss, pathetic and cowardly.”
I clenched my fists under the table. Dylan was speaking right at me, like he knew Kratos and I were one. He was baiting Kratos, and baiting me at the same time. But he couldn’t know who I was, could he?
“Well, I think he will do an interview with Dash Corp.” I argued.
“Let’s see if he does.” Dylan smirked, leaning back in his chair with a smug look on his face.
“Well, I hope he does.” My father added. “He could be even more popular than White Lightning if he did this, bringing up our revenues even more.”
And, somehow, I knew I was going to give that interview. Damn the consequences.
My father went back to the office after dinner, saying he had business to attend to and a deadline to finish. I took that as an opportunity to sneak out of the house to visit my dad in my Kratos costume.
I was standing outside his offices right now. Actually, I was on the porch outside his main office. I could see him typing on his computer, various news stations playing on his monitors in the background.
I was building up the courage to knock on the window. I was still nervous about this. What if he recognized his son? I knew that I had a voice modulator and shoe lifts, plus a mask, but was it enough?
Why was I even doing this in the first place? Was it because of Dylan’s words? Did I really need to prove myself as better than Oliver? Was it because of my need to prove that the supers weren’t as bad as everyone thought? Or was I just bowing to the fame and glory that being a hero brought?
(I’m pretty sure I was breaking a couple of Oliver’s superhero rules.)
(Like, rule #8: Don’t let the fame get to your head. Or rule #6: Be good for good, not the glory. Rule #10: Don’t be stupid. That one could definitely count here.)
(But, at the same time, I was following a couple of the rules, like rule #16: Always show off a good public image. Or rule #35: Be nice to the press.)
Anyways, I was just wasting time.
I took a deep breath and got ready to knock, but my dad must’ve seen something out of the corner of his eye, because he turned to look outside. I guess it was kind of a shock for him to see a super outside his room. His widened eyes and opened mouth proved to that.
In seconds he was opening the door to meet me outside.
“Hello, Harold Dashner.” I greeted. “I heard you were looking for me.”
“Yes. Yes, I . . .” my father, for once in his life, was speechless. “How did you know I wanted to find you?”
I was no stranger to my father’s techniques. If he knew where, or rather who, I found it out from, then he’d be one step closer to finding out my identity.
“Let’s just say that we have some mutual friends, Mr. Dashner.”
I could see the flash of disappointment in his eyes, but to the untrained eye, he never wavered. “I see. So, the obvious question first, how did you become White Lightning’s sidekick?”
I shrugged. “He knew I had powers, so he contacted me. He brought me to his center of operations and offered to help me control and deal with my powers. He wanted to help me like Daniel Jackson helped him.”
My father nodded. I knew he must’ve been recording our conversation since he was writing none of that down. I could see the wheels turning in his head as well. “So, you would say White Lightning was close to Captain Impossible?”
I nodded. “Yeah, how could he not be? He was his sidekick for how many years? You can’t spend that much time with someone and not be close to them. I don’t blame the guy for never talking about him with the public, it must be hard. Losing someone you love is something you can’t turn into a publicity stunt.”
He paused before asking another question, letting my words sink in. I was resetting my words from dinner. White Lightning was no coward for not speaking out about Captain Impossible’s death, he was being sentimental.
“How did you get your powers?”
I smiled. “Let’s just say that Paramount Pharmaceuticals helped with that.”
“Are you and White Lightning in contact with Delinquent?”
I shrugged. “Occasionally. She helps out sometimes with supervillains like Inferno. She’s actually a nice person when you get to know her.”
“What about Inferno? Do you have any idea why he is so insistent on attacking both you and White Lightning?”
“Not really. I mean – if his goal is to kill us, he’s not doing too good of a job.”
“Oh, yeah?” the voice came from above u, on the roof. “I would reword that sentence if I were you!”
A ball of fire came flying down, right at my dad. I didn’t think, I just dived.
I was able to push my dad out of the way, but the ball of fire hit me in my side. I screamed out in pain. I’d never been burned before, and I sure as hell hurt.
Inferno dropped down in front of me, his signature smug smile proud on his face. “Why, hello Kratos. I was hoping I might find you here.”
I flinched as I tried to get up. Inferno was blocking the door back inside, so my dad was a full blown target. He might not have been the best dad in the world, but he was still my father. I wasn’t about to let him be pummeled by a deranged super.
“Inferno, thanks for the visit.” I replied back, standing uncertainty on my feet with one hand on my side to slow the bleeding. I was a super, which meant my wounds healed pretty fast, but definitely not fast enough.
“No problem. I’ll always enjoy making your day harder, especially in front of someone you know. Should I kill you in front of him or should I wait? I’m sure Mr. Dashner would enjoy the story behind your identity.”
Are you kidding me? Does every super villain know the identity of every superhero?
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Inferno.” I wheezed. “But I do know that I am not dying on this rooftop.”
Inferno shrugged and smirked. “Oh, we’ll see about that.”
He lit himself on fire and ran at me. It was a good thing I was standing next to my father’s statue of some political figure, because I was able to use it to push Inferno to the other side of the porch. His face hit the edge of the concrete with a sickening crunch.
I put the statue on the ground and went to my father, who was hiding in the corner of the porch. “Mr. Dashner, you have to get out of here while you can. Go back to your office, I’ll take care of Inferno.”
He nodded and ran back inside. I turned back around, but Inferno was gone. I went to the edge of the railing, where he had been only seconds before, but he was nowhere to be found. I looked down and saw a white rock in the ground. Upon further inspection, I found it to be a piece of chipped tooth – Inferno’s chipped tooth.
That’s why he ran. He had been injured for once. And I knew what this piece of tooth meant. We could get Inferno’s DNA, and maybe we could find out who he was. All we needed was something to match it to.