Chapter 18: Super Villains are bullies
“’Enough! You are all of you beneath me. I am a God, you foul creature, and I will not be bullied by - *Hulk smashes him*’
~ Loki and Bruce Banner (The Hulk)
Getting a hold of Dylan’s DNA was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
I mean – the TV shows and movies make it look easy. All you have to do is reach over and pluck a piece of hair from their head and they wouldn’t notice a thing, right?
What they forgot to mention was how hard it was going to be to actually get close enough to your victim without them realizing what you were doing.
In our shared Chemistry class, Mr. Tier gave us a review packet to work on. Seeing as Dylan’s table with Burke was right in front of me, I should’ve been able to just reach over and take a hair, but it was a lot harder than it seemed.
Tyler being right there next to me didn’t help either. I couldn’t reach over and grab Dylan’s hair without Tyler asking questions. I loved the guy like a brother, but right now I wished he wasn’t here so I could complete my hero mission.
“So, did you hear about White Lightning’s save this weekend?” Tyler asked.
I nodded. “Yep, I heard Kratos was there too. Didn’t he, you know, lift a truck to save like ten civilians?”
Tyler shrugged. “I don’t know man. All I know is that White Lightning made a save. But if he did, I guess that’s pretty cool too.”
I sighed. I was starting to notice the ups and downs that came with being a sidekick, especially the downs. You were kind of pushed to the side while the hero was the one glorified. I kind of felt sorry for Oliver after all of his years living under Captain Impossible.
“But, did you see that article your dad wrote about Kratos? That was pretty cool. I mean – White Lightning never stops for an interview. Plus, a super villain attacked right in the middle of the interview. How cool is that?”
I smiled. I guess being a sidekick wasn’t too bad, especially when people noticed when you stood out.
“Yeah, that was pretty awesome. I heard from my dad that Kratos was also a pretty cool guy. Saving him from a super villain must’ve helped.”
Dylan scoffed from his table in front of us. “Please, we’ve all seen that video. All Kratos did was shove a statue at Inferno.”
I tensed up. I remembered the conversation down in the Man Cave, about Dylan possibly being Inferno. The facts matched up: his huge ego, his need to hurt and embarrass Oliver and I at every turn, the fact that he was hired by a bigger bully, and the fact that he was in the same accident as me, the one with the strange chemical from Paramount Pharmaceuticals that caused superpowers. I figured it gave me powers because it was mixed in my circulatory system after seeping into my wounds, but Dylan had barely been covered compared to me. Little, if any, of the substance could’ve gotten into Dylan’s system. If that small of an amount of the chemical gave him powers, then I wondered why someone wasn’t trying to mass produce the product.
But if Dylan really was Inferno, then he must’ve known who I was. And, for some reason, that pissed me off.
All I wanted was to save some people and maybe get some fame along the way, Dylan didn’t need to sweep in and take yet another good thing away from me. Hadn’t he had enough?
“In doing so, he saved a life and scared Inferno off.” I argued.
“But didn’t Inferno also get a hit at Kratos? He’s the first villain to injure him, and quite badly by the looks of the video. I wonder how much that must’ve hurt. Burns aren’t some small thing.”
I was clenching my pencil so hard underneath my desk that it was literally almost dust. Super strength and anger issues were not a good mix.
Luckily Tyler came to my rescue.
“So? Supers get hurt all the time. Besides, it took Inferno, what? Ten times to actually harm the guy?” Tyler chuckled. “I mean, if his intentions really are to kill or seriously injure White Lightning and Kratos, he’s doing very badly. And after Inferno finally injures the guy, he goes running away. Kratos didn’t even really hurt him and he ran. He doesn’t seem like the epitome of evil and super villain-ness to me.”
This time it was Dylan who looked angry.
Burke, ever the henchman, came in to save Dylan. “Well, maybe he did harm him. You can’t see from the video footage, but Inferno could’ve been knocked in the head pretty bad. How do you expect a super villain to fight with a head injury?”
I shrugged, looking Dylan straight in the eye. “Inferno is probably fine. You know supers, fast healing and all.”
Dylan snarled, and in that one action I saw what I needed to. A small piece of his front tooth was chipped off. It could’ve been a coincidence, but in the world of heroes and villains, nothing was a coincidence.
Tyler and Burke were both oblivious to our stare off.
“Do you think the two know each other in real life?” Tyler blurted out.
It shocked both Dylan and I enough to take us away from our staring contest.
Tyler shrugged. “I don’t know, man. This guy really seems to hate White Lightning, and Kratos even more. He showed up the day Kratos was revealed to the world as well, which is kind of suspicious in itself. Maybe he’s going after them because he hates them in real life, or their real identities did something to him.”
Tyler was so close to the truth that I started to wonder if he was just being intuitive or if he could have possibly guessed both our secrets.
“Nah. That’d be a little bit too weird, right?”
I nodded, so did Dylan. The one thing we could agree on.
“Boys.” Mr. Tier scolded. “Less superhero theories and more reviewing. Remember that this test will be a deciding factor in your final grade.”
We all apologized and got back to work, but not before I noticed two pieces of stray hair on the hood of Dylan’s red jacket, right in front of me.
While everyone was distracted by their review packets, I quickly reached forward and grabbed the strands. Dylan turned around, probably having felt pressure on his back, but when he looked at me, I was already faced down staring at my packet, the hand with the hairs closed under the table and a huge smile on my face.
“Is it him?” I asked, pacing the floor anxiously.
Eric sighed. “I don’t know yet.”
I waited a couple seconds and turned back. “How about now?”
Eric groaned and gave me a death stare. “You know, it isn’t as easy as the TV shows and movies make it look. It doesn’t take seconds to do this kind of thing. It’s complicated and doesn’t magically happen right when the plot allows it. This is real life. And, in real life, things take time.”
I circled back to the training area in the far corner of the room. While Oliver was studying for finals, I was supposed to be training. With super strength, advancing my powers was easy. All I had to do was train and punch things until I got stronger. The only problem? I was too agitated to train. My mind was somewhere else.
Dylan could most definitely be Inferno. My lifetime bully was actually attempting to kill me.
Not to mention that we still had finals to study for and a crazed super villain hatching a plan in the darkness. It wasn’t like I needed more stress in my life.
I started to punch at the punching bags Oliver had hung up the other day. They were supposed to be super strong and unbreakable, which meant I was supposed to hit them as hard as I could. Let’s just say that the things were like punching concrete.
But I still couldn’t stop thinking about Dylan being Inferno. If he was, it would confirm everything I’d ever known about him. He enjoyed being the center of attention, and finding new ways to put me down. He somehow always found a way to bring him higher than myself in my father’s eyes as well. Dylan had everything I didn’t have, and yet he had to go and take even more. Something finally good happens in my life and he wants to possibly kill me in spite.
I yell out in frustration and slam my fists into the bag. I recoil in shock as the bag explodes, sending pieces of concrete-looking rock in every direction.
“Oliver! Aden broke something again!” Eric yelled out, still typing at his computer.
I heard stomps on the steps as Oliver came racing down. He looked around wildly until he saw me in the training section, the broken pieces of the punching bag at my feet.
I smiled sheepishly. “Um . . . sorry?”
Oliver shook his head with a smile. He’d probably thought I’d broken a valuable piece of equipment.
“It’s fine. We have more of those in storage. We’ll need to find super-grade punching bags in the future.”
I nodded and circled back to Eric and the computer analyzing Dylan’s DNA, trying to match it to Inferno’s. Usually these things took between a day and three, but Captain Impossible’s father was an amazing inventor and much of the equipment in the lab was endorsed by MASKED, so the DNA testing was only going to take between a couple of hours and a day.
“Aden, what did I say about the pacing?” Eric scolded, opening another window in another computer.
Something caught my eye and I leaned over his shoulder, smiling widely. “Why are you ordering two motorcycles on the internet?”
Oliver swiveled around, “What?”
Eric sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Well, I was thinking about what Aden’s been always saying about the Captain Cruiser being inconspicuous and impractical. It would be much easier and faster if you had motorcycle transportation. Plus, we need to get with the times. Motorcycles are cool, cars as old as the Captain Cruiser aren’t. It’s time for you two to be independent from Captain Impossible.”
Oliver was staring long and hard at the computer, no doubt facing some inward struggle. Daniel Jackson had been his boss – his friend. The Captain Cruiser, though a good way of transportation, was not really his. It was a relic from Captain Impossible’s days of saving the city. Oliver was alone now (or at least alone with a sidekick) and he needed to market his own label, if you catch my drift.
I never knew Daniel Jackson, so I had no idea what Oliver was going through. Giving up the vehicle that he had driven in for so many years with Daniel must’ve been hard. It wasn’t just Daniel’s, it was a piece of him to.
Oliver sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay, but what about Aden? He’s only fourteen, he can’t drive.”
I coughed. “Um, I’m actually fifteen.”
“Whatever, you still can’t drive.”
“Well,” I dragged out, “No one will really know I’m underage when I’m wearing the mask.”
“Nice try, buddy.” Eric scoffed. “We aren’t letting you drive until we’re certain you know how. Until the day in which you get your license legally, you can just sit behind Oliver on his motorcycle. Don’t worry, they’re larger than the average cycle.”
I nodded, but it still would’ve been cool to drive a motorcycle. All the cool people did it in movies.
The screen running the DNA test suddenly flashed red. I perked up as Eric went over to check it. After pulling up the results, Eric leaned back and smiled. “The test was successful. It looks like the DNA sample you found matched the DNA we got from Inferno.”
I took a deep breath and leaned down. It was true.
Dylan really was Inferno.
I unclenched my hands to see that my nails had dug in to my skin and blood was running. I couldn’t think straight. I could barely bear the thoughts I was actually making.
Dylan is a super villain who has tried to kill me and Oliver multiple times.
It took a lot to get used to.
“Aden, don’t go and try to take matter in your own hand. This is a job for the super task force now. We give Detective Pearson our information and he gets all the legal stuff out of the way. It’ll take a while to legalize our DNA test. We can come in when they apprehend Dylan, but not before. You can’t alert Dylan to the fact that we know, and you can’t provoke him.”
“Are you sure?” He asked. “Because I can see the look in your eyes, and it isn’t friendly.”
I sighed and stared him down. “How would you be reacting if your lifetime bully turned out to be a real super villain trying to kill you at the orders of a crazier super villain?”
Oliver sighed. “I know it’s hard, but you can’t react. Dylan is Inferno, meaning that he’s a super too. Wait for the detectives to do their job.”
I crossed my arms behind my head and agreed. I couldn’t risk losing my temper in front of Dylan, especially since I knew who he was now.
My bully just had to be a supervillain, right?