Chapter 19: The showdown
“There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”
~ Tom Marvolo Riddle (Lord Voldemort)
The last day of testing is almost over and I’m starting to feel the effects.
I mean – normally someone in my position would be happy about finishing school. You get two and a half weeks off of unnaturally difficult tests and homework that are so hard that an astrophysicist couldn’t do it, but there was more than that.
Aden’s bully, Dylan Danvers, just turned out to be Inferno, the super villain hired to kill us both. Andromeda hadn’t been seen in months and is apparently planning something big according to Agent Argent and Calico. Plus, Elise told me all about how Mary and her had a falling out. Something was seriously wrong with our friend, and we had no way of helping her.
I had a sinking suspicion that Elise thought Mary was under the influence of Andromeda, but that couldn’t be possible, right? Andromeda had to be close to someone for that to happen, and we would know if Mary was hanging around a super villain, right?
It was all so confusing and I had no idea what to do. Weeks off of school meant time away from this drama, but it also meant spending time with my mother, who was becoming closer and closer to Chad Hunter, my new boss and proud Remedist.
I could barely be in a room with the guy anymore without wanting to blast him to pieces. He was rubbing off on my mom, making her believe that the supers were bad and that they should all be hoarded into concentration camps. Without his influence, she would still be my caring, hardworking mother, right?
The only good thing that Chad has brought is my mother’s happiness. She may be a Remedist now, but she was finally happy with a guy. It made me feel horrible how I wanted them to break it off just so she could go back to how she was before, but even I remembered how she used to cry at night about missing dad. How could I let her go back to that?
Like I said before, it was all so confusing for me to sort through.
I had American History as my last period of the day, with Heather and Mary. I was done with my exam early, per usual. Heather was nervously biting the edge of her eraser, scrunching her eyebrows at a question on her paper. Mary was . . . not herself.
Normally Mary would flourish during exam week, baking cookies for nervous students and charming teachers. But, now? She looked like a wreck. She looked even worse than she has been usually. In fact, I was pretty sure she only answered a couple of questions on her exam before she gave up to put her head down. The old Mary would’ve finished faster than me, acing the test and getting all the extra credit right just to prove she could, not that she needed it.
I had been staring at the clock for thirty minutes when something finally happened. The fire alarm went off for a full five seconds before staying silent again. It was enough to knock Mary out of her slumber, and scare a couple of concentrated students.
Mrs. Lore looked up from her book, as confused as the rest of us. The fire alarms only went off on the first Wednesday of every month during third period for fire drills, never on testing week and never that short.
“Keep working, kids. Let me go check that out.” Mrs. Lore said, zipping out of the room to go find an administrator to tell her what to do.
I knew that the short alarm meant someone had pulled the fire alarm and someone up at the office had called it off. But, for some reason, I had a feeling it wasn’t just some scoundrel looking for a way to get out of his or her test.
Heather looked back at me and shrugged. The rest of the class was gleefully sharing answers and trying to write them all down before Mrs. Lore returned. Mary, though, she was looking at the door with narrowed eyes, the first thing she had been interested in all day.
That should’ve been the first warning.
All of a sudden, the fire alarms went off again, but all full swing. The ringing was loud and never stopped. Confused, the students started to get up to exit the door, like you would for any normal fire drill.
I was nearest to the door, so I saw it first.
Dylan was standing there in the hallway . . . on fire.
Aden was standing in front of him, shocked. Students were screaming, some not yet realizing that Dylan was in no actual danger. His friend, Burke, even dumped some water on Dylan, to no avail.
“It’s time to go down, pipsqueak.” Dylan threatened, throwing a fireball at Aden, who dived out of the way.
I had no idea what Aden had done to provoke Dylan to show his powers in a very public setting, or if he had done anything at all, but it hadn’t been smart for either of them. People would start figuring out that Dylan was Inferno and if Aden tried to fight back, they would see that he was Kratos.
I did the only smart thing I could.
“Everybody run! The building is catching fire!”
Students started to pile out of the classrooms, getting themselves as far away from Dylan as possible. I found Tyler, Aden’s friend, standing by the wall, staring at Dylan in shock. “Dude, can you make sure everyone gets as far away from here as possible?”
He nodded and head off. One less person to witness one of us accidently showing our powers.
Dylan kept throwing fireballs at Aden, who was dodging to the best of his ability. Burke kept furiously covering his friend in water, somehow not yet realizing that Dylan was a super.
Eventually, one of Dylan’s fireballs hit his friend. Burke went flying against the wall, out cold. Dylan barley even noticed, too focused on Aden.
The hall was clear, so I charged up a big electrical blast and shot Dylan all the way through the opposite wall, into the cafeteria.
I helped Aden get up as we chased after Dylan. Aden took a huge slab of the wall that had broken off when Dylan hit it and used it as a projectile to throw at Dylan. It must’ve weighed the same as an industrial sized car based on how much Eldredge Academy had their school reinforced.
I saw a burst of purple smoke and suddenly Elise was there, using her metal pipe to knock Dylan back down to the floor.
She smiled at me. “Sorry I took so long, I had to ditch Ian without telling him I was going towards the place everyone was running from.”
I nodded and smiled back. She was still able to make my heart flutter, even when we were about to battle a lunatic with the ability to control fire.
Dylan came back up, furious. He lit his entire body on fire again, causing us to all back away from the heat.
“Aden, I am going to have so much fun killing you.” He snarled.
“Yes, because that has worked the last ten times you’ve tried to kill me. “Aden deadpans.
Dylan snarls and charges at Aden, but not before I blasted him again. Dylan was flown back into the wall on the other side of the cafeteria. If I really wanted to incapacitate Dylan, I was going to have to find a moment where he wasn’t engulfed by fire to shoot at him. The fire was mainly swallowing the electrical currents I was sending his way.
Elise teleported over to where Dylan was, turning and hitting him in the side with her metal pipe. Dylan, in turn, blasted her into a table. I didn’t think, I just ran to her side.
“Elise, are you okay?” I asked. She groaned and sat up on her elbows. There was a burn on her side, but I couldn’t tell how bad it was because of her dark suit.
I quickly took the last vial of the blue liquid Cody from MASKED had given me all that time ago when Andromeda first showed up. I had her drink it and Elise’s face stopped scrunching up in pain. I knew from experience that it would take at least ten minutes for her to heal enough to keep fighting.
While I was down, helping Elsie, Dylan and Aden took the opportunity to throw each other around the room. We weren’t going to get anywhere unless we all hit him at once.
Dylan suddenly stood triumphantly as Aden was blasted all the way back to where I was kneeling next to Elise. He smiled as Aden got back up.
“Why do you keep trying, Aden? We all know that all you’ll ever be is nobody anyways.” Dylan sneered.
Aden shook his head. “No, that’s where you’re wrong. All my life, you’ve bullied me around. You’ve told me that I’m worth nothing, and for a while there I started to believe you. And then I get superpowers – whilst saving you from being hit by a truck might I add – which is the best thing that ever happened to me. And you just had to go and outdo me again. I was furious. It took me a while, but I figured it out. You’re the one who will always be nobody, Dylan. All you’ll ever be is a bully, and a jerk, and no one will remember you in the grand scheme of things.”
Dylan’s expression turned dark and his skin started to smoke. I probably should’ve warned Aden about tempting the guy who literally made steam come out of his ears when he was angry.
“It doesn’t matter. None of that matters, Dashner. Andromeda is promising me fame. Her boss is promising me glory. How could I give that up? I’ll be infamous and all powerful, Dashner. I won’t be nobody, I’ll be your doom.”
“Yeah, because all super villains succeed when they attempt to become all powerful.” Aden retorts sarcastically.
Dylan’s eye starts to twitch. “No! I will win this fight. I will defeat you and be more known than you ever were or will be. I’m the real hero here – me! I’m ridding the world from your stench. I will be remembered and held in infamy for all to see. All you’ll ever be is a nerd and a geek. Your boss over there will be all he ever can be. He’ll never be able to fill in his own boss’s shoes, he’s just an imposter. He’ll be remembered as the scholarship kid – the one faking money to gain popularity which was never his to begin with. And his girlfriend? She’s just the embarrassment of a daughter with messed up intentions. No one will remember any of you as anything important. But, me? I’m already better than every one of you.”
We all paused. Some of Dylan’s assumptions were right, but most were biased and wrong. Being a hero wasn’t about being remembered or loved. It was about helping the helpless. It was about giving hope to the hopeless. It was about being the voice for a voiceless generation.
Being a hero wasn’t a choice – it was a responsibility.
Elise coughed and squirmed a bit, almost healed. “Can we stop with the villain monologue, please?”
I stifled a laugh.
Dylan’s eyes darkened and small parts of his body sporadically sparked into flame. It was not smart to talk back to a super villain, why didn’t either of them understand that?
“I, sadly, agree with Delinquent.”
Everyone turns their heads to see Andromeda in her full purple hair glory, floating in the middle of the cafeteria. I figured her telekinesis allowed her to sort of float herself as well, creating and eerie effect.
“I mean – I gave you one job. I was a bit unsuccessful in killing White Lightning, so I thought I could get you to do it for me. You were his sidekick’s bully for crying out loud! How could you have not done a better job?” Andromeda complained.
“I tried, but I-“
“You couldn’t because it was two against one? Or maybe it was because you just weren’t good enough. Either way, you weren’t doing such a good job. Then I hear that you freaking set off the alarms in the school over a simple argument with Kratos? You just dragged unnecessary attention to yourself. You do realize that someone must’ve seen what you did? They may not have seen any of the powers of those three, but they saw you light yourself on fire. You can’t go on from that.”
Dylan shook his head. “That doesn’t matter now. I’ve got them right where I want them. Now the both of us together can get them out of the way at once. Isn’t that what The Obstructer wants anyways?”
Andromeda sighed, still ignoring our presence. “I guess. That does put a damper in my plans though. Maybe I’ll still have use for it anyways.”
I had no idea what Andromeda had been planning, but it was scary to think that she still planned to do whatever it was. Even if we were defeated today, she was going to do something terrible.
I couldn’t let her do that.
“What are your plans, anyways? Our friend from Empire City, Cassandra Reyes, told us what you might do.”
Andromeda’s reaction was a mixture of emotions. One I saw the most was . . . regret?
“Well, if you somehow make it out of this, tell her I’m sorry. She didn’t choose her friends. You, however, you’re just as bad as The Marvel and his pretty little girlfriend. I liked to think it was my fault they finally broke it off, but maybe they both finally realized how toxic their relationship was in the first place. White Knights can’t save their Damsels in Distress forever, eventually the damsel doesn’t need to be saved anymore.”
I shook my head. “What do you mean?”
Dylan growled. “Let’s just get this over with, Andromeda. I’ve been waiting to beat these jerks up for months now.”
Andromeda sighed and her calculating expression came back. “Fine. I’m done reminiscing in the past.”
And then they charged at us.