The city of Livingstein was on fire again. This would be a concern if the flames were natural occurrences, but they were from the city’s very own super-villain, Char, who happened to be a pyro. It was the fifth time she acted out the role of Fire Mario and burnt a random building near Masko -- her enemy’s -- home.
Masko didn’t know about the recent attack until she heard the news anchor make comments about it through her earbuds. She was embarrassed since she could have prevented another one of Char’s antics with her telepathic abilities.
Finishing her late lunch of whatever she grabbed from the cupboards, she changed into her make-shift costume. It wasn’t much, just a pair of rain boots, a blue jumpsuit from the thrift store -- hemmed to make it skin-tight -- and a flimsy mask, close to snapping in between her many blonde spikes. Once Masko’s budget increased, she would make a better suit.
She sped out of her apartment complex, looking for where Car targeted this time. Masko wasn’t surprised to see the bank the next street over, crumbling down in shades of orange and yellow. Char mentioned her hatred for financial businesses the last time they fought.
Bankers and customers had already run out of the building, shaken by the attack. They muttered among each other. Several people acknowledged Masko with a trembling wave. They knew she’d find a way to distract the villain from killing them.
A laugh echoed throughout the street, and the one she was familiar with. It was pitchy and sounded evil in the 70’s cheesy way. She looked up to a woman with a sleek black ponytail on top of the burning building, posing. Great; Char was taking clear advantage of her red flame-retardant suit. The equally flame-retardant cape hung behind her pudgy frame.
“We meet again, Masko!” Char sneered. “The last four times may have been a lucky strike for you, but you won’t be able to defeat me this time!”
Masko stared up at her. Char always interrupted her first line, so Masko stayed silent.
“Got nothing to say, huh?” the pyro challenged. “I bet you’ll have a line or two to deliver after this!”
She extended her hand. A ball of flame shot out of her palm and flew toward the big crowd. The civilians scattered to avoid getting hit. Once the flame died down, Char smiled in triumph at the unimpressed Masko. The villain put her gloved hands on her hips, resuming her pose.
“That’s great. You made your point with the building already. Can you…” Masko squeezed the bridge of her nose. “Just come down here so we can beat each other up and get it over with?”
Char huffed. Masko never risked her life by running through the flames to meet her halfway. Using a foldable glider, she reluctantly flew down and landed on the ground feet away from the superhero. Once the glider was folded away, Char took slow steps toward Masko. Not once did the hero move. She was busy reading bits of Char’s mind, hoping for new information. Sadly, all she got were one-liners being repeated over and over as Char rehearsed them to perfection.
“It’s cowardly of you, Masko,” Char started. She was disappointed by the psychic’s lack of participation, but she hid it. “You act like the civilians aren’t worth saving, and you haven’t made any attempts to stop me.”
Masko nodded. “Yep. You’re right.” Under her breath, she added, “Not as if you purposely miss the civilians.”
“And what’s with ‘Masko’?” Char paused long enough to laugh that cheesy villain laugh. “That has got to be the dumbest name for a superhero.” She glanced at the rubber boots. “Did you also come up with ‘Bootso’ before rejecting it?”
Masko rolled her eyes. Typical Char, delaying the fight. “We went over this,” she said. “I want to represent where my family came from, and I couldn’t take Moscow without risking an angry phone call from Putin about how Americans ruin everything great. Now, do you want to fight or not?”
Char’s shoulders slumped. The hero could at least pretend to be amused by this. She took off her red, fingerless gloves and tossed them aside. Char’s hands were covered in scars. The cragged lines had a great backstory to them if Masko would ask about them for once.
“As you wish.” With lightning speed, Char swung her fist. Masko stepped aside. No emotion went across her pert face behind the mask. Her amber eyes analyzed the situation. Using Char’s mind as a blueprint, she strategized. If the villain ran to her, Masko could push her into the wall behind them, and from there take over the fight. If she had the fire do the job for her, she could pull off some gymnast moves and avoid them.
The crowd watched as the two stared at each other. Two teenagers pulled out their phones to record the fight between them, ready to capture a sweet video to post online. Masko waited for Char’s next move to deflect. Char waited for Masko to say something clever to spice up the action.
None of them got what they wanted.
A car flew over the crowd, landing on the street with a deafening crash. It slid noisily across the asphalt before landing on its roof. People, once paralyzed in shock, recovered and ran from the new danger. For the first time in ages, Char saw fear on Masko’s face.
“Who was that?!” Masko exclaimed. “Did you really hire someone to intimidate me?”
Char’s glossy mouth dropped at the accusation. “I would never hire a partner without letting you know!”
Masko’s confusion was interrupted by yet another flying car heading toward them. Breaking out of her stance, Masko ran for shelter while Char followed behind. They ducked into an empty cafe stand, and Char closed the door behind her. In an enclosed space, they were surrounded by coffee presses and bottles of coffee flavorings. The window was covered with a thick sheet of metal.
“Wow,” Char said, her voice shaking. “The first thing you do is run away. Whatever happened to saving fellow citizens?”
Masko flipped her off before showing two fingers. “One, they already ran from the scene. Two, I think whoever’s throwing things is aiming at us specifically.”
Trying to make things normal, Char laughed. It didn’t sound anything like her evil laugh, but it would do. “I still think running away is--”
“Shut up for a minute.” Masko pressed her fingers against the temples, settling into her psychic network. She broke past Char’s mind and focused on the others around her. She waded through frantic thoughts from civilians before coming across a cluster that stood out. It was dark, full of hatred and anger and whatnot. It made Char’s mental state seem childish in comparison. Well, more childish.
Char was impressed to see the hero working in close proximity. If she hadn’t been terrified by the unknown threat, she’d be pissed that whoever was out there could get Masko to show off her abilities when she couldn’t.
“What are you getting from it?” she asked.
“I said shut up,” Masko snapped. “God, you never listen.”
Offended, Char shut her mouth. To occupy herself, she fixed a cup of coffee and pressed the bottom of the mug, using her power to heat up the ceramic and get the liquid boiling. It was always fascinating to see her skill used as anything else than destruction.
Outside of the coffee stand, a deep voice boomed. “Come out and show yourselves!”
Eh, the opening line could use some work, Char mused. Hoping Masko could hear her, she added, Don’t you agree?
Delayed, Masko’s signature steely voice came up inside her head. What part of shutting the fuck up do you not understand?
Char sighed to herself. This was going to be a long day for both of them.