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   Chapter 6 Heroism

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 14653

Updated: 2017-11-30 19:05

I know what I“m doing.

Sort of.

Each superhero on Red“s team has his or her own unique backstory, but if you dig deep enough you find patterns. The base package of superpowers. Super-speed, super-strength, flight-abilities. You have your outliers, your modifiers, sure. Black Ice crafts snowball out of the water in the air. Yellow Star can throw fire. But the others? They“ve got your aforementioned triple threat.

And if I can crush a camera in my fist, then surely I“ve got the other powers. I just need to try. I work up my superhero-line-repertoire to help. "You messed with the wrong guy!" I shout.

Kai whimpers, sputters, and squeals. "Owie, owie, ow! Dude, what is your problem?" With every step, cracks race across the tile under my feet. Faster, I push myself, all the blood rushing up into my head. Sweat flies off my skin. So the hoodie was a poor choice. Noted.

I take big leaps, awkward attempts at flight. The floor cracks into hundreds of little shatters when I land with a sound like breaking glass. I don“t mean to cause so much property damage, even to my hated school, and every little crunch makes me shudder on the inside. But this is Kai in danger.

I hear him struggling. The sound of nails scraping metal, kicking and thrashing limbs beating the floor and walls, Kai“s choky little cry. "Hey, hey, no, please—"

"What?" Masquerade laughs, throaty and deep. "Not so scary now, are you, without your friend?"

I peek out behind a hall corner. The long, spindly shadows of the two boys clash on the school floor. And it goes about as well as you“d expect. Masquerade slams Kai against the wall by the collar of his shirt. My friend flails. I crouch low, my mind racing for a plan. Something. Anything.

"What do you want?" Kai“s teeth flash, his lip curled up in an angry little snarl, but his eyes are still wide and his muscly little body is still shaking.

"Aww, are you scared?" Masquerade clicks his tongue. "I“m debating whether I should let you go and take the fake superhero instead."

"Oh." Kai shrugs, squirming his shoulders against the crushed drywall. "Okay."

He lifts Kai even higher, who has stopped screaming and is now singing under his breath. "Nobody knows the trouble I“ve seen," Kai starts. "Nobody knows the sorrow—"

I clear my throat and step into the hall, my body thrumming with nervous energy. "Hey, Masquerade, why don“t you pick on someone your own size?"

"Below the belt!" cries Kai. Masquerade faces me blankly, then he snorts. He“s still filming on his phone. He turns his back to me, peels Kai off the wall, and sashays down the hall. Kai kicks.

"Hey!" I race after him. More tile smashes. It“s a funny feeling, the electricity pumping in my veins, the way the school blurs around me like a hollow, white comet. Masquerade throws Kai to the ground. I wince at his little cry.

"Ow, ow, ow—"

Masquerade spins the dial on a yellow locker. By the time Kai“s shambled to his feet, Masquerade has him by the collar of his shirt again. I barrel into the villain, slamming him into the next locker pod. Metal shrieks and crumples in. He laughs, up to his feet in half a second flat. I“m frozen, tracking his blur of motion. Kai is shaking, and with a half-hearted kick, the supervillain sends my friend flying. Kai yelps and tumbles into the open locker. I race for him, but Masquerade cuts me off with a poke on the chest that sends me stumbling backward on the broken floor. Kai has gone stiff, face a doe-eyed vision of horror. And yeah, I don“t blame him. It“s one thing to be stuffed in a locker as a middle schooler, another as a high school senior. Another kick and the door is slammed shut. Kai screams.

He“s gotten good at that.

"Alright, new hero. Looks like you want a fight." He holds up one hand in a guard, the other raising the phone doing all the recording. He glances into the camera and giggles. "Hmm. This one“s ransom is set at... one hundred thousand. She“s precious."

I kick the phone out of his hand and it goes skidding across the hall. "Let“s go, Masquerade." I beckon him with two fingers, just like Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon. No, I don“t get all my moves from vintage VHSs, just most of them.

But I am not prepared to have my butt handed to me. Which is what happens, pretty much, when I throw my first front-snap kick. Masquerade grabs me by my ankle and

ing pain and makes starbursts crackle and swirl in front of my eyes.

I stagger into the hall with all the broken tile, colors swimming before my eyes, my mouth filling up with the copper-tinge taste of blood. "Kai?"

Pounding. Scratching. I turn back down the hall, and there“s Finn, alone, biting his lip and spinning the dial. "Hold on buddy," he says. "Don“t cry."

"I“m not crying!" Kai shouts. His muffled voice is choking and squeaky at the end of his words. He pounds the door from the inside, filling the air with hollow “conks.“

"Sure, you“re not. Look, man, are you okay?" Finn rolls his eyes, squinting down at the dials.

"No! I can barely breathe, Finn. I think I“m dying."

I step up to the locker and clear my throat. My heart is slamming in my chest. Do I tell them who I am? Or do I hide my identity, like a real superhero? I don“t have a reason to do that. Finn and Kai are already in danger whether I“m a superhero or not. Finn looks up at me, his face gone white and his hands trembling around the dial. His glasses are crooked, the bags so pronounced under his eyes they look like hanging hammocks.

"He“s my friend," he says quickly, "Masquerade live streamed your fight, so I came back for him."

I step forward, pulling my hood down as far as it will go. And the funny thing is, I don“t know why I“m trying to hide my identity from my friends. It“s just that now I“ve put on the silly cape and the silly mask, there“s some innate superhero-lover part of me tugging at my common sense like, “No! You can“t let them know how you are, you“re a superhero! And superheroes don“t do that!

"Step aside, citizen." I cup my hand in front of my face for maximum voice-muffling quality. So we“re doing this, now.

Finn narrows his eyes at me, studying me, and then with one final dip of his head he steps back. I kneel in front of the rusty handle and pull the door off the hinges with a long, hard tug. Metal screams and groans, the edges finally falling away with a “click-click“ like puzzle pieces snapping together. Kai draws in a breath, reminiscent of a squeak. I throw the door to the ground and watch Kai flounder and roll to the floor, pounding his fists to the broken tile with a gaspy little cry. His eyes are puffy. He hides them quickly by grabbing his face and rolling around, legs kicking and elbows flapping. "Ow, ow, ow, ow! This isn“t fair. I didn“t—I don“t know why—"

"Shh. You“re good now." I scoop him up into my arms. He scrabbles upright, trembling, every muscle in his body tense and coiled to spring. He shivers in a cold sweat. His throat is ringed with a necklace of yellow and green bruises. With Finn at my side, I carry a limp Kai out of the school, a cool breeze blowing back my hair.

I greet the yellow crime scene tape and cheering kids with a wave. I set him down on his feet, and shoot up into the sky as the explosion of flashes blurs in the background.

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