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   Chapter 32 Three Musketeers and The Ethics of (Super)heroism

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 11251

Updated: 2017-12-05 19:04


"Hey, Dad," Percy says after uncovering a rotary phone in the cottage“s creaky attic and storming down to the inexplicable girl“s bedroom for the call. Her fingertips are pricked and bleeding from the curves of the plastic dial. She“s hunched by a downstairs window, her eyes flickering and falling as the bubbles rise from the lagoon. The warehouse has been raided by the heroes, and after calling the police, Percy digs her chin into the collar of her bloodied dress and speaks to her father. She doesn“t want to get in the way of the others.

After all, she“d thought she“d saved Monet, and that Percy could protect her, too. But then, there Monet went, karate-chopping her way through broken windows, saving Percy by way of action-hero hijinks of the likes that left Percy in a bit of wide-eyed, half-drooling shock while she lay useless under a van for cover. It“s like the heroes didn“t even need their powers. Like they just kind of add to the hero aesthetic, like a brand of spandex or a particularly grizzly scar.

"Persephone!" She flinched. Her father wasn“t prone to yelling. He spoke in a low voice, the type where the Parental Authority oozed; yelling simply wasn“t something he had to do. "Where are you? Are you safe?"

"Um." She glances at the dried blood on her pale, still-trembling fingers. "K-Kind of."

"What do you mean “kind of!“" His voice breaks. "Young lady, do you know what time it is?"

"N-no. Sorry about that—"

"Where are you?" His voice steadies and falls to its usual pitch. Low, and even and smooth. "Percy, are you okay? You“ve never done this before. Honey"—he says it like a plea—"you“re worrying me sick."

Percy closes her eyes. Pressure behind her eyes falls like a heavy fog. "Dad, did you know Mom“s a superhero?"

There“s a crackle of static on the end of the line. The man draws in a breath, then asks carefully, "You“re okay, right?" His voice is shaky, but Percy hardly notices. She“s tearing her fairy wings from the back of her dress with a few slow, sickening rips.

"Yeah, yeah. I“m fine. But Mom“s Red Comet, you know? I“m just curious if she told you."

The pause is longer now. One heartbeat, two. Then she hears the quiver of his breath, the tremble of a painful sigh. "She can“t be Red Comet. If she was she wouldn“t have hidden it from us." And he says it so calmly, the words pronounced so clipped and low and precise, that she knows he“s mulled this over before.

"Dad, I just saw her with her mask off, and she told me, and she“s in costume and—" She draws in a long breath. "I just wanted to know if you knew is all. That“s it."

And then she hears a boy“s shriek from outside and whips her attention at the open window, when can she see the flutter of black capes and the splash of red-white sludge. It splatters the side of the house with a hiss. She yanks the phone card taunt, springing to her feet, every muscle groaning in protest. Below, gloved hands reach up from the bog, the air filled with a smell of acid and burnt paper. Fingers outstretched, wriggling. Percy“s heart is slammed into her stomach with the weight of horror.

"Just come home. For now, all that matters is you and your mother being okay. We“ll talk about it later."

Percy hesitates, staring down at those sinking glove and then at the smudged handset gripped in her fingers. Then she swallows, her throat su

when Red Comet gave her speech. The look on Dad“s face when she left us. Red Comet“s words: "It“s our job to serve justice, to become an inspiration." How badly I wanted to do that, be that, too.

My throat is clogged and burning. I don“t think about the boy in the smiling mask anymore. I think about my heroes. Am I serving justice? Am I an inspiration?

By killing another teenager and myself?

Tears stream up my face and bubble, my vision wrought with white and black. I“m protecting my friends, aren“t I? If one boy has to die so others live, then I am a killer anyway if I“m so scared of dirtying my hands I allow him to murder innocents. Chip and Kai and Finn and the supers deserve better than that. I“m a hero, right? I“m supposed to protect them at all costs. Even at the cost of my own life. Even at the cost of the villain“s.

"Let him go, Monet! Please, stop it, you“re killing yourself. You“re winning, you won...stop it..." The words, hardly sounding through the choppy waters, but Percy“s voice is closer.

"He tried to kill you," I want to say. My body bristles with liquid strength. "How can you be on his side?"

"Take my hand..."

All I can see is darkness.

"Monet, can you hear me? He doesn“t have to die...you don“t have to be like him. He“s a killer, but my mom isn“t, and you don“t have to...you don“t...come on...grab on...please....you“re supposed to be a hero better than this..."

I wanted him to beg for his life under my boot. So hurt I was, so greedy for revenge. I was the avenging ghost, I was karma.

But I wasn“t a hero.

"He“s only a kid...he can still change..."

He can still be saved.

That“s what my heroes would want me to do. That“s what a good guy does: save people. Even if he hurt me, even if he hurt my friends. My powers are mine again, and with them, a job to use them to protect others and him. It“s not mercy, it“s duty. This is what it means to be a superhero to be the better of human nature, not to succumb to despair and extremes, but to overcome. To help others. To do good with what you have.

If Max can still be saved, then I guess I have to save him.

My lungs ache. As my vision blackens, I reach up against the hissing bog and grasp Percy“s hand.

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