It wasn’t too hard for me to figure out Shay’s ulterior motive for wanting to get lunch with me. When I saw her sitting in a booth at Burger Bonanza, I was able to see that she was with her partner, Joey.
Joey and Shay had been partners for about three months. I’d met Joey once or twice and he seemed like a pretty nice guy, but all Shay ever did was complain about how much of a bother he was. According to her, he was unprofessional, annoying, incompetent, and had no place being a police officer. Even if all of that was true, I thought she was being rather harsh.
Joey was a big guy. Not muscular in any way, just big. He had a rough, pale face covered with blond hair all over. He had blue eyes, and both he and Shay were wearing their police uniforms.
Burger Bonanza wasn’t the best burger place in the city. It was pretty good, but in a place like Bluejay with so many burger joints, I was amazed a place with just okay food was able to stay in business. I think it had been around for two years now.
The interior of the place had a 70’s aesthetic. I think that’s what kept people coming here. Plenty of restaurants tried to imitate the 50’s, but it was rare to see a place taking inspiration from the 70’s. The walls were a mixture of bright blue’s and greens, the booths were red and pink, and it actually had a disco ball hanging on the ceiling. I wasn’t sure if they ever used it or if it was just for show.
The two didn’t seem to notice me walking over as they continued their conversation.
“This place seems pretty cool, don’t you think?” Joey asked Shay.
“I’ve been here once or twice. It’s decent,” she said rather grumpily.
“Tell me Myers. Do you take a special joy in being a massive buzz kill?”
“What? I’m not a buzz kill.” I loved Shay, but she could be a bit of a buzz kill sometimes. Up until I got powers, she’d always stopped me from doing anything remotely exciting, or in her mind, dangerous. I probably didn’t give her much of a reason to think I’d be fine, seeing as how all throughout high school, she’d had to protect me from bullies like Ryan Ratch. Ryan Ratch, the son of a bitch who pushed me off a cliff while on a field trip to the mountains just outside Bluejay. I really couldn’t ever stay mad at Shay when despite sometimes intervening with my desires, she was also the person who beat the crap out of Ryan as payback.
“You kind of are. Every time I get the least bit excited about something, you shut me up.”
“Joey, I’m sorry if you find me to be that way, but maybe I still kind of have a grudge over what you did when we first met.”
“Gonna have to be a bit more specific there.”
I figured that was my cue to step in.
“Hey guys.” I said, sitting down next to Shay.
“Hey bro.” Shay responded.
“Carter!” Joey shouted excitedly. “Long time no see buddy.” He extended his arm for a fist bump. I responded by bumping his fist, because how could I not; you didn’t just leave someone hanging.
“I thought I told you to get here at 11:00,” Shay said to me smiling, but sounding annoyed.
“Sorry. Took me a while to get changed.” I emphasized the last couple of words.
“Don’t be sorry, dude,” Joey said. “It’s only 10:58.” He finished looking down at his watch.
“For the third time Joey, your watch is just slow. Look at your phone,” Shay responded not bothering to try and hide her irritation with a smile this time.
“Stupid Shay. I fixed my watch. I think you’ll find that you’re…” He stopped as he pulled out and looked at his phone. “Damn it.”
Shay rolled her eyes.
I decided to break the silence that followed. “So, is Captain Troyan letting you guys work on the murder cases?”
“Why would he? Joey questioned, peeling a straw wrapper. “We’re just beat cops.”
“Actually,” Shay said, sounding testy. “I talked to Troyan before we went on our beat, and he said that when we get back, we could do research for the cases.”
“That’s awesome,” I said, excited for my sister.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” Right after Joey said that, he blew into his straw and fired the wrapper at Shay’s face.
She tensed up before speaking to me, trying to ignore Joey. “Oh yeah, Carter, did I tell you about the date I have tonight?”
“Ooh, I want to hear about this.” Joey’s eyes lit up as he responded before I could say anything.
Shay kept her attention solely on me. I gave my answer simply by nodding my head.
“The guy’s name is Jimmy. He seems like a really nice guy. He’s also a Median whose power is levitation. From what he tells me, he can go pretty high. Hopefully, this means he won’t get scared off by me.”
Joey put his straw in his water and started fiddling with it. “Why would anyone be scared of you, Myers?”
Shay got an angry look on her face. Joey was nice, but he could also be pretty inconsiderate, and to someone who took everything as seriously as Shay, I could see why he’d piss her off so much.
I put my hand on her shoulder. “I’d try to take that as a compliment.” I really didn’t want these two to start fighting. We hadn’t even ordered yet.
“If you need to know, during my last two dates, I ended up going back to their places. And the second they saw my six pack, they not so politely asked me to leave. What can I say? Guys seem to be scared by a strong woman. Idiots.”
“Idiots,” I seconded.
We both stared at Joey waiting for him to agree.
“You went home with two guys on the first date? Didn’t know you were that easy, Myers.”
“You know what Joey!?” Shay nearly hopped out of the booth.
Before she could continue, their radios sounded.
There is a 30 30 in progress on 26th street. The 30 is shooting incredibly strong lasers, and has shown that he will kill. He is to be considered armed and highly dangerous. Officers are not to engage and to report back to the station.
“I think I understood some of that. What’s going on?”
Shay answered, “A 30 is a Demigod, and a 30 30 is a situation where a Demigod is robbing a bank.” Made sense to me. I would guess a criminal without powers was a 10, and a criminal who was a Median was a 20, though I could be way off. “What I want to know is why Troyan doesn’t want us to stop him.”
“He probably thinks it’s too dangerous for us. But don’t sweat it; Lightning Bee is going to handle this.”
It was kind of nice knowing I had a fan in a police officer. The mayor liked me, but Troyan had told the news that I was just a wannabee and not a real hero. I was pretty jealous of him, since he had apparently been a close friend of the heroes, and I really wished I had his support.
“Well fuck Troyan’s orders. I’m gonna go help.” Shay stood up from the booth and walked around me to get out.
“Shay,” I said, standing up as well. I whispered “Let me handle this.” I would have been fine with telling Joey and the rest of the police force I was Lightning Bee, but Shay had requested I do my best to keep it a secret from them. She refused to tell me why.
She whispered back, “I don’t think you’re ready for this.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” I started running out of BB.
“Carter, where are you going?” Joey cried.
“I’ve got this!” I shouted back.
Holy crap, he just wiped out a diner! I’d just told Shay I could handle this. I should have been more worried about how many people he’d just killed, but I was absolutely terrified of what this guy was going to do to me.
I’d become a superhero because I wanted to fight crime and I thought that’s what King Power would have wanted. I thought I’d be making him proud. I never actually thought I’d have to fight a psycho crazy with power who was more than willing to kill.
Where the rather large diner had once stood was now home to a lot of rubble and small fires. And body parts. Many body parts. There was a head. I almost lost it right there. I almost lost the will to keep fighting. I didn’t want my head to be there.
But what would King Power say if I just ran away? What would Darling say? What would any of the heroes say? I had to keep fighting for them.
And also for all of the people who were still around and believed in me. People like Ben and Joey. I couldn’t let them down.
I couldn’t just slack off and let Shay handle this like every other tough part of my life. This is something I had to do myself.
Mental anguish aside, I was disoriented by the sound of the diner blowing up. TV and movies really didn’t capture just how loud a big explosion is. I think I’d just lost some of my hearing.
I’d nicknamed the guy shooting lasers Helioray. He was wearing a flannel shirt, khakis, brown sneakers, and a black vest. He had sandy brown hair, and it was clear plenty of hair gel had been applied to it.
What I saw in front of me frightened me far more than what I couldn’t hear. There was a thick layer of energy emanating from Helioray’s body. Far thicker than my electricity ever got. I couldn’t even see into his eyes. They were consumed by energy as well, and he just looked angry. Even without seeing his eyes, I could see his fury.
His clothes were still in good shape. Stallion had done some research on this kind of thing. For whatever reason, your clothes become a part of you when you use your power. That’s why Stallion’s clothes were fine whenever he transformed into a centaur and back, and why Helioray’s clothes weren’t damaged by his power.
The odd thing about me was that this rule didn’t apply. My costume had gotten singed by my lightning more than once.
Helioray slowly walked towards me from the other side of the street, preparing to fire again. If he hit me, I was pretty sure I was a goner. Coming here, I hadn’t expected him to be this strong.
I had to go on the offensive. Strike him before he could kill me. Without needing to think about it, two spheres of electricity formed around my fists. I raised my arms and launched my attack.
Helioray was knocked back. He tripped and fell onto the bags of money he’d put down. The wind blew and some of the money went fluttering away.
He got back up, not looking wounded. I think I’d made him even angrier though.
All of the energy around him flowed into and around his head. That’s just what had happened before he blew up the diner.
He screamed at the top of his lungs and fired his blast. It wasn’t as large as his last assault, but his was still far bigger than any of my attacks.
I had no way of dodging, so I closed my eyes and prayed that my lightning would somehow protect me. Not looking at it, I thought I could hear my lightning. Hearing every bit of static and hearing it crash against the energy. For the first time, I think I actually felt the lightning. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt something else too.
I was stunned when I opened my eyes. My thin electrical blasts, which were still coming out of me, were managing to hold his massive attack back. At least this proved his lasers weren’t as strong as Darling’s. There’s no way my power would hold a candle to hers.
All I could see in front of me was the blinding white light of his energy. I couldn’t even see my own blasts. I’d never held out a blast like this before. I’d only fired and stopped. I’d heard that exerting a power could make you feel nauseous, but I was feeling something different. I felt sated. Like I’d just gorged myself at a barbecue. It was weird.
He must have gotten winded following our struggle, as he stopped firing his blast and dived out of the way of my incoming lightning. Apparently catching his breath, he made the hand sign for wanting a minute.
I probably should have kept firing, but I think he just wanted to talk. The energy around him had dissipated, and I could actually see his green eyes, not too different from mine. He also no longer looked like he was filled with rage.
He got to his feet and started talking. “I have to say, when I was told I’d have to fight you, I wasn’t expecting, well, an actual fight.” He spoke with a thick Texan accent. Oh great, a fire happy Texan. This wasn’t going to reinforce stereotypes at all. My friend Drew would be pissed if he found out about this guy’s voice.
One part of what he’d said caught my attention. “Someone told you you’d have to fight me? Did that person put you up to this? If so, are you getting paid, blackmailed, or what?”
“I’m getting paid. After I’m done here, I’ll be having the best pay day of my life. Now I honestly don’t give two shits about that money over there. I just needed to get you to come out here.”
This was all about me. All of the people he’d killed, their blood was on my hands. “Why? Why did you want to fight me, and how could you feel no remorse over killing those people?”
“Did I not make it clear I was getting paid a lot to do this?” My fists tightened. “And yeah, I do feel kind of bad for those people, but honestly, I just got a little angry and I lost control.”
I was trying to maintain a stoic look on my face and a serious, but passionate manner of speaking. I think I let both of those things slip with how I reacted. “Soda once spilled on my keyboard and I lost control over my computer. I lost control of the soda can. You didn’t just lose control. Either you’re lying about caring, or you’re fucking bipolar.”
He had a troubled look on his face. “You seem like a really good guy. I have no idea why my boss wants you dead, but I’m willing to cut you a deal.” A deal with a villain? No way in Hell was I going to agree to this. “I bring the money back to the bank, and you stop being Lightning Bee forever. That way the crime is stopped and my boss gets his desire for there to be no more Lightning Bee. What do you think?”
“I think you just killed a large group of people. You aren’t getting out of here any way but in handcuffs.” I was pissed, but even so, trying to sound confident against this guy wasn’t easy. I thought I’d been scared for my life when the mugger I’d fought yesterday had a knife at my throat, but this was real fear. Against the mugger, I was still able to see the path to victory, but here, I wasn’t sure there was any.
“That’s unfortunate.” He closed his eyes and the moment after he did, energy surrounded his body. “Cause I think I’m feeling pretty angry again.”
He repeatedly punched the air, sending two dozen fist sized blasts my way. Any one of those could have proven to be fatal, so before they could reach me, I raised my arms and used each one to blast one of the columns of blasts. My attack completely tore through his and actually hit him and sent him flying back a few more feet.
I hadn’t even tried putting that much oomph into the lightning. At first I hadn’t had control because I was inexperienced, but now I didn’t have control because my fear was overtaking me. I was happy with the effect it was having currently, but a part of me was scared of the effect this could have in the long-run.
Before I could fire again, he got to his feet and started running down the street. He was still encompassed by energy, which I think meant he was still raging, but he was trying something new. Normally I might have, but right now, there was no way I was going to believe that I’d be lucky enough to have him on the run.
I pursued him, making use of all the time I’d spent running. Shay had long been trying to get me to do more muscle training, but my current situation was proof that I’d made the right decision focusing on cardio.
As we ran, the energy around him all moved to the crown of his head. It was interesting to me how much control over his energy he appeared to have. While her lasers were far more powerful, all Darling could do with hers was fire them out of her hands.
Maybe I could control my lightning to the same degree as him. Maybe if I couldn’t knock him out with my limited arsenal, I could create blasts which would function more like a tazer, and less like concussive blasts which made their targets feel tingly.
With the speed of a machine gun, dozens of miniature energy balls started coming out of his head and heading towards me.
They were just too fast for me to dodge and I was struck by most of the balls. I had never felt that kind of pain before. None of them were strong enough to go through me, but the agony was still intense. I’d been hit all over my body, though my stomach and chest had taken the worst of it.
He stopped running and the energy consumed his entire head for the third time. He was preparing to launch another large wave. He’d gotten me running so I wouldn’t be in a position to dodge his smaller blasts, and now he was going to try and finish me off.
Aiming for his head, I got ready to try out the possibility of tazing blasts. I was pretty sure that his body was durable enough that even if I struck his temporal lobe, he wouldn’t have severe neurological damage. I shouldn’t have cared what happened to him after what he’d done, but leaving that kind of deleterious effect isn’t what my heroes would have wanted. Deleterious. I think that was a word.
I fired before he could, and hit my target with finesse. I wasn’t sure if I’d tazed him, but I did see an explosion come from his head. Oh god. Did I kill him? No, I couldn’t be a killer. I couldn’t have blood on my hands. At least not more than I already did.
My momentary panic turned into relief as I saw he was still alive and standing. The energy had all disseminated and I could see his face was horribly burnt. I should have expected that would happen, but then again, I was also expecting that to end the fight.
He shouted even louder than he had previously. “You’re dead!” He aimed his hands at the ground, fired lasers downward, and propelled himself about 20 feet into the air. It was kind of fascinating just how many powers allowed for a form of pseudo-flight. I kind of wanted to try it out myself.
He snapped his arms upward, sending both beams towards me. I ran out of the way, witnessing the thin but deep craters his lasers were making in the ground.
Helioray was able to stay where he was in the air while having his lasers chase me. Using the lasers to get up must just have been to make it easier for him. For him to keep his position while having his lasers dance around me, he must have had a form of levitation as a secondary ability.
He pumped out a third beam from his forehead, the same width as the other two beams he was using. I decided my best bet was to run away and get into a position where I had the advantage.
I wasn’t able to get away though, as the three beams surrounded me, circling at an astonishingly fast speed.
I supposed now would be a good enough time to try it out. I aimed my hands at the ground and shot lightning down at the street beneath me.
I was propelled into the air, but far higher than Helioray. I couldn’t stop my lightning from coming out of me. Each inch I ascended, I became more scared, and I lost more control over my power. I didn’t know how high I would go, but I think I was at least 100 feet into the sky.
I was having trouble breathing. I think that meant the atmosphere was getting thinner. I wasn’t too sure; I never did pay much attention in school. Just another reason my so called dad hated me. Just another reason I had to make the King proud.
I shut my eyes and I started seeing things. Whenever I’d fought regular crooks, I’d thought of things that frightened me to fuel my attacks. But now, I was baring witness to those thoughts.
I saw Shay being killed, and Bluejay being destroyed. I saw the world officially declaring that heroes were no more, and a new generation of villains taking over everything. I saw King Power standing over me with a disappointed look on his face. And I saw a memory. A memory of the time my dad beat me after I started a fire at my school. It was the day he’d basically disowned me.
I’d always been a disappointment to him, and a disappointment to everyone around me. Even Shay probably saw me as a screw up. And yet all I ever wanted to do was make my heroes proud. When I drew something, I didn’t put it on the fridge, I sent it to the Guardianship, King Power’s team. I didn’t tell Mom and Dad about upcoming events at my school; I went to the Guardianship’s headquarters and put up fliers.
I was barely breathing. How high had I gotten?
It didn’t matter. This was my chance to prove that I wasn’t still the disappointing fuck up I was known to be. I had to get back down there and prove myself.
I opened my eyes, and the lightning went away. I wouldn’t let fright control me.
And then I started falling.
I’d really gotten myself into a lose-lose situation. Either I would keep rising, or I would fall to my death. I’d never proven to have the enhanced strength, durability, or endurance of a standard Demigod. But if I was going to survive, I needed to have those traits now.
My descent was going by quickly. In just a few seconds, I could see the city again. I could see that Helioray was back on the ground, walking away from where we’d fought.
I had an idea as to how I was going to live. And it was really stupid.
I found myself able to breathe again, and with that breath, I shouted “Hey laser fuck!”He turned his head towards me, his eyes igniting with energy. “Come at me!”
The energy crawling around him moved to his chest and he fired at me.
The impact of the blast wasn’t even the worst of the pain. I wasn’t quite sure how physics worked. I never even took it in high school, but I think a kinetic force hitting someone at the speed I was going would kill him. The dolor I was feeling was far worse than the time I’d been pushed off a cliff, but I think I’d made out with just a few cracked ribs. I may not have been a full on Demigod, but I was certainly more than just a high powered Median.
My plan had succeeded. The blast had slowed my fall, and I landed on a pile of trash bags. It still hurt like Hell, but it was nothing compared to what I’d just felt.
My dumb ass plan had actually worked. Now that I’d basically shut off my lightning for the time being, I needed to think of an actually smart plan. At this point, I probably should have just tried to take his earlier deal and come after him again the next time he showed up, but I couldn’t do that. I had to beat him, no matter how bad I got hurt.
I didn’t think he’d seen where I’d fallen. That gave me some time to figure something out.
Maybe he’d used up so much energy that he’d be weak and I could try taking him in close combat.
No, that wouldn’t work for a few reasons. For one thing, maybe I should have listened to Shay and bench pressed every once in a while. For another, I remembered something I’d learned in health class. Health was the one class I’d always paid attention in because I was really interested to know just how powers worked.
He couldn’t run out of energy. My powers came purely through fear, but others’ came from strong emotions. So long as he was in this furious state, he wasn’t going to lose the ability to stop shooting lasers.
Maybe there was some way to get my lightning back. Maybe if I tried thinking about all the things that scared me.
No, I’d just overcome my fears. Even if they still scared me, it wouldn’t be enough to fuel me anymore. Going forward, I would need fears which were more concrete. Fears which were more real.
Helioray found me. I saw him in the street, standing in front of me a small distance away. I’d run out of time to think of an idea. I tried standing up, but that was proving to be more than a little difficult.
I’d run out of time to think of something. He was going to kill me.
But I was going to go out with my head held high. I stared him down.
And saw him get hit and sent flying by a speeding Bentley.