Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
[Jake, I need a favour. If my mom messages you, just tell her that I’m at your house having a slumber party.] Sent.
[You’re not doing something crazy again, right? Also, a slumber party? I can come up with a better excuse than that.] Received.
[Nothing special. Whatever, just covers for me.] Sent.
[ :c Dude, you need to be careful. Anyway, I got to go, there's a thing with my family. I’ll cover for you, but you need to promise me to be careful.] Received.
[I promise. Thanks, buddy.] Sent.
The smartphone slid into my pocket. My arm aches as I raised it. I revealed a nasty bruise from underneath my sleeve from when I fell earlier. The ice cube was cold to the touch, I rubbed it against my bruise. Afterward, I threw the ice cube away.
After raising my sight to the tree, it was illuminated by a string of lights under the night sky. A beautiful sight to behold, almost felt like a festival here as people gathered around the campfire and enjoyed their meals. However, as I looked at the apartments it seems none of them had their lights on instead they were using candles.
"Are you hurt?"
I turned to the girl beside me. The same foul mouth girl had cleaned herself up and looked rather striking with a flowery dress on. Even her chocolate hair was rather lovely under the illuminating light. There's even a flower pin on her hair. Gone the tomboyish look, well almost gone as she chose to wear her black boots.
"I know. I know. Not my kind of style. They made me put it on. They can't stop themselves without dressing me like a doll."
"I get it."
"Thank you for 'getting it' I guess." She extended a bowl of broth to me and I took it, nodding my head at her as a “Thank You”.
“I can’t believe that this place exists. It’s amazing, the people and the atmosphere, I can tell that everyone truly cares for each other here. I see now why you want to defend it.” I turned my gaze at the wonderful sight before me.
“I know you would get it. I just wish my brother would think the same way. That’s a nasty bruise you got there, should I get an ice pack?" Ria leaned closer over my injuries with attention. Her lingering sweet perfume hovered to my senses.
"It's nothing. I've been through worse." I let out a chuckle.
"You're not like other heroes, are you?" She leaned back and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear.
"What makes you say that?"
"Like other heroes, I saw on TV or in the news, they seem strong and invincible even. They don't make mistakes or stumble down."
"And I'm nothin' like them, right? Yeah, I kinda agree with--" I was about to end my sentence when she stopped me.
"No! I didn't mean it like that. You seem more relatable, braver than them. You failed twice since I've met you, but you always got up even if you’re hurt. So don't call yourself weak, okay? You big dummy."
What's up with this girl? It's like she is all over the place. When we met, she was rude, brash, even straight out mean. Now. Now. She's sweet? Mushy. Pleasant. I don't understand her at all.
"Ha-Ha-Happy to see you in that dress."
"Was that a compliment?" She started chuckling.
"Yeah... The dress fits you. I mean you look beautiful in that-- No, what I meant to say is the dress looked well on you? Very well!"
Did I panic? I did, didn't I?
"Well?--pfft. What was that?"
“Nothing. It’s pretty amazing how you can control your bat with your mind.”
“Not really.” A metal bat appeared from behind us and floated above our line of sight as soon as she raised her hand.
“What do you mean ‘not really’? Freaking awesome power to me.”
“I can only control my bat though. Nothing else. I read it in a book, I think it was called Specialized Telekinesis. How about you?”
“Me? I don't know what it's called, but! Even if I know, I won't tell you either way.”
“Sure, sure. Don't tell me. Whatever.” She rolled her eyes while the corner of her lip turned down.
“I don't mean it like that. It’s nothing special. Look.” My hand slowly illuminated in front of me then I waved it. “That’s it. My hands glow. Like I said nothing special, flashy but ultimately useless. One fun trivia, I used to do baseball back then before I quit the team. I didn't just do baseball though, I was the ace.”
“Cool. You can teach me how to play sometimes.”
“You don't know how to play?”
“I thought you knew because of the metal bat.”
“My late dad gave it to me... One day, from out of nowhere, somehow, I could control it with my mind. To tell you the truth, I don't like baseball that much.”
“For bringing up your late dad.”
“Whatever. He was a coward, and he died like a coward, but I'm different from him. I won't be like him.” Ria stood up and clenched her fist before leaving my vicinity.
A scream pierced the sky, I turned and saw people running toward the exit. It was not until I raised my gaze at the dark sky when I realized dark smoke and light were coming from the building across the street. I quickly ran toward the exit. Squeezing through the crowd, I saw the raging fire that had licked the building. An old woman was on her knees, crying her heart out while hugging a picture frame.
“Grandma Bria?!” Ria ran past me and toward the elderly woman, I ran after her.
When we arrived, Ria embraced the sobbing old woman.
“Is everyone else, okay?”
“No one got hurt, but my home, my late husband's possessions. It’s all gone… All that left is his picture.” answered the old woman through her waterfall of tears.
“It’s them, isn't it? They did this. The fire one.” said Ria through her gritted teeth.
“Is that true?” I asked the old woman.
“I don't know… Ria, my sweet, sweet child. Please. I'm begging you. Please don't do anything rash.” Grandma Bria stared into Ria’s eyes, pleading with all her heart.
"Rash? I’ll show them!”
“Ria, calm down. Let me deal with it first.”
“Damn it. Not what after they did. You don't know them as I do. They definitely did this.”
“Of course, I don't, but we both don't know if they really did this. Let me find out first, and we can deal with it together. Trust me on this.”
“Fine. I'll deal with the fire, you deal with those thugs.”
With a nod, I launched myself into a run. Headed toward where I last spotted the workers, I sound no one there except for a dim-lit street. Yet, my ear sense chatters behind the street corner, I sneaked toward it and found three of them, smoking and talking to each other. Getting down behind a bush, I hid from their line of sight and overheard their conversation.
“Crazy day, today, huh?”
“You don't have to tell me twice. I didn't expect a fight was gonna break out.”
“I ain't worried a bit. Not with these two guns.” One of them showed his biceps to his friends.
“Woah, do you see what I’m seeing?”
They turned to the dim-lit skies and saw a pillar of smoke climbing upward.
“We better get out of here. I don't want to be a part of whatever that is.”
Scared by the probability of involvement, they began jogging away. I dug my fingers into my palm and followed after them. It didn't take long for them to stop, and it seemed they had led me to a construction site. This site must have been where they operated, not surprising since they are construction workers. In the distance, I could see a two-story office still bright. There’s a chance that their boss is here.
I walked out from the darkness, hands glowing toward the group I followed. One of the guys looked at me, fear in their eyes as they backed away. Upon seeing the fear sprung from their behaviour, my mind cast a cloud of doubt above me. I shut my power off and raised my hands.
“I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to see your boss.”
They looked at each other, then nodded at me. I followed one of them toward the office and when I arrived, I saw through the window that the workers are just that, workers. They were having a drink together after a hard day at work while complaining about their days and ache.
Okay, maybe the men are not bad guys, but the boss could be a bad guy.
“Here it is, our Boss is inside. Just go in, but can I go now?”
“Yeah. Sorry for scaring you guys earlier.” I scratched the back of my head and nodded my head apologetically.
“It’s okay, my daughter did tell me that I looked scary.” He let out a chuckle before leaving. “Guessing she was right.”
My gaze was stuck on the doorknob as the surrounding noise began to dissipate. I hardened my heart and knocked on the door.
“Come in, the door is unlocked.”
I entered the office and immediately the man stood up from his seat after he saw me.
“Wait, I’m not here to hurt you.”
“Then what? You attack us earlier!”
“I was trying to stop the fighting. I wanna talk.”
“With whom?” He raised his eyebrow at me.
“Oh, okay then.”
“Can I take a seat?”
“Go ahead.” His answer was trembling with fear.
“Would you mind taking a seat also?”
Closing the door behind us, I took a seat across from the trembling man. He wasn't what I expected. A little bloated of a man who certainly ate too much, he wore glasses and short well-managed black hair, and a baby smooth chin. He had a picture frame on his desk; a photograph of his family. Two kids and a wife, the perfect suburban nuclear family.
“If you do anything, I won't hesitate to call the cops.”
“No-no- I’m a Hero, I want to know what’s really going on here because they said you were bad guys forcing people out of their homes.”
“Bad guys? I do admit that we may have to resort to a bit of force, but we don’t hurt people, and we’re not breaking the law.”
His gaze was aligned with mine while his voice was clear and calm. He’s telling the truth, I may not be an expert here, but I know when someone is telling the truth. The probability that they didn't start the fire is getting by the second. It could be an accident after all.
“What about the powered: the couple, a fire wielder, and a lizard lady didn’t you hire them?”
My eyebrows furrowed as I glared at the naked carpet between my two feet, but after a couple of seconds, I raised my sight again.
“Can you explain to me why you are kicking people out of their homes?”
“It’s not something I chose to do, we are a contractor that is hired by a big company. Have you heard of Ironhide Corporation?”
“I’ve heard of it, they do stuff like the Maglev train, tech, and another bunch of stuff.”
“Correct, my company was hired by them after the landowners sold their right to Ironhide Corporation. We were contracted to develop the area, build an entirely new neighbourhood with a mall and a tall skyscraper, but what we don't know is that there will be resistance from the locals. I didn’t choose to kick them out of their home, I’m only here to do my job, and so do my boys.”
“I know that you didn't choose any of this, but can’t you do something about the good folk that lived there? Maybe offer them home or something?”
The man sighed, “My hands are tied here. If you want to do something about it, you have to meet the CEO, and I am sure that they don’t give two cents about what you want.”
Our sights gravitated to the desk phone. A red light blinked on and off in a repeated interval between the rings. The man in front of me reached for the handset but was hesitant to do so, yet after swallowing his fear, he took the piece and placed it near his ear. He nodded his head while repeating the word ‘Okay’.
Then he placed the handset next to the phone, pressing a button before standing up and leaving the office. The door closed behind him as gentle as he could. I kept my gaze on the handset and then suddenly, a soft and calm yet heavy male voice passed through the speaker.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Brightstar.”
“It’s nice to meet you sure, but who exactly are you?”
“My name is Long Ironhide, the CEO of Ironhide Corporation. However, before we start, are we alone right now?”
I turned to the closed door and back to the phone, “Yes.”
“Good, how are you today?”
“I’m fine, I guess.”
“Fine. Hmm, there are several meanings to that word, but what I’m guessing is ‘Fine’ as in being in a state or condition that is well-fed, well taken care of, well maintained of health, and well as in living a comfortable life.”
“You sound like a smart man.”
“Smart. I don't think me knowing a definition of the word ‘Fine’ is considered smart. To be precise ‘Knowledgeable’ is more appropriate. For one being to be smart, he must have the knowledge and the wisdom to wield it efficiently. However, I do know that you don't want to hear me ranting about my educated guess on the word ‘fine’. You are here for something else.”
“Is that a guess?”
“No. I see you, Brightstar, the moment you stop that robbery. Albeit, I do respect your privacy, but I do see you when you put on the mask. So your secret is safe with me.”
“You had me followed?” A raised eyebrow directed at the phone.
“I had everyone followed, well exactly not everyone, only those who I find fascinating. Try not to take any offence to it. It’s just part of the business. I saw the raw footage of you, the day you stopped that robbery, and my people have informed me that you are no threat to me, but I saw otherwise: corner any animal, and it will turn and bite.” The way he said through those speakers as if it was a common thing for him.
“Mr Ironhide, if I may ask bluntly why would someone as powerful as you take an interest in someone like me?” A small smile appeared on the corner of my lips.
Mr Ironhide suddenly went quiet, then a soft chuckle can be heard through the speaker. “Powerful? No, I merely have more means than a common rabble does, but I still bleed like any other. However, you are correct about me taking a liking to you, if I see potential, immediately, I see gains.”
“I don't know whether I want to take that as a compliment or a warning.”
“Please, I meant it as a compliment. So tell me, what can I do for you?”
Without hesitation, I answer: “Can you stop the project? The people out there are good people, they don't deserve to lose their homes.”
“I can, but I won’t. Not because I relish in other people suffering. Progress is progress, but if losing homes is your ultimate problem then I have a few properties that are more suited for them than whatever the holes they are currently living in. To sweeten the deal, I will adjust their rent accordingly to their income and send the full force of my men to help with the transition.”
“I know you would love to hear that, since it's the same deal you tried to strike with Mr. Garry earlier.”
He was listening to my conversation the whole time, but how? Is he spying on me? He did admit that his men were following me.
“Now that we have set the terms on your end, only now, we move to my end. Tell me what can I gain from this deal?” There’s a slight movement behind the speaker as if he was adjusting his jacket and leaned further against the chair.
“I don’t know if I could offer you anything of value.”
“On the contrary, you can still offer me something of value: yourself.”
“Me?” My shoulders stiffened.
“Of course you. Through the years, I have watched heroes cultivate a following steadily with each good deed they had done. However, no matter how many heroes I observed, none of them had the potential like you. Let me get to the point, I want you to work for me.”
“You mean to be your slave?”
“Don't be so crude. I’m not looking for a slave, I already have plenty of them, no… I want a representative. A hero that I can use to sell my brands and along the way, improve my company reputation. I don't need you to do things for me, I want you to look good doing whatever you are doing and build your fanbase.”
“So basically you want to sponsor me?”
“Tell me the truth, there’s a certain limitation for me, isn't it? If I accept your deal.”
“Of Course, if I were to sponsor you, I would be trusting you with my company reputation and that’s a big risk for me. So I’ll need you to conduct yourself according to the company policy.”
“A fate much worse than a slave: a puppet.”
“If you view it that way, yes, but it does come with benefits such as wealth beyond your wildest imagination and many other things that money can buy. However, if you do somehow in your mind decide to decline my offer, I will give you two other choices, you either leave your noble quest, or go against me, and please take this beyond the grain of salt: I am not someone to be trifled with.”
“How long will the deal last?”
“Six months, we’ll see if you are suitable for the role.”
“You will help all of them?”
“Every last one of them.”
“Why do I feel like I’m about to make a deal with the devil?”
A soft chuckle escaped through the speaker, “The devil doesn’t lie.”
The entire room shook violently, the door slammed open as the chubby man came in with a pale face. “You need to get out of here. The chemical storage suddenly caught on fire.”
I turned to the phone, nothing but, a monotonous beep remained.
“Is everyone alright?”
"They’re fine, everyone has evacuated, only you and I are left. We need to go.” The man left the doorway and headed toward the stairs.
I rushed out, fearful and terrified as a giant blazing fire rose to the sky. It had spread wildly to other construction materials. However, something caught my eyes, a flaming fireball flew away from the fire as if it had a mind of its own.
The man pulled me away, forcing me to follow him toward the exit. Arriving at the designated emergency evacuation area, I looked around me to see that the other workers were glancing around them while their names were being called out by the person in charge.
I need to follow the fireball, I think I can predict where it was going. Just as I was about to leave the man who pulled me to safety stopped me by the shoulder.
“Brightstar, you need to be careful.”
“I am always.”
“No.” he leaned in closer and whispered, “It’s true that Mr. Ironhide only speaks the truth, but it isn't always the whole truth, so be wary of him.”
The dawn of grim over his expression showed me how dangerous Mr Ironhide is. I nodded my head and quickly ran off.
A couple of blocks far more than I intended since I didn't get a head start. I expected the fireball would come this way, but I was too late, the trail had gone cold. My body swirled around as I examined the street. A figure with a hoodie exited one of the buildings near me, I caught him in the corner of my eye. Our gazes met, and he immediately took off into a sprint, I went after him.
He was quick and light on his feet as he vaulted over the railing. However, he underestimated my speed and tigerish spirit. There’s no way, I’m gonna let him go, not after what he did. The suspect glanced behind and immediately took a left into a tight alley. He slipped and climbed over the obstacle, I almost wasn't able to catch up, but thanks to my luck, the hooded figure's clothes were stuck against a sharp pole causing him to stumble and lose speed.
As we were about to reach the end of the alley, I poured all my strength into my legs to boost myself and slammed myself against his back causing both of us to fall forward. I heard a yelp of pain, but it wasn't the voice that I was expecting. My hand was about to grab his hood when something struck me in the gut and tossed me away. I landed on a nearby cardboard box.
That thing that hit me was hot to the touch, then it dawned on me when I saw the object. A metal bat; smudged in black ashy stains as if it had been burned.
“No, no, no…”
The hooded figure rose and caused his hood to fall off. It wasn't a ‘He’ all along, he was a ‘she’. I couldn't believe my own very eyes: Ria. She stood there with a pair of furrowed eyebrows and a cut lip. There’s no denying it, her chocolate messy hair, brown eyes, and sandy skin, it is her. I had to reassure myself that I wasn't hallucinating.
She was about to run away when I stopped her with my question.
“I don't understand, why are you doing this?”
“You think I will let them go after what they did?”
“I thought we agreed that I would handle this.”
“You? I barely know you. What makes you think that I would put my trust in you? Just because we share a single moment? You have no idea how long I’ve been fighting them, and you think just because you showed up out of nowhere that you could solve everything?”
“Ria, you just set their workplace on fire.”
“They did the same thing to Grandma Bria’s home.”
“It wasn't them. I talked to them, and they have no idea what happened.”
“You talked to them and you believed that? Are you that dumb? They hired those two Powered, and one of them can control fire. How much evidence do you need? It’s obvious from the beginning. They did it because they are snakes, slithering in darkness, and lying at any opportunity they stumble upon. You can't trust them.”
“Those people are regular folks like you and me. You’re putting your anger on the wrong person.”
“You’re just like my brother, no matter how much I tried to convince him, no matter how much I tried, he won't believe anything I said.”
“I believe you.”
“Please Ria, I am telling the truth”
She closed her ears and screamed. As her screech blocked any of my words from reaching her. I remember what Mr Aariv said; A fire that is too bright will never show its source.
“Why is that building so important to you? It's not the building, is it? There’s something else, isn’t it? You aren't just angry, you are scared. Scared of what, Ria?”
My question made its way to her causing her to stop screaming and looked at me with a tear running down her cheek.
“You don't understand, Brightstar. Nobody does. I have no one left. Everyone always leaves me behind. If I lose that building, I’m going to lose everyone else. I’m not going to let that happen, never!”
“Ria, you are putting everyone in danger. If you keep letting your anger in control, everyone is going to leave you.”
She gritted her teeth then turned around before running away with her metal bat following her. Just as I was about to take a single step forward, an insect stung me in the neck. I reached for the inside, but what I found wasn't an insect, instead, I had pulled out a small object. A metallic needle with a small vial attached to the end of it, the object was designed to look like a bullet.
Suddenly, I lost my sense of touch, every part of my body was getting numb then my sense of taste disappeared and my sight became blurry. Even my sense of hearing was disappearing. My whole body felt lighter as if I was floating in mid-air, but I wasn't. The weight of my body overwhelmed me and I dropped to the floor. In a matter of seconds, from blurry to black, complete darkness.