Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
I know it’s crazy going to the Undercity this late at night, but I need to know whether my solution is viable or not. So I’m going to meet Collin at the arena, he’ll be there, I know he will.
Going through the Undercity entrance, a bombardment of screams echoed from the middle of the city. From here I couldn’t make out what it was, but there’s something there in the distance, breaking houses and charging through buildings.
Without a second thought, I ran down the stairs, skipping a few steps along the way. It doesn’t take a long time for me to get near the sources after taking a shortcut through a restaurant.
My legs halted after a familiar voice called out to me.
“Kenn?” My heart dropped when I heard his voice. It was Stripes The Tiger. His back lay against a metal wall with blood dripping from his fur and a part of his shoulder was bitten off.
“Stripes, what happened?” I kneeled beside him and tore my sleeves to stop his bleeding.
“You need to get help--Now! Go!”
Scream of terror and the noise of destruction haunted the background, “I can’t.”
“Listen to me, you can’t fight him alone, Kid. Now, scram!”
Before Stripes was able to finish his sentence, I was already heading toward the creature. My mind doubted my strength because whoever managed to beat Stripes isn't someone to be underestimated. I know, I fought Stripes before, and I know what he’s capable of.
Nearing the source, my heart dropped and my legs froze in place. I couldn't believe who it was. Collin, the shark-man hybrid, was rampaging in the city’s square. A trail of destruction was left behind as he smashed everything that stood in his path.
It was getting direr when Collin spotted two Hybrids hidden behind a stall’s counter. He charged toward them with bloodlust in his eyes. However, before he could do anything to them, I ran up to him and took his arm before using his momentum against himself.
Collin was thrown into a nearby empty stall, destroying it in pieces. I turned to the two Hybrids and forced them to run away before returning my attention to Collin.
The shark man had already recovered in a matter of seconds and was looming over me. He brought his fists down on me, but I jumped away at the last second. Stumbling as I tried to stand up, I had to back away again when he tried to bite my head off.
“Collin! What’s wrong with you?”
The out-of-control Hybrid showed no sign of recognition after I called out his name. He kept trying to attack me, but I evaded all his moves at the last second. His movement was far too predictable as if he was running on pure animal instinct.
“Collin! This is not you, Collin! Wake up!” Surprisingly, the man suddenly stopped and stood there like a statue while his gaze was directed at me. I sense recognition and pain behind his eyes.
I reached out toward him, but that was a mistake, Collin roared before he swung his fist against me. Furthermore, I was thrown back by the sheer force from his strength, crashing through several wooden stalls before stopping on the fourth. My back was in excruciating pain, I felt a thousand splinters digging in as my body shifted. There’s no way I could move after a hit like that.
However, when Collin walked toward a group of people hiding in one of the buildings that’s when I had to stand up. Turning my gaze to the metal pipe beside me, I kicked it apart and took it as my temporary sword.
“Collin!” I shouted as I stood behind him in a ‘Water’ stance.
He turned his maw at me, drooling and dripping with Stripes’s blood.
“If you are in there. Please fight back!”
Taking my weights off, I threw it at Collin in which he caught but was pushed back several meters before stopping. Before he could toss it aside, I was already near him in a few seconds. I swung my pipe against Collin’s arm sending a shock in the air.
His skin was tough, maybe too tough for me to do anything about, but I ain’t going to let that stop me. My attacks were unrelenting as I swung and deflected his attack. Hitting his body in several areas, but failed to do any real damage.
Collin sent a punch toward my direction, I turned to the ‘Earth’ stance and blocked it. It was an unsuccessful block as Collin’s fist bent through the metal pipe and hit me square in the chest. I was thrown up to the canopy, breaking it apart before falling back onto the ground.
He charged toward me, this time determined to bite my body in half. I tried to get up but found my shoulder had been dislocated. I got no time to tend to my shoulder, instead, I jumped away and let Collin’s charged through where I was.
To move with a dislocated shoulder was a bad idea, I stumbled down and face planted against the hard surface when the pain struck back. However, no matter how much in pain I was, I needed to stop Collin before he hurt anyone else, so I lifted myself and glanced at the metal dumpster near me.
Collin charged again, and again I evaded, but this time I ran toward the dumpster, slamming my shoulder against it causing the bone to pop back in place with a loud thunk. An involuntary scream escaped me before dropping to my knees.
“I’m sorry, Aunty.”
Before I even realized it, he stood over me with his fists up in the air. I was about to face my maker when I changed my hand into a hard light and blinded him into a stagger. I stood up and with my glowing fists, I sent several punches under his ribs and kept on continuing until Collin finally brought his fist down. However, his attack was fruitless because I already changed my location by rolling away.
I aimed for his back, sending several punches using my hard light fists. Every hit I managed to land was filled with weights, sending several shocks in the air. Collin swung his arm around, and I responded by deflecting his attack before ducking down and landed a couple more jabs against his stomach.
The joints in my arms ached from my unrestrained strength, but my hard-light fists were fully capable of taking the blow against Collin’s tough skin.
An opportunity arose when he brought his fists down again, giving me a platform to launch myself. I ran up his arms and jumped straight up. I aimed myself to fall on top of him while in the air then kept my fist back for a powerful punch.
I don’t know why, but at that very moment, as I was about to deliver the final punch, Collin’s face changed to his usual self, showing signs of defiance. Whether it was my imagination or his act of defiance, it caused me to hesitate. That hesitation was my undoing as he opened his mouth revealing a set of razor-sharp teeth. I had lost the chance to end this and was heading straight down into his mouth.
“AARGH!” Stripes appeared out of nowhere and jammed his arm inside Collin’s mouth.
Collin chomped Stripes’ arm off, sending gushes of blood everywhere before grabbing him and flung him against me. Both of us were thrown back into the same direction. Crashing into a pile of long metal pipes. Instead of letting me crash into a bunch of pipes, Stripes took me into his chest and let his back take the full brunt of the impact.
I gathered myself and moved away from Stripes. He grunted and groaned while trying to stop his bleeding. “I know what you are thinking, but that! Isn’t Collin. Collin is somewhere inside there, and he’s waiting for you to wake him up. So don't you dare hesitate.”
“I know ‒ damn it, I know!” After grabbing three pipes at once, I tied all of them together by using my other sleeve.
“Focus…” I took a deep breath in. "Remember Juliet ‒ remember the Ferris wheel.” I held the makeshift sword beside me and used the ‘Air’ stance.
Collin growled before I charged toward him. He raised his arms forward, hoping to catch me. He was fast, but this time I was faster, I tilted my body slightly to the left and the right, avoiding his grasps. Before he knew it, I was under him.
“Tashikawa style: Gust.” I swung my sword upward.
My makeshift sword broke apart upon impact against Collin’s jaw before sending him up in the air, knocking him out completely. He fell with a loud thump, groaning while being unconscious. With a loud sigh, I fell to my knees, completely exhausted and barely able to keep myself up. I needed to stay awake, Stripes still needed my help, but even my body has its limit.
I kept my gaze on Stripes as much I could before falling into darkness. Eventually, there’s no stopping it, I fell unconscious from the sheer fatigue.
In the distance, overlooking the aftermath from one of the buildings was a Hybrid, half-woman, half-lizard. A familiar one at that. She held her phone close to her ear and said, “Yes, Mr Ironhide. The experiment is a failure. The subject went out of control as you expected, sir.”
“Yes, sir. Moving to phase two,” she said before disappearing into the darkness.
A dripping sensation on my forehead woke me up. Groaning and grunting, I was greeted by an unfamiliar ceiling. I think I lost count of how many times I fainted after a fight. My eyes wandered around the room and found no one except for myself.
It seems someone had patched me up because I found a freshly wrapped bandage around my chest.
With a light gasp, I left the bed and examined the room. The room I’m in looks like a storage unit rather than the regular hospital room I’m used to.
A chilling breeze washed over me causing me to shiver, so I proceeded to grab the spare shirt hanging on the chair beside me and wore it.
I went through the door and was surprised to find myself at the dock with the vast ocean spread out before me.
Beautifully echoing from a nearby shabby boat was Bradford with a guitar in his hands. Serenading along with the crashing waves was a tune reminiscent of country blues.
“Bradford? Why are you here? How long was I out? Wait? Stripes! He’s injured. We need toー”
“Calm down, Kid. Everything’s been taken care of. Come aboard. Grab a stool.” Bradford's thick British accent was just like I remembered it.
I dropped onto the deck causing the boat to sway slightly. After I gathered my footing, I grabbed the nearest stool and brought it closer to Bradford before setting it down for me to use.
“Hybrid, Enhanced, and Energized. It doesn't matter what they called them. All I know is every one of them is powered. And the history of Powered is filled with nothing but violence and death. Do you agree?”
“I don’t agree with you because superheroes exist.”
“Ah yes, superheroes. The embodiment of righteousness and everything good in this world. However, even superheroes can fall, and when he or she does, who will be there to stop them? Simple, the answer is another Powered, and the cycle of violence continues.”
“Do you truly believe that powered are capable of nothing but violence?”
“Six humans and two of your kind are in the hospital. You tell me.”
“What’s going to happen to Collin?”
“He will be sent to a containment facility offshore where he is going to spend his entire life.”
“You can't throw Collin in prison. I know him, tonight wasn't his fault. He’s just not the type to go out of control. There must be another reason.”
“I have detained Powered that have lost control of their abilities for years now. Every last one of those cases showed no sign of exterior involvement. So what makes this case any different from others?”
“Called it my gut. I lost control of my power once, so I know what it felt like. During that moment I was awake, I fully realized what I had done, but Collin. He wasn’t there. It was like his brain was shut off while his body ran on pure instinct.”
“Gut, ha? Hmm, alright then, I'm putting all my chips on you.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I meant was: I’m going to give you a chance to find out for yourself and prove Collin’s innocence. Welcome to E-HAD, Brightstar. You passed the evaluation.”
“Yes. You had shown yourself capable of detaining Collin. I would give you a near-perfect score if I was the type to use scores. Tonight, I will assign a Handler to you, she will introduce herself to you tomorrow, and provide anything you need. You will start working on this case with her so do your best to get along.”
“I still can't believe it. I passed?”
“Is it hard to believe? You proved your worth, isn't that enough?”
“I guess so.”
“Go home, Kid. Get some rest, you need it.” He took out a wad of cash and gave it to me, “For the ride home.”
“This is too much.”
“Use it to your heart content. There will be plenty more where that came from.”
“Thank you, Bradford.”
“Only the best for my team and I expect you to give your best.”
“Good to hear that. Make yourself proud rather than make me proud.”
A smile spread on Bradford’s face after he extended his fist at me. I bumped it with my fist before leaving my seat. This side of Bradford was still new to me, I never saw him this genuine and generous. Before I left, I waved my goodbye to him then headed toward the nearest Maglev station.
Back at home.
I quietly unlocked the door before pushing it open. It’s 2 A.M and I don’t want to wake my mother up. However, when I turned to face the living room, I saw my mom on the sofa. Lucky for me, she’s sleeping soundly without a care in the world.
There’s something in her arms, I got close, and it was a picture of my dad. My legs were frozen for a few seconds as I took a long stare at it. A sigh escaped me as I backed away and went to my mother’s bedroom to grab a blanket.
When I returned, I placed the blanket over her as gently as I could to not wake her. A snore escaped her and caused me to let out a soft chuckle. It’s better that I leave my mom here than move her. I rather not wake her because it was late, and I don’t need another lecture from her after what happened with my aunt.
As I made my way to my bedroom, a glistening white on the kitchen counter caught my attention. After I got closer, I was a bit surprised to find a vanilla cake sitting on the kitchen counter alone. There’s something written on it, ‘Good luck, Kenn!’ My hands immediately clenched into a fist.
“That’s why she was sleeping in the living room. This cake was for me. She was waiting for me to come home,” I muttered to myself.
I shook my head then brought the cake with me to the living room. After placing the cake on the coffee table in front of my mother, I went back to the kitchen and grabbed a lighter. It was a simple three flicks and the candles were set aflame.
My mom awoke with a grumble, she squinted at me, “Ph *gasp* er-i-lip...?” It was barely audible, but that was my mom’s real voice. The one I grew up with.
My eyes widened as it began to water. It had been a while since I heard his name, especially from my mother’s mouth. I cleared my eyes before putting on a big smile, “No, it’s me, Kenn.”
She rubbed her eyes before turning to face the clock, -It’s late. Where have you been?-
My hands pressed against each other, “I’m sorry. I went out with a friend from school today. I had to make sure she got home safe.” There’s no way I’m going to let my mom know that I have been in a fight.
-A girl?!- Her eyes widened at the mere mention of the word.
“Yeah, her name is Juliet.”
My mom quickly straightened herself. -Do you have feelings for this girl?-
“What? N-No. Mom! We barely get to know each other besides I think she saw me as an idol rather than myself.”
-Idol? No matter, I think we need to talk about the birds and the bees.-
“Mom! I thought we were celebrating?”
My mom's gaze wandered to the cake with flaming candles on top of it. -I bought it for you. I thought it might cheer you up, and we haven't spent much time lately. And I know you’re busy, but I miss my son.-
“It’s 3.00 A.M, but I think there is something on the TV that we can watch together.” I took a seat right beside her then turned on the television.
It was a documentary about my mom. I mean her alternate ego, Silver Cloak. It went on praising her deeds, her abilities, and her history. It felt kinda weird watching a documentary about someone who sat right next to me.
“Does Dad know?”
-He did, and he didn't mind one bit. He admired it. You know without him, I would be useless without my power. Since you know, my power makes it easy to do things, but when I stopped using my power, your dad the one who taught me to do things...manually.-
“Was my dad a powered too?”
-No, he wasn't. He was just a normal man with a good heart.-
“You told me he died in a crash, was it true?”
-Of course, it was, I would never lie to you about that. He died trying to save someone. It was my fault he died. I had all the powers, but one thing I couldn’t do was saved him.-
“Mom…” I leaned closer to her and wrapped my arm around her.
-It’s okay. I have made my peace with it. One thing I learned is death is a part of life. So when I die one day… raise your chin and keep that smile of yours because I don't want to see you got sad over me.-
“Since we are celebrating, can you guess what happened today?”
-You finally got yourself a girlfriend?- That was a genuine answer from my mom.
“No! I got my Hero licence back.”
-You did? But I thought the evaluation is at the end of the week?-
“That’s true, but Bradford said an interview was good enough.”
-Oh, I guess we need to get the other cake then!-
-Yes, let me grab the other one.- She left the couch and headed toward the kitchen.
“Mom, we don't need another cake. There’s already too much of it,” I groaned before going after her.
“It’s late and you're still training? You have quite the determination,” complemented Cindy after she entered the training room.
“I have to if I want this to work,” said Ria as she dropped the hefty dumbbell and proceeded to do push-ups.
Sweats dripped down her muscles and abs, drenching her sports bra. Ria’s body has been chiselled to near perfection after several months of non-stop training. However, she still kept going. Unrelenting in the pursuit of her newfound goal.
“Do you want to hear the good news?”
“Your review just got in. They said you are good to go for the real deal.”
Ria turned to Cindy with eyes widened before grabbing a towel to wipe the sweats off her face. “Are you sure?”
“There’s no question about it. We can start tomorrow if you want to. All I need to know is are you ready?” Cindy leaned against the wall.
“No doubt it.”
“Good to hear. Grab your jacket and follow me.”
Ria brought the jacket with her as they made their way to the elevator. Inside the lift, Cindy took out a card and swiped it before pressing the button. The elevator brought them down to the lowest level where only a few certain people had access to.
The door opened revealing a dim-lit lab filled with all kinds of high-tech equipment. Cindy walked to the fuse box and pushed up the lever in which turned on the lights.
Ria took a look around while Cindy made her way to the centre of the lab where a makeshift bedroom was located. The surrounding walls were made with office partitions. There’s a bunch of empty ramen cups scattered near the entrance. Someone had been living here for quite some time.
“Ricky, wake up honey.”
A soft groan came out from the pile of blankets. Emerged from it was an old woman, who is older than Cindy with greys in her short messy hairs and wrinkles on her face. There are noticeable bags under her eyes, and when she stood up, she was shorter than Cindy or even Ria.
“I’m sorry to wake you up, but I brought someone for you to meet.”
“Who is it?” She patted her overalls and wore her lab coat.
Ria walked to them with a bright smile and extended her hand to the woman, “My name is Ria. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She let out a chuckle as she turned away, directing her ears to her, “If you offered me a handshake then I apologize first. You see my eyes aren't what they used to be.”
Upon a closer inspection, Ria’s cheeks turned red with embarrassment when she realized that Ricky was blind. “Sorry, I didn't know.”
“It’s okay. Ria? That's a familiar name.” Ricky extended her hand and Ria took it gently. “You have a very rough hand. You must have been quite the fighter.”
“I had a bit of wild side back then.”
“Back then? Pfft, you're still young.” Ricky let out a soft chuckle.
“I am. I know. It’s…”
“It’s okay. You don’t need to tell me if you don't want to.”
Cindy let out a cough, “I don't want to intrude, but Ria is here for the thing.”
“Oh yes, follow me,” Ricky said as she walked toward a table with a limp in her left leg.
They made their way to a table, and Ricky proceeded to press a button which caused a panel to rise from the floor. In that panel was a set of matching equipment.
Ricky tapped on the board in the shape of a skateboard without wheels then pressed a button which caused a pair of rocket engines to pop from the back. Another press of a button revealed a pair of antennas to pop at the tip of the board that was energized with electricity.
“Woah, is it a taser?”
“Yep, it is. I fitted it with a pair of boosters and a taser as per Cindy’s recommendation. A baseball bat is supposed to be used with this. Seems a bit weird to me. Nevertheless, I did what Cindy asked of me and made sure it was compatible. You can use it as transportation or as a weapon. You know my husband was a fan of baseball.”
“This is amazing,” Ria said with awe.
“If you think that’s amazing, wait till you hear the suit. Do you get it? I used Hear instead of See. You know because I’m blind” A sly grin on her face, she turned to Cindy which caused her to let out a chuckle, but when she turned to Ria, she only raised her eyebrow and smiled. “By the way, I’m blind, so I can’t see your expression.”
“As much as I love your pun, Ricky, could you please show her the suit?”
“You know I came with puns. Anyway, the suit has a triple layer and is made of fabric that can absorb force. However, there’s a limit to it, I’m afraid. If you were to be hit by a bus per se, you might not survive it, but in a regular fight, it could take a few edges off. I also take the time to implement standard heat resistance, cold resistance, and shock resistance.”
Ria’s jaw dropped at the well-made suit, it was more than well-made. She even added a slice of her favourite colour, dark purple, “This is for me?”
“Yep. I also added a hidden pocket for your stuff.” Ricky reached in and showed it to her. “So being a Superhero, huh? It’s not going to be easy you know, dangerous even.”
“I know, but I need to do this.”
“Why though? If you want to help a person, you could be a police officer, a fireman, or a doctor.”
“It’s not that simple. I have a criminal record.”
“Did a bunch of stuff back then, but my main thing was getting into fights. All I have done in my life is fighting and for the wrong reason. I’m not good at anything else. It's not like I didn’t try, I tried cooking, I tried cleaning, and I even tried painting, but none of it worked. If I'm only good at fighting then for once in my life, I want to fight for a good reason. Just like someone, I know”
“Is that special someone a boy?” A sly grin appeared on Ricky's face.
“It's not like that! Okay?!” The young girl's cheeks turned red as her shoulders stiffened. She stared at the blind woman with furrowed eyebrows.
“Ricky, be polite, it might be her first crush,” Cindy chimed in.
“We were just joking around. Now that everything is ready, you can start tomorrow after school.”
“I can't wait,” Ria said as she took a long gaze at the suit. Her hands clenched tightly while her brows furrowed. This moment marked a new turning point for her. A new chance for her to be better. To do something good in her life. She won’t let anyone down any more. It’s a promise to herself and to the people who love her.