Chapter 20:

Brightstar Arc 4 (Chapter 4)

Brightstar: The Rising Superhero

Surrounded by falling concrete and exhausted from the fight, I took a seat beside the old hybrid. He groaned as he shifted his insectoid body into a more comfortable position. “I’ll admit that was a good hit.” He coughed lightly.Bookmark here

“Have you had enough?”Bookmark here

“Haha, I do.”Bookmark here

“Now tell me everything.”Bookmark here

“I made a deal with Long Ironhide for a cure that will save my wife. I know it’s against my better judgement to make a deal with a devil, but I had no choice. My wife is dying and… there’s no way to stop it.”Bookmark here

“What kind of deal?”Bookmark here

“The deal was I helped him develop a serum that can give a normal person power. Off the record. He doesn’t want people to know and wants nothing that can be traced back to him, so he hired us to do so. I have the manpower, and they all are loyal to me. Secret guaranteed until now that is.”Bookmark here

“A serum that can give people power? Is that even possible?”Bookmark here

“No. The furthest we got was a booster that drives people mad.”Bookmark here

“Collin…” I lowered my sight to the ground while my grip tightened around the sword.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry for what happened to him. We didn’t know they were going to test it on him.”Bookmark here

“Earlier you said about a timer?”Bookmark here

“Yes, we are on borrowed time. I don’t know what happened, but yesterday I heard they finally came close to developing a new serum that works. Things have been mobilizing. I knew right at that moment that shit was going to betray us. He was never going to find a cure for my wife. I was a fool to trust him in the first place.”Bookmark here

“You’re an idiot. That’s for sure.” I took up a smile. “What are you going to do now?”Bookmark here

“I want to be with my wife until the end.”Bookmark here

“How about your kids? You can’t leave them.”Bookmark here

“I know, but I can’t have both.”Bookmark here

“Then pick the livings. She would want it that way.”Bookmark here

“It’s not that easy.”Bookmark here

I grabbed his collars and narrowed my eyes at him. “It is. Take your wife and spend the remaining time with your entire family. Don’t deny them their last goodbye, understand?!”Bookmark here

“Damn it…” Arthur gritted his teeth and slammed his fist. “You’re right.”Bookmark here

“Good. You guys want to disappear right? Find my aunt. Find Kusagi and ask her for help. Say to her that I told you so. I know I can’t do much, but she can.”Bookmark here

“You’re letting us go?”Bookmark here

“I am.” I released his collar and sat on the rubble.Bookmark here

A familiar voice interrupted our moment. I turned away and tried to listen closely. {Brightstar, can you hear me?}Bookmark here

“Don’t trust them. They are working for Ironhide. I know because one of them picked up the serum for him,” Arthur whispered.Bookmark here

I put a finger on my lips, a signal to keep himself quiet. “Sister?”Bookmark here

{Brightstar, I can’t hear you. Can you hear me? Your video feed isn’t working, but your tracker just popped up. Damn it. If you can hear me, you need to get out of there.}Bookmark here

{I received word that a missile is heading toward your location.}Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Ironhide HQBookmark here

The lizard woman pulled up the clipboard. “Sir, we have everything in order. A support campaign has been devised. The emergency service will be ready to act on our call. All notifications have been prepared. A team is set up to help with the effort on the ground. We prepared a speech, sir, in case you need it for the media conference.”Bookmark here

Ironhide strode toward his seat that’s currently facing the window. He carefully sat while trying to find the most comfortable spot. “The best seat in the house.”Bookmark here

“The missile is on its way.”Bookmark here

An office lady walked into the room with a tray of wine and placed one of the wine glasses in Ironhide’s hand. She left the room without saying anything or even a glimpse of eye contact. She wouldn’t dare so.Bookmark here

“Sir, may I ask a question?”Bookmark here

“You have my permission.”Bookmark here

“How about the deal we made with Mr Arthur?”Bookmark here

“I fulfilled the end of my bargain. I found the cure.”Bookmark here

“Did his wife receive it?”Bookmark here

“I never promised to do it. The deal was he helped me with the serum and I found the cure, and I did, but I never said I was going to give it to him.”Bookmark here

“Understood.”Bookmark here

“Any more questions?”Bookmark here

“None sir.”Bookmark here

“Shall we get this show on the road?” Ironhide clasped his hands together in giddy.Bookmark here

“We shall, sir.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Back to Kenn.Bookmark here

“A missile?”Bookmark here

“It’s Ironhide. We need to get out of here. I got a secret exit that we can use.” Arthur rushed to his wife’s pod and untangled all the cords.Bookmark here

I ran up to him and helped him, but I don’t think we have enough time. I glanced back at the small crack in the ceiling. “Can you open up that hole?”Bookmark here

“I can, but what’s your plan?”Bookmark here

“I’m going to intercept the missile.”Bookmark here

“Can you even do that?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know. Never tried it before.”Bookmark here

“You are crazy, son, but I love it.” Arthur rushed to a big piece of equipment beside his wife’s pod.Bookmark here

He screamed. Veins popped on his forehead and around his muscles. He lifted the whole thing with both of his arms with tremendous difficulty. Slowly, he took a few forward and into a run before he flung it at that ceiling. It crashed through the crack. Debris, dirt, and the equipment fell back to the floor and revealed an even bigger hole.Bookmark here

I climbed the mound of dirt. While I stood above the small hill, my body shifted into the ‘Air’ stance. My gaze latched on the sky while I focused all my power on my legs.Bookmark here

“Godspeed,” said Arthur.Bookmark here

I waited for the perfect timing. Doubt began to cloud my mind, but as soon as my eyes spotted it, all my fear disappeared. A dark speck in the vast blue sky, but the trail of smoke was a dead giveaway. After throwing all emotion to the side, I yelled; “Stardust Style: Shooting Star!”Bookmark here

With tremendous power, I launched myself upward in speed even greater than before. A fresh trail of light can be seen behind me. I felt the enormous force pushing against my body, but slowly my power began to encase me in hardened light. The katana of light readied beside me for the perfect strike.Bookmark here

At a precise moment, as it reached into my vicinity, everything around me had somehow slowed down. A single swing was all it took. My blade sliced through it as if it was butter, no resistance whatsoever or deviation. A perfect cut.Bookmark here

The missile exploded after a few seconds from the slashed and sent my body even further up into the sky. Off the course from my earlier straight path. The explosion was strong but wasn’t destructive enough to damage the buildings nearby except for a few crack windows.Bookmark here

My body swirled uncontrollably without guidance. To make matters worse, I lost all my power while immense fatigue plagued my body. After I lost my momentum, I was heading back to earth at a breakneck speed.Bookmark here

My mind panicked as I tried to think of a way to survive this fall.Bookmark here

Strong winds lashed against my cheeks while my jacket fluttered from the fall. Fear started to rise after I went through the clouds and saw my imminent death.Bookmark here

A faint scream called out to me, “Brightstar!”Bookmark here

I rotated my body and behind me was Ria on her flying board. She dived toward me. I never felt more relief seeing her right now. I beamed a huge smile at her underneath my mask after she caught up to me.Bookmark here

“Quick, grab my hand!”Bookmark here

Without a second doubt, I took it with a firm grip. She slowly tilted her board upward and from falling, we curved our momentum upward and crashed landed on one of the roofs nearby. My body rolled alongside hers and we both hit against the edge of the building.Bookmark here

“How did you know?”Bookmark here

“My gut told me.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, Ria’s gut. I’ll make sure to feed it a lot of sandwiches tomorrow.”Bookmark here

We both laughed while trying to catch a breath. Smoke rose from the explosion and emergency sirens echoed in the street. It was a hell of a day.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Somewhere in The City.Bookmark here

Juliet stood beside a window, overlooking the hole Kenn shot himself from. Her cellphone rang, she proceeded to answer it and waited for a few seconds before saying the code word. “Heaven’s wrath.”Bookmark here

“Everything has been set according to your plan,” she continued.Bookmark here

“I have the serum.” She placed the EpiPen on the table right next to her. Then she turned to the duffel bag filled with Stoalium batteries. “The batteries are also in my possession.”Bookmark here

“No trace. No one knows I was there.”Bookmark here

“Are you certain, father?” She waited for him to finish. Her sight dropped as her heart tightened. “No, I didn’t forget. I will always be loyal to you.”Bookmark here

The call ended. She placed down the cellphone near the EpiPen and moved her hand to the trigger device beside it. She was hesitant at first, but eventually, she had no other choice. With the trigger in her hand, she pressed it with a heavy heart.Bookmark here

A column of fire sprouted from the hole where Kenn shot himself; soon, another blast at the far side of the city can be seen, then another one near the dock. Soon five raging fires can be seen all around the city. Each one of them was the entrance to the Honeycomb’s secret base.Bookmark here

Juliet pulled everything on the table into the duffel bag and walked out of the empty room with all set and done. Her face shifted from insectoid to avian, then to an unknown woman. Even her body morphed according to her chosen appearance. However, her clothes remained the same.Bookmark here

After leaving the flat, she took out another trigger and the room behind her exploded. A giant ball of fire consumed it, deleting any evidence she might leave behind if there were any. Juliet disappeared around the corner, never to be seen again.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Another secret exit.Bookmark here

Arthur and his sons ran as fast as they could while trying to escape the fire. However, Arthur had no way of escaping it without the risk of injuring his beloved wife. One of his sons slowed down until he was near the back.Bookmark here

“Father, I love you.” He halted his advance and slid the pipe between the wooden support. With all his strength, he broke the support beam and caused a cave-in. His son sealed the cave behind at cost of his life and stopped the fire from advancing.Bookmark here

“No!” Arthur screamed in anguish as he saw his son’s arm poked out from under the pile of rubble. “Archie… My son.”Bookmark here

His other sons stood behind him, tears welled up in their eyes. Some of them dropped and sobbed while others couldn’t even look at what happened. His son placed a hand on his father’s shoulder to comfort Arthur.Bookmark here

“We have to go, father. Our escape window is almost up.”Bookmark here

Arthur pulled himself together and started marching toward the exit. They were close. This path should lead them into the forest near the city. After seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the cave, it lifted the despair from their hearts.Bookmark here

However, all of that effort came to nought. A line of soldiers in black and tactical gear was waiting for them outside, and they were armed to the teeth with rifles. Each one of them aimed their sight on the group of insectoid hybrids. They were ready to rain them with bullets at the moment’s notice.Bookmark here

Arthur stopped his sons from going further and glanced between the soldiers to find a path he could take. However, it stopped when he saw a disfigured man with burn scars and in a black business suit stepped out from the line of soldiers. Bookmark here

“Arthur! Old friend… I knew you would be here.”Bookmark here

“Salamander?”Bookmark here

“I got to give you credit. I thought you died in that fire.” He tapped his chest. “Mr Ironhide was very disappointed when his missile was cut in half.”Bookmark here

“We had nothing to do with that.” Arthur kept his wife close to his chest.Bookmark here

“Whether that’s true or not. It doesn’t really matter. He was surprised to find someone had taken care of the problem before we could arrive to finish the job.”Bookmark here

“Can we skip the pleasantries, are you going to let us go or not?”Bookmark here

Salamander shook his head in disappointment. “You already know the answer. You broke the deal, my old friend. There shouldn't be any trace, but there was.”Bookmark here

“That wasn’t our fault. It was your people. What do you think would happen when you inject an experimental serum on a civilian? Besides, I didn’t break the deal. Your master did. He promised me a cure, but I haven’t seen a drop of it.”Bookmark here

“You dare call Mr Ironhide a liar? Here.” Salamander tossed a vial from his pocket to Arthur’s hand. “Here you go as promised. He was feeling a bit generous today.”Bookmark here

“How do I know it will work?” Arthur carefully examined the vial of liquid in his palm. The colour wasn’t the same as the serum he was making.Bookmark here

“Because Mr Ironhide said so. And Mr Ironhide never lies.” A grin appeared on Salamander’s face.Bookmark here

Arthur had no choice, he could allow his wife to drink this and hope for the best, or die right here and right now without knowing the cure actually works. He gritted his teeth and opened the vial before slowly letting the content drip down into his wife's mouth.Bookmark here

“The effect should be immediate. Mr Ironhide did make sure it was as effective as possible.”Bookmark here

Arthur’s wife coughed heavily and caused concern for the man, but after she stopped, her breath became normal. Even her heartbeat began slowing down to a healthy beat. A tear dropped from Arthur’s cheek as he saw his wife barely opened her eyes and smiled. Bookmark here

“Morgana… My love.”Bookmark here

The sons felt a fresh sense of relief to find their mother began showing signs of recovery.Bookmark here

However, Salamander got something else in mind. “Say, how about another deal? If you beat me, I'll let you all go, but if I win…” He chuckled. “You don’t want me to win.”Bookmark here

“I will take the deal, if only you let all my sons and my wife included go. You don't have to worry about them. They won’t tell anybody and disappear. I swear on my word.”Bookmark here

“Father!” His son shouted. “You can’t do this.”Bookmark here

“I really want to fight you, you know that right? They said you were the best. How about a counter deal? I will let your wife and one son go, but you still have to fight me to get the rest out of here. That way I still have my leverage. It’s a good deal, right?”Bookmark here

“Deal.” Arthur passed his wife to his youngest son. “Get out of here and disappear, do you understand?”Bookmark here

He nodded his head vigorously, tears in his eyes as he ran away with Morgana in his arms.Bookmark here

Arthur took a step forward, cracking his knuckle and showed a sense of desperation he had not shown before. He was set to defeat this man and save his family.Bookmark here

Salamander laughed while he unbuttoned his blazer and took out an EpiPen. He stabbed it in his thigh and held a painful groan. “Let’s see if this thing works.”Bookmark here

The serum made its way through his veins. Every cell in his body shifted and morphed, everything inside was moving and Salamander felt everything that was happening, all of it. His body rose in temperature and his eyes began to glow blue instead of orange. “I can feel it!”Bookmark here

Instead of the usual orange fireball, a sharp blue fire hovered above his hands. The heat it permeated was ten times stronger than from his old fire. The tip of his sleeves couldn’t stand the heat and was singed quickly.Bookmark here

Arthur charged forward, fist readied. However, with a single toss of his fireball, Salamander sent the massive man into the tree. Still, Arthur hadn't given up, he grabbed a log near him and charged forward again. He swung the huge log at the man. Bookmark here

Salamander turned his fireball into a blade and cut through it with ease. Afterwards, he launched himself by focusing his fire underneath his feet. His fire propelled him forward. Nearing Arthur, he swung his leg and met his target’s arm. Bookmark here

However, it wasn't a simple kick as a blast of blue fire consumed Arthur’s body and forced him to stumble back before he was burned alive.Bookmark here

Arthur was relentless as he charged forward despite the wall of fire Salamander concocted. Through the immense heat, Arthur appeared on the other side with steam rising from his carapace. He punched Salamander squarely in the face and sent him flying into a tree and broke it on impact.Bookmark here

“Now, that is what I’m talking about!” cheered Salamander as he stood once more. Blood escaped his nose. “The Fallen Knight! Heed my name because I shall be the first who defeats you.”Bookmark here

“You’re not the first.” Arthur laughed loudly, but his trembling hand betrayed his brave front. The heat had burned most of the outer carapace and melded his clothes into his flesh. The slightest shift of his body sent unimaginable pain throughout his body.Bookmark here

“Who did?”Bookmark here

“As if I’m going to tell you.” His eyes wandered to his sons, fear and tears in their eyes. A subtle nod from him told them what to do next. Bookmark here

“An old man like me was lucky to have you all,” he said to his sons with a confident smile.Bookmark here

He yelled out while Salamander readied himself into a launch. However, Arthur got an upper hand over his enemy. There’s no way he could win, he knew that from the beginning, but what he could do was to give his sons a chance to escape. So he did. Arthur grabbed the log from his earlier fight and tossed it at the soldiers.Bookmark here

Salamander saw through his plan but was too late to stop himself from flying straight to him. ‘No matter’ was what he thought as he buried his blue blade into Arthur’s chest. It pierced his target torso and the tip appeared on the other side.Bookmark here

Arthur’s sons ran without looking back because if they do, all their father's sacrifice will be in vain. It broke their heart to abandon their father like this, but what choices do they have.Bookmark here

Salamander was about to chase after Arthur’s sons, but he was surprised when Arthur, himself, slammed Salamander into the ground and sat on top of him. Fear rose inside him as he saw the smile on his enemy’s face.Bookmark here

“I am Arthur, the Fallen Knight, and you are not the first who defeated me!” Arthur slammed his fists against Salamander repeatedly with what was left of his strength. Blood spewing from Salamander’s mouth.Bookmark here

Beautiful memories of his sons and wife flashed before his very eyes. The face of his earlier opponent appeared; his hope now lies with him. Brightstar.Bookmark here

However, Salamander won’t let himself die here, not at the hand of this old man. He sprouted fire from his mouth which consumed Arthur’s body, but it did not stop him, yet managed to slow him down.Bookmark here

Slowly, Arthur came to a halt. Salamander slid himself out of his grasp and finally was able to catch a breath. Arthur kneeled there, unmoving, and showed no sign of life. All his flesh was burned to a blackened crisp, despite that, a smile was etched permanently on his face. Bookmark here

The remaining soldiers took Salamander away to help with his wound.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

I dragged myself to the edge, and with horror, I saw the column of fire from where the hole I came from and many others throughout the city. I tried to stand up through the immense fatigue but stumbled back down.Bookmark here

Ria rushed to me and took hold of my arm. “You need to go to the hospital.”Bookmark here

“No, I need to find Sister. I need to help them.” I tried to stand again but failed.Bookmark here

“You can’t. Not with your condition.”Bookmark here

“Please, I have to make sure. Please…” I turned to Ria with reddened eyes.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, but you need to go to the hospital.”Bookmark here

“Damn it!” I slammed my fist against the concrete.Bookmark here

After an hour of flight, Ria brought me to the hospital despite my reluctance. At the hospital, they sat me on a chair in the examination room. The same familiar Doc who has been dating my mother took up the job to make sure any injuries I sustained weren't critical. Ria stayed beside me to make sure I didn’t leave without a proper inspection.Bookmark here

“A few nasty bruises, second-degree burns, and a sprained wrist on your left hand. I’ll set you up with a cast. You are in no condition to go to school or play any kind of heavy sport. In the meantime, you should spend the remainder of your day resting.” He wrote it down on his clipboard.Bookmark here

“No can do, Doc.”Bookmark here

“Didn't you hear what I said? If you push too far, your body won’t make it.” Doc pointed his pen at my left wrist.Bookmark here

“I’ll make it work. Are we done? Because I need to go.” My feet tapped against the floor in a rhythm that annoyed Ria.Bookmark here

She uncrossed her arms. “Kenn, take this seriously.”Bookmark here

“I am!” I yelled out without even realizing it. The other me tried to claw out, but after a few deep breaths, my heart began to calm down. I turned to Ria. She was frightened, not at me, but for me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. You need to understand, I have to make sure they are safe. I promised them.”Bookmark here

They are dead.Bookmark here

Because of you!Bookmark here

“Shut up…” I whispered to myself, then took another breath.Bookmark here

“Should I call your mom?” Doc asked.Bookmark here

“No.” Ria stepped forward. I looked at her and found understanding in her gaze. “Don’t tell anyone. Can you walk, Kenn?”Bookmark here

Despite the pain, I stood up while my fingers dug into my palm. “Easy.”Bookmark here

“Do you have any way to contact your handler?”Bookmark here

“My phone.” I reached into my pocket and took it out. Bookmark here

The cracked screen was the least of my concern. I swiped the screen and tapped to call. After putting it near my ear, I waited for the other side to answer. It did, and I heard a subtle sigh of relief coming from the speaker.Bookmark here

{I knew you were fine. I was a bit worried when I saw your tracker went to the hospital.}Bookmark here

“Sister, it’s about what happened.”Bookmark here

{Stop. Not through here. The dock at 10 P.M. I will be waiting.}Bookmark here

The line went dead. I slid the phone back into my pocket and turned to Ria. “Let’s go.”Bookmark here

Ria opened the door and waited outside for me. I took my katana and carried it on my back, then took my mask with me. Before I could leave, Doc stopped me and handed me a small bottle. He looked at me with worry in his eyes. “Two pills. Four-time a day. Think of your mother before you make any rash decision.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, Doc.” I took the bottle and slid it into my pocket.Bookmark here

We left the hospital using Ria's ability to fly. When we arrived at the dock, I told Ria everything I knew. About the serum, E-HAD, Collin, Ironhide, and everything. She took it well at first, but I can tell she was pissed off. We both shared the same anger. This was a conspiracy that involved the higher form of government and I wonder if I can do anything.Bookmark here

I waited for Sister to come while Ria took the time to watch out for any suspicious individual. The sun sunk in the endless horizon while darkness began to creep around us. Two headlights from a familiar van drove toward us. It stopped in front of me, the door opened and revealed Sister.Bookmark here

Ria flew down to meet my handler. “Violet Jet, nice to meet you.”Bookmark here

“Sister, E-HAD agent.” She turned to me. “The HQ went insane after the lair was destroyed. What happened there?”Bookmark here

“Before we go any further…” My hand reached for the katana. “Tell me the truth, can I trust you?”Bookmark here

“What?” She turned to Ria, the girl had taken arm and waited for any sudden movements. “Look, I don’t know what this is about, but have faith in me.”Bookmark here

“Can we trust her?” Ria asked.Bookmark here

“We have to. I got no one else.” I returned my gaze to Sister and removed my hand from my katana. “Arthur told me everything. Ironhide is the source of it all. He made a deal with Honeycomb to help with a serum. He used that failed serum on Collin and turned him berserk. To add fire to the mix, E-HAD was working for them.”Bookmark here

“E-HAD? This whole situation is fubar. No wonder, the High Table personally called me and told me to drop the case. Tell me about the serum.”Bookmark here

“At first it was a fail booster, but their true intention was to create a serum that can give ordinary people power. I think they succeeded.”Bookmark here

“That’s bad. With that kind of serum, there would be only chaos.” She paced back and forth. “We need to tell Bradford.”Bookmark here

“We can’t. If there is a possibility that he is working for Ironhide, then we all will be screwed.”Bookmark here

“No. Not him, never in a million years.” He looked me in the eyes and meant every word she said.Bookmark here

“What makes you so sure?”Bookmark here

Sister paused for a moment before continuing, “He hates Powered after what happened to his family. And if he ever finds out about this, he will bring hell upon them.”Bookmark here

“Damn it, I don’t have a choice, do I?” I paused and contemplated every outcome. “Call him.”Bookmark here

Sister was about to get into the van when something flew by and stabbed her neck. I turned to her as she wobbled and took out a dart from her neck. She looked at it, confused, then back at me. I rushed to her and let her fall into my arms. Ria pulled me along with Sister back into the van.Bookmark here

“What the hell?” Ria asked as she kept herself near cover while taking a couple of peaks outside.Bookmark here

Multiple headlights can be seen heading toward them. I slammed my fist against the van body. Ironhide was coming for me, and they took out Sister. I checked her pulse and breathed a sigh of relief when I felt a pulse. “We need to leave.”Bookmark here

“How do you suppose we do that?”Bookmark here

I turned to the keys in the ignition and back at Ria. “You need to bring her with you. Stay low.”Bookmark here

Ria grabbed my arm. “What about you?”Bookmark here

“I’m going to use the van and distract them. Wait for my light.”Bookmark here

“Are you crazy? No matter what happened, I won't leave you behind.”Bookmark here

I took her by the collar, my grip was trembling as my reddened eyes stared back into hers. “Please…” It was obvious that I was afraid to see her get hurt because of me. Even though I know she felt the same way as I do. However, I had to beg her to leave. It’s the only way.Bookmark here

Out of nowhere, she embraced me. “You owe me a sandwich, don’t you forget it.”Bookmark here

I nodded my head and got ready behind the wheel while Ria prepared herself at the door with Sister. The window of opportunity on this one plan was going to be tight. One wrong move was all it was going to take for them to start chasing after Ria instead of me. I hope everything is going to plan and both of us make it out alive.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.