Authors: Lucas Flint
Tags: #young adult, #superheroes
Then I heard Dad grunt and, shaking my head, I looked up to see that Robert had grabbed Dad by the neck. Even worse, he was clearly choking Dad with his super strength and Dad was still too weak from his ghost attack to fight back or shoot the powerless gas at him.
There was no way I could fly over there in time to save Dad, so I raised my hand and shot a red lightning bolt at Robert without even thinking about it. Robert had just enough time to notice it coming before the bolt struck him in the side and sent him flying past Tara, who screamed when he flew past her. Once more, Robert vanished somewhere into another pile of crates, but I didn’t go to see where he’d landed.
Instead, I ran over to Dad, who was now lying very still on the floor, and scooped him up into my arms, saying, “Dad, are you awake? Can you hear me? Just say something. Anything.”
Dad’s helmet made it impossible to tell if his eyes were open or not, but I did hear him moan in pain and say, in a pained whisper, “Can … barely … breathe …”
“Can you still fight?” I said.
Dad shook his head. “No. Too weak.”
“But then how will we use the powerless gas?” I said.
“Take my gauntlet,” said Dad, raising his arm. “Valerie … will help you figure out how to use it.”
It pained me to hear the obvious pain that Dad was in, but I knew there was nothing I could do to help him right now. So I took his gauntlet off his arm and slipped it over my own. It fit surprisingly well, despite the differences in our arm and hand sizes.
As soon as I put it on, my earcom crackled and Valerie said, “Hello, Kevin. Do you need help learning how to launch the powerless gas missile?”
“Yes,” I said as I rested Dad on the ground, who had gone silent again. I stood up. “How does it work?”
“Simply aim at your target and then tap the red button on the touch screen once the target is locked,” said Valerie. “It is very simple.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Now I just need to actually use it against Robert.”
Just as I said that, Robert once more launched out of the wreckage of the crates, but this time I flew up to meet him. We faced each other in midair, circling in the air once again.
“I don’t know what that red lightning bolt that you hit me with earlier was,” said Robert, “but it doesn’t matter because I’m going to pound you into powder anyway.”
“Right,” I said. “Haven’t you been threatening to do that to me a few times already? And look at me, I’m still not powder.”
Robert growled. “Whatever. And I see that gauntlet you’re wearing. I know what’s in it. But you’ll never get a chance to use it against me. I’ll make sure of that.”
Before I could come up with a witty response, Robert soared toward me with his foot out like he was trying to kick me.
I dodged at the last second and grabbed his leg as he passed and tried to hurl him away. Unfortunately, he just went immaterial when I did that, allowing him to slip out of my hands with ease.
Robert tried to fly through me, but I flew up and avoided him. Then I turned around and shot a burst of red lightning at him, mostly out of instinct, and was surprised when it actually hit him and forced him to rematerialize.
“Huh?” said Robert, looking down at his solid hands in shock. “How did that—”
I didn’t even let him finish. I rammed into his back, sending him crashing to the floor again, and then aimed Dad’s gauntlet at him. I was just about to fire it when Robert suddenly fired oil at me, forcing me to dodge.
But it turned out to be a feint on his part, because he suddenly flew at me with his fists pulled back. I knew he was going to punch me and there was no way I could dodge in time, so I instinctively crossed my arms in front of me in the shape of an X.
When Robert's fists smashed into my arms, I heard a loud
and noticed that he had hit Dad’s gauntlet. He hadn’t actually smashed the canister containing the powerless gas, but he had practically destroyed the gauntlet.
Before I could react, Robert grabbed the gauntlet and ripped it off my hand. He dropped it to the floor below, where it hit the floor with a small
“There,” said Robert. He punched his fist into his other hand. “Now that we have that out of the way, I think I can finally go all out.”
Robert suddenly tackled me and sent us both falling to the floor. We crashed into the floor so hard that we actually created a deep crater, breaking through the foundation into the dirt below.
Robert then began beating on me again, forcing me to cover my face with my arms to defend myself. But his fists just kept coming, each one more vicious than the last, and more than a few of his punches got through my defenses. It didn’t help that I was basically pinned and unable to get up or fly away.
fighting you,” Robert said in between blows. “I … just … want … you … to … die!”
I couldn’t respond, because I was too busy defending myself to say anything. I just realized that I was likely going to die unless I could get an opening, but with Robert's punches coming so fast, it was almost impossible for me to hit back.
Then, through the opening above, I saw something small and metallic fall down straight toward Robert. The object smashed into the back of Robert's head, causing him to stop beating on me and cry out in surprise. He looked up and said, “What the hell was that?”
But I saw it. Lying inches from me was Dad’s crushed gauntlet, complete with the yellow gas canister. I didn’t even hesitate to rip out the canister just as Robert looked down at me again.
“Huh?” said Robert. Then his eyes widened. “Oh, no. You won’t get me.”
Robert started to turn into his ghostly form, but I grabbed his leg and channeled some of that red lightning through his body. Immediately, Robert roared in pain and his body became solid again as he stumbled against the wall of the hole.
I jumped to my feet and, without hesitation, smashed the canister—glass and all—against Robert’s face with as much strength as I could muster. I hit him so hard that the canister exploded in his face, unleashing the powerless gas, which also hit me, but it hadn’t yet taken effect. I shoved Robert’s head back into the dirt as hard as I could, even as I felt the yellow gas starting to rob me of my own powers.
Then I smashed my fist straight through Robert’s stomach and into the dirt wall behind him. I didn’t even get to hear Robert cry out in pain. I just felt him stop resisting under my fist, at which point I removed my now-bloody fist from his stomach and staggered backwards, coughing from the yellow gas.
Damn … the powerless gas was starting to drain me of my powers. Already I was feeling even weaker than I had just a moment ago, feeling like I had before I took the serum, if not worse. The repeated blows I had taken from Robert were starting to take their toll on my body and I wouldn’t be surprised if that meant I was going to die here and now.
But then, all of a sudden, a rope was tossed into the pit. I didn’t know who had thrown it in, but I immediately grabbed it. As soon as I wrapped my hands around it, I was jerked upwards, through the rapidly growing yellow cloud of powerless gas and back onto the cracked concrete floor of the warehouse.
Breathing in the air, I looked up to see who had tossed me that rope. To my surprise, it was Tara. She still wore her cracked glasses and still looked worse than she normally did, but she had apparently managed to summon the strength to help me up somehow. She must have been stronger than she looked.
“Tara?” I said. The power drain I had felt in the pit was going away, but I still felt weaker than usual. “How did you get free?”
“Your dad helped me,” said Tara. “When you and Robert were fighting, your dad somehow managed to find the strength to get me down. He told me to toss you that gauntlet, because he said it was the key to defeating Robert.”
I blinked and said, “What? I thought Dad was too weak to do anything.”
“He must not have been as hurt by Robert as you thought,” said Tara. “But he went really still and quiet when I left. I don’t know if he’s … if he’s …”
Tara seemed incapable of finishing the sentence, so I just said, “Get me over to him. We need to check if he’s okay.”
Tara nodded, albeit shakily, and then helped me to my feet. Leaning on Tara for support, we made our way back to the bubbling vat of acid where Dad lay. He really was lying incredibly still, much stiller than I had ever seen him before. He looked almost … I didn’t want to think that word.
“Dad?” I said as Tara and I approached him. “Dad, can you hear us?”
Dad didn’t respond.
I let go of Tara and fell to my knees by Dad’s side. I removed his helmet and set it aside so I could get a good look at Dad’s face.
Dad looked dead. His eyes were closed and there was no air coming out of his lungs. His face was extremely pale, but I wouldn’t even consider that he might be dead. He was just unconscious. That was all.
“Dad, Dad, can you hear me?” I said. I shook him several times. “Dad, please wake up. Don’t … please wake up.”
All of a sudden, Dad’s eyes snapped open. He took a shape intake of breath and then exhaled, but it sounded extremely painful. His eyes flickered over to me, but they no longer looked as alive as they once had.
“K-Kevin?” said Dad. He reached out to me with his hand, which I took into my own. “Robert …”
“He’s dead,” I said. I tried not to shed any tears, but my voice shook anyway. “He’s not a threat to anyone anymore. We’re safe. You, me, and Mom.”
Dad nodded, but it was even shakier than Tara’s. “Thank … thank god.”
“Genius’s vitals are very low,” said Valerie's voice in my ear suddenly. “He needs immediate medical attention if he is going to survive.”
“Send a message to the police and tell them Robert is down,” I said to Valerie. “And tell them to send in any medics they have on hand.”
“Yes, sir,” said Valerie. “Sending message for help now.”
Then I looked at Dad again and squeezed his hand. “It’s all right, Dad. Valerie is calling for help. You just need to hang in there for a little while longer.”
“Good old Valerie,” Dad said. He coughed. “Always so helpful … but I am so weak …”
“You don’t need to be super strong, Dad,” I said. “Just hang in there. You won’t need to hold on much longer. Ten minutes, can you give me ten minutes?”
“Ten … minutes is too long,” said Dad. He shuddered. “Tell Ashley … tell her I love … her …”
Dad closed his eyes and his head turned to the side. He stopped breathing.
Tears welled up in my eyes, tears I didn’t bother hiding. I just said, “Dad …” before emotion choked me and I started sobbing.
Tara put an arm around my shoulders and patted my arm as I sobbed. I didn’t stop sobbing even after the police, medics, and G-Men entered the warehouse and found us by Dad’s body. I just sobbed and sobbed.
One week later …
stood alone in the Silvers Cemetery, standing at the grave where Dad had been buried. The sky was cloudy and gray today, but it hadn’t yet rained. It was just really humid, but I barely noticed the humidity even in my stuffy suit.
I was staring at the gravestone, which said this:
THEODORE RONALD JASON
“Ignorance is bold and knowledge is reserved.”
The dirt on the grave was still fresh from yesterday’s funeral. It had been one of the largest funerals that the town of Silvers had ever seen; at least, that was what the cemetery’s caretaker had told me. He had said it was the biggest funeral since the death of Samuel H. Silvers, the founder of the town of Silvers.
I believed him. Lots of people had come to Dad’s funeral. The entire Leadership Council of the Neohero Alliance had shown up, as had several senior NHA members who had known Dad before he retired from superheroics, and a few ex-members including Triplet, who was one of the first to arrive. The Young Neos had been here, too, as had the New Heroes, and even the Midnight Menace had shown up, much to my surprise, to pay his respects. And, of course, Malcolm and Tara and their families were invited, including Renaissance, who had sat next to Malcolm without showing any hint of their own problems. Even Cadmus Smith and Shade had shown up, but they were also the first to leave, probably to help clean up the damage from my fight with Robert. Valerie had attended, too, by using Dad’s old drone, Seeker One, to be physically present. I wasn’t sure if she was affected as badly by Dad’s death as the rest of us, but I appreciated her being there nonetheless.
Frankly, I couldn’t remember most of the funeral, except that I had sat up front with Mom and had to comfort her because she cried through the whole thing. I would have cried, too, but I think I used up all my tears back in Fallsville, when Dad first died, though I was still sad.
After the funeral ended, we had gone back to the house for the reception, which I’m pretty sure means that everyone knows my secret identity now. Dad’s funeral had been announced on Neo Ranks the day after he was confirmed dead by the medics who had entered the warehouse in response to Valerie's message, though of course he had been called ‘Genius’ instead of Dad. The message on the article hadn’t said where Dad was going to be buried (from what I heard, the locations for most superhero burials were not usually announced online to protect the privacy of the deceased hero and his or her family), but my neighbors, at least, had to suspect something was up. The official story was that Dad had been killed in an accident, but the fact that loads of famous and well-known superheroes had shown up at the funeral would definitely raise lots of questions from my neighbors, whether or not they asked them.
I didn’t really care one way or another if the whole world knew my secret identity. I had received a lot of condolences from everyone who attended the funeral, but it didn’t change the pain in my heart. Still, I appreciated the condolences that everyone gave me, even the ones on that Neo Ranks article, which had received hundreds of comments and social media shares with people expressing their condolences for ‘Genius’s’ death. The vast majority were from complete strangers who had been fans of Genius, which just made them all the more heartwarming, even though none of them really knew Genius, at least not in the way I knew him.