Author's Note: Well, many of you asked for this, and now here it is, the sequel to "A Rising Flame".
Admittedly, it took longer to write than expected, both because of the development phase and the fact I took a long break from writing. Anyway, I'm still amazed that so many of you loved the first story so much that you wanted a sequel, and I can't thank you enough for it. For new readers, while this story can be read on its own, it's strongly recommended that you read the first one to better understand this one. Again, thanks for your support and here we go. Disclaimers: This story will be rated 'T' mainly for language, but could possibly change. The Incredibles are owned and copyrighted by Disney/Pixar.
A Burning Vengeance
"What is the single line that divides superheroes and supervillains? Many would say morality. In many cases, that can be a very strong line. However, we also know that morals can easily change, and that's almost always due to outside forces and influences. That's just as much true for supers as it is for regular people. Keep in mind, no super has fought anywhere for fifteen years. That's a long time to be sitting idle and then be called back into service, plenty of time to pass for personal beliefs to change. That's not even considering younger supers who never fought at all during that time. As this act goes into effect, we wish them godspeed on their return and hope for future successes in crimefighting, but we must also keep in the backs of our minds the awareness of probable consequences of these people being inactive for so long, and the possibility that today's super-powered heroes could become tomorrow's super-powered enemies."
-Statement from U.S. Senator Robert Calhoun, just before the authorization of the Congressional Superhero Reinstatement Act.
-January 1, 1976
National Supers Agency Ultra Maximum Administrative Detention Facility (UMAX)
Tuesday, November 30, 1999
Up. Down. Up. Down.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Focusing on a single spot on the floor, watching it move towards and then away from my eyes.
Push-ups, one of my top ways to keep both body and mind strong. It was also a great time killer, and in a place like this, time was just about the only thing one never really ran out of here. And believe me, I knew all about time.
Ten years, three months, and fifteen days.
That was the entire length of my stay there at the Incarceration Inn, with all the great perks that came with it. Want another example of knowing all about time?
Eleven years, one month, and three days.
That was the length of time that passed since "The Night" that ended up punching my reservation to this place. I relived that moment almost every night since then, saw the faces of those involved in my normal and waking dreams. The feelings that I felt that night, shock, anger, betrayal, continued to be just as strong more than eleven years later. I quite often found myself wondering how each of them felt back then, knowing they had effectively destroyed a person's life and credibility. Did they even care? Probably not. They were almost certainly carrying on with their lives, both personal and super, without sparing me even a fleeting thought inside that wet matter between their ears that they called brains. And even if gave me the luxury of a second of a thought, they almost certainly would've thought of me as just another "criminal" they locked up, just another small notch on their belts, another so-called "nuisance" removed from "polite" society like a scuff mark on a well polished shoe. And then they went and told their lies about what supposedly happened that night and the public ate it all up like some delicious dessert and treated these traitors like the "heroes" they were meant to be. Give me a frigging break, seriously.
And, oh yeah, let's talk about that so-called adoring public while we're on that topic. The general, ordinary people, ever so loving, ever so caring, ever so happy, ever so grateful that we supers were back once again to take on the punishment of crime so they can feel safe in their own little protected worlds. That's what everyone made it out to be, anyway, so it must had all been true, right?
Wrong! Want to hear the real answer to what they really were from probably the only super whose eyes had been opened? I'll let you in on that tiny secret with just two little words.
Yeah, there, I said it, and I totally meant it. I wouldn't be afraid to call them out on it, either, in front of a camera that broadcasted live to every corner of the world. Someone had to, anyway, to turn that fake golden halo into a lead ball and chain of truth. What were they gonna do, throw a tiny hissy fit, claim hurt feelings, threaten to ban supers again? Too damn bad. If one super who had the balls to tell them that cold hard truth to their faces shattered those immensely fragile tiny hearts of theirs, then that was their problem, no one elses.
So I'm guessing you want to know why I said that, don't you? Okay, let's begin. See, back in 1960, a series of bullshit lawsuits from ungrateful little pricks against supers who were a little busy saving their worthless asses led to the people and government saying, "We don't need you anymore. We can handle things ourselves.", which they failed spectacularly at in many cases, I should add. And then, fifteen years later, when that whiny little brat Syndrome appeared with his walking balls of death and the Incredibles spanked his ass, those same people were like, "Come back, supers! All's forgiven!" And so, supers came back and began cleaning up the criminal scum that the so-called geniuses couldn't get rid of. All was well, everything's peachy keen and smelled like roses, and everyone lived happily ever after, right?
Wrong again! Just as predictable as the sunrise, the whining and bitching came back in full force right from the very first second. "They're still a danger to the public! They're taking good paying jobs from the police and military! We were still doing great without them!" Blah, blah, blah. Yep, the same shitty song and dance we'd heard for decades. Almost deliciously hilarious that it's usually the ones who bitch the loudest who are also the ones up at the front of the line screaming and sobbing for our help when everything went south. Even during my days of "fighting the good fight", there were still ever increasing times when I just wanted to say, "Screw it. Just screw it all.", walk away or just sit on the sidelines and watch those little crybabies have a crack at it. How long would they had lasted against Syndrome, Underminer, or the Atomizer? If I was a betting person, which I was, I would say a minute against the Underminer, thirty three seconds against Syndrome's omnidroids, and just two seconds against the Atomizer's nuke cannon. Have fun, guys.
But enough about them. They were no longer worth it. So after ten years, three months, and fifteen days of residency at that place and going under the name of SIRN-79344, all of that was about to end. And right on time, I heard the familiar electric whirring followed by the loud metallic clangs of the twelve locks that secured the other door of my cell unlocking.
I stood up and threw on my standard prison issue T-shirt as the door slid open and two guards stepped into my cell. Two tall mounds of muscle with enough body armor to rival tanks and topped with a helmet with a mirrored face plate. Supposedly the idea was to make them as cold and soulless as the rest of that little corner of hell on Earth, and it would had probably been enough to make a weakling regular inmate piss their pants. For me, having gone up against the toughest of the tough once upon a time ago, those 'ooh we're so big and tough and ballsy in our super fancy get up' posers didn't warrant anything more than a roll of my eyes, if even that. Not like all of that would've done them any good if I really wanted to stage a breakout. Two seconds. That's all the time it would've taken for me to lay them out. There was a reason why I was considered one of the most feared and respected supers among criminals.
But they had nothing to worry about, that time. Instead, one of them used his stun baton to tap twice against the barred secondary door that separated me from them. With a grunt and a roll of my eyes, I held out my fists close to the door while another guard brought out my favorite jewelry: specially made handcuffs. No, I didn't mean all binged out or something like that. No, I meant they were custom made to deal with my unique powers, not to mention give me a nice and little knockout zap if I stepped out of line.
Once they clamped the cuffs shut around my wrists, the barred door slid open, after which the men entered my cell, grabbed me by my biceps, and somewhat forcibly pulled me out into the hall. In the past, that would had pissed me off to a great deal, but most of the time these days I just let it go, especially that day as it was going to be the last time.
Like every time before, there were four other guards standing just outside the cell, my own little personal entourage, so to speak. Together, the six of them marched me down the endless, soulless, cold, and sterile labyrinth of hell that was known as UMAX. What's that, you ask? Well, ever wondered where all those supervillains ended up after getting their asses kicked, the ones who were still alive afterwards, anyway? They got sent there, a place built to handle the worst of the worst, the most powerful of people. People like me, in other words, or the latter half of that, anyway. I was among the most powerful, but not among the worst. Okay, not that I knew of, I should add to that.
See, there was this very unique thing about UMAX. Not only was it the most secure prison ever built, it was also the most classified. The only thing the rest of the world knew about it was the fact that it existed. Outside of that, no one knew where it was, how big it was, how many prisoners were there, the works. Even I couldn't help you out on that front. I knew my own area well enough, but not much else. I can tell you that it had its own barber shop, for all the times I needed my hair cut. It also had a psych office, you know, for all of those "extremely important" bonding sessions by docs who try to act like they're the greatest buddies in the world when you know all they're really doing was psychoanalyzing the shit out of you. There was an outdoor rec area, but it was built in such a way that you couldn't even tell where the sun was in the sky, obviously again to help keep UMAX's location top secret. Clever guys, the architects and builders. Kudos to them.
As for neighbors, dunno. I never met or even seen any, for the entirety of my stay. Yeah, I know how shocking that must sound, especially to inmates, former or current, of other prisons, but that was just another ordinary thing about UMAX. No meeting anyone in mess, since every single one of my meals had been delivered to me in my cell, and no one to mess around with outside in the rec. I wasn't the only unwilling house guest there, that much was for certain, but beyond that, I could've had dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of neighbors, for all I knew. It definitely made for a quiet place, that was for sure.
After passing through a few more doors and checkpoints, we entered an elevator that was at the end of the block. One of the guards then opened a panel and, out of my view, tapped a series of buttons and the elevator started moving. Another one of UMAX's tricks. See, the elevators there didn't have simple up and down buttons to change floors. Instead, each floor had a certain code that needed to be entered for the elevator to go there. So, let's say you didn't enter the right code. What would go down then? Well, for one, the entire shaft would lock down, and two, a "non-lethal" or "lethal" response would be enforced. I wasn't supposed to know all that, of course, but it's amazing what little things you can piece together over a ten year period.
The doors opened up to another area of the prison and, once again, we went through a maze of halls and checkpoints. Daedalus, the guy who built the real Labyrinth, would be creaming himself if he saw that place. All of that led to a sizable room with a couple of benches and nothing else. The world's crappiest waiting area? Nah, that was just the outprocessing room, the final stop before checking out. No guy behind bulletproof glass sliding you a clipboard with a piece of paper to put your X on in that place, though. Instead, a computer panel slid out from one of the walls and flashed on, showing my real name, my super name, other personal stuff, yada, yada, yada, my clothes that I wore on my first day there, which included a black leather jacket, a T-shirt, jeans, boots, etc., etc. To confirm, place your thumb on the screen, it said, which I did, although it was fun trying to do that with my hands bounded so closely together. After the confirmation beep, a panel opened up next to it and out came all my stuff, a decade older and encased in vacuum-sealed plastic to preserve that perfect freshness. It would had been nice for me to hold them and give them a look over, but one of the guards decided to do the honor himself. The asshole. Still, it would had been, maybe, a little difficult to hold onto my stuff with my handcuffed hands without stumbling all over them. But that didn't mean I had to accept it.
From there, I was led across the room and down a corridor to yet another elevator. After a short ride, the doors opened up to reveal a single high security checkpoint. It was separated into two sections, with six guards on each side, plus a few turrets, and almost certainly a few hidden extra goodies that were spread around. Yep, it was needless to say that if I screwed up a little, my ass wouldn't be grass, but the fertilizer which grew the grass.
But, of course, nothing that exciting happened as I continued to be a good dangerous prisoner and passed through both of the last checkpoints without any fireworks. The final stop on my exit tour was in front of a massive pair of solid metal doors just a short distance away. What that metal was, I didn't know or cared. Probably something to stop anything, for all I knew. What really mattered was when those doors opened, surprising fast for doors of their size, and revealed a hangar, complete with my ride away from there, a small white jet with no markings of any kind. It clearly wasn't Pan Am, that was for sure.
At least six more guards surrounded the plane as I was led towards its front door. One again, my eyes took in everything and my mind processed them into theoretical scenarios. Twelve guys, plus an unknown number on the plane. Through a mixed use of tactics, power use, and physical moves, probably ten seconds max to take them all out if need be. Don't worry, I wasn't anywhere near suicidal enough to try anything there, unless they were the ones who started it. I mean, yeah, I was an extremely hard person to kill, but I wasn't even close to being immortal. But no, it was just something that I did, many times unconsciously, ever since my active super days. Always be alert, that was what we had drilled into us. Even in prison, that phrase and those senses never went away. After all, you never knew when they would come in handy again, there in that place or sometime in the future.
Once we arrived at the plane's door, the unwanted entourage that had been dogging me since my cell finally decided to make themselves scarce, only for their six other buddies to pick up the slack. I figured it was too much to ask not to feel like I was a steer being herded somewhere, which was exactly what it seemed like when getting on the plane. For the criminally naive, if they expected a completely tricked out luxury jet with leather seats, TVs, and cute attendants serving champagne, then they were SOL. Nope, it was just the complete opposite, about as spartan and no-frills as you could possibly get. It didn't even have windows, except for the obvious ones up in the cockpit. Like I said, Pan Am, it was not.
I was "helped" into one of the seats and then secured with just a regular seat belt. Contrary to what many thought, they weren't flying jail cells, due to those pesky fed laws and all that. Either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid, who knew. The guards then took their seats. Not long after, the door was shut, the engines spooled up, and the plane began to move. A few minutes later, I felt the plane accelerate and then take off.
So with no in-flight movies, no windows, or whatever else that could pass off for entertainment, I just slouched down in my seat, crossed my feet, closed my eyes, and just lost myself in my thoughts. As someone who was blessed, or cursed, depending on your point of view, with a hyperactive mind, it was extremely easy for me to just sink myself into my incredibly vivid and detailed imagination and thoughts basically at will. That great mind of mine gave me countless hours of fun and entertainment as a kid, proved so invaluable during my super years, and kept my sanity from going completely to shit during my time in prison. At that moment, what my mind was providing me was a way of just passing time, and thinking of...future plans…
Whether I was just that completely deep in my thoughts, or it was just that short of a flight, or both, it felt like hardly any time had passed before the pilot came over the comm and told us to prepare for landing. I had just enough time to come out of my thoughts and sit back up in my seat before the plane touched back down on the ground. We seemed to taxi for a while before we stopped and the engines shut down. The guards got out of their seats, pulled me out of mine, and basically herded me to the door. Once the door opened, and my eyes had to adjust to the shock and fact that they hadn't seen the actual sun for over ten years, I saw where we landed and immediately recognized it as Bird Field, Metroville's secondary airport. It used to be the main one a long time ago before they built the much larger international one. These days it was mostly used for domestic and regional flights, plus the NSA used it for prisoner transfers as well. They even built a terminal in the most remote part of the airport for that very purpose, and that was where I was being to right then.
The entrance into the terminal was through two security doors. On the other side of those doors was a large room with just a couple more security doors directly across from the first, four large pillars, and some windows facing out onto the tarmac and that was it. Some people could had possibly mistaken it for the most spartan waiting area of any airport, only it wasn't. For prisoners of UMAX, it was either the embarking point or the disembarking point, and for me, it was the end of the line. After holding out a computer pad for me to place my hand to confirm a few final things, one of the guards motioned for me to hold my hands out. He then put in a code on my restraints and they released. Another guard handed me my still sealed up clothing, which I took with one of my now freed hands. Most of the guards then left back through the doors we came in through, but one stayed behind.
"Look, I won't pretend to know the whole story of what happened that night," he said to me. "All we still know is that something went wrong and people got killed. But no matter what, many of us still remember all the great things you did back then and they shouldn't be forgotten. Just because you can no longer be a super doesn't mean you can't be a hero. You can still do a lot of great things with your normal identity now. Just something you should consider.. Take care of yourself out there."
My glare was the only acknowledgment of the whole thing as I was in no mood for any of that preachy crap. After he left to join his buddies, I exited through the other doors and went into the nearby restroom to change. A few minutes later, I reemerged wearing the clothes which I wore the day that I turned myself in all those years, only they were now a little bit tight, probably due to all the exercising and bulking up I did while in prison. I was definitely going to have to shop for new threads later on. I then tossed my prison clothes into the nearby recycling chute.
Looking up at the nearby clock, I noted the time. After ten years, three months, fifteen days, eleven hours, and thirty-eight minutes, I was officially an ex-con, and a permanent ex-super. I closed my eyes, took a deep inhale and then let out a slow exhale of the air of freedom.
"We're back, did you hear? They're letting us back out there! This is gonna be so awesome, you know. It's our turn now, and we'll take this city by storm, you and I. We'll be the team everyone'll be talking about., you'll see..."
I scowled and shook my head to clear the unwanted memory from my brain before I headed for the exit, wanting to blow that place as quickly as possible. As I approached the exit, I noticed a guy in a suit who was holding a sign with my name on it. I approached him and nodded my head. He returned the nod and led me out onto the lot, where a black limo awaited us. I took a moment to admire its sleek lines. Car design had clearly changed in ten years.
"Do you think we'll need a car?"
"A car. Many supers, even my parents, had some sort of super car back then. Maybe we'll need one for ourselves."
"Um, in case you've forgotten, neither of us actually need a car to get around in."
"I know that, but I'm thinking of situations that could come up where we'd need one. We may need to carry around extra gear, or a way to transport any criminals we catch, or just in case others join us."
"What, thinking of expansion already?"
"No, not right now, but you never know. Are you against it?"
"Not really, I suppose. I guess I'm still thinking that it'll be just the two of us. I mean, it's been like that forever, you know."
"And it's still gonna be like that. Friends to the end, right?"
"To the end. So, a car, huh? Well, I guess it never hurts to be prepared. Okay, let's bounce around a few ideas..."
Once again, another memory that I had to clear from my thoughts as the man opened the rear door for me and I climbed in, once again admiring the sleekness that seemed to extend into the inside as well. The man closed the door, went up to the driver's seat, and soon we were off.
We had just barely left the airport property when the phone that was right next to me started to ring. I picked it up, already knowing who was on the line.
"P, that you?" I answered.
"None other," the heavily distorted electronic voice replied. "How are you enjoying your newfound freedom?"
"Don't know yet. Ask me on New Year's. Nice ride you sent me, by the way."
"Figured you needed something fancy after all that time in that hellhole. So I take it you're still planning on going through with it all."
"Without a doubt. Is it all set up?"
"Of course. Everything you need is ready. Still not too late to back out."
"Not a chance. Justice needs to be done, if not through anyone else, then by me."
"Okay. Just remember, from here on out, you're on your own. I have no knowledge of any of this, understand?"
"Understood. Just wanna say, though, no matter what happens, thanks for sticking up for me. You've had my back since the beginning."
"No problem. Take care of yourself out there and watch that back of yours."
"You bet. Hey, if all this goes down right, maybe we'll have a beer or something together."
The call ended and I hung up. Speaking of booze, I wondered if there was any in the limo. It didn't take long to find the mini fridge that was nearby, and inside was a champagne bottle. There were those fancy flutes around, but I didn't bother with them at all as I just grabbed the bottle, popped the cork, and directly chugged from it. Hey, champagne was champagne, didn't matter how you drank it.
After my third swig, I finally looked out the window and at the surroundings. We were driving through the heart of the city right then, and I instantly recognized old and familiar landmarks but also took note of brand new ones. The city of Metroville had certainly changed a lot in the last decade. A sight that hadn't changed at all were the many people who were walking around the area. To think, a dozen years earlier, I was out there protecting most of them with my life…
"It's not going to hold!"
"Hurry up! Move your asses! I can't keep this up all day, you know!"
"You did it! We saved them all!"
"That was without doubt the greatest thing I've ever seen!"
"It's my greatest pleasure and honor to give this year's award to a super who's truly deserving of it, a super who went well above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of two dozen people from certain death. It was truly the greatest act of heroism seen in quite some time. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present you, our 1986 Superhero of the Year-"
With a loud grunt, I forced the memories away, turned from the window, and took a long drink from the bottle. None of that mattered anymore. That was a long time ago and in another life. A time and a life when I honestly and truly cared for all of those people, so much so that I'd spent twelve long years risking everything for them. Then, "The Night" happened and it all changed. Now, I no longer gave a crap what happened to those worthless, ungrateful asswipes. A building could had collapsed right then, trapping hundreds, and I would had just continued on drinking and enjoying the changing scenery. Besides, my full attention was focused elsewhere anyway.
We left the city behind and headed towards the heavily wooded hills that were to the west of Metroville. If there was anything that never seemed to change, it were those hills. I spent a lot of time as a kid and a teen hiking and camping in them. They were even a go to spot in my super days for when I just wanted to get away from all the crap for a little bit. And now, I was going to call them home, at least for a time. How long a time, well, depended on how things went over the next few weeks.
The way to my new pad was up a small winding road that branched off from the highway, and I was actually quite impressed by the way the driver maneuvered the long limo up that very steep and narrow path so effortlessly and expertly. However, the road didn't reach all the way up to the place, so he had to park some distance away and I would have to hike from there. Didn't bother me any bit, though. I wanted isolation, and that was what I had gotten.
After we both exited the limo, the driver opened up the trunk and handed me a duffel bag. He than tapped out a code on some kind of handheld device and a small door opened up on the floor of the trunk, revealing a hidden compartment underneath. He reached in, pulled out a specialized metal briefcase, and handed it to me. He nodded, shook my hand, and then got back into the limo and drove off.
Swinging the bag over my shoulder, I turned and headed into the very thick woods and up an extremely narrow path. I made sure to mentally map every single inch of terrain along the path. Never knew when that would come in handy. After about a half-mile hike, the path ended at a clearing that was on top of one of the taller hills in the area, and in the middle of that clearing was my new home. It was simply a modern log cabin with some nice goodies added, or at least, that was what I was told. Still, it was perfect, and I really had to thank P for that set up, and other things.
The front door didn't have a lock or key, but that was fine. There was a nice little magic trick to open it. Going off a one-time memory, I grabbed the door handle and turned it to the left for two seconds, then to the right for one second, back to the left for four seconds, and finally to the right again for three seconds. A panel to the right of the door slid open and revealed a hand scanner. I placed my hand on the scanner, and after a confirmation beep, the door opened up by itself.
"Hmm, cute," I muttered.
I did an inspection of the place, which took all of a minute because the entire cabin consisted of a living room, kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom and that was it. My dorm back in college was bigger. But like I said, it wasn't going to be a permanent stay.
"It'll do," I said to myself.
The cabin had a back door, which led out to a raised deck. Stepping out onto the deck, I instantly noticed that the tree coverage was thin there, which allowed me to see the city beyond. Placing one hand on the metal railing and drinking some more out of the bottle, I let my eyes gaze across Metroville, taking in all the sights and locations. And then, my eyes stopped at one spot and instantly narrowed. The spot, the location where it all happened…
"What happened? Oh my god, what have you done?"
"This is so not good. Not good at all."
"We can explain this to everyone."
"I warned you. I warned you this could happen, and you didn't listen."
"Look, just...just turn yourself in, okay? They'll help you. We all can."
"By the power granted to me, I am placing you under arrest."
"DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"
The sound of glass shattering and a sharp pain in my hand brought me out of those thoughts. Looking down, I saw that I had squeezed my hand so tightly I had crushed the bottle, sending shards of glass, champagne, and drops of blood onto the deck. My hand was cut open in a few spots, but that was fine, because it had immediately started to heal itself. The cuts sealed themselves, and any glass that had been embedded were pushed out. In less than ten seconds, any trace of an injury was the blood that was left behind. Ah, super healing, had to love it.
That wasn't all, though. The part of the metal railing that my other hand had been resting on was also crushed in, compressed to about a quarter of its original size. Super strength, now that was a double edged sword if there ever was one. Perfect for many situations, but could also bite you in the ass in many situations as well.
I closed my eyes and took deep breaths to calm myself. I hated how much that night still affected me so strongly, even after eleven years. That had to stop, and maybe, just maybe, if what I had planned for almost that same length of time actually worked, it would go a long way towards ending the nightmares, the waking dreams, all that crap. Slowly, I opened my eyes and once again looked back out at Metroville with a much clearer state of mind.
"DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"
Yeah,I thought. Yeah, I understand. All too goddamned well, Mickey…
With that, I turned around and headed back inside. I walked to a panel that was just outside of the kitchen, opened it up, and then flicked a series of switches to on. They activated the cabin's solar powered batteries as well as a few extra goodies. I then took the briefcase and went back into the bedroom, where there was a tiny area that also doubled as a work space. I placed the case on the desk, sat down, and opened it. It only opened for me because it had scanned my bio signature the moment I first touched the handle and knew I was one of only three people authorized for it, the other two being the limo driver and P. For anyone else, it they tried to open it, it would instantly dissolve any contents inside with the added bonus of killing that same person. A nice security feature, good enough that I'd probably use it as my personal travel case if I ever went on vacation.
Inside the case were five folders. Each one had a name, the names of the five other supers who were with me that night, the traitorous assholes who conveniently left out important details of what truly happened, which made them get off scot-free while I was the only one who ended up wasting away in prison. They may had forgotten, the city may had forgotten, but I never did. Inside each folder was info on their activities over the last eleven years, accurate up to two days ago. P did some truly excellent work.
I pulled out the folders and flipped through them before taking one out and placing it aside. Then, with the remaining four, I shuffled them like cards before pulling one out at random.
The first one up who was going to face my personal justice?
Kyra Wolverton, a.k.a. Blazestone.