Fiction Friday; The Electric Masquerade

The sunlight streamed through high, slender windows and onto the army of vibrantly green houseplants perched on every available surface in the bright lab. On top of tanks and vats of experimental chemicals wasn't the best place for them, but that was where they got the most sun. It fell in golden cascades from the rows of six-inch slits set into the walls to let in the maximum amount of light and the minimum amount of heroes. Not that it always worked. In her last lair, she'd had no windows at all, but he'd still gotten in, the little bugger.


So if he was going to get in anyway, she might as well enjoy some natural light now and again. And if she just so happened to choose to leave her blast shields open on nice days, that was her lookout.


Just then, she wasn't even thinking about the veritable forest overhead, each pot carefully labeled and meticulously well-cared-for. Her mind was taken up with the thought of selling these plans for a bank heist to some lesser criminals. After all, she'd outgrown bank heists when she was about fourteen. The investments she'd made after the first couple robberies kept her in more than enough cash to make the rest of her plans relatively affordable, as long as she was smart about when she chose to spend, and budgeted for repairs to her lair. She was tapping her pencil against her computer screen as she tried to think of any lesser criminals she even knew anymore that might be willing to buy these plans... when her phone rang. It wasn't even her lair's landline - it was the cell phone she had tied to her personal accounts. Frowning at the silly machine, she tried to tell it that it shouldn't be ringing. No one but her parents even had that number, and they knew better than to call her during work hours.


After a second, she picked it up. It was an unknown number, but from the area code and prefix, she knew it was a local number. With a sigh, she rolled her eyes to the heavens and answered. After all, it wasn't like she was making much progress by staring at the screen and trying to remember names she hadn't even thought of in more than a year. "Hello?"


"Hello. Is this Mrs. Jessica Martin?"


Shoving away from her desk, the woman stood up with a flare of her green cape - it was brand new, and only the second costume this year. She had to change it up regularly, but she was rather fond of this one. Part of her wanted to deny she was any such person, but she knew that was just because she was in her lair and hearing her own name here was dangerous on a number of levels. But this was her personal phone. That was the name it was tied to. She took a deep breath.


"Yes, I'm Jessica Martin. Why?"


"This is Tiana Corey from Perez High School. I'm sorry to be bothering you, ma'am, but one of our students, Gregory Mendel, has fallen ill, and you're the only name on his emergency contact list."


Jessica frowned. Gregory Mendel? She'd never even heard the name before. But then, she supposed it might be one of her cousins or something. But why would they list her as an emergency contact? Well... she probably had more access to the databases that would tell her where the kid actually belonged. "I suppose you'd like me to come pick him up? How ill is he?"


"Gregory threw up during his third period class, and is running a fever of 99.2. He should be taken home."


Jessica agreed to take the boy, then hung up and moved back to her sleeping quarters, changing into civilian clothes. Sometimes she needed to pass as a normal person to infiltrate a large corporation, or the government... or sometimes a coffee shop. You know, depending on the day.


When she reached the school and stepped into the nurse's office to collect Gregory, the woman actually tried to stop mid-step, nearly falling flat on her face in the process. Her stomach felt like it had fallen upward into her throat. Confusion filled her as she tried to swallow her organs back down to where they belonged. The boy on the cot, flushed with fever and dressed in the rattiest old blue tee shirt and holey jeans she'd seen on anyone not homeless, was none other than the infamous Blitzfire, technopath and boy genius. Her very own nemesis.


He was looking at her with an expression of mingled horror and hope, and she had no idea what to do with him now that he was in her power.


Once she'd regained her balance and shaken the cobwebs from her head, she smiled and stepped forward, putting a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Come on, Gregory. It's time to go home." Her mind was racing, bouncing off corners that it should have been able to take easily. This was a situation she had never even thought to prepare for. How was she supposed to handle this? Take him to his own home? Take him to her lair? She lived in that building now - did she even have anywhere else to take him? No. She didn't know where his actual home was. Was this a trap? Was he going to have her arrested for kidnapping? That was a little ridiculous - she was a supervillain, after all. She'd done much worse things than kidnapping. But attaching those charges to her civilian name was different than being known as the third most successful thief in human history as the Electric Masquerade.


Blitzfire - Gregory - was quiet as she signed him out and escorted him to her car, still trying to decide how to proceed. It wasn't until they were both in her car and safely buckled in that he finally spoke. "I bet you're wondering why I came quietly."


"Actually, I'm wondering why you put my number on your emergency contact list, you little snot." Her tone was calm and even conversational, but there was a bit of an edge to it. This whole situation had her tied in knots, and they were only just now pulling away from the curb. "Do you need anything to eat? Would that calm your stomach?"


"No." The boy made a face that made it quite clear he was still nauseated, and Jessica shot him a hard look.


"Don't you dare get sick in my car. I just had this baby cleaned last week."


"Of course you did." He rolled his eyes like a teenager (because he was a bloody teenager) but rolled down his window so he could lean out if he had to. "But seriously, you're not even curious about why I let you just pick me up from school and learn my real name?"


"If you have any sort of brain between your ears, and I flatter myself to think I know you well enough to say you do have one - Gregory Mendel isn't your real name, and you put my name on your emergency contact list for a reason. This is probably some sort of trick or trap. You're got a plan for how to use this to your advantage, and there's really nothing I can do about it, because you have all my information. If you wanted to, you could ruin my SI's good reputation, or even alert my parents to what kind of career their daughter has, neither of which are things I would thank you for, though I think you'd probably be sliding dangerously toward the villain side of the spectrum if you decided to do that."


There was a beat of silence between them. Then two. It started to become uncomfortable before Blitzfire spoke again.


"Gregory Mendel was my father's name. And you were my emergency contact because I didn't think I could trust anyone else to know I was sick. You're not my only nemesis, you know."


For the space of a breath, Jessica was genuinely upset. Jealous raged through her at the thought of someone else threatening the hero she had set herself against. This was her nemesis and no one else had any business opposing him when that was her job. It took less than half a second for her to see that as utterly ridiculous, though. She couldn't claim him, any more than any man could lay claim to her, as though she were some valuable trinket or piece of artwork to be bought at auction and displayed on the mantelpiece.


The boy laughed softly under his breath, and she glanced at him sidelong as they drew to a stop at a red light. "What's so funny?"


"You're blushing," he said with a smile, laying back limply in the seat. He really did look terrible. Flushed and tired, and she was willing to bet he hadn't been getting enough liquids. Those schools were pretty terrible at making sure their students ate and stayed hydrated.


"Shut up, Blitzface," she muttered. "I'm going to pull over and blindfold you. If you feel like you have to throw up, warn me so I can stop the car. I'm taking you to my house, and you're going to stay there until you're recovered. Are we on the same page here?"


"You're going to blindfold me so I can't tell where your lair is, or so I can't see your new security measures?"


"The latter. I can at least pretend like you don't know everything about my home."


The boy laughed again, his eyes already closed.

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