Antonio di Napoli's life had, in many ways, been written in stone from the moment of the young man's birth. Having been born into a crime family - both literally and figuratively - he grew up watching his father and uncles working as enforcers for the local branch of la cosa nostra, seeing how his older sister was expected to eventually marry a made man, and knowing that he and his older brothers were all expected to work for the capital-F 'Family' until their deaths, likely by bullet or by blade.
Antonio di Napoli, however, was not the sort of child to be content with an existence whose road had already been laid for him. There were things that the boy wanted to do with his life, things that the brutish men of his regressive, barbarous family ridiculed him for whenever the topic arose; the young Antonio would be peacefully reading Il fu Mattia Pascal in the living room - for the tenth time that month, what a work it was, what a genius Pirandello was - only for his older brother Vittorio to walk up to him, slap the book out of his hands, and send him on a courier trip to one of the Family's establishments. "You don't need to read, Tony." They would tell him. "You work for la cosa nostra. Your father works for the Family, your uncles work for the Family, your brothers work for the Family, and you work for the Family, Tony. The Family doesn't need effete little boys that spend all their time with books, Tony."
His sister, though, his sister understood, especially considering that she hated her fate as much as Antonio hated his. Rosa couldn't exactly do things for Antonio like standing up to their father or their brothers when they were harassing the young boy - as the end result the few times that she had tried that had been bloody beatings for both her and Antonio - but she did what she could. She would sneak copies of Il Gattopardo to him when nobody was looking, would help take care of his bruises and his cuts whenever the men struck him, would let him crawl into bed with her and cry his eyes out as she gently held him. "Shh, it's okay, Antonio. It'll be alright, Antonio. You and me, Antonio. Your big sister Rosa will make everything okay, Antonio."
Of course, the promises were empty, even if Rosa had genuinely wanted to mean them. Two rebellious young Italian kids didn't have the force necessary to resist the destiny that la cosa nostra was impressing upon them. Antonio would sabotage the 'packages' that his brothers told him to deliver, letting the off-white powder spill out until it was significantly underweight; all that got him was more beatings, which were becoming more violent and more vicious the older he grew. The youngest di Napoli sibling would sabotage the 'dates' that his family set his sister up on, doing his best to harass and frustrate the men that his parents were, for lack of a better term, trying to sell his sister off to; all that this got him was locked in the basement of the di Napoli house for a week with only a bucket of water to sustain himself.
Antonio and Rosa's resistance culminated when they were 16 and 17 respectively, with the two of them attempting to run away from home all the way across the country to San Lorenzo. The two siblings had already purchased their train tickets and were minutes away from leaving the di Napoli family and la cosa nostra behind forever when two Family enforcers who were returning from a 'business trip' spotted them in the train station. After they were dragged back to their parents, it was determined - in order to keep the youngest di Napoli children from rebelling together like this any further - that Rosa would go live with her cousins in Chicago, separating her and Antonio by hundreds of miles. While Antonio himself was on the receiving end of even further punishment for his little escape attempt, it wasn't strictly necessary, at that point; with his sister gone, the young man's spirit had been weakened enough that he didn't have any fire left him to continue to fight back like he had been.
There was, however, a particular type of backlash that occurred during the months following Antonio's separation from Rosa: The teenager went from a reluctant la cosa nostra draftee to a fervent, almost madly compelled little soldier; he had killed a man by his seventeenth birthday, and all of the men in both his family and his Family were praising him on the good work that he had been doing recently, commenting that they knew that all he needed was to not be distracted by his sister any more, and he would manage to become an excellent asset to them all. Antonio nodded, smiled, and shook their hands, making sure to apply more pressure in his shakes than was strictly necessary.

The young man, of course, hated them all. He hated his brothers, his fathers, his uncles, and all of the other members of the Family, all of the men that had conspired to separate him and the sister he loved so much; part of him even hated his mother and his aunts for having allowed things to happen as they had. Antonio wasn't striving so hard in some attempt to convince everybody to let him see Rosa again; he knew that such a thing was unlikely to happen, and even if it did, the two siblings would never be allowed to have what they had once had. He wasn't doing like what he had seen in so many crime films, either, trying to work his way up the ladder so that he could get enough power to exact vengeance on everybody; that, too, was unlikely to work, and Antonio knew that it wouldn't bring him any satisfaction even if he could manage it.

No, Antonio was working himself down to the bone with Family business because it was something of a way for him to survive. It wasn't as if he'd be shot and left at the bottom of the bay wearing concrete shoes if only offered mediocre effort; instead, it was more that Antonio had been left alone with a massive well of emotion after his separation from Rosa, and it was a well that threatened to spill out and flood across his whole life every day that he woke up. When his sister was still around, the young man could use her as something of a repository for all of the feelings that the abuse and degradation he suffered at the hands of his brother and father caused. With Rosa gone, though, Antonio desperately, desperately needed a new outlet for all of his anger, all of his frustration, all of his grievances and irritations. Being asked to rough up drug dealers and business owners that didn't pay proper respect to the Family - in spite of how much he hated the organization itself - provided him with that outlet, and kept all of those emotions from building to the point that Antonio winded up doing something stupid.

Eventually, Antonio became a formally made man for the Family, and as he grew older, he was granted more responsibilities in the organization, more power - and more ways for him to 'handle' all of the feelings his continued association with all of the people that he despised caused him. When a senior member of the Family came to Antonio and offered him the chance to help set up a new operation in San Lorenzo, though, the di Napoli man accepted immediately; the irony of the fact that he was being sent to the city that he had tried to escape to with Rosa aside, Antonio wasn't going to miss the opportunity to get as far away from his father and brothers as possible.

The Family knew better than to try to take over a city right from the get-go, of course; they had decades upon decades of experience, and that experience brought caution and temperance. Antonio's initial job - along with the small crew that had been provided to him - was to get into contact with heroin traffickers and establish a new supply line for the Family, along with an initial stockpile in San Lorenzo. Unfortunately, though - albeit who this was unfortunate for is up to debate - Antonio's separation from the oppressive, vexatious cloud that had been hanging over him back home caused new flavors, new mixtures of emotion to spring forth inside of him. He was away from his family. For all intents and purposes, aside from the four goons brought with him, he was away from the Family, too. He had lost Rosa, certainly, his sister being trapped in a marriage with some abusive shithead of a made man in Chicago, but Antonio was free. He was still doing work for the organization in San Lorenzo, of course, but at any moment, the youngest di Napoli child could walk away from it all, and nobody would ever be able to catch him.

But some part of him... Some part of Antonio knew that just escaping from all of it wouldn't be enough. As he stared at the warehouse that he had purchased with organization money, as he stared at the piles upon piles of heroin bricks that he had bought for the Family, he thought about how wonderful the reactions would be, how amazing it would feel to, before he cut ties with the organization, before he ran off and left them all behind, how great it would be to just...

...burn it all down.

Antonio awoke the next day to the smell of burning fabric; where his palm had been touching his bed's comforter, the material had started to smoke and scorch. The man's hand itself, of course, was perfectly fine and healthy with not a burn in sight, but everything he touched seemed to immediately start to ignite. Half a day of experimentation and training, and he managed to keep his power from working except when he wanted it to; more importantly, Antonio realized that he could create orbs of condensed heat - fireballs, essentially - and throw them around like they were baseballs. The di Napoli man stood in the backyard of his San Lorenzo house, holding a flaming orb in each hand, and he grinned.

The organization's heroin storage warehouse - the one that Antonio himself had set up, the one that he himself had stocked - was in flames by the time the sun began to set on the beautiful Californian city. Unfortunately, though, as all endeavors of power users are wont to go, Antonio's attempt at a parting gift to the family didn't unfold exactly as he had planned. He had told all of his subordinates to stay away from the warehouse for the day, since Antonio had a very important and strictly confidential meeting he had to organize there... But this one buffoon, this one fucking buffoon, had shown up right as Antonio was staring in glee as the Family's investment was quite literally going up in smoke. The henchman had forgotten his phone at the warehouse, or something along those lines, and even though he was supposed to be Antonio's subordinate, even though he was supposed to be working for the di Napoli man, the God damned goon drew his gun and and shot Antonio three times, right in the fucking back. Thankfully, the moron seemed to have had the aim of a monkey, and he had miraculously missed any major targets, only injuring the muscles in Antonio's back; the di Napoli man, in return, burned his now former subordinate alive, the first life that he had taken with his newfound powers.

At the very least, Antonio managed to escape before the police and fire trucks arrived, and bled his way towards one of San Lorenzo's many underground doctors. The woman in question, however, was far more interested in the unnatural warmth contained within Antonio's hands rather than his back. It wasn't as if the Italian man was very enamored with the idea of explaining his newly-found powers to some strange back-alley doctor on the first day he had them, but she was refusing to treat him - was refusing to extract the bullets lodged in his fucking body - until she had answers. Once Antonio explained his situation to her - even as he was bleeding out on her operating table - the doctor simply sighed, put away her medicle instruments, and placed her hands on him. "This'll go a lot easier, then."

And then Antonio fucking hurt, hurt more than he had ever hurt in his entire life, the pain focused on the three, fresh bullet wounds. But even so, he felt... He felt... The projectiles were being forced out of his body, and the muscles and veins and skin and everything else were knitting themselves back together. Something approximating a minute of agony later, and nobody would have ever been able to tell that Antonio had been shot in the back three times not an hour ago. As he lay panting on the woman's operating table, the Italian man stared at the doctor. He may have been a gangster, may have been something of a thug, but Antonio was not a stupid man.

"I'm guessing I'm not the only superhero or whatever in town, then?"

The doctor, in response, simply shook her head and smiled as she looked down at her patient. "No, Mister di Napoli, no you are not. I guess it's my turn to explain some things, then..."

Antonio felt his consciousness begin to fade back in, the faint taste of blood in his mouth as he came to. His ears were still ringing even as he heard voices nearby, only able to make out snippets of their conversation.

"...Doctor Freebourne..." "...coming out of your cut..." "...the girl?"

The man felt something cold and rigid on his wrists, a familiar sensation, to say the least - handcuffs. A part of him knew that his power would let him melt the metal, but he also knew that his skin likely wouldn't appreciate molten handcuffs flowing onto it; he was immune from the heat of his own flames, but it seemed that the heat from anything else they set on fire or melted would affect him all the same. His memories began to come back now, from right before he had been knocked out; that fucking wanna-be superhero kid and his partner, breaking up his deal with Daniella, and... Fuck! The girl!

Antonio's eyes shot open wide now, as he stared out across the warehouse. His vision was still unfocused, but he could make out the form of the blonde man, Matt, holding the girl close, as she clung to him in her simply white tunic. "Fff...uck!" A concussion-slurred shout managed to make it out from between the Italian man's lips, drawing glances from the three adults in the room - Daniella sat up against a wall with makeshift bandages around her shot, bleeding legs - and a startled jump from the one child.

Jake approached him, the kid holding a phone up to his ear as he sent a call through. The wanna-be superhero squatted down to look Antonio close in the eye, an unusually wicked smile on Jake's face as he bared as much teeth as his mouth would allow. "Morning, Tony." Antonio attempted to slur out his usual response to being called that name, but Jake simply continued speaking over him. "You, me, and Matt? We've got a whole lot to talk about, yeah?" The kid motioned with his head over towards where his partner was standing with the girl. "A whole fucking lot. Ah! Doctor Freebourne, are you available? Yeah, it's Jake..."

Antonio looked towards the blonde man and the girl as Jake walked away, on the phone with the doctor. The Chinese kid had buried her face into Matt's shirt, afraid to even look at Antonio. Matt, for his part, stared at the Italian man like he was hoping to kill Antonio just with his glare. Between what Jake had told him and the way that the kid's partner was looking at him, Antonio didn't expect many good things to come in the next several hours. With a simple, quiet "Ahh, shit..." the man allowed himself to fall backwards down onto the floor again, as he awaited whatever fate Jake and Matt would have in store for him once they finished up here.

"Aren't you supposed to be some kind of superhero, kid? Are superheroes supposed to sit by and watch as their partners torture people?"

Antonio gave Jake a rather unfriendly smirk as the partner in question continued binding the Italian man up in the duo's office bathroom; lacking any sort of sealed or soundproofed basement, Jake and Matt had opted to perform their "questioning" of Antonio in the only real place they had to use for such a thing. The kid spoke up as the blonde man tied Antonio's ankles together with duct tape, perhaps a bit tighter than he needed to.

"It's not torture, Tony." Antonio's eyebrows furrowed, but he didn't say anything. Jake smiled back at the Italian man, an equally antagonistic expression on the kid's face as the one that was on Antonio's. "It's, ah, what's the word people always use? 'Enhanced interrogation techniques." Antonio was stubborn, but he wasn't dumb, either. He knew that the girl was out of his grasp, now, and that Jake and Matt would have possession of her for the foreseeable future; maybe he could eventually raise some sort of operation to get his property back, but he doubted that would happen any time soon. At the very least, the drug-dealer wasn't about to try and fight back against both of the other men, not when he was at such a disadvantage. He knew that, one way or the other, Matt and Jake would sit here until they got all of the information they wanted out of him, and even if they didn't, they could simply get into contact with one of the myriad Chinese-fluent power-users in San Lorenzo to ask the girl herself.

But while Antonio wasn't dumb, he was stubborn, as well. Even if it was inevitable that the two losers in front of him would eventually find out everything they wanted to know, Antonio didn't want to make it easy on them, especially not after they had broken up his deal with Daniella and tossed all of the product he had there into the ocean. It wasn't as if he was some sort of masochist who wanted to be tortured, but knowing that he was going to be able to waste Jake and Matt's time was motivation enough for Antonio to hold out as long as he could.

"Besides." Jake reached around behind Antonio, where the Italian man's wrists were still cuffed together. The kid grabbed hold of one of Antonio's fingers, and started to bend. "I don't think that a man that traps a little girl inside of a fucking metal box has any room to lecture anybody about anything." The drug-dealer could feel his bones reach their breaking point, before Matt stopped the kid. "No, Jake. We agreed, no permanent damage." The blonde man stopped his binding work to look Antonio dead in the eyes. "Not that this jackass doesn't deserve it."

Jake let go of Antonio's finger and gave Matt a shrug in response. "Fine, fine. 'No permanent damage', whatever you say, boss." The blonde man scowled at the kid's back-talking, but simply continued to make sure that Antonio was properly secured on top of their toilet. "I'm gonna go check up on the kid. Maybe get her some ice cream, turn some cartoons on for her." Matt nodded, pulling a cloth gag out from his back pocket. "You do that, Jake. I'll let you know if I need any help in here." As the kid stepped back out into the main part of his and the electrokinetic's office, the latter spoke directly to Antonio again. "I think I'll enjoy this too much doing it on my own, though." The Italian man simply smirked again as Matt gagged him with the fabric.

"...what the fuck is that?"

Thankfully for Antonio, the Family seemed to have been convinced that he died defending their drug warehouse against whatever locals decided to attack it and burn it down, the goon that the di Napoli man killed being another casualty in the fight. Doubly so, the heroin contact that Antonio had established on behalf of the Family didn't seem to care too much when the newly freed man came back to deal as a freelance drug-dealer. Dr. Freebourne, the woman who had healed him after he crawled his way to her office, informed him that - amongst other markets and services - power-users preferred to buy drugs from and sell drugs to other power-users. The working assumption was one of mutually assured destruction; aside from the potential lethality of fighting another power-user over whatever illicit activity they were engaged in, the curse also promised some degree of punishment, even if it was an altercation between only power-users.

His heroin contact, Mr. Sen, wasn't a power-user. He was also, however, an honest businessman, or at least as honest of a businessman as a heroin trafficker can be; Antonio knew that the Chinese man would never try to screw him over, and so he was willing to continue working with him even without the backing of the Family behind him. The fact that Antonio had such a contact put him into a unique position amongst the power-user community of San Lorenzo; he was the only one who had a reliable source of Asian heroin, with most other sources of the drug being impure black tar from Latin America. The power-using drug addicts of San Lorenzo were eager for high-quality powder from the East, and Antonio was eager to supply it to them.

Mr. Sen being a normie, however, was part of the reason as to why he was startled, confused, and paranoid at this meeting. The heroin trafficker had brought an odd metal box with him, approximately the size of a large suitcase with a handle on top of it. This wouldn't have caused too much anxiety for Antonio, except for the fact that the ambient heat in his hands - which had become second nature to him in the years since he had developed his powers - vanished without a trace the moment he got close to it. Antonio never carried a gun any more, not even when dealing with normies, as he figured that being able to use his powers if something went violent went down would be worth whatever price the curse exacted on him later; at that moment, though, Antonio was really wishing that he still carried a gun.

For one thing, Mr. Sen was a normie. Antonio still didn't know what was in that box, but whatever was inside was clearly related to powers in some way, if it had stolen or canceled or nullified his in some way - and normies were not supposed to know about powers, in any fashion. Whenever a power-user exhibited their abilities in front of normies, the curse - people assumed it was the curse, anyways - made them see it as some sort of extraordinary but still natural phenomenon. Matthew Harper knocked somebody out with his electrokinesis? No, he was just carrying a stun gun. Antonio di Napoli set somebody on fire with his pyrokinesis? No, he just threw a molotov at them.

And yet, here Mr. Sen was, with something relating to powers. What the fuck was going on?

The heroin trafficker looked at the metal box, then looked at Antonio. "It is for you, Mr. di Napoli." Mr. Sen's eyes seemed... Unfocused at that moment, in the same way that normies looked whenever the curse was affecting them. "I understand that, Mr. Sen, and I appreciate the thought, but... What is it?" Again, Mr. Sen looked at the box, and then at Antonio; the Italian man noticed that Sen's guards had the same glazed over look. "It is a gift for you, Mr. di Napoli."

What the fuck was going on?

Antonio just nodded, carefully approaching the table that Mr. Sen had arrayed his product on. The moment the conversation turned to the drugs, the Chinese man's expression returned to normal, as did those of his guards. Antonio's eyes were constantly flitting back to the metal box, the man all too aware of the lack of heat on his palms. He didn't expect Mr. Sen to fuck him on this, of course, but that didn't stop a few beads of cold sweat from trickling down the back of Antonio's neck.

After a negotiation that was probably far more tense for Antonio than for Mr. Sen, the Chinese man departed with Antonio's money, and the di Napoli man was left in the warehouse with a pile of heroin bricks and a metal box containing... Something. Antonio stood there, staring at the container for what must have been upwards of ten minutes, before finally taking a deep breath and walking up to it.

Thankfully, it didn't kill him when he touched it, which Antonio considered a good first step. The first thing he noticed was that the box had holes drilled it in at regular intervals, openings that almost looked like... Air holes? As the Italian man pressed an eye up against one of the openings, he saw... Another eyes, looking back at him.

"Mamma fucking Maria!" Antonio fell backwards, panting heavily from the shock. "Mio Dio, what the fuck!" Antonio hadn't exactly been very religious, despite being raised in an Italian, Roman Catholic family, but the confusion and anxiety he felt at that moment urged him to make the sign of the cross several times before continuing with his examination of... Whatever the box was, and whatever was inside of it. He wasn't a coward - Antonio di Napoli was not a fucking coward - but the fact that the thing inside of the box had taken away his powers? Yeah, that spooked him just a little bit.

Taking several deep breaths, Antonio approached the box again, finding a latch that looked like it would open it up. He grabbed a nearby two-by-four as a makeshift weapon, and opened the door up, ready to enact violence on the thing inside of the box if it was necessary.

Now that the inside of the box was fully illuminated by the flourescent warehouse lights overhead, though, Antonio felt like an absolute, complete fool, and he dropped the piece of wood he was holding to the ground with a scoff. The thing that he had been absolutely terrified of a moment before was a young Chinese girl, barely into puberty by the looks of it, who was looking out at him with fear plastered all over her face.

With a sigh and a laugh, Antonio let the ridiculous horror he had felt escape out through deep breaths, and as he managed to compose himself back into working order, his mind immediately began to work on how to best make use of this 'gift' that Mr. Sen had given him.

"...and the fucking shock collar, Tony?"

The Italian man didn't have any energy left in him to argue with Matt about his name; he was barely conscious by that point, the constant electrokinetic bursts flooding through his body having reduced him to an only marginally coherent mess. He had wet himself at some point, he idly realized, but the blonde man didn't seem to care too much, sparks still arcing between the thumb and forefinger Matt was holding up.

"Taught her... Hmngh... Taught her to turn her power off and on..." Antonio was heaving breaths by that point, barely able to keep his eyes open. "Fucking... Hngh... Fucking hard to do when she doesn't... Ffah... Doesn't speak a word of English." The drug-dealer smirked a little bit as he raised his head, to look Matt in the eyes. "Learned a lot quicker once I started shocking her every time she didn't understand."

Antonio knew what that would provoke from his torturer, but he had learned that it was hard to proper for barely less-than-lethal voltage flowing through his nerves. The Italian man's body convulsed as Matthew grit his teeth down hard, anger etched onto the blonde man's face as he sent the shock through Antonio.

The drug-dealer was still recovering when Jake walked into the bathroom, holding a phone. "How's it going, Matt?" The electrokinetic panted - more from rage than from the exertion of using his power - and looked up at the kid. "Well enough. Think I'm almost done." Jake scrunched up his nose as he smelled the urine that Antonio had loosed some while ago. "Jesus, Tony. That's fucking nasty. We'll get him to clean that up before he goes, right?" Matthew nodded, but looked impatient. "What do you need, Jake?" The kid motioned with his phone, before proceeding. "Jin says he can come over tonight, talk to the girl herself, get her side of the story." Antonio groaned as he recovered, looking up at the two other men. "Why the... Hnmm... Why the fuck did we go through all of this if... Fffh... If you're just going to talk to her, instead?" Matt and Jake just sort of looked at each other, before looking back at Antonio, both of them united in the half-smirks, half-scowls that adorned their faces. They shrugged simultaneously, before Jake spoke up. "Why not?"

As if that was somehow a completely satisfactory answer, Matthew stuffed the cloth gag back into Antonio's mouth, before he stood up from where he was crouched in front of the Italian man, stretching out the kinks in his muscles he had developed over the 'interrogation' session. "Fuck me, I'm hungry now. What do you want for dinner, Jake? Wait, what fucking time is it, even?" As the two of them made their way out of the bathroom, leaving Antonio behind, Jake looked at his phone before responding. "It's 8:32, but I think that pizza place is still delivering." The door closed behind them, but not before Antonio caught a glance of the Chinese girl, the power nullifier, sitting on the couch of Matthew and Jacob's office, smiling to herself as she ate ice cream and watched cartoons she likely didn't understand a word of. The drug dealer could vaguely hear the two other men, even through the door. "Yeah, I think pizza sounds good." "Mushrooms, right?" "No, God damnit! You know I hate mushrooms!" "That's why I love ordering mushroom pizza!" "God fucking damnit, Jake!"

Antonio huffed out from behind the fabric of the gag, closing his eyes as he laid on the hard, uncomfortable tile of the bathroom floor. The pungent smell of his own urine filled his nose, but the endorphins that were flooding his body as an after-effect of all of the pain that his electrokinetic torture had put him through were encouraging him to rest. He could make out more bickering over pizza, before his ears picked up the high-pitched laughter of a little girl cutting through the argument, the last thing Antonio heard before unconsciousness took him.


About the author

Miss Brain Problems

  • Fairfield, CA, USA
  • Queen of the Gooblers

Bio: I like writing, I think.

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