“Dad, I think our neighbours are supervillains.”
“Oh son, everybody is a villain in their own way. Some people don’t recycle. It miffs your mother quite a bit, you know.”
“But daaad, I’m serious. They dress weird, live in a church and drive a creepy old car!”
“Son, that's the 1888 Saint Mary cathedral and a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom. Eccentricity and preservation of landmark buildings and cars isn’t villainy.”
“Look, I’m going to find evidence and prove it to you.”
“Good luck, son.”
Martin grew tired of hearing his father’s deep, overtly cheerful tone and stomped into the kitchen. He could see Saint Mary’s cathedral from his kitchen windows, its gargoyles and dark parapets looming over his family's new, quaint, two storey home. Ever since his family moved into the small town of Saint Mary, next door to the town’s historic gothic cathedral, Martin had been haunted by increasing suspicions. At night he had seen eerie, silver lights flashing behind the stained glass windows and heard a low rumble coming from the deep. The cathedral HAD to be a supervillain’s secret base.
However, like his dad said, he needed evidence of criminality to prove anything. For this purpose alone, Martin got up at 6am today. He couldn't sleep in, terrified that the supervillains next door were plotting nefarious deeds against humanity. He had to act fast, before they decided to blow up the moon or something. Somebody had to stop them and regrettably this job had fallen to Martin, as his father refused to budge his heroic butt off the couch without government authorization.
“Yo pipsqueak,” Martin’s sister Ember descended from the stairwell, interrupting his frantic kitchen-pacing. Her orange, curly hair gracefully swayed on its own as if an invisible fan was present in the kitchen. Golden eyes settled on Martin. “You’re up early for once. Excited for new school? I wouldn't be. Everything in this tiny town sucks balls. There’s three haircut parlors and zero movie theatres. Honestly, Mom's lucky that she is stuck on her disaster-prevention overtime thing - she doesn't have to deal with boringville central!”
Ember snapped her fingers and a flickering, off-color refraction shaped like her turned off the kitchen lights. Martin suddenly felt like he had never pressed the lights switch on this morning. It was an extremely unnerving feeling. As their mom, the national prognosticator, was barely showing up at home these days due to some future emergency, his sister was becoming progressively more overbearing.
“Don’t waste electricity. It ain’t free, you know,” she said. “Dad is too nice to properly manage your inexperienced butt. As always, the task to elevate chaff to potential, falls to me.”
“I’m not chaff.” Martin gritted out, glaring at his big sister. “You know your power is really screwing with my head, why do you keep using it on me?”
“Deal with it, boyo. I’m training you to oppose supers in the future, see? Nobody else in this family is nice enough to do that for you.”
A refraction of her flickered in front of him, stabbing a fork into the table in between his fingers. Martin flinched backwards, unable to escape the annoying feeling like the fork had always been there.
“Too slow,” she shook her head. “If I was a villain you’d be fork-skewered already.” Another refraction of her pulled the fork from the table’s surface, leaving it pristine.
Ember had already gotten her Hero license at 19 and was constantly bugging Martin with her power all while poking fun at his inadequacies. Martin chose not to tell her about his neighbor-related suspicions, feeling far too irritated with her. Almost any recent interaction with his sister inevitably led to a sibling fight in which he’d get severely walloped and made fun of. Sadly, it was impossible to win a fight against someone who could make ghostly copies that changed the outcome of events in a 5 meter radius.
“Alright," Ember said, glancing at a wall clock. "I got state-watch duties, unlike some baby sloths who still haven’t awakened to their power. Toodles, nerdlet.”
As his tiresome sister departed from the kitchen, Martin got back to the most concerning issue at hand - relentlessly observing the cathedral next door.
"Now, how can I acquire evidence of our neighbours misdeeds?" He thought. He badly needed to gain access into the building next door, needed to find a weak link in the defence perimeter —
Martin saw a girl with platinum blonde hair, that looked approximately his age, climbing up a rope ladder on the great oak in his neighbor's yard. Yes! This was his chance. He shoved the recorder pen that he had wisely borrowed from his dad’s office, into his pocket and quickly headed out into his own backyard. The two yards were separated by a stone fence capped with time-worn, gothic motif metal bars. He made sure to make a lot of noise, rustling through a pile of leaves as he rushed across the yard. Soon enough, he was beneath the great oak that grew part way onto his family’s yard. The noises that he made were noticed.
“Heya! You must be the new neighbour.” The silver eyed, silver haired girl waved from her rope ladder. “I’m Alexa! But, you can call me by my supervillain name - Cassiopeia Terror Nova!”
“Well, that was easy,” Martin thought to himself, making sure that the pen was still recording. It was TOO easy in fact.
“Don’t judge me, it’s a work in progress, okay?” The girl noticed his silence and waved an arm that carried a large Stop sign.
Now that Martin was right beneath the oak, he noticed that the ladder led to the most absurd looking tree house, sitting between massive oak branches. It was made entirely out of random street and traffic signs, nailed atop each other in a jumble of colors and letters. The roof was made out of an enormous, bent highway exit sign.
“Exit 7b, Dimmsdale Avenue. Saint Mary township.” He read the words on the sign.
“Gimme a minute to do some patching. I think a meteorite hit one of the walls,” Alexa said, hastily climbing onto a huge branch. Martin watched her pull out a pink nail gun from a pink backpack and proceed to nail the Stop sign to one of the walls of the tree house. He reached a dawning realisation that all of the signs were in fact clearly taken from the town and surrounding areas.
“Impressive ain’t it? My fortress of solitude, made entirely out of stolen signs.” Alexa grinned, shamelessly confessing to her crimes and climbing down to Martin’s level. “I mean it’s nowhere as cool as my dad’s fission reactor room in the catacombs beneath the cathedral, but like I’m still working on it, you know. I even made a small nuclear reactor. It doesn’t work yet, but like… Hey, why do I feel like I am the only one talking?”
“Bingo. Ha ha ha, I got them!” Martin thought, grinning madly. There was no way now that his dad wouldn't believe him now.
“Ah, I see your wide smile of doubtless adoration! You are so flabbergasted by my amazing fortress of wicked deeds that you have forgotten how to speak.”
Alexa jumped off the rope ladder, heading to the fence. She shoved an arm through the gap in the bars, offering a handshake which Martin failed to reciprocate. “Do you want to be my minion? I could show you my maleficent up-tree abode.”
Martin blinked at the girl. Was she serious? He already had enough evidence to put her and her family away for good.
“Look, I do appreciate the strong and silent minion type, but you’ve got a long way to go towards throwing my enemies off skyscrapers and cliff sides with those tiny kitten arms. Exercise is important, you dig?”
Martin turned and started to run.
“I didn’t say to exercise right now! God! Why is it so hard to find intelligent minions these days?!” Alexa lamented from behind him.
All he had to do now was play the pen recording to his father and -
Something crashed into Martin, sending him flying. He landed onto one of his mom’s decorative yard rocks with a crunch.
“I’m going to name you Mittens on account of your cat-like skittishness. First minion Mittens, please don’t run unless I tell you otherwise. A proper chain of command must be followed if we’re to commit crimes of any serious complexity.”
“My name’s Martin.” Martin groaned from beneath Alexa.
“Unimportant. Minion name supersedes civilian name.”
“Please get off me.”
“Are you going to run some more without my authorization?”
“Okay, then.” Alexa rolled off Martin, who sat up, feeling for his precious pen full of evidence. The pen was no longer in one piece. Shards of it filled his pocket and littered the ground. In hindsight, running in plain sight of a villain was a stupid decision.
“How the heck did you get over the fence?” Martin groaned, rubbing his new bruises.
“Jump boots. Made them myself!” Alexa pointed at her sneakers. The shoes looked like someone duct taped a series of layered springs to them. “They’re inspired by the fantastic 19th century villain Spring-heeled Jack, the Terror of London, my great-great-great-grandfather. Jack used to pounce on unsuspecting British citizens and deprive them of their sanity and jewelry. He also had a swanky steampunk flintlock that shot fireballs. Do you want to see my pocket raygun, Mittens?”
Before Martin could produce an answer, Alexa produced a device from her backpack. It looked like an old, pink hair dryer with a series of additional bits taped to it.
“Behold my deadly raygun!” She shook the hair dryer in front of his face.
Martin sighed. Either this teenage supervillain was smarter than she initially seemed or…
No, scratch that. She stole traffic signs. Nobody who stole traffic signs could be wise.
“Look, I’d love to admire your lovely raygun,” Martin said, lying through his teeth, “but I have to get ready for school.”
“Ah yes. School. I suppose I should also pay a visit to the local educational institution. Mind numbing through it may be, I do need to find more minions my age. Daddums is really up my nerves about my lackluster social skills, but honestly it's hard to connect with people when you've got my schedule.” Alexa ran a hand through her silver hair. “I’ll see you on the bus, Mittens.”
Martin watched the girl rush towards the fence in a series of increasingly terrifying jumps, eventually making a big leap over the gothic spikes. The boots actually worked! She was anything but ordinary. He was right all along - his neighbours were genuine supervillains, no doubt about it. He needed to get a new recording pen. Luckily, his dad had plenty of them just lying around, as he was an undercover agent of Super Central Authority.
. . .
Armed with a new recording pen, Martin sat on the bus, waiting for Alexa to emerge from the church. She did not. The school bus doors closed with a whoosh, dashing his hopes to catch the dastardly neighbour in another confession. He watched the bus pass by a series of perfectly ordinary, colorful suburban homes, the cathedral of Saint Mary growing distant.
His eyes inevitably drifted to the blue sky, towards the Superstate space elevator. The Titanomachy space station megastructure was visible to the naked eye - series of colossal, white rings that were circling the entire planet, rippling ever so slightly, warped by the atmospheric refraction of the stratosphere. Up there was the future. His destiny - full of heroism, hope, love and adoration.
Ember, being a super was allowed on the space elevator. Martin wasn’t. He sighed, wistfully dreaming of a day when he too would awaken and become a hero just like his parents, defending humanity against those who sought to threaten -
“THUNK!” A loud thump on the roof above him made Martin twitch in surprise.
Alexa’s upside down face looked at him from the bus window.
“Open the window, minion!” She mouthed at him, knocking on the glass. She was now wearing a very dirty, oversized, orange safety vest and a construction worker’s hardhat that was loosely dangling from her head.
Martin promptly stood up and pulled the window down. The teenage supervillain slid into the school bus with a nonchalant expression, as if boarding moving school buses via the roof was the most mundane thing to do. Other kids stared at her with their mouths wide open. She was making an impression on them already. This had displeased Martin, after all this girl was his nemesis - a villain. He saw himself as the just hero, destined to stop her before she could trick impressionable kids into thinking that villainy was cool.
“Do you not know how to use doors? Why are you late?” He pressed as Alexa flopped down into the seat next to him.
“Forgot to breakfast. You know how it goes, Mittens.” She pulled a fistfull of bacon out of her safety vest’s pocket.
“Martin.” Martin corrected. He wasn’t going to be called Mittens by the other students!
“Uhuh. Want some pocket bacon?” She offered him her very greasy meal.
“No thanks. I already ate.” Martin blenched. “Seriously though, stop calling me Mittens. It’s not cool.”
“Hrm. You know what? You’re right. It’s too long of a name for emergencies. If this bus explodes, I’m going to call you M. Got it? You’re eh-M during an emergency situation.” Alexa ponderously chewed on her bacon bouquet.
“Why would this bus explode?” Martin glared at her. “Is it because you set a bomb on it or something?”
“Don’t be a dum-dum. Do I look like someone who could jeopardize her own safety AND the safety of her potential minions?” Alexa replied. “Look at my vest - does it not make you feel safe?”
Martin looked at the grimy construction worker getup that fit her quite poorly. “Did you steal that vest and hardhat from a construction site?”
“Uhm, yeah?” Alexa nodded.
“Why?” Martin inquired, raising an eyebrow.
“+10 in safety, duh. One can never be too safe when attending public institutions!” Alexa twirled in her bright orange safety vest, tipping her hardhat at him. "M'laddie."
The other kids roared with laughter of approval. She was definitely giving them the much needed Monday morning entertainment. Unacceptable! Martin wasn’t going to have her be the cool example to follow. Villainy wasn’t cool.
“I don’t think it’s cool to steal road signs! What if we get into a traffic accident because you dismantled all of the traffic signs in town?” He loudly announced.
“Alright, we’re going back to Mittens because your kitten-like cluelessness is showing. Let me educate you. Smart villains don’t commit crimes in their own back yard. That’s a rookie mistake - this is why you’re the minion brawn and I’m the brains in charge. Undoubtedly, if you were left to your own devices you’d commit half-assed crimes right in this bus. Well, not under my watch, Mister! We’re committing whole-ass crimes!”
“I’m not committing any crimes, damn it!” Martin declared angrily. “I literally saw the sign say “Saint Mary township” on your treehouse! You can’t just take a highway exit sign and get away with it!”
“Starting to sound a little heroic there, Mittens.” Alexa raised an eyebrow, stuffing the remainder of oil-dripping bacon into her mouth, wiping her hands on the safety vest.
“My name is Martin. You can’t take Stop signs. Somebody ought to stop you!” Martin pressed on, looming over her. He was in too deep now to back away, stepping into the boots of his dad without meaning to do so.
“I think you need to be taught a lesson in respect, before we proceed any further.” The villainous girl pulled out her duct tape pink hair dryer contraption and pointed it at his head.
“You…” Martin froze halfway into another sentence. Did the raygun actually work, like the shoes?
“What’s your name?” Alexa said.
“Say your name!” She pressed the barrel of the hairdryer to his temple.
“WRONG ANSWER!” The villain put her finger on the trigger.
“My name is Mittens.” Martin croaked.
“Louder!” The girl demanded, silver hair fluttering beneath the yellow hardhat. Martin noticed that the hardhat had a large bullet hole in it, the fiberglass warped inward.
“Mittens. I’m Mittens.” He said, his voice breaking.
“Much too quiet. I had such high hopes for you. Oh well.” She shrugged. The expression in her eyes grew colder, more distant, uncaring. It was the face of a villain about to execute a bystander who was simply in the way.
“MY NAME IS MITTENS!” Martin yelled, sweating profusely.
“That’s right,” Alexa smiled mischievously. “Now let me conclude this demonstration of our power dynamic.”
She pressed the trigger. Martin yelped, expecting his head to be vaporised but only felt a very mild brain freeze envelop his mind. Alexa shoved the hairdryer back into her pink “Dora the Terraformer” backpack.
“Ow, what the heck?” He muttered, rubbing his temple, mildly annoyed.
"Witness the devastating power of my death ray!" Alexa cackled from her seat.
"I'm not dead." Martin muttered.
"Not physically, no. But socially, you're absolutely toast." She grinned.
Martin glanced around the bus at the other students. She was right. He could see his social status rapidly sinking while Alexa’s flew to new heights. He could see his doom expressed in the giggles of their future classmates. He would forever be known as Mittens now.
She had won, beaten him in whatever fiendish game this was. He thought that school would be his getaway from his sister’s bothersome ways, but alas here too, he was accosted by a girl who was actively involved in vexing him. At least Alexa was a self-professed villain, someone that he was allowed, no - had to take down for her crimes. The very superhero principles embedded deep in his heart demanded it!
Alexa turned to the window, using its fogged up surface as a board to draw some kind of a complex schematic. It was undoubtedly a design idea for a deadly super-weapon which she would use to hold the world hostage when she was older. Martin, unable to comprehend her technical diagram, slumped back into his seat, feeling like a hero utterly defeated by a worthy opponent.
Was being annoying a crime? No. Stealing signs was, however. That was her weak point. That was how he inevitably would get her, Martin assured himself. He swore to get his revenge, waiting for a chance to strike.
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- Archbishop of Captania and sovereign territories
I was born in the year 1984, in the 4th most polluted city of Soviet Union - Novokuznetsk of Siberian Russia.
On April 11/1997 fate has given me an unexpected twist and by means of aerial transportation I was thrown 5555 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Ontario, Canada, wherein I currently preside in an 1890 Presbyterian church and partake in writing and drawing things.