Ack. I’ve got a knot in the pit of my stomach. I’m not good at putting myself out there, but dammit, if I don’t start sucking it up and getting feedback on my writing–my fiction writing–I’m never gonna improve.
So here we go. I’m posting a short story. Never done this before, but I’m very open to constructive criticism. I want your feedback. Because ultimately, I want to submit this to a magazine. Taking my own advice for once.
First, a little bit of backstory: this is my original story, but not my original idea. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. The idea for this story came from a prompt I came across on Instagram:
I have no idea if one-lonely-whumperfly (great name, by the way) is the true originator of this idea, as the internet is essentially a giant game of telephone, but whoever you are, God bless you.
As for everyone else, I’m riding on the honor code here. Please don’t repost or republish this story without my permission. ©Words and Other Malarky?
And if you have an original story that you’d like feedback on, please drop a link in the comments. I would love to return the favor.
Warning: strong language and graphic violence ahead.
So without further ado:
The Enemy of My Enemy
I hate him. I truly despise that little punk with every fiber of my being. He can’t be older than twenty, yet he has the nerve—the goddamn nerve—to call himself a man, and worse yet, a superhero.
The kid’s powerful. I’ll grant you that. He’s got this kind of ultraviolet plasma blast sort of superpower that comes from his hands and feet, and sometimes his eyes. He calls himself Ultraman. What a joke. But I’ll tell you what—you get hit with that blast, and it’ll fuck you up six ways to Sunday.
I should know. I’ve been hit with it the most.
Fortunately, (not for him,) I bounce back pretty quick, thanks to my one-of-a-kind regenerative serum. But, you see, I had to engineer my powers. I didn’t get to be born with it like that snot-nosed brat. I earned my stripes. I got my PhD. I am Doctor Chaos, thank you very much. Suck on that, superheroes.
It’s not true that everyone with superpowers feels a noblesse oblige to help their fellow man. Just recently, actually, I read a news article about how there’s been an influx of superheroes going rogue. Hey, good for them. As long as they find their own cities, everything’s good. Though I doubt anyone would willingly come to Chicago. Except me, of course.
Why? Because they’ve got a prolific organized crime ring. Worse than New York, even. And it’s really hard to carve out any kind of existence as a villain in a place that’s overrun by mobsters who don’t like competition. But I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.
God, I want this city so bad I can taste it. The mob knows it, and they don’t like it one bit. They control the city, and they’re not about to hand any of that control over to someone like me. Nor would I settle for just a little piece of the pie—I want the whole damn bakery. It’s me vs. them most of the time, except when that self-righteous punk gets involved.
Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? Hell, no. Sometimes I can’t decide who I hate more: the mob or Ultraman. Depends on the day, I guess.
I do know this, though: I’ve had to deal with that do-gooder way more than those blockheads ever have. We’re perfectly matched, he and I. Sometimes it’s almost poetic. He’s the Sherlock Holmes to my Moriarty, the Batman to my Joker. I’ve studied him. I know more than the Hero Register does, I bet. I don’t know his secret identity, but I bet you I could pick him out of a crowd.
Too bad this city has a population of about two million.
He evidently has studied me, too, because he always—and I mean always—finds my damn hideout. I think he enjoys it, little shit that he is. Granted, it has forced me to get more and more creative, it doesn’t make it any less of a nuisance.
You try moving ten times in a year and see how you like it.
But I must’ve done something right, because he hasn’t found this one yet. Maybe it’s because it’s so incredibly ordinary that it hides in plain sight—a studio apartment above a laundromat in Chinatown. I have full access to the basement, which the owner never uses, so I keep all my goodies down there.
“Never sleep where you work,” as my pig-shit of a father used to say.
Thanks for the advice, Dad.
I hadn’t seen the punk in months, actually, which was odd, because I’d been pretty active in the community. Nothing too ambitious, though. Just stealing chemicals, building illegal weapons, selling illegal weapons. Guy’s gotta make a living somehow. Admittedly, I’ve been laying low since our last encounter, when Ultraman decimated my plasma gun and destroyed my lab. That was a real setback.
But seriously, did he think I was done? Didn’t he know I’d never quit, that I existed to make his life as much of a living hell as he made mine? No, no, no. I’m just waiting for the right moment to make my next move.
But not tonight. It was a Thursday night, and there was a nasty storm unleashing its fury outside. I love thunderstorms. Maybe it’s a mad scientist thing, I don’t know.
I’d just settled down in my faded, red easy chair with my cat, Carmen, the only faithful companion in my life. I recognize how stereotypical it is for a villain—especially one with a name like Dr. Chaos—to have a cat, but trust me when I say that this cat is not my co-conspirator.
I sipped a cup of Stress Relief tea while Carmen settled down in my lap, ready to watch the lightning show and sketch some schematics before bed. That’s when I heard a loud, unmistakable banging coming from the back door of the laundromat (which doubled as the entrance to my rooms). At first, I ignored it, thinking it was the wind or just some vagrant, but it persisted, to the point where I could no longer focus on my tea nor my schematics. I grabbed a gun and headed to the door with half a mind to shoot the bastard just to get some peace and quiet.
But when I opened the door, it wasn’t a homeless person standing there.
It was Ultraman.
I froze, absolutely froze. I couldn’t have shot the gun if I’d wanted to, that’s how shocked I was to see my mortal enemy standing there in the pouring rain. His purple and blue costume (I refuse to call it a suit) was torn and bloody, and he was shivering, covered in mud like he’d been walking through the streets for a while. Most of all—and what stilled my hand the most, I think—was how petrified he looked. I’d never seen the kid show an ounce of fear, not even when I’d had my flesh-devouring poison gun pointed at his head. Standing there, he looked like he’d seen death.
He swayed slightly on my doorstep as if he were on the verge of passing out. He did look a little out of it, not just tired and scared but dazed, like he didn’t quite know where he was.
Did he mean to find me? Or was I really just that unlucky?
“Didn’t know where else to go,” he mumbled, and then he fell forward, right into my still-frozen arms.
I buckled under his weight. I wasn’t in bad shape myself, but nowhere near strong enough to support the dead weight of a water-drenched superhero.
Fuck, was all I could think. He found my hideout again.
I considered just leaving him there, crumpled on my doorstep in the rain. I really, truly considered it. But I was too curious. Who could’ve possibly done this to him? I’d never seen him look so pathetic. So beaten. Whoever had done this had done a good job.
Didn’t know where else to go.
The irony. That I, of all the people in this city, would be the one he turned to in his time of need. For… what, though? For help? Did he really think I would help him?
Well, so far it sure as hell looked that way. I’d dragged him all the way up the stairs—no easy feat, lemme tell you—and deposited him on the rug. He was gonna get everything wet, and I couldn’t afford to get billed for water damage. So I stripped him down to his underwear, which was undoubtedly the most uncomfortable ten minutes of my life.
Although, I did have to cut his costume to get it off in some places, ruining it beyond repair. And that, I’ll admit, made up for it a bit.
And then things got better.
There was a small pocket sown into the inside of the costume’s torso. Inside were two things: a driver’s license and a credit card.
“What a fucking dumbass,” I said to Carmen, who’d been getting in the way the whole time, as cats do.
I almost didn’t look, but I couldn’t help myself. His name was Tobias James Gaschich, a perfectly boring name for a perfectly boring Caucasian male. He was twenty-one years old, 6’1”, 195 pounds. Oh, I was definitely using this as leverage against him.
“Blackmail, Toby,” I said. “I know your secret identity.”
His wounds were pretty bad. He had a nasty gash in his side, a cut on his head, a split lip, and bruises and cuts all over, though mostly on his upper body. He’d been assaulted, likely by a group. Lots of fists and boots, and definitely some kind of sharp weapon.
I began to form a suspicion. I wondered if it was our old friend, the mob. Obviously they hadn’t meant to leave him alive, though. What a shitty job. If it had been them, I couldn’t give them the satisfaction of thinking that they’d actually done him harm. So I cleaned and dressed the wounds. I even thought about giving him some regenerative serum, but thought better of it. Why waste my formula on that prick? Couldn’t have him too healthy, now.
My tea was cold, and the rain had died down anyway. I had an injured superhero passed out on my living room floor and I had no idea what I was going to do about it. Well, I kind of knew, but I was too tired to think.
I draped a blanket over “Toby” and went to bed. This was shaping up to be the weirdest night of my life. But somehow, I still fell asleep.
I woke with a start to the sound of something clanging to the floor. Remembering that I had an unwanted guest, I got out of bed. Toby wasn’t on the rug. Carmen ran out to the middle of the room from the bathroom, and I peered around the corner to find Toby in there, knocking shit over. He turned to face me.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. My hand…” He held up his left hand, which was apparently broken. Not sure how I missed that.
I kinda wished I wasn’t in pajamas right now, but whatever. I crossed my arms over my chest and said, “Not a very considerate house guest, are we?”
He almost looked ashamed. “I realize how awkward this must be.”
“Do you, now? You show up on my doorstep in the dead of night, begging for my help. What in the actual fuck were you thinking? I could’ve shot you dead.”
“But you didn’t.” He looked so goddamn pleased with himself it made me sick.
“No. I didn’t. But not because of how pitiful you were, and trust me, you were pitiful. It’s ‘cause I saw a silver lining to this whole debacle.” I grinned. “You see, I know who you are, Toby Gaschich.”
His cocky grin dropped a bit. “What did you do with my suit?”
“You were gonna ruin my floors. It’s in the trash now.”
“Where’re my cards?”
“Safe. With me.”
“I’d like them back.”
“Um, no. But,” I moved to my dresser, “I’ll at least grant you the privilege of some civilian clothes.” I tossed him a Cardinals t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts.
“The Cardinals? Really?”
I shrugged. “I’m from St. Louis. Be thankful I’m even giving you a shirt.”
He emerged from the bathroom a moment later dressed in his finery, and I still had no plan. I really just wanted him gone, but I had to satisfy my curiosity first. We both stared at each other, at a mutual loss, until I caved in and said, “You want some coffee?”
“Sure.” He took a seat on the couch while I brewed a pot of Seattle’s Best. Too bad I didn’t have any poison lying around. Would be awfully convenient. At the very least, I’d put some poison in mine. In the form of Jack Daniels.
“Cream and sugar?” I asked begrudgingly.
“I’ll take it black,” he said. I brought it to him and sat down in my easy chair, watching him pet the cat, who seemed to like him. The little traitor. He looked up at me. “So, this is where Dr. Chaos takes his respite. I gotta say, it’s not bad.”
“It was pretty damn great before you showed up,” I said. “Better than some of the other shitholes I’ve set up shop in. You should know. You always seem to find them.” I took a sip of my Irish coffee. “Seriously, how did you find me last night?”
He paused. “If I tell you, will you give me back my cards?”
“No,” I said, deadpan.
“Jesus. Okay, fine. Since you have me at a disadvantage here, can I at least know your first name?”
He groaned. “What about your cat’s name?”
I hesitated. “It’s Carmen.”
He smirked. “Like Carmen Electra or… like, Carmen Sandiego? The computer game?”
To hell with this shit. “You owe me an answer, Tobias.”
He leaned back. “It’s part of my powers. I can sense when a powerful energy source is nearby. And whatever voodoo you’ve done on yourself, it’s made you detectable.”
Great. So while I was doing experiments to make myself more invincible, I was actually making myself an easier target. Fucking brilliant.
“Irony is a bitch,” I said, sipping my coffee. “So, you gonna tell me what happened?”
“Not until you give me my cards.”
I had the upper hand here, and he knew it. God, did it feel good to have the homefield advantage for once. He sighed. “I was in the middle of a job, in pursuit. A robbery off of Cermak. I turn down a quiet street, and I hear a cry for help. A woman’s voice. I thought it was either the robbers, or some other predator. I couldn’t just ignore it. But it was—it was an ambush.”
“By the robbers?”
“I don’t know. It happened so fast. First there was a woman, dressed all in black like an assassin. She might’ve had superpowers. Then, more showed up. I have no idea how many there were, but it felt like a dozen. All women, too. The leader shot me with some kind of sedative. I had just enough clarity to fight them off, and then I wandered around until I found you.”
“Hm.” I nodded. I set my coffee mug on the side table and brought my hands down on my thighs. “Well, that was a great story. I especially liked the part where you got your ass kicked by a bunch of girls. Sounds like a real lack of judgment on your part. Well, this has been fun, but I think it’s time for you to leave. I gotta take a shit. There’s the door.” I pointed behind me. “Take your boots on your way out.”
He looked at me, confused and then angry. “What about my cards?”
“I think I’ll keep ‘em. As insurance. You see, I really, really don’t wanna have to move again. And I’d really, really appreciate it if you pretended you never found this place.”
“That’s bullshit! You don’t even have the decency to hold me for ransom?”
I laughed. “Why would I do that? That’s no fun. It wasn’t even fair—you just handed yourself to me on a silver platter. If I hold you for ransom, it’ll be because I beat the living shit out of you, not some random tarts.”
“You’re not even concerned about the fact that there might be another supervillain running around?”
I waved it away, even though that did raise a tiny alarm. “I’ll deal with her some other day.”
“We should do something about it.”
“We?” I stood up. “The only thing we’re going to do is pretend this never happened. You’re wounded, I’m still nursing my own injured pride, and this whole thing was a huge inconvenience. Bye-bye, see you next week, tell the chief of police to say hi to his wife for me.”
Suddenly, the door burst open, and three mobsters armed to the teeth flooded in. My reaction was immediate—I dove to the floor and scrambled to my bedside table, where I’d left my Fisticuffs, or Power Gloves, or Power Gauntlets… still couldn’t decide on a name, but they’re a prototype. Designed to mimic Ultraman’s powers but better.
One of the mobsters looked at Ultraman and said, “Holy shit, look who it is.”
He shot and missed, and Ultraman took him down with a plasma blast. It was weak and one-handed, so the mobster was only knocked out for the moment. In that time, I’d snapped on the Fisticuffs and taken down the other two.
“Come on,” something possessed me to say. “Hurry.”
He followed me down the stairs and out the back of the building. So did Carmen, who was half alley cat anyhow. Wasn’t too worried about her, but I was worried about me.
“How the hell did they find you?” I spat as I led us down the backside of the city block. It was dirty by virtue of being an alleyway but extra muddy from the rain. I was in slippers and Toby was barefoot. “You asshole, you got me all caught up in the crosshairs!”
“I don’t think it had anything to do with me being there,” he said, following behind. “I’m pretty sure they were there for you.”
I stopped in my tracks and whipped around. “What?”
“Those guys—mob guys, in case you didn’t notice—were surprised to see me. They thought I was dead. You, on the other hand,” he scoffed, “were the target.”
“Shit.” I started walking faster.
“I think there’s safety in numbers, here, Doctor.”
“And I think you should get fucked.”
“Where do you plan on going? What are your assets? Do you have a storage unit? A secondary hideout?”
“Oh, you mean you don’t know where it is already? No, I don’t have either of those things. I don’t have enough assets to require a secondary location. You keep destroying them.”
“Well, whose fault is that for being so fucking predictable?”
“Predictable.” I scowled. “Predictable! If I’m so predictable, why haven’t you been able to take me down yet, huh?”
He had nothing to say to that. I kept walking, but I truly had no idea where to go. I realized I didn’t have any allies. Networking wasn’t my strong suit. I wasn’t sure I even knew anyone that I didn’t mostly hate. There was no way… he was my best option. I stopped and turned to face him. “Did you have somewhere in mind?”
Ultraman lives in the suburbs. Didn’t expect that, for some reason. We went through the backyard to a toolshed, but of course it wasn’t a toolshed. It was Ultraman’s hideout. He had a bed, a desk, computers, and an actual cork board with a bunch of notes, newspaper articles, and print-outs. I saw my name on there once or twice. Or a lot.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” he said.
“Well, well,” I said. “How the tables have turned.” I started messing with the tools on his desk. It looked like he was working on upgrades to his costume.
“Please don’t touch anything.”
I smirked. “Why shouldn’t I?”
“Who lives in the house? I see there’s no bathroom or shower in here. This is an office, not an abode.”
He went pale. “Don’t worry about it.”
“What do I do if I have to go to the bathroom?” Which I did.
“Go in the woods.”
“Like an animal? Hell, no.”
“Okay, fine. Fine. But we have to be quiet.” He led me across the yard and through the back door of this little blue house. There was a full bathroom in the above-ground basement/entertainment room, which I thoroughly destroyed. When I walked out, Ultraman was gone. But the door at the top of the stairwell was open, so I went up.
“Hey, uh, Toby?”
He came out of the kitchen and motioned for me to go back downstairs, but not before a middle-aged woman peeked her head around and said, “Is this your friend?”
Holy shit. I put on my biggest, most charming smile and approached this woman who I could only assume was Ultraman’s mother.
“Yes. Ma, this is…”
“Kirk Saberdine,” I said, and cursed myself for not thinking of something other than my real name. I offered my hand, and she shook it. “It’s nice to meet you, ma’am.”
“I’m Jill. Nice to meet you, too. Toby doesn’t have people over very often.”
“Ma, come on.”
“I understand you boys had a wild night?” She eyed her son. “Someone obviously got in a fight again.”
“Oh yes,” I said, watching Toby get more and more uncomfortable. “But in his defense, there was lots of alcohol involved. And drugs, so many drugs.”
She gave her son a look, but it was more concerned than condemning.
“No, not drugs. Not drugs. He’s joking. We were trying not to disturb you, Ma. We were just gonna sleep in the shed.”
“No, there’s no need for that. It’s cold out and you boys are a mess. I’ll make you some coffee. Kirk, please make yourself at home. Feel free to use the shower downstairs. Toby will get you a change of clothes, right, honey?”
I couldn’t believe this. I almost wished I had a video camera just so I could capture this moment. Nonetheless, I did take a shower and change into some of Toby’s old clothes. He made sure to pick out the best of the best for me: what looked like a gym shirt from middle school and some ratty old cargo shorts. What goes around comes around, I guess.
And now here we were, drinking coffee again, but this time with Ultraman’s mother. What a doll, truly. She was pretty attractive, too. I had a thing for older women, I’ll admit.
“So, Kirk,” she said. “Forgive me, but you look a little older than college-aged. Are you a nontraditional student?”
“I’m actually a professor,” I said, watching Toby from my peripherals. “Well, you know, adjunct.”
“Oh? What do you teach?”
“Philosophy.” Toby looked like he wanted to strangle me, which only goaded me on. “And Ethics. I love teaching Ethics.”
“Oh, nice. Toby, you didn’t tell me you were taking a philosophy class.”
“I’m not,” he said through gritted teeth. “He’s not my professor. He’s just a loser who thinks he can party with the students.”
“Now, that’s not fair. I think of it as a social experiment. A chance to really see… philosophy applied.” I looked at Toby’s mother. “What’s your philosophy, Jill?”
Toby actually flinched.
“Oh, well,” she smiled a little, “something I’ve always lived by and taught my children is that you can’t control what other people do, but you can always control what you do. And to treat everyone with as much kindness and respect as possible. There’s enough hate in the world, you know? No use adding to it.”
“That’s beautiful, Jill,” I said, placing a hand on her arm. “You would make a great philosophy student.”
Toby squeezed his coffee mug so hard it actually shattered, sending hot coffee and shards of ceramic everywhere. I stayed seated while he and Jill jumped up at once. “I’m so sorry, Ma! I don’t know what happened.”
“Tobias James! Jesus, boy, you really need to learn your own strength.”
I kind of just watched while mother and son cleaned up son’s mess, but I tried to be as helpful as possible, saying cute things like, “We all make mistakes,” and “No use crying over spilled coffee.”
After that fiasco, Jill left for work (she was a nurse, go figure), but not before she ordered Toby and I to use the spare bedroom, which had two twin beds.
“What a sweet lady,” I said, all smiles.
“You fucker,” he said. “If we weren’t in my mother’s house, I’d blast you so hard…” He got up and actually grabbed me by the lapel. “Don’t you ever touch my mother again, you piece of shit.”
I couldn’t help myself. I laughed. “What’s the matter? Can’t stand the thought of calling me ‘Dad’ one day?” Alright, so maybe that was crossing a line. He punched me in the face. Hard. My nose poured blood. But I couldn’t stop laughing. “Holy shit.”
He backed off, thinking less like hotheaded Toby and more like level-headed Ultraman. If he’d lost his temper every time I’d said something offensive to him, hell, he’d probably be dead. He wouldn’t be a hero, that’s for sure. Heroes who throw temper tantrums wind up on the 6:00 news. And not in the good way.
I went to the bathroom and stuffed tissues up my nose. When I came back, Ultraman had his head in his hands. “I’m sorry,” he said without looking up.
I sat down on the adjacent bed and sighed. “Hey, uh, you know. She really is a sweet lady.”
He looked up. “She raised me and my brothers by herself.”
“I figured. Dad skip out?”
“Yeah.” He looked down at his clasped hands.
“Well, my parents were together and they were both terrible people, so, you know, at least you got one.” Why did I say that? It made me sound like a softy. But truth be told, I’d never talked about my parents. I’d never talked about much of anything to anyone.
He looked at me, solemn. “You said you were from St. Louis?”
“East St. Louis, yeah.”
“Why Chicago, then?”
I shrugged. “Prime real estate. And there’s like… three, four, five supervillains in St. Louis. Too dense.”
“The mob’s pretty dense.”
“Yes, but, they’re also spoiled. They’ve never had to deal with a rival before.”
He scoffed, looking off to the side at nothing. “If you hate organized crime so much, then why do you participate in it?”
“Uh, because the alternative is becoming a do-gooder, idealistic vigilante who thinks they’re helping people when they’re really just egging people like me on. At least I’m honest about who I am. You getting mad at me for hitting on your mom is the most honest I’ve ever seen you. Ever. Where’s that guy during our fights, huh?”
He shrugged. “Ultraman’s who I wish Toby would be. Not emotional, not partial, not angry. Just strong. Just… good.”
“Just boring is what you mean,” I said.
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “Anyways, we can’t hide out in my mom’s house forever.”
“Obviously. Isn’t that the golden rule of Hero 101? Don’t get your loved ones involved?”
“I’m barely here. The shed is my secondary. And to be honest, I was never worried before now. I’ve never had the mob after me. Like, after me, after me.”
“You don’t think I would’ve bombed this place if I’d found it?”
“Not out of the ring. Not while I’m Toby. I think you have a level of respect for the game.”
“Ah, yes. The game. Well, newsflash: the mob don’t. They’re in it to win. Even if it means playing dirty.”
“I guess that means we gotta break some rules, then.”
The subsequent explosion shook me to my core. It came from downstairs. Both of us jumped up at the same time.
“The Fisticuffs,” I said. Like an idiot, I’d left them in the shed.
“I’ll cover you. Stay close.” He moved towards the door.
Never in my life. Never in my life did I think I’d be using Ultraman as a human shield. But that’s what happened as he moved to the stairs and started blasting everything that moved. There were half a dozen men, and Toby took down at least three of them as we moved downstairs and into the kitchen. I nearly tripped down the basement stairs as I raced to the shed and snapped on the Fisticuffs. Three of the mobsters had followed me, and they blasted the shed to smithereens as I ducked and rolled out of it. I started firing. One went down. Two went down. The third kept moving towards me.
Number Three was a woman, clad in black up to her nose like a ninja. The woman, I figured. And she was definitely superpowered, because I was hitting her with everything I had, and she was dodging it like she could see in slow motion.
“What a sorry sight,” she said. That voice. I recognized that voice. “The great Dr. Chaos, cowering behind a superhero.”
“Have we met?” I asked.
“No. Probably not. And I doubt we’ll ever meet again.” She brought her hands up and closed them into fists. About a dozen copies of herself appeared in sequence.
“Wait a second,” I said. “You’re Sigma. The superhero. The one who can—who can make clones of herself.”
“Wonder what gave me away.” She brought her arms down, and so did her copies. “And I was Sigma. I switched career paths.”
“Holy shit. You’re one of the ones who went rogue because heroes are the worst. I’m such a big fan.”
“Good to know.” She lunged at me, as did her copies. I started blasting them. The copies were less-stable fragments of herself, so they went down pretty easily. She, on the other hand, was a tough nut to crack.
“How much is the mob paying you?” I said, continuing to shoot at her. “What are the going rates for assassins these days?”
She drew her katana and started swinging. I ducked and dodged, but she nicked me in the arms, the legs, and even my cheek. That’s when I saw Ultraman run out into the backyard and pause to survey the scene.
“Pretty shitty job you did, leaving Ultraman alive,” I said. “Maybe you’re just new at this, but you’re supposed to kill your targets dead.”
Ultraman blasted her in the back. She turned and sent three of her copies after him, leaving the rest for me. She was wearing me out. She got me in the shoulder, and I stumbled backwards, blinking back sparks.
“Alright, Anti-Sigma, what’s he paying you? I bet I could double it.” I couldn’t, but maybe she wouldn’t call my bluff.
“You’re a pathetic excuse for a villain,” she said.
“Likewise.” I couldn’t catch my breath.
She pulled back her sword, ready to strike. Was this really how I was going to go down? In cargo shorts?
Ultraman broke free of the clones and went all out on Sigma, shouting as the violet plasma beam shot from his hands and eyes simultaneously. I went at her with both Fisticuffs on full power, and she fell to one knee. Drawing all remaining clones back to her, she summoned just enough strength to draw a dagger and throw it.
It was just enough of a pause for me to aim and fire the final blow. She went down, dead. Or close to it.
I sprinted over to where Ultraman lay on the ground, a dagger in his chest. He was breathing, but barely. I crouched down and fell to my knees.
“Fuck,” I said. “Goddammit.” Why, oh why, hadn’t I grabbed any regenerative serum? “What do I do? Do I call 911?”
He reached up and gripped my forearm with his bloody right hand. “Please. Don’t. Don’t tell my mom. That I was. Ultraman.”
“What am I supposed to tell her?”
“Tell her—Just tell her I love her.”
“Toby, come on. It’s not time for you to go. We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover, you and I. No one’s allowed to kill you but me.” I tried to smile.
He chuckled, but it was weak. “You’re a really bad villain, Kirk. But a really… okay… guy.” His head lolled to one side, his hand dropped from my arm. His eyes stared into nothingness.
Ultraman was dead.
“No, no, no, Toby, come on, don’t die on me.” I did the whole routine, but it was futile. My arch nemesis, the bane of my existence, the thorn in my side, was gone.
I actually sobbed. I, Dr. Chaos, who was supposed to be some heartless villain, cried like a baby over the body of my dead rival.
No, no, not my rival.
The enemy of my enemy.