Short Story: Heroes and Villains

by Ananthi Parekh

Yet again, it has come to this rooftop, me facing him while the city moves below us. Last time we were here I was to strong for him to fight. But I still haven't won, so here we are again.

I'm not sure how stubborn he has to be, I'm not sure how he still thinks he can take this city when I have succeeded in protecting it time and time again.

My power, which I have wielded since I was born, is the ability to heat any part of my body to the point of melting metal. Obviously being able to control this was something that grew with age. I have only just started to develope the ability to cool my body. But training can wait. I have a villain to fight.

A wisp of hair escapes my mask for a second before I realise it flying in front of my sight. Cutting my hair short became practical when I started to burn people with stray tips of my hair when I wasn't concentrating, now it's short it's easier to control, well, heat wise. I tucked the stray hair under the mask that covers my eyes before I see his shadow appear on the roof opposite.

His posture and smirk more cocky than usual, his leather clad torso melting into the night behind him. He seemed to have upped his game. His head remains slightly bowed as his smirk turns to a grin. His mask, similar to mine, covers the top half of his face and eyes, although his leaves his hair open to the air. Despite this seemingly obvious oversight he is one of the lucky few to have an extra little ability; he can alter his hair colour which, in a chase, is far more inconvenient for me than it is for hm. But for now his hair remains a dangerous shade of black. His shoulders tense like a predator as he analyses me as I do him, and for once, I'm scared.

Previously his recklessness has always been something I've used to my advantage. His main power can only really be described as metal bending, and although it seems cliche as any villain could be, unlike me is power was forced on him via the experiments of some even more cliche mad scientists. His specifics I don't know, but although his strongest material is metal, I've seen him bend rocks, control plastic and weaponize concrete when cornered.

But tonight is different. His gaze is calculated, his footsteps are careful and his stance is predatory. I scan his body, trying to find any signs of his attack. Unlike the more well known of our kind me and him have never spoken apart from letters and an odd terrified member of the public, the latter mostly from his side.

And right now I would try nearly anything to stop the squirming in my gut.

There it is. The slight twitch in his hand. I can tell he doesn't know I've noticed. I pull my mask further up my nose, subtly checking if my hands are hot enough. Glowing, ready.

Then it begins. His wrist flicks his arm forward as he throws what looks like a dagger towards my head. I duck sideways, catching it in my hands and moulding it in to a disc before swinging it back at him in a swift turn.

From previous fights I know he finds it harder to bend hot metal. The disc gets close enough to him but tonight he seems faster, ducking into the chimney smoke behind him before I can see if I got him or not. I have to get closer.

I step back before taking a running jump at his roof, I ready myself for impact, wait. He has covered the floor in metal. This was a mistake. I brace my body into a tight ball in a futile attempt to minimise bruising, lowering my body temperature before I hit the roof, hard.

I roll gracelessly to my side before I get my footing and slide into a crouch, melting a trail in front of me before tracing a smoldering circle around me with my toe. I raise myself into a boxing stance, heating my hands and neck to a skin blistering temperature. The silence is wrong, and I can feel his eyes on me. This isn't right. A sharp pain darts up my calf, I jerk my leg up to find a needle of metal going deep into my flesh from the floor. I hear my calf and foot until the metal melts out. I look around with pain cleared vision to see these spikes growing all over the surface of the roof. He wasn't targeting me, he's hiding. I must have got him. I spring forward, skidding in between the spikes in an attempt to find him. This isn't working. He obviously can't see me, but I can't see him.

I drop into a crouch and heat myself as much as I can, radiating my heat into the metallic floor until I hear a growl from near the roofs stairway. Got him. I turn on my heel, now ready for the darts of metal he sends my way. I start sprinting towards him, catching a handful of the metal splitters and melting them into an arrow head before spotting the semi cowering figure in front of me. I see his silhouette stand, howling something. No, don't think. Two more steps, one, throw.

I hear him cry out before I feel something sharp pierce just below my collar bone. I grit my teeth and watch him run before I let out a low scream. I didn't win. I clear my mind and keep my wounds heated to a sterilising temperature, before starting the journey home.

Home to me, is a tiny flat in the city centre, and although the water barely works and the heating never turns on, it's heaven. The rents relatively low, and the view is beautiful and I can get to anywhere within a 15 minute radius.

I swing myself into my room as noiselessly as possible, looking into the mirror to check if the newly developed fabric worked. Well all of me was covered, I peeled the skin tight fabric off and melted it back in to the ‘broken’ safe in my wardrobe and fell in to bed. I'm out in a second.

The smell of coffee wakes me up. It's bitterness tempting me out of bed. I pull on the biggest jumper I can find before shuffling into the kitchen to see Aaron leaning smugly against the counter nursing a his mug.

I wince from the pain spreading from my shoulder and up my leg from my foot, before I can mask my grimace he notices.
“Rough night?” I flash him a crooked grin before a common lie settles in my mouth.
“ On of the irregulars pulled a knife, you'd think the homeless would like a bed for once.”
“ Christ Fifer your shoulder!” I tried to flash another grin but another spike of pain shot up my leg and made me drop to my knee. Aaron scampered over, helping up and over to the sofa.
“You have to let me patch this up?”
   Aaron, being the social angel he was, worked for the local ambulance service, so whenever my cuts and bruises have been particularly painful or visible he's done me the favour of patching me up, and since my nemesis always goes to kill it's more often than not my head and shoulders get pretty cut up. I normally try and deter Aaron, but this time I think I might actually need the help.
  “Fine…” He instantly jumped up to get his first aid kit, running back before looking me dead in the eye with his professional look.
   “Where are your injuries?”
“On one condition…”
   “What now?”
“No questions” - “bu” - “no”
I still don't want to show him my collarbone, so I flick my foot on to his lap with another wince. He takes a look, glares at me, then gets to work cleaning it and bandaging it up. It doesn't take long before he's done.
   “Anything else?”
“No questions, remember…”
   “Yes why?”
I pull my jumper over my shoulder to show him my shoulder and his reaction is instant. His face pales before he jumps backwards, knocking over a chair on his backwards scramble to the wall.
   I leap up defensively.
“Wha-” something's wrong, seriously wrong. I take a long, careful look at Aaron. His. Hair has always been an ironic shade of grey for a student, but I always assumed it was just dyed. But now, now; his hair darkened, only by a shade or so, but it darkened. No.
   I mimic his actions, scrambling backwards before my back reaches the kitchen counter, and stand opposite him with again taking over my lower body. It can't be.
   Both of us regard each other with wary eyes, I scan my surroundings before grabbing a knife from the rack on the counter, before hurling it in his direction.

The knife swerved away from his figure and hit the wall to the side of him.