Mr. Moore was once an avid comic book fan. When he was very young, he created the character Omega Fire. We wrote this together for fun a few years ago and even though it’s a bit rough around the edges, it still makes me think of a little boy in Texas, dreaming of superheroes.
I danced to the side, narrowly avoiding another jet of red flame.
“Getting slower, little girl. Things getting too hot for you?” shouted my opponent from a nearby dune.
“Prometheus, your lines are as predictable as your nickname!” shouted Beta, using my voice. “Also,” she added as an afterthought, “your costume makes you look like a piece of candy corn!”
Beta, we don’t have time for this.
Sorry, Six, she replied. I couldn’t help myself. You have to admit, he’s really starting to go overboard.
I took control of my voice back, moderately alarmed that I’d lost it to begin with. Balancing this many of my companions (my personalities, as my therapist would call them) was harder than I thought.
Sigma, Ro, I thought, releasing some control to them so that their powers could activate. Get us out of here.
Yes, ma’am, they replied in unison.
Rho reduced my density while Sigma thrust our body into the air. The choking sand of the desert gave way to the sweeter oxygen above for only a moment before a foreign gust of wind swatted us back down like a fly.
“Trying to leave the party so soon?” a familiar voice whispered past my ear, traveling on the wind. “Don’t you think this location has a certain … air about it?”
“Martha, what are you doing here?”
A shocking slap of hot wind against my face. “The name is Gale now.”
Beta groaned. It’s a pun-demic! Someone save me!
Alpha’s voice, calm and pragmatic. Those two were always loners. They would not have the forethought to work together without help.
A cyclone of wind and sand rose around me, fast enough to suck the breath from my lungs. Sigma fell back and Rho increased my density, allowing me to keep my footing in the center of the whirlwind.
Another fireball shot past, and this one I could not completely dodge. The edge of the flames melted into my shoulder, molten hot. The smell of burned cloth and cooking flesh rose to my nose and I tried not to gag.
Despair rose in me, choking my throat and sending me to my knees. There was no escape. I couldn’t beat them.
Six, said Alpha. Why do you cry?
He was right. My cheeks were wet. Why was I crying? Why was I giving up? That wasn’t like me at all. This clinging, black despair – it didn’t feel right.
A sinking feeling in my stomach, and I knew why I cried. Not despair, but another powered foe … this time, someone I had once called friend. “Ninazu,” I said.
Gale’s wind brought the sound of Nina’s low chuckle. “You caught on faster than I thought you would, Six. Especially for such a failure of a student.”
Her power leant more pain to the jibe than it really deserved, and I clenched my hands so the pain of my nails biting into my palms gave me something else to think about. “Why would you do this, Nina?”
Ninazu’s despair gave way to a rage so bright and vivid that I gasped aloud. “The lab fired me. Said I was too unstable. They took away everything that mattered. And now, I will take away everything that matters to them. Starting with their precious guinea pig. How many times did they shatter your mind, Six? How many voices are in that crazy head of yours? How many second-rate powers can you command? Still only two at a time? A pity.”
The rage was once again replaced by the false despair of Ninazu’s ability, working against my emotions. The heat intensified, thickening to a crushing haze that had me blinking to clear my vision. I had to find a way out of here. I could have taken Prometheus alone, and possibly even with Gale. But I couldn’t face Ninazu. Could barely understand that my old teacher had turned against me.
Something sharp bit into my cheek and lodged there. I pulled it out and examined it in disbelief. Glass? A shard of glass?
A series of pinpricks peppered my leg and I looked down to see a battery of larger shards jutting from my thigh.
Gale’s voice. “Amazing what a little teamwork can do, isn’t it. Fire and sand and a little heat and you’ll be a disco ball in no time.”
I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t see straight. I knew it was Ninazu’s Despair, but I had no defense against her attacks.
If you die, said Alpha, we all die with you.
I don’t want to die, said Beta, voice low and uncharacteristically meek.
Omega, I thought weakly.
Something big slammed into my back, slicing through muscle and bone.
In the far recesses of my mind, I felt him stir.
No, said Rho, normally so quiet. Do not do this.
But we all knew there was no other way.
Omega, I repeated, more firmly.
Chained in the darkest, most distant recesses of my mind … he smiled, but said nothing.
He was waiting for me to say it.
Another fireball hit me while I was locked in my internal battle. My hair was on fire now, and the flames licked down my forehead.
Omega, I need you! I shouted.
With a roar, Omega burst from his chains and came to me. As he approached, I felt myself diminish.
You sought me, he said.
I nodded, fading.
I will not release control easily.
I know, I whispered, and felt the chains of his prison lock around me, choking and crushing. The outside world grew pixellated and unfocused, then shrank to a wall, then a window.
Before it faded completely, I felt the others – Alpha, Beta, Rho, and Sigma – focus as if all tied together into a yoke, with Omega wielding the whip.
“OMEGA FIRE!” he yelled, in what had once been my voice.
The skin on my face and back began to regenerate, and then the blackness closed in around me.
I curled into the corner of what had been Omega’s prison and rocked back and forth.
We lived … but at what price?