About Me

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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dad

When you come right down to it, I supposed I’d have to say that my dad is just like most other people’s dads. He wants what’s best for me; he wants me to be happy. He loves me, in his way. He wants me to avoid the mistakes he made in his life. He even wants me to have the best education, and has paid for the best private schools around. It’s really just his job that separates my dad from other dads. I’m sure you’ve heard of my dad. Hell, you probably saw him on CNN last night. My dad is known as Doctor Von Terror, the famed super-villain.

Most super-villains I know would try and tell you that they’re not really villains, that they’re just misunderstood. They say that they really want what’s best for the world, or that they were framed, or that it’s really the super-heroes that are the menace, and they just want to rid the world of them. But not my dad. He’s a died in the world, one hundred percent, bonafied, card-carrying super-villain. He wants to rule the world, and he makes no bones about it.

Why, you might ask, does he want to rule the world? For the simple reason that he believes that he can do it better than the current world leaders. And honestly, when I look around at the current state of the world, I sort of agree. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my dad and all, but he’s not exactly playing with a full deck, so I’m not sure he’s really cut out for world ruling. But, his point about the current world leaders is kind of true.

One other thing you should know about my dad. He has no super powers. I mean, I know most people are aware that the armor isn’t a power, and that this is how he flies and blasts people, but they are also unaware that the armor is also the source of his super-strength. Personally, I find that strange. You think someone with super-strength needs powered armor? Also, I want to set this record straight. My dad does not have “super-smarts.” Yes, he’s smart. Really smart. He’s been rated as the 3rd smartest man on the planet, right behind two heroes, Incredible Man and Doc Muscle. He invented all the gadgets he and his army of followers use in their battles to take over the world, including his armor, his armored zeppelin base of operations, which he likes to call the Sky Terror, and his minions freeze rays. But, really, all of this just comes from his natural intelligence. His brain is not in any way altered to make him smarter.

As you can imagine, my dad is not too keen on the world figuring out who I am. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if his arch-nemesis, Captain Valliant, found out that Doctor Von Terror had a teenaged son? You always hear stories about villains using loved ones of heroes to get to the masked vigilante, but you never hear stories about the reverse. But, believe me, they happen. Remember from a couple of years ago, that villain Destructinator was on a rampage, destroying the world’s landmarks? He goes through the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle and a part of the Great Wall of China, and then suddenly up and disappears, and no one knows why. Sure, there were a couple of battles with the Justice Heroes and the Amazing Eight, aired on CNN and all the news networks. But, they never really defeated him or captured him, just stopped him from destroying places. Then, one day, he just stops. Ever wonder why? Turns out, he had a wife. She had no idea her husband was a super-villain, but she’s arrested anyway by Captain Valliant and C.H.E.S.S. on charges of Conspiracy to Commit Terrorist Acts against the United States. So, Destructionator turns himself into C.H.E.S.S. on the condition that she be released. So, yeah, heroes finding out I exist equals bad.

Sadly, one day, that’s exactly what happened.

It started off like most other days. My alarm went off, a blaring siren coming from a speaker across the room, which was also where the off button was. My father invented it because it was the only thing that would get me out of bed. I dragged myself from the wall speaker to the shower, then got dressed and went down stairs for breakfast. My father’s robot butler, Carl, had coffee waiting for me, which I greatly appreciated, as well as my backpack with schoolbooks. Dad came down later himself, in his best business suit. I pointed and laughed. Dad always looked uncomfortable and silly in a tie. Completely relaxed in a suit of powered armor, but like he was headed to a funeral in a suit and tie.

“I’m working today,” he said in response to my laughter.

He meant in his secret identity, of course. Yes, my dad has a secret identity. People think that only heroes have those. But, really, what do you think villains do when they’re not out robbing banks? You think they sit around in their masks and capes twenty-four/seven, watching TV and ordering pizza? Okay, so it’s true that this is what Clarion does, but he’s insane. Just like heroes, most villains have something else they do. Day jobs, or, more likely, like my dad; part time jobs were they make appearances every now and then to keep up appearances. I won’t say what my dad’s job is, because that would give away his identity, but for now, it’s enough to say that on this day, he was working.

I was okay with this, because it meant that he would be taking me to school personally, rather than being driven by the robot butler. We ate, then headed down to the hanger of the Air Terror, got into the flying car, and flew to the ground. Just outside of town, we landed and drove into the city, where Dad dropped me off.

“Remember,” dad was telling me for the third time this morning as we pulled up to the school, “I’m going to be gone most of the day. If you need a ride home before then, call Carl, he’ll come get you.”

“I know, Dad,” is said, letting a little anger slip into my tone. I quickly opened the door and jumped out before he could give me a lecture. He was always going on and on to make sure I was okay. I mean, I love the guy and all, but seriously. So, I waved good bye to him and headed to school as he drove away.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. I hooked up with my two best friends and went to homeroom. Later, I ran into little Tommy Dobbs, who still didn’t have my five dollars. My friends and I were forced to stick him head first into the toilet.

What? My dad’s a super-villain, you really expected me to be something other than the school bully?

Anyway, a teacher busted us and I was sent to the principle’s office. Had a pretty normal speech there, too, where he told me I was too smart for this behavior, and what would my dad say. Seriously, my dad would be pissed. Oh, not for dunking Tommy Dobbs into the toilet, but because I got caught. He always said I was smart enough to do whatever I wanted, which included being smart enough to get caught doing it. I always hated getting caught as a result. It made me feel stupid, like I forgot something. Which, of course, I had.

And so, my day went on. lunchtime, which included me picking up trash as punishment for the morning, and then to the rest of my classes. Truth be told, I actually liked taking classes. Even though Dad was right, and I was smarter than most of my teachers, it was fun to learn things. Much as I was a bully, I was also a straight A student. And then came final period, which was my favorite class, PE. See, I was the captain and star center of our school’s basketball team, so PE was actually basketball practice. I loved basketball. No other sport was like it. When I played, there was no crowd, no coach, no on yelling. The world melted away, and it was just the ball, that net, and me. It was my dream to become a professional basketball player, and Dad supported me in this. He always came to my games, paid for new uniforms for the team, and generally did all the supportive things crazy parents do for a high-school sports team.

So, needless to say, I was excited about PE. Sadly, I never made it past the locker room.

I had just changed into my uniform and was about to head out when I noticed that I was alone in the locker room. That was pretty odd, but I figured everyone was just in a hurry because I was in a bad mood. I shrugged it off. I should have listened to Dad’s advice, who always said that your enemy, even when they’re the hero, always plays dirty. No exceptions.

I was grabbed from behind by black suited arms, and had a chloroform patch put over my mouth, all before I even had time to react. Just before passing out, I saw the traditional red and blue costume of Captain Valiant, and I realized why it was that there was no one in the locker room. When I woke up, I was in a dark room, tied to an uncomfortable chair. There were no lights, so I couldn’t see anything. My arms were tied behind me, and my legs were bound to the chair legs. I wasn’t gagged or blindfolded, though, not that it mattered much.

I honestly have no idea how much time I spent in there. Long enough for me to go from panicky to bored. Then, a light went on, right over my head, practically blinding me. A door opened behind me and then closed again. Someone was in the room, but with the lights on, I couldn’t see them. I heard them walk around to the front of me, but whoever it was stayed just outside the light. It was like some bad cop movie.

“Okay, kid, let’s cut to the chase, shall we?” he said. I nodded, but really, I had no idea what he was talking about. ‘Cut to the chase’ was one of those phrases used by adults that never made any sense to me. I just usually nodded and pretended to go along with it.

“We know who you are,” he said, trying to be all mysterious. I could make out his shadow, but all that told me was that he was warring a trench coat.

“A high-school basketball star? Good for you!” I said in the best non-fear laced tone of sarcasm I could muster.

“No,” he said, not taking my bait. “We know who your father is. I mean, who he really is. We know he is really Doctor Von Terror.”

And now the fear really started to take over. How could they, whoever they were, possibly know that! And if they knew that, that meant only one thing.

“I’m bait, then,” I said to him.

“Smart kid, just like your old man.” Was that a compliment? “We figured,” he continued, “that your dad put some kind of tracking device on you. Either on your person sub-dermally, or in your clothing somewhere. We were hoping that the chloroform would have set it off.”

“But obviously your plan isn’t working,” I said smiling. “Or you wouldn’t be in here talking to me.”

He nodded again. Who was this guy? He didn’t seem to ever rise to my taunts, like most rule-enforcer types did. I had assumed at first that he was some kind of cop, or C.H.E.S.S. agent, but now I was starting to be afraid that he worked for one of Dad’s rival villains. Someone trying to take out the competition through me.

“So, now what?” I asked.

“Now,” he said, and he turned and walked out of where I could see him easily, “we talk.”

I heard him drag something metal across the floor, and saw as soon as his shadow returned to my vision that it was a metal chair, presumably a duplicate of mine. He set it down in the circle of light with the back facing me, and then he straddled the chair and faced me. I saw blue and red flash from under his trench coat, and when his face came into view, I gasped. No wonder this guy hadn’t risen to my taunts. This wasn’t just some toady working for another villain, or even a low level C.H.E.S.S. agent. This was the big guy. Captain Valiant himself.

“Wow,” I said, not knowing what else to say. “This must be a real serious problem if you’re here.” I know. I’m captain obvious sometimes.

“Oh, you have no idea,” he said. Then, he was silent. He just sat there, staring at me. And let me tell you, staring into the blue eyes of Captain Valiant, eyes that can burn through solid concrete with laser vision, is not fun. It was taking all my will power just to avoid pissing my pants. After about five minutes, I couldn’t take the silence anymore.

“So,” I tried to make it sound casual, like I wasn’t terrified. Instead, it came out as a squeak. I did a fake throat clearing, as if Captain Valiant would fall for something like that, and started again. “So, you want to talk?”

He only nodded, continuing the silence. I have to tell you that at this point, I felt like a total wuss. I heard stories from some of my dad’s buddies about torture. But all the stuff they talked about was physical. The Captain had yet to actually DO anything, just sat quietly and stared at me, and I was ready to spill my guts.

“Okay,” I said, “what is it you want to talk about?”

“Your dad,” he said simply. I waited again in the silence.

“You know, normally,” I said, trying to hide my discomfort through sarcasm, “people I talk to understand that it’s a two way street.” But, he just nodded his head.

“What is it you want to know?” I asked at last. That seemed to get his attention. He sat back slightly and the intense look in his eyes went away, to be replaced by something more casual.

“I would like to know a lot of things,” he said. “I would like to know why an international terrorist like Doctor Von Terror, has a secret identity. I would like to know how he manages to keep his Sky Terror blimp hidden. It’s a blimp, for God’s sake, how does he do that? I would also like to know how he managed to keep you hidden for so long. But, let’s start with something easier. Like, who your mother is.”

“My mom?” I said, surprised. “I don’t have a mom. She died, back when I like two.”

That seemed to surprise him. Ah, I thought, that means you and C.H.E.S.S. don’t know everything. “Really?” he asked. “You mean to tell me that Doctor Von Terror, one of the worlds most dangerous super villains, is a single father?”

“What, like this is a surprise?” I said. Upon seeing in his eyes that this was, in fact, a surprise, I explained. “It’s not like being a super villain is a safe line of work. I mean, how many super heroes, besides Mister and Misses Amazing, can you name that have successful marriages? I mean, I read in the news that just last week Mr. Mean killed the Tornado Jogger’s 2nd wife. And the Blue Arachnid just got divorced for, what, the fourth time? It happens on the other side of the fence, too.”

He nodded, and seemed to be thinking about what I just said. “So, tell me about your mother,” he said at last. “I mean, what you know.”

I looked at him hard, to make sure he was serious. “I don’t think telling you anything is a good idea,” I said at last.

“And why not?” he replied.

“You’re the enemy,” I said in my best ‘no duh’ voice. “Giving you secrets about my dad isn’t exactly a good idea.”

“You don’t know,” he said. “Your dad never actually told you anything about your mom, did he?”

“Oh, right,” I said, “because dad knew that one day I’d be a security leak and so to protect from that day, he kept information about my mom from me. Of course I know who my mom was.”

He seemed to chew on that. Literally, he was chewing. Finally, I realized he was chewing gum. He saw me looking, reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a packet of gum. “Want one?” he said, offering me a stick.

“Sure,” I replied, wiggling my shoulders around, “I just have this little issue with my arms being tied behind my back.”

He nodded again, but this time more as if he were making a decision rather than in response to my comments. He stood up and moved around behind me. I couldn’t see what he was doing, but suddenly, the zip ties that held my arms to the chair were loose. A simple pull on my part freed me. But, just my arms, I noticed. My legs were still strapped to the chair. He cam back around to the other side and sat back in his backwards chair. He pulled out the packet once more and offered me a stick. I gratefully took one and started to chew it.

“So,” he said after giving me a moment to chew. “Is there anything you can tell me about your mother? You know, without breaching security.”

“Why are you so interested in my dead mother?” I said. I was starting to get angry. “This isn’t exactly a fun and exciting topic of conversation for me, you know.”

“Of course, I’m sorry” he said, seeming genuinely sorry. “That was very rude of me.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “it was.”

“It’s just,” he continued, as if I hadn’t spoken, “I want so very much to understand your father. I thought, maybe if I knew what kind of woman would marry him, or who he would be interested in, I could learn more about him. Understand him better.”

“See, and then we come back to that security breach I mentioned earlier,” I said, punctuating my sentence by jabbing my finger in the air accusingly. “If I help you even with something as innocent sounding as helping you understand my dad better, what I’m really doing is helping you capture him. I’m so much into the dad being sent to prison thing.”

He nodded again. He seemed to be very understanding about everything, and frankly it was pissing me off.

“Okay,” I said after a moments silence. “You want to know about my mom? I’ll tell you something.” He leaned in, an almost eager look on his face.

“My dad blames you for her death,” I said at last, a smile on my face.

“Blames me?” he said taken aback. “I’m a hero. I save people, I don’t kill them. How can he blame me?”

My smile broadened. I’d obviously hit upon a touchy subject. I decided to press my advantage. “This would have been about fifteen years ago, when you and dad were still pretty new to your carriers. It was a battle that took place at the top of a building. My mom was in a crowd of civilians, and apparently actions taken by you resulted in my mother falling off the top of the building to her death. Thankfully, I was back at the Sky Terror, or I might have gone with her.”

I could see the gears working in his brain as he thought about this. Then, he snapped his fingers, and got an excited look on his face. I started to wonder if I hadn’t said too much.

“I think I remember this fight you’re talking about,” he said. “You’re dad was trying to use the Empire State Building as a conductor to brainwash all of New York City into doing his bidding.”

I smiled. That sounded like one of my dad’s schemes.

“But, if that’s the fight he’s talking about,” he continued in a kind of half mutter that was like he was speaking to himself rather than to me. “everyone survived that fight. Everyone except… Oh, my God.”

He looked at me, and I gulped. Yup, I had definitely said too much.

“Brenda Baker,” he said. “Your mother was Brenda Baker. That son of a bitch!”

He stood, real anger visible in his eyes.

”You,” he said, pointing at me. “Yes, I can see it now. You look like her.”

I scooted my chair back. “Woah,” I said, raising my arms up to ward him away. As if that would help. “I never knew my mom’s name. Dad only told me what I told you. I have no idea what this is about.”

He stood and stared at me for a moment. “No,” he said, “of course you wouldn’t. Allow me to explain some.”

He started pacing, which was actually more nerve racking than him sitting. I could at least see him while he sat. Pacing, he walked in and out of the shadows, and I got the impression that was being stalked by a lion.

“Brenda Baker was a famous news anchorwoman 20 years ago,” he was speaking from the shadows, and when he came back into the light, he was staring at me. “She became famous by covering the growing war between your father and I. And your father and I, well… we both wanted her for our selves.”

I stopped trying to follow him. Suddenly, things were beginning to make sense.

“She was amazing, beautiful,” he paused, and stopped walking. He was right behind me, so I couldn’t see him without turning my chair, something I was not about to do. I started sweating.

“She chose your father, apparently. I had no idea, I thought I still had a chance, but looking back, now, I can see that I never had one. She picked him, and that explains the reason she… she…”

Suddenly, the wall behind him exploded inwards. We were both forced to move due to the force. I, with my legs still tied to the chair, fell over and was pushed across the floor. I was covered in dust and rubble, but looking back, I saw why I wasn’t crushed by more debris. The Captain had only moved a single step, out of surprise I’m sure. He had lifted his coat out so that it was covering most of the blast, and I saw chunks of wall hitting his back and falling harmlessly off.

Light came streaming in, and I had to shade my face with my hand from its brightness. I saw that we were up a couple of stories, because there was no ground immediately outside. I also saw what had caused the explosion. A man was just outside, in shiny silver armor with blue trim. He stood in a menacing pose, pointing towards Captain Valiant.

“She sacrificed herself, to prevent you from killing me,” the metallic voice from the armor said. I knew instantly who it was then.

“Dad!” I cried, even though I didn’t want to.

“Don’t worry, kiddo,” he said, “I won’t let this so-called hero hurt you.”

Captain Valliant took offense to that apparently. He tore off his trench coat, revealing his full red and blue costume underneath. His rippling muscles were visible under the spandex, and he presented truly intimidating presence. I could see why most villains didn’t want to fight him.

“Von Terror!” he said, his voice slightly deepened from when we were talking. “I knew you’d come for your son.”

He sounded angry. I mean, really angry, not just upset. I tried to scoot my chair around so I could get a better look.

“Of course I did,” my dad was saying. “Unlike you, I actually care about the people of this world. I may want to rule over them, but I don’t needlessly take lives.”

“I save people from villains like you, Von Terror,” Valliant was saying.

“Like you saved Brenda?” Dad said.

That sent Valliant over the deep end. He flew out the hole towards dad and smashed into him in a football tackle. The two fell down out of site, but I could hear them struggling down there. Then, something struck the building we were in and the whole room shook. Then, Valliant flew back up to where I could see him. He was pointing downwards.

“That was not my fault, Terror,” he was saying. “That was yours for bringing her there in the first place. Trying to give her an exclusive interview with the famed villain? Please!”

A blast of blue energy came up and hit the Captain square in the face then. My dad flew back up and extended his left arm in an elongated uppercut that caught Valliant square in the jaw, pushing the hero back some.

“I didn’t start the fight,” dad said. “I didn’t throw that chunk of roof. And I didn’t just float there as Brenda plummeted to her death. I was pined under that same chunk of roof that you threw. She was trying to push me out of the way when it hit, but you are too good a shot for that. She was pushed off the roof when the debris hit, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. And you. You just stood there.”

Another blast from dad, this time with both hands, hit Valliant, square in the chest. It pushed the hero back some more, but the hero seemed defeated already. After the blast hit him, he just floated there, staring at my dad, his arms at his side.

“No, I…” he started to say. “You’re a villain. I was trying to stop you. I…”

“You allowed her to die!” dad cried.

Valliant looked at Dad. He looked down. He looked at me. I saw tears in his eyes. He seemed to truly be lost.

“I… I froze,” he said at last. “I loved her. I wanted her to love me. I thought if I could capture you, and she could get that in her story, then… then…”

“Then what?” Dad cried. He was still angry, and for the first time in my life, I understood why he hated the Captain so much. “She would love you? She was my wife, you bastard! She was the mother of my son!”

“I… I didn’t know,” Valliant said. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

Dad stopped advancing. He floated there, just a few feet from Valliant. The two of them stared at each other; the Captain looking dejected and lost, truly defeated for the first time in his career. It was harder to tell what Dad was feeling because of the mask, but I could tell that he was breathing hard. Dad never talked about mom. This had to have been hard for him. I scooted my chair across the room a few feet, trying to get a closer look at the two of them. I suddenly just wanted to be with my dad, back at home, watching a movie on our big screen TV. The both stopped and looked at me.

“I didn’t know,” he said, and I didn’t know who he was saying it too. “I’m a hero, I save people.” It sounded like he was trying to convince himself.

“Go home, Captain,” Dad said. His voice was much softer this time. “Go home to your own wife and son. We can try and kill each other another time.”

The Captain looked at him and then looked back at me. He nodded, and then looked back up, squaring his jaw.

“Next time, Doctor Von Terror,” he said in his best heroic voice, “I won’t be so easy on you.”

“Nor I to you,” Dad said, his villain voice back. I shook my head. Never in a million years will I understand this whole hero/villain thing. It seems like a big display of testosterone. Dad once tried to say that it was like playing a basketball game against a long time rival. Smack talking ensued, he said. I still didn’t get it.

Captain Valliant flew off, leaving dad and I to look after him. Then, Dad turned to look at me. He flew into the damaged room and walked over to me. In silence, he untied me from the chair, and gratefully, I got up, rubbing my legs to get the blood flowing. We stood there for a moment, looking at each other.

Then, dad did something unexpected. He took off his helmet, so I was seeing his eyes. I could see that, like the Captain, he had been crying during their fight. He looked me in the eyes, and for the first time I felt like an equal to Dad. It was a little scary.

“Son,” he said, putting a gauntleted hand on my shoulder. “I want to apologize. I should have told you about your mother before. The whole story, I mean. It’s just, it was too painful. It still is, even after all this time.”

I stared at dad. We looked at each other in silence for a long time. Finally, I gave Dad a hug. It wasn’t easy, wrapping my arms around that armor, but I didn’t care. I just needed to be close to him. Dad hugged me back.

“Come on, Dad,” I said, “lets go back home.”

The End

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