It’s dark tonight with only the dim light of streetlights coming into view and fading into the review mirror. As Natalie drives down the desolate road she skips from radio station to radio station lazily listening to the mix of jaunty conversation and music.
The radio starts to blare an urgent voice, “Breaking news tonight: A new villain has made several appearances this week in Staple City. The new villain oddly calls herself ‘New Hope’ and is ravaging the city. Witnesses say she is guilty of property damage, thievery, and even assault. Luckily, Radical Rebel, the town’s hero, has been informed of the case and has reported that she is making strides towards stopping this unjust behavior-”
Natalie changes the station again and it switches to a slow song sung in Spanish. She tightens her hands on the steering wheel and shakes her head a little.
“They don’t even know what they’re talking about,” she thinks. She slows down to a stop sign and closes her eyes while taking deep breaths. She takes a minute and then turns onto the all too familiar neighborhood street. She turns two more times until she finds herself on Washington Street. She parks at the corner of the street and turns off the ignition, sitting and watching the dark street and gathering her thoughts.
The neighborhood is beginning to settle down as a couple dogs barking grow quiet and a woman walking down the street to get her mail goes back into her house. Soon a sleepy quietness falls on the culdesac.
Natalie gets out of her car and walks to the other end of the street. She approaches one of the larger houses with a perfectly mowed lawn and crisp white paint. She walks up to the door and crouches down. She pulls her mask out of her back pocket and slips it on feeling to make sure it’s on straight and checking her belt and pockets to make sure she has everything in place. She reaches for the potted plant next to the welcome mat and pulls out a key standing up and pushing it in, hearing the door unlock with a click.
She slips inside and closes the door behind her creeping down the hall and turning in on a living room. She watches as a woman with wild hair sits on the edge of her sofa studying the loose papers scattered around on her coffee table. She leans forward shifting them as if she was trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle.
Natalie steps forward trying to approach her from behind but a floorboard creeks beneath her. The woman whips around and her mouth falls open and her eyes widen. She starts to stand up as Natalie pulls her stun gun out of its holster and shoots her. She falls to the floor shaking and convulsing falling unconscious soon after.
Natalie walks over to the woman’s body standing. “The hard way it is then,” she sighs as she begins to drag the body out of the room.
Amelia wakes up slowly, her vision a blur, her joints soar, and her head pounding. She blinks several times and the picture slowly pieces itself together. She’s in her hideout, the lights are turned off but all the monitors on the wall are illuminating the room in a haze of static. She tries to move but finds she can’t. She hangs her head down wanting to go back to sleep but the sound of someone walking around tempts her to look back up shaking her head.
She can now feel and see the rope that binds her hands and feet like a pig waiting to be slaughtered. She looks around the room and sees a silhouette standing with their hands behind their back staring at the screens. Every passing second she becomes more aware and angrily pulls at her restraints.
The figure in front of her turns around. She knows that mask; she’s been staring at it for the past few hours.
“New Hope” she spits out as the villain walks toward her.
“Radical Rebel” the villain smiles. “How nice to see you again.”
Amelia has been called to take care of this villain increasingly over the past month. Every time it is something more extreme; cop cars on fire, politicians being stunned and then left on the ground, and even prisoners being released from local prisons.
“What are you doing in my house New Hope?” Amelia twists in her restraints looking up at the villain.
“What Rebel? You mean you don’t want me here?” New Hope says with biting sarcasm.
“This has gone too far. Untie me and no one has to get hurt”
“Ha!” New Hope shouts, “I’m sure you’ve lied about that one before Rebel. God, I hate your name. What are you rebelling against huh? The poor saps who beg forgiveness from your reign of ultimate justice? The irony of it could hit you in the face and you’d be none the wiser.”
Amelia scowls at the villain. The knots around her feet feel looser.
“If I can just distract her I can work at these knots and free myself so that I could get over to my stun gun,” she thinks to herself as she glances at the weapons in the glass case on the other side of the room. She looks back at New Hope
“It’s a shame you don’t recognize me, Rebel,” New Hope says leaning on the control panel in front of the biggest monitor.
“Of course I do. We’ve been trying to catch you every day for the past month.”
“There was a time I looked up to you, you know,” New Hope says crouching down so she meets eye level with Amelia. “But I guess the innocence of believing your loved ones are good can’t last forever.”
Amelia stares at her believing her to be mad. New Hope gives her a hard look then takes off her mask, dropping it on the floor between them.
Amelia’s face contorts with horror as she stares at the face New Hope has revealed to her.
“Hello mother,” Natalie sneers.
“I don’t understand,” Amelia whispers trying to reach out “Why?”
“Been a few years huh?” Natalie says playfully. Natalie turns away standing and walking to the control panels.
“I’m glad you’re getting to see the real me,” she says, her voice harder this time.
Amelia sits dumbfounded like a child who has just had all their toys taken away.
“Why?” she asks louder this time.
“Because!” Natalie turns around with angry tears in her eyes. “Because I’ve seen this world from the inside! I’ve seen what horrible things the hero agency does with these ‘small town saviors’ and the way you all control people! I’ve seen what happens on these monitors and the literal blood on your hands!”
Amelia waits until the silence in the room could swallow them and says “I tried Natalie. I tried to keep this from you. I tried my best-”
“Your best?!” Natalie screeches. “You were never here! You never showed me any love you-”
Natalie turns back around and Amelia watches her try to conceal herself wiping away tears.
“This is not what I am here for,” Natalie says in a guttural voice. “I am here because the heroes of this world have gained too much power and the smaller voices are shunned and objected. I will not stand for it.”
Amelia stares at her daughters back and softly says “I’m sorry I couldn’t be the hero you needed me to be.”
“The world needs to burn mother. It needs to see the fire before it can begin to regrow and flourish.”
“Violence never solved anythin-”
“Tell that to Henry Worchester. Emily Goodman. Adam Evens-”
Amelia winced at each name.
“They were villains!” Amelia yelled
“They were people!” Natalie yelled louder.
The room was silent for a beat. Natalie began pushing buttons on the control panels. The tv monitors flanking one another began to light up with the city’s security camera footage.
“All of this villain and superhero debate and all these secrets. The corruption here is leaking through and people breathe it in like it's normal fresh air. I don’t know what to do anymore. I want it to stop.”
Natalie backs up and looks around at all the screens.
“The city hall, the stations, the little hiding places you and the agency and the government have around the city that I used to come to as a kid. They’re all unguarded. Why wouldn’t they be with our brave hero always on alert?” Natalie laughed a dry laugh. “They’ll all burn. The timers will go off any minute I-”
Amelia squirmed on the ground trying to get Natalie to look at her, to reason with her.
“Please Natalie…” she begged.
“This world will be saved mother,” Natalie says turning and looking at Amelia with the same hard look in her eyes. “Whether they like it or not.”