Chapter 17: What you don't know won't hurt
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
~ Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader)
The plane ride was short for April, just like it had been when she originally came home. Argent mostly held her tongue the entire ride, less stoic than usual. For some reason Argent had already been in Kingdom City and something had happened that wasn’t good. April didn’t ask, she was too lost in her own thoughts.
By the time their car from the airport pulled in to the parking lot where the ferry to the prison was, April could no longer hold her breath.
“What happened at the prison exactly?”
Argent let out a huge sigh. “I only got the memo right before I was rushed to see something at the hospital, but from what I could figure out, a riot was started by Dylan Danvers, a villain who went by Inferno in DC a while back. He was younger than you when we caught him. We think he thought he was going to overpower the guards, tried to convince almost a quarter of the prisoners to get past the grounds so they could use their powers and escape. Most of the guards were injured and some other prisoners who weren’t involved got caught in the crossfire, including X.”
“I thought he was kept in solitary?”
“Yeah, but legally we can’t keep him in there 24 hours a day. He gets a free hour a day to go in the rec yard, still kept very separate from the other villains but outside in the fresh air. The attack happened to go down during his free hour and he got shot by a prisoner with a guard’s gun. Right now he’s recovering in the hospital wing with some other prisoners. The injured guards were shipped to our local facility for treatment.”
April stepped on to the ferry, facing the agent with a confused frown. “Why weren’t the prisoners also taken there?”
Argent furrowed her eyebrows, “Did you think we would chance them having even a second away from the grounds of Alcatraz? The only thing keeping them dormant is the Merlonium in the grounds of the island.”
“But wouldn’t they heal better away from the Merlonium?” April was now not only thinking of X, who was no super so the mineral could not harm him, but the other villains in there who got injured. The Merlonium surrounding them was not going to help them recover any quicker. In fact, those villains would probably endure more suffering because of the combined effects.
“April, don’t you understand? We can’t afford for them to even have the chance to escape. These villains would wreak havoc the moment they got the chance, injured or not. It is safer for the entire world if they suffered a bit longer than if they had an opportunity to get out.” Argent sat down as the ferry moved, seemingly happy with her explanation. “Besides, Alcatraz has an almost spotless record. We don’t want to risk that over a prison riot.”
Of course it all seemed to make sense. But, those villains were still humans too. Some of them had done nothing more than try and rob a bank to feed themselves or their families with their newfound powers. Not every super villain in there was vying for world domination. Not every villain in there deserved to suffer.
The only two people who had ever managed to break out of Alcatraz had help from the same man. Nemesis, the superhero Sonic’s father, broke Smith and The Manipulator out to cause chaos on Empire City only an hour or two away. No one knew how he had done it, but prisoners had died each time as a distraction.
Each person he broke out faced their fate shortly afterwards. Smith was thought to have been thrown into the sun by his arch nemesis the day after he broke out and The Manipulator was thrown right back in after Nemesis was caught.
They were silent on the way inside the prison, Argent thinking that the matter was settled. The long strenuous security checks took more time than April thought they needed to be. With half the guards gone the remaining were trying to tighten as much as they could. Like, was she really hiding a weapon in her shoes?
April noticed the prison wasn’t as dark and moody as it was when she first arrived. The prisoners seemed vibrant, not as sucked of life as they once were. She would’ve thought after a failed breakout attempt they would’ve been even grimmer, like the stone gray walls and rough concrete surrounding them.
Argent left her at the hospital wing. She went in alone, thankful to find X had been given a room to himself. Of course, even injured he had to be kept in solitary away from any sort of human contact.
It was a sad life for him in that sense.
“Look who decided to grace me with their presence,” X commented, seeing her walk through the doorway. “I was starting to think you forgot about me.”
April saw the real emotion behind the words. “X, I will never forget you.”
He smiled gratefully and sat up further in his bed, grimacing. April rushed forward to help, but X shook his head, preferring to do it himself. April shielded her actions by siting down in the chair beside his bed. She doubted anyone had sat in this chair yet to visit him.
“So, how are you doing?”
X raised his eyebrows, “I’ve been shot, how do you think I’m doing?”
April shook her head, looking down. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make fun of the situation. I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“Kingdom City didn’t fare well for you?”
She put a stray hair behind her ear with a shaking hand. “No, not particularly.”
“You want to talk about it?”
April smiled, “I’m the psychologist here, not you.”
X shrugged, “I knew there was a smile in there somewhere.”
Somehow he made her feel lighter. The whole weight of the world wasn’t as dark and impending as it was before. Finding out he was okay, that he was trying to make her feel better, it made her family ordeal float away from her mind. She didn’t need to worry about her awful family life, she was here with him for now.
“My family lied to me,” April forced out, not looking at him. “They’re not the heroes I thought they were.”
X let his head droop down. “I’m sorry for that.”
She looked up, surprised to find herself a bit teary, heat building up behind her eyes. “It’s just that . . . I didn’t expect them to stoop as low as they did to get me to act the way they wanted me to.”
“Sometimes people don’t realize that their motives are harmful to others.”
“Yeah, I guess they don’t.”
For a couple of minutes they sat in a comfortable silence.
“The other prisoners that I saw before getting put in this solitary room had a theory about the riot.”
April glanced up, hopeful. That information could be useful.
X shrugged. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe me anyways.”
“No,” April argued, “I take everything you say to heart. I don’t want to end up like the people who raised me. I know how infuriating it is not to be heard.”
“Well,” he paused, seeming to consider telling her what he had heard. After hesitating, X went ahead, “Some think that it was planned from the outside. To hurt specific prisoners.”
April tilted her head, “But what’s the point of that? Most come here to stay, why would anyone want to order their deaths?”
“Not every prisoner of Alcatraz has stayed for life. Maybe someone on the outside wanted some of us gone so our influence would no longer linger. Even from inside these Merlonium lined walls, villains hold great power in their home cities. Their names alone still bring fear just because they still live. Many on the outside think the government is wasting its efforts trying to imprison the supers who didn’t follow their line of thinking. Many think you would all do much better if some inhabitants on this little rock were no longer living.”
She leaned closer, intrigued. Of course groups like the Remedists thought concentration camps for all supers was a better solution than just killing off every super villain, but there were a lot of citizens who viewed the fact that humans with godlike abilities who showed homicidal tendencies were allowed to live as a waste of resources.
“Who got injured in the riot besides the guards?”
X looked up, thinking. “Wing Man, Skeletor, and the Dark Witch that I know of. There might be others.”
April didn’t have to search her mind far to connect those villains to her parents, White Knight, and their acquaintances. All three had been rumored to attempt breakouts at some point. Was it a coincidence?
“And you think someone on the outside was purposely trying to get them hurt by bribing the guards? That they got Inferno to start the riot?”
“Inferno didn’t start the riot,” X corrected. “He was in as much danger as the rest of us the entire time. Is that who they told you started it?”
So, they lied. It wasn’t surprising at this point the amount of people who had lied to her, but it still hurt. Did Agent Argent think she couldn’t trust her with the right information?
“Do they know who ordered the riot?”
X shook his head sadly, “No.”
“It’s just more theories.”
April hungrily looked back at X. She absolutely needed to know now. “Tell me.”
“I can’t, they’re just rumors. They may not even be true.”
She shook her head, standing up. “But rumors are based in truth, right? Any information is better than nothing, yeah?”
X gave her an unsure glance. She put her hand on his and squeezed, “Please, you can trust me.”
He grimaced. “Some say it was Captain Fantastic. He is friends with the warden after all.”
April fell back in her chair, but kept her hand clutching to X’s for dear life. If she let go she feared she would fall into the abyss.
“But, they’re only rumors.”
“No,” she shook her head, “it all makes sense now.”
It was all a part of her parent’s plan. If X was dead, she’d have no reason to go back to San Francisco. Her project would be over and she’d come back home. Maybe they thought she would fall back into her old ways once she was in their possession again. Maybe they thought April would stay away from influential ‘villains’ if they killed them off.
“You actually think your father tried to get me and others killed?”
April nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear as she stood. “After what I’ve seen, I’d believe he’d do anything to get me to act the way he wants.”
“And what way do you want to act?”
“I . . . I want to make sure my parents can’t hurt you or the others ever again. They think they all know what’s right, but they don’t. I do though. I can help you fix this.” April thought aloud.
X smiled sinisterly, something April was blind to, “I think I have the perfect idea.”
“Reports are still rolling in from San Francisco, but so far it doesn’t look to be too pretty. After a riot which left the prison with half of its guards injured and off duty, a mass breakout of Alcatraz was achieved, presumably lead by Kingdom City’s greatest villain, X. Names of the escapees are still coming in, but some of the most prominent are Inferno of Washington DC and Morph of Iris City. It is also believed that April Watson, White Knight’s famous damsel in distress, was taken hostage during the escape. No word is yet to be heard on her condition.
“Reports also indicate that the guards were about to receive a replenishment of support in the aftermath of half their number being unable to perform their duties, but the shipment was to happen tomorrow afternoon, too late to stop the mass breakout.
“It is still unclear whether or not the situation at Alcatraz has been secured since the breakout less than an hour ago. What we do know is that this had been the largest number of escapees from the prison in its entire history, even before it was used as a prison to house super villains. Before today only two people had ever achieved freedom, both with outside help. Here at SNN, we believe that the mass breakout could only have occurred with outside help as well, even with the guard population seriously dwindled.
“Whatever the case, this has been a historic day in our history. Police urge those in the San Francisco area and in cities from which villains who are confirmed to be loose hail from to stay indoors tonight and lock up. Superheroes will be hard at work tonight keeping you safe along with the Super Task Force here at Kingdom City. All we can say is good luck.”
Ian Thompson frizzed his hair as he ran a hand through it. This was very bad. X breaking out was the last thing MASKED needed, the last thing this city needed. If only Argent had let him do what they needed to do and maybe the city wouldn’t be facing their biggest villain returning. At least he knew where X would strike first.
Ian packed up his papers, keeping the news running. They were rerunning the footage of Inferno taking his first gulps of freedom, blasting the news crew with fire.
He hoped his friends back in Washington DC would be able to hold down the fort.
But Ian had places to be and people to talk to. He was going to do what MASKED was too afraid to do.