Chapter 7: The Villain Code
“You can’t kill me without becoming like me! I can’t kill you without losing the only human being who can keep up with me!”
~ The Joker
Celeste laughed out loud in the middle of history class.
“You are such an idiot.”
Ross sheepishly smiled and tapped his pen on his desk, “I mean, it’s not my fault I’m accident prone. I’m blaming genetics.”
Celeste lifted her eyebrows and stifled more laughter. “So, genetics punched you in the face, is that it?”
As it seemed, Ross came to school that morning sporting a very obvious black eye. It wasn’t pretty to say the least. Despite many years of villainy and fighting Wild Fire, Celeste had yet to give herself a black eye. And then Ross doesn’t even put himself in situations like those and he still ended up with a black eye.
Ross frowned. “Okay, so maybe it does seem kind of stupid that I tripped over my phone cable, slipped on my carpet, and then slammed my face into the edge of my dresser, but that phone cable came out of nowhere.”
Celeste would never have imagined in her wildest dreams that she’d be smiling and laughing in the middle of history class (literally the closest thing to hell on earth), but with Ross she found she did a lot of things she thought she would never do. Make friends, actually enjoy another human being’s company, feel feelings that she had never felt before . . .
But that was beside the point.
“Really? Out of nowhere, Ross?”
“Don’t make me feel like even more of an idiot,” he pleaded, “it’s not like I can convince anyone that I got this thing in a fight.”
Celeste shrugged. “I would believe that you got in a fight.”
Ross’s expression visibly brightened. “Really?”
“I didn’t say I thought you won.”
On the topic of bruises, Celeste did notice a fresh new bruise on Clark Rogers, her number one Wild Fire suspect, the other day. He lifted up his arms and she got a view of his toned abs, where a big purple bruise had formed. Celeste remembered vaguely hitting Wild Fire in around the same area in their last fight, but couldn’t be sure. The more she thought about it though, the more certain she was it was the exact same spot. If Clark Rogers had sported a black eye like Ross’s, that would only affirm her suspicions. SNN reported that Wild Fire fought off a couple of thugs last night and they got in a shot or two. Now, he was someone she would actually see getting into a fight. Ross was a bit too . . . innocent.
“You’re confidence in me is astounding.” Ross rolled his eyes and grinned at her.
Celeste was hit was a sudden wave of emotion. Ross’s smile was intoxicating. The way he grinned at her like she was the only one in the room, like she was the only one he ever wanted to see, gave her a rush.
She was only able to convince herself that he didn’t mean that much to her when she hadn’t seen him for a while. But, when she was in his presence, it was all she could do to contain her happiness. She didn’t know what it was about him, and she couldn’t quite place the feeling he made her feel when she was around him. She felt more like herself than she ever had before, which was strange. How could one person make you feel like this?
Celeste mainly just tried to write it off. It was just so damn hard when he was sitting there smiling at her like they were the only two people in the world.
“I try really hard to keep it, trust me.” Celeste winked.
The bell rang and everyone got up to leave. Ross stopped her before she could get out the door, “You want to come hang out at my house after school?”
She hesitated, “Like more studying? Aren’t we studying tomorrow?”
Ross shoved his shaking hands into his pockets, giving her a hopeful puppy dog look. “We wouldn’t have to study if you didn’t want to. We could just, like, hang out, you know?”
Why was her heart race speeding? Why did the thought of going to his house alone make her light headed? She’d been over to his house alone with him many times before when they studied for history and other subjects (and by study Celeste meant Ross coaching her on the things she didn’t know), so why was this different?
Then she realized, it was because Ross was offering her something he had never offered before. No studying. No talking about bloody rebellions or boring political revolutions. Just them.
“I . . .” Celeste couldn’t look at Ross’s expression any longer without bursting. “I already have other plans for this afternoon, I’m sorry.” After seeing his face fall, she added, “but maybe we can hang out another time?” She succeeded in making Ross glow yet again, but duller than before. No matter what he said, he would think she was blowing him off.
But, why did Celeste care what he thought? Wasn’t she supposed to be a cold and heartless villain?
The whole way home Celeste felt a tug in her heart. She could’ve ditched her plans for the afternoon, but, frankly, she had to tell herself the truth. She was using the fact that she did have plans to make an excuse to herself. They were a clutch. She was afraid of what would happen if she let her emotions run rampant. She was afraid of what she would’ve said if she hadn’t already had plans – with no excuse to hide away.
To distract herself Celeste made sure to take as long as possible to dress in her Arctic Frost getup. Maybe she’d ice a couple of random citizens to vent off the hole that was still eating its way through her chest.
She had one target for the afternoon. A jewelry store in Oakland that was connected to the Black Tiger gang had some pretty flashy diamonds. Celeste knew Silver Streak was off after them, so it wasn’t like she was being extremely villainous. Besides, the necklaces and expensive broaches would be worth lots of greenback money.
Over the years Celeste had devised the perfect way to rob a bank. She didn’t need a gun that could potentially be used against her. Her powers alone were a threat enough. And there was no point in avoiding security cameras as she already had a mask on. Most personnel at banks and places similar, like jewelry stores, have learned over the many years of superhero occupation that it was much easier to stand back and let the villain take whatever they wanted. Chances were a superhero would come sweeping in to try and save your money before the police showed up. Plus, with super villain insurance, some places were able to claim some of their losses.
Celeste knew that the Newman Jewelry Store didn’t have super villain insurance for a fact.
She surveyed the street before walking in the front door. If you’re going to cause a scene, there was no reason to try and come in unannounced.
“Did anyone wish for a snow day?”
The three patrons in the shop (two women in the ring section and a man looking at the necklaces) cowered in fear. They probably hadn’t counted on a super villain showing up and ruining their perfectly good day. The man behind the counter blanched and reached under the table immediately. Celeste manifested an icicle and held it up to his chin before he could do what he was planning. “If I were you, I’d put my hands in the air and away from the panic alarm.”
The man lifted both hands in the air, now shaking.
“This will all go smoothly if this man behind the counter gives me what I want. There’s no need to fear.” Celeste smiled at the three terrified shoppers, more genuine than they thought.
Behind the counter the man bagged up all the money from the register and the safe behind a hidden cabinet. He threw in most of the diamond pieces on display as an added bonus. Celeste particularly liked a piece that resembled ice shards, reflecting in the bright light especially shiny.
“Thank you for doing business with me.”
“Not so fast.”
Celeste scoffed. She hadn’t even been in the store for that long. How had Wild Fire shown up so quickly?
“Why do you always have to ruin my-” Celeste stopped as she realized it wasn’t Wild Fire she was facing, but a dude in all black and quite a bit of artillery strapped to his back. She vaguely remembered a news story about a guy dressed like this robbing a bank and getting away, even after being attacked by both Silver Streak and Momentum. His name was Mischief.
Mischief grinned. “Not who you were expecting?”
She recovered quickly.
“Not quite. But, if you’d excuse me, I have places to be. You can take what valuables are left, though I warn you most of the pretty pieces are gone. What can I say? I have a keen eye for shiny things.”
He shook his head and chuckled darkly, stepping in front of the glass door that led outside. “Yeah, I’d rather have that loot in your hands.”
Celeste frowned. There was an unspoken code amongst most villains not to take each other’s claims and kills. Villains avoided each other unless they planned to work together and only did so briefly. There were occasional stragglers to the rules, but they never lasted long. Villains were heartless and didn’t care what side you were on if you stole what was rightfully theirs. This guy would soon learn.
“I thought you were a villain, Mischief. Are the tabloids wrong? Does Kingdom City need to welcome yet another hero? Isn’t five a bit overcrowded?”
He chuckled. “I’m no hero, Sweetheart.”
Her expression darkened. “Honey, I’m not your Sweetheart. In case you haven’t heard, I’m a coldhearted bitch. Which is why, if you don’t get out of my way, I’ll freeze your heart into a motionless useless block in your chest.”
Mischief smirked. “Cute, you’re like a little Chihuahua. All bark and no bite in a tiny adorable body.”
Being a Latina, Celeste had heard the comparison before, and it made her blood boil. Plus, she didn’t like the way the guy was looking at her like she was a piece of meat.
“I can guarantee that I have more bite than you think. I wouldn’t try me, Buddy. You’re still new to this villainy business, wait a couple more weeks before trying to take the top villain spot. Black Knight and I already have it covered enough.”
He wiped the corner of his mouth and chuckled at her. Mischief seemed insanely casual for someone new to being a villain. Especially considering there were still frightened patrons in the store along with the store’s owner to witness their interaction. Celeste knew she had been extremely nervous around civilians during her first couple of outings as Arctic Frost.
He slipped one of his guns out of his holster behind his back and lazily pointed it at Celeste. “I’m not playing around, Snowy. Give me your score now, or get your ass beat.”
That was the wrong thing to say, frat boy.
Celeste dropped her loot and brought up her hands in an arc and a huge blast of wintery wind, ice, and snow flew at Mischief. He was blown through the front of the shop and into the street beyond. Celeste hadn’t been planning on destroying the jewelry store, but sometimes plans changed when jerks with pretentious swagger ruined your day.
She picked her bag back up and walked over what was left of the wall and crunched the glass shards that littered the sidewalk outside up to where Mischief had landed. “You know, I was having a really nice day before you showed up.”
Mischief chuckled and flipped onto his feet, a feat considering he was weighed down by his many guns. “If you’d let me, I can make your day even better.”
Celeste scrunched up her face in an unpleasant expression. “Please, just because your daddy is paying your way through life doesn’t mean you should feel entitled to making rude remarks to innocent women like me on the street.”
He scoffed, “Innocent? I wasn’t the one who was robbing the bank.”
“I’m not the one trying to steal someone else’s score.”
Mischief brought his gun up and started shooting. It was automatic, just what Celeste needed to make her day even better, eh?
When Celeste was really emotional, her powers seemed to increase tenfold, she assumed it was like that for most supers. So, feeling as angry and frustrated as she was, Celeste was able to conjure up a monster blizzard in seconds to block herself from Mischief as she dived from his bullets. Ice blocks weren’t too efficient against bullets.
Celeste kept up the wind and frost as she ducked into a nearby alley way. She was checking for any injuries or rips in her bag when she felt a knife on her neck from behind. The blizzard in the square died down immediately.
“Just leave me alone.”
Mischief turned her so her back was to the brick wall of the alley and his knife was right above the vessels pulsing in her neck. She tested making the air colder around her for a counter strike, but Mischief shook his head. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Do you really want to bet my reaction time versus yours?”
The air went back to normal and he smiled. “Good, now, hand me the bag.”
With the fury of a thousand suns in her eyes, Celeste handed the bag to the hand that wasn’t holding a knife to her neck.
Mischief flashed a thousand dollar smile at her and leaned in uncomfortably close to whisper in her ear, “pleasure doing business with you.” He pulled away with a gleam in his eye, obviously enjoying her rage.
When he left the alley, Celeste screamed out loud and froze a dumpster. She just lost her loot to a newbie.
She would get him back eventually, and he would rue the day he ever crossed Arctic Frost.