The amber smoke wafted higher into the air. Blackout and C.K. stood at the edge of the rooftop, 15 feet back from Fern, who was twirling a fireball around in his hands. Al-Chemy reached back in his purple backpack and removed another vial. Fern could only discern his outline through the yellow smoke that continued expanding.
“How do you want to do this?” Fern asked. “I’m thinking bigger is better this time around. Save the cute tricks for when more people are watching.”
Al-Chemy nodded. “I’ve got just the thing to pique the public’s interest,” he said, taking a step forward, closer to the smoke. He held the new vial up to the sun. “I only ask that you make sure to stay conscious long enough for the cameras to arrive.”
“C.K.,” Fern called over his shoulder.
“It looks like one news van has diverted its course and is headed this way,” C.K. said. “Should be here in two minutes.”
“Now, that’s what I call service,” Blackout smiled.
“I’ve never been much of one for waiting,” said Fern. The fireball was growing larger by the second, and Fern was spinning it faster and faster between his palms. “I hope you don’t mind if we go ahead and get started.”
“By all means,” Al-Chemy answered. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Then he popped off the cork of the vial and threw its contents into the yellow smog. Immediately the cloud turned a dark blue and grew too heavy to float in the air any longer, drifting in a viscous mass that poured across the concrete.
Fern shot the twirling fireball in front of Al-Chemy, then sent it upwards in a twisting spiral of flame, meant to divert the strange concoction of before it could reach him.
But the heavy solution combined with the fire twirl to create a breath-taking scene. As the blaze twisted higher into the air, bright, blue streaks curled up its side, spraying golden sparks in every direction for dozens of feet.
C.K. held his tablet up, recording the entire event with his mouth half-open.
An audible, “Woahh…” escaped Blackout’s lips.
Even Fern was moved to awe for a quick moment.
While everyone was watching the sky, Al-Chemy was removing another flask from his backpack. This time an opaque, black solution sat motionless at its bottom. He ran around the side of where the amber cloud had eaten away at the concrete and poured a few, dense drops near where Fern was standing.
The ground shook. Suddenly grotesque bubbles emerged from the floor and began multiplying rapidly, growing larger and larger every instant. Fern leaped backwards and fired at the concrete mass, but to no avail. He couldn’t melt them faster then they were multiplying, backing him closer to Blackout and C.K.
Fern looked over his shoulder, and Al-Chemy was already at work pouring his concoction in a semi-circle around the three. The walls of their cage were growing higher and higher, blocking the light from the dying, blue-fire tornado.
“The tubby guy can run, huh?” said Blackout, edging closer to the end of the roof.
C.K. looked around, tablet still held high. “This could be a problem,” he said. “The news crew should be here any minute, now…”
In the distance beyond their rooftop vantage point, they saw two silver vans speeding down the road, “Channel 9” written in red letters across their tops.
“Not Channel 9,” complained Blackout with his head dangling to one side.
“Are we really going to be picky?” C.K. asked. “If we get seen being caught on the news by a nobody, then our villain careers are over, anyway.”
“‘Being caught?’” repeated Fern. “We’re only getting started.”
“This is gonna be dangerous, isn’t it?” came a rhetorical chime from Blackout.
“Shut-up, Blackout. Everything’s dangerous.”
“You just make sure you don’t blow our asses off of this roof.”
“I can’t make any promises.”
“You better make some kind of something, then,” Blackout said, and then he peered over the edge behind him, “Because last time I checked nobody on our team can fly.”
Fern’s crimson grin was as bright as it had ever been. The news vehicles screeched to a stop a block from the hospice, and several cameras jumped out of their sides, hauling cords behind them. “Let’s give the people a show.”
“He’s not listening.”
“I know that, C.K.,” Blackout said. He crouched low to the ground and placed both hands firmly on the roof to stabilize himself, “I hate this part.”
“He’s not gonna…” C.K. looked concernedly at the bubbling, rocky walls creeping closer to their position on the roof like awkward, stone giants bullying them for lunch money. His gaze met Blackout, who raised both eyebrows from his position on the floor. C.K. took the hint and crouched down, one hand recording with his tablet, the other keeping him stable.
Fern focused a small, shimmering orb in his palms, checked to see if C.K. and Blackout were braced, then directed it to the mass immediately in front of him. When its surface met the concrete, blazing shards scattered around the three, ricocheting off of each imposing surface, and a gaping hole opened in the morphing form. But Fern was already conjuring a larger, brighter orb than the one before, laughing the entire time.
Blackout and C.K. saw that the news cameras were probably getting closer shots of the scene from the ground, and they decided to look more villain-ish than simply cowering on the floor. C.K. brought up several dummy charts with colorful graphs and moving “sensors,” and then he tilted it, ever so slightly, towards to street below. Blackout crossed his arms with a stone face and nodded, slowly, as if he was the enigmatic reserve-muscle in the group. In reality, they were both terrified of plummeting off of the building from the impact of Fern’s explosions, which sent tremors through the roof at an alarming frequency.
The concrete bubbles were being beaten back, throwing a grey haze into the air in a mist of defeat. When the dust settled after a few seconds, the giants now reduced to gigantic open holes in the rooftop, they found Al-Chemy waiting for them.
Well, not really waiting as much as he was finishing the last part of a granola bar. He held a finger in the air to signal to give him a minute to chew and proceeded to stuff the plastic wrapper into a pouch in his backpack.
Fern looked at Blackout.
Blackout looked at C.K.
Fern and Blackout looked at C.K.
C.K. stared flatly at Al-Chemy with his eyebrows crinkled.
And they all came to the silent conclusion to go ahead and let Al-Chemy do the explaining this time.
After a deep gulp, Al-Chemy whispered, trying not to move his mouth so much to avoid being picked-up by the news cameras, “Low blood sugar.”
The three all nodded and said, “Ohhhh,” before slipping back into character.
A thick finger jutted in the direction of the villains. “Turn yourselves in,” Al-Chemy projected. “I’m not letting you harm these innocent people.”
Standard hero shit. Fern was a little disappointed, though he wore his best villain grin. “And who are you to stop us?” he shouted back. “The Villaingers won’t be defeated so easily.”
Blackout gave a deep, deep sigh. “The Villaingers?” Really, though?? That was something else they were going to have to deal with later.
Al-Chemy removed one, last vial from his bag and held it high above his flattening fro. This time it was a frothing, blood-red solution “Well,” he began, “I guess I have no choice, then.”
Things were winding down, now. The rooftop was in too many tatters to have an engaging battle with their abilities. They all needed an out. And Al-Chemy had just the thing for the occasion.
He pulled the cork, then tossed the vial high into the air. A solid cone of darkness descended upon the entirety of the roof. Al-Chemy gave them a quick nod, then jumped into its midst. Fern, Blackout, and C.K. did the same. What waited for them inside was a strange, orange haze.
“Don’t worry,” Al-Chemy said, standing now only a few feet from them. “This is only a smoke screen.”
“It smells like ass in here,” said Blackout, covering his nose and mouth. Fern and C.K. followed suit.
“It’s almost completely opaque, so they can only see silhouettes from the outside. He produced another vial from his bag. The three jumped back, but Al-Chemy shook his head, then emptied its contents on the ground at his feet. Green sparks erupted, and nothing else.
“Ahhh,” said Fern. Then he threw some flames around himself. They needed to look like they were fighting.
“So,” Al-Chemy began, “I think we could have a good thing going here.”
“I agree,” answered Fern.
“You should probably get a few other guys on your team, though,” C.K. observed. “The two of us need nemeses, too.”
“I think I can find a couple people,” he said. “Well, here’s my card.” He reached into his dirty lab coat and handed Fern a silver card with his name and contact info written on it.
Fern took out his own card, although it was hand-written in red marker and now looked completely childish, then shoved it into Al-Chemy’s hand, as well. “I’ll be in contact,” he said, lazily scattering more flames into the air.
“Look forward to it.”
With that, the three villains shuffled carefully around the pock-marked concrete to the other side of the roof, closer to the door. Then, they exited the smoke screen. Fern clenched his ribs, manufactured a few coughs. C.K. and Blackout mimicked him. Al-Chemy stumbled out on the other side.
Fern straightened himself out a bit and screamed, “This isn’t over!!” before tossing tall flames in a crescent around them. After they established that they couldn’t be seen by any cameras, they made their big escape.
When the fire died down, Al-Chemy was alone on the rooftop, ruffled fro drifting gently in the early-afternoon breeze.