Previously in Comic Superhero…
Andrew had stormed out of the comic book store after being told by Emily that it was Jackson who dobbed him in for almost cheating. In the confusion, Jackson swiped the comic from the counter and offered it to Andrew as a means of an apology. Their relationship restored, they set about to finding out the truth behind Emily’s past…
The needle hovered over the spinning vinyl, the lever balanced on the precipice of Andrew’s index finger. It dropped, producing a series of crackles, hisses and pops. Out of the speakers came a sombre voice.
“No one would have believed in the middle of the twentieth century that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s.”
Andrew sank back into his chair as the narration and orchestration washed over him. It was an appropriate victory anthem. In his hands was his prize, the holy text signed by the high priest himself. A grin crossed his face; triumph was his.
Jackson lobbed his bag onto Andrew’s bed, coming over to pick up the LP cover from the desk.
“Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds. What’s with you and vinyl? This stuff is a relic. Why do you listen to it?
Andrew snapped out of his reverie. “Purloined from my father. It was sitting in the lounge room and he never listened to it. Besides, I like the sound. And, what’s even more awesome, proper art work.” He reached for the LP, opening up the double album. “I mean check this out; an audiophile’s and an artist’s fantasy.”
Jackson flopped down on the bed. “So what’s your next move? Back to school tomorrow and I’m guessing Emily will be peeved. She will not let you get away with it.”
“It’s time to turn the tables. She said to know your enemy. There has to be something in her past that pushed her to be the evil genius.”
“Recon mission. Wicked. Masterchief Jackson at your service. What did you have in mind?”
Andrew scratched his head and half shrugged. He waved a pen in the air like it was a magic wand conjuring ideas.
“For someone who’s top of the class and smart and all, you can be bloody dense sometimes. Shove your bum.”
Andrew vacated the chair for Jackson who plonked down and opened Andrew’s laptop.
“Where do you go if you want the local news and information? Facebook.” He hit the ‘Enter’ key, opening Emily’s profile page. “Let’s just hope she doesn’t keep things too private.”
Andrew and Jackson spent the next fifteen minutes clicking on profiles and tabs, checking out photos and posts, looking for clues.
“We seem to have nothing except her birthday, September 29, her favourite colour is green, she likes The Black Eyed Peas and she owns a cat named Mr Farnsworth,” said Jackson. “Now I need a pair of sunglasses and the world’s worst pun.”
“I think I’ve found the crack in her armour. In any picture here, it’s just her and her Mum. There’s no picture of her Dad,” Andrew mused.
“Are her parents divorced?”
“Got no idea, but it’s the first step in knowing your enemy.”
The initial flush of new ideas spawned tangents.
“You could hit up Joshua and see what he knows,” said Andrew.
“He’s always at Phat Albert’s every Thursday getting his new Dark Knight comic or at the Apple store getting his finger prints on all the display items.”
“Yeah and so are you,” Andrew joked. “I’ll see if Nathan and Stuart can get anything out of Bianca and Catherine.”
“What about you?” asked Jackson.
“I’m going for the frontal assault. She’ll be weakened after her loss at the comic book store. Attack while the defences are down.”
“What do you hope to achieve?”
“Something to help me understand why she is so antagonistic. It’s not like I’ve gone out of my way to make her life miserable or anything.”
The school yard had the foreboding of the apocalypse on Monday morning. Andrew and Jackson entered the school gates with Stuart and Nathan. Across the quadrangle, leaning against the Library wall stood Emily and Joshua. Bianca and Catherine appeared around the corner. Andrew watched Emily with her arms crossed across her chest in defiance and hostility.
“Maybe we should walk in slow motion for dramatic effect,” said Nathan.
Andrew kept his gaze fixed firmly on Emily, watching the scowl form on her face.
“That look is so greasy you could deep fry chips in it,” Stuart quipped.
The bell echoed across the school yard causing Emily to break off the visual game of chicken. With dramatic flair she picked up her bag, swept her hair back over her shoulder and headed into the library.
Andrew spoke to Jackson, “I’ve got a free period now so I’m going to speak with Emily. See you in class later.”
“Be careful,” said Jackson. “She could do anything.”
Dodging the lemming-like students, Andrew followed Emily into the library. She found a desk towards the back tables, unpacked her books, put in some earphones and set to work.
Pulling up a chair Andrew sat across from Emily. His hands moved from his knees to the desk and back again. Emily popped the earphones out and simply stared. She seemed surprised to see Andrew seated in front of her. He began the interrogation.
“Why are you being a smeghead about all this? You and I have competed for years without it getting this heated. And now all of a sudden you’ve become the Ice Queen, determined to make my life a misery. What happened to you to make you such a stroppy cow?”
“Do you really want to know?” Emily asked.
“I’ve always been competitive. When I came to this school, I noticed that you were the one to beat. And you’ve been such an insufferable jerk lately, big-noting yourself that I decided it was time to cut you down a bit.”
The interrogation changed tack. “What about your Dad?” Andrew asked.
The question startled Emily, her teenage mask slipping. The crack was there for an instant before resealing.
“I suppose I get the competitive streak from him. He always wanted me to be successful and pushed me to do as well as I could.”
Andrew pushed his advantage. “But why come to this school?”
“The reason that I came to this school was because my father was killed in a car accident. My mother wanted to make a new start, and so did I. We felt it was easier for the both of us.”
The news hit Andrew hard in the stomach. Emily blinked, pushing tears to the corner of her eyes. To stem the flow she put the heel of her hands to her eyes and lowered her head letting her dark curls drop forward.
As Emily cried, Andrew didn’t know where to look, teenage awkwardness manifesting itself. His rival was weak and helpless, not the strong and confident person he knew. He raised his hand, wanting to place it on her shoulder in a gesture of comfort. It wavered briefly before he pulled it back in embarrassment.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered. He had nothing else to say.
Emily’s shoulders continued to shake but a different sound emanated from under the cascade of dark curls. The sobbing morphed into a chuckle. Andrew stared in horror, feeling that gut-wrenching moment again as the chuckle turned into laughter.
“Psych! You sucker! I can’t believe you fell for that. April, May, June, July and August Fool. Oh my, that is going to make me laugh all day now.”
Andrew felt his cheeks flush as shame swept away any feelings of compassion. Echoes of Emily’s laughter stabbed at his ears as he walked out the main doors of the library.