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Synopsis

High school sophomore, Charisa O’Dell, has enough to do between homework, karate, and an upcoming school dance. However, when she is accidentally endowed with superhuman powers, she adds one more thing to the list: crime fighting. Crime is a lot more complicated than her comics make it seem, and she finds herself relying on the mysterious Villain Hunter, who somehow shares several of her superhuman powers. Even so, the more she infiltrates the world of crime, the more she attracts the attention of the criminals. Will she survive her attempt to save the day?


Chapter Seven

Enter the Villain Hunter

It’s oddly silent as I creep along the shadows. But not for long.

Blam! Something bashes into my head from behind. Pain buzzes through my head and tears spring into my eyes. However, I’m better in a moment.

I spin around and see a person holding onto a club. I grab the end of the club and swing it around, causing the person on the other end of it to let go and go crashing into an alley.

Another thug with a club appears out of the shadows. I’m about to attack him when two more thugs jump off of a nearby roof onto me.

Is this a trap?

The one with the club attempts to strike me, but I spin around and he hits one of the thugs who had jumped on me.

Two down, two to go.

I grab the other thug attempting to hold me down and throw him at the club wielding thug.

“Surrender,” I order.

The thug on top grabs my ankle and twists it, causing me to fall. Then he raises his club above me and prepares to strike, but I kick him, sending him backwards. He doesn’t get back up.

Then I get back up and rush after the other guy, who is making a run for it. I catch up with him, grab his arms, and throw him back to the ground.

Suddenly, someone starts screaming. I spot the offender across the street.

“Shut it and call the police!” I yell.

Whoever it is stops screaming and pulls out a phone.

Then I drag the unconscious thug back to the alley his unconscious buddies are in.

“Who are you?” someone asks behind me.

I startle and turn around to see Emily Rogers.

“I told you already,” I answer. “I’m Ninja.”

“No, who are you?” she asks. “I saw what you did to that guy. That’s not normal.”

I roll my eyes, though she wouldn’t have known. “Tell me something I don’t know. Hey, were you the kid who was screaming?”

Even though I’m standing in a dark alley and she was standing in a slightly less dark sidewalk, I can see her blush. “I was, uh, caught off guard. You have to admit, that isn’t something you see every day.”

“Uh-huh.” Funny how easily I can talk to her. Rescuing someone must make you more open or something. Or, in her case, being rescued. “It was stupid of you to come over here. What if it wasn’t me?”

“I recognized your voice and stature.”

Oh, I guess I do kind of stand out. “Wait a moment- were you walking alone in this part of town after I had to rescue you the other day?”

“Of course not. I was shopping with my mom in that store over there, but I finished before her, so I stepped out for a moment. Then I saw you. I should probably go back before she notices I’m gone. Bye.”

“Bye,” I echo as she leaves.

I wait around until the police arrive. Thankfully, none of the goons regain consciousness before they come. Once I hear the sirens, I slip into the shadows. Hopefully the guys already have mug shots attesting to their guilt.

They must because the cops arrest them, though they seem a bit confused and keep looking around. As for me, the memories haunt me after even after they are taken away.

It was a trap, of that I’m sure, but the question is was it for anyone who wandered by or just for me? If it was for me, how did they learn about me? The only people who have seen Ninja and aren’t in jail are Emily and those three robbers who got away on my second night. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Emily, so if anyone ratted me out to criminals, I’ll wager it was the runaway burglars.

I wander around, waiting for a crime to break up. About five minutes after the police picked up the thugs, there is a lot of screaming at the convenience store that Emily had come out of.
It can’t be a robbery. It can’t. It’s still open. It still has people in it.
Just like the store my mom died in.

I peak into a window. There is a person aiming a gun at the cashier. The half a dozen customers are lying on the ground with their arms raised in surrender. Thankfully, Emily and her mom must have already left because I don’t see her.

I’ll wait outside for the robber. I’ll wait until he’s away from the civilians before I attempt to take back the stolen money.

That’s my plan until one of the prostrate customers foolishly rises.

The robber aims his gun at him.

“No!” I scream as I charge in.

My scream startles the robber, giving me the time I need to reach him and twist is armed hand from his would be victim. The robber yelps and shoots, but the bullet flies harmlessly into a wall. Then I wrench the gun from his hand and fling it to the side.

In retribution, he punches me in the face. Everything blurs for a moment before becoming suddenly clear again. Then I grab him by his shoulders, shove him to the ground, and return the favor. However, while his punch had only dazed me, mine knocks him
out.

I rise and turn to the cowering customers.

“It’s safe now,” I announce. “Could somebody call the police?”
The look the customers give me is a look I will never forget. They fear me. That fear leads most of them to whip out their phones and dial 911. Only one person, a middle-aged lady, approaches me.

“Thank-you for saving my brother,” she says, gesturing to the man who had stood up. “He didn’t understand because he has a disability, you see.”

I nod. “I’m glad I was here to help.”

The look she gives me is also one I will never forget. It was one of pure gratitude. It makes suffering the other looks worth it.

I am about to leave when the lady calls, “Wait, to whom do we owe our thanks?”

“Call me Ninja,” I answer before making a dramatic exit (that scene demanded one).

Just outside, I run into someone.

Whoever he is, he’s wearing an outfit that is rivaled in ridiculousness only by mine. It’s a full body camouflage suit, army boots, protective gloves, an army helmet, and a gas mask.

“Why, hello there,” he greets, steadying me.

I quickly pull away. “Uh, hello.”

Sirens sound in the distance and I start walking away. He follows.
“So the rumors are true,” he says. “There is someone else like me.”

Huh? “Like you?”

He nods. “Super strength, super speed, the usual.”

I freeze and turn to face him. “Wait, are you the guy my dad told me about? Did you prevent a bank robbery lately?”

“Actually, I’ve prevented two.”

No way. No way! “What do you call yourself?”

He pauses drastically before answering, “Hunter. Villain Hunter.”

“I’m Ninja.”

“Nice to meet you,” he says.

“Nice to meet you too.” Wait a moment- how do I know he’s the other super hero? He’s given me no evidence, just a wacky costume, and any crazy stalker dude could wear a wacky costume.“Why didn’t you try to stop that robbery?”

“I was about to, but you got there first. I would have stepped in if you needed help, but it was only one guy and you seemed capable enough.”

I nod slowly. “Well, I got to go.” Then I dash away.

After I’m halfway home, I pause and look around. He hasn’t followed me. Then I dash the rest of the way to my house.
I step into my room and lock my window.
“Charisa?”

I startle and turn around to see Courtney sitting in her chair in the corner of my room.

“I can explain!” I cry.

She flicks on the light and looks at me crossly- an unusual look for her. “You’d better. I was so worried! I thought I heard something, but when I came in here, you were gone! Then, suddenly, you’re climbing in here wearing that strange costume. What were you doing out there?”

Oops, I guess I forgot to lock my door. Bye-bye secret identity.
I take a deep breath, “You’re not going to believe me, but I’m a superhero.” There, it’s out.

She eyes me skeptically. “Prove it.” She’s giving me her best poker face, but I can tell she’s scared.

I walk to the other side of my room and dash from it back to her.
Her eyes grow wide. “That was impressive, but is that all you can do?”

I shake my head. “Nope; I’m also freakishly strong and agile.”

“Still, isn’t it dangerous?”

I grab a comic and rip off my glove. “Not really. Watch.”

“You don’t have to do that,” she says, but it’s too late. I’ve already cut myself.

And right before both of our eyes, my finger heals itself.

Her already wide eyes grow wider. “Are you the masked ‘man’ Dad told us about?”

“No, but I might have met him. I’m the Ninja, or I have been for three days. I guess that’s the end of that.”

“Why?” she asks.

“Because you’ll tell Mother and Dad, and do you seriously think they’ll let me keep it up?”

“What if I don’t tell?”

I roll my eyes. “You and I both know you can’t keep a secret.”

“Can too,” she retorts. “Now tell me about your adventures. Then I’ll decide whether to tell our parents or not.”

I tell her everything.

At the end of my tale, the verdict is in.

“Okay, I won’t tell,” she says. “Wow! My sister is a superhero!”
~~~
The next morning, after I have gotten ready, I head into the kitchen on a breakfast hunt. Neither Courtney nor I is terribly good at cooking.

“Too bad you don’t have super cooking skills,” Courtney says over a plate of semi-burnt waffles.

“Oh, be quiet,” I retort.

Courtney doesn’t listen. “Are you wearing your costume under your clothes?”

“Um, no. I’m a purely nocturnal superhero.”

“What if you’re needed in the daytime? What will you do then?”

“That’s not how I roll. I hunt crime; it doesn’t hunt me.”

“You should be prepared.”

“Whatever.”
~~~
On the bus, I sit next to Olivia and Nora, as usual.

“I’m sorry about what happened to your dad,” Nora says.

Olivia looks up from her book and nods.

“It’s okay- he’s going to get better,” I answer, “but thanks.”

“Anyway, have you seen the news?” Nora asks. “It was… oh, I can’t explain it. Olivia, show her the video on your phone.”

Olivia reluctantly pulls herself from her book and reaches into her pocket for her phone. Then she hands it to Nora who opens a website. She hands it to me.“Watch this.”

I obey and begin watching a security camera’s footage of Ninja’s battle with the store robbery. After that is over, there are several interviews with witnesses. The woman whose brother I had rescued is teary eyed as she says, “I don’t know who it was, except maybe a guardian angel.”

“Well?” Nora asks when the video is over.

“That was interesting.”

“Interesting? Interesting!” she exclaims. “There has finally been footage of the elusive crime fighter! And she has a name: Ninja.”

I nod, dazed at seeing myself on TV, er, Olivia’s phone.

“I mean,” continues Nora, “this is like the biggest news of the year!”

I nod again, this time mourning Ninja’s secret life. It’s probably going to be harder to sneak around now.

“I know who I’m interviewing,” Nora adds.

Uh-oh.
~~~
At school, there are whispers everywhere. I keep catching words like crime fighter, superpowers, and Ninja. I am, for the first time ever, popular- in the oddest sort of way.

How ironic it is to hear the same kids who had laughed at Carl saying how awesome it would be to be superheroes. Ha! They’d probably be super villains. Don’t they realize that if they can’t be strong enough to be noble in the small things, they probably won’t be strong enough to be noble in the big things?

English class is a little easier to bear. I mean, I’ve fought people who were a lot worse than menacing teachers.

“And class,” Mrs. B. says, “I want all your homework-and I mean all of it- turned in tomorrow.”

Then again, maybe not.

At lunch, Nora informs us about several different plans to get her interview.

“So, I’ll hang around downtown and wait for something to happen, and when it does, Ninja will come and rescue me. Then I’ll interview her. Should I do it?”

“No!” Olivia and I cry in unison.

She pretends to pout. “Well, what should I do then?”

“Stay safe,” I answer.

“Set your sights lower,” Olivia answers.

“You guys are no fun!”

“But we’re alive,” I point out.

After gym, in the girls’ locker, I find myself pulling my hair into a ponytail. Two mirrors away, Vanessa is fluffing her hair.

Then another cheerleader comments on it saying, “You think you’re pretty don’t you?”

“Of course,” Vanessa answers like that’s the most obvious question of the year.

The other cheerleader, obviously looking for a fight, snaps back, “I bet you think you’re prettier than me.”

“Well, uh…”

“You do don’t you!” shrieks the other cheerleader before lunging herself at Vanessa.

She scratches Vanessa’s face, and Vanessa retaliates.

I turn to Nora who has just stepped out of a dressing room. “We have to stop them!” I’m not a fan of either of them, but I don’t wish bodily harm on them- something that they’re going to afflict upon each other if someone doesn’t step in.

I grab Vanessa and Nora grabs the other cheerleader. We work on pulling them apart.

By now, several other girls had stepped out of their stalls and are now gaping at us.

In her fury, the other cheerleader pulls me off of Vanessa and scratches my face. I press one hand against my scratched cheek and raise my other hand to strike back. Before I can, someone else grabs my hand. I turn and see Olivia.

Realization dawns on me. I almost attacked someone. Someone who wasn’t a criminal (though she did act like one…).

One of the other girls enters the locker room with a teacher. The teacher stops the fight once and for all, but not the sick feeling in my stomach.

Nora hurries over to me. “Let me see it.”

I obediently move my hand.

“Hmm, I don’t see a mark or anything.”

Thanks to my superpowers. The same superpowers I almost used on a civilian. I turn to Olivia. “Thanks for stopping me from hurting her.”

“It was nothing.”

But it wasn’t. What kind of monster am I becoming?
~~~
Thursday afternoons are my only free weekday afternoons, with karate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and volleyball practice on Tuesday. However, I’m spending this Thursday’s afternoon at the hospital with my dad.

I wait on a bench outside the school with my backpack at my side. The plan is that Nora’s brother Andrew will drive me there on the way to his part time job. Once I’m there, Mother will return home to shower and rest. She’ll return this evening, before dinner. Mrs. Walters will drive me home.

Andrew takes his good, sweet time in coming. When I finally see his shaggy head of brown hair- the exact same color as Nora’s (and almost the same length) – it’s already fourteen minutes after school let out.

He signals me to follow him to his rundown, second-hand car.
I settle into the passenger seat and buckle up and wait for him to do the same in the driver’s seat before saying my usual greeting to him: “You need a haircut.”

“Hello to you too, Chrissie,” he retorts.

“Also, you’re late.”

He revs the engine. “I couldn’t help it; everyone wanted to talk.”
I roll my eyes. “My, aren’t you the social butterfly?”

“You know, there’s a rumor going around that there was a cat fight in the girls’ locker room.”

“You shouldn’t listen to gossip.”

He grunts in exasperation.

I smile. He’s the closest thing to a big brother that I have, and, oh, is he fun to annoy.

“Come on,” he says. “Just tell me whether the rumor is true or not.”

I pretend to zip my lips. “I’m not saying anything because you’ll probably say some stupid boy thing like ‘I wish I were there’ or something. Besides, you didn’t say the magic word.”

“Ugh, why do you always pester me about that?”

“Someone has to teach you your manners.”

“Fine, then, please.”

I sigh. “If you really want to know, then yes there was.”

“Man, I wish I were there.” He flashes me an evil grin.

I punch him in the shoulder (lightly). “By the way, how was that cake Olivia gave you?”

He blushes faintly. “How do you know about that?”

I roll my eyes. “Hello, we’re girls and we’re friends. We talk about stuff. Besides, Nora videotaped it.”

“What?!”

I laugh. If only I had a camera with me to capture the look on his face.
~~~
“I’m going home now, darling,” Mother explains. “I’ll be back by dinner. Until then, Charisa will keep you company.”

“Hi,” I say.

“Okay, I’m going to go now,” Mother adds. “Bye, dear.” With that she leaves.

Dad smiles at me. “Hey, Chrissie, how are you doing?”

“Fine. How are you?”

“Fine- and the doctors even say I should be able to come home Sunday.”

I grin. “That’s great!”

“Well, I think I’ll take a little nap. Did you bring something along to do?”

I nod. “Homework.”

“Well, you’d better get to work,” he says before closing his eyes.
~~~
The first words I hear when I come in my house are, “How’s Dad?”
“He’s better,” I answer, “but still a little groggy from the medicine.”

“Oh, good,” Courtney says. “Guess what- Mother made us dinner. It smells really good.”

After what we’ve had to eat today (Burnt waffles and cafeteria food) anything could smell good. Except my cooking (and maybe Olivia’s).

When the table is set, the food dished out, and grace been said, Courtney asks, “Where are you patrolling tonight?”

I shrug. “My usual zone, I guess.”

“You have super speed, don’t you?”

I nod.

“Then use it to get a bigger chunk of the city to protect. Sure, the mall is safe, but what about the rest of the city?”

“Since when did you become such a superhero expert?”

“Since I read all of your comics.”

“Why, you little brat!”

She twists her usually angelic face into a wicked grin.

“Anyway,” I say, “what are you planning on doing tonight?”

She shrugs. “The usual stuff, I guess: practice the piano; attempt to write a song; and then park myself in front of the TV.”

That’s my sister for you: almost perfect.

“Well, I think I’ll leave after cleaning up the kitchen,” I say. “That way, I might be able to come back in time to watch TV with you.”

“Sounds good to me.”
~~~
When nothing happens at my usual one, I decide to take Courtney’s advice and expand my crime fighting area. I’ve wandered about a mile away from the mall when something suspicious finally happens.

“Yelp!”

The source of the sound appears to be a (supposedly) deserted warehouse. I wander around the building, looking for an unlocked door. However, I find something better: a hole blown into the wall.
I crawl in and turn on my key-chain flashlight.

Thump!

I immediately head toward the sound. It leads to an upper room. I look around a corner and realize it’s inhabited.

“Is it brighter in here?” asks a gruff voice.

I quickly flick off my flashlight. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!

“I don’t know,” answers an even gruffer voice. “Go check it out.”

“I don’t wanna,” says the first voice. “There’s something spooky afoot. Let’s just take what we can grab and go.”

Smack!

I cringe.

“Shut it, you idiot, and check it out,” orders the second voice. “We can’t leave until I get into that room. This stuff is chickenfeed compared to what’s in that room.”

The first goon creeps toward the corner where I was hiding.

Thankfully, I’m prepared. I knock him out on my first swing, but the thud of his unconscious body hitting the ground alerts his partner.
“Who’s there?” he demands, pulling out a pistol.

I dash to his side. “I am.” I knock him out just as easily as I knocked out his buddy.

Suddenly, I’m shoved to the ground. I turn my head to see a familiar army helmet.

“What are you doing?!” I cry.

He doesn’t answer, instead he rolls us both several feet from where we were. A bullet whizzes to where we just were.

“Saving your life,” Villain Hunter finally says. Then he jumps up and orders, “Stay here!”

He runs- he’s incredibly fast- to the base of a higher floor that opens above this one. There, he jumps up the great height onto the floor. He then knocks out with one punch a goon I hadn’t noticed before. Then he swings the goon over his shoulder and picks up a gun- probably the one that shot at us- before dashing back.

“You really do have superpowers,” I breathe.

He nods and drops the goon next to his buddy. Then he confiscates the other one’s gun to.

“You saved my life,” I add as I look where I had been standing before he had knocked me down. A bullet was crammed into the wall. I doubt my regenerating health could save me if I died.

He shrugs absently before dragging the first goon I took down to join his buddies. He confiscates his gun as well. “I do it all the time.”

“You save me all the time?”

“No, I save damsels in distress all the time.”

Excuse me? “I am not a damsel in distress. If I were, do you think I could do that?” I point to the two unconscious goons I had taken out.

“You’re not an average damsel in distress, I’ll give you that.”

I grunt.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re fun to frustrate?”

To be fair, I guess I’m getting what I deserve after teasing Andrew.

“Do you have a phone on you?” I ask.

“Oh, yes, of course.” He pulls a phone out of his pocket and dials 911.

Once he finishes the call, he turns to me and says, “Anyway, I was thinking, we make a great team.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I agree. After all, if he hadn’t been there, I’d probably be dead.

“And it’s more efficient to work together, right?” he says. “If we watched each others’ backs, no one could sneak up on us. Plus, we’d be a pretty powerful crime fighting team.”

I don’t know what to say. Should I trust him?

Of course I can- he saved my life the same way my mom saved the life of that stranger.

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try working together for a day or two,” I answer. “Then, depending how well it works out, we’ll decide whether to keep it up or not.”

He nods. “That sounds sensible. So, when and where should I meet you?”

“Across the mall at seven.”

“Okay,” he agrees. “Well, I’ll stay with these goons, so you can leave if you want.”

“Thanks. Bye.”

Once I leave the room, a little dizzy with how fast everything has just happened, I hear Villain Hunter call after me, “It’s a date then!”

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Jordan Smelser

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