Chapter 1: Mysterioso
“Alright. Where is my wallet?”
Hank came rushing inside the living room, only to find everyone, except for Max, sitting on the couch. Nora was arguing with Billy over something, while Barb and Phoebe were talking about some boy again. He put his hands on his hips and asked loud enough to talk over them all:
“Where is my wallet?”
Without even looking up from where they were, everyone said:
And went back to their original talks. He rolled his eyes. Of course it was Max. That kid was getting worse and worse by the day. He walked over to the opening of the lair and called out:
“Max! Get up here, now!”
Just then, the doorbell rang. Everyone looked at the security monitor with a frown. It was quiet. Phoebe shook her head.
“Max must’ve messed with it again.”
That was believable, so he just shrugged and walked over to the door. If he was lucky, it was just someone from school, coming to give back books to Phoebe. If he was unlucky, it was Mrs. Wong with another complaint. He opened the door, only to freeze when he saw who it was.
“Barb! Get the…!”
The rest of the words died in his mouth, as he was thrown across the room. A tall man with black hair and black eyes walked inside and pointed his hands at them. At once, everyone lifted into the air, with their hands behind their backs. With a smirk, he walked to the middle of the room and put a robotic, oval device on the table. It glew red, and suddenly, all the Thundermans felt their powers disappear. With almost comical gentleness, he put them down again. Nora on a chair, while the rest of them landed on the couch. Immediately, Hank tried to get up, only to find out that he couldn’t move. None of them could move. The man smiled.
“Nice invention, right? Works only on superheroes. Blocks your powers and your energy. And it allows a supervillain like me, to walk around without noticing any effects on myself.”
The man smiled.
“Thunderman. I’d say it’s nice to see you again, but it’s really not. Now, stay here, while I take a look around your house. It’s not like any of you can stop me.”
And he walked off. Hank looked at his family. Nora and Billy looked scared. Phoebe seemed to keep it together quite well. Barb was visibly worried about her children. Then, suddenly, Nora smiled. Barb frowned.
“Nora? Why are you smiling?”
The girl looked at them with a look that told them she did not understand how they didn’t see what she saw.
“Max. He’ll save us. You heard that guy. This machine works only on superheroes.”
“Nora, sweetheart. Max is a superhero. He’s just pretending to be a villain to go against me. If he gets up here, he’ll be stuck like the rest of us.”
They heard steps approaching and seconds later, Mysterioso reappeared.
“Nice house. You’ve really made a good life for yourself, Hank.”
And then, before he could say anything else, they heard the sound of steps again. Max’s voice could be heard all the way from the hallway.
“If you’re looking for your wallet, dad, I did not steal it.”
He stopped in shock when he saw the living room. Very slowly he took a few steps inside.
“What’s going on? Who are you?”
Everyone, except for Nora, was gaping at him in shock. The girl just smiled at him in triumph. Mysterioso was the first one to find his voice.
“Who are you, boy?”
Max, quickly assessing the situation, decided that going along with this man was the safest option for now.
The man stepped a bit closer to him.
“And how come you’re not affected by my machine? It’s supposed to incapacitate all superheroes around it. How are you still standing?”
Max glanced around. Everyone was still looking at him in shock. And he understood. They all still thought that it was just a phase. Well, he was going to prove them wrong, once and for all. Gathering himself, he straightened up and answered slowly:
“You’ve clearly not heard of me. I’m working for Dark Mayhem.”
Four ‘whats’ sounded from the couch. On the other side, Nora was still smiling at him, with trust in her eyes. And he almost cursed, realizing what the girl was waiting for. She thought that he would save them. She had KNOWN that he was a villain. That the device would not affect him. And still she trusted him not to turn on them. Mysterioso smirked.
“Well, well, well. Who would have thought? The great Thunderman’s son is a super villain.”
“I’m not like him.”
He walked over to the table and crouched down, to look closer at the machine. He waved his hand over it and almost jumped when a red force field appeared around it, pushing his hand away.
“Protective force field. Smart.”
A slight frown appeared on his face, before it smoothed out again and he stood up, turning back towards Mysterioso.
“Alright. What’s your plan now?”
The man looked at him with amusement.
“And what makes you think I trust you?”
Max rolled his eyes.
“You’d be stupid if you did. Rule number one of being a villain is to not trust anyone. Colosso taught me that pretty early on.”
Mysterioso’s eyebrows shot up.
“Colosso? Doctor Colosso?”
“Yeah. Dad was going to send him to prison, but I managed to convince him to let Colosso stay with me. I was five, so he had trouble saying no. You want me to bring him here?”
Hank, Barb and Phoebe glanced at each other, worried about the easy way Max was behaving. The man nodded.
“Yes. Do that.”
Max quickly turned around and ran towards the stairs. And that made Barb frown. Max never used the stairs, unless there were people in the house who he didn’t want to know about the quick way down to his lair. But her attention was pulled back to the villain, when he burst out laughing.
“My, my. You really messed up with that one, Hank.”
Hank glared at the man.
“I’m starting to realize that now.”
Mysterioso tilted his head.
“Your own son, working for Dark Mayhem. How did that happen?”
Hank was silent, clearly not wanting to talk about his son with the villain, but the man taking a menacing step towards Nora made him quickly answer.
“We all thought that it was just a phase. But your device is clearly proving something different.”
Mysterioso laughed again.
“Well, he’ll make a good servant. And I think I know how to keep him happy. Let him be himself. Something I’m guessing you didn’t do.”
They heard footsteps again and Max ran inside, an annoyed look on his face.
“He’s bathing and I’m not going inside there.”
His eyes wandered back to the machine and Mysterioso looked at him with curiosity.
“You like machines? Robots?”
“Yeah. I’m inventing my own things.”
“Go ahead then. Take a look at it. Anything that could be improved?”
Moving quickly, Max crouched down next to the table again and moved his fingers next to the machine. When it didn’t move, he frowned and made the table levitate instead, turning it to look at the device from all the sides. Mysterioso let him take his time, before he walked a bit closer.
“You have any ideas?”
Slowly, Max nodded.
“Yeah. I’m not completely sure since I can’t physically touch it, but there are a few things. For one, the force field doesn’t stop me from lifting the table. Nothing would stop me from tossing this as far from the house as possible. The second thing is that the force field doesn’t cover it from underneath. With something strong enough, it could be destroyed through the table. There is…”
“Max! Stop helping him!”
Max’s head snapped over to Phoebe.
Hank felt anger rise inside of him.
“Max. If you do this, you are not my son anymore.”
Max ignored Barb’s shocked shout and stood up, the table landing on the floor again. He took a step towards Hank, but then stopped himself and shook his head.
“No. This is not my role.”
And he turned back to the device, clearly fascinated by it. Hank closed his eyes. Yes, he had seen the changes in Max, but this was going way too far. How could his own son do something like that? Why couldn’t he be like Phoebe? When he opened his eyes, he noticed that Mysterioso was looking at him with a grin on his face. And, for the first time in years, he felt fear. Because, if they managed to somehow break the device and get free, that would mean he’d have to fight his own son.
Chapter 2: He's A Villain
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
With a smile, Mysterioso turned towards Nora.
“You look just like your mother did at your age.”
Max glanced at them but, seeing that nothing important was happening and that the attention was away from him, he started looking more closely at the device. Barb tried to move but only managed a grunt, which pulled Max’s attention to her. His eyes were wide open and, for the first time since he was five, she saw actual fear in them.
The fear disappeared as soon as she said that. He stood up and walked closer to her.
“What? Not what you expected, huh?”
The hold the device had on her was the only thing stopping her from flinching at his uncaring voice. Mysterioso, who had looked away from Nora when he heard Barb speak, now walked a bit closer to Max. The boy froze, before a sudden smirk appeared on his face.
“You know, I’m well aware of what you’re trying to do.”
He turned back to the villain, the smirk still on his face.
“Oh, yes? And what is that?”
“You’re trying to intimidate me. You all do. Just because I’m a kid and Thunderman’s son. You all think that I’m weak.”
Mysterioso took another step towards him, before shaking his head.
“You’ve got it all wrong, kid. You see, I’ve been looking for a… student, for a very long time. I could show you real greatness.”
With a laugh, Max stepped away from him.
“Do you really think I’m stupid? I’m working for Dark Mayhem. He made it clear that I am to follow only him. And even though the light flickering he does in my room isn’t exactly threatening, Colosso has told me enough about what he can do to make me not question anything.”
“So you’re his mindless puppet.”
Everyone saw the sudden anger in Max’s eyes, but he seemed to get control over it fairly quickly.
“No. I’m a guy who values his life and knows where his best chances of getting to the top are.”
Then he walked back to the machine and crouched down again.
“But I also know when I’m in the presence of someone more powerful than me. And I’m not stupid.”
Mysterioso tilted his head, but didn’t have to ask anything, since Max continued talking.
“I’m not a hero. I’ll never be. I never wanted to be one. All these expectations. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Behave like this.”
He turned his head towards the villain.
“You see, I was never a fan of rules. I despised them, actually. I knew that I had a chance to get free of them, when dad told me about the villains he had been fighting. Getting Colosso also played a big role in this.”
Then he shook his head and turned back to the machine. Mysterioso just looked at him for a moment, before smirking at Hank. Then he turned back to Nora and took a step towards her, when the doorbell suddenly rang. With surprise, Max looked over to the monitor which was still silent. Mysterioso slowly walked over to the door, only to yank it open once he was next to it. Everyone’s eyes widened when they saw president Kickbutt standing there. She put her hand up to speak into her watch, only to fly across the room, Mysterioso’s hand pointing at her. She picked herself up and tried again, only to start floating in the air. This time, Max was the one pointing at her. He walked over to her slowly, making sure to concentrate on keeping her in the air.
“Max! What are you doing?!”
Her angry voice finally made the other Thundermans snap out of shock. Everyone, except for Nora, started screaming angrily at Max, only to be silenced when Mysterioso waved his hand. Max looked at him with surprise.
“Wait a second. Didn’t you have telekinesis a moment ago? How many powers do you have?”
The villain smiled.
“Many. Now, why isn’t she powerless like the rest of them?”
“Mysterioso! Whatever you have done to this boy, I order you to let him go!”
Max frowned at her.
“Done to me? He hasn’t done anything. You see, president, that device over there is programmed to incapacitate superheroes, but be completely harmless towards supervillains. And, as you can clearly see, I’m the only one from this family that can still move.”
Then he walked a bit closer and, with a sudden move, ripped her necklace right of her neck. Immediately, all her limbs got heavy and, when he put her down on the couch next to Hank, she didn’t move. He looked at the necklace for a moment, before stretching it out to Mysterioso.
“Disruptive field. Negated the power of your device. Another flaw. Seriously, where did you find that thing? The garbage dump? I mean, I know that some villains are into that sort of thing, and with the way you look I’m not sure if you aren’t one of them, but…”
The backhand was unexpected and hard. It actually made him lose balance and fall to the floor. He heard his family’s gasps, but it seemed that they were unable to make any other sounds. Slowly he picked himself up. His left cheek was red and the corner of his lips was bleeding from where Mysterioso’s ring had caught him. He quickly wiped the blood with his sleeve and met the villain’s eyes again.
“Alright. I deserved that one.”
Everyone was completely shocked by how easily he had shrugged off the hit. The villain took a step closer to him, but Max didn’t even flinch.
“You’re brave. Stupid, but brave. Now go back to my machine. If you behave, I might even let you play with it. Once I’ve made sure the Thundermans and our dear president are out of the way.”
Max stared at him for a few more seconds, before slowly walking back to the table. Barb felt tears run down her face as she saw her son once again use his sleeve to wipe blood off his mouth. Mysterioso clapped his hands.
“Now that everyone is finally here, I can start with my plans. First of all, you.”
He pointed his hand at Nora, but the girl just smiled at him. That seemed to put him slightly off balance.
“What are you smiling at?”
He waved his hand and Nora found her voice again.
“I’m not scared of you.”
“Oh. And why not?”
Instead of answering, she looked over at Max, who was now watching the scene with a tilted head. Mysterioso laughed cruelly.
“What? Him? Do you really think that your brother will save you? He’s not on your side, little girl. He’s a villain.”
But Nora just kept smiling.
Suddenly, the man moved forward and grabbed her shoulder in a tight grip, making her wince. His other hand started to glow, when he was suddenly thrown across the room. Everyone gaped in shock at Max, who was standing with his hand stretched out in front of him. There was determination in his eyes and something else. Something that Hank wasn’t happy to see, because every time he had seen it in the past, was in the eyes of villains. Some kind of emotion that he could never identify, because he had never felt it himself. It was not good. Meanwhile, Max shook his head.
“Going against my parents and the president is one thing. I don’t care about that. Hitting me is also alright. Especially since I brought this upon myself. But don’t you dare touch my little sister, or I swear you’ll regret it to the end of your days.”
His voice was menacing and Phoebe felt shivers go down her spine. This was the first time she was truly scared of her twin brother. And she did not like that feeling.
Chapter 3: Lightning
Mysterioso started laughing.
“I’ll regret it? Aren’t you forgetting yourself, boy?”
Max just stared at him. Hank was looking at his son with slight shock. He did not expect Max to stand up for any of them. But then he remembered how sure Nora had been that Max would show up. That he would save them. She had even said that she knew that he was a villain. He glanced over to her. She was smiling at Max, complete trust in her eyes. Turning back to his son, he frowned when he saw the determination in his eyes. Mysterioso nodded slowly.
“You are. Maybe you’re not as much of a villain as you pretend to be.”
Hank held his breath. That was the word that should not ever be said to Max in that context. Pretend. He still remembered the look in his eyes when he had said it to him. That was the first time in many years he saw Max close to tears. Without a word, Max blew his ice breath at the man, only to have it stopped in mid air. Next was the heat breath, but it was met with the same fate. Max rolled his eyes.
He blew another heat wave at him, and then jumped forward when the man was stopping it. He ducked under his arm and kicked him in the stomach, pushing the man back a bit. But, before he could do anything more, he was hit with purple lightning. The force of it threw him across the room and into the opposite wall. He slid down it and stayed on the floor, gasping. Mysterioso smirked and walked over to him. As soon as he was close enough, Max tried to kick at his legs. Seconds later, he was screaming when the purple lightning hit him again. But, this time, instead of just hitting him with one bolt, Mysterioso kept the lightning flowing. It was coursing through Max’s body and he simply couldn’t stop screaming. It felt as if his entire body was on fire. Barb and Hank did their best to move, but it was impossible. All they could do was sit and watch as their son was tortured. Phoebe, Nora and Billy were all too shocked to even think about trying to move. President Kickass was watching the boy with curiosity. He was a villain. That was clear by the way he could move and use his power, even though the device was still working. So why was he going against Mysterioso? Could it really be just because of Nora? Meanwhile, the man had stopped the lightning and was looking calmly at the boy. On the ground, Max was shaking from the pain.
“You made a big mistake, kid. Now stay down. When I’m done, I’ll contact Dark Mayhem. Let him deal with you.”
He turned around and walked over to Nora again.
“Now, little girl, lets see…”
He gave a short shout of pain and surprise when a lamp flew at him and hit his back. Everyone turned back to where Max was standing, steadying himself on the wall. There was still pain in his eyes but, other than that, he seemed to be able to keep himself up. Mysterioso turned to him with a frown.
“I told you to stay down.”
“Yeah. And I told you to stay away from my little sister.”
And he made another lamp fly at him. This time, Mysterioso simply made it fall to the floor and shot lightning at Max. But the boy was prepared for that. He ducked under it, and attacked with a flying chair. It fell to the floor again and Max almost cursed. His powers were useless against this man. He needed to get close enough to get in physical punches. He saw the man’s fingers light up with lightning and got a sudden idea. He put his hands in the air and took a step backwards.
The sparks didn’t disappear, but there was no lightning coming towards him either, so he took that as a good sign.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. That was out of line.”
For a moment, everyone was staring at him. Then, Mysterioso smirked.
“Do you really think I will fall for that?”
“It was worth a try.”
He ducked under another lightning, rolled around and ended up behind the couch that the others were on. Not a place he wanted to be in. Throwing two more lamps and a vase, he made it as far as the opening to the kitchen, when another lightning hit him. This one seemed to be much stronger than the last one. And it lasted much longer. Almost three entire minutes. Barb was now full on crying. Her son was being hurt, and she couldn’t do anything. Kickbutt was shocked to say the least. Dark Mayhem? Was it possible that Max had been working with him? But, if that was the case, why hadn’t he just stayed on the floor the first time? Everyone knew that Dark Mayhem was ruthless towards people who went against him. By fighting Mysterioso and trying to save Nora, Max was openly going against the Villain League. There were sure to be consequences. The lightning stopped and everyone exhaled in relief. Max’s screams were hard to listen to, especially since the boy never showed pain otherwise. Mysterioso looked slightly amused when he started speaking again.
“I really don’t understand you, Max. He’ll kill you, once I tell him what you did here today. Is that really what you want?”
Max moved his hand to pull the tv from where it was standing only to scream again, when Mysterioso stomped hard on his wrist. Phoebe felt slightly sick when she heard the snap, indicating that Max’s wrist was broken. But Mysterioso just kept pushing down with his foot, even more sounds coming from Max’s wrist. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he was hit in the face with a tennis ball. Everyone turned around to where Colosso was standing on the kitchen table.
“Get away from him.”
His voice was low and menacing, but Mysterioso just laughed.
“The great Colosso. I heard that Hank did something to keep you from causing any harm, but this? This is just plain wrong.”
Colosso didn’t take the bait.
“Step away from Max.”
Hank was shocked. In the many years during which he had fought the villain, he had never seen him care about anyone or anything. Now, even though he was pretty much defenseless as a rabbit, he was standing up for Max. And he remembered a five year old Max begging him to not take Colosso to prison. He remembered how everyone in the family would constantly make fun of the rabbit and talk down to him. Everyone but Max. Mysterioso shook his head.
He moved his hand slightly, and Colosso’s cage suddenly appeared. The rabbit was floated over to it, and it was locked.
“That’s where you belong, Colosso.”
Then he looked back to Max. The boy was still on the ground. He had curled up into a fetal position, protecting his injured wrist with his other hand. His left hand. Hank felt fear. Max was right-handed. Sure, he sometimes used both hands to telekinetically move something, but he was right-handed. He would never be able to fight with just his left hand.
“Stay down, Max. For your own best.”
And he marched over to Nora again. Hank, Phoebe and Billy looked after him, but Barb and Kickbutt kept their eyes on Max. The boy shifted slowly and they noticed fury in his eyes when he saw that Mysterioso was in front of Nora again. He looked down at his wrist and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, a few seconds later, there was determination in them. He took in a breath and breathed ice at his wrist and hand, freezing them. Very slowly, keeping as quiet as he could, he sat up and turned his head towards Colosso. The bunny nodded and glanced to the right, where the opening to Max’s lair was. The boy nodded back and slowly stood up.
Mysterioso spun around.
“How are you still getting up?!”
Hank held his breath when he heard the pure fury in his voice. But Max didn’t even flinch.
“Leave my sister alone.”
“You really like getting hurt, right?”
And he fired another lightning. At the same second, Max stretched his left arm out, his hand flat. A metal orb flew through the room and landed in his hand. The lightning hit the orb and then continued, travelling up Max’s arm, before suddenly stopping at his shoulder and moving back to the orb. Mysterioso, shocked by what was happening, stopped the lightning. Max smirked at him.
“You know what your biggest mistake was? Not taking into consideration that even a supervillain can be loyal to his family.”
He clenched his hand around the orb and it fired lighting back at Mysterioso. He was thrown against the opposite wall, his head hitting it with a sickening crack. He was unconscious before he even hit the floor. Max walked slowly over to him and froze him with his breath. Then he turned back to his family.
Hank wanted to nod, but noticed then that the device was still working. But knocking Mysterioso out had lifted his spell from them and Phoebe said, in a small voice:
“Max. Your hand.”
He shook his head.
“Not now. Did any of you get hit with the lightning? I haven’t actually used this orb before.”
A couple of ‘nos’ were heard and he nodded, sudden pain appearing on his face. He swayed slightly, before making his way to the table. Well there, he swayed again and fell down to his knees.
He glanced up to Colosso. They seemed to have a silent conversation between them, before Max smiled softly.
“Later. I’ll explain later.”
There was irritation in his voice. Then he took a deep breath and calmed down.
“I know. I’ll get it checked as soon as I disable this thing. Where did you leave the DD?”
Colosso nodded his head towards the stairs. With slight hesitation, Max stretched his left hand out towards that area. A small, black device flew to his hand. He managed to catch it, although clumsily, and sighed with relief. He pushed a small button on it and put in on the table. Almost immediately, the force field disappeared. Hank frowned.
He decided to not bring up the state that Max was in, since it clearly angered the boy.
“Disruptive Device. DD. I invented it after the first time I saw president Kickbutt. I noticed that she had a DD on her necklace. But it was small, just enough to protect her. With this little guy here, I once made everything in the house turn off. By the way, that was me. Not mom overloading the electricity.”
He put his hand on top of the device and tried to twist the top, only to grunt in frustration.
“Why didn’t I train more on using my left hand?”
After a few tries, he managed to get the top off and smirked. Noticing that he was starting to sway a bit again, Hank decided to keep the boy talking, to make sure that he wouldn’t pass out.
“What is it?”
“As I thought, he was so sure about this device never failing, that he only put it through one controller. Putting it through two or three, would have made it more safe. In case one was disrupted or hacked, the others would make sure that the device would keep running. This way, I don’t have to search him for any other special buttons or extra security. I just have to do this.”
He took in a deep breath and let out hot air at the insides of the machine, melting them. But that seemed to finally be too much for his body, because, as soon as he was done he passed out. Just seconds before his head hit the edge of the table, Billy sped across the room and caught him.
Chapter 4: Not A Hero
Hank and Barb were pacing outside the prison room. After president Kickbutt had taken Max with her to the hospital, they hadn’t heard anything from her. For five hours, they had been forced to wait at home. Then, they got a sudden call from Kickbutt saying that Max was in the prison and that they could come and see him. Immediately, the entire family had rushed over to Metroburg to see him, only to be stopped when they entered the prison building. Kickbutt had told them to wait, since they were still trying to figure out where to put Max. Both parents were nervous wrecks. Max, the self proclaimed villain, had saved everyone's lives and they couldn’t even be there with him when he woke up in the hospital. Phoebe was sitting between Billy and Nora, hugging them and trying to give them some sort of comfort. The boy was sad and confused, while the girl was crying and shooting lasers at every guard that tried to come close to her. Suddenly, half an hour after having arrived at the prison, the door to their right opened and Kickbutt walked into the corridor. Immediately, everyone moved towards her.
“Where is Max?”
“Is he alright?”
“Can we see him?”
“How is he?”
The president’s outburst halted their questions.
“Max is in there. We had to figure out where to put him, considering his powers and ability to build things out of practically nothing. But I think we’ve got it right. We also had to question him.”
Barb immediately looked nervous, so the other woman shook her head.
“He was very cooperating. At least about himself. As soon as we tried to move the conversation to Dark Mayhem and Villain League, he would shut down on us. And it took some time before they were ready with him in the hospital. Honestly, I have no idea how he could still fight after what happened. But maybe I should let him tell you everything.”
And she nodded towards the door she had come through. As one, the Thundermans all hurried over to the door and walked inside. But what they saw, shocked them. Inside the enormous room was a glass box, big as their living room. Inside of it was a simple bed, a table with a plate of sandwiches, and a chair. Max was sitting with his back against the bed, throwing a black rubber ball with his left hand, only for it to bounce off the wall and fly back to him. He caught it, although still a bit clumsily, and threw it again. As the door opened, he looked towards it and a small smile appeared on his face.
Getting over their initial shock, they rushed forward and got as close to the glass wall as they could. Very slowly, Max stood up and turned fully towards them. Barb and Phoebe gasped when they saw his left arm. He was clothed in black jeans and a black tank top and they saw scars all over his hand and arm. They started at his fingertips and traveled almost like vines and branches up to his shoulder, where they seemed to turn back to connect with the ones on his hand again. His right wrist was in a black brace that kept it from moving.
“Yeah. Everyone alright?”
Phoebe smiled slightly.
“Are we alright? Are you? Your arm.”
“Yeah. That. As I told you, I haven’t used that orb before. It’s supposed to absorb powers and let me use them. I just haven’t had anyone to try it out on. It worked, but there was a catch. Every time he shot lightning at me, he made it torture me from the outside. Made it feel as if I was burning. When the orb, being made of metal, pulled the lightning to itself, it directed it into my arm, before absorbing it back in. The doctors said that I was very lucky. If it hadn’t pulled it back so soon, the lightning could have damaged my lungs and heart. As it is, I ended up with scars and slightly damaged nerves.”
First now did they notice that the fingers on his left hand were twitching slightly every now and then, almost as if he didn’t have any control over them.
“Max. Why did you do it?”
He turned to Hank.
“Why did I do what? Stop that creep from touching Nora? I already said it. Even a supervillain can be loyal to his family. And no one messes with my family except for me.”
His voice had gotten slightly angry so Phoebe quickly changed the topic to something else, not wanting him to snap.
“What about your other hand?”
Max raised it up to look at the wrist.
“He crushed it. They performed a surgery to get all the loose parts of the bones to prevent them from cutting any major arteries. But they managed to trash most of the nerves. The doctors said that I might get some of the feeling in my fingers back, but I will never be able to use my wrist without the brace that keeps it straight.”
He lowered the hand again and sighed. They all noticed how he suddenly looked very tired. Barb, who had been quiet up till now, asked carefully:
“How did the interrogation go?”
Even though he did his best to stay still, they saw how he flinched slightly.
“It… It went as well as it could go.”
Barb felt sudden anger rise up inside of her. She knew what happened in those interrogations. She had witnessed a few of them herself. Some of them could even get brutal. She remembered being a young hero and seriously questioning the morals of the interrogators. Looking into Max’s dark eyes, she saw the truth in them, but a quick glance from him towards the younger children made her understand. He didn’t want to upset Nora and Billy.
“Nora? You alright?”
She nodded and smiled at Max.
“Yeah. I knew that you would save us.”
He crouched down to be more at her level. Seeing that, she moved closer to the glass.
“How did you know that? How did you know that I wouldn’t just turn my back on you all? That I wouldn’t join Mysterioso?”
“I just knew. You may be mean to us all the time, but you never let any outsider hurt us. I knew that you wouldn’t let him do it.”
A frown appeared on his face. When he spoke again, his voice was careful.
“I’m not a hero, Nora.”
Her smile widened.
“I know. And it turned out to be useful in the end, right?”
He nodded slowly.
Then he stood up and Barb decided that she needed to know the truth. She just had to know what her son had been through.
“Phoebe? Why don’t you take Nora and Billy to the cafeteria downstairs and eat something. We’ll come down as soon as we talk with president Kickbutt.”
She nodded, understanding appearing in her eyes, before she grabbed the younger siblings, only for Nora to move away from her.
“Wait. I have something for Max.”
She pulled out a small, thin black bow in the middle of a long black ribbon. She walked over to the thin opening for food plates and slid it through. Max picked it up and looked at her with surprise.
“I was going to give you that for your birthday, but I want you to have it now. I made it myself from that indestructible fabric that they use for our suits. But I dyed it black.”
Max just held it with a shocked expression.
“You… You got me a bow?”
“I knew you wouldn’t like it.”
And she ran out of the room, tears appearing in her eyes. Phoebe shot a glare at Max and quickly followed her, dragging Billy along. The door behind them closed and Hank looked at Max with slight irritation.
“Did you have to upset her? You know that Nora gives everyone bows when she wants to cheer them up.”
“Not me. And why do you even care? Didn’t you say that I’m not your son anymore?”
Barb frowned. This was not good.
Chapter 5: I Chose This
Hank took a deep breath.
Their son’s voice was cold.
“I don’t care about what you have to say anymore.”
Seeing that her husband didn’t know what to answer, Barb took over.
“Max. What really happened in the interrogation?”
He sighed heavily and sat down on the edge of the table, the ribbon still in his hand. It was moving slightly, every time his fingers twitched.
“I woke up on the way to Metroburg. All I know for sure is that Kickbutt tried to talk to the interrogators, but they didn’t want to listen to her, because of my connection to Dark Mayhem. They took me in to interrogation immediately. They bound me to a chair and pushed on my wrist every time I refused to talk. It was first after three hours they let the doctors take a look at me. But the damage was done. My wrist is destroyed. What Mysterioso did could have been healed. But they messed it up beyond any point of return.”
Barb felt tears appear in her eyes and Max shook his head.
“Don’t cry, mom. I chose this. I knew what the consequences could be when I contacted Dark Mayhem. Colosso walked me through it all.”
“Did you tell them anything?”
“Not enough. But the doctors ordered them to stop the interrogations and not do anything for a few days. Something about them not understanding my injuries. There will be an official hearing though. In two days. So I guess there will be no more interrogations before that.”
Seeing that Barb was still doing her best not to cry, Hank continued the questioning.
“Why did they put you here and not with the others?”
“They are worried that I will build my way out of there. It seems that my power absorbing orb actually scared Kickbutt. And there is the part where I went against the Villain League when I fought Mysterioso. So there is no saying what the other villains might do to me. Until the hearing, I’m to stay here.”
And, wanting to switch the conversation away from himself, he asked quickly:
“How are Nora and Billy?”
Barb, who had by now collected herself, answered with a soft voice.
“They are shaken up, but other than that they are fine. Thanks to you.”
Max rolled his eyes.
“I meant what I said to Nora, mom. I’m not a hero.”
Just then, the door opened and president Kickbutt walked inside. Seeing her, Max stood up straight. She frowned at him.
“How are you feeling, Max?”
He glared at her.
“As if you don’t know. You’re the one who put me here, Evelyn.”
She shook her head with a sigh.
“You have been spending too much time with dr. Colosso.”
Then she turned to the Thundermans.
“I need to talk to you two before you go back to Hiddenville.”
Hank nodded, but Barb glanced back to Max. He smiled at her and nodded.
“I’ll be alright, mom.”
“I love you, Max.”
He frowned at her and then nodded again, but didn’t say anything. Kickbutt put her hand on Barb’s shoulder and gently led her out of there. Hank followed them without a word. There was no idea in trying to talk to Max anymore. Especially since the boy clearly didn’t want to talk to him. They followed the president to her office and sat down in the chairs. She walked over to her chair and sat down with a sigh.
“How are you two holding it together?”
“Not sure. Our son is a supervillain. And he’s in prison.”
She frowned at him.
“And you didn’t see it coming?”
Barb shook her head.
“No. We thought that it was just a phase. That it would all pass when we moved out of Metroburg and got him away from the supervillains there. But, now that I think about it, he’s gotten worse since we moved here. Especially the last few months.”
Kickbutt nodded and pulled out a few papers from her desk.
“These are the official interrogation papers from Max’s interrogations. He didn’t say much that could be useful, but he said enough to get himself a one way trip to prison.”
The Thundermans exchanged looks.
“Is there nothing you can do, president? Anything?”
She looked thoughtful for a long moment before standing up and walking over to a shelf. She pulled out a book and flipped the pages for a moment before she found the thing she had been looking for. Then, she went back to the desk and sat down, putting the book in front of her.
“There is a way. But it will require cooperation from Max’s side. And I’m not sure he will want to do this. He’s a stubborn one.”
She pushed the book closer to them and they saw a picture of a blonde man with piercing green eyes.
“That’s Jasper Evans. His power was the ability to fight with whatever he got in his hands. You could give him the most advanced gun on earth and he wouldn’t even have to think before he knew how to use it. He saved many lives in his lifetime. But the way he did it was questionable to say the least. He didn’t shy away from violence. Once, when he found a man who had kidnapped and beaten up a five year old, he almost killed the guy. And he might be the only rescue Max has right now.”
“I don’t think I understand.”
“When he was taken in the first time, after beating a man up and blowing up a boat, he proclaimed himself as an anti-hero. He said that he was going to save people, but at his own terms. The case lasted over three months. For every bad thing he did, he could provide a good one he had done. It went back and forth until the jury decided to let him go and let him do whatever he wanted. Through his life, he did his best to fight for justice for people like him. In the end, the jury decided that any super that can prove that he is an anti-hero and not just uses it as an excuse for being a villain, will be free. If Max proclaims himself as an anti-hero and we can get enough evidence to support that claim, he might go free. But you must understand now why I said that I’m not sure Max will want to do this. He’d have to go against the Villain League fully, cut all his connections with Dark Mayhem, maybe even give up Colosso.”
At the last one, Barb shook her head.
“He’ll never do that. Colosso is his best friend. He’ll never give him up.”
“Let’s just focus on getting him to change his mind from supervillain to anti-hero. Maybe, if he’s given a free hand when it comes to the methods, he might accept being a hero.”
“We’ll try talking to him.”
They stood up and were heading towards the door, when it opened. Nora, Billy and Phoebe were standing on the other side, looking too guilty to not have listened in on the conversation. Barb took in the situation quickly, before turning to Hank.
“Hank. Can you take Nora and Billy home? Me and Phoebe will try talking to Max, before we go home too.”
He nodded and picked the two children up, ignoring their protest about wanting to see Max. With a smile to his wife and oldest daughter, he flew out through the window. Barb turned to Phoebe.
“Let’s give this a try.”
Together, they walked back to the prison room and walked inside. Max was on the bed, but he stood up as soon as he saw them.
“Where are the others?”
“Dad took Billy and Nora home. We’re here to talk about your situation.”
He shrugged and sat down on the table again.
“My situation is crap. I’m going to prison. There is no other option.”
Barb decided to stay in the background and let Phoebe try first. After all, there was a special bond between the twins.
“There is one other option. You become an anti-hero instead of being a supervillain.”
“And what? Go on missions with you and pretend to be something I’m not? Why is it so hard for you to understand that I’m not like you?! I’m not a hero!”
Hearing Max’s raised voice, Barb decided to step in.
“We know that, Max. But there wouldn’t be much that change if you become an anti-hero. You would have a free hand to do what you want, as long as you actually saved people. All small crimes would be pardoned. You would be able to come back home.”
Something dangerous appeared in his eyes.
“Home? Didn’t dad say that I’m not his son anymore? Why would I want to go back there?”
Barb froze. She had been shocked herself when Hank had said those words. Seeing her mother unable to speak, Phoebe took over again.
“Dad was angry. You know how people say things they later regret when they are angry. But think about Billy and Nora. About me and mom. Think about Allison.”
The last one made his eyes widen slightly.
“We’ll see you at the hearing. I’m not sure if they will let us come here earlier.”
She grabbed her mother’s wrist and pulled her out of there. Well out in the hall, Barb turned to her with shock.
“I gave him something to think about. Now he needs to be alone. Just trust me on this one, mom. I know Max.”
Chapter 6: Hearing
The day of the hearing came way too fast for anyone's liking. They hadn’t been able to see Max, but Kickbutt had ensured them that he had not been interrogated and that he had eaten and drank. He had barely spoken to any of the guards. They walked into the hearing room and sat down in the seats, Colosso sitting on Nora’s lap. He had insisted that he had to come with them, even though it could be dangerous for him as a super villain. President Kickbutt sat down next to Barb and smiled at her. She still remembered when they were younger and Barb was always there for her. Now, she would be there for her old friend. Other than them, there were the twelve jury members, the judge, five guards standing in front of the jury to keep them safe, and a few old superheroes who had come just to see Thunderman’s son being judged. The family was fidgeting in their seats, when one of the doors opened and Max was led inside. He was still wearing the black jeans and the black tank top, but Nora’s face was suddenly split by a huge smile, when she saw a small addition he had done. He had tied the black ribbon around his right bicep, making the small bow visible to everyone. The long ends of the ribbon were hanging down to his elbow. As he was led past the place where his family was, he smirked and winked at Nora, before looking straight ahead again. They noticed that he had a power suppressing cuff on his ankle, but other than that, he looked alright. He was stopped in front of the judge and the guards left to take their place next to the doors. Max stood with his back straight and his head held high. And the judge began.
“State your name, please.”
“Maximus Octavius Thunderman.”
The judge nodded.
“You are here, Maximus, on char…”
Everyone looked at him with slight shock.
“I go by Max.”
For a moment, the judge was just staring at him, before nodding.
“Of course. Max, you’re here on charges of being a super villain and working with Dark Mayhem. If enough evidence can be found you could be charged with every crime Dark Mayhem has committed in the time you were working for him. Do you understand the charges?”
They were all shocked by how calm the boy was. The judge, who must’ve seen much in his years, just nodded.
“And how do you plead?”
The juries exchanged looks, while the Thundermans all held their breaths. What was Max up to? The judge shook his head slightly.
“You do realize that, by pleading not guilty, you could be sentenced to a heavier punishment than you would if you confessed?”
“Yes. I understand that. And, if I was a super villain, I would plead guilty. But, as an anti-hero, I’m guessing the rules are a bit different for me.”
A few gasps were heard around the room. Barb and Phoebe exchanged surprised looks. They honestly hadn’t expected Max to actually do this. Meanwhile, Nora was grinning like mad. On her lap, Colosso nodded his head. This was actually brilliant. Max had done enough good things in his life to be able to claim being an anti-hero as the reason for all the bad things he did. The judge tilted his head.
“So you proclaim yourself as an anti-hero? Is that what you mean?”
Max nodded, his voice still calm and even when he spoke up.
“Yes. As both my family and some non-supers can witness, even though I do bad things, they almost always end up helping others in some way. If given some time, I could give you evidence of every time my actions have done something good. I admit that my ways may be frowned upon, but I do end up helping people in the end. Yes, I may have worked with Mysterioso for a short time and aided him in capturing president Kickbutt, but I ended up saving both her and my family, as well as capturing Mysterioso, at a great personal cost.”
He lifted his hands briefly, before letting them fall down again, the brace a stark contrast to his light skin. The judge frowned.
“And your connections to Dark Mayhem and the Villain League?”
“I don’t deny them. There is enough evidence to prove my involvement with them. All I’m going to say is that I’m still young. I’m experimenting. My involvement with the Villain League and Dark Mayhem didn’t harm anyone except maybe my reputation with my family.”
Hank had to say that he was impressed. The way Max was handling this was exceptional. He never hesitated before an answer and his voice never wavered. He kept his eyes on the judge, not once glancing over to the jury or the other spectators.
“The jury will have to discuss this. Leave the prisoner here.”
The judge stood up and walked out, the jury going out through another door. As soon as they were gone, Phoebe and Nora, with Colosso in her arms, rushed towards Max. The guards were going to step in their way, but were stopped by Kickbutt. The two girls reached him and he smirked.
“So happy to see me?”
Without a word, Nora hugged him, only to hear Colosso's voice from between them.
“Oi! You’re crushing me!”
Max laughed quietly as he stepped away from Nora and crouched down to be at the same level as Colosso.
“You good with this?”
The bunny tilted his head.
“Why wouldn’t I… Wait. You actually mean it? That you’re not a super villain?”
Very slowly, Max nodded.
“Yeah. I actually mean it. We still good?”
Colosso seemed to seriously think it through, before he nodded.
“Yeah. Yeah, we’re good. You’re my best friend, Max. Even if you’re not a villain.”
Max smiled, an honest smile this time.
He looked up at Nora and tilted his head.
“Thanks for your gift.”
She smiled at him, before running back to the rest of their family. Max stood up and faced Phoebe. The girl frowned when she noticed the slight worry in his eyes.
“What is it, Max?”
“The fact that I pulled the anti-hero card doesn’t change much. I worked with Dark Mayhem. They are putting me in prison.”
Phoebe felt shock.
“Wait. What are you talking about? They can’t. Not if you’re an anti-hero.”
“They can. I admitted myself that I was experimenting with the super villain gig. The whole anti-hero thing may lessen my sentence but I’m not getting out of this so easily.”
He glanced towards their father before turning back to Phoebe again.
“Take care of Colosso for me?”
She nodded quickly.
“Of course. But…”
“No. No buts. Now go back. People are staring.”
She wanted to argue with him about that but, right then, the door opened and the jury came back inside. Quickly, she ran back to her seat, while Max turned back to the judge who had just entered and sat down. The man looked at him for a long moment, clearly trying to get a reaction out of him, but Max didn’t even flinch.
“Max Thunderman. For your crime of aiding in capturing president Kickbutt, the jury has decided to drop the charges considering your anti-hero status. Every small crime you may have committed in your life, has been wiped out because of said status.”
Four of the Thundermans exchanged happy looks, while Phoebe just kept her eyes on the judge. She remembered what Max had said and understood that now was the most dangerous moment.
“Which leads us to the heavier charges. Your connections to Dark Mayhem and the Villain League can not be explained away with your anti-hero status. Had this been any other case, the jury would have just sent you to prison without a thought. But, as things are now, they have decided to take everything into consideration. Especially the fact that no one got hurt while you worked with Dark Mayhem and you did not do any big crimes at his bidding. Therefore, as a punishment for your crimes, the jury has decided to put you on house arrest for the next six months. You are not to leave the house under any circumstances, unless your life is in danger. You will be allowed to keep your powers and use them. Every week someone from the prison will check in on you. Of course, sensors will be placed to make sure you stay in the house. Everyone is dismissed.”
He stood up and left, along with the jury. A guard walked up to a shocked Max and took the cuff off his ankle, before walking out. Still in shock, Max didn’t have time to react, before he was being hugged by Nora and Phoebe, Colosso once again between them. They let go of him when they noticed that he wasn’t moving to hug them back.
Nora’s voice snapped him out of it. He quickly bent down, picked her up with his left arm and hugged her, ignoring her squeal. Phoebe smiled at that, just as their parents and Billy were approaching. Max put Nora down on the ground, only to be hugged by Barb just seconds later.
“I’m so happy that you’re coming home.”
He nodded into her shoulder.
“You dealt with this very good, son.”
Max pulled away from Barb and looked at Hank with cold eyes.
“Now I’m your son, huh?”
He shook his head and stretched his left hand out to Nora. She hesitated and he smiled at her.
“It’s alright. The scars don’t hurt anymore.”
She grabbed it carefully and went along when he pulled her towards the exit. Phoebe and Billy quickly followed them, while Barb turned to Hank.
“You need to talk to him when we get home.”
Hank nodded. He knew that.