Billy was the first one to wake up, blinking, until his vision focused on Nora lying unconscious.
“Nora!” he sped towards her, except he wasn’t speeding, he was walking… annoyingly slow. He didn’t have his speed. “Nora!” he shook her until she responded, groaning and rubbing her eyes. “Nora!”
“What is it, Billy?”
“I can’t use my speed!”
“You can’t…” Nora trailed off looking around at the cage their family lay unconscious in.
“Oh, also we’ve been kidnapped.”
“No kidding.” She squinted her eyes and groaned when no lasers came out. “They must’ve done something to block our powers.”
Phoebe rolled over, then shot to her feet noticing that she was not in her bedroom. “Nora? Billy? You two okay?”
Phoebe turned to Chloe who was still unconscious and decided to let the youngest Thunderman remain unaware for as long as possible.
“Mom? Dad?” The two adults stirred.
“What happened?” Hank asked.
“Where are we?” Barb rubbed her eyes.
“In Hawaii,” Nora said. Hawaii was where they were supposed to be, except whoever had kidnapped them had no respect for long-planned travel.
“Where’s Max?” Phoebe asked, suddenly noticing her missing twin.
Hank shifted uneasily.
“You don’t think he sold us out do you?” Nora asked, suddenly.
“No,” Phoebe said, “He wouldn’t.”
The cage fell quiet, no one was quite sure if Phoebe was right, and really, neither was she.
Max woke up in a bed that was not his own, that would’ve been concerning enough except sitting across from him was Strongdor and with Strongdor came…
“Strongdor sees you’re awake! Strongdor will take you to Dark Mayhem now!” Dark Mayhem. Max wasn’t sure whether to feel terrified or in awe of the villain, he instead opted for pain because Strongdor’s grip was, well, strong and Max would bet he would have bruises when he checked.
“Ah, Max, I see you’re finally awake.”
“Dark Mayhem! It’s an honor to see you in person- uh I mean hi!” Play it cool, Max he told himself, It’s not like you’re meeting the most powerful supervillain ever!
"Max, we, here at the Villain League have decided it’s time for you to join us and fully commit yourself to evil.”
“Really!” Max cleared his throat. “I mean of course.”
“We just have one more task for you.” He stood up. “Follow me.”
Max didn’t really have a choice, as he was dragged along by Strongdor who didn’t seem to get the hint to let go of him, until he finally used his heat breath to singe the man’s hand.
“That hurt Strongdor!” The man announced.
“Well then keep your hands to yourself, buddy.” Max rubbed his shoulder as he followed Dark Mayhem through a doorway and stopped.
His family was there, in a cage. Of course, they were here, he had been with them, hadn’t he? And they weren’t evil like Max, instead choosing to be good.
“Max!” Phoebe looked up, hearing Nora’s yelp.
“Max,” she got up and pressed her face against the bars. “Are you okay?”
Dark Mayhem placed a finger on Phoebe’s forehead and pushed, forcing her to stumble back.
Chloe, now awake and safely behind Barb, bared her teeth at the supervillain.
“Don’t worry, dear Phoebe, your brother is fine, and he’s just about to take his last step to become a supervillain.”
“Max,” Hank looked shocked, and Max shook his head, they never had believed him.
“I’m ready, Dark Mayhem.”
“Alright, for your last task, choose one of them,” he gestured to the caged Thundermans, “to die.”
“What?” Max hadn’t been expecting that, he’d been excepting to be asked to shove some old ladies or something, but this wasn’t small-time villainy anymore, this was the big leagues.
“One of them to die, Max, the rest will be returned in a prisoner trade with the Hero League, but here’s your last step to becoming one of us.”
Max swallowed. “Can I have some time to think it over? Just to make the best tactical decision, figure out who will weaken the Hero League more. It’s not like I actually care about any of these bozos.”
Dark Mayhem nodded, satisfied with Max’s explanation. “The prisoner exchange takes place tomorrow morning, so decide by tonight.” Dark Mayhem left and Strongdor followed him, Max started to as well.
“Max?” It was Phoebe. She looked somehow heartbroken and resolute at the same time. It was a look Max had grown familiar with as he followed his path to villainy.
“I told you, Pheebs, I’m evil.”
“Max! You may be evil, but no son of mine is going to choose them over his own family,” Hank threatened.
“Then maybe I’m no son of yours.” And Max stalked out, looking much cooler than he was feeling.
He was supposed to choose one of his family to kill and it was… a harder last test than he thought he would be facing.
Tactically, Phoebe was probably the best choice, being on track to become one of the best superheroes in a generation, but the thought of doing that… turned his stomach. The worst part is he knew she would tell him to do it. That if he was going to chose one of them, to choose her, but he just… he couldn’t do that. How was he supposed to do that to his twin? The only person who'd treat him like he was evil but then still believed in his humanity, and as annoying as that was... how could he turn around and kill her?
He couldn’t do it to Nora, Billy, or Chloe. They were children. It was just unnecessarily cruel to make Nora or Billy live without each other, or take Chloe from this world so fast, terrify her in her final moments. That’s what Max told himself, ignoring the way his stomach flip-flopped thinking of his younger siblings facing down death, ignoring the way that his instincts told him to get in between them and the threat, something he'd done for years now, but he was a villain, now: those instincts were dead. Besides, he couldn't get in between them and the threat, even if he wanted to, which he didn't, he was the threat.
That left his parents and he wished his stomach still wasn’t in knots thinking about making that choice. It was an obvious one: Dad. His mom, well, at least she cared, but his dad had always been looking for an excuse to disown him it seemed, get rid of the screw up that was Max and just be left with perfect Phoebe. But he didn’t even know if he could do that, what kind of villain was he that he couldn’t make this decision?
He knew what the heroic thing to do was, the one his father would want him to do: Free his family, have Chloe teleport them out of there, but that wasn’t him, he wanted to be a villain, and if he didn’t make this choice… he wouldn’t be, all his hard work would be for nothing. He would have proved everyone right about it being just a phase, just because he couldn’t make the stupid decision to kill his old man who never wanted him anyway.
Soon Strongdor came to get him, telling him that it was decision time and Max still wasn’t sure he could make it.
“So which of them will it be Max?” Dark Mayhem asked.
Billy and Nora had Chloe behind them, and it stung knowing that they thought he would choose Chloe, who was barely a baby, to die.
“Shut up, Hank.” Max spat.
Hank looked adequately hurt by the usage of his first name.
Max didn’t look at his mother.
“Max, please.” He did look at his twin, and he saw what she was asking. Of course, a part of her was asking him not to do this, that she believed that he was good, that he could stop this and they would fight their way out as the Thunder Twins, that everything could go back to normal. But more than that, that if he was going to go through with this, to chose someone, to chose her.
It made sense, she was the tactical choice, the emotional choice, cutting off the last person who truly believed in him and supported him, he could do that, he was a villain, it’s what they did. She believed that he would do it, that he could do it, and that's what made the choice hurt.
Max rubbed his jaw, forcing down his nausea. “Phoebe.”
“Max!” Hank sounded angry, but Max focused on his sister, who gave a nod, accepting her fate.
“Don’t worry, Dad,” she said, “It’s what I do.”
“Phoebe!” Chloe rushed past Billy and Nora and latched onto her sister’s legs. “Are you going to die?” Chloe hadn’t fully grasped the situation, but she was clever.
Phoebe bent down to meet her sister’s eyes, blinking back tears. “I’m going to be alright, Chloe. And you’re going to be just fine too, okay? I promise.”
Suddenly Billy and Nora were hugging her too. “Phoebe... Max please.” Max didn’t meet Nora’s eyes, instead, he took a breath and focused on the bars.
“Good choice Max.” Dark Mayhem sounded pleased, but it was hard to tell with the mask and voice modulation. “Very good choice.”
“Don’t you dare touch my daughter.” Barb crossed in front of Phoebe as Dark Mayhem approached the cage.
“It’s okay, Mom.” Phoebe hugged her tightly, as Billy and Nora grabbed Chloe’s hands. “I love you.”
Barb burst into tears. “I love you, too.”
“Max please reconsider, she’s your sister,” Hank tried reasoning.
“If she’s my sister, that means I’m your son,” Max said, trying to keep the lump in his throat down, he could not start crying. He was a villain, now, and they didn't cry. “But I’m not, am I?”
“Dad,” Phoebe pulled him into a hug, cutting Max off from Hank's line of sight. “I love you.”
“I’m so sorry, I failed you.” Hank wrapped his daughter in his arms for the last time.
“You never failed me,” Phoebe said, resolutely.
“Alright, let’s wrap this up,” Dark Mayhem said, using his powers to tug Phoebe out of the cage.
“Take care of each other, alright? I love you.” Max inhaled sharply, wondering if that still applied to him too.
“Very touching.” Dark Mayhem closed the door behind Phoebe and pulled out a blaster. “Sadly love never gets one very far.”
“I want to do it!” Max said, suddenly, plans swirling through his head because everything was telling him that this couldn’t happen, he could not watch Phoebe die, the only person who ever had faith in him. He couldn’t let their family watch Phoebe die, couldn't let that be Nora, and Billy, and Chloe's last memory of their sister being her shot down at their brother's will. Phoebe wasn’t going to die.
Dark Mayhem shrugged and passed Max the blaster and he took up position in front of Phoebe, aiming at her forehead.
“Max.” Phoebe exhaled. “I’m ready, we’re okay.” Damn her, damn her for trying to comfort him when he was about to kill her. Damn her for trying to help him achieve his dreams at the cost of her own life, damn her.
Max pulled the trigger and Dark Mayhem made a choking noise because Max had not shot his sister, but the villain himself.
“Betrayal,” Dark Mayhem muttered as he sunk to the floor. “Very evil.”
Strongdor looked between the Thunder Twins and his dying master before bolting. Max dropped the blaster and stared at Phoebe, who was staring back, very much alive.
“I’m sorry.” That’s all he could say, he had promised himself he wouldn’t cry, but his brain was overloaded with confusion, trying to accept the grief of a dead Phoebe, only to no longer have to and instead have to deal with the destruction of his dreams because what Villain League would accept the boy who'd killed their leader as one of them?
“It’s okay,” Phoebe said, supporting him as he sunk to the floor. She didn’t ask why he’d done what he did, why he went against what he said was his dream, she didn’t ask anything, she didn’t have to, she knew.
“Um, excuse me? Can someone get us out of here please?” Nora gestured to the Thundermans who still remained caged.
“Right, sorry!” Phoebe used her heat breath to melt the bars and was immediately tackled by the concerned family. “I’m okay, I promise.”
Max stepped away, wondering what he did now, considering he had just tried to kill his sister. Did he leave? Where did he go, now an enemy of all and friend of none?
“Max?” His mom was looking at him, she opened her arms and he folded in them because what else could he do? Everything hurt and he didn't want to go but what else could possibly be next for him? “I’m so proud of you.” She pulled back. “For everything, not just for not killing your sister."
“I really wanted to do it, to be one of them.”
Barb looked her son in the eye. “Max if you want to be a villain, I can’t believe I’m saying this, then you can be, and you will be if that’s what you want and that’s what you’re meant to do, but you’ll do it on your terms, how you want to.”
“What if Dad’s right? And it’s a phase?” Max asked, suddenly realizing that if it was a phase how much damage he had done with his phase.
Barb shrugged. “Then it’s a phase, and we love you no less either way, okay Max?”