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Elmo-Me, That Is.
My name’s Robert. But most people call me Elmo.
Don’t ask me where the name comes from. It just so happens that I like dressing in red and have a liking for cute things, like stuffed animals or maybe girls. Yeah, I’m only fourteen. But I’ve definitely hit puberty. How? Well, I can throw a guy fifty feet without even losing my breath and I can fly over the Empire State Building.
Oh yeah, did I mention I’m a super hero?
Must’ve slipped my mind, that one. Then again, everyone in New York City knows my name—or at least my secret identity, Elmo. But I’m not the only one, of course. There’s Girlycyclopedia, a crazy, pretty genius with super weapons that she designed herself; Hothead, a kid who has problems with his mouth and head of scorching hot fire—actually, I might stop now. Way too many super heroes to count, although there is a new listing of them in the City Hall.
Then again, everyone already knows the stupid rules. If there are heroes, there are villains. Pathetic ones, of course. I usually scare them off. Well, no, I’m lying. I only scare them when I show up and punch them in the gut. The name Elmo doesn’t exactly help my reputation.
Okay, enough information for now. Time to start thinking of the real problem I had right now—keeping my hero identity Elmo a secret.
At school, I’m just a regular kid. Being a freshman doesn’t help me, but it’s not like the bullies at school pick on me.
Actually, they pick on my best friend, Jack.
See, Jack’s the one who figured out that I should be a super hero, the typical nerdy kid. But still, I mean, my family could do all sorts of weird things with their powers, but they’ve never exactly used them for the greater good of mankind. So Jack accidentally found out about the family secret and he—
Never mind that.
Anyway, I heard Jack screaming in the boys’ bathroom. Really, I would help him out any other time, if it weren’t for the fact that I’d have to keep my powers low and I’d have to pretend to be weak and all that. Like being stuffed into a toilet.
Another scream. I heard the upperclassmen’s laughs, and then I lost it. Who were those stupid guys anyway? I was Elmo and no stupid kid could pick on my best friend. Even if he was—
I shut that thought down and stormed inside. The hulking guys didn’t even notice me. That only made me madder. Who did these guys think they were?
Grabbing one of them by the neck, I slammed my other fist into his face. Blood instantly started gushing out of his nose—hopefully broken. The second hulk behind me let go of Jack and reached towards me, but I just laughed. This was too easy. Any other super villain was much harder to beat. Jeez, I barely had to blink as I kicked him into the stall.
Then the bathroom door opened, and I heard the clacking of a teacher’s shoes. Instantly, I fell to the floor and pretended to be in pain. Strategy number one in keeping a secret identity—always play the weakling.
“What’s going on in here?” a voice demanded.
A teacher whom I didn’t recognize walked in, his eyes clearly taking in the messy scene. Jack and I were on the floor, along with the blood-gusher. The three others stood in surprise.
“You three, go to the principal’s office. And don’t even say a word. As for you two,” he said, eyebrows raised, “help him to the nurse’s office.”
I groaned as I got up, still faking my injuries. My eyes met Jack’s and we both helped the hulking blood-gusher out of the bathroom without saying another word.
The two of us slumped against the school’s outer wall.
“You know, Rob, I’d hate to be your enemy.”
None of us mentioned the other time. I picked at the grass, pulling them up one by one. Spring was probably the worst time for any super hero. Allergies, the usual villain whose reputation had taken a wrong turn, desperate criminals who stole money from banks…
“Hey, Rob,” Jack said quietly, “did you ever think what it would be like just to be normal?”
Curious, I glanced over at him. Jack’s a soft kind of guy—or at least recently. I didn’t mind him. Usually.
“No,” I replied. It was true. My dream world was to become the best super hero possible, and I was already on my way. Elmo normally hit the news about once a week. Definitely not as much as Checkers, but still near the top. Besides, a normal family was boring.
Jack couldn’t let the topic go that easily. “Oh, come on, Rob. What if someone you know was in trouble because of you? Wouldn’t that be—”
“I’d just rescue them.” Shrugging, I looked away from him and concentrated on the grass. Honestly, there was only one incident that had ever bothered me, and Jack already knew about that one.
“Yeah…” I could tell Jack still didn’t quite believe me. But I didn’t care. I knew his family’s secrets just as he knew mine. Really, we could’ve been brothers. He didn’t—
Suddenly, my wrist watch started blinking, flashing my famous red color. Jack glanced my way and then sighed.
“Guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said. I nodded in reply and jumped into the air, ready for whatever villain was out there.
What I saw nearly made me fall out of the sky. It seemed like a giant robot was smashing Manhattan into tiny bits. The worst part was that there were people already struck down by the crushing metal.
Oh wait, what was I talking about? That wasn’t the worst part. Yet. Anyway, another super hero was already here, the rising and ironically named Dead, who just kept on reviving the dead back to life.
Sadly enough, I didn’t pity the people who were crushed to death so easily. The giant robot had finally noticed me, and swiped a huge silver arm at me. I crashed into a run-down apartment building, a few bricks falling as I made a hole straight through the wall. Yeah. I definitely envied those deaths.
Lucky for me, a few friends of more mines were here, too. Girlycyclopedia and Checkers seemed to be doing fine against the robots, striking it with lasers and cards. Yep, I said it. Checkers was a mad genius, too.
I groaned as agonizing pain shot through my body, and I flew weakly to the side. My bones were definitely broken. Too bad Angel wasn’t here. He would’ve healed it by now.
Well, I could still stand and fight. But as I took a step, I realized the pain was too great. No way could I fight Boty now.
So I did what any sane person would do. I flew straight at the giant robot and punched it into the Empire State Building, wincing as I remembered that the government no longer paid for my expenses. But yeah, I wanted revenge. Sweet revenge for a whole minute of agonizing pain as my father fixed my broken bones.
Actually, that was my imagination. The reality was this—the robot only seemed to be annoyed by my super punch. I was pretty p*ssed, too. Couldn’t a kid go home after five like every other person? I still had to read fifty pages of Shakespeare by tomorrow.
The robot advanced. I rubbed my clenched fist, hoping that no bones were broken. And then I dived again.
It swung again, but this time I didn’t fly fast enough. The impact hit me, and I was knocked unconscious.
“You look like h***.”
My eyes opened to find a pretty girl staring at me. She studied me, and then walked behind the chair I was sitting in and tightened the metal bonds.
Wait a minute. What?
The girl smirked at me, and I realized I wasn’t wearing my Elmo suit. And she definitely wasn’t wearing any super hero costume either, though I knew that didn’t mean anything. Only a few super heroes weren’t all human. Then again, all super villains were human, at least to the extent of my knowledge.
Still grinning her evil little grin, the girl gave me a sly look and then left the room, locking the door behind her. I could only watch her go. This girl knew who I was, definitely, because of the metal that prevented me from kicking her—something. Besides, any idiot would know that villains didn’t answer questions. Another painful job of the hero was to find out what the baddies were up to.
I looked around the room, but it was barren, the walls white. Obviously, there weren’t any escape routes except the locked door. Frustrated, I pushed against the metal bindings, but it didn’t work. Of course it didn’t. Even with my hyped-up Elmo powers, I still wouldn’t be able to bend this sort of hard metal.
So I was basically stuck. Yeah, it sucked actually being the weakling. Pretending was the fun part. Oh wait. Strategy number one was still active.
Sadly, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t—or couldn’t—do anything to escape. No amazing power to spring me free, no awesome escape that everyone expected from me, Elmo. I just sat there, trying not to wallow in my misery like those pathetic attempted super hero movies.
It must’ve been hours because my broken bones and my arms were starting to burn. But I couldn’t fall asleep. My mind was too awake for that. Who was this pretty girl, anyway?
Pretty. Girl. Brainiac.
My mind froze. No, it couldn’t be her. Not her. Not like Jack—
“Finally figured it out, Robert?”
“You’re Girlycyclopedia,” I gasped, unable to believe it. “But you’re not—you’re not a villain—“
“Idiot,” she snapped. “Those super villains were all part of my plan. A distraction. I’m the real deal, Elmo. Did you honestly think that I was some genius who just liked blasting robots?”
I opened my mouth—and then shut it. Yeah, I had believed that. Just look at Checkers. A perfectly decent genius with a hero agenda.
“You know, Rob, a true villain only works behind the curtain,” she said. “Not like your friend Jack, of course.”
“Don’t talk about him like that,” I growled.
“Oh, but isn’t it true?” The girl laughed in amusement as I glared at her. Jack wasn’t like that. He wasn’t. Not—anymore.
“Just think, Robert, he would’ve killed you in a heartbeat. Of course, I still consider him the second-best villain there is, after me, obviously. Look at all the things he’s done…”
She pulled out a remote from her boot and pointed it at the wall. Images flashed on the white, showing the dead bodies, the lab experiments, the horribly scarred people—
“What did you do, Jack?”
My voice was strangely quiet in the deadened room. But Jack looked as though he wanted to strangle me. We stood opposite to one another, and I felt his black anger.
“Rob, all you had to do was keep your mouth shut,” he said angrily. “My father found out, and even the stupid news is going on and on about—”
“You’ve murdered people!”
“It’s for good causes,” he snapped. “I created the cure for blindness, a cure for people who don’t want super powers, a cure for—”
“Forget the cures!” I exploded. “All those things can be fixed later—”
“And cause more deaths, Elmo?”
I stopped abruptly. Jack had never called me Elmo before, not even when he’d first found out that I had super strength and the ability to fly.
A small, evil grin lit up his face, and I instinctively flew at him, punching him hard enough that I heard a crack. Blood trickled out of his mouth, and I realized that I had rendered him unconscious.
And I paused, just as I was about to smash a fist into his head to finish him off. A sweet revenge for his crimes. Or was it?”
The girl in front of me smiled slightly, showing a row of perfect teeth. But the images were gone. She’d only given me enough pictures for me to remember Jack—the Jack from before.
“Aw, you don’t like it?” she crooned, mocking me.
That did it. Of course, I should’ve said before that I get adrenaline hits like this all the time, especially, especially when someone provoked me.
Wrenching myself free, I tackled the stupid Girlycyclopedia to the ground. I was pretty sure I had surprised her, because she was out before my second punch.
Then I slumped against the wall, suddenly exhausted. I had never felt such anger before, not even with Jack. But I only stared at the pretty girl. There wasn’t much of anything else I could do except—
I’m a freaking super hero! I screamed to myself silently. What am I thinking, letting her go!
Of course, I was crazy. Yep. Mentally insane. But I still only took her remote and used it to get out of the room.
Down the hallway, up the stupid steps that made me gasp with pain. Finding my Elmo suit wasn’t even a plus. I stumbled a few more steps with my two findings before I reached a door marked PRIVATE.
Yeah, of course I went inside. Standard hero thing.
Hundreds of posters were tacked onto the wall. I didn’t recognize most of them but there was Checkers up there and even a picture of Jack with the words “reformed” stamped all over his face. Angel, Dead, Hothead…
Yep. We were doomed.
So I turned around and headed towards Manhattan. Flying back was painful, my bones jarring me at every beat, but I managed to reach Jack’s house. He opened the door at the second ring, and raised his eyes up towards the sky.
“Please tell me that you didn’t let another super villain go,” he said, exasperated.
I pushed past him and then collapsed on the couch, wincing as I did so. “Jeez, Jack, you’re not specialty.”
“I know, but seriously—“
“Seriously we have a problem. It’s about Girlycyclopedia. I think she’s been tracking down every super hero alive. Including you.”
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No cup of tea is large enough, or book long enough, to suit me.