Gregory looked at Maven, his face a look of shock. “But I’m not a superhero,” he said.
“You will be tonight. My light burns brightest when you’re with me. When I was trying to protect you at your house? I’ve never burned as brightly before. I need you with me so that I can burn my brightest.”
“Yeah, one might even say that you were flaming,” Sandoz said.
Everyone looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Shut up, Sandman,” Carley said. “Read the fucking room, this is not the time or the place at all.” Sandoz put his head down and avoided looking at anyone. “That’s better.”
“Babe, I can’t go with you,” Gregory said. “I wouldn’t know what to do.”
“You don’t have to do anything. You just need to be by my side so I can protect you and also shine at my brightest. You’ll need to help the others, too!”
“Well, someone will have to help shine the lights.” Maven said. He turned to look at everyone. “We all know that Cracklepuss will try to hide behind the shadow man, but his shadows are weak.”
“Too true,” Tara said. “You burned his ass.”
Maven blushed and continued. “I figure enough light pointed at him will keep Max Shadow pinned down. If we make sure that he can’t create and escape into a shadow, we can keep him where we want him.”
“But what do we do about Cracklepuss?” Tara asked. “You know that he likes to work with electricity and can travel within it, using it to wreak havoc on the people of Ottawa. How can we make sure that he doesn’t use the same electricity that power the lights?”
“Don’t worry, I have a plan.” Maven said. “I think it will succeed if we all work together.”
“I still don’t think I can do…whatever it is you want me to do,” Gregory said.
Maven kissed him quickly. “Don’t worry, you’re going to be amazing.”
“When do we leave?” Tianado asked. “Look at them, they’re about to erupt,” he said, pointing at the screen filling the air before them. Tianado was right. Cracklepuss was gesturing wildly and yelling at Max Shadow. Tianado turned the volume up so they could hear what the two of them were saying.
“You were supposed to be this frightening man,” Cracklepuss was saying. “This terrifying monster made of shadows and nightmares. Yet, one involvement with the Maven Man and you’re a useless mass of black ink.”
Max Shadow made a threatening movement towards Cracklepuss but backed off before he did any actual harm. “And you’re supposed to be this super villain and all you’ve done is guard the fucking children and look at a shitload of really bad porn!” Max let a snort of laughter. “You’re not so big and you’re not so super.”
“Whatever, we have job to do. We have to siphon out the children’s energy so we can use it to set the city of Ottawa on fire.” Cracklepuss said. “Or did you forget how to do that?”
Max let out a low moan. “I’ve been trying!” They could see real anguish on Max Shadow’s face. Maven almost felt sorry for him. “I don’t understand what’s wrong! I can’t pull anything from them!” he said.
“Why doesn’t he recognize that the children are just shadows of themselves?” Maven asked, looking up at the screen.
“Well, these are not your normal shadows,” Tianado said. “They’re made from a piece of the children’s souls. They don’t feel like a shadow, not the type that Max is used to, anyway.”
Finley made a face. “That’s really kind of creepy,” she said.
“What can I say?” Tianado said, smiling. “I like to deal in darkness. At least the kids won’t get hurt, so it’s a win.”
“It buys us some time at any rate,” Maven said. “We need to get the supplies together and get over there.”
“Did you want me to break down any walls so we can get inside?” Sandoz said.
“Are we going to go under the cover of darkness?” Tianado said.
“How about a good flood?” Dez said. “I can always flood the building.”
“Those are all great ideas, but we’re not going to hide the fact that we’re coming.” Maven said. “I want them to see us coming.”
Finley and Carley both smiled at the same time. “Oooh!” Carley let out a loud whistle. “That’s pretty fucked up. Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Can you fill those of us in who don’t read minds?” Sandoz said.
“Sure thing. Here’s what we’re going to do…”
“Does everyone have everything?” Maven said.
Sandoz, Carley and Finley held up the flashlights, and Tara and Dez the search lights. Tianado used a high-powered camping lantern that worked with LED light. He had found it in the equipment room, tucked into a corner with camping gear that never got used.
Beside him, Gregory looked nervous. “I still don’t know what I’ll be able to do. Can’t I hold a flashlight or something?”
“Babe, relax. You just need to be nearby. We got this; I know we do.”
“All this light will take care of Max Shadow,” Finley said. “But what about Cracklepuss?”
“We take care of him the way we normally do,” Tianado said. “We’ll just stop him in his tracks and one of you can screw with his mind.” He motioned to Carley and Finley.
“Yeah, only that last time he seemed to like it,” Carley said. “Sick fuck.”
“Either way, it will give us the time to make sure that the shadow man is taken care of,” Maven said. “We don’t have much time.”
“Yeah, they look like they’re going to blow up at any moment,” Tianado said, pointing at the screen. Max was shouting at Cracklepuss, his shadowy body moving and shifting like a cloud of smoke, unable to hold his shape. Cracklepuss was screaming at Max Shadow, and there was electricity coming off of him in waves. The air was full of lightning bolts, and they looked in danger of burning the entire warehouse to the ground if they continued. Tianado turned up the volume and they could hear the shadow children screaming in fear.
Carley gave Tianado a shrewd look. “Gods, you’re good. Those kids are creepy, but I can’t deny you have great powers.”
“And with great power comes great responsibility.” Tianado said with a grin.
“Guys, please. Is this the time?” Tara said.
“Sorry, won’t happen again.” Tianado said.
“What do we need to do, Maven?” Tara asked.
“Nothing right yet, just be quiet for now. I’m going to open the portal in my cup of power so that we can all step through to the warehouse,” Maven said.
“Honey, are you sure you should do that?” Carley asked, worry evident in her voice. “You haven’t opened a portal so wide before. Surely there is another way.”
“None that will get us there in an instant. We don’t have time to find another way. Tianado’s shadows work for him, but he can only take himself. For this to work right, we have to have everyone arrive at the same time. It’s the only way.”
“If you’re sure…” The worry in Carley’s voice deepened.
“Babe, I don’t know if this is a good idea.” Gregory said. “Maybe you should listen to Carley.”
“Babe, it’s the only way.” Maven said. “I’ll have you with me to replenish my power. Your love will keep my light bright, okay? Trust me.”
Gregory nodded. “If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
They shared a brief kiss, then Maven took out his cup of power. Looking into it at the same time he was looking at the scene in the warehouse taking place in front of them. Purple light began to fill the control room bathing everyone in a violet glow. Maven took Gregory’s hand and gave it a squeeze, Gregory squeezed Maven’s hand in return.
The light around the portal grew brighter and the portal itself began to grow beyond the circumference of the cup of power. They all watched the size of the portal grow bigger and wider so that soon, there was no need to look at the screen from the control room. They could look through the portal and see Cracklepuss and Max Shadow for themselves. They couldn’t hear them, but they watched as Cracklepuss took aim at the shadow and was thrown back by one of the lightning bolts that were coming off of Max Shadow with increasing force.
“Okay, everyone remembers what I told them? Dez, when we go through the poral, I want you to use whatever water is in the air to try and freeze them into place. Sandoz, try to use the walls to cut off any chance they have of getting out. Tara, I want you to take control of Max Shadow’s mind as much as possible, and Carley, I want you to get into Cracklepuss’ mind, even though he kind of enjoys it. I want to keep them both occupied while we burn away at Max Shadow, okay? Finley, light a fire under anyone that tries to get away.” Maven looked at Tianado. “You work on getting those bits of soul back to the kids, okay? I’m not sure how long the shadows you created will remain intact once we hit them with the light.”
“I’m already on it,” Tianado said.
“Excellent.” Maven said. The portal in front of them had grown large enough for all of them to walk through. Maven put the cup of power back into the holder around his waist.
“What about shadows?” Tara asked, a note of worry in her voice. “We know that Max can lose himself in them, no matter how much we try to block him from leaving.”
“It’ll be okay,” Maven said. “With him frozen in place, all the light will be on him. There won’t be any shadows we’ll have to worry about.”
Tara nodded, even though she still looked a little unsure.
“Everyone ready?” Maven looked at all of them, and they all nodded or gave a thumbs up. “Okay then, lights on everyone!”
Everyone turned on their lights and the room was full of the brilliant white light. As one, following Maven’s lead, they all stepped through the portal.