“It’s not that big of an explosion,” said Fireball. It was his time for glory and infamy, a goal that nobody would prevent him from accomplishing.
“Yes, I know that I’m comparing it to Hiroshima. Remember, this is the challenge,” Fireball replied to some unheard comments as he connected wires to a plunger detonator.
“Because I am tired of waiting! The past two weeks have been long enough!” Fireball said, pressing the plunger down and detonating the fiery explosives he had set up.
“Quite the sight. And now we wait,” Fireball said, the flames reflecting off his mask and helmet. He knew that the explosion would attract his prey.
“Hel-lo!” Air Wave cried out as her amplified hearing picked up the explosion. Using the belt to pick up radio signals, she heard the Fire Department dispatches.
“A fire in the industrial district? They might need help,” Air Wave said to herself as she headed toward the fire. But she was not alone.
“Come on, Ted! There’s been a bombing at one of the factories,” Clark said to his comrade through the door of his hotel room.
“Yeah, just give me a sec to get my togs on,” said Ted, fumbling with his costume as he hurriedly put it on. When he was finished, he stepped out of his room and saw that Clark was still Clark.
“Why’re you still in your civvies? I thought you said it was–”
There was a sudden rush of air.
“–urgent,” said Wildcat. And Superman was now standing before him. “Right. Silly me.”
“Now, let’s go!” Superman said, grabbing Wildcat and rushing to the factory that was bombed. Unknown to them, Air Wave was already there.
“Good Lord in Heaven!” Air Wave said, her voice trailing off as she surveyed the area. Several police cars, fire trucks, and buildings were ablaze. She saw another fire truck approach one of the burning buildings, only to get hit by a blast of flame that originated from one of the smoldering ruins.
“It’s beautiful! The flame, heat, and destruction — all beautiful,” Fireball said, a hot tear running down the cheek of his concealed face. He heard a soft pat behind him and knew who had showed up.
“This was all for you, you know,” said Fireball. “It was the only way that I could think of to issue my challenge.”
“How did you know?” Air Wave asked.
“Does it really matter? No — all that does is that you’re here,” Fireball said, turning to face the focus of his madness. He held out his right hand, palm forward.
There was a buzzing noise a moment before flames burst from his hands.
The attack was sudden and unexpected, but Air Wave managed to sidestep the pillar of flame, though only by mere fractions of an inch. She could feel the breeze created by its movement and the intense heat as it passed by her.
“Who are you?” Air Wave asked, getting her bearings straight and looking at her opponent with a dead-on gaze.
“My father named me Ignis. It’s Latin for fire. But I named myself Fireball,” he said, bringing up his left hand, also palm forward.
The second blast of flame was more powerful then the first, catching Air Wave off guard as it grazed the right side of her stomach. She looked at her costume, thankful that it wasn’t burnt through, but it did show that it was exposed to flame.
“Father was right. Your costume is fireproof. Sadly, it is only a way to prolong the inevitable,” Fireball said, readying another blast.
But as the flames shot from his hands, something blocked this blast — something with a red cape and an S shield on his chest.
“I don’t know who you are or what you have against this kid, but I do know that it ends here!” Superman said with a steely gaze.
“Yeah, so me and big blue are gonna take you down and in!” Wildcat added.
Fireball seemed unfazed by the arrival of the two heroes. “It’d seem that my gauntlet hit more than one opponent,” he said. “No matter. Superman, you may be immune to my fiery blasts, but you are mortal just the same.” He pulled out a remote trigger from his coat and pressed the button. If only they could see his grin.
“Nothin’ happened!” Wildcat said. “Not much of a way to get rid of Supes, if you ask me.”
“That’s because it didn’t,” said Fireball. “I just detonated a few dozen more of my firebombs. Many of them were at hospitals.”
“You’re lying,” Superman said, narrowing his gaze.
“Am I? What will it be, Superman — catch the villain or save the innocents?” Fireball asked.
Superman looked over at Wildcat, who was just as shocked as he was.
“Go,” Air Wave said, getting looks of surprise from both heroes.
“What?” Wildcat said.
“There are people that are being hurt,” Air Wave replied. “Of the three of us, only Superman can help them in time. I’m sure that me and — Wildcat, was it? — can handle this whacko on our own.”
“Wildcat, watch her back. Air Wave, I’d like to talk to you after this is all done,” Superman said, then rocketed into the skies, disappearing in a moment.
“Now that we won’t have any more interruptions, shall we continue?” Fireball asked.
“You got anything on this guy?” Wildcat asked Air Wave.
“Not much, just that there’s a buzzing noise just before the jet of flame,” Air Wave replied.
They both heard it this time as Fireball let loose more balls of fire.
“That ain’t a lot to work with,” said Wildcat. “But it does help.”
“He seems to be comfortable with all of Hell burning around him,” Air Wave commented.
“With luck, all his time with fire has given him a glass jaw!” Wildcat said, charging the pyromaniac and taking him down in a solid tackle. Fireball replied by smashing his fists into either side of the cat-cowled hero’s head.
“Get off me, you barbaric brawler! My fight is with the child!” Fireball said, pushing Wildcat off of him and spraying the hero with a liquid of some sort.
“Not while I still stand!” Wildcat said, getting up. He charged Fireball again, but this time, the masked fire-monger grabbed him by the right wrist with his left hand, swept Wildcat’s legs out from under him, and hit him with the heel of his gloved hand. Letting the body fall, he turned to face Air Wave, tossing a piece of burning coal as if it were a ball.
“My element is fire. It gives me strength; it lends me its power. And it makes a damn fine weapon!” Fireball said, turning to face Wildcat once again. The hero had recovered from the blow as Fireball had predicted. With a hidden smirk, he tossed the coal at Wildcat, who grabbed it by reflex. The coal ignited the chemical Wildcat was previously soaked in, and both Air Wave and Wildcat watched as the flame traveled, seemingly in slow motion, up Wildcat’s arm.
“Arrrggghhh!” Wildcat screamed, falling to the floor and rolling around in a near-futile attempt to extinguish the flames. When they finally subsided moments later, Wildcat was covered in burns, most of his costume was burnt away, and he wasn’t moving, save for the erratic rise and fall of his chest. Thankfully, he passed out after the flames were finally through burning, or he would have been in insufferable pain.
“That worked better than I thought. And such a rare sight to behold, as well,” Fireball said with the sigh of artistic appreciation.
“You’re a monster,” Air Wave said in a barely audible whisper.
“What did you say?” Fireball asked, turning to face his teenage nemesis.
“You heard me — you’re a monster,” Air Wave repeated.
“Oh, I’m a monster? I am no monster, just an artist,” Fireball said.
“An artist? You’re calling all this — this waste, art?” Air Wave asked, not believing what this man was saying.
“Of course. This is the truest art you will ever see,” said Fireball. “It shows the suffering of the human condition, the despair brought upon by nature and the pain of mortality. But this is only a happy side effect. My true purpose is much greater.” He pointed to the burnt-out cars, the still-burning buildings, and an unconscious Wildcat to prove his points.
“And what is this greater purpose?” Air Wave asked. She could have sworn that she could see a smile under that mask.
“Destroying you. Destroying your name. Destroying your legacy!” Fireball yelled, bringing up both hands.
There was a buzzing sound, and flames burst forth. Air Wave took to the sky to dodge the blast. Then something dawned on her.
“You’re not crazy, are you?” Air Wave asked, still in the sky. “You know what you’re doing, and you’re enjoying it, aren’t you?”
“Of course I know what I’m doing,” Fireball said. “I’ve planned this for several weeks beforehand, using plans that my father had left me, along with his hatred for Air Wave.”
“You’re evil,” said Air Wave. “And what’s worse is that you know that you’re evil.”
“And you just now figured that out?” said Fireball. “The people I met yesterday could’ve told you that.”
Air Wave then knew that this was her final test. Pass or fail meant life or death, not only for her, but for a lot of other people she had never met. What should she do?
“I may not be able to hit you while you’re in the air, but–” Fireball began, his palm facing Wildcat. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Air Wave charged for the attack, closing her eyes, for it was now or never. Fireball raised his other hand up to shield his eyes as the blue glow from the young hero started to blind him. The impact knocked him back several feet. But Air Wave wasn’t finished. She started to repeatedly punch the madman. By the fifth punch, Fireball’s mask shattered.
“Go ahead,” Fireball said, blood coming from his mouth and nose. “You know you want to. You know I would.” Air Wave held her fist up high so she could bring it down.
“Don’t…” The voice was a weak groan. Air Wave turned to see that Wildcat had struggled to his feet.
“He isn’t worth it,” Wildcat said weakly as he slowly made his way to the hero-villain pair. “Scum like him only want to turn you into the thing you hate most. It’s a very high… price for worthless garbage.”
Air Wave dropped Fireball and stood up. She almost went off the deep end. “I… I… I almost… killed him,” she said. Wildcat had made his way beside her.
“You didn’t, though,” said Wildcat. “Keep that beast on a short leash. Use it when needed, but keep it under control. And you — you did good.”
Air Wave took those words to heart before she passed out herself, exhausted from the ordeal.