Angela was fully healed by the time Shane made it to her small room. Her uniform, however, had not been patched up. The burn marks, slices, and ripped sections made it look like a hundred year old patchwork monstrosity. Given how much punishment the HCP uniforms could take, it spoke to just how much damage she’d been dealt. Not that it had ultimately mattered, of course.
“Grandfather told me you won.” He was happy for her, happy for the family, hell he was happy for Lander to have gotten such a victory. He just wasn’t happy about the implications that came with her triumph.
“I did, but that last guy was a real son of a bitch. If he’d had even a little more experience in losing I might not have pulled that one out.”
“But you did pull it out,” Graham DeSoto said, walking in a few steps behind his grandson. “You put on a marvelous display of strength, strategy, and resolve. I’ve always known you to be impressive, my dear Angela, but today you showed me how powerful you can truly be.”
“I am pretty amazing,” Angela agreed. “Though I owe at least some of that to you, Paw Paw. Without your training there’s no way I’d be this far along in my path. You gave me a solid foundation on which to build on, and for that I am truly grateful.”
“You may wish to save your thanks for another few moments,” Graham cautioned. “As you are both aware, I decided when you both manifested abilities that, should you show yourselves worthy, I would pass on the Captain Starlight name to whichever one of you proved to be the most deserving. Shane, I have watched for your whole life as you trained relentlessly, always striving to be better, never giving up on your dream of carrying on the legacy of the world’s first Hero.”
Shane bit his tongue, merely nodding politely. It would change nothing to tell them that he’d never cared about the fact that Captain Starlight was the first, most revered of Heroes. He’d always wanted the name because it was his grandfather’s, nothing more. If it had been the name of a shamed Hero Shane would have fought just as hard to take it, and likely come up just as short against Angela.
“However, after today’s victory, on top of her impressive career within the HCP, I think there can be no question on which of the two of you is the more powerful. Against anyone else, your efforts would have certainly triumphed, but against Angela I’m afraid they fell short. That is part of what makes her so suited to wear the title. She is indomitable, unwavering, and unstoppable. And, as of today, she is the next Captain Starlight.”
“Seriously? This isn’t some trick or test right? I finally get it?” Angela rose from the bench where she’d been resting and approached her grandfather carefully, waiting for him to knock away the prize he’d been dangling since they were children.
“You have earned it, my dear granddaughter. The tests are done. I give you my word, the name, and all the comes with it, are officially yours.”
Angela seemed to swell up, not with excitement or bloodlust as Shane was so often accustomed to seeing her, but with pride. He could only imagine how it felt, to grab the ring after so many years of reaching for it. It was an experience he would never have, but he still tried to be happy for her.
“Grandfather, I’ve been waiting a very long time to hear you say those words.” Angela reached out and took Graham’s hands in her own; cradling them delicately as she stared into the older man’s beaming face. “So that I can finally tell you this: thanks, but no thanks.”
“I beg your pardon?” If Graham was told that one of his old nemesis had been resurrected and given zombie powers he couldn’t have been more shocked than he appeared in that moment.
“I don’t want to be Captain Starlight. I don’t want to carry on your legacy. I love you, please don’t think that’s what this is about, but I’m not going to take up your name.” Angela squeezed the hands still clutched in hers, doing all she could to soften the blow.
“Why on earth wouldn’t you want to be the next Captain Starlight?” Graham asked.
“Because I’ve never wanted to be as good as you were, Paw Paw. I want to surpass you. I want to build my own legacy; one that puts every other Hero’s to shame. You’re the one who taught us to always be striving, to never stop trying to be the best. Well, that’s what I’m going to try and do, but I’m doing it my way. I’ll earn my own reputation, my own glory. I’m going to be my own kind of Hero.”
“All these years.” Shane’s voice came out like the hiss of a coiled snake, drawing both his sister and his grandfather’s attention immediately. He was staring at Angela, not as much in surprise as frustration. Unlike Graham, Shane knew the kind of person his sister was. He’d just thought this was important enough for even her to take seriously. “All these years you’ve been ahead of me. All these years you were so tireless. Always training, always keeping a step beyond reach. Why did you to all that trouble if you knew you didn’t want the fucking name to start with?”
“Shane-” his grandfather began, but stopped when Angela released his hands and stepped toward her brother.
“Because there’s a difference in not getting to be Captain Starlight and choosing not to be Captain Starlight. I needed the decision to be mine and mine alone. Let me put it this way, now that you’re the default choice to take up the name, does it feel the same as if you’d beaten me out for it?”
“Of course not,” Shane spat.
Angela smiled and nodded her head slowly. “Of course not. You wanted to beat me just as bad as I wanted to beat you. Well here’s the good news, little brother. This contest doesn’t end when we graduate. I’ll be waiting out there for you, waiting to see which of us can truly become the greatest Hero. Oh, and as for why I always worked so hard to stay ahead of you… well you’re stronger than you think. If I’d slacked off then you’d have passed me for sure.”
“Don’t you dare try and comfort me out of pity.”
“Shane, you’ve been my rival since we could walk and this crazy old bastard started training us. Do you really think either of us would be this far along without the other to compete against?” Angela pulled her brother in and gave him and a crushing hug. “I won this round. Something tells me you aren’t content letting that score stand.”
Shane hugged her back for a moment, then pulled away. “You’re going to have a year’s head start, again.”
“Maybe a year out of the HCP will make me soft and sloppy. Being first isn’t always an advantage, you know.”
“Ahem,” Graham Desoto said, butting in to the conversation. “Since you seem set on refusing to carry on the Captain Starlight name, do you mind if I ask what name you have chosen?”
“I was leaning toward ‘Oppenheimer’ due that whole ‘now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds’ quote, but I thought it might go over people’s heads. So to answer your question, I don’t really have one yet.”
“Why am I not surprised,” Shane muttered.
“Perhaps we should talk about it over dinner,” Graham offered. “After all, we do still have quite the victory to celebrate.”
“Woo! I am ordering all the wine,” Angela declared before sprinting off. She made it halfway to the lifts before remembering that she needed to change into street clothes, and another several feet before deciding that she actually cared enough to turn back.