Being bad has never been so difficult.
|She never saw it coming. The blast sent her flying sideways. Her feet flew up and over her head and as she rolled, she cursed herself for forgetting to put her hair in a ponytail. Now her wild red curls created a snarl in front of her face, blocking her view of the battle scene. She landed with a grunt on her right arm and all the air left her body from the force of the impact.
“Just take a moment and breathe.” The thought repeated over and over in her mind as she desperately sucked in a lung full of oxygen.
“You forgot to dodge.”
A stray curl shifted, allowing her to look up into the face of Professor Y. His lips pointed down and his eyebrows arched up in an all too familiar gaze of disappointment.
She rolled over to her belly, ignoring the hand he offered, and lurched to her feet. The arm she landed on was broken and multiple cuts on her face and arms bled freely but already, she knew, her body was working on healing. She barely winced as she shrugged.
“A mistake I won’t make a second time.”
“No,” he agreed, cocking his head and glaring at her from behind black-framed glasses. “Instead, you will make another error. Like you do during every practice.” He shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. She hated the way he stared at her, as if she were a failure, and sighed. The same-old lecture was about to pour out of him again.
“If this were a real battle, there would be no hand up from your enemy, Lucee. The slightest mistake and – “
“– there won’t be any second chances.” She interrupted. “I’ve heard this a hundred times.”
Professor Y narrowed his eyes. “But it will be the last. I was going to fail you on the spot. However, our illustrious overlord, Dr. Disaster, has allowed you one final opportunity to prove yourself. If you should fail again, you will immediately be removed from this academy. Is that clear?”
The urge to punch the man swelled and then ebbed as Lucee checked herself. Clenching her teeth, she nodded.
“You’re dismissed to your dorm. Next practice is tomorrow at noon. I suggest you use the time between now and then to study and heal.”
“I’ve already healed,” Lucee grumbled, clenching her right hand. Her arm felt stronger than ever.
“Then study,” Professor Y said, his voice cool and crisp.
She spun on her heels and stomped toward the college building. As her hair flopped around her face, a familiar voice called out. In another moment, Krystil swooped down next to her.
“Failed again, eh?” Krys grinned. If it had been anyone else, Lucee would have told them to stick their head where the sun don’t shine. But Krystil was a friend. At least, as close to a friend one could have at this particular school.
“Maybe if I could fly, like a certain teacher’s pet, I wouldn’t keep falling on my ass,” Lucee snorted.
Krys laughed. “Not everyone can be as awesome as I am. Besides, you can at least heal that ass when you fall on it. Do you know how long I had to stay in the infirmary last time I fought in the practice arena? Four days! It was soooo boring!”
“At least you won. At least you’ll graduate and be assigned …” Lucee bit her tongue and gulped down the lump that rose in her throat, reminding herself yet again that super villains did not cry.
“Yeah, about that. I wanted you to be the first to know.”
“Know what?” Lucee asked and then mentally kicked herself as she watched Krys’ face turn an excited shade of red. “You...you got your assignment? Already?” A gush of despair threatened to overwhelm her as Krys nodded.
“You’ll never guess who it is!” Krys squealed before Lucee could venture a name. “It’s Captain Amazing!”
She forced a smile to her face as Krystil bounced in glee. Lucee licked her dry lips and offered her congratulations. “I’ve heard he’s the best superhero at the Champion Institute. I’m sure you’ll make the perfect arch-nemesis for him.”
Krys squealed again and Lucee allowed the girl to hug her, even though hugging was totally not the way of a villain.
“I just have to pass one more test. I’m pretty sure it’ll be easy. All the others have been.” Krys bragged. Lucee rubbed her eyes, beyond tired of the conversation. Her defeat on the practice field and her friend’s good fortune had her longing for the solitude of her dorm room. She vaguely wondered how long it would take to afford an evil lair after she graduated. A nice, quiet, dark place to plot her takeover of the world.
“Yup, I only have to do one more thing,” Krys said. “I betcha can’t guess what it is!”
Lucee glanced over at her friend. There was a sinister gleam in the girl’s eye.
She never saw it coming.