About a week after the heroes prevented the Purification Initiative, Aquaman agreed to meet Nightblaze on top of the tallest building in Crimson City. It was a beautiful and peaceful night that reminded Nightblaze of that night in Wellington not too long ago when he went to the Wideners Mansion to be recognized as a hero for preventing a fire. This evening however, there was no dinner party to recognize their feats. There was only two superheroes saying goodbye to each other, and that was more than enough for either of the men.
"Thanks again for all of your help with this crisis." Aquaman said as he shook Nightblaze's hand. "I could not have rounded up all the containers of Adulium filled with Widener's toxic gas without you and your friend, Eric's help. And of course, I could have never prevented Widener from releasing the gas into Crimson Bay like you did…with your surprisingly powerful display of fireworks."
"Yes…" Nightblaze recalled that evening, "That was pretty scary, and a very close call. Don't worry though, since that little explosion my powers have returned to normal…They were just temporarily overcharged from my near death and then rejuvenation experience that happened at the hands of Alloy. I've tried since then; there are no blue flames, only red ones!"
"Maybe it's better that way." Aquaman replied as he looked out at the magnificent city's view. "To much power for a young hero like yourself can go to your head…I've seen a lot of good ones turn bad just because they were to powerful."
"So you're acknowledging me as a hero then?" Nightblaze smiled at the idea of this great man considering him an equal.
"You're reckless…" Aquaman's tone was very stern now. "and still a little selfish with how you handle yourself. One can't deny you're impulsive nature...Melting and electrocuting a villain, and shooting a surge of unstable heat energy at another certainly would appear to most as unorthodox strategies for a superhero…But your heart is clearly in the right place, and I would have to say I misjudged you at first Nightblaze. It would be my honor to protect the world along side of you any day of the week!"
"That means a lot coming from you." Nightblaze responded, as Aquaman put his hand on the hero's shoulder. "Even though you have to wear the dumbest looking costume I have ever seen, and I still think you're crazy if you think you can talk to fish…in the time we've worked together I've really grown to respect you, old man! Speaking of your awesomeness…you never did tell me, how did you find Widener and Glamnock's hideout? Me and Eric went through all kinds angles to get to that point, and you got there before us! I was pretty impressed."
"I have some pretty amazing friends too." Aquaman responded, "We have a little team…and one of my friends in his spare time hangs out with bats in a cave with lots of really nice computers. I called him up, and he did a little scan of the computers in Crimson City and was able to get quite some information about your friend Eric. Upon my friend's advice and technological support, I was able to borrow all of the information you gathered. I quite literally left for the Widener Research Center the moment you did!"
"Now that's cool!" Nightblaze found himself very impressed.
"It is…and we're always looking for new additions to our team, if you ever want to check us out." Aquaman responded, "We serve justice on a much bigger scale…not just for one city, but for the entire world. But a lot of my friends got their start just like you, serving in one city."
"Thanks for the offer," Nightblaze replied as he heard the footsteps of his next roof guest, "but I have plenty in this city that I want to protect for now. If you guys ever need any help though, hit me up…I'd love to team up with some professional superheroes!"
"I most certainly will!" Aquaman spoke as he climbed down the fire escape, realizing that another acquaintance of Nightblaze was arriving. "Until we meet again, Nightblaze!"
Just as Aquaman left, Amanda Cho-Ming came through the door of the top story of the building. She wore a large winter coat and shivered as she approached Nightblaze. Nightblaze pressed a button on his watch to remove his organic mask, as Amanda greeted him.
"You seriously don't know how lucky you have it, with the whole super warm body temperature thing." Amanda said as she hugged Zach. "It's always absolutely freezing up here, especially during this time of year!"
"Yeah," Zach said as he shrugged, "you used to say that back in college…this was our spot, remember?"
"Of course!" Amanda reminisced with a smile. "I thought it was so romantic that you were always able to sneak us up here…of course I know now that you melted a few doors shut to block security, and you had Eric bypass some security codes to get us up here…but it was still cute none the less."
The two sat quietly on the top of the building. Zach knew why he had asked Amanda to come up to this roof, but he hadn't yet built the nerve to bring up the topic he wanted to with her. He knew the conversation may go as he hoped, or it could go as it had in the past, which wasn't in a very positive direction at all. Zach also hesitated to speak because he was really enjoying this moment with his arm around Amanda. Despite all he had gone through in the previous week with Aquaman to insure the safety of Crimson City and the world, in this moment with Amanda, everything in Zach's life seemed perfect.
Not far from the building that Zach and Amanda were located at was the local TV broadcasting building. It was also a very large build that had the world's largest TV that made up one of the building's walls. As they sat on their roof, Zach and Amanda watched the local NEWS.
"Many of you have heard by now about the events that transpired last week. A crime lord who had been thought to be out of the business and away from Crimson City's society, Victor Glamnock, infiltrated Widener Corporation and sabotaged the company's Water Purification technology, destroying everything that was going to be used for the Purification Initiative. This was a tragic disaster for the world, as Widener Corp.'s Water Purification Project promised to create a mass desalination process that would almost instantaneously clean all the planet's water. More crimes such as these are not projected to occur any time soon as Victor Glamnock was found near an old and never used Widener research facility gunned down.
Associated to these crimes there has been rumors of two vigilantes, Aquaman and another man known to some of Crimson City's latest prison inmates, as Nightblaze were somehow involved. Aquaman's track record speaks for itself, and any question as to intent for him has been dropped by law enforcement officials. Nightblaze however still remains to be a mystery. A Widener tech employee posed the question "If this Nightblaze knew of the promise that the Purification Initiative proposed for the world, why would he possibly want to destroy it?" Experts have speculated that the reason Aquaman appeared in Crimson City was to stop Nightblaze…sadly, it appears that he failed.
In related news, Derek Widener, the owner of Widener Corp, has been hospitalized for over a week now in a strange coma. By orders of his caretakers, reporters and newscasters have not been allowed to enter his hospital room to get more information on the billionaire but his closest employees have made the quote, "Mr. Widener tried to take matters in his own hands when he realized the Glamnock aimed to destroy the Purification Initiative and was severely injured in the process. The doctors tell us that Mr. Widener will make a full recovery all though they are unsure about the time frame. We assure you, that Derek Widener will resurface soon with a brilliant plan to reconcile this horrendous act."
"Can you believe all that crap?" Amanda spoke to Zach as they sat. "And THAT company pays the people that pays for my paycheck…I know, sometimes I feel like I'm working for Satan himself!"
"Yeah most of that is just a bunch of bologna." Zach said, as he swept away the bad media coverage of Nightblaze. He reminded himself of Aquaman's words: that heroes aren't in it for the glory, but the results. "But something tells me Crimson City still has more to worry about with Derek Widener. Physically, I don't think he'll be able to do much…he looked pretty messed up when Aquaman pulled him out of Crimson Bay. But he's still got a wicked mind, lots of money, and tons of people that idolize him…even more now!"
"I tried everything I could to incriminate that sleeseball." Amanda glared at the TV which showed a picture of Derek as the NEWS program went on, "He's just paid enough of the right people so that it looks like he's 100% gold…it's ridiculous! But Derek's probably not too worried about Amanda Cho-Ming, agent of the media overlord, Satan…no Derek's probably scared out of his boots of Nightblaze, the world's number one rising superhero. You may have heard of him, they say he spends most of his time in Crimson City."
Zach smiled as Amanda's wit was in full swing. She never talked about how awesome "Zach" was, it was always how awesome "Nightblaze" was. Zach figured she did this as to try not to build up the superhero's head too much. Amanda continued. "You know, my boss wants our paper to be the first to get inclusive on the site information of this vigilante Nightblaze. Most people at the Crusade are thinking he's some crazy new terrorist, but I was the first to sign up for the "Nightblaze Project." I told them that I had a different theory…I told them that the way I see it, Nightblaze is trying to make the place better in ways that normal law enforcement isn't able to. I even tossed the term "superhero" around every now and again, but nobody's really caught on to it yet."
"I don't really care what all those people think of me; as long as I know you know who I really am, and what I'm about." Zach said as he looked deep in Amanda's eyes, this was that moment that he needed to tell her what he needed to tell her. "There was a moment, when we were on my motorcycle escaping the Widener facility last week…I thought what we used to have between us, was there again. I was wondering, if you felt it too?"
"How can you even ask that?" Amanda gave Zach the most puzzled and annoyed look ever. "That night? Oh do you mean the night where I almost died about three times at the hands of some of the scariest people I ever met? And you thought I was FLIRTING with you? Oh goodness, get over yourself Zach!"
"That's not really what I meant to say…It was more like…"
"It's like this…" Amanda said as she stood up and prepared to leave, "We want different things in life. To be honest, I don't even think you know what you want in life Zach. You see, part of you wants this normal life with a loyal girlfriend, and a regular job, and you know…what normal people have. But then there's the other part of you that realizes that you're NOT normal, and that part wants to be the superhero that keeps the world safe. But here's the thing about me Zach, as much as I loved you and loved who you are with and without the mask, I can't be the normal girl in the boy's normal life that wakes up one day to realize that her not so normal love was killed in his attempt to save the world. Call me selfish, but I don't want to share the person I care most about with the rest of the world…Any woman who's in a relationship with you is going to have to do that, and that's not me. I don't do life threatening danger Zach, and because of Nightblaze…you kind of attract it! I'm sorry, I can offer you friendship, and I can offer you the best article on Nightblaze's Introducing himself to Crimson City that you've ever read…when you're ready…but if you're looking for more, well, I can't offer you anything else."
Amanda slowly began to walk off, not wanting to give Zach an opportunity to respond. Zach knew she did this because it hurt her to say the harsh truths she has to say, even though she'd put a tough face on, and typically he wouldn't throw in a comment to make things harder for Amanda, but this time he couldn't contain himself.
"I always felt normal…" Zach said as he stood up, turned around and stopped Amanda from moving with his hand. "Because I thought you thought I was normal. That was enough for me, but knowing that this isn't how you feel…well that really hurts."
"I'm sorry Zach." Amanda said as she continued to walk away, fighting tears.
As Zach watched the girl of his dreams walk down the stairs and leave the rooftop, he pressed the button on his earpiece and spoke. "Eric did you get all of that?"
"Yep, I heard the whole thing."
"And what do you think?" Nightblaze asked as he put his mask back on.
"Remind me again who was it that got Amanda stuck into the life threatening danger at Widener's research facility? Was that your fault?" Eric asked.
"No, she fell into that on your own." Zach responded, pondering this thought.
"Yep, I thought so." Eric said, his voice expressing his somewhat know-it-all confidence. "The girl thinks that YOU attract danger, but she does a fair share of that herself…I think once she's okay with that aspect of who she is, she'll realize that you are the best thing that ever happened to her…Don't lose hope yet, Nightblaze!"
"Speaking of which…I need to get back to work!" Zach replied as he heated up his body and his hair went from blonde to red.
"Good! My computer picked up a particularly disturbing burglar downtown. He seems to have some unique gifts, like yourself. The cops haven't been able to catch him, do you care to try your luck?"
"Why of course." Nightblaze responded as he cracked his knuckles, "The night is still young."
"Oh yeah, one more thing." Eric replied, "Since you destroyed my last vehicle for you I had to push up the release date of my newest Nightblaze toy. It's another means of travel for you, and I think you'll really like it."
"Oh, do I smell an XLR8 II?" Nightblaze asked, getting very excited.
"Please!" Eric responded, "We don't have that kind of money to get another one of those…yet. I call this one, the Blaze Board."
Nightblaze heard a very strong but small engine flying up from the side of the building and looked in delight as a floating red and black skateboard landed in front of him. With the heart of a superhero, Nightblaze hopped on the board and soared off into another adventure.
Of course I had to do a little tease for a potential sequel, all great stories do! A gentle reminder that I don't own DC Comics (Aquaman) but Nightblaze is an OC as are all the other main characters of this novel: Eric, Amanda, Derek, Alloy, Victor, and anyone else I'm forgetting...
Thank you SO MUCH for reading, I hope you have enjoyed this story as much as i enjoyed writing it!