Valentina Belmonte was waiting for a police van. She stood in an alley between two warehouses, drinking a mango smoothie as she watched cars pass by. Some kind of office building stood across the cracked, pothole-filled street. She should have talked her way in there and waited in the air-conditioning. The shade from the warehouses brought the temperature down from ninety to maybe eighty-eight. Summer in Florida. How the heck did other supervillains work here?
If this were any other job, she’d be in costume, but her costume had long pants, knee-high boots, and no small amount of black leather. She’d have gotten heatstroke twenty minutes ago if she’d worn that thing. So today, the Black Valentine was breaking the law in her civvies: the shortest pair of denim shorts she could find and a sleeveless shirt that showed off her midriff. And as a bonus, she didn’t have to worry about anyone spotting a masked supervillain and calling the cops.
Not that there were many people around to notice her. Two men had come out of the warehouse for a smoke break about twenty minutes ago, but Val had telepathically convinced them to ignore her and hadn’t had any trouble since. She sucked on the straw of her smoothie, trying to get the last bit of mango goodness from the bottom of the cup. Sweat dripped down the nape of her neck despite her hair being pulled up in a ponytail, and her skin felt sticky and gross. Once this job was over, she was celebrating with a dip in a pool somewhere.
A wolf whistle cut through the ambient noise of the street, directed at a woman passing by on the sidewalk. “Hey, honey!” the younger of the two warehouse workers called. “You’re looking sexy today. Where are you going?” The woman sped up, her mix of anger, shame, and fear hitting Val’s telepathic senses like a wave. “You’re just gonna ignore me?” the man hollered at her retreating back. “Learn to take a compliment, bitch!” He went back to talking with the other man, who was chuckling.
Val looked at the cat-caller’s smug, grinning face for a moment. Then she went inside his mind, found his bladder control, and knocked it out. A smell like ammonia filled the alley, and the other man’s chuckling stopped.
What he felt wasn’t quite the same as the woman’s mix of emotions, but it was close enough.
Oh, and there was the police van. Val’s afternoon was looking up. She tossed her empty smoothie cup onto the ground and strode out of the alley. The street’s speed limit was only thirty-five miles per hour, not nearly fast enough for the van to escape the range of her telepathy in time. She found the driver’s mind, felt the cool air-conditioning blasting his face and the steering wheel grasped in his sweaty hands.
Stop, she thought.
The white van stopped with a screech of brakes. There were only two other people in it: the prisoner in the back and one guard. It was honestly a little pathetic. Val had seen shopping malls with better security. She stepped into the street, using mind-control to convince the other drivers on the road to take an alternate route. Then she told the police van’s driver to go to sleep. His mind vanished from her senses, and she focused on the van’s other occupants. The guard was banging on the wall separating him from the driver, frantically trying to get a response. The prisoner was…waiting. He sat in his seat, his stomach feeling like he was on a roller coaster.
Be a gentleman and get the door for me, Val told the guard.
The left of the two doors on the back of the van opened, splitting the “POL” from the “ICE” written across them in bold blue letters. The guard stared at her dazedly, but Val looked past him to the prisoner.
A lanky, teenage black boy sat slouched in the seat, wearing khaki pants, a button-up shirt that was just a little too baggy, and a patterned necktie. He looked like a student on the way to a spelling bee, not a juvenile being transported to his court hearing. He raised his head in Val’s direction, giving her a view of his sightless white eyes.
“I guess you’re the Black Valentine, huh?”
So he’d known she was coming. Good. He probably wouldn’t be worth the trouble if he hadn’t.
“And you must be the Prophet Kid.” She gave him her best smile. “Congratulations. I’ve got a get-out-of-jail-free card for you.”
And so it begins! Those of you who read Villainous have already seen a version of this part, but tune in again next week for something completely new. The next update will be on Monday, July 4th. I plan to move to biweekly updates eventually, but I’ll be starting out once per week until I get my momentum going.
On a side note, this takes place around twenty years prior to the events of Hero Status, which places it solidly in the 90s. So unless otherwise described, feel free to picture all the characters in a ridiculous 90s fashion of your choice. (Nineties superhero fashion is the worst, right? All those pouches and bulky shoulder pads and thongs. It’s wonderfully awful.)
Until next week!