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Cheating

Vic staggered from the rubble. Dust fell from his tattered cape and costume. Taking a few seconds to get his bearings, he waved to the three people with cellphones pointed at him, then took to the air. At first his path wobbled, but then it straightened out and he disappeared.

Moving in a blur, Vic landed in his backyard. He fumbled for the hidden key to his house, then let himself in. Stepping into his kitchen, Vic grabbed a sports drink and downed it in three large gulps.

His next stop, the bathroom, Vic flicked on the light and turned on the shower to warm it up. His eyes focused on his face and ragged remains of his costume. The scrapes and cuts were already healed. It was the bruise around his neck that pulled his attention. Some poked above where a collar wouldn’t cover, so it would be make-up. “That’ll wait till the morning.” Dropping the rags of his costume to the floor, Vic took a long shower. His next destination was bed.

The loud pounding jerked Vic awake. It paused long enough to make him think he dreamed it, then his cell rang. His eyes shot to the screen and saw Monica’s pretty smile. Swinging his legs out of the covers, he tapped the ignore button. As he scrubbed his face with his hands, the phone chirped. The message on the screen read, “Open the door!”

Groaning to his feet, Vic zombie-walked through his house and pulled the door open. The sunlight danced straight to his eyes, making him wince and flinch at the same time. “I got the day off and I’m not feeling-”

“It’s true, isn’t it?” Monica’s thin lips and furrowed brow had eyes that bored into his. “You did all that stuff they said.” She pushed past him and into his house.

“What?” Vic saw a van skid to a stop and the doors jerk open. People carrying different cameras and microphones clambered over his lawn to the front door. Vic slammed the door and sent the deadbolt home. He turned around to see Monica staring daggers at him.

“You’re Neutron, aren’t you?” Monica’s voice was a question, but her tone was more an accusation. Her eyes stopped at the few wounds leftover from last night.

“Ummm…” Vic rubbed his neck and looked around his living room. “What’s this about?”

“Let me show you,” Monica said. She moved to the coffee table and clicked the remote for the T.V. A few seconds later and the news report appeared. There was a small picture of Neutron next to his Facebook profile picture.

Vic’s eyes darted between the television and Monica, who stood there with her hip cocked and chewing her lip.

“The amateur footage has been confirmed as authentic,” Brent Hunt, the news reporter said. “Three people captured video of Neutron leaving the scene of his fight with PowerCore last night. Their fight brought down the twelfth street tenement. It was fortunate this building was scheduled to be demolished and was vacant, so no bystanders were hurt.”

“That’s good to know,” Vic said. “It was a lot of work to get her there and use it to stop her.”

“Keep watching, dickweed.” Monica tapped her foot as she crossed her arms.

“The videos, shown here,” Brent continued as a side window opened. “Shows Neutron leaving with his uniform shredded. This included his mask.”

Vic’s eyes went wide as he saw himself leave the wreckage. His mask wasn’t even attached to him. One of the videos zoomed in on his face, showing it clearly. “Shit.”

“Yeah,” Monica said.

“Victor Bronkowski, aka Neutron leaves the scene after waving to the people,” Brent reported. “The investigation team here at WHGH have dug into the life of Victor Bronkowski. As you see, we have his Facebook page here. It shows the college he attended. Which he paid for with a scholarship in athletics. Most experts on superpowers say that when Victor earned his scholarship, his powers were mostly under his control. It’s speculation at this point, but he may have cheated to get them.”

Vic felt his eyes get wider and his mouth fell open.

“Humph,” Monica said, turning to the T.V.

“Plus, Mr. Bronkowski managed to make it onto the U.S. Olympic team for wrestling and weightlifting. On the team, he won several gold medals as well as set the current World record for most weight lifted over head.” Brent turned his head and the camera angle changed with him. “The Olympic committee is looking into this and it is suspected his medals will be stripped from him. His World record may be removed as well.”

“So, you’re a liar and a cheat!” Monica pointed a well manicured finger at him. “Why?”

“Ummm…Well…” Vic moved for the remote.

“No!” Monica shifted to stand in his way. “Keep watching.”

“A representative for Healthy Harvest has issued a statement that Mr. Bronkowski will no longer be a spokesman for their products. They will be pursuing legal channels against Mr. Bronkowski. Their reason are false claims and damages to their brand.” Brent leaned forward on the desk in front of him. “Chem-O-Play, the makers of various action figures of super heroes, have recalled all figures of Neutron and will offer a complete refund. Like HealthyHarvest, they plan on a court based agreement as well.”

CLICK!

Monica tossed the remote to the coffee table. “Is any of that true?” She moved across the open space, but stopped outside of Vic’s reach.

“Look,” Vic said. “I didn’t have money to go to college without being in debt forever. So, I used my edge to get ahead. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds-”

“So you cheated,” Monica backed up a pace. “It’s like using performance enhancing drugs.”

“No, I was born this way,” Vic said reaching for her. “I didn’t hurt anyone.”

“What about the Olympics?” Monica arched an eyebrow high. “The same time you were there, they disqualified several other countries for using superpower people. Why should’t they strip you of your medals?”

“Well, that’s difficult to exp-”

“Fuck! You cheated there too.” Monica tossed her hands into the air as she moved for the door. “Just great. Don’t call me.” She yanked the door open and was bombarded by flashing lights and cameras. “I’m not the one you want.” Monica turned to face Vic. “The lying bastard right there is.” She pushed through the throng of people and equipment.

Vic moved to the front door and pushed it closed. He spotted two men in suits wearing the Olympic crest on their pockets. Behind them were three more in suits carrying papers in their hands. “Shit!” The cacophony of voices pelted his ears.

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