The complete version of this story is available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.
A few yards from the workshop, one of the tiles on the floor was a slightly darker shade of beige than the rest. That explained how the woman could be so definite about where she and Thaddeus were standing.
“Mommy!” a high-pitched voice shouted over the low roar of panic around us.
“Thaddeus!” Frantically, the woman looked around.
So did I, until I saw the kid standing beside the corner of the fence. I touched the woman’s arm and pointed, and she ran over to the little boy. I followed as she scooped the kid into her arms. A happy ending for them, but I still needed to know what I was up against.
“Thank you.” The woman looked at me with wet eyes.
“Mommy, where did the bad elves go?” Thaddeus said.
Finally! Something I could work with to find the culprits. “Bad elves?” I asked.
Thaddeus nodded. “They was little like me. All in green. They said Santa’s fake.” He sniffled and looked at his mom. “He’s not, right, Mommy?”
“Right.” His mother pressed her lips together. “That’s who you’re looking for, I guess. About half a dozen of the so-called elves. We thought they were part of the show until they started saying all those things. And then this guy showed up wearing all black, even a black Santa hat. He went right up to the workshop and kicked, and then everything was smoky.”
“Darn it.” Now I knew who was behind this mess. Missile Toe. A supervillain who had decided the best way to fight his enemies was to shoot projectiles from a specially made shoe.
The Super Group hadn’t run up against Missile Toe since before I joined the group, over a year ago, but Super Guy made sure all the new heroes knew everything about all the bad guys the group had ever fought. I had to wonder why Missile Toe had picked now to show up again. And why he and a bunch of “bad elves” had decided to mess with one of the most important holiday traditions in the city.
I didn’t have time to figure it out right then, though. If I was going to be any use to the rest of the Super Group, I had to change into my secret identity of Superaser. Kind of a dumb name, in my opinion, but I wasn’t the one who picked it. Super Guy named me for my ability to erase pieces of people’s memories.
“Thanks for explaining,” I said to Thaddeus and his mother. “I know some people who can make sure nothing like this ever happens again, so I’m going to talk to them.”
“The bad elves made Santa go away,” Thaddeus said. “After they said he’s fake, they took him away. Are you going to bring him back?”
I started to say yes, but remembered just in time that Thaddeus and his mother, and anyone else nearby, couldn’t find out I was a superhero. I had to keep pretending to be a normal teenage boy until I got somewhere private enough to change.
“I’m going to tell my friends,” I said. “They’ll make sure Santa’s okay. But I have to go now. Happy holidays.”
Before anyone asked me any more questions, I hurried to the nearby food court, which was nearly empty. No one at all was in the rest room, so I quickly changed into my super costume, which was made of a special fabric that could fold up small enough to fit into the pockets of any of my jeans.
When I left the rest room, Super Guy and Polarity were right outside. Super Guy glared at me. “You almost gave yourself away, according to Farsight. What did you say to the normies?”
Even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, my stomach sank down to my shoes. The same sneakers I’d been wearing all day, because my costume didn’t include footwear. Hopefully if anyone had seen me earlier, they wouldn’t notice what I had on my feet. If Super Guy was already getting annoyed, I didn’t want to do anything to make it worse.
I tried to cover up how guilty I felt. “All I told them was that I have friends who can take care of everything.”
“Farsight is never wrong.” Super Guy folded his arms. “Are you sure you didn’t say anything else?”
“You said she told you I almost gave myself away.” I took a deep breath and pretended for a moment that I was Scott. He could out-argue any adult, and right now I had to make sure I didn’t trip myself up with Super Guy. Especially since we were wasting time on the debate while we should have been tracking down Missile Toe. “She isn’t wrong about that. But it was only almost. I caught myself before I actually said anything I shouldn’t. Look, I know I need to be more careful, and I will be. Right now, we have a super villain and a flock of angry elves to deal with.”
“Elves?” Polarity wrinkled his forehead. “People in elf costumes, right?”
I shrugged. “The little boy and his mother, the ones I was just helping, said there were bad elves. And they said the villain shot something out of his foot.”
“Missile Toe,” Super Guy and Polarity said together.