Hearts of Darkness

by Andrea Speed

Kaede Hiyashi is sick and tired of living in the shadow of his father, supervillain Doctor Terror. Brilliant but crazy, Doctor Terror sends his son to Corwyn, California, for reasons Kaede can’t imagine. Sent to accompany and protect him is Ash, a genetically modified supersoldier raised and trained by an infamous death cult.

Corwyn is lousy with superheroes, led by the obnoxious Dark Justice. Kaede finds himself dancing around Dark Justice as he digs into his father’s mysterious business and teaches his socially awkward—but physically lethal—bodyguard to acclimate to “normal” life. Can these two wacky supervillains figure out what Doctor Terror wants them to do, solve the riddle of the villain known as Black Hand, and keep Dark Justice from raining on their bloody parade? The course of love—and world domination—never did run smooth.

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NOT FOR the first time, Kaede wondered what would happen if he decided to burn everything down. Just set it all on fire.
He wouldn’t—Fleur De Lis was a great restaurant, his favorite in Paris—but sometimes he wondered what his father’s limit was. Would he find a way to bail him out of everything? It wasn’t a boundaries thing; he wasn’t a child craving them. He was just curious if there was a line he couldn’t cross. Maybe when your dad was a supervillain, you just got used to the evil after a while.
Even though he was currently attending university under a fake identity, his father still made sure enough people knew he had some kind of connection that he was always treated like a VIP. Kaede found it awkward and tiresome, although he knew he shouldn’t complain about superior service. But the elitism of it all did bother him.
Currently, he was the only lone diner in the VIP section.


There were two couples, one older and one younger, although they were a study in contrasts. The older couple looked like longtime-married folks out for an anniversary dinner, while the younger couple was a guy with slicked-back hair and a thousand-dollar suit, and a fancy, coiffured woman whom Kaede was willing to bet was a working girl. A high-class one, to be sure, but still a hooker. What kind of douchebag was that guy? Was he living out some kind of Pretty Woman fantasy? He was probably a stockbroker or something like that. Kaede hated him on principle.
Otherwise the VIP section was empty. They had faint piano music and two waiters all to themselves. The rest of the place—the noisier, more crowded part of the restaurant—was separated by a doorway that most people probably didn’t know existed. You entered and exited through a private door so you never had to associate with the riffraff. Kaede wondered if his dad liked this, and that’s why he insisted on him getting the same treatment.
Kaede’s soup arrived, and he shared polite smiles with the waiter, who was handsome enough, if on the short side. Was he gay? Kaede might have been the son of a supervillain, but he had no gaydar at all, and his father had never invented a thing that could do that for him. Or had he? Kaede should ask, if he ever saw his father in person again.
He might not. Kaede sporadically saw his father… and with little warning. It had been that way his entire life. Because so many people wanted to kill his dad or blackmail him into working for them, Kaede had been a target from day one. So his father kept him moving, with new lives on new continents with new names and new guardians, most of whom were professional nannies. His father hadn’t raised him in any respect, and Kaede had no idea who his mother was. Every time he asked, he got a different name. Since his father worked so much with cloning, he did wonder if he was his dad’s clone and not actually a son, in spite of their different names. He knew there were rumors, but he also knew better than to expect any real answers from his brilliant but certifiably crazy father.
He tucked into his soup, which was decent enough, but he found himself craving the excellent hot-and-sour soup he’d found at his favorite Chinese place downtown. It was probably home to more than a few health-code violations, but the soup was fantastic, abundant with tofu and mushrooms. Even though he was enjoying this fancier concoction, he knew he’d probably stop after dinner to get a bowl of the cheaper hot and sour. Although his father often insisted that the more expensive the better as far as food and booze were concerned, that simply wasn’t true. Well, at least not all the time.
Kaede was finally trying his wine, which he’d been letting breathe, when he heard the distant sound of breaking glass.
It wasn’t someone dropping a glass. This was a solider sound, heavier, and it seemed to be out in the public part of the restaurant. Now, it was possible a bottle of wine or a particularly loaded platter had hit the floor, but Kaede had developed something of a sixth sense for trouble. Which could have been an actual thing his father gengineered in him, but he’d never asked.
Kaede had slipped down beneath the table when the inner door of the VIP section slammed open and bullets started flying. He heard brief, aborted screams, and he was really sorry for the other diners. Well, okay, only the older couple and the working girl. Wall Street Boy could eat a bag of dicks.
“We know you’re here, Hayashi!” a man bellowed, as the sound of gunshots still rang in Kaede’s ears. “We’ll burn this place down if we hafta! Show yourself!”
What were his options? Kaede didn’t like to bring his dad’s weapons with him as a matter of principle, but he did carry a couple of small ones; he wasn’t a total idiot. In his pocket he had a small pouch that felt like it weighed about twenty pounds, but that was only because it was made with a synthetic fiber four thousand times stronger and more bulletproof than Kevlar and spider silk combined. Inside it were ten round discs that looked kind of like silver dollars, but they were, in fact, his father’s update of throwing stars, with an edge so sharp he had to be very careful when handling them. Also, they were coated with a special polymer that violently resisted anything adhering to it, so one would pinball around inside a person until it forced itself out. They were almost always fatal, no matter where they entered the body. If he could throw them at the gunmen before getting shot, it would take care of the problem. But how could he pull that off? He should have put on some bulletproof armor before going out.
Kaede was still trying to figure out how to proceed when he heard the unmistakable thud of a body hitting the floor, quickly followed by a burst of gunfire. Somehow, despite the noise, Kaede heard more thuds, but these were wet and bloody. He then discerned footsteps moving across the floor, and he braced himself as the man—he was pretty certain it was a man—moved closer to him.
“I’m not your enemy, Kaede Hayashi,” the man said. His voice had a light, curious accent Kaede couldn’t place. “Your father sent me here to help.”
“Prove it,” Kaede said, reaching for the bag of discs. It could be a trap, and if it was, he might have just given away his location.
Something metallic hit the floor with a small noise and then slid underneath his table. Kaede saw immediately it was a pin, a gold double-helix swirl against a silver background he recognized as the logo of his father’s secret lab, called Shinka (or Evolution in English). And while it just looked like a commemorative pin, the kind that might be given out at Christmas by supercheap companies, it was actually an all-encompassing ID. Coded with a person’s DNA and a special chip, it was only readable with one of his father’s custom-built scanners that not only told you everything about a person, but automatically let them in at certain labs and bases up to their security level. Kaede didn’t have a scanner on him, but making a passable fraud of these was difficult, because they were coated with a special polymer that made them rough to the touch, even though they looked perfectly smooth. And each had a special tiny Japanese character on the back that could be felt but not seen. Kaede could feel that symbol. But that didn’t mean it couldn’t have been stolen off a corpse.


About the Author

Andrea Speed may or may not exist. She may have been found in a shoe box for a brand that has never existed - Rebus: Picture Success. Or don't. Your call. - in the Dumpster of a co-op in Seattle. Or maybe she's a collection of Twitter bots advertising coffee enemas who somehow combined and gained sentience. Nobody knows for sure or cares. May also be a small, medicinal horse that's the Meryl Streep of stunt corpses.