PROLOGUE: Enter Dr. Beamo
You're a failure, and in my eyes, you'll always be a failure. The words of Hector Sando’s father echoed in his mind.
“Well Father, you must be very proud of me now.”
Here he was, a man of superior intellect, lugging garbage bags for Mama Mia's restaurant. How humiliating could it get?
The remaining cloud cover of the evening's rain made the inky darkness of night murkier, obscuring the moon's light. A wood shed housed the dumpster, the only illumination provided by a dim yellow bulb that reflected eerily in the muddy puddles. He huffed and puffed, hefting the bags through the filthy, steaming water.
A pointy object poked through a bag, jabbing his leg with each step, forcing him to stop. Heaving a sigh, he wiped his prematurely bald head with a handkerchief and cleaned his thick, fogged glasses. The menial labor sapped his strength and it was only his second trip to the dumpster.
How had he ended up here?
He knew that answer, of course. Fate, and the conspiring of his enemies, had put him where he was. Despite having a gifted mind, Hector was not so gifted by fortune...unfortunately.
The sound of a family of five leaving the restaurant drew his attention. Putting his glasses back on, he was surprised that he recognized the father. Hector was sure he’d seen the man on the local news announcing a run for mayor in the fall.
The laughter of the prospective mayor's three chattering children ground in his soul like a handful of searing coals. His hand automatically moved to his head. It had always been a source of derision for him. Seeing the three boys sent his mind tumbling into the past, when his classmates taunted him with the moniker, Captain Big Head.
It wasn’t a terribly clever nickname, for his head was rather large. Some said it was abnormally large, but not for Hector, as it was the only head he'd ever known. Hot tears would sting his eyes as he ran home from the bullies, but he would find no comfort there either. The memory left a burning hole in the pit of his stomach.
He unclenched his shaking hands as he reached for his bags, but stopped when he felt a creeping shiver up his shoulders. He was being watched. His moron of a boss wasn’t yelling at him, so he looked around to see who, or what, was giving him the creeps.
“It never goes away, does it? The sting of rejection?”
Hector whirled around. “Wh-who's there?” His voice sounded higher and squeakier than usual. He peered into the shed for the owner of the voice, seeing nothing but shadows. Then, a man stepped into the light.
“Relax, my friend, I am not here to harm you.” The stranger was tall, his voice a quiet whisper. His long dark hair was brushed back from his face.
“Are…are you wearing a cape?”
The stranger chuckled. “It is a cloak.”
“Oh.” Squirming under the stranger’s stare, his nose wrinkled against the smell of rotting garbage. “What do you want from me?”
The stranger studied him for several moments, causing him to fidget. “I am in need of your services.”
“Me? I'm just a nobody at a cheesy Italian restaurant.”
“Oh, we both know that's not the case, Mr. Sando.”
“H-how do you know my name?”
“I know most everything about you. I know the humiliation of your childhood. I know of your false friends in school, who promised you friendship, but betrayed you.”
Who was this man—some kind of psychic? He certainly looked the part.
“I know how your teachers repressed your genius, confining you within their established methods of instruction.”
Was this a former classmate come back to haunt him? “I wouldn't say they were exactly fair to me, no.”
“I know how nothing you ever did was good enough for your professor father, though poor marks in school would be an understandable disappointment for a parent who was also an educator.”
A lump formed in his throat. “He was never happy with anything I did.”
“No, he wasn’t. You retreated from the endless loop of rejection, didn’t you? Immersing yourself in comic books, you drew inspiration from them to create the engine of your revenge. Isn't that so, Dr. Beamo?”
Hector’s eyes widened, taking in the stranger's appearance again. The dark mysteriousness, sinister voice, eccentric taste in clothing—could it be? Another real-life supervillain like himself? “How do you know that name? Who are you?”
“Your name travels in very high circles, Doctor. You are a certified and licensed professional, of course?”
Hector bowed his head, shuffling his feet. “Well, not exactly.”
The stranger’s laugh was deep and ominous. His voice quickly returned to the quiet, unnerving whisper. “Peace, Doctor; that was my attempt at humor.”
The stranger's stab at comedy wasn't amusing. Despite his reassurance, it felt like he was laughing at Hector. How had he learned so much about him? How on Earth did he know of Dr. Beamo? If he knew the truth, there was no need to act like weak Hector Sando in the stranger’s presence. Of course, it wasn’t completely an act. “I asked you a question.”
The stranger peered around the area. “What a miserable existence you’ve carved out for yourself.”
“Enough!” Wincing at his high-pitched voice, he reached into his back pocket, producing a handheld beam. He pointed it at the stranger. “Who are you?”
The stranger chuckled again. “Is that a mobile phone or one of your famous beams? Not very intimidating, is it?”
“It will do well enough to fry you if I don't start getting some answers.”
“That would be...unwise, Doctor.”
Hector held fast, but his aim wavered. He sensed the stranger was a kindred spirit, but his difficult nature was taxing.
Bowing his head, the stranger smiled tightly. “Very well. Your efforts to bankroll your scientific endeavors have not gone unnoticed, Doctor. No one knows your true identity, of course. That took some doing on my part.”
“I was so careful, though!”
“Whenever you have a secret, Doctor, someone is going to uncover it.”
“Who are you, then?”
“My name is Count Sugar Cain.”
“Never heard of you.”
“I have...been away for some time. Tell me, Doctor, are you happy with your current station in life?”
“No, of course not!”
“Do you wish you could abandon this life and be recognized for who you truly are?”
“Are you prepared to grasp your destiny and make all the commoners who have stepped on you and laughed at you pay for their insolence?”
A wave of pure bliss surged through him. “Yes! Yes!”
The count's eyes gleamed as he grinned. “Then my good Dr. Beamo, step with me into the darkness.”