Raymond Harkness was in a cabin in the Nevada desert. Nobody was quite brave enough to come near the cabin. He was capable of putting out more radiation than a nuclear power plant, and, technically, he hadn't done anything wrong.
The interior of the cabin was hot. Secondary radiation had heated it to a hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Raymond didn't care. He was mourning for his wife and children. If he were to die, cooked by his own powers, then so be it.
Cognis estimated that prolonged exposure to Raymond was dangerous to a distance of up to twenty meters. Which is why there was a ring of tanks, soldiers, artillery, and bureaucrats was positioned twenty-one meters from the cabin. They didn't even notice me dropping in. Probably because it was the middle of the night, and they were bored of paying attention.
I opened the door. To be more precise, I kicked it down. "Raymond."
He was curled up on the floor. "Who are you?"
"My name is Phoenix."
No, the circus performer. "Yes, the supervillain."
"What do you want?"
"I want to study your powers."
He stood up. "You call this a power? It's a curse! It killed my family. I wish it would kill me."
"If you keep doing what you're doing, it will." I reached into my pocket. "Here, have a granola bar. I assume you haven't eaten in days." I looked him over. He had taken off his shirt to help bear the heat. He was past the age where that was a pretty sight to look at. "And put some clothes on."
"Because I'm going to fly you to my lab in Estveria, and I don't want you to be half-naked while I do it."
"I'm not going with you."
"Yes, you are."
He began to glow. "I'm not."
"If you come, I might be able to develop a cure-" He lunged at me.
"I'm not going!" A storm of beta rays washed over the room. My molecules were torn to shreds. I lost consciousness. A few seconds later, I came to, my brain restored. I could regrow a brain, intact with all it's memories, in a few seconds. A part of me gave up the argument that I was still essentially human.
"That really hurt." Hadn't felt physical pain in a while.
"You think you know pain. My wife died of cancer."
"Actually, I've been there. Some I loved very much died of cancer as well. I know how you felt. Powerless to save her. You were crushed. You still are. But your wife is dead. Your son is barely breathing and your daughter is not far behind. I've seen the CAT scans. Even I can't save them. Your family is gone."
"Shut up!" He burned me again. I avoided passing out, but barely.
"You can try to hurt me. But I'm not the one you hate. I'm not what took your family. What took your family, what took my Rosa, was ignorance. We didn't have the tools to save our loved ones. But we can learn. Together, we can learn the secret of your powers."
"You're evil. You've killed innocent people."
"Of the people I've killed, only three were innocent bystanders. I regret those deaths. But think of what I stand for. I'm not the best possible person to rule the world." That would be my archenemy. "But I would end poverty and war and guarantee every child an education." I would probably also cure a bunch of diseases and disable all comments on Youtube.
"I don't trust you."
"Fair enough. But with powers like yours, you could probably melt through Ultrasteel. I couldn't keep your prisoner." Even as I spoke the words, a dozen ideas popped into my head for how to trap him. But for the first half of the sentence I thought I was telling the truth. "You don't value your life, so there's nothing I can do to threaten you. If you don't like what I'm doing, you can just leave."
He looked thoughtful for a moment. He pulled a bit of paper out of his pocket. I assumed it had once contained a picture of his family. It had been reduced to a piece of char falling apart in his hands. "I'll go."
"Excellent. Our ride should be here shortly."
"My wings glow brightly and shoot jets of plasma in order to propel me. In order to get here, I flew into the stratosphere and then fell, controlling my velocity with a sequence of parachutes. Unfortunately, that same strategy won't work for going upwards." Try as I might, I've never been able to fall away from the ground. "Instead, we're going to get help from someone who's a little more subtle than a glowing trail of superheated gas." But not a lot more subtle.
Flashpoint teleported in. Entering with a bang as always. "Excellent. You're here. Raymond is ready for our trip."
He grabbed our hands, and, in four jumps, teleported us into an airplane. As instructed, he didn't say anything.
The flight home was uneventful. Once I got to my lab, I buckled in and got to work.