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Hijack’s awe could only keep him distracted for so long. As exciting as it was to know that video games had prepared him for reality, that the dark scion of the local Dracula did in fact have daddy issues, Hijack had his own issues to worry about—mommy issues.
His mother slash mad scientist creator, Doctor Zarei, had sent him to spy on the Activity Club, yes, but he’d discovered so much more than that at Mayview Middle School. Between his bisected halves, he was absolutely dripping with juicy intel, like a watermelon freshly cleaved in twain. Spender’s secret shadow spirit, the fate of Sockpuppy’s destroyer, the fact that a monster like Davy stalked the darkness undetected—Hijack had to get back to the Doctor as soon as possible, and spill the beans on everything he’d learned. Then she’d join up with Isabel and Max and the rest of the Activity Club, and...
Both Hijacks hesitated. Neither heart nor logic could convince him things would go just fine from there; Lucifer’s words of doubt still echoed through him
Good doesn’t always triumph in real life. Evil wins just as often. Right Hijack looked at Cody. But... if we’ve got a HALF-EVIL ANTIHERO like HIM on our side... working with a half-evil antihero like ME...
I know not why, Left Hijack thought, but I feel a sort of... psychological bond towards our captor, despite having reason to resent him for his actions. Logically, it must be the result of all the time we’ve spent together while imprisoned in his house. Hmm. Perhaps this “stuck home syndrome” can be the basis of a temporary alliance—or even a lasting relationship!
“First things first,” Cody said, “I did intend to kill you back at school.”
The Hijacks blinked.
“Well, not at first,” the boy continued with a shrug, “but once my dad commanded it, I was pretty much resigned to your destruction.”
“...Heh.” Left Hijack pushed up his glasses, smirking smugly. “It would appear we’re more resilient than your feeble brain could comprehend—”
Cody had risen from the bed while the Hijacks were lost in thought. Standing before his closet mirror, now, it seemed as though he was almost done changing into much more formal clothing. A Student Council badge awaited, gleaming, on the vest he’d yet to don.
“Oh, no, that’s not it! You’re the only feeble brain here, silly. The reason you survived is my dad’s powers.” Cody curled a finger. “His hook—well, it was his sword at the time, I guess—can cut anything in two. Spirits, colors, distance, a mule into a donkey and a horse... I’ve seen him do all sorts of strange things with it. It doesn’t even have to be in equal parts!”
Right Hijack wiped a bead of cold sweat from his brow. That seemed like just the sort of wacky power that Doctor Zarei would tinker with obsessively for years. What kind of wild spirit could do THAT?
“S-so... that’s what you did to us?”
“Not on purpose!” Cody chuckled, willfully oblivious to just how menacing he sounded. “I had no idea that I could use the hook’s powers, and I doubt my dad did either! I’m not a spectral or whatever, after all. That thing’s only ever been a sharp hunk of spirit-slicing metal in my hands until... well, you!”
“Then, logically speaking, how did you manage to...?”
“Spare you? I dunno! Like I said, I was resigned to your destruction, but I also REALLY don’t like doing what my dad tells me to do... so I think maybe I made him use his powers? Here, check this out!”
Without warning, Cody turned, his shirt still half-unbuttoned. Across his heart, or lack thereof, a sutured scar curled like a jagged centipede
“Funny, right? I’m literally heartless!”
One Hijack yelped in shock. The other one narrowed his singular eye to study the wound, looking like a gumshoe at a crime scene (at least in the sense that Hijack looked like gum that had been stuck on someone’s shoe). Hijack knew what scars and stitching looked like—his mother was a doctor, after all. Cody’s scar was too cartoonishly crude to be anything but supernatural in origin, like a flourish on a cheesy Halloween costume.
“See, my dad is a vampire, but my mom’s a normal human. I must’ve lucked out with my father’s fifty percent of the genes, though, ’cause I got his strength without inheriting his weaknesses. I can walk around in sunlight, enter homes without an invite, I love Jeff’s mothers’ garlic bread, and I’ve never sipped a single drop of blood!” Cody’s smile showed his pride in this accomplishment... and with it, the great effort it required. “I’ve even aged like a normal kid so far—which I can see thanks to my visible reflection.”
A starstruck starboard Hijack watched Cody do a fun twirl in the mirror. The boy looked to be an innocent middle schooler, but just like everyone in Mayview, just like the town itself, there was a roiling darkness underneath. The fraction of the mouth that Right Hijack had retained in the divorce opened and closed like the fish in the bag beside him, groping for a chance to interject with details of his own dramatic backstory.
“...Still, there was one classic vampire weakness that my father couldn’t be sure I didn’t inherit. The ever-reliable sharpened wooden stake straight to the heart!”
Cody mimed impalement, croaking out a cartoon Dracula “bleh!” as he keeled over. Then he rose back from his feigned grave, laughing at his own macabre theatrics. The Hijacks shuddered.
“If it weren’t for that one fear,” Cody continued, somewhat less glib than before, “I’d be the perfect son for an overprotective, paranoid control freak like my dad. Nothing else can hurt me. I heal twice as fast as he does!” He finished buttoning his shirt, never glancing at the scar in his reflection. “So daddy dearest used his hook to split my body from my heart, and put it where he said it would be safe—right next to his!”
“Huh??” The Hijacks were united in bewilderment.
“I know, right?! It’s like, how’s that safer? You’re an evil vampire overlord, dad! Probably the last one in the world! If some Professor Van Helsing wannabe missed anatomy class by just a few inches, I’m the one whose life would be at stake
Cody sighed with casual frustration, the sort of annoyance one might express when struggling with a stubborn Windsor knot, not the kind reserved for dads who steal your organs (it did seem, though, that he was having trouble with his tie).
Right brain Hijack noticed now in hindsight that Cody only seemed to breathe when he remembered to. As unfazed as he seemed by his own shocking story, he hadn’t exhaled since the telling first began.
“I guess that it just proves that my dad only trusts himself... or at least that he’s a raging egomaniac. I mean, he must truly treasure HIS chest if he thinks it’s safer than the world’s most secure vault, or a lockbox at the bottom of the ocean—or, heck, maybe he doesn’t actually CARE about my safety like he claims to!” Cody’s blue eyes burned, alighting on their match behind the mirror. “Maybe he doesn’t actually care about me! Maybe he just wants to feel my heartbeat so he gets to know what caring even feels like
Silence reigned beneath the dark cloud of his words.
“...If I may speak objectively,” Left Hijack spoke objectively, “it would seem to me that your dad sucks.”
“Vampire,” Cody responded wryly, fiddling with the last loop of his tie. “...Y’know, you’re the first person to tell me that. Not that you’re a person, or that everyone who heard that my father cut my heart out wouldn’t instantly agree... but I don’t exactly get to share this stuff sitting around the lunch table with my friends. So thanks for not being one, I guess!” He turned to the Hijacks as he slipped into his vest, smiling at their sonic silhouette. “How do I look?”
Both Hijacks scanned his outfit up and down.
“Sympathetic,” sniffed the right one.
“Between four and five feet tall,” reasoned the left.
“Perfect!” Cody beamed, his mask set back in place. “Anyways, that’s why you’re alive, I think. I don’t know the spooky science of it all, but thanks to what he did to me, we’ve always been quite close. That means his hook was close to him when I cut you, and HE was close to my heart’s true desire. Guess that kicked his spirit into gear, huh? Maybe it mistook what I wanted for an order from my dad!”
“That feels right!” said Hijack Right.
“Once Occam’s razor is applied, there are few other worthy explanations left,” said Hijack Left.
Cody nodded along with them. “That’s how we’ll mess up my dad’s plans—tonight, and, once we’re ready, when I run away from home.” He pointed to himself and the two spirits. “With the three of us working together... and with the three things that my father doesn’t know.”
The Hijacks were enraptured, fully bought into his scheme. Any semblance of escape had left their minds.
“One,” Cody said, raising a finger to count. “That you’re intact, albeit in two pieces. Speaking of: two.” Now a pair of digits stood together, a sign of peace declaring total war. “That I can tap into his powers with my heart.” He grinned mischievously. “And, last but not certainly least: THREE...”
The Hijacks watched his final finger, trembling with frustration when an answer failed to follow.
“What?! What is it?? What’s the third thing??”
“Hmph! I’ve already deduced it... but, er, since it’s HIS plan, I’ll let Cody do the honors. Cody, do the honors. Do the honors, please, Cody. Please, Cody, the honors—”
Cody laughed, pushing his bangs from his face. “You’re not the only miraculous survivor, Hijack. The last thing my dad doesn’t know... is that I know that my mom’s still alive!”
Both Hijacks, bereft of context, blinked up at their captor in confusion.