The dazed couple was oblivious to me as I stepped into the alley and stripped down to my briefs and pulled on my gently used, carbon nano-tube enhanced body suit. I don’t know who Vandal Blast was, never heard of the guy, but that’s not surprising since he donated three of his suits to Goodwill. Generally, if you do that, you’ve decided that the heroing business is not for you.
Or maybe he got killed and his family donated the stuff. Better to not think about it.
Anyway, he was not a perfect fit for me, so I took the three suits I picked up for a steal and had some alterations done. You know, let out the shoulders, tighten up the waist, shorten the legs, let out the crotch, that sort of thing. I also had them recolor the material. I mean, really, who fights crime in contrasting shades of brown? They did a molecular dye on the suit and I had them add a lightning bolt symbol to the chest and deltoids. I know, everybody does lightning bolts, but it seemed fitting, you know, because I have electricity powers.
The suit fit well, even the integrated boots, but there was something missing. I checked the bag, nope, not in the bag. I checked around me to see if I’d dropped it, hadn’t dropped it. I felt around the suit for any strange lumps or bumps, nothing. I didn’t have a mask. The damn mask was gone.
Great. Everybody would recognize me. Everybody would know who I was. But thinking about it, that was kinda what I wanted, wasn’t it? Was I worried about my identity? Did I really have any secrets to protect with a three inch wide strip of cloth? Yes, no, and no. I guess, Voltage, was going to be the public face of Mike Womack. Great. So much for being a masked vigilante. Suits me fine. The chicks will dig it. And anyway, what could be the big deal about not having a secret identity.
I tossed my clothes into the bag and tossed the bag into the car. It was time to go heroing. I beeped the car locked and stuffed the keys into my pocket. Or rather, I would have stuffed the keys into a pocket if I had one. This was going to be an issue. I couldn’t in good faith leave the keys in the car and I didn’t have one of those little magnetic boxes under the wheel well. What was I going to do with the keys? Suddenly I knew why so many costumed crime fighters have utility belts. I hadn’t wanted one because I thought it broke up the line of my suit. What to do, what to do.
I tried putting the keys in my boot, but the suit was too tight and it created a little stabbing hurt. Same problem with slipping them into a glove. I’m a little embarrassed to say, but I had just unzipped and was tucking the keys into my briefs. When, of course, the couple across the street decided to pay attention to what I was doing. I gave a little shrug and tossed a smile at them. What can you do? I’ve been caught in more embarrassing situations by people I’ll actually have to see again.
I had my hand on my zipper when a beetle-ship the size of a city bus flew over us, strafing the buildings with pink blasts from twin laser cannons. Without thinking I dashed across the street and tackled the couple to the ground. Laser fire crashed over us, beside us, and then the ship was gone.
There was a crash and a whoomp, and a wall of brick dust, glass chips, and smoke raced over us as the top half of the building beside us fell on top of my car. Completely burying it, the Dodge, the whole street, and piling up against the force field twenty feet high. I’d managed to save us, with nine feet to spare. That’s when I heard the tornado sirens going off, the sound of emergency vehicles, and ominous crashes and strange whoomps. This was an all-out attack. We were in real trouble.
“That was close,” I said, and another building top crashed into the street amongst a cloud of glass and brick, “you folks are safe as you can be. Get off the streets. Find someplace, I don’ know, underground maybe. I’ve got to do something.”
I turned away from them and zipped my suit. I heard the guy mutter a stumbling thanks as I pulled my house key off the ring, shoved it into my glove, and tossed the rest of the ring into the rubble. I wasn’t going to need that anymore.
I tried one more time to get airborne. I pushed myself, strained with the effort, but I couldn’t even get myself to feel lighter, let alone put any air under my feet.
“Stay safe.” I told them and I ran in the only direction that made sense, toward the Champions Headquarters.
The city was a riot of noise. Sirens, those of a city under attack and those of the emergency vehicles responding to the attack, screamed and echoed through the city. The Qularr ships odd whizzing whir came and went with each sweep and were always followed by the zap-snap of lasers and the thunder of explosions. The horrible crying sounds of steel and cement buildings bending and twisting under the tortured assault and the beatific sound of shattered glass showering down onto the street.
The Qularr blasts had left buildings crushed and burning. Waves of heavy choking dust rolled out from the impacts and raced down the streets obscuring everything. Even the asphalt was burning where Qularr blasts had missed their target and burned into the ground. And behind it all I could hear the screams of people trapped in buildings, trapped under debris, people just screaming to get it out, so much screaming.
I’d run two blocks toward the city center, dodging cars haphazardly parked in the streets and yelling for the people I passed to get out of the street and find cover. Most of them just stared blankly back at me, their faces full of fear or shock. A few screamed for help, even though I could see they were not actually injured or in immediate danger. One man demanded that, ‘you damn capes need to take care of this mess.’ Which was kinda my thought, but at this point all I could do was run. I had no plan. No thought other than, I need to get to the Champion’s headquarters, then we can stop these damn aliens.
My throat was sore and I felt like I’d been breathing hot sand when I found Sergeant Garrett standing in the street, shooting his revolver up at a departing Qularr ship. Next to him, on either side, the road was burning in long, darkly smoking streaks. Had he just had a showdown with an alien ship? He was lucky to not be a twitching blob melded with the asphalt. His gun clicked empty, he ejected the clip, slammed another into its place, holstered his weapon, and started reloading the empty clip from his belt.
Without even looking at me he said, “What’ll I call you son?”
“Voltage,” I said, surprised to have gotten it out without stumbling over my real name.
“I’m Sergeant Garrett and I’m damn glad to meet you. I’m assuming you’ve got some power and are not just some sort of fan boy poser.”
“Yes, sir. I’m the real deal. I’m looking to zap some aliens,” I said flashing sparks from both hands.
“I haven’t heard of you, but I’d say, you arrived just in time to make a name for yourself.”