The big decision I had to make was whether to wear the suit or take it with me. Sure, I know popular wisdom says you should wear it under your ‘street’ clothes so that you’re ready to go when danger threatens, a shot rings out, or a baby gets caught in a tree; that sort of thing. But have you ever tried wearing one of these things. They’re not as skin tight and weightless as the comics would have you believe. Sure they’re form fitting, but it’s more like having a quarter inch think, leather body suit on. And it weighs close to ten pounds. Not exactly the thing you want to wear under jeans and a tee shirt. Besides, your shoes never fit over the feet. You end up with your yellow feet sticking out of your business suit and that’s a dead giveaway every time.
I know, you were thinking these things are spandex or lycra; like one of those speed skater outfits from the Olympics. Those would be great for hiding your super identity; you could wear them under anything. But spandex doesn’t hold up well to bullets, knives, fire, electricity, or even baseball bats wielded with intent to harm. Spandex doesn’t provide any protection from getting hit in the gut, kicked in the nards, or even the simple scrapes and bruises you get from getting thrown around like a ragdoll.
In short, those types of suits don’t do a very good job of dealing with any of the things that a modern hero has to deal with; they’re just very tight, very slick, and very light. Those last two are things that a modern super suit is not. Anyway, mine was sitting next to me in a blue plastic bag, fresh from the tailor where I’d had some alterations done.
I’m Michael Womack. Call me Mike.
No, that’s not right, I’m Voltage. I’m a hero. A superhero. No, wait, can’t say that, trademark rights and all that jazz. I’m a masked vigilante. A costumed crusader. I’m a Millennium City’s newest, and soon to be greatest, hero. And I was about to stand Millennium City on its ear. Just you watch. Champions HQ here I come.
I hit my signal and turned left onto Jefferson Ave and there it was, the headquarters of the Champions. Even among the skyscrapers of Millennium City it was distinctive, shorter than I’d expected, but still, it is the most technologically advanced building in the most advanced city in the country, maybe the world. The Champions Headquarters is a twelve story purple and silver sword palace right on the international riverfront. A reminder to be ever vigilant against the threat to human dignity and a symbol of justice and liberty for all.
If the media is to be believed it is part stronghold, part laboratory, and part embassy. It is from here that Millennium City’s heroes issue forth to save the city, the country, and even the world from a whole host of threats against humanity. Beings from other planets, other realities, and other dimensions are said to visit the tower with an uncertain frequency. And it is there, probably in its upper levels, or deepest basements, somewhere inside that tower, The Outsider is said to create his incredible inventions. Many a hero has called that building his stronghold in the years since nineteen eighty-six.
Terrorism, war, crime; you name it and there’s a hero who specializes in it. There’s this one guy, calls himself Numberz, yes with a z, he specializes in hunting down money laundering schemes. I guess he’s some sort of super computer geek or something. I never met the guy, but it takes all kinds and he’s doing good in the way he’s best at. Really, that’s all any of us can do.
I passed the building three times before I realized that I wasn’t going to be just pulling up into their driveway. And during business hours on a Tuesday, I wasn’t having any luck find an open meter. My circles got wider and wider as I searched for a parking spot or a parking structure that had an opening. I must have been six blocks away when I felt it the first time.
There was a sudden spike in the air, a tingling energy like you might expect right before a lightning strike. The feeling built upon itself for a few seconds and then it, well, it felt like it popped in the air like a soap bubble. That energy dissipated quickly, but not quite making it back to feeling normal, before it began to spike up again moments later.
Each time my hair rose on my arms and up off my head like I’d been shocked. And that shouldn’t happen. I’ve got lots of experience with electricity and it never does that to me. It happened again and again, must have happened a dozen times, like the air was full of huge bursting bubbles of tension. Each time my ears buzzed with unheard vibrations and I couldn’t help but sneeze three times. I always sneeze three times, even when it’s normal sneezing. I’m not sure why that is.
The car in front of me slowed and drifted left, out of its lane and into oncoming traffic. Or what should have been oncoming traffic. Cars and trucks were stopping. People on the sidewalks were staring up at the sky. Others were coming out of stores and restaurants to look. People were pointing. Some people were getting out of their cars in the street. Others were accelerating away.
Something was going on. With all these people milling about there was going to be a big old accident. What was this? Had Defender flow past on his way to the Champions HQ? Hadn’t these people ever seen a hero before? That seemed unlikely given the city we were in. I weaved through the intersection of Washington and 8th before I took my eyes off the street and looked up to see what all the fuss was about. That buzzing, pop occurred again and a, I kid you not, a space ship warped in out of nowhere and started dropping something on the city. I would have thought they were bombs, but there were no explosions.
I yanked the aux cord out of my stereo and punched the button for WNPR, the local news station. The first word I made out was Qularr. The Qularr were attacking Millennium City.
Traffic was at a stop ahead of me, nowhere to go there. I swung the car around in the street, I needed to get off the road, park this thing, and get myself into action. I swung onto Lincoln and the radio went to static, was I getting too excited? Sometimes I create my own kind of electrical interference. But it didn’t feel like me. A huge ship floated into the sky above, casting a shadow dark as twilight on the streets below all the while dropping those strange not-bombs. I needed to get out of the car, this was the chance I’d come looking for.
The air took on an oppressive weight and the feel of it buzzed along my skin.
I saw a pair of missiles streak across the sky in the near distance of the skyline and there was a flash and boom. We were fighting back and I was stuck in traffic. This was completely unacceptable.
I was behind a pickup truck and just about to shoot around it when the air began to glow a bright amethyst color. My skin burned with the buzz in the air. It felt like I’d been swarmed by burning flies or exposed to a hundred sparklers on the fourth of July. And then I was jerked to a stop as a steadily rising field of blue energy rose quick and steady up from the street; bisecting my car, the building to my left, and rising up toward the Qularr ship hanging above the Trust Building like a giant dead cockroach.
An oncoming Dodge struck the barrier at speed. I watched the occupants get blasted by their airbags as the front of the car crumpled and the whole mess came to an immediate stop with the impact of the glowing, seemingly insubstantial barrier that now stretched a hundred feet into the air and was still rising.
The Qularr were sealing off the area. Was it something they wanted here or were they just splitting the city into easily conquered blocks? I wished at that moment that I had paid more attention in history class. I’m sure they must have touched on this, right; I mean they did attack once before. This was the kind of stuff they should teach in high school.
I didn’t know what they were planning or what they wanted. But I did know one thing; they hadn’t counted on me being here. I jumped out of the car and surged upward toward the mother ship. Or I tried to anyway. Did I mention I can fly? I can, usually.
What? Why was I driving? Really, that’s what you’re wondering about at this point in the story? Really? Okay. I like cars. I enjoy driving. I can carry more stuff in a car than I can in a backpack when I fly. It’s a power, it’s cool to fly, but it’s not terribly convenient at times. Can we get back to it now, what with the alien invasion and all.
I surged upward toward the alien battleship. My feet didn’t leave the ground. The charge of static that surrounded me felt somehow numb, like it couldn’t spread out. Whatever this purple force field was, it wasn’t just a wall, it was dampening superhuman abilities, squelching electrical signals, weighing on the air like a heavy wet blanket, and it was going to be trouble.
I gave a surge of power and lifted my hand in front of me. My fingers sparked with electricity, it took a little more effort than usual, but I rolled that electricity around. I let the lightning slide over my fingers, pushing power into it, rolling it from left to right and then back again, and then with a slash I pushed it out. I lanced it into a parking meter and watched coins shower onto the sidewalk and into the street as it exploded. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t particularly hard. I could do something, I wasn’t helpless.
The man and woman in the Dodge were climbing out of their car. I did a quick visual and saw that they weren’t bleeding, seemed okay, if slightly stunned. But I did the vocal check anyway, asked if they were all right, told them to stay there and call for help. They waved me off distractedly. My good deeds for the day had just begun.
I reached into the backseat, knocked my knuckles against the amethyst barrier and realized that the force field separated me from my backpack, which sat on the back seat. I thought for a moment, was there anything in there that I needed? My cell phone? My laptop? Neither of which would probably do me much good right now. Nothing I needed from there, then. Time to try on the new suit.