“That chase got out of hand,” said Mender. “Do you know how many cars you wrecked?”
I shrugged. “If a person doesn’t understand to get out of the way of a rampaging semi truck being chased by a horde of cops, there’s only so much I can do. I can’t pull them into the cab to give them remedial lessons on basic cognition.”
“You damaged a cop car,” he fired back.
“It was that, or throw a wounded superhero down onto the highway as it sped by. I chose the option less likely to kill him.” I folded my arms in front of my chest and nodded.
“At least you weren’t stealing anything valuable.” Oh yeah, hadn’t told him about that. He probably doesn’t need to know about all that anyway. Can’t see how that knowledge helps matters.
“I disabled one of the guys giving your people trouble in a most excellent way, dude. I even got most of his leg piece for analysis.” I held up the bloody appendage. “Don’t worry. I swept it for bugs. Only oddities I found were a couple of tabs from canned drinks.”
“Can you tell me anything about it yet?” Mender asked. An arm popped forward from his headrest and held a monocle out in front of his eye as he pivoted to take in the cybernetic limb.
“It’s mad science,” I said. “Physics bowing to the whims of brains thinking thoughts far in advance of what you know of as science.”
“Ahem,” he said, his monocle shaking itself.
“Ok, so maybe not you specifically, but a general ‘you’ for humans,” I told him.
“You too, human,” he reminded me. I shuddered.
“Anyway, this thing wasn’t properly installed, so it was going to screw up anyway. Ideally, something like this should be attached to better bones. Like take out the old ones and put in something new that can handle the stress. Might have even ripped out more easily because of that. I bet his feet were killing him, but I didn’t get a good look at him or his footwear.” It looked like a big cuff that attached to the calf, with a series of pistons on the back end. The one in the middle glowed bright yellow, as if it was clear. They appeared to be able to bend to accommodate different strides, which is one of those areas that wouldn’t make a lot of sense given its industrial metal aesthetic.
“That yellow bit, I think, is either the power supply or it leads directly to it. I’m being cautious getting to it, since sometimes those things blow up. Ya know, either on purpose as an anti-tampering mechanism, or accidentally because someone didn’t pay enough attention to the dangers of glowy thingies. And the first rule of Glowy Thingies 101 is that you never underestimate the explositivity of a glowy thingie that might be a power source. Naturally, the place I was trained made sure that anyone who survived the course paid very clear attention to that part. The ones who did, passed. The one who didn’t, passed overhead in a ventilation duct. Pink mist is a pain to deodorize.
“Are there any calling cards or logos?” Mender asked. It was as good a question as any.
I shook my head. “Haven’t spotted anything yet. Always a chance. You know how villains are, after all. Running around, so proud and egotistical. They keep wanting to put their name or symbol all over the place to make up for their lack of accomplishments.” I paused for a moment. “Not all of them can be as great as me, after all.”
“Proceed with your examination with all necessary precautions. I will not hesitate to have you brought back to life just so I can kill you if you harm any students with your experiments,” the monocle flipped up and withdraw into its little arm, which pulled back into his headrest.
“Yes, yes, you’ll hang me upside down, cut out my liver, and give it back to me as a suppository. All the usual threats. Nothing I haven’t heard countless times before. One guy used to tell me that he was going to crawl into the bathroom and slit my throat, then use my throat hole if I took too long. Ah, those careless days of youth. Anyway, off to go play with the nuclear-powered machine we hardly understand.”
I did take it back to tinker with it in the library for a bit. It went together so well, and showed definite signs of being personally machined. That didn’t really surprise me. If someone could put together a hundred of these and outfit the wearers properly, they’d have a hell of an army on their hands.
I’ve stated before just how overpowered I think superspeed is, but this machine makes it somewhat weaker. Sure, it gives anyone superspeed regardless of powers, but that means regular folks whose bodies can’t handle it so well also get those powers. And there’s so many things a speedster needs to survive. I’m surprised the guy could even see; maybe I should have pulled out one of his eyes to be sure. Without more extensive modifications, the guy I beat up would always have a speed limit. Just catching up to me might have pushed him past it a little, and not in a good way. People do not get stronger immediately after tearing their body up.
It was all mechanical. Nothing digital for me to try and manipulate. If I had a proper room, I might have risked cracking it open. Without something that could handle an explosive, I reached the extent of my exploration before it got to that point. It’s a shame, too. It’s always fun to learn about new ways of powering fancy gizmos, and I wouldn’t mind a bit of superspeed added to my arsenal.
Caught a bit of lunch with Leah, who has taken to visiting me there in the library. Times like this, I wonder if she still has that stupid crush. Still nice to see her, and it might just be that she sees me as a friend due to my influence on her life. No need for me to imagine more there, especially in my present situation. Maybe I should get better about names. A times I’m tempted to think of the hilarity that would ensue if half the student body was grinding up against me. After all, the others from that little group I was in with the vampires upstate stop by sometimes. Cam and pigtail girl, and that other guy with the glass powers. I should get better about their names, but they’re probably just hoping to absorb some residual awesome just being near me.
While taking a break to examine possible adjustments to my gauntlets, I received an alert from a bug I left in Number Three’s hospital room. It wasn’t that hard to find a guy checked into a hospital for those kinds of injuries in that incident. I’d initially searched because I figured they didn’t have their own services. Then, bam, found him checked in to Crater Probably. That’s short for Crater Probably Memorial Hospital, which was dedicated in 1979 in honor of Judge Joseph Crater.
I’d stopped by to plant a bug at his room and install a backdoor into the computer network so I could keep track of his medical records. If I want, his life is one moved decimal point away from ending.
The bug that went off indicated people had entered the room, and they weren’t at the normal nurse intervals. I took the bug off standby so it would start transmitting video and audio. I got faces, sure, but what made me hurry off was the fellow who stopped by with lots of metal blades sticking out of a backpack. He pulled it off while in the room, adjusting a pair of metal wings. Sadly, the definition on my bug was too low to get a great look at them, but I’d taken a good picture of them at that convention a short while back.
I didn’t bring any of my young visitors along for my next magic trick: making a jackass superhero disappear!
I made it to Crater Probably Memorial in pretty good time, likely because I could leap tall buildings in a single bound. If cars could just drive through buildings, they’d make good time, too. I thought I could catch him leaving, but he didn’t exit at ground level like his friends. I looked up then, toward the roof, then began to climb with careful jumps up the side. I found him there, having changed into a costume with a flag on his chest that left off most stars from its flag. On his back were unfolded a pair of metal wings, more like solid pieces of metal with thin slats at the edges. Not really birdlike. That lump in the middle turned out to be a pair of small jet engines attached to a central block.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” he asked, turning my way. He shoved a flight helmet onto his head quickly, as if remembering he was supposed to have a secret identity, in theory. I punched something in on my belt, the hologram projectors showing me as a baboon.
“I’m your worst nightmare: what your momma dreams of fucking at night.” I laughed and turned to run and jump off the edge. My legs powered me across the street to the side of another building, where I hit the side and pushed off. I bounded my way down the street as he took off, engines screaming in the air.
His flight gave him a clear mobility advantage, and oh, look at that, he’d brought a gun into a hospital. He pulled out a submachine gun I didn’t bother zooming in to identify, and opened fire on the street. Another fan of automatic fire in a crowded place. That, more than my appearance, sent people fleeing in all directions. I didn’t see his comrades anywhere. They got out of there surprisingly fast.
On the one hand, I couldn’t kill two birds with my stones. On the other, I needed to work on keeping this guy low enough for even one good punch.
Not that he was trying to avoid that. He swooped down to shoot at me, then pulled up when I didn’t really react to gunfire. I ran forward and grabbed his leg before he could. He didn’t lift me up at first, but the engines whined and he started to gain some ground. I smiled under my helmet as I got an idea. In my head, I started to play “The Cyborg Fights,” and reached down with my other hand to crank up the leg power. Then I maneuvered myself right underneath him and aimed him up. He started to gain speed with my weight, but I yanked his leg around and let go.
He shot upward before he spun around head over heels. It threw him off from being straight up, but I could adjust my aim. He was too focused on getting straightened out in the middle of all his spinning, not really gaining any ground in any direction because of it.
I knelt and jumped, my legs propelling me upward at furious speed toward the spinning man. I think he saw me just before I reached him, looking with fear down between his open legs.
My punch connected, and not with mere skin and muscle. Ok, with mere skin and muscle, but the skin and muscle of the human anus. My fist passed through as if it wasn’t even there, tearing and stretching effortlessly. And while I could feel shit around my hand, that was nothing compared to how shitty my opponent felt. His screams were like a fire alarm through my helmet. For a moment, I forgot the jet engines were trying to compensate, because I couldn’t hear them. Just the scream of a man with a damaged ass because the kind of lube he needed could more accurately be called “elbow grease” at this point. I uncurled a single finger of my fist, the middle one, to let him know what I thought of him.
I reached up with my other hand and smashed one of the engines. We both fell. I handled it better than him, but he did survive. He’ll be in the hospital along with his friend for awhile. Might never walk again, and not due to spine damage. But he’ll live. After a bit of straining to pull my hand out, I rolled over the shocked and helpless hero to take a closer look at those wings. They’d been fixed to him too, bolted onto his back in multiple places. Lucky for him, they tore off more easily where the supports met the main contraption. I tore it free and left with my little souvenir.
Mender called me into his office to give me a little talk while I soaked my glove in a variety of cleaning agents. “You nearly killed him,” his digitized voice said critically.
I shook my head. “No, no, there’s no need to exaggerate. I didn’t near kill ’em, I just rectum.”