as narrated by Margaret “Thundercrash” Pasternak
There’s a thing about having great powers that most people don’t get. Oh sure, there’s the great responsibility that comes with them. Everyone knows about that. What they don’t know is that with great power also comes the kind of problems that great power can’t solve.
I can fly for example, but that doesn’t help when I’m running late to pick up my boyfriend. He’d very kindly offered to pick up the materials we needed to repair my dorm room before I get kicked off campus for destroying it when robot doubles of my family showed up to kidnap me (with great powers also comes great weirdness). That meant I had the job of getting the truck to transport the stuff he was buying. Getting the truck hadn’t been a problem, it was getting it through rush hour traffic that was a nightmare. I could fly over the traffic, and I was strong enough to lift the truck but putting the two together was a bad idea for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the nimbus of electricity that surrounded me when I flew.
“All units in the vicinity of Grossboy’s Hardware: reports of a 116 in progress within the building. Perp is described as armed and armored. FBMA agent Aegis is on site.” the police radio told me as I stared at a sea of traffic that was poking forward at a brisk five miles an hour. Hearing the message I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on my left palm. A “116” was a “Power Related Crime”, specifically a robbery.
“Did it have to be today?” I grumbled. “Couldn’t the idiot at least wait another fifteen minutes!”
Partly I was grumpy because I’d missed lunch. James and I were supposed to have a romantic little meal before diving into the repair work and that couldn’t happen until I picked him up. The other reason I was grumpy was that James was not only at Grossboy’s Hardware, he was Aegis, which meant he was right in the middle of what was happening. Any plans for a romantic lunch, or romance in general, would be on hold until he could get done filling out paperwork and giving a deposition for whatever idiot had decided to rob a hardware store of all things.
Sometimes I think we’re cursed. We’ve been dating for six months and I could count on one hand the number of dates we’d been on that hadn’t been interrupted by “work” in some way. On the upside it was never boring when I was with him, and the few dates that hadn’t been interrupted? I still got a little flushed thinking of those.
Being stuck in traffic had a way of making me forget about that though. Instead I gritted my teeth, clenched the wheel harder, and looked for any openings where I could pull over.
James didn’t need my help. As Aegis he’s all but indestructible and he’d been in the hero game for long enough that taking down someone stupid enough to rob a hardware store was something he could do in his sleep. After fighting my way over to the breakdown lane for what felt like forever, I parked the truck and put the hazard lights on. That wasn’t going to do the traffic a bit of good, but the rental company would be a lot happier with me leaving their vehicle here than if I took it into a fight with an armored villain.
I got out of the truck and noticed that the breakdown lane gave me enough room to get a nice running start before I took to the air, so I started jogging.
“Mnemosyne grant me your gift of obfuscation!” I called out. Being the mortal champion of Zeus comes with certain perks. One of them is that I can call on the goddess of memory to make sure that anyone who sees or tries to record me transforming into my battle form forgets who I am. Mnemosyne’s gift even affects electronic recordings because, well, she’s a deity, that’s how she wants it to work and nobody’s in much of a position to argue with her on it.
I felt the divine gift settle over me and brought my hands together in a crash that was way out of proportion with any clap I could have actually made. Zeus’s power surged through me at my summons and I lifted off from the ground with an explosion of sparks.
Despite being surrounded by a lightning bolt, I don’t actually fly at the speed of light. Maneuvering would be brutal if I did, and I suspect there’d be a lot of other problems as well. Instead I cruised along at my optimal combat speed. I can fly faster than that but experience has taught all of us champions that were there’s one villain around, other problems are sure to follow. I regretted that bit of wisdom when I arrived at Grossboy’s though.
The armored villain was there alright. Floating about just above the parking lot. Oh and he was trying to strangle my boyfriend.
If I hadn’t known that James was perfectly fine, I might have reacted a bit rashly at seeing that. The ten foot wide lightning bolt that I called down on them was really a model of restraint on my part.
When the smoke cleared, both the armored guy and James were back on the ground. The armored guy was out for the count from the look of things, while James was dusting himself off and appeared none the worse for the wear.
“You have excellent timing Thundercrash!” he said to me before bending down to inspect the still-sparking power armor. I gave him points for remembering to call me by my heroic name instead of “Maggie”. I’d slipped a few times and called him “James” in public but a quick invocation to the memory goddess had sorted that out.
“Who was this guy and, apart from the Fates hating us, why was he robbing a hardware store?” I asked.
“Well, the guy inside the suit called himself PulseWatt, but the guy who did that..” James gestured to large hole in the exterior wall of the store, “He called himself ‘Doctor Wyrd’.”
“I’ve never heard of either of them.” I said.
“I’m pretty sure this was PulseWatt’s first time out. Maybe Doctor Wyrd’s too, but I got a bad vibe off him.” James said.
“How so?” I asked. Thanks to his patron, Athena, James had the kind of intuition that it was a really good idea to listen to.
“PulseWatt was willing to back down. I’d talked him out of the whole thing. Then Doc Wyrd zapped him and took control of the armor. He said there was an automated system running it, but he was aware of what it was doing and was probably calling the shots at a high level.” James explained. I nodded. What distinguished a “tinkerer” from a “gadgeteer” was that “tinkerers” usually let other people work with the devices they came up with whereas a gadgeteer used their devices themselves. Neither were particularly fun to fight but at least when you beat a gadgeteer you knew you’d caught the person responsible. With a tinkerer you could spend years fighting their minions and never get close to them.
“So we lock down the scene, wait for the cops to catalogue and record everything, then get the armor carted off to the Feds?” I asked him, reciting the standard litany of things we had to do for tech-based villains. Also known as the things in the way of our romantic lunch.
“Well now, that sounds like a fascinating way to spend the day. Being poked and prodded by people who were too stupid to avoid a nine-to-five job.” a voice said from the still prone armor.
James leapt at the armor and started scrambling to dismantle it. I did the same only where he was looking for latches and releases, I simply dug my fingers in and started ripping it away from the squishy, unconscious body inside it. The strength of Zeus has its perks.
“Now why ever are you in such a hurry?” Doctor Wyrd asked. “You were just standing around and chatting before. Oh, I know you’re not supposed to touch any technology that you don’t understand. Probably afraid you’ll set off a self-destruct right?”
“Something like that.” James said as he unhooked the armor’s left gauntlet.
“But now that I’ve rebooted you can see that I can set it off any time I chose.”
James and I kept silent and focused on extricating PulseWatt from his borrowed armor before it could kill him.
“You’re being very silly you know. I’d never build in a self-destruct into that kind of armor. A good self-destruct needs to be tied to a great big bomb. There’s just no room for it in a design like that.”
James looked over at me. I shrugged. I was a sophmore engineering student. That definitely didn’t qualify me to make a snap evaluation over whether a suit of ultra-tech armor could contain a bomb or not.
“If I wanted to build a self-destruct, I’d build it into a helicopter. Nice and roomy, self-mobile and so easy to maneuver around in a city.” Doctor Wyrd said from the armor’s speakers. I was tempted to crush the speakers so we wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore, but he seemed like the gloating type and it was usually best to let them ramble on. You could learn all sorts of things that like that.
The sound of helicopter blades churning the air picked up a moment after Doctor Wyrd stopped talking and I felt my heart sink into my stomach. A helicopter full of mad science explosives could level anything from the parking lot we were in to most of North America; there just wasn’t any way to tell how big the yield would be when mad genuis was all it took to repeal the laws of physics.
“And of course I’d never use just one. If you’re without a backup plan, you’re just planning for failure.” Doctor Wyrd said.
I winced. James was shaking his head. We each looked up to see not one helicopter, or even two flying towards up. No Doctor Wyrd had sprung for three of them.
“What do you want?” I asked him. Negotiating with mad science types was never a bright idea but it could provide us with a clue of what we’d be facing.
“A pony! No wait, that was my Christmas list from last year. Ah, here it is. I want to see what your limits are.” he said.
“Why? What grudge do you have against us?” James asked.
“Grudge? I don’t have a grudge against you Aegis. This is all for the cause of science!” Doctor Wyrd laughed.
“Then leave the city out of this. Name a deserted spot and we’ll be happy to fight you there.” I said. Tinkerers weren’t usually the type to fall for that sort of bait but it rarely hurt to go fishing with it.
“I’m afraid that would bias the test results. I need to study my subjects in their native habitat.”
I tore the last strap loose that was holding the armor’s helmet in place, pulled it off and crushed it. That was against general policy since sudden removal of a psionically active device ran the risk of flatlining the user. Given Doctor’s Wyrd’s remote control of the armor though, it seemed very unlikely that he’d incorporated any mental control mechanisms into it.
“We need to deal with those helicopters before they get here.” I told James once I’d waded the helmet into a tiny enough ball that I felt reasonably sure any microphone’s Doc Wyrd had in it were destroyed.
“Agreed. I’m putting in the call for a disaster team now.” he said as he keyed a message into our secure communicators.
“They won’t get here in time to stop the helicopters.” I said.
“Right, that’s going to be up to us.”
“You can’t fly.” I pointed out.
“I can if you throw me.”
“I’m not in the habit of tossing away cute boys.” I said with a teasing smile.
“Cute? I thought I was more ‘ruggedly handsome’.” he complained.
“And humble too. Come on let’s do this before they can get any closer.” I said.
James took my offered hand and I began to swing him around and around. With each rotation we gained speed until the sheath of lightning that surrounds me when I fly started to form. I built up more force with a couple more rotations and the released him towards the helicopter that was coming in from the north.
The moment I let go, James curled into a wildly spinning ball and shot towards helicopter trailing the sparks that clung to him from my aura. He hit the helicopter like a cannon ball and there was no city shattering explosion that followed. That was good enough for me, so I rose into the air and flew towards the helicopter that was coming in from the east.
With two helicopters to account for, my plan had been to knock the first one to the ground as fast as possible (potentially in a shower of disconnected pieces if it no one was on board). Then I’d smash the next one. I admit it wasn’t much of a plan, but as the champion of Zeus planning wasn’t exactly my forte.
In a sense it was good that I hadn’t wasted a lot of time on the plan because it fell apart the moment I got within range of the first helicopter.
“Oh I so wanted to test this!” Doctor Wyrd’s voice boomed out from loudspeakers amped up so they were audible over the roar of the helicopters blades. “Shrinky Stasis Ball! Go!”
A metal sphere shot from a launching tube on the underside of the helicopter. As it flew towards me it split open and I saw what looked like a black hole inside it. It felt like a black hole too as it dragged me in, compressing me the closer I got to it. I struggled to fly free of the tidal effect but it felt like there was a bubble of space around me that was shrinking inwards. The Power of Zeus could have shattered a barrier but this was too abstract to punch my way out of.
As I spiraled down into the sphere’s interior, I heard Doctor Wyrd laughing like a school boy.