Friday, April 25, 2008

"Not My Day" (in fact, not my week)

Friday already, huh? It's not been a pleasant week. Frankly, I'd skip blogging altogether this week if it wasn't for the fact that those "Storytelling Engines" posts look silly right up next to each other. I'm exhausted, I'm feeling decidedly uncreative, and in those situations, there's really only one thing to do: Put up something old that was cluttering up my hard drive and never got published anywhere, but that I sort of like. This is a very short story I wrote to submit to the 'City of Heroes' comic book, back when there was such a thing and they took fan submissions. It's about life as a low-level superhero, and it's called...

Not My Day

Kevin stepped off the tram slowly, his armor still heavy and unfamiliar on his body as he walked the streets of King’s Row for the first time. Everything felt new to him—the sounds of gunshots in the still dusk air, his freshly-laminated I.D. card that proclaimed his new identity as “Neutrino Man” to the citizens of Paragon City, and the tip his friend Paco Sanchez, who worked in Galaxy City’s hospitals, had given him.

“The Circle of Thorns,” Paco had said. “They perform rituals on the rooftops in King’s Row at night. I don’t know what they’re doing, but I know they kidnap people to do it…and that those people are never seen again.” Kevin was still a bit new to the hero gig, but he knew that was exactly the sort of thing he had to stop.

He looked at the setting sun, then at the tenement buildings that rose up all around him. “Rooftops,” he muttered to himself. “Good. Very specific.” He picked a direction and started walking.

He didn’t walk long. After only two blocks, he heard a scream from up above him. It was a woman, shouting, “What are you doing to me?” A deep, sepulchral voice responded, “The ceremony must continue!” It sounded like what he was looking for. Kevin looked for a quick way up the building.

There was a fire escape about halfway along the building, and Kevin quickly jumped for it…only to find that his armor weighed him down just a little too much to do more than brush against its lower rungs. “Stupid nuclear regulations,” he gasped, making another futile jump. “I tell them and tell them, I could get by with half the lead shielding, but…” He carefully hopped onto a nearby fence, balancing tenuously. From there, he leapt to the fire escape…but took a step too many, and plunged back to earth.

“Not my day,” he grumbled, leaping back to the fence and then back to the fire escape. This time, he managed to hold his position and started his way up the ladder. Ominous rumbles filled the sky above him as swirls of green lightning flashed overhead.

Three stories up now, and Kevin was really hoping that whatever this ritual was, it took awhile. He was also mentally redesigning his armor to drop seventeen pounds of redundant systems, and making plans to join a gym.

At seven stories up, the fire escape simply stopped. Kevin looked up, and saw three more stories between him and the roof. “Why didn’t I just go inside and ask if there was an elevator?” he asked himself. He made a desperate leap, grabbing at a window ledge ten feet above him, and managed to just barely hook it. Another leap put him on another window ledge, and another…was just slightly misjudged. Kevin saw the ground rushing up at him, and plans for boot-jets unfolded with desperate clarity just before the impact knocked them right back out of his head.

The armor’s chronometers showed he’d only been unconscious for a few minutes. He could still hear the ritual overhead. Thankfully, the armor also protected him from the seven-story fall he’d just taken…and that ‘unnecessary’ lead shielding had protected King’s Row from the effects of a portable backpack-mounted nuclear reactor hitting the ground.

Another jump to the fence. Another jump to the fire escape. Kevin wasn’t sure how long he had, but he knew he was running out of time. ‘Running’ had featured far more prominently into his day than he’d planned it to, given that he only started this superhero gig as a way of promoting his portable energy sources. But as he reached the top of the fire escape and started his wild jumps again, he knew that there was an innocent woman up there depending on him. As he clung to an air conditioner nine stories above the ground, pulling himself up for the last jump, he at least hoped she was cute.

Finally, he crawled onto the roof. He staggered to his feet, preparing for battle…and saw the flash of light again, thirty feet to his left. Easily misjudged from ground height. Across the alley. On another rooftop. He looked over, and saw three hooded figures in dark robes. He looked out over the alley, did a few quick velocity calculations in his head, and came up with an answer he didn’t like. He looked two stories down, at his probable landing site on another fire escape. He backed up.

“Not my day,” he muttered, as he sprinted across the roof and flung himself into space…

The End

(People who don't play 'City of Heroes' are sort of saying, "Huh," right now. People who do play 'City of Heroes' are saying, "Omigod, that is totally what I was like that first time I had to do that!")

1 comment:

Audie said...

I miss the bad old days of CoH when stores weren't marked on the map & every 10 minutes someone would /b "Where can I find CoT?" in Kings Row (and not have a jetpack to get to them).