Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Self-Taught Superheroes, Part Nineteen

The portal chamber was huge. I mean, I was expecting something pretty big, because this was Lord Raptor and the portal chamber was the showpiece of his big plan to conquer a thousand worlds and stuff, so I knew his ego was going to make him overcompensate for...something. (Well, I mean, I also noticed that he did make his personal armor with a really silly-looking codpiece. But I'm refusing to guess why.) But the logistics of it made it even bigger.

After all, the whole thing was designed to move an army through. You needed to be able to file tanks into that thing three or four abreast, wheel airplanes and fly helicopters. The staging area on this side alone could probably have hosted a couple of games of football back to back. (And it opened out to the outside, which would have made me more nervous if Kevin hadn't insisted that he'd fused the door controls. Of course, knowing what I know now about Kevin, that actually makes me even more nervous in hindsight.) And the portal itself...it was monstrous. It dwarfed me. And in case you didn't think that sounded impressive because of my size, it dwarfed Captain Light, whose hair I have to stand on tippytoes to ruffle. This thing was giant, and it kind of intimidated us.

"You sure I can power this whole thing?" Josh said, looking a little bit nervous.

"Positive," Kevin said, cinching a weird metal band that looked sort of like the offspring of a blood pressure cuff and Robocop's armor around Josh's right arm. He began hooking up another one around the left. "You're powering a force field that can stop tank shells, discharging enough energy with each punch to dent battleship steel, and oh yeah, you're also projecting a psychokinetic field that can move two hundred pounds of mass at sixty miles an hour against the pull of gravity. And I'm guessing you don't get tired doing any of that, right?"

"Um...not sure," Josh said. "I mean, I don't exactly know what 'tired' feels like, so..." He flexed experimentally, and the cuff moved with him. "But you think that's more power than a nuclear reactor?"

Kevin fluttered his hand back and forth. "Well, I'm always going to side with the reactor, don't get me wrong, but...your energy source is a lot less lossy. There's no heat, no radiation, only a little bit of visible light...we can tap your energy directly, unlike a reactor, which is basically just a fancier way of boiling water to run a steam-powered turbine. I mean, I'm always working on ways to reduce the loss, but you can only go so far before you run into Maxwell's Demon, you know? Now, you...your body is doing some things that would reduce a lot of very talented physicists to nervous wrecks. Lucky for you I'm not a lot of physicists." He plugged a cable as thick as my wrist into each of the cuffs. "In fact, I'm just one." He paused. "Um. Little grammar joke, there."

Josh just nodded. He really did look pretty nervous about this whole thing. Then again, I'd probably have looked nervous if a physicist with crazy mad-scientist hair said he was going to use me as a living battery to power a teleportation jaunt halfway across the country. That was our plan, in case it wasn't clear to everyone. Josh, better known as Captain Light, was going to single-handedly power a dimensional portal that a full nuclear reactor couldn't get going for more than a few seconds at a time so that our seventy-odd hostages could scramble through it into the middle of Yankee Stadium (we needed a big open space, and we wanted somewhere public so that Lord Raptor wouldn't be able to go after them in retaliation. And John Q. Public is a Sox fan.) So yeah, I was learning that real life was like the comics in one key aspect--we came up with some pretty crazy stuff and passed it off as a "plan".

Kevin tightened up a few more connections on the portal end, then flicked a few switches. "Okay, co-ordinates are set...receptors are aligned...attractors are spinning...we're all set here, just waiting for power on your end."

"How do I do that?" Josh asked. "I mean, I don't normally think about using my power. It just sort of...happens. When I hit things, they break, when things hit me, they break...it's not really conscious, you know?"

Kevin shrugged. "I don't know. Try to hover or something."

Josh closed his eyes, slowly lifted an inch or three off the ground...and the portal began to open. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. It looked like the desert on a really hot day, the kind where the air is shimmering in the heat like you're watching it all through a veil of tears, but at the same time, it was spinning, too. The wall on the other side of the portal looked distorted, warped and almost melted in a weird, sickening way...and then it resolved itself into another place. A place with green grass, and a throng of cheering fans whose cheering slowly stopped dead.

We all watched in total fascination. It seemed so surreal, like everything we'd ever believed about our world had just gone and dissolved. It seemed like some sort of crazy, big-screen TV with perfect sound and perfect picture. I almost didn't believe it was real until the baseball rolled through it.

That snapped us all out of our stupor. "Go!" I shouted to the hostages. "Go, run, move, go go go go go!" I realized I sounded like Biff McLargeHuge or something, but I couldn't stop myself. The hostages didn't need my encouragement, that was for sure. They saw the outside world for the first time in a month and they ran for it. I helped the last few through, the ones who'd gotten sick or injured during their stint of hard labor, and then made a last quick scan around for stragglers.

What I saw was John Q. Public staggering to his feet, and Lord Raptor already at the side door hammering away at the keypad.

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