In the near future, a teenaged boy with teleportation powers battles the forces of evil
|In an attempt to honor the memory of his friend, the late Dr. Rheingold, sixteen year old Michael Pryce, with the help of entrepreneur, Anthony Fitch, attempted to complete the doctor's last, unfinished invention, a teleportation device called Traveler. The experiment ended in disaster as an explosion destroyed the machine and hurled Michael into a hellish dimension where the demonic inhabitants granted him super human abilities and named him the herald of their assault on the Earth. In order to survive the coming months, Michael must now learn to control his new powers, come to grips with what he has seen, and search for a way to avert the coming invasion which draws nearer each day...
Returned to his old life, Michael finds his friend, Karen, romantically involved with a sleazy, twenty-year-old high school dropout. After arguing with her over her relationship, Michael learns that Fitch is alive and may have actually caused the explosion that has thrown Michael's life into turmoil. On the hunt as the Specter, Michael foils a bank robbery and scares Fitch's location out of one of the thieves. He finds Fitch, who confirms that he did purposefully destroy the Traveler project. Enraged, Michael tries to kill Fitch, only to be foiled by one of the old man's superhuman bodyguards, Dragonfly.
Michael exploits a design flaw in Dragonfly's armor that sends the super-thug flying out of control and out of the story...for now. Our hero returns home, barely escaping a roasting for skipping school. Only after he has removed his shirt, revealing his Specter costume, does he notice Karen staring at him from his bed. He has been exposed!!
"...and then I walked in on you here," Mike says, finishing his explanation of all that's happened since Dr. Rheingold's death. Karen sits, numbly on the foot of his bed.
"Oh my gosh," she says, "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. OmigoshOmigoshOmigosh!!" She speaks faster and squeakier with each garbled word.
"Shhh!" Mike hisses, whipping out a tendril from his hand to cover her mouth. Her eyes bug out.
"Uh muh guff!" she exclaims through the silken gag.
"Are you about done?" Mike asks. Karen appears to think about this seriously for some time, then nods. Mike retracts the tentacle.
"Mike, this is the coolest thing in the history of the world," she says.
"Cool?" Mike exclaims, "You think this is cool? A monster from another dimension wants to use me to come here and destroy the world. How is this cool?"
"How is it not cool?" she retorts, "So, have you thought of what your super hero name is gonna be?"
"Well, I've been calling myself Specter, but... super hero?! Karen, I am no super hero. That's Stallion's niche and he can keep it."
"Stallion's a chump, Mike, and you know it. This city hasn't seen a real hero since Goshawk left. Maybe it should be you."
"Karen I'm not--"
"Think about it," she says, placating, "That's all I ask. Will you?"
"Sure," Mike sighs. He doesn't know why he is indulging her. Now that Brian is in the picture, it doesn't look like he has a chance with her. He supposes that Karen's being involved with someone doesn't necessarily mean he'll stop being crazy about her. "Hey," he says, changing the subject, "What were you doing in my room in the first place?"
"Oh. That. I-I came over to apologize. What I said at school... that was way beyond uncalled for. It's just, you're not the only one who doesn't approve of Brian and me. I was really hoping for some support, but after the way I acted, I guess I really didn't deserve it anyway." Mike takes her hand.
"Listen," he says, "I don't like the guy, but big deal. It doesn't mean I think any less of you. You're my friend, and if you like him, I'm willing to accept that you might know better than me." It tears at Mike's heart to say these things. He really doesn't think that Mr. Brian Knight is gonna be anything but trouble. But when Karen pounces on him and hugs him tight, whispering, "Thank you," in his ear, he knows it was the right thing to say.
"Say, whatcha got there?" she asks, pointing to the notebook.
"It's Dr. Rheingold's journal," Mike replies, "Fitch had it."
"Do you want to read it, cause I can go if you--"
"No," Mike says, "No, you can stay if you want." She smiles a little bit.
"Okay." They both sit on the bed, the notebook open on Mike's lap.
The Traveler project is progressing well. I feel I am getting very close to cracking the formula to control the trajectory of the transported matter, but the big story today is my young friend Michael. Ha. "Young friend." Damn that makes me sound old. Anyway, today, he asked me a question that just stopped me dead in my tracks. He asked me how I could be sure that the accelerated particle beam would be contained within the platform. I had never even thought that might be an issue, but he mentioned it like it was the most obvious thing in the world. The kid is bright. Dangerously bright. I never would have guessed when I had him over to the lab back in September. His grasp of the mathematics and more complex theories is a little shaky, but there are days, like today, when he's so practical, so straightforward, that I wonder how I ever got along without him.
Mike remembers that day. He had just asked the question in passing, but he had nearly knocked Martin over. When he had recovered, he had acted as though Mike had rediscovered fire. Mike could feel tears welling in his eyes as he turned the page.
We eventually decided to place a glass transport pod on the platform. It will have to be specially curved to make sure it refracts all the accelerated particles back inward. It will set the project back a few weeks, but it'll be worth it if it saves some innocent bystander from having his arm teleported off.
"Two weeks," Michael thinks, dully, "I bought him two extra weeks to live."
Michael really is an extraordinary kid. I like the way he thinks. I made an appointment with my lawyer, Edwin Druille to amend my last will and testament. I want to make sure that all my equipment and notes are left to Mike. I know if I die before I can complete the project, Mike will figure it out and more importantly, he'll know just what to do with it once it's done. Me, I'm just an addle-brained science nerd. Mike's something special. He's just got a way of seeing his environment and how it all fits together. Plus, he understands how important it is to use one's unique abilities to help other people, whether your abilities manifest as skill in the realm of physics or the ability to see the practical application of things.
I just know that between the two of us, we'll be able to make something great for this little mudball of a world we live in. If my-- if our project can help one person, if one person's life can be saved by a teleporting ambulance, or one crime averted by a police officer who can be instantly on the scene, I know my life and my work will be validated.
~Dr. Martin James Rheingold,
That had been the journal's final entry. Perhaps Martin had been so preoccupied with his work in the last few months of his life that he hadn't thought to make any further entries. There is no way to know now. Michael sits there next to Karen, staring at the notebook, although he is no longer reading. For once he is totally unaware of Karen, her gentle, sweet pea-scented hair, or her small, soft hand on his shoulder.
"Mike?" she says quietly, when it is clear he has finished interpreting Dr. Rheingold's wiry handwriting, "Mike are you okay?" Michael does not reply immediately. His eyes are caught, transfixed by the last inch of the page. His lips move silently.
"I never knew his middle name was James," Mike says. He does not speak again.
"Mike?" Karen says after about ten minutes, "Mike, I have to go home now. Are you going to be alright?" Mike doesn't answer. Karen is worried, but she doesn't really know what else she can do. She gives his leg a squeeze, then gets up to leave.
"Could you turn the light out?" Mike asks suddenly as she nears the door.
"Sure," she replies, "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" But Michael's mind is gone away again. The light flicks out. The door closes. The light of a waning three-quarter moon shines through his window onto the last page of the notebook. He does not sleep for a long time.
The next day, as he walks to school, Mike sees Karen and Brian meeting on the corner ahead of him. Karen looks ecstatic. Brian looks surly, as usual. Instead of going to meet them, Mike hangs back and waits until they have gone out of sight. He'd much rather be alone than a third wheel. He trudges to school, the notebook still very much on his mind.
If I can help just one person... I know my life and my work will be validated. But now Michael is all that is left of Martin's great endeavor, an echo of his brilliant creation. It is up to him to make Martin's work worthwhile. But if he just lets it pass, if he uses his powers just to get through the day, the way he had planned after the scare with Fitch's thug, Dragonfly, will he be cheapening Dr. Rheingold's dream? Making his death for nothing? He ponders these things as he enters the high school building, and drifts through homeroom and first period Biology.
Between bio and lunch, Mike has a two hour study hall. The first twenty minutes of which are usually devoted to watching a news program intended to keep the students updated on current events. Today, current events involve a disaster at the Thoroughfare Bridge. Several of the support cables had sprung loose, tilting the bridge crazily and trapping scores of people in their cars. Mike's eyes widen as he watches the helicopters try to rescue some of the people, only to be thwarted by the tangles of steel girders and cables.
"If one person's life can be saved..." his mind recites. He shakes his head and glances at his desk.
"The city hasn't seen a real hero since Goshawk left..." his traitor mind prattles on. No! It isn't my problem, he argues with himself, I'm barely keeping my own life together here.
"He understands how important it is to use one's unique abilities to help people..." He groans, gritting his teeth and slowly shaking his head in silent negation. I don't need this-- this sense of guilty responsibility. Not now. It's not my fault Martin's dead and what I do with my powers won't bring him back. It won't change anything.
"More importantly, he'll know just what to do with it..." And he somehow does. Mike raises his hand.
"Mrs. Andrews," he says, sounding irritated, "May I please be excused?" He glanced sheepishly at Karen, whose eyes were wide and sparkling.
Buffeted by the wind, the wildly rocking bridge had become nothing more than a metal-and-asphalt deathtrap. Five ambulances and four fire trucks are parked as close as they dare to the bucking suspension bridge. Two rescue helicopters circle the scene, helplessly. The police on the ground have placed a broad plank across the broken blacktop. It is wide enough to walk across comfortably, but not strong enough to bear the weight of more than one person. There are more than a hundred people on the bridge. Two more cables have come loose thanks to the bridge's movement. The process is much too slow.
"Damn!" spits Officer Bill Jones, kicking the tire of his cruiser, "I feel so useless. Can't we do anything else, Mark?" Mark Stebbins, the Kestrel Chief of Police, has been having a rough week. A bank robbery on Monday and now this fiasco the very next day.
"I don't know. Hey! Let's get more planks over here! It's been almost ten minutes, people. Let's get it moving!" Stebbins marches off, barking orders. Jones continues to stand next to his car, rapping his fingers nervously against the window.
"Anything I can do to help?" asks Specter, appearing on the roof of the cruiser. Jones jerks away in surprise.
"Heh, I don't think so, kid. We'll hold out for the Stallion," Jones replies, recovering a little.
"Oh yeah? And what's the big lummox going to do? Punch the bridge?"
"Look, kid, get out of the way or you can spend the rest of the day watching from the back seat of that squad car you're getting your footprints all over."
"Yeah, fun as that sounds, I'm thinking... no." With that, Specter vanishes, teleporting across the gap onto the bucking bridge.
Although it appears dangerous enough, the bridge is vastly more chaotic than it looks. The tipping roadway causes cars to slide back and forth, some flipping over and grinding along on their roofs. Steel cables, still with chunks of concrete stuck to the ends, sway like Poe's pendulum with deadly, bone-crushing force. Some of the people are cowering on the sidewalks, in hope that the metal guard rails will protect them from their own mammoth, gas-guzzling vehicles. Many others are still inside their cars. Even through the airtight glass and metal, Specter can hear them scream as the bridge rocks again under the force of the high winds.
The wind is so great that the smoke usually accompanying Specter's reentry is whipped away instantly. He lands on an overturned white van and hears a whooshing noise slightly higher than the moan of the wind. A quick consultation of his spatial sense shows one of the concrete chunks coming towards him. Hoping the top ends of the cables had been secured better than the bottoms, Specter leaps into the air and snags the cable with one hand. He swings on it, letting it carry him forward over the jolting blacktop. He drops down near a group of frightened people huddling on the sidewalk.
"Quick, everyone," Specter shouts, "Grab my hands." He holds out his black-clad hands to them, but they only huddle, stupefied, helpless. Specter rolls his eyes behind his mask. "Oh gimme a break," he mumbles. Out loud, he says, "All right, then. New plan. Everyone remain absolutely still!" No one moves. "Perfect." He flings three tendrils out from each hand, which seems to be his limit in that department, and grabs six people. One of the younger women begins to scream and thrash hysterically, but Specter ignores her and ports back onto solid ground, hoping it won't be as bad as when he tried to haul Stallion along with him. It turns out to be a lot worse. He feels almost as bad as he had after making his three mile port the week before, but he hauls himself up and teleports back onto the bridge, which is now growing so dangerously unstable that the plank is no longer a viable option for the rescue workers. With no Stallion to back him up, Specter is on his own. He goes to work. In a matter of minutes he has teleported almost all of the victims into the waiting arms of the paramedics. Clambering, apelike, on one of the cables, he carefully scans the bridge with his spatial sense in a last ditch effort to find any remaining people.
Finally, he sees one last old man sitting in his car, his hands resolutely clamped onto its steering wheel. Specter ports down next to the car. He bangs on the driver's side window, shouting, "Come on out! I'm here to help you!"
"Leave me alone!" the old coot squalls bitterly, rolling his window down a crack, "I don't need your help, nor nobody else's!"
"Listen, old man! I don't particularly care whether you want to be saved or not! If you're ready to bite it, you can take some sleeping pills after I get you off this bridge!"
"Stayin right here," he practically pouts, crossing his arms over his narrow chest. Specter wastes no more time arguing. He sends a tendril through the cracked window and down to unlock the car. He opens the sedan's door and hauls the wailing old man out.
"Put me down!" he cries.
"Nope," Specter says and tries to teleport this last man to safety, only to find he has nothing left. His energy has been exhausted by the multiple ports. After standing stock still in shock for a moment, he begins to run with the old man over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. He is halfway to the end of the bridge when the whole construction gives an almighty jerk as its surface drops several feet below the level of the road.
"Oh shit," Specter says. He tries to teleport again. He can't. He breaks out into a sprint, but he knows he will be too slow. He extrudes a very long tendril, wrapping it around his arm and balling up a bunch of the silky stuff onto the end for weight and momentum. The bridge jerks down again as they get within the last quarter of the its length. There is quiet for a brief space of time, and then the last of the supports keeping the viaduct horizontal fails. It drops like a trapdoor, launching the debris, the abandoned automobiles, and the two refugees into space. Specter hurls the long, weighted tendril towards land. It arcs upward as they fall, and, as the ball rises over the heads of the rescue workers, it splits into several tentacles like an alien hand.
Each individual tentacle flails around and grips onto something, and suddenly, they all go taut. The huge crash of the falling bridge begins to subside as all watch the strange, black lines in fascination. After a few minutes, some of the police cautiously approach the ledge. A moment before they reach it, a pale, wrinkled hand reaches over onto the dusty road and gropes for purchase. Several cops rush to haul the old man up onto the ground. There is no help for the Specter, who hauls his weary body up on his own significantly reduced steam.
Although tired, Specter watches in fatigued satisfaction while the last of the victims are loaded into rescue vehicles and taken away to the hospital. He plods up the street, head down. Even his normally sleek black cape seems to hang, dusty and worn-out, from his shoulders. All of a sudden, there is an explosion of clicks and light. The news media has trampled the police barricade and are charging him, cameras at the ready, microphones held high.
"Sir! Sir!" they cried.
"Sir, can you tell us what happened here?"
"Sir, who are you?"
"Are you in any way affiliated with the Stallion?"
"Was it you who helped Stallion save National City Bank yesterday?"
Specter is so surprised, he momentarily forgets his exhaustion and teleports up onto a nearby roof. His body screams in protest to this move, but he is glad to have escaped the reporters. Even if he has to be a superhero, it doesn't mean he has to be a glory hog like Stallion. He has to rely on his costume's powers to get him back to school, as that last port seems to have completely depleted his reserves of energy.
Back at school, Mike stealthily, returns to the boy's bathroom stall where he has left his street clothes. He is surprised to learn that he still has five minutes of class time left before lunch. He returns to study hall.
"Welcome back, Mr. Pryce," says Mrs. Andrews curtly, "Would you care to tell me just where you've--oh my! Are you feeling sick, Mike? You look terrible."
"Yeah," Mike replies, "I feel like ten miles of bad road."
"Do you need to see the nurse?"
"The nurse? No. I just need to get some lunch in me. I think I've had all the attention I need today."
to be continued...