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Hero by Ray Printer Friendly

You're a hero.

Everyone knows it.

You put on the costume, they can't get you up on their shoulders fast enough. You're their hope, you're their savior, you're their god.

It isn't like in the comics, where the editor of the newspaper hates you, or the general public doesn't trust you. When there's trouble, you show up and you fix things. What's not to like about that?

This joker, what's he calling himself, these days? Turbo Tank? He's changed his gig more than most people change their underwear. You met him as who? Red Tortoise? Something stupid like that.

You fed him his shell and sent him to prison. When he got out the first time, he was calling himself the Armored Avenger. Same stupid suit with a new paint job, and you were able to foil his bank robbery in between episodes of Orange Is The New Black.

The third time...or was it the forth? Doesn't matter--one of those times, he got busted out of prison by a couple of his buddies and they formed a team. They might have had time to think up a name for their goofy little group, but you don't remember. You had them whipped by dawn, no matter that there were five of them.

And here he is again. Some sort of rocket launcher strapped to his arm, shouldn't be a problem. The jet boots are a pain, though. Once you catch him, punching him unconscious won't take more than a few seconds, but he's a quick little guy. Jetting around the city, firing random missiles as he goes, what a jerk.

If it was during the day, that would be a problem--you'd have to stop and save hundreds of innocent employees working their nine-to-fives. As it is, he's firing into mostly empty buildings, and you're able to radio in to emergency workers so they know which locations to check out.

He's making his way deeper into the city, though, and you can't have that. Doesn't matter that it's almost midnight, if he makes it downtown, his sporadic missile fire will end up killing someone. It also means you'll have to drop out of the chase to go help civilians, and he'll get away.

Nope. Can't have that.

You focus your attention and give yourself an extra push.

People are always asking you what it's like to fly, or how you do it. It's something you've never been able to explain, but the closest thing you can relate it to is taking a deep breath right before you try to blow out the candles on a birthday cake. But instead of the air being forced out of your lungs, it's like it's forced out of your pores. Of course, that's probably not what's happening, but it's sort of what it feels like to you, and since you can't let any of the scientists study you, it's the best explanation you're ever going to have.

You give it a little extra juice, and close the distance from two blocks to one. You dodge one of the missiles that he actually manages to fire your way. Last year at this time, you would have just run headlong into it and shrugged it off, but after that business with the Leech a few months ago, heavy artillery has been leaving bruises. And even though your super healing gets you fixed up within a few hours, you've been trying not to take direct missile fire, on general principle.

He's too busy looking back to see if he hit you, and he forgets to pay attention to what's in front of him. When you're shooting through the city at 200 miles per hour, it's a good rule of thumb to keep your eyes on the massive, steel and concrete structures towering in front of you.

You could stop right now ad it would be all over. Just hit the brakes and hold his stare for a second, while he jet boots his way into a nasty splatter on the side of a skyscraper.

But that's not how you do business. Everyone in this city knows you don't kill, and they know you save lives when you can, no matter how obnoxious those lives may be.

He fires another missile your way, before turning back to his flight path. You don't need super hearing to pick up his screams--everyone this side of 14th Street can hear his squeals of terror as he realizes he's about to become pizza paste--but without it, you wouldn't have to hear the sounds of feces exiting his body as he soils his fancy new armor.

At least you don't have the power of super smelling.

He manages to fire his retro rocket, which slows him down just enough so that you can catch him and change his path. You're able to dodge the building, dragging the criminal with you. You're aware of the crowd on the streets below, clapping, cheering, pointing their cell phones at you, snapping pictures, shooting video, documenting your victory.

You couldn't have planned it any better if you had a publicity agent. You land at the edge of the crowd, holding Turbo Tank by the scruff of the neck like a troublesome kitten as you rip apart his armor and toss it into a pile. For a moment, you worry that he'll only be wearing his underpants under the armor, which will make for some interesting pictures, considering the pants-pooping thing. Thankfully, he's wearing a jumpsuit, and although it's obviously stained, it's not nearly as obvious as it would have been in a pair of tighty whities.

You snap a pair of zip ties around his wrists, and wave the crowd back.

"I appreciate your enthusiasm," you tell them, "But please stand back until the police can get here and take this fellow to jail. After that, we'll take all the selfies you want."

They laugh along with you, and they stay back. They always do what you say. Not because they're afraid, but because they respect you. They admire you.

You're a hero.

"You want pictures?" Turbo Tank screams at the crowd. "I'll give you something to take a picture of!"

His watch. You didn't bother taking his watch--he isn't generally the sort of criminal that would be smart enough to use something like that. But apparently he picked up more than jet boots and wrist rockets in his last iteration. He's able to punch in a 3-digit code before you can rip the watch from his wrist, which is all the time he needed.

The rockets begin firing from his discarded armor, shooting aimlessly into the night sky. You punch him hard enough to knock him out, and shoot into the air after the missiles.

Twelve of them. Before the Leech sapped your powers, this wouldn't have been a problem. You're improving on a daily basis, but even after a few months, you're still only back up to about 80%. Generally, 80% is more than enough to take down anything that comes at you, but even just one of those rockets pack a punch. And you've got to stop twelve of them.

You know you can do it, but there's only one way, and there's a chance it could kill you.

But this is what you do, this is why they look up to you, why they love you.

This is why you're a hero.

You catch up to the first rocket in less than a second, and without hesitation, you smash through it. The force of the explosion gives you the boost you need to catch the next rocket. By the time you've reached the forth rocket, your body is crying out in pain; by the seventh, it's screaming in agony. At that point, the only thing allowing you to reach the next rocket in line is the explosion from the previous one.

Your strength is gone, and even if the rockets don't kill you, the fall when you've destroyed the last one probably will. But that doesn't stop you. If you go down, you're going down fighting.

Eleven down, just one more to go, but the blast isn't enough to get you to it. You watch in horror as the rocket pulls ahead, as you realize that it will soon be reaching the heavily-populated building towering over the crowd you just left behind.

Hundreds will die. Maybe thousands. You focus your will, you summon all your strength, and you breathe in as deeply as you can--just like you would if you were going to blow out the candles on a birthday cake--and you make one more wish.

It's almost enough.

You catch up to the missile just as it reaches the building, and you do your best to wrap yourself around it as it bursts through the window. Your body is enough to shelter most of the bystanders from the explosion, but there are two people you aren't able to protect. The blast blows out the windows behind them, and the force of the explosion pushes them out of the building, fifty stories higher than anyone wants to exit a building.

You're able reach one of them--the bartender, it looks like, from the way he's dressed. This is an exclusive club, where people meet over incredible expensive drinks to discuss incredibly sensitive business. More than once over the years, you've come here as your civilian identity and listened in with your super hearing while crime bosses discussed their business,so quiet and smug, sure that no one could hear them. And then when you showed up at the docks as your true self, your super self, and busted up their deal, they had no idea how you got your information.

But the two victims of Turbo Tank's rockets, they aren't high-powered crime lords. The first one you save, he's the bartender, although you don't recognize him. Not surprising--as your civilian self, you've only been able to afford to come here a few times. It's way cheaper to hover outside and listen.

You push your reserves to the limits and manage to toss him back into the building through the hole he just exploded out of.

And then you're falling. You look like you're flying, and you're trying to fly. But you're not going fast enough, not nearly fast enough to catch her.

She reaches for you, and she screams, the tears pouring from her eyes trailing above her like jetstream.

You're a hero. Everyone knows it.

Everyone except her.

Rebecca. Your girlfriend.

You've dated for five years, and for the last two, the relationship has consisted mainly of arguments, accusations, and threats.

You've never told her about yourself. not about your true self, your hero self.

Which means that when you have to leave suddenly to save a train full of commuters, she thinks you're calling another woman. When she tries to call you in the middle of the night, and you can't answer because you're breaking up a human trafficking ring on the South side, she assumes it's because you're "out with one of your sluts."

You've tried to tell her your secret, you really have. But something always came up. And then, as the relationship soured, you realized you didn't trust her, not enough to reveal the greatest secret of your life.

And then you heard the phone call she made to her friend Marcy. You generally try not to eavesdrop, but with super hearing, it's kind of hard not to, especially when you hear your name. You heard her talking about how she was sure you were cheating (nothing new, there), and about how she was going to catch you in the act, how she was meeting with a private detective (that was new).

You planned on confronting her as soon as she hung up the phone. You weren't sure what you were going to say, but you knew it had to be done. The last thing you needed in your life was a private detective following you around, making it even more difficult to switch into hero mode.

But then the news started up about Turbo Tank robbing a bank, and you knew it was a discussion you'd have to have later.

What you didn't know was that she was meeting the private detective tonight--that has to be the reason she was in the club.

As the ground rushes toward the two of you, you think about the countless lives you've saved. You think about the crimes you've stopped, about the good you've done. You think about how she's going to put all that at risk.

You're a hero.

Nobody can know it.

You almost catch her in time, but you're a fraction of a second too late. You hit the asphalt five feet away from the wet mess that is your former girlfriend, and the street erupts under the force.

You wake up to a crowd of EMS workers pulling you from the sewers. They're asking if you're all right; they're assuring you that you did the best you could, more than anyone could ever expect; they're telling you that nobody can save everyone.

You stagger to the street, where they have a tarp draped over the place Rebecca hit the ground. You fall to your knees, screaming up at the sky. The crowd cries with you. They feel your pain, they feel your loss, they feel your defeat.

And they still love you.

You're a hero.

Everyone knows it.


Comments:
Entered By TK From A town
2014-11-21 23:09:25

Good read! And, BONUS, second person. Nice.



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