"He's robbing the world of its magic!", the protester cried out, one sunny morning outside the McAllister building. "Don't believe his lies!"
I took a few seconds to gawk before unfolding my trusty spiral notebook from my back pocket. I jotted down, 'There's never a dull moment in this city of improbable possibilities', before zipping on down FortySecond Street in a blur.
I hit my last few deliveries and blew by the main office. I needed some cash and the bossman owed me big time. I looked over the cover story on the Post as I sat patiently for my pay to be scrounged together.
The headline read: 'MILLIONAIRE MASTER OF MACHINES' and showed the slick image of Jordan McAllister unveiling his newest gizmo. Some useless wad of tech that could do everything from capturing audio and video to doing your taxes. Sure, it'd be nice to store every song I've ever heard into the same device that I make my monthly phone call to my mom with, but there should be some limit to these things.
I was interrupted mid-ponder by the slapping of bills into my palm.
"This should make us square kid. By the way, nice rush job on that McAllister drop off this afternoon. Not sure how you did forty blocks in fifteen minutes, but I admire that hustle Chuck."
Joe Medley was the kind of boss people would follow into battle. A square jawed hombre hardened by a lifetime in the delivery business. If he would just shave that ridiculous moustache.
I step outside and the thunder begins to pound on the grey skies above. An ominous smearing of the day's blue enormity. I slid on my glasses, retied my bandana and adjusted my cap before leaping off into the swirlling cityscape.
A gentle flip off of a ledge and a swift pounce from a nearby flagpole and I was sent gliding along the metro-magnetic pulse. My mind caught hold as I soared through the streets, surfing the city's invisible veins faster than any pedestrian's eyes could follow. But not faster than hers.
Helena, or Ms. Mercury as she refers to herself these days, came floating by as if I were swimming in slo-motion. Her faux innocence seeped from her sly stare.
"Hey Charles." That damn slight curling up at the corner of her mouth.
"Did you forget about tonight?"
"Not yet. I'd remember open bar."
"We have to see the exhibit this time. And try not to throw up on the V train again."
"I'm not making any promises...are they going to have the little sandwiches this time?"
"I'm not sure sweetie. Gotta run. See you at 7!" and with that, in a blink of an eye, she kisses my cheek and dissappears down 23rd St.
I'm not sure if it's jealousy but I liked it better when she didn't have superpowers.
We met outside the museum that night at 7:10. It's hard to believe any respectable superhero can make it on time to date, let alone two of them. We walked the exhibit arm in arm, and headed out for a drink.
"It's great the things you can get free.", I shouted over the music at the lush Midtown bar. Some company or another had sent her a card for two complimentary drinks. Her sliver sandals shone brilliantly in the blurred cityscape light as it danced among the flapping of her black skirt. Her earrings sparkled as we blazed across town.
Afterwards we zipped over to Jersey City where my friend's band were playing at a local bar. The sound rocked our internal organs and the cheap booze made us stumbly, so we decided to hoof it home like regular folk and leave the superpowers out of it for a night.
The wait for the train is usually a panic inducing, claustrophobic, nightmare of a wait for one with speedy powers such as mine. But tonight I hardly noticed the thirty-nine minutes it took to finally come. We were finally Manhattan bound, when, after a few sloppy kisses and through slurred speech, she presented me with a gift.
"It's an iWorld." She smiled up at me expectantly. My confused look elicited a further explanation.
"It's the cell phone, instant messager, mp3 player with GPS and a digital camera that also records video and audio."
That druken haze in her eyes didn't match the tone of her voice. Suddenly, when discussing this gadget, a company salesman had taken control of my girlfriend.
"Thanks baby." Something felt off, but I accepted the gift. I hugged my appreciation as we fumbled to the side nearly falling from our seats as the train screeched to a halt.
As I activated the camera function on my new toy, I turned and snapped a picture of her as we ascended the subway stairs. The LCD screen caught the dramatic lighting of the moon as we stepped outside, illuminating her hair, draped alongside an inebriated smirk.
As the days passed I tinkered with my new gizmo. Seems it truly does it all, which kicked in my suspicious nature. If this thing catches on like McAllister's numerous other expensive junk, available worldwide, then everyone will be capturing everything everywhere. Recording life around them and going back to it later to confirm it. Rather than just live our lives, we'd all just be directing a slideshow of images complete with soundtrack and then emailed off to family and friends. Isolated in our heads, viewing the world instead of interacting with it. Television is only the beginning.
My head started to pound and my nose began to bleed. "Whoa, I gotta remember to watch the crazy talk.", I said to myself.
The following saturday Helena and I danced through the ballroom they call New York, spinning and leaping as we soared along with the city night frozen in an instant below us. I spun her out, but as she pounced from a traffic light, I saw a misstep. She began to arc too far as she twirled about like a whirling dervish, spinning wildly towards a display window. Instincts drove my body forward, letting my mind figure out the plan for itself.
Two kicks had launched me towards the light post, and pausing horizontally for just a millisecond, I supercharged my next leap. I rocketed across the street, rotated as I skimmed across the hood of a taxi, and ricocheted off a mailbox, just catching her in my arms as she swooned and fainted. My feet grinded to a halt on the pavement, and instantly time popped all around me as my sneakers exploded into shrapnel.
"What's happened to you Helena?" I cradled her in my arms as we glided home across the Williamsburg Bridge.
She didn't wake until she was tucked in her bed. I applied the cold compress to her forehead and smiled down at her. She smiled back but it felt sad somehow.
"How you doing kiddo?" I held her hand.
"I'm fine. I just need some waffles..." she hoarsely whispered. "And OJ, and toast..."
I kissed her hand as she drifted to sleep. I went to look for my iWorld to see what I could do. Once I found it, I couldn't imagine who to call, who would know how to help a sick superhero. She tossed and turned the whole night and despite her wishes, I decided to bring her to the emergency room.
On the run there, she looked up at me with hopeless eyes. I never felt so useless. The doctors took her from me and told me not to worry and to get some rest. I couldn't sleep so I paced around the neighborhood, then jogged around the city and eventually ran the entire state. This wasn't something I could outrun.
I grabbed a coffee at a rest stop somewhere in Pennsylvania. The caffeine wore off somewhere in Ohio and I slept on a bench in the lounge for an hour or two. I popped a caffeine pill and made it to Lake Michigan as the sun rose up behind me.
My mind began to decompress as the tension drained from my body. Why was I running? What had happened to Helena? Why did I feel such overwhelming guilt? I took out my iWorld and began recording. I went over the details I could remember. Seemed as if I was stuck in a high gear for the past week. Oddly enough I wasn't able to produce many memories since that delivery to the McAllister building.
I began to think of Helena and scrolled through the pictures I had taken of her. Over four hundred digital images were stored on the small piece of plastic in my hands. And as I flipped through I began to notice something. She was fading away.
That very first picture showed Helena for the true beauty I knew her as. In each consecutive picture she looked weaker, her skin growing more pale, and that lovely smile never extending quite as far as it did that night. Was it this device? Was it me?
I sprinted back to New York City, hit the library and began searching for anything related to the iWorld or Jordan McAllister. As the newsites popped up, everything seemed straightforward. Budding inventor brings together a team of other brilliant minds to make a great leap using the technology of the times. Each year their device had evolved, from the iHear mp3 device, to the iDrive multimedia player, to the iDream cell phone/PDA.
The iWorld was the most highly advertised and therefore, desired, electronic device in the history of modern society. From billboards to rap videos to coffee chain tie-ins, the presence of this gadget had surrounded us before we even had it resting in our hungry palms.
I guess I just wasn't paying attention as I blew through the city each day. Probably missed the tv commercials due to having only an old 13" b&w set at home with barely functioning rabbit ears. I was just having too much fun and, well, I suppose I was a bit out of touch with reality these days.
I left the library more than a little distraught. Where could I turn now? I couldn't head home. I'd just wind up feeling sorry for myself. I couldn't just burst into McAllister's office and demand that he tell me the connection between Helena's collapse and his damned toy.
The voice came over my headphones and I spun around. I checked out the iWorld expecting to have accidentally called someone from my address book once again. But it was off.
"Drop on by the office. I've been expecting you."
I remembered moments like this when, as a kid I'd ride my bike around the neighborhood listening to cassette tapes. The ambient background noise would make me suspiciously glance over my shoulders every few seconds, really implanting that paranoia. Tucked into the shadows of the East Village, I questioned my sanity as the voice kept creeping out of the headphones. I ripped them out and began to hyperventilate. The random soundtrack of the city funneled into my ears and grounded my brain for the moment.
But I could still hear the tinny tone of the voice as it crept from out of the tiny pieces of plastic and wires in my hands. I tossed the device into my ski cap and stuffed the whole thing deep into the pocket of my army jacket. I closed my eyes and imagined myself outside McAllister's office, smashing through the front doors, leaping through the lobby, and slamming floor by floor up to his lush penthouse suite. I imagined myself destroying his happy and rich life, starting with his art deco dcor and ending with his throat in my grip, suspending him outside the center floor-to-ceiling window of his decimated office.
"Do it. Kill me son."
I hesitated and came to my senses. I dropped to my knees. With several long, deep, drawn breaths in I could see that my momentary wish had become a reality. The entire span of McAllister's multi-million dollar chunk of real estate, with that spectacular view, was now leveled completely. The windows were all blown out, and the remaining shards of his luxurious lifestyle spread around me in a ring as if a bomb had been detonated in the center of the room.
"It's so disappointing that you're such a failure."
McAllister, mere inches from a two hundred story drop, looked severely sad. He took off his blazer and tosses it out the window. Unbuttoning his cuffs, he rolls up his sleeves, before kicking me clear across the room with an Italian loafer to the chest.
"I only ask that you end my life and you can't even imagine that."
McAllister began to pace around the room, the splinters and shards crackling under his steps. He brushes his hand through his hair and walks towards the last of the standing walls. With his other hand, he gently waves as the wall begins to disappear, replaced with a large metal womb.
"Okay Chuck, here's how it goes. I'm the villain of this piece. I know, how post modern of me to mention it straight up like this. So clever, right?"
McAllister grabs the womb and drags it closer.
"Fuck clever. I'm your goddamn devil, child."
I had finally caught my breath and my threw myself across the room into a defensive postition. My arms crossed before me in an 'X', my front foot thrust forward, and my back foot at a 90 degreeangle, bracing for impact or prepared to launch. My quasar vision dazzled around the scene absorbing all the light in the room in nothing more than an instant.
"Let's finish this." I couldn't believe the cliched battlecries I heard coming from my mouth.
McAllister's hand is on the womb, gently raising it's liquid metal covering. His eyes are locked onto mine, and he holds me there with his magnetic-repulsion-rays. A smile is lifting the corners of his mouth as I shake my sight free. A small mob of young men, trapped beneath the next generation iWorld, the iSoul, roar into the room. Their eyes are blank, their ears full, and their minds empty.
In their hands runs the current of power emanating from the womb. The surging fractal lightning pulsed around their fists as the iZombies stomped forward, bloody screams of battle on their breaths. I strained my crossed arms against the paralyzing effect McAllister was emanating upon me, and at the very last second, mere millimeters from the wildly swung punch of an iZombie, just then did I snap out and into action.
I was like a breeze between the pack, darting lowing beneath their grasp. The burning edges of searing raw cosmos nipped at my hair as I slid behind them. My fist rockets right and throws half the bunch down and out. I whip my right around again and fire it like a piston into the back of another, before unleashing a southpaw shot to two more. My fists pumped forward, the muscles acting almost on their own behalf, and by the time I slowed them down the room was a bloody cocoon.
"Perfect. And now the for the kicker."
I swung around mad-eyed and frayed, tachyon fire streaming from my mind. McAllister had raised the womb's cover and inside I saw that it was her. The quicksilver shine blinded me and forced out tears. Before my eyesight returned though I knew who it was that lie there naked and fetal. And I knew it was my fault.
It was the silvery scorched body of Velocity Girl. I had stripped her of her form somehow, weakened her. I was the one that charged after her, trapped her, gave Helena her powers. Helena?! My god. Where was Helena?
"You hit every cue my boy. Brilliant!"
Ms. Mercury smashed into the office with the force of a thousand furies. The glass and twisted metal danced and glittered all around her as she just absolutely dazzled with that golden glow. Her furrowed brow was so cute, and she was making that angry face. My god. This is why he had loved her. The way she looks right now is everything I saw in her and everything I had ever loved about any woman ever.
I'm not sure if her fist hit me or if it was the shockwave of compressed air that hairline fractured my cheekbone. I was sent sailing to the floor in a one knock out punch. I don't even know if her skin touched me.
And I don't even have time to hit the ground, cause as I drift down her foot comes up under my rib cage and fires me straight through the roof of the building and high into the night sky.
It's beautiful out. The air is warm and mild. Just enough wind to carry you about. And the city is out and lit up and alive. It's a stage with lights, camera, and action abound. But it's all getting further away.
Ms. Mercury glides upwards past me and I gaze at her amazing figure as it caresses the edges of a moonlit Central Park. Her leg stretches straight up to her chin and down across mine. Plummeting so fast, thinking isn't possible. Until I slam into time and space expands into my mind like blood into cracks of concrete.
It's beautiful inside this silence.
Crackling into my psychic ear, snow like fuzz of memories brushed aside to make room for McAllister's thoughts. I try to squeeze him out of my mind. But it's no use. He has a hold and he places in his reality.
"I want you to realize that you must defeat her and stop me. I'm not sure if that's clear by now. Everything I do, I do for you." I felt him crying.
Then I felt like a sack of mail snatched by a speeding train. A sack of potatoes dragged from a cropduster. The parachute behind a dragracer. Then spinning in a circular spin somehow ellipitically spun until I was mentally undone and then I vomited as I was pitched full speed into and through the offices of fine and hard working individuals, that actually enjoy their jobs.
She caught me on the other side and my vision had now returned. Sight smacked back into me, I now saw blood streaming behind us as the city blurred away. My face felt wet and sticky and syrupy. I was groggy and attempted to turn around. My stomach lurched and I dry heaved myself into a coughing fit, nearly letting my lungs collapse. I drew into myself and coiled up in my body. Tightly wound stone charging of my internal thrust.
Fired aloud, I popped free from Ms. Mercury's grip and carved myself through the undercurrents towards Wall Street. I grasped my forehead, hoping to close the gash across my third eye. I was karma blinded and without a guidance system now. And the bleeding's stopped.
Bouncing across the ledges and pouncing from the empty office views of Downtown Manhattan, I was ricocheting to a safe haven, where ever that was. It was then that my senses were finally coming back to me and I saw how aura destroyed I really was. I couldn't outrun her. I couldn't outpower her. I couldn't out fight her. I was screwed.
So I tried to run anyways, skipping along the tops of the West side. But she was always more familiar with this side of town. Damn! She taps me with an uppercut I don't see coming. I try to brace for impact and curl into a fetal position. A million swats dribble me down to Canal St. before she kicks me into the Holland Tunnel at a hundred miles an hour.
My body is broken as it rattles against the tiled walls of the tunnel. Ms. Mercury cascades up next to me as she prepares to bounce me off the walls. I have only one thought as she unleashes her venomous valkyrie vengeance, only one solitary things crosses my mind at that exact moment.
She looks so happy.
I catch glimpses of dirt, and water and metal, and garbage and smoke before finally hitting something that catches me in it's warm embrace. I can't feel anything beyond my mind. My body must be shattered, along with my spirit, but my brain hasn't died yet.
But consciousness fades and before it does I see a single sentence that seems so odd, yet so familiar set before the apocalyptic background around him.
'Welcome to New Jersey.'