Convenience store? More like an inconvenience store, mused Paul as waited in line to be served. At least this one is. Why the hell can't there be one nearer to home?
After the evening's testing of his weird ability, Paul needed a cigarette and he'd run out of the little white cancer sticks earlier. But if he didn't get home soon, Paul knew that his wife, Alison, would be wondering where the hell he was.
Standing there in the short line, Paul stared at the huge shoulders of a well-built, leather-clad guy dressed in front of him as he considered how things were going. In his car he'd found that when he'd turned up the radio's volume to maximum and stuck his hands over the booming speakers, he could also absorb sound energy. As before, back at the apartment, a slight trickle of power worked its way up his arms and into his chest. Together with what he had discovered earlier, it looked like he could absorb any type of energy.
Paul glared at the large man in the leather jacket ahead of him. In reality it had only been a moment, but for Paul it felt like this guy was purposely taking hours. For some reason he was arguing with the anxious worker behind the counter, shoving his hand towards him, whilst trying not to attract too much attention. Paul craned his neck around the big man's arm and saw that the guy's clenched fist was glowing. He was a cosmic.
"Shit", Paul muttered. Leather-clad guy was trying to knock the place over. And the clerk was trying to stall.
"I tol' ya", Paul heard the man snarl at the clerk. "Hand over all dey money... hey, wha' you lookin' at? You wanna piece of Havoc's heat blast?"
The wide-shouldered man, all six foot and change of him, turned around and glared at Paul.
Paul, looking up, met the man's eyes under his domino mask. Shit. It's that Havoc guy from the Masters of Mayhem, he thought, his gut beginning to seethe and boil.
"Leave him alone, asshole", Paul muttered, backing away a little from the villain's blazing right fist which was now pointing his way.
"Wha's dat?" Havoc growled. "You talkin' to me?"
"Yeah", Paul replied more loudly this time, his anger increasing his confidence. "I said leave him alone, get out of my way and get the fuck out of here".
The cosmic villain looked down on Paul like he was dirt found on the sole of one of his big black boots, and thrust his fist forwards threateningly.
"Wha' you gonna do 'bout it, ass-wipe?", the big man jeered. "I'll tell ya. You gonna do nothin' 'cause yer gonna be dead".
Paul stood his ground as the big man sneered and released a blast of superheated flames in his direction. The scorching energy hit Paul, pushing him backwards a little, but - amazingly - didn't hurt Paul one bit.
Paul turned back to the villain, seething.
"That's where you're wrong idiot. I'm going to do this", he spat and, both hands thrust forwards, he leapt at the villain.
His outstretched hands grabbed the man's shoulders and pushed him back against the wall. Havoc, his initial surprise turning to anger, released a blast of red hot energy at his attacker. Or he tried to. Instead of the expected blast, Havoc felt the energy being siphoned out of his body.
"Wha' the fu...!?!" the villain began. But by then, even the sound of his own voice was being absorbed by Paul, who now gripped the masked man's arms at his side. Havoc found that even his own strength had deserted him. He couldn't move nor struggle out of Paul's vice-like hold.
The big man juddered for a second or two before his eyes rolled up and he dropped to the floor, powerless.
Paul lifted his hands and examined his fingers. Other than a very slight burn, he was unharmed. He glanced back at the thug, saw he was down for the count but still breathing, and then turned his attention to the clerk.
The man's muddy brown eyes were wide in disbelief and shock. But beyond the initial surprise, Paul saw something else. Fear. Fear of the cosmic in front of him and dread concerning what had been done to the masked man. Paul couldn't sustain the gaze for long and soon looked away.
Calmness soothed his nerves as he said to the clerk, "Call the cops and the paramedics. Perhaps even those Cosmic Knight guys".
"Wha... who are you?" the man behind the counter stammered.
Paul looked up at the man again, saw the fear still there in his eyes. Was this what the average guy in the street thought of cosmics? Did they fear the power available at their fingertips?
"I'm called Feedback", he stated. Then he added, "And I’m here to help".
With what he hoped was a friendly nod to the clerk, Paul walked quickly over to the store's exit and left before things got complicated.