Saturday, April 16, 2011

Look, Up In The Sky!

(A short piece of fiction set in the Acrobatic Flea's Knight City Chronicles Universe)

"Why the hell am I doing this?" Rob Tomlin muttered to no one in particular because he was on his own and no one else was nearby.

He was stood in the shadows on top of a building looking out along an empty street in the rough part of Knight City known to locals as Devil Heights. He'd been there a few minutes, taking a moment to catch his breath and to "survey his surroundings" or whatever they called it. Glancing down at his watch, Rob noted that it was almost 10pm at night. He'd give it another half an hour and then "retire back to base" and into his comfortable bed.

It had seemed like such a good idea at the time. It's what they did in all the comic books. With great power came great responsibility and all that trash.

So here he was.

On patrol.

And he'd seen nothing.

Of course, if he'd been Superman he'd be able to use his telescopic vision to look down on the streets as he flew high overhead. But the only power he seemed to have was the ability to fly and when you flew high enough not to be spotted it also meant you couldn't spot anything going on down below.

"Note to self: bring binoculars next time", he murmured and shook his head.

It had meant that, every now and again, he had to stop on a low rooftop to look around at the supposed mean streets of Knight City for anything suspicious whilst hoping he didn't set off any building alarms. Still, it also gave him a chance to warm up a little. Flying around was chilly work.

Ever since he'd been on the outskirts of Devil Heights and seen the Agents of C.O.M.P.A.S.S (as the news networks were calling them) tackle that burning tenement building, Rob had known what he had to do with his new power. He'd been there earlier watching as they helped the fire department rescue residents from the blazing inferno and seeing their heroism, right there in the flesh, had galvanised him. A week ago he'd been a nobody with nothing to live for but now he knew he needed to stop messing around and use his power of flight for good whilst helping his fellow men (and women, of course. Don't forget the women, especially those who had cheered, and almost swooned, at the sight of the Agents). So, he'd decided to put on a costume and go out on his first patrol.

Costume? Hah. He'd slipped on an old brown leather flying jacket over a nondescript blue t-shirt, worn a pair of standard-issue blue jeans and sneakers and - as the final pièce de résistance - dug out a moth-eaten ski-mask he’d kept at the bottom of his wardrobe to hide his identity. Together with the clothes he wouldn't normally wear (well, other than the jeans) he reckoned no one would be able to identify him if they got a decent look at him.

Rob scratched at the mask. The problem was it wasn't very comfortable though. The ski-mask made him itch like hell and the leather jacket and t-shirt were a little too small.

Plus, after two hours of soaring around, he hadn't found anything worth tackling. He'd hoped to see - and stop - some action by the Shamrock Diaries or one of those other gangs he'd heard about. But all he'd seen were a couple of drunken bums making a lot of noise and a cat that had nearly been run over by some idiots in souped-up supercar. That was about as exciting as it got. Did all heroes have this problem? Did those COMPASS guys drive around all night hoping to come across some sort of trouble to tackle?

Rob sighed and shook his head.

Turning, feeling a little stupid, he stepped down from the edge of the building and, taking a deep breath, lifted himself up into the air. He rose slowly, the ground and sounds of the street below him receding as flew vertically upwards. As had happened every time since that first time he'd unexpectedly flown around a week ago, his feeling of nervous vertigo abated as he rose higher. When he was around a hundred feet above the buildings below him, he began to relax and a slow smile appeared upon his weather-beaten face.

The smile began to turn into a frown when a moment later he heard a strange rumbling and then a frantic scream coming from below. It came from just over a block away. Then he heard another cry followed by an enormous booming noise. What the hell was happening?

He pushed himself forwards and zoomed towards the scream, the cool air whipping around him. Diving between two derelict buildings, he flew around a corner before coming to a halt. Hanging there in the air, around three stories above ground level, he noticed an old homeless bag lady backing away from a half-constructed building. And as he watched, the scaffolding surrounding the construction site began to tremble violently as something thudded underground.

His mouth wide open, Rob watched fascinated as the shell of the building began to crumble and fall apart. Something was pushing up from beneath it causing the nearest wall of the half-built block to topple outwards. And, he suddenly realised, the huge wall would fall right on top of the old woman who now stood cowering and quivering, panic-stricken into immobility.

Without thinking a moment longer, he accelerated away, zipping down towards the woman. Beyond her, he could see the wall crashing towards them, bricks tumbling down almost, it seemed, in slow motion. Pushing himself, he gritted his teeth and flew faster and faster. The destructive collapse of half the building was just a few feet away as he opened his arms, wrapped them around the woman and pulled up.

An almighty boom echoed from the neighbouring buildings as a figure wearing a creaking leather jacket and holding a grubby old woman about her chest rose out of the mushrooming dust. The dusty figure continued to fly a few dozen feet away from the destruction before slowing his speed and, finally, landing on the sidewalk. He put down the bag lady who, shock clearly evident on her face, stumbled and fell against a nearby lamppost.

Rubbing her eyes from the dust and debris, she looked up at her strangely attired saviour.

"Wha...? Who are...?" she stuttered, her words somewhat slurred - perhaps from shock but more likely from alcohol, judging from the smell of her breath, Rob thought.

"Me? I'm... well, I'm your friendly neighborhood Aviator," he explained, and then winced inwardly at his choice of words. "And, erm, don't worry ma'am. You're safe now".

"Safe?!?" the woman exclaimed. "Y' made me drop ma bag, ya idjut! Now it's unda tha' buildin', the one wit' da big guy unda it". She pointed towards the scene of destruction with a dirty, shaking finger.

The newly christened Aviator turned and saw a couple of men running towards the collapsed building. And now that the thunderous rumbling had stopped, he could hear the sound of sirens as approaching police cars and fire trucks came to investigate. He knew there was nothing more he could do here to help - the authorities would be better placed to determine how this disaster had all happened. So he turned back to woman who, he discovered, had now pushed herself away from the lamppost and was glaring at him angrily.

"Git 'way from me, ya crazy man!" she shouted. "Help. Help me!" she began to call out to an approaching newsvan.

"Crazy? Me!? You're..." He stopped and shrugged. "Well, if you're okay then, erm, I guess I'll be going", he continued in a lower voice, whilst the bag lady backed away, pointing at him and continuing to shout nonsense.

Sighing, his feet lifted off the sidewalk and then he quickly rose into the air, that strange sense of vertigo soon dropping away to be replaced by an inner calmness. A second later, he shot off high into the night sky and away from Devil Heights. As the air rushed passed him, he thought to himself, "Well, it's a start I suppose", before quickly scratching his head and adding, "but this ski-mask has got to go!"

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