Friday, May 27, 2011

Aviator #4: "Superstitious, Cowardly Lot"

"I'm here for the interview. For the librarian position", Rob answered the young but slightly dowdy looking woman who stood behind the desk. Other younger people milled around them, heading this way and that, and one or two glanced at Rob in his cheap suit and tie. Rob shuffled his feet a little and tried to smile in a polite but studious way.

"Oh yes. You must be Robert Tomlin, right?" The woman smiled back, her eyes a sparkling green behind functional glasses, Rob noticed.

"I'm Alyson Rosenberg. I'm also one of the librarians here. Well, I suppose you guessed that. And I guess you're not technically a librarian here yet either. But you know what I mean".

The small, brown-haired, squirrely woman called Alyson giggled nervously for a moment and then removed her reading glasses.

"Eh, I haven't been here long myself" she said in explanation and, after briefly looking around, continued. "I can't seem to see Dr. Armitage at the moment - he's the head librarian here  - so if you'll just wait a moment I'll go and find him. He's probably in the stacks somewhere, erm, stacking books".

She started to giggle a little again, stopped herself, and feeling a little embarrassed walked around from behind the desk before heading towards the deeper parts of the Lovecraft Library. Rob began to say something along the lines that it was alright, he could wait a while (it wasn't as if he had anything else on), but he sort of just mumbled his thanks whilst he was left standing there musing about his recent change of fortune.

Ever since discovering he could fly, things seemed to be turning around for Rob. Well, sure, he'd tackled that armoured guy Feuerkraft and gotten a fair number of bruises plus a broken rib for his interference. And he had tried to stop some sort of intelligent ape called General Ursus from letting his fellow hominids out of the Knight City Zoo just the other day but that hadn't quite gone to plan.

On the other hand though, Kath had come back and had now been staying with him for the last couple of days. She tended to stay in all day and then they'd go out at night - to bars and clubs generally - before returning in the early hours to the bed they shared.  And now he had his first job interview - at the library of Miskatonic University.

It wasn't a job as a chemical engineer or a lab assistant or something similar but right now Rob was glad of anything that paid a bit of money. And, at least, this beat selling greasy slabs of meat at MacDonalds. Back as a student, he'd spent many hours here in the library so he knew his way around the place. Plus he was intelligent, a graduate from the university and he liked books so he had a good feeling about this job opportunity.

That good feeling vanished as Rob looked around, wondering where Alyson the giggly librarian had got to, and saw a guy dressed in a blue and white spandex costume barge in through the front entrance.

"Where is it, eh?" the man called out. "Where's the book!?"

One of the other librarians, an older man called Mr Giles that Rob recognized from his time here, approached the brightly-dressed man.

"Excuse me sir", he said in his courtly English accent, "but please keep your voice down. This is a library".

"Yeah, I know that. What d'you take me for, stoopid?" The costumed man stopped for a moment, raised his right hand and then snapped his fingers together like a cool beatnik from the sixties. Instantly, the temperature inside the library dropped. Ice crystals suddenly formed around Mr Giles and quickly grew until, less than a second later, the man was completely encased in a gleaming, transparent block of solid ice.

Someone nearby screamed.

"Shush", the supervillain admonished. "Keep quiet like the man said". Laughing he sauntered over towards the main desk.

Now Rob recognised the man from news reports. He was a one of Knight City's lesser supervillains; a man named Howard Lyon who called himself Coldsnap. A mercenary by trade, the man sold his talents to whoever would pay, as long as the job wasn't too difficult nor too dangerous. The police considered him a coward but still a threat to civilians due to his ability to freeze people and objects just by clicking his fingers together.

"Right, so who can tell me where the book is, eh? How 'bout you, missy?"

Coldsnap had stopped near the desk where Rob stood and was now pointing those threatening fingers towards Alyson, who had just returned. She quivered a little as the man questioned her but did not back away or faint.

"I... I don't know. If mean the Necronomicon it... isn't here", she answered bravely, her voice stuttering but strong, although she didn't look directly at Coldsnap.

"Not that, you bitch! The one by Baum or whatever his name is. The one on display that's been in all the papers".

"Oh, that. Th...that's over there," Alyson blurted, pointing to an area at the side of the building. A number of rare and unusual books were on display there, some on loan from other libraries whilst others were part of this library's collection. One of those items taking pride of place in the centre of the display was Lyman Frank Baum's own handwritten manuscript which supposedly contained his notes and story ideas concerning his many Oz books.

As Coldsnap turned away and walked towards the display, Rob decided he had to do something. He was still wearing his suit and tie but in his pocket Rob kept his Aviator goggles from the leather flying helmet. Earlier he'd put them in his pocket as a sort of good luck charm but now it appeared he'd actually need to use them. Donning the goggles, Rob rose a few inches into the air (the strange sense of vertigo washed over him still - though not as strong as it used to be) and then shot towards the supercriminal.

"What the f...?!?" Coldsnap cried as Aviator slammed into him, driving him smashing into the display. Shaking his head as he sat on the floor around the bits of broken glass cabinets, Coldsnap looked up. There above him floated a man in a dark suit with goggles over his eyes.

"Who the hell are you?" the villain cried, shuffling his legs and bottom, trying to crawl away.

"The name's Aviator" Rob called out. "I'm here to stop you villain".

"Yeah? Well buddy, you need to chill" Coldsnap replied, and bringing his hand up he snapped his fingers.

The air around Aviator  suddenly became colder - a lot colder. His breath caught in his throat as the sudden chill shocked his lungs. His arms and legs began to stiffen as he felt his skin start to freeze. Aviator began to rise up away from Coldsnap but it was too late - a thick layer of ice formed around his body, trapping him and holding him immobile.

"Thought you could take me, fly boy?" Coldsnap sneered. Still backing away, his hand brushed against a thick, old book and he looked down.

"Hey, whatya know! Just what I was looking for..."

But then gravity decided enough was enough and Aviator fell to the ground.

As he hit the marble floor, the smothering block of ice smashed into hundreds of sharp, glittering pieces that slid across the library. In the middle knelt Aviator, startled, shocked, somewhat chilly and a little short of breath but otherwise unharmed. He took a deep lungful of sweet air, shook some warmth into his body, and stood up.

Meanwhile, Coldsnap had grabbed the book and was backing away towards the exit.

"Damned lucky bastard" he cursed. "But I'll put you on ice again soon enough".

Again he clicked his fingers together but this time Aviator was ready for him. Lifting up into the air, he dodged to the left. Particles of ice formed in the air where he'd been just a split second before and, with nothing to latch onto, they fell tinkling to the ground. Coldsnap snappeded his fingers together again and this time Aviator dodged right missing the icy blast once more.

"Stay still ya flying freak!" shouted the villain as Aviator floated forwards towards him.

"Well, I can't say I approve of your frosty reception", the hero replied, preparing to launch himself at Coldsnap.

The cold-hearted criminal sneered and was about to try to freeze the hero again when another idea struck him. Instead, he turned to face Ms Rosenberg who was approaching from the left, and grinned. Snapping his fingers together, he turned and ran for the exit.

Aviator followed the villain's gaze and watched in horror as a white sheen of ice started to surround the startled librarian. Leaving Coldsnap for now, he flew over to Alyson, who was now covered from foot to neck in a block of bone-chilling ice.

"!" the small woman stammered. The lips on her pale, unblemished face were beginning to turn blue and her sparkling eyes were wide in terror.

For a moment, Aviator was at a loss regarding how to get her out. Then he remembered that as well as being able to fly, the chemicals that had somehow empowered him a few months ago had also increased his strength to superhuman levels. He drew back his fist and looked Alyson directly in her frightened eyes.

"Hold on. And keep still" he uttered, before bringing his fist forward to smash into the ice. There was a crack but nothing more. Aviator's now bloodied fist felt incredibly cold and numb but he tried again. And then again.

On the third mighty punch, there was a much louder crack and the block of ice shattered. Alyson came tumbling out of the crumbling remains and fell into Aviator's arms. olding her close, he quickly wrapped his suit jacket about her shoulders before someone nearby rushed up with a warm blanket.

Leaving her to the administrations of others, Aviator zipped out of the library after Coldsnap but by now the cold-hearted criminal had vanished - taking Baum's notebook with him. The aerial avenger flew upwards to get a better view of the surrounding area and university quadrangles but the villain was nowhere to be seen. Cursing himself, Aviator flew back into the library to check up on Alyson.

He was glad to see that the little librarian appeared to be getting some of her colour back. He approached her and asked if she was okay. Alyson nodded, shivering. Although still somewhat shocked, Rob could tell by the look on her face that she recognised him behind the goggles and, of course, knew who he was.

Before he could say anything another woman, this one in a crisp-looking business suit with what looked like a small voice recorder in her hand, strode forwards and stopped directly in front of him. She had a stern look on her business-like face.

"Lucy Harvey of the Herald", she stated abruptly. "So, 'masked' avenger, can you tell me who you are? Are you another of those Agents of C.O.M.P.A.S.S? What did Coldsnap want in this quiet university library?"

Her questions were snapped off so quickly, Aviator was somewhat taken aback. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times as he tried to engage his brain to answer. Thankfully, Alyson answered for him.

"He's c...called Aviator and he j...just tried to stop that villain from taking a valuable that was on loan to us," she said, her eyes cutting into the reporter in front of her. "And he just saved my life!"

"Well, one could argue that if he hadn't intervened Coldsnap would not have attacked you...", Ms Harvey started before Alyson interrupted.

"He was trying to stop a w...wanted criminal. Not poking his nose into other people's business like some...", the librarian tutted and turned away to look at Aviator.

Aviator said a quiet 'thank you' and smiled at Alyson before turning back towards the reporter. "No comment Miss Harvey other than to say that no, I am not one of those Agents. And given the current situation I think it's best that I go and leave things to the proper authorities".

Then he turned towards Alyson.

"Tell your boss that I'll be back in touch later. I hope he'll understand," he explained as he began to levitate upwards. Then, with a smile and a wave, he was off out of the main doors.

Behind him Lucy's eyes narrowed, her reporter's nose twitching, as she watched Aviator fly away. "I'll get your story", she muttered to herself whilst people around her started to tidy up the mess.

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