(in which our hero reveals his secret & tests his powers in the field)
Profuse and vague apologies as I take my seat opposite Jenny. “You’re having octopus bibimbap,” she says. “I already ate your mandu.”
Were they nice? “They were delicious. And it’s octopus instead of beef because you’re late. So suck it up or give me a better excuse.”
So it comes to this: lie to my girlfriend & eat yucky tentacly octopus or tell the truth and eat bibimbap the way god intended it to be. And since I hate octopus with a passion and I’ve never been able to lie to jenny, I point at the chilli bottle between us and concentrate.
The bottle trembles and rises up from its place between the soy sauce and the chopstick holder. I look across the table at jenny, grinning.
“What are you doing?” asks Jenny. “Are you doing that? How are you doing that? Stop doing that! Put it down!” she hisses, looking around.
I let the bottle down. Jenny stares into my eyes, frowning. “Harry, is there something you want to talk to me about?”
I unload my origin story. Two things: 1. it’s nice to talk to someone about it, and 2. it’s a pretty crap (ie, vague) origin story. “Yeah I can make stuff float and my arm goes all purple but I don’t know why or how.” Not really something you could base a blockbuster on.
“So what now?” Jenny asks.
Answer: not really sure. Keep practising, keep investigating, in the meantime eat some non-octopus bibimbap…
“I knew a guy with powers once,” Jenny says. “Well sort of. He was a friend of a friend. I’d see him at parties.”
Yeah? What could he do?
“He made things hot. Or cold. I forget. It was a while ago. He shagged Lainie for a bit.”
Crazy Lainie? With the blue hair?
“Have you talked to anyone else about this?” Jenny asks.
“I don’t know – someone else with powers? The police, maybe?”
See – that’s the thing. I don’t even know if I should be talking about this. I have no idea what the legalities are in terms of this stuff. But that’s not a bad idea, you know. Maybe I should just cut to the chase and get some information straight from the source.
Next day after work I drop into an army disposal store to buy myself a balaclava. I’m halfway to the counter with a standard black woollen dealie when it occurs to me it might be a bit terroristy.
Two hours and five stores later I’m the proud owner of a bright yellow polar fleece face mask with red piping around the eyes & mouth.
That night I stand in front of the mirror with the mask on, trying to work out whether to go with the black rollneck or a leather jacket. I decide to go with the jacket. It’s just that bit more luchadore, which somehow seems in keeping with how surreal what I’m doing feels.
I check my phone. Tuck my mask into my jacket pocket. Ten to twelve. Time to head to the city to find someone doing something super.
Coming up the stairs out of the Central Station underpass I reach into my jacket and pull out the map of the CBD from supersightings.com.
Plan A: try to encounter someone “in the wild” and ask a couple questions. Plan B: just rock up to the Big Building and say g’day.
The supersightings map for the last month shows a lot of incidents happening up on 10th and A’Beckett. Makes sense, really. Up that way you’ve got the financial district, the docks and three R&D firms within a 5-block radius. Plenty of superbaddie targets.
I head north towards A’Beckett, keeping an eye on the skyline for anything moving fast or brightly coloured.
Crossing 12th I see someone land on the roof of the car park next to the Janus building. I don’t recognise them at this distance.
I trot down the block and wander in past the attendant. She’s watching some kung fu flick on her phone. Good sound. Must find out the make. I find the lift, hit R and the doors slide shut. The floorcount is nervewracking. At 4 – 1 floor to go – I pull out my mask and slip it on.
The doors ping. I wander the roof a while before I see a dude in a crimson jacket/boot combo kneeling in front of some tripod-looking thing. I step out from between two cars and clear my throat. He looks up. He’s wearing a black domino mask. I didn’t think anyone did that anymore.
Hi. I was wondering if I could ask you a question?
He stares at me like I’m speaking Esperanto. How do you say “superpowers” in Esperanto? I take another step.
I don’t mean to disturb you or anything. I’m kind of new to this…
He stands up, raises an arm and points at me & then I’m on my back staring at a girl’s face & the night sky beyond. It’s the car park attendant. My head hurts. I’m not wearing my mask.
Mr Redboot Dominomask long-distance suckerpunched me. Maybe we’ve got the same powers, or maybe it was another kind of extendopunch thing.
I’ve got no idea who he was, or if he was a baddie or goodie. Signs seem to point to baddie though: as I get up I realise my wallet is gone.
On the way down carpark girl fills me in. The tripod shot a blue beam of light at the sky and then the guy packed it up and flew away. Carpark girl lets me use the landline in her booth to call a taxi. I think there’s enough change in the jar beside my bed to pay for it.
Continued in Chapter 3