Superboy 2099 #2
Writer: Tony Thornley
AEIC: Ryan May
EIC: Lierson Morais
Cadmus and I trained the entire next week. After seeing Kara sexually abused by Guardian, I knew what I had to do. I would be a hero.
More and more, Cadmus began to call me Superboy. I insisted upon Jake, seeing how that is my name, but Cadmus insisted I get used to being called by my mantle. For that first week, we trained in what I learned was once the laboratory of Emil Hamilton, one of the more famous twencen scientists. First, I did basic work with my powers.
First the tactile-telekinesis. It was the easiest skill to pick up, and my geneticly enhanced strength helped. Second was my enhanced speed. I learned about the Speed Force, and all I could do with it. I learned how to vibrate through solid objects, and how to create vortexes and whirlwinds and the like. Cadmus would attack me with his staff, and I would vibrate through it and get behind him before he could react. The final training I had was in my psi powers. I learned how to read minds, project astral images and create blasts of pure energy from the psychic power within me. I learned more in those three days, than I did in years at the Project.
The rest of the week was spent sparring. Every attack would be a
surprise. Cadmus might have been making dinner in the kitchen while I was
dozing on my cot, when suddenly he was on me with his energized staff.
From those attacks, I learned to always keep my mind open to the thoughts
of those around me. Then, one day Cadmus declared it was time.
"Jake," he said. "Today there will be no surprise attacks. The people of Suicide Slum need you out there more than I need you in here. So, I'm sending you out, with this." He crossed to me with a bundle in his hand, and threw it on my lap. I unwrapped it to find a simple suit of clothing. Overcoat, boots, dark pants, and a skin tight tunic. Across the tunic was a simple insignia. An 's' enclosed in a shield. Although it wasn't identical to the symbol on Cadmus's tunic, it displayed the same thing.
I had the clothes of Superboy, but I didn't feel like him. I felt like a superhuman, on the verge of something great. I looked at Cadmus after I had changed. There was something on his mind.
"Cadmus," I said, "Before I go on patrol," I liked the sound of that, "Tell me about how the Project went from a government organization to a corporation."
"I started a couple of years before the Dawn," Cadmus said, his voice carrying the echo of the past. "Apokolips was still able to sustain life, so we had no problems on Earth. There was your ordinary, run-of-the-mill villain, but nothing like what happenbed during the Dawn. I was living an ordinary life, or at least as ordinary as one like me could, until the government bought out a large bio-tech company.
"The Project's director was not happy. The company's CEO barged into his
office the first day, and issued a list of demands. Slowly, this CEO
bought pieces of the Project from the government with bribes. Soon, he
owned enough of the Project to break it away from the government. There
was an uprising within the Project. First, he used his own bio-engineered
troops to erase the people within the Project who opposed him. It was
quiet. Then, he got wind of the DNAliens in the basement of the Project.
"Those monsters were his chance against the Projects metahumans: myself, the first Guardian and Dubbilex. He took it. I still vividly remember Guardian and Dubbilex being attack by the Jugglars, and then by Grokk, and others. It wasn't pretty."
"Who were you then?" I asked, a vague idea forming in my mind.
"It's not important. What's important is that I escaped. But Dubbilex told me something before he was consumed by the DNAliens. Something about young heroes..."
"What?!" I exclaimed.
"Nothing," Cadmus snapped. "Now go out on patrol. We've already wasted too much time!"
Patrol. One of the greatest experiences of my training. Me, Jake Collins, flying over the rooftops of Suicie Slum. I stretched out with my telepathic powers, searching for a mind crying for help, or a presence plotting something bad. As luck would have it, I found something on my first block. A gang of genetags were in an alley across the street from a small deli, advertising "the greatest sandwiches in Metropolis." Apparently, the ad attracted enough attention for it to get good business. And what good businesses made is what the gang wanted: money.
I swooped down from the sky, shield blazing, my overcoat streaming behind me. I landed hard, but didn't let it phase me. I promptly stood and tensed for a fight.
"Who's in charge of this outfit?" I questioned. "Tell him that Superboy wants to speak to him."
"I'm in charge," echoed a voice around me. "They call me the Vapor Man. That's because you can't see vapor and you can't see me. I could be standing right in front of you and you wouldn't know I'm there until I do this!" I was slugged across the face. It took me by surprise. The Vapor Man started beating me. I'd sense a pattern of where he was coming from, lash out, and then I'd be attacked from a different angle. I took this beating for a while, and then a plan started to form in my head.
The next punch felled me, but I fell on purpose. Since there weren't any convenient water towers around and it wasn't about to start raining, I had to make a shower. I felt the Vapor Man kick me in the side, laughing gleefully. I merely touched the ground, using my mind to search for a water main. I found it, and used my tactile telekinesis to burst it directly beneath the gang. The explosion sent the gang of genetic rejects sailing through the air, and created a shower. I saw Vapor Man perfectly in the artificial rain.
"Hello," I said, my fist raised. I hit him hard enough to send him sailing across the alley. Now that I had seen him, I couldn't lose him. My telepathy had a mark on him, one I couldn't get before because of my surprise. I felt him stand up, and try to walk where the water wasn't splattering on the pavement. I smiled.
"You know," I called, "It's hard to hide from a telepath once he has a bead on you. And brother, I have an excellent bead on you." I then lashed out with a psi blast, followed by a flying tackle. After that, I hit the Vapor Man repeatedly, until I sensed that he was ready to surrender. I then took a length of rebar from the burst pavement and wrapped it around the Vapor Man's wrists. To end the fight, I used my telepathic powers to turn off the Vapor Man's ability to become invisible, permanently.
He materialized on the street, naked. It confused me for a moment, until I realized that fabric isn't invisible, so clothes would give him away in a fight. He had probably stripped when I first entered the alley so I wouldn't see him. I walked back into the alley, repaired the damage I had made with my tactile TK, and searched for a moment. Sure enough, I found a set of clothes that seemed to be the Vapor Man's size. I exited the alley and threw the clothes at the naked man's feet.
"Here you go buddy," I said. "See if you can get your pants on before the authorities show." With that, I took to the air.
The rest of the patrol wasn't as exciting as that first encounter, but I stopped a couple muggings, and one kidnapping. I re-entered Professor Hamilton's old apartment nearly three hours after I set out on patrol. Cadmus stood there, his hands on his hips.
"I have bad news," he said. "The Project is going to execute Kara, on Guardian's suggestion. They just obtained a new set of kids to alter, and agree with Guardian in that Kara would be an excellent example to quell a rebellion amongst the young ones."
"Oh no," I gasped, falling to my knees. I gave my best friend, the light of my life, the death sentence when I escaped. Then, a rock-hard demand set into my head.
"I'm going back to the Project," I declared. "I'm going to free Kara tonight. And Guardian will die in her place."
"No, you're not," Cadmus said. "The Project expects you to be returning to rescue her. They don't expect the level you've reached in the past week, but they'll have the DNAliens guarding her, and trust me, you don't want to face them this early in your career as a hero. We'll free her, but tonight is not the night." Cadmus turned his back to me.
"Go back out on patrol," he ordered as he walked away. "I'll come up with a plan, and we'll discuss it tonight." I nodded numbly and left the lab.
The Vapor Man was gone, but he hadn't been taken by the authorities. The rebar I had used to tie him had been melted away by a heat blast that couldn't have been generated by something mechanical. I had swung back by to make sure the gang leader had been arrested. I found the deli ransacked, and Vapor Man gone. It was time to play dirty.
I knew the template of the Vapor Man's brain now, and so searching for him wasn't hard. I found him several blocks away in an old warehouse facing off with a rival gang. The rivals seemed to be a group of cyborgs. I could hear Vapor Man and the cyborgs' leader shouting at each other. I knew I recognized the voice of the cyborgs' leader. Then it dawned on me.
Tech, the cyborg that I fought when I first arrived in Hob's Bay.
Cadmus had intervened before the fight escalated to a point where one of us would get hurt, but I knew more about my abilities now, and could take Tech easily. It was his gang I had to be worried about.
I watched outside, my hands pressed against the windows. I was using my TTK to pick up vibrations caused by noise. In essence, I was pressing my body against the window, although this method was better.
"Look man," Vapor Man cried, "this is our turf! Ain't it Titans?!" Vapor Man's group cried out an affirmative. I recognized the gang's name as that of a group of superheroes from the twencen. Vapor Man must have wanted to make people fear him.
"Me an' my Metal Men claimed this here 'hood months ago," Tech shot back. Again, I recognized an old superhero group name. These criminals were really uncreative. "You and yer Titans are the ones trespassing." I saw that as the perfect opportunity to make my entrance. A psionic blast shattered the window. I flew in, glass shards swirling around me.
"Actually," I said, my voice booming in the empty space, "you are all trespassing. On Superboy's turf! Does anyone want to challenge me?" I must have been a scary sight, energy streaming from my right eye, my dark overcoat hiding me partially in the deep shadows of the warehouse.
"The Titans do," the Vapor Man called. "Flamejack, take care of this puny excuse for a superhero." A smaller man in an orange outfit stepped forward. First his eyes flared red, then his bright red hair seemed to burst into flames. I could feel the heat that Flamejack was starting to give off. I knew my TTK couldn't handle flame, so I tensed to leap. Sure enough, Flamejack shot low, and I easily dodged the fire with a leap into the air. I landed and primed a psi energy blast. Flamejack flew across the warehouse and crashed into crates.
"He iced Flamejack," whispered one of the Titans. "Dude, he was the most powerful one of us." Vapor Man just fumed. He looked at me and screamed.
"CHARGE!!!!" The Titans and the Metal Men converged on me. Tech and Vapor Man went straight for me, but the other Titans and Metal Men fought amongst themselves. It was an ugly battle. Vapor Man was dispatched easier than Tech, because without his invisibility powers he had no advantage. Tech, on the other hand, was a different story.
Between hydraulics and built-in weaponry, Tech was almost my match. I was about to deliver a blow that would win the fight for me, but then a screaming man latched onto my back. Vapor Man. I used a TK blast to send him sailing and a powerful uppercut to fell Tech.
The battle froze. There I was. I had beaten both gang lords. There was almost a reverence towards me now.
"Dude, you beat our leaders," said the same Titan who had made the observation about Flamejack minutes ago. "You like, deserve something."
"A beating that's what," said a Metal Man.
"No, " said another Titan. "Silver's right. You deserve something for this."
"A request," I said, flying above them. "Change the name of your gangs. You dishonor the names you use. The Titans and the Metal Men were both honorable groups. Show them some respect." And I flew back out into the dusk that was enveloping Suicide Slum.
I returned to the apartment again. Cadmus looked at me sadly. He had bad news, I knew it.
"Tonight," Cadmus said. "You can't do anything. I can. Stay here tonight, and if I'm not back by ten tomorrow morning, presume the worst and head out of town. I'll have a contact for you to meet in Gotham. Find him and head for the place he gives you directions for. If I survive, I'll follow you."
"No!" I exclaimed. "It's my fault she's condemned to die. I need to go."
"No Jake," Cadmus ordered softly. "Stay here and wait. That's the best thing you can do for Kara right now."
"Dinner's in the oven. Ten a.m. tomorrow. Promise me."
I sat eating dinner fuming. Cadmus was gone. Kara would be okay, I kept telling myself. I wasn't very convincing. Soon, I started thinking about what I'd do to Guardian once I got to him. The thought was so satisfying that I started convincing myself Cadmus needed back up.
Soon I was flying over Suicide Slum, headed for Mount Kurtis. When I got there, I flew straight up into the air, directly above the Project's auditorium. Then I dived into the mountain, building as much momentum as possible. I exploded into the auditorium. There I saw Guardian, Kara, the Project's CEO and Board of Directors and numerous children.
"You will not harm Kara!" I screamed. "Guardian, it's your time to die."
"No," the Guardian laughed, "it is yours. DNAliens, attack!"
A swarm of horrible creatures came at me from all sides. I was doomed.
To be continued...