Last night I went out on patrol in my spare costume.
I feel clumsy as hell in the old thing; it’s like wearing a lead x-ray vest all over your body. I think I might have gained some weight since I last wore it, it’s really tight in the waist. And there’s the crotch chafing. Not a fan of crotch chafing.
It starts to rain and twice I nearly slip on the wet tile rooftops of Old Town. I knock a couple of shingles off the sloping roof of the Masonic Temple. I can’t believe how much better my new boots are for roof-running. They’ve got little metal cleats and rubber treads – they’re great. These old ones suck ass. I don't know how I used to manage.
I’m about to call it in when I hear gun shots, sirens, and racing cars. High speed pursuit. All right.
Following the sound of the sirens, I plot an intercept course and leap into action. They’re heading into Chinatown, so I take a shortcut across the roof of that condemned hotel, leap over 4th Ave S, and skid to a halt in the puddles on top of a Korean grocery.
I see them. Some punks in a street racer squeal around a corner, drifting on the slick concrete. One of them leans out the passenger window – he’s wearing Judo Boy colors – and fires a couple rounds at the two squad cars screaming after them. The Judo Boys are heading deeper into Chinatown, where they're bound to lose the cops in the warren of alleys and garages.
They race down 4th Ave S towards me. The car is total rice, a tricked-out Integra with a spoiler and after-market rims and decals and shit. It sounds like a fucking lawn mower on steroids. Kids today, I swear. When I was growing up we drove real cars, not these glorified go-karts. I mean whatever, I drive (drove) a Honda Civic now, but I’m not pretending it’s anything other than a Honda Civic, you know?
Anyway, I run to the other side of the roof – if I time it right, and they take a left…
I launch myself into the air high over the street. Sure enough, the gang bangers take a left, and for second it looks like I’m right on target and I’ll land on their car. For a second.
Then I realize I’ve overshot my mark and will probably smash into the Saipan Trading Company’s store window like a velvet meteor. Shit.
The Judo Boy’s import races beneath me, engine howling.
I’m nano-seconds away from impact.
There’s a sudden wind and whoosh, I’m plucked out of mid-air by a giant fucking bird. Or that’s what it feels like.
“Kestrel! Jesus Christ you scared the hell out of me!”
He snatches me up like those seagulls that catch french fries down at the ferry docks. Kestrel is a flyer, a winged leather boy with big ass talons instead of feet. These talons clamp down on my shoulders like vises, and his powerful wings lift us aloft with frightening speed. He looks down at me, grinning. He wears this S&M version of an old WWI pilot’s cap and goggles. Goofy bastard.
“Would you rather I let you hit that shop?” he says. Have I mentioned that he has a British accent?
I tell him to make himself useful and put me on top of that car. With whiplash force we swing around and dive down towards the fleeing rice. I don’t even think they see us.
Kestrel drops me on the roof and peels off with a bird scream. The car bucks as I land on it, sloughing to one side. Man, he’s going fast. I dig into the roof with the titanium fingertips in my gloves. The metal crumples like wax paper, which is a good thing, because when they realize that somebody’s on the roof, they start swerving, trying to throw me off.
The idiot takes a turn too fast and he slides sideways into a curb. The curbs in Chinatown are really high compared to the rest of the city – it’s like running into a small wall. I think I say something like “shit” before we hit, and then the impact throws me off the roof of the car into a dumpster with a horrible crash.
The Judo Boys’ car sputters and dies. It’s just a smoking, hissing, ticking wreck now. The cops are almost here, I can hear the sirens. The driver isn’t going anywhere. His airbag deployed, but I think the sideways impact fucked him up.
The guy in the passenger seat bails out, dropping his gun.
I pull myself to my feet. Pain shoots up my back. I’m not helping the healing process with all this running/jumping/crashing stuff. The Judo Boy is getting away.
I’m about to test fire my new Marauderang on the fleeing Judo Boy when Kestrel drops down and lands on the guy hard with those claw feet of his. Ouch.
The cops show up, screaming around the corner. Now, I like cops. I like helping cops. What I don’t like is talking to cops. My nocturnal activities are what I like to call “extra-legal” whereas the cops call them “illegal.” You have to be deputized or belong to one of the big-time super-teams to get away with the kind of shit I pull.
Kestrel is of a like mind about the cops. “How about a lift?” he says, and in seconds we’re high above Chinatown, leaving the two Judo Boys to the cops and paramedics.
We alight upon a nearby rooftop and watch the other cops, fire trucks, ambulances, and news vans arrive on the scene. In five minutes it’s a circus. The firemen start using the ‘jaws of life’ to get the driver out of the car.
I catch up with Kestrel a little, shop talk and stuff. We don’t know each other very well - he’s a little distant and plays the droll British wit thing up to the hilt. He’s alright I guess.
“They robbed a petrol station in the south end,” Kestrel says. “Might have broken the poor shopkeeper’s neck. I was just passing overhead and heard it on the scanner.”
A scanner. Why don’t I have a scanner wired into my suit? I should ask My Guy about it.
“You hanging around for long?” I ask, casual-like.
“What’s the matter, Marauder? Feeling a little territorial?”
I act like he’s joking around, but I feel a certain sense of ownership over Evergreen City. It’s mine now.
“Relax, mate,” he says. “Just playing through.”
“Hey, stay as long as you want. No skin off my nose. Listen, you mind sticking around until the news choppers show up? It’d be good if they got some footage of us together. People dig team-ups you know.”
Kestrel acts like it’s not important, but he does stay until the KORN and KLUB helicopters show up and spot us. This footage will lead the news tomorrow, guaranteed.
“New costume?” he asks over the noise of the choppers.
“It’s my back-up. The regular one got trashed a few nights ago.”
“Oh, right. Exploder. I read about that. Well, it suits you – the color.”
I look at my velvet shoulder cape, flapping in the rotor wash of the KLUB news chopper overhead. It’s several shades lighter than my current deep blue cape. In this light it looks sort of purple. I shrug. “I guess, I don’t know. It looks a little fruity I think. I like the new color better.”
“Oh,” he says. “I thought that’s what you were aiming for.”
“What? Aiming for what?”
“The fruity look,” Kestrel says.
“What are you talking about?” This guy’s starting to irritate me.
“Hey, to each his own mate. If you fancy the lads, it’s no concern of mine. I think more superheroes should be open about it, really. Good on ya, as they say.”
“Fancy the lads? I’m not gay. You think I’m gay?”
Kestrel looks at me like I’m putting him on. Then his expression changes and he says, “Okay, mate. My mistake.”
The fucker gives me this little patronizing smile and starts to lift off. “Understood. Listen, Marauder, I’ll see you later.”
“Wait!” But he’s gone, rocketing past one of the helicopters overhead.
“Fuck!” I say.
Christ, do other superheroes think I’m gay? I don’t know, I think I come across as pretty butch. I’m a scourge of the underworld for Christ’s sake, I’m not like Raver or what’s his name, the guy with the butterfly wings or one of those guys. I mean those cats are gay.
Not that I have anything against gay people. I mean, do whatever you want, fly your freak flag, live and let live and all that. But I’m as not-gay as they come.
Seriously. I’m not gay.