(This is part one of my battle with the Jet Pack Mafia. I have mercifully divided it into two sections for your reading pleasure.)
I decide to go out on patrol early. The sun never does break through the thick layer of fog which envelopes Evergreen City all day. A long winter twilight lingers over the city, then darkness falls and the buildings light up, glowing in the misty night.
Feeling sort of festive tonight. I bounce around midtown for a while, running across damp rooftops and vaulting over streets crowded with holiday traffic. On top of the Bon Marche building I look down at Waterfront Park, brilliantly lit and crowded with people. A holiday carousel twinkles and spins and the sound of caroling drifts up to me. Ahh, Christmas.
A dull explosion jars me out of my yuletide reverie. Sounds like it came from downtown. Trouble? I toggle to the police scanner on my audio suite.
“…Zebra 9, need back up. 211 in progress at Fidelity Trust, corner of Fifth and Spring. Suspects are armed –“ Machine gun fire interrupts the cop.
Fifth and Spring, that’s like three blocks from here. Game on.
I’m on the wrong side of Waterfront Park. A few weeks ago I’d have to hop around the buildings on the perimeter of the Park and work my way around, but now I’ve got personal flight technology – glider wings. I’m taking the high road, baby.
I snap the clips on my wrist on to the retracted wingtips, spread my arms and –whoosh- the glider wings lock into place below my arms. I step up to the edge of the Bon building, take a deep breath…
Somebody down in the park yells, “Look! It’s the Velvet Marauder!”
Head swivel up. People start to whistle, cheer. Maybe they think I’m a jumper.
OK, if I fuck this up I’m going to retire forever in total shame. I do a little Greg Louganis hop on the edge of the roof, hop up about ten feet, spread my arms… and I’m airborne, gliding over Waterfront Park, picking up speed. I feel cold air rushing by me, hear people screaming and clapping below me, see camera flash bulbs going off. I hope somebody’s filming this…
Suddenly I’ve spanned the breadth of the park and a rooftop on the other side rushes up towards me. I pull up slightly, “flaring” like a helicopter, and skid to a halt on the roof. Of course, I trip over some wires and skid on my face for a few yards, but whatever – I just flew across Waterfront Park! I can hear the holiday shoppers in the Park going apeshit, screaming and applauding. Am I awesome? Yes, I am!
The sound of machine gun fire snaps me out of my self-adulation. I twist my gauntlets – thwack – and the glider wings retract under my shoulder cape. I hop up on a ventilation unit, hop an easy twenty feet to another roof, then another, and I’m overlooking Fifth and Spring.
Ten guesses who it is.
There are three Jet Pack Mafia goons this time, and it looks like they’ve decided to not only rob but also totally demolish Fidelity Trust bank. They’ve shot up the bank, which is on the bottom floor of a forty-story skyscraper. Fist sized bullet holes from their armor piercing Tommy guns pockmark the granite of the building. Black smoke gushes out of shattered windows. Somehow they managed to throw the big circular vault door through the lobby window, crushing a taxi that was waiting at the light at the intersection. Two cop cars burn down the street and all the smart people are either under cover or running away.
I can see two of the Mafioso on the sidewalk in front of the bank throwing what I assume are bags of money into a garbage dumpster. The third goon is brandishing his machine gun, dragging some poor schmo – bank manager? – out into the middle of the street by the arm. He holds the guy in front of him and fires off a few heavy rounds at a cop car a block away on Spring. It blows up.
“Take that, coppers! Haw haw!” I swear, that’s how they talk.
I should explain: The Jet Pack Mafia is a gang of high-tech bank robbers who use, well, jet packs to escape from their robberies. Not only that, but they wear customized exo-skeleton body armor that enhances their strength tenfold and are covered with a rubbery bullet proof outer layer. For some reason these guys have modified their armor so they look like life-size 1920’s gangster action figures. Really. They have weird plastic skin and rubbery hair and plastic pin stripe suits – they look like creepy rubber gangster robots. I think they look like The Puttermans, the creepy plastic robot family from those old Duracell ads. Anyway, I first fought them a year ago with Wombat and Kestrel during the Villain’s Revolt and lately they’ve been robbing armored cars in Evergreen City, making me look bad. I tussled with one of these clowns recently and almost got killed, but he got cocky and dropped his guard and I brained the fucker with an old car battery. (see post Why Jet Packs Should Be Illegal, 11/26/04) Taking on all three at once may be suicide, but I can’t just let them rob banks and do whatever they want. I’m a fucking superhero, we don’t tolerate shit like that.
From somewhere down Spring cops fire tear gas canisters up into the intersection
“Eat lead, pigs!” The Mafioso sprays the street with gunfire. He looks like the leader; he’s got a red carnation on his suit and an oversized fedora. A cartoony scar runs down one side of his face.
Okay, here’s the layout: I’m on the south side of the intersection of Fifth and Spring, eight stories up on top of the Evergreen Art Museum. The Jet Pack Mafia is robbing the burning Fidelity Trust building on the north side of the intersection. On the east side there’s a mid-rise building with offices and Bullimore’s, a great steak restaurant. I would feel bad if Bullimore’s got destroyed. On the west side of the intersection is a construction site, a big fenced off pit with a huge construction crane rising out of it. That’s the battlefield, obscured by tear gas and smoke from the bank and burning cop cars.
Scarface’s hostage drops to his knees, coughing and retching. Go time.
I jump off the building. About halfway down I spread my arms and twist into position – woosh – the glider wings fill with air, and I swoop down into the intersection, gathering speed. It’s as if I’m at the end of a long, invisible cable, swinging madly.
The Mafioso turns before I hit him, and his black shiny Little Lulu eyes go wide with surprise. That’s right fucker, I’m flying.
My aim is a little off, so I settle for clothes-lining Scarface as I fly by him. I stick out my arm and catch him in the sternum, which makes a sound like a Japanese kettle drum when I strike it. The impact fucks up my trajectory and I spin clumsily off and slam into the side of the burning bank. Scarface hits the granite wall full on, making a spider web of impact cracks on the stone. I hop to my feet.
“Bitch?” I say. He’s out cold, I think. “Is that what you were going to say? Son of a bitch?”
Bullets shatter the wall over my head. I dive through a busted window into the bank’s lobby.
Behind a pillar I catch my breath. I can’t see the goon with the Tommy gun due to all the smoke, but I can hear him outside.
“You mutt!” he says. Is this the guy I fought earlier? They all sound the same. “I’ll drill you fulla holes!”
“You’re such a tease,” I say.
I look around the ruined bank. It looks like they used explosives on the vault and high caliber rounds on the lobby. Some people are cowering under a table, wide-eyed and covered with dust. From where I’m standing I can see the feet of a dead woman, probably a bank teller or something. The rest of the body is obscured by a shattered countertop, but I can see her feet. She’s wearing nylons and black pumps, and she’s dead.
How many people have they killed here?
“Come on out, Fancy Dan!” the Mafioso calls. He fires off a few more rounds. Is he calling me gay?
I glance around the other side of the pillar. It looks like the other goon is still loading bags of money into a dumpster on the sidewalk outside. A stupid plan formulates in my mind, and I act.
I unclip a sepia bomb from my utility belt. It’s like a smoke bomb, but better. Taking a couple of quick breaths to psyche myself up, I pull the tab on the grenade. I lob the grenade out the window towards the goon, who I will now refer to as “Fancy Dan” for simplicity.
“What the --?”
The sepia bomb goes off and Fancy Dan is engulfed in a boiling cloud of inky darkness.
While he’s occupied, I turn my attention to the other clown. Breaking cover, I sprint out of Fidelity Trust and full-on slam into the dumpster that they’re loading all the money into.
I hit the thing hard, lose balance and fall. I watch the dumpster fly across the street and bust through the wooden wall surrounding the construction site. The whole dumpster – money and all - drops into the deep construction pit, landing with a noisy clatter thirty feet below. I laugh.
The Jet Pack Mafia guy who was loading the dumpster with loot is really pissed. He kicks me in the face with big oversized loafers.
“I’ll murderize ya!” This Mafioso has a beak nose, a pencil thin moustache, and tiny hateful cartoon eyes. He raises his Tommy gun.
Shaking off the kick, I strike hard with my patented Cobra Punch, right in his crotch. The blow blasts him back into the bank, sprawling into the wreckage. If he wasn’t wearing that weird rubbery exo-skeleton, he’d be dead. Or crotchless.
Then Fancy Dan throws a mailbox at me.
It hits me right in the side of the head, and I nearly black out. I sprawl drunkenly into a car, putting my fist through a window. Forgive me for being obvious, but getting hit in the ear with a mailbox will fuck your shit up.
I’m still trying to clear my head when Fancy Dan grabs me by the lapels of my topcoat and hoists me into the air above him.
“Bon voyage, Fruitcake!”
He throws me into the construction pit.
(Oh no! Do I die? Please check out Holiday Hellzone! Part Two and find out.)