Tonight I head out to South Bend for patrol. I usually stick to the urban center of Evergreen City –Midtown, Queen’s Row, Chinatown, etc – but tonight I want to check out The Bend, as they call it. South Bend is and old dock and warehouse district on the banks of the Willapa under the 101 viaduct. The area is slowly gentrifying; land speculators are buying lots and renovating old buildings into overpriced condos, but it’s still pretty sketchy. Tonight a river mist creeps over The Bend, silently flooding the colorless streets.
I leave my car up on the hill and jog down into South Bend on silent streets at about 30 mph. I hop up on to a warehouse, then run and jump across the dark urban playground until I reach the building I want.
The Cardiff is a rotting old three-story apartment building overlooking the river, flanked by two equally haggard looking brick warehouses. Mist and darkness cling to the damp buildings. I check out the Cardiff from the roof of the café across the street, where I crouch behind a vent. I try not to make any noise, because parked in a van on the street below me are a couple plain clothes police officers watching the same building.
One of the things I found out when I planted a listening device on an ECPD Paracrime Unit trooper was this stakeout: for the past three weeks the cops have had 24 hour protective surveillance on Liz Hellman’s apartment building. The name sounded familiar, so I Googled her and found out that Hellman is Liz’s maiden name – her married name is Rapaport. As in Vincent Rapaport.
As in Parka.
Liz Hellman is the estranged wife of the supervillain Parka, and for the past two years she and her two year old son have been moving around trying to avoid Parka. Apparently Liz got tired of life with a supervillain and decided to split, and Vincent didn’t take it too well. According to SuperPeople, Parka is insanely possessive and wants his son back. That’s not somebody I’d want to be in a custody battle with.
Anyway, from what I understand the cops in the van are here to keep an eye on the apartment in case Parka shows up. I assume their orders are to call for help – I can’t imagine two cops with sidearms taking on Parka. Well, not successfully anyway. From up here I can hear them talking to each other, and the soft squawk of their radio.
I can’t tell who’s in the apartment because the curtains are drawn, but somebody’s awake up there. What the hell, I’ll hang out for a little while, see if anything happens.
Making myself as comfortable as I can on the roof, I rip open a Power Bar and queue up my new mix on my armor’s MP3 player. Tonight I’m rocking the United States of Electronica, perky synthy dance music. Again: not gay.
Every once in a while I poke my head up to make sure nothing’s going on. I see a hobo shuffling down the sidewalk past the Cardiff. The tracks aren’t far from here and hundreds of hobos camp out under the viaduct, so nothing out of the ordinary there.
I’m bopping and humming along to my disco when I hear shouting. I poke my head up –
--and see the two plainclothes cops advancing across the street from their van guns drawn, pointing at the homeless guy on the sidewalk. They’re shouting at him, but I can’t hear – damn it, I can never turn this fucking MP3 player off. The cops are screaming at the homeless guy, who’s wearing a hooded sweatshirt and is holding his hands up.
I finally turn the music off.
“—don’t want to kill any cops!” the guy yells.
I zoom in on him with my binocular setting.
“Oh, shit,” I say.
I can’t believe I didn’t recognize him – you’d think I’d be suspicious of a guy in a hood, but no. That’s why I’m not one of those detective type superheroes; no eye for detail. The cops aren’t as stupid as I am, but I have a feeling that in a minute they’re going to wish they hadn’t spotted him.
“Don’t move! Do not move!” the cops yell.
“I’m not going to warn you again!” Parka yells. “I’m just here for my boy! Stand down!”
“Keep your hands in the air and get down on your knees!”
Parka hits the cops with his power. I can feel it from up here, 50 yards away – a wave of cold hits me like a sudden arctic gale.
The street in front of the Cardiff is flash-frozen, a glistening icy wonderland. It looks like somebody sprayed the whole street with that weird white crap – flocking – that people spray Christmas trees with. Parka stands in the center of the icy blast zone, immune to the extreme cold, while the two cops curl at his feet, covered in a thin layer of snow. They’re probably dead.
Briefly I see Liz Hellman part the curtains in her window and look down, and then she disappears.
I stand up and take a deep breath, then crack my neck. I’m not too psyched about this, but what can I do? I’m the Velvet Marauder, and I'm an idiot. I have to go down there.
So with a hollow feeling in my gut, I jump off the roof of the café, hurling myself at Parka.
I should stop my narrative, here in mid-air, and explain my trepidation.
In case you don’t know, Parka is a Silver Striker villain, a member of The Malefactors, a loose-knit group of villains who apparently exist only to fuck with Silver Striker. A lab experiment gone horribly wrong gave researcher Vincent Rapaport incredible icy powers, but also turned his body into a sub-zero cold generator. He keeps his unnaturally cold body in a specially designed hooded containment suit, and wears a mask and goggles. He looks like an evil snowmobiler. Taking the appropriate but weird nom de guerre Parka he turned to a life of crime. Parka is like Iceman from Marvel Comics, but without the ice skating. And he kills people.
Parka, you may recall, was the reason Silver Striker incorporated. During the Galactic Trauma a couple years back Silver Striker fought all five of The Malefactors at once. He kicked the shit out of them, but Parka froze Houston’s water supply, rupturing water mains and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Suddenly Silver Striker faced a foe that he couldn’t fight with speed and solar power – a class action lawsuit. He incorporated and created Silver Striker Enterprises shortly thereafter just to defend himself from all the bullshit.
So you can see how I’d be anxious. I’m fighting Parka, an “A” list villain who regularly throws down with Silver Striker – and I’m near a river. Smart.
All right, back to me in mid-air: I jump out in a high parabolic arc, an easy fifty meter leap for me, and come down almost on top of Parka. I see him look up – even under the parka hood and behind the ski mask and goggles I can tell he’s surprised – and then I’m engulfed in a fucking blizzard.
An icy invisible hand of super-cooled air catches my body and tosses me hard against the frosted façade of the Cardiff apartments.
The chill sinks down past my insulated body armor, into my bones. My lungs ache with cold. I pull myself into a crouch, sucking air.
“Who the fuck you supposed to be?” Parka says, walking closer.
“Y-yuh… yuh…” I gasp.
“Speak up,” he says, bending down.
“Your mama,” I snarl, springing to my feet. I catch him with an open hand in the chest, and shove as hard as I can. Parka flies back into the air across the street. Just before he crashes into the café, Parka spins in mid-air and hoses down the landing area with a cold blast. He lands in a big mound of soft, fluffy snow, uninjured.
He’ll be on his feet in seconds. I don’t even have enough time to chastise myself for the horrible “your mama” line. Jumping over to the two fallen cops, I dig in my utility belt.
The cops look bad. They’re both covered in a thin glaze of ice and they’re not even shivering.
I find what I’m looking for: one of the new Solar Flares from My Guy. Haven’t tried these out yet, My Guy says they burn brighter and hotter than my old magnesium flares. I guess we’ll see. I pop the top off the flare, which instantly fizzes to life.
About 50 yards away, Parka rises out of the snow pile. Spindrift and icy fog swirls around him like a ghost.
“You!” he yells, stabbing a thick gloved finger at me. “You’re a fucking dead man!”
The Solar Flare practically explodes in my hand, bursting into a white hot incandescence in my hand. The heat feels blistering when compared to the chill air around me.
I need some time, so I throw the flare at him. Parka waves his hand, and the Solar Flare explodes harmlessly against a big concave crystalline barrier.
“I’m just here to get my boy – my boy – from that bitch, and you fuckers have to get in the way!”
Pfsshhht! Keep talking, dickhead. I pop another blinding Solar Flare and drop it between the two freezer-burnt cops. Hopefully that will start to thaw them; I don’t know what else I can do. The sirens are getting louder, so hopefully paramedics are on the way. Of course, if I don’t take Parka down…
The crystalline barrier comes crashing down, and Parka throws something at me.
Instinctively I roll to one side as a deadly swarm of icicles screams through the air above me, smashing out all the windows on the ground floor of the apartments behind me. I hop across the street behind some cars, hoping to draw his fire away from the two cops.
It works. A blizzard of ultra-cold air whips across the street after me. I cower behind a car, one of those little Scions. I couldn’t have picked a bigger car?
“I’m going to show you what happens when you fuck around in something that’s none of your fucking business!” Parka screams.
The air around me turns into a pretty little sparkly fairy land, and that intense cold settles down on me. My goggles start to fog up and my head goes light. The air is so cold it burns my sinuses, my throat. I can see feathers of ice growing on the body of the Scion, spreading in a fractal pattern. My limbs feel stiff. This is not a good thing.
I’m vaguely aware of sirens, and the sound of Parka raving about his son, and my ringing ears.
Dizzy, I lean against the Scion. My fingers dig into the frozen metal of the car.
Where is he? Jesus, it’s cold. I hope Liz Hellman and her kid made it out the back of the Cardiff.
Through my foggy goggles I see him, a dark shape coming towards me, the center of a spinning vortex of snow. Behind him I see flashing police lights. More cops for Parka to kill. I gotta do something.
So I push as hard as I can on the Scion, flipping the frozen little car into the street. I’m pretty fucking strong even when I’m half frozen; the car rolls and tumbles end over end into the street, flattening Parka. Instantly the deep freeze lifts and the temperature shoots up a good thirty degrees.
My head is killing me – I’ve got some major brain-freeze going on.
“Freeze! Freeze!” somebody’s screaming. Sounds like cops. Even in my frost-adled state, I find it ironic. Because, you know, they’re yelling “freeze!” and it’s very cold. Irony.
I pull myself up to my knees and realize that some of the cops are yelling at me. Two Paracrime Unit troopers are advancing towards me with MAC-10 submachine guns, yelling and pointing at me. I think they want me to get back down on the ground.
Ignoring the cops for a minute, I try to clear my head and find Parka.
Ah. There he is, under the car. A pair of boots stick out from under the frozen, overturned Scion, like the Wicked Witch of the East.
The ringing in my ears is starting to go away, replaced by the screaming of the cops.
“Down on the ground! Face down!”
I wave them off. “I’m fine, really. Thanks for asking.”
“Down on the –“
Enough of the yelling. I drop a sepia bomb on the street and smile as the inky blackness billows around me. The cops are yelling, but not shooting. With all my strength I leap up out of the cloud, hopping like a drunken frog on to the roof of the café. They keep screaming for me to stop – very optimistic of them.
I glance over my shoulder before I split – a bunch of cops are gathered around the overturned Scion and flattened supervillain.
Holy shit, I think I just killed Parka.