Working Out The Kinks
by Denver Mason


 I imagine every Super-Hero has to face this moment; a moment of vulnerability, fear, and the swallowing of his pride. For me, that time is now.

“Hello, Jessica? This is Peter. I need your help.”

Ok, admittedly, the embarrassment I’m feeling is nothing compared to the utter humiliation after the Imperious Maximus debacle in which I got my armored can stomped. Still, I’ve not been looking forward to this. When Jessica and I originally met, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. I can recall a few of the snide comments quite clearly. I think my skill for repression is fading in my old age. Darn it.

There’s a pause before she responds, “Of course you do.” There’s my girl, I think dryly.

“Jessica, is there some place we can meet? The suit is a bit scuffed.” It occurs to me I should probably be a bit more paranoid, but who the heck would have reason to tap my phone lines anyways? Then something else occurs to me, “Surely Dad had a secret lab or something?”

The pause this time is even longer. In fact, if it got any more pregnant, we’d have twins.

“Yes,” Jessica replies,” This isn’t the place to discuss it. Bring the suit to the old substation behind Wyman Park. I’ll show you from there.” A sub station? She’s joking right? Then she hangs up.

Well, that was abrupt, I guess I don’t have much choice; I’m on her timetable. I sure hope she meant now, since she didn’t exactly tell me when. I glance over at the armor. It’s in bad shape, but so far, flight seems to work. If I avoid any more major battles, I should be just fine.

Minutes later, as I wobble in the air, I start to have second thoughts. Not only are rends in the suit sparking dangerously from time to time, I forgot I’m still half blind in this stupid helmet. I sure hope Jessica can help with that, because last I heard, it’s not like Pearl Eye Care adjusted super hero helmets to your prescription.

The Radar is working fairly well. If I swoop close enough I can even identify the blips and blobs on it. Tree. Check. Billboard. Check. Carjacking. Check. Lamppost…

Carjacking? I do a one eighty and head back a tad.

Sure enough, there’s a scrawny guy with a Saturday night special (Do they still call them that? It’s not like I cruise the criminal elements for slang terms) pointed at what I can only assume is a frightened driver. Heck, I’m not even sure what type of car it is.

“Get out of the car… you get me?” The thug threatens them with. I guess he doesn’t see the crackling golden figure fly at him. Anyone get the feeling I’m not the only one who needs a new prescription here?

“Yup.” I grab the gun arm first so if it does fire, he won’t hit anyone. There’s a bam and it pings harmlessly against the street. ”I do indeed get you.” Now, I’m kind of stuck, how hard should I hit this guy? What if the suit fritzes and I electrocute him? I tap on the electric field and get ready to toss him away. There’s a spark, he convulses, and collapses, but seems to be alive.

“You two ok in there?” I hope that’s two, maybe the guy has a really ugly passenger seat. 

A gasp comes from the driver, “Yeah, thanks Surge, that … thanks. That guy would have killed us.”

A woman’s voice joins his, ”You were wonderful, if there’s anything we can ever do…”

Under the helmet, I smile. After getting my rear kicked around by Imperious Maximus this actually feels, pretty good. “Actually,” I interrupt, “you can. If either of you have a cell phone, call the police, ok?” I could make a call on the headset I guess, but I don’t have all the frequencies figured out. I also take the chance to peek at the make. Minor thing, but not knowing the type of car was really bothering me. A Volvo? Who jacks a Volvo?

“It’s a Volvo.” The woman says proudly.

The driver grumbles, I get the feeling she got to pick the make. “Yes ma’am.” Another smile under my helmet, “And, as you can see, it really is the safest car on the road.”

She gushes something in response, but I’m already flying away.

 

******

The substation stands overlooked and forgotten. It’s nothing more than a glorified backup generator now. The city probably plans to do something more constructive with the land when it “gets the budgeting.” Which means it will stand forever and ever until rust claims it. As I land, the suit sputters like a fuse.

I gawk around looking for the other half of this clandestine get together. “Jessica, where are you?”

“Quickly, down here!” Did the grate just talk to me?

Or in this case not so great. I move to where I heard Jessica’s voice, and only a radar keeps me from stepping on empty air as the grate leading below slides to the side. I take a quick sparking fly down, the grate makes that old 60’s Trek ‘shhhh’ sound, and I move on through a short tunnel to see what’s down here. Another door beeps at me, and to my surprise, the armor beeps back. This door opens and suddenly I’m in Technodise.

The walls are a crazy mix of 50’s Cold War Kitsch and flickering lights on gliding plastic panels. The floor seems to be of black marble with titanium steel inlays; it occurs to me that those inlays look pretty darn conductive. There’s a central area with a swivel chair surrounded by monitors and at least two keyboards. Some of those monitors appear to be picking up cable. The channels change from time to time.

Sitting in the chair, like a queen bee in the center of an electric hive, is Jessica. I move forward, and she sees me, perhaps for the first time since the fight. Her expression isn’t what I expected. She’s almost tearful as she rises, and heads to me, hands outstretched. I’m glad the electric field is off, I’m so stunned now I’d probably forget otherwise. I take off my helmet. “Hey Jessica… nice place.”

“Oh you poor baby…” She places a gentle hand on my shoulder, and runs another along the rend at my side. She seems honestly concerned; maybe I’ve misjudged her? I do look a fright, bruises everywhere, abrasions, it’s nice to get a little T.L.C. and here I thought she was a …

“How could you treat the armor this way?” Her eyes narrow accusingly at me, “There are pivots, dents, and tears in no less than three places. Do you know how stressful it is to the armor just flying it in this condition?”

My verbal repost is positively smooth, ”Whaaa?” Then I get it; the ‘Baby’ is the armor. I do not believe this woman. “Hey,” I protest, ”Wounded human being in here?”

Another eye roll, “Oh, you’ll be fine. Flesh heals, the armor on the other hand needs repairing. Best take it off.”

I mutter, “I’m kind of down to my undies down here.”

“I promise not to shoot.” Jessica hurumphs, and points to a small side chamber. “You can change in there. There is an extra set of your father’ old sweats.” She looks away at that.

She’s right of course, a moment later I’m out of the armor and into a solid gray set of sweats. As I hand the armor over, there is a moment of tension between us that I can’t describe. Our eyes lock. Finally I speak.

“I have an idea for the armor, and I want it put in.”

“You have an idea? That’s almost comic.” She cradles the armor against herself, “What is it? A hip and trendy new S symbol, you don’t like the color scheme?”

“Ha. Ha.” I answer straight faced, “No, I want you to help me wire it so I can boost the strength again without shorting the suit out. I was thinking we might reinforce and streamline the ah… surge protectors.”

“It might be done.” She seems shocked, not that it can be done, but that I am the one who thought of it. “In fact, we might be able to convert some of the excess into a sort of electromagnetic sheathe to aid in repulsion.”

I grin, kind of fun to watch her eyes light up, “Let’s get to it.”

Her lights dim a tad, “You want to help in this?”

“Yes,” and I rush forward before she can nix the idea, “Look Jessica, I did learn a few things from dad. Also, I am the one wearing the armor. The more I know about it, and how it is designed, the better.”

Her eyes narrow at me again, “If you’d applied yourself instead of turning your back on your father you wouldn’t need me to…”

I hold up a hand, as I bite down on the first three comments that come to mind and would likely get me thrown out of here, “Is that a yes, or a no?”

“It’s a yes”, Jessica replies, testy at having her lecture cut off, “Follow me to the repair bay.” She leads me through a set of the shush doors and we go down a tunnel, some sort of art display?

Behind high strength yet crystalline plastics lay weird rifles with fins, garish costumes, and suits of armor. There is great honking key as well.  I find myself subconsciously slouching. Dad never struck me as the sort to keep a trophy room. Then again, who would throw away a key to the city? I can’t help pausing to look over it all as Jessica vanishes through another door ahead.

I walk up to it as well, wanting nothing more than to escape this tunnel. I slam into the door, which does not open up for me.

 “What the hell?” I look, but like the others, there’s no knob, no obvious buttons. I’m trapped in here, empty eyeholes of old surge suits and the armors of his beaten foes looking down on me. I bang against the door louder.

“Hello, Jessica!” Another bang, then the door slides open again, and Jessica peers out. I take the opportunity to duck in.

“I told you to follow me.” She comments in that put upon tone of hers.

I  ignore that fact with a protest, “Why wouldn’t it open for me? “

“It’s not keyed to allow you access without the armor. It knows me, but as for you, without the suit on, it just won’t recognize you as Surge.”

I get the uncomfortable feeling the doors aren’t alone in that, “Let’s get to work”


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