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Dispensing Justice - Chapter 5 - The Suit

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When high school freshman Michael Gurrick's father is killed by supervillains, he takes up his father's supersuit and seeks justice (or will it be vengeance?) against his father's killers. (e)

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Chapter 5 — The Suit

I stepped up to the third suit from the right, the one that I had been working on for the last six months, inserting gel padding so I would fill the suit out---Doc Styx, the oldest living Earth-born superhero, tells me that I'll be taller than Dad, not that I am dropping names or anything, because he's been treating Mom since June. All right, I admit it, I am name dropping. I stripped to my skivvies---and I wear boxer briefs, if you must know---only momentarily thinking about Penny. She had helped me suit up enough times that I was almost able to do it without thinking about how female she was.

I handed her my cellphone.

"And if Liz calls?" she said, raising an eyebrow.

I didn't think Mom would, but . . . "Tell her that I'm helping you with your calculus home---no, wait. Tell her that we're watching an on-demand movie or something, and if that doesn't work, patch her through."

"Of course, if you're not busy," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"At least Diana won't be calling to check up on us tonight."

She glanced over at the monitors. The League was holding its own against Doctor M's army of robots. "Nope, she's definitely too busy to wonder what we're doing."

I stepped into the suit, gritting my teeth as the plumbing snugged into place. I kept wondering when that part of suiting up was going to get easier.

"I assume your dad is covering the attack at the plaza, but how is it that you managed to leave without the twins tagging along?" I fastened the main seam, leaving the hood and rebreather-filter mask dangling.

"I made them promise to behave."

We were moving toward the backpacks. "And that will work?"

"They've come a long way since the library incident."

I lifted the disk-shaped cold-fusion power pack from its cart. "So you really trust them now?"

"I know you went through a rough patch with them, but that was before the riots."

"Yeah, okay, we've all changed since then." I fitted the power pack into place in the backpack I'd prepped specifically to take on the Demolition Squad. The power pack was the only one I had that still worked, and while I had been studying Dad's files, I hadn't been capable of doing anything more sophisticated than general maintenance on the power pack's cold-fusion bottle. If---no, when I could build a new one, I'd be at least halfway to taking up Dad's role, to be more than just playing at wearing his mask. Until then, I had to make sure this one kept functioning. Without the cold-fusion bottle, the suits were just so many million-dollar Halloween costumes.

I pulled the backpack on and Penny helped me tighten it into place. I powered the suit up. The hoses locked into place with the faint whirring of servo-motors; the arms and legs stiffened, then softened, as their complement of hoses pressurized and equalized. I pulled the hood and mask up and sealed them, inhaling the slightly rubbery smell of filtered air. The internal status display appeared. Everything was green. I buckled the utility belt into place and signaled the umbilical to disconnect. I barely sagged as I took the full load of the fifty-two pound mission-ready backpack. Penny could have danced the Nutcracker while wearing it, of course. I engaged the pneumatic power-assist and the load lightened. I gave a thumbs up to Penny and braced myself.

Penny returned my thumbs up and headed for the high-backed chair at the command console. In the time it had taken to suit up, the monitor agents had identified five more trouble spots. The night was turning into a real crime wave. I spotted Electrode, Backslash, and a couple of other techno-thugs in proactive pursuit of wealth. And Penny had been right about the Demolition Squad deciding to 'play' with Zircon Man. He was still fighting, despite several obvious gaps in the golden struts of his exoskeleton, and a lurching gate.

Fear and elation fought within me, their tendrils entangling, leaving me with a muddled feeling of nausea. I tried to ignore it and started for the launch capsule door.

"Systems check." Penny's voice on the suit radio brought me up short, my non-skid soles squeaking on the seamless high-density plastic floor of the lab.

I turned back. "Roger, systems check."

"Communication links?"

"Of course the radio works. We're using it."

"This is serious, Michael."

There was no use being impatient. "Comm links. Check."

"Video link? Check," she said, answering her own question. A panoramic view of the lab centered on my head appeared in the lowest band of monitors. "Cold-fusion bottle?"

"Reading 90 kilowatts, pushing 200 kilowatts for peak output. Nominal neutron flux."

"Primary pump?" Penny queried.

"Online," I answered, its faint hum reassuring.

"Secondary pumps?"

"Online."

"Main tank pressure?"

"756 atmospheres."

"Pneumatic power-assist?"

"Check."

"All mission-specific reservoirs reading?"

"100%."

"Now you can go kick some ass."

"Thanks, I plan to." I said.

I stepped into the waiting capsule. It dropped, and moments later it shuddered to a halt. I triggered the suit's shock balloons and in an explosive 'ca-rumpf' they expanded out from their hidden compartments distributed around the suit. They locked me into place at the bottom of one of the largest air cannons in the world. A chill ran down my spine and my palms grew sweaty.

"Fire when ready," I radioed Penny.

"Roger, three second countdown. Three. Two. One."

It was better than the best amusement park ride. Ever.

The sound baffles flicked past and I popped out of the mouth of the cannon like a champagne cork with about as much noise. The shock balloons enveloping me collapsed and were sucked back into their hidden compartments ready to be deployed again. I rose silently into the twilight sky, the now familiar lights of my darkening neighborhood spreading out below, the distant towers of the Galacticity downtown redly reflecting the setting sun. Orange pinpricks of light connected by vaporous white trails created sweeping bracelets in the southeastern sky as cargo and passenger modules were boosted upward on invisible beams of ultraviolet laser light. My heart felt as if it was in my throat, rising in a crescendo of anticipation.

I triggered my jetpack, and accelerated upward on its stream of compressed air.


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