Read and - hopefully - enjoy!
The squeal of brakes screeched through the Georgia night as a dark van sped around a corner. The wail of sirens from behind was created by the couple of Atlanta police cars that were trailing the van. As they sped up upon it, the back flipped open and a hail of gunfire erupted, forcing the police to swerve away. One went too far, slamming into a building, and the other kept up with the chase. A couple of gunshots came next and the car's tire blew out, sending it skidding out of control and to an eventual halt.
Inside the van the occupants - a gang of bank robbers - cheered and whooped. "Man, I knew this was gonna be good!" one of them shouted.
The driver laughed, looking back toward his compatriot. "Yeah, cops here are slow and there's no damned superheroes around to ruin things. We're home free! I can't wait to see what...."
"Shit! Look out!"
The call of the man in the passenger seat caused the driver to turn just in time to see something standing in the road. He barely got a time to get a glimpse before a big metal fist slammed into the grill of the van. Aluminum crumpled and the engine cut off, crushed within the hood of the van. The robbers were thrown to the bottom of the van, and only the seatbelts of the men in front prevented them from going through the windshield.
They now looked forward to see what'd stopped them. It was, surprisingly, a massive figure clearly made of gray metal. It had no paint and no markings, with the only non-gray part being a blue visor-like piece on the head. There were some dents in the torso, giving something of a beat-up appearance to the thing. The robbers piled out, frantically clawing for their automatics. "Shoot it! Shoot it!" They pulled their triggers and bullets struck the monstrosity, just to bounce off it's armored skin. The massive metal thing stomped forward, clanging loudly, and it's massive arm reached forward and snatched one robber, tossing him into two of his compatriots, all three slamming into the nearby wall and falling dazed and nearly unconscious. His weapon came loose and ended up in the robot's grip. The thing took it in each hand and broke it over it's massive armored knee. It whirred audibly when looking toward the last robbers. They poured their fire on. "This suit has a diamonide coating, even cop-killing ammo just bounces off," a rough, electronic voice remarked. "You might as well throw the things at me."
The men kept firing out of pure fright until they ran out of ammo. Finally they threw their guns down and began to run.
The metal suit jumped. It didn't just jump, though; plumes of flame erupted from it's feet and it became airborne, turning in mid-flight and landing in the path of the fleeing robbers once more. The suit's right arm lifted and a section of the forearm lifted upward, revealing a nozzle with a small flame appearing before it. "I'm not wealthy, so I can't afford a really good energy cannon with stun settings. I only have flamethrowers. Now, do you surrender, or do you get served up extra crispy?"
The men dropped to their knees. Behind the metal man red and blue lights flashed. The wail of sirens grew louder. As the cop cars pulled up, a few bystanders from a nearby fast food joint came out and watched in amazement. One kid finally shouted out, "Cool! It's the Panzer Pyro!"
A cheer came from the crowd. A semi-attractive teenage girl even shouted, "You always set me on fire! Marry me!", amongst the clamor. The police got out of their cars, guns, pointed at the subdued robbers, and the Panzer Pyro flew off into the night sky.
It was a simple, unassuming suburban neighborhood in Atlanta. Everyone was inside asleep - or nearly so - and nobody could hear the buffered hum of the "Panzer Pyro"'s leg jets as it flew into a backyard in one of the smaller houses of the neighborhood. The robot stomped into the shed in the back.
Inside was an unassuming young man with short, greasy dark blond hair. He suffered from a slight case of acne and was standing over a table with a device upon it. He looked up. "Cool, you're back."
"What are you doing up this late? You should be getting home."
"Just waiting for you to get back to see if you need any repairs. Oh, and, I wanted to install this." He patted the device on the table. "I made you a stun gun!"
A groan came from inside the suit. Two metal fists gripped the locks at the base of the neck and pulled them, releasing the helmet. With a hiss it was pulled away. A head of shoulder-length purple hair appeared, possessing Oriental features and with skin that confirmed Oriental ancestry, if not entirely. Looking it over, the suit pilot's voice was now clearly feminine. "It'll never work. Power hookup's not compatible."
"Well, Ms. Chan, I worked really hard on it. How can I make it work?"
"Oh, I don't know," Amy Chan said irritably. "It's late, I just had to deal with some annoying bank robbers and the usual crowds. Another girl propositioned me for marriage." She pressed a key ordinarly covered by the helmet, and the back of the armored suit opened up. She pulled her arms out first and then removed her legs one at a time, hopping down. She was in a pink "Hello Kitty" T-shirt and gym shorts.
"I thought you didn't like those things?" Yancy asked.
"I like the irony that I fight criminals and set them on fire while wearing a 'Hello Kitty' shirt," Amy replied sarcastically. "As for you. Get. Home. You're out far too late and your parents are going to start getting suspicious."
They were of the same age, but while Amy had her own (mortgaged) home sustained by a combination of inheritance funds, investment returns created by them, and her freelance design and maintainance work, Yancy lived in his parent's garage down the street. He was smart in his own way but completely unambitious and, frankly, annoying.
"Oh, okay," Yancy answered. As they left the shed and walked their own ways, Yancy to the fence hole that would let him skip across to his parents' yard and Amy to her back door, he asked, "Hey, can I come back tomorrow and...."
"Yeah, fine, whatever. Just don't wake me up before two." With that, Amy slammed the back door behind her, leaving Yancy to return home on his own.
The next day Amy awoke at two-thirty sharp. Yawning and grudingly kicking away the light sheet she wore over her night clothes, she stumbled down into the kitchen to yank up a snack. She quickly realized she had little food left and missed college, when her roommates always kept the pantry stocked for her to raid when she pleased. Still, she managed to grab a bag of cookies and a small glass of coke. She peeked at her "work schedule" and saw it thankfully empty. Her repairs to the Davisons' family computer had held and their sons hadn't yet repopulated it with malware in their attempts to rebuild the porn collections she had to delete every time she did work on it. Tomorrow she was due at the Rockwells', whosw daughter had caused more malware infestations through her hunt for MP3s of bad boy band music, and thankfully her allowance was rich enough that Amy could blackmail another $20 or so out of her to keep her collection of written superhero slash a secret (Amy was quite sure that the Omega Paladin and Goomba did not do the things Jenny Rockwell liked to write about them doing, nor did she like to think about it). And the network at that Finch Richards & Weinstein law firm would probably need another patching up....
Though constantly cleaning up the messes caused by computer ne'er-do-wells became irritating, at least it gave Amy more cash between major projects. She was hoping to get in a bid on that new Fahr Industries robotics project, since they hired out freelance work. And Hawk Electronics was soon going to be hiring freelancers to do a project for a new military missile; that would pay really well, and thanks to the increased network system they had she could do her work through their annex at the former Marietta-Douglass facility in Marietta.
With food and drink in hand, Amy returned to her room and plopped herself in front of her computer. She signed onto AIM with her usual screenname - "Pyro Maya1C" - and was quickly invited by "Col Lukashenko" into a chat titled "theworldcrisis". And so the chat began:
Col Lukashenko: Amy-chan!
MarshalParnell: of these people continues to amaze me.
MarshalParnell: Ah, hello Amy.
Pyro Maya1C: Was just seeing who else was on. I didn't think there would be a chat.
BeoHui 412: *glomps Amy*
Pyro Maya1C: *sets Beo on fire*
Col Lukashenko: *snark*
Col Lukashenko: *yanks Amy away* You can't have her, she's mine!
Pyro Maya1C: It won't work if I protest I'm not a lesbian, will it?
MarshalParnell: Obviously not.
JerithFlame has entered the room.
JerithFlame: Ladykiller is an idiot.
MarshalParnell: And the sky is blue. What did he do now?
Pyro Maya1C: I know what his name means, but I really, really hate it anyway.
Col Lukashenko: Don't worry, Amy-chan, I'll protect you. *snuggles*
Pyro Maya1C: Anyway, I've got to go make a grocery run. Just to see, anyone heard from Steve?
MarshalParnell: Still nothing. He did say something about personal problems and a lack of online access time.
Pyro Maya1C: Oh well. I'll be back tonight, probably. Have a good day.
Amy clicked the "X" button in the corner of the chat window to close it. A quick check of her contact list told her that her boyfriend in Iowa was away, probably at work. She put her profile on away and went to get dressed.
Once dressed Amy decided to check the shed to see if Yancy had indeed returned, and she found him sleeping in a chair, snoring loudly, with the suit laid out. The dents had been removed and, much to her dislike, the "stun gun" he'd fashioned was now attached to the lower left arm of her suit. "I liked that dent," she muttered before assembling the suit and towing it to her van. She purposely had the shed and garage linked so she could move the suit to and from her van when she needed it. It was annoying to lug it, but it was something she did just to be on the safe side. However, since she wasn't going so far this time, she would leave it assembled so she could, if necessary, fly it to her location.
After setting the suit up and acquiring the remote, Amy drove out of her neighborhood and into the bustling streets of the Greater Atlanta area. It was not a quick distance to a nearby Publix, nestled between large buildings.
Mumbling a greeting to the cute smiling door greeter-girl, Amy went about her business shopping, acquiring the usual mix of microwave health foods and snacks.
But when she got to the checkout line, Amy noticed the other customers were perturbed by something, and one good sniff told her what - a putrid odor. Gasping and holding her nose closed, Amy looked around and soon found the source. There was a collection of four figures standing around the exit door, which was blocked off by a manager and two of his employees, including the door greeter Amy had seen earlier. They had a cart full of food with them. "You can't take those out without paying for them," the manager said. "I mean, you're obviously idiots to think you could, so if you let go of that cart I'll let you go without calling the police."
"You have no right to bar us from taking food! Food is the right of all and it is immoral to force us to pay for it!" One with an annoying accent did some kind of kung-fu pose. "Now stand aside or face the wrath of my Gaia's Wrath technique!"
One of the employees rotated his finger around his right temple in the old universal gesture of "insane". Amy watched with interest even as the cashier rang up her purchase.
"Everyone! Refuse to pay for this food, it is yours by right!" a squeaky feminine voice called out. The one girl in the group, a deathly thin thing, faced the checkout lines. She continued her screechings while her compadres - including the smelly one - continued their standoff with the manager.
Paying for her stuff, Amy left quickly, watching the confrontation as she went and wondering who in the Hell these types were. She got out to her van and was loading it when a cop car pulled up. Two cops confronted the would-be shoplifters, nightsticks drawn.
"Vengeance of Orphaned Deer!" was the sudden cry and both cops were knocked aside by a vicious round-house kick from the weirdo with the kung-fu pose. The manager and his employees went to their aid and suddenly collapsed, gagging as a visible odor surrounded them, emanating from the armpits and fingers of a slinky guy in the foursome. Even from her distance Amy could smell the horrid stench, and it was causing people closer by to fall to their knees gasping. Amy jumped into the van and sped away, slipping over to the side of the next building. A pulling of a switch caused a cover to drop down over her license plate. From there she took out her remote and activated her suit.
Carefully she controlled its flight, using the stealth buffers for the leg jets and bringing it around the back of the store to avoid getting easily noticed (though, given it was broad daylight, that would still happen here and there). It was risky to do this in daylight period, but she had no choice at the moment. Those weirdos - whoever they were - had to be stopped.
Her suit landed and Amy quickly had the remote open the back cavity and raise the helmet. Taking a last look to make sure nobody was standing around Amy jumped in, fitted her arms into the arm cavities, and lowered the helmet again. The digital readout in the helmet visor told her that Yancy had, surprisingly, given the "stun gun" a good hook-up job. She'd make sure to try it out on those weirdos.
As a last action, Amy set the most expensive piece of equipment she'd ever cobbled together on - the holographic projector that made it look like someone was sitting in the van reading. One of these days, when she had the money, she'd really have to try and put a system in to drive the van remotely so it could go home (just had to make sure the program obeyed traffic laws and kept the speed limit, didn't need the police pulling it over).
Prepared, Amy kicked on the suit's leg jets and flew over one building toward the Publix, where a crowd was running out. A few more cops had arrived. As they brought their guns up firework-like light bursts went off around their eyes, blinding them. A cry of "Homeless Elephant Gores Developer!" was followed by another police officer getting kicked aside, gagging as he was on the overpowering stench of the one weirdo with stink powers.
Naturally, when people saw Amy in her suit, a cheer came, and the cops looked on as she landed between them and the four assembled weirdos in their raggedy clothing. "So..... who are you?" she asked, her voice now gender-neutral from her suit's voice synthesizer.
One of them stepped forward - presumably the leader. "I am the Gaian Cruusader," he said in a really annoying voice, flexing his puny body like he was a strongman. "We are the Freegan Four, devoted to defending the right to acquire free food from capitalists everywhere!"
"You've got to be kidding me. Dumpster-diver supervillains." Amy crossed her arms. "Go back to your gender studies classes and leave the sane world alone, kiddies."
"Foul villain, ally of the thieves!" The martial-artist ran forward. "You will now face my Gaia's Wrath fighting technique!" With that melodramatic pronouncement, he leapt forward as if to deliver a jumping kick. "Great Eagle claws poacher!"
Amy lowered her arms and allowed the martial-artist's right foot to collide head on with her armored chest, when her audio sensors played a cracking sound for her. She barely felt the impact with the mass of her suit while he simply dropped in front of her. He screamed and clutched his ankle.
Amy reached down and picked him up by the scruff of his neck. "I'm in a diamonide-coated titanium power suit. Did you think you could just jump-kick me like I was some street thug?" She tossed him back toward his friends.
The deathly-thin girl gasped. "How could you?! Bruce is so nice, and you are so mean!" She raised her hands and small bursts of light erupted around Amy. They might've been blinding had her visor not automatically dimmed them for her, and the thermal sensors told her they were harmless. "Ha! You can't see, evildoer!"
"Let's get two things straight, girlie. First, I'm in a powered suit with a visor, just how did you think that was going to work?" Amy lifted her left arm and activated Yancy's stun gun, just to see if it'd work. An arc of electricity erupted from it and enveloped the Freegan. She squealed and collapsed. "Secondly, you're the evildoer and I'm the hero. Keep that straight."
The "Gaian Crusader" went to her, shouting "Moonchild!", while his last standing comrade confronted Amy. "I am John Lovesalot," he said. "I am a metahuman, and with my powers I will make you feel the stench that Mankind has forced upon the Earth!"
He was exerting himself, clearly. Visible stench was coming from his body and moving toward Amy. She jumped out of the way and landed on the nearby roof. "I do have an air-filter, genius. But I don't want you to stink up my suit either." She lifted her right arm and flipped up the flamethrower gun, pointing it down. "I wonder if all that stench makes your clothing more flammable? Let's find...."
"No!" The Gaian Crusader got in the way. "I see that I have no choice. I must defeat you by making you feel.... the love!"
Amy frowned. "If you drop your pants I will fire this thing."
The Gaian Crusader concentrated, and in such a way he looked constipated. Suddenly the gathered crowd began to laugh and hug one another, then kissing, and - yes - some humping. Amy watched in particular disgust at "Lovesalot" as he rubbed his crotch up against the Gaian Crusader's hip. "See? Even you, in your evil metal suit, cannot withstand the power of love!"
There was a yawn. "I'm not feeling moved. Not at all."
He looked at her. He was sweating. "Impossible. Nobody can resist the power of love that I possess!"
"I'm a frickin' robot suit, moron. Now, I find that really disturbing, so...." She pulled the trigger with her right hand to fire the flamethrower. A tongue of flame appeared and she waved it vertically over the Gaian Crusader and Lovesalot. They screamed as the flames covered them. At once the Gaian Crusader's power failed and people regained themselves. On the ground, the Gaian Crusader and Lovesalot were rolling frantically, trying to extinguish the flames. Amy lifted her right arm and a second nozzle built in the lower part of her forearm appeared, and from it a fine chemical mist erupted and coated the burning Freegans. With the flames quenched she fired her leg jets and flew away toward the back of the Publix, hearing the cheers of the onlookers.
Once at her van Amy had quickly sat the suit in the back and extricated herself from there to the driver's seat. She looked at a bag of groceries she'd accidentally set the suit's elbow on and sighed. "Dammit," she muttered. She'd have to go get bread on the way home.... or maybe she'd send Yancy out for some.
Either way she got home. Yancy had left to go back to his parents and this left her alone to pack her suit up and return inside. After making ramen noodles - yes, ramen, college habits died hard - Amy plopped herself back in front of her computer and brought up her AIM connections. A brief check to a news site confirmed the spread of the story of her fight with the Freegan Four and their arrest.
After a moment, she was back in the "theworldcrisis" chat.
BeoHui 412: *glomps Amy*
Pyro Maya1C: Didn't I set you on fire?
Col Lukashenko: Amy-chan!
Pyro Maya1C: This just happened in the Publix I shop at. Weird huh?
MarshalParnell: ......Oh dear. There are Freegan supervillains now?
Pyro Maya1C: Supervillains? I don't think they rate that.
Col Lukashenko: Did you see what happened, Amy-chan?
Amy sighed. It'd be fun to admit who she was, but she certainly didn't want to break the secret or risk some government agency finding out about her over an AIM chat log.
Pyro Maya1C: I was at a bit of a distance, actually. But I do remember the Panzer Pyro setting two of them on fire.
JerithFlame: Setting Freegans on fire sounds good, though considering all the stuff they probably take, wouldn't it be some kind of pollution hazard?
Col Lukashenko: *snarks*
Pyro Maya1C: So.... what's going on? What topic has snatched the chat now?
BeoHui 412: Hail King Guy!
Col Lukashenko: We were just discussing the only successful ruler in all of sub-Saharan Africa.
MarshalParnell: Naturally, the UN refuses to recognize him, and his neighbors are dedicated to wiping him out.
MarshalParnell: If only Foggy Bottom wasn't filled with useless douchebags....
Pyro Maya1C: Ah..... that Roedecker guy.*1
JerithFlame: I still can't get over the whole "freegans on fire" bit.
Pyro Maya1C: Maybe they taste like chicken?
Col Lukashenko: And it's probably as rotten as the things they eat out of the dumpster.
TheDrunkRussian2001 has entered the room
TheDrunkRussian2001: Greetings, Comrades!
Pyro Maya1C: Hello.
Col Lukashenko: And now we have Fima. Amy was telling us about how Atlanta's local superhero set some metahuman Freegans on fire.
TheDrunkRussian2001: What? Do we finally have a hero who kills people? Because I can't see how they'd survive that covered in the gunk they'd get from crawling around in dumpsters.
Col Lukashenko: Then go set some freegans on fire to see. There should be plenty in New York.
Amy chuckled and continued to do so as her online friends traded one zinger for another. From there they went on to other topics, and she excused herself momentarily to go check up on her suit and to see if Yancy had returned yet.
She stepped into the garage and, sure enough, Yancy was looking over her suit. He looked up at her. "So, did it work?"
"Oh yes, it worked. Good job." Amy didn't bother to mention she'd need to modify the weapon to make it work better with her suit's power systems, given the drain it'd caused needlessly. "What did I say about taking out the dents?"
Yancy thought for a moment. "You said not to," he finally replied.
"Yes. So why are my dents gone?"
Yancy shrugged. "Oh, I noticed someone was making fun of them in a recent blog. So I wanted to make you look better."
Amy stared at him for a moment. "Yancy, some dickweed making fun of my dents isn't reason enough to ignore my requests, got it?"
Again he shrugged. Amy sighed. She walked up to her suit and was about to begin running a systems check when Yancy spoke up again. "Say, uh, you've never really told me the reason you took up crime-fighting in that suit."
"That's right, I haven't."
"Must be really big, huh? I mean, parents killed by crooks, or boyfriend, or something? Your life was ruined by crime."
Amy smacked a hand down on the suit. "Nothing so melodramatic." She walked up to Yancy, hands calmly at her sides. "Yancy, I find life annoying. I find people annoying. Petty, selfish little dicks really. But, most of all, I find criminals annoying. Of these three things, I can only reasonably set one on fire. Guess what it is?"
"Criminals, of course." Yancy looked at her closely. "So.... you became the Panzer Pyro because you like to set bad guys on fire?"
A pained expression came to Amy's face. "Please don't call me that. I don't know why they came up with that silly name and I'm not sure I want to know."
"I think it's kind of cool."
"You would," Amy muttered under her breath. Out loud, she found herself asking, "So, want something to eat?" Maybe then you'll go away for a while, again.
Yancy shrugged. Again. Amy hated his shrugging. "Okay, fine."
They walked into her house and Amy got a couple of ramen noddle packages. Yancy turned on the TV and there was a news report. "....standoff at the proposed nuclear power facility. Greenpeace activists have blocked off the Peachtree site and are apparently being led by a meta-human, who has caused what can only be described as unnatural bush and tree growth to thwart police attempts to...."
"Wow, look at that," Yancy said. Hearing no reply, he looked back and then smacked himself in the head.
He got to the door in time to see Amy getting her helmet on. She stomped out. "Good luck," he said to her.
She flew off right then and there. Yancy shrugged and went back into the house for ramen, watching the reporter running from a sudden uprising of weeds.
The cheers and jeers of the Greenpeace activists went along with their costumed champion's efforts to disrupt construction. Roots and vines had ensnared bulldozers, police cars, and barred any attempt to get to the site. "We will not have this place here!" the costumed champion proclaimed with his supporters' cheers. "We cannot permit more of our Earth's nature to be despoiled by evil nuclear energy!"
"We make our stand here and now! No more nuclear plants! No more radioactive waste!"
"We will not leave this place until we are assured that the nuclear plant will not be built. We will not back down!"
The chanting and slogan-shouting was irritating to Amy when she began picking them up. Flying over the site, she noticed all the crazy plant growth and knew she'd found the place. She swung her suit's feet downward and landed with a loud thump just within the "wall of nature" the Greenpeacer champion had made. "And who are you? The Jolly Green Midgit?"
The Greenpeace champion laughed at her. It was an annoying laugh. "No, metal one, I am the Rainbow Warrior!"
Amy snickered. "Oh.... so, um, are you gay or something?"
"No, I named myself in honor of those in our movement who died to prevent the nuclear...."
"...testing in the Pacific, yeah, I know." Amy crossed her arms. "Well, this is private property and you're not allowed to be here."
"Private property is not as important as the Earth!" the Rainbow Warrior countered angrily. "We must stop the spread of nuclear power before it destroys more of our Mother Earth!"
"Um, nuclear power is much cleaner than oil and stuff, all you need is good safety measures. God, it's not like we're the Soviet Union."
"We oppose that too!"
"Then, well, how do we get power? Windmills?"
"Heavens no! Windmills kill birds!"
"Solar cells litter the landscape!"
"Dams kill fish!"
Amy's eye twitched inside of her helmet. "You idiot, we can't just not use electricity! Modern society depends on it. Now, I'm going to be nice and offer you a chance to leave peacefully, or, I'll have to get rough." For emphasis Amy clanged the right fist of her suit against the left hand's palm.
"We will never give up!" The Rainbow Warrior's cry brought another "No!" from his supporters. "I'm afraid I have no choice but to restrain you with the power of nature!"
He promptly summoned up brush undergrowth that tightened around the legs of Amy's suit.
She looked down and back at him. "That's it?"
"Yes! Do you not see the indomitable strength of nature?"
That made Amy smirk. "Well, I don't know too much about nature, but I do know one thing." She raised her arm and her flamethrower nozzle appeared. "It's flammable."
She lowered her arm and set fire to the underbrush holding her. It burned away quickly and she stomped free. Then she raised her right arm and swept it over all of the vegetation the "Rainbow Warrior" had created, setting it alight too. The Greenpeace activists began to flee in fear of the flames, but the Rainbow Warrior stood still. He raised his hands and caused more underbrush to grow under Amy. She leapt into the air and fired her foot jets, setting the new underbrush on fire as well. Hovering in mid-air, she pointed her flamethrower at him while he raised a "shield" of small trees around himself. "Okay, I asked nicely and you ignored me. Now I set you on fire."
A bright tongue of flame struck out from her weapon. It set his shield of trees on fire first and then the Rainbow Warrior. He screamed horribly and ran out of his shielding, his arms flailing madly. Amy watched him burn and brought up her extinguisher, which she doused him with. Content that he had been subdued, she turned her attention to his wall of plants that she'd set on fire. She used what was left of her extinguisher fluid to quench those flames, leaving charred ash and a few surviving branches. Her work down, Amy flew off.
*1 = "One Man Army". This is set before "One Man Army: Anarchonism".
Also, a note that those chat excerpts are somewhat parodies of real AIM chats, and were done before Misty saw fit to include certain chat personalities into OMA: Anachronism, so that leads to some interesting possibilities in terms of the chat.
A further disclaimer: Yes, my persona is the Mistyverse version of the Incredible Hulk. Misty did that on her own with no input from me.