The night air was still and dry. Noises from the city rose up and swirled together into cacophony. Laughter, yelling, cars, music. Even the occasional cat or dog yowled into the dark.
It was 11:30 on a Tuesday. And Terrence Fletcher was on a fire escape. Not a nice one, either. It was rather rusty, and creaked when he moved; not that he moved much. If he did, they might hear him.
“They,” of course, were the three thugs he had tailed to this hellhole. From what he had overheard, there was supposed to be a major drug deal in this alley. Well, there was going to be, if he didn’t stop it. It would be tough. These were some legit goons, not like the little fish he’d been taking out before. But Terry wasn’t scared. He had a few tricks of his own.
“Where the hell is this guy?” It was one of the thugs.
“Shut it, man. You want someone to hear us?” Another thug.
“He said eleven,” the third thug replied.
“And I’m a bit late,” a fourth voice interjected.
Must be the dealer. Terry thought.
“ ‘Bout time!” the first thug said.
“You got it?” the second asked.
“Of course,” the dealer snarled.
Terry tugged his black hood over his head. He took a step back, then vaulted over the low fire escape railing.
He dropped the ten feet to the ground and landed lightly, rolling to absorb the impact. He sprang up and pulled his arms into a fighting stance. He had landed behind the three thugs. The alley ended in a wall about five feet behind him.
Guess I can’t back out now.
“Gentlemen,” Terry rumbled, in a voice that still felt weird, despite how much he had practiced it.
All four whipped towards him. The thugs were dressed in a variety of black clothes. Street clothes, common stuff for your average criminal-about-town. All of them wore matching ski masks, which, in Terry’s opinion, looked pretty stupid. One also had a rather full-looking backpack.
The dealer, though, was wearing a suit and tie. He carried a metal briefcase that was handcuffed to his wrist and wore an earpiece.
This guy is someone big. Terry thought.
“Who the hell are you?” the thug in the middle asked. He was the first thug, Terry realized. And their leader, he guessed, as the other two seemed happy to follow his lead.
“Little boy wants to play superhero?” the thug with the backpack asked. He was the last thug who had talked while Terry was on the fire escape.
“Then I guess we gotta be the bad guys.” The other thug snickered. He was the one who had told his partner to shut up. He also had a crowbar, which he hefted easily.
Time for the shock and awe. Terry thought.
He spread his arms and turned his palms toward the thugs. He focused for a moment and then it happened. Electricity crackled across his bare hands, leaping from finger to finger and charring the air.
The crowbar thug charged and swung his weapon.
Terry caught it in his left hand. He sent a surge of electricity down the tool, blasting its owner back into a pile of trash bags.
The backpack thug swung a fist at him but Terry dodged it easily. He jabbed the guy in the pelvis, electrifying his fist before contact. The thug crumpled to the floor, groaning.
Terry turned to the lead thug.
“Holy crap!” the guy whispered.
A moment later, the thug overcame his confusion and whipped out a gun. Terry raised his hand and, before he knew what he was doing, sent a blast of lightning at the thug’s right shoulder.
It connected. The thug twisted violently and landed on his back, hard. Terry rushed over. He instinctively knew he had just hit the guy with enough electricity to kill him. He crouched over the body, then leaned against the man’s chest. No heartbeat. He wasn’t breathing either. Terry rocked back.
“Damn it,” he said in his normal voice.
He ripped open the thug’s black shirt. He sent an electric current into his hands and held them in the air above the man’s chest. But before he could lower his makeshift chest paddles, he felt an arm on his shoulder. He turned to look at the body it was attached to.
“Easy, kid. I got this,” he said. His voice was calm and friendly. The dealer put his own hand on the man’s chest.
Suddenly, the guy jolted back to life. His heartbeat returned, and breath rasped from his lips. He was still quite unconscious.
“He’ll wake up around the time cops get here.” The dealer said. His face looked pale, and he was sweaty. Whatever he had done had really hit him hard.
“Who are you?” Terry asked, still using his normal voice.
The dealer smiled.
“Terrence Fletcher,” he said, “I am a recruiting agent for the Academy of Super Heroes. I’m here to offer you a scholarship.”