It was the summer of 1995. Nearly 30 years after the last superhero had retired. Prime City, the largest city in the United States was experiencing the greatest heatwave in decades. The suns rays were reflecting off of the rows of windows on the towering buildings of the business district and heat was rising from the asphalt which was crowded with people who weren't going to let a little heat get in their way and were hurrying to get where they were supposed to be while secretly wishing they could just find some shade and lie down for a while.
An armored truck was standing at the traffic lights. The driver was cursing under his breath and wondering why the damned light wasn't turning green already while sweat was dripping down his forehead and neck and soaking his uniform despite the AC being on full blast.
He had to take a break from his rage for a while when he heard the cocking of an automatic rifle at his side and a voice shouting at him. "GET OUT OF THE GOD DANM TRUCK, OR I'LL BLOW YOUR GOD DAMN BRAINS OUT!!" it said with all the force and command it could muster.
The driver turned his head, and sure enough, there was a masked man with a machine gun pointed at his head. He had two companions, also masked and armed. The driver raised his hands slowly, per his training for these kinds of situations and exited the vehicle calmly.
The tree masked men rushed into the truck, spammed the doors shut and sped away through the red light.
The driver looked on as they turned a corner and felt a bit sorry for the trio. As hot as he was, he could only imagine how uncomfortable they must be in their ski-masks, overalls and gloves.
The armored truck continued speeding, pushing other cars out of the way and up onto the sidewalks. People screamed and rushed out of the way.
It was the neon glare of a rapidly flashing orange light that resulted in Veronica being called down from the kitchen where she was talking on the phone to her brother into the basement - in other words the unofficial base of her operations. Usually the bad guys had a little bit more consideration when they wanted to rob a bank or whatnot; the hottest day of Prime City (at least for as long as she could remember after having moved there). She'd already thanked her dad for implementing the 'crime alarm'.
Days like this made the costume choice seem a little less ridiculous (if you could use those words).
Ronnie didn't consider herself a superhero - the term was a relic nowadays, one barely thrown about, unless someone was making a 'smart' remark - but it was no doubt what other people would call her. What other job description could you have for someone infused with alien DNA who ran around in a tight fitting costume stopping crimes before they could be properly committed? Vigilante made it sound a little too racy as far as she was concerned - guns tended to be her brothers department.
The bottom of her boots had undeniably been scuffed when she'd landed. In this job you went through shoes quicker than any other. Dropping down from over thirty feet above in the air tended to do that to the soles of even the most expensive footwear. There was a large dent in the hood of the car indicating the force had mainly been taken by the vehicle when she'd chose to make it her landing spot. Not quite practiced enough to total the entire front of the car yet.
Her hair was swirling around her head in the propulsion of air her own downward movements had caused. Even tied back behind her head in a ponytail it still swirled everywhere uncontrollably, palms sliding uncomfortably against the fabric of her gloves. Long, pure white and up to her elbows, matching the boots which stopped at her knees. That same pure white shade was present in simple strips against the otherwise lavender colour of her costume, top cut into what would casually be referred to as a 'boob tube', pants clipped high up, only just covering her stomach button.
The heat radiating off her hands - bursts of light energy - was making the stickiness of the day worser but she pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind, raising her eyebrows as her hands came to rest upon her waist, the air stilling a little.
Time to put on the best 'superhero' (for lack of better words) voice she could muster.
"Seems like an interesting way to spend the afternoon, huh kids?"
"HOLY SHIT! It's a superhero!" The driver shouted in shock.
"Don't be an idiot! There's no superheroes left!" the man next to him said.
"Then, what do you call that?!" the driver asked, gesturing the woman standing on the hood of the truck.
"Don't just stare at her, shoot her!" the man riding shotgun yelled at the other two.
"She's probably bulletproof." the driver said.
"You don't know that!" the man in the middle said, rolling his eyes. "I swear, I'm surrounded by amateurs!" he continue as he cocked his rifle, forgetting that he had already done so and letting an unused bullet fall out. He then barely took aim before pulling the trigger and unleashing a spray of bullets through the windscreen.
Maximillian stepped out of the convention center. His excuse had been that he wanted to see what all the commotion was about. The real reason was that he needed a break from all the stuck up wizards and so called magic experts who wanted to drag him into longwinded conversations about proper wizard etiquette and the role of wizards in the modern world. They didn't want his opinion. They just wanted the world's top ranked wizard to agree with them in order to validate their own opinions.
When he had accepted the position as magical guardian of the world he had been prepared to battle demons and evil wizards and horrors beyond mortal comprehension. No one had said anything about mandatory public appearances, but it was all there in the fine print.
Max sighed. There were far better uses for his time. For example, there was string of murders in France with possibly occult connections.
Damn! It was hot today. The black turtleneck that was now folded over his arm had been a bad choice.
It didn't take him long to spot the source of the ruckus. A woman in a strange, purple and white costume was standing on the partially collapsed hood of an armored truck. The front wheels were bend outwards in strange angles. His first thought was that she was robbing the truck. That was until he spotted the the masked men inside the truck.
There were gunshots and the windshield shattered. Max put the turtleneck back on. He would soon need it.
There was little options for what Ronnie could do. 'Bulletproof' was a bit of an overstatement.
Sure, she could survive gunshot wounds a lot easier than the average human being could; but the alien DNA wasn't so prominent it gave her an outright healing factor. An energy barricade was possible but she'd need to construct a bit one to dodge the array of lead spraying out the window which was now shattered beyond any form of protection for the men inside the car. Best option was to dodge and then hit whilst the man was either reloading or, once again, yelling at those with him.
As the torrent hurtled towards her, she jumped upwards, the push required denting the front of the car further to give her the spring she needed to get up high enough to escape long enough. Mid-air - a backflip was the only real option if she really wanted to not get hit (she'd only just about managed that after the first bullet had hurtled past where her ankle had formerly been placed) - her eyes flickered down towards the men in the vehicle whom, bar the shooter, were staring in not quite amazement, but more uncertain shock, bewilderment and horror.
The car hood groaned and sank back in further as she landed on it, a couple steps further back than she'd intended, but that could be let go for now. The gun was making a clicking noise which only promised the ammunition was needing to be reloaded, and the shooter (and evidently leader) was making a facial expression which was admittedly more than a little amusing.
Looked like someone had just bit into a lemon.
Steadying her left hand, Ronnie could feel the searing heat which promised light energy gathering at the tips of her fingers, clenching them into a fist as she aimed at the man's wrist. She had to be careful she didn't make the light too intense or she could irreparably damage his wrist, and even the bad guys were deserving of a little mercy. Especially when they were as low-level as these clowns.
The light beam erupted, pale gold tinted in colour and bright, shooting out Ronnie's closed fist and striking the man directly in the wrist. He let out a wail of pain and dropped the gun, a small thwack being heard from wherever it fell.
"You uh, might wanna put your hands up now."
The three men exchanged sheepish and nervous looks and slowly put up their hands and looked surprised and confused as they saw their breaths hanging in the air like mist. During all the excitement, no one had noticed that the temperature had dropped drastically.
"What the…?" the driver said. He clearly wanted to look around for the source but was afraid to take his eyes off the woman who had just totaled an armored truck and shot the gun out of his hand without using a gun herself.
Max was standing on the sidewalk, gathering up the heat from the surrounding air into a rippling ball in the palm of his hand. He converted into electricity and let it loose in in a glowing ark that went through the open door-window of the truck and shocked the three robbers.
They gave muffled screams through clenched teeth as their bodies jerked and twitched uncontrollably. Their eyes rolled back in their skulls and their bodies went limp.
"Are you all right?" Max asked as he slowly approached the truck. "Those things you did, they didn't look like any kind of magic I've seen before. Who are you?" he asked carefully.
Ronnie stared at him, on the cusp of dumb struck, for a couple of seconds before blinking hurriedly. Magic wasn't exactly something she was well acquainted with by any standards, even if she'd heard of it before vaguely. Mostly her dad mentioning things about it; but half the time the professor tended to bring up anything instead of confronting issues such as spending time with his children.
"Veronica Almera." Her voice didn't sound anywhere near as commanding as she wanted it to, but when confronted with someone who'd just shot electricity at the criminals she herself was in the middle of apprehending, it was a little hard to come across as overwhelmingly confident as you desired. "And yeah, I'm fine thanks. Just a bit of leg ache but landing like that tends to do so..." She smiled, trying to ignore how sheepish she knew it must've appeared. "And no that wasn't magic...it was something a bit different."
Explaining the alien DNA thing never was that much of a simple task. People either tended to stare at her like she was insane or just a flatout a liar, or they'd begin gushing about her father's work after figuring out who she just so happened to be the daughter of.
"My father is Dr. Zachary Almera; the one notorious for his xenobiology work into alien species. I guess a bit of his interest rubbed off on me, although in a bit of a different way..." She was still smiling, although she knew it was unlikely she was really impressing him by anyone's stretch of the imaginations. Stood next to him she felt more than a little needlessly over-dressed. This guy had managed to prove himself effective without the costume, or the over-the-top entrance. "Who are you?"
"I see." Max said and relaxed a little.
He had been worried that she had been some kind of demon or a fairy who had wandered into the city to cause trouble.
He had read about Earth's alliance with the Feyolie in history class and remembered the news reports about Dr. Zachary Almera and the hybrid experiments. But that had been over 20 years ago, so his memory of the subject was pretty fussy. After all, he had only been a little kid at the time. He made a mental note to look it up later.
So, this was the result of those experiments, he thought as he looked her up and down, hoping that she didn't take his wandering gaze the wrong way.
She looked normal enough, apart from her attire. She was actually quite attractive, but this was no time for such thoughts.
"My name is Maximilian Powers. I'm the current Magical Guardian." Max said trying to fill his voice with the authority of his station and mask the uncertainty of facing an unknown. Part of him wished she had been a demon. Max knew how to deal with demons.
"May I ask what you were doing?" he asked, gesturing towards the partially destroyed truck. He was fully aware that wizards weren't supposed to interfere with police matters either.
Right - magic.
Ronnie wasn't too educated were magic was concerned. Her father - although respectful of the art - tended to have little interest in it, which mainly stemmed from the fact he didn't have any possibility of mastering it. Zachary Almera only took interest with the things he could learn and master. The Magical Guardian was a title she had heard of though: a title that commanded fear and respect. Far more impressively than the man stood in front of her seemed to be interested in over-emphasising.
Truthfully, Ronnie had always imagined the Magical Guardian would reek of arrogance and have a thick aura of self-conceit. They weren't supposed to be polite or look like any other guy you'd meet at a university lecture. Big titles usually ended up producing big egos; but Maximilian Powers seemed to have little interest in crooning about his worth. Then again, considering he'd just electrocuted some criminals with what looked like minimum effort, the guy didn't exactly need to crow about everything he could do.
"It's hard to explain." She sighed sheepishly, running a hand through her tangling hair. "I guess you'd say I was...being a superhero."
Not exactly the most dignified thing to say to the Magical Guardian.
"My father's always said I should apply my powers to something; but honestly this is the thing he kept not so subtly hinting I should try out. He even developed the costume for me with the right materials so I didn't burn right through it when producing light energy. It's not exactly like I have much else to be doing. Art history degrees tend to not get you very far."
She was aware of how unimpressive this was all coming across as, but could only hope the Magical Guardian himself wouldn't be too unimpressed by her embarassing explanation as to what she was doing. He wasn't looking at her like she was either insane or deluded (yet) but she was waiting for it. The last person she'd explained this to had communicated easily just by eye contact that they were one step away from calling the police on her.
"You're a superhero?" Max asked, not quite sure how to react.
`Superhero´ Max thought. Considering her outfit and abilities, it really shouldn't have come as much of a surprise as it did. But there weren't supposed to be any superheroes left.
In truth, Max had always wanted to meet one. The last superhero retired the same year he was born, so he had never had a chance.
He had read the old news articles and books about the greats, Captain Might, Snake-Man, American Angel. They all seemed larger than life.
He tried to remember if it had been made illegal or if it was just frowned upon.
In any case, it felt like she had been doing something she shouldn't have, and what was worse, he had participated. It felt like that one time he had tried reefer in his teenage years.
But why did it feel wrong? They had stopped a robbery. That was a good thing.
Was public opinion affecting his judgement so strongly?
The sound of sirens came from around the corner.
Max fought his first impulse, which was to run back inside and hide in the convention-center, but he wan't a kid smoking reefer. He was the Magical Guardian.
Max stood his ground. He would deal with the situation like a responsible adult. A bead of sweat ran down his face. The heat had crept back into the area and the sweater was once again becoming unbearably stuffy. He pulled it over his head and waited for the police to arrive.
He looked at Veronica to see what she was going to do. What kind of superhero was she?
Was she going to try to shake hands with the police, or would she flee the scene?
"I...wouldn't exactly say that." But what COULD she say in response?
Everything about her screamed superhero. The costume, the powers, the entire way she'd approached the situation. It broad casted superhero clearer than the old 'Crime Signal' that'd been used to draw the members of the Super Society out back before she was born. Most of the time it was something she'd been able to ignore - the looks she'd been given whenever she tried to 'do her job', as her dad liked to say. But stood in the presence of the Magical Guardian - who didn't exactly look overwhelmingly approving of what she'd decided to do.
Ronnie's hands felt like they were melting inside her gloves. She'd never exactly been looking for praise whenever she acted, but it still never felt a good feeling whenever someone had such a reaction to her. Dad had never particularly been too overjoyed whenever she succeeded - as far as he was concerned, everything needed to be improved upon - but she was used to his reactions. Maximilian Powers was a stranger, and somehow, his opinions were twice as potent as her father's had ever proven to be.
The heat was almost unbearable as the sound of sirens began to pound from where they were hurtling in the distance.
A confrontation with law enforcement had never been something she'd had to deal with before; most of the times she'd done what was known as the 'typical vigilante route' and just left after taking care of the situation. Talking to Maximilian had caused her to become too comfortable in this unknown environment, and now she was going to have to pay for it.
Still, she wasn't a superhero. She wasn't getting paid for this. Technically no laws (if they were even in place) were being broken. Her father wouldn't be pleased if she had to call him from a holding cell, but mentioning him usually got people's attention, and he would be more than willing to bail her out. She was his prized experiment - it was no secret amongst the family he'd readily do anything to make sure he could ensure she continued allowing him to study her powers. Wasn't exactly like she had much choice in the matter under these circumstances anyways.
Time to face the music.
It wasn't going to be pretty.
Two police cars sped on to the scene. They slowed to a crawl when the drivers caught sight of the dented truck and slowly came to a stop next to it.
Four police officers stepped out, looked around a bit uncertainty and began to incircle the truck with their guns drawn.
Two of them went to each side of it and aimed their guns through the door windows. "Don't move!" they shouted at the occupants. When they didn't get a reaction, one of them, with blond hair in a crew cut, carefully reached his hand through the window and poked the driver.
He checked the drivers pulse and turned to the others. "They're unconscious." he said casually. The others holstered their guns and stepped forward to inspect the truck more closely.
The oldest officer, a gray-haired man in his early fifties with a bushy mustache stepped up behind him and looked over the younger ones shoulder. "Call it in, Carlson." he commanded an officer with auburn hair, who went to the nearest police car and began speaking into the police radio.
The senior officer stepped in front of the truck and put his hand on the deformed hood. "This takes me back." he said with a sigh.
"What is it, North?" the blonde one asked.
"You're too young to have experienced it first hand, Wilde, but this is the telltale sign of a superhero. Happened all the time back in my day." North explained. "Tough, I haven't seen it in years…" his voice trailed off when he caught sight of Veronica, standing there in her colorful costume.
The other officers followed his gaze and immediately tensed up. They put their hands on their holsters, clearly not certain how to deal with the situation. How could they? No one had seen a superhero in decades.
"Hold your fire, boys!" North commanded. "I don't think she's dangerous." He took a few steps toward Veronica. "Care to explain this, Miss…?" he asked.
Ronnie was painfully aware how weak her voice sounded. She could hear her brother scolding her so loudly in her head it almost drowned out the sounds of the police officers around them. She wasn't a child anymore. She was twenty-six years old. She had half-alien DNA. She'd just stopped an armed robbery. It was a bitter irony.
A couple decades ago the police would've been talking to them about the pressures of the job, how they were both contributing something good to society. Hero worship wasn't the important part; it was the recognition that a bad situation had been stopped and, even in the smallest of ways, a little bit of good had been returned to a world which always seemed to be criticised for sinking lower and lower.
Ronnie was no stranger to some of the protests that'd occurred across the globe.
Paris, Beijing, Canberra, Budapest, Wellington, Amsterdam. Some countries seemed to want superheroes to be back as terror threats and nuclear arms were multiplying by the day. The debate had slowly been creeping back into mainstream society, which was why her father had been so convinced encouraging her to do this was a good idea. People's opinions were changing, and maybe with a good example or two, 'the superhero' (a now nostalgic term) could become a line of work once more.
There were dozens of stories. People born with inhuman abilities who weren't allowed to use them to the ultimate degree of usefulness. Most of the time, if you were born with a 'power', it was just a party trick or a quirk you could pull out at the high school reunion and impress your ever-disdainful peers with for a fleeting couple of moments. Everything about being 'different' seemed so futile and wasted now. Like no matter what it was worthless, and most importantly, pointless, to try and use your differences to the benefit of others.
"I'm Dr. Zachary Almera's daughter...and his most successful experiment."
She had a feeling that sentence was one she was going to be repeating for several hours now.
"I see." Officer North said with the voice of a parent listening to their child confessing to breaking a window. "Did you knock these men out?" he asked indicating towards the robbers.
"No. That was me." Max interjected and stepped forward.
"And you are?" North asked, clearly annoyed that the situation was becoming more complicated than it already was.
"Maximilian Powers. Magical Guardian." Max answered, not sure if he should try to sound official or apologetic and got stuck somewhere in between. "I reacted to the situation without really thinking."
North rolled his eyes "Wizards." he said derisively to the other officers who were setting up police tape around the truck.
An ambulance arrived and the paramedics took the still unconscious robbers out of the truck and carried them to the ambulance on stretchers.
A couple of news trucks pulled up and the news crews were taking pictures and setting up TV cameras and reporters were checking their hair and makeup before showtime.
"We're gonna need to take you two down to the station for questioning." Officer North said to Max and Ronnie.
There was no point complaining that it wasn't fair because Ronnie knew it was. She'd technically been ignoring the laws imposed where superheroics were concerned. Served both her and her father's egos for thinking this was ever going to end well. It felt awfully naive assuming this wouldn't have ended badly now; but maybe part of her had thrived off her father's approval more than she was willing to admit.
Only saving the world really seemed good enough for Zachary Almera.
"Alright." She nodded. There was no point resisting, and that'd just cause needless tension and conflict. Besides, she was in no position to begin dictating to anyone. Childhood insecurities had taught her all about the errors of over-estimating yourself. Then again, Carlos had gone through this process alongside her, which provided some form of comfort.
She nibbled her lip apprehensively as she turned her head towards Maximilian, folding her arms across her chest as he seemed to become aware of this and they made eye contact. "No magic trick to get yourself out of this?"
Okay. That joke wasn't the best.
"At least six that I can think of off the top of my head, but that would be unsporting." Max answered with a crooked smile.
He wasn't going to try anything. It would look pretty bad if the Magical Guardian started using his power to escape justice. Wizards had a bad enough public image as it was. Most people thought that wizards looked down on normal people and only cared about themselves.
Max wasn't going to pretend that there weren't wizards like that out there. He had met a few of them in the convention center he had left before getting himself into this mess.
Wizards like that was part of the reason why he had accepted the position in the first place. He had wanted to show everyone that no position of power instilled you to look down on others. So far his words seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. The high ranking wizards were set in their ways and not very open to new ideas.
It didn't matter to Max if he stayed at the convention or went to the police station. Both were equally tedious wastes of time as far as he was concerned.
The police officers led Max and Ronnie to a police car and placed them in the backseat. They hadn't bothered putting handcuffs on them. They had guessed that if Max and Ronnie wanted to make resistance or try to get away, then handcuffs wouldn't make much difference.
As the police car drove away, a TV crew were making their final preparations.
A female reporter with olive skin and long, black hair adjusted her bra and made sure she looked alright in side mirror of the news truck. She was wearing an open jacket in midnight blue with Chanel 5 stitched onto the breast pocket. Under it she was wearing a white shirt with several buttons undone to show some cleavage.
A heavy set man with a large TV camera on his shoulder waved to get her attention. "And we're live in three, two one."
The woman took a deep breath, raised a microphone to her mouth and looked into the camera.
"This is Salama Tamer, reporting from the scene of a daring daytime robbery that was thwarted by an unidentified woman in a violet costume and a man, who has been confirmed to be Maximilian Powers, the current Magical Guardian.
According to eyewitness accounts, the woman flew down from the sky and stopped the speeding armored truck with one hand. The Magical Guardian appeared out of thin air and aided her in subduing the robbers."
"That shit was crazy!" a man from the gathering crowd behind her shouted, creaky a bit too excited to be on television.
Salama managed to keep a straight face.
"The two were escorted away by Prime City's finest just moments ago.
Back to you Rob."
The image of Salama shrank into the corner, revealing a smiling man sitting in a news studio. The man had expertly styled brown hair and a smile made up of very large and blindingly white teeth. He was wearing a jacket and with shirt just like the Salma, but they were both button up and he was wearing a red tie.
"Thank you, Sahara" he said with a booming voice and a winning smile.
"Is this the beginning of a new age of heroes? Only time will tell. For now, this is Rob Miller of Channel 5 News, signing off."
A heavyset man in his 50s turned off the TV and groaned with frustration. That robbery was supposed to go off without a hitch. He had planned it perfectly, but he had failed to account for superheroes. There weren't supposed to be any. He ran his fingers through his dark, slicked back hair and leaned back in the wide leather couch.
A blonde woman half his age and weight walked up behind the couch and put her hands on his shoulders. She seemed to be wearing nothing but a silk bathrobe.
"What´s the matte, baby?" she asked as she began to rub his shoulders. "You seem tense."
"Not now, Charity!" the man grunted and shrugged her off.
"Whatever!" Charity said with a pout and slid onto the couch next to him and reached for a small purse on a mahogany living room table table. She produced a small mirror and a cylinder of white powder.
The hight price prostitute was becoming a bit to familiar. the man thought to himself. It was partly his own fault for paying her to stay in his apartment for weeks on end, so he could have her on hand. She was starting to act like thew were a real couple. He would have to get rid of her soon.
The man got up and walked to his home office. He would have to get rid those superheroes soon as well. One hero inspired others. They were like cockroaches. You had to get rid of them quickly or before you knew it, you'd be up to your neck in them.
He took a black book from his desk and called a number marked Pest Control.