All over the city, foundation blocks of major structures had begun to disintegrate. As it turned out, the overpass was a test of a weapon designed to crumble the city’s infrastructure brick by brick.
The Daring Dozen and a few other interested rogues had gathered on the waterfront where several buildings had begun to tilt on their dissolving foundations.
Paige had seen chaos before—the meteor shower of 2019 and the Seventh Dimension invasion of 2023 came to mind immediately—but she’d never seen the widespread panic this new weapon caused.
With buildings and bridges and aqueducts tilting and wobbling all over, the city looked like a house of cards caught in a stiff breeze.
Everywhere sirens blared. Evacuations had begun on a grand scale. She berated herself for considering staying home when the city needed all the help it could get.
She looked over at Brad, who stood a few feet away surrounded by his colleagues. With his orange mask in place and his heat-resistant gloves fastened around his wrists, he was all business.
“He calls himself The Demolitioner,” Retro Boy announced to the assembled group. “He’s threatened to topple every structure in the city unless we turn over every Superhero. He demands that we all surrender to him.”
Gargantua snorted, and DemiGog growled. “Surrender is never an option.”
Everyone agreed, but that still left them without a plan.
“What else do we know about Demolitioner?” Brad asked. “How is he dissolving the buildings?”
“He’s a small time thug from the other side of the river who just got his hands on a disintegration ray,” Talon replied. His golden claws glinted in the spotlights that shone down from the helicopters hovering overhead. “Once we find him, I’ll tear him to ribbons.”
“How do we find him?” Gargantua asked. He pounded one massive fist into the other.
Looks were exchanged and finally, Paige stepped up. “He’ll be someplace central and safe.” She pointed to the circling choppers. “Tell the guys up there to locate a building that still looks perfectly stable. That’s where we’ll find Demolitioner.”
Brad beamed at her. The others just gaped.
“Who’s she?” The Reaper asked.
“Do we know you?” DemiGog rumbled.
“I’m the Blue Dynamo. Nice to meet you.” Paige didn’t offer her hand, though. She put her fists on her hips and challenged the Daring Dozen with her sternest look.
“Let’s save the formal introductions for later,” Brad said. “I think she’s right. Retro Boy, can you contact the helicopter pilots?”
Retro Boy’s masked gaze lingered on Paige for a moment, then he adjusted his radio headset and made the call. Within minutes the sky was buzzing with rotary blades. Talon spread his golden wings and took off in a wide spiral search pattern as well.
“Nice work,” Brad whispered, leaning close. “The locker room will be buzzing about you later.”
Paige tossed her hair and adjusted her mask. “Let ’em buzz.”
* * * * *
Paige’s theory proved accurate, not that Brad had doubted her.
While Talon and Gargantua set up a phony surrender ploy at a spot on the docks, he and Paige and Invisa-Man managed to breach the Demolitioner’s hideout in an abandoned radio tower. Poised at the top of the tower, they found his disintegration ray with its targeting crosshairs trained on the flower shop that held the secret entrance to the Daring Dozen headquarters.
Brad reached for the controls, his hands heating in preparation to melt the disastrous device into a puddle.
“Wait.” Paige stopped him. “What about the buildings he’s already damaged? Is there a way to restore what’s been disintegrated?”
Brad checked the controls, but naturally the buttons and dials weren’t clearly marked. “It doesn’t look like it, but let’s check the manual just to be sure.”
She glared at him, and he instantly regretted his cheeky remark. “Go ahead then, do it your way.”
“Someone’s coming.” Invisa-Man’s voice echoed in the starkly furnished room. Surely if the Demolitioner had managed to escape from Talon and Gargantua, he’d figure out quickly enough that his stronghold had been compromised. The unconscious bodies of his less than competent minions littered the corridors leading up to his lair.
“Get behind me,” Brad said, adopting his Molten Man pose. With his hands outstretched, heat radiating from them, he prepared to take on Demolitioner.
Paige wanted to argue, but since the most she could do at the moment was mess up the villain’s hair, she had no choice but to obey.
The Demolitioner appeared in the doorway, a nondescript little man with a bald pate and middle aged paunch. He wore dirty overalls and carried a flat, black object that looked like an old fashioned television remote control.
He smiled at Molten Man and pointed the remote at the stylized flame on Brad’s chest, then tripped over Invisa-Man’s foot or leg, or some other body part and went sprawling across the floor.
“Not expecting a welcoming committee, were you?” Brad asked. He leapt forward and grabbed the control while Invisa-Man dragged The Demolitioner’s arms behind his back.
The little man laughed. “Oh, yes, Molten Man. You’ve got me right where you want me, don’t you?”
Brad held out the remote control in one hand, and Paige watched it sag at the ends. Finally he squeezed it into a handful of plastic pulp.
The Demolitioner laughed harder.
“Lock him up,” Brad said to Invisa-Man. “I’m going to destroy his machine now.”
“Too late, too late! That remote you crushed was a disintegration bomb. It’s flooding this room with disintegration rays as we speak.”
Brad dropped the dripping handful of sludge as his heat resistant gloves fell apart.
“Is it getting drafty in here?” Invisa-Man asked. Across the room the windows seemed to waiver in their frames, then holes appeared in the glass like Swiss cheese. Above them, the ceiling began to dissolve.
“But you’re in this room, Demolitioner. Why would you destroy it while you’re standing here?” Paige asked. She had to create a slight whirlwind beneath her feet to hold herself up as the linoleum floor began to sag and pit.
Demolitioner only laughed harder. “It won’t dissolve organic matter. I won’t be injured, but the building will collapse, killing you all, just like the dock collapsed with Talon and Gargantua on it.”
“I don’t believe you,” Brad said. “Besides, how can you escape this room before it disintegrates?”
In response, a pair of wings sprouted from the folds of the man’s coverall and even with his hands bound behind his back by Invisa-Man’s invisible rope, the Demolitioner managed to hover above the floor.
“I’ll just fly away, which is more than any of you can do. And just so you know, I planted another one of these in the Daring Dozen headquarters where I work as a janitor. It should be crumbling the building into the bay right about now. I figured you superheroes would try to trick me, but I anticipated your every move.”
Chunks of ceiling began to fall as the building disintegrated from the top down. Brad felt the draft Invisa-Man had mentioned and realized his suit had developed a series of widening holes. In moments, he was naked. At least their bodies wouldn’t disintegrate.
“I’m naked!” Invisa-Man said. “Oh, and so is she!”
Brad turned. Paige stood next to the abandoned disintegration ray, scraps of her isomorphic suit dropping around her bare feet, leaving her powerless.
“Close your eyes,” Brad told Invisa-Man as he scooped Paige up into his arms.
“I can’t not look, my eyelids are invisible, too, you know!”
Brad ignored Invisa-Man’s protest and raced toward the door with Paige.
The Demolitioner fluttered above them, naked also except for his bat-like wings.
“What about him?” Paige asked.
“We’ll catch up to him later. A naked, ugly bat shouldn’t be hard to find.” Brad headed down the crumbling stairs, worried only that he wouldn’t get Paige to safety before the building fell. He looked at the Demolitioner’s minions and realized he couldn’t leave them to die in the rubble either. There had to be a way to save everyone.
He put Paige down and looked around. Using his powers, he began forming a river of molten steel using the buildings girders that were now visible through the crumbling walls. The river formed a metal bridge all the way to the ground.
While Paige—and he assumed Invisa-Man—watched, he melted through a water pipe in the wall and used the spray to cool the molten metal. When the steam cleared, the three of them began rolling the bodies of Demolitioner’s minions down the newly formed slide to safety. Finally, with Paige in his arms again, Brad jumped on the slide himself.
When they reached the bottom, he set Paige on her feet. “Go home. It’s too dangerous for you out here without your suit.” A moment later, he and Invisa-Man sprinted off for Daring Dozen headquarters.
* * * * *
Paige watched them go, or at least watched Brad and a pair of receding footprints she could only assume belonged to Invisa-Man. Naked, she could do nothing more to help. Without her suit, it would be a long, chilly walk home.
Stay tuned for the Final Chapter…
“When my number’s up, you can bet I’d give anything to have all those super hunks weeping over my grave.”
Posted here next week!
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Published by: Bernadette Gardner
copyright 2015 Bernadette Gardner
Cover art by BGD
Note: This story was previously published under the title:
The Adventures of Molten Man, No. 1. (Amber Quill Press, 2006).
This is a standalone story that has not been significantly altered from its original version.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, brands, media and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
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