A Real Hero: Mentor

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Mentor

17:48, Sun, 13 Oct, 2047 [My House, G67, AC772]

“Ouch!”

Stripping the gleaming cover from the emerald wire, I’ve cut into my thumb. A tiny trickle of blood beads off, I quickly wipe it and get back to the task at hand, giving it no further thought. Bleeding has become a common occurrence lately, and even in my short time as a “superhero”, I’ve had a good few scrapes worse than that.

After ten or so minutes tinkering I bind two separate wires to my index fingers, their ends frayed (at great personal expense) and wound tightly around my now bulging digits. I concentrate, and try to run a charge from myself through to the old car battery I picked up after clearing a biker gang out of an abandoned car lot in the east end.  It’s a real old thing, from back when cars were mostly engine and had just a small battery to power the electrics. Come to think on it I never checked if it actually worked.

What I’m trying to do is tricky. I figure if I see licks of energy on my arms I’ll have went too far and blown out the battery. On the other hand, I have no idea how to… turn it on any less than I can tell if I’m doing anything more than flexing my forearms.

I untether myself and begin readying the denouement of the experiment. It’s a bit of a faff, but after coupling the battery terminals to a power inverter in order to change the direct current to appliance friendly alternating current, then introducing the Frankensteinian contraption which links it to one of my old forgotten screens, I’m ready for my answer.

My finger runs over the chunky switch with a satisfyingly familiar tactile feel, reminding me of when I used to watch cartoons on this dusty old thing after primary school. Clunk. I try again. Clunk Clunk. Not a damn thing. With a loud exhale I retreat into an uncouth backwards slouch on my chair. As I think about it, I didn’t check if the screen or battery alone worked and also couldn’t be sure about the setup I devised to link them. I was so keen on the idea I ballsed up the basic methodological approach I should understand inside and out. I guess it’s also possible I simply can’t charge a car battery with my body, but considering that I know for a fact I can shoot bolts of electricity from my hands that’s actually the least likely answer, surprisingly.

I look past the pile of bike spokes on the table across from me – another project that was put aside when I decided  that understanding my powers took precedence – to the laptop screen blooming in the fading October light. Currently it’s trawling through the Net, playing classic rock songs at random. Incubus, Foo Fighters, Rage Against The Machine. These bands sound really different from the other rock music from the 60’s and 70’s, which I couldn’t find a foothold in. My attention is on the email client, no messages. I’d sent off a message on Friday and was anxious for a reply.

Professor Bryce,

I’m in my first year studying electrical engineering and I’m having some trouble with understanding Ampere’s law and was hoping that since you were something of an expert in the field you could help me understand it a little better. Hope to hear from you soon.

Regards,

David West.

 

The only truth in that missive was that I am indeed struggling with Ampere’s law and that Professor Cameron Bryce is indeed an expert in that field among many others such as: electric potential, current, magnetic moment as well as a particular specialty in the entire discipline of electrodynamics. The non biological sciences are an interesting conundrum to me. I had been hoping to grasp enough physics and engineering to get on with testing out my powers, but it’s been decidedly tough and Professor Bryce is especially equipped to help me with this.

At 28, Bryce has his own lab and research funding, making him the youngest research fellow in almost any department in the whole University. This seems to be because his field is dwindling, one which Glasgow University both invented and then forgot about. He’s concerned with the ‘old’ kind of electrical engineering – circuits and electricity moving through things basically. It’s not a much sought after skill now that the world is obsessed with networks and refining auto’s and the ‘soft electronics’ of processors and quantum computing. Because of that most people with his degree go into work as practicing engineers rather than academia. It seems that a change in policy made my Uni decide to demonstrate their new commitment by bringing him over from Oxford.

The light is dwindling outside and I realise I’ve spent the better part of my Sunday pottering around in this husk of a shed like an old man. My experiment might have worked if I hadn’t been spread so thin recently. I used to spend a whole lot of time here, most of my summer actually. That was around the time Mum started getting really sick and couldn’t leave the house so I began escaping out here. Come to think on it, that’s when I decided I wouldn’t apply for the English Universities since being vetted to get across the border was so time consuming and I didn’t want to be away from home. I doubt with her medical bills and the tuition we could have coped anyway. Would I be spending my nights like I do if I had left?

I’m tired and this line of thought isn’t helping anything. It’s probably for the best that the good doctor isn’t getting back to me, I don’t need another persona to keep up and I’d probably struggle to pretend to be David West as well. Time to get some sleep before suiting up and heading out on patrol.

 

02:55, Mon, 14 Oct, 2047

The moon hangs big and heavy over the low rooftop I’m currently setting up on. Five glass bottles, neatly placed in a row across the wall. I’ve chosen them for their caps, shiny steel glinting in the low light coming from the street below. Shooting at metal helps my aim. Cans were too easy, so here we are with the bottles.

I blast the first two in quick succession. They leap up and a moment later shatter in midair. I hit the third after moving much further away, to see if I can make the shot. I’ve been avoiding using this on the streets recently. A week back I ran up on a huge brawl, two gangs going at each other, it was total chaos and I had to stop it as quickly as possible. I fired madly, zapping maybe seven guys in the space of ten seconds and the rest dispersed. I almost collapsed from the exertion, I was very suddenly dizzy and nauseous and before I knew it on my knees panting. I don’t know if I simply reached the limits of my internal ‘charge’ or used too much too quickly.

That in itself is the problem; I don’t know. I don’t understand much about what I can do other than to say I am probably the most efficient battery on earth. The body is linked up by a nervous system, carrying action potentials, basically electrical impulses across axons and along nerves – functionally analogous to wires. I think. What if using my powers say, shorted out some of these nerves? Blew them out like a fuse. I could have a stroke. Be paralysed. I also don’t know how much juice I’m pumping out, so I could well do the same to someone else. I’m not looking to kill anyone, so until I know I’ll play it on the safe side.

I’ve been busy since coming into the city, having just come away from a mugging and the target practice is a welcome break from a hectic night of crime fighting. Since this is my first reprieve tonight, it seems like as good a time as any for another experiment. I snap the luminous yellow glove to my hand which grips my wrist with a pronounced slap. Whipping my arm out straight ahead like a cowboy drawing his gun I prepare to fire a bolt which never comes. It’s sort of like someone trying to learn how to click their fingers and failing. Nothing comes.

I don’t know exactly what this tells me. Rubber is an insulator not a conductor that much I knew. My costume looks ridiculous with rubber kitchen gloves, again this is no great revelation. My train of thought is interrupted by police chatter which I’m intercepting using an app I’ve downloaded. I don’t have to spend much time looking for trouble now, thanks to this I have a whole selection of trouble to choose from. This time it’s a drive by shooting. I leap into action, letting the glove fall somewhere on the street below. I do have a test tomorrow, but tonight’s work seems far from done.

18:04, Mon, 14 Oct, 2047 [University Avenue]

Well the test didn’t go so well. Normally multiple choice questions are pretty straightforward as long as you have a good understanding of the material. I hadn’t really revised per se (I hadn’t revised), but I had been to most of the lectures so I just answered on instinct. Needless to say I didn’t walk away from the test very pleased, just beat in every sense. Human form and function hmm, that seems like relevant, useful knowledge for a medical student. My eyes are tired and my shoulder hurts like hell. Stopping the drive by shooters went about as well as the test, I banged up my shoulder pretty bad trying to avoid getting run down, dodging on instinct and crashing into some bins.

The trees are bristling in the chill evening breeze, illuminated by the streetlights now springing to life. Maybe I should be fighting crime and MCQ’s with knowledge and preparation rather than instinct? It seems I’ve landed myself with two full time occupations, and investigating the nature of my abilities is just another thing I don’t have the time or know how for. I look up at the tower, that tall nameless thing extending into the night sky, lit a bright sultry orange amidst the dark ambiance. I make my decision.

18:38, Mon, 14 Oct, 2047 [Kelvinbridge Car Park]

I see professor Bryce descend the long stairway down into the car park, making his way to the second or third car diligently awaiting his return. It’s in the ideal place for me to make my move. I drop from the walkway, concluding the huge fall with a solid thud, landing on the bonnet of the adjacent car (because crumpling his car might make for a bad first impression).

“Don’t run!” I order, trying to sound commanding but not threatening. My sudden, unexpected arrival makes the impact I wanted. Bryce has jumped back in shock, dropping his keys in the process.

“I need your help with something Professor Bryce”, it comes out as an announcement, a bigger than life statement. Before he can finish his reply asking me to take his car, his money, I blast the streetlight above us. Speckles of glass fall gracefully from the sky, clinking on the pavement around us. He looks more amazed than frightened now.

Stepping down to his level, I reveal my face and reiterate my request. “I need your help”. It’s a risky proposition, but seeing him in the flesh, he seems like I can trust him. It’s a feeling, I guess it’s another act of instinct, but I think this might be the first smart move I’ve made since starting this whole thing.

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