Monday, June 06, 2016

Incredible Comics #6

Alderman Lucius Goebel looked at a map of his ward in the city. Ward 29 was mainly a collection of dilapidated tenements populated by people well below the poverty line. There was an area outlined in red and shaded grey. It was an area that he wanted to tear down and rebuild as a shining beacon in the neighborhood.

Lucius’ assistant came into his office. “Planning, sir?” he smiled.

“Do you think we could build a lake? We could dig a waterway from the docks and fill in a couple of blocks with water to make a lake?” Lucius asked.

“I’ll get the engineers to look into it, sir, but you are no closer to beginning work on Sistine Hill than you were two years ago.”

“And why do you think that that is, Conrad?”

“Owners aren’t selling to the developer,” Conrad shrugged and said.

“Exactly and it’s because most of the owners are landlords so these buildings are still making them money and like any good businessman, they want a steady stream of income and not one lump sum. What we need to do is get these buildings to stop making money and the owners will be happy to sell.”

“How do you propose we do that?”

“I already have everything set up,” Lucius said as he sat down at his desk.

Professor Raymond Ripley knelt down at the door to the bank, a device plugged into the security lock. It was scanning the five-digit code to shut off the alarm but was taking longer than Ripley had planned.

“What’s taking so long, babe?” Ripley’s wife, Diana, whined. Diana was significantly younger than Ripley. She was originally a student of his at Cascadia University but when her grades began to drop she began to do extra credit in Ripley’s lab and then in Ripley’s bed. When Ripley was fired for the affair and Diana expelled, he moved all his work to his small apartment. Ripley and Diana got married and created a team of criminals to fund their research and projects. Diana’s younger brother, Tony, was enhanced with gauntlets that could start fires, and an old friend of Ripley’s, Brock, was given a rock-solid skin covering making him nigh-impervious to just about anything.

“I made this thing in a week, it’s just taking a bit longer. Five digits is a lot of numbers.”

“I thought you said it would work quick,” Tony grumbled.

“Compared to just entering in random numbers, this is quick,” Ripley argued back. Finally, the machine beeped and Ripley pulled the cords from the alarm keypad. “Okay, Brock. You can do your thing.”

Ripley backed away from the door as Brock shouldered it and it broke open.

“What about the safe?” Tony asked as they ran into the bank.

“With the serum Doc gave me, I can tear any door off the wall,” Brock said.

“It’s Professor, Brock. I’m not a doctor,” Ripley corrected.

“Same thing in my book,” Brock muttered.

They approached the safe and Brock took the handle in his hand. “”Well, you’re a ragtag bunch of criminals,” a voice came from behind them.

“Time Man?” Ripley groaned when he looked over his shoulder.

Tony turned around and fired two shots of flame toward Time Man from his gauntlet. Time Man easily dodged them but got more serious. “I guess this won’t be easy.”

“Diana, Tony, keep him busy. Brock, keep working on the vault,” Ripley ordered.

Tony began charging at Time Man while Diana pulled a gun out from a holster on her hip. “I wish you’d give me something more than a gun, Raymie,” she shouted at him.

“I barely trust you with that,” he screamed back. “Just keep Time Man busy.”

The siblings ran toward Time Man. Tony threw one flame at him that he dodged but the other nearly hit him in the face. The two of them tackled Time Man and they all landed hard on the floor.

Being more experienced, Time Man was able to easily throw them off of him. Diana landed nearby but Tony was thrown harder and farther back outside the bank. Brock had wrenched the vault door off and he and Ripley were inside grabbing sacks of money. Tony had stood back up, his gauntlets raging with fire.

Tony took one step back toward the bank when an apartment tenement nearby suddenly exploded. Time Man ran out of the bank to see the building engulfed in flames. Ignoring the four bank robbers, Time Man flew toward the inferno.

Hands full of sacks of money, Ripley and Brock exited the bank. “Did you do that?” Ripley asked Tony.

“No. But we need to thank whoever did,” he smiled and the four of them ran off in the opposite direction with their rewards.

As Time Man approached the building, he could hear screams and see tenants and homeless people running out the front door. Time Man flew into the top floor of the building and began scouting around. He found several kids and an elderly woman huddled in the bathroom of one of the apartments.

“Climb on,” Time Man ordered. “I’ll get as many of you down as I can.”

“Several kids climbed on, holding onto Time Man’s neck, shoulders, arms and cape. Time Man picked up three in his arms and gently lowered them to the street below. He could hear the siren of a fire truck approaching but quickly flew back up to grab the remaining kids and the woman. He flew back inside and scouted again. Most apartments were engulfed and Time Man feared that most occupants in these apartments were already dead. Floor by floor he grabbed the residents and brought them down to the street where fire, police and medical units were waiting. When he was halfway through the building, after dropping off three people, a loud rumble began to echo. Looking behind him, the building began to buckle and crumble. Two people jumped out of the window landing hard on the pavement beneath them. “No. Not today,” he said and touched his sundial.

Time stopped. Time Man quickly flew back to the building and began finishing what he started. On the fourth floor, he recognized one of the occupants. Martin Hogue, cornered in his bedroom by flame, a look of panic, anguish, and despair pasted on his face, surprised Time Man. Martin, along with two of his neighbors, were placed gently on the street below.

Within and hour, everyone that Time Man could find were out of building. Exhausted, Time Man collapsed on the sidewalk, coughing. Trying to catch his breath, Time Man unfroze time. Everyone was stunned to find themselves out of danger. The building finally began to collapse and police ushered everyone away. Time Man flew up into the sky and watched the building come down.

Time Man landed on the roof of his apartment and took off the sundial, his costume disappearing. He walked down from the roof to his apartment. “Harold!” Ellie exclaimed when he walked in. “Where have you been? What happened?”

“What?” he asked as she ran to him. He realized that his face was dirty with soot and even his hair was slightly singed. “Oh, there was a fire at a building where I was walking home. I was helping people get out and I must have got a little too close to the flames.”

“Oh, my. How dangerous. Let’s get you cleaned up,” Ellie took Harold’s arm and they went into the bedroom. “Was it scary?”

“It was something. Two people jumped out of windows before that new hero, Time Man, could arrive. Five people died. The two that jumped out the windows and three from smoke inhalation in the building. It was almost like a nightmare,” Harold explained.

“Well, it’s over now. You did what you could,” Ellie said and kissed her husband on the cheek. “Come on, let’s get you something to eat.”

The next morning, Lucius Goebel read the paper at his desk. The tenement fire was relegated to the eighth page, barely a suitable column. Conrad came into the office and Lucius folded the paper up. “Good morning, Conrad.”
“Good morning, sir,” Conrad answered.
“Conrad, go make an offer on the old tenement building at 123rd Street.”
“But the owner has been adamant that he doesn’t want to sell. There’s a lot of low income people who live there and he doesn’t want to kick them out.”
“He won’t have to. I took care of all that,” Lucius smiled.