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Rocket Man 5

Rocket Man 5 - Chapter 6: Under Construction

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Chapter 6: Under Construction

The day, had finally arrived. This would be the best day of Terry's life. Or, for that matter, the life of anyone Terry could imagine. The many large machines built in the lower levels of the RMF complex had churned and hummed for weeks. For fourteen weeks the machines assembled, molecule by molecule, the outer plates that would complete the RM5 v1.0 armor set. Testing of the plates then took another two weeks of assaulting them with punishment unsurvivable to even the most advanced substances. Once convinced of the degree of relative indestructibility hoped for by the Von Werner led team, the final assembly had taken place.

As the last pieces of the armor were applied the interior displays lit up and began showing the information according to the presets Terry had selected. Looking through the various indicators had already become rote in his experience with the prototypes. but this was no prototype, Terry was actually wearing the real Rocket Man armor. He was not as overcome with geeky jubilation as he might have predicted. Long years of practice and training had taught him the necessity for calm rational assessment of a situation before allowing the excitement overload his judgment.
"Systems nominal," he reported into the comm. From the other end of the direct link he heard Julie's acknowledgement The Two way voice and data link was based on a principle called "quantum entanglement" that was mostly gibberish to Terry but what was important was it was impossible to intercept and therefore one hundred percent secure. There would be no need to return to the irradiated desert to complete the last testing as only the skin layers were new, all other components had been through the ringer already.

The retractable roof of the hangar bay parted sufficiently to allow Terry's egress. Terry turned and looked at the staff gathered in the hangar and saw that they all had stopped working and were looking at him solemnly. He noticed many were staring at him through glassy eyes. It seemed like this might be some sort of ceremony he had not been told about. Feeling like he should have prepared some sort of speech beforehand, Terry wondered if a speech was what these people wanted. Probably not, he thought. More than anything these were people who already knew far longer than him how important their work really was. What they did not hear, in person anyway, was the gratitude of those who they saved on a daily basis. People donated to the RMF, and when times were tough they would hold a fund drive or a telethon, or sometimes both. Letters that came with checks in them often included the heartfelt thanks of the sender, and often cookies too. Terry really enjoyed the cookies. Clearing his throat he switched on the public address speakers hidden in the helmet.

"Thank you for your confidence in me." He said to the techs and staff who were now gathering in a group behind Julie, who herself looked a little verklempt. "I promise you nothing short of every single thing I can do to deserve, and repay that confidence. You have given the greatest achievement in the history of technology to my care, and I fully appreciate how much your hopes of it's success depend on me. You have given me your best, now I give you mine. Promises are not what you need to hear at this point, or the people out there either." Switching the P.A. off terry turned his face upwards and engaged the antigrav, quickly reaching the opening in the roof. No sooner than he had cleared the roof he dialed up the power on the plasma drive. Twin flames so light blue as almost to be white shot down from the round openings on the bottoms of the pointed cylinders he wore on his back. Just as he knew would happen the roar of the unfocused plasma was deafening.

All along the lake shore people turned toward the tremendous sound to see a shining silver man trailed by a blue-white flame rising up from the RMF complex. As he ascended the sound, at first like an Apollo rocket booster changed pitch and suddenly he climbed out of sight in the space of a few seconds. Then the sounds of cheering, and honking horns and laughter were heard all throughout the city. Chicago had its favorite son back. The "experts" as usual could go screw themselves. When there was no one left in the Windy City to put on the suit that's when there would be no more Rocket Man. And if the guys on TV didn't think they had a chance, they could go tell it to a brick wall.

The TV networks wasted no time going live with every cellphone video they could get their hands on. The large screen in the control center was tuned to CNC as the urgent music announced the next segment. "Breaking News in Chicago..." followed by more urgent music. Leslie Daniels, the profoundly attractive anchor of the prime time news team addressed the audience with her careful professional tone. "Thousands of witnesses in the second city are reporting sightings of what could be a new Rocket Man. Multiple witnesses are reporting a man in silver armor powered by twin rockets rising from the building known as the Rocket Man Foundation, or RMF Complex which is Part of the large Champions Club Property in Chicago's downtown area known to locals as 'The Loop.'" The screen displayed an image of another woman identified by the on screen chyron as Sara Gladstone. The disembodied voice of Ms. Daniels asked, "Sara, what are you seeing there?"

In the control room the members of the crew not currently engaged with important tasks gathered around the titan TV. Julie noticed someone had brought her a cup of coffee. It was her normal place, here at the main control desk in the center of the room whenever the last Rocket Man was on a mission she would be here, supervising. The presence of her coffee cup, filled without her having to ask reassured her that all would soon be right in the world.

On the central screen, Sara Gladstone glanced at the notebook held in her left hand and answered, her breath misting in the February chill. "Leslie it seems the entire downtown district of Chicago has witnessed this event. The sound of rockets shaking the ground, rattling the windows of skyscrapers, and setting off car alarms. A spokesman for the CPD has said that the city's 911 call center had received complaints about the noise, when told what the operators believe the source is, callers usually cheer then hang up. It seems that all of Chicago is celebrating."

Julie looked at smaller screen to the left, which displayed a world map with a bright spot indicating the current location of Major Grissom. She thought she should get used to thinking of him as RM5 now or perhaps informally as Terry. Most of the crew had already established a first name relationship with him, there was no special reason for formality on her part. Perhaps it was just professional detachment that caused her to regard the Major from arms length. She had taken quite a while to establish a rapport with Travis Winter, the previous occupant of the position. But then she had been just a girl when he had started his tenure. Julie had only been Project manager for the last three years of the RM4 project. It seemed that there was an extra hesitance on her part to be more casual in the Major's presence. She could not find a logical explanation for this as he was certainly a very charismatic person, he had a gift for making people smile. She had witnessed this on many occasions, she noticed she herself was smiling. Her attention was drawn back to the screen by the appearance of a familiar face.

David Parker was the only person who worked inside this building whose name or face was known to the public. His position as public relations officer for the RMF had him in contact with the press on a daily basis. He was being interviewed by the same CNC reporter that had just been speaking. Looking behind them Julie could see the famous Buckingham fountain, which meant they were just across the street. Julie wondered if David was granting the first interview to CNC to make a peace offering to ease the very hard feelings between the two organizations. The nations largest twenty-four hour news network (now in HD), had run the gruesome footage of the last battle fought by Travis Winter against the self named Dr. Doomsday. For three straight days in a nearly continuous loop, the fight played out as an endless array of commentators second guessed the tactics, equipment, and even the very idea of there being a Rocket Man in the first place. "Maybe he's just trying to bury the hatchet." She did not realize she had said this aloud until she heard the reply over the comm.

"Maybe he'll bury it in her head." Terry seemed more mirthful than threatening. "Just kidding, We need those ghouls to take a liking to the new program or they could devastate donations."

Terry's assessment was correct, the coffers were running low as Buck had said. They needed to increase public support, and fast. This program was by far the most expensive project Julie had ever heard of, with a price tag in the billions the RMF would be still paying for the initial costs for years even if donations increased significantly. Time to return to base, maybe getting a quick glimpse of the new armor will increase their curiosity."

"I'll try to make it fast, so they will have a good reason to go to the grand opening Saturday." came the reply from the now speeding contact.

Julie noted his location fifty miles east, over Lake Michigan and closing fast. She returned her attention to the news broadcast.

"So the world will see Saturday what the RMF is planning?" Gladstone was saying, moving the microphone from herself to David.

"That's right Sara, we will be bringing everybody up to speed..."

Waving her hand in front of the camera Sara interrupted, "Bill get this." She pointed to her left, toward Lake Shore Drive. A quickly growing bright spot appeared on the screen. The spot resolved into a silver streak and slowed suddenly over the RMF building just a few hundred feet from the news crew. Not keeping still long enough to give a good look in the darkness the vague shiny shape disappeared into the roof of the complex. "Did you get that?" she asked her colleague whose reply was not visible on screen. " Leslie I think we may have just gotten the first, exclusive video only here on CNC of the next Rocket Man. David Parker is that what we just saw?'

David smiled slyly, having been aware of the intentional flyby beforehand. "As I was saying Sara you and the public at large will just have to wait till Saturday to see what we at the RMF have up our sleeves, but I will promise you this: Its going to be spectacular."

Switching off his television set Dr. Doomsday remarked in his deep bass voice "Yes, quite spectacular indeed."

David Parker was quite pleased at the turnout, with only three days notice most of the worlds major news outlets had showed up with a remote unit here in Chicago's sprawling Grant Park. A large portion of that park had been given in the 1950's to the Champions club to build their headquarters. Four Buildings now sat on the property once home to a dozen or so baseball diamonds. The northernmost was the RMF headquarters, or at least the aboveground portion of it. behind the RMF building was a plaza To the east of the plaza was the Champions Club HQ, running along the entire east side of the property. South of the plaza was the Young Champions Building. Columbus Drive separated the RMF, the Plaza and the YC building from the Museum of Superheroes, the only part of the property open to the public. The event was being held in the part of the park still owned by the city to ensure there would be space for the press and the public who came out in the freezing temperatures to show their support. He hoped to give them a show worth waiting for. The new armor was amazing, the looks, the speed, the toughness, well he wasn't going to demonstrate the capability to withstand small artillery fire in the park but that would be what people would be most curious about. The public would want to know if the new suit would take the kind of punishment that the most recent public enemies could dish out. Only time would tell if that was true or not, but today would be about optics. The subscribers wanted a guy in a metal costume and he could finally give them one. His job had just gotten a whole lot easier.

Terry stood still while Julie and two other technicians polished the armor. He could not see anything dull about it but let them work. He thought it must have been just Julie's pride in her craftsmanship that compelled her to walk around him with a cloth in her hand wiping unseen smudges from the surface of the gleaming suit. She looked lost in her thoughts as she wiped the cloth across his chest drawing circles in a lazy manner. "Julie" he said softly, "I think it's clean."
"Oh, sorry." she said stepping back suddenly. Looking around she found a clipboard which she picked up. "How much time now?"

"Ten minutes." Replied Hank, from the console in front of the giant screen.
Terry held out his hands and the technicians passed him the perfectly polished helmet. He put the helmet under his left arm and waited for the timer to count down to his first public outing. His most sincere hope was that he did not say or do something stupid his first time out.
The crowd was excited to hear the announcement that the show was about to begin. They applauded and cheered when they were told to look toward the roof of the Rocket Man Foundation's headquarters. The applause increased greatly when the silver figure emerged from the building and floated over to the park with a soft whistling sound.

Terry glided next to David Parker as arranged, and set down as Parker proclaimed into his microphone, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Introducing R-M-Five!" This was greeted by a further increase in crowd noise, making the prospect of a question and answer session temporarily unlikely. Terry didn't mind at all not having to answer questions, in fact he didn't mind being cheered at one bit. He had been cheered for as an athlete but was usually too busy staying alive to pay much attention to the crowd. At least this time there was not someone trying to injure him while the crowd was cheering him on.

Terry Knew something had gone Horribly wrong when the applause stopped abruptly, the crowd looking behind him with panic on their faces. Before he could turn around he felt the impact of a heavy object landing behind him, and then something wrapping around his waist. Managing to get his head turned Terry saw the Hulking figure of Dr. Doomsday, twice the height and width of the largest human. The mad genius was a grayish black and appeared to be made of stone. He fought the entire champions club last year and killed the former Rocket Man.

With his stony skin and incredible strength he had made short work of Brawny Bill, who although also a giant was batted down with contemptuous ease. And now he had Terry in the grip of his glowing unbreakable chain. Terry had expected Dr. Doomsday to return for a rematch at some point, not today certainly but soon. He had spent much time since that first visit from the Von Werners at the Naval Hospital thinking about how he would fight this foe. He put his plan into action. The enemy had made the mistake of making his presence known without guaranteeing a superior position. The good doctor probably thought, mistakenly, that the chain gave him that advantage. Terry would demonstrate otherwise. He fired his rockets at maximum thrust., taking himself and the granite gargantuan away from the crowd at blinding speed. His advantage was his experience in high g maneuvers. he grabbed on to the chain and when far enough from shore he began to scribe large arcs. As often as he could he designed these arcs to result in the meeting of his captor with the surface of the lake. The frosty temperature would make the water even less forgiving not that it mattered, at the speeds the drive could achieve, even in bursts, the surface tension of the water made for many unhappy landings. Terry watched as the man at the other end of the chain blacked out from the combination of g-loc caused by the furious spinning, and repeated kisses from the "Great Water."

When Terry went "feet dry" or crossed the shoreline towing the most infamous supervillain in the world he saw the Members of the Champions Club scrambling from their headquarters. Looking at him with the same amazed expression worn by the crowd watching from the park. Being his first day as a superhero he didn't know what to do with his quarry so he set down in front of the gathered Heroes, noting that all three members of the young champions were present in their rainbow and gold accented black suits. "Hey Captain" he said to the team leader Alert, who was often referred to as Captain Amazing. The Captain asked Brawny Bill to take the limp Doctor to the holding cells where he would be put in stasis indefinitely.

Julie sat in stunned silence as all about her chaos had taken over the control center. She had been gripped by the same inaction as soon as she had seen Dr. Doomsday appear on screen. Somehow this man, this amazing man had handled the most dangerous being in the world. Alone. His first day on the job. And all the while she had been speechless. Again she marveled at this man she had chosen for this project. He had managed once again to perform perfectly. People in her experience were not perfect. Machines though also not perfect, were at least predictable to some degree. Terry Grissom was as close to perfect as a human being could possibly be and he was in no way predictable. She reconsidered why it was she tried to keep a professional distance from Terry. Every time she allowed her thoughts to dwell on him she found herself wondering how she had managed to be so fortunate to have exactly the man she wanted right in front of her. She had noticed while giving Terry the tour of the museum that her opinion of Terry did not scale with her experience personally knowing him.

Now that she had spent the last six months working with him, seeing more of him, and having the revelations about his origin, she could still say her feelings did not scale with those feelings she had for others that she had known her entire life.

She felt ashamed that she had not been honest with herself before. she had to learn to remain professional about her admiration for Major Grissom. It would jeopardize the project if she could not be objective about him, she could not allow it.

Julie looked over at the side of the room, where Mystic was standing. She was wearing her Star Force uniform as usual, a yellow metaweave suit with a black four pointed star on the chest. The difference between the members uniforms was in the color scheme. Mystic wore the reverse of the colors of the teams leader Mr.E and his wife, Mysteria. She still wore the Star Force uniform although she did not return to New York after the meeting concerning the DNA revelation. Julie wondered what had kept her here, and why was she spending so much time here and not in the Champions Club building.

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Updated 10-08-2015 at 03:33 PM by Zavaraxis

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