According to Mr. Sumerset, my mother could put the 'battle suit' (as he called it) on in under three minutes; it took me about fifteen. On top of that, I needed his and Anna's help doing it.
There were a lot of individual parts, and they all fitted together with clicks and snaps. On top of this, the suit needed to be adjusted for my size and height--thankfully, it was adjustable, but the process involved lots of discomfort and momentary pinching.
When I finally had it on, it felt very heavy and bulky--even with my heightened strength, it was like carrying weights on every inch of my body. I wasn't sure how I was expected to run around like this, nevermind spring out of the shadows and punch bad guys in the face.
Then Sumerset said, "I'm turning the suit on."
There was a gentle hum--like an electrical generator coming on in the distance. If you weren't listening for it, you probably wouldn't have even heard it. And suddenly, the suit wasn't very heavy at all.
"Woh," I said, moving my arm. It was surreal--as soon as I exerted the effort to swing my hand forward, I felt the suit pick up the slack for me. As soon as I stopped, the suit stopped. I imagine the best comparison would be like operating in a low gravity environment--everything took only half the effort.
"It's really not all that revolutionary," he told me. "Technology's nearly a decade old--military's been screwing with it for a long time. You start to move, it figures out where you're going--and completes the motion. When we pump it up to full power, you can punch through concrete."
"Seriously?" I asked.
"We'll give it a try."
Sumerset and Anna brought a concrete block up from the gym room and set it down between two benches. I glanced at my hand--the suit included gauntlets constructed from pieces of sleek black plastic. Though they made my hands look big and bulky, I wondered if they'd be enough to eat the impact.
"Put your helmet on," he told me, stepping back toward the far corner with Anna. "Concrete might get in your eye." For some reason, he seemed to be scrutinizing me.
"Sure," I said, dropping the Skull helmet over my face. I flipped it on, peered down at the concrete, and made a fist. The plastic clicked together like interlocking puzzle pieces. And then I stepped forward and swung my fist down like a hammer.
The cinder block exploded--it cracked beneath the sheer force of the blow, shattering into a dozen chunks and a cloud of dust. I felt a sharp, hard jerk against my hand--bruised my knuckles a little. But otherwise, it didn't hurt much.
"Woh," I repeated.
"Hm," Sumerset said, still watching me. I had the strange feeling that I had just passed a test. Whatever that test was, I couldn't imagine. "We won't have the power up that far--not tonight. We'll put it at half, and adjust if necessary."
"Shouldn't I take a while to, I don't know, get used to this thing?" I asked. "It feels like we're rushing into this."
"Don't worry," he said. "The suit you're wearing technically qualifies as a tank. Frankly, you'll probably be safer out there in this thing then you would be sitting on your couch back here."
"Okay. So. Anything else I need to know?"
"You should take the sticky-rope thing," Anna said, earning a look from both me and Sumerset. "What? It's really cool. And beside, you might have to make a really grandiose, ridiculously awesome exit. Like Batman with his cape, y'know?"
"I'm not wearing a cape," I said, turning to Sumerset. "We're clear on that, right?"
"I don't think I've seen someone wearing a cape professionally since the sixties," Sumerset said. "Thank God. The costumes back then..." He shook his head. "Anyway, you might as well take it--there's actually a slot for it underneath the arm."
"Okay. So, one more important detail, then," I said. "How am I getting to this slum he's supposedly in?"
"I'm driving you," Sumerset said.
"In my suit," I said.
"Yes. You'll keep the helmet off till we get there. I've got a portable setup in my car--I can manage the handling from there. I'll stay a block or two away, but if things get too hot, then I'll step in."
"You'll 'step in'?" Anna said, needling him. "With what, your cane-fu?"
Again, Sumerset glared at Anna. "I'll have you know I was pretty hardcore back in the day, young lady."
"Yeah, I don't know if anyone told you," Anna said, "but being old doesn't qualify as a 'super-power', grandpa."
Sumerset growled and pointed his cane at Anna, turning to me. "She's not coming. Non-negotiable."
"Right," I said, thankful that the helm hid my smile. "So. Let's do this."