My name is Daniel Sumerset, and I am precisely 73 years too old for this Mickey Mouse horse-shit.
Communication went out with Daysdale approximately thirty minutes ago. In that time, I have put on my best suit, loaded the refurbished 'Tank' (her term, not mine) with enough equipment to wage World War III on the Stix, and ran through at least six red lights. During this, I have continually attempted to re-establish contact with Daysdale.
It's just as I'm entering the Stix that my communicator goes out. It figures--enough hardware in this car to fund a one-man incursion into North Korea and I forget to grab a goddamn 3 dollar pack of Double A batteries.
I park the car outside a convenience store on the edge of the Stix and go in. It's a bad sort of neighborhood, but I'm a bad sort of man. Besides--I need the fucking batteries.
Jackass behind the counter charges a fiver. I think it's bullshit and tell him so. He just gives me an awkward smile.
When I come out, I find three punks leaning on my car.
When they look at me, I know what they see. Old man. Grouchy, but with a noticeable limp. Dressed well--probably has a fat wallet. Easy money.
They don't see the scars, of course. Or the tattoos. None of them ever do.
"Nice wheels, old man," one of them says with a big shit-eating grin.
"I know," I tell him. "Get off it."
"1981 Fifth Avenue, right?" he says. "R-body. Rare as a hen's balls."
Well, at least the fucker knows his vehicles.
"Yeah," I tell him, and for a moment I think maybe this won't get nasty. Maybe he actually is just admiring it. "Only produced a few of 'em. I've modded this one a bit, though."
"You mind if we take it for a spin?" His grin gets bigger.
So much for that.
"I've got business, boys," I tell them, sliding the batteries into my pocket. I've got on my big coat; it drapes down over me like a blanket. Makes my shoulders look bulkier--makes me look bigger. But the three of them still don't see that. Punks like them never do.
"You're funny, gramps," one of the other punks pipes up. "Tell you what. We'll take this thing off your hands--won't even charge you for it."
I steady myself. "You boys are out pretty late. Ain't it a school night?"
The one with the big grin shuffles forward. He's got a wide, awkward gait--the sort of cock-strut people use when they've got something to prove. His hand is in his pocket, and by the way his wrist moves, I figure he's got a knife. "You sure got a smart mouth on you, old man."
"I got other things too," I tell him, and then I follow it up: "Just walk away, son. This ain't a fight you want to have."
"The fuck you gonna do? Make me catch a terminal case of old?" There's a flash of metal--he pulls steel. Knife pointed at my chest. "We got youth, balls, and knives. The hell you got?"
"Age. Experience." Beneath my coat, something whirs. The servo hums with life; pneumatics give a soft hiss. "And a powered exoskeleton that can punch through brick."
He moves in with the knife, but he's not nearly fast enough. I've slipped my hand through the metal bracer hidden beneath my sleeve--the engine purrs as my palm swats his arm aside. The powered bracers along my biceps and legs do the rest of the work--I grab him, pull him up into the air, and hurl him clear across the street.
He lands in a pile of garbage cans with a loud and obnoxious bang. By the looks of it, he'll live.
Before Vietnam, I wouldn't have risked breaking his neck like that. Then again, before Daysdale, I probably would have just crushed his skull with a punch.
Dumb kid is rubbing off on me.
"Holy shit," one of the punks say, and the remaining two start to scatter. I grab one of them by the collar before he gets away--drag him up and give him a good shake.
"Oh shit oh shit oh shit," he starts, spluttering like a baby. "Don't kill m--"
"Shut the fuck up," I tell him. "Ain't gonna waste the voltage it'd take to snap your neck. Go tell your friends--capes are in Stix. Tell them to stay low for a few days. We got business here, but if you stay out of our way, it ain't got to concern you. Spread the word."
Then I throw him. Right at his friend, who is just starting to get up.
I try not to take too much satisfaction from the crunching sound they make as they meet.
The suit's not much--it doesn't work as armor. Just a series of bars and bracers that reinforce preexisting structure--makes it easier to walk, easier to punch. Older model, but reliable. Originally designed to help old people get around easier. I've modded it--juiced the power up and reinforced it.
I get back into my car and tear the batteries out of the package. Then I plug them into the communicator. It clicks on; instantly, I hear a crackle followed by Daysdale's voice.
"Okay," she says over the line. "So we stop him from doing that."
"How?" I hear another voice say.
"Here, starling," I tell her.
"Thank God," she says. "I thought this thing was busted."
"It is. Range on it has gone to shit. You're only hearing me now because I'm on my way there."
"Good. I think this is way more serious than I initially thought. I might need back-up," she says. "Call in Epoch, maybe, or--"
"No can do," I tell her. They were out--dealing with an incident in the Dresden Center. Something about a mercenary attack. "Epoch's busy with their own problems. For now, this is going to have to be our show."
"Okay," she says, and then she starts talking to someone else.
I turn the car on and pull up her location on the GPS.
It's time to get back to work.