“Oh, Grandpa, I’m ho-ome!” Ilyssa Jordan said in a sing-song voice. She was a little red in her cheeks, as it was very cold from the walk back from the pond. She was trying her best to be the sweet child that no adult could say no to. All she had to do was butter up her grandfather, and she’d be going to the Big Apple.
“How was it at the pond? Did you have fun?” asked Larry Jordan, entering from the kitchen with two mugs of hot cocoa.
“Yeah. I ran into Mr. Hodge at the pond,” Ilyssa said, taking a mug from Larry. “Wanted to know if you were going to go ice fishing with him in January. Said that the fish were biting pretty good so far.”
“Well, next time you go skating and see Mr. Hodge, you tell him that, as soon as I find my rod, I’ll be up there freezing my butt off with him,” Larry said with a chuckle. The instincts that had come in handy when he was Brooklyn’s district attorney forty years earlier helped him to notice that, though she was acting all cheery, Ilyssa seemed uncomfortable.
“OK, what’s on your mind?” Larry asked. “Something is definitely bothering you. You can tell me. I’m your grandfather.”
“We doing anything on New Year’s Eve?” Ilyssa asked sheepishly.
“Not that I know of,” Larry replied. “Why?”
“Well, my friend Bobbi, she won a radio contest a few weeks ago. The prize was some tickets to the greatest party on the planet. Can I go?” Ilyssa said rather quickly, hoping to trick a yes out of her grandfather.
“No. From what I know of your friends, there is most definitely not going to be any parental supervision,” said Larry. “At least not in the original plans.”
“But, Grandpa, you can’t do this!” Ilyssa said, nearly yelling. “This is going to be the biggest party I’ll ever be able to go to in my teenage years!”
“OK. If this is so important to you, then we’ll go,” Larry said, adding a marshmallow to his cocoa.
“What mean you we, Kemosabe?” Ilyssa asked. She wasn’t expecting this. Nope, not at all.
“I mean I am going as well,” Larry replied. “That way there will be appropriate supervision. Besides, I’m sure that you’re the only one that decided to ask if you can go.”
Ilyssa decided that it wasn’t worth arguing the point. Once her grandfather made up his mind about something, nothing, not even the strength of Superman, could change it.
“Come on, Tyler. Don’t focus on the time, just on staying awake,” said Alex Rainey. Ilyssa was helping her support Tyler Rainey, who was threatening to fall asleep at the drop of a hat.
“Mus… keep… eyes open,” Tyler mumbled. Good thing there was only a few minutes left.
“I’d like to once again thank the Junior JSA for being here tonight,” said Dick Clark, the eternally youthful celebrity. “And I’m sure that everyone else, here and at home, agrees.”
“Well, it was great to be here,” replied Whiz Kid. For himself and Coral it indeed had been, but Damage seemed to be more nervous than usual. It was probably all the television coverage. At this time, the three heroes pressed the button that would drop the ball and start the new year.
The crowd began to count down.
But something wrong happened when the ball dropped completely. A painful, piercing noise filled the air. Glass shattered, cars jumped, and people fainted — all except for a handful. Most of these who were still among the land of the living were very much alike.
They all wore mirrored goggles, and they were all deaf.
Whiz Kid had grabbed whoever was closest to him the minute things started to blow up. This just happened to be Damage. After a few minutes, they returned to the sight of Times Square.
“Wow. That was one heck of a ring,” Whiz Kid commented, a low whistle coming from between his teeth.
“Hmmm… nobody’s dead. That’s odd,” Damage said, looking at one of the passed-out partyers. Some movement and groaning startled the two teenagers, but they relaxed when they saw who it was.
“You all right, Mina?” Whiz Kid asked her. Mina Curry looked at him sternly.
“I’ve just been buried under a dozen or so people. Do you think I’m all right?” Coral replied.
“Well… Hey! Why aren’t you knocked out, too?” Damage asked.
“I’m used to the high pitches used by dolphins and whales,” Coral said, matter-of-factly.
Ilyssa Jordan was surprised that she survived that noise. But the how wasn’t hard, since she was wearing the radio belt. She had ducked into an alley and changed into her Air Wave costume. One of the lessons that Larry had taught her that stuck was always to be prepared.
“Biggest case yet,” Air Wave said, rubbing her head. She had a migraine the size of Montana. Anxiously, she exited the alley.
Damage was acting as backup to the other two, since he was basically the powerhouse right now. So, naturally, he was the first one who saw the girl come out of the alley. She stood out, wearing her blue and gold spandex costume. His face grew warm when he noticed that he hadn’t turned away.
“John, Mina? You might wanna look at this,” Damage said. Whiz Kid and Coral turned and caught sight of the girl. When they approached her, they received a greeting they hadn’t expected.
“Oh, my gosh! It’s… it’s you!” the girl squeaked. “I can’t believe I’m actually meeting… you!” Oddly enough, this was directed toward Damage, whose collar became tighter all of a sudden. Almost immediately, she went back to being serious.
Ilyssa mentally scolded herself. Now she looked like a fool, and all because she met her favorite hero of all time.
“Um… thanks?” Damage replied with a lopsided and confused grin.
Must. Not. Swoon, Ilyssa thought to herself. She was starting to feel lightheaded, and she probably looked like a total dork.
“I’m… I’m… oh, it begins with an A. Gimme a minute,” Ilyssa said. There was no probably about it now.
Damage, on the other hand, was embarrassed enough for the two of them. Superboy had fangirls. Even Whiz Kid had a few fangirls. Damage did not have fangirls.
Grant, take nice, calm, easy breaths. A girl likes you, that’s all. It’s not bad. And she’s pretty… baseball, baseball, baseball, baseball baseball baseball baseball! Damage hurriedly thought. Blowing up a girl — especially one that seemed to like him — was a bad idea.
“Air Wave. My name is Air Wave,” the girl seemed to blurt out candidly. This was going to be a long night.
“Does anyone else hear that?” Air Wave asked. The four heroes had decided to work together on this, but weren’t having any luck on finding the cause of the attack.
“Hear what?” Damage had finally got himself under control, but he could still feel his temperature rise every time he looked at Air Wave.
“That,” Air Wave explained. “It’s sounds like someone’s playing bad bluegrass.”
“I don’t hear anything,” Whiz Kid said. For him and Damage, it was true. But with the radio belt, Air Wave could pick up those background sounds.
“She’s right. It’s really, really, really high-pitched, though,” Coral said, agreeing with her fellow heroine.
“Thank you. It’s coming from down here,” Air Wave said, entering a bank. It was pretty easy to do so, since the glass in the windows and doors were blown out.
Ilyssa led her new… well, they weren’t friends, and they weren’t roommates. But she’d settle on calling them allies for now.
“This isn’t what I was expecting,” Ilyssa commented. A bunch of deposit boxes were open and empty. The person who was doing the job was huddled over a safe, working on opening it. It was strange that he didn’t react when the teen heroes entered.
“You think he hasn’t heard us yet?” Damage asked Whiz Kid and Coral. He felt a bit bad at leaving out Air Wave, but she wasn’t part of the team.
“Maybe. Better not–”
“Hey! Bad guy!” shouted Air Wave. “You ready to go to jail?”
Whiz Kid shook his head. Of course Murphy’s Law had to show up and foul everything. “You’re new at this, aren’t you?” asked John Garrick. He didn’t want to sound rude, but something had to be said.
“Well, sorry,” Air Wave replied rather defensively. “I just believe that anything worth doing is worth doing loud.”
Damage could tell that an explosive situation was about to boil over. To diffuse it, he placed a hand on Air Wave’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. Everyone makes–”
“Oh, my! He touched me!” Air Wave squeaked, fainting in a mewling heap.
“–mistakes? Oh, boy,” Damage finished with a sigh. This was a new situation for Damage. Never in a million years would Grant Emerson Pratt have believed that he could have that effect on women.
They heard a high-pitched beep.
“What the heck is that?” Coral asked.
A loud blaring then resounded, and the wall of sound was solid, as the three heroes soon found out when they were knocked unconscious.
His name was Cyril. He was deaf. He was employed by a genius. This man gave Cyril, and others like him, a way to interact with the speaking and hearing world. All this man asked was for their help. Cyril agreed. Anything to be an equal. Cyril worked for the Scream.
And today, on New Year’s Eve, one resounded throughout Manhattan. It must have been beautiful.
Ilyssa Jordan awoke with an even bigger headache, and a pain in her wrists. Of the four, she was the one who woke first.
“Ah, good to see that you are awake.” The voice was soft and exotic-sounding, probably Swedish in origin, maybe.
“Huh?” Ilyssa asked, her head still groggy.
“I am the Scream,” replied the man. “I believe that you have already witnessed the craft of my hands.”
“What happened at Times Square? Was that you?!” Ilyssa exclaimed. Her head almost immediately cleared up.
“I believe that the term is guilty as charged, no?” The grin on his face sent shivers down her spine.
“Where are we?” Ilyssa spat out. She was hiding the fact that she was nearly scared senseless in every way.
“Times Square,” said the Scream. “Still, do not be worrying. After this is all over, you will never hear from me again. Nor shall we meet.” Though soft, his voice was sharp. Finished, he turned to leave.
“I’m not afraid of you,” Ilyssa said. If only that were true. The Scream walked back to Ilyssa and caressed her face.
“Sweet child, of course you are. Your heart… your heart is racing,” the Scream said with a soft chuckle and left the four young heroes.
“My head! God, it feels like it got hit with a truck,” Damage said, coming to.
“You all right?” Ilyssa asked, trying to get a good look at Damage, to see if he was all right.
“Fine enough. Where are we?” Damage said, testing his shackles. While doing this, something occurred to him. “Why aren’t you going all fangirl on me?”
“Just a while ago, you were fainting at my touch,” Damage explained. “Now, you’re as serious as a heart attack.”
“Oh, that,” Ilyssa replied. “Don’t have the time to, to be honest. Wait till we stop the bad guy, then I’ll make up for it.”
“You got any idea of what to do?” said Damage. “I don’t think I can pull these chains from the wall.” Strong he may have been, but the chains were like a rubber band, snapping back whenever he got past a certain point.
“Maybe. Just gotta make contact with the lock,” Ilyssa said, her hands straining. When she finally did, there was an arc of electricity and an audible click.
“How’d you do that?” Damage asked. He wasn’t expecting that to happen.
“The belt I wear,” Ilyssa replied, freeing her other hand. “It gives me my powers, one of which is minor magnetic manipulation.” She then proceeded to free Damage, Whiz Kid, and Coral.
“Do we wait for them to wake up, or do we go after the Scream?” Ilyssa asked.
Damage didn’t have an answer to that one.