“Well?” asked Air Wave.
“Gimme a minute,” said Damage. “I’m not used to making big decisions like this.”
Had Damage been in a different mood, he would have mused on the fact that he and Air Wave were arguing like a married couple. He also might have noticed Whiz Kid starting to stir.
“Owww… my head,” Whiz Kid groaned.
“John, could you keep it down? I’m trying to decide whether to wake you up or not,” Damage said. The silliness of what he just said then occurred to him, and he sighed. “Sorry.”
A while later, after waking up Coral and playing catch up with her and Whiz Kid, the four heroes were planning on what to do. Of course, the guard that the Scream left had been subdued by Air Wave and Damage before they did any of this.
“What time is it? That’s what we need to know first,” said Whiz Kid. The young speedster’s mind was ready to form a plan.
“It’s 2:48 A.M.,” Air Wave replied, rather quickly.
“How do you know that?” Coral asked.
“The military uses the Atomic Clock in D.C.,” Air Wave explained. “They radio in a request, then the time is radioed back. That’s what I basically did.” Whiz Kid nodded.
“OK, assuming that the Scream started right after midnight, it’d still take him a long time to rob Manhattan,” said Whiz Kid, “unless he has an army at his disposal.” Figuring out a plan would be a lot easier without all this guess-timation, he knew.
“Fifteen, including Sleepy over there,” Air Wave said.
“I counted seventeen unique signals. Fifteen outgoing, one incoming, and one probably used for intercommunication,” Air Wave said, explaining what she did. “Can’t make left or right of them, though. Heavy encryption.”
“Can you trace the incoming signal?”
“Is rain wet? But I need the receiver.”
It took some time, but they found the device that Air Wave needed. The gauntlet on the henchman’s wrist and the goggles were the transmitter and receiver, respectfully. Air Wave put both on and took to the skies, just hovering there.
OK, Lys, focus. One of the things that her grandfather, the original Air Wave, had taught Ilyssa Jordan was that through concentration and the radio belt, one was able to see electromagnetic radiation, which included radio waves. But it was no use.
“Sorry, no such luck,” said Air Wave after a moment. “The signal they’re using is fairly weak. If I could… Damage, you got a lot of energy, right?”
“Huh? Yeah. It’s how I can blow up.”
“So you’d say that you’re like a battery?”
“I guess so.” At this, Air Wave pressed the center of her belt’s buckle, and a suction cup connected to a length of copper wire. She licked the suction cup, then placed it on Damage’s forehead. Air Wave then took to the air again.
“Wha–?” Damage abruptly stopped when he felt a trickle of his own energy leave him.
“Got it!” Air Wave exclaimed and floated back down. She packed up the suction cup and then turned to the others.
“Far side of Staten Island,” Air Wave said. Turning to Damage, she said, “Thanks.” Air Wave planted a kiss on Damage’s cheek, and he instantly turned beet red.
“Hey! There’s time for that after the bad guy is caught,” Whiz Kid said. And the four made their way to Staten Island toward the Scream.
“You getting tired?” Damage asked Air Wave. The blue-and-gold-clad heroine had seemed to slow.
“Nah, my eyelids are just getting heavy,” Air Wave replied. The four had been searching Staten Island for little over an hour, and it was starting to take its toll. Damage nodded, as he was getting drowsy as well.
“With a rebel yell, she cried more, more, more,” Damage sang softly to himself.
“Never pegged you for a Billy Idol fan.”
“Huh? The song? I heard it on the radio once. Seemed loud.”
“Ah, so you don’t know what it’s about?”
“It’s just a song.”
“About deflowering a virgin.” Air Wave enjoyed the look that crossed Damage’s face. No wonder she thought he was cute.
“Uh…” Damage was at a loss for words. And his collar became tight again, for the third time tonight. As he searched for a reply, he caught sight of something unusual, something out of place. One of the buildings had a painting on its door — a reproduction of The Scream, by Edward Munch.
“That makes everything simpler,” Damage said. He pulled out his communicator and contacted Whiz Kid. “I think I’ve found it.”
“This is all too easy,” Air Wave commented. Entering the Scream’s hideout was a cakewalk. No security, no guards, no nothing.
“Maybe he didn’t think anyone would find him,” Damage suggested.
“Or maybe he would rather face you himself, hmmm?” said the voice of the Scream over an intercom.
“So, you’re going to attack us when we least expect it?” Air Wave asked. Her crime-fighting experience was mostly with gangsters. When they were given an advantage, they took it.
“Good heavens! What do you take me as? A brute? No, I wish to tell you why, since I believe that you will not give me the chance to do so once you’ve found me,” the Scream replied, sounding hurt at what Air Wave said.
“I was born in Sweden at the end of the last Great War. My parents were very loving. Father was an art dealer. Mother was a painter. A perfect match, they said. I was their pride, their joy.
“Unfortunately, I had an unforeseeable problem. At first, it was thought that I was mentally slow. And who could blame them? I talked slowly and had trouble paying attention. But I was not slow. All of the senses have an area of the brain that govern them. In my brain, the area for hearing is three times larger than normal.
“It is hard to concentrate when you are able to hear all the heartbeats in a single room. It is hard to sleep when an ant in the basement decides to be heavy-footed. A lesser man would have been broken. But I persevered.
“I had one solace that prevented me from losing my mind — music. For hours, I would listen to records, turned down low so it would not cause me pain. At first, it was the classical masters. Just by listening to their words, I could understand their lives, their thoughts, their passions, and their pains. Later I expanded my horizons.
“Twenty years ago, I discovered another gift from my advanced hearing: harmonic referencing. At different frequencies, sound can do many different things. Glass shatters, nausea is induced, and a myriad of other things. When I discovered this, I believed that the manufacturing of non-lethal weapons was my calling. But that all changed.
“I discovered that I was not the only person with hearing issues. There are thousands more. But, where I have hearing on the superhuman level, they cannot hear at all. I have designs, blueprints that can eliminate the social problems associated with deafness.
“That is why I am here today. I require funds for research. It is also a convenient way to repay the world for some forty-odd years of ridicule.”
As the Scream told the heroes his story, the four made their way unhindered. It was sad, really, this man’s life. And the cause was noble, but crime was crime. By the time the Scream was finished telling his story, they were at his door.
“OK, so are the four of us gonna fight you?” Air Wave said. She really wasn’t used to fighting super-villains. They really were different from gangsters.
“Not exactly.” The Scream picked up a wine glass that was next to him. Dipping a finger into the crimson liquid, he started to talk.
“If you paid attention, you would know that I am a master of sonics. Allow me to demonstrate.” The Scream started to run his finger around the lip of the glass. Nothing seemed to happen, at least not for Coral, Damage, or Air Wave.
John Garrick felt his jaw clench so tight, that it felt like his teeth would crack. His eyes felt like white-hot needles were poked in them. And that squeal — it was in his gut, his head, and everywhere else. It spread like a malignant heat. His will shattered the same time his goggles did. With a groan, he fell to the floor.
“I am surprised. He lasted a full minute,” the Scream said, stopping the circling of his finger. Two pairs of eyes looked at a fallen teammate. One pair saw a defeated ally.
“What did you do?” Damage asked. Suddenly, he felt that they were in over their heads, way over.
“Harmonic referencing and sonic distribution. They are very lovely abilities to possess,” the Scream replied.
There was a time for words and a time for actions. The heroine Coral decided that it was now a time for action. She was fast enough to close the distance between her and the Scream. She also figured that she wouldn’t be affected as much by the noise that the Scream used as a weapon.
It was a pity that she was wrong.
She weathered the assault for barely thirty seconds. Now, this could’ve been caused by many things — because she was closer, she was female, Faust had previously messed with her, or any combination of the above. But whatever the reason, she did not succeed.
As Air Wave saw this happen, she knew that something had to be done. It was a long shot, but it might work. “Could we have some time to, uh, plan?” Air Wave asked. Hopefully, she judged this man correctly.
“Please, go ahead. But, I can hear whatever you say. Remember that,” the Scream said. Air Wave was surprised that the villain agreed.
“OK, I got an idea. If we can… share our will, we might be able to resist the attack,” Air Wave told Damage.
“How are we going to share our will?” Damage asked. Air Wave put her hand on his shoulder. She didn’t have to say how. The two turned to the Scream and started to approach him.
“Very clever. Pity it will not work,” the Scream said, using the noise to attack once more.
Unknown to the Scream and Damage, was the fact that the radio belt filtered out the harmful effects of the noise, though they could still hear it. Holding onto Damage carried the protection over to him.
They slowly approached the villain. The noise increase in level, as did the look of concentration on the Scream’s face. Soon, nothing could be heard, not even one’s thoughts. Finally, the lights gave out, shattering. By the time the emergency lights came back on, it was over.
The Scream had defeated himself, unconscious and blood dripping from his hand, the wine glass broken.
An hour after the Scream was defeated, both Whiz Kid and Coral awoke, though they had headaches the size of Wisconsin. And three hours after that, the police arrived. Six hours after the attack at midnight, the city had recovered. And without the Scream, the goons out in the city were easily caught.
“We made a pretty good team, eh?” Air Wave said. It was odd how everything had turned out. Odder still what the Scream told her and Damage. That, as long as they were heroes, he would be a villain, since he enjoyed the challenge that they provided. Strange man.
“I guess so,” Damage replied. He was still in a haze. Some of it was worry about Mina and John, but a lot of it…
“You’re in love with me, aren’t you?” Air Wave said, figuring out what else was bothering Damage.
“I might be. I’m not sure. I mean, I’m attracted to you, sure. But in love? I don’t know…” Damage said, his voice trailing off. He was not ready nor prepared for the kiss that Air Wave captured him in.
On Air Wave’s end, it was absolute heaven, which only increased when Damage started to respond. It took a full ten seconds for the rational part of her brain to, well, rationalize. With some reluctance, she broke off the kiss and turned away.
“I’m sorry, I… I shouldn’t have done that,” Air Wave said, apologizing for that moment of want. When she felt a hand on her shoulder, she turned her head.
“No, you don’t have to apologize,” said Damage. “Those ten seconds… they were the best I have ever had. I think… I think I want to pursue this. But I don’t know where to start.” And it was more or less the truth. He had never experienced something like that, nor did he know how to, well, date.
With that, the two shared another kiss. This one was longer, more romantic, and less driven by hormones. They cared not for their audience, just each other, it seemed.
Fifty feet away, there were two important observers. Whiz Kid turned to Coral and opened his mouth to speak.
“Not if you were Adam and I were Eve,” Coral replied. Whiz Kid slumped his shoulders, defeated. No victory kiss for him.