by Doc Quantum
The next day, Willie Fawcett awoke amidst his new surroundings, and it all came back to him. The young boy would never see his family or friends ever again. They were gone, as was his whole world. And he was sleeping in an abandoned building. But Willie had known poverty before, having been orphaned at a young age, and he had the inner strength to carry on.
If Binderbeck City was no more, then he would make Baltimore his new home.
Willie’s ears perked up when he heard the familiar sound of gunshots nearby.
“Thunder!” he shouted while rubbing his belt buckle, and with a clap of thunder he was transformed into his alter ego, Captain Thunder.
As Captain Thunder he was a tall, muscular black man in a red costume with gold and white trimmings. An emblem looking like a stylized bolt of lighting striking at an angle was emblazoned on his chest.
Without missing a beat, Captain Thunder flew through the open window of the abandoned tenement and listened for more shots. Sure enough, several more alerted him to a gunfight a few blocks away.
In a split second, the hero from another world arrived on a street where two rival gangs were shooting at each other from opposite sides of the street. The people living there had all run inside, jumping into bathtubs and dropping to the floor for protection, as if this was as natural as a fire drill for them. This kind of gunfight was not unusual, unfortunately.
“Stop that!” shouted Captain Thunder, in a resounding voice that echoed down the block.
The two gangs were shocked by the sudden appearance of the African-American super-hero in red. But after a moment’s hesitation, one gang member fired off a shot at the hero, and several others followed suit.
Captain Thunder frowned and, at super-speed, grabbed all the guns at once, then placed them in a pile in the middle of the street and stomped on them, crushing them into so much rubble.
“I said — stop that!” the hero shouted once more, looking around to make sure the young hoodlums were paying attention to him. “Now, what is this all about? Why are you shooting at each other and putting everyone here in the neighborhood at risk?”
“They started it!” said one young gangster. “We held that corner, and they came and stole it from us! We had to show ’em what’s what!”
“You punk-ass liar!” shouted another young gunman from the opposite side of the street. “Our people always had that corner until you showed up! We was just taking back what’s ours!”
With that, the two sides started shouting at each other, seemingly having forgotten the man standing in the middle of the street above all their broken guns. In the distance, sirens wailed, signalling that the police would soon arrive.
“Stop it! Stop it! STOP IT!” shouted Captain Thunder once again. Looking at the first youngster who spoke, he said, “You.” Looking at the other, he also said, “You.” And he motioned them both to walk up to the super-hero. “I don’t want to hear a word from anyone else!” he shouted to the rest. “You all just stay put!”
Turning to the two young men who were glaring at each other, he said, “Now, then, what’s all this about the corner?”
The two young men started to speak at the same time, until Captain Thunder ordered them to be quiet once more, then had the first man speak.
“You crazy or somethin’?” said the first youngster. “Don’t you know anything about this ‘hood?”
“I’m… new to this town,” explained Captain Thunder. “Tell it to me like I’m just a child.” Inwardly, he added, And as Willie Fawcett, I really am.
The young man shrugged and said, “You do know that they sell drugs on them corners, don’t you? Now, I’m not sayin’ that we’s into that or nothin’, but I hear tell that on corners like that, drug dealers make a lot of money sellin’ to all the junkies in this ‘hood.”
Captain Thunder looked expectantly at the other young man, who nodded his agreement. “He’s tellin’ the truth about that, anyway,” he said.
“And you find that you have to shoot at each other in order to sell drugs on that corner?” questioned the hero.
“Hell, yeah! That’s our corner!” said the second young man.
Before the other could argue the point, Captain Thunder put his hands up and said, “Why can’t you just agree to work on different corners? Do you hear those sirens in the distance? They’re not coming here because you’re selling drugs to junkies. They’re coming here because you shot off your guns in a populated neighborhood.”
The two young men looked down, both ashamed and defensive.
“So, you gonna arrest us?” asked the first young hoodlum.
“No,” said Captain Thunder, “I’m going to let the police do that. It’s their job. But I want you to spread the word to all your friends and enemies alike — no more violence in West Baltimore!”
The other young gangster laughed until a glance from Captain Thunder quickly shut him up.
At that moment, two police cars screeched to a halt from either side of the street, and patrolmen jumped out of their cars, shouting, “Police! Get your hands up!”
“These boys will cooperate fully, officer!” shouted Captain Thunder. “You have my word.”
“You deaf or something?” shouted the policeman. “Get those hands up, and up against that wall!”
Captain Thunder sighed and looked at the two gangsters, who fell into position against the wall, as did all the other young hoodlums. There was no escaping for any of them. The hero from another world followed suit, reminding himself that no one on this world knew him except for the two men who’d brought him here.
If the Baltimore police on this world were anything like the Binderbeck police on his own world, he would be able to reason with them, and he would soon become their most trusted super-hero ally.
Captain Thunder waited patiently in an interrogation room in a West Baltimore police precinct, handcuffed to the table.
He honestly couldn’t have predicted that his first case on this world would have gone this way. Back home in Binderbeck City on his own world, the police had welcomed him with open arms as a valuable ally since day one. Here, he was treated like a criminal, despite the fact that other super-heroes existed on this world.
The hero offered his full cooperation, of course, but it annoyed him to have to wait for so long here in handcuffs. Thankfully, the wise Indian guru who had given him his powers had also instilled in him the virtues of patience. He missed old Maharaji — he would have known exactly what he should do in this situation.
The door opened, and an overweight African-American detective with a goatee wearing a stylish, dark pinstriped suit walked in. He had a disbelieving smile on his face as he saw the costumed hero.
“Detective Parker,” said the man as introduction. “I understand you call yourself…” He looked at his clipboard and read, “Captain… Thunder. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” said the hero. “I am Captain Thunder.”
“Sorry about those handcuffs,” said the detective. “Standard procedure. So, ‘Captain,’ can I call you by any other name, or is this all you’re giving us?”
“Captain Thunder is my only name,” said the hero, shrugging.
The detective laughed. “All right, let’s call you Captain for now. Well, Captain, can you tell me exactly what you were doing in the middle of a shootout between two rival gangs, dressed in that costume?”
Captain Thunder looked down at his red costume and said, “This is my uniform. I’m a super-hero. As for why I was there, I put a stop to that shootout before those gangs could kill anyone.”
The detective snickered, then added, “Oh, I’m sorry. I just thought I heard you wrong. Are you telling me that you single-handedly disarmed a dozen gang-bangers with your bare hands?”
Captain Thunder nodded. “That’s what I’m telling you. And there’s a pile of destroyed guns to prove it.”
“Oh, yes,” said the detective. “There was a note about that. It says you left a pile of unidentified metal debris on the ground. Don’t worry, though. I’m not going to charge you with littering.”
Captain Thunder was becoming annoyed by the detective’s surly attitude. “Detective, I am a super-hero. I did what any other super-hero in my position would do — I prevented violence and kept the neighborhood safe, then waited for the police to arrive and arrest the perpetrators.”
Detective Parker was nodding as the hero spoke. “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And I appreciate that, Captain. All of us at the department do. But you have to understand something. We’re not always going to be around to protect your sorry, long-johns-wearing ass from getting capped by a few gang-bangers packing heat.”
Captain Thunder realized that this was getting him nowhere, sensing that the detective was trying to get a rise out of him in order to get him talking. But he was talking to the wrong customer.
“On this world, there is a super-hero called Superman, is that right?”
“That’s right,” said the detective. “You trying to tell me you’re Superman, is that it?”
“I’m not saying that at all,” continued the hero. “What I’m saying is that other super-heroes do exist on this world, do they not?”
“On this world, huh? You saying you’re from another one, then?”
Captain Thunder continued without getting drawn into a debate. “Just a few miles away, in the city of Gotham, not to mention Los Angeles in California, are whole teams of super-heroes with all kinds of amazing powers. The Justice Society has protected this country for decades now. Is it so difficult for you to believe that a super-hero could rise up to protect the city of Baltimore?”
The detective laughed. “Oh, you’re good, Captain. You’re good. You almost had me going, there, until the last word: Baltimore. We don’t have heroes here in Baltimore, at least not any based here, and we certainly don’t have any in West Baltimore. Wanna try another one? How about we start with your real name?”
Captain Thunder suppressed a sigh and said, “I’d like to speak with Superman.”
Detective Parker couldn’t help but laugh once more. “Oh, you’d like to speak with Superman, would you? Why don’t we throw in Power Girl or Superboy, while we’re at it? Hell, why not the whole Superman Family?”
“Superman is the man I’d like to speak with,” said Captain Thunder. “He could tell you who I am.”
The detective stared at the man in the colorful costume for a few moments more, before finally nodding. Whoever this guy was, he was sticking to his story. “All right, all right, let’s say by some miracle we’re able to contact Superman for you. What then? What will he tell us?”
“Superman has x-ray vision, does he not?” said Captain Thunder. Detective Parker nodded. “Then he would be able to scan my body and realize that its density and invulnerability is akin to his own. And you, Detective, would have to give me a chance to demonstrate that I am as powerful as any super-hero, with powers and abilities far beyond that of a normal man. You would have to admit that I am not merely some lunatic wearing a costume. You might also have to admit that I did the right thing back there between those two gangs, and that I might even be useful for the Baltimore Police, if I decide to stay in this city. To be honest, I haven’t exactly been welcomed with open arms, here.”
Detective Parker listened, then said, “Well, why don’t you show me how tough you are right now? Why not break out of those handcuffs and walk out that door?”
Captain Thunder smiled. “I wouldn’t want to cost the taxpayers the money for broken equipment.”
The detective laughed again and said, “That’s good. I like that, Captain.” He shrugged and said, “Well, we don’t have anything to charge you with, littering on a public street notwithstanding. I’ll release you from those cuffs myself, but first I’d like some cooperation from you. We do have a law that allows for costumed vigilantes such as yourself to testify under oath, but it requires verification from both the Justice Department and the Justice Society or other registered super-hero organization.”
Detective Parker took the keys from his pocket and released Captain Thunder, saying, “But we’re gonna need to summon you before the Grand Jury. You got an address, a phone number, a Bat-phone, anything?”
“No,” said Captain Thunder, leaving his free hand in plain sight on the table next to the cuffs. “I’m new in town.”
“Well, when you get an address, come back to the precinct and give it to us. We’ll need to get your statement, and we might need you as a State’s Witness, if you’re up for it. Of course, there would be less bureaucracy involved if you gave us a real name and address…” He looked at the hero expectantly.
“Sorry,” said Captain Thunder. “As I said, I’m–”
“New in town. Right,” finished the detective. “Well, we’re going to need some way of contacting you, unless you want those gang-bangers back out on the street again.”
“I will return,” assured the Captain. “You have my word.”
“I hope your word means something, Captain,” said the detective.
“It does,” said the hero. “Am I free to go?”
Detective Parker nodded, somewhat reluctantly. He opened the door and made a motioning gesture with his other hand.
A rush of wind was all that signaled the quick departure of Captain Thunder at super-speed.
The detective’s mouth dropped open. “Well, I’ll be damned.”
Walking into his lieutenant’s office, Detective Parker said, “Do you still have that contact number for the JSA?”