The Ultraband Man leaped away from shattered asphalt, springing thirty feet into the air before coming to land close to a small office complex.
A cadre of police cars arrived to cordon off the surrounding blocks, and officers were hurriedly escorting people out of the battle zone. Mitch Shelley dodged several of the officers to get closer to the battle. Smashed cars, shattered storefront glass, and ripped-up asphalt littered the area of the battle between the Ray and the Ultraband Man. The Ray held up his hands and suddenly emitted a blinding flash of light at his opponent. The Ultraband Man screamed as his vision was blinded. The Ray then moved in to deliver a knockout blow, expecting the Ultraband Man to be helpless.
The bands on the Ultraband Man’s arms began to glow, as other senses became razor sharp to compensate for the loss of his eyes. The Ray was stunned when his opponent leaped directly toward his location. Shifting to pure light, the Ray was still touched by one of the glowing bands. A scream erupted from the young hero’s throat as the band started to absorb his energy. The Ray shifted back to being completely human in surprise, saving himself from any more of the painful contact with the band.
The Ultraband Man grinned evilly at the scream as he used his other senses to track the presence of one of the hated super-heroes. A deadly punch now capable of splitting stone was sent, winging the still slightly dazed Ray. There seemed no way that anyone could keep the rookie hero from meeting the Grim Reaper this day, but out of nowhere came the man known as Mitch Shelley. He dived in front of the Ray, taking the full force of the blow.
The sound of flesh and bone breaking was heard as the force of the blow sent Mitch Shelley through one of the shattered storefronts. He laid on the ground, apparently lifeless as the Ray came out of the daze. The Ray looked at the fallen man, and his face grew angry. Scattershot memories of the wartorn world of Earth-X, where he’d come from, shimmered in his mind. The Ray shouted at the Ultraband Man with rage and sent a deadly barrage of light at the super-villain.
Even the absorbing power of the bands was not enough to prevent the full force from getting through as the energy burned a hole through the costume and skin of the Ultraband Man. “I can’t let you beat me. No! I need more power to defeat you, is all.”
The bands started to glow as the form of the Ultraband Man swelled in size. A soft chiming sound was heard from the bands as some of the symbols altered and changed. Whatever meaning that the symbols had was unknown as the maddened form of Alfred Moore, AKA the Ultraband Man was only interested in destroying his tormentor. His form was now ten feet tall and bulging with muscles. The Ray, still lost in bad memories from his world, continued to pour energy into the barrage of deadly light directed at the Ultraband Man.
Meanwhile, in the storefront, the wounds and shattered bones of Mitch Shelley knitted and healed as he regained consciousness. He laid still for several more seconds as the pain receded before attempting to rise. He watched the Ray use his full potential to fight the Ultraband Man and was impressed by the power the young man had. Several of the rapidly shifting symbols caught his eyes as the Ultraband Man grew even taller and less human-looking. He shouted a warning that went unheeded as the two opponents went full force at each other. The now-giant-size Ultraband Man began to assume the glow of the bands, as he became a creature of energy instead of flesh and blood. The Ray continued to emit the barrage of light as the chiming from the bands increased to a steady humming sound.
The only observer felt a sense of helplessness as he looked at the battle-ravaged block. Perhaps if he could have explained to the combatants what was going on, but the Ray was trapped in the sensations of anger and rage carried over from his years of being deceived by his own flesh and blood while the Ultraband Man refused to go back to his days of being weak and powerless.
The brightly glowing Ray was impossible to see as he continued to fire a widening beam of light at his now completely inhuman foe. “No more senseless deaths, monster! No more!”
Whatever reply the Ultraband Man would have made was lost, as his energy form was incapable of speech. Some limit had been passed, as the bands gave a last shriek of warning before the Ultraband Man’s body exploded. The explosion rocked the block, dealing a final blow to several of the buildings as they collapsed. Dust filled the area, coating what was left of the mangled buildings and streets with a chalky residue. The Ultraband Man was completely gone, but the concrete and asphalt beneath where he’d once stood had been transformed by the eldritch energy into a sheet of solid glass. The Ray gave one triumphant cry before falling to the earth, himself unconscious and now human.
The observer ignored the pain from the bits of broken glass and metal that had hit his exposed face and hands. The other debris flung by the last explosion had bounced harmlessly off his specially designed outfit. Several drips of blood fell to the asphalt as the wounds healed and the scars vanished. He checked the body of the Ray, who had passed out from using all of his energy at full power, and was relieved to find a strong and steady pulse. A touch of what looked to be regret was seen on his face as he walked over to the place where once a living human being stood.
In the center of the glass laid the two armbands, still glowing slightly as the symbols altered and rearranged. The observer picked them up and placed them in his jacket pockets as his mind translated the symbols. Whatever the symbols meant went unrevealed as the observer surveyed the site once more before walking away. The police came in to investigate after a few moments after the sounds of the battle had ended. The Ray was helped to a waiting ambulance just outside of the police cordon. When he recovered consciousness, two of the SCU were hovering outside the ambulance, wanting to ask questions.
The Ray sat up slowly as his face contorted from the pain in his head. “What happened?”
“We were going to ask you that very question,” Special Investigator Jones said as he looked at his short, redheaded female colleague.
“I was not. I was going to ask how he created such an impressive display of destructive force. I am suffering from the pangs of pure jealousy,” Lena Inverse replied with complete seriousness.
“It’s starting to come back now. I was flying over the city, searching for Arsenal, when I saw the guy in the purple costume rampaging down the city block. He had already beaten up several police officers and wrecked their police cars. I remember fighting him for a while until I got the idea of blinding him. After that I flew in to finish the job, but he hit me with one of the bands, and it started to suck me in. I shifted back to human form in extreme pain. There was no way that I could duck the punch he threw at me, when some guy jumped in and took the blow. The guy was tossed through a window and lay there dead. I lost it then and can’t remember what happened after that.”
Jones gave Lena a look of puzzlement. “All the reports that I was given indicated that there were no civilian casualties from this fracas. Did you get something different?”
“Just a lot of cool-looking property damage was all that I saw. No bloody corpse, not even of this Ultraband Man character.” Lena gave her current partner a pleased smile when she mentioned the property damage.
The Ray looked shocked at the mention of no body. “But I saw him. I swear I did.”
“I cannot explain the vanishing body, but I do think I can give an answer to why this Ultraband Man swelled up in size before exploding,” Special Investigator Jones said with grave seriousness.
“I remember that now, but how did you know he was growing?” The Ray sipped a cup of water Lena handed him with obvious relief.
“A surveillance camera from one of the broken storefronts caught part of the battle before being destroyed, even though Jones would prefer to say that it was one of his brilliant deductions,” Inverse said with a teasing tone as she sleepily rubbed one eye.
“This is just a theory which, without the bands, cannot be proven. The bands absorb energy such as light, heat, kinetic, and sound that is stored and then redirected through the bands into the wielder, increasing his attributes such as stamina, strength, speed, or agility. The bands start drawing directly from the wielder’s life force after a low point is reached in the stored energy. The battle kept forcing this Ultraband Man to use all of the stored energy, including his life force, but the bands were also absorbing the light energy you were tossing at him. The stored energy kept being drained and then refilled, transforming the once-human Alfred Moore into an energy creature.” Jones assumed a lecturing stance as he explained his own personal theory.
“You are certainly taking a long time to explain this theory of yours, Jones,” said Inverse, yawning. “When are you going to get to the part where you explain why Moore went boom? That’s the only bit I am really interested in.”
“You are so impatient, Lena. I have no idea how you managed to defuse any of the bombs you worked on,” Jones said.
The Ray tried to look interested, but he reflexively yawned after Lena Inverse did. “I can barely remember the explosion, but it all seems unreal for some reason.”
Lena Inverse patted the young man on the shoulder with surprising strength for such a small woman. “That’s shock from the battle catching up to you. You’ll probably want to take several days off to recover.”
“The explosion is easy enough to explain if you realize that controlling the constant ebb and flow of the energy would be increasingly difficult as Moore grew in size. After reaching a certain size, he would be absorbed completely into the bands or lose control of the energy and explode.” Jones rubbed his chin thoughtfully as something occured to him.
“I recognize that look. You just thought of something, didn’t you? I bet you forgot to eat again.” Inverse rubbed her stomach in apparent sympathy. “I’m feeling hungry and sleepy, too. This is the very last time I do a favor for Stark, though, and take what’s left of his shift. A girl like me needs her beauty sleep to look her very best.”
“I did eat this morning, I think… or was that dinner? Never mind about the food, though. The bands should have survived the explosion, so where are they?” Jones asked aloud.
“Maybe that missing dead guy came back to life and walked off with the bands,” Lena Inverse said with levity.
“Do you think the man who saved me came back to life? Is that even possible?” the Ray asked as he got to his feet a bit shakily.
“There was a man named Herbert West at Miskatonic University who was said to be working on a reanimation formula, but that was decades ago,” Special Investigator Jones recalled from the odd bits of knowledge stored in his head. (*) “The DEO is going to be unhappy about the loss of the bands, which actually makes me glad to be working for the SCU now.” Jones smiled a bit at the thought of the consternation of his former employers.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Doctor Mid-Nite: Times Past, 1942: Death Has Many Doors.]
“Let’s take the Ray back to that studio place and then go eat some food, Jones,” Lena Inverse said as she looked at the shaking Ray.
“I can fly back.” The Ray concentrated, but remained human. “Did the explosion do this? I can’t use my powers.” A touch of panic emerged in the Ray’s voice as his eyes widened.
“No need to panic at not being able to use your powers, young man. You are just suffering from a lack of solar energy at the moment. Give it some time, and you will be good as new,” Special Investigator Jones said with a soothing tone in his voice.
“Wait. Am I responsible for this Alfred Moore dying like he did? After all, if I hadn’t start fighting him, he would still be alive.” A wave of guilt threatened to overtake the young man called the Ray at the thought of killing someone.
Lena Inverse gave the young man another pat on his shoulder. “You saved all of those people on that block and the police officers knocked down by the Ultraband Man. It’s harsh, but that scumbag got what he deserved, so don’t let it trouble you.”
“It actually wasn’t your fault, though,” Special Investigator Jones explained. “Moore had already started to be transformed by the bands before he met up with you. He was originally only five feet four inches, but from the reports he was over six feet tall when he started smashing up this block.”
“Yeah, Ray, so get your butt in gear and get in our van so we can get to the food!” Lena Inverse exclaimed.