Rory the Rocket Strikes Again!
Flying Man Robs Bank!
Hollywoodland in Grip of Fear from Rowdy Rocketeer!
Rocketing Ruffian Issues Challenge to All Takers!
Those newspaper clippings have been in the family room of the house I grew up in for longer than I can remember — tales of Rory the Rocket, a criminal inventor committing crimes under the name of Rory the Rocket, including bank robberies and studio robberies. The man was even gaudy enough to issue challenges to the police and to anyone who dared to try to catch him.
He was finally caught by Fritz the High-Flyer, a stunt flyer who toured the country during the same time, in the early 1930s. But that was not the end of Rory the Rocket.
In the early ’60s, another man dressed in the same World War I getup with the same rocket boots started flying around and doing the same things, committing crimes in the name of Rory the Rocket. He had a good run, including one or two run-ins with the Justice Experience. And, like the original, he was defeated by the second Fritz the High-Flyer.
Now there is a third Rory the Rocket, using the equipment of the first two. And I sorely wish that there wasn’t.
It’s not why you think, either. I’m not a victim of this new Rory the Rocket, nor am I the latest Fritz the High-Flyer.
I am Rory the Rocket, like my father before me and my grandfather before him.
It is an inheritance not to be proud of, a tradition I want to end.
Twenty-four hours earlier:
“You did what?!”
The tall but scrawny twenty-year-old who had just been yelled at stuck a finger in one ear and twisted it a little. “Could you yell a little louder, Dad? I’m sure there’s some people in China who didn’t hear you.”
“They should, though,” the man said, and he went to his chair, sat down, and picked up a newspaper. “When I read this, I was proud of you, boy — proud. Then… I read this.” He tossed another newspaper to his kid.
“Sorry. I just did what I thought was right.”
“What you thought was right? What you thought was right?!” the man screamed. “You don’t think about stuff like that. All you do is what your family has been doing for the last fifty years! Now get out and do your name proud!” The kid dropped the newspaper and left.
The newspaper that the man had been proud about displayed a headline that read: $50,000 Stolen by Flying Man. The one that he was ashamed of read: Mystery Donation to Local Charity of $50,000.
In the garage, the kid was upset. “Ooohh… sometimes Dad just makes me wanna scream. He was a villain, not me. Can’t he see that this whole flying around and robbing things is not for Rory Rokeweitz the Third? Can’t he? So what? Granddad was a genius — I have to be just like him.”
Rory stepped out of the garage and immediately heard the sound of sputtering, followed by black smoke. Looking down, Rory saw that the rocket boots were starting to turn on by themselves. “Oh, sh–!”
And with that, they went off, and Rory went flying skyward.
“Turnoffturnoffturnoffturnoff! For the love of all that’s holy, please turn off!” Rory screamed while soaring ever higher into the atmosphere. Despite furiously tapping the on/off switch located on the ankle of the right boot, there was no response — absolutely none. It looked like Rory was about to head into space, and every second that passed, the air felt thinner and thinner while approaching the upper atmosphere.
But suddenly, the engines stopped, and young Rory started to plummet to the earth.
“Awww… crap!” And Rory started to scream again, albeit for a different reason.
Something strange had happened that the kid could not explain. Not only did Rory shoot straight up, but the trajectory was a bit off course as well. So instead of landing near the takeoff point in Los Angeles, the booster system in the boots turned off right in time for Rory to plummet into New York City’s East River, clear across the continent.
Rory crawled out of the water (and given the amount of pollution in the river, that term was used very loosely), still dressed as the third Rory the Rocket, wearing a pair of jodhpurs, a striped rugby shirt, an aviator cap with goggles, and the rocket boots; of course, these were changes to the original costume that the kid’s father had allowed. Spotting a diner by the river, Rory went inside. Surprisingly, the other patrons of the diner gave the newcomer no heed, except to notice that the strange outfit was dripping wet.
“What’ll it be, kid?” the man behind the counter asked.
“A chopped-ham sandwich, open-faced, with a single slice of American cheese,” Rory replied, sitting down at a stool. “You got a pay phone I can use?”
Moments later, Rory cradled the telephone handset, waited for the other end to be answered. When the kid’s father finally did, Rory got an earful, but it was something quite unexpected.
“Boy, you know what you did? You travelled across the country — ballistically! It took me ten years before I could do that. You’ve done your old man proud. Granddad Rory is lookin’ down on you and tellin’ everyone else ‘That’s my grandson!'”
Rory winced and said, “How do you know I did that?”
“Tracked you via radio in the basement. Now, you make your old man proud. Wanna hear a lot of crimes that’ve been done by Rory the Rocket out there in the Big Apple.” There was a click as he hung up on the other end.
“Ooohh… that old man. He wants to hear of stuff done by Rory the Rocket? Then, by God, he will!” Rory said, walking out of the diner, without paying for the sandwich.
Elsewhere in the Big Apple:
Today, a few members of the Junior JSA were taking a cultural field trip to New York City. It was the idea of Air Wave, who was the newest member of the team, having joined the team a month and a half after the events on New Year’s Eve. (*) Unfortunately, not all the Junior JSAers could make it; Air Wave had only been joined by Superboy, Whiz Kid, and Star Sapphire. The four of them had just seen the Broadway production of The Producers, and the kids had been given a big discount for being in costume. Why? Who knows? People were strange like that.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Air Wave: New Year’s Scream.]
“You know, that was better than the movie,” Superboy said.
“Eh. I dunno… didn’t have Gene Wilder,” Air Wave said. She had been out of it the whole day, and the reason why was obvious to her new teammates.
“You still upset that Grant couldn’t make it?” Whiz Kid asked, referring to Grant Pratt, the Junior JSAer known as Damage. Air Wave, alias Ilyssa Jordan, had been dating Grant for a short while, and the two had become inseparable after their first few dates, almost sickeningly so. (*) John Garrick, alias Whiz Kid, had complained about all this “gooey love stuff” during team meetings several times already. What he received in response from her wasn’t quite a hiss, but not quite a snarl, either.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Junior JSA: First Date and The Brave and the Bold: Damage and Air Wave: A Simple Date.]
“John, please, it’s not nice to keep doing that,” Star Sapphire said, almost in a defending tone.
But as this teenage spat was happening, someone flew by the four teen heroes — someone carrying a bag of money in each hand and being chased by several cops on motorcycles.
“Save the arguing for later, guys,” said Superboy. “Hero time.”
Down the street, Rory the Rocket had stopped at an intersection, feet positioned in a way that kept the flyer floating in midair. This was Rory’s first time outside of California; hell, the first time outside of Los Angeles County, for that matter. But when the flying bandit spotted the people flying quickly in pursuit, there was only one decision to make, and that was to go up.
“Not cool, not cool,” Rory said during the ascent ever higher. As a rule, the flying bandit never dealt with super-heroes, making it a point to not to, just like the first and second Rory the Rocket. The third Rory always kept a low profile, avoided Stellar Studios, and made sure that the costume was always on when carrying on the family legacy. Taking a quick look see back, the flyer was shocked to see that one of the people chasing him had a familiar-looking S insignia on his chest.
“Ohhh…” Rory groaned, not wanting to deal with anyone whose name began with Super; that could be very bad, indeed. Since the rocket boots were behaving, the flying bandit decided to try something different, pulling a backflip while using the money bags for extra weight, thus heading directly toward those pursuers at great speed. There was a brief second as the flyer passed them, allowing Rory to gain some needed time, but the last thing the kid suspected was that there was a fourth one on the ground.
Whiz Kid was just slightly shocked when he saw the perpetrator pass him by on the street. Shock never lasted long, however, and soon Whiz Kid was chasing the flying thief through the street. He ran right up next to the flyer and decided to have some fun.
“Licence and registration, please?” he said in the funniest authoritative tone he could muster. The bandit turned to him, eyes bugging out behind the goggles in shock.
“Gah!” With that, the flyer they were chasing started to enter and weave through traffic, arms and legs waving everywhere.
Rory wasn’t exactly gangly, preferring the word lithe, but the kid was built like a few sticks tied together. This meant that, in tight turns, spins, and just about everything, the kid’s limbs would fly around. Rory was careful not to get hurt, of course, and admittedly it may have looked kind of cool. But the kid couldn’t think about appearances, given that the priority was to shake off the four super-heroes now in pursuit.
“Where to go, where to go?” Rory the Rocket said, and a moment later, the kid spotted a possible destination: an entrance to a subway. That was as good a place as any, right? Without another thought, Rory rocketed into the underground.