“Great job, Ilyssa. Almost crashed into a building.”
A seventeen-year-old Vietnamese-American girl was talking to herself. She was wearing flared jeans, worn sneakers, a shirt that read, “I’m just like a super-hero without motivation or super-powers,” and a red belt with shoulder straps forming an X across her chest, which was covered with an assortment of gizmos. She also happened to be soaring through the air.
“OK, this all seems simple enough. All you gotta do is think of what you want to do. Heh, there ain’t nothin’ to this,” said the girl, whose name was Ilyssa, as she continued to practice her control of flight.
After several hours of practice doing loops and rolls, she seemed to be comfortable with her flight, and she started to head home.
“Made out like a bandit,” she whispered to herself as she snuck in through a window. “Didn’t even get–”
The light suddenly clicked on.
“–caught.” Ilyssa grinned sheepishly and, with a nervous quality in her voice, said, “Hi, Grandpa. Aren’t we up a little early?”
“Ilyssa Jordan, you have a lot of explaining to do, so I’d start right now,” her grandpa told her. He was a with long white hair, glasses, and a white goatee.
“Well, I was searching in the attic for some mementos to bring to school for a project, and I saw this trunk with this weird, stylized A on it,” Ilyssa told her grandfather, a man named Larry Jordan.
“Go on,” said Larry. From the way he said that, it was as if he already knew how Ilyssa would finish her tale.
“And I opened it,” Ilyssa said, becoming nervous about what her grandfather would say. “There was this really cool red belt and a weird blue and gold pair of pajamas. So I tried on the belt to see if it would fit.”
“And you started to float and decided to have some fun,” said Larry. “Ilyssa, could you do me one big favor?”
“Sure, Grandpa,” said Ilyssa. “What?”
“Go into the attic, put the belt back in the trunk, and forget it even exists,” said Larry, turning around to head back to his room.
“What? Why?” Ilyssa asked.
Larry turned around, looking at his granddaughter. “Because the world doesn’t need Air Wave. Not anymore,” he said, leaving Ilyssa alone.
“Air Wave?” Ilyssa said, confused at her grandfather’s words.
“Hey, Lys! How’s it goin’?” asked Ilyssa’s best friend, Bobbi Fairbanks. Ilyssa hadn’t really touched her lunch, but since it was the school’s blue meat surprise, no one could blame her.
“All right. How did your date with Jeremy last night go?” Ilyssa asked.
“I can’t really say at school,” said Bobbi. “Whatcha reading? The All-Star Squadron? I thought you could care less about those mystery-men from the ’40s!”
“Originally, yes,” said Ilyssa, turning the page. “But since one is running for president, might as well read up on them.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: The Race, Book 1: Candidacy.]
“Whatever. You gonna be at the game next week?” Bobbi asked.
Just then, the school bell rang.
“I’ll try. See ya later,” said Ilyssa, getting up from her table to go to her next class. After school, she went over her book on the All-Star Squadron.
“Air Wave, hmmm?” Ilyssa said, as she read from from the book. “No known powers originally, a dorky costume, and no known identity other than Air Wave. Retired in the late ’40s and last seen sometime in the ’70s, with a new costume and apparently also new powers.” She couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something horribly familiar about Air Wave’s picture.
With a pencil, Ilyssa gave Air Wave a goatee and longish hair, then gaped as she realized what she was looking at.
“Grandpa, you were Air Wave?” Ilyssa said, realizing the importance of the situation and what she had stumbled onto. But what was she going to do about this?
After a few days, she decided.
“Ilyssa, do we have any more donuts?” Larry shouted, asking Ilyssa what he deemed a very important question.
“No, Grandpa. You ate the last one yesterday for breakfast!” Ilyssa shouted from her room.
“Then I’m gonna go get some more. Be good ’til I get back,” Larry said, heading out to go shopping.
When Ilyssa was certain that Larry was gone, she made a beeline to the attic. For the past several days, she had been making modifications to the Air Wave costume she kept, making it more feminine and more suitable to her teenage fashion sense. She kept the cowl as is, but opened it up for her hair to flow free, and added a pair of goggles to it, added a miniskirt that came to mid-thigh, shortened the leggings, made the boots slightly higher, put a heel on the boots, got rid of the sleeves, and made gloves that went up to the elbow. Now all she had to do was try it on and see how it looked with the belt.
“I do look good,” said Ilyssa — no, the new Air Wave — to herself, admiring her image in the mirror.
“–kxx — There’s a robbery in progress at the bank. All units, please respond! — kxx–“
“How did I do that?” she said, startled by the police band briefly cutting in. “Never mind that. There’s a bank robbery, and once Grandpa sees how mature and able I am, he’s bound to let me be Air Wave,” she said aloud, flying off to the scene.
“Boss, why didn’t you make any precautions for long-johns?” asked one of the thugs robbing the bank.
His boss, a man known as Boss Drakone, replied with disdain, “We’re ten miles outside Portland, Maine. There’s not a single spandex loser within a hundred miles.”
“I think you might be just a tad bit mistaken, boss,” said the other goon, pointing at something behind Drakone.
“You gotta be kidding me,” said Drakone, seeing a floating costumed teenager enter the bank.
“I want you three to listen up,” said the girl in the blue and gold costume, speaking in a commanding tone of voice that she hoped she could pull off. “We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way. Your choice.”
“Listen, green-eyes, you’re at a disadvantage,” Drakone said, grinning at the increasingly annoyed look on the girl’s face. “There’s three of us, and only one of you. And we don’t even know who you are.”
“I’m Air Wave! And don’t you forget it.”
“Good. At least they got something to put on your tombstone,” said Drakone as he threw a knife at the young heroine.
The new Air Wave threw her hands up to defend herself. Drakone grinned at the futility of that, until the knife stopped in midair.
“Wow!” Air Wave said, the most surprised of all present.
“Well? After her, you idiots,” Drakone yelled, sending his thugs after the heroine.
Let’s hope that those martial arts lessons Grandpa made me take are some help, Air Wave thought to herself as she took up a defensive stance.
“Hey, Louie,” one thug said to the other, “she thinks she’s Red Robin!”
“Let’s show her otherwise, Tony,” said Louie, charging to attack. When Louie came close enough, Air Wave unleashed a kick, but when it connected to Louie’s brutish chest, he was sent flying back with a crackle of thunder and arcs of lighting. Everyone looked at him, now embedded in the wall.
“Still wanna do it the hard way?” Air Wave asked with a smirk, now realizing that she would make the news for sure.
“And this just in: the bank robbery standoff that we reported earlier has been brought to a close. Eyewitnesses state that a woman dressed in blue, gold, and a red belt calling herself Air Wave–“
If there was any more of the newscast, Larry Jordan didn’t hear it, his fury seething. “I’m gonna — gonna… ahhh, I don’t know what I’m gonna do, but it won’t be good,” Larry swore as he made his way home. “Stupid kid.” There was going to be hellfire and high water at the Jordan home tonight.
“Ilyssa Jordan, get down here!” Larry shouted as soon as he entered his home. He had calmed down some after the walk, but not quite enough.
“Yeah, Grandpa?” said Ilyssa, coming from her room.
“Why did you do that?” Larry demanded. “I told you not to even think that the radio belt exists! But what do you do? You take an old costume and stop a bank robbery! Why?” Angry as he was, he would never hit any child, let alone his own granddaughter, but he thought he just might try if he thought it would keep her out of trouble.
“Maybe you should answer that question yourself!” Ilyssa countered. “Why did you quit being Air Wave? And why are you so upset because I want to be Air Wave?”
“Why did I finally quit? I was in my fifties, and I didn’t have any of the anti-aging benefits the Justice Society members had. And as for why I’m so upset — I’ll tell you why! If it wasn’t for Air Wave, she… she would s-s-still…” Larry broke down, collapsing to the floor and sobbing as it all came back to him.
“Grandpa! Are you all right?” Ilyssa cried out, worried about her grandfather.
“When I was Air Wave, I thought that there wasn’t anyone I couldn’t save or stop if I applied myself,” began Larry. “I was wrong. I couldn’t save my own wife. I tried to, by using the radio belt to affect the tumblers in the lock. But Carnegy must’ve planned on that, as it set off some chain reaction that ended up injecting cyanide into her, killing her instantly. If Superman hadn’t returned when he did, I would have torn Carnegy apart. Air Wave cost me the one woman that I love. I don’t want it to cost the second.” He took Ilyssa into a hug.
“Grandpa, I’m so sorry. I — I didn’t know,” said Ilyssa, trying to comfort him as best she could.
“That’s why I don’t want you to be Air Wave,” Larry said, gaining back his composure. “Air Wave has only brought pain into my life.”
“Grandpa, I know you don’t want me to be Air Wave, and I now know why,” said Ilyssa. “But… I need to be Air Wave — the world needs me to be Air Wave. You may not approve, but you have no control over it.”
“You’re right, you know,” Larry said, sighing. “The world could use another Air Wave, and as much as I don’t want it to be it, you’re the best choice.”
“Thanks, Grandpa!” Ilyssa said, taking him into another hug and thinking of all the adventures she was about to have.
But the news of the new Air Wave was not just well received at the Jordan residence. Other figures were taking the news in different ways.
“This is most wondrous news, indeed,” stated a man whose face was hidden from view. “Air Wave’s return is just what I could hope for.” He was pulling on some sort of dark orange and black costume, having already donned the pants and boots, the straps of which he was in the process of tying.
“Yes, yes, I do realize that, but then, it wouldn’t be fun, now would it?” the man said to something unseen as he put the costume’s shirt on.
“I knew you would agree with me.” A pair of gauntlets went on next.
“Is that jealousy I hear? I wouldn’t blame you, really. I will do what you could not.” A tank filled with nefarious chemicals was strapped to his back. The man then ran a tube from each gauntlet to the tank.
“Yes, Father, I will destroy Air Wave and the legacy she follows, then be rid of your ghost. For I am Fireball!”
The man donned a helmet-gas mask combination and picked up a trenchcoat. His appearance was like that of a firefighter crossed with a World War I doughboy, but with a much darker edge and a more violent purpose.
“Oh, yes. The land will burn with the flames of my vengeance,” said Fireball as he headed toward the door and to his unknown destiny.