by Dan Swanson
Tuesday, March 29, 1949:
Vic Valor heard an explosion from miles away as he was flying over Opal City on night patrol. Heading for the airport at top speed, he used his telescopic night vision to examine the explosion site, and realized that the explosion had demolished the buildings in the airport expansion.
Just outside of Opal City, the main channel of the Gunpowder River made a wide loop around a large swamp. The airport was built at the mouth of this loop between the swamp and the city. The Opal City Trade Authority had decided that the airport needed to be expanded. It couldn’t be expanded into the city, so the only other option was to expand into the swamp. If the swampland could be reclaimed, it would provide enough land to just about double the size of the airport. About six months ago, the land reclamation project had begun.
The Army Corps of Engineers had built a levee along the inside shore of the loop, separating the river from the swamp. Powerful pumps ran day and night to keep the swamp drained. The City Sanitation Department delivered organic trash to a new trash-compacting plant at the edge of the swamp, where it was compressed into dense bricks, which were then laid in the now-dried swamp bed. When most of the swamp was filled with these bricks, the plan was to add a cover layer of soil and stone, and then build the new airport facilities on top of that.
It was a win-win project. The airport was expanded, the worthless swampland was reclaimed for human use, and the sanitation department didn’t have to pay for rubbish incineration costs for over a year. Everyone benefited.
One of the demolished buildings had been the trash-compacting plant. With the compactor demolished, the airport expansion timetable would certainly be delayed. Valor had no idea who might want to sabotage this project, but it didn’t matter, either. If the saboteurs were still around, he would capture them.
As he examined the area, his telescopic night vision detected a string of time bombs laid on top of the levee. They were going to go off in sequence, and only seconds remained until the first one exploded. Valor increased his speed, and managed to reach the first bomb just in time to smother the explosion with his invulnerable body.
But that turned out to be a very bad idea. By directing the force of the blast downward into the levee, he had greatly increased the destructive power of the blast, and the levee under him virtually disintegrated. The gap in the levee must have been twenty feet long, and immediately water started pouring through, making the ragged tear even bigger. The raging water threatened to undo the months of work that had gone into the landfill.
The next bomb went off not too far away from Vic Valor, and then the next and the next. Without the added destructive power Valor had unwittingly supplied to the first bomb, the rest of the bombs barely blew small craters in the top of the levee. The Army Corps of Engineers did good, solid work, and the saboteurs had significantly overestimated the destructive power of their bombs. If Valor hadn’t unwittingly assisted in the destruction of part of the levee, the corps could easily have repaired the minor damage to the levee the next day.
Vic Valor didn’t have time to cry over spilt glurten, though. He flew to the storage yard next to the compactor and tossed one brick after another high into the air toward the breach in the levee. Before the first brick fell back to earth, Valor was back at the breach, and he guided the bricks, one after another as they fell, building a wall to seal the tear. He then flew to a huge mound of dirt that was going to be used to seal the landfill, and gathered up a big ball of dirt, which he carried over his head as he flew back to the breached levee. He would pack the dirt around the edges of his repairs to make the whole thing watertight.
Suddenly, he saw some dull red flashes near the damaged buildings, and he saw two hand-grenades land on the levee nearby. Valor realized that the saboteurs must still be nearby. Well, he would deal with them shortly. He immediately extended an arm toward the grenades, his palm vertical. A very pale blue beam washed out from his palm, and the two grenades vanished.
Perhaps Valor had miscalculated the range on his disintegration beam, or perhaps he was still getting used to his new powers. Whatever the reason, the disintegration beam immediately ate another large hole into the levee before Valor could shut it off. He was sure glad there was nobody nearby to see his gaffe.
As an added indignity, as soon as Valor had removed one hand from the ball of dirt, the entire ball collapsed on him. He was immediately buried under several tons of topsoil. But this was only an inconvenience; he burst free instantly.
Leaping back into action, Valor quickly had the new gash plugged with bricks of trash, using soil to plug the gaps. However, the rushing current of the river threatened to quickly erode his hasty repairs.
Vic Valor hovered over the newly repaired levee, and a cone of heat came from his eyes. He played his heat beam over the mixture of fresh mud and trash, and he continued baking it until it achieved the consistency of fired pottery. He hoped that would hold for a while.
While Valor was repairing the second gash in the levee, Opal City’s police and fire departments had arrived on the scene. The fire department started to work on the still-burning buildings, and the police spread out and started an extensive manhunt for the bombers.
A dense cloud of steam and smoke was rising from the hot levee, and a brisk evening breeze was blowing it toward the airport and the emergency response teams. Fortunately for Valor, he was high enough in the air to avoid being engulfed in this cloud, because the stench of burning mud and trash was incredible. The police and firemen, and the team of saboteurs, were not so lucky, as the stinking cloud enveloped them entirely.
It was worse than tear gas. The stench was so bad it was stunning, and some of the victims passed out due to the stench alone. It also caused irritation in the victim’s eyes — they started watering and itching, and virtually everyone who was caught in the cloud was temporarily blinded. Worst of all was the effect on victims’ lungs. On the first breath, the linings of the lungs started to swell, and victims’ lungs closed up, much like the effects of asthma. Within seconds, all those who were caught in the cloud were laying on the ground, retching and gasping for air, many of them barely conscious, while the rest passed out. This disaster just grew worse as the night wore on.
Vic Valor quickly touched his belt buckle. A secret compartment sprang open, exposing some controls inside. He pressed a button, closed the compartment, and flew into the cloud at top speed. It no longer seemed to affect him. He quickly gathered up the moaning, gasping men and carried them away from the cloud. He moved faster than he had ever moved before, and he had everyone safely out of the cloud in only a few minutes. He quickly disarmed and bound the saboteurs.
There were some ambulances approaching the airport by now, and Valor flew to them and carried them quickly to the safe area where the cloud victims were starting to recover. Some of them would clearly be all right, and some of them just as clearly needed emergency medical treatment immediately. The medics indicated that four victims that would die if they weren’t hospitalized immediately, so Valor quickly delivered these four, as well as the medic who had examined them, to the nearest emergency room.
Finally, he went back to the airport. There was still a dangerous cloud of poison gas blowing toward Opal City.
Vic Valor wasn’t quite sure what he ought to do, but then he figured it out. He quickly landed in the path of the cloud, raised both arms, and used his disintegration beams on the cloud. He was very careful to control the range of the beam, so it disintegrated nothing but gas and air. He used his speed to circle the cloud and ensure that he disintegrated as much of it as possible.
Finally, he picked up a large tank of some kind that had been damaged in the explosion, and used it to pour water over the still-steaming levee, cooling it off until it no longer emitted noxious smoke.
He repeated his earlier actions with the belt buckle. As soon as he did so, he apparently realized just how bad he smelled, because he quickly headed for the river and used clean river sand to scour himself. He then flew around at high speed until he had dried off.
Satisfied with a good night’s work, he headed for the Opal City Register to meet Lily DeLuna.
From the front page of the Opal City Register the next morning, Wednesday, March 31, 1949:
Vic Valor Stops Airport Sabotage
As reported by Vic Valor to Lily DeLuna
Last night, Opal City’s amazing new hero, Vic Valor, captured a band of saboteurs with suspected communist ties that were attempting to derail the multimillion-dollar Opal City Airport expansion project.
Shortly after midnight, a massive explosion shook the airport, and completely destroyed the landfill trash-compacting plant that was the center of the expansion project. Only minutes later, Vic Valor appeared on the scene. He spotted other explosives dotted along the levee along the river, with their timers still counting down. Valor’s arrival was almost too late, as one of the exploding bombs knocked out a big section of the levee, and the river started to flood the dried swamp. The airport expansion could have been delayed for years.
Valor acted quickly to rebuild the levee using some of the landfill “bricks” of highly compressed trash. While Valor was rebuilding the levee, the Opal City fire and police departments arrived on the scene. The fire department took charge of the burning buildings, while the police quickly began an extensive search for the bombers.
The well-equipped six-member sabotage team attempted to cover their escape by attacking the emergency teams with tear gas. This tactic almost worked, as the emergency workers were all but paralyzed by the painful affects of the gas. Fortunately for the cause of justice, Vic Valor proved to be immune to the effects of the gas, and his mighty powers made short work of capturing the saboteurs. Valor then assisted in the efforts to rescue the emergency workers, delivering three police officers and one firefighter to the hospital, where they are expected to make a full recovery. Forty-two other emergency personnel were treated and released at the scene.
None of the captured saboteurs are currently on the police department’s wanted list, but unofficial reports suggest that several of them are known to be members of the American Communist Party.
A police spokesman issued the following statement: “As you know, this is not the first criminal incident involving the airport expansion project. In December, vandals tore open hundreds of ‘bricks’ of highly compressed trash, which were waiting to be used in the landfill. Papers and other garbage from these bricks were spread throughout the airport. Although the earlier incident involved inconsequential vandalism, while this incident involved serious sabotage, we will fully investigate any links between the two incidents. We intend to prosecute the captured saboteurs to the full extent that the law allows.” When asked about a suspected link between the saboteurs and the American Communist Party, the police spokesman had no comment.
A pretrial hearing will be held at 10:30 this morning at the Municipal Court Building.