Home > My Favorites > Day Seventy-four: Mass Man

Day Seventy-four: Mass Man

I’ve never really liked giant robots.

Yeah, they look cool, and if you’re going to be making a B-movie and just happen to have a scale model of your city lying around, then go for it. You can’t beat a giant robot for that kind of thing. Giving teenage boys psychological problems, teaching small-town America the value of accepting differences, there’s really nothing giant robots can’t do. If you ask me, “Hey, you wanna get some beer and popcorn and watch a giant robot movie marathon?” I’d be all over that. I’d even buy the beer.

No, it’s the real ones that get on my nerves. I had just enough time to process that thought before I went slamming face-first through a series of brick walls, finally coming to rest in a local bank, covered in plaster and brick dust and embarrassment. I stood up slowly, with whatever dignity I had left, shook the dust out of my cape and held up an assured and confident hand to the employees and customers who were staring at me in horror. “Sorry for the disturbance, folks,” I said, dropping my voice an octave. “Don’t worry, I’ll have that little nuisance outside taken care of in a minute.” I tugged at my gloves, gave the bank manager a little salute, and walked to the door, back straight and chin held high, and if I could have died right then and there I think I just might have.

Once outside the bank I was able to get into the air and look around. It’s hard to miss a fifty-foot robot, especially when it’s bent on beating its way into the city armory. I honestly had no idea what Professor Anguinine thought he could accomplish. Here he had the money and the know-how to build a massive battle robot, practically impervious to anything that we could throw at it, able to stomp around the city like a four year-old playing dinosaurs, and what does he do? Does he patent his technology, maybe license it off to the military? Does he spin off his discoveries into consumer production and make himself insanely rich? Does he turn his engineering brilliance towards making a better infrastructure for his nation, thereby earning himself immortality in the eyes of the world?

He tries to break into an armory that doesn’t even have weapons in it anymore.

I flew over to the great glass dome that covered the pilot compartment, and gave the transparent dome a nice tap. With my fist. It rang like a bell, but didn’t crack, and Anguinine looked up. He’d really gone all-out on this “Evil Genius” thing: a white lab coat, goggles, flyaway hair. He even had the giant metal gauntlet on his right arm. For all I know, he ordered the whole thing from a kit.

But then again, I’m wearing spandex, a cape and a mask stuck on with spirit gum, so who am I to criticize?

I could barely hear him screech through the glass. “Mass Man!” I sighed. I really, really hated that name, but it was the one that damn reporter gave me, and it stuck. Trying to change it would be like the guy you called “Billy” all through college insisting that he be called “William” now because he’d gotten a job where he had to wear a tie. All it would get is a confused look, a good laugh and a reputation for being an uptight jerk. But, as unfortunate as the name is, it’s basically accurate – I manipulate mass, which allows me to do a whole bunch of interesting, super-heroey things. I can fly, punch through stuff, walk through other things, lift the unliftable. I have no idea how I do it, though. I just do.

This one time, I tried explaining what I do to a scientist, a guy from the government, and he just looked at me like I was insane. “Mass doesn’t work like that!” he yelled, and then spent a half hour trying to explain how I couldn’t possibly be able to do that things that I do. I just shrugged, ghosted through his wall and went on to stop a train from careening out of control into a nunnery or something like that. Honestly, in a world where metahumans are flying around all the time, I don’t see what he was getting all worked up about. I still hate the name, though, and refuse to incorporate it into my costume in any way, shape or form.

In fact, I considered changing my costume to a Catholic priest’s robes, but I figured no one would get the joke. Not to mention I wouldn’t get invited to speak at elementary schools anymore.

“You’re done here, Professor!” I boomed. “Your reign of terror ends now!”

He just pitched his head back and laughed. “My reign of terror? My reign has JUST BEGUN!!” He cackled, a real, full-throated supervillain cackle, which was about where my patience ran out. I reached through the glass like it was thin air and went to grab him.

That’s when he hit me with the nerve gas.

I’m strong, and I’m tough, but I’m not invulnerable. Not on the inside, anyway. I started coughing so hard that tears ran out from under my mask, nearly undoing the spirit gum. I couldn’t get any air into my lungs, which is really distracting – a bad thing when you need at least some concentration in order to keep yourself hovering fifty feet in the air. I dropped to the shattered concrete, my fingers clawing at my throat as my windpipe swelled shut. The only thing I could see through my darkening field of vision was a giant, spiked robot foot hovering over me, ready to pound me into a bloody mess.

That’s when the world exploded with light.

I couldn’t see clearly, but I knew that the robot had been blasted away by something of terrific power. A human-like shape in silver and blue cruised over me in the direction the robot flew, and that was the last I saw as my eyesight dimmed.

A moment later, someone clamped a gas mask over my face and said, “Just breathe. You’ll be all right.” I did as I was told, as if I had any other real choice, and almost immediately my eyes started to clear and I was able to breathe without feeling like someone was jamming spikes into my lungs. I turned, keeping the mask over my face, and then I almost dropped it.

It was the Lady of the Rooftops, the guardian of Corsair City! I don’t know what she was doing in my town, but she was a legend in the metahuman community. She was one of the first to come out publicly as a hero and dared the police to stop her from cleaning up Corsair. They figured it was easier to just go along than to fight her, especially after that helicopter incident.

And if she was here…

I looked up and around, and she laughed under her mask. “He’ll be around soon enough,” she said. “Just keep breathing. Anguinine’s toxin is nasty, but predictable. This ought to clear you up pretty quickly.” I nodded and got my first good look at her. She wore dark grey and green, and the armor she wore made her look even more dangerous than she already was. There were countless rumors about the tech she was sporting – no one knew if she was a meta or not, whether she was using human technology or alien, or even something from the future. All we knew was that she was not someone you wanted to be fighting against. I said something to her that got muffled by the mask. She cocked her head. “Sorry?”

“It’s very nice to meet you,” I said, feeling only slightly more embarrassed than I had when I left the bank. Ever since I put on the tights I’ve wanted to meet her, and him, but not right after getting my butt whipped by an insane engineer. “I don’t usually suck this bad.”

She laughed, and I imagined she was beautiful under that mask. “We all went through it,” she said. “You’ll get better, Mass Man.”

I winced and tried to cover it by taking another lungful of whatever she had given me. We sat like that for a minute or two when a light flashed a few feet away from us and Photon walked out of nowhere. If I had been tongue tied talking to the Lady, my brain just shut down when I saw him.

Here’s an unpleasant reality about the super-hero community: despite the fact that most people look just awful in spandex, we all wear it. Why? Because he does. Because he’s Photon the Magnificent, dammit, and he is probably one of the very few who can really pull it off. But for more than just fashion sense, he is a true model for anyone who calls him or herself a super-hero. He’s gone toe-to-toe with world-class villains, saved the planet more times than normal people change cell phones, and yet still manages to be the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Except for the people who are supposed to hate him, no one does.

He walked over to me, and I tried to stand up. “No, no,” he said. “Don’t stand up. That gas can be pretty nasty.” I stood up anyway. He reached out and shook my hand, and I nearly passed out. “Professor Anguinine’s robot is disabled, and he’s in the hands of the police,” Photon said. “You did good work out there.”

“Seriously?” I said. “I got my ass kicked. Twice!”

Photon laughed and shook his head. “The first week I tried heroing,” he said, “I got completely bamboozled by a gang of fourteen year-olds. They had me searching high and low for ’em, and by the time I found them, they’d spent all the money they’d stolen on weed and booze.” He grinned at The Lady, who carefully didn’t meet his gaze. “If it wasn’t for The Lady here, I probably never would have found them.” He clapped me on the shoulder. “Point is, we all have our bad patches. You get through ’em, and you go on.” He looked me right in the eye, and for a moment I could understand the power those eyes possessed. “I’m sure you’ll make us proud.”

He looked over at The Lady of the Rooftops and nodded. She took the respirator from me and stored it in a pouch hanging off her belt. “Nice to meet you,” she said. “We’ll see you around.” She tapped her wrists together, and the guards on her forearms started to glow softly. She put her arms to her sides, looked up, and took off into the air.

Photon and I watched her go. “A word of advice,” he said, and my attention snapped back. “Find yourself a friend. It makes the whole process a heck of a lot easier.” He took a step back. “Pleasure working with you, Mass Man,” he said, and with a streak of light, he was gone too.

I stood there in the rubble outside the armory, watching the sky. He was pleased to work with me. With me! Work! I could hear the reporters running up, and they were shouting questions that I didn’t really hear. They were also shouting my name, and for the very first time in my career, I didn’t hate it.

I cleared my throat, adjusted my mask, and took to the sky, leaving the reporters behind to watch Mass Man take off into the clear blue sky in order to watch over the city he loved.

  1. August 4, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    I liked this :)

  1. December 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM
  2. December 25, 2011 at 6:01 PM

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