Two words: superpowered battlesuit. Technically, that may be anywhere between two and four words, but grammar is the type of thing you started caring about after you gave up your dream of fighting for truth and justice at the tender age of twelve.
Now that the dream lives again, the last thing you intend to do is research.
You will yourself back toward the planet, pushing through the atmosphere within moments. After a few navigation-related errors — honestly, Lake Ontario looks about the same as Lake Erie from this altitude — you find Cleveland and swoop down in front of the bank. It looks like someone swallowed a city block and barfed it back up. Flattened police cars litter the street and there’s some kind of gooey, purple splat at the bottom of the meteor’s impact crater. Perhaps you should contact Hazardous Waste Disposal about that? You rush to a fallen officer to see if he needs help, and although his face is a mess of bruises and abrasions, he flashes you an incompletely-toothed grin and gestures with his thumb down the street. “White van,” he wheezes.
That’s all you need to know. You launch back into the sky and scan traffic for a vehicle matching that description. He headed away from the freeway, so he doesn’t seem to be… wait a second. Bingo. You spot the van pulling into a motel a couple of miles away from the bank, and see the Ox climb out of it as you zoom to intercept.
It’s business time. “Stop where you are,” you say as you make your landing just behind him. Your voice comes booming out of your suit through some kind of loudspeaker, giving it a deep resonance that you don’t normally possess. It’s kind of awesome.
“Huh?” The Ox turns and looks you over. “What the hell are you supposed to be?”
“I am the Cosmic Guardian.” You use your most authoritarian tone. “Surrender and you will not be harmed.”
“Wait, I’ve hearda you.” He looks unimpressed. “You’re the dead one, right?”
“Missing,” you say. “In space. I’m back now.” Man, your superhero banter is just awful. “Lay down your weapons!”
“What, these weapons?” He balls up his hands up into two enormous fists. “Okay.”
The Ox lunges, but you leap into the air and hover just out of his reach. If you recall correctly, the Cosmic Guardian’s force beams should be strong enough to stop a tank. You concentrate, and a ball of blue light forms in the palm of your hand. Tingly! With an outstretched arm, you fire a blast of energy that shakes your entire body.
When it subsides, the Ox is standing there unfazed. “My turn,” he says. With a truly impressive vertical leap, he grabs one of your legs and pulls you to the earth, which you hit like a steel-plated sack of meat. Your suit absorbs the impact, but he pins you the ground and follows with a punch to the chest you can feel even through your armor. Uh-oh. The blows start coming in rhythm, and with each one your chest plate creaks and moans. Maybe if you work up a force blast strong enough to — BAM! Or if you can just get yourself airborne, then he’ll — BAM! That last punch shorted out your visual display for a moment, making you — BAM! Okay. You’re not sure how much more of this you can—
When you regain consciousness, you find yourself face down in a field, half covered with rocks and dirt. You feel like you’ve been run over by a train. As your systems slowly come back online, you realize you can’t even see the motel from here. Did he throw you? You also note that there’s a black helicopter on the ground 20 yards away, its rotors still spinning. A small man in a tweed jacket runs toward you, shouting over the chopper’s noise.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” He pulls out a fancy little tablet computer and makes a note on it. “We didn’t know if the emergency signal would reach you!” The helicopter starts powering down, allowing the man to lower his voice. “I’m Agent Moretti. And you’re Mr. Janssen? Or has the suit… um… changed possession?”
Sten Janssen! Ha! Back in journalism school you did an exhaustive paper speculating on the secret identities of the Justice Squadron. Janssen was a Swedish athlete who went missing about the same time the Guardian disappeared. You knew it! However, you’re still pretty confused from your beating. Are yousupposed to be Sten Janssen? Was that the secret you were trying to keep? Inside that giant armored battlesuit, you really could be anybody, and the speaker makes you sound like James Earl freaking Jones.
If you tell Moretti that you’re Janssen, click here for page 181.
If you come clean and say Janssen passed the suit on to you,
click here for page 64.