Jet Ryder’s Lament

Jet City

May 13, 1960

 

“Stay on ’em, Horace!” Jet Ryder called out over the roar of his plane’s twin jet engines.

“I got ’em, boss. I got ’em!” Horace replied.

The shadow of the Blue Beauty, Jet’s personal plane, passed over Jet City’s idyllic skyscrapers. The product of hyper-construction, the skyscrapers were the pride of Jet City’s iconic skyline and the envy of metropoli the world over. But today they shared the sky with Jet City’s most prominent superhero bachelor, Timothy “Jet” Ryder and his faithful co-pilot, Horace. Streaking ahead of them, in a ramshackle aero-vehicle of his own making, was Captain Oberkast; a mercenary supervillain who’s signature method of thievery involved low grade weather manipulation technology that covered both his approach and getaway. The weather was not cooperating, if the clear sunny day was any indication.

The aero-vehicle sputtered and spat, straining to stay ahead of Jet’s ultra-modern jet plane. Cursing, Oberkast turned and shot an energy pistol out his cockpit window. He managed two shots before the air rushing past him stole the pistol from his grasp.

“Curse you, Jet! Fine. If I can’t persuade you with violence, then perhaps some reckless public endangerment will do!” Oberkast banked hard to the left towards the flat lands where many of Jet City’s airfields were located. There were airshows and daredevil displays happening all over town in anticipation of the upcoming Semicentennial.

“What’s that maniac doing?” Horace wondered.

“He’s going to fly right through them!” Jet exclaimed.

There had to be dozens of planes in the air just then and the closest to them was currently engaged in an impressive sky writing stunt. Oberkast pushed his aero-vehicle to it’s limit, aiming straight for the air shows.

“They won’t land in time. They’re sitting ducks!” Horace shouted.

“Horace, tell me you have the shot!” Jet shouted as he maneuvered behind the villain’s aircraft.

“We’re still too far away, boss!” Horace replied.

“Damn it!” Jet cursed. He threw the boosters on and closed the distance in seconds.

Oberkast cackled maniacally as he dove towards the daredevil stunt flyers in their primitive propeller engine craft. The stunt flyers pulled away at the last moment, their terrified faces registering for the briefest of moments as Oberkast passed them. He flew past another pair of stunt flyers, almost clipping them as he did so. When he saw the Blue Beauty closing in, he went into a nose dive to get as close to the crowds as he could. Not even Ryder’s little toy could maneuver that low to the ground, he thought to himself.

The sense defying aero-vehicle ripped past the stunt show crowds, buzzing airfield towers as he flew by and harassing aircraft that were in the process of taking off. By the time he got to the third airfield, he was having so much fun he’d nearly forgotten he was still being chased. Seeing the Blue Beauty in his rear view mirror jolted him out of his revelry. Angered and maybe even a little jealous of Jet’s piloting skills, he decided to go for broke and aimed the nose of his bafflingly held together aero-vehicle at a couple of barnstormers performing over Evergreen Airfield.

“He wouldn’t,” Horace said.

“He will,” said Jet.

“He couldn’t!” Horace cried.

“He’s about to!” Jet shouted.

The barnstormers saw Captain Oberkast a second too late. He streaked by them so fast, his aero-vehicle’s wake knocked them right out of the sky.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Horace cried.

“Deploying Rescue Rafts!” Jet announced.

The Blue Beauty shot a pair of bundled up packages which deployed with a burst of air into auto-controlled balloons attached to giant nets. One plane hit the net dead center, the pilot and stuntman made it out okay with minimal injuries. The second plane clipped the side of the other net, sending the stuntman riding on the wings tumbling through the sky while the pilot went into a deadly tailspin. Jet put his plane’s nose down and gave chase. He reached the stuntman first. A hatch opened on the Blue Beauty’s side and shot an auto-chute harness which latched onto the wildly spinning stuntman and deployed in the nick of time. Jet banked hard to avoid the parachute and aimed for the plane which was seconds from hitting the ground. To his credit, the pilot had gotten the plane to stop spinning, but it was still hurtling toward the earth at incredible speeds. Jet had to act fast.

Oberkast, meanwhile, was enjoying a hearty gloat at Jet’s expense. The man speaking to him through the radio was not amused.

“It wasn’t a clean getaway but I have what I need to finish my project. Why so dour, good Kapitan?” Oberkast asked, stroking the high energy converter in the seat next to him.

“Our project,” the man said, annoyed. “And I would rather you’d done this without attracting Jet Ryder’s attention. The authorities cannot know what we’ve been planning.”

“I lost Ryder miles ago. We’re in the clear now, mien grumpy friend.”

“Knock it off with the accent. It’s maddening,” said the man.

“What accent? This is how Captain Oberkast speaks!”

“Oberkast isn’t even proper German, you nitwit.”

“Hmph.”

“Listen, you misguided Germanophile. I don’t care what your gimmick is. Just stop with the accent.”

“Well I don’t see what point there is to living if you can’t enjoy the show,” Oberkast replied, glumly. “And anyway, you’ll be thanking me in German as soon as I finish my…”

“What is it?” the man asked.

“Scheise! He’s found me!” Oberkast cried as the Blue Beauty shot past his aero-vehicle at impossible speeds.

The aero-vehicle fell apart in dramatic fashion as the air pressure wave of the Blue Beauty going supersonic was just too much for it’s fuselage to handle. Oberkast screamed as he fell to the earth. His emergency parachute, which he kept in a compartment behind the cockpit, auto deployed as it sensed the rushing air leaving him to tumble helplessly as his life flashed before his eyes. Oberkast put his hands together in a last minute prayer, tears stolen by the passing wind. Suddenly, something clamped to his back, tied itself around his waist, and stopped his deadly descent. When he reached the ground minutes later, Jet and Horace were waiting for him, as well as a dozen police officers. Oberkast flopped to the ground, defeated, offering no resistance as Jet pulled the chute off him and cuffed his wrists behind his back.

“The skies are friendly once more. Radio the towers that the air shows can go on,” Jet said as those gathered clapped and cheered.

“What a great performance! Truly remarkable, boss!” Horace cheered, clapping most enthusiastically of all.

“I appreciate it, old friend, but this couldn’t have happened without you,” Jet said, slapping Horace on the back. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a previous engagement that I fear I’m running late for. I’m confident you can handle things here, Horace.”

“You can count on me,” Horace said.

“Give my regards to Chief Cunningham,” Jet said to the officers before hopping back in the Blue Beauty.

A half hour later, Jet arrived at City Hall. He thanked the valet with a wink and an extra tip before heading inside. The walls in City Hall were adorned with newspaper headlines, framed and displayed like trophies. “Trent! The Man Who Built Jet City,” read one of them. Jet laughed the first time he saw that one. Talk about an ego boost. Not that the man needed it. There was the Time Magazine cover from 1947 or there abouts, showing the former hotel tycoon breaking ground on the first major construction project. Trent was real proud of that one. Then there was “Jetty no more! City adopts new name and bright new future.” That one had a picture of a teenaged Jet Ryder shaking hands with the newly elected Mayor Trent. If he could talk to his naïve younger self, Jet thought, oh the things he’d tell him.

“He’s almost done with his meeting,” the mayor’s personal secretary said when Jet arrived.

“Thanks, Nancy,” he said with a pleasant smile.

“Of course, dear,” she replied, playfully playing with her hair.

The doors to the mayor’s office opened and a trio of gentlemen in nice suits, smoking what was left of their cigars and red in the face from a little too much whiskey, came stumbling out. They greeted Jet with a fine ‘how do you do?’ before continuing on their stumbly way, laughing at something the mayor had said.

“Old friends of his?” Jet asked.

“Haven’t the slightest idea, Mr. Ryder. He’s ready for you now,” Nancy said, giving him a bashful wave.

The mayor waited by his desk, looking out his very large office windows from which he could oversee his kingdom. He was a portly man, but his girth hid a well muscled frame and many a fist fight had ended with his enemies on the ground staring up in wide eyed confusion. His hair was dark but thinning and his demeanor was usually that of a man who thought he knew more than he actually did. Right now, though, he was a man who knew exactly how much he didn’t know and it was putting him on edge.

“Heard you caught another one,” Mayor Trent said.

“It’s just Oberkast. Not that big a fish these days,” Jet replied.

“Humble as ever. You saved four men from falling to their death. Five if you count that scoundrel, which I don’t,” Trent said turning back to face his guest.

“My team at Jet Works are the real heroes. They were the ones who created the Rescue Raft and Auto-chute technologies. Hopefully, once the tech is perfected in a few years, planes everywhere will come equipped with them.”

“You stand to make millions, Mr. Ryder. Are you prepared to live the life of a millionaire?” Trent asked, before chomping on his cigar and pouring Jet a glass of whiskey.

“I’m only accepting enough compensation to keep my men and I comfortable. The rest goes to aeronautics research and charity,” Jet said, accepting the drink with a grateful nod.

“A hero through and through. How this crime riddled world produced a man like you will forever be a mystery to me,” Trent said, overly gracious as he always was to his friends. Until they pissed him off, anyway. He raised his glass. “To those who fight the never ending fight.”

“Cheers,” Jet said as they clinked their glasses together.

“Speaking of, do you have an answer to my proposal yet?” Trent asked. Jet downed his drink like a pro.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought and consideration,” he replied as Trent refilled his glass. “And I still don’t know. This thing you’re proposing, this project to end crime…”

“All crime forever,” Trent corrected him.

“Yes. I fear it’s too dangerous to attempt.”

“I need you on this, Ryder.”

“You need a pilot.”

“The best pilot around.”

“But not just that.”

“No of course not. I need someone I can trust up there. Someone with conviction and clarity of vision.”

“Someone with a good reputation that’ll minimize blowback if this things goes up in smoke,” Jet said, emptying his glass. Trent nodded thoughtfully.

“I’m a business man. I make it a habit to minimize risk. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Trent said evenly.

“John, I know you have the best intentions, but this is too ambitious. Even foolhardy.”

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you’d seen the trials.”

“John…”

“The technology works, my dear boy! We just need a way to… widen the scope,” Trent said confidently. Jet slowly shook his head, caught between two decisions. “We’ve worked together for years now, Ryder. Decades. We built this city up from nothing. We-”

“What’s this we business?” came a voice from the doorway. An older man with big round glasses and a lab coat strolled impatiently towards them. “Or did you forget whose mind you utilized to make this super city of yours a reality?”

“Dr. Brighton,” Jet sighed.

“Jeremiah, what brings you here right this very moment?” Trent asked, only a tinge annoyed.

“I will not abide any more delays, Trent. Do you have a pilot or…” Brighton paused, noticing Jet’s presence. “Ah yes. Of course it’d be you, Ryder. Why did I think otherwise?”

“I haven’t agreed to anything yet,” said Jet.

“Neither did I and here I am regardless,” Brighton said, throwing his hands in the air.

“Okay, so you roped in the good doctor, but that doesn’t mean this is any less risky. In fact, it could be more so,” said Jet. Brighton looked very irked by the comment. “Your lab explodes or catches fire half of the time. When it comes to science you like to live dangerously. Everyone knows that.”

“Brighton National Labs busies itself with Progress, Science and the furtherment of Western Civilization. I’m not ashamed of that. You on the other hand would rather play superhero or tinker with your drab, uninspired toys.”

“Life saving tools,” Jet shot back.

“Which you waste on the lower class,” Brighton spat.

“Gentlemen, gentleman!” Trent admonished them. “Our petty squabbles aside, this is a project worth doing. For the betterment of society,” he said looking at Brighton, “and for the working man,” he said, eyeing Jet. “We can do this. If the three of us put our heads together we can accomplish anything. Look at what we’ve already done.” Trent waved his arms over to the window, where the splendor of Jet City’s downtown architecture caught the bright rays of a sun just past noon.

“Really. And what do you think two and a half minds are going to do against the problem of human nature itself?” Brighton asked. Trent exhaled disappointedly out his nose, frowning at Brighton’s snide jab. Then he grinned.

“Jeremiah, please. Don’t insult Ryder’s intellect to his face,” Trent said before laughing heartily at his own joke. After a moment, Jet and Brighton couldn’t help but laugh too.

“You’re really going to make me a part of this, aren’t you,” Jet said, resigned to the force of nature that was Trent’s personality.

“You were always a part of this, Ryder. Our fate is the fate of this city,” Trent said, pouring the three of them drinks.

“The Triumvirate rides again,” Brighton said, saying cheers with movers and shakers and Jet City.

 

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