Jet Black fell.
The wind whistled around him, the cold breath of the city a cutting edge. Windows whipped by as he plummeted, his jet pack sparking and hissing, crumpled like a soup can in a lion’s mouth—the illusion completed by the series of very real bite marks perforating the metal.
He felt dizzy. No, it was worse than that. He felt empty—like a hollowed out pumpkin.
Beneath him, the crowd gathered, now looking like little more than col- ored pins stuck in corkboard—but as he tumbled end over end through the air, jet pack boosters bursting with loud ragged coughs of worthless flame, the little people got bigger and bigger.
Soon, he would crash amongst them. Into them. On them.
Thoughts escaped him like slippery snakes and what the assassin did to him—did to his mind—left him lost and confused.
But one word—a name—continued to rise up out of the fog :
He was going to crash in the middle of all those people, into all those sup- porters and dissenters of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but worst of all, he was going to fall in front of Sally Slick. That was the heck of it.
He wanted to impress her.
The heroes of the Century Club caught wind of the assassination attempt on FDR’s life just this morning, but that’s how these things always went: life did not afford the hero easy answers or comfortable timelines. Everything was always by the scrape of the teeth, by one’s chinniest of chin hairs—most heroes not only expected it, but learned to thrive on it.
The campaign scheduled Roosevelt to speak outside the brand spanking new Empire State Building, a shining spire of metal and glass and human ingenuity that was like an extension of man’s own reach, reaching for the stars and the heavens beyond. There, Roosevelt planned to outline the tenets of his Second New Deal, bolstered as he was by a supportive Congress.
The message came in scrawled on a ratty slip of fabric—
The President is going to die.
They mobilized fast. Jet, Sally Slick, Mack Silver, and the Grey Ghost—
more than enough of a team to take down any cold-blooded assassin.
Little time remained, affording them no chance to scope out the place beforehand. The President had already arrived, had already wheeled himself onto the dais flanked as he was by Eleanor and all his supporters in their dark suits and broad-brimmed hats, shuffling papers in his lap as he was wont to do.
Sally said she’d stick to the stage. Mack would canvass the crowd. Ghost planned to check the tunnels beneath.
Jet’s job? To go up. Observation deck of the Empire State. Mack said it would afford him a powerful vantage point over the crowd—somehow, Mack appointed himself de facto leader of their little squad, even though Jet had been there longer and Mack was always in and out, sometimes disappearing in his plane for months.
To Jet, it felt like—well, it felt like dismissal. Up top, he wasn’t going to be able to see squat. Just people like ants and cars like little bricks and once again he’d be out of the action and set aside like a child, a child who might acci- dentally knock over somebody’s coffee cup or spill a saucer of milk. Great. Wonderful.
But hey, he was a team player. He did what he had to do.