Do you know what it’s like to stand twenty seven stories in the sky with nothing to hold you up? There’s no real way to describe it. My stomach braced itself waiting for the fall that wasn’t coming; instead I kept climbing and thrust toward the gathering I could make out on the roof.
The smoke did nothing to stop me; shouldn’t I have been choking on it? Funny, but with the powers turned on I didn’t seem to need oxygen. How much had they changed me?
Even through the blackness as thick as it was I could see the people on the building as clear as day; the heat of their bodies lit them up like neon against the backdrop of what I guessed were radio and wifi signals.
Bright red licked the guts of the building as I glided by; the heat must have been intense, but I couldn’t feel it. There was only the warmth of whatever had taken me and nothing more. If I didn’t know any better I would have sworn it was a dream.
The gathering on the roof seemed confused when I scaled the ledge. Of course they were; I mean, how often do you see a flying girl with a hood land right in front of you? Women and men of all ages and their children stepped back, not sure what to make of the mysterious figure.
“Maybe it’s an angel,” I heard from the whispers.
I reached out and shot what I hoped was a trusting smile. “No, I’m a superhero,” I told them. “I’m here to help, if you’ll let me.”
The crowd huddled together as if unsure what to do. Could I really blame them? Maybe a little; the sound of crackling beneath our feet was drawing nearer, and we didn’t have time for mistrust. Any port in a storm, right? Well, I was trying to be their port.
From the gathering stepped a woman in a fire uniform. She lifted her visor and glared like I was something to be squeezed and popped. “Look, no offense, kid,” she huffed, “but you look more like a mugger than you do a superhero. We have the situation under control here, alright?”
I balled my fists as she turned away. “That could have gone better,” I muttered. No, she was not going to fail me on my first day as a superhero; not before I gave it my all.
“We all know this building is going to go,” I called to her and the gathering. “It’s going to collapse any minute, and you’re taking a hell of a risk staying up here and waiting for helicopters when you’ve got a free ticket to start moving right in front of you!”
Maybe I was making a mistake; maybe I shouldn’t have undermined the officially-trained-person-who-knows-what-to-do-in-the-event-of-a-fire, but I had to do something to help. Even if Tanya was right about the responsibility of not using power just because I had it this was still something I had to do, just to be sure.
Another woman broke free of the cluster and made her way to where I stood on the ledge. “All y’all can stay here as long as you want, but I’m out of here,” she said to them, then paused to look me up and down. “You can fly, right; like Supergirl or some #$%&.”
“Right. I can carry one, maybe two of you at a time, just to the next building.”
“You can take me wherever you want, so long as it’s away from this death trap.”
I smiled and put my arm around her, then reached to her knees to scoop her up. She was lighter than I thought she would be, though flying with her took more focus and care than it did bringing myself to the roof alone.
The flight was a slow one; more of a drift, really, as we hung over the chasm between rooftops. A moment ago the ground seemed like a few feet below, and then it was so far down, tempting us with gravity to fall. I tried not to think about it, but the woman in my arms was more than considering the consequences.
“You’ve done this before, right?” she asked somewhere past halfway.
“Nope. First time.”
Her confidence shook. “Girl, you’ve got some cojones bringing me into this. I don’t care how sparkly you are; on any other day I wouldn’t trust you to deliver pizza.”
“Thanks,” I supposed; some debut this was turning out to be.
We finally cleared the gap and I was able to put her down. So far, so good; there was only, what, fifty other people left to go, assuming the roof held that long. I was going to have to pick up my pace. Thank the gods there was only a hundred feet between points.
I ran to the edge and propelled with more certainty than I had before, while my first rescue called to my back “thanks for all your help, Wonder Woman or whoever you are!” It felt good that I was able to help; even better that she was reading my gender right.
My feet touched down on the burning building where others had gathered to see us; after all, it’s not every day you get to see a magical flying girl rescue someone trapped on a rooftop. At least this time they weren’t afraid of me.
The firefighter was fast to single me out, turning a moment to acknowledge the rising flames, then back to glaring. “Alright, you can help,” she said, “but remember, if you screw this up it’s not just my ass; you have to live with yourself as well.”
“I know. Like another hero says, with great power comes-”
“Don’t,” she growled, “even.”
Residents started lining up two at a time to be carried over, and though I had to make a couple of special trips for some larger people (I was really scared of letting them down) my confidence grew until I was able to race back and forth. Next thing I knew I’d moved forty eight people to safety, including the firefighter herself.
That was when the helicopters arrived, and were lowered to the safe perch we’d made on the other roof. A number of the residents laughed, and so did I; “better late than never.”
The firefighter pulled off her helmet and let her hair fall free. She grinned to me and offered a hand. “I guess we’re going to be seeing a lot more of you,” she said and gripped my palm.
I tried to hide my goofy smirk. “Maybe. Who knows?”
“Don’t get cocky,” she warned; “and kid, if you’re going to take this superhero thing seriously, you’re going to need a better costume.”
“I’ll make a note of it.”
Suddenly, a panic cut through the gathering. I could barely hear at first over the cutting of helicopter blades until the man in the striped shirt clasped onto my shoulder. There was terror in his eyes, and it shook through his bones into my chest.
“I can’t find Mr. Geong,” he gasped. “Please, you’ve got to help. He’s an old man. He’s on the twenty first floor; he’s got to still be in there!”
“Go,” the firefighter told me. I paused, unsure until she told me again, “go!”
So much for the day being saved. I turned to the fire and stared it down; the fire roared back, daring me to jump down its throat. Certain death waited inside, or at least it would have if I could feel the heat. My powers would protect me, right?
There was no room for hesitation; this was what I had come for. Steeling my nerve I sprinted to the edge of the building and shot toward the nearest window. It was me versus the inferno; of course it wasn’t going to be easy.
To be continued…