Another rainy August night.
At exactly , the last of a million raindrops crashed onto
Hell's Kitchen. As in a jungle, a myriad of sounds echoed around him, bouncing
from building to building: airplanes cruising high above, men shouting at a
game in a sports-bar far below, the honking horns of typical
Suddenly, he heard a loud crash of metal onto metal. He sprung up. His muscles flexed and he tilted his head into the wind. It was just a few blocks away. Dozens of people started shouting, some screaming. The man dressed in crimson red shot across the still wet rooftops.
A minute later, as he positioned himself on a roof above what he knew as a normally quiet parking lot, he could distinguish over fifty different heartbeats. Car-fumes and running engines told him some had abandoned their cars in panic. Crouching in the dark, he could hear a large group of people stepping on shredded, soaked paper and crunching tiny bits of glass. A newspaper stand had been wrecked, and such small glass fragments had to come from car windows.
He heard more people come onto the parking lot, but their voices were far too agitated for common vandalism. They were a frightened and angry mob. He considered a terrorist attack, but he had heard no explosions. The mob's footsteps were clustered in several groups. They seemed to be searching the area. Using his heightened senses, Daredevil did the same, but had no idea what to look for.
Then, a high-pitched scream, as if from a bad horror movie, pierced his ears:
"THERE IT IS!"
The man on the rooftop focused his senses. He heard the slapping footsteps of someone running out from behind a car barefoot. It was a girl, disoriented; her heart rate was off the scale. She ran into the cleared-out middle of the parking lot, where she came face to face with the main group of the angry mob. Just 30 feet from the roof ledge on which Daredevil was crouching, both girl and mob stood as if frozen, and Daredevil did not move either.
Then he realized that her build was malformed.
‘Fool!' He whispered.
She was a mutant, scared and only about 15, but this town had no mercy for mutants anymore. The impasse was broken, and the first stone was flung at the girl. The silence was also gone, feeling strong through numbers, the mob started shouting anti-mutant slurs. As he heard sirens closing in, he knew it would get real ugly real fast. Waiting had been a mistake.
The young mutant didn't run from the mob, she merely covered her face with her arms as the mob moved closer.
‘There's something else,' Daredevil whispered on the rooftop.
The indistinguishable click of a safety switch, the rattling of metal in a small cardboard container: someone in the crowd had a rifle.
The next few seconds seemed to go by in slow motion.
Without hesitation, Daredevil leapt forward. A man at the front of the mob aimed his rifle at the girl. Daredevil hurled down, focussing on a lamppost that was positioned in between him and the girl. He grabbed the lamppost, and swung head first toward the girl. As the rifle fired, he flew into her and yanked her down with him. Milliseconds later, his radar-sense tracked the deadly projectile as it burrowed into a car behind them. He could only hope that, as they tumbled across the ground, his presence would dissuade the gunman from firing again. He had his hands full with the now panicking mutant-girl, who was definitely super-humanly strong.
Sirens burst onto the scene as the police tried to interfere. The high-powered legs of the mutant girl pushed off against the masked man on top of her, hurling him thirty feet away through the air before he landed on the pavement. The chaos was now complete, as the men and women in blue raced onto the parking lot and lined up their cars in between the mob and the mutant. The mob was outraged and tried to push past the police. On the other side, the police shouted orders at the young mutant at gunpoint. Daredevil, lying on the pavement, still groggy from the fall, heard fear in the officer's voices. He got up as quick as he could, but it was too late. The girl tried to run.
As he was once again racing to save the girl, Daredevil heard the police fire five shots. The mob, now silent, watched as a bullet sent her light body spinning in a wild pirouette. She hit the ground and lay motionless. The man without fear lived up to his reputation and ran straight into the line of fire. Nevertheless, he sighed in relief when a policeman shouted: "Hold your fire! Stop shooting!"
Nobody moved or spoke as they witnessed the athletic figure in his dark red costume pick up the young girl, and walk off into the darkness. The riot atmosphere was dispelled as quickly as it came, and even the man with the rifle was sent home.
Safe on a nearby rooftop, Daredevil realized that she was barely wounded. Her heartbeat was slow but very strong. As she was sitting rigid and upright, she reminded him of a rabbit, too scared to move. Her clothes concealed exceptionally long limbs.
She stared at the man squatted down next to her with big, wide-open eyes. Traumatized, she gazed at the stick he had put down to examine her wound, the modified billy-club which he had used to climb onto this rooftop.
Suddenly, she seemed to snap out of her shock. She still didn't speak, but her heart and breath-rate shot up in an instant.
"Easy!" Daredevil said, holding out his hands palms first, "if you just relax, we'll figure this one out together OK?" Her breathing neared hyperventilation. Unexpectedly, and lightning-quick, she grabbed his billy-club and took off towards the roof's edge.
"Hey wait!" Daredevil shouted as he leapt up in pursuit, "Come back here! What is it?" The girl never stopped, she ran off the roof and landed down onto a smaller building, and then onto the street. The fall didn't slow her. Daredevil was in hot pursuit, using his agility to catch up. He raced from rooftop to rooftop after her, dove down and swung off a flag post to land behind her. The girl let out a frightened squeak and accelerated, the billy-club still in her hand. Her naked footsteps slapped from pavement onto asphalt. He could hear traffic approach. She was getting away fast, but in the cars' direction. He shouted:
She never slowed down, her foot speed was superhuman. As he raced after her through the alley, tires started screeching.
She had ran through the alley, onto another street. He cut across the street, past the cars and gained on her. He could almost reach out and grab her when she ran back onto the pavement. But she again accelerated and blasted past several pedestrians in the otherwise empty streets. He couldn't help feeling like Wile E. Coyote as he jumped to clear the shocked pedestrians. The chase went on and now he was losing ground again. He again heard screeching tires and honking horns, but her slapping footsteps made it to the other side of the road and kept going. The smell of the Hudson was getting stronger.
He was nearing exhaustion as he made his way across the road. The girl, not showing any fatigue, slowed down when she saw he could not follow. As he got closer she once again took off, sprinting down another empty street where he heard her stop.
Panting and holding his sides, he approached her. He noticed that they had stopped by a large brick fence. He held out his hand to demand his billy-club. But when he came within five feet of her, she simply threw it over the fence.
He faced her for a few seconds, speechless. Then he heard something behind the fence and cautiously moved towards it.
It was made of a ten feet high wall that reeked of graffiti. Beyond the
wall was a large open area which smelled like weeds. He held in his breath and
heard the footsteps of a man 30 feet beyond the wall. It was a young man, in
good shape but with a fast heartbeat. He was constantly twitching a machine
gun's safety off and on. A faint sound of static indicated an open line of
communication with whatever he was guarding. Beyond him was a large structure,
a house. As soon as the rookie's footsteps headed towards the house, an
incredibly limber figure made it over the wall and silently landed in weedy
grass of the garden. But suddenly the silence was killed. Daredevil froze. He
heard a sharp burst of static, and a female voice with a definite
The rookie replied an octave too low:
"Yeah, all clear."
Unnoticed, Daredevil picked up his club and made his way to the house. Once he was out of sight of the rookie, he put his ear to the wall of the three-story, dilapidated house. The windows and all but one door were boarded shut. Two men were sitting not far behind the door. Then, Daredevil noticed something else: the faint smell of tobacco, coming from above. There was a man on the other side of the roof, smoking a cheap cigarette. Swiftly but silently, Daredevil climbed up the side of the house onto the roof. He came up behind the smoking guard, who was overlooking the street and the side of the garden not guarded by the rookie. His heart rate low, the guard was slowly inhaling the fumes of his cigarette. He had a rifle and a walkie-talkie laying next to him. The guard was sitting by an open attic window and was talking to himself:
"Eleven ten, just an hour away from making two grand Michael… keep it steady.... keep it steady."
Instantly knocked out, Michael groaned as his assailant quickly gagged him, tied his hands and feet, and then slipped through the attic window, into the house.
The attic was empty, except for a few cobwebs and now a silent intruder moving towards the stairs and then down into the hallway. Daredevil knew he had to hurry, he did not know when the man on the roof would be missed. But when he passed the bedroom closest to the stairway down, he stopped. An all too familiar smell forced its way up his nostrils. He smelled blood, and the decaying insides of a person seeping out. He opened the door, and there were a man and a woman in bed, shot to pieces. He knew the man, he was a local dealer called Jono, and the woman smelled like a hooker's cheap perfume. He closed the door behind him and moved down the stairs.
The first floor was abandoned but for the central room, and he could hear faint sounds coming from below it, there had to be a basement. Two men were sitting in the room, facing the one door to the outside. Judging by their muffled heartbeats, both men were wearing bullet-proof vests. They quietly played cards with their rifles besides them and a walkie-talkie on the table. From the room, the two could not see the stairway or the man moving towards them. The first floor also reeked of blood and gunfire, but there were no bodies. He assumed they had been moved into the basement.
He heard voices coming from the room:
"Time?" one guard, sounding very large, asked.
", two minutes to go." The other responded.
Daredevil snuck around them until his radar-sense found a secret hatch underneath him, just out of sight from the room. A small rug covered the hatch. He put his ear to the floor but heard next to nothing. It had to be the way into the basement, but it was well insulated.
He then turned his attention back to the two guards in the central room. He moved right next to the opening into the room, touching the hinges in the doorframe. The door had been kicked in and removed.
After a burst of static, he heard one of them say:
"It's us, we're gonna do our round, reporting back in 5."
"Copy that boys, report at stat." It was the Queens woman again.
He heard rifles being picked up, and footsteps moving towards him.
Daredevil took a deep breath as the first guard, a big man, walked out of the room. Daredevil landed a quick strike to the first man's throat. He fell to his knees chocking loudly. Daredevil jumped up and threw his billy club. As the other guard aimed his rifle, the swirling club knocked him out cold. The first guard had recovered quicker than expected. He was much larger than Daredevil, his heart rate was through the roof and he stormed towards the man in red. The next moment, the huge man fell forward, his trajectory altered by the gloved hands of his assailant. The guard flew face first against the wall with a loud smack, and made another thud as he bounced onto the floor. Only Daredevil was left standing. He had no idea how much time he had.
As he cracked open the basement-hatch, a myriad of sounds and smells broke free of the almost soundproof basement. It was much bigger than he had expected, filled with the whirring sounds of machines and chemical equipment. The sharp scent of unprocessed drugs burrowed into his nose. He heard five heartbeats. Four were standing upright in the corner opposite to him, one was laying face down, probably tied up, in a small closet. Unseen, the man in red slipped down the stairs.
The scents were telling him the story. The chemicals that were cooling off were used to make Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Ecstasy, he knew, costs about 30 cents to make per pill, and be could sold for up to $30 each. It was a chemical drug lab, the late Jono's most likely, well sealed off from the outside world. His employees had paid a similar price as Jono, Daredevil smelled them piled up and rotting under a sheet in the corner. Producing illegal drugs must have once seemed like a good idea.
He could now finally hear voices over the sounds of the lab. From the far corner, he heard a raspy voice speak with a heavy English accent.
"I'm no chemist, but even I know there's no way we can dissolve them all in this junk."
A nasal Queens voice replied, the woman from the walkie-talkies.
"No you dumb Limey, this is flammable. As I understand it correctly, we start a fire down here, drug traces are found, cops figure exploding druglab is a work accident, we're in the clear, we sell before anyone knows it came from here, and you get a lifelong supply of your lukewarm beer. Why are you even here?"
A man replied, pronouncing each syllable. The leader.
"I have known him for twelve years, he is dependable, he is loyal and he is smart enough to follow orders to the letter always, courtesy of the British Army. Also, that means he will not blow his own cover by spending all his money in the first week after we pull this off."
He paused for a second.
"…And yes Mikey, the fire will eliminate all the evidence, so the only thing that can go wrong is human error. Speaking of which, Cassandra, since you insist on using that stupid name, it's time for the next radio check is it not?"
Their eavesdropper worked the shadows to move across the huge basement.
"Yeah boss, and I'm callin' myself Cassandra," the Queens woman replied,
"because she could see the future in Homer and I'm always one step ahea—"
"Yes, thank you. I know who she was, now shut up and contact the lookouts and the guards- Oh, and if you are thinking of being smart and saying: how can I call them if I have to shut up? Don't."
Daredevil snuck alongside a machine right behind the group. He had to act now. He smelled synthetic gun oil used for quality automatic rifles. Their muffled heartbeats implied they too were wearing bullet-proof vests. He gripped his billy club tightly.
As he took one last breath before attacking, he suddenly heard the basement hatch be torn off its hinges. Then the hatch was flung into the chemical equipment. He heard shattering glass and smelled toxic gas right away.
‘It's her,' he thought.
"It's her!" Cassandra yelled.
Before Cassandra and the fourth guard could even get their safeties off, Mikey and the leader opened fire on the girl on the stairs. Daredevil jumped forward, too late to stop the bullets hitting the mutant girl. He moved right in between Mikey and Cassandra and furiously slammed his billy club into Mickey's throat. The girl tumbled off the stairs into cover.
"What?" The leader shrieked.
When he turned around, he saw Mikey laying on the floor, and Daredevil beating up Cassandra and her friend. Without hesitating, the leader opened point-blank fire on all of them. Reacting to his radar sense, Daredevil instantly put his hands on Cassandra's shoulders and pushed himself up. Just below his hands and feet bullets tore through the two underneath him.
The moment seemed to last forever: The leader aimed up at Daredevil, who pushed off of Cassandra's shoulders with his hands, and, in mid-air, used his weight to kick Cassandra's tumbling, bleeding body against the leader.
As Cassandra clung to him with her last strength, stray bullets shot into the destroyed chemical equipment. Daredevil's breath was taken away by a huge tuft of heat. As he landed on his back, he instinctively rolled to his left. Bullets mowed into the floor where had laid. The leader had tossed the dying Cassandra aside. Daredevil dove behind the large machine where he had hid before. He couldn't find the leader. All he could hear was ringing, and he could now only smell the thick, noxious gasses. Bullets ricocheted all around him, and something sliced through his left leg. His lungs were collapsing and his senses were almost useless. He barely realized the shooting had suddenly ended. Even his radar sense was fading in and out as he struggled to breathe in the oven-hot air. But he noticed the movement of someone small: the girl. He sensed the incredible impact of her fists as she pounded the leader as if he was a pillow. The next thing he could sense was the body of the leader, flying through the air into the burning chemicals. For a moment, he was glad his senses were gone.
His leg bleeding and numb, he limped towards her and realized the heat was beginning to melt his costume onto his skin. They had to get out. Yet she kicked in a door to her left and ran into the closet. As she came out with the fifth person, he cursed himself for forgetting about him after his hearing went. He limped after her. She was easily carrying the man up the stairs, out of the suffocatingly hot basement. He could not keep up and stumbled upstairs using his hands and one good leg, as explosions and fire started to eat up the house floor by floor.
He made it upstairs, through the front door. The cool, fresh air painfully reopened his lungs. His sweat-stained body started shaking. The guards he had snuck by were long gone, and he thought he could heard several sirens closing in, but still couldn't be sure over the ringing. Using his billy club, he dragged himself over the large wall and grimaced as he landed on the other side. He limped away into a dark corner, then climbed onto the nearest roof and nearly collapsed as he sat down.
"Spaceeba." He heard someone behind him speak. Only now did it register that he was not alone on the rooftop. The man from the basement was standing right there, and she was with him, hiding under his arm.
"SPACEEBA!" The man
repeated. "It means thank you where I come from. I and my
She gripped her father tightly with both arms around his familiar waist. She watched him talk with the man in his red suit in that language she could not speak. But she knew what her father was saying: he was telling the man who saved them how he sold everything to come to America, to make money as a chemist and help her, his only daughter, with her terrible mutation pains. She was so happy when she heard they were going. She wanted to become just like Britney Spears. But without some green card her father kept talking about, there were no jobs, just dirty apartments and scary neighbours. Soon this man Jono took them both and threatened her so her father would make drugs.
And then those other men and that woman came in, and shot Jona and all the other people, and she got so scared and ran out, into the city. She had never known she could run that fast, nor had she ever been out alone. She ran alongside a car to try to get it to stop but it crashed and everybody got so mad at her. Until he came along, the crazy red devil guy. So she took his stick and made him find her father.
Her father was talking to him for a while now, and she was happy the devil guy was not mad. She smiled when her father kissed his cheeks and the devil guy made a funny face. Even she knew men here never kiss. Still, grown-ups always had a way of doing things that she did not understand, like they knew some secret about how the world worked. And as the devil guy limped away, she suddenly realized she did not want to be a pop-star after all.