A Day Unlike Any Other
Jess pulled into the public parking area at the Fire-house where her dad was stationed and took an empty spot as close to where the engine bays were located. She sat there the jeep idling, absentmindedly rubbing her hand where the strange tattoo pulsed in time with her heartbeat.
She should have been panicked, upset, but she wasn't. This thing the Starsign had chosen her, out of everyone on Earth. Her. But it hadn't told her why. It had made her a Marvel, one of the super-powered beings which where appearing more and more frequently in the wold. The Starsign an artifact/tool/weapon, imbued with a pseudo life-force, told her that it was her duty and destiny to master the the Starsign and use it's powers to protect and guide the Earth until it was ready to join the universal civilization. But she was only 20 years old how could she guide anything.
Becoming a Marvel didn't scare her, in fact it was kind of exciting. But so many of them hid who they were and their actions while mostly for the good tended to sow suspicion and even fear. Jess knew that she couldn't do that, wouldn't wear a mask or hide in the shadows. If the Starsign was to be a symbol it would be a symbol that all could see and....
The knock on the door of the jeep startled her and she did give a little jump putting her hand out of sight she looked out at her father who was looking in. John Rhodes Jr. Stepped back as his daughter and only child opened the door and exited her muddy 4wd. That told him something right there, Jessica always cleaned her jeep as soon as she finished a trip so he knew that something was up her showing up at the station with a muddy Jeep.
“Hi dad,” Jess said as she stepped into his welcoming hug. The embrace was so nice she felt the tension draining away.
“Hi pumpkin. I was wondering when you would show up.”
Jess leaned back and looked up a question in her eyes.
“Bob, came in early this morning, to get something from his locker and talk to a couple of the other guys. He steadfastly avoided me and wouldn't even make eye contact. So I know you guys had gone up the mountain for the weekend and having him show I figured something had happened between you. I tried calling you but your phone kept going to voice mail. Any longer andwithout hearing from you and I'd have called the cops, and went and found Bob and beat it out of hi. So are you okay pumpkin?” John had placed his hands on his daughters muscular shoulders and gave her a fatherly smile.
Jess gave a heavy and somewhat annoyed sigh, not at her dad but at Robert, she never used the diminutive nickname, a rookie firefighter and her boyfriend of six months, now former. “I'm fine dad, Robert and I broke up but that isn't why I'm here. Dad I need to show you something....”
At that very moment the stations alarm blared and the controlled chaos that was a working fire station exploded to life.
It looked like chaos as the men and women of Kingston Hose Co. #3 raced to and fro but it wasn't, each of these highly trained and dedicated firefighters knew their jobs and what was expected of them. Jessica stayed where she was for maybe three seconds as her dad quickly hugged her again gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and with a hasty “Gotta go!', raced off. Jessica watched as her father and the other fire fighter she knew and had worked with over the summer prepared to put their lives on the line again. After those seconds tick by she shrugged off her jacket and reached into the back of the Jeep where she carried her own personal response gear. She wasn't one to simply sit by and wait while others put their own safety at risk.
As she ran to the large truck bays she saw her dad and the station chief and a couple of others in deep conversation
“Multiple vehicle accident on the interstate, including an over turned tanker transporting hazardous material placard reading 5.2 still working on the exact contents. Ulster dept. is working two house fires and won't be responding East Kingston will have a truck on the way in 15, so we are it I want to roll in five,” said the chief.
“Chief,” one of the Firemen also named John, spoke up, “we are short EMS for first response, looks like 45 minutes before any of them can break free.”
“Shit,” barked the chief looking around. Jessica's dad was looking around too and saw her standing off to the side out of the way. He grimaced and the chief saw where and who he was looking at.
“Rhodes,” he shouted and not at her father. “Grab a fire coat and sign in You ride with rescue.” He turned to John Rhodes and grabbed his arm. “She can stay in the truck unless we need her. It's not like she hasn't done it before.”
Jessica called an affirmative but the others had already moved on except her dad who gave her a worried look. While she had often times worked sort of with her mother when they transported a patient to the emergency room, Fire Department policy kept immediate family members from working the same stations so the two of them had never actually been on a call before. She gave him a smile and a thumbs up then ran to the lockers and grabbed a spare coat and helmet before signing in and climbing into the Rescue truck.
Sirens blaring the station emptied and men and women raced to save lives.
Far above the Earth where the highest satellites orbited, a sphere of green reflective metal some 20 meters across popped out of hyperspace.
The Nok, a Sindilian Gangster of no mean reputation, glared with his skeletal features at the small blue green planet below. The sight made him want to retch. This was not the sort of world he would normally care to visit but his ship had alerted him to a very rare occurrence. The Tr i-dimensional Transverteron scanner had detected a signal that, while it could not decipher the contents, had been identified with a 98% accuracy to be a Starsign activation transmission. Those in the know knew what that meant and The Nok was certainly someone in the know. The signal had originated here all he had to do was pin point it and then... The Nok turned its skeletal head and it glowing crimson eyes gazed with adoration at a plaque attached to the wall of his control room his chuckle sounded like a death rattle. Attached to the plaque were 4 broken shattered starsigns just like the one that had chosen Jessica Rhodes, with room for more.
There were seven vehicles, including the tanker truck, Jessica could see as the rescue truck pulled into it's usual position. She immediately jumped out, ignoring what the chief had told her about staying put until she was called. The police and state troopers had beaten hem there and closed both sides of the interstate and set a good perimeter about 500 feet back from the immediate area of the accident. While the firefighter went about setting up to put out any fires Jessica took her medical bag and headed to where a small group of cops were gathered with several civilians sitting or lying on the ground. She counted eight persons on the ground two who were lying still, those sitting were brused and had what looked like superficial injuries. “Is this all of them?”
“No,” answered on state trooper, “we couldn't get the truck driver out until you take a look at him he isn't conscious and may have serious injuries, and the last guy is in the car wedged under the tanker. Can't get to him at all, he's conscious but incoherent.” While the trooper spoke, Jessica was examining the crash victims she concentrated on the two laying before her. Both very seriously injured with broken bones and internal injuries. Their chances of making it lessened every minute and there was no ambulance to transport them, she was all they had. She looked up at the trooper and noticed that he was only a little older than her and very handsome. She didn't have a lot of time especially with two more probably seriously injured waiting for her. “Alright Trooper, can you take the rest of these behind the safe zone while I see about rousing these two?”
The trooper glanced at the wounded and back at the wreck. “Okay, but don't take long that tanker is carrying class four and that car under it is a Tesla.” With that grim announcment the trooper gathered up theose capable of walking and started leading them to the parimeter. Meanwhile Jessica now not being watched closely laid a hand on the nearst chest and one on their forehead and concentrated. She felt two pulses her heart and that of the injured man, as she concentrated she felt the two pulses become one pulse and saw that the symbol on her hand pulsed as well energy flowed from her through the symbol into the crash victim. Organs mended bones knit. The man breathed easier and his eyelids began to flutter.
She didn't know the mechanics of what she did or really how she knew what to do except that the Starsign had told her, not with words or texts not even with instruction. But it had told her nonetheless, in a voice that wasn't a voice but sounded like everyone she had ever looked up to, had respected. The internal voice of a mentor. It was that voice that had imparted everything she knew about the Starsign, a voice that had left so much more unsaid yet to be learned.
Jessica quickly repeated the process with the other wounded driver this one a woman. As soon as both were awake, if somewhat confused Jessica waved over another cop, and asked him to take these two to outside the perimeter as well. Then she headed toward the truck.
Several of the firefighters including the chief na her father were close to where the car was wedged under the tanker. She headed up to the cab where with the assistance of the rescue truck driver, also and EMT, climbed on the the overturned cab. He had made an initial assessment.
“Likely spinal injury as well as a skull fracture, We need to get him out but unless they can get that battery in the Tesla removed we are sitting on a bomb. And the chief wants us to fall back until an engineer who can advise on that gets here.”
“These guys don't have time for that Terry, We have to get both of them out now.” Without waiting for a reply she jumped down and jogged the few yards to where the chief and the others where looking at the problem. She paused to look in to see if she could tell anything about the driver but all she could make out was the top of the mans head and that he was moving slightly and moaned as if he knew she was there.
“Rhodes! What the hell are you doing I told you to stay with the rescue truck,” yelled the chief.
Instead of yelling back Jess jogged the few yards to where they were standing away from the wreck. “Sorry chief but I couldn't help anyone from the cab of a truck.”
“Yeah well no harm I guess.” He raised his arm and made a circling motion and Yelled. “Everyone back!”
“Chief we can't leave these two they can't wait.”
“Rhodes, these Tesla pieces of crap have been known to explode after a wreck with even the slightest nudge. We got an engineer on his way by chopper who can remove the battery Thirty minutes and we'll know what we can do.”
“They don't have thirty minutes.” She looked at her dad, “Sorry dad, I really wanted to tell you about this but looks like I'll just have to show you along with everyone else.”
John Rhodes was about to ask what she meant by those cryptic words when his daughter raised her hand in a fist in front of her chest and he saw what looked like a tattoo of some sort of star on the back of her hand. His daughter didn't have a tattoo or at least she didn't before this morning. Then he saw it pulsing.
Jessica shut everything out except the Starsign, she concentrated focusing on the pulse and the Starsign opened up.
An aura of nearly translucent energy cascaded around Jessica. It was black light and it was incandescent fire, it was every color and none. The eyes of those right there saw something their brains had difficulty quantifying and each mind assigned something different. This was the cosmic energy of the universe collected, manipulated, directed.
The energy sleeve surrounded Jessic and flared. Her clothing looked like it was being eaten, consumed by the aura like acid sprayed onto a canvas, but in actuality it wasn't being destroyed it was merely being altered the molecules rearranged, leaving behind the deep red and black suit with the silver star field and hovering above her forehead like a tiar the physical manifestation of the Starsign for all to see. The suit and symbol that identified the wearer, throughout the galaxy and beyond, as one of the Chosen, a bearer of The Starsign.
Jessica looked at her father and the firefighters, saw the shock and on some the awe of what they had witnessed. She smiled at her father. “I'll explain what I can after I get these two out of this predicament. Right now dad, chief pull everyone back just in case this doesn't work.”
Know that if she gives them the chance they will start in with the questioning so she doesn't she turns and rises into the air as effortlessly as she walks up a set of stairs and flies to the cab of the truck. Terry stares wide eyed as she descends onto the cab beside him. “Terry get down and stand clear I'll get him into condition to be moved and hand him up to you.” Again she gave her shocked associate no time to dwell and dropped into the cab where she replayed the same healing actions she had done earlier. The drivers injuries were more extensive and she only did what she could to stabilize him for movement. The she kicked out the cracked windscreen and grasping the roof peeled the thin metal back folding it up like it was no more that a tent covering. Once the obstacle was cleared she picked him up and carried him to Terry and another firefighter had a stretcher staring “Get him to cover just in case this thing blows, he still needs care but he is out of immediate danger from his injuries.”
“Your one them, a Marvel.” Terry said the awe rolling off of him.
“Terry I'm still me and I still have one more to rescue. Get him to safety please. We will talk later.”
“Right.” Terry shook himself, “Come on Dave lets do what she says.” and the hefted the stretcher and began a gentle trot toward safety.
Once Terry left with the driver Jessica moved back to the Tesla looking in where the battery was clearly visible “Hope this works,” she mutters as she reaches in and grabs both terminals! The electricity flows into her but instead of electrocuting her the Starsign absorbs the energy draining the battery in moments.
As soon as the electricity was gone Jessica rips the battery from the car and tosses it aside. There explosive Tesla threat averted, car was already a totaled so no big. She then began to tear the car apart becoming her own personal version of the jaws of life. Using her own strength enhanced by the Starsign she ripped off the panels and the door and then pulled the seat back to get access to the driver who was in and out of consciousness. She healed him and gently extracted him from the wreckage and under the eyes of all the police and firefighters, including her father. As well as a news crew that had arrived, she rose once more into the air to float to where the ambulances where just now arriving.
She was greeted with cheers as she landed and immediately was surrounded and had a thousand questions thrown at her.
High above the earth The Nok had not been idel he had already activated the spheres stealth systems rendering it all bu invisible and had settled in to prep his various weapons for the fight to come. Taking down a Starsign was an accomplishment of great skill and tenacity, and The Nok had 4 to his name. This would be his fifth and would tie him with the notorious Shef. Starsigns were dangerous, even a newly minted one would be able to wield immense powers. So He had to act fast. As soon as the hero activated a power he would know it and where it was and then he would attack. This was a primitive civilization from what he could see so there was a good chance the Starsign would be completely surprised and have no idea how to fight advanced technology. As Nok finishes charging a double barreled disintegrator the detector sounded off again. He glanced at the read out he had the location of the Starsighn and soon he would have a fifth symbol for his plaque and the glory that went with it.
Jessica did her best to answer questions and calm everyone down “I'll answer all your questions at an appropriate time right now we have to let the police and firefighters finish there jobs and these people have to be taken to the hospital!”
But no one was listening they crowded her and she was still trying to gain control of the crowd when the sky erupted.
A beam of green coruscating light flashed from the sky and connected to the ground about fifty yards away with a thunderous crash, it sizzled and flashed for several seconds before the beam withdrew back into the sky like a straw being pulled into the heavens bay an angry god, leaving a smocking crater with a bluish green mound in it's center. Slowly the mound began to unfold revealing a bipedal creature clad in metallic robe with a horribly archaic helmet on it's inhuman skill like head. The Nok had arrived.
The crowd stared and Jessica pushed her way out of the press to stand in the open facing The Nok, she raised her hands shoulder high, hands open palms out ward in a gesture of peace and to show she was unarmed. “We mean you know harm...”
The Nok raised it's weapon and fired, twin beams, negative and positively charged, struck Jessica squarely in the chest the energy enveloping her knocking her back into the crowd which scattered and ran all except the law enforcement members who drew guns and opened fired on the Nok. The thunder and smoke of gunfire filled the interstate as Jessica sat up tendrils of smoke rising from her unmarred suit. Her hands emitting cosmic energy which pulsed and crackled. John Rhodes had been rushing to his daughter side when she sat up he skidded to a stop. And went to his knee beside her and helped her stand. “What is that thing?” He wasn't sure if he was asking about the Starsign or the creature attacking them. “I don't know dad, I'll ask it after I kick its ass!” She steeped away from her father and raised her glowing hands and unleashed a cosmic blast at the intruder.
Bullets whizzed by The Nok most missing, as the panicked police unloaded their fire arms, but a few hitting the monstrous being only to be tossed aside by some sort of force-filed the creature had. Laughing The Nok raised it's weapon and unleashed a fusillade of beams at the puny humans pestering it. Obliterating them had not been it's purpose there was little amusement in that instead his fire was meant to send them running in fear and confusion. It work now to collect his prize. He turned toward where the Chosen's body or what was left of it should be only to see the cosmic beam cross the distance and slam into his force-field with a crack with slit the sky and hurled him backwards. It still lived!
“Get out of here dad let me handle this!” Jessica shouted as she launched herself into the air following her beams toward the evil (he had to be evil right?) Marvel.
The Nok rolled to his feet and seeing The Starsign let off several shots in her direction before dropping the disintegrator and pulling out two molecular blades. Starsign dodged both blasts and slammed into The Nok who met her with flashing blades. The two spun and struck and dodge and parried with an occasion energy blast thrown in the exchange lasted several seconds and many blows and counter blows. The Nok was unsure of himself this Starsign was too powerful for newly chosen but it was a terrible fighter and didn't show much imagination but damn it was tough. With a flick of his wrist he threw one of his blades at the only other target in range the older human male that had run to the Starsigns aid. Jessica saw the razor like knife spinning toward her father and abandoning the villain blasted after it before it cut into her dad. She easily did this interposing herself between the blade and her father. Then with a scowl shouted, “Lets finish this!” And flew at him again putting all her might into her flight.
The Nok had expected this and had acted appropriately after he had thrown his blade he had overloaded his Force field and set it to 500% drawn a blaster sidearm and as she flew toward him raised the deadly pistol. “Lets,” he hissed back at her.
And shot the tanker.
The explosion rocked the area rattling windows up to ten miles away, All of the cars added to the blast everyone was knocked to the ground blood flowed from ears and noses from the blast pressure but there were no fatalities among the humans which had been at least fifty yards away. All except one.
Johnathon Rhodes Jr., Jessica's father, Fireman, husband, war-hero. Was bodily picked up and hurled some fifty feet by the blast where when he struck the ground he rolled limp and motionless his firefighting gear and most of his clothing blown or burned off. Jessica was knocked out of the air and while her power absorbed a lot of the blast directed at her not all of it had been taken in she landed near her father. Pain flowed through her she had broken bones and internal injuries but she felt the power of the Starsign still flowing and while her suit was torn and ren it's metallic sheen tarnished by the soot of the smoke her hands still pulsed with the power cosmic.. she opened her eyes and lay there a second then she turned her head and saw her father his eye staring at her empty, lifeless. Her breath caught her chest ached and felt like it would burst, she closed her eyes tight and opened them willing them to see something different but all she saw was her father. Dead. She screamed.
The Nok had been standing next to the truck but the force-field had been turned to 500% and all that had happened to him was that his vision had been obscured by the flames as the heat and energy cascaded off of his protection and flowed away leaving him standing unharmed. As the flames cleared he knew that he was victorious there was no way a new Starsign could have survived that and even if it had it would be so badly damage he could finish it with his boot. The last thing he expected to see was the Starsign floating in front of him not two feet away. With a scream of anguish, rage, and pain Jessica flew at the alien killer and with both hands glowing with incandescent cosmic power brought them around with a mighty double fisted hammer blow at the same time unleashing the remaining cosmic energy she had absorbed from the blast.
The Nok, had made a terrible tactical error. He hadn't taken the time to assess his target, didn't realize the this Starsign had an indomitable will far beyond that of any mere newly chosen she had a will that rivaled the oldest masters. The Starsign had chosen well. The Nok's force shield flared but it had already been over loaded and the blow and cosmic blast shredded it and sent the alien trophy hunter flying where it landed it wounded, unconscious, dying. Jessica landed by him and while she could have let him die and no one would have blamed her, she would have so she stabilized him, stripped off anything that even slightly resembled a weapon or technology and bound him with pieces of metal taken from the wreckage of the cars that had been destroy. She flew him back to the police and cautioned them then handed him over. Then she went to her father.
She landed a few feet away and was astonished to find Terry and the Chief there doing CPR! He was alive! Jessica let the Starsign go and once again clad in the clothes she had been wearing before knelt to help Her own injuries and the exertions had let her drained and all she could do was stabilize him and ride with him to the hospital where her mom was waiting for them.