Sorry for the prolonged time in between Chapter 1 and 2! I get busy which makes having time to sit down and write challenging. Anyway, I'll try to be more regular then I have been. I hope you enjoy this chapter and feel free to drop me a review with your thoughts!
The Purification Initiative
Nightblaze raced through the night on Crimson highway at well over 200 MPH thanks to the XLR8. The super hero's partner, Eric Summers had invented a new type of fuel system for the motorcycle that allows it to get faster with the intake of heat. Since Nightblaze's body was quite literally a giant furnace that knew no boundaries when it came to heat level, he could easily send the motorcycle flying as fast as he wanted. Eric warned the hero to be careful with this luxury as the bike was still a prototype and most certainly had it's currently unknown limits. The masked hero thought back to his friend's words a couple nights ago. "Be careful how fast you go, Zach…too much power could overheat the XLR8 and give it a meltdown leaving you stranded somewhere sucking your thumb like a baby!"
Nightblaze's thoughts then went back to not too long ago at the dinner party. As he sped down the highway, dodging cars and passing them by, he kept thinking of his conversations with Amanda, and his encounter with Derek. Of course, it was possible that Amanda was just working her flirtatious angle to get a good story, but Zach felt like he saw a bit more charmed in his ex-girlfriend then he cared for.
"Sure I'd love to go to dinner with you!" Nightblaze mocked Amanda's voice and then muttered to himself. "That stupid big shot billionaire! Honestly he is just as arrogant now as he was in high school! The only difference is that now people actually like being around him and his nonsense because he's got the money to pay them for it. I don't trust him Amanda, and I hope you know what you're doing…"
Nightblaze's mind further drifted onto Amanda's comments about him being fully dedicated to his job. "I know you left me because you got tired of the duel life of Zach Davis and Nightblaze….you said you were tired of sharing me with the rest of the world and that our relationship was going nowhere. I was unfair to you Amanda, and I know it must have been hard. Sure, you may even be an easy target for the rebound bug…but really? Derek Widener, could you have picked a lesser of a person? Jeez, why not just call up Lex Corp at Metropolis and try to pick up Lex Luthor himself? And that pompous handshake he gave me…I almost burnt Richie Rich's hand off at that dinner party."
Suddenly Nightblaze's thoughts were interrupted by his partner's voice in his ear communicator. "We're approaching the coordinates of the robbery, Nightblaze. And oh look, you're in luck! The bad guys have made their move so you don't have to worry about waiting around tonight, feel free to just jump in there!"
A couple blocks down from where Nightblaze was riding, at a very tall research facility, a small bomb exploded which created a whole for three crooks to escape. As they ran out, one man ran to the driver's side of their dark blue fifteen passenger van and turned the ignition on. As he was moving to the front, the two other robbers hauled a large metal device into the back of the vehicle. Once they all but threw this high tech contraption into the van, the driver stuck his head out the window and yelled. "Go go go! Come on let's out of here!"
The two thugs leaped into the van as the driver peeled down the street going as fast as he could in the run down van. The blue van's breaks screeched loudly as the driver had to slam on them, and turn sharply to the right. Out of nowhere, it seemed, a black and blue motorcycle sped into the way of the vehicle.
As Nightblaze jumped off XLR8, with one finger he shot four tiny fireballs towards each tire on the van. Though tiny, the fireballs that seared into each black leather wheel were hot enough to pop the tire entirely. The three crooks jumped out of the van and stared at Nightblaze with much confusion and uncertainty.
"What are you, a cop?" the driver asked, as he looked up and down at the man wearing a mask and tight metal armor."
"What kind of cops have you been around?" Nightblaze spoke sarcastically at the evildoer. "If they taught you that it's okay to steel big metal things that don't belong to you, then I'm not so sure about them…especially if they dress like me!"
"You got a smart mouth for a skinny boy with a nice bike." One of the other crooks snarled at Nightblaze, as he pulled a pistol out of his jacket. "What do you say we ice this freak and take his motorcycle? A beauty like that could sell for a ton!"
"You insulted me and threatened me all in the same sentence!" Nightblaze said as he concentrated on heating up his body to well over 600 degrees. (though to the normal eye, Nightblaze looked the exact same.) "And we just met! Gee, if this is how you treat total strangers, I hate to see how you talk to people you know real well…I wouldn't pull that trigger if I were you, just saying!"
The crook laughed at what he thought was Nightblaze's feeble attempt of talking his way out of this dangerous situation. After a short chuckle, the thug pulled the trigger three times as the gun was pointed at the hero's chest. Nightblaze took a step back from the impact as the bullets went inside of his chest. He stood there and took the initial pain, as his heated body instantly melted the bullets into nothingness. The burglar dropped his gun in awe, never having seen anything such as this before.
"Oooh, I wonder what you're thinking right now?" Nightblaze said with a somewhat menacing smile as he stepped forward towards the thieves. "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen someone heat their own body up to such intense temperatures that anything entering within a centimeter's radius melts to absolute nothingness? Well, don't say I didn't warn you. Some people's kids…they just never listen!"
The three thugs turned tail and began to flee. Nightblaze extended his left palm and shot a low powered heat wave towards the feet of the crook who tried to shoot him. As a result of the heat, the man's rubber shoes and a small portion of the road melted together, trapping him on the ground. The thief twisted and turned, screaming as he struggle to get released from his entrapment.
"What's the big idea, freak!" the thug sounded panicked as Nightblaze approached him. "You're letting the others get away. Trust me; you don't want to mess with the guys we work for. You let them get away; you just signed your death sentence."
"I let those guys off easy on purpose." Nightblaze clenched the man's T-shirt tightly and pulled him close as he spoke. "I want them to let your boss know that there is a new sheriff in town, and he's not a fan of these frequent robberies. Now, me and you are going to have a little chat. Why don't you tell me a little about this boss of yours that I shouldn't mess with. Who are you working for? What are you all trying to do? This is me asking nicely!"
"I'm…" The man tried to resist the hero's grip but Nightblaze, despite his average size, was in good shape and very strong. "I'm not telling you anything!"
Nightblaze found himself frustrated with the lackey. The black armored hero looked down, shot a small ray of fire to release the man's feet from the road, and then punched him hard in the face. The impact of the punch pushed the man backwards. "This is the last time I'm asking…nicely!"
The man shook his head, recovering from Nightblaze's quick right jab and looked deeply into eyes of his adversary. The crook looked around frantically trying to discern a way out of this mess. It was clear that the other two guys ditched him like yesterday's trash, and he had no other alternative. Knowing this thug's company policy on snitches, the man reached into his pocket, pulled out a little green pill, and quickly ingested it. Immediately the crook's mouth began to foam up and he fell to the ground dead.
Nightblaze quickly got down on his knees and examined the masked lackey. He had no pulse, and his heart was no longer beating. Nightblaze cursed under his breath as he reached over and pulled up the man's left sleeve. On the inside of the man's wrist, he noticed a tattoo of a slanted red X. Nightblaze had seen this X a couple times before, when he stopped the lackeys that stole other products made of the metal, Adulium. "Yeah, I figured as much." Nightblaze muttered as he got up and returned to his motorcycle. This was the third robbery in the past two months that he had tracked down that involved the rare and unusual metal, Adulium and he still had no idea who was the mastermind behind the operation. After hopping onto his motorcycle, Nightblaze sped off into the evening road to return to his secret hideout
Meanwhile, back at the Widener mansion, Derek and his party attendees finally got tired of waiting for Zach Davis to return to the party for the ceremony to begin. Nobody saw the fire fighter leave, and Derek was running way behind schedule on delivering his presentation on the Purification Initiative. After spending enough time waiting and acting worried for Zach, Derek was able to accurately portray the false sentiment of worrying about the man's whereabouts. After a while, he made the decision to continue on with the evening's festivities. Deep down, the selfish man knew that everyone really came to this party to hear about his project, so he wasn't really doing anything to distasteful. The idea to continue the party with the dinner party was mentioned to Derek from the beautiful reporter, Amanda Cho-Ming.
"Derek, you should probably go on with the award ceremony without Zach." Amanda said as she avoided eye contact with the billionaire. "You see, Zach has had some…um…family emergencies…that has made his schedule rather, unpredictable." The Crimson Crusade's star reporter had ten years of experience in covering up for the mysterious disappearing act of Zach Davis, that now Amanda would come up with excuses for the hero without giving it a second thought.
Derek gave a short speech about the irreplaceable and honorable characters within Crimson City's law enforcement community that roused cheers and celebration among the wealthy audience, as the mayor of Crimson City awarded each person their medal. After a few pictures of the "Greil Tower Heroes" as the Crusade's newspaper would call these individuals, Derek stepped up to the podium to begin his presentation.
As the billionaire began his speech, he pressed a button on the remote in his left hand and a giant green light projection of the spherical earth appeared above the center of the ball room, for everyone to see. The sphere image twirled around in the ceiling as Widener spoke.
"Consider our majestic planet and home. 70% of the Earth is water. 98% of our water is undrinkable leaving only 2% for the earth to distribute among the roughly 7.8 billion people who inhabit our planet. To be fair, actually about 1.6% of the fresh water we could drink is locked away in polar icecaps, leaving only .4% of the world's water fresh and able to sustain human life. And we wonder why so many countries crave clean water. (There were small pockets of chuckling throughout the room.) For years humanity has known this reality and has done what it can to conserve that .4%. Tonight, Widener Corporation has begun its revolution known as the Purification Initiative.
Many of you look at me and my company and are reminded of my father, Cornelius Widener, who ranks very high on the list of the most wealthy and successful businessmen in history. Of course, while my father may have had a very successful early career we all remember him as the eccentric man who spearheaded the Zichromate Project which of course led to the tragic events that took place in the sinister and draconian labs located in Rome, Italy. The development of the mysterious and highly toxic element, Zichromate drove my father into an obsessive quest that ruined his career. Nowadays at Widener Corp, we have put that page of history behind us, but took a small portion of what my father was working on and have developed a very powerful compound that has the power to purify even the saltiest ocean. No longer will the world be sustained on .4% of our own resources. Thanks to the brilliant minds of Widener Corporation, we will now be able to access our entire supply. I trust I don't have to tell all you fine people what this means for mankind. With more water, this leads to better farming, more food, cleaner regions, and access to much more of the world's resources and untapped human resources. Widener Corporation has taken the first steps in abolishing poverty on Earth."
With this concluding statement the room erupted in applause for Derek and his company. It was clear that the big pockets of Crimson City and all over the US were very impressed with the young billionaire and his charisma. Now in the back of the room taking notes for her interview later with the philanthropist, Amanda scribbled one statement that was at the front of her thoughts as Derek spoke of his Water Purification Initiative. On her notepad read "At What Cost?"