SPANISH HARLEM – MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

During a battle between the Young Allies and the Bastards of Evil, Mettle found himself being thrown through the air by the gravity manipulating villain known as Singularity. He was flung through a building where Victor Alvarez lived. Not being able to feel pain or take any physical damage saved Mettle’s life but his hard iridium body destroyed the structure of the building making it collapse. The emergency medical service was on the scene ready to help. There was a brief moment where things looked like they would get worse when a Sentinel appeared followed by two superheroes, Avispa and the White Tiger.

A potential brawl was averted when the pilot of the Sentinel, Juston Seyfert, revealed he was only here to help dig survivors out of the building’s wreckage. Together the three young heroes dug through the rubble until they found the motionless body of Victor. It was the Sentinel that found him. The White Tiger walked over and checked his pulse.

“He’s still alive,” she yelled. “Get a paramedic over her now!”

Everyone looked away long enough to miss Victor’s skin glow and emit a strange orange energy that appeared to bubble off him. When a paramedic reached him he returned to his normal appearance. The paramedic then examined him. He motioned for help to get Victor on a gurney.

“Thanks to you three he will be all right,” said the paramedic. “We’ll get him to a hospital immediately. Please do your best to help find any other survivors.”

Victor was rushed to the Harlem Hospital Center. Out of all the people that lived in the building who were home, Victor was the only one whom survived. His mother arrived as fast as she could and sat at his bedside. While he remained unconscious his mother, Reina, was visited by her brother Ignatio and niece Sofia. Her brother comforted her and told her when Vic got out of the hospital they were to stay with them.


ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


The doctor was surprised to find that Victor had remarkable healing. In just a day he was back on his feet and discharged from the hospital. Together with his mother they went to stay at his uncle’s home while they tried to figure out where they would find a place to live.

“You are one lucky kid you know that?” asked Ignatio of Victor.

“Yeah, lucky,” said Victor.

He went to the room he was staying in. When he went to open the door he tore it straight off the hinges.

“Umm . . .?” He was surprised. “Sorry about that. That’s never happened before.”

“Hmm, don’t worry about it,” said his uncle. “You must have had your Wheaties this morning.”

Victor thought it was odd that the door ripped off the wall so easily. He shrugged it off assuming that it was just poorly constructed, as time went on though it proved to be more than deficient craftsmanship. Anything he touched broke in some way. Pencils snapped at the lightest squeeze, glasses shattered just by being grasped. He had no idea what was going on. One day he was out on the fire escape just watching the city as he tried to contemplate what was happening. That’s when something caught his eye. He saw a superhero, one he knew vaguely about. What caught his attention was the fact that he wasn’t doing anything. He was just sitting there.

Victor thought the hero’s strange costume made him a sitting target. But then he realized something, he wasn’t just sitting there. He was meditating. This was apractice in which an individual trained the mind, maybe this was something he needed after such a traumatic event. Moments later he on his building’s roof where he found a good spot to attempt meditating. He crossed his legs and put his hands together. For some time it seemed like he was just sitting there. He even opened his eyes in frustration, but eventually something started to happen. With his eyes shut he was unaware of what was transpiring. The energy from surrounding areas started feeding itself into him.

This energy or chi started to change the hue of his skin. His usual brown complexion actually started turning orange with matching bubbles of energy pouring out of his skin. The power invigorated him. He felt more energetic then he had ever felt. Feeling this he finally opened his eyes to be surprised by his new physical state. He clenched a fist causing more energy bubbles to form. He looked at the bubbles and let off a little grin.

Following this began what was like a montage of him practicing with his new powers. He found himself some cinderblocks and stacked them in a position in which he may test his might. He sent a fist crashing down. The cement blocks crumbled from one blow. As he continued he started to notice something, he knew how to fight. Well anyone could know how to fight, but what he was performing was Kung Fu.

It’s like a second nature to me, he thought to himself. How am I able to move like this without any training? For that matter how can I generate this strange energy? So many questions and no way to answer them, however there is one thing I can answer. That’s what I’m gonna do with this power. For so long this part of the city has been plagued with crime and the superheroes either ignore it or make things worse. Sure we got a guy running around in red tights that make him look like a devil, but what has he really done? I need to think this out some more.

An hour later he was in his room working on a laptop. Victor didn’t like most of the superheroes that ran around New York but when he thought about them he agreed they had the right idea about one thing, concealing their identity. There were some though who didn’t even bother to hide who they were and he knew that if he were to protect his family from the choice he was making then it would be best to come up with a secret identity.

“But what?” he asked out loud.

“What are you doing?” asked Victor’s cousin Sofia as she walked into his room.

Sofia was a petite young woman with flowing black hair that ran down her back. Both she and Victor appeared of African descent but they had some Spanish blood in their family, it was unclear what but that didn’t matter. The two cousins had a relationship not too different from a brother and sister who had a bit of a rivalry. Sofia liked to joke around with Victor which didn’t always work with how hotheaded and stubborn he was.

“What do you want?” he asked her. “Don’t you have something you could be doing right now?”

“Yeah, what I’m doing is trying to figure out why you’re talking to yourself,” she replied. “You must have hit your head pretty bad when that building fell on ya cuz.”

“The fact that I have to live with you is such a drag.” Victor closed his computer. “If that lousy metal skinned hero didn’t come into our part of town I wouldn’t be in this mess. And knowing how they are I bet he didn’t even give it a second thought about coming back to help.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” she countered. “He came back later and helped dig through the rubble. He and the other heroes that were on scene dug through until everyone was accounted for. Luckily for you, you survived but a hundred and seven people died, including a friend of mine named Javier who was teaching me some self-defense. He said he was mastering the art of Kung Fu.”

What she had said surprised him. Not only did that many people die but one of them knew Kung Fu. He thought perhaps that was the reason he knew Kung Fu. Maybe his absorbing abilities kicked in right when the building was collapsing on him and in turn he absorbed the knowledge of his cousin’s friend. He decided to walk away from his cousin and went back to the roof to be alone. He thought about the building collapse and the Young Allies member that caused it. He thought about what his next move was. It was then when he saw an old picture of crime fighting partners and Heroes for Hire, Power Man and Iron Fist.

“Hmm, what a sellout,” he said. “Luke Cage should be back here protecting the neighborhood but instead he’s playing around with that guy in green tights. I’ll show him a true Power Man.”

A week passed since that moment. A local store in Spanish Harlem was in the process of being robbed. Two ski-masked wearing men ran out of the convenience store. Just before they could get away they were grabbed by the collar. Caught off guard, the men looked back to see Victor dressed in a yellow and black body suit with metal embellishments. They couldn’t make out his face while he lifted them off the ground due to a pair of goggles he wore and his body suit that covered the sides of the lower half of his head.

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” asked one of the robbers.

“I’m Power Man,” he replied. “How unlucky for you two that you get to be my first set of criminals to get their faces bashed in.”

“Ain’t happening pal,” said the other robber who freed himself and pulled a gun on Power Man. “Now drop my partner before this becomes the first time you get shot.”

Power Man’s skin began to glow orange, “Go ahead. Let’s see what happens.”

The crook shot once and the bullet ricocheted off of Power Man’s chest. The shooter became nervous at the thought of a bulletproof man. Just then Power Man slung the other in his grasp at his partner. They picked themselves up and one turned into an uppercut that sent energy flying all over. He was knocked clean out. The other threw a punch that was easily caught. Power Man kicked out his leg and while the man dropped he decked him on top of his head. Power Man then grabbed the stolen items and handed back to the shop owner.

“No need to thanks,” said Power Man. “Just tell your friends that there’s a new hero for hire in the city. If anyone needs help they can hit me up through Craigslist, where I have reasonable rates.”

Later that night Power Man stood on a rooftop looking down upon the city. He had patrolled the area of Spanish Harlem to help spread the word of his existence. After fighting a couple more crooks he stopped here to decide what to do next. He didn’t know that while he was stuck in thought someone had joined him. A woman in a white costume with three black stripes on her shoulders, hips, and thighs and a green amulet around her neck was crouching down behind him. The only known feature of hers that the costume didn’t conceal was her flowing black hair that ran down her back.

“So you’re the infamous ‘hero for hire’ I’ve been hearing about?” she asked.

“Hmm?” Power Man wondered who was speaking to him as he turned around. “Wait, you’re the White Tiger. I’ve been hearing from people that you been running around my neighborhood lately. Do you live around here? It’s rare to get someone out here that cares about fighting crime in this part of the city. Of course that’s changing now that I’m on the scene.”

“As I hear,” said the White Tiger. “You’ve been busy today haven’t you? You call yourself Power Man, an interesting name choice. What’s your connection to the original?”

“I don’t really have a connection with him,” he answered. “What about you? I thought the White Tiger was supposed to be some dude, not a chick.”

“You’re referring to my brother,” she explained. “And I don’t like being called a chick. Look I didn’t really come here to discuss our superhero heritage. I needed to see you for my own eyes. So you’re selling the use of your powers? That’s not what a real hero is. A hero is someone who selflessly puts their own life on the line to protect others. Me, I’m following in my brother’s footsteps and trying my best to give back to the Spanish community. You should consider doing the same, we don’t have many heroes that will protect our own people.”

“Nice little speech,” he laughed a bit. “But really what hero isn’t in this thing for themselves? I see no harm making a little cash doing this. If Cage and Fist can do it so can I.”

“Did you know there is gang war erupting all across the city right now? Are you gonna let this city suffer while you wait for someone to hire you to get involved? New York faces the most tragedies in the entire country. We still haven’t fully recovered from when those insects attacked.”

“Look, don’t lecture me . . .” Power Man stopped when both he and White Tiger heard gunshots.

“That came from nearby.”

Together they went to investigate. They found someone lying face down on the street. The White Tiger looked to see if anyone else was around. Power Man rolled the person over to be shocked that it was a costumed man, wearing an all red suit with what looked like wings attached to his arms. On his face was a red facial mask with what looked like a yellow crest centered on it.

“I know him,” claimed the White Tiger. “He called himself Redwing, after the pet sidekick of the Falcon. He was also new on the scene. It looks like he’s been shot.”

It didn’t take long for the police to arrive. The sound of their sirens caught the two heroes off guard. They both decided to flee before the police would notice them. From a distance they watched as the police examined the fallen hero. A female officer shook her head after checking his pulse.

“Another gunned down vigilante,” said another officer. “This is the fourth in the last few days. Check him, see how young he looks.”

“He’s just a kid,” answered the female officer. “Of these four we picked off the street all of them have been in their teens. I don’t get what’s going on. What’s with this increase in teen superheroes and who’s after them? Let’s get him to the coroner’s officer so we can identify him.”

“Did you hear that?” asked the White Tiger who hid behind a dumpster.

Power Man was behind a number of trash cans when he nodded his head, “Yeah, someone’s offing young heroes. Great time for me to make my presence known.”

“You idiot.” The White Tiger sat up against the wall. “Things are getting worse in this city. We have to get to the bottom of this. Do you know how many young heroes there are? Araña and her New Slingers, the Young Allies, the New Warriors, the list goes on. More the reason for you to forget about charging for your services. Come on let’s start investigating.”

While she talked Power Man pulled out his phone to check the time, “Oh @#$%, mom’s gonna kill me. I gotta go. I’d say it was nice meeting you but well it really wasn’t. Deuces!”

White Tiger was left dumbfounded. She couldn’t believe there was such a guy claiming to be a hero with an attitude like that. She stopped thinking about it when she heard the police coming her way. She quickly pounced up and used her speed and agility to reach the skyline. With one look back she left.

Victor had raced home without being seen. He changed to normal clothes and entered his temporary home hoping to sneak in. Once in he first saw Sofia reading on the couch. She gave him a look that told him he was in serious trouble. His mother stormed out of the kitchen.

“Boy, where have you been?!” she yelled. “Do you know what time it is?!”

“Mom, I just lost track of time while studying at the library,” he tried to come up with a cover story. “There’s no need to get all bent out of shape.”

“Oh, bad move Vic,” laughed Sofia.

After she slapped him in the back of the head he backed off and went to his room. He locked himself in ignoring his mother yelling at him from the outside. This was typical thing for them. Reina would set up some ground rules for Victor to abide by and he would disobey his mother, resulting in numerous arguments between the mother and son. It did appear that Reina was too hard on the boy at times but she really was only looking out for his best interests. Reina loved Victor like any mother would. She had just been concerned that he might turn out like his father, who back in the day clashed with Luke Cage under the persona of Shades.

Victor went the rest of the night not saying a word to his mother. The next morning he woke and instantly went to his computer to check if he had any job offers. He was surprised to find that his email inbox had been blowing up while he was sleeping. A smirk grew on his face. He peeked out his room to see if the coast was clear. Reina had already left for work and he was aware of this but still felt the need to be cautious.

He quickly gathered some clothes and went into the bathroom. The first thing he noticed walking in was that his cousin’s clothes from the other night were cluttered all over the bathroom floor. He was disturbed by the sight of her undergarments. He laid his clothes on the sink countertop and jumped in the shower trying to overlook the scattered clothes.

“She has got to be the messiest girl I know,” he said to himself.

Victor started accepting the requests for help and set out as Power Man. The first one turned out to be a bit of a drag. He had to help an old lady get her cat out of a tree. A couple more turned out to be similar tasks that really just needed his clients to just show a little bit of effort and take care of them themselves. Finally things started to pick up with a missing persons case. Power Man followed the clues and found his way to a warehouse where the woman he was searching for was chained to a metal structure. Using his powers to absorb the chi around him he increased his strength to snap the chains in half. Just as he freed the captive he was surrounded by her kidnappers.

“We got ourselves a trespasser, boys,” said one of them.

Power Man’s face lite up with delight and the orange glow that came with the increased use of his powers. He ran in without hesitation and knocked the kidnappers around ending with him plowing the final one through the warehouse wall. Moments later, Power Man stood in front of a man who paid the hero for his services. The police hauled the kidnappers away and the family was reunited.

His adventures continued as Power Man chased off some hookers and then ambushed a group in the midst of a drug deal. He slammed one person into the hood of a car. Another person tried to pull a gun on him but Power Man grabbed their arm by the wrist and kicked them in the side making them drop their gun. A woman ran from one of the vehicles with a man not too far behind. Power Man ripped a mirror off one of the cars and chucked it at the man knocking him down.

“Damn, not gonna be able to catch that chick,” said Power Man. “But still I got most of them.”

After putting an end to a couple robberies he came across the White Tiger once more. She waved one of her index fingers to get him to follow her. They journeyed a good distance before arriving where the White Tiger wanted to bring him.

“Look I’m not able to run from rooftop to rooftop like you can,” he whined a bit winded. “Not all of us were blessed with cat-like reflexes.”

“Will you shut up?” she sighed. “I brought you here for a reason. This is a funeral home. There’s a particular funeral happening today that I feel we need to show our respects.”

“Someone you know died?” he asked. “Why’d I have to tag along? We don’t even know each other that well.”

“You remember what happened the other day, right?”

Power Man took a second to think back. “Oh, yeah you mean bird boy. Is that who this funeral is for?”

“His name was Redwing, show some respect!” she yelled at him. “You have got to be the most ill-mannered superhero I’ve ever met. So you don’t want to be involved with this problem we’re all facing. What if the roles were reversed? What if it were you lying in that casket, your mother crying over your dead body, and your sister doing her best to try and console her despite being just as heartbroken?”

That’s exactly the scene as the White Tiger described it. The young man named Sean Peters who masqueraded as an avian-themed superhero lied in a casket while his mother broken down in front of friends and family. Sean’s younger sister Kari did her best but nothing could help a mother who was burying her own child.

“Can’t answer me?” asked the White Tiger.

“No, it’s just me and my mother don’t see eye-to-eye,” he replied and turned away. “Look I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, but I wish you’d just leave me alone.”

“Then what about your dad? You’re getting involved in something dangerous. You need to consider the consequences that could affect your family. And if you’re serious about keeping up with this second life style you’ll have to think hard about what position you’re in involving the serial killer that’s targeting young heroes. You won’t be able to avoid it forever. I know where I stand. I won’t turn my back on the others. I’ll join them in opposing whoever is doing this and put a stop to it. Think about it Mr. Hero for Hire.”

“Hmph.” Power Man walked off.

LATER…

Kari Peters was in her brother’s bedroom cleaning up. Her mother couldn’t bear to enter the room. Kari picked up a few things and placed them on shelves. After a bit of tiding up she noticed something underneath his bed. She got down on her knees and pulled out a case that she placed on the bed. Opening the case she found a red and white costume.

To be continued in Young Allies!