ROCKET MAN
Part 1: A Day in the Life of Richard Rider

Written by:
ANTHONY CRUTE


Rider House, New York City, Earth (SP3), Milky Way, 8pm…

“What the hell do you mean you’re dropping out!” screamed Rider. His face was red as he shouted and the pressure vein on his forehead throbbed. His glasses rested askew on his face as he shouted and a lock of his slightly greying hair fell forward over his forehead. He was forty-five but looked older, part in fact due to the stress brought upon him by his eldest child Richard who he at the moment was screaming at.

“I mean I’m dropping out dad! I’m handing in the forms tomorrow and in three to five days I will officially no longer be a student at ESU” yelled back Richard Rider. Richard was the eldest son of Charles and Gloria Rider. He was born shortly after Gloria left college and Charles was a full fledged pharmacist well onto his way as running his own business.

“Rich watch your attitude when you’re speaking to your father” Gloria’s voice was raised but she was trying not to shout as she tried to calm down the situation. Her husband and son had many differences but they had even more similarities. They were both stubborn and neither could ever back down. Richard’s smart mouth never helped anything. Gloria was younger than her husband and looked even younger than she was.

“The hell you’re dropping out, we paid for that damn course and you’re going to goddamn finish it!”

“What your father is trying to say,” Gloria silenced her husband and son with a flat palmed hand in each direction. She was a psychology major in college and after Richard was born focused on child psychology. Her practice was highly successful and brought in a lot of money but despite the focus of her career being elsewhere she still kept abreast of other forms of psychology…which were most helpful in her household as she tried to calm the men in her life. “…You worked so hard last year to get your grades up why just throw it away now?”

“Christ!” yelled Richard, he slammed his elbows down onto the table and then threw his face into his cupped hands. He remained sitting in the pose for a few seconds before moving his hands up over his face and through his thick brown hair. “I pulled up my grades because you wanted me to go to college, I didn’t want to but you told me to give it a chance for a semester and see what I think….I think I hate it!” Richard stopped shouting and slumped back in his chair “I don’t want to be at college.”

“What do you think you’re going to do then? Do you know how hard it is to get a decent job without a college education in the current market!” Charles unlike Richard wasn’t slowing down in his tirade.

“Gee Dad I don’t know I was thinking of working in a bar for the rest of my life! Fireman! Cop! Army! Navy! Hell I could be a mechanic and still earn a more than decent wage!”

“You’re always looking for the easy way out aren’t you, never want to work hard for a damn thing. You never have and you never will, school’s hard so you drop out…use your brain for once Rich.”

“What the hell’s wrong with being in the army or being a cop or…” Richard’s voice picked up again as he stood to his feet and pressed down hard on the table, his hands were balled into fists. His temper was well and truly flaring now, he was an average guy in every way living in an exceptional family and no matter how hard he tried it was never good enough and his father always put it down to laziness.

“…What’s wrong if you want to do them for the wrong damn reason. You want to be a hero and get all the attention. You want to get yourself killed to feed your ego! You’re a kid who thinks he’s a man and you just think… ”

“@#$% you Dad just @#$% you!” Rich practically screamed. He hated his dad standing in judgement over him, thinking he knew Rich better than he knew himself. He was so condescending about everything Rich cared about.

“Richard! That is enough!” screamed Gloria. She stood up and turned her body to her son. Her tone was unmistakable and it silenced Richard. He was breathing heavily and his face was almost as red as his dad’s as he tried to calm himself.

“God Rich just stay at college,” Rob shook his head as he looked up at his older brother. Rob was everything Gloria and Charles Rider wanted in a son and everything Rich was not. He was scarily smart and excelled in school, he was only sixteen but he’d been skipped ahead a few grades so he was only a year behind Rich…even that wasn’t challenging enough for him.

“Shut the hell up Rob!” barked Rich at his little brother. Rob grinned slightly. The little snot loved seeing Rich get in trouble.

“Don’t speak to your brother like that…” Charles Rider began to yell. Rich just threw up his hands, pushed back his chair with the back of his legs knocking it too the floor and began to walk out of the room.

“Richard! Don’t walk away from me when I’m talking to you,” screamed Charles without moving. He wasn’t going to give in and go after Rich he was going to make him come back. The slamming of the front door and then the engine of Rich’s car outside let him know he might be waiting awhile.

There were a few beats of silence in the dinning room as the three remaining Riders waited to think what would be best to say. “You shouldn’t have started shouting,” said Gloria.

Rich’s car, a few minutes later…

Rich turned the wheel rather sharply round the corner causing his car tires to squeal a little. The noise snapped Rich out of his funk and made him slow down a little. He didn’t want to cause an accident. He had put enough room between him and his house over the last few minutes that he didn’t think he would scream if he stopped. He pulled over slowly and turned the engine off. He sat all hunched over and tense, his thin body (due to a complete lack of any sort of sporting prowess) sat shaking with anger under his black T-Shirt.

Rich began to punch the steering wheel of his car. He was just so damn sick of it all. He was doing badly in his classes, subjects he didn’t even care about and all his parents had done for the last semester was tell him he needs to try harder…he was trying his damn hardest and still he was doing badly. They would never understand what it was like to be him. They were bright and excelled at things while he just seemed to hang around in the middle of the pack no matter how hard he tried.

Rich stopped punching his car and sat quietly for a few seconds feeling like crap. He had no real right to be angry at his parents and the rest of his family (not just his brother but cousins and uncles and aunts) for being exceptional. Every single one of them was exceptional at some pursuit or another while he was not exceptional in anyway shape or form. Blaming them for it was just another thing he did wrong and it made him feel more like crap than failing at everything he tried.

He just wished they’d understand that he wasn’t like them but they couldn’t. They couldn’t understand what it was like to try your hardest and fail, they’d never experienced that.

Rich ran his hand through his hair and exhaled slowly. The anger he had at his family was already going away. He always calmed down almost immediately when he got away from his dad but when the two were together and arguing it was like a red rag to a bull for him. He reached for his phone and then paused he didn’t really know who he would call.

He needed somewhere to go but in his rush he’d left without any cash. “Cap” thought Rich.

Cap was one of Rich’s best friends (along with Ginger who was out of town visiting a sick relative). His real name was Roger but the fact he hated that name coupled with the fact that he had worn a cap pretty much everyday of his life since kinder garden had earned him the name Cap.

The phone rang a few times before Cap answered. “Yellow.”

“Hey Cap it’s me,” Rich paused and waited as Cap said hi and asked what was up.

“You mind if I come on over for a while?” There was a silence on the other end of the phone for a few seconds. Rich could still hear his friend breathing but he was silent.

“Erm listen Rich I’ve kinda got Vicki coming over in about ten minutes sooo…”

Rich chortled slightly, “No sweat man…have a good time.” Vicki Martinson was a girl who had been in their school. Cap had been head over heels in love with her for years and she didn’t even notice him. The two had ended up volunteering at the same homeless centre over the summer (both needing a little something extra on their transcripts) and now Rich was actually beginning to believe Cap had a chance.

Rich dropped his head back and pushed it hard onto the headrest as he stared at the top of his cap and drummed on the roof. He could go home but he knew his dad would still be hot about the argument (Rich cursed himself for swearing at his dad) and it would only get him started and the whole thing would kick off again.

Rich sighed as he turned the key in the ignition and waited for his car to purr to life. He had only filled his car up the day before so he had plenty of gas and a drive wouldn’t hurt.

569,000,000, 000 miles from Earth (several hours ago)…

His name is Rhomann Dey.

He was a centurion from the planet Xandar and shot through the dark atmosphereless ‘sky’. He was a member of the intergalactic peace keeping force known simply as the Nova Corps earning the centurions the nickname Novas. These centurions are known as such because they tap into a primal force of the universe known as the Nova-Force.

It is the chicken and the egg of the universe whether they were named after the force or the force was named after them. The true answer is in ages past and still in many places across the galaxy the Nova-Force is known by numerous names and has only in ‘recent’ galactic records been known as the Nova-Force named after its users.

The reason Xandarian centurions have for ages uncountable been known as Novas is simple. They are the best and the brightest, the most powerful force in the universe. Throughout all the different intergalactic dynasties of conquerors and peaceful explorers none have burned brighter or hotter than the Novas. Their ideals, their example to the universe shines like a beacon. They more than anyone else represent the power held inside a super Nova at the moment of explosion.

The Nova-Force propelled his body through the dark skies leaving a golden trail behind him. Energy bled from the side of him out into the darkness like blood in water. That is exactly what it was, he was badly injured and the golden light of the force was leaking into the darkness.

He burned through the darkness. He suddenly spun out of control as a blast glanced his side and caused the energy to flare uncontrollably. He didn’t know if he was going up or down and he knew honestly in space it didn’t matter as it was all relative. He extended the power again causing a huge flare but it stopped the spin on his humanoid body and allowed him to stop.

Pain ripped through his body as a beam of red energy struck him. He screamed aloud inside his vented costume. The space as ever outside remained deadly quiet.
“Worldmind…locate planet with sentient life!” commanded the Nova to the supercomputer which ran the Nova Corps. The computer located instantly as it crosschecked scans and star maps and beamed an image onto his visor. “Prepare Force evacuation procedure!” the computer blinked lights on the visor when it was ready.

“Execute!” commanded the Nova. That’s exactly what it did. The command gathered the power of the Nova Corps from within the Nova like a sponge with water and ran it through the matrix of the suit like charging a battery. The suit slowly melted away from the Nova’s body leaving him alone and floating in space. He was dead instantly.

The uniform melted upwards and inside the golden helmet which bore the five pointed arrow head symbol of the Nova Corps and then it was gone. It hurtled through the cosmos heading to the closest inhabited planet. Once it reached its fastest impulse speed it slipped through hyperspace travelling vast distances in a second. It’s mission to locate a sentient being able to carry the Nova-Force. The hope being that being will be able and worthy to carry the power of the Corps.

The body of the ex-Nova floated in space limp and alone as the shadow of the ship which had been pursuing him slowly crept over his form. It kept going and soon completely passed him. The inhabitants of the small cruiser were not interested in him, the only interest they had was the Nova-Force which was speeding away from them.

The computer onboard the ship bleeped, without the Nova steering it the World mind had taken over and would revert to its programming of finding the quickest route to a planet containing sentient life as ordered. The computer extrapolated its trajectory and located its destination. The Planet in the Sol system known as Earth.

Earth, Fresh Kills…

Richard sat on the hood of his car watching the seagulls picking rubbish apart by the light of flood lamps. He had drove for an hour or so. He had gone a fair distance as the roads were unusually empty for this time of night.

He stared out at the landfill site. He snorted a slight chuckle. He of course had heard the urban legend that the Great Wall of China was the only man made structure which was visible from space. He had believed it for about two seconds before he realised despite its length it wasn’t very wide (nineteen feet) which would mean it wasn’t visible from space. He then found out at 2200 acres and 25 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty this landfill site was the only real manmade structure visible from space. He found something mildly funny about that. An alien zooming past would see a rubbish dump as man’s biggest contribution to the planet.

The site had been the source of consistent complaints from well before Rich was born. In the early 2000’s the government caved and built a plant to get rid of all of the trash. It was a slow process.

Rich stretched and lay back on the hood of his car with the back of his head on the windscreen. He was mostly calm now and he was just waiting for the optimum time when his father would be similarly calm…if he waited too long his dad would be mad about that.

He was rolling around thoughts about the argument in his head. It was so clear earlier in the night. He knew exactly what he was going to do. He knew there would be resistance from his father but he had planned to just tell him and then ignore his arguments and just hand the form in. He was now beginning to think about maybe sticking in at college.

Rich shook the thought from his head as he sat up again. He had decided college wasn’t for him and he wasn’t going to let his dad change his mind. The form was filled out already and it was in his pocket all he needed to do was just hand it in. He wouldn’t be pushed into doing something he didn’t want to.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of miles above the Earth the golden helmet of the Nova Corps hurtled past the moon on a direct course towards Earth. It had travelled the distance from the death of its wearer to Earth in just under nineteen hours by travelling through a jump tube it created. The jump tubes are a system of travel used by Nova’s allowing faster than light travel by slipping out of normal space and through a pocket dimension much smaller than our own but which can open portals to almost any place in the known universe. There use was a great strain on the Nova though and they were dangerous on longer journeys so were only used sparingly relying on normal impulse or stargates set up across the galaxy for longer journeys.

The eyes of Uatu the Watcher watched the helmet as it streaked past the moon and plummeted towards Earth at its top speed. Uatu was one of the near omnipotent beings known now to the universe as the Watchers. They were one of the first species in the universe, in the current times they watch the universe. Their species were evolved beyond the point of so many species in the universe they felt their involvement with any species could unfairly influence the universe. They began to watch, unacting and some would say unfeeling.

He slowly turns his attention to the object.

The helmet burns through the atmosphere of earth like a bullet through tissue paper. The heat of the friction causing the oxygen to burst into flame. The debris collected in its wake throughout its journey followed as it lit on fire like a tiny comet. It was about to change the life of one unsuspecting individual.

Earth…

Rich slowly slid from the hood of his car and his feet hit the floor. He walked round the side of his car and opened the door. He began to climb in when a noise caught his attention.

Rich looked up to the sky. He was in awe.

Rich’s body was frozen in fear, he couldn’t move. He could barely even think of moving as he stared at the bright light which seemed to be hurtling towards him.

The object took the image of a flaming ball of fire. The fire burnt blue with the power of its heat. What was most unusual though was the long trail of golden light behind it. As it hurtled closer its light bathed its surroundings and blew the trash in the dump in all directions with a major force. His brain suddenly kicked his body into action as he suddenly became aware of himself but it was too late.

The light seemed to explode around Rich. If anyone was watching other than the lone figure on the moon they would see him pulsing with power and light from his very core. The Nova-Force passed from Rhomann Dey span and twirled in Richard’s body and soul as it ignited the flame each being has inside themselves making it possible for him to access the Nova-Force.

The bond between sentient life form and the Nova Corps has happened throughout the universe billions of times of over immeasurable years. The force ignites within them and then should they not know (if their species has not yet reached space travel, all species who have intergalactic travel know of the Novas) they are instructed on what the Nova Corps is and what their new role entails. This unfortunately for Richard Rider did not happen, the blasts from the alien spaceship which had so badly damaged Rhomann had also badly damaged the suit. That followed by the wormhole travel and the entry to the atmosphere had stripped away pieces of the technology in the suit. Richard Rider would soon find himself wielder of the power of the Nova-Force which he would have no idea how he attained.

Richard stumbled back, his hand pressed hard onto the side of his car as he tried to steady himself. He tightened his hand on the metal as he tried to ground himself and feel something solid, the metal crunched beneath his hand.

Rich stumbled forward away from the car. He glanced over at the crumpled metal and began to stumble forward. He didn’t know what was going on, his head was swimming and he felt nauseous. All he could do was thinking of getting away from the place. He had crushed the front of his car and he didn’t know how, it was impossible but he had done it. He turned to again look at the car and took a few steps back, he fell.

His arms flailed as he made his way to the ground and a beam of energy shot down his arm and onto the car. The energy seemed to ripple along its length for a few seconds and then there was silence.

BOOOM!!!!

The car exploded and launched itself into the air where it span before coming down on its side. Smoke was already billowing from it.

Rich stared at his hand from where the energy had extended from. He now noticed his hands were gloved in a dark blue cloth. The colour continued and stretched up his arms. He shifted his attention to the rest of his body, the blue skin tight costume stretched over his body.

On his chest were three yellow circles which seemed to glow gently. The two outer circles were connected to the middle (and lower) circle by a yellow line. Rich’s hands moved to his face and felt the smooth metal helmet which seemed to cover his head.

Richard placed a hand on either side and began to push up. The helmet slid off with no problems. The helmet collapsed in his hands so when he looked at it, it seemed to be just a golden cloth. The cloth had two eye holes, a large portion missing from nose to chin and a five pointed arrow head between the eyes.

“What the hell is going on?” thought Rich. His head felt like he had been riding a rollercoaster for hours as it swam around. He had crushed metal and fired energy from his hands and now it seems someone had dressed him in an odd costume like some superhero without his knowing.

He looked at the smouldering wreck of his car and climbed to his feet. He swore aloud, his phone was in the car which meant it was now gone. He needed help and it looked like he was going to have to walk.

Rich had never been one to mope about anything for long so once he knew what he had to do he set off on the long walk home…or to the nearest phone where he’d call home reverse charges.

Rich walked for about ten minutes before he had to stop. He leaned up against the fence which ran all around the dump site. His head was still spinning. He didn’t know but it was the power coursing through him, his body was trying to adapt (if his costume was functioning correctly it would have helped him deal with the changes).

He pushed away from the fence as soon as he thought he had his bearings and took a few steps forward. The wave of dizziness struck him again and he found himself tipping sideways. His feet tried to catch him as his weight moved sideways but instead they just made the problem worse as he hurtled forward and over the edge of the road which looked out on the sea.

Rich screamed and outstretched his hands in front of him. Like everything else in life he wouldn’t have said he was particularly adept at swimming but in his weakened and confused state he knew if he ended up going under the water he doubted he would come back up.

When the cold water didn’t engulf him Rich opened his eyes and stared at the water swirling a few feet in front of his face. He turned his head and stared down at his body which seemed to be suspended above the water. If he didn’t know any better he could have sworn he was flying.

Rich’s arms flailed in a panic as he tried to right his position but all he seemed to do was flail in the air. <i.”Come on Rich think you big dumb…” Rich’s thoughts trailed off as he began to think about righting himself. He slowly began to move to an upright position, he had just thought about it and he found himself moving.

His heart was pounding rapidly in his chest. His head was doing likewise. “You gotta figure something out Rich!” he lectured himself. “What’s going on? How to control this if you can! Anything!” Rich was racking his brain for all of a second when one thought crossed his mind. “Get Help!…you’ve got to get out of here!”

Rich didn’t even have time to finish the thought. The idea of leaving the place and getting help had crossed his mind and less than a split second after that he was rocketing into the air screaming all the way.

The G-Force felt heavy on his face and chest rippling flesh across his face and it felt like his head was going to explode. He remembered the solid metal of the helmet on his head up until he had lifted it off and it turned to cloth. The cloth he held in his hand. Rich moved his hands up slowly and dragged the cloth across his head. The second he had pulled it over his features he felt the helmet shift and its hard edge pressing onto his shoulders. The G-Force on his face ended.

He opened his eyes and looked through the holes in the solid golden metal. The Earth below him passed as a blur, the darkened ground dotted with lights which caused streaks of light. He had turned aright angle from heading up and was heading along horizontal to the ground.

Rich’s mind raced as he tried to make out what was going on below him. He knew he was flying and he knew he seemed to be able to control it with his thoughts so with the lack of options he had his best bet was to just go with it. He knew a more likely explanation was he was dreaming or concussed and imagining it all but in that case there was very little he could do about it.

When he thought about just going with the flow of his odd evening the ground seemed to pick up speed as if he had given himself over to the power and since he was no longer fighting it. “STOP!” he screamed this time aloud rather than to himself.

He stopped dead in the air. The ground below him was familiar as down town. The buildings were three or four stories high and the side walk was dotted with trees. He had travelled about forty miles in just under a minute. He bit his lip as he looked around and tried to figure out what to do. The obvious answer was to head home but he wasn’t sure what he would do once he got there, he had to figure things out and his dad would probably still want to argue. When you toss into that the fact that he no longer had his car who knew what would happen when he got home.

He turned his head to the left and looked towards Greenacres. Greenacres was a long street that looked more at home on the outskirts of town with its big gardens and picket fences then it did only a few blocks from down town. It was however luckily where Cap lived. Rich knew Cap had Vicki over but if worst came to worst he would hide out in their old tree house until she was gone.

Rich bit his lip as he tried to focus on heading towards Cap’s house. He didn’t want to kick into a lot of speed because it was only a ten minute walk away and he just knew he’d end up out to sea or something.

His plan didn’t really work as he shot through the air as if he was guessing he’d say about ninety miles an hour. He was a human rocket. He mentally screamed stop after a few seconds and looked down at the scene below him.

He had overshot Cap’s house and found himself half way down the street just a few inches away from a large oak tree the two used to get wrong for climbing back in the third grade. Rich didn’t like to think about what would have happened if he had collided with it.

He outstretched his hand and grabbed one of the branches and began to pull himself towards the tree. He worked himself downward with his hands rather easily. His body felt as light as air and so pushing himself down while his body seemed to want to go up wasn’t too hard.

Once he had lowered himself enough he reached out with his left hand as far as he could and seized the side of the house and pulled himself to it. Rich gazed at Cap’s house six houses down and slowly began to work his way across the length of the gutter with his hands. Once he had reached the end of the house he glanced at the next house which was about twenty feet away and prepared to push himself off.

Rich sailed across the gap as he pushed and with an outstretched hand seized the side of the gutter and carried on.

He repeated this procedure several times until finally he reached Cap’s house and edged along to Cap’s window which overlooked part of the roof and the back garden.

Rich peered through the window at the back of Cap’s (ever Capped) head. Vicki had called off their meeting due to a family emergency. Cap had tried to contact Rich but had got no answer and so resigned himself to a night of RPG on the net.

There came a slow tapping at the window before it slid open. Cap turned to see what was going on. He stood to his feet. In school he used to be a chubby short guy with long blonde hair. Since leaving he seemed to come into his own growing a good five inches losing a lot of weight and getting a hair cut (though still hiding it under his cap).

He screamed as the golden helmeted and blue suited being floated in through the window and floated in the limbo between ceiling and floor. “Cap we need to talk!”

Meanwhile…

The Watcher’s eyes slowly paned across the sky as he watched the ship moving towards the moon. Their equipment had located the Nova-Force and they prepared to beam down and retrieve it.

Uatu the Watcher turned his attention back to Richard Rider. He was sworn never to interfere in the pursuits of mortals but slowly and silently began to speak. He prayed to a god long forgotten to everyone but the Watcher’s. He prayed for the poor Earth child’s safety.

To be continued…

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