[Artifice Comics] Anthology 2: Heatwave: The Deal
utsukushuu.dreamer at gmail.com
Mon May 19 12:48:41 PDT 2008
>From Artifice Comics - http://www.artificecomics.com
(Heatwave Part 1)
Written by: Adrian J. Watts
Note: The events of this story take place during New Mages: Final Mix
Melbourne, Australia // Earth #746387 // 2002
Lisa Wilson curled up in her large bed and hugged one of her pillows.
She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to block out all of the sounds
that she could hear from her bedroom - the traffic outside, the
television, and the sound of the shower as her boyfriend prepared for
work in the ensuite which shared a wall with her bedhead.
Of all the noise, the television was the hardest to ignore -
Australian Angels was on, and Lisa loved its heart-warming premise -
but it was her boyfriend’s movement that held her attention. Shane
Curtis was a fireman; by all accounts, an exceptionally good fireman -
and in the years that Lisa had known him there had never been a summer
in which he wasn’t called away to fight some sort of massive flame-
Usually, it was a bushfire on the border; but this year, they seemed
relatively under control - still, that didn’t stop her worrying every
morning, as he got ready for work, that he may not come home that
night. So she tried to block out the sounds he made, so she didn’t
have to think about what he was doing or what he might be going to do.
Lisa’s brother, Nico, was also a fireman, but she found she never
worried as much about him. She guessed at one stage that it was
because of their familial relationship - their many years spent
bickering as children. She had chosen to make Shane a part of her
life, and she wanted to keep him close. Things were different with
Nico. He was her brother, but he wasn’t hers - and he had always been
there, until five years earlier when he had moved to Pacific City -
The same Pacific City that filled the television screen, the subject
of an urgent news broadcast interrupting Australian Angels.
“We interrupt this episode of Australian Angels for a breaking news
bulletin from Pacific City!” Lisa opened her eyes just enough to see
the made-up, blonde-hair-framed face of the female newsreader. Lisa
had always wondered how newsreaders managed to look so prepared even
when delivering ‘breaking news’. The newsreader spoke calmly, and Lisa
was not focused on what she was saying as a naked, dripping wet Shane
came out of the ensuite and sat on the bed beside her as he started to
dry himself off.
“It’s ten o’clock, hon,” Shane said as he rubbed the back of his head
with his towel. Lisa smiled up at him - she was completely ignoring
the news as she stared at her boyfriend’s body. He had long black hair
that fell over his eyes at the front and down to his shoulders at the
back and sides. The skin on his forearms and shins was very dark, but
the rest of his athletic body was quite pale. His chest and arms were
marked with scars, and Lisa knew every one of them intimately.
“Come on,” Shane urged her to get up. “You don’t want to miss school
Lisa leaned forward and pulled Shane down, so that he lay directly
across her stomach. He pushed himself up and adjusted his body so that
he lay flat on his stomach beside her, and she ran her fingers softly
across his back.
“Can’t you just stay home with me and… you know…” She grinned.
“You know I can’t,” Shane replied. He stood and walked across the room
to a tall wardrobe. He reached inside and pulled out a black t-shirt,
which he quickly slipped over his head. “You have to go to school
today,” he told Lisa as he continued dressing. “You can’t just - ”
“Okay, okay, okay,” Lisa said. “Fine. You win. Go to work. Put out
fires. Ignore me. I don’t care… but maybe I’ll just light this place
up so you come running home.”
“Maybe you will.” Shane smiled. He returned to the bed and kissed Lisa
on the forehead. “Good luck, honey. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Shane left the bedroom and Lisa listened as he made his way through
the front door. Suddenly, with no other sound to occupy her senses,
Lisa’s attention returned to the television. ” - ity has been
destroyed. We repeat: Pacific City has been completely destroyed.”
Lisa looked up at the television screen and saw aerial shots of a
massive hole in the ground - a hole that, according to the newsreader,
had once been Pacific City.
“N… Nico…?” Lisa stammered.
* * *
Shane pulled into the parking lot of the fire station he called home
for eight hours a day and took a moment to sit calmly inside his car.
Outside, several of his fellow firefighters walked past and one of
them pounded loudly on the back of the car. Shane smiled into the rear-
vision mirror as his colleague gave him a thumbs-up and kept walking.
Firefighting was easier for them - all they had to do was point a hose
at anything red and spray.
Shane was not so lucky.
He was a superhero. Selected from dozens of men who shared his
profession, he was tested, trained and finally given access to a
unique suit of high-tech armour that was capable of flight and
resistant to fire and heat. It could also be sealed with its own air
supply for underwater travel.
It meant that Shane - or, in his Science Hero identity, ‘Heatwave’ -
was tougher than most; but because of that, he was put in situations
with greater pressure, greater responsibility, and greater danger than
those he worked beside.
He pulled himself from his car and made his way slowly into the fire
station. As he entered, he passed the main dispatch office and saw
everyone - every single on-duty employee - gathered around a
television in the corner of the office. He could not see what was
going on, or even hear it over the murmurs and gasps coming from his
colleagues: but something was up. Something serious.
A young woman saw him enter. She would have been no more than twenty
years old. She was a head-or-so shorter than Shane, with long brown
hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. She wrapped her hands around
his chest and squeezed him tight, and he could feel the dampness of
her tears seeping even through his shirt.
“Jen… what’s wrong?” he asked.
“It’s Pacific City!” she sobbed. “It’s been wiped out! Just… gone!”
Shane pushed his way forward so he could get a clear view of the
television. What Jen told him was true - all that was left of Pacific
City was a smoking crater, and the news seemed to recycle the same
shot again and again.
“What’s going on? Can’t they see more? What happened?”
Shane felt Jen’s hand resting on his back and he turned around. She
was staring into his face, almost like she was looking for something.
An emotion, a response, a hint of understand -
“Lisa’s brother,” Shane said. Jen nodded.
A phone rang, the the station chief brushed past Shane as he moved to
answer it. Shane did not even notice; his mind filled with distressing
thoughts. He did not know or care about Lisa’s brother. He had never
met him, and knew very little about him. But he did care about Lisa,
and how she was feeling. If the brother was dead…
“Shane,” the chief’s voice boomed in his ear. “They need you - ”
“In Pacific City?”
“No,” the chief said. “Here, in Melbourne. They’ve got a ‘Heatwave
special’.” The chief looked at the ground, then back up at Shane.
“Pacific City… that’s bad news. They’ll need you there eventually, I’m
sure. But now… can you focus on this, Shane?”
* * *
Shane ran from the office and down a long hall to the station’s
changing room. Despite his status and extra responsibilities as a
hero, Shane received no special treatment - even his bulky Heatwave
armour had to fit within a regular locker. He opened his locker door
and found the red-and-yellow armour waiting for him, and slipped off
his t-shirt so he could change.
“Nice,” he heard Jen say from the doorway. He pulled off his boots
and pants and pulled on the thin, yellow metal mesh leggings that
formed the underlayer of the armour. He placed one foot into each of
the chunky red boots then reached for the mesh shirt.
“Wait,” Jen said. She walked into the room and hugged Shane a
second time. She looked up into his face, smiled, and pressed her lips
against his. He did not pull away; he let her touch him for several
long moments, until she took a step back.
“Jen… I don’t think now is the best time for this,” he said. Jen
and Lisa had been friends for a long time; in fact, Shane had met Lisa
through Jen, at a work function. But over time, he had realised he had
feelings for Jen as well. They could not match what he felt for Lisa…
but what his girlfriend didn’t know…
“Yeah, I guess not,” Jen said. She watched Shane as he continued
putting on the Heatwave armour - the mesh undershirt, the heavy metal
chestplate and gloves. “Have you told her that you’re Heatwave yet?”
Shane lifted the armoured helmet from his locker but paused before
putting it on. He shook his head. “No. She worries enough as it is -
and now, if her brother’s dead…”
Jen nodded and Shane put on his helmet.
“Good luck,” she said. Shane bowed slightly and rushed out of the
* * *
The skyscraper near the centre of the city burned fiercely as Heatwave
approached from the sky. The fire was in the tall building’s top
floors, beyond the reach of the fire engine’s cranes especially with
the poor navigation afforded them by the city’s narrow streets. He did
not pause to check with the men on the ground - Heatwave was only ever
called in for one reason: to search areas for trapped people, clear
them out, and fight the fire from the inside.
Hang on, Shane thought as he blew through a broken window and landed
in an office, surrounded by flames. The chief… he called it a
‘Heatwave special’. That means -
Shane felt the impact on the back of his head even through his
protective metal helmet. He whirled to face his attacker and saw
something unexpected - it was a boy, barely a teenager, if he was one
at all, covered by some sort of hard brown shell. It seemed to melt
around his hands and shoulders, revealing bare, pale skin, but it
No wonder that hurt! Shane realised. He’s covered in… copper?
“I don’t want to hit a kid,” Shane said. “Tell me what’s going on,
surrender, and let me save anyone who’s trapped up here so we can all
go home. Okay?”
The boy shook his head. “There’s no-one up here.”
There was another voice, a woman’s voice, coming from the corner of
the room. Shane turned his head slightly, so he could keep an eye on
the boy while scanning the other side of the room for the bodiless
voice. He did not need to look very hard - a woman, with long brown
hair, tied into a ponytail, and wearing a tight, black, leather
bodysuit. She almost looked like Jen, only older and more determined.
“My name is Lena Kozlov,” she said. “You are Shane Curtis, although in
this form you are also known as Heatwave. Is this correct?”
“Ye - ”
“Of course it is,” Lena interrupted. “You are going to work for me,
Mr. Curtis. I can offer my proposal simply, or we can make a fight of
it. You have already felt one of Copper Boy’s weakest blows. Do you
really want to fight him?”
Shane looked at the boy and shook his head.
“Good,” Lena said. “Rest assured this fire has harmed no-one. We
cleared the workers out first. All of this was merely a ploy to lure
“Me?” Shane asked. “But I’m nobody.”
Lena rolled her eyes. “Don’t speak. I can have the conversation for
both of us. ‘But I’m nobody.’ Not yet, but you will be. ‘How do you
know?’ Trust me, Mr. Curtis. I know. ‘But all this, surely - ‘ No, Mr.
Curtis. Now you must listen to me. You may not believe it now, but the
fate not just of this universe, but the very multiverse itself rests
partly on your shoulders.
“You have a choice to make: come with me now, save us all, and be
rewarded for your efforts. Remain here, fight me, fight Copper Boy and
cause the deaths of thousands - and still save the multiverse. It will
happen, either way.”
“Somehow, I think you’re right,” Shane said. “I won’t fight you. Not
yet, anyway. Not until I hear about this reward.”
“Pacific City has been destroye - ”
“Don’t tell me you organised that, too?” Shane interrupted.
“Of course not,” Lena replied, “but I could have easily prevented it.
Now tell me… your girlfriend’s brother… he was in Pacific City, wasn’t
“Help me, help the multiverse - and you will have the chance to save
Shane swallowed loudly. “But… that’s impossible. Pacific City is
already a hole in the gr - ”
“Nothing is impossible, Shane Curtis,” Lena said. “Not for me. Join
me, and Lisa Wilson may yet see her brother again.”
I could save Pacific City! Shane thought. This hero thing… it was
never really me. But saving all those people - !
“I could save Pacific City…” Shane muttered.
“I offer you the chance to save Nico Wilson,” Lena said. “Anything
else you do is up to you. Will you join me?” Shane nodded. “Good.
Come, take my hand.”
Lena placed her hands in front of her and Shane took one in his own.
On her other side, Copper Boy stepped forward and wrapped both hands
around her wrist. Lena closed her eyes, and a blue mist spread from
her fingertips to cover all three bodies. In a moment, they were gone,
and the flames left with them.
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