The red haired man stared out the twentieth story window at the street below. He sighed. He sometimes longed to be like them—that is to say, normal. It was almost forty-five years ago that he had become “Major Justice” and stopped being plain old Harry Armstrong.
The bright sun shone over central park and warmed his face. His pale synthetic skin was still young and flawless as it did not know how to wrinkle or age. His new arrivals would be here soon, and he would once again be tasked to lead and evaluate a group of diverse individuals with extraordinary abilities so that they may become prospective members of the new society of super humans.
On his eighteenth birthday, Harry Armstrong from Middletown, Connecticut enlisted in the United States Marines. His father had told him it would be a good idea to be proactive and enlist before he was drafted, hoping it might save him from having to go overseas and fight on the frontlines in Vietnam. His father had been wrong.
A high school football star, Harry had been the top recruit in his company at Basic Training, displaying the mental and physical toughness necessary to become a United States Marine. After completing Basic, Harry was immediately shipped off to ’Nam with the rest of his battalion.
As William Tecumseh Sherman so elegantly put it, War is Hell. Harry saw horrors that at the time he thought he would never forget. So many men died at his side in the jungles of Vietnam that he stopped bothering to remember their names. Each day it became more and more difficult to find solace in anything, and every morning he woke up with the simple goal of surviving.
For all intents and purposes, Corporal Harold Armstrong failed to achieve his goal one morning when flying over a South Vietnamese rice field. A rocket propelled grenade launched from somewhere on the ground collided with the chopper he and his squad were riding in, the resulting explosion sending their burning bodies flying through the air and nearly killing everyone who had been onboard the aircraft.
Harry Armstrong should have died that day, but for reasons that were never fully explained to him, the military chose him to undergo an extraordinary new procedure developed by one of their top neurosurgeons. He woke up a week later with his body fully intact, feeling healthier than he had in his entire life.
The neurosurgeon was named Doctor Richard Gray who at the time was world-renowned for his work in theoretical medicine at Stanford. He had used a state-of-the-art bionic skeleton and synthetic skin to repair and improve Harry’s body. Harry had lost all of his limbs in the explosion, and most of his internal organs had been damaged beyond repair including his heart and half of his brain. Somehow the military surgeon had been able to create artificial organs that performed all of the same tasks as the originals only with far greater efficiency. Controlling all of these parts was the world’s most advanced super computer, designed to replace the missing half of Harry’s brain.
In the end Harry woke up appearing brand new. His skin—though relatively flawless—looked and felt like that of a normal man. The new bionic half of his brain had been linked to the organic half and programmed so that he could feel every sensation with his synthetic skin—hot, cold, soft, rough—everything that he could feel and interpret before.
While everything appeared similar on the outside, a great deal had changed on the inside. Ninety percent of his skeleton was now made out of a newly invented alloy that carried the light weight of plastic but had the density and resilience of the strongest metal, making his bones nearly impossible to break. His muscle tissue was also synthetic, partially made from a similar alloy as his skeleton and partially from a softer substance to offer a more organic look and feel. The skeleton and muscle tissue were designed to function as one, and together they reached beyond the capability of that of a normal human being, giving Harry increased strength and agility.
His robotic body was also designed with emergency protocols in place should a piece of him ever be damaged. For example, should his skin become damaged the nerve impulses would immediately shut off in that area of the body to prevent Harry from having to experience the pain and discomfort of such an injury. Beyond surface wounds, should any of his organs be damaged such as a lung punctured, that lung would be shut down and his robotic brain would then reprogram itself to operate as efficiently possible on the remaining lung until the damaged one could be replaced.
His mechanical brain—though magnificent—was the one thing that had scared him the most in the beginning. From the moment Doctor Gray allowed its full programming to take effect after explaining the transformation to Harry, it was as though he was living inside a computer.
In his left eye Harry was able to see a variety of functions just by thinking about them. He was suddenly able to read the vital signs of those around him. The lens of his eye—also synthetic—could zoom in and out like a camera. He could switch his vision between ultra violet and infrared. He could even record and play back memories.
Somehow the doctor had been able to use what was left of the damaged half of his brain to piece together some of his memories and program them into the new robotic half. The science was far above his head, but in time Harry was able to grasp the concepts Gray was teaching him so that he could utilize his bionic mind to its full capacity. One thing he had grasped onto immediately was the ability to erase any unwanted memories. He immediately went in and deleted his memories of the war previous to the explosion in the helicopter. He left only vague details that reminded him that those memories had once existed. It was an exercise he practiced after many military operations that followed, particularly the more gruesome ones.
Once Gray was satisfied that Harry had total control over his new body and mind, the Marines immediately promoted him to Lieutenant and sent him back to Vietnam. It was then that Lieutenant Harold Armstrong became the first ever bionic soldier.
He was put in charge of a platoon made up of what the Marines consider their best men. After discovering his unique physical advantage, the men under his command took to calling him “Bots”—short for robot. At the time he didn’t mind the nickname as it carried a lot of relevance and seemed to connect him to his men. Bots was indestructible and was therefore an officer that every marine wanted to serve under. He would take a bullet—or a hundred bullets for that matter—for anyone without thinking twice because he knew they would bounce right off his synthetic body. He was always the first man in and the last man out of an operation, and for that his men respected him more than any other commanding officer.
However his presence in Vietnam was short-lived as in 1973 the United States pulled its men out of the conflict. They had been horribly defeated, and one bionic man was not enough to turn the tide of an entire war if all the men around him were dropping like flies.
After Vietnam, Harry found himself a bit out of place in the world. He remained with the military, but in a far more specialized role. During the Cold War, the military used him as much as a computer as they did a warrior. His ability to measure slight anomalies in a person’s body temperature and heart rate made him a human lie detector and ultimately the best spy hunter in the business.
For years he struggled with his identity, unable to determine whether he was more man or machine. He still had half a human brain, and therefore still felt and understood all human emotions. Somewhere inside him was the same person he had always been, but it was sometimes difficult to find that person underneath all of the programming. He spent most of his free time on the base, but often found himself reeling from excessive boredom. Occasionally he would try and exercise but always found himself wondering why he should even both. No matter what he did he could neither improve nor worsen himself—it was all a matter of industrial design.
His struggle to find his humanity eventually led to a great deal of pain in his personal life—especially when it came to developing personal relationships. That all changed in the late eighties when he was sent on a mission to rescue American hostages from central Africa. There he discovered that he was not the only extraordinary being on the planet—a discovery that would ultimately lead to the formation of the International Assembly of Super Humans and change his life forever.
It was only after returning from Africa with the hostages that the media first got wind of the fact that the military had a virtually indestructible bionic officer in their ranks. Though at the time he was only a captain, the spin doctors in the media decided to give him an unofficial promotion and donned him the persona of Major Justice.
He absolutely hated the name—he thought it was corny and didn’t like that it was ripped off from one of his favorite patriotic comic-strip characters from when he was a boy—but the media ran with it and whether he liked it or not, it stuck.
He shook his head as he continued staring out the window at the people below. Though his synthetic body had sustained itself physically, mentally he was exhausted from so many years of fighting. There had been a time when the world needed him and others like him to protect it from those that traditional governments and their militaries were powerless to stop. Of course many of the planet’s governments and militaries would scoff at such accusations of ineptitude, but regardless of whether or not those militaries were capable of defending themselves against the world’s greatest threats, the Assembly knew that they could always do the job with far less effort. There was no arguing that.
But everything had changed in time. Now it seemed a new person with supernatural abilities was surfacing almost weekly, and the Assembly was doing all they could to make sure those people turned to good—or at least impartiality—rather than evil. That was why he had chosen to retire from the Assembly and become an ambassador for the recently formed Superhuman Society of Earth, or SSE. In his new position he could help guide and mentor those currently struggling to live among the general population with their gifts the way he had. Though each individual and their powers were uniquely different, the concept was the same. That was the entire purpose for creating the Society—to give the newly developed generation of people with superhuman abilities a place to go where they could feel safe and accepted, away from the temptations of evil.
In the few years leading up to the Assembly’s decision to form the SSE, there had been a spike in attacks on innocent people by super powered individuals. The Assembly found that the cause for many of these attacks stemmed from the culprit either breaking down under the stress of trying to function in a society absent of abilities like their own, or having never been taught the responsibility of wielding great power and therefore tried to use it for their own selfish means. Though there was no denying that some were born unstable and the Assembly would therefore not be able to prevent all future attacks from super humans, their hope was that creating this society would help to prevent most of them.
Personally, Harry was happy to see the motion pass because it offered him the opportunity to finally leave the Assembly without having to walk away from the superhuman community entirely. Aside from the mental fatigue, the game had changed so much in his last five years that he had been searching for a way to exit gracefully without creating conflict. In the beginning they were nothing more than a humble group of individuals using their super powered abilities to fight for what they believed was right. The reason for their existence was to protect the lives of those who couldn’t protect themselves, and they expected nothing in return. Now the Assembly had its own PR department, tasked with signing endorsement deals and movie contracts. He understood that any crime fighting organization—let alone a super powered one in the midst of creating an entire society—had to be funded, but it had too often become a distraction from the real reasons for the organization’s existence.
There were still plenty of bright spots however, and that was why he had agreed to become an ambassador to the Assembly’s new society rather than disappear entirely. He was proud to say that two years removed from its formation, there were now over three hundred powered individuals from all over the globe who had agreed to join the SSE, each of which had been or was currently being trained in how to properly manage their abilities. Once their training was completed each super human was also given the opportunity to apply for membership into the International Assembly of Superheroes itself.
The last word in the name of the Assembly had been changed from “Super Humans” to “Superheroes” upon the formation of the Society to better distinguish between the two. Harry preferred the original name as he hated referring to himself as a “Superhero,” but he understood the reasoning behind it. Many media outlets had been mistakenly calling them that since the beginning anyway.
“Freshman orientation day is it?” A familiar voice called from behind him.
“Jason,” Harry said softly before turning around to greet his old friend and brother in arms.
He paused for a moment, staring into the dark, weathered face of the other former member of the assembly. Jason was a decade younger than Harry, but because of Harry’s lack of organic cells Jason appeared thirty years older. Jason had been a strapping young thirty year-old when they’d first met in central Africa, but his skin had now begun to wrinkle and droop from his square shaped face, his nose had grown larger and filled with small craters, and his hair had grown greyer—though he had recently shaved most of it off.
One feature that hadn’t changed were his dark brown eyes that were distinctively Jason’s. Perhaps it was due to the fact that at one time they were his only facial feature that remain exposed while he was in uniform, but when describing Jason, Harry always thought first of his dark eyes. Also a signature trait of Jason’s was the fact that for as long as Harry had known him, he had never seen him cleanly shaven.
Harry stepped over and shook the hand of his former comrade. “Been a long time.”
“Looking at you you’d never know it,” Jason replied, commenting on the fact that Harry’s body never aged.