It was easy to forget that a superhero had bills to pay. Rent for secret bases, phone bills for communicators, body armor, weapons, training equipment and then there were all the other random gadgets a team could make use of throughout their careers, such as humanoid chassis for butler drones and quantum field generators that threaten to tear the fabric of the space time continuum.
Or maybe the team just needs to restock the beer fridge. That was part of what got Randall Grey to agree to this job, after all. The construction project down the street had suffered some vandalism and one of their bulldozers was immobilized when the tires got melted.
Inspecting the damage, he could tell it wasn’t the work of some recently empowered teen. The damage to the tires was too direct and intentional. If it were a kid playing with fire erupting from his hands, there would be scorch marks all over the rest of the vehicle and the dirt under it would be green glass.
He leaned in close and checked the burned holes in the rubber. Whoever had done this had been careful to melt large gaps in the tires, but he found a few tears where the sides had blown out from the air pressure, not from burning.
“Hrm,” the big man grumbled to himself as he pushed himself back to his feet.
“Can you do it?” the site foreman asked.
They’d met a couple weeks earlier in a bar down the street. The crew had just broken ground on a new apartment building project and they were already behind schedule on a low-bid project. Randall had given up asking how that was possible. He’d worked with construction firms before, and this sort of thing tended to happen when the upper management was more concerned about getting the contracts than making sure the jobs were done well. It was happening more and more lately, especially with the work in Omega City having been officially completed almost a year ago.
New Harlem was still in development, though. There was something odd about cities built in the wake of the Xenog War. It was as if somebody had told the planners “This is where the pretty things go, here is where the factories will be, and over here, this will be the slums. Because every city needs a slums district.” New Harlem was the city’s slums.
The rest of the city was steel and glass. New Harlem, though, was brick and mortar. It was gritty and dark. Ostensibly, it was meant to match the aesthetics of New York, make the displaced survivors of that ruined city feel more at home. To Randall, though, it was all nonsense and mockery. It was as if somebody was trying to ensure there would always be a lowest caste from which to extract cheap labor, and that they would feel like they needed to be that way.
He wasn’t the only one that felt that way, either. His forays into the local bar scene showed that the population was getting nervous. They were of every race and creed, poured into a custom-made melting pot. The older generations were still sore from the alien invasion, but the younger ones were rapidly picking up where they’d left off before the attacks, and now they had less distance between each other and a whole new slew of weapons to use, not all of which were guns and knives.
Grey pushed the thoughts from his mind. That sort of issue was too big for him, and he was a big guy already. Instead, he turned his thoughts to the task at hand: Moving the bulldozer.
Until the flatbed trailer could be brought in to take it away, the machine was just in the way. Randall was asked to move it out of the way, not investigate the arson. He turned to the detective on duty and the man nodded to the foreman’s question.
“Alright, then,” the big man grumbled and moved to the front of the bulldozer.
“You sure you don’t need help?” the foreman asked, “I mean, you’re big, but this thing is huge. We could pull the cement truck around and tow while you push.”
“You guys are strapped for budget as it is,” Randall replied as he gripped the machine’s blade, “I may as well see if I can earn this check first.”
They weren’t kidding about him being big. The hero stood eight feet tall and was half as wide. Not all of the bulk was fat, either. While Randall did sport a massive beer gut, his arms and legs were as thick as tree trunks and corded with muscle.
He pushed against the massive machine and it didn’t budge, no matter how much he strained. His muscles bulged and sweat started to bead on his brow. Still, he pushed.
After five minutes, he stopped and started chuckling. The foreman and some of the onlooking workers looked to each other and shrugged.
“I know what I forgot, Steve,” Grey said as he waved off the man heading for the cement truck, “Forgot to put her in neutral.”
This got the rest of the construction crew to laugh, too, and once he’d disengaged the gear, Randall was able to move the vehicle smoothly, though it still took some effort. The veins on his limbs glowed faintly, the only hint outside of his incredible size that supernatural forces were at play.
“Thank you,” the foreman chuckled once the vehicle looked settled in the corner of the lot and the big man had cooled down, “And I keep telling you, it’s Esteban.”
“I know, I just like messin’ with ya.”
They shook hands, or wrapped one small tan hand in a massive paw, and Randall made his way to the man in the business suit. He was a representative of Megadynamic Industries, one of the major corporations that helped build the city and the shell company that owned the construction company.
“That’ll be a hundred bucks,” he grumbled down to the suit.
“Sounds a bit steep for the time we lost waiting for you,” the suit grumbled and made no move to open the briefcase he held or reach for a wallet.
“I didn’t start your situation. Somebody who doesn’t like that you’re working here did, but you’ll need to confirm that with the detective. I’m a ‘Hit Things’ hero, son, and sometimes I get to do a little something else, like push a big heavy bulldozer out of the way of honest, hardworking folks who just want to get back to work. If you’ve got a problem with the job I’ve done, I can just put it right back and you can either hire another musclehead who definitely won’t be as cheap as I am or wait for your flatbed.”
“Fine…” the man sighed as he opened the briefcase and scribbled out a company check for the big man, “Some hero. Charging for a civic duty.”
“Hey, not all of us are billionaire playboys whose parents are dead,” Randall grumbled as he took the slip of paper, “And we all still need to eat.”
“Indeed,” the suit muttered.