I’ve played around with some of these characters in previous Scribbles. Ripple Effect, however, would most likely takes place at the very beginning of all those other stories.
I met him in an online chat room for people who were obsessed with superheroes. Among all the screen names that gave homage to Batman, Wonder Woman, and the X-Men, his was simply, “Tech123.” He didn’t contribute too much to the conversations. Rather, he corrected other people’s mistakes:
“Actually, Hawkgirl and John Stewart were only in the cartoon Justice League for gender and race diversity, I imagine. Aquaman and the Green Lantern Hal Jordan had been in their place originally.”
“The first X-Men were Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman, and Marvel Girl (later known as Phoenix). Storm was recruited for the second team.”
“Barry Allen was the Flash before Wally West, not after.”
I noticed that anytime he wasn’t correcting some fan’s misconception, he would attempt to start a discussion about how the people behind the masks became superheroes. I don’t mean the heroes’ origin stories. This Tech guy was talking about the science behind all of it.
Could a man train himself to physical perfection like Batman? Could an Iron Man suit actually be made? Could a spider become radioactive and share its abilities with a human for a real-life Spiderman?
Not many others cared too much about the logic behind the comics (although there was one person whom animatedly spoke of creating a vat of toxic waste – the chat was fairly short that night), but Tech’s thoughts intrigued me. Like many fans, I often wondered what it’s like to fly, to run faster than light, to shape-shift into someone else entirely.
One night there were only a few of us in the chat room, and Tech was arguing with the toxic waste lover about the properties of lightning and its affect on various superheroes. When the argument seemed to be winding down, I interjected and asked if they thought a person’s DNA could be surgically altered to grant him or her powers.
That opened the floodgates. I initially felt guilty when the toxic waste person eventually signed off from being neglected, but Tech’s enthusiastic typing soon drove the thought from my mind.
According to Tech’s many theories, someone’s skeleton could be coated with adamantium like the Wolverine. The surgery would be difficult and the rate of the subject’s survival wasn’t very high, but it was apparently possible. He spoke of a bunch of technology, of actually creating live versions of superhero equipment, such as Wonder Woman’s silver bracelets, an arrow that deploys a net based off of the Green Arrow’s equipment, and even Batarang samples. There were plenty of topics I didn’t understand when he mentioned programs and codes, but he was always nice enough to dumb it down for me whenever I asked. He was just thrilled that someone else shared his interest.
Then the bomb dropped.
“Would you be willing to meet up?” he asked. “I’d love to show you some inventions.”
I didn’t know how to respond. Strangers always made me anxious. Why else would I talk to people on the Internet instead of bars and cafes?
“It would be out in public,” he added after I didn’t say anything for a moment. “Like, the mall or something. There’s no pressure.”
Instead of directly answering, I responded with, “How do you know if we’re in the same area?”
“My computer looks up the IP address of the people I talk to,” he said after a moment. He explained how the different sections of the IP address pinpoint the network and the area of the computer while I inwardly panicked. What else could he tell with an IP address?
“We don’t have to meet up if you don’t want to,” he said, apparently taking my silence as a negative. “I just thought you’d be interested.”
Great, he was making me feel guilty. Sighing, I figured I needed to go grocery shopping soon anyway, so I supposed one more errand wouldn’t hurt. He seemed fine, and there would be plenty of people in the mall so if he turned out to be a psycho, there’d be witnesses.
Before I could change my mind, I sent him a private instant message to figure out the finer details of our meeting. He was as excited as a puppy getting a steak. Perhaps, as an obvious comic book nerd, he didn’t meet too many fellow geeks.
We said good-night after agreeing on meeting in the early afternoon next Saturday at the local mall in the next town over. I shut down my computer and got ready for bed while hoping nothing extraordinary happened during our meeting.