by Benjamin (Fireman) Ronning
What happens when fiction becomes reality? When suddenly the words on a computer screen or printed on paper become reality. For an association of six friends their fantasy lives suddenly became very real and were thrust into a life of adventure and danger. All of them unprepared for the perils ahead…
In a different life I was called Patrick Mains blessed with family, friends and a stable life but now ol’ Pat is now dead and I remain. What is my name now you ask? Benjamin Ronning but most people know me as Fireman. Some ask me why I had forsaken my given name and chosen to abandon everything I ever had. I’ll try to keep my sob story to two or three paragraphs.
Remember Fight Club with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton? My days back in Lethbridge, Alberta were not all that much different much like Jack (Norton’s character) I worked a mundane little job using my earnings to buy myself video games and comic books. Little diversions that couldn’t patch the hole I felt in my soul. Life had no meaning to me all I really knew was that any moment I could die but like Marla in that aforementioned movie the tragedy of my life was that I didn’t.
Unable to fill the gap in my life at home I had my name legally changed and I left my home abruptly to join Gary, Erik and Britt (who recently moved there) in Dallas. I remember being in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Terminal when Wily’s force swarmed the city. As it impossible as it sounds it happened a group of ten Robot Masters broke into the building and started maiming and killing travelers… make that everybody in the whole airport. I tried to flee from the chaos but I ran afoul of a Needleman unit and he didn’t hesitate to me a human pin cushion.
He probable would’ve finished me off if I hadn’t have been rescued by Rockman and Roll. Somehow they recognized me from Sinister Six.com a site a co-webmastered with Gary and took me to Dr. Right. Since my body was injured beyond recover Dr. Right did the only thing he could do. My consciousness was transferred to the body of Fireman and thus my legend was born.
Nothing much has changed much since then and “Marla’s Theory” still applied to my outlook on life. I could still die at any moment but now I’d rather my death be in a blaze of glory that for it to be merely snuffed out.
Fast forward to today, usually the type where the Sinister Six would be chilling in the ‘in-between’ parts when Wily isn’t attacking. For Erik and Gary it meant only one thing Saturday morning cartoons. As the two where walking down the hall Gary humming, “When there’s trouble you know who to call…”
“Teen Titans!” Erik continued.
“From their tower, they can see it all…”
“Teen Titans!” Erik chanted as they turned to the rec room. But their jaws dropped Rockman and Roll as well as all the ‘Mega-Pets’ were parked in front of the mega-screen TV (a television that was about 3 meters across). Both Rock and Roll were intently watching CBC Newsworld. Except rather than the regular anchor, the star anchor of the CBC Peter Mansbridge was on. Had Gary or Erik been Canadian they would see the significance in this. Instead both groaned rather loudly.
The Mega-Pets (Rush, Beat and Tango) instantly tilted their heads towards them. Then Roll turned her head and asked, “What?”
“Teen Titans is on!” Both of them yelled.
“Sorry,” Roll politely said, “We were here first. We’re watching CBC Newsworld.”
“The Canadian news network eh?” Erik asked, “What gives?”
“Fireman’s on a mission.” Rock explained.
“What?!” Erik growled, “We should be out there too.”
Rock shook his head, “No, Fireman insisted on taking this mission alone. Something about his being ‘his province, his country and his problem’.”
“I’m going in.” Erik again growled
Gary tugged on his arm, “I don’t think it would be a good idea. You know what Ben’s like when you upset him.”
Erik and Gary then took a seat, despite missing Teen Titans. Both found it imperative to know what I was up against. They watched as Peter Mansbridge at his news desk in Toronto started to recap the events happening.
“To those of you just joining in a disaster has just struck Calgary, Alberta today. Robot Masters aligned with a once-thought fictional villain named Dr. Wily have attacked the city and destroyed entire neighborhoods. Currently CBC has a reporter on location as close as the authorities will let the media get to the battlefield. David?”
The television switched from Toronto to Calgary were David Gray was standing in front of a police barricade as people were being evacuated.
“Peter, as we speak thousands are being evacuated from the city as we speak. Unlike the now infamous ‘Dallas Culling’ there as been phenomenal resistance to this attack from a surprising source. Thus the civilian casualties have been minimal.”
“For the viewers just tuning in can you elaborate on this ‘surprising source’?” Peter asked
David nodded, “Eye witnesses say that a rogue ‘androbot’ named Fireman has been holding back the onslaught valiantly.”
“Pardon me for being skeptical David,” Peter coughed, “But Capcom of America has asserted that Fireman was one of Dr. Wily’s followers.”
David then brought in a witness that appeared to be in his early twenties, “Not if you ask Brian here.”
He then pointed his mike at Brian and asked him, “Tell us what you say.”
Brian looked somewhat shaken but also excited, “My friends and I were just hanging out when Fireman just crashed in and started fighting… I think it was Woodman, Chargeman and Topman. And he told us to run while we still could, so we ran away but not without taking a look back. Holy shit you should seen him smoke Woodman that was so bad(bleep)!”
David nodded bringing the mike back to him, “Thank you Brian. So there you have it Peter. Fireman’s fighting to defend Calgary from the assault of Dr. Wily but for what reasons are unknown.”
Unknown to them maybe. Alberta, no make that all of Canada was my home it gave me food and security. It thought me all the values I held dear and the hell if I would let Wily take that away from the country I love dearly.
Heatman was on his back with a large piece of debris that impaled him in the chest. Twitching like a skittish rabbit he looked in horror at my imposing form.
“Impossible.” He sputtered.
I scowled at him, “You lose. Now to take your weapon. Bitch.”
“Nooo...” Heatman protested but he was hardly in a position to resist.
Much like Rock most of us in the Sinister Six were equipped with a Variable Weapons System. However the limitation to our VWS’s is that we could only emulate powers of a Robot Master with a similar motif but unlike Rock the weapons we copy are directly integrated into our weapons system thus they never run out of power.
I grabbed Heatman’s arm and scanned his weapon and copied Atomic Fire into my system. After I was finished I saw Heatman was now deactivated at least until that old fart resurrects him.
The streets were silent, empty and creepy. The area was pretty much deserted once the battle begun save for the dead bodies occasionally littering streets. I had to remember which ‘Masters I wasted.
“Woodman, Topman, Chargeman, Starman, Plantman…” I muttered, “And Heatman are dead. That leaves Hardman, Metalman…”
Then my audio receptors picked some scurrying coming from one block behind me.
The two-headed robot master was sneaking through the alley, I acted like I was unassuming. Wily didn’t program them with many memory chips thus Searchman fell for my act. I deviously smirked as I charged up my newly-acquired Atomic Fire.
“HOMING SNIPER!” Searchman yelled out preparing to fire.
I twisted around and pointed my cannon towards Searchman. The labroid gazed in shock in the split-second it took me to unleash the nuclear inferno on him. The blast completely leveled the four buildings surrounding Searchman. I lowered my cannon and gazed upon the destruction I caused.
Not bad I guess, I sifted through the debris looking for Searchman. A piece of rubble stirred, ran and picked the piece of concrete and tossed it aside like a piece of Styrofoam. Searchman was reduced to a half-melted husk.
Looking to him with pure contempt I growled, “Next time do not ANNOUNCE your attack.”
Then I heard a buzzsaw rip past me, only an idiot or a complete ignoramus wouldn’t know it was Metalman. That was a warning shot and the next one would be aimed towards my head. I ducked the next shot and the next using the agility Rock taught me. I fired a semi-charged blast of Atomic Fire at his chest.
While Metalman was stunned I made a run for it, I was down to 21% power and I had to have some plan of engagement. I was within view of the Chinook Centre Mall, Hardman burst out of a shop I just ran past and aimed his fist at me.
“Hey Fireman!” He called out, “Have a Hard Knuckle sandwich!”
A human got in the way and with Hardman not programmed with Asimov’s laws in mind ignored the human.
“Think fast Benno,” I growled as the Hard Knuckle launched itself from Hardman’s elbow socket, “One chance to make it…”
Firing a Fire Storm blast from my converted right cannon it gave me the needed acceleration to outpace the Hard Knuckle and tackle the human as it flew over us and crashed into a teeming cement mixer knocking down the massive vehicle on it’s side like a wounded animal.
I didn’t wait for the dust to clear when I asked him, “Anything broken?”
The human grunted, “No. Thanks for asking.”
The voice I found to be remotely familiar so I helped him to his feet, when I got to see his face I instantly recognized him. It was Rob, before I left for Dallas he left for Calgary. Had I the luxury I would gasp in shock but with about nearly 3 metric tons of robotic rage I had to be quick I looked Rob dead in the eyes and warned him.
“Listen to me. Run as fast as you can and don’t look…”
With astonishing speed Hardman launched his other knuckled at you. It hit me dead on but thanks to Dr. Right’s neoceramical titanium armor I wasn’t smashed to bits. Instead I was carried off by the rogue projectile.
I was slammed through the walls of the shopping centre finally stopping in the in the ladies lingerie store. Any pervert’s wet dream not that it mattered to me. I was more concerned about Hardman’s next attack. Other that firing his fists like missiles he also… then it hit me.
“Shit!” I hissed and rolled out of the way as Hardman crashed through the ceiling. Sending both dust and ladies undergarments. I scrambled out of the store and into the mall.
The ground shook with every thunderous step Hardman took. I turned around as he slowly staggered towards me. Without uttering another word I changed both my arms to cannon mode and set forth the fury of Fire Storm.
At first the towering behemoth seemed unaffected by the rapidly increasing temperature. Then his armor started to glow in the intense heat.
“C’mon, c’mon,” I mumbled, “Melt you walking piece of scrap metal.”
At least with every step Hardman was slowing down. I’ll give it to him Wily made his armor thick but he made out of materials with a low specific heat capacity. So the armor retained the intense heat I gave it and overloaded Hardman’s heat sinks and melted the delicate circuitry inside.
He was less than a meter away when he stopped completely. Jet-black smoke pouring from every orifice in his construction. I barely had any time to revel in my victory when I heard that familiar buzzsaw noise.
A metal blade sliced through the air and next thing I knew my sensors were screaming with a torrent of information that could be considering the robotic equivalent of pain. Fixing my optic sensors on my arms the undersides were sliced and leaking a reddish-brown fluid that served as my fuel.
“Damn it,” I cursed, “The bugger cut my fuselage!”
“Feeling helpless Fireman?” A voice taunted from beside me.
“Metalman!” I snarled looking to my attacker, “You’re going to pay for that.”
Without Fire Storm or Atomic Fire all I have is my fists and my wits thus was at a distinct disadvantage. Metalman launched a triad of Metal Blades my way I performed a back flip to dodge the barrage. Metal then assumed his regular pattern of jumping and throwing his blades with insane speed and agility both of which I was seriously lacking. The most I could do was stay ahead and run around like a dog chasing its tail.
A metal blade whizzed narrowly past my face embedding itself in a support beam. That’s when I got an idea crazy enough to work. Any Megaman/Rockman fan worth his salt knows Metalman could be defeated in one hit by his own weapon. The trick was to hit him, I could do it a million times on a two-dimensional plane but on a three-dimensional plane; there came the challenge.
I kept my eyed focused and locked onto Metalman as he jumped around like a hyperactive child. I sidestepped each and every one of his attacks until…
He… cut… me…
Not a serious cut by any means but it was enough for Metalman to stop and brag. He saw the metal blade I held in my hand and scoffed.
“You can’t be serious.”
I looked at him with the steadfast determination I learned from Rock and the other S6 members.
Then with every ounce of strength I hurled the metal blade back at him. His eyes in those fractions of seconds were glazed over like he witnessed the impossible. That expression was then permanently etched into Metalman’s face as he stood there for a moment. I saw that the pillar behind him had a hydraulic-fluid stained blade embedded in it.
A loud bang echoed throughout the empty halls of the mall. On the floor laid Metalman’s head. His body lifelessly laying on the floor behind it.
I took a few breaths to replenish my fusion power core and took a gaze at my operational power which read “8%”. Thank heaven Metalman was the last of the robot masters ravaging Calgary otherwise I would’ve had to call in the rest the Six for assistance. I casually walked over to the late Metalman’s head and picked it up. Before I teleported out to Calgary Dr. Right asked me to bring back some robot master components. All of them being in the head. I didn’t ask why, all I cared about was getting to crush Dr. Wily’s skull sooner.
Footsteps then echoed through out the mall they were closer to pattering than the clanging of a robot master’s feet so I stayed. I had nothing to fear. From another corridor Rob ran in which I thought to be odd. Surely he couldn’t have recognized me from our previous encounter minutes ago.
I was dead wrong as I heard him call out my name, “PAT!”
Rob saw that was turning to leave but determined enough to block my exit he bolted in front of he. I glared at him with my icy gray eyes, “I told you to run away.”
“And what? Let you run away again?” He told me unafraid of the power I possessed, “Where have you been all these months man?”
“It’s ‘Fire’ ‘Man’,” I muttered, “And where I’ve been is none of your concern.”
“The heck it is,” He said blocking another of my attempts to leave, “You don’t just disappear without a word.”
“But I did.” I replied.
Put off by my nonchalance he looked into my eyes and asked, “Don’t you even care about what you left behind? What happened to your family?”
Those were exactly the questions I avoided since I left Lethbridge. To be honest I didn’t have the answer for that question. I never regretted going out into world to see what else life had to offer but some part of me will always be nagging and wondering making my second guess my choice to leave. Rob amplified that voice and I redoubled my efforts to suppress it. I held Metalman’s head under my left arm while with my right I used it to retract the visor covering the lower portion of my face.
I coldly told him as I removed my helmet, “Take a good look at my face Rob.”
I then threw my helmet down to the floor and it rolled towards his feet and looked at him with the same intensity I gave others as Fireman, “Because this is the last time you’ll ever see it!”
Precisely five seconds later without warning I disappeared and plume of silver and crimson. Leaving Rob alone and confused in the mall, he picked up the helmet. I’m at a loss to say why but I think he held onto it to keep the memory of who I was and in quiet hope that I would eventually return.
Though I do not believe in false hope.
Upon arriving back at HQ, I was ordered to go back to Dr. Right's lab so he could repair my fire cannons which were damaged by Metalman.
"Erik?" Dr. Right said, "Will you be a kind chap and hand me the 75 micron laser torch?"
Nodding, Erik looked over the tools and found the correct one, still getting used to such high level of tech, he wasn't exactly sure it was the right one so he handed it to Dr. Right With a "this one?"
Dr. Right took it and looked, "Yes that's the one." He then started soldering my broken circuits. He then asked me, "What happened to your helmet Fireman?"
"I lost it." I said coldly. Also concealing the real reason why I returned without it.
Erik gave me a knowing look and shook his head, saying nothing
Dr. Right shrugged after he finished his work on the circuits, "Ah, it shouldn't be too hard to replace it I guess. I think whoever finds it will make a hefty sum on that auction site... what did you call it again?"
"eBay, Dr. Right." Erik said, taking the laser tool and cleaning up the rest of the supplies
"Thank you Erik," Dr. Right nodded, "Just one more thing, the fuselage pump. It should be on the tray opposite of where I put my tools."
Erik nodded again, handing the pump to Dr. Right
Dr. Light installed the pump and used his laser welder to fuse my forearm plates together.
"There." he said, "Good as new."
"Thank you," I simply said as I got up and left Dr. Right's lab.
The middle-aged robotechnician sighed as he went to wash his hands, "He's unusually cold today."
Erik nodded, "He is." the young man looked at his friend and just shook his head
"Talk to him." Dr. Right said, "He seldom listens to me and I also have to clean up here."
"Are you sure Dr. Right, I could assist you in clean up as well."
"It won't be any trouble for me. If I need help I could always call Roll."
Erik nodded, "Yes Dr. Right, I'll talk to him" he said, then left the lab to go after Ben
I was busy cursing myself out for letting my emotions get the best of me back in Calgary, "Stupid, stupid, stupid..."
Why in a city up almost one million did I have encounter Rob?
A gentle hand lay on my shoulder, "I blame it on 'cosmic happenstance'..."
"What do you want?" I asked in semi-annoyance
"To talk." Erik said, "And to let you know you aren't the only one feeling the way you do."
"You have no idea how I feel Erik."
"We're no longer human, we see ourselves as mechanical monsters who can no longer live with their family or see their friends. Am I close?" Erik said, his tone level, no real emotion in it
"Not even," I growled
"Then quit throwing a temper tantrum and giving us the silent treatment and tell us, tell me." Erik said
"I can handle this...alone."
Erik frowned, "Fine. So much for friends showing they care. Just what IS your problem Ben!"
"You don't understand," I growled, "No one does."
I then disappeared like I did in Calgary; in a plume of silver and red flame. Where I went was going to be a mystery for a while. I just felt I really needed some alone time.
Erik sighed in defeat, "I was trying to..."
My destination was believe or not back to my hometown. On the roof of Ericksons family restaurant; the place that started the chain reaction that lead to my abandonment of my family and friends. Here on this roof I had a panic attack. I was doing work for my dad on this roof when I suddenly felt the urge to get off the roof and next thing I knew I was shaking and crying.
That’s when I knew I couldn’t stay here in Lethbridge. A piece of my soul was missing and I felt it was somewhere in the world beyond this place.
I walked to the edged and looked to Mayor Magrath Drive then to the gold and rusty red skies in the west as the gentle chinook blew in my face and let out a heavy sigh.
I just want Rob, Erik and everyone to know…
That my heart’s not always cold.