Whoever named the stress test knew what they were doing, because Ryan was stressed as hell and really needed to shoot something. He put on his safety goggles, slid on his earmuffs, leveled his revolver and opened fire. There was something oddly relaxing about the kick of a .357 and filling a mannequin with holes. He landed four shots at ten yards, three on the torso and one to the leg.
The first bullet collided with the first layer of the rubber-like material and stopped short of penetrating the buckypaper bilayer. The following bullets did the same. A single layer would be more than enough to be considered type II body armor, and there shouldn’t be trouble with higher calibers provided he could add more layers. He was sure he could produce a higher quality prototype in no time – and he’d be needing it.
That Skinnyman son of a bitch, part of him hoped he’d get a crack at him. He was just another shitbag blackburner like Wilbur, or Phantasm, or Ryan’s father, who thought they could do whatever they want without consequence.
“Hey Ryan?” Fritz poked his head into the range. Ryan removed his earmuffs. “Have you seen anyone take my defibrillator gloves?”
“Someone’s taken them. Probably Wilbur.” He checked his watch. “It’s almost six dude, why don’t you get out of here?”
Ryan gave him a wave, waiting until he was gone before putting his revolver in its case, grabbing a bulletproof vest from the closet and walking to his car. The drive to get from downtown to the seedier parts of Blackburn didn’t take as long as one might expect, perhaps twenty minutes.
The hollowed out husk of what was once a booming manufacturing industry, Olympic City was an endless assembly of warehouses that stretched to the horizon, running across Lake Erie. Criminals of all stripes romped about carelessly – cops almost never went in with anything less than a SWAT team. Ryan popped his trunk, grabbed his vest and began his search.
Being located in the heart of the Rust Belt didn’t help Blackburn in recovering from economic lows, but it sure as hell helped the local crime lords. They always had a racket to run or a bridge to sell stupid, greedy fools. Ryan’s father had been one during the 90s and 2000s, running with a two bit ‘supervillain’ called the Red Dragon, and then Phantasm when the former’s gang got absorbed by the latter’s. He thought it put hair on his chest, that it made him a big man. Well, he wasn’t such a big man when he embezzled from Phantasm and had his legs sawed off. Ryan’s only regret was that he didn’t do something to protect his sister and do the deed himself.
He hoped that when he rescued Lisa from Skinnyman’s clutches, she’d forgive him for that and they could get the hell out of Blackburn. Maybe move to New York City, or Seattle, maybe Phoenix, somewhere where the local costumed crimefighters kept the villains largely at bay.
Ryan stuck to the shadows, weaving in and out of narrow sidewalks and alleys, avoiding the few streetlights there were. It was early in March, still cold enough outside for there not to be as many hoods prowling about. Those that were out were generally working for the big boys. There were some guys taking apart a car, probably stolen, in a chop shop. Some shady looking dudes unloading crates of God-knew-what. A couple of dumbass teens tagging gang signs. None of them obviously worked for Skinnyman, which had been the story of his previous two trips. He squeezed the handle of his gun in frustration.
“Yo.” The cock of a gun – an amateur move. “Wallet, now.”
The alley to his right stretched to an intersection, with the victim having been southbound and the assailant having come from the east. The victim, a teenage boy who clearly didn’t know where he was stepping and looked like he had just pissed himself, threw his wallet to the ground.
Ryan primed the hammer of his revolver. It would have been trivially easy to cap the robber then and there. But it would also be messy and create a scene, and he had his own business to attend to. The robber scooped up the wallet and sprinted past him, giving him an elbow to the chest.
“Fuck you lookin’ at?” He caught the idiot saying. Ryan glanced back at the victim, who looked shellshocked. He retrieved the backup handgun from his vest, holding it by the barrel.
The boy looked up as Ryan approached, handing him the gun. “I think you need it more than me.”
“I, uh.” He seemed a little surprised by its weight before he stuck the gun in his waistband. “Thanks…?”
Ryan went back to his search, feeling like he was walking in circles. No one out tonight struck him as the type who worked for Skinnyman. He did, however, catch a glimpse of some guy in a hoodie and ballistic face mask. What was up with that?