Xander Streem’s dressing room was a forgotten battlefield, and his clothes had lost the war. Walking amidst the wreckage required utmost care to avoid stepping upon the expensive threads. Xander’s agent, Malcolm Stern, was meticulous with where he tread. Xander marched all over the discards like a conqueror, checking his latest outfit in the wall mirror. Malcolm wondered why he bothered. The garish, contrasting colors of the Bamf Energy Drink advertisements that filled every available inch of wall space were making him dizzy again. He massaged the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, starting from the top.
“Xander, you’ve got to cancel this stunt. It’s too dangerous.”
“Are you kidding me, bro?” Xander had a lot of ‘bros.’ “This trick is going to be totally bodacious and BAMF!” He took a moment to knock out an air guitar riff to show Malcolm just how ‘bamf’ it would be. Malcolm had to admit it was pretty convincing, but the insurance agency had just called. They had declared the stunt un-bamf and refused to cover this trick. Not covering Xander was just part of the extreme skateboarding stunt scene. Not covering the entire stadium was a bit too risky.
“Xander, look.” He pulled out a clipboard with a lot of words he knew Xander would never look at. “There is a category 4 hurricane going on right now. One-hundred mile per hour winds…”
“Gnarly!” Xander said.
Malcolm didn’t think it was very gnarly, but he wasn’t positive what ‘gnarly’ entailed so he couldn’t argue. “You will be jumping over sixteen 18-wheel tankers, Xander. That’s hundreds of feet.” Xander was making ‘meedly-meedly’ noises with his air guitar again, and practicing his famous double-guns point and smile that had made quite a few hearts melt. “But Xander – I don’t know where you got this, you’ll have to explain it to me – it says here the tankers are filled with something called ‘X-32,’ a powerful mutagenic agent? That doesn’t even make sense. Why aren’t they just filled with gasoline like normal? Or just nothing? Nothing would be fine too.”
“No idea, bro. But that sounds totally awesome. I’ll zip over some X-32 in a bunch of tankers and be, like, totally the first dude to ever jump over some wicked X-32 junk! Oh yeah, BAMF!” Double-guns point and smile.
“The only listed side-effect is ‘death.’” Malcolm read to himself, before getting back on track. “Xander, the order is signed XSTREEM. All capital letters. I don’t know anyone else who signs in all caps with the name X. Streem.” He sighed, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “How did you even get this stuff, Xander? It requires a medical license and a host of background checks I know you wouldn’t be able to pass.”
“Yo, Malcolm dude.” Xander traipsed across the room and put his hand on Malcolm’s shoulder. “Don’t sweat the small stuff, my guy. Fortune favors the bold, so you gotta take the world by the horns and order stuff on the internet, you know what I’m sayin’? Of course you do; you’re the man, dogg.” He punched Malcolm in the shoulder and winked. A roady peeked in the door, long hair rain-slicked and matted.
“Five minutes, Mister Streem.”
“That’s my cue, dude.” Xander told Malcolm. It looked like there would be no arguing.
“Will you at least wear a helmet?” Malcolm requested. Xander nodded his head sagely.
“Alright, man. You know helmets are for mega-tools and lamers – so totally no way. C’mon, keep it real!” He picked up his skateboard and rushed out the door before Malcolm could say more.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!”
The stadium loudspeakers blared over the howling winds. Xander’s most dedicated fans still packed the seats despite the weather. Rain sheeted so thick he could barely see beyond the staging ramp. Water had begun to flood the lower levels, and lightning flared the mobs in staccato bursts. No one in their right mind would ride a rocket-propelled skateboard down a one-hundred and twenty foot ramp, up and over mutagen filled tankers in a situation like this. It was absolutely perfect. Xander held one fist in the air, turning in place to fire up the audience.
“Xander Streem will now attempt his most DARING and DEADLY jump ever! EVEN A HURRICANE CAN’T STOP HIM FOLKS! Good thing he drinks Bamf Energy Drink!”
Satisfied the crowd was now rabid enough, Xander launched into a totally radical air guitar solo. He was really feeling it; a combination of Stairway to Heaven and November Rain, but with a little My Chemical Romance to keep it grounded. Then he started slinging the double guns – he couldn’t see a thing, but he was sure that women everywhere were fainting. Now was the time.
Xander stomped the back of his skateboard and it flipped through the air. He jumped on it as it landed and crouched, flicking the rocket ignition with his rear foot. The afterburners began to spew bodaciously, and he added to the thrust with a few strides. He hit the lip of the staging platform and plummeted. A seventy degree fall of pure cowabunga had him travelling at what he guessed was a thousand miles per hour. Malcolm had tried to tell him once how fast he actually went, but science was for eggheads like, well, like Malcolm. He didn’t need Alfred Einstein to tell him how tubular his jumps were. They just were.
The end of the ramp was approaching. Xander bounced at the last moment to the appreciative howl of the audience. He sailed through the air, gaining altitude and putting the tankers far below him. This was what Xander lived for – the thrill of some totally bamf jumps. Up here nothing could catch him, nothing could bring him down.
Except for lightning, which struck him on the top of his helmetless head at the exact apex of his jump. The bolt passed straight through him and into the most X-32 filled of the tankers. Fire, purple goo, and purple goo that was on fire erupted like a Playdough volcano. After the initial shock of the flashbulb explosion, the crowd screamed in a horrified panic, except the NASCAR fans who hooted in wild approval. Xander tumbled from the sky like an energy drink Icarus. The X-32 infused inferno cared nothing for his flame retardant asbestos jump suit, which Xander had neglected to wear anyway. Even the rivers of storm runoff could not cool him down when he finally crashed back to earth.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THERE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN AN ACCIDENT!”
The announcer declared as more tankers detonated in agreement.
“Let’s give him our support with a CHEER ladies and gentlemen!”
The half-hearted cheer was the first sound Xander heard after the cataclysm. It coincidentally coincided with the eye of the hurricane. Very dramatic rays of light began to shine down on the disaster, exposing a suddenly less-on-fire Xander. The light seemed to form a soft halo around him, or perhaps he was glowing himself. It was hard for the crowd to tell. He felt somewhere between crispy and yet somehow totally bodacious and bamf. But he knew he had one duty above all.
He snapped his fingers. Flesh sloughed off like a used match. With a motion that crackled like bubble wrap he extended his digits and shot off a double guns point and smile.
“HE’S ABSOLUTELY FINE, FOLKS!” The announcer bellowed.
Ten thousand fans began to cheer frantically. Xander felt a bit more gnarly, and less like kindling. The light radius expanded. The five second tape delay finally informed 56 million home fans and CNN news watchers that the stuntman was “ok.” Their cheering added to the chorus. Xander felt his skin reknit. The energy around him began to blaze like an illusory fire, expanding in leaps and gasps. His hair had turned white and around him pebbles and water floated from the ground in defiance of gravity. Everywhere the energy sphere touched, wreckage and tankers were thrown aside like toys or disintegrated. The cheering only picked up in volume.
“That ENERGY SPHERE looks to be powered by CHEERING folks.” The announcer somehow determined. “It’s DISINTEGRATING EVERYTHING IT TOUCHES AND I DON’T THINK XANDER STREEM CAN CONTROL IT! YOU’VE GOT TO STOP CHEER – ARGH!!!” The press box was wiped out by the energy field. The crowd was eating it up. Xander was digging it too. He picked up his skateboard and found he could do all sorts of cool tricks when he could hang suspended off the ground.
“Wicked!” he observed.
The energy field was just about to engulf the stands and kill thousands, when the last of the ESPN 6 camera crews were engulfed. With the feed cut, fifty-two million cheers were silenced. Broadband-man, a metahuman powered by complaints to local cable companies, caused a thirty megaton explosion just outside Santa Fe, but this event was not widely reported. Without their cheers, Xander was returned to near normal. The power still resided within him, but dormant. Something had changed.
Malcolm ran out into the ruined field and hugged his friend and meal ticket.
“Xander, thank god you’re okay. I thought – I mean, what the hell happened to you?”
“I don’t know exactly,” Xander admitted, “but whatever it was, it was the most bamf thing in the history of total radicality.”
“Uh, that’s great Xander -”
“Xander isn’t bad ass enough to contain me anymore, Malcolm. From this moment on, my stage name will be…Skater X.”
He posed on his skateboard for a moment when a sudden bout of retching overtook him. He expelled his lunch of Bamf Energy Drink and Bamf Energy Bars onto Malcolm’s already wet suit and passed out into his waiting arms.