As the Storyteller tipped up his glass, the children excitedly chattered about Ten Kelvin, Bearman and the Manic Multiplier. "He was a lame villain anyway. Anybody could have stopped him.”
“Nuh-uh! How would Streetsweeper have stopped hm?”
“Duh. He'd just beat them all up.”
“But there were hundreds!”
“So? He's Streetsweeper! It's what he does.”
They quieted down when the Storyteller cleared his throat and set his empty glass down upside down on the table. He smiled softly as several children came forward to lay more coins on the table. In a moment, a barmaid came by with a full glass. She took the empty and enough coins to cover the cost of the drink. “Who shall we hear about next?”
“Another Ten Kelvin story!”
“No, we've heard enough of him. I want a story about Tempo!”
“You can't have a Tempo story without the Tyrathi, and I'm sick of them.”
The bard interrupted with a small cough. “I do know a few Tempo stories without the Tyrathi in them ... But how would you like to hear a villain's story this time?” Several children responded with excited “ooooh”s and everyone settled in to listen. “This is the story of a villain called Pressure Chief.”
“Simon Foster was always an average guy. Average in all respects save one: he seemed to constantly be getting over a head cold. As long as he could remember, his ears were always stopped up and even slight changes in the air pressure always bothered him. He joked that he was his own barometer, and actually used his sensitivity to predict the day's weather. The rain never caught him by surprise.
“He was so accurate, coworkers would call him in the mornings, asking if they should bring an umbrella with them to work. He worked as a financial analyst at a large firm in downtown Boston. He even had the CEOs, the big important people at the company, calling him. They never wanted to look silly for carrying an umbrella when it wasn't raining, or being caught in the rain without one. Impressing the higher ups could only be a good thing, from Simon's perspective, so he was happy to answer their calls.
“Until that fateful day.
“The day Harbinger made himself known.
“I'm getting ahead of myself. You kids know about Harbinger, don't you?” The Storyteller asked. A few nodded, most shook their heads. “Harbinger usually works with another hero named The American Marvel. They both only have one power, but many many ways to use it. American Marvel's power is Freedom. Unless he wants to, he cannot be bound in chains, locked in a cage, or even tethered to the Earth by gravity as we are. Harbinger can summon the rain at a moment's notice to do his bidding. Anything he wants from a light sprinkle to the heaviest downpour you can imagine. But this takes place before Harbinger teamed up with American Marvel.
“It started out like any other day. Simon told everyone the weather was going to be cloudy, but no rain. Just before lunch, he felt the mounting pressure behind his ears. He put down the sheets of numbers he was looking at and massaged his temples. Suddenly, he heard it. A soft *spak!* against the window of his office. Soon it was followed by hundreds of thousands of others as the rain began to fall heavily. He looked out at the sky and saw the dark clouds. He looked down at the street and saw people scurrying into buildings, anywhere they could go to get out of the downpour. His head felt like it would explode.
“A car skidded as it made the turn on to his street and lost control in the heavy rain. The driver managed to keep the car under control just long enough to make the turn, but over corrected coming out of it and fishtailed badly. He smashed in to a parked taxicab.
“The rain was letting up and the pressure in Simon's head eased as well. While everyone was marveling at the suddenness of the storm, Simon saw a pickup truck barrel around the same corner the car had taken. The truck pulled up behind the wrecked car and its masked drive stepped out. He handcuffed the unconscious driver to the steering wheel, then walked back to his truck. The rain had stopped entirely now and the sun was coming out.
“Simon yawned several times, trying to equalize the pressure inside and outside his ears, eventually getting it to stabilize to a comfortable level. The police arrived soon after and arrested the unconscious man. The next day, the newspapers said he had held up a liquor store several blocks away, and attributed the arrest to a new hero: Harbinger.
“The CEOs who were caught in the rain on their way to lunch blamed Simon for not having umbrellas and the general dampness of their new suits, as well as the bits of mud on their shoes and the cuffs of their pants. He was fired two days later, after another sudden rainstorm.
“Simon tracked this new hero for weeks. He used the rain to stay ahead of the hero's antics. He even want so far as to make a costume. It was mostly a rain slicker, umbrellas, and hip-waders over a wet suit and scuba mask.
“He confronted the Hero during another chase by stepping in front of Harbinger's truck. The hero swerved and the truck rolled.
“Harbinger shouted at him, asking what he was doing walking out in front of the truck like that.
“Simon's response was simple: 'I'm stopping you.'
“'But why?' Harbinger begged. 'Can't you see I'm stopping that criminal?'
“The question went unanswered as Simon shouted back at the hero. 'You ruined my life!' He raised his right arm, pointing a pistol at the hero. His left arm held a tattered umbrella futilely trying to keep the rain away.
“Harbinger asked how he ruined the man's life. While Simon explained what had happened, Harbinger weighed his options. Fortunately, Simon told him about his pressure sensitivity, and Harbinger, in a moment of desperation, called down the fiercest storm he could; so much water fell so quickly that small children were in danger of being washed away down the street!
“Simon fell to his knees, dropping both the gun and the umbrella as his hands clutched his ears. He screamed in pain and fell over, unconscious, before the rain let up.
“Simon woke up a few hours later in a jail cell, unable to hear anything but his own thoughts.
“And that is the origin of the villain that came to be known as Pressure Chief.” The Storyteller once again upended his glass as the children began chattering.