an excerpt from


Improper Procedure


by Keith R.A. DeCandido




[Excerpted from The Ultimate Silver Surfer, published by Byron Preiss Multimedia & Boulevard Books in 1995, and can be obtained from the good folks at Amazon.com. This story and everyone in it is copyright © 1995 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved. All lefts, too.]

* * *


The Silver Surfer sat on a rooftop in New York City. He was not sure of the exact neighborhood--he was only certain that it was this particular city because of the familiar landmarks of the Fantastic Four's headquarters and the home of Doctor Strange. One accustomed to traveling across galaxies saw little point in trying to distinguish such tiny cities from each other.

The humans called this place "the city that never sleeps," and indeed it seemed that the activity in this metropolis never stopped. A constant stream of humans flitted about, their actions incomprehensible to the Surfer's experiences--but then, his own experiences were likely just as incomprehensible to them. At best, only the super-powered individuals he had associated with over the years--the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the Defenders--could come close to understanding what the Surfer had lost in his exile on this tiny planet.

Then he noticed a human crouching on one of the nearby rooftops, wearing dark blue clothing and a hat with a visor attached. He seemed to be trying to conceal himself--and to other humans he probably was concealed--and wielding a large metal object.

The Surfer recognized the object. He'd certainly had enough soldiers pointing them at him. A gun. A quick look around revealed the human's target: another human, a male in a nearby apartment. The male wore a white shirt and shorts, and was speaking on his telephone. The Surfer also spied two women sitting on a couch and a small child playing on the floor.

The one with the gun spoke into a simple communications device. "I've got a clear shot."

Anger boiled within the Surfer. The intent was obvious: the human with the gun would murder the people in the apartment. Not for the first time he wondered, Is violence the only way they know?

The Surfer sacrificed everything so these pathetic creatures could continue their existence. He would not stand by and watch one of them kill others wantonly. Summoning his board to him, he stepped on its gleaming silver surface and sailed effortlessly toward the man on the roof.

With but the tiniest fragment of the Power Cosmic, the Surfer blasted the weapon from his grip, also causing some minor pain to the hands that held it.

"Jesus!" the human cried.

"You will terrorize your fellows no longer," the Surfer said.

* * *


Lieutenant Vincent Billinghurst wiped sweat off his bald head with the pocket handkerchief his wife had given him for Christmas. He shouldn't have needed it; the temperature had barely climbed above sixty degrees on this April day. But hostage situations tended to bring out the perspiration in him.

As he stuffed the handkerchief back into his suitjacket pocket with his left hand, he held the phone to his ear with his right. "Look, Hector," he said into the mouthpiece, "we don't want any trouble. If you turn yourself in, I promise nothing will--"

"Don' gimme that, man!" Hector Gomez's anxiety was obvious to Billinghurst even through the tinny sound of the earpiece. "They gonna take my Soraya 'way from me! Ain't gonna let 'em! Now you get these bitches outta here, an' leave me alone!"

Gomez slammed the phone down, preventing Billinghurst from pointing out that he couldn't get the two women from Social Services out of Gomez's apartment because Gomez had threatened to shoot them if the cops came near. The pair had arrived to take Gomez's daughter Soraya away from her abusive, alcoholic father. Gomez had agreed in a court of law to the terms of the remanding of his daughter into the city's care. But on the day he had to give her up, he changed his mind, and held the two women at gunpoint.

An hour later, Gomez hadn't calmed down and had shown no interest in turning himself in or letting his hostages go. Billinghurst's options dwindled with every second Gomez held his prisoners.

He looked over to Eddie DiFillippo, the short, burly lieutenant in charge of the SWAT team, who said, "Roman's the only one 'at's got a clear shot at him without the women'r the kid inna line'a fire."

Billinghurst thought a moment, pulling out his handkerchief and wiping his brow again while he did. Then: "I'm gonna try to talk to him some more. Tell Roman to keep that line on him."

DiFillippo glowered, though the effect was diluted by the mirrorshades he wore. "Vince, you been talkin' to him f'half an hour. It ain't gonna help. An' Roman ain't gonna have that shot forever. We gotta take him out, and we gotta do it now."

Before Billinghurst could argue the point, his attention was drawn to what sounded like an explosion. It came, not from the Gomez apartment, but from one of the adjoining rooftops, where DiFillippo had stationed one of his people. Billinghurst had to avert his gaze at first, as whatever was up there reflected light like a mirror, and the glare from the late afternoon sun hit him right in the eyes.

As he blinked the spots from his eyes, one of the uniforms cried out, "Christ, it's the Silver Surfer!"

Sure enough, the Silver Surfer was attacking one of the SWAT team. What the hell is that lunatic doing? Billinghurst thought.

DiFillippo yelled into his walkie-talkie, "Cassalowitz, Jones, Perez, if you got a shot at the Surfer, open fire!"

"No!" Billinghurst cried, but it was too late. Rifle shots from three different directions pelted the Surfer--or rather, almost pelted him. Before they could strike, they disintegrated, which relieved Billinghurst. He had expected the bullets to ricochet off the Surfer and hit God-knew-where.

Yanking the walkie-talkie out of DiFillippo's hands, Billinghurst bellowed, "Cease fire, dammit, cease fire!" Turning angrily on DiFillippo as the shots silenced, he cried, "Don't you watch the news? Read the reports on the super guys that come in? The Army hit the Surfer with enough shells to bomb out a building a while back, and it didn't do diddly! Bullets ain't gonna stop him, but they'll sure as hell piss Gomez off!"

As if to prove Billinghurst's point, Gomez leaned out the window and shouted, "Whatchoo doin'? You tryin'a kill me? I kill you first!"

Then he started firing wildly.

Billinghurst ducked behind one of the squad cars. DiFillippo crouched next to him and snatched his walkie-talkie back. "Anybody got a shot on Gomez, take it!"

However, no shots were forthcoming. Billinghurst looked up and saw why: the Surfer had made a beeline for Gomez's window, and blocked any shot into the apartment.

"Hope at some point someone remembers to fill me in on just what the hell's going on here," Billinghurst muttered.

* * *


The Silver Surfer was incensed. He saved the life of this human, who now repays the debt by firing a weapon of his own at a group of humans gathered below. He now recognized that the person he had attacked was a member of some form of human militia--there were so many on this world that the distinctions had proven impossible for the Surfer to keep track of--but that meant little. The Surfer knew from bitter personal experience that these types of humans tended to shoot without provocation.

He streaked towards the human whose life he saved. "You will cease this action at once," he said, and he intended it as a statement, not a question or request.

The human looked up, and his eyes grew wider at the sight of the Surfer. "Get away from me, man, get away! I kill you, I kill you dead, man, get away!"

"I doubt that."

Behind the human, one of the women, the younger one with the longer hair, started screaming. The older woman seemed to be trying to calm her down.

The human whirled, pointing his weapon at the screaming woman. "Shut up, bitch, shut up! Shut up!"

She kept screaming. Just as the Surfer guided his board into the apartment in the hopes of ceasing this madness, the human shot at her.

The Surfer could have used his power to transmute the gun and its bullets into a harmless substance, but that required a certain delicacy that he had neither the time nor the inclination to indulge in. So he simply blasted the gun to its component atoms.

The human screamed in pain--the blast burned his hands. He collapsed to his knees, still crying in pain, and muttering something to himself.

The Surfer turned to his victim. Blood pooled on her white blouse at the shoulder. The Surfer could not recall whether or not any human vital organs were located in the shoulder. He reached for her, but the older woman blocked his way.

"What're you doing? Who the hell are you, anyhow?" she asked, frantically.

"I am called the Silver Surfer."

"Fine, whatever, but what're you doing to Mara?"

The Surfer shrugged. "The Power Cosmic may heal as easily as it may destroy. I will tend to her wound."

"O-okay. You won't hurt her?"

"Of course not." Do these humans doubt everything?

"Don' let 'em," the human who shot her muttered. "Gonna take my Soraya 'way from me. Don' let 'em take 'er."

The Surfer glanced at the small child, who was huddled, crying, in a corner amidst a pile of papers and children's toys. She looked frightened, which hardly surprised the Surfer.

"Is this true?" he asked the woman. "Do you plan to take this man's child from him?"

"Well, sort of," she replied. "My name's Penny Kitsios. Mara and I work for Social Services. Mr. Gomez here was declared an unfit father, and we came to take his daughter into a foster home. Mr. Gomez agreed to this in court."

While Penny Kitsios spoke, the Surfer tended to the other one, the one called Mara. Then the door burst open, and several humans wielding weapons came in.

"All right," one of them cried, "everybody freeze!"

"I am unaffected by changes in temperature," the Surfer said.

"Just don't move, okay?"

The Surfer regarded the human who gave the order. But for the dark hue of his skin, he looked almost like a native of his homeworld of Zenn-La in the complete lack of hair on his head. He wore a white shirt and those odd knotted strips of cloth tied around the neck that human males favored. He was followed by several other humans, all of whom were armed.

The bald human asked, "What're you doing to that woman?"

"I am healing her wounds. She was shot by this person." He indicated the kneeling, whimpering human Penny Kitsios had called "Mr. Gomez."

"Great." The bald human turned to his compatriots. "Get these people downstairs to the paramedics." He turned back to the Surfer. "When you're done laying on hands, you mind talking to me for a minute?"

The various militia escorted Penny Kitsios, Mara, Mr. Gomez, and Soraya out, the latter being carried gently by one of the female militia. The humans all stepped over or onto the Surfer's board, which irked him. He commanded it to rise and move out of the way. This action caught the attention of Soraya, who stopped crying and stared in wonderment at the board's movement as the woman carried her out.

The bald human then commanded the Surfer's attention. "I'm Lieutenant Vincent Billinghurst, NYPD. You got a name?"

"I am called the Silv--"

"I meant a real name. Unless you want me to call you 'Surfie'."

"I would prefer not." A pause, then: "Once I was called Norrin Radd."

"All right, Mr. Radd, you mind telling me just what the hell you thought you were doing out there? Thanks to you, I got an officer scared to death 'cause a guy that looks like an Academy Award blasted his gun outta his hand, and your little attack spooked Gomez enough so that he shot up one of my people--and the lady from Social Services that you just did the glowbug routine on."

"There were no deaths?"

"Despite your best efforts, no, but I don't see--"

"Then that, Vincent Billinghurst, is what I was doing. Preventing you humans from killing each other."

"You're kidding. You attacked an officer of the New York Police Department without any provocation--"

"He was attempting to murder a fellow human in cold blood. I could not allow that."

"Gee, how kind of you. It ever occur to you, pal, that he was doing his job? That he was tryin' to prevent this nutcase from shooting his hostages?" Before the Surfer could reply to this indignant human, he continued: "Of course it didn't. You super guys don't give two snots about actual police work, you just wade in, damage a lotta property, and leave us to clean up your messes."

"Is this the only way you know to prevent needless death? By perpetrating more needless death?"

Billinghurst seemed confused by this. "Whaddaya mean?"

"This Gomez human was holding two people hostage. Your only solution was to have your people shoot him down?"

"No, that was the backup plan in case things got outta hand. I was on the phone with him talking, trying to convince him to turn himself in. I might've done it, too, if you hadn't barged in." Billinghurst sighed. "Now we'll never know."

The Surfer realized he had committed a rather grievous error. "I am--I am sorry, Vincent Billinghurst. It would seem I am guilty of the very crime humanity has committed so often against me. Just as humans have attacked me, mistaking me for a threat or menace, so I have done today. My apologies."

Billinghurst opened his mouth as if to reply, then closed it again, then finally said, "All right, I'm impressed."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I gotta admit, I never expected one'a you types to actually apologize."

The Surfer frowned. This human seemed to think the Surfer was anything but unique. "There are, to the best of my knowledge, none like me on this Earth."

"I meant you spandex types," he said with a laugh. "You know, guys with super powers, like you, the FF, the Avengers, Spider-Man, Daredevil, those guys. I figured you guys'd never actually care enough about someone normal to apologize."

Another human in uniform approached Billinghurst. "Ain'tcha gonna arrest him, Vince?" he asked.

"Oh, good idea, Eddie. You wanna slap the cuffs on him?"

Eddie--who wore the same type of outfit as the human the Surfer attacked on the roof--regarded the Surfer for a moment, then said, "Well, maybe not. But dammit, Vince, he--"

"Save it," Billinghurst interrupted, then turned back to the Surfer. "Listen, Mr. Radd, uhm--would you mind comin' down to the station?"

The Surfer remembered his previous attempts to interact with humans, not to mention his other encounters with human law-enforcement. None were pleasant affairs. "I do not believe that would be advantageous."

"Damn right it wouldn't," Eddie interjected. "What're you, nuts, Vince? Only way he's comin' down t'the station house is in cuffs."

"Your prisons cannot hold one who wields the Power Cosmic," the Surfer said.

Billinghurst actually smiled at that. "Yeah, I heard about what you did to the holding cell down at the Seventeenth. They said you were trying to start a riot."

"I was trying to halt an alien invasion." An attack vessel from the Brotherhood of Badoon had scouted the Earth in a craft invisible to humans, but easily detected by the Silver Surfer. However, his attempts to warn the people of Earth met with resistance, and he was attacked and taken by police into protective custody. The Surfer allowed this, not wishing to harm anyone needlessly, waiting until he was alone in one of their prison cells before making his escape to drive off the Badoon. However, he exited straight through one of the walls of the cell. Another unthinking act that endangered the humans, he realized.

"Look," Billinghurst was saying, "it'd really make my life easier if you came along. 'Sides, it might do one'a you super geeks some good to see how real law-enforcement works."

At first, the Surfer intended to refuse, but upon further contemplation he decided to accept Billinghurst's offer. It might prove useful to see humans in everyday life. He had tried before, but, with a few individual exceptions, was always rejected outright. Only in the company of other "super guys," as Billinghurst called them, had he found any acceptance. But the Fantastic Four and the Defenders were not the norm of human society. And this time, it was a human who invited him.

"Very well, Vincent Billinghurst. I shall accompany you."

"Good."

The one called Eddie shook his head. "This is a dumbass move, Vince."


To find out if this really is a dumbass move or not, you'll just have to order a copy of The Ultimate Silver Surfer.

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