True patriots don't follow flight plans...
||Fire Blast - Energy Manipulation - Rocket-Propelled Flight - Able to withstand massive G-Forces due to experimental serum
Johnny Avery comes from a long line of pilots. His father, Jim Avery, was one of the first helo-pilots to put men on the ground in Vietnam in '65, and his grandfather, Nathaniel Avery, had his own squadron of fighters in WWII, nicknamed the "Skyburners" by the men in the company.
In fact, it was his granddad, Nathaniel, who was the first man called a "Rocket Ace" for his daredevil nature and fearlessness. The name stuck, and after the war the only way the man found to make a living was in and around airbases in the American West, constantly volunteering for suicidal jobs as a test pilot for the cutting-edge (and often fatal) attempts at aeronautic ingenuity by the USAF. He found a woman, Sylvia, and together they had only one son, James "Jimmy" Avery. They lived a relatively quiet life once Nathaniel retired, officially hanging up his wings for good.
As Jimmy grew up and followed in his dad's footsteps, the world became a little more complicated. The '60's hit and with the Kennedy administration the same research teams that had built "flying wings" and "rocketships" that were only flown once by the senior Avery were now being told to formulate something a little more...involved.
Kennedy saw the impact heroes like Statesman had on past wars and he felt the United States Military needed to keep up. Under Kennedy, American research teams were tasked to find a way to give American soldiers the edge. After the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy made it clear: he wanted a way for one man to fly into enemy territory undetected and run hazardous missions without the aid of aircraft, which by this point seemed like easy targets for anyone with even the most amateur form of radar and surface-to-air missiles.
The research teams made significant advancements, creating wonders of technology with their "ZX-11 rocket boosters," the "ZX-12 gauntlets", and the "ZX-Alpha flight helm." But they still faced a simple problem...the human body just couldn't stand up to the rigors of autonomous flight. The velocities and G-forces produced by the boosters were too much for any ordinary man. Disappointed, Kennedy was forced to discontinue the project just months before his assassination.
As Nixon came into office, the project was resurrected. We entered Vietnam in '65, and when Nixon came into office in '69, he put a former Nazi scientist, Dr. Claus Lichtenstein, in charge of the project.
Dr. Lichtenstein was able to formulate a serum that would heighten a soldier's physical resistance, increasing his bone and muscle density, and giving him a very high tolerance for massive G-forces. All signs pointed to America having a soldier flying into battle without an aircraft by '71.
Now all they needed was a test subject, and they found it in Jimmy Avery.
Jim was a boy scout through and through. His parents had delighted in watching him lead his high school football team to the state championship, he volunteered at a local homeless shelter, he was at the top of his class at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and he rose in the ranks of the USAF faster than anyone before him, even his dad. But he gave all of that up, put on a flight suit, and demanded he be put into action in Vietnam. For a man of his skill and rank to demand a spot ferrying soldiers into battle was unheard of, but it's what he wanted.
When Jim was approached by Dr. Lichtenstein about the new project, he volunteered immediately. He knew what his dad had done for the Air Force and he knew the risks an Avery took for the sake of his country. He wasn't about to turn the opportunity down.
The operation went off without a hitch and fairly soon the troops on the ground didn't just see jets passing overhead drenching the Vietnamese soil with napalm and Agent Orange...they saw a man. Having taken the name Rocket Ace to honor his dad, Jim Avery went on hundreds of missions for the government, always either decimating areas of jungle to uncover Vietcong tunnels or filling the tunnels themselves with highly corrosive napalm to "smoke 'em out." But they weren't "smoked out." They came out burning, their flesh dripping as they fell at Jim's feet, begging for mercy.
Jim was only an operative for two years, and when he came home for the first time he was shocked at what he found. He made one appearance at a government rally for the president and he was bombarded with bottles, rocks, anything the kids in the audience could find. They hated him. He couldn't understand it. He was following orders, doing what his family had always done. He was a patriot...wasn't he?
After the experience, Jim knew he couldn't go back. Not only could he not go back, but he couldn't allow anyone else to become Rocket Ace. He broke into the facility where he underwent the operation, stole everything he could find that would allow them to make another Rocket Ace, and ran.
He made a new life for himself in a quiet corner of America...specifically Steel Canyon, Paragon City, Rhode Island. He figured there'd be no better place for a hero to hide than in a city full of them. But he didn't feel like a hero...he wasn't a hero. He hid the Rocket Ace equipment, serum, and notes in the basement, and got on with his life. He met a woman, Linda, they had a child, and he was content to raise his son to be a good man. A good man, and definitely not a pilot.
But he couldn't outrun the guilt and soon he turned to drink. His son, Johnny, watched as the family imploded, Jim becoming volatile and eventually turning to beating his wife. Johnny fought, but it didn't help. The neighbors heard the commotion, the police were called, and when his mother didn't wake up from her coma Johnny was placed in the hands of social services. It was 1988. He was only 8 years old.
Johnny Avery was a good kid, loved model airplanes, was obedient, but he still never found a home. He skipped from orphanage to orphanage until he was 18, when he was let out and told he was on his own. Unsure of what to do, he soon found himself sitting in a military recruiter's office. He passed the eye test, amazing the doctor's with his 20/5 vision. "Son," one of the doctor's remarked, "you'll make a damn fine pilot. Put this boy in the Air Force immediately."
Over the next few years, Johnny Avery proved himself the most capable pilot the USAF had seen in decades. But always there were whispers, rumors. He couldn't avoid it. He'd see generals looking at him sideways. Old men in the halls would stop him and just stare, then look like they'd remembered some unspeakable secret and move on. He knew there was a history here he didn't understand. After a few missions in the Iraq War, the 23 year-old Johnny Avery went AWOL. He left the Air Force in search of answers. He went back to Paragon City, straight to the house he grew up in. Steel Canyon. For better or worse, he knew he had to remember.
The house had been abandoned and was scheduled for demolition. He walked in, not sure what to expect. As he turned the corners, he began to hear it. Angry shouting, his mother's pleading, the breathy, guttural laments of his father. "They did it to me, Linda!" and "I was a pilot, goddammit! A damn good one!" and "I'll go put the goddamn thing on right now and show you what kinda pilot I am!" He remembered. Rocket Ace. Something about Rocket Ace.
He made his way into the basement and there in a moldy corner he saw a half-open safe. He slowly made his way over and what he found within would change his life forever. A golden helmet, gloves, boots, and a decidedly dated uniform with a rocket emblazoned on the vest. He found a manila folder and opened it to find the words "Operation: Skybomb" printed in bold, typeset letters. In addition to all the information on the operation that made his father into a human rocket, he found newspaper clippings, posters, all kinds of memorabilia his father had kept over the years. As it turned out, though his father's guilt drove him into self-imposed exile, he still relished his 15 minutes of fame.
Attached to the folder was a note with a few hastily scrawled words:
"Son, these are for you."
Pouring over the information now available to him, young Johnny Avery finally understood the man that until now had only existed for him as a bad memory. He now had a connection to him, and like his father before him, he donned the suit with good intentions...only this time there wasn't a government to corrupt them.
He knew with no oversight, no superiors, he could do a lot more good for his city, and his country, than just being another pilot dropping bombs on foreign countries. He had a purpose, a goal. And having taken the serum and equipped the Rocket Ace suit, he was headed there at super-sonic speeds.
It's been 6 years since the hero Rocket Ace resurfaced on the scene, and no one knows that the man behind the helmet is Johnny Avery. He holds down a job as a taxi driver, keeping his CB radio tuned to the police scanners, often letting customers out a few blocks short so he can blast off in secrecy.
A few years ago, Rocket Ace ran into Fusion Force on a routine patrol mission and agreed to join the renowned supergroup. He helps the group as much as an ordinary man with no powers aside from flight and napalm-throwing gauntlets can. But the moments he relishes most are when he's behind the wheel of the second Fusion Jet, flying teams of Fusioneers into interstellar battle. He often holds friendly contests with Kyle Al'Mordu, the head pilot for Fusion Force, and the two jibe each other relentlessly on missions. While he would never say it aloud, Johnny is confident he's the better pilot. As he tells Kyle,
"You got no chance, pal. It's just in my blood."