It's like Bridget Jones' Diary, but with a super-powered vigilante.

January 31, 2005

How the Baron Escaped / Space Zombie Update

"A submarine?" I ask, incredulous. "He got away in a submarine?"

I'm still in the Pan Pacific Hotel in lovely Vancouver, B.C. Kestrel is popping a tape into the suite's VCR. Apparently he's as narcissistic as I am and he Tivos the local media for any mention of his exploits, just like me. I wonder if he keeps a scrapbook of press clippings too.

"He must have had it waiting in the Bay or something," Wombat says, eating some chips on the couch. "The cops think the Baron may have intended to transfer his loot from the blimp to the sub. Either that or it was just there as a back-up, a getaway car."

"Here you go," Kestrel says. On the TV screen is footage from the KOMA news helicopter of a submarine on the surface headed out of Willapa Bay into open water.

"Son of a bitch..." I mutter, leaning in closer. My left shoulder (the one that got stabbed) protests, and I ease back in the couch.

It's definitely Baron von Blitzkrieg's submarine; it's got a distinctive retro-futuristic design, and looks sort of like a robotic shark. A large dorsal fin cuts the water and a ridge of metal spines running along the ridge of the hull gleams in the sunlight. It looks phony, but it's not. It kind of reminds me of Captain Nemo's Nautilus from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

The sub hits the breakers at the edge of the Bay and eases into the Pacific, then dives in a froth of white water. Soon it is just a liquid shadow under the surface, then it's gone entirely.

"I can't fucking believe it," I say, but of course I can. That's what supervillains do; they escape to plague you another day. Sometimes I can't blame guys like The Regulator for just killing them.

"Yeah, bummer, huh? The cops captured about a dozen of the Baron's troopers, total," Wombat says. "And check this out: their hearts are on the left side of their bodies."

I look at Wombat. "Dude, you already told me that."

"Oh..." Wombat says, perplexed.

"Okay, what about the deal up in the Yukon, with the space zombies?" I ask. "What happened there?" (see post Yes! Space Zombie Apocalypse! 1/22/05)

Kestrel fast forwards the tape. "I'm getting to that. Ah, here we are."

The TV stops on an image of Dr. Quark of the Storm Riders, standing at a podium during a press conference. He's outside somewhere, flanked by bureaucrats in overcoats and Canadian soldiers in body armor. Dr. Quark has got to be one of the most composed motherfuckers on the planet. He answers reporters' questions about the narrowly averted apocalypse as if he were reading a quarterly earnings report.

"...hard to describe in rational terms, but basically the meteor that struck north of here contained what we call 'anti-life organisms' that infected the surrounding area. The anti-life matter came into contact with bacteria and microscopic life at first, infecting it, then grew to the point where it could easily infect and convert large animal lifeforms, such as the citizens of Dawson."

He points to a reporter, who asks an inaudible question.

"Yes, the anti-life effect spread from the impact zone to the town of Inuvik, then Dawson. The more life forms it came into contact with, the stronger the phenomenon became. We're fortunate that the meteor didn't land in a heavily populated area."

Dr. Quark, Surgeon of Reality is a handsome middle-aged guy with dark hair and grey temples. He wears a white lab coat over a black suit that seems to be full of stars, and he has a matching domino mask. He's consistently on SuperPeople's "Sexiest Heroes Alive" list. What can I say, chicks dig smart guys.

Another unintelligible question.

"Well, for lack of a better term, the anti-life effect turns infected life forms into zombies. The walking dead. Ghouls."

Another question.

"No, unfortunately there is no way to reverse the process."

Another inaudible question.

Dr. Quark says, "Once we determined what we were dealing with, the Storm Riders, in full cooperation with the Canadian government, cordoned the area to stop the phenomenon from spreading. We called in some specialists like Fantasma Goria, Dreamwalker, and Canada's own Petromancer to help establish a barrier.

"Then we sent two teams into the zone: one under the leadership of the Midnight Rambler neutralized the infected life forms in Dawson and the surrounding area, while the other team contained and removed the anti-life matter in the meteor crater."

Another question.

"Storm Lord launched the material into the Sun, yes."

Another question.

"Good question. The Midnight Rambler's team was vaccinated against the phenomenon's effect before entering the zone. Next?"

An un-miked reporter asks a long, involved question. Dr. Quark nods patiently as the guy goes on and on with his question. Then Dr. Quark sighs and says:

"Valkris is obviously a very attractive woman but our relationship is strictly professional. Next question."

It goes on like this for another few minutes.

Basically it's yet another world-threatening menace crushed with the cool professionalism and godlike powers of the Storm Riders. As I watch Dr. Quark speak, I can't shake the feeling that I've seen this cat before somewhere. But that's not possible; I'd remember meeting a guy like that, wouldn't I?

January 29, 2005

The Gathering of the Victors!

I sleep for about sixteen hours in a suite at the Pan Pacific Hotel, then wake up and brunch with Kestrel and Wombat, who has taken off his mask. Wombat is a husky blonde guy in his thirties with a kind face - he reminds me of Andy Richter.

"Why'd you take the mask off, Wombat?" I ask while shoveling bacon omelet into my mouth.

"Ah, I just felt stupid walking around here in my costume. Plus, nobody wants to wear the same clothes three days in a row. Besides, you took off your mask."

"Yeah, I'm still kind of pissed about that," I say. Dr. Naghib took off my cowl and goggles during my surgery. "He could have, I don't know, covered my face with a surgical mask or something."

"I wouldn't worry about it," says Kestrel, who isn't wearing his goggles either. "It's not like the real you is an important person or anything."

"Gee, thanks."

"You know what I mean," Kestrel says.

Wombat offers his hand across the table. "Well, anyway, my name's Kyle Hansen. I'm from the Bay area. I'm a long-haul trucker, got my own company and everything."

I shake his hand. "So that's how you get around. I was wondering, I thought you had a Wombatjet or something. My name's Connor Mackenzie, I do marketing and brand management stuff. Nice to meet you."

We both look at Kestrel. He takes a bite of melon. "What?" he says. "My name's Kestrel."

"But what's your real name?" Wombat says.

"Kestrel. I don't have a secret identity."

"What's it say on your driver's license?" I ask.

"I don't drive. Have you seen the wings, mate?"

"But if you did," I say.

"Kestrel. It would say Kestrel. That's my name."

"Like Sting?" I say.

Kestrel smiles sourly. "Yes, Marauder. Like Sting."

He's frontin' but I decide not to press him on it. We drink mimosas and eat croissants and talk about the battle with Baron von Blitzkrieg.

Wombat fared pretty well with the Baron's heist squad. He took out a team in the Washington Mutual building by burrowing under the floor and coming up behind them, then disabled another team with tear gas and stun grenades. The rest of the scarlet clad troopers had gathered at the rendezvous point on Fifth, where a mass of cables hung down from the airship, ready to hoist them and their loot up. There were about two dozen men, all armed with rifles and flechette guns.

"I was having a hard time getting near them," Wombat says. "I was taking shelter behind a fountain and lobbing the occasional grenade at them, just trying to keep them busy, when all of a sudden there's this huge pzzzaaaooow and I look and all the bad guys were just flopping around, twitching."

I laugh and tell Wombat about how the Donar fired its electro-probe weapon at me after I had been pushed out of the cargo bay. My glider wings were on, and I was pulling up trying to get back to the blimp when they fired the weapon, striking their landing party cables with a blast of lightning. A powerful electric shock surged through the cables and shocked those poor dumb bastards at the bottom.

Kestrel had been lucky as well in his mission to dismantle the two strands of balloon bombs hanging over the city. He severed the main line from the Donar to the first string of balloon bombs on his first pass, then grabbed the line with one of his freakish bird claws/feet. Under heavy small arms fire from the Baron's troopers in the Donar's cabin, Kestrel pulled the bombs out over the Bay and let them go, hoping that they wouldn't drift back over land.

There were still a dozen balloon bombs left on the second strand. Immediately Kestrel reversed course and headed back, severing the second strand before the Baron could detonate them. This was about the time I was blowing shit up on the airship bridge.

"So when you say 'sever' what does that mean?" I ask. "How did you cut the balloon bomb lines?"

Kestrel jerks a thumb back at the beautiful eagle wings growing out of his back. "With my wings. I have a unique radius and ulna that can form a cutting edge. When I hit something at speed, I destroy it."

"That's bad-ass," I say. "So did anybody get hurt? Any bomb go off?"

"A couple bank tellers got shot before I showed up," Wombat says. "Some old lady had a heart attack during the assault. I checked the news - she died."

Kestrel says, "I deflated all the balloon bombs and dropped them on a gravel barge in the Bay. I imagine the lads in the bomb squad have taken care of them by now. The Baron's ship crash landed in the Bay as well, after blowing up a bit. Apparently they had some spare bombs on board."

"The police took about a dozen of them captive," Wombat says. "And check this out: their hearts are on the left hand side of their bodies."

I look at him. "So what?"

Kestrel sighs. "Wombat, everyone has their heart on the left--"

"I meant on the right hand side!" Wombat says. "The wrong side! They're humans - but not like us."

Hunh. I'm guessing invaders from another dimension, a parallel earth or something. That would account for the weird retro-anachronistic design of the blimp and their weapons. I wonder what their story is?

"And the Baron?" I ask.

Kestrel and Wombat exchange a sheepish glance.

"What? What happened?" I say.

"He got away," Wombat says.

"Oh for fuck's sake. How?"

January 28, 2005

Dr. Naghib

I wake up in a hospital room. A handsome young Indian doctor is writing notes on a chart at the foot of my bed. Wombat is slumped in a chair in the corner with a bag of chips on his belly, sleeping in front of a TV. Canadian news is on.

"Ah, good morning Mr. Marauder," the doctor says. "I'm Dr. Naghib."

I try to sit up but my left shoulder erupts in agony. Damn, that smarts. My head hurts, too. And my chest. And my right shoulder. I'm a mess.

My hand flies to my face - I'm not wearing a mask!

"Wombat, goddamnit!" I yell.

"Whu!?" Wombat pops to his feet, startled, scattering chips everywhere. "Whuzzat? What?"

"My mask, my goggles!" I yell.

"Please, calm down," Dr. Naghib says.

"I've got a fucking secret identity to protect here!"

"I didn't do nothing!" Wombat says, still half awake.

"Mr. Marauder, please," Dr. Naghib says. "I removed your goggles prior to treating you. It was quite necessary; your headgear is attached to the rest of your costume."

"...oh," I say lamely. "Well, still..."

"Your injuries were quite serious," he says. "You're very fortunate that your friends brought you to me right away."

I'm calming down now. "Right," I say. "Right. Thanks, Wombat."

Wombat waves, distracted. He's watching TV again. Wombat has A.D.D.

Dr. Naghib continues. "You're in the Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre, in our research wing. My team repaired your shoulder last night."

It's coming back to me now. The blimp. Baron von Blitzkrieg. Getting stabbed from behind. Getting shot. Falling out of the blimp into the Bay.

I turn to Wombat. "Hey, how did we do? We won?"

"We kicked ass," Wombat says, grinning.

"You had multiple injuries," Dr. Naghib says. "The most serious was the wound in your left shoulder from the, uh--" He consults his chart. "-from the chainsword. It cut your posterior deltoid, which we had to sew back together. You also had blunt force trauma to your right lateral deltoid -- I'm told that was from a gunshot -- as well as two minor injuries to your torso, which should be sore for a little while. Oh, and you had a concussion.

"A normal person could have succumbed to any of those injuries, particularly the gunshots. However, your parahuman physiology is remarkable..."

"So we won?"

Wombat nods.

"Mr. Marauder, I have a regimen of physical therapy I'd like you to follow," Dr. Naghib says. "It's important that you don't exert yourself or put any stress on your shoulder, so I'd advise against any crimefighting or whatnot for the next two weeks. At the same time, you need to keep your shoulder moving so that it doesn't freeze up on you. I'm giving you some painkillers and a week's worth of antibiotics... Are you listening to me, sir?"

I'm looking at the TV, too. The sound is off, but the Canadian anchorman is obviously talking about the Space Zombie Apocalypse up north. Behind him there are shots of army trucks and Humvees rolling through a tundra landscape. A graphic reads: CRISIS AVERTED.

"I'm sorry, Doc," I say. "So the space zombie thing is over?"

He sighs. "Yes, I suppose so."

"That's awesome," I say, then slowly rise from the bed. Wow, I am sore. "Listen, Doc, I really appreciate your help..."

"I want to see you back here in a week," he says. "Here's my card."

Wombat pops to his feet. "We going? Good. Kestrel got us a suite at a hotel dowtown. Come on, I'll bring you up to speed, tell you what's been going on."

Dr. Naghib shakes his head a little and makes a note on his clipboard.

January 26, 2005

The Blitz, Part Three

(This is the third part of my epic battle with Baron von Blitzkrieg. Sorry about the delay.)

Baron von Blitzkrieg’s zeppelin Donar floats like a huge basking shark over the financial district of Evergreen City. Twin strands of balloon bombs lazily drift overhead, each balloon carrying a tidy little package of explosives. The electro-probe thing that blew up poor Leslie Milton’s helicopter hangs below the control car, sparking and crackling with power. Dozens of cables extend down from an open bomb bay in the blimp; about five minutes ago a platoon of scarlet troopers rappelled down into the city, and in about five minutes they’ll start hoisting loot from the city’s banks up into the airship. Another dull explosion echoes through the canyons of the city – another bank vault blown open by these strange retro invaders.

Wombat and I are crouched behind some HVAC hardware on the roof of the Pacific County Courthouse, in the shadow of the zeppelin, which hovers in place with the aid of four rotating fans. It’s huge, we’re about 200 yards away and the thing just fills the sky. Kestrel is out over the Bay somewhere. I could look for him with the binocular setting on my goggles, but I’m kind of busy preparing for my violent and futile death.

“All right, Wombat, I think this is as close as we get,” I say. “You know what to do?”

“Yeah, I go down there and beat up as many of those guys as I can,” Wombat says.

“That’s about it, yeah.”

“How are you getting up there?” Wombat says, pointing up at the Donar.

“You ever read X-Men?” I ask.

“You know it,” he says. “I always liked the Beast.”

“I’ll bet.”

“And Gambit.”

“…that’s not cool, Wombat.”

“What?” he says. “What’s wrong with Gambit?”

“Okay, enough.”

“I’m just saying…” he says glumly.

“I had a point with the X-Men thing. We’re gonna do a Fastball Special.”

Wombat looks at me blankly.

“A Fastball Special? Colossus would pick up Wolverine and throw him at the bad guys like a spear. You’re going to throw me at the blimp.”

Wombat looks up at the zeppelin. “Did Colossus ever miss?”

“I’ve got glider wings, dude. I’ll be all right.”

“Okayyy…” he says skeptically.

I key the mike in my communications suite. “Kestrel, are you online?”

His voice crackles in on our headsets. Good thing we all get our gear from the same weapon smith, huh? “Yeah, just waiting on you girls,” Kestrel says.

“Okay, give me ten seconds,” I say. “Wombat, cup your hands like this and throw me alley-oop style.”

Wombat kneels down, cupping his big mittens together. I step backwards into his hands and bend my knees a little, tensing. Man, I hope nobody’s taking a picture of this.

The Baron’s huge blimp hovers overhead like a dark cloud. The electro-probe glistens and crackles, waiting to strike. Through the large windows of the control car I can see scarlet figures stalking the bridge, perhaps the Baron himself. I can see men with guns moving around onboard. The invisible hand of terror clutches my chest and squeezes.

This all has to happen at the same time, or we fail, and by “we fail,” I mean the city gets firebombed and lots of people die. Suddenly I’m not convinced that this is a good idea. I have to attack the blimp’s control car, Kestrel has to take out the balloon bombs, and Wombat has to attack the bank raiders – all at the same time. I’m gripped with the conviction that my plan relies entirely too much on luck. It’s something that you would do in a comic book, not real life. I’ve doomed everybody because I want to play hero.

We are so fucked.

“Marauder,” Wombat says.


“You nervous?”

“Nah,” I say. “You ready?”

Wombat swallows and nods. I tense, ready to go.

“Three… two… one… Go!”

In my ear Kestrel says, “I’m going.”

With a mighty grunt Wombat just fucking catapults me up at the airship. I’m not ready for how fast he throws me – Wombat is about as strong as I am – and it’s like getting launched from a cannon. The Donar looms, a huge scarlet and gold filigree hulk growing before me. Then the yawning mouth of the bomber bay is in front of me and I smash like a torpedo into the airship.

I shoot right through the open bay doors on the bottom of the Donar’s long passenger compartment, rebound off a thick tangle of cables and gears, then slam against a wall.

Looking around, I find myself in a fairly large loading bay, decorated in the same baroque motif as the rest of the blimp. Crates of supplies and barrels of oil are stacked in an orderly way, and a tool shop lines one wall. Cranes, gears, pulleys, hooks, and massive cable spools hang over the open bay doors in the floor, through which I can see the city, my vulnerable city. Thick cables run from the spools out the open loading bay, a lifeline to the raiders below.

And staring at me as I pick myself up off the floor are six brawny engineers, dressed in baggy scarlet trousers and striped red and white shirts. They wear dorky little tams and have mutton chops, but the fact that they’re wielding pipes and wrenches makes them considerably less goofy.

We all stare at each other for a second.

“You guys look like a bunch of little girls,” I say.

I’m not sure if they understood me or not, but I think I got the point across. Collectively the engineers scream and charge me.

I’ve got about two seconds before they slam into me with all their wrenches and tools and shit. What are my goals here? I’ve got to get to the bridge ASAP. Do I take the time to beat these guys up? Do I sabotage the cable gears? Do I –

The first of the Baron’s engineers is on me, swinging a rod of metal at my head. I block the rod with my left arm then reverse punch the guy in the face. I twist the rod out of his hand as the guy slumps back, toothless, then spin around and swat another attacker in the chest with it. That guy’s out of the fight, too.

Then somebody smacks me in the head with a wrench or something, which staggers me. I don’t care who super-tough you are, if somebody hits you in the skull with a metal object, it smarts. I sink to one knee, ears ringing. The four guys jump on me, kicking and smacking me. I don’t bother resisting -- it doesn’t hurt, and I need a second to clear my head.

“Okay, enough of the pummeling,” I say.

I punch somebody in the crotch. He drops.

I take a kick in the ribs from another striped-shirt goon so I can grab his leg. I twist hard and feel his knee pop. The guy screams as I twist harder, slamming him into the deck face first. He’s out, too.

There are two left. One punches me in the jaw, a solid right cross. Doesn't hurt. The other guy is running for an intercom panel, presumably to sound the alarm.

First things first: I fire a Marauderang at the fleeing engineer’s back, which catches him in the base of the spine. He falls short of his goal and writhes around like a goldfish, clutching his back. But then the last guy jumps on my back and grabs me from behind in a chokehold. I reach over my head, grab hold of his fancy striped shirt, then bend forward and flip the guy over my shoulders.

He falls screaming out of the open hatch.

“Oh shit!”

I run to the edge of the bay doors and look out. The engineer is already a rapidly shrinking red and white striped doll, plummeting hundreds of feet to the street far, far below.

I just killed that dude…

Two riflemen in scarlet tunics and black forager caps burst into the bay. I turn just as they raise their guns and shoot me.

The bullets both hit my mid-section like tiny meteors, impacting against the suit’s layers of ballistic nylon, Kevlar, and plastic, and ultimately against my thick, injury-resistant flesh. It hurts, but not excruciatingly so. It’s like getting shot with a paintball gun for me. Anyway, I get shot and the impact knocks me backwards, out of the open bay doors, falling, falling towards the city far below.

“Shit!” I scream, more pissed than anything else. I clip my wing tips in place on my gauntlet’s hard points and extend my arms. My glider wings snap into place and I pull up, looping around the mass of cables extending from the blimp.

I’m under the airship now, gliding in a big arc. Wow, I’ve never been up this high.

I can hear the guys in the cargo bay shooting at me from the bay doors. I don’t see Kestrel anywhere, but I only see one of the two strands of balloon bombs. Maybe I should try to dismantle the other strand, maybe Kestrel was shot down or something. Blitzkrieg could drop those explosives any second now.

Then the electro-probe device, the big rod and donut weapon hanging on the bottom of the control car, springs to life. A tendril of blue electricity snakes out, growing.

They’re going to shoot that thing at me.

I think to myself, “Oh shit.” I have a limited repertoire of expression during stressful events. Although I’m really trying to work some more wit and banter into my fights, right now it’s pretty much “shit” and “fuck.” As Charles Barkley would say, “I am not a role model.”

I arch my back and twist into the wind, pulling as tight a curve as I can.

The electro-probe fires.

A crackling shaft of lightning bursts out of the device, ripping towards me as I swoop behind the cables and back up towards the Donar. I must be too close for it to get a good bead on me, because the lightning misses me and strikes the landing party cables instead. For a moment I see the cables sparking and writhing with electric fury, and then I am swooping back up towards the undercarriage of the airship.

I fly up to a window just aft of the bridge. It’s a big circular portal with a gilded frame. Looks like a hallway on the other side. Clinging to the side of the airship with my gauntlet spikes and boot cleats, I make a fist, pull back, and smash through the window. I hop inside.

Looking around, I find myself in a short hallway that runs the width of the Donar’s cabin. The place looks like the inside of a fancy 18th century sailing ship as imagined by Walt Disney, with baroque gold trim, a deep red rug, and ornate wall lanterns. In front of me, the main corridor that runs the length of the ship’s long cabin. I must be right next to the bridge.

A guard comes around the corner. He’s got a wicked looking weapon that looks like a cross between an Uzi and a nail gun. When he sees me, he freezes.

I spring on him like a panther, stuffing my fist into his face.

The guard lies crumpled at my feet, barely conscious, as I inspect his nail gun. It’s actually a dart gun, and it’s cool. It carries nasty little flechettes in a drum clip and has a wooden pistol grip. I wonder –

“Intruder!” Two riflemen yell at me from the other end of the long corridor.

Almost instinctively I fire the dart gun at them. Phut phut phut. It sounds like a silenced submachine gun. The guys at the end of the corridor dive for cover from the hailstorm of darts. One of them screams and drops his rifle.

I think those are the same dickheads that shot me!

Behind me is the door to the bridge. I may already be too late. A shot ricochets down the corridor. I fumble with my utility belt. An alarm bell above my head goes off. I hurl a sepia bomb at the riflemen. Its inky blackness envelops the entire corridor. Hopefully that will hold those guys for a minute.

I open the door and jump out on to the bridge, into the midst of a whole bunch of armed men.

The Donar’s bridge is a two level semi-circular arrangement, with the bridge staff working at stations on the lower level and the command staff working on the smaller balcony-type area. The whole place is brass and polished teak. The door I stumbled through comes out in the middle of the terraced room. The multi-paned spherical window on the bridge is huge, and offers a spectacular view of the airship’s target – Evergreen City.

I catch a glimpse of Kestrel streaking under the blimp like a rocket, just a blur. Man, he is shit-fast!

Below me in the pit, one of the bridge staff says, “I have the flyer on the Omni-Scanner! He may be heading for the other chain of balloon bombs, m’lord!”

Behind me, I hear a familiar Teutonic voice thunder, “Release the bombs!”

From behind me on the balcony, somebody yells, “Intruder on the bridge!”

I spin. On the command terrace, Baron von Blitzkrieg himself stands, flanked by two officers with drawn swords. Blitzkrieg snarls beneath his waxed moustache and points a gloved finger at me.

“You’ve doomed the city with your hubris, Marauder!” Blitzkrieg yells. “Release the bombs!”

Think fast: one of these guys below me is the guy in charge of releasing the bomb. Which one? I claw at my utility belt again and produce an egg bomb, then another.

The Baron’s men leap down on either side of me, wielding sabers.

I squeeze the nitrocellulose shells, cracking them. Air mingles with the chemicals inside the eggs, and a reaction begins. They start fizzing. I toss them down into the pit, on to the workstations of the bridge staff.

“Have at you, blackguard!” one of the officers screams.

The Baron’s men attack. These officers are wearing scarlet tunics festooned with medals, black sashes on their waist, and death’s head shako caps. And of course, hideously dated facial hair.

Twin explosions rip through the bridge as the egg bombs detonate.

The officers are momentarily distracted by the thunderous explosion, the shattering bridge windows, and the screaming bridge crew. I, on the other hand, am not distracted. The Velvet Marauder machine - zero defects baby. I body check the guy on my right, flattening him against a wall. His breath leaves him in one huge moan and he’s down.

The other guy remembers what he’s getting paid for and charges me, sword high.

I parry the blow with my reinforced forearm, then palm strike the guy in the face. Another one down. I am on fire! I wish somebody was filming this.

What feels like a really big hot needle pierces my left shoulder. I hear this noise in my ear as my left arm goes numb. It sounds like an electric toothbrush. There is groaning; I remember groaning, then “Schweinhund!” and I am pushed –kicked- forward into the pit, on to one of the burning bridge stations.

That fucker stabbed me.

I roll myself over with difficulty. My shoulder burns. All around me, dazed and injured bridge crew sprawl painfully. Their shattered machinery burns. Outside, the city skyline tilts. Am I high, or is the blimp listing to one side? I smell burning Kevlar. I think that’s me.

Baron von Blitzkrieg strides forward out of the black smoke that swirls around the bridge. He leers down at me, black eyes sparkling with hate. Playfully he swings a buzzing sword around.

“I can cut through anything I like with my chainsword,” Blitzkrieg says, then points the sword at me. Sure enough, it has thousands of mini chainsaw teeth whirring around the edge of the sword. “But some things are more enjoyable to cut through than others, ja?”

I cough. Man, what if I have internal bleeding and shit? “Game's over, pal. Give it up.” I don't sound very convincing.

The Donar shudders, and another alarm bell goes off somewhere. The Baron looks out the window. “Your winged friend has cost me another engine. He’s been quite a bother,” he says, and I lunge at him.

Before I even clear the pit area, the Baron has produced a Mauser type pistol in his free hand and fires. I feel the bullet plow into my left shoulder, right into a soft spot between two plates of ballistic ceramic. I stumble on my face, clutching my burning shoulder.

There’s a click in my ear. The Baron’s Mauser.

“Goodbye friend,” he says.

A big stone gargoyle crashes through the bridge window, ripping into the control cabin like the figurehead of a ramming ship. With a terrible racket a giant wedge of stone follows the gargoyle, tossing me off my feet. It takes a second before I realize that the Donar has crashed into the top of the old Pacific Lumber tower.

I lose Baron von Blitzkrieg in the chaos as the huge rock iceberg destroys our Titanic.

I leap for the doorway, make it. I tumble down into the main corridor, where a couple of redcoats are hanging on for dear life as the ship pitches and yaws. From the cargo bay area there’s a huge explosion, and the Donar shakes violently.

Time for me to get the hell out of here.

With my gauntlet's claws I grip the walls and make my way towards the window I broke to get inside. Outside the world spins crazily. The ship slews to one side with a grinding noise, and it feels like we’re off the Pacific Lumber tower, but sinking fast.

I lunge for the window.

Of course, Baron von Blitzkrieg comes shrieking out of the wreckage of the bridge and attacks me.

“Meddling pimp! Strutting pretender! I’ll gut you like a trout!”

Blood streaks down his enraged face from a forehead cut – he looks like a bloody screaming specter as he slashes at me with his chainsword. I duck beneath his blow, then pop up and give him an armored backhand, sending him flying.

Outside the broken window I see water. We’re over the Bay.

The Baron spits blood, holds his broken nose. “I’ll see you burn for this, sir! I’ll see you burn!”

“Big talk from the guy with the broken nose,” I say.

Another explosion rocks the ship. I’m out of here.

I turn at the window before I jump and look at him.

“I’m too sexy for your blimp,” I say.

The Baron screams in rage as I bail out of the blimp 300 feet over the Bay. I try to click my glider wings in place but I can’t… move… my left arm far enough. Pain shoots through my shoulder where I got stabbed. Shit, I can’t do it.

The cold salt water of the Bay rushes up to meet me. I’ve never dropped into water from this height; I imagine it will hurt. Peripherally I am aware of the Donar, burning, all scarlet and gold and flame, sinking towards the Bay on a much slower trajectory.

As I fall, one thought is foremost in my mind:

“I’m too sexy for your blimp?” What the fuck kind of thing to say is that?

Then I hit the water.

I was right, it does hurt.

January 25, 2005

The Blitz, Part Two

(In case the title didn't give it away, this is part two of my battle against the nefarious Baron von Blitzkrieg)

I’m on my way out of the building, heading for the Saab and my suit of armor, when I pass Ted Bradbury in the parking garage. He’s strolling into the building, briefcase in hand, as casual as can be. He either doesn’t know about the death blimp or it just doesn’t bother him all that much, ‘cause he’s looking pretty fucking casual.

“Ted,” I say in greeting as I jog by.

“Hey!” he calls.

I turn, running backwards. “What?”

He gives me an inscrutable look, which is a step up from his usual I-fucking-hate-you look. “Don’t fuck this up, hotshot,” he says. I swear to God he almost smiles.

I don’t know how to react so I just turn around and keep running. "Hotshot" - who says "hotshot?" Thanks, Maverick!

I suit up in the backseat of the car, which is awkward as hell but there aren’t any phone booths or anything handy so I have to make do. That’s a little joke. I entertain the notion of driving closer to the scene, but chances are the cops are blocking off access to downtown, so I decide to head to the scene via rooftop. It's probably faster than driving anyway. I just hope nobody sees me leaving the building.

Heading into town in my work clothes, I can see von Blitzkrieg’s airship Donar hovering over the banking district like a big malevolent sausage, casting a deep shadow over the skyscrapers. From this angle I can see two strands of balloon bombs extending from the blimp’s control cab – each strand has a dozen or so white balloons, and each balloon has a miniature gondola hanging beneath it, which I assume is full of high explosives. Bay doors in the bottom of the passenger compartment are open, and I can see scarlet-suited commandos rappelling out of the blimp down into the city below. This must be the bank robber squad.

To catch you up, Baron von Blitzkrieg has parked his big-ass retro zeppelin over Evergreen City and is threatening to “transmogrify [our] city by the sea into a hellish inferno” unless we let his troopers rob all the downtown banks and… ah, hell, just read post The Blitz, Part One.

I ride the top of a bus through Queen’s Row until a police barricade stops me and I have to hop off.

People on the street spot me rebounding off a light post and up on to a rooftop and start shouting. “Hey! Velvet Marauder!” somebody yells. It’s weird being out here in broad daylight. I feel naked, and not in a good way.

The police scanner is going absolutely apeshit. I listen to the chatter on my suit’s audio system while I thread through the urban canyons of Midtown. From what I can gather, they’ve cordoned off the downtown area and are trying to keep office workers inside their buildings and off the streets. Fire trucks and aid units are responding to a massive fire and freeway collapse – sounds like Highway 6 got blown up near the river. A SWAT team is setting up a command center in Waterfront Park. By the time they organize, this whole thing will be over.

Which leads me to the question: what the hell am I going to do?

“Hey! Marauder!”

Wombat is waving frantically from the roof of the old J&M cold storage building.

I bounce off a fire escape and hop up next to Wombat on the roof. Maybe he has some ideas how to handle this cluster fuck.

“Wombat! Fuck, am I glad to see you. Can you believe this shit? Where did these fuckheads come from?” I swear a lot when I’m under stress.

“I don’t know, I just got here,” Wombat says, scratching his head, looking up at the zeppelin. “That thing’s pretty big, huh?”


We both look at the airship for a moment in silence.

“So,” I say. “What do you think we should do?”

He laughs. “I was gonna ask you that. I don’t know, maybe we do nothing.”

“We can’t do nothing. We’re superheroes,” I say.

“Yeah, but those balloon bombs,” Wombat says, pointing up at the deadly string of pearls floating over the city. “I mean, if we take out the bank robber guys, Baron Munchausen up there is just gonna bomb the city. I’d rather let the guy rob all the banks and not kill anybody.”

“He’s already killed people, he just bombed Highway 4.”

“You know what I mean.”

Without warning there’s a rush of air. Wombat and I are jumpy as hell; we both spin around as Kestrel suddenly swoops up in front of us, held aloft by his huge wings. Scares the hell out of me.

“Jesus, dude!” I say, clutching my beating heart. “Can’t you make a shrieking hawk noise or something to give a brother a head’s up?”

Kestrel scowls at us, flaps his wings impatiently. “You stupid twats!” he yells in his British accent. “Get off the bloody roof!”

Grumbling, Wombat and I hop down to a lower roof that’s sheltered from the zeppelin. Kestrel alights on the roof next to us, shaking his head like a disappointed nanny. “I cannot believe you lot have survived this long, I sincerely cannot,” he says.

“Whatever,” I say cleverly.

Kestrel is annoyingly handsome, like a cross between Jude Law and an angel. He’s got these magnificent eagle wings growing out of his back, which just adds to the allure. The chicks dig the wings. He wears a black leather outfit with lots of straps and buckles as well as a leather aviator’s cap and goggles. The man exudes an aura of self-possession that borders on arrogance. I would too if I looked like that. The one freakish thing about him: instead of normal feet he has these wicked bird talons. They always shoot him from above the waist in SuperPeople; I’ll bet a good close up of those nasty feet of his would gross out a lot of his 13-year old girl fans. Anyway, Kestrel’s allright, but I sort of hate him on principle. (see post Patrol Report – Kestrel 10/28/04)

“So what’s the situation?” he says. “I just got here.”

I bring him up to speed. We hear a hollow explosion from the banking district. The Baron’s troopers are probably blowing bank vaults.

Kestrel says, “Well, we’ve got to do something.”

“I’m glad you’re here to tell us that,” I say sarcastically.

“I’d think you’d be grateful of any help,” he says. “You obviously can’t handle the situation alone.” That’s true enough.

“Maybe we shouldn’t do anything,” Wombat says. “I mean, all that money they’re stealing is insured, and if we fuck up they’ll firebomb the city.”

“Do nothing?” Kestrel says incredulously. “We’re superheroes, mate.”

“This is what I’m saying,” I say. “We’ve got to step up to the plate.”

“Says who?” Wombat says. “Maybe we should let the Storm Riders take him out or something.”

“They’re busy with the space zombie thing up in Canada,” I say.

“What about the Minutemen? Or Silver Striker?”

“Wombat, those guys aren’t even on the West Coast. By the time they get here, that blimp will be long gone,” I say.

Wombat scratches his head. “You think? I mean, how fast can a blimp go? Silver Striker could catch it no problem, and take them out when they’re not hovering over a city.”

“No, fuck that, I’m not going to sit back and let somebody else do the heavy lifting for me,” I say. “What kind of heroes are we if we just throw up our hands and hope the Minutemen take care of our problems for us? Besides, the Baron’s probably got a cloaking device or some shit to help him escape.”

“I hate to say it, but I agree with Marauder.”

“Thanks Kestrel.”

“Fine, okay,” Wombat says. “It’s your city.”

I step back and peer up at the Donar, hovering overhead, blotting out the noon sun. I think I have an idea, but I don’t know if it’s stupid or not. I don’t have a lot of experience with shit like this. I take a deep breath.

“Okay, I have an idea,” I say.

Kestrel feigns surprise. “You?”

I ignore him. “We’ve got all we need right here to stop this. Kestrel, you’re in charge of the balloon bombs. Wombat, you’ve got the dudes on the ground in the banking district. And me?”

I smile grimly and smack my fists together.

“I’m going to take out that fucking blimp.”


Jeff Goldblum Interlude

I'm sure that you're all waiting with baited breath* for the next installment in my Blitz saga, but let's just pause for a moment and reflect on the eternal coolness of Jeff Goldblum.

We'll resume our regularly scheduled storyline later today.

*This is self-deprecating sarcasm.

The Blitz, Part One

(This is part one of three in my epic battle against Baron von Blitzkrieg.)

I’m at work, it’s around noon, and I’m trying to decide whether to hit the food court on Sixth or just eat the usual ninth floor buffet. That’s right, suckas, everybody working on QuantumWorks gets free lunch every day, and good coffee, too. There are some perks to working for supervillains, after all. Anyway, as I’m trying to make this monumental decision, Chad lunges into the doorway, breathless with excitement.

“Connor! You gotta check this out!” Then he runs down the hall and out of the QW security area.

I’m intrigued, so I follow. I pass through the security door and out into the main office. People are rushing to the windows on the east side of the building, excited.

“…there an air show in town?”

“What are those? Balloons?”

“…we call the police or something?”

Making my way to one of the windows, I look outside. Not far from our building, a strange blimp hovers over downtown. Briefly I’m irritated that Chad got me out of my office just to look at a fucking blimp, and I wonder what the big deal is. Then I realize what I’m looking at.

It’s not a blimp; it’s a fucking zeppelin, a huge scarlet cigar-shaped thing, easily five hundred feet long. The bow and keel gleam with gold filigree. Four huge propellers hang from various points on the fuselage, spinning lazily. A control car droops down in the bow and what looks like a passenger compartment with windows runs along the keel of the airship. A giant black Iron Cross adorns one of the vertical fins in the rear. It’s retro and quaint and menacing all at the same time.

The KLUB news helicopter passes overhead.

“That looks like bad news,” I say to nobody in particular. I’m a superhero, I talk to myself.

Chad sidles up next to me at the window. “You see the balloons?” he says, pointing.

Then I see them. Big white balloons drift out of a large hatch in the passenger compartment on the bottom of the zeppelin. It’s hard to tell, but the balloons look pretty big. They seem to be attached to each other by a line, and they hang over downtown like a string of patio lanterns. What the hell is going on?

“What do you think’s going on?” Chad says. “Some kind of publicity stunt? Supervillains?”

“I don’t know, man. Nothing good. Let’s go turn on the TV in the lounge.”

The lounge is packed with people, watching KLUB’s breaking news coverage of the weird airship. They have aerial footage of the zeppelin, and girl reporter Leslie Milton is breathlessly narrating from inside the helicopter.

“…appeared over the skies of Evergreen City less than an hour ago and has not responded to any attempts to contact it. This strange craft is now disgorging what look like balloons over the city – for what purpose, we can only guess. We’re flying in for a closer look…”

I gotta hand it to the pilot of that helicopter; he’s got cojones. They pull level with the zeppelin and zoom in on the control car. Behind the windows you can see men in scarlet and gold uniforms of some kind.

“We can see the crew of the airship,” Leslie Milton says. “They seem to be… wait… Jim can you get a shot of that?”

The camera pulls back a little and we can now see a hatch opening on the bottom of the control car. A big metal donut-shaped object lowers down from the control car, attached to a thick shaft. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it’s a Tesla coil. An arc of electricity surges from the donut object.

“It appears to be some kind of we—“ Leslie Milton says, and then we get a brief shot of a brilliant tentacle of electricity whipping toward the camera.

Then static.

A collective gasp runs through the room. They just killed Leslie Milton.

Somebody switches the TV to KOMA, which also has a chopper in the air. Their camera spins crazily and we get a shot of the KLUB helicopter burning, disintegrating, and falling to Earth. The KOMA reporter on board says, “Holy shit!”

Then the TV goes dark. Everyone begins yelling at the guy with the remote control.

“I didn’t touch anything!” the guy says. “It just turned off.”

The TV isn’t dark for long. It winks back on, but now the image is in lurid Technicolor, like they suddenly switched to an old film stock or something. A man appears on the TV screen, grinning out at us from inside the control car of the airship. We can see scarlet uniformed crewmen scurry around behind him. He’s an older cat, about sixty, with a handlebar moustache and a long nose. He’s wearing a double-breasted deep red uniform that looks positively Napoleonic, with gold epaulets and an ornate high collar. On his head he wears a shako, a tall cylindrical hat with a crimson plume adorned with a golden skull and crossbones that was en vogue a few centuries ago. I’d laugh, but there’s something in the man’s black eyes and weird smile that gives me the creeps.

“Good citizens of Evergreen City,” he begins, speaking directly into the camera with a German accent. “Greetings. My name is Baron Johann von Blitzkrieg, and for the next several hours I am the total master of your fair city.”

I feel a hand on my shoulder. Margo is next to me, looking as scared as everyone else.

“Is this real?” she whispers. I nod.

“Perhaps you have taken notice of my flagship, the zeppelin Donar, hovering over your city center. You may also have noticed the balloon bombs that I have unfettered into the air. Even now as I speak these bombs disperse over your homes, your places of work, your schools. These balloon bombs are more than capable of transmogrifying your city by the sea into a hellish inferno – I need only say the word, and all that I see shall be laid waste. I shan’t hesitate to do so if my entirely reasonable demands are not met forthwith.

“Ah, but you doubt. Perhaps you think I jest? Allow me to demonstrate both my sincerity and my abilities, so that you may doubt me no more.”

Baron von Blitzkrieg tips a gloved finger at someone off-screen, and we hear somebody shout “release!” in the background. There’s a pause as the Baron looks down, waiting…

From inside the TV lounge we hear a distant boom. Somebody starts crying.

The Baron returns to the camera, smiling. “There. I have just destroyed the autobahn leading into Evergreen City… and slain quite a few motorists, I may add. More will die, and unnecessarily so, if my instructions are not followed. Submit to my will, and the Donar and I shall depart within a few hours time with no further loss of life and property. Deny me, hinder me, obstruct my plans, and this unpleasant process shall be repeated writ large, and your entire city shall burn like so much dry kindling.

“I trust I have conveyed how resolute I am in this matter. What do I ask of you? My request is simplicity itself: do nothing.

"My troopers will descend from the Donar into your city’s financial center, and will in short order plunder every bank in the city. Any attempt to impede them or to attack the Donar will result in the death of countless innocents. If your police try to stop them – your city burns. If any superhuman do-gooders intervene – your city burns. If any flying craft approach the Donar – I'll shoot them from the sky, then your city burns. If the military respond – ah, but I belabor the point.

“Good folk, ask yourself: is the treasure in your bank vaults worth the death of thousands? Would you gamble the lives of your children to protect someone else’s money? The algebra is straightforward: resistance equals death. I know you will make the correct decision. I bid you good day.”

And with a mocking touch to the brim of his shako, Baron von Blitzkrieg signs off.

I’m already out the door, running for my car.

Game on.


January 24, 2005

"Strange lights in the northern sky"

Nothing too exciting happening in the E.C. tonight. I patrol Midtown and Queen's Row but it's pretty dead. I call 911 for a drunk woman in Queen's Row who is having chest pains, then split just as the cops and ambulance arrive. That's about it.

It's a clear night, though, and on the northern horizon I can see eerie bands of purple light shimmering in the sky above the space zombie apocalypse zone. Normally the Aurora Borealis isn't visible from Evergreen City, but as the talking heads on CNN remind us, the phenomenon we're seeing isn't actually the Northern Lights, but something more sinister entirely. (see post Yes! Space Zombie Apocalypse! 1/22/05) It's spooky. Looking at it gives me goosebumps.

I was right about the Storm Riders, though. The Canadian government called them in, as well as half the Canadian army, a unit of U.S. Army Rangers, and representatives from F.E.M.A. Details are sketchy, primarily because the phenomenon plays havoc on any sort of electronics, but it doesn't look good.

Quiet night. Maybe everybody stayed at home tonight watching the end of the world on cable.

January 22, 2005

Baby Report

I visited Mitch and Lisa and their new baby Hector today, which was nice. The parents look exhausted but happy. Mitch took a few weeks off work and is spending the entire time shuffling around in his pajamas, apparently. Lisa has dark circles under her eyes and complains to me about the difficulties of breast feeding, which I don't really care to know about, but whatever. Their fridge is absolutely packed with food from friends and family, and before I leave they load me up with a bunch of tortes and some turkey - there's no way they can eat all that shit.

Hector himself is a squinty little creature with a flat head. He's cute, I guess. I think I'm more of a toddler fan. Toddlers run/crawl around and do cute things and stuff - newborns just kind of lay there and look pissed or sleepy or something. Hector sort of looks like Herve Villachez, "Tatoo" from TV's Fantasy Island. I didn't say this to Mitch or Lisa, of course.

"Do you want to hold him?" Lisa asks.

"No," I say.

"Why not?"

"He's so small, Lisa. I don't want to hurt him."

I really am afraid that I'll crush him. What if I sneeze or have a muscle spasm or my powers go crazy? I can rip a phonebook in two with my bare hands. People like me shouldn't be around fragile little babies.

"You're not going to hurt him, dumbass," Mitch says.

"Here," Lisa says, gently handing Hector to me. "Hold him like this."

I take Hector into my arms gently. Wow, he weighs like, nothing. He kind of stirs a little in his swaddling cloth and does a little yawn thing. Okay, that's pretty cute.

"Smell him," Lisa says, which is not something you hear every day.

Hector smells like... like new baby. Like innocence, like an unlimited future full of hope, full of love.

Okay, I'm getting a little misty here. I hand Hector back to Lisa and clear my throat.

"Very cute," I say huskily, wiping my eyes.

Mitch is grinning. "Behold, my friend, the power of the baby."

Yes! Space Zombie Apocalypse!

So can I call it or what?

There’s some huge supernatural crisis going on up in Canada, high up in the Arctic Circle where that asteroid hit back in November. (See post Death Rock from Space and Earth – 1 Giant Sentient Asteroid – 0, 11/04) It hit up in the Northwest Territories, near a town called Inuvik, which is apparently the capitol of The Middle of Nowhere. The crater began radiating strange otherworldly energy, the kind of shit that makes dogs crazy, gives people nosebleeds, and makes you hear weird voices and sounds. The Canadian government lost two teams of scientists and a documentary crew from National Geographic inside the blast zone before they got serious and quarantined the whole area.

But it was too late for Inuvik, as the anchorman for CBC tells us. I like Canadian news, it has fewer shooting death stories and their news guys all seem so polite. The report is maddeningly vague, but grim:

“We’ve been unable to verify the fate of A Company of the 1st Battalion,” says CBC anchorman Todd Williams. “Scott Gregory, our CBC reporter in Dawson last reported that the soldiers of A Company were attacked when they entered Inuvik –reportedly attacked by the citizens of the town themselves. Our last contact with Scott was three hours ago, when he sent a text message which said – and this is unconfirmed – that the soldiers were being eaten by the attackers…”

I called it! Space zombie apocalypse. (see post Space zombies or evil beast from another dimension? You make the call, 12/17/04)

Here’s more Todd Williams: “Minister of Defence* Bill McCormick spoke with reporters yesterday at Land Force Western Area HQ about the deadly phenomenon.”

We cut to the Canadian Minister of Defence speaking to reporters on a helipad, surrounded by bureaucrats and bodyguards. Behind him the sky to the northeast glows an unnatural purple. It looks like fucking Mordor. A military helicopter flies overhead.

Minister of Defence: “We’ve established a 20 km cordon around the area, which we’re reinforcing with elements of the 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade. Our American friends have offered military assistance and a unit of Rangers from Washington State is en route to Land Force Western as we speak. We are working on learning more about the phenomenon, but right now we’re primarily concerned with containment and the protection of our citizens in the northern provinces. We haven’t ruled out parahuman intervention.”

That means Storm Riders. Canada doesn’t have a national super team right now – they keep reforming and disbanding theirs – and they wouldn’t want the Minute Men coming in. Other countries are weird about having American super soldiers operating on their soil. They’ll send in the Storm Riders within 24 hours, you watch.

*This is the correct spelling of "defense" if you're a Canadian

Patrol Report

It's a misty night in the E.C. I download a new playlist of Bauhaus and Peter Murphy songs and bounce around the dark, slick rooftops of Queen's Row listening to Bela Lugosi's Dead.

Not a lot going on tonight. I save a dog from getting hit by a car, which is pretty cool. Dogs need help, too sometimes.

January 20, 2005

Margo Update

At work today I bump into Ted Bradbury coming out of the copy room. Literally. I’m rounding the corner, entering the copy room just as he’s leaving, and we do one of those shoulder body-checks. It feels like hitting an oak tree. He’s superhuman for sure; if I slammed into a normal guy they’d be on the floor.

“Oh, sorry, Ted,” I say. “Making copies?”

Ted stands in the doorway glaring at me. “Mackenzie,” he says with distaste. He may have well just said, “Dogshit.”

“Hey, you know, we never talk, Ted,” I say. I can’t help myself, some irresistible inner force compels me to fuck with people. “You should swing by my office some time, shoot the breeze.”

“You probably think you’re bulletproof now that Quentin asked you to stay on,” he says, lowering his voice as somebody walks by in the hall. (see post My Meeting with the Supervillains Who Run My Company, 11/7/05) “Well, I got a news flash for you, pal. You fuck up once – just once – and your ass is mine.”

“Are you hitting on me, Ted?” I say, a little too loudly.

Ted’s face glows red. I can hear his molars grinding together as he leans in close. Hmm, somebody uses Scope in the morning - his breath is like minty fresh hate. “Laugh it up, dickhead. You have no idea with whom you are fucking with.”

“I don’t think that’s correct, Ted. I think it should be, ‘You have no idea with whom you are fucking.’”

Ted grabs my shoulder and squeezes a wince out of me. Jesus, what a grip! I feel his thumb dig into my flesh like a railroad spike.

“Laugh it up,” Ted says, smiling.

“Hey guys.” It’s Margo. “Am I interrupting something?”

Ted releases my shoulder and we both turn to face Margo, who looks beautiful today, as she often does.

“No, Ted was just showing me some new acupuncture pressure points,” I say, rubbing my shoulder. “Thanks, Ted. I’ll be sure to try that.”

Ted ignores me and nods cordially to Margo. “Margo,” he says, then eases by and walks away.

Margo and I both go into the copy room. “What was that about?”

“Just rough housing. You know. Guy stuff.”

She looks at me skeptically. “Uh-huh.”

Margo is wearing a tailored grey wool skirt and a cropped jacket with a pink blouse. She’s got cute spikey-toed pink shoes, too.

“Hey, where you been?” I say. “I haven’t seen you in forever.”

“Oh my God, I was so sick last week,” she says. “I was dying.”

“Hey, me too. It was terrible, I didn’t know which end it was coming out,” I say, then immediately regret it. I guess I’m in full-on adolescent mode today.

Margo laughs and does that wrinkling her nose thing that I love. “You are so gross, Mackenzie.”

We chat a little more and she goes along her merry way and I make my copies and think about how perfect she is. Man, my shoulder hurts. That fucker’s got a grip on him. Definitely enhanced or superhuman; something.

Staying true to my adolescent mode, on my way back to my office I drop an inter-office mail envelope off at Ted Bradbury’s mail slot. Inside the envelope is a nice black-and-white photocopy of my hand “flipping the bird.” I am such a child.

January 19, 2005

A birth, a wedding, and a hot cop

Just to bring you up to speed: Mitch and Lisa had their baby on Thursday at a hippy birthing center. While Lisa is in labor I wait in the lounge and talk sports with Lisa’s dad, a stiff upper-lip Midwesterner who was doing a really good job of ignoring the animal noises coming from the birthing suite. Several generations of Mitch and Lisa’s family are present, and yes, to the little kids I am “Unca Connor.” See? Pathetic bachelor guy.

After what seems like 500 hours, Lisa gives birth to a baby boy – Hector. I don’t remember how much he weighed. I’m a guy, I don’t care about stuff like that. I don’t watch the birth because I am still recovering from the flu and I don’t think it is smart for me to be near a newborn. Actually, I’m probably not contagious anymore, but honestly, there is no way in hell I am going to hang out and watch Lisa give birth. She’s like my sister. I don’t want to think about Mitch and Lisa having sex, much less witness the end product. That’s not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m down with the whole miracle of birth thing, but the whole scene is a little too… intense for me. Lisa’s dad is with me on this one. We wait in the lounge with most of the kids while the Big Show is going on next door.

Anyway, everybody is very happy and the baby appears totally healthy; like a tiny, soggy, old Asian man. The whole thing cracks my cynical loser façade for a moment and I am very happy, hugging and kissing everybody of appropriate age.

So that was great, and then on Saturday I go to JC and Wendy’s wedding at the Mason’s Lodge in Old Town. I like weddings, so I had a good time. What can I say, I like dressing up in a tux and dancing and generally being festive. Again, not gay.

JC was trembling with anxiety beforehand and I have to calm him down with Scotch. If I ever get married, I want a guy there feeding me shots of alcohol. By the time the elegant but brief ceremony starts, JC’s hands are steady and he has a stupid smile on his face. Ahh, the curative powers of alcohol.

Wendy looks beautiful and everything, but one of her bridesmaids, her cousin Emma, looks really beautiful. In casual conversation with Wendy’s mom I determine that Emma wasn’t with anybody. Then I move in and began my juvenile but time-honored strategy for picking up women: teasing.

After the ceremony I snag two glasses of wine and slide up to Emma. I hand her a glass.

“Wendy said not to give you any wine, but I thought what the hell,” I say.

“Is that right?” she says. She’s a curvy brunette, cut in the Rita Hayworth mold. The crimson strapless bridesmaid dress showcases her elegant neck and finely sculpted shoulders. Looks like she works out.

“Yeah, she said you were a horrible lush and that you’d probably start a fight or something if you got a few drinks in you. The word’s out: people are scared of you.”

She laughs, which is the desired response. “Yeah, Wendy warned me about you, Connor.”

“What did she say? I’m sure it was all lies.”

She takes a sip of the wine. “She said you were a ne’er-do-well.”

“A ne'er-do-well? Are you saying I’m a pirate? What are you talking about? Give me that back, you’re drunk already.”

Emma laughs again, which is a relief, because I feel like I’m coming on a little strong. “I’m surprised you don’t remember me,” she says.

“I remember you; we met at that funeral for that one dead guy.”

“My grandpa.”

“Uh yeah, him,” I say. Oops.

“You don’t remember that one time we met? In college? When Wendy and I came and visited you and JC that one weekend?”

Oh shit.

“Uhh, n-no…” My heart starts thumping, in a bad way.

“You don’t?” she says. She’s wearing an evil smile. “I do. It was your Viva La Coppola festival, you guys were doing a big Francis Ford Coppola marathon. There was lots of beer.”

“Oh, yeah…” I say, sheepishly. I feel my face growing hot.

“I looked a lot different back then, I had braces. And my hair!" She laughs. "Oh my God, I had awful hair.”

I don’t say anything.

“As a matter of fact, I remember you commenting on my hair to JC. And my chest, I recall you saying something about that…”

I wince. “You know, that was a long time ago…”

“I remember now,” she says. I can’t tell if she’s really bitter or if she’s just fucking with me. “JC wanted to have some alone time with Wendy but she didn’t want to strand me, so JC asked you to hang out with me. You wanted to watch The Godfather or something. You were drunk. Do you remember this? It’s all coming back to me.”

“Yeah…” I laugh a little nervously. I look around. Is somebody going to come rescue me or what?

“You said, and I quote, ‘She’s got tits like a sparrow. Her hair looks like a fucking bike helmet. Don’t do this to me, it’s the fucking Godfather, dude.’ I spent the rest of the night crying in the bathroom.”

“Gosh,” I say lamely. “It’s amazing how people change.”

She doesn’t say anything, she just looks at me.

“You look great by the way,” I offer. She certainly has filled out.

No answer.

“What are you up to these days, anyway?”

“I’m a cop,” she says. Yeah, a hot cop. A brief image of Emma in a risqué hot pants cop uniform pops up in my mind.

“Cool,” I say. I am fucking crashing and burning here. “Well, maybe I’ll see you around…”

She says nothing. I just drift off, totally defeated, humiliated.

I kind of want her.

January 18, 2005

Why you no post, Marauder?

OK, I suck. I got sick last week, which is rare for me, and I spent most of the week on the couch. No patrol for me, no crimefighting - just Gatorade and oatmeal and watermelon. Nothing is better when you're sick than watermelon. Nothing.

Anyway, I just couldn't be bothered to post anything, mostly because I'm lazy and also because I had nothing to say. Now I need to catch up, because JC's wedding was this past weekend, and Mitch and Lisa had their baby, and there's some sort of zombie apocalypse in the making up in the Arctic Circle. I'll post all the fun details soon.

Speaking of zombies, the best movie I watched while sick was Shaun of the Dead. If you haven't seen it, you should; it's fucking brilliant. And if you have seen it and didn't like it, go away and never come back, because you're dumb.

More fun soon!

January 11, 2005

Power to Chad!

I’m back at work, staring out the window out at the smears of cloud that hangs over the Bay.

They say it’s going to snow tonight, but I don’t believe it. It hardly ever snows in Evergreen City. It’s funny, people that have never been to the Northwest think it gets cold or snows in western Washington during the winter, but it just kind of drizzles for four months straight. Anyway, I don’t believe it.

I don’t have a lot to do today, and since my meeting on Friday with the supervillains who run this joint demonstrated that they’re not willing to fire me I don’t really feel motivated to get busy.

Where should I go for lunch? I should pick up my tux in Midtown. I could get some shoes at Parvo’s on the way back...

My bitch Chad walks by my door.

“Hey, Chad.”

He stops, reverses into the doorway.

“Hey,” he says. I'm not feeling the "happy to see me" vibe.

“Did we get those proofs back from the developer?”

“No, not yet,” Chad says.

“Oh, okay. Hey, you wanna do me a favor? You mind doing a Starbucks run for me?”

Chad takes a deep breath. He’s a non-confrontational, huggy postmodern beatnik type. “Yeah, I don’t think so,” he says.

“I’m sorry?”

Chad clears his throat. “Yeah, um, I’ve been thinking, and I don’t really think that, you know, that I should really have to do stuff like that.”

What’s this? Is my bitch acting up? “You don’t?” I ask.

“No. I was hired as an artist and designer. And I mean, I report to you, but I feel like you’ve been, you know, treating me as like a secretary. You know, making me get stuff and run errands.”

“And you don’t like that?”

“No,” Chad says.

“That’s not fun for you?”

“No,” Chad says.

I sit back in my chair. Well, at least he stuck up for himself, I gotta give him that. “Okay, Chad,” I say. “I respect people that are willing to set boundaries, and I understand how you feel.”

“Thank you,” he says. He looks relieved.

“I mean, if I was hired as an artist, I wouldn’t want to get people’s dry cleaning or pick up their car from the detailer either.”

“Okay,” he says, smiling. “Okay, thank you.”

“Chad, you’re fired.”

His face drains of color.

“Kidding!” I shout, laughing. “I’m fucking with you, Chad! Kidding! Get in here, dude.”

Chad looks confused and cautiously relieved. He slumps into the black leather Le Corbusier loveseat in my office, smiling warily. I pour him a drink of water and hand it to him. He must think I am absolutely psychotic.

“Chad, I’m really sorry,” I say, sitting down. “I’ve been a dick, and you’ve been very gracious about it. It’s been a stressful time for me, and I am a dick – so there you go.”

He laughs a little.

We talk a little bit and I apologize and kiss Chad’s ass some more and then I go on a Starbucks run and get drinks for us, to demonstrate how earnest I was. I do feel bad about the whole power trip thing. What can I say? I thought bossing Chad around was funny – and that’s wrong.

It’s not okay to make people your bitch. I see that now.

January 10, 2005


I skip patrol and hang out with JC.

His wedding is next week and he is freaking out. His fiance Wendy is in full-on wedding overdrive and her family has descended on his house like a murder of ravenous, shrieking crows. Or so he describes it. JC takes sanctuary at my house, regaling me with breathless rants about the wedding photographer and whatnot. He's stressed to the point of mania. My solution is beer, General Tso's chicken, and Halo 2.

At one point we're playing deathmatch and JC is going on about the flowers or some shit and it just hits me. Mitch and Lisa are going to have their baby, like, any day now, and my buddy, my fucking wingman JC is getting married. The wheels and cogs of aging grind slowly, ceaselessly on - except for me.

I don't mean physical aging - I don't know if I'll even age at the same rate or in the same way as everyone else. It's more about evolution. I feel like my friends are evolving beyond me, naturally growing and maturing. I'm going to end up a sort of pathetic old bachelor, the kind of guy that you invite over to your house for Christmas dinner out of pity, the "funny uncle" guy.

I'll be like Fonzie circa 1984, during the Joanie/Chachi era of Happy Days. You know what I'm saying? Not only not cool, but the coolness that you once had has now mutated into something sad, adolescent and vaguely creepy.

I'm sure glad JC came over, I feel great now.

January 09, 2005

Patrol Report

Last night I got some gliding practice in, swooping from one high rise to the other in Midtown.

I’m getting much better at it, the flying thing, but the winds in the artificial canyons of the city can be unpredicatble*. At one point during the night a rogue thermal carries me off course and right into a high rise condo. I smash into the metal railing of somebody's balcony with a horrible noise, scaring the hell out of some poor woman inside making dinner in a wok. She screams, obviously startled to see some dude with goggles and a cowl outside her condo, twenty floors above Sixth Avenue.

I untangle myself from the railing with a groan. I can smell the food cooking inside. Mmm, hoisin sauce...

The lady in the kitchen is backing away from her wok, eyes wide with fear, one arm searching for the phone somewhere behind her.

"Sorry," I call, smiling and waving. "Updraft." Like that explains anything.

The woman just stands there staring at me. She's about 40, perky haircut, red gingham apron.

"That smells great, by the way. What is that, Mongolian Beef?"

She turns around and dives for her telephone. Hey, I'd call 911 too.

"Sorry!" I yell and launch myself off the balcony.

Well, that will give her something to tell the gals. Or her therapist.

Let's see, what else? Later that night I push a stalled vehicle out of an intersection and bust up a fistfight in Queen's Row - two guys fighting over a taxi. Dicks.

All in all, a pretty average night.

*"Unpredicatble" is an accepted alternative spelling of "unpredictable" and I stand by my usage of it here.

January 08, 2005

My shower rituals

I have a couple of little rituals that I do involving the shower. Nothing obscene.

The first one is a Tony Robbins-type power move called The Terminator. I use it to get psyched, you know, to seize the day and shit. Here's how it works:

You know how in the Terminator movies, when a Terminator comes back through time and he appears all naked in this big glowing ball of energy? That's the visual here. We're focusing on an image of power, of potency.

After I'm done with the soap, shampoo, and conditioner, I kneel down in the shower in my Terminator-travelling-through-time pose. I visualize the more svelte Robert Patrick T-1000 from Terminator 2. Anyway, I'm kneeling down and in my head the Terminator music starts.


I raise my head slowly. I'm the T-1000.


The water pounds down on me as I slowly rise, a single-minded, goal-oriented killing machine.


I rise up in the shower, feeling powerful. The music crescendoes. I am ready to Terminate.

Dah-duh-duh-duhduh! Dah-duh-duh-duhduh!

I'm not saying I do that every morning, but if I want to give myself the edge, if I've got a big presentation I like to bust a little Terminator and start the day off right.

The other ritual I do is, after I shave, I look at myself in the mirror and say, "The Connor Mackenzie Machine: zero defects!" Then I slap myself.

I ripped that off from Innerspace; Dennis Quaid does that in one scene and I always thought it was cool.

January 07, 2005

My Meeting with The Supervillains Who Run My Company

So today the troika of mysterious executives - Clarke, Bradbury, and Quentin - wanted me to do an initial presentation of brand image/strategy ideas. (see posts The Ninth Floor, 11/28/04, and Situation: Uncool, 11/30/04

I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off all morning, putting the last touches on my PowerPoint presentation and my display cards. The printer screwed up and got the color wrong on one of my logo placards, so I made my bitch Chad run back down there and have them reprint it -- and to get me a soy mocha, of course. He is my bitch, after all.

At one point during the morning I stop and wonder for a moment if I'm just jumping through hoops for the amusement of my supervillain masters. I mean, the QuantumWorks project is a huge deal - it's a search engine that can somehow find any internet content that has ever been published, ever - and under normal circumstances, a company our size would have a whole team of people working on it. But no, they just have me. Margo says it's because they want to keep the whole thing under wraps until they clear some hurdles with the Justice Department, but I'm not so sure. Maybe Margo is in bed with the supervillain guys, figuratively speaking. Maybe she's in on it. Chad, too. He might be a spy they put in place to keep tabs on me. But then, why would you risk bringing a superhero into your Evil Plan in the first place? I mean, why not just kill me?

I enter the board room twitching with paranoia. Margo is in there, as well as the scholarly Aaron Clarke, the aging jock Ted Bradbury, and the suave and inscrutable John Quentin, who runs the QuantumWorks project. There are a few other suits in there as well.

I won't bore you with details, but the presentation goes well. By the end of the meeting, everybody seems to be leaning towards keeping the QuantumWorks name for the product.

"Nice work, Connor," Quentin says, peering at me from behind steepled fingers. "I can see we've made the right choice in recruiting you."

"Thanks," I say unenthusiastically.

"Something wrong, Mr. Mackenzie?" Aaron Clarke says.

Yeah. You guys are fucking villains, that's what's wrong.

"No... yeah. Yeah. Can I speak to you three in private for a moment?" I say.

It's a major breach of corporate protocol, and everybody seems taken aback. But Quentin nods to the other suits and Margo, who get up and shuffle out. I catch Margo's eye as she walks out. She looks concerned.

The door shuts behind them.

"What seems to be the problem, Mr. Mackenzie?" Clarke says. Bradbury is glaring at me.

"I'd like to step down," I say.

Quentin cocks an eyebrow. "Why?"

"Because I don't know what you guys are doing up here, but I don't like it. All this secrecy shit. The QuantumWorks engine? What's that about? I'm not a tech guy, but I do know this is a big deal. Like, change-the-face-of-modern-information-technology kind of big deal. But you guys have, what? A couple dozen people working on it? And I'm the only brand management guy? It doesn't make sense."

"We're just asking for a little patience and faith, Connor," Quentin says.

"I'm fresh out of both, John," I say. I don't know how smart this is. They probably have hidden death rays trained on me right now.

Bradbury bristles. "I don't think I like your tone of voice, Connor."

"So fire me, Ted."

We all sit in silence for a few seconds, staring at each other.

I stand up. "I'll pack my things."

Quentin holds up a hand. "Just a minute, Connor," he says. "I can appreciate your skepticism, and your raise some good points. But we're on the ground level here of something huge, and I think you'd be a fool to walk away now. Think of the stock options."

"I don't care about the money."

Quentin writes down something on a piece of paper and slides it towards me. "We appreciate the work you've done for us so far and we'd hate to lose you. I understand your reservations; I would have similar concerns were I in your position. I'd like you to accept my assurances that we're not involved in anything unethical. We can't tell you all the details of the project yet - there are some legal and proprietary issues involved. You understand. I would like to keep you working for us for, say, another two months. You will receive a bonus for working for us during that two month period -- I've written the figure down on that card. At the end of the two month period, you're free to resign and keep the bonus, with no hard feelings."

They're all looking at me. I slowly reach for the piece of paper. The shadow of a smile flickers across Clarke's mouth.

I turn the paper over. There's a monetary figure written on it.

It's a lot.

Shit. Superhero or not, it's hard to walk away from cash like that. Then I think to myself, what better way to bring down this supervillain conspiracy than working from the inside? I could use the next two months to poke around on the Ninth Floor and gather evidence. Then I could call in the Storm Riders or the feds. And the beauty of it? These clowns would be paying me handsomely to destroy them.

"Fine," I say. "Fine. Two months."

Margo and the other suits file back in and we continue the meeting. Ted Bradbury can't stop staring at me. He looks like he'd just like to throw me out the Ninth Floor window.

For some reason during the rest of the meeting I keep on thinking of the carnivorous pitcher plant. I have a bad feeling about this.


This is the best idea ever.

Mo' Wombat

It feels good to bounce around the E.C. again.

I head out on patrol under a cloudless night sky. It’s fucking cold. Plumes of steam rise from rooftop vents into the winter air above Old Town. The whole city is covered in a thin coat of frost. Every ledge and roof is slick with black ice, and I slip a couple times despite my cleated boots.

Just to stoke my paranoia I swing by the Interbionics West building and stare at it from the shadows of a nearby rooftop. No ninja. I briefly consider breaking into the building, then think better of it, and move on.

Wombat is waiting for me on top of the Masonic Temple.

Just to show off I leap off a nearby building, snap my glider wings into place, then soar over to the top of the Masonic Temple. I alight on the roof, skidding to a halt on icy shingles right in front of Wombat.

“Hey, that’s pretty cool,” Wombat says. “Are those new?”

“Pretty bad ass, huh? I decided I needed to upgrade. Our mutual friend set me up.”

Wombat inspects the wings, makes appropriately impressed noises.

“Hey, check this out,” Wombat says, and one of his switchblade shovels pops out of his gauntlet. The edge of the shovel blade gleams. “New shovels. Diamond edge, baby.”

I guess to demonstrate the sharpness of the shovels he takes a swipe at a nearby pipe, slicing it cleanly in two. Steam hisses out of the severed pipe.

“Dude, stop! I hang out up here, you can’t just fuck shit up like that.”

Wombat laughs at me. “You’re such an old woman!”

Wombat is a strange cat; a hyperactive Peter Pan with a maniacal streak. He’s good at heart, I just think he needs to be medicated. Because I’m lazy, I’ll just post a description of Wombat from a previous post:

Wombat does not conform to the Western superhero archetype.

He is a squat little American dude, a good two inches shorter and twenty pounds heavier than me. He wears a suit of body armor covered in a fine brown fur (fake rabbit fur treated with fireproof material) and a helmet/cowl that tapers into a snubby little nose. His stupid grin is the only part of his face visible. Wombat has big furry mittens that hide spring-loaded spades that pop out of his wrist – sort of like Wolverine, but with shovel blades instead of adamantium claws.

Instead of a utility belt Wombat has a utility pouch, a marsupial pocket full of gadgets and weaponry. My Guy makes Wombat’s armor and weaponry. As a matter of fact, Wombat introduced me to My Guy when I was first starting out in the hero game.

Wombat’s powers are similar to mine: mid-range super strength, tough skin, dense bones, super-leaping, etc. Wombat has “seismic sense,” a radar based on ground vibrations. He can dig like a motherfucker with those spades of his, too.

There you go, that’s Wombat. See post Wombat, Part One and Wombat, Part Two, 10/21/04 for more.

We bounce around Old Town and Midtown playing “got you last” on the icy rooftops for a while, until Wombat slips on a fire escape and plummets twenty feet into a dumpster. That sort of takes the wind out of his sails. He makes the “time out” gesture as I drop with catlike grace into the alley.

“Okay, time out,” Wombat says, panting. “I got a smashed crotch here. Oh, that smarts. That smarts.”

We walk down into Chinatown through the back alleys. Wombat is walking bow legged and making a big deal about his groin pain. A pack of Judo Boys abandons their dice game and scatter as we approach. Pussies.

It’s my experience that whenever superheroes meet, they either a) fight b) gossip like little girls. Wombat and I usually do both. Last time we destroyed somebody’s Cabriolet. We talk about how Kestrel always gets the good press, how people seem to think that I’m gay, who is behind bars and who has escaped, et cetera. The conversation swings around to health care.

“What do you do about it, do you have a doctor or somebody you go to?” I say. “I mean, I get fucked up a lot, and I can’t exactly go into a hospital. My chiropractor is just a puny little hippy, he can’t do anything.”

“I’ve got a guy up in Vancouver,” Wombat says.

“In Canada?”

“Yeah, Kestrel hooked me up with him. He’s a doctor at UBC’s medical center, he specializes in parahuman medicine. Very confidential.”

“Really? Do you think you could hook me up?”

“Sure, I can refer you. His name is Arman Naghib. I’m heading up to B.C. this week, and I’ll probably see him. I think Kestrel has staked out Vancouver as his new turf – ever since Northguard got killed by that – what was that thing called?”


“Right,” he says. “Kraken. Ever since Northguard got killed by Kraken, Vancouver hasn’t had a resident superhero. I hear he’s going over really well.”

“Whoop-de-doo for him.”

“Catty!” he says. “Okay, my groin’s feeling better.”

“Thanks for sharing that.”

“I’m gonna split. I’m hunting down a Yiff sighting. I think he may have crossed over into Canada.” (see post Yiff, Part One and Yiff, Part Two, 10/5/04)

Wombat hops up on a window sill, springs across the alley, rebounds off one wall, then another until he’s up on the edge of the roof. He tosses a jaunty salute.

“See ya pal! I’ll email you after I talk to the doctor.”

He disappears.

“Vaya con dios.”

I like saying shit like that.

January 05, 2005

Dead Elf

So I forgot to do a post about the media reaction to the chaos at the Interbionics West gala.

You'll recall that I fought a super-strong-elf-caterer-assassin on a balcony for a canister of mysterious fluid as a reception full of Evergreen City VIPs carried on in the lobby below. I threw the elf guy off the balcony and into a huge Chihuly hanging glass sculpture, interrupting the gala in a spectacular way. It’s a good thing, too, because Margo and Mayor McChesney and a whole bunch of VIPs were about to drink champagne spiked with the mysterious fluid during the evil Jason Delacroix’s toast. (see post The Interbionics Thing, 12/24/04)

They take the elf guy to Bayview Hospital in critical condition, and somebody “leaked” to the news that the elf, Daniel Fronz, was an Interbionics security officer with a long history of depression. An Aryan spokesperson for Interbionics implies that Fronz was a disgruntled employee and that he may have intentionally jumped on to the sculpture in an attempt to kill himself.

There’s no mention of a fight or a mysterious badass in a tux, which is good news for me.

Daniel Fronz dies in the ambulance en route to Bayview and they end up dropping him in the hospital’s morgue. Wouldn’t you know it? That night a propane tank "accidentally" explodes in a lab and a catastrophic fire sweeps through the morgue, destroying everything, including Daniel Fronz’s body.

Do I feel bad that he died? I guess. He was a bad guy, though. How worked up am I supposed to get? Anyway, I don't think I killed him. He was superhumanly tough, and as far as I know he was alive when he went into that ambulance. I'm guessing they didn't want doctors checking him out or cops asking questions, so they killed him in the ambulance and whitewash the whole thing, call it a suicide.

Looks like Interbionics knows how to cover their ass.

January 04, 2005

Margo Report

Margo ducks her head into my office this morning.

"Hey you," she says. I hate it when people say "hey you" in that cute way. I blame Jennifer Aniston, who always said "hey you" on Friends. Margo can say it without incurring my scorn because she is otherwise perfect.

"Margo!" I say, a little too eagerly. Tone it down, dude. "Uh, how's it going? You have a good Christmas? New Year's?"

She slips into my office and leans against the wall. Margo is wearing a black 3/4 sleeve V-neck sweater with a matching skirt and is carrying her usual Odwalla.

"Christmas was great," she said. "New Year's sucked."

"Well, that's no good."

She blows a stray lock of hair out of her face. It's an adorable gesture. I hope I'm not staring.

"Yeah, Brett and I broke up on New Year's," she says.

Who? Oh, she means Evil Val Kilmer, her dick boyfriend. (see post Evil Val Kilmer Must Die, 10/8/04)

"Oh. I'm sorry, Margo. Is that a bad thing?"

She looks at me for a second, then smiles thinly. "No. No, it's not a bad thing. People should be with people who want to be with them. Right? Does that make sense?"

"Absolutely. Life's too short. For what it's worth, I'm sorry." Liar.

"Thanks, Mackenzie." She switches gears. "Hey, you getting ramped up for the presentation on Friday?"

She means the preliminary brand strategy meeting where I have to throw some concepts at the QuantumWorks steering committee - Bradbury, Clarke, and Quentin - and see if anything sticks. Curiously, I am devoid of my usual pre-presentation anxiety. Maybe it's because the steering committee are all a bunch of fucking supervillains.

"I'm fully ramped," I say.

"I don't know what that means," she says.

"Yeah, me either."

She sighs. "Allright, back to work for me."

As she's leaving I call her name and she stops. She looks back at me and arches her eyebrow a little, which I find really sexy. "Yes?" she says.

"Guys are dicks," I say.

Margo smiles a little sadly and leaves.

So. Evil Val Kilmer is out of the picture. This is good news for me.

Jet Pack Mafia Update

It's tough to find any good news about the Jet Pack Mafia goons that I defeated a few weeks ago. (see posts Holliday Hellzone! Part One and Part Two, 12/19/04)

The goons are being held in The Catacombs, where the Feds like to keep parahuman prisoners. True, these guys aren't much of a threat without their body armor and jet packs, but if they were held in a regular prison it would be that much easier for other Jet Pack Mafia to break them out. A number of different states are currently squabbling overthe right to extradite them, but it looks like they'll face federal charges.

The Feds think there are more Jet Pack Mafia out there. Details are sketchy, but it looks like the founding members of the gang were all in the same Army unit and were all involved in testing out a personal battle system, code name Dragonfly. They thought it would be a good idea to use the Dragonfly armor to go into business for themselves. I don't know where the whole Roaring 20's gangster motif came from.

Anyway, one side benefit of the Jet Pack Mafia story is that I'm getting a lot of play in the national media, which is good for me.

It's all about me, isn't it? That was a rhetorical question, but the answer is "yes."

January 03, 2005

My thermos! It's gone!

So I get back from my holiday in New Avalon and find that somebody has broken into my house.

Nothing is obviously out of place or missing, but I have this feeling when I come in the house. Because I'm paranoid I systematically check every room and hiding spot in the house for ninja. Satisfied that I'm alone, I enter the Secret Chamber. I'll review the surveillance camera feeds and see if they record any intruders.

You can imagine my surprise when I find the safe in the Chamber wide open. It's missing; the thermos cylinder I got from the Interbionics soiree is gone. (see post The Interbionics Thing, 12/24/04)

Fuck. And I was going to get that analyzed and see what was in it. I had to fight a superpowered elf martial artist to get that fucking cylinder! He said that inside the cannister was "Perfection." Then I threw him off the balcony. Now I wish I had gotten a little more specific info from the guy.

I check the surveillance camera files. They've been erased, of course.

Did Interbionics send one of their Aryan ubermensch in here? Or was it somebody from The Company? Maybe it was a ninja, I don't know. Hey, and who was the guy that gave me the DON'T DRINK THE CHAMPAGNE note, anyway? What was that all about?

Somebody know my secret identity.