It's like Bridget Jones' Diary, but with a super-powered vigilante.
February 28, 2005
I remember doing more shots with Emma, and forcing people to limbo, and those little paper drink umbrellas, and kissing Wendy's mom (no tongue), and losing my sandals.
And I'm not sure, but I think Emma punched me in the ear.
So I'm just sitting here at work holding my aching head with my tongue feeling like steel wool in my mouth and wishing that I would die, die, die.
The good thing is that I just need to ride this out, drink some water, and in a few hours my super-metabolism will drive this evil from me like an exorcist.
I think I might have to call Wendy's mom and apologize...
February 27, 2005
Having said that, I have a good time. They crank the heat and the Don Ho music up and ply their guests with food and blended drinks. I follow my modus operandi for parties and hang out in the kitchen near the booze, and end up getting drafted for blender duty.
I begin sampling the wares: one drink for you, one drink for me. Soon I’ve got a nice buzz going and I’m Chatty Guy, the Frickin’ Life of the Party.
“You making margaritas?” a familiar woman’s voice says. “’Cause I could use a margarita.”
Wendy’s cousin Emma the hot brunette cop stands in the kitchen, wearing a short spaghetti strap dress in a blue and white floral print that clings nicely to her cocked hips. She arches her eyebrow like The Rock and smiles at me – like a cat smiles at a mouse it’s about to eviscerate. Yeah, I know cats don’t smile. It’s a lame metaphor, sue me.
“Hey. It’s Emma,” I say weakly. She scares me. “I, uh, I don’t think I have any mix…” I make a big show of looking in the liquor cabinet. “Nope. Just tequila.”
She taps the counter. “Well, set me up with a shot, barkeep.”
She doesn’t seem hostile, so I relax a little. “Yes, ma’am.” I produce two shot glasses and fill them with Cuervo.
Some background: JC and I were roommates in college and one weekend I treated Emma rather shabbily when she and Wendy came down to visit. In my defense, I think I was drunk at the time, but still, I was mean to her, and the last time I saw Emma she raked me over the coals a little. (see post A birth, a wedding, and a hot cop, 1/19/05 for gory details)
Reasonably assured that she’s not going to knee me in the nuts, I hand her a shot glass. We salute each other, then down our drinks. Mmm, tequila.
“So you’re not going to kick my ass?” I ask.
“Haven’t decided yet,” she says. “I could, you know.” I believe her. Her shoulders and arms are smooth and sculpted.
“And I would deserve it. No jury would convict you. For what it’s worth, I’ve grown a little since college.” And she’s grown a lot since college.
“So Wendy tells me. She stopped referring to you as ‘JC’s asshole friend’ years ago.”
“Gosh, that makes me feel warm inside,” I say.
“I think it’s the tequila. Another shot?”
“Are you trying to get me drunk?” I ask.
“No, I’m trying to get me drunk before JC’s slideshow.”
We laugh and down a couple more shots.
Wendy checks in on us. “You guys playing nice? Em, you have permission to beat him up if he gets lippy. She could, too, Connor.”
“We’ve established that,” I say.
Wendy pats me affectionately on the cheek. “Careful,” Wendy says. “Em hunts supervillains for a living, you know.”
What? I almost cough up my tequila. What?!
Emma rolls her eyes as Wendy leaves the kitchen. “Wendy never misses an opportunity to mention that.”
Holy shit, I can’t believe I didn’t put this together.
“Panda 6 calling Panda 4, come back.”
No wonder Emma’s voice sounds familiar. She’s Panda 6, she’s on the fucking Paracrime Unit!
“Umm, what do you do at the police department, anyway, Emma?”
“Oh, I’m in the Paracrime Unit,” she says. “Used to be SWAT. Sharpshooter.”
“Damn…” I say.
“You okay?” She’s looking at me funny.
“Yeah, yeah, fine. It’s just a little hot in here. Another shot?”
Emma smiles. “You’re speaking my language.”
I should have seen that coming. I should have pieced that together. Wendy’s cousin is a Paracrime trooper. Of course. The relief I feel knowing Emma doesn’t want to knee Connor Mackenzie in the balls is sort of overshadowed by the dread I feel knowing that she wants to shoot The Velvet Marauder in the head.
A sharpshooter. That is so hot.
February 26, 2005
I pick up a kick-ass pair of black calfskin Cesare Paciotti loafers and a Hawaiian shirt. No, I'm not wearing the shoes with the shirt.
I know what you're thinking, a Hawaiian shirt? JC and Wendy are having a post-honeymoon luau theme party tonight and want everybody to dress up. Gag. I don't own a Hawaiian shirt because I don't enjoy looking like a tool. No offense to the folks out there who own and enjoy wearing Hawaiian shirts, but unless you're going to a Jimmy Buffet concert or something, it just looks fucking goofy.
I lurk behind some vents on a seagull-shit splattered building on Pier 52 and take a look at the ship through the binocular setting on my goggles. It's a sleek French designed frigate (those guys will sell weapons to anybody) that has been built for stealth. The hull has been coated with radar absorbent paint, all outer surfaces are sloped at ten degrees to minimize its radar signature, and all the little bits and bobs common to a ship its size have been internalized or smoothed out.
The few Pomeranian sailors that aren't out drinking prowl the decks with AKs. I'll bet the crew is psyched to get out on a blue water cruise; international sanctions have until late kept the Pomeranian Navy bottled up in the Baltic where they got their kicks by intimidating Estonian fishermen with their high-tech warships. Now that Diabolik (pronounced Dee-ah-bo-leek) has renounced his country's plans to develop anti-matter weaponry, relations have thawed a little and their navy finally gets to come out and play.
Am I boring you? You probably know all this shit already.
While I'm checking out their ship, a black Lincoln Town Car pulls up at the base of the Pier. This catches my interest, so I zoom in with the goggles.
A Pomeranian officer steps out of the back of the Town Car, straightens his overcoat, and dons his hat. He's carrying a briefcase. Climbing out of the car behind him is Ingrid Vanderwaal, the Ice Queen from Interbionics. She's wearing a low-cut black cocktail dress - I zoom in on her chest. Ingrid says something to the officer, strokes his cheek, then gives him a soft kiss on the lips. With a smile she climbs back into the Town Car and is gone.
Okay, what the hell is going?
The officer salutes a couple guards and strolls down the Pier towards the vessel with the briefcase.
You'll recall (or not) that the Interbionics company is run by a cabal of supervillain-types and has some sinister agenda. (see post The Interbionics Thing, 12/24/04) Ingrid is the hot second-in-command of their new West Coast office here in the E.C.. I have no idea what they're up to but it's nothing good. The fact that they're in bed with the Pomeranians is a cause for concern. Or is it? I mean, are they doing anything illegal?
What do I do? Should I mug the officer before he gets to the ship and take the briefcase? Or do I let him go? I mean, he hasn't done anything wrong, right? I can't just ambush everybody I don't like. Or can I? Shit, I don't know what to do...
Too late. The officer makes it to the gangplank and walks up on to the frigate, returning the salute of the guards on board.
I slump back amongst the seagull shit, confused and discouraged. I am really no damn good at this detective shit. Seriously, I don't know why I even bother. I should just focus on what I'm good at: beating people up. All this other stuff - I don't think I'm bright enough, frankly. I feel like there are two or three big conspiracies swirling around - Interbionics, the Quantum Project - and I'm just not smart enough to put the pieces together. Every time I try, like with the KOMA probes, I fuck up and just end up more confused than when I started.
Shit like this would never happen to the Midnight Rambler.
February 25, 2005
No, I get none of that.
What I do gather from the audio is that they send the two cops I beat up to the Bayview emergency room for evaluation. The guy I planted the KOMA probe on is named Lucas, and the other guy is Harding. Lucas has a broken nose and they think the other guy has some cracked or maybe broken ribs. Looks like it's desk work for Officer Harding for the next month or so. That's what you get for firing a shotgun at me.
Genius that I am, I planted the KOMA probe on Lucas' armor, which they take off before he arrives at Bayview. Before they do, I get a snippet of conversation that sounds like this:
COP #1: ...taking him over now.
COP #2 (female): Okay. (sigh) So we learn anything tonight?
COP #1: Well, Bore Thunder rounds have little to no effect on him. Harding said he took a round at near point blank range, and it barely staggered him. I don't know if it's the armor, or he's just tough.
COP #2: I don't know why we even bother with non-lethal ammo on paras. Sledge... [unintelligible] ...waste of time.
COP #1: Because we're good guys, remember? We didn't know how much damage Marauder can take, what his power range is. We don't want to fucking kill the guy, E.
COP #2: Speak for yourself.
COP #1: Jesus, what a hard ass. I pity that guy if you ever get a hold of him.
I do a little online research and find out that "The BORE THUNDER is a 12 gauge cartridge which produces a concussion wave similar to a diversionary grenade. This round is designed to be aimed at the floor or ceiling at a 45° degree angle and never intentionally at a subject." I feel a little better knowing that Capt. Sledge and his goons don't want me dead.
Well, not all of them anyway.
February 24, 2005
I’m sort of keeping an eye out for the Pomeranian warship that’s due in Evergreen City today. The U.S. has lifted sanctions against Pomerania and is now allowing their ships to dock in U.S. ports for the first time in 12 years. I guess they promised not to invade Denmark again. Never trust a country run by a supervillain, that’s what I say. Anyway, it’s due in port today and I want to see it. I might take a long lunch and go down to Pier 53 if it comes in. What can I say, I like military hardware; I’m a geek.
Speaking of hardware, back at home in the Secret Chamber my audio suite is recording telemetry from the KOMA probe I planted on that cop last night. I’m looking forward to picking up a gyros from Ravi’s on the way home and kicking it in the Chamber (see post The Batcave II, 9/1/04) and listening to the Paracrime Unit cry about how badly I schooled them. Shit like that makes me feel warm inside.
Lacking anything better to do, I go get more coffee, say hi to Margo (who is wearing a low-cut black knit sweater with pearl buttons over a cream colored blouse), then head over to one of the little lounge/informal meeting areas on the Ninth Floor. This one has a view looking north to the Bay, where I can see the Pomeranian ship drifting in through the fog.
I can’t remember the name of the ship, but I do know that it’s a French-made La Fayette frigate that’s been modified for anti-submarine warfare. It’s a sleek futuristic looking warship, designed for stealth with smooth surfaces and very little clutter. It’s kind of cool seeing a Pomeranian ship –the Cold War enemy- in port. Maybe they’re here to annex Evergreen City. Actually, that’s not that improbable, given recent events. Maybe I should snoop around tonight…
Aaron Clarke, one of the mysterious directors of The Company’s QuantumWorks project, walks down the hall towards his office with a cup of coffee, talking to a guy in a bright yellow radiation suit.
“Mr. Mackenzie,” Clarke says in greeting as he walks by. I nod.
As they pass I smell… what is that? I smell bacon cooking. And fabric softener.
I watch Clarke and the guy in the hazmat suit go into his office and shut the door.
Hey, I think to myself, a guy in a radiation suit just walked through your office. That’s not normal. I look around. Nobody else seems disturbed, or even looks like they noticed.
I take my coffee and go back to my office.
February 23, 2005
I look up at the Masonic Temple, a dark art deco tower of dirty brick crowned with chimneys and gargoyles and huge lightning rods. The building is dark, except for a few windows halfway up on the ninth or tenth floor, glowing like jack o’ lanterns. Somewhere up there is Panda 4, a team of heavily armed cops from the ECPD Paracrime Unit lurking in the dark, waiting for me like hunters in a deer blind.
Or so they think.
Feeling smug, I hop up to a second story window. With one last look around, I smash the glass with my elbow and enter the Masonic Temple.
I’m in a dark billiard room. The pool tables are laid out like graves before me. Okay, enough of the spooky metaphors. It’s dark; there are pool tables. There.
I switch on the scanner to the channel Paracrime is using.
“Panda 4, this is Panda 6. A silent alarm has gone off at your site. 2nd floor. Do you have anybody down there?”
“Panda 6, that’s a negative. We’ll check it out.”
Time to move.
I dash through the billiard room, check the door, and then slip out into a hallway. My rubber grip soles make no sound on the marble floors as I sneak to the elevators. I hit the “up” button. In the elevator shaft ancient mechanisms groan to life. I can hear the elevator car rattling down toward my floor.
I know what you’re thinking: why not take the stairs? Because that’s the linear thing to do. I’m being all unconventional and shit, thinking outside the box, shifting my paradigm, et cetera. These SWAT guys are tactically-minded, precise, and logical. I am none of those things – and that is my greatest strength!
What a load of crap, I sound like Tony Robbins. I’m insane; I’m going to get myself shot.
Since I have a moment, I look around. I’ve never been inside the Temple before, and it’s really nice. I’m standing in the lobby, a large domed chamber with a huge chandelier hanging from a gilded bas-relief ceiling depicting… what is that, dragons? It’s hard to tell in the dark. The floors are a marble mosaic, and on the walls intricate bronze panels gleam in the dark woodwork. The lobby is majestic and sepulchral in the dim light.
The mahogany doors slowly rumble open and I enter a small, elegant elevator car. Damn, they made them small back in the day. I hit floor 27 and wait for the doors to shut.
From somewhere up above me in the elevator shaft I hear machine noises: whining and clanking. The other elevator is coming down.
The door still isn’t closing.
“Come on,” I say, stabbing the button again. Isn’t there a fucking “close door” button in this thing, like a normal elevator?
I can hear the other elevator sinking closer. I’m sure there’s at least one guy with a machine gun in it.
“Jesus, come on,” I mutter, hopping up and down like I have to pee.
Then, slowly, as if it is a great effort… the elevator door slides shut. Then the lift lurches to life, pulling me up towards the 27th floor. I hear a Ding! noise as the other car reaches the 2nd floor. I don't know what I was freaking about - of course they're going to the 2nd floor. Dumbass. Safe, for a moment.
I have a plan. As usual, I have no idea if it’s a good plan or if it’s utter shit, but it’s the plan I’m rolling with. I guess the results will determine the plan’s merits or lack thereof. I’m a little hesitant about the beating-up-cops part of the plan, but it’s too late to turn back now. I believe I believe I believe I’m falling in love.
The elevator ride takes like, forever. I’m starting to get psyched up, ready to bust a proverbial move. I shadow box a little bit, take some deep breaths, visualize success, shit like that. Then –
The elevator door opens on the tenth floor.
A cop in tactical armor stands in front of me with a shotgun. He looks up at me. He’s chewing gum.
There’s a second where we both just look at each other, before our brain processes this new information and translates it into action. That second stretches forever and we just look at each other.
I look at him.
He’s a young guy, early twenties, Hispanic, with a crooked nose. He’s wearing black body armor over a black jumpsuit capped off with a black hockey-style helmet. He’s miked, and a wire runs from a small two-way radio on his chest plate up to an earpiece. He’s got a pump action shotgun and a 9mm strapped to his thigh. A patch on his chest plate says: POLICE.
He looks at me.
I’m a big dude in a weird costume who is not supposed to be standing in the elevator. I’m wearing form-fitting black Nightsalker armor with heavy boots and armored gauntlets, a utility belt bristling with gadgets and weaponry, a tight black skull cap and shiny goggles, all topped off by a fireproof coachman’s topcoat. A shiny hubcap-style emblem on my chest says: VM
I clear my throat. “Going up?”
The cop’s eyes go wide and he moves. He starts sliding to his left, bringing his shotgun barrel up. Gloved hands go for the trigger.
Too slow. I jump out of the elevator and stuff my fist into his face. The guy drops, stunned, clutching his nose.
In my ear I hear a male voice quietly say, “Panda 4 point 2, come back.”
The cop groans and fumbles for the radio on his chest. Damn, I think I broke his nose.
I bat his hand out of the way and lift the cop by his vest’s collar up to a standing position. The guy’s nose is bubbling blood and his eyes are glazed with pain, but he’s clearly not afraid of me. I pull the radio off of his vest and throw it down the hall.
“Listen –“ I say, and then he punches me in the ear.
It doesn’t really hurt, but it startles me, and I drop him. Reflexively my hand goes to my ear. “Oww! Damn.”
The cop drops down low and drives his boot right into the side of my knee. That hurts. My leg almost crumples and I hop back, smarting. If I were a regular guy, my leg would be broken now.
The cop goes for his sidearm, and that’s when this game has to end. I don’t mind taking a punch or the occasional kick, but I don’t like getting shot. I whup him upside the head with a roundhouse kick that smashes him into a wall. The cop collapses, out cold. It’s a good thing he’s got that helmet on.
I rub my knee a little.
“Panda 4 Point 2, come back.”
They’re going to come looking for this guy in a minute. I’d better do my thing. I squat over the unconscious cop and open a pouch on my utility belt. I take out a KOMA probe, a tiny listening device the size of a sewing needle, (see post The KOMA Probe, 10/1/04) and I slide it into the back of the cop’s body armor, parallel with a seam in the Nomex outerlayer. It’s barely visible, flush against the back plate.
“Panda 4 Point 2, come back.”
Using the audio system in my belt, I activate the KOMA probe. No, I have no idea why it’s called that. Anyway, now the bug will transmit with stereophonic sound quality any and all conversations within say, 50 feet, and my audio system will record it in handy MP3 format for my listening pleasure. Capt. Solomon Sledge’s Paracrime Unit will reveal its secrets to me – they’ll no longer be the unknown quantity, Michael Myers in the closet.
“Panda 4 Point 1, this is Panda 6, report.”
A man’s deep voice: “This is Point 1. We have a forced entry down here on two. Broken window.”
“Roger that, Point 1. All units switch on. Repeat switch on. Converge on location Echo.”
I run down the hallway a little and grab the trooper’s radio. I slip the earpiece on my ear and put the mike in place.
A SWAT trooper in a black facemask steps out of the elevator about twenty feet behind me. This guy’s got a shotgun, too, and most importantly, his barrel is pointing in the right direction. He steps over his fallen teammate and fires his shotgun right at the floor in front of me.
There’s a huge thunderclap and a shockwave blasts up into me, knocking me back. I stumble and sink down to one knee, ears ringing. What kind of ammo was that?
The faceless cop works the pump on his shotgun, chambering another round. Fuck that, I don’t let anybody shoot me twice. I spring like a leopard on him.
Beneath his helmet and behind his face mask I see the cop’s eyes go wide as I slam into him. I catch him square in the chest with my shoulder. The shotgun goes off --another thunderclap-- as he bounces off the elevator doors.
“Freeze!” Two more cops pile into the hallway from a stairway door, each carrying MP5s with tiny mounted flashlights. “FREEEZE!”
I crouch down, digging in my utility belt. Flashlight? Cobra antivenin? GPS? Where the fuck are these things?
“Put your fucking hands where I can see them!”
Ah, here we are.
“Put those fucking hands –“
I throw a sepia bomb down in the hallway between us. Instantaneously the two fallen cops are engulfed in an inky blackness, a boiling cloud of darkness that expands and expands…
Time to split.
One of the cops opens up with his machine gun as I sprint down the hallway towards a window.
I hear a woman’s voice screaming, “Check your fire! You’ll hit Lucas! Check your fire!”
And then I hit the window headfirst and I’m out of the Masonic Lodge and into the fresh night air, soaring out and down. I twist around in mid-air until I’m falling feet first towards the roof of an adjacent building. Skylights and power lines and vents zoom up towards me and then I hit the roof and roll roll roll. I skid to a halt on crunchy tar paper then spin around and look back up at the top of the Masonic Lodge.
Backlit by the city, I can see the silhouettes of two armored cops up on the roof of the Lodge, each holding weapons. The shadowy cops look down on me from the edge of the roof, flanked by gargoyles. It looks like one of the cops raises binoculars to his eyes.
I switch the goggles to infrared and zoom in.
In vivid greens and blues I see Capt. Solomon Sledge himself looking down at me through a nightscope. A trooper with a shotgun stands at his side, vigilant. Sledge and I study each other through our respective visual enhancement devices for a second, two male lions sizing each other up from the opposite sides of a river.
Then I flip him off.
Sledge puts down the nightvision scope and I swear, he almost smiles.
I don’t want to push my luck, so I trot down the roof of the building I’m on, leap across Sixth, and lose myself in the canyons of Old Town. I’m feeling pretty chuffed.
And hey, not even ten o’clock yet. Maybe I’ll be on the news!
Early patrol tonight.
Some impulse sends me out just after sundown. I start in the South End, warming up by hopping around the dilapidated warehouses of the industrial district before heading into Chinatown to start my patrol proper.
No music for me this evening; I just listen to the scanner and keep my eyes open. I move deliberately through the clotheslines and hissing rooftop vents of Chinatown, keeping clear of any windows or exposed areas where I might be spotted. It’s still early; the streets are crowded with the end-of-day exodus. Every few minutes I pause and scan my surroundings with the different settings on my goggles.
My hope is that if I vary my schedule and patrol routes and just keep my eyes open, I might be able to spot Capt. Sledge’s Paracrime Unit before they spot me. Call me paranoid, but I think they’ve been staking out my usual haunts in hopes of capturing me. I haven’t seen anybody, it’s just a feeling I get. And really, how paranoid is too paranoid if you’re in my line of work? I mean, there’s no harm in taking precautions, right?
Have you ever been alone in your house or apartment at night and you hear a noise or something? Suddenly, a shadow of irrational fear falls over you. Maybe somebody’s hiding in your house – a burglar or an escaped convict or something. They could be in the hall closet. I mean, probably not, right? But the possibility exists. It happens. People get murdered in their own home all the time. There’s that noise again. Shit. What if it’s Michael Myers, waiting in your pantry with an ice pick? The only way to ease your mind is to grab a baseball bat or a knife and begin a systematic sweep of the house, looking in all the closets, under the beds. Only then can you relax. You have dispelled your irrational fear with rational thought, by proving to yourself that no threat exists. Michael Myers isn’t hiding in your pantry, silly.
Okay, my point with that whole thing is that my precautions are sort of like searching the house for intruders with a baseball bat, only my house is the size of Evergreen City, and my fears are a little more tangible than Michael Myers. I’m afraid of cops.
Seriously, this paranoia is starting to take the fun out of patrol for me. It’s starting to feel like work, and that sucks.
I crouch in the shadow of a dripping A/C vent on the roof of the Pang Building, taking a breather. I eat a Clif Bar and drinking some Gatorade from the little Nalgene water bottle I keep on my utility belt. The smell of roasting chicken floats up from a restaurant below me, and my stomach grumbles. I slowly surf through the frequencies on my scanner, listening for anything unusual.
Then I hear it: Channel 57.
A soft voice on the radio says, “…Panda 5 in position.”
Then silence. Maybe it’s nothing; some truckers or ship traffic in the Bay. Maybe –
“Panda 6 online,” says a woman’s voice.
“Panda 2 in position,” somebody mutters.
The woman’s voice again: “Panda 6 calling Panda 4, come back.”
“Panda 4, come back.”
I move to the edge of the roof and peer out at the high rises of Midtown, glistening beyond the steaming rooftops of Chinatown. Toggling to the binocular setting on my goggles, I slowly scan the roofs of the smaller buildings. Nothing.
A man’s voice breaks the silence. He sounds out of breath. “Yeah, this is Panda 4. We can’t get access to our roost; the frickin’ door’s locked.”
Silence again. I keep searching.
The woman’s voice returns. “Panda 4, breach it. We’ll send the Masons a bill.”
Gotcha. Whoever Panda 4 is, they’re in the Masonic Temple, a big old brick building on the edge of Midtown. It’s my usual rendezvous spot with Wombat, and it’s the place where I first met Hydrangea. I should have guessed they’d stake it out.
I rise, ready to bounce over to Midtown and… and… and do what exactly? Beat up a bunch of cops? I sit back down, suddenly not sure what to do. If I approach via rooftop, chances are good that Panda 4 and all his Panda Buddies will spot me a quarter mile away. Despite their cute call signs, I have a feeling they're not fucking around. And even if I do make it to the Mason’s Temple without being seen, what then? Just beat the shit out of a bunch of SWAT guys? To what end?
“Shit,” I say to myself, as I often do. What do I do? I’ll bet the Midnight Rambler never has problems like this. He’d have a plan all doped out, and a back-up plan, and a back-up plan for his back-up plan. I need to think strategically here. What would a professional superhero do in this scenario? What would the Rambler do?
He’d go non-linear on their ass.
Finishing off my Gatorade, I hop over the edge of the building and down into a filthy wet alley. I walk out on to Occidental and flag down a passing cab, ignoring the stares of the passerby.
It’s time for a little reconnaissance-by-fire.
February 21, 2005
You’ll recall last month the Storm Riders saved the world (again) from an “infection” of anti-life that was deposited via meteor in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Of course you do, how would you have missed that? Space zombies and shit? Anyway, the undead apocalypse was narrowly averted, but now we’re left with a huge black cordoned area in the Yukon that is saturated with anti-life radiation, sort of a Lovecraftian Chernobyl. (see posts Yes! Space Zombie Apocalypse 1/05 and How the Baron Escaped/Space Zombie Update 1/05)
The newly created Restricted Zone extends from Inuvik in the Northwest Territories on the Beaufort Sea to Dawson in the Yukon and even into a bit of Alaska. It’s a huge swath of land, made even larger by the buffer zones between the actual radioactive area and the troops who are enforcing the cordon. The Canadian military is competent, but not large, and maintaining the quarantine isn’t cheap. The Canadians have asked for help from the U.N., who I believe are scheduled to begun debating whether it’s appropriate to refer to the phenomenon as “anti-life.” They'll get right on it. The U.S. has already shuffled an assload* of troops up to eastern Alaska to man their section of the Zone, and I think they’re supplying air cover. Nobody knows how long this is going to go on, and Earth’s go-to guy for shit like this, Dr. Quark, the Surgeon of Reality, hasn’t made any public statements to ease anyone’s minds. He’s sort of the Alan Greenspan of the supernatural world; if he’s not talking, something’s wrong.
Oh. I forgot about the caribou.
Environmentalists from around the world are gathering in White Horse, Yukon to protest the Restricted Zone, which apparently covers the winter range of the migratory Porcupine caribou herd. The Canadian government plans to enforce the quarantine and keep the herd out of the Restricted Zone until they know if it’s safe to enter. They don’t want 150,000 zombie caribou rampaging across their country, and I gotta say, I can see their point. The environmentalists are pissed because neither the Canadian nor American governments have publicly released any data on the anti-life phenomenon. I can see their point, too. I mean, really, what the hell is going on? Is there still space zombie dust up there or what?
The political and social ramifications of a space zombie meteor are both profound and pathetic. The blogs are going crazy with it; I’m sure you’ve read some of the conspiracy theories, like: The Storm Riders did it, they’re taking over the world. Or: The Restricted Zone is just a huge land grab by U.S. petroleum companies. My favorite: Canada was testing super-nukes in the Beaufort Sea. Occult scientists, nuclear physicists, retired generals, and Shirley MacLaine blather and speculate endlessly on the talk shows. College students in Canada have started wearing “No U.S. Troops in Yukon” t-shirts. A religious cult in Idaho has begun a barefoot pilgrimage north to the Restricted Zone for spiritual rebirth and frostbite. In Florida, senior citizens have fallen prey to a scam involving a fake charity to victims of the space zombies. And of course, they did a sketch about the space zombies on Saturday Night Live. It wasn't funny.
The world is such a wonderful, fucked up place.
* ‘Assload’ is an accepted military term. It means a large unit of soldiers, brigade-level or higher.
February 20, 2005
I know what you’re thinking: Rammstein? How can somebody listen to Kylie Minogue and Rammstein without their head exploding? I think one aspect of my super-powers is the ability to integrate a love of scary German dance-metal and vapid bubblegum shit – all in the same psyche!
Still no sign of the Paracrime goons – but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. ( see post The Paracrime Unit, 2/14/05)
Du hast mich…
February 19, 2005
- “Look at the ass on that nun!”
- “Hey, kid. I’m stronger than your dad.”
- “Ha ha! I just took a big dump on the roof of that building!”
- (cough) “Nice to meet you. They call me Anthrax Man!”
- “John Byrne!”
- “I want to lie down on the floor and make love to your shadow.”
-“I dig old chicks!”
- “I farted.”
- “You wanna party?”
Some things shouldn't be said because they are cliches and make you look like a dickhead.
- “Full moon tonight. A hunter’s moon.”
- “I’m the best I am at what I do, and what I do ain’t pretty.”
- “Your choice. Your funeral.”
- “I am the night!”
- “It’s quiet. Too quiet.”
- “Fear me!”
- “How can something so big move so fast?!”
February 17, 2005
"Mackenzie," she says. "I am bored."
"You should develop an Ebay habit like me, it sucks up a lot of time," I say. "I just got a kick ass clock last week."
She’s slumped back in the chair, looking up at the ceiling. "I’m bored on a more profound level than that." She looks up at me suddenly. "Mackenzie, you ever get the impression that this QuantumWorks thing will never launch, that we’re running through the motions here? I mean, I’ve been doing stupid busy work for the past two months. It’s driving me fucking crazy."
I don’t think I’ve ever heard her swear before.
"Hey," I said. "You swore."
"I mean, the job pays well and everything, I’m not complaining about that. But I mean… I mean… fuck!"
"You swore again."
"Yes," she sighs. "Yes, I swore. Are you hearing me, Mackenzie?"
"I am. I hear you. I don’t have shit to do either. It’s like, why bring me up here unless there’s something for me to do?"
"Exactly," she says, and goes back to looking up at the ceiling. Her neck is smooth and graceful. "It’s like they just want to have us around on retainer or something. Clarke and Bradbury keep telling me that they’ll have more for me to do once the beta testing is done, but they won’t give me a time frame. The whole thing is very weird. And where is John Quentin? What does he do, anyway? I’ve seen him a handful of times and he’s supposed to be the VP in charge of the project. Nobody outside of the Project has even heard of him."
"It’s cause they’re a bunch of fucking supervillains," I say, then instantly regret it.
Margo’s head snaps up. "What? Why would you say that?" She seems suddenly intense.
Crap. I try to pass it off as a joke, waving my hand dismissively. "Ah, you know. They’re all secretive and shit." I turn a little in my chair, taking a keen interest in the container ships offloading at the docks.
She lets it go. "Right," she says. "I don’t know, maybe I should just count my blessings. I mean, they’re paying me, and it’ll look great on my resume. Still…"
I look at Margo for a while as she stares up at the ceiling. She closes her eyes. I sit in my chair, enjoying the sun coming through the window. We just sit there for a few minutes in a warm, comfortable silence.
Again, I want her to be my Lois Lane.
February 16, 2005
Think of the children, please. It's for the kids.
I occasionally stop and scan the surrounding rooftops with the various settings on my goggles. Nothing. Remember back in December, I spotted a SWAT guy up on a rooftop with surveillance gear near a warehouse fire? (see post Patrol Report, 12/9/04) At the time it seemed to me like the cop or whoever was staking out the fire, maybe hoping I'd make an appearance. Some time went by and I never saw any more cops, so I didn't really think twice about it. But what if the Paracrime Unit has been operational already? What if they have footage of me, or a recording of my voice? I mean, if I were Capt. Solomon Sledge* I would put guys on the rooftops at night and wait for me to come by on patrol. Somebody could be taking pictures of me right now from a dark room on the 37th floor of the Olympic Hotel.
In these circumstances, I think a little paranoia is appropriate.
*That's a fun name to say, isn't it? Say that out loud: "Solomon Sledge."
February 14, 2005
“When I became Chief of Police recently I made a promise – a solemn promise – to the mayor and the good citizens of Evergreen City that I would do everything in my power to ensure that this stays a stable, law and order town, a place where folks could feel safe raising a family. We’ve already made great strides in reducing street crime, and I know that with the support of the community we’ll continue to make progress on that front. However, recent events in our city have highlighted the need – the urgent need – for a more effective police response to extraordinary threats to our great city.
To that end I am pleased to announce the formation of a new police task force – the Paracrime Unit. Combining the investigative resources of our Robbery/Homicide division and the field capabilities of our SWAT team, the Paracrime Unit is Evergreen City’s newest and best defense against superhuman-level crime.
It is also my pleasure to introduce to you the leader of the Paracrime Unit. He’s had an exceptional career in federal and local law enforcement. Most recently he served – served with distinction – as the head of the El Paso Police Department’s anti-gang unit. I am honored – greatly honored – to be working with him on this exciting project. Ladies and gentlemen, the new leader of the Paracrime Unit, Captain Solomon Sledge.”
I know, I thought the same thing: who the hell names their kid Solomon Sledge?
Captain Sledge takes the podium, and you know what, the name actually fits. He’s a thick necked black guy in his mid-40’s with a gleaming bald head and a bad-ass moustache. His keg shaped torso strains against his dress uniform. He adjusts the mike at the podium with a monstrous hand, glaring out at the assembled press and bureaucrats. How come bald black guys with moustaches look cool, but bald white guys with moustaches look like gay bikers? Anyway, Capt. Sledge reminds me of Ving Rhames.
“Thank you, Chief.
It’s an honor to serve the men and women of Evergreen City, and to work with the fine officers of the Paracrime Unit.
I’ll be brief, because my goal is simple and doesn’t need a lot of explaining. You know, I was a patrol officer in Turbine City in the 80’s. I’ve seen what happens when cities don’t take a proactive, aggressive stance against parahuman crime. Evergreen City isn’t going to degenerate into another superhuman battleground where normal folks don’t feel safe going out at night or sending their kids off to school. That’s not going to happen here. The Evergreen City Police are not going to become impotent in the face of parahuman threats and rely on illegal costumed vigilantes to defend the city. That’s not going to happen here. The goal of the Paracrime Unit is simple: We’re going to make Evergreen City safe from parahuman crime.”
Well, that’s just what I need, a bunch of cops after me. Although it worked for Midnight Rambler, didn’t it? Sort of enhanced his brand, made him a true rebel. All the kids dug him after the TCPD issued a warrant for his arrest. Remember that one rap song about him? “Straight Ramblin’” God, that was awful. I can’t think of the name of the guy who did that.
This doesn’t bode well, this Paracrime thing.
February 13, 2005
What's been going on? I go on patrol Friday night and bust up a bar fight in Queen's Row. A bunch of stupid frat boys think they can take a couple of old bikers, tough-as-leather types with faded tattoos and miles of hard road etched in their faces. They are wrong. I have to stop the old guys before they permanently disable these kids. The bikers are very good natured about my intervention and they offer to buy me a drink. One of them looks like Kris Kristofferson. I politely shoo them away before the cops show up.
What else? J.C. and I go golfing at Shetfield, where I realize that if I didn't have superpowers, I would probably suck at golf. Really, my putting is for shit.
That's about it. Back to work tomorrow - Valentine's Day! Boy, I love Valentine's Day. It's just like New Year's - it reminds me of how desperately single and starved for sex and companionship I am. I can't wait!
(I refuse to use "emoticons" or even make little winky faces with semi-colons to indicate irony, so let me just say that the preceding paragraph is intended to be sarcastic.)
February 11, 2005
February 10, 2005
As usual I Tivo’d the evening news to see what kind of coverage I get. KARP has the best story for once; they actually interview the old lady I saved from the muggers. Here’s a transcript for your reading pleasure:
KARP reporter Dick Gregory stands in front of an alley in Chinatown, backlit by flashing police lights.
DICK: “For nearly two weeks Evergreen City has wondered about the fate of the super-vigilante The Velvet Marauder, who was last seen in battle onboard Baron von Blitzkrieg’s blimp. Now, here on the streets of Chinatown – an answer to all those who wondered, ‘Where is the Marauder?’”
A shot of the old Asian lady talking to reporters. Dick Gregory’s dialog continues as a voice over.
DICK (V.O.): “Susan Cho was walking back to her Chinatown apartment after a late night trip to a corner grocer when she became the victim of a brutal purse snatching.”
A shot of the old lady (Susan Cho) talking to Dick. She speaks English way better than I speak Cantonese.
SUSAN CHO: “…and then they grab my purse and push me down and they laugh as they run away. Rotten bastards.”
We get a nice lingering shot of the steamy alley where I beat on the two punks.
DICK (V.O.): “Ms. Cho thought her purse was lost as the two thieves ran down this alley. They had escaped Scot free – or so they thought.”
Back to Susan Cho, who is excited now.
SUSAN CHO: “I say to myself, ‘Holy cats, Susan Cho, that’s the Velvet Marauder!’”
A shot of one of the Judo Boys being loaded into the back of a police car.
DICK (V.O.): “Susan’s savior dropped into the alley and made short work of the two would-be purse snatchers, stuffing them in a dumpster, and even calling 911 for her. But was it really the city’s super charged guardian?”
Back to Susan, nodding vigorously.
SUSAN CHO: “Oh yes, it was him. I thanked him and thanked him and said ‘Thank you, Mr. Marauder.’ He was very nice man, very polite. It was him.”
Back to Dick Gregory standing in front of the alley.
DICK: “KARP news has just received footage from the dashboard camera of the police car that responded to the 911 call.”
They run grainy video from the police car’s point of view, just like on all those World’s Wildest Police Car Crash shows. It shows Ms. Cho and I standing in the alleyway next to the dumpster. I’m sort of a shadowy figure, but as the patrol car’s lights sweep over me I briefly turn to face the camera and you can clearly tell that I am me. You know what I mean. I say something to Ms. Cho then leap up out of frame as the police car approaches.
Back to Dick.
DICK: “Evergreen City police have confirmed that, as you’ve just seen, the Velvet Marauder is back, protecting Ms. Cho and the citizens of our city from harm once again. Back to you in the studio, Tina and Mack.”
And that’s it. People love me, what can I say. I think this Baron von Blitzkrieg incident really raised my profile.
If only he hadn’t escaped in that fucking submarine…
February 09, 2005
I suit up, making sure that my goggle sights are zeroed, the Marauderang launchers are loaded, and that I’m fully stocked with sepia bombs and gas grenades. I flex my gauntlets –shnnng!—and climbing claws pop out of the fingertips. I make sure my retractable glider wings are oiled and open smoothly. I thump my armor plated chest. King of the Nighttime World, baby.
I start off about 10 PM in the South End, leaping and running across warehouses and rail yards. It’s a good warm up, but you have to watch the power lines in the South End. Most of the buildings are pretty low and the vast cat’s cradle of power lines that criss-crosses the South End is strung right at the height of these buildings, making it difficult to hop around properly without tangling your feet. It’s as if the entire South End power system is designed to trip me. More than once I stumble or fall on a rooftop because of some invisible power wire stretched out before me at knee height. I say it’s time for Evergreen City to join the fucking 21st century and bury their power lines. Look at New Avalon, it’s beautiful, they buried all their wires years ago. Come on, let's get rid of this shit, please? I'm just saying.
Anyway, once I’m warmed up I head into Old Town, which is a little more my speed. I leap and bounce through the urban canyons, springing off balconies and sliding down slick rooftops. My shoulder feels fine; a little stiff but no big deal. I'm listening to a mix on my MP3 player - some Chemical Brothers, Duran Duran, and um, Kylie Minogue. That doesn’t make me gay, all right?
Bounding on top of the Masonic Temple, I strike Pose #1, Vigilant Dragon, near an ornate rooftop lightning rod. I look out over the city, my city, now cloaked in a nocturnal sea mist. Dark huddled figures and taxi cabs scurry under amber fog lights on the streets below. Somewhere out in the Bay a fog horn moans.
This is great, very ambient, but I need some action. I turn off the music and switch to the police scanner function on my audio suite.
The scanner is quiet, so I work my way over to 4th Ave S and jump into Chinatown. Patrolling around here is always a rich experience; Evergreen City’s Chinatown is nearly as old as the city itself, and has retained its local character through strict zoning laws and a protective community. I bounce across a dilapidated fantasy land of old shingled rooftops, steaming vents, laundry lines and blinking neon signs. The gleaming futuristic skyscrapers of Midtown and Downtown tower over this older world that smells like damp wood and hoisin sauce. I always feel like I’m in a Ridley Scott movie down here.
I pause on top of a gabled building designed to look like an Asian castle and observe the scene below, where people walk down wet cobblestone streets under strings of red lanterns. Dealers and vagrants shuffle around in the small park across the street, mooching cigarettes and drinking surreptitiously.
Then there’s a cry from across the street, and I switch on.
Screaming in Cantonese, a little Asian lady half heartedly runs after a pair of fleeing men, shaking her fist. The two guys are laughing; they have the old lady’s purse. They sprint down the street below me and duck into an alley. They’re both wearing distinctive red white and black jackets: Judo Boys.
This will be a pleasure.
I drop down off the roof into the alley behind them, landing in a crouch with, I must say, cat-like grace. The Judo Boys are already halfway down the alley, running like hell. One of them looks over his shoulder, laughing hysterically, like it’s a big fucking joke. I rise out of my crouch and point at them, trying to be intimidating. When the Judo Boys see me they yelp in fear and run even faster.
The old lady comes trotting up behind me, yelling and gesturing wildly. I don’t know what she’s saying, but I think she’s cussing up a storm. She smacks my shoulder and points after the fleeing punks and yells something in Chinese like, “Hey, stupid! Make yourself useful and get my bag back!”
“Yes, ma’am,” I say and take off after them.
I’m on them in like, seconds. I grab the slowest one by the scruff of the neck and hoist him into the air. He screams like a kindergartner. Without slowing, I fucking hurl the slow Judo Boy at the fast one, bowling him over. Both bounce painfully off the cement. One of them smashes head first into a dumpster. Needless to say, he drops the old lady’s purse.
“You guys are real dickheads, do you know this?” I say as I frisk the first Judo Boy. He loses a butterfly knife, a wallet, and a 9mm. I slap him around a little. “Whatever happened to respecting your elders?” I frisk the other guy, who is moaning and bleeding from a cut to his forehead. He loses his wallet, cell phone, and a switchblade. How retro. “I’m disappointed with you guys, and I think your family would be, too.”
I pop open a locked dumpster – it’s half full of stinking trash. Perfect.
“You’re both on time-out,” I say as I throw them roughly into the dumpster and slam the lid.
The old lady catches up. She’s winded but is still pissed.
I pick up her purse from a puddle in the alley. The strap is broken. I hand it to her with a sheepish smile (like this is my fault) and bow a little. “Here you are, ma’am.”
She explodes, cursing me out in Cantonese. I think she might hit me again.
“I’m sorry…” I say, confused. “Umm, what…?”
She starts gesturing wildly at the broken strap, then down at the puddle. She sort of mimes running then stabs her finger at me wildly, accusingly. I point at my chest, baffled. “Me…?” She nods furiously, pointing at me. “Hey! It’s not my fault!” This pisses her off even more and she launches into a withering high speed tirade. I don’t know what else to do but smile and nod and look apologetic.
I call 911 on the Judo Boy’s phone and report the mugging as the mean old bitch continues to berate me. Talk about ungrateful.
I can see this lady means for me to reimburse her for the damaged purse, despite the fact that were it not for my intervention she would have no purse at all. I hold up my hands in the universal sign of Please Shut Your Hole. I dig through the two wallets and find $60 in cash and some weed. I give the lady the cash. “Here. Here! Take it, woman! Damn!”
The lady instantly shuts up and starts counting the cash. She grumbles a little, but it looks like we’ll grudgingly take it.
“Okay, let’s just stay here, okay? Wait for the police. You understand.”
She nods, stuffing the cash in her purse.
From inside the dumpster one of the Judo Boys moans and calls out something, probably “Doctor!” I rattle the dumpster violently with my super strength and yell, “Quiet! You’re on time out!”
We stand in the alley, the old lady and I, waiting. Not much to say to each other. She just sort of ignores me. I look around, impatient.
More waiting. Where are those fucking cops anyway?
The old lady takes the money out of the purse, counts it again.
We wait some more. This is a little awkward.
“Kind of cold tonight, huh?” I say at last.
“Yep,” I say. “Cold.”
Finally a police cruiser pulls into the alley, lights flashing.
“Okay, that’s my cue,” I say. “The police will take care of you, ma’am. You have a nice night.”
The old lady cracks a fleeting smile and says, in English, “Thank you, Marauder. Bye bye.”
I laugh and spring up on to a fire escape, rebound across the alley, bounce off a window sill, and disappear into the night.
King of the Night Time World, baby.
Shit like that only happens to me. Even when I was a kid I was cursed by episodes of ego crippling humiliation. Ask my brother Colin, he'll gladly regale you with embarassing stories of my childhood and adolescence. Vomiting on my homecoming date? Check. Losing bladder control during an intense game of dodge ball? Check. Having your brother dump out all your Dungeons & Dragons books out of your backpack in front of Sherri Williams, the hottest girl in junior high, while he screams, "Oh my God! Colin plays D&D! Colin plays D&D!" Yeah, check. The joke's on him, though, because two years later Sherri Williams couldn't keep her hands off me. Ha!
To put things in perspective, it's not as bad as the time when I had the, um, accident in my armor. (see post Drinking + patrol = disaster, 10/9/04)
But enough dwelling on life's slings and arrows; tonight I go on patrol for the first time in over a week. We'll see if my shoulder is up to the challenge.
February 08, 2005
Briefly, here’s the story of me getting the hypersteroid shot:
I should stress first off that I’m not afraid of needles generally. I just need to say that. I admit to a little apprehension as I ease myself into Dr. Naghib’s high-tech dentist chair. My arms fit in contoured arm rests, my feet in stirrups, my head is cradled. Bright lights shine overhead. Dr. Naghib straps my arm down. I ask him if this is normal, strapping people down like this for a shot and he says, just for people with paradermis like you and then he turns around with a fucking power drill. With a big elephant needle on the end. I’m sure I swear at that point, and Dr. Naghib assures me that despite it’s appearance, the hypodrill is relatively painless and is the best way of injecting the hypersteroid and I say you’re just making up all these words, dude, you’re taking normal words and adding hyper or para to them and he’s coming closer with this huge needle drill and saying calm down, Mr. Marauder, relax, and then the drill is spinning and whining and I feel it boring into my back, tunneling through my flesh and I try not to scream try not to scream and then it’s over. Oh. Oh, okay. Hey that wasn’t that big of a deal. Stung a little, but, whatever. Hey, Doctor, my shoulder’s feeling better already. Okay. Okay, thanks.
That’s my little story.
I jump around in my gym, testing out the mobility of the shoulder. Man, I’m creaky. I feel out of shape; it’s been like a week since I went out on patrol. I’m not one of those grim, driven heroes like that poseur Night Hunter. If I get hurt and I need to take some time off, I take some time off. Hey, I have to take care of The Machine, baby, because The Machine takes care of me. (see post My Gym 8/04)
After a while the old juices are flowing and I’m hopping around the garage like a jackrabbit. I jump rope for a while, then go to work on the LMDs, my high-tech punching bags that reward precision and power by saying “Khaaan!” and “You’re the man now, dog!” when I strike the right spot. I end my workout with some nunchaku work. I’ve been thinking about adding Marauder-chucks to my crimefighting arsenal but I think I need to practice some more.
I think I’m ready to hit the mean streets of Evergreen City again.
I'm back at work and my nose has been running all morning. I'm doing a boring market study for the QuantumWorks project this week - it's something I would normally have a lackey or two do for me, but as I'm a one-man marketing and brand management department, it has fallen on my manly shoulders. I swear, I think Quentin, Bradbury, and Clarke are just thinking up stuff to keep me busy, but whatever. The pay's good.
Lately I've been entertaining an idea for breaking into the Ninth Floor after hours and snooping around. I can't tell if it's a stupid plan or not, so I'm still thinking about it. We'll see.
Oh, right: the humiliation. Well, my nose is kind of drippy today. I've run out of tissue paper, but I fight the instinct to call Chad and make him go get me some. No, I've learned it is not cool to make underlings perform menial tasks for you. I will go find some tissue paper myself. Maybe the supply room...
I'm heading down the main hall on the Ninth Floor, the one with the strange plants, when Margo comes out of her office, holding a bunch of papers and an Odwalla. Her face brightens a little when she sees me, which is nice.
"Mackenzie!" she says and flashes The Grin. She's wearing a vanilla colored silk blouse and a short-but-not-too-short black worsted wool skirt. "How's it--"
I sneeze. Explosively. On Margo.
When you've got mid-range super strength like me, it affects your entire physiology. I weigh a good thirty pounds more than a normal guy my height and build, because I've got thick bullet-resistant skin and dense muscles. A lot of people don't think about this, but when you've got super-strength, every part of your body is super strong. You see where I'm going with this? For instance, if I want to I can pee a good twenty, thirty feet. Seriously, I can piss from one side of my back yard to the other because of my powerful internal muscles. And that's just an example; I'm sure you can probably think of other bodily functions that would illustrate my point. The science fiction writer Larry Niven wrote a great (but graphic) essay called "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" that kind of touches on this subject. It describes how sexually incompatible Superman and Lois Lane are, being from different species and all. I won't go into detail, but I think this quote sums it up: "...with kryptonian muscles behind it, [Superman's] semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet."
You get the point. I'm no Superman, but I'm stronger than a rhino, and when I sneeze...
The contents of my sinuses blast out of my nose and mouth like a firehose. I blow the papers out of Margo's hands and splatter the front of her silk blouse with nose spray. She screams.
We look at each other for a moment. I'm intensely aware of a strand of snot dangling from my nose. Oh, God. Somebody please just shoot me.
"Uhh..." she says, looking down at her blouse and the wet papers at her feet. Her lovely face is dappled with little flecks of saliva.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry!" I say, wiping my nose. "I've got this cold, and -- and --"
She holds up a hand. I admire her composure. People are coming out of their offices to look.
"I'm okay, it's okay," she says softly. "I'm just going to... go back into my office. I have a spare blouse."
"Margo, I'm so sorry, I..."
She forces a smile and wipes her face with the back of her hand. "It's okay, it's okay," she says. "These things happen." Margo kneels down to pick up her papers, then thinks better of it, and straightens herself. With as much dignity as she can muster, she smiles and walks slowly back to her office. She tosses her Odwalla into the copy room trash bin on the way.
My face is burning with shame. I want to die.
At the far end of the hall, Ted Bradbury leans out of his office door. He gives me a sarcastic thumbs-up then goes back inside, laughing. How I loathe him.
I'm left just standing in the hallway, totally humiliated.
"Anybody got a Kleenex?"
February 07, 2005
Anyway, Dr. Naghib. I promised I’d head back up to the Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre and let him check me out again. Considering how I can’t really go to a normal physician without betraying my secret identity, I’m very interested in getting Dr. Naghib as my regular doctor. In the past year alone I’ve been shot, stabbed, thrown off a building, thrown off a moving car, blown up, set on fire, punched, kicked, bludgeoned, crushed, and had a Prius thrown at me. I mean, if anybody needs a doctor, I need a doctor.
I head up foggy Highway 101 on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, which is a dichotomous drive through misty emerald green forests and miles of ugly clearcuts. Ahh, Washington. I stop at Forks, a logging town on the coast, for a high-cholesterol breakfast, then up to Port Angeles, where I take the kick-ass new express ferry to Vancouver. It’s a sleek catamaran design that mostly takes foot passengers but has room for about 50 cars.
On the ride over I call the number on Dr. Naghib’s card. A young sounding woman answers the phone. “Para clinic, Dr. Naghib’s office.”
“Hi, I’m a patient of Dr. Naghib’s. He told me to call him today for an appointment.”
“Your name please?”
Shit, I hadn’t thought of that. What do I say? “Uhh, MacMillan. Connor MacMillan.”
“One moment please.” She puts me on hold.
Man, maybe I should have just said “Velvet Marauder.” I mean, he’s seen me with my mask off. I don’t want to use my real name, though. Just because he’s seen my face doesn’t mean he knows who I am. Jeez, what was I thinking: Connor MacMillan? In order to preserve my secret identity I’ll give them a fake name that is uncannily similar to my real name. Clever.
The girl comes back on the line, interrupting my fretting.
“Is this about the shoulder, sir?” she asks.
“That’s right, yes.”
“Dr. Naghib would be happy to see you today if possible.”
“Great! Great,” I say. “I’m about an hour away.”
She gives me directions to an annex at the Health Sciences Centre, and within an hour I’m in Vancouver, pulling up in front of a modern steel and wood building nestled in a stand of Douglas fir.
Dr. Naghib’s assistant, a foxy young thing, shows me into a large exam chamber. High tech hardware and flatscreens line the wall, and a large dentist-type chair sits in the center of the room.
“Please wait here, the doctor will be right in,” the girl says,
“Thanks,” I say and smile. I’m wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap in a lame attempt to disguise my appearance. I should have slapped on a fake moustache just to be extra obvious. Man, I am a tool sometimes.
I thumb through the latest issue of SuperPeople (from the makers of TeenPeople!) while I wait. I don’t think I have this one… There’s a big profile of American Steel from the Minutemen, and I’m just reading between the lines here, but he seems like a fascist dickhead to me. Just stick to fighting H.A.R.M., dude, and leave the “borders, language, culture” shit to the radio talk show hosts. I hate when superheroes get all political and shit. I’m not sure the average guy should seek wisdom from people who dress up in costumes and hit things, present company included.
Hey, I’m in the Meanwhile… section! There’s a full page story about our battle against the Baron, and they used that picture of me clinging to the outside of the zeppelin. There’s another good shot of Wombat slicing a bad guy’s rifle in two with his diamond-edge spades – I haven’t seen that one before. And since there’s no good shots of Kestrel from that day, SuperPeople just runs a file photo of him, because of course, you have to have a picture of Kestrel because he’s so dreamy. Pfeh. Anyway, I shouldn’t complain – this is good coverage, good for the brand.
“Mr. Marauder,” Dr. Naghib says cheerfully as he enters the chamber, pulling on a white coat. He’s a handsome Indian cat, not much older than me. “And how are we feeling today?”
“Well, my shoulder hurts like a bitch.”
“Like a bitch, eh?” He makes a note on his clipboard. “How would you rate the pain, on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“Umm, usually it’s just a 4, but if I do something to strain it, it’s like a 7.”
“I see.” Another note. “Well, let’s take a look?”
I take off my shirt and Dr. Naghib checks out the stab wound in my left shoulder and my three – count ‘em – three gunshot wounds. I think that’s a personal record for me.
“These have healed nicely…” Dr. Naghib says of the two bullet-induced welts on my torso, “And your shoulder injury is coming along as well. I don’t imagine there will be much scarring. Your recuperative abilities are remarkable, Mr. Marauder.”
“Thanks,” I say. “Hey, listen Doc. I was wondering if we could maybe work something out. I know you see Kestrel and Wombat…”
“Among others,” he says, writing another note.
“Yeah, well, I was wondering…”
Dr. Naghib looks up from his clipboard and smiles. “I have a reciprocal agreement with most of my parahuman clients, a quid pro quo arrangement. In exchange for medical services, they participate in a study I’m conducting.”
“What’s involved?” I ask.
“Not a lot. I have a health journal that my subjects fill out on a weekly basis, and twice a year I ask that they check in so that we may interview them. It’s difficult to run a longitudinal study on the parahuman population simply because, despite how it may appear in the media, there just aren’t that many of you. To say nothing of the wide disparity in parahuman ability manifestation. For instance, I have a Greek demigod as a subject, who is –“
“I’d be happy to participate, Doctor,” I say.
“You would?” Dr. Naghib smiles. “That’s excellent. I want to assure you, we value our client’s confidentiality here.”
“Of course, of course,” I say. I’m just happy he’s willing to take me on as a patient.
“Well, that’s excellent. I’ll have Beth provide you all the paperwork and forms. From this point on you will be…” He flips a page on his clipboard. “Test subject Number 34.”
Test subject number 34. That sounds a little ominous, doesn’t it?
February 05, 2005
It’s been unseasonably warm and dry here in the Great Northwest; today it feels like spring. It’s great to be able to golf in February and all, but I kind of want a proper winter. The snow pack in the Olympics and Cascades is way low this year, which means no skiing and a big drought this summer, which sucks. It may seem ungrateful to complain about mild weather, but complain I shall.
It’s all because of global warming and El Nino and shit like that. My theory: it’s not just because of greenhouse gases and industrial pollution, global warming is also a direct result of supervillain activity. Hear me out. I’m not talking about low-rent guys like Exploder or Bushbaby, I’m talking about the would-be world conqueror types like The Architect or Sun-Ra. I mean, The Architect almost flipped the planet’s magnetic poles, for Chrissakes. What about Mucha Muerte’s giant Volcano Monster? Or H.A.R.M.’s solar death ray satellite, the one they fired at Antarctica? All this shit impacts the environment, it has to. So really, getting rid of supervillains is the environmentally sound thing to do. I’d like to see the hippies get behind that for once.
Anyway, JC is back from his honeymoon in Maui, which he enjoyed. He’s all tan and relaxed and happy.
“So I’m pissed that I missed that blimp thing, that sounds insane,” JC says while putting on the eight hole. “I’d be on my roof with a video camera for that shit. You all right, Connor?”
I guess I’m wincing and clutching my shoulder, which is burning. “Yeah,” I gasp. “Peachy. Just… strained my shoulder… the other day. Pulled something.”
I finish out our game like a fool because what’s more important? Beating JC at golf or not aggravating an injury?
I’m supposed to go back up to Vancouver and see Dr. Naghib. I was going to blow him off, but now I’m thinking I should go up there. I might need to see him again in the future for something and it probably wouldn’t be smart pissing him off. (see post Dr. Naghib, 1/28/05)
Man, I know I sound like a little girl, but this really hurts.
February 04, 2005
The Inquisitor has a huge color photo of the zeppelin hovering over town under a screaming headline: "HEROES STOP BANK BLITZ!" There’s a “special pull-out section!!!” that features more in-depth hyperbole and more pretty color pictures. There’s a blurry shot of Kestrel diving towards the blimp – it looks like a screen capture from a video camera or something. There’s an excellent action shot of Wombat leaping through a column of black smoke during his fight with the bank raiders. I wonder if he’s seen this, I should scan it and email it to him. And yes, there’s a quality color picture of me that I assume was taken with a telephoto lens. I’m clinging to the side of the Donar’s passenger cabin and I have my arm cocked back, ready to punch out a porthole. I have to say, I look pretty fucking cool.
An interesting and not unwelcome by-product of the Blitzkrieg incident has been public criticism of the way Mayor McChesney’s office and the ECPD handled the crisis. The argument goes: “We shouldn’t need the Velvet Marauder and Co. to defend us from threats like Baron von Blitzkrieg or the Jet Pack Mafia; our police should have the training and ability to deal with parahuman-level threats.” It’s been a big black eye on the new mayor’s administration and kind of makes our new hard-ass police chief look like an ineffectual pussy. I just don’t want this whole deal to reflect poorly on the E.C.’s cops in general, who I have a lot of respect for. Mad props to those guys.
There’s a little article in the Times about Leslie Milton, the KLUB reporter whose news chopper was shot down by Blitzkrieg. I feel really bad about that, I liked her. Plus, she was hot.
Oh, and this is amusing. There’s a rumor going around that I’m dead. Thursday’s Inquisitor runs a story with the headline: “Is Marauder Dead?” with the sub-header: “No sightings of city’s champion since blimp battle.” The last time I was publicly seen was when Kestrel fished my stabbed and shot ass out of the Bay, and there’s a lot of speculation that I bought the farm. For some reason, that amuses me.
“City’s champion.” I likes me the sound of that.
February 02, 2005
Mitch sent me this site featuring helpful self-defense tips for the turn-of-the-century gentleman.
I am going to remember these the next time I am strolling with a hooked walking stick and am set upon by a ruffian. Why, I shall soundly thrash that cad about the head and neck until he cries "I beg of you sir, no more!"
February 01, 2005
Kyle Hansen, aka Wombat, gave me a ride back down to Evergreen City in his Kenworth semi. We had to stop in Seattle to buy a couple dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, which he loves. Those things are too sweet for me, I can't deal with all that sugar. Anyway, Wombat's good company, but his taste in music runs to the God awful. Strangely, he seems to enjoy the music of artists after they have "jumped the shark;" after their glory days. For instance, Wombat doesn't have any David Lee Roth era Van Halen, he only has Van Hagar. So for the better part of our five hour trip to Evergreen City I have to listen to latter-day KISS, Scorpions, and Rolling Stones - groups that should have cashed in when they were still remembered fondly. And oh my God, I had to endure Billy Idol's "Money Money," which must be one of the worst songs ever recorded. I wanted to stab my ears with a pen.
It was nice of him to give me a ride, and Wombat covered my ass by calling in to work and doing a spot-on impersonation of me with strep throat. I wasn't really worried about getting fired or anything, but it's not good form to just skip work for a week and not call.
Margo pokes her head into my office. She's wearing a white seagull collar shirt with flared cuffs over a black 3/4 sleeve V-neck sweater. "Hey, stranger," she says. "You feeling better?"
"Uh, yeah," I say. "My immune system must not have recovered from the flu; I got strep throat."
She looks at me funny. "For a guy as fit as you are, you sure get sick a lot, Mackenzie."
Good point. If I were a skinny little anemic dude, my frequent sick days would be more plausible. But I mean, look at me: I'm a magnificent physical specimen.
My assistant/artist Chad seems happy to see me -- he even offers to go on a Starbucks run for me. Hey, as long as he's offering. I see that we've evolved past the master/bitch relationship into a more equitable relationship, which I suppose has its rewards. Still, it was nice having somebody to push around for a while. Connor Mackenzie: asshole.
Speaking of assholes, Ted Bradbury comes into the break room as I'm fueling up with some more coffee.
"Hey, Connor!" he says in an overly friendly way. "Long time no see, pal."
He claps my shoulder heartily. My left shoulder. I grip the counter, hissing, as a tiny hurricane of agony swirls around my shoulder. "Hey, Ted," I manage through gritted teeth.
"Don't be a stranger!" he says and walks off, chuckling.
I compose myself and go to the bathroom and make sure my wound isn't bleeding. I feel dizzy, sick. Time for another pain killer.
One of these days I am going to kick that guy in the nuts.