Tales of the MCO
TALES OF THE MCO
by Bek D Corbin, with copious amounts of smartass commentary by various Whateley Canon Authors
(Aside: I've tried adding my own two bits in this by showing the volume level of the person commenting by the size of the text. I think that's what Bek wanted)
Riptide tried to ignore the smell of burning solder while she read her book. Bunny was working on yet another finicky little electronics project, and if she was very lucky, the damn thing wouldn’t explode- while it was in their room. Still, it was hard to ignore the acrid smell. She’d ask Bunny to stop, but Bunny would just get all wide-eyed and start talking about how cool it was, and she’d give in- again. Jeez, if Bunny and Jade ever got into a ‘big sad puppydog eyes’ staring competition, they’d tear a rift in the fabric of space and time, and bunnywabbits and Hello Kitty’s would invade the world.
Rip was saved from the nightmare of a Del Rio world when Chaka poked her head in the door. “Rip! Bunny! Haul yer stumps, it’s almost on!” Rip was out the door immediately, but Bunny was slowed down by the necessity of putting away her tools safely. Once everything was securely set in place, she grabbed Aloysious, one of her stuffed rabbits, and hopped over to the sun room. The Kimbas and a few other Poe froshes were in the sunroom, arranged in front of the large flat-panel television, safe behind four inches of bulletproof clear plastic. Nikki patted the place next to her, and Bunny settled in happily.
Ayla bustled into the room with a large bowl of air-popped popcorn (what, you thought that she’d settle for microwave popcorn for herself? Please!). “Really!” she fussed, “I can’t believe that you’re making all this noise over a stupid television show!”
“I’ll remind you that you said that, after this is over!” Tennyo said from where she was floating in the air.
Then Flux and Aggro walked in and started punching the buttons on the remote, which was built into the wall. “HEY!” Chaka snapped, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“They, Herowatch is on G4, and…” Bunny snapped the TV back to the channel that they were watching with a universal remote. Flux switched it back to G4, and the eternal battle for control of the TV ensued, which finished when the other kids all snarled at Flux and Aggro as one. Bunny switched the channel back, just as the program began.
Nikki glowered at the the pair of boys and told them. “Leave that channel where it’s at now, you’re outnumbered even if it’s only me you have to face. Okay?”
Flux and Aggro started to argue, but noted that Nikki wasn’t smiling, and that some of the other Kimbas were in line to back her up.
“Okay, okay!” Flux held out his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Go ahead and watch your lame show. We were just trying to annoy all of you anyway.”
“Well consider that a success.” Nikki answered then shook her head. “Because all of us are annoyed.”
The Narrator’s stentorian voice proclaimed, “ Tales of the MCO! A Mark Quinton production. Tonight, on ‘Tales of the MCO’…” A quick clip montage followed, showing brief scenes of an attractive teenage girl, various people with different parts of their body glowing, coruscating sheets of energy doing dramatic things, people shooting weapons, and cars tearing through streets.
Aggro: “Well, that’s pretty much everything, no need anymore to wade through all that crap, so…”
Tennyo: “Touch that remote and DIE…”
Nikki: “Haven’t we been over this, guys?”
Stirring music (a little heavy on the brass) swelled up as the title ‘Tales of the MCO’ imposed themselves on the MCO crest. The music followed as the title sequence showed the cards for the regular players. The narrator proclaimed with appropriate gravitas, “Tonight’s episode- ‘Betrayal of Innocence’.
Rip: “So, it’s not gonna be about a politician, then.”
The narrator proclaimed:
“ACT ONE- Disturbing Discovery”
The camera opened up showing the interior of a rather generic affluent upper-middle class American home. A TV-housewife attractive woman in her mid-forties walked up to the stairs a carton of orange juice in her hand, the label ‘Citrus Maid’ was showing clearly. “Suzie!” she called up the stairs. “Come on down, breakfast is ready!”
Ayla: “If you’ve seen this girl… you’re off your meds!”
The camera shifted to upstairs, where an attractive (in a TV-wholesome sort of way) brunette girl was hurriedly brushing her hair. “Coming Mom!” she called out. But, as she set her brush down on her vanity table, the brush suddenly flared with a strange violet energy. Suzy recoiled, and peered curiously at the singed remains of the brush, but her mother called her again, and she shrugged, dismissing the incident. She trotted down the stairs to where her parents and younger brother were seated at a table set for breakfast, with a box of Goodkind Mills™ Wheaty-Ohs© clearing showing the label.
Chaka: <in a very bad faux-Australian accent> “T’noight, we foller a TV-American teenagah in her native habbit-tat!”
Suzy sat down and poured herself a bowl of Wheaty-Ohs©. “So, Princess, any big plans for today?” her father asked.
“Oh, I have a quiz in Math today, but it’s no big.”
“Oh, to be young and only worried about Math quizzes,” Suzy’s father sighed gustily. He got up, leaned over and gave her a kiss on the temple. Suzy beamed up at her father with a toothpaste ad smile.
Chaka <same ‘Croc Hunter’ accent> “Crikey! Lookit those choppers!”
From there, Suzy finished up her breakfast without actually eating any food, and hurried out the door. Suzy interacted with a few friends on the bus for school. She went to her locker for her books, but as she turned the combination lock, there was another flare of that energy, which fused the lock shut.
Ayla <in a perky voice>: “Oh never mind, if Agent Scully can ignore these things, then I sure can!”
Throughout the school day, strange things kept happening; it always involved those flares of violet energy that happened when she least expected it.
Suzy hurried up to her room, ignoring her mother’s concerned questions. She sat tailor-style on her bed, her laptop on her knees. She hurried entered the keywords ‘Mutant Energy’. The banners for various websites floated about her as she searched. Phrases were enunciated by disembodied voices, some of them tinged with hysteria:
‘typical emergence at ages between 14 and 16’
Hank: “Like zits!”
‘dangerous uncontrollable manifestations can place those nearby at risk’
Ayla: “like getting a car!”
Jade: “Has your school suffered a plague of purple squirrels? Ours has.”
‘Mysterious disappearances of newly emerged mutants’
Ayla: “Like some goofball named Bill Wilson… hey stop throwing the good popcorn!”
Jade: “No, guys! He’s talking about here! They disappeared because they all came here.”
‘Another teenage mutant reported taken by the MCO’
Bunny: “Now THAT is what I call a killer Search Engine.”
Nikki: “Yeah, it should be put out of its misery, or at least those sites should be. Anybody got a spare nuke lying around? I could get it there if you do.”
Finally, Suzy found a website for a group claiming to be a pro-mutant support political action group called ‘Evolution Rocks!’ The web site looked encouraging, and it said that there was a storefront in her town.
Ayla <with perky voice>: Hmm, because a picture of a brick dropping boulders on people just reassures me completely!
Suzy picks out a vinyl jacket and wraps it around herself.
Chaka <‘Croc Hunter’ accent> “Crikey, she’s usin’ ‘er natural camouflage now…”
Sneaking out past her unsuspecting parents…
Hank <deep, stupid-dad tone>: “Oh hi Pumpkin, sneaking off to the satanic rituals again?”
Warily entering the storefront, Suzy sees an establishment that looks more like a comic book store without actual comic books than a political action group or a social activist front. There were heroic pictures of athletic people in colorful spandex doing amazing things, and a few less prominent pictures of persons who looked like they belonged in an old monster movie holding the hands of small children and standing besides smiling parental figures. A rather weedy looking scrawny woman in her mid-twenties with flyaway brown hair wearing a ‘Dr. Thunder’ T-shirt got up from a desk overloaded with colorful brochures, one of which was clearly labeled, ‘Are YOU a mutant?’
“No, I’m not a mutant, my eyeballs ALWAYS shoot out these beams.”
“Yes, may I help you?” she asked, enthusiasm gleaming in the beady eyes behind the oversized glasses. Without really stopping to listen to Suzy- though Suzy tried repeated to get a word in edgeways- the woman rattled off about how horrible it was that the government was persecuting people just for being different, and how they turned a blind eye to hooligans like Humanity First!, who were little better than the KKK, and how the MCO was like unto the second coming of the Gestapo.
But across the street, up in an apartment a few floors up, someone was paying a lot of attention to Suzy. A thin greyhound-like man with thinning blonde hair with a perennially sour expression, wearing a white turtleneck and a black leather blazer was watching her through a pair of high-powered binoculars.
Ayla <in Paul Lynde tones>: “You think this jacket makes me look too butch?”
“Crusher. We have a possible.”
A very large ‘brickhouse’ man with swarthy skin wearing a Hawaiian shirt with lots of gold jewelry showing in the curly hair on his chest walked up and peered down at the storefront.
Ayla <in much deeper tones>: “I hate this. Hawaii 5-O was such a good gig.”
“Just another high school kid, curious whether they have a spare radioactive spider in the back room."
“No,” the blonde man droned as his eyes began to glow. “She’s not curious. She’s worried. And frightened.”
“That doesn’t mean that she’s a mutant.”
The blonde man gave a snarky grin as the twin lenses of his binoculars reflected the images of a sizzle of energy coming from Suzy’s hand, despite her best efforts to contain it. “No, but she still warrants watching. Go, get Flexor. I’ll call Quantum Pharaoh. She may be just what we need.” This was punctuated by a trump of ominous music.
Hank: “Maybe they’re casting a revival of ‘Annie get your gun’?”
Jade: “I know this is wrong, but I really want to see those guys’ MIDs.”
The familiar- to regular viewers- figures of Zimbalist and Webb entered the squad room of a local police station.
Ayla: “It would be easier to walk if I hadn’t been dipped in cement last week.”
The announcer proclaimed, “In keeping with statute, Field Operatives Zimbalist and Webb checked in with the local police station.” Zimbalist and Webb were shown to the cramped office of the station’s lieutenant of detectives. The paunchy looked over the dapper Zimbalist and the more shabbily dressed Webb with the usual critical eye. “And what can we do for the Mutant Control Office?” the lieutenant asked.
“Mutant _Commission_ Office,” Webb corrected him automatically. “We don’t control mutants, sir. We just try to keep tabs on the more troublesome ones.
Vanessa: “Whoops, Chaka! It sounds like they’re lookin’ for you!”
Nikki: I’ll hide you in my closet, Toni! They’ll never think to look for you there!”
Toni: “No WAY! I’m NEVER going back in the closet!”
The lieutenant looked at them balefully. “And you’re saying that one of these ‘troublesome ones’ has popped up in our patch?”
“No, more like some of the troublesome ones decided to come to your patch.” Zimbalist handed the lieutenant an MCO secure dossier. “We have intelligence that the Maximum Brigade, a Mutant Supremacist cell may have come here. They were involved in a very nasty incident in Canton, Georgia, and they lost a few members. We think that they may be looking for new recruits.” At the top of the dossier was an 8x10” glossy of a rather brutal-looking, square-faced African-American man whose face suggested both malice and power. “Quantum Pharaoh. The leader and heavy hitter. Can project energy beams with damaging potential equal to 15 sticks of TNT. Both tough and battle-savvy. He was a superhero in Philadelphia for a while…”
Vanessa: “Why does everyone pick on Philly?”
Aggro: “One word. Scrapple.”
Jade: “You know, Billie could take any of those guys, right? I mean, after Boston…”
Tennyo: “Hey, don’t drag me into this! They’re tracking dangerous mutants.”
Everyone just stared at her.
“… until he got the idea that he could run things better than the elected city government could. We’ve learned that he’s embraced a hard-core Mutant Supremacist philosophy, and he’s looking to corrupt any newly emergent mutants with the party line that the only way that mutants can survive is on top, as the masters.”
Risk: <waving himself> “WOO! Yeah, Bay-bay, corrupt me! CORRUPT ME!”
Sharisha: “Doesn’t it bother anyone that they’re tacitly saying that a black man in a position of power is automatically EVIL?”
Risk: “What? Are you saying that they could be racist as well as muta-phobic? SAY IT ISN’T SO!” <cops posture of extreme grief>
The lieutenant turned the photo to reveal the picture of the glowering blonde man. “That’s Mindscape,” Zimbalist continued. “The group’s mentalist and intelligence officer. He has a knack for confusing situations. If Quantum Pharaoh’s in the area, Mindscape will be doing his front work for him. Quantum Pharaoh doesn’t like exposing himself unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Nikki: “Unless it’s to little girls – in a dark corner…”
Jade: <laughing through her nose> “They said exposing!”
A third photograph was of the burly man who had been keeping the watch on the ‘Evolution Rocks’ with Mindscan. “That’s Crush Master. Your basic ‘lift a tanker truck over his head’ type ‘brick’. Dangerous, but a follower. There’s another that we think is also with them, called ‘Flexor’, but he’s a shapeshifter; he could look like almost anyone.”
The lieutenant gazed unimpressed at the dossiers. “You say that these guys used to be superheroes?”
“Let’s just say that they have a different notion of ‘the greater good’ than you and I do,” Webb said with his trademark terse eloquence.
Ayla: “You have to admire the propaganda though. You can’t even trust the good mutants.”
“And what does this ‘Quantum Pharaoh’ want on my patch?”
“We’re not sure,” Zimbalist admitted. “Most likely, he’s trolling for gullible new members to draft into the Brigade.”
“How he intends to do that, we’re not sure,” Webb said. “But Pharaoh’s always got a few nasty tricks up his sleeve. And he doesn’t much care if people get hurt in the process. He likes to cite ‘survival of the fittest’.”
“Okay,” the lieutenant nodded. “So far, pretty nasty. And what do you want from us?”
Webb shrugged. “Not much. You have a lot on your plate already. We’re just letting you know that we’re in the neighborhood, listening in on your call bands, and we may be showing up at the scene of any strange calls, just in case. Also, Pharaoh likes to convert superheroes to his cause; if any of the local capes start acting strangely, just let us know.”
“Hey, with superheroes, what really counts as ‘acting strangely’?”
Nikki: “Are we strange? Oh, never mind, we aren’t officially superheroes yet, except for in Boston.”
Ayla: “And with that doink Skyhawk, who would notice?”
From their apartment across the street from the ‘Evolution Rocks’ storefront, the foot soldiers of the Maximum Brigade watched as Suzy left and hurried off. “I don’t think that she cared for the EvoRockers,” Flexor said snidely.
Vanessa: “Less talk, more rock!”
“That just means that she has some taste. We’ll follow discreetly, but let’s see that she gets the right idea.”
Suzy wandered numbly through the streets, and as if on automatic, wound up at a generic shopping mall.
Riptide: “Just remember, when the going gets tough, the tough go SHOPPING!”
Ayla: “As long as there’s no Hello Kitty stuff.” <gets hit with popcorn by Jade, Shroud, and a stuffed toy>
Nikki: “HEY! There’s a special on out of date fashions right there and you walked right past it!”
As Suzy numbly wandered around the mall, the Maximum Brigade soldiers mingled among the crowd. Flexor kept from being obvious by repeatedly shifting his shape to resemble various passersby.
Hank: “Because nothing says subtle like having the girl in front of you change into a mall cop.”
Flexor herded and harassed Suzy about the mall, causing a run of annoying minor incidents that irritated her.
A young black guy in a polo shirt, walking with a hot black girl in a super-short spandex mini and bustier combo, strolled past Suzy.
Ayla: “Hey! It’s Tiger Woods!”
Sharisha: “So every black girl has to be a skanky ho, right?”
Chaka: “No, just YOU.”
Flexor crowded Suzy in toward the couple, as Mindscape’s stared, his eyes glowing evilly. The couple bumped into Suzy and angrily told her to watch where she was going.
Hank: “I’m trying to putt here!”
As her irritation got worse and worse, sparks of that strange energy erupted from her hands, and it took everything that she had to keep it hidden. As Flexor handled Suzy, Mindscape and Crush Master stood strangely unnoticed off to one side of the bustling mall. They calmly and carefully assembled a strange-looking high-tech device that was oddly unnoticed by the other patrons of the mall.
Jade: <in a drone> “These are not the guns you were looking for.”
When the gadget was ready, Crush Master walked among the racks of the shop where Suzy was listlessly browsing.
Ayla: “Hmm, think they have minis in my size here?”
Flux: “I’m looking for a T-shirt that says ‘If you can read this, you’re about to die tragically.’ ”
Aggro: “Or maybe ‘I’m the Mutant Lead, in Tales of the MCO.’ ”
Flux: “Either one. Same diff.”
Mindscape lowered his sunglasses and looked intently at a female patron near where Suzy was. The woman turned, looked right at Mindscape and nodded significantly. She passed behind a pillar, and Flexor changed into an uniformed Security Guard. The ‘Guard’ walked up to Suzy and grabbed her hand. “You! What do you think you’re doing?”
As Suzy reacted, the strange energy sparked again, and Mindscape brought his ‘gun’ up and fired it. Suzy jerked, and for a moment, all the world turned the wrong color. Her strange energy flared up, consuming the wrack of clothing, and Flexor just barely managed to get away without being burned by it. Someone screamed, and Crush Master pushed an entire rack confusing things even more. In the confusion, Mindscape hid his gun and went into the milling throng of panicked shoppers.
Tennyo: “Excuse me, Sir. Have you paid for that gun?”
Flexor shed his semi-official seeming for the appearance of a chunky middle-aged housewife. ‘She’ shrieked, and pointed at a teenage girl who vaguely resembled Suzy. “HER! It was her! She killed a guard! She’s some kind of MUTANT!”
Hank: “And wouldn’t they be embarrassed if she WAS a mutant?”
Jade: “So… wait. They ignore the guy with the devisor gun, and the shapeshifter, but they attack the innocent girl?”
The shoppers began to panic. Some of them ran out of the shop, but others came at the Suzy’s unfortunately near-look- alike. The young black man and his girl sprinted past Suzy and out of the store.
Ayla: “PLAYING THROUGH!!”
Suzy looked on horrified as people threw themselves at what they thought was a dangerous mutant. What she didn’t see was Mindscape standing near the entrance of store, his eyes glowing furiously. Flexor ducked in among the mob, shifting from one form to another, egging the mob on to greater hysteria. Suzy managed to fight her way through the mob.
<high-pitched perky voice> “I’ve got to get that Tickle-Me Elmo doll!”
Suzy managed to get out of the store and fled from the mall. Mindscape slumped, as though exhausted by his efforts. Flexor shifted back into the form of a guard, and he and Crush Master helped Mindscape out of the near-riot that they’d started.
The camera showed the same mall, with obvious signs of damage. The narrator proclaimed, “Answering a code 43-60, a high danger situation with paranormal involvement, Field Operatives Zimbalist and Webb appeared at the Oakdale Shopping Center to investigate reports of a mutant involved in a riot. Witnesses were helpful.”
Nikki: “What did you see? Witness answers – ‘Uhh, nothing. I’m blind!”
A trim and stylish looking, yet observably middle-aged woman said irritably, “All that I know, is that one minute I was happily going through the Junior’ selection, and then the entire RACK goes on fire!” She was about to say more when Webb stopped her.
“Wait a minute. You said that it ‘caught on fire’. But did it actually catch on fire, the material started burning on its own?”
“How would I- wait a minute… now that I think about it, the plastic stuff melted, and some of the woolens did catch on fire, but the cottons just sort of… vanished… and the fire was a weird color… sort of a pale purple…”
“Mutant energy…” Webb grumbled.
“But I don’t understand why everyone jumped that poor girl!” the witness continued. “She wasn’t anywhere NEAR the racks when the fire started! But someone yelled that she was a mutant, and they all just JUMPED her! Why would a mutant set a rack of clothing on fire, for no good reason?”
Nikki: “I already pointed out that those rags were out of date and style, don’t you guys read Vogue?!!!”
“A very good question,” Webb nodded.
Zimbalist walked up. “Security Cameras managed to catch something.” He showed Webb a clip on a laptop. “They only caught this- they knew where the security cameras were, and were very careful about placing themselves outside their range. But see down here?” he replayed a clip in time-capture mode and placed a circle down near a corner. It showed a hand pointing the barrel of something odd at the store. A few time-delayed moments later, a flare of energy erupted in slow motion in the store. “Center fire alarms detect no appreciable rise in temperature just before the energy flare, so whatever that is, it wasn’t a combat laser.”
Webb nodded. “So. What WAS it? And why did they use it in an everyday shopping center?”
Chaka: “What? You never heard of a Fire Sale?”
Jade: <scowling> “It’s not funny! You better hope that fabric disintegrator isn’t real, and if it is, that Peeper and Greasy aren’t watching!”
Suzy stumbled her way through the city, looking around her fearfully, as if expecting people to suddenly attack her. She didn’t even seem to even be really going anywhere, she was just moving because she was afraid to stand still. Her hands were sparking from the tension. She kept putting her hands in her pockets and taking them back out again. Mindscape was keeping behind her, somehow remaining unnoticed by her paranoid peering. Flexor managed to herd her by assuming a variety of threatening images.
Ayla <flatly reading the scary figures>: “Cop… Principal… Monster… Mr. Whipple…”
Mindscape got a cell phone call, and gave Flexor one of those all-too-communicative stares. Flexor steered Suzy under a cantilever highway overpass with pivot moorings, the sort that had ‘hinge’ type pylons to flex with routine impact. Of course, that design was meant to cope with impact from the road above, not from behind. On a cue from Flexor, Mindscape whipped out the odd device and zapped Suzy from behind. Her energy erupted from her even with even more fury than before. On the cue of the energy flare, Crush Master hit the pivot joint from behind with all his strength, destroying the overpass support.
Ayla: “Time for my Tae-Bo!”
Bunny: “Ooo, I’ve seen that advertised at the Mercenary Emporium! A mutant omni-power turbo overcharger. Guaranteed to send any mutant power into a dangerous overload. At most places you can only get those through special order, but at the Mercenary Emporium – Standard, in stock.”
From Suzy’s point of view, her energy blast had totally destroyed the pivot support, and the entire overpass was about to collapse right on top of her!
“Oops I think I did it again…”
The overpass creaked and started to buckle. Cars started skidding and crashing into each other as the roadway crumbled. Suzy looked up in horror, seeing death coming for herself and others- AND IT WAS ALL HER FAULT! Then the Reptiloid, a hulking misshapen mutant superhero with super strength flew down and held up the overpass by putting his massive shoulders against the underside of the bridge and spreading his arms out to hold up the crumbling bridge. He didn’t stop the bridge from falling, but he slowed it down enough for people to escape. Finally, as Suzy watched, he lowered the bridge enough for himself to escape. But, instead of thanking the Reptiloid for saving their lives, the crowd turned on him. One elderly woman claimed that she saw him tear out the supports.
Suzy watched in open-mouthed as the crowd closed in on Reptiloid. And then, to cap it all off, when Police cars showed up, the civilians claimed that they’d seen Reptiloid tear up the overpass, and the officers arrested him, and placed him in large shackles. As the patrol car drove off with Reptiloid in the back, Suzy listened in amazement as the crowd muttered among themselves, somehow re-writing the entire incident so that the mutant was the villain.
The scene shifted to a long corridor lined with vault-like doors. Zimbalist and Webb followed a uniformed officer and a heavily armored guard down to one door. The guard pressed a buzzer, and then pulled back a sliding hatch to peer inside. Apparently satisfied, he punched in a code while peering into a retinal scanner. The door slid to the side revealing the cell, where Reptiloid stood on a painted ‘X’, wearing orange scrubs. “Well?” Reptiloid grated.
“Flight Dispatch verifies that you only veered from your flight path AFTER the 911 call went out, so you’re in the clear. Look, we had to bring you in, to avoid a riot. And once you were in custody…”
“Yeah, I know, I know… But if Wonder Queen had caught that bridge, you’d be throwing her a parade.”
Ayla: “Uhh, I thought Wonder Queen was a him.”
Riptide: <nodding> “That’s why you have to wonder.”
“You know the drill- you can pick up your jammies and stuff at the locker window.” Reptiliod leveraged his shoulders through the sills of the door.
“Just a minute,” Webb said. “We have a few questions to ask.”
Jade: “Well believe me, he isn’t going to accept a date after the way you’ve treated him.”
“And who are you?”
“Field Operatives Zimbalist and Webb- MCO.”
“What IS this? He just said that-”
“We just want to ask a few questions, Mr. Strauber. You were first at the scene, and you may have seen something that will let us figure out what happened to that overpass.” Reptiloid nodded.
Jade: “Does Reptiloid remind anyone of Thuban? Only… not so dreamy?”
Everyone gulped at that, and remained silent.
Nikki: <whispering to Toni> “TMI.”
The scene cut to a spare interview room, and Reptiloid had changed from the neon orange scrubs to his usual ‘fighting togs’, “So, according to you, you saw some traces of an energy discharge against the overpass pivot?” Zimbalist asked.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t enough to bring the overpass down. The metal was barely even charred.”
“Yeah, that jibes with the preliminary forensic examination,” Webb said in his trademark monotone. “According to them, the energy discharge came from the side of the pylon facing the street, while there was single massive blow from the other side. A massive blow with a very narrow striking surface. Like a human fist.”
“I was on Flight Dispatch radar when the overpass started to fail.” Reptiloid said defensively.
“I wasn’t suggesting anything,” Webb returned equitably. “Did you see anyone under the overpass when you arrived?”
“Yeah. Two people, on the street.”
“What were they doing there?”
“I didn’t ask. I was a little busy keeping several TONS of roadway from coming down.”
“Young girl, maybe 15 or 16 or so. Long dark hair. Pretty, in a white bread kind of way. Well dressed. Scared out of her wits.”
Ayla: “Not that I noticed, when I was so busy…”
“The other one was a guy, late twenties, early to mid thirties. Short blonde hair. Wore a long coat. Very calm.”
“Ever seen either of them before?”
“Not that I can remember.”
“Any idea why the crowd got so ugly?”
Ayla: “Glad I’m not the only one who noticed the inbreeding and simian genetics. Where do they get those extras?”
“Well, the word ‘Mutant’ did pop up here and there,” Reptiloid said snidely.
“Maybe, but you’d think that normal people would be a little more grateful for saving their lives.”
“Yeah, you would, wouldn’t you? Sometimes I wonder why I even bother.”
Zimbalist changed the topic. “Strauber, do you know Quantum Pharaoh?”
“Quantum Pharaoh?” Reptiloid’s face clenched like a fist. “Is THAT what this is all about?”
“Answer the question. Do you know Quantum Pharaoh?”
“I met him once, back when he was trying to wear a white hat.”
Ayla: “He was a political lobbyist, back before he turned to crime!” <begins to laugh uncontrollably>
“And I thought that we was a punk, even back then. Entitled little know-it-all dork! I wasn’t surprised at all when he went toxic.”
“Heard from him recently?”
“Oh, a couple of blind feelers- ‘wanna be one the dominant species, instead of the scapegoat?’- that kinda crud.”
Nikki: “I AM part of the dominant species. You humans just haven’t figured that out yet!”
“And I told him to shove it. Things may not be all beer and skittles for me as it is, but at least I know where I stand. I can’t imagine that things would be any better with guys like Quantum Pharaoh in charge.”
“What do you mean?” Webb asked.
“I mean, he’s the kind of guy who starts fights, and lets other people finish them.
Chaka: “But not ME, Boss! I’ze a GOOD mutant, not like that trash Quantum Pharaoh!”
Nikki: “Yassuh! Me be GOOD mutant fer sure!”
Sharisha: “At least HE’S not black.”
Rip: “How can you tell?”
The scene changed to what looked like an affluent suburban teenage hang. Suzy was clutching a stuffed tiger, and looking anxiously at a good-looking teenage boy her age with spiky short blonde hair, wearing a striped T-shirt and baggy shorts. “Cal?” she bleated.
Rip: “Hey, where did the stupid stuffed tiger come from? You mean that she went all the way home, got her favorite plushy, and didn’t stop to talk to her parents, but now she’s gonna talk to her boyfriend?”
Nikki: “Jade, are you in this show?”
Jade: “Sure! I play the tiger, Tony.”
Nikki: “My name’s ‘Nikki’. ‘Toni’ is my roommate.”
The boy, Cal, saw Suzy and smiled. He made his excuses to his friends and sauntered over to her. He beamed a wide smile at her and leaned over to talk to the stuffed tiger. He shook one of the stuffed paws. “Hey, big guy! You been lookin’ after my girl for me?”
“Cal?” Suzy quavered, “Can we talk? Somewhere private?”
“Sure!” Cal lead Suzy over to a strangely clean looking alley to the side of the building. “So, what’s the matter, Suze?”
Suzy looked up at Cal with huge, tear brimming eyes, and said, “Cal, something weird’s going on, and I think that I’m in a LOT of trouble!”
The Camera pulled way back to a shot inside a car across the street. Mindscape muttered, “Perfect.” He pulled out his device, aimed carefully, and shot. The camera reversed the shot, and you could see the beam from the device hit Suzy as it came across the street. Suzy spasmed and she erupted in a huge blaze of ‘mutant energy’. Cal was thrown across the alley and slammed against the brick wall, one half of his face horribly charred by the energy. The closing shot of the scene was of the stuffed tiger dropping on the alley floor, also half-burned.
Bunny: <holding hand over the stuffed bunny’s eyes> “Aloysius, DON’T LOOK! It’s too horrible!”
Jade: “Don’t worry. They rebuilt me. Next episode I come back as CyberPlush.”
Flux: <falsetto voice> “I knew if should have gotten that ‘You’re about to die’ T-shirt!”
Then the deep tones of the narrator proclaimed, “And now a word from our sponsors, Goodkind Mills, the makers of wholesome cereals like Wheaty-Ohs and Mega-Fiber. Good for kids, and good-tasting too.”
The actual commercial was completely missed, as the whole room threw popcorn at Ayla.
Ayla grumbled to herself, “And they wondered why I didn’t put butter on the popcorn.”
“Act Two: Deadly Decision”
Suzy looks down at Cal, goggling in horror, incapable of speaking or even moving.
Chaka: “Yeah, I know how you feel, girl. Those laxative commercials ought’a be ILLEGAL!”
Back out on the street, Mindscape tapped a convenient police officer on the shoulder. His eyes glowed for a moment, and the policeman’s face went blank. The cop drew his gun and charged into the alley. “Hold it!” he screamed as he pointed his pistol at Suzy. “Don’t move, you murdering mutant FREAK!”
Suzy cringed back, staring horror-struck at the barrel of the gun that loomed huge before her. “You killed him, you FREAK!” the cop shrilled. “You’re not going to murder ANYONE ELSE ever again!”
Ayla: “And the winner for best performance by a mesmerized zombie IS… the hysterical cop with a gun!”
Hank: “No, you fool! A service .38 to take down a hundred pound girl? OBVIOUSLY you need a .44 Magnum to keep the world safe!”
The cop pulled back the hammer and was starting to squeeze the trigger, when Crush Master bull-rushed down the alley and slammed into the cop. The cop went flying. Crush Master picked up the dropped revolver and twisted it into a knot in front of Suzy.
Tennyo: “Oh yeah, the Special Effects department is really showing its stuff HERE!”
Mindscape walked up to Suzy, his eyes glowing with strange power, took her by the shoulder and said, “Unless you want to spend the rest of your life – all four hours of it- in a MCO cell, come with us.”
Chaka: “Don’t do it Generic White Girl! Can’t you see that he has glowing eyes? GLOWING EYES! Nothing good ever comes from glowing eyes! And can’t you hear that theme music? Is that good guy theme music?”
But Suzy didn’t listen to Chaka, and got in the car.
Chaka: “Humph! They never listen.”
Mindscape and Crush Master brought Suzy to an upscale hotel room through the back entrance. She kept trying to ask them questions, and they kept shushing her. They took her into a large post suite. Standing in the living room of the suite was a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a dressing gown with his back to the camera.
Flux, Risk, and Aggro: <chanting> “Beeeef-CAKE! Beeeef-CAKE! Beeeef-CAKE!”
Jade: “Aw… I wanna see more Reptiloid!”
The man turned around with slow drama. He was tall with a massively powerful frame, with a very dark African complexion. His head was squarish and blunt-featured, but still attractive in a rather bullish, very masculine way. His dressing gown was open at the waist, revealing massive, esthetically developed pectorals and ripping six-pack abs.
Flux, Risk, and Aggro: <in unison> “ooooohhhh….”
Nikki: “Don’t fall for it, girl! He’s the – umm – hunky bad guy! Okay, go ahead and fall for it, just don’t drool on the floor. (sigh)
Suzy wilted slightly before this awesome visage’s glowering regard. He took a deep breath and said in a deep resonant voice, “_I_ am Quantum Pharaoh.”
Hank: “No, _I_ am Quantum Pharaoh!”
“No, _I_ am Quantum Pharaoh!”
“You’re actually admitting that you have the lamest name imaginable?”
Nikki: “No, Captain Canada has that one sewed up! Plus he’s a real jerk, not just an actor playing one.”
Ayla: *cough* Clothes Ghost *cough*
Quantum Pharaoh continued despite the heckling (that was happening somewhere else, months after the filming), “I am the leader of this happy band of brother, united by dint of the mutant blood that flows through all our veins. Craven fear of the power of that blood sets the everyday masses and their plutocratic masters against us; the former out of a sniveling fear the unknown, the latter out of fear of the diminishment of their own power. And born of that fear is an abiding hatred that would bring down any one or even every one of us. And that fear is now leveled at you, though you are without crime or malice.”
Nikki: “Oh, well I sure feel BETTER now. Thanks!”
Shroud: “I don’t have blood. Does this mean I can’t join the club?”
“Well, I DID sort of blow up the overpass…” Suzy squeaked. “I didn’t MEAN to! It just happened! I don’t even know what I’m DOING!”
“Yes, I heard about that,” Quantum Pharaoh responded equitably. “And then the Reptiloid swooped bravely down and put his own safety at risk to save the lives of hundreds. And how did they thank him for his courage? They turned on him like a pack of savage dogs. The odds are they they’ll turn him over to the MCO in chains, and hold themselves as heroes for doing so.”
Jade: “Noooo! Not my sweet Repty!”
“WHY? Reptiloid saved all those people?” Suzy wailed.
“Because he’s a mutant,” Quantum Pharaoh said matter-of-factly. “Worse, he’s a mutant and they can’t conveniently ignore the fact that fact. He offends their delicate sensibilities, and they’ll never forgive that, no matter what he does.”
Bunny: “Well, that cheesy latex ‘scale’ makeup that he wears may have something to do with it.”
Ayla: “And what does being an reptile have to do with flying, anyway?”
Hank: “What, you didn’t know that scales repel gravity?”
Tennyo: “No, Ayla, being a reptile didn’t make him fly- instead, it gave him the ability to secrete those wires that he was dangling from.”
Nikki: “And the people moving the wires to make him look like he was really flying almost rammed him into the overpass he was supposed to be holding up. Come on people! I’ve seen better SFX in serials from the Fifties!”
“What do you want from me?” Suzy asked.
Jade: “We want you to kick off, so we can see more Reptiloid!”
“The question is not what you can offer us, but rather, what WE can offer YOU,” Q.P corrected her sternly.
Ayla <effete actor tones>: “Oh wait, I wanted to do that line in a JFK voice, can we do another take?”
“You have power, which grows like a raging fire within you. But you cannot control that mighty blaze, and so you place yourself in danger, along with all about you. But you could learn to control it…
“If you can use a lot of flame metaphors when you talk.”
“… and it could be a great asset- IF the baselines let you LIVE long enough to do so. We, the Maximum Brigade, are dedicated to saving young mutants from the bloodthirsty vigilantes of so-called ‘Humanity First!’ and the MCO.”
Nikki: “Shouldn’t the brass band start up about now?”
“So… you’re going to teach me how to control this?” Suzy asked, naïve hope clear in her voice.
“Yes, we can. But nothing in this sordid world is free.”
Ayla: “Carrying charges! That’s where they always get you, the carrying charges and financing!”
“Only WE can help you. Your parents know nothing of what you’re going through. We do. The Authorities would just as soon dig a hole for you, throw you in and cover it with concrete. The MCO would just make you disappear, as they have so many before you.” Quantum Pharaoh stopped suddenly, turned dramatically and said-
Everyone in unison: “BUT!”
Nikki: Adds. “We can SAVE you, and Train – err – teach you!
“But rescuing you alerted the authorities to our presence in this city. Even now, the police have alerted the MCO, who are searching high and low for any sign of us. We can avoid their crude methods easily, but not if we’re dragging around a time bomb that could go off at any time. We need a show of good faith from you.”
Suzy looked at Quantum Pharaoh “What do you mean, ‘show of good faith’?”
Vanessa: <in a perfect impersonation of Barry White> “Oh, YOU know what I mean, bay-bay…” <bom-chika-wa-wa!>
“I’m not going to kill anyone for you!” Suzy said defiantly.
Ayla: “I won’t even make ‘em wear Hello Kitty tops! Hey! Popcorn doesn’t grow on trees, you know!”
“Good to hear,” Quantum Pharaoh said, as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “Someone who kills easily is a brute. The Maximum Brigade isn’t a crew of murderers. However, we don’t have any room for someone who can’t carry her own weight, or might sell us out to the MCO on the soft-headed notion that they might go more easily on her if she did. We are here on a matter of no small importance. Goodchild Industries-”
<everyone throws popcorn at Ayla>
“-is developing a device that interacts with mutant energies, causing a deadly burnout in the targeted mutant. They haven’t perfected it, but it IS getting uncomfortably close to the mutant-haters’ so beloved anti-mutant weapon.”
Aggro: “So what else is new?”
Bunny: “That it’s now on SALE at the Mercenary Emporium! Thirty percent off every mutant omni-power turbo overcharger! Buy two and get a free Plot Device!”
“Burnout?” Suzy squeaked, “What do you mean ‘burnout’?”
Nikki: “Oh, you know, that thing that sort of KILLS mutants? No big deal!”
Quantum Pharaoh gestured broadly. “Our mutant powers aren’t unmixed blessings. The raw power contained within our forms can roar and blaze far beyond our means of controlling it, burning the very flesh from our bones.”
“You mean…” Suzy choked, “they can just turn this gadget ON, and we’ll burn like a bunch of cockroaches?”
Ayla: “Oh yeah, a ‘mutant zapper’- they’ve already got a ‘mutant hotel’.”
“Not yet, Heaven be praised,” Quantum Pharaoh assured her. “But that IS in truth, their ultimate aim. To save the lives of mutants everywhere, we must prevent this hell-thing from coming to completion. But merely destroying the prototype isn’t enough. We must take both the prototype and all the development notes, so that we can ascertain how close to completion they are. If possible, we can use those notes to develop a counter-measure. Still, all that we really know of this infernal device is that it is being developed. We must assume that they are making great strides, and we can ill afford to take time to properly reconnoiter the site. Rather, we must rush the facility and take the prototype by force de main.”
Chaka: “Use the Force de Main, Luke!”
Ayla <in vapid voice>: “Uhh, I don’t speak German.”
Bunny: “Great. Once again they blame it all on the devisors. Is that fair?”
Quantum Pharaoh paused dramatically and fixed Suzy with an intent gaze. “Your task, if you wish to prove yourself worthy of our assistance, is to assist us in our mission to prevent the MCO from gaining this terrible weapon, which they will no doubt use to scourge mutants from the face of the Earth.”
Nikki: “Can I puke now or should I wait till he says more?”
Vanessa: “Quiet! I want to hear him say scourge again!”
“Mission?” Suzy bleated, “But I don’t know anything about military stuff!”
Vanessa: <in a perfect imitation of Butterfly McQueen> “I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies!”
Hank: <in a Clark Gable voice> “Frankly, Suzy, I don’t give a damn.”
“We don’t expect you to. The test will be simply to accompany us, and to do what we tell you to at the right time. Your skills and training are not the issue; nay, rather your grit and sincerity are all that are on trial."
Suzy looked around at Mindscape and Crush Master.
The scene shifted to the alley where Cal had died, which is now taped off, with lots of Police in evidence. Zimbalist and Webb drove up, got out, flipped their IDs at the cops and approached the man in charge. “Zimbalist. Webb. MCO. The squeal said that mutant involvement was suspected?”
The detective in charge nodded and showed them into the alleyway. “Kid got killed by some sort of weird energy discharge. According to witnesses, they saw the victim, Cal Hobbes, go into this alley with his girlfriend Suzy Derkins. There was some sort of explosion, and one of our uniformed patrolmen went in to investigate. The witnesses heard some shouting, and then two men ran in. They dragged the Derkins girl into a car and left in a screaming hurry.”
“Are you sure about the sequence?” Webb asked tersely. “The kids go into the alley, THEN the explosion, then the patrolman goes in, and the two men drag off the girl?”
“Reasonably so. Only one or two of the witnesses stuck around. They called it in when they found the boy’s body and the injured patrolman.”
“The patrolman’s still alive?”
Ayla: “But his rubber gun will never be the same!”
Vanessa: “And it was never that BIG a rubber gun.”
“Any sign of scorching?”
“Not on the patrolman, no. But there was this.” The detective held up a plastic bag with the half-burned plush tiger in it.
Bunny: “I didn’t know that this was going to be a HORROR show!”
A plush, stuffed white tiger jumped up, saying: “Don’t worry! We can re-stuff him! Better… plumper… plusher!”
“This was almost half destroyed. The boy wasn’t as badly burned; he would have survived, but someone broke his neck. From the mark on the flesh, someone stepped on his neck and broke it with his heel.”
“Man’s heel, or woman’s heel?”
“Man’s heel, size EEE.”
“Where did the toy come from?”
“The witness said that the Derkins girl was carrying it when she and the Hobbes boy went into the alley.”
“So, it’s shaping up like the Derkins girl is a mutant, and she killed her boyfriend with an energy discharge,” Webb summed up. “The officer went into the alley, when the two mysterious men charged into the alley. Either Derkins or the two men dealt with the police officer. One of the two men made sure that Hobbes boy was dead. Then they took the Derkins girl with them.”
Nikki: “NO you idiot! It was that one armed man with an EEE shoe! Honest!”
The camera cut away to a shot of the MCO agents driving up in front of the Derkins’ house.
Ayla: “How come you never let me drive?”
Vanessa: “You keep driving off the backlot.”
Hank: “Isn’t this the Cleavers’ house?”
Jade: <tearfully> “Mr. and Mrs. Whitebread… I’m afraid your tiger is in critical condition.”
The narrator proclaimed, “Spectro-chemical of the charring at the scene proved that it was identical to that of the charring at the shopping center and the devastated overpass. Eyewitnesses identified Suzy Derkins as having been at the site of both attacks, from a picture provided by her high school. Field Agents Zimbalist and Webb visited the household of Mr. & Mrs. Derkins.”
Ayla <doing as deep a voice as she can> “Yeah, now that Cleaver babe, she sure knew how to greet you at the door. If you know what I mean.”
Webb knocked on the door and Zimbalist flashed his badge. Mrs. Derkins opened the door and looked at the badge with barely concealed distaste and distrust. “What do YOU want?”
“Ma’am, we’d like to talk to you about your daughter, Susan.” Webb said with cool professionalism.
“Suzy? What do you want with Suzy?”
“Ma’am, we have reason to believe that your daughter may be a mutant.”
“Suzy? A mutant? What are you talking about?”
Nikki: “Oh, the horror! The SHAME!”
“Your daughter was observed at the scenes of three destructive outbursts of mutant energy. One of those outbursts put dozens of lives at risk, and another killed a young man and put a police officer in the hospital.”
Jade: “Wait, they’re lying, aren’t they? I mean, they already know that Suzy didn’t do that stuff.”
“You’ve GOT to be mistaken! My Suzy would never-”
Tennyo: “She would NEVER! She was saving herself for that one special biker gang!”
“Ma’am, it’s not a matter of your daughter wanting to hurt people,” Zimbalist, the more relaxed of the two, cut in. “When they first manifest their powers, some mutants simply can’t control it. They don’t know how, and they’re as afraid of what’s happening as everyone else is. Suzy may not have done any of this intentionally.”
Nikki: “Hey! My hobgoblins never killed anyone! But some did kind of bite people…”
“Ma’am, we’re doing a job that-”
“A JOB? Is THAT what you call it? I’ve heard all about you people! This is AMERICA, Mister! People have RIGHTS! Even mutants! You can’t just grab someone because you THINK that they might have done something, or might do something! You have to have PROOF!”
Ayla: “I’ll have you know that I’m a liberal… and an idiot!”
Webb frowned, “Ma'am, I can't speak for the entire MCO, but I'll say this. We follow the law. We want to follow the law. We work with the law, and we stay within the rules that the local police departments want. We want to help. We want to help not just this country, and this police department that takes care of every problem you call them about, but every citizen too. White or black, baseline or mutant. We respect everyone's rights, because that's our charter. That's what we do. I wear a badge, ma'am. Not a swastika."
“Then you come back when you have a proper warrant, Mister!” With that, Mrs. Derkins tried to slam the door shut.
Nikki: “Get your broom, lady and sweep them off their feet!”
“Ma’am, we’re doing a job that-”
“A JOB? Is THAT what you call it? I’ve heard all about you people! This is AMERICA, Mister! People have RIGHTS! Even mutants! You can’t just grab someone because you THINK that they might have done something, or might do something! You have to have PROOF!”
Jade: “Tell that to sweet, innocent Reptiloid!”
“Ma’am, we are working with the Police on this-”
“Then you come back when you have a proper warrant, Mister!” With that, Mrs. Derkins slammed the door shut.
Nikki: “Aww, you missed his foot by a good three seconds there!”
The director didn’t bother with trivial details like how the Maximum Brigade actually got into what was supposed to be an ultra-secure research facility. Instead, the action started with Flexor getting them past a secure door. Quantum Pharaoh took out two uniformed guards, and Crush Master literally tore another secure door off its hinges. Suzy gingerly followed through the wreckage. Quantum Pharaoh turned to her. “And so, Fair Maiden, here we are. Now is the time for you to show your true mettle. The next impediment to our quest is a warren of hundreds of robotic insects that deliver nasty electrical shocks. ONE of those electronic vermin wouldn’t even be worth so much as a passing mention, but as I said, there are hundreds of them, and each of them as a noteworthy bite. Their function is neither to kill nor capture us, but rather to make us waste time dealing with them, while the authorities are being mentioned. Your task is keep the crawling hoard at bay, while we deal with the last safeguards and take the coveted treasure from its vault. Remember, even as they need not destroy us, but rather merely delay, so you need not destroy them, merely keep them at bay.”
Ayla: “Couplets. They’ve sunk to couplets.”
Chaka: “It would be better, if they were triplets?”
Beyond the door was a cavernous chamber with something that looked perilously like honeycomb lining the walls and ceiling. At either end of the chamber was a pedestal with a keypad on it. The Maximum Brigade started across the long carpet linking the two doors. There was a chime, and a pre-recorded voice said, “You have not presented your ID and entered your identification code. Please return to the pedestal and do so. If you do not, security measures will be initiated.”
“Crush Master!” Quantum Pharaoh snapped. The big man sprinted ahead and caught a heavily barred gate from falling, before it could seal off the lab behind it. A red light started flashing, a klaxon sounded, and balls about the size of grapefruit started dropping into the chamber.
Vanessa: “It’s Chuckie Cheese’s Pizzeria of DOOM!”
Ayla: <blinks> “Chuckie Cheese?”
“Handle these!” Quantum Pharaoh snapped, “We can’t be delayed by them!” The balls started rolling at Suzy. When they came within a few feet of her, they ‘exploded’ into mechanical spiders.
Tennyo: <in a droning mimicry of Dr. Quintain’s delivery> “Very well class, let’s see a show of hands- is this a case of Copyright Infringement or not?”
The mechanical spiders sparked an arc across their ‘mouths’ and started to close in. Suzy gave an ‘eeep!’ and let out a wave of purple energy that washed over one flank of the robot spiders, destroying a few, but causing others simply to roll back up into balls and rolling with the impact. “Keep it up!” Quantum Pharaoh barked, “Destroy as many as you can, but for the love of God, keep that corridor open!” Suzy lashed out again and again, destroying a few of the spiders, but for the most part barely managing to keep them at bay.
Hank: “Gee, this morning, she couldn’t control her energy, and now she’s throwing it around like an old pro.”
Nikki: Well she IS a mutant.”
Chaka: “Yeah, we be Baaaddd!”
Ayla: “The writing be worse!”
Inside the laboratory, Crush Master and Quantum Pharaoh were tearing the high tech apart for oddly anachronistic files, as Flexor studiously typed at a computer and a man in a lab coat looked on fretfully. Mindscape was holding one scientist against a counter, holding his head in the classic ‘Vulcan Mind Meld’ grip as his eyes glowed. “I have it,” he said in a tone that suggested that he was slightly constipated. “The key element is over there.”
“But I already TOLD you that,” the man in the lab coat fretted.
“Yes,” Quantum Pharaoh said in his glorious deep voice. “But now, we know. They walked over to a squarish pillar of high tech gadgetry with several power leads connected to it.
Bunny: “Oh Look! They’ve invented a Star Trek flashing lights thingie!”
“What does it do?”
“It flashes lights and goes *ping!*”
“What good is that?”
“Not much really- but it does go *ping!* very well!”
Mindscape and the man in the lab coat started to disconnect the power leads and other cables, but Quantum Pharaoh gestured to Crush Master, who brushed the two aside and wrapped his arms around it.
Risk: <in husky and aroused voice> “Oh yeah, Baby, it’s so BIG and HARD!”
Crush Master tugged at the pillar.
Risk: <same voice> “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
Crush Master tore the pillar from its moorings.
Risk: “OH! YES! Oh, was it good for you TOO?”
Crush Master carried the instrument out the door, to the corridor where Suzi was still zapping away at the spiders. Flexor was close on his heels. The man in the lab coat said, “Well, you’ve gotten what you came for. Are you done now?”
Quantum Pharaoh gazed at him dyspeptically. “No.” His eyes flashed and beams of some uncertain energy erupted from them. Off-camera, the craven man in the lab coat screamed and there was a sound as of meat sizzling. “NOW, I’m done here.”
The camera went to black and cut to a panoramic shot of high mountains in sharp contrast to deep blue waters. A very different narrator merrily proclaimed, “Norway Travel announces their new ‘Viking Heritage Tours’, which features exciting historical First-Person reenactments! Yes, now YOU can experience the thrill of being a Viking raider, in complete safety! ‘Have YOU Riven A Fjord Lately? ©’
<cut to black screen>
The letters ‘England, during the Napoleonic Wars’ appear in a gothic font
<Deep manly concerned ‘Don Fontaine’ movie trailer voice>
In a world…
Of gentility… <women in full-length dresses with parasols chat with dandies in evening clothes>
Of danger… <cut to a scene of British soldiers leading a charge against a French battle line>
Of science… <cut to a handsome man jolting a glowing green rock with electricity from a van de Graaf generator>
A man discovers a secret of science so deadly that nothing on earth can contain it!
<same handsome man being struck by green light from the rock and screaming in pain>
<same man suddenly turning green and ripping out of his ruffled white shirt>
<same man standing in bushes>
Keira Knightley look-alike: “Good sirrah, where are your clothes? And why are your pants that hideous shade of purple?”
<same man dressed in evening clothes and confronting an English general> “My lord, please do not make me angry. Thou wouldst not like me when I am most angered.”
<cut to a massive green monstrosity rampaging through a battlefield, taking a cannon blast off his chest, then grabbing the cannon by the muzzle, spinning about, and flinging it>
COMING THIS SUMMER
THE MERCHANT-IVORY FILM
OF THE DC ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION
In conjunction with Metro-Goldwyn-Goodkind studios.
“Act Three: Plight of the Peacekeepers”
The narrator proclaimed, “Following the break-in at Goodchild Labs, Field Operatives Zimbalist and Webb arrived at the scene to consult with the local police on the raid.”
Hank: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like crime scene.”
Zimbalist and Webb walked past the ‘crime scene’ tape into the lab and did their ‘Zimbalist, Webb, MCO’ rap with the IDs. “So, was anything important stolen?” Webb asked the detective in charge.
“We dunno,” the DIC admitted. “This is really high level physics stuff; I feel like I need to take a night course just to go the Men’s Room here. They say the project has something to do with broadcast energy, whatever that means.”
“Broadcast energy means that they can move electricity or some other form of useful power through the air like radio waves,” Webb explained. “They beam it out one end, it travels through the air without wires, it’s picked up at the other end, and converted to electricity or heat.”
Risk: “Much like the way shit is transmitted by television waves.”
Zimbalist shrugged. “That doesn’t sound like anything that a paranormal operative would be particularly interested in taking, let alone killing for. But they have some very heavy security guarding it.” He kicked the slagged remains of one of the ‘spiders’ with a foot. “Where’s the project head?”
“He’s back there,” the DIC said, “but unless you have a Ouiji board or a medium, you aren’t going to get much out of him.”
Chaka: “Zimbalist, get the Ouiji board out of the car.”
Ayla: “I’m not a medium, I’m an extra-large.”
“He’s dead from massive burns over his head and upper body.”
“What kind of burns?”
Webb looked around. “Any chance that the security cameras picked up anything useful?”
“Oh, they trashed the main security cameras, but there was a separate hookup for the laboratory that they didn’t know about.”
All: <simultaneously> “HOW Conveeenient!”
The three walked through the milling crowd of investigators, to where a man in a shabby suit was working at a laptop. “Any luck, Parker?”
Chaka: “Well, I’ve blasted all the red screamers, and I’ve found some extra ammunition, but if I don’t find some health points soon, the snarglethumps are gonna tear me apart, and I’m gonna have to do this level all over from scratch!”
Parker didn’t look up from the laptop. “I’m narrowing down the time to when the alarm went off.” He replayed footage, showing the Maximum Brigade coming in and the man in the white coat talking to Quantum Pharaoh. “Any idea as to this man is?”
“Yeah. That’s Dr. Hewlett, the project director. It looks like he cut a deal with the terrorists.”
The recording showed Dr. Hewlett being blasted by Quantum Pharaoh. “It looks like it didn’t do him a lot of good,” Webb said laconically.
Zimbalist saw something on the recording. “Hold it. Go back about ten seconds.” The footage showed a fleeting glance of Suzy blasting away at the ‘spiders’.
“Do you recognize her?” the DIC asked.
“Yes. I think that’s Suzy Derkins, a girl who was recently spotted near several eruptions of mutant energy, and has gone missing.”
“So,” the DIC said, writing Suzy off completely, “Quantum Pharaoh has a new foot soldier.”
“Not necessarily,” Webb contradicted him sharply. “Just because she was there, doesn’t mean that she’s gone toxic. We know that Mindscape has telepathic powers. He could be manipulating her, or even dominating her outright. Quantum Pharaoh could be threatening her directly, or he could be threatening her parents to get her to toe the line. We don’t have enough information yet. We can’t just completely dismiss a young woman like that, even if she’s a mutant.”
Riptide: “Especially not a choice young piece of ass like THAT! Um-mmm-MMM!!!”
Zimbalist nodded. “Still, she’s involved, so she’s our best lead to whatever it is that Quantum Pharaoh is up to.”
The DCI looked at them with raised eyebrows. “What? You think that he hasn’t gotten what he came here for?”
Webb looked at him severely. “I think that Quantum Pharaoh is only getting started.”
The scene shifted to an anonymous garage. Quantum Pharaoh and Flexor were working on the strange device as Suzy watched. She quickly realized that she had no way of knowing what they were doing, so she started poking through the various bits and pieces laying about the garage. She looked over the blueprints for the device.
Bunny: “Hold it- if those are the blueprints for that thing, then WHY did they have to steal it?”
Nikki: “Honey-Bun- you’re using LOGIC again.”
Suzy put the blueprints down and found some more interesting documents.
Hank: <in bad ‘Insurance commercial voice’> “Why YES! I Always leave incriminating documents laying around whenever I have guests over! Why do you ask?”
She found and looked through several photographs of her, her family and home. Some of the pictures of her were of the staged incidents at the Mall, the Overpass and the fatal ‘accident’ with Cal.
Hank: <same voice> “Why YES! I Always leave incriminating photographs laying around! Why do you ask?”
She found Mindscape’s sinister weapon, and a written report. She read aloud, “ ‘Positive results in triggering uncontrolled surges of mutant energy’?”
Hank: < same voice > “Why YES! I Always leave reports that spell out my diabolical plan laying around! Why do you ask?”
Ayla: “Because maybe you need… Idiot Insurance.”
Enraged, Suzy stalked over to where Quantum Pharaoh was kibitzing over Flexor’s shoulder.
Chaka: “You’re fixing it, ‘cause you’re the only one who can read the Korean manual! Or… it is Burmese? Thai? Urdu?”
Quantum Pharaoh said, “If we add the Delta Fluctuators, would that increase the weaponization range?”
Bunny: “NO! Not the Delta Fluctuators!”
Jade: What’s a Delta Fluctuator?”
Bunny: “It’s something that fluctuates deltas, silly! Weren’t you paying attention?”
“ ‘Weaponization’?” Suzy screeched, “You told me that we stole that thing so that they couldn’t use it as a weapon against mutants!”
“Suzy, we really don’t have TIME for this,” Q.P. said in an annoyed voice. “This is important, and I don’t have either the time or the inclination to coddle your delicate bourgeois sensibilities!”
“Oh? But you had LOTS of time to set me up and MURDER my boyfriend Cal!”
“I don’t have time for this.” Quantum Pharaoh gave a regal gesture, and Mindscape’s eyes began glowing. Suzy sent a wave of ‘mutant energy’ coursing at Mindscape, sending him crashing. Crush Master dove at Suzy, only to be met by another wave of ‘mutant energy’. Flexor shifted into a tiger, which leapt at Suzy. A three-minute super powered brawl ensued.
Ayla: “ ‘Ska-Zong’? Please! It’s always ‘Zap after Pow, then Ska-Zong, THEN Ker-Splat, unless following Thud’.”
The Maximum Brigade lay battered around the lab as Suzy stood in the middle of the wreckage, breathing hard. Quantum Pharaoh stood there calmly, he hands behind his back, gazing at Suzy with glacial regard. “Very impressive,” he said, finally seeming to have time for her. “Your powers are growing at a remarkable rate. You will be a formidable asset to the Maximum Brigade.”
“What?” Suzy spat out incredulously. “Do you honestly think that I’ll go along with whatever evil scheme you’ve cooked up! You killed Cal!”
A white plush toy: “And the tiger! Don’t forget the stuffed tiger!”
“NO, _you_ killed your boyfriend.”
“I found your stupid flare thing. I know all about what you pulled!”
“It won’t matter to the MCO. They’ll put you away where you’ll never see daylight again, simply because they’re afraid of us.”
“Of COURSE they’re afraid of you! You’re a psycho!”
“NO. I am the Future,” Quantum Pharaoh said grandiloquently. “Once, I thought to protect the baselines, seeing some sort of ‘noblesse oblige’ in it. But even as protected them, I came more and more to understand what shabby petty meaningless lives they lead. Your average American goes from cradle to grave, thinking about little more than television, sports, cars, and greasy fast food.”
Aggro: “And sex!”
“And their leaders are little better, waging constant meaningless wars against anyone they can trump up an excuse to do so, simply to increase the numerical value of their personal holdings in unending game of electronic one-upmanship. And the rest of the baseline world is even more debased. Baseline humans have barely evolved to the point where they can crawl out of the slime without mechanical support. We mutants are not only the inevitable masters of this world, we are the NEEDED masters! We will cull the baselines back to the level where they aren’t choking the planet with their filth.”
Jade: “Gee, he doesn’t like ANYBODY, does he?”
Suzy snarled at Quantum Pharaoh, “Get out of my way, FREAK! I’m taking that thing back to the people it belongs to!”
“No, you’re not,” Pharaoh said with the same calm. “You’re not going anywhere, because you have nowhere to GO. You’re a fugitive, hunted by the very police that you have relied on all your life to protect you. No one will help you. You are a superior mutant, but there are thousands of hysterical baselines who will gladly tear you apart with their teeth like packs of rats.”
“NO! People are BETTER than that!”
Pharaoh shook his head sadly. “No. They’re not. And even if it were, you’re an accessory to a murder.”
“The project chief. It wouldn’t have been safe if he’d been allowed to continue his research.”
“But- but _I_ didn’t have anything to do with that!”
“Yes you did. You helped by destroying the security robots, which makes you a full accessory to a 1st Degree Murder, under the law. And your use of a metahuman power in doing it makes you as guilty as I am, according to the latest rulings.”
Ayla: “I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on tv!”
Suzy bridled and set her mouth with determination. “Then I’ll just cut them a deal. I think that they’ll be willing to believe me, when I bring in YOU!” She sent a coruscating wave of energy over Quantum Pharaoh.
The Pharaoh just stood there, unimpressed. “Yes, your power is indeed growing. In time, you could surpass even me.” A pair of beams erupted from his eyes, caught Suzy squarely in the middle and threw her flying back. She landed against a wall, and slowly slid unconscious out of the dent in the wall that she’d made. “But not yet,” the Pharaoh finished.
Hank: “What? No evil laugh?”
Chaka: “Tisk, tisk, tisk. No evil laugh. The Union will hear about this one!”
Crush Master and Flexor groggily struggled to their feet. “A complication, nothing more,” the Pharaoh assured them. “However, I doubt that we’ll still have her willing cooperation for the operation. Therefore, I require that you acquire some… insurance… that the young lady will be properly cooperative at the crucial time.”
Aggro: “Smedly… tie her to the train tracks! Nyah-ah-ah!”
Risk: “But boss, how about a log in the saw mill?”
Flux: “I got a round black bomb, with a sputtering fuse. Will that do?”
The narrator proclaimed, “As per MCO standard operating procedure, Field Operatives Zimbalist and Webb pursued their only lead- the Derkins household.”
The camera showed a late model Chevrolet, prominently showing the maker and model logos. Inside the Chevy, Zimbalist and Webb watched the Derkins’ house from the far side of the cross street. “This would be a lot easier if we could tap the Derkins’ telephone,” Zimbalist said as he sipped coffee from a paper cup clearly marked ‘Czarbuk’s™’.
“You know that we can’t do that,” Webb responded tersely. “We don’t have that power. Even the local police and the FBI need to present a local judge with Due Cause and get a warrant before they can install a wire tap.”
“So? We have Due Cause.”
“The paperwork is going through the system. We don’t have a right to spy on people, Zimbalist. There is a valid reason for the boilerplate.”
Zimbalist peered down the street. “Interesting.”
“The Derkins’ called out for pizza.” A Checkerboard Pizza™ truck pulled up in front of the Derkins’, and a man wearing the trademark black & white vest got out with four boxes.
“Their daughter is missing and suspected of being a mutant terrorist, but they’re phoning out for enough pepperoni for a party?”
Zimbalist started to get out of the car, but Webb stopped him. “We don’t have any authority. I admit, it’s suspicious, but unless there’s overt mutant activity, all we can do is call it in.”
Mrs. Derkins opened the door to see the Checkerboard man. “What’s this? We didn’t order any pizzas!”
The Checkerboard man took off his baseball cap, revealing that it was Mindscape. His eyes started to glow. “Oh yes you did.”
Chaka: “See? Glowing Eyes! Didn’t I say that no good ever came from glowing eyes?”
Mrs. Derkins’ eyes started to glow the same color as Mindscape’s. “Oh. Yes. Now. I. Remember.”
Rip: <in same ‘hypnotized’ cadence as Mrs. Derkins> “Just. Remembered. Stanislavski. Lessons.”
Mrs. Derkins continued, ignoring Rip’s jibe. “We. Ordered. Pizzas.”
“Call your husband,” Mindscape ordered. “He must be hungry.”
“Oh Harvey!” Mrs. Derkins called out in a singsong voice. “The pizza is here!”
“What?” Mr. Derkins said as he came down the stairs, “We didn’t order any pizza!” But his objections faded as Mindscape snared his mind, and his eyes started glowing as well.
“You know,” Mindscape said as he removed the Checkerboard vest and cap, “the pizza is cold.”
“Yes,” Mr. & Mrs. Derkins echoed in unison, “the pizza is cold.”
“You should go and complain about the cold pizza.”
“Yes. We. Should. Complain.”
Flux: “And it took 30 minutes and 12 seconds, so we shouldn’t have to pay for it either!”
“Go warm up the car. I’ll take you to where you can complain.” Mindscape put a hat from the front closet on his head. “Or something.” Obediently, the Derkins’ followed Mindscape out the back.
Back out on the street, Webb and Zimbalist watched as the Derkins’ pulled out in their car. “That must be very good pizza,” Webb snarked. “They’re taking the pizza guy out for dinner.”
“And leaving the pizza truck behind,” Zimbalist noted as he started the car. “Let’s go get them.”
“No,” Webb said severely. “We don’t have any powers to arrest at this point. Call it in to the local Police and FBI.” Zimbalist gave Webb a hard look. “But there’s nothing that says that we can’t follow them. Tail them, Zimbalist.” Webb peered ahead like a bloodhound on the scent.
Ayla: <in same ‘hypnotized’ cadence> “Must. Grant. MCO. More. Power.”
Jade: <in ‘hypnotized’ cadence> “Yes. Supreme. Power. Over. Pizza.”
The two cars sped through the darkening night. The Derkins’ car pulled up to an office building in the financial district, and Mindscape lead the somnambulant Derkins’ into the building. Zimbalist stopped the car as Webb radioed in the location and situation, in his trademark brusque manner. Zimbalist started to get out of the car, but Webb stopped him. “That’s private property, Zimbalist. We’d need a warrant to go in there.”
Zimbalist nodded. “True, but there are common usage areas that we don’t need a warrant to enter.”
Jade: <in ‘hypnotized’ cadence> “Pizza. Can. Go. Anywhere.”
“True enough,” Webb admitted. “On the other hand, we need this bust to be clean. Besides, we don’t want the locals to complain that we didn’t wait for them.” Zimbalist settled back in. “Don’t worry, Zimbalist. We’ll get our shot at Quantum Pharaoh. Just remember- patience is as important as courage.”
The scene shifted to the roof of the building. The roof was open, with a view that showed off the anonymous city.
Ayla: “Beautiful downtown Toronto.”
Wind swept across the open expanse, where Flexor and Crush Master were busy erecting a tall scaffold-like structure with the odd device mounted atop it and a sort of cage-like aperture at the base. Quantum Pharaoh stood by, ‘supervising’, his arms crossed magnificently. Mindscape brought the sleepwalking Derkins’ out onto the roof. “Here’s the ‘Insurance’ that you wanted.”
Vanessa: “HEY! The ‘Good Hands of Allstate’ are GROPING me!”
Quantum Pharaoh nodded. “Very good. Crusher! Bring our recalcitrant recruit in. The play draws nigh, and the star of the piece must learn her lines.”
Ayla <muttering>: “Drama queen.”
Crush Master returned from off-screen, wheeling Suzy in on a hand-truck.
Hank: “The Hannibal Lecter express!”
“Susan!” Quantum Pharaoh greeted her heartily. “Since you so ungraciously refused to do your duty by your own kind, I am perforce required to see if you will spurn your other sacred obligations.”
“Mom! Dad!” Suzy cried out.
Tennyo: “Spot! Puff!”
The Pharaoh ignored Suzy’s cries. “You misjudged me, Susan. Mutantkind’s greatest problem has always been that we are outnumbered, several hundred thousand to one. Even _I_ cannot prevail against such odds. Howe’er, our deliverance is nigh! The instrumentation set up on high is NOT a weapon. Nay, rather, it is a tool of ELEVATION. You see, those researchers WERE looking for a weapon that would only harm mutants. But instead, in an act of Cosmic Irony they developed a process that would not KILL mutants, but rather CREATE mutants! For every active mutant, there are hundreds, if not thousands of latent mutants!”
Ayla: “And I suck at math!”
“The device up above is a larger version of the instrument that we used on you earlier. The energy that this wondrous invention projects was supposed to interact with mutant energy and cause it to flare controllably causing the poor mutant it was used on to burn out like a sputtering candle. Instead, it STOKES that fire, and causes latent mutations to activate. The ‘weaponization’ we spake of, that you mistook earlier, did not refer to turning this into an instrument of destruction. No, we merely spoke of giving the effect distance and range. With our improvements, this Mutant Trait Activator will shed its empowering energy in sweeping beam, like a lighthouse bringing the light of full enlightened mutation to hundreds of benighted latent mutants in this municipality! With mutants popping up like dandelions everywhere, the government will be forced to acknowledge their craven treatment of mutants, or be exposed as the cruel genocidal tyrants that they ARE!”
Risk: <to Flux> “WHY is it that the cute ones are always STUPID?”
Jade: “Did he say ‘spake’?”
“Okay, big deal, hip, hip, hooray for you!” Suzy sneered. “So? What are you waiting for? If it’s all that, why don’t you just turn the stupid thing ON? What do you need ME for?”
The Pharaoh nodded, acknowledging the point. “Simple electricity will not suffice to affect people at any great range. For that, we need… mutant energy. Mutant energy, such as you have in such great abundance. We need a source of that energy, and I have chosen that you shall bear the signal honor of providing that energy. You will step into that booth and focus all your ravening fury into those power cuffs.”
Flux: “Mmm… Now fortified with vitamin C and mutant energy!”
“If it’s such a big honor, why don’t YOU do it?”
“The transformation effect will be as unto a wildfire, a mighty blaze coursing through the city. Even the dunderheads who lead the masses of this city like halfwit shepherds cannot fail to notice it, or to realize from whence it issues. Therefore, as soon as they collect what pass for their wits, they will try to destroy this device before it completes its sacred mission. The rest of the Maximum Brigade will do their very best to protect the Activator, but they are lacking in ranged attacks. Therefore, I must stand guard with them.”
Chaka: “You mean, we sat through all of this, just to find out that you’re ripping off the plot of the first ‘X-Men’ movie?”
Suzy gave the Pharaoh a nasty grin. “Awww… your big master plan has a big huge gaping HOLE in it, now doesn’t it?”
Ayla: “ ’Cuz we don’t look anything like Oscar winners!”
The Pharaoh wasn’t in the least fazed. “You’re thinking that you can simply turn off your power when you’re inside the booth, strangling my dream in its own cradle. However, I warn you, once you build up the charge to the point where it discharges, if you do not decrease the charge very carefully, in a way that can only be achieved by careful control from outside the booth, the energy will backlash on you, and most likely fry you like an egg. And you WILL build the charge with your energy. Mindscape?”
Mrs. Derkins suddenly snapped out of her trance and shook her head. She looked around confused for a moment and then saw Suzy strapped onto the hand-truck.
Hank: “Suzy! What are you doing at the Dominance Dungeon? I thought that only I knew about ‘submissives get in free’ night!”
“Suzy! Omigawd! Are you all right?”
Quantum Pharaoh lashed out with one powerful hand, grabbed Mrs. Derkins and pulled her to him, making a shield of her.
Vanessa: <perfectly mimicking the actor playing Quantum Pharaoh> “Mmmm… MILF! It does a body GOOD!”
“Well, Susan? I am willing to sacrifice your mother for MY idea of the Greater Good! Are YOU?” He wrapped his hand around Mrs. Derkins’, and squeezed. A loud crackling sound, as of bones snapping, was heard and Mrs. Derkins screamed.
Flux: “Snap, crackle, pop!”
Aggro: “Silence fool! Captain Chiropractic is in Control. One wrong move and I’ll give her such a subluxation!”
“NO!” Suzy screamed. “Please! Please don’t hurt her anymore! I’ll do whatever you want!”
“Your power is strong, Susan, but your spirit is weak,” the Pharaoh sneered. “Mindscape, take Mister Derkins over there.” As for himself, he hefted Mrs. Derkins over his head with one hand. “Crusher, unstrap our young ally. Flexor, ready the Activator. And Susan, just remember this- you have TWO parents.”
Suzy got up off the hand-truck as Crush Master released her and walked over to the booth with long looks at first one parent and then the other. She stepped into the glassed-in booth and was instructed to insert her hands into the large cylindrical cuffs. The last shot of the scene was of Suzy looking out through the glass, with a single tear running down her cheek.
Dramatic music trumped and the screen went black. It shifted to an ill-lit scene of three men running through a dank alleyway.
"Why are they trying to kill us?"
"I don't know!"
"They think we know something about them!"
"But we were just making stuff up! We don't really know ANYTHING!"
"We are so dead."
THE OLIVER STONE PRODUCTION of...
“Act Four: Supreme Sacrifice”
The Narrator proclaimed, “As Quantum Pharaoh prepares his insidious device, Law Enforcement agencies have been hard at work.”
Zimbalist was talking on the car’s radio. “FBI reports that they’ve found some notes in Hewlett’s apartment. They say that he was working on a weapon that would cause mutants to burn out.”
Ayla: “ ‘AND’? That’s all you’ve got to say? No hypocritical murmuring about how it’s sad but necessary? You’re slipping, Dude!”
“Hewlett says that he couldn’t get the weapon to completely overload a mutant, and instead the system causes mutant energy to flare up.”
“If Quantum Pharaoh knew about that, and had a prototype, that might explain all those mutant energy flare-ups that happened when Suzy was around.”
Hank: “Or maybe it’s why my pancakes were overdone at the IHOP today.”
“The FBI didn’t say anything about any prototype. But they said that there was a very cryptic note about using mutant energy to create some sort of sympathetic reaction in a latent mutant. Webb, this could be what Quantum Pharaoh is after. For every active mutant out there, there are hundreds if not thousands of latent mutants.
Ayla: “Or more. But I suck at math too, so I dunno.”
If he’s found a way of activating those mutations, Quantum Pharaoh could create a super powered ARMY!”
Jade: “I…am…mutant. Must obey…Quantum Sparrow.”
Webb looked like he’d sucked on a lemon. “Possibly. But it doesn’t explain his interest in the Derkins girl, or why he’s taken her parents. He could power a Latent Mutation Activator all by himself, and take the lion’s share of the credit. Why bring Suzy into it? Besides, even if he’s looking for latent mutants, he’d still have to use it on hundreds of baseline mutants for every latent mutant that he’d find. And there’s one last little thing- it’s just not BIG enough. No matter what he says, Quantum Pharaoh is all about his ego. There’s something else, something we haven’t seen, something that hasn’t come into play yet.”
“Well, maybe we’ll see it when the local police get here with the search warrant.”
Back up on the roof, Mr. Derkins comforted Mrs. Derkins as she cradled her broken hand, and they watched their daughter writhe in the corona of coruscating energy within the booth.
Ayla <in high-pitched whiny voice>: “It didn’t look so hard when Anna Paquin did it!”
Off to the side, Quantum Pharaoh said to Flexor, who was working the controls, “Increase the power level 150,000 mega-rads.”
“But it’s high enough to affect most of the latent mutants with a single dominant mutagene as it is.”
Quantum Pharaoh looked like he was posing for a bust of the tragic hero making the Hard Decision. “That won’t be enough to justify this risk. We need to affect ALL latent mutants, even the ones with both mutagenes being recessive.”
“But at THAT level, we’ll start affecting even baselines!”
“What of it?”
“They wouldn’t be able to handle it!” Flexor said, aghast. “They’d FRY!”
Vanessa: “Burn, baby, burn!”
“So what?” the Pharaoh said with magnificent disinterest. “There are billions of them; a few hundred thousand or so less certainly won’t hurt anything.” Flexor balked, but Quantum Pharaoh laid his hand on the control and shoved it way up.
“But Suzy! She won’t be able to handle a stress of that magnitude! Nobody could!”
“I know. That’s why I’m not powering it.”
The Activator flared like a bonfire. Down on the ground, the fireworks were noted. “What is that maniac DOING?” Zimbalist asked as he and Webb looked up at the pyrotechnics.”
“From the way that that excess discharge is building, I’d say that he’s building up for a single really BIG discharge,” Webb said as he peered into the glare.
“Well, given the height and placement of this building, I’d say that he’s probably going to go for the entire city if he can.”
“The entire CITY?”
“It would fit with what we’ve seen of Quantum Pharaoh’s Modus Operandi, Zimbalist.”
“But an energy discharge of that level would-”
“Would most likely create an electromagnetic pulse that would fry most of the electrical systems for five miles in any direction. And most likely trigger thousands of heart attacks, strokes and other-”
“Thousands of people would DIE, right?”
“Nicely put, Zimbalist.”
Zimbalist didn’t waste any time arguing further. He marched over to the trunk of their car and opened it. Inserting a special key, he opened up the special equipment locker, and started hauling out gear.
“Zimbalist, we don’t have the authority! We are legally obligated to wait for the proper authorities to arrive!”
Hank: <rolling eyes> “Come on, even Stormwolf doesn’t have that big a stick up his butt.”
“Yeah. We’re also Citizens, and as such we have the right to respond in an emergency. Extraordinary emergencies require extraordinary measures.” Zimbalist punctuated this by snapping together the buckle of a flying harness.
Webb reached down and picked up a large energy weapon. “Nicely put, Zimbalist.” He punctuated that by chambering in a battery.
Ayla <trying for a deep voice>: “I call this baby ‘the cricket’. Get it?”
Up on the roof, Quantum Pharaoh was telling the Derkins’, “As your daughter has either a Double-Dominance metagene, or at least a Dominant-Recessive metagene, there is a very good chance that you both will receive the sublime gift of preterhuman mutation when the Activator goes off. As such, you must make a decision as to whether you will stand with mutant-kind and inherit a golden future, or if you will deny the future and cast your lot with the muck of baseline humanity. Your daughter made the foolish choice of casting her lot with the fetid masses. I suggest that you show her the folly of her ill-choice by swearing your loyalty to me, before the fact.”
“And what makes you think that we’d swear to ANYTHING, you monster?” Mr. Derkins snarled.
“Only the two simple facts that when you change, you will need someone to teach you how to control your new powers- and that once Susan has built the charge up to discharge level, there’s nothing else keeping me from simply tossing the both of you over the side.” And grasped Mr. Derkins by the arms and hefted him over his head. “And since it would be foolish to try and do this after you’ve gained mutant powers…”
But before Quantum Pharaoh could throw Mr. Derkins off the roof, a coffee-can sized and shaped projectile landed squarely on his chest, and a fan of crackling energy erupted from it. Quantum Pharaoh dropped Mr. Derkins and fell to one knee. The camera panned to the edge of the building, as Zimbalist and Webb flew up past the edge of the roof. “Mutant Commission Office!” Webb snapped as he pointed his weapon at the assembled villains. “Your are under arrest! Shut down that device NOW and lay down on the ground!”
“NO!” Mrs. Derkins screamed, “If that thing isn’t powered down the right way, it will KILL Suzy!”
“It seems that you have no cards to play, MCO man!” Quantum Pharaoh jeered. “Either my perfectly harmless Mutant Trait Activator goes off, or YOU are personally responsible for killing an innocent girl!”
“The MCO doesn’t allow the likes of YOU to set the terms, Quantum Pharaoh,” Webb shot back with chilly intensity. “You aren’t the first coward to take a hostage.” Webb let off a round that knocked Mindscape off his feet, and the battle was on.
Hank: “Ooohh… riiiggght… a 185 pound man turns into a 125 pound mountain lion… that’s gonna solve everything…”
Tennoy: “Well, there goes the air conditioning!”
Chaka: “Dude, if you’re going to throw stuff, LEARN HOW TO THROW!”
Jade: “Total freaking moron- I CHOOSE YOU!”
Flux: “Nothing can stand in the path of my awesome six-pack abs!"
Shroud: “That was Ito-sensei’s most powerful move: the dreaded Face Shove! I…(choke)…I was never able to master it!”
Sharisha: “That’s right, bitch. Just stand there, hopping up and down, and screaming. That’s gonna solve everything right there!”
Risk: “Grown men, rolling around like that. And it’s still so hard to find legitimate gay programming.”
Vanessa: <in befuddled TV dad voice> “Who left All-Star Wrestling on? And where’s the remote? ‘Wet T-Shirt Vixens Gone Wild’ is on HBO in three minutes!”
Nikki: <in bad ‘kung fu movie’ voice> “HAH! Your mutant powers are good, but you cannot stand against my Wire-Fu!”
Ayla: <in Paul Lynde voice> “Wait a minute! I dropped a contact lens! Don’t anybody move!”
Hank: “You’ll never stop me, fool! I have a mutant costume, and my only weakness is this darned glass jaw!”
Ayla: “You mean this one?”
Hank: “Oops. You ever notice how it always comes down to a punch in the jaw?”
Beaten and battered against Zimbalist and Webb’s superior firepower and tactical training, the Maximum Brigade lays sprawling across the rooftop. Only Quantum Pharaoh still stands, his shirt tattered, revealing his magnificent chest. “FOOLS!” He thundered! “The die is cast, the battle fought, the matter settled, and I HAVE WON! Behold!” he swept a hand magnificently at the Activator. “See? The Activator is fully charged! All that is necessary is for sweet Susan to allow the charge to collapse, and the pulse will spread out across the city, elevating God’s Own Chosen to their rightful place! SUSAN! Your chore is over, and your pain brought a wondrous victory for all Mankind! All you have to do is stop. All must do is rest. Susan that cannot be pleasant, have pity on yourself,” he finished in a voice like melted butter.
“NO!” Zimbalist thundered, “Suzy! If you let that charge collapse, thousands of innocent people will DIE!”
Aggro: “I can’t charge up my mutant energy, but I can charge up my methane energies. Wanna see?”
Everyone: No !!!!
“Innocent?” Quantum Pharaoh snarled, “NO ONE is innocent! They’re all guilty of complicity in millions of murders and rapes! Mankind must rise above the disgusting animal that is baseline humanity, or we all drown in our own filth! So a few thousand cockroaches die! What of it? All it means is that there will be a few thousand scuttling around wasting food and water chasing after meaningless lives!”
“Meaningless lives?” Webb snarled. “Was Cal Hobbes’ life meaningless, Pharaoh?”
“NO!” Suzy screamed, and leaned into her task, as though giving her all to the task.
“I said, JUST STOP, you stupid whore!” the Pharaoh screamed in a voice that utterly lacked all its former polish. He charged at the booth, as to smash it, but Zimbalist knocked his aside with a blast from his oversized weapon.
Chaka: “Wow, big black guy charges at a white chick, but a white guy stops him with a larger phallic symbol. Nothing racist or Freudian there!”
Webb hurried to the booth’s exterior control panel and began furiously working the controls.
Bunny: <as though in pain> “Reead… theee… instructiooonnn… manuaaalll…”
Nikki: <mimicking Webb’s speech> “Only WIMPS read instructions!”
The lights on the booth started flashing down, indicating that the charge was dwindling. Quantum Pharaoh snarled, and lifted off, flying off, leaving his comrades behind.
Ayla: “Oh look! It’s 9:52, the show’s almost over! Looks like I’ve lost. But if I can get away, I can return in this role! Toodles!”
Working intently on the controls, Webb grated out, “The power’s not bleeding off quickly enough! I can’t divert any more power!”
Suzy let out a bloodcurdling scream, spasmed, and erupted in a blaze of iridescent energy.
“SUZY!” screamed Mrs. Derkins as she ran to the booth and battered at the glass.
Rip: “Gee, her hand’s all better.”
The camera shifted to an interior shot of the booth looking out at
Zimbalist, Webb and the Derkins’ as they looked in, aghast. There was the crackling sound of meat frying. Mrs. Derkins broke down into tears and leaned into her husband for comfort. Zimbalist looked at Webb and said, “Well, Webb, it looks like the Reptiloid was right. Quantum Pharaoh started this, and he left it for poor Suzy to finish.”
Jade: “Yay, Reptiloid!”
“Don’t worry, Zimbalist. We’ll get him. And even if we don’t get him, there are thousands of MCO agents across the country and thousands more across the globe, working hard to bring Quantum Pharaoh and other reckless megalomaniacs like him to justice. All it takes is time and diligence.”
And the camera irised to a close.
A Mark Quinton production
In conjunction with Goodkind Entertainment Production
Distributed by GBS Television
And WorldViewing Enterprises
Nikki: Anyone got any popcorn left, or we throw it all at Ayla?”
Risk: “And the moral of this story is, if only we gave the MCO supreme power, then we’d never have to watch shows like this, ever again.”
Jade: “No, the moral is that if they put Reptiloid in charge, he could have fixed everything in Act Two.”
Aggro: “NO, the moral IS, that if we’d watched HeroWatch, like we guys wanted, we wouldn’t have had to wade through all that!”
Aggro was rewarded for his observation by being buried in an avalanche of popcorn.