S01E02 If you haven’t already, please read part one here.
(Unrevised – revised version coming soon in ‘Hazchem Inchoate Season One’)
It’s not everyday that you open your front door to see your fountain statue covered in mucus. The greeny, yellowy viscous substance dripped down from her outstretched hand, ran down her neo-classical dress and discoloured the water. The flowers nearby were also partially covered, splatter and near misses.
Some days, I regretted living in a community.
“Pretty good, right?”
Scott Levin was standing there, proboscis sticking out of his nose, still dripping.
“Yeah… Maybe this isn’t the best place for it…” Whatever ‘it’ was… target practice? “Maybe next time, somewhere else?” Not that I could think of anywhere that it would be particularly appropriate, but still…
“Oh… yeah… sorry…” He sucked his straw things back into his face. “Where’d the flowers come from?”
Now that was a poor power. An unlimited supply of mucus. Ready to shoot out of those tube things. Projectile Snot man…
He believed he had what it took to be a real hero, to mix it with the big boys…
I think he was calling himself ‘The Boogerman’, and he had an xbox green outfit on order from Alice’s.
The public would never go for it – it was far too disgusting. And I’m not sure how practical. Odds were good he would either become a villain, or spend the rest of his days disgruntled and living here.
Made me really really wish I had my own place.
It’s easier to be a hero when you don’t have to worry too much about finances – the simple act of keeping a roof over your head occupies a pretty high priority to many. Not all of us can have rich parents, murdered or otherwise, some of us had to actually know our Social Security Number… I was trying to make the whole money thing less of an issue for some, as much as I could, and a roof was a start, but it had its own problems… inconveniences…
Kind of wish I had my own fortress of solitude.
Is that in Antractica? That would violate at least three international treaties on the use of the South Pole… Although it would be pretty funny if, whilst doing renovations, he awoke the Old Ones… Funny until they killed him and took over the world. Maybe not that funny after all. Supes couldn’t deal with Starro, so he probably wouldn’t fair well with them. The Bat though, I think he could probably take anyone, even the Elder Gods. Don’t ask me how, I don’t know how, I just think he could.
It’s the north pole anyway, thinking about it. So it’s not as bad, unless he pisses off Santa Claus. The Red, the White and the Blue… So, Santa and Supes fighting in the snow, or running a coke lab together. That would be quite the delivery service… I wonder if technically Santa is faster…
I drove to work – they’d called me in. I kind of owed them for the park day, and they promised it would be easy, babysitting some sort of fashion show.
Staff parking is always at the arse end of the complex, so I had to walk through the carpark. Some douche had parked over two spots, you’ve seen it, they don’t want their precious car to be too close to anything else, and they think that that their ‘need’ outweighs anyone else ‘need’ for a parking spot.
I looked around – the area was basically empty – a bright pink old school kombi van a way a ways.
I felt the hood, cool. I noncorporealed my hand, fiddled around in the bonnet, found the distributor cap, pulled it through and put it in my pocket. He’d be going nowhere quickly. And if he complained to security, it would probably be to me, and I could hassle him for being a douche, and that’s about it.
Yes, I am a true hero of the people.
People start loitering for these fashion shows quite early – I don’t understand it. I guess I’m not the target demographic. I don’t really wear ‘dinner wear’, I don’t have the figure for it… nor the legs… I don’t know that I’d ever even been anywhere where that sort of attire was appropriate. I lived in a different world, or something.
My task was pretty much ‘don’t let people block thoroughfares’, which they tend to do. Even on a normal day. Also never understood that. Why just stop in the middle of a walkway? Or in a doorway? I’ve seen people with prams block an entire shop front… they need people to be able to go in so they can actually sell stuff, and you know, make a living… I’ve seen people stop at the bottom of escalators, the middle of doorways, any chokepoint.
Thinking about it, I don’t think I understood fashion at all. I got to see it all the time – shop fronts, catwalks, try hard teens, power dressing singles. I got to see the new season fashions as soon as they came out of the packing box and onto the perfectly sized window dummy… and I couldn’t tell you anything about it. I remember when the fashion was to wear like a dozen singlets… Or those super low riding trousers. That one seemed particularly stupid to me.
Anyway, easy shift right? Where I get to ponder my failure to understand fashion.
Now, you already know that this isn’t what happened – I didn’t, I honestly expected an easy shift…
It looked like he was wearing a Wookie suit – I think it was originally yak hair… He wasn’t eight foot tall like a wookie, probably 5’9′, so no career in basketball, but not an ewok either. You know the garbage compactor scene in Star Wars? The wookie, Chewbacca? He’s standing on the door lip so they don’t get the suit wet. I read that somewhere.
Anyway, mid show, autumnal colours or something, when the twelve models were all on stage. Hairy man broke past the security guard on the side, and it looked like the guards hair fell out as they touched, and he climbed onto the stage, started touching the models – and their hair fell out. Eyebrows and all.
It wasn’t the most effective of attacks – most of them were wearing wigs, with drawn on, pencil thin eyebrows. Apart from the slight dystopic vibe, they all still looked pretty good, if a little on the not eating enough side. He moved towards the crowd.
Not that I was just watching – after the first guard, I’d stopped to put on disposable latex gloves. And grab my truncheon. It seemed appropriate.
Initially, you wonder why I carry disposable gloves – and then you think about it, are disgusted for a heart beat and then block it from your mind… It’s not all horribly disgusting, though, just mostly – even the crying lost child probably has a runny nose… It’s weird the range of responses you get to lost children…
As hairy guy moved from the stage, I clotheslined him – a stiff arm just below the neck. He went down hard. I planted a knee on his chest. I still had my hair – must be a skin to skin thing.
The science behind these things is either fascinating or inexplicable – not that anyone really takes time to study them. I mean, recombining human and spider DNA, and having a functional living being is incredible, as well as being statistically improbable – but the odds of ending up with all of those powers – well, not in a normal universe… And any shapechanger – well, how do the organs work then? Maybe not any shape changer – nano technology gives us some flexibility, but how can you shift into gas and then back to a solid?
Not that science really matters in this universe.
It was a shit power regardless.
He called himself ‘The Moulter’, he said, as we waited for the police. He was sitting in the mall’s holding cell, drinking a coffee. He wasn’t really a danger. As he told it, he was tired of beautiful people and the agenda of modern culture for a pseudo perfection. The false concept of beauty and artificial, and impossible standards that people would hold themselves too. His nemesis should be ‘photoshop’, but there’s not a hero who does that. Yet. Maybe he’s the hero?
It wasn’t a suit.
I’m not even meant to be here today…
He had a point though – there were a lot of things wrong with the media and fashion and their depictions of what was desirable. Maybe his plan wasn’t so great, but still.
It wasn’t that different in the hero world, you needed perfect abs, toned muscles, a beach side tan. The amount of skin tight gear is a bit terrifying for anyone who doesn’t have a wash board stomach.
There’s a lot of impracticality to it as well, sure, underpants on the outside is iconic, but… How does he clean that suit anyways? Can you imagine, wearing the same thing, under your clothes, for days on end? Think of how bad the super boy would smell…
And seriously, some of these heroes are getting about in basically fetish gear…
As I was a leaving, I noticed the pink car still there. I didn’t check the plates, but pink Kombis aren’t exactly common. The hero in me told me it was nothing, The security guard told me to check it out. I had my phone camera ready as I approached it. It took off, tearing past me. I snapped a shot of its back, got its plates.
I would’ve sworn it had no driver…
I saw it quite regularly over the next couple of days. Suspicious.
I went to visit Echo, knocked on her door. We hadnt spoken in a while. She took a while answering, then when she did, she nodded, turned and walked away, leaving me to invite myself in. Sure, she was hardly the chatty type, but normally there’d be a little more…
“Got a possessed car stalking me…”. I began, it wasn’t true, or at least it probably wasn’t true, but I am thought it would pique her interest. I followed her into the lounge room.
She sat cross legged on her lounge, a mass of white on her coffee table. It was one of those jigsaw puzzles, but as far as I could tell, it was blank. There were a lot of pieces. She had a pile of edges, and the four corner pieces. Seems like purgatory to me.
“You want in?”
She shook her head sadly.
She made a gun gesture with her hand, then twirled it into the air.
“Yeah, you almost killed the Poppins character, she totally deserved it though.”
She stared at me, stared through me, trying to figure out a way to convey what she was thinking, gave up, started looking for more edge pieces for the puzzle.
I let myself out .
You ever wonder about sidekicks? What purpose they serve? Personally, I think they are mostly there for exposition, sometimes as a foil, sometimes both, but mostly exposition. Watson explains how much of a genius Holmes is, Robin serves as the idiot Batman has to explain stuff to. That may not be fair – he’s probably there to take the edge from the darkness. They often serve a valuable role.
So I brought the snotmeister in. To track down a possessed car.
“It’s registered to an address on Sixth.” I showed him the handwritten note.
“How’d you find that out? Beat it out of someone?” Well, he was enthusiastic.
“You hacked the DMV? Woah! Nice.”
“No.” It was nice that he thought I had those skills. “I asked someone I knew there, slipped them a little extra.” Much easier.
I drove. Pulled up across the road from the address: Al’s Car Barn. A second hand car dealership, with a workshop attached.
“I there a phone booth handy? I should change into my hero gear.”
That wasn’t particularly practical, the rise of mobile phones mean a lot less pay phones, and safety concerns meant that the enclosed ones were even rarer, and they tended to be mostly glass anyway. Most heroes just wore their gear under their clothes, or ducked off to conveniently get changed. And it was always much faster than you’d expect, armour takes time, and some of the gear people wore would take ages to get into…
“I don’t think we need our hero gear for this.”
“Oh.” Again with the disappointment. “Good cop bad cop?”
“If we need to.” It seemed unnecessary, but I added: “You’ll be the good one.”
“I need some sort of catch cry… like ‘snot happening’ or something.”
“Snot easy being green?” I suggested.
“Yeah! That’s awesome. I’m going to use that.”
“I think it may already be taken…”
“We’re looking for the owner of a pink kombi.” They were fine until then, ready to sell a nice used car, one owner, only drove it on Sundays… But first mention of the kombi, then their faces shut down.
“Never heard of it.”
I’d prepared a little bit of a backstory, that I’d bumped into it in the car park and didn’t have a pen to write my details down, and it was gone before I got back. It wasn’t needed. The flat, absurd denial was enough. I nodded at Scott.
“We need to talk to Al.”
A couple of the mechanics moved in from the side, armed with heavy tools. They didn’t look like fighters, just people protecting their own. I can admire that.
“Scott. Your time to shine.”
He turned and unleashed a torrent of mucus at the mechanics. It splattered everywhere. It covered the mechanics. It dripped from the shifting spanner. It filled their boots.
We all just stood there for a moment. Great globules of green, making plopping noise as it hit the carpet of snot. Green snowballing down the wall, over the calender and the Chuck Norris poster. The room was quiet except for the snot. Its surprising how loud mucus sliding down a wall can sound.
One of the mechanics threw up.
“I’m Al.” Said a man behind the counter. “I’m willing to talk if you don’t do that again.” I nodded. I certainly didn’t want to see that again. “Come out back.” He gestured with his head.
“Good work Scott.” I said as we left.
“So,” he cracked open beers and put them in front of us, “where do I start?”
Scott looked at his beer, looked at me.
“Something tells me you’re going to need it.” I said.
“So.” Al began again. “Chrissie, she’s our head mechanic, that kombi, is hers, kinda…” we waited for him to continue, “it was registered to here, a promotional tax write off thing -cars a classic, and she’s been working on it, restoring it, for years. She loved that car, really loved that car.
She had a boyfriend, also loved cars, but he loved the muscle cars… maybe a little but stalkery, but Chrissy was tough, she could handle him.
They went out to the desert, camping, you know, and they saw a meteorite, and they went to investigate.”
“A meteorite?” Not many of those stories end well. The occasional power ring, or cosy farm, but mostly invaders from space, crazy stupid technology or plagues… My money was on tech.
“Yeah… they found some sort of device,” score, “and it communicated to them, telepathically. They brought it back, and used it to help fix cars.”
As you do.
“Of course. That’s what you do with alien technology.”
“It did good work.”
“But, somehow, Chrissie got sucked into the machine – and as far as I can tell, it put her consciousness into the Kombi.”
“Did you call the police?” Asked my erstwhile companion.
“Then what happened?”
“Bobbie, the boyfriend followed her in, and ‘it’ put him into a black Camaro. Red racing stripes. Fully worked. An absolute beast. That was my baby…” He looked wistful for a moment, then continued. “The alien machine grabbed up the bodies, and then tucked them into the cellar and sealed the door – we can’t get through – the metal extends to everywhere we try, it’s like it knows or something.”
Well, you did say it was telepathic…
“Can I see the door?”
He led me out the back, sure enough, the basement door was solid metal, and alien machine on top of the mantle. Cold to touch. I wanted to walk away, I really did. But I couldn’t.
“Stay here. I’m going in.”
“Is that safe?”
“Yeah, I’m sure it will be… If I’m not back in an hour, tell Laura I love her.”
I noncorporealed. Walked through the metal, down the stairs.
/Why have you come?
“To rescue the people you stole their minds from.”
/I t hought I was improving them. They had so much desire for the metal bodies.
“How do I get them back?”
/Uh… their physical bodies were incompatible with my equipment… I… You can’t.
And there were the bodies. Emaciated and atrophied. Partially mummified, long dead. Better than bodies in the fridge I guess, but hardly an optimum result.
“Can we, can we fix this?”
/I don’t see how. I’m so sorry.
“How does it work? Can they die as cars? Can it be transferred?”
/There is a red crystal in the engine bay, if it is destroyed, they die, if it is removed, it goes into hibernation until it goes onto something with electronics.
That… that doesn’t really make sense.
/It’s alien. Deal with it.
“Okay, how about you come with me, so you can’t do anymore damage.”
It collapsed down on itself until it became a rod, about the size of a truncheon. Hopefully it would be safer with me. I slid it into the holder on my belt.
I opened the basement door.
“The good news is that the alien thing is out of your hair. The bad news is that we can’t get your friends back, short of building a robot body for them. The really bad news, is that you’ve got two dead bodies in your basement.” I looked at Scott. “It’s time to go.”
We walked out to see the pink Kombi.
“You understand what’s happening, don’t you?”
It flashed its lights.
“Sorry, one for yes.”
It flashed its lights once.
/The other car is coming. It wants to stay a car. It thinks you want to destroy it, and take its girlfriend.
Angry young men looking to fight… Some things don’t change.
It was a beast. It looked angry. And it was revving its motor like it wanted to run me down.
“I have a plan.” I looked at Scott. “Meet me on the corner of Lana and Lois Lane.”
He jumped in the car, grabbed his clothes from the back seat, drove off.
I flipped it a double bird, jumped a barrier fence and ran like hell. It followed.
Lois Lane was a dead end. I think, maybe that wasn’t, or hadn’t always been the case, but right now, the lane ended in a solid concrete wall – support for some overpass.
I had nowhere to go.
The Al car was burning rubber, a dense smoke trailing after it – coming right for us. Me, ‘trapped’ in front of this wall. It’s nice when a simple plan works…
Scott ran down the road.
“No! You’re meant to stay at the corner!”
“My time to shine!” The muscle car launched at us, he got there first. He pushed me, nominally out of the way.
But… my plan…
Why do we have this desire to be heroes?
I think it starts as children, in black and white, the good guys are good, and they always win – and its nice to win, and its nice to be a good guy, to be the hero. It’s nice to be the white knight who saves everyone. I think, as we get older, we realise that, generally, the hero has to sacrifice, and we make a decision, although sometimes a large amount of the decision is made for us.
Maybe we just want to be admired, to be loved.
Maybe we just want to be liked…
The Al car kept coming. Scott took a deep breath, and then sprayed the road with a thick layer of mucus, it was an ocean of snot.
The car hit it and aquaplaned, a front tire got traction and turned the car sideways, it slid. The big hunk of metal was coming right for me – and the wall. Close to plan.
I non corporealed and let the car right through me. It hit the wall with all of its force.
Well, most of its force. Some of it had been spent on Scott. He lay in a bundle next to the smoking hood. There was a lot of blood. I walked through to the front, pulled whatever cables/connections came to hand. The engine burnt me, but it’s hard to complain about things like that when I could see Scott. He was an idiot. I had it under control. But he meant well – I’d normally say something about the road to Hell, but he wasn’t going to make it.
“You…” I moved out from the car, resolidified my body. It was worse up close, there were bones poking from the skin, was that a rib? He was done for. He had that comic book window for last words. I knelt beside him. Do you say ‘you’ll be all right’? That’s the cliche – gives them a chance to die dramatically.
“I’m not going to make it, am I?”
“No.” I was never one for empty platitudes.
“I wanted to be a hero, a real hero.”
“You uh, you saved my life, thank you… You are a real hero.” A small lie here is acceptable, right?
He died happy – smiling.
The red crystal was broken. He was gone too. For him, I felt nothing. I didn’t even know his name.
The pink kombi followed me home. I’d plug it into to something with a voicebox later. Later. Right now, I had other, important things to do.
I sat on the edge of the fountain, twelve bottles of scotch beside me. I’d put a red shirt over the statue – we’d jokingly decided, one beer and pizza night, that we’d use that to symbolise a fallen comrade. We hadn’t thought anyone would actually die.
Not really, anyway.
As my fellows came out, they heard the news, took a bottle, returned home. We’d need a memorial wall, something, I don’t know.
There were nine bottles left – well, eight and a half, six for the empty villas, which was stupid of me, one for Scottie which was even stupider, and one for Echo. I stared at her door.
I left her bottle on the fountain, near the red shirt, took the others with me. Dropped one on the path, it smashed. Clean it up tomorrow. Inside. To my own place.