SG: Rad #93 (1/3): Who
swede at novitious.com
Fri Dec 28 05:08:27 PST 2007
The office in Van Nuys seemed far too vast for the needs of the
company. Rad was not immediately sure as to what those needs were,
but sensed that since the actual occupied part of the venetian-blind-
shaded room was barely a tenth of its football-field size, someone's
grasp was exceeding his reach, or possibly the other way around.
Simultaneous pie and cake consumption was also indicated, but only by
the shape in which Rad, Manny, and Tom found the company's owner.
"Hey, guys," said Templar Maccabee, as Rad followed Tom McCavish-
Laffalot, Manny Seconds, and Manny's two Secret Service guards through
the double doors that bore the name 'Critical Studios.' "Did you see
the donut delivery guy on the way in?"
"Nope," Tom replied, as he looked around. "Guillermo in yet?"
"In the can," said Templar, as he stroked his chin. Rad noticed
that it still jutted in an appropriately cinematic way, though it was
now thicker and less defined. "Should I check on my order?"
Rad, Manny, and Tom had not changed from the shorts and light
shirts they had been wearing at Eivandt Seconds's barbeque that
afternoon, but it seemed to Rad they were perfectly dressed for their
visit. Templar wore black shorts and an obnoxiously floral shirt that
did nothing to distract from his doughy figure. It was not as though
Templar had become fat, exactly; to Rad, it looked as if Templar's
once muscular frame had acquired a thick layer of protective padding,
more or less evenly distributed. Even his auburn hair had taken on
Templar Maccabee had once cut a dashing figure on the silver
screen. During his years as Criticalman with CalForce and for several
after, the motion picture executive-turned-superguy was a Hollywood
success story. The star of blockbusters such as 'The Sheep of
Navarone' and 'Baa Hard,' Templar had been at the forefront of the
cinematic subgenre known as 'Action Mutton,' or 'Derivative Crap For
Some Reason Involving Sheep.' Its rise in the early nineties had been
as meteoric as it was inexplicable, and its fall at the turn of the
millennium had left a large crater in the finances of several movie
studios. Most 'Action Mutton' stars were out of the entertainment
business altogether, although some could still be seen in 'reality' tv
shows, commercials for psychics, political campaigns, or combinations
thereof. Templar was one of the few former stars still making new
features, though all of his now went straight to DVD, and the most
significant budget item in each was the catering.
Rad, whose attention had wandered during the last bit of
exposition, noticed that the room smelled vaguely of goats. He
wondered where they were, and how he would know what goats smelled
like. Manny's Secret Service guys, he noticed, had quietly taken up
posts by the door and by Templar's desk. They did not appear to be on
the lookout for goats in the shadows.
"So, guys," said Templar, after contemplating his phone for
several seconds, "what brings you? I thought we weren't getting
together 'til tomorrow night at 'Dave's Place.'"
Rad was unsure as to what Templar meant by 'Dave's Place,' but
Manny came to the rescue.
"Hal's restaurant," said Manny, for Rad's benefit, "is where
we'll be tomorrow, yes. But something's come up, and Tom suggested
that Badass... I mean, Guillermo... might be able to help ou---"
"Oh, come on," said a deep voice reminiscent of Vin Diesel trying
to sound like a talking horse. "Your tits can't be in the wringer
*already.* You've only been back, what, a day?"
"Like, day and a half, dude," Rad replied, as he turned toward
the sound. "And they're not, like, in the wringer, like, yet, but,
like, we've had this, like, warning about, like, a stealth wringer
that's, like, lurking in wait, y'know?"
The source of the voice stepped away from the door marked 'Can.'
Though Rad had not seen him for a number of years, he recognized
Guillermo at once. Admittedly, there were very few seven-foot-tall
heavy-black-trenchcoat-wearing anthropomorphic donkeys around to
generate confusion on this score, but Rad liked to think he would have
recognized the one-time Badass anyway. The short shock of black hair
at the top of his head held streaks of gray, and he had a paunch that
Rad did not remember from before, but the look in his eyes was the
same. It was a look that said 'I can take you.' When Rad glanced at
the paunch and back up, it added 'and my paunch can kick you to the
The mercenary-turned-antiheroic-CalForce-team-member was now, if
Rad remembered correctly, a technical advisor for Templar's features.
Not 'technical' in the sense that he brought a sense of realism or
proportion to Templar's films, Tom had explained, but in the sense
that he identified the line between 'implausible mayhem' and
'ludicrious mayhem,' and gruffly pushed the feature over that line.
For as little money as possible.
"What'd you do with the gun-rigs I set you up with?" Tom asked,
as he gazed into the shadowy expanse that was the unoccupied nine-
tenths of the room. Tom and his wife Laura's business was, broadly
speaking, 'technical service.' Though he no longer fought villainy in
a powered mechanical suit as MicroVax, he provided technical help and
consulting services to a number of suit-wearing and tech-using heroes
and teams, mostly in North America (plus, of course, one low-budget
movie studio in need of non-functioning but cool-looking techie
props). Max Vax, who operated out of St. Louis these days, was the
one example Rad could remember; though he was sure Glum had told him
about a bunch of them, including at least one in the Los Angeles area.
"The rigs are under those tarps over there," said Templar,
waving vaguely at the shadowy end of the room. Rad, even with his
excellent, [space science!]-improved sight, could barely see the
outlines of things under grayish cloths. "Esteban is gonna paint 'em
on Saturday. Make 'em look more science-y."
"You mean he's gonna have the monkey paint 'em," Guillermo
grumbled. "Probably'll add thunderbolts to everything."
"Don't doubt it," Manny said, as he pulled out from his back
pocket the photograph of The Programmer that had been mysteriously
delivered to him via his brother Eivandt. "I wanted to ask you about
Templar shrugged, and sat back down in his office chair, which
let out a whine reminiscent of a surly teenager or busted pop star.
Rad looked over the posters on the wall, most of which were from
Templar's years as a star player in Hollywood. There were also
smaller posters from Templar's more recent DVD extravaganzas, which
used every cinematic trick Rad could think of to make the thicker
version of Templar look sort of like a kick-ass action hero. One
poster, for 'The 299 Plus One,' only featured Templar's face in hazy
outline, floating above a group of sheared, well-oiled, angry-looking,
loincloth-wearing sheep. But there was one poster that Rad noticed
was missing. The one movie that had been made while Templar had been
at the absolute zenith of his career, and had had the influence to get
an untried rookie actress cast as his co-star.
"Like, dude," said Rad. "Where's 'Sheepaconda'?"
The glower descended over Templar so hard it made his jowls
shake, and Rad immediately regretted the question. They had come over
that evening to get help, not to open up old wounds.
"I took it down," said Templar. "I'd rather not be reminded
of... well, it's not like I need to have it up for a reminder. Check
He pulled the venetian blind cord for the window closest to him.
It was a large window, but the blinds opened up as if greased, giving
Rad and everyone else a heart-stopping view of a red-haired woman who
appeared to be clothed solely in flames. Enough of her was present
to suggest more than was actually visible, but it was her sharp green
eyes and immaculate grin that drew Rad's attention. She was now, Rad
knew, one of the top actresses in Earth movies, though what he now
saw was probably not an image from the Oscar-bait feature that had
gotten her a nomination a year ago.
Yury Mitsuke. HotFlash. Reality Show Star. Actress. Director.
Icon. Sentence Fragment.
"Riiiiiiiight," Tom said, breaking the silence. "Who wants
[ Rad Returns, Part Three of Ten ]
"Who Wants Donuts?"
Gary W. Olson
The donuts on the table were stale, so Rumiko did not eat the one
she took. Instead, she broke it in half and examined it. Then she
broke the halves in half, then those quarters, and so on until it was
a pile of crumbs on her napkin. After a few moments contemplation,
she dumped crumbs and napkin into the nearby wastebasket, wiped the
residue on the sleeve of her day-glo orange t-shirt, and wondered if
Earth was conspiring to drive her crazy.
In the pocket of her jean shorts was a small strip of paper with
a single word: 'skylight.' Rumi had found it inside a cooked brat she
had been given earlier that day at a cookout hosted by Eivandt and
Alice Seconds. The paper strip appeared to have been inside the dog
from when it had been packaged, though Rumi reminded herself she had
not checked to see if someone was playing a prank. She had discovered
the note just after her father and his friend Manny Seconds had gone
inside to talk about something important, and she took it as a cue to
fly up to the roof of the house. There she found an open skylight and
heard an interesting conversation, which ended when Rad read something
written on the back of the photo of the guy they had called The
Programmer. Rad looked up after reading it and saw her.
What was strange was what happened next. After she explained
why she was up there, and showed the scrap of paper, their faces went
through a rapid-fire set of changes, from confusion to realization to
exasperation to confusion to an entirely too-belated poker-facedness.
Her dad had once explained that he and Manny knew one another so well
they could communicate volumes like this, though had she not known
this she would have thought they'd both eaten bad brats.
Rad and Manny went back to the gathering outside the Seconds
house. Rad talked to Glum, her mother, while Manny talked to Tom
McCavish-Laffalot, his former CalForce colleague. They talked to
others present, and after some minimal cleanup, the party was over and
the plan was set. Laura McCavish-Laffalot was taking her and Tom's
three near-identical children back to their home in Palo Alto. Rad,
Manny, and Tom were going to pay an early evening visit to Critical
Studios, where they had a couple friends they wanted to visit.
Eivandt, Alice, Glum, and Rumi would drop in on Eivandt and Alice's
adopted daughter Cendra Seconds and her boyfriend Miguel Veracruz.
No one offered an explanation of who 'The Programmer' was
supposed to be, or why it was so significant that the photo came from
someone named Miranda Satori. Clearly, this 'Miranda' was significant
enough that an instruction from her could alter their evening plans,
but until that day she had thought her parents had held nothing back
from their tales of their superguy exploits from a decade and a half
Now Rumi was in Cendra and Miguel's cramped two-bedroom apartment
in a building just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. They were on
the first floor of an eight-story tan-brick tower that was shaped like
a diamond, with a view of numerous shopping opportunities for people
with more money than Rumi thought Cendra or Miguel had. The sun was
setting, bringing festive color to the mellowing evening smog. Rumi
contemplated it while she listened to the adults talk.
"I've got the telepathy part pretty well developed," said Cendra
Seconds. "I can screen people's minds out, and I don't listen in...
most of the time. Dad, stop thinking of oily sheep. You know I hated
Eivandt made a 'snrrk' noise.
"What's messing me up is that the power changes sometimes,"
Cendra went on. "The telepathy stops, and I start changing everything
I touch to gold--which only lasts a minute before it reverts back to
whatever it was. Or I grow wings and flap around like a turkey..."
"A siren," said Alice. "We looked it up, remember?"
"I looked like a big turkey with a human face," Cendra insisted.
"And I still couldn't sing for sh... shtuff. And don't even get me
started about what happened when I dipped my hand into a public
fountain last month."
"What happened?" Glum asked, in open defiance of the 'no-start'
Cendra sighed. "I became a water nymph. It only lasted an
hours, but I was sh... er... crapping pennies for two days after I
changed back. Plus, Miguel wouldn't stop laughing...."
"I did stop," Miguel said. "Eventually."
Rumi liked Miguel's voice. It was warm and smooth, almost a
purr; hardly what she expected from someone who could transform into a
massive wolf or a wolf-human form. It was a solid voice, and she
understood why he had taken to radio DJ-ing, even though radio was
hardly a cutting-edge entertainment medium, even by Earth standards.
Or one that paid the bills on an L.A.-area apartment this close to the
"Rumiko," said Glum, her mother. She held in her internal sigh,
turned, and managed to look as though she had just remembered they
were there. "You're being anti-social, dear. Come back to us."
It was not, Rumi thought as she took the three total steps
required to get to the couch where Glum sat next to Alice and Eivandt,
as though she could wander far in the small apartment. They had
received what Cendra called the 'nickel tour' when they arrived, and
it had consisted of Cendra pivoting on her heel, pointing, and saying
"there's our dining area, there's the kitchen, there's the bathroom
and shower, there's mine and Miguel's room, and there's Esteban's
room, don't mind any banging noises you hear." Esteban was Miguel's
younger brother. He had not come out when Miguel called for him, nor
had the sounds of metal hitting metal diminished. Rumi guessed
Esteban was playing a video game of some sort. Miguel and Cendra did
not seem to care that Esteban was less than responsive to his name.
"She does do well most of the time," Miguel said. It took Rumi a
moment to realize he'd gone back to talking about Cendra and her
occasional power malfunctions. "I remember when I became a werewolf,
before the local pack found me. One time, I was in this Chucky Cheese
kinda place for Esteban's birthday, and in that thing, you know, with
all the colored balls and jumping kids and all that, and it was...
bam!... just like that...."
Cendra was not as tall as she remembered, though that likely had
more to do with Rumi's growth over the last three years than anything
else. Cendra's medium-brown skin had a bronze sheen that spoke of
numerous hours under the sun; nothing in her dad's league, of course,
but no one was in *that* league. Her curly black hair was cut
shoulder-length, framing her beautiful and expressive face. She had
been a bit on the scrawny side the last time Rumi had seen her, but
she had clearly been working out since then. Now she had an athletic
beauty and grace Rumi envied.
"What happened?" Glum asked, as she brushed something Rumi
couldn't see from the sleeve of her tiger-stripe-print sundress.
"Were the kids---?"
"Please," said Miguel. "Not these kids. Before I knew it I was
dodging bullets. If it wasn't for Esteban, my clothes would still be
Glum and Eivandt laughed. Cendra looked at Rumi, shrugged, and
They had had a fun time on Planet California three years ago,
when Rumi had been twelve and Cendra had been eighteen. Despite their
age difference, Rumi and Cendra had taken to one another right away;
Rumi later said it was because Cendra didn't treat her like a
teenager, to which Cendra replied that it was because Rumi didn't
treat her like an adult. Cendra had enough friends on Earth, but no
one outside her parents and her parents' friends that she could talk
to about her less-than-stable metahuman abilities, or the questions
she had about her hazy past prior to being taken in by Eivandt and
Alice Seconds. Rumi, for her part, liked having someone she could
talk to without worrying about having what she said spread to others
"The pack does a lot in the community," Miguel went on. "For
those kids, I mean. And the adults. I mean, we kind of have to keep
it a secret that we're a pack of shapeshifters, you know, and not the
local Shriners or whatever...."
This last comment drew a snort from Alice.
There was a lot she wanted to talk about with Cendra now, but
that was not going to happen with parents and boyfriend in the room.
Cendra kept looking from her mother to her boyfriend and back again,
clearly worried that their mutual antagonism would flare if she were
not in the room. Eivandt seemed at ease with Miguel--Rumi had
difficulty remembering Eivandt being ill-at-ease with *anybody*--and
probably only wishing for some popcorn so that he could enjoy the
show that was sure to unfold.
"...but there's a lot that can be done," Miguel continued. "And
a lot we can do. I mean, back during the last election...."
Alice's problem was not that Miguel Veracruz was a werewolf.
Alice had once been a minor super-powered villain--though she'd lost
her powers years back in the same strange adventures that introduced
her to both Cendra and then Eivandt--and was hardly going to raise an
eyebrow at a man who could go furry at will. ("Ain't nothin' next to
a gigantic tapeworm attempting a villainous laugh," was how she'd put
it.) It had largely to do with Miguel's politics.
"...even though there was all this internal crap going on about
whether we should support the official Green candidate or break off
and support Ralph again, we kept up our community renewal..."
"Cendra," said Glum, even though Miguel did not stop talking. "I
was wondering if you kept any of the pictures from your vacation on
Planet California. I thought I'd like to borrow some of the ones you
took to scan and add to my set."
Miguel, for his part, seemed almost too at-ease, as though he
thought he could relax Alice into liking him. His long tangled hair
reminded her of pictures she'd seen of her father when he was Miguel's
age, as did Miguel's well-muscled, well-tanned body. His smile was
similarly broad and carefree, though his teeth lacked the glare that
Rad's choppers had in direct light. He was still in his black swim
trunks from having gone surfing earlier in the day--Cendra had changed
to a plain red t-shirt and cargo shorts--and Rumi thought that, even
when mostly furless, he would be formidable in a fight.
"Rumi," said Cendra, and Rumi realized it was the second time
Cendra had said her name.
"Um," Rumi answered. "I'm sorry, I spaced for a bit."
"Your mom wants to see pictures from our visit last time," Cendra
said. "I was wondering if you'd help me look. They're in the
Rumi blinked. "Oh. Right. Okay." She followed Cendra into her
and Miguel's bedroom. It was possible the others watched them leave,
though Rumi imagined they were still listening to Miguel's
(continued in part two, following...)
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious dot com
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