8FOLD/ACRA: Speak! # 8

Tom Russell twopointthreefivefilmwerks at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 12 09:26:43 PDT 2005

DISCLAIMER: This series uses profanity, sexuality, and morally offensive acts.


Speak! # 8

by Tom Russell



Thinking... thinking...

Trying to get a handle on things. Where you are, where you've been, what's next. Especially what's next. The official plan is that, having retrieved Harry's flying rustbucket from the museum, you will find a hero to unmask and then, creating a situation frought with drama, cause the hero to take off their mask in public, thus creating a name for yourselves and becoming super-criminals for hire, independent schmucks for the highest bidder. That's the plan, anyway. Question is, will you go through with it?

Sandy loves you. Sandy misses you. And you treat her like shit. You talk to her like you intend on coming home, but do you? Because if you do this thing with Harry, if you follow this path, it's very likely that the two things are mutually exclusive. Why did you leave in the first place? Why didn't you just turn back the moment you crossed the state line? Well, first off, you were scared, damn scared, of what? Of Sandy? Of telling her you robbed the bank? Of the consequences of your actions? You say no, but you say it too quickly and with too much feeling behind it. Because, let's face it, you are scared of reaping what you sow.

That's probably why you're scared now. Let's look at the situation: you're in a hotel room, having gotten not a wink of sleep, dawn approaching, with a sleeping iron-clad supervillain on the bed and a tied up, partially undressed superhero in a chair. There were two other supers, one seeming to have gone batty and the other about to make life-long friends with his proctologist. [*] You did that. These are your actions, your choices, and most of them were the wrong ones from a moral point of view. But let's look deeper.

[*-- See the stupendous battle in our last ish.]

Let's look at just plain old screw-ups, like kidnapping the superhero when you should have left her in a field, or returning to your hotel room when you should be well over the state border by now. Or staying in the hotel room, not sleeping, knowing very well that sooner or later (sooner) the police, the supers, everybody's going to be at your door. This is the situation. The situation that you created. And it looks like there are two options, two generally vague ways to deal with this.

First off: you could play this hand you've dealt yourself. Figure out what to do with the hostage, figure out how to get to safety, continue with your plan. This would require quick thinking and fancy footwork on your part, both being obstentiably your forte, but both having been demonstrated quite poorly in the last month or so.

Or, your second option is the one you've been following all along: run away. Get out of this hotel room right now and drive. Drive to Sandy, or drive somewhere else (running away from her, too). Actually, should you get out of this intact and proceed with the "unmask-a-superhero" plan, you're really just running away from Sandy anyway, which is what you've been doing since day one, and so you're running away either way.

So why not go with option two? Why not leave Harry and Dr. Metronome here and exit stage right, snagglepuss, go back home with your tail between your legs, lick your wounds, et cetera? Leave this great, half-finished adventure behind you. It would be par for the course, and a whole lot safer than being surrounded by cops. Just. Run. Away.

Harry's starting to go bonkers anyway. Won't get out of that suit even though it must be a hundred degrees. And he's old, so damn old, might not have a year left in him. He's a pathetic, broken-down old man, trying to recapture the fleeting glory that never was his to begin with, pillowing himself with stories and ancedotes and delusions. The man is an exaggerator at best and a liar at worse. He murdered his wife and tells you she died years later, and of cancer, with Harry being her last thoughts. He's a pathetic, feeble son-of-a-bitch whose life has just been one long bad joke. Even if you somehow went through with this insane plan of his, he'd botch it up so badly that the last few months would only be the final punchline.

Hell, he was no help in the museum at all. You did all the fighting. And you won, too. You're damn powerful, Gregory Dingham, able to fell even the most ornery opponent with a single word. No one could stop you. Harry would be a hindrance at best. You, you alone, you could carry out his plan. Simple as cake. Not even a sweat. Hell, you don't even need a plan. You could make a name for yourself just with your power. Superheroes would fall. Nations would... oh, what is this bullshit? You need more sleep, man!

First off, you don't want fame, notoriety, power, or even respect. That's not why you've been going along with this plan. It's not an ego thing. Or if it is, it's only a small part of it. With or without Harry, you're not the world-conquering type, and you don't want to hurt anyone. Remember that guy, Deathrow, how he poisoned those people, killed so many, and for what? You're no terrorist, Gregory. You're not evil.

But you are violent. You could just as well have told those supers "sleep", just like you've done to others before and since, and boom, they'd be knocked out cold. But the midnight battle at the museum revealed a particularly vicious nasty streak in you. There's something just not quite right about shoving something cold and metal that far and that hard up someone's ass. And what about Dr. Metronome here, the girl in the chair? How did she get in that chair? Well, first off, you told her period to start, and you made it heavy, painful, full of cramps, with an order of migraine on the side.

That's sick, man. And more than that, that's misogyny. It's deeper than a mere prank or self-defense or whatever. Something like that isn't conjured up in the heat of the moment. Something like that comes from somewhere darker, something deep and festering inside you. It was a way of asserting superiority over a woman, reducing them to an object, be it of scorn or a sex object. It was a power thing. And you know it, too: it's only confirmed by the way you groped her breasts, and considered doing worse, before you tied her up (tied. her. up. repeat: power thing).

Or, maybe it isn't so wide-spread after all: maybe this is something very specific, a very particular grudge against a single person being inflicted upon others. And that person would be Sandy. Scoff if you like, but you have a lot of hostility towards her: you did, after all, risk killing her just to check if you could control your powers. And you probably resented the way she would ask you to make her come, also with your powers. The way it made you subservient to her. And so, you ran away from her, taking that power away from her. You even used it against her, told her to come even though she asked you not to do it anymore. And, in case you're not paying attention, class, this assertion of power/venting of hostility is, to some degree, equivlant to a sexual violation, a few steps removed from rape. You did the same thing with the redhead, and with Dr. Metronome, you've gone a step further, touching her body when she asleep. Basically, what you really want to do is rape your

Why are you so angry at Sandy? Why do you hate your mother? Why did you kill your mother? Why did you try to kill Sandy? (Because you hate your mother.) Why do you hate your father?

Whoa. Where'd that come from?

But, maybe that's it, exactly. Maybe the reason you're in the room, the reason that you can't bring yourself to leave Harry but instead have decided to go along with his doomed, half-assed plan is: Harry. You like Harry Cash. You like his stories, you like talking to him, spending time with him. He's a liar and a murderer and borderline incompetent, but, so what? You're all those things and probably a lot worse.

In short, Harry Cash is everything your father isn't, and everything you wanted your father to be.


You've been staring at her for about fifteen, twenty minutes, watching the dawn creep into her hair from the window next to her, and wondering, basically, what the hell you're going to do with her. Just leave her here and skedaddle? Sounds sensible. Hell, that's what you should have done in the field six hours ago. But no. You took her back with her, took her here, and why? Because Harry said so? Look, you might like the guy, Gregory, but his decision-making skills are severly impaired, and probably have been for a long time. You're supposed to be such a smart guy. Well, act it, then. Start making the decisions.

This is a responsibility thing again: if you let Harry make all the decisions and something goes awry, it's not your fault, is it? You're just along for the ride. Well, if to come out of this thing with both of you intact, then you've got to start driving. But. Anyway. She's up.

She stares at you for a long time, and you stare back. What happens now? Having never kidnapped someone before, and not having a particular plan per se behind this abduction, you're not quite sure how to proceed. And, you might assume that this is the first time she's found herself tied up and in someone's clutches. So she has no idea what gives, either.

And so you stare.


"Gas-Man! Are you okay?" You leap up out of your bed and rush to his. The girl watches you move and you smirk a little, embarrassed by your display. But maybe the melodrama is for her benefit after all. Maybe you're just playing a part. For a long time in your life, especially in these kind of moments, you wonder if you're being honest or if you're putting on a show. That's an uncomfortable feeling.

"I'm fine. Just need help getting off my back, here."

It's a bit of a strain, but you get him sitting up.

"Thank you. You called me Gas-Man," he says, hugging you with his cold, heavy arms. "You remembered."

"Of course, Gas-Man." This feels silly, too: feels like you're lying. His name is Harry. You should call him Harry. "The, um, the girl's up."

"Ah," he says, the iron joints squeaking as he nods his bullet-shaped helmet.

"What, um..." Your voice gets quieter. "What are we going to do with her?"

Harry whispers, also. It's hard to hear through the mask. "Hadn't really thought of it. Had to sleep on it, you know."


"Yeah... I got nothing. I don't know. What do you want to do?"

"I don't know. I've never kidnapped someone before."

"Neither have I."

"Yes, you have."

"Well, not really," he says, a little uncomfortable, perhaps, with the semantics involved. "I mean, I've captured the occassional damsel in distress to lure a hero to my lair, et cetera, et cetera. But we ain't luring a hero. She is the hero."

"So, what do we do?"

"Is she hungry?"


He speaks louder, aiming his voice towards the girl in the chair. "Are you hungry?"

"A bit." Her voice is hoarse. "Mostly thirsty."

"I'll get you a glass of water." Harry stands up. You try to help him, but he pats your arm. He can get up on his feet now by himself, thanks anyway. And, his feet stomping across the room, he heads to the bathroom and turns on the tap.

"Gonna let it run a bit," he explains. "Get the rust out."

"Thank you." She turns her goggle-covered eyes to you, and, embarrassed, you smile. "You didn't rape me or anything, did you?"



"We, we have your costume. We had to change your-- you understand?"

She shrugs, but, being restrained by the rope, it doesn't look like a shrug. So she nods instead. Harry thumps back across the room and holds the glass up to her lips. She parts them slightly and lets the water seep through. Harry takes the glass from her lips and she gives another little nod. "Thank you." Voice is still hoarse, but not as much. "So. What's the plan, gentlemen?"

You look to Harry, or rather to the bulky faceless form that contains him. "Um... we're not sure, really."

"Well, you've kidnapped me. Tied me up. Taken away my suit."

Harry suddenly blurts out, "How's Adam?" This hits her like the punch in the nose you gave her last night.

"You... you..."

"Yeah, yeah. We teamed up a couple times, back in the sixties. Are you his daughter or something?"

"Something. Uh. Secret identity and all that."

"Oh, I know, I know. That's why we left the goggles on. Out of deference."

"Well, thank you."

"So, you're a hero, then?" This is amazing. The way he's talking to her, the interest he's showing, the interest that comes through the muffling of his voice and the restricted movement of his suit is amazing. This is more than amazing. This is ridiculous.


"So how is he? Adam?"

"He died."

"Oh, that's too bad. Cancer?"

"Uh... yes." [*]

"Yeah, I lost my wife to cancer, this is back in eighty-seven."

[*-- She's lying. See JOURNEY INTO... # 1, the first appearance of both Dr. Metronomes.]

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Me too. Lord. Me too." He heaves a sigh. Sounds like air escaping a bellows. "So, Adam's gone, then?"

"Yeah. He's gone. He was... like... a father to me."

"Hmm. You want to hear a story about him?"

"Gas-Man," you say.


"Let's not tell her any stories, okay?"

"Why not?"

"Because we need to concentrate on what's important right now. You can tell me the story later, okay? She's probably already heard it."

"Okay." His metal shoulders slump.

"We need to figure out what we're going to do."

"Yeah, what's the plan?" This is the girl asking this. A little irritating. Shouldn't she be cowering or whatever?

"The plan is you shut your mouth and let me think."

"Gregory," says Harry. "No reason to be nasty about it. You want another glass of water, sweetie?"

She nods. You stare at her, incredulous and angry, as Harry again waddles towards the bathroom and lets the faucet run. "For the rust," he explains again, as if anyone didn't know. Now, it's her turn to be embarrassed, to be self-conscious.

"Look," she says. "I don't know what-- I'm not trying to piss you off, okay? Or be snippy. I realize that I'm kind of in a tough spot here, that the only way I get out of this chair is you let me out of this chair. And I'm not going to try to talk you into it, to trick you or anything, because that's not something I think I'd be especially good at. But it looks like you don't know what you're doing, either."

"Fuck you."

"Now, I don't mean it like that."

"She doesn't mean it like that," Harry says, coming in with the water. He holds it up to her lips again. "I think she wants to help us."

"Not exactly," she says. "But the sooner you figure out what you're doing, the sooner I get out of this chair. So, let's figure out what your plan is."

"What, like where we're going?" This is bullshit! "So you follow us the minute you're free and capture us?"

"Then, let's not tell me that part of the plan, then. Let's just tell me the part that involves me. Now. What are you going to do with me?"

"I don't know. Got to think about it."

"Let's talk about it, then. What are your options? You can, first off, you can just leave me here in this room and leave."

"That sounds good."

"Okay. Then let's do that."

Wait! "Wait, wait. What if there's like, people waiting for us, or looking for us?"

"Then you've got a hostage, don't you?" she says, cool as summer. "You've got someone to guaruntee your safety. One hitch, though. You take me over the border, and you've fucked yourself royally."

Harry and you both say it at the same time. "Lindbergh law."

"That's right. Lindbergh law. [*] Now, you could use me to barter for something. You exchange me for a plane, or for money, or whatever. But the minute they got me, they've got you. They'll come running. This is why kidnapping is a very stupid crime."

A moment passes; after that moment has come and gone, you've slapped her across the face. Happened so quick, so sudden. Automatic. You mumble a feeble apology and sit down on your bed. And think.

[*-- Lindbergh law, an act passed by Congress in the aftermath of the kidnapping/murder of the Lindbergh baby. If a kidnapper crosses a state line with his hostage, it becomes a federal crime.]

HARRY TELLS HER THE STORY about Adam Rabinowitz, the original Dr. Metronome, but you don't really listen. Every option seems to be a dead-end, and you really can't make a decision without the information, without knowing what's going on.

So you turn on the news, and you find out.

THEY THINK YOU'RE STILL IN town, and they're looking for you. Darkhorse, they explain, has gone quite insane. The explanation runs like this: speedsters percieve things around them as going slower then we percieve them; all the rest of us normal-speed people are in slow motion to them. Even a train is child's play. Now, when the "mysterious and powerful assailant" (that would be you) "somehow" robbed him of his "stupendous speed", his perceptions remained the same: he still saw the world as moving in slo-mo. Only now he's moving slower than the world. Unable to process this, he just went ape-shit.

Pachyderm is okay, but they won't say what his injury was. Didn't think they would.


They're looking for you. Shit. Probably got border patrol and all that.

"In other news, last night, Scorsese fans watching GBO got quite a surprise while watching _Taxi Driver_. It seems that, from a fairly early point in the film, it was replaced with a long but very realistic fake, using actors who were dead ringers for stars Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster." [*-- See Speak! # 6.]

Ha-ha! You did it! Holy shit. It wasn't just your TV. It was the broadcast itself. Hundreds, thousands of TVs across the nation. Everyone watching that channel got an eyeful of De Niro deep-dicking Cybil Shepherd in a porno theater! Holy fucking shit. You... did... hey, now, there's an idea. You begin speaking to your television set.

"They've found the men responsible for the museum break-in. Somehow they got to Tennessee, where they died in a gun-fight with federal agents."

Harry turns around and (presumably) looks at you, and then at the screen, as the desk jockey with the bad hair says those immortal words:

"This just in! Update on the museum case!"


"I don't know, Gregory. Figure news spreads pretty quick in a small town."

"I just want to make sure we're in the clear before we go. Hot damn. I did it."

"Yes, you did," Harry says. "I'm very proud of you. It's exactly that kind of quick thinking that's going to see us through."

"Got another idea." You pick up the phone and dial. As it rings, you point at Metronome. "You keep your mouth shut, understand?"

The phone is answered. "Police. This is officer Marks."

"I just want to know if they've caught those terrible men yet," you say, your voice the high-pitched squeal of an orgasmic Estelle Getty (in leather). Harry thinks this is the funniest shit ever and starts laughing. You snap his fingers and he stops. "The ones at the museum."

"They were killed in Tennessee."

"Oh. So, it's safe to go out on the road, then?"

"Yes. Should be no trouble at all. Road blocks will be removed within ten minutes, and there's very little traffic, ma'am."

Now you start cracking up. Admist your giggle-fits, you thank him, exchange a few parting pleasantries, and hang up.

"All right, let's go then."

Harry holds up a metal paw. "Do we take her with us?"

"Shit. I don't know. There might be some trouble on the road. But she might be quite a bit to handle. Can't exactly get her down the stairs tied up, and I don't know if she'll be cooperative enough to play it cool."

"As long as you've got my costume, I guess I'm stuck following orders," she says. "I'll play it cool."

"I could kill you with a word," you say, and though this isn't quite true, she doesn't know that. Neither does Harry.

"Just, just play it cool," he reminds her.

YOU UNTIE HER, WITH TREPIDITION. She asks for a pair of pants and you give her some. She slips it on, her long, slender white legs being sheathed in black denim. The pants get caught up on the boxer shorts you have her wearing, and she tucks it into the pants, zips up, does the button. She's ready. Now for...

"Harry. You really got to change, man."

"I like wearing the suit," he says.

"Yeah, I know. You've been wearing it for hours now. Aren't you hot? Sweaty? Hungry?"


"Then why don't you take it off?"

"I like wearing it."



"Gas-Man, look: if we go downstairs with you in that suit, we're going to have someone call the cops on us. And what I just did to save our asses? It will be meaningless."

"But I want to wear the suit."

"Jesus Christ, man! Are you fucking listening to yourself?"

"Don't yell at me."

"You have to take off the suit. We're trying to keep a low profile here."

"I'll lie down in the back, like I did on the way over."

"Someone can still see you."

"Cover me with a couple of throws."


"Gas-Man! Damn it! Why can't you call me by the name I ask you to call me by?"

"Okay. I'm sorry, Gas-Man. But this is ridiculous. People are still going to see you walking down the stairs."

"I'll go through the window. Float down."

"We're on fucking main street, man!"

"I'll float around to the back, bunch of trees there. No one can see. And you can pick me up there."

"It would be so much easier if you would just take off the suit."

"Well, I'm not taking it off."

"Fine. Fine. Meet you around the back, then. You. Come with me. And act natural. Act like you're my girlfriend or something."

Harry takes her costume and belt and hovers out the window. You take Metronome by the arm and head down the stairs.


"Someone stole my fucking car."

YOU WALK AROUND THE BACK, where Harry is waiting for you.

"Where's the car?"

"Someone stole it."

"Now what?"

"Fuck. I don't know. Fuck."

"I'm going back into the room," Harry says.

"Wait! That doesn't accomplish..." But it's too late. He's already headed back up to the room. You grab Metronome's hand and lead her back inside. Back upstairs. Back to four walls and no options.


"After contacting federal authorities, it seems the reports from Tennessee are some sort of well-orchestrated hoax."




Thought you had gotten ahead, didn't you?

"Police have reason to suspect the perpetrators are still in town, and may have a lock on their location. Sources say it was the apprehension of two car thieves that have given them a lead."

METRONOME COOPERATES AND SITS DOWN so you can tie her back up in the chair. You shove a sock in her mouth and walk with one bare foot to the telephone. Sandy doesn't answer. It's the machine.

You leave no message.

"We can't just stay here, you know?" you say to Harry. "I mean, we're just waiting for them to come. We have to try something."

"But what? We got no car. I can only fly a short distance, and not even that far carrying someone."

"I know, but if we don't even try... but you're right, sort of. We have to think of something, have to try something that will work. That will get us out of here. We just need some time to think. Need some time... I need to think."

That's when the knock comes on the door.

"This is the state police."

And, from outside, that old stand-by: "We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up," yadda yadda yadda.

"I'm not going back to prison," Harry says. "Nuh-huh."

"You can't go out the window, Gas-Man. They'll shoot. Do you think that thing can sustain that many bullets, take that many shots?"

"No. It can't."

"Fuck! We need a fucking act of god, is what... we... need."

"Gregory. You've got a look on your face."

"The earth is quaking. Nine point nine."

NEXT TIME: Fathers

(C) Copyright 2005 Tom Russell. Dr. Metronome was created by Jamie Rosen and myself.

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