8FOLD: The Nostalgics # 2

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 20 19:38:43 PDT 2006

   I was unhappy, and so was Reilly.  Things were
stagnant.  A change was required.
   And that's when Elliot Goodman came into our life.

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"   Inherently       WRITTEN BY TOM RUSSELL
  Disconcerting "    EDITED BY MARY RUSSELL

   Goodman said he was putting together this team, and
he wanted Reilly to be a part of it.  We had him over
for dinner so that we could discuss it; I made
spaghetti.  (Goodman used a lot of cheese, not much
   He said it was an A-class team, with room and
board, six figure income, the whole kittenkaboodle. 
Half of the funding was coming from his own pocket,
while a group of investors was matching his
contributions dollar-for-dollar.
   "But it's my team," he said.
   Reilly asked him what the group's mission was, and
Goodman took umbrage.  "The mission is to be heroes
and inspire people.  Mission!  What utter nonsense!" 
Well, what would make the Nostalgics different than,
say, the Seven Wonders?  "Because you're my team!"
   There were four slots on the team ("four is all you
really need, damn it!"), and Reilly would be filling
the third.  In the first slot was Dr. Metronome, who
Reilly and I had worked with before.  She was the one
who recommended Reilly in the first place.
   "She's not on the team because she's a name, but
because of her accomplishments."  This was a year
after she captured Dingham.  "Still, the investors
demanded that we have a name, and so she serves that
purpose, as well.  But it's still my team!" [*--
SPEAK! # 7-9.]
   Reilly asked him if there were any candidates yet
for the fourth slot, and Goodman said, yes, but
nothing definite.  He asked Reilly if he had any
suggestions, and that's when Reilly suggested me. 
This, of course, started a problem.
   Metronome, basically, didn't want to be the only
woman on the team; she figured the number four slot
would go to another woman, making it a two-and-two
split. She said it would make her a token female, a
sex object.  She was uncomfortable enough being "the
name"; it was worse being "the chick".  Goodman came
to us with this bad news, and added that Metronome
hadn't officially bowed out yet.  He was hinting
around, trying to get me to drop out without having to
come out and say it.
   Reilly and I played dumb, and he left, saying he'd
look at another "name" on the investor's list.  After
he insisted it was still his team, Reilly, in a bold
move, made it plain that it was a package deal.
   Which was sweet, but somewhat pointless.  Goodman
would have provided room and board for any loved ones
who opted to live at HQ (apparently Metronome has a
couple of kids or something and she's the one who
pressed for it during the early negotiations).
   At any rate, Metronome was out, and Goodman went to
the next name on his list, which was Sproing.  This
presented a whole 'nother problem, because the other
guy, Fleetfeet, refused to work with Sproing.  (Which
is too bad, actually, because if he had been with the
Nostalgics, maybe he wouldn't have died a couple
months later.)
   Reilly said that there was a lot of ill-will
towards Sproing after his drunk driving accident.  But
he'd work with anybody, so long as Goodman trusted
them.  "Besides.  Everyone deserves a second chance,
   And that's when Goodman got this gleam in his eye,
this look, and he stood straight up and smiled and
said he'd call us tomorrow.
   The next day, he calls and says that he took
Reilly's words to heart.  He asked the Living Virus to
join the group.  The Virus had served out most of his
sentence, had it commuted due to some work he did with
the FBI, and was now just kind of floating through
life.  He needed direction, and Goodman was keen to
provide it.

   Goodman wanted to start as soon as possible: he had
spent so much time raising the funding and building
the headquarters and going through all this roster
two-stepping that he didn't want to wait for us to all
get our bags packed and our affairs in order.  He
wanted to get things up and running now while the fire
was hot.
   He cut a cheque for our landlord which, if her
facial expression is any way to gauge its value, more
than covered the penalty for breaking the lease.  The
same day, Creamy Spatial came by and helped us move. 
It was a little weird for two reasons: first, I had no
idea that Goodman had contacts within super-porn;
secondly, there's something inherently disconcerting
about witnessing all your worldly possessions being
tucked inside a vagina in ten seconds flat.
   Goodman took the three of us-- myself, Reilly, and
Creamy-- onto his private jet and we sped off to pick
up Sproing.  All day, the noise had been bothering me.
 It got a little better once we were airborne; there
were a few birds and of course the amoebas, but they
didn't bother me as much: unless there's some kind of
seriously wonky shit going down, birds are fairly calm
and Buddhist, very zen, not thinking of much at all. 
Their minds hold on one image for a long time, and
it's strangely pleasing.
   I must have been smiling because Reilly grabbed me
by the shoulder, jerked me back to reality.  "You're
creeping her out," he said.
   Creamy was sitting across from me.  She smiled,
weakly.  I looked out the window most of the trip.
   So it was a couple of hours before we touched down
at Sproing's place.  A dense ball of sound began to
grow and throb in my head: one of his neighbors was a
cat lady, and a park nearby played host to a number of
trees, weeds, squirrels and birds (including, if I'm
not mistaken, a pheasant).  I quietly told Reilly and
Goodman that I'd sit this one out.  I tried to make a
joke of it: I said I already caught a good view of
Creamy's act back at our place.  It wasn't
particularly funny and only served to further creep
her out.
   I sat alone in the cabin, the inches of steel
providing little (but welcome) insulation between me
and the merciless menagerie outside.  I'm not sure how
much time passed: I think it took longer than it had
at our place.
   Goodman came back a couple of minutes before the
others, and told me he knew about my particular
problem.  "We're a family," he says, and it's a little
funny considering how I haven't even met the other two
members yet.  But he says that they'll all understand,
nothing to worry about.
   "Besides," he went on, "it's in the desert.  Won't
be much life there to bother you even outside."
   And that wasn't really true: sometimes, the desert
was just as bad as the city.  Different kinds of life,
sure, but life non-the-less.  (On the plus side, I
never stepped on a scorpion or snake: I could hear
them long before I was within ten yards of them.)
   But, anyway, the rest of them come back, and
Sproing introduces himself with this big goofy smile
and this handshake, very sturdy: mine is fairly weak,
and my smile's a little dazed.  It's hard to focus on
him, and he seemed perturbed by that: Sproing was
always someone who demanded focus.  Once he realized I
wouldn't be the conversationalist of the group, he
turned to Creamy Spatial and turned on the charm.
   "You're looking a little bow-legged there, Creamy,"
he said.  "I hope you're not full?"
   She raised her eyebrows: "Always more room,
   That's something that always pissed me off about
Sproing.  Because, really, he did the same exact thing
I did, he was making this joke at Creamy's expense,
only he didn't creep her out and I did.  And that was
the way Sproing was.  He said things and did things
that were infinitely worse than anything I did, but
everybody loved him for it.  It seemed like Sproing
always came out on top, while I was always the guy
that Reilly gerrymandered in.
   I thought I'd be good to go by the time we got to
the Living Virus's, because things had really quieted
down in the interim.  But as soon as we touched
ground, the noise started again.  Only it was
different.  Strange.  Alien.  Something I'd never
experienced before.
   It thought in numbers, like the amoebas, but it
also thought in words, in images, in sensations, and
most frighteningly, in death, in blood, in corruption.
 I found out later, of course, that it was David's
   I screamed out loud, jumping backwards and clinging
to my chair.  Reilly put a hand on my shoulder and
told me to calm down.  After a few tense minutes, I
was calm even though the noise was getting louder.  To
me, that was always Reilly's best super-power.  Not
flying.  Not mucking around with atoms.  But the
ability to calm me down.
   "I think he'll sit this one out," said Reilly, and
he said it such a way that he calmed everybody down,
totally broke the tension, like he was making a
nervous joke.  It worked, and everyone stood up to go
meet the Living Virus.  But when the doors opened, the
Virus was there, with a knapsack slung over his
shoulder.  It was everything he had in the world.  In
this case, Creamy Spatial was quite unnecessary.
   She seemed a bit disappointed.

   Goodman had some of his robots show us to our
rooms.  I was a bit miffed to discover that Reilly and
I would be sharing separate rooms.  This caused
Sproing to do a take, raising his eyebrow and letting
his mouth hang open in a cross between a smirk and a
soundless guffaw.  I quickly withdrew my complaint,
mumbling to myself like I always had.  I hadn't meant
it like that; Reilly and I weren't lovers at that
time.  In fact, I think if it wasn't for the fact that
we had separate rooms, I don't think we ever would
have crossed that line.
   It was weird watching Creamy lift up her skirt,
part the folds to her pink portal, and suck up all our
possessions like some kind of kinky human vacuum.  It
was infinitely weirder watching her disgorge the
contents into our rooms: somehow, Reilly's stuff ended
up in Reilly's room, and my stuff in my room;
furthermore, the furniture was all arranged
impeccably.  A real feng shui vibe.
   I told her that I was impressed, and I tried to
apologize for the plane ride, if I creeped her out.  I
was trying to put her at ease, I said.  I think that
was a mistake, apologizing; it just made things more
awkward.  I never know the right thing to say.  I've
said it once and I'll say it again: I'm no good with
   Reilly, Sproing, David: they all seemed to know how
to interact with each other.  It was another way in
which I considered myself the odd man out.
   From our first interactions, I thought perhaps that
Elliot Goodman was a kindred spirit.  He always seemed
somewhat awkward or, if not that, eccentric.  But when
I tried to explain the difficulty I had talking with
people, he dismissed my problem with a few platitudes
about shyness.

   No matter where I was in the HQ, I could hear
David's virus.  The closer I was to him, though, the
worse it got; consequently, I spent most of my time
sequestered in my room.  Reilly tried to get me to
come out, and sometimes, when it was just the two of
us, we went for a walk, played a game of ping-pong in
the rec room.
   Sometimes, it seemed like we were really two teams:
one made up of Reilly and me, the other of Sproing and
David.  We were the Ping-Pong Batallion, while they
were the Billiards Force.  Usually Reilly and I would
get a couple of games in before they showed up.
   I tried to put up with the virus when they did show
up, but eventually it got to be too much.  Reilly
would take me back to my room, and sometimes he would
stay there, we'd talk a bit.  Other times, he'd leave
me to hang out with the others.  Times like that, it
seemed like we were really two teams: one was made up
of Sproing, David, and Reilly.
   The other was me.
   Just me.

   One day early on, [David] came to my room.  He was
fairly intense, somewhat surly.  He wanted to know if
I had a problem with him.  Because as far as he could
tell, as soon as he entered a room, I gave him the
cold shoulder.
   The virus was tied to him and so I could pick up
some of his thoughts from its psionic link.  So I
actually heard the words he was going to say a
fraction of a second before he said it-- along with
words he didn't say.  It was a bit confusing, and with
the terrible, bleak noise of the virus itself on top
of it, well: let's just say it made it hard.
   He was prattling on about how he had made a
mistake.  But once he got his head straightened out
(he didn't say "jail" but he thought it, it
telegraphed into my brain complete with David dark and
moody on his cot), he put all that behind him.  He
hadn't made up for it yet, but he was trying.
   "Now," he said, "if you have a problem with me and
my past," (I see flashes, images that even he wants to
suppress, I see people with boils on their neck,
coughing and begging for air while he loots a safe: I
see it less clearly than he does, I'm getting it
second-hand from his virus: it's faded and worn, a
battered eight-millimeter film flickering).  "If you
have a problem with me and my past," he said, "then
you better let me know now."
   I told him what the problem was.  "You're making me
   "That's impossible!" he says.  "I could tell if I
was infecting you."  He says it more to reassure
   I try to explain that, no, that isn't it, that I'm
linked to his virus, like I'm linked to everything.
   "Goodman said you could talk to animals."
   Well, no, animals and plants and amoebas and,
apparently, viruses.  All non-human life.  I don't
explain that I'm tapping into his thoughts.
   "Then what do you mean, I'm making you sick?"
   I tried to explain that when he was near me, the
virus got louder, more obnoxious.  He couldn't quite
grasp the concept; I don't think the word "obnoxious"
helped any, either.  He got angry and stormed off.  He
kept his distance from me after that, eyeing me kind
of wearily.
   A few days later, we had our official unveiling, a
big press conference.  David and I stood at opposite
ends; before the conference began, Goodman had David
come more towards the center of the group.  He felt
that otherwise, it would imply that David didn't
belong.  I took a few subtle steps to the side; one
tightly-cropped picture from that day only captured a
sliver of me.
   After the truth came out about the murder, they ran
that picture a lot, said it was indicative that I
didn't belong.  That I was plotting something all
along.  And that's simply not true: though I wasn't
comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, those
first few months were not nearly as stifling and
maddening as those that came after.  I wanted to
assimilate, to be friends with my teammates, to be an
asset to the team.  And, with each mission, I seemed
to be moving closer to that direction.
   Granted, our first few missions were more on the P.
R. side of things.  Though that's not how Goodman
described it; implying that it was simply a public
appearance was antithetical to him, not to mention the
Nostalgics.  "Being a hero isn't about hitting
things," he said, "it's about inspiring."
   So we hit a few classrooms, mostly public schools. 
We opened a couple of sporting events, and visited
with some sick kids.  Regardless of where we went, we
were asked the same questions: so what have you done? 
Who have you fought?  The question kind of stung me
especially, because even before I joined the
Nostalgics, the question of my competency was one that
gnawed at me.
   Sproing didn't seem to mind; I think the public was
a big part of his appeal, and, as unofficial leader
(very unofficial if you asked Reilly, David, or
myself) he enjoyed basking in the flicker-flack light
of the flash bulbs.  David-- he's the one that
initially dismissed it as a photo op and sent Goodman
on edge-- was a bit pissy about it.  There was this
restless quality, this need to do something, anything!
 But over time, he seemed to warm up to it.
   "This is why we're here," he told me one day, in
his soft, mellow voice.  "This is why we were given
these powers in the first place.  To make a
   Those words did more for me than anything Goodman
ever said.  I was still uncomfortable around our
adoring public, but I made more of an effort to engage
them when I could.  When I couldn't-- when the noise
was too much-- I faked a smile as best as I was able.
   My attitude towards the whole PR thing varied from
nervousness to apathy, and once or twice I caught
myself enjoying it.  It really depended on the
context, on what was going on at the time, when the
last time was that we saw some action, et cetera.  I
think that first long stretch was the worst of them:
it was basically all we were doing, and it got
monotonous.  That was until Burlington.
   I know you're going to have someone check the facts
of my story, and when you check out Burlington
College, you'll come up with just another private
school for rich kids and the occasional scholarship
recipient.  But that's not true.  Whether you believe
me or not, the truth of the matter is, it's a school
for supers.
   Look at their list of speakers.  I mean, sure, some
teams like us or the Veterans Squad make the rounds at
regular schools all the time, but they've gotten
someone from the Seven Wonders to make a keynote
address every year.  The Seven Wonders!  They're too
busy to deal with just any school.
   Burlington hides it well, though.  They don't brag
to the outside world about the heroes they've churned
out (and they certainly gloss over the villains). 
They maintain a certain aura of secrecy, and their
sports teams don't go out on the field without power
dampeners.  They're smart enough to have two sets of
school colours: one for the outside world, and one for
the four-colour set.  Holographic image inducers for
those who wear their powers on their sleeve, including
the small group that the students affectionately refer
to as the "weirdies": aliens, synthetic life, elves. 
There weren't many of them, which was good for the
school: image inducers run about twenty thousand
dollars each, and those are the cheap ones.
   Since the weirdies were alive, but weren't
technically human, I could sense them and their
thoughts just like I could any non-human living thing.
 There was a smattering of races in evidence, and each
one was of course different, but, generally?, they
were pretty similar to most animal life.  They thought
in tangible sensations, sights, sounds, far more often
than they did in abstracts.
   After the speech (Sproing did most of the speaking,
as usual; he did seem to enjoy himself more, though:
he had been a speaker here a couple years back, before
the Wonders kicked him out), we fielded some
questions.  Sproing answered most of them that were
addressed to the team in general; he seemed
disappointed with those addressed to a specific
person.  As usual, I only got one question: what is it
that you do?  And my answer garnered the usual mixture
of polite nods and chuckles of contempt.
   Towards the end of the presentation, I started to
pick up on some strange images: images of death.  At
first, I thought it was just David's virus; then I
realized, as it got louder and the images more
creative, that it was someone in the crowd.
    We had never been in action before, as a team.  If
we had (and if we had spent more time training and
less time making appearances), I would have told
Reilly or Sproing and we would have leapt into action.
 Or I would I tried to tell David, through his virus,
what was going on.  But we were new at this, I was
unsure of myself (not to mention of my powers), and so
instead of taking the initiative, instead of being
bold and, well, being a hero, I decided instead to
kowtow to authority.  I slowly stepped backwards and
got the attention of the headmistress.
   I said, "Ms. Talbot, I think one of the students is
planning on murdering the other students.  One of the
aliens," I added, trying to be helpful.  When I
started getting the flashes, strange tentacles were
ripping through bodies.  So I figured alien was a safe
   She nodded.  "It's certainly not unheard of."  She
turned her head slightly and gave a nod to one of the
other teachers.  (I found out later it was the
guidance counselor, Mr. Danisee.)  Danisee had some
kind of mental powers, and so he came over to our end
of the stage and Talbot asked him to scan the crowd.
   He wasn't picking up anything.  But Talbot didn't
doubt me, which was strange: she'd never seen me in
action, and even those who had seen me doubted my
abilities.  She suggested that perhaps the student had
a psychic block of some sort.  Danisee agreed that it
might be probable; there were a few students who were
immune to his scans, and usually they were the
weirdies: their minds were set up differently than a
   But while that meant Danisee couldn't get a handle
on them, it meant that I could.  Talbot came up with
an idea, and right in the middle of a corny, long, and
pointless anecdote Sproing was recounting, she strode
up to the microphone.  "And now, you'll have a chance
to meet the Nostalgics."
   She turned off the microphone and told the team
that there was a possible threat, and that I could
detect it.  I expected her to tell us what to do; I
wanted her to remind us to remain calm, that we were
to intermingle with the crowd to see if I could pick
up on which student it was.  But she didn't say
another word.  She trusted us to be professionals, to
know what to do.
   Danisee said he was setting up a psychic link
between us; when I found the student, I was to simply
think the code word (marrow) and he would relay the
info to my teammates.  I was a little worried about
thinking the word by accident before I found him;
Danisee, perhaps less trusting of us than Talbot was,
told me within the same breath that he was putting a
psychic block on my brain that prevented me from
remembering the code word until I needed it.  I didn't
like him mucking about in my brain, but I accepted it.
   Surprisingly, I was not really that nervous.  I
mean, I was certainly on alert, but the peripheral
noise seemed to drop away.  I couldn't even hear
David's virus anymore.  It was almost like I was using
my power as a sort of tuning fork, divining the proper
frequency; I don't remember ever having that much
control over it before or since, and I often wonder if
Danisee was responsible for that, too.
   After a few minutes, I found the student in
question; just as I was trying to remember what the
word was, it popped into my head and Danisee sent the
signal.  We hadn't really established what to do once
my teammates had received the signal, but it turned
out to be a non-issue.
   All at once, they converged; Sproing bounced up to
the ceiling and down towards the student even as
Talbot shouted over the microphone for everyone to
spread out.  The students spread out, save for the
weirdie in question, who looked confused and very
guilty.  I could see the sweat moving underneath his
skin (a flaw in most image inducers).
   Sproing landed on one side of him and Reilly on the
other; David came running up, huffing and puffing his
way through the remnants of the crowd.  Reilly broke
apart the battery acid in the image inducer, causing
it to flicker off.
   The student, revealed as a four-foot green creature
with eight eyes and twice as many tentacles, had two
options: one was to surrender.  The other was to
   He stretched out his tentacles, swatting us aside
in one clean motion; keeping the tentacles he used to
disperse us at the ready, he used his other twelve
limbs as legs, stretching himself up into the air so
that he stood twenty or thirty feet tall.  And the
first thought that popped into my head was, oh shit,
I'm trapped in one of those pervy Japanese movies.
   Sproing bounced himself up into the air, once again
trying to rebound off the ceiling.  He saw a few
students rushing towards the monster but admonished
them: "We'll take care of this!  We're professionals!"
   As he headed down, feet first, towards the
student's bulbous rubbery head, his wrist was grabbed
by one of the tentacles.  He was thrown like a rag
doll into the wall.  Luckily for him, his powers
allowed him to rebound off of any surface.  Unluckily
for me, his trajectory was directly headed towards my
   Sproing bounced off my face with a pat and
manufactured apology, pushing off the ceiling with his
hands and heading back into the fray.  Reilly took to
the air, trying to divert the monster's attention.
   David helped me up off the ground (I could hear his
virus growling).  We watched the two of them for a
moment, and I made a remark somewhat to the effect
that we were both pretty damn useless in this
situation.  That's when the volume increased, when the
virus got loud.
   Suddenly, I was hearing it in two different places,
on two different frequencies: the virus was inside the
tentacle monster.  His wobbly tentacle-legs suddenly
got wobblier, and he swayed for a moment before the
double impact of Reilly's fists and Sproing's
springing body sent him tumbling to the gymnasium
   "It doesn't work as well on non-humans," David
explained.  "The monster's only out temporarily."
   Danisee corrected him.  "It's not a monster.  It's
a student."
   "But he was going to slaughter everybody!"
   "He needs some help," said Danisee.
   Some joker in the studentry said something about
detention and peer intervention.  Danisee snapped his
fingers.  "Someone get me a power dampening field and
take Michael here to my office."
   Michael.  Feh.

   It was our first time in action, and all-in-all, I
think we worked well as a team.  The students seemed
to better appreciate my powers after that, as did my
   Of course, Burlington being Burlington, it wasn't
the official debut of the Nostalgics.  And, as we all
know, I came off pretty badly that next time out.
   What no one knew at the time was that our first,
secret battle was also the first skirmish in the
Keyhole War.

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            (C) COPYRIGHT 2006  TOM RUSSELL

DR. METRONOME was created by Jamie Rosen and myself.

BURLINGTON COLLEGE and its faculty appear courtesy of
Saxon Brenton.  Be on the look out for his upcoming
Eightfold series, MY FATHER'S SON.


Tom Russell
Limited autographed dvds now on sale, directly from the filmmaker

"In the beginning, Milos seems to have no clue how to relate
 to anyone.  He is quizzical, leaving the viewer questioning
 and wondering..." 
  -- Ryan M. Niemiec, co-author of MOVIES AND MENTAL ILLNESS


"If a comic book, book, movie or novel is not somebody's fantasy 
then who wrote it and to whom does it appeal to?  In order for a 
shared universe to have a widespread appeal, it has to appeal on 
a primal level.  If somebody says superhero comics are just 'wish 
fulfillment' then he needs to explain what is entertainment that 
doesn't satisfy our wishes and what satisfaction at all you can get 
from it." -- Dr. Martin Phipps

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