PINCITY: Thunderclap #8 (acra)
rickhindle at gmail.com
rickhindle at gmail.com
Sun Nov 4 16:58:50 PST 2007
#8 - Knots
by Rick Hindle
[cover: Thunderclap is standing in the middle of a gym, completely
surrounded by people doing yoga stretches. Our intrepid hero looks a
bit perplexed, watching these people stretch]
I always enjoyed Clyde's. The beer was cold, the food was greasy
enough to slide down my throat, and the crowd was an eclectic mix of
people. It was nestled on one of the side roads that went between the
campus of Pinnacle University and the Tanner Heights section, where I
lived. You had the frat boys and their ever-present sorority
girlfriends, the young bankers from the Financial District who lived
in Tanner Heights or slummed it a bit in North Campus. The bohemians
from the Hills and the yuppies from the McMansions on Manor Ridge all
came down to Clyde's.
My friend Tommy Preston and I hadn't seen a lot of each other over
the last couple of weeks. After coming out of his shell and admitting
to being the former superhero named Velocity, Tommy had decided to
take the Protectors up on their offer of further training.
"What the hell," he was telling me, "With Suzie out of the picture
now, I've got nothing else to do."
Tommy's girlfriend Suzie had ended up being some sort of sleeper
agent. The issue, at least in my eyes, was whether she was working
for Facebook, or for some secret government agency.
"That's great reasoning," I muttered into my beer glass before
finishing it off."
"Why not?" he retorted.
I signaled the waitress for another round before looking at Tommy.
"Because, you're," I began to tick things off on my fingers, "Not sure
if Suzie is gone for good. You haven't a clue if you still want to be
a superhero, much less a Protector. And, what about your normal job?"
Tommy's face went through a number of fazes before settling into one
of painful anger. Mockingly, he raised his hand, with the middle
three digits raised.
"First," he began, the beginnings of a huge smile etching their way
onto his face like cracks in an iceberg, "She's gone for good. I went
back to the apartment - or what was left of it. No trace of her
things." He ticked off his first finger.
Tommy reached over and gripped his ring finger between the thumb and
forefinger of his left hand. He shook it slightly as he said, "I'm
going to try it out. If it doesn't work out, there's always working
with you, right?"
Before I could interject, I was left staring at the middle finger of
his right hand, playfully still standing up. "And as for my job, the
government paid me to keep my mouth shut about the fact that an
impostor was running around Pinnacle City dressed as everyone's
favorite Boy Scout."
Tommy started laughing as the waitress brought our beers. She gave
him a smile before walking away. "You see that," he said, watching
the waitress walk off, "I've still got it."
"Got what? A problem with not showering?" His mouth fell open as I
started to laugh.
"Hey, I got here quickly," he replied, sniffing at his own armpits.
"Don't you know that running as fast as you do means your body has to
sweat even faster to keep up?" I replied. I didn't know if it was
true - but considering I've had to adapt to swallowing flies while
flying, I'm sure he's had to adjust to some different things.
Tommy quickly changed the subject, "So you hear who Gretchen went out
with the other day?"
I grabbed my beer and took a deep pull. "Don't tell me you -" he
I put my hand up to stop his line of questioning, whatever it is. "I
"So what happened?" Tommy asked.
Shaking my head, I tried to recount the story to him.
- - -
My favorite coffee shop was back into my life, sort of. Lido's,
which was down the street from my apartment, had become a sort of
passing through as I adjusted to life as a superhero. After coming in
from a long night of traipsing around Pinnacle City, I oftentimes
needed something to jump start my day before I headed off to my day as
a number cruncher for some company that I don't care to mention.
Gretchen, my lovely perennial grad school student friend, had called
me, asking if I wanted to grab coffee one morning. A long lunch was
just what the doctor had ordered, so I headed back to Tanner Heights,
saying I needed a long lunch to meet a perspective client.
Maybe I should have been clued off by the brand new silver Mercedes-
Benz C class sitting in front of Lido's, the license plate reading
KGB-7. At first, I didn't pay much attention - for those in the know,
Lido's was a great pit stop on the way from Manor Ridge into the heart
of the city. I should have known better once I got inside. Too bad
my dad didn't pass along any "Thunder-sense" to me.
I ran into him a few seconds after getting into the door. He had
been looking over his shoulder at someone when he smacked into me.
Despite his smaller frame, Kellogg Bakker packed a wallop. I caught
myself from falling while he stood still.
Blond hair, blue eyes. I wanted to be sick. His father was the
president, owner, etc. etc. of Bakker Industrial, and Kellogg was
going to get all of that someday. It made me even more sick. I'm
sure my grandparents would make some point about being grateful for
what I have. If they were still around, I'd show them photos of
They'd be sick.
Bakker took a step back, his hands immediately coming up in a
defensive stance that melted away just as fast as they appeared. He
looked at me, and then a huge smile had come across his face. Kellogg
stuck his hand out, "Clay Hunter, wow!" he said.
I shook his hand. It was like shaking a flower petal - if I squeezed
too hard, his bones would probably turn to powder.
Even though I knew who he was, I tried to fain indifference, "I'm
sorry. I know you from somewhere, don't I?"
Bakker smiled. Damn shit-eating grin, I wanted to mutter. "Yeah.
Kelly Bakker. I played at St. Luke's while you were over at West
Bay," he said. "You burned me three, four, probably a half dozen times
I nodded knowingly. It was close to ten years ago, but he was
right. My junior year at West Bay High School, out on the far side of
the city from here, smack dab between Lake Tibisi and McHammond
Airport, I had played St. Luke's Academy in the City Championship
game. St. Luke's was the typical, All-American, blue blooded prep
school, nestled in Westinvale, overlooking the mouth of the bay.
My dad had made the game, that's why I was able to remember it. The
game was held at the old Kennedy Park Stadium, right off of Broadway
before it hit the East Bay Bridge. The stadium had been torn down to
make way for the Warrior's brand spanking new Bakker International
Stadium, a modern monstrosity of classless metal and glass.
But I remember that game, it's what got me my scholarship. I had
taken advantage of Kellogg Bakker four times as a receiver - juking
him out of his cleats, making him claw at air. I scored on a punt
return, too. It would have been more, but my coach had pulled me by
the end of the first half. We waltzed away with the City
I came back to the present, as Bakker finished up. "Well,
unfortunately I have to go, Clay," he was saying. "It's good to see
I smiled, "Likewise, Kelly."
I shook the dainty hand again and let him pass. Spotting Gretchen at
that point, I walked further back into the coffee shop.
"Wow," I said in greeting, "That was Kellogg Bakker."
She was beaming. It was probably because she saw Bakker and me
"Yeah," was Gretchen's simple response.
Looking over my shoulder back at the door, I said aloud, "I wonder
what he was doing here?"
Without skipping a beat, Gretchen replied, "Asking me out."
I nearly spilled the coffee I was pouring all over my lap,
Gretchen finally turned her attention away from the door that her
Prince Charming had disappeared out of and to me. "He saw me getting
coffee. We chatted for a moment, and he asked for my number and if
I'd go out with him."
"Well, uh, what did you say?"
Gretchen looked at me like I had two heads. "Come on, dummy, it's
Kellogg Bakker. Of course I said 'yes'."
- - -
Senator Rathbone Simian lived in a classic brownstone in Washington
D.C.'s historic Georgetown district. It was a bit cozy for his liking
- the Senator preferred the large, spacious rooms and open spaces of
Protector's Island, or even the large house he had had refitted for
his needs on the shore of Lake Tibisi in Pinnacle City.
But the house in Georgetown was important, at least politically. He
couldn't represent his district without a presence in the capitol,
after all. At least the dark wood paneled study he kept was filled
with books that continued to pique his interest.
The American Ranger finally turned his attention away from a copy of
Shakespeare's "The Tempest" long enough to watch Rathbone walk in, a
glass of scotch in each large hand.
"Hopefully you didn't get fur in my ice this time," the Ranger
"It wasn't mine - it was the senator from Idaho," Simian snapped
back. They shared a laugh.
Simian was dressed in a checkered smoking jacket, his small glasses
perched on the tip of his nose. He sat down and admired his equally
under-dressed former colleague. Instead of his trademark red, white
and blue ensemble, the reddish hair, green eyed native of Pinnacle
City's Rosetown was wearing khakis and a coat that Robert Redford
would look perfect in.
"So, what brings you here tonight, old friend?" the Senator asked.
The Ranger took a sip of scotch, letting the fire burn the tip of his
tongue before he responded. "I wanted to get a clear picture of what
happened in Pinnacle City from someone who was there," he stated.
"I've been overseas for a bit, and I heard pieces of what was going
on. Somebody passing themselves off as me, in my hometown? That
scares the crap out of me."
Senator Simian nodded his understanding. "It's true that Facebook
there. Dressed, acting like you, the whole thing."
"Why?" the Ranger responded, his fingers tapping the scotch glass.
"Something to do with the kid who used to go by Velocity." Simian
sipped his drink. "He's an Ancient. The first one we've known about
in a dozen years."
"Has he shown any signs of ending up like Dangerman?"
"You mean crazy?" The Senator shook his head, "Nope. Nothing yet.
We've offered him a spot training with the Protectors. Hopefully,
that'll mean we can keep our eyes on him."
The Ranger nodded. "So, how'd you know it wasn't me?" he asked, his
eyes shining playfully.
The Senator laughed. "Velocity's friend, the new Thunderclap. He
throws a punch, right to the jaw. This guy - Facebook - went down
like he had a glass jaw. I asked him - Thunderclap that is - if he
had broken his hand. The kid didn't, so I knew something was wrong."
Smiling, the Ranger rugged his jaw. It had been replaced years
earlier by a bionic jaw, carefully hidden under painful plastic
surgery. A Nazi cell had been hiding out in Argentina since after the
war. The German version of him, the Human Swastika had nearly killed
the Ranger before meeting an unhappy ending at the hands of a group of
locals. The resulting surgery had given the Ranger a jaw of steel.
"And then, old friend," the Senator continued, "he kept calling me
"So?" the Ranger replied, not getting what the Senator was saying.
"Since I first ran - which you vehemently opposed me doing - you've
never called me 'Senator'. Only Rathbone." Rathbone was said in
unison, making both men chuckle.
It was nights like these, when the scotch brought on memories of
friends, equally alive, retired and gone. Names like Rush, Anchor,
Digitalman, Tin Shield and the Shotgun Kid, Dangerman, and the
previous Thunderclaps. It was a painful exercise, but both men
realized the importance. Only the Liberator, Steelhide and Ironwing
understood everything. Everyone else was gone.
"It all scares me," the Ranger said after a minute's silence.
"What? That we're the only ones left?" the Senator answered.
Shaking his head, the Ranger continued, "No, that it's so easy to
"The DSA's got to have a leak in it the size of the New Orleans
levees." The Senator cringed at his comment but paid it no heed. As
an independent member of the Senate, he had been on both sides of the
fight, but saw that for what it was - there was nobody to blame but
everyone, he told himself.
The Ranger nodded. "I'm staying in Washington for a couple of days,
I'm going to try and figure out for myself whether it's a leak or if
Facebook's just really really good at bringing back my sexy."
"Well, if it smells bad, you'll find it here in Washington," Simian
"Feel like digging up this old swamp, old friend?"
"It's that or I have to stand around with a bunch of Democrats."
Smiling, the Ranger lifted a finger and pointed at his friend,
"Careful, Rathbone, I could be one in a couple of years."
- - -
"So, what's it like living with Kenny?" I asked Tommy. After digging
through the remains of his apartment, Tommy had shacked up with our
friend Kenny. It was bigger and more convenient than my place, with
an easier trip to Protector's Island in the morning.
"It's the cleanest apartment I've ever lived in," Tommy said after
watching our waitress go by.
I followed his gaze for a moment before noticing that my beer was
empty again. "Are you going to stare at her all night or are you
getting us another round?"
"Huh?" Tommy replied. I should my head. "Never mind. I thought
Suzie was a clean freak? How hard is it to live with Kenny?"
Tommy started shaking his head, "She's got nothing on him. He's got
coasters for his coasters."
"Huh? He doubles his- I don't get it."
With his hands, Tommy started excitedly explaining this concept to
me: "Say he uses a coaster, right? Normally, a well, normal person
would simple re-use it. Nope. Not Kenny Wong, Master of Clean Fu.
He's got these doily type things. Once you use the coaster, you tear
it off, and then you can use it."
I was still laughing about his nickname. "Maybe he's OCD?" I said.
"Maybe Kenny Wong, Master of Clean Fu isn't right. Maybe he's
Captain Clean?" Tommy answered.
"Hmm..." I thought. "Maybe I should go with that."
"No way," Tommy replied, shaking his head, "You've got the instant
babe hookup name."
I raised my eyebrows at him. "Thunderclap? Man, it sounds like
something that you'd pick up from a hick down on East Jefferson."
That got a laugh out of Tommy.
- - -
The Baron shook his head. There was no way that everything could
have been that screwed up, that quickly. He had lost the Para-X13
serum, nearly had every single criminal mastermind in the world
arrested, and had his assistant blown up.
It had been awful, and for the last two weeks, the Baron had suffered
in silence. The Medusa Corporation headquarters had ignored him since
the Protectors had torn apart his auction. They had even ignored the
fact that there was another Ancient running around, literally, running
"Idiots," he swore under his breath. It had been over a decade since
an Ancient had been identified. The last couple had gone insane.
Another had been killed before he had the chance. A few remained -
the more stable ones who were presented to everyone in the superhuman
community, including the criminal element, as the pillars of the
The Baron's door opened up. He leaned back in his chair, and looked
up. The single lamp on his desk illuminated his room poorly. A woman
entered, dressed in a black, pinstriped suit, covered in a long coat,
despite the oppressive humidity outdoors.
The woman stopped across from his desk, standing ominously.
Wordlessly, she reached to her left hand and began to pull off her
"Well, Rosaria," the Baron began, "It's good to see you again."
She didn't respond. "So they sent you, huh?"
"Obviously," came her short, almost grunted response.
The Baron caught a glimpse of her left hand. It was blackened and
shriveled, like a piece of steak left on the grill for hours past
due. The smell that hit the Baron was of death. It made him want to
"You know there's a new Thunderclap, right?" the Baron stated.
Rosaria hesitated, her eyes peering out behind the circular, black
lensed glasses she wore. "My contract was for the job I
"Goodbye, Herr Baron."
"Yes," he responded coldly, "Goodbye."
As Rosaria approached the desk, the Baron felt nothing. Except for
the trigger of the gun mounted under his desk. He had had it
installed for just this situation.
The front of the desk exploded, teaing at Rosaria's mid-section. He
heard her hit the floor, moaning. The Baron stood, removing the gun
from it's location. Rosaria squirmed on the ground, murmuring in
pain. He fired twice more.
She stopped squirming.
Reaching down, the Baron stabbed a button on his desk. "Yes, Herr
Baron?" a voice came from the intercom.
"I need a few things, Allan," the Baron began. "I need a saw, a box -
preferably wood with a nice velvet lining. And a glass of scotch."
"Anything else, sir?"
"Yes, Allan. I need a new desk," he answered ruefully.
- - -
Captain Mike Cesar had been enough crime scenes in his long career
that he knew a bad situation when he saw it. And this burned out
apartment in East Shore was a bad situation.
"Any idea of the id's?" Cesar asked one of his detectives. Tom Kwan
shrugged his shoulders.
Two human bodies were propped up against a wall, their clothes had
been burned off and their skin had been charred. The stench holding
over the room was thick - it was like death warmed over. What made
the situation hard to figure, though, was a file dug into each
victim's forehead. Cesar's mind whirled as he thought about whether
or not he'd ever seen something like this before.
"We might have an id, Captain," one of the CSI's called out. Kwan
and Cesar looked away from the bodies and at the criminalist.
"What do we have?"
The CSI was holding up wallets. For some reason, neither had been
burned in the fire that had torched the room. "I found these in the
bathroom," the CSI explained. "According to the driver's licenses,
we've got Amir Williams and David Rowe here."
Cesar's face lit up. "Williams and Rowe? Are you sure?"
"Well, until we get the dental and DNA confirmed, we can't be
"If this is true, then the Hood Street Gang's done," Kwan said.
The Hood Street Gang had terrorized the East Shore over the last five
years, putting the police on notice with their general lack of
morals. Drugs in schools and cop killings were the norm. Now, with
their leadership supposedly laying on the ground with nail files
sticking out of their heads.
"Anymore evidence?" Cesar asked, looking back at the bodies.
"Just the files. Embedded between the -" Kwan began.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I see that," Cesar cut Kwan off. "Any ideas? I
can't think of anything."
"I'll run it through the computers, see if any databases pick it up."
Cesar nodded. "Don't you love this city, Tom?"
"Only when I'm not doing this," Kwan responded as he knelt down to
remove the nail files from the heads of the victims.
- - -
The Millennium Tower is the tallest building in Pinnacle City. From
there, you have a 360 degree view of the city. It was a fantastic
view, and it made me think about where I was and what I was doing with
Growing up, I swore to myself that I wouldn't be like my father. He
was gone so much saving the world that I never got to see him. I
could never understand why he was Thunderclap - saving people he
didn't know just didn't make sense to me.
Now it does.
I'm my father's son, and I've never been prouder to say that.
My name is Clay Hunter.
And I am Thunderclap.
- - -
Notes: This actually concludes the Thunderclap series. I've actually
enjoyed writing this story completely. However, this isn't my planned
end to writing on RACC. As you can tell, I've left a lot of open plot
threads that need closing. I'm probably going to start doing smaller
stories, largely so I don't run into the big writer's block issues I
had over the last 15 months writing these eight stories.
Maybe we'll get a Senator Simian solo story eventually.
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