SG: Sporkman #19 - A New Ride - (DCB 4/12)

Greg Fishbone gfishbone at
Tue Apr 1 14:51:49 PDT 2008

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*  invent all reader feedback presented in this feature.

Q. If Twenty-Two is Tee-Tee, does that make Thirty-One Tio?

A. Hmm... She is going to need a cute nickname. Thwon? Thwony? Thwoni?

Q. Thwoni with a little heart over the i and a smiley-face drawn into the o?

A. Okay, now that's just silly!

**               The Sporkarific Sporkman
**                Episode #19: A New Ride
**                  By Greg R. Fishbone
**              Dillweed City Blues #4 of 12
** Mickey Dunne, a former child superhero, has reinvented
** himself as Sporkman, savior of the Supersonic Airship
** Unsplodable. Can he save the future by confronting the past?

     "So you've been out of town for a while, eh?" Officer Martini
chomped on a lump of tobacco while driving, spitting occasionally into
a Hooters travel mug wedged into the central console.

     Mickey grunted a noncommittal acknowledgment, barely looking up
from the in-dash computer. The only crime he was interested in solving
at the moment was Jeanette's kidnapping and there were precious few
clues to go on. His description of her abductor had turned up no
results in the criminal databases, while a search for superhumans with
the ability to teleport in a puff of pink smoke had yielded only two
hits--one definite dead-end and one very cold lead.

     Mickey looked up in time to see an intersection coming up fast.
"Red light!" he exclaimed.

     Martini kept his foot on the gas and zoomed through the
intersection, chortling as two pedestrians leapt out of the way like
World War II soldiers avoiding an enemy aircraft's strafing run. "Aw,
what's wrong, rookie? Did I scare ya?"

     "I used up all my scare reflexes when I was a kid," Mickey told
him. "You've met my father, right?"

     "So big scary Captain Dunne doesn't have a softer side, even at
home? I always figured as much." The patrol car ran another red light,
causing a pickup from the other direction to skid to a stop in order
to avoid a collision.

     "You should watch where you're going," said Mickey.

     Martini scoffed. "We're cops, rookie. We don't worry 'bout no
stinkin' traffic lights."


     Martini stopped the car at a green light, revved the engine, then
took off as soon as the light turned red. "We don't worry about
traffic lights. You got that, partner?" He put a special emphasis on
the word "partner" and punctuated the question with another spit into
his mug.

     Mickey eyed him warily. "What if we got hit by another car?"

     "I'd have to fill out an incident report," said Martini with a
nonchalant shrug. "It say that the other driver ran a red light, and
that while rendering assistance we smelled alcohol on his breath, and
that we then found a bag of narcotics in his pocket."


     Martini tapped a shirt pocket, put a finger to the side of his
nose, and winked. "Our word against his, partner." With another heavy
spit, the mug had enough tobacco juice in it to slosh around as the
patrol car turned a corner.

     "Your word against ours," Mickey corrected him.

     Martini slammed on the breaks, causing his mug to belch out a
splash of brown goo onto the radio console. "Listen up, rookie. The
streets are a dangerous place. When the bullets start flying I need to
know that you've got my back."

     "The words on the side of our car say 'To Protect and Serve,' not
'To Endanger and Plant Evidence.' I've got your back with that first
set, but never with the second."

     Martini glared at Mickey for a long moment, then laughed and
punched him playfully in the arm. "Had you going there, didn't I? Nine
out of ten rookies would have taken that bait, but you really are your
father's son."

     Mickey frowned. "So you were...testing me?"

     "That's right, and you passed flying colors." He flashed his
yellow-stained teeth in a grimacing smile. "Are we good, partner?"

     "We're good...partner," said Mickey, trying to sound more
confident than he felt.

     After a few minutes of silence, Martini struck up the
conversation again. "So, what's brought you back to Dillweed City--and
don't say 'a burning desire to be a cop' because I'll know you're
bulling me."

     "It was either a conspiracy theory or a highly improbable series
of bizarre accidents."

     Martini raised his massive eyebrows.

     "I've been out of the country, bumming around Europe and feeling
sorry for myself. Before that I was...with a group. I probably would
have come back to Dillweed City eventually, in my own time, but it
just doesn't feel like home since Mom left for California. I was born
here but I've only been back for a couple weeks at a time since I left
middle school."

     "Understood," said Martini. "You want to get a feel for what's changed?"

     "I guess so."

     "All right then, we'll do the circuit." Martini pulled the car
through a sharp turn onto a street Mickey knew well--or thought he

     "Where's the bus depot?" he asked.

     "They moved it across town and built a parking structure in its
place. Not much of an aesthetic improvement, but we get a whole lot
fewer vagrants wandering around. Or maybe there's not fewer of them,
but they're all on the other West Side now instead of here where the
decent people live."

     Mickey's eyes were on the parking structure while his mind
drifted back to the bus depot and the day his cousin, Astatine
Valence, had arrived in town...


     ...Nine-year-old Mickey sat on a bench at the bus depot with his
father, the police captain. "Son, there's two things I want you to
keep in mind while Astatine is staying with us," said the captain.
First, your cousin is from the Nowheresville, Montana--"

     "Gnerfskin Falls, Minnesota," Mickey corrected him.

     "Right, right, population two-thousand including livestock and
housepets. She's never lived in a city like ours, with indoor plumbing
and all, so she's likely to be very impressionable and
unsophisticated. I expect you to stick up for her and make sure she
doesn't get into any trouble. And try to keep yourself out of trouble
as well while you're at it."

     "Sure, dad. Don't worry."

     "It's my job to worry," the captain said sternly. "The second
thing I want you to keep in mind is that Astatine is from your
mother's side of the family, which means that she's not very bright."

     "But... didn't her father win a Nobel Prize in chemistry?"

     "No, he shared a Nobel Prize with two other scientists. If he was
half as smart as he claimed to be, he would have been able to win the
thing by himself! You don't see any other names on the Officer of the
Year award that I got from the Fraternal Order of Police, do you?"

     "No, sir."

     "Well there you go! I earned that plaque all by myself, without
lab assistants, grant money, or a nuclear-powered spectrographic
imaging chamber, I might add! But don't go distracting me now, boy."

     "Sorry, sir."

     "The thing to keep in mind is that you will be responsible for
your newly-orphaned, dimwitted, country-bumpkin cousin. If anything
happens to her, I'll come down on you like a load of bricks!"


     "Hey! Hey, kid!" Martini was speaking, startling Mickey out of
his daydream. "You okay, rookie? You kinda spaced out on me there."

     "Sorry," said Mickey. "I was just...remembering something."
Mickey sat in silence for a while as Martini narrated his tour with
broad gestures and frequent spits into his tobacco-juice mug. "Hey,
um, partner?" Mickey asked.


     "Did you ever work a protective custody assignment?"

     "Like for a witness or informant or something?"

     "Yeah, or something," said Mickey. "One of those deals where
you're assigned to keep somebody safe."

     "A few times," said Martini. "Those babysitting jobs are the
best! You and the informant just sit around a safe-house all day with
nothing to do but watch TV, play cards, and eat pizza."

     "And you did it?" asked Mickey. "You were able to keep them alive?"

     "Until they could testify against some mobster or supervillain?
Yeah, sure, piece of cake. But they don't give plum assignments like
that to rookies like you. Especially not rookies who are being treated
as if they were just ordinary rookies and not the sons of police

     "That's good." Silently Mickey added, "Between Astatine and
Jeanette, I'm oh-for-two in the protection business."

* * *

     Number Thirty-One sat on a metal examination table in Nobody
Important's laboratory, swinging her legs and humming to herself.
Roger aloud wondered what exactly the Serially-Numbered Underling
could be humming, since she wouldn't have heard any music at all in
the forty-five minutes since she'd hatched out of her egg.

     "Mozart," Number Twenty-Two stated. "It's a piano sonata in F."

     Roger gave her a suspicious look. "Tee-Tee, were you been playing
classical music for the egg while I wasn't around?"

     "Well..." Number Twenty-Two looked guiltily down at her feet.
"They do say that Mozart is good for prenatal development, and it's so
cute the way she whistles it!"

     Number Thirty-One stopped to grin at her big sister. "Thanks!"
When she started singing quietly to herself. "Now the world don't move
to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be
right for some..."

     "I might have also played her some classic sitcoms," Number
Twenty-Two confessed, looking away from Roger's glare.

     The undersized underling wore a hospital-style paper gown,
appropriate enough for the medical tests she was undergoing, but Roger
knew she'd also need something to change into afterward. "Tee-Tee?"

     "Sir?" asked Number Twenty-Two.

     "Maybe you could pick out a few outfits for her."

     "Oh, of course! How exciting! I still remember my first outfit.
It was a sequined jumpsuit in pink, to match my hair. It was a
hand-me-down from Number Twelve." She paused to consider. "I might
still have it!"

     "I was thinking, perhaps, of something her own size," said Roger.

     "Oh." Number Twenty-Two contemplated her younger sibling, who was
now whistling a jingle for the new Chicken McSpoony Sandwich at
Spoonburger. "Maybe I can find something left behind by Number Nine?
Unless you think she was too small?"

     "I was thinking," Roger started again, "that you could go to a store."

     Number Thirty-One stopped humming and zoned in on the
conversation. "Make sure you get me something cute," she requested.

     Number Twenty-Two frowned. "I'm not a very good judge of
cuteness. What I usually aim for is sexy-casual."

     Number Thirty-One appraised the older underling's hooded
sweatshirt over a powder blue half-shirt, torn jeans, and tennis
sneakers. "That might be work for you, but I need something that
brings out the cuteness of my dimpled cheeks."

     "A white dress?" asked Number Twenty-Two. "Frilly? With ribbons and bows?"

     "Ribbons and bows?!!" Number Thirty-One stared with cute pouty outrage.

     "Then I guess I have no idea what you mean. Can you show me?"

     "Oooo! Can I?" She took the older underling by the hand and
started for the laboratory door.

     "Wait! Where are you going?" Roger asked the newborn.

     "Spoonside Galleria. Or maybe the new mall at Harborside." Number
Twenty-Two looked down at her new sibling. "Which do you prefer?"

     "I've never been out of the house yet," the tiny redhead reminded
her. Then she spun around and began singing the theme from "Green

     "But you can't go out like that!" Roger exclaimed, not daring to
lower the hand from his eyes, where it had instinctively gone at the
start of the young underling's twirling routine. "You're wearing a
gown made of paper!"

     "Duh," said Number Thirty-One. "That's why we're going to the mall."

     Five minutes later, Nobody Important walked back into his lab
with his face buried in a folder of printouts. "As I suspected, the
problem is unexpected but not unprecedented. It's something I first
encountered with Underling Number Six, and then again with Underling
Number Thirteen. Both of them had gene sequences which were--" He
looked up suddenly and stared at the empty table where Number
Thirty-One had been sitting. "Spontaneous human combustion?" he asked
with concern.

     "Worse," said Roger. "Tee-Tee's taken her on a shopping spree."






Mickey's flashback was taken from Preteen Patrol #1, originally posted
27 January 1995. There will be more flashbacks in this arc, and some
of them will be extended or from alternate viewpoints than the
original versions. I love being able to cut and paste scenes of these
characters from what I wrote about them back in the day. It's like one
of those daytime soap operas that run for decades so that they can
occasionally pop in actual flashback footage from years ago instead of
all the trouble it would be to build retro-period sets and slather the
actors with age-erasing makeup.

My own child was born during the drafting of this arc. We had a closet
full of clothes already waiting for her, gifted by generous relatives,
friends, and co-workers. But since she was smaller than her
ultrasounds had indicated, most of it didn't fit her yet.

Not believing in the prenatal "Mozart Effect", we played her music
from The Cure and Radiohead.

Greg R. Fishbone -
* President: Class of 2k7 -
* ARA: New England SCBWI -

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