PINCITY: Thunderclap #11 (ACRA)
rickhindle at gmail.com
Sun Dec 21 12:00:28 PST 2008
âOne Starry Nightâ
by Rick Hindle
[cover shows a Thunderclap dressed in a tuxedo (with his mask on),
dancing with an attractive blond while Gretchen looks on from the
side, arms crossed, looking angry]
A nice hot shower. That's all I wanted.
The Ice Queen had put me in a solid block of ice. I had been
teleported to some strange plane where I met a whacker out time-slash-
dimension traveler who gave me a twisted view of my life if I stopped
Maybe that's the future I'd have if I walked away. It was scary,
I'll admit it. I seemed happy, at least being with Gretchen, but my
happiness would be wiped away, it seemed, in an instant. And it would
all be because I wasn't Thunderclap anymore.
Now I've really started to understand what my father went through.
How easy was life life when you had to look over your shoulder all of
the time? Dad had to make sure Mom and I were okay, no matter what
happened to him.
I stopped flying and hovered in the sky for a moment. I turned a bit
and looked out over the bay. After all this time of me avoiding my
Dad's attempts at making me understand, after all the missed football
games that I held against him, he was right. He was preparing me not
for disappointment, but making sure I understood exactly what
responsibility to the good of the people was all about.
As I stared into the beautiful night's sky, I smiled.
The smile didn't last long. Nor was my shower going to be as
relaxing as I had wanted it to be.
As I climbed back into my apartment, my attention was first drawn to
Gretchen's shapely figure encased in a small black dress.
As my mind began to flash back to seeing her laying amid the
destruction caused by Major Tanaka in the alternate world, I stopped
short, right foot still on the window sill. For some reason, there
was no discomfort. Gretchen's face was a mask of disappointment,
frustration and anger.
âWhere the hell have you been?â she exploded. Gracefully, I might
I responded as best I could, âAnother dimension,â I responded. âOh,
and while stuck in a block of ice.â I took the time to pull my other
leg down and to take off the domino mask.
âVery funny,â Gretchen retorted.
âWhat?â I answered. I tried sounding hurt, but I'm not sure it
really came off. I added, âI really was,â try to hammer home the
It didn't work. âWe're going to be late,â she stated.
âFor what?â Why did she always do this me?
âFor Christ's sake, Clay. Didn't you get my text?â
I patted down my suit. Nope, no pockets. âNot a lot of places to
hide a cell phone.â
Gretchen rolled her eyes. Oh boy, was she pissed off. âWe're going
to Kelly's Charity Ball.â
âKelly Bakker, hello?â Gretchen's eyes were on fire right now. Kind
of like the same fire I saw in the other dimension, but definitely not
as dangerous. Well, maybe it was.
âWhy am I going?â I replied, walking towards the kitchen. I wanted a
bandage for the cut on my cheek. âAren't you dating him?â I called
from the kitchen.
âDating is such a vague word,â came her response. That one puzzled
âIt's not really that -â
âThis is not a discussion!â Gretchen thundered as she walked into the
kitchen. I looked over, and saw her standing there, hands on her
hips, jaw set. She looked the total opposite of what I had seen at
the alternative-Tommy's funeral scene.
She went on, âTake a shower. I have a tuxedo ready for you. JUST
GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR!â
âTuxedo? I don't have one,â I replied, trying my best to bandage
myself up in the reflection from my sink. It was a struggle â I
really needed to get Kenny to come over and clean for me.
âI rented one for you,â was Gretchen's explanation.
âYou know my size?â
âHow?â Was she going through my stuff?
Oh, she totally was, âDon't worry about it.â
âAnd if I want to?â
I did the smart thing.
I took a shower. It wasn't that easy though, especially keeping a
wound away from the hot shower. I should have gone to the hospital.
They're starting to know me there as the guy who is really bad using
his power tools. The graviton lance used by one of the alien invaders
was tough to explain, but I had managed to use the âit was a really,
really, really, really large soldering gunâ. The nurse bought it.
âHurry up!â Gretchen yelled through the bathroom door, âthe limos
I stuck my head out of the stall, âYou ordered a limo?â
Gretchen opened the door a peek. âKelly sent it,â she stated
âI thought you weren't dating him?â
âI could drive,â I replied.
âLike I said, 'he insisted'.â
âHa! You didn't correct me. You are dating him!â
They were so totally dating.
Fort Pinnacle Yacht Club sits on the bay below the famed hills of
Patriot's Hill. Houses in the Patriot's Hill neighbored hood had
stood since the early days of Pinnacle City when it was a rising
shipping port. The Bakkers, MacHammonds, Duartes â the major families
with deep blood lines running throughout the city had been there for
generations. The venerable Madison House â home to mayors of Pinnacle
City â sat overlooking the yacht club's docks.
I'd only seen Fort Pinnacle from a distance. It seemed like the sons
of superheroes weren't often invited to the most famous yacht club in
the land. Dad had some money, but I'm not sure where he got it. And
trust me, it wasn't spent on this place.
A massive flag pole sat in the middle of the circle where the limo
dropped us off. The night's light breeze played with the American
flag, the Pinnacle City flag and the yacht club's burgee. The two
lower flags were doing a dance that occasionally gave me glimpses of
the 67 stars on the American flag*.
Large white pillars stood out against the light blue paint of the
club house. Red, white and blue bunting hung down from the second and
third story exterior balconies. I could see people mingling, sipping
on glasses of champagne and nibbling on pass hors d'oeuvre.
As we walked through the pillars into the entry area, I noticed a
tall, athletic woman holding court amongst a number of men as their
dates looked on jealously. It took me a second, but then I realized
that it was the Liberator, in a cocktail dress and not a spandex
suit. I had met her when the Protectors joined in on beating the
Baron and saving Tommy.
One of the gentlemen surrounding her turned slightly. I recognized
Tommy's profile immediately.
âTommy's here,â I whispered excitedly to Gretchen.
She just shook her head. âAll of the Protectors will be here. Nobody
misses a Kelly Bakker party.â I wonder if she enunciated the word
ânobodyâ for my benefit.
I did bite my tongue. I wanted to ask why we'd never been to one, or
at least, I'd never been to one. But I knew the answer. For some
reason, Gretchen wanted to avoid directly telling me that she was
dating Kellogg Bakker. But then, why was I her date tonight?
It's not like I didn't care that she was happy. I did. I actually
just didn't like the idea of her dating that spoiled rich jackass.
As we walked into the ballroom, I was taken aback. The club was
three stories tall, with the balconies usable both inside and out.
The middle section was open to the ceiling, which showed a mural of
the Bonhomme Richard battling the Serapis. Sailing trophies from all
over the world sat in trophy cases hung from the balconies. There
were tables set up around a center dance floor where a jazz quartet
âYou look ravishing,â Kellogg Bakker informed Gretchen. The
beautiful girl on my arm unhooked herself and went to kiss him softly
on the cheek. She was beaming.
I wanted to punch him in the face.
He turned to me and stuck out his hand. âGood seeing you again,
Clay,â his face was permanently in that toothy smile of his.
âYou too, Kellogg,â I lied, returning the hand shake. It was
surprisingly firm. It must be a lot of golf, I thought to myself.
He began to turn away but stopped himself. âDon't go far off, Clay,
I've got to talk football with you.â He chuckled.
I wanted to punch him in the face.
âYour wife and children are safe, Comrade Baron,â the thick accent
hung in the air around the Red Bear's words like the sweat on the
âWhere are they?â the Baron asked from next to him on the bench.
âMy associate Katarina has them safe. In Rome,â the Bear answered,
while sweat out of his beard.
The Baron nodded before leaning back. The American Ranger had ripped
apart his office looking for him after he had escaped captivity after
the failed auction of the ParaX-13 serum. The only thing they had
found was the Death's Hand, which the Baron had removed from Rosaria
after she had failed him by not ridding the world of Thunderclap once
and for all.
At that point the Baron was on a fishing boat in international
waters. He was now in Russia, in a sauna, with a massive product of
Soviet-era genetic research.
The Red Bear â Konstantin Tcheryavich â was a mobster's son who the
KGB had used as a test subject, trying to recreate the abilities that
the American Ranger had received. The result had been a massive
psychotic machine that had fought the Ranger numerous times. After
the downfall of Communism, the Medusa Corporation had convinced the
Red Bear to undergo further testing to eliminate his psychoses in
exchange for using his strength for their needs.
What they actually created was a mountain of a man with great
intellect. The Red Bear now not only could out-think you, but he
could beat you to a pulp if you crossed him. With a now perfect
weapon, the Medusa Corporation placed him in command of all Russian
âHave you heard from the Queen?â the Red Bear asked. That's all they
knew of their secretive employer, the name 'the Queen'. Nobody either
of them knew had ever actually met her or even seen where she works
The Baron shook his head, his eyes cast down towards the floor,
trying to stare through the thick steam to the boards. âNothing.
Konstantin was quiet for a moment. He coughed, then cleared his
throat. âHer, no,â was his answered. That made the Baron relax,
albeit for a moment. âBut,â the Red Bear continued, âthe Messenger did
The Baron's head shot up and he looked over at his comrade. âWhat
did he have to say?â
A smile spread across the big face of the Red Bear, âYou're to help
âTo do what?â
âWe're going to set up the Kingdom of Medusa,â the Red Bear
answered. The smile didn't disappear.
The Baron was incredulous, âThe what?â
Konstantin began talking quickly, but the Baron caught the gist
through the specks of English that emitted from the Red Bear's mouth.
âWe're going to capture a chunk of Russia. The Queen prefers one
already with nuclear weapons.
âFor power. For prestige. For a way to hold the world at our
fingertips. Comrade Baron,living would be tax free.â
The Baron shook his head. âA tax haven? We're going to forcibly
annex a piece of Russia for a tax haven?â
âA tax haven with no extradition agreements,â the Red Bear went on,
the smile never leaving his face. âNo more hiding. No more attempting
to circumvent the laws. You could do whatever you want, as long as
the Queen allowed it.â
âA chance at revenge,â the Baron said slowly and quietly.
âNow you understand, Comrade Baron!â the Red Bear shouted. âYou
could get back at Thunderclap as a diplomat. They wouldn't be able to
The Baron smiled for the first time in a while. âIt'll be better than
By the time I was able to find Tommy, he was wasted. The was leaning
up against a pillar, trying to look normal. It wasn't working.
âHey, buddy,â I tried greeting him.
Something garbled came out his mouth, followed by, âMan, Gretchen's
got a nice ass,â and a wistful, âI think I miss Suzie.â
I patted him on the shoulder and felt sorry for myself. Tommy was
wasted and I felt like leaving him for the other Protectors to deal
with. And Gretchen was following Kellogg around like she was his show
puppy. Staring down at them from the second floor, I just got
âWant to punch him in the face?â a woman's voice said from my right.
âYeah...I mean, huh?â I turned and looked at Solstice Powers.
As famous as the Magi Twins were, and as well-respected as the
Liberator was, there was nobody in the world as well-known as Solstice
Powers. Her navy blue dress was cut with a neckline that plunge
almost to her navel. Her long blond hair was piled atop her head.
She just oozed beauty and power, but she was definitely hot.
âYeah,â was all I could muster.
âTrust me, he's not that good.â If I had had my wits about me at
that point, I probably would have figured out just what she was
But no, I just stood there, dumbly staring at her face as to avoid
staring at the diamond that seemed to hang so low...
âMy name is Solstice,â she said, âwhat's your's?â
Thank god for her breaking the silence. But, before I should answer,
Tommy stumbled over and draped his arm around me. He managed to
drunkenly slur, âHey, Solie, this is my buddy Clay. He's the bomb...â
He went on for a few minutes, highlighting my awesomeness, football,
his love for Suzie, my awesomeness (again), and some other random
stuff. I eventually caught a look of repulsion on her face.
Before she turned to run, she looked at Tommy - âTomorrow. 5AM. The
track. Got it, probie?â
Tommy tried saluting, but he missed, smacking himself across the face
in the process before collapsing against me. I tried to apologize to
Solstice, but it wasn't working. Hopefully she'll forget about
Tommy. Hopefully she wouldn't forget about me.
âWhy do you keep looking up at him,â Kellogg Bakker whispered into
Gretchen's ear. They were dancing slowly in the middle of the yacht
club floor. She seemed to be a bit embarrassed to have everyone
âWho?â she replied, trying to sound innocent.
âI'm not an idiot, Gretchen,â he retorted. He was right, she told
herself, she was keeping an eye on Clay.
âI just want to make sure he's having a good time,â Gretchen
answered. âAfter all, he is my date.â
Kellogg did seem a bit annoyed by this answer, his eyes squinting a
bit. âIs this just a way to get back at me for not wanting to be with
Gretchen shook her head, but she was sure that everyone could see her
face getting red. âI'm fine dating you, but I don't want to be this
mystery girl you go out with once a week or whatever.â
Bakker seemed to mull this over as the song stopped and his phone
vibrated in his pocket. Kellogg looked at the message. âI have to
go,â he mentioned. He kissed her on the cheek.
âWhy does this always happen?â Gretchen said bluntly. âWhy do you
always have to leave in the middle of a discussion about us?â
âBecause the only 'us' is for you,â he stated, just as bluntly. âI'm
busy. And I have to leave.â
âKellogg Bakker, you're a fucking jerk.â
Gretchen hadn't noticed that the music had not started back up
again. And now everyone on the dance floor was standing there,
staring at Gretchen as her words hung in there air.
âYup,â came Kellogg's response as he headed towards the door, cell
phone plastered to the side of his head.
âIs it him?â the Liberator asked Solstice Powers.
She nodded. âHe's cute,â was her response. The Liberator's wilting
look made her add, âThe eyes look just like his did.â The Liberator
nodded, and sipped at the half-drunk glass of champagne.
âAnd I really need to talk to someone about that probie friend of
his,â Solstice added.
The Liberator started to walk away, âTake it up with Crossbow,â she
said, âthe probies are her responsibility.â
For some reason, Gretchen drove back in the limo with me and Tommy's
snoring body. She was staring out the window as we headed back
towards my place.
âYou okay?â I asked, looking over at her.
âI'm fine,â came the simple response.
âNo, you're not.â
Gretchen didn't turn around. âDon't worry about it.â
âI'm not. I'm worried about you,â I dumbly said.
Crap. â'Cause I do.â Double-crap. What was I getting myself into?
âI'm...â Gretchen paused, like she was trying to properly phrase her
words. âI just wish I could figure things out. I made an ass out of
myself. I'm sure of it.â
âI'm sure it's fine,â I said with a chuckle. That brought the look
of death down upon me.
âHe just wanted to leave,â she said, referring to Kellogg Bakker.
âAll he does when we talk is find a way to make his cell phone ring so
he can leave.â
âI'm sure there's really a reason,â I said, âhe's a busy guy. He
runs a couple of his Dad's divisions.â Why was I protecting that dumb
âI just wish I could get it right,â she stated. Yes, it's true
Gretchen's dating success was quite limited. But I guess she was
trying to just get it right. Maybe she actually though Bakker was it.
I knew exactly what she was talking about, although for me, I'm not
sure it was about dating.
âGretchen,â I said before pausing. I didn't want to get my words
jumbled around too much, either. âGo home, relax, go to sleep. Heck,
stay at my place, I don't care.â I leaned forward towards the
partition in front, âDriver, take me to Protectors Island, please.â
Gretchen scoffed from behind me. âYou're going to hang out with
âHow? Never mind. I'm going to take Tommy back to the mansion so
that when he wakes up, it's not my floor he's puking on.â
âShe's cute, huh?â Gretchen was staring back out the window. What
game was she playing?
âI guess,â came my response. Equally dumb as before.
âYou guess? She's cute and she was talking to you.â
I shook my head. âIt doesn't really matter.â
âSure it does.â Gretchen now looked at me.
âNo,â now it was my turn to stare out a window. âThere's...there was
something I saw today while I was stuck in another dimension.â
âThat really happened?â
âYep. It really did,â I replied, finally satisfied that she believed
me. âI saw something and it made me think. I...I saw my future if I
walked away. If I walked away from being Thunderclap.â
I paused. Maybe for a bit of dramatic effect, but still, it caused
her to say, âAnd?â
âIt's not good,â I tried to look serious. It really was. Or at
least, as serious as seeing something as a non-corporeal viewer in
another plane of reality was. âPeople I loved. People I cared about
would be gone.â
The limo was emerging from the tunnel that went under the bay to the
gate of the Protectors Island. As it began going up the drive,
Gretchen continued to press, âWhat do you mean? You're kind of
talking in vague abstracts, Clay.â
The car stopped and I opened it, dragging Tommy with me. I looked at
the driver, âTake her wherever she wants. I'm sure Mr. Bakker will
Gretchen gave me a dirty look as I tried pulling Tommy to his feet.
She reached out to close the door but stopped herself. âWait. Clay,
what happens to me?â
I looked back at her, happy it was dark out. âYou...you die because
I can't protect you. Because I walked away.â
âWhy did this other you walk away?â she was standing outside of the
car now. Hopefully the driver was getting paid by the hour.
âBecause I...or it...or...â
âSay it, Clay,â Tommy drooled from my shoulder.
âGretchen,â I started. I couldn't do it. Could I? I did hesitate a
bit longer. âThis alternative me failed to rescue Tommy from the
Baron. He died. I walked away for you.â
Tommy leaned over and puked on my feet. âThanks buddy,â I whispered
as I dragged him away. âI'm sorry, Gretchen,â I said. âBut now you
The file, charged with prodigious amounts of kinetic energy, tore
through the victim's forehead, killing them instantly.
The shadow stood over the dead woman, cackling. Portia Stamos had
been the leader of the Sisters, an all-female gang on the East Shore.
Now, she was one more dead gang leader.
The power vacuum was growing exponentially amongst the criminal
element in Pinnacle City. The Dead Roses, the Hood Street Gang, even
the Medusa Corporation. Now the Sisters would be added to the list.
Soon, he would be omnipotent. Soon, he would be the one leading the
unified gangs on Pinnacle City. Soon, they would pay.
The Fedora and his super-powered buddy Thunderclap would pay.
Gretchen was sitting on my couch when I got home. Makeup was flowing
down her face. âYou came here?â I asked.
âI need to ask you something,â she said quietly, staring straight
Crap. âWhat's that, Gretchen?â
âYou would walk away from this all for me?â
I stared out my windows. The sun was just beginning to brighten the
sky. âI...I can't say that I would, Gretchen.â
âThen why did you tell me that?â
âThat the alternate me would do that?â
âBecause, for some stupid reason, I tried to make a point and failed
absolutely at it.â
âWhat point was that?â
âWhen I was a kid, I felt my Dad was a total asshole,â I tried to
explain as I sat down next to her. âI mean, I never saw him around.
He never taught me how to catch a football. Never came to my games,
none of that. But recently, by recently I mean this morning, I
figured out why.
âHe was protecting me, and my Mom, and the other people he loved from
getting hurt. And I guess my point is, is that no matter what, I'll
protect you. And I can't do that without being Thunderclap.â
âSometimes, I liked you better as just plain old Clay Hunter,â
Gretchen said with a laugh.
I smiled, âSometimes, I do, too.â
We sat there quietly for a moment as she dozed off on my couch. I
picked her up and carried her into my room and placed her under the
blankets there. She looked so peaceful that I turned and walked back
into the living room, closing the door behind me.
I stripped out of my tux and put on my spandex. I needed a relaxing
flight before bed.
*- Following World War II and the success that the superhumans working
for the American government had had in the war effort, a number of
additional states joined the union. As of the writing, the following
states are in addition to the 50 standard US states:
-12 Canadian provinces and territories (excluding just Quebec, which
became an independent country)
-Washington DC (finally granted statehood in 2006)
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