SG: Sporkman #18 - A New Life - (DCB 3/12)

Greg Fishbone gfishbone at
Mon Mar 24 15:02:40 PDT 2008

*  The Author reserves the right to excerpt, alter, or
*  invent all reader feedback presented in this feature.

Q. I'm going to miss your all-star celebrity cast of supporting
characters. One thing that made SPORKMAN's dirigible storyline more
accessible is that it included characters that most readers were
already familiar with. We know who Britney Spears is, so you didn't
need to establish her character before taking it into new directions.
It's a kind of shorthand effect that made the story more efficient.

A. The celebrity characters started as caricatures from an alternate
parody universe, with the gaps in my personal knowledge filled in by
whatever worked best with the story. The 000SUPERGUY celebrities
further diverged as they survived life-threatening experiences and a
prolonged period adrift at sea, while avoiding real life events like
Britney's most recent set of meltdowns. So if I kept her Britney in
the story much longer, a new reader would be confused about why "my
Britney" was acting so differently from "the real Britney" and any
shorthand effect would have been lost.

Q. Plus this way you get to start over with a whole new set of
supporting characters?

A. Exactly.

**               The Sporkarific Sporkman
**                Episode #18: A New Life
**                  By Greg R. Fishbone
**              Dillweed City Blues #3 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?

     Back from school in the afternoon, Roger Important crawled over,
around, and through the tangle of pipes and wires that occupied nearly
all available space in the Important household. Roger could never
quite figure out which devices were deathtraps-under-construction,
which were gene splicers, and which were elaborate mechanisms for
cooking toast and eggs in the morning. The configuration shifted on a
daily basis, so the best and safest route through the foyer, living
room, and back hallway always involved touching as few items as

     Roger's room was his only refuge, the one part of the house that
had never been filled by the sprawl of his Uncle Nobody's machines.
Roger worked hard to keep the room uncluttered and dust-free, with
clothes put away and the bed made up as perfectly as any furniture
store showpiece. It wasn't that Roger was a neat-freak as much as it
being his most effective form of teenage rebellion.

     And yet, even Roger's sanctum had been recently colonized by Mad
Science. In the far corner of the room, a bureau had been pushed aside
to make room for a metal egg large enough to fit a full-sized human.
Most of the time the egg merely hummed softly and flashed its bank of
colored lights, but sometimes it shuddered and pulsed like it was
finally getting ready to crack open and reveal its occupant.

     Increasingly, Roger found himself jolted awake at night, and
while he was at school today the accursed egg had once again toppled
his bookshelf, spilling adventure novels across the floor. While he
re-sorted the books by publisher and then by title, Roger cursed the
egg under his breath. The bookshelf wasn't even the worst of it, since
he could fix that a lot easier than he could repair the cracked and
dented plaster walls.

     Roger wouldn't be able to take much more of this. Twelve weeks is
what Uncle Nobody had said it would take, but it felt more like
forever and a half.

     Roger put a hand on the egg and examined the digital readout. The
always-changing lights and numbers made as little sense to him as
ever, except that more of them were now red and flashing when they
used to be green and steady. "Tee-Tee!" Roger called. "Tee-Tee, come
quick! I think something's wrong with the egg!"

     The closet door swung open. In most other houses, this closet
would be a place for Roger to store his clothing, sporting equipment,
and footwear. But in Uncle Nobody's house, the closet was the cramped
space where Underling Number Twenty-Two slept or quietly watched her
portable television. "You called me, sir?" asked Number Twenty-Two.

     "Quickly, Tee-Tee. Take a look at this readout and tell me if
this looks normal to you."

     Number Twenty-Two scowled at the flashing lights. "This has to be wrong."

     "Which part?"

     "All of it--blood oxygen levels, core temperature, milestone
markers--it's all out of whack."

     "Can you fix it?"

     "Your uncle's the only one who understands how this equipment
works, but he's not here right now."

     "I'll give him a call."

     "There's no time! We need to get her out of there right now!"

     "Won't she die if she's not ready to be...hatched?"

     "Probably, but she'll die for sure if we leave her in there."

     Roger looked around his ultra-tidy room. "This is going to get
messy, isn't it? Are you sure about this?"

     "Master!" Number Twenty-Two implored. "This is my little sister's
life we're talking about!"

     Roger sighed. "Sorry, Tee-Tee, you're right. I'll get a
sledgehammer from the tool chest."

     "Hurry, Master," said Number Twenty-Two, clenching and
unclenching her hands.

* * *

     "The rookies get younger every year," Officer Hal Martini
scoffed, upon seeing Mickey Dunne emerge from the locker room in a
patrolman's uniform cut to fit a man six inches taller and forty
pounds heavier. Other officers and staff members snickered at the

     "That rookie is your new partner, Martini," Captain Dunne
snapped. "And if anything happens to him, you'll answer to me."

     "And what will happen if he lets something happen to me? Will you
send him to bed without any supper?"

     "You're out of line, Martini," said the Captain in a dangerously
graveled voice. "Patrolman Dunne will get no special treatment here."

     "So we'll treat him just like any other rookie who happens to be
the Captain's son? If you say so, sir." Martini's eye-rolling gesture
earned him more chuckles and suppressed laughter from around the room.

     "I don't need a partner," said Mickey, mentally sizing up the
tall, red-faced, mustachioed officer his father had paired him with.
"Especially not a hard-drinking, trigger-happy luddite with a weakness
for raspberry crullers."

     "Oooooo..." the other officers chorused, like schoolkids getting
ready for a playground brawl. "He's sure got your number, Hal," one of
the officers stated. "Seems your reputation's preceded you."

     Officer Martini frowned at Mickey. "How did you--?"

     "Broken blood vessels around your nose, a whiskey-breath masked
by wintergreen, powdered sugar on your lips, red stains on your shirt,
a walkie-talkie that went obsolete back in the 80s, and an empty spot
on your belt where everybody else is carrying a department-issue PDA."

     "See that, boys and girls?" Captain Dunne gave his son a heavy
pat on the back. "Patrolman Dunne earned that uniform with the highest
test scores of any cadet in Dillweed City history. In this Directive
37 world we're living in, we need all the talent we can get."

     "Darn nepotism," said Martini under his breath.

     "Assignments are on the board," said the Captain. "Martini, why
don't you show your new partner around?"

     "Whatever you say, sir," said Martini with an exaggerated salute.

* * *

     Roger held a screwdriver to the top of the egg while Number
Twenty-Two struck it again and again with the sledgehammer. Each
impact jarred Roger's bones and teeth, but had little impact on the
egg until, a little at a time, a thin network of cracks began to
spread across the smooth white surface.

     "We're doing it!" Roger exclaimed.

     The flashing panel of lights began to whine like a smoke alarm.

     "What's that?" Roger asked.

     "Minimal life signs," said Number Twenty-Two, redoubling her
efforts with the sledgehammer. "She's flatlining!"

     "The cracks are opening." Roger repositioned the screwdriver.
"Try hitting it over here."

     With a few more hits, the egg cracked in half and a warm mucousy
fluid gushed into the room. "Oh, gross!" Roger wiped the goo from his
shirt and jeans. "All my stuff is getting slimed!"

     A tiny body floated out with the fluid, resting prone and
unmoving on the floor by Roger's feet. As far as Roger knew,
underlings were always born as late teens or adults, but this girl
looked no older than seven or eight. "Is she...a preemie?"

     "She should be fully formed by now," said Number Twenty-Two, with
a note of worry in her voice. "Something must have delayed her

     Roger bent over the girl and lifted her head, noticing that the
long hair matted against her neck and back was the same bright red
color as Spoonstryke's. It was certainly the right DNA that his uncle
had collected. "She's not breathing, Tee-Tee. Do some CPR."

     "I don't know CPR."

     "What are you talking about? Underlings are born with all kinds
of skills programmed in. You can hack a computer network, speak seven
languages, pilot a fighter jet--but basic CPR wasn't part of that

     "I guess not," Number Twenty-Two confessed.

     "Jeez, Tee-Tee, couldn't you have taken a class at the Y or something?"

     "It's never come up before. I didn't know I was lacking the skill
until just now. Blame your uncle for that."

     The newborn underling coughed, turned her head, and spit out a
few spasms of fluid.

     "She's alive!" Roger exclaimed.

     "Get ready, sir," Number Twenty-Two directed. "For the imprinting
process to work, you've got to be the first person she sees."

     Roger bent down over the girl and rubbed the goo from her closed
eyelids. Once the imprinting process took hold, this little girl would
be absolutely loyal to him and only him. She would accept any order
unquestioningly and willingly die in the attempt to carry out his
whims. She would be another slave, Roger thought, just like Tee-Tee.
Did he really have the right to let that happen? Wouldn't it be better
for him to gouge her eyes out before she opened them, so that she
could live out her artificial lifespan in blindness and freedom?
Probably, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

     The underling's facial muscles jerked involuntarily under his
fingers. When she opened her eyes, Roger recognized the same deep
green coloring that had been so striking in Spoonstryke's eyes.

     "Hello," said the girl. "Who are you?"

     "I'm Roger. I'm your new boss."

     "Oh, okay. And who am I?"

     "Your name is Underling Number Thirty-One."

     "That's nice. And am I cute?"

     Roger gave a questioning glance over at Number Twenty-Two, who
shrugged back at him. "Pardon me?"

     "Am I cute?" the newborn underling repeated. "I feel somehow that
this is an important question to me."

     "You're very cute," Roger assured her.

     "I'm glad to hear that." Underling Number Thirty-One closed her
eyes again and rested from all the exertion of being born. "I'm cute.
I'm cute. I'm really, really cute. I'm really, really, really, really,
really, really cute..."




Find out whether that gut-wrenching feeling is justified as THE
SPORKARIFIC SPORKMAN: "Dillweed City Blues" story arc continues, only


I've tried to give each underling a unique personality, power set, and
tragic flaw, in order to make it more ironic for them to have such
generic names. For Number Thirty-One I was aiming to make her the
anti-Spoongirl and somehow ended up with Dot Warner from The
Animaniacs... Who knew?

In the original Super Seven and Preteen Patrol series we met
Underlings Number One through Number Nine. So far in this series we've
seen Number Thirteen, Number Twenty-Two, and Number Thirty-One. That
leaves 19 underlings unaccounted for.

I've named my disgruntled veteran cop after a cocktail. Was that too
heavy-handed? You be the judge!

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

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