8FOLD/ACRA: Jolt City # 19, "The Little League of Doom!" (2/3)

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 13 20:51:53 PDT 2010

THE STORY SO FAR: The Proctor Products Fighting Badgers, a preteen
softball team, finds themselves mysteriously imbued with Doc-Class
powers: flight, super-strength, speed, heat vision, invulnerability.
Originally engaged in industrial sabotage against Proctor's rival,
Cradle Industries, they now realize that their actions, even the
murder of their coach, have no consequences.

               "THE LITTLE LEAGUE OF DOOM!"

    ////  //////  /// //////  ////// /// ////// \  //
// ////  //  //  ///   //    ///    ///   //     \//# 19
//////  //////  ///// //    ////// ///   //      // PT.2

   As soon as the eight boys are airborne, Davis complains of being
hungry, which doesn't really matter, because Davis is always hungry.
But A.J. and the twins are hungry, too, and so Jack decides that
they'll hit the seven-eleven.
   "Coming down for a landing, boys," he says.
   "Here?" says Doug. "Out in the open?"
   "What do we have to be afraid of?" says Jack.  "Just go in and take
it.  Counter-guy starts any shit, we'll do him like I did Coach."  He
stands still in the air, one foot slightly raised, and lets himself
sink slowly through the air.  The other boys follow his lead (as is
always the case) with varying degrees of ineptitude (ditto).
   Fish whispers to Doug.  "I don't think he should've done that to
   "Then you tell him that."
   "No, I don't want to start anything."
   "Then I'll tell him."
   "No, I don't..."
   "Hey," says Doug, raising his voice, "hey, Jack, Fish has a problem
with what you did to Coach."
   Jack runs the flat of his hand against the grain of his red hair.
"He does, does he?  Then why didn't he stop me?"
   Fish opens his mouth to speak, closes it, opens it again.
   "Glub, glub," says Jack. "Don't just flop there glubbing.  Go on."
   "It happened pretty fast," says Fish.  "There wasn't a chance to
stop you."
   "Would you have stopped me?"
   "Wuh, wuh, well..."
   "Could you?  Could you have stopped me, Fish?"
   "Maybe.  Maybe I could.  I, I don't know if I would, though.  I
don't, I don't have all the facts... Maybe, I don't know if he was
like the coach in Hamlin."  The coach in Hamlin had touched his boys.
   "No, he wasn't," says Jack.  "Right?"
   "Yeah, Coach wasn't like that," says A.J.  The other boys murmur
their agreement; Coach was good to them, they said, but (they were
quick to add) Jack was right to do what he did, and it was pretty
cool, wasn't it, and Fish is just a pussy and a queer anyway.
   "So, those are the facts," says Jack.  "Now you have them.  Would
you have stopped me?"
   "It's kinda hard to answer a hypothetical."
   Davis snickers.  "Using big words."
   "It's not a big word," says Fish, letting his agitation show more
than usual.  "You know what it means.  You all know what it means."
   "Hypothetically," says Jack, "if you could have stopped me, would
you have?  By force?"
   "Maybe, I don't know, I'm not saying anything, I don't want to
speak out of turn..."
   "But it's your turn to speak, Fish," says Jack.  "Would you have
stopped all of us?"
   "I would've had to, wouldn't I?" says Fish.  "I just think I'd say,
maybe I'd try to ask if it was the right thing to do.  You know, if it
was right or wrong to do that to Coach."
   "To kill him.  To rip his head off."
   "Yeah, I don't know if that was right or wrong, in retrospect."
   "Well, of course it's wrong, Fish," says Jack.  "I know it's
wrong.  I'm not stupid.  I know right and wrong.  And I don't think
I'm, you know, where I think I'm above it now that I have powers.  I
know it's wrong; I just don't care.  Which-- that hasn't changed,
really.  That's exactly the way it was before, come to think of it.
All that's changed is that I can get away with it.  Scott-fucking-
   "Well, you don't know that, you never know," says Fish.  "Maybe we
shouldn't do too many really bad things, just in case."
   "Who's going to stop us?  Green Knight doesn't have any powers,
Darkhorse is still a cripple.  Other heroes, none of them can even
make a dent in us, except maybe for the cat, and there's eight of us,
and one of him.  So who's going to stop us?  You, Fish?  Would you
take us all on?  Could you take us all on?"
   "...No, I couldn't."
   "Then why don't you shut your fucking mouth already and get us some
   "I'm not going to stop you guys," says Fish, "but I won't be party
to it."
   "Say that again," says Jack.  "You say that again."
   "I mean, I'm not going to stop you, you guys do what you want, we
can do whatever we want, like you said, and we'll get away with it
Scott, Scott-effing-free, whatever we want, and what I want to do is
to not steal the food."
   "See, here's the thing, Fish," says Jack.  "Everybody liked Coach,
and everybody was cool with me tearing his head off, right?  That's
been established.  So hold onto that.  On the other hand, most of us
hate you, on account of you're a fucking Jew faggot.  If no one
stopped me with Coach... well, I think you know where this ends.  It
ends with you going into the store and coming out with our food."
   "I just, I, I don't know why you need me to do it, why you want me
to do it," says Fish.  "What does it prove?"
   Jack takes a step towards him.
   Fish walks backwards, his shoes pedaling against the pavement.
"I'm going, okay?  I'm going to do it.  Jesus.  I just was wondering
what it's for, what's the point of making me do it?"
   Jack's voice goes high-pitched and nasal: "What is it for, what's
the point of making me do it?"
   The others cackle, one obnoxious, caustic laugh coming from seven
bodies, one organism, amorphous, and yet distinct and separate.
   "Now get moving," says Jack, and Fish gets moving, and the boys
cackle once more.  And something burns inside Fish, something that
burns every time they laugh at him and every time Jack puts him in his
place.  But it's more than pain and anger; it doesn't burn because it
hurts, it burns because he knows that there's nothing he can do about
it.  And  Fish knows what the point was, what it proved, what it was
for, and he knew all along: to show him that nothing had changed, that
Jack was Jack and Fish was Fish and always were and always would be,
forever and ever, amen.
   But, no, thinks Fish, even as he enters the store, this doesn't
really prove anything.  Because something has changed.  Coach is dead,
and the old Jack never did anything like that.  And if Jack or the
others tried to do anything really bad like that again, Fish would
stand up to them.  He only caved in this time because it didn't
matter, it's just stealing some food, but if they were doing anything
really bad, he'd stop them, he will, he can and he will.
   "Hi, Fish."  It's Allen, the seven-eleven guy.  Once when Coach
bought everyone fresh corn-dogs from the rolling oven, Allen checked
the package to see if there was any pork in it.  There was, so he
opened a package of the turkey corn-dogs just to cook one for Fish.
   "Hi," says Fish.
   "You're out awfully late."
   "Yes, I am," says Fish.  "Allen, I think you should leave."
   "You and me both, brutha," says Allen.  (He watches a lot of
wrestling.)  "I got two more hours in my shift, then, lucky me, I get
to study for my test in the morning."
   "No, I really think you should go, I don't think it's very safe."
   "What, are the guys with you?" says Allen.  "Are they giving you
shit?"  Allen starts for the door.
   "No!" says Fish.  "Allen, Allen, don't go out there!"
   "I'm just going to talk to them," says Allen.
   "No, no, look!" says Fish.  He strains his eyeballs until they
catch a bag of chips on fire.
   "What did...?"
   The flames leap from one bag to another.
   "Holy shit," says Allen.
   "Get out," says Fish, rising into the air, "get out the back door,
now!  I mean it!"
   Allen runs out the back just as the sprinklers start dousing the
flames.  Fish lets them run their course.  He takes some plastic bags
from behind the counter and starts filling them up with snacks.  It
only takes about a minute working at super-speed.
   When he comes out of the store, he sees that Davis has pulled down
his pants just enough to bare his ass.  Davis must be preparing to
moon passing cars; Fish hears one coming up the block.
   "Okay, get ready," say A.J.  "In three, two, one..."
   The car comes into view, and Davis releases a terrific fart.  The
force of his wind sends the car swerving up onto the sidewalk.  The
driver quickly gets himself back on the road, speeding up.
   The boys laugh again before turning to Fish and descending upon
their food.  Davis pulls up his pants and immediately digs into the
roller-oven burritos, one in each fist, taking a bite from each one in
   "Hey, hey," says one of the twins, "here comes two more.  Davis!
   Davis shoves the remainders of his two burritos into his mouth and
flies over to the other end of the parking lot.  Upon landing, he
immediately bares his ass in preparation.
   "Oh, one of them turned!" says the twin.  "But here comes the other
   A.J. is already there, counting: "Five, four, three, two, and...
   Davis farts.  It hits the passenger side of the car dead-on,
flipping the car up onto its driver's side with a loud crunch before
twisting again, the roof of the car smacking hard against the
pavement.  The upside-down car spins out, grinding and sparking,
before coming to a stop.
   "Fuck yeah!" says A.J.  "That was a good one!"
   Fish starts for the car.
   "What're you doing?" says Jack.
   "We can do whatever we want, right?" says Fish.  "I'm just doing
what I want to do."
   "Okay," says Jack.
   Fish arrives at the wreck.  The woman driving the car is still
alive, but she looks like she's in bad shape, blood and glass mingling
in her hair.
   "Cover your face," says Fish, and she does, and he breaks the
cracked windshield.
   "Undo your seatbelt," says Fish, and she does.
   "Give me your arms," says Fish, and she does, and he starts to pull
her out.  She screams; he's pulled one of her arms out of its socket.
Doesn't know his own strength.
   "I'm sorry," says Fish, and he makes a conscious effort to be more
careful, more gentle.  He pulls her out onto the pavement.  "What's
your name, miss?"
   "Alice, if you have a phone, I can call nine-one-one for help."
   "In my purse," she says weakly.
   Fish heads back to the car, finds her purse, fishes out the phone.
He turns back to her, and sees that Jack and the others have
surrounded her.  Maybe now, they'll see what they're doing, and
they'll stop.  He dials nine-one-one.
   "She's kinda hot," says A.J.  "Makes me want to go into the seven-
eleven and get one of the porno magazines."
   "Who's going to stop us?" says Doug.  " If we want something, we
can just take it."
   "Then," says Jack, "we don't really need magazines."  He grabs the
woman by her hair.  "Who wants to fuck her first?"
   "No, no," says Fish.  He takes the phone away from his ear.  "You
can't do this."
   "Oh," says Jack, "this little song and dance again, huh?"
   "This is different than the store," says Fish.  "This is different
than food.  Let her go."
   "It's not any different if you don't stand up to me," says Jack.
"Are you standing up to me this time?"
   "If you don't let her go, I will."
   Jack rips off her blouse.  "Are you standing up to me?"
   "Let her go.  It's not just wrong.  We're too strong.  It's going
to hurt her.  You have to know that.  It'll rip her apart.  You can't
want that."
   "Are you standing up to me?"
   "I, I, I am.  I am."  Fish takes a deep breath, balls up his fists,
and takes a step forward.
   "Kill him," says Jack.
   The other seven swarm him instantly, punching and kicking and
clawing at him, and laughing, all of them laughing.  He tastes blood
in his mouth, and he hurts for the first time in two days.  And he
knows that they are going to kill him, that he's going to die, and
then they're going to rape her anyway.  They'll both be dead.
   "No, no, stop, stop, please stop," says Fish.  "I'm sorry, please.
Please.  Do whatever you want to her, I don't care, but please don't
kill me."
   They pull back and look to Jack.
   He nods.  "We got better things to do."
   The woman locks eyes with Fish.
   "I'm sorry, Alice," he says.  "I'm so sorry."

   Martin brings his glove to his mask, pressing his fist to his
mouth.  "Okay, cover her up."
   The paramedics hesitate; the police nod to them, and they seal up
both of Alice's bags.
   Martin taps on his comm-link.  "Handler?"
   "Is it them?" says Dani.
   "It must be," says Martin.
   "Any sign of them?"
   "There was some kind of fire in the store, your guys are looking
into it now.  But there's no..."
   There's an explosion in the distance.
   "What was that?" says Dani.
   "I'm not sure.  Maybe six blocks from here.  Could be them.  I'm
going to check it out."
   "Be careful."
   "I will."  Martin hops onto his unicycle.  He turns to Derek.  "You
stay here."
   The cops barely hide their snicker.
   "There's nothing for me to--"
   "Stay here, I mean it," says Martin. "If I need you, I'll call
you.  Dani, you still there?"
   "I am."
   "Talk to Darkhorse.  Tell him to make his calls."
   "He's making them.  So am I.  Both coming up empty."
   "Start over, call everyone, anyone, the big guns."
   "He called the big guns first.  He doesn't..."
   "Call them again," says Martin.  "Tell them that it's an
emergency." Another explosion.  He turns to Derek.  "Call Dr. Fay, see
if she can get us anything, anything at all, on the artifact.  That's
what you can do, okay?"
   And he speeds off.

   Martin's lived in Jolt City his entire life; he's spent most of the
last thirty years patrolling its streets and rooftops.  He knows the
city's layout like he knows his own body.  He knows what he'll find
six blocks east from that seven-eleven.
   The gas station is a ball of black and orange.  The smell of the
gasoline permeates the area, and the dense black clouds slowly spool
out from the center.
   Martin starts to feel a little dizzy from the smoke.  He dismounts
his unicycle and momentarily rests against a building.  The smell's
not so bad here, but the heat is just as intense; his suit becomes
stifling.  He calls Dani.
   "It's the gas station," says Martin.
   "We know," says Dani.  "Someone called, fire trucks are on their
   "They better make it a priority.  Don't want it to spread."
   "Is anyone there?"
   "No sign of them," says Martin.  "If anyone was inside when it
happened, they couldn't have survived.  Anything from Darkhorse?"
   "Patch me through to him," says Martin.
   She does.  "GK?"
   "Darkhorse, I need some help here, man."
   "I'm trying," says Darkhorse.  "Believe me, it's pissing me off,
too.  But no one wants to tango with a bunch of maniac Doc-classers."
   Martin can hear the fire sirens now.  He starts to get up.  "Then
let's go outside our circle.  A while back, you called in a very
special favour for me."
   "I'll see if I can get ahold of him."
   "Thank you."  He's getting another call.
   "Hey, hero," says Dani.  "Someone's ripping apart the buildings on
Alburst and Grady."
   "On my way."

   He turns onto Alburst.  Grady's four blocks down.  He can see the
dust from here.
   He gets a call.  It's Derek.
   "I got Dr. Fay for you."
   "Patch her through.  Dr. Fay?"
   "The one and only."
   "Tell me some good news."
   "Afraid I can't," says Dr. Fay.  "Unfortunately, there's no Rosetta
Stone for alien artifacts.  What we have been able to figure out is
that two of the words are very similar, 'aflex' and 'afelex'.  I think
they're related, and it might be..."
   "Hold on," says Martin.  "Getting another call.  Hello?"
   It's on Darkhorse's frequency.  But it isn't Darkhorse.  "This the
Green Knight?"
   "It is," says Martin.  "Mr. President."
   "Darkhorse briefed me the situation," says Bush.  "Details are a
little fuzzy though."
   "Still fuzzy," says Martin.
   "But they're Doc-classers?"
   "I'm certain of it," says Martin.  "The destruction has been
immense already.  And I don't know how many deaths they've caused, or
how many they will cause.  I'm in over my head here, sir.  I need as
much help as you can give me.  Maybe the military has some
experimental tech, maybe the National Guard..."
   "I'll get right back to you," says Bush.  "Hold on a sec."
   Martin's ear is filled with a particularly grating muzak version of
Hail to the Chief.  It's soon interrupted with a beeping noise: call
waiting.  He picks up the call.
   "Dr. Fay again.  Like I was saying, these two words, I think one's
a derivative of another.  And there's another couple words that are
repeated verbatim, it's like a chiasm."
   "I don't need to know what the words are," snips Martin.  He
dismounts his unicycle; he's only half a block away.  The dust is so
thick from the wreckage that he can't see a thing.  "I need to know
what you think they mean."
   "I thought that aflex meant the artifact, and afelex meant the Doc-
classers, so that the power comes from the aflex and the power can be
taken away by the aflex.  But I'm at the hospital now with the little
boy, and try as I might, I can't get the artifact to do much of
   "Is there a point to this?" says Martin.
   "Just that I don't think it's the artifact," says Dr. Fay.  "I
think the artifact is a different word altogether, and that the thing
that can take their powers away, the aflex, is something related to
the afelex, to them.  Afelex comes from the aflex, so if we can figure
out what the aflex is, we..."
   "So, no, there isn't a point," says Martin.  "I'm getting another
call.  Just call me back when you actually have something for me.
   "Green Knight, are you there?"
   "Yes, Mr. President."  Martin's made his way into the dust.  He can
make out shapes now, figures.  They seem awfully short.
   "I'm sorry, son," says Bush, "but there's not much we can do for
you.  And that sounds pretty heartless, but I'm going to tell you
   He can hear their voices.  High-pitched, punctuated by peals of
awful laughter.
   "If we sent the National Guard," says Bush, "there's a chance for a
great deal of collateral damage, a loss of lives."
   Two of them are floating in the air, playing hot potato with
someone's head.
   "And there's the possibility that aggression against these
individuals might propel them to target other American cities.  I have
to think about the entire country."
   Now Martin sees one of their faces, and sees that they're children.
   "Please understand, I didn't make this decision lightly," says
Bush.  "Are you still there?"
   Martin clicks the comm-link off.  He recognizes the two boys, Fish
and Doug, who visited Ralph in the hospital.
   He crouches down behind a piece of rubble, scans the area, counts
eight boys in all.  Ralph would make nine.
   He gets Dani on his comm-link.  "It's the little league team," he
   "They have hostages?"
   "No," says Martin.  "They don't have hostages, they're Ralph's
little league team."
   "They're kids?" says Dani.  "Kids did, did all this...?  There's
been at least twenty deaths, that poor woman that they... and they're
what, twelve?"
   "Twelve or thirteen, maybe eleven," says Martin.  "Uh, you haven't
had any luck...?"
   "No," says Dani.  "No one is coming."
   "I hung up on the President," says Martin, half-smiling.  "He's not
coming either."
   "So, I guess we're screwed."
   "I guess so," says Martin.  "I love you, Dani."
   "Hero, you, you're on the comm-line," says Dani.
   "I didn't forget," says Martin.  He picks a target: Fish looks
distracted.  "I love you.  Tell Dr. Fay I'm sorry I yelled at her.
And you'll have to give Blue Boxer the speech for me.  Like.  Like we
talked about."
   "No," says Dani.  "No, what are you doing?  You can't..."
   "Someone has to stand up to it," says Martin.  "And no one else is
going to.  That's why people need people like me, to try and show them
that they can."
 "But they're going to kill you!" says Dani.  "There's no way you can
stop them.  It's not physically possible!"  She's crying now.
"Martin, please.  Please.  Martin, please.  Please don't do this."
   "You're on the comm-line, remember?" says Martin.  "Ixnay on the
first name.  I wish I could grow old with you, Dani.  I really wish I
could.  But this is... this is why I'm here.  This is why there are
people like me.  Even when it's hopeless.  Especially when it's
hopeless.  I need you to stop crying now, Dani.  And I need you to
wish me luck."
   "Good luck, hero."
   "Good-bye, Dani," says Martin.  He clicks off the comm-link, and
rushes into the jaws of hell.

   The Green Knight moves with speed and grace through the dust and
rubble, his hands open and outstretched like talons as he leaps
towards the boy with the powers of a god.  The powers of the god, and
he is but one of eight, a pantheon against a mere mortal.  Martin Rock
possesses no special powers or skills, only the acrobatic grace and
fighting spirit that he's trained himself to have.  At his peak, he
had complete control over every muscle and sinew; at his peak, Martin
Rock was perfection, human perfection, complete and awe-inspiring.
But that was long ago.  Now Martin's knees ache when he touches the
ground; his back complains when he attempts a somersault.  Even at his
peak, Martin was no match for even Fish.
   He doesn't want to die.  He wanted to retire, wanted to walk away
from it before he was too old and too run-down.  He doesn't know what
he would've done with the rest of his life if he had retired, but he
had looked forward to figuring it out, figuring it out with Dani.  Ah,
there's the choice, there's the truth at last and finally: Dani and
not Pam.  He wishes he had made the choice before.  Maybe he had, in
his heart; maybe she knew all along.  But intentions count for shit.
Apologies are shit, regrets are shit: comes a time of reckoning, when
men stand up and die and when the weak sit down and nod and follow
orders and watch and live.
   The only thing that matters is what you do, when it's time for you
to do it.  No matter the odds, no matter the consequences: a man must
stand up.

   Reacting more in terror than in aggression, Fish's hands fling out
to protect his face.  His hand snaps out and grabs the Green Knight's
wrist, crushing all the bones in his grasp to powder and dust.
   The Green Knight screams.
   Fish panics and tosses the Green Knight away from him.  Martin
sails through the air, still screaming in agony, and all too soon he
crashes to the ground in a heap.
   He begins to whimper, and cry; he tries not to, tries to be manly,
dignified in martyrdom.  But the pain is too much, and his world goes

   A.J. looks to Jack.  "Can I do it?  Can I finish him?"
   "If you want," says Jack.
   "Wait," says Fish.
   Jack laughs through closed lips.  "Again with this?"
   "I won't stop you," says Fish.  "But I like him."
   "I, uh," begins Doug.  "I like him too.  He talked to me and Fish
at the hospital.  He's the one that brought Ralph in."
   "He can't hurt us," offers Davis.
   "Yeah, let's leave him," says Jack.  "This time.  If he's stupid
enough to try anything again, we'll take care of him.  Come on.  I'm
getting bored.  Let's find something to do."

Ten minutes later.
   "Here he is!" calls one of the paramedics.
   "How is he?" says Dani.
   "He's passed out.  Lost a lot of blood.  Left arm is in pretty bad

The hospital.
   A nurse cuts a hole in the spandex surrounding the Green Knight's
nose, so that they can administer an anesthetic without compromising
his secret identity.  The fabric has been cut away from his left hand
and wrist.
   "There's no way to save his hand," says the surgeon.  "We're going
to have to amputate."
   Dani braces herself against the observation window.
   "You might want to notify the family," he says, "if you have that
information.  We think he'll survive, but there's always a risk with
major surgeries."
   "I'll let them know," says Dani.

She calls Pam and tells her what has happened.  There's a long silence
on the other end.
   "Pam, are you there?"
   "Yeah, I'm here," says Pam.  "What a stupid fucking thing for him
to do."
   "I wish he hadn't done it," agrees Dani, "but maybe-- I thought it
was brave."
   "He probably thought that too," says Pam.  "But it's still stupid,
and he's too smart to be doing something that stupid.  I'll be over in
a bit."
   "Oh, I don't think you should come," says Dani.
   "I don't want to be, well, that is, I don't want this to come
across like it's personal here, but we got to keep his secret identity
in mind.  I mean, I have a public relationship with the Green Knight,
it's my job, while everyone's going to be wondering what you're doing
   "His secret identity."
   "You think it's going to matter when he comes out of there?" says
Pam.  "Fucking use your brain, Dani.  He's down a fucking hand.  He
has no career now.  And like no one's going to notice when Martin also
doesn't have a hand?  I mean, think!  It's over.  And you're worried
about his secret identity?  Dani?  Are you there?  Dani?"
   Dani bites her hand deep.
   "Oh, Dani, I don't need this, don't cry now, I didn't mean it to be
mean.  But if you think I'm going to sit here and wait for you to call
me and tell me it's okay, you're out of your fucking gourd.  I'm
coming down to that God-damn hospital."

   Pam sits next to Dani in the lobby; being that they're housemates,
she agrees to the pretext that she's there to give Dani moral
support.  Also, gumbo.
   "Not hungry," says Dani.
   "Need to eat," says Pam.  "Whole city's falling apart and dying,
least we can do is have a decent meal."
   Dani relents and takes a bowl.
   One of the hospital attendants approaches them.  "Actually, there's
no eating in this area," she says.  "We do have a cafeteria in..."
   Pam stares at her.
   The woman stops, throws up her hands, and walks away.
   "That's what I thought," Pam calls after her.  She turns to Dani.
"Where's Junior?" (Derek.)
   "He's been helping the rescue workers, police and fire.  Mostly."
   "Mostly helping them, yeah.  He's  been kinda getting in the way a
bit, just... just doing like he do."
   "Do you think Senior made a mistake picking him?"
   Dani blows on her spoonful of gumbo.  "Lord knows he's made them
   "Speak of the devil," says Pam.  She points to the other end of the
room, where the Blue Boxer has just made his entrance.  The heavy
padding usually found around his hands has disappeared and been
replaced by what looks to be reams of bandages.
   He approaches Dani and Pam sheepishly.  "I, uh, I burned my hands."
   "How bad is it?" says Pam.
   "Second degree," says Derek, wincing.  "They, um, I know this is a
bad time, but it's really painful, and they won't give me any
painkillers unless you give the okay."  (Painkiller addiction being up
in recent years among four-colours.)  "I want to get back out there,
to, to help."
   "Alright, I'll get right on it," says Dani; she's on her way.
   Pam offers him Dani's leftover bowl of gumbo.
   "Couldn't hold it, or the spoon," says Derek.  He raises his voice
just enough to be overheard without resorting to a stage whisper.
"Thank you anyway, Miss... I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't know your
   Pam smiles faintly at the secret identity game.  "Pamela Bierce.
I'm Lt. Handler's roommate."
   "Enchante," says Derek.  "Pamela."
   "So," says Pam, lowering her own voice.
   Derek follows suit.  "So."
   "What do you think of what he did?"
   "I don't know," says Derek.
   "I think it was stupid as shit," says Pam.
   "Probably," says Derek.  "I wouldn't have done it, I don't think.
But if we just stand by and let things happen, what are we, why, why
are we here?  Even if there's nothing you can do about it, you still
got to do something.  But, on the other hand, you're not really doing
anything if it doesn't change anything.  I like the idea of standing
up for a, for a principle, taking a stand against... evil, if there is
such a thing.  Standing up against it, even when it's almost certain
to kill you, that counts for something.  Like the guy with the tanks
in Tiananmen Square."
   "Difference is, these tanks will run you clear over without a
second thought," says Pam.  "And I understand, you guys put your lives
on the line all the time, that's what you do.  But you do it against
guys who are more-or-less in your bracket.  You're still just normal
guys, you don't have any powers, you're not Shazam."
   "Actually, there is no Shazam," says Derek.  "Well, there is, but
the character that a lot of people think is called Shazam isn't called
Shazam, he's... he's Captain... oh."  His face becomes positively
euphoric.  "And then he gave... that's it.  Where's Dr. Fay?"
   "I don't even know who Dr. Fay is," says Pam, "I'm just Lt.
Handler's roommate."
   "Here are your pills," says Dani.
   He holds the bottle between the tip of his thumb and index finger.
"Where's Dr. Fay?  Is she still here?"
   "I think so," says Dani.  "She and her team were holed up in the
room next to the boy's."
   Derek takes off running.

   He bursts into the room; Dr. Fay and her current AATS group have
surrounded the artifact with pages upon pages of scribbled notes and
   "Captain Marvel!" he exclaims.
   "Published by Fawcett Comics, created by C.C. Beck," says Dr. Fay.
"Later bought out by DC after their copyright infringement lawsuit
bankrupted the company."
   "No," says Derek.
   "Um, published by Marvel Comics," begins Dr. Fay.
   "I mean, yes, that Captain Marvel, but no, I'm not here to talk
comics," says Derek.  "I mean, he's Captain Marvel!"  He points to the
adjacent room; now he swings his hands out towards the city.  "They're
Captain Marvel Jr.!  His radiation went down."
   "Yes!  Of course!" says Dr. Fay.  "It dropped..."  She snaps her
fingers twice.
   One of her students scans his notebook.  "It dropped almost eighty-
nine percent."
   "Eleven percent of the radiation left, and it's held steady," says
Dr. Fay.  She nods to Derek.  "Eleven percent of the power."
   "It was divided by nine," says Derek.  "And there are eight of
them, nine including him.  He's Captain Marvel."
   "He's aflex," says Dr. Fay.  "They're afelex.  He's the source of
the power."
   The linguists in her group throw down their pencils with a groan;
the rest of the group looks confused.
   Derek: "When it's just Captain Marvel, he has all the power, when
it's him and Captain Marvel Jr., they each have half of his power,
when his sister shows up, they each get a third, right on down the
line.  He had a hundred percent to start, now they all have eleven."
   "What aflex gave, aflex can take away," says Dr. Fay, scooping up
the artifact.  "You all stay here.  You've all failed."
   "This wasn't even an assignment!"
   "Well, you all failed at life.  I can't believe one of you didn't
come up with that.  You, short blue and handsome, should be in my AATS
   Derek smirks.

En route to Ralph's room.
   "Frankly," says Dr. Fay, "I'm surprised I didn't come up with
   "I'm assuming the power doesn't travel through contact or
proximity," says Derek, "because only two of the boys visited Ralph."
   "Maybe it spread to the two boys through proximity, and they gave
it to the others," says Dr. Fay.
   Derek stares at her.
   "See, I gave you an opening there, gave you a chance to look
smart," says Dr. Fay.  "You were supposed to say, but no one else who
did visit him got any powers."
   "That's right," says Derek.  "They were all in hazmat suits, and
Martin and Dani didn't get any powers.  I assume it's something verbal
or psychic or... or something."
   "So, all we got to do is get him to take it all back, and if his
radiation spikes, we know it worked," says Dr. Fay.
   "You're giving me another opening, aren't you?"
   "I am," says Dr. Fay, putting her hand on the knob.  "After we've
seen what eleven percent can do, why would we want anyone to have a
hundred?  Though I suppose he seems like a nice enough kid.  No,
Boxer, I have a pretty good idea of what you want to do, and if it's
as brilliant as I think it is, I may have to kiss you.  Just so you're

   "Hi, Ralph.  I'm the Blue Boxer.  Do you remember me?"
   "No.  Sorry."
   "I was with the Green Knight when your, your little accident
   "Can I go home soon?" says Ralph.  "I don't like it here.  I hear a
lot of stuff going on outside, a lot of crashing noises and
explosions, and it's a little scary."
   "I heard you had a couple visitors," says Derek.  "From your
baseball team."
  "Yeah, Fish and Doug came to see me," says Ralph.
   "Did you give them anything?"
   "No," says Ralph.
   "Did you say anything to them?"
   "Well, yeah, they're my friends," says Ralph.
   "Well, what did you talk about?" says Derek.
   "Why are you asking me about Fish and Doug so much?" says Ralph.
"Are they okay?  I didn't make them sick, did I?"
   "No," says Derek gently.  "You didn't make anyone sick.  They had
their suits on, right?  Just like Dani... uh, Lt. Handler, and the
Green..." Hold on.  Before.  Did he say? Martin and Dani. Oh shit.  Oh
shit.  He did.  He... "Sorry.  Um.  I.  No, you didn't make anyone
sick, but they're... they're fine, I just want to know, did you, I
dunno, did you wish them luck or anything?"
   "I think so."
   "You know, I've got some stuff going on," says Derek.  "And I was
wondering if you could wish me luck."
   "Sure, good luck."
   Dr. Fay consults her radiation meter.  She waits a good ten seconds
before shaking her head.
   "Was there anything else that you said to them, something that
might've been unusual at all?"
   "You can tell me if they're sick," says Ralph.  "I can take it
   "Take what back?" says Derek.  "What did you say?"
   "Well, I just, because I don't feel sick," says Ralph.  "I haven't
felt sick at all, which is the craziest thing, because everyone acts
like I'm sick.  I mean, I really feel just great, better than I ever
have in my whole life, and I know that's not a whole lot of life to be
my whole life, but I'm working with what I got here."
   "What did you say to them, Ralph?"
   "I didn't mean to get them sick," he says.  "I think I jinxed
   "Lucky for you," interjects Dr. Fay, "I happen to have a doctorate
in jinxology.  I'll tell you if you jinxed them or not.  I am an
   "I said that, if I was sick, feeling as great as I did, I hoped
they'd get what I had."
   "Just the two of them?" says Derek.
   "No, the whole team," says Ralph.  "So they could win the game."
   "Well, let me be straight with you, Ralph," says Derek.  "You
didn't get them sick.  But you did do something, which is you made
them feel just as great as you feel.  But, you're a good kid.  You
have to know that that's not very sportsmanlike, is it?"
   "Maybe I should wish it on the other team, too?"
   There's an explosion in the distance, and then another, and
another.  These are the stakes, Derek.  Don't fuck it up.  "No.  I
think, if I were you, if I was in your spot, I'd look at the big
picture.  Don't you want everyone to feel as great as you feel?  Not
just your friends or your family, not just people you know or you've
heard of.  Heck, not just people, but everybody.
   "Everybody in the world.  Every living thing, every human, every
animal, even every plant, every speck of bacteria.  Every molecule in
the world, just, just buzzing, buzzing with all the feeling-great-
ness, all the happiness and the peace that you gave them?
   "Don't you want to just give that to everybody, and never ever take
it back?  Wouldn't that just be wonderful, Ralph, if everyone, every
single thing, had what you have?  That's what I would do, I'd give it
to the whole world."
   "Or maybe the whole universe," says Ralph, excitedly.
   "That's the spirit," says Dr. Fay.  "All the universes, all the
pocket earths, every atom across the cosmos.  Why don't you do that,
Ralph?  Why don't you say those words, right now?"

   A runner in Athens clutches her chest for breath and finds a second

   A heart in ventricular fibrillation suddenly finds itself keeping

   Across the globe, a certain species of flower blooms gorgeously in
a matter of seconds.

   Many men experience the best orgasm in their entire lives; several
women, their only.

   A firefighter in Jolt City finds the extra ounce of strength he
needs to pull a trapped child from the edge of a collapsed floor.  The
child, the extra ounce of courage he needs to not let go.

   Fire stops leaping from Jack's eyes.  A steel girder suddenly
becomes too heavy for Davis, and he lets it drop without injury.
Fish, five meters above the ground, is not as lucky.  An hour later,
he will be in a hospital bed, paralyzed for life, and the other seven
in police custody.

   And the boy in the hospital bed drifts to sleep.
   The burns on Derek's hands are still incredibly painful, but less
so.  He turns to Dr. Fay, who whips out her radiation meter.
   "So small, I can't even detect it," says Dr. Fay.  "Looks like I
owe you that kiss sometime."
   "Whenever you're ready," says Derek.
   Dr. Fay's jaw drops into an ear-to-ear smile.  "Oh, you're a lot
more fun than your mentor."


More information about the racc mailing list