It’s important to remember that a guy like me doesn’t try to do good deeds all that often for a very good reason: the world sucks. It’s full of bastard-coated bastards in bastard filling. Case in point, for all I did trying to make sure he wasn’t mind-controlled by aliens, Man-Opener decided to attack Venus.
See, I’d decided to give it a day or two after the bar incident before officially contacting Man-Opener as Banshee. In the meantime, Man-Opener attacked Master Academy East’s Dorms. Well, not much of an attack. More of a raid, really. He and some henchmen showed up, blew open the side of a building, and got into a short battle with the students. Most of the henchmen were captured in the process, so I’ve got Carl posting bail to get them onboard Double Cross.
Man-Opener carved his way through the building for a time, then left behind a bomb of the sort with a really obvious detonator. Asshole didn’t even make the timer tricky in any way. It actually gave them time to work out some shield to carry it and contain most of the blast when they got it further from the city. Since there’s no way he could know about my relationship with Wildflower without the assistance of a suicidal informant, I suspect he did it to throw down a guantlet in front of Venus and try to prove himself my better.
That won’t work out for him. One way or another. The bomb thing was just stupid, though. A timer that actually reflects when something’s going to blow up. Ha!
So that’s what my attempt to help the world has wrought.
And, dammit, I couldn’t think of any other leader types besides he and I. The same reputation that puts me at odds with him is why I hate his ass, and the person it’s attached to. Come to think of it, Oligarch was sort of the same way. He didn’t have power as an inventor or a fighter, but as a leader and strategist. Plus, working for the aliens, but that’s something I didn’t know at the time. But still, that sort of metaphorical magnetism is a bit rare. Maybe people can get a gang going, but it’s harder to herd such a huge group of people. I’m only pulling it off in the corporation by dumping pretty much all my responsibilities on other people.
Nah, Man-Opener and I only have any authority because of being asskickers, and that’s an unstable system. Nobody wins all the time, in every way. Every system can be beat, and any living thing can be killed.
Which is a really long way of saying that I didn’t have a clue what to do. No one necessarily to talk to. Alerting a large group would mean having to check the entire group. Not too many people would willingly let me cut their neck open, even if they don’t happen to have something there they don’t want me to see. And Hephaestus, the organization that hired Man-Opener and others to take me on isn’t exactly taking my calls today. Same problem as telling a bunch of villains there, except they have even more reason to hate me after I took some back pay out of them by force.
I mean, I wanted to get involved, beat up Man-Opener, and maybe blow up the Master Academy dorms myself. The dorm thing isn’t only about showing up Man-Opener, either. The wallpaper was terrible. But, seriously, I do bombs better.
So I didn’t really have any of them to talk to. I’ve gotten to the point where my friendliest interactions are with heroes. They may talk about beating me up, but that’s better than what the bar guys tried. That realization is why I didn’t give Venus the satisfaction of calling her to see if she might want some help. Nope. Not doing that.
I’m also ok with Wildflower, but she’s having to stay at my place now after the dorms were damaged, and I don’t want to spend all my time with her. Even if I could parley a lot of that time into vigorous physical exercise. Like some sort of sport. Softball, maybe?
Instead, I went back to examining the sample of the alien communication pod I moved to my office, trying to figure it out. I doublechecked it, then went and started checking the grey matter. Brain matter can have signals going around it, but then it needs nerves running to some sort of other organ which communicates somehow. Maybe there’s another organ it connects to?
I just didn’t get it, and spent a good long while thinking the problem over. In fact, I spent so long turning this thing over and treating it like my own personal stress ball, that eventually a couple of people came in to try and give me something to do. Prince Pomerania, the heavyweight champion of marketing, was trying to insist that special Easter cups designs I approved would be seen as a bad move for our coffee division. Crash, my oft put-upon assistant, tried to stop him, probably trying to prevent conflict and lessen the chance of injury or death.
It must have been important to Prince Pom, though. He stormed in despite the warnings and slammed the cup on my desk. It was even full! Past-tense, that is. Then the hot coffee splashed all over me. Setting down the organ, I glared up at the frozen Prince Pom and Crash, then turned my gaze to Moai, who stood in a corner of the office watching his soap operas on a tablet. “Moai, I’m going to need a team of shovelers and a flock of trained fightin’ aardvarks. It’s Varking Fight Time!”
I stood up for an epic pose, which spilled more of the coffee down onto the alien pod. In a flash, a jumble of weird shit hit my brain. Not words, but a concept. Something like “Return to sender.”
Gave me a hell of a headache, but it let Crash, Pom, and a few others screaming and clutching their heads. Geez, it wasn’t that bad. But then, that clued me in that we were talkin’ telepathy here. It’s like wifi for the brain, but you have to have a compatible adapter, of sorts. Because of my species’ brains being a bit different from humans, and then the added cybernetic hardware in there, it takes an incredibly strong telepath to even sneak a peek.
Knowing that, I placed a call to Wonder, or whatever our chemist’s name was, to bring some primo pain medication to the main office, along with anything leftover from the tests to make a telepathy-resistance drug. Then I had Moai shove Pom and Crash out of the office so I wouldn’t have to hear their screams when I poured more coffee on the organ.
Gah, fucking headpounder! But, and this is important, it gave me some insight into the mechanism of alien communication. It’s telepathy after all! Or at least it’s telepathy this time, using an implanted or grown organ that activates when the subject has access to a chemical in coffee.
The first thing I jumped to was caffeine. It’s one of the most widely-used drugs on earth, and I hear they pretty much live on the stuff at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Plus, I had both root beer and an ice-cold, refreshing drink by a company that has not yet paid me for sponsorship readily available in my office fridge for testing. Ah, undeclared drink, who would I kill without you? First, I tried the root beer. Too much vanilla, but I liked it for the touch of honey. The alien person pod didn’t care for it. To the great pain of many people in an as-yet undetermined radius around my office, that one worked. And I probably would have been a little concerned about the continued torture of their minds, but I had this stabbing headache for, like, ten seconds, and their drawn-out screaming didn’t help me feel any better.
Now, I love pained screams as much as the next person, but it does eventually get old. They didn’t even work right when I tried to play a tune. They were completely uncoachable, even when I stepped on Pom’s foot. Just when it had gotten mildly inconvenient, the elevator to my office’s floor dinged and a mist seeped through the closed door. It flowed out as soon as the door opened, as if it had been packed in tight. From the mist’s midst stepped Wonder, smoking something out of what used to be a minigun. The barrels spun, pouring the smoke from whatever he had lit inside, though my imagination filled in the blanks it was likely firing.
I guess that made him a big damn hero. At the very least, everyone stopped their screaming and took a late lunch while I sat back in my office and pondered the mysteries of the cosmos over a can of Vienna sausages. Ok, two cans. And a bag of Cheetoes. I still had some Christmas Candy in a drawer, too.
But aside from that, I just tried to think about this clever little thing the aliens used. An organ that used inputs of caffeine, albeit smaller amounts than what I spilled on them, in order to create telepathy. It must have been better-aimed while alive. Really easy to miss-.
I ran back the conversation where Captain Lightning talked about how it was found, and paused at the part where the medical examiner knew it was a communication device. Huh. They just somehow knew before I ever cut into it.
I called up Captain Lightning. “Yo, Captain Hooker, I gotta know something.”
He cussed quietly. “You are the last person I want to talk to right now unless you know how to get rid DMHP.”
Oh yeah, that stuff. I remember looking that stuff up back when I attacked the city of Memphis with BZ. It’s kind of like a version of BZ that makes people sit around and get the munchies. “Can’t help you if you’ve done a bunch of it, but you’ll ride it out just fine. It’s basically THC, so it’s not going to kill you. Before you go off into La La Land, I had a question about our other project.”
“I am not affected, but someone used it to take hostages I am responsible for.”
I shrugged. “Like I said, it’s pretty much THC. Oil-like, so hard to get it into the air, let me tell you. Cleans up easy with alcohol, unless you get some inside you. Not much capable of killing, just makes ’em weak and sleepy for a day or so, something like that. Never personally used it. They probably won’t die, unless they get enough pumped in to freeze to death.”
“Freeze to death? No one can freeze to death in this heat.”
“Don’t know where you are, and you’re not telling, but DMHP can, if you give someone enough, make someone die of hypothermia or of low blood pressure. So, about that favor…”
I paused when I heard a loud snap, then a crackle, then a bunch of little pops. Either Lightning was in the middle of an operation involving a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal, or something went down and a lot of people started shooting. “Ya know, just give me a call back when you’re not busy.”
I left him alone for about fifteen minutes and checked through the science division’s stocks, wondering what nifty chemicals they had in there. With one of our top guys being a former drug cooker, they might have authorized all sorts of stuff. You never know when a bunch of mustard gas can come in handy. It’s great on bratwurst and brats alike.
Ah, good chemicals are wondeful. They might come in handy. Before I could finish deciding between pineapples and pineoranges, Lightning called me back. I answered the phone with, “Morty’s Mortuary, we do burial and barbecue. You stab ’em, we slab ’em. Care for an order of ribs?
“No thank you. You said alcohol?”
“Yeah, makes it a little harder to clean up than regular water, but there you go. Still a handy chemical. I considered it back when I gassed Memphis with a somewhat-similar gas, but that one was much more hallucinogenic.” I spun around in my chair while distracted, since trying to plan would just distract me. “But that’s not why I called you, obviously. I just wanted to know if you checked whoever did the medical examination of the Senator’s body.”
“I didn’t think to at the time, but you think I should?”
“Well, I finally figured out how this thing works, but I cut into it. Which is odd, because someone told you it talked to people without needing to. So maybe you ought to go find that person. I need you to get in there, and open them up. You may have to sweet talk them, or maybe lubricate them with something like alcohol, but I want you to ride their ass however long it takes to bust this wide open. Don’t be afraid to use innuendo, or perhaps bad words.” I stopped my chair spinning and decided to rest my head on the desk, closing my eyes to try and block out the vertigo.
“I am not doing that to another man, but I’ll go have a beer with him and see what he can tell me. Is there anything else I need to know?”
“It’s telepathic. Reacts to caffeine. Oh, and if you get another one, go ahead and give it a try. It takes a lot of coffee or soda poured on it to get a reaction.”
Ok, so maybe there’s a good reason a lot of people don’t like me.