Chapter 49

Design is more than simply splashing around paint, it's finding those special highlights and features you can really work with. Fred drifted through the streets of Boise surveying his new canvas. He loved he grid of streets forced upon the rolling hills. He giggled at the futile attempt to bring order to the beautiful chaos. He enjoyed that.

But it still needed... something... The screaming pedestrians were a nice start though...

As was the big pit filled with... oooh! That was it. That was the bit of inspiration he was looking for. Fred did a lazy pirouette in mid air as the glee slowly spread through the dusty corners of his creative psyche. He placed a taloned hand to his chin and thought for a few seconds, then with a casual wave of his other hand it began.

There wasn't much at first, simply a low gurgling noise. If one had not been distracted by the vision of hell floating above the restoration site, one possibly may have noticed the tiny bubbles percolating to through the ground as the water table began to rise. Eventually these gave way to gentle spurts of gray mud. Then not so gentle spurts.

Within minutes torrents of thick grey clay rose, smoothing into a round, level area. Fred danced and wove along the edge, running his hands through the thick goo. Next to the pool the earth split yet again and steam vented forth. Even in the setting sun, the steady red glow of magma grew stronger as it crept to the surface. Yet more terrified shrieks filled the air as the residents panicked, but the magma stayed just below the round clay pit. Within minutes the edges of the pool turned a shade of white

Zrng's newly implanted voice translator was getting a very thorough workout. Unfortunately, the greater bulk of the phrases it was attempting to translate were far beyond it's normal vocabulary. It made a valiant attempt, none the less.

"Ornaments of animals that have both sexual and sacred significance." The translator squawked as the short green alien scrambled from behind a wall disintergrating from a blast. Right behind Zrng was the Badger, his nails slicing through the steel trash container Zrng had tried to roll at him. "Ultimate displays of affection toward one's maternal unit"

Zrng had dove around a corner when an arm snagged around his and pulled him into a doorway. Confused, Zrng looked in terror toward where Roger was pointing, "In there, and breath through your mouth" Roger commanded.

Zrng although not quite in full panic, realized that this option was probably better than the one he may have thought of in the next few seconds, so he scrambled toward the door. Roger looked down and winked at something before he too raced through the dark passageway.

Seconds later the Badger's nails carved through the door. He kicked it in and sniffed the air, looking for Zrng's trail. Instead he found the air was heavy with freshly sprayed musk from the skunk that scampered over the door shards.

Zrng's audio translators had no problem deciphering the invectives that the Badger was now hollering. He still had no interest in sticking around to appreciate them. The alien pushed through a door and emerged into a parking garage.

"The others should be here any minute." Roger said as he ran in behind Zrng.

"Others?" Zrng said nervously.

"Becky Sue and Karl." Roger said in a reassuring manner. "Do you know why they're after you?"

"Why? Spiritual Representative! I don't even know who they are!"

"According to JB, they're a group called the Y-Guys. They're a group of rogues, but I don't know what you did to get their attention."

"ME!? Nothing!" Zrng said earnestly.

Karl skidded to a stop beside the two, followed by a significantly more out of breath Becky Sue. Karl continued the conversation while Becky Sue caught her breath. "Well it's not like we know what you've been up to."

Zrng looked confused for a few seconds… "How.. did all of you know I was being.."

Roger spoke first, looking a bit sheepish, "I was worried about you so I've been following you to make sure you stayed safe. When the Y-Guys appeared, JB told Karl and Becky Sue that you needed help."

"It's.. like… havin'.. a.. marconi.. in.. yer.. head.." Becky Sue finally gasped out. "You know.. Karl.. a lady.. could use.. a lift.. from time t' time."

The garage door exploded from one of Biclop's blasts. The Badger and Mentra took their positions. "Citizens!"e; Mentra commanded, "e;Be aware that individual is not a human being, and is in fact..", she paused for dramatic effect, "an alien."

"And?" Becky Sue replied snidely. It wasn't the reaction that Mentra had hoped for, but she tried not to show it.

Mentra continued, "he is in possession of a device that cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands."

"Ah, so we should just let have him hand it over to a bunch of weirdos with bad fashion sense and little respect for doors?"

The Badger growled, "Enough talking." He leapt toward Zrng. He stopped in mid arc as as Karl's hand grabbed hold of his belt. The Badger sliced his fingers toward Karl in a deadly swipe. Karl's reflexes easily dodged the swipe. The Badger growled angrily. Karl scowled and looked toward the shredded remains of his suit jacket.

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a jacket that fits?" Karl's calm voice belied his growing annoyance. Moment's later, the Badger's newly unconscious body slid from the Badger shaped crater in the garage wall. Apparently, Karl had a rather difficult time finding a jacket.

"Get Zrng out of here!" Becky Sue found herself yelling. Startled, she turned and tried to move Zrng, but her muscles wouldn't respond. She watched as her arms and legs suddenly jerked to life and grabbed Zrng. She heard JB, 'You're being blocked by Mentra. I'll take-' and suddenly she was in control again. She took a few more steps before jerking and JB once again taking control.

Roger watched Becky's unusual gait and spotted Mentra's obvious struggle with something she couldn't quite understand.

Fred hovered for a moment inspecting his work. Getting the silver vein was difficult, but oddly getting the crystal was surprisingly easy. Granted he had no idea where he could get several thousand square yards of linen. But there it was, a full twelve-piece place setting of truly gargantuan size. Now, for the butter dish.

The crowd gathering around wasn't quite sure what to make of the affair. Some were horrified by the vision of a leathery beast of nightmares bending the forces of nature to his whim, the other half were taking notes to see if they could get that pattern. Well, change the pattern of agonized souls that ringed the dish to fruit or something.. but it was very inspired.

There was one figure that continued to stare at Fred, calculating his move. He took a heavy breath, rummaged through his coat and pulled out a ball of light beige..

He paused as Zrng ran by at full throttle, followed by Roger. He looked toward the hovering demon, then back toward the retreating figures then toward where they came from.

"YOU!!" The Badger yelled as his nails grew several inches longer.

Fred's jaw hung open, his body quivering as he struggled to find words. In the countless millennia he had existed, never before had this happened. Never had anything, anyone ever done something so.. so unspeakable.

He simply stared down to the large, imperfect splotch of gray that completely ruined his flawless china dish. The one he had worked so hard at, now some puny, insignificant, mortal being dared tarnish his pristine art?

Fred's eyes flashed to white as the muscles along his back rippled and tensed. Unholy curses from a thousand dead languages fought for dominance.

Chris tried to gain his footing among the cracking fissures of the still hardening porcelain, grateful that he had somehow managed to evade The Badger's talons. He hadn't counted on the thin shell to be quite so thin, nor as he discovered the clay inside to be quite as warm. Chris danced trying to find parts that weren't sinking into the steaming mass.

He heard the inhuman bellow moments before he felt the crushing blow from Fred's enraged fist.

With a heavy clang, Chris ricocheted off of the building just inches away from Karl. Karl turned to see the enraged demon flare out its wings and alter its course to follow Chris. Karl built up speed and in a feat worthy of Jackie Chan, bounced himself upwards between two buildings and directly into the path of the rebounding Grayhound.

"Chris, are you ok?" Karl/JB asked.

Chris moaned, blinked and replied "Red.. FlexFrame, I think... Headed South... Really mad driver..."

Karl landed on a roof and leapt again, "He's outclassed, JB. I need to take on that thing. Grayhound, you'll need to help get Zrng away from the Y Guys."

Chris snapped back to himself.. albeit painfully.. when he heard that. "Go, take on the bus.. err.. demon, I can take care of the Y-Guys."

Karl raised an eyebrow, "Are you sure?"

"I beat them once." Chris stated flatly then jogged to the roof's edge. He spotted the running figures dressed in matching black pleather and fired off his guy-line. Karl turned to face the enraged creature from Hell.

Hours later, Karl slumped hard into a chair. His hardened armor like skin was bruised, his previously perfectly coiffed hair was decidedly less so. And his jacket was now nothing more than a very expensive, highly tailored bracelet that fell off his wrist when he tried to examine it. He let his head slump back against the cushion and closed his eyes.

Roger walked over meekly. "Can.. Can I get you anything, uhm, Karl?"

Karl kept his eyes closed. "You could have saved me a lot of effort, you know."

"A nice cold compress maybe? Actually, I think I might be able to rustle up some camphor and menthol, that ought to help with some of the pain.."

"Three hours. Three hours throwing buildings, cars and everything else at each other, and then you walk up."

"I'm guessing you probably could use a nice snack too. I'll see if I can find something.."

Karl mimed Roger's actions as he held aloft a hand, slapped the air above him and, in a fair duplication of Roger's voice, he impertinently said, "Meanie!"

"Well, I mean he was. I know that he probably worked hard on that whole thing but there was no reason to go off like a rutting wolverine."

Karl cracked an eye and stared at Roger. Roger simply fell silent, and nervously smiled back.

Karl closed his eye again, "I've got to remember that next time. It might just come in handy."

There was no need to ask where Zrng was or if he was safe. JB relayed that Becky Sue and he had managed to evade the Y Guys and were headed back to the loft in short order.

"The Y Guys." Karl though aloud, "looks like Chris managed to keep them distracted." He raised his head as the thought occurred to him. "Say, where is Chris anyway?"

Chris staggered and limped down the street. He was certain that he not only hurt in new locations but in several different continents. Chris now understood what the Woman from the Department of Superheroes meant about rogues. They fight beyond dirty.

Chris knew the value of fighting dirty, and had frequently practiced it himself. He had been trained by life not to hold back, to make sure that your opponent is not only no longer a threat, but no longer even considering any future actions against you.

This time, he had been on the receiving end of that treatment. It wasn't pretty.

In addition, nothing seemed to work out for him. It was as if his lucky streak had ended. He had run out of gadgets and gizmos to save his bacon. He barely managed to dodge the more fatal blasts and blows. He had, quite literally, been outclassed and out maneuvered at every turn.

He had no idea how he managed to finally escape, but somehow, some faint remnant of his good fortune managed to linger long enough to provide him a way out of the mess he was in.

He pulled his keys out and unlocked the door.

"Uhm Excuse me!" a polite, yet very annoyed voice beckoned his attention. Chris let his head thud against the door, then turned to look at the source of the interjection.

There, looking far worse for the several weeks of wear, stood the Pitfall Perpetrator. The stiffness having long since abandoned the twin lightning-bolts that he wore on his helmet.

"I'll have you know, I've been waiting out here politely for nearly a month now", The Perp stated in a voice that quivered with rage, "An entire month! You said that you had a few things to take care of and you'd be back down so we could do battle."

Chris blinked slowly at the Perp, his tired mind barely able to follow the discussion.

"Well, now I think I've waited quite long enough, so I 'm calling you out."

Chris moaned. "Look, I'm sorry, I've just been really busy. Let me go get a quick show--AAAH!"

Literally, out of nowhere, Chris stood facing three alligators who's mouths crunched down in vicious synchronicity.

"Face My Evil Wrath!" The Perp cried out. Chris continued to stare at the cackling villain and the mechanical creatures he controlled.

"Look, I'm sorry, but I'm really tired. Can't we do this some other time?" Chris stated flatly, oblivious to the menace that he now faced.

The Pitfall Perpetrator stopped laughing. "What? No! My creatures are unstoppable!" he shouted angrily.

Chris sighed with the weight of a day gone horribly wrong, knowing full well that having alligators on the sidewalk, mechanical or not, would probably be a violation of the city safety regulations, and that somehow he'd be responsible for them. He watched the beasts mouths snap shut then quickly hopped across the backs of all three.

The Perp was crestfallen as the creatures blipped out of existence.

Chris suddenly felt a wave of empathy and walked over to the stunned villain. "Look, I'm sorry, but I used to play Pitfall all the time. Heh, if I was feeling better, I'd have probably gone over them from the other side since you can pick up more stuff that way. Oh, now, don't cry. Look, you've got a good theme going. You just need some work. Tell you what, I don't normally do this, but can I offer you a suggestion? Have you thought about joining the DeVry School of Evil Genius? I understand they've got a pretty good program and I think you'd make a great student. Spend a few years working on your skills and you'll be the terror you've always wanted to be in no time."

Chris pulled out a tissue and handed it to the Perp. "I'll even write up a letter of recommendation for you. Would you like that?" The Perp nodded between sobs. "Ok. It's a deal then." He pulled out one of his cards. "Here's my mailing address. Go home, get some rest and then let me know where I should send the letter, ok?"

The Perp took the card and sniffled his thanks. "No, it's ok.", Chris consoled, "I know what you're going through. It's the least I can do, ok?"

The Perp put the card in his wallet, thanked Chris again and headed back down the street.

Chris shook his head, not quite believing what he had just done. He remembered what the Deuterium Avenger had told him about Hydrogen Guy. About how sometimes a hero gets in too deep because he's so caught up in himself that he never realizes it.

Chris realized that he wasn't a powerful superhero. He was, as he quite plainly put it too long ago, some jerk who lied to get a good parking spot and wound up paying for it later. Chris needed to focus on the fundamentals, the things he could do. He was part of a team.

A team.

A team that currently had only one member in it.

Chris suddenly felt far worse. The good news was that JB was alive. Now Chris needed to figure out a way to get JB back from wherever it was that he was. And to do that, he'd need to focus on the things he really needed to do, like pay a visit to an old friend. Chris slammed his fist into his open palm, and then immediately regretted it.

He turned and whimpered quietly as he opened the door and headed up the stairs.

...when asked for comment, the co-founder of the popular internet portal continues to deny the fact that he is Bigfoot's Baby.

And finally, tourist have been flocking to see the latest addition to downtown. Ken Griffith files this report.

Thank you Susan.

Some long time residents may remember the magnificent crystal gardens that sprung up in downtown a few months ago. Well, as crews finished clearing the final bits of concrete from the area, a new feature has appeared, this huge sculpture, which appears to be a large plate, a fine crystal wine glass, and full ensemble of cutlery.
We had reports earlier about a reportedly "winged vision from Hell" summoning forth the very essences of the earth to create what's been dubbed, "The Devil's Place Setting". However there are no recorded images of such a creature.

Still, the T-Shirt manufacturers I managed to speak to told me that the being was large, red, and sported huge black wings. But T-Shirt vendors aren't the only ones who are managing to make money. It appears that several china shops have been inundated by requests for the pattern and are rushing to see if they can manufacture it.

Reaction to the work has been mixed, but generally positive. I spoke to Mister Bill Zebaub who had this to say.

Well, it's not really what we had in mind. We were really hoping for something more.. Hellish.. At least it's bone china.

Reporting live from the scene, I'm Ken Griffith.

Bob sat, idling fiddling with an induction coil. Although he had kept his hands busy rebuilding part of the weapons array of Krullux's Resumetrix, his mind had been elsewhere.

He had been thinking about what he really needed to do with his life, or at least with his alternate life. The Dean was right, he needed to stop thinking about things and making excuses for himself and set about doing the things he knew he needed to do. Even if what he needed to do was possibly suicidal, and undoubtedly crazy.

Established society would fight him every step of the way. He knew that. Heck, he'd know that ever since he started. Still, it was the only thing that would save society from itself. He checked his schedule, but he knew that he could get a week off if he needed it once the current project ended.

The first trip would be exploratory. He'd read what he could from whatever sources he could find, but there's no substitute for actually going there.

He rose from the workbench and walked to the map. He stood staring at it. It was a map of the western states, with a well calculated route from Atlantica to Langell Valley drawn in highlighter.

A slow, malevolent smile crept across Bob's face as he stared at the far end of the purple line. "They want chaos?"

Will this launch Fred's new
design career?

Will the Y Guys
capture Zrng?

Will Macy's carry
that pattern?

Tune in next time for:

Feeding Time in Congress
Visiting Rights

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