Does Whatever A Palmetto-Bug Can.

Posted: July 2, 2012 in Allosaurus, sci fi
Tags: , , , , , ,

Part the Fifth. Previously, this happened.

The Bootleg Picture Of The Month.

Like anything else sold in America, they were made in the People’s Republic. Probably in one of the instant factories that seem to spring up and churn out alarming numbers of whatever plastic, bootleg gee-gaw of the moment was in demand. Bought in bulk for pennies apiece, they were sold in gas stations, quickie marts, bodegas and flea markets at a decent profit. Wallets, keychains, bottle openers, belt buckles, t-shirts, trucker hats and lighters, all bedecked with a yellow capital “P” on a doo-doo brown background. Or, alternately, the “P” would be replaced with the yellow silhouette of a fearsome looking winged roach or something. They were big sellers; bigger, in fact, than last month’s design du jour of Michaelangelo’s Jesus wearing a hoodie and sporting a glittering dollar sign medallion. Somebody somewhere was making a mint.

That someone wasn’t the guy who inspired the latest fashion craze.

Palmetto-Bug Man was content with the little converted garage of an apartment he called home. Rent was cheap, and his landlord didn’t hassle him about his odd hours. He hadn’t even done a credit check, or bothered to ask Palmetto-Bug Man’s real name. A good thing, as Palmetto-Bug Man had no idea what his real name was. The people at the restaurant he cleaned up at called him “Bud”; that was good enough for him. Paid him in cash, under the table. They had no idea what he did away from work. Away from home.

No idea that he was the one who singlehandedly prevented the Tabernacle of the Vengeful God from setting off a dirty bomb downtown last week.

No idea that he was the one who rounded up ALL of the Mountaineer gang in one night.

Or that he was mostly responsible for shutting down the meth labs in the North End.

Or that he was the one who kept Boss Myron Werganovicz from skipping town when the police  had botched their investigation all to hell and back. Or a dozen other things that Palmetto-Bug Man had been celebrated for.

He was just Bud, some big, oddly soft-spoken vaguely Asian dude who didn’t seem too bright. Never looked you in the eyes, never said any more than was absolutely necessary. If, by some chance, he would snap one day, and off a bunch of nuns or something, his neighbors would be incredulous. “Not that guy? He was always so quiet and nice,” they might say. They might shake their heads in rueful bemusement. “It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?”

Always the quiet ones.

“Hey, Bud,” Palmetto-Bug Man’s landlord called out from the back porch that afternoon, as “Bud” tended to his herb garden. Basil, sage, cilantro. “I think I see your lady-friend’s car pulling up out front!” The older man had a habit of ending his sentences on an ascending note, as though he expected a response from whomever he was talking to. He would then arch one eyebrow inquisitively, and wait. He could wait like this for hours, it seemed. Whenever the lady-friend would pull up, the waiting would take on a salacious aspect. Palmetto-Bug Man could almost see the wheels in his landlord’s mind turning. Pretty little black girl, big fella like himself, was what they said about Asians true, or was he an exception? Palmetto-Bug Man allowed himself a weak grin. The old man was just a tiny bit disgusting. But, Palmetto-Bug Man simply nodded.

“Thanks, Bob,” he said.

Presently, she appeared. “Hey, Bud!” she smiled. “Oh, hi, Bob,” she waved at the landlord. Bamela Divers was charming, an easy-going natural head-turner. No matter what she wore, she wore it as though it had been made for her and only her. Today she wore capris and a tank top. When she walked, her feet came down, one directly in front of the other, in a straight line. She swayed to and fro. The landlord was hypnotized. Bamela hugged Palmetto-Bug Man warmly.

“How’s it going, sweetie?” he asked.

“Better, now,” she replied. Bamela looked down at the herbs. “Wow, those things are really shooting up!” Palmetto-Bug Man beamed with pride. “Wish I could grow plants like that!”

“Aw, thanks,” he blushed. “Just takes a little TLC. It’s kinda relaxing, really. – You want something to drink?”

Bamela nodded. “It’s a little warm out, yeah. Whatcha got?”

“Well, let’s see …” The two of them went inside.

Bob looked on, chuckling to himself about his own thoughts. “‘Something to drink’, eh?”

~~~

Bamela exhaled, shaking her head. “Old bastard gives me the creeps. Getting tired of him eye-fucking me every time I come here.”

Palmetto-Bug Man shrugged. “Bob’s harmless. He wouldn’t know what to do with an actual woman if she paid him any attention.”

“Yes, I know.” Bamela shuddered just the tiniest bit. “We’re well aware of his … internet activities. The Bureau keeps tabs on him. We managed to channel some things his way to keep him distracted, as it were, when you’re out on missions for us. Speaking of which …” She pulled a tablet out of her purse, her fingers dashed across the screen. A picture emerged. “Know anything about this woman?”

Palmetto-Bug Man studied the image. It was blurred a bit, as though it had been taken by a security camera and digitally enhanced. The woman was short – well, short wasn’t the right word. Compact. Concentrated and distilled, would be a better description, he thought. Tan skin, close-cropped spiky hair, goggles. Military issue, by the looks of them. Armored vest and gloves. Bulky backpack. Yellow target with crosshairs sewn on the chest. “One of the Commando Girls, isn’t it?” he mused.

Bamela nodded. “We don’t think it’s ‘one of’, however. We’ve got good reason to believe that she’s actually the only one. -Hang on a sec. I know what you’re thinking. Commando Girls have been sighted all over the city, right?” She touched another part of the screen. The picture rotated and zoomed in on the backpack. “This is a piece of our tech she’s wearing. Experimental stuff, actually. Quantum dis-entangler.”

“Uh huh. What’s that do?” Palmetto-Bug Man grunted.

“Better question would be: What doesn’t it do? We do know that she can cover a lot of ground with that thing strapped to her back; we think it also messes around with all four forces.”

” ‘All four forces’? I’m just a day laborer, Bam. Plain English would be nice,” Palmetto-Bug Man asked.

“Electromagnetic force. Gravity. Strong nuclear, and weak nuclear,” Bamela replied. “Heavy-duty science fiction stuff. Omnipotent, god-like powers kinda thing. We’re pretty sure she doesn’t know what all it can do, seeing as how the universe hasn’t unraveled. Yet.”

“Aren’t the Commando Girls – sorry, the Commando Girl – isn’t she one of the good guys?” Palmetto-Bug Man squinted at the picture.

Bamela fixed him with a steely gaze. “We are the only good guys,” she reminded him. “Plus, that thing she’s wearing is obviously stolen. From us. We need it back.”

“And the girl?”

Bamela shrugged. “You get our stuff back. Whether she’s alive or dead when you’re done, is not a concern.”

Palmetto-Bug Man sighed. “I don’t mind taking down the big guys. The dope sellers, the terrorists, all that. Usually, it’s fun, in a way. But this – ” here, he flung a hand at the tablet – “this is just not right somehow.”

Bamela pursed her lips for a second. “Bud,” she began, “you must know that the Bureau really appreciates the work you do for us. You do the kinds of things that even our best agents aren’t suited for. You’re a hero, you know. But  you have to realize. People like her.” It was her turn to gesture at the tablet. “They are out of control. Right now, sure, it looks like she’s doing some good. But can we trust that? We don’t know the least little thing about her. Why she does what she does. What channels she goes through to get her stuff. She’s a mystery, and we don’t like mysteries. We can’t afford them.”

“Speaking of mysteries -” Palmetto-Bug Man began.

“We have our best people working on it, I promise you.” Bamela put a hand on his shoulder. “Believe me, we want you to get your memories back as much as you do. It’s the least we could do for all you’ve done for us.”

Palmetto-Bug Man gave in. Like a man about to dive into a pool filled with dark water, he took a deep breath.

“Okay. I’ll do it.”

“Good.” Bamela replied. She glanced at her watch. “The old man will be expecting the usual show,” she smiled, pulling off her shirt. “Shall we begin?”

words  © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in I Think Some Of These People Became Superheroes Just Because They Thought Up A Cool Name For Themselves.

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Comments
  1. […] Part six of what I think is going to be  called Allosaurus. Here’s last week’s installment. […]

  2. […] Allosaurus continues next time in Does Whatever A Palmetto-Bug Can. […]

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