Allosaurus part sixteen. Catch up with part fifteen, or go back to the beginning.

The trip to the warehouse had been a quiet one. Fran was restless, rocking back and forth in her seat, arms folded across her chest. “You figured out who I was just from that one conversation we had that night?” she asked. Her words ruptured the silence so completely it made Vanglorious jump.

“What?” he asked.

“You were telling me about ‘projection’. I accidentally called that woman ‘Frannie’. You must be some kinda detective.”

Vanglorious softly grunted. “Lawyer, if you can believe it. – And, I looked up your case, if you don’t mind. I can’t believe those guys got off so lightly – ”

“Drop it.” Fran said, voice like stone. Vanglorious dropped it. Without a word, they continued on.

“Stop here,” Fran whispered. She got out. Vanglorious made a move to follow her. “No,” she ordered, gesturing for him to stay back. She paused, looking at him. “Thank you,” she nodded, shaking his hand. “For …”

“Yeah,” Vanglorious replied. “Go get ’em.”

~~~

There was a special knock. It had to be just the right rhythm, or it wouldn’t work. This knock opened the first door. The second one was at the end of a maze. One had to time one’s journey through to maze to arrive at it, so that the second door would open; not a moment too soon or too late. Otherwise, a trap door would spring, and one would be staring at the inside of a broom closet for a weekend. The third and final door didn’t look like a door at all – it was a very convincing hologram that look just like the street outside. One had to slide past this at just the right angle to not actually wind up back outside. It was a very tricky setup. Lady Justice scoffed at it, considered it to be overkill. Amazin’ Ape had to be walked through it, each time. Vanglorious had designed most of it, seeing as how the conference room it led to was in his law firm. Even as tired as he was this night, he made short work of the twists and double-backs, entering the conference room to find Arctica Winters and the Enforcer waiting for him.

“Sup?” Vanglorious muttered in greeting. He began shrugging out of his mask and armour, down to a turtle-neck and black khakis. There was a decanter of gin on a nearby table. He poured himself a shot and tossed it back.

~~~

Fran bolted into the dark and rain, pulling the goggles over her eyes as she ran.

So, you got a plan for this, dearie?

Nope.

Wonderful. Always makes sense to charge into a trap with no idea what to do, right?

That’s how it’s happening tonight. Deal with it.

Hm. You’re gonna die, then.

Yep, probably. At least, I’ll be rid of you, so there’s that.

You might wanna sneak in through –

Nope. Kicking the door in.

Fran’s steel toed boot crashed through the door with a loudly satisfying clang. She grinned like a feral monster.

Nothing like it!

Nothing like it, indeed!

“Alright, bitches!” she roared. “Come on out so we can do this!”

“You really are a bit of a thug, aren’t you?”

Fran whirled to face the voice.

Grabbed an arm.

Twisted.

Threw.

Palmetto-Bug Man sailed overhead, crashing into an iron pillar. It dented slightly.

“Ow! That hurt, you little -” Palmetto-Bug Man lowered his head and charged like a battering ram. Except, faster. It caught Fran off guard, knocked the wind out of her. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he panted.

“Shut up,” Fran growled. The powered gauntlets hummed as Fran pounded Palmetto-Bug Man’s face. Blows that would have cracked cement, stung and bruised him. Not long ago, he thought, it would’ve barely tickled. He grabbed her hands, held them tight, tight.

“You’ve got some property that doesn’t belong to you,” he said, struggling to peel the gauntlets off.

“And …” Fran grunted, fighting back with every ounce of strength, “You … can have …. them … when I’m … DONE!” She kicked, hard.

Palmetto-Bug Man went down, whimpering. Why do they never think to wear a cup? I know I would, Fran thought. She knelt down over him.

“Don’t follow me,” she ordered. She grabbed his head and slammed it into the concrete floor. He was out.

“Who’s next?” she called.

~~~

“You smell a bit … earthy,” Arctica wrinkled her nose in disgust. It must suck to have senses that acute sometimes, Vanglorious thought.

“I’m fine, thanks for askin’,” he said. “Also, thanks for the help, guys. Couldn’ta done it without you. Oh, wait.”

“You knew this was her fight,” Enforcer replied. “There wasn’t any reason for us to get involved -”

“Why are you doing this, then?” Vanglorious barked. “Look, it’s not like you need to put on your technicolor bondage gear to sit around and do nothing. -Or maybe you do, Keith. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I’m just sayin’ -”

“I take it it worked out,” Arctica broke in. Her voice was measured, deliberate. Otherworldly. Well, well, well, take a look at us – we’re the leaders of the superhero community, Vanglorious thought. A woman who may or may not be an extraterrestrial, a genetically engineered super-soldier from the future, and an over-amped Black Nationalist. He glared at the other two.

It worked out, he thought. That was Arctica’s main concern. She and the Enforcer were better suited to dealing with bug eyed monsters from Venus, than the rough and tumble crooks and delinquents that tended to be on Vanglorious’ beat. For some reason, however, they saw fit to show up in town, just as all this superhero stuff started getting underway. Vanglorious sensed that there was something they weren’t telling him. No matter. I’ll work it out soon enough.

~~~

Larry Forbes sighed. Taken down by a girl, he thought. He walked over to Palmetto-Bug Man, looked down at him with disappointment. Larry reached into a pocket. No, that’s where I put the cheese curls. The other one. He pulled out a small leather satchel. A syringe, a bottle of some fluid. He injected Palmetto-Bug Man in the neck.

“Wake up, Bud,” he whispered. “Come on, big fella.”

Palmetto-Bug Man stirred. “Wha … Hoozat … ?” he mumbled.

“Hiya, Bud,” Larry cooed.

“Uh, hey, pal,” Palmetto-Bug Man offered. “And you are …?”

“The name’s Forbes. Larry Forbes, Bud.”

“Um, great? Do I know you?” Palmetto-Bug Man furrowed his brow in deep concentration.

“No, but I see that the little hamster on a wheel you call a ‘brain’ isn’t generating the required horsepower for you to complete a thought right now, so lemme do some dot-connecting for ya. I know who you are when you aren’t all dolled up in yer fancy-pants and goggles. Bud.”

Palmetto-Bug Man sat up. “Are you … are you from the Bureau?”

“No,” Larry replied. “Not any more, anyway. Listen. I got a message for you. It’s a very important message, so you have to really pay attention.”

“What are you-”

“Shh. Listen.” Larry leaned in close. “I’m here to cure your amnesia, Bud. And all it’s gonna take is one word. One little word, and you’ll remember … well, everything. There’s just one catch. You might not like what you recall.”

Palmetto-Bug Man was shaking, in spite of himself. “… I …”

“Here it comes,” Larry whispered into his ear. “Al-gol.

And suddenly, Palmetto-Bug Man remembered everything. Every. Thing.

A village in China.

Winning medals.

Chosen for a special honor.

The first man in space. Not from the Soviet Union, not from the Yankee imperialists. The Glorious Peoples’ Republic. It was to be him.

Pin Bai Ma.

An accident.

Lost.

Falling, falling, forever.

Dead.

… alive?

Captured, tortured, by Americans.

Killed. Again.

Alive, again. Over and over.

“A clone, grown over and over from what they found left over in your crashed space capsule,” Larry whispered. “A tiny, little scrap. A ‘bud’, if you will. Used, over and over again, by the Bureau.  So sad. I resigned, in protest, of course.”

Palmetto-Bug Man was Bud. Or wasn’t he? He remembered that he was Pin Bai Ma. Didn’t he? And the pain, always the pain. A slave. At the hands of the Bureau.

“Yes,” Larry nodded. “The Bureau. They did this do you! Only you can stop them now! I’ve set you free!”

“F-free?” Palmetto-Bug Man whimpered. His fists tightened in rage.

“Yes, my friend. Free.”

And suddenly, Palmetto-Bug Man knew. He knew where to find the nearest representative of that evil Bureau, that had robbed him of his life so many times, that had used him, played him, even while pretending to be his friend.

He knew he would find …

Bamela.

He stood, howling like a berserker.

Well, Larry thought. This should work out just fine. I should be able to get rid of these Killswitch idiots AND the fools at the Bureau, all in one night. He smiled.

Yay me.

~~~

“Never mind the sarcasm, Vanglorious,” the Enforcer interjected. “Is Project Killswitch -”

“Project Killswitch is … neutralized, as you might say, Keith.”

Wordlessly he nodded to himself. Neutralized. Nice word for it. He poured himself another shot of gin, gulped it as if by reflex. He’d seen a lot of weirdness go down tonight, and he wasn’t in any hurry to let it take root in his long-term memory.  This looks like a job for … Inebriation!  Vanglorious thought. He was thankful that it was his name over the door of this place. One of the junior partners could run the business in the morning; he would go home, get some rest. Watch some ‘toons, maybe.

“I’d prefer you call me ‘Enforcer’ -”

“And I don’t really care about your preferences at the moment, Keith,” Vanglorious snapped. “I’m sick of all this bullshit. Sick of it. Something big, real big, went down tonight. Bigger than all the spandex cosplay freakshow crap everyone’s always on about. What bugs me, though, is two things. One, what happened with that Braithwaite girl. B, or two, or whatever,  the two of you are connected to all this, somehow. So, Keith, you’ll forgive me if I don’t really feel like referring to you by your ‘scene’ name at the moment.”

“Very well, Gerard,” Arctica pointedly responded. “Do you suggest that we terminate this arrangement?”

“No, nothing of the sort. Not after tonight. Tonight convinced me that I need to keep my eye on you two, more than ever.”

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved

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Comments
  1. sakuraandme says:

    Hi! *waving excitedly* I wanted to keep reading….Bugger! *laughing* Project Killswitch is Neutralized!! Have a great day! …….Paula x

  2. […] This has been a rough month. Lost my apartment, my uncle, and for a  time,  my ability to speak. Here’s the next – to – last chapter of Allosaurus. Here’s what happened before. […]

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