Friday, September 12, 2008

Nobody Loves Harry Hembock.

The editor shuffled the thin pile of papers before him, picked them up, and started to read.

He'd burn through a page of material about every minute or so, and would silently shuffle it to the back of the pile.

Every third page or so, there was an unimpressed "hmph", or two.

Harry Hembock, a short, gaunt, bug eyed mantis of a man with a crippling overbite, and strange oversized black greasy pompadoure leaned forward in nervous aniticipation.

He thought he saw the editor seeing him seeing him, so he craned his head as if he'd been taking in the whole room, and the editor had just caught him in the movement of looking at....the clock, yeah, the clock.

Now, the certificates on the wall, the uninteresting gold leafed books on the bookcase, then back down to the floor, at his own red rubber Superman boots.

After a time, the editor finished, and sat the thin stack on the desk and said "..oh..huh that's it huh?".

"Um yeah,....for now...what, you wanted more or...?".

"Um no,..that's alright it's just...aaanyway, um, yeah, these are interesting..but um..yeah".

"You didn't like 'em", Harry stated rather than asked, as he visibly deflated.

"Oh, they're okay, it's not that I didn't like them, it's just...I dunno, kinda unoriginal".


"Well yeah, first of all, your guy, he's called Harry Hembock, I mean, there's already Harry Potter. Two Harry's, we could get sued".

"But he's ME. I've been called Harry long before that little magic nerd came along".

'Um, yeah, anyway, there's also the matter of the artwork. It's very um...unprofessional. I mean, look at this, it's all drawn in ball point pen".

"I like the ballpoint. It's what I'm used to. I tried one of those pen brushes that this art teacher guy told me, and it was all melty and awful. I know working artists use I dunno, some fancy rich pen or something, but I figured...y'know, nowadays with computers, and scanners and..y'know, you could print whatever anyone made".

"Um...yeah, we might make those accomidations for some NAME artist, if he wanted to make an experimental project, but..".

"Alright, fine, I'll learn to use a fancy pen...what kind? Wait, lemme write this got a post-it?".

"...anyway, back to the unoriginal point, your guy, he's not um,...the traditional superhero..".

"Well, no, but you guys publish books with violence and sexy stuff. Kids are hip today. They watch the Fear Factor, and the...".

"Well, that's just it, even if we put it under our adults label, there's still the matter of that your guy essentially acts like Bender from Futurama put in a blender with Quagmire from Family Guy".

"But dammit, he's ME! I was around before them!".

"Well, Elisha Gray got to the telephone first, but who's name is one the patent? Eh? Y'know?".

"But dammit, they're fake.., and I'm REAL! These adventures really happened to me!"
Harry let out a sigh
"You're not gonna publish my stuff are you?".

"Um, no. But it's okay stuff, really, maybe you could shop it around to some underground..".

"Save it".

Harry got up from his seat, and took his cartoons back.

"I mean, just because it's not what we're looking for,...I mean, I know some people...".

"Save it", Harry said again, and left.

Harry shuffled out to the parking lot, muttering curses under his breath.

"So, how did it go?", asked the lime green Volkswagan beetle in the second row.

Harry cast it a sneer that clearly said "what do YOU think?".

"Not good eh? Ah, well, you said it, it was a long shot anyway", replied the car with a sort of "whatever", smirk on it's hood as it popped open it's door.

Harry climbed in, and sat his drawings on the passenger's seat.
The door closed after him.

The Hembug, as Harry called it/him, had been animated and sentient ever since it had been bitten by a radioactive human back in the early 90's.
Now, it/he was his Hembock-mobile/sidekick.

"So, what do we do for cash now?", Hembug asked, while starting up, and gliding out of the parking spot.

"Damned'f'I know", Harry grumbled, arms crossed over his chest, hands conspicuously not on the wheel.

"Strip club?", Hembug asked.

"Yer goddamned right", Harry answered.

Harry awoke from his reoccuring memory nightmare of being brutally rejected from the Legion Of Liberty.
The dressing down from Mr. Starshine was bad enough, but then the sadistic roasting that focused on his sexual prowess from Ms. Electrode, and then the swirly from The Swirly were just over the top.
As was usual, his subconscious spared him not the slightest detail.
Not a frame was skipped.

And of course, a hangover was waiting for him in awake land.
As was a cloud of his own fart gas.
Harry tried to fan it away, but it hung in space like a time frozen swarm of bees.
"Shit, now I'm all the way awake", moaned Harry.

Harry crawled out of bed, and did a bow legged zombie hobble to the bathroom, and gazed with disgust at his stubbled greasy face.

He looked down at the toothbrush and razor, contemplated them awhile, and finally said aloud "eh, fuck it", and hobbled out to the kitchen.

He grabbed an apple from the counter, and bit out a hunk to get the slim jim flavored morning scum out of his mouth.

He looked out the window, and saw the neighbor's kids blowing up yet another Harry Hembock action figure with firecrackers.
It was always the Harry figure.
Harry had long ago gloomily accepted his was the Ugnaut, or Lobot of the collection.
Ah well, at least that meant another 60 cent check was coming.
The gift that kept on giving.

Harry grumbled, and hobbled to the other side of the house, hoping the view would be better.

It was Steve Torrent, the fat bald beer guzzler next door, waddling over to his next door neighbor Susan's to "pay the rent".

"Christ, I hate this town", grumbled Harry.

And with that, he plunked into the battered duct tape covered recliner, and fired up the TV.

After waiting about 20 seconds for the crappy TV's picture tube to heat up, Harry was finally greeted by the image of a guy in a labcoat pointing to a box labeled "POB", and making a retarded caveman growling noise with his tongue hanging out.

"Meh, I still like it better than anything the Ad Council comes up with", muttered Harry.

Just then, the news cut in with an emergency report.

Buildings were aflame, people were running, and screaming, and crying, and covered in blood and soot, and a huge guy in some sort of mechanical armor was hovering 70 feet in the air unleashing the devestation from laser turrets in his gloves and eyepieces.

"Meh, Legion'll handle it", Harry muttered.

Then, they showed a clip of 40 minutes ago.

The robot suit guy's chest opened up, and gave off green energy rings that passed over the gathered Legion Of Liberty. As the rings passed around them, their powers seemed to snap off at light switch speed, and they all simultaneously got the same stupid look of shock on their faces. Anyone who had been flying dropped like an anvil, and anyone who wasn't also invulnerable, or who's invulnerability was tied to a mental effort sustained energy rather than molecular density likely splattered in that next second.
Of course, Harry knew who was who, and he winced when he heard the thuds.

After that, the robotman pretty much picked everyone else off like cardboard ducks.

"Ah, shit", Harry groaned.
"Alright, alright, I guess I'd better be there", we whined, as if he'd been asked to give a least loved relative a ride out to the airport.

He jogged to his bedroom, and opened his dresser drawers in turn.
"Ah, shit, nothing clean!".
So, he ran to the bathroom, and dug around in the hamper.
He picked up a pair of sweatpants and sniffed.
Wet beachsand, cat urine, and beef stew.
He took another pair and sniffed.
Just cat urine.
"Fine, alright", he said, and threw them on.
He repeated the process with the sweatshirts, and had his costume essentially essembled.
He put a couple puffs of Gold-Bond powder into his boots, and threw those on, then ran to the kitchen, and rubbed himself down with perfume samples, and finally, he was out the door.

"No time to explain, villain, thataway", Harry summarized in shorthand to Hembug as he ran towards him, pointing towards the innards of town.

Hembug popped the door open and closed it in his perfected rythm to let Harry hop in at maximum speed, and then took off towards the city the nanosecond the door sealed shut and locked.

Hembug tooled along at a steady 120 mph out of a possible 300, dodging abandoned cars along the way with the reflexes of a video game prodigy.
"So, we headed straight there, or you wanna make any stops first?", he asked Harry casually.

"Yeah, turn off left up ahead, there's a Wal-Mart. They're the closest place I can think of that's got both a hardware and electronics department. Something I gotta get first", Harry replied with equal casualness, as if he simply needed to pick up some onions for a stew he was going to make for visiting in-laws.

Hembug made the turn, and eventually they came up apon, and then pulled into the Wal-Mart.

Hembug pulled up to the front entrance, and let Harry out.

Harry grabbed a shopping basket on the way in, gave the greeter a nod of bland acknowledgement, and then briskly jogged to hardware, and grabbed a soldering iron, tin snips, a spool of solder, a spool of copper wire, a car battery, and a hammer, with as clear a plan of where it all was as if the aisles were a part of his house.

Then, without pausing for the slightest beat, he ran to electronics.

He deftly weaved around a 3 year old girl in floral print tight pants who was dancing in a circle in the CD section, unapologeticly hip checked a fat woman's cart out of the way that was about to take a corner and cut him off, and made his way to the wall of TVs.

He pulled out the hammer, and used the claw end as an improvised box cutter to open up a 25" console, then, dragged it out from the box, hurled away the styrofoam, and began to beat open the back of the unit to get at the guts.

A flurry of "what the hell"s and "omigawd!"s bagan to sputter from the other shoppers.

Harry continued his procedure undeterred.

"Excuse me sir!", a surly clerk said walking up to him.

Harry turned, wacked the guy on the head with the hammer laying him out cold, and like a robot, continued his work.

A woman screamed, and a child started crying. Probably the dancing toddler
Harry knew he had to speed this up.

He found the circuit board he needed, and used the tin snips to liberate it by cutting away both the connecting wires, and the nuggets of board that the support screws were fastened to.

He then turned, and liberated and battered open another TV of the same model, and repeated the procedure, but with even more deranged robotic speed and precision.

He tossed the two circuits into his shopping basket, and jogged over to the stereo equipment.

He didn't have to dodge toddlers and fat people this time, as people were pretty much giving him a wide berth.

He picked up a watermelon sized oval boom box, felt it's weight, nodded, hefted it over his head, and slammed it down on the floor, smashing it to smithereens.
He then gave it's remains a couple careful extra stomps to liberate some desired parts, and then began plucking out the needed bits as quickly as if they were supposed to be there scattered about in their current position, and he had long ago memorized their location.

Then, he dug out a speaker, wrenched it's plastic covering off, leaving it naked, snipped away it's wires, and tossed it in the basket with the rest.

Another surly young clerk suddenly tried to tackle him.
Beefy blonde kid, looked like he played football.
Harry dodged back as if he'd perfectly predicted he'd be there, whammed him in the gut with the butt of the hammer, looped his arm around overhead, and brought it down on the kid's sternum, sucking out all his breath, then gave his arm another arc, and brought it down on the kid's head.
He didn't knock out, but he did collapse to the floor bawling and cursing.

Harry shook his head and sighed.
He opened his mouth as if he was about to make an apology, or a justification, but he heard muffled thunderclaps outside, stopped, shrugged, smirked, and walked off.

He speed walked to the cafeteria, poured out the contents of his shopping basket onto the nearest empty table, and his hands began to fly.
He jury rigged the soldering iron to the car battery, unwound the soldering wire, and began to solder the circuits and radio parts into a science fiction sandwich at David Blain shuffling cards speeds.

The parts of the mystery device flew together perfectly and with such precision, one would think the final machine had already existed, been stolen from him, and the parts scattered about the electronics department, and not the other way around.
Or, more precisely, like a film of the device's dismantling were being played in high speed reverse.

Finally, the device tumbled together into something solid and coherant like the picture in a completed puzzle, and Harry spliced the whole deal onto the car battery, and tied the whole thing together with some leftover wire.

Altogether, the final assembly had taken aporoximately 4 minutes.
Not a drop of solder had been spilled, and no leftover parts remained.
Harry nodded with dull satisfaction.

Harry plunked his created gizmo into his shopping basket, and walked quickly right through the checkout without stopping.
"SIR!!!", the cashier shouted angrily.
"Debit", Harry muttered under his breath, and kept walking, picking up his pace.
The cashier tilted her head for a good 20 seconds in confusion, and started hollering some more as she saw him making it towards the exit, but he'd already made it out the door, and didn't hear the rest, nor did he wish to.

Hembug, who had been circling the parking lot, pulled right up to the entrance as Harry cleared the concrete pillars.

Harry took out the gizmo, tossed away the shopping basket, hopped in, and Hembug took off.

"All set?", Hembug asked.

"Yeah, think so", Harry replied calmly, as if he'd just done something as ordinary as picking up those onions for that aformentioned and theoretical stew.

"To the villian?", Hembug asked.

"Of course", Harry answered.

As the Wal-Mart faded in the rear view, the dull thunderclaps became louder and crisper.

The point of no return had come.

The next thunderclap was accompanied by a blinding green flicker against the wall of a soot stained building.

"Showtime", Harry said.

Hembug screeched to a stop, and Harry dove out with his device under his arm, and made out on foot.

Luckily, when Harry had pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, he had remembered to turn on his belt buckle transponder.

The transponder which was imbedded in the belt buckle which was mounted on the belt that he kept stored in the glove compartment for when he'd forgot to grab the one in the house.

It was an exact duplicate of the one in the house, a simple black vinyl number with a nondescript black circle for a buckle that turned like a dial to turn the transponder on and off.

What the transponder did was two things.

One, it scrambled all the security devices he passed by along the way, including and especially the cameras.

Second, it activated any emergency "cleanup", technology in the vicinity.

In this case, the Harry Hembock action figures in the toy department.

Apon activation, they activated their own internal transponders so as not to be recorded, triangulated the position of Harry's transponder, and set to work.

First, they fired thin red laser beams from their eyes that cut away their blister packs, then switched to blue tractor beams that pushed the blisters off, and/or pushed away any intervening figures if they were deeper on the hook.
About seven in all responded to the call.

Then, with shape recognition software, they locked onto the faces of any witnesses to this, and zapped them with green neuralization rays that scrambled their memories for the previous and following two hours for a combined four hours of memory slack.

Then, with internal anti-gravs, they flew to Harry's location, memory zapping anyone who saw them along the way.

They made it to the electronics department just as Harry was leaving.
They proceeeded to memory wipe all the witnesses, and by determining injury, by determining pain and/or fear, via subtle voice recognition, they homed in on the two bonked clerks and sweeped them several times with orange healing rays.
Then, once mended, they gave them a memory wipe.

As the witnesses and victims were repaired and wiped, three of the Harry figures used red lasers to dissolve and evaporate the shattered TVs and boombox.

Then, with electronics taken care of, they followed the projected path of Harry's escape, memory wiping all the intervening witnesses as they went along.

Then, finally, they stopped outside in the parking lot, where Harry had switched off his transponder.

Their duty complete, they sattelite uplinked to the Wal-Mart home office computers, filled out an insurance form for the lost and stolen merchandise, and filled out an order for replacements to it, and themselves, then self destructed by aiming their disintgration beams on each other.

Which occured just as Harry pulled into the city to face his foe.

Harry turned a corner, and there he was, floating in the sky.
The mandroid from the news, his back turned, preoccupied with laser blasting an already fairly wrecked hospital.

"HEY!!! ASSHOLE!!! HEAH!!", Harry shouted to get his attention.

It worked. The killer did a heel swivel on an invisible floor, and glided threateningly towards him.

"I!! Am Tektan Democulus!! And you wi...", started the villain through an electronicly warbled and amplified voice filter.

"Didn't ask, and don't give a shit!!", Harry cut in.

And with that, he fired up his gadget by clipping an unplugged wire into place with licked fingers.

He got a jolt that made his hand recoil, but he recovered quickly.

The air hummed, and Tektan Democulus hurled to the ground.
He splayed out face down, and stayed glued to the spot.

"Reversed your circuits, shithead, even your grav plates", Harry said with a smirk.

"Aw no!! Aw no!! Not like this!! Aw christ no!!", Tektan screamed with a now unfiltered whiney dweeb voice that sounded not so much like a Tektan, but a Lenny, or a Terence.

"Shutitoffshutitofffshutitoff!! Igiveup!! Ican'tbreathshutitoff!!", Tektan screamed patheticly.

Harry leaned against some rubble and smiled.

The gizmo began to shake in Harry's hand, so he let go.
As he released it, it flew to Tektan, and stuck to his back.
As it contacted his back plate, the hum in the air magnified, and a feedback like dry ice on metal began to screech from Tektan's armor.

Tektan's pleas began to become more frantic, if that were possible, and finally, he shrieked like a woman, and all sound from him ended with a sudden horrible gurgle/gag as the armor slammed inward a sickening four inches all around with a wet crunchy splurch.

Harry looked away with a grimace, and marched to a safe distance as the armor slowly continued to crumple in like a soda can, until finally, the grav plates in the suit touched each other, and set up a fatal harmonic with the gizmo's field, which set off a quantum explosion, and vaporized Tektan and the gizmo in a bright purple flash, leaving nothing but a faintly smoldering impressed singemark in the ground.

"Shit, shoulda grabbed his mask off'f him for proof", Harry mumbled.

He stood a couple extra seconds in contemplation, then shrugged, and headed back to Hembug.

He climbed into the driver's seat, and simply said "home".

The editor sat the thin stack on the desk and said "..oh..huh that's it huh?".

"Um yeah,....for now...I mean, I'm just supposed to do a sample few pages for the proposal, right...?".

"Um no,..that's alright it's just...aaanyway, um, yeah, these are interesting..but um..yeah".

"You didn't like 'em", Harry stated rather than asked, as he visibly deflated.

", it's terrible....sorry".

"....ah....", Harry choked, not expecting such a blunt reply.

"I mean, the protagonist is weak, it doesn't hold the reader's interest, it's stale, the dialogue is stilted, I mean, I could go on, but I think even you know what terrible is".

"No, no, I get you", Harry said, holding up a mask of composure.

"Also, you had no breakdown sheet, or any of the other...look, this is just totally unproffessional. I won't even call it a submission. You might as well have come in with the thing written in crayon, it's just terrible. You've wasted my time, get out".

"Yes sir. ...erm, can I have those back?".

"No. Also, you're ugly, and you smell".

"You're not the first to say so. Well, goodbye", Harry said glumly as he shuffled out of the office in a stupor.

On the long ride back home, Harry finally decided he was sick of talk radio, and dug around in the CD rack for something he wasn't sick of.

"Neil Young, played it to death, James Taylor, played to death, Chumbawumba...what the hell was I thinkin?", Harry grumbled.

Then, out of desperation, he dug around in the pouch on the driver's side door, and his hand hit a distinct CD case shape.
The chopsticked it with his index and middle finger, and slid it out.

Amercica's greatest hits.

Harry got a lump in his throat, and remembered the last time he'd fired it up.

Daddy's driving the station wagon, kids are bouncing in the back seat, daddy's singing along to "another try", mommy's supplying the background singer "oooo"s, and "aaaa"s.

Eventually, "sister golden hair", comes on, daddy sings along, as he has hundreds of times before. The kids let out a squeal-giggle when he gets to the "damn", in "...and I get so DAMNed depressed", which daddy emphasises with a wink, knowing the inevitable reaction.

And the song goes along a good clip, and the station wagon tools along it's course as it always has like it's on a track, and mommy's head bobs side to side to the rythm as the chorus kicks in, and all is right with the world.

And just then, reality rips open at the speed of a light switch, and the front of the car opens up like a banana peel, and the car flings from the road like a matchbox car flicked by the snap of a giant, and mommy screams, and the kids scream a nanosecond later when they hear her, and all the breath just sucks out of daddy, and he grits his teeth and holds on for dear life, and the car begins rolling over down the embankment, over, and over, and over, and it feels like it'll never stop, and the kids are shooting around like pinballs, and soon they stop screaming, and daddy notices whatever hit the car, it looks like a big green rock, has pulverized his legs, and tore mommy open like wrapping paper, and oh, she's stopped screaming as well.

Then, there's a black spot, and daddy's dragging his legs through an infinite galaxy of safety glass, and he hears himself screaming mommy's name, and the kid's names, and no one answers, and this goes on for god knows how long until flickering lights come down the road.

Then, there's another black spot, and daddy awakens, and his legs are okay, and he perks up with joy that it was clearly all a horrible nightmare.

Until he realizes he's in a hospital bed, and the doctors come in with the bad news, and start asking very strange questions, and throwing around very loony theories about the rock, and his legs.

Questions and theories he tunes out as the news about mommy and the kids echoes in his head, and can only be driven out by screams.

And then it's some weeks weeks later, and daddy's raking a straight razor across his wrists, and the wounds keep snapping shut like a clam's mouth and vanishing like an icicle on a woodstove.

And then it's some more weeks later, and nooses, electricity, everything in the medicine cabinet, and a shotgun blast to the face have all proved equally unreliable in reuniting daddy with mommy and the kids in heaven.

And then the memories get really melty from there.

There's a train and an explosion of pain that inevitably subsides as if it were a stubbed toe, and then a memory seen through a ski mask at a bank and being shot at by several police officers, and then there's one of a looooong fall into water, and then several hours of drowning, and drowning, and drowning, and drowning, and drowning.....
Then, at last walking out of the water in frustration, coughing up water, and walking home.

And then, finally, watching this madman on the news calling himself "The Black Trident", firing purple plasma blasts from, you guessed it, a black trident.

And then there's a black spot, and daddy is holding a sweatshirt with a black "H", scrawled on it.
And then there's another black spot, and The Black Trident is doing his DAMNed best to send daddy up to heaven, but it's just not taking.

And then, there's a black spot, and somehow The Black Trident while throwing daddy around and blasting him, has hit a transformer, causing a massive short, and frying himself with his own current.

And people are cheering for daddy, thinking he did it somehow.

And encounters like this become the pattern of life for awhile.


Harry shook his head, and had a nervous tick in his neck like he'd closed his eyes to dose off, and had one of those micro-nightmares.

Harry eyed the CD for awhile, and decided to meet memory lane head on by fighting fire with fire, and popped it in.

He advanced it to "Daisy Jane", and filled his head with good memories of "mommy', closed his eyes, and dozed off, bringing mommy to lucid life into dreamsville with him where they danced, and had a picnic, and for once, The Black Trident, nor the meteor showed up.

As Harry slept, Hembug thought back to the first time he and Harry had met...

He remembered awaking for the first time with the mysterious glowing radioactive bitemark on his fender which faded away in time lapse.

He remembered being laughed out of the Legion Of Liberty for both being a Volkswagon, and for his biotech gadgets looking like Pee-Wee's Playhouse tech,
Despite that unbeknownst to them, it was some of the most powerful tech on earth.
That it was "silly", was reason enough.

He remembered seeing Harry on the news fighting supervillains in what seemed a suicidal fashion...which he would later learn WAS a suicidal fashion.

He remembered Harry suddenly finding a fighting spirit, and taking superheroing seriously.

He remembered Harry also being rejected by The Legion Of Liberty, and his fighting style becoming self destructive again.

And then, he remembered DeathGrasp.

DeathGrasp watched the giant main viewscreen of the master control room of his floating fortess, his arms crossed, and his lips in a sneer.

On the viewer, the Legion Of Liberty were hurling their metahuman powers against the forcefield surrounding the fortress in vain.

DeathGrasp blinked his green luminesent eyes, shook his head, and clucked his tongue.

"Superheroes suck. They really do. They're for kids, and 30 year old virgins. Case closed",
DeathGrasp mumbled to himself as he walked back to his chair.

" Now, the military I can respect. But these jokers. Full of inner demons and freaky kinks. Wearing tights, or in the case of some of the chicks, latex. Come on, go to a bondage bar, go to Vegas, folks. But no, somehow they've decided they need to be a ruling class of self appointed supercops. Deviant nannies. It'd be depressing if it weren't so hilarious".

DeathGrasp sat down, and tapped some controls on the left arm rest.

His right hand was sheathed in a large thick heavy steel glove that noticably weighed him down on the right side, and made button pressing impossible.

Hence the buttons on his left side.

"Enough watching these assclowns bounce off the shield like moths off a lamp, time to swat 'em. Targeting Boson array".

As he uttered the last sentence, he simultaniously worked an inset roller ball in the arm rest that correspondingly worked a vecter-crosshairs on the main viewscreen.

DeathGrasp locked the crosshairs on Mr. Starshine, and....

It had started about 3 days ago.
DeathGrasp's floating fortress, which looked like a stack of flying saucers impaled on a dowel with an inverted toilet plunger head for a base, had slid out of the clouds, and positioned itself 20 miles off of America's eastern coastline.

It hung there for a good 2 hours to instill an air of queasiness, and then the party started.

Hembug had watched all this on his internal TV tuner.

DeathGrasp cut in on every channel.
His slicked back blonde hair, glowing green yes, and pointy bony face would forever be scorched into cultural memory.

"Hello? Mr. President? Can you hear me? I assume so, I gave ample time for all the jackass news stations to draw eyeballs to screens, so here I am. I'm DeathGrasp. Pleased to meet you. Well, the demands are simple. Cede soverignty of the United States to me. Period. All the other stuff, the money, the pussy, that'll come in due time once I own the place. So, hand it over. I assume you'll put up a fight about this. But, I beg you to spare the loss of lives and treasure. I assume that'll fall on deaf ears too, but I wanted it on record I gave you that chance. Well, that's it. Get back to me. Sending you my phone and e-mail over a scrambled channel. There you go. I'll give you some time to talk with your advisers and such. 5 hours should do it. Bubye".

The fighter jets were scrambled within the hour.

America watched in horror as they were evaporated into whisps of smoke by a sweeping energy beam in a staccato rythm like popcorn popping.

DeathGrasp cut in.
"See?", was all he said.

A second larger group of fighters was scrambled, and a group of carriers was mobilized.

They circled round towards the back, hoping to "sneak up on it", or come at it from a less defended angle.

This time, there were no news cameras allowed.

No matter, DeathGrasp cut in with footage from his own scanners.

Every plane was popcorned out of the air as well.

Then, the beam was brought down like a club, and sheared the 3 nearest carriers in two.

Then, it quartered, and eigthed them for overkill, for spite, and shock value.

DeathGrasp cut in in person again.
"Yeah, that's just gonna keep happening. I'd surrender if I were you".

The rest of the carriers retreated.

2 days later, the president had authorized the use of nuclear force.

An ICBM missle was launched towards DeathGrasp's fortress.

DeathGrasp reclined in his chair, smirked, and let it get close to let the home viewing audience build up suspenseful hope.

Then, he triggered a wide spread of bosons from the main guns, causing the radioactive material in the missle to decay into lead, and raised the sheild.

After the conventional blast cleared, he cut in over the TV channels again.

"Okay, now you've irritated me. I'm going to have to spank you for that one.
Hmmm, know, I bet a lot of people would miss Disney World..".

It was then that the Legion arrived.

The shield would hold.

DeathGrasp turned out the lights and went to grab some much needed zs.

He'd handle the Legion tommorrow if they were still there.

Vee-Dubyah had seen enough.
Screw the Legion, he was going to help.

He fired up his engine and took off.
He maxed the speedometer at 300mph, and took off with the gyro-lift.

Still not fast enough.
He pushed the needle past the speedometer, past the radio, past the glove compartment, somewhere onto the passenger door.

His body panels began to warp. He willed them to hold together, and molded to fit the wind tunneling.

Soon, he began to see DeathGrasp's fortress on the horizon. He pushed the needle past the passenger door, all the way to the middle of the rear bench seat.

The paint on his hood began to blush red, and beads of oily sweat began to form from the strain.

Vee-Dubyah rammed into DeathGrasp's shield at aproximately mach 20.

He flattened like a penny on a railroad track.
The sad Vee-Dubyah pancake flittered towards the ocean like a leaf.

It all happened so fast, no one in the Legion even noticed.

Harry awoke screaming "No!! Not yet!! Don't go!!".

Then, he paused a moment, and said "...oh yeah!!", and jumped out of bed to look for something to write on.

10 minutes later, he had doodled a rough schematic of the doohickey that his daughter had shown him in the dream.

Vee-Dubyah floated deep in the ocean, no sense of up or down, pain being numbed by the cold, and slowly, weakly, reconsituting himself.

After all, with no organs, or nerves, or really any rational scientific apparatis to justify his lifehood, really what he was was an energy field of will surrounding this hunk of metal, and as such, no bodily harm could really "kill", him, so, not limited by lethality of of even catastrophic injuries, he could keep willing, and willing, until his "body", repaired itself.

Harry held the completed thingamawhatsis in his hand.

He'd busted into an abandoned Toys R Us, and scavenged the necessary parts.

It was a confusing distorted shape, based on hyperspatial geometry, made from bent shelf pegs, and strewn and tied together with christmas tree lights, and powered by a 9-volt battery.

"Here goes", he whispered.

He fired it up, and vanished in a ripple of sickly orange light.

Deathgrasp awoke, freshened up, and strolled back into the control room.
He looked up at the giant main viewscreen. The Legion was still at it.

Vee-Dubyah reconstituted himself enough that he vaguley resembled a Volkswagon, and could get the gyro-lift working again, and then let himself float like a balloon out of the water.

DeathGrasp locked the crosshairs on Mr. Starshine, and....

....Harry materialized behind him with a ripple of sickly orange light, and dropped the thingamawhatsis shaking his hands and shouting "Hot!! Hot! Shityeow!!".

DeathGrasp swiveled his chair around to face him with an annoyed expression.

Harry affected a karate pose he'd seen in a Bruce Lee movie.

DeathGrasp squinted, and then snapped back in recognition.

"Harry Hombeck??", he asked.

Harry blinked rapidly in confusion and said "...Hembock, I..?", he probed.

"I've studied you, you're the other one who was exposed to the Derkonite!".

Harry popped out of his pose, and stared blankly.

"The Der...oh, right, the green meteor! I call it Derkonite! My powers come from it too, but in my case, it absorbed my flesh, instead of absorbing into it,'s easier to just show you".

DeathGrasp stood up from his seat, and removed the heavy metal glove from his right hand with the unsnapping of a couple elaborate clasps.

Hary's eyes bugged as the hand slid from it's containment.

It was skeletal, green and transluscent like molded plastic lit from within by tiny bulbs, and a faint green aura hung around it, like a bank card hologram, and when Harry looked at it just right, he could see that hologram was of the flesh and muscle of the hand.
Like it was either phased into another dimension, or that it had disintegrated, and left this hologram impression in the air around the bones.

DeathGrasp held it up, and flexed the fingers.

"Freaky, huh?".

Harry glared agape for a few seconds, and said "...and the meteor did this?".

"Yep, ain't it something? Doesn't hurt either, you'd think it would. Anycrap, the stuff ate up and replaced my hand, seeped into my bloodstream, and did this to my eyes", and with that, he pointed to them routine-12 style with his flesh hand "and it...told me things, helped me build this place".

Harry grimaced in skeptical incredulity "why you telling me all this?".

"Don't you see? You're like me! We're the same! The Derkonite chose us! Of all people who should understand, I thought it'd be you. You can help me! ".

"Do what? Blow up innocent people? thanks, I think I'll just kick your ass and bring you in to the proper authorities".

DeathGrasp smirked, chuckled, and shook his head "proper authorities...can you hear yourself? Has society been so good to you? Has the world been so kind to you? You hate this decaying society as much as I do! I've seen you on the news, I've read your interviews. You want this hatefull world to be at an end as much as I do. Proper authorities? It's a contradiction in terms! Look at the country you're defending! They threw a NUKE at me! If that had gone off, radioactivity would've been in the ocean. PROPER authorities? The Legion Of Liberty perhaps? A bunch of hateful fratboys jacked up with powers they don't deserve? Please, Harry, you're on MY side whether you know it or not. And as for innocents, I've not killed a single one".

Harry went to say something, but took too long thinking of it.

"Look, you think once I bring the U.S. government to it's knees, I'm just going to sit on a throne, and twirl my mustache? I have a plan. One that works, and everyone will have a place in it. I'm not some cheesey comic book supervillain, I'm here to save this troubled world. Look".

DeathGrasp pulled a remote from his belt, and pulled up a world map display on the main viewscreen.

Harry's mind clouded as DeathGrasp furiously and lengthily described his master plan.

Something about Isreal, something about getting America off oil dependence with Derkonite reactors, and derkonite tipped and powered drills tapping geothermal lava flows, something about China, something about using Iran as a beachhead into the middle east, a lot about worldwide socialism, which stuck out in Harry's mind, because he kept prefacing it with "and there's that dirty 'S' word again", followed by an idiot grin.

A lot of it flew over Harry's head, but by the overall gist he could gather, it actually seemed plausible.
Whole thing tumbled together neatly like a puzzle.
But, there was one little problem that needed addressing....

"...I've got to think about this..", Harry said as he sat down in DeathGrasp's chair winded by it all.

"So you agree with me? It's a good plan, isn't it? I mean look..", he sped up the animation of the geopolitical forces flowing over the map like weather, and finally snapping together into a coherant mechanically running system that would bring universal prosperity to all, and abolish all war. As the animation whizzed along, DeathGrasp waved his arms like a conductor as if his movements were pulling it together.

"...and click! It comes together. No more imperialist U.S. incursions, no more goddamned bubba mentality in the world, religion abolished, fossil fuels exterminated, heaven on earth".

Harry sat like Rodin's Thinker "yeah, yeah, I get it, no more assholism, and oatmeal in every bowl...".

Harry stood back up "yeah, sounds great. Sign me up".

DeathGrasp punched the air and shouted "yes!! Ohh yes! You will NOT regret this! Oh man, we're going to make such an awsome new world together. My genius, your invincibility, we'll be unstoppable".

DeathGrasp put his glove back on, and shook Harry's hand with the now shielded skele-hand.

"Great, great, so...can you tell me more about the Derkonite?", Harry inquired.

"Oh man, yeah! A big chunk of it powers the place, wait'll you see!".

DeathGrasp took him to an elevator, and they went down for a long time.
Several hundred floors.

And all the way, DeathGrasp rambled about totalitarian capitalists this, and plutocratic sonsabitches that, and punctuated each spittle laced paragraph by hitting his flesh hand into his metal glove.

Harry tried lightening the atmosphere with an occasional "Yeah", "uh huh", "wow, y'don't say", or when feeling particularly bold "boy, you really believe in that stuff, doncha?", accompanied with an enigmatic smirk.

Finally, they reached the reactor room.

There it was. The Derkonite.
A 20 foot tall column of it.
Green and angry, just like in his nightmares.

"...and you say you think it came from an alien ship?", Harry asked, sounding almost bored.

DeathGrasp stared into it's glow patterns with a hypnotic awe.
"Of course! Where else?".

"Well, it's a theory anyway", Harry remarked casually, and tossed something over the rail.

DeathGrasp snapped to attention and wailed "what did you just DO?!?!?!".

"You'll see", Harry said with a smirk, and bolted back into the elevator.

Harry's portable matter transmitter impacted at the bottom of the crystal, absorbed a massive power boost, and beamed the bottom half of it away in a massive flare of Derkonite tinged greenish orange.

The column hung there for a split second after the beaming like Wile E. Coyote realizing he was in midair, and then plopped 10 feet with an ugly shattering crash.

And then, things started exploding.

DeathGrasp shrieked like a child, and shook his fists in the air.

Meanwhile, Harry was back up in the control room looking for some sort of escape pod, or a map to a shuttle hanger, or...something.

The moment the the Derkonite crashed, the main power systems failed, and the moment they did, the shields dropped, and the moment the shields dropped, The Legion Of Liberty came in the for the kill.

Mr. Starshine hit the main support strut with a full volley of solar pulses, while The Swirley formed inverted water vortices like liquid drills that rammed the station again and again, while Ms. Electrode charged those vortices with lightning adding to the havoc.

Onboard the fortress, secondary power had maintained lighting, computers, elevators, and the main gravity lift, and some moderate inertial stabilization, but despite that, Harry was still earning his sealegs from the buffeting outside.

"Goddamned Legion, leave it to them to shoot first and ask questions later. How do they know there's no hostages aboard, much less me? Dicks", he thought to himself, and punctuated with a groan.

Out in Earth orbit range, the bottom half of the Derkonite crystal materialized, and then immediately fell into re-entry.

Vee-Dubya finished resolidifying with one final dent pop, and watched the fireworks show being put on by the Legion.

Harry suddenly felt a blinding wave of agony and nausia that hurled him to the floor.

After a few moments, his mind and vision cleared, and he looked upward and saw..eyes clearing finally...DeathGrasp.
His glove was off, and his skele-hand was gnarled into a tight fist, and he immediately realized he'd been punched in the side by it.

"That sickness you're feeling? I just turned your liver into jerky. My hand can kill ANYTHING, even YOU!", DeathGrasp snarled.

Harry sensed he might actually be right, his healing ability was taking slower than usual to take care of this, by the time he could crawl to his feet, the weak, feverish, dirty-blooded feeling still hadn't gone away. He had gotten used to even absurd injuries dissolving away by now.
This one was putting up a fight, as if an evil living thing were inside him, fighting the force that had been protecting him the last year or so.
Then he realized, that was essentially what was happening.
It didn't take an Einstein to realize this was not good.

Harry feigned feeling okay, stood tall, smirked, and said "that the best you got? Try it now that I'm ready for ya, pussy".

DeathGrasp ran at him growling and trailing a strand of saliva.

Harry didn't flinch.
He'd seen worse than this punk.

Right off early in his career too.

It had been about five or six villains after The Black Trident, and after failing to be killed by any of them, he was once again feeling sorry for himself.

He drowned his sorrows in some household cleaners, and after his system inevitably shrugged them off, he wept himself to sleep.

Four hours later, he awoke with a start from a very strange dream.

He was driving through his neighborhood, his wife was there in the passenger's seat, and she was eerily quiet, except for telling him when to take a turn.
Gradually, she guided him to a creepy backwoods part of town, and bid him to pull into the long dirt driveway of this property with a creepy shack on it.

Then, she said "remember the way you came", and "when you wake up, check the news".

And then he woke up, shaken, flushed, and with a cold queasy feeling.

Mindlessly, he went into the living room, and fired up the TV.

Right there, as the picture tube heated up, was the news.

And there it was, a missing girl, a missing girl who reminded him of his daughter.

Who was last seen in the neighborhood in his dream.

The queasy feeling got geometricly worse from there on.

Waldo Berch undid his fly and dropped his pants, exposing his pale pimply ass, and hairy thighs.
Sauntering slinkily over to the stereo, he fired up the German techno CD on the stereo.

It was dancin' time.

Greta Anderson whimpered fearfully through the duct tape.

Harry turned another familiar corner, and was met again by more familiar landmarks and houses he had never seen outside of the dream.

As with all the other times, he kept mumbling "thisiscrazythisiscrazytrhisiscrazy..", while trying to contain the shivers up his arms by grasping the steering wheel tighter.

Waldo dropped and kicked aside his bikini briefs.
Now Greta could be treated to yet more undulating flesh as he got into his dance.

Harry stood on foot, having parked a few yards down the street to keep from being heard, and stared up the driveway, a chill in his soul.
After a couple minutes hesitation, he finally said "fuck it", and held the image of his daughter in his head to pump himself up.

As the song faded away to it's final conclusion, Waldo started inching toward Greta with a meaningful expression.
She closed her tear soaked eyes tight and sniffled as Waldo ran his penis scented hand along her cheek and whispered "shhhhh".

Just then, Waldo thought he heard something.
The sound of footfalls pounding very hard and fast, and getting closer.

Greta's eyes opened at the instinctual sensing of his hesitation.
They widened with hope as he turned away from her.

The footfalls sounded like they were coming up towards the house, closer, closer,...up to the house...RIGHT up to the house without slowing down, and then...

Harry exploded through the living room window, glass tearing through the flesh on his hands, and the parts of his face and neck that merely holding his arms in front of his eyes and mouth couldn't protect.

He slammed full force into something heavy, but with a soft give to it that it took 2 whole seconds to ascertain was a person.

Harry and the unknown person fell together, and Harry's relatively light weight came down full force mostly on his bony knees and elbows.

In particular, he felt something fleshy under his right knee that resisted, and then gave way with a bursting sensation.

It was Waldo's penis.

A long continuous blood curdling enraged shriek filled the shack.

Harry rapidly assembled where he was, and what was going on, and climbed off of Waldo with an "eeew!", when he saw where his knee had landed and then a sympathetic "eeeeeWW!!", when he'd seen he'd crushed Waldo's prick.

He surveyed Waldo, and noted all the glass cuts and contusions.
"Good", he mentally noted as his own wounds vanished.

Then, finally, in the corner of the room on a mattress on the floor, he saw Greta.

With Waldo still rolling on the floor shrieking and bawling, Harry went out in the kitchen, checked the junk drawer, and found the big scissors.

Everyone had big scissors.

Harry came back, and started cutting the tape off Greta's hands, feet, and mouth.

Just when he'd snipped enough she could peel herelf off the rest of the way, his back and right lung exploded with a heavy impact, and then a fireworks burst of agony.

Waldo had dragged himself to his feet, and come at him with a butcher knife, which was now protruding from just underneath his shoulder blade.

Harry coughed up a mouthful of blood, and croaked "get the fuck out...RUN!".

Waldo tackled him to the floor and twisted the knife sideways with a crunch of bone, and then his lower extremities became numb and non-responsive.

Waldo climbed up his back, and hissed some spittle punctuated lunacy into his ear.
Harry became faintly aware his pants were being pulled down.
His gut turned to lead.

Just then, he heard a scream of rage and a repeated metal clanging, and Waldo was off of him.

He rolled over by shifting his weight by nudging his shoulders, and saw Greta hitting Waldo in the head with a toaster, he blocked the fourth strike, and punched her full force into the kitchen.

Finally, his stubborn nervous system started sending him data to and from his legs, and he climbed slowly to his feet, like in one of those frustrating nightmares where the air dampens movement like water.
He reached around to his back, and pulled the knife out, this also took a time delayed eternity, as Waldo began kicking Greta.

As the knife sucked out of the hole, all sensation in his body kicked back in, and he bolted toward Waldo with the knife,...and tripped over his pulled down pants.

Waldo turned and saw, and tackled toward him again.

Harry held out the knife, and Waldo ran into it with his belly.

He bolted back screaming like a woman, and then realized it had mostly sunk into fat, and pulled it back out with a growl of rage, and came at Harry again.

Harry had gotten his pants back up, and stood his ground.

Waldo proceeded to slash at him as if he were a blender on frappe.

Harry held up his hands and bore a flurry of undescribable pain as blood and fingers flew like cocktail shrimp and sauce at a foodfight at a catered party.

Finally, on one of the strokes, the knife got stuck in the carpal bones of Harry's left mangled stump, and this bought Harry a split second to counter attack.

He jumped backward, kicked back off of the couch against the back wall, and catapulted at Waldo sending him back toward the kitchen counter, where slipping on his own soggy bikini underpants, his head slammed against the corner of the counter, cracking his skull like an egg, and making him plop to the floor like a sack of potatoes.

He gave a few momentary spasms, and then finally stopped.

Harry however, had kept his prayer fueled focus on watching his hands knit, and sprout new finger-buds.

After it became clear the madness had past, and his fingers were going to fully restore, he sat down on the couch in shock and wept a bit.

After awhile of crying into his now fully restored hands, he looked up, and saw Greta, bleeding, contused, swollen, and bearing a sarcastic "my hero", expression on her face.

Harry snapped out of it, and walked her outside, and bid her to sit out on the porch while he called the police.

After making the call, he explored the shack for other captives, only finding a slimy maggot ridden body in a trunk.

After that, he slammed Waldo's head against the counter until it splayed open.
"Y'know, just to be sure", he told himself.

Harry and Greta sat on the porch in awkward silence until the police arrived.

This experience encouraged Harry to doggedly improve with each successive mission.
This was not something anyone would want to repeat.

From that point on however, Harry became a media darling, especially when he started progressively taking villains out more efficiantly.

Eventually, this led to his line of cheapo action figures, and a never-published comic book by a hack cartoonist who got his origin story totally wrong.

Despite the perks and new revenue, Harry continued to be haunted by "the Mr. Berch incident".
He brutally taunted himself for every little bit of harm to innocent people he felt he could've prevented, and pushed himself even harder the next time.

But the public loved him.

The Legion Of Liberty, not so much.

Harry grit his teeth, snarled, dodged to the side and swung a punch with his right hand at at DeathGrasp's right wrist.
In that split second of DeathGrasp's death arm snapping back, Harry did a shuffling dance away from him towards the back of the control room where there was more room to move.

DeathGrasp recovered almost instantly, growled, and chased after him.

Harry kept shuffling back and forth sideways, making occasional half lunges trying to fake him out, building up a pattern, and then breaking it, throwing DeathGrasp off.

This went on for about 35 seconds, and then finally DeathGrasp was the one to jump in for the kill.

Harry tagged him with a left jab, and danced back, ever mindful to keep the doom hand away from him.

This repeated a few times.

Lunge, jab, move, lunge, jab, move.

DeathGrasp's lip was bleeding by now.
Once he noticed, he hissed and finally ran at Harry like a berserker.

Harry saw an opening and hurled a full bore right cross with all his strength.

Long ago, Harry had realized his healing ability had subtracted the need for regard to broken hands with punches, nor inflamed muscles or collapsed lungs from running, and thus this could augment his fighting prowess and stamina.

Harry's hand knitted it's hairline fractures, and took care of knuckle bruises before they could even inflame.

DeathGrasp hobbled back, knocked stupid for a few precious seconds.
Harry threw another rage fueled right cross with a scream, and the willful intent to take DeathGrasp's head off.

DeathGrasp's face lolled and made a slobbidy sound.

Harry threw a left hook while this right knitted.

DeathGrasp caught it in the death talon.
Pain roared up his arm, and his skin began to sizzle.

DeathGrasp's face twisted into a maniacal grin, as he drove Harry down to his knees with the pain.

He'd seen that grin before.

But it wasn't from a supervillain.

It had been some time after "the Mr. Berch incident", about a year and some change.

Harry had just subdued a rather pathetic costumed villain.
More a sad loser who'd taken to convenience store robberys in a halloween costume.
Not very much down the foodchain from himself, Harry reasoned gloomily.

He'd beaten him to a weeping heap, and hogtied him with commandeered clothesline in a neighbor's backyard where the chase had ended, and had then called the police.

That's how a lot of these had been ending.

In a weird way, Harry was grateful.
It was the "interesting", villains, the ones who made for better movies, that were nightmare fuel.
Like the guy with the possessed talking gun that had fused to his hand, puppeted him along, and made him wipe out his own family, and half a schoolyard of kids.
Harry shivered at the memory.

Just then, a spotlight shone down on him from the sky.

For a split second, Harry thought it might be God, and he was stricken with the impulse to start cussing and furiously flipping both birds in various combinations.

But then, the beam started lifting him off the ground, and then his mind immediatly shifted tracks to aliens.

"Oh, well, something sensible then", Harry mentally chuckled.

By the time he cleared the roof hight of all the identicle houses, his ascent accellerated.

Three minutes into the trip, Harry's mental gears finally clicked into the proper configuration.
"Riiiight, the Legion's orbital base...", he finally uttered with an eyeroll.

Harry crossed his arms, and began to hum and tap his foot in empty air like he was merely taking a long elevator ride.

Eventually, Harry found himself in a dark room, the spotlight still on him, a white enamel floor under his feet now, and those rings like from the begining of Superman spinning around him.

He could make out dimly lit faces looking down at him.

Harry instantly sussed out the situation, and said "I'm not joining you guys".

What followed did not go well.

Mr. Starshine gave a 10 minute flowery speech about power and responsibility.

Harry picked it apart in under 2 minutes, explained in detail how the government they served was decaying and unworthy, and the society it served was a con game run by bad magicians, and the nation that served as stage for it all was essentially doomed.
Then, he punctuated the whole thing with " go fuck yourselves".

Needless to say, they weren't impressed by this.

A couple of them tried various tacks to persuade him out of his nihilistic conclusions, but after a half hour of making no headway, most gave up.
Mr. Starshine hung in the longest, and as one last desperate gambit, brought his familiy into it.

That set Harry off.

He let go a volcanic rant to end all rants.
A shrieking tirade that tore open his own soul, and would have raised water temparature to a bubble if there'd been any standing water around.

All of it was ugly. None of it could be taken back.

Finally, Harry cut through the minute long painful silence with "so? You gonna let me go, or you gonna kick my ass, or what?".

They did both.

They humiliated him in ways he still had dreams about, and then sent him back to earth without the beam.
Needless to say, that had literally hurt like hell.

But just before they dropped him, the look on the Swirley's face, that sadistic sociopathic leering grin, it reminded him of DeathGrasp now, and had confirmed his cynical notions about The Legion for all time.

Even after gradually crawling free from his nihilistic worldview by having more successes, his assesment of them as cliquish punkasses and government lapdogs at best, and sanctioned villains at worst, had never wavered.

Harry channeled that hatred now, and let out a sustained escalating battle scream as he climbed back to his feet, and pushed through the cold electrical sensation of his dying nerves as his flesh burned.

Once both of his feet got a solid purchase on the floor, he wrenched his left hand free, and rammed the butt of of his right hand at DeathGrasp's nose, but missed, and hit his upper lip, causing his top teeth to bite through, and into his hand.

DeathGrasp, ran backwards shrieking and flailing.

Harry ran at him screaming inhumanly, like a cross between a growling dog, and a cat who's tail has just been pulverized by a rocking chair.

He opened up with everything.
Fist shattering punches, tendons ripping spinning leap kicks, spine and pelvis wrenching leaping legholds.
Faster, angrier, and with geometricly less regard for personal pain the attacks got.

Leaping off the walls, kicking off of furniture, using broken bones as stabbing implements before the flesh resealed.

Harry treated his own body like a set of nunchucks.

DeathGrasp, now a whimpering bloody pulp, crawled along the floor.

Harry went to find something to lop that pesky Derkonite hand off with.

DeathGrasp got ahold of an office chair, and hobbled to his feet.

Temporarily mangling his hands in the process, Harry ripped off a hunk of metal the size of an axe head from the case of a mainframe computer, and bent and folded it into a makeshift machete.

He tested it, nodded, turned, and...

With a gurgling gag, DeathGrasp's hand was on his throat.
He heard a sizzling, and reality began to rapidly fade like the last dot on a switched off TV set.

Helen looked down at him, her broad mouth grinning warmly with a touch of sarcasm, and her heart shaped face as always, framed by a thick shoulder length mane of chestnut hair.

"Get up here already, ya pussy", she said from the tree limb with a chuckle in her voice, as her sneakered feet dangled in a musical rythm.

Harry looked up and smirked.
She was the open and outgoing one.
God help him if he ever lost her.

Fueled by her dare more than any inner impulse to do so, he stubbornly made his way up the tree, and sat beside her.

"Sure this branch'll hold us both?", Harry said worriedly, slightly jiggling his buttocks to give it a stress test.

"If it'll hold my big butt, it'll hold you. You weigh 100 pounds soaking wet", she said, still grinning.

Harry laughed off both the self deprication, and the barb and said "I s'pose so", while taking in her voluptuous curves, accentuated all the more by the t-shirt and jeans.

They watched the sunset, and all was right with the world.

"Kool-Aid clouds", he uttered at one point like a little kid who'd discovered a new word, or who was advertising his newfound ability to put his clothing on in the right order.

Helen closed mouth laughed out a loving "hmmm", sound.

"Jesus, doesn't my neck hurt", Harry finally observed.

Helen began massaging it.
It was as if a warm vibrating energy were passing from her fingertips, and rinsing the discomfort away.

As she did, she said "remember, I'll always love you, I'll always be here when you need me, and most important of all, whenever you doubt yourself, there are no limits but those you set for yourself".

"Um...okay, Harry said, thinking that last bit was odd, and trying to tune the oddness out to lose himself in the massage.

And then he remembered why it nagged at him, there was something he had to face, and didn't want to, and he especially didn't want to leave this moment.

He closed his eyes trying to drown that something out, and when he opened them again...

..a baby boy was being handed to him.

"Wow, look what we made", he said sappily, his eyes watering up.

Helen looked up from the hospital bed exhausted, puffy eyed, and said "do it for them, if for no one else, do it for the little ones who have a chance. But believe in something, and do it for something".

Harry understood, and that nagging something became harder to ignore.

Harry nodded.
He then handed baby Joshua back to her and wiped away a tear, and kept nodding.

"And remember, no limits".

Harry smiled and said "yeah, baby, I'll try to remember".

He turned to walk out of the room.

"Just to be sure, those limits?", she asked.

"There are none", he said with a confident smile.

"There's my man", she said with an equally strong smile.

Harry's eyes snapped open, and the inner TV turned back on, that warmth from Helen's massage still there rather than the pain.

DeathGrasp blasted backward, a yellow energy enveloping his derkonite hand.

He howled like a slapped child, his mangled face contorting, and Harry could barely make out the words "what the hell ARE you!?!? What the hell ARE you?!!?".

Harry stood tall and smiled.

"I'm no one to be trifled with, that is all you need ever know".

Vee-Dubyah started back as something slammed into the roof of DeathGrasp's fortress with explosive force, flinging the members of the Legion aside like mosquitos caught in a breeze.

DeathGrasp finished shaking the yellow energy off his hand in little glittery twinkles, and went to lunge at Harry again.

But just then, a big something slammed down through the ceiling, and half crushed, half impaled him.

It was the chunk of Derkonite Harry had beamed into space.

Harry's eyes bugged for a second, then snapped into recogniton, then smiled in satisfaction.

"Well, that wraps that up", he said calmly.

Outside, things started exploding.
Moreso than they already had been since the Derkonite reactor crashed.

Vee-Dubyah flew in close to look for survivors.

System after system failed, and then Harry noticed, the background hum that he'd become used to while he'd been here came to a dead stop.
It was the gravity drive.

The station began to tip like the leaning tower of Pisa.

Harry sensed it was time to leave.

He leapt through a window with a crash, and fell towards the ocean.

After awhile, he noticed, all his glass cuts....weren't vanishing.

He instantly understood.
The combination of DeathGrasp's hand, and whatever that manifestation of Helen had been, spirit visitation, something inside himself, had signified the loss of his powers.
He also understood hitting the ocean at this hight without them would probably kill him.

Fine, let it end.

He closed his eyes.

And suddenly felt something tackle/catch him.

He opened his eyes, and saw he was...sitting in...a bucket seat of a car.
He scanned his head in every direction, and essembled what was going on.
He'd been caught in this seat, and the seat was retracting into the cabin of a lime green Volkswagon Beetle.

A FLYING Volkswagon Beetle.

"Of...course", his mind said with a dispassionate gallows humor, his mind long since accustomed to being assaulted with absurdity.

The driver's side door closed behind him by itself, and he surveyed the cabin.

More or less a Volkswagon Beetle.
More or less.
Except for the inexplicable extra control panels that looked like bits of Pee-Wee's Playhouse and baby crib "busy boxes".
A silly but bouncy tune was playing on the radio.
Harry drank it all in.

A mellow optimistic voice cut in over the radio speaker.
"Hey there buddy, Vee-Dubyah's the name how yah feelin?".

"Abrased and contused, and in need of bactine and gauze, but otherwise...peachy", Harry grumbled.

"Hey, I know you! You're that Harry Hembock dude from the news, and the toy commercials! Say! I'm in the superhero game too! You need a partner?".

Harry thought about it awhile.
Finally, he said "well, I wasn't looking for one, came in handy back there, and I owe you, and you don't seem like an asshole like those Legion putzes...okay. But one condition. You gotta do something about that name".

"Got anything in mind?".

"I'll think of something".

Having left it far behind, Harry and Vee-Dubyah didn't see what was going on with DeathGrasp's fortress.

They'd assumed it had kept exploding and sinking, and would inevitably end up as debris at the bottom of the ocean.

Instead, a falling bank of crackling electrical cable fell into the gravity drive, and both supplied it with power, and clogged it's mechanical works, making it's directional/inertial controls go haywire.

The fortress began lurching violently, bucking like a mechanical bull, and then eventually, it spun totally out of control, and flew around in giant arcing fart circles like a deflating party balloon, and finally zipped toward the east coast of the United States.

20 minutes later, Vee-Dubyah uttered "oh, shit!", and a flatscreen TV monitor folded down from the ceiling, and moved on an armature to position in front of Harry's eyeline.

A news story unfolded of DeathGrasp's fortress crashing in a small town in Georgia, and setting it ablaze.

Harry gulped, and squeaked out "ooo shit! Ohshitohshit. ....look, we'd better lay low for awhile,...say, let's go to Hawaii. How's that sound? Hawaii? Eh?".

"Sounds like a plan", Vee-Dubyah said, yanking the steering, planning to take the long way over Asia, seeking to avoid the American continent altogether.

Over the next few months, the value of Harry's action figures fell through the earth, and that graphic novel by the hack cartoonist was indefinately shelved.

The latter was just as well as far as Harry was concerned.

Over those same months, Harry had named Vee-Dubyah "The Hembug", which was later shortened to just "Hembug", and he had gradually related to Hembug all the forgoing backstory of his life up to and including the fight with DeathGrasp.

And meanwhile, in a parrallel universe, DeathGrasp was gleefully cutting apart the midwestern U.S. countryside like a thanksgiving turkey with his fortress's boson beam, and commanding a fleet of mandroids of the same type as Tektan Democulus, of which, in our dimension, Tektan himself was the sole survivor after the crash/explosion.

But, the world being unaware of this alternative reality for comparison, henceforth, Harry Hembock was a name spoken with spit for the punctuation.

And being a part of that unawareness, Harry morbidly accepted that judgement.
It was around this time that he began hitting the sauce.

Hembug emerged from his reverie, and pulled into Harry's driveway.
He then blared the horn.

Harry awoke with a moan, smacked his lips, and dragged himself out of the driver's seat, and into the house.

Hembug fired up his TV tuner, and scanned for any word on the Tektan Democulus fight they'd just left.

Hembug came in on the middle of the coverage of the devastation, but there was no mention yet of the death of Tektan Democulus, or of any involvment by Harry.

Which was as it should be.

That was what the cleanup tech was made to prevent.

The cleanup tech, being but one example of the amazing gadgets that had started pouring out of Harry's mind after the DeathGrasp fight.

It was as if his body compensated for the loss of his healing power, by amplifying another human ability to the point of having another power.
Like a blind man with enhanced touch and hearing.

It was curious, Harry would awake in the morning, and immediately scribble out plans for a gadget which he'd have built by the afternoon, and not only put into practice for the day's adventure, but it would turn out to be exactly what they needed for that exploit.

Hembug had asked him once what he dreamt about that gave him those ideas.
Harry had always managed to dodge the subject.

Hembug had learned quickly not to press the issue.
Especially after hearing about his family, and his early cases.

And then he reminded himself, not all of his missions with Harry post-DeathGrasp had been a barrel of monkeys either.

And then he looked at the flaming ruin that Tektan Democulus had left in his wake on the TV tuner, and it reminded him of 9/11.
Now there was an adventure that had gone wrong from start to finish.

A flicker of images would always assail Hembug when he thought of 9/11 no matter how hard he tried to squeeze them out.

Harry awaking to the first tower having already been hit.

The haunted look on Harry's face when it was explained to him (contemptuously) via sattelite feed into Hembug's monitor that the Legion Of Liberty were busy off fighting some alien race called the Boodon, and that he was the only superhero available.

The look of morbid determination on Harry's face when Hembug mentioned that the new tractor beam he'd installed was only made for stopping, tops, a trailer truck.

Hembug pushing his speed meter all the way back around to the 0MPH marker to make it to New York in time to chase after United Airlines Flight 175.

The tractor beam, as predicted, buckling under the strain of trying to push it off course.

Hembug trying to manually push it himself with all his willpower in one final shrieking burst.

And then, when his strength finally drained utterly, begging Harry permission to stop, and Harry, morbidly, knowing what was coming, saying "give me the wheel, when they ask, I was driving".

And then, the plane smacking into the ocean.

Harry had been known for 3 years after that as "the savior of the south tower".
And they weren't saying it in a congratulatory way either.
It was a mark of derision for not being there to save the north tower, and for losing Flight 175 on top of it.
Oh, there was a camp who meant it in a congratulatory manner, but once it became a press bandwagon, it was a minority.
And once Harry hung his head into the pits of reclusivity to dodge the whole debate, it was a minority that was totally drowned out.

This only added to Harry's Jack Daniels bill.

And it led to Harry making the cleanup tech.

Popping up on the radar would only lead to more abuse from the press, who he'd never win back, and then lord knows what bullshit from the Legion Of Liberty.

But quitting superheroing would make Harry's inner demons devour him completely.
So, the cleanup tech had been the compromise.

But, anyway, in image form, that was the slideshow behind Hembug's eyelids.
Smouldering north tower, pushing the plane, plane crashing, Harry's haunted eyes, a rapid flicker of sneering talking heads on cable news, and then finally Harry swilling out of a bottle of Jack like a baby with a ba-ba.

Hembug stayed up all night monitoring the news.
He didn't really need sleep, when he would, it was more sort of a game he played.

Harry awoke the next day screaming.
Hembug was naturally concerened, but he couldn't fit into the house to see what was the matter.

Four hours passed, and then finally, Harry came outside with a thick stack of scribbled on scrap papers in his hands, and that same haunted look on his face as 9/11.

After a minute long hypnotized looking pause, he finally said "...better get me to a toy friday's coming".

Hembug responded "it's the middle of september, the christmas season...".

Harry glared at him frighteningly "...that ain't the one I meant...".

Hembug popped his door open, and let Harry in.

Hembug knew what Harry wanted at the toy store.
A large source of his most advanced form of the cleanup devices.
The Harry Hembock action figures.

He remembered when Harry had "upgraded", them.

He had come out of the house one day with one of his gadgets strung together with spit and bailing wire, and directed him to the action figure factory.

Then, Harry had snuck in, and Hembug had seen this by patching in to the security camera system, while simultaneously overlaying blank hallway footage over their view.

Anyway, Harry had snuck in, and made his way onto the final assembly line.
Then, he activated his little gizmo, and it gave off that orange ray that would later be used for the healing ray by the figures, and had melted a hole in the chest of the closest figure, and then stuffed the gizmo inside.
The gizmo then gave off another orange ray that sealed the hole behind it by molding the melted plastic back into it's original configuration.

Then, the figure made blipping and zapping noises inside, and the eyes lit up, and emitted that same orange ray, and passed it over the next adjacent figure.
Eventually, that figure's eyes lit up, and it repeated the process apon the next figure, and so on, until exponentially they were all converted.
The ones off the factory line would then convert the ones in the stores they were sent to.

Then, it was a simple matter of installing the transmitter in his belt buckle, and Harry's butt was covered.

But, there was no mission underway, no villain to fight, what did Harry need them for now?
The question gave Hembug the chills for some reason.

At the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, rested some things that had been tossed free when DeathGrasp's fortress had spun out of control when the gravity drive had gone haywire.

The mangled severed Derkonite hand of Deathgrasp.

A still functioning emergency signal beacon reciever that had picked up the death of Tektan Democulus.

And a broken beaker of experimental self repair nanites.

The emergency reciever device tried to find any signs of the other mandroids by pinging their recievers.
After awhile, it had given up, and computed that this was the worst of worst situations, and the mandroid fleet, the headquarters, and indeed the whole command structure up to and including DeathGrasp had been lost.
So, it began emitting it's own emergency signal on all bands hoping to find someone, or something left of DeathGrasp's organization, and hopefully, coordinate a pulling back together of those fragments.

It raised the command processors of the nanites.

And the nanites swam their way back to the reciever device.

And having the same reorganizational impulse as the reciever, absorbed it.

And then, the assimilated reciver modified itself into a full blown neural net computer.

And then, this neural net computer, with it's impulse to pull surviving elements of DeathGrasps' organization and equipment together, now having evolved into a conscious willfull mission, began absorbing and reactivating other bits of debris, and became a robot.

And this sentient little robot, now outfitted for swimming, began adding more and more debris and circuits to itself.

And then, finally, it found some Derkonite.
DeathGrasp's hand.
It added it on to itself, and then, the hand started absorbing back.
Both metallicly, and growing DeathGrasp's tissue into the robot, who's nanites also aided in the tissue cloning process.

Recieving a spark of life from this integration of flesh, the cyborg then began seeking more lifeforms to absorb.

So, it grabbed and absorbed a fish, and then another, and then another, and another....

Harry strode into Toys R Us, went to the action figure aisle, found a Harry Hembock, ripped it's box open, activated it, which activated all the others, and set them all for wide band neuralization.

A green wave enveloped the store, and knocked everyone out.
Except Harry, who's belt emitter blocked out effects from his own technology.

"Well, time to get to work", he mumbled, as he cracked open the figure in his hands to get at it's precious electronic goodies.

Meanwhile, the Derkonite infused cybernetic lifeform, having exponentially multiplied in mass, was now slurping up marine life like a whale through krill.
Until, it came apon a whale.
The struggle was valiant, and futile.
And now it had the mass and strength to absorb another whale.
And from there, it'd have enough mass leverage to start slurping whales up like krill.

Harry had modified the figure's neuralizer into a neural interface processor, which he'd taped to his forehead, and was using to mentally guide the other Harry figures.

First, he commanded them all to modify their gravity drives for time warp, to accellerate them to super speed, so they could work like bees.

Then, he commanded three to dismantle another three, and whip up human sized gravity lifts from their circuits, which he attached to his boots,

Then, he had them whip up another gravity drive, modified for timewarp, which he clipped to his belt to use to speed up to their same rate.

Then, he activated them with his neural link.

The rest, he made mass produce the handheld teleport with every shelf peg, battery, and bit of wire they could get ahold of.

Meanwhile, he began flying about arranging shelves and ladders into a scaffold structure to weave them all onto.

Miles away, an offshore oil rig was being completely enveloped and devoured by a giant mass of tentacles with screaming needle toothed mouths in it's suction cups.

The lifeform even absorbed the oil that gushed forth, integrating it into it's skin texture and pigment, blackening the sea with it's disturbing squirming amourphous mass.

It was half an hour later, when this living oil slick came apon a cruise ship, that the press finally took notice.

Harry stood back, watching his little workers buzz around building the massive device to the specifications in his plans and mental commands.

Stage one of it was almost finished. He watched as the figures even dismantled each other and integrated their circuits into the thing.

The Scourge, as the press had now taken to calling it, was peppered with dismantled and reconfigured cruise ships, 5 aircraft carriers, various fishing ships, and had absorbed untold amounts of fish, marine mammals, and human beings.

For some unknown reason, it now headed toward Antarctica.

Harry nodded in satisfaction, as the device now reached the stage where it was able to continue building itself by itself.
Soon, it finished phase 2 of it's development, and much like the chest of that first action figure, dissolved the front of the store out of it's way, floated through on it's various gravity lifts, and then reintegrated the hole in the store behind itself.
Harry flew after it.

The Scourge half grew, half constructed an array of lenses and conductors to focus the power of the unfiltered sun through the hole in the ozone layer, and began to sup on the raw power like a tick on the neck of a dog.
Greedily it inflated, until soon, it enveloped Antarctica.
And still it continued to swell.

Hembug watched it's growth activity on his TV tuner while steering Harry's giant device with his tractor beam.

Harry stood astride his machine and listened to "when it's over", by Loverboy "when it's over", by Sugar Ray "it's the end of the world as we know it", by REM, and "preaching the end of the world", by Chris Cornell on a shoplifted I-pod.
Inevitable doom always put Harry in an ironic mood.

By midnight, Harry's time, The Scourge had spread up to the coast of Australia.

Technically, it was now friday.

His machine had now added to it's mass, integrating several cars, a couple trailer trucks, and then finally, a couple large cranes which it used to pull even more cars and trucks into itself.

Soon, it was the size of a small office building.

By 3 am, the Scourge had absorbed Australia.

Harry had kept himself awake with a six pack of Red Bulls, and blaring Megadeth music.
It was time.
Harry pulled a manual lever next to him, and every engine, battery, and generator the machine had added to itself focused all their power into it's core, and began to build up an energy field.

It was the same sickly orange light that his first portable teleport had given off, but it began building weakly from the core, slowly getting brighter and larger.

When it switched over to buildup mode, all it's power circuits but low level gravity lift flipped over and devoted themselves to creating the energy matrix.
So, Hembug began to push it along with his tractor beam, which had been upgraded for this occasion.

Harry stared out toward the direction of the ocean, filled with an increasing sense of dread, a cold feeling permeating his whole body.

He whipped a cellphone out of his pocket, and called his folks.
He got their machine.
Lost for a moment with what to say, he finally choked out "um...yeah, This is Harry. Um...sorry I've always been such a complete and utter fuckup,, well, despite all the water under the bridge, you guys,..goodbye".

Harry gulped back some tears for a couple minutes, and focused ahead with resolve.
Slowly, Hembug's pushing was causing the machine to build momentum.
It was up to 100 miles per hour now.
Harry had resolved once it could coast along on inertia at at least mach 1, he'd tell Hembug to head back.
No reason for him to die too.

Inside the core of the Scourge, couldrons of creation bubbled.

The DeathGrasp DNA gave rise to an instinct memory, which augmented with some animal DNA whipped up a faint residual consciousness.

Which seeped into the organic and cybernetic neural pathways, and spread out, and became more complex, and became a primitive mind.

Which soaked up the stores of knowledge from the absorbed humans and computers, and guided by it's primal instict memory, sought out and kept only what it recognized as resembling it's former self.

And thus, it reconstructed everything that DeathGrasp knew.

Then, augmented by the metaphysical properties of the derkonite in it's system, the Deathgrasp mind latched on to it's original metaphysical energies, it's lifeforce.

And with that reassembling of mind, ego, and spirit, DeathGrasp was re-created.

And with that re-creation, the original program of the Mandroid Emergency Beacon Reciever Device was complete.

And thus, the growth of The Scourge momentarily halted.

DeathGrasp awoke in a cold blackness, and after some momentary confusion, began to become aware of other minds, and through those minds, became aware of his situation, and by telepathicly scanning the vast memory banks of his new body, he came to a conclusion.

The human populace of the westernized world was too docile to incite to revolution, and the third world was too unstable to repair in any single lifetime, thus, the human race was beyond hope.
But this new form, this Scourge, was just the thing to bring about his new order.
Digest all life, and instantly create utopia in it's neural web.
The ultimate manifistaiton of his political ideals.

And thus, DeathGrasp and the Scourge truly became one, and it's growth continued unimpeded.

All of this took an elapsed 40 seconds.

Harry watched as the green dot of Hembug vanished on the horizon.
It had taken some hardcore verbal abuse to make him leave.
He still kinda felt bad about it too.

Harry looked down, and sighed sadly as he noticed the battery on the I-pod was dead.

A damned shame, he wanted to play Pagliacci by Pavorratti for his death song.
Would've brought the pattern of his life to a perfect circle, Harry figured.

Harry shrugged, and took a stab at a few pidgeon italian verses himself as he slid down poles and climbed back up laddars to work some switches and dials for the final reactor buildup.

His voice was terrible, but hell, no one could hear, and the lyrics were made up gibberish, but he knew the translated meaning, and knew where to put the "oomph".

"Bah, sei tu forse un uom? Tu se' Pagliacciooooo!"

(Bah, you think you're a man? You're just a clown!)

He ran across a walkway to toss a couple switches.

"Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarinaaaa!!!"

(On with the show, man, and put on your white-face)

Running back up to the top deck to see the first glimps of black howling tendrils.
Fists on hips.
Extended one hand out with a flourish.

"La gente paga e rider vuole quaaa.
EEEE se Arlecchin t'invola Colombinaaa, ridi, Pagliacciooooo...
e ognum applaudiraaaa! Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il piantooooo!!".

(The people pay you and you must make them laugh.
And if Harlequin should steal your Columbine, laugh,
you're Pagliaccio, and the world will clap for you!
Turn into banter all your pain and sorrow)

Extending both hands outward, and with an almost defiant snarl he brought it home.

"In una smorfia il singhiozzo e'l dolor...
Riiiidiiiiii Pagliaccioooooo, sul tuo amore infrantooooooooo!
Riiiidiiii del duol che t'avvelena il coooooooorrr!".

(and with your clowns' face hide grief and distress...
Laugh loud, Pagliaccio, forget all of your troubles,
Laugh off the pain that so empoisons your heart)

And with that, he sank to a full down to the knees bow, head down, as the tendrils began to batter the machine, and drain it of it's built up speed.

Harry's head popped back up with a defiant smirk.

A wave of black ooze riddled with bullfrog burbling mouths and red eyeballs loomed up on the horizon.

Harry chortled.

The wave roared closer and closer, a chilling sound warbling through it like a strong hurricane wind punctuated with bearlike growls, and a faint sprinkle of female pitched screams.

Harry held his ground.

As the wave roared closer, tendrils loomed up on either side of the machine cube.
Harry noted them in his periphiral vision.

Then, having guesstimated letting them get close enough, he stomped down on a red button inset next to him.

The stored up energy of the machine released in a four pointed yellowish orange starburst accompanied by an ear splitting stereophonic buzz like a prolonged electric guitar note.

The wave dispursed as if it had smacked into an invisible breakwater, and the tendrils recoiled.

The energy shaft eminating from underneath the machine boiled the black ooze in the ocean, and gave off a roaring greenish cloud reeking like burning garbage.

Within a few minutes, Harry noted the smoke and stench cleared.
Suspicious, he squinted through some remaining smoke, and noticed that the black in the water was retreating, leaving behind the usual transluscent blue.

"Oh no you don't! son of a bitch!", he hissed.
He ran to the back of the machine, and climbed down some ladders.

Finding a sturdy enough structural point to hold onto, he fired up his boot gravity lifts, and began to push with maximum flight power.

Slowly, ever so slowy, it began to microscopicly budge.
Harry's face was bright red and sweaty from the effort of merely holding his body vertically erect without getting crushed.

Finally, he gave up.
"Fuck....not gonna move, can't catch him, fuck...need Hembug...he's long gone..fuck", he gasped while sitting indian style rubbing his sore legs.

The massive electrical starburst and hum still filled the sky.
"Shit, and this damned thing will pour out all it's juice in about an hour...fuck..", Harry mumbled with a note of grim defeat in his voice.

"Ah well, I'll have a lethal dose of rads in just 10 minutes anyway. Least I'll miss the apocalypse".

5 minutes later, Harry passed out.

Harry opened his eyes, and found himself laying in the middle of a grassy field.

Helen looked down at him from a tree limb dangling overhead, her broad mouth grinning warmly with a touch of sarcasm, and her heart shaped face as always, framed by a thick shoulder length mane of chestnut hair.

"Get up already, ya pussy", she said with a chuckle in her voice, as her sneakered feet dangled in a musical rythm.

Harry looked up and smirked.
She was the open and outgoing one.
God help him if he ever lost her.

"Remember, I'll always love you, I'll always be here when you need me, and most important of all, whenever you doubt yourself, there are no limits but those you set for yourself", she said warmly.

Harry smiled and said "yeah, babe, I'll try to remember".

"There's my man", Helen said with an equally strong smile.

Harry blinked, and he was back aboard the machine.

He climbed to his feet, and noticed the last vestiges of what seemed to be radiation sores vanishing from the back of his hands at the same rate that strength and lucidity were returning to his body.

"No limits, baby. I remembered this time", he said with an excited smile.

Harry kicked off his gravity lifts, plucked off his neural scanner and timewarper, and chucked them all into the sea.

Finding the sturdy structural point he held onto before when he'd pushed with the grav-lifts, he held his body vertically erect with healing power augmented upper body strength, and concentrated.

Slowly, ever so slowy, the machine began to budge.
And not microscopicly.
And not with crushing gravity pressure.
Indeed, the effort it was taking to hold himself up was what was becoming negligable.

Within 20 seconds, Harry was pushing the machine in the direction of The Scourge's retreat at 40 miles an hour.

Within 2 minutes, he had accelerated to 200 miles per hour.

Within 5 minutes, he breached mach 1, and started to see tentacles.

The Scourge tried to retreat, but Harry's machine splashed into it's oozy structure with a roiling boiling fizzle, and a roar of the green odiferous smoke.

Thousands of it's hellish maws wailed.

But, it wasn't dying.

Harry felt a wave of defeat, and realized it had spent too much of it's power.

His hope further sank as a literal wave of black ooze began to pour down towards him overhead.

He envisioned Helen looking over his shoulder shaking her head, and his mind screamed "NO!!".

He grasped two beams on the machine, squinted his eyes really hard, and poured his willpower at it for something, anything to happen.

If his eyes hadn't been squinted, he would have seen what did.

His hands became transluscent, like DeathGrasp's.
But yellow, and full of the healing energy Helen had given to him.

The orange glow from the machine which now was being snuffed out by The Scourge, lit up to white and blinding, and blasted free from the ooze, and burnt it all off, and then continued to grow larger and brighter, and filled the sky for miles with a trillion pointed starburst that made the air molecules on it's perimeter give off a squeaking crinkle sound like dry ice.

The energy wave reacted with the derkonite within The Scourge, like Harry's original handheld matter-porter had with DeathGrasp's Derkonite core, and magnified the starburst even more.

Pulsing rainbow energy waves at a strobing amplitude poured forth from it's core for 15 seconds, and then, the energy burst exploded forth even more fantasticly.

The starbust let out another massive guitar-like thrum, and encompassed the whole lower two thirds of planet earth itself.

And just as it was reaching it's ultimate crescendo... fizzled and winked out, like the dot on a switched off television.

And it was all gone.

The Scourge, every little drop of it, gone.

The energy wave, and the machine that spawned it, gone.


Harry opened his eyes, and immediatly regretted it.
His retinas were finger banged by a swirling kaleidescope of ultra-violet and x-ray colors as arranged by Picasso smoking Pollock as a big human joint.

He squinted, and the distorted miasma began to slide together into a slightly more comprehensible purple vortex with all sorts of trippy psychedelic energy patterns and plasmatic paisleys swirling about, and buffetting his senses.

Finally, with a sudden jolt of acceleration, a cool and refreshing waterslide feeling washed over him, soothing his senses, and his view cleared to that of a transluscent tunnel with jillions of pretty multicolored planets and nebulae whizzing by outside like on Star Trek or something.

He took stock of his surroundings, and noted he was virtually alone.
Except for the little black wriggling speck miles ahead of him which was clearly the Scourge.
Somehow, it had been hurled out ahead of him.
Or else, he'd been stuck for awhile in the gateway to this vortex, and it had gotten a head start.

Suited Harry fine.

But where was he, and where was he headed?

Clearly the machine had been a larger scale version of the matter-porter, but as with the first miniature model, the dream blueprints hadn't specified where it was keyed to take him.

Also, the first one had taken him to DeathGrasp's lair instantaneously.
Presumedly, it had merely seemed that way because the target destination was only several hundred miles away.

Harry shrugged, and decided to passively resign his fate to the providence that had guided him so far.

Looking like an insane Picasso/Dali-esqe Frankenstienian kitbash of several ships from at least five different SF universes, the freshly upgraded Green Mamba speeded along hyperspace back towards Earth, piloted by a youthful, svelt, and spritely Steve Torrent (having been medically rejuvinated in the future).

An alert light flashed on Steve's screen.
Steve checked the readout, and saw that a huge object was in hyperspace transit along a slipstream channel adjacent to his own.
A little TOO adjacent, he noted.

Steve grabbed the controls, and yanked the Mamba over in sidespace to avoid the object.

He saw it whizz by in 2 seconds.
Indeed, it WAS huge!
The size of a planetoid.
Black, and covered with....tentacles?

While gawking at the startling sight, he'd missed a second alert.
The ship rattled hard, and was bumped essentially back to his original track in hyperspace.

"What the fuck?", he said as he called up damage report.

It had been a 20 foot long chunk of a green radioactive meteor.
An element scientists of the future had referred to as "Derkonite".
Luckily, the telefractal shields had handled it perfectly, dissolving it into frinkifrat particles.

Steve shrugged, and realigned the Mamba back onto it's original course.

Planet Earth reorganized its shape like morphing watercolors.
It's injuries from The Scourge vanished.

For without The Scourge, the damage hadn't ever happened.

For without DeathGrasp, The Scourge never arose.

For without the crashing of the Derkonite meteor, there was no DeathGrasp.
Or Legion Of Liberty.
Or the animation of Hembug.
Or the empowering of Harry Hembock.

For The Green Mamba had just deflected the Derkonite.
By dodging The Scourge.

Which was sent into hyperspace by Harry Hembock.

Thus, the world was once again saved, but once again unaware.

Thus, nobody loved Harry Hembock.

All was back as it was once more.

At great sacrfice.

Of which all were oblivious.

The Kool-Aid clouds hung over Steve Torrent's house as if to say "where are ya, Steve? It's time for Osbournes!".

Suddenly, with a flash of pseudo lighting, a popping like a giant pickle jar being opened, and a big whiff of ozone, The Green Mamba appeared in the sky.

The ship wobbled to a landing in Steve's back yard, and then the cloak was switched on, perfectly concealing it's existance from the neighbors (who were miraculously all at work, or shopping at the moment).

A ramp lowered from the invisible ship, and Steve ran down said ramp, and to the varanda door, and into the living room of his house.

Steve did a Jackie Chan flip into his recliner, grabbed his remote, and put the Osbournes on.

"Try and make ME miss my fucking shows will you, government, history, and laws of physics? Well, I sure fucking showed you, cocksuckas! NO ONE makes Steve Torrent miss his shows!".

The corrider rumbled with time-quake, and shifted to reddish.

Harry looked about him, confused, oblivious to the temporal paradoxes juggling around outside.

Suddenly, he felt the now familiar warm tingle of Helen's energy envelop him, and then he started as a hand touched his shoulder.

Harry jolted back "Helen! you''re really real! I'm not dreaming! oh baby..I..".

It WAS her.
"Shhh, settle down, don't piss yourself, Jesus, it's alright, babe", she soothed.

"But...but how...", he stammered dumbly.

"Something to do with higher dimensions intersecting with the afterlife. I dunno, didn't really grasp it all. Jesus explained it better anyway. Way with words that guy, you'd like him".
She smirked.

"So um...", Harry said trying to find the right words to ask a question that lumped together all of the ones buzzing through his mind.

She jumped into the awkwardness for him "you're not supposed to be here. Time to go home".

And with that she grabbed his hands, spun him around twice, and let go, hurling him back in the other direction along the wormhole with a "hey YUP!".

As he hurtled away from her, she waved cheerily.

Soon, Harry saw a familiar blue and green planet veer up in front of him, get bigger, and then surround him as the vortex finally let go and spat him out onto dry land.

But, he landed in the same spot as a past version of himself.

The two phased into each other, and fused.
He was bombarded with disorientation, as alternate memories flooded in.

Of a life without the Derkonite infusion.
Without the car accident.
Without the Legion Of Liberty to both positively and negatively inspire him.
And thus, by a complex strand of chain reactions, no Helen.

And then, he was bombarded with equal disorientation of absorbing the memories of this alternate self absorbing his own memories, realizing the failure of both lives, and falling into despair.

Which he now also proceeded to do.

Which syncronized both minds, and alleviated the temporal disorientation.

But merely replaced it with an equal emotional turmoil.

Harry, this new fusion Harry, with memories of both timelines, collapsed under the weight of it all.
Knocked into a deep sleep, his disturbed subconscious mind tried to fill the yawning void with fantasy.

Of being in the future, being a member of an order called "The Zone Dweebies", of going on a quest for a lost technology of neutrino-travel, and of teaming up with aliens and robots, and space vixens.

And strangely, midway through this, he was plucked out of time, into some other dream, where he met that blue thing from another dream he'd had, and this scruffy paunchy drunkard named Steve Torrent.

And then, finally, being rudely shunted back into the first dream, and then back to present day Earth, where through a chain reaction of happenstance, ended up in a loony bin, where finally, Anubis, the Egyptian god of death, wasted him with a blast of magic.

Harry snapped awake.
"That was some trippy dream", Harry mumbled.
He climbed to his feet, dusted himself off, and headed back inside.
He tried to review the whole thing, trying to learn from it, but it was all fading away now.
Something about...magic beer? No, it was gone.

Damn shame, he liked telling Helen the weird ones.
Then he remembered.
Helen was gone.
He'd never worked up the balls to even aproach her, and she'd married some other man.
Harry sank into his recliner, utterly defeated.

He sat there like that, television turned off, lights out, sun setting, for a good couple hours.

And then an image snapped into his fading memory of himself in a junky superhero costume grabbing hold of two metal beams and screaming "NO!!".

Somehow, this inspired him to get up out of his seat, and head towards the door.
"Where the hell am I going?", he asked himself.
And then some more memories flickered in.
Of Helen sitting next to him in his car guiding him along to...where?
Something compelled him to get into the car and find out.

On the news, a story unfolded of a strange incident.
A severly disturbed man in his mid-40's entered a shopping mall with a snub nosed revolver, and started shooting patrons.

Which was eventful enough, except for what had happened next.

A mysterious man in a hooded sweatshirt had subdued him by merely touching him.
The assailant tumbled over in agony as if had had been touched with red hot metal.

Then, the mysterious stranger laid his hands on a small 2 year old girl who had been hit, seemingly lethally by all eyewitness accounts, and helped her to her feet.
Medical examinations afterward revealed not a scratch on her.
Despite the bloody bullet holes in her clothing.

Then, this mysterious person dissapeared into the flowing mob and vanished.

All security camera footage during the time of this incident was garbled.

Hembug snapped off his TV has Harry climbed into the driver's side.

"Damn, nice trick with the little girl there", Hembug remarked, impressed.

Harry pulled back the hood on his sweatshirt.
"Well, I figured, if my hands can animate a freaking Volkswagon, why not a person?".

Hembug smiled "bet you're feeling like a big damned hero".

Harry smirked "yeah, why the hell not?".

Harry looked over in the passenger seat at his manuscript, and patted it out of habit.
"So, how much d'ya think they'll pay for my life story NOW y'figure?".

Hembug chuckled "not Paris Hilton book money, sadly".

Harry chuckled back "no, no, I ain't aiming that high, that'd just be foolishly quixotic".

Hembug started his engine, and pulled out of the mall parking lot.

Harry fiddled with the radio dial.
Vesti la giubba was on the classical station.
He let it play.

A familair face Harry hadn't seen in years looked down at him from her place in the book signing line of his autobiography (which the rest of the world had taken to be science fiction) her broad mouth grinning warmly with a touch of sarcasm, and her heart shaped face as always, framed by a thick shoulder length mane of chestnut hair.

"Loved your book", she said with a shy starstruck quality to her voice.

"Glad to hear it", Harry said with a smirk, as he scribbled in, after his signature of course, his phone number.
"Next one will be even better", he said with a sly wink.

Nolan Buckner handed Harry a free CD from the back seat of his car.
It was home burned, and sloppily labeled with black magic marker.
The title was "The Ballad Of Harry Hembock".

Harry mindlessly went through the motions of cordial acknowledgement, made his way back to Hembug, stuffed it into the arm rest, and forgot about it.

A couple months later, he found it while on the way somewhere important, and decided to give it a spin.

After a few minutes, Harry remarked "hey, this kid's pretty good, he's got chops. Thought it was gonna be some lame hippy jam band shit from the looks of him, but this is actually pretty rockin".

Harry reached his destination, and pulled over.

"Can I keep listening?", Hembug asked.
"Sure", Harry said as he got out.

Helen looked down at him from the tree limb and said "get up here already, ya pussy", with a chuckle in her voice, as her sneakered feet dangled in a musical rythm.

Harry looked up and smirked.
She was the open and outgoing one.
God help him if he ever lost her again.

"I dunno, you just got done with your divorce, and you were pooning that other guy and...I dunno...".

"You gonna get up here and be with me, or are you gonna keep being stupid?", she asked perterbed.

Harry nodded and stubbornly made his way up the tree, and sat beside her.

"Sure this branch'll hold us both?", Harry said worriedly, slightly jiggling his buttocks to give it a stress test.

"If it'll hold my big butt, it'll hold you. You weigh 100 pounds soaking wet", she said, still grinning.

Harry laughed off both the self deprication, and the barb and said "I s'pose so", while taking in her voluptuous curves, accentuated all the more by the t-shirt and jeans.

They watched the sunset, and all was right with the world.

"Kool-Aid clouds", he uttered at one point like a little kid who'd discovered a new word, or who was advertising his newfound ability to put his clothing on in the right order.

Helen closed mouth laughed out a loving "hmmm", sound.

Suddenly, with a flash of pseudo lighting, a popping like a giant pickle jar being opened, and a big whiff of ozone, a strange spaceship appeared in the sky off in the distance, and turned transluscent and vanished.

"That'll be Steve Torrent", Harry mumbled to himself.

"What?", Helen inquired.

Harry grinned "book stuff, nevermind", and with that, he grinned, and hugged her.


The Scourge shrieked with indignance as it crashed into the junkyard planet with a wet ugly flabbidy splorch.

Overhead, a garbage ship flew past, and emptied it's load.

The Scourge and the pilot of that ship would meet again.

But that, is another story.



Anonymous said...

That was wicked.
A little Watchmeny, a bit Sin City-y, also Chitty Chitty Bang Bangy, Red Dwarfy and Toy Story-y all threaded through with some Diacanuiness.
Which are good things.

Diacanu said...

Thanks, glad you liked it. :)
Sorry for the late reply.

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