You know how it can be kinda scary to wake up and find someone else in the room?
Let me tell you, that ain't got nothing on waking up and finding four people in your head.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is JB Reid. A few months ago, I was a computer consultant working in Santa Clara Valley. Now I'm a sidekick for my brother, the superhero. Aw heck, you probably already know all that.
"Heh-heh! Which one of ya'll is Myron!? Haw-heh"
Most folks are well aware of the voices in our respective heads, they're products of our id and ego that allow us to argue and decide on courses of action. For the most part, that one voice tends to sound a lot like our own.
"I'm not at liberty to disclose that information."
These voices, however, quite clearly and definitely, were not mine. What's more, unlike the gentle sound my near subconscious makes; this was more like listening to a rather loud conversation being held in an elevator.
"Well, uhm, I'm Roger."
I'm sure that some folks would swear they had just gone insane.
"Ah so that's what your name is, Roger? I'm Karl."
Somehow I was pretty sure that if I were going insane, the voices wouldn't be this cordial.
"Yer Myron!? Hot Damn! No wonder you dress up in that purple getup!"
"Well, thank you Miss Leading Edge Fashions."
Or nearly this entertaining.
"Oh, yer one to talk, Mr. Thriftshop Tailor!"
"Now, now, Lady Peacemaker, Let's not insult our host."
"He's not gonna get mad and take off the uniform is he? I don't want to go back!"
They can hear me?
"Well, yeah, Cowboy! We're in your head."
"Don't take off the costume! Please Mr. JB!"
"Roger, don't snivel. It's not heroic"
"I'm sorry, it's just "
"Karl, quit pickin' on the kid, he's scared."
"I'm not picking on him. I just feel that he should make a better first impression on "
whoa, Whoa, WHOA!
OK, this is confusing. Robot Roll Call, everyone .
There, that's me. That's what I look like, although it's a bit weird to envision myself in the third person.
"You need to add a few more inches"
"No, to your waist."
"OK, OK, sorry." a blond woman said as she appeared out of the darkness. She was dressed in jeans and a simple white blouse with red white and blue "P" insignia. "Howdy" she said, "I'm Lady Peacemaker, nobody's called me Becky Sue fer quite a while, but ya'll can if you like."
A tall muscular man with chiseled features appeared next, he was impeccably dressed in business formal attire and a familiar red cape. It was much shorter on him. "I am Captain Industry, Champion of the Market." He struck a heroic stance.
"Howdy Karl," the woman waved.
"Honey, I told you, call me Becky Sue. Look if we're gonna be livin' like this might as well get comfy about things." An overstuffed chair appeared that she plopped onto, an ottoman appeared beneath her heels.
Good point. OK, sorry Becky Sue waved.
"Do you always talk in narration like that?" Karl asked.
Sometimes. Right now, I just find it's helping me keep things straight.
"Perfect, we're haunting an individual with mental problems." said a purple clad figure that emerged from 'behind' me. He turned and flourished his cape. "I am, The Detective ."
The other two broke into hysterical laughing. Good, that's what I was hoping for when I thought about having Myron sound like a helium sucking duck.
"Hey!" he squeaked.
OK, OK, sorry. It's just that if we're going to play mind games, I'm pressing the home court advantage.
"Ah like him." Becky Sue pointed at me with her thumb, "Karl, can we keep him?"
"I believe that the final assessment is up to Mr. Reid."
Who are wait, no I know that one. The voices sound like the ones from my dreams, the Jaunty Footlong
Justice Furlong, right. You're the folks that those dreams about.
Becky Sue quickly held up her hands, "Hey now!"
"OK, more like nightmares of you lot getting zapped by "
"By whom?" Myron,
"Detective, just the Detective"
Oh, err, the Detective said looking rather intense.
"Back off Myron, " Becky Sue said defensively. "The poor kid's just realized that he's got a head full'a squatters. Give him a chance t' figure out what's what before you start acting like your normal pig headed self."
Look, there's still something I don't understand about this all, err, all of this.
A bunch of stuff that I vaguely remember that I can't explain. I'm guessing that you all are probably responsible for the whacking-the-bus thing, right?
Suddenly, all of the Furlong looked rather nervous.
What, what am I missing?
"They're afraid to tell you." That was, uhm..
Right Roger, the quiet one a green and yellow figure, who looked like a younger version of Erol Flynn in Robin Hood appeared. Apparently he was one of the things I had been missing. He looked a bit timid, like a deer standing near the edge of a clearing, but he was carefully walking toward "me", his eyes never leaving mine.
"Roger, don't...", Karl said in a somewhat commanding tone.
"They're afraid that if you knew, you'd get mad and take off the costume. I don't want you to take off the costume, but you need to know."
Well, now I'm scared more than mad, what's the deal?
"We can take over whenever you are panicking or distracted or not very active. Usually we don't because it takes a lot of energy to do it, and only one of us can take control at any time. Some of us tend to hog control whenever she gets it."
"Hey, if there ain't nobody drivin' the coach, somebody's gotta take the reigns"
Becky Sue looked at me for a minute or two. "Well, that was unexpected. You don't mind having someone else in your saddle?"
Well, provided you're not out robbing banks or kicking puppies in my sleep or anything, and frankly I'd like to know what I can and cannot do as well as what you did while driving, but right now I don't think that it's that bad of a relationship.
Everyone looked relieved and a bit happy at that announcement.
Everyone except Roger.
Roger, what else is there? When you say you don't want to "go back" where is that?
"Nobody else is going to believe me."
What that your now haunting the body of someone in the future? I'm willing to bet that the people you'd talk to here would probably believe you.
"Well, no, I mean, yes kind of.."
Roger, calm down and say what you need to say. Don't worry about how it sounds, or getting it right. I'm not going to do anything to harm you, if you promise not to do the same to me.
"OK", he said and took a deep breath.
"We..", he waved toward the collective Furlong, "We're not dead."
My world filled with loud Mariachi music. I found myself sitting in a ballroom, a very pink ballroom that had guests starting to come in. Chris was standing by the door trying to argue with a large woman who was pointing in my direction and yelling something in Spanish.
A small girl was looking rather nervously at me, So I smiled and gave her a bit of a wave, she smiled back. I got up, collected my stuff and walked toward the door. I grabbed Chris by the collar, said a quick "Gracias" to the woman and walked out.
Chris worked himself free and started asking me questions. I couldn't really hear him. I was too busy trying to listen, but they weren't saying anything either.
Hi Grace, it's me Avey. What are you doing?
Really? Oh, I'm so jealous. You two will have a blast!
It went pretty well, we wound up going to a nice little steak place. It was OK Bob seemed to like the ribs. The only bad thing was that I kinda felt rushed.
No, they were nice, they even had the car waiting for us fully gassed up with the motor running.
Oh, Margie is fine. She's out back chasing squirrels.
No, just the ones that think she's a tree.
Oh, he's doing fine. I think he's in the garage, thinking or whatever it is he does in that damn truck.
Yes, he still has it, can you believe it? I keep telling him he should fix it up or sell it or something, but he just refuses. He says it's a family heirloom. I mean it seems to run OK, heck he moved most of our stuff in the back of it, but the thing is ancient.
No, it's not rusty or anything, it's just a museum piece. I'm amazed that it passes inspection at all.
Well, he's been going out to sit and think in it. He says it helps inspire him.
Well, he and that creepy little robot thing were out a few nights ago. He's been kind of quiet since then, but you know how he can get.
Oh, wait, no there he is. He's out in the back yard playing with Margie. I tell you, I think he's really becoming attached to that dog.
No, she's sweet. She's like a big puppy, a reaaaally big puppy, but a real sweetheart.
Is that your sister?
She says, Hi. You seem happier.
Yeah, I just needed to think and plot a bit. Wanna get something out tonight?
OK whenever you're ready, I'll be in the back.
OK, uhm, I'll just be a bit longer. *kiss* Ooh, what's that for?
What? No Rose, I don't know. I'm just happy that he's in a better mood. OK, well give him my best. I'll talk to you later.
Doctors are not quite certain how the eighty-year-old woman was able to outrun the bus, but this granny is raring to go. Best of all, she claims that her ability was a gift from an alien visitor.
And finally, attendance at the Anodized Aluminum Doorway Park's recently renovated DeTeen museum has been high for the Ancient Cookware exhibit. The exhibit, which features over three hundred examples of historical food preparation items, has been drawing steady crowds since it's opening this past week.
Show highlights include a fossilized butter churn, the original "Twinkie", which has yet to reach its half life, and the fabled Phoenician Spatula of Doom which, according to legend, was wielded by one of the great chefs of all time.
The Spatula was recently uncovered in the cursed Tomb of Fah al'Fell, and will be part of the exhibit that runs until November.
Yes, well, I just read what they put up on the prompter.
And I enjoy giving Vinny the stage manager wet sloppy kisses.
If Harold doesn't stop screwing with the teleprompter I'm going to kick is ass, signed Vinny.
That's the news for tonight, have a pleasant evening.
In a darkened underground bunker, a light flickers over a long table.
A gruff, gravely voice commands out, "Ladies and Gentlemen if you could turn your attention to the screen please? Thank you."
"As many of you are no doubt aware, recent activities have prompted this council to consider acceleration of our initial plans. "
"Ottawa was a deep embarrassment to the administration, and set back our espionage efforts at least ten years. People, I cannot state more emphatically the general urgency of our goal. We cannot afford failures, any failures. We must remain focused and deliberate in our plans and actions if we ever plan to successfully secede from Canada."
A figure against the far wall whispers to another standing next to her. "We're part of Canada?"
"Yeah, Regan sold the country back in the eighties to get out of the recession. They kept it pretty low key. It's in the briefing notes."
"I know, I didn't get a chance to read all of them."
The gravely voice boomed out "If I could have everyone's attention, please?"
The room fell silent once again.
"Thank you. As I was saying, our operatives have identified this man as being the head of Galactic Customs, or GC."
The screen flashed the picture of a chiseled blonde man who obviously had done a fair amount of body building at one point in his life.
"It's not known how many GC operatives there are out in the field, however we feel confident that the number is less than one hundred at this time. Ladies and Gentlemen, please do not assume that the low number indicates in any way that these individuals are easily controlled or manipulated. They possess highly advanced tools and weaponry and have recruited several metabiologic humans or 'metas' to their efforts to keep us quote/unquote safe."
"They have also set up their operation headquarters in Canada."
The screen flickered and displayed a map of Canada, with a red circle located toward the south west corner of British Columbia.
"Recently we had intercepted a GC transmission and had successfully decoded it, unfortunately, the transmission was lost before it could be properly analyzed. However the COMS tracking ability was proven successful. Unfortunately shortly after we received the transmission the satellite was lost. We believe that this may have been due to GC interdiction. "
"However we were able to determine the location of the tight-beam hyperfield transmission."
A second red circle appeared below the first. It was located in the Northwest section of the United States. "The location was latitude 43.6061 by longitude -116.1948."
The image zoomed in dramatically to a mid size Idaho town.
"Boise. Something's going down there, and this may be our only chance to find out what it is. I want full surveillance on that burg, but absolute, and let me repeat that, absolute secrecy! I don't want a single Canadian or GC even thinking that we're remotely interested in that area."
He paused again, and leaned heavily on the table. With as much anger and dread as the grizzled thirty year xeno-ops specialist could muster, he stated, "Do I make myself clear?"
Then a great deal of near violent agreement, as the assembled crowd gathered their briefing papers and exited the room.
The general stared at the illuminated map with an intent that would have withered anything slightly more animate.
"War, what the hell do you have up your sleeve? "
A quarter of the way between the orbits of the Earth and Mars a satellite that never existed streaked out of control toward deep space. Most of the outer array of antennae and collectors had been shorn off by the tremendous sudden burst of velocity. The fact that the device had not completely exploded was a testament that at least one contracting firm had not overcharged without some just grounds.
There was however a somewhat recent and quite out of place addition to the deep black "bird". This addition was also the principle reason why the aforementioned satellite was now the fastest moving completely inoperational object ever to leave Earth orbit.
Spread-eagle against the heavily dented Earth facing side of the satellite was something that looked very much like a blonde in tight Lycra and rollerblades with a portable CD player
A waitress walked over to a booth that overlooked the ruins of Suture Baths. "Get you two a refill?"
Chris looked up at her and replied, "Uhm, yeah, I'll have another Sprite, and, JB?"
"Oh, another Diet Carffee please?"
The waitress, a woman significantly younger than the first woman who served them at Louie's simply replied, "Right away" and headed off to the kitchen.
Chris looked toward the counter. "Pity, she must be off today."
JB didn't say anything, but simply glared at Chris.
Chris waved off the daggers and slid his hat back a bit. They were still dressed in their street clothes. "Look, I had to get at least one shot in, you haven't said a word since we left the hotel. You just kinda sat there for two hours. I couldn't get any kind of response out of you. You mind telling me what was going on in there."
Chris punctuated the last statement by pushing his index finger against JB's forehead.
JB sat back against the seat, he wanted to tell Chris what happened, but heck, he wasn't quite sure he believed it himself. How do you tell your brother that you've got four dead superheroes setting up camp in your head and not sound like a raving lunatic?
This wasn't the kind of thing they have support groups for.
"Earth to JB. JB, you're not zoning out again are you?" Chris reached across the table and waved his hand in-front of his brother.
"Who are those four people that Phil named?" Chris asked his suddenly stoic brother. "Are they the Justice Furlong or something?"
JB snapped out of his funk. "What? You know of the Justice Furlong?"
"Well, only that they were a bunch of heroes in World War II that disappeared suddenly."
JB was more excited, "What else do you know about them?"
"That's about it really. They didn't have that spectacular of a career."
JB ignored the voice.
Chris just let out a heavy sigh. "JB, we've usually been pretty square with each other, right?"
"Yup, like when you broke Ma's vase?"
"Well, yeah but we were.."
"Or when you 'borrowed' most of Dad's tools around the same time I headed off to college?"
"It's not my fault that.."
"Or when you asked to move in with me because you were low on cash?"
"Hey, I didn't get the checks right away and we were still trying to work out all the details."
"So that's why I still buy the groceries?"
"Here ya go. One Sprite and one Diet Carffee.", The waitress had impeccable timing. She placed the two full cans between the the two brothers who thanked her by reflex. Their Mom would be proud.
"JB, how on earth can you drink that stuff?"
"What? Diet Carffee? It's good."
Chris picked up the bright yellow and orange can. "I haven't seen that many multisyllabic ingredients since... man, I don't think I've ever seen that many syllables. About the only two ingredients that don't have at least seven syllables are water and caffine, and those are the first two ingredients listed."
"Oh, this from the guy with the Caffine Free Diet Coke habit a few years ago."
"Look, I always said that stuff was brown Perrier. 'Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Benzonate, Carbxymethylcellulose Sodium, Capsicum Frutescens, Angelica Sinensis, Henriettas Kress..."
"Gimme that." JB snatched the beverage container from Chris' hands, popped the top and took a long hard swig.
"OK, OK", Chris relented returning to the previous conversation, "but most of the time, we tend to be pretty straight, right?"
JB gave a weak nod.
"OK, look, things haven't exactly been normal around here, have they? Right about now, if you said that everyone in this restaurant were really green radioactive gibbons, I would probably believe you. If you were to tell me that the Stealth bomber that crashed in Australia yesterday was actually a planned attack by a bunch of interstellar pirate space shrimp, I'd probably believe you. JB, we're not in Sunnyvale anymore. So, c'mon, what's the big secret?"
"You gonna laugh at me or think I'm nuts?" JB asked tentatively.
"If I didn't laugh at you I'd stop being your older brother, and JB?"
"You're already nuts. You drink Diet Carffee fer kripes sake."
JB smiled at that one.
"OK", JB paused trying to put his thoughts together. "Apparently, the members of the Justice Furlong are residing in me somehow. They can take over sometimes and they're the ones that can do the really nifty stuff. "
"Hmm, when they take over, do they prevent you from getting back in control?"
"No, actually, it's kind of the opposite. I think because I'm the landlord so to speak, I get ultimate override. The problem is that if I step in, they have to step out. I'm guessing that also means whatever nifty power goes with them."
"Hmm, bummer if you're under a falling piano or anything."
"Yeah, well, I guess that's something we'll have to work out. I also don't know how long they can take control. Roger said that it takes a lot of energy for them to do it."
"Yeah, he's one of the Justice Furlong. Kind of the shy type I guess, I don't know what he does, but he seems to be the most straightforward of the lot. I'm guessing it's because he's new."
"New? I'm confused."
"So am I a bit. I get the feeling that they really don't know each other that well either. They didn't even know each other's real names."
Chris smiled at that, "Your kidding?"
"No, really. They were doing introductions when I "dropped in" on them."
Chris laughed a bit. "That's classic! So what you're saying is, they're in the same boat we are."
"Yeah, except for the fact that at least one of them can punch a bus a hundred yards."
Chris realized that laughing at the common predicament was probably not a very good idea and merely took a long sip of his soda.
"So?" JB asked.
"So what? You mean about the Furlong? Well, it's good to know you're not any more abnormal than you usually are "
"No, that." JB said and pointed to Chris' arm.
"What about it?"
"C'mon Chris, we said we'd be square with each other. When we were getting out of the warehouse you, I dunno, zapped the door clear through a couple of buildings. That's a damn nifty trick, how long have you been holding on to that little ace?"
Chris looked at his arm. "JB, I have no idea where that came from, but let me tell you, it hurt. It hurt almost as much as that damn cattle prod of Bob's."
"Could you do that before?"
"Before Bob zapped you with the prod thingy."
"You got a better name for it?"
"No way. If I could, there'd be a lot less folks running red lights when I was in the crosswalk."
"I thought you said it hurt to use it."
JB still looked a depressed and concerned about everything that had happened recently, and Chris desperately wanted to get him back to his normal self. There couldn't be two dark heroes in Boise, particularly with the way that JB tended to dress. Well, there's always the letter.
"Alright already, I have been holding something else from you.", Chris relented.
JB looked at him again with a bit of a hurt expression. Chris scootched up a bit and pulled an envelope out of his back pocket. Without a word of explanation he slid it across the table to JB, who just looked at it.
"It's called an envelope. It contains things like letters which are an early prototype to email." Chris teased.
JB semi-glared back at his brother and opened the envelope. The first thing to catch his attention was that this was written on official USHA letterhead and was clearly addressed to GRAYHOUND and POPPYBOY.
"I'm having a hard time finding Poppyboy, but then it's not like they list opium dens in the yellow pages."
JB faked a laugh, but immediately dived back into the letter.
Chris continued off hand, "I think it's for some sort of convention or something. I was gonna turn it down, but it says that all expenses are paid. Still, you know they probably won't cover stuff like drinks on the airplane, and the food will be crap. If you're interested I guess we can get away for.."
"THEY'RE ALL GOING TO BE THERE!" JB yelled as the smile stretched across his face.
Yup, thought Chris, that did it. Once again, they were the center of attention. Chris smiled uncomfortably to the assembled patrons and held up quieting hands to JB.
"Yes, it's some sort of general meeting of all registered superheroes. I guess that also includes us, even though we've just got learner's permits."
"They're all going to be there!??", JB said just slightly containing himself.
Chris again tried to restore control. "Yes, JB. But please don't embarrass us too..."
"TOMORROW! OHMYGAWD, We've gotta go pack, we've gotta get ready, we're gonna be late!"
"JB, we've got 12 hours before we need to be at the airport we've got... JB?"
Chris watched his brother run from the restaurant at less than heroic, but still impressive speed. He signaled to the waitress, settled the bill and strolled up the hill to the car. JB was bouncing next to the Maxima practically clawing his way in.
Note to self, Chris thought, Never, ever tell JB about a superhero convention after he's downed two bottles of Diet Carffee..
Are there any clandestine councils that are held in bright light?
What superhero convention am I talking about.
Will the next chapter suck less?
These and other questions will probably still not get decent answers in the next hopefully more thrilling chapter,
Hotcakes of Doom
Don't give me any Flap, Jack!
And for the curious, some of The Grayhound and PuppyBoy's time in the Big Apple can be found at: The Files of Hydrogen Guy, Episode 54: The Golden Claw - Part II
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