Remnants, Revelations, and Him

Compared to the last few weeks, so far this week has been pretty quiet. Not much other than watch the aftermath of a couple of Questers finding several Candy Girls (all of whom, I’m told are getting treatment) in their attempt to steal several hundred gallons of various chemicals with names that would take too long to correctly pronounce and spell let alone list here. Instead, my work continues, packing continues, sort of, and life in general continues. I heard on the news that at least three of the recent abductees have been saved, one from Kid Quantum, one from a hero called Ghost Owl (who I should probably talk about soon, as he claims to be one of the only native heroes to Bridgeton). The last was rescued by, of all people, Snowflake.

Oh I was getting a few emails regarding the blog. They tell me I should included more background info. As the wiki is taking forever (you try to do this when holding down a 40+/hr work week in a job that sees you as a leech that doesn’t replenish you in anything other than finances, plus household chores, errands, and making time for the family. Not so easy is it? Stop showing off Electricpop! (Mom of a teen, full worker, seamstress and occasional writer… who says women don’t do more in a day?)) That being said, I think I should explain a few bits more. In this case, Snowflake and why I’m startled to find her hauling in victims of super-violence. Again, I shouldn’t be that surprised if people don’t know about her. I get the same problem talking about science fiction movies I forget people have not seen. That also might be the reason I get people who look at me strangely now when I quote Dune…Anyway, I don’t expect everyone out there to know everything I do. I’m the obsessive compulsive geek with a near fetish for the gods among us. Not all of them make the news, and plenty are pretty obscure. It’s kind of like being a metal fan around rock fans. Some bands you can mention and people will smile, nod, or maybe put in a vote of confidence, even an occasional “That band rules!” Others are so obscure some people scratch heads, while others smile, nod, pretend to know what you are talking about, and silently judge your music tastes and life choices.

It happens.

Snowflake, as much as the name sounds like something a kindergartener might call her stuffed pony, could also be called by her other less formal title, ‘Unofficial Queen of Terraq.”

(Terraq for those who don’t know, is the small nation populated entirely by metahumans carved out of the Alaskan wilderness and turned into a thriving state with a reputation as the supervillain equivalent of a pirate port of call. It’s ruled by Chevron, formerly Robert Chevron, formerly Robert William Kendrick, formerly the sidekick Billy Club before his powers manifested. So far everyone on the same page? Great. Don’t get too excited, some of the stuff I know came from the internet and is of dubious accuracy, considering that I have read recent articles that wonder why records say Terraq exists and doesn’t exist at the same time. More on that at a later article…)

She is given that less formal title as a whisper more than anything else. She has been seen on the arm of Chevron at just about every major event the Overlord has attended publicly. While it is only rumor that two of them are in a relationship, any suggestions by any press who can make it into Terraq is met with silence and peculiar looks. But there is more to the woman than who she is seen draped over in a sky blue and white off the shoulder number. Some have called her the Icicle of Doom, the Frost Princess, and other less appropriate names in various blogs. She is also one of the most powerful cryokinetics on the planet, an interesting irony as she hails from New Orleans. Judging what little I know about her family history, based on the fact that her foster father and younger foster daughter were found encased in six feet of ice in the middle of summer, she might have issues with people who abuse young women. Most of the time she is scouting for Terraq or being a pain in the Paramericans side. Glad to see her working with the good guys. Even a broken clock is right twice a day and all that.

Ok, lesson over…

She returned the girl to the police commissioner himself, made a note that the Candy Man would not be terrorizing Bridgeton for a while but he was not gone. If the commissioner didn’t believe her, then she could ask anyone of the Questers, Paramericans, and even the Flight of Champions, all of which had representatives at the event, whatever it was. She also mentioned more would be returned soon, as many girls opted to stay with the Monster as he fled, and some were left behind. Threats, remnant powers, psychology, and addictive behaviors had to be monitored and evaluated before they could safely be returned. Many of them had criminal records based on their activities working for him and that would have to be accounted for later. There was talk of find the Candy Crushers, a group of former Candy Girls who made it their mission to destroy the candy maker after surviving their time in his ‘family.’ However, they cannot be reached. As far as I could tell on various forums, they don’t like to work with police, seeing as technically they are vigilantes operating out of an unrecognized group. Oh, and they don’t like to take prisoners so any contact would not be easy. Still if anyone knew how to deal with the trauma, addiction, and abuse of being a Candy Girl (or Stripers as they are sometimes called) it would be them. Granted, their coping mechanism isn’t the best for what some would call a normal life. But hey, I’m just a failed counselor. I have no idea how the biochemistry and trauma might scar that kind of mind. I can only wish for the best.

On a side note, I’m thankful the Candy Man has been dealt with before Halloween. Nothing sucks more for a kid than knowing a holiday where one dresses up as whatever, goes door to door to get sugary treats becomes a terror day of contaminated candies and human suffering. I lived through the “Razor blades in apples” and “Tainted candy” scares of the 80’s. Trust me. Losing faith in humanity starts at an early age and it’s because of things like that. But now kids can enjoy bite sized whatevers in relative safety. Score one for the good guys.

That was a little while ago and I found myself in my slightly larger amount of free time contemplating several issues at hand and doing a little research. Yes, I’m doing this to get the Institute off my back but I can’t say I wouldn’t have done it. It damn fascinating and I’m obsessed anyway. Better to make your demons work for you than against you, yes? This lead me to internet research mostly and reading several books. Until my job put the smack down on any and all who used the internet for anything non business, it seemed like a good way to fill up the time between assignments.

Did I mention I’m quitting this job? Not for the reason above, I am actually moving away you know.

I sat in the Golden Grog again, relishing the feeling of the place and wondering how many times I could go here again. There is nothing like it in Space City, not even close. Although there is some really kick-ass restaurants there and barbecue is a must, but the general feel of a full on metahuman bar run by a former hero who makes a magic elixir in form of a brewers special beer and the chance to see someone in costume ask for a special in exchange for a photo with the bare-chested Ettin. I doubt there are many places like this in the world. And no, I thought about but doubt I would have the chops to open one there. Besides, there is no replacing Bobbi or the other hard working people who really made this place what it is.

(Note: today’s color was Tangerine. Someone got the points today by pointing out that it was actually the shade of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper. So congrats to whomever that was.)

With Edgar upstairs doing paperwork, Bobbi enjoying her attention while manning the register and acting as defacto maitre d, I saw under a picture of Arrowhead and Firefly when they stopped by in the late 80’s. I hear they have a kid now. My book of notes lay before me as I scribbled some ideas for plots, some musings on what people have told me recently, like all the Institute issues, GTI, whatever this Xenex thing was, and what exactly was Sovereign Brain? I also had several print outs of various articles from the late 50’s and early sixties. Some talk about how the First Mr. Atomic helped in the several excursions into Korea and other East Asian countries at the time. Two talk about, how after the initial push, several metas in on the communist side made the war almost apocalyptic and how this pushed the UN to add to the Geneva Convention rules as to how metahumans could engage in warfare. But others don’t have a word about him, even at the same engagements. It was as if he was Schrodinger’s Hero, both there and not there at the time.

He wasn’t the only one.

There should be a huge number of articles about Paramerican’s role in WWII. I can find articles related to Hitler’s Elite and the Übermensch, but they are talking about eugenics and silly notions of purity and perfection rather than the group of metas that fought the Allied forces at every turn. It was frustrating. I even found an entire page devoted to a man named Edward Fallon, a name briefly mentioned by Captain Lyons and Elizabeth Lambert in a speech they made just after their wedding in 1889. Apparently he was some sort of ‘Man of Adventure” and a gentleman at the same time. Granted I also found an entry about an Edward Fallon around the same time stating that he was a Secretary of Trade for the Morning Star Shipping. I have no idea if they are the same person, though images look similar, graying mustache and beard combo, top hat, and piercing eyes. Anyway, in the Man of Adventure version, he kept a diary, most of which was burned in 1910 for reasons unknown. Several pages survived, thanks to some servant who remains nameless, fishing the final pages off a desk while the others burned. On the last page, past several proclamations, two things were scrawled in a barely legible hand. Truly out of character for the elderly Victorian in the early part of the new century. The first stated: “We approach a new age of Quantum possibilities, unlike each universe unto the other.” This might be the mad ravings of a man known to ingest things that would make me run and hide for sanity, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was quoted verbatim in a speech that Mr. Atomic made just before retiring to the Bikini Atoll. The other simply stated. “It said its name was Xenex.” It’s the closest to anything I have been able to muster about that word.

This little assignment raged in my head, frustrating. None of the info made any sense in combination to other data. Granted my head was still a little shaky after having my memory played with. (Dear Institute: I know you are reading this. Stop doing that!) But still, it looked like a history unhinged, constantly in flux because Schrödinger made too many boxes and forgot which cat was in which. There was enough to make a person wonder, but not enough to be what I would call evidence. I stared to wonder why no one else noticed the possible idea that several actual histories are overlapping and may not contain the same events and people before. Ok, one person might have figured it out but all the evidence he could come up with has to do with the pronunciation of the Bearstein Bears. I was about to start slamming my head on the tables and pulling what is left of my hair out by the roots when a person approached. I almost thought they were my waiter.

“May I join you?”

I started to say, “I’m not sure that is a good idea as I’m looking at the mess that is human history and needing a file cabinet for all these strange paradoxes” when a mug of hot chocolate, a spoon still swinging in the contents, was placed before me, right next to the print out of a 3rd century tapestry that might actually have a crude rendering of the Quantum symbol. I looked up, about to protest, when I saw the glasses first. The slender, almost cartoonishly thin, man looked back through red and white striped rimmed glasses. His hair, a shoulder length grey bob framed his smiling face. I don’t think I have ever seen eyes like that before or since. I know my face must have blanched in seconds while I stared at him, muttering “oh, my gods.’

He repeated his question. “Again, Sir, May I join you?”

If I didn’t nod, I knew many, many people were going to die with probably myself at the top of the list. I slowly bobbed my head. “Many thanks to you and yours, kind sir.” He said as he took the seat across the table. He was not in his traditional suit that look like Willy Wonka preparing for a killing spree. Instead he wore a simple grey suit with a grey overcoat and radically non-descript grey fedora. Only his glasses gave him away. In his hand, he had a frosty mug of lemonade, the super sweet scent wafted over me and made me want to gag. He took a sip and looked out the window. “On a day as lovely as this, it’s no wonder why so many flock to the fair, green, and mostly grey of your berg. I do hope they enjoy the occasional spice of life to keep the gloom from seeping into their soul. But they do indeed have some of the best pastries I have ever sampled on this continent, do they not?”

Like a magic trick he flicked a donut out of the air. I honestly think it was just sleight of hand, but I have no idea how he does it. Hell, I’m still amazed by Penn and Teller a lot of the time. He placed it on a small bread plate that happened to be on the table. I recognized the Emblem of Evil donut, a signature creation of Nick Scratch’s Donut shop. It was coated in chocolate frosting, emblazoned with a pentagram on the top with red icing and filled with a deep red raspberry jelly. He pulled my unused knife and fork wrap across the table to himself and pulled out the utensils. With a surgeon’s precision, he carved it up and speared a section. He popped it in his mouth and chewed delightedly. “Exquisite.” He said around his chewing, humming slightly. “Simply Exquisite.” He swallowed with an almost comical “Ah,” and took another drink.

I stayed motionless, watching him eat. He did so, as if at a fanciful tasting, savoring every bite and washing them down, as if to cleanse his palette. When he was done, he dabbed at his mouth with the paper napkin. “Such a delightful treat.” He said as he placed the napkin down. “Still, my little darlings need me, and I cannot be long. Though, if might trouble you for a bit of information before I go sir? I do promise to pay for your services.”

I haven’t stuttered in years. I don’t do it often, only when overloaded mentally or emotionally. In retrospect I should not have been surprised when they fell out of my lips again. “Wh-wh-what can I tell you?” I over enunciated each word to guarantee they came out clearly.

“I understand the Gummy bear was a huge success and my atomic fireballs will soon be all the rage.” He pulled a small notepad from his pocket and a pen. Both looked sugar coated. “But did you get a look at the new wintergreen patties? The Bit ‘o Honey solution?”

I shook my head. Slowly.

He pointed his pen at me and tsked. “If you leave that open like that you will attract flies.”

I didn’t know my mouth was agape. I snapped it shut, fairly certain I would need to get a few fillings redone.

“Still a pity. I have so many formulas to test. Those lovelies could have provided so much more entertainment. Fun for the whole family.”

My body pushed my stomach contents up, further than I liked, at those words. Don’t throw up. I told myself. Don’t insult him and for the love of all, don’t give him the opportunity to offer you a cough drop.”

He looked at me, his eyebrow raising. “Are you all right, good sir?”

“I’m fine, thank you for your kindness.” I tried not to say it as a single syllable. I swear I did.

He smiled again, contented. “Very well then. If you can tell me what went wrong with the atomic fireball, I will have what I need and I will take my leave.”

“She never ate it.” I blurted out. “She barely licked it. Just used it to threaten the Paragon Council.”

He slumped a little, slipping his pad and pen in his pocket again. “Oh that miserable Denise. Always the show off. Well, I will miss her. But what the world gives we must accept, yes?” He talked like he was discussing an experiment or an appliance. I heard of people with more compassion and longing for their old cell phone.

“I suppose so.” I said. Don’t let me throw up. Don’t let me throw up. My body told me in no uncertain terms that I had a time limit for that request.

“Very well.” He said. “Thank you for your time, good sir. I do expect a good write up in your review, yes?”

I nodded. What else was I going to do?

“Delighted!” He raised his glass to me again and finished the contents. When he put the glass down again, his other hand placed a small foil wrapped ball on the table. “Thank you, good sir. Take heart. I don’t believe we will speak again. This town is getting too crowded for me. Perhaps Capital might offer me a better place to build my factory. Until then,” He tipped his hat at me. “Good day and enjoy life.”

He whistled as he left. “If you want to view paradise, simply look around a view it.…” I watched him leave, nod silently to one of the cashiers who absentmindedly thanked him for coming to the Golden Grog, and walk down the street. He vanished among the crowd in seconds.

The little green foiled ball stared back at me. The cup of hot chocolate had already dissolved the spoon. Using a napkin I picked up the sphere, gently, and dropped it in the fluid. Immediately, it hiss as silver bubbles formed around the slowly disappearing candy. The whole mug caught fire. I used the plate and snuffed out the flames. Thank the gods with decent reflexes. Even better, none of my notes or pictures seemed affected by the flash.

Edgar ran over. Flames in his restaurant will do that. “What in the name of the Gods and Giants was that all about?” He roared. “You know this is a non smoking place!”

I looked up at him, unable to countenance the idea of getting thrown out, let alone getting screamed at by the Ettin. “That…” I pointed to the door. “That was the Candy Man.”

I quickly went over the events of the discussion and how the binary chemicals interacted. At the end, Edgar shook his head. “By Odin’s beard.” He said before slumping his shoulders and looking at the sky. “He could have been on my wall!”

Thanks Edgar. Let’s keep perspective shall we?

I quickly cleaned up my notes and tried to get everything back in my backpack (my gag bag as I call it) when I noticed two photos that wouldn’t fit easily. Not a huge surprise considering how full the bag was. The first was a WWII photo of the paramericans at the end of the war. Behind the wall of garrishly costumed heroes and contemporaries the ruins what I assume was Berlin stretched. Many of the buildings looked like they would have to be triaged thanks to the efforts of the Allies and probably the metahumans and mystery men in the photo. Behind them, scrawled on the wall next to several ‘Kilroy was Here’ scratches and bullet riddled plastered advertisements for German products I couldn’t decipher, someone had painted the words “Xenex Is.”

(I hope your happy, Mrs. Plummer.)

The other was the same picture, down to the blasted advertisements and strange markings, a boy, barely more than a teen, stood behind Mr. Atomic. He was sheathed in some sort of metal, save for his face. His helmet, which didn’t cover his face, looked skin tight and highly reflective. The only markings on him at all was a roman numeral on his forehead. XII. He seemed not to notice the camera as he held Mr. Atomic’s arm up, like he was placing it. Like we was posing him.

What did I stumble on?

I think I need a vacation….

Keep Dreaming All

Daniel

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