I’m sulking. The only sane person on our side (the good guys) is actually being mind-controlled by one of the bad guys. What am I supposed to do? Leave him like that, thus letting the bad guys win? Or free him, so that he can go back to being as loony as everyone else?
As I fly around, pondering this difficult question, I encounter …
… an old woman. She’s lost her kitty, and asks me to help find the little guy. Aw.
So … you lost your cat. Okay. I’ve got a couple of minutes. Let’s find him. Should I just look around this area or … ?
Oh? You’re walking? Look, there’s no need for that. I can move faster without you. If you just stop.
Or here is good too. Pretty much anywhere.
If you’ll just stop walking I can go find your cat …
Oh. Dudes. See? This is why you should have let me-
Ah! They’re beating on the old woman?!? Why are they doing this? They really give her a pounding, too. I had no idea these guys had it in for old ladies so bad.
I apply firm, even impacts to make sure we get a nice, even coating of pain and death. I hate spotty work. The troublemakers thus dispatched, I turn back to my charge.
Okay lady, this whole thing is really strange and I wouldn’t blame you at all for wanting to wait by the road while I look arou-
No? You’re just that hardcore? Fine. But don’t come crying to me when we get …
… this. Oh look. More grandma-murdering guys.
I don’t suppose they beat any sense into you? No? Fine. Lead on.
Grammy turns a corner, turns another corner, leads me down an alleyway, then takes me into an even smaller alleyway, which is also a dead-end. Okay, so …
It’s an … ambush?
The little old lady turns into a PSI-powered super-villain and leaps into action!
“Hang on a second there, Pinky,” I say, putting up my hands in mock surrender, “Before we make the beast with four fists, I need you to go over your plan here. Because one of us has just been promoted to the biggest idiot in the city, and I’m pretty sure it’s not me.”
Ambusher gives out a third-rate villainous laugh and puffs out his chest, “Alright hero. I’ll use small words so your feeble mind can comprehend. Nothing can withstand-“
“Yeah. So, you began this thing by disguising yourself as an old woman half your height. That’s a pretty good trick. But then you made up this nonsense about a cat and confused the whole thing.”
“And you fell for it anyway!” he says. And then does the laugh thing again. It sounds a little too forced.
“Okay. Point for you,” I concede, “But then – and this is where things went really bad for Team Pink – you had your men ambush us, with orders to attack you.”
There’s a pause before he answers, “Of course! I tricked you into defending me!” Then he pauses for a few more seconds before giving me another, “Hahaha-HA!”
“Yes,” I say with as much patience as I can muster, “You tricked me into killing your dudes, leaving you all alone.”
Ambusher shrugs, “Yeah, well. Good help is hard to find. Your point?”
“Why didn’t you just have them attack ME?”
His answer is a blank stare.
I try again, “You could have stood by and watched your men beat on me, instead of getting beaten up yourself.”
His shoulders sag a bit. “Shit,” he says at last.
“Yeah. Think about it: If I’m too strong for you, you’ll lose this fight. But if I was too weak, then your men would have killed you. Your entire plan depended on me being stronger than all of your men, but weaker than you alone.”
“Look, maybe I just don’t have a head for planning,” he says bitterly.
I cock my head to one side and give him the raised eyebrow of “are you kidding me?” Finally I ask him, “Aren’t you a member of PSI? Isn’t your entire army of villains based around mind powers? How can you be bad at planning? Intelligence is your superpower!“
“Well,” he says looking around, “I STILL led you back here and trapped you in this alleyway!”
“You’re the one with his back to the wall,” I point out, “If this doesn’t go my way, I can just turn around and bail. If this goes bad for you … what’s your plan, then?”
“I’ll call on my henchmen!”
He looks past me, out towards the open area where all of his men have been piled up in a gruesome heap of hideous pink outfits. “Right, right. Damn. Well I could-“
“And no, I wouldn’t fall for it if you just turned into an old woman again.”
“Basically, you tricked me into killing all your guys and then you tried to go through that brick wall head-first.”
“What are you talking about? I never-“
That … That was really something.
Dazed, I stumble back to Socrates.
I’m tired of fighting it. I’m just going to do whatever he says and not think too much about it. I’m just going to give in to the crazy. Whatever Socrates asks for, I’ll just do it.
“Hey. UNIVAC,” I say, slapping the side of his kiosk like a vending machine that just ate my quarter. “Where to next?”
His suggestion is actually rather welcome. He says I should get out of town for a few days. Apparently there are some problems brewing out west and they could use my help.
Yes. That sounds really nice.
An airship ride later and I’m in the middle of the desert. Let’s take a look around.
There’s a ghost town here. With ghosts.
There are some ghosts who are standing around, waiting for superheroes to help them defeat other ghosts. I’m not sure what there is to be gained from getting involved in a bunch of inter-ghost squabbles. The living have enough problems to keep a hero busy, thanks.
East of spook town is the atomic wasteland, a sea of noxious green vapor, boiling with radiation. There is a scientist nearby, looking for superheroes to go in and thin the armies of rampaging mutants within the cloud.
Why would we need to do this? Even if I cleaned the place out, the place is still bathed in DNA-scrambling poison. And even if I cleaned the place out and someone else waved a magic wand to remove the rads, it still wouldn’t matter because we’re in the middle of the desert and nobody wants to live here anyway. If we exerted all our power, and then some, we could turn this atomic wasteland into a plain old regular wasteland. This doesn’t sound like the most productive way a hero could spend his time.
Ah. A Viper terrorist base. I have to admire the fund-raising abilities of terrorists who fail at every battle, produce nothing value, and are still able to build something the size of a major university in the middle of the desert. I make a note to smash up their stuff at a later time.
Looking to the east, I see …
Stronghold prison, the most secure prison in the world, home to the deadliest supervillains who ever lived. Naturally there’s a breakout in progress.
I know I sound like a broken record when I complain about all the statues, but I really do feel compelled to question the need for this sort of thing. The fact that there’s a breakout in progress supports the notion that the statue money could have been better spent elsewhere.
Also, if you are going to waste money building huge statues for your prison, do they really need to be of the inmates?
The cause of the breakout is the supervillain Menton. He’s a master of mind control, and he’s using his brain powers to control everyone in the prison, inmates and guards alike. They have all been enslaved and are now guarding him. The place has gone from being his prison to his fortress.
Outside, hero Isabella Maronni is using her powers to keep a cluster of men free from Menton’s influence. She and her men can hold this area on their own, but they need someone to go in and stop Menton.
But before I can go charging inside and punch Menton’s distended brain, Isabella has a list of jobs for me. Certain inmates should be rescued. Power stations need to be disabled. A few powerful baddies need to be neutralized. A half dozen guards need to be culled. Escort a-
“Hang on a second,” I object. “What was that last one? About the guards?”
Isabella nods, “Yeah. I need you to take out six guards. You know. Help thin the ranks.”
“Why? I mean … they’re just being mind-controlled.”
“They’re patrolling around the prison, defending it.”
I shrug, “I can fly right over them. No need to hurt any-“
“What the hell was that?” I shout over the ringing in my ears.
Isabella regains her footing after the earth-shattering explosion, “Nothing to worry about. That’s just the bombing.”
“The bad guys are bombing their own prison? Is that how they’re breaking out?”
“No. We’re doing the bombing!” she says while pointing skyward. I look just in time to see a fighter jet pass overhead. A dark shape falls away and drops into the prison yard.
“Are those planes trying to-“, I begin to say before the explosion answers my question.
“Yeah I guess I should have warned you about that”, she says as she shields her eyes from the blast wave of dust and debris, “We’ve got fighter jets carpet-bombing the area. You’ll want to watch out for that when you go in.”
“You’re bombing the mind-controlled guys? And you’re not going to stop when I go in?“
“We’re trying to soften them up.”
“You’re killing people. People that aren’t even in our way. People that could go home to their families once we stop Menton.”
“Don’t act so superior. You’re the one who just agreed to kill six guards,” she says accusingly.
I can see this isn’t going anywhere good, so I leave. There’s one last area here in the desert in need of my help. Whatever it is, it can’t be worse than this.
NEXT TIME: Wrong! Tune in next time for the stupid, anticlimactic, waste-of-everyone’s-time conclusion!