Thursday, October 2, 2008

048: Agent Villain

It would probably be better for Charleston to get some rest, he realized, and so he closed his eyes and went to sleep. After a few minutes, Land Captain looked back at him, his face becoming one wrought with guilt.

"Ishmael, drive for a while. Liana and I have to have a talk," he said.

"Aye aye, Land Captain," said Ishmael.

"Why do I have to lie to him, Liana? Out of all the people in this universe, he's the only one who hasn't actively tried to do me in," said Land Captain.

"As members of the Astounding Superhero Syndicate, we have to keep some of our secrets," said Liana. She was wearing a traditional witch's costume, save that it was made of black scales.

"He already knows our secrets, and besides, I didn't have to lie to him at the courthouse."

"You rushed off without telling anyone where you were going, sweetheart. If you had checked out with the Embryonic Man like you were supposed to, then you would have been told that loose lips sink ships."

"That's another thing I don't like."

"Outdated expressions?"

"No, the other members of this team, if you can call it that. We're not a superhero syndicate, we're Mark King's personal army-for-hire. He says jump, we say how high. Am I the only one who gets that?"

"You have to realize that most of our teammates have less than astounding powers, and the ones that could strike out by themselves have ties to Mister King. This is the only chance they have to do some good."

"What about you and me, then? I've been a solo act for most of my career, and you certainly don't have any ties to King."

"If you want us to be a dynamic duo, honey, then you're going to play by my rules. If I can make some money doing this superhero thing, I'm going to, and the Syndicate by-laws state that no super-hero can have non-civilian romantic entanglements outside the Syndicate."

"It still stinks like rotten fish. Besides, Charleston is probably going to think he's going insane. One minute, Ishmael is sentient and the next he's just a souped-up car?"

"There are ways of dealing with Charleston, my dear."

"We're not dealing with him. He's my friend."

Liana sighed, "I knew you wouldn't see it my way." She took out a syringe and, before Land Captain could react, injected him with its contents. He instantly fell asleep. "Thank you so much for putting Ishmael in autopilot before taking your nap, dear."

Hours later, Land Captain and Charleston awoke, still inside Ishmael. They were in a heavily wooded area, and there were noises on the edge of hearing. Dangerous sounding noises.

Charleston yawned, "I thought we had to meet at a warehouse or something."

Land Captain rubbed his neck, "Apparently someone altered our course. We've been out for hours."

"You went to sleep, too? How could you do that and keep driving?"

A battle raged in Land Captain's mind. In the end, he decided to ignore Charleston's question, "I wonder where we are. Let me pull up the GPS system. Ah, we're in Ohio, outside Cleveland. I'm guessing the asylum is close by, and those are the noises we're hearing."

"Well then, let's get over there and see what we can do to help. Hey, where's Liana?"

"A very good question," said Land Captain, starting Ishmael. Moments later, they pulled up to a group of individuals in blue jumpsuits adorned with gadgets. A priest, a fat man, and a thin man with a boxing glove were standing off to the side seemingly doing their best to ignore everything. The Meerkat and the Neo-Bassets were standing on the other side of the blue jumpsuit-adorned group, looking worried. Various headlights lit up a barricade while screams floated over from the asylum.

A man in a suit looked up at Charleston and Land Captain as they exited Ishmael. He had an eye-patch and was missing a tooth, and was scarred. Charleston recognized him as Agent Villain.

"About time you got here," he said, "I'm running out of bodies to throw at these people. They've taken down the strike force and, surprise surprise, captured everyone's significant others and sidekicks. This includes one of my agents, so I’m a bit pissed off at the moment. No one kills my agents but me."

Charleston assumed he was being metaphorical or something, and said, "What should we do?"

"Charleston Charge, isn't it? For starters, you can do something about those robots," said Agent Villain, pointing to several drones floating outside the asylum.

"Robots would fall under superhero jurisdiction as well, wouldn't they?" asked Land Captain.

"I'm not sending any of my people in there until those robots are taken care of, but if you want your group of costumed nothings to go after them, go right ahead."

Charleston and Land Captain walked over to the Meerkat and the Neo-Bassets. All of them looked quite distraught.

"We're going to try and take care of those robots," said Charleston, "We'd appreciate your help."

The Meerkat exhaled, and smiled, "Finally! I was wondering when he was going to let us do something. They've got our sidekicks, you know. My Pilate, Fadeaway's Benji, Double O's Slink-E. They took the Witchyologist, as well, and some CAST agent with funky hair."

"Edolie!" said Charleston, angrily, "Okay, so what's the plan? Do we know what the robots can do?"

"Basic drone robot stuff," said the Meerkat, "Lasers, mostly. Lasers and pinchers."

"The Neo-Bassets can take care of the robots," said Fadeaway.

"Okay, then I can take you two and tunnel into the asylum while they're distracted. Go get the Paci Custodis. The CAST agents are refusing to go in until Villain gives the order, and he says he won't do that until the robots are dealt with. They can be cavalry."

Fadeaway took flight, grabbing Santos before he confronted the robots. Double O waited a moment, and followed bellowing something about the day being saved due solely to his efforts. Charleston went over to the Paci Custodis, and was greeted with cold indifference.

"Hey, priest," he said, remembering the harsh treatment Land Captain had received, "We're going in. Are you going to stand around all day, or are you going to help us?"

"Yeah, we were just waiting for you to show up. Come on."

The Meerkat had already started digging. Land Captain tactfully ignored Father Graves, and Clarence bounced along happily. Ben kept staring at Charleston with rapt fascination, which Charleston tried to ignore. They entered the tunnel, and emerged in a room full of Melonheads.

"Mutant freak things!" shouted the Meerkat, "Who gets these?"

"Fair game!" shouted Graves, pulling out a gun and shooting one, its bulbous head splattering against the wall. Clarence followed suit, while Ben pulled out a lighter and lit his oily-rag covered boxing glove on fire.

"KITSUNE FISTO!" he shouted, punching a melonhead and setting it on fire. It screeched. While the Paci Custodis carefully slaughtered many of the melonheads, the Meerkat skillfully wove between them, taking them out with careful nerve-pinches. Land Captain utilized a variety of fighting techniques, and Charleston made a note to ask him where he learned such things. For his part, Charleston lashed out with whatever limb was available.

Minutes later, any melonhead that was not dead or unconscious had run away, which left Charleston and his group with a difficult decision. The room had three ways out, not counting the tunnel. Ben had also just realized his hand was on fire, and was screaming. Charleston took a deep breath.

"Land Captain, take Ben outside and see how the Neo-Bassets are doing and meet up with us as soon as possible." Land Captain fired off a salute and helped Ben back into the tunnel. Charleston turned to the rest of his group, and opened his mouth to speak, but closed it immediately. The middle way led to stairs, and was presumably the way the melonheads had gone. The right way said it went to radiology, and Charleston was unsure if asylums were supposed to have radiology labs. He was sure, however, that they should not have torture rooms. This is what the left way proclaimed itself to be. Before he gave his orders, done based solely on the fact that people seemed to be listening to him, he needed to choose a path...
Which way should Charleston go?
-Up the middle

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