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The Last Job

by

Peter set the battered car down gently by the side of the stunned would-be bank robbers. “Now, you sit there and think about what you did,” he admonished them, brushing bits of rubble off his sleeve. “The police will be along to get you.”

He turned on his boot heel and blasted off into the sky. He didn’t blast far; his favorite watering hole was only a few blocks from the crime scene. It was Peter’s custom to celebrate a good save with a drink or two. With his near invulnerability, the alcohol didn’t come close to affecting him, but he enjoyed the tradition nonetheless. He landed outside the bar, did a quick change into his civilian clothes, and made his way inside.

There was a not unattractive blonde sitting next to Peter’s usual seat. Unlike some capes, he didn’t have a secret love interest; he’d been decidedly single for several months. He decided to take a chance. “Hi there,” he began. “I’m-”

“Peter Clearwater,” she said, cutting him off mid-introduction. “32. Mild-mannered corporate attorney at Dewey and Howe. Lives at 32 Forest Lake Drive, ironic because there’s not actually a lake or a forest within miles. And you’re really the Red Brick. You foiled a bank holdup this morning. Last week you averted the Collapsing Hell Dimension Crisis. Good job on that, by the way.”

“How did you-”

“Constance,” she said, smiling thinly. “I’m your guardian angel.”

Peter blinked. “My what?”

“Figures,” Constance said. “You know, every kid gets a guardian angel. Says so in the book. We’re the ones keeping you from dying when you’re not supposed to. You know, pull you out of the way of buses, redirecting the falling tree at the last minute, that sort of thing.  Gets pretty tiring, actually, all the saving people routines. My favorite was the Mysterious Stranger popping up to do CPR and then vanishing into the night. I did that with you when you were four. Good times…”

Peter wasn’t sure what to say to that. “I…had no idea.”

Constance sighed. “Course you didn’t. Thing about guardian angels, we’re supposed to be discreet. I’ve had dozens of charges over the years. Not one of ’em ever cottoned on. I figured you’d be the same. But then…you got powers.”

“Yeah,” Peter said uncertainly. “When I was twelve. Fell into a vat of radioactive chemicals.”

The angel went slightly red in the face. “Sorry about that. I had to sub in for Tabitha on Search and Rescue. Figured you’d be safe on the factory tour. I mean, I thought you people had regulatory standards now. I’m surprised OSHA didn’t shut that place down.”

“Well,” Peter said, shrugging. “It worked out. I got super-strength, invulnerability, and I can fly.”

“Yeah, and I’m out of a job,” Constance said. “I’m breaking the rules even telling you all this. We’re not supposed to reveal ourselves unless you’re at some moral crisis. Didn’t you ever see Touched by an Angel? No? Ah, well. Anyway, the point is though, you’re invulnerable. You don’t need a guardian angel. Not you, not Mr. Ecosystem, not Ron Raven, not Gaseous Girl. Either you’ve got superpowers and you don’t need saving, or you don’t have superpowers but you get saved by someone who does. And it’s not just guardian duty either; Search and Rescue’s the same way. We’re just about obsolete.”

She had paused just slightly in her last few words. Peter picked up on it. “Just about? What’s left?”

Constance let out a long sigh. “There’s only one, really. I hate it, myself.  But we’ve all got to pitch in now. And today, I’ve got the duty.”

“You mean…”

“Yeah.”

“But…me? I didn’t think I could.”

“Yeah. Everyone still does.”

“When?”

Constance looked sadly at him. The air went just slightly colder around her. “You should probably go ahead and finish that drink now.”

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Wrong Lever

by

I push open the hatch and stare, gaping. A cloud boils lazily upwards on the horizon. Everything between me and the cloud is rubble. The ashes fall lightly on me.
I hear the doctor below. “Sheila? Are you out yet? Did it work?”

He was trying for a basic freeze ray. How do I tell him?

I start with the blindingly obvious. “Ah, no. Not exactly.”

The doctor swears. “I knew the blue lever was the right one!”

“Yeah. Looks like.”

Afterwards

by

I didn’t think it would be like this. I remembered hearing the banshee scream and seeing Sheila fall over. Then everything went black. I figured I’d be waking up to fluffy clouds and pearly gates. Either that, or flames and pitchforks. I was really hoping for the clouds, honestly.

What I didn’t expect was to find myself sitting on an oversized sofa in a waiting room. A little coffee table sat in front of me, bearing a neat array of sports and news magazines. Bland landscapes decorated the walls. I heard the faint plinking of piano music wafting from a hidden speaker.

A frosted glass window slid open, and a smiling attendant poked her head out. “Hello, would you sign in, please?”

“Oh, sure,” I said, standing awkwardly and approaching the window. “Erm, I wonder, are you…?”

“Cindy,” she said, smiling even more brightly. “Afterlife Services.”

“Ah. So I am…actually….”

“Deceased, yes.” Cindy’s smile didn’t even flicker. “If you would just sign here, please, and initial there….thank you! One of our associates will be with you shortly!”

“Thanks,” I said, sitting back down. The window slid neatly closed. I didn’t think this was the Bad Place. People usually didn’t smile there, from what I’d heard. So, this was heaven.

I leafed through the magazines. I was disappointed to find that they were all extremely outdated. On the bright side, it looked like the U.S. had a decent chance against the Soviet hockey team this year.

There was a door on the far wall, at a right angle from the window. I kept expecting it to open up and someone to call me. It stayed resolutely closed. I finished going through the magazines. There wasn’t anything else around to read. I did see a television in the corner, but it wasn’t running, and I couldn’t find the remote.

I tapped on the window. “Hello!” Cindy said again. “Jane, is it? Someone should be with you momentarily!”

“Yes, about that…” I said. I wasn’t worried. Not quite yet. “I can’t seem to get the television to come on.”

“Ooh, I’m sorry,” Cindy said, looking sincerely crestfallen. “We’ve been meaning to fix that for days. I’ll send a message to Afterlife Services Maintenance and they’ll get to it shortly. In the meantime, would you care for a beverage?”

I hadn’t felt thirsty until then, but it had been a while. “Sure,” I said. “Water’s fine.”

More time passed. No one from Maintenance appeared. Cindy had kindly given me a plastic cup with water and two ice cubes. The cubes melted. I finished the last bit, and realized I had a new problem. I tapped on the window again. “Hello!” said Cindy. “One of our associates-”

“Will be with me shortly,” I finished. “Yeah. Where’s the bathroom?”

“Unfortunately, there isn’t access to a functional restroom on this floor,” Cindy said. “But once your processing is complete, one of our associates will be happy to escort you!”

“And when will that-”

The window slid shut. I waited. It occurred to me that there wasn’t a clock anywhere in the room. The piano music kept repeating the same two chords over and over again. I tapped on the window for a third time. It didn’t open. I banged hard on it, panic rising. I seriously considered using the coffee table as a battering ram, but when I pulled, it wouldn’t come loose from the floor. I hurled a magazine at the window.

No one answered. Ever.

Now I knew exactly where I was.

This story is part of the ongoing adventures of Jane the Igor. Thanks for reading! 

Sheila’s Mistake

by

I should have said no. When Jane showed up that night, Frankenstein’s monster in tow, asking if I could help make the guy a girlfriend, I should’ve slammed the door in her face. I, unlike Jane, still have a job. I, unlike Jane, am still a respectable Igor, working for a respectable mad scientist. Therefore, I ought to have said no.

But Jane’s a friend, and she had helped me out once when my scientist needed a certain amulet to break mummy curses. So, against my better judgment, I said I might be able to help.

I told her it would take a week. I was a bit optimistic. As I said, I, unlike Jane, still have a day job, and that particular week the boss was trying to bring his own creature to life. I couldn’t tell him I was free-lancing. I didn’t have time to go off hunting for my own brains to use. Honestly, Jane had no idea the position she put me in. It’s her own fault, really, what happened next.

See, my mad scientist has been branching out lately. He’s not like your traditional mad scientist, still tied up with lightning machines and whatnot. He’s been getting into magic. Runes are really in right now. And if it worked for him, I figured it would work for me. Chant an incantation or two, make a couple mysterious gestures, and shazam: one monster girlfriend. And when it didn’t work, I could give Jane some line about the planets not being in proper alignment, the harmonic convergence of ley lines being affected, blah blah blah. She wouldn’t have known.

Thing is, it did work.

Saturday night. Jane’s there, the big guy looming over her shoulder. “You sure this is safe, Sheila?” Jane asks, worriedly.

“Of course it is,” I assure her. Then I chant some mysterious phrases. It sounds impressive to Jane, but really, it’s some old Gaelic love poetry I found in a used bookstore once. I make some passes in the air. There’s a flash of light, which surprises me. Then I hear rustling. “Right,” I say, trying to project confidence. “There it is, then. She’s waiting for you outside.”

The big guy lumbers out the door. I figure he can handle things from there, but then I hear a sudden loud wailing. Both Jane and I rush to the window. The big guy looks very much alarmed. There’s someone else out there.

“I think you’ve made a banshee!” Jane gasps.

“Oops,” I say. “Well, maybe it’ll still work. I’ve seen stranger relationships.”

Actually, I didn’t think it would, but I’ve heard about banshee screams being fatal to anyone who hears them, and I assumed this would resolve the problem. The big guy would be dead, the banshee would float away, I’d go back to my job, and Jane would go back to…wherever.

Turns out, banshee screams don’t work on reanimated Frankenstein monsters.

They do work on Igors.

I didn’t expect that.

This story is part of the ongoing adventures of Jane the Igor. Thanks for reading!

Train Rescue

by

“Will you just hold still?” growled the Malevolent Med-Student.

“Er, no,” Jennifer said. “I’d rather not, honestly. And once again, I really have to protest. Tying me to a train track is clearly a violation of”-

‘Yes, yes, I know,” the Malevolent Med-Student interrupted. “It’s cliche. It’s been done. Why don’t I murder you in an original way. Can’t I drop you into a pit of radioactive ferrets. I know. But look, the trouble is, my minion got herself captured and locked in an institution, and now she’s receiving therapy and resolving her deep-rooted personal issues for all I know, and meanwhile here I am trying to practice supervillainy without an assistant. I don’t have time for an original death. Train tracks will have to do.”

Jennifer blinked. “That…was not my complaint. I don’t want you to murder me in an original way.  I’d really prefer-”

“At last,” the Malevolent Med-Student said, “someone who appreciates the classics.”  He glanced at his watch. “The 11:15 should be along shortly. I’d expect someone to rescue you about thirty seconds before the train hits. They’re always so punctual.”

11:15 came and 11;15 went. No train appeared. Jennifer felt hopeful. “Well, doesn’t look like anyone’s coming. Can you untie me now?”

The Malevolent Med-Student stabbed furiously at his phone. “Blasted search engine, can’t get a signal worth a damn out here…”  He swore again. “There should’ve been a train! Where did the blasted thing go?”

“Perhaps it was held up at the station?” Jennifer suggested.

“Indeed it was!” boomed a new voice. “Held up by justice!”

“Oh, Lord,” the Malevolent Med-Student said, seconds before a white-gloved fist slammed into his head and sent him spinning like a top into a nearby clump of bushes.

“Hey there, citizen!” said the Captain exultantly.

“You can lower your voice now, dear,” said his wife, who had just pulled up behind him. She gestured, and a white soccer ball floated over to Jennifer, produced a tiny laser, and began neatly cutting Jennifer loose. “The supervillain’s unconscious; everything’s secure.”

“Right,” said the Captain. “Well, that was easy. Should I pick up some milk on the way home?”

“Would you? We’re almost out. Oh, and a jar of pickles. And a lemon.”

“Right oh, Super Soccer Mom!” said the Captain, before soaring away into the sky, cape streaming behind him.

The soccer ball chirped happily when it had lasered through the last ropes. Jennifer looked askance at Super Soccer Mom, who shrugged. “We’re pregnant again. Number seven.”

“Congratulations,” said Jennifer. “I’d like to go home now.”

There was a sudden distant whistle. “Train’ll be along in a few,” said Super Soccer Mom.

“I think I’ll walk,” Jennifer said.

Super Soccer Mom shrugged again. “Suit yourself.”  She grabbed hold of the soccer ball, which powered up a small jet engine and carried her away into the sky.

Not for the last time, Jennifer seriously considered moving to a non-superhero city.

After Hours

by

Sheila wrenched the door open. “All right, all right, I’m here! I-”

“Hi,” Jane said uncertainly. “I should’ve called first, but..um…”

A hulkish figure loomed up behind her. It was chortling. “A space party! You plan it! Thas’ a good one!”

Sheila blinked. “Is that…”

“Yup. That’s him.  The doctor created him right after he fired me.”

“Why…”

“He wants a girlfriend,” Jane said. “Thought you could help.”

“But why is he….”

Jane looked down. “I thought a road trip would be fun, okay? Get him used to human civilization. America. You know.”

“And?”

“Frankenstein can’t hold his liquor for beans.”

“I’ve peed on cars!” the creature boomed happily.

This story is part of the continuing adventures of Jane the Igor. Thanks for reading!

Food Fight

by

There were times when Gaseous Girl wished she had a decent arch-nemesis. Everyone else had them. Mr. Ecosystem had Pollutanica. Thunder Lass had Nanobyter. Heck, even Captain Happily Married had the Malevolent Med-Student. But who did Gaseous Girl, wielder of the Armpits of Armageddon, She Who Dealt It, have?

Hiccup Holly.

Holly could hiccup with explosive force.

That was about it.

But at least, Gaseous Girl reflected as her black Starfleet-style boots scraped the asphalt of the vast supermarket parking lot, Hiccup Holly had nearly destroyed the world. Crudmuffin, here, hadn’t blown up so much as a popsicle stand. Goodness knows, he’d tried. Crudmuffin had a definite pastry obsession, and in the process had declared all-out war on any foodstuffs that weren’t pastries. That was why Gaseous Girl was here, on this frost-bitten November night, trying to stop the Mad Baker from torching a taco truck. “Right,” she said tiredly as she approached, “Put the exploding biscuit down.”

“It’s not a biscuit, it’s a scone!” Crudmuffin snapped.

Gaseous Girl shrugged. “Okay,  Downton Abbey, put the exploding scone down.”

“Of course you wouldn’t know the difference,” Crudmuffin growled. “No one appreciates a good pastry anymore! No one appreciates fine dining! Why, just the other day, I was doing a smash-and-grab of the mayor’s house, and do you know what he had in his refrigerator?”

“I’m guessing not scones.”

“Hot dogs!” Crudmuffin said, with a flourish of his white cape. “That was it! A fine upstanding man such as our mayor, and he couldn’t think of anything more appetizing than a mere hot dog? It’s positively plebian!”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Gaseous Girl said. “I myself have snatched a hot dog or two from a gas station. It’s a nice quick snack when one’s on the go.”

“A…a gas station?” Crudmuffin spluttered. “You…but…really…”

Gaseous Girl sighed. “Look, I get that you’ve got different eating tastes than I do. And also the mayor. But do you have to  take it out on this poor taco truck here?”

“And not just this!” Crudmuffin shouted, waving his exploding scone. “But all food vendor trucks  everywhere! Soon the world will be forced into a new era of fine dining,  tasteful meal preparations, and-”

He had begun monologuing, which is always dangerous for a supervillain to do. Sure enough, a sudden titanic boom rent the parking lot. Crudmuffin went flying head over cape, landing hard in a nearby trash bin. Seconds later his exploding scone went off, wrecking the trash bin and sending Crudmuffin away into the night sky. Gaseous Girl heard a distant thud as he landed. She turned, and saw Hiccup Holly, who burped noisily. “Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” Gaseous Girl replied, tentatively.

“We’re still nemeses, y’know,” glared Hiccup Holly.

“Naturally. But why-”

“I like hot dogs.”

“Oh. You didn’t do it because you suspected him of destroying the world, and you decided to put aside your own petty grievances and work together for the good of the planet?”

“God, no. I still hate you. And the planet. I just like hot dogs.”

Gaseous Girl sighed. “It was just a thought.”

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