24 January 2013

Laserman #2: Laserman Vs. The Weathermen in a Kung Fu Firefight

Once one understands the power of SCHEME in New Detroit, it is easy to see why there is no unorganized crime in the city. As a single organization Supervillains, Criminals, and Henchmen Engineering Monumental Evil controls even petty crime. Any jaywalker worth his wits would be lucky to cross a single street himself before the more powerful forces of crime either made him into a pawn to fund some terrible death ray or other, or else the leaders of SCHEME would destroy him. Laserman sought to bring down just one of the hydra heads of the organization, the mad meteorological mastermind Dash Dervish.

The supergenius doctor recruits gangs like The Weathermen to do SCHEME's dirty work. Just one of Dash's criminal suits, The Weathermen's conspiracy racket spreads misinformation to the public about the weather. Their faรงade diverts money away from honest broadcasters and into their master's diabolical experiments.

Once again Dash Dervish threatens the city with his newest doomsday device, the Hyperquantum Cyclonic Terror!

Internets told Laserman he would have to go through The Weathermen to find Dash and bring his nemesis to justice. He planned his attack with sophisticated computer simulations. He rehearsed building layouts at his cat, Blackout.

**** Windy Tower ****
Villains' Hideout
Type: Offices (plain sight)
Floors: 28
Organizations: Clobbering Catering Company
IBB - Inane Blathering Broadcasting
Robotechnica, Meteorological Division
Terror Telemarketing
The Weathermen

Supervillains: Dash Dervish

Our hero entered the Windy Tower's abandoned lobby with his robosuit and laser, cat tucked in one arm. The directory said: “Weathermen, floor 13.” The elevator had no 13th floor button, but Laserman knew to press and hold B. Before the elevator dinged next, our hero buttoned the elevator to a halt, pried open the escape hatch in the ceiling, whispered to his furry companion, and (after some reassuring petting) sent the black cat up into a secret network of ventways. Ace up his sleeve, he shut the hatch. A moment later, the elevator lulled its doors wide before the lair of devious weather predictors.

Nobody could navigate these monotonous, green screen-dotted caverns as one might a real set of offices. A villainous intern wandered by in a confused gust from one decoy conference room to another, trailing reams of dot matrix print-outs that he kept tripping on. Laserman followed the trail of discarded paper sides to a room of sprawled cubicles, where unseen men sneered evilly over petty, short-term changes in the stratosphere.

The suits glowered at our hero from their practice chroma key screens. They dangled heavy chains in a menacing way, slapped microphones like lead pipes in their palms, and flashed switchblades from inside their suit pockets. One seemed to take a phone call, then emerged from a cubicle. Laserman recognized the ruffian (by his hideously disfiguring facial scar) as 'Dusty' Rogers from the IBB 2 O' Clock Report.

As an agent of the law, Laserman had obligations to diplomacy. “I am here to speak with Mr. Dervish. Compliance will be rewarded by authorities.”

The hideous gangster cracked his knuckles. “Hate to rain on your parade, pal. If you really knew what way the wind was blowin', you would run. There's a cold front coming up from my fist to the region of your face. Severe chance of thunderstorms and butt-kicking if you persist...”

Dusty struck a kung fu stance-- and suddenly Weathermen burst out of hiding from their cubicles all over the office floor! One grabbed at Laserman from behind, trying to wrench his beam arm into a hammerlock, but laser-quick reflexes and a backward kicking foot saved the hero. He threw an elbow into the gut of another attacker at his left and sprang up from a knee to clothesline Dusty down with his cannon arm. A quick leap into a sprint put him out of harm's way while a few of them rubbed their noggins. Laserman overturned a conveniently armored conference table, ducked behind for cover, and charged his beam weapon.

But The Weathermen had one of their own, already buzzing with energy: the Giganto-Dynamo Lightning Doppler Ray, capable of heating a single point to three times the surface of the sun with a superdirected ripple of electrical hyperons! A line of three men in specialized welding masks aimed it at the downed conference table. Before they could exact their aim, however, our hero toppled all three of them like dominoes with a laser-precise, supercharged beam to the shoulder. The electrical megagun pinned them all at once for the count.

The three downed goons squirmed like turtles on their backs. Laserman switched off their cannon, but not his. He grabbed one by the tie. “Where is the Hyperquantum Cyclonic Terror? Where is Dash's secret lab?”

The elevator opened just then-- ding! Inside a meteorologist beefy as a minotaur brandished a flamethrower. Despite a sort of protective welding mask, Laserman still recognized him by sheer massiveness as Flame, the boss of the Weathermen! Flame hauled his gun out of the elevator, hulking his way ever closer with the giant weapon...

“Mrrow!?” At the signal from its primate companion, Blackout pawed shut the main lever of the floor's circuit breaker. The elevator door closed, entombing the basement offices in sepulchral dark.

The nearly-unconscious Weatherman seemed to be having some trouble talking, so Laserman choked up grip on the weatherman's tie and pinned a bright laser point on the felonious forecaster's forehead to remind him what he was dealing with. He hissed urgently, “Where is Dash hiding?”

“... on the... the r-roof... th-the homing dev... ice... to the lab...” The goons' heads all lulled under their masks, and their lights went out like the building's.

Laserman hid against the reinforced inside wall of a cubicle. Everything went quiet for a tense second, until interrupted by the roar of a flamethrower. The evil manbull's spewing flames threatened everywhere, all at once, lighting the blind black of the underground offices with streams of burning.

Instinctively, Laserman sprang away from the heat. It burned so hotly he couldn't bear to look directly at or around it. Body poised in a fighting stance, his ears went alert for any sound over the roaring plasma gusts that could be his opponent.

Flame advanced with slow, trudging footsteps, calm, measured, and thunderous under the sloshing weight of sizzling napalm tanks. Laserman's fists clenched for punching, beam trigger a twitch away, supercharging the laser's intensity while his enemy neared.

Somehow, a roaring flash of heat and light from behind-- Laserman turned just in time to see the shot of the flamethrower, duck and roll out the cubicle, out of the heat's path. Robosuit filling with cinder-induced sweat, our hero swept wide with a supercharged beam, his shot in the dark missing entirely.

A hairy fist collided with his robosuit helmet, nearly sprawling him to the ground. Laserman kicked out to trip the villain, but he'd disappeared again into the darkness. Hopping back on balance, Laserman waved his beam before him with the trained reflexes of a fencer, but dazed by the blow.

Flame blasted Laserman, again from behind somehow. A quick drop and roll saved the hero from full conflagration damage, but he couldn't avoid it entirely. He clambered through the door of the nearest conference room. Gritted his teeth. Fell. Crawled and quivered behind another conveniently armored overturned table.

The robosuit protected Laserman well against impacts, shocks, and some other trauma. Burns? Not so much. He laid under the protection of that armored conference table for eight-to-sixteen seconds, trying to think only of defeating Dash Dervish, of how much it would cost to repair the suit, his invention, of surrender, of just getting out of here-- anything!-- but he could not crowd physical pain from his mind.

“You think you can hide in the dark? Make it easy on yourself, Laserman...” Flame had flipped up the visor of his welding mask briefly to search for our hero.  “Come out and let me burn you!”  He punctuated that last bit with a burst of molten napalm. 

In the volatile, searing light of Flame's brief firework display, Laserman glimpsed him standing in the doorway to the conference room. In that brief second, in spite of pain, the hero's concentration chip kicked into overdrive. The Man of Laser summoned every laser quality from his robosuit the scorched thing could handle.

Laser precision! Laser speed! Laser focus! His mind aligned into a single, unerring beam against his suffering. Our hero shot forward, a ray of desperate bravado arcing over the steel table and past a jet of fire to shoot a beam straight into Flame's right eye.

The bull of a weather caster dropped his infernal weapon before he could even trigger it again and collapsed, grabbing his eye with a shriek! Laserman dashed on through the labyrinth, unseeing, too, in the parts of the villainous cubicles where nothing smoldered in flame. The keen nightvision and guiding meow of his cat in the vents led Laserman to the elevator.

He did not linger, but immediately pressed R for the roof. Well... then he had to linger a little. The doors lolled shut. A muzak version of “The Girl From Ipanema” played, tinny and a little too cheerful. The elevator rose on its own time, a mule of schedule, oblivious to urgency.

Beep, beep. A little, red light on Laserman's suit lit up. Too drained from the powerful exertion of the concentration chip, it threatened to run out of energy! If it ran out, he would be a sitting duck, trapped in an immobile cybersuit. If only the elevator could've moved faster...

Laserman leapt out when the doors finally opened, pointing his cannon arm. At the far end of the tower's roof, just before a 400-something foot drop into oncoming traffic, Dash Dervish clutched a briefcase in one hand and dangled a pendant with an RFID stud over the edge with another. His hair was a gray shock in the wind.

“No closer, Lazy Boy! Or I'll drop this fragile, little homing device and you'll never find my new lab before the Hyperquantum Cyclonic Terror is finished.”

That halted our hero. On top of making him super quick, Dash's quantum suit blurred his outline-- even his shadow looked like a tornado-- making it hard to see where he stood exactly, even when Laserman's concentration chip wasn't failing. So The Man of Laser bluffed first: “Toss me the beacon, Dash, or I swear I'll shoot you blind.”

“Just go home, Lazy Boy...”

Taut as two titanium springs, the men stared each other down. While they stared, Dash's bladeless stealth hovercopter-- Stratus-- silently autopiloted to level with the roof. Dash moved first, throwing the briefcase into the silent, black chopper. Laserman gritted his teeth against the pounding headache of staring straight into the flicker-and-whirl of quantum instability, reaffirmed his aim. Spot on for the eye.

“Stop right there!” The laser cannon glowed with a fully built charge. “Hands behind your head and lie down-- now!”

“Oh, Lazy Boy...” Dash retracted his beacon-dangling hand, slowly bringing it in, smiling madly and unable to fight a giggle. “You never did know when to quit. Going to read me my rights...?”

The mad scientist started lowering himself, just a little lower, a little... low enough to make a lightning quick grab for a hidden micro-ray gun! Laserman fired off his charge-- it should've hit!-- but an impossibly fast dodge assisted by quantum displacement put Dash clear of it. In the same instant, the mad doctor fired from the hip, sending one shocking beam at The Man of Laser that brought him down to a knee. A second blast of the weird, purple ray threw Laserman onto his back. Electricity arced out of his damaged robosuit. One of the robotic limbs twitched as its servos started to give.

Dash dared to walk two steps closer to the downed man, unable to control his insane chortling. “Ray to go, Lazy! Aha aha ha ha!”

Laserman's head lolled to one side; he picked it back up, almost rolled his body over to one side. The failing robosuit grew too heavy and rigid to move.

“Oh, oh! Too much Jim Beam?” Dash zapped the prone protector of the people again. “Gonna start singin' in the ray-n!?”

From out a nearby vent at about The Dervish's head-level launched a black bolt of fur, fury, and claws-to-the-face.

“AAAaaaaaaaAAhHHhH...!” Dash dropped all; his hands flew up, swatting and yanking at Blackout. The stubborn feline hung on until the mad doctor finally, with effort, shoved the cat off his face. Blackout landed on its feet beside Laserman, seemed to scratch its ear briefly, and then hissed, with hair all on end.

Dash scrambled to retrieve his ray gun and pendant. Two ragged breaths from his lungs mutated into laughter. “Look at you... you... an invalid in a tin can with a little laser pointer and some mangy, black cat.” He wiped blood from one of his bushy eyebrows. “SCHEME will make an example of you, Lazy Boy... just you wait. You'll wish we had just killed you here, instead. Aha... aha ha ha haha ha!” Laughing obscenely, the maniacal mastermind hopped into Stratus-- still smoldering from where the charged laser bolt had blown a scorched hole into it-- and flew off to his lair.

“Meee... ooow?” said Blackout. The cat nuzzled its ape descendent companion, who lay quietly cursing himself as his robot suit locked up completely, leaving him practically paralyzed in its heavy shell.

It took the skill of an escape artist, but Laserman worked one arm-- his weak arm-- out of his suit. Fumbling with a palsied hand, he opened a compartment at the suit's collarbone which concealed a button for summoning an emergency medical airlift.

His cat, with a little scratch at his own collar, revealed the tracking stud it clawed from Dash's pendant.

“Good kitty.” With no functioning concentration chip to override his pain, The Man of Laser had just enough wits left in him to press that emergency button, to breathe, and-- with his partly paralyzed free hand-- to pet his cat while he waited for a helicopter of his own.

“Good kitty...”

* * *

A hospital stay was the least of his worries. Here at New Detroit Central Hospital, our hero was not known as Laserman, no, but Dr. Jim Fields, D.O., PhD. Those letters after his name meant that Fields was a doctor of osteopathic medicine (a neurologist, actually-- a brain surgeon), able to direct his own recovery, on top of being a talented scientist in the field of robotics. With proper care and robosuit-assisted rehabilitation, he made an incredibly quick-- if still not immediate-- recovery. Only the burn on his back left any residual scarring; he modified the gel-like padding of his robotic suit there, for the sake of his future comfort and mobility.

Slightly more a worry, the RFID stud which he'd recovered and turned over to the police turned out to be heavily encrypted. It took about as long as Laserman's recovery for a team of forensic computer scientists to crack the code. Our hero and the police now knew the location of the secret lab, but also that they had precious little time left before the Hyperquantum Cyclonic Terror became fully operational.

But the worst of Laserman's worries came on the news-- a just-breaking IBB report of a bank robbery by a man in a robotic suit. There he was on the television, kicking backwards at a man in a suit, elbowing another, and clotheslining a third “innocent,” according to the report. That third, recognizable by his hideously disfiguring facial scar as the IBB weatherman, “Dusty” Rogers, came forward to testify about the events at the First City Bank. Others-- a corrupt bank teller and security guard, no doubt bankrolled by Dash Dervish himself-- came forward to verify Dusty's account of the false robbery.

Police came for Laserman while the report still played that scene, over and over again, on televisions all across the nation.

“No!” Dr. Fields protested, pointing to the still-repeating scene. “Can't you see it's been 'shopped? The pixels. Man, look at the pixels!”

But there could be no avoiding his arrest, no avoiding the shame and hatred he would endure from the public, just as there now could be no avoiding... the trial of Laserman!