Authors: James Maxey
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Young Adult
A Superhero Novel
Copyright © 2003 by James Maxey
For Tony St. Clair,
even though he's wrong about Thor being
stronger than the Hulk.
Nobody Gets the Girl
now has a
Singer/songwriter Jonah Knight has recorded
an EP of six songs inspired by the novel.
For links to the songs and more information
about Jonah, visit his website, www.jonahofthesea.com.
A DAMN FINE ACT OF TERROR
The night sky
smoldered a hellish red, as flames reflected off dust and steam.
The horrible smoke rendered most senses useless. People stumbled
over debris on the sidewalk, unable to see through teary eyes. The
fumes burned their lungs, and filled their mouths and noses with a
sickening chemical stench of burning carpet. There were too many
noises. People were screaming, sirens and alarms blared over the
waterfall roar of the inferno. Glass shattered and crashed upon the
And above it all, explosions. Just when the
roar of the last blast fell silent, another would follow, throwing
people to the sidewalk. The Earth shook as if a giant were stamping
Which, in fact, was exactly what was
happening. Those people who through luck, good or bad, had a
vantage point above the smoke and destruction were greeted with a
disturbing sight this night. Waddling through downtown Seattle,
with a swaying, tottering rhythm, was a one-hundred-foot-tall baby
doll. Where the doll's head should have been was a pistol, a
gleaming Saturday night special the size of school bus. The doll
would toddle forward a few blocks, knocking down walls and
shattering glass as it swayed, then, bracing itself, would turn its
gun-gaze on a nearby skyscraper and let fly with an enormous
The doll had been wandering the streets for
half an hour. It seemed to have no plan or purpose other than
destruction. It was impossible to say whether it was by chance or
design that it arrived at the most famous structure of the Seattle
skyline, the Space Needle. For a moment, it waddled past the
Needle, seemingly oblivious to its presence. Then it turned its
horrible muzzle toward the structure.
Half a world away, a man with his feet kicked
up on the coffee table chuckled with pleasure as the Needle tumbled
to the ground. His name was Rex Monday.
"That, my friend, is a damn fine act of
terror if I do say so myself," said Monday, waving toward the
His "friend" was an old man, very thin,
dressed in clothes so worn and dirty any civilized person would
have burned them. The old man watched the carnage playing out on
the screen as he crunched on the unpopped kernels he’d dug from the
bottom of the bag of popcorn in his hand. "I reckon. Sure. But
what's in it for you? I'm grateful for the job, Mr. Monday. Not
much work for a carny geek these days. But, as long as you're going
to be tearing up buildings, shouldn't you be stealing stuff? Send
me in. I bet I can find a bank to chew into or something."
"You think small, friend," said Monday.
"What's in it for me is that he hates it. He hates that he can't
outthink me, that he can't predict me, that he can't protect the
world from me."
"Dr. Know. Haven't you been paying
"Oh yeah," said the old man, who held the bag
up to make sure he'd finished the contents. Seeing that he had, he
wadded up the bag, and ate it in one mouthful. As he chewed, he
said, "Your, uh, enemy. Still think it couldn't hurt to scoop up
some jewelry or something."
"Petty baubles," said Monday. "Worthless.
Meaningless. There's a grander prize at stake in this game."
"What's that?" asked the old man.
NONE OF THIS
had anything to do with
Richard Rogers. Richard would read about the rampage in Seattle on
the internet tomorrow, just like the rest of the world. The news
these days sometimes seemed like an unending chain of tragedy and
despair. But by lunch he’d be firing off e-mail jokes about it to
his friends, feeling only a little guilty. He was the first to
admit there was nothing funny about it, nothing at all. Richard
knew that in the wake of these attacks there were people left
homeless, spouses widowed, children orphaned. Only an insensitive
clod would be writing jokes before the dust settled. Still, gee
whiz, how could you not laugh at the idea of a freakin' giant doll
tearing down the Space Needle? It helped that these things always
seemed to happen far away, in cities a lot bigger than his. They
didn't touch his life directly.
At least, not yet.
"YEAH, ALL MY
life I've been lucky,"
Richard said, transitioning from driving jokes into current events
jokes. "Lucky I don't live in D.C., for one thing. You been
following this? The Dome?"
There were maybe twelve people in the
audience now. A few were still laughing from the last punch line. A
handful nodded their heads at the mention of the Dome.
"I mean, talk about a waste of money," said
Richard. "Seventeen billion dollars this thing's costing. Gonna put
a big old dome over the entire city. Climate control year round.
There's, what? Two million people living under this thing? Three
million? You could buy umbrellas for everybody for a lot less than
seventeen billion. Or maybe not, if the Pentagon was in charge of
it. Then we'd be buying the XJ-11 combat ready umbrella. Not only
rainproof but bulletproof. They'd weigh forty-five pounds
He wielded the mike-stand like a very heavy
umbrella and staggered a few feet across the stage, grunting under
its weight. The audience laughed hard. One of the first lessons
Richard had learned about stand-up comedy was that he could make
anything seem funny if he attached it to a silly walk.
He straightened up and put the mike back into
the stand. "Thanks! You've been a great audience! I'm Richard
Rogers! I'll be back here next month!"
He bounded from the stage and shook a few
hands. He felt wired, buzzing, full of the same manic energy that
always hit him after a set. The charge was the same with twelve
people in the audience as with a hundred. This is why he'd drive
four hours on a weeknight to perform at the Stokesville Ramada's
comedy club’s open mike.
Making his way through the small crowd, he
arrived at the bar.
"Good set," said Billy the bartender, who was
already filling a glass with Richard's usual beer.
"Thanks," said Richard as he took the glass.
"Small crowd though."
"Eh," said Billy. "It's raining. Never a big
crowd when it's nasty out."
"Maybe I'll start driving to D.C.," said
Richard. "Not many nasty nights there anymore."
"Thought you didn't like the Dome," said
"Ah, who cares. It's too weird to get really
worked up about. Every day I watch the news and think, 'They're
just making this stuff up.' They've got a bunch of ex–comic book
writers sitting in the back room cranking out these crazy stories.
Probably cheaper than hiring reporters. I mean, right now the
government is telling us that the most wanted terrorist in the
world is somebody named Rex Monday. Excuse me, but didn't he fight
Richard grew aware of a presence behind him
stepping a little too much into his personal space. He looked over
his shoulder. It was a woman. She’d caught his eye a few times when
he was onstage. She was tall, good looking, maybe a few years older
than him, but very attractive.
"You were good up there," she said, taking
the stool next to him. "My name's Rose."
"Thanks," he said. "I'm Richard."
"So what are you doing here on an open mike
night?" she asked. "You're better than most of the pros I've seen
in here. You should be paid for this."
"Thanks again," said Richard. "I don't
suppose you'd happen to be an agent, would you?"
"No. I'm the district sales rep for Oxford
Financial. I travel a lot. When I'm in town I usually come here.
Really, I've seen a lot of comedians, and you're very
Richard shrugged. "I've thought about turning
pro, but it's not likely to happen."
"Oh, you know. I didn't really discover I
enjoyed doing this until I was already neck deep in something else.
I head a tech support unit at FirstSouth. I can't afford to quit
that and hit the circuits in hope of some big break. For the time
being, the Stokesville Ramada's as far as I travel."
"I wish this was as far as I traveled," said
Rose. "My counterpart in the Carolinas quit so I'm covering four
states now. But it's not all bad. Some parts of life on the road I
"Meeting new people," said Rose, moving even
closer to Richard. "I feel more like who I want to be when I'm
talking to someone for the first time."
"Hmm," said Richard.
"You must understand," said Rose, lightly
touching his arm. "You're a different person when you're onstage?
On the road, you can be anyone you want to be."
Richard nodded. "Yeah. I do feel like a
different person up there. Only it's not really different. It's
like who I really am. It's everywhere else in my life I feel a bit
out of place."
She touched his arm again. "So you do
understand. Funny people are often the most insightful."
Richard looked at her hand which was
lingering on his arm. He suddenly felt rather warm.
"So," she said. "Do you have a room
"Um," said Richard. "No. Actually I have to
work in the morning. I'm driving home tonight."
"In this weather?" she asked. "Wouldn't you
rather spend the night in a warm bed than out in that mess?"
Richard placed his left hand on the bar,
making sure his wedding ring was visible. "My wife would be
worried," he said.
"Call her and tell you you're staying over
because of the weather," said Rose.
"I'd never hear the end of it. You don't know
my wife," said Richard.
"And you don't know my husband," said Rose
with a sly grin, leaning closer. "Isn't it marvelous we have so
much in common?"
She was looking directly into his eyes.
Richard had a strong sense of déjà vu. This was a fantasy he'd
played in his head many times over, being approached by a beautiful
woman after he'd finished a set, a woman who found him sexy based
purely on his ten minute routine. Now here his fantasy was, in the
very attractive flesh.
He looked down at his wedding ring.
OUT ON THE
interstate, Richard kept
thinking he should turn the car around. Maybe Rose would still be
at the bar. Maybe she’d find it charming that he’d changed his mind
and come back.
He kept driving. He did have to work
tomorrow. And Veronica, well, Veronica already hated his late
nights. Affair or no, she would hold it over his head for a month
if he didn't come home. A month if he was lucky.
When it's pouring rain and you're the only
car on the interstate, it's difficult not to feel a little
introspective. Was his life so terrible? He had a good job, a nice
house, a devoted wife. Why did he feel this craving to throw all
that away and live on the road, traveling state to state, bar to
bar, just to have people laugh at him?
As he got off the exit near his house he kept
thinking he should turn back. Rose would be gone by now, but what
did that matter? He didn't think he could take another day of
watching the clock at work. He knew he would snap if Veronica
complained about his being out an hour later than he’d
He’d made his decision by the time he pulled
into his driveway. He would go inside and write Veronica a letter.
He'd been composing it in his head for some time now. "I'm sorry,"
it would start. "I'm not happy anymore. I'm living the life I
wanted five years ago, but five years ago I was an idiot." He would
pack his toothbrush and hit the road.
"Never look back," he whispered as he closed
the door behind him and stepped into his darkened living room.
But he knew that 3 in the morning is a
terrible time to contemplate such things. He tossed his coat on the
couch. Not hanging it up was a minor act of rebellion. He looked
around at the carefully groomed living room, with the throw pillows
thrown to millimeter accuracy and the single large art magazine
sitting on the coffee table at a carefully calculated angle to
convey casual intellectualism. He sighed, picked up his coat, and
placed it in the closet. He pulled off his shoes and crept into the
bedroom. He undressed by the dim LED light of his alarm clock. He
could still get four hours sleep. Four and half if he went to work
unshaved and slightly rumpled. Or, he could put his clothes back on