--Chapter Two: A Taste of Things to Come
Leo: (in Worms, carrying a miniature drum of napalm) DIE, FELLOW INVERTEBRATES! (Throws the drum. It scatters the gas among several enemy combatants.) HA! Gotcha, suckers! Victory is mine!
(Krug’s foot lands on the ground, causing the mud to collapse, crushing all the worms.)
“Eww, ground squishy…”
Krug brushed the dirt (and a couple of flattened earthworm carcasses) off his foot and walked carefully back to the pavement. At one a.m., and in disguise, he was not one to gain too much attention in downtown Toronto. Any passers by who thought his body-length frock coat and oversized hat were odd for the recently warm weather did not bother to question him or stare too long.
Still, Krug did as he was advised, avoiding overexposure on the streets by walking mainly through grassy shortcuts. The first part of his mission was simple: Go to a computer store and eat all the merchandise in aisle seven. The store he had been directed to was now across the street. The monster waited for the road to clear, then crossed and peered in the shop window. Little did he know that his actions were being watched…
High atop a nearby building stood Pants Man, scouring the city through binoculars, talking to himself in classic superhero fashion.
“Somewhere out in that malaise of lights lies evil; I just know it. And where there is evil, Pants Man will thwart it. Ooh, what’s this now?”
His binoculars brought him to look at a figure in full-length coat, peering into a large computer store’s display window. Pants Man zoomed in on the subject just as Krug punched a hole in the glass, shattering the window.
“Vandalism, possibly burglary… this is bigger than anything the police have ever assigned me to!” In his excitement, the hero instantly gave chase… meaning, of course, he ran back to the roof elevator and pressed the 1* floor button, hoping his target would not make a fast break before Pants Man could arrive on the scene.
Krug knew not to go down certain aisles of the computer store; he had not been told the reason for that, though: to keep from tripping the motion detector alarm. Winding his way through, he found aisle seven.
Pants Man surveyed the scene from outside the broken glass and wondered why no alarm had gone off.
“Strange,” said he, peering his head inside. There were muddy footsteps on the floor, barely visible in the light. Then, a loud crunching sound coming from the front of the store confirmed his suspicion that the criminal had not yet run for it. The Khaki Crusader stepped inside, cautious of the glass shards surrounding him. They made a light crunch under his feet as he entered, but the louder sound from the front aisle made this noise negligible.
Pants Man followed the footsteps in a zigzag pattern until he knew the crunching was coming from just around the corner. Time for a dramatic entrance, he thought.
Krug, meanwhile, was intently and indiscriminately chugging metallic objects and therefore oblivious to his follower. He wondered for a moment about the possibility of getting too much iron in his diet, but it passed as he grew an acquired liking for the various alloys in front of him.
Then a flash of light to his left made the monster turn his head. He was probably just as surprised as Pants Man was at what he saw.
On the one hand, Krug found himself staring at something that looked like a Fleshy One, only with some not-so-fleshy object on its head, its hands pointing a Super Soaker 200 in his direction.
On the other hand, Pants Man found himself in front of a red, furry mass in a coat that looked like the upper part of it had been eaten away. Its eyes glowed yellow, the main light of the room, and its mouth was propped open by a cd-rom drive box that it was apparently eating.
Pants Man recovered from the initial shock before Krug did. The hero yelled out, “Hold it right there! You’re under arrest for destruction of property… and… stuff.”
His voice trailed off as Krug stood up straight, swallowed the cd-rom box whole, and gave him a look that was comically evil, and yet had no intended humor in it.
The monster’s response was simple: “You got three seconds before Krug eat you.”
Pants Man pumped the Super Soaker rapidly in anticipation. He later reflected that there must have been a timer built into Krug’s head, because it was exactly three seconds from the end of that last spoken sentence that the red mass attacked.
The hero ducked and rolled to the side, recovering in fighter stance and shooting the gun. An intense wave of bleach struck Krug in the face, but the villain responded by simply swallowing the alkaline liquid and licking his lips, as though he actually liked it.
His weapon rendered useless, Pants Man had to think fast. He ran into the next aisle for temporary cover, setting off the store alarm in the process.
“Well, at least the police will come now,” said the hero, thinking aloud. Inwardly, he kicked himself for not calling them earlier; at the time, he felt it necessary to catch the vandal first. In retrospect, staying away from the vandal would have been a better course of action.
The alarm initially stunned Krug, giving Pants Man ample time to make a full escape. The monster covered its ears with both hands, closed its eyes and ran away from the noise, straight into the Macintosh aisle. Seeing this from the checkout area, the hero got an idea. He looked around for the Employees’ Office, and once he had found it, he ran in.
A nearby Janitors closet contained the circuit breakers and power switches for the store. Pants Man turned all of the switches on. The lights turned on in the store, thus driving the red monster even more insane. The hero returned from the office area just in time to see Krug start throwing random objects at the ceiling lights in vain retaliation. Unfortunately, one such object started an odd chain reaction:
The projectile hit a ceiling sprinkler, which started spraying water. The water landed on the computers and ground, inadvertently rolling into some carelessly uncovered floor sockets… cueing a massive chain of electric explosions.
After an unspoken exclamation crossed Pants Man’s mind, he ran for the front doors and kicked them open. Krug also ran, his eyes and ears now mostly adjusted to the change in surroundings. He knew he had eaten most of the assigned aisle, so he could still technically tell his masters he had been successful. But it was instinct that told him to run now, and he jumped out of the broken window and ran around the corner to retrace his steps back to headquarters.
Pants Man was still concentrating on the building when five city police cars rolled up on the street, sirens blaring. The electric fire then blew out the remaining windows.
(Five hours later, in the Commissioner’s Office)
Commissioner: (slamming an early edition of the city paper on his desk) DAMMIT PANTSMAN! You and your heroic stunt tonight cost almost a half million dollars in damage! What the HELL made you think you could just go AWOL and blow up buildings for a living? Huh?
Pants Man: (tired, dejected look, sitting in a small chair in front of the desk) Well, I saw a crime in progress, so I tried to stop it, and—
Commissioner: You saw a guy smash a window. So did you call the police? NO! Did you tell us what was going on? NO! You ran after him with a SQUIRT GUN and nearly got yourself killed! There’s a reason I don’t assign you to live-action cases like this, Pants Man. Your unconventional meddling may have its place in following detective leads, but it has no place in a fight against a conventional robbery. Period!
Pants Man: But it wasn’t just a robbery! I saw that suspect eating a whole aisle of computer hardware. Whatever that thing was, it wasn’t human.
Commissioner: The security camera got a shot of a figure in long coat and hat. We didn’t get the face, but everything the cameras saw it do was normal criminal behavior. There’s no evidence anything in the store was eaten, given that there isn’t anything lift in the store that isn’t completely FUBAR. So don’t even try to pull the wool over my eyes. The suspect even ran away from the crime scene like a normal criminal would! All this destruction, and you weren’t even able to make an arrest!
Pants Man: (shaking head) I’m telling you, Commissioner, that thing I saw was red, furry, had big yellow eyes, and ate metal stuff. If that’s human, then I’m a freaking dairy cow.
Commissioner: I won’t have you disrespecting me in my office any longer, Pants Man; you are now officially off the force. If you meddle in this or any other investigation of the Toronto City Police in the future, you will be arrested. Now hand in your badge and gun.
Pants Man: (lays the Super Soaker on the table) Here’s the gun. I’m afraid I can’t give you a badge, since I never had one to begin with.
Commissioner: (takes the gun and stows it under the desk) Whatever. Just get the hell outta my office.
Pants Man: Oh, I’ll get out, sure. But the next time that monster goes loose on part of the city, see for yourself how far conventional methods get you. He’ll probably eat the very police car you lock him in.
Pants Man left with his back turned to the desk. The Commissioner sighed and looked at the squirt gun. Perhaps he should have told the superhero the real reason for the manhunt last night… or the reasons behind scores of other missions, for that matter. If Pants Man knew just how much most of his work was appreciated, he might not have tried to strike out on his own and without a given assignment. Then this whole night never would have happened…
Ah well, now that the poor guy had been brought to the point of blaming make-believe monsters for his own shortcomings, it was probably best for him to stay away from the Force. Seriously, thought the Commissioner. Next time, he would have told us the Boogey Man was loose.
Pants Man drove home and walked straight to his room, shutting the door behind him before Aeris could follow. The cat, thinking she had just been snubbed, sat outside the door and waited for her owner to come back out so he could tell her about his adventures. Scott went to sleep right away, though, not giving a single word to his pet.
Eventually, Aeris lost interest, thinking the artist/superhero was simply more tired than usual. After a day had passed, though, without any major action from Scott, she began to worry again.