--Chapter Seven: Mind Games
Leo, in Tony Hawk: Pro Skater III, does a few tricks in the level, “Canada.” He reverts into another technique and takes a brief look at his score: 85,000 x 36. At that moment, he runs into the guy whose tongue is stuck to a flagpole. Leo falls down and the score is erased.
The guy runs away from the flagpole yelling curses. Thinks Leo, Stupidity works in mysterious ways…
Leo gets up and starts a simple trick, but the running guy, still cursing, bowls into him and knocks him over again.
Leo and Aeris gazed about them in Krug’s hotel room. They were a long way from home. A broken TV set, a nightstand, bed and kitchenette were the only objects in the room.
The cats stood in the doorway and hesitated while Krug took off his coat and threw it on the floor. While Leo stood, he looked for the room’s exits, should Aeris and he need a quick escape. He saw only the one far window, but at least that was something.
Aeris was caught up in different thoughts altogether. Primary among them was the consideration of fear. There was no telling just what she had gotten herself into. That Leo came along was both a blessing and a curse right now, because although she was glad for his company, she feared for his safety, as well.
At last, Krug gestured them to come in, so they walked over to him. Both managed to keep a smile on their faces, since neither knew how long it would be before Scott arrived, and until that moment, they would have to keep the monster believing that they were his allies.
“Kitties come on bed, Krug read bedtime story.”
The cats obeyed, each a bit curious, though still cautious, as Krug lifted a large-print book from the nightstand. The title read, The Good Beast by Dr. Daniel Doe.
“This Krug favorite bedtime story,” announced the monster. Then he read, “‘Once upon a time there was a world of Fleshy Ones. Most of the Fleshy ones were evil. The few good Fleshy Ones wondered if anyone would ever save them from the evil ones, but years passed, and no one came.
“‘Soon there were only a few good Fleshy Ones left, so they used their Powers of Good to create a beast, which would protect them from the evil fleshy ones. This beast was named Krug, and he was very powerful. He could eat anything, but he especially liked to eat evil Fleshy Ones.’
“Hahaha,” said Krug, deviating from the narrative. “Story so true to life.”
He was on the verge of shedding a tear when he continued, “‘One day, the good ones told Krug to eat metal things in a metal store, because these metal things were evil tools. Krug did this, and the good ones were happy.
“‘Then, the good Fleshy Ones let Krug eat an evil Fleshy One in front of many other evil Fleshy Ones. Krug did this, scaring off the evil ones, and the good ones were happy.
“Now we get to the good part,” said he, flipping a page. “‘The good Fleshy ones then put Krug to his final test. The evil ones met together at an evil “convention.” Krug trapped the evil ones and ate them all, one by one. It was the greatest feast ever. The end.’”
Krug closed the book and smiled. The cats were speechless.
“Okay, Krug tell kitties bedtime story. Now kitties tell Krug story.”
The monster enthusiastically rested his hands against what would have been, had he a neck to support it, his chin.
Leo looked at Aeris instinctively. She would have to tell the next story, since Krug was looking at her. She had to think quickly.
“Well, there’s a story I like called ‘The Good Beast: Vice City…’”
Leo sighed as Aeris went on. He tried to think about just what Krug’s story meant for their adventure. Krug was going to attack a convention—the same one Scott was attending? Perhaps—by why? Because Krug was told to—but by who? Maybe this Dr. Doe, the book’s author, was behind it, but then, that did not fit Krug’s story, since he had mentioned multiple “good Fleshy Ones.” What was it about the “good” ones that would make them tell Krug that convention-goers were evil? And besides, how could one monster eat an entire convention crowd? Even with Krug’s ferocity, the task could take days. There had to be more to the situation than met the eye.
Aeris finished up her story:
“And then the good Krug ate all the evil ones who had created him for their evil purposes, thus proving to all the good people of the world, who indeed had been the truly good ones all along, despite the lies the evil ones told Krug, that Krug was indeed on their side after all. The end.”
It took all of Leo’s effort to keep from raising an eyebrow. Aeris was actually trying to play a mind game with Krug. When a being has the general intelligence Krug had in the first place, one usually does not try and reason with them. For the second time tonight, Aeris’s gamble on Krug’s mental reactions would likely decide their fate.
Krug’s expression was unreadable, but the way in which he had one eye opened wider than the other suggested a sort of confusion.
“Krug only eat few people in that story. Why Krug no eat many people?”
Aeris answered, “Because if Krug eats many people, he will eat good ones along with the bad. Conventions are mostly for good people. Krug would not want to eat there.”
Krug almost pouted. “Krug don’t like that story. Krug go to sleep now.”
With that, the monster collapsed on the bed. He was snoring instantaneously.
Leo gave Aeris a sharp look. She looked back and said in a whisper, “What?”
“How many chances are you going to take tonight?” he whispered back.
“Oh, come on, Leo. Like you talking to a crazed hobo wasn’t a risk in its own right.”
Leo closed his mouth and thought for a moment. She had a point. “Look, just be careful, okay? You’re not Freud; there’s no way either of us can know this… this… thing’s intentions. What twisted things might be going through his mind, even now…”
Krug mumbled in his sleep, “Yes… Fleshy… mmmmmmmm… Ooh, bunnies!”
“Point taken,” said Aeris. “Now let’s get some sleep.”
Eventually, Krug did remember Aeris’s story in his dreams, and thought about his current mission. If the people who made him were the evil ones, then what was he to do?
The way he saw it, he had only two options: eat many, many good people, or eat just a few evil people. This in turn presented a moral dilemma he was not prepared to deal with. He would spend the rest of the night in an uneasy sleep, his conscience and his appetite in a duel with each other.
Scott went to a local discount store that was open until eleven p.m. There he bought a pair of cargo pants and boxer shorts, along with some fabric scissors. It took some creative cutting, but in a back street alley he turned the pants into a cape by cutting a hole through the seat and tying the legs together close to the top. Then he cut two eyeholes in the boxer shorts and made a mask.
Once he was in full costume, Pants Man set out to follow his leads. It was plain enough to him that today’s unfortunate baseball event was just a bluff, a distraction meant to lead suspicion away from a bigger target. Otherwise, there would have been more than one death. At the same time, though, Pants Man was sure that the main event, whenever it should occur, would be public. The Firm behind this whole mess felt no more need for secretive pillaging operations in computer stores; instead, it was now flaunting its monstrous weapon in the faces of all Toronto citizens.
Pants Man deduced that the next attack would come at an event at least the size of a baseball game, probably bigger, but this time, the attack would be more closely related to computer hardware, like that which was destroyed in stores citywide. There was only one local event of that description that crossed the hero’s mind: the very convention he was scheduled to be at in only a couple days. It was supposed to be a large, general convention for Internet comic artists, role players, and online gamers: Toronto Intercon.
With this in mind, he made his way toward the downtown convention center. Overlooking the building from a nearby rooftop, he saw one figure by the main entrance. The man was reading a sign on the door. Pants Man, having forgotten to buy binoculars at the discount store earlier, went down to the street level to get a closer look.
Number Three read the advertisement posted on the convention center door. He had finished his check of the premises, making sure to lock off all emergency exits in the process. Now he was enjoying a brief moment of self-congratulations before he would have to leave the premises.
The sign simply read, “Toronto Intercon,” along with the dates and time information for the event. Below that, it boasted that the “newest wave of computer hardware” would be unveiled in the Dealers’ Room. Number Three chuckled to himself and walked away.
Pants Man stepped out of the shadows when the villain had gone. Then the hero took a look at the sign for himself. There was no doubt in his mind; Krug would strike there next.
The cargo-caped crusader went around the building to the nearest emergency exit door. He found it welded shut. He sighed and walked across the street to a payphone, making sure, to the best of his ability, that he was not followed or watched.
It was time to give the Commissioner a progress report.