Episode 7

The Commissioner’s Office, downtown Gargle City

The Commissioner was feeling mildly sick, and it had nothing to do with what he had eaten for lunch. When he had told Dirt Man that he would give him a commission when Dirt Man got a sidekick, he had meant to say, “When it’s a cold day in Hell.” Now here was Dirt Man, lightly shedding a particularly difficult to clean up pale brown dirt all over the floor, and standing next to him was…well, he couldn’t deny it anymore. The person was undeniably a sidekick. The Commissioner wasn’t sure how anyone, even as young as he obviously was, could be stupid enough to agree to be Dirt Man’s sidekick, but the ugly fact was staring him in the face that he had promised to give Dirt Man some instructions upon producing a sidekick, and there he was.

“…as his super hero name,” said Dirt Man. “I wasn’t so sure it was the best idea, but he said he’d thought about it for a while and it was all that really fit.”

The Commissioner tried to remember what Dirt Man had just finished saying. After a brief effort he gave it up in the theory that nothing Dirt Man said could be all that important.

“How nice,” said the Commissioner faintly.

Sam, standing uncomfortably next to Dirt Man in his newly finished super hero outfit, shifted his weight uncomfortably and wondered if the Commissioner always had that sickly tint of green about his features.

While he stalled for time, the Commissioner examined this new sidekick’s outfit. He had to admit, the kid had a certain fashion sense, albeit one that was rather off-the-wall. He had a bright yellow shirt with a large blue and green globe stitched lovingly on its front. His pants were tight-fitting, and a nondescript blue-gray color. He had a mask on that appeared to be a dark blue headband with golden reflective lenses somehow attached to it, obscuring his eyes and making his gaze almost mildly intimidating. At least it would have been mildly intimidating if he weren’t dancing back and forth in nervous tension.

The Commissioner sighed, and looked down at his desk in despair. It had only been a little over a week since he had sent Dirt Man packing, secure in the knowledge that his story of a sidekick had to have been a lie to make himself look better. And now here they were.

On the Commissioner’s desk lay a newspaper he had been reading during his lunch break. One of the front page items was an article talking about the recent spate of burglaries that had cropped up within the past week in one of the more run-down housing areas near the industrial district. The Commissioner had already assigned the case to one of the police detectives earlier in the week before the story had leaked to the press. But Dirt Man didn’t know that.

The Commissioner looked up and smiled. Dirt Man immediately went on his guard; even without much experience, he knew that the Commissioner smiling at him was probably not a good thing.

“I have an assignment for you,” said the Commissioner mildly. He could already feel the cogs ticking, coming up with a way out of this mess.

Dirt Man looked surprised. He had figured that there would be another hoop to jump through, and here was the Commissioner acting as if he were a real super hero. Which, of course, he was.

“There has been a disturbing number of robberies in the eastside housing area within the past week,” said the Commissioner. “Started shortly after you broke up that mugging, actually. Go find the cause and stop it.” He paused, considering his next decision. “And come back next week. I should have a vehicle for you.”

Dirt Man was speechless. The Commissioner appeared to be trying to be reasonable. It just plain wasn’t to be countenanced. “Well, thanks,” he said, in true super hero fashion. “I’ll get right on that.”

“Yes, you do that,” said the Commissioner. “Now I’ll see you next week. I’m rather busy right now, you know.”

“Sure thing,” said Dirt Man, and he and Sam trooped out of the Commissioner’s office.

The Commissioner waited until he heard Dirt Man exit the building, and then picked up his phone.

“Hello, Detective Walker,” said the Commissioner. “I need you to do me a favor. There’s a new super hero in town named Dirt Man. If you could invite him to dinner and offer him a false lead on the robbery case, I’d really appreciate it. No, he’d just get in your way. Trust me. You’ll see what I mean when you meet him. Oh, and by the way, is Nick still selling that old car of his? Wonderful. Thank you so much.

“And one last thing. I need you to get the identity of a boy working with Dirt Man as his sidekick. I suspect his mother would like to know what her son is up to after school.”

The Commissioner hung up the phone, straightened the papers on his desk, and smiled to himself. He always felt good about life after getting out of a scrape.

* * *

Dirt Man and Sam wandered down the street through downtown Gargle City. “Well, I think that went pretty well,” said Dirt Man.

“Yeah, I suppose,” said Sam. He hadn’t thought that the Commissioner liked either of them very much, and robberies sounded a bit banal. He had been hoping to go up against the Forces of Evil. On the other hand, everyone had to start somewhere.

“It just seems kind of banal,” he said at last, in the hopes that Dirt Man would share some inside information about actually having to deal with a group of evil robber-ninjas.

“Mmm, let’s hope not,” said Dirt Man. “Banal things always freak me out. All the knives and altars and so forth.”

Sam was mildly confused, but decided that Dirt Man must not like small-scale assignments either, and just had an odd way of putting it.

“I was kind of surprised that he didn’t have any issues about your name,” said Dirt Man. “I was under the impression that the Commissioner went in for a little more flare.”

“Nothing wrong about my super hero identity,” said Sam defensively.

“Oh, I know,” said Dirt Man. “It’s just rather unorthodox.”

Dirt Man stopped suddenly and looked sharply at the building they were walking by. He had noticed that just inside the large glass doors was the woman he had rescued from a mugging the previous week. She appeared to be leaving, but then she stopped and turned as if someone had called her name, then slowly went back inside.

Dirt Man looked up. Above the entryway, large block letters spelled out the word “Comnec.” “Hmm,” said Dirt Man thoughtfully. That woman was really a stunner. Somewhere in the back of his mind the phrase “post-distress sex” floated languidly by.

He turned back to Sam. “Let’s head back to Dirt HQ and plan out some strategy.”

“Sure thing,” said Sam. “I have to make it quick, though. I’ve got an essay due the day after tomorrow that I should start tonight.”

“That’s alright,” said Dirt Man. After not only hearing that he would be getting a vehicle but also seeing the woman who he was quickly coming to decide was the woman of his dreams, he wasn’t going to let piddling little details get him down. “I’m sure we’ll be done in time.”

Just inside the Comnec building, Karen Young turned, her hand reflexively gripping the pepper spray in her purse. She still hadn’t quite gotten over the anxiety of her near mugging, even if she had been able to handle the muggers once they were distracted by that oddly chivalrous bum.

She relaxed. The man who had called after her was merely a business executive in a very styling black suit. To cover her nervous reaction, she pushed an escaped bang behind her ear.

“I’m sorry to stop you,” said the man, “but I just happened to notice you from across the foyer. You wouldn’t be interested in having dinner sometime, would you?”

Karen was slightly taken aback. It wasn’t often that obviously well-to-do business executives just randomly asked her out to dinner. “That sounds great,” she said.

Sill smiled. He noticed many things; he had noticed Ms. Young’s anxious reaction when he called to her, and he had noticed that she worked for him weeks previously. But he had found that women greatly preferred romance to the truth, and there was something much more romantic about a chance meeting in the foyer than being told that you had been chosen to receive attention because the man noticing knew a fair amount about you and liked a challenge.

Karen smiled back. She didn’t really have any idea who this guy was, but he certainly seemed rich, so it would be a nice dinner. Besides, she needed a distraction.

After arranging a date, time, and place and exchanging pleasantries, the two parted ways, and Sill watched Karen walk out the glass doors and away down the street. Then he smoothed down his tie, despite the fact that it needed no attention, and walked back toward the elevators. Lowly secretaries might have license to leave in the late afternoon, but he had some things in the works that would take his personal attention.

The elevator doors closed behind him, and no one in the foyer realized that the man who ultimately controlled their destinies, and the single greatest super-villain in Gargle City since the fall of Loki, had only recently been in their midst.

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