Episode 4

The Comnec Building, downtown Gargle City

His name was Sill, and he was not your ordinary super villain. Any super villain worth his salt was endowed with special powers and a twisted mind, or incredible intelligence and fiendish inventions, or a charismatic personality and hundreds of loyal followers ready to do the dirty work, or at the very least a an unholy pact with the supernatural or extra-terrestrial. Sill had none of these. He did, however, have quite a lot of money and good taste in black suits.

Sill was a businessman who had worked himself up from a lower-middle class position to being one of the richest men in Gargle City. He dabbled in many different industries, and had such a vast network of business relations that no one really knew just what his position was anymore. He dressed immaculately in suit and tie, carried a rather understated briefcase with nothing more dangerous than a small letter opener in it, and was by and large unknown to the general populace.

Sill enjoyed several things. He enjoyed having his power go all but unknown. He enjoyed the material blessings that went along with his position. He enjoyed donating money to support classes in business ethics in local high schools in order to ensure that very few in the younger generation would ever be able to become as successful as he was. But most of all he enjoyed humiliating his enemies so thoroughly that they were not only defeated, but so thoroughly disgraced that they would never find work again.

Sill smiled slightly at one of the memos that had been delivered to his desk. He didn’t know why his network of contacts had not let him know that someone in Gargle City had requested a super hero, but the problem would likely not be too difficult to quash. He wouldn’t have to do much, of course, but the occasional challenge was good for him. It kept him from becoming complacent.

At least one of his contacts had done well, no matter how useless he normally proved. Sill authorized the transfer of funds requested on his memo, and filed it away for his secretary to deal with.

* * *

In one of Gargle City’s suburbs, a young man named Sam slouched in front of his TV.

“Son, the yard needs mowing,” said his father from somewhere in the house in a raised voice. Sam glanced up toward the room’s doorway briefly, then returned his attention to the television.

“Right,” he called back. He wanted to mow the lawn about as much as he wanted to develop an ulcer. Television was inane, but it was better than some things in life, particularly when those things involved the wholesale slaughter of grass using a lawn mower that enjoyed sitting unused in the shed far more than mowing, and showed its dislike of the whole activity by alternating between barely cutting the tips off the grass to chopping it so fine that parts of the lawn became green-fuzzed dirt.

Sam was of the mind that it just wasn’t fair to the grass, not to mention himself. Not that his father cared; his father had a remarkably intolerant attitude towards grass in general, likely because of its passive resistance to being kept at a manageable height. Damn stuff just shrugged you off and kept growing.

The television played a jingle, and a well-dressed young woman appeared, obviously trying to look very professional, and mostly just looking awfully boring. “Tonight on the Gargle News Network,” said the young anchor with something that sounded suspiciously like ambition covered with a thin veneer of spunk, “we bring you live coverage of the latest in a number of mysterious burglaries on Seventh Street, Gargle City gets a new Krazy Krackle’s Fun House, and other up-to-date news flashes.”

Sam wasn’t sure who the person was who wrote the scripts for the Gargle News Network, but whomever they were, they had a very tenuous grasp on the concept of “live news.” Their motto seemed to be “If it’s less than a week old, then it must be live.”

Text and images were flashing in a slick procession of colors and shapes across the screen, showing exactly what was going to be shown later but calling it a sneak preview. A local school wanted to ban several books from its library and people were protesting; a new superhero named Dirt Man was said to be in town; the upcoming governor election races were starting to mutter into gear; buy Coca-Cola…Coke is Real.

Sam sat up from his slouch. Just before that ad, hadn’t they said something about a new superhero? Was it possible that something was finally going to work out?

He glanced at his watch. Likely another thirty minutes before his father got himself on the warpath about the lawn. If he was lucky one of his friends might have heard something, since the high school rumor mill was far superior to the one that the Gargle News Network tapped.

Sam pulled himself out of his chair and headed for the phone.

Behind him the TV continued to spill its mind-numbing corporate fantasies into the living room, but no one was there to hear.

* * *

Dirt Man sat on the side of his rather dingy bed in his new home in the trailer park and focused his eyes as if he were staring out the small window opposite. He wasn’t actually staring out the window because it was so covered in grime that it was impossible to see through (and even if it hadn’t been there wouldn’t have been anything out the window worth looking at), but the idea of staring out a window very much suited Dirt Man’s current mood, so he pretended for all he was worth. Thanks to years of practice, it worked just fine.

He was thinking about a sidekick, and wondering where on earth he could find one. He unfortunately didn’t know anything at all about the lay of the land. He supposed he could wander around downtown again, but he didn’t think that there’d be much chance of just randomly stumbling across a sidekick. That was definitely one of the deficits of the correspondence course he had taken; all of the lessons assumed that the sidekick would just be there in the hour of need, so they didn’t even touch on how to get a sidekick in the first place. Perhaps he could apply for one from the Happy Hero(ine)™ Corporation.

Dirt Man continued to stare at his window. The multifaceted ecosystems that had evolved there over the years stared back.

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