Taking Care of Business
by Upright, with a bit of Doom
"The doctor's X-rayed my
head and found nothing."
-- Dizzy Dean, baseball
Harry's Bar. Not a very original name for
a bar, but then again, what bar really need's a good name? Just
one of many deep thoughts I'd been experiencing since my last
encounter with the Dark Avenger.
Turned out the Dark Avenger was my exgirlfriend,
Beatrice LeNoir. Of South Dakota. Not North. My run-in with her
in Red Town, Mars left me scarred in a deep and... well, scarred
sorta way. I'd been thinking about real deep stuff since then,
like love, death, life, afterlife, resurrection, karma, what
it would be like to touch Beatrice's knockers again, etc.
I hadn't reported her to the Corps. Not
yet. This was something I had to deal with myself.
I had to find her, take her down.
Take her down, down, down.
Deep. Real deep.
I'd enlisted the aid of two members of
the Corps, who I knew would not tell anyone because Bright Boy's
new and doesn't have a clue and Insectorama just doesn't have
a clue. We headed for Harry's Bar to meet a contact with information
on the Dark Avenger's whereabouts.
The Dark Avenger is my exgirlfriend.
I sat at the bar for maybe ten minutes,
when I heard a deep voice from behind me.
"I see that you made it."
I turned around, frowning.
"Of course I made it Insectorama,
you idiot, I came here with you."
Insectorama looked hurt. "Sorry Dirk,
I was just practicing."
"Look, sorry, this is kind of weird.
"What are we doing now?"
"Waiting. For a contact. With information.
I hope no one can recognize me in my disguise. I am the most
popular member three years running, you know."
"Should I have changed out of my tights
"Yeah, that might of been a good idea."
"But at least I'll blend in with Bright
Boy. He's got his tights on too."
Bright Boy was nervous. He wasn't legal,
so he tried to act like he was. He ordered Wild Turkey on the
rocks in a cool sort of way. It gave him away.
"Can I see ID sir?"
I needed Bright Boy. He was the weapon
to strike down Dark Avenger. To strike down Beatrice. My ex.
I barely escaped our last encounter. Insectorama
could help with recon, but not much else. Bright Boy was my weapon,
my big gun.
I held the trigger.
See? That's deep too. I'm one of those
I walked over to the bartender. "It's
okay, he's with me."
"I don't care who he's with,"
growled the bartender. "This guy don't look old enough to
be in here, let alone drinkin'. He'll have to leave."
I laid a twenty on the counter.
"Ooops," the bartender retracted.
"I must of read his nonexistent ID wrong. Oh yeah."
The bartender held out an imaginary ID in front of him. "I
see now. It says right here that he's twenty-one. Heh heh."
Bright Boy'll pay me back later.
Turning back to my table, I saw what a
stupid idea it was for me to take them along. Bright Boy ordered
another Wild Turkey as soon as he had the first and was beginning
to act strangely. Insectorama looked stupid in his metallic green
loose fitting uniform, complete with goggled bug eyes and antennae,
but everyone had decided he was trying to stand out and so made
it a point to ignore him. Only I, in my Humphrey Bogart overcoat
and hat, looked normal for somebody trying to get information
on his nemesis, his exgirlfriend.
A man in another Humphrey Bogart coat and
hat walked over to me from across the room. He glanced both ways
"The apples are red this season."
He said calmly. The code phrase!
Now I had to remember the response. Luckily,
I have above average intelligence. "I prefer green ones."
I got excited.
"Not so loud, you fool!" screamed
the stranger. "What do you want to do, tell everyone in
the whole world I'm selling you top secret information on the
whereabouts of the Dark Avenger, who's hiding in his top secret
base in the Mercurian Iron Mines of Masela! Do you!"
Ah ha! So my informer didn't know that
the Dark Avenger was a she!
"Thank you," I said, handing
him ten bucks. "Do me a favor, keep this under your hat."
"No problem. And hey, if you need
more info, call my boss again. Under 'Information.' The InforMANt."
"Sure," I said. Now, to collect
my friends. "Bright Boy, come here!"
The young hero staggered over to me. "Whazzat?"
he asked. "Yer talking to... me loosher? Hey big
boy, I'sh gonna zap you good! Heh!"
"Hey, Insectorama, help me."
He came over and helped me carry Bright Boy to the door.
"Where'd ya get da bug? Ha ha. He
shure's funny lookin'!"
My gun was drunk.
We left Harry's Bar. I threw off my overcoat
to reveal my crimson spandex suit, highlighted by gold ceramic
shielding pads at the knees, elbows and shoulders. A gold painted
jet pack, so slim it hardly looked like a jet pack, but it was,
I tell you. Still is. Gold lattice-like mesh covered the suit.
That's my exoskeleton, affording me a little more strength and
a lot more reaction/reflex time. How much?
Top secret. You are not allowed to know.
I would not go disguised anymore. Besides
the fact that Bright Boy and Insectorama would give me away anyway,
I wanted to face the Dark Avenger, manee oh manee. Whatever
that is. I would face her, man to man, no disguises, nothing
to hide. That is, after we got past all her soldiers and defenses
and made our way to her private chambers. Then I would reveal
myself. Face her. Take her down.
Manee oh Manee.
I'd decided on not using Carlotta Everyday
for this mission, partly because it wasn't sanctioned by the
Corps and mostly because I could hot wire Captain Dick's favorite
personal cruiser, a sweet little thruster painted cherry red
and tricked with a lot of neat stuff. It's state of the art stuff
that Dick really can't afford so he probably took it out of Corps
funds illegally. He won't report it stolen. He might get mad
at me for scratching off those big black dorky D's painted on
the sides but oh well.
"Whersh da croosher?" wondered
He had a good point. Maybe I parked it
"You thought you get away with stealing
my fucking cruiser, Daring!" a voice called from above.
Captain Dick was floating ten feet above us.
Not that I didn't already know who it was.
"No, Captain Dick..."
"And you fucking scratched my fucking
D's off of it! You big fuck! Who the fuck do you think you are!"
"I KNOW THAT YOU FUCKING FUCK!"
But in reality it was a real good question.
Really. Who the fuck was I? I left Beatrice, not once but, uhm,
twice. Yeah, twice now. God knows I've left enough women to constitute
an army. I hurt people, physically, emotionally. Is that who
I am? The hurting kind? Do I exist to hurt people? Is that all
I am, or is there something more?
I can't believe how deep I've gotten.
Yeah, and that can mean more than one thing.
"DARING! Stop staring past me as if
I wasn't gonna bust your ass for stealing a private thruster,
getting a minor drunk and undertaking an unofficial mission!"
"Why'sh he yellin' sho hard?"
asked Bright Boy, holding his head in his hands.
"It's so we can hear him," answered
Insectorama after a moment of consideration.
"C'mon Captain Dick, gives us back
the thruster," I said.
"What! Who the fuck do you think you
are, you lousy piece of..."
"I'm the fuck who knows a secret about
you," I said softly.
Captain Dick was caught off guard. "What
"The Secret. Let's not play
games now, Captain."
"I know secrets about the Captain
too, I've been down his pants enough times. " Insectorama
looked around the rest of the guys, who were staring at him.
"As a flea, that is..."
"Uh, the thrusters parked in the other
parking lot. I haven't moved it," Captain Dick mumbled,
horrified. He flew off, breaking the sound barrier.
"Good God Insectorama, that was a
hell of a play," I congratulated. "Jesus, he actually
"Yes, I know. It almost makes it worth
going down his pants."
"Y-you mean, you mean you really went
down Captain Dick's pants?" My stomach lurched.
"Yeah. I've been down everyone's pants
by now. Sometimes you meet the neatest insects -- hey, what's
"Just shut up Insectorama."
"GRRAAAKKK!" Bright Boy puked.
° ° °
"What a waste it is to
lose one's mind --
or not to have a mind. How true
-- Former Vice President
bungling the United Negro College Fund's
slogan "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
The trip to Mercury was all right. I mean,
the ship's top of the line and totally luxurious. Bright Boy
was sleeping off the Wild Turkey. Insectorama was a flea and
secure in a test tube in my pocket. With all this silence and
uninterrupted, uh, quiet, I was able to resume thinking deeply.
How would Beatrice react when she discovered
I was taking care of business? Well, her first reaction will
probably be hormonal, she'll probably want sex. Probably with
me. She probably hasn't had sex since I left her two years ago.
I doubt she has. Beatrice with another man? Yeah, right.
Except maybe with Greased Lightning. But
he doesn't know that the Dark Avenger is actually Beatrice. But,
oooohhh, if he's sleepin' with her, I'll, I'll, I'll...
No. No, he hasn't been sleeping with her.
He better not have.
Then I thought about other things. Namely,
my friends. And Insectorama.
What if I was leading them to certain death?
Well, actually, I was. We'd have no back up, no support, nowhere
to escape if we didn't succeed. Maybe, if I needed to, I could
tell Insectorama to sacrifice himself to save my butt in a pinch.
And Bright Boy's. He'd do it too, I just know it. Cool.
That covered, I moved on to how I would
take out the Dark Avenger. I needed to move like the shadows,
stalking my prey in utter and total secrecy, unrevealed until
the last moment. Then I would strike. I would confront her, and
while she was unbalanced with confusion, Bright Boy would attack
with a lightning blast powerful enough to penetrate her armor
and leave her stunned. Or dead. I didn't want to kill her, I
still loved her knockers. I wanted to touch them and hug them
and kiss them while she was still alive and warm, not dead and
cold. Although they'd still be okay... I mean, oh, never mind.
As we approached the orbit of Mercury,
I woke up my companions. "Okay, here's the plan. First we
get past the Avenger's guards by being sneaky and subtle. Then,
we're gonna surprise her and while she's reeling from the impact
of seeing me again, Bright Boy will blast her with lightning,
defeating her utterly!"
"Her?" asked Bright Boy.
"Uh, I mean, the Dark Avenger..."
"What am I gonna do?" asked Insectorama.
"Uh, you're gonna do, you know, recon.
And maybe save my butt."
"Why would the Dark Avenger reel with
the sight of you. It's not like you have the power to destroy
him or anything," asked Bright Boy.
"Do you want me to look at your butt
again before I save it?" asked Insectorama.
"Incoming craft!" screamed the
communications station. "You have laid orbit around Mercury!
Please state your intentions."
I grabbed the controls. I was cool, collected.
"Uh, we're making a, uh... delivery! A delivery! Were delivering
uh... this custom top of the line thruster to the Dark Avenger!
Wait! I didn't say that! A delivery for someone else. At the
Mercurian Iron Mines of Masela! You know?"
"Hold on, delivery. We just want to
confirm this with Masela," answered ground control.
No problem. No problem at all. It would
work. Cause I'm deep into cool. I'm cool, really cool.
"That's a negative, delivery. Nobody
at Masela knows of any such thing. Permission to land denied.
Leave orbit now."
Damn! I grabbed the mike. "Look here,
you little ingrates! This is Dirk Daring of the Hero Corps! I
know you've heard of me cause I've been voted the most popular
hero of the team three years running! Now, you wouldn't want
to mess up a Hero Corps mission, would you?"
"That's a negative sir."
"Okay. Now, were going to land at
Masela and you're going to give them a reason why. I don't care
what you say, just tell them something. And remember, this mission's
a secret! Got that?"
"That's an affirmative sir."
I turned to my companions. "See, I
Bright Boy shook his head in wonder and
muttered something about me and clouts. He looks up to me. Maybe
I'll make him my sidekick. Kid Daring. Not bad. I'll tell him
later, so he won't get all excited and jeopardize the mission.
We were landing. I felt like we were headed
into a deep, deep hole. A black hole. We were falling, falling,
Falling. Forever. Into the pit.
Beatrice. Falling. The pit.
Deep like me.
° ° °
"They couldn't hit an elephant
from this dist --"
-- Union General John Sedgewick's
We disembarked. The landing bay had one
exit, a tunnel leading down to another corridor leading into
the city. However, a more important detail might be that surrounding
us was an entire battalion of the Dark Avenger's Black Vengeance,
her elite foot soldiers. All lasers, rifles, pistols and cannons
were targeted for us. I was amazed at how well equipped her people
were. Ceramic, light weight, heavy duty armor, all electronic
and micronized. Excellent stuff, comparable to my own. Not really.
Just trying to show how excellent they were. But not that excellent.
"Hi," I began, thinking quickly.
"I'm Bart, of Cosmic Deliveries? Surely you've heard of
"This is the Hero Corps! Put down
your weapons, you are all under arrest!"
No one flinched.
"You stupid son of a bitch Insectorama!
I had them fooled and then you go and yell your idiotic head
off. Idiot! Idiotidiotidiot!"
One of the Black Vengeance officers walked
forward. "Actually, we knew all along you were apart of
the Galactic Hero Corps. We've been expecting you."
"What do you mean you've been expecting
us! This is a top secret mission! No one knew!"
"Well, Mercury Ground Control told
us that a delivery ship that was not expected here was going
to land anyway, because it was involved in a Hero Corps secret
"Dammit! I told that ground control
officer not to say anything about it!"
"Yeah, well. So I guess this means
that the Dark Avenger is expecting us?"
"Not yet. I decided to surprise him!"
Ah ha! So even her officers didn't know
she was Beatrice, my exgirlfriend.
"Ready?" I asked Bright Boy and
Bright Boy nodded grimly. "Ready for
what?" asked Insectorama.
I leapt forward and attacked the officer.
A hail of fire and metal rained down on our position. Bright
Boy ducked, then returned lightning bolts at some unlucky fool.
"I got one! I got the tall, green,
gawky one! Ouch! A tarantula? I got bit by a tarantula! Errk!"
The officer fell. I immediately attacked
another. And another. And another. And another. And another.
You get the picture.
Of course we won. No matter how strong
a battalion of foot soldiers, no matter how well equipped, they
were bound to lose, because, well, we're super heroes, meta humans,
really cool people. We eat together, fight together, watch TV
together, have sex... uh, anyway. We couldn't lose, not with
a team like that.
"Guys? Hey guys, where are you! Hey,
what are you doing under there, Dirk?"
"Ha Ha, hi Bright Boy! Just playing
a joke on the rookie! Who would think that Dirk Daring, most
popular member of the Corps three years running, would be hiding
under some dead bodies! Ha Ha!"
"Yeah, real funny Dirk."
"Heh Heh. Hey, where's Insectorama?"
"Probably in some dead man's underwear,"
said Bright Boy sarcastically, kicking a nearby dead soldier.
Suddenly the back of the soldier's pants
exploded, and there was Insectorama. "Why did you do that
for? You scared me back into human form, you jerk!" Insectorama
screamed. "You could have killed me, except that I had already
chewed my way through most of his underwear!"
"Jesus! You get more disgusting every
minute!" Bright Boy screamed back.
"Now is not the time to be arguing,
men. We are a team, and a team must get together and fight the
good fight! Let's go find the Dark Avenger's chambers."
"Where are they?"
"Well son, there are probably in the
tallest of the towers in the city." I spoke from experience.
"There are no towers here."
I looked around. Bright Boy was right.
"Insectorama! Recon to the end of
that tunnel and report back!"
Insectorama suddenly hunched down, looked
one way, then another. Then, crawling on hands and knees, Insectorama
army crawled to the end of the tunnel. I heard him say hi to
some soldiers he met going down the corridor. He explained that
he was reconing and that no one was supposed to see him. He looked
around, got up, brushed off his pants and elbows, and ran lankily
back to us.
"Why didn't go scout in your insect
form you idiot! You weren't supposed to be detected. Now you've
really given us away, you stupid shit!"
"Never mind. Damn! Well, if she's
not in a tower, then she's probably in the deepest bowels of
"There are no bowels here. The city
Again I looked around. Bright Boy was right
again. Turns out that since the light side of Mercury is much
too hot and the dark side is much too cold, the only habitable
areas are along the twilight zones that move across the surface
of the planet at about five miles per hour. So cities were placed
on huge tractors that moved at the same rate as the terminator
of night and day.
"Jesus, I don't know. Looks like the
Dark Avenger's given us the slip! Let's head home men."
"Wait Dirk Daring! What is it you
always say! 'A hero's got to do what to do.' So what if it doesn't
make sense! We've got to find the Dark Avenger and destroy him
once and for all!"
"Yeah but if you can't find her, I
mean, him, what are you going to do?" I shrugged. I think
the fighting had taken me out of my dark and deep mood and put
me back in my normal mood. No more deep thoughts here. "We'll
just go home and report to the Corps where she is! That way,
we can all get in on the fun!"
"You're not going anywhere!"
The voice was deep and masculine, coming out of it's voice synthesizer,
but I recognized it.
Beatrice. My ex. Here. Now. Shit, I'm in
it deep again.
I whirled theatrically. I pointed my finger
at Beatrice. "You!" I said softly but definitely in
a strong sort of way.
So. It had come down to this. Dirk Daring
vs. The Dark Avenger Part Two. Manee oh Manee. The fight
to finish all fights. Just us, in a dance of death rather than
a dance in the sheets. All right -- just the two of us then.
"Bright Boy! Blast her!"
"Yo, check this!" cried Bright
Boy, pointing his finger. A loud snap cracked the air and struck
Beatrice's Dark Avenger Armor. There was a shriek of ceramic
and electricity colliding. Then silence.
It was over. I had defeated her. Beatrice.
Out of a huge plume of smoke Beatrice emerged.
"You've destroyed my armor, uh... What's your name again?"
"Dirk! Dirk Daring! Jesus Christ,
everyone else knows it! Even with your bouts of temporary amnesia
you should remember that! I am, after all, the most popular member
of the Corps three years running!"
"Dirk! You killed Poofy kitty, you
cowardly cat killer!"
"You killed a cat, Dirk?" asked
"I ran over it. Accidentally. Besides,
Greased Lightning bet me five bucks I couldn't hit it. Well,
I showed him. And I got five bucks, too."
But Beatrice wasn't listening. Good thing
too, cause then she might have been really mad. "You may
have destroyed my armor, but you haven't destroyed me! YOU ARE
DEAD, UH... Dirk? Is that right?"
"Bitch! I'll show you dead! Get her
"Nuh-uh. I'm not blasting a defenseless
"But, but... You're my gun, Bright
"Huh? You're crazy!"
"No, I'm just really deep, dammit!"
"AARRGGHH!" screeched Beatrice,
leaping at me with the speed of a cougar. She was fast! I've
heard of woman scorned, but Jesus!
That, by the way, was Shakespeare. He was
as deep as me.
Without her armor, Beatrice was no longer
stronger than me, but she still had her Intergalactic-Super-Hypno-Ring.
As soon as I had dodged her leap, I whirled around theatrically
to see her pointing it. At me!
"DIE YOU CAT MURDERIN' PIECE OF SHIT!"
There was but one chance.
"Insectorama! Save my butt!"
"Leap in front of the ring's deadly
spirals when they fire!"
"Heeeeyyy, wait a minute! Won't I
"But you'll have saved the life of
the most popular member of the Hero Corps three years running!
C'mon, you'll look real good and heroic and self sacrificin'
and all that stuff!"
"Yeah, do it!" called out Bright
"Okay! Okay, I'll do it! But I'll
do it in the form I love best! I will die a flea!"
"NO!" Didn't the idiot understand
anything? But it was to late anyway, for just then the ring fired.
And Beatrice disappeared. Amazingly, in
the flurry of battle and the hastiness of anger, the Intergalactic-Super-Hypno-Ring
had been turned around. She had shot herself with the deadly
"No!" I cried.
"No!" cried Bright Boy.
"No!" cried Greased Lightning
from the tunnel.
"What the hell are you doing here,
Greased Lightning!" I demanded. Please don't say you slept
with her, please don't say you slept with her...
"I was sleeping with that good piece,
and you went and killed her!"
"You were what?"
"Greased Lightning said he was copulating
with the Dark Avenger!" informed Insectorama.
"I know what he said, you fucked up
freak! How could you do it, Greased? How could you sleep with
the woman I loved?"
"Get off it Daring! You didn't love
her. Besides, you owe me one for saving your butt all those times!"
"And besides that, she wasn't anything
but a good piece of ass anyways. And you can find that anywhere."
"Yeah. Yeah, you're right! Women are
bitches anyway! Who needs 'em?"
"Nice Alice isn't a bitch," yelled
I ran to Greased and embraced him, in a
definitely manly sort of way.
"A friend is worth a billion bitches,"
I cried sensitively but masculinely.
"Yeah, especially one who's saved
your butt so many times."
"Well, let's load up and go. You'll
have to give me a lift, Beatrice was my ride home."
"No problem. Hey, where's Insectorama?"
The rear of my pants exploded. Behind me
stood Insectorama, shame faced. "Sorry..." he began.
I laughed heartily. "That's okay Insectorama!
We're all on the same team here! C'mon, let's all do a manly
sort of hug for a job well done. Come here Greased! Come here
Insect! Come here Kid Daring! I love you guys!"
We all hugged. Except for Kid Daring.
"You can just forget that Kid Daring
stuff right now!"
Ah, the young! Later then. For now, I am
content, my heart is at rest. I learned my lesson. Beatrice was
only one of many bitches to be had in this vast federation of
But, God, she had a nice set of knockers!