Taking Care of Business

by Upright, with a bit of Doom Bunny


"The doctor's X-rayed my head and found nothing."

-- Dizzy Dean, baseball great

 

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.

Deep.

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. You know."

"I do."

"Yeah, right."

"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 then?"

"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."

"Great."

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.

Deep.

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 philosopherizers.

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 before speaking.

"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.

That's poetry.

It is.

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.

Deep.

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 Bright Boy.

He had a good point. Maybe I parked it elsewhere.

"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. I sighed.

"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!"

"Dirk Daring."

"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.

"Shtupid bug..."

"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 secret?"

"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 believed you."

"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 wrong?"

"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 that is."

-- Former Vice President Dan Quayle,
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.

"Uh..."

"Do you want me to look at your butt again before I save it?" asked Insectorama.

"Uh..."

"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 got clout."

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.

Falling. Forever. Into the pit.

Beatrice. Falling. The pit.

Deep.

Deep like me.

 

° ° °

 

"They couldn't hit an elephant from this dist --"

-- Union General John Sedgewick's last words

 

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 mission."

"Dammit! I told that ground control officer not to say anything about it!"

"Sorry."

"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 Insectorama.

Bright Boy nodded grimly. "Ready for what?" asked Insectorama.

"NOW!"

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. Insectorama disappeared.

"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. 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. Hmm.

"Insectorama! Recon to the end of that tunnel and report back!"

"Yes sir!"

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.

"Nothing!"

"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!"

"Huh?"

"Never mind. Damn! Well, if she's not in a tower, then she's probably in the deepest bowels of the planet!"

"There are no bowels here. The city is mobile!"

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. My ex.

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 Bright Boy.

"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 Bright Boy!"

"Nuh-uh. I'm not blasting a defenseless woman."

"But, but... You're my gun, Bright Boy!"

"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!"

"How?"

"Leap in front of the ring's deadly spirals when they fire!"

"Heeeeyyy, wait a minute! Won't I die!"

"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 Boy.

"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 rays!

"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!"

"Yeah, well..."

"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 Bright Boy.

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."

"Yeah."

"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 worlds.

But, God, she had a nice set of knockers!

 

Copyright © 1994 No Apologies! Press

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