Read The Other Eight Online

Authors: Joseph R. Lallo

Tags: #action, #comedy, #satire, #superhero, #parody

The Other Eight (10 page)

BOOK: The Other Eight
11.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“I got this. Don’t worry about it,” she said,
hefting it onto her shoulder and making her way unsteadily
forward.

He jogged ahead and got the door for her, a
favor she reluctantly acknowledged with a nod, and they both went
inside. The cabins weren’t exactly luxurious. There was a window on
the wall opposite the door, accented to one side by a two-bed bunk
with a rough brown blanket and a paper-thin pillow on each stiff
mattress. A pair of dressers stood side by side at the foot of the
bunks, and a pair of shelves hung on the wall above the dressers,
each emblazoned with a label stenciled with their codenames. The
other side of the room contained a long folding table with two
chairs and a door leading to a bathroom with a shower, a toilet,
and two sinks.

“It’s like summer camp all over again,” Non
Sequitur remarked.

“I wouldn’t know,” Nonsensica said, heaving
her bag onto the bottom bunk.

Non Sequitur sighed. “Look, I’m sorry about
the name. I honestly didn’t think anyone else would come up with
the same thing.”

“It’s fine. It’s over. We’re past that. Nice
job trying to duck out on bunking with me, though. That was real
adult of you.”

“I just didn’t want any trouble, you know? I
just want this whole thing to go smoothly.”

“We’re in superhero boot camp. You gotta
assume things are gonna get rough. Me? I wouldn’t have it any other
way. Separate the wheat from the chaff. Whatever, though. It’s
cool. You okay with top bunk?”

“Sure,” he said, pulling open his bag and
beginning to unpack.

He placed a few pairs of underwear, some
toiletries, and a few changes of clothes on his bed, then looked
down to see what she was up to. She was unpacking as well: her
trusty non-chucks, three pairs of MMA gloves, what appeared to be
four deflated pool toys but were actually additional bodysuits, a
collapsible impact baton, three pairs of goggles, a weighted
chain…

“You’re pretty well equipped there.”

“Can never be too prepared. It was a
pain
getting this stuff okay’ed by security. They took my
shurikens, can you believe it?”

“I’m not even sure what those are.”

She continued as though he’d never spoken.
“They better not have any ranged fighting drills then, that’s all I
can say. I
guess
they’re going to want us to use guns, but I
don’t know, that seems so mercenary. I consider myself more of a
vigilante. It is a subtle distinction, but it’s there. What
equipment did you bring?”

He looked at what he’d laid on the bed. “A
razor.”

“Ooh, savage! One of those box-cutter knives?
Or a straight razor? I’ve seen folks do some wicked things with
those,” she said, seeming interested for the first time. The
interest quickly died when she poked her head up and saw the safety
razor. “Ah. One of those.”

“It’s got three blades,” he offered.

“Oh yeah, you’re hard core, all right. I
guess when you’ve got a decent power like yours you can afford to
lean on it a little. What class did they give you?”

Non Sequitur pulled the assessment from his
pocket. “Class C.”

“Oh, screw you. Class C? Combat-applicable?
Leave it to the pencil pushers to give a combat rating to a guy
whose most lethal piece of equipment is a stick of deodorant.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a second-degree black belt in Bruce Lee’s
personal martial art and I’m Other.”

“I’m sure your power’s pretty good.”

“I’m sure my power’s pretty good, too. Don’t
pity me; I’m not looking for pity,” she snapped.

He sighed again. “I’m just going to keep my
mouth shut for a while so we stop pushing each other’s buttons,
okay?”

“No, no, no. You heard the doc. We’re going
to be partnered up through this. For all I know they are going to
make us do one of those stupid icebreakers where you have to prove
how much you know about your partner. I want all of my bases
covered.” She finished lining up her weapons in the bottom drawer,
pulled out a towel, and blotted sweat from her head. After tugging
at the neck of her bodysuit and trying unsuccessfully to soak up
some of the perspiration that was running down her back, she sat on
the bed and squeakily crossed her legs. “So, when did you get bit
by the hero bug?”

“I didn’t get bit by a bug; a gypsy
grandfather clock fell on me.”

She looked at him flatly. “Not your origin,
genius. I mean when did you decide you wanted to be a hero.”

“Oh. I sort of didn’t. I mean, I don’t want
to be a villain, but except for when I was a little kid I never
really had the urge to ‘don the tights’ so to speak.”

“Well, then why are you here?”

“My dad was in…” he began, pausing to search
for the right words, “law enforcement. He died when I was nine, and
my mom always told me he would have loved it if I ever got the
chance to put my powers to good use.”

“Wow, you’re here with your mom’s
blessing?!”

“Well yeah, she had to talk me into it, and I
won’t be too upset if it doesn’t pan out. Why, your folks are not
supportive of the crime-fighting career?”

“My mom and stepdad would get into an
argument about which one of them would get to kill me if either of
them knew I was here. It is one reason I keep the uniform on.”

She tugged at the cuff of the suit, releasing
a dribble of sweat, then did the same for the other cuff.

“Are you planning on keeping that outfit on
the entire time?”

“Was that supposed to be slick?” she asked, a
hard expression on her face as she conspicuously placed her hand on
the grip of her baton.

“What? Oh! No, no, no. I wasn’t—that wasn’t
a—I wasn’t flirting. It’s just that the outfit looks really hot.”
He slapped his forehead. “I mean it looks extremely warm.”

Her expression softened a bit. “Heh. Yes,
well. This is my business outfit. When I’m on the job, I’m in
uniform. Since we won’t do any more official stuff until tomorrow,
though, I’m going to shower and see if these fatigues are the right
size. Try not to put your foot in your mouth too many times while
I’m gone.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Chapter 13

At 6 a.m. the
following morning, a recording of reveille blared across the PA
system of the proving grounds. Old-fashioned though it may be, the
piercing tone of a bugle remained remarkably efficient at
motivating one to get out of bed, if only to find and strangle the
person responsible for the noise. In this case the man responsible
was Sergeant Roberts, who had assumed his traditional
arms-behind-the-back stance and was silently facing the row of
cabins. On one hip was a two-way radio, on the other was his
sidearm. Retcon, FM, Phosphor, and Undo had all managed to get into
their fatigues. The rest of the heroes shuffled out one by one,
most in whatever they had brought for pajamas. Most notable were
Chloroplast, who had seen fit to report for duty wearing nothing
but white cotton briefs, and Nonsensica, who hopped out a full five
minutes after everyone else. Her goggles were comically askew, and
she was still fighting with a boot, but she was otherwise in full
costume. Once she took her place in line, Sergeant Roberts revealed
a pocket watch. He held it up to her face and clicked it.

“Five minutes and forty-eight seconds. I am
here to supervise your assessment, not to train you to be soldiers,
but if I was training you, that would be unacceptable.”


I’m
unacceptable? I’m the only one in
uniform!” Nonsensica retorted.

“That is not a uniform. The proper uniform
for these exercises is the fatigues you were issued.”

“Except we’re not soldiers, we’re
superheroes.”

“Sergeant Roberts,” yawned Dr. Aiken as he
stumbled out of his personal quarters, the perpetually caffeinated
and unfailingly perky Private Summers by his side. “Remember the
special testing directive. We can dispense with some of the
formalities for this part of the assessment. The heroes in
attendance have done most of their personal training in the uniform
of their own choosing. In order to fairly assess their skills, they
should be equipped to their own specifications.”

“I am aware of the special dispensations for
these assessments. It is merely my intention to inform the
participants that their current behavior would not be permissible
in a properly run fighting force. The circumstances of this
assessment program are thoroughly unmilitary. It is something that
each should be mindful of if he or she hopes to be part of the
final squad. Now, from this point forward I will expect all
finalists to be assembled and ready for the day’s activities no
more than thirty seconds after the sounding of reveille. Fatigues
are preferred, costumes are tolerated. The time is 0608 hours. At
0625 you will all assemble at the mess hall for breakfast and then
head to Testing Site B for combat assessment. Dismissed!”

“The designated hard ass finally showed up,”
Chloroplast yawned as he and the others headed toward their
respective cabins. “I was wondering when that would happen.”

#

Fifteen of the heroes enjoyed a hearty, if
not particularly flavorful, breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs,
sausage, toast, and juice. Chloroplast skipped breakfast in favor
of sprawling on a grassy hill with his shirt off to soak up some
rays. When meals had in one way or another been consumed, the group
assembled outside of Testing Site B. Simple as the name was, it was
still a bit too fancy for what turned out to be a ten-foot by
ten-foot by two-foot brick wall with a thick polycarbonate window
occupying most of its center. A crash test dummy stood in the
center of a sandy circle in front of it, and a uniformed soldier in
an identical circle behind. The cheap-looking dummy was made from
gray canvas and filled with sand. Basic facial features were drawn
on with a marker, but it was otherwise unremarkable. The uniformed
soldier behind the wall managed to be even less remarkable, with a
crew cut, standard fatigues, polished boots, and every other
indicator of a cookie-cutter soldier. He stood in clear contrast to
the heroes in training. Most had suited up in fatigues, though
their hair and bearing generally fell short of military
expectation. Chloroplast fell a bit further short, foregoing the
jacket and T-shirt. Gracias had pinned the
G
from his
T-shirt onto the front of his fatigues, and Nonsensica and
Primadonna were in full costume.

“Attention, finalists!” declared Roberts from
beside the wall.

The announcement startled the entire group of
heroes, none of whom had noticed the sergeant standing beside the
wall until he had spoken.

“Okay, I’m starting a pool. Ninja, Robot, or
Ninja Robot,” Gracias whispered. “My money is on Ninja.”

“Corporal McCoy, step forward please.” The
soldier marched forward. “Corporal Donald McCoy is one of only
three still-serving soldiers recruited by prior attempted
executions of Project Guardian. He is a model soldier. He has been
through basic training and has been thoroughly instructed in
multiple forms of armed and unarmed combat. His special power is
the ability to remotely control a human analog at a distance of ten
meters. This ability has made him uniquely well suited to the
testing of equipment and individuals who might otherwise be a
danger to military personnel. Today, that danger is you. Each of
you will spar with this testing dummy until it knocks you down
three times or you knock it down three times or otherwise apply a
lethal or incapacitating attack. You may use any ability or
equipment you choose. Safety pads are provided and encouraged for
those with no combat experience.”

McCoy returned to his spot on the opposite
side of the wall, visible through the view window. A moment later
the crash test dummy climbed from the ground and assumed the same
position. He then threw some punches, the dummy mimicking his
motions perfectly.

“Oh yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!”
Nonsensica said, punching her palm.

“Your performance will be scored,” he
explained, holding up a clipboard. “All future assessments will
contribute to those scores. At the end of the assessment period
those scores will be tabulated and combined with your psychological
profiles and the current tactical requirements of the army. We will
proceed alphabetically. Bomb Sniffer, you’re first.”

The hefty Afterthought raised a finger and
prepared to object, but after a glance at the warm-up punches the
dummy was throwing, he decided to hold his tongue. Bomb Sniffer
nervously donned the headgear and pads and stepped into the
ring.

“Fight,” Roberts announced.

“Rah!” Bomb Sniffer cried, rushing toward the
dummy in a frenzy.

The canvas foe stepped smoothly aside,
hooking her leg with its own and placing a hand to the small of her
back to guide her quickly to the ground. The second two takedowns
came with similar ease. Chloroplast fared a little better, landing
a few punches before being swept from his feet for the third time.
When even the well-trained FM was bested three falls to two, it was
clear McCoy was no slouch. Next came Gracias. He suited up and
stepped into the ring.

“Fight!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on, please!” he
cried, backing away.

McCoy took a step back. Gracias smiled and
pointed at McCoy through the window with both hands. “Grassy
ass!”

There was an odd sound, a puff of air and
swish of grass, and McCoy exclaimed and clutched his backside.
Gracias seized the opportunity and dove on the dummy, raining
punches down upon it.

“Stop. That’s enough. What did you do?”
Roberts asked, eyeing McCoy as the man undid his belt and began
scooping clumps of grass and dirt from inside the seat of his
pants.

“That’s my power, man. I thank him, he gets a
grassy ass, and I get the drop on him. Try keeping your head in the
fight when you’ve got your underpants full of sod.”

BOOK: The Other Eight
11.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Doing It Right by MaryJanice Davidson
The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
Twin Stars 1: Ascension by Robyn Paterson
Christmas Kiss by Chrissie Loveday
Captivate by Jones, Carrie
Snow in August by Pete Hamill