Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure


Ever wish you could own your own superhero?  From the mind of Howard Martin comes this cleverly funny but oddly poignant adventure featuring the next best thing to a superhero -- a life-size, artificially intelligent toy that thinks it's a superhero.  As highly collectible as he is courageous, P&D proudly presents...


"Mightyman" in

The Action Figure
(Part 2)
 

By Howard Martin
About the Author


MIGHTYMAN DIDN'T LIKE TO BE NEGATIVE or derogatory but the fact was that the Pussycat Theater was not a swanky gentleman’s club.  In fact, it was a dive.

Motorcycles lined the parking area in front of the building.  They weren’t the high-end Harleys owned by rich yuppie biker-wannabes either.  These were dirty, cheap, ugly-looking bikes owned by real, poor, tough-as-nails bikers.  The building was all wood veneer and could have used several coats of paint. Although the Pussycat had been operating for many years and had certainly made quite a bit of money, it was obvious that they hadn’t put any of it into the upkeep of the place.

Mightyman pushed open the large, heavy, windowless door as if it were made of balsa wood.  He noticed that the interior of the establishment didn’t look much better.  Along the back wall was a cluttered bar being run by a sickly-looking fellow with an eye patch. To his left was a slightly raised stage area where two rather plain-looking girls in G-strings and tassels were dancing to the driving beat produced by an unseen sound system.  Between Mightyman and the stage were several tables, filled with the owners of the old motorcycles, along with various other seedy-looking individuals.  At first no one noticed Mightyman’s entrance.  Then the two burly bouncers that had been leaning against the bar watching the show happened to glance towards the door.

They immediately left their barstool perches and made a beeline for Mightyman.  The patrons and the dancers all took note of the bouncers leaving their seats.  It was something they rarely did.  Then, everyone noticed Mightyman.  The music stopped and instantly the large room grew quiet.

“Good evening, gentlemen” said Mightyman to the approaching bouncers. “I need some information about a likely customer of yours.”

One of the men was about Mightyman’s height, six foot four inches.  The other was about two inches taller.  Mightyman, whose body had been designed to weigh the same amount as a real man of his height and build, weighed about two hundred and thirty pounds.  Both of the bouncers weighed about ten to twenty pounds more.

The taller one, who hadn’t shaved in about two weeks, and whose normal (and current) facial expression was one that seemed to say “I hate everybody, and especially you,” was the first of the two to speak.

“Alright, fruity-boy, take your tights and your purple cape the hell outside! We only have girl dancers here.”

“Yeah,” chimed in the other bouncer. “This ain’t Chippendale’s, sister.  Move it!”

“There’s no need to be rude,” said Mightyman.  “I’m just looking for some information.”

“This ain’t the yellow pages, faggot.  Let’s escort him outside, Eddie,” said the taller man, as he moved to grab Mightyman’s arm.

The problem was that Mightyman’s arm was no longer where it had been a fraction of a second earlier.  The bouncer’s hand pawed air.  This was enough to stir the bouncer, who was apparently no stranger to steroids, into a fury.  He aimed a punch at Mightyman’s face.  It, also, flailed through thin air.

“Look, I just want some information.  I don’t want to hurt you two,” said Mightyman, but at this point he might as well have been talking to two mad dogs.  ‘Roid Rage had consumed the two bouncers and at that moment they would have been happy to see him lying on the floor in a pool of blood.  Both men attacked at once.

The taller one tried again to knock Mightyman’s head off his shoulders. Mightyman dodged his blow easily.  The man named Eddie pulled out a switchblade.

Mightyman, like all of the Virtual Heroes, designed and manufactured by the VirtualToys Toy Company, was programmed never to hurt a human, unless there was no other way to avoid being harmed.  One of the parameters of possible harm was met the moment Eddie pulled out the switchblade.  Within Mightyman’s artificial brain, defense mode was activated.

The maddened Eddie lunged in to stab Mightyman in the chest.  With one simultaneous, lightning-fast movement of Mightyman’s hands, Eddie’s arm was broken at the elbow and the knife was sent flying off to the side, where it lodged in the barroom wall.

As Eddie screamed, the taller man tried a side kick to Mightyman's stomach, thinking that he was distracted. Mightyman grabbed the kicking leg by the ankle in mid-kick.  He then began spinning the huge man around and around by his ankle, finally letting him go at the proper instant for the centrifugal force of the spin to throw him the roughly thirty feet into the picture window-sized mirror behind the bar.  The man slumped to the ground amid shards of broken glass, unconscious.

As the normally rough and ready bikers stared at this amazing battle in awe, and without making any sudden movements, which might attract Mightyman’s attention, the bartender decided that it was his turn to pitch in for the home team.

Fishing an old, sawed-off double barrel twelve-gauge out from beneath the bar, the man pointed it directly at Mightyman’s chest--and pulled the first trigger.

The shotgun’s blast, erupting in that enclosed area, was shocking and nearly deafening, but the most surprising sound was when the shot actually hit Mightyman point-blank in the chest.  It was roughly the same sound that bullets make when they impact with the casing of a tank.  The force of the blast knocked Mightyman off his feet.

Seemingly unfazed, Mightyman rolled with the momentum, ending up in a crouched position next to a table. Faster than a human eye could follow, he grabbed an ashtray from the table and hurled it at the bartender’s head with uncanny accuracy.  The bartender dropped like a stone, a large welt already forming on his forehead.

Mightyman got to his feet and faced the patrons of the bar as he dusted himself off, ignoring the results of the shotgun blast, which had made confetti of the large stylized “M” insignia on his chest.  To the continuing shock of the strip club patrons, no blood could be seen on his chest.

“Now,” said Mightyman, his voice raised slightly.  “Let’s try this again. Could one of you folks please give me some information?”

This time, the patrons were much more helpful.  After leaving the Pussycat, Mightyman, realizing that stealth would be of the utmost importance from this point on, decided to switch to his secret identity before proceeding further. Using his boot jets to save time, Mightyman returned home and changed into his Trent Barker disguise, which, in this instance, was just a blue chambray work shirt and a pair of black jeans.

He said nothing to his family about where he had been or his mission to save Tommy.  He left his socks and running shoes off and used his boot jets to return to within a block of his destination.  Once there, he put his shoes back on and proceeded on foot.  He would infiltrate this establishment, which he was now certain held the kidnapper, and most likely Tommy.

Mightyman opened the door and walked into Fred’s Comic Castle, the biggest comic book store in the metropolitan area.  Feeling confident that his disguise provided him with a shield of anonymity, Mightyman approached the clerk and engaged him in conversation, all the while surveying the large comic and toy-filled building for anything amiss.

“How’s it hangin’, Dude?” said Mightyman to the teenaged clerk with the long greasy sideburns and goatee.  “Do you have the latest Dark Avenger trade paperback in yet?”

“Yeah.  Got it in yesterday.  It should be in the back of the store, near the doorway, with the other trades.  Say, you look familiar.  Do I know you?”

“Nah, I’ve just got one of those faces.  Thanks for the info, Dude.  Keep it chilly,” replied Mightyman as he walked towards the back of the store, carefully eyeing the doorway that the clerk had mentioned.  He hoped that his grasp of the current slang had passed muster.

Once back there, Mightyman pretended to peruse the comic books.  In reality he was waiting for the clerk to busy himself with some task that would distract him. After about five minutes, the clerk picked up a knife with a retractable blade and began to open some boxes that were stacked behind the counter. Immediately, Mightyman slipped through the doorway as quietly as his synthetic body could carry him.

He encountered a hallway about twenty feet long with two doorways on either side.  At the end of the hallway was a door marked with a red neon exit sign. Mightyman stood in front of each door in turn and appeared to be concentrating deeply.  In fact, the artificial intelligence-based operating system that was Mightyman’s brain was running a background script that intensified his sensitivity to sound to the point where he could hear a heartbeat through a closed door.

He found the heartbeat that he was looking for after trying only two doors.  There was another heartbeat in the room, as well.  Louder and faster, probably belonging to an overweight grownup in bad cardio-vascular condition.  Mightyman didn’t enter the room, immediately.  He first checked out the remaining doors to make sure that no one else was in the store.  No one was. He returned to the room that was occupied.

Judging from the sounds that Mightyman could hear through the door, the person that he was sure was Tommy was sitting quietly in the back left corner of the room.  The other person, who Mightyman was now equally sure was the owner of the comic book store, was on the other side of the room.  It was time.

Mightyman hit the door near the knob with the flat of his hand.  The door flew open as the locking mechanism tore through the wooden door jamb with a loud crack. Mightyman leaped into the room.

The room that Mightyman found himself in was roughly twenty feet by thirty feet, and set up as a private office.  There was an old Naugahyde sofa against the wall to Mightyman’s left. Tommy was currently sitting on it.  His arms were tied behind his back and there was a dirty red handkerchief tied across his mouth.  When he saw Mightyman he tried to yell through the gag, but his words were unintelligible.  His eyes were wide.  They darted back and forth from Mightyman to the other side of the room.

On the other side of the room was an old wooden desk with brass drawer handles. An old wooden office chair with the stain rubbed off in several places stood next to it.  Barely contained by that chair was the corpulent form of Fred, the comic shop owner.  He had a sinister grin on his face.  He held some manner of remote control device in his right hand. Mighyman moved to a spot between Fred and Tommy.

“Your little game is finished, Fred,” said Mightyman, who, in his Trent Barker disguise, had been in the comic book store with Tommy before, and had met the owner.  “I don’t know how you could contemplate a dastardly act like kidnapping Tommy.  I thought you were friends.  He certainly spends enough money at your store.”

“Oh, it was nothing personal, Trent,” said the obese, pony-tailed comic shop owner.  “Or should I say, Mightyman!”

“What are you talking about?  I’m Tommy’s adopted brother, Trent.  I don’t know any Mightyman,” replied Mightyman with trepidation.

“How funny.  They never changed your default configuration.  You still try to guard your secret identity.  As if anyone who’s ever read a comic book doesn’t know that Trent Barker is Mightyman.”

“Your delusions don’t interest me,” said Mightyman as he turned to remove Tommy’s gag. “I’m going to free Tommy and then I’m taking you to jail for kidnapping.”

“No, I don’t think so,” said Fred, as he pointed the remote control device at Mightyman’s back and pressed a button.

Mightyman’s body froze instantly, the gag that he had just removed from Tommy’s mouth still in his hand.

“Instead, I think I’ll continue with my plan to ransom Tommy off to his rich daddy, so I never have to work again, and then erase your memories so that I can finally have my very own, highly expensive, highly collectible VirtualToys Mightyman action figure.  Then I’ll leave the country, a rich man, with the one collectible I’ve always wanted, but could never afford.”

“That’s slavery, you creep,” said Tommy, his face still hurting from the gag.  “Mightyman has rights, now.  You can’t own him.”

“That’s only true in some countries, you rich little snot.  Once I wipe his mind and get you out of my hair, who’s going to stop me?  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a ransom note to e-mail. Scream, if you want.  This room is soundproof and the store’s closing in five minutes anyway.”

Fred waddled out of the room and locked the door behind him.

Inside his frozen body, Mightyman’s CPU was racing to find a way out of this predicament.  Somehow, Fred had found a remote control device that could kill most of his memory resident bodily control processes, while still leaving his CPU running.  Only one device like that was supposed to exist for each VirtualToys hero or villain, and they were each supposed to work using unique transmission keys.  A remote control device had come with Mightyman when he was first delivered to Tommy’s house, but the family kept it locked up in a wall safe at home.  Of course, there was a manual reboot switch, hidden beneath his right ear, but what good was that when Tommy was tied up and Mightyman was unable to move?

Then Mightyman began thinking that Dad had been right all along.  He was nothing but an overly expensive toy.  Dad said that he would just get in trouble if he tried to save Tommy, and here he was, up to his neck in it.  This vile comic shop owner would get Dad to pay, probably millions, for Tommy’s return, and then he would delete all of Mightyman’s database memory tables and take him away to some foreign country.  More importantly, he thought, there was no guarantee that Fred would let Tommy live.  In fact, since he had told Tommy and Mightyman his plan, he couldn’t afford to let Tommy live. Mightyman had seen movies about this sort of thing.  He couldn’t let that happen to his best pal Tommy!

But what could he do to stop it?  He couldn’t move a finger anymore.  His hearing and sight were still functioning, at the intensity that they had been set to when his processes were killed, but he couldn’t move his head, or even his eyes.  All he could do was continue to stare at Tommy, who was pulling furiously at his bonds, trying to get free.  Mightyman was currently just a sentient mind, trapped in a synthetic shell that he couldn’t control.

Enough of this defeatist thinking, I’m a hero.  I will find a way.  I have to.

The problem was how to get his bodily control processes running again.  If he could force a system reboot, all of his default processes would start up again. But--how to do that?  What would cause him to reboot?  A system failure of some kind would do it.  But how could he make that happen?  He was a virtually defect-free system.  An EMP would doubtless cause a reboot, but what were the chances of that?  He could think of nothing that would cause him to crash.

As he stood there, his eyes focused on his best friend and favorite person in the world.  Watching him tied up, in danger, and struggling for his life, Mightyman began to feel a level of anger that he didn’t know he was capable of. No one had the right to do this to another sentient being, much less a harmless little boy.

I’ve got to find a way to get back on-line.  There must be some script or process in my persistent memory that, once started, would bring my processes back.

Mightyman ran search after internal search of his vast persistent memory storage device, looking for some previously unused script or executable program that could bring him back.  As he suspected, all of his normal function and movement processes had been designated unexecutable when Fred pressed the button on the remote.  Finally, he had accounted for and dismissed every single file in his persistent memory except one.  It was a binary executable named “freedom.exe.” He was about to run an analysis of the binary, which would explain the program’s usage, when Fred re-entered the room suddenly.

Mightyman couldn’t see the evil poltroon, but from the look in Tommy’s eyes and the cha chack sound that he heard, he was sure that Fred had returned with a gun, which he was going to use to kill Tommy, possibly in the next few seconds.  There was no time for analysis.  The freedom program was Mightyman’s last chance and he had to take it now.  He ran the program.

The world went black and quiet, but for how long?

When Mightyman’s consciousness came back, he was falling.  His super-fast CPU had rebooted in the span of several microseconds, at which time his body had gone limp and he had begun to fall.

The advantage of having a state-of-the-art CPU as the basis for your mind was that you could think and make decisions with lightning speed.  In the second that it took for Mightyman’s body to reboot and begin falling to the floor, he formulated a plan of action.

I know that Fred can see me falling. It’s possible he suspects the reason and is, even now, thinking of pulling out his remote control device again to re-freeze me.  If he doesn’t already have it handy, that is, one hand for the gun and one for the remote.  My only chance is to put him out of commission before he can act on that thought.

Mightyman caught himself just before his body hit the ground in a three-point stance, like a man doing one-handed push-ups.  He used the incredible strength built into his arms to launch himself backward from the floor, turning in mid-flight to face his enemy.

He could see now that his effort was going to take him to within easy striking distance of the vile Fred.  He could also see that Fred did indeed have a semi-automatic pistol in one hand and the remote in the other.  Mightyman saw his finger hit the button.

I’m too late!  He’s going to win.

Mightyman cocked his fist to deliver a punch to Fred’s face that he was sure would never connect.

Fred clicked furiously away at the remote, while pointing it directly at the sensors built into Mightyman’s eyes.

The smirk of superiority on Fred’s face was replaced with teeth-chattering fear, however, as Mightyman’s steel-hard fist continued to sail towards his face and connected with a moist thud, like a hammer hitting a casaba melon.

The larcenous comic-shop owner involuntarily threw both the gun and the remote into the air as his journey to Concussion City began.  Mightyman caught both items in the air.  The comic shop owner, he let fall.  Then he crushed each of the devices, in turn, in his hands.

He turned to untie Tommy.

“That was completely nebular, MM! How did you reactivate yourself?  And how come the remote doesn’t seem to affect you anymore?” asked Tommy incredulously.

“I found an inner resource I didn’t know I had, Tommy.  A secret program that I knew nothing about.  It apparently changed my inner configuration so that my shutdown sensor no longer works.  I can no longer be manually overridden.  Looks like I’m really my own man from now on.”

“You’re not just a man, Big Guy, you’re a hero,” said Tommy.  “I owe you my life.”

“Think nothing of it,” replied Mightyman as he grabbed the comatose Fred by his shirt collar and began to drag him out of the room.  “What good is being a super hero if you can’t save your best buddy’s life once in awhile?  Now, let’s take this piece of trash to the police station and go home.”

“But, MM, how did you know where to find me?”

“I didn’t until I talked to one of your friends at school.  He mentioned a fat greasy-looking man in a beat-up blue car.  That sounded like my memories of Fred the comic-shop owner.  But I had to be sure, so I took a little side trip to a place called the Pussycat Theater and…”

“You went to the Pussycat, the strip club?  Why did you go there, and what was it like?”

“Calm down, Tommy.  I went there because I found a matchbook from that establishment, and deduced that it must have been the former property of this lowlife, Fred.  I needed to get corroboration from the patrons, that a man answering Fred’s description frequented the place.  The patrons weren’t very forthcoming at first, but after I introduced myself they opened up and gave me the information I needed. Then I came here.  As for the Pussycat, you’re too young to know what goes on in a place like that, Tommy.  Ask me again in a few years.”

“You bet I will!  You’re the coolest, MM.”

“Thanks, Tommy, but I’m afraid Dad won’t share your feelings when he finds out I disobeyed him to come after you.”

“Don’t worry about it.  You know Dad’s a jerk most of the time, but deep down I think he likes you.  And after he sees that you saved my life, I’m sure he will.  Hey, can we fly home after we take Fred to the police station?”

“Sure, why not.  We’ll go home in style.”

“Hey, look.  Isn’t that the latest Dark Avenger trade paperback?  I’ve got to buy that!”

“Dark Avenger?  I thought I was your favorite super hero!”

The End.

Click for the First Part



 
 

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The Action Figure is copyright Howard Martin. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)