Lightningman Strikes!
  in...


Diet Another Day!

a.k.a. "Genocide as a Method of Insider Trading"

A 13-chapter Superhero Saga!
(Basically.)

By
"Royal" Richard K. Lyon

About the author
"Diet Another Day" is the third Lightningman story.  The first two,  "The Secret Identity Diet" and "The Chocolate Chip Cookie Conspiracy”, are available on request from the author at Lyonheart@cableone.net


PREVIOUSLY: For the past ten years, Double X Oil company has operated the Terminus facility in the South China sea, producing natural gas which is pipelined to shore and sending the byproduct H2S to the bottom of the ocean. No one in the company realized that the H2S has been accumulating on the bottom of the ocean as a hydrate, enough poison gas to kill most of Southeast Asia. Discovering that a plot is underway to make billions on the stock market by releasing the gas, Charles Kent travels to Terminus. There he finds that all the technicians have been murdered and the mechanism for releasing the deadly gas is already set. Kent, as Lightningman, calls Maritson, the CEO of Double X Oil. One of Maritson's technical people tries to deactivate the mechanism. Instead he sets it off...




Episode Eleven:

Presidential Decision


"MISTAKE!" MARITSON RANTED.  "YOU'VE JUST RUINED DOUBLE X OIL! ABSOLUTELY DESTROYED US! EVEN IF WE DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR YOUR KILLING EVERYBODY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, WE STILL WON'T BE ABLE TO SELL THEM ANY GODDAMNED OIL! IF‑‑"

"Mister Maritson, listen to me!" I ordered, "While the situation is grave, all is not yet lost. Have the President of the United States call me."

Before he could argue, I hung up. The air I was breathing had already acquired a vile stench. Soon it would be lethal to anyone not wearing an oxygen mask. I had to pull off my helmet to get my mask back in place. It took another few moments to get my helmet back on properly.

While I was doing this, Sister Elaine was standing there watching me with a steaming cup of coffee in her hand. "Charles," she commented, "it's bad enough that I can't leave the room for five minutes without your letting several million people get killed, but how in the Blessed Lord's name can you think you'll be fooling the President of the United States? Sure as the sun rises, he's in contact with the REAL LIGHTNINGMAN! One glance and he'll know you aren't ‑‑"

The phone rang more quickly than I'd expected. When I answered, President Fairborne immediately demanded, "Lightningman, what in hell's going on? I'm in a cabinet meeting and Maritson calls to say that I've got to help you prevent the end of the world or some damned thing."

"Yes, there is an extremely serious situation." As I told him the situation, I had a chance for second thoughts. The only help President Fairborne could give was something Sister Elaine and I would find extremely dangerous. In the very unlikely event that I survived, Marge would be furious at me for taking such a chance. Still, with such a multitude of people in danger, was it right to think about myself?
What I might have done if I had a chance to think things out didn't matter because there wasn't any time. I'd finished reciting the facts and now had to make my dangerous request or lose the opportunity forever.

I found myself saying, "The H2S is highly flammable. If, in the next two hours, you hit it with a twenty megaton bomb, that should burn up nearly all of it."

"Wait a minute," President Fairborne objected. "I know you can fly but the CIA tells me that your powers of flight are limited. You can't carry passengers, so what happens to Sister Elaine?"

Shifting my gaze to the uniformed man on the President's right I asked, "Admiral Grayson, is there any chance the Navy can send a submarine for her?"

To my enormous disappointment the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said, "but our nearest sub is the Swordfish. She's in the Sea of Japan and can't reach Terminus in less than three days."

"That," commented Professor Nusshaus, "isn't a problem. It'll take at least that long to do the environmental impact statement."

"But," Grayson exploded, "this is an emergency! If we don't act immediately, it'll be too late."

"Admiral," Nusshaus replied blandly, " as I told you the last time we had this argument, it doesn't matter how great the appearance of urgency may be. It's always better to wait 'til you've thought things through carefully and that's particularly true in this case. We're talking about using a nuclear weapon, an artificial means to prevent a completely natural event. Obviously that is something we could only do after a great deal of study."

Pushing past me, Sister Elaine shouted, "Professor Nusshaus, are you after being completely mad? If you don't act now, millions will die! Please, Mr. President, don't even think about me! Do what you must to save all those people!"

"I'm afraid, young woman," Secretary of State Windhorn said ponderously, "that you don't see the larger picture. You're asking The President to violate the Nuclear Test Ban, an action with grave international consequences. That, in turn, will create severe problems with U. S. law. We won't be killing anyone except you with this bomb and that makes it impossible to justify our actions under the War Powers Act. The simple fact is that under both U.S. and International law the President can't use the Bomb to save millions of people -- just to kill them."

Gesturing for Windhorn to stop, President Fairborne looked toward George Spin, the outgoing Secretary of Commerce and the new Chairman of the Committee to Re‑elect the President. For a long moment there was silence as he chewed his lip. "We," Spin finally said, "are already in trouble with Catholic voters because of our stand on abortion. If we nuke a nun just before the election we can kiss their votes goodbye. While we'll be saving a few million Vietnamese, they don't vote. They don't even pay taxes. In fact the only useful thing they do is buy oil from Double X Oil, and you can imagine what the opposition will do with that. They'll claim that you offed a nun in order to save Double X's biggest customer because of those big campaign contributions we got from them."

"But if we don't save Vietnam," President Fairborne objected, "we won't get any more contributions from Double X."

"Well, yes," Spin admitted, "but at this stage what's important is votes, not money. Remember Sister Elaine is not just an ordinary nun. The Church credits her with 57 miracles and they've got all the paperwork done. They can and will canonize her before Election Day."

While I'd listened to these exchanges in silent horror, Sister Elaine's face showed that she was thinking rapidly. "But, Mr. Spin," she said mildly, "don't you see that you're getting the dear cart before the horse? The fact that I've had 57 seemingly miraculous survivals means that my chances of surviving the bomb are a great deal better than they may at first appear. Since the President is already behind in the polls, he needs some bold move to turn things around."

"Hum," Spin replied thoughtfully, "that is an idea. The President gets this message from you guys. He wants to save all those yellow moth‑‑, all those helpless people in Southeast Asia, but he can't bring himself to destroy even one innocent life. You urge him to put his trust in God and do what he must and, after praying, he does. You know, that might just work."

"And," Nusshaus snapped angrily, "it could be a total disaster! Remember what we're talking about! Lightningman is going to be tearing up parts of the Terminus facility with his superstrength and welding them into a bomb shelter with his heat vision. Even superpowers have their limits. What if he gets caught short? What if the bomb kills him, too? Can't you see how horrible that would be? He's the sole survivor of the lost planet between Mars and Jupiter. If we kill him we'll be violating the ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT!"

Listening to Nusshaus, I found it hard to believe that anyone who'd seemed so intelligent on television ‑‑ TELEVISION! Why didn't I think of that sooner?

"Gentlemen," I said trying to sound authoritative, "I thank you for your time but I now find that it will be best if I handle this matter with my own resources."

As I hung up on the President and his cabinet, Sister Elaine screamed, "HOW DARE YOU BE SO ‑‑"

"Presumptuous? I just thought of a way to prevent the disaster and save both our lives. What I need you to do is stay here and strip down to your underwear." As Sister Elaine's eyes widened in outrage, I quickly explained, "If you're not wearing a nun's habit and have an oxygen mask on your face, you can pretend to be the late Helen Mary when you answer the phone."

"What good will that do us? Who on God's Earth would be calling her?"

"The submarine," I replied, "that she expected to come get her. I mean, think about it. She had to have an escape route. With that typhoon coming, the only way out of here is by submarine."

Slowly Sister Elaine nodded. "That might just be, but how are you going to make good on that boast about averting the disaster?"

"I'm going," I replied as I left, "to get that bomb I defused and build the world's largest vacuum cleaner."

 

Back to Episode 10....Zen and the Art of Bomb Defusing

On to Episode 12....Escape by Submarine


Back to Pulp and Dagger

Back to Diet Another Day!


"Diet Another Day!" and the character of "Lightningman" are copyright by Richard K. Lyon. 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!)