a.k.a. "Genocide as a Method of Insider Trading"
A 13-chapter Superhero
"Royal" Richard K. Lyon
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
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 where it
accumulated as a hydrate. Now that deadly gas has aabout to release
enough poison gas to kill most of Southeast Asia. Conceiving of a
desperate plan to destroy the gas Charles Kent sets to work...
SOMEONE ELSE'S BOMB is very nervous work. You can never be sure that
the previous owners haven't included some little feature that makes
what you're doing suicidal instead of just dangerous.
When I finally finished, I headed back to the control room. Before I
got there, Sister Elaine, fully dressed in her nun's habit, came
rushing out. Where she'd gotten the wheelchair, I'd no clue, but she
had Helen Mary's corpse in it. The body's headless condition was
artfully concealed with a hat and veil.
"Come on!" the good Sister shouted. "That bloody submarine will be here
any minute and it won't wait."
I followed her at double time out on one of Terminus's piers. The sky
above was now ugly gray and there was a monster on the horizon: a
towering black funnel. The long promised typhoon was almost here.
Though the sea was also gray, it still sparkled with bubbles of deadly
gas. If Sister Elaine was right about the submarine arriving in the
next few minutes, we might escape. Once the typhoon hit, however, it
would be impossible for us to stay on the pier or for them to dock.
It was either now or not at all ... and there it was: a black periscope
knifing like a shark's fin through water that sparkled like champagne
with bubbles of poison gas.
Sister Elaine screamed, "Hide! If they see you, it'll be total ruin!"
Realizing that she was right, I dropped flat, concealing myself as best
I could behind the wheelchair and her long black skirts. As she waved
at the sub, she whispered to me out of the corner of her mouth, "Kent,
in every spy novel I ever read, people like Helen Mary aren't rescued
by their fellow bad guys. They're considered loose ends and eliminated.
What's to keep that sub from blasting us with its deck gun?"
"Subs," I told her, "haven't had deck guns since World War II."
"What after you're telling me is that they can't be killing us until we
get on the submarine. Sure and that's a great comfort, but what happens
when we are on board? Them with all their guns and knives and us
without a penknife between us?"
"You should be all right," I replied. "Nearly all outlaw sub crews are
Cuban Mafia, guys who don't like to kill nuns if they don't have to."
"Aye," she said, "but what about you? If there's one group of people
the Mafia likes to kill, it's minor government officials who get in
"They can't hurt me because I'm Lightningman."
"NO, CHARLES KENT!" she snapped, "All you are is a con man. On the
phone you do passing well, but face to face people will see how fat you
are. Those guys on the sub will feed you to the sharks if you try to
tell them you're Lightningman, so you'd better think of another lie."
I opened my mouth to tell Sister Elaine how terribly mistaken she was
and couldn't. She was absolutely right. Lightningman was an illusion, a
trick I'd played on people who never saw me clearly.
Did I have any chance of fooling the criminals on the sub?
Maybe not, but staying here wasn't an option. The forces my bomb would
trigger would be as violent as an H-bomb. Staying meant certain death!
Death for me if I didn't defuse the bomb and death for millions of
others if I did.
I was going on that submarine and I was going to be Lightningman. Like
a stage magician, I began to see my act. Though a single mistake would
mean disaster, it could be done.
From where I was hiding I could hear but could not see the approaching
sub. A submarine periscope normally has a rather narrow cone of sight.
By staying low I could be on board before they saw me.
There was a quick burst from the sub's engines, meaning that it was
about to dock. As it bumped gently into the pier, I rushed onto the
sub, moving with the speed you get from fear.
The watertight door in the deck was just opening when I reached it.
Flinging it wide open, I leapt down through it. The man who had been
opening it went sprawling, and started screaming "LIGHTINGMAN!
LIGHTNINGMAN!" in total panic. The response of the men near him was
equally unreasoned. Instead of grabbing weapons, they all came rushing
Taking a Sumo stance, I hit the seven of them one after another,
knocking them flying like tenpins. Behind me Sister Elaine had played
nun-pushing-a-sick-person-in-a-wheelchair until she reached the hatch,
then she pushed the wheelchair through, allowing it and Helen Mary's
body to fall crashing on the deck.
Following she closed the door, stopping the flow of H2S into
the submarine. Since the air flow had been mostly outward the amount
getting in hadn't been great.
One man screamed, "Captain, we can't let another superhero on board!"
Another man, equally frightened but determined, pulled himself
half-erect and threw a punch at my groin. I dropped slightly and his
fist crashed with an intense sound of breaking bones into my kevlar
suit and the titanium plate under it.
One man wearing a tattered coat with gold braid on the shoulders was
still standing because he hadn't been part of the group that tried to
push me out. "Men!" he shouted, "It's alright. Lightningman is
different! He doesn't kill people!"
The man who'd spoken first pointed in horror at Helen Mary's body, its
headless condition now obvious, and yelled, "If Lightningman doesn't
kill people, what about her?
He burned her head off with his heat vision!"
"She," the Captain explained, waving his hands, "must have done
something to annoy him, so, please, don't annoy him."
All of a sudden nobody was moving. They were all just looking at me.
Since Lightningman would take command of the sub, that's what I had to
"Get," I ordered, "this submarine as far from here and as deep as
possible. In sixteen minutes, thirty five seconds this spot will be
The phrase "ground zero" was more than enough to motivate Captain Ramon
Lopez, as I later learned his name to be. He immediately began giving
orders and, despite their scruffy appearance, the crew obeyed with
Even the man with the broken hand got up and started toward his post,
but Sister Elaine insisted on taking him to sick bay. I went over to
the small table that held the ship's log and started writing.
"I, Jar El of Zanthar, known to
the primitives of this world as Lightningman, have assumed command of
this vessel. Since there is no other way I can save the life of Sister
Elaine Smith, I am forced to this action, though I do so with great
reluctance. The men on this vessel are as richly deserving of their
fated destruction as are Zanthar's kilass. By commanding them, however,
I have accepted moral responsibility for their well being. As long as
they obey my orders I must protect them."
As I expected, the captain and several of the crew contrived to sneak a
peek at the nonsense I'd written. They were scared enough to like my
promise of protection from some great unspecified danger, and my
penmanship, which was worthy of my ancestor, John Hancock, seemed to
further prove my authenticity.
What else should I do to maintain the Lightningman illusion? I thought
of one half-clever ploy after another, tricks that might work or might
blow up in my face. No. For the moment I had them fooled. They were
obeying my orders. If my orders brought us through what was coming
alive, they'd be absolutely convinced that I was indeed Lightningman.
If not, well, no point in thinking about that.
There was, however, a lot of point in worrying about whether or not I'd
given the right orders. Above us thousands of tons of H2S
were mixing with air, some in proportions to merely flammable, some in
the detonable range. Looking over Captain Lopez's shoulder I could see
the ship's instruments, but the only one I could recognize and read
with confidence was the clock. In 10 minutes that time bomb I'd left
behind would go off. If I'd done everything exactly right, all merry
hell would brake loose, putting us in extreme peril and saving the
lives of millions of people.
What if I'd screwed up? What if we survived and I had to live the rest
of my life knowing that millions had died because I blew it?
That was a truly horrible thought but not one I could do anything
about. Right now the problem was saving the lives of all the people on
this ship. As I'd ordered, Captain Lopez was getting us as deep and as
far from Terminus as possible. What would happen when the bomb at
Terminus went off? Would being deep in the ocean give us our best
chance of survival?
The ship's clock showed 7 minutes.
When a depth charge goes off near a submarine, the water between it and
the sub acts like armor. One foot of water is equivalent of two inches
of steel. If the coming explosion worked like a depth charge then the
deeper we were, the more water we had between the explosion and us, the
better our chances. Fine, but this explosion wouldn't be like a depth
charge; it wouldn't happen at a single location; it would be a pancake
shaped blast covering a huge area of the ocean. The pressure on the
sub's hull would suddenly go from a value corresponding to our depth to
one corresponding to a much greater depth. If that greater depth was
too great, we'd be crushed. By that reasoning, I should have the sub
come up toward the surface.
5 minutes were left.
What should I do? Was I even worrying about the right thing? Hadn't I
read somewhere that the chief danger a sub faced from depth charges was
not the initial explosion, but the fact that the explosion pushed ocean
water into violent motion with nowhere to go. The water speeding this
way and that could act like giant hands tearing the sub to shreds.
It was too late now to worry about any of that, too late to be
frightened. The cold sweat running down my back served no purpose.
Taking a deep breath, I slowly let it out. "Captain Lopez," I ordered,
my voice calm despite my fears, "have all hands brace for impact."
Marge, oh my darling Marge, if this
doesn't work out will you forgive me? I know you were right, that I
didn't have any duty to stick my nose in all this danger, but forgive
me. I couldn't see a bully doing something horrible and not do what I
Lopez was starring with wide frightened eyes at the ship's clock. The
other submariners were standing stiff in terrified expectation, their
faces and bodies taut with fear. Many were crossing themselves and
What would God say about my putting one of my Grandmothers in a nursing
Back to Episode 11....Presidential Decision
On to Episode 13....Angel of Fire
Back to Pulp
Back to Diet
"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
used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you
to read it!)