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 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...





Episode Twelve:

Escape By Submarine


RECYCLING 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 their way!"

"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 at me.

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 do.

"Get," I ordered, "this submarine as far from here and as deep as possible. In sixteen minutes, thirty five seconds this spot will be ground zero."

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 military precision.

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.

3 minutes.

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."

2 minutes.

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 could.

1 minute.

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 mumbling prayers.

30 seconds.

What would God say about my putting one of my Grandmothers in a nursing home?

NOW!

 

Back to Episode 11....Presidential Decision

On to Episode 13....Angel of Fire


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!)