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 been released, enough poison gas to kill most of Southeast Asia. In a desperate plan to destroy the gas, Charles Kent sets a time bomb and, as Lightningman, forces his way onto a submarine. He orders the sub to get as far from Terminus as possible because Terminus is about to become ground zero. Though the crew of the submarine are part of the poison gas conspiracy, Kent is able to overawe them into obeying his commands. Tense minutes pass as the time for the expected explosion approaches and arrives...





Episode Thirteen (conclusion):

An Angel of Fire


IT STARTED AS A RUMBLING IN THE DISTANCE.

Though I didn't dare show it, I was immensely relieved. Instead of a single extremely powerful explosion, the H2S was burning with a lot of small explosions. We were safe ... except that the rumbling grew louder and louder, changing first to a thunderous sound and next to a force that shook the sub with mounting fury.

The ship was being shaken like a chicken being killed by a fox. Captain Lopez screamed, "LIGHTNINGMAN! WE HAVE TO STOP! THE SONAR'S QUIT WORKING!"

Running full speed ahead without sonar would be very dangerous, but stopping was guaranteed fatal. Rather than argue with the Captain, I replied, "My senses are not as useful as your sonar but they will suffice. Continue full speed ahead!"

As the sub continued to lurch forward, I stood at the center of the bridge, staring straight ahead, and ordering small course changes to avoid the obstacles I imagined might be in our path. The crew prayed frantically, one man was shouting that the batteries wouldn't last long, another that hydrogen was accumulating in the ship's atmosphere, and on we went. Slowly, very slowly, the ship fought its way out of the maelstrom. The sonar was again able to see our environment.

The sonar operator's first report was:"Clear water ahead, but ‑‑ O Mother of God ‑‑ behind us it's almost a solid wall! Senor Lightningman, how could even you bring us through something like that unharmed? Did you push the rocks aside with your mind?"

Shaking my head modestly, I told him, "The trick was to get past all those rocks while they were still lying on the bottom of the ocean field."

In a few more minutes we could safely surface. Placing his eye to the periscope, Captain Lopez starred in slacked jawed amazement. Without a word he stepped aside to let me look.

Terminus was gone. In its place was a firestorm, a towering column of swirling white incandescence, rising into the heavens and brighter than the sun. As I turned away from the periscope, Captain Lopez recovered his voice. "That, that demon could have eaten my ship, picked it up and eaten it."

Shaking my head, I replied, "It's a fire that does the work of an angel, destroying poison gas that otherwise would have killed millions. Have the ship's cook bring a light supper, 800 calories total, to my cabin." When he looked surprised, I continued, "The one that used to be yours and, before I forget, I should tell you that when I was using my Vision I couldn't help noticing your large intestine. Probably it's nothing, but just to be on the safe side next time you're in port, better have a doctor give you a barium enema."

Thrown completely off balance, Captain Ramon Lopez meekly led me toward what once was his cabin. Halfway there, he became frightened. "You just want me to show you my cabin?" he asked anxiously. "I won't have to go in, will I?"

While that seemed an odd question, I agreed and he led on. Though his mood was somber, mine was triumphant. I'd just won a tremendous victory, but calm was absolutely necessary. If Sister Elaine and I were going to get home alive, I had to maintain a very fragile illusion. Besides that, I had to worry about Marge, who'd be mad at me for risking my life to save the world. Her stepfather, FBI Director Edgar, was still missing and ‑‑

Suddenly Sister Elaine popped out in front of us. Confronting Captain Lopez, she screamed, "CAPTAIN! I DEMAND AN EXPLANATION! THIS SHIP'S MESS HALL IS AN ABSOLUTE CHAMBER OF HORRORS!" Since Sister Elaine had left the door to the mess hall open, I could see what she was talking about. The tables had all been turned upside down and their legs sharpened to points. "WHAT'S WORSE," she continued, "IS THE SITUATION IN SICKBAY! YOU HAVE THREE MEN THERE IN TOTAL BODY CASTS! WHY? WHAT DID YOU DO THAT RESULTED IN SUCH HORRIBLE INJURIES?"

Captain Lopez gazed at me, took a deep breath and said, "It really wasn't my fault. I mean this man -- he came on board my ship disguised as a helpless captive. How was I supposed to know? The first warning I had was when he did what you saw to the mess hall tables. Three men, the best fighters on this ship, tried to stop him. When I found them, they looked like broken dolls. We couldn't use our guns because there was too much hydrogen in the ship's atmosphere and besides everybody knows you need antitank weapons to go against a CIA metahuman. The only way I could keep him from putting all of us on these table legs was to elect him captain."

"I take it, then," I asked, "that your cabin is already occupied?"

"Yes," he said, "but please, Senor Lightningman, don't let that stop you. You're from another planet so your powers are much greater than his. Just burn his head off with your heat vision."

This, I thought in happy excitement, was the jackpot! The home run in the bottom of the ninth! I should have realized that since the bad guys weren't likely to have more than one submarine, Director Edgar had to be on board. He'd be grateful to me for rescuing him and Marge would forgive me! [
"What many thought but no one dared say, was that Chief Edgar could not catch the LA Impaler because he was the L.A. Impaler." -- see episode one ~ the ed.]

"Go back to the bridge," I ordered the Captain, "and set course for Singapore."

As he hurried away, I went down the corridor in the other direction with Sister Elaine following me. Finding the captain's cabin wasn't a problem since the cook had left a table in front of the door. On that table was paradise: a spinach leaf salad topped with bacon bits and vinaigrette, shrimp cocktail, lobster tail in melted butter, veal oscar, Potatoes Julienne, and apple slices fried in honey ‑‑ all in measured small portions that added up to 800 calories! How the cook had been able to deliver this miracle on such short notice I could not understand nor did I care.

The table also held four unopened cans, two of beans and two of beer, though why Director Edgar would order such a supper I couldn't imagine.

I could hear Director Edgar snoring behind the door. As I reached toward the door handle, Sister Elaine put a restraining hand on my arm. "Kent," she said, "I'll admit you have a remarkable talent for fooling people, but this is bearding the lion in his den! The LA Impaler! He really does have supernormal powers and he's not going to welcome you!"

"On the contrary," I assured her, "he's going to be very grateful for my help."

As I opened the door I had a glimpse of Director Edgar lying asleep on a small bed. For the briefest moment I wondered why the Director hadn't set up some kind of alarm so that the sub's crew couldn't sneak up on him in his sleep, and then there was a horrendous clatter of falling pots and pans. Instantly the Director sprang out of bed and at me. Before I could move, he threw me to the floor and dropped on me with his knees in my stomach.

"KENT!" he screamed as he put his hands on my head and began banging it on the deck. "WHAT THE BLEEDING HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?" While my helmet protected me fairly well, the pounding made it impossible for me to speak.
When Director Edgar finally realized what he was doing, he paused.

After catching my breath, I said, "Sir, I came here to rescue you." As I spoke I noticed something odd happening behind the Director's back. There was a microwave oven built into the wall above the bed and Sister Elaine was taking her crucifix out of it.

"BUT," the Director screamed as he went back to pounding my head on the deck, "I DON'T NEED RESCUING!"

Moving around the Director, Sister Elaine shoved her crucifix in front of his eyes like von Helsing confronting Dracula. "DEMON OF EVIL!" she shouted, "DEPART FROM THIS MAN! I EXORCISE THEE! "

At the bottom where Sister Elaine was holding it, the crucifix was wood, but the upper section was silver. That part of it must have gotten quite hot in the microwave because it sizzled like a branding iron when she pressed it against the Director's forehead.

While the Director may not have had any great number of evil spirits, the exorcism did take a lot of the wind out of his sails. "Sister," he complained in the tone of a schoolboy complaining to a harsh teacher, "this man got my fixed tomcat pregnant!" [Back in episode one , remember? ~ the ed.]

"Nonsense," she replied firmly, "if your cat had kittens it's because you didn't take the trouble to notice that it was actually female."

"But," he protested, "he also got my hundred-year-old parrot to lay an egg. I know 'cause I heard it on the radio."

"No," she told him. "When someone that age reproduces, it's an Act of God."

After moaning in total misery, the Director took the cold beer can which Sister Elaine handed him, put it to his burned forehead and said, "Well, the fact remains that I didn't need any help. I've hospitalized the only guys on this ship who knew anything about unarmed combat and I've confiscated all the guns. The crew thinks I'm the L.A. Impaler and they're terrified of me, so, never mind this 'you're here to help me' nonsense. Just tell me how come you're here."

"I first met Mr. Kent in Singapore," Sister Elaine began. Then, after concisely narrating our adventures, she concluded, "So, you see, you really should be grateful to Mr. Kent here. He saved millions of people from a horrible death."

"But," Director Edgar complained, "that's what the FBI is supposed to do! That's why I had this sub stay on course for Terminus! I was going to start a firestorm by shelling Terminus with the deck gun! I'd have saved all those people and gotten the FBI some favorable publicity, which we desperately need. Now, thanks to you and Kent, this is another Lightningman‑saved‑the‑world story! That's the third time Kent, here, has screwed the FBI by saving the world!"

"Don't be absurd." Sister Elaine told him. "To begin with submarines haven't had deck guns since World War II, besides which, if you wanted to save the world, you shouldn't have overslept. And you're wrong. Kent's only saved the world once. The other two times it was the real Lightningman."

Director Edgar did a sudden doubletake. He'd been assuming that Sister Elaine was in on the secret of my identity and was someone who could be trusted to keep that secret. While he hesitated, I took the opportunity to get a word in edgewise.

"Sister," I said, "there's something very important I need to ask of you. Please don't tell anyone else about what I've done. Let the world think it was Lightningman this time too."

Sister Elaine shook her head. "Kent," she said reassuringly, "I'll be sorry if having the truth known embarrasses you, but that's a small price. Think of the enormous embarrassment all this will cause the FBI. They're all as wicked and arrogant as Mr. Edgar here. They've done terrible things to many of my friends in Maryknoll. The humiliation the FBI will feel when they learn that they failed, while someone like you succeeded, may be just what they need to save their souls."

"But," I protested, "the disaster I prevented was the work of incredibly dangerous and powerful people. If they know it was me, they'll kill me! If they think Lightningman's responsible, they can't do anything."

Sister Elaine hesitated. "I see your point, but can't we work it out so that you're not in too much danger and the FBI still gets humiliated?"

"Oh, they will!" I assured her. "Having their kidnapped Director rescued by Lightningman will be a great humiliation."

After a moment's thought, Sister Elaine nodded, "Alright, so be it."

During this conversation, Director Edgar had been staring down at me with mounting malice. His eyes bulged out of his ebony countenance, his body was rigid as stone, and he trembled like a volcano building toward eruption. I was beginning to worry that I might have pushed him a little too far when suddenly, he smiled.

"Sister Elaine," he said, "what with being kidnapped and all, I've been under terrible stress, so please forgive me. Every night I went to bed expecting the crew might try to murder me in my sleep. Naturally, when you and Kent appeared I couldn't switch gears mentally. Now, of course, I see that you're here on a mission of mercy as befits your calling and Kent, well, he's going to be my son‑in‑law, and I should treat him accordingly. Please hand me one of those cans of beans and help yourself to the other. We'll have supper and talk things over."

The word SUPPER rang in my brain like a conjuration summoning a host of desires. On that table just beyond my reach was a delicate, artfully-done spinach leaf salad lightly topped with tiny bits of bacon and graced with delicate vinaigrette, one beautiful jumbo shrimp in cocktail sauce, a magnificent section of lobster tail in golden melted butter, a veal oscar that any of the world's greatest chefs would be proud of, magnificent Potatoes Julienne, and a small but utterly delectable serving of apple slices fried in honey. Even without tasting them I could tell just how wonderful they'd all be from their superb aromas.

Without taking his knees off my stomach, Director Edgar opened his can of beans and started spooning the contents into his mouth. "Sir," I said tentatively, "aren't you going to get off me?"

Instead of replying, he looked at the table and commented, "Kent, my boy, that really is a fine supper you ordered for yourself. Pity you're on a diet and can't eat it."

"BUT I CAN!" I protested. "It's only 800 calories and since I missed a lot of meals, it really does fit in my diet. Honest!"

"Boy," he said while shoveling more beans into his mouth, "the diet you're on is my diet, and my rule is that if you miss a meal you miss a meal. Besides that, didn't the cook tell you that he and his wife were two of the best chefs in the Mafia? Well, think! That obviously makes them two of the most skillful poisoners in the world. Or rather he is and she was. That was probably her you brought on this ship without her head."

"BUT I HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING!"

After putting another spoonful of beans into his mouth, the Director replied, "And so you shall. As I said, we'll all share my supper. I gave one of my cans of beans to Sister Elaine and I'm going to share the other with you." With that he got off me. As I rose, he handed me the can. I looked inside and screamed, "But there's only a quarter of it left!"

"That's right." he said cheerfully. "The whole can's 400 calories so a quarter is 100 calories which is what you get for supper."

"BUT I HAVE TO EAT TO KEEP UP MY STRENGTH!"

Shaking his head, Director Edgar replied, "No, it's the other way around. You don't have to eat because you're not going to be doing anything that will require strength. In a few hours this sub will reach Singapore and then, before you know it, we'll be on a plane and back in the States. All you'll be doing is sitting, and that's not a calorie burning activity."

"BUT I JUST SAVED HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE FROM HORRIBLE DEATHS! YOU CAN'T EXPECT ME TO GO TO BED WITHOUT A DECENT SUPPER!"

"Now, Boy," he explained patiently, "don't you see that there's always some excuse or other for not dieting. That's why you need someone like me to help you."

"If there is someone who is willing to help you diet, that person is a true friend, though, of course, giving such help may strain the relationship."
Dr. K K Chang, THE USE OF ZEN PHILOSOPHY IN WEIGHT LOSS

The End?
 

Back 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!)