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: Knowing that a plot is underway to kill millions of people in Southeast Asia, Charles Kent, also known as Lightningman, heads for Terminus, a gas production platform in the middle of the South China Sea. The only way he can make the last leg of this trip is by helicopter. Landing at Terminus, however, requires perfect weather. Traveling at its best speed, the helicopter needs 90 minutes to reach Terminus and a typhoon is due to arrive there in only 80 minutes. Seemingly the battle is lost before it can begin, but the helicopter pilot, Sister Elaine Smith, is willing to attempt the dangerous journey...



Episode Eight:

Into The Storm


WITHOUT SAYING ANOTHER WORD, Sister Elaine led me onto the airfield and into the waiting helicopter. Taking the seat beside her, I dropped my luggage into the row of seats behind ours, which was where she'd put the Japanese man's package. When we were in the air she spoke, but not to me. Lifting a microphone to her mouth she thumbed its button and said in a smooth relaxed voice, "Tower, this is Charter Flight One Niner Seven bound for Terminus. We'll be flying at 200 meters on a heading of--"

"FLIGHT ONE NINER SEVEN," the microphone exploded, "THIS IS CONTROLLER EVERETT STANTON! ARE YOU INSANE? A TYPHOON'S GOING TO HIT TERMINUS IN SEVENTY FIVE MINUTES! AT YOUR TOP SPEED YOU CAN'T POSSIBLE GET THERE BEFORE IT HITS! IN FACT YOU CAN'T GET THERE AT ALL. THE TYPHOON'S IN YOUR WAY! THE RADAR SHOWS YOU'RE FLYING RIGHT INTO IT!"

"Ahh," Sister Elaine said amiably, "but that's the trick of it. The dear typhoon's after being a giant merry-go-round. It spins fast but moves slowly. We'll just fly into it, ride it half a turn, and hop off. That'll get us to Terminus a good five minutes before it hits. Since it's always calmest before the storm, I'll have perfect weather for landing."

"Merciful God," Stanton replied weakly, "you really are insane. I --"

A female voice, apparently someone else in the control tower, interrupted him. "Ev, don't waste your breath arguing. That's Su Smith you're talking to."

"What do you mean?," Stanton snapped, "That crazy nun's name is Elaine, not Sue."

"Not S-u-e, just S-u. Short for Suicide Smith. She's in the Guinness Book of World Records for most air travel safety regulations violated."

"Oh God, yes! Now I remember. Hear me and hear me good, Sister Smith. I don't know how you've gotten away with this garbage in the past, but it's over! Either you turn around right now and come back here or this is the last time you ever fly anywhere! I'll get you banned from pole to pole!"

"Everett Stanton," Sister Elaine replied sternly, "shame on you for telling wicked lies. You know perfectly well that if there were anyone else in the world willing to fly the routes I do, I'd have been gone long ago. For your penance I want you to say twelve Hail Marys."

"But," Stanton protested, "what you're doing is incredibly dangerous! You can't expect God to do a miracle to save you!"

"As a matter of fact," the woman in the tower, "she can. According to my sister -- she works in the Bishop's office -- as soon as Sister Elaine's dead and can't say things the Church would find horrendously embarrassing, they're planning to canonize her. The Bishop's been keeping track of her miracles. She's already got 57 and that's not counting --"

"I KNOW!" he interrupted, "Why do you always have to remind me of things I want to for--"

Clicking off the microphone, Sister Elaine Suicide Smith turned to stare at me with cold gray eyes. "Mr. Kent," she said in a very controlled voice, "you've told me nothing about your mission to Terminus except that it's important, which in this part of the world usually means dangerous. MY rule is that people have to be honest with me as I've been with them. Now tell me: what's going on?"

While that was an awkward question, I knew I had to tell the woman the truth. "For the past twelve years," I began, "Double Cross Oil Company has been producing natural gas at Terminus, pipelining the gas to Thailand and sending the byproduct H2S to the bottom of the ocean. What they failed to realize was that ..."

As I continued explaining, her eyes widened with horror. "Merciful God!" she exclaimed, interrupting me. "You're saying that there are fiends who're willing to murder thousands of people to make a few dollars!"

"It's not a few dollars," I told her. "Between now and the time the New York Stock Market opens Monday morning, the fiends plan to make billions of dollars by causing a disaster far greater than the Holocaust."

"But you're fat!" she protested. "You're bald! You're middle-aged! This is a job for a hero! Lightningman! Why the Hell didn't the U.S. Government send him instead of you?"

For one angry moment I was tempted to tell her the whole truth. Instead, I took a deep breath and replied, "Lightningman isn't at the Government's beck and call. If I went through normal channels, the only help they could send would be some bureaucrat like me and by then it would be too --"

"IF!" she exploded. "ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT YOU SPOTTED THE MOST DIRE CONSPIRACY IN HISTORY AND THEN HAD THE COLOSSAL GALL NOT TO TELL ANYONE? YOU JUST CAME HERE ALL BY YOURSELF? WITHOUT ANY BACKUP? KENT, DAMN IT, YOU'RE A NEW YORKER! ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS GO TO CENTRAL PARK AND GET MUGGED! WHEN LIGHTNINGMAN RESCUED YOU, YOU COULD HAVE TOLD HIM ALL ABOUT IT!"

"SISTER ELAINE," I snapped, "YOU'RE NOT BEING FAIR! I AM LI ... well, ahh that is I'm a really good detective."

"IF," she said, "YOU THINK YOU'RE SHERLOCK HOLMES, PROVE IT! SHOW ME SOME BRILLIANT DEDUCTIONS!"

I started to protest this absurdly unfair demand, but stopped abruptly. I had a feeling that fair or unfair didn't matter. Something very important had slipped past me.

"All right," I replied. "Since you said that you'd be making this flight even if you didn't have any passengers, it's a mercy flight. Somehow delivering that attaché case the Japanese man gave you is an act of mercy. Since he was obviously Yakuza, it's an illegal act of mercy. That has to be drugs. Someone on Terminus has a sob story. I'd guess it's a man with cancer or something equally painful. With painkillers he can work a while longer, long enough for his family to get a pension when he dies, but he can't get the painkillers legally because his employers would find out and fire him. I also deduce that they're suspicious. That's why he had to dispose of his stash and you're making an emergency trip to resupply him."

Watching me with critical appraisal, Sister Elaine said, "That's not too flaming bad, but still -- "

"It gets better," I told her smiling. "According to Pope Joan's encyclical on unjust laws, breaking the letter of the law is justified only in extreme cases but the spirit of the law may be broken whenever that serves justice. Since you'd be technically innocent if you had no personal knowledge of what was in the Yakuza packages, you never look in them."

From the widening of Sister Elaine's eyes, I knew I'd hit the mark with that one.

"Furthermore," I continued, "the Yakuza knows you never opened the packages. That's why I'm sure this time the package has something in it other than drugs."

"WHAT," she demanded, "ARE YOU SAYING?"

"I don't believe in coincidences." I reached behind my seat to get the attaché case. Sister Elaine opened her mouth to scream as I opened it. She shut her mouth without a sound when I showed her a large blob of soft putty-like material attached to an electronic timer and a battery. As I disconnected the battery, I told her, "That stuff's the equivalent of twelve sticks of dynamite."

"All right, Mr. Kent," she said stiffly. "I still say it was presumptuous on your part to come here rather than sending Lightningman, but I will admit that, considering your weight, you seem to be a reasonably capable detective. When we get to Terminus, what is your plan?"

"To trigger the disaster the bad guys will need to use the equipment at Terminus. That means they have an agent among the technicians there. I have a Lightningman costume and I'll use it to force the bad guy's agent to betray himself."

"That," she sneered, "is a fine plan, but plans are one thing and doing, quite another, as you're about to find out, Mr. Charles-I-can-fill-in-for-Lightningman Kent." As she spoke, her stern profile was outlined against the dark, threatening sky.

"What do you mean?" I asked apprehensively. Though the chopper was still flying in bright sunlight, everything ahead of us was dark. At first featureless, the darkness soon resolved itself into a roiling mass of black fury. The Wrath of the Gods, the Devil Wind, The Old Man Who Comes For Dinner -- to eat you and all you have. The Typhoon.
 
Sister Elaine Suicide Smith was heading directly into it. As far as she was concerned, this raging elemental force was a merry-go-round. With a slightly sadistic smile, she told me: "The air sickness bags are under your seat."

I'd heard her say we were going to ride the typhoon, but that hadn't prepared me for anything like this. "We're not actually going into that thing, are we? You have some trick, don't you, that lets the chopper get a strong tail wind without quite entering the storm?"

"Oh, to be sure, My Darlin' Man," Sister Suicide Smith told me proudly. "There's a trick. It's the music. It helps me pretend I'm a Valkyrie riding my stallion across the sky to rescue heroes."

She put a tape into the chopper's stereo. As she hit play, the chopper passed into darkness and was transformed into a wild horse, bucking furiously to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". Sister Elaine fought the controls, struggling with all her strength and skill to hold the chopper on a steady course and, while she fought, she sang in a rich, resonant voice. We were tossed to and fro with horrible violence, and still she sang.

Lightning struck on both sides of the chopper, bathing us in flashes of blinding light and earsplitting sound. The wind howled like a wolf-god and the chopper frame answered with low ominous moans. The purring of the engine became an unhappy wheezing and the rotor noise was slightly different now. That, I knew, could not be good, but Sister Elaine just kept on singing, her voice as strong and confident as Brunnhilde riding the rainbow bridge above the storm to Valhalla.

Her glance suggested that she wanted me to join her song. Instead I asked, "Were did you say the vomit bags were?"

Back to Episode 7....Angel of Mercy Airlines

On to Episode 9....Men at Dinner


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!)