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
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 last leg of this trip is by
helicopter through a typhoon. Kent's pilot for the dangerous journey is
Sister Elaine Smith, better known as Suicide Smith, holder of the
Guinness Book of World Records for most air travel safety rules
violated. The trick that allows her to fly safely through the storm's
violence is to play Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" and pretend she's
a Valkyrie riding her stallion across the sky to rescue heroes...
WE BURST OUT OF THE HOWLING DARKNESS into bright sunlight. "Terminus
dead ahead. We made better time than I thought," Sister Elaine
announced, triumphantly pointing at a complex network of steel pipes
and girders that rose from a glass-smooth sapphire sea.
I started pulling off my vomit-covered clothes. If Sister Elaine was
surprised to see that I was wearing the Lightningman costume under my
suit, she didn't show it.
As she landed the chopper, she said with appalling cheerfulness, " I'm
thinking, Mr. Kent, that we're after needing a new plan. You've spent
this flight using up all my vomit bags and not hearing a word I told
you about the situation here on Terminus. Your face is a fine shade of
green and hiding it in that helmet won't help any. Even if you were
healthy, that silly costume won't fool anybody in their right bloody
As I put on my helmet, I put what strength I could into my voice and
said, "There may be danger. You'd better stay here."
"If there's danger," she replied in a tone suitable for lecturing a
slow child, "I can manage it a great deal better than you. I've black
belts in judo and karate and ‑‑ DEAR GOD! WHAT'S THAT?"
A small round hole suddenly appeared in one of the chopper's plexiglass
windows and something thudded into my chest. Shouting "GET DOWN!' to
Sister Elaine, I popped open the door and sprang out onto the
helicopter pad. The wind from the rotors hit me like a waterfall and it
was all I could do to keep from falling to my knees. Despite the
thundering wind I stood upright in the middle of the landing pad,
making myself a perfect target, the lightning stroke emblem on my chest
the natural target for the gunman.
The helicopter pad lay at the edge of a jungle of pipes, valves, gauges
and steel tanks, all of it covered by a thin layer of greasy black.
Three walkways led off the pad into Terminus. Somewhere in that
plumber's maze a man was aiming at me. I was gambling that he was a
good marksman who would put all his shots in my chest where I was
protected by kevlar and my titanium plate. Of course, if the gunman
aimed for the one‑way plastic visor that covered my eyes ‑‑
It felt like heavy hail, a stream of small steel slugs pelting me in
the chest and reflecting in a dozen different directions. I couldn't
hear anything over the thunderous rotors, but my enemy had blundered by
hiding in deep shadow, making his gun's muzzle flashes easy to spot.
I hit the middle walkway at a dead run. As I plunged into Terminus, the
roar of the chopper was swiftly drowned by a host of other sounds,
liquids rushing headlong through kilometers of pipe, turbines whining,
pumps chugging, and an army of control valves snapping on and off.
Through that maze I could see the place from which my enemy had fired.
Would he be able to just slip away or did I have him trapped in a dead
end? If he ‑‑
Suddenly a small dark figure sprang out of the left hand walkway, a
small caliber pistol in his hand; nothing heavy enough to hurt me
seriously. With a sense of triumph, I ran toward at him, but he dropped
the pistol, grabbed at his belt, and pulled out something that looked
more like a cannon than a handgun. I was too far away. It all seemed to
be happening in slow motion. As I ran as if I were in honey, the gun
came level and there was nothing I could do. No way to close the
distance or dodge ‑‑
He'd fired his weapon without even aiming at me! He was running, but I
could no longer see him clearly. A cloud of gas was boiling out of a
pipe severed by his wild shot. Or had the shot been wild?
I stopped and sniffed. I'd nearly rushed into a jet of hydrogen
sulfide! A gas more poisonous than cyanide! One breath could do me in
and the nauseating stuff was drifting toward me! I was already in the
fringes of it! As I staggered backwards, my empty stomach heaved as
waves of the vile stench swept over me. I tried to hold my breath but
I'd been running. How many more seconds before I'd be dead? I couldn't
let that happen. Not when my death meant the same horrible fate for a
host of innocent people.
I staggered, searching desperately and suddenly I saw an orange cabinet
labeled: "For Emergencies". Inside were dozens of things I didn't need
and the one thing I did: an oxygen pack. Tearing off my helmet, I put
the mask on, and for several moments I just breathed. Why hadn't my
opponent just shot and killed me? Had he thought I really was
Lightningman, invulnerable to bullets but possibly vulnerable to poison
gas? Maybe, and for sure if I were going to play Lightningman, I had to
look the part. Getting my helmet back on over an oxygen mask proved a
little awkward and uncomfortable, but doable.
Despite my still unstable stomach, I dogtrotted down the walkway,
speeding through the jetting cloud of hydrogen sulfide. At each
intersection there was no choice but to guess which way my enemy had
With each turn it became harder to remember the way I'd come. My mental
map of Terminus was rapidly dissolving in confusion and contradiction.
That panel of gauges and instruments on my right, had I seen one just
like it or had I walked in a circle? Three turns later I had the same
problem with a large turbine.
Though I'd begun in hot pursuit, I was now lost and wandering. Terminus
was a maze of repeating patterns of identical machinery, all equally
dirty and all so closely-packed one could never see far in any
I needed a compass and, with the typhoon due to strike in minutes, I
needed one fast. Suppose I took off my oxygen mask and sniffed very
carefully. A horrific rotten egg odor would mean I was downwind of the H2S
discharge. If the odor were merely intense, that would mean I was
The air, however, was clean and sweet. Did that mean a safety valve had
turned off the H2S discharge and the wind had blown it all
away? If so, I was still without a compass. I couldn't smell a thing
... or rather I couldn't smell anything bad. What I could smell was the
incredibly appetizing aroma of FRESHLY BAKED BREAD! AND FRESHLY GROUND
COFFEE! I WAS DOWNWIND OF THE KITCHEN!
Instantly my stomach shifted gears and demanded filling. As swiftly as
if the heavenly scent were Ariadne's golden thread, I headed toward the
What I found there was much more than just bread and coffee. A serving
counter divided the room into cooking and eating areas. Seated at that
counter were five of the six technicians who ran Terminus. None of them
were breathing. Since they'd all been eating dinner, it was a safe
guess that they'd been poisoned.
Apparently the poison had taken them all at more or less the same time
at different stages of the meal. The poor wretch on the far right had
died after eating a salad of finely shredded spinach leaves topped with
bacon bits and vinigrette dressing. Sadly, he'd only started on the
just baked roll in his hand.
The man next to him had fared somewhat better: after eating the salad,
the roll and a French onion soup that had been topped with croutons and
cheese and baked in a crock, he had expired while helping himself to
appetizers on a large silver tray, a tray filled with large succulent
shrimp, pieces of red beef seared on the outside, raw inside, touched
with a Hollandaise sauce, Scallops Mornay and Parisienne, several tiny
slices of liver wrapped in bacon, smeared with honey, and snails
broiled in garlic butter, all beautifully arranged in concentric
The poisoner's third victim had done even better. He'd had the good
fortune to finish his salad, soup, appetizers and then begin the main
course before passing on. On his plate were half-eaten portions of
lobster in cream sauce, roast goose with orange glaze, crepes stuffed
with chicken in Hong Kong lemon sauce, and wild duck pot roast with
Great as his good fortune had been the last two men had done even
better. Their empty dinner plates and half-full desert plates showed
that after they'd enjoyed generous portions of all these magnificent
courses, they'd dug into desert with gusto. The incredibly lucky
bastards had been gorging themselves with baklava, dripping with honey,
red raspberries in heavy cream, sliced apples, bananas, almonds and
pecans cooked in honey, and a German Black Forest torte with
alternating layers of whipped cream and chocolate cake topped with
large shavings of milk chocolate!
Would the murderer really have been so totally inhumane as to poison
all this food? Could anybody be that evil? Even somebody who was part
of a plot to commit genocide? Wouldn't someone that monstrous still
have the decency to just poison the wine and leave the food alone?
Unfortunately there was no wine bottle, poisoned or otherwise, to be
seen. The poison had to be in the food and there was no way I could
guess which dishes contained it.
DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN!
If it were just my own life, maybe I could take a chance, but not with
the lives of so many millions of people depending on me. With an effort
of will greater than that of any comic-book superhero, I turned away
from the grand and deadly feast.
Exiting the kitchen I found myself in a long corridor that doubled as a
storeroom for paper goods, computer supplies, electronic components,
and absolutely nothing edible. Despite my stomach's frantic demands, I
needed to think more than I needed to eat. Ever since I'd arrived at
Terminus, my adversary had been two steps ahead of me. To have any
chance of winning I had to start anticipating his next moves.
A crew of six was enough for Terminus because nearly all of the work
was done by a computer controlled system. Logically then I should
expect that my opponent had already programmed the computer to release
the hydrate at some predetermined time. I was facing a time bomb that
was already fused and ticking, and the only man who could stop it was
the one who'd started it. While that definitely complicated things, I
still had the advantage that the enemy thought I was Lightningman.
Maybe I could ‑‑
Abruptly, the heavenly aroma of great food I'd been struggling to
ignore changed into the stench of burned meat. The wind had shifted.
The new odor was coming from the door at the far end of this storeroom.
Moving very quietly, I approached the door. The burned meat stench was
When someone might be waiting to shoot you on the other side of a door,
the prudent way to go through it is fast and leaping to one side or the
other. Unfortunately I couldn't do that. To be Lightningman, I had to
act like Lightningman.
Pushing the door open, I boldly stepped through and saw that I'd been
mistaken. I'd assumed that the person who'd shot at me and poisoned
those five men had been a man. Not so. She was lying on the floor, gun
in her limp hand, quite dead. She was a shocking sight because her head
was gone, burned off as though it were as combustible as straw.
What were they putting in women's hair spray these days? I didn't know,
but for sure it wasn't anything you should use if you were going to
wear an oxygen mask.
Sister Elaine was standing at the far end of the room, a flare gun in
her hand, and her face quite pale. "It's a terrible thing I did," she
said, her eyes not quite focusing. "Helen Mary was a beautiful woman
but she shouldn't have tried to shoot me."
Sister Elaine could not have known how truly terrible what she had just
done was. A time bomb that would kill millions upon millions was
ticking rapidly toward an apocalyptic catastrophe and she had killed
the only person who knew how to defuse it!
Back to Episode 8....Into the Storm
On to Episode 10....Zen and the Art of Bomb
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!)