Totally rad-i-cal Brain Boy
It’s fight’n crime then pizza time
It’s Brain Booooooooy!
The drunk frat boys at the bar sang the song with the passion and the sincerity of an operatic choir but far more obnoxiously and very-much off key. Ryan Bennings was unamused and didn’t feel like being polite enough to even give a thankful smile but at the same time, he was far too bored to say something snarky. Instead, he opted to turn to the men, burp loudly, then return to his martini. The frat boys all laughed and gave each other fist bumps and high fives. Ryan was confused at first, wondering why they would be so excited about his insult, then he realized that in the cartoon theme song they had been singing, it finished with an animated rat burping loudly. They thought he was joining in and that finally made him angry enough to say something.
“Have you heard the phrase don’t meet your heroes?,” he asked the group with a slight slur due to it being his third martini.
They all nodded and otherwise verified that they had indeed heard the phrase.
“Of course you have. Now, I get it. You’re probably too young to have seen the Brain Boy cartoon when it aired on Fox Kids… or Disney Afternoon… or whatever it was in the 90s but you’ve caught youtube clips of it because it’s unfortunately become a meme, much like most of my existence. You should know, I never did any sort of work on that cartoon despite my likeness being used. It was my parents and my then-manager Craig Levison who signed off on it along with the video games, t-shirts, cereal, toys, underwear and… I dunno… waffles? I feel like waffles were in there somewhere. Where was I? Oh yes,… heroes. More than likely, you attend Harvard University right here in Boston just as I did when I was 13. Correct?”
They once again verified he was correct.
“Ah, so not only am I a national hero to you but a local one as well. I’m sure Harvard still has my picture up somewhere alongside Matt Damon and Bill Gates. You feel a certain kinship with me, I’m sure. Now, the difference between you and I is that I entered Boston as, and these were the words of most media outlets at the time although I never denied it, ‘the smartest boy in the world’. It was a big deal at the time and it’s still probably a big deal at Harvard. You were probably never told this but the dean of students and most of my professors hated me because, once more, I was the smartest boy in the world and yet, I am still hailed a hero on that campus, which is hilarious. As for you fellas, you got into Harvard because you’ve had daddy-money your whole vapid lives, which means that you could continue to get drunk here in this bar with overpriced drinks, drive across the city, crash into a bus full of children, and then have nonconsensual sex with any poor girl that you might sniff out, but your rich asshole fathers would inevitably bail you out. In the future, you’ll be CEOs or senators and contribute further to the moral decay of this society, likely ensuring the Earth dies just a little bit faster and you’ll go to bed every night thinking you’ve accomplished something. Please understand you haven’t. Furthermore, I am possibly the only person in this world who will A) tell you this and B) you respect enough to listen to. That last part is unfortunate as the only reason why you have any amount of respect for me other than going to that silly little university people won’t shut up about is that you saw some ridiculous cartoon on the internet while getting high. This is your life gentlemen: getting everything handed to you on a plate while facing no consequences for any wrongdoings who have done and will do. The only meaningful conversation you’ll ever have is from a guy who served as the basis for a cartoon. Now, going back to my original inquiry about never meeting your heroes… you do remember me asking that, don’t you?”
They sheepishly nodded.
“While it’s a cliched truism, there is some amount of authenticity to it, at least in this context. Don’t you think? You approached me out of some misplaced sense of kinship and I hurled existential insults at you. Are you beginning to regret coming up to me and singing an outdated cartoon theme song in some vain attempt to find said kinship?”
They didn’t respond.
“Never meet your heroes… You’ve heard these words before and you refused to heed them, so ultimately, isn’t this awkward situation you’ve found yourselves in entirely your fault?”
They stared blankly.
“There are trophy wives who spread their legs for rich men so that you gentlemen could spew forth from their vaginal canals and eventually go to Harvard. I’m sure you understood the words I just said. This is your fault, yes or no?”
They nodded again.
“Good. Begone with you.”
They sauntered out, almost in single file while Ryan went back to his martini. A six foot tall humanoid rat wearing a tuxedo slid up to the bar and sat next to him. No one reacted.
“Those young humans looked sad,” the rat monster observed.
“They were annoying,” Ryan told him.
“You should be nicer.”
“Labrat, if there’s one thing I’m known for, intellect aside, it’s not being nice. If anything, I’m being true to my brand. Additionally, …they were annoying.”
“But you can still be nicer?”
“I can do many things but just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should. That’s a very important distinction.”
“Okay. I agree.”
“You’re my best friend, Labrat.”
“Thank you. You too.”
Labrat was a generically modified rat Ryan had experimented on in his youth and modified over the years. Aside from becoming several times larger, he also became far more intelligent (for a rat) and lived far longer. Ryan wasn’t lying or being facetious when he mentioned Labrat was his best friend; that was mostly due to Ryan’s annoyance of most humans.
Ryan Bennings was hailed as the “Smartest Boy In The World” very early in his life. His parents lived in a trailer park in southern Illinois and were not the sort of people who might be considered well-read. Their son excelled in school to a startling degree and skipped several grades by the time he was 8. The school system was already fielding the potential for Ryan to be a genius-level student when he became interested in the Pentagram Killer. The female serial killer was once known as the Flat-tire Killer since her MO was stopping on the side of highways, pretending to have a flat tire. Victims would be lured to come to her aid and she would stab them. She had victims across multiple states and had mostly eluded police. Ryan’s mother had a morbid interest in the case at the time and even had a map showing the multiple kill sites. Glancing at the map in her room, the young Ryan realized it was in a pentagram shape with smaller pentagrams at each point with the final point residing in a five mile radius near Winghaven. He understood this pattern well enough that he took it upon himself to call the local police precinct and explain the situation. Fearing that the killer had called the police station, the FBI and Highway Patrol went into action, eventually staking out the territory described until they apprehended the killer who was, as expected, waiting at the side of the road with a flat tire. Figuring out that the call came from a small child, Ryan Bennings soon gained national acclaim. Considering his genius intellect at such a young age, he was given multiple TV interviews as well as an eventual scholarship to Harvard University.
Meanwhile, his parents became interested in promoting their son to help deal with mounting debt, which got the attention of producer Craig Levison who began marketing Ryan, giving him the moniker Brain Boy. Soon, a cartoon was commissioned along with multiple merchandising opportunities that made his parents rich. The cartoon in question revolved around Ryan’s cartoon alter ego fighting crime along with a lab rat named, appropriately enough, Labrat. Levison asked Ryan to see if he could create a “live-action Labrat” for marketing which interested him enough to genetically modify an infant rat. This, of course, earned him more acclaim and he was soon asked to solve actual crimes across the US with Craig Levison and his parents reaping most of the rewards. Rex Robinson often guided him when he was younger since he was one of the few people on the planet with a similar level of intellect but Ryan never inherited Rex’s eternal optimism. As Ryan got older, he started his own business, emancipated himself from his parents, and continued to fight crime (the Brain Boy name was quickly dropped). Ryan was thin, pale, short, and wore glasses. For a superhero, he was not physically imposing but then, he never had to be. For the most part, Ryan lived alone with Labrat with the only exception being his marriage which had recently ended.
“Can I have a drink?,” Labrat asked as he poked his snout at Ryan’s empty martini glasses. “Sure,” Ryan turned to the bartender, “Can I have a virgin Bloody Mary for my friend?” The bartender looked up at Ryan as if to respond, but his face went blank; the man’s jaw dropped slightly and his eyes stared through him. Noticing the shift in demeanor, Ryan sat back, ready for anything. Realizing the bar was suddenly quiet, he carefully looked over his shoulder to see the other patrons and wait staff sitting or standing still, their faces also blank. Labrat, meanwhile, happily began eating the peanuts at the bar, oblivious to his surroundings. Ryan turned on his barstool to continue scanning the room and noticed one detail but his thoughts were interrupted as he felt hands reach the collar of his shirt. He stood up as the bartender attempted to come over the bar to strangle him. Labrat snapped to attention and pushed the bartender away as Ryan turned to face the rest of the bar. The patrons all turned to him in unison, their blank expressions now fixated on him. There was a very brief moment of silence before they made a break for him.
“Time to leave, buddy,” he called to Labrat as he pulled him to the end of the bar.
“What’s happening?,” Labrat said as he was dragged along.
“We’ll find out later.”
He came around the bar and raced toward the backroom as the bartender came at him from the front. Ryan grabbed a bottle from the wall and slammed it across the bartender’s head, rendering him unconscious, “Sorry. I’ll pay the medical bills when you wake up”. He and Labrat raced inside the back room and found themselves in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the other patrons began climbing over or around the bar to get to them. The two of them began sliding a kitchen counter in front of the door to block it just as they saw multiple hands push through. “They’ll keep coming,” Ryan told Labrat, “Get that table.” He pointed to a nearby metal table and Ryan quickly flipped it over and wedged it against the floor and the counter, “Stay here.” Labrat continued to push against the barrier as the patrons gradually clawed their way inside. Ryan squatted next to the dish sink and began rummaging through the cleaning supplies. “Nope… nope…,” he tossed bottles over his shoulder as he read the labels, “… Here we go,” once he found the products needed, he stood to his feet, snatched a glass from the sink, and ushered Labrat downstairs, “Hopefully, the fridge is is a walk-in.” They made their way down the steps as they heard people breaking through the barrier upstairs. Ryan smiled once he saw the refrigerator was, indeed a walk-in and he noticed the janitor’s closet and a large freezer next to it. “Get some ice from the freezer,” he told Labrat as he checked the janitor’s closet. Labrat soon came back with an ice cube and held it patiently as Ryan checked the label on a bottle in his hand, “Acetone… Great!”.
The small crowd began storming down the narrow stairs as Ryan sat the glass on the floor and began mixing the contents of the bottles he grabbed. “Get that broom over there,” he called out and Labrat immediately raced to the janitor’s closet and grabbed a broom. Ryan dumped the ice cube inside the glass and they raced into the refrigerator and shut the door just as the crowd came inside. Strange fumes began rising from the glass as people rushed past it. Ryan took the broom from Labrat and shoved it in the latch inside the refrigerator as the people outside tried to open it.
“What did you make?,” Labrat asked.
“Basically, knock-out gas,” Ryan explained, “Not the best mixture. I had to eyeball the measurements and I’m a little drunk but it’s the results that count.”
“Don’t you have weapons?”
“Of course but I’m not sure those people out there mean us any harm.”
“How long will it take?,” Labrat listened as the people outside continued to try to break in.
Ryan checked his watch, “Give it about five minutes. If it doesn’t work, there’s a Plan B as always.”
“Why are they doing this?”
A holographic display rose above Ryan’s watch, showing multiple readings, “Well, I don’t detect any advanced technology in the area so that rules out a few theories. Meanwhile, if this situation was pheromone-based, some sort of pathogen, gas, or something similar, we likely would have been affected as well. My current hypothesis is telepathy. Especially going by what I saw upstairs.”
“What did you see upstairs?”
“Glad you asked. When everyone in the bar stopped moving for a second, I noticed a guy in the back with a not-so-subtle cap and sunglasses. Everyone had a blank stare as if in a trance and while I couldn’t see the guy’s eyes, his head was turned toward me slightly, as if trying to see me out of the corner of his eye without being obvious about it. In addition to that, his shoulders were less relaxed than everyone else’s. He wasn’t in a trance and didn’t seem concerned, ergo, he’s probably the one behind all this. During all the commotion, I lost sight of him but I know he isn’t in that crowd outside currently trying to tear us apart so,… all the more reason.”
“But, he didn’t mind-control us. That means… he wanted everyone to kill us.”
“Great detective work, buddy. I’m sure there’s some cheese in this fridge. Help yourself,” Labrat happily began rummaging through the shelves while Ryan could hear the people outside getting quieter, “It was definitely an attack against me and considering this person wanted me to be torn apart by a mob instead of making me jump in front of a car or something, it must be personal.”
Labrat opened a container of cheese and shoved half a block in his mouth, “He’s only after you? Why not me?,” chunks of cheese fell from his mouth as he spoke.
“No offense, buddy, but I think I’ve pissed off more people than you. Besides, no one could ever possibly do any harm to those big, adorable eyes of yours.”
“Do you have an enemy with mind-control?”
“As a matter of fact…,” Ryan stopped as he realized the people outside had gone silent, “Wait,… let’s check the door.”
They peaked outside while wearing towels over their mouths. The gas had mostly dissipated and the people were all unconscious on the floor. “Roll them on their sides in case they get sick,” Ryan told Labrat and they began rolling everyone on to their sides, then made their way upstairs. The police and ambulances arrived shortly and, as Ryan expected, the man with the cap and sunglasses was nowhere to be found.
“Mr. Bennings, do you have any idea who this could have been?,” the first officer on the scene asked.
“My strongest guess would be Miles Caddy,” he answered, making sure to survey the area for further attacks
“And who’s that?”
Ryan looked at the wall of the bar, noticing a Harvard University flyer, “A former professor of mine.”