AP Productions: Formerly Known as Brain Boy #4

Ryan and Labrat sat on a large couch, watching an oversized screen that nearly stretched across the entire wall in his living room. Ryan poured himself a drink, the first for the day but not the last. It was a lot of space for only two people. Onscreen, a reporter introduced the program’s subject, “Sade Sterling is an international model, a member of MENSA and is now starting her own cosmetic company. We’re speaking to Sade months after her tumultuous divorce from Ryan Bennings who was once known as the teenage crime-fighter Brain Boy. Thank you for meeting with us today, Sade.”

Sade Sterling, as her career dictated, was disarmingly beautiful. Her long, dark hair fell in fornt of her face and she pushed it back as she spoke, “Thanks for having me.”

“She looks pretty today,” Labrat turned to Ryan.

“And every day,” he added, his eyes transfixed on the screen.

“I miss seeing her around the house.”

“Me too.”

“But why are we watching this instead of cartoons? It’s making us sad.”

“I just wanted to see what she’d say… Oh, wait, she’s talking about it now.”

“When I met Ryan,” Sade took a deep breathe before continuing, “He was so funny and smart and it was like he always knew how to figure things out,” she gave a smile that conveyed pain, “He never complimented me on my looks. I knew he thought I was beautiful and it was honestly something I’ve heard from so many men but the thing that got me was when… we were talking about something at a party I don’t remember now… but he looked at me and said ‘That’s really fascinating’. He was sincere, too. To get the intellectual attention of someone like that meant far more than if he just said I was attractive.”

“So what happened?”

“I’ll let him explain that if he wants. I’ve decided to move on and focus on my business.”

“There are rumors that a past enemy is persuing him right now. How do you feel about that?”

She smiled and repeated herself, “He always has a way of figuring things out. He’ll win. He has to because, no matter who is coming after him, it’ll never be as bad as his worst enemy.”

“Who is his worst enemy?”

Her face darkened, “… Himself.”

Labrat turned to Ryan again, “What does it mean if you’re your worst enemy?”

Ryan quickly turned the TV off, “It’s just psycho-babble,” he sighed and checked his watch, “I gotta meet Dr. Ansari soon. You gonna be alright here by yourself?”

“Yep. Can I watch cartoons?”

Ryan stood up and tossed him the remote, “Knock yourself out.”

Several minutes later, he sat across from Dr. Ansari in her office, “Do you remember a bad guy in the 90s that called himself The Energizer? I think he got the name from those stupid bunny commercials. Long story short was that he was a criminal that went through one of those underground Neutronium experiments and came out the other side with dynamic strength based on inertia. Essentially, he was a big, strong guy and the more he moved, the stronger and more unstoppable he became. The thing of it was, going by his history, he likely suffered from severe autism in his childhood and after doing some research years later, I know for a fact he was in special-education classes throughout school. He wasn’t evil. He was mentally handicapped,” Ryan took a drag from his vape.

Dr. Ansari flipped through her notes, “If I recall, you were set up to defeat this man? There was a publicity stunt of some sort?”

“That’s correct. After gaining his powers, Energizer robbed banks all the time. That was his thing. The Cavalier tried to stop him and got thrown through a wall, supposedly breaking a few bones in the process. The police couldn’t handle it and Lord knows corporate America could not abide someone robbing their insured banks. Meanwhile, I was coming through the awkward phase of puberty and wasn’t as adorable as I once was. My cartoon was off the air and the merchandise wasn’t selling like it once did. That’s when Craig got this terrible idea that was -”

“Craig Levison, the TV producer you worked for?”

“Yes, that jackass. If you recall, most of my crime fighting during that time involved solving cases for the authorities and occasionally building gear for them despite what my cartoon series presented me as. I wasn’t supposed to be in direct contact with any criminals and certainly no super villains. Craig wanted me to show up to confront Energizer in person as some big High Noon-styled confrontation in Times Square to drum up a little publicity and squeeze a few more drops of milk from that teat before it dried up completely. There were even cheerleaders and a performance from some guy trying to become a hip-hop artist. In Craig’s words, the event would ‘combine pro-wrestling with superheroics’. This is where things start getting really problematic. They knew the Energizer wasn’t… They thought he was just some big, stupid brick like what you might see in a cartoon… or pro-wrestling, I suppose. Levison’s people set up all this advertising on TV and everything to promote this main event, knowing he would catch wind of it and show up. He took it as a challenge and probably figured he would be fighting me, hand-to-hand. The whole thing was designed to make him mad so he would go to the middle of New York and prove himself.”

“He likely didn’t realize it was a trap.”

“Certainly not. The way this trap worked was… Wait, lemme describe the situation more. Levison brought me to Times Square where my gear was already set up for me the night before. I remember getting out of the limo and there were people along the street like it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and, of course, plenty of reporters and cameras.”

“I remember seeing some of this on TV.”

“I don’t know if you know this but the Cavalier was there, too. The one from the 90s, obviously. There were also a lot of police officers and a sergeant by the name of Reins. It was a lot to take in, especially since the Cavalier pretty much showed up out of nowhere, shoved a finger in Levison’s face and started yelling at him. I remember looking up at this big black suit of armor shouting stuff like, ‘This isn’t a TV show, Levison’ and I was too intimidated and confused to say anything. They were going back and forth and I could tell Sgt. Reins was just trying to get Cavalier to step away. Eventually, Cav said something about me just being a kid and Levison, in his infinite wisdom, mentioned that Cavalier himself once had a teenage sidekick so what’s the difference. I’m not sure what the story behind that was but the Cavalier punched him square in the face.”

“I imagine he did,” Dr. Ansari seemed more shocked by this part of the story than Ryan anticipated but he didn’t ask any questions and continued.

“So there we all were: Levison was on the ground with a bloody nose, talking about lawsuits and demanding Cavalier be arrested. Sgt. Reins, meanwhile, was dragging Cavalier across the street alongside a few other officers. It was all, ‘Let’s take a walk. Cool down.’ And again, I was just watching it unfold. It was chaos.”

“How did you feel at the time?”

“At the time?,” he took a drag, “Considering I was set on defeating the bad guy that kicked the Cavalier’s ass, I honestly assumed he was jealous and it fed into my admittedly bloated ego even at a young age. Now, looking back on it, I realize that, whoever it was under that high-tech medieval knight helmet, he was the only person there with enough sense to realize just how wrong it all was.”

“So tell me about this trap.”

“Right, as I mentioned, the Energizer’s power was that the more he moved, the stronger and more unstoppable he would become due to his personal inertia. I had a giant rig set up in the middle of the street. An object would go up this ramp and be hit with rays coming from power couplings on either side of it; in simplest terms, these rays increased an object’s inertia. If you were to roll a ball up there, the rays would hit it automatically and the ball would shoot up over a house.”

“I’m not a scientist by any means but if his powers are based on inertia-”

“The idea was to shoot him into space, yes,” Ryan took a much longer drag, “I had a stage set up at the top of the ramp where I stood so he’d notice me but I calculated it so that he would shoot up over my head and into the sky. He showed up at the other end of the street in the exact intersection as indicated by the stupid commercials and right on the dot in terms of time. Everyone in the audience was cheering and urging him to go get me. It was ridiculous. Especially since the entire plan relied on him showing up at the right place and deciding to take a running start at me as opposed to, say, throwing a bus at my head and that’s ignoring the very real danger to the civilians crowding the sidewalks. At any rate,… he fell for the trap and sprinted toward me, all 800 pounds of him. I remember watching him run up the ramp, sail straight over my head and disappear somewhere in the Stratosphere to the roar of the crowd. Here’s where it gets crazy. Considering all the things I studied concerning his durability, I have no doubt he could survive passing through Earth’s atmosphere. The vacuum of space is a little trickier in terms of survivability as there are a number of things that would happen to a body but, even if he somehow lived through all that, the man had to breathe. I’m certain, he died that day. It’s a pretty gruesome punishment for a guy who could have turned out better if given proper treatment as a child.”

“You were a young boy who was placed in a situation he had no real control over. Even with your intellect, your lack of maturity at the time absolves you of that man’s fate. If anything, both of you were being exploited that day.”

“Did you know that, because of that little stunt show, I got a cameo in an Adam Sandler movie?,” a bittersweet smirk appeared, “I still get residual checks from that thing because it gets played on basic cable a lot… All because I killed a mentally handicapped man in full view of the public.”

“Ryan, you’ve never mentioned this in any of our sessions and, from what I recall reading your memoires, I don’t think you went into this much detail about it.  Can you think of what might’ve caused you to reflect on this memory?”

“I started thinking about it ever since Cady told me I was a destroyer of lives. Obviously, he was referring to his own life being destroyed with me being the catalyst and I don’t feel in anyway guilty regarding that, but… my mind began wandering about the other lives I might’ve destroyed. It’s not something I deliberate on as much as I should, I suppose.”

“Have you also thought about your divorce?”

“Yeah, absolutely.”

“Would you like to talk about that?”

“Again, I had a wonderful marriage with a wonderful woman. I cheated…,” Ryan put the vape back in his jacket, “… Okay, I’ll admit, I went to a prostitute. It wasn’t just about the cheating but also that I paid for sex that gave it that one-two punch.”

“Why would you go to a prostitute while you were married to a famous model who, according to you, was very accommodating in regards to intimacy?”

“No idea, honestly,” Ryan stood up, “I think that’s about time, isn’t it?”

“We have another 15 minutes,” Dr. Ansari didn’t bother checking her watch.

“Oh, it’s just that, after talking about this Energizer situation, I have a good idea as to how to beat Cady.”

“But you don’t have to -,” Dr. Ansari called after him but he was already gone.

At his house, Ryan rushed into his lab-annex, squeezing by cluttered work benches and half-built machines before coming to the storage area. There, he found several boxes and large objects hidden underneath tarps which he began throwing around the room frantically until he found what he was looking for: the Psychic-Bomb. The silver, ovoid object stood almost head-high and Ryan wiped some dust away, then smiled at his now-visible reflection. “This will definitely get media attention,” he thought to himself, “And Cady will take the bait.”

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