Five years ago, the Second Phase scientist known as Doc Serenity gazed at the large, ovoid, metallic structure in the center of the abandoned warehouse. The Psychic Bomb was his pièce de résistance: a weapon designed to create a psychic wave within a 50 mile radius that would destroy any living beings with an organic brain while anyone with cybernetic brain implants or digital brains would survive, which, of course, mostly meant high-ranking members of the Second Phase. He removed his goggles, revealing opaque, cybernetic eyes and reached out with a rubber-gloved hand, stroking the mirror-like surface of the weapon. His engineers stood silently behind him. “You’ve done great work, thank you for your assistance. I hope that all you men and women have earned your implants,” he told them, “If not, your sacrifice will be remembered this day.” He turned to them, raising his hands, “Abandon the flesh! Enter the Second Phase!”. They responded, “Abandon the flesh. Enter the -“. Suddenly, an EMP pulse burst above the building, shattering windows and throwing Doc Serenity and most of his men to the dirty floor where they began screaming in pain as burn marks began appearing along their limbs (or in the case of Doc Serenity, around his eyes). The Psychic Bomb, meanwhile, immitted massive sparks and the lights above shut off. There were a few engineers unaffected as they had no cybernetic implants, but all they could do was watch helplessly. The front door flew open and Ryan Bennings stepped in, holding a kerosene lamp and wielding a riot-control rifle, “Sometimes, it pays to go low-tech.” The men who weren’t already on the floor reached in to their coats and produced energy-based weapons, which elicited a chuckle from Ryan, “EMP devices kinda makes your plasma-based weapons hilariously useless,” he opened fire with rubber bullets which hit their targets and sent them to the floor as well, “Taking out cyborgs using EMPs is the tricky part as they’re mostly organic. An explosively pumped flux compression generator creating a directional EMP did the trick.” As Doc Serenity lay reeling, Ryan stood over him, “So much for machines taking over.” He shot another rubber bullet between Serenity’s legs which caused him to gasp and cross his legs in pain. “Oh, so you still have those,” Ryan cocked his head to the side curiously, “I should’ve guessed… being anti-reproduction doesn’t equate to being anti-sex. Good for you. You should do well in prison.”
A glowing rectangular portal opened under Serenity and he sank through the floor, disappearing behind a doorway of light while Ryan could hear the voice of Gate, the escape agent for the Second Phase, “Sorry, Doc. Looks like we gotta fight another day.” The door disappeared just as Ryan made a frustrated shot at the floor, “Screw you, disembodied voice,” he turned and looked at the Psychic Bomb in the middle of the room, then turned to the groaning scientists on the floor, “I’m keeping this!”
In the present, Ryan was busy. The art gallery rental was easy enough to procure for his installation entitled Memories of a Child Celebrity. He made sure the public knew he would be using the Psychic Bomb as part of his art project as that would garner a great deal of publicity, both positive and negative, which would hopefully gain Miles Cady’s interest (the allure of a telepathic bomb would be particularly interesting, Ryan had hoped). The next step in his plan involved meeting people he didn’t wish to speak to.
His parents lived in a modest retirement community in Carbondale, Il., near their hometown. While Ryan rarely spoke to them in his adult life, he still paid their rent and had recently hired a maid. He flew to Southern Illinois in his air-car with Labrat in tow. For the visit, Labrat wore a T-shirt that read “Grandma’s special little man” and he sat in their kitchen, happily eating a cheese sandwich. Meanwhile, Ryan spoke to his parents, Jack and Linda, in the living room. He wore a metallic skull cap with a set of LED lights running down the center.
“What’s with the hat?,” Linda Bennings asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Ryan reached into his bag and removed two stacks of stappeled paper and a pen.
“That cleaning lady don’t speak English,” Jack Bennings grumbled, “I kept telling your mother you did it on purpose but she don’t believe me.”
“How was Ryan supposed to know?,” Linda grumbled back, “It’s not like he visits enough to know what’s going on around here.”
“Actually, Dad is being surprisingly astute right now,” Ryan laid the paper and pen on the coffee table in front of them, “I absolutely hired a maid who spoke Portuguese as a native language and did so on purpose. Although there is one minor correction: she can speak English. I just paid her extra not to.”
“Why do you gotta treat us like that?,” Linda looked solemn, almost as if she were about to cry despite her dry eyes, a trick Ryan knew all too well, “After all we done for you?”
“As much as I’d love to rehash old arguments, I just need a favor from you two,” he slid the two stacks of paper across the table, “I’m doing a big art show in New York.”
“You’re an artist now? I thought you were a scientist,” a smirk of disdain appeared on Jack’s face, “You think you’re DaVinci or something?”
“DaVinci’s designs were mostly impractical and I’m not a painter,” Ryan indicated the stacks of paper in front of them, “This art installation will involve video footage of the both of you. The details are in the contracts.”
Linda placed her reading glasses on the bridge of her nose and took a look, “So part of this thing is you telling everybody what bad parents we are. Like we’re the bad guys?”
“I’m not showing anything you haven’t put out there already.”
“Yeah, but you still make us look bad,” Jack added.
“You once used my grant money to gamble at a riverboat casino… but yeah, I’m out of line.”
Linda scribbled her signature on the contract, “I don’t care. Take it.”
“Screw it,” Jack’s signature followed.
“I’ll send a fruit basket on Christmas,” Ryan quickly shoved the contracts back in his bag.
The next day, Ryan found himself in the office of Craig Levison in LA. Craig was in his mid-60s but still wore his hair long despite the receding hairline and dyed it brown to unsuccessfully appear youthful. He looked over the contract on his desk while Ryan sat across from him, still wearing the silver cap with LED lights. Labrat sat next to him, wearing a t-shirt with the logo for the show Big Bang Theory (Levison had a long-standing feud with Chuck Lorre).
“Ryan, you know you don’t need me to sign this,” he put the contract down on his desk, “You want to use footage from an interview I did for 60 Minutes? You can get permission from the studio.”
“Maybe I’m just covering all bases in case of a lawsuit. Maybe I wanted to come down here to reminisce about old times.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you miss me,” he quickly signed the document as he took note of Ryan’s metallic skull cap, “By the way, what’s with the hat?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
He handed the document over, not waiting for Ryan to take them before plopping them at the edge of his desk, “I don’t know what game you’re playing but I don’t have time for it.”
“I’m sure you’re busy with the Upstarts program. How’s that going?”
Craig grimaced, knowing that Ryan didn’t actually care, “It’s going quite well. We’ve finalized our candidates.”
“And soon those teenagers will go through an agonizing process to receive powers via Neutronium. A great start to your new multimedia franchise.”
“I don’t have to validate myself to you, Ryan,” he stood up, buttoning his blazer in frustration, “I have the full support of the government as well as the parents of those teens.”
“Just like me when I was a kid, huh?”
Craig then unbuttoned his blazer in frustration, “If that’s all you need from me today, I kindly ask you to get the hell out of my office.”
“Always a pleasure,” Ryan got up and left, followed by Labrat.
That weekend, Ryan was set to open his art installation. He stood in the center of the small gallery in Soho, the Psychic Bomb sitting in the corner surrounded by blank screens along the wall. The exhibit would be open in a an hour and the gallery was empty except for Ryan, but soon, a figure entered. Sean Pierce casually strolled across the room, wearing a fine suit that easily let him blend in on the streets of New York, which was expected of one of the world’s foremost spies. Ryan waited for other IMD agents to show up but none did.
“Director Pierce of the Interpol Metahuman Division,” Ryan smiled and shook his hand with mock-warmth, “I didn’t expect to see you in person. If you wanted something from me, I thought you’d send a few of your underlings. Where’s the team?”
“Funny you should ask. I nearly sent a few Badges here,” Pierce had an air of charm despite Ryan’s mockery, “Then I realized you would likely say something to the effect of, ‘Why did Director Pierce send a team of underlings instead of meeting me in person,’ so I decided on making it simpler for all involved.”
“I’m not sure what sort of publicity stunt you have here, Bennings, but it goes without saying that it would get the attention of the IMD. You are aware of the recent attacks made by the Second Phase and yet, here you are with the bloody Psychic Bomb as an art piece. Not only is the Second Phase attack fresh in everyone’s mind but you go and use a weapon from a previous attack?”
“I knew using it would raise a few eyebrows but, as always, I came prepared,” Ryan punched up the schematics of the Psychic Bomb on his phone and showed it to Pierce, “Here’s what we’re dealing with right now. Perfectly safe for a room full of limousine liberals and their artistic sensibilities. This egg has no yolk.”
“Let’s not beat around the bush, lad. Someone is coming after you and I have no doubt this is an attempt to lure him out in the open. The media has covered this quite extensively, which is precisely what you wanted. You’ve been a bit like the proverbial bull in the china shop of late. You should know we are aware of that little stunt at the National Guard base and we are not as forgiving as the American military.”
“Wow, that says a lot,” Ryan straightened his glasses, “Once again, everyone will be safe from harm… Well, except for me and I’m sure there are a lot of people who’d enjoy seeing my head explode anyway.”
“Just remember, I have a very powerful telepath on my team and she can end this if it gets out of hand. I hope you can manage this situation better than you manage your love life.”
“That was a cheap shot and also… You were Agent Crown, or one of them at least. How many buxom Russian spies did you seduce and refuse to call in the morning?”
“Most of those stories were propaganda… mostly,” he turned and left the gallery, “We’ll be watching, as always.”
An hour later, the show started. The Psychic Bomb remained in the corner with screens on the walls leading up to it with each one depicting looped footage: the intro to the Brain Boy cartoon, an internet meme showing the cartoon versions of Ryan and Labrat eating pizza while an audio clip of his memoir played (one involving Ryan describing his first sexual experience), home video of Ryan and his parents celebrating his 8th birthday in their home, another clip showing the court case against his parents and Levison, his 18th birthday being celebrated in Ibiza Spain (which included multiple drunk and naked party-goers), and an interview with Craig Levison in which he dishonestly claimed to have discovered Ryan and wanted to use his talents to fight crime. There was one, final screen displaying a news clip concerning his marriage to Sade, followed by a clip describing the divorce that came after. A placard was placed on the floor in front of the Psychic Bomb describing how the bomb was “exploding with memories of a lost childhood and the emptiness of fame”. Ryan considered it pretentious but knew it would get an audience, even if most of them weren’t allowed to see it.
Outside, Labrat stood in front of the door leading into the gallery, wearing a shirt featuring dogs playing poker. A few New York socialites began to enter, only for Labrat to politely extend an arm, “Sorry, it’s invite, only.” The young man in front of the small group scoffed, “Invite only? That wan’t on the website.” Labrat shrugged and the group of young people eventually stormed off. It had been that way all night with Labrat refusing to let anyone enter, including art critics and reporters. Soon, he noticed a familiar face walking toward him wearing a cap and sunglasses. Labrat quietly stepped aside, letting the man in. “Cady is going inside,” he whispered into his earpiece, “Be careful, Ryan.”
Cady came through the doors, taking a look at the screens along the walls with mild interest. Ryan had been standing in front of the Psychic Bomb, waiting patiently, “Sorry, I didn’t get any footage of our time at Harvard. Good times, though.” Cady removed his hat and sunglasses as they finally came face-to-face, “Guess I won’t be needing these,” he looked around at the empty gallery, “All this was for me, wasn’t it you little shit?” Ryan began to open his mouth but Cady raised a finger and said one word, “Stop.” Ryan complied, his arms dropping at his side as a dull expression crossed his face. “You ruined my life,” Cady began to pace around the room, his eyes occasionally catching glimpses of the videos along the wall, “Not only did I lose my career but I was sent to prison, o e suited for so-called supervillains. I was locked up there alongside megalomaniacs and super-powered serial killers. And for what? Getting caught with a co-ed? I wasn’t the first professor to have a little tryst, nor would I be the last. There were people in that prison far worse than I.” As he paced, he began to sense memories associated with the screens and pictures around the room, “You surrounded yourself with these bad memories. Even though I have you under control, I can still sense them. Was this your way of trying to… I don’t know… distract me? Perhaps focusing on all this pain would somehow give you the fortitude to push past my power? Maybe you want me to feel sorry for you as much as you feel sorry for yourself?” He came close to a screen depicting his divorce, “Or perhaps you just enjoy misery and none of this was meant for me after all.”
Cady opened his jacket, producing a gun, “You’ve always been surrounded by misery, haven’t you, Bennings? All that supposed intellect, the fame, the money… it all meant shit in the end, didn’t it?” He pulled the slide of the gun and handed it to Ryan, “Someone like you was bound to end up this way.” Ryan silently took the gun, holding it by his side. “I think it’s time to put this life of misery to an end,” Cady’s eyes lit up and a deranged smile spread across his face, “Put yourself out of everyone’s misery.”
2 thoughts on “AP Productions: Formerly Known as Brain Boy #5”
That’s so delightfully Silver Age Villainy.
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You’re really gonna like the next storyline of Cavalier. Lots of Golden Age, Silver Age and 90s Grimdark throughout.