Chapter 31

"What do you mean, 'Oops'?" Chris said, fighting back a more violent response. Chris wasn't particularly worried that the Chef was going anywhere considering that the bulk of him was currently underneath a sizeable quantity of Cherry Scented Security Foam. Chris didn't even want to think how the stuff was normally used, although he was glad that he had only used one of the capsules Annie had given him.

"It's, well, uhm, gone." The chef's muffled stammer related. "It was over on the pedestal, but it's not there now, or well, the last time I looked. You know it's very rude to interrupt someone when they're describing their fiendish plot."

Chris turned to yell, "JB check around the pedestal, see if you can find it."

JB quickly checked the area and shrugged the bad news.

"I guess it must have been more advanced than I thought." The Ferrite Chef continued a bit oblivious to the situation, " I suppose that it would go and try to be amongst others of its type, really. I suppose I should have probably talked to Mephisto about that. You want to get things like that while they're still young and fresh. That's when you can do the most with them. They get a bit unruly if they get over ripe. Ooh, speaking of which, could one of you please let me out from under this?"

Not surprisingly, the sudden lack of previous occupants did not offer to help extricate the Chef.

"Hello?"


David Marcolin was feeling rather irritable today. Granted, after spending far too long in coach class and having to deal with US Customs, most would feel the same way. Still, unlike most folks, David had several additional reasons to be less than chipper that fine morning.

"Good Morning David!"

That was one of them. David had no real idea why he had decided to accompany his compatriot and fellow famed Canadian Physicist Jim Evans to a conference in Boise, particularly one that felt it necessary to feature him as the opening speaker and star attraction. It was hard enough trying to deal with his alter ego living in Hydrogen Guy's shadow, but with the heady accolades falling upon Jim, well, it was a wonder he was able to see the sun over Jim's head.

"There you go", Jim offered in an abusively chipper tone, "One cafe mocha and cinnamon raisin bagel, light cream cheese for you, and a fresh hot chocolate and peach danish for me."

David stared at the drink for a second. "No argon?" he asked in a somewhat beleaguered voice.

"Sorry, I asked. Poor lad just sort of seized up. Quite entertaining really. I'm afraid that next time we'll have to bring our own."

"Bring our own? After the full cavity searches I got yesterday?"

"Well, I had my shoes scanned twice." Jim teased and then smiled broadly.

David's mood just grew fouler. "I thought you were trying to lose weight?" David said looking at his companion's menu choices.

"Traveler's dispensation, m'lad." Jim said as he took a sip of his cocoa. "Besides, one little danish won't hurt... "

Jim didn't finish the sentence. Mostly because a flash of gray dove across the table and snatched the danish from his hand. It was followed by a set of sneakers attached to a costume that met with David's color scheme, loud.

Jim looked at his hand then looked to where the gray figure skidded to a stop.

The figure lay there panting for breath, then held up the pastry to his companion. "JB, quickly, diffuse the danish!"

"What!?" his companion cried out. "Are you nuts!?"

"JB! C'mon, you're the one that read the stupid manual!"

"Manual? What manual? You mean those scribblings that fruit loop had all over the wall?"

The gray figure got to his feet. "Well, I'm sorry. I guess I was just a bit occupied at the time."

"Oh, yeah, you were screaming and running around weren't you?"

David cracked a bit of a smile. It was nice to see two well-adjusted heroes.

Jim held up a polite finger, "Excuse me?"

"I was distracting the chef so that you could read the wall." Gray yelled back to his partner. Suddenly the danish uncoiled with an unearthly scream and wrapped itself around the gray figure's head.

"Chris!" JB yelled and grabbed part of the pastry, the Danish Demon flicked part of its tail and sent JB sailing over Jim and David. The two seated scientists watched the less than graceful arc with the eyes of seasoned Olympic judges, then turned back to see Chris, who had somehow managed to extricate himself from the devilish desert with some sort of pink device. With a flip of his wrist, Chris deployed the device into a long pink pole that pinned the creature to the wall. "JB, You ok?" Chris yelled as he kept an eye on the beast.

"Yeah, just got the wind knocked out of me." JB responded.

Chris fought to keep the struggling baked good pinned.

"David, you finished with that?" Jim asked politely as he picked up his own beverage.

"Sure, let me help you." David said as the both stood.

"HEY!" Chris called out, "Get away from that. It'll kill..."

David and Jim both poured their hot beverages onto the pastry and it quickly dissolved into a pile of evil butter and sugar.

"Uhm, thanks." Chris said as he retracted his pole, and quickly stored it. Unfortunately for David, he recognized the more phallic aspects of the device than he wished he had.

"Always glad to be of service to a fellow in need." Jim said as he smiled again.

"Sure, thanks again Mr..."

"Doctor, actually, Dr. James Evans. This is my associate, Dr. David Marcolin"

"The Dr. Evans!?" JB said in mild disbelief as he brushed bits of booth off himself. Jim smiled like a celebrity as his head inflated just a bit more.

"You realize that was probably the dumbest move for someone to do. If that coffee trick hadn't worked..." Chris began to chide.

"Oh, my associate and I have had similar problems in the past. We work at a University, in the
cafeteria, well, it leaves much to be desired."

"This is so cool," JB bubbled, "Oh wow, Dr. Evans, "I read your paper on the fundamentals of hydrogen and modern super string theory and I've got to say that it was gripping."

"Oh, that old thing." Dr. Evans dismissed. David could feel the bile rise.

"But I'm curious why you kept referring to anti-neutrinos as 'nasty little crabs'"

"Uhm, Lobsters actually" Dr. Evans said a bit uncomfortably.

Chris briskly grabbed his brother and dragged him toward the door. "Thank you for your assistance citizen, enjoy your visit, and be sure to tip your waitress." he called over his shoulder and the protesting JB.

"Bright lad." Dr. Evans commented.

"Yeah, he managed to drag JB out before we all died of boredom" David returned snidely.


Thomas "Mack" Riley McGinty had a certain "knack" for growing potatoes. Some said that it was because he came from a long line of strong agricultural families back in Ireland. Others said that it came from his love of long hard toil in the fields to raise the best, most naturally disease resistant spud. Of course there were the few that said it was because he talked to potatoes and in fact, married one in the spring of 1894.

Not surprisingly, it was the last group that actually had it right.

Still, it wasn't until one hundred years later, when a time capsule was uncovered that T.R. McGinty's personal diary was discovered. A great many details about the world-renowned botanist and philanthropist were uncovered shortly afterwards. The world learned that the "Lucky Potato" he carried in his coat pocket (the very same one that he had drilled a large thumb hole into so that he could entertain the children of the neighborhood) was used for, well, more than just puppet shows and have them pet it for good luck.

No group felt the bitter slap of reality worse than the McGinty High School Spud Luckers.

Of course a great deal of this was lost to Mark Giovonni who kept himself to the basement computer lab. Mark was a non-descript high school sophomore with no social life, and well on his way to becoming yet another moderately well paid nameless engineer for some technology farm.

The machine next to Mark started acting up again. Betzi Williams gave an anguished pout. She was blonde, beautiful and trying to finish her state mandated computer literacy course. "Like, I can't believe this. This is the seventh time today I've like gotten the Ox-Cooooooooooos error. If Thad were here he'd know what to do."

Mark doubted that very much. Thad was most likely hanging around the Seven-Eleven trying to get strangers to buy him beer. Still, he knew better than to try to even look Betzi straight in the eye. They were in totally separate worlds. Betzi would have more to do with a garden slug than Mark.

Still, Mark held onto the one thought that got him through days like this. Maybe, just maybe, years from now, with high school well beyond both of them, just maybe then Mark will see her naked in Playboy.

Mark reached over and touched the case. He could feel the problem, the way that a violin player could feel the notes from his instrument; he could almost reach out and see the rigid structures that sent electrons flowing along like rivers. In his mind he saw the problem, a small chip had a slight imperfection that was causing it to just barely alter the bus speed. He thought about what it was doing and envisioned the pathway straightening out, allowing the flow to progress.

"Oh, Cool!" Betzi exclaimed in surprise, "it's back!" She continued gleefully unaware of what Mark had done.

Mark looked under the table. It was a new box. That meant he'd have to see about making the usual improvements to it later.


The tan Chevy Malibu pulled up next to Annie's House of Bondage. Deuterium Boy shifted the package on his lap and peered out the rental car's window. He looked back at his partner sceptically.

"Are you sure about this?"

Hydrogen Guy put the car into park and shut off the engine.

"Sure. On the phone that Annie guy said it was right next to his shop."

"You're sure he wasn't just trying to lure us into his leather-clad clutches?"

"Let's just go," said Hydrogen Guy.

They opened the doors and climbed out of the car. Deuterium Boy continued eyeing the building uncertainly.

"There aren't any lights on," said Deuterium Boy, "Are you sure they're home?"

"If they're not," said Hydrogen Guy, "we'll just break in and wait for them."

"You like doing these things the hard way, don't you?"

"Ah, how much security could they need here in Boise?" Hydrogen Guy waved off his concern. "Besides," he said. He pointed to the bulky object tied up in yellow cellophane that Deuterium Boy carried. "We're bringing them a fruit basket."


The door buzzed a second time as Chris limped blearily into the loft's living area. He'd already rammed his foot into two separate pieces of furniture. If whoever was at the door wasn't bleeding from a mortal wound, he though, he'd ram his other foot into them.

He found the light switch and illuminated the room. He reached the door and, with blatant disregard for the basics of home security, unlocked it and flung it open.

Two men were standing on the doorstep dressed in some kind of pirate outfits. One was in blue and black with a red tie and a yellow feather in his hat. The other was in a riot of mismatched red, orange, and green and was holding some kind of gift basket.

"HAPPY KWANZAA!" they shouted in unison.

Chris slammed the door.

"JB!" he called as he headed back to bed, "It's for you!"

A few minutes later, JB headed back down the stairs and toward the front door. He opened it, not exactly knowing what to expect, but figuring since Chris wasn't screaming, more than likely it wasn't hostile.

"No, I'm not going to shout it a second time. He might be armed!"

JB stood there for a second, his eyes only slightly wider than his jaw.

"Ah, JB! Good to meet you. I'd offer you a banana, but I'm afraid they're probably bruised beyond their usefulness right now." Hydrogen Guy offered in his usual, jovial manner.

"Aaarrrggh-hheeegg-ggraaarrg-aaaak" JB returned in a less than jovial, and more like near catatonic state.

Deuterium Boy leaned over to Hydrogen Guy and whispered from the side of his mouth, "Is that normal?"

"I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that we should start worrying if the first thing he says is 'Braaaiiinnnss'!"

"Hiiigg-hyyggg-duuuh" JB managed to stammer.

"I told you we should have gotten the gift assortment of brains instead of fruit."

"What are you talking about? That's the basket the hotel left for you."

"HYDROGEN BOY AND DEUTERIUM GUY." JB finally blurted out.

"See, I told you that sounds worse than Hydrogen Guy and Deuterium Boy."

JB suddenly felt significantly a great deal shorter as the taste of shoeleather spread through his mouth. A period of more than uncomfortable silence followed, and was interrupted by a voice heard only by JB. 'I don't want to be one to tell you how you should treat your guests, but I believe it would be proper etiquette to invite them in.'

"Ah, right Karl." JB replied a bit uncomfortably.

"Karl? " HG said as he raised an eyebrow.

"I told you to take it easy on the coffee. Next thing you know you'll be playing drums in a pick-up band." "Uhm, Come in, won't you?" JB said, desperately trying to recover what little composure he could. The three made their way up the stairs and into the main loft.

The loft was significantly less than what the Diatomic Duo had normally come to expect. The furnature, what little there was, was mostly used or covered with pizza boxes and take out Chinese boxes. "Rooms" (if they could be called that) were divided up by large cardboard boxes that were festooned by newspaper cutouts. Toward the center was a rather large... thing.. At first Hydrogen Guy presumed that it was their computer, but the dancing lights and blinking effects on the front reminded him more of an overpriced stereos he'd seen in some catalog. There was a small television sitting next to a minimally stocked kitchen. One of the antennas had been replaced by a length of aluminum foil.

The total area of the place could have fit in one of the smaller closets of the Hydrogen Cave.

Possibly the one nearest the garbage chute.

"You're both single, aren't you?" DB said as he glanced about the room.

"Excuse me?" JB said as he pulled a few various beverages from the fridge. He carried them back to the main sitting area. "Can I offer you something to drink or eat? We've got water, juice, wait, no we don't, uhm, water, uh, Carffee."

DB perked up a bit. "You do?"

"Yeah, it's diet Carffee." JB quickly opened the bottle and handed it to DB, amazingly, not spilling most of the contents in the process, possibly due to a bit of well hidden atomic speed.

"I can't tell you how excited we are to have two real superheroes here."

"You don't have to. We sort have noticed."

"Oh, sorry, Cheese-Nip?"

"No, thank you, I'm trying to cut down."

"I take it that's the Grayhound?" DB indicated to the darkened corner behind several large boxes.

"Yeah, don't mind him, he's just a bit cranky in the mornings."

DB looked at his watch, "It's eleven thirty."

"Ok, so sometimes it extends a bit beyond that. It was a long couple of days. I'm sure he'd be just excited, if he were more conscious. So, what brings you two to Boise?" JB said innocently then immediately jumped to pure panic. "OH MY GOD! THE CRUSTACEAN IS HERE??"

Hydrogen Guy was up and twirling around looking for his nemesis. "Where? WHERE?"

 

JB stopped. "Uhm, don't you know? I mean, isn't that the reason why you're here?" JB said growing confused.

"What? No!" HG said a bit annoyed. "Look, we were just in the area on separate business and figured we should stop by and say 'Hello'. Look, if this is a bad time or something, we can come back some other time."

"Nononono!" JB said quickly trying to correct things from continuing down hill. He slumped down a bit. "I'm sorry. It's just that you two have always been big heroes to me. I've been following everything you've been doing for years. I've been dreaming of finally meeting the world famous Hydrogen Guy and when I do, I blow it. I suck."

Hydrogen Guy softened a bit. "Aw, now look, sure we've got powers far beyond those of mortal men, and have fought villains of nearly every shape and size, and sure we've even been places that no human has ever been before, but really, deep down, we're just a couple of average guys. Once not too long ago, we were just like you."

"No we weren't." Deuterium Boy corrected. Hydrogen Guy kicked him to keep him quiet.

"So, let's just start over again. Happy Kwanza!"

JB laughed. "You realize that was in December, right?"

"Not for Canada, it's not." Hydrogen Guy smiled broadly. DB just rolled his eyes.

The rest of the afternoon was spent by JB listening in rapt attention to Hydrogen Guy relating reasonably accurate tales of derring do, occasionally interrupted by a somewhat groggy Grayhound shuffling past to the bathroom. Despite JB's previous claims, the Grayhound showed a notable lack of enthusiasm toward the guests.

"DB, wake up." Deuterium Boy, snorted awake, having drifted off to sleep sometime ago. He looked around for JB and didn't see him.

"Wh.. where?"

"He's in the back, getting something."

Nearly on cue JB turned returned back to the sitting area holding a container. "Here it is. This is the stuff that Chris uses. He swears that it cleans out his sinuses." He handed the container to DB who looked at it in a somewhat confused way.

"Right, that should really help DB keep from clearing his sinuses like that."

DB looked at HG still not understanding. HG reached down next to DB "Ou-yay ere-way oring-snay" he whispered to his compatriot.

Things were collected, goodbye's exchanged, and various promises to visit again were made.

With the guests gone, Chris ventured out to the main area.

He fished out an apple from the basket and took a bite. "You're pathetic, you know." He said as his brother topped the stairs.

"What do you mean?" JB said a bit defensively.

"Oh, nothing. Chris remarked. But I'm guessing they know the reason you call yourself 'Puppyboy'".


"JB's a delightful kid, isn't he?"

Deuterium Boy gave his partner a significant look as Hydrogen Guy helped him through their hotel window. Hydrogen Guy was familiar with that expression - not quite a glare, but definitely not a look of unconditional support. In his experience, it was usually followed by some dryly sarcastic sentiment.

He wasn't disappointed.

"It was hard to tell," said Deuterium Boy as he shut the window and pulled the blinds, "somebody else was talking the whole time."

Hydrogen Guy ignored him, as he usually did when he got like this. "How do you know, you slept through most of it." He pulled off his hat and mask and tossed them on one of the two beds. Jim Evans, world-renowned theoretical physicist, continued the conversation. "No, I mean, he seems quite eager. Eager to learn from the more experienced heroes, eager to take on all Scum and Villainy for the benefit of the innocent. Boyo, was he ever eager..."

"Uh huh," said Deuterium Boy. He'd discarded his own mask and was in the process of disassembling his costume. He carefully folded his cape and tucked it in the rear of his handkerchief drawer.

"Their set-up's interesting, a little spartan, but it seems like they're on their way, so to speak," Hydrogen Guy continued. "Can't say I was too impressed with the Grayhound, though. He's not what I'd call sociable..." He held his own cape out at arm's length and was brushing it with a special soft-haired brush he carried for the purpose.

David Marcolin turned and gave him another look. "Maybe he didn't find the Wit and Wisdom of the Incomparable Hydrogen Guy quite as fascinating as you did."

Evans paused while hanging his shirt. "Are you implying something here, David?"

"Jim, all you did for two and a half hours was regale JB with anecdotes illustrating how wonderful you are. It was like listening to Captain Toronto at the last Justice Council wine and cheese."

"What?! Dave, you wound me!"

"Seriously! It was like having a fanboy to listen to you set you off on your biggest ego trip to date."

"I was NOT on an 'ego trip'! He wanted to here about our careers from my perspective, and I obliged him. We both got a kick out of it. If the Grayhound -- "

"You remember how insufferable Captain Toronto was when we first met him?"

"That's different."

"How?"

"... Well, okay, maybe I did go overboard a bit..."

"Ah ha!"

"But I wouldn't have gone on if he hadn't let me. And we were always a lot more civil to the Big Blue Fromage than the Grumphound was today."

"Well, maybe he was having a bad day. Having people shouting 'Happy Kwanzaa' at you first thing in the morning can do that..."

"It was your idea... you want the bathroom first?"

"Nah, go ahead, I'll finish getting changed."

Evans finished hanging up his slacks and, grabbing his pajamas, headed into the bathroom clad in 'HG' monogrammed boxers and T-shirt.

"Thanks... well, whatever. No harm done, I guess, and we're heading back to Maple Ridge tomorrow. But nonetheless ..."

He waved his toothbrush pointedly from the doorway.

"... I'm striking Boise off my list of desirable vacation spots."

He shut the door behind him. David shrugged, and went back to stuffing his costume into his laundry bag.


Mark stepped out into the night. It was late, which was nothing new for him. He waited patiently for the bus leaning against a post. He kept himself amused by playing with the stoplight timings. Mark wasn't exactly sure how it worked, but he found that if he pressed on certain parts of the pole, the lights would change to whatever color he wanted. No one else could duplicate the trick or would believe him if he said anything, but Mark didn't mind. Vengeance was best served cold.

A few minutes later, the bus pulled up, and he got on. Half an hour later, he was home.

He thudded his way up the stairs past his parent's room.

"Mark?" his father called out, "Is that you?"

Mark grunted.

"You shouldn't come home so late, Mark. It's not good for you."

Mark grunted again and closed the door to his room. His PC came to life and displayed the fact that he had several email messages (mostly spam) and that he finished thirty SETI packets today. He was tired, so he skipped reading the mail. Tomorrow was Saturday, a good day to go to the mall and get out a bit of frustration.


Well, that went better than I thought. Here I was thinking that he'd drag it on forever and force folks to bounce back and forth between here and some other site if they wanted to make heads or tails out of anything.

What do you mean "No, that's the point."

You really expect folks to do that? My God, they get enough crap here, you honestly expect them to go to another site to get even more??

Mike? I thought his name was Mark something or other...

Oh MIC'!

Will Chris get scratched off Hydrogen Guy's
Christmas Card List?

Who is the mysterious Mark and why do we
care about some surly seventeen year old
computer nerd?

And does this have anything to do with
talking to dead guys or was the
Author to damn lazy to come up
with a better title?

Ok the last one is pretty obvious.

Tune in next Friday to The Files of Hydrogen Guy for the next thrilling episode:

Episode 72: Crossing Over
or
Boise on My Mind(s)

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