"Would you care for more Herbal Tea, Mr Guy?"
"No, no thank you. I'm still working on this delicious cup." Hydrogen Guy lied.
"How about you Mr. Hound. I see your cup is empty?"
Hydrogen Guy was probably the only one who noticed Chris' wince. Chris managed a faint smile and graciously accepted the second helping.
"It's a special blend of mint, wooly thyme and hemp that I find helps calm your inner chakras." Chris was happy that there was some sort of usefulness to the beverage, because it tasted like boiled carpet samples.
The woman offering the delightless beverage was Starflower, the mother of the person both Hydrogen Guy and the Grayhound were there to see. Mark, the one recently identified as the silicon Elemental was a seventeen-year old kid with mussed hair who was favoring his left side.
"I gotta say that I really envy you."
That came from a bald, beared gentleman who obviously had his life epiphany in the late 70's and never saw fit to go much beyond that. The comment was clearly addressed to Hydrogen Guy.
The Canadian hero was far from his peak presentation. His blue shirt and black pants were torn in several places and still bore the light dust of being in the center of Boise when several hundred tones of quartz came to a sudden shattering end. His hands were heavily bandaged from the burns he received helping Chris create what may have been the worlds largest and quite possibly most embarrassing high voltage mineral sex change. He feared what his dry cleaning bill would be for his cape.
The only bright spot was that his bandaged hands made it nearly impossible to pick up the cup of tepid tea.
Still, anyone being even remotely envious of him was enough to raise an eyebrow, even if it was under his mask.
"Yeah, you're Canadian, right?"
"Well, yes." Hydrogen Guy said, not quite sure where this was going.
"You've got Socialized Medicine, man! That totally rules! Man, I just know we're going to be so screwed when we get the bill for Mark's injury."
Chris raised an eyebrow at that.
"I mean so he gets a piece of shrapnel from that big crystal thing blowing up.."
"I told you Rufus, that wasn't quartz. Quartz is a healing crystal that reflects love. It's not like it was hiddenite or anything," Starflower said with a bit of a laugh.
She laughed alone.
"Uhm, about the shard thing." Chris said somewhat guiltily, "I'm pretty sure that USHA would be covering things like that. I think the hospitals already filed the paperwork.. Wow, that's going to be expensive."
"Nah" Hydrogen Guy said with a shrug, "the city makes up the damages in tourism. Sure, they're annoyed at first, but they get over it really fast once the yokels come to gawk, and the souvenir folks start popping up, then there's the movie crews and "
"You say that like you've got experience destroying cities." Chris said more than a bit skeptically.
Hydrogen Guy quickly changed the topic. "Mr and Mrs " Hydrogen Guy suddenly realized that he had no idea what their last names were. Chris laughed a bit but realized that he had no idea either.
"Oh. Last names are so restrictive!" Rufus said. "They saddle us with the baggage of our ancestors. We live in the now."
"Oh" Hydrogen Guy said, trying to understand, then failing. "Ok, uhm, Rufus. If you don't mind, my associate and I have something we need to discuss with your son in private."
"We prefer not having secrets in this household." Starflower said.
"Very well", said Chris, "So, Mark, I appreciate you're willing to talk to us about Everquest strategies. The biggest problem I have is with trying to keep my tradesman skills up but not lose all my platinum. You know I though being a half elf baker would be good as a thief, but now I'm just "
Rufus held up his hands, "Whoa! Video games. I'm out."
"Me too. You boys have fun."
Mark's parents quickly left the room Hydrogen Guy turned to Chris with an appreciative smile. "Nice trick."
Chris shrugged, "Sometimes being anti-social has its good points."
"You're really not here to talk about Everquest are you?" Mark stated more than asked.
"No, no we're not" Chris replied. "What we're here to talk about, is you." Chris spoke in clear tones, not upset or angry, simply in a manner that stated he was interested in solving a problem. "I have to admit that you're not an easy one to solve."
Chris leaned forward and locked Mark in his gaze, and looked a bit like a chess master at work. Hydrogen Guy decided to sit back and Chris speak, provided he didn't say anything too stupid. Mark looked a bit blasé.
"I'm guessing you're a rather hot property that no one really knows how to handle." Chris began. "Wait, no that's not quite correct. We know of at least one individual who would stop at nothing to see you dead, and more than powerful enough to ensure that it happens. Something that, I trust, you have little interest in seeing come to bear."
Mark looked a bit less blasé and began to look a bit more uncomfortable.
"I presume that the thing you need most is some form of training. Your recent efforts were impressive, to say the least, but obviously not quite under control, were they?"
Mark shook his head.
"No, I didn't think so. The obvious choice in this matter would be Masked Molecule sitting next to me.."
"Hey!" Hydrogen Guy verbally winced.
" but that would mean bringing you to Canada..."
"I don't want to go to Canada," Mark whined.
" and into the direct crosshairs of the one person who'd most like to see you dead."
Mark blanched a bit.
"Mind you, the proper course of action for me to take would be for me to place you under arrest for the destruction of several blocks of Boise and send you to the court system."
Mark finished blanching.
"But that's an even quicker way to see you dead. You're quite a curious problem, Mark."
Mark was more than a bit scared. "If I'm such a problem, why don't you just kill me and be done with it?" he barked back.
Chris smiled. "I have reasons. A few of them are: one, I owe the big blue gasbag seated next to me several major favors at this point. He has expressed an earnest interest in making sure you stay alive. The very least I can do is to make sure that remains the case. Mind you, if you go and do something stupid that gets yourself killed, like say, try out your powers in some uncontrolled manner, then there's not a good deal I'll be able to do to save you. Do you understand?"
Mark nodded. Hydrogen Guy smiled a bit.
"Two, a good number of folks seem to be very interested in you, none the least of which is my personal nemesis, Bob."
"Hey, Bob's a nice guy." Mark said very defensively.
"Rest assured that he may seem that way, but it's probably due to the fact that you're worth more to him living than not. Frankly, I'm amazed that he let us find you so easily."
"I'm not." Mark said and pointed toward Hydrogen Guy, "He called him."
Hydrogen guy began whistling randomly and trying to look innocent. Chris thought about his now voided fifty-dollar exchange, closed his eyes, collected himself, and then smiled with appreciation. "As I said, he's my personal nemesis." His gaze returned to Mark.
"As I said, you're quite interesting to a good number of people. That, naturally, effects my ability to carry out the first point, the one about keeping you out of coffins. Still, I have a feeling that you may be more interesting than any of us imagine, provided you can keep yourself considerably less interesting to anyone else."
Chris continued to sit and stare at Mark. Mark fidgeted a bit. "So.. So what do you suggest?"
"How do you feel about taking up a hobby; say, photography?"
"I'm still not sure what you've got planned, but I can't see why I should stop you." Dr. James Evans took another mouthful of pasta. "Hmm, this IS good."
The four sat around the dining room table of Chris' loft, sans costumes. Except for JB, who still managed to wear bits of his regardless.
"Gunax lbh, vg'f n qryvtug gb or noyr gb znxr fbzrguvat sbe fbzrbar jub qbrfa'g oryvrir gur urvtug bs phvfvar vf bayl ernpurq jura gur zvpebjnir fgbcf.", the short green alien in a kitchen smock grumbled.
Chris glared at Zrng. "Don't you have to BE somewhere?"
"Fher, V'yy tb fhyx va gur xvgpura gura jvgu gur bgure uverq uryc. Bbu, guvf tvirf zr n punapr gb ohea fbzr zber fgnvaf bagb gur enatr sbe lbh gb fpeho hc!" the alien said with a bit of delight and scampered toward the kitchen area.
"I have no idea what he just said," Dr. David Marcolin remarked as he watched the alien carefully spoon cheese onto a burner, "but I have the odd feeling he's enjoying making your life difficult."
Chris glared at the back of the alien's head. "Don't worry, he is."
"Getting back to the matter at hand, what exactly are you planning." Jim asked.
Chris put down his fork and looked at Jim, much the way that he looked at Mark earlier. "I plan on keeping my promises. Are you aware of all of the abilities of Hans Raoul?"
"Of course I.. well, most of.. ok, no." Jim admitted.
"Fair enough, neither do I. So I can't exclude the fact that he may be psychic or have some listening device that is able to capture information that we don't want him to have."
Jim was a bit annoyed. Partly because Chris wouldn't tell him and partly because Chris was also right. The less that Jim knew the better it was for Mark.
Chris smiled a bit at Jim's consternation. "Don't worry, I'll figure out ways to keep you informed and you'll be the first to know if there's anything major. I was incredibly wrong about you, and I apologize."
"You know," Jim said, "there's a reason they call us 'Good Guys'."
"Yeah, probably. One day I might even get that through my thick head. Besides, considering that you could show up and carbonate my blood without me even knowing about it, I know that the last thing I really want to do is make you upset."
Jim looked at Chris in a bit of shock. "I.. No, I'd never do something like that! That's a wonton abuse of power that is totally uncalled for. Now, a mild version of the bends "
David shot him a withering look. Jim winked back. "So what about our other problems?"
"You mean the city? I have absolutely no idea. In fact, I'm doing my best not to think about it." Chris got a bit glum thinking about the massive destruction that he was personally responsible for. Fortunately, Wallace had done a great job of evacuating the area. There were no fatalities and only minor injuries from the crystal detonation. Had he actually been at the scene, Mark's wound would have been among the worst.
"I wouldn't worry too much about it." JB said as he munched on some salad. "While you two were out I got a call from USHA. I gave them the whole report. The guy sounded pretty excited about it. Apparently there's all kinds of opportunities for stuff."
"Opportunities?" David asked.
"Yeah," JB continued, "he said something about Boomin' Boise action figure sets and crystal radios shaped like mushrooms. I think the T-Shirts are already out. He figured that even paying back recovery costs, they'll net a couple of million."
David wore an expression of horror mixed with dull surprise that anyone would seek to profit off of the near destruction of a city. He turned to look at Jim in total disbelief.
"NOW do you understand why we don't head south more often?" Jim asked.
"Oh, that reminds me. Here, I picked up some of this for you." Chris said as he handed a tube of salve to Jim.
Jim leaned over and looked at it more than a bit suspicously.
"Oh, don't worry, I didn't get it from Annie if that's what your thinking. Here, look." Chris opened the tube and squeezed a dab onto his hands. He briskly rubbed them to make sure they were properly coated and smiled a bit. "See? No Hair coming out of my palms, although they do feel a bit tingly. Ooh, nice. Gotta get me some of this stuff too."
Jim cautiously sqeezed a bit onto his pinky and touched it near a burn. It felt wonderful. The burn pain evaporated nearly instantly, as the swelling also reduced. Jim applied a bit more with the same results. He wasted no more time undoing the wraps and applying the salve to his hands. Within seconds they were nearly back to normal, except for a few spots where blisters had left his skin slightly more tender. Still, he could feel even those cooling and shrinking.
"This stuff is great!"
"Yeah, well, you can thank your number one fan for it." Chris said as he pointed to an embarrassed JB.
"Chris!" JB said, "C'mon you said you wouldn't tell him."
"JB, really, thank you. That stuff is amazing. Where did you find out about it?"
JB looked a bit embarrased and spoke in a very quiet voice. "Uhm, the Brown Streak. He said it helps when his costume chafes."
Jim kept smiling as the slow sinking realization of what kind of chafing the fastest man in the world might have began to throttle his motor relays.
The next morning, JB woke up the sound of snoring. It was a slightly high pitched nasal snore, definitely not Chris' moose with a saxophone variety that tended to set off car alarms when he had a head cold. Still, it was a bit familiar as if it was...
'Wha? Huh? Did one of those dang horses bust out of th' stall a'gin?'
"And a pleasant morning to you." N pushed a hotel room service cart dressed in a perfect replica of a 1920's bellhop, complete with pillbox hat. JB was more confused than disturbed at the sight. This was probably because it was still early and he hadn't quite fully awoken yet.
"I trust you slept well." N asked as he began to remove the metal covers from an assortment of dishes. He poured a glass of orange juice and handed it to JB. JB thanked him and took a sip. It was delicious.
"Ah, there, that's one of the reasons that I liked working with you. You are both polite and trusting. Now Hydrogen Guy would have thanked me, then sniffed at it a few times wondering what exactly I had put in the juice, but you just blindly trust that I haven't put anything that might alter your memories or is deadly in it."
JB stopped sipping and sniffed in the glass.
N was loading biscuits onto a silver gilded plate, "No, you recognize that some are simply grateful of the service that you have performed," N paused, "even if you've had no idea." N offered the plate to JB. Who selected what appeared to be a crumpet, and reflexively thanked N again. N beamed then turned back to the cart.
JB sniffed the crumpet, then took a small taste. It was a crumpet.
"I have to admit that swapping you and David's powers was a good deal easier than I thought it would be."
JB was very nervous. He didn't want to offend but he was genuinely curious. "Not that I'm doubting or even bothered by it, but I'm just a bit curious why you swapped our powers like that."
N smiled again, this time with a bit of a mischievous glint in his eye. "If I told you, there's the faint chance that you might tell them, and that would completely ruin the joke. For now, let's just say that it seemed like a good idea at the time." N turned back to the cart and fished through more trays looking for something. "Besides it works out very well for everyone. I'll have you know that I've got one more favor to ask of you." N cracked a raw egg into a skillet. He slowly turned to look at JB, his face deadly serious. "And I don't really 'ask' for 'favors' if you understand what I am saying." Suddenly the egg in the skillet sizzled and smoked furiously even though there was no visible sign of heat. JB got the message very clearly. N continued, "You need to make sure that Chris finds the right person to help guide Mark."
"Mark?" JB asked, "who's..."
N slid the cooked egg out of the skillet and served it with toast and a selection of bacon. "As I was saying, it was a good deal easier getting the powers swapped over. With DB it involved a quick bit of paradimentional rewiring. It's a bit complicated, but if you think you two had it bad, there's a cy-duck in a pocket prime universe that's REALLY confused." N presented JB with silverware and a small tray to rest the plate on. "Now getting the Justice Furlong into DB's head was difficult, but it would have been completely impossible if they were actually dead."
Five voices (four unheard) screamed "WHAT?"
"Really just involved a bit retuning you two. Kind of like switching the ol' metaphysical car radio station so to speak. Wow, and talk about country music station overload. Ah well, looks like everything is in place here. Here's the bill, Ah, just kidding! And thanks again." With that N and his cart disappeared in a wink of light.
JB blinked. The Justice Furlong blinked. Chris shuffled out into the main room. "Mmm, hey JB. Where'd you get breakfast? That smells great! JB? Yo! Earth to JB?"
"What do you mean 'No, not yet!' I'm their sister, dammit!"
The voice on the other end of the line remained as stoic and unhelpful as he was six months ago when she had started. "I'm sorry madam, but I'm afraid that your request for visitation rights has not been approved by the overseers committee. Please be aware that any request for visitations will require an extensive background check, full physical and.."
"..and criminal background check. YES I KNOW ALL THAT!! I filled out your stupid forms and even got the full psychological and metaphysical profiling you required TWO MONTHS ago."
The voice picked up where it always did. "Your request for visitation will be reviewed and screened and an answer will be provided between six to eight weeks."
"It's been TEN you git!"
"As always, our concern is for our residents, and your patience and understanding are appreciated." The voice droned on with a total lack of commitment. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Yes, but suicide is illegal in most states!" And with that she slammed the phone back onto its cradle.
Sandra McCovey started to cry. She was frustrated, tired, and, truth be known, nearly broke. Without her two sister's business was more than a bit off. Sandra was an award winning photographer with portfolios filled with stunning pictorials. Unfortunately, not much of that seemed to matter to her publishers and agents. She had spent more than she had on futile legal fees trying to get to see her sisters.
They were criminals. Sandy knew that. Still, they were family and to be this far apart from them made her feel, very, very alone.
The business line chirped.
Sandy looked at it, not quite sure what to do. It was probably a sales call, or some bill collector. She sat, terrified to listen to who it might be.
"Hi! You've reached McCovey Studios. Unfortunately, we're unable to take your call at this time, but please leave your name and number and we'll reach you as soon as we can. Thank you!"
"Ms. McCovey?" The voice asked, "My name is Christopher Reid. I require your services for an extended period of time. I am willing to discuss a fair rate and am more than able to pay for it. I would like to fly you to Boise so that we can discuss the details. "
Sandra looked at the phone, not quite believing what she was hearing. Something seemed familiar about the voice, but she couldn't quite place it. She quickly jotted down the number and checked it against the caller-id. It matched.
The message ended and the voice hung up. Sandra looked at the paper. A million thoughts raced through her head. Half of her screamed that there was something wrong with a deal like this. The other half screamed that she had to take it, or at least talk to the guy.
She picked up the phone and slowly dialed the number.
She heard it ring a few times.
"Mr. Reid? Hello, I'm Sandra McCovey. I believe you had an offer you'd like to discuss?"
But wait! There's more...
Go catch The Crossing Over Epilog, Part II
And then tune in two weeks for the next episode that probably won't have any Hydrogen Guy at all in it,
but please read it anyway.
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