Friday, October 18, 2019

II.3: Giving Nuke a Tumble

So, I have to tell you about the magenta-haired art student, Nancy—although that’s not her real name, turns out.
     My summer class hadn’t started yet, but I was settled into my garret apartment, such as it was; I just had my bed and a side table, and a few milk crates, as I mentioned. I had a big empty space in the corner of the small studio next to my bed, directly when you walked in the door. It was too small for a sofa, and I was going to need a desk or something to set my portable typewriter on and do homework—the fifties kitchen table wasn’t going to cut it. I’d left my desk in Ann Arbor—but there was time to find something else. First, I needed to find a job.

Friday, October 11, 2019

II.2: You’re Not the Boss of Me

The apartment I found was affordable—that was perhaps its first and only attribute, aside from being next to the First Holistic-Humanist Congregation of Cass City, a free-thinking quasi-Christian sect housed in a rusticated Gothic church. Located on West Forest Avenue a couple blocks west of Woodward at Cass, my apartment was on the third floor of a once-modest townhouse turned into sawed-off rental units run by a white-trash couple from down south. You think I’m being mean, but if you saw them, you’d agree. The woman was a mean old bitty who dyed her hair red and the man wore a toupee that looked like a bird’s nest…but that’s neither here nor there.
     I had the picturesque garret apartment in what was once part of the attic, basically one room, a kitchen, and a bath, with all kinds of ceilings angling every which way, and windows pointing to the front and side of the building. There were other apartments on the top floor, and a long hallway that ran to the back of the house to the external back stairs—these egresses would come in useful if I needed to be Ms. Megaton Man in a pinch. At least it was a place to hold my stuff, although I’m not sure I’d call it secure. But at least it was within easy walking distance of the Arbor State extension, Warren Woodward, and the Union Stripe restaurant, where I landed a waitressing gig.

Friday, October 4, 2019

II:1: Arbor State Extension

The spring before my senior year, I left the main campus of Arbor State University fully expecting to return to Ann Arbor in the fall to complete my double-major in Labor Studies and Urban Issues. I planned to take one class through the Arbor State extension in midtown Detroit over the summer. I could have taken it just as easily back in Ann Arbor in the coming fall, but getting it out of the way while I was back home would “even me up” in terms of credits and allow me to start my senior year as a full-fledged senior. This was important to me following the debacle of my repeated junior year—a series of regretful incidents I fondly referred to as my “delayed freshman crisis.” These involved sex, drugs, and Yarn Man, not necessarily in that order; an intervention by my parents; and an eventual return to the straight and narrow.

Friday, September 27, 2019

II.0: Acknowledgments and Foreword

I want to thank John Bradford, former columnist of The Detroit Day and longtime adjunct writing instructor at Warren Woodward University—present whereabouts unknown—for the personal encouragement and guidance he provided, which enabled and empowered me to compose this and a previous volume of my reflections on being a megahero—namely, Ms. Megaton Man. Although never formally my editor, the feedback he provided on my first volume and his encouragement to undertake this second were invaluable to me. I will sorely miss him and his inspiration.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Epilogue: Man, Woman

Preston was right; our trip to New York didn’t tell me much about my past, at least nothing conclusive. It made me realize I wasn’t ready for the Big Leagues just yet, and the Big Leagues weren’t ready for me. At the same time, I realized the Big Leagues weren’t no big thing; Preston was right again—the world could wait for Ms. Megaton Man and Ms. Megaton Man could wait for the world. There was no sense rushing things. Besides, I’d rather spend time with my sister and parents in Detroit, and I still had a job to do in Ann Arbor—which was to get in as much learning in as possible in the short time that was left. Because, when it became time to step forward as America’s Next Nuclear-Powered Hero, there probably wasn’t going to be all that much time for book learning.
     And maybe not for friends or family, either.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Chapter Thirty: Ms. Cegenation, Man

The breeze coming off the East River over the old Navy Yards was crisp and cold as we packed up the Pacer on the rooftop of the Youthful Permutations headquarters. We were about to say our goodbyes to the Y+Thems when the Q-Mobile descended on the Navy Yard warehouse roof, and Yarn Man when Kozmik Kat hopped out. Koz announced he would be staying in Megatropolis.
     “My place is at his side,” said Koz. “Especially if he’s going to be tending bar at the Tudor City Club—someone’s got to keep an eye on him.”

Friday, September 6, 2019

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Megaton vs. Meltdown

As I caught up to the Q-Mobile, I could feel the heat rising from the open top; even though the winter air was frigid, the Human Meltdown was giving off considerable body heat. Chuck was on top of my sister in the back seat, her body underneath his. She was screaming and pounding him with her fists.
     “Get off me!” she shouted, her arms flailing. “I don’t want this!”
     “Just relax, honey,” he replied. “Enjoy the ride. You wouldn’t want to hop out now—it’s quite a drop into the drink.”
     I had no real fear that he would drop my sister from the Q-Mobile, but it was also clear he was overpowering her; her jacket and shirt were ripped open, and her pants were pulled down. Chuck had the lower half of his red and yellow costume also pulled down; he was obviously readying himself to penetrate her.
     That’s when I grabbed his hair.
     With one motion, I yanked him off my sister and flung him into the sky; I don’t know how far he went, but after his initial shock—and after he pulled up his pants—he floated stationary in one place for a moment.
     I helped Avie pull herself together; although the buttons of blouse were ripped off, she was able to wrap herself and zip up her jacket; I glimpsed the bruises on her inner thighs as she pulled up her jeans and refastened her belt.
     I hopped into the front seat and tried to take control of the Q-Mobile. I had never flown it, but I had watched Bing. The steering seemed little different from a conventional automobile. As soon as I turned the steering wheel, I felt the autopilot surrender; I took a wide turn back north toward Brooklyn.
     We circled past Chuck, who remained stationary in space, watching us with molten eyes.
     Avie climbed over into the front seat.
     “Are you okay?” I said. I could see the streaks of tears running down her cheeks and could tell that she was rattled, but she didn’t seem to be seriously injured.
     “I’ll be okay,” she said.
     “Do you think you can drive this thing?” I said. “I’m going to go kick his ass.”
     “Do I look like I’m from Detroit or not?” asked Avie. “Give me the wheel—go kick his ass.”
     I leaped out of the Q-Mobile and left Avie to take over as pilot. The tricky part would be for her to land it, but given our distance from the city, it would be several minutes before we’d have to worry about that. I supposed I might have to bodily stop the vehicle and set it down myself back in Brooklyn, but I didn’t have time to think that far ahead. Right now, I was streaking directly at the Chuck Roast, even as his yellow and red costume disappeared and his body became a mass of pulsating, pyroclastic protoplasm. He was the Human Meltdown now.
     I could still make out the very human, determined, evil grimace on his face.
     “She wanted it,” said Chuck. “You’re sister’s nothing but a cock-teasing little slut.”
     “Maybe you’ve been in Europe too long,” I said. “In English or French, no still means non, you fucking son of a bitch.”
     I slammed into his body at full force. The Human Meltdown went spiraling in the other direction. Below us were the frothy, sandy, wintry beaches along the Jersey coast; we were several miles south of Governor’s Island and New York City.
     Chuck stabilized in midair, turned, and gritted his teeth. “You think you’re ready for the Big Leagues?” he taunted. “I battled Megaton Man himself when he first came to town—we fought to a draw. I don’t like outsiders, especially when they call themselves America’s Nuclear-Powered Heroes.”
     “I know,” I said. “This town just isn’t big enough for both your cock and your balls. Save it for the funny papers; I’m going to kick your ass, you rapist.”
     He dove at me but I dodged out of the way at the last minute. I didn’t want to lose track of Avie so I flew north to be closer to her and the Q-Mobile and the city. I also wanted to lure the Meltdown closer in case Bing or the Youthful Permutations or anybody else had some way to weigh in on this fight. I wasn’t thinking that I would need to be rescued, exactly; I was thinking more that somebody would need to pry me off of Chuck Roast before I killed him.
     “Running, are you, Ms. Megaton Man?” Chuck shouted behind me.
     I was now racing over Governor’s Island toward Staten Island. In my haste, and forgetting to consult the map on my visor, I was heading a lot further west than I planned. I could see the Doomsday Factory below, and the Statue of Liberty further north in the middle of the Bay of New York. I suddenly turned on Chuck, who was in hot pursuit.
     “No, not running,” I said. “I just thought I may as well kick the shit out of you where Megaton Man should have done so six years ago.”
     The Human Meltdown now slammed into me, tackling me over Staten Island and carrying me well over the Bay of New York. He was a great deal more experienced than I was at fisticuffs, but he couldn’t land any punches as I squirmed and rolled out from under him.
     I was hoping to prolong the skirmish enough so that we could be spotted by either the Devengers and the Youthful Permutations with binoculars if not naked eyes, should they be looking for us from the ground. But I couldn’t recall if any megahero team in New York besides the Quartet ever had any kind of flying vehicle, or even if the teams were able to communicate with each other. Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure how many other flying megaheroes there were in the world, let alone if any of them would be eager to get in the middle of two nuclear-powered ones duking it out.
     I broke Chuck’s grip around my midsection with an uppercut to the jaw. We flew apart more than a thousand feet above the water. I immediately swooped around and tackled him around the midsection; he was as hot as a volcano, although my uniform—with fabric developed for the original Meltdowns—offered thermal insulation, blunting the painful sensation that made its way to my skin.
     He started pulling my hair, which I could smell as it became singed; it was not completely impervious to heat—at least at these intense temperatures.
     I kneed Chuck in the balls and gouged his eyes; he let go of my hair and grabbed his groin, grunting in pain. I circled around and walloped him in the side of the head with the impact of a Mack Truck, straight to his temple.
     He was clearly stunned and immediately plummeted toward the water, arms and legs flailing. I swooped under him and circled back up, punching him in his rib cage with rock-like fists; he spat fire or the radioactive equivalent as he reeled head over heels back up in the air. I could tell he was bleeding volcanically, internally.
     When he tumbled back down, I punched him again, this last blow sending him somersaulting horizontally, in the general direction of the green slopes of Staten Island several miles away. He was doubled over, if that makes any sense about a body that is still hundreds of feet in the air. Still, he grimaced and set his glaring eyes on me, and once he had regained his footing, so to speak, he charged at me again—even as he coughed up globs of pyroclastic protoplasm like blood.
     I was hurtling at him at top speed myself; we crashed with all the force of freight trains in a head-on collision.
     Stunned does not begin to describe my condition after that; it was some moments before the world came back to me. I was still in the air, even if I wasn’t sure I could see straight. But I could feel his heat; he had me around the torso—he was pummeling me. I was swinging wildly back at him--it was like hitting a molten pillow with a rock-hard core. I could feel every rib in his pyroclastic, protoplasmic body cracking; even if he was not quite human at the moment, I was pretty sure he was going to feel it in the morning. I was causing real damage.
     It was about then that a thought crossed my mind: What if I tear the Human Meltdown apart over the largest population center of the United States? What if Chuck Roast were to explode—sending radioactive debris over the entire Eastern Seaboard?
     These thoughts were mitigated somewhat by the fact that he was fighting back, with every intent to kill me; there was no love lost between America’s Two Nuclear-Powered Heroes. He was punching me, and I could certainly feel my ribs, too—if not breaking, at least bruising.
     I must have been in a blind fury—thinking about how he had traumatized my sister—and pummeling him without mercy. Teeth and bone were shattering—or whatever the metabolic equivalent was while he was in the form of the Human Meltdown. I wondered when he returned to human form if he would be as damaged as I knew I was making his protoplasmic body.
     I must have had my eyes closed—looking at the Human Meltdown at close range is like staring into the sun—and I had no idea where we were—how close to the ground or water, how close to the city. Suddenly, I felt him writhe away from me; he was struggling with someone else. Had one of the Devengers—perhaps the Angel of Death—grabbed onto him?
     My eyes still shut, I reached for my visor—somehow I still had it on. If I were to have dropped it I never would have found it, since all I could see below me was.
     I felt my shoulders, my collar bones—the buttons of my cape were gone.
     When my eyes could focus, I saw the writhing figure of the Human Meltdown, my cape around his head. He was trying to tear it off; it was blinding him, for all I know suffocating him. The glow of his pyroclastic, protoplasmic body was dimming; legs kicking, he was returning to human form.
     He was careening toward the Twin Towers of Lower Manhattan and I was following behind. In fact, at our trajectory, we were going to crash-land in Battery Park; innocent people might be injured.
     I was able to pull up, but as long as my cape remained wrapped about Chuck’s head, he had no sense of direction. I tapped my visor; my cape loosened, blew off, and flew back to me.
     As soon as Chuck could breathe again, he turned back into the Human Meltdown. Once he got his bearings, he veered away from Battery Park, heading low over the Hudson River alongside Manhattan, disappearing behind the towering skyscrapers beyond midtown and somewhere inside the canyons of Megatropolis.
     I had kicked his ass up and down the East Coast.
     I slowed to stop over Battery Park, my cape’s buttons snapping onto my uniform. I hovered there for a moment, catching my breath, letting the blood return to my head—taking in the awesome sight of that massive island from above Lower Manhattan.
     It was midmorning now, and New York’s labor force was all at work—those who worked during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The sheer spectacle of this was overwhelming as my senses returned.
     I completely lost track of where the Human Meltdown had gone, and almost forgot that I had just been in the fight of my life. I suppose he had retreated and flown off for good; when I did a three-sixty scan of the horizon, he was nowhere to be seen.

Back in Brooklyn, Avie had landed the Q-Mobile on the Navy Yard building—how she was even able to spot it from the air showed her toughness and presence of mind, even in her rattled condition.
     I landed on the roof right behind her, just as she was being helped out of the vehicle by Bing and the other Youthful Permutations. She was cut and bruised, and her clothing was torn—she was no doubt frozen to the bone, too—but she was beaming. She ran toward me and hugged me, both laughing and crying at the same time. I was doing the same.
     “That Ms. Megaton Man sure can kick some ass!” she cried.
     “She sure can,” I said. “And so can Avril James—we Detroit girls put up a fight, if nothing else.”
     “You chased off the Human Meltdown,” said Domina, clapping me on the back. “That makes you the new leader of the Youthful Permutations, Clarissa.”
     “Where has he gone?” I asked.
     “Back to Paris, if he’s smart,” said Sabersnag. “Or even better, hell.”
     I shuddered to think about his wife and daughter back in France. Marital problems indeed—the Human Meltdown was a class-A predator and rapist, and all-around shitheel. Stella was right—Trent Phloog was nothing like her half-brother. Nobody was. But I wondered if she knew how different? The Human Meltdown was in a class by himself.
     Bing brought a blanket to wrap Avie in and help her inside the building.
     “I was about to come after you guys with one of Rex’s old flying pogo sticks,” he said to me. “But your sister was able to land the Q-Mobile with no problem. It’s mostly intuitive.”
     “What’s wrong with you male megaheroes?” said Avie. “You’re a bunch of predatory monsters.” Bing took a step back.
     “I’m literally a predator,” said Sabersnag, “but that’s only because I’m a saber-toothed tiger.” His long, white fangs glistened in the winter air with his absurdly helpless, wan smile. “But don’t judge us all by the Human Meltdown.”
     “What about the Original Golden Age Megaton Man?” said Avie. “Here’s Kiddo—the living proof. And what about Stella Starlight, who had to leave Megatropolis on account of her abusive marriage to Liquid Man? And you, you old pervert,” she said, dropping her blanket and thumping Bing on the chest with her fist. “You, keeping my sister as your personal sex slave in the basement on Ann Street.” Were it not for Domina and Tempy holding her back, Avie might have run Yarn Man off the roof.
     It’s fair to say my sister was a bit hysterical, and exaggerating the facts more than a little. But she had a point, and at least she was venting her trauma. I’m not a therapist, but I thought this was healthier than bottling it up. And I realized that everything that we had seen in New York made me consider Bing a little differently, too.
     “I’m sorry, Avie, Clarissa,” Bing said quietly. That’s all he could say.
     Kozmik Kat took Yarn Man’s his red mitten in his paw. “C’mon, Bing. Let’s get out of here.” They climbed into the Q-Mobile and flew off.

We calmed Avie down and tended to her bruises and scrapes inside the Youthful Permutations headquarters. I didn’t want to minimize the long-term trauma she was going to be dealing with, but I thought her prognosis was good. She had been able to take control of the situation to a great extent just by successfully flying the Q-Mobile and landing it safely back on the Navy Yard warehouse roof, and by venting at Bing as a surrogate for Chuck. She’d been able to speak truth to power with all of the Youthful Permutations and me around her to support her.
     In the burger and brew, she was already laughing about the ordeal and describing it as cool. She gave a blow-by-blow account of my battle with Chuck—I hadn’t noticed it at the time, being somewhat preoccupied, but she kept circling around us as we went at it over the Bay of New York. She even got pictures of us over the Statue of Liberty—she remembered she’d stowed the camera in the glove compartment—except she dropped the best roll of film into the bay while trying to change it during all her swerving around. That’s okay; someday I’ll get a professional comic book artist to draw up that scene.
     We had a nice, relaxing time hanging out with the Youthful Permutations the rest of the day. There was no way I could accept the position of Y+Thems leader—that rightfully belonged to Domina anyway—since I had my own schooling to return to in Ann Arbor. They were already making plans of relocating to another headquarters—just the core members Domina, Sabersnag, Kiddo, and Tempy, disbanding the school for gifted wannabes and leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the replica Devastation Chamber behind.
     “Why not Tudor City?” suggested Avie. “You guys will be right next to the United Nations—you’ll be able to intervene internationally.” Sabersnag seemed to like this idea the more he thought about it.
     We slept overnight in the dorm room again, and the next day, New Year’s Eve, Avie and I attended a matinee of The Leper of Lisbon, a hit play at the time. We spent the whole last day on Manhattan, gravitating toward Times Square for the big New Year’s countdown.
     “Fuck,” said Avie. “1983. Can you believe it?”
     The past three years had been nothing but eventful since the See-Through Girl had shown up on the Arbor State Campus, registering for classes.
     “I can hardly wait for the rest of the decade,” I said.

Next: Ms. Cegenation, Man [Link available FRI 9/06/2019 10:00 AM EST]
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Archival Images:

Clarissa tackles Chuck Roast. Unpublished drawing.

Meeting of Megaton Man and the Human Meltdown (unpublished).

Major Meltown (the Golden Age version of the Human Meltdown), unpublished.
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All characters, character names, likenesses, words and pictures on this page are ™ and © Don Simpson 2019, all rights reserved.