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November 8, 2012

I Hraet You (53)

Beat 53: Well, That Proved Effective

Lloyd led the way through the school’s halls, wearing something faintly resembling a smile.  He’d managed to garner a win -- albeit a slight one -- out of what could have been a much messier situation.  He’d taken a stand against Gaston, saved his brother, won over his nemesis’ henchwoman, and managed to do it all without a single shotgun blast to the face.  He’d earned the right to strut a bit (and indeed, his lively steps reflected that).  He had every reason to show a bit of cheer.

A shame that he had two professional killjoys in his party.

“So let me see if I got this right,” said Mrs. Overdose, lugging JP around on one shoulder like a rolled-up rug (and stepping over a splotch of spiders).  “You say you’re gonna be my servant, but I’m the one who ends up carryin’ your kid brother around?”

Lloyd turned back toward her and nodded.  “Truth be told, you are considerably stronger than I.  It’s only natural that I leave him in your capable hands; I’d assume that even his slight weight would be enough to rip my arms from their sockets.”

“Normally I’d argue with him, but he may be right on this one,” said JP with a grimace.  “Besides, a kid could get used to this -- especially after the crap day I’ve had.”

“Oh, don’t talk to me about crap days,” Mrs. Overdose snapped. 

“You should listen to her, JP; she has seniority over you, after all.”  Lloyd clapped his hands a few times.  “The two of you can converse all you want when we return home!  You are of a similar mindset, so I imagine you can whittle each night down to mere moments, discussing matters of money and cynicism and general mistreatment of yours truly!”

Mrs. Overdose shot an eye toward JP, with an eyebrow raised.  “You like money?”

“I do.  I’ve been looking into making some investments, and trying my hand at the stock market.  If I play my cards right, I may be able to walk away with some serious funds after this.”

“Huh.  You’re all right, JP.”

Lloyd’s eyes nearly shot out of his head.  “L-Lady Overdose!  You actually used someone’s name for once!  Does that mean you’ll begin using mine as we-”

A quick point of the shotgun gave her answer.

“Ah, my heart…how you bruise it so…!” Lloyd moaned, rubbing his face with a forearm.  But he set the notion aside and turned back toward her.  “In any case, I trust lodgings in our house will be enough to satisfy you?  Our home is small, but the warmth it exudes should be more than enough to --”

Mrs. Overdose cocked her head and scowled.  “Whoa, whoa, whoa, kid.  Just ‘cause I’m on your side -- kind of on your side -- doesn’t mean I’m about to start livin’ with you.  I don’t know if you noticed, but you have a real bad habit of gettin’ me all riled up.  Not good for me to get so stressed out all the time.  Besides, I’m already stayin’ at a motel on the edge of town, so I got a place of my own.”

“Ah.  Fair enough…but if you come and stay with us, we won’t charge you room and board.”


“Ever.  And you can stay as long as you want.”

Mrs. Overdose nodded slightly, lips shifting as she considered the idea -- and as she did, JP started wriggling in her grasp.  “Does anybody care what I think?” he asked.  “Because as the sole voice of reason in my family, I have to say this is a stupid-ass idea.”

“Was that the case with Miss Walters?”

“Of course it wa-” JP suddenly stopped wriggling, and glanced aside with a slight pout.  “I mean, yeah, the circumstances are a little different, but you get the idea.”

“Right.  Then there are no objections.”

“I’ve got a hell of a lot of objections!”

“Then we’ll discuss them in earnest once we return home.  Once we’ve reached a safe haven, we should be able to decide what to do with your new comrade.”  Lloyd winked at Mrs. Overdose.  “Though I suspect that discussion won’t last long.”

JP groaned softly, and Mrs. Overdose just gave him a cool shrug; with no more outbursts, Lloyd nodded and continued leading the group down the hall.  “Dad and Miss Walters are awaiting our return outside.  If fortune is on our side, we should be able to --”

“Wait,” said JP.  “There’s something that’s been bothering me.”

Lloyd and Mrs. Overdose stopped.  “You mean besides the fact that we’ve yet to even attempt untying you?” he asked.

“No, I’ve pretty much accepted that because I know you’re a braying jackass of a brother.  I’m talking about Gaston.”  JP’s brow tightened.  “If we’re going to stop him -- or anyone, at least -- we need to figure out how his powers work…and what we can do to stop them.  Even if he’s as dangerous as we think he is, he’s got to have some kind of weakness.  Some kind of condition to his powers.”

“A good point.  As far as I know, his power is twofold: illusion and hypnosis.  By confusing the senses and afflicting the mind, he can have anyone act as he wishes…provided of course that they’re indoors.  And by the sound of things, he can induce mass hypnosis based on the same principle.”

JP nodded.  “Illusion and hypnosis…if that’s it, then maybe there’s a way to beat him without even touching him.”  He looked left and right through the hall.  “Ah, there it is. Lloyd, go pull that fire alarm.”

“Eh?  But I’ll get in trouble!  I may even be -- oh, right.”  Lloyd trotted over to the alarm, a red lever that had gathered a slight coat of dust.  “May I ask your reasoning?”

“Gaston uses his powers to screw with people’s senses, right?  If that’s the case, then maybe there’s a hidden characteristic to them.  If he’s influencing people, he has to give their bodies and minds certain orders.  Orders that he broadcasts, and his targets carry out.  But what if there was a way to scramble that order, or remove it completely?”

“…Ah, I see, I see!”  Lloyd clapped a fist atop his palm.  “The sound of the school’s fire alarm should be loud enough and shocking enough to distort Gaston’s orders!  And if this works, then we’ll not only be able to prevent harm to the student body…”

“We’ll have our first weapon against this guy.”

Mrs. Overdose sighed.  “And here I was, thinkin’ that you two kids would be the loudest thing I heard all day.”

“You mean besides your shotgun blast, right?” JP asked.

“Please.  You hang around guns long enough, you get used to it.”  She nodded at Lloyd.  “Pull the alarm so we can get outta here and see what’s up -- and maybe go home or somethin’.  I could go for a nice foot rub after this from my new servant. “

“Very well.  Let the experiment begin.”  Lloyd tugged the lever down.


“Yes!  The alarm is blaring as planned!” Lloyd shouted over the noise.  And sure enough, only a few seconds passed before doors throughout the halls flung open; murmurs and laughs mixed with the heavy trudging of feet as the students and their teachers appeared, making their way towards the nearest exits.  “And it seems as if we’ve made it out of harm’s way with several minutes to spare.  Come, comrades!  The outside world and its verdant fields await!”

Of course, Mrs. Overdose had already left Lloyd behind.  And with the crowd of students approaching like a tidal wave, Lloyd dashed after her as fast as his legs could carry him. 

Not that he was in any danger.  With a few quick strides and a fervent push, Lloyd made it through the door and onto the school’s front sidewalk.  Mrs. Overdose and JP had already started crossing the street, and headed to the parking lot on the other side -- precisely where Patton and Trixie had taken residence.  With a wave and a cheer, Lloyd sprinted toward them, managing to cross just as the student body poured out of the building.

“Dad!  Miss Walters!  Oh, it’s so good to see you again!”  He would have seized them in a hug if he hadn’t noticed the tension in the air; though they showed him now scorn, the same couldn’t be said for the gunwoman that stood before them.  “Oh, yes!  I’m pleased to announce that we have a new comrade to aid us in our quest for love and justice!”

A feral growl rumbled in Patton’s throat.  “You’re sure we can trust her?” he asked, tugging JP off her shoulder and slinging him onto his own.  “You know what I always told you -- old ladies are a lot nastier than they let on.” 

“And it’s real nice to see that she’s still tuggin’ round that gun o’ hers,” Trixie added.

“Look, I didn’t have to come along OR bring your boys back safe and sound,” said Mrs. Overdose.  She reached into her pocket and pulled out a reed, and stuck it in her mouth.  “You don’t want me around, I’m gone.  But your boy here’d be real heartbroken if I packed up and left.”

Lloyd nodded rapidly.  “I would, I would!”

“I know, kid.  And I’m gonna try and avoid that if I can…even if it means doin’ somethin’ as stupid as hangin’ around with you and the rest of the goof troop.”

Patton’s hair bristled, but in the end he managed a slight nod.  “We’ll hear her out once we get back home.  Till then, I’ll keep a real close eye on her.”  He looked down at her, his lip parting a bit to reveal a snarl.  “A real close eye.”

Trixie nodded in agreement, and then pointed at the rows of students in front of the school.  “So what’s all that about, pal?”

“An experiment, so to speak,” said Lloyd.  “Gaston may have the entire student body under his spell, but if this effort proves effective, we may be able to dispel it.  A boon to our future endeavors, if there ever was one.”  He stroked his chin.  “And I suppose if we keep them outside long enough, eventually the effect will wear off entirely.”

“Is it really gonna work?”

“We’ll know soon enough.”

“Anybody feel like untying me in the meantime?” JP asked -- a request that went unheeded. 

Mrs. Overdose shifted the reed between her lips.  “Think it’s about that time, kid.  If they’re gonna head in there and throw down, they’d be movin’ right about now.”

Lloyd eyed the crowd -- other than some general swaying and fidgeting, they held their ground.  Only the teachers (and a certain incensed principal screaming about his ruined nap) seemed to dart about with any sense of urgency.  “They’re staying put.  They’re actually staying put!  Look at them -- they’ve refused Gaston’s call to arms!”

“I dunno what yer talkin’ about, pal,” Trixie muttered while rubbing the back of her neck.  “But I’m guessin’ it’s a good thing.”

“Guess?  Miss Walters, there’s no need to guess!”  Lloyd cast a hand toward the crowd.  “Now we know that Gaston’s powers aren’t as ironclad as they once seemed!  With this, we can take one more step towards --”

“Hey, everybody!  Let’s go in the auditorium and fight for an hour!”


Lloyd froze in place.

“Yeah!  Yeah!”


“Yeah!  Wait, why?”

A long pause from the crowd.

“…Because that guy said we should fight!”

“YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”  And with that, the students started marching back into the building, stomping over the teachers in their path.  Some of them couldn’t even wait to start wailing on each other before re-entering.

That just left Lloyd standing in place, smiling and gesturing toward a near-empty expanse of the school.

Mrs. Overdose scratched her crown.  “Guess I’ll go pull my car around,” she grumbled.  “And before any of you ask, my shotgun’s got shotgun.”


“Can you hear that?  Such beautiful music, is it not?”

Gaston raised his phone from the ground -- from the roof of the school -- and slid once more into the shadows cast by its doorway.  “Ah, much more sonorous than I expected; truly, L. Bernstein’s auditorium has some fantastic acoustics…ku fu fu…”

He pressed the phone against his ear -- or at least where his ear should have been -- and crossed his arms.  “Oh?  You would doubt my efforts now?” he asked, leaning against the doorway.  “Surely you’ve more reason to put your faith in me than ever before.  I have succeeded in everything I set out to do today -- for your benefit of course, but for mine as well.  And such entertainment to be had!  Truly, I have done us both, and this town, a service!”

He tapped a finger against the phone.  “I assure you, it is of no consequence.  If he wants to try and discover my faults, I say let him try; by the time he succeeds…IF he succeeds…it will already be too late.  Everything is going as we discussed.  The town is slowly but surely coming under my spell.  Those that would rebel against me are quickly becoming aware of their limitations.  And most of all…”

He couldn’t help but chuckle.  “The development of the Normal-Abnormal is proceeding just as predicted.  So long as stimuli are provided, ‘tis but a matter of time until the ultimate weapon is fully prepared.  And I trust I’ve no need to remind you of what happens when it is, correct?”

Another chuckle.  “Well, well…I suppose that’s to be expected from one of your pedigree.  Now then, I trust my progress report is satisfactory?  It is?  My, such a relief to hear -- I had hoped to meet your high standards; so much so that I was very nearly paralyzed with fear.  Ku fu fu…well then, if there is nothing more you need of me, I shall bid thee farewell.”

Gaston brought the call to an end.  “Yes…everything is going according to plan.”


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