I wanna take you for a ride (I think)! Let's discuss Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite!


November 15, 2012

I Hraet You (55)

Beat 55: See You Space Heart Boy

“Ha HA!  And now for that foot…rub…?”

Lloyd sat straight up, eager to make good on his promise -- and he likely would have, if not for the blanket of night shrouding the room.  What sorcery is this?  Where has everyone gone?  Where has the sun gone?  He started counting off on his fingers.  Let’s see…I remember welcoming Lady Overdose into the group…and then I went to wash my hands…and then I remember everything going dar- oh, that explains it.

He slid off the couch and stood up, with the distant street lamps providing just enough light to move through the den.  Did I really sleep for this long? he wondered.  He scratched a few of his bangs.  My goodness.  I must have been more tired than I thought -- if the rest of my life is going to be as hectic as today was, I may need to consider joining a gym. 

Lloyd ran his eyes through the house.  Nighttime.  It would be safe to assume that everyone has gone to sleep ages ago; given that I’ve no one to converse with but myself, I suppose I could use this moment -- rather than the annoyance and the disturbance f my sandman-embracing friends -- for some quiet introspection and mental preparation for tomorrow’s likely-taxing and unprecedentedly-absurd events.

He stroked his chin for a moment.  Or…I could go see what JP is up to.  I wonder if he’s still having nightmares about those ghosts…

Lloyd trotted down the hall and pressed an ear to JP’s door.  I suppose it would have helped if I hadn’t walked into his room that time while wearing a bed sheet and suffering from food poisoning.  But I just couldn’t resist the allure of that sandwich --

“I don’t think I was wrong.”

Before Lloyd could open the door, he pulled back his hand.  That was JP’s voice, no question -- and without a shred of drowsiness, to boot.  It seems as if he started a conversation before I could -- and if my hunch is right, perhaps I should leave them to their affairs.

“Gaston has a weakness.  He has to,” JP continued.  “We just have to figure out what it is -- and I’m guessing we at least got close to an answer.”

“Ya think so, pal?” Trixie asked, all while sounding no sleepier than JP did.  “I mean, all those kids ended up headin’ back inside to beat on each other, so --”

“But we’re getting closer to an answer.  Grandma gave us a hint -- the stronger the senses, the easier it is to avoid getting hit by one of Gaston’s illusions.  So if it’s a matter of perception, we just have to find a surefire way to either boost our senses, or find a way to weaken his orders.”

“Maybe so…but what kinda sense can ya beef up to protect ya from mind control?”

What, indeed, Lloyd thought as he folded his arms.

JP groaned for a moment.  “I hate to admit it, but I’m starting to think that our biggest advantage may be from Lloyd.  He’s got a power.  Gaston has…well, at least two powers.  So maybe Lloyd’s got some kind of resistance to his mind control -- and as long as he keeps doing his heart thing, he can boost the resistance of others.”

“I dunno.  I was the first one he used his power on, and Gaston still had me hardwired to stab Lloyd.”

Another groan from JP.  “Maybe…maybe his power is still imperfect.”

Imperfect?  Lloyd stared at his hands.  Is it possible?

“I think it’s possible.  Think about it -- Gaston may be able to affect people however he wants, but I doubt even he could get as good as he is without practice.  Maybe Lloyd’s the same way.  If he keeps using his power, maybe he’ll end up getting a stronger version of it -- or maybe a power that doesn’t suck ass.”  Lloyd heard a clap from behind the door -- no doubt the sound of JP slapping a palm to his forehead.  “The problem is that we have to count on Lloyd.”

Trixie gave a short laugh.  “Ya don’t trust yer brother?”

JP started to speak, but suddenly paused.  “…I don’t know.  About a week ago, I would’ve written him off as my idiot brother -- same as always.  But…well, I guess he’s actually more dependable than I thought.  The odds -- and common sense -- were definitely against him, but he came to save me anyway.  And he actually made an ally out of an enemy.  So in a way -- in a situation as absurd as this -- he’s actually more reliable than the average Joe.”

“Yeah.  He’s a crazy one, but he’s still a good guy.  We just gotta do what we can to help him out, and help each other, too.”  She laughed sheepishly.  “Course, that’d mean ya’d hafta start trustin’ me…”

“I already do.  You helped me out, after all -- and there’s the fact that you haven’t stabbed me in my sleep, so I guess you’ve proven yourself.”

Lloyd glanced aside.  Just how close did I come to getting stabbed today?  But he shook the thought out of his mind.  No.  I won’t press that issue if I don’t have to; whatever Miss Walters wants to tell me, she’ll do so on her own terms.  We are comrades, after all.

“Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t expect much else from ya, pal,” said Trixie.  “Just ‘cause ya trust me don’t mean ya gotta like me.”

JP didn’t say anything.

“Hey, did ya hear me?  I mean, ya don’t have to say it.  I don’t mind if ya don’t like me, but I’ll still help ya out when I can.  ‘Cause I like ya.”

Still nothing, save for a near-mute mumble.

“What’d ya say?  I didn’t -- whoa, ya feelin’ all right?  All of a sudden ya got kinda --”

“I just thought I’d make a quick announcement,” JP said suddenly -- and a few dozen decibels louder than before.  “If there are any purple-haired morons listening in on this conversation, just keep in mind that I grabbed my old bat from the garage.  And I’m pretty damn sure I can swing it hard…though I guess it doesn’t matter, since it’s a METAL bat.”

N-not the Moneymaker!  Lloyd stood stiff as a board -- and at the sound of the turning doorknob, he dashed back into the den.  Whew!  A close call, if there ever was one.  He wiped his brow.  I didn’t think I needed to remind JP of this, but I like the shape of my head as it is. 

As he regained his composure, he caught a glimpse of something on his right -- a sliver of light, peeking into the den.  The source?  The front door -- left open just a few inches, and bobbing back and forth a few centimeters thanks to a late-night breeze.  Is someone outside?  I wonder who…it couldn’t be Gaston, could it?  He crept towards the door on the tips of his toes, wishing for a moment that he had the bat instead of JP.  But as he peeked outside, that wish didn’t last.

Patton and Mrs. Overdose sat atop the porch, with as much space as they could afford, given Patton’s bulk.  As the door slid open, they looked back at Lloyd, neither one offering a smile.  “Ah, it’s just you two,” said Lloyd.  “I must admit, you gave me a fright.”

Mrs. Overdose turned to Patton.  “Soooooooooooo, is your kid adopted or somethin’?  And he’s actually British?”

Patton ignored her, of course.  “Sleep well?”

“I did, actually.  Though I suspect I would have enjoyed my slumber a tad more if I was aware I’d gone into it.”  He waved a hand dismissively.  “But enough about me.  How are the two of you faring?  It’s a bit worrisome to see you out here, rather than the comfort of your beds.”

“I didn’t feel like sleeping.  And the old lady here, she wanted to wait for you to wake up so she could sleep on the sofa.”

“And maybe get my foot rub,” Mrs. Overdose added.

Lloyd nodded quickly, and clapped his hands together.  “Ah, yes, of course!  I DO owe you one of those…well then, shall I get started?”

“Eh, forget about it.  We’ll just do it first thing in the morning.”  She shifted her reed around a bit.  “I’m hopin’ I don’t have to go through as much crap tomorrow as I did today.”

“You’ve nothing to fear, milady.  As an honorary member of our family, you’ll be able to enjoy many more freedoms and services!”

“You mean…like a back rub?”

“Absolutely -- should you so desire.”

Patton shifted a bit.  “Careful, Lloyd.  Wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

“On what?  Surely there’s no harm in offering the fair lady my massaging touch.  But that aside, what are you two doing out here, if not sleeping?”

“Talkin’,” said Mrs. Overdose.  “The problem’s that your dad’s not much of a conversationalist.  It’s like I’m tryin’ to shoot the breeze with a brick wall…with meat pinned to it.”

“Like I said, I’m out of practice when it comes to talking with women,” Patton explained.  “So…yeah, things can get a little awkward.”

“But surely the two of you have a common ground?”

To Lloyd’s surprise, Mrs. Overdose gave him a quick nod.  “We do.  The stars.”  She pointed up to them, twinkling in the navy sky.  “We can at least agree that they’re nice to look at.  And real far away.  Probably couldn’t reach one before you go belly-up -- and even if you did, you’d end up worse than a deep-fried chicken.”

“But like she said, they’re nice to look at,” said Patton.  “And who knows?  Maybe someday, we’ll end up getting closer than anybody could’ve guessed.”

“Do you think it’s possible?” Lloyd asked.  “I don’t have much of an aptitude for astronomy, so the particulars of space travel are lost on me.”

“Is it possible…well, what do you think, son?”

Lloyd reeled a bit.  “Me?  W-well, I suppose that it will be, someday.  And without the hazards, as well.  I can’t say I have much of a basis in fact or technological precedents, but I can see the possibilities.  Just a few hundred years ago, there were likely people that didn’t believe people would ever be able to fly.  Now there are scores of businessmen, soldiers, and daredevils that do it every day.”  He ran a few fingers across his chin, and stared quizzically at the sky.  “To be fair, all that is done with the assistance of machinery and no shortage of funding, not biological means, but even so --”

“Why am I not surprised?” Mrs. Overdose asked, throwing up her hands.  “Always the optimist, never the realist.”

“True enough.  But that’s what I have you for, right?”

“Yeah, but…”  She swished the reed around a bit more, and stared up at the sky.  “All that optimism of yours?  Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.”

“How so?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  A realist’ll settle into any old job he can get, as long as it’s safe and pays well.  An optimist’ll go broke, laugh off an empty wallet, and keep on thinkin’ he’s got a shot at becomin’ a millionaire.”  She cast a cool eye at Lloyd.  “And only after he’s pulled it off, he’ll think about how he’ll get his next meal.”

“Hmmm.  I’m not quite sure I get it…but I get it.”

“Don’t strain yourself, kid.  I need you nice and healthy -- especially if you’re gonna lead us all to good fortune.”  She stood up, rotated a shoulder, and started for the den -- but before she could walk through the door, she stopped and turned back to Patton.  “Guess we’ve got more than just stars in common, huh?”

Patton nodded.  “Guess we do.”

Without another word, she disappeared into the house…leaving Lloyd with crossed arms and a confused stare.  “Okay, now I’m certain I don’t get it.”

“You’ll get it one day, Lloyd,” said Patton.  “And one day soon.  You’re on your way to becoming a real man -- especially now that we’ve got all this nonsense on our plates.”

“Maybe so, but --”

“No buts about it.  You’re on your way, and a lot faster than I ever would’ve guessed.  And thanks to that, I don’t have any problems following your lead when it comes to dealing with Gaston.”

Lloyd took a seat on the porch.  “Thank you.  But you know I’ll need your strength.”

“Then you’ve got it.”

“And JP’s intelligence.”

“He’ll give it, too.”

“And Miss Walters’ support, and Lady Overdose’s savvy.”

“You’ll get it.  You’ll get everything you need -- I’ll make sure of that.”

Lloyd laughed to himself.  “I find it more than a little amusing that what little strength I’ve mustered is centered around the people on my side.  I can only begin to imagine how many times I might have failed up to this point if not for the trust and faith placed in me…to say nothing of others compensating for my failings.”

Patton cocked his head.  “Starting to have doubts now?”

“I’m afraid I’ve done enough of that for one day -- and more than enough for one lifetime.  I’ll remain aware of my failings, but as long as I continue to surround myself with my dearest friends, I’ll be able to continue moving forward.”  He looked down at the ground, but kept a slight smile on his face.  “It is a bit harrowing to know that there are people putting their trust in me, though.  There are expectations that need to be met, and I want to do all I can to satisfy them.  But…”

“But what?”

Lloyd winced.  “Gaston.  He had a point today -- I don’t have an answer, short-term or long-term, on how to deal with him.  Bringing him to justice is the obvious end goal, but I have no clue how to even begin approaching it…to say nothing of the fact that with his powers, he could very well be immune to the law.”  He shook his head slowly.  “Even with that aside, I may have peaked in terms of what I can do, against him as well as for my own aims.  Thanks to him, there’s a fault in my scheme that I’m growing ever more aware of.”

“A fault?  Not a chance.  You’re all about love, aren’t you?”

Lloyd nodded, and turned to his father.  “It may be because of love that I have such faults.”

“Hmmmm.”  Patton and Lloyd stared at the lawn, letting the night’s ambience sound off between them.  Crickets chirped in the distance, and hopped their way through fields of grass.  The street lamps hummed and flickered, and a smattering of bugs fluttered around a few in the distance.  Once more, a cool, salty wind swept through the neighborhood, shifting grass and hair alike.

Patton stared at the street -- and then, after minutes of silence, turned to Lloyd.  “Listen --”

But before he could say a word, Lloyd held up a hand and smiled.  “You’ve given me quite a bit of encouragement already; I daresay if I let you do it constantly, I’ll grow addicted to it.”  He flashed a grin.  “If that happened, how would I ever become the man you envision?”

“Guess you’re right about that.”

“I’ll need your support, but you don’t have to worry.  I’ll be able to handle myself, at least a little bit.”  Lloyd stumbled to his feet, and stared at the sky with a warm smile.  “Little by little, I can see the road I need to walk, and the choices I need to make.  If there’s a fault within me, I’ll reverse it.  If there’s an enemy before me, I’ll overcome it.  If there’s a heart beside me, I’ll nurture it, and have it walk alongside me.  Flawed and haphazard as I may be, I can still move forward.  I can do my best…and I can make my dream a reality.”

Patton stood up in kind, and patted Lloyd on the shoulder.  “Atta boy.  Always good to hear that you’re in high spirits.”

“Always good to have them.”

“Yeah.”  He trudged up the steps and put a hand on the doorknob.  “Tomorrow’s another day, Lloyd.  Might want to get some more sleep in -- there’s probably a lot of planning you need to do.”

“There is.  But to be frank, I already have some semblance of a plan.” 

“Really?  What did you have in mind?”

Lloyd’s grin stretched a bit wider. 

*

Another peal of thunder and lightning tore through the sky, temporarily scattering the wind and rain from their destination.  But a moment later, they resumed their course -- slashing and hammering the peak overlooking the ocean.  It weathered the storm, just as it always had.  If it didn’t, then the mansion atop it would have crumbled into the depths.

But the mansion stood its ground, just as its foundation did -- though the sickly-hued bricks that comprised it had long since lost their splendor.  Indeed, it looked less like a mansion and more like a castle -- if not because of the stone, then because of the towering ramparts and looming walls.  Even a rogue thunderbolt would find infiltration nigh-impossible.

And within that mansion?  Untold dozens of rooms -- but one in particular remained most notable.  It was where he often took residence; it was the only room where he ever felt at ease.  Only the occasional flash of lightning managed to fully illuminate it -- when it didn’t, only a handful of hanging lights broke through the shadows.  But the average man had just enough light to maneuver -- and he had more than enough to make his way through.  He knew it all by heart.  Hundreds of wires, weaving a lattice across the cold, dampened floor.   A half-dozen gurneys, covered with tools and knobs, batteries and Bunsen burners.  Consoles of every shape and size, some stretching across the walls, and others touching the ceiling -- all of them packed to capacity with meters, levers, dials, and gauges.  Tesla coils tucked into corners like standing lamps; bubbling beakers filled with any number of deadly toxins; chalkboards riddled with equations and nigh-indecipherable numbers; a desk covered in papers and a half-eaten cinnamon bun.  Truly, the mark of a man of science -- a man of madness.

“Doctor.  The readings have been successfully compiled.”

The doctor jerked away from his latest scribbles.  “Good.  Good!  Give me the news!  Is it as I predicted?”

“Affirmative, Doctor.  The energy spikes have been recorded and tallied.  As you predicted, they are all localized within the specified coordinates.”

“Excellent.  Excellent!  Then the time has come at last!  We can begin making our preparations in full -- the time has come to act!  And act we shall!”

The assistant nodded, and bowed her head.  “Shall I provide a full report for you, Doctor?”

“No need!  If it’s as I predicted, then the sooner we act, the better off we’ll all be.”  He jogged toward another chalkboard and started scribbling atop it.  “Drop everything you’re doing!  You’re heading off to Porbeagle!”

“As you wish, Doctor.  Shall I make use of the jets you installed?”

The doctor shot an eye at her.  “Are you INSANE?  You know how much it’d cost to refuel you after that?  I spent eight million dollars just getting your ass right -- I’m not about to waste any more so you can go flying across the ocean!”  He flung his hand through the air, and returned to his work on the board.  “You’ll walk there.  And while you’re under the sea, maybe grab me a nice seashell or two.  I’ve been looking to start a collection, you see.”

“Doctor, I must caution you that if I walk across the ocean floor, there is a high probability that it will take additional time -- time better spent on achieving our objective.  In addition, the retrieval of undersea goods has a ninety-two percent chance of triggering flashbacks to your seventh-grade beach party --”

“Never mind the time!  We’ve got plenty of it, since we’ve got such a big leg-up.  Just get moving, and get me some results!  And some seashells!”

“As you wish, Doctor.  By your leave…”  She gave another bow.  “Unit 04: Panzerfaust, deploying.  Initiating mission optimization sub-routines now.”  She ran for the open window, her steps letting loose a metallic pang -- and a flash of lightning illuminated her metallic body in the window frame just before she vanished. 

The doctor furrowed his brow.  “I wonder if I told her NOT to kill the target…eh, it’ll be fine.  She’s a smart girl.”  He looked around the lab.  “Now, where’d I leave that cinnamon bun?”


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