So I’m like flying through the air, roaring, and the hat flies off but I want to look scary right now, so I’m all cool and I wish if there was any security camera stuff going on I couild get a copy because that would be awesome, but also terrible.
And as I’m flying overhead, and the rocky giant thing is charging at us below I see Roddy is so gonna get smushed, so I yell at him to get to safety because he’s good, kinda, at a lot of things, but this is too big for him and now I gotta protect him.
Do you find it interesting your focus on saving someone whom you frequently complain about?
Well, I mean, he’s kinda on our team, y’know? And you gotta protect people like that, y’know?
And 'sides, M–many people on the team would get kinda upset if he got munched.
Well, I’d be upset. I guess. I mean, Roddy’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk, y’know?
So I tackle the rocky giant, grab its arms, and we’re like wrestling around, getting grips, and dude is really strong, and I’m getting pissed and growing some, and then it slips this lock I have it in and grabs and throws me away. I mean, literally, throws me like some sort of jiu-jitsu thing, and by the time I turn around, now it’s becoming like a tree – like its feet are digging into the ground like roots, and vines are growing out all over it, and the vines are reaching out in all directions, but mostly at us guys. And it’s not like these vines are too bad, each of them, but all together, it starts to get kinda dodgy, cause I can only rip so many apart at a time, and there’s a lot more than that, sorta like … um, that story, with the really big guy and the really little guys?
Yeah, that one. Loved that cartoon when I was a kid. But he just got up and tore it all aside, and for me it’s more like being caught in this big spider web. I’m keeping up, but just, and you know what’s going on with Roddy?
What’s going on with Roddy?
He just does that dancing thing he does, leaping and rolling and dodging aside. But that’s when things got really weird.
That’s when –
Kiln, they like get between the giant rocky tree guy and yells at it, “Captain Gnega, stand down!” like they’re in some army movie or something, and the giant rocky tree guy is all, “Identify yourself!” and Kiln says some sort of rank and serial number and “by Grabthar’s Hammer” and all that, and Captain Negative stops and looks like he’s gonna salute and the vines stop growing, though they don’t let go.
How did you feel about that?
About the vines? Kinda relieved.
About Kiln intervening and defending you.
Oh. Uh – Kiln’s kinda weird. Okay, yeah, we’re all weird, right? But Kiln, they’re like that dude in the movies, who went to sleep in an ice berg, only it’s like been thousands of years, and Kiln, they’re from like before Rome and Greece and Egypt and stuff. Crazy old. And they’re like some of the time stone cold super-soldier, like a Conan the Barbarian only with magic weapons. But the other half, they’re like, which end of this fork do I use for eating. Kinda sad, and confused. But nice. Which is good, cause you get the feeling they could also take that fork and stick it in your eyeball before you could blink.
So I don’t like getting rescued, cause I should be able to rescue myself, right? Or else why get stuck with this giant gorilla body? But Kiln – they’re okay. Nobody minds getting rescued by, like, James Bond, y’know?
So this Captain Negative, it starts grilling Kiln about where they came from and why they’re still alive, so this thing has been around since Kiln was back in their own time, maybe like standing around like a statue or something. And it says Kiln woke up the temple, and I think that’s why it woke up. And it’s been like 6,384 years, and they’ve got this enemy called Flu-bug that’s maybe survived, too, but I didn’t get all of that because I was still ripping myself free of all those vines. Then things got really interesting.
That’s when things got --?
Security guard comes in, all “What you meddling kids doing?” And Captain Negative is all Alarm! Alarm! and goes running off and through the wall.
Okay, that is, in fact, interesting.
But we can’t run after because the guard is there squawking, and Alex, they’re all flashing their ID and this is a top secret mission nothing to see here not the super-heroes you’re looking for don’t worry about the damage just send a bill to the government. And dude just points us toward the exit. I grabbed my super-spy hat, and we got outta Dodge. And that’s when things got –
– even more interesting? Weird? Apocalyptic?
– Serious. I gotta tell you some stuff, Doc.
That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?
Yeah, but this stuff gets kinda close to home. For you.
Confidential stuff. Like you told me the other time.
Unless I’m convinced you are going to harm yourself or others, my lips are sealed.
I – hope so, Doc. Cause it’s important for what came next.
If you don’t trust me, Joey, you don’t need to tell me.
No, I kinda do. Okay. So, we’re walking down the walkway from the museum, and Alex tells us about what they found in the museum’s files – that basically the attack on us at the museum the day before, that was all arranged paid for by Hellbinder.
Wait, by --?
By the Headmaster. Like it’s all in emails talking about donations and educational fees and arranging for entertainment and all this other stuff, I don’t remember the details, but it’s like a live-fire exercise, like a test, and that why there weren’t anyone else there when there was the attack except our field trip folk, cause they were all guided away.
And I’m like really pissed off by this, and I’m all ready to go and get in Hellbinder’s face and demand the truth, and – and –
And nobody else wanted to do it. Nobody else wanted to freaking do it!
Well, confronting the Headmaster –
And SURGE. Sarge SURGE was in on it.
– and the Sargent … well, I can see where they might have thought it, um, on the dangerous side.
No. They just didn’t see the reason for it.
Interesting. How did you feel about that?
Angry! I mean, I was angry. Angrier. Maybe confused. But it’s like, “What you gonna do, Joe, attack Hellbinder?” And, I mean, of course I wasn’t, probably, unless he attacked me, But … well, I could break his desk, maybe. That wouldn’t be okay, but it would be – I mean, his attacks, the attacks he arranged hurt people. Hurt Mette – and others, too – I mean, Kiln got thrown through a wall. All that. No civilians, thank God, but even if that was intentional, it doesn’t make it better, does it?
But your friends didn’t agree.
No, not even – I mean, I’m being told, “Nobody was hurt. Yelling’s not gonna help. Breaking his desk’s not gonna help.” I mean, the only one supporting me was Roddy, fergodsake.
Yeah, he was going, “We can get expelled! Awesome!”
And they were all, like, we need a goal, we need a plan.
Why did you disagree with that?
I – a plan would just – I didn’t want to plan it. I just wanted to hit something.
How would that have been helpful?
It would have made me feel better. Maybe.
So … what did your friends suggest instead?
Well, Alex had grabbed some rocks from the temple and from Captain Negative, and they wanted to run some tests on them, and they also had this program set up that was looking for temples that matched the one at the museum cause of the architecture, same kind of stone, things like that. So everyone wanted to talk about that. And Alex was all trying to butter me up, saying all these things about how my screw-up in the gym and the whole sequence of events was ending all for the better and I should be happy and I am so not, but then they start talking about going to grab a bite and tempting Mette with tiramisu.
Sorry, weakness of mine.
So what am I gonna do, cause Mette is all, ooh, that sounds tasty, so I decided I’d tag along.
Well. It’s fun watching Mette eat something she hasn’t eaten before.
Whatever. So we headed to this place Alex knew, but they conveniently get a text message and they get all mysterious and say they’ll meet us later. And they kinda made fun of my superspy disguise thing, but at least nobody was staring at me. And so we kinda talked about them while we went the tiramisu place.
Talked about which them?
No problem. I get mixed up on pronouns, too.
Wait, were you going to Pastaccino?
Um … yeah?
Oooh, that place is soooo good.
Yeah, but the patio chairs are kinda flimsy.
Oh. Yes, I could see that.
So Roddy comes out and hands around the tiramisus … tiramisi? Tiramisuses? Anyway. And he gives me one last as “my bestest buddy, Joe.”
Hmmm. How did you feel about that?
Well, I had told the team a bit earlier I was pissed off at Hellbinder because he’d threatened my friends, and Roddy was all, wait, we’re friends? And I was, like, no, friend-adjacent, and so he started this whole “bestest bud” thing. Which – I can’t decide if he’s telling the truth or yanking my chain, but either is kinda annoying.
Why do you say that?
Well, if he’s, like, mocking me with it, then that’s the kind of dick move I’d expect from him and I’ll have to do something about it. And if he’s serious, then it’s way pathetic, and I’m not sure what I’ll do about it.
Anyway, Mette liked the tiramisu. Which was cool.
It was okay. I kinda like cookies more than cake.
So I got the conversation back around Alex and their being like a spy for AEGIS.
And like they’ve got some game going on with the magitech from the temple, and AEGIS, and all the digging they did to find out what Hellbinder did, which I am still totally going to do something about, even if it’s just breaking all his pencils, and maybe his pens. But whatever, we didn’t get much of a chance to talk, because Alex showed back up just in time for their tiramisu. But that’s when things really started to get –