When the All Points Bulletin for Captain Obvious came out over the wire, the more fortunate criminals of Los Urbanos cashed in their chips and ran for the hills. The unlucky ones who lacked money or connections went into hiding – battened down the hatches, hoping to ride out the storm. A rogue supe was never a good thing, and somebody the caliber of Obvious meant it was a bad day to be a bad guy.
Captain Obvious didn’t have an archenemy. He wasn’t that kind of hero. He didn’t hold grudges, nor did he inspire them. He had never before launched a personal vendetta. But the villains he faced off against the most, his bread and butter vanquishings, were members of the League of Disposable Criminals. The League was a group of minor league superhumans coupled with a few ambitious non-supes in the mix, sporting some kind of advanced tech they’d lifted from some corporation or another.
People who needed some havoc wreaked could hire the League to smash some windows or some kneecaps, slash a few tires or a throat, torch a business while the owner was off having himself an alibi.
The League of Disposable Criminals, although they’d never have described themselves as such, were minions for hire. Unimpressive, unorganized, and underwhelming. Sanjay thought that the chances one of them had killed Zoe were virtually nil.
But they were good for one thing, and that was information, which he desperately needed. So he went strolling in through the front door of their clubhouse, an old decrepit mansion that looked like something off of an old movie. Captain Obvious walked right past the three security guards shooting AR-15s at him. Bullets bounced off him and ricocheted into the floor and the walls and into one of the security guards.
It was annoying, so he thought about how would be so easy to sizzle the place right off the face of the earth, to burn their clubhouse to the ground and walk away with the flames raging in the background like in a Tarantino movie. He thought about how he had nothing left to lose and considered that destroying the League could just be a gateway drug. He fantasized about getting hundreds of scumbags off the streets permanently before they sent the Flying Brick and Nuclear Option to Los Urbanos take him out.
His eyes watered just thinking about it.
The thing about being a superhero that Sanjay hated even though he was supremely excellent at it, was that it was mostly playacting. Theater. Melodrama. Most of it was about as real as professional wrestling, as kids playing cowboys and injuns. Sure, the occasional megalomaniac came along and the heroes would have to run their asses off to bring em in, but for the most part it was just a show for the entertainment of the masses. The good guys played their parts, the bad guys played their parts, everyone was in on it with a wink and a nudge to each other, and the people at home shoveled popcorn in their mouths and watched the footage on YouTube.
It didn’t have to be that way. But too many important people made money off of a perpetual state of crime and punishment – the capitalist pigs, the bureaucrats and bean counters, the poverty pimps, Hollywood, even the cops themselves – for the authorities to ever let the capes have free rein and wipe the bad guys out permanently.
Being a superhero was like being a soldier in Vietnam, sitting on incredible firepower while horrific things happened to the right of you and to the left of you and you couldn’t engage the enemy because of decisions old rich guys made a half a world away. Sitting on the ability to not just solve crimes but prevent them, unable to do a goddamn thing to end the Cold War because you’d end up destabilizing the geopolitical balance, or the ability of the rich to get richer, or catch the attention of the social justice warriors or something.
The latter was particularly pissing him off right then. Waaah, muh human rights, waah, due process, waah, somebody had a bad childhood, well, who the fuck DIDN’T have a bad childhood? Try being a Desi kid growing up in Dotcomicon Valley with jets of flame coming out of your eyeballs.
What about Zoe’s human rights, anyway? What about people’s rights to live in their homes and walk down the streets without having to worry about monsters lurking among them?
It all used to make sense to him. Chaos was the enemy of society, chaos and instability, and in order to prevent chaos, you had to have rules, you had to have a reliable structure that people could count on. It was better to have a stable and imperfect world where everyone knew what to expect, than to blow it all up chasing after utopia, which was an unattainable goal. Maybe some innocent people died, but it was fewer than would have died in a world where villains and capes were at constant war with each other.
Thus superheroes could not act with impunity, they couldn’t allow themselves to, the risks were too great. They weren’t above the law, they were in service of the law, they were the hands and the heart of the law, and as such they were expected to put what was good for society above all else. With great power comes great responsibility, yadda yadda yadda. And what was good for society was maintaining the status quo. Giving people the illusion of a predictable and rational world when the reality was, it was anything but.
It used to make sense to him before Zoe died but now all he could think was that if they’d been killing bad guys instead of slapping them on the wrist and letting them go to maintain the social fabric, the odds were they’dve killed the guy already and Zoe would be alive.
Eventually the guards ran out of bullets and stopped firing and he could hear them shouting and running away, except for the one who had been shot of course who was just laying in a heap moaning.
It didn’t sound fatal, which seemed like a crying shame.
Captain Obvious let them go since they didn’t matter and continued onwards towards the stairs which led to the second floor, and then he flew up there without bothering to take them.
A few guys popped out at him from various closed doors and shot bullets that of course had no effect. Just for fun he caught one of them in midair and threw it back at the guy who fired it, hitting him in the knee. His kneecap exploded in a red haze that Obvious found immensely satisfying.
The guys kinda gave up shooting at him after that happened.
Before things progressed any further a door at the far end of the hall opened up and an oily man in an expensive sharkskin suit – a costume, just as much as the spandex and cape of Captain Obvious was a costume – came out with his hands held up in a placating manner. “All right, all right, all right, that’s just about enough of that! You’re shooting up my house, here!”
“I’m just standing here, Mook. They’re the ones shooting.”
The Mook screwed up his face as if to say “pshaw” and waved his hand dismissively. The minions took their wounded and slunk away. “Yeah, you’re the very soul of innocence, aren’t you, Cap?”
“Back at ya.”
“What is it I’m meant to have done, pray tell?”
“I couldn’t tell you, but I am fairly certain you’ve done something illegal in the last 5 minutes. Maybe I’ll bust you first, and ask questions later.”
The Mook turned a large pinky ring around on his finger. “Flat Stanley.”
“It was Flat Stanley, who iced your girl. I’m telling you this out of friendship, Obvious.”
“Yeah, we’re such notoriously great friends, Mook, I forgot.”
“Consider it a good faith offering then. Flat Stanley.”
Captain Obvious digested this news and it felt like swallowing a sea urchin, it hurt all the way right on down and then plopped into his stomach and sat there digging in. Flat Stanley was nobody, he was nothing. Nothing. A petty thug, not even slightly formidable. Captain Obvious could’ve killed Flat Stanley with the ease of tugging off a hangnail. “He’s in jail,” he protested. “I put him there myself.”
“He got time off…” The Mook busted out into laughter. “…for good behavior!” And he started laughing even harder so Obvious lit up his eyes and sent a narrow beam about a millimeter wide alongside The Mook’s cheek which set the wallpaper on fire. Even though the flame didn’t even touch the guy, it was enough to heat up the air considerably. The Mook took a step to the side and clapped a hand to his face. “Hey, now, that’s not necessary! I didn’t let him out of jail! That was your team, Champ, not mine.”
As a thug came rushing past him with an extinguisher to put out the fire he’d started, Captain Obvious thought back, wracked his brain, tried to recall if anyone had given him a heads up that Flat Stanley was back on the streets so he could’ve watched his back a little. But the truth was, he had been so spun around with Zoe, spending all his free time with her, thinking about her when he wasn’t with her, that he hadn’t been keeping up on his correspondence as diligently as he usually did. He really hadn’t been keeping up with it at all. Being a superhero was volunteer work, done for love not money, so it was sometimes all too easy to backburner the paperwork when real life got interesting.
Sanjay realized his handlers from the United Bureau of Superheroes could have very easily been trying to warn him and he’d missed it. His inattention to detail – the one time he wasn’t dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, the ONE GODDAMN TIME – had got Zoe killed. He felt as if someone had doused him with a bucket of despair and it rolled down him like honey – heavy, sticky, and slow. “Where is he?”
The Mook thought this over and made a big show of checking his watch. “What’s in it for me?”
“I don’t kill you.”
“You’re no killer, Obvious, everyone knows it. You’re no Batverine.”
“Try me,” he replied, and there must have been something in his face because The Mook got all red in the face and stammered for several seconds before he was able to choke out a reply.
“The abandoned zoo. He’s been staying there since he got out, I guess. The guy’s half animal, he prolly feels at home behind bars.”
“Guess they should have kept him there.”
The Mook was dismayed to see pinpoints of orange flame flickering in Cap’s eyes. He gulped, fairly certain he was about to get burned to cinders by the fricking Teen Choice Award’s Choice Superdude. “Guess so,” he agreed, and tried to get right with God.
But a moment later Obvious was gone, straight up through the roof. A bunch of shingles and wood fell down through the hole with a crash and dust rose up before settling back again. The Mook looked around at his clubhouse riddled with bulletholes and scorch mark and the roof caving in.
But then he thought of those twin embers glowing and figured he got off light.
He wouldn’t want to be Flat Stanley right about now, that was for sure.
The first place Zoe thought to look was of course at Sanjay’s apartment. There was crime tape up around it but no one seemed to be around, so she opened the unlocked door and stepped over the tape. Even though the apartment had been pitch dark, there was a tall, slim black guy, bald and wearing a leather jacket, sitting at the table and smoking a cigarette. That irritated her since she knew Sanjay would have hated anyone smoking in his house even though everything was covered with blood and ruined. That was my blood, her brain remembered. That was my blood. She felt a flare of outrage that petered out into memories of terror and violation and repressed a shudder.
“Can I help you,” he asked calmly, but there was a threat in his voice. He sucked on his cigarette and the tip of it glowed for a moment before dimming again. Then he flicked off the ash on the end into an empty aluminum can.
“Maybe.” To her surprise, Zoe found herself feeling fairly confident in the situation, knowing that if she was dealing with a superhuman or even just a regular one, she’d be able to defend herself now. She envisioned sinking her claws into the guy’s throat, and was stunned to realize part of her actually wanted for him to try something so she could give them a whirl. “I’m Zoe Rose, and there’s been a terrible misunderstanding.” On Milo’s car radio she had heard an Emergency Broadcast System announcement that Captain Obvious had gone rogue and that meant the cops and the National Guard were probably already out hunting him down. She just hoped they hadn’t called in the other heroes yet, because that meant that the situation had gone to Defcon 5, or maybe Defcon 1, whichever was the highest Defcon.
The man in the dark laughed. “Ma’am, let’s be real here. I know you are NOT Zoe Rose.”
“I am though, I know it’s weird but just listen…”
He gave her an appraising look which she felt offended by. “I’ll admit there’s quite a resemblance, but I saw it with my own two eyes, Zoe Rose is dead.”
“Well, that’s the thing, I didn’t die.”
“You didn’t die, right, right, right.” He stubbed out his cigarette on the top of the can and put the butt down the keyhole opening. Then he stood up with a soft groan. “Come on, out of here. I don’t want Obvious to come back and see you, I can’t account for your safety if he does.”
Zoe realized the guy was there waiting in case Sanjay came home, ostensibly to talk to him, talk him down maybe, and she felt more kindly disposed to him. “No, really, I’m Zoe Rose, I’m his girlfriend, Captain Obvious-es, I mean. I’m on KAQT News, um, I was born in Tamarack Grove, Idaho, January 27, 1989…” Her babbling was falling on deaf ears though. The guy grabbed her by her shoulder roughly and started to steer her towards the door. Her body recoiled at the touch of his hand on her body; she never wanted to be touched by a stranger again. But it did made her think of a way to convince him. “Oh, I know what, um, ok? Listen! Earlier today someone shoved me into that fridge?”
Detective Wallace stopped short. No one knew that. That little detail hadn’t been released to the media, in order to weed out all the crazies who called in with false confessions. “How the hell do you know that?” he asked suspiciously. Maybe she was a crazy, and she killed Zoe Rose so she could take over her life. She did look so much like her, it was spooky. Or maybe she was obsessed with Captain Obvious, the capes attracted more than their fair share of stalkers and the resemblance was coincidental.
The girl pulled out of his grasp before he could react and threw the fridge open. “I know what you’re thinking, but no. Someone put me in here. It was a man. And when I was in here, I was still alive,” she took a glance at the fridge and saw that several of the chemical bottles had indeed fallen over and spilled, and a couple of them were broken. “This stuff, whatever it is, it spilled on me and because I was all cut up it went right into my bloodstream, I guess? It did something to me. It did something to me and I didn’t die. I got mutated. I didn’t die! I’m not dead. You guys took me to the coroner and I screamed and Dr. Bonaventure helped me.”
The man gaped at her with his mouth wide open. “Dr. Bonaventure,” he muttered. How could she possibly know that, how could she possibly know? The rest he could wave away as the ramblings of a lunatic, but that?
“Yeah, call him, he’ll explain everything. But hurry up! We have to find Sssssss….Captain Obvious because he still thinks I’m dead.”
He stared at her and blinked his eyes several times. “You do look an awful lot like Zoe Rose,” he said warily.
“That’s because I AM Zoe Rose! Would you make the freaking phone call already?”
As he talked on the phone she learned his name was Detective Wallace and he learned she was still alive. After he hung up he smiled in shocked disbelief. “Well, I got to say, this is on a short list of my weirdest cases ever.”
“It gets weirder, but we don’t have time for that right now,” Zoe replied, repressing an urge to toss a snowball at his face and show him just how weird things could get. “Do you have ANY idea where Captain Obvious is, any idea at all?”
“If I did I’d be there talking him down, instead of sitting alone in the dark.” He thought for a moment and raised a finger. “I actually DO know where he is, I mean, not exactly, but in general. He’s out looking for the guy who killed….well, who tried to kill you.” Wallace knew criminals had big mouths and gossiped like old women, so he was fairly sure Cap would have no trouble finding out who had done the deed. If they could beat him to the punch maybe they could save Obvious from himself.
“Does that help?” Zoe asked, wishing she watched more detective shows on TV.
“It might. You said it was a man who did this to you Zoe, you think you could recognize him from a mugshot?”
“Yeah, totally, he was the most bizarre-looking guy I ever saw in my life!”
“His body was like, I don’t even know, Detective, he was like, really wide, and really thin.” She gestured with her hands to try to describe it. “He looked like he was made out of Legos or something?”
Wallace pressed his lips together in a triumphant expression. “Flat Stanley.”
“Oh my God, you know who it is?? Just from that?”
“I’d put money on it. Cap was the one who put him away. Just got out of prison a few weeks back. It passes the smell test.”
Zoe hurried towards the door and looked back at Wallace. “What are you waiting for??”
“You’re not going, girl, come on. After everything you been through?”
“I have to, don’t you see? Because he’s never gonna believe it otherwise.” Zoe remembered that sound Sanjay had made and just knew in her gut he would have to see her alive and well before he would accept it as the truth. Otherwise he would just think the authorities were tricking him; they’d pulled similar tricks on other rogues in the past.
“I’ll make him believe it. I’m not gonna put you into jeopardy, Miss Ro…” Before Wallace could finish his thought, something hard and cold hit him in the face. It took him a good 30 seconds to realize it was a snowball. “What the actual eff…” he said as he wiped the snow from his face.
“Believe me when I tell you, Detective, I can take care of myself now.
“I think it’s gonna take a little more than that, Princess Elsa.”
“I’ve got more,” she said, and sliced her wrist open with her diamond fingernails.
“Have you lost your goddamn mind?” the detective scolded, but then he shut his mouth with a snap as the wound healed up before his very eyes.
“I’m fine, ok, I’m an unstoppable killing machine or whatever, so can we GO?”
Wallace shook his head and sighed, but he followed after her. He’d been around enough supers to know when one of them promised they could fend for themselves, they usually could.
The superhuman who called himself Desire preferred to live in the shadows. In a world obsessed with celebrity, with fame, he was quite happy to have neither.
All he wanted to do was eat. Hunger dominated his life from the moment he woke up in the morning till he went to bed at night. He slept fitfully, dreaming of eating, dreaming of someday, finally, having a full belly like he remembered from when he was a child. He dreamed of Thanksgiving dinners, of massive ice cream sundaes, of sub sandwiches 10 miles long, of gorging himself on hamburgers and Reese’s cups and tacos, even just simple foods like buttered toast and tea.
But then he would wake up and remember he couldn’t eat any of it any more, it tasted like nothing and caused stabbing pains all through him before it was forcibly dispelled in one way or another. And so his hunger just grew and grew.
Desire was always looking for his next meal ticket, so when he heard the APB come in that a hero had gone rogue he hunted down Exquisite. She was sleeping off a bender with Canyonero at a drug house out in the suburbs.
It was funny how downtown Los Urbanos used to be where the broken people hung out, but now the city was all gentrified and expensive and full of hipsters and other assholes, so the addicts had moved to the suburbs and outlying areas. He tracked Exquisite to the basement of a split level house that had once been worth a couple hundred thou, probably, but now was worth nothing. The carpet was ripped up, there was graffiti on the walls, holes punched or blasted through doors, garbage strewn everywhere, shit and piss on the floors. Hollow-cheeked, sunken-eyed junkies lay wherever they’d collapsed or shuffled aimlessly in circles rambling about nonsense. But Desire didn’t hate them, not at all. He had a lot of sympathy, actually. He understood all too well what it was like to have an empty hole inside you that nothing could fill.
When Canyonero tried to stop him from taking the girl, Desire looked him in the eye and said the magic words. He drained the guy, not all the way, but enough. Canyonero fell back onto the filthy mattress he’d been laying on and started to snore.
Exquisite kicked like a wildcat, but she knew better. “What do you even want, Desire?” she asked in a whiny voice, as he dangled her in midair by the scruff of her neck.
“I gotta find Captain Obvious.”
“You’re looking for a cape?? On purpose? Are you NUTS?”
“OMG really? We gotta get out of town,” she said, and looked at Canyonero, his huge body sprawled out like a hibernating bear. His eyes twitched in REM sleep and drool oozed from a corner of his mouth. “How long did you put him down for?”
“You don’t need to leave town, Exquisite. You just need to tell me where Obvious is at.”
Exquisite pieced together the implications and laughed and laughed. “Remind me never to get on your bad side, Desire.”
“If I have to remind you of that, you’re dumber than you look, Exxy. Where is he.”
The girl’s eyes went white and her face slackened. “He’s at the abandoned zoo,” she said, blinking her eyes clear. “Hunting for Flat Stanley.”
“Girlfriend in the fridge.”
“Really. Heh.” Desire had realized a long time ago that when a supe went rogue and then went missing, the authorities figured they’d flown off somewhere to a distant planet or into a nuclear reactor to melt themselves or something. They didn’t look into the disappearance terribly much, assuming that the cape had shuffled off this mortal coil in some fashion. So the best time to have himself a good dinner was when there was a rogue. And a rogue the caliber of Captain Obvious was gonna be a very good dinner indeed.
Maybe he’d even feel satisfied for a while. It could happen.
Just because it hadn’t yet, didn’t mean it couldn’t. Up until now the strongest supes had eluded him so he’d never learned what it meant for him to consume one of the heavy hitters. “Thanks, kid,” he said to Exquisite and set her back down.
She pulled her tank top back down from where it had ridden up when he’d lifted her, revealing the shape of her breasts through the thin fabric. No bra. Exquisite was young and beautiful despite her gaunt frame and the ugly needle marks that marred her every available vein. Desire wished he could appreciate it, wished he still had that part of himself, but it was gone, devoured by that gnawing hunger that consumed him.
Please check out Part 4 here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2020/01/04/women-in-fridges-a-cold-day-in-hell-part-4-surprise/