Just For One Day
“Bad whores, bad whores
Bad whores, bad whores
Their skills at copulation
Are very nearly nil
I tell them they should move around; they just lie still
It’s worse than masturbation
It doesn’t have that thrill
They must improve their intercourse
A blow-job would be nice of course
Bad whores, ba-”
The Purple Pimp’s voice was chopped off in mid note as a clawed hand closed on the back of his neck, jerked him up out of his car, and snatched him into the air. His mind raced in panic-stricken thoughts. ‘The League! It was just a joke, I didn’t mean no disrespect, please God let it be Dead Bowie not Fury Leika and I might just get…,’ and then his head was wrenched around to face his attacker.
He stared at a face out of nightmare. Wide nasal holes like those of a skull, tiny black eyes peering at him myopically, and a skull bulging as if it contained too large a brain. A gaping maw displayed rows of long and pointed teeth. He screamed once, briefly, and then the creature lunged at his throat. The scream died away into a gurgle. Blood gushed from a ghastly wound, turned his purple suit maroon, and dripped down onto the sidewalk.
Dr Horrible looked down at the puddle of blood and fought to hold back the urge to vomit.
“I can follow the blood trail,” Dead Bowie said. He shook his head. “Damn. I liked the bloke.”
“He was a slimeball in a dirty trade,” Fury Leika said, “but, that being said, he treated his girls better than most and he was always polite to me.”
“Yeah, well, he was bloody terrified of you, that’s part of the reason,” Dead Bowie said, “but then, he was pretty polite to most people. Had a wicked sense of humor.”
“This confirms your assessment of the threat, Abner,” Fake Thomas Jefferson commented to Professor Normal. “I did think that there was a chance that you might be overstating the seriousness of the situation. The primal savagery that they displayed in your initial encounter might have been due to fear, in unfamiliar circumstances, and the creatures been in fact no more ferocious than, say, anthropoid apes. Alas, such is obviously not the case. They are, as you said, ravenous predators that pose a clear and present danger to the populace.”
“Which we have to stop,” Dr Horrible said.
“That is a truth self-evident,” said Fake Thomas Jefferson, “lest the people vanish from the Earth.”
Snake Bite shook her head. “I think still that it is not so bad danger,” she said. “It is like the man-eating tigers escape from the zoo, is all. Yes, they eat some people, there is much panic, but then they are shot.”
“I wouldn’t trust this administration to deal with…” Tie-Die began. She was interrupted by the sound of gunfire from perhaps a block or two away.
“You see?” said Snake Bite.
A scream of agony came from the same direction as the shots. There was no more gunfire.
“Or maybe not,” Dr Horrible said. “We’d better get over there.”
“Five shots fired,” Professor Normal observed, “and I strongly suspect that they all missed.”
“There’s only human blood here,” Dead Bowie confirmed. He wrinkled his nose. “About ninety per cent of the content of a human body. This is another fatality.”
“But no body,” said Fury Leika.
“It carry the body off to eat,” Snake Bite said. She pointed up at the rooftops. “Up there, I think.”
Fake Thomas Jefferson nodded. “You are probably correct, my ophidian colleague,” he said. “Pursuing them along the skyline may be somewhat problematical, however.”
“Not for me, or Fury,” Dead Bowie said, “and Tie-Die can swing around the rooftops pretty well too.”
“If you want to take them on without our firepower, go right ahead,” said Professor Normal.
Dead Bowie’s eyes narrowed. Professor Normal recoiled slightly.
“He’s right,” Tie-Die put in. “We have to stick together. I wouldn’t want the three of us to get jumped by fifteen of the monsters.”
“I can go too on the roofs,” Snake Bite said.
Fury Leika shook her head. “Sure, but you don’t have the speed,” she said. “The brains are right. I’ll take on monsters one-on-one but I’m not gonna risk getting swarmed by a pack of them. We stay down on the ground even if it means we can’t track them.”
“About that,” Dr Horrible said, “I think I might have something.” He pulled a small device out of a pocket of his lab-coat. “I was wondering about the ancestry of the creatures. Their extreme agility might point to monkey or lemur ancestry, or perhaps the Fossa that preys on lemurs, but those very long front limbs suggest something else. Especially as their eyes are too small for a nocturnal predator unless they have some other way of perceiving their surroundings. A monkey descendant would probably develop extremely large eyes if it moved into the nocturnal predator niche, like tarsiers have, and so my hypothesis is that they are descendants of bats.”
“Sonar,” said Professor Normal. “Of course.”
Dr Horrible nodded. “That’s what I think. So, I’ve built a sonar detector.” He withdrew four pieces of curved metal from the pocket, fitted them together to make a dish-shaped structure, and plugged it into the device. “We can home in on their sonar emissions.”
“Excellent work, Doctor,” said Fake Thomas Jefferson.
Professor Normal grimaced. “I should have thought of that,” he said.
Dr Horrible opened his mouth to make a cutting retort and then decided that this was a time for cooperation rather than for scoring points. “You had a lot on your mind,” he said. “I’m sure you would have come up with a similar idea before long.”
Professor Normal’s majestic eyebrows rose from behind the shelter of his goggles like helicopter gunships rising over the crest of a sand-dune. “Ah, thanks,” he said. “Do you have more of those? I could probably integrate one with my robotic sideburns.”
“I only had time to get one completed,” Dr Horrible replied, “but I made several copies of the basic circuitry.” He fished a credit-card sized circuit board out of his breast pocket. “If this is any use to you, you’re welcome.”
Fake Thomas Jefferson stroked his chin. “Hmm. Should we adjourn our search to give our technical experts some more development time?”
A scream sounded in a nearby street. Tie-Die shook her head. “That would be a ‘no’.”
One of the creatures was crouched on the roof of a car, snarling and pounding on the windscreen, while a screaming woman cowered in the driver’s seat. The League members advanced to the rescue.
Dr Horrible raised a stun-ray to his shoulder and took aim. The predator’s head swung to face him. Even as Horrible pulled the trigger the creature took off in a flying leap. It was incredibly fast. The ray missed, as did a similar beam fired by Professor Normal, and the predator escaped unscathed. It hurtled towards the League group, fangs bared, moving in a zig-zag fashion and avoiding further ray blasts without difficulty.
Dead Bowie raced to meet it. Fury Leika pulled a fifteen-inch kukri out of her bouquet, tossed the flowers aside, and joined him. Tie-Die threw a noose at the beast, missed, and pulled back her line to try again.
The creature and Dead Bowie traded blows. Fury Leika came in from the side and slashed with her kukri, inflicting a gash along the predator’s flank, but it whirled and delivered a retaliatory slash which Fury avoided only by a frantic backward leap. Dead Bowie tried to take advantage of the beast’s distraction but it was too fast and strong. His punch, hard enough to shatter the bones of a human, knocked it back but had no other visible effect upon the creature. Its return strike laid Dead Bowie’s chest open so that his ribs showed through lacerated flesh.
Fury Leika went in again. Tie-Die tried to circle round to get behind the beast but its rapid movements frustrated her attempt. Dead Bowie parried and back-pedaled.
Behind the fighting line Dr Horrible and Professor Normal leveled their weapons waiting for a clear shot. Fake Thomas Jefferson raised something that looked like a large brass key and aimed it like a dueling pistol. Fury Leika came between him and the predator before he could use the device.
Snake Bite raised her Venom Staff but didn’t move forward to the attack. She hung back and cocked her head, listening; Dr Horrible saw her pose and lowered his weapon. “What is it?” he asked. His free hand went to his sonar detector.
“I don’t know,” Snake Bite said. “I think I hear…”
The second predator dropped from a rooftop, sent Professor Normal sprawling, and leapt at Snake Bite. She lunged with her staff. The creature knocked it aside and seized her. It gripped her in its clawed hands rather than gouging her flesh but its fanged jaws opened wide as it prepared to bite her face or rip out her throat.
Dr Horrible released the sonar detector and snatched up his stun ray again. If he hit Snake Bite and didn’t immobilize the creature she was doomed; however taking no action wasn’t an option. His finger went to the firing stud and he tried to find an opening for a shot.
A blue beam of light seared through the night and struck the predator. It dropped Snake Bite and turned, snarling at its attacker, but its movements were slower than before.
Dr Horrible’s goggles wobbled as his eyebrows rose in surprise. He controlled himself and fired. The green stun-ray hit the creature. Its legs buckled and it took a shaky step towards Dr Horrible.
Snake Bite rolled, snatched up her staff, and thrust it out at the beast. The envenomed tip sank home. It uttered a high-pitched, but audible, shriek and staggered away. It covered only a few yards before slumping to the ground.
The first predator broke off from its battle against Dead Bowie and Fury Leika and leapt into the middle of the street. Fake Thomas Jefferson unleashed an electrical blast from his Lightning Key and hit it squarely. It threw back its head and seemed to howl silently. Professor Normal, who had regained his feet, gave it a blast from his stun-ray. The creature froze in place for a moment but, just as Tie-Die was about to slip a wire noose around its neck, it jumped for the roofs.
Not altogether successfully. The predator missed its footing and fell back to the street. Fury Leika reached it and chopped at its leg. She severed part of its foot but it jumped again, more accurately this time, caught hold of the guttering and made it onto the roof. It scuttled away out of sight and the super-villains did not pursue.
Dead Bowie looked down at his chest and shook his head. “I liked that shirt,” he complained, “and it’s totally ruined.”
“If you weren’t undead you’d be pretty damn ruined yourself,” Fury Leika remarked. “Damn, that thing was tough.”
Dr Horrible approached the fallen creature. Snake Bite accompanied him and Tie-Die followed close behind. It was completely motionless now; he was just about to kneel to examine the body when he remembered the fates of countless people in horror movies who had done just that as their last act in life.
Tie-Die was slightly less cautious. She wrapped a length of wire around the predator’s throat and pulled it tight. “If it’s not already dead it will be soon,” she said.
Dr Horrible decided that the lack of reaction confirmed that the creature was dead or incapacitated. He bent and touched the apparent corpse. It was colder than its surroundings and particles of ice clung to the fur. “I thought so,” he said. He stood and faced in the direction from which had come the blue beam that had been first to strike the monster. “Johnny Snow.”
A parka-clad figure came forth. “That’s right, Horrible,” the super-hero said. “We have to talk.”