From the author: The past is always with us, whether we want it to be or not. Even with superheroes...
THE BRAT AND THE PAST BLAST
By David Perlmutter 2, 657 words
When I left my home planet to settle on Earth, I never expected that I’d have to go back and confront a really bad episode that I happened to be involved in there. Not that I actually did anything bad, but…
You raised your eyebrow. Evidently, you seemed intrigued. Let’s see if you stay that way when I’m done.
Yes, I may be a “superhero” in your eyes, but I wasn’t always one. Not hardly. It was only when I left my heavy gravity-laden home to come to the lighter gravity-laden inner planets that that particular job opened for me, as you know.
All the residents of my planet resemble the beings that you call “children”, albeit we were- and are-adults. And what you call “cyborgs” besides, since half of our bodies are made out of metal. The right side, in most instances. We paint and lacquer it and so forth so that it looks like we are all “human”, so we’ll look like the more humanoid creatures we encounter, including you. But we- and only we- know the truth.
We’re also like you in the sense that we have a military, with everyone of a certain age expected to do a certain stretch of service. And I did service when I was of a certain age.
You’re kind to say that I don’t look that old. But I am. Seriously.
The thing is, I was involved in a pretty bad battle during my stretch. We faced a conquest attempt from a neighboring planet, and we barely fought it off. Plenty of dead bodies on both sides, and lots of wounded, writhing in agony and spilling blood and oil and other fluids all over the ground. I don’t scare easily, of course, and I have to be brave in order to function as a superhero. But sometimes, sleeping alone, at night, I get convulsed with a shot of PTSD that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Even my enemies.
Which is why I didn’t relish the fact that I had to go back and confront the place where it happened. And the one who’d been responsible for most of the pain I still suffered from.
The one thing I felt relieved about going back was that, for once, in a long while, I wouldn’t have to justify to others why I was there. Nor would I have to explain to unbelievers that I was an adult and not a “kid”. Likewise, I would not have to pound the bejesus out of those who continued to doubt my adulthood after my initial explanation, so they’d finally get it.
Not that I mind punching out people, especially evil ones. It’s part of my job, after all. The trouble was, this particular quarry I was after could, as I knew from past experience, punch my lights out very easily. So this particular job was going to take more than might to make it right.
It wasn’t too hard to locate the spot where I needed to be. One doesn’t easily forget the place where one’s worst nightmares unfurled in front of one’s eyes. So, just before I concluded my intergalactic flight to the planet, I checked to see if there was any potential of anyone looking up my skirt as I descended, and, when there wasn’t, I plunged downward, feet first, pressing the skirt down with my hands, just in case.
When I landed with a thud, I shook the dirt off my white shoes, opened my blue sweater to reveal my “B” monogram superhero T-shirt, gave my blonde hair a little primp, and walked towards the massive building in my path.
That was the home of the person I was here to see. The person who had caused me plenty trouble in the past, and was about to cause more in the present and future.
I arrived at her front door, and hit the doorbell. It didn’t take her long to show up.
To look at Princess, you’d think she was a young kid, like you would me. No dice. Like me, she was bred and born on the planet, but she came from older and richer stock than my family. That gave her an understandably arrogant air, intensified when she became a battalion commander- of my battalion. In said capacity, she spent much of her time yelling at and/or beating us up (I was a regular victim) for things we had or hadn’t done.
That is, until she turned “chicken” during the infamous battle, and left us hanging, leaving us exposed to a full throttle enemy attack. You know what happened after that. She retreated home, but came back to the spot where the battle happened and built a house on the site, after she’d substantially increased her inherited fortune in the interplanetary markets, become a priestess in a shady cult, and publicly misrepresented herself as a “hero” of the war.
The fact that she’d gained infamy away from the planet was what got my heroic pals’ noses open, especially when they discovered the kind of things the cult was engaged in. However, they were willing to let me deal with her solo, because I assured them I was more than capable of handling her alone. Since it was my home planet, I reminded them, it was really my job, anyway.
Princess answered the door wearing a yellow wool sweater, purple skirt and pink ballet shoes. As she saw me there, her eyes narrowed to slits and her fists tensed up, and I tensed up likewise in case she attacked. But she rapidly gained her composure, shook her brown-haired head vigorously like she was saying “no” without saying it, and grinned with false pleasure. Like the snake she was.
“Why….Precious!” she mewled, calling me by my right name. “This is so….”
“Unexpected?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes,” she purred. “Won’t you come in?”
I entered, and she shut the door behind me, locking it with an ominous “click”.
“So what brings you here?” she said, in an attempt to distract me with idle chit-chat. But I wasn’t buying it.
“I think you know why,” I said.
“I don’t believe I do,” she retorted, hands on hips. “Suppose you tell me.”
“That cult of yours. I….”
“You want to join? That’s good.”
“No!” I spit the word out like a bullet from a gun. “You and your current membership are causing enough trouble for me as it is. Now, in my capacity as an intergalactic superhero, I’m warning you that…”
She interrupted me by laughing, loudly.
“What the hell is so FUNNY?” I snapped.
“You? A superhero?”
“Yeah. On Earth and the other inner planets, they call me the Brat. And fear me, besides.”
“But here,” she growled, balling her fists again, “you’re just a whelp whose ass I can easily kick! Remember that!”
“Just like you must remember what took place here. When you left me and the others to….”
“Shut up! I had my honour to consider!”
“You mean your scalp.”
“Don’t tempt me.”
“Into doing what?”
We were both now standing with fists clenched, waiting for the moment when one of us would make a move to choke the life out of the other. It didn’t come. Princess took a breath, and tried to appear genteel again.
“Come on, now, Precious,” she said. “Are we girls, or women? What use is it for us to threaten to kill each other over things that happened such a long time ago? I made a mistake then. I wasn’t like you. They made me an officer simply because my family was rich. I didn’t have the kind of experience you and your fellows had. So I had to act like I had it. You never understood that. It was all well and good in the barracks, but when we were actually in battle, I couldn’t handle it. I ran. But I came back when the time was right. I found a way to channel my suffering into action, in building this house. And in my religion….”
“Religion?” I raised my eyebrow again.
“Oh, yes. What was it you called it? Oh, yes- a CULT!” She spit “cult” out like I had “no” before. “But it is not a cult, dear Precious. It is a legitimate religion that will, eventually, take over…”
“Legitimate religions don’t involve human sacrifices! Or any of the other depraved things that you…”
“You actually believe those lies?”
“They’re not lies.”
“And what proof do you have that they aren’t?”
“I was visited by someone who escaped from your clutches, and told me all I needed to know about what it was that you were doing. I wasn’t surprised, knowing you, when he told me, in detail, about…”
“You can’t possibly believe rumours! You have to witness my religion in action, for yourself, to understand it!”
“I have no intention of witnessing….”
“Well, you’ve got no choice.” She pointed at the door, and leered triumphantly. “That thing is locked now. And it won’t open again unless I unlock it.”
“Then unlock it.”
“No, Precious. You are going to stay here. And like it.”
“In fact, I had been planning for your eventual pilgrimage here for some time.”
I was shocked, and a bit crestfallen. There went the element of surprise.
“How did you know…?” I sputtered.
“Please. Money, in sufficient quantities, can get you anything you want. I have my sources, and I pay them well to keep me advised on off-planet events, of which you’ve been figuring prominently as of late. And my sources, for that matter, are not pleased with your interference in their affairs. I know for a fact that they would be delighted to know that their enemy, the mighty Brat, had been destroyed.”
“By whom? And how?”
“That,” she pronounced, “is for me to know and you to find out!”
“You… BITCH!” I snarled.
I leapt for her throat, intending to kill her on the spot. But, just like she’d anticipated my coming, she anticipated my attack. When I got in striking range, she hauled off and punched me with formidable power. Stopped in mid-flight, I fell to the polished wood floor, down and out.
It wasn’t until later that I was revived, with a shot of cold water to the face. One of Princess’ staff members, by her ugly looks and build, had done it. When I revived, I discovered that I had been bound in chains made of gold around my hands and feet. Clearly a precaution against my escape, and, for that moment, at least, a prescient and effective one.
“What’s going on here?” I demanded.
The underling slapped me full-tilt in the face, with as much power as she could manage. But she wasn’t as strong as Princess, so I only got a sore cheek I couldn’t attend to.
“No talk!” she said, bluntly and curtly. “Sacrifices no make noise!”
“Sacrifice?” I asked.
But before I could answer came Princess’ voice from outside:
“Bring the next one out!”
I was given a look that suggested I would be punished severely if I made any funny movements, though I gave her back a look that suggested she’d get a taste of her own medicine if she tried. But she was the one with control. Grabbing one of my wrist manacles, she pulled me out in the open. I made little effort to resist, in an attempt to give a false impression of accepting my fate.
Princess was in the center of the stage I was walked out onto, wearing what resembled a priest’s cassock in construction: a black central garment concealing most of her body, with a wide back collar of canary yellow. She said her “religion” was “legitimate”, and, for all I knew, her congregation, looking stonily out at me in the darkness, was likewise. What that meant for me, I couldn’t say. At least immediately.
“Ah!” she purred, as she turned briefly, in triumph, towards me before resuming an address before the congregation. “Our last celebrant of the evening. Brothers and sisters, I have reserved this time so as to allow for a bit of a personal matter to be resolved. This particular heathen unbeliever was one of the motley crew whom I commanded in my days in the military during the war. Now she seems to have made herself a name in the inner planets, owing to our race apparently having superhuman powers wherever and whenever we venture off this rock. Never been off it myself, so I wouldn’t know. You may have heard of her as “The Brat”. Anyone?”
Silence. She stuck her tongue out at me, vulgarly, and continued.
“Anyhow, Precious here came back here in the supremely arrogant belief that she could stop us from practicing our faith. Hah! What chutzpah! Fortunately, I was able to capture her before she obtained her objective, and had her detained until this moment. This very moment!”
And then, from out of nowhere, she whipped out a sword, with a long, sharp, curving blade. My eyes widened- in shock, not fear. For I knew what I had heard before was true. I was to be killed- and the part of me that was flesh was to be eaten on the spot!
Princess uttered an elongated, bloodthirsty yodel and rushed towards me, intent on cleaving me right in half. There was only one way I could save myself, and I did it. I summoned all of my strength in the split second between me and death, and broke the chains apart like they were wet clay. The moment Princess was in range, and she registered what I had done on her face, I grabbed her arm, and she dropped the sword on the floor.
With a wordless but passionate growl, she lunged at me, teeth bared. I leapt upon her, and we fought. You name it, we did it, no holds barred. Neither of us was prepared to stop until the other gave in- or worse. She got hold of the sword and tried to cut me again, but I grabbed it, dropped her on the back, and stabbed her through the heart.
Don’t judge me. It was self-defence.
But it wasn’t until I’d committed the deed that I looked out and clearly saw the congregation for the first time.
It consisted, entirely, of the very race of beings we had been at war with all those years ago.
Her treachery was deeper than I had thought.
For a moment, I had a flashback to the war. All these scary, toad-like things leaping at me, trying to kill me. And how, more than once, I nearly….
No! I didn’t give them that satisfaction then, and I wouldn’t now!
Using Princess’ sword and the gun in my arm, I went on a torrid spree of attacking and killing anything that moved. Namely, because they bellowed and screamed and went for me first, in attempt to avenge their spiritual leader’s death. I completely flipped out and made a vengeful ass of myself, not unlike the so-called “action heroes” in your motion pictures, to my discredit. But I had mental monkeys on my back that wouldn’t be shaken unless I did something. In short, I needed to vent. That was the only way I could do it. The ones I didn’t kill up and ran. Just like before.
In the midst of it all, some lit candles got dropped on the floor. You can imagine what happened after that. I got out of there before it got to inferno level, but I doubt that anyone who couldn’t or didn’t get out in time was as lucky. With that, I took off into the galactic sky, back to my base on Earth.
If only bad memories could be left behind that easily.
This story originally appeared in Original to this site.
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