Chapter 13: The Ultimate Funeral

  1. Chapter 12: Point of Departure
  2. RAC Challenge!
  3. Chapter 14: Sing a Song of Six Packs

It had been a moment that, had it been observed by anyone else, would have left cosmologists babbling and theologians openly weeping. Perhaps thankfully, it was not observed by anyone but a select few.

Those select few were not particularly delighted at having been so honored.

In fact, Dirk would have been delighted for just a little bit more divine intervention at that moment. There was an awful lot of ceiling on its way toward him, in strict accordance with the laws of gravity. And for perhaps the first time in his life, Dirk wanted to willingly break a law.

Gravity, as any high school physics student will tell you, is not optional.

And several tons of steel and concrete, operating under that law, were going to hurt a lot.

Mary Lu, in possession of The Ultimate Marble, could afford to just stand there, laughing evilly, welcoming the onrush of broken building like a warm April rain.

Dirk did not have that luxury, at least not at the moment. Nothing sturdy enough to hide under…

… except…

… Dirk smiled. One thing sturdy enough to hide under.

In the split second before the ceiling hit, Mary Lu didn’t even have time to register the fact that Dirk was in a place he hadn’t been for a very long time.

The dust hadn’t even had a chance to settle when Mary Lu discovered exactly at how much of a disadvantage she suddenly was. “What do you think you’re doing?” she screeched, turning a marvelous shade of crimson as she glowered at Dirk. He’d found the one thing to hide under that could withstand the impact—Mary Lu herself!

Dirk stood up behind her. No grapefruit, no potato salad… but there was one weakness she had that needed no external help. Never mind that it was neither a dignified way to beat an opponent, nor something that anyone should ever do to a lady.

He remembered that she was very, very ticklish.

She let out a satisfying squawk of surprise, jerking backwards and throwing the Ultimate Marble high into the air.

Viewpoint: High Above

Two people and a lot of rubble. The rubble is largely motionless; the two people are both moving in the same direction toward a tiny object glinting brightly in the daylight filtering in through the gaping wound in the ceiling.

Viewpoint: Worm’s-Eye View

Not much. The wreckage would have squashed any worms that were there to see.

Viewpoint: Sidelong

Two people racing to the same objective.

Two people who don’t know that they’re also racing physics.

And physics rarely loses.

Viewpoint: Pause Scene

Dirk, one leg stretched out long behind him, the other coiled and ready to strike, to push him faster forward and closer to his goal.

Mary Lu, leaping over an inconveniently placed chunk of ceiling, caught half-way through a mid-air roll.

A large block of concrete, separated only a split second ago from its tenuous grasp on a bracing beam above, seemingly motionless.

Viewpoint: Moving Images

Dirk lunged forward; the gap between himself and the Ultimate Marble was measured now only in the tens of feet.

Mary Lu: the same.

The large block of concrete: hurtling downwards at a steady acceleration of 9.6 meters per squared second.

The Ultimate Marble: slowly settling to rest in the hollow of a gouged-out chunk of steel, and the focal point of all the activity.

“Ultimate” is a word, much like “new” and “improved”, that gets badly misused by advertising agencies.

So it should be no surprise that “ultimate” just isn’t as ultimate as it used to be. Familiarity takes all the potency of the concept away. There’s an “ultimate” dish-washing detergent introduced every other week. There’s the “ultimate” in luxury cars introduced every fall. “Ultimate” is no more meaningful than “slightly improved” or “better marketed”.

Perhaps the creator of The Ultimate Marble had fallen prey to this sloppy way of thinking. Or perhaps whoever it was simply didn’t think of all the possibilities in a quantum universe.

In any case, it does not speak well for the concept of “ultimate” when, a split second later, The Ultimate Marble is shattered into dust by the aforementioned block of concrete.

Its dénouement was impressive, at least, if not predictable: pyrotechnics, shafts of light in innumerable colors, and an explosion of enough force to fling two very surprised people a good hundred yards away.

Mary Lu sat up first, shaking her head. “It’s gone! You idiot,” she yelled, turning angrily on Dirk, “this is your fault!”

Dirk Darringer barely heard her. He watched the dust settle. He watched some more ceiling collapse. He watched a small fire begin in a corner of the ruins. But he only barely heard her.

Finally, he managed to make himself stand up. Mary Lu was still heaping verbal abuse on him; he still hadn’t registered a word of it. She was starting to get painfully shrill, though, and he snapped, “Shut. Up. Now.”

Mary Lu, shocked by the sudden ice in his voice, shut up.

“Do you have any idea what this means?” he asked quietly.

“Yes. It means I’m going to have to kill you in a really imaginative, really painful way.”

He turned slowly and glared down at her. “Oh? And with what powers? The Ultimate Marble is gone. Smashed. Destroyed. No longer in existence. Pushing up the daisies. Extinct. It - is - an - ex - marble!”

She cast a glance back over to the smoking hole where The Ultimate Marble had been scant seconds before.

Dirk leaned closer. “That means no more Ultimate Man. No more Ultimate Woman. For all I know, no more Ultimate Twins! No Fluffy the Ultimate Dog, no Mittens the Ultimate Cat, no Ultimate anything!”

“No…” she said weakly. She had no desire at all to going back to being a normal human being again, and all that entailed: dead-end job at the local Kwikie-Mart, paying bills, riding the bus. “… no…”

“The Ultimate Woman and the Ultimate Man are dead,” Dirk said coldly. “It’s the Ultimate Funeral.”

Mary Lu Retina didn’t remember when, exactly, she started running, but she ran for a very long time. Past the local Kwikie-Mart, where she’d have to go to apply for her old job back. Past the theater advertising the director’s cut of “A Thousand Deaths”. Past the city limits, even. And she kept on running, even though she knew she’d have to come back eventually.

Dirk was wholly unaware of this.

He had only one thing on his mind—a good night’s sleep. Maybe even a beer. A mutilation of an old ad ran through his mind: You’ve just lost every super power you’ve ever had. Now it’s Miller Time.

All this and more in a story that could only be called…

Next chapter: “Sing a Song of Six-Packs” by Chad Imbrogno. Be here!

Hoo-boy. Lucky number 13…

First, the mea culpas—I know, I know, I know it’s supposed to be a four-day deadline, but as I explained to The Powers That Be (TM, pat. pend.), my turn caught me at an awkward life’s moment. Rather than go into detail, let’s just say I had a good excuse.

Second, there is no Sikorski’s Soapbox. There is, however, ikaros’ eyrie, from whence I speak from On High… :)

Now. The story.

Jeez. I thought our magazine was loaded with warped people… this has been a real stretch.

Bill, sorry, no Scarecrow’s Brain, no recipes for Hashed Humans, and everybody knows that in space no one can hear you stub your toe… unless, of course, you’re in space inside a starship or space station, and you yell real loud—then, you just might alert the crew… :)

Are you folks sure that character shouldn’t be Mary Lu Retcon? I couldn’t even make the whole thing a dream sequence! So I did the next best thing and tried to explain things just enough to make it worse for the next victim… er, author. So now we have a superheroes story with no more superheroes. Good luck, Chad!

So here ‘tis. Have fun. Good luck. If and when it comes back around to me, I promise to make deadline, really I do…

  1. Chapter 12: Point of Departure
  2. RAC Challenge!
  3. Chapter 14: Sing a Song of Six Packs