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Technoholic Man #3 (of 4): Stupid Old Man
by Denny Hill 2 (firebomb@technohol.com)
Copyright 2001 All rights reserved.

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In the deep, dark recesses of your mind, picture a tall, thin man with long, wispy white hair. He's wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a leather jacket, and is talking to two twin girls, both of which look like Hollywood-built superstars - save for their purple hair, at least. In the parking lot behind the girls, you can clearly make out a neon blue '82 Ford LTD station wagon, though its typical occupant is conspicuously missing...

Also, picture a text blurb somewhere in the mix there, one that says 'Guest Starring Tales from Variant Earth 13's Seņor Barnett!'

(That should do for a 'cover', shouldn't it?)

-------------------------------------------------------

"So you say you saw the guy on your way here, what, last night?"

The older couple nodded, each indicating in unison that this was, in fact, the case. Then the old man spoke. "You know it, Mister Bartlett. We were driving down the road when we saw that car right there." He pointed at the crisp, minty blue station wagon and then continued. "O'course, the thing had that crazy cracker in it at the time, that weirdo with the blue hair and blue coat and blue goggles and the - well, you get the point."

"That's Barnett. Seņor Barnett. But yes, yes I do."

"That's good. He's dangerous, if'n you ask me. Sitting there in his car, screaming at the top of his lungs. I swear we could almost hear him in our car, over the polka 8-Track Marlene had on." The old man paused to light up a cigarette, and while he nursed the thing, Marlene continued. "Bob's right, you know. He was insane. And then, the creepy young man looked at us. I'm no lip reader, but I could swear that he was saying..."

***

"What the Hell are you two looking at?!"

Looking away from the venerable couple, Sam returned his attention to the road, even though the Technohol was actually doing most of the driving. "They're probably looking at you raving at me, even though you don't need to talk for me to hear what you have to say, Sam." Sam just looked in the mirror, playing with his long blue hair a bit. "Don't you get uppity with me again, Hoss - we both know you're just as fallible as me. Remember what you did to Clarice?"*

"Of course, Sam. You keep bringing it up. Every five minutes, in fact."

"Ah yeah, I do, don't I?"

After a moment or so, during which Sam returned the car to a more respectable speed, legally speaking, the Technohol continued. "I still don't see why you feel the need to do this. After all, it's only cosmetic - and we both know you're only reacting to those insults Clarice made regarding your 'excess'. Besides, if you want to get in better shape, perhaps you should just perform a little more exercise, and perhaps watch your diet..."

"Stupid blue goo."

"?"

"Trust me, we'd be more effective this way - you keep all the energy you burn or something, and this way I'm not so much of a joke whenever we have to fight somebody. Nobody fears an overweight techie." The Technohol was again silent for awhile, and then issued forth its reply. "Very well. You're not actually all that 'large', but I'll do what you wish, Sam. Of course you realize this'll leave us with less emergency energy to burn, in the event that it is necessary."

"No big deal. Besides, you can just store all that in huge batteries or capacitors or somesuch, can't you?"

"Yes yes yes, of course..."

***

"And your name is...?"

"Andrew McCarthy. And not the movie guy, by the way. 'Cause I ain't no wussy."

"Mm hm."

"So you wanna know about that wacko with the blue car, huh? Yeah, I saw his ass all right, saw him last night about half a mile outside the hotel I was staying at with my girl. Was doing freaky stuff while me'n Mike were smokin' a bowl of this phat shit we picked up down in Tijuana. Hot damn, was that some good stuff - but I'm telling you, I saw what I saw. Wasn't no weed that made me see the phreaky things that blue cat did."

"Wait a minute. Did you just use the word 'phat'?"

"Um... no."

"And your girlfriend's name is Mike??"

"Hey shut up, man!"

"Mm hm. Anyway, about that 'blue cat' again."

"Aw yeah, me and, uh, Mike, we wandered out of our room to go smoke in peace, you know? Out here in the desert, it gets all LONELY at night, 'n stuff. We figured we wouldn't have any hassle if we just did our tha - our thing, y'know? So we walked out about five minutes into the big nothing behind the hotel, and we saw this huge flash of blue light, K-Mart (tm) style. Then another, and then a third. First we thought our stuff was laced, right? But then we saw him."

"The blue guy."

"Yeah! This guy, he had like, a gun for his arm or some shit! And he was talking to hisself, like. Like 'Hey, Hoss, that's a neat arc welder', y'know? Only we didn't see no Hoss or nobody else around. Then the freakiest thing happened - the welder or whatever sucked right into his arm! He started laughing, saying 'that tickles', y'know? But then he spun around like crazy, like he had eyes in the back of his head, and he yelled...."

***

"Hey!"

The two stoner 'friends' then ran away, once they realized that they'd been spotted by the strange man. Nonetheless, Sam gave chase for a few seconds, until he reached the spot they'd been watching him from, a sparsely vegetated heap of dirt that otherwise blocked him from the view of the hotel. That was when the Technohol perked up. "Sam, I'm detecting something in the air that could be trouble. It seems like..."

"Yeah. The little turds didn't even drop their stash. What a letdown."

"Um, of course, Sam. Anyway -"

"Don't worry, Hoss, I'm starting to get the hang of it. You just want me to picture in my head what kind of death ray or whatever I want you to make, so you can get the drop on bad guys - that way, we don't telegraph what we're up to about ten seconds in advance?"

The Technohol beamed. "Yes! You've got it, Sam! Finally..."

"Finally, eh? Okay then..." Sam concentrated, and the Technohol quickly worked to make the picture in Sam's head come to life, doing so by transforming his hand into... an electric can opener. "Hah! It worked! Now we just need you to figure out lasers and energy beam shooty thingies and we can take over the world! Or, at least, keep other jerks from doing it for us. Yeah, that's it... heheh. This is going to be so goddamn cool."

The Technohol sighed inwardly at that. It knew how to do lasers, for instance, but they drained so much power...

***

"So your name is..."

Upon asking the question, Seņor Barnett was barraged by both "Cindi" and "Bambi" in the exact same second. He stopped, shrugged, and pointed at Bambi. "You first." This elicited the immediate response of "Bambi!" before he could ask the question, which caused him to shake his head in dismay. Oblivious to the look on his face, Bambi just stood there, vacuous, until Barnett could marshal his will to live once more.

"Right, Bambi. Now, you and your twin sister here say that you met this blue-haired guy when he walked right up to your table?"

"Yeah! That was after the old guy walked up to our table, though. He said he was working for this new pop company, you know? He then offered to sell each of us a sample six pack of his newest flavor, this raspberry cola stuff, like months before anybody else could try it. It's this freaky stuff called 'Technohol 14'. See? Here's the cans, anyway. Me and Cindi got so thirsty waiting for the cops that we just had to drink 'em all. They're real good!"

Looking at Cindi, as though for confirmation of all this, Seņor Barnett was greeted with one single word of input on Cindi's part.

"Totally!"

After composing himself again, Barnett tried heroically to continue on. "Okay, so he walked up to your table, and then what?"

"Well", said Bambi, "He dropped these empty blue cans on our table, and said..."

***

"You shouldn't drink that stuff, ladies. The ones he gave me turned my hair blue - see?"

The twins were taken aback at this, as was the old man who was trying to pawn the new flavor of Technohol, Technohol 14, off on them. "You!" Sam just smiled, a big toothy smile, and laughed. "That's right, old man. Thought you could pull one over on me, did you? Well, I killed your pal Technohol 12 off easily enough. And what's with that, anyway, you got some sort of fruit soda fetish? Cherry, raspberry, watermelon, and minty what, mouthwash? I -"

Before Sam could continue his rant and rave against the purveyor of the Technohol within his body, the old man surprised him by firing a large metal cylinder out of his chest; well, transparent metal with the look of glass, at any rate. The projectile shot him clean across the Taos diner where he himself picked up his flavor of the organic circuitry, and then through the wall of the diner itself. "Auggggggggh!" was about all Sam could manage to say to that.

As he tried to pull himself together in the diner's parking lot, Sam found that the old man, who looked much less capable of the things he was pulling off today, was already upon him again. The old man then kicked him clean in the groin, causing him to fall to the ground a second time. Again attempting to collect his wits, Sam found himself lifted bodily into the air, and then carried out into the veritable wasteland outside rural Taos.

After about a quarter mile of this, Sam got tired of playing along, and pulled himself free of the old man's grasp; he was away from the Diner, after all, and his fight with the geezer need not endanger any other, innocent lives. "Okay, old man. What the Hell is going on here? Oh wait, let me guess, you're 'lemon lime' Technohol - or maybe it's Sprite (tm)? Or - or - or - I get it now, you're Technohol 7-Up (tm)! Hah hah hah - ackg!"

Sam stopped laughing when the old man transformed one of his arms into a large, hydraulic gripper, and grabbed onto his reproductive regions - hard. Before Sam could make some comment as to why everybody seems to hurt him there, the old man's other arm transformed into a fully functional - and quite deadly looking - circular saw. "Will you shut up! I am the creator of the Technohol that seeps through your veins, through your heart, through your very brain!"

"I am the essence of Technohol! Technohol... Zero, if you will. And I will have no more of your mockery!" That's when the self-proclaimed Technohol Zero applied the circular saw to Sam's body...

***

"So... you've met this guy before, have you?"

The young Hispanic girl nodded in the affirmative as she walked around the blue, 1982 Ford LTD, her hand slowly caressing its many steel surfaces. "Yeah, he picked me up when I was hitchhiking once. To San Francisco, where I live."

"I see. And your name is..."

"Clarice."

"Mm hm. So, if he drove you to San Francisco, why'd you wind up here, if I might ask? Especially if you had to hitchhike home - it's a long ride to Taos..."

"Ah... That's simple, really. I accidentally took something of Sam's... something I need to give back to him."

"This weird blue-haired fellow, his name is Sam?"

As Barnett began scribbling rapidly, Clarice nodded in the affirmative, adding "Mm hm..." to the gesture. Of course, she wasn't about to tell this nozy little reporter guy that what she taken from Sam was, in fact, a beating. And that yes, she fully intended to give him one back...

***

As his second arm fell off, Sam couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of the whole situation. Luckily, his Technohol had shut down his pain receptors at this point, otherwise he'd have gone into complete and utter shock. Not that he was too far from that in the first place. "That all you got - pussy?!" Sam knew that he was just all bluster at that point, since he wasn't quite sure what to do. He tried everything he could think of, but the old man kept coming.

"Stupid Technohol Zero," he thought.

That was when he got the notion of just getting AWAY. And, he figured, he'd try the same stunt that Clarice used on him - pin him to something with a big pointy object. While Technohol Zero paused to transform his circular saw arm into something resembling a pile driver, Sam formed a large harpoon gun out of his chest, and fired it right into the face of his opponent. The sheer force of the projectile shot Technohol Zero back twenty feet, and pinned him to the ground.

Sam then got up, and after trying (and failing) to collect his arms (since he had none to collect them with, see), he started running back towards his car. In a hoarse voice, Sam yelled out to the Technohol. "Hey! Now'd be a good time to burn some of that energy, hey? Maybe make me some new arms real quick or something?!" The Technohol was silent on this, itself concentrating very, very hard on keeping Sam from just dropping dead.

Sam was starting to make some speed, but then he stopped short, for he'd seen a ghost. It was Clarice, standing there before him. She had a large tank of some (apparent) liquid strapped to her back, out of which came a hose that was tied to what would appear to be a Super Soaker (tm). Before Sam could make proper sense of what he was seeing, Clarice punched him in the nose with a powerful uppercut, and flattened the poor guy - flattened him out cold.

When Technohol Zero eventually approached the two bearers of his creations, he smiled at the girl. "Ah, Clarice! I see that the reports of your demise have been ... exaggerated. She smiled a cold, detached smile, and nodded.

"Yes."

"I see you have the tank of special solvent I equipped you with in order to kill him before I set you loose... ready to finish the job?"

Clarice tried to stop grinning like a madwoman at that statement. "Oh yes."

Of course, Technohol Zero was still somewhat disoriented after taking a harpoon to the brain, so he wasn't noticing all of this sudden emotion in Clarice. "Very well then, girl, get on with it!"

Before Technohol Zero knew what had happened, Clarice turned on him and opened fire with the deadly (to organic circuitry, at least) liquid. Screaming in horror, Technohol Zero fell to the ground as he began to dissolve. "No! No! You weren't supposed to use it on me, you stupid bitch! Noooo!" Coming to despite his many injuries, Sam woke up just in time to see his primary foe dissolve into a mess of icky, watery goo.

"Whoa."

Clarice continued to spray the solvent on the remains of Technohol Zero even after they were no longer visible as such; she did so until the entire canister of the stuff she was holding was empty. And then, even after that, she kept squeezing the trigger of the liquid cannon until it broke. As the old man was finally rendered into his component molecules, Sam could see a wave of relief wash over Clarice's face.

"That was for Technohol 11, you fuck."

After Sam finally managed to collect himself (literally), he and Clarice returned to the Diner, only to find Seņor Barnett waiting for them. He appeared to have quite a headache, though - at least, he kept wincing as he looked at the two of them. "So, you two mind telling me what the heck all this was about?" They ignored him, of course, and started looking around the parking lot of the diner. Looking for whatever vehicle Technohol Zero may have been using.

Soon enough, it became apparent that he was driving the big Mack truck that had 'Bio-Logic Industries' emblazoned on each side. After breaking into the rear, the duo found a sort of mobile laboratory / control center, one complete with plenty of notes and such regarding Technohol Zero's work. As they started rooting through the materials at hand, Seņor Barnett walked around to observe the two as they looked for answers.

"No really, you two mind telling me what the heck is going on here??"

After sifting through the paper documents, and then the computer records (quite fast, actually, with the aid of their respective Technohols), Sam and Clarice did, indeed, tell Seņor Barnett what was 'up'.

***

"So, what you're saying is that this crackpot, this 'Mister Brewer', devised a means of creating organic circuitry, cell-sized living machines that could be used for all kinds of things. And that, since he didn't have the funding to properly manufacture the things himself, he went to this 'Bio-Logic Industries' for money. And THEY, in turn, were the ones who came up with the whole 'soda pop' theme as a means of raising an instant organic robot army."

Sam and Clarice both nodded, since Technohol Zero's notes (or Mister Brewer's notes, as it turned out) seemed to indicate just that.

"Sounds crazy to me."

Clarice just shrugged, and stepped out while Sam said his peace. "Normally, I'd agree with you, but then that leaves us, now, doesn't it? And those goofy twins outside. It's a good thing that you managed to keep the stuff from taking them over, though I still don't know how you managed that - especially since you're just a normal guy... or something.** Anyway, we've got to stop these jerks from doing any more damage with this organic circuitry plot of theirs."

"I'm taking them down. All of 'em. The entire damn company."

Clarice perked up with that. "I hear that! We can even use this stuff, too!" Clarice was, of course, referring to the five canisters of Technohol solvent that was sitting in the front of the trailer. "You know, just in case they've done some bad things with this stuff we don't know about yet." Sam nodded. "We, eh? So you're not still pissed about me - or Hoss, at least - pitching you over that cliff?"

Clarice just grinned at that. "Oh, I'm still mad at you, tough guy - I'm just gonna wait until we get rid of everybody else that can hurt me before I take you down..."

"Great. Anyway, Barnett, you go ahead and keep all this crap. Except for the solvent, anyway. That'll at least prove that the two of us aren't crazy in case this goes bad for us. And, and, and that way, in case we get dead, you'll have something you can use against Bio-Logic Industries in a more legal sense. Not that I plan on dying or anything... that's just in case. 'Cause I fully intend to make these guys hurt for what they've done to me, no matter how cool it is!"


* Sam is, of course, referring to his Technohol's 'reflex' assault on the then-vulnerable Clarice, which occurred last issue.

** Actually, he's not. As was shown in the (currently out of print) Tales from Variant Earth 13, Seņor Barnett has the (unwanted) ability to talk with electromechanical devices, and can often convince them to do things for him - though it usually requires months of therapy afterward.

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Having teamed up with Clarice, Sam decides (after about a week of recuperation) that it's time to take Bio-Logic Industries down. Of course, he has absolutely no clue what kind of defenses the company may have, especially against people like him and his erstwhile ally, so he's not even sure he can make this work. However, by now you can tell that he's stubborn enough that - with Clarice's help - he just might pull it off.

Tune in next time to watch the six-pack of mayhem go down!

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Technoholic Man #3 (of 4): Stupid Old Man
by Denny Hill 2 (firebomb@technohol.com)
Copyright 2001 All rights reserved.



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