The Champions Project: Moondragon #2
Big splash page. Six orangutans wearing suicide bomber vests stand atop two Studebakers that they’ve crashed into the front of a chain diner. They wear hardhats with small speakers mounted on either side. The speakers yell: “HEE-WACK! EVERYBODY DIES NOW!” Alice and Moondragon are in the foreground. Alice says “Tommy?”
Captions on the page read: “The place: South Bend, Indiana! The situation: Suicide-bombing apes! The time left before everybody dies: Two seconds!”
The next page is a series of panels, each one with a wee “ticking clock” showing how much of those two seconds are left. Moondragon tries to “push” the apes away with telekinesis, but finds she can’t. They have some sort of mental “fuzz” around them that prevents her getting a firm “mental grip.” Instead, she mentally grabs the people in the diner and flings all of them, and herself, outside.
The timer in the captions hits zeroes. The diner explodes. The people, however, are safe on the opposite side of the parking lot.
The folks pick themselves up, confusion all over their faces. Moondragon thinks it over for a moment, then yells “Amazing! We were all blown clear!” Her narration explains that she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself, and such a ruse was easy enough. The diner patrons and staff are too stunned by events to think about how absurd that would be.
We see Moondragon and Alice get into Alice’s car. In the background we can see police cars and fire trucks. “That was one hell of a thing,” Alice says. “What’re the odds of that happening? Phew! We are the luckiest--”
Moondragon interrupts her. “Who is Tommy?”
Alice looks confused and fidgety. “Uh...um...Tommy? Tommy Callahan? We dated a couple of years ago.”
“And where is Tommy now?”
“Not real sure.”
“He’s tried to kill you twice in one day. Using apes.”
Alice looks shocked. “You think he’s tryin’ to kill me?”
Moondragon cannot hide her disgust at Alice’s combination of idiocy and denial. Her narration states, “I should leave her here. A man who goes far enough to train assassin apes is not going to stop with two failures. Letting her die could only be a boon to my species.”
Alice speaks again. “Heather? Can you help me?”
Moondragon sighs. Her narration reads “A psionic link between apes. Hm. If nothing else, I have to know.” Her dialogue reads, “Yes, I can help.”
The next morning, we see Alice’s hatchback pull up to a large fenced-in compound in the Indiana countryside. The fencing is twelve feet high and curves inward at the top. Inside the compound are two small houses, several sets of scaffolding standing by themselves, and a large Victorian manor house. Alice says, “His mom said he’s lived and worked here for over a year now.”
Moondragon’s narration says that her telepathic abilities detect nothing but the psychic “fuzz” that made the orangutans impossible to fling around. “This is it,” she says.
They approach the gate of the compound. “Uh…Heather?” Alice asks. “Is it such a smart idea for me to come along? I mean, he is trying to kill—“ She is cut off by the squeal of the gate opening. Pulling it open are a pair of orangutans.
Moondragon says nothing. Alice drives into the compound.
The car is met along the road by a collection of orangutans. Most are in some form of human garb—mechanic’s jumpsuit, tuxedo, a t-shirt saying “It’s Not a Bald Spot, It’s a Solar Panel for a Sex Machine,” etc.
“Get out,” says Moondragon. “We’re here.”
Alice and Moondragon get out of the car and survey the scene. Forty orangutans surround them. A loudspeaker atop a nearby house turns on. “Welcome, Alice! And your strange friend! You’ve made it so easy for me! Thank you so much! Shall I tear you apart now?” The orangutans look at the duo with identical expressions of bloodlust upon their faces.
“By Pama,” Moondragon says. “The apes…all share a single human mind. One consciousness spread across them all.”
Laughter comes from the speakers. “I don’t know how you can tell, but that’s right! Now die! Die at the hands of the Monkey Mind!” At this, the orangutans step as one towards the duo.
Alice screams real loud. Moondragon pulls off her wig and leaps at the nearest ape. “His link is strong. But I can sever it…” She lands in a handstand on one ape’s head. “If I can get close enough.” She vaults off the ape's head and lands in a crowd of them. The apes stop and look in unison at the one that Moondragon touched. Thirty-nine apes move as one. The other scratches himself, a quizzical look on his face. “Yes,” Moondragon thinks.
We then get a big action scene of her jumping and darting through the crowd of apes. Before long, she’s touched and mentally freed each one. (No, we don’t have to see all thirty-nine get freed.)
The work complete, Moondragon approaches the house with the speaker. She kicks down the door. Inside is a handsome man in a three-piece suit, sitting alone in a wingback chair. The man begins to speak. Moondragon ignores his words and stares at him with a furrowed brow. Then her narration says “Ha!”
She kicks him in the head. He falls over.
And his skull swings open on a hinge. The handsome man was a robot. Inside his head is a tiny cockpit. Strapped into its seat is a four-inch high ape-man. Moondragon pulls him out and holds him in her hand. “Hello, Tommy.”
Alice bursts into the scene. “TOMMY?” She sees the tiny ape-man and shrieks. “What happened?”
The ape-man squeaks “He said he’d fix me! He said he had a cure! He promised!”
Alice looks at Moondragon, confused. Moondragon leaves without a word, handing over Monkey Mind to Alice. She strides towards the manor house. On the porch is another man. He too is dressed in a three-piece suit.
This man, however, is anything but handsome. His features are disproportionate and non-symmetrical. Veins are visible through his skin. He drools a little.
“Hello, my dear lady,” the man says. “And who might you be?”
“I’ve destroyed your monkey handler,” she responds. “A sad little man.”
“Indeed he is,” the man replies, "though his talents are invaluable. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Warren Harding Jones. The Over-Man. Your master. And please do not try anything untoward, for I am more than equipped to kill both you and the troublesome Ms. Coughlin.”
Moondragon probes the man’s mind. And she begins to laugh.
The Over-Man lurches to his feet in a rage. “DO NOT LAUGH! I am the superior man! The product of generations of my family's scientific eugenical breeding! I am pure! I am greater than you! I am this world’s rightful master! I AM THE FUTURE!” With his last declaration, he produces a small revolver from his pocket and aims it at Moondragon.
“You,” says Moondragon, “are a pathetic, inbred little monster.”
Jones’s eyes fill with tears. “I will stand...at the right hand of the…of the…”
Moondragon projects her thoughts into his mind. ”You are less than nothing, you demented worm. I am the Dragon of the Moon!”
Terror fills the few functional brain cells in Jones’s head. He runs inside his house, past Rube Goldberg devices and half-built, rusted-out robots.
We next see Alice enter the house. She finds Moondragon in the kitchen. Jones is on the floor of the kitchen, his head wrapped in aluminum foil. He rocks back and forth, clutching his shins. “Get out of my brain, get out of my brain, get…”
Moondragon acknowledges Alice. “This…man…was behind the attacks. His brain is too addled for me to determine why.”
Alice looks on in shock. “Heather…who are you?”
Moondragon stares at Jones. “When I peer into his mind, all I can see are images of you and the end of the world. To him, they are one and the same.” She levels her gaze at Alice. “The important question is, Alice, who are you?”
To be continued next Friday in Moondragon #3: “Slaves of the Laughing Death!”
NOTE: The index to "The Champions Project" can be found here.
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