Machinations and Mortifications is a collection of my short stories. The stories were originally unfinished ones, ones which had been lying around on my computer for years waiting to be completed. Well, I hate having things lying unfinished so, one day, I decided to bring all of those stories to completion. This collection is the result of finishing off all of those stories.
The collection has stories about ghosts and superheroes and mad inventors. It also has a couple of stories, The Night Army and The Sun Does Not Rise, which originated as dreams.
Here follows an entire story from the collection.
The Machinations of Edgar Roscommon
Edgar Roscommon studied his newest masterplan (the one with Acme forming part of the blueprint). He was sure that this time, with the addition of the argonite, that he would finally get to kill Super-Duper-Man. He would succeed, and nobody would be able to doubt that he was the greatest supervillain in the world. Only the greatest supervillain in the world could kill the word’s greatest hero.
Edgar Roscommon was, by day, a clerk at the Sunday Bugle newspaper. He worked in the legal department, in one of those jobs which were so dull and boring that any normal person would have wanted to sit their wrists after a week. But that did not matter, because, by night, Edgar Roscommon was the greatest supervillain in the world. Even if he did not possess a superpower to call his own. But that was only a minor problem, as far as somebody like Edgar Roscommon was concerned.
He did not need any steenkin’ superpowers. He was a genius, a criminal mastermind, even if he said so himself. He could create the sort of devices which could kill any superhero. Or, at least, he could buy them from those adverts that you got in the back pages of all of those damned superhero magazines.
You know those adverts – How To Become A Superhero In Ten Easy Steps; Genuine Sea Monkeys, Become Alive In Salt Water; A Complete Plastic Toy Army, Only Five Dollars; The Charles Atlas Guide To Becoming Super-Strong; Genuine Death-Traps, Assemble Easily In Your Backyard. Those sort of things.
Edgar Roscommon began to unpack the crate which had arrived that morning, the one with labels which had the word Acme plastered all over them. It would not be long, now that he had the argonite, before Super-Duper-Man was nothing but a memory. And the only person who could kill the most powerful superhero in the world could be the world’s greatest supervillain.
Super-Duper-Man flew over the city which he had made his home, using his X-Ray vision to scan for danger. Well, that was what he told the newspapers, anyway. But he could see no danger tonight, certainly not under the dress of that statuesque blonde who was waiting for the lights to change on Main Street. Her red underwear, no doubt bought at somewhere like Victoria’s Secrets, was no danger to any man, unless he was some monk with a vow of chastity. but Super-Duper-Man had to make sure that something diabolical was not hidden underneath.
The X-Ray vision of Super-Duper-Man peeled back the next lair of clothing. Super-Duper-Man was a little disappointed to discover that the woman was not a natural blonde.
Then his super-sensitive hearing picked up something which he should not have heard, not in the city, anyway. It was the sound of some surface to air missile, and coming in his direction. He turned and saw a rocket coming towards him. His X-Ray vision told him that it was one full of explosives, and with a strange, glowing alien mineral inside it, packed in besides the explosive.
Super-Duper-Man took a great breath, and then breathed out, air stronger than a hurricane capturing the missile and diverting it up out of the atmosphere and into space, where it exploded harmlessly, before the argonite in the rocket could affect him.
He wondered, briefly, who had tried to kill him in such a pathetic way. Then he went back to using his X-ray vision to make sure that none of the underwear of the women of this great metropolis was secretly some death-trap. A person could not be too careful. The eternal vigil would be maintained.
Back to the drawing board for Edgar Roscommon. Perhaps Super-Duper-Man had survived the latest attempt on his life, on of many. But there were plenty of other superheroes in this great metropolis. They seemed to breed like cockroaches. You could not go for a day without some new hero being mentioned on the television. And where were the supervillains to squish all of these cockroaches? All of them were in prison, Edgar Roscommon knew. There was only him, the unrecognised genius, fighting his lone war against Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Oh, and against Mom and Apple Pie, as well. He had almost forgotten those two. He hated apple pie. It always gave him gas.
So he had failed against Super-Duper-Man – again. So what? He would get that red, white and yellow fool in the end. The missile had not worked, nor had that anvil suspended over a chasm. But it was only a matter of time before Edgar Roscommon ordered the one, genuine thing which would do for that most annoying of heroes.
Perhaps, though, he should start off by getting rid of somebody who did not have quite so many of those damned annoying superpowers. Maybe he could off one of the other superheroes, and then work his way up. Yes, that was it!
Edgar Roscommon giggled to himself as he considered just who, of the thousand or so superheroes in the city, he should kill. It was not as though there was a shortage of targets.
Roscommon giggled again, as he imagined a thousand dead heroes and he, Edgar Roscommon, as the master of the world, a tyrant to whom the rest of the world would bow down and abase themselves. Especially top-heavy women. Roscommon had something about busty women – the sort he knew that, with his looks, he would never be able to chat up. The last time that he had even tried to chat up some woman who filled out a double D cup he had got a gin and tonic slung in his face for the trouble. Which he would not actually have minded, all that much, if the woman had bothered to take it out of the glass first.
In his dreams he viewed those women prostrating themselves before him, as he killed the last superhero in the city. In his dreams the women were all naked, of course. But first, before he was hailed as a dictator, he would have t prove that he was a supervillain worthy of the name. He would have to get rid of all of those superheroes first.
He giggled again as he considered who he would target next. It was not a particularly sane giggle. But Edgar Roscommon was not a particularly sane person, so the giggle suited him perfectly.
“Fly-By-Night.” the would-be villain muttered to himself. Yes, he would get rid of Fly-By-Night, one of the older heroes in the city. But Fly-By-Night did not have any superpowers, not like Super-Duper-Man. He was simply a highly trained individual with a few gadgets in a costume which seemed to have been based on the appearance of a Pipistrelle. So what if Super-Duper-Man had batted that rocket into space? Edgar Roscommon no longer cared about that. Despite not having any powers, Fly-By-Night was one of the most famous heroes in this great metropolis. Without any powers the hero would never be able to escape whatever death-trap Edgar Roscommon built for him.
Edgar Roscommon began to construct a death-trap out of which no normal villain would be able to escape.
He had never intended to be a supervillain, not when he had been growing up. It was a superhero which he had dreamt of being, in a flashy three colour costume, as he cleared the rooftops of the tallest buildings in a single bound.
But he had never got to shout Up, up and away. He had not turned out to be some mutant, whose powers manifested as he hit puberty. He had not grown wings, or become really strong. All that had happened when he had hit puberty was that he’d got zits, and his body had begun to grow hair in odd places. That, unfortunately, could not be described as a superpower.
He had not been involved in some laboratory accident, where he had got powers after being hit by strange radiation, or doused with a strange and unrepeatable mixture of chemicals. He had not turned out to secretly be the offspring of some Greek god. he had simply been an ordinary and rather weedy boy.
It was not fair. The fact that some people got superpowers, and he did not, had slowly soured him, so that, by the time that he was a fully grown – and still weedy adult – he hated those superheroes which he had once loved.
That was when Edgar Roscommon had decided to become a supervillain. If chance had declared that he could not become a superhero, then he would become a supervillain instead. He would become a supervillain, and kill all of the heroes in the great metropolis in which he lived, and then nobody would have superpowers at all. And he would become the greatest supervillain in the world. Nobody would ever belittle him again.
Fly-By-Night stalked the alleys of the night, as he crept along from one piece of darkness to the next, each dark shadow a sanctuary for this grim hero of the night. It was desperately important that he was not seen this night, if all nights. Not while he was going to Mr Patel’s 24/7 to pick up his monthly copy of Gays in Rubber. He did not want anybody to see him pick up his secret vice (which rather begged the question as to why he was in uniform – but the fact was that his secret identity was even more famous than his hero identity; and it would have hurt his image as a womanising playboy if people knew what he was really into).
Fly-By-Night crept along the alley, the one which led to Mr Patel’s store. And then suddenly the alleyway wrapped itself around him, as the death-trap spring into action.
The hero was surrounded by a metal cube, one which had been disguised as the floor of the alleyway. Fly-By-Night might have actually seen the trap, if it had not been so bloody dark.
Fly-By-Night flicked on his utility belt torch, so that he could see what he was doing – and only just in time. Acid began to spray out of the walls of the death-trap. But that was alright, as all that Fly-By-Night had to do was to use his Anti-Acid Belt Spray.
Then poison gas began to filter out of holes in the sides of the cube. Fly-By-Night used his Anti-Poison Gas Belt Aerosol, neutralising the poison in the cube.
Spikes began to go inwards from walls. Fly-By-Night used his Instant Rust Belt Spray. The spikes turned instantly to iron oxide, and fell to the floor. The spray was used on the sides of the death-trap, which turned to dust around Fly-By-Night. He brushed the rusted dust off his black rubber costume, as he wondered who it was.
It could not have been the Smile, as he was currently in the Asylum for the Criminally Insane, for the umpteenth time. It could not be the Puffin, as he was currently dead, his Puffin Submarine having sunk in the Atlantic (but Fly-By-Night was sure that he would be back, sooner or later, as his body had never been found). It could not be Dr Rule-The-World, as he had fallen into that volcano.
Fly-By-Night had no idea who had just tried to kill him. She shrugged, and continued on his way to get his gay porn mag.
“Nil desperandum.” Edgar Roscommon said to himself, as he realised that he had failed in his plans to kill Fly-By-Night, and that his death-trap had been reduced to so much rust and dust.
Edgar Roscommon was used to talking to himself, anyway. As far as he was concerned it was his only chance of having an intelligent conversation. He certainly did not talk to anybody at the newspaper where he worked as the most junior of junior legal clerks. Everybody there hated him. They thought that he was a creep. No, he was a super-creep. And he would show them all. He would become the greatest supervillain in the world.
Next on his list of heroes to kill was Awesome Amazon. Edgar Roscommon would not normally have gone for a woman. But there was something about Awesome Amazon which he really hated. Perhaps it was the way that she claimed that she had come to the city on a mission of peace, yet all that she did was to beat bad guys up. Perhaps it was the way that she preached chastity while wearing a costume that made any red-blooded man think of nothing but sex. But it was mainly because she was a superhero, one more cockroach which Edgar Roscommon wanted to step on and crush.
This time he would not be using some remote device. This time he would be doing the killing directly. So that, when Awesome Amazon died in a hail of bullets, everybody would see that it was Edgar Roscommon who had killed her.
He pulled out the Acme Submachine PistolTM out of its box, spilling bits of the packing onto the floor, pulling the bubble wrap away from it. A simple gun, what could go wrong with that?
He loaded up the gun, and went out of his small, nasty apartment. Awesome Amazon had a date with the Reaper, as far as he was concerned, and this would-be supervillain did not want to keep Death waiting. It was far past the time when all of those people who thought that they were superior than him learned that they weren’t. It was time that the whole city began to fear the name of Edgar Roscommon.
He’d deal with the superheroes first. Why should they have superpowers when he did not? But then, afterwards, it would be the turn of all those people who had belittled him, or who had forgotten his name, or who had simply felt that he was a little man whose views could be brushed aside.
They made fun of him at work. He was only a useless little clerk to them. They could never get his first name correct, either, those of them who bothered to use it. Half the time they called him Edwin or Edward, rather than Edgar.
They did not even think enough of him to bother to say nasty things about him behind his back.
Then there were those shop assistants who never seemed to be all that helpful. They never answered his questions, and whenever he had to return something they always tried to refuse to give him his money back, as though he didn’t have any rights under the law. Well, he was a legal clerk, and he knew the law very, very well. Besides, a supervillain had to know what laws he was breaking.
He’d never had a single date with a woman. Women always turned him down, usually laughing as they did so, as though the idea of going out with somebody like him was ridiculous. Well, he’d show them. He bet that once he was the most famous supervillain in the world there would be plenty of women who wanted to be his girlfriend.
Then there was his boss, the officious Mr Bleaker. Edgar Roscommon hated Mr Bleaker. Mr Bleaker always said that Edgar’s work was not up to scratch. Me Bleaker always managed to find some fault in his work, even when there wasn’t any. Well, no fault as far as Edgar Roscommon was concerned, anyway. Just the odd word out of place, nothing major. Certainly nothing to create a fuss about.
Edgar Roscommon hated Mr Bleaker. He would save him until last.
Edgar Roscommon was in an alleyway, in the part of the city patrolled by Awesome Amazon. He had his Acme Submachine PistolTM in his hands, ready to fire as soon as he saw that top-heavy superheroine.
He did not have to wait that long before he saw the six-foot tall superheroine, in her uniform which seemed to reveal far more than it concealed. Yes, this was it, he would do the deed personally. After all, he wanted to be there, to witness the hero’s demise. First Awesome Amazon, then Mr Speedy, then the Man with the Magic Ring, and then all of the other heroes with stupid names and stupid smiles and all of their holier than thou ways.
His finger tightened on the trigger. Awesome Amazon would not know what hit her. He wondered why somebody had simply not shot her in the past.
Bullets shrieked out of the weapon towards the superheroine…
Awesome Amazon was out on patrol, like she went every day… and like she went every night, in her secret identity, to women only bars like Pink Lady and Girlzz. Awesome Amazon, who had come to the city preaching peace between all members of humanity, was actually only concerned with one half of the human race.
Awesome Amazon glimpsed some glint of light on the highly polished metal weapon (even though it was a dark alleyway). Her Amazon instincts took over, and she raised her Magick Wristlets in front of herself, deflecting every bullet which had been directed towards her. The bullets deflected wildly, one smashing through the glass of the New And Used Superhero Costume store; another depriving a scabby alley cat of one of its remaining nine lives; and one going almost exactly back in the direction it had come from. The bullet, in a freak accident, hit Edgar Roscommon exactly between the eyes. He fell down dead, hardly knowing that he had been shot.
Awesome Amazon walked over and stood over the body. After a few moments she was joined by Super-Duper-Man and Fly-By-Night, who had both been out on patrol (the official story).
“Who was he?” Super-Duper-Man asked.
“I don’t know.” Awesome Amazon said. “I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
“Just a nobody.” Fly-By-Night growled, as the three heroes walked away.
The Machinations of Edgar Roscommon is taken from Machinations And Mortifications, available as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle sore.