Of Bugs and Bug Men
Blue Beetle encounters Charaxis
by Scott Rogers
Question - What's the last thing that goes through a bug's mind when he hits the windshield?
Answer -- His butt. -- old schoolyard joke
Arkham Asylum -- 6:28 p.m. - Friday:
"Damn gitchy wheel!" swore internist Bernie Wooster as he narrowly avoided running the meds cart into the wall again. "Worse than a friggin' shopping cart." He straightened the metal cart back on track as he pulled up to room 311. Bernie picked up a cup of applesauce laced with haloperidol. Drug treatment was very popular here at Arkham, mainly because most of the therapy chat sessions seemed to end up in mass murder. They had lost more shrinks that way
"Hey yer highness, time for your evening meds." Bernie shouted as he fumbled with a large key ring. He jammed the master key into the heavy lock, unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door.
"I prefer to be addressed as 'My Lord Zeus' if I am to be addressed at all." said the bearded man from the folds of his straight jacket.
"My lord nutjob" is more like it." thought Bernie as he walked up. Maxie Zeus was a part-time super villain and a full-time schizo with severe delusions of grandeur. The guy actually thought he was the Greek god Zeus. Bernie padded over to Maxie and tipped the applesauce into his mouth. "Swallow it all this time, My Lord Zeus." Maxie grinned at Bernie through apple-sauced teeth. "One day, my dear mortal, I shall grant you a place on Mt. Olympus for your service." "Yeah, whatever." Bernie walked back to the cart, slammed the door shut and locked the door. "That and a raise will get me a cup of coffee." Bernie sighed. "One down, sixty-five screwballs to go."
Arkham Asylum -- 6: 35 p.m. - Friday:
CRASH! The little cart slammed into the wall again. He pulled the cart up to room 313 and recoiled at the smell, one not unlike rotting paperbacks in an antique bookstore. "Huuuunnnnnnnngry!" The occupant of 313 yelled from inside its cell. This one always gave him the creeps. Thank God they kept it locked up tight. He turned to his cart and pulled out a little box with holes poked in the top. Inside was a live rat. The rat was shot full of a pharmacological cocktail of buspirone, paradichlorobenzene and an appetite suppressant called "Slim-up."
"Huuuunnnnngry!" The thing within 313 bellowed again. "Hold your horses, ya freak!" Bernie yelled back. "Sorry pal." he said to the dazed rat as he picked it up by the tail and he grabbed his key ring. Bernie had the second bolt unlocked when the rat started squealing. No, squealing wasn't the right word. Strange as it may sound, the rat was laughing .
That's when Bernie saw the circus-purple gas leaking out of the central ventilation system. "Oh Crap!" Bernie giggled. He could feel the sides of his mouth starting to draw back as he scrambled for the oxygen mask kept on the meds cart for just such an occasion. The belly-laugh convulsions started to kick in and Bernie painfully smacked into the cart. The oxygen mask and tank rolled off and away from his reach. The rat fell from numbing fingers and ran to the "safety" of room 313. "Cripes, the irony!" Thought Bernie as he succumbed to uncontrollable, rib-wracking laughter. Before Bernie's vision completely blurred from tears of laughter, he saw a dusty claw reach out from the shadows of 313 and grab the rat. "Huuuunnnnnngry." The thing from within 313 said. The last thing Bernie heard was the "CRUNCH."
Chicago, Illinois -- 5:15 p.m. -- Tuesday
"CHI-caGO! CHI-caGO! You're my kinda towwwwn!"
The Bug, a large, blue aircraft shaped like well, a bug, flew past Sears Tower towards Madison Avenue. Ol' Blue Eyes blasted through the Bug's internal sound system as Ted Kord, otherwise known as the superhero the Blue Beetle, crooned along off-key. For the first time in awhile, he was feeling good.
The trip to Chicago had been Rolling Thunder's idea. "I mean, 'Barbara's' idea." Ted corrected himself. "Rolling Thunder" was Barbara's Internet handle.
"What am I doing playing superhero anyway? I'm just a guy in a bug suit." Ted wrote. "And Batman's a guy in a bat-suit" She wrote back.. Don't worry about it. It just sounds like you need a break . J " " But what about work? " He typed. " You are the president of your company! They won't miss you! C'mon. You know you want to." Barbara prodded. "It will be good for you! "
Initially, Ted was reluctant to take time off with "Killshot 2: The Second Offense" still in production. After all, great video games don't make themselves. However, now that he was here in his old stomping grounds, he was glad to have gotten away from it all. Not necessarily from work, heck, making video games was a downright cakewalk compared to super heroics. Things had been so grim lately: The nuking of Montevideo, that business with L.A.W., and the battle against Maggedon had all taken their toll on his outlook about the whole superhero thing. What was he doing, being a super hero anyway? He couldn't keep up. Who was he? Just some guy in a bug suit!
Barbara was right. What he needed was a break. He needed some fun. He needed a hot dog!
There was a guy who sold hot dogs out of a cart near the Art Institute that were the best in all of Chicago. (Barring Wrigley Field, of course.) All he had to do was to find him. "Mmmm. Hot dog." Ted licked his lips. He could taste that dog now. The 'snap' of the natural casing, the tang of mustard, those little 'sports' peppers
"What the ?" Something shook Ted out of his wiener-induced daydream and that someone or something was clinging to his windshield like a giant bug!
In fact, it WAS a giant bug!!
Its huge wings were spread over the Bug's windshield and four arms clung tenaciously to the glass. The giant bug's glowing red eyes stared at Ted hungrily. Drool dripped from between crooked teeth and spattered against the Bug's windshield. "Mmmm. Little piggy." It croaked.
Ted's first instinct was to flick the windshield wipers. "What am I thinking?" Ted stopped himself. "That thing is waaaay to big to scrape off!" "Huuunnnnngry!" The giant bug said as it balled up one of its claws into a fist and smashed it into the Bug's windshield. The thick glass shook from the blow! Holy Cats! That thing was strong! "Hey! Get off my bug, you bug!" Ted hollered as he grabbed the controls of the Bug. He pulled back on the stick, flying the craft straight up then into a barrel roll in the hopes of flinging off this unwelcome hitchhiker. It still clung to the glass . "No good! It must be using suction-cups or something."
"Huuuuunnnnnnngggry!" The huge bug smashed the windshield again, this time breaching the glass. Ted's nostrils were immediately filled with a musty smell like old books? "What the heck are you?" He yelled as he backpedaled out of the driver's seat, narrowly escaping a swiping claw, then another! Without a driver, the Bug went into a nosedive. G-forces slammed Ted to the back of the Bug! Over the speaker system, Frankie went into a rousing rendition of "Come Fly Away" as the Ted tried to peel himself off the bulkhead. "Bug! Autopilot! NOW!" He yelled to the Bug's computer. The Bug immediately pulled out of the wild maneuver and into a controlled flight path. "That takes care of 'death by Bug-crash' , Ted thought as he staggered to his feet; "now what about 'death-by-giant-bug-guy?"
The giant bug guy had clawed its way through the shattered windshield and towards Ted. "You don't want to eat me!" Ted called out as he frantically looked around for a weapon. His crime-fighting gear was strewn on the floor, having fallen in the Bug's headlong plummet. "I'm a bug, you're a bug!" He stalled. "That'd be cannibalism!"
The huge winged insect crawled towards him. "I am no bug!" It hissed. "I am CHARAXESSSS! And Charaxes is Huuuuuuunnnnnngggggry!!!" It dove towards Ted, its fearsome claws outstretched! Ted nimbly jumped aside and grabbed onto Charaxes around its neck. "OK gruesome, let's just see who is under that mask of yours " He tugged and tugged but the mask wouldn't give. Ted got a sickening feeling as realization set in. "That's no mask! That's NO MASK! He IS a BUG MONSTER!" His mind screamed as Charaxes took the advantage and threw Ted off his winged back. "What am I doing?" Ted frantically thought . "I'm just a guy in a bug suit! What am I doing taking on a monster?" His self-doubt was cut short, as he had to dive under the grabbing claws.
He saw what he was looking for rolling around on the floor of the Bug, a blue canister that looked like a fire extinguisher. The bug monster whirled around towards Ted. Its giant wings smacked Ted to the floor, within reach of the canister.
"Hold still, little piggy, and let me eat you!" it croaked.
"You're hungry?" yelled Ted as scooped up and pulled the tab on the canister. "EAT THIS!"
Thick foam sprayed out onto Charaxes' face. The force of the spray drove the creature to the back of the Bug as it splattered all over the floor. "Bug! Dive!" Ted yelled as he scrambled to the front of the Bug. As the ship tilted down, Charaxes slid on the foam towards the front of the ship. "Bug! Hatch Open!" Ted clung to the driver's seat as a man-sized hatch in the middle of the floor opened up. The foam-covered Charaxes slid right into the open-hatch! "Hole in one!" Ted kissed the empty canister. "Friction-less foam, how I love you!"
Suddenly, a clawed hand appeared back through the hatch, followed by another, then another! "Bug off!" yelled Ted as he threw the empty canister at Charaxes. It bounced harmlessly off of its chitinous hide. Charaxes rose up and stretched it wings. They filled the entire insides of the Bug. "God, this thing is monstrous!" Ted thought as he gazed at it in horror. "I'm going to be eaten by a giant moth!"
"Moth!" Suddenly inspiration struck! "Bug! Get to the lake and hover!" Ted whirled and popped open the Bug's glove compartment as the Bug automatically corrected its course. "Where is it? C'mon, you hunk of junk, where are you?" Ted frantically dug through maps and old hoagie wrappers. Charaxes was almost right on top of him. "Come here, little piggy. Charaxessss issss huuungry " it hissed.
He could feel the heat of the bug-man's breath. Its drool sprayed onto his goggles. Charaxes' four claws latched onto Ted just as his own hand found what he was looking for. Charaxes raised Ted to his mouth, ready to take a large bite. "Dear God." Ted quickly prayed. "Please let this work. I don't want the last song I hear to be 'High Hopes.' I hate that song."
Ted POPPED the light-gun in front of Charaxes' wide red eyes. Charaxes stopped in place as if had been pole-axed. The monster loosened it's grip as Ted fired the strobe gun back and forth in front of the monster's face. Charaxes watched the flashing light gun's every move. "Moths and light." Ted thought. "They can't resist them." Ted glanced out of the shattered windshield. Below were the icy waters of Lake Michigan. With a flick of his wrist, Ted tossed the still-strobing gun out the windshield. Charaxes, as if it were tied to the gun with a chain, followed it out and down into the waters below.
Ted watched the lake for a half-hour, but Charaxes didn't come up. That didn't mean Charaxes was dead and gone, not by a long shot, but it meant it wouldn't be trying to eat him anytime soon. Ted smiled to himself as he sat down in the pilot's chair. "Bug, let's get back to the hotel."
Palmer House Hilton - 6:05 p.m.
Ted almost choked on his second Chicago Dog when read the file Barbara sent him on Charaxes. "You mean I just beat a Batman bad-guy?" Ted marveled aloud. "Well, honk my hooter!
"You know," He thought as he started to pack. "I think it's time to get this little bug back home to Vegas . If I can take down one of the Dark Knight's foes, I can handle anything!"
After all, as Charaxes had shown him, there were worse things to be than a guy in a bug suit.
All characters and scanned artwork are © DC Comics
This story is © 2000 by Scott Rogers
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