The Shotgun Professor in “A Night on the Town”

PREVIOUSLY: Danny Colt ran away from home as a child and survived on the streets until his uncanny genius was noticed by the Organization Devoted to Extraordinary Scientific Ideas and the Shotgun Professor. The Organization took in the young lad own and he grew up working as the Professor’s sidekick. But now Danny finds himself once again without home or purpose. Where can he go from here?

“There was this huge noise, kinda like lightning, and all of a sudden I see the squid robot fall into a heap on the floor. I look up and I see the professor standing on top of the tank with his gun still pointing at the robot. That was about fifteen years ago now.”

Danny Colt sat in the passenger seat and smiled as he remembered what he considered to be the best days of his life.

“Wow, that sounds like quite an adventure,” said the elderly woman driving the small car down the highway. She had picked up Danny half an hour ago. Her name was Iris.

“Oh yeah, we had adventures all the time back then. It was really great.” Danny paused and his eyes drifted to the window beside him. Aside from the highway they rode, all he could see was the desert.

“You still haven’t told me where you’re going,” Iris got his attention back into the car.

Danny looked at her again. “Oh right, sorry. Where was I? Oh right, anyway, yeah, I grew up with this secret organization called ODESI, that was like a scientific research company but with more shootouts. Like I was saying, it was great and I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything, but…

“But eventually all my friends started quitting. I guess they were questioning the morality of what we were doing or something. I mean, some of the people there were willing to do anything in the name of science, y’know?

“I don’t know, it just got to the point where I only had two or three close friends in the place and they were the ones like me, with no real life outside the work. I was starting to realize I had to get out of that place.”

“Maybe,” interjected Iris “you didn’t feel like you were doing anything with your life anymore? Like you wanted something more meaningful?”

“Yeah, exactly. That’s totally it. Plus, one of the head guys went nuts and started killing everyone. But I think it was really mostly that first thing.”

“Oh.” Said Iris and they were silent for a while.

* * * * *

Eventually the desert gave away to the newly constricted farmlands and the conversation turned to other topics. Iris told Danny how she and her family had moved to Restoration City after the Los Angeles bombings in 1994. That made Iris Clark and her children (and her late husband Gary, rest his soul) among the three million people who founded Restoration in 1995. The city, now the capitol of California was only nine years old, but was the third largest city in North America.

The car drove past a small building with a sign reading “The Restoration Inn”. Danny asked Iris to drop him off.

“Nonsense,” Iris had replied. “Until you figure out what you are going to do with yourself, you’re going to stay with me. I’ll be insulted if you don’t accept.”

And so they had passed the Inn and continued down the highway. Before long they saw the city rise up before them.

Danny had been to Restoration three times before, all over five years ago. He was surprised at how much bigger the city looked now. There were many new buildings; rectangles, pyramids, domes and cylinders. They towered into the sky almost reaching the heights of the skyscrapers of New York. It looked like a future world depicted in one of the cartoons Danny had grown up watching. This was the city of his dreams.

“This is awesome!” he said.

“We’re coming along nicely aren’t we?” Iris smiled. “Mayor Bottom has been doing a great job of helping the city grow without making it into some kind of urban nightmare.”

“Mayor Bottom? That’s hilarious!”

The car did not go deeply into the city, Iris before turned off into a side street and began weaving through a suburban neighborhood Iris identified as “River Hills” and indeed there was a river that flowed through the green, hilly landscape. The houses here reminded Danny of houses from television shows from the fifties. Not in an architectural sense, as these houses had many differentiating designs that still managed to compliment each other. But, Danny thought, these houses were nice, clean places for families and happy times, like the ones on television. And there were so many trees.

“Did you make it to River Hills last time you were in town?” Iris asked.

“No, I tended to stick downtown. It’s beautiful out here though.”

“Yes it is. My house is just up this road.”

Iris turned into her driveway, then pulled into the garage. Danny reached into the backseat and grabbed his bag. Iris led him into the house.

“We’ve got a guest room set up just up the stairs on the left. I’ll go check and see if my son Jake is home. He’ll want to meet you.”

“Right. I’ll bring my stuff up and be right back.” Danny climbed the stairs and opened the door on the left. It was a nice room, if a little girly for Danny’s tastes. The wallpaper was full of flowers and the carpet was somewhere between red and pink. Danny put his suitcase on the bed and walked to the window. Outside he could see the back yard, then the back yard of the house behind Iris’s. The sun was getting low and touched the roof of that house. Danny had never lived anywhere like this, even temporarily.

When he got downstairs a tall, thin guy was giving Iris a hug.

“Daniel, this is Jake. He goes to the University in town.”

“How’s it going?” Jake put out his hand.

Danny took his hand. “I’m good, man, thanks to your mother.”

“Yeah, she’s a great woman isn’t she? Listen, I’m going downtown in a couple hours or so to see my girlfriend’s band play a gig. Would you be interested in coming along?”

“Really? Yeah, man! That’d be cool.”

“Great! Well, if I know mom, she’ll be forcing you to have some cake any minute now, then we can start getting ready.”

* * * * *

Danny showered and changed into what he considered to be his nicest clothes. Black jeans, a red shirt and a black vest. He only owned one pair of shoes.

They’d eaten cake, then he and Jake left the house at Nine-Thirty and walked for ten minutes to a subway station. The two talked about Restoration for the duration of the trip and got onto the topic of Danny’s previous trips to the city. At Nine-Forty-Five they were downtown.

“So all we knew,” Danny was saying “was that there was a virus spreading through the city and it was keyed into the President’s DNA. To most people who got it, it was harmless, but once if he gets it, he’s dead.

“We couldn’t go to the President with the news, because the President would shut ODESI down if he knew it existed. So we’re all over the place trying to stop a virus with no visible symptoms when this gang of ninjas shows up and start beating the Hell out of us. I got knocked out and missed everything, but the Professor managed to stop the virus and the ninjas and we totally brought down a building just a few streets over from here. It was cool.”

“I remember that building. They said on the news that a water pipe burst and collapsed it.”

“Yeah, but the pipe burst because the Professor shot it to wipe the boss ninja into the sewer. He was always knocking ninjas into sewers back then.”

“This all really happened?” Jake asked. “I mean, I believe you, I can tell you aren’t lying, but I’m not really seeing what any of it has to do with science.”

“It was… you know… We were using science to make the world a better place.”

“Huh.”

The city was busy. The wide streets contained a steady flow of traffic and there were people everywhere, but Danny didn’t feel crowded like he did when he was in New York. Danny didn’t like crowds. This was a city he could like. Presently, they were at the base of a huge pyramidal building. And there were lots of trees.

“We want the next street,” Jake said. “It’s called Venue Avenue. Full of clubs and bars for bands to play. We’re going to a place called Dan’s Fridge.”

“Cool. And if you want to buy drinks or anything, I’ll cover it, man. I–” Danny cut himself off. A feeling. Someone was following them. He spun quickly around and examined the crowd.

Nothing.

“What’s up, Danny?” Jake stopped walking.

“Oh, uh, nothing, man. Like I was saying, I’ve got a ton of cash in my bankcard, so if you need anything…” Danny kept on alert as they made their way to the bar.

* * * * *

Danny thought the bar was nice. It reflected the city’s consistent theme of cleanliness without cold sterility and activity without stifling claustrophobia. Even though he’d not once in his life been on a recreational night on the town like this, Danny felt at home. He met Jake’s girlfriend, Claire, she seemed nice and her band was really good. They didn’t play the older kinds of music Danny usually listened too, but Danny enjoyed it.

Danny had struck up a conversation with a couple and was talking about religion when a casual glance to his left ruined his entire night. A face he recognized. Weird Cyril.

Danny jumped and tackled the short, dumpy man in the trenchcoat. The two come down on a table knocking drinks and a candle to the floor. The music stopped and everyone turned their attention to the ruckus.

“Stop it, Danny!” Cyril yelped.

“No way, you fucker!” Danny pulled Cyril to his feet, then slammed him into a wall. “You followed me here to kill me, didn’t you? Didn’t you? Well, I’m gonna hurt you, man.”

“Danny, I–!”

“Shut up!” Danny hefted the man and threw him into another table. A few men moved out of the crowd and tried to restrain Danny. Some people also tried to help Cyril get to his feet, but he waved them away and did it on his own.

“Danny,” Jake called from across the bar. “What are you doing?”

“That guy! That guy is called Weird Cyril! He’s here to kill me!”

“You had to use that name, didn’t you?” Cyril scowled and started taking off his trenchcoat. “You always called me that. I hate that! My name is Cyber Cyril!”

The trenchcoat fell to the floor and Cyril’s metallic arms shined in the bar’s light. A confused murmur wafted through the crowd. The guys holding Danny opted to let go and back away.

“I didn’t come here to kill you, Danny. But now you’ve gone and hurt my feelings. I’m going to have to beat you up now.” Cyril winked at Danny. When his left eye had closed it had been blue. When it reopened it was a silver orb with a glowing red dot in its center.

Danny picked up a bottle from the floor. “You can try, Weird. You can try.”

Nobody watching the fight would later be able to believe what he or she had seen. The short guy jumped like nobody could possibly jump and made it all the way across the room. When he was coming down, the other guy swung the bottle and it broke over the short guy’s face. The little guy didn’t even notice and he shoved the other guy onto the floor. The little guy raised a shiny fist and only missed the other guy’s face by an inch. Punched right through the floor. The little guy was going to punch again, but the other guy flipped him, got to his feet and ran across the room. He jumped onto a chair, then onto the bar and dove behind it.

The short guy jumped onto the bar, then the other guy popped up and grabbed his leg. He pulled him right off the bar and swung him into the wall and let him fall on the floor. A bunch of bottles and glasses and stuff fell down on top of him. The bigger guy ran again and grabbed a chair. The little guy was up again in no time and the other guy threw the chair at him. The little guy caught it in one hand! But the other guy must’ve expected that, because he immediately threw another one and it hit the little guy right in the head.

That seemed to daze the short guy and the other guy slammed into him full force. The little guy was down and the other guy just kept punching him in the head. Then he stopped and looked around, then just ran out the door. The little guy got up and followed less than a minute later. Everyone just stood there.

* * * * *

Danny was embarrassed. He ran out of the bar once he realized his own problem was utterly demolishing a great place. He realized he had to take the fight away from there so he would ruin any more.

Outside he saw a bike rack. He grabbed the first blue bike he saw and got on. By the time Cyril got out the door he was halfway down the street.

Even at this hour the streets were busy. Cyril leapt into the air and people gazed in awe. He came down on the roof of a car, then jumped to another car. A glance back told Danny that escape was impossible. The only other option he could think of was isolation. Get the fight away from innocent bystanders. He turned into an alley. Within seconds Cyril was there too.

Danny didn’t slow down. Cyril pounced and knocked him off the bike and the two skidded along the concrete. Cyril jumped to his feet while Danny had trouble getting to his knees. Both men were bleeding from cuts on their faces, and Danny had some on his hands as well. His pants were ripped at the knees.

Cyril stood catching his breath. Danny rubbed his lip with the back of one hand and looked at the blood.

“Geez Cyril! That hurt!”

“It was supposed to!” Cyril pulled Danny up to his feet. Danny made a fist, swung and Cyril caught it. “Okay, can we stop with the fighting? I honestly meant what I said, I didn’t follow you to kill you.”

“But you’re Howitzer’s assistant, man. Everyone knows he went out there to kill everyone who a risk to the Organization. That’s what I am isn’t it?”

“None of that matters now. Howitzer has gone nuts. I need your help.”

Danny spit blood on the pavement. “He went nuts? Why do you need my help?”

“Yes, he went nuts. And I need your help because you’re a big-time genius and that’ll help me take Howitzer down.”

“Well what if I don’t want to help.”

Cyril shrugged his shoulders. “Then I guess you don’t want to help your friends either.”

“Friends? What friends? I don’t have friends.”

“Sure you do. Bradford. Judith. Your Professor. Howitzer is after them. He has them on the run already.”

Danny didn’t need another moment to think about it. He hadn’t seen them in years, but those were indeed his friends. “If they’re in trouble, I’ll help you.”

“Good. Plus, you owe me for that jacket I left at the stupid bar. Now come on, we’ve got to hurry. There’s no telling how much damage Howitzer will do to kill them.”

* * * * *

Howitzwer boarded his personal helicopter. The robot-pilot beeped and the aircraft began to lift off. Howitzer gave a signal with his good arm and looked out the door. Below him twelve more helicopters rose into the air. Each was filled with a half dozen of his robot-commandos. And below them a squad of black cars and motorcycles all driven by more robot-soldiers pulled onto the road.

“Well, sir.” Howitzer said to himself. “I guess it’s time to kill some Aussies!”

NEXT TIME: The Chase!

Patrick D Ryall, the D is for Think
Originally posted on Contains2 Saturday 31 July 2004

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