Narrator: The Flashpack had spent six months pursuing and being pursued by
demons from their past, from the power-mad Kriegmeister (kreeg-my-ster) to
the tantalizing Empress of Alter-Earth. Finally, however, the mastermind behind
their torments had revealed himself.
Magic-Hat: Now, Flashpunks, you’ll feel the wrath of your ultimate
nemesis, the culmination of my sinister plans! Tremble in fear as your doom
draws close around you!
Slotter: I’m sorry, who are you?
Magic-Hat: Apologies and prayers for mercy will not avail you, Flashpunks.
Behold! Your mysterious tormentor!
Narrator: Out of the conveniently-obscuring shadows stepped an overweight,
bespectacled young man in a T-shirt advertising Star Wars 8: Still More Jedi
and a neon-green stovepipe hat with the word WIZARD stenciled in hot pink
across the brim.
Max: Crimson Currents of Caledonia! Anything but that!
Magic-Hat: Ha ha ha ha ha! Taste the bitter tang of Deafeat, Flashpack!
Molly: Everybody down! (*MAGIC NOISE!*, explosions)
Jimmy: I don’t get it. Who is this clown, and why are we so afraid
Drallus: It’s the Magic-Hat! (lasers, countered
by more magic noises. As they talk, the firefight continues)
Jimmy: Oh, okay. (beat) Wait, what?
Slotter: It was before your time, Jimmy. The Magic-Hat carries the soul of
19th-century industrial mystic Asmodeus Carnegie, the greatest and most evil
wizard of the Industrial Revolution. Anyone who wears it wields incredible
power, but slowly loses his or her will to the Hat. That poor goober probably
doesn’t realize he’s a thrall of an ancient chapeau.
Jimmy: That’s really terrible! Can’t we just get the hat off?
Molly: If only it were that easy. The Hat knows it’s powerless without
a person under it, so it will take any step necessary to keep its owner from
Drallus: Good thing I’ve got plenty of violence to help. Hey, otaku!
A woman’s about to touch you!
Narrator: With a battle cry that had soiled the britches of fearful men,
Drallus charged the unfortunate youth, ready to knock off his hat, or barring
that, his head. But her raised fist were suddenly seized by a blue-black darkness
that sprung up out of the ground.
Magic-Hat: Nice try, Thornfield! But before you can defeat me you must face
your closest enemy of all: your own shadow!
Drallus: Ow! Hey! Stop punching me!
Magic-Hat: Stop punching YOURSELF, Thornfield! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Jimmy: He’s actually SAYING “Ha ha ha ha ha.”
Molly: Gracious Guanyin! It’s more powerful than ever!
Slotter: Are we boned? I think we’re boned.
Magic-Hat: Oh, you are most CERTAINLY boned, Flashpack! Let’s see how
effective you are at fighting me when I’ve turned all your weapons into
cherry gelatin! (*MAGIC NOISE!*)
Max: Ugh! Gross! Not even orange!
Molly: Max, orange wouldn’t help us any more!
Max: Wait! That’s it!
Max: You guys distract Magic-Hat, I’ve got a call to make.
Slotter: Max, what…sheesh, always giving us the easy jobs.
Molly: Well, we’d better do what we can. Let’s save the day!
Narrator: As the three remaining members of the Flashpack faced down Magic-Hat,
Max Thornfield fearlessly dashed in the opposite direction, to where their
communicators had landed in the crash, hidden by his magical glamour.
Max: We can’t defeat a wizard, or even a wizard’s hat, without
a little magical help of our own. And I only know one magic-user who’s
close enough to help us now…
Narrator: The same certainty did not prevail among his team-mates, however,
as Jimmy, Molly and Slotter tried to improvise a way to stop the arcane accessory
and its hapless host.
Slotter: Carnegie was allergic to lemons. What if Molly makes a Lemon-Launcher?
Molly: Where would we get lemons now?
Slotter: Not where, when. I’ll go back in time to When Lemons Ruled
the Earth and bring back a bunch for us to use.
Molly: It’ll take me a little while to build the launcher.
Slotter: Travel time to When Lemons Ruled the Earth isn’t short, either.
Jimmy, can you handle this?
Molly: It’s our only chance. Keep him occupied.
Narrator: As the Flashpack’s youngest member began to protest, Molly
dashed off to scrounge for spare parts and Slotter vanished in a puff of time.
As they did, a hail of eldritch fire decimated the pile of twisted metal that
had been serving them as ersatz cover, leaving Jimmy face to face with Magic-Hat.
Jimmy: Hey there.
Magic-Hat: Greetings, whelp! Prepare to savor the tannic bouquet of decimation
at the hands of –
Jimmy: Hey, wait, are you an English major?
Magic-Hat: (suddenly taken aback, stripped of artifice) How did you know?
Jimmy: The wine metaphor. So how’d you get the hat?
Magic-Hat: Oh, this? It just sort of came to me one day. I was thinking of
going villain anyway, so I figured, what the hex?
Jimmy: You were thinking of it? Why?
Magic-Hat: Well, it all started last semester…
Narrator: As Jimmy found himself listening to Magic-Hat’s bizarre origin
story, Max was in contact with the Flashpack’s recent companion, Furtrace
Max: Don’t cut me off, Furtrace, please, we need your help!
Furtrace: (obviously indignant and hurt) Oh really? What happened to “Go
chase your tail, fleabrain?”
Max: We were still suffering the after-effects of the Mad Hater’s Anger-Beam!
We’re in big trouble! It’s the Magic-Hat.
Furtrace: (suddenly serious) Oh man, you guys are BONED.
Max: Not if you help us, Furtrace! We need you! I’ll throw in a cyber-mouse
for you to play with!
Furtrace: (Reluctant) Well…
Max: Drallus will be grateful!
Furtrace: (committed) I’ll be right there!
Narrator: As the cat-man broke the connection, Max dashed back to see Molly
furiously ratcheting behind a broken wall and Jimmy deep in incredulous conversation
with their adversary.
Jimmy: So let me get this straight; you’re using the Magic-Hat – the
most powerful and evil magical artifact humankind has ever produced anywhere
ever – to destroy us – the Flashpack, humanity’s most stalwart
and vigilant defenders – so that Rita Hoffman – a girl in your
calculus seminar last semester who you’ve admitted is only a 7 out of
ten – will go out to see a movie with you?
Magic-Hat: Not just any movie! It’s Episode 17: Why, O Why The Sith?
I preordered my tickets last year!
Jimmy: (grasping at straws in the face of clear insanity) Well… the
particular movie aside… aren’t you going about this from the wrong
Magic-Hat: What do you mean? I have ultimate power!
Jimmy: Well, yeah, sure, and that’s nice and all… but villains
don’t really have much luck in love, do they?
Magic-Hat: The Joker has Harley Quinn!
Jimmy: Well, sure, if THAT’S the kind of relationship you want. But
what about heroes? I mean, I’m just fourteen, but it seems like every
other mission there’s some Empress or scientist’s daughter who
wants a ride on the Kovacs Express.
Molly: (flabbergasted) WHAT did you just say?
Magic-Hat: So what’s your point?
Jimmy: That you’re doing this all wrong. If you want to win the affections
of a woman, do-gooding is where it’s at.
Narrator: As Molly’s jaw dropped as she realized what they were talking
about, Slotter appeared from the distant past, lemons in hand.
Jimmy: Slotter! You can answer this problem from both angles! You’ve
been a woman all your life, until you got man-itized.
Slotter: Hey, I’ve only been a woman again for twelve hours, I’ve
been trying to forget.
Jimmy: My point is, you’ve been a man AND a woman. Who has more romantic
possibilities, science-heroes or science-villains?
Slotter: Science-heroes, duh! Batman’s always out on dates.
Jimmy: That’s my point!
Magic-Hat: Wow, I guess you’re right. Maybe this is the wrong way to
Molly: (slowly building to screaming fury) A girl? Julie died so that you
could get with some girl?! You pitiful, sniveling son of a bitch! I’ll
Narrator: Her face contorted with rage, Molly grabbed the majestic wooly
lemons from Slotter and fired them out of the launcher, sending the citrus
hurtling toward Magic-Hat. A flash of light scorched away lemons, launcher
and any hope of reasoning with the love-struck geek, as Magic-Hat’s
expression became set with insane megalomania.
Magic-Hat: (back to crazy) Nice try distracting me, Flashpack! But now the
time of your doom has come, and the bell tones for thee! Prepare to meet the
horror of the insidious Salaggotha!
Narrator: As Magic-Hat waved his hands, a swirling vortex of energy formed,
out of which a monstrosity of scales, eyes, wings and pseudopods was emerging.
Magic-Hat: Enjoy your final moments, Flashpack! And know that (suddenly
normal again) hey, what’s that?
Narrator: That was a bright orange bubble of magical force zooming out of
the sky, Furtrace standing inside, waving his arms.
Furtrace: (cat noises)
Narrator: The Magic-Hat popped off the head of the poor student in a rush
of wind, landing harmlessly on the ground near the bewildered carrier. The
swirling vortex vanished, and the three-quarters of a Salaggotha below its
hideous neck landed with a deafening sploit.
Molly: Furtrace, you saved us!
Furtrace: Yeah, I know! It was awesome!
Jimmy: Can you forgive us for how we treated you?
Furtrace: I’m here, aren’t I?
Max: More than here, Furtrace. You’re one of us.
Furtrace: You’re serious? Me, a member of the Flashpack?
Max: I’m serious. Now, is everyone okay? Where’s Drallus?
Drallus: Don’t worry about me. My shadow’s easy to get in a headlock,
and then it’s all over.
Furtrace: Want me to take care of that?
Drallus: Nah, I promised it best two out of three.
Max: But can you summon our catship to us? Otherwise we'll have to walk back
Furtrace: No problem.
Max: Then let’s go home, gang.
Narrator: Back at Flashpoint, Max slipped away from the Flashpack while they
unloaded the catship with Furtrace and Stellof’s help, and went to look
in on Keane. She was lying comatose in the infirmary, attended by the best
doctor of Super-Medicine that money could buy.
Max: Thank you for staying with her, Dr. Health.
Dr. Health: (matter-of-fact, serious) I don’t normally make house calls,
but Dr. Keane is a special case.
Max: How is she?
Health: She’s stable. She’ll wake up in a few hours.
Max: Will she be fully recovered?
Health: Unfortunately, no. The Emotional Disruptor isn’t meant to be
used for as long and on such a high setting as Dr. Keane used it. Many of
her emotional centers have been completely burned out.
Max: She’ll never be able to feel again?
Health: Not like she used to. The most powerful emotions – love, rage,
et cetera – will still function, but any and all lesser ones are essentially
nonexistent. Her intellect remains, but much of who she was is gone.
Max: I can barely imagine…she was so gentle, so kind.
Health: Frankly, Mr. Thornfield, she’s lucky to be alive at all. A
human would have lost all brain function after only a week or so of such use.
Max: A human? But Keane’s –
Health: Dr. Keane’s body is more than 30% undifferentiated neural tissue.
Her anatomy is textbook Human-Floogle hybrid. I’m sorry, I assumed you
Max: All this time she kept that from us. We never knew about her birth,
didn’t have a clue she was using her Emotional Disruptor to ease the
pain of Julie’s death. We never knew her, and now she’s gone.
Health: (softening slightly) She’s still there, Mr. Thornfield. She’s
just changed, and I imagine that she’ll need the support of her friends
more than ever before.
Max: You’re right. We’ve got to do our best by her. (beat) A
few hours, you said?
Health: Three at the outside.
Max: Then we’ve got some time to prepare.
Narrator: Two hours and seventeen minutes later, Sara Keane’s eyes
fluttered open and she saw the Flashpack, including its newest member, gathered
all around her.
Keane: How long was I out?
Molly: Two days, Keane.
Slotter: We beat the bad guy!
Max: That’s right. The whole time it was –
Jimmy: How did you know?
Keane: There was a 72% probability it was a high-profile magic user, and
an additional 63% probability it was an older nemesis. Magic-Hat is the most
powerful figure who exists in both profiles.
Max: Well, the important thing is that we beat him.
Drallus: He summoned the Salaggotha.
Keane: You beat the Salaggotha?
Furtrace: Well, I stopped the summoning before he’d fully formed.
Keane: Did you save the body?
Drallus: All we could, though I bet even you couldn’t make a decent
meal out of it.
Keane: I accept your challenge.
Max: Great! Then we’ll all meet back at dinner. Guess we’ve made
the world safe again, guys. We deserve a little rest. Flashpack!
Narrator: The Flashpack have faced some of their most powerful nemeses and
lost a comrade and dear friend. What challenges does the future hold for Max
and his companions? Tremble in anticipation of the next season of Epic Echoes!