Chapter 5: A Glass of Whiskey...AND A SHOT OF DOOM!
I stood in front of The Shady Underground for a moment to collect my thoughts...to "get into character" if you will. Even for a rock n' roll barbarian detective like myself, The Underground can be a dangerous place if you don't keep your wits about you.
Just play is cool as usual, Johnny. I told myself. Find your man, get your info, have a drink and call it a day.
Standing outside, you could barely hear the muffled sounds of The Underground's usual 24/7 rukus. As I started to make my way in, a leather-clad biker came smashing out of one of the bar's blacked out windows, obviously thrown out during some random barfight. The biker was completely on fire. As he rolled around on the sidewalk, passerbys didn't even seem to notice. This must be commonplace here.
When I walked inside, I was immediately blasted with deafening rock n' roll music and I had to pause a moment while my eyes adjusted. The entire bar was filled with the smoke of burning cigarettes and bikers, and the entire placed seemed to be only lit by a handful of red lights, giving everything a bloody glow.
The bouncer, a mammoth of a man, an unholy union between monster truck and refridgerator, stopped me immediately. He asked me if I had any weapons on me, and when I pointed to the broadsword strapped to my back, he just smiled, said "Gnarly man." and waved my by, telling me to have fun.
Trying not to draw unwanted attention to myself, I made a b-line straight to a booth in the far back corner, took a seat, and surveyed the place. It was a convention for goons, thugs, hardasses, and bad guy stereotypes. You had a batch of bikers drinking beer en masse, pausing only to punch each other in the face, some undead-looking goth-types wearing pvc and biting each other, at the bar were a batch of borgs, massive guys with random robotic prosthetics chugging what could only be motor oil and beltching fire, and some space-marine-looking guys completely covered in Beyond Thunderdome armor playing poker at a table in the center of the room.
I recognized a lot of the faces here, some from every flavor of goon, but none that I was looking for, and that was odd because you can spot Dr. Macabre's medical-mutie goons from a mile away. They're the ones with the extra limbs and the extraneous animal parts. But I couldn't see a single walking surgical mishap in the place.
As I was scoping the joint, a barmaid came up to me. She was dead pale, with a bleach-blonde afro, what little clothing she wore was leather and covered in metal studs. She looks like an s&m q-tip. "Hey mister, you buyin' a drink or what? No freeloaders."
"Get me a whiskey, whatever you got." I said. As she turned to leave, I stopped her, "Hey...uh...".
"How long have you worked here Claire?"
She gave a snorty little laugh. "Long enough to know you ain't a regular."
"You know Dr. Macabre's guys?"
"The weird medical freaks? Yeah, I've seen 'em around." She paused for a second and looked me up and down. "Damn, why do all the lookers have to go for Macabre? You're looking just fine honey. Don't go messing with all that."
"Oh no, it's nothing like that." I faked a polite laugh, giving me a few seconds to come up with a cover. "I'm a surgeon myself, and I have some clients that I feel are in need of Macabre's expertise. I heard that this was the best place to find him."
She took a second to mull over my story. I couldn't tell if she bought it or not. "Really?" she said. "You don't see a lot of barbarian surgeons. That's a nice sword you got there doctor..."
She was on to me. I had to play it cool. "Doctor Dynamite." I said. "Us barbarian surgeons are rare, but we're the best there are for our type of client."
"And what type of clients are barbarian surgeons geared towards?"
"Really fat people. And elephants." I said. "Hence the broadsword. A normal surgeon with a scalpel - takes him forever to get a fat guy cut open. You get a barbarian surgeon like me in there," I mimicked swinging my broadsword, "and tubby's open and ready to go in a second."
She laughed, which usually means they fell for it. "Alright doc, lemmie go get your whiskey. I'll ask around and see what I can find out for you."
I watched her as she headed back to the bar and started talking to the bartended. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I figured she was asking about Macabre. While I waited for her to return, I continued checking out the place. There were a bunch of hippies gathered in the corner opposite of me meditating in a circle. I thought they seemed out of place at first, but then I noticed the arsenal of tie-dyed uzi's, M16's, and rocket launchers piled in the center of their circle. I've seen a lot, but that was a first for me. I had no idea who these hippie-goons were working for, but I knew I didn't want to find out.
I was still listening to the hippies chanting "destroy" all zen-like over and over when Claire returned with my drink. She looked upset.
"What's wrong babe?" I asked, flashing my fake doctor smile.
"Look, you ain't gonna find Macabre here." she looked around nervously. "You should get out of here fast."
Her sense of urgency was obvious, but I couldn't blow my cover, I continued to play dumb. "Hey relax girl, there's nothing to get upset about. I'll just hang out here for a while and see if he shows up."
"I really don't think that's a good idea. You should go. Now."
Something was going down, but I couldn't tell what. I didn't see anyone or anything suspicious, but the fear in Claire's eyes was screaming danger. The only thing I could do is continue with the naieve act until she spilled the beans.
"Okay, okay. Relax, I'll head out in a minute. Just let me finish my drink." I grabbed my glass and tossed it up, chugging the whiskey.
"No Johnny, don't!" she shouted.
But she was too late, the whiskey was already burning my guts and the empty glass was on the table.
I kept up with the stupid smile. "What, now I can't even have a drink? What happened to 'no freeloaders'?"
Then it hit me. I had just screwed up, and bad, but I didn't know how yet. I noticed that Claire was crying now.
"Wait a minute," I said "How did you know my name?"
She was slowly backing away from me now. "Oh Johnny, I'm so sorry. They made me do it."
I was about to ask who "they" was when the door to the managers office flew open and about five med-freaks came out. One of them - a sickly-green guy with six-foot long arms - grabbed Claire and threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
I immediately leapt from my seat, yelling at them to put her down, but the moment I stood up, the room became blurred and distorted. The floor seemed to sway back and forth and I had to fight to keep my balance. All I could see where blurry reds and blacks swimming in my vision. Instinctively, I rubbed my eyes, and I could hear the med-goons laughing. I reached for my broadsword, but my arms became heavy and lifeless.
I could make out the shape of one of the goons approaching me. "What's the matter Explosion? You're not looking too good."
I recognized the voice. It was Carlak, one of Macabre's higher-level henchmen; I had dealt with him before, so I knew this was personal for him. Looking back at the empty glass on my table, I also realized what was wrong with me. The bastards had doped me; spiked my drink and ambushed me. And I fell for it like a damn rookie.
Suddenly a fist shot out from the haze and slammed into my jaw, sending me flying. Normally, I could take a hit like that, but my balance was shot and I tumbled to the floor. I tried to pick myself up, but my strength was fading and I could feel myself losing consciousness.
Next thing I knew, several hands were grabbing me and picking me up. I managed to pry my eyelids open only to find myself face to face with Carlak. He was an ugly, portly bastard with four arms, a unibrow, and a mohawk made of metal studs jutting out of his bald dome. And he looked all too pleased with himself right now.
"So I hear you're looking for my boss." he said "Tell me Explosion, what business would a barbarian private dick have with the great Dr. Macabre?"
I was screwed and blacking out, but I had to be cool. I flashed him a smile. "I was wanting to see if he could surgically attach your lips to my ass. Make it more convienent for you, ya know?"
Carlak turned to the other med-goons. "You guys hear that? We got ourselves a comedian here."
He punched me in the face again. My head flew back, but he kept me held up. I could feel blood pouring out of my nose and my whole body was heavy.
"Well, I got good news for ya Explosion. We're gonna take you to see Macabre, seeing how we're such nice guys and all. You and the doctor are gonna have a great time. He's got a whole bunch of experiments he's been dyin' to try out and you would make a perfect test subject."
This was the last thing I heard before I blacked out.
Will Johnny get Dr. Macabre to reveal Professor Apocalypse's hideout and save the president's daughter, or will he wind up another guinea pig for the doctor's sick experiments? Find out in the next awesome-packed chapter of SPACEDOOM: A Johnny Explosion Adventure!
The moment I wrote that bit about the hippie-goons with bazookas, I started getting tons of "Johnny Explosion Vs. The Hippie Terrorist Cult" story ideas bouncing around in my scary, scary head.