Stepping Into the Cellar
by Nick Piers
June 11th, 2003. 9: 00 AM
So I’m writing this now while The Farmer fixes up breakfast. God, that line makes it sound like we did the bad thing or something. The thought of that gives me a full plate of the heebie jeebies with a side order of “ugh!”
I barely remember stumbling out of bed this morning. The Farmer was rousing the animals and sending them out of their corrals again.
“Come on, then,” he shouted to me, “It’s exposition time.”
“Exposition?” I groaned, climbing down the loft’s ladder.
“The back story where I tell you the who’s, the how’s and the why’s.”
“Tell me this isn’t going to turn into an Abbott and Costello skit.”
“Aren’t you a little young to know them?” he asked.
“Yeah.” I told him, “I used to watch it with my dad when I was really young.”
He followed the cows out through the barn doors. He clasped his hands behind his back in a military-like “at ease” stance and watched the animals roam. I stepped up beside him. The sun was just starting to rise just past the forest that surrounded The Ranch.
“So…you were the great and all powerful Lord Powerhouse, huh?”
He started walking towards the farmhouse.
“And now you’re Isolation Man!” I slapped my hands on my hips in a ridiculously heroic manner. It’s an infamous pose among the squeaky clean, cape-wearing heroes. “Living alone among animals? Helping the helpless? Turning the guilty into the innocent?”
“Well,” he looked over his shoulder, “that might be going a bit far.”
I dropped my arms to my sides. The Farmer climbed the steps onto the porch and headed towards a pair of wooden chairs.
“But, I mean, you used to be—”
“—a megalomaniac cult leader, worshipped by thousands?”
“To say the least.”
He sighed and slowly sat down in one of the chairs. He didn’t make any motions for me to join him, but I started heading towards the other chair anyway.
“So what happened?” I asked him.
“I killed my son,” he said after a short pause. The way he said it, it was like he had lost the most important thing in the world to him. I’m sure you’d feel the same way, Mom. The worst feeling in the world is to watch your child die before you, right? Do you ever feel that you lost me? That you didn’t raise me right?
I stared at him, blankly.
“Have you ever read the story of Oedipus?”
I shook my head.
“His father, the king, was told of a prophecy that his son would kill him and marry his wife,” he explained, “Greek stories and mythologies are filled with those kinds of stories, especially of father and son or mother and son or daughter, that kind of thing. Someone is told a prophecy by an oracle and they do everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t come true.”
“So you tried to make sure your son wasn’t killed?” I asked.
“No. I did exactly what I was told to do,” he answered, cupping his hands and leaning forward in his chair. “I was told that for me to kill these false idols, I would have to make a sacrifice. One of my several wives would not do since I had so little attachment to them.”
“Yeah, wives or concubines. I’m not sure how many I had, altogether. In all my inflated glory, I thought that no one woman was enough for me.”
“How many children did you have?”
“Just the one,” He looked at me with a regretful expression, “He was meant to be my sole heir to the throne, should anything happen to me. But I was visited by an oracle who told me of the sacrifice. He was to be sacrificed along with the rest of St. Mignola, by my hand.”
“The neutron bomb.”
With a heavy heart, he nodded. “For months, I had scientists working on the trajectory of the bomb. I knew if it was fired by any conventional means, it would be shot down.”
I remember reading somewhere that the military didn’t see the bomb coming at all. There was no reading on the radar for it or anything. So I had to know, “How was it sent? Dropped from space? Teleported? Flown by SPECs?”
“I threw it,” he blankly answered.
“But that was across an entire ocean from Europe!”
He didn’t answer that as he continued, “The trajectory, strength of the throw and other factors like weather all had to be taken into account. That’s including the weight of the bomb and…the passenger.” He winced as if he were on fire.
“Passenger?” I stopped but quickly realized, “Your son.”
“I strapped a four year old boy to a neutron bomb and threw it across the ocean and directly into the center of St. Mignola.”
It was like the first time that he had ever told someone about his tragedy. I could tell he was trying to hide any kind of emotions. He was trying to put on a strong face. I could tell it was killing him just having to think of those memories again.
He smirked, thinking back at the memories, “He was an arrogant kid, like his dad used to be. He loved practicing his swordsmanship, even with his old man sometimes. Smart, too. Hell, he was smarter than half of the people working under my heel. Smart enough that some of them followed his orders, sometimes.” He sniffled, “And I killed him. And millions of innocent people.”
He straightened up in his chair and wiped his eyes with his forearm.
“After that, I just didn’t want to be a part of any of it. I should have given myself up. But the coward in me knew that the Shatterpack or other heroes would do everything in their power to send me right to death row.” He paused before saying the next part. “So I faked my death.”
“How? There was a body.”
“Cloning,” he told me. “I had a number of contacts that didn’t have the same morals about cloning humans or especially SPECs. I had a talk with Dr. Genetics, a fellow madman. He made an exact copy of me, but with an added insurance that made sure this clone wouldn’t come to life.”
“No lungs,” I whispered under my breath.
The Farmer nodded. It was a big piece of news when the body was discovered and examined. How could something come to life with no lungs? The media made it sound like Lord Powerhouse just didn’t need to breathe. In this day and age, with super powered people flying all over the world, that detail made no one blink.
“And with no brain activity, the Shatterpack assumed I was betrayed and mind wiped by one of my own psychics.”
“So, why aren’t you out there being a hero, then?”
The Farmer stood up and walked to the banister that surrounded the porch. He looked out at the sun still rising over the trees. He ran his hand across the top of the banister. Finally, he looked at me over his shoulder with a stern look.
“How many times have you seen a villain, especially an infamous level ten SPEC, ever totally reform?”
“Never,” I answered.
There have been times that villains have tried, sure. Maybe one out of a thousand SPEC villains have successfully become heroes, have stayed heroes, and are respected in the community. Someone on the level of Lord Powerhouse, though? It hasn’t happened once as far as I know. It’s like that old saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Level tens seem to be the most corrupt.
“So I used my leftover assets, bought some land here in Alberta and set up this little place. I had a talk with The Inventor, who helped install not only some windmills behind the house for power, but also made them with solar powered panels, too.”
He sat back down in the chair.
“Clever,” I replied, “Didn’t even know that could be done.”
“It can’t. He’s working on getting a patent for them.”
He continued his story, “The rest of The Ranch is your back to basics kind of thing. The land is paid off and it’s now private property.”
“And you set it up as a haven for SPECs?” I asked.
“Nah,” he waved me off. “That’s just what it’s turned into. I don’t want to be worshipped or whispered about again. If people want to stay here and find themselves like I did, I’ll help them out. I’m not twisting anyone’s arms about coming here or staying here.”
“Mm,” I answered back.
“Come on,” he slapped my knee and stood up. “We’ll have breakfast. Then we’ll get some work done around here, sound good?”
“Let me just grab some paper back in the loft. I think I want to write all of this down, go over it in my head. If, uh, if that’s okay, that is.”
I couldn’t believe I was asking for his permission to not blackmail him or sell him out to the highest bidder.
“Never a bad thing to get your thoughts down on paper,” he said as he swung the screen door open and stepped into the kitchen.
As I made my way back to the loft, my mind was racing with all sorts of questions. I don’t know when I’d get the chance to ask him, but I sure as hell wanted to know. If he was here, laying low for the rest of his life, then why wasn’t the Shatterpack trying to hunt him down? Was it because they assumed he’s been dead for the past twenty years? I mean, what would happen if Dr. Genetics decided to reveal everything to the world? The last I’d heard, the “good” doctor was still at large somewhere in the world.
So The Farmer is…or was…Lord Powerhouse. Wow. Of all the things I didn’t expect when I was coming here, that piece of information was one of them. It couldn’t have been twenty years, though. According to the bartender at Castillo’s, The Farmer and The Ranch has only been a rumor for about five years. Maybe it took him awhile to set up shop here? I just have no idea.
Bah. Enough thinking, breakfast is ready. I’m still trying to soak in all
of this information. I just don’t feel like talking with this guy any more
today. I’ll just keep my mouth shut, hold the stupid egg and help do the
chores. I don’t want to have to think, get hit or get thrown like a rag doll
Metahuman Press is © and ™ 2005-2006 Nick Ahlhelm.