Allomer Chemnotech Stories

Contents

March 1959: Toxic Waste, with Bonnie (Adventurine) Marlowe Mason

October 1963: Mystery in Wayne


Toxic Waste

March 1959

Good-bye, Sparky

It was dark, and Bonnie Marlowe Mason, a.k.a. Adventurine, was hidden in the shadows in a neighborhood near the mile square, now-abandoned Allomer Chemnotech facility in Chicago. Something in this neighborhood was capturing and possibly even eating animals — and she wanted to put a stop to it before whatever it was moved on to eating children.

The animals’ disappearances had begun unnoticed by the neighbors, who didn’t really miss the squirrels, pigeons, and rats until later — in fact, when the alley cats stopped howling at night, it even seemed like a good thing. But then family pets started to disappear — and now people were afraid to go out at night.

In her costumed identity of Adventurine, Bonnie was staking out a dog — or what appeared to be a dog. But she couldn’t be sure of protecting the animal, so it wasn’t a real dog but actually an animatronic dog, a remote-controlled robot built by her partner and husband, Cody (Red Rocket) Mason. Sparky, as they called it, had chased some pigeons toward the fence surrounding the boarded-up Al-Chem facility, and then found a bone; now it was lying contentedly in a dark corner, worrying that bone to shreds. She hoped something would happen soon, or she and Sparky were going to have to head for home.

When it happened, it was so unexpected that she didn’t react right away. Something, maybe a rope or a snake, or something else entirely, reached over the fence, wrapped twice around Sparky’s neck, and jerked the robot back over the fence. If Sparky had been a real dog, she doubted that he would have had time to do more than yelp once before his neck was snapped.

Bonnie had seen a lot of weird things in her career, but this tentacle baffled her. What it resembled most was an impossibly long, incredibly pliable human arm. But she’d learned to act first and fast and be baffled later. She sealed her helmet, went to internal air, burst from the shadows running at full speed, and smashed into the fence, shield first. Her shield burst easily through the chain fence where she had previously cut some of the links, and she raced into the abandoned chemical factory, trying to catch up with whatever was dragging away Sparky’s mechanical ‘corpse.’

The enormous fenced facility, a mile on each side, had been gradually abandoned under pressure from the city government after an explosion on the grounds in 1956. Official estimates suggested that about a quarter of the city populace could be killed if this explosion had set off more explosions, either in the explosions or by being poisoned by the toxic chemicals that such explosions would release. (Unofficial estimates went as high as 70%). Civil authorities had started an evacuation of Chicago, and chaos had ensued.

Fortunately for all involved, the Alliance of Mystery Heroes was able to contain the fire and prevent further damage, but the city had begun legal proceedings against the giant company, and Al Chem had decided to move rather than fight.

Since then, there had been rumors of people living in the old plant. In a square mile completely jammed with tanks, buildings, towers and vats, crisscrossed with a maze of pipes, cables, and open conveyor belts, they would sure have a lot of hiding places. And without regular maintenance, a lot of buildings, scaffolding, pipes, and cables were starting to deteriorate. Nobody official would go onto the abandoned facility worried more about hazardous chemical toxins than the failing physical infrastructure. There were, of course, plans to demolish the whole place, but it was always judged by politicians to be “too expensive.”

Adventurine was aware of the dangers and had taken precautions. She and her inventive teammates had created a variation of her normal costume which entirely covered her, and included a full face-mask with built in four-hour air supply. She was on the clock.

As soon as poor Sparky had cleared the fence, a second tentacle had ripped the body from the head, and both were being carried toward a dark alley between a battered shed and a giant chemical tank. When Adventurine burst through the fence, both tentacles immediately disappeared, along with the mangled robot. Bonnie switched on her infrared goggles, and the world changed from a dark place to a weird landscape in ghostly shades of gray. Rounding a corner, she stopped, stunned by what the infrared goggles showed.

Straight from Lovecraft

In front of her was a giant living… something. If you put a dozen mannequins into a jumbled heap, and partially melted them together into a blob, the result would look something like the monster she was facing. She was right — the tentacles were arms, grotesquely elongated and seemingly boneless, as well as mismatched, but clearly arms — and there were more than just the two she’d seen originally, sticking out in all directions. Legs stuck out of the blob at all angles, some of them pointing into the air, and there were heads sticking out at random as well. Bonnie felt sick — she had never seen anything so hideous or disgusting in her life.

The many mouths of the blob gibbered in frustration when it realized that the dog was mechanical and not suitable for eating. It screamed in a dozen different voices, and chills ran through Bonnie’s body, and then it threw the head and body of the robot at her. She easily dodged the smaller missile and blocked the larger with her shield.

“Two can play at that game!” she hurled her shield, and it hit the beast in the side. Instead of rebounding strongly as she had expected, it sunk in somewhat and then popped out, falling yards away from her. Before she could react, one of the long flexible arms whipped out and wrapped around her, then started pulling her closer.

She was surprised at how weak the pull was. But a half-dozen other arms were now snaking toward her, and she wasn’t going to be able to fight all of them. Instead of fighting the pull, she sprang forward, and the other arms missed — and she used the slack she’d created to dive for her shield.

She slammed the edge of the shield into the tentacle that was wrapped around her, hard enough to shatter bones. But nothing broke. She almost expected the tentacle to shear off, but instead it stretched under the impact, and released her.

“That’ll teach you to keep your hands to yourself, buster!” She quickly backed away.

The beast changed tactics, picking up nearby rocks and debris and hurling rocks, shattered pipes, bones, chunks of wood, and who knows what else at her. She could have dodged the individual missiles easily - Hoyt Wilhem, the knuckleball pitcher for the White Sox, threw harder than this thing. But there were always a dozen or so flying at her, and even protected by her shield, she was taking hits. The armor cloth in her costume protected her easily enough by stiffening under impact to distribute the blow, but it inhibited her movements, and she stumbled and fell. If the monster had been so inclined, it could probably have captured her then.

Instead, the hail of debris stopped, and she could hear the monster running away. Well, swarming away would probably be a better description. Its arms and legs all stretched in the direction it wanted to go, and then the body followed. With that many limbs for locomotion, it moved more rapidly than she would have guessed. It quickly reached some pipes and scaffolding, and the elongated arms reached up, and it started climbing. By the time she got to her feet, it was out of sight.

Adventurine was able to follow by turning her sound sensors up to maximum, but her infrared vision was virtually worthless. All around her, there appeared to be low level chemical reactions occurring, and in infrared, all she could see were splotches of light. She was just about to switch back to visible light when the ground collapsed beneath her feet.

Quickly twisting in the air, she managed to get her head down, feet up, with the shield extended in front of her, by the time she hit.

Adventurine splashed into some kind of liquid. Thicker than water, it supported her easily. But as soon as her shield touched it, some kind of reaction started, and so much heat was being released that it blinded her infrared vision. She switched to visible light and triggered the powerful spotlight on the back of her right gauntlet. The she let out a terrified scream when she noticed that her shield was dissolving.

She could see a ladder on one of the walls of this pit, and she was up it in seconds. She was able to see that the titanium alloy of the shield hadn’t been affected, though the epoxy paint covering had burned away. And her armor cloth costume seemed to be immune as well. Not for the first time, she was thankful that Nazi Germany hadn’t been able to get this miracle synthetic fabric into production before the end of the World War II.

She could hear what sounded like an angry crowd approaching her, and she looked up in that direction. The beast, moving faster than she had seen it before, burst from the tangled rubbish not thirty yards from her, heading her way. It was screaming in what sounded like terror and fear.

“Oh, $#!*!” Unlike her partners Red Rocket and Tom Atomic, Bonnie didn’t have any super-powers or super-weapons built into her costume. There was no way she could keep this monster from smashing into her and tumbling both of them back into the pit of caustic liquid — but she could try. Without a thought that she had earlier been fighting this hideous beast, she would try to save its life.

She threw her shield as hard as she could. It was no longer finely balanced or streamlined, but she couldn’t possibly miss. But, like before, it had almost no effect, though beast might have slowed momentarily. She dialed up the volume on her built-in PA system and shouted.

“STOP!”

Windows shattered, and any human nearby would have been deafened for hours. At the same time, she blasted her searchlight at the maximum eight-thousand candles — a beam so bright it almost felt solid.

The monster was already in a panic, but the noise and bright light somehow got through to it. It tried desperately to change directions, and for an instant, she thought it was going to be able to change direction and save itself. But one of the projecting limbs caught on a stanchion, causing it to lose its balance and crashed to the ground, rolling toward her. The impact felt as if the entire Chicago Bears defense had smashed into her at once. The malleable body of the thing engulfed her, and together they tumbled into the pit. When the monster hit the fluid in the pit, there was an explosion of greasy yellow flame, which knocked Bonnie unconscious.

***~~~***

Sometime later, still protected by the miraculous synthetic material of her costume, she dragged herself up the ladder and out the tank. As she emerged, she saw a celebration going on. It looked like something from a Grade B monster movie — the ragged, oppressed farmers of a small Eastern European village, having just slain the terrible monster, dancing around a bonfire, waving their axes, pitchforks, and other improvised weapons, and cheering their victory.

The celebration stopped when Adventurine climbed from the tank. In dead silence, the mob watched. The caustic fluid dripped from her, each drip exploding when it touched the ground, surrounding her in flares of fire and a wreath of smoke. She thundered as she walked.

The appearance of this flaming, booming ghost from out of the deadly pit was too much for them. They must have thought she was a demon or spirit of vengeance, and they turned and ran screaming. In instants, they had vanished into the rubble and ruins behind them. And she was too beat up to pursue. Instead, she found handfuls of trash and wiped down her costume so that at least it didn’t drop any longer, and placed a radio call to her partners.

Her costume gave her fantastic protection from harm, but it wasn’t magical. The various impacts tonight had taken their toll. She had bruises over most of her body, and once her adrenaline wore off, it was a struggle to stay conscious. She managed to relate the whole story to her husband, and then passed out. It had been a hell of a night, and she was happy to let it slip away.

Bonnie Makes a Vow

Bonnie Marlowe Mason awoke in her own bed, and, boy, did she feel awful. She was a mass of bruises that hurt like fire whenever she sat up, and incongruously, she was also starving. There was a buzz of activity in the next room; she heard her husband Cody Mason speaking with Tomas Thomas, perhaps about politics, and her son, little Jack Mason, was yelling as he chased the puppy who was barking in excitement. She realized that, once again, she’d lived through a dangerous case.

“Hey, you two mad geniuses!” she tried to yell, but it was more like a squeak. They heard, though, for their conversation stopped, and they came into the room. Cody, bless his heart, was carrying a tray with coffee, soup, and sandwiches. She ate while they talked.

“You don’t think one of you might be able to put some shock absorbers into my costume, do you?” she asked. “It seems sort of, well, dumb to have an invulnerable costume, and then get shaken to death inside it! It was like being the olive in a martini shaker. Probably worse, in fact — no gin!”

Cody moaned; he hated gin. But at least, the hero known as Red Rocket mused, his wife was well enough to wisecrack.

“We ought to be able to adapt the gravity regulator in some way,” said Tomas, better known as Tom Atomic. He had perfect recall, and could read at superhuman speed. He subscribed to seemingly every academic publication there was, and read everything. He tried now to remember offbeat theories. “Hmm… What about that paper E.E. Smith wrote on the relationship between gravity and inertia?” Then he remembered that Smith had been universally ridiculed, so much so that he had retired from theoretical physics and had started writing science fiction. Still, combined with the work of the famous physicist Paul Dirac, maybe there was something there.

“Table it for later, Tomas!” She knew he wouldn’t forget it. “What did I miss?” It turned out that she had missed a lot.

“We drained the pit — and found the remains of over a dozen human skeletons, jumbled together. That beast started off as human!” began Cody. “We did a sweep of the entire facility, and found that it was home to at least two hundred people. The city is trying to figure out what to do with them right now. They’re spread throughout homeless shelters and other facilities throughout the city, and some are receiving medical attention. City attorneys are trying to figure out who to sue to recover expenses.”

Tomas joined in with a somewhat malicious smirk. “What makes it more complicated is that the city actually bought the property from Allomer Chemnotech about six years ago, so Al-Chem claims that absolves them of any responsibility. Then the Mitch Wackney Company bought it from the city about six months ago as the site of the next Wackney World. But their attorneys claim they wouldn’t have purchased it if they’d know about all the squatters, so it’s not their problem. Typical political mess!” Tomas hated politics. To him, it was easy to tell right from wrong, and politics was no more than the art of shifting blame.

Cody continued the story. “Anyway, do you remember that really big lightning storm a few weeks ago?” Of course she did; had lasted for hours, and there had been hundreds of lightning strikes throughout the city. “At least one of the big abandoned chemical tanks seems to have been split open by lightning that night, and dumped a flood of who-knows-what electrified chemicals into one of those camps — with horrible results for the people caught in the flood.” He shuddered. “At least, that’s our best guess. There isn’t much left of the skeletons, though, after sitting in that pit for a few hours. But the small animal disappearances started shortly after the storm.”

“Is that what was in the tank I fell into?” Bonnie asked.

Tomas actually shuddered. “No, that stuff was much worse. That was a drainage tank, and all of the storm drains throughout the facility had funneled in there. So, every time it rained, anything that got washed into the storm drains ended up in that tank. There was probably forty years of toxic sludge in there, plus the more recent stuff. Luckily it didn’t catch fire or explode spontaneously.” He brightened a little. “We took care of it, though. Drained it into a big stainless steel tank, and Major Power and Zenith threw it at the sun. It’ll get there in about 25 years. But who knows what might have happened if that stuff had leaked into the water supply?”

“What will it do to the sun?”

Even one of the most powerful men on Earth knew better than to laugh at Adventurine. “No problem — it will actually vaporize long before it reaches the sun. Probably break down into component atoms and get blown away into interstellar space by the solar wind.”

A bunch of facts and observations clicked together in Bonnie’s head. She was, after all, the best detective of Marolow, Thomas & Mason, the best detective agency in Chicago. And her realizations devastated her.

“You know, that poor monster was sick and starving!” Both her partners were startled by the pain in her voice. From their faces, she could see that they didn’t believe her.

“Those people had some way to feed themselves before the storm, right? Maybe they stood on corners and begged, or did odd jobs, or stole, or just dug through trash bins. But once they got melted together like that, whatever they used to do for food, they couldn’t do it anymore. Would you give a quarter to a twelve-headed monster on a street corner? Or let it wash your dishes in return for a meal? Anyone that saw it was more likely to try to kill it than help it!”

She was right, of course. They were used to that — she almost always saw things from an unusual perspective, and they were usually astonished when she filled in the details for them.

“And, even though they were joined together into a monster, they were still human, and still had a human respect for life. So they caught and ate small animals and stayed hidden. When the wild animals ran out, they started eating pets. But they never harmed a single person!”

“It fought you!”

“I was hunting them,” she pointed out calmly. “They–” she said, emphasizing the word in case her partners still didn’t get it, “–didn’t hurt me. In fact, they ran away when they had their chance to hurt me. And then they ran into the other squatters, who had joined together into a lynch mob, and it ran away rather than hurt them, and that’s what killed them.” She wasn’t angry, only very sad. She knew scientists, including her partners and some of their Alliance of Mystery Heroes associates, who could probably have helped these poor people.

“It was incredibly irresponsible of Allomer Chemnotech to just abandon that facility without making sure it was safe!” She felt a surge of anger as she spoke. “Regardless of what their lawyers say, they are the ones responsible for this tragedy!”

“Well, the city owned the property for years, and never even bothered to see if it was dangerous,” Cody pointed out. “The city has some responsibility as well!”

“Not to change the subject or anything,” Tomas interjected, bored with politics, “but we fixed your shield.”

Bonnie hadn’t noticed it, but her shield was laying on the big easy chair in the corner. Tomas handed it to her, and she examined it. It was again painted in the living green color that matched her costume.

“Looks the same…” She flipped it over. “New straps — nice!” She grabbed it by the edge and tried to raise her arm, simulating a throwing motion. “Yee-ouch!” she cried, lowering her arm. “Guess I won’t try that again for a while. But the balance feels the same, and the weight, too. Thanks, guys!” The two stood there smiling, and didn’t say anything. Suddenly, she got it. “OK, I’ll bite — what is it I’m supposed to notice?”

“The straps are now made out of the same material as our costumes, and they’re attached with titanium rivets, so they won’t be melting again.” Tomas was proud of his work.

“And, embedded in one of the balance weights are a miniature radio transceiver and a locator beacon. So, if your helmet radio ever conks out, you have backup — and if the shield ever gets lost, we can use a radio tracking device to find it.” It seemed unlikely that the shield could get lost, but one of Bonnie’s enemies had once stolen it, and it had required some first-class detective work to track it down.

“And that’s it, right? No other ‘improvements’?” she asked suspiciously. Cody was always fiddling with everything.

“That’s it!” he responded virtuously.

“I guess that pretty much wraps up the case of the missing pets, then. Funny how something small like that can uncover such a mess!” Tomas shrugged. It happened to mystery heroes all the time. “Good job, Bonnie!”

In her mental filing cabinet, Bonnie filed this one under pending. Twelve people, at least, had died, and she wasn’t satisfied yet with the ending.


Mystery in Wayne

October, 1963:

The security guard at the huge Allomer Chemnotech facility in Wayne, Maine waved the armored car through the rear gate. It was a regularly scheduled arrival — payday was every Wednesday, and the car always arrived at around the same time the night before. As the car rolled through the gate, heading for the payroll office, the guard aimed his flashlight out the window and flicked it on, then off again. In the nearby woods, a sentry spoke a code word into his walkie-talkie, and a mile away, a motor that had been barely turning over now revved up to full power. With a whup whup whup, a big cargohelicopter took to the air, heading toward the plant at top speed.

Each week, the armored car took a different route and came through a different gate, but it always parked in the same loading dock, where security guards surrounded it as the payroll was offloaded and moved to the big safe in the bursar’s office. This week was different.

The big chopper roared in low over the giant facility and came to a halt above the dock. The powerful backwash from the twin rotors knocked the security guards to the ground, and something big and heavy fell from the bird’s belly, crashing onto the roof of the armored car. The pilot fed power to the electromagnet, and then the chopper lifted, played out about 40 feet of cable and then the armored car was dragged skyward. The motor roar from the big copter barely changed pitch. It was designed to lift Army tanks many times heavier than an armored car. The driver and guard managed to open their doors and dive to the ground – they weren’t paid for unexpected flights! A security guard who’d managed to regain his feet fired his pistol upward, but the chopper’s armor protected it, and within seconds it was out of range. It had been a perfect operation.

Or was it? One of the saw movement in the trees just outside the fence, what appeared to be a person, stretching some kind of band between two of the plant’s light poles. The guards yelled and ran toward the nearest gate, but well before they cleared the fence, the figure stopped struggling backward and leaped straight into the air. The elastic band snapped taut, and the figure was catapulted into the air toward the fleeing helicopter. The band detached from the poles, and seemed to be reeled in. The figure seemed to scrunch in upon itself into a more aerodynamic shape, and then, when it had reached the peak of its trajectory, it appeared to sprout wings — and it flew away after the now-distant chopper, like a giant bat in search of dinner.

The chopper’s top speed was 150 MPH but flying with the long, heavy pendulum dangling beneath it took the pilot’s total concentration even at a much lower speed, and in a few minutes, the giant bat-thing closed on it. Carefully coming in from below, it impacted the copter’s cabin with a jarring thump, and something dark began to flow over the windows.

This spooked one of the other two men in the cabin, who pulled a pistol and fired two shots through the window. Whatever had covered it vanished instantly, but he didn’t have time to enjoy his triumph, though, as the shattering glass, followed by the powerful downdraft blowing through the pulverized windshield, immediately caused the pilot to lose control.

The pilot was well-trained; he flipped a switch, and an explosive charge severed the cables, dropping the armored car to smash to the ground, then slapped the big blade into neutral, and clambered back to the hatch, where he jumped, popping his parachute almost instantly.

The gunmen weren’t chopper-trained, and they weren’t wearing parachutes, so they were forced to fall with the big chopper as it auto-rotated into a pond. They were both knocked unconscious, and neither expected to awaken, but when they did they were strapped to stretchers in the back of an ambulance, with police guards. Something had pulled them from the wreckage and left them on the shore for the police to find.

The pilot turned himself in the next day. He was ex-military, and shortly after his discharge he’d run up a huge gambling debt in a crooked poker game. He’d been offered two choices — a sudden, unfavorable change in his health, or fly this one “mission.” He received a suspended sentence when his testimony helped convict the various crooks involved in the operation, including the phony security guard. Realizing that civilian life wasn’t the place for him, the pilot went back into the military, and soon was serving with distinction in Vietnam.

The security guards from the Allomer plant told the story of a person who somehow catapulted into the sky and flew off after the fleeing helicopter, and the two crooks who had been in the chopper told their story as well, about something flowing over the windows of the chopper from the outside. But it had been dark, and nobody had seen anything clearly, and eventually the story was dismissed. And life in Wayne, Maine, went back to normal.