MONSTAAH CASE FILES:
THE SECOND COMING—PROLOGUE
By Chris Nigro
Time: Early September, 2011
Place: A tiny uncharted atoll in the Caribbean
The Professor certainly is a difficult guy to locate. It’s been about a week and a half that I’ve become mobile enough to make this trip since my, erm, ill-fated little foray into the subway system of Buffalo this past summer. I currently need a hardwood cane to get around—which doubles as a makeshift weapon thanks to the special metal knob on the end of it—and I still walk with a limp thanks to my left leg having been…well, partially eaten. Most of it has grown back thanks to a combination of spending lots of time in lycan form and some heavy duty Wiccan healing spells, but I still haven’t healed enough to walk without a noticeable limp and a notable degree of pain, even with the cane. The life of a monster hunter is not easy, to say the least. We tend to pay for our service to the world with blood and flesh…literally, that is.
But my friend who recently got that job with Kord Innovations managed to get access to the files kept by the company’s sort-of-notorious founder, which was a treasure trove for one in my vocation, and who happens to have the ambitious plans that I currently harbor. But I cannot and will not do it without his approval and blessings. I owe him a lot, and it’s time to repay him for his generous acceptance of yours truly since ’03, and his unwavering faith in me to make him proud. And I will make him proud, even as I make the lives of all evil monstrous things that plague this world as miserable as possible. I’m just that kind of guy.
Speaking of that treasure trove, it took me almost an entire month to pick up enough tips to actually lead me to where he has been living in a sort of self-imposed exile nursing a serious ennui since MONSTAAH fell thanks to that “secret invasion” in ’09 took its toll on us. The good guys kicked ass as we tend to do, but not without immense cost. Not without causing MONSTAAH to totally collapse, and forcing the Masked Savage to destroy its invaluable database to keep it out of the hands of those damned aliens. From this point onwards, any symbol I see that even remotely resembles the emblem displayed by those invaders from Ummo is going to get me pissed off enough that I am going to shoot it on sight. Some may call that wanton destruction of property, but after what we went through because of the Ummoans, I call it righteous venting. Boo-yahh to the max, man!
Anyway, the world can’t afford to lose MONSTAAH for good. The world needs an org like it, and moreover, I need the org, too. My membership in it kept me on the straight and narrow for most of the past decade, and never did Prof. Loridans manipulate me like the Strange Doctor did. Now that I have broken all ties with Dr. Enygma, I’m ready to embark upon the biggest and most ambitious—some would say outright pretentious—mission of my hope-to-be-worthwhile life. I am going to get the Professor’s permission to resurrect MONSTAAH, and run the org myself until such time as he is ready to take back the reins after he recovers from the fallout following the “secret invasion” that effectively destroyed the org…and almost destroyed his life with it. But a noble dude won’t stay down forever, nor will a noble org. So it’s time to bring MONSTAAH back, and dammit, it’s gonna be done if it’s the last thing in this world that I ever get done. A lot more likely than my getting my laundry done this weekend, that’s for certain. Monster hunting beats washing clothes any day of the year.
Okay, so I’ve been limping around this quaint but beautiful little island resort that only a handful of people in the world are aware even exists for the better part of an hour now, getting strange glances from the peaceful but private natives, and getting only half-answers to my queries for information regarding Prof. Loridans’ whereabouts. I can’t blame them, as the man is here to relax and sort things out in a very serene environment, while I’m some stupid little overweight outsider dressed in dark attire whose limping around the atoll asking invasive questions. But my stubbornness is legendary among those who have had either the fortune or misfortune to interact with me on any given day (their choice of answer tends to depend on what mood they are in when you ask them), so I am not going to give up. Damn, my leg really hurts. Don’t be a wuss, Nero! Keep on moving, as little by little you are acquiring enough info to lead you directly to whatever doorstep the Professor is living behind right now.
Finally, after a few hours of painful wandering, I hit paydirt. That is, I fall down in a huge pile of dirt. Thank the gods my raiment is grayish-black. But after picking myself up and walking for another hour, I hit a different kind of paydirt, the far more desirable type. I look towards a calm beach area surrounded by a series of small but comfy looking homes that appear to be made of clay. Sitting and watching the rapidly approaching sunset, dressed in clothing reminiscent of a sailor, is a figure I immediately recognize by his mane of longish hair. Standing a few feet away from him as if guarding his life is the nearly 7 foot Amazonian figure of a woman who is greatly feared amongst the dark forces that haunt this world…not to mention greatly feared by me, considering her opinion of yours truly that led her to deliver to me a most memorable beating during the first few minutes I entered the old MONSTAAH headquarters in Boneport following my initial recruitment back in ’03. My face still feels swollen just at the thought of what even a moderate haymaker from that lady can do to such a fragile substance as facial bone. But the important thing is…I found him! Yay! I actually found him!
“Um, hi, Professor…hi, Gretta,” I nervously uttered, almost stammering the words.
The powerful but lithe form of Gretta Venus turned around with a sudden leaf of speed, immediately jutting into a prepared fighting stance. I couldn’t help gulping audibly and getting prepared to use my cane to protect both my face and my groin.
“What the hell?” she exclaimed at the sight of a guy she is not overly fond of. “What the blue blazes are you doing here? How did you find us? Talk, or I’ll introduce your head to the ground courtesy of a piledriver!”
“It’s hard to talk when you won’t stop talking first, Ms. Venus. But it’s nice to see you are so glad to see me that you want to take the effort to piledrive my skull into the sand. You flatter me, babe.”
As Prof. Loridans turned around in synch with Gretta, for a moment there was a look of incredulity on his face, followed by a weak but nevertheless sincere smile.
“Mike! Mike Nero! Dude, how did you find us here?”
I smiled back, very glad to see the Professor again. “It sure wasn’t easy, especially since you clearly didn’t want to be found.”
He rushed over to me and gave me a quick friendly hug, which I happily reciprocated. Gretta simply clenched her fists in unison and grumbled a bit.
“I hope you have been well, Profess. You most def look well, as your beard is as scraggly as ever. It’s great to see you again, especially after how hard I searched, and how many resources it took.”
He slapped me on the shoulder, which reminded me of the way the Masked Savage used to do it. Hmmm, I wonder…nah, I don’t believe the rumors that the two could possibly be one and the same individual. I think it’s more likely their similarities are based on the fact that they are brothers or lovers or something.
“I’m sure you have a good reason for looking for me,” he said. “So, Gretta’s rather visceral reaction aside, her question is a good one. Who else knows I am here?”
“You mean, among the surviving members of the old crew? Only me. It was never my intention to compromise your serenity. But I needed to find you, because I wanted to ask you to support me on a major undertaking.”
His eyes glimmered for a moment. “And what, pray tell, might that be?”
“Okay, here’s the thing, Profess. When MONSTAAH collapsed because of those grungy, monster-obsessed aliens—don’t worry, I don’t like saying the ‘U’ word any more—well, a part of me collapsed with it. What I mean is, even though MONSTAAH was your brainchild, and your baby, it meant a lot to me and so many others. It gave us inspiration, a chance to redeem ourselves for whatever dark deeds we may have been involved with in the past. And most importantly, it kept monster hunters informed, and kept the world safe. We can’t leave it all to the Slayers and the masked wrestlers south of the U.S. border, yanno.
“In short, MONSTAAH gave me all the encouragement I needed to do the right thing.”
Gretta rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, you mean like when you thrashed that civilian in a fit of rage over a damn girl a few years back? The time we had to detain you for four months?”
“I never claimed to have become perfect, Gretta! And you say that as if you never went medieval on a civilian yourself! Hell, you went all ‘clobberin’ time’ on me the first time we met!”
“I always had a good reason for the times I hit civilians, including you, ya little putz!”
“In your opinion, maybe!”
“Okay, children, break it up,” Prof. Loridans admonished us in a pleasantly familiar manner. He was one of the very few people on this planet who could calm down Gretta Venus when her temper began to rise like mercury in a thermometer on a hot summer’s day in the Caribbean.
“We need to let Mike talk, Gretta. He came a long way, and went through a lot of trouble to find me, just so he could say what he wanted to say. I know you never liked or approved of him, but let’s be honest, you aren’t the best in the world when it comes to being an adroit judge of character. You lead with your emotions just a bit too much at times, proving that in some situations, a reasoned response is superior to a gut reaction.”
“Thank you, Profess,” I said, grateful as always for his willingness to listen to me. Not to mention his willingness to protect me from the wrath of the corporeal force of nature that is Gretta Venus; I’ve already had enough of my bones shattered the past month.
Gretta rolled her eyes again, and threw her arms up in the air. “Fine, Charles. Fine. I’ll let the runty little deviant talk.”
I smiled. “Fanks! I guess a runty deviant is a step up from a putz in Gretta’s world.”
She clenched her right fist. “Don’t push it, little boy.”
Prof. Loridans raised one of his hands again. “Alright, alright, cease, desist, and be cool, Gretta. Now, Mike, you had something you wanted to say? Please say it, as I’m a busy contemplator these days.”
I smiled yet again, appreciating his tension-diffusing levity, as always.
“Will do, Profess. But, she still calls you ‘Charles’?”
“Okay, okay, sorry. But anyway…remember all I said about how important MONSTAAH was to me, and to the world? Well, long story short, I want to revive the organization. My friend Craig Minkowski, who does engineering work for Kord Innovations, managed to get the CEO of the company—and you know who that is—to agree to put forth a lot of funding, and to donate some equipment, to help finance the restoration of the org.”
“Not only that, but MONSTAAH was considered so important amongst the ranks of the few who knew of its existence, that I got other sponsors too, all of whom agreed to let us run it the way we want, in a full non-profit basis for the betterment of the world.”
I handed him the notepad with the names of the orgs who agreed to help fund the new MONSTAAH in addition to Kord Innovations. A vaguely excited expression appeared on the Professor’s face as he looked at the list of prospective donators.
“I must say, this is an impressive list,” he responded. “The Keelian Research Bureau…the Van Helsing Foundation…the Miskatonic Phi Omega Fraternity…the Citizens’ Initiative…the McNeil Institute For Anti-Demonic Activities…the Aquarian Alliance…the Warriors of Christ…the Darkside Investigation Bureau…the Kersey Institute of Civilian Resistance? A vigilante-supporting org? How the hell did they know about us?”
“I’m not totally sure at this time, but I was able to prove their donations are good money and that the org is legit. Hey, I may loathe capitalism as much as I loathe evil beasts that go bump in the night, but we live in a capitalist world, so I had to seek donations. And MONSTAAH obviously meant so much to so many people of influence who know about the…erm, stranger aspects of the world that usually stay hidden from the general public, that there are a lot of orgs that think the world will be a much better and safer place for humanity if MONSTAAH would return to it, and in style.”
“That’s good to hear. Really good to hear. For many reasons of a personal and spiritual nature, I’m not yet ready to return to heading up a new version of MONSTAAH. So…”
I could see a severe “oh no” expression rapidly forming on Gretta’s roughened visage.
“So…I’ll be glad to do the organizing until you are ready to come back and reclaim the throne yourself, Profess. I mean, someone has to, and even though I’m sure there are others who could do a better job than me…”
“He’s right, Charles! Others can do better!”
Prof. Loridans looked at me with a reassuring smile. “Don’t mind Gretta, she’s been up all night doing the bodyguard thing. I’m sure you’ll do fine. I believe all you have ever needed was someone to have faith in you, so I am happy to pass the torch onto you. In fact, the work you do for the new MONSTAAH may even end up inspiring me to get back in the game.”
I threw my cane in the air, uttering a loud, “Yay!”
“Geez, Charles!” Gretta exclaimed. “You just put a middle school kid dressed in man’s clothing in charge of a project to revive and lead MONSTAAH! And with him being…well, you know…it’s like putting a patient in charge of the loony bin!”
“Gretta, learn to have faith. You don’t have to be religious to have it.”
He turned back to me while Gretta continued to blabber and complain.
“Do you have plans on who to form the administration with?”
“Most def! I am going to ask my old allies in the Boogie Knights team to help me administer the place. I also have a few veterans who survived the ‘fall’ that I managed to locate.”
“Jesus…H…Christ!” was Gretta’s latest admonition. “Why not invite Dracula and Pretorius to join the new board while you’re at it!”
“Gretta, take a chill pill; or maybe a couple while you’re at it.”
“But, Charles, you can’t seriously expect the likes of them to run so important and powerful an organization! Why can’t he contact Prof. Peabody or Prof. Eel to fill that position? Or even a good combatant like the Deadly Misquito? They all survived the fall. He’s talking about creating a board made up of freaks who comprised a little adjunct group we created whom the org didn’t want to be directly associated with us!”
“Gretta, I think most all of us in the org have been called ‘freaks’ at one time or another. How much of a ‘freak’ we happen to be is all subjective, and a matter of individual perspective. The Boogie Knights may have been comprised of three overly controversial members who we didn’t want associated with the main org, but as I recall, they got the job done. They made their share of mistakes, but in the end, when they pulled themselves together, they delivered the gold. They earned their place among us, so we shouldn’t treat them the way the Osmond family used to treat the two siblings who were deaf. It may be time for them to leave the doghouse and enter the tool shed.”
“Cool analogy, Profess!”
“I liked it too,” he replied to me with another smile.
Gretta rolled her wide brown eyes again. “Charlie…”
“It’s not good when she calls you ‘Charlie,’ is it, Profess?”
“No, it sure ain’t, but the decision is mine, and as much as I love ya like the big bullying sister I never had, Gretta, I think even you can agree that Mike and his cohorts-in-monster-mayhem at least deserve the chance. We had our time on the throne for a while, let’s let them have theirs.”
“Grrrr…all right. But don’t come whining to me when he has to be detained again for reason’s of common decency.”
“Ever the optimist, eh, Gretta?”
Gretta yelled a final word in a language I didn’t understand, and then went quiet. Prof. Loridans gave her a look that resembled a half-smile, half-annoyed expression, and turned back to me.
“There’s something I should give you that I think you will need on this little undertaking of yours.”
At his direction, I followed him into his clay hut, which was terrifically decorated with cool looking furniture, and included what looked like a larger version of an ancient Beta VCR on his office desk. Asking me to remain in the middle room while he walked into an unseen location in the hovel, he walked back and handed me a crimson-colored flashdrive.
“You see this flashdrive, dude?”
“I could hardly overlook it.”
“Well, you are one of only five people on the face of the planet I have revealed this to, but when I had to order the Masked Savage to destroy the database, I only did so after I downloaded most of its vital content to this spruced up LexorCorp. flashdrive, which can be hooked up to any PC computer for uploading.”
“Whoa! You mean, you saved most of the info? We all thought that info was gone forever!”
“Yeah, and it has to stay that way for now. Only one other flashdrive with this data exists, and that stays with me for safekeeping. You have to give me your word that no one else will know that the backup of the backup exists.”
“You have my word, Profess. Your trust means a lot to me, and it always has.”
“Which is why I am giving you that trust. But it’s going to take a computer as sophisticated as the Max Crays we used to have in order to hold this kind of data. And access to some of its more sensitive content needs to be limited; you’ll know what it is when you see it, I’m sure; I trust your judgment on that.”
“Don’t worry on either count, I will have that covered. I have arrangements to get me back to the States, and when I do, I am immediately going to work on getting MONSTAAH re-instituted. Don’t worry, I will take care of the new version of your baby, believe me! I have a list of both old and new recruits I am working on contacting, and the newer faces will be quite awesome, I assure you.”
The Professor smiled, handed me the flashdrive, reminded me to keep an eye on it at all times, and wished me well. I can hardly believe the huge honor and responsibility now bestowed upon me. Did Atlas feel this way? Do I finally have to grow up now? Nah, nothing that drastic, I’m sure. I’m certain the kid in me won’t let the Professor down. But my private little flight is waiting for my return, and I had better limp on over to it, as tempted as I would be to stay in this serene little paradise on Earth…if not for the fact that I would risk annoying Gretta, who would never tolerate my presence here for more than a few minutes at a time.
“Charles, are you absolutely sure handing the reins to Nero isn’t, you know, more than a little bit crazy?” I heard Gretta ask the Professor as I awkwardly departed the vicinity on unsteady feet.
I beamed with pride when I heard his response. “Well, maybe, but weren’t we considered more than a little bit crazy when we presumed to create an org to replace the venerable old League of Anti-Diabolists once the Initiative displaced them? Look what the results were. I’ll keep watching Mike’s progress from afar, and the Powers That Be willing, let’s see if he can strike the same well of gold that we did a decade ago.”