The Devil’s Fool, Part Seven

Continued from Part Six

After calling Major Karmokov, he changed his van’s tires, put his shirt and coat back on, and drove to his headquarters, an old garage on the outskirts of town.

Upon entering the garage, the Defender sighed. Did the Sword have to see the garage this way?

The smell of grease was thick in the air. The shelves showcased his haphazard organizational skills, with extra bolas, grappling hooks, and boxes of extra costumes, and bandanna masks lined up in no particular order. He’d been promising himself he would clean up for some time, but every night he came home from crime fighting too exhausted to clean.

If only he’d known the Sword was coming, he would have prepared. Now Earth’s greatest hero’s boots tramped through dirty floors, and his nose smelled unpleasant odors.

The Sword placed last Tuesday’s newspaper on the floor and settled at the Defender’s workbench. “Well now, first, let’s start with real names.”

The Defender gasped. “No one knows of my secret.”

I’ll tell you mine as well, and swear yours will forever be a secret.”

Guess the Sword can be trusted. “Bogdan Sagunov, gardener.”

The Sword removed his helmet to reveal a creamy complexion, white blond business cut with a widow’s peak, and slate blue eyes. “Jesse Miller, publisher of the Sword Comic Book Company.”

This made sense. He’d heard of the popularity of the comics from children. Who better to head up the effort, than the greatest of Earth’s superheroes himself?

The Sword smiled. “Thank you for your trust. I know the mask has its purpose, Bogdan, but it also inhibits honest discussion.”

Sagunov nodded and removed the Defender’s mask; a rolled-up black bandanna with eye holes cut out.

The Sword stood and walked around the garage. “You’ve done a splendid job defending Russia from the mafia and the corrupt government. I think people around the world would enjoy reading about your adventures, and I think this would be especially so in Russia.”

His own comic? His stories told to children all around the world? It was a dream. But, the Sword must not understand the situation in Russia very well. “That’s very kind, but I’ve earned quite a few enemies in the militsiya and the government.”

The Sword turned and walked towards Sagunov. “Then I won’t walk into the police station selling the books. Our market is the people of Russia; the children of Russia. People need hope that this country has not gone entirely to the mob and drugs. Someone is going to give them that hope. It’ll either be you, or the Communists, and I don’t think either of us wants them back.”

Sagunov nodded. The Communists had cost him too much. “I will do this on one condition. I do not want glorified.”

The Sword raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

I am not Russia’s Savior. I serve Him who is, and that must be key.”

The Sword nodded. “Your faith is obviously very important to you, Bogdan. Faith is also important to many people in my country and around the world, so of course your faith will figure prominently, and I’ll make sure it is shown as important as we can present it to be.” The Sword glanced around the garage. “Only one thing must be changed: your equipment.”

The Sword crossed to the VW bus. “This looks as if it’s seen better days.”

Sagunov bit his lip. “It’s traveled close to 250,000 kilometers.”

The Sword inspected the peeling paint. “This won’t do. You need something sleeker, more modern. A van, yes, but a new model, with bulletproof glass, as well as weapons and autopilot.”

Sagunov frowned. He’d been pretty clear he was a gardener, not a billionaire. I guess they could put it in the comic book. Paper cars are cheap enough. “That’ll be pretty easy to draw.”

The Sword laughed. “Draw? I’m not going to have my artists draw a vehicle that doesn’t exist. I’ll have the new Defender Van built and shipped within the month to your specifications.”

Sagunov gasped. To his specifications! He’d have to make a list. He gave a polite nod. “Thank you.”

Consider it an advance on your royalty payments. You’ll earn three percent of retail on every comic sold, so you should be paid up in a month. Also, could you use a crime computer and a lab?”

Probably not the lab. I am not much into chemistry. I mostly talk to my contacts at the police crime lab. Dr. Lakoff helps me in addition to his regular duties. A basic computer might be nice. I haven’t used one since school.”

The Sword nodded. “I’ll get you a personal computer with the best crime-fighting software as well as data search tools. In addition, I can hook you up with high-impact grappling guns that’ll be easier to wield. We may also be able to make some upgrades to your smoke.” The Sword took a step back. “Can I speak frankly?”

The Defender nodded.

Your suit needs changed. I mean, that white shirt and white pants you’re wearing? Probably cotton if I don’t miss my guess. It’s nineteenth century, and you need something twenty-first century.”

Go ahead.”

I’d personally recommend a metallic fabric a friend of mine developed called tonksium. It’s specially formulated to be bulletproof, fire resistant, water resistant, and lightweight. I’ll provide it as part of the advance, if you want it.”

Sagunov rested against the wall. Perhaps I need bulletproof underpants, too. The Sword is trying to change everything!

He pursed his lips. Don’t be a stubborn fool, Sagunov. Cotton offers no advantages. The Sword knows what he’s talking about. “That’ll be helpful.”

Keep the mask and hat. Definitely the white trench coat. I like them. Very minimalist, very you. I’d just like to keep you alive.”

Sagunov smiled at the Sword’s approval.

The Sword pulled a contract from his vest. “Here. So we can make it all legal.”

Sagunov took the contract and read through it. The Sword had kindly translated the contract into Russian. His training at the school of language had well covered written English, but it was admittedly easier to plow through the legal formalities in his native tongue.

A twinge of guilt rose at the royalties section. “It seems a tad tawdry to take payment for what I do. I didn’t get into this to make a fortune.”

The Sword put his arm around around Sagunov. “Bogdan, I understand. Many have the same objection. Of course, you’re not in it for the money. But it’s not like you’re charging to save someone from a fire. You’re letting us use your image to tell a story, maybe sell some toys. The money will mean more funds for crime fighting equipment and less need for you to do gardening work. In the end, improved equipment and more time to help will benefit the people as much as you.”

Sagunov nodded. And there’d be more money to give to God, too. Sagunov finished reading the contract and signed.

Thanks,” said the Sword. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to hang around for another day; perhaps assist you in your work.”

The Sword? Assist him? “It would be an honor.”

I’ll also need to talk tomorrow about developing the right approximation of your character for the comic book.”

Sagunov scratched his scalp. “Approximation?”

If the character is exactly like you, we’ll be putting you and your loved ones at risk. Thus we always give our characters approximate characteristics. Some traits are based on the hero, others are fictitious. For example, we’ll give you a generic last name, and make you a lawyer instead of a gardener.”

Sagunov nodded. Why not a mechanic, or something like that? What’s wrong with an honest day’s labor?

The Sword soundlessly snapped his gloved fingers. “Oh, by the way, I and some other heroes are starting a guild to handle big challenges. It does require being available to help with regional and worldwide emergencies.”

Something sounded odd about this. “I should pray about it.”

The Sword smiled. “I trust God will have no problem with you joining. I’m hoping to get an annual meeting together in New York—a weekender of course. It really is going to be an exciting opportunity for all.”

Maybe he’d get to meet Commander Justice or the Texas Ranger. Sagunov felt like dancing, but constrained himself. “I’ll definitely consider it.”

Continued…Next Monday

Subscribe to Laser & Sword by Email to get the next part and all the rest of our free offerings delivered to you. To find out what happens sooner, visit the Laser and Sword Online store and download  Issue 1 for free or purchase the Annual Edition containing 11 action packed stories.

Subscribe to Laser & Sword by Email to get the next part and all the rest of our free offerings delivered to you. To find out what happens sooner, visit the Laser and Sword Online store and download  Issue 1 for free or purchase the Annual Edition containing 11 action packed stories.

One thought on “The Devil’s Fool, Part Seven”

Comments are closed.