Previously: Snap Out of It
The Great Hunter had had his reasons for not moving into the residential wing of the Three Towers when most of the other Crimebusters had so gullibly and eagerly done so. For one, he never trusted Sky Lord, whose idea it had been to build the skyscraper complex in the first place. He had no doubt at all that the thing had been conceived, designed, and executed specifically to serve as a glittering panopticon, whose sole raison d’être was to monitor and record the secrets of as many super-powered individuals as could be convinced to give up their freedom in exchange for disturbingly twee promises of “community” and “security” and “home.”
This was his home, the Clockwork Brownstone, and it always had been — had been, at least, since he liberated it from its inventors, the Swiss Family Robotics, an early super-villainous corporation, in 19 and 12.
Besides, it was a fabulous place to throw a party.
For example, the house constructed servants out of its own self, as needed. A host never had to worry about having too few hands on hand for proper service, nor having so many that they got in the way of one another and the guests. They appeared from and disappeared into the kitchen pantry, discreetly, each comprised of the same hypnotically-intricate golden widgetry as the walls of the house, each wearing, as a face, a smiling Felix the Cat knockoff clock. None of them told the same time. The house had never explained this to the Great Hunter, though it did occur to him, from time to time, to ask. Like any old friend, the house kept, and deserved to keep, a few secrets of its own.
Tonight, the Great Hunter stood upon a small stage he had asked the house to raise its floor temporarily into at the head of the great-room. The joint was jumping. Every superhero had come to see the freak, the man-bites-dog, the Snake-Boy with a soul, who had been adopted by the Great Hunter as a sidekick. None of them knew — or, at least, he hoped and assumed that none of them knew — that he had been blackmailed into doing so by Sky Lord himself, who knew a few of the Great Hunter’s own secrets: one, that he was a vampire, and two, that the blood of snake-boys was his favorite snack.
“I need to know you can control yourself,” Sky Lord had said. “I need you to show me.”
He had suggested — which meant, essentially, that he had commanded — the Great Hunter to take on the boy as a sidekick.
And so he did. He spent spent months training the stupid boy. He took him out on patrol. He gave him books to read, exercises to complete, multiple-choice tests. He set him on an excruciating physical training regimen. He gave the abomination every opportunity and every advantage. He had even hand-sewn a superhero costume for the damn critter, himself. And he had publicized this very party, Snake-Boy’s debut, his introduction to the so-called superhero so-called community, specifically to give Sky Lord what he had said he needed: visible and public proof that he, the Great Hunter, could control himself and avoid the temptation of having delicious and refreshing Snake-Boy blood living with him under his own roof and (and this was the galling part) do exactly what he, the Great Hunter, had been told to do. By Sky Lord.
Now, looking out over the crowd, he saw that none of it had mattered. Every superhero was here. Every single one of them. Except the one for whom the whole damn show had been engineered. It had all been a game. Sky Lord had not bothered to attend.
He decided to get it over with. He had waited long enough.
“And now I am proud to present,” he said, in an imitation of his old running buddy P. T. Barnum, “the one and only snake-boy with a soul, my partner and apprentice, whom we have decided to simply call, with implied capital letters, mind, to set him aside from his thousands of soulless siblings –” here he gestured like a magician at the floor, which opened up beside him — “Snake-Boy!”
The house raised Snake-Boy up from under the floor on a small platform, stopping when he was approximately standing shoulder-high to the Great Hunter. The Snake-Boy, as he had been told to do, smiled, from all five of his mouths. He nodded and waved, to the polite applause of the room. He was wearing a white thong over his genitalia-free crotch. He was wearing go-go boots.
The Great Hunter wanted to cry.
Next: Snake-Boy Comes Out, Part Two