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    The Beta Trilogy

    THE

    EXCESS MEN

     

     

    CHAPTER FOUR:

    Part I - Criminal Collusion

     

    It is 10 PM at the Ocean State penitentiary, nearly three hours after "lights out". The vast facility is still and quiet. Suddenly the sound of matches striking sharply resonates from the maximum-security section. Candle glow illuminates the area at the far end of the corridor. In the feint light four of the most feared villains the Ocean State has ever known stir in their adjacent cells.

    "Is everyone here?” calls out The Inventor in a hushed tone. The other villains acknowledge. "Good. I want an update. Is everything in place? Are the plans set to go?" 

    "No problem bro," says Cannabis, the big-time drug trafficker, and avid surfer from Kent County. "We’re down with the foodage, all laced with gange. They’re all set to be served to the guards in the cafeteria whenever we give the thumbs up. And it's mint man…it's going to knock them on their asses."

    The Ghost of Roger Williams steps to the bars in the front of his cell. He speaks in a puritan voice, "The replacement guards that we have been slowly permeating into their ranks far outnumber the sentinels, and are at our beck and call."  

    "Excellent," says The Inventor. "When should we do it? Tomorrow night?" The Ghost and Cannabis express agreement with that timeline.

    Then a fourth figure stirs in the remaining cell. The gruff voice of Mr. Potato Head Clone, the mob boss aptly named for his bulbous head, emphatically states, "It'll never work."

    "How can you say that Mr. P.?" responds The Inventor. "We've been organizing this for months…everything is all set. Most of the guards and staff have been replaced by our hired goons, and those that are left we're going to get wasted and take them out. We'll take over the OSP, have an endless supply of weapons, and make this our central operation. What could go wrong?"

    The mob boss slowly, almost funeral procession-like, makes his way to the front of his cell. He leans on the bars, staring. 

    "Have you forgotten?" he says, a subdued anger to his voice. "Have you forgotten how we got here? Have you forgotten who put each, and every one of us in these cells?"

    A dejected look comes over the other criminals, as Cannabis moans, "Bogus…The Excess Men."

    "Yes!" barks Mr. P. "The Excess Men. The biggest bunch of losers ever to grace that side of the law. The collective intelligence of a squirrel, and yet they have foiled us at every turn." 

    "Surely you jest sir," says The Ghost, almost Shakespearian. "If we had control of this magnificent fortress, how could they ever get to us in here?"

    Mr. P. glares at the Colonial Criminal and gripes, “You’re from Poonsocket, Rog. Stow the phony accent.”

    "But, he's right," says The Inventor. "We have a huge gang assembled in here, and the makings of a stronghold that can overtake the Ocean State. They wouldn't stand a chance."

    "They wouldn't stand a chance,” says Mr. P. in a mocking voice. "Yeah, right.  We've underestimated them before. We can't make that same mistake again." 

    "Well, what do you suggest we do?" asks The Inventor. 

    "I don't know,” says Potato Head, disgruntled. He walks back and it sits on the cot in his cell. His face drops to his hands as he mumbles, "Who are those guys...where did they come from?"

     

    At that same moment in the Capital City, the streets lay cold and barren in the Olneyville section of town. Outside the abandoned warehouse that disguises The Great Hall of Excess, all is momentarily quiet. In the distance the sound of a motor hums, increasing in volume as its source comes closer. Now more distinct, it is accompanied by a musical jingle, as suddenly two blocks down the roar of a powerful engine fills the air. An ice cream truck screeches around the corner, speeding to the front of the Great Hall; the sound of Pop Goes the Weasel blasting from a mounted speaker. It skids to a halt in front of the main door to the headquarters of – The Excess Men!

    The Ocean State’s Chumpions begin to file out one at a time. Methane Man steps from the vehicle and turns to Maintenance Man. "Great work on supping up the truck," he says. "It really hauls ass."

    “Haul’s asses is more like it,” snides Sarcasm as he steps to the sidewalk. He then turns, and stares at the vehicle covered with pictures of creamsicles, drumsticks and ice cream sandwiches. To himself, he reads the words printed across the top: Creamy Dreams. Sarcasm exhales in disgust, and says to the Handy Hero, "You did all this work to modify the truck. Couldn't you have at least painted it?"

    “I left it that way on purpose," responds Maintenance Man. "I figured it would keep us stealth. You know, so we don't draw any attention." 

    "Draw attention? Really?” remarks Sarcasm. "Have you looked in the mirror lately?"

    "Listen up," directs Methane Man. "Are you guys ready? We’re all together on this, right?" 

    "Yeah, I guess so,” says Consumption. "I just don't want to piss off The Professor."

    "He's always pissed off!” exclaims Sarcasm.

    "Look we all agreed on this,” says Maintenance Man. "We have to find out what's going on with us. We know about the Elders, we know there is a history, and we can't remember anything from our past. We have to confront The Professor."

    The Excess Men are in agreement, but there is a hesitant look of fear about them. They turn and march into the Great Hall, heading to the MajestX Foyer. The Zeroes stop a few feet into the room. As they look around they realize The Professor is not there. The lights are dim, and the Excalibro is in sleep mode. 

    "Where could he be?" asks Consumption. The other Zeroes look perplexed. 

    "Well we could try to hack into the Excalibro," says Methane Man. “Captain, you think you can gain access?" The Potent Protector looks around the room. "Damn, we forgot to bring the Captain."

    Captain Irrelevant, who is seated at the control station of the Excalibro, turns and gives a frustrated look to Methane Man. As the Captain’s fingers diddle the keyboard, he suddenly jumps back having received a mild jolt.

    "What the fuck was that?” yells Sarcasm. The main screen on the Excalibro suddenly comes on to reveal Cyber XS. The cyber image scans The Excess Men before him and states, "Let me guess. Circle jerk?"

    "Cyber XS? What are you doing here?” asks Consumption.

    "I'm always here, you idiot," snaps Cyber XS, glaring at the massive zero out of the corner of his eye. "Why are you trying to access my files?" 

    The team hesitates for a second as they nervously fidget. 

    "We want to know about our past,” says Methane Man. "Can you help us find out how we got here? Who we really are?" 

    Cyber XS closes his eyes for a moment, his head tilting oddly, almost mechanically. "There are documents that detail the story of the Men Who Do Something To Excess."

    The Zeroes all glance at each other with subdued anticipation. 

    "Can we…see them?” asks Maintenance Man, somewhat guardedly. 

    Cyber XS goes into a blank look for a moment that signals he is processing, and then relays, “The story is accessible from my files. I will read it to you.” 

    “Read it to us?” says a surprised Maintenance Man, as the computer image dons a pair of glasses halfway down the bridge of his nose. The view screen pulls back, showing Cyber XS in a rocking chair. He pulls a knitted blanket from the back of the chair over his shoulders, and opens a book in his hands. The Chumpions are befuddled. 

    “You’re a hologram generated by a super computer,” notes Sarcasm. “Why do you need reading glasses and a boo…”

    “Sit down,” requests Cyber XS calmly, but firmly, “and I will tell you the tale.”

    The Zeroes gaze at each other, confused for second.

    “SIT DOWN!!” yells the image. The Excess Men scramble for seats in the room.

    “That’s better.” 

    Cyber XS flips the first page, as he tells them the lore of The Men Who Do Something To Excess:

     

    Part II - Flashback to the Beginning

    An electricity fills the air on an April evening at the Baystate Institute for Technological Entrepreneurship and Mechanical Engineering. There is a standing room only crowd in the JRL Auditorium at the center of campus. The mesmerized patrons are listening intently to the guest speaker for the evening - the Nobel Prize winning Professor of the Humanities, Excalibur Zausting. The Professor, seated in his trademark mechanical lounge chair, is just finishing up his speech to the crowd, who hang on his every word. 

    "…and every time I go to this fucking restaurant, I know the breads not fresh. So before I leave I piss in the coat check room...you know, to teach these cunts a lesson." The assembly is silently mesmerized, as The Professor looks them over with disdain, and closes his talk for the evening. "Well that's all I have to say. I'm out of here, losers." The crowd in the auditorium erupts in cheers and applause. They are delirious with excitement at having been fortunate enough to hear the words of the great man. As The Professor maneuvers the lounge chair across the stage he brings it to a stop, pausing momentarily to flip off the crowd. This gesture brings the people in attendance to near frenzy. The greater height of excitement is almost palatable in the air. Flowers are thrown on stage as security personnel furiously fend off admirers and autograph hounds attempting to reach the speaker.

    The Professor goes back to his dressing room to wind down with a Gurkha Black Dragon cigar and a bottle of Krug Brut Vintage ‘88 – the only two items ever on his rider. As he relaxes there is a knock on the door.

    "Get the hell out of here," snarls The Professor. The door opens. In walk two nearly identical men, stepping just over the threshold. The Professor turns angrily and yells, “What the fuck! You are either deaf or you’re dead?”

    The two men grin as they glance at each other, and then at The Professor. They are bald, slightly paunchy and dressed in all white – pants and shirt, covered with white deli jackets. The only color to their wardrobe is red bow ties. The men speak in unison, "Professor Exhausting, it is truly a pleasure to meet you. We have looked forward to this moment."

    "Yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah," says The Professor. "What do you assholes want?" Again the two men smile, nod to each other, and explain, "Professor, we have a proposition for you." 

    "Unless your proposition centers on my never seeing you again, you guys are going to be greatly disappointed."

    The two men seem amused by the object of their pursuit. The Professor is agitated, and asks cautiously, "Exactly…who are you guys?"

    The men smile and announce, "We are the Savage Aegean Brothers.” The Brothers recall for The Professor their purchase of a bomb shelter as a safehouse in case of riots during the Ocean State’s savings and loan crisis. They fronted the establishment as a deli for cover. During renovation an ancient chest was discovered under the foundation. Opening the chest revealed a black magical jewel. It was the Stone of Boffa. Legend has it that it was a powerful gem enhancing the intuitive abilities of whoever possesses it. By rite, in removing the stone from its burial the men were eternally entrusted to be the Elders of the Stone.

    “We swore an oath that day,” the men tell The Professor, “which is etched into the stone – ’Honor The Stone of Boffa to Preserve and Protect…’ - well, it had worn off after that, so we don’t know exactly what it said. But, it seemed a positive message. In time we were able to integrate the Stones powers with technology to create a small, efficient network of systems.  We never had the need to use its powers, until now.”

    “Why now?” 

    "Professor, we have strong business interests in the Ocean State. However, it is looking at hard times in the future. Many villainous entities will be trying to disrupt the financial and business operations in our great state. Our appeals to the elected leaders have gone unanswered, and we know that there is increasing political corruption.”

    “This is the Ocean State,” says The Professor. “There’s always been political corruption.”

    “We wish to bring together a team of superheroes,” The Savage Aegean Brothers continue, “who will fend off these challenges to the peace of our small union. To make this all possible, we will need a leader for these men. And we have chosen you, Professor Exhausting, to train and direct this group of heroes. We will guide you to the members of your team; provide you with the means necessary to make them more than they are. And to assist in your leadership, we can heighten your instincts and senses. You’ll be able to anticipate any concerns that may arise. You will sense all that surrounds you."

    The Professor looks at the strange men cautiously, but his curiosity is peaked.

    "So who are the members of this team that you’re talking about?” he inquires.

    One of the Brothers hands a folder to him, as they explain, "We have identified for you a group of Men Who Do Something To Excess. They are the heroes, the champions that you will mentor to save the Ocean State." 

    Professor Exhausting takes the folder, and begins to peruse the documentation on the team The Brothers spoke of. A curious look comes over the his face as he turns to the Elders and exclaims, "Are you kidding me? This is the team? These guys are losers! They're more like zeroes…chumpions! "

    "You may call them whatever you wish Professor. However these men have abilities that we can enhance. And with your leadership they will become the crime fighters that will bring down corruption in the Ocean State."

    "Abilities? What abilities?" questions the confused Professor, looking over specific pages. "All this guy has is severe sociopathic problems, and this guy does nothing but eat. The only thing these lumps are going to bring down is the overall IQ of any group of people that they interact with."

    "They just need leadership,” say the Elders. "That is why we came to you. You can direct them. You will keep them on the right path. And we think that when you get to know them, you'll find them really quite pleasant.”

    "Have you seen the printout on the asshole?” exclaims The Professor, holding up one of the profiles.

    “Trust us,” appeal the Elders. “We will give you whatever tools you need towards the success of this partnership.”

    The Professor stares at the men for a few seconds, and then asks, "What's with the simultaneous talking? It's annoying."

    The Savage Aegean Brothers smile glibly and respond, “We are what we are."

    "Yeah that's my next question,” asks The Professor. "What the fuck are you? You look like you should be selling furniture, or auto parts."

    The Brothers look pleased, thoroughly enjoying their time with the great man, despite his sharp commentary.

    "So Professor," inquire the Elders, "will you accept our offer?" 

    Professor Exhausting contemplates the proposal for a few seconds. Then, in as close to a show of understanding as he can generate, tries to gently decline their offer. "Look…I'm honored, seriously. And it's nothing against you two goofballs, personally. I mean, I'm sure amongst the bowling pin people you guys are tops. But I really have no interest in getting involved in whatever game you clowns are playing here. So good luck with the whole deli from hell thing." 

    Professor Exhausting turns his chair towards the door when suddenly the Elders declare, "We will pay you…handsomely!" 

    The Professor skids the lounge chair to a dead stop. He slowly revolves it as he looks at The Elders and says, "Well, I don't want to seem unreasonable."

     

    With the gentleman’s agreement in place, the Elders take The Professor to the town of Olneyville. They come upon a large seemingly abandoned warehouse. 

    "What's this dump?” asks The Professor. 

    "This is The Great Hall of Excess, where you will run your operation." 

    The Elders lead The Professor inside, and they enter the MajestX Foyer. The Professor is curious as he looks at the surroundings. For the most part it is an abandoned former factory. However, before them on the wall is a large video screen monitor, backed by an extensive central processor secured neatly in a 64 gigabite Dell. The Elders introduce The Professor to the greatest computer system in the Ocean State - The Excalibro! 

    Next to it is a Matterhorn chaise lounge, fitted with touchpad technology on each arm, an extensive array of hidden gadgets, small weapons, and a motorized system that will travel at up 60 miles an hour - The Express! 

    On the Express sits a pair of large Ray Ban sunglasses with nano-tech, all-vision, satellite wi-fi, and blue tooth communication – The Excessory! 

    The Professor looks over the technology before him and snides, "It's a high powered computer with peripherals. Big deal."

    The Elders snicker in a delighted, but mocking tone. "Professor, The Excalibro is more than just a computer. It is the greatest amalgam of technology and organic human brain matter ever conceived. It can calculate, can cogitate, has logic, cognitive reasoning…And it is all incorporated in what is essentially a computerized organism. It is the greatest technology never invented" 

    "Never?" notes The Professor curiously.

    "The Excalibro will be tuned exclusively to you Professor, and can do many wondrous things. It will allow you to interpret how an individual thinks, and processes thoughts and movement.”

    "Can I use it on you guys?" asks The Professor. "Because I think there’s some shit going on those globes of yours."

    The Brothers continue, unfazed by The Professors comment. “Most of all, given a person's DNA, can link to the brain wave patterns, accessing the Event-Related Potential of the sample donor. Then it can send out a programmed brain wave pulse to the ERP that allows it - through your command - to improve that person, to alter their physiology. You can enhance their abilities; make them more than they really are. Bare in mind, our only interest is in the Ocean State, so it is programmed geographically to our state's borders. Beyond that any number of unstable situations could arise. It would be best for you to work within the state boundaries.”

    The Elders teach The Professor as much about The Excalibro as possible in the short time they have. Included is a built in sensor to detect evil, a disaster warning wave emitter, and a switch called the “Exfacto” which they had installed especially for The Professor. 

    “What does the Exfacto do?” asks Professor Exhausting.

    “If you engage it in the presence of the team it will erase their memories, with the exception of their work and training as your super…zeroes. We thought it might be helpful in focusing them solely on their responsibility as crime fighters. They would be blissfully ignorant to the lapse in their history. However, they would still have awareness, and a sense of being. Should something from their past come to their attention it will break the spell, triggering their understanding that there is a void.”

    “I like that,” says The Professor. “Except for the last part.”

    “Most of all Professor, take note of these,” The Elders warn, pointing to a set of black chips connected to the Excalibro’s main processing board. “We fashioned these chips from The Stone of Boffa. They hold all the data, and control all the power and capability of the Excalibro. Even if the Excalibro failed for any reason, the chips are adaptable, and can be accessed through a high-powered computer. We have not been unable to fully understand the potential of the Stone in the time we have had it. So when the chips are accessed the possibilities are unknown. Protect them most of all.”

    Over the next month the Elders instruct The Professor in mastering the Excalibro, and it’s interaction with The Express and Excessory. Upon finishing his orientation, with a strong understanding of the extensive technology, Professor Exhausting focuses on bringing together his team of Superzeroes. 

     

    At the OSP the plotting villains are agitated at the dilemma in finalizing their scheme. 

    "I just don't get it," says Potato Head. "We are the greatest collection of criminal minds that this crummy little state has ever seen. How could that group of mixed nuts have defeated us all? Not to mention that crazy fuck riding around in a lounge chair."

    "I despise the repair man," says Roger Williams. "He fixed my butter churn, and then tied me up and handed me over to the police."

    "And the smelly one!" says The Inventor. "What crawled up his ass and died? I mean, what kind of super powers are those anyways? The big hungry guy ate the furniture in my office." 

    "Dude, that's mild!" exclaims Cannabis. "When they busted me, he devoured my crops! Like gunsmoke - three fields! And when he belched the whole town was wasted for a week. Then he got the munchies!”

    "Well, we know The Professor will send them after us if we pull off this takeover," says Mr. P. "We have to find a way to deal with those four clowns before we enact our plan." 

    "You mean five,” says The Inventor.

    Potato Head Clone looks puzzled, "No, there are four."

    “Wait. Are we counting The Professor?” asks The Ghost. “Because if we are, then there’s six.”

    “No, not him,” says Mr P. “Just his patsies. And there are four.”

    “Waw, I’m pretty certain there’s five brah,” says Cannabis.

    The criminals engage in an argument over how many Excess Men there actually are. After heated debate they agree on four.

     

    Part III - The Men Who Do Something To Excess

    Using the information provided by the Excalibro, The Professor sets out to methodically track down The Men Who Do Something To Excess. His first stop is in the northwest section of the Ocean State, in the town of Farster Glarster. 

    The Professor heads to a food processing plant located deep in the woods. Just outside the main facility a thick, hairy man of large proportions, is eating discarded waste from the operation. 

    “What are you doing?” asks The Professor.

    “I get paid to eat the scraps the company discards,” says the man. “I save them thousands every year in waste hauling.”

    At that point a laborer walks by, and addresses his munching co-worker by nickname. “Hey, Consumption.” Consumption gives a quick head nod, with a mouth full of cardboard.

    "And you do this for a living?" inquires a befuddled Professor.

    "Four dollars an hour,” says Consumption, "and all I can eat." 

    “Four?” says Professor Exhausting, giving the man an inquiring look. “Did you know the word gullible isn’t in the dictionary?”

    “It’s not?” replies the big man.

    The Professor exhibits a dejected expression, “Okay…’Consumption’, you're coming with me.” The fun loving, child-like man falls in behind The Express, no questions asked.

     

    The Professor and Consumption head to JC Macy's department store. They make their way through the cosmetics section to the back of the building. A commotion is taking place at the customer service window. A woman is lodging a complaint about her purchase of some make up. "Lady, why even bother?” responds the man behind the counter callously. “If Estee Lauder was a priest he couldn’t save you.”

    Another woman approaches complaining about her purchase of a hair dryer. The man wears a mean, irritated face, seemingly uninterested as the woman verbally wails away on him. He turns his head slowly towards her, and coarsely says, “I don't know, I don’t care, and it doesn’t make any difference."

    The woman storms off disgusted, promising to have the man's job. "Oh yeah, go ahead – take away my career!” yells the man sarcastically, who then turns his attention to The Professor and Consumption. "What the fuck do you want?"

    "Sadly – you," responds The Professor. "I'm assembling a team to fight crime and corruption in the Ocean State, and somehow…you’re going to be part of it. Let’s go." 

    The man looks curiously at The Professor, unsure what to think of the bold demand. A loud back and forth commences between the two. 

    "Me? How can I fight crime?”

    “I’m guessing - poorly.”

    “You’re crazy. I'm not going anywhere with…"

    “Get in the line, dog face.”

    “Are you out of…?”

    “Look cumwad, you’re part of the team.”

    “I’m not going to be a part of any…”

    Suddenly, and simultaneously, both men yell, “What the fuck!”

    They stop and stare at each other for a few seconds.

    “I’m putting you in charge of our communications,” declares The Professor.

    “Fine!…I’ll do it,” says the caustic gentleman curtly. “What the hell, I’m not doing anything else. I could be home watching TV, or out driving around, but no…”

     “I haven't got time for this shit,” mumbles The Professor under his breath, who then addresses the new recruit. “Alright, now get in the fucking line. We need to go get the next member…By the way, your code name is Sarcasm."

    “Sarcasm? I’m Sarcasm?!” 

    “It’s either that, or Super Cyst,” says The Professor.

    The man mulls the unsavory options for a second, and surrenders, “Sarcasm it is.”

     

    The Professors next recruiting stop is in the town of Wark. On a quiet edge of the suburbs, on a small side street, he comes upon a three-story house well into construction. By all visible signs the house is nearly completed.

    "What are we doing here?” asks Sarcasm. "Is this going to be our headquarters?”

    "No, our headquarters isn’t this nice," replies The Professor. “This is where we will find the next member of our team" 

    "Is he one of the guys building the house?" asks Consumption. 

    "He’s the only guy building the house,” responds The Professor. "He started building this yesterday."

    “But it’s three stories…and there’s a garag…”

    “And yet…the finishing touches will take him up to a year,” notes The Professor, who moves to the back of the house where he finds the lone worker. The two men lock eyes, as Professor Exhausting ominously says, “You were expecting us, weren’t you?”

    The man nods. 

    “How’d he know we were coming Professor?” asks Consumption.

    The leader points to the belt the worker is wearing. “That is the Belt of Vila. It is the gold standard of the home improvement industry. It has tools that possess great powers in the mortal world. In this case it let him know somebody was looking for him.”

    Consumption is intrigued, “Really? Who Professor?”

    “Us - you moron!” says The Professor, who turns back to the handy man. “I’m putting together a team of Superzeroes. The Ocean State will soon face great peril. Our quest is to fight evil in all forms, and we need you.” The Professor glances back to see Consumption and Sarcasm fighting to play with the level. Struggling for the instrument, the two men fall backwards over a couple of sawhorses. Professor Exhausting sighs, and turns back to the construction worker, “Boy, do we need you.”

    The worker, a man of high ideals, contemplates the offer. He agrees to join the team and use his powers for the good of The Ocean State. 

    “Excellent,” says Professor Exhausting, who then notes. “When someone is awarded the Belt of Vila, the Facilities Gods also bestow a title. What is yours?”

    “Maintenance Man!”

    “Well, it’s a little on the nose,” says The Professor, “but…it’ll do. We have one more member to recruit.”

     

    The Inventor leans against the wall of his cell, frustrated at the obstacle to the criminals plan.

    “But we’d control the prison. With all the inmates and our hired goons we will have an army. An actual army! How could even The Excess Men stop us?”

    “Do you wanna take that chance?” yells Mr. P. with a frustrated anger. “I don’t know how, but they will! We’ve put too much work into this to have it ruined by those convenience store crime fighters.” 

    Exasperated the criminals stand dejectedly in their individual cells, hoping for an idea to stop the Zeroes. 

    "We can't do it," concedes The Inventor seconds later.

    At that moment a person enters the area just outside of their cells. Not expecting anyone to be there the criminals don't notice at first until the man speaks. "I've been listening to your plan. You have a little problem here, but I think I can help you." 

    "Huh? Who are you?" asks a surprised Inventor. "And how did you get in here?"

    "I slipped in between the bars," says the very slight, mysterious person. 

    Cannabis spies a large figure standing right outside the main door to the wing. “Whoa, hugangus dude? Is that a monster?”

    “That is my bodyguard,” says the man. “He will ensure that we all have the chance to speak in private. You’ve put together an intriguing plan, that can assist me in my own interests, but only if we enact it tonight. Now. Time is going to be running short very quickly. And in return, I can help you immobilize The Excess Men."

    "You?" comments The Inventor almost in a mocking tone. "What makes you think you can help us stop them?"

    The man looks across the master criminals in the cells. A sly smile comes over his face. "Let’s just say I have means at my disposal. Hell, I broke into the OSP two days ago - hiding out in a room on a sub-level, using their computer. They don’t even know I’m here. That's quite a feat on its own, wouldn’t you say?" 

    "Yeah so?" snorts The Inventor. "That still doesn't answer my question. What makes you think that you can help us take down The Excess Men?" 

    "Because," says the dark figure, "I used to be one."

    The criminals in the cells suddenly perk up, and take sharp notice of the man.

     

    The team follows The Professor to their next destination – The Super Amazing Store. The local retailer for exotic toys and erotica.

    “What are we doing here?” asks Sarcasm coyly.

    The Professor glowers at him and enters the building. The men follow. Once inside, the lone employee - a large, grimy, biker dude in a mini dress, adorned with pearls - looks up from his magazine. “Professor!! It’s good to see you. And you brought friends. Cool. Well, you know where the selection is on sexual culinary fetishes. Have fun!”

    “No Clarence,” says The Professor. “Not today. I need to get into the back room.”

    “The back room?” responds Clarence, clearly surprised. “Are you crazy? Only the most sick, perverted, disgusting dirt bags go in there…Hell, even I don’t go in there…and I own the place!”

    Unmoved, The Professor motions Clarence to open the door to a room at the back of the store. The clerk does so cautiously, flinging the door open and then scampering in fear back to his station. In the far end of the room, perusing a collection of videos under the heading ‘Sick Perverted Disgusting’, stands a very thin, jittery, greasy haired figure. 

    Sarcasm leans over to Maintenance Man. “Are you shittin’ me? He looks like a chicken with no feathers.”

    The man is startled when he first spots The Professor and his group approaching. Immediately he begins to nervously ramble excuses. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t look at them. What do you guys want? What did I do? Are you the FBI? Oh my God!”

    “Relax, creep show. We’re not here to bust you,” says The Professor trying to calm him. He pulls out the file on the man provided by The Elders. “According to this you are an excessive combative, obsessive, neurotic, compulsive. Does that sound about right?”

    The man nervously looks away; his lips are moving, but no words are coming out. Professor Exhausting glares at the man for a moment, then lets out a sorrowful sigh, and sadly states, “You are the newest member of our crime fighting team. I’m calling you Ex Com. Fall in behind the other losers…and don’t touch anyone…especially me.” The others look cautiously at the man as he lines up. 

    With the team assembled, Professor Exhausting leads them to the Great Hall of Excess, and shows the men their new home. He brings their attention to a short hall off the Foyer that holds a series of rooms for each of them. They are instructed that they will fall in line every morning at 7:04 AM in the MajestX Foyer. No sooner. No later. The daily routine going forth will commence with training and classes,  followed by fieldwork to face real life situations.

     

    The Professor then points to a tray of glasses filled with water on the coffee table. He instructs them to each drink, and place the glass back on the tray. They do as they are told. The Professor takes the tray over to the Excalibro and deposits the glasses into a receptacle on the left side of the great processor. He keys in a few commands and hits ‘Enter’. A laser transmitter located atop the view screen sends out a quick laser pulse at each of the men. The team is momentarily uneasy.

    “Congratulations,” says their leader. “You now have enhanced capabilities of your special….talent.” The Professor explains to the team how each of their powers has been boosted to help their collective effort, and aid them in fighting crime. 

    “So my power is what…?” asks Sarcasm.

    “Shut the fuck up.”

    Before he dismisses them for the night, The Professor notifies the men that their Superzero disguises have been placed in the rooms. They are to don them before morning role call.

     

    On their first day of training the team falls in at exactly 7:04 AM. As they stand in line, they look over each other in their crime fighting attire. They are all wearing a mask of some type to hide their face. Ex Com is wearing a baby blue tee shirt, pink sweatpants and slippers. Draped over his shoulders is a yellow blanket fashioned as a cape. And atop his head sits an old fashioned beanie with a small propeller at the peak. He is constantly fidgeting with his outfit, and emitting whining sounds. 

    “Do I look as stupid as I feel?” asks Consumption.

    “We all do,” submits Sarcasm. 

    The Zeroes stand quietly awaiting their leader.

    Then Sarcasm detects something is not quite right. He peers to his left, and sees a man who he doesn’t recognize. “Who…are you?” asks Sarcasm.

    “I don’t know,” says the man. “He hasn’t told me yet.”

    Maintenance Man intercedes, “But, what are you doing here?”

    “Well, uh, I’m, you know…one of the excessive guys.”

    “Did The Professor recruit you?” asks Sarcasm.

    “No. Actually, I just walked in here by accident. I was trying to find the dry cleaner on this block. I came to this room, and that guy in the chair came out of nowhere, and started beating me up ninja style with a loaf of rye bread.”

    The rest of the men look perplexed as the newcomer continues. “He yelled at me for about five minutes, then forgot I was here, noticed me again, and made me drink a glass of water.”

    Professor Exhausting enters the room. “Line up, shitheads,” he barks. “I see you’ve met Captain Irrelevant. He is the last member of the team. I have already boosted his ability, which is…well, you’ll see.”

    For over a month The Professor trains The Zeroes to use their abilities in fighting crime and corruption. Before sending them out on their first actual mission, The Professor hands out specially programmed ExPhones to each of the men. “With these we will always be in communication.”

    “Yay,” says Sarcasm blandly.

    “One last thing,” says The Professor, “Your transportation. I have a special vehicle just for this team.” He leads them outside behind the Great Hall to where an extra long hearse is parked.

    “Really?” says Sarcasm. “This is our super vehicle?”

    “I call it The Expired.”

    Finally the time has come for them to go out in the real world, and test their skills. The Professor directs them to a mom and pop convenience store where a robbery is soon to take place. “That’s it? A milk store?” comments Sarcasm.

    “We start small, like your brains. Now go!!”

    The Zeroes arrive at the store to find a man in a mask holding a pistol on the elderly, stereotypical “Mom and Pop”, store owners. 

    “Party’s over pal,” says Maintenance Man. The robber turns angrily, aiming his gun, to see The Chumpions before him. His evil glare slowly melds into a curious look, as he starts to giggle. From there it grows into an uncontrollable laugh. The would-be thief keels over onto his knees, holding his stomach, guffawing at the top of his lungs. The Zeroes all look at each other for a second, then Sarcasm walks over and calmly removes the gun from the man’s hand. Maintenance Man, with no resistance, binds the robber’s hands and feet with duct tape. They instruct the owners to call the police and, with the perpetrator still laughing through the tape over his mouth, the team heads back to the Great Hall.

    “How’d it go?” asks The Professor.

    The team is modestly hesitant to reply, until Ex Com dryly states, “Fine.”

    For the next few weeks The Professor sends out The Zeroes on similar missions. Each adventure produces essentially the same result as the first. 

    One morning as the team assembles, The Professor announces, “Today is the next step in your progression. I have for you a special mission, in which you go after some mid-level master criminals. They operate SWD Industries. I want you to investigate, find out what criminal activity they are up to, and bring their asses to me. Head to the Promenade Towers office building, suite 97; that’s where you’ll find them.”

     

    The Chumpions arrive at the Towers, and make their way up to the suite. Outside the main door a very attractive woman sits at a reception desk. 

    “We’re looking for SWD Industries,” says Maintenance Man. 

    The woman looks up from her work. “Oh, I can help you. I am the executive assistant for SWD - Sterling Titzenas.” Sarcasm tilts his head in an acknowledging manner. 

    “Uh, well Ms. Titzenas,” explains Maintenance Man, somewhat flustered, “we are here to shut down this operation, and bring those running it to justice. How many people are involved in SWD?” 

    Ms. Titzenas flutters her eyelashes of considerable length, and moans in a sultry voice, “Oh boys, can't we make an exception just this once?”

    A smiling Sarcasm, quickly and amiably replies, “Yeah, I think we can let this one slide.”

    “No,” says Consumption. “We were sent here by The Professor to complete this mission, and that’s what we have to do.”

    Sarcasm growls at the hungry hero. Just then, Captain Irrelevant arrives. 

    Maintenance Man again presses her regarding how many people are involved. 

    “Just three. The owners – S, W, and D,” she reveals, pointing to the door behind her. “They’re in there.”

    The Zeroes burst in to find three men in a living room style setting, sitting in recliners and watching football on a large screen TV. One man is tall, one is heavy and the other is thick. They are loud, drinking beer, smoking pot and munching on assorted snacks. As the team moves in closer, the men’s focus remains on each other and the television. The men grunt and groan while viewing the game, and don’t seem to care at all about the presence of the Zeroes, to the point of not even acknowledging them. 

    “What should we do?” asks Ex Com.

    “Nothing,” responds Sarcasm. “What have they done? They’re just watching tube and getting loaded. There’s no crime here, although what’s on that pizza could be considered one.”

    “The Professor told us to bring them in,” insists Consumption.

    “Relax teacher’s pet?” snaps Sarcasm.

    Maintenance Man agrees, “This is crazy. We can’t do it. These guys haven’t done anything…and don’t appear to have any immediate plans.”

    “That Professor guy is going to freak out!” cries Ex Com, who spastically jitters and shuffles his feet.

    The team is nervous as they report back to Professor Exhausting. Their leader glares at the Zeroes upon hearing of their decision. Then suddenly his face softens, just slightly, “Good work.” The team is stunned. “Those guys weren’t guilty of anything. I needed to find out if you clowns could make a sensible decision on your own. I gotta tell ya, I’m stunned…surprised... stupefied…startled…stymied…staggered…speechless… shocked…”

    The Superzeroes appear mildly insulted.

     

    Having made it through all the preliminary training, The Professor announces that the Zeroes final test mission would be against an established villainous clique. “This will be your toughest test to date, without a doubt. And you must be careful with these guys – they are dangerous. I am not going to give you any information on them personally, or their powers. You will have to deduce that on your own, and figure out amongst yourselves how to combat them.” The Professor transmits coordinates to their ExPhones. “I want you to head to that location. It’s a warehouse. They are stealing rare, expensive wine. Your job is to stop them, secure the wine and subdue them for the police.”

    The team stands before Professor Exhausting motionless and expressionless. The Professor looks up at them and orders, “Now!”

    At the designated site provided by The Professor, The Zeroes find themselves in a playground.

    “Was it a warehouse for toys?” asks Maintenance Man.

    The Zeroes then notice a warehouse down the street, and approach by way of the loading dock. There they see a group of four men wearing masks, and dressed in spandex of varying shades of brown. They are wearing toilet paper belts, of which two of them have a small bag hanging off. One of them is barefoot. Each wears the same symbol on their chest – a clothespin clasped on a nose. They are loading cases of wine into a truck. 

    “Alright, put down the wine,” calls out Maintenance Man. “Surrender peacefully you fiends. Then we will turn you over to the police, and you can answer for your crimes as specified by the laws of the Ocean State.”

    “You’re really digging this shit, aren’t you?” says Sarcasm to the Handy Hero.

    The wine thieves look with apprehension at the newly formed crime fighting team before them. One of the men puts down the case he is holding, turns and asks, “What are you guys supposed to be?” 

    Maintenance Man steps forward with his hands upon his hips, and with a deep resounding voice declares, “We are The Excess Men!”

    “Yeah,” follows Sarcasm, yelling from behind, and pointing over the Tool Titans shoulder. “Men Who Do Something To Excess, motherrrr-fucker!”

    The villains seem unmoved by the Zeroes self-proclamation. 

    At this point a sensation starts to come over The Excess Men.  Their olfactory senses flare with repulsion. 

    Sarcasm realizes the stench is coming from the culprits. “You know, fish sauce is not generally used as a cologne.”

    The Excess Men start to feel dizzy and disgusted at the same time.

    As they fight to prevent vomiting or dry heaves, the main thief steps forward and reveals in a breathy voice, “Hiiiiiii, we are – Miasma. I am the leader - Halitosisssss.”

    “Fitting,” groans Sarcasm, holding his hand over his mouth.

    Halitosis introduces the others in the group. “This is Doctor Bromo, short for Bromodosis. Let’s just say if you have a foot fetish he may not be the one to pursue. Over here is his brother, Bromhidrosis Osmidrosis. We just call him B.O. And finally, Methane Man. I don’t need to explain that one, do I?”

    “No-you-do-not,” says Consumption distinctly, and emphatically.

    “Well, I hate to ruin your day, stink squad,” says a queasy Maintenance Man, “but your little wine heist here is over.”

    Miasma stare at The Excess Men, a confident, cocky smile across their faces. Their eyes narrow in focus and concentration. A force in the form of a light heat starts to emulate from their bodies. The odor around them intensifies, and begins to overtake the Zeroes. They all gasp for air.

    Ex Com, Consumption and Sarcasm collapse to the ground from the horrific smell. Moments later Maintenance Man and Captain Irrelevant drop to one knee. Unable to handle the poisonous fog, The Excess Men slowly pass out. 

     

    It is the next morning at the Great Hall. In the MajestX Foyer The Excess Men, sprawled out on the furniture, start to come to. Before them on the Express is The Professor. “Well, you fucked that one up. You can’t be so impulsive.  You have to learn to assess the situation and act accordingly. Morons. I told you to be careful, didn’t I? All that time traini…”

    “How did we get back here?” interrupts Consumption.

    “I was tailing you, and saved your asses when you went down. You’d be dead if it wasn’t for me…and I’ll tell ya, I gave it some thought.”

    “We owe our lives to you?” asks Maintenance Man, as Captain Irrelevant regains consciousness. The Professor nods. All but one of the Zeroes expresses gratitude.

    “Hey,” yells Sarcasm. “Let’s keep in mind that he sent us in there in the first place, with no fucking information on those guys!” The other Zeroes glare at the Terse Titan in a scolding manner.

    “Ugh…. thank you Professor,” he says in a slight mocking tone.

    Professor Exhausting maneuvers the Express in front of The Excess Men. “The point here is any of the master criminals you confront will not hesitate to kill you. And if they get to know you like I know you they’ll really want to kill you. You must supplement your powers with strategy to defeat them, before they defeat you. Now hit the showers – you guys smell.”

     

    Part IV - Birth of a Villain and a Hero

    It is late that night in the MajestX Foyer. The room is dark. The sound of clicking keys on a keyboard can be softly heard as information and windows flash across the screen. Suddenly the lights come on, with Professor Exhausting angrily riding into the room. From the chair at the control panel Ex Com jumps up. “ I wasn’t doing anything,” he says nervously. “I was just…looking up women on the internet…and um, checking scores…”

    The Professor starts to scream and yell wildly, hurling any object he can find. Ex Com growing frantic grabs two objects from the main board without The Professor noticing. 

    “You’re out,” yells the leader of The Excess Men, who chases Ex Com from the building. “Fucking nosey little compulsive bastard!!” 

    He maneuvers back, and looks at the Excalibro with concern. The chips are missing. He examines the information Ex Com was reviewing on the computer. He mutters to himself, “Ahhh shit! I’d better develop a security system to keep the rest of these pricks at bay.”

     

    The next morning at role call the remaining Zeroes notice Ex Com’s absence. 

    “Listen up freak traps,” calls The Professor. “As you can see Ex Com is gone.”

    “What happened to him, Professor?” asks Consumption.

    The Professor growls at the Human Mass. “The point is we only have three of you now. We need four.”

    “We have four,” notes Maintenance Man.

    “Ahhhh damn, that’s right. We had five. Alright, we still need one more…and I know who it should be. Let’s go.”

    The team piles into the hearse, with The Professor bringing The Express up a ramp at the rear of the vehicle. It leads to a sunken back end of the wagon to accommodate his chair. The Professor directs them to a seedy, hourly rate motel on the outskirts of the state. They make their way to the hotels best room – The Ride ‘em Suite. Professor Exhausting knocks, and a few seconds later the door opens. They each turn their head back in revulsion at the smell. As they wipe away the sting from their eyes, they see standing before them Methane Man. 

    “Him?” says Maintenance Man in surprise. “He’s going to be our fifth member?”

    “What the fuck!” yells Sarcasm. “He tried to kill us!!”

    “Yeah,” says The Professor, “I like his style.”

    Methane Man looks over the group, and says, “I remember you guys. The do-gooders from the wine heist. What do you call yourselves? The Fainters?”

    He laughs. Sarcasm seethes.

    “I don’t like him,” says Captain Irrelevant.

    Methane Man, startled by the Captain, gawks and remarks, “I don’t remember him.”

    From inside the room a women’s muffled voice calls out, “Baby, are you coming back to bed?” Then over Methane Man’s shoulder, The Excess Men see a shapely woman, wearing nothing but a gas mask, walk unashamedly from the bathroom to the bedroom.

    Consumption recognizes the voice, and says, “Hey, I know her. That’s Chancey Cheevers, the new reporter for the Ocean State News.”

    The Professor rubs his brow in frustration. “Anyways, if you recall our last meeting, and assuming you possess the ability to count, you can see we are now one short on our team. I have decided it’s going to be you. Now you can use your…’essence’ to do something positive. So, get in line.”

    Methane Man looks at The Professor as if he is crazy. “Get in line? I’m a member of one of the top criminal outfits in this state. I was the featured criminal in Justice Monthly last fall. My agent says I have tremendous potential. Someday I might even have my own syndicate! I’m not gonna…”

    “Yeah, well those days are over with, stinko. Get in the fucking line!!” yells The Professor. Methane Man, taken aback, and scared, nervously falls in. The team begins to exit the dingy motel.

    As they walk along Sarcasm makes his way back to Methane Man, leans in and comments, "Sooooo, Chancy Cheevers. What was that like?" 

    "Well, okay, I guess," says Methane Man hesitantly. "It’s just that…she kind of does an on the scene report of my…technique." 

    Sarcasm ponders that for a second, and inquires, "You mean – during?" Methane Man nods. Sarcasm smiles and remarks, "Kind of gives a whole new meaning to ‘This just in’." Methane Man tilts his head in acknowledgment.

     

    Back at the Great Hall the newly reconstituted Excess Men file in behind their leader. The Professor gives Methane Man a glass of water. “Drink!” The newest member does so dutifully. Professor Exhausting takes the glass and places it in the receptacle on the Excalibro. He processes some commands, and then notifies Methane Man, “Now you are more potent than ever.”

    “Seriously? You can do that?” he asks. “Should I test it?”

    “No!!” yells the group.

    “We were convinced before, pal,” says Sarcasm. “No need to show off.”

    “His power almost killed us before,” notes Maintenance Man. “Aren’t we at greater risk?”

    “No,” says The Professor. “I adjusted the resistance for the rest of you.”

    “So we won’t be affected by it?” asks Consumption.

    “You will be. It just won’t kill you.”

    “Well, it’s a step in the right direction,” says Sarcasm insipidly.

    After some accelerated training to bring Methane Man up to speed, The Professor sends the team out on a series of missions to build up their teamwork. The results mirror their experiences when they first went out with the original group.

    Finally the day of their graduation comes. The Excess Men stand in formation in the MajestX Foyer. Professor Exhausting affixes a podium top to The Express and addresses his team.

    “You have completed your training, and are ready now to preserve and protect…well, something. I would tell you how proud I am, but…I’m pretty indifferent to the whole thing. Now, we just have a couple of pieces of unfinished business to attend to.” He maneuvers The Express to each of The Excess Men handing them a piece of paper. “I have created these alter-egos for each of you. This will explain who you will be, and how you will conduct yourself on your own time, when you are not serving as a member of this team.”

    The Zeroes all gaze oddly at their respective profiles.

    “Great!! I get to work at Home Depot,” says an exhilarated Maintenance Man.

    Sarcasm looks to Methane Man, “What does yours say?”

    The Toxic Titan reads from his sheet, “Dress fine, drink wine and chase babes all the time.”

    “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad,” says Sarcasm.

    “It’s not,” replies Methane Man. “It’s just that – that’s what I do now.” 

    ”Then it should be easy to assimilate,” smiles Sarcasm, who then turns to Captain Irrelevant. “What about you?”

    “Mine’s blank.”

    The Professor unemotionally turns to the keyboard, and keys in a command on the Excalibro. He hits the ExFacto. A pulse emits out from a laser atop the great computer, shooting a single beam at each of the Zeroes. Using The Excalibro, Professor Exhausting has wiped the team’s memory of everything except their most recent time and training as Excess Men. For a second they are stunned, but then adjust. 

    “What happened?” asks Consumption. 

    “Nothing to be concerned about,” notes The Professor…

     

    Part V - The Reveal

     

    Just then, the lights come on in the MajestX Foyer. The Professor, who is now inside the doorway, yells, “What the fuck is going on here? Who told you assholes to even go near The Excalibro?”

    The Excess Men panic, squirming in their seats, and fumbling out excuses. 

    “They threatened to blow up The Excalibro if I didn’t reveal the secret files,” exclaims Cyber XS. The Zeroes are shocked at that betrayal, and terrified of their leader’s wrath.

    Suddenly Professor Exhausting and Cyber XS break out in wild laughter. “Ah we’re just fuckin’ with ya’,” caws The Professor.

    The team is shaking, as Captain Irrelevant falls off the end of the couch. 

    “Do you dickheads really think I’d let you get access to The Excalibro? When will you learn? The day any of you schmucks puts one over on me is the day I’ll kill myself.”

    “There’s a ton of motivation,” remarks Sarcasm sarcastically.

    “So, you intended for us to find out what was in those files?” inquires Maintenance Man. 

    “Duuuuh,” responds their leader, making his way over to his cigar box. “Something has come up that has made it necessary for you dinks to be aware of your past.”

    “And you figured it would be good opportunity to fuck with us,” notes Sarcasm.

    “It was a great opportunity to fuck with you,” says The Professor. “But, just as significant to this situation is what happened with Ex Com when I ran his scrawny ass out of here.”

     

    Ex Com runs from The Great Hall. He stops on a street corner processing his confrontation with The Professor. The anger builds inside him at his being excommunicated from The Excess Men. He becomes obsessed with revenge, but hasn’t the means to take on the Superzeroes. All Ex Com has is the “Special Chips” he stole from the Excalibro. However, without the knowledge or ability to access them they are useless. At that moment, in his despair, he sees an ad for the Super Villain Academy go by on the side of a bus. “That’s it!” says Ex Com in revelation. 

    A short while later he arrives at the registrar’s office for the Academy. He is at the main desk studying a pamphlet on the academic offerings. A woman of worn, aggressive features gauges his interest into a specific field of study. “We have a nice program in Heist and Robbery Sciences? Also, our Serial Killer/Sociopathic Disorder division is a big hit with the kids…who don’t have friends…and rarely go out.”

    “Mmmm, that does sound very enticing,” says Ex Com. “But, do you have anything in computer programming, or revenge?”

    “Actually we have a curriculum dedicated specifically to cyber terrorism, with a strong focus on system hacking and virus cultivation. And we have a speaker series coming up on the study of vengeance. The first talk is in two weeks. It’s entitled, ‘Revenge: I got mine. How can you get yours?’”

    Ex Com is enthusiastic about those Academy offerings, and signs up. He studies his craft diligently for over a year. The bizarre curriculum coupled with the dark campus atmosphere changes Ex Com. He becomes more self-confidant, and develops an evil streak. His Excess Men costume is now gone, replaced by a full body suit with very narrow black and white pin striping. To stare at it gives one a headache. 

    As a student he mostly he keeps to himself, having very little interaction with his classmates; which happens to be the general social demeanor of the majority of the students. However, he does form an alliance with two classmates. The Neck - a huge, brutish man who majored in Pain Infliction; and Hilly Bigg, alias The Imprinter. Following an accident in which he was hit by a bolt of lightening while stealing a 3D printer, Bigg obtained the ability to imprint a person’s image on himself simply by touching them. He would become an exact duplicate, right down to the voice. The victim remains unconscious until, or unless Bigg touches them again, returning each to their natural state. They become Ex Com’s top men in the evil organization he is building. Upon graduation the trio disappear from society. With Ex Com's newly acquired computer savvy he was able to erase their tracks digitally, so The Excalibro couldn’t track them.

     

    Having updated The Excess Men on their expelled former member, The Professor explains its relevance. “So as you can see, Ex Com is trained, educated, and hell bent on getting back at us.”

    “You mean you, don’t you Professor?” notes Methane Man. “You threw him out.”

    Professor Exhausting grabs a small lamp and throws it at the Toxic Titans head, narrowly missing him.

    “You shitheads got any more questions?” yells the leader.

    “Yeah, I do,” says Sarcasm. “If there’s a Super Villain Academy, how come we never go there?”

    “That’s a good question,” observes Consumption, as the rest of The Zeroes nod in agreement.

    The Professor lifts the Excessory over the top of his head, and rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands. “I’m begging you assholes to focus here. Now…listen up. The key to Ex Com’s plan is the Special Chips. If he can understand how the Chips work, then, at the very least, he can take away your powers.  That is what he was researching when I busted him. What he doesn’t know is that they have a tracer built in, so that the second those Chips are engaged The Excalibro will be alerted. My problem up till now has been that there was no way of finding him unless he activated them. Last night the Excalibro finally received a signal from the Special Chips. It was traced back to the Ocean State Pen.”

    “The OSP?” asks Consumption. “What is he doing there?”

    “I believe he’s arranged a trade off with some villains that were planning a takeover. For his part he gets to use the super computer located there.”

    “But, it’s been so long,” says Maintenance Man. “Why did he wait to try and access the Chips?”

    “He’s a methodical little prick,” explains The Professor. “He was probably waiting for the right time – the right opportunity to really screw us. With the OSP overrun by inmates he has protection while he tries to break the code on the Chips. Well, we’ll see about that.”

    “What else can he do with those Chips?” asks Sarcasm.

    “I have no clue. Try talking to The Elders. Getting info out of those two boob heads is like trying to shave a bears balls…(seething) double talking, boneheaded…aargh!”

    “Professor!” Methane Man says firmly.

    “Uh, yes,” continues The Professor maneuvering to his super computer. “What Ex Com does know is that if he can break the code he can shut down your powers, making you helpless in stopping the takeover. That would be enough to satisfy him for now.”

     

    Having accessed The Excalibro for information, The Professor briefs the Zeroes on the plan.

    “You must get to Ex Com inside the OSP before he can break the code on the Chips. The only computer there that could handle that kind of power is in a room they call The Crypt. It’s one of those emergency shelters located under ground. The exact location is directly below the prison’s library.  The access point to it is via a secret elevator located behind a bookcase holding arts and crafts journals.”

    “Now this computer inside the Crypt, if you can get to it, and stop him from taking your powers, can help you. One of its features is an emergency security system the OSP had installed. It has the capability to send out a pulse that will knock out everyone in a two-mile radius, except anyone inside the Crypt. That would take out every prisoner and not affect any of you.”

    “That helps.” says Maintenance Man. “How do we get in there?”

    “What the fuck! Have I gotta do everything for you?” yells The Professor. “Make an effort, will ya?”

    “So let me get this straight,” says Sarcasm. “Essentially, we have to break into the prison, and put away the prisoners who are already there?”

    The Professor nods.

    “That’s fucked up.” remarks Sarcasm quietly. 

    The team stands before Professor Exhausting motionless and expressionless. The Professor looks up at them and states sternly, “Do I have to say it?” 

    The Zeroes eyes widen, and they clumsily smack into one another before scampering to the door. Consumption grabs a donut on the way out, while Captain Irrelevant runs into a closet. Seconds later he emerges from said closet, and exits the Great Hall through the main door.

    “Ugh!” says The Professor dejectedly. “We’re fucked.”

     

    The situation at the OSP is as to be expected. The police have surrounded the facility, but are powerless in the standoff against the heavily armed inmates. The Excess Men huddle just outside the fence at the OSP, in an area covered by a small thicket of woods. Maintenance Man easily cuts through the chain link and barbed wire with his Malco Turbo Sheers. 

    The Zeroes make their way across the grounds to the main building. A din of gunshots and wild yelling exudes from the prison. They enter the facility through the laundry area where there is no sign of anyone. Aware of the libraries relatively close proximity to their point, and seeing the lack of organization in securing the building by the uprisers, The Excess Men decide to make straight dash through. 

    Just then, Captain Irrelevant arrives.

    As they open the door to the main floor of the building a couple of inmates see them. They call out, and start to attack the Chumpions. Methane Man gases them. As the Zeroes scramble in the direction of the library, more prisoners confront them. Their rush has turned into a gauntlet. Maintenance Man flings his Reed pipe wrench end over end, knocking the guns out of the hands of three convicts in succession. Consumption takes down a slew with a handful of rock candy hurled at an alarming speed. Sarcasm taunts and points as he runs by the downed prisoners. The small battles continue as they make their way through the facility. Having reached the library, they lock the door on the few convicts still chasing them. The Zeroes find the hidden elevator behind the bookcase, and ride it down to the basement. It leads to a long open area that houses rooms for general supplies, and cold food storage. At the far end stands the door they identify as the entrance to the Crypt. Primarily by the sign above it that reads: The Crypt.

     

    They begin to make their way towards the shelter when a very large man emerges from the shadows. As he stands some twenty feet away the team is still taken aback by his size.

    Suddenly Ex Com steps out from the doorway to the Crypt. “Ah, my fellow Excess Men. It’s good to have the old gang together again. I’m impressed at your ability to make it this far. Professor Exhausting trained you well.”

    “Suck my left nut,” fake sneezes Sarcasm.

    Ex Com smiles and motions towards his bodyguard. “I see you’ve met my associate – The Neck. He hasn’t been fed today so if I were you I’d be nice.” Ex Com starts heading back to The Crypt, “Wish I could stick around, but I was just about to enjoy some chips. You know what I mean, don’t you? Neck here will entertain you.”

    The team fumes at Ex Com’s cocky demeanor, as they assess The Neck, who maneuvers himself to block their path to the Crypt. The Zeroes look over the huge man as he is now in clear view. He stands 7 foot 8, packing on 540 pounds of solid muscle. He sports a blonde mohawk, and is wearing a surprisingly well-fitted Navy Seal outfit. When he exhales smoke comes out of his huge nostrils. 

    Sarcasm begins to do an about-face back towards the elevator, and enthusiastically says, "Okay, well, I think we’ve gone about as far as we can with this one. It was a good effort, boys.  No shame in knowing when to walk away." 

    Maintenance Man holds up a hammer to block his path. Sarcasm glares at the Tool Titan with a curious look, “What?”

    "We can't go. Ex Com is in there trying to access the Special Chips, and we can’t let that happen. We’re going to have to fight him." 

    "Fight him? Him!” says Sarcasm commencing a rant. "Are you crazy? Look at the size of this fucking guy. If he even flexed three of us would go down.” 

    Methane Man steps between them and comments, "We can do this. We just need a plan.”

    "Blue Cross is our plan!" yells Sarcasm, who, with emphasis, again tries to convey the danger before them. “His fist is the size of your head!”

    "Let me try a little chemical warfare," says Methane Man. He rubs his stomach, turns and disburses his wicked wind in The Neck’s direction. The odor creeps up on the behemoth, who not only seems unfazed, but grows even more angry. He exhales through his nose, which ignites the toxin in a fiery cloud. 

    “Did you see that!!” screams Sarcasm. “He’s like a human detonator!!”

    "Look,” says Methane Man, trying to rally the team, “let’s all go at him at once. Maybe we can overpower him.”

    The other Zeroes stare him down in disbelief.

    “Okay,” concedes The Man of Odor, “how about if we distract him enough so the Captain can get by and get to Ex Com.”

    The team nervously agrees, readying to charge The Neck, as Sarcasm sternly mumbles, "This is a bad idea."

    Maintenance Man pulls out his Marshall Venetian Plastering Trowel, and his Ampco Cutting Shears, and runs at The Neck. The big man waves his massive arm, swiping the Tool Titan across the floor, and into a wall. That action is followed closely by Methane Man and Sarcasm charging from the front. The Neck turns to face them, raising his arms far over his head and clenching his fists. He slams them down on the duo’s heads simultaneously. They crumble to the ground.

    As The Neck tangles with the other Zeroes, Captain Irrelevant tries to run through to get to The Crypt. Unfortunately The Captain miscalculates his path, and runs square into leg of The Neck. The impact, similar to that of running into a brick wall, leaves the Captain momentarily flattened against his leg, and then falling backwards onto the ground.

    Consumption at this point is right in front of the big man. The Neck grabs him by the throat, and walks him back against a wall. Barely able to speak, Consumption in desperation suggests a course of action, "Pie…eating…contest." Suddenly a passive look comes over The Neck’s face. He loosens his grip a little. Consumption trying to catch his breath, again mumbles the distinctive goad, "Pie eating contest.”

    The massive man pulls his hand from the throat of Consumption, and repeats in an uneducated voice, "Duh, pie eating contest?" 

    "Yes,” says Consumption, becoming more audible as he rubs his throat. "I challenge you. There are pies in the food storage cooler. Are you up for it? Or are you scared?"

    The Neck’s face forming that of an upset child says, “Neck not scared! Wuh, yeah, I love pie. Let’s eat pie!”

    Consumption nods to the other Zeroes, and leads The Neck away as the rest of the team regain their bearings. 

    “Let’s get Ex Com and the Special Chips,” says Methane Man holding his head.

    They walk with purpose the wide corridor that leads to the Crypt. The Zeroes storm in surprising Ex Com. Upon seeing The Excess Men, the thin man makes a run for the door. Maintenance Man swings his Irwin Large-Capacity Chalk Reel over his head, slinging it at the villain’s ankles. The line whips around his legs, bringing him down with a tug. He then ties his hands with duct tape.

    “Captain,” instructs Methane Man, “engage the knock out pulse.”

    The Captain sits down at the control panel, and keys in the command. 

    “Done,” he says. 

    Maintenance Man grabs the Special Chips and secures them away in his lunch box.

    “You’re finished Ex Com,” says Methane Man. “A degree from the Super Villain Academy doesn’t go as far as it used to. Now we’re going to send you away to…well, here actually.”

    Ex Com smiles evil at The Excess Men and snarls, “We’ll see.”

     

    It is 10 PM at the Ocean State penitentiary, three hours after "lights out". The vast facility is still and quiet. Suddenly the sound of matches striking resonates from the maximum-security section. Candle glow illuminates the area at the far end of the corridor. In the feint light five of the most feared villains the Ocean State has ever known stir in their adjacent cells.

    "Is everyone here?” asks Mr. Potato Head Clone. The other villains acknowledge. "Well, it happened again. Those fuckers screwed us. How? How!" 

    The Inventor, Cannabis and the Ghost all moan and sigh.

    Mr. P. calls out to the last cell, “What happened with you Ex Com? All your big plans…the Chips? You failed.”

    “I never fail,” says Ex Com. “Even though they retrieved the Special Chips, I have a backup plan.”

    “Yeah, what backup plan?” inquires The Inventor with disbelief.

    “Well, let’s just say that one of The Excess Men is not what he appears to be.”

     

    Having successfully defeated Ex Com, and retrieved the Special Chips, The Excess Men return to The Great Hall. 

    “Unbelievable,” says The Professor, returning the Chips to The Excalibro. “I didn’t think you could do it. Alright, you’re off duty till I need you goofs again.”

    The Zeroes stand uncomfortably before their leader. Clearly something is on their minds.

    “What is it?” barks The Professor, who then realizes. “Oh, that’s right. You saw the files on the Men Who Do Something To Excess.”

    “Yeah, and we don’t like the control you have over us,” says Sarcasm.

    “I did it for your own good. You saw what your lives were like before. You should be thanking me.”

    “Thanking you?” questions Maintenance Man. “You manipulated us. You can basically control us. We want our freedom.”

    “No problem,” says The Professor unemotionally. “You’re free to be as dumb as you want.”

    “You zapped our memories!” exclaims Methane Man. “You made it so we couldn’t recall anything except being Excess Men!”

    “That’s right,” says The Professor, as he maneuvers The Express to the console of The Excalibro. “And now…I’m going to do it again.” He turns and activates the Exfacto. 

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