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guest author: Sean Gleeson in Discarded Lies:
The Podium Chronicles
Chapter 1: Birth of a Hero

[SCENE: A dark cave, with computers and blinking lights.]

"Seven years ago, I watched my parents die at the hands of a violent criminal."

"Yes sir, we know. That's the day you swore to dedicate your life, and your vast fortune, to fighting crime, right?"

"I've told you this story before then, have I?"

"Yes, sir."

"That was seven years ago, Dr. Ignatius. I have spent that time training myself in mind and body, in the mountains of Borneo. And I asked you, my team of secret scientists, to conduct certain... research projects."

"Yes, sir. A hook capable of scaling walls, a pair of glasses that could see through everything, a rocket car, and a costume designed to evoke a strong primal fear."

"Right, right! The costume is essential! Even though my combat abilities are honed to perfection, I may have to fight entire armies of criminals, and the power to instill fear might give me a crucial edge. What did you come up with?"

"It's right here, sir."

"In this box?"

"No. This is your costume."

"It's... a wooden box."

"No, not a box, a podium. See how the top is slanted at a 30-degree angle? Our research indicates that the strongest and most common fear is of public speaking. A podium will evoke the..."

"Public speaking?"

"Yes, it surprised us, too. People fear public speaking more than death itself. This podium costume is one of the scariest images known to man. Try it on."

"I don't want to."

"See, even you're scared of it."

"How about my building-scaling hook?"

"Ah, there we ran into a bit of luck. It turns out that has already been invented. It's called a grappling hook, and we got it for $52.95 plus shipping."

"Hmmm. I was hoping for something more, scary, or something."

"We're just following the instructions you gave us. You didn't mention how it had to look."

"But I mentioned I needed to carry it on my person. This hook is huge!"

"Not to worry. We designed the podium costume with many roomy drawers. See, the hook fits right here."

"Drawers."

"Yes, I added that myself."

"Great."

"Thank you, sir. And we also invented these..."

"Ooooh, is that the pair of glasses that sees through everything?"

"Yes, sir. The lenses actually see through all matter."

"They are really cool-looking, too! Great job! Do I look like that guy in The Matrix with these?"

"I couldn't say, sir."

"How do I, uh, turn it on?"

"Turn it on? But it is on."

"No, all I see is black. Can't see a thing through them."

"Ha, ha. Forgive my laughter, sir. That may be what it seems like to you, but in fact you are seeing the void of space through them. You are seeing through all matter -- the walls, the hills, the clouds, the moon, the planets, the stars and galaxies -- everything, just as you instructed. In any direction you look, you are seeing the dark, empty universe beyond all that is."

"Um."

"Amazing, isn't it? It's almost too bad that we are your team of secret scientists, or else we could apply for a Nobel with these."

"But how will I use this to fight crime?"

"I'm sure I don't know, sir. We just followed your instructions."

"I could have just got some Foster Grants and painted the lenses black."

"The effect would be the same, yes, but..."

"Can you, like, turn it down, so I am only seeing through a little bit of everything?"

"Well, I don't know. With more research, perhaps..."

"Okay, okay. How is the rocket car coming?"

"Not as well, I'm afraid. To develop that project, we would need some additional funding. I have a proposal typed up..."

"What! I gave you a $390 million budget! The entire fortune my murdered parents left me! It's all gone?"

"The glasses do represent a tremendous advance in applied quantum physics. That kind of research doesn't come cheap."

"I had no idea..."

"Sir, are you all right?"

"I've got to think, dammit!"

"Would you care for a cup of coffee? I'll just..."

"Listen, Dr. Ignatius, could you imitate a low-class Brooklyn accent?"

"Yes, I think so. What do you have in mind?"

[SCENE: First National Bank.]

"Gimme all da money, and nobody gets hurt. I'm holding up dis bank, see? Dat's right, put it all in dis bag."

"Not so fast, criminal!"

"Eek! A... blind podium with a hook! My fear of public speaking renders me immobile."

"That is correct, miscreant! And now I shall escort you to police headquarters. We'll cut through the park, it's quicker."

[SCENE: The cave again.]

"Okay, how much did we get?"

"From this last bank, or total?"

"From all twelve."

"Approximately $16.5 million, sir."

"Is that enough for a rocket car?"

"Perhaps. And then will you start fighting crime, sir?"

"That's the plan, Dr. Ignatius. That's the plan."
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