*drains bottle in one swig*
Okay. So it turns out Frigid Queen was working overtime because she was avoiding going home to Phantom Lad. So of course, Phantom Lad has started hanging out at our office, pretty much all day, every day. What the hell? I know he says he has a job, but... ugh. I'd better start at the beginning.
It's 8:28 AM. Frigid Queen is at her desk, making notes from a reverse visi-phone directory. Nightmare Boy is zonked out at reception, with his long, raven hair tumbling onto the desk in an attractive fan pattern. There's a smug smile on his pallid face. Meanwhile, the com system is buzzing like mad. Then, Phantom Lad breezes in, like he owns the goddamn building. And I swear to the Luck Lords, the fucker looks skinnier and dustier and more washed-out every time I see him. And he smells all tangy and shit, like a mix of cinnamon and body odor, but at the same time he has this attitude that just makes me want to... gah! I'm getting ahead of myself again. You'll see.
So Phantom Lad sweeps past me in that dumb, tattered glow-in-the-dark cape he always wears (with matching boots!) and even though it's never done me a damn bit of good all the other times I've tried, I say "good morning" to him, and he doesn't even look at me. He plops his bony ass down on Frigid Queen's desk with his back to me, and the two of them start arguing about something. The gist of their spat is: he'd said something just hideously insulting to her while they were having sex the previous night, she'd kicked him out of their apartment, and now he was back with some cheap-ass "make-up" gift. (Her first words to him were "What's this crap?" if that gives you any idea.) But I can tell by her tone that they're headed for a messy, desk-clearing makeout session (they've always stopped at "third base"... so far) and so I mosey on over to the only other person in the office just then: Nightmare Boy.
The lazy Lothario's nap has kicked into high gear, and he's smacking his lips and mumbling things like "Oh, yeah, baby... you like that, baby? I think you do...!" And then his body starts making these humping motions, so I slap him upside the head to snap him out of it. With a snort, he jerks awake, yelping an obligatory "TERRIFYING VISIONS OF THE FUTURE!" as he does so. He rubs his eyes. "Man, that one was a doozy," he confides, his crimson eyes huge with feigned innocence. "Bad... stuff, happening... soon. So, what can I do ya for?"
I ask him if he has any messages for me. He just shrugs, and says "How should I know?"
So naturally, Phantom Lad takes this opportunity to rattle his bony frame over to the reception desk as well, and he starts bullshitting with Nightmare Boy about some hot dame Nightmare Boy had picked up that weekend. And he's still ignoring me. But I can't stop looking at him, because he's wearing my clothes! By which, I mean he was wearing pants and a top from my old menswear line, back before it tanked and forced me into a life of space piracy. But of course, he'd somehow managed to screw it up. It's simultaneously bleached all to hell and grimy. I'm pissed. The funny thing is, he still looks better than how he used to dress. Here's a before, from his "Legion of Super Rejects" phase:
And here he is, now:
Don't ask me what happened to his eyebrows. They probably dried up and blew away. And boy-howdy, is his complexion scary. He looks like he's made out of wax. Which would be cool if was from Plant Lad's planet and not from Bgztl, where they all look like Earthmen. Anyway, Nightmare Boy says something douche-y like "Diggin' the threads! Vintage, am I right?"
And while I'm reeling from the idea that something I designed two years ago could be vintage, Phantom Lad proudly informs Nightmare Boy, "It's an original Blockade Boy." He glances over at me for the first time ever and adds, "Y'know, the Blockade Boy. The cool one."
Meanwhile, I'm still so horrified by the idea of this tool wearing my clothes -- albeit badly -- that all I can say is, "You're not supposed to wear those pants with that top; they match too closely, and it makes the whole ensemble look--"
And he just makes this raspy scoffing noise, without even turning his head.
And I lose it.
I grab his shoulder with one of my furry mitts and I say, "Are you brain-dead, ya dumb bony bastard? I said, you're wearing my clothes wrong!"
He goes intangible and flounces out of my grasp. "I don't talk to rats," he sneers at me. "I step on 'em."
Okay. So now I have this mammoth urge to kick his ass, but at the same time my better nature is telling me:
- He weighs about as much as two kindergarteners, so it's not a fair fight (even with his phasing ability).
- He's the boyfriend of a coworker.
- I really can't afford to lose this job. Yeah, yeah, so I have a big pile of space-cheddah salted away somewhere. It's all tied up right now. In real estate... I don't wanna talk about it.
He says, "Everybody knows the only way you even got this job is by squealing on your brother. And whaddaya mean, 'your clothes', anyway?"
Reminding myself I'm masquerading as a fictional twin brother nowadays, I hurriedly grunt, "Phyl stole a lot of my ideas."
Phantom Lad gives Nightmare Boy a look, like "Can you believe this asshole?" and then he says to me, "That's what makes him a legend! He sees something he wants? He takes it! Naturally, he was the best space pirate ever, and when the U.P. tried to reign him in, he told them where they could put it! And he's still out there, doin' his own thing. I heard he's got a raygun-running operation goin' on with the Braalian Underground, and a couple of robo-brothels out by Colu. He's a freakin' counter-culture role model, man! But you? I never even heard of you before! So, what was your biggest accomplishment up 'til now? Finishing space-trucking school on your third try?" (His skinny ghost-hand phases tauntingly through my bushy goatee.)
How I keep from knocking his stupid block off, I'll never know. Instead, I stick to verbal sparring. I give him the withering once-over and say, "And you do... what, exactly? Play in a pod bay band? In between sash-shopping and not exercising?"
For the first time, he acts all defensive. "No! I'm a journalist."
"For what?" I smirk. "The Xanthu Shopper?" (And now Nightmare Boy is watching the two of us with bemused wonderment.)
"Screw that noise! I'm a gonzo journalist, on the political beat! You've probably read my stuff in Mother J'onzz or Rolling Asteroid."
"Ah, so you're one of those dim-bulbs who couldn't make it as a fiction writer, so you spot Marte Allon on a space-platform from twenty meters away and turn it into an 'arty' six-page piece about her doing shrooms on Jupiter." (And yes, I did the air-quotes when I said "arty." I despise myself for it.)
Phantom Lad is sputtering now. His jaundiced cheeks are desperately trying to blush, but all it's doing is making his head look like a dried-up nectarine. And Frigid Queen throws her two credits in with this fascinating comment: "Oh, that's not all he writes about! Tell him, honey!"
And she's laughing, and Nightmare Boy's laughing (although I can tell he doesn't even know what he's laughing about), and Phantom Lad darkly mutters that he has to leave. Frigid Queen still won't tell me what she was alluding to. It's driving me nuts not knowing. Huh. Well, I'll pry it out of her. Eventually. I'm charming that way.
But at least I shouldn't see Phantom Lad around the office again, anytime soon.
But this whole "fake twin" nonsense... it's gonna drive me bonkers! Look at me! I've turned into Mike Murdock, for Pete's sake! After all these years of railing against the stupidities of "secret identity" plotlines, I've stumbled right into one. The talons of Karma have got me by the balls.
...No, wait. That's just Cootie. Skedaddle, girl!