Gift Exchange (unreviewed)
Hello! It's been a while since I've done anything storywise on here, but I thought I'd see if this would fit here. This is a story from my Bright and Dark Blue series which I've already posted to a different site. This story makes reference to something from a previous story which I don't plan to post to this site, but I think people can get the general idea of what's happening even if they don't understand every line of dialogue, and most of the characters appear in stories I've already posted to this site. The basic plot is a superhero visits his rival, a superpowered alien creature, with a request. Hopefully this is one of those stories in which you think you know what the horrifying part is, but then it turns out it's something different. This may be one of those stories that makes you think, "Excuse me, whaaat?" I apologize if this sounds rude or pretentious, but I want to note that this isn't an unfinished draft; it's a finished story and my sole purpose in posting here is to see if it would fit on this site. I don't need comments saying I need to change everything because this isn't the story you would have written. If it's not a good fit for this site, then that's that. That said, I hope you enjoy.
Clad in his armor, Devotee alias Daniel went to where Renegade’s rocketship was parked. He stopped for a minute to gather himself before sighing and walking up to the door. As he reached up to knock, however, the door opened and he found himself face to face with the slender psycho.
The grinning alien told his visitor, “I happened to look out and see you. To use an old line, ‘If I knew you were comin’ I’d have baked a cake.’ You have some business with me?”
“Mmm-hmm. I have a favor to ask you and I figured it was best to ask in person.”
“Oh? Well, walk right in and sit right down.”
Devotee entered the ship and followed Renegade to the lounge. There was music playing, which was no surprise given Renegade’s love of music. Sometimes he even had two or even three different albums or playlists playing at the same time. His pet ravens, Moses & Aaron, were on a table eating from a platter of meat and bread prepared for them. They greeted the superpowered duo as they took their seats. Daniel set down his shield and leaned it against the side of his chair, then pulled down his mask so his face could be seen.
Renegade asked, “So, what is this favor you came here to ask me? It must be more serious than asking for another mixtape or waster.”
“It is. I’m willing to give you compensation, though, so I’m not expecting you to do this for nothing.”
“What is it, then?”
“The thing is… I want some of your blood.”
Moses and Aaron stopped eating and looked at Daniel. Moses asked, “You want some of his blood?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Aaron noted, “That’s more than asking for a mixtape, sure enough!”
Renegade, speaking as casually as someone inquiring about the score of a baseball game, questioned, “You mean literally?”
“Yes,” Daniel answered.
“I think you know.” Daniel picked up his shield and rested it upright on his lap. “I want my shield treated with it so it won’t be dissolved by your forcefield. I figure someone in Basilisk has a way to do it.”
“You have confidence in them.”
“Just the shield? Not your armor or any weapons?”
Daniel was a little surprised by how casual Renegade was about all this, but he was quick to respond. “Yes, just the shield. That’s all I want.”
“It makes sense not to spread your resources too thin. Why do you want the shield treated?”
“This shield is my stand-by”
“You could get a new shield, or improvise, if that one were destroyed.”
“Sure, I could get a substitute if I had to, but there are a couple of factors. For one thing, the truth is I have sentimental attachment to this one.”
“It’s the one Basilisk gave you, right?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I can understand that. You’re not the only one to have sentimental attachment to an object like that.” He gave this reply while thinking of the knife he carried in his belt as a remnant of his rougher days, and of the locket he kept in a hidden pocket of his jacket.
“It’s not just about protecting the shield, though. It sometimes happens that-” He stopped abruptly and seemed distracted. Renegade observed him curiously. Finally a perplexed Daniel gestured to the music player and asked, “Is that Hanson playing?”
Renegade playfully remarked, “There’s the heightened perception that’s made you the envy of the superpowered world! Yes, yes, it is.”
“I thought you didn’t like Hanson?”
“I was irritated with them at one point because they were overplayed on the radio at one point, but they’re actually not bad. Of course, if this music isn’t your taste, I could play something from Hee Haw.”
Devotee smirked and retorted, “Hey, man, don’t knock Hee Haw! You know the music was great!”
“Yeah, I admit it was. So, you were saying?”
“It sometimes happens that teammates lose control and need to be stopped. We both have times when we lose control. If I were to lose control with you around, I’d expect you to try to stop me. If you were to lose control with me around, I’d try to stop you.”
“So it’s not for an edge in fighting; it’s so you’ll have an edge in stopping a rampage if need be.”
He sincerely admitted, “That’s it exactly. To help do that, it’s best for me to have an advantage. However, I don’t intend to use this advantage in ordinary battles.”
Renegade mulled this over before declaring, “It’s noble what you’re doing, but I’d rather you not limit yourself. ‘All or nothing at all.’ You’re free to use it during ordinary battles- assuming, of course, that you can prevent me from snatching it from you and flinging it aside!” He gave one of his trademark laughs.
“So be it!”
Renegade chuckled in amusement. “Asking for blood from someone who declared he sometimes feels like turning the whole world red. When I realized you’d figured out my own body fluids could withstand my energy forcefield, I wondered what you’d do with that knowledge. I wondered, ‘Would this brash guy be so bold as to come to me to ask me for a cup or two of blood or something?’ Now I have my answer!”
“A cup or two is accurate. I wouldn’t want more than sixteen ounces, two cups, or one pint.”
He laughed. “You know that’s the equivalent of saying fourteen days, two weeks, or a fortnight.”
“I get it. You wanted to make sure I knew what you meant, or maybe you wanted to show you know things. How much is that in liters?”
“A cup, or eight fluid ounces, is about 0.237 liters, and a pint is about 0.473 liters. Since I want between a cup and a pint, I’ll take anything from 0.23 to 0.47 liters. I figure anywhere from a fourth of a liter to two-fifths of a liter would work since that would be 0.25 liters to 0.4 liters.”
“Your math and measurements are correct. It’s always good to know you’re smarter than you look.”
Daniel started to say something, but then he grinned. There were people who assumed he was just dumb muscle, but for all his heckling, Renegade was not one of them. He believed in Daniel’s aptitude and gave him the chance to show it.
The maniac continued, “You said you’d give me compensation. What if I asked for you to give me something from your body in trade?” He showed his sharp, menacing claws. “What if I asked you to give me an eye or an ear or your nose in return?”
“I’d do it if you asked, but we all know you wouldn’t ask that. That’s not the kind of character you have. That’s not who you are.”
“Good. I’m glad you know that.” He rested his arms in a casual position to show there wasn’t any threat.
“Do you accept my offer?”
Daniel felt relieved. “What payment do you want?”
“I’ve been reading about Beowulf lately. I want some versions of Beowulf in one of those bags that says, ‘After this we get tacos!’”
It sounded random, but Daniel knew he was sincere. “I can arrange that.”
“Read them first to make sure they’re good. Oh, and one more thing. I’ll have my boy Giorki deliver it.” His voice took on a somewhat stern, “You’d better do right by us!” tone. “I expect you to tip him generously. While he has no need for your currency, he might enjoy looking over it and feeling it. I think that whatever you pay him will be a bargain for what he’s bringing you.”
“Good.” His voice took on a more casual tone again. “It’s a promise then- and you don’t need to spit into your hand this time.”
“I’m sure I don’t.” The two superpowered beings shook hands. “I’ll let you know when I have what you want.”
“I’m glad you’re so agreeable to this.”
“I think you suspected I’d go along with it. Pushing yourself forward and others forward… that’s what a rivalry is, don’t you think?”
He gave a gesture to dismiss the hero. Devotee nodded and departed.
Before too long Daniel had purchased a few good versions of Beowulf and the bag. He contacted Renegade and soon set up a meeting with Giorki. He held the cloth taco bag with the books and magazines, as well as some food for Moses and Aaron, while Giorki carried an insulated plastic bag.
Giorki held out the sturdy plastic bag. “Here’s whatever you wanted.”
Daniel realized that Renegade hadn’t told Giorki what he was delivering, most likely because he thought it would unnerve him. “I see. Thank you.”
The two exchanged bags. Devotee also gave Giorki a very generous assortment of bills and coins, which delighted him. After Giorki left, Devotee went to Gerard Ripley’s private laboratory. Ripley, Estes, and Kim watched as he set the insulated bag on the lab table. He carefully removed an insulated box and opened it anxiously. Inside was a cool, transparent pouch with nearly a pint of dark red fluid. He could feel in his gut that it was the insane alien’s genuine blood. He stared at the sight for a few moments, then remarked, “I can’t say he didn’t give me what I asked for!”
Ripley instructed, “Just leave your shield here and we’ll let you know when the process has been completed.”
“Thank you. I appreciate-”
He stopped because he noticed something in one of the corners of the box. Picking it up, he found it was a vial of fluid with a piece of paper wrapped around it.
“He included a bonus gift?” asked Kim.
“It looks that way.”
Daniel unwrapped the piece of paper. On one side was a message stating, “This was a headache to collect.” On the other side was a quote from “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” by Edgar Allan Poe- “…a shudder resembling a fit of the ague agitated every nerve and muscle in my frame…”
He inspected the vial, which was tightly sealed and labelled, “Warning: Biological material.” Inside was a small amount of a clear liquid. When Daniel tilted the vial, he found the liquid flowed about as easily as water.
“A headache to collect, huh?”
Seconds later he stopped as he had a realization. He and the other Basilisk members gaped as they all realized what the liquid was.
“The frick!?” interjected Estes.
Daniel asked, “Is this… Is this what I think it is!?”
Ripley nodded. “We can test it to make sure, but I believe it’s Renegade’s cerebrospinal fluid.”
Daniel felt sick as he set down the vial. He leaned on the table as he recovered from this development. He thought of the quote about a fit of ague and chuckled despite himself. He remarked out loud, “That mofo predicted my reaction!” He heaved a sigh. “What in bloody blazes, man?!”
Ripley stated, “I spoke with a couple associates of yours not long ago, and they told me something interesting. Years ago, when Renegade was examined, it was discovered that his cerebrospinal fluid might contain certain properties. It’s theorized that if someone, whether Neublarsan or otherwise, were injected with even a little bit of it, they’d soon develop what we call meningism- a set of symptoms similar to meningitis. The victim would recover, but it would take some time.”
“So you’re saying he’s given me a biological weapon?”
“Yes, but more than that, I think he’s given you a symbol of trust. A lot of people couldn’t be trusted to have something so dangerous, but he knows it’s safe in your hands and won’t be abused.”
Daniel thought about this. Finally he admitted, “I think you’re right.”
Estes piped up, “That’s all well and good, but he could have just left a card saying that he trusted you not to inject weird alien toxins into people!”
The others agreed. Kim offered, “He could have just given you some trading cards instead,” which the others agreed with as well.
Devotee declared, “I’ll put this vial in a safe place where it won’t get into the wrong hands. You guys already know this, but I plan to justify the trust placed in me.”
Here's a picture from the story- https://flamintales.fandom.com/wiki/File:GEIll1.jpg
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