I think another break is due. Here as a Christmas ‘present/punishment’ of 2,500 words.
The Montreal Methmanol was the first time we heard him speak. Given the type of character Methmanol was – and I can think of these fellows as nothing but characters – I also think this speech was little different to silence; speaking often, he still managed to say nothing at all. The ‘background’ of Methmanol is, of course, a matter of public record. Making the smallest concession to a ‘secret identity’ with his domino mask, Methmanol was otherwise patently open with the first press hatband he encountered. He, a tireless fireman, had been in the line of fire in an explosion at a chemical factory. Saving the wise, old Professor Generic from a fate of death, the old man in turn healed the firefighter’s burns with an experimental new formula, the anithesis of that which had exploded in the lab that fateful day. Not content at saving the youth’s life, the perfected potion gave him increased speed, strength and durability against fire, with an internal fire of his own to boot. In this Methmanol was formed. His mission?
Same as ever – protect and serve. Sometimes these conflict.
Apart from the domino mask, everything else was standard firefighter’s uniform. Someone had wisely removed name, rank and truck number, but it was otherwise the same. People knew him, but otherwise it was the same. He was a superhero, but he hung out at the Toronto fire house all the same. He could bench press a truck, but he washed it all the same. Whether they were being called out to rescue folk from the impact of a demon crater or rescuing a kitten from a tall, tall tree, he leapt onto it all the same. Sometimes he did both at the same time. He went to elementary schools, just like all the other firefighters. He told the kids they could all grow up big and strong, same as he did. All the same. He was someone. He was anyone. He was everyone. Methmanol could tear up concrete and shatter steel, but it honestly -apparently- never occurred to him to turn to evil, or at least forthright market management of Iconic status. He sat back and chugged beers with the rest of the guys at the station house – never while on duty of course. Never mind that his super metabolism would dissipate its effects instantaneously, he didn’t drink on duty because it was Against the Rules.
He didn’t drink because it would make others drunk-scared with possibilities. He was sober.
The City Officials that had overseen the reintroduction of Methamanol to his fellow fighters of fire, were aware of this little problem. The potion that had sustained this epic ‘6’6 in fireman’s yellow and gave him this buff, brute and brave exterior also had a queer effect on his fellows. Men in his proximity seemed drunk, somehow. They were rash and fire dotted their skin with permanent rashes. They were hotheaded and their heads were set alight. They were reckless and they were wrecked. Consider this peculiar effect and the psychology is easy. Set men beside a a fellow who is supposed their fellow, a fellow who is fearless, fugueless and fire proof, and with a cry they will strike and, unknowingly, stoke the fire wildly. All the same, he was an indisposable asset, and so he was set into the fire alone. Only in the deepest, darkest, fiery hearts was the Methmanol of Montreal sent. He never questioned this. He believed in the city, the state and his vocation. Fate, the government, these were interchangeable. He opened yet more parades, saved yet more cats.
He Saved the Day.
At this time he was allocated as being a resource, and could thus be upgraded to the position of emergency necessity. It was no coincidence that this was mid 1914. With little reference to anything across the Atlantic, home boys like the Super Nova Scotian and Plasmate were local fires that needed tending. They could be tended with the same international icon legislation that was allowing The Yank Tanks and the Noble Gases groups to form in the public eye on both sides. Hastily re-packaged as the all-Canadian hero, his tenure would be up the day they had refined a version of Methamanol 180 formula that worked on anyone without his curious chemistry. He had given those bottles of curious catalysts, unbreakable protein strands and mixed mitochondrials quite freely to his government, but since the supposed death of Professor Generic at the hands of Jan Ice, (the Professor’s protege pre experiment-explosion and The Montreal Methmanol’s greatest foe post explosive-experiment), retroengineering it had been driving the Guinea Pigs mad, dead or bad.
Methmanol was one of a kind, apparently. He was kind.
His powers hit a long-term peak at about this point. Before, he’d been the type to skirmish well. Now, going national, he started shrugging off trains and hauling trawlers. Some suspected, from what very little they had been able to deduce from the juice of the superhero’s serum, that his long-term exposure was increasing his existing abilities exponentially. Others suspected he’d had this level all along, and merely refrained from using it until necessary. Until authorised. That author of his fate would be a nameless, faceless official, affecting the hero whose name and face were known. No one man could decide what to do with a god – not even that man himself, apparently, especially not him. Having one man take on that responsbility that would be sick. Within the state, one was not one, one was a cell that itself might act, but did so with the implicit collusion, or at least their passive acceptance. No one made the decision, yet it occurred. In success, thousands would claim fatherhood, in failure it would become an orphan. Giving the state this control in his fate, Methmanol allowed himself to become the cat’s paw to the cat with the thousand heads and no heart. Was Methmanol trying another option to superherodom or had he happened upon the greatest identity invention; anonymity?
The faceless do not need to reflect. No blame attaches.
Whatever the case, he wasn’t on the crazy jewel heist beat or the 5pm-9am rooftop circuit anymore. State provisions outlined him as a natural at natural disaster solving. Fire and Ice, ‘Methmanol’ was the last line of research and rescue. So much was being driven into Canada those days. Deserters with ten types of arms, legs and minds. Dissidents running from the creations of the Clockwork Tsar’s regime; The House of Romanov was celebrating the 300th anniversary of their succession to the throne and wished to throw a few fools on the bracing fires of Lenin’s Steam Furnace. The were-bear children of the tragic dying King Ursus fleeing their father’s war-bear hegemony, his death-throes directed at the hated apes that had acceded beyond his beloved bear brothers. Every class of US reject with cape and cowl were jumping border and dropping trouser to disdain and stain Canada. These were ordinary joes, like Methmanol, but in this strange age, were running around with atomic furnaces in their chests, fireworks displays in their brains and undying fires in their hearts, like Methmanol. These were walking disasters – so was Methmanol.
In the old century, such wonder boys and great girls were picked up by organisations or started their own. But this was a time of flux. All times are, as any seasoned time traveller will tell you; who caused the Rogue Planet, the Monadvocacy, the Cacophoney, the Dyson Sphere of Sol? The Twentieth Cenutry, thats who, and damned proud. Even if those times never came to be, they never happened with style. The Twentieth Century decided so many futures, killing the possible machine culture, alien culture, insect culture, bear culuture, zombie culture, all other cultures ut that of True Human Beings. More than ever, one person could decide the world, up and down the timelines. These were quantum continuities with egos. Man-made Man Disasters.
These were walking Tunguskas, the Russian Impact of 1908. It went off for a while, that impact, killing Methmanol in 1913. What was it?
In scientific circles, the leading explanation for the explosion is the airburst of a meteoroid 6–10 kilometres (4–6 miles) above Earth’s surface. In 1989, D’Alessio and Harms suggested that some of the deuterium in a comet entering the Earth’s atmosphere may have undergone a nuclear fusion reaction, leaving a distinctive signature in the form of carbon-14. In 1973, Albert A. Jackson and Michael P. Ryan, physicists at the University of Texas, proposed that the Tunguska event was caused by a “small” (around 1017 kg to 1019 kg) black hole passing through the Earth. In 1941, Lincoln La Paz, and later in 1965, Cowan, Atluri, and Libby suggested that the Tunguska event was caused by the annihilation of a chunk of antimatter falling from space. Astrophysicist Wolfgang Kundt later suggested the Tunguska event was caused by the sudden release and subsequent explosion of 10 million tons of natural gas from within the Earth’s crust. Oliver Nichelson suggested that the Tunguska explosion may have been the result of an experiment by Nikola Tesla using the Wardenclyffe Tower, performed during one of Robert Peary‘s North Pole expeditions. referred to the Tunguska event as “the Russian Roswell” and claimed that crashed UFO debris had been recovered from the site. In 2004, a group from the Tunguska Space Phenomenon Public State Fund claimed to have found the wreckage of an alien spacecraft at the site.
Quite frankly, I don’t know.
I don’t know what raced across the sky that morning. I don’t what caused an impact on par with the later Tsarbomb with no nuclear materials. I don’t what caused the roar that made the locals ask the bishop if the beginning of the end had finally begun. I don’t know I don’t know what took the TickTock IronMen ranks of the Tsar’s guard three days to keep in and control over Tunguska territory back 1908. I don’t know what knocked the trees flat or doused the soil in iridium flames. I don’t what the hell, or heaven, had to be driven into Lake Cheko – no, why Lake Cheko was created to bury it, still living. 1917 was hell on records, even with the Man of Steel’s electrical memory efficiency, and much of what the Tunguska thing was and what it did were buried already by 1913, and further still in 1960.
I certainly don’t know why it wasn’t dead in 1913, when Methmanol arrived.
Early in the year, they’d seen The Great Fireball Procession, a chain of slow, large meteors moving from northwest to southeast, over North America, particularly in Canada. Methmanol had been sent to follow them, partially out of purely astronomical interest aided by his newest fire-flight abilities, partially out of purely defensice interests later when he reported that these ‘processions’ would wait over old impact sites, ‘calling’ up fellow lights lit with a ‘colour out of space-comics’ as he commented later. He followed these to Alaska, over the ocean straits and stretches, and to northernmost Russia. Here is what we do know: Whatever was in Tunguska was the last in a line of … something that had fallen some time ago, and whatever was in Tunguska was whatever that was needed to … complete it. Cheko boiled, broiled, and a light arose, more powerful than any before.
It was not a positive creature. Quite negative in fact.
Whatever it was, Methmanol could not return to Canada to ask his masters what it was, whether it should be destroyed or given diplomatic immunity. The radio crackled orders, garbled and burbled, but they weren’t on the ground. It was … huge in dimensions we can’t begin to calculate. Bigger than the sky, yet not seen beyond the slowly regrowing forest. Stronger than gravity, weaker than torch light on a bright day. More explosive than as yet undiscovered A-bomb, less force exerted on reality than a leaf on a hurricane. It came from the places between places. This thing was the nowhere child of a neutron star, reassembling itself with no more conscious thought than a set of cells on a petrie dish and it would scream down the walls of the Winter Palace. It was a real Alien Tiger: No point in it eating us, or us eating him – we were mutual poison on the level of very perception.
Didn’t mean we couldn’t kill each other in the finding out.
This incident tore Methmanol’s idea of institutional anonymity all to hell, or heaven. An institutional memory could remember ages past and imagine those to come. An institutional mind could sentence one thousand to as many varieties of death and sleep easy. An institutional left hand could act without the knowledge of the right, even without the right’s knowing of the left’s existence, never mind knowledge of the left’s business. But even an institution cannot look upon a beast of thirteen dimensions and call it fine. It cannot categorise or collect it, cannot designate or design it. Seeing something like that would tear the fragile dream of government right of humankind’s heads. It would right up the carpet of the fragile Earth for the cheap huxter’s arras that it was and such fine dreams would die, just like this Tunguska thing was dying now. Methmanol learned his lesson – to live for the state was to die for the state, outside of state, when exposed to that It that was outside of the It of state.
He tore open whatever fire hazard that lay within him, and flew within the Tunguska It, and that was that. Barring the explosion of course.
He didn’t kill It – it slept till the Nedelin Disaster, 1960, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome – whether It was awoken by the disaster, or caused, I don’t know. The AllGood gang put it in the ground for good. As for Ginferno, whatever he may be called, I believe he lived beyond 1913, 1917 and 1960, but never again by the name Methmanol. It was one of his longest incarnations: he had friends, fellows and family, of sorts, about him in that time. People missed him when he was gone, because he had given them someone to miss. There was mourning, and mornings after not so light for his absence amongst the morning stars. His powers developed into fire and flight under this name, strength, speed and chemical disruption increasing exponentially compared to his previous icons. Ginferno ripened here. Perhaps this was a real bid reality rather than a test. That is not … impossible. However, if so, it merely taught the man who would become Ginferno that he was impossible, that he was unreal. Whatever he really was; science, magic, a trick of the light – he could tear apart things from other universes now, and you can’t do that without being or becoming something outside your universe. Not belonging to neither the universe he protected or those universes he protected it against, Ginferno moved on. Tracing his path, he was in Death Valley by July 10th, with temperatures hitting 134 °F. He was in Panama for Hallowe’en, and is said to have been a last minute part of the plunger system at Gamboa Dike on the 10th.
The man who would become Ginferno headed South.