Superkid and the Mutant Plants

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Vena's Indigestion

"What do you plan to do with us?" Doctor Rowenna E. Doublin asked in a hard voice. She and her patient had just been snatched up by Vena and then placed in a tumbleweed cage that had been rolled in and strung up next to Vena specially for them.

Dr. Red shrugged in answer to her question. "Haven't decided yet." He had only just been granted this amazing power; it wasn't as if he'd prepared his whole life for this… unlike some villains. As a matter of fact, he wasn't quite sure what he was going to do with the world once he was in control of it. Hire the world's leading scientists to build all of his machines for him? Indulge himself in the finest of the world's finery? Rule it according to his most outrageous and whimsical desires? He wasn't sure but he certainly wasn't going to find out by simply sitting there, so with a dramatic, "Grow, Vena, GROW!" he set in motion the scheme to overrun the world with an army of mutant plants.

Vena's roots surged through the ground at a tremendous rate. They paused before un-mutated roots, plugged themselves in, and then kept going. The radius of mutant plans began to spread. From above it appeared that nature had just gone nuclear and dropped a vegetable bomb that blew outward in clouds of green and upward in the shape of a mushroom - in keeping with the plant theme… wait, mushrooms are fungi not plants! Bah, that totally ruins the metaphor. The metaphorical plant-themed nuclear blast was quickly annihilating the town of Poolington and beyond. The nearest town, Sothton, was soon being overrun by the mutant menace that was spreading like weeds - having been mutated by the plant-themed nuclear radiation… you know, just trying to make this work.

If Vena wasn't stopped soon then all hope for humanity was going to be lost. Someone had to challenge the diabolical doctor controlling her and end the nightmare. Unfortunately, the good doctor wasn't in any mood to perform any therapy on him and Black Belt's back was still tender, which she was trying to fix by stretching slowly as she breathed deeply. Everyone else was stuck in a bramble cage and the only other heroes who could have stopped this disaster was somewhere in the belly of the beast.

But can we hope that Superkid could still pop out of the giant mutated Venus flytrap and save the day? Was there some chance - some whim of fate - something convenient that would ensure Superkid would reappear heroically?

The answers to those questions, my friends, lie deep within… within Vena's belly, that is.

As you might imagine, it was dark inside. As you might conceive through your wild imagination, due to the various literature and cinema you may have read and seen, was a flickering light. When Superkid blinked the grime from his eyes, he discovered the flickering light was a fire… a campfire.

Of course, campfires don't just spontaneously appear inside monsters' guts and he spotted the likely makers of the fire almost immediately. They were two people on a large raft that was outfitted like a house with a large bureau in the far corner and a bed next to it. One of the people was an old, white-haired man with an impressive mustache and dressed in brown coveralls and cracked leather shoes. The other was a young boy with a feathered cap, garish coveralls and cracked leather shoes. The boy had his back to him.

The old man looked over to Superkid and his friends, who were getting to their feet with groans, and he said in a thick Italian accent, "Best to get out of the acid, my boys, it'll eat you real quick. Come, we are safe here under this tent."

Darrin and Derrick hastily splashed out of the acid. Superkid realized his hands were beginning to burn and joined them onto the wooden raft. As he did, the boy turned.

"Looks like it's already too late," he said, his accent not quite so thick. Then he added with a horsey grin, "Or were you born that ugly?"

Derrick wasn't going to take that lightly. "At least I don't have a coat hanger for a nose!"

"Pinno, that wasn't very nice," the old man scolded and Derrick snickered at the name. "Now get some water so these boys can wash off the acid."

"But Papa, we're almost out!" cried Pinno.

"Then tap more from the wall," the old man commanded sternly.

Pinno grumbled as he took a pail, which was a quarter full of water, to the fleshy green wall. He picked up what appeared to be a metal straw and stabbed it angrily into the wall. Then he twisted it until green pulp began oozing out into the pail.

Pinno's papa watched him working. He called out, "Make sure it fills the pail. And hurry, they still are being eaten by the acid!"

Indeed the three of them could feel their skins burning. Their hands developed red rashes while white blisters oozed into existence. Superkid and Darrin were resisting every urge to scratch, but Derrick was obliviously scratching away. Even when Darrin noticed and told him not to scratch, Derrick rolled his eyes and said, "Can't hear you. What? My itch is too loud!" and continued to scratch.

After what seemed like hours in which their skin burned worse and worse - blisters swelling until they popped and oozed pus - Pinno had ground the pulp into a half bucket of water. He sneered at them as he handed them the bucket. They ignored him as they took it gratefully. It was fortunate that their clothes prevented most of the acid from reaching their skin though they were now removed and waiting to be washed. The three friends barely cared there was a little pulp in the water as they splashed it on their faces, arms, and all the other spots the acid had reached. Soon their rash had receded into a minor itching. Pinno took the pail back from them with a jerk and went back to the wall to refill it.

The old man watched his son. He said to them, "He is a difficult boy. Very naughty and very rude. But he is a good boy at heart."

"It was nice of him to lend us his clothes," said Darrin politely, unobtrusively adjusting the collar.

"Nice?" Derrick choked. "Did you see the way he looked at us? I'm telling you he's gonna kill us in our sleep!"

Superkid shook his head with a weary sigh. Darrin cleared his throat loudly and then said in an abrupt change of topic, "So, uh, how long have you two been down here?"

"Days…?" The old man shrugged. "It is hard to know in here."

"We need to get out of here," our hero said decidedly, glancing about. "Doctor Red is going to use Vena to take over the world and if we don't stop him…"

"But how are you going to stop this big monster?" Derrick cried. "It's too big to defeat! And it's got a whole army! You can't beat them all!"

"I'm thinking that if we can somehow take down Vena, they'll all go down." Superkid was still looking around for an idea.

Darrin stared thoughtfully into the fire. "Can we burn her?"

The fearless kid wheeled on him, his face alight, but the old man shook his head. "No. We tried already. She is just too damp."

Not a very heartening revelation, but our hero wasn't about to give up just yet. "Maybe while we're in here, we could see if this thing has a heart or some vital organ that we can…"

"Nope. Plants don't have hearts or stomachs or things like that," said Pinno, coming back with a bucket full of pulp. He beamed proudly and explained, "I learned it in school."

"Plants don't have stomachs?" Derrick said bewilderedly. "Then what are we in?"

"Venus flytraps usually digest their prey in their mouths," Superkid informed him.

"How are we going to find its weakness?" Darrin asked.

"We should just try to get out of here," said Derrick.

The old man shook his head. "There is no way out. Acid everywhere will eat your skin like that!" He shook a fist in the air. "No digging out either. When me and my boy try digging the walls - they just grow back!"

Superkid nodded. Then he answered the old, Italian man, "There is another way: up."

"What?! You mean fly?!"

"No… wait, actually, yeah, I do mean fly." He looked up at the canopy.

"You mean to grow feathers and flap like a bird?"

Darrin saw what Superkid was looking at and knew what his superhero friend was thinking. He explained to the old man, "You see, he can fill up balloons with hot air to make them float. And this raft has that up there that could be like a giant hot-air balloon."

The old man's eyes widened. "Like a balloon?"

Pinno bounced excitedly. "You can turn this into a hot-air balloon?"

Superkid answered, "We'll soon find out." He nodded to the posts where the canopy was tethered. "We need to make sure they're tied good enough."

"I'll check!" the little, Italian boy offered excitedly and he scurried up the posts like a little chipmunk, checking each tether. The three boys stared a little dumbfounded at him, quite awed that although he was annoying, he was a heck of a climber. When he finished, scampering back to the fearless kid with a very eager look on his face like a chipmunk that's spotted a nut, Superkid stared stupidly for a second or two then shook himself and said, "All right, get rid of any unnecessary weight. I'm going to try to get us out of here." And with that he began puffing into the air, taking great gulping breaths after each puff.

Darrin clapped his hands, capturing everyone's attention. "All right, you heard the man. Any unnecessary weight goes off! Like that dresser over there and that bed…"

Pinno immediately scampered to obey while Derrick followed behind with a grumble. The old man, however, stared wide-eyed until he finally stuttered, "You serious? You want me to get rid of my possessions?"

"It will make this lighter," Darrin explained as he began tossing wood from the pile meant to be fuel for the campfire. They splashed into the acid, bubbling unappetizingly.

"Lighter? But why? I-i-it's floating just fine"

"Every little pound counts."

"You mean you think your friend can actually make this fly like a balloon?" He glanced doubtfully at the young superhero alternatively puffing up his cheeks and then blowing noisily into the open air.

"It's our best chance," Darrin replied. "And look! It's working!"

The canopy was beginning to ripple like it was caught in a breeze. But the old man huffed disgustedly, "That is just my campfire making heat to make the tent move like that."

Our youthful vigilante continued to blow. At first, it seemed the old, Italian man was right, for twenty minutes passed without any change in the rippling of the canopy. But eventually the center of the canopy began to lift.

"It's working!" Pinno cried excitedly, clapping his hands and bouncing.

Slowly but surely the canopy filled with hot air, ballooning into a - uh - well, balloon. And then slowly but surely the balloon began to lift. The first instance was kind of rocky - the raft swayed back and forth in the acid, clunking into the tossed furniture, which made the old man wince a few times, until it suddenly popped loose like a cork, throwing its passengers to the floor. Superkid got right back up and continued puffing, getting the balloon to rise faster.

And so it seemed that they had discovered a way to escape the monstrous plant's belly. Soon they would enter Vena's mouth and then fly outside to freedom. Ah, but fate still had a few tricks up its sleeve, and this particular trick was to make Vena hungry.

You see, Vena couldn't spread her roots without sustenance. This is why she had a pen full of deer behind her. Using her back arm - meaning an arm she had grown out of her back - she snatched up a handful of deer, which startled them into bellowing, brought them to her mouth, and tossed them inside like pretzel snacks.

And these pretzel snacks came raining down on Superkid and his crew, most tumbling past and bellowing like tortured souls in the river Styx, but a few hit the balloon, causing it to rock violently.

"Steady!" Superkid cried as everyone grabbed the poles to keep from flying off. "We can't let this craft take any more hits!"

"But they're not coming down anymore," Darrin pointed out, tentatively letting go of his pole.

Oh, but they were. It was only a break in the feeding. As Vena was spreading her roots, she was growing bigger, and like a hungry, hungry teenager going through a growth spurt, Vena needed more food desperately, so she snatched more bleating livestock and shoved them greedily into her mouth. Thus the crew was being bombarded again, the craft rocking from the attack.

"We can't let them tear this balloon!" Superkid yelled. "We need to steer our way through this!"


"Try tilting those poles."

So they brought the poles in. The balloon rose faster, almost hitting a buck's antlers as it fell.

"Try tilting it this way." Our young captain made large, sweeping motions so that they could see what he was doing. They tilted the poles to one side. To Superkid's delight, the raft responded accordingly, drifting in the direction the poles were leaning towards.

"Try this way now." Superkid made big, sweeping motions in the other direction. They responded to his commands and their aircraft responded in kind.

"Now this way!"

They steered the craft in the indicated direction, but their balloon suddenly went "Woomph!" when a cervine missile made a direct hit. Fortunately, the collateral damage was minimal and the craft continued on its designated course.

Captain Superkid, nonetheless, told his crew, "We can't see where we're flying. I'm going to have to get up there and guide us safely through this."

"You mean you're going to climb on top of this balloon?" sputtered the old, Italian man. "You are a fool! The balloon will never hold you!"

"I'm not going to stand on top," Superkid answered, a little annoyed. "I'm going to float beside it." Behind him, a buck whooshed past with a horn-like bellow.

"And how will you accomplish that?" asked the ever-doubtful old geezer.

Rather than waste time pointlessly arguing, Superkid pulled off the shirt he borrowed from Pinno - his costume was still drying by the fire, which was still burning in the center of the craft - tied knots to seal the arm and neck holes - the neck hole was quite tricky since it took up nearly the whole top half of the shirt - and, puckering the bottom half of the shirt, blew it into a balloon, which carried him slowly into the air. As he rose, he came close to being beaned by one of the cervine missiles, but he managed to steer himself through the shower by swinging his body away from the intended direction. Soon he had a clear vantage point where he could see the path the large craft was taking and where the screaming deer were trying to intercept.

And one was headed straight for its stern - from where Superkid was as the craft didn't have any recognizable prow.


The crew jerked the poles, sending the aircraft into a spin. They yelled in panic, jerking the poles to steady the craft but only causing it to drift chaotically. On the bright side, they dodged the buck's charge.


The crew stopped their jerking and waited tensely for Superkid's next command as the craft continued to spin. Superkid spoke, "All right, let's get this straight: when I say, 'forward,' that means you come to my voice; when I say, 'back,' that means go away from my voice; 'right' means right of my voice, and 'left' means left of my voice - everyone got that?"

"AyyyYYYyyye AyyyYYYyyye!" cried the crew, which could either have been sailor for, "We understand," or landlubber for, "GET US OFF THIS THING!" Superkid took the sailor's interpretation and he yelled, "Left!"

The craft spun backwards, receiving a very close shave by a five-pointer.


The craft spun to the right out of range of a heavy bombardment of three-pointers.


The fearless captain had not explained this particular command but was surprised when the balloon elongated and shot upward through the legs of a flailing moose, just as he wanted.

"Good job!" he cheered.

But they weren't in the clear yet. In fact, it was getting more dangerous with the walls coming closer together. They were getting closer to Vena's mouth. Fortunately, there was a pause in the deer battery. The crew worried that any second humongous sharp horns would come pouring on top of them, with wailing deer attached, but Superkid urged them encouragingly, "Just a little further… just a little further… we're almost there…"

"Have you no decency? Can you not see the suffering of these people? Can you truly be such a monster that you will burden the rest of the world in this way? What has the world done to you that you would treat them this way? Would it really make you happy to…"

Doctor Red was getting annoyed with the other doctor trying to stir up his conscience. He entertained the thought of commanding Vena to swallow her so that she'd shut up. He glanced at her companion and decided she'd go with the psychiatrist. It was an unfortunate decision to make, but she was being quiet and he knew it was the quiet ones you needed to watch. Besides, he had seen what she could do.

But before he could initiate his decision, Vena began making odd sounds. The malicious medical professional looked curiously down at her. His curiosity became worry when he realized the sounds she was making were choking.

"Vena? Are you all right? You're not choking on one of those bucks, are you?" He had been impressed with the way she had been snatching handfuls of cervine and tossing them into her mouth like chips. This had made it dangerous for him to remain on top of her head, so she'd made a platform behind her for him to stand on so she could continue eating. She didn't seem to have any problems until she started choking. Red wondered if he should do something to help her, but considering her size it would be difficult for him to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her.

Then he noticed something else that was strange. From where he was, he could only see the back of her head, but he noticed Vena's head drawing back slowly as though some irresistible force was pushing it back. As it did, Vena's choking became dry retching.

Little by little, Vena's head was forced back. Red worried that Vena might be puking something really big, and his fears seemed to be confirmed when something large and white bubbled from her mouth, which was now open 180 degrees and aimed at the sky. But when the bubble grew and eventually rose from her mouth, he discovered the bubble was attached to four poles, which in turn were attached to a raft! And when he looked on the raft, somehow half expecting it but not at all pleased with it, he found the annoying kids that he had had Vena eat alive and well on the raft, including his nemesis, Superkid.

Their appearance was more warmly received by Doctor Rowenna E. Doublin, who almost literally cried, "You're alive?! Oh my goodness! The children are alive, Jennifer! Look! They're alive!"

The black belt villainess grumbled something while she tried to pry the branches apart behind her back.

Derrick spied the pretty, young Doctor Rowenna, waved to her, and yelled, "Hang on! Don't worry. We'll get you out!"

"Yes, you all go free those two," Superkid commanded. Then he turned to Dr. Red on his pedestal. "I will deal with him… the traitor," he added with venom.

"I told you I was going to," the evil doctor pointed out. "When you were convincing me to come back here, I told you."

Superkid blew up the outfit-shaped balloon and began swing-drifting his way toward the traitorous doctor. The traitorous doctor jabbed his finger at the loyal superhero and bellowed, "Vena! Seize him!"

Vena really didn't have the appetite for it, but she lunged for Supekid anyways. He swung his legs over the first fist and again over the second fist. Before she could swing her arms back for a second attempt, he let go of the balloon and dropped right on top of her head.

She threw her mouth wide open in surprise, which launched Superkid right at the evil and very surprised doctor, who had barely enough time to gasp.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew had drifted to the cage. All together, they worked to pry the brambles apart to free the psychiatrist and the karate woman. Pinno, our surprising, little enterpriser with the funny name, took the end of a broken chair leg that was in the fire and brought it over to the cage. Derrick gasped and tried to grab the burning leg, which Pinno swung out of reach. "What are you doing? We're trying to free Doctor Rowenna and Black Belt, not burn them to death!"

"I'm not going to burn them," Pinno said. "See watch." He swung the torch back to the cage.


Derrick was shocked though when the brambles spread apart at the approach of the torch like it was afraid of burning. He was only beginning to recover when Pinno reached into the cage and called to the pretty psychiatrist and Black Belt, "Come on!"

"Come on, Jennifer! They've come to rescue us! Come on!" And the good doctor towed her patient forward, who had an unpleasant scowl that warned everyone that she didn't like being rescued at all. Derrick really hoped that she would flip the long-nosed twerp over the raft, but all she did was give a huff when he said brightly, "We rescued you!"

"Now help me steer this!" the old, Italian man commanded. "There are more trapped in cages."

Suddenly, a gust of wind caught at their balloon and dragged them sharply away, tilting the raft at an alarming angle, which forced everyone to cling to the poles for dear life. But it seemed their dear lives were intended to be literally dashed to pieces, for they saw their craft was headed straight for the back of Vena's great head.

"Oh mercy!" the old man screamed.

Meanwhile, as Dr. Red and his nemesis tumbled to the ground after Superkid had launched into him like an obnoxiously grinning missile, the evil doctor had somehow tacked the hem of his lab coat in place, which flipped him over once and then caught him painfully by his underarms after a loud tearing sound. A large frayed hole appeared just under the orange dot where his coat was tacked in place. Superkid, meanwhile, fell past Red until he caught the cuffs of the diabolical doctor's jeans. The tear grew larger.

The evil medical professional kicked at our diminutive superhero with his other leg. "Getugh! - urgh! - get off me - you little peght! You're gough… to make us both fall!"

Superkid remained on his leg, grunting when Red's foot connected with his ribs. Doctor Red grunted as he worked his arm to point MAT at Superkid. The pain gripping his underarms made it difficult. It was even more difficult because the little pest was directly under him, which made it more likely he'd hit his own foot. He took the risk and fired. The only consequence that resulted from this risk though was that it hit one of Vena's many arms. So insignificant was this consequence when the arm simply ripped itself from the tack.

His coat ripped again, the hole growing even larger, which caused the both of them to drop a few inches. Panicked, Red tried to change tactic by directing MAT upward to tack his coat, but the last of the fibers ripped and they plummeted to the ground feet-first.

The two of them - and every reasonable reader like yourself - expected to feel the splat coming up at them from the bottom. But in the crazy world of Superkid, the splat came to them from the right. Now a reasonable reader like yourself would probably rationalize this and say, "Well, tumbling through the air would be disorienting and make it seem like the splat came from the right," but remember, I said they were falling feet-first. And now the reasonable reader like yourself would probably have reached the limit of his or her suspension of disbelief and start questioning my sanity. Don't worry, I'm perfectly sane and there's a perfectly rational - as rational as you can get in the crazy world of Superkid - explanation for the splat coming from the right: Vena's arm came swinging in from the right and batted them. And I'll just bet you knew that. They sailed to the left before another arm swung in from the left. Then as they sailed to the right, another arm swung in from the right… and then from the left… then from the right… until they landed on the ground, thoroughly bruised and even more thoroughly dizzy. It will take a while for them to recover, so let's check the action with the paragliders.

"Oh mercy!" the old man had screamed.

This had brought Vena's attention to them. Her mouth had dropped open, which is where the balloon caught. The fabric was now stuck between her teeth. The crew below swung down like a pendulum and slammed into her neck. She gave a cat-like hiss and then ripped the balloon from her teeth and tossed it away. The poor paragliders, who had barely begun to recover, were back to screaming as they spiraled to the ground. After about three seconds - which seems like three hours when you're absolutely terrified out of your mind, Derrick says - they crashed to the ground. The impact sent them rolling in every direction. Pinno's rolling is of specific interest to us because he rolled eastward, which was toward the mother of all mutants. The reason this is interesting to us is not because he was going to meet an unpleasant end - as much as Derrick would have loved it - but rather he was going to find himself beneath the root of the problem… literally - as if you hadn't seen that coming!

When Vena had been searching for her adoptive father, she had spread out her bulk, which had strained the confines of the post office she was sheltered in like a teenager does to her clothes when she's having a growth spurt. The strains had caused openings to appear in the structure and in one of these is where Pinno rolled into.

His landing knocked the breath out of him. Then he got to his feet and saw something that took his breath away. Hit with this double whammy, it took him a while to recover his breath to gasp, "Wow."

He was staring at what looked like a pile of enormously thick and slimy ropes spread out all over the place and plunged into the walls. He almost lost his breath yet again when he saw them moving. Eventually, he realized they were the roots of the monster plant above!

He felt a thrill run though him at the realization that he was near the vulnerable point of the mutant flytrap. And the flytrap didn't even know it! He had a chance to do something to take down the monstrous plant! He could be a hero!

He was ready to rush headlong into the role, but ever-vigilant common sense took hold and asked him, "What do you think you're going to do - rip those roots apart with your bare hands?"

Pinno realized as he watched one of the roots slowly bunch itself that common sense was right, but then he noticed that behind the bunching root was a rack filled with chemicals of various colors and textures. Then he looked between two other roots and discovered more chemicals packed in boxes. He discovered more chemicals stacked on a rotating table. And as he continued to discover more and more chemicals here, there, and everywhere, he began to wonder if he was getting some sort of idea.

Then came something that frightened the idea away.

"Pinno! Pinno, where are you, son?" It was his father's voice and he sounded terrified for him.

"I'm here, Father!" he yelled, hopping up and down. Then he snatched buckets and boxes and stacked them on top of each other so he could get to the hole he came in through. But as fast as Pinno was moving to prove to his loving father he was okay, it wasn't enough, and his poor father fell to his knees next to the mutant flytrap and sobbed, "My poor boy's gone! Taken by this monster! Oh, Pinno, my son!"

Darrin moved forward to comfort him but Derrick hadn't been too fond of the deceased and was not in the mood to comfort the father and so hung back.

But Pinno finally managed to stack enough buckets and boxes to reach the hole. When he saw his father bent double, sobbing into his hands, it broke his little heart, so he reached out and touched his father's arm. He was going to say, "I'm right here, Father" too, but his father reacted with a shrill yelp as though it had been a touch from death. Darrin was startled by the old man's reaction, and Derrick reacted to both their reactions. "What happened?" he cried, imagining some sort of monster emerging from Vena. Then he discovered it was something worse when he heard Pinno yelled, "I'm okay, Father! I'm still alive!"

"Pinno, you despicable boy!" yelled his father in the loving way fathers do when their sons return from the dead. "Don't frighten your father like that and come up from out of there!"

"No, Father, come down here! Come see!"

"My son, it's too dangerous down there! Do you realize where you are?"

"But Father, you must come down! I think I have an idea!"

"An idea, son?"

"To kill this plant monster, Father! Come on!"

So the old, Italian man started forward. He moved very tentatively like he was afraid at any moment a shark would jump out and gobble him up. Darrin moved forward, passing the old man. He had thought killing the mutant flora would be Superkid's job, but when Pinno mentioned he had an idea for killing it, it raised the daring thought in his mind that the day could be won by ordinary citizens - that the superheroes would thank them for saving the day. It sent a thrill through him, thus he had decided he was going to help Pinno with his idea.

The reasons were different for Derrick though, when he decided to join. See, Derrick had a fear of being alone - especially with strangers and especially in a threatening predicament. So when he saw Darrin going into the hole, his fear kicked in and he rushed after Darrin to alleviate it.

And that is how the four of them ended up back where it all began - how they ended up face to face with the very root of evil - how they…

All right! All right! This is the last time! I promise!

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