Superkid and the Mutant Plants

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The Return of the Black Belt

Our heroes now had a mission: to find the crazy, evil doctor and find out how his evil creations could be stopped. They wasted no time - after the telephone pole that the dandelion had stuck its teeth into came to life with loud cracks that was the pole splitting out some legs and arms from its body while the teeth of the dandelion became its eyes and nose. As the three of them ran, they discussed possible spots to begin their search.

"Didn't you find him on Lonely Road?" Darrin asked.

"Once," Superkid told him, "but then I found him in an abandoned factory clear over in Sothton plus a few miles."

"Yikes!" said Darrin. "I hope he's not there. I don't want to walk clear over there to find him."

"I hope we find him soon," Derrick agreed.

"Before we run into more trouble," Superkid finished.

But of course, when someone says something like that, they are inevitably bound to run into trouble - so declares the law of situational irony in section 5, subsection j. This sort of trouble they were about to run into was someone very familiar. Someone who last appeared two editions ago. Someone who was brought back purely for old times' sake.

That someone was… Black Belt.

And how was this temperamental woman going to conveniently drop in on the story? What was to be her role? The answers to both of these questions require a bit of narrative and a few fight scenes - and who doesn't love fight scenes? So, wasting no more time, let's find the answers to these questions!

Black Belt was riding in the car with her good friend and psychiatrist, Dr. Rowenna E. Doublin - I might question the sincerity of her friendship, considering she's a psychiatrist and is paid to be a friend, but I digress. As the two women rode through the streets, they discussed techniques to control Black Belt's anger problem - she had a tendency to vault men over her head if they so much as used the word "babe" on her. For those of you concerned about meeting her, she's a young woman with dirty-blond hair cut at shoulder-length, blue eyes, and a preference for white clothes. Whatever you do, keep your mouth shut, your eyes averted, and your hands where she can see them - she's less likely to flip out on you that way.

But she was aiming to fix that, which is why Doctor Rowenna E. Doublin was talking with her. "If you feel any urges to hurt your offender, what do you do?"

Black Belt recited, "I stop, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten," and so demonstrated.

The psychiatrist nodded. "And afterwards, what do you do?"

"I evaluate - take the time to think through the situation. Ask myself, 'Might there have been a reason for his action or choice of words? Does he give me any reason to feel threatened?'"

"And then?"

"I take action accordingly."

"Yes, but which course of action should you take? What are your options?"

Black Belt hesitated. She pulled a face as she recited reluctantly, "If I have decided he has offended me, my first option will be to ignore him. My next option is to tell him politely but firmly that he is offending me. My next option is to walk away, and if he persists then can I resort to defensive action."

"Very good. Now…" The doctor suddenly gasped as the wheel wobbled in her hands. The car weaved back and forth on the road, coming close to taking out a mailbox before she stomped on the brakes. She had only just breathed a sigh of relief when the car shuddered.

Black Belt sat upright, her body tense. She turned to the window and said, "What's going on?"

She got her answer a few seconds later. The car shuddered a few more times and then, from around the corner, something stomped into view. The psychiatrist took a noisy, frightened breath.

It was a giant tree ghoul. It was pale with dry, peeling bark. It had thin slits for eyes and a jagged mouth like a jack-o-lantern. It had skinny limbs with long, bony fingers. Its trunk split into two legs with long wormy roots at its feet. It looked as though it had stepped out of the pages of a classic spooky woods illustration. And if the two women didn't move quickly, the tree would flatten them and the car into a road-kill illustration!

Now here was the perfect time for Black Belt to practice her anger management techniques. You know, the "stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten" thing. The "evaluate: 'Does this thing give me any reason to feel offended?' and review your options: ignore, politely but firmly warn, walk away, and lastly attack" thing.

Fortunately for the both of them, old habits die hard… kind of like comic book villains. Had Black Belt actually gone through all the steps, by the time she had finished, the tree ghoul would have her and her, uh, "friend" pasted all over the asphalt. But now that the time came to put her techniques into practice, she threw them straight out the window and jumped immediately into attack mode. She leaped out of the car and ran forward to confront this mutant menace. The tree ghoul paused a moment, surprised that anyone would be stupid enough to challenge it, but then continued forward. It was going to show this stupid little human just which of them was the challenge. Just goes to show how much it knows.

They stopped in front of each other. Black Belt undid her belt, which was actually her web whip cleverly disguised. The tree ghoul raised its foot to crush her, but she lashed her whip around its foot and then scooted underneath it. The foot came down and then the tree ghoul twisted to find her. Black Belt swung herself around its other foot, around its back, and then to the front again. It had attempted to follow her, but she was too quick and as a result it tripped and crashed to the ground. The impact was so hard, splinters went spinning into the air like shrapnel from a bomb.

The plant monster was quite stunned at how easily it had been taken down. But there was no time for it to feel sorry for itself; Black Belt had just leaped onto its torso and was heading quickly toward its vulnerable point… er, no, it was the other direction, toward its face. When she reached it, she dropped to her knee, tore off a chunk of its jagged crown, and jammed it into its mouth. This was a pretty dangerous move since the tree ghoul could chomp off her arm, but before its neurons could fire off any signals to do so, she had plunged through the back of its fleshy throat with its own splinter! Then she pulled out her arm and jumped off the tree ghoul - both before the tree's neurons could fire off signals for another response: choking.

The skeletal branches went for its throat as it gagged. It kicked its trunk legs and rocked back and forth in agony. Black Belt watched it coldly… with no shred of sympathy… yes, I suppose it did try to kill her, but still… that is one cold-hearted woman. Not even the pitiful gasp of "Re-e-e-e-e-ed," before the tree ghoul stopped moving stirred her. She simply walked over and began unwinding her whip from its legs.

Dr. Rowenna slowly came out of the car, staring in shock at the defeated tree ghoul. Then from around the corner three kids sprinted into view. Black Belt turned curiously.

"Are you okay?" Superkid panted for breath. "We saw that monster charging like it was going after someone, so we…" Then he spotted Black Belt glaring down at him and he cried, "You!"

"Are you saying," said Black Belt coldly, "that you thought I was some helpless victim that needed you to come rescue me?"

"Well… yes. I didn't know it was you, I swear." he said, choosing his words carefully for he was well aware of his former karate master's unstable temperament.

But a house of cards needs only a breeze to send it over the edge and Black Belt was very much like a house of cards… her temper, I mean; I was not saying anything about her frailty - I mean, I wasn't saying she is frail because she's definitely not! Fortunately for me, I'm a narrator and outside Black Belt's reach, so she can't touch me for my slip of the tongue. Superkid, on the other hand, was in quite a volatile situation where one slipup could get him into a battle to the death!

"Have I not convinced you," the short-fused woman continued, her voice frosting over with each word, "that I am fully capable of taking care of myself?"

"Now Jennifer, remember what I taught you," said Dr. Rowenna E. Doublin, placing her hand on Black Belt's shoulder.

Here was another opportunity to put what she had learned to practice. A chance to prove she could master her anger - show compassion - be forgiving - let bygones be bygones… but then what would happen to our epic battle between the former karate master and her former student? It wouldn't happen, that's what, and then I'd have been a liar, and I am not a liar. So, fortunately for my reputation, Black Belt was seeing red and ready to put the hurt on the upstart, little, snot-nosed punk! All her house of cards that was her temper needed was a little tap. And this was where Derrick came in.

He told Black Belt, "He didn't think it was you. Definitely not you. He thought it was a poor, helpless girl about to be squashed like a cute, little spider."

Black Belt tensed her body and her fists clenched tightly. Superkid saw the warning signals. He murmured warningly to his friend, "Derrick."

"Yeah," Derrick continued, not having heard the superhero. "He saw that thing charging and then he heard a scream like a little girl calling for help."

"Derrick!" Superkid hissed.

"When he heard that, he told us, 'I can't let an innocent, little, helpless girl get squashed by a giant tree!' and so he ran to help her."

"Derrick!" Darrin joined Superkid in trying to get his attention.

"Honestly, we thought it was a little girl that needed to be saved. We didn't know it was you and not a helpless, little girl."

By this time, Black Belt had gotten suitably steamed up. She coiled her whip with angry jerks but spoke so coldly that it made our heroes blood freeze, "So I'm a helpless, little girl, am I? Perhaps you'd like me to demonstrate just how helpless I am?"

Superkid protested, "But I didn't say any of that!"

Dr. Rowenna warned, "Jennifer…"

Black Belt ignored her. "It's not enough for you to claim all the credit for those defeated monsters - it's not enough for you to claim I was the victim of those monsters - it's not enough for you to forget who taught you how to fight - but now you have the audacity to see me as a helpless, little girl calling for help?" She suddenly snapped her whip out to full length and shrieked, "I'll show you what this helpless, little girl can do!"

Superkid was now forced to take a defensive stance. Darrin turned to Derrick and muttered, "Way to go, Derrick. Now you've got her really ticked off at Superkid."

"I did?" Derrick responded innocently. His eyes flew open and his mouth dropped. "Oh no, what have I done?"

Darrin's irritated look became suspicious. "Did you do that on purpose?"

Derrick grinned.

Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the Super Fighting Tournament! I'm Bill with my partner Bob and we'll be acting as your hosts during this exciting event. For today's entertainment, we present to you the matchup of the year: Superkid versus Black Belt!

Weighing in at 79 pounds, Superkid is a lightweight - very lightweight - champion, hailing from the little town of Poolington. He is skilled in karate, aeronautics, and witty banter, which has seen him through his fair share of battles and will take a big role in today's matchup.

His opponent is known as Black Belt, weighing 147 pounds, holds a black belt, 8th degree, which is where she gets her name. She is also a skilled fighter, not so big on wittiness but she makes up for it with a whip three feet long made from actual spider silk. Rumor has it, she acquired it from a run-in with a giant spider. Most impressively, they say not only did she beat it, but she also reached into the spider and pulled out the web herself! You don't mess with a woman like that, Bill.

No you don't, Bob, but I think we can all agree that Superkid is no pushover either; we're really in for a treat with this matchup.

Yessir, that's right, Bill, and there's the bell. Black Belt strikes first with the whip, but Superkid dodges it and is now circling around her, presumably to get into a position where he can easily take her down.

But Black Belt has other plans in mind… you can see her with her whip… she's controlling the situation, preventing Superkid from getting close to her. She just very confident with the whip and I just don't see… how Superkid can get the edge on her.

You don't want to get too close to that whip, Bill, so I can see why the audience might think that, but you don't want to underestimate Superkid - a lot of his opponents make that mistake and end up getting whipped by him, but he's still circling and… oh, there he goes! Black Belt lashes her whip at him and he grabs it and is now running around her with it and it looks like he's going to wrap her up with her own webbing… nice maneuver.

Oh, I think you're judging too quickly, Bob, because Black Belt has grabbed the whip and is now accelerating his spin… she's going to hurl this guy out of the park with the way she's spinning that and I can imagine how badly it would hurt for him to land… and will you look at that, his feet are off the ground!

Reminds me of those merry-go-rounds, Bill. The kind they used to have at the playground, and my dad would spin us so fast we were flying. We used to pretend we were Superman. Used to get a lot of bruises on that thing too… shame they don't have them no more.

A shame but necessary, Bob. Those things are dangerous, and it's the same thing here - Superkid could lose his grip at any time and - OH! Eww! Ouch! Scraped his face raw there - asphalt is really unforgiving…

Yes, Bill, and I don't care what superpowers you have - that's gotta hurt!

Yes, indeed, Bob, he certainly does deserve some sympathy, but it doesn't look like Black Belt is going to show any mercy - there she goes with her whip crisscrossing the air… it doesn't look good for the pint-sized hero.

Wait a minute, Bill, he's getting up…

He's getting up all right, Bob, he's getting up into the air! Using his cape as a balloon, he's getting to higher ground, so to speak, where he'll have a greater advantage on this karate master. She, of course, is trying to stop him with the whip with a lash maneuver, trying to get that whip around his foot, but - oh - misses by a hair! Superkid is now too far out of reach…

Wait a minute, Bill, Black Belt is on the move, she… is hopping the fence - no wait, she's hopping onto the fence and - oh man, I don't believe it! She's running along the fence!

This is amazing! Was she a tightrope walker before? I don't remember reading it in her profile. Let me check…

She must have incredible balance to stand on that fence, let alone run on it. And - wait a minute, look at this… she makes a sudden leap and - oh! Classic Indiana Jones maneuver - her whip is now wrapped around Superkid's leg and she is now swinging from him… the weight is too much, he's coming down.

I can see the look of pain on his face from here - ew, I can almost feel my own ligaments tearing.

You did take your medication, didn't you, Bill?

I was speaking metaphorically, Bob.

That you were, Bill, and Black Belt touches ground and is now reeling him in… and Superkid is struggling but there is just no way to escape… it's a desperate situation for him, Bill.

Yes indeed, Bob, and he's doing everything he can to regain control of the situation: blowing into his hose to get more lift.

No he's not, Bill, his balloon has dropped and he's going to drop on top of the karate master like a sack of potatoes -

No, she scoots away just in time and yanks the line, flipping Superkid into falling headfirst -

- and catches himself with his hands and flips himself onto his feet -

- with that rope strung over his shoulder and still wrapped around his leg -

- grabs it and pulls it for slack on his foot, which he shakes and manages to loosen the coils… and his leg is free!

Whoops! Black Belt jerks him forward - kicks him in the face! And she gets her whip back while poor Superkid suffers a black eye -

And there she goes, raising her whip and… whoa, wait, did you just feel that, Bill?

Yes I did, Bob. The studio here is shaking like there's some giant stomping around out there.

Some giant is stomping around out there, Bill! And - oh my gosh, what is that thing?

I've never actually seen it before. I've only heard stories but if I remember correctly, that is that gargantuan spider that Superkid's faced from time to time. And boy is it huge!

I know, Bill - the size of that thing! What is it doing here?

I don't know, Bob. My first guess would have been to challenge Superkid once again, but it doesn't seem to have noticed him…

But Superkid and Black Belt sure have taken notice! They've stopped fighting and are waiting to challenge it, but it pushes right past them and is now headed for…

HOLY COW! Run, Bob, run! It's going to - AAAAAACK!

And there goes our commentators. So much for my break. Ah well, it's probably for the best - I'm the best for this job, anyways.

After smashing into the commentators' box - don't worry, they're okay - the gargantuan spider backpedaled and grabbed its face, hissing in pain.

"Stupid commentator box!" it snapped. "Who put that there?" It turned, looked down, and paused.

"Hey! It's you two! What great luck!"

What great luck indeed. The two of them were instantly on it with whips on its flank and face and punches on its legs.

"Goh! Ow! Argh! Wait! Doh! Stop!" It fell onto its side with an earth-quaking thump. Superkid and Black Belt stood back together and admired their work. Then Superkid scooted to a safer distance from his former teacher.

The evil arachnid said grumpily, "Can I ask you a favor now or do I need a couple more beatings first?"

Black Belt's response was a cold glare as she coiled her whip. Superkid's response was a mouthful of scorn, "A favor? You dare ask a favor after all your evil wrongdoings?"

This should have shut the diabolical crawler up, but Derrick, unable to control his curiosity, asked, "What favor?"

"It's a very small favor," the monstrous arachnid answered matter-of-factly. "Not very hard at all." It lifted a leg and pointed to its face. "Will you remove these needles?"

"What happened?" Derrick asked sympathetically.

The eight-legged beast told its story about the cacti coming to life and shooting needles into its face, and of the spider being unable to remove the needles itself. Then it recounted its tragic adventure to find someone who could relieve it of its pain, battling through mutated flora on the way. Superkid had been ready to berate Derrick for giving the monster any kind of sympathy, but as he listened to its tale, a crafty idea entered his mind.

"I swear!" exclaimed the spider, "I was being attacked left and right by these things! It's like these plants are being controlled or something!"

"I see what you mean," Superkid replied. "We've got a similar problem. We're all being attacked by mutated plants."

"That's great," muttered the monstrous arachnid without sympathy. "Now if you don't mind." It jabbed a leg at its face.

"Of course, sorry," said Dr. Rowenna E. Doublin, moving forward to help. Superkid stopped her by throwing out his arm and said, "Hold on. We don't have time to help you. We've got our own crisis to solve - never mind the fact that you're a jerk."

"Oh come on!" the spider whined. "This really hurts! I can't even talk without my face feeling like it's on fire!"

"I really don't see the benefit of helping you," Superkid continued, shooting the psychiatrist a warning look as she had started forward again.

"All right, all right, how about this? I'll help you with whatever you're doing if you pull out these needles."

Superkid pretended to mull it over for a few seconds before he allowed a smug smile to spread on his face and he answered, "Sounds like a deal to me."

Dr. Rowenna, looking relieved that the two of them had settled things, moved forward once again to help the spider. But then Black Belt stepped forward and said, "Wait! How do we know you won't go back on your promise?"

Superkid nodded. "Oh yeah, that's right. Good call, BB."

She gave him a strange look. "BB?"

He shrugged. "Short for Black Belt."

"I see."

The evil arachnid crossed the air with its leg over the general area of where an upright man's chest would be. "I cross my heart and hope to die if I don't help you after you pull these needles out."

"But you said the same thing last time and broke your promise," Darrin pointed out.

"But this time I mean it!" the spider cried. "What do you want me to do to prove I'll keep my promise?"

"Dress like a ballerina!" Derrick exclaimed. When everyone gave him strange looks, he explained, "I've always wanted to see this thing in a giant tutu… that and - er - Doctor Red."

"As funny as that would be to see, I don't think it would work." Superkid tapped his chin thoughtfully. "So then how are we going to do it?"

"The answer's simple," responded Black Belt, striding over to the monstrous crawler, which shrank back nervously. "We pull out most of the needles but leave a few in. After it's helped us with this epidemic, we pull the rest out." She yanked out a needle, causing the spider to yelp. She held up the needle, which was about as long as her finger.

"Good plan," said Superkid and moved forward to help. He was joined by Darrin, Derrick, and Doctor Rowenna, who all helped to pull out the needles - Darrin and Derrick with gleeful yanks but the psychiatrist with soothing words and more ease in her technique. But they weren't pulling for long when a fluttery screech disturbed the air. They all turned around to find a group of giant plants with spiky leaves and fluffy purple heads charging toward them, whipping green ropes above their heads. Wrangler thistles… with poison ivy lariats!

"We'll have to do this later," Superkid said. He clambered onto the spider's hairy back and then waved to his friends. "Climb on everybody and let's get out of here!"

"Wait a minute!" cried the spider as everyone obeyed. "I'm not a packhorse! I'm not just going to - gyah!" It had just spotted what was coming their way and now jumped to its feet and scuttled for its life.

It's the closest we've seen in running-for-your-life history, Bob.

You've said it, Bill. That eight-legged monster needs to be at its fastest to outrun those vicious mutant thistle rustlers.

As the spider passed the commentator box, it swung its massive behind at it, utterly shattering it. Two very surprised commentators blinked the dust out of their eyes and combed out slivers of wood from their hair. Then they retreated to safety as the thistle posse galloped past them.

That's the closest I've ever been to the action, Bob.

You can't get any closer than that, Bill.

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