It was early and so was he. Martin Daley paced the corridor, running through his presentation one last time. Today was the day he finally gave his presentation to the head of production at NowTech, Savon City’s largest technology company. Martin had been working on his presentation for weeks and he knew that if he pulled it off, he would get the promotion he so desperately wanted and deserved. He checked his watch. 8:48am. He still had 12 minutes until the board arrived, which he decided was enough time to relieve himself and calm his nerves. He headed for the toilet, but just as he reached the door, a man in a pinstripe suit rushed in before him. Annoyingly, he too needed to relieve himself in the seated position, so he took up the only cubicle.
‘Typical,’ Martin muttered as he stood and waited. He tapped his fingers on the sink, checked his watch and squeezed his legs together impatiently. Why did they always take so long when he was waiting? He had just decided to occupy his mind by checking out his nose hair in the mirror, when suddenly he heard a scream come from inside the toilet cubicle. Through the reflection in the mirror he saw water dripping out from underneath the cubicle door. He span around to see what was happening. There was a barrage of frantic banging on the door and more screaming from inside. He didn’t know what to do, so he just froze, like an ice sculpture of a naked lady. After a few more seconds of banging and shouting, there was one final splash and then silence. Martin waited for a few moments to see if anything else would happen. As he inched towards the cubicle, the door – which had been damaged in the chaos – slowly creaked open.
Inside, the floor was soaked and the man in the pinstripe suit was nowhere to be seen. Martin slowly crept inside and instinctively looked down at the toilet bowl. As he leant over, he thought he could hear a noise, a crackly heavy breathing, like an asthmatic frog. He peered into the toilet, listening carefully. As he looked closer, he saw a blurred face reflected in the water. He crouched down to get a better look and saw that the face was not his own, nor was it the face of the pinstripe suited man. It was a dark, misshapen face with a sinister grin made up of long, pointy teeth. It stared back at him for a while, hypnotic in the ripples of the water, and then, through the distorted water, the face said simply, ‘Boo.’
Martin stumbled backwards out of the cubicle, his face full of fear. He flung open the door and fell out into the corridor. He was scared and he didn’t know what to do, so he ran.
Still, one good thing came of it: he no longer needed the toilet.
Moments later, in a secret base on the second floor of the local community centre, Clifford Cane was sat at his desk, reading through a book on the evolution of the mop. Clifford was better known as Captain Clean – or Cap to his friends – the leader of the Sanitary Squad.
The squad was group of ‘grime fighting heroes’, set up and funded by the council, that dealt with mainly hygiene themed crimes in the city. For some reason, there seemed to be a lot of hygiene themed crimes going on in the city. People suspected it may have been in response to the Sanitary Squad forming, but nobody really said anything, as very little else happened in the city, so it was something exciting to watch on the news instead of annoying celebrities cheating on each other with other annoying celebrities.
Suddenly, a knock on the door disturbed Cap’s silence. A woman dressed in purple with long brown hair, known to him as HyJean, poked her head around the door. Jean Wilkes was the brains behind the squad. She was gifted when it came to technology and had developed most of the squad’s weaponry. Since she’d put in her application to join the squad that she owned a computer, she was also in charge of monitoring the criminal activity in the city using a series of computers that lined one of the walls in the base.
‘We’ve got another one Cliff,’ she said.
Cap looked up. He was excited. ‘Where?’ he asked.
‘NowTech,’ she told him. ‘The police report says he witnessed a man disappear inside a toilet cubicle and then he saw a laughing face in the toilet bowl.’
‘Is he still there?’
‘No, the police sent him home and passed his number on to the mental health centre.’
‘Great, I’ll pay him a visit.’
The captain walked over to a machine on the wall. He pushed a button and a roll of what looked like toilet roll popped out. The toilet paper had been developed by HyJean to be extra durable and waterproof. He quickly wrapped it around his whole head, completely concealing his face – he preferred it to a mask or cowl. He was dressed in a blue shirt with blue trousers and yellow boots. To make him look more like a superhero, he also had a yellow cape, leather marigold gloves and a belt that had a buckle with the squad’s water droplet insignia on. Cap would’ve liked a more professional uniform for his squad, but their budget from the council only allowed them the luxury of a few accessories to spice up their everyday clothes.
He then moved over to a row of sticks that were hung on the wall. Each had a different appendage on the end, including a toilet brush, a plunger and a mop. They looked like ordinary cleaning tools, but again, HyJean had modified them to make them into weapons. The toilet brush had extra tough bristles that were very painful when smashed against your face, the plunger had enough suction for someone to easily climb a wall, and the mop could spin at an alarming speed that was enough to lift someone a few inches off the floor. Today, Cap opted for the toilet brush, which he retracted and clipped to his belt. He probably wouldn’t need it, but it made him feel safe… and cool.
‘You got the address?’ he asked HyJean.
‘Sort of,’ she replied, handing him a small note. ‘I’ve found out what street he lives on, but not which number. I’m afraid you’ll have to do this one the old fashioned way.’
‘Thanks,’ sighed the captain. ‘While I’m out, see what else you can find in the media that might be of some use.’
On the way out, the captain passed a small office with a middle-aged woman sat inside tapping at a computer, her desk piled high with papers, hiding the small plant that was so desperately craving some sunlight. The woman was Mary Goldman, the Squad’s admin manager. Being a council-funded operation, there was often a lot of paperwork (invoices for damages, wage slips, expenses, etc.) so they’d hired Mary to take care of it all.
‘Can you cancel my 1 o’clock lunch appointment please Mary, I’m going out.’
‘You haven’t got a 1 o’clock lunch appointment,’ she replied.
‘Really?’ asked a bemused captain, ‘Why not?’
‘I cancelled it 5 minutes ago.’
‘You’re far too good Mary.’
Mary smiled and Cap left.
Captain Clean stood at the top of New Old Baker Road and wondered which side to start on. The police would have already visited Mr Martin Daley, because they knew where everyone lived – they were nosey like that. Cap had asked for access to their databases before, but apparently giving out personal data to men who run around in silly outfits wasn’t something the chief of police was keen to do. HyJean had suggested trying to hack their system to get the data, but Cap was insistent that they shouldn’t do that as it was illegal.
‘Might as well start with number one,’ Cap said. He marched up to the first door on the left and knocked on it. After a short wait, the door opened to reveal a rather jittery man who appeared to be 50 years old, although he’d actually been wearing the 50th birthday badge for over 2 years now.
‘Hello,’ said Cap. ‘Are you Martin?’
‘No, I’m Brian,’ replied Brian in a nervous tremor. ‘Why? Who sent you? Is this to do with the courgettes again?’
‘No, no. I’m with the council. I’m looking for a Mr Martin Daley. I don’t suppose you know where he lives do you?’
‘I don’t know anything!’ shouted the nervous Brian before slamming the door in Cap’s face.
Cap made a little note in his notebook that said: 1 New Old Baker Road – suspicious nutter’.
He carried on down to number 3 New Old Baker Road and once again knocked on the door. This time a little girl, no more than 6 years old, opened the door.
‘Hello little girl, does anybody called Martin live here?’ he asked.
‘I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,’ she replied.
‘I’m not a stranger, I’m Captain Clean.’
‘Your outfit is pretty strange.’
‘No it’s not, I’m a superhero.’
‘Really? Can you fly?’
‘Can you shoot lasers from your eyes?’
‘Can you run faster than a speeding bullet?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘So what powers do you have?’
‘Um… a thirst for justice and a green belt in karate.’
‘My brother’s got a brown belt.’
‘Alright, it’s not a competition.’
At this point, the girl’s mother came to the door to see who her daughter had been talking to. She was not exactly pleased to see it was a man whose face was wrapped in toilet roll.
‘Ah, hello madam,’ said Cap, ‘I was just speaking to your daughter.’
‘About what?’ asked the mother, ‘Who are you?’
‘It’s alright mum, I’ve got it,’ said the girl. ‘We don’t know anyone called Martin, now clear off you dirty old perv!’
And with that the girl slammed the door in his face.
Captain Clean had to admit that he wasn’t off to a great start and his next few attempts didn’t go too well either. But eventually, after knocking on 32 doors, he did find someone who knew where Martin lived. As it transpired, Martin lived at number 2 New Old Baker Road. Oh how Cap cursed when he found that out.
* * *
Martin was surprised to see a man who looked like he’d just come from a fancy-dress party standing on his doorstep.
‘Can I help you?’ he asked.
‘Are you Martin Daley?’ asked the man with toilet roll wrapped around his face.
‘Thank god for that,’ he sighed. ‘I’m here to talk about your face.’
‘My face?’ Martin asked with a bemused look, instinctively holding his hand up to his face.
‘Yes, the face you saw in the toilet,’ the captain explained. ‘May I come in?’
Martin invited the captain into his living room and went off to make him a cup of tea. The costumed hero sat on the sofa, looking somewhat out of place in a council house living room trying to avoid the small dog that was sniffing around his boots. He’d always held the view that pets were unsanitary and not to be trusted. After a few minutes, Martin returned with the tea and a plate of biscuits. The captain neither drank the tea nor ate the biscuits, as he could not be certain how clean Martin’s kitchen was.
‘Get out you daft bugger,’ Martin said as he entered the room.
‘Pardon?’ asked the captain.
‘Not you, the dog.’
Martin moved the dog away from the captain and sent him off to play in the garden. The captain was now ready to start his investigation.
‘How are you Mr Daley?’ he asked.
‘I’m fine thanks,’ Martin said. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m hungry Mr Daley.’
‘Oh, would you like some more biscuits?’
‘No, Mr Daley,’ Cap said, now leaning in more seriously. ‘I’m hungry for the truth.’
‘Oh,’ said Martin, who had been drawn into the theatrical nature of Cap’s demeanour.
‘Now, the face you saw in the toilet, was it a human face?’
‘Yes,’ replied Martin. ‘At least I think it was. I’ve never seen an alien, so I wouldn’t know. They might look like us. For all I know, you could be an alien. You’re not an alien are you?’
‘No Mr Daley, I’m not an alien,’ said Cap. ‘And the man, your colleague who went in before you, can you describe what happened?’
‘Well he rushed past me and went into the cubicle. It was quite normal for about a minute, just the usual sounds you know.’
The captain nodded to show that he knew what sounds men usually make when they go to the toilet.
‘But then I heard splashing and banging,’ Martin continued, ‘like something had come out of the toilet and he was banging on the door. Then a few seconds later he was just gone.’
‘And there was no other way out of the cubicle?’
‘Was there anyone in the cubicle before your colleague entered?’
‘Not that I know of.’
The captain continued to ask a few more questions and then sat in thought for a moment. Martin, meanwhile, sipped his tea.
‘One last question Mr Daley, has there been any other unusual activity in the building recently?’
‘I don’t think so. I mean, the printer kept jamming last Tuesday, but I don’t think that’s got anything to do with it.’
‘No, it doesn’t. Thank you, that’s all for now.’
The captain stood up to leave.
‘Don’t you want your tea?’ asked Martin.
‘Give it to the dog,’ the captain replied.
‘But he doesn’t like tea.’
‘Then he’ll enjoy it just as much as I would.’
When Captain Clean arrived back at the base, he was greeted by Sergeant Suds, a well-built man who was the muscles of the group and married to Mary. Mick Goldman, as he was known outside of work, had originally signed up to the army, but a mistake on his form meant he signed up to be a cleaner rather than a soldier. He spent a few years there, cleaning the barracks and longing for more action. This was also where he’d earned the name Sergeant Suds, from the soldiers who he became friends with. When he left the army, he joined the squad and used the skills he’d learned in the army to help fight grime.
Suds had been out in the morning on the “city shift”, walking the streets and keeping an eye out for any trouble. There hadn’t been any trouble today though. There never was on a Tuesday, which the captain suspected was why Suds had picked that day to do his shift.
‘Any trouble Mick?’ asked the captain.
‘Not today,’ he replied.
‘I’m sure we can fix that,’ he said, with what almost appeared to be a smile. Cap was always very serious about what he did and rarely had time for fun, which the other members of the squad often found a bit annoying. But now and then he would allow a glimpse of humour to sneak through.
Cap headed over to the furthest wall of the base where HyJean was sat at a row of computers. She had clearly had a busy afternoon, as there were several mugs of coffee on her desk.
‘What did he say?’ she asked the captain without even looking around.
‘Not a lot, pretty much what was in the report,’ he replied.
‘Good job I stayed here then,’ she smiled. ‘I’ve got a lot to show you.’
Cap and Suds took a seat at the computers and HyJean shared her findings.
‘There’s been numerous reports of a figure being seen inside toilets and they all correlate with people going missing. The victims are generally people in high powered jobs in specific industries, such as engineering and mechanics, so my guess is he’s building something and needs their expertise.’
She rolled the chair over to the next computer and continued.
‘There have also been several tweets about strange things happening in the sewers after a local worker said he heard noises down there. Most of the action seems to be happening around the NowTech building.’
‘I think we know where we need to investigate next then,’ said the captain.
‘Okay, but can we go after lunch? I’m starving,’ asked HyJean.
The captain agreed. He’d not eaten either and was even regretting not taking one of Martin Daley’s biscuits, so he sent Mary to the local café to get some sandwiches.
* * *
A while later, with their bellies full, Captain Clean and HyJean were stood in the very toilet cubicle where Martin Daley had experienced the tragic disappearance of his co-worker. One of Martin’s colleagues had shown them around and unwillingly joined them in the toilets.
‘Cap, we’ve been staring into this toilet for over half an hour, I don’t think the face is going to show up,’ said HyJean.
‘You’re right,’ agreed Cap, who’d been knelt down for the whole time staring into the toilet. ‘If he won’t come to us, we’ll have to go to him.’
And with that he stood up and climbed into the toilet.
‘He managed to pull a victim down here, so there must be some sort of mechanism to get me down. On my command, you press the flush button,’ he instructed.
HyJean knew it was a ridiculous idea, but she’d long given up on trying to understand her colleague’s unconventional methods and learnt to just go along with them.
‘Okay, ready? 3… 2… 1. Beam me down Scotty!’
HyJean pressed the flush button, and as she’d expected, Cap was not sucked down into the toilet. Instead he just stumbled about a bit and his legs got very wet.
‘Anything?’ she asked in a sarcastic tone.
‘Well that didn’t quite work as I’d hoped,’ he admitted. ‘Also, I think I twisted my ankle.’
‘See, we should’ve just gone down the sewers.’
‘Well why didn’t you suggest that before I got in the toilet?’
‘I did! 5 times on the way in here!’
‘Alright fine, we’ll do it your way. Just help me out will you.’
HyJean helped Cap out of the toilet and they decided to go back to the base first to get a change of clothes and some equipment for their journey down below.
* * *
As HyJean helped Cap limp back into the base, they were greeted by Mary.
‘Cap, I’m glad you’re back. I’ve just had a call from a Dr Steffi Scope at the hospital,’ she informed them. ‘She’s asked if you can go see her urgently. They’ve had a patient in with some very unusual symptoms that she thinks you might be able to advise on.’
‘Okay, sure. Maybe she can look at my ankle while I’m there,’ said the captain. ‘Jean, you’d best come too. You’re much better at this sort of stuff.’
‘What, diagnosing people or talking to women?’ came a voice from behind.
The voice belonged to Will Armitage, better known as The Flush. He’s the final member of the Sanitary Squad and has not featured until now because he was busy – not with fighting grime, but instead fighting profit margins. You see, The Flush is only a part time hero, as he also has a job as a marketing manager at a local bank.
The Flush saw himself as the cool one of the group, with a turtle neck top and a spiky blonde wig that covered his naturally brown hair. His weapon of choice was an extendable whip that had been fashioned to look like a toilet chain.
‘Ah Will, just in time,’ said the captain. ‘We’ve got a little trip we need you to go on.’
‘Ooh nice, where am I going today?’ he said with a smile.
‘The sewers,’ grinned the captain.
Flush’s face fell. Sergeant Suds laughed.
‘I don’t know why you’re laughing,’ said the captain, ‘you’re going with him.’
Now it was Flush’s turn to laugh.
‘What? Why?’ asked Suds.
‘Well Jean and I can’t go, we’ve got to visit the hospital. Don’t worry, I’m sure Flush will look after you.’
Flush and Sergeant Suds left to prepare for their trip down into the sewers. Meanwhile, Cap dried off his legs and HyJean had a quick look on the computer to check for updates.
‘Right,’ said Cap when he was dry, ‘if you’re ready to go I’ll give The Driver a call.’
As grime fighting heroes, the squad often had to travel across the city. Since they couldn’t afford their own car yet and the council were not willing to fund transport, they relied heavily on public transport or walking to grime scenes. For longer trips, they used a regular taxi driver, although he wasn’t a regular “regular taxi driver”. He was more of an irregular taxi driver.
The Driver, as he was simply known, had modified his car to drive at incredible speeds, as fast as any formula one car. Despite his laid-back attitude, he was also an expert driver, so he could dodge traffic perfectly and had a remote control to change the traffic lights at his will. The council had given him permission to use his extraordinary driving abilities to chauffer the Sanitary Squad around the city, as long as he drove normally at all other times. Which he did. Mostly.
‘Hi, yeah, we need a lift,’ said Cap down the phone.
‘I’ll be there before you can say kaleidoscope,’ said The Driver.
As soon as Cap had said it, there was a knock at the door. HyJean opened it to reveal The Driver, who said, ‘Sorry I’m late.’
Cap and HyJean left with him for the hospital, leaving Mary alone in her little office. Mary liked that she got to stay in her office, because when she was alone it meant she could play her music over the speakers. Today she opted for a bit of Black Sabbath.
‘Thanks for coming, Cap, I’ve never seen anything like this before.’
The doctor closed the door behind them and drew back the curtain, revealing the patient lying asleep on the bed. He was a young man whose entire body seemed to be leaking. There were several buckets around his bed catching the water, and more around the room that were full.
‘His name is Nelson Gush,’ Doctor Scope explained. ‘He was brought in a few days ago. We’ve not got much info on him, but he’s got an American accent, so we’re guessing he’s probably American. As for his condition, his body is secreting impossible amounts of water. At first we thought it was sweat, but the tests all say it’s just water. We tried to draw bloods, but every time the only thing that came out was water. We’ve done all kinds of scans and tests, but this is beyond anything I learnt at medical school. I thought, since you and your team deal with a lot of weird things, you might be able to help.’
The captain looked at HyJean who was staring at the patient with a mixture of awe and bemusement. After a minute alone to discuss it, HyJean told Doctor Scope that they would take the case, but they would need to take the patient back to their base where they had more suitable equipment and facilities. The doctor was unsure, but she eventually relented and the patient agreed with a gargled groan.
They took the patient back to their base, transporting him in a metal bath tub in the ambulance to contain the water. In the base, Nelson lay on a table in the shower room, where the water could run into the drains. It wasn’t the most ideal place for a medical examination, but it was practical and – like every inch of the base – it was clean. However, as Jean turned to prepare her equipment, he slowly slid down the table and landed on the floor with a thud.
Jean span around with a start. She offered to help Nelson up onto the table, but he insisted on doing it himself. He wearily dragged himself up and climbed on to the table as Jean continued to gather her equipment. Before he could settle on the table, Nelson once again slid down the table and returned to the floor.
‘Yeah, I might need some help actually,’ he admitted.
After a few attempts, Jean eventually had to clip his hair to the end of the bed to keep him on the table. Nelson didn’t say much about it, as his mouth too was flooding and he was already in pain. When Jean started her tests, he said even less, because he was sedated.
After hours of test and experiments, Jean explained the situation to the captain and then woke Nelson up to explain it to him.
‘Okay, so based on the test results, it seems that some unknown chemicals have gotten into your blood stream and diluted your blood to pure water. Luckily, because your system is so messed up, your heart thinks this is normal and it’s managing to pump the water around your body as if it were blood and it’s performing all the same functions. As for secreting water, because there is no blood flow to your arms, you’re getting transient paraesthesia – also known as pins and needles – but your body is getting confused and sending a signal to your brain that the body is overheating. The brain is then telling the body to sweat. However, your body can only produce water and since it cannot produce enough water on its own, it’s reacting with the elements in the air and you’re somehow able to produce extremely high volumes of water.’
‘Right, I didn’t understand any of that,’ admitted Nelson. ‘But just tell me one thing… can you help me?’
‘I think so, yes. I’ve also been drafting some plans and I may be able to build a device that can counteract the signal to the brain and stop you sweating water. In fact, we may even be able to control it to produce water at will.’
‘Why would I want to do that?’
‘Well, that’s what we wanted to talk to you about,’ said the captain as he pulled up a wet chair and sat down beside the table with a squelch. ‘From what Jean has told me, this cannot be fixed, but it can be controlled. If it is, you may be able to use it to your advantage.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well Nelson… we’d like you to join our squad.’
‘What, are you guys like a pop group or something?’
‘No, we fight sanitation themed crime and ensure the city is safe and clean. There is evil out there, Nelson. Criminals and psychopaths who want to bring down this city, creating chemical weapons and spreading viruses to wreak havoc.’
‘Wait, what? How come none of this is in the news?’
‘We try to keep a low profile.’
‘Ha!’ came a laugh from the other side of the room. It was laughed by Mary, who was currently typing up the seventh invoice that month for repairs to broken windows caused by the team.
‘But we could really use someone like you on the team. Sure, we’ve got technology and enthusiasm, but you’ve got actual powers. HyJean reckons she can create something that will enable you to fire the water like a jet. This doesn’t have to be a burden, you could do some real good.’
‘Wait, so what you’re saying is, you want me to become a superhero?’
‘Well… yes. But it’s your decision and I want you to think about it, as there’s a lot of danger and responsibility involved in –’
‘Hell yeah!’ Nelson cheered. ‘Of course I’ll do it.’
‘Really?’ asked a surprised HyJean.
‘Lady, you had me at transient paraesthesia.’
* * *
Meanwhile, underneath the streets of Savon City, Flush and Sergeant Suds were making their way along the dark, dank sewers. Their boots sloshed and squelched as they waded through the dirty water, rats scuttling by to check out the trespassers, eyeing them up for any valuables. It was difficult to see much down there, but luckily Suds had brought a flashlight. He aimed it straight ahead and the light bounced off the curved walls and glistened on the dirty green water, picking out each bit of litter and debris that floated by.
‘Jeez, it smells like my Nan’s armpits down here,’ said Flush.
‘Did you smell her armpits often?’ asked Suds.
‘Well, she used to get us in headlocks all the time. She was a tough old bird. Y’know she could open a beer bottle with her teeth?’
‘Yeah. She’d take her teeth out and whack the bottle with them.’
As they made their way around the bend, they suddenly saw something that shocked them. A man dressed in a white lab coat lay slumped against the wall, battered and bruised, showing no signs of life.
‘That’s an odd place to take a nap,’ said Flush.
‘I don’t think he’s sleeping,’ said Suds. ‘I think he’s dead.’
‘Oh. Let me check his pulse.’
Flush knelt down and felt the man’s wrist.
‘Nothing,’ he said.
‘Are you sure,’ asked Suds.
‘Hang on, you hold this and I’ll try the other arm,’ he said, handing Suds the detached arm he’d just been feeling.
‘We’ve got a pulse!’ cried Flush as he felt the man’s other arm. ‘He’s still alive!’
‘Quick, try and wake him up.’
‘Hello! Mister, can you hear me?’ asked Flush, tapping his cheek and shaking him gently.
The man still lay motionless.
‘Wait a minute, he’s a science guy,’ said Flush, before shouting, ‘The theory of evolution has just been proven wrong!’
The man suddenly shot up. He looked up at the two heroes that stood before him. He muttered something in a panicked mumble.
‘Calm down sir, we’re here to help,’ said Suds.
The man continued to mumble and stutter, scuttling about where he lay.
‘Jeez, for a scientist he’s not very literate is he,’ said Flush.
The man suddenly started cowering as a shadow cast over them. He pointed up toward them.
‘Alright,’ said Flush, ‘I know Suds here is ugly but he’s not that bad.’
‘N… n… no!’ he stuttered and gestured to behind where they were standing. ‘It’s him!’
Flush and Suds turned around and to their surprise, they saw a giant creature – definitely humanoid in shape, but at least 8ft and skinnier than any fashion model. His bare, grey skin was rough and had little patches of green and white in places. His face was grotesquely disformed, with a grin that made his face look like he was melting.
In a state of panic, Sgt Suds held up the man’s detached arm, mistaking it for his gun.
‘Don’t move,’ he shouted, ‘I’m armed!’
The creature lifted one of his own skinny arms, with long bony fingers that looked more like talons, and in one foul swoop, he sent the two heroes flying across the sewer, bouncing off the wall and down into the grime-laden waters. They lay motionless, just as the lab coated man had mere minutes ago.
* * *
As HyJean took samples of Nelson’s ‘blood’ and analysed it on the computer, she smiled to herself. It wasn’t often she had an but handsome naked man lying on a table for her. Although she was married, she still couldn’t help but engage in a bit of fun flirting with her unconscious patient.
‘Well Mr Gush, there’s nothing wrong with your abs I see,’ she giggled.
‘Really?’ smiled Nelson without opening his eyes.
HyJean jumped and let out a little scream. She stumbled back away from the table and ran out of the room. Nelson chuckled to himself.
* * *
‘Morning sunshine,’ smiled Flush, who’d clearly been awake for a while.
‘Where are we?’ asked Suds, looking around.
They were in a different part of the sewer now, tied to a pipe. It was better lit, there were computers dotted around with people in white lab coats operating them. The people didn’t look like they were there willingly. In the middle of the room was a giant square machine, with a few more people gathered around working on it.
‘Stretch Armstrong over there captured us and tied us up,’ Flush explained. ‘He’s not very good at tying knots though. I wriggled free of mine a few minutes ago, but I didn’t want to leave you.’
‘Thanks,’ Suds said as he shuffled his hands and wriggled free of his own rope.
‘Right, shall we run?’ asked Flush.
‘No, wait. Let’s see if we can get him talking first, find out what he’s up to.
‘Good idea, leave this to me. As a marketing manager I’ve got a way with people.’
‘He doesn’t look like people,’ Suds said wearily.
Flush turned his attention to the creature who was the other side of the room fiddling with some technology.
‘Excuse me mat!’ Flush called, attracting the creature’s attention. ‘Alright son, how you doing? Looking very smart today, you’re putting me to shame.’
The creature turned his head to them. He looked confused and angry at being interrupted.
‘Cut the flannel,’ whispered Suds.
‘Right,’ said Flush. ‘So, my friend Suds and I – this is Suds here, say hi Suds.’
‘Hello,’ said Suds with a little wave, before suddenly realising he’d shown untied hand and quickly whipping it behind his back in the hopes that the creature hadn’t noticed. Luckily he hadn’t, because he wasn’t that bright.
‘Ahem, so uh… my friend and I were wondering – we’ve got a little bet on whether you’re human. I think you are, but he reckons you’re an alien. You’re not alien are you?’
The creature slowly walked over to them, with long, heavy steps.
‘I was once human,’ he said. ‘They experimented on me in the lab and made me into this. But I will have my revenge.’
‘Right, I see, interesting,’ said Flush. ‘And how exactly will you get your revenge, if you don’t mind me asking?’
The creature looked Flush straight in the eyes and its face contorted in an attempt to portray a sinister grin.
‘They threw me down here when their experiment failed. But I have been gathering scientists to construct this machine,’ he said, pointing to the large machine in the middle of the room.
‘Oh yes, that’s a lovely bit of kit,’ said Flush.
‘Very nice,’ added Suds. ‘But what does it do?’
‘It will reverse the polarity of the city’s disposal system, sucking up the water and waste from the sewers and flooding the city.’
‘Oh,’ said Flush.
‘Oh dear,’ said Suds.
The creature gave a little sinister cackle and returned to its work.
Flush turned to Suds, ‘Is that even possible?’
‘I don’t know. I was in the army, not NASA.’
‘Well maybe if you’d have paid a little more attention in science class.’
‘Oh really, well what about you?’
‘Hey, my science teacher was a hot young blonde, I never stood a chance.’
‘Whatever, let’s just get out of here.’
* * *
Back in the base, Flush and Suds were greeted like the heroes they were – with a casual wave and quick hello. That’s the thing about being a grime fighting hero, whatever you do is relatively unexciting to your fellow grime fighters.
‘What happened to you guys?’ asked Cap.
‘We got captured by the creature,’ said Suds.
‘Really? What did he look like?’ asked HyJean
‘Like… a giant stick insect that had mated with a Twiglet,’ said Suds.
‘Oh lovely,’ said HyJean.
‘Yeah, and he revealed his whole plan to us,’ added Flush.
‘Great! I love it when they do that,’ Cap cheered. ‘Makes our job so much easier.’
‘I even got a photo of him on the way out for Instagram,’ said Flush.
‘You put a photo of the creature on your Instagram?!’ asked Cap.
‘Of course not,’ said Flush. ‘I put it on the squad’s Instagram.’
‘We have an Instagram account?’ Cap asked Jean.
‘Apparently,’ she shrugged.
‘Anyway,’ continued Flush, ‘our followers chose the name Limescale as their favourite, so I think we should start calling him that.’
‘What do you mean, chose?’ asked Jean.
‘Well I put a few suggestions on there. Limescale, Sewer-thing, Pipeface and The Abominable Twig.’
‘That was my one,’ said Suds proudly.
‘Right, so this… Limescale,’ Cap said, making sure to do air quotes when he said the name to show he thought it was a silly idea to name their villain, ‘what’s he planning?’
‘He said he wants to flood the city with sewer water by sucking it up through the pipes. He’s holding a bunch of scientists hostage to build a machine that can do it.’
‘How do you know they’re scientists?’
‘They were wearing white lab coats.’
While Suds had been explaining, Flush had wandered over to the shower room after noticing some water trickling out from under the door. He inched the door open and peered inside.
‘Uh guys, there’s a man in here and I think he’s really upset about something.’
‘Oh, no, that’s Nelson,’ said HyJean. ‘Don’t go in there, he’s asleep.’
‘Well, it looks like he’s having a wet dream,’ said Flush.
The team gathered around the central table and Cap explained about their trip to the hospital and Nelson joining the team.
‘Well, at least now Suds won’t be the biggest drip on the team,’ joked Flush.
‘But who is he?’ asked Suds.
‘He’s uh…’ started Cap, suddenly realising that they knew very little about the American that was currently lying in their shower room.
‘We don’t know,’ finished HyJean. ‘But he seems like a nice guy.’
‘Right, so what are we going to do about Limescale?’ asked Flush.
‘We’ll go down into the sewers and confront him. You two went down at the end of Snicket Street and turned around a bend, that would’ve taken you underneath the NowTech building, which makes sense because that’s where the most people have been going missing. So, Suds and I will approach from Snicket Street, and we’ll have a little chat with Limescale to distract him. Meanwhile, Flush and HyJean, you will go down the other side from Adams Street and focus on getting the scientists out.’
‘What about the drip?’ Flush said, pointing to the shower room.
‘He’ll be okay for a few hours,’ said HyJean.
* * *
‘Alright, I think it’s just round this bend,’ said Suds as he waded through the familiar dirty waters of the Savon City sewer sytem.
‘Are you sure?’ asked Cap. ‘We need the element of surprise.’
‘Well, it’s hard to tell really,’ admitted Suds, ‘Because we were, you know, unconscious at the time.’
‘Okay, sorry. Right, well you go first and get his attention.’
‘You’ve already met him, he knows you.’
‘What do you think Flush and I were doing down here, having a tea party?’
‘No. Look, if I go in there first, I’ll just be some stranger, he’ll probably just eat me.’
‘I know what it is,’ said Suds with a little smirk. ‘You’re scared.’
‘I’m not scared!’
‘Yes you are, that’s why you want me to go in first.’
‘No it’s not! I’m not scared, honestly.’
‘Well then you can go in first.’
‘Fine, I will!’
The two heroes positioned themselves ready and prepared themselves mentally. Suds thought of Marigold, and how he was doing this to protect her – risking his life in the sewers just to make the city a cleaner place. Cap, meanwhile, thought of how warm and moist his underpants suddenly felt. Suds poked Cap and he nodded, then strode confidently round the bend and announced himself.
‘Limescale, I’ve come to speak with you!’ he said loudly and confidently.
A rat that had been nibbling at a discarded chicken bone looked up from his feast, a little startled at the interruption. Other than that, not much happened, as Limescale and his lair was 30 yards further down the sewer, just after the next bend.
‘What’s happening?’ asked Suds from around the corner, worried by the lack of noise.
‘I think you were exaggerating a little on the size of this creature,’ replied Cap.
Suds came around and joined his colleague.
‘To be honest,’ continued Cap, ‘I don’t even think he’s that scary.’
‘That’s not him you idiot, that’s a rat!’
‘Are you sure you actually saw this Limescale guy down here?’
‘Yes, I’m telling you. He was tall and grey and… actually he looked a lot like that.’
Suds pointed behind Cap at a long shadow creeping up the wall. It was unmistakably Limescale. They heard noises of people tapping away at keyboards and working machinery. Lights from the screens reflected against the walls and illuminated the dirty water beneath their feet. Then came the crackling, slithery voice of Limescale yelling at his hostages to work faster and drink less coffee.
‘Right, this is definitely them,’ said Suds.
‘Either that or the rats have evolved,’ added Cap.
Once again, they took a deep breath and prepared themselves. Although they may look cool and collected, even heroes get nervous, especially before taking on an 8ft man-creature that has kidnapped dozens of people and is planning to flood the city. Which is probably why, at the last second, Cap stepped out of the way and pushed Suds round the bend with a quick ‘good luck!’
‘What the… Uh… ahem… Limescale, I’m Sergeant Suds and I’ve come to you… to speak to you!’ he shouted.
Limescale turned and looked at Suds.
‘You,’ he said as he strode towards Suds. ‘You were tied up over there?’
‘Actually, I escaped about 2 hours ago. Did you not notice?’
‘I’ve been busy.’
Limescale stopped and sniffed the air. He gave Suds a menacing look.
‘You are not alone,’ he concluded.
‘No… Well, yes… but,’ said Suds, trying desperately to keep his colleague’s presence hidden. ‘Are any of us really alone? With the good Lord watching over us…’
Before he could finish, Limescale had reached around the corner and dragged out Captain Clean. He threw the captain down with a splash in front of Suds.
‘Wow, the lord does come in many guises,’ tried Suds.
‘Who are you?’ asked Limescale.
‘I’m Sergeant Suds.’
‘Not you, the toilet roll man!’
Captain Clean stood up, wiped himself down and stepped forward to address the giant that stood before him.
‘I am Captain Clean,’ he said. ‘We are the Sanitary Squad and we’re here to put a stop to your plans.’
Limescale chuckled a chuckle that sounded like he was gargling a bag of gravel. Then he raised his hand and swooped down for the two men. Luckily, Suds had learnt from his previous encounter and ducked, avoiding the giant hand. Cap, however, had not had a previous encounter and so he did not duck and was sent crashing once more down into the slimy floor of the sewer.
‘Hey, watch it,’ warned Suds.
Limescale swung again, but Suds jumped out of the way and fired his soap gun. Limescale dodged it and the two went back and forth with the arm swinging and gun firing a few more times.
While all this was going on, HyJean had appeared from the opposite side of the sewer chamber and was quickly gathering the scientists, showing them the way out to safety. As Cap lay recovering on the floor, he spotted her and wondered where Flush was. He caught her attention and mouthed, ‘Where’s Flush?’ doing a little mime of flushing a toilet to emphasise the name.
‘Work thing,’ HyJean mouthed back.
Cap rolled his eyes. It always seemed when there was something important going on, something would crop up at Flush’s other job and he’d let the squad down. Still, HyJean was doing a fine job and had gotten most of the scientists out, but Suds’ attempts to keep Limescale distracted were starting to fail.
‘You’ll never win Limescale,’ he said a little too over-confidently. ‘There’s two of us and only one of you.’
‘Ha! I have an army of scientists,’ he roared and turned around gesturing to where his hostages had been. His face turned to confusion as he noticed that his small army had been replaced by a woman posing awkwardly mid-escape.
‘Hi,’ Hyjean smiled nervously, ‘I’m from the sewer inspection team, just checking everything’s okay down here. Yep, everything seems fine. I’ll leave you to it.’
She turned to leave, but Limescale lunged forward and grabbed her in his giant, bony fingers.
‘Where are my people?’ he asked, spitting his words out in a seething rage.
‘I think…’ HyJean said, ‘I think they just popped to the loo, they should be back any minute.’
‘Do not lie!’ roared Limescale. ‘I must complete my work!’
He threw her down and raised his hand once again to slash down on her, but Cap, who had by this point recovered, lunged forward and grabbed the bony arm. Limescale span around and Suds shot him in the face with his soap gun. The bubbling, sticky goo sizzled on his face and he cried out in frustration.
As the two men threw themselves onto Limescale and wrestled him to the ground, HyJean grabbed a bunch of chains that were conveniently hanging on the wall of the sewer. Between the three of them, they managed to tie Limescale up. They stood proudly over him as he wriggled and writhed, splashing about in the dirty water like a fish at a rave.
‘Job done,’ said Suds.
‘Let’s sedate him and get him to the authorities,’ said Cap.
Suds injected Limescale with a sedative and he slowly relaxed until he gave up and went to sleep.
‘That wasn’t actually too difficult,’ said HyJean.
‘I know,’ agreed Cap. ‘We must be getting better.’
As if on cue, there came a contradictory hiss behind them. The three heroes span around and saw that the big machine in the middle of the room had suddenly burst into life, with lights flashing and gears grinding. The computer monitors were also in a frenzy, with green lights and ‘complete’ notices indicating that the machine was now fully functioning.
‘Oh crap,’ said Cap. ‘What’s it doing?’
‘I’ve got no idea, I’ve never seen anything like this before,’ said HyJean. ‘But I’m guessing it’s not good.’
‘He said it was going to flood the city with the sewer water somehow,’ said Suds.
‘Yeah, that’s definitely in the not good category,’ said HyJean.
‘Right, let’s figure this out,’ said Cap. ‘Jean, you take a look at the computers, see if you can shut it down. Mick, you try and wake Limescale, see if we can get some answers out of him. I’ll see if I can turn this thing off.’
HyJean rushed over to the row of computers, tapping at the keys, but after being abandoned for a while, the computers had gone into standby mode and required a password to get back in. HyJean frantically typed PASSWORD1 and hit enter. Nothing. PASSWORD2. Nothing. After a few more attempts at increasing numbered intervals, she suddenly had an idea. P@SSWORD. It worked! She was in.
‘When will they learn?’ she muttered.
She skimmed through everything on the screens and frantically began tapping and clicking to try and stop the process.
Meanwhile, Suds was busy slapping Limescale on the cheek. ‘Come on you stupid twig, wake up!’
He leaned down and shouted into his ear, ‘WAKE UP! WE NEED YOUR HELP! WAKE UP DAMN YOU!’
Unfortunately, due to his size and abilities, Suds had brought HyJean’s extra strong tranquiliser, which was proving very effective, as Limescale lay perfectly still, not even flinching.
While his colleagues were trying their best to find answers, Cap was pacing around next to the machine. Back and forth, muttering to himself.
‘What do I do? What do I do?’ he asked himself repeatedly.
Eventually a thought occurred to him. He looked down at the water beneath him. Then looked at a control panel on the big machine. He bent down and took his boot off. He scooped up some sewer water in it and poured it onto the control panel. It fizzed and smoked, sparks flying everywhere.
And then it stopped.
The gears stopped grinding. The lights stopped flickering. Everything just stopped.
The computers now stated that it was inactive, and all the numbers and dials calmed down to nothing.
‘It’s stopped, but how?’ asked Hyjean.
‘I just chucked some water on it,’ explained Cap. ‘I mean who puts loads of electrical equipment in the middle of a stream of water, seriously?’
They had done it. They had once again saved the city from disaster.
* * *
A couple of days later, the male members of the squad were gathered in the base discussing their new recruit.
‘Have you found out what happened to him?’ asked Suds.
‘He said he was a volunteer test subject at some lab, but he can’t remember much,’ said Cap.
‘Wait, Limescale said some guys in a lab made him all crazy looking,’ said Flush. ‘Maybe it’s the same lab?’
‘Maybe, I’ll look into it,’ said Cap
Before they could discuss it further, HyJean entered and gestured for them to be quiet.
‘He’s ready,’ she said.
The squad all turned their attention to her direction and she gestured for Nelson to come into the room. As he entered, the squad were surprised to see that he was no longer leaking. Dressed in just a pair of trunks with a pair of metal gauntlets on his wrist and a nervous smile on his face. The rest of the squad cheered.
Cap stood up and shook Nelson’s hand, ‘Good to see you so dry.’
‘Yo Nelson, you look bostin mate,’ said Flush.
‘How do you feel?’ asked Suds.
‘Much better,’ Nelson smiled.
‘Now all he needs is an alias,’ said Cap.
‘Why does he need a map?’ asked Flush.
‘No, an alias,’ said Cap. ‘A name. A hero name.’
‘He’s got a name, he’s The Drip,’ said Flush.
‘We’re not calling him The Drip!’ said Cap.
‘What about when you were in the lab, did you have a codename or anything?’ asked HyJean.
‘Yes, the project was called Project Tap,’ said Nelson. ‘The idea was that I could turn it on and off at whim, but they never figured out how to turn it off.’
‘Hm, The Tap doesn’t sound very authoritative,’ said Cap.
‘Well in America, we don’t call them taps, we call them faucets,’ said Nelson.
‘Faucet huh?’ said Flush.
The squad all looked at each other and smiled.
‘What, is that a rude word over here?’ asked Nelson, confused by their reaction to the name.
‘No, it’s not’ said HyJean.
‘But it sounds like a perfect name for a superhero,’ said Cap.
‘Really? You like it?’ asked Nelson.
They all nodded.
‘Awesome,’ he smiled. ‘In that case… hi, I’m Faucet!’