Snek is a Good Boy
Part Three: Food Run
Director Emily Piggot
Parahuman Response Teams
"When I looked around, I found out I was in Brockton Bay, so I decided to come here and let you guys know about the Nine." Mouse Protector, wearing what looked like a temporary cloth mask, perched on the edge of the conference room table, ignoring the chair that had been placed for her. "Oh, and about Snek."
"'Snek'." Emily got in just before Assault's disbelieving snort. "Is that what you called it?"
"Oh, no." The flamboyant hero waved her hand dismissively. "That's what he called himself. It fits, too. He's the snekkiest snek that ever snekked."
Armsmaster, who had been about to speak, acquired an expression of pain under the visor of his helmet. This gave Assault the chance to interject. "So you're saying that this giant danger noodle, that saved you from the Slaughterhouse Nine and can crawl between dimensions and eat people alive, calls itself Snek?"
"That's what I'm saying, Red." Mouse Protector rolled her eyes. "Though I wouldn't so much call him a danger noodle. More like a nope rope. A really big nope rope. I mean, most of him was about waist-high to me. Also, pretty sure that whoever he gave his loving cuddles to, if you know what I mean, wasn't alive by the time he started nomming them down."
Battery looked a little green at that, and Emily cleared her throat to bring the meeting back on track. "Does this look like the creature you encountered?" There was no force on Earth that would compel her to use the name 'Snek' in relation to it. Clicking a control, she brought up the imagery Armsmaster had salvaged from the ABB member's phone, on the screen that filled the far wall.
Mouse Protector spun in place and crossed her legs, ignoring the fact that her boots were now resting on the table. Emily gritted her teeth, choosing not to fight that battle right now. If the irritating woman figured out just how much this got under Emily's skin, she would do it twice as much.
"Oh, hey, yeah." Mouse Protector's face lit up as she watched the giant snake's head rearing over the crowd, then listened to it speaking. "That's my Snekky-poo, alright. Isn't he just too adorbs for words?"
"More like adorrifying," Assault corrected her. "It's eaten three extremely dangerous capes that we know of. And they're probably not its only victims."
"Both of whom were villains and murderers, one of which had a kill order, and the other one was a huge dick," Mouse Protector retorted. "Snekky just wants to help people. And he only ate Hatchet Face, not Jack Slash."
"I think Assault was referring to Bonesaw," Battery said. "And from what you say, Slash is dead anyway. You said you stuck your sword in his eye?"
"All the way through to the thinky-bits," Mouse Protector agreed happily. "Oh, and Snek didn't eat Bonesaw. He was just keeping her to give to someone he called Master." She tilted her head thoughtfully. "Unless the name really was Masster, with two s's. It's hard to tell with Snek. He hisses everything. But I love the big goof anyway."
"Wait, Master?" Emily felt a flare of worry. "This creature is controlled by a Master? That could be problematic. Very problematic. What did it say they were going to do with Bonesaw?"
Mouse Protector rolled her eyes. "I didn't exactly have a long conversation with him. We were too busy doing the five-minute tour of every alternate world I could think of. But I'm pretty sure he said Masster—" she drew the hissing sound out, "—could 'fix' her, whatever that meant. Sounds to me like he was acting of his own free will."
"Unless 'fix' was code for 'bring her under its Master's power'." Armsmaster's voice was hard and flat. "And if this Master could summon or create something so powerful as this creature—"
"Snek." Mouse Protector raised her eyebrows under her mask. "Wow, it's almost like you have trouble remembering his name."
"As I was saying," snapped Armsmaster harshly. "What could they do with Bonesaw under their power? What does it mean for Earth Bet?"
"Snek Two: Electric Snekaloo?" suggested Assault flippantly.
"Aww, man," complained Mouse Protector. "You beat me to it." She turned back to Emily. "Snek's just a big cuddle-bunny, really. Sure, he likes snacking—heh, snekking—down on supervillains, but that's a feature, not a bug. He was really nice to me. Saved me from the Nine, and helped me kill Jack Slash, so that's a huge point in his favour. Just saying."
Emily considered the type of person who would call a sixty-foot anaconda 'a big cuddle-bunny'. For her part, she would be calling in an airstrike on the location, but that was just her. "Be that as it may. If you have any further encounters with the creature while you're in Brockton Bay, I want a report about it on my desk as soon as possible."
"Sure, okay." Mouse Protector grinned. "If you want, I can bring him in to meet you. He's real friendly. I'm sure you two would get along like a house on fire."
"Screaming, mass panic, extensive property damage …" murmured Assault.
Emily ignored the interjection. "That … won't be necessary. But any indication of this thing's intentions and whether it's going to make a regular showing here would be … good to have." Especially if it never intends to come back ever again, she didn't say, but everyone seemed to understand anyway.
Mouse Protector rolled off the table and landed on her feet, then came to attention and ripped off a perfect—and entirely unneeded—salute. "You got it, ma'am!" she declared. "Mouse Protector is on the job!" Then she vanished.
Sighing, Emily massaged her forehead with thumb and forefinger. That's what I'm afraid of. "Everyone else," she said quietly, but the words alone were enough to get the attention of the rest of the room.
"Ma'am?" That was Armsmaster.
"If any of you encounter this … thing … while out and about in Brockton Bay, do not antagonise it. Call in backup, discreetly, but only engage it if innocents appear to be at risk. If it speaks with you, attempt to get the same information as I charged Mouse Protector to gather, and record the entire interaction."
"And if it has Bonesaw with it?" That was Assault, sounding somewhat more serious than usual.
That's the sixty-four million dollar question, isn't it. Emily absolutely hated having to make calls like this out of the blue. "If Bonesaw is with it, assume that innocents are in danger, and neutralise Bonesaw as precisely as possible. Only attack the creature directly if it defends Bonesaw or goes on the attack itself."
"That could go badly wrong, very quickly," Battery noted. "Especially if its 'Master' has actually 'fixed' Bonesaw, whatever that means. It's clearly quite effective. Antagonising an unknown player—the snake or its owner—without knowing their full capabilities or motives …" She shook her head. "It sounds risky to me."
Emily slapped her hand on the tabletop with a crack. "Of course it's risky! Waking up in the morning in this damn city is risky! If you can point out to me a risk free course of action, I'd love to hear it. Until then, that's the way we're playing it." She waited as the silence stretched out. When it reached twenty seconds by her count, she nodded. "That's what I thought."
"Would you like me to start researching counters for this thing and its Mover capabilities?" asked Armsmaster.
"Only when it doesn't interfere with your regular duties. Of course, if it reveals itself to be hostile, that research will become part of your regular duties." She stood up. "You have your orders. Good day to you."
Snek is a little bit bored, a little bit hungry. Snek is happy that there are many bad men in that world where Mouse lives. Bad man with axe not as spicy as shouty fire metal man, but still tasty. Mouse was nice. Snek happy that he saved her.
Snek knocks on Master's door with snoot. Three knocks, like Master taught him. Snek is proud that he remembers. Then he uses grasping-tongue to open door. Door opens and Snek wriggles in. It is more polite to use door than wriggle-hole, and Snek wants to be polite to Master. Master is good to Snek.
Master is speaking with little girl Snek brought to Master to fix. Before Master fix, little girl call herself Bonesaw. After Master fix, she call herself Riley. Snek likes sound of name. Riley does not have any hissy noises in it, so Snek can say properly.
"Hello, Snek," says Master. "Did you want something?"
"Ssnek wantss to know if Masster needss him for anything," Snek says. "Wass going to go play."
Master turns and looks at work room. Is big, with many strange things Snek does not understand. Sometimes Snek helps by getting things, or lifting Master to high spot. Snek likes helping Master do this. Master is good to Snek.
"I don't need your assistance right now, Snek, but I will later on," Master says. "So go and play, but be back in two hours."
"Excuse me," says Riley. She points at Snek. "Can I ask him something?"
"Certainly," says Master. "Don't say anything that might confuse him, though."
"I'll try not to." Riley turns to Snek. "Are you going back to Earth Bet?"
"Ssnek not know Earth Bet," Snek says. "Iss it world where Ssnek found Riley?"
Riley nods. "That's the one. Um, do you know what fast food is? I've got a craving for a burger and fries like you wouldn't believe."
Snek know what 'fast' means, and what 'food' is, but does not think Riley wants food that runs away. Snek very fast, but little girl legs not run fast enough to catch food.
"Ssnek not know. Masster help?"
Master makes sound like laugh, and says magic words under his breath. He waves toward Riley then toward Snek, and suddenly Snek knows what Riley means by 'fast food'.
Snek looks at Riley. "Riley wantss Ssnek to fetch fasst food for her?"
Riley shakes head. "I will never understand how that works," she says to Master, then turns to Snek. "If you could, please. I'd really appreciate it." Riley makes eyes big as she says this.
"Careful with those puppy-dog eyes," says Master with smile. "Snek considers dogs to be a delicacy, not something to be petted."
Snek thinks this is Master joke. Riley not look like dog. "Ssnek will fetch fasst food for Riley. What fasst food Riley want?"
"Well, I've heard of this place in the northeast," says Riley. "Uh, could I have something to make a list on? And what are we going to use for money?"
"I have a collection of currency from many worlds," says Master. He snaps his fingers and scroll appears in midair with magic quill. "Recite your list."
Riley begins to speak.
On the Boardwalk
Missy heard the sound of multiple horns being sounded from two blocks away. She looked around at Dennis, who was in the process of getting a selfie with with a tourist, making sure to get the Protectorate headquarters in the background. "You hear that?"
"Yup. Just … one … second … there!" The phone camera let out its electronic click, and Dennis handed the phone back to its owner. "There you go. A masterpiece, if I do say so myself."
"Wow, thanks. My friends back home are gonna be so jealous." The teen girl would have probably said more, but Missy cleared her throat meaningfully.
"Sorry, gotta go and do superhero stuff." Dennis came over to where Missy was standing. "So people are honking their horns. So what?"
"If I'm right, they're honking their horns right outside Fugly Bob's," Missy said. "This could mean many things. Most of them, not good."
"Okay, yeah, good point. We should totally check that out." Dennis activated his radio. "Clockblocker to console. We're on the Boardwalk. There's some kind of disturbance at Fugly's. Me and Vista are about to go check it out."
"Console copies." Kid Win sounded resigned. "If you get some, grab me some fries, will you?" He paused. "Whoa, hey, wait a minute."
"What?" asked Missy over her own radio. "What's going on?"
There was a pause. "Ahh … we just got a nine-one-one call that a giant snake is on site there. It's in the drive-through. Look, check it out, but stay clear and don't antagonise it. Clock, this is directly from the Director. Don't do anything that might even seem like an attack. Got it?"
Which meant 'no freezing it for the lulz'. Not that Dennis did that anymore, since spending about two months solid on console duty, but Triumph still held it over his head. Missy didn't think Dennis needed the warning, but it was probably better to be safe than sorry.
"Got it," Missy said crisply, echoed a moment later by Dennis. She turned off her microphone and took Dennis by the arm. "Let's go see what sort of giant snake causes this sort of ruckus."
There were people up and down the Boardwalk, but Missy had ways around that. She took a sightline on a nearby rooftop, then crunched space so that they could both step onto it with ease. Three steps later, they were overlooking Fugly Bob's.
"Um," said Dennis, his usual eloquence deserting him. "Okay, now that's definitely a snake."
"And it's definitely in the drive-through," agreed Missy, equally taken aback.
She'd been expecting a python of some sort; as far as she knew, those were the only type that grew to any significant size. Five or six yards would've counted as 'giant' for her. Ten yards would've been insane. This thing had to be …
"What would you say, seventy feet long?" Dennis' voice was a little strangled inside his helmet. "Four feet thick?"
Battling a sense of unreality, Missy shook her head. "Sixty, tops. Maybe three feet thick. It's … wow … actually going through the drive-through."
Sure enough, all the honking was from cars trying to gain access to the drive-through lane, which was taken up for a good four car-lengths behind it. Only in Brockton Bay, Missy decided, would idiots in cars try to dispute right of way with a reptile the length of a city bus.
In front of the tremendous reptile, it seemed that orders were being filled with somewhat more alacrity than normal. Nobody wanted to be responsible for upsetting the enormous scaly creature that was even now slithering up to the first window.
Beside Missy, Dennis tensed. When he spoke, his voice was devoid of his usual bantering humour. "If it tries to go in through the window, give me a spot to touch and I'll freeze it solid."
"Got it." Missy was fully aware that they'd been told not to antagonise it, but when escalation happened, they were in no way obliged to stand back and allow innocents to be slaughtered.
It reached the window and appeared to address the attendant within. Its mouth opened, and what looked like a tongue emerged, somehow holding something. It proffered this to the window.
"What is that?" murmured Missy.
"Damned if I know, but I just know they're gonna want pics," Dennis replied. He had his phone in his hand, and he was taking one photo after another.
Missy huffed, and held up her hands as if framing a movie shot. Within the rectangle, she squeezed space so that it suddenly seemed a lot closer to the drive-through window. She was just in time to see the attendant gingerly take what looked like a rolled-up scroll, then the giant snake's tongue pulled back into its mouth.
There was a pause, then the attendant said something; Missy couldn't hear exactly what it was, but she assumed it was a price, because this time the snake's tongue emerged holding what looked like money. She wasn't a herpetologist, and they hadn't done snakes in biology, but she was pretty sure their tongues didn't work that way. Only, this one's did. Also, it seemed to keep money in its mouth.
This is not a normal snake.
A moment later, the ridiculousness of the statement got back to her, and she face-palmed. What part of 'sixty-foot snake going through a fast food drive-through' was normal, after all?
"Okay," she said, dropping the space-crunch. "You good to get a bit closer?"
"Closer?" Dennis didn't sound overly enthusiastic at the prospect. "Why?"
"I want to talk to it."
Slowly, Dennis shook his head. "And why the hell not," he murmured. "Sure, let's do this thing. If I die horribly as snake chow, make sure to edit out the girly scream, okay?"
Missy snorted. "No promises."
Snek looks around. There is fence next to where Snek is, and two people on other side of fence. There is boy and girl. Boy is in white and girl is in green. Little girl in green is waving hand.
"Hello, green girl," says Snek. Vehicle in front moves forward. Snek wriggles forward too. Master has been definite about not wriggling over vehicles.
The boy and the girl walk forward until they are next to Snek again. "Hello," says girl. "What are you doing?"
"Ssnek iss fetching fasst food for Riley and Masster," says Snek proudly. "Masster gave Ssnek money. Ssnek iss buying thingss."
"Your name is Snek?" asks girl. Beside him, boy in white puts hand on blank place where face should be.
"Ssnek iss Ssnek," says Snek proudly. "Ssnek iss a good boy."
"I can see that," says girl. "I'm Vista, and this is … uh, Clock."
"Hello, Vissta," says Snek. "Hello, Clock." Snek is meeting many new friends. Snek likes this world.
Boy in white called Clock raises hand slightly. "Uh … who did you say you were buying the fast food for?"
"Ssnek is buying fasst food for Masster and Riley," Snek says. "Riley assk for burger and friess. Masster give Ssnek money to buy." He has never bought things with money before. This is fun!
"Who is your Master?" asks girl in green called Vista.
"Masster is Masster," Snek says. "Masster iss powerful wizard, livess in big casstle. Doess great magic. Ssnek helpss Masster."
"Of course he is," says boy in white called Clock, but does not say loudly. Snek is pleased that he understands.
Snek reaches window where food-smell comes out of. Friendly person there has paper bags for Snek. Snek unfolds tongue-graspers and takes bags, stores them in storage-place in throat. Riley has said there is something called 'Challenger' in there for Snek. "Thank you," Snek says. Snek likes to be polite.
Snek opens wriggle-hole to home then looks at new friends. "Goodbye, Vissta. Goodbye, Clock." Wriggles into wriggle-hole. Getting fast food is fun!
Missy stared as the giant snake just … vanished into a hole that had appeared in midair, its entire sixty-foot length whipping through in less than a second. And of course, the hole—which her power was going nuts over—closed again, afterward. She shared a glance with Dennis, wishing for once that she could see his expression. It had to be at least as gobsmacked as hers.
"Well, that happened," he said at last.
"That absolutely happened," she agreed. "What just happened, I'm not totally sure, but whatever it was, it surely happened."
He nodded at her sage wisdom. "So, get us through to Fugly's?"
"Why?" She tilted her head. "It didn't attack them. In fact, it even thanked them."
He held up a finger. "It had an order for them. Written down. I want to see that list."
Slowly, she nodded. For all his carefree demeanour, Dennis had a brain, and sometimes it showed. "Yeah. I want to see that, too."
As she prepared to get them over to the front entrance of Fugly's, Dennis snickered. "Man, is the Director gonna blow a gasket over this or what?"
"What about? The giant snake, or the fact that it was just getting drive-through?"
He snickered harder. "Yes."