Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ape-Man #4

The Ape-Man has always been smarter than his opponents before, but what happens when he faces a mad scientist who is his equal? Find out in —
“The Price of Defeat!”
by Scott Casper, thanks to Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby for Tales to Astonish #38
Face front, true believers! This tale is going to start right in the thick of it!
Teenagers scattered like alarmed pigeons as Ape-Man burst out of the planetarium. He leaned into his run, sometimes running on all fours as his long, loping arms swung in front of him. But where he was headed…he was not sure. Where?  Where could he be? Every clue he left has just been a red herring so far! Ape-Man inwardly fumed. While he fumed, he noticed that not everyone was running from him. He could not ask anyone why they were running, looking as ape-like as he did, but he could look around and try to trace back an origin point they were running from, and it seemed to be the nearest science lab building on the campus.
“Aha!” Ape-Man shouted and he sprinted for the front entrance to the science lab building. He went for the door handle and almost touched it — but drew his hand back when he glanced through the door’s glass panel and saw there was something affixed to the door handle on the inside. Getting a better look, he saw they were jumper cables, hooked to a car battery on the floor. Ignoring the handle, Ape-Man jumped up into the air and kicked the door hard with both feet — hard enough to break the door open. After ducking inside, he stopped and listened, only to hear men’s gruff voices coming from down a corridor, and the sound of an idling vehicle. There must have been a door open at the rear of the building, Ape-Man figured.
Ape-Man snuck down the corridor, ducking into a doorway in time before two big men emerged from the stairwell carrying something heavy between them. Glancing at their backs as they walked away from him, he saw they wore delivery uniforms.
“I hope there ain’t more of these…” one of them grumbled.
Ape-Man silently crept after them, eventually following them to a loading dock where two more men in delivery uniforms were coming from the back of an idling van. They held a big cardboard box open for the other two men to put what appeared to be a piece of computer equipment inside.
Someone in sneakers was coming up behind Ape-Man, too close for him to dodge out of sight again. Ape-Man glanced back and saw a man in a dark suit, wearing a hood over his face — and the man saw him right back. The hooded man reacted with surprise, but not too much alarm.
“It’s Ape-Man!” the hooded man shouted with a familiar voice. “Don’t just stand there! Get him!”
Ape-Man glanced back and saw that two of the movers had pistols in their hands now. He was exposed here in the corridor, but behind him was the doorway to what looked like a chemistry lab he could duck into for cover. Ape-man glanced back again at the hooded man, who had stepped away already to an elevator that was opening for him.  It only took a moment’s calculation for Ape-Man to figure that the men with guns posed the greater threat. Ape-Man reached into the room behind him, grabbed up a waste basket, and swung it over the head of the nearest goon. While the first goon struggled with aiming a gun while he could not see, Ape-Man picked him up and threw him into the goon right behind the first.
“I – do – not – like – guns!” Ape-Man roared, shaking his fists in the air. He hopped as he walked forward and that was because he was picking up a dropped gun with each foot, one at a time, and tossed them back behind him.
“It really talks!” one of the remaining men from the van said. He lost it and took off running for the exit at the back of the building. The remaining man on his feet picked up a crowbar and tried to swing it at Ape-Man, but Ape-Man grabbed it and held it fast, jumped up, kicked a goon in the face who was getting back up on his feet, and used his falling weight to jerk the crowbar out of the other man’s hands. The crowbar went flying, and hit the other goon in the face, who had also been about to get back up. The Ape-Man tumbled backwards when he hit the floor, rolled back up into a standing position, kicked the waste basket up into the air, caught it, and pitched it into the face of the only man still standing. Since this guy seemed particularly strong, Ape-Man gave him a quick jab to the solar plexus as well and watched the man fall to the floor, gasping for breath.
Ape-Man dashed over to where he had tossed the guns and emptied each of their bullets. He glanced over at the elevator and observed that it had gone up to the third floor, the top floor. The stairs were nearby, so Ape-Man bolted into the stairwell and bounded up the stairs.
On the third floor, Ape-Man emerged into a long hallway with open doors on both sides. A trail of crates, some of them quite large led from the elevator to one particular door. Ape-Man crept up to it and noticed a plaque by the door read “computer room”.  He looked inside and saw it had been cleaned out. There was an open window at the back of the room and it looked like someone had left a glove on the windowsill. Ape-Man, curious, moved closer for a look.
“I must admit I underestimated you, Ape-Man,” said that familiar voice again.
Ape-Man spun around and saw that the hooded man had been hiding behind the door and now swung it closed. He held a semi-automatic in his right hand, pointed at Ape-Man.
“I wanted you on campus, and so I left you an assortment of clues to follow, and traps at the location of each false clue to keep you busy, but only to serve as a diversion for my crime.”
“What crime?” Ape-Man said. “I thought you were up to something serious, like murdering a student or a professor — not stealing a computer, that was probably covered by insurance anyway.”
“Well — aren’t you a smart gorilla?” the hooded man shot back sarcastically. “This wasn’t just any computer, but an Atlas, on loan from England. It can operate at a speed of roughly a million instructions per second. With it, I will be able to calculate the perfect crimes, and start a crimewave of unrivaled brilliance. This is the price society will pay, and why I am called…the Price!”
“Price, like Vincent Price?  Is that why you’re trying to sound like him?”
“Sound like him? Sound like him?” the hooded man said testily. He tore off his hood with his left hand, revealing that he was actually the spitting image of Vincent Price.  “My name is Elijah Stasiuk, Dr. Elijah Stasiuk. I’m a brilliant scientist, but no one ever took me seriously because of the uncanny resemblance. They called me a mad scientist,” Dr. Stasiuk said, taking two steps forward. “Well, now I’m a seriously pissed scientist, and I’m going to take what I want from now on — starting with that headset you’re wearing. Does that only allow you to communicate with other apes, or does it control your ability to look like one too?”
“You’ve done your research,” Ape-Man said. He took off the headset slowly. “Here, why don’t you try it for yourself?” And he tossed it high into the air.
Dr. Stasiuk followed the headset with his eyes wide and knew he could not let it fall and get damaged. He reached out to grab it — only to feel his legs kicked out from underneath him as the Ape-Man dropped to the floor and sweep-kicked him.
Ape-Man was on him in a heartbeat, snatched away the gun, and tossed it out the window.
“No…I can’t have been beaten on my first outing…by an ape!” Dr. Stasiuk moaned.
The Price wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last. Be here next time for Ape-Man’s next exciting adventure!

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