Bruce was parked in his usual spot in the Handy Pavilion lot. He had a good position, not far from the main entrance. His life had become more sociable since he’d merged with the killer robot, but that was a mixed blessing. Carol still came around to visit, and try to get him to tell her something mystical. Zorbar was still scared of him, but he came with his fiancé anyway, grateful to Bruce for saving both of their lives. On nights of the full moon, Seamus the gnome came by. And most evenings Marlon would discuss the ongoing struggle against the DIY Barn.
And then there was Karl Wintergreen. Bruce wasn’t certain about Karl. He was the only one outside of the Handy Pavilion staff who knew about him. Bruce hadn’t told anyone yet about Karl. Maybe he should…
“As a ghost, you can walk around invisible and unseen, right?” Karl was saying. “You could go anywhere. You could walk into Cabinet meetings… Boardrooms of huge corporations… The Vigilancer’s Justi-Building… Anywhere!”
“Nah, nah, see…” Bruce began, but Karl Wintergreen was in no mood to be interrupted.
“And then you’d see everything!” he said. “The Masonic rituals, the alien conspiracies, UFOs, hymns to Yog-Sothoth…”
“Protocols of the Elders of Zion?” Bruce said, wishing that he could roll his eyes as he said it.
“Hey! No!” Karl said. “I’m not that sort of conspiracy nerd, alright?”
Bruce sighed, but relented. Karl adjusted his hat and stared at the parking lot ground, sulking.
“Some of my best friends…” he muttered.
“Bagels are delicious,” he added.
“Never cared for ’em meself,” Bruce said. “Too chewey. Look, Karl, I’m not trying to give you shit about the conspiracy thing. Truth is, I just can’t get very far. Never could, even when I was a straight-up ghost, yeah. There’s only so far away from me bones I can get. That hasn’t changed now that I’m possessing the body of a killer robot and making it transform into a concrete truck.”
Hm. That seemed a little odd, when he came to say it out loud. Never mind, he thought. Just roll with it.
“I can just about get as far as the DIY Barn,” he said. “Not that that does me much good. Security is good over there, and it’s just gotten better since the times we did get through. For me to infiltrate the Trilobite Committee, they’d have to meet here, mate.”
“It’s ‘Trilateral Commission,'” Karl muttered. “And I guess you’re right. No secret society would meet in the Super Centre.”
Bruce looked across the tarmac plain of the carpark to the Square and Compass Kebab shop. The curtains were drawn, and sinister chanting could be faintly heard on the breeze.
“Sure, whatever,” Bruce said, not wanting to encourage Karl. “Look, mate. You’ve got a giant transforming robot that owes you a favour. That’s pretty good on its own, isn’t it?”
Carl looked up to the half-moon above as it passed from behind a cloud. “It’s not enough. You can laugh if you like. Most people do. But… but the secrets. The secrets and lies! The world is made of truth, and all they ever let you see are the secrets and lies!”
Bruce’s gaze dropped to the ground. He wondered how his gaze could shift, since in his truck form he had no eyes. Again, just roll with it. There comes a point where a fellow’s existence is so absurd that there’s no point sweating the details.
“What about that…” Bruce struggled for a name. He sometimes listened to news radio when he was bored, but more often he’d tune his internal radio to a classic hits station. “That embassy guy with the internet shit. Justin… Bieber? No, that’s the kid that can’t sing. Uh…”
“Julian Assange?” Karl scoffed. “I read through all his document drops. It’s all just people being slightly dodgier and less competent behind closed doors than they try to seem in public. Nothing juicy. No reptilian conspiracies in the Pentagon or werewolf rituals at Buckingham Palace. Nothing real.”
Karl spat into the gutter. “If the secrets of the New World Order were known then the established order would collapse. Since it hasn’t collapsed, the secrets cannot have been revealed. Qued.”
“I think you say that ‘QED’,” Bruce said. In high school he’d been quite good at maths–though of course he’d always been careful never to let this be known to the other members of his Rugby team.
“I’m pretty sure Assange is an MK-ULTRA plant.”
“There’s plant people?” Bruce said, genuinely confused. “As well as lizard men?”
Karl said fell silent for a long time. When he spoke again, he said, “Ms Shan asked me to investigate the DIY Barn. I don’t know if I should. Mr Smith seems like he’s on the up and up, and yet you say those men in silver work for him…”
“Karl, they nearly killed me,” Bruce said.
“You know what I mean,” Bruce said. “That meteor with the demon in it? The one that hit the Pavilion the other day… Everyone thinks it was an attack on the Pavilion in general, yeah? Well it was aimed at me. My bones, buried in the concrete. It only just missed them. If they go, I go, and who’ll be guarding the Pavilion then?”
“They summoned a demonic meteor?” Karl said. “They must be in league with…”
“I don’t care, all right?” Bruce snapped. “I don’t care which evil organisation you think they work with. All right? I don’t care which pin they are on your crazy conspiracy corkboard. All I know is, they’re trying to kill me. And mate? I’ve already been murdered once, and I’m fucking over it.”
Karl stood back a step, looking hurt.
“You’re a selfish man, Karl Wintergreen.” Bruce said. “You talk about the truth setting everyone free. I think what you really want is to believe you know more than everyone else. Well you don’t. There’s plenty going on that you don’t know, and don’t even suspect because you’re too busy berating everyone to open their eyes.”
The look of hurt on Karl’s moonlit face deepened. Bruce felt awful but he kept going.
“You know what? Don’t worry. Don’t worry about how the Barn got its unfair proposal through the local council. What does the Hertling Council matter, compared to the UN? What does half the people here losing their jobs matter against the Lizard Masons or whatever the fuck? Forget the people you actually know, you have shadowy figures to chase.”
Karl stood there for a long time, staring at the tarmac, his face shaded by his white hat. After about five minutes, he reached into his pocket and took out a box, which he laid on Bruce’s hood.
“Forgot to tell you, I got you this,” he said. “You wire it to your horn. Plays the chorus of ‘Underneath the Radar’. Know you like that song.”
With that, Karl turned and walked away, a lonely white figure under the sodium lights of the carpark.