by Dan Swanson
Biff Redondo hurried after Dr. Andreas Daytona. A few seconds later there came a muffled whoomph of an explosion from where the supposedly harmless box had been kicked to the curb, and a noxious vapor started spewing from it. Daytona muttered to himself inaudibly, and Biff just barely caught the words, “…must have pulled that one from wrong bin…”
Then Daytona broke out laughing. He laughed so hard he had to hold his stomach. He laughed so hard, Biff started laughing, too. Wait, what was he laughing at? Nothing that had happened to him tonight was the least bit funny. He must be a madman.
No, he amended his thought. Daytona is the madman, not me! I’ve got to get away from him somehow! “Doc, It’s getting late, and if I don’t head back soon, I’ll end up AWOL.” And he started edging away. Daytona was suddenly rational again.
“Here you are, my boy! Good luck! Please look me up as soon as you get out!” Biff took the ink bottle, crossed his fingers, and promised to be back at the same bar at same time, exactly eight weeks hence. And then he fled.
Dr. Daytona watched him run away, shook his head, and then commented sadly to himself, “Young people shouldn’t be in such a hurry these days!” He turned and headed home.
The next day, Biff had trouble believing his memories of the night before. He would have suspected somebody had slipped him reefer, until he saw the ink bottle tucked away in the corner of this trunk. Suddenly, a surge of adrenaline cut through his hangover. Would this stuff actually work? Would he actually have the guts to use it? He had to make up his mind pretty soon, as his unit was going to be shipped overseas in only two weeks.
Skipping lunch that day, Biff headed for the barracks, claiming he needed sleep more than food. A new group of recruits had been delivered to the camp yesterday, and the training cadre was mostly occupied with the new recruits. The few remaining instructors for Biff’s group had let discipline relax a little; after all, these guys were now almost fully trained — they were shipping out in three or four days — and it was certain that they would be in combat in a little under a month. So his C.O. let him go. Biff quickly pulled the bottle out of his trunk. He had thought of nothing other than this bottle all day. He needed to test the Onpa to see if it worked, but there really wasn’t any way to test it except on himself.
Biff pulled a hair from his head and dipped it into the bottle, then touched it to his tongue. It tingled for a few seconds and then stopped. He waited a few minutes and didn’t notice any effects. OK, he thought, time to take a chance! You can’t win if you don’t play! He was shaking so hard, he had to put the bottle down. Finally he got his hand under control, and once again he dipped the hair into the bottle, and this time touched it to his eye. His vision was instantly affected, although the spot that was affected was so small it was hard for him to actually figure out what he was noticing. Finally, he tried staring at a white paper, and he could see a very small black dot. It looked like the potion worked. It didn’t hurt, and it had worn off by the time his mates returned from lunch. Well, he was going to have to take a risk sooner or later, or end up getting shot at, and this seemed like his best option. He immediately decided that he would have his accident as soon as possible. He was walking sentry duty tonight. Normally he thought of this as one of the dumbest duties the army handed out. Who was going to attack an army training base in the middle of Ohio? But tonight it would work out perfectly.
After dinner, the soldiers had some free time, and tonight, Biff put his to good use. He picked up some bait from the trash behind the mess tent and set up a raccoon trap not far from the electrical power station. The raccoon wasn’t essential, but he thought it would add a nice touch of believability to his plan. And then he hit the sack. For once in his short life in the army, he was looking forward to his duties.
Biff’s duty began at midnight. He took a set of heavy work gloves with him, as well as a glass eyedropper and his potion bottle. After things had been quiet for an hour, Biff headed for his ‘coon trap. He was gratified to find a raccoon trapped the box he had set up, and when he actually reached under the box to grab the frightened animal, he was very grateful that he had on the gloves. He walked into the transformer station and callously threw the poor animal against one of the transformers, and it was immediately electrocuted. Biff filled the eyedropper, set it down carefully, and quickly returned the gloves to one of the tool sheds, then hid the potion bottle under one of the barracks. He then headed back to the transformer station.
In his mind he carefully worked out his story. He heard something moving in the station, so he cautiously entered the station, alert for any intruder. But he was surprised when the raccoon leaped at him, and had stumbled backward. He had kicked the raccoon away from himself, and it had hit a transformer, frying it. Meanwhile, he had fallen backward, and his rifle went flying and struck another transformer. This produced an incredibly bright flash of light, and he had been fortunate enough to have his head turned partially away, so only his left eye was affected.
Once he had the story straight, he used the eyedropper to carefully dispense two drops into his left eye. He ripped the bulb from the eyedropper and threw it as far as he could, then dropped the eyedropper to the ground and crushed it with his boot, and then buried the glass powder in the gravel. His eye was starting to hurt, and his vision in that eye was fading. The pain was like someone was driving a railroad spike into his eye, and he fell to the ground, writhing in pain. He barely retained enough intelligence to throw his rifle at the transformer, and as he released it, he screamed at the top of his voice, “&*##@%$ you, Dayton!”
The rifle struck the transformer, and the barrel was instantly vaporized in a blinding electrical flash. Sparks like lightning flashed from the transformer, one of them struck Biff, and he passed mercifully into unconsciousness. An instant later, the ammunition in his rifle cooked off and exploded, and Biff’s unconscious body was showered with shrapnel from the body of the gun.
Biff was in the hospital for over a month. When he originally awoke, he was blind in both eyes from the flash, and his body was wrapped in bandages and salves to protect his burns. The sight in his right eye quickly returned, but the sight in his left eye did not. The accident had been so painful that the U.S. Army never even considered that it might have been faked, and Biff received a medical discharge. He actually attempted to contact Dr. Daytona on the agreed-upon date, but the bartender recognized him and warned him to beat it before something bad happened. Biff wanted to know more, but the only thing the bartender would tell him was that Daytona was dead, killed in an explosion three days after the night he had given Biff the potion. Biff was curious, so he got a hotel room for the night, and then next day went to the local library to find out more.
Very little had been known about Dr. Andreas Daytona until recently. He had apparently purchased a house in Hamlin about fifteen years ago, and had been independently wealthy. He hired a groundskeeper and housekeeper, and they did all the maintenance work around the place, and he had a cook who did all the shopping as well. Daytona was known to be a scientist of some sort, but over those fifteen years, he had interacted with virtually no one in Hamlin. The gardener cultivated high hedges around the property, and no one else ever went inside the hedges. A curious neighborhood kid had sneaked onto the grounds one night. He never told anyone what happened to him, but from the next day on, he wouldn’t go near the house, or even use the street Daytona’s house was on.
A couple of months ago, Daytona’s behavior had changed. He had started coming out of his house and interacting with the community. At first he seemed like a harmless, if eccentric old man, but as the days went by, his behavior became increasingly erratic. He started carrying around the boxes with red switches on them, and brandishing them whenever he was upset. Somebody finally demanded proof that the boxes were anything other than props, and Daytona pulled out a box, pressed the button, and tossed it onto a beat-up bridge. A few seconds later, there was an explosion, and the bridge was destroyed. The police attempted to arrest him, but he managed to avoid jail by paying for reconstruction of the bridge — in cash. It had been an old bridge that was scheduled to be demolished shortly, anyway, and in fact Daytona had somehow known that.
There were a couple of other incidents, in which one of the boxes was used to force a thug to dance the jig ceaselessly and extremely energetically until the police arrived. Another one caused all of the kids in town under thirteen years of age to head for the park in the center of town, ignoring or fighting anyone who tried to stop them; then, when they had gathered, all fell asleep and woke up with no memories of the event. These incidents had convinced the townsfolk to fear him and leave him alone.
But he had eventually gone too far. Three days after the day that Biff had met him, Dr. Daytona had climbed onto the roof of his house and begun shooting at people, seemingly at random. The police had quickly showed up and started shooting back. Somehow one or more of the police bullets had struck something flammable, and the old house started burning. Daytona stayed on the roof and kept shooting, and even shot at the firemen, so no one was able to stop the house from burning. Something in the house was highly explosive, because the house went up in a massive blast, wrecking many other houses in the neighborhood and hurting many police, firemen, and spectators. The bodies of Daytona, the groundskeeper, housekeeper, and cook were never found.
Biff Redondo returned home to Redcliff, Ohio. As his vision failed to improve over the next few weeks, which turned into months, Biff grew more and more depressed, and started drinking and begging for jobs. And then, one day, he woke up from a hangover and realized his patch was missing. He searched half the house before he realized he could see from his left eye. He was extremely ecstatic and almost made the mistake of running from the house and telling people. But he realized that if he did that, the U.S. Army would probably hear, and he would be drafted again, or worse.
While looking out the front window of his house, thrilled to be able to see again, Biff noticed when two cars moving down the street both went out of control as soon as he looked at them. They crashed on opposite sides of the street, one of them on Biff’s property. He quickly found his spare patch, put it on, and headed out to see what had happened. He found more than two wrecked cars — a couple of pedestrians were passed out on the sidewalk, and Biff’s two coon hounds were sleeping as well.
The accidents weren’t serious; the national speed limit was only thirty miles per hour, after all, and both cars had been moving at well below that on the poorly paved street. The police arrived and summoned ambulances. About an hour later, all four sleeping people awoke in perfect health. It was a mystery what had put them to sleep, a mystery that the public wouldn’t find out the solution to until much later, when Biff’s powers were revealed to the police. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Files: Lily DeLuna: Times Past, 1943: The Summer of ’43.]
At first Biff didn’t connect his returned sight to his newfound power, but he eventually worked it out. He did some discreet testing to determine the limits of his power, creating some more mysterious sleeping victims, and decided that this power could help him get rich. He formulated for himself the code he was to live by for the rest of his life: With great power comes great opportunity!
It didn’t take Biff Redondo too long to come up with the various ways that he could take advantage of his access to great opportunity. And he would do so not under his own name, but under the masked alias of the Oculist.