Ant-Man & the Wasp 14
Music to Scream by
Liso Trago knew jazz. It didn't matter what anyone said, he knew in his heart he could play it. He bought a trumpet second hand and spent every waking moment playing. He took to sleeping in coffee shops, trying to impress the crowds and the beatniks. He tracked down every recording of Miles Davis he could find, talked to anyone who knew the man, and generally tried to live up to the standards of the Beat scene.
None of it mattered. No matter where he played, he was met with either total indifference or outright scorn. No matter how hard he played, he couldn't get enough money to afford a cup of coffee, much less rent.
Finally, he managed to beg from his last friend a chance to play on his stage as the closing act. As he waited backstage, he noticed something: an unattended cash box. Years of resentment came to a boiling point. Slipping away from the curtain, he slammed the small metal box shut and hurried away towards the stage door.
All in all, he might have slipped off into the night if the manager hadn't noticed him at the last minute and began to cry for the police. Even then, he might have gotten away, if not for a certain couple sitting near the stage.
Hank Pym, nervous as one could be, had finally worked up the nerve to ask Maria Troyvana out for a date. The jazz club wasn't his first choice, but he blanked on where to take her. For her part, she didn't seem to mind. They seemed to be hitting it off when the manager's cries silenced the room.
Seeing the fleeing Trago, Hank (for reasons he couldn't explain) leapt to his feet and grabbed the would-be thief in a tackle. Trago gave up without much a fight. He was silent through most of it, actually.
Later, the manager and Trago talked after the crowds went home. Due to their friendship, he wasn't going to press charges, but he made it clear Trago wasn't welcome in his club anymore. Driving him to the docks, he bid his former friend good luck as he rode off into the night. Looking back on the events that occurred afterward, the manager would come to regret his actions.
Trago, after that night, boarded the first ship that would take him, which is this case was a steamer ship to India. He drifted, mostly working odd jobs and the occasional theft, but he moved constantly. It was on the outskirts of New Delhi that he found what he was looking for, after a fashion.
"Water, please!" The aged man stared at the pitiful wreck of a man that lay across the road.
The man pulled a wineskin from his robes and gave it to the emaciated creature. When he had drunk his full, the old man took it without words and continued on his way. "Wait!"
Trago forced himself to his feet and stumbled after the man. The old man halted and turned. "Yes my son?"
"You saved my life, why?"
"You asked. Sometimes that is all that is required."
Trago fell to his knees. "Please, take me with you. I have nothing, but I am willing to work."
The old man studied him carefully. "You may call me Ghazandi. I am a mystic by trade. Are you a believer?"
"Yes!" Trago almost wept.
"I see that you are not, but you are sincere in your own way. Come, follow me and hopefully I will set you upon the proper path."
And so months passed; Trago was an eager student and Ghazandi was thankful for the company. Among the many tricks he taught, none were so practiced as the art of mesmerism. Trago approached it carefully, but listened intently to his master's words.
"The art of clouding men's minds is fairly easy. The trick is the medium you use, and take care to protect yourself."
"Could one use an instrument as the medium?"
"As in music? Why yes, musical instruments are among the most easy to use."
So Trago studied and perfected his craft. He always minded his master's words, and used not only protection, but with his trumpet he learned to play in such a fashion that he was unaffected. At length he decided to leave India and return to America.
He landed back in New York City, where he began to use his horn first to enthrall people then rob them. He started small, but soon had amassed enough wealth to move. "I've had it with the Big Apple. Too many heroes and snobs! I'll go someplace quiet, real off the beaten path like, and brother, am I going to clean up!"
~Several weeks later
Trago didn't have long to wait. Seeking out a band, he found a few musicians who didn't ask any questions about their leader's habits. "With my horn, I have these fools dancing to my tune with no sweat!"
Playing a certain melody before each show, he put the four musicians into an extremely susceptible state. On rhythm guitar he had Gerry Docile, a slick backed preppie from England. On drums there was the shaggy Kennedy Sun. Larry Legsturdy handled the other instruments, and a blond chick named Joan Marie gyrated enough to focus attention off of him.
"Cats and kittens, now begins our greatest undertaking!" Trago smiled widely as the band unloaded their gear in front of the small club. It was a few miles outside of Stamford, Connecticut. Off the beaten path and zero caped fellows about, Trago ushered them into the small club.
"Yeah man, but what about bread?" Gerry eyed the stage carefully.
"Trust me, we'll be having them eating out of the palm of our hands before too long!"
And thus it went. A few people trickled in at first, but they came back, with friends. Trago played his special songs, always lulling the crowds into his power. He never stole much from each patron, but with a packed house every night he was slowly racking in the dough.
"That's the ticket! Sit, wait, and let all that sweet green walk right into me! No way nobody's going to stop me this time!"
"Darling, this was a wonderful idea!" Maria leaned her head against her husband's shoulder.
Hank Pym breathed easy as he took in the sights around them. After arriving from their vacation in Greece, the Pyms decided to take a slower route coming back. "Maybe this time we can relax a little bit." Hank thought to himself as he turned the rental car off the main road.
Driving through the countryside, Hank slowly felt his muscles relax. "It is awfully nice to get away from giant robots and crazy gangsters every once and while."
"Oh look darling, a nightclub!" Maria pointed to a small neon sign. "Feel like taking in some local flavor?"
"I suppose so." Hank pulled into the parking lot. "Maybe they know of a hotel around here anyway."
They paid the cover charge and went inside. "Trago? What an odd name for a band." Maria read the marquee.
"Maybe he's like that Question Mark and the Mysterians?" Hank scanned the crowded floor for an empty table. Finding one near the back, they looked in vain for a waitress as the curtain parted.
Trago stepped onto out the stage. The crowd grew silent, as per his instructions. The rest of the band came on and began to play. "Evening folks, and what a fine pleasure to see all my regulars back again this fine evening."
Trago blew a few notes for a warm-up. A smidge of applause made him smile. "You're too kind, really. Ok boys, three, two, one!"
He belted out the right notes. At once the crowd grew silent and slack-eyed. The music stopped. "Ok boys, remember on what we agreed. Light bills but nothing they'd notice." Trago inwardly congratulated himself. Rather than stealing entire wallets or purses, he made it a point to only steal a few dollars from each customer. With over three hundred people packing the place every night, he was pulling down two grand easy every week. "Plus the cover charge they pay to come in, I can retire in a few months!"
That was when he noticed the couple sneaking out. "Get them!"
Hank and Maria covered their ears as Trago's shrilly played his trumpet. "He's awful!"
Maria agreed silently. Standing up, they moved towards the exit just as they noticed the crowd had grown silent. "Hank, I think something is wrong."
Trago shouted from the stage and en mass the crowd stood up and faced them. "Honey, I think you're right."
Rushing outside, they managed to get in their car seconds ahead of the mob. The rear window cracked as a large society matron smashed it with a rock. Gunning the engine, Hank floored the accelerator.
"What was going on back there?" Hank looked back in the rearview mirror. The crowd was following them on foot.
"I don't know!" Maria checked her ear. She removed a small receiver. "The radios we were wearing must have blocked the signal!" She quickly slipped hers back in. "What do we do now?"
"I'm not sure. It looked like half the town was in there. Would anyone believe us?"
"Look out!" Maria suddenly shouted as a group of deer darted out into the road and stood motionless before them.
Hank jerked the wheel, causing the car to swerve into the animals and crash. The car flipped over once and landed upside down in a ditch. Hank slowly opened his eyes. "Maria?"
She was hanging upside down. "Hank? What happened?"
He reached into his jacket and took out a small canister. "That madman at the club, maybe he can control animals as well." He popped the canister's top and sprayed Maria. She shrank down at once. He turned the spray on himself seconds later.
Easily falling to the roof and moving to Maria's side, who groggily looked around. "A new spray?"
"Yes, I thought it was easier than using a pill." He slipped the canister back into his coat. "Plus it would easier than shrinking out of our clothes every time."
Walking over to the rearview mirror, Hank popped the glass out of the frame and removed two helmets. He handed one to Maria. "Good thing I always carry spare equipment. How are you feeling?"
"Better," She slipped the helmet on, "but at this size we can't cover much ground."
"True, but hopefully we can slip by without being seen-Maria! Look out!" Hank pointed behind her.
A snake slithered inside the car. It was a simple garden snake, but at their size it was bigger than a city bus. Its tongue flicked menacingly as the green head moved side to side.
"Get back!" Hank stepped forward and tossed the canister. It cracked open inside the snake's mouth. The reptile began to choke as the chemicals took effect. Within second it shrank to mere millimeters.
"That was the last canister. We'll have to radio Janet if we ever want to be full size again." Hank grimly looked at the now tiny snake as it left the car.
"Wait, I have an idea!" Maria adjusted the controls on her helmet. A black swarm appeared over the windows. "Instant transportation!"
"Ants? Maria, that's brilliant!" Hank had to laugh. The ants crawled inside and surrounded them. Picking the nearest winged pair, they were carried off as the mob surrounded the car.
The mob, busy setting their car afire, failed to notice the two winged ants flying away. Once they had covered enough distance, Maria directed them to a nearby rooftop. "The chemicals were inside the car?"
Hank nodded. "Yes, along with our proper costumes. If we had access to a radio or phone we could call Janet!"
"True, but I'm not sure she could do much immediately. What we need to do is stop that mad musician."
"Well, we know where he is." Hank squinted. Trago was at the head of the mob, directing them into town. "He doesn't know who we are, or else he intends to burn the town down."
Trago was starting to lose his cool. "Man, where could those cats be? Their car is toast, but I didn't see anything. Even my snake is gone. Did they run? I have the whole town watching!" He started to calm down. "I got the whole town in my hands. I've given them orders to kill them on sight, and even if those squares did call for help, who'd believe them?" His spirits lightened. "Alright folks, show's over for tonight." He played his trumpet more as Hank and Maria ducked.
"Looks like he's calling them back." Maria eyed the door carefully.
"True, but we don't know that for sure." Hank slumped against the wall. "What we need to do is take him down, but how?"
"Our helmets seem to block his music, so as long as we wear them we should be able to get close enough."
Hank brightened at her words. "True, and his music can't control ants." He jumped to his feet. "Maria darling, that's it!"
"We follow him back to the club and disable his instruments?" Maria finished his sentence for him. Hank smiled.
Summoning another group of ants, Hank and Maria flew after Trago. Following him back to the club, they easily slipped inside thanks to an air vent. "Alright Hank, I'll check out his trumpet while you distract him."
Hank shook his head. "Being at the epicenter of that noise could cause hearing loss." Maria put her fingers to his lips.
"And being stuck at this height could cause worse problems."
Hank slipped through the grate. Fashioning a crude ladder from several discarded paper clips and loose threads he found outside, Hank lowered himself onto a jutting piece of brick sticking out of a decorative pillar. Adjusting his helmet, he balanced himself carefully as he eyed the stage.
Trago had set his trumpet beside him. He was busy counting his money as the band stood listlessly to the side. "Boys, not a bad night. I think we'll play here another week, then we move. Maybe someplace warmer?"
Hank sent out the signal. At once, a black horde filtered into the room via the vents and windows. Ants began to swarm around the band and Trago, biting and crawling. Unseen by the mad musician, Maria slipped inside the trumpet via the bell.
Climbing inside the instrument, she pushed herself up towards the bypass. Snagging the edge, she hauled herself up and braced herself against the value casings. Reaching into her blouse she pulled out a waddled bundle. "Like riding a bike." She briefly reflected on her childhood. "Papa, you never said I would be blowing things like this up!"
She mixed the common chemicals together and poured it over the bundle. Packing it tight against piston, she stuck a fuse in the mass and slipped down the bell. She lit the fuse as Trago picked the trumpet up.
The explosion was minor. Aside from a small puff of smoke, there was no outward damage, a sign Trago ignored with the flying ants. "Alright you bums, listen up!" He placed the trumpet to his lips. "When I play, I want you jokers to swat these flying freaks fast!"
He blew. He used the right amount of wind and pressed the pistons properly, but something was off. The trumpet sounded different. The words of his teacher came crashing back. "The instrument, it's different! I, I'm playing wrong!"
"I'm not immune anymore!" Trago's eyes crossed as the notes from the damaged trumpet began to affect him. The band stood still as their leader suddenly pitched forward and crashed into a table.
Hank and Maria called off the ants. Slipping away, they found a phone and managed to place a call to Janet. A few hours later, Janet Van Dyne and a small army of cops showed up at the club. While the police tended to a dazed Trago, Janet made sure to pocket the diminutive heroes.
Later, once explanations were made ("Oh, I had heard such wonderful things about this club from my friends you know, I just had to visit it!") Janet slipped away. Inside her hotel room, she mixed the proper formula in the bath.
"You're not a bad chemist Janet." Maria had to shout. Janet blushed slightly as she slipped outside.
"Thanks, but I had some good teachers." She closed the door to the bathroom as Hank and Maria jumped into the filled bath.
Moments later, a wet but normal sized couple exited the bathroom. "Thanks Janet" Hank toweled his hair dry. "You really helped us out back there."
"I agree." Maria placed her wet shoes by the heater. "You showed a lot of courage."
Janet blushed. "Aw!"
Changing the subject, Hank began to bottle the chemicals. "So, what are the police going to do about Trago?"
Janet shrugged her shoulders. "I'm not sure. I overheard the police talking when they led him away. It seems his mind is blank. He doesn't remember a thing. His band forgot him too."
"How awful!" Maria shook her head. "No memory at all?"
"The police are pretty sure, but they'll be transporting him to a institution down south. Everything he stole is being recovered though, so I guess things worked out?"
"I guess so." Hank finished putting the bottles aside. "But the important thing is we're here and we're safe." At the back of his mind, however, Hank had worries. "We're safe now, but what strange new menace could we face in the future?"
Mail to Astonish
Based on "Music to Scream By" which was first published in Tales to Astonish I#47 (September 1963) with credits to Stan Lee (script), Ernest Hart (story) and Don Heck (pencils)
Next time: Defy the Porcupine!
From They Call Me BruceNice work here guy
Great little adventure for such big heroes as they took on aliens from another world and barely survived just by luck on their own. Please do keep up the good work upon such a great series like this one.
And from Darci
This story was a lot of fun. Your Hank and Maria are a lot closer than Marvel's Dr. Pym and Janet. It's interesting to see how you reformulate the dynamic. Janet was not able to get this close to Dr. Pym until he changed into Yellowjacket many years later.
Yes, the overall goal of this series is to ask "What if Dr. Pym's life wasn't a total disaster?" Plus thanks to Darci for helping to edit this work.
Glad to see everyone reading, and I'll more stories real soon!
And keep your eyes out for the following:
Amazing Fantasy#7-Claws of the Cat
Journey into Mystery#17-Lady Thor meets Mr. Hyde!
The Avengers#3-VS the Space Phantom
Sensational Comics#16-Battle Royal!