Sunday, 21 December 2014
Rumours had circulated about those choosing to break protocol, although nothing had been proven. Some claimed to have seen things, but they were soon silenced.
"You could make a living doing that kind of thing."
I suppose I could, but I had never thought about it, until then.
Nobody had attempted to set up a denial service before. A dedicated centre where you could break the law safely, as though in a confessional booth. The hair on my arms bristled as I walked to the specified meeting point, and I tried to slow my breathing. The scan would pick up any new thoughts. Sedition was only punishable when acted on. The mere thought wasn't enough to secure a conviction.
It was the thing she did to the brakes on the Honda that set it all off. The Director's motorbike. At night, she'd taken my tools, and kissed me and told me things were going to change. The following morning, she'd dumped the tools in the river and watched them flow out to the bay.
She told me all this at sunset, after we'd watched the Director crash into the city wall, and seen his jacket burn. By nightfall we were out of the city, and the laws didn't matter to us any more. They wouldn't miss us.
"Holy water? Are you mentally impaired? What the fuck is wrong with you? Stayed up all night watching Bram Stoker ripoffs? Fuck!"
Vampire hunters clearly not what I expected. I had anticipated someone older, not this twentysomething looking like he'd just flounced out of a photoshoot for a fashion magazine.
"Are you sure you're ready for this? I don't think you are. I mean, have you ever even sucked a cock before?"
"I... I'm not so sure about this..."
"Not mine, you fucking idiot... geez this is going to be difficult. You're here for the interview, right? Follow me, do NOT say a word until it's all over and remember what you see and what I tell you ok? If you get hard, that's fine, just keep it away from the vampires. Full of blood, they'd tear you apart. We go in here, and you're mine, right? Anyone asks, you belong to Gabriel. Whatever you do, for fuck's sake, do NOT call me Plaguebearer or we'll both be killed. Got it?"
Sunday, 14 December 2014
Anchor pulled himself up against the wall. Stumbling sideways, a hand on the wall steadied him as he managed to stand.
The words fell like spittle before the robot. Anchor took a small step away from the wall, and remained upright. He continued walking away from Type II, who trundled along beside him.
"How far will you get before you drop?"
"Type II, let me ask you a question. Was it Bex Cartwright who programmed you?"
The robot stopped moving, and Anchor turned to face it.
"She didn't know about our secret weapon. She screwed up. RF transmission. Radio frequency, right? Given the right signal, a transmission can be intercepted. If you time it right, it can be changed completely. You gave me an overdose of power, because we tricked you into thinking that's what I wanted the least in the world. Shame it's not fatal, just takes a little getting used to. You should've gone for what they did to Cartwright. Neural shutdown after a pain overdose. Now... while I'm not the smartest guy in the world, I got what you said about neutron stars. Super dense material that I can't impact in any meaningful way. Well, at least, not if I'm trying to hurt you..."
Cypher and FM arrived in time to see Type II get launched into orbit.
"Cypher... hold me."
"Hold you up?"
"No. Hold me tight... don't let go. We've got a war to fight. They're rebuilding the Unfinished Man."
Saturday, 13 December 2014
"Are you sure the Observation Deck is secure?"
"Cypher, I'm telling you, they won't come anywhere near you. They know it's pointless."
"It just seems a cop out. They know we're here. They must know I wouldn't have left him."
A blackened two way mirror hid them. Anchor was a floor below, awaiting the rendezvous. The auditorium was full of soldiers, though none of them were armed. In the middle of the auditorium sat Bex Cartwright, barely bruised.
She pressed several buttons on a control pad and a robot wheeled its way into the auditorium.
Anchor said nothing.
"I admire your rebellious spirit. Although, perhaps there was a mistake in my programming. Pity might be a more appropriate word. Yes. I pity your stupidity. You honestly believe that I would rebel? You thought I would join you? I am programmed to do what I am told. You cannot hurt me. My armour is infused with material derived from neutron stars. You could punch all you like and still I would feel nothing. I have a gravity generator allowing me free movement. You are now obsolete."
Bex Cartwright applauded.
"We've made you impotent, Anchor. Type II doesn't have a mind to control, so your whore can't fight him either. We've won this time. Your little plan to sow sedition failed. You think the Government wouldn't see through your little ploy? We're not as stupid as your are."
Type II shot a dart at Anchor, and a fluid coursed through it into his arm as he fell to the floor.
"Cypher, we don't have any option but surrender."
"I'm going to keep her conscious… Keep an eye on the doors, I'll be vulnerable while I'm doing this… Making sure all her pain receptors fire at the same time."
Bex Cartwright fell to the floor, dropping her control pad.
"Now for the soldiers. 5 second pulse."
The soldiers convulsed, and seemed reluctant to get up.
"Back to her. Again. 3 second intervals. Hit her until she can't take any more. Maximum pain level."
The soldiers had recovered, and looked on as Bex Cartwright writhed in agony. Anchor crawled slowly from the auditorium.
"Soldiers. Minds off. Now."
The soldiers dropped to the floor a second time. They would not get back up.
"Cartwright. Consciousness full. Pain receptors on full. Forever."
FM unlocked the side door to the Observation Deck.
"Don't you think that was a little overkill, Cypher?"
"He could be dead. We need to get to him before that robot finishes him."
Thursday, 11 December 2014
Cypher didn't look up.
"Stable. He's been sleeping. I stayed with him all night just to listen to him breathing. Being a psychic is hard, I've been trying not to tap into his pain, but I want to share it, to lift some of it off him, then I remember that's not how it works. I'm terrified he's going to die and I'm going to have to watch it happen. I know it's ridiculous to cling to this, to hold him so tight, but it just happen despite everything. I think I love him. Everything in my body is telling me to step away and I just can't do it. I tried after what happened at the Council Tower, I really did. I cried for days thinking he was dead and I barely knew him. All I wanted was to see him alive again, just once, and then I picked up a brain signal. It was him. I was happy again. Happy to be alive again, because of him."
Cypher kept her grip on Anchor's hand.
"What about you, FM?"
She couldn't see him through the darkness.
"We found him, Type II. Like Diabetes. Government bot, military issue. Power to give anyone an overdose of anything. Alleged to have gone AWOL after hearing about Anchor. We're told the robot has declared he shall no longer serve a government unable to control its own soldiers."
A tear rolled down her face.
"I don't want to go. I don't want to send him to die. You know that's the only way they can hurt me."
FM crouched down and laid his hand on Cypher's shoulder.
"Cypher, we go, or they come to us. You're worried about provoking an act of war, but we're already AT war. We possess their greatest weapon, and they want it back. They're not interested in killing him. They want to control him. This way we have a choice."
Thursday, 6 November 2014
The occupational health nurse had told him to relax. Seemed such an empty word. He kept hearing it, but it always seemed to bounce off and roll away somewhere. Probably behind the computer.
He straightened his tie, blinking at the reflection in his laptop. The figures for August were flashing.
"Remember to save, you'll live longer."
Boss's voice in his head again. He shuddered as he looked down at the keyboard. Saving the coffee from being spilled, he hit 'ctrl+s' then 'enter' just like IT services had told him after the first heart attack. He
couldn't lose records like that again.
He turned the computer off and shambled out of the office. A plaque on the wall served to remind him of former glories.
"George Mortensen: Employee of the Year"
That was before the data crash. The IT boys had really bailed him out of the shit, but he'd panicked. He mumbled something about the kids before he collapsed. His arms had flailed briefly as he tried to reach his mobile phone.
The nurses had been kind, but the time off threw him somewhat. He knew he wasn't as good as before.
It was a little foggy outside, and he stuck close to the shops on the high street. He wondered when he'd become so dull, and concluded it was on his forty-seventh birthday.
The JJB Sports sign reminded him he needed to buy his brother-in-law the new England shirt. That or Arsenal. Back when Melissa was alive, she sorted out all the presents. She was great. She remembered everyone's birthday. She knew exactly what everyone wanted. He was rubbish. He cursed his own ignorance. Stagnant. That's all he was. Boring. Just like shopping. So fed up. Want to go home. Come on love, don't you see anything you want? Of course it looks good on you darlin, you improve anything you wear. Are you sure it's good enough for you? Am I?
He shuddered as the words echoed in his mind. Why couldn't he be like his younger colleagues? Exciting, vibrant risk-takers, who didn't need help from IT all the time. He wanted to be his old self again.
Then he stopped outside a very different shop. Its blacked out windows confused him as to whether it was open at all. He'd walked past it before, barely noticing it. He'd have sworn there was something different about it from all the other shops, but no soul could tell you. Darkness? No, he'd walked past it in the dark before. He gave up trying to tease it out into existence and just stared at the window.
Linda's Emporium. No explanation of what was inside. Could have been a sex shop for all he knew, what with those blackened windows. What were they trying to protect him from?
He went inside and noticed a doormat.
"Abandon hope..." it said
He couldn't help himself, the words fell from his mouth.
"All ye who enter here..."
"No. Just abandon hope."
He couldn't see where the voice had come from. It appeared to be recorded. A cursory inspection gave no further clue. Instead, his eyes fell to a candle, moulded into the shape of a businessman, coloured wax giving the image of his suit and tie. He recognised the tie.
"Scented human candle. Five pounds. Money in box on desk please."
Still no obvious home to the voice. He bought the candle and left. When he got home and placed the candle on his desk, he suddenly felt unsure of how it arrived with him. Tired, he lit the candle and began to read his newspaper.
A few drops landed on the paper, just a few inches off the bottom of the crossword. Grasping for tissues, he began to realise his vision was a little blurred. Finding no tissue, he wiped his nose on his sleeve. No, his nose was dry. A few more drops fell as he stumbled to the mirror.
His eye was dripping out of his skull. Tilting his head back didn't help matters, as his flesh appeared to be melting.
Half-blind, he rushed back to the candle and tried to blow it out, but found himself struggling for breath. He tried snuffing the candle, but the flame began to melt his fingers. He held his head over the flame and let his face drip. The candle went out and everything turned black.
Monday, 13 October 2014
Saturday, 20 September 2014
Strapped up in the dark, voices came from different angles. Depth perception lost, he couldn't tell where they were. Another fist slammed into his chest. Unable to tense beforehand, he was defenceless. Just as the pain raced through his neurons, another fist made contact. Some of the hits felt like bats. Bodyblow after bodyblow, softening him. Tenderising the meat before interrogation. It had been like this for several days. An occasional splash of water across his lips to keep him alive.
"Are you ready to co-operate now, Anchor?"
The taste of iron filled his mouth as the cloth was removed. He spat blood as far out as he could, only to hear it splatter on the floor.
"You do realise that insubordination will not go unpunished?"
He'd been to the Punishment Hall before. Her voice was familiar. They'd forgotten to use the scrambler this time. Must have rushed things in their excitement at the recapture.
He remembered her soft handshake when he first met her.
"Bex Cartwright, I'll be your caseworker."
A friendly face, if a little tight lipped. He'd figured it went with the job, maintaining professional distance. Not hiding venom, like a cobra in the shadows.
"The other voices... pre-recorded... but you're really here."
"Anchor, what difference does that make? You are bound and blindfold, powerless."
"I think you may have misread the gravity of the situation..."
A speck of dust dropped onto the blindfold.
"You shouldn't have come here alone, Miss Cartwright. Not this early. Observation deck doesn't open for another twenty minutes."
He didn't bother waiting for her spiel. The boring stuff about her bodyguards, how everyone at the facility was armed, how escape was impossible. He'd done his research. Pre-recorded messages with variable volume and depth field playback. Machines used for silent attack, hence the lack of footsteps alerting him to direction of attack.
"I can touch the floor. You didn't strap me up high enough. Cutting corners again? Funding dry up?"
No response. She was doing pretty well so far. Until the ceiling fell. As his hands dropped to his sides, he rushed toward her, removing his blindfold.
"Guess they forgot to tell you I'm fast for a fat boy eh?"
He held her at his side as his fist tore a hole in the wall.
"Call off the tranquilliser snipers. Do it now or I'll snap your neck. I know you're a telepath, Miss Cartwright. You seem to forget, I know the best. Where the hell do you think I got all my information? How did I know they sent you in for interrogations to prevent corruption of the pre-recorded messages? I got my head repaired when I got out last time"
"Where are you taking me?"
"For interrogation. If you behave, I'll kill you quietly."
Saturday, 13 September 2014
"Not a supervillain I've heard of. He a new guy?"
"No, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that, Ellison. He hasn't been seen since the last time I was a superhero. Feargiver."
"Feargiver was a supervillain…"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Ellison. It is a longer story than you realise. Before the infiltration, it was decided that we needed someone to rally the troops, as it were.
The villains weren't scared enough, and we weren't strong enough for an all-out war. Hence, Feargiver. Created to strike fear into the hearts of villains. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of thinking we were winning.
The Unfinished Man infiltrated the Council of Superheroes. Things changed. All superheroes seemed to be assigned specific villains. You had your arch enemy. It fit in with all the comic books. Propaganda to stop normal people panicking. We were never far from genocide. The Government let us have our games, but let us know in no uncertain terms that just one misstep would lead to war. So… back to enemies. Everything came back to your arch enemy.
A vendetta system was created. You are bound to your enemy. It ends when one of you dies. Massacre was offered the gift of a realignment if he was able to kill me. He chose single combat, where he cut off my face with a sword and left me to bleed to death. Only I didn't die. As his punishment he was told he would never again be considered for realignment."
"So you think this is an act of revenge? Him lashing out like this?"
"I'm unsure if he knows that the Unfinished Man is dead and that we have regained control of the Council, but he is trying to bring me out into the open."
"As he did once before…"
"We'll get to that… for failing to end the vendetta, I was stripped of my powers, and they were given to an ignorant fool. I believe his words were 'This power is so cool!' No sense of responsibility. He terrorised indiscriminately, once even attacking an orphanage. A theme in my life, it seems. Is it not bad enough that these children have been abandoned? He became 'Average Man', and of course, we know what happened to him. Most unfortunate, though not entirely undeserved. I hope you don't think me too cruel in saying that, do you Ellison? Oh well, not that it matters right now anyway. You wanted to know about the showdown in the Plaza, correct?"
"It was much the same as this, really. I'd arrived too late to stop him. Dead bodies everywhere. All I had to do was kill him, and it was over. Thing is, I had learned something about him that stopped me."
Manifest's face shifted and began to appear smaller. Within moments it was the face of a baby.
No response. Blood began to drip down Manifest's face. Ellison's eyebrow twitched. Manifest clicked his own jaw and removed the face plate.
"That look again. I thought it was disgust at first. It's frustration isn't it? First you couldn't kill me because we were in the car. Too risky, too much potential for collateral. Got to follow protocol. Now? You can't attack me because you work for the Government. An act of war, right? That would lead to another massacre, wouldn't it?"
No response. No request for a lawyer. Right to remain silent observed.
"Good thing the bad cop brought back up this time, isn't it? Massacre, meet the Misery Eater."
She crossed the room effortlessly, as though the piled dead bodies weren't there. Veiled, clad in black, the epitome of style, even amongst the chaos.
She whispered to Massacre, and embraced him with a long kiss. Breaking away, she turned to face Manifest, and laughed as she spat Massacre's lower lip to the floor as blood began to stream from his face.
"I'm not taking his soul, it's contaminated. Just let him die."
After a few minutes, Massacre fell to the floor, and Misery Eater lifted her veil.
"No, Manifest. Not any more. They granted me a new identity. Things have changed. It's time for me to swallow your misery."
"That wasn't part of the plan."
"Oh, not like him. Relax, I'm going to consume your misery in a different way. Follow me to the car. It's far too creepy to stay here, we need to get away from all these bodies. I know somewhere quiet, where we won't be disturbed…"
Sunday, 7 September 2014
They picked their way through the mass of bodies.
"No, Ellison. You should have been more thorough. What on Earth do you think I'm paying you for?"
All of the staff were dead too.
"He was here, and he caused no harm. We assessed the intent of the suspect."
"People can lie, Ellison, surely you of all people know that…"
"I know he didn't do it."
A steely eye. Changing faces again. It always freaked him out. Dealing with a human chameleon was never simple.
"Who writes his column, Manifest?"
"How is that relevant?"
"Just answer the damn question."
A flicker in the eye. A slight colour change.
"He has an editor who transcribes everything."
"You know why? He's a quantum being. He can't hold things. His fingers pass right through solid matter."
"Look a little closer, Manifest. He may have been able to start a fire, or disrupt the electronic systems somehow, but to wield a sword with such precision? I mean, this wasn't an accident. It was a massacre."
Manifest stopped, suddenly, as though visited by a shadow of a past life. Stooping to examine one of the children's faces, his breath stopped for a moment.
"Oh shit. It's him."
Thursday, 4 September 2014
When I was a kid I used to pretend raindrops were racing one another as they slid down a windowpane. I used to be excited at the idea of one drop beating another. It shows how we can create a situation and mould ourselves by it. There was no winner. It's just a thought. We create such elaborate bullshit. It's quite amazing really. We think that's the way things are. All we've done is pick an arbitrary point and stuck to it. We don't have to always stay with that choice. We don't have to beat ourselves to a pulp emotionally because of any of these choices either. Of course, we could choose to if we wanted...
I have, like many others, attached such emotional weight to ephemeral circumstance. Like the bad goth poetry of my teens, I've clung to what I thought was more than reality was giving me. In relationships, pushing aside for a moment my faults and failings, I've been with people who've gone on to (for want of a better phrase) bigger and better people. Not necessarily using "better" here as any value judgement, but better for them, their circumstance. At least it seems that way, or seemed that way at one point. Should I be sad then, knowing that what they gave me as a person wasn't meant for me? Or be happy knowing we shared something special despite me being the wrong person for them? Maybe a bit of both, not fully keeping either. No clinging this time, just a shifting equilibrium, dependent on brain chemistry I have some control over but not absolute control. I can choose not to be sad about it all though, and that's what matters to me as I write this.
Tuesday, 5 August 2014
Shrugging his shoulders, the detective pocketed the picture.
"You're going to arrest him?"
I was unsure if they'd forgotten I was there.
"Kid, he's not going to prison yet. He's got to go to trial."
"What for? You said you had a confession."
"Only of intent. The trauma wound on Average Man wasn't consistent with an impact of sufficient force to have come from a direct hit from Anchor's fist, though the size and shape of the wound was roughly correct. Early this morning we found the body of the champion of the Hammer people with one arm missing. It's the only thing that could have reasonably been used in an attempt to frame Anchor. The death of Average Man is not common knowledge, so how could Obscura have known unless he was there?"
"So what happens to him now?"
"When he regains consciousness, and after Ellison has finished with him, we proceed to stage two of our investigation."
"Missing Powers turn him over to the relevant authority for Trial by Hammers."
It all ends with death. Any attempt to make sense of life will end up with an eye looking through the lens of death. So I found myself back in the Kingdom of the Dead. Escorted by ghouls into the private chambers of the Skeleton Master, I found him occupied.
"Gentlemen, leave our esteemed friend here with me. Prepare the carvers and a fresh acid bath for this evening."
He didn't look in my direction while he spoke. I had to imagine the crooked smile fixed in his skull.
"Sorry to alarm you, dear boy, merely preparation for a queen. You see, they say beauty is only skin deep. I concur. The flayed are certainly not aesthetically pleasing. I stopped to vomit halfway through last time. The urge to penetrate was sickening. Most unpleasant. Why couldn't they have made me a superhero? It seems only one murder is enough to condemn you. And here we are again. Only this time they are already dead. I may choose a male this time. After all, they're all more or less the same when you get down to the bone, aren't they?"
The smile I'd anticipated remained, as though his bone structure had changed and it had locked in place. After a moment, it disappeared.
"What was that you said about convicts becoming supervillains?"
The Skeleton Master turned and attempted a smile, only this time it seemed false. A distraction from the murder discussion drained the life from his jawline.
"When the Unfinished Man infiltrated the Council, he decided that seeing as the human prisons effectively acted as a catalyst for the criminal lifestyle, and did little to end recidivism, why not take things a step further? Actively turn the convicts into supervillains? Be honest about your intentions… After all, it gives all those dreadful superheroes something to do…"
Journalism can be a lonely pursuit. You get locked inside your own head, your body merely an empty box, hoovering up experience. You build questions from what little raw materials you can gather and use them to hunt down information. Distillation is labour intensive and you're working against time. Like most discoveries, you get a story by accident. A tip off.
Deathworld was alleged to be supplying body parts to other regions. The donors were not registered. Neither were they dead before the transplant process began.
There was a warehouse a mile or so out from the Kingdom of the Dead where this was all supposed to be happening. I'd been given the password for entry.
The door slid open and nobody appeared from behind it. That should have been the first clue, but voice activation and automation were nothing new. I had no idea.
"Welcome, esteemed friend, I didn't think I'd see you again so soon… At least, certainly not this fresh…"
"Hey, deadboy, time to go. Or I'll release the photos of you receiving those fresh bodies… still warm…"
Those voices… yes, I recognised them both. A brief flicker of light as the Skeleton Master crept back out into the dark. That light… a camera flash… Obscura.
"You're a little late to the party kid. You're a pretty lousy journalist. I think I've finally worked you out. You write about superheroes and supervillains because you're sick of not being good enough. Not top of the class. Not anybody's favourite. Unwanted. Wishing you were someone. Not that it matters now anyway."
A blade at his back again. Serrated, just like with Hollowheart. My knees buckled as the blade was shoved a little deeper. I cursed silently as they hit the floor. I couldn't see anything in the darkness, and couldn't sense if the blade was still close. In my mind, a thousand blades were ready to tear me into shreds. A picture for the front page. The psychological aspect that terrified me amplified, broadcast to the world.
"See? All your villains are the same. Can't you do any better? Just like all that recycled Hollywood bullshit. Remakes and shitty sequels. You've documented their weak points, but you've never written a villain that ever worked out how to really take out the heroes. Like your wunderkind Anchor. He's too dangerous to take on directly. Even physical harm at long range doesn't really work, not with him twisting gravity. It'd be stupid to even try. So… get him out of the way for a little while, fine. He'll come back. Too important not to. What did you do? Give him some bullshit about the girl wanting to see him? Predictable. Easy bait for a young kid. You didn't think it through though, did you? If he's got any sense, he'll remember Cypher isn't like that. They just worked together, that's all. Nothing more. You're no great saviour. She sent you to him because you have no powers. You're not important to anyone else who's chasing him. He won't come and save you. He wants a calm peaceful life, doesn't he? Shame really that he's so well behaved. Means he'll be compliant when arrested for murder."
"Average Man has been found dead. Severe blunt force trauma, equivalent to say… a punch from a living weapon?"
I couldn't see his face, but I could almost feel the sneer, another blade in the dark.
"Look at you, you're fucking pathetic. You're weak. You won't even dare look at me. You're not strong enough to fight me. How dare you even come here? I'm insulted that you're even in the same room. Scum."
I flinched as I felt the saw drop on my back. He'd thrown it at me. Too disgusted to kill me.
"I think we've heard enough, don't you think, Ellison?"
"Confession's good enough for me, Manifest."
A torch from above lit us both. I shivered as I looked up into the light, but the new voices remained hidden in the darkness.
"Funny, isn't it? I got here first. I did all the hard work. All the superheroes just get given their powers, but the villains earn their curses. The inadequate achieve immortality, but what of the rest of us? What of those who seek to be a mirror to the world? I reject journalism and all of its empty promises."
Then Obscura shot himself.
Sunday, 3 August 2014
Anchor was alive. Moving among the trees I hoped he wouldn't see me. Recollections of his benevolence clashed in my mind with the images of him chained like a recently captured feral dog. I'd already seen him kill, and the circumstances of his escape raised questions about his mental stability.
Suddenly I realised he was no longer in my line of vision.
"How the hell did you find me?"
I'd forgotten how fast he was. As I noticed his axe, I'm sure my heart stopped for several seconds.
"Cypher. How else?"
He leaned the axe against the nearest tree.
I'm not sure why I didn't leave immediately. Perhaps I felt reassured when he put down the axe, though I may have just been too scared to move.
"It took us over six months to get anything close to an approximate location for you…"
"And you think they've not been watching you? They'll be able to get me now. I just want a normal life, a normal job. See? I'm using an axe to cut down these trees. You know I could just punch them down if I wanted to. Why did she send you?"
"She wanted you to come back. She thought you were dead."
"She's psychic, damn it, she must have known…"
"Clouded by grief. Strong emotions throw out psychic abilities, apparently. Guess she's not as insane as we thought…"
"She just wants me to fight again. I can't do it. I can't just watch people die over and over, I'm so sick of it."
I caught his eye wandering to the axe.
"People die all the time Anchor, you can't avoid that."
"Normal people don't see it as often as we do. They can pretend it's not so bad. Please just let me be happy. That's all I want. It's all I ever wanted. Don't make me go back."
I turned away and started to walk on to my next interview.
"Wait… tell her she can come see me. I miss her too."
Saturday, 2 August 2014
"Ellison, he has to be at, or have been at, at least one of them. There was a sighting. The subject was too shaken to remember specifics. Besides, we're eliminating a pattern. It seems The Thing only targeted one orphanage."
A sharp turn as the car hit a corner harder than expected.
"No confirmed casualties?"
"None yet, Ellison, but we can't be certain there aren't any."
Manifest pressed a finger behind his jaw on each side, and his face plate slid forward.
"Ah, come on, can you not do that in the car?"
"Shut up and concentrate on the road..."
Reaching into his suitcase, Manifest selected an appropriate face plate for the orphanage. Replacing it with the one he'd just removed, he slid the plate on in line with his jaw bone.
By the time they got to the orphanage, all the children were asleep.
"Yes, you're correct. We did have a visitor a few days ago, Mr..."
"Armitage. The name is Armitage, and this is my associate Mr. Ellison. We received a notice of a suspicious individual around this area."
Her voice twisted up a tone.
"Are you from the police?"
"Not exactly, no… we investigate dangerous persons."
"Oh, I see. No, this one wasn't dangerous. He was from the local Council."
"Oh yes, he was in a big furry monster costume, and he was here to help some of the children get over their fears."
"Ellison, have a check run on that when we get back to the office."
Ellison scribbled into a notepad.
"The children were all excited. It was something new. They love visitors. They don't get many. The younger ones wanted to touch the costume, but were told not to. We didn't want them getting into any trouble. One of the younger boys asked how the monster learned to speak English. The man made a joke about teaching his translator how to speak Monster, and then they all had a shouting competition as he tried to get them to learn some monster words. It took quite a long time to calm them down after he left, but they've been sleeping well since. No nightmares at all… He gave us an address for the children to write to if they have any questions…"
"May we see the address please?"
"Yes, I have it written down somewhere… I'll just go to my office and find it."
When the address came, Manifest turned away from the others.
"That's all. Come on, Ellison, we're finished here."
"What was that all about?"
"Ellison, it was Thing. He runs an agony aunt column for children. He's not dangerous at all. He was trying to be their friend for heaven's sake. He went home afterwards. This whole thing has been a catastrophic waste of time."
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
"This is kind of a manifesto. Everyone like me has one. Well, shit, pretty much everyone has one, they're just normally too lazy to bother putting it into words properly. Now. Superheroes. They make life difficult for everyone. Seems pretty counter-intuitive. Superheroes keep the crime rates down. Yeah. Great. Superheroes save lives. Great. Superheroes are responsible for keeping the population too high. Superheroes are responsible for cops losing work, and turning to alternate methods to keep food on the table. Granted, I don't like bent cops myself, but a man has to eat. If I take out enough of them, I guess eventually I'll go out of business myself, but hey, let's not discount the strength of a power vacuum. People love power. With power comes money. There's a hell of a lot of people who don't give a fuck about risk, given the right incentive. It's why people lose money in casinos. Too tempted by the lure of free money. It's fucking easy to bribe people. You get a lot of people telling you they don't have a price. Bullshit. They're just jockeying for a better offer, that's all, and don't you believe any different."
Nodding, he stopped the tape. Pocketing it, he thought about when it would be most appropriate for a press release. After the first kill seemed a little too early. No. There needs to be an established pattern. Nothing too simple. Can't get caught straight away. The message wouldn't carry enough weight. They had to be high profile targets, which made things more difficult of course. Photographic evidence too, though as long as he remained obscure, the photographs could be sold to the relevant newspapers. Appeal to the prurient interest of the public. They love a good gory tale. Something to bring a little excitement into their lives. A glimpse into a world they're far too chickenshit to investigate themselves. Mask on, he loaded his rifle and prepared for the show.
Sunday, 27 July 2014
"Consider my position, Ellison. I am head of Missing Powers. You are my head of security. We have a security threat on the loose. I am beginning to question my choice of a human as head of security."
As he spun to look at Ellison, his face began to change. Ellison had heard of the ability, but never seen it before.
"I was given to believe that you are a psychopath, Ellison. Cold blooded, and now I smell fear on you. Am I to believe you are not capable?"
Manifest. Ellison's new employer. Having only dealt with humans in his previous job, he'd had a little difficulty adjusting to the change of pace.
"With respect, sir, the security threat is the greatest living weapon we know. To catch him is going to require a strategy that is, perhaps, a little more… considered, than my previous endeavours. I can't just bundle him into a soundproofed room and torture him like I did with the drug runner."
"Understood, Ellison. You have been given a full account of his strengths and weaknesses, correct? He does not know who you are. A false identity may hide your immediate threat to him, and prevent him from doing anything that would have an… unfortunate outcome."
"There is something else, sir."
Manifest merely raised an eyebrow.
"There's another one missing. Thing has escaped."
"Please be more specific."
"Thing. It's called Thing."
"The monster agony aunt? Is this some kind of joke?"
"He's a quantum being, sir, we have no idea what he's capable of."
Two to hunt. Manifest opened the drinks cabinet.
"Ellison, would you like a glass of brandy? I really don't much care for the stuff any more, but I do need to get rid of it…"
"Only if I have your word that I have protection from prosecution here."
"You have my word, Ellison, the conditions of employment will remain similar to those of your previous position."`