Jun 07 2012

Edgukator’s Review Forum

Published by at 11:20 pm under Review Forums

Welcome to Majestic, California’s fastest growing Metropolis. Centrally planned and powered by some of the world’s most cutting edge Tech-Companies, Majestic is home to the Majestic Comet’s baseball team, America’s largest vertical garden and, until recently, no superheroes.

 

Enter Dante “the Juice” James, former bodyguard to the rich and famous, self-proclaimed fastest man in America and super-powered entrepreneur. He’s here to convince Majestic that the one thing every great city needs is a professionally paid superhero.

 

About the Author:

A superhero enthusiast from the age of five, Edgukator has been playing around with all things superhero, from comics to computer games to role playing games, for more than 3 decades. In his secret identity, he is a father of two and English teacher who has sidelined in such diverse enterprises as an academic editor, script writer for educational television and rock promotion.

32 responses so far

32 Responses to “Edgukator’s Review Forum”

  1. Edgukatoron 15 Jun 2012 at 12:34 am

    Chapter One

    Even in a club like Resonance, Dante James was a man that stood out. It wasn’t the clothes. Despite the silk shirt and well pressed trousers, there were several dozen men in the cavernous room who were better dressed. Nor was it his looks; the combined wealth of the room could afford enough plastic surgery one of the smaller nations of the world.

    What he had was swagger; the ability to deliver the whole package with just the right amount of arrogance. He sat in a booth on the second floor, far enough away from the dance floor to have a conversation that didn’t require yelling. His feet lay on top of the small table within the booth while his elbows were propped on the arms of the couch. Across from him an older, more conservatively dressed man tried to talk some sense into him.

    “Look, Dante. We can’t get the meeting right now. I can’t get you in the door.”

    “You saying I should pack this up… move back to Kestral?”

    Maxwell Harrington, entrepreneur, would-be pioneer of a new breed of super agency, was visibly agitated. He recoiled from the question as if he had been hit by a bullet.

    “No… no… I’m just saying we need to rethink the game plan.”

    Dante smiled, lifting his arms and goading Harrington.

    “It was your game plan, Max. You came to me. I gave up a multi-million dollar deal, secure job, fast track to becoming one of the faces of the company.”

    “You hated the job, Dante.”

    “Damn right I did, but it was money. Now, are we going to take over this town, or are we going to just talk about it. Dante James… Majestic’s number one hero. That was your pitch, your slogan. Now what we got to do to make that happen.”

    Harrington sighed. It was his plan, and he needed to find a way.

    “Look, the mayor doesn’t see the need yet. We know the threat is there. You know these streets. But it hasn’t landed on the front page of the Cryer yet. We keep plugging away, make the busts, and I’ll see what we can do about sponsorship in the meantime. A couple of sportswear companies have shown an interest in the local market.”

    Harrington was about to turn away when Dante jolted, shook his arms loose, and moved almost instantaneously to the balcony overlooking the club. The fact that he moved so quickly always unnerved Harrington, just a little, but that was the job he got himself into; a literal super agent.

    “OK. A few clothing commercials, decent running shoes. I could do that. There’s got to be a few Washingtons to be made by being the fastest man on the West Coast.”

    Maxwell winced.

    “I tried that line on a PR Officer yesterday, Dante. She gave me half a dozen names without hesitating: Rapid Fire, Freelance, Quickstep… even a couple I hadn’t heard of.”

    Dante waved it off.

    “I could outrun all them clowns.”

    “But this ain’t the Olympics, and no ones giving medals. We’ve had a nibble or two, but you need that name. A front page or two wouldn’t hurt…”

    “You might just get that…”

    Dante’s speech had slowed down, and Maxwell could tell his mind wasn’t in the conversation anymore. His eyes were focused on something on the dance floor. Commotion. A couple of jackets in the corner were beginning to raise their voices. Guns? Well, something under the jacket. It was probably more than the bouncers were ready for. A couple of over dressed girls were scuttling into the corner, so this could be a prostitution turf war, maybe drugs. Two men in the center, a couple more bigger men in the back. Probably the hired hands.

    Within a matter of seconds Dante was on the ground floor, intercepting the imposing bouncer making his way towards the chaos in the South West corner. He flashed a business card and talked quickly. The bouncers moved to corner the thugs, creating an area around the two men.

    “Ain’t your zone, Adrian. You know this ain’t your zone.”

    “I ain’t doing nothing, Lucas. I’m just here with my girl enjoying the beats. Stood in line, got my stamp, paid the fee.”

    “You know your girl is a ho, right? I’ve seen her pulling tricks down Grady.”

    The crowd was reacting to the insults, but keeping their distance. Dante pushed his way through the crowd, tripping the last few feet and knocking into the two thugs known as Lucas and Adrian. The event had the good fortune to knock the two men apart. Lucas pulled Dante around to face him, so that he stood face to face with him, and with Dante’s back to Adrian.

    “What the hell you doing, punk? You know who I am?”

    Dante had lost the air of arrogance, and motioned towards the crowd.

    “Sorry man, someone back there pushed me. I just…”

    Lucas was wrestling in his jacket pocket for his gun. Dante quickly put his hands in the air, and stumbled backwards, knocking into Adrian, and his hands reached back to steady himself. Dante turned his head and winced, and the crowd watched, expecting… something, but Lucas was still fumbling with his jacket.

    “You lost something, bro?”

    Lucas continued, and Dante put his hand in his pocket, pulling out a handgun with two fingers and holding it in the air.

    “What the hell are you doing with my gun?”

    The crowd scattered at the sight of the gun, and Lucas lunged at Dante. Dante sidestepped, but so quickly that he was able to get behind him and push him into Adrian. Dante raised his eyes to find Adrian pointing a pistol straight at him.

    “Woah big feller. That’s a pretty big gun you’ve got. You sure you know how to use it.”

There was a moment, and it looked as if Adrian had pulled the trigger, but for some reason nothing had changed. The air of arrogance returned to Dante.

    “It’s the safety lock. You probably don’t normally have that switched on. You really should. One of these days you’re going to blow your own nuts off. Here, let me help you.”

    And before Adrian could react, Dante had swapped the gun in his hand for the gun he had taken from Lucas. He motioned to the new gun in his hand, pointing to the safety lock.

    “See, safety lock.”

    Adrian raised the new gun he was holding, and there was an audible click. Dante put his left hand in his pocket, and pulled out a handgun clip.

    “You need this?”

    And with that, Dante James twisted the gun in his hands so that he was holding the barrel and hit Adrian around the side of the head with the handle, knocking him to the floor. Lucas, who had steadied himself, soon found himself knocked out with a returning blow from the handle.

    Dante steadied his eyes on the muscle that Lucas had brought with him. Wisely, they had decided not to do anything, with three of Resonance’s biggest bouncers right behind them. On any given night, these guys could be relied on to handle the situation, and in all fairness if Dante hadn’t stepped in, they would have probably sorted this out before a gun was drawn. Dante was outside, talking to the head bouncer when Maxwell made his way down.

    “I thought this was gonna be sorted before anyone pulled out a gun.”

    “Jules, now you got him on a gun violation. When the cops get here, he’s gone for good. If this had just been assault, you would have to keep your eyes out for them each week.”

    “Just too touch and go for me, kid.”

    Dante turned, noticing Maxwell.

    “Julius, this is a good friend of mine Maxwell Harrington. Look, I gotta skid. You say what you gotta say to the police, but Max here is gonna talk to you about what you say to the press. There’s another hundred in this if you say what he tells you to the press.”

    “Did you… Dante, did you set this up?”

    Maxwell looked bewildered. Dante cocked his head back and raised an eyebrow.

    “Set it up as in hire those two thugs to start fighting so I could take the glory? No. Categorically, no.”

    “But…”

    “But Jules here gave me the heads up that Adrian was trying to make a move on the club, and that he’d been having problems with Lucas for months.”

    Dante scratched behind his ear, his eyes darting around to see if anyone was listening.

    “Look, Jules is one of my ears on the street. He told me the problem, I came up with a solution that sorts both our problems out. He allows these guys to escalate a little bit, I give him in a way to get rid of these two for the long term. In return, I get to be the hero for the night.

    The blare of police sirens began to come closer.

    “Look, Maxwell. Just prep Jules a bit. Tell him how to put things when he talks to the press. They’ll be here in 5… 4…”

    Maxwell looked down at his watch, and when he looked up, Dante was gone.

    —–

    Dante had not drunk that night, but grabbing the Majestic Cryer, one of two local newspapers, the next morning it felt like a hangover hit him. The large print was not interrupting the fight in the club, nor did he think it would be. It was, however, multi-page coverage of a heist that made off with experimental hi-tech equipment from Soltech, one of the leading employers in the city.

    Where Dante did appear in the paper was a small side panel. The Heading; “Hero Parties during Heist”, brought on the headache. The colour photo was not Dante intervening between two men with guns, interspersed with shots of the young and beautiful; stock photos, most probably. His phone rang shortly afterwards.

    “You’ve seen it, right?”

    It was Maxwell, and his voice carried the weight of a man how had more bad news to follow.

    “I’m looking at it right now. Nice photo, but I’m not a fan of the headline.”

    “I got a call, Dante. Before it even hit the doorstep. Champion Shoes. The deals off. Mayzer Jeans soon after.”

    Jazz sat down on the high stool next to his breakfast bar. The phone went silent for a few moments.

    “So what do we do?” Jazz was resigned.

    “We need to rethink the strategy. Again.”

“Marketing a hero ain’t like marketing a basketball player, Max. You sure you got this?”

“Yeah. I’m… I’m just discovering all the nuances. Look, I’m going to have a think about this for a while, but when I call next, I may have a few things I want you to do.”

    “That’s not a lot to go on, Max. I hope you’re not playing me here.”

“Nothing like that. Just… we may need to bring in other people… just give me a day to think.”

  2. YellowJujuon 15 Jun 2012 at 9:01 am

    Edgukator, that sounds great! I would want to read your book once you’re published!

  3. Edgukatoron 15 Jun 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks YellowJuju, but I’m wincing at my grammar / spelling errors right now. I didn’t see them until I changed the format.

  4. YellowJujuon 15 Jun 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Save grammar/spelling for later! Just write away!

  5. aharrison 16 Jun 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Eh, I’m a proofreader, and I have trouble seeing my own errors. Don’t feel bad.

    I take it that the Cryer is not a fan? So far, I like it. I do find that it gets a little confusing during the action sequence. I was having trouble keeping Lucas and Adrian straight. It seems like Lucas could have righted himself quicker than it took for Dante and Adrian to have their exchange if all he did was stagger Lucas. He and Adrian did have two talking exchanges. No matter how fast Dante is, you still need to slow things down a certain amount for the speech to sink in. I think Lucas could get back in the fight in that time unless he was more than just staggered.

    I also got confused by Jules just appearing. I know you explained who he was, but he was being spoken to before we even knew he was there in any capacity as a person to be spoken to. That also threw me and made me go back to see if I’d missed him appearing somewhere. Maybe that’s not a huge issue, but it’s just a thought.

  6. Edgukatoron 17 Jun 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, aharris. I’ll put the notes into my document for when I come back through a second time.

    I’ve got to admit, writing fight scenes throws me a bit, because comic books are such a visual medium. I have another fight scene in the next chapter, so we’ll see if it changes anything. I feel a lot more comfortable writing dialogue…

    Thanks for the note on Jules. He was a late addition to the scene, and I’ll try to write him in earlier.

  7. Edgukatoron 21 Jun 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Chapter Two

    (Note to those who read the previous chapter, I’m still playing around with the structure. This part of the story takes place after the evens in the Resonance nightclub, but before the phonecall the next morning. The phone call will probably be moved into the next chapter, and this chapter added to the first chapter. )

    Dateline: 0200 hours, Northern Factory District

    Kneeling on the roof of the Yu Di electronics factory, Osprey adjusted his visor, allowing him to look into the alley between where he is situated and the Soltech building next to it. The place was silent, except for the occasional beeps from the equipment inside. Two standard doors stood at either end of the alleyway, with a loading door in the center, probably for smaller deliveries. He speaks softly into a communicator kept in his gauntlets.

    “The alleyway’s clean. And I don’t mean “no trouble”, I mean clean. What type of city has clean alleyways?”

    “Victor, thats… irrelevant right now. The alarms were tripped about 5 minutes ago, so you will need to hold them for 6 – 7 minutes before the police show. I caught them on the internal cameras – five of them. 4 men, 1 woman. Leader seems to be the chubby guy with the sporting some sort of cybernetics. He’ll be somewhere in the middle of the pack. Most of them seem trained, but not well trained so far as I can tell… except maybe the woman… but watch out for the back of the pack. Big guy… as in enhanced big. They’ll be coming out the rear door in 45 seconds or so…”

    The com-link went silent for a minute.

    “So, you’ve got a plan, right Vic?”

    “Of course I do. Strike hard, strike fast, take them out before the first police car gets here.”

    “That’s not a plan, Vic…”

    “Sure it is. Even back in the war I could bank on taking five on my own, three if they were trained. Add another for the element of surprise and two for the equipment. You’re good at maths, I’ve got one guy to spare.”

    The line went silent again for a few seconds.

    “25 seconds, Victor. Remember, you don’t have to take them out, just slow them down.”

    “Are you worried about me? That’s cute.”

    Osprey steadied himself, drawing himself into a hunch, like his namesake hawk preparing to launch.

    “I’m worried about them getting away. This is our one lead on them…”

    “Relax, babe. I’ve got this.”

    Seconds later, the first of five figures appeared through a door, a man with a baseball cap reversed and a checkered shirt, buttoned only at the top. He immediately headed for the end of the alley way. He was followed by the lone woman of the team, an olive skinned woman with a curved sword across her back, dressed in embroidered pants and over-shirt. She headed straight to the loading door.

    And then came the mark. Not particularly tall, and as the voice in his ear had pointed out, a little bit chubby. He was laden with cybernetics however… visor and headset, torso covering, gauntlets and leg coverage.

    “I’ve got the police route coming up. Hold the for 5 minutes.”

    Before any further bodies could appear, Osprey leapt from the rooftop, propelling himself ten feet across the alley and dropping the 20 feet down, landing his feet directly into the chest of the figure and knocking him straight back into the door. Osprey drew himself to his knees, turning to face the lady who had turned with her sword drawn, but was now running back towards her leader. Osprey put his gauntlets to the ground, releasing a shockwave and radiating about five feet in a circle, launching her backwards just as she was about to reach striking distance.

    The leader was beginning to bring himself to his feet, and the door behind him started to open a second time, as Osprey launched himself, slamming the door closed with a kick, as he simultaneously knocked the leader down again with a punch from his heavily enforced gauntlets.

    “4 minutes, 20 seconds”

    It was at this point that all hell broke loose. Osprey’s attention was drawn towards the mouth of the alleyway as a van roared down the alley with the baseball capped man hanging off the side, gun in his hand. Simultaneously, the hinges of the door next to Osprey ripped off, sending the door slamming into his side and knocking him down. In place of the door stood a figure that took up almost all of the space of the doorway.

    Thinking quickly, Osprey lifted the door and, using his gauntlets, sent a shockwave that propelled the door into the oncoming van, shattering the front windscreen of the van and knocking the guy in the baseball cap off the side. He then squared himself to face the brute that stood in the doorway. Immediately, he felt four bullets hit the center of his torso armor, knocking him to the ground again. Thankfully, none of the bullets penetrated, and Osprey brought himself back up. His gauntlet went towards the ground, but he felt a sharp swipe along the gauntlet, as the woman brought her sword along the gauntlet. Osprey felt a spark along his arm, and as he tried to engage the shockwave saw a barrage of blue sparks and felt a sharp pain along his arm.

    “3 minutes, 30 seconds. Just hold them Vic…”

    He felt a foot connect to his face, and he was driven upwards, only to feel a force push him backwards and into the wall. A shockwave? It was surprisingly a lot like that of his own gauntlets, only directed into a beam. The leader smiled, then began barking orders with decided authority.

    “Breach, Shear, delay. Trick, Smith, load. We’re down to 1.5 now.”

    Osprey ducked an incoming sword, rolling forward, but straight into the foot of the behemoth who had destroyed the door. A sword strike came down on the other gauntlet, in almost an identical position to the one that had destroyed the first gauntlet. A voice screamed in his ear.

    “Vic. That strike is too well aimed. They know your gear. Find a way to stall them.”

    Vic didn’t respond. He was still shaken by the foot he had taken to the nose a moment ago. He felt himself dragged by his feet and propelled straight into the air, swung like a baseball bat into the wall. He felt his visor shatter and a sharp pain through his nose. His vision darkened and blurred, and he slumped forward.

    “Breach, Shear, load…”

    He blacked out, awakening to hear a voice screaming in his ear.

    “1 minute 30, Victor. Get up.”

    Victor pulled himself up, his vision still blurred, and he tried to look down the alleyway. There was no sign of the van.

    “It’s too late, babe. They’ve gone.

    “No, Vic. 1 minute 20, now. For you. You’re a bloodied mess, standing in a crime scene, decked in unregistered hardware! Get out of the alleyway!”

    Osprey pulled himself up, staggered and almost fell again. He looked down the alley, but the wall at the end was too high. Maybe, if he was healthy, he could have used the boosters to hit the roof, but he was a long way from healthy.

    “I can’t get motion here, Lisa. I need some options”

    There was a momentary silence.

    “OK, OK. I’ve got this. If I can get you some elevation… Head through the door. I’ve got control of the cameras.”

    Osprey limped into the Soltech building, blood still flowing from his nose.

    “You’re going to have to stop that bleeding, Vic.”

    “I can handle it”

    “You can’t escape if you’re leaving a trail of blood everywhere. There’s a bathroom on the right.”

    Osprey staggered through a swinging door on the left, seeing himself beneath the haze of blood and shattered glass in the mirror. He could hear the police sirens pulling up outside. He washed the blood off his face, pulling a dozen disposable hand towels to stem the bleeding.

    “I’ve found you an escape route. There is a set of windows on the next floor, that should be able to get you to the next building.”

    “I’ve got no energy here, babe.”

    “Let the boots do the work. Propulsion plus elevation equals your escape route. You don’t need the energy in the gauntlets now, so I can redirect the power. Vic…”

    There was a long pause.

    “You have to trust me here.”

    Osprey had made his way to the second floor. He could hear the police on the second floor, and they hadn’t made the connection between the blood outside and the blood inside yet, so they hadn’t worked out there was anybody still there.

    Osprey found the window, and made his way to the ledge.

    “I’ve got you on visual, Vic. Look up, 9 o’clock.”

    Osprey looked up to see the red light of a camera blinking at him.

    “Right, I need you to turn your body about 15 degrees to the right, and lean forwards about 33 degrees.”

    Osprey turned his body, trying desperately not to think about the maths. That was Lisa’s thing, not his.

    “We only get one shot here Vic, hold steady. When you feel the boost I want you to straighten out and just keep yourself stiff as a board.”

    There was a burst of power from his boots, and Osprey was sent flying clear across the factory ahead of him landing on the roof of a factory one block over. Intuition kicked in, and he rolled forwards, cushioning the fall. He almost blacked out again.

    “Vic, are you with me?”

    Osprey shook himself, and fell forwards again.

    “It’s just a bit further. If you can get to that ladder on the West Side, I’ve got the SUV waiting. Just a bit further Vic.”

    Vic pulled himself forward, not attempting to stand up. While conserving energy, it had the added bonus that he didn’t show up as a silhouette on the Majestic skyline. He crawled to the handrail and fell forwards, his hands holding him up as he slid, rail by rail, down the escape ladder. At the bottom of the ladder a black SUV was waiting, with a mousy young lady leaning on the side.

    She intercepting him at the bottom, being careful not to take too much of his weight so that she wasn’t crushed by the weight of the muscular ex-marine with his bulky combat technology. She helped him into the SUV, laying him out across the backseat.

    “You’re safe. Lets get home.”

    “I had them… A few more shots…”

    “A few more shots and I would be picking you up from the morgue.”

    ———-

    Victor Greco woke up. The room stopped turning and his vision came into focus, but as he tried to pull himself out of bed he felt every muscle in his body screamed back at him, burning for his attention. His equilibrium faded again and he toppled out of the bed and onto the hardwood floor. He felt his stomach heave, pulling the contents of the previous night’s meal onto the floor.

    Lisa Greco, his wife of 8 years, rushed through the door, stopping quickly before she reached the mess all over the floor. She quickly grabbed towels from the closet next to the door and dropped down to help pick him up and pushed him back into the bed.

    “What the hell do you think you’re doing.”

    There was a decided lack of humor in her voice; irritation, not concern.

    “Wow… this feels…”

    “Like you’ve had ten shades of crap kick out of you? Yes? Yes, you did. I watched the whole thing happen from the dozen or so cameras I had to commandeer to protect your identity.”

    “What ever happened to sympathy for the injured?”

    “Whatever happened to your combat math and your three point plan?”

    “Huh?”

    “Strike fast, strike hard, take them out before the first car gets there!”

    Victor’s head swam.

    “Hey… just… calm it down… this hurts…”

    Lisa walked out, slamming the door hard.

  8. Edgukatoron 31 Jul 2012 at 8:24 am

    Chapter Three

    (Took a bit long on this. Rewrote a bit because I was bringing a few of the characters together too quickly…)

    Dante walked slowly away from the center of Majestic. For a man who could move at incredible speeds, the slow walk allowed his mind to process the world much more effectively. Normally he couldn’t stand this speed – it made him think too much – but on those times when the world sucker punched him, as it had today… He needed to slow his thoughts, not drown them out.

    He also knew that if he timed it just right…

    He had made it to the outskirts of the center, and the buildings were beginning to thin out and disperse. It was relatively early, perhaps six thirty, and the streets were just beginning to populate with businessmen heading towards their offices and convenience store staff migrating to and from home as shifts changed. The upmarket cafes of the center were slowly being replaced by more rustic owner-operated cafes.

    He spotted her before she saw him. Athletic, serious and, by the read on her face, distracted by something more pressing. She was hispanic and, while covered with a civilian jacket, wore the unmistakable uniform of the Majestic Police Department. Dante watched, making sure he was out of her line of site, and carefully angled himself, falling into her.

    “Hey woman, watch where you’re…”

    “Dante!”

    Seconds after registering, she started to pat herself down.

    “Relax. I didn’t do anything…”

    She eyed his suspiciously for a second, then playfully punched him in the arm.

    “Where have you been? Heard you got some press yesterday.”

    “Don’t go there. Look, you want to grab a coffee?”

    “I’ve just got off night shift, Dante. I need some serious sleep.”

    “Decaf, then, and if you fall asleep I’ll carry you home.”

    He waited for a second, then nudged her.

    “Come on. One coffee.”

    There was a moment of hesitation before acquiescence.

    “Alright”

    While there was a Brazilian Jacks on the corner, Dante took her two blocks further out of the center. The Metro was all but empty, and Dante enjoyed that the waiter didn’t insist on being called a barrister. He served the coffee and kept his nose away.

    “So, how’s business?”

    “Why are you here, Dante?”

    “I’m here to see you, Mariza. Haven’t seen you in…”

“Cut it, smart guy. You turn up one day after you’re embarrassed in the Cryer, and suddenly you remember the police woman you used to date?”

    “You’re good”

    “I’m a cop, Dante. I can smell your bull a mile away.”

    Dante stiffened, shook for a second and raised his eyes from his coffee.

    “I need help. I need to get in the right place at the right time…”

    “And you know where that is? That is four months ago when I was waiting in this cafe and you never showed.”

    “ I was…”

    “I know where you were. But it took you two weeks to tell me, Dante.”

    “Look, you’re a cop. You wanted me to call you to bail me out?”

    “I wanted you to call me.”

    A pause. Cars buzzed pass.

    “Look, that’s exactly why I need your help. At the moment, I’m a vigilante. That means I’m always gonna run the risk of ending up in jail in the morning. Just imagine if I had been there two nights ago. If I had made that bust…”

    “You couldn’t have made that bust…”

    “Fastest man in city, Mars. I read you guys missed the bust by a couple of minutes.”

    “You couldn’t have made the bust, Dante.”

    “How do you know?”

    “I just know, OK?

    “How?”

    Mariza looked at Dante, shaking her head in frustration.

    “This is between you and me, Dante. You can’t tell anyone.”

    “What.”

    “There was a cape there that night. We found his blood… quite a lot of it… and bits of some type of power armour. Whoever these crooks were, they took out a cape. Destroyed him, by what we can tell.”

    “Who was he?”

    “No idea. The crooks seem to have rigged all the cameras so we’ve got no images of any of them. But I was at the scene, and I saw the mess they left behind. There was some pretty awesome fire power.”

    Dante’s mind started to speed up.

    “OK, so somewhere out in the city is an injured vigilante, and a crew of super villains who were powerful enough to take him down. This could be the ticket…”

    “No, Dante… it couldn’t. I saw the amount of blood at that scene. Whoever got hit is probably not up and walking at the moment.”

    “Were there any clues?”

“Dante, leave it. What are you going to find? Best case scenario, a broken cape. Worse case?”

    “I can handle it.”

    “Dante…”

    Dante stood up, cash on the table before anyone could see his wallet leave his pocket.

    “I can handle this.”

    It was an hour later, and Dante stood in the alleyway that lay between Yu Di and Soltech Industries. Dressed in a suit and tie, he surveyed the area. The debris from two nights ago had been cleared, no doubt bagged and tagged by the police. He made his way towards the end of the alleyway, noticed the hastily barricaded area that used to be a fortified security door and two concentric circles of cracked concrete in the pavement. There was little, so far, to tell him of either the assailants or the mystery cape who had somehow disappeared in the night.

    He took a small digital camera from his pocket and started to take photos of the scene. He paid particular attention to the three cameras in the area, all of which had little red lights blinking slowly beneath them, a sign that they were, at least currently, recording.

    Dante returned his attention to the door, noticing a small area on the stonework where the stones looked stained. Someone had done a good job of cleaning the blood away, but stone typically soaks up more than you can scrub out. He removed a small plastic bag and a penknife from his jacket, chipping lightly at the stone. The DNA obviously wasn’t in the police database, Mariza would know who he was, but maybe…

    “Do you have permission to be here?”

    Rent-A-Cop, mid 20’s, red hair chisel into a tight crew cut. He was either a weekend soldier, or a wannabe. Dante could sense the insecurity in him, something about the look in his eyes and the way he held himself.

    “Certainly, Paul DeVaungh… Marris Insurance. Just been send over to check out the security in the alley to give an assessment and some recommendations.”

    “I though the insurance were through earlier…”

    “Here’s my card,” and with a smooth movement of the wrist he produced a gold embossed card… Paul DeVaungh, Insurance Assessments, Marriss Insurance. “The boss just wanted me to do some additional work on the entrance point, see if we can make some extra suggestions that will allow us to keep Soltech at their current risk evaluation. A break-in like this is sure to affect our …”

    Dante monitored his eyes, aware that he had gone past the point where the rent-a-cop was interested.

    “Look, maybe you can help me. I’m trying to get a feel for what happened here. What can you tell me about what happened?”

    “Not much. I wasn’t on that shift. What I know was they came in through that door over there…” the Rent-A-Cop pointed to a door at the entrance of the alleyway, “and left by what used to be a door over there.”

    The Rent-A-Cop pointed to the barricade Dante had noticed earlier, but told him nothing he didn’t already know.

    “Do you know anything about who did this or how it was done?”

    “Rondell was on that night, but I think your guys already talked to him.”

    “Rondell?”

    “Evan Rondell. Tall guy, black hair, tanned skin. Works nights.”

    Dante wrote the name into his notebook, thanked the rent-a-cop for his time and slipped away.

    —–

    Lisa Greco watched the cameras in the Soltech alleyway diligently. He facial recognition software had alerted her five minutes earlier that an stranger had entered the alleyway. A second recognition search had taken all of 30 seconds to turn up his name. Dante James, not the Paul DeVayne he had told the Rent-A-Cop.

    She decidedly, pointedly, not to tell her husband, who was recovering in the next room. Within a minute, every camera in the city with an network connection was quietly watching to see where Dante James was going. He joined 5 other faces that the cameras were currently looking for.

  9. YellowJujuon 31 Jul 2012 at 10:37 am

    Your writing made me realize that I’m not a very good author…that, or you’re an AMAZING author.

  10. B. McKenzieon 31 Jul 2012 at 12:32 pm

    “Your writing made me realize that I’m not a very good author…that, or you’re an AMAZING author.” Be confident and keep practicing. 🙂

  11. YellowJujuon 31 Jul 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I’m gonna write short stories until I’m good, and then work on my novel.

  12. Edgukatoron 03 Aug 2012 at 8:51 am

    Then you’re probably better than I. This is about the eighth time I’ve started a novel of this type… all in the same world… but the problem has been being succinct enough. I have an earlier novel that I have spent way more time developing (upwards of 5 years, now), but still hasn’t gone anywhere further than a plot outline and a couple of false starts. What it has done is help me outline the world this story takes place in and some of the rules of the world.

    And truth be told, Dante James was a minor character I developed for that story that I realised had a lot more personality to play with than the lead of that story.

    Any work is the process of the hundreds of stories that went before it.

  13. YellowJujuon 03 Aug 2012 at 9:12 am

    Is the stuff you’ve posted all you have written for this story?

  14. Edgukatoron 03 Aug 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve got the next chapter written, but I also have things like a plot outline, character outlines… I often sketch buildings or characters (even though I’m not a very good artist) just so I have some mental images of who what and where.

  15. YellowJujuon 03 Aug 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Well, I look foward to reading your finished project!

  16. Edgukatoron 05 Aug 2012 at 10:54 pm

    —OK, I’ve just sorted out a knot in Chapter Five, so I’m happy to post Chapter Four now. If you’re reading and wondering why I’m posting each chapter, I’m using this forum to keep myself writing. I figure that if you’re reading it here, and you’re prepared to put up with the editing errors and the like, you deserve to get this for free.

    Chapter Four

    The name Evan Rondell turned out to be much of a dead end. He gave a vague description of the 5 super humans who had broken in, then he shut down when pressed on the hows, whats and wherefores. Someone had obviously filled him in that as sole member of staff on duty that night, he was under suspicion as an inside link. Dante quickly surmised that, for all his evasiveness, Rondell was protecting his hide, not holding darker secrets.

    That left the blood sample, and a problem. For all his wit, Dante was not a private investigator, and certainly not someone who could identify DNA that the police could not. If it wasn’t on the criminal database, then what? FBI? CIA? Dante didn’t even know where to begin on that. Military? Chances are, if he was military, he was augmented, and that DNA is locked down tighter than Fort Knox.

    An hour later, Dante sat in the Metro Cafe, tapping the table with a vial of blood-soaked concrete chips, trying to figure out his next move when Maxwell sat down.

    “Any ideas of how to find our mystery hero?”

    Dante had pulled Maxwell up to speed on the phone an hour ago, when Maxwell had called to tell him he had news.

    “Not a clue. Probably another dead end.”

    “Hang in there. If we can track either the bleeder or the gang, we’ve got something we may be able to parlay into something bigger.”

    Dante tapped the table two more times, then slid the vial back into his jacket pocket. The word ‘parlay’ resonated in his head.

    “You came here with something.”

    Maxwell shuffled in his seat a little.

    “Well, don’t get your hopes up, but I got you a meeting. Possible work.”

    “I’m listening.”

    “Quartexol Industries.”

    “Quartexol… they’re the military manufacturer out in Finlay, right.”

    “Yes, and they’re spooked. That hit was the fifth tech company in two weeks. Same M.O. They’re looking for some extra protection.”

    “Wait,” Dante comically dropped his brow, creating a parody of his own grandmother whenever he got into trouble. “It sounds like you’re talking about a Rent-A-Cop work. Tell me, Max, that you’re not talking about Rent-A-Cop work.”

    “No, Dante. Think of it more like ‘on-call hero’.”

    “OK, let me consult my bullshit to English Dictionary.” Dante mimed flipping through the pages of a rather large dictionary. “Nope, says ‘On-Call Hero: See Rent-A-Cop.”’

    Maxwell buried his head in his hands as Dante tried to get the attention of the waitress.

    “Excuse me, miss.”

    The waitress, in her mid 30’s, her tattooed arm idly flipping the pages in a magazine, looked up briefly, but with the same interest a horse might stare at the grass in the next field.

    “‘On-Call Hero? Does that sound like another word for Rent-A-Cop to you?”

    The waitress gave a disinterested grunt and went back to page flipping her magazine. Maxwell shifted in his seat again and tried again.

    “OK, lets frame this a different way. Do you know who Spiro Metaxas is?”

    “Spiro who?”

    “Spiro Metaxas. Nicknamed Vulcan, after the smith of the Roman Gods. Owner of Quartexol. Third richest man in the city. Largest financial backer to the Russell Fox for Mayor campaign.”

    Lights went on in Dante’s eyes.

    “Rusell Fox.” Dante drew each syllable to the length of a short sentence.

    “You know he won that campaign, right?”

    “You know, even though you’re my agent, I can still hit you with the world’s fastest pimp-slap, right?”

    Four hours later, Dante and Maxwell were sitting in a waiting room in Quartexol Industries. Dante wore a black dress jacket with a dark purple shirt and highlighted by a silk tie. He had come dressed to make an impression.

    A severely-dressed white-haired schoolmarm of a secretary opened the double doors to the waiting room.

    “Mr Metaxas is ready for you. Please follow me.”

    Dante and Maxwell followed the secretary down a long corridor of gold and rosewood, occasionally punctuated by classically designed wall lights before arriving at an impressive set of double doors. As they approached, two tall black-suited security agents opened the doors. Both looked as if they would have been entirely comfortable throwing themselves in front of a bullet aimed at the president, or alternatively as extras in a UFO conspiracy movie.

    Maxwell entered first and approached a bald, portly man in a white collared shirt and a pair of red suspenders. He wore a pair of spectacles that were almost comically too big for his face.

    “Mr Harrington, “ said the portly figure. “And you must be…”

    Dante intercepted him, flicked out a business card at barely perceptible speed, and handed it to Metaxas before he could complete the sentence.

    “Dante James. At your service, sir.”

    Spiro Metaxas inspected the card. Gold on black with the words:

    Dante James
    Jetspeed
    Freelance Hero for Hire

    “Mr James. Jetspeed. I like that. But I thought you went by a different name. What was it again?”

    “Jetset. But I’m under new management and this is a branding opportunity.”

    “Ah, yes. Kestral Security. I believe you worked under Felix Moors.”

    “Task? A couple of times. I tended to be put on internal security, upmarket floor work rather than the merc work, but he called me in a couple of times but time when time was of the essence.”

    Spiro Metaxas looked seriously at Dante for a second, then smiled broadly and began to laugh.

    “‘Time was of the essence’… very good. Please, Dante, Maxwell, take a seat.”

    Without pausing, Spiro Metaxas jumped from subject to subject.

    “We designed the carapace units for Moors’ Bonebreakers. Did you know that? Would you like a drink, Mr James? Mr Harrington?”

    “Just water, please.”

    Spiro Metaxas poured himself a brandy, and took out a bottle of mineral water for Dante, then returned to business.

    “Mr James, recent events have left me concerned about my business. Alacricity Corporation, Greco-Tech, MayfairChip, Zenith Engineering, Soltech, each of these companies bares at least a tangential relationship with Quartexol. Suppliers, subcontractors, competitors. And each has been a target in the last month of a super powered break-in.”

    Dante nodded, even though none of this was particularly news. With all the cash flowing through the city, someone had created a niche for themselves in the criminal community by targeting tech companies. How and why, however, was anybodies guess.

    “We’re looking for someone of your talents to help bolster our security.”

    “You want me to capture these bad guys and put your mind at rest.”

    Spiro looked at him quizzically for a second, then continued.

    “My main concern is the property here at Quartexol, Mr James. From what I gather you would not be the first hero to try and capture these men. They failed, and five against one is not good odds.”

    There was a knowing look between Dante and Spiro, the look of two men who knew more than either would divulge.

    “Here’s what I would like to offer you, Mr James. We will put you on retainer and connect you to our security system. You will receive a bonus if and when any security breach is thwarted.”

    “And…” Dante tapped the desk, building anticipation, “if I do capture these guys?”

    “Mr James, your job will be security, not police work.” Metaxas stopped for a second… “I may, however, be able to offer you one more thing, for the sake of being prepared. Since Greco-Tech, they have found a way to circumvent security, but we have some security footage I got from Steven Zane over at Alacricity. It may help you prepare for their tactics.”

    Dante smiled, and nodded.

    “This all sounds like a good opportunity, Mr Metaxas. Thank you.”

    “No, thank you, Mr. James. I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful business relationship for both of us.”

    “For both of us.” Dante returned.

    Spiro smiled, summoned his secretary, and Dante was lead to the security center of Quartexol. It was truly impressive, run by an ex-cop by the name of de Souza, and filling a room the size of a moderately sized coffee shop, with computers, monitors and security officers. Every man and woman in the room carried the bearing of someone who had been trained in either the military or police force.

    Dante was fitted with an alert kit – communicator, palm sized computer with a mainframe connection and an SDA, sub-dermal alert.

    “Mark of the Beast” de Souza joked as he attached the chip. It had bothered Dante momentarily, but working back at Kestral he had seen coworkers, including Felix Moors, head of the Field Assault Department, turn themselves into living weaponry. The SDA, he was assured, was a completely reversible procedure, leaving only a slight scar, and he had even been shown the exact location, complete with a small lump under the skin should he wish to get it removed independently.

    “Try to sell it, though, I’ll make the damn thing explode” de Souza laughed.

    “You saying this damn thing is an explosive? Get it out now!”

    “Loosen up. It’s just a corrosive. Completely innocuous to people, totally destructive to the Q20 Chips that drive the thing. All of this is proprietary hardware, so we have to take precautions.”

    De Souza gave Dante a thumb drive with the footage of the Alacricity break-in, shook his hand and lead him out of the building.

    Dante walked outside the Quartexol building. Macwell was waiting as the sun began to set.

    “Are you happy, Dante?”

    “Hell yeah, I’m happy.”

    “Did I do good?”

    “Maxwell, you done me proud, white boy.”

    Maxwell hailed a taxi and as he stepped in, he called back.

    “Remember that at our next contract extension.”

    Dante walked, turning his new palm-sized security computer over in his hand. The Quartexol Logo was stamped into the back, and served as a watermark in the currently dark LCD screen.

    A black SUV slowly pulled up about 10 yards ahead of Dante and a small woman with slightly unkempt hair got out. She was unassuming in almost every way; neither particularly beautiful nor ugly. Her only distinguishing features seemed to be a slightly truncated nose, as if missing a little of the cartilage, and a scar the began behind her right ear and followed her jawline for a couple of inches.

    “Dante James? I think it’s time we spoke.”

    “Do I know you, lady?”

    “No. But I have something to discuss that may be of interest to you.”

    “Look, my mum taught me not to get in to strange SUV’s with mousy-girl-next-door types, so you’re gonna have to give me a little more to go on.”

    The woman reached in to her pocket and pulled out her card.

    “Lisa Greco, head of Greco-Tech Industries.”

    Dante could tell she was trying to come off as impressive, but after the meeting he just had she was pulling it off about as well as an obese man in a swimsuit competition.

    “Head? Head of Greco-Tech?”

    Lisa flustered.

    “Well, Owner-Operator. Look, I have information that you might find useful.”

    “What exactly?”

    “Let’s start with the man that blood sample in your pocket belongs to.”

  17. YellowJujuon 05 Aug 2012 at 11:01 pm

    That was great!
    How many chapters you thinking the book will be made up of?

  18. Edgukatoron 05 Aug 2012 at 11:14 pm

    When I drew up my plot, I put this at about 20 chapters, but I’m trying to allow it to go where it goes and tidy itself up on the other side.

    There are two parts to this – I’m trying to hit 70-80 thousand words (its recommended when trying to sell a novel), but I know I will be adding lots of detail on the rewrite. I also want to leave it space to grow because there are things that just happen when I’m writing, so I don’t want the plot outline to be a straight jacket.

    At the same time, I know it’s easier to write more and cut than to write less and try to expand, so lets see.

  19. Edgukatoron 08 Aug 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Chapter Five

    Dante stared in amazement at the figure on the screen. While it was difficult to tell scale, the 3D model rotated, showing 360 degrees of a man, at least in the widest sense of the word ‘man’, that seemed to be all muscle and bone and little else. He was almost as wide as he was tall.

    “As best we can tell, this guy is called Breach. By my calculations, he is somewhere around nine foot tall and 450 pounds of pure muscle. I have no idea how he got this way, but his body seems to be augmented to do feats of strength that would put a charging rhino to shame. We have camera footage of him ripping a solid steel security door off its hinges and throwing it like he was throwing a football.”

    “And you got this video… how? I heard these guys had commandeered the cameras?”

    Lisa squirmed for a second, then tapped a button on a touch screen tablet she was carrying and continued.

    Dante sat on the ground floor of what appeared to be a converted Auto-Repair shop. The garage itself was covered, almost every square inch, in what appeared to be different metal work projects and electronic experiments. A pit in the floor of the garage built for making repairs underneath the car had been converted into a metal welding area. Currently, in what would have been a sales office, Dante was looking at a wall of computer screens. The entire room hummed from computer fans, heat sinks and a dodgy old air-conditioning unit that had been installed to try and regulate the temperature. It wasn’t doing very well.

    “We don’t have a name on this guy yet,” Lisa continued, “but he appears to be the leader. Most of the team appear to call him, boss.”

    A slightly overweight figure appeared on the screen. Most of his body was covered in a hodge-podge of mechanical body armour and his face most of his face was concealed beneath a darkened visor and helmet, with the exception of a roughly worn goatee.

    “That equipment he wears seems to contain a variety of different weaponry and defensive mechanisms. We’ve seen him use a shockwave device, as well as a some gadgets for bypassing security equipment and the like.”

    Lisa tapped a portable touch screen, and the figure of a woman dressed in loose embroidered pants and over-shirt appeared appeared on the screen.

    “We think this woman’s name is…”

    “Look, lady, I already have three big questions,” Dante interrupted. “How did you get this footage? Who are the other people in this “we” you keep mentioning? And when are you going to tell me who this blood belongs to?”

    Dante pulled out the vial of concrete chips and tapped it on the desk.

    “It’s mine,” came a voice behind Dante, “and I’d appreciate you didn’t ask anybody else about it.”

    Dante turned to see a massive beaten figure of a man. He may not have been as big as the figure on the screen, but he was pushing 7 foot tall and built like a tank, albeit a rather beaten up tank that was due to be decommissioned. His face bore the bruisers and cuts of a man who looked like he had been in a rather nasty bar fight the night before, and he leaned as he stood, favouring his left leg.

    “And who the hell are you?” Dante continued, barely pausing.

    “I’m the guy whose house you are currently sitting in. I’m the reason we have any combat footage of this unit at all. I’m Osprey, and if you’re in my house I respectfully ask that you wipe your feet and treat your host with a little respect.”

    Dante came to his feet, and quickly realised he barely reached the man’s chest.

    “So this was your blood? No disrespect, but from what I heard, I’m surprised you’re even walking today.”

    “No disrespect,” Victor Greco punctuated the syllables, making no secret of the digust with which he used the words, “but for a strange man in a someone else’s house, talking to another man’s wife while that man’s not there, you certainly have a strange sense of priorities.”

    Victor took a step towards Dante so that he was looking down his nose at him.

    “Now, son, you wanna make nice with the introductions?”

    It was Dante’s turn to squirm. He put out his hand.

    “Dante James. Jetspeed. And I’m here because your wife asked me here.”

    “I know why you’re here. I just want you to have some manners when you step in my door. Victor Greco. Osprey.”

    Victor gave his hand a firm squeeze, then released. Dante backed off so he didn’t feel looked down on.

    “So, you wanted me here. Tell me what you need?”

    Victor turned his head to look at Lisa, then nodded at her. She took over the talking duties.

    “The reason we have the video is because we commandeered the cameras. We have been tracking these guys since they broke in here, two months ago.”

    “And you took over the cameras. Why did you do it?

    “We couldn’t hack the cameras without letting people know they had been hacked, so it was easier to delete the footage than try to hide the hack. Now we’ve got a problem.”

    “Yeah. And what’s that got to do with me?”

    “Spiro Metaxas seems to think he’s the next target, and he may be right, but their tech is too good for us. There’s no way we can hack their cameras. But you had a meeting with him and I’m guessing he offered you a job.”

    “He might of. But you got to give me a good reason to help you.”

    Dante felt a heavy hand clamp his neck, and he felt himself lifted up and pulled so he was face to face Victor Greco.

    “Because I’m going to say please.”

    “Victor!” Lisa’s voice interrupted. “Put him down.”

    Dante dropped to his floor, gathered himself, and spoke to Lisa, being sure to keep both eyes on Victor.

    “For someone who wants my help you sure got a funny way of asking for it.”

    “Look, we’re not asking for much,” Lisa continued. “My guess is that you have been patched in with the alarm. All we’re asking is that when they call you, you call us.”

    “Well that’s what you want from me, but it doesn’t explain why I should help you.”

    Victor motioned to Lisa.

    “Show him.”

    Lisa tapped on her touch screen again, and three of the monitors lit up with security camera footage of the Soltech break-in. It replayed the battle between Victor and the five figures.

    “This is a pretty well-oiled unit, well trained. At least two of them have military training, and the boss guy there looks packed with some top league technology. If these were normal burglars, I promise that I would have taken them down that night.”

    The video had arrived at the point where Victor was kicked in the face, then slammed into the wall.

    “Woah,” Dante exclaimed. “How the hell are you walking after that? Damn boy, we need to get you to a hospital, quick.”

    Victor subconsciously grabbed at his nose, which looked like it had been knocked out of place in the action.

    “Don’t worry about me, boy, I heal pretty quick. But that’s what Metaxas wants you to stop, and trust me when I say you can’t do it alone. One phone-call. That’s all we’re asking for.”

    Dante had made the deal, taken the phone number and put it on speed-dial on his phone. Over the next few days, he took to carrying a briefcase with him, laden with the security equipment Quartexol had given him, his cell-phone and a uniform Maxwell Harrington had designed for him.

    “This is a branding opportunity, Dante,” Harrington had explained. “Wear that now, we make a deal for the comic books and figurines later. Merchandise, Dante, merchandise.”

    It was five nights later, and Dante was sitting at a table-for-two in Lunarium, the most expensive restaurant in town. The restaurant was located on the roof of a 40-story building towards the outskirts of the Central Business District, and its defining feature was that is was housed completely in a plexiglass dome that allowed customers a 360 degree view of the city and the sky.

    Mariza Reyes-Vega was lead to the table by the maitre d’. Dante intercepted, pulling out the chair and helping Mariza into her seat.

    “That’s nice of you, Dante. Very gentlemanly,” Lisa stated, then sharpened her tone. “What do you want?”

    “Not this time, Mariza. This is a celebration.”

    On cue, a waiter came to the table with a bottle wine. Opening the bottle, he gave Dante the cork, then splashed a small amount of wine in his glass. Dante smirked, and with a touch of exaggeration sniffed the cork, tasted the wine and swirled it around in his mouth, being sure to let the sound be heard.

    “Stop it, Dante…” Mariza whispered across the table in mock shock.

    “They gave me training in that, you know? They taught me how to pass myself off in pretentious company… how to sniff a cork, which fork is the salad fork, how not to shove a dozen h’orderves into your mouth at a fancy function.”

    “Really,” Mariza mocked. “I never picked you for the refined type, Dante. Maybe you need more training.”

    “Very funny,” Dante returned.

    “So what are we celebrating?” Mariza asked.

    Dante paused, heightening the suspense.

    “I’ve got a job,” Dante replied. “Security work.”

    “That’s great news, Dante.” Mariza smiled. “Who are you working for?”
    “Get this. Spiro Metaxas.”

    Mariza almost coughed up the wine she was spitting.

    “Wow, Spiro Metaxas. Security work for Quartexol. That’s… something… Dante.”

    Dante cocked his head sideways, squinting his left eye slightly.

    “Wait, you swallowed something there.”

    “It’s called wine, Dante. You ordered it, remember.”

    “You’re redirecting. You’re not the only one who knows how to read people, you know.”

    Mariza tried to pretend she hadn’t been asked anything for a second, but Dante’s gaze didn’t falter. It was an uncomfortable couple of seconds.

    “OK, fine. Be careful, Dante. Be careful.”

    “Careful about what, Mars? What should I be careful of?”

    Mariza raised her shoulders and looked uncomfortable for a second, then relented.

    “Detective’s intuition, Dante. This is Spiro Metaxas, right?”

    “OK. Where are you going with this?”

    “What does Spiro do for a living, Dante?”

    Dante knew this game. Mariza was coaching him, teaching him a few of the hundreds of tricks she had picked up in her decade of police work.

    “He’s a military contractor. What of it?”

    “Not just any military contractor, Dante. The guy designs power armour and high tech weapons for both the government and a number of mercenary outfits as well. All legal. All on the books.”

    “Yeah, I know that. Kestral was one of them. He designed our Offensive Response Carapace’s for the Bonebreaker Unit.”

    “Kestral is one of them, Dante. Not was. He turns ordinary military into super-humans, right?”

    “OK, but why should this worry me.”

    “Because if he has a legion of ex-military men with high tech weaponry at his disposal, what does he need you for?”

    Dante was flummoxed by the question. He stumbled over the answer for a second, then felt an unfamiliar buzzing in the back of his hand. He jumped at the sensation.

    “Dante? What is it?”

    “That’s the alarm. I’ve been summoned.”

    “So what are you going to do?”

    Dante placed a hundred dollar note on the table, then excused himself from the table.

    “I guess I’m about to find out.”

  20. Edgukatoron 17 Aug 2012 at 9:39 am

    Chapter Six

    Dressed in a form fitting black and yellow costume, Dante approached the outer gates of Quartexol Industries. One of the two great steel gates was open, pushed inwards, while the other remained where it began. As Dante recalled, these gates were automated, and one did not open without the other. He tapped his earpiece and opened a line to the Quartexol security center.

    “De Souza, you there?”

    “Right here, Dante. You’ve probably noticed the breach already.”

    “Yeah, your gate’s wide open. What’s the game plan?”

    “We’re co-ordinating a number of moving parts, here… Start with that van pulled up on the right.”

    Dante looked around the gate and saw a black van emblazoned with a ‘Quartexol’ logo.

    “That’s not one of yours?”

    “Could be, but it was driven by one of ours. Someone electronically jimmied the gate and that thing drove in.”

    “Onto it…”

    Dante quietly grabbed the white shirt he had worn to dinner out of his briefcase, then a rock from the ground, stashed his briefcase behind a bush, and slid inside the gate. Holding to the shadows he approached the van. Even slowing down to silence himself, Dante travelled faster than the average person could run. Approaching the rear of the van, Dante wrapped the shirt around the rock, then plugged it into the exhaust pipe.

    He approached the driver’s side window and looked inside and saw a man in a hooded sweatshirt, the hood pulled down over his forehead, crowded over the steering wheel. He quietly tried the handle, but it was locked.

    “Looks like I gotta do this the hard way,” Dante whispered to himself.

    He stood and tapped on the window. The hooded figure turned to the window and visibly panicked, immediately trying to engage the key and start the van. The van backfired loudly, sending the package Dante had stowed in the exhaust flying across the entrance.

    “That always works in the movies”, Dante thought to himself.

    The van took off backwards, skidding to turn, when Dante saw a tall figure dressed in pieces of power armour standing in front of it… Osprey. Osprey sent his fist to the floor in front of the van, sending a shockwave into the pavement, and the front of the van was propelled upwards as the van continued forwards, sending the vehicle in a somersault.

    A voice buzzed in Dante’s ear.

    “What on God’s earth was that noise?” de Souza asked.

    “Well, the van’s taken care of. What next?”

    “I’ve got a clean-up crew coming your way. I thought I caught sight of another figure on the camera, so be careful. I need you inside, so listen close as I give you instructions.”

    Dante turned to Osprey, but he was already gone, his boot propelling him to a balcony on the second floor in a single leap. De Souza was in Dante’s ear, directing him to the right hand side of the building.

    The entry point had apparently been a side door, but there had been no sign of forced entry and Dante had to ask De Souza to let him in. Half a minute later, Dante could hear a security guard on the other side of the door, then some muttering into a communicator.

    “They’ve fried the keypad,” came de Souza’s voice on the head piece, “so you’ll have to head to the next entrance… Wait…”

    There was a brief flurry of noise, and then de Souza was back again.

    “Dante, be careful. There seems to be a second entrance point, and we’ve got another security break on the second floor. We’ve lost visual contact with the cameras. He down to the next door and we’ll try to hook you in.”

    Dante headed down to the next door, but he could hear de Souza distracted on his headset. When he got to the next door, a security guard was there holding the door open.

    “Where’s the action?”

    De Souza spat back into action.

    “Head down the corridor, take the first left and slow down. They’re about three rooms away from there.” De Souza’s attention was suddenly yanked away again. “Quinn, try patch 301 into…” and the line switched off again.

    Dante took the left and could suddenly hear the action. A collection of electronic beeps and the shuffling of feet. Bereft of a voice in his ear, Dante pulled out the palmtop computer and pulled up a security camera. Dante fumbled for half a minute, trying to navigate between cameras, before finding the correct one. All five of the figures were in a small room. The boss was standing at the far end, fiddling with the electronic lock and guarded by the behemoth Lisa Greco had shown him on the computer. The woman with the curved sword stood half way down the room. Two gunmen, one with a baseball cap turned backwards on his head and a bandana covering his lower face, the second wearing a full face mask, much like a Mexican lucha-libre wrestler might wear, stood on either side of the main door.

    Dante clicked on his headset.

    “De Souza, I’ve got the room, but they’re to well covered. Is there anyway you can get me to the other side of that door.”

    “I’m going to open up a route to the other side. Head back and follow yourself to the left, and here’s what I want you to do.”

    “Take them down…”

    “No, Dante, listen…” de Souza was momentarily called away, and Dante started his way left. He found a series of doors open and providing a clear track for him. “Listen. You can’t take them alone. We’ve got this planned, but I need you to play a role for me. I want you to pull them into an ambush for me.”

    “You want to what? You’re going to use me as bait?”

    “I want you to help me divide and conquer. I’ve got that door locked down, but in about 10 seconds I’m going release the door, and I need you to pull a couple of them off.”

    De Souza’s voice disappeared again, but a slow buzz came through Dante’s hand. He counted off the pulses… 10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5…

    Dante steadied himself, and as the count hit 2 he started his move, gaining momentum towards the door. He was expecting someone to step out, but instead went straight passed the door as it opened. He slid, pulling himself to a stop and turned to hear a series of orders being barked.

    “Trick, Smith, take the left and lock down the corridor. Breach, Plan B. Get the next door.”

    Dante had pulled himself to face the door from the other, but the first thing he saw were three pistols revealed around the side of the door. Just in time, he pulled himself out a side corridor. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the gigantic figure of Breach thunder out of the door and straight through the door on the opposite side of the corridor, delivering a gigantic crash. From the cover of the corridor, he ventured his head around the corner, but was forced to pull back as a series of bullets sped past and embedded in the wall at the end of the corridor.

    Dante surveyed the corridor he now stood in, noticing a few locked offices and a single cleaning closet. Dante tested the door, found it happily click open, then quickly ducked in. Surveying the room quickly, he grabbed 2 bottles of bleach and a broom.

    Taking a second to breath, and flung the bottles of bleach up the corridor, before pulling his head back around the corner. There was a predictable sound of gunfire, and a sudden scream. Dante launched himself around the corner and found himself racing towards the figure with the bandana, who was clutching at his eyes, apparently being struck in the face by the bleach. He pulled the broom to his side and ran slightly to his left so that his broom was set to strike at the remaining gunman’s ribs.

    It was in a moment like this that most people would struggle to keep up with the action, but Dante wasn’t most people. To move at the speeds he does, Dante had to be able to think at the speeds he moved. The first thing to happen was that Dante felt himself losing traction beneath his feet. The bottles of bleach had been shot in mid-air, and Dante was now skidding on the liquid that had been spilt on the floor.

    Rather than trying to fight for friction, Dante pivoted his weight and through himself into a slide, now hold the broom at shin level. The broom collided with the gunman’s legs, snapping the broom in two.

    The slide had the second effect of allowing Dante to duck a flurry of incoming bullets, as the second gunman fired from inside the room. By the time he was able to react and draw down his aim Dante had slid to the end of the corridor. The second gunman turned to attack, but by that stage Dante had rolled himself around the corner and was busily removing his now wet shoes. He could hear the gunman running behind him, so he scrambled to his feet and retraced his route.

    Dante put his hand to his ear and put a signal in to De Souza.

    “D – I need your help. Got a bogey on my tail and need to know where you want him.”

    “Wait a second,” the was more commotion in the background. “I’ve got a bit of a situation on my hands, but I’ve got a couple of guys to spare. Turn right, hug right and I’ve got another route laid out.”

    Dante turned a corner, went a short way passed the original door and turned another corner, then stopped. There were no footsteps following him.

    “Where the hell are you?” Dante whispered to himself.

    Dante patched in to the palm pilot and pulled up the security cameras. He noticed all the cameras on the next floor were unavailable. The corridors he had just come down were empty. The corridors he originally came from and sword the masked gunman, wearing goggles, staring directly at the wall…

    There was a loud noise directly behind Dante, and a hole the size of a tennis ball appeared millimeters behind him.

    Dante moved immediately, and a series of five holes followed him up the corridor… and then stopped. Getting further out of reach, Dante pulled out the palm pilot once more. The gunman had returned to the corridor, helping his compatriot to his feet, and following the trail of destruction left by Breach. Dante flipped on his headset.

    “De Souza, I lost him.”

    “That’s OK, you bought us some time, but my men have been split as well. I need to get to the second floor, help bolster an ambush point. I’ve hooked up a map on you palmtop, just follow the dotted line.”

    Dante took out his palm pilot and pulled up the floor plan. A dotted yellow line flashed at him. Following the map he was lead around a couple f corners and up a flight of stairs, taking him to the second level. A few more corridors, and Dante came upon what looked like the result of a scuffle. Two Quartexol security guards, replete with what looked like high powered rifles, lay knocked out on the floor. Dante tried to signal it in, but found that he only got static. He had no choice but to continue the path de Souza had laid out for him.

    Dante turned a couple more corners before coming on a scene of absolute chaos. Two Quatexol guards lay unconscious already, while the third was pinned against the wall by Victor Greco, now fully decked out in his body-armour.

    “Osprey, put him down!”

    “They attacked me. This was self-defense.”

    Dante looked at the guard and read his name-tag, quickly changing tack.

    “Green… OK, Green. Are you OK there?”

    “Do you think I’m OK?” came the reply, “How the hell do you think I’m doing?”

    Osprey pushed in on his neck, cutting off his air and stopping him talking.

    “Victor, just back down man! Let’s talk this through!”

    Almost immediately, Dante found himself looking into Victor’s gauntlet.

    “It’s Osprey! Use that name again and I do to your head what I did to that van outside.”

    “Right you are. Just calm it back, man. You, me, him, we’re on the same side, right.” Dante was doing his best to keep his voice as calm as possible and not do anything unexpected.

    “I can’t speak for you, and I can’t speak for him, but I came here to stop a bunch of thieves.”

    “Well this ain’t one of the thieves, man.”

    “Didn’t stop these three trying to shoot my ass.”

    Dante looked to Green, back to Victor, then back to Green again.

    “Green, look man. You got to trust me, this is one of the good guys, and all three of us are losing time stopping the real bad guys, right.”

    Green nodded his agreement.

    “And if I get you to promise to not shoot him in the back if he lets you go…”

    “You’ve got my word,” the guard replied.

    Victor interrupted. “How do I know I can trust you?”

    “Soldier’s honour.”

    “You military boy?”

    “2nd and 6 NC…”

    “Marine?” Victor had softened. “Semper Fi!”

    Victor released his grip, then put his hand under Green’s arm to help him stand.

    “Semper Fi,” Green returned between coughs.

    Victor turned and looked at Dante, shoeless but still dressed in his black and yellow costume.

    “What the hell are you wearing?” Victor asked.

    “I got it from your Mama’s closet,” Dante replied.

    The three staggered down the corridor, lead by Dante who was still following his palmtop. The corridor opened up until they were standing on a balcony of the second level of a massive open room three stories tall. Below, a battle raged. Half a dozen guards taking on the five thieves, and two massive exo-skeletons piloted by Quartexol Guards. Three of the guards were already down, either dead or unconscious, and one of the massive exo-skeletons had large pieces of the armour ripped off it by Breach.

    “What the hell are those things?” Victor whispered.

    “Orcs,” Dante returned.

    “What the hell?” asked Victor.

    “Offensive Response Carapace,” Green answered. “And if they’re taking holes out of that, this situation is a cluster.”

    Dante tried at his headset again, but the there was still no signal. Victor looked, tapped his gauntlet, and suddenly the headset buzzed into life.

    “Dante, what happened?” came the frantic voice in his ear.

    “Temporary interference. Look, I got to where you asked, but it looks like there’s a major mess downstairs.”

    “There’s supposed to be a dozen men up there!”

    “Green’s here. I don’t think the rest are going to make it.”

    “Then we have to come up with new priorities. The van is disabled so they’re not going to be make off with any equipment. We got the driver in a hole right now, so try find a way to let them get away with minimum casualties.”

    “Wait, what?” Dante asked. “You’re gonna let them get away.”

    With that, Victor let out a growl, “Not a chance!” and leapt to the level below, immediately heading for Breach.

    “Remember me?” he called, centering his gauntlet in the center of his chest and sending him to the floor a couple of feet from where he had stood. While it surprised Breach, the lack of distance surprised Victor even more.

    “Smith, help Breach,” came the call from the other side of the room. “Shear, take the X-O.”

    With that, the masked gunman launched a barrage of projectiles at Victor. The gun didn’t fire bullets, Dante noted, but some form of energy. Three bolts struck Victor in the back, knocking him to the ground just in front of the behemoth he had just knocked down. The metal armour on Victor’s back smoldered, but it had protected him from any serious injury.

    In the meantime, the woman with the sword had advanced on the remaining O.R.C., dodging its fire with athletic grace before landing to its left hand side. The boss and the second gunman took out the remaining three guards as the swords-woman unleashed. With a handful of lightning quick, but well-placed strikes, the swords-woman deftly cut major cables and joints on the exo-skeleton. In a matter of seconds the left side of the carapace collapsed, and she moved her sword towards the downed guard’s throat.

    Dante turned to Guardsman Green. “Get yourself by the orc on the left, I’ll go save the guy on the right.”

    Dante sped down a staircase, tacking right to avoid the masked gunman, then turning back in to knock the swords-woman down, driving her away from the carapace. With a second movement, he disarmed her sword and held it to her throat.

    Meanwhile Victor came to one knee, found Breach almost on top of him and threw his feet into the chest of the behemoth. With a sudden burst, Breach was thrown backwards into the wall as Victor engaged the repulsers he used to leap.

    For his part, Victor was sent sliding across the floor, finding himself steering down the barrel of the masked gunman, and the action came to a stalemate. Victor held under a gun, the swords-woman pinned by her own blade and while no-one was looking, Guardsman Green had snuck up behind the second gunman and taken him hostage as well.

    And so time stood still.

    “Your move, smart guy, “ Dante addressed the goateed boss. “How’s this going to work?”

    “Dante James. This is a strange place to find a night club.”

    “Very funny. I guess that makes your girlfriend here a go-go dancer.”

    The woman before him started swearing in Farsi.

    “Yeah, save it for the jury, sister,” Dante said, then turned back to the boss. “Now, you’ve got one of ours, we got two of yours, so the maths tells me we won.”

    “Really? Go ahead. Kill her, then. Then Gunsmith there can kill your friend. Then the guardsman can kill Mr Trickshot there. And by my count, we’ve still got three to your two.”

    “You’re forgetting the two men in the O.R.C.’s here” Dante retorted.

    “Oh, did I?” and with that the boss and the masked gunmen turned their weapons on the two figure trapped in the exo-skeletons, killing both instantly. A serious hush fell, and Dante realised that he was making a bluff he couldn’t make good on.

    “So here’s how it works. Breach there makes a door in that wall, and we walk out of here as a team, and you sit and contemplate how you let us walk out of here. Breach. Make a door.”

    Breach turned to the wall and made a man sized hole with a series of punches. There was a shuffling of figures as everyone rearranged themselves, then an awkward moment when everyone released simultaneously.

    For a second it looked like everything had resolved, but in his move away Victor turned a grabbed the mask of his gunman, brought up his gauntlet and sent him flying across the room, tearing the mask off in the process. Gunfire opened up from the other side, killing Green immediately, and missing Dante by a narrow margin while his reflexes kicked in. Both Victor and Dante found cover as the thieves backed out through the hole in the wall. Breach had picked up the downed gunman, while the second gunman and the boss held down the room with suppression fire.

    When the smoke cleared, Victor and Dante merged from behind their respective coverage and looked at each other.

    “Your actions got Green killed,” Dante barked. “What the hell were you thinking?”

    “He was a soldier. He knew the risks.”

    “But for what, Victor? A mask?”

    “A face. Now we got a face. Do you know what that means? It means any camera in the city and we can track him.”

    “And that’s worth a human life?”

    An electronic door opened, and de Souza appeared, flanked by another two guardsman and a three-man medic team. They quickly spread across the room checking on the men down. Most were dead, but they went about stabilising a couple of the men who were injured.

    “Who the hell are you?” de Souza barked, “and what the hell are you doing…”

    Before he could complete the sentence, Victor had propelled himself to the second floor and was out the door.

    De Souza turned his attention to Dante.

    “You know him, I suppose?”

    “Not sure I know him, as such, but yeah.”

    “And I suppose somehow he just knew to turn up tonight.”

    Dante looked downward.

    “Head to my office. We’ll sort this out when I’m done here.”

    ———

    When all the chaos had died down, the SDA was removed from Dante’s hand. Technically, he hadn’t broken any rules; all Dante had done was make a phone call, but Victor’s actions had split de Souza’s team in two and broken the mission. They had enough to fire him on the grounds of incompetence. All in all, Dante felt like he had got off light.

    On the way out, Victor had led the police on a chase. The criminals, for their part, made their own exit through the back of the building, creating an ad hoc passage through the exterior walls. Once again, Victor’s distraction had possibly prevented the police from following up on the action.

    Quartexol had taken the driver of the van into custody, so the night hadn’t been a total loss, but none of that made Dante’s predicament any better.

    ——-

    If there’s one thing about living life at the superhuman speed, you can bet that no matter how bad the day was, you have burnt off enough energy that you fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow.

    So it was that Dante was fast asleep at 6:30 when the doorbell rang… and rang… and rang. And after the ringing had stopped, the knocking started, getting louder and louder until even the exhausted Dante was woken up.

    Pulling on a robe, he shuffled to the door, opening it just wide enough to see the eyes of Mariza Reyes-Vega burning at him.

    “Mariza… hey… wait a second.”

    Dante closed the door, straightened his robe and fumbled with the latch. While awake, he was still tired enough that a simple act like sliding the bolt on the door took two or three tries. Mariza was standing petulantly, still in her police uniform, as Dante ushered her in and offered her a coffee.

    “Dante, why did your name just get added to a watch list?”

    Dante fumbled with the coffee cups, then dropped one into the sink completely. Fortunately it did not smash.

    “You guys have those things?”

    “Yes, Dante. We have those things. Apparently you have been linked to an ex-marine we’ve currently got in our holding cell for breaking and entering the Quartexol building… twice.”

    “You guys caught that crazy bastard?”

    “No quite. Head of security at Quartexol caught him trying to break back in after whatever the hell happened to you last night.”

    Mariza took the coffee cup and headed towards the window of the apartment. There wasn’t much of a view, but Mariza cocked her head and looked down the alleyway, catching a glimpse of the early morning sun.

    “Damn, so what do I have to do now?”

    “It’s not what you’ve got to do, Dante. It’s what I’ve got to do. Later today I’m going to have to see my boss and disclose that I have a relationship to a name on that list.”

    Dante stopped for a second as words clicked in and out of place in his head.

    “Wait… a relationship to? That’s pretty careful wording.”

    “That’s because I’m not quite sure what to call it Dante. Am I in a relationship “with” you?”

    Mariza published the quotation marks around the word ‘with’ in the air with her fingers.

    “Well, I thought we were…”

    And then he stopped. What could he say? Come two days ago he hadn’t seen Mariza in four months, and that had been after a particularly embarrassing moment he had waited in jail for Maxwell to arrive with the bond.

    “I guess we’ve got to talk about that”, Dante corrected himself.

    “No, Dante, I’ve got to sleep on it. I just finished a ten hour shift. I call you after I’ve worked it out.”

    And with that she walked out the door.

    And for the first time since he moved to Majestic, Dante felt alone.

  21. Gnomeon 17 Aug 2012 at 5:34 pm

    This is excellent.

  22. Edgukatoron 18 Aug 2012 at 7:06 am

    Thanks… but its a work in progress. Seeing it “out there” has helped me see a lot of things i want to fine tune in my writing…

  23. Anonymouson 18 Sep 2012 at 6:59 am

    Chapter Seven

    Thursday 01:30

    Victor had to admit that this part of the business was fun. He had caught a dozen or so policemen flat footed, dropping from the second floor of the Quartexol building and running straight at the cops and engaging his boots just as they recovered enough to start firing. The booster took him high enough to grab a lamppost and swing himself to a second floor balcony of a factory building across the road.

    Half of the police pulled away for the chase, bringing a smile wider than the Grand Canyon to Victor’s face. Victor scampered along the metal skeleton of a balcony that circled the factory, watching the policemen scramble to try and cover him.

    “Washouts,” Victor whispered under his breath.

    Victor glided from the ramp to the alley below, slid into a side alley and lay in wait. Seconds later a policeman slid around the corner at speed, straight into Victor’s outstretched arm. The clothesline leveled the cop, and immediately after Victor propelled himself to the roof of the building on his right, just as another couple of cops turned the corner guns out.

    Victor surveyed the cops from above, watching them fan out around the building. Victor was sure to keep his body low so that he did not appear as a shadow against the full moon. The police had spread along the two alleys that bordered the building, being sure to keep their guns trained on the corners of the roof they could see.

    Victor waited until the police had spread throughout the alleyway, looking for an opportunity as one of the police lagged behind. Victor dropped, landing behind the straggler with a thud. The cop turned, drawing his gun, but Victor reacted first, driving the cop’s hand into the wall. Victor raised his gauntlet to the gun and delivered a shockwave, shattering the gun and, judging from the scream of pain from the cop, most of the bones in cop’s hand as well.

    The two cops further along the alleyway turned, but again too late as Victor threw his opponent over his shoulder and leapt, cop in tow, to the top of the next building. He dropped the cop on the roof. The cop clutched his hand and screamed at Victor.

    “What the hell are you? Some type of psycho?”

    Victor threw a mask at the cop’s feet. The cop looked up.

    “What the hell’s this?”

    “A gift,” said Victor, deliberately deepening his voice to make himself more menacing. “Find out who this is.”

    “You broke my damn hand!” the cop returned.

    “And you shot at me, but lets call this equal. Find out who owns that mask.”

    Victor turned toward the far end of the building, paused, then turned to the cop again.

    “And tell your friends to lay of the donuts, and maybe do some cardio classes. They’re an embarrassment.”

    And with that Victor took a running leap from the building, engaging his boosters just before he leapt and propelled himself into the darkness. The remaining cops made an attempt to follow, but he was gone.

    It was just passed two o’clock when Victor got home. Lisa was still tapping away on her computer, a cup of dark, now cold coffee beside her.

    “What’s the word?” Lisa asked.

    Victor recounted the events of the night; taking out the van, taking out the cameras on the second floor, taking out guards and the standoff that ended the night.

    “So where’s the mask?” Lisa asked.

    “I gave it to a cop. Figured you could hack their system and trace,” Victor responded.

    “So it comes down to a running race? Do you really think it’s a good idea to have to rely on having to beat the cops to the target?”

    “I just did a work out with those guys. Those guys couldn’t catch a parked car.”

    “Too risky, Vic. We need that face.”

    “You still can’t hack the computer? I thought when you took out the camera’s…”

    “There was a firewall between the floors. I could only take the second floor.”
    Lisa paused, swiping her hand across her touch screen tablet.

    “I need you to go back in…”

    “Back in?”

    “Look, if you can get yourself into the central control room, I may be able to kill two birds with one stone.”

    Victor looked at his gauntlets, pondering the situation.

    “Do these babies have enough power to get through a security door?”

    “You won’t need to,” said Lisa, then paused, nervously tapping at her tablet. “Victor… I need you to get caught.”
    ———————–

    It was near dawn, and Victor sat facing the desk in the Majestic Central Police Station. A grizzled, closely shaved African American cop through a makeshift pair of gauntlets on the table and glared at Victor.

    “What the hell do you call these? Some kind of joke?”

    “Halloween,” came the sardonic reply.

    “It’s mid-June.”

    “My parents are immigrants. It’s mid-October in Estonia.”

    It was too much for the cop, and he inadvertently found himself laughing.

    “That’s funny. If I weren’t about to lock you up I would recommend stand-up.”

    The cop paused, stood back, turned away for a moment before returning to the table.

    “Tell me about the gauntlets.”

    “Are you my lawyer?” Victor asked.

    “No.”

    “Then I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you anything.”

    The cop picked the gauntlet back off the table, turning it over in his hands.

    “See, I’ve got video of you placing these babies into somebodies chest has throwing them halfway across a room, but best I can tell this thing here is nothing more than a hastily made prop for a sci-fi movie. You packing some kind of super freaky shit in that DNA of yours?”

    “Well, your mother tells me I’m packing the largest weapon in my trousers that she’s ever seen. Maybe you can call her in as a character witness.”

    The cop slammed his fist on the table hard enough that the gauntlet bouncing.

    “Cut the crap, freak. We finger print you and you turn up as some vagrant whose been dead for twenty years. We put it through the federal database and get 40 year old housewife in Minnesota. So you know what I’m thinking?”

    “That I’m a 40 year old zombie transvestite?”

    “That there’s somebody in the system watching your ass. What was it? Military? CIA? Who did you work for?”

    “You really want to know?” Victor paused for effect. “The gay mafia.”

    There was a knock at the door, and the cop opened it and met an officiously dressed young man. Their conversation was hushed but tense, and the cop was not happy. Victor could only pick out individual words – “telephone call”, “powers that be”, “up on high” and a plethora of curse words.

    The cop reentered the room, visibly angry.

    “You’re free to go.”

    Victor looked at him without the slightest hint of surprise. He picked his gauntlet off the table, ans threw his shoulder at the cop as he walked passed.

    “Don’t mess with the gay mafia,” he taunted.

  24. edgukatoron 18 Sep 2012 at 7:04 am

    damn, forgot to sign in when I posted…

  25. edgukatoron 22 Oct 2012 at 10:22 am

    Chapter Eight

    “So,” said Maxwell, walking into the coffee house and slamming a handful of printed pages on the table in front of Dante, “this happened.”

    Dante turned the pages to face him. Each bore a headline declaring the previous night as an absolute disaster, and each excoriating Dante in the byline.

    “Yeah,” replied Dante, burying his head, “apparently it did.”

    “And?”

    Dante didn’t bother to look up. Maxwell officially worked for Dante, not the other way round, but Dante knew there was no defending this one.

    “And I got screwed is what happened. Wannabe hero decided to play tag-a-long and took me down with him.”

    Maxwell seated himself, pulled a ballpoint pen out his pocket and circled a photo on one of the printouts.

    “You mean this guy? The mystery man?”

    “Victor’s a mystery man? That guy’s whole soul is written on his face… big, dumb and as stubborn as a government mule.”

    “You know his name?”

    “Hell, I know where he lives.”

    Maxwell started beating the table with the tip of his pen incessantly, as if delivering thoughts to his brain by morse code. It didn’t take a degree in body language to work out he was concocting some type of scheme.

    “Dante, there’s your way out. The cops are looking for this guy.”

    “What do you mean? I heard he was sitting in a jail cell right now.”

    Maxwell turned another of the printouts back towards himself and began to read out loud.

    “Police held the unknown vigilante in a holding cell before releasing him after what appears to be an elaborate high-tech rouse. A phone-call, originally though to be from an unnamed government law enforcement agency, had ordered the release of the unnamed man, but further investigation proved the phone-call to have digitally mimicked government identification procedures. Police are calling upon anyone in the public who has any information that could help identify the man to please come forward and assist the police in their inquiries.”

    “You want me to turn pigeon.”

    Maxwell waited, staring at Dante, still tapping his pen to some inaudible beat.

    “Yes.”

    “I don’t sing like that kind of bird, Maxwell.”

    “Look, Dante. At the moment your name is mud. I couldn’t get you a contract to work as a mall-greeter, let alone real security work. We need to establish you as a law abiding citizen – someone not scared to assist John Q. Policeman with his inquiries. You do this, you clear your name… you re-establish trust… hell, you might even get a feature in the Cryer as the guy who bought… who was it?”

    “Greco. Victor Greco”

    “… the guy who bought Victor Greco to justice.”

    ———————

    Dante spent the entire walk double guessing himself. Just why was he doing this? Was he really just going to talk? Maxwell’s argument was incredibly persuasive. He could go from zero to hero in one action. He could earn his reputation back. He could look Mariza in the eye…

    … but he had made the decision. Talk first. If Victor was more than the big dumb thug he presented himself as, this decision would be difficult.

    He arrived at the run-down converted garage that he had been at a few days earlier, cautiously approaching the main door. It was closed, and he could hear a shuffling of furniture inside. Dante knocked carefully, and Lisa’s voice rang from inside.

    “Just a minute.”

    She opened the door, still on the latch. She looked a little red in the face.

    “Dante… can I…”

    “Is Victor in? We really need to talk about…”

    Lisa cut him off mid-sentence.

    “He’s out… right now… just left actually.”

    Dante paused, weighing his options for a second.

    “Then can we talk. Just for a moment. I need to work some things out.”

    “I’m not sure. It’s not really a good…”

    This time it was Victor’s turn to cut her off.

    “Look, Lisa. A man died. Two nights ago. It was… well. Let’s just say if Victor hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t be dead.”

    Lisa looked back into the room, and for a second Dante wondered if Victor was still there, but Lisa released the latch. Dante entered slowly, as Lisa quickly picked up an overturned lamp.

    “Victor was testing some new equipment, and accidentally knocked… well, anyway. Can I get you a coffee?”

    “No, I would really rather just talk. Do you know what happened the other night?”

    “Well, he told me there was a bit of combat, a stalemate. He said the Head of Security had screwed it up… then lied to the papers…”

    “And you know the truth as well, right.”

    Lisa shrugged.

    “Look, Victor said it. I believe him.”

    “Lisa, walked straight out of jail from a routed phone call. I’m guessing that was you. And you commandeered all of the cameras, so I’m guessing you recorded everything that happened, and I’m guessing that you watched the recording, so you know…”

    “Look, what do you want me to say? That Victor screwed up? That he’s rash, and impulsive, and a hothead… Yes. But he’s also a hero. He puts his body on the line to stop the bad guys.”

    Dante noticed that Lisa’s gaze was jerking to the left. The first two or three times, Dante thought she was just avoiding his gaze, but now she was finally telling the truth, he noticed she was not looking away, she was looking towards… towards the computers.

    “What’s going…” Dante stopped, and walked towards the computers. Waking the monitors up with a tap of the keyboard, an array of security camera video started to appear. They were focused on one figure from multiple angles. It took a second, but Dante recognised him as the man Victor had unmasked the other night. He was downtown. A second monitor tracked a second figure, more familiar to Dante. Victor was trailing the gunman from a good distance.

    “You found him.”

    “Look, I would stay away right now. When Victor left, he was in a pretty bad mood…”

    “I’m not exactly sunflowers and rainbows myself, at the moment” Victor replied, and with that he was out the door and down the road.

    —————

    It was halfway downtown that Dante realised the massive flaw in his plan. Two minutes ago, Dante knew exactly where both hunter and prey were, but that was two minutes ago. He was fast enough that he could run each block of the central district in about ten minutes, but how to do that without alerting Victor or the man he was chasing.

    Dante reached the point where he had last seen Victor on the monitor. At four o’clock, the street was filled with foot traffic, but vehicular traffic was at a steady drip. There was no sign of commotion, aside from the stares that Dante himself had accumulated by running along the road faster than most cars.

    “New strategy”, Dante decided. He turned to the onlookers and decided to crowd-source the problem. He couldn’t remember the face of the criminal to save his life, but he was pretty sure Victor would stick out like a sore thumb.

    “Excuse me, I’m trying to find a…” Dante paused for a second to find the right word, “a friend. Big guy, six and a half feet tall, big steel cones on his arms that look kind of like those cones put on dogs to stop them licking themselves.”

    A rather excited young child pointed his finger up the road at a diagonal, indicating that Victor had gone up, using the rooftops. Dante reflected for a second on the irony of Victor taking the high road, then sped north towards the Blackwards Center.

    ——————-

    The Blackwards Center is the largest mall in Majestic. Occupying some 5 square blocks of the Majestic downtown and rising 8 stories high 4 for shopping and entertainment, a further 4 for the offices and security that run the center, plus 3 levels in the basement for parking), Blackwards is the brainchild of Vanessa Blane, heir to the Blane venture-capital fortune. Featuring an indoor amusement park, cinema complex and over 400 stores, the mall has a somewhat unique layout. It is built hexagonally, and has been nicknamed the Blackwards Beehive as the entire mall is laid out through a series of hexagons.

    Dante turned up his speed. Finding a commotion inside Blackwards would be finding a black hole in starless sky. He was going to need a way to find his target before his target found his, and fortunately he had recently been given a crash course on big scale security.

  26. YellowJujuon 22 Oct 2012 at 4:06 pm

    You’re a really good writer! 😀
    When you publish some day I will definitely get this book!
    If you could look at MY review forum, that would be appreciated!
    Good job!

  27. edgukatoron 02 Nov 2012 at 4:44 pm

    OK, next chapter – currently finishing the next, and I’m a little worried Dante has strayed. His decisions seem to be too much like a regular hero at the moment… not sure if he’s the ambitious wannabe hero I designed.

    Chapter Nine

    The knock on the door startled Head of Security James Plank. For one, he had only a second earlier been looking at exactly that corridor on security monitor and it was empty as a beach on a rainy day. For two, there were alarms in that corridor, and it had not yet been tripped. The alarm five corridors back had just begun to flash. A second later and they fell like dominos, each alarm flashing in turn.

    Plank checked the camera directly above the door to find the figure of Dante James frantically waving. Plank opened the intercom into the corridor.

    “This is a secure area. You must leave now.”

    The figure signaled all the more frantically, and he could see he was speaking somewhat frantically, but behind the one inch solid steel door there was no sound to be heard.

    “Sorry, but we can’t hear you in here. You must leave now. A security team has been dispatched.”

    The commotion had pulled over Plank’s second-in-charge, Katrina Daniels, or KD has she had been nicknamed in the office.

    “That’s that superhero in the paper this morning. Dante something.”

    “I don’t care if he’s the Queen of Somalia, he’s not getting in here.”

    Dante had pulled a permanent marker from his pocket and was scrawling on the wall nearest the camera.

    “Now he’s defacing the damn wall. How long ‘til Swinton and Prince get there?” James Plank asked.

    “They’re just around the corner.”

    Right on cue came two security guards. Swinton was barrel chested, and marshmallow bellied. With his roughly-kept beard he looked like Santa Claus after one hell of a bender. Prince, for his part, was talk, dark and exceedingly bald. He doubled as a bouncer at night, and his muscles bulged and rippled as he spun around the corner. Swinton had pulled a Stun Gun from his belt.

    “Drop the pen and put your hands in the air.”

    Dante turned to face the two men. The black marker remained in his hand, the lid on the floor, but he had put his hands in the air.

    “It’s just a pen, man. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong…” Dante got halfway through the word and scrunched his face, “Right, the whole graffiti thing.”

    Dante turned quickly and added a word to the scrawl on the wall. So far it read…

    I BET THAT YOU…

    Dante felt a breath on the back of his neck, spun and dropped Swindon to the floor with a well placed foot to the backside. The Stun Gun went tumbling beyond him.

    Prince had pulled a nightstick from his belt and approached on Dante. Dante used the split-second to add a word to his graffiti…

    …HAVE…

    And ducked to avoid a nightstick to the temple. The nightstick hit the wall, and Dante used the time it took for Prince to recover to add a fake mustache to his assailant before slipping behind him.

    Prince turned and Swinton pulled himself from the floor. Dante had retreated to the end of the corridor and steadied himself for an oncoming charge. Dante caught them off guard, charging back at a speed they were thoroughly unprepared for, a slid down between their legs. Dante had monitored his speed well, moving a little beyond ordinary human speed so that the two guards had time to react, but nowhere near the speed to catch him, then speeding up just as he got within arm’s reach. As he slid past, he heard the Stun Gun and the nightstick each connect with flesh. Swinton howled in pain, but the muscle bound Prince had it worse, falling to the ground in incapacitating pain.

    Dante added two more words to the wall…

    …A DEAD…

    as Swinton turned again, shaking his leg. He ditched the Stun Gun, but put his arms out in a failed attempt to grab Dante. Dante snuck behind him, flayed with his marker for the second, then stood back and waited for Swinton to turn once more. When he did, Plank clearly saw a word written on the back of Swinton’s grey uniform…

    …CAMERA…

    Almost on cue, Mitchels, the third guard in the room, called out from his banks of monitors.

    “Camera’s down in 15, 17 and 18…”

    Swinton lunged at Dante, but Dante simply stepped backwards and watched the bloated carcass of Swinton collapse on the floor. The door behind Swinton opened.

    “What the hell do you know about those cameras?” came the gruff voice of James Plank.

    “I know whichever ones just went out, you’ve probably got trouble coming”

    Plank ushered Dante into the security room.

    “21 down. 22. 25,” Mitchels continued to count away.

    “Have you got a map?” Dante asked.

    “I’ve got two men in the corridor knocked out, and you expect me to be the frickin’ information desk? What do you know about my cameras?”

    “Let me take a guess, and you just tell me if I’m right. The camera’s are not going off randomly. They’re all in the same area… in fact they’re going off in a line, as if they’re masking someone walking through the areas they cover…”

    Mitchell had looked up from his screen.

    “He’s right boss. Central West entrance, Maccabees, Jules Stripland, Rock and Roll Heaven…”

    “Where are they leading?”

    “What?”

    “What direction are they heading”

    “You first. Tell me what’s going on here,” Plank interrupted.

    “Those cameras are masking a rather serious heavy hitter, guy by the name of Osprey, and he’s tracking someone through your store. When he catches him, there’s gonna be hell to pay, right in the middle of this nice little mall you got, so you can either help me track him and I’ll try to move it out of your store, or you can do nothing and I can just run randomly at subsonic speed through your store and try to find him. It’s up to you.”

    Dante turned and left the room, pulling a walkie talkie from Swinton’s belt. Dante called over the head of Plank towards Mitchels.

    “You keep me posted where he’s going. A little luck I can stop a bit of damage here.”

    Dante paused for a second, then picked up the pen that was on the ground, and quickly added the missing question mark to the back of Swinton’s uniform, before turning the corner at superhuman speed.

    ———————

    Dante backtracked to the entrance. How would a a six and a half foot thug with two steel “collars of shame” around his elbows? There was no obvious sign on the floor, but…

    Dante looked at the overhang above the main entrance and noticed the window had absolutely no glass inside it. Dante had the entry point, he had gone high. Looking up, Dante noticed that the central area of the mall was open space, rising 4 stories, with the fourth story punctuated by girders. Dante grabbed at the walkie talkie.

    “OK. Time to fess up… either tell me where he’s going or you’re going to have some unexpected entertainment in your mall today.”

    The walkie talkie buzzed into life.

    “Mr James, this is Mitchels. He’s heading towards the Centerpiece.”

    “OK, man, but I’m not from around these parts, so you got to give me more to go on. I’m at the entrance.”

    “OK, You should be able to see Rock n Roll Heaven from where you are. Head that way and take a left onto the central promenade.”

    Dante followed the directions, moving quickly past the music store and a number of big name clothing stores.

    “Mr James, I noticed something else. So far the only cameras that are out are the top layer cameras…”

    “Yeah, the guy I’m after is up in the girders somewhere.”

    “Except… we’ve just lost all of the first floor cameras in an entire sector.”

    “Where? Which sector?”

    “The Centerpiece itself.”

    Dante turned up his speed, careful to avoid the foot traffic in the mall.

    “Where?”

    “Head right…”

    ———————

    The Centerpiece of the Blackwards Shopping Mall was a two story piece of modern art known as “The Flower of Vulcan”. It was a series of molded pieces of steel about four meters tall that spiraled upwards, resembling something like flower petals crossed with a DNA helix. In the center of the sculpture was a sphere made of some rare light golden metal found somewhere in South Africa. It was suspended in midair by an unknown force, and sparkled with a rainbow-like sheen. Rumours abounded as to exactly what the sculpture was worth, or who it had been commissioned from, or even what technology levitated the sphere.

    Victor was exactly where Dante predicted, hanging from a girder and watching the room carefully. Dante followed his eyes and found the mark, walking out of Quintessence Jewelry with fresh shopping bags. If you weren’t looking carefully, he looked particularly nerdish from a distance – thick rimmed glasses and a collared white shirt. Only his developed muscles betrayed him as something beyond the ordinary; that and a rather garish taste in jewelry, with a large gold chain bracelet and necklace highlighting his otherwise buttoned-down demeanor.

    He was nobody to the crowd until a second later.

    Victor swooped down from the girder, grabbed the shopper, and returned to the ceiling. The crowd scattered. A number started looking up and pointing at the ceiling. One or two among them screamed. Victor perched with his prey in hand, his fingers wrapped around the neck of his victim.

    “Tell me…” Victor barked in the man’s face, “where do I find the man you work for?!”

    Dante looked around for a way up to the girders. There was no obviously access in the higher levels, as the second and third floor shops a stopped at least 400 meters down the mall.

    “I don’t know what you mean, man. I’m just a shopper.”

    Victor relaxed his grip around the target, letting him slip before grabbing the guy around the ankle.

    “We both know that’s not true. How’s the view?”

    “Are you crazy?”

    The crowd was panicked, with several on the phone.. probably the police. Others had their cell phones directed to the ceiling. If he didn’t act now, Dante would either get painted as a powerless bystander, or worse, an accomplice to what appeared to be a hero with his brains gone AWOL. He took a few steps back as a lead in, then sped towards the Flower of Vulcan, swerving to avoid an oblivious housewife at the last split second. He righted himself just in time, finding just enough friction on the abstract petals to propel him upwards and launching him into the girder. His velocity was great, but his aim – not so much. He landed on a girder chest first, winding himself and putting him 30 meters away from Victor and his prey.

    “What the hell are you doing here?”

    “Trying to stop you doing the wrong thing. This is crazy…”

    Victor turned to face Dante, and Dante struggled to recognise him. The face was the same, but the expression on his face betrayed something he hadn’t seen before. Dante had seen anger, hatred, even pure psychosis on a few occasions. This was something else, but what?

    “Stand down. He’s mine.”

    “Look down. These are the people you’re trying to protect. Right now, they think you’re the bad guy.”

    Dante was being as loud as he could, hoping that if he was picked up by a couple of those cameras picked up this conversation he might have a chance to redeem himself should the worst happen. The prey, however, also picked up on the idea, and began to scream to the crowd.

    “Help! Get this guy off me!”

    Dante found his way to the top of the girder and tried to get closer to his target.

    “You want to become chunky salsa, punk. Fall from this height will do you some damage! Tell me about your boss!”

    The man held by his ankles began screaming

    “You’re insane! I’m nobody!”

    Victor raised the the body with his left arm. Victor had proven to have incredible upper body strength and impeccable balance.

    “Nobody? I know Richard Walker. AKA Smith. AKA Gunsmith. Age 24. Tech prodigy. Graduated with a Masters in Engineering at age 21, specialisation in mechanics. Dropped off the grid soon after, and no record of activity, no taxes, no residential address… Sound familiar? Where is the man you are working for?”

    “You got it wrong, man. I don’t know any Richard Walker. My name is Francis Walsh. Check my credit cards.

    The conversation was interrupted by police sirens approaching. Even above the crowd, the high pitch made them loud enough to be heard.

    “Victor! That’s the police! At least try to get this outside! You have a gunfight in here and innocent people are gonna get killed!”

    Victor turned and stared at Dante.

    “I told you before! My name is Osprey!”

    And with that Victor opened his hand, sent his prey to the floor.
    
What happened next happened at a speed too fast for the shoppers below to comprehend. Victor fled towards the entrance, managing to take long strides on the girder. Dante propelled himself towards the falling man, catching him in mid air and twisting his body to control the fall. It was not a balance descent, but he angled himself into the leaves of the Flower of Vulcan, both men rolling awkwardly down the structure. Dante heard the crack of the target’s arm as they crashed down the structure… probably a broken arm… but when both landed at the bottom they were bruised, battered and maybe a little broken, but definitely conscious.

    There was gunfire from outside, but from the commotion Dante could tell that Victor was getting away. Mall security surrounded both men, and a mall medical officer checked them out, noticing the broken arm on the man Osprey had called Gunsmith. Dante made sure to get a long look at his face, memorising what features he could beneath the broken glasses and bruises and scratches. While Dante had picked himself up from the the floor, the medical officer would not let the Gunsmith move for fear of greater damage.

    “Thanks man, you saved my life. How can I repay you?” Gunsmith said.

    “That’s OK. I get the feeling your credits no good, anyway.”

    Gunsmith looked confused, but said nothing as he was strapped into a stretcher and carried out of the mall towards a waiting ambulance.

    ————————

    A fourth figure in girders looked down on surveyed the chaos. Her lithe body maintained near perfect balance as she leapt from girder to girder, off towards Eastern entrance. Near the amusement park, she found a quiet corner and slid down the wall, carefully finding a blind spot in the cameras and avoiding being seen.

  28. Zachon 05 Sep 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Is this published yet? I want to read the rest!

  29. Zachon 18 Sep 2013 at 1:29 pm

    So have you abandoned this? I would hate to see something so good just go to waste…

  30. edgukatoron 09 Dec 2013 at 5:59 am

    @Zach,

    thanks for the interest. I had a few things in my personal life that put this on hold for a couple of months, and one particular knot in the plot that I’m taking another run at…

    Yes, been too long, but just rereading it, going back to my plot outline and rethinking.

    A question for everyone out there – are there a few people who would be interested in being a sample audience. I don’t want to release everything online, but I really do need an audience for feedback and to just help me reach my deadlines. Reply here and I’ll think about my options.

  31. Glamtronon 11 Dec 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Good work u’ve got going. I’m just reading it now and it looks AWESOME!. U’re way ahead! U got a fan out here already

  32. edgukatoron 12 Dec 2013 at 8:22 am

    Thanks, Glamtron

    Some good movement in my story at the moment. Finished 3 chapters this week, as well has developing some of the old scenes in more detail.

    I have decided that I will not be posting chapters here for a while, but I am looking for a test audience for the story. Ideally, I’m looking for some good critical feedback. If you wonder what I’m looking for, have a look at aharris’ comment at the top (5th comment from the top).

    If you are interested in joining this small group, shoot me an email at edgukator@gmail.com. I’ll still comment here periodically asking for feedback on my ideas, but I’m on the way to completing my first draft and so I’m about to start a fairly long editing process.

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