Brothers & Sisters – Chapter One: A Ruined Lunch
This is basically an un-edited version of this book. There will be typos. There will be your/you’re errors, because I’m dyslexic as hell. Why am I posting it? I’ve more or less come to the conclusion that some major things needed to change, so I’m changing them. However, I like the old version and I already gave you Twins In Death in the old form, so have this one too. It doesn’t matter, the books are being re-written, so enjoy.
Brothers & Sisters
A Tale of The Weirdo
By Brett N. Lashuay
A Ruined Lunch
March 27th, 2003
The world can be said to be a watched place. We are all observers of our fellow beings and are also the observed. Some of us are active observers, some passive. There are times when we must go from being one to being the other. Most often we begin as a passive observer and then involve ourselves, becoming active. At that point, we become part of the story.
A small child dressed in a pink raincoat watched the world, and two men in particular. She had been doing a lot of watching lately. She was passively observing. She had been very careful about not being seen, taking great care not to be noticed by anyone. She had been spying for some time on a group of people for reasons of her own. What reasons a small child of about four could have to observe this group can be anyone’s guess. She wasn’t the only one watching of course, there were people watching the people who were watching other people.
No one was watching her though, despite the attractive blonde hair and adorable blue eyes. They should have noticed her, everyone should have been watching. She was the sort of child who caught people’s eyes, and held their attention. She was a serious looking child, but a beautiful one as well. Only at the moment, no one noticed her at all. Because right now, she was on a mission. She was on a mission of observation one might say, at least for the moment. It was as if she were watching so as to better be caught up with a story, a story she would soon be engaged in. To be truthful that is exactly why she was watching. That’s what we gathered from her notes, anyway. It is up to your humble narrator to interpret from her accounts as well as the accounts of others to put together this tale.
It was a decidedly gloomy day, by most people’s standards anyway. If the last few years had taught people anything, it was that people had differing opinions on things. There were people who felt differently on things as simple as weather, and complex as the role of a scared people and their legal ability to kill thousands of peasants in another country. If you were the sort of person who found an over cast day gloomy then this would be a gloomy day to you. The thick, heavy clouds looked like long coils of cotton, laid out by some forgotten god for a long forgotten purpose. There was a threat of rain in the air, which would be made good by nightfall. The temperature was no longer hovering below the freezing point of water, but there was still a chill in the air. Spring had begun, but had not quite gotten into the full swing of things yet. Snow still lay in patches on the ground where it had been piled up by plows in early February, now formed into compact mounds of ice.
People were moving about, despite the cold nip in the air. It was lunchtime after all and there was lunch to be had. The fact that this was Saturday didn’t diminish the fact that people had to eat, even in this business district. After all, despite reassurances of turning the corner, the economy did not currently favor the worker. The worker, who could be compelled to work on a Saturday, would have to comply. So they walked to get their lunches from the only places that were open any more. Faces slightly ruddy, their breath only just visible in the air.
Some of the people thought it a gloomy day, but perhaps surprisingly, there were just as many people who liked this sort of day. This is an oft-rejected fact because the sort of person who prefers sunshine tends to express their views loudly while those who like rainy days and cloudy afternoons are less explosively expressive. The sort of person who likes the cold is naturally less bombastic and therefore less annoying and less disposed to express opinions in the loud obnoxious way. These people will just quietly shake their heads and mark the sun lovers down as the fools they were. As we said before, people may disagree about a great many things. What could be agreed upon though, was that a nice bowl of hot soup would go down an absolute treat.
There were two men sitting at a table, at an out door café. The café still deemed the weather a little too unfashionable to have wait staff brave the fifty-two degree weather, but these men didn’t mind. They took their soup and went out side to take table in the open air. It was colder out there but there was also the freedom to watch a greater part of the world go by. One had a ceramic bowl of chicken noodle soup, which was steaming from the heat. The other man because of certain characteristic, had chili served in a large sour dough roll that had been hollowed out. The chili did not actually steam because the crown of the sour dough roll had been placed like a lid over it. A few wisps of steam escaped once they were outside and even a little heat showed.
One could tell by looking at them, that these men’s coats hadn’t been treated with scotch guard water protector. There was not the hard plastic sheen to the material of their coats. They were soft coats, who looked like the might not provide as much physical as psychological comfort. They were also of an older cut, which had long since faded from popular fashion but is always on the edge of returning. These coats had a worn, lived in look to them, and they looked old. The two also wore soft cloth fedora’s, the color of which matched their coats. This is not so odd a thing as to be commented on, even in the days when hats were something of an anomaly. This was New York City after all, a place where diversity didn’t so much reign as quietly threaten.
The two men sat at the metal table, which was the sort that had a stamped wire mesh as a tabletop. If something were to spill, it would go strait through the hollow table and directly onto the lap of the man who had spilled it. It would be advisable then, for neither of these men to have a spill. They looked like the careful sort of men though, in fact one of them looked very careful. His movements had a flowing sort of motion, careful and precise, like those of a great musician who has the same care eating as he does playing his instrument. The one in gray might have been playing the world like a violin for the care his movements suggested.
They bent over their soups, the one with chicken noodle blowing softly on the broth before taking the spoon into his mouth, gulping the broth down. He particularly liked the feeling of hot broth sliding down his throat. It was for this reason, and not out of politeness, that he didn’t slurp. These two men had been shot at together and saved each other from death on several occasions, slurping wouldn’t have mattered. However, he liked the feeling of hot broth sliding down his throat, and he could only achieve this by either gulping down entire spoonfuls, or drinking strait from the bowl. The bowl was still too full of noodles and chicken bits to even consider drinking from the bowl.
The other man hadn’t even begun to spoon out his chili, he was tearing bits off the top of the roll which formed his bowl. The top had been cut away and a good deal of the center of the over sized sour dough roll was scooped out to from the bread bowl. He tore bits from the make shift lid and dipped them into the chili, letting them soak up some of the liquid before popping the bit into his mouth and beginning with another piece. He would do this until the top portion was gone and then he would begin with the spoon.
They watched carefully as people went by, coming or going to lunch. Women in business attire that sent reels of delight along their minds. Men in suits that hid any trace of any individuality they might have ever had. It was amazing that a woman was still meant to wear a skirt and reveling blouse, the style of which changed every season; but men could get away with wearing essentially the same clothes their great grandfathers had worn. The cut varied slightly from decade to decade, but after a century, a suit was still a suit. Women’s clothes had to change constantly and even in a professional situation, had to show them off as sex objects. The women’s movement had made great strides, but men where still stupid creatures who thought they were in control.
The upshot however, was that these two liberated men could look at powerful and beautiful women in clothes that made them look even more so. It was not that these men were the type who would denigrate women, or take their right to make choices for them. The entire women’s movement was all about choice. In their minds, if a woman chose to wear clothes that demanded ‘Look at me!’ then these men thought they should look. The women had chosen to dress like respectable and beautiful icons of business, they simply observed.
The one with the bowl made of sour dough finished the de facto lid and picked up his spoon, and began to eat. He pushed the right sleeve of his coat back in order to prevent dipping his cuff in the chili. He held the spoon at the end of the instrument, with just the first two fingers and his thumb. He slid the spoon into the mound of chili and raised a portion to his lips. He blew a bit of the heat off, even though he knew it to be next to useless given the latent heat, but he did it anyway. He then placed the spoon inside his mouth and brought his lips and teeth down around it before with drawing the spoon.
“You always eat that the same way.” The man in the blue coat said.
“Do I?” The man in gray asked.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, and forgive me for beginning an argument I’m liable to loose, but some one called The Weirdo being predictable?”
“Thomas.” The Weirdo said, lifting another spoonful of beans and meat up. “Weird is defined as being out of the ordinary, it says nothing about predictability.”
“But predictable is ordinary.” Tommy said, as The Weirdo placed the spoon into his mouth. “If one can predict a person’s movements than that person has become ordinary.”
“No.” The Weirdo said chewing the food and setting the spoon into the ad hoc bowl. “Because I can do this.”
He then stood up on the chair, calmly tucked his hand under his arms and began to squawk. He flapped the make shift wings he had formed and shouted the word squawk about fifteen times, in a loud, squeaky and decidedly silly voice. After squawking long enough to draw a small crowd of on lookers, he sat down and began to eat his chili again as if nothing had happened. People were still watching him, but he didn’t seem to notice. He could not notice the world exploding if he chose to make you think he didn’t notice. He knew of course, but nothing would make him show that he knew. He looked at Tommy and after a long moment, smiled brightly.
“Okay,” Tommy said. “That was bizarre.”
“But, as I do something along those lines twice a day, it should be predictable.”
“I’ve just lost an argument because of a fairly pathetic chicken impression.”
“Yes you did.” The Weirdo said.
“Is there at least a moral to this tale?”
“Yes.” The Weirdo said, eating his chili.
“The moral is, if you don’t leave me alone about how I eat my chili, I’ll attract another large crowd and tell them you wear frilly panties.”
“I can easily disprove that contention.”
“Ah, but I can get your girlfriends to concur with me about it.” The Weirdo spoke in friendly tones, of some one enjoying themselves. “They would quite happily explain that while you are not wearing them now, you normally do.”
“You would, wouldn’t you?”
“Not if I can eat my chili how I damn well please.” He said with a broad smile.
“Please yourself.” Tommy said, lifting another mouth full of soup to his lips.
“I notice you rarely slurp.” The Weirdo said.
“Nothing, just noticed.”
“Only it’s very vexing because I can’t complain about how you slurp your soup.”
“You’re complaining because I’ve left you with nothing to complain about?”
“Sounds silly when put it like that.”
“Oh yeah.” He ate a few more mouthfuls and then decided it was time to discuss the large elephantine creature in the room. “You know what today is?”
“March twenty-seventh.” The Weirdo said.
“How do you feel about that?”
“She was my grand daughter.” Tommy said. “I loved her very much.”
“Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “I don’t know how I feel either.”
“Raw, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” The Weirdo said. “Still.”
“But we perceiver.”
“Yeah.” The Weirdo said.
“Like the first anniversary of the towers.”
“No.” The Weirdo said. “I could detach myself from that.”
“You can’t this?”
“No.” The Weirdo said.
“You spent two days solid at ground zero.” Tommy said. “We spent the rest of the week there.”
“We were just doing our job then, she wasn’t supposed to be part of the job.”
“I mean we were pulling people alive from the rubble. Finding them and getting them out, there was no out for her.”
“There were a lot more people to share the burden too. You knew every other person in the city had at least been touched by it.”
“Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “Yeah there was that.”
“Did you have any particular plans for the day then?”
“I was thinking I might go up there, think about things.”
‘Up there’ of course meant the cabin, like ‘she’ or ‘her’ meant Shannon. There was no one else for The Weirdo to be talking about. The fact that he still couldn’t actually bring himself to say her name was particularly telling. His grief period was becoming somewhat protracted, according to current thought. The period wasn’t what worried his friends though it was the depth. He had been almost unable to function during the down times, when no one was trying to kill any one. If there was no one in tights threatening to become a comic book villain, or a red-coated lunatic waging war on the human race, he was almost useless.
He could get himself around, but there was no one left in there. You could watch him leave, a few days after he had killed Loki it had begun. He faded more and more, slipping away from them again. He went away, within himself, to a place where no one could go get him. He would only commune with Bagheera his cat and Minga, the giant gray tiger. They were the only ones who could come close to bringing him around, and then only for a short time.
Not that a rest wasn’t due to him, he had worked hard. When he re-appeared in later March of two thousand, he managed to drive the organized crime families from the city in about eighteen months. That had been a year and a half where the streets had run red with blood, but it had been effective. The Weirdo never let an innocent get caught in the cross fire, and had proven unkillable. With his merry band of men they made the city a mob free zone for the Italians, the Russians and even the Chinese. They had then waged a mini war on the rest of the crime in the city, mostly making sure that their ban on the mob’s held.
Then there had been Captain Scourge, and Shannon’s death, so close together. The Weirdo had killed the lightning powered super villain and slunk into drink and depression. When a clone of The Weirdo tried to jump-start a war, The Weirdo was killed, came back to life and killed his evil clone. Of course the story of his death had been quieted, and now only a few people knew about it. Most people had simply accepted the explanations that had come out afterwards. After that though, he slunk into himself. There wasn’t the booze, but the center of his life had still been taken from him.
There were other heroes now though they had come out of the woodwork. At least twenty people in varying disguises ran around the city, keeping it free from muggers and petty street gangs. Or at least they tried to. They did their best at any rate. Many of them were colorful, and had colorful names and personalities. The Weirdo was not colorful, he wore gray a lot. He had a personality, but it wasn’t for his crime reduction activities, it was for home.
“Been quite lately.” Tommy said.
The Weirdo’s attention was on a short blonde woman running past. Her curly hair had been wound up on her head to prevent it bouncing around. The rest of her body was tight and firm enough not to need tying down. She had encased her self in spandex and then thrown a long tank top over so as to not present her self as too much of a target. The lines of her honed body were clear nonetheless and he watched her with the sort of attention he paid everything else. He viewed her like a lion watching a gazelle, a wolf in a world of sheep.
“How so?” The Weirdo asked, still watching her and then a car as it drove by.
“Not a lot of large scale criminal activity.” Tommy said, watching The Weirdo watching the world. Tommy thought he was like a cat sometimes, his attention would shift from one thing to the other but he would rarely look you in the face.
“You worry me when you say things like that.” The Weirdo said as his attention was transferred from a woman in a silk trouser suit to a man in a badly made three piece.
“One of the problems with a psychic like you is that you think you’re just talking, when actually precognition has taken over your mouth. You say something innocuous like ‘been quite lately’ and things begin to explode.” The Weirdo said.
As if to cause him to jibber, a digital clock went from zero, zero colon zero one, to zero, zero colon zero, zero. At that moment, an electrical impulse was sent down a wire made up of expensive super-conductors. The reason for the expensive wiring can only be guessed at since the electrical impulse was sent into a quarter pound of semtex.
Semtex is a plastic explosive, a version of the American military’s C4; and a quarter pound can take out quite a large area. In movies, they often down play the explosive power of a semtex or C4 bomb. A two-pound block is shown to have the effect of a hand grenade or a few sticks of dynamite. Yet a smallish handgun is shown to have the power to down armor piercing military anti-aircraft round, and have a sound like the crack of a primordial thunder. The difference between movies and reality is quite a large place. A quarter pound block of semtex, like we have here, can level a building if properly placed.
Proving that the gods know the value of comedy timing, as The Weirdo said the word “explode”, the block did so.
There was fire, but the fire was really secondary, it was the shock that did it. It could be seen like heat waves rolling off a barbeque or a road in summer. It lifted a car and sent it across the street; a thousand bullets of glass flew across the street at about twice the speed of sound. Glass in windows three blocks away shattered, causing unknown amounts of trauma. The shock wave, which was like a fist of warm air struck the two men and caused them both to react. Tommy and The Weirdo were both thrown out of their seats and the windows of the café exploded towards them.
Both men knew about explosions and managed to lay flat, their coats covering them from most of the harm. The windows shattered and the glass was forced into their coats. Glass shards cut into Tommy’s back and legs, causing almost no pain at first. The pain would come later when the adrenalin and shock began to wear off. As he stood and touched the places where feeling had left him, he felt the pricks of bits of glass in his body. He at first wondered if they were just in his coat, and looked at his finger that had been cut by a piece of the glass. His hand wasn’t shaking yet either, that would also come later. There was still no pain, just the small run of blood on his hand.
The Weirdo stood up, and looked around at the damage around him. It would be important to try and see if anything else had been damaged enough to also explode, perhaps in sympathy. He looked down at his palms and then at the backs of his hands that were studded with shards of glass. He had thrown his hands over his neck when he fell, to protect his neck, and was glad he did. He could tell there were about a hundred thousand bits of glass in his body. That might have been a gross over estimation actually, but it felt like an accurate number.
His hands were covered in little speckling bits of glass, each one raising a small dot of blood. He looked up at the clouds and was suddenly sad it was a cloudy day. If it had been sunny, this would probably look quite pretty. He could have wasted his whole day staring at the beautiful play of light through the shards of glass and his drippings of blood. It was quite beautiful in a morbid way, if you could separate yourself from the reality of it. He could quite easily separate himself because he was about to go into shock. The blood was quite lovely, but by the time he could photograph it, the effect would be gone. It was something you possibly couldn’t photograph; the detail would draw you away from the focus. The focus was the hands, but if a photo he would inevitably look at the concrete behind them.
He looked up at the building as it collapsed, taking the building to it’s immediate left with it. They both crumbled into the streets, spreading debris into the driving lanes and The Weirdo knew that would cause traffic problems later. He could just tell how much of a traffic jam it would cause when people who didn’t know what happened tried to go down that road. He then wondered why he was considered the later problems when he had plenty in the hear and now. His ears were screaming, like a case of tinnitus. He could hear sounds under the ringing sound, so he was probably okay. He gently touched the insides of his ears and examined the tips of his fingers for any signs of blood. There wasn’t any so his eardrums hadn’t burst, at least not enough to cause massive bleeding. He sighed and looked down at Tommy, who was still on the ground.
Tommy had his arms tucked under his body and was just starting to get up. The Weirdo had stood up as soon as he could and realized that only a second or two had gone by. He would have liked to go into shock, but he didn’t have time. He looked down at his hands and began to pull the largest bits of glass from the backs. This actually caused some of the pain he hadn’t felt yet. Odd that if he had kept the glass in there it probably wouldn’t have hurt. He touched the lapels of his coat and moved the fabric. He felt something scratch across his back, but other wise his flesh was clear of shards.
He then tore his coat off, pulling some of the glass with it, aware of the screams, which had finally begun. He was about to throw his coat to one side when the shiny black Cadillac came pulling up. It was that year’s model, carried New York plates, and it was looking for trouble. He could tell just by looking at the car that it was going to be trouble. The window was half way down, just like the street gangs would use for drive by shootings. His mind had only one though at that moment, hit. It was a hit, by persons as yet unknown, and he had to get his hand on a weapon.
His bloodied hand reached under the coat and his hand closed on the handle of the Thompson sub machine gun. There was no logical way he could have hidden the sub machine gun under the coat while he was removing it, but out it came regardless. The large drum magazine would have truly and totally pestered the minds of any observers. He had been sitting down, with the coat only twenty seconds ago. The weapon was about two feet by one foot; it could not have been in that space.
The Uzi came from the back window of the Cadillac its shooter unseen. All that could be seen was a sleeve of an expensive suit and the shirt cuff. The Weirdo threw his coat away and began to charge the car running in a zigzag. His hand wrapped around the two grips, which hung under the gun at the back and under the barrel. The Thompson had a handle rather than a simply piece of wood to wrap your hand around the barrel. The Uzi began to fire and The Weirdo did as well. He shot at the window, which isn’t the best of targets, but the best he could do. He fired as best he could though, shooting into the car.
The Uzi sprayed bullets, but was an inaccurate weapon being fired by some one who was under fire themselves. The weapon pulled itself up as the bullets tore out of its short barrel, which was another problem for the shooter. Not only that but they had to fire at a moving and erratic target. The Weirdo also had another benefit to his advantage, which was the Uzi was shooting its eighty rounds at about nine hundred rounds per minuet. In less than five seconds the gun was out.
The Weirdo’s gun had less than half that fire rate and was being fired by some one who knew about conservative firing. He held the gun steady and drew it carefully as he held it steady as he fired. The glass on the cars side windows shattered, and the car began to drive away as the Uzi ran dry. The Weirdo fired at the side of the car as it began to drive away and then at the tires. He got the gas tank and both of the rear tires. The back end of the car fell and began to drag on the ground as the two rubber tires deflated and shredded. This caused a lot of sparks around the newly arousaled gasoline, causing the second explosion in less than a minuet. The back end of the car lifted about five feet into the air, and then came back down with a crash that said the rear axel would never move as part of that car again.
The Weirdo ran towards the car as three men emerged from the car, both his hand still holding the weapon to shoot further. The men were shaken and did not have their wits about them, stumbling out of the car. They were dressed in identical black suits, with blue silk ties and white silk shirts. They each wore, or had worn anyway, identical Oakley sunglasses as well. They were shaken, but managed to get out of the burning car and get away from it.
The Weirdo caught up with them and raised his sub machine gun. Tommy, who carried a similar Thompson sub machine gun, joined him a moment later. If a careful and observant gun collector had been around they would have noticed that Tommy’s was actually produced five years before The Weirdo’s had. Unlike The Weirdo’s gun, which had a large hundred round drum at its ammunition feed. Tommy sported the smaller fifty round drum.
One of the men reached into his coat and tried to draw out a pistol. His hands were shaking so badly though, that he dropped it as soon at it cleared the duparoh holster. He looked mystified at his hand for a moment and then down at the weapon, which had leapt from his hand. He tried to reach down to grab it, but Tommy kicked it away. His goggling eyes looked up at Tommy and he tried to focus his sight. His left and right ears were both had small rivers of blood dripping from them, he was probably deaf. The blast had probably shattered his inner ear as well, which would account for how much wobbling he was doing. As if to confirm this, he took a step and fell down to the ground. He tried to crawl towards the gun, and out of sheer frustration, Tommy fired one round into the back of his head.
This should show what a foul mood Tommy was in, that he would simply shoot the man like that. He would normal just keep kicking the gun away until the man had grown tired. Today though, just today he shot him. There was an awful lot of blood and brain on the street. The bullet’s force caused a spurt that sent blood flying two feet and landed on the shoe of one of the other two men. They looked down at it, shock and horror on their faces. They then looked from The Weirdo to Tommy and back to The Weirdo.
The one who had the blood on his shoe reached suddenly into his coat. His gun was almost free when Tommy opened fire. It was a short burst, but enough to knock him back a foot and a half before he crumbled on a heap in the street. The third man put his hands up and looked resigned. Blood was running a small rivulet from one ear, so The Weirdo made hand signals for him to take his gun out and discard it.
The man nodded and slowly drew the gun out and dropped it at his feet. He kicked it away with one deft movement of his leg, as if he had done this sort of thing before. The Weirdo lowered his gun and Tommy did the same, if only for a second. They had captured at least one of the men and could as him why he thought they had to die.
They looked at each other for a moment, and in that moment the man drew a small knife from his pocket and stabbed himself in the throat with it. A stream of blood flew skyward from his neck as he fell over. His eyes rolled back as he fell and a look of resolve had plastered on him as he went down.
The Weirdo raised the machine gun up and was about to fire when he felt Tommy’s hand on his arm. He looked at him and saw Tommy was saying something. All he could hear was the ringing in his ears. He hadn’t realized it, but he could barely hear anything over the feedback sound in his ears. He shook his head slowly then he began to transmit his top most thoughts to Tommy’s mind.
“I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” The Weirdo thought, “I’m just hearing a ringing.”
“Really?” Tommy’s mind answered back. “I can hear fine.”
“Yes, funny thing acoustics.”
“Well we don’t need to destroy possible evidence.” Tommy’s mind transmitted.
The Weirdo touched his backside and verbally swore. He wanted to sit down, to lie down and stare at the clouds. His back and buttocks were a breading ground for glass shards though. He could maybe lay face down, but what good would that do? His hands were covered in glass as well so he couldn’t rest his chin on the back of his hand. He threw the machine gun down in frustration and began to pick bits of glass out of his hand as best he could.
He then looked at the smoke rising up from the epicenter of the explosion, and decided not to be selfish. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, feeling the wounds close themselves. There had been more he could do given time he could make his entire body heal like they had taught him. This would do for the moment, but he would have to get the glass out of his body eventually. He could feel the pieces of glass being crushed and absorbed or pushed out, depending on their depth in his body.
“Sodbuster, what’s you twenty?” Tommy asked raising the pen shaped communicator to his lips.
“I’m a bit busy.” Jack said.
“Are you fucking your wife?”
There was a slightly chilly pause.
“That’s none of you’re business.” Marla’s voice came over the line.
“Sorry Marla, we’ve had a rather large explosion, about two blocks will be affected.”
“Fuck.” Jack’s voice came across.
“Sorry Mister Uniton,” Tommy then smiled at a little joke that had just occurred to him “We’re needed.”
March 27th, 2003
The day had started so nicely too.
The Weirdo was performing a trick of magic that would be quite useful to the average person. Through a trick he had learned from a group of Tibetan monks, he concentrated the physical force under his skin to push the bits of glass out. It fell in tiny bits and larger chunks, tapping the ground behind him as he walked to the buildings. He had to untuck his shirt and shake it out to let pieces fall to the ground, which he hated. He didn’t like to be seen with his shirt not tucked in. When sitting around the house in a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt he would normally tuck in his shirt. Having to be untucked in front of all these people made him feel exposed, particularly when his coat had been discarded.
The sky had been a pleasant over cast, and now black clouds contrasted against the pale gray ones. He wanted to run, to rush, but he knew better. The quicker people can be pulled from the rubble the better, but the more he rushed the more mistakes he made. He had to be at his optimal working order to do this. The building had been relatively small, only three stories high, but it was an office building. He stopped in the road before the building and took a deep breath. He opened his senses, letting his nose take in all the scents around him. He stretched his mind out, trying to find other minds. There was a lot of panic around, hard to find panic inside the rubble. After a moment he opened his eyes and with all speed moved forward.
People were still standing around; there were sirens in the distance. He could smell those trapped inside. His hands wrapped around the twisted remains of a support beam and yanked it up, with some effort it must be said. The Weirdo’s great strength ability to fly and other such powers are subject at best. They often seem to come and go depending on his emotional state or need of the moment. At this moment it needed to be great, but it was clear there was only going to be just enough strength. Perhaps, as it has been postulated, it was just that his will would force the body along further than most.
There was a sound of burning flesh and he suspected that the smell that went with it was from him. He tossed the beam to one side bringing a loud clang behind him and the sound of concrete cracking. He took hold of a large section of building that had managed to remain in tact and yanked it up. His hand reached down in to the building and pulled a man up by his arm. It was like watching a magician produce a rabbit from his hat, only with less flair and a larger timid mammal. He lifted the man with one arm and set him down on the street next to him, the man’s eye goggled and then looked back into the rubble.
“Julie’s still.” The man began.
“I know.” The Weirdo said.
He heard the sirens of the fire department as he rushed in, and remembered a disturbing search and rescue fact. It was one that they kept repeating over and over again as they picked through the remains on that fateful day. That day when two dozen people flew a pair of the grandchildren of Wilhelm Krest’s invention into the tallest two buildings in New York City. The Weirdo had wondered many a times as they searched if Wilhelm Krest had any such thing in mind when he lifted his plane off that lake in Austria.
The fact that kept getting repeated was about the two percent rate. As he and Tommy able to tell where living people were because of their abilities, they faired better. Yet they only had a ten percent rate, which was till a five hundred percent improvement. The two percent rate refers to the ratio of living to dead one can expect to find. For every two people a person found, they could expect to find ninety-eight dead bodies.
He looked down the hole and dove in, half of his body vanishing. A moment went by, then a longer moment. Something shifted inside the building, and then words came up from the hole. They were not angry, but they were hurried, as if some one where holding a great weight up and it was an incredible strain.
“Now, move now!”
A second later he was pulling himself up with a woman in tow. Her left leg was bleeding badly, but he shoved her to the man. He then spun around and looked at the building again, his eyes scanning like high-powered radar guns. He had to strain to look through the black smoke, which was rising from the rubble, and the heat, which radiated and skewed any visions he had.
“He pulled the building off my leg.” She said. “Just yanked it up and moved it.”
The Weirdo began to yank large sections of the rubble away, digging like he knew exactly where he wanted to go. Another, and then another person was pulled from the rubble. He pulled a fifth person out by the time the fire crews had come. He looked at them through his blurring eyes, watching them come down the road, and then he turned back to the building.
The Weirdo thought about the day the towers fell and started to run. The first few minutes were critical, always have been. You have to get as much done in the first five minutes as possible because that’s the most crucial pocket of time. After that you’re only going back in because there might be a chance.
March 27th, 2003
Tommy’s eyes were closed, his hands held spread out before him. He was breathing quickly, almost hyperventilating. He moved his hands slowly; like a beachcomber might wave a metal detector over a patch of sand he knew still held a few coins. The hands stopped and then came together slowly, as if triangulating. It was with sudden movement his hand shot out and his eyes opened.
“Over there.” Tommy said pointing. “And one there.”
He pointed his hand up, and the two teams rushed forward.
The fire had been surprisingly easy to put down, but there were a lot of people that worked in the two buildings and not all of them had died or had been out to lunch. Fifteen people had been pulled from the wreckage alive, but eight had been dragged dead. The Weirdo had been so disappointed by the last one that he went to have a little sit-down. He said she had been alive and able to walk when he found her. She had died while he pulled her from the remains.
They had been trying to get him to walk away for a while when he finally did. People wanted to talk to him, or to get him to sit down and not stretch himself to far. He hadn’t wanted to talk, because he knew what they’d ask. It would be reporters asking how this was like the world trade center, and was he having flashbacks? He sat down next to a fireman, and looked at the work still progressing. The police had already set up a cordon, to prevent them being bothered, and he looked at the people who were sitting with him. A group of teenagers, who had as much soot on their faces as he did, sat across from him. They looked exhausted, and looked like they had been dragged from the work themselves. One young man’s hands shook so bad he couldn’t hold his water bottle. The Weirdo looked at the red Coleman cooler on the ground between the small groups.
“Any body mind?” He asked.
“Go ahead,” One of the teen-agers, said, her voice cracking as she spoke. “Please.”
He took two of the bottles from the cooler and set the other between his feet. He opened the first one slowly, and held out his left hand. He poured the water across his palm and shuddered at the feeling. He closed his hand around the splash of water and twisted his fingers through the water. He then did the same with his right hand and finally poured some onto his face, and scrubbed around it. The water caused at first pale streaks in the dark mask of soot, and then prevailed. He poured what was left over his face and head, rinsing off what he could.
He recapped the bottle and set it down next to him. He then opened the second bottle and began to drink. Having to spit out the first mouthful of water out because he found his mouth was full of ashes. He had often heard of something turning to ashes in one’s mouth, and he knew what they meant.
“You went right in.” One of the kids said. “I watched you.”
“So did you.” The Weirdo said. “I saw you.”
“But you went in first.” The boy said. “You had people shooting at you, and you did something, and you went right in. I just stood around and watched you.”
“But you went in.” one of his friends said.
“You can’t beat up on your self because you didn’t go in sooner.” The Weirdo said. “You went in as soon as you could, besides, you guys didn’t have to go in.”
“We saw it happen.” The one of the girls said.
“Yeah?” The fireman sitting next to The Weirdo said.
“I mean you’ve got to do something.”
“I remember when,” She gulped some water to cover a sob, “When the towers fell ya know?”
The Weirdo nodded.
“I remember seeing you on TV.” She said, pointing at The Weirdo. “You kept going in an out, thought it was a rerun of footage at first but it kept being you.”
“All night.” The Fireman said. “For two days you kept going.”
“Yeah.” The Weirdo said, slowly drinking water.
“You didn’t give up on any body.” He said.
“We got them all I think.” Tommy’s voice cut in to the group.
The Weirdo stood and looked at him.
“All the live ones I can find. Jack’s working on recovering the,” He looked around at the ten people in the circle. “Well let’s just say he’s confirming.”
“Okay.” The Weirdo said walking from the circle, he handed Tommy the bottle of water and pointed to the place he was sitting. “Have some water and rest a while.”
He walked away from the group and towards where Jack was working with a small device and marking places where corpses should be. It was a terrifically depressing thing to watch, so he went to join him. He looked at the windows in the buildings across the street. All the windows had shattered, and now sat like eyes watching him. How many extra little tragedies had gone on there? How many mothers were working over time to pay for their kid’s braces? How many new orphans had this caused? The beast inside of him coiled up tighter, ready to leap forward, he suppressed it.
“I mark, they find.” Jack said, pointing over his shoulder at the fire workers.
“Good thing they all got their budgets cut.” The Weirdo said with a completely strait face. “Other wise there might be enough of them for the task.”
“But haven’t you heard?” Jack said. “The economy is getting better, we’re turning the corner.”
“Same corner prosperity was just around?” The Weirdo asked. “We’ll be out sourcing them to India next.”
“What was the point of this?” Jack asked.
“There’s no one left alive in this building.” The Weirdo said. “Besides us of course.”
“Yes.” Jack said. “Grandma mentioned that to me as well.”
“You don’t think that was the point do you?”
“I think you were supposed to sit nearer to this building.” Jack said.
“What gives you that idea?”
“The response to you not being dead was so immediate.” Jack said. “If some one just wanted to blow things up they’d be gone well before the boom. They wanted to make sure they’d gotten you.”
“Yeah.” The Weirdo said.
They walked along the rubble silently for a moment, Jack looking down at the device. He then shoved it into a leather holster on his left side. A shadow passed over him and The Weirdo was going to tell him in twenty seconds to go sit down. He looked down at the rubble and sighed, and then it passed.
“This one’s near the surface.” He said.
The two of them cleared away the rubble, and found a dead man who had the left side of his glasses on his face. The Weirdo reached down and touched his chest, after a moment they began to pull the lifeless body from the rubble. When they did they tore his work shirt open and found blue spandex under his shirt. They pulled the shirt away and looked at the emblem on his chest.
“The Blue Weasel.” Jack said.
“They got themselves a twofer.” The Weirdo said.
“Why blow him up?”
“Why blow any one up? Maybe he was the target.”
“Where would the kind of people he fought get a bomb like this? He was against street crime. If a street gang wanted to take him down, they’d just shoot him. They wouldn’t find out who he was and then risk setting a bomb.”
“Was it just opportunity that Tommy and I were here?” The Weirdo asked looking around.
“I have no idea.” Jack said.
“You get this done and we’ll go home.” The Weirdo said. “I feel a chill in the air.”
March 27th, 2003
It wasn’t that Jorgaes took a long time to arrive; he took a long time to be alerted. When The Weirdo had called him, he came immediately. His silver BMW drove to the edge of the area that it could be driven to. This meant passing fire engines and police cars, many of which tried to wave him back. The United Nations sticker got him a long way though. He got out of the car and looked at The Weirdo, who stood in the street watching them pull yet another dead body from the building.
To call Jorgaes short would be to belie his importance. It may be true that he was only four foot five inches high, but he controlled a great degree of respect and importance. He dressed in suits that cost the gross national product of small African nations, and he drove a new car every year. It was unclear exactly what he was or what he was supposed to be doing, but no bothered to ask him because they would have to get an answer. People like Jorgaes often get to do what they do because people don’t want to live in a world where they know what people like him do.
Jorgaes drew out his silver cigarette case as he crossed the yellow tape into this other world. The silver case was unadorned save for an engraving of the symbol for male sexuality. His thumb ran around the circle with the single arrow jutting from it as he opened the case. He drew one of the horrifically bad Pakistani cigarettes he favored from the case and set it in his mouth. He took out a black lighter he was affecting lately and lit the end. He sucked in a lung full of air and blew it out as he walked toward The Weirdo.
The two of them stood in contrast to each other, Jorgaes having to look up at The Weirdo and The Weirdo having to look down at him. Jorgaes wore a black suit, with a blue and gold tie; his cuff links were small black circles with the astrological sign for Aries on them. The Weirdo was wearing what remained of a blood stained t-shirt, the back had been nearly shredded. His pants had seen better days as well, but then they often had. So much was hard to tell about The Weirdo because he usually was seen in clothes that he had worn holes into.
“The Blue Weasel.” He said as the two of them came close enough to talk.
“Yes.” The Weirdo said.
“And now he’s dead.”
“Yes.” The Weirdo said.
“He was one of mine.”
“You don’t think you’re the only UN sanctioned super hero around here do you?”
“You mean you’ve been seeing other heroes behind my back?”
“You were my first.” Jorgaes said. “I recruited him about a year ago.”
“How many do you have?”
“One less.” He said.
“Jorgaes.” The Weirdo said, drawing in a deep breath.
“To be honest six less.”
“In the last two weeks, five of your brother heroes have been killed.”
“Isn’t that a lot?”
“How many do you have now?”
“Not counting your group?”
“Four other individuals, three groups.” He said.
There was the sound of a ring tone that suddenly grew up between them. A small tune played from Jorgaes’ pocket, he reached down and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He raised his hand to The Weirdo and answered the phone.
“Yes?” He listened for a long moment. “Damn it.”
He hung the phone up and looked around the carnage around him, his face twisting in rage. His lips pulled back and The Weirdo could see teeth that had the sheen and color of white pearls grinding together. Jorgaes looked down and the phone in his hand and it could be he realized that he could afford another one just like it. He threw the phone, which shattered as it struck the ground, bits flying along the path of trajectory.
“Problem?” The Weirdo asked.
“Two groups.” Jorgaes said. “The Glams were just gunned down.”
“The Glams.” The Weirdo said. “You mean those sex pots always running around in white leather thongs?”
“The ladies happen to be quite good at robbery foiling. Their recovery rate is well into ninety-eight percent.” He then checked himself. “Had been quite good, had been good. They had been quite good at foiling robberies.”
“You broke you’re phone.”
“I’ll get a new one.” He said walking toward the broke pieces of the phone. He pulled the SIM card from the broken pieces and slipped it into his pocket.
“Was that Bonny Tyler’s holding out for a hero you were using as a ring tone?”
“If it was?”
“Fine then. I’ve got to go, have you got this under control?”
“Oh yeah, fine.”
“What happened to your attackers?”
“Taken away I understand, in little black zip locks.”
“We should find out who they are.” Jorgaes said taking a drag from the cigarette, the ember glowing brightly in the pale light. “You stay alive, okay?”
“Yeah, sure, no problem.”
“You be sure about that.” Jorgaes asked as he walked back to his car.
March 27th, 2003
The Weirdo leaned against the midnight blue sedan and looked up at the sky, the gray clouds still in tact. His head hurt, the front of his brain was throbbing. He put his hands against his head and looked at the street. Broken glass was still on the ground, with dried blood coating them. He looked at the café, the remains of his lunch surprisingly still in place. His coat was gone; some one had probably wanted a souvenir of the day. He welcomed them to it; he didn’t think he’d want to see it again. He opened the car door and looked at the glove compartment, pressing the button to open it. A pair of gloves spilled out, and he reached into it to produce a bottle of aspirin. He sat down on the seat of the car, his feet still on the ground. He pushed down on the childproof cap of the bottle of pills and turned, opening the bottle. He shook the bottle trying to get two pills out, he got three and put one back. He looked at the white pills in his palm and then at the can of coke he had set down on the concrete.
“Ah well.” He said, and picked up the can.
He’d always hated taking pills, mainly because of what it took for him to swallow them. He popped on of the pills in his mouth and then took a swig of liquid, tossing his head back to force himself to swallow. He then put the other pill in his mouth and washed it down with another swallow of coke. He had taken pills like this since he was a child, when his older brother had taught him to. He remembered the contours of his brother’s face when he showed him how to knock his head back in order to put the pill at the base of his throat.
That was when he’d had a brother of course, before… well before. His right ear chose that moment to begin ringing again. The sound came up like some one turning the knob on a stereo which was only playing an incredibly high frequency sound. The sound came up from nowhere and was in a few seconds all he could hear. A piece of Carroll verse came to him then.
“Cut us another slice.” The Weirdo said to himself. “I wish you weren’t quite so deaf I’ve had to ask you twice.”
The sound continued, and was becoming quite painful. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. His ear began to do a really quite incredible thing it began to heal itself. He concentrated on his ears, making them stitch themselves back to into order. The bones being slipped into their proper place the sound dying away. He let the breath out and opened his eyes. The tinnitus had died away, but it could always come back. He’d discovered that recently, that his wounds would sometimes come back. His healing tricks could undo themselves from time to time, and sometimes wouldn’t work at all. He touched his hand to his chest, feeling the white mark across his heart, where a sword had nearly pierced his heart. The wound kept trying to re-open for nearly two days after he had been stabbed. Two days is a very long time when you consider it took less than two seconds for his spine to heal after it had been severed. The spinal column isn’t supposed to heal at all, yet his did. He’d even only spent a few days dead when he’d been killed. Yet the wound over his heart had continued to bleed, and had caused him pain throughout the winter. He hadn’t quite understood why, but it had bled.
“I think we’re done.” Jack said as he approached.
“Oh yeah?” The Weirdo asked.
“We pulled them all out. If there’s any more bodies…” He trailed off and looked out at the street.
A pair of children were running down the road, laughing and tagging each other. They didn’t seem to understand what terrorism was, or why it was bad. They didn’t know what had happened, just that they had to get home. He watched as they ran out of his site.
“If there are any more?” The Weirdo asked.
“They’re not going to need rescuing as such.” Jack said. “Tommy went over it again, he couldn’t find any one else. You got everyone who lived.”
“And what good did it do them?” The Weirdo asked. “I picked a living person up and dragged a dead one out.”
“She was alive when you found her.” Jack said. “You were supposed to leave her because she was about to die?”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
“Besides, you saved a lot of people today.”
“You want to go home then?” Jack asked.
“Tommy is at the hospital.” Jack said. “You may have managed to squeeze the glass out of you’re body but Tommy didn’t. I understand they have him laying down on a long table and a group of specialist are tweezing the shards out of his ass.”
“And we’re missing this?” The Weirdo asked.
“We are indeed.”
“Jorgaes ran The Blue Weasel.” The Weirdo said.
“The Glams as well. He’s got a little empire in fact. There are four other heroes and two groups he has working in this area. Five costumed heroes have been killed in the last two weeks.”
“I hadn’t heard.”
“I suppose Jorgaes gets it silenced before any one hears about it. Or, the things like today happened. I mean who ever did this knew who he was and they got him at work. They knew who he was and got him while he was working. But why blow up a whole building for him?”
“To get you and Tommy, like I said before.”
“Who knew we’d be here? It was a random choice?”
“How did you and Tommy know where the survivors where? How did you know who was alive and who wasn’t?”
Jack reached into the car and pulled out a small empty duparoh pack for the device he had used to find the dead bodies. The Weirdo looked up at him and thought about what he was implying.
“People who panic emit pheromones and put out a specific energy pattern.” The Weirdo said.
“And you picked that up how?” Jack asked packing the small device into a duparoh satchel.
“Well it’s a learned skill really.” The Weirdo said, staring strait forward, looking at nothing.
“Are you getting the grander question here?”
Jack closed the Velcro clasps and set the bag gently down in the back seat. He looked out at the wall that was attracting so much of The Weirdo’s attention. He looked down a different street, watching a bike messenger zip past.
“Yes, I’m avoiding it brilliantly don’t you think?”
The Weirdo took another drink of cola, watching the wall intently. It was almost as if he were afraid it might try and make a break for it and if it did, he’d be able to see which way it went. He was going to watch that wall, and if it did anything even vaguely suspicious, he was going to shoot it. He would shoot holes in the wall if it made even a momentary glance towards either side of the street. He was daring the wall to try something.
“Tommy’s precognizant. I’m sure he’s not the only one in the world.”
“The only one that strong.” The Weirdo countered
“But there are others who can tell the future.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“You see my point?”
“I’ve never really liked the Sex Pistols.” The Weirdo said. “Just couldn’t get into them.”
“Not my point though.”
“You like the Sex Pistols?”
“Wrong demographic, I was already an old man when they came along. I was never a young disaffected youth. I went through my teenage years in one summer and it was in the early thirties.”
“I like rock, even some punk, just can’t get into the Sex Pistols.”
“What do you like?”
“Jazz, folk, rock. I like a lot of stuff.”
“Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “Like them a lot.”
“How about commenting on my point?”
“Well you going through your teen years in a summer means you must have gone through an awful lot of hand cream that July.”
“That isn’t the point. You know what my point is.”
“Still trying to deflect it.”
“But doing a worse job now.”
The Weirdo stood up and closed the door to the car, and walked around in a small circle. He then looked down at the remains of his lunch, wondering at it. There weren’t even ants on it, which was a bit odd. He walked to the table they had sat at and looked at the spilled meal.
There were glass shards cut deeply into the bread, but no rat nibbling, no ants, nothing. He wondered at it and looked around, trying to figure it out. He looked at Jack who looked at him quizzically. He then looked back down at the bowl, there was something deeply troubling about it, but he couldn’t say what. He thought it had to do with ants though. Those little insects who had once been wasps but had become underground dwellers. They should have been all over his half eaten lunch, but they weren’t.
He walked through one of the shattered windows and into the café, where the blood and glass still littered the floor. The bodies had been moved but the cleaning would have to be done later. It might never get done, until they wanted to sell this spot out again. The owner and co-owner of the store had both been killed when glass exploded into their shop. He went behind the counter and found some plastic wrap they used for to go orders. He walked back out and knelt down to collect the food He stuck the wrap on his hand so that he could wrap it up without actually touching it.
“What are you doing?” Jack asked.
“This was my lunch.”
“And you still want it?”
“This has been sitting here for two hours now.” The Weirdo said. “I want to know why no animals have eaten it.”
The Weirdo wrapped up the bread roll in the plastic and went back into the store for a bag. He came from behind the counter, the parcel in the bag and looked around. If they had been sitting on the other side of the corner store, they’d have been killed. The blast would have thrown them both through the plate glass windows and diced them up fine into a fine hash.
He looked at the damage across the street from them, and closed his eyes. It wasn’t like the attacks only a few years ago, it was a lot smaller. It hadn’t killed anywhere near the number of people, not even a percentage marker would make it near the level. There had been no man leaping from the building, Jack’s hand just missing him. The Weirdo had flown up to catch him, but the shock of The Weirdo slamming into the poor devil had killed him as surely as the concrete would have. This was different than that.
It did bring back the same feeling though, that cold feeling of nothing. It was an empty feeling where an emotion should go. He had been there that day, and he felt nothing. He’d yet to feel anything about the event, he only ever felt a need to help. He felt like the wolf was at his door, but the wolf was him. He had been a wolf, but become the dog. He had wanted to help, to save his pack. When he couldn’t save them though, he didn’t howl like wolves do when a pack member dies.
He knew deep down that it was something that he’d always had, an ability to not feel. That day he’d felt absolutely nothing about the event. He knew that something had to be done, and that people had to be saved, but there was no emotion. He’d simply gone and done what needed to be done. He’d felt that same empty slot feeling he felt now, not even an emption, but a round hole where a round peg should go. He felt that he’d gotten his play box with a square peg and a star peg and a rhombus peg, but no round peg. He felt that perhaps the round peg was panic or maybe shock of some kind. He’d never felt them though. He also felt he was missing the triangle peg too, but he didn’t know what that was for.
“You want to go home now?” Jack asked.
“Yes please.” The Weirdo said.
© 2014 Autumn Knight Productions
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