Chapter the Fifth; In Which Our Hero… Is Awesome
I was pissed. Sorry, kids at home, but ‘upset’, ‘unhappy’, ‘angry’? These were not strong enough words for my feelings toward this current situation and my current villain du jour. It is all I can do to avoid using more colorful adverbs to describe how very pissed I was.
In the past night alone, I have been pounded, thrown, electrocuted, insulted, meddled with, mocked, and had my thumb dislocated. All of these because of some producer for some kind of reality show? And then the guy threatens my girlfriend, my FAMILY? He was going to pay.
Stunner was griping about something as I blew past her on my way to the door out of the cell block. It only took two kicks to twist the door out of its frame and send it crashing onto the floor. The hallway it led to ran straight until it hit a large room filled with monitors and other equipment. Cruel TV’s black little heart, I presume.
The second I came through the door, a blast caught me in the chest. The armor plates hidden in my coat caught the buckshot and my own strength let me keep standing. The little weasel was standing at the other end of the room, typing into a console with one hand, having shot me with the other. He was wincing in pain from the recoil. Good.
The Emerson and Ness S45 ‘Stamper’ pulse mass accelerator, if I wasn’t mistaken. It was officially a construction tool, but much like plasma lances and construction frames, the modern savvy criminal can make anything into a weapon – which isn’t hurt by the fact that Emerson and Ness is a WEAPONS manufacturer in all areas except for its pulse mass accelerators, which trendy jerk asses like Mr. Producer here love because they (in theory) can fire them all one handed and badass.
Everyone and his uncle knows E&N knows exactly what they’re doing, but it’s all on the up and up. Considering the number of times I’ve been shot by their crap, they’re on my list.
“I thought you said you knew everything about me from the videos you have of me.” I added some darkness to my voice. Maybe I could just make him soil himself and surrender. “Bulletproof, remember?”
Right on cue to ruin everything, Stunner pushed past me. “Tell me where Tank is and maybe I’ll go easy on you!” She snarled. The weapon tracked to her position.
“Stunner, however, is not bulletproof. And the low cut uniform means there’s only her sternum protecting her lungs.” The smug little bastard stated.
“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.” Stunner reprimanded him.
“He can make it so you aren’t here.” I snapped. “Now shut up.”
The weasel finished typing and all the monitors suddenly displayed a logo of Cruel in green, drippy looking letters with TV seemingly spray painted over it in red. He grinned and hit another button. His face appeared on all the monitors.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am actually cruelly pleased to interrupt your regular programming for a spectacle!” The cameras switched to Stunner and me at gunpoint. “In our Cruel TV studios, right now, we have New York City’s own D-list – The Whitecoat and Stunner!”
He winked at us, still grinning a grin that may me want to crack his skull. I would have too, if it wouldn’t mean Stunner’s life.
“And you know what that means, folks – we’ve talked about it all the time on the forums: It’s time to give them a sadistic choice.”
I got a bad feeling about this. Had this all been set up? Was this his plan from the start? He had called the chips ‘breadcrumbs’. And what choice was he about to give?
He couldn’t see it on me, but he saw the fear in Stunner’s eyes and it made that sickening grin wider. “Now, as you know, for the past few weeks, Cruel TV has brought you some first class Toddler Fightin’ Footage and that’s all thanks to my own patented rage chips. You see, I’ve distributed almost fifteen thousand of these chips all over New York and I can remotely switch every one of them on just by pressing a button right now… THIS button.” He pretended to press the button, which made Stunner and myself flinch. That sent him into a giggle fit.
When he recovered, he put the camera on himself again. “How about that, Cruelites? Fifteen thousand people kicking the shit out of each other in the angriest city on Earth? Pretty good, huh? But it’s not cruel unless you give them a hope spot!”
The camera cut back to me and Stunner again. I wondered if I could push her over before he fired. My reflexes put his to shame, I was sure, but if she resisted… yeah.
“So, D-listers, here’s the game; you can let me press this button and have a hell of a lot of fun… or you can both, right now, take those masks off and tell the Cruelites your real names. What do you say, heroes?”
“You sick son of a –“Stunner started before our captor gestured with the gun and silenced her.
“Let’s not forget who’s in control here, Stunner.” He said. “Now come on, tell me which it’s going to be.” He tapped in another command and a countdown of one minute appeared in a little box on the monitors. “Decide quickly now, I don’t like to keep my audience waiting.” The clock began ticking down.
“You’re a lot more fond of them with the cameras on, aren’t you?” I decided to keep him talking while I looked for alternatives. “Before, the way you talked about customers… I figured they were like monsters or something.”
The guy was a complete scumbag, but I have to say, he was a pretty good actor. He didn’t even flinch. “Nice try, Whitecoat, but none of the fine subscribers to CruelTV would ever be dumb enough to fall for that old trick. The people demand proof.” Bravo. If only he’d tried out for Mack’s Rules or something, he could be playing a dorky barfly or something instead of this bullshit.
I think this in retrospect, because at the moment, my brain had locked on one piece of his little speech: ‘proof’. It occurred to me that I did have proof of that. With the electrical stunning and then the rage, I never got a chance to turn the record function in my hat off. If I hadn’t been wearing my bandanna, my huge grin would have tipped him off.
Glancing around, I found an AV jack on a nearby console. Since he was all alone in this operation, save for hiring Tank to beat on me, I figured he probably networked all the consoled together so he could work at any of them at his leisure.
“You win.” I finally said. The countdown was down to twenty-five. “We’ll reveal ourselves.”
I must not be that bad an actor myself. He smiled like he just found an undefended kitten dipped in barbecue sauce. “I knew you’d do it.” He sneered, “You high and mighty ones are always the dumbest ones. Step aside, Stunner – and Whitecoat, know that no matter how fast you are, I can hit this button before you can get to me. So no heroics just because Stunner’s not on the firing line anymore.”
All I could do was nod. Stunner gave me an evil look as she moved behind me. “I have a kid.” She whispered.
“You what?” I hadn’t expected that one. Given my usual luck, I probably should have.
“I have a kid.” She muttered more forcefully. “I can’t let him know who I am.”
“I’m waiting.” God, I wanted to punch that guy. Powered or not, he had it coming.
“Yeah, yeah, you want to see me strip. Just keep your tongue off the floor when you see my guns, Couch Potato.” Even under pressure, I’m a very clever boy. He didn’t look too amused. “Hey, is this really live?”
“No, seriously. Because I only do one take. You’re lucky to get that considering you didn’t even have my farm fresh eggs and ham in my trailer. And the water was bottled! My people told you I only water form Niagara Falls collected in hand blown glass!”
“This button is getting really tempting, Whitecoat.” He threatened.
“You’re the least fun villain I’ve ever fought.” I sniffed. “And I one fought a math teacher who hijacked a construction frame.” I glanced at the monitors without moving my head, then knelt down next to the console and reach up to make like I was holding my hat on my head. The move took me out of frame of the camera. Going for my hat was actually queuing up a select segment of video from the memory card in the band.
Just as I expected, he moved his hand to control the camera.
Even living in a world with psionics and cyborgs, people still expect that most people cannot do things so called ‘normal’ people can’t. For example, no one expects someone to go from down on their knees to a full bodied leap with no transition period.
Super strength is the best thing ever. Normal humans can’t put the power into their thighs to throw themselves. I can.
And here’s another fun observation; even the most spiteful son of a bitch in the world doesn’t have ‘hunt and peck a key in spite’ as part of the fight or fight reflex. To be perfectly honest, he could have sent the signal to the rage chips with that split second I was in the air.
What did he do with that opportunity? He used it to shoot the bulletproof guy. Again.
One hand grabbed and bent the barrel. We can’t give him another chance to hurt someone with that thing, can we? The other hand the hand whose thumb I had to dislocate because of this twit grabbed him by the throat and lifted him bodily away from the keyboard.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, CruelTV is about to go off the air for maintenance for… let’s say the next twenty years to life.” I said with hate in my voice. Looking down, I found that the keys had been carefully labeled with some sort of stickers. The key his finger had been hovering over actually was labeled ‘Let’s Start a Riot’.
Making sure his eyes were on me and he was able to still get air while I held him up, I hit a few choice keys. “But first,” I said, “One last announcement from our host. Cover him, Stunner.” I made sure she had her gun ready before I tossed the former host of CruelTV to the floor and focused the camera on him.
As he cowered there, I reached into his pocket and took out the portable drive – his ‘retirement fund’. “So, let’s see…” I said, weighing the drive in my hand. “How were you going to expose us? Oh yeah… on pain of me playing the movie anyway; state your name.”
His eyes locked on the drive. He knew exactly what I was going to threaten.
I let him dangle for a few seconds, before taking the AV cord out of the band of my hat and plugging it into the computer. A few seconds of the scene of him in front of my cell started to play before I paused it. “The people don’t like waiting.” I threatened.
“Alright, stop!” He almost cried. “Wells, I’m Fargus Wells. Oh god, please don’t show that!”
I rubbed my chin through my bandanna. “Hmm, I should… I mean I promised. But this is CruelTV – and we both know you were going to push the rage button right after we revealed ourselves…” The look in his eyes told me I was one hundred percent right. I hit play.
As it happens, I never did punch him. I can’t bring myself to hit a man sobbing and snotting all over himself in utter terror. By the time the clip finished, I could hear a half dozen sirens approaching. By the timbre, I guessed it was the boys in powered armor. Barn Owl had led them right to us.
“Here comes your ride, Fargie.” I said, patting him on the shoulder. “Be sure to thank them, because with that clip out there… well, you’re never going to be safe outside of jail.” I have to admit, I took some pleasure in watching that shiver running down his spine.
There was still some rage to work off and it was important to make sure he couldn’t still activate the rage chips. So on the way out, I punched the crap out of his mainframe and internet router.
I got in around one in the morning, thanks to the need to do my civic duty and give my statement as a prelate as to what was going on. Okay, actually, I just hung around to see with my own eyes that police technicians were at work devising a method of tracing the rage chips with Wells’s equipment. Plus, I had to cover for Stunner, who went out to see if she could pick up tank’s trail again and give my thanks to Barn Owl.
That I got entangled with Detective Alvarez, one of my father’s old friends from the police academy, was entirely against my will. More so, because Alvarez hates the Whitecoat (and most prelates) almost as much as my dad does. He took great pleasure grilling me over what was going on.
Considering how much both my dad and Alvarez like to work prelates over whenever they get a shot, I was actually lucky to get home when I did. I knew I should call Janine and let her know I was okay, but I was beat and she had class the next day. So I went face first onto the bed without even taking my increasingly lucky hat.
In the little bit of time I had before I finally fell asleep, I considered what I was going to tell her and what I should leave out. But it occurred to me that I was going to end up telling her the whole thing. There was really no reason I could think of not to.
Of course, I would leave something as a cliffhanger, just to see how she would react. In retrospect, I guessed it perfectly. She caught on instantly that it was very cruel on my part to set Wells’s wolves on him. In fact, she looked at me like there was something off in my head for doing it, no matter how mad I was.
I agree with her; that would have been a huge bastard move on my part if I had actually done that. But the truth is, as I told her, that just before I started the tape, I killed the broadcast feed. No one but Stunner and I ever saw Fargus’s foot going into his mouth.
I may have been pissed; I may have been fed up. But I’m still a hero, damnit. I’m the Whitecoat and that’s all there is to it.
End The Whitecoat: Networked