Authors: Alexander Maisey
By Alexander Maisey
Author Alexander Maisey
Edited by Laurie Laliberte
Cover Art By Mark Williams
Cover Design by Michael Shean
Part One: Malevolence
© 2013 Alexander Maisey, All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this work may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author.
Table of Contents
To Maria and Indiana
An airhorn blared a
s sunlight streamed in through the six-by-six inch window of the prison cell. Inmate Nicholas McHenry groaned and turned away from the light, rubbing the spittle off of his chin with his left hand.
ights embedded in the ceiling bloomed until they reached their maximum intensity, fully illuminating the tiny quarters. The room was constructed from an exotic compound which had the texture of plastic but the resilience of steel. The light reflected dully off of the walls of the cell.
shrieked a second time, and was followed by the crackle of the prison’s intercom system coming online. A robotic voice announced, “Attention inmates of Blackiron Federal Penitentiary: The time is now oh-five-forty-five. Proceed to the back of your cells and wait for inspection and headcount. Failure to comply will result in correction.”
nearly fifteen years of incarceration, McHenry was well aware of the procedure--and what the implicit threat of “correction” was. The announcement wasn’t meant for veteran prisoners like him, but for the busload of new fish that had arrived the night before. He sat up with a yawn and rolled off his mattress, stretching. He looked at the stump on the wrist of his right arm and rolled his eyes. His hand hadn’t been there for two decades but it still itched every morning.
McHenry scratched the back of his entirely bald head, and traced a scar from behind his ear to the base of his neck.
He adjusted the humming metal band around his throat with his good hand before reaching up to the top bunk to jab his sleeping cellmate in the back.
Krudoff,” he said, jabbing again. “Get up.”
The old man grumbled
from the upper bunk. “Inspection again?”
grunted affirmatively. His elderly cellmate clambered unsteadily down the short ladder, and the thought of asking the old man to trade bunks crossed McHenry’s mind for the thousandth time as he reached up to assist Krudoff. But McHenry knew the old man would turn an offer like that down: for all of Doctor Henri Krudoff’s brilliance, he was a stubborn idiot.
The two of them
turned to face the wall of their cell. Two pairs of glowing yellow circles appeared on it, about six feet up from the rubberized floor. Krudoff placed his leathery old hands into the center of each of the two circles closest to him and yawned. McHenry put his left hand in one circle and stretched his fingers out, then rested his stump at the base of the other.
All four circles turned blue
uards made their way through the prison block, calling out the names of inmates and searching their cells. There was a sudden commotion in the quarters next to McHenry and Krudoff’s, followed by a crackling sound. One of its occupants let out a staccato scream as his “correction” intensified. Nicholas’ neck grew warm, his body remembering the intense heat and electrical shock that the restraint collar had pumped into him the few times he had earned the guards’ ire.
“Must be one of the new
bies,” Krudoff observed. McHenry shrugged.
The door of the
ir cell slid open, making no more noise than a whisper. The smell of singed fur and burned pork wafted in. McHenry heard the voice of O’Shea, the head guard, call out. “Krudoff, H.”
Did my old invisibility serum finally kick in?” Krudoff asked sarcastically before turning his head back to shoot a glare at O’Shea. “Here.”
“Yeah, like that ever g
ets old, Krudoff,” the chief guard tapped on his clipboard
McHenry turned his head
and looked at O’Shea. The overweight, middle-aged man was flanked by a pair of heavily armored corrections officers. As always.
“Want me to correct the old man, sir?” asked
one of the guards. Krudoff tensed up.
“Nah,” O’Shea said. “Krudoff hasn’t been a threat to anybody since before your daddy was born.
The security chief looked down at his clipboard.
“All right, search and seize. And you two, if you’re smarter than your new neighbor you’ll stay put.”
wo guards came in and patted through Krudoff and McHenry’s clothes, lifted up their mattresses, and thumbed through a book on the floor.
“Clear,” said one of the
officers, prompting O’Shea to dramatically swipe the paper on his clipboard with his pen.
“Right. See you tomorrow, gentlemen.”
The trio left, moving on to the next cell. The door slid shut the moment the last of them stepped through its frame. After a beat, the glowing circles on the wall vanished. Krudoff turned and leaned against the wall, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He struck a match as McHenry sat down on the lower bunk.
Krudoff started. Smoke rolled out of his mouth. “You happy?”
McHenry, who looked down at the floor, running his big toe around one of the rubber nubs.
Five more days and you’re out of here,” the old man grinned as he flicked ash into the toilet.
“I wasn’t keeping count,”
“That’s a load of crap. I know that computer in your brain keeps track of everything.”
Krudoff cleared his throat, stifling a cough. He took a long suck on the cigarette.
That was true.
floated in the lower right portion of McHenry’s vision.
McHenry slipped his feet into the sneakers he’d left on the floor the night before. He tightened the Velcro straps and popped his ankles. Krudoff blew smoke at him.
“Oh, cheer up. I’ll get you some extra hash browns in the mess later.”
McHenry looked up and gave his cellmate a cold stare. Neither of them said anything for a few moments. Krudoff took a few slow drags off his cigarette.
“You know,” he said, “in the
sixty-odd years I’ve been living the life of crime, I never met as sullen a grump such as you.”
laughed. “Okay. Extra hash browns, then.”
Krudoff smiled. “But only if you explain that whole macro processor thing again.”
“Micro,” McHenry corrected.
“Microprocessors!” the old man tossed his
spent cigarette in the toilet. “Microprocessors and hash browns! This truly is the daredevil life we dreamed of when we started out as supervillains, isn’t it, Nicholas?”
really is,” McHenry smirked sarcastically. He added, “
The old man grinned at hearing that. “Work names, oh? I guess I should have called you
Both men laughed.
Krudoff coughed violently, then wiped black spittle onto the sleeve of his orange jumpsuit.
McHenry’s spoon scraped against his plate as he scooped the last few strands of hash brown into his mouth. He dropped the spoon on to the dish, turned his body off of the bench, and started to walk back towards the kitchen. He navigated through the crowded, noisy cafeteria, avoiding contact with his fellow inmates and their sweat-stained orange jumpsuits.
plate, and silverware clinked together as he dropped them into a little slot in the wall. There was a tap on his shoulder and he turned to face its source: another inmate, a particularly bizarre one. Younger, early twenties. But his face and hands were covered in peach-colored scales that reflected the light.
McHenry asked while looking down at the claws the other prisoner had instead of fingers. He wondered if he was about to get shanked, and suddenly his vision went black and white. The world slowed down around him.
lizard kid’s form was surrounded by a glowing green outline, and pixelated boxes with data points about his heart rate, body temperature, and vital organs popped up all around him.
blinked his left eye twice to disable the self-defense head’s-up display in his mind, and his vision returned to normal. It wouldn’t have done him any good anyway. Blackiron’s prison surgeon had removed all of the Machinist’s cybernetics his first day there, except those that were soldered into his gray matter. McHenry could’ve connected to the prison’s security systems and made a break for it years before if not for that procedure.
“You the Machinist?”
The kid put his hands in his pockets to make it clear he wasn’t a threat.
“Got a message.”
The kid’s forked tongue flicked out of his mouth as he spoke, but it didn’t seem to affect his diction. “You get out next week, the Network give you what you need to get back in the game.”
‘Network?’” McHenry asked.
“Shit, man. The
Network.” The kid rolled his eyes. “They who you get ray guns and shit from.”
McHenry nodded. “We called it ‘the Brotherhood’ before I got nabbed.”
Lizard kid made a face. “Holy shit, how long you been here, homes?”
“Almost fifteen years. You?”
Since last night. Whatever.” The young inmate’s tongue flicked out again. “It’s a one-time deal. They give you the gear, like, thanks for not selling them out when you went away.”
nodded at the kid, who then turned and walked away. The kid sat down at a table with other young inmates, including an overly-muscled man with a lion’s mane and a skinny short one with a beak where his mouth should’ve been. The lizard kid didn’t even look back. He’d delivered the message, he’d done his job. There was probably a pack of cigarettes waiting under the kid’s mattress.
made his way back to his own table, contemplative. He had imagined what it’d be like to get back out there—to feel the electrons fire off at a machine gun pace while he transmitted mental commands to his two robotic minions, the sensation of crushing the door of a bank vault with his cybernetic hand—and got a thrill.
hen his thoughts turned to another scenario he had ruminated over the last decade and a half--He wondered if the quiet life would be better; if maybe the research facility he worked at before the accident would give him a second chance? If there was any chance of going straight?
foremost on his mind was this: what did this “Network” want from him? McHenry knew better than to just trust his fellow super criminals based on platitudes alone. There had to be more to the deal than them giving him some gifts just for keeping his lips shut fifteen years back. Especially since it now seemed the Brotherhood was defunct anyway.
Krudoff was spouting off at the other
men sitting at the table when McHenry took his seat again. The decrepit supervillain was wrapping a story from his glory days, one McHenry had heard a hundred times before.
“—The mayor, he thinks he’s clever. I knew I shouldn’t have gone on the radio
the night before and announced my plan to kidnap him--but I was young and full of piss, you know? And I wanted him to know I was coming—So, so … he thinks he’s cute, watching me tell my Manimals where to put the chemicals. And I pretend not to notice he’s cutting through the rope around his wrists with a straight razor he snuck out of his back pocket.”
Two of the older inmates at the table nod
ded—they’d gone through something similar at some point with their own hostages. McHenry just shook his head.
“I turn back to him, and start walking around. He says, you know
, he says, ‘You’ll never get away with this,’” Krudoff chuckled. “And I go, ‘Well, mayor. You were in the war, in the Big One. You fought your way up Normandy Beach on D-Day. Bet you got out of some tricky situations before. But I imagine you’ve never had such a …’—and I’m walking around behind him now, snatching the damn thing from his hands—‘never had such a
except McHenry burst into laughter. Krudoff’s own guffaws turned into a wheezing cough.
“What’d you do next, Doc?” asked the new kid at the table, once the old man’s fit subsided. McHenry glanced over and sized him up. Skinny. There were little rectangular metal nubs bulging out from the skin of his arms.
“Oh, I was going to s
mack the mayor one, but then the wall comes crashing in and American Eagle and his sidekick—what’s his face--start tossing the Manimals around like ragdolls.” That earned a nod from everyone at the table—they’d all definitely been through similar, and they all knew how that story would end. An awkward silence overtook the table as Krudoff stopped talkin
McHenry asked, gesturing at the newbie. “What’s with the studs?”