The List – Episode 1: PSA

When in doubt, make a list.

That’s exactly what I was doing, writing in reverse order the names of those I planned to destroy.  I even included a nice little box beside each name, so I could check it off as I went.  In my line of business, it paid to stay organized.  And my business was the assassination of super heroes.

EPISODE 1 – PSA

I slid through the crowd and made my way towards the podium.  As I neared I uncrumpled the piece of paper that’d been wadded up in my jacket pocket.  That’s right, paper.  I was going old school – untraceable, didn’t leave behind any digital footprint or noise, and when I needed to get rid of it a simple lighter would do the trick.  I scanned down the list, squinting to make out the names through the dirt and blood stains.  Twelve down, Carsus Belrind.  Better known as The Blender to the masses.  There was no check mark next to the name.  But I was about to fix that.

I tucked the paper away and glanced back up to the podium.  The crowd roared as Carsus strode across the stage and stopped next to the other Very Important People that smiled for the drones and auto-cams.  I didn’t make a point of hiding my face – the cameras were embedded everywhere and there was no way to tell where.  The only way to keep them from picking my face out of the crowd was to smash and rebuild it after every job.  It was my least favorite part of the job, but just like my old man used to say, pain builds character.

The silver skyscrapers that towered above us changed to show what was happening up on that stage.  The video feeds zoomed in on The Blender’s smiling face as he shook the hands of the other Very Important People.  Even at one hundred times fidelity, you couldn’t even see a hint of scars from the operation.  But they were there.  You see, The Blender paid a small fortune for brain augments to become a TK – a telekinetic, that is – and he specialized in the twisting and tearing of the insides his enemies, starting with the intestines and working his way out.  Hence the name “The Blender”.

The Blender spun towards the audience.  “I’d like to thank every one of you for coming out today, for today is a very important day.” His voice echoed through the streets, booming from the audio plates implanted on the scrappers’ facades.  “The reason why is because today, well, it’s the day that we kill Levi Cole.”

I froze.  The crowd parted around me.  I looked up to see my face plastered all over the scrapper walls.  The big announcement, and that was me was me up there, right in the middle of scratching my nose.  How Flattering.

I dropped my hand to my side and let my gun slide down into my grip – a .80 automatic black Seiver. I jaunted up to the stage, the crowd running from me screaming like I was carrying that plague.  And here I was, standing in the thick of it all, my only purpose to cure them.

As I neared, I boosted my step and pushed off the ground, jumping high above the stage.  I raised the gun and started tearing holes into the synthetic wood platform.  Splinters exploded up around the Blender, but none made it closer than a foot.  He lifted his left hand for dramatic effect, and I stopped midair.  He made a clutching gesture with his other hand, and I felt a ripping in my gut.

I admired the creativity of his technique; you could tell that he took pride in his job.  That was the one thing you could always count on with these types – they would play the part they assumed.  If it was me, I would have twisted off my hands first thing.  Unfortunately for him, he was stuck in his method.

My beam blade zipped out of my sleeve and into my free hand.  I worked the controls, and the flat white beam shot out of the handle and straight towards the Blender’s throat.  My hand twisted at the wrist, and the beam singed the Blender’s right ear before going off in the distance behind him.  The skin on my twisted wrist ripped open and blood spurted in thick gushes from the tears, but it wasn’t enough to put my hand out of commission.  I worked the controls again, and the beam jutted a hard angle to the right and then another, and now it was coming in hard on the back of his neck.

Once engineers figured out how to create an actual beam weapon that would stop after a certain distance, it was child’s play to get them to go in any shape or direction that you desired.  Mine was specialized in changing direction while maintaining its flat blade shape, which the Blender found out too late.  The telekinetic’s hold on me released and I dropped, hitting the ground in sequence with his bouncing head.

I doubled over and puked up bits of my torn up digestive system.  The entire block of buildings were flashing red, with white text inset in yellow scrolling banners, streaming warning messages to the good citizens of New City, telling them to lock the doors, hide under a table, and wait for the situation to end.  The lamp post closest to me repeated in a polite voice “Unauthorized weapon used in the vicinity.  Use of a beam weapon constitutes as a class S felony.  Disarm and lay prostrate immediately.”

Sure, beam weapons were highly dangerous, which equated to them being highly illegal.  If you couldn’t tell, that didn’t bother my consciences in the least.  The lamp post exploded from an .80 round of my Seiver, and I straightened my posture and wiped the blood off my chin.

I waited for a few more seconds, looking around the crowd for another mark.  For a second I thought this day was going to be one big disappointment.  One lousy TK to check off my list?  That’s it?  After all, this was supposed to be a set up to kill one of the Most Wanted assassins alive.

They didn’t let me down.  I had to suppress a smile as I spotted the two men walking in the opposite direction of all the panicking citizens.  The one on the right – what was his name?  My memory settled on Bulk – was dressed in a sleeveless bright blue body suit to show off the bulging muscles of his arms.  His entire body was in a state of perpetual flex, with cuts that were normally impossible.  But with enough cash, nothing was impossible.  Muscle tissue augments were on the cheaper side of superpowers, so he must have been new money or just a little lower in the food chain, or maybe he got screwed in the market at some point.  Sure, he wasn’t a big name, but I didn’t discriminate, and would take pleasure in marking his name off the list along with the rest.

It was easy to recognize the man on the left as Daedalus from the ridiculous helmet he wore.  Feathered metal wings extended a meter on either side of the helmet, making me wonder how he even kept his head upright.  Deadalus was fitted with a light exoskeleton armor, with thin superinium-nano rods running down his spine and wrapping around his arms and legs to give him extra strength.  He wasn’t going to waste any time, and light sparked out of the microboosters attached to his back and calves and he launched at me.  Bulk followed close behind, all one thousand muscles pulsating to keep pace.

My wrist wasn’t feeling up to taking them both on at the same time, so I holstered my beam blade and dropped a screen grenade in front of them.  In an explosion of smoke, a solid wall shot up between us.  It would only give me a few extra seconds, but that was enough for me to sprint to the nearest building and duck into the alley.  I keyed a sequence into my palm which activated the cloaking device I installed in that alley earlier.  In this line of business, it was always best to plan for the worst.

The cloaking device was lowbrow; it worked by creating a hologram of the area around me, dampened any sounds I made, and regulated the air temperature so the high techs couldn’t pick up my heat signature.  None of those fancy nanomaterials, though I could get them if I needed them.

I sat and reloaded my Seiver, waiting for my time to strike.  Deadalus’s shadow passed over me as he flew above, unaware of my location, and Bulk was just now breaking through the temporary barrier  created by the nade.  Bulk stomped along the side walk, and he was now within feet of my location.  I rolled out, gun ready, and aimed it at the back of his muscled up skull.  He must have heard me, because he ducked and spun at the last second as a stream of bullets left a crater in the wall behind him.  The best maneuver to take when being shot at was towards your attacker, and that was exactly what Bulk was doing.  I pulled my gun down to track his movement.  Before I could shoot I heard the loud crack of ribs breaking as Bulk drove his shoulder into my chest.  The next second, I was up in the air, my Seiver flying in the opposite direction, and then I was crashing through glass into the fifth floor of a sky scrapper.

I tucked myself into a ball as I slammed through cubicle wall after cubicle wall, and finally smashed into a desk that was heavy enough to stop my momentum.  I looked up to the bulging eyes of a salary man, and gave him a nice and bright bloody smile.  Before I could turn back to the window, he was already screaming and running with the rest of the people trying to jam themselves into the elevators.  At that rate they’d kill themselves before I’d even get a chance.

Bulk was a lot faster than I expected, and I would have to finish this quickly if I wanted to take care of Daedalus as well.  I rolled a couple of nerve nades, set to a one meter radius, towards the new opening in the wall, timing it just right so that when Bulk landed softly at the ledge he was greeted with  an unpleasant blast of neurotoxins.  His muscles, all one million of them, twitched uncontrollably as he tried to rush forward and take me out.  A normal man would have been out as soon as the toxins hit his system, but that wasn’t the case.  I brought myself into my fighting stance.  As Bulk charged, I could see the neurotoxins taking hold of his body as his hands flapped and arms started to wobble.  By the time he made it to me, I was able to easily slip around his attack and give him a kick into one of his faltering ankles.  Bulk whirled his arms around in a desperate attempt to regain his balance, but I gave him another kick, a round house connecting my foot to his neck.  With that, he toppled over, taking the nearest cubicle farm with him.  I tore through the office and kicked off with all my strength at the lip of the opening just as the two frag nades I left behind exploded.  The heat seared the back of my head and I caught a piece of shrapnel in my left thigh, but my trajectory was correct.

I caught Daedalus midflight, and dug my fingers into his gear as we tumbled across the sky.  The city turned in every direction around us, and we came inches to smearing across another building when the stability sensors corrected his positioning and we shot straight up.  Sky scrapper floors blurred by as we continued higher.  He was probably smiling under that mask of his, planning on knocking me loose and letting me contemplate my actions as I fell hundreds of stories to certain death.  Thing was, that wasn’t part of my plan.

EMP nades would have come in handy in situations like this, but only older equipment was susceptible to that anymore.  I had the next best thing, though, and I attached it to his back as we neared the top of the closest sky scrapper.  I brought my feet up and launched myself off of Daedalus.  As I floated back towards the roof of the sky scrapper, I keyed in a sequence on my palm that activated the destabilizer I had planted on him.  He started gyrating head over heels as he flailed his arms and legs, trying in vain to regain control.  For me, it was only a thirty meter drop to the roof of the sky scrapper, but I caught on my bad leg and felt my ankle snap under the immense pressure.  It was still better than the landing Daedalus was going to experience.

I hobbled to the edge of the roof in time to see Daedlus bounce off the pavement below.  I inventoried my wounds:  Four cracked ribs, internal bleeding, a broken wrist and twisted ankle, along with several other minor lacerations.  Not bad, all things considered.  I took out my wadded piece of paper, ready to put a check by three names.  It was a good day to be a super hero hunter.

As I was scratching the first mark, the paper nearly slipped out of my fingers as it flapped in the wind from an approaching helicopter.  I hadn’t even heard it until it was on top of me, meaning it was a newer model reserved for those with deep pockets.  I shoved the list back into my pocket, and my body shook at the sight of the hovercopter.  Not in fear – my body shook in anticipation.  Standing on the side of the hovercopter was a tall man that had to duck just to keep from getting a new hair cut from the copter blades.  It was Rune, and he was at the top of my list, both literally and figuratively.  I stared past his face mask and looked directly into the glare of his cold grey eyes.

Rune brought his hands together in a light clap.  “Well done, Levi.  You’re making quite the name for yourself.”

“I’m not out to make a name.  I’m out to mark them off,” I said, keeping my face hard and emotionless.

Rune scoffed.    “Do you really have to say things like that?  You should take this more seriously.”  He saw me reaching up my sleeve for my beam blade, and held out his hand and waved it back and forth.  “Patience, now.  It wouldn’t be a fair fight if you’re all banged up like that.”

Fair fight?  Against Rune?  It was my turn to scoff.  I wasn’t so full of myself I’d deny that even in my best condition, it wouldn’t be a fair fight.  But that wouldn’t stop me from trying.

I whipped the beam out, and worked the controls so the glowing white blade forked and twisted into several smaller beams.  The tips of the beams were inches from Runes face when they shattered.  I reinstantiated the beam, but the helicopter veered up and out of reach of my weapon.  Rune brought his hand up in a two finger salute, and his smirk etched permanently into my skull as he drew farther and farther away.

I sheathed my blade as I walked the roof to the stairwell.  I would be patient, and I would eventually cross Rune’s name off my list.  I took solace in the fact that I still had plenty of other names to work my way through.  I cracked a smile as I brought the stained and torn list back out and uncrumpled it.