Friday, December 12, 2008

Story Post: Matters about town

Here we go now.

December 12, 2008

3:00 PM

Marcus Shade was running. Running was an unusual activity for the typically too-dignified-to-really-exert himself Shade; it was more like he was engaged in a behavior that existed somewhere in the twilight between fleeing and sauntering; a compromise between the expedience of abandoning a previous engagement and the imperative of looking imperious.

As he fled from the premises of his warehouse and into the alleys that connect it to the main strip of town, Shade was struck by the absurdity of his present condition. He was struck by the guile of his opponent, who had, apparently, distracted his entire retinue of guards and henchmen. But, most of all, he was struck by a fist. Ow. He had not expected his apparently lame adversary to be so quick.

Shade crumpled to the ground, landing on his hands and rear. He hurriedly crab-walked backward, soon finding his escape route compromised by a chain link fence. He was trapped.

The afternoon sun blighted his view, but there was little doubt as to the figure towering over him. It was familiar but different—different in shape but also in gravity. Where one aspect was impaired, the other characteristic had grown to accommodate for his new found weakness. And this Shade, our Shade, the Shade of now, had never been accused of lacking gravity to begin with.

Marcus Shade dragged his lame leg with him as he brought his ponderous but still powerful frame closer to his double. He was breathing hard. “I expected you to be wiser about this. You’re disappointing me.”

“Son of a…I think you broke my nose!”

“If that’s the worst that happens then you’re still going to come out ahead.” Shade pivoted on his good leg and looked back toward the warehouse.

“The key code was bad.”

“You broke my nose.”

“Why did you change the key code? I knew the key code.”

Shade gripped the fence for support. “You sent away all of my men.”

Shade turned his head back after a slight pause. “Yes, go figure, they can’t tell the difference in our voices.”

The undeniable depth of this statement stopped the Shade of the present for a moment.

“I don’t know that I buy your story.”

This insolence aggravated Shade. “You are stubborn, aren’t you?”

Shade, the Shade at home in this time, pushed himself off the fence and took up a more tactically favorable position, cutting this other Shade off from the alley. He fingered a small blade in his pocket.

“Listen, I don’t care who you are or where you’re from. I run this operation. I always run the operation. Now, I let you help me recover those rocks from Bucky because


needed them. I let you turn out the double-agents in my own fold because it helped


. But any enterprise you have that goes beyond that is your own business, and to the extent that it crosses with mine… you lose.” The cool, dull edge of the blade rubbed up against his thumb.

But then that Shade, that otherworldly Shade, impaired physically but also seemingly renewed with some strange strength that only the depths of despair can grant, whispered a name. And Shade stepped back.

He knew the name; Shade knew his backer kept a watchful eye over him; knew that he was, in a way, the chief competitor for the very…resources Shade’s employer now sought to have Shade secure.

“What of?”

“He sent me here.”

“Why would you work for him? Money?” It was hard to imagine this mysterious fellow eclipsing the sum offered by his current employer.

“No. Something greater than money; an opportunity. The chance to set things right. And that is why I need full access to my…


facility. And that is why I need you; because you’re the very fool I’ve come to protect. If you were anyone else your impudence would have found you a cool plot of land in a cemetery somewhere.”

Shade pondered this for a moment. It seemed wild; almost as if it had to be true by the very nature of its unbelievability. But then again, if he were willing to accept this yarn, certainly he could accept a differing version where this Shade before him was an impostor or deceptive provocateur. But the best gamble, right now, was to play along.

“So what are we to do?”

For the first time since this Shade encountered our familiar present, the Shade from beyond smiled. The expression warped the scar across his cheek, rendering it into a hideous hieroglyph. “Keep the Antarctica device away from your former employer. Stop the DDF. But most of all, find the Black Swan.”

Shade raised an eyebrow. “The missing one?”

His doppelganger turned to walk back towards the warehouse. “It’ll be found at a most inopportune time, Mr. Shade, if we don’t find it first.”

* * *

Jason Smith, a tax accountant and (if it is not too repetitive to say) a creature of habit, made the odd decision to stop in the midst of his big project and have a cup of tea at Joey Wong’s today.

The restaurant was at the height of a lunchtime rush. Alone, as he had been since the still-unsolved slaying of Andrea, Jason opted for the counter. He placed an order for a certain oolong and sat back, drumming his fingers on the table.

“I don’t suppose this seat is taken?”

A regal gentleman descended onto the adjacent stool. He smiled at Jason before turning to the waiter and ordering a drink Jason had never heard of.

“So,” the impeccably dressed fellow said, “What’s good here?”

Later that day at work, while entering some accounting data, Jason paused to reflect on this all but fleeting instant of an encounter. He was struck: not by the stranger’s clothes, which seemed to be fashioned out of Dickensian turn-of-the-century whole cloth and fancy; but by his face, even his aura. The man was a cross between Jay Gould and the Cheshire Cat, though without the occasional arrogant bumbling of the former and with none of the frivolous, hidden gaiety of the latter. Yes, indeed, Jason would think to himself—it was, for a short conversation, one of the oddest encounters of his life.

And Jason wondered where one even went about buying a top hat, nowadays.



12-12-2008 21:21:40 UTC

Wow!  Someone’s been holding out!

Darknight: he/him

13-12-2008 03:57:46 UTC

.....WOW! And ya even remembered Jason’s job too lol. Down right epic post man.