The Spy

Emily got to HQ early that morning.  There was something special happening today.  They were getting another member.  Some guy who had been fighting in Area 4.  Unlike the rest of them, his talent was unique.  He was a shape-shifter.  This man was transferred here because of what was happening with Winter’s Shadow.  About fucking time, if you ask me.
Their efforts were getting them nowhere.  Almost two months of pushing, and the public would not budge.  Half of the ghetto was on fire, thanks to Inferno’s madness.  Way he saw it, if they didn’t give them up, they were just as bad.  The Empire was very much in agreement, for the most part.  Then, someone in military intelligence remembered this guy.  He had gotten them far in ways that they couldn’t believe in Area 4.  The fighting was still fierce, but they now had huge increases in intel in that region.  It was helping turn the tide.  Her father remembered hearing this name, but never knew that he was in the Specials.  It was an impressive roster, to say the least.  So command figured, if he could do what he did there, maybe he could infiltrate Winter’s Shadow and see what he could do here.  It was an exciting day, to say the least.  All of her compatriots were buzzing.  If this guy could get this job done, then she could leave the military.  She told Quinn that she had.  It broke her heart to lie to her girlfriend.  She loved her, and now she was forced to lie to her to keep their relationship together.  But once this was done, she would.  Already had her letter of resignation and everything.  She would ditch her title in the Aristocracy too.  They would go off to Italy or somewhere like that.  With the money she earned from this job, they could live a glamorous and happy life, together.  Quinn was all she needed.  All she would ever need.

The door to their lab in HQ opened and she saw someone sitting at the desk.  He was a pale fellow, who didn’t look especially healthy.  He had red eyes.  Reminded her of Quinn, now that she thought about it.  He had messy brown hair that was streaked blond.  He had shades sitting on the table in front of him.  The man was dressed very plain, looked very plain.  A smile came to her face.
“You must be Doppelganger.”
He looked up at her, smiling a warm smile.  “I am.  The legendary Puppeteer.  Your reputation precedes you.  Feeling a little humbled right now.  How often does one get to meet a legend in the service?”
A blush came to her face.  “Oh, I don’t know about legend.  I just do what I’m told.  King and country and all that.”
The man chuckled.  “Or Emperor and country, as the case may be.”
They shared a laugh as she sat down.  He looked so unimposing, so innocent.  His namesake was well-earned, and she could see why his reputation was as well.
“So, I read all about you.  Man, the stuff you have on your resume is pretty damn impressive too.”
The man shrugged.  “Like you, I just did what I’m told.  When I got out of Lab 451, I didn’t really know what to do with myself.  They gave me direction.  But I did have one caveat to my service.”
“What’s that?”  This man was so unlike her.  He seemed gentle.
“I don’t kill people.  My family was in the war in Mexico.  We were in vacation in Cabo.  When the war started, they got killed in the initial bombing.  I get the military intel, but I don’t kill people.  I know enough people die because of what I do.  I don’t want to add to the bad dreams I already have.  I’m not a soldier.  I get the intelligence that can help them end the fighting.  So no one else has to get hurt.”
Emily smiled.  She liked him.  “I can respect that.  I wasn’t a soldier, either.  Well, not as much as my father.”
“The Rear Admiral, am I right?”
She looked up suddenly.  “How do you know that?”
He chuckled.  “I’m a very good gatherer of information.  It’s my job, after all.  I did a little research before I came here.  With your father’s service record, he must be proud.”
The blush came back.  “Well, he wasn’t exactly thrilled about the kind of missions I would be doing, but he is proud that I am serving the Empire.”
“I can understand that.  I also hear that you’re with a Number now.  Quite the scandal, from what I’m told.”
That got an annoyed look.  “Told from whom?”
“A very talkative fellow.  Thick New York accent.  I believe that he is called ‘Inferno.'”
Emily growled, “I’ll make him pay for that!”
He just shrugged.  “No worries about this getting out.  I’m better at keeping a secrets than some.”  He stuck out his tongue, chuckling.
The mood got lighter.  “Thanks for that.  Lots of people are giving me looks around here about that.  Like I committed a sin or something.”
The man put his shades on, seeming to relax.  “I have no problem with it.  I’m happy for you.  I saw the two of you together at the Maplewood Academy this morning.  You looked happy.  That’s all that matters.  The political bullshit of the Aristocracy aside, all that matters is if she makes you happy.”
Despite being spied on, she smiled.  She knew that they were going to get along swimmingly.  That’s when a sad look came to her face.
“I feel kind of bad, about something.”
He cocked an eyebrow.  “About what?”
She paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts.  “I had to lie to her.  To tell her something that wasn’t true.”
He thought for a moment.  “I see.  I take it that this lie was about something important.”
“Very.  She made me promise.  Now, I can’t keep that promise.  It’s killing me inside, because I don’t know when I can.”
“But you still mean to?”
She looked up.  “Yes!  More than anything!  As soon as this garbage with Winter’s Shadow is over, the very second it is, I will!  I don’t care what Command says.”
The man smiled at her.  “Well then, you have nothing to worry about.  Once all is said and done, you can tell her.  Explain it to her, and I’m sure she’ll understand.  If she loves you the same way you love her.”
She almost got up and hugged him.  So pale, so unimposing, yet so wise.  That is how the best people are.  The two smiled at each other.  In that moment, they understood one-another.
Just then, the intercom came on.
“Attention all Special Operations personnel, please report to the War Room for debriefing!  All Special Operations personnel, please report to the War Room.”
“Guess our time is up,” the man said, standing.  “But I would be happy to talk more later.”
Emily nodded.  “I would like that.”  They made their way toward the elevator, eager to see what the next mission would be.

The War Room was a unique place.  Since they wired this place with the best tech, the table was an integrated display that could create holographic displays on it.  It wasn’t showing anything at the moment, but it was the only light source in the room.  The Specials weren’t the only ones in the room.  There were also some base personnel that were involved in their work.  Most of them were analysts for military intelligence, but there were also members of Lab 451 there as well, who kept an eye on the Specials and their operations.
At the front of the room was their commanding officer, Colonel Andrew Gibson.  A stern man, he was very much down-to-earth.  A very traditional military commander, he was not partial to the Specials.  This relationship was getting more and more frayed as they were unsuccessful at getting the Winter’s Shadow problem under control.  Doppelganger, Emily and the rest filed in, taking a seat at the table.  Emily gave Inferno a mean look.  He just shrugged, grinning his usual stupid grin.  That douche bag takes nothing seriously.
“Alright, now that we’re all here, let’s get started.”
The table projected a new image.  It was of the city.
“I’m sure I don’t need to remind any of you what a mess our efforts to uncover Winter’s Shadow have been lately.  Hell, the news makes us out to be the biggest bunch of idiots that have ever walked the Earth.  Now, normally putting our work in the hands of a single Special isn’t my go-to option, but we’ve got a new member who, from what I’ve been told from the people in Area 4, might be the perfect weapon to turn this around.”
Full-Crank sat forward.  “I take it that this person is the new guy I’ve been hearing about.  Who is he, anyway?”
The Colonel had seen him come in, pointing to where he saw him sit.  “It’s the man sitting there.  He is called…”  His voice trailed off as he realized something – he wasn’t there!  Everyone looked around.
“Where the hell is he?”  He looked to his people, who looked just as confused.
Suddenly, standing right next to the Colonel was a man who looked just like him, except with red eyes that almost seemed to glow.
“Who the hell is this imposter?!” the other Colonel growled.
The Colonel stepped back, eyes wide.  “What the fuck is this?!”
The other Colonel started laughing.  As he did, his form started to change.  He gradually became the man that Emily recognized.  She was in awe.
“Just a little joke, Colonel.  I acquired your DNA when we shook hands this morning.  Sorry if it was in bad taste.”
The Colonel wanted to be mad, but he was impressed.  For once, the brass weren’t blowing smoke.  This kid is everything they said, and more.
He cleared his throat, getting more serious again.  “Yes, well, this is our newest member.  They call him, ‘Doppelganger.’  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what his talent is.”
The man sat back down, winking at Emily.  She couldn’t help giggling.  Everyone in the room was impressed.
“He is going to be using his talent to get us a peek behind the curtain of Winter’s Shadow.  The mission outlines for this are clear.  Get him into the organization, get tight with the command, work your way in and then let the hammer fall when we can get a clear picture on where somebody important is.”
An aide stood up.  “We have got some targets that we believe are possible recruiting centers-”
“I saw all your data on Winter’s Shadow.  It’s horrifically inaccurate.”  He didn’t even seem phased by this.  Almost, bored.
“Excuse me?!”
He looked up.  “Yeah, it’s bad intel.  They don’t work like an army recruiting station.  They are set up like a terrorist organization.”
“That’s because they are terrorists,” another staff member snarled.
“If you could keep the comments of your ignorant staff to a minimum, that’d be great.”
The staff member stood up.  “Excuse me?  Who the fuck are you to tell us to shut up?!”
The Colonel stepped forward.  “I am in charge here, and I’m telling you to shut up.”  He turned at Doppelganger.  “Sorry about that.  Continue.”
He cleared his throat.  “As I was saying, your intel is bad.  This organization is careful in the extreme.  They do everything in cells.”
The aide smirked at him.  “How could you possibly know that?”
He gave her a cold look.  “Because I enlisted yesterday afternoon.  I arrived here a bit sooner than I said.  Had to get my lay of the land.  Get to know what the area is like.  I got an apartment in the ghetto, which keeps me safely in their radar.  Not one bit of suspicion.”
Everyone in the room was impressed.  The Colonel couldn’t help but smile.
“Now, here is where the tricky part comes in.  If I am to rise up the ranks of this organization, I need to be able to give them something.  I have to prove my worth.  That means that you are going to have to sell some of your people up the river.  The cost of victory.  Am I wrong?”
Everyone looked to the Colonel, who nodded.  “Yeah, I got ya.  I don’t like it, but if you can get in tight with them, it’s worth the cost.  How big is the intel you’re going to need?”
He thought for a moment.  “I need someone who we can cut loose.  Someone big.  Big enough to get Wolf’s attention.  Have anyone like that in mind?”
The Colonel thought, then smiled.  “I think I might.  Aristocrat’s son.  Kid’s a fucking dumbass.  He’s been put in charge of the city, but is using his power to put the people down hard.  We’ve kept his location a secret, on every level.  Trust me, not one person in this place will miss him.”
Emily sat forward.  “Wait, we’re willing to throw one of our own to the dogs?!  What the fuck, sir?!”
He looked over at her.  “We do what must be done.  This kid has been whoring and drinking half of his job here, while beating the hell out of the people with his other half.  He needed to go anyway, so we might as well make it help our cause.”
Inferno laughed.  “Nice!  I bet that that will get Wolf’s mouth watering.”
Emily looked at him again, ice-cold.  Of course he wouldn’t care if one of us died.  This man is about as loyal as a rabid dog.
Doppelganger nodded.  “I agree.  Give me the info, but make it look like something that could have been jacked from a terminal at one of their places.  Like some dumb-shit tech who didn’t do his job right.”
“You got it,” the Colonel replied.  “Alright, it seems our newest member has laid the ground-work.  I can tell that you are going to be quite the asset to us.  Very nice work.  I’ll get the information to you in a file in half an hour.  Wait at the Specials Lab.”
Doppelganger saluted.  “Yes sir!”
“Good.  Everyone, dismissed!”  The lights in the room came on and the aides started walking away.  Doppelganger looked over at Emily, giving her a wink and a smile.

She caught up with him on the way back.  “Hey, want to grab some lunch?”
“Sure, I just need to do a couple things before that.  Meet you at the Mess Hall in 40?”
She nodded, smiling.  “Definitely!”
“Alright, it’s a date!”
As she walked away, Emily felt good.  This guy is a master!  Another couple of months and we’ll be done, or at least on the way to being done.  We get this sorted out, I ditch this job, go tell Quinn about it and then we leave!  We can finally be together.  As I want to be.

Doppelganger got to one of the private rooms that people bunked in and started to shift.  There, in that place, Quinn was standing.  She had a dark smile on her face.  She started to laugh.  A dark, maniacal laugh.  I’ve done it!  I’m in!  Soon, I’ll have access to every single part of the Empire, and I can use it to destroy them, once and for all.  After that, I’ll sort everything with Emily out.  This is everything I could have wanted and then some!  It is a very good day.

Until next time, a quote,

“The more they claim to be comrades of like mind, the easier it is to divide them with the thorns of suspicion.” -Lelouch vi Britannia, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Peace out,

Maverick

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The Ex

While his relationship with Emily had never been something truly amazing, he had cherished the time he spent with her.  They formed a connection that he believed would have been strong enough to last.  It was a road he had been down more than once.  Good things never lasted in his life.  A tall man, he had warm blue eyes and very black hair.  He was partial to having the front part raised a bit.  It was short, but well-kept.  His parents always wanted him to have a very regal look.  He just wanted to look nice to his standards.  And thus far, he did.
Their relationship started with their parents putting them together.  He remembered how awkward their first date was.  Finally, he got a laugh out of it, saying that he couldn’t believe how invested their parents’ were in their personal lives.  The ice broken, they decided to just be friends and put on a good show for them.  It was a wonderful evening, after that.  They abandoned the high-class restaurant that they were at and went to a cheap burger-joint in the poorer parts of the city.  There were days when he envied the Numbers and how easy they had it.  But then he remembered who had stolen her from him, and hated them with renewed vigor.

Months went by.  They got closer and closer, with each evening out being more fun than the last.  Then, they were getting back to the dorms.  They were more than a little tipsy.  They got to her door and stopped.  Emily smiled at him, as he did to her.  Then, it happened.  They kissed.  She had such soft lips.  He wished it could have lasted forever, but it didn’t.  It ended, and they parted.  The next day, the met up at the top of their favorite tower at the Academy and talked.  They got their feelings out in the open and agreed to be together.
After that, everything changed.  He remembered the long hikes out into the mountains surrounding the city.  The vacations to his family’s house in the Rockies for the winter, enjoying the falling snow and drinking eggnog and brandy beside the fireplace.  There were the summers spent sitting on the hillside, just being together.  He remembered all those moments.  Then, after a year and a half, she broke up with him.  No reason, no explanation, she just left.  She just left him, standing there at the door, with a ring in his pocket.  A ring that he wanted to help change everything.  Maybe it was too soon, maybe he should have waited.  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.  Maybe…she never loved him at all.  That thought, more than any other, haunted him at night.

Now he saw her, with this Number.  He heard her call her “Quinn.”  What an odd name.  She had the same look she once had with him.  The smile, the soft smile on those soft lips.  The delicate feelings that used to belong to them, when they would walk together.  She was always nervous when Quinn would hold her hand.  More often than not, Quinn would put her arm around Emily’s waist, pulling her close.  This girl definitely took charge.  Maybe that was what their relationship lacked.  He had always been a relatively passive man.  Too many questions, not a single one with an answer.
This Quinn, nobody seemed to know anything about her.  When she wasn’t with his ex-girlfriend, she looked completely bored by everything that happened around here.  Like this was just something she had to deal with before going somewhere else.  Somewhere far more exciting.  Into Emily’s arms, maybe?  He looked up the girl in the records.  It was…boring.  This girl’s history was so boring that it hurt.  She was an orphan, adopted by a wealthy family here in Area 7.  The family applied for Honorary citizenship a few years earlier, which they were given.  The girl was given permission to attend the Academy, where she was earning top marks in all subjects.  Was only involved in Club Council, but nothing outside of that.  Who the hell is this broad?  She was too smart to not be doing nothing with her life, so what was it?

Emily had told her that she had left the military.  A lie.  An obvious lie.  She was very touchy about the subject, so she didn’t bring it up much.  It was strange, when you know that someone you love is lying to you, does that make it worse?  She had never considered this.  She had never imagined being with an American, let alone a Special.  And yet, the time she spent with her was the best time she ever had.  It made her want to leave it all behind.  Did she not give that feeling to her?  Was her lover so attached to the military that she cared more about it than being with her?  It was a question she was asking herself with growing frequency, since she was not around often.  She would confront her with this lie soon enough.  She had her own affairs to attend to.
Emily and her cohorts were stepping up their efforts to catch members of Winter’s Shadow.  The Runners were their prime targets, but the Specials are not made for that kind of work.  The Specials are a sledgehammer.  They needed a needle for this.  The Empire was trying to scare the people with their strength.  It was working with some, but not as they had hoped.  Turns out, when you use a weapon against a population, you breed a lot of anger within said population.  Who knew?
With the growing hostility, and the lack of success, it was only a matter of time until they started trying to purge the criminal elements by destroying large areas of said population.  As they had tried to do with the first attack that she was involved in.  The Empire only knew how to attack something with a hammer.  Huge chunks of the ghetto were on fire, others were filled with the electrocuted bodies of innocent people and large spaces the Runners used were filled with impact craters from weapons that the Special who could bend metal to his will created.  The Specials were good for waging a straight-up war.  This kind of war was not something that they were capable of.  It was a war of shadows and light.  They had light on their side, but the shadows made an excellent hunting ground for organization who had Shadow in the name.
She spent the nights that she wasn’t with Emily at the pool.  The water always let her mind calm.  She would do laps, exercising hard to keep her focus.  It was a focus that was paying off.  An idea came to her.

He watched her swim.  His fists were clenched and his teeth gritted as he snarled at her.  She couldn’t see him.  She didn’t know he was there.  Shadow had always been an excellent source for him to use.  He waited, in the girl’s locker room.  When she got there, he would be waiting.  He would finally figure this out, once and for all.

Oracle entered, removing his shades.  Artificial light hurt him, and it was very dark in here.  A smile was on his face.
“You know I hate making house calls, Quinn.”
She pulled herself up to the edge of the pool, smiling back at him.  “Well, you’re a dear for doing it for me, then.”
He sat down close to her, taking out his laptop.  “So, you said you had an idea you wanted to run by me.  What do you need?”
“I want to infiltrate the Specials.  I need you to make me a profile.”
Immediately, he was skeptical.  “That wouldn’t work!  For one thing, the girl you’re with right now is in the Specials.  Last I checked, she wouldn’t be fooled in any way if you suddenly could do what you do.  If anything, she would become suspicious in the extreme.  Second, everyone knows your file.  While it is all bogus, the fact that it is bogus would be made apparent to everyone in the military, which means that they would be snooping around.  Third, they would be watching you!  The Specials have more security than anyone in their military.  Shadow agents who watch every single thing they do.  So there is no way that you could work with us and infiltrate them.  Lastly, how would you even get your foot in the door?”
Her smile got darker.  “You’re going to make a profile for me.  You will make the information that I need.”
He seemed confused.  “I don’t get it.  What about the other problems?  I mean, what are you going to look like?”
She stood up, walking over.  “I’m going to use your likeness.  You don’t exist anywhere in the system.  Your look would work with them, because you wouldn’t be the first person to be pale as a corpse working with them.  Nobody knows who you are, where you come from or anything else.  You, quite literally, don’t exist.”
This got him even more confused.  “And how are you going to use my likeness?”
She put her hand on his arm.  “By letting you in on a little secret.”  She closed her eyes.  He felt something odd.  He was getting tired.  Really tired.  It felt like his energy was draining, into his arm.  Into her!  He had never been healthy, so he fell backward, passing out.

He wasn’t out long.  Oracle awoke to see her.  Or rather, see himself, but he knew that it was her.  She was admiring himself in the reflection off his computer screen.
“Impressive!” she said with his voice.  “I did a few alterations to the genetics so that I would be healthier.  Nothing personal, but I am supposed to be in the Specials.  Now, take this face.”  She turned around.  She looked just like him, but different.  The eyes, they were red!  They almost seemed to be glowing!  And the hair was a bit of a different color.  Plus, he looked healthier.
“And input it into the computer.  Use our link into PRISM and upload us as a new Special.  We can fabricate the background later.  Just get me into the system as one of their people, fighting in a different Area.  Make it believable.  Say Area 4.  The talent I have would come in handy there, now that I think about it.”  She sat down beside the pool.  Not only had her look changed, but her clothes too.  She was wearing an outfit almost identical to his own.  He looked down, seeing that he was fully-clothed.
“What the fuck?!  How did you…?  What did you do?”
She rolled his eyes.  “I would have thought that that would be obvious to you.  I took a sample of your DNA, using your life-force to guide the change.  In effect, I became you, perfectly and completely.  You’re not the first person I did it to.  How are you feeling?”
He stood up, leaning against the bleachers at the pool.
“I’ve been better.  So you’re one of them?  You’re actually one of the Specials?”
She gave him a cold look.  “You know what I am, Peter.  You know.  Don’t ask questions to which you already know the answer.”
He sat down against the wall, breathing hard.  Then, he saw her changing.  Not just her body, but her outfit too.  In seconds, she was back to looking like herself, in the same swimming outfit she had just had on.
“So, can you set up a profile for me by tomorrow?”
He nodded, swallowing hard.  “Yeah, I can do that.  No problem.”
She got up, walking over.  She kissed him on the top of his head.  “Good man.  Thank you, for keeping this quiet.”  She started to walk away.
“Wait!  Knowing who you are, what you are, I have to ask you – whose side are you on?”
She turned to face him.  There was a long pause.  A smile came to her face.  “I want to destroy the Empire.  That is the side I am on.  Do you need to know more?”
He looked down, shaking his head.  “No ma’am.  I guess not.”
She kept heading toward the locker room.  Well, this is a good day.

She walked into the locker room, stripping off the swimsuit.  She stepped into the shower, letting it soak her skin.  All the sins of the day just washing away.  This must be how religious people feel.  Right as she was getting out, wrapping a towel around herself, she was grabbed.  A strong hand picked her up by the neck, slamming her into the locker.  She was turned around and was face-to-face with Emily’s ex-boyfriend, David.
“Does it feel good, bitch?!  Does she feel good?!  Does it feel good to fuck her?!  Does she make your entire world better?!”  His rage was building and building.  “What the fuck do you have that I don’t?!”  His hands closed on her throat, squeezing with all their might.
She didn’t let even a small amount of fear get into her.  With the same bored expression she always wore, she looked right into his eyes.
“Does this feel good?  Overpowering a defenseless girl in the locker room?  Do you feel like a big man, doing this?  Is this what Emily fell in love with?”
His anger suddenly got less as he let her go.  The weight of what he had just done hit him, like a freight train.  He stumbled backwards, falling to the ground.  The man started to sob, putting his face in his hands.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I’m so sorry.”  He kept repeating that, not willing to face her.  Wrapping the towel back around herself, took a few deep breaths.
“You aren’t the only person who has gotten manipulated by her, you know.”
That got his attention.
“She’s lying to me, too.  She told me things that I know are false.  I don’t know why she is lying to me.  Maybe there are some things that rise above love.  That is why you lost her.  And if I am not careful, it’s why I am going to lose her too.”
He looked up at her, meeting her eyes.  He could see the sadness in her too.  A moment passed between them, where they both understood each other.  She grabbed her bag, heading to the other room.  As she got to the door, she looked back at him.
“I’m sorry you weren’t the one.  I mean that.”  She closed the door behind her.  He sat there, tears running down his face.
What have I done?

She got back to her room, having shifted to heal the damage to her neck.  She opened the door and saw the sweetest thing.  It was Emily, dressed in a red negligee, sitting on her bed.  She smiled at her.
“I wish all my returns to this room were this nice.”  She walked over, pushing her onto her back.  Holding her arms above her head, she kissed her girlfriend passionately.  She did love her, but the future was not looking good.

Until next time, a quote,

“The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” -Charlotte Bronte

Peace out,

Maverick

The Reporter

Work like this was what she lived for.  Born and raised in the Aristocracy, she grew up hearing the same lies that everyone else did.  But after doing more than a little research, she realized that something was off.  The field of interest she had specifically was the Specials.  What were they?  What could possibly give humans the kind of powers they had?  It was off, and she wanted to get to the bottom of it.  Officially, this was off-limits to the federalized journalism.  But she was not above using her charms to get things done.  Her boss was a disgusting man, but useful.  One night in bed and she got all the access she wanted into PRISM, the place with the government’s secrets.
That’s where things got stranger.  Not only were the Specials kept secret from the Aristocracy, they weren’t on the books of the Empire as well.  Who are these people?!  Where did they come from?!  I refuse to believe that they just materialized out of the ether.  There has to be more to this.

Her search lead her to a small town in Maine.  Not much to note about it.  It was almost completely abandoned, except by the few people who were willing to try and eek out and existence here.  Not easy, by any stretch of the imagination.  Rumors were of a base in the mountains here.  It was deep underground, in the mountain’s side.  She stopped at a bar.  She got a tip that somebody was looking to talk, and she could use the drink.
The place was as run-down as one would expect.  It was a very quiet place.  Her entrance got people’s attention.  She didn’t wear the kind of outfit that one of the Aristocracy was expected.  She played it down to Earth.  It allowed her to move between the cities and ghetto without much problem.  But given the looks of some of the male patrons, she was the first woman seen in this part of the world in a long time.  Were it not for the gun in her satchel and the knife in her pocket she might be worried.  She was skilled in both.  When one went into the ghettos, it was a necessity.
The bartender took note as she sat at the bar.  “What can I get ya, hun?”
“Something strong and smooth.  Got anything like that?”
A warm smile came onto his face.  He winked at her.  “I think I might.”  He took out a bottle of decent whiskey, throwing a couple of ice cubes into a glass and pouring it in gently.  He slid the glass over to her.
She smiled back at him.  He was reasonably cute, and she didn’t want to be mean to a man who was good about finding decent liquor.  Something about a courteous bartender who didn’t seem fake was worth a lot, to her.  Taking a drink, she smiled.  She would have to leave a decent tip.  This was good.
A man sat down beside her.  He pointed at her drink and held up his hand to show he wanted two.  The bartender nodded, looking less flirtatious.  He looked over at the reporter.
“Word is that you’re looking into things around her.  Things that are better left unsaid.”
That got her attention.  “So, you know who I am?”
The drink got placed in front of him and he motioned for the bartender to head out of earshot.  The young man complied.  The man was familiar to him, and everyone else.
“Yeah, I know who you are.  We’re being told that if you go sniffing too much farther down this rabbit hole to take you out.  I don’t want to have to do that to probably the most gorgeous woman who has ever made her way to these parts.”  His tone was cordial, but his point was clear.
She took another drink, leaning in.  “So, how much more digging do I have before you have to…take action.”
He looked at her like she was nuts.  “Any more.  I’m here to tell you to get out of Dodge, now.”
It was clear that she was not going to back off.  “What am I getting myself into?  Please, tell me, just how big is this?!”
The man gave her a cold look.  There was a long pause as he looked into her eyes.  She felt chills go down her spine.  “Do you really wanna know?  Knowing that it could get you killed, do you really want to know how much is at stake?  Your life is on the line here.”
“I’m not walking away from this!  What are the Specials?!  Please, tell me that much.”
He turned back to the bar, taking another drink.
“If you really want to know what the Specials are, this might help.  But don’t go near the Lab.  If you do, they will kill you.  That’s all I can tell you.  Walk away from this, please.  We’ve already put too many people in the ground for this.  I don’t want to add a famous journalist to that list.”  The man downed his drink, throwing some money on the table.  “Keep the extra drink, and think about what I said.”
She watched him go.  There was more to this, and people had died to keep it that way.  While she knew she was in danger, it just made it that much more interesting.

She was staying at a cheap motel.  This was the kind of joint that people came to to have sex.  In fact, she could hear a couple in the next room going at it.  The girl was faking it.  It almost seemed in poor taste.  But whatever floats their boat.
She booted her laptop, plugging in the flash drive.  It was encrypted.  Damn it all!  I was getting so close!  Her exhaustion caught up to her as she undid the tie in her hair.  Natural blonde, it was something that always followed her.  People naturally assumed that she was stupid.  Her mother wanted her to be the trophy bride to some family who was neck-deep in industry investments.  They also had banking ties.  It would be a strong alliance.  But she wouldn’t hear of it.  The threatened to cut her off and she told them that she didn’t care.  In hindsight, that was a poor decision, because that is just what they did.  If she was ever to go back, it would have to include marrying the anger-ridden, competitive jackass and the dozen or so women he fucked.  Another thing in the Aristocracy that annoyed her to no end – the philandering.  So long as it was never made public (which the media was paid incredibly well not to do), what they did with their personal lives was their business.  Just recently, she heard a story of some Admiral’s daughter hooking up with a Number.  A female Number.  Of course, the media knew better than to cross the Admiral, but it was all over the social forums of the Aristocracy.  Apparently, this Number was quite the item, unashamed to show their affection in public.  Good girl.
Now, she lived more-or-less in the Ghetto.  She had enough money to live in the city, but the Ghetto was dirt-cheap and kept her off the radar.  Her boss was always saying that she could move in with him.  I’d sooner move in with the Number that that girl is fucking than that piece of shit.  But the job was exciting, and being able to move between the areas got her exclusives that her peers dreamed of.  Known as a fair reporter to both areas, her journalistic integrity meant more to her than anything else.  She slid out of her pants, laying back in the bed.  Just as she was about to hit the sack, her computer beeped.  It was a message.

Having trouble getting into the Empire’s data?

There was an insignia in the message.  It was Winter’s Shadow’s emblem!  The sign of the Wolf.  Her heart was pounding.  Now there was a group that she thought about often.  She was hoping someday to do an expose with them, to talk to their leader and find out who she was.  That would be the scoop of her entire career.  It would have her set financially for the rest of her life.

Why do you ask?

Every second she waited, her heart pounded in her chest.  She was talking directly to someone in the upper-tier of their organization.  She was sure of it.  Part of her wished that it was Wolf herself.  But she knew that it probably wasn’t.

We might be able to help you.

Something felt off.

I’ve been in this business long enough to know that no information is free.  What’s in it for you?

Another pause.  How did they know how to find her anyway?  This was strange, and exhilarating.

We can get you more access, even access into the records of the facility that that man told you to stay away from.  But we need something from you in return.

At this point, they could have told her to kill a puppy and she would do it.  The Holy Grail of journalism was being handed to her, right now.

We need you to ‘leak’ some information to your publication.  The information that WE want to get out.

That was when the high wore off.  This wasn’t right.

Wait, you’re asking me to throw in with you?  Are you nuts?!

Right as she hit ‘Send,’ her heart jumped.  Did I just throw the baby out with the bathwater?!

We’re asking you to send out some very specific reports.  We guarantee that it will be accurate.  Your integrity will be intact.  However, it won’t be…complete.  You don’t have to do it officially.  Get some of your people in other companies to do the heavy lifting.  All you have to do is get the info out.  You send out what we want, when we want, we get you the information you need.  Seems fair, don’t you think?

She thought for a moment.  If it wasn’t fabrications, and it got her into locked rooms, how bad could it be?  Her reputation was built on being fair to all sides.  Wasn’t Winter’s Shadow a side too?  A side that the Empire knew precious little about.  The thoughts jumbled in her head, but then she saw the encrypted data, and realized that, for now, she would go with it.  After all, what could they do if she didn’t do it?  They were an entire nation away.  Easy come, easy go.

Alright, deal.  Send me the key to break this encryption.

She let out a breath.  For the first time, she felt her nerves come back to her.

A pleasure doing business.  Sending now.

Within seconds, she saw the data come alive.  Tons of files.  It would take a few weeks to go through it all.  There was one file that caught her attention.  There was a name on it.

Summary Report: Subject Zero

She opened it and felt her insides go numb.  Who are these people, and why would they do this to a little-

In a dark room, a young and very pale man sat at a desk.  He looked back to see Wolf, without her mask, standing there.  Oracle knew who she was.  It was a part of his trade.  He had access to everything.  A smile was on his face.
“Alright, boss, we’ve got the data she has copied on our system.  Too easy.  Think that reporter will do right by us?”
Wolf laughed.  “Elena Morrison, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with dozens of awards and accolades under her belt.  Her pride means too much to her.”
Oracle leaned back, taking a drink of a can of green tea.  “Damn, boss, part of me wonders if you have all of us pegged like that too.  Like we are each pawns in a big game of chess.”
She smiled at him.  “Not pawns.  Not all of you, anyway.  The chess board has many pieces.”
Taken a bit aback, he admired her more.  “So who am I?”
She got up, throwing her coat over her shoulder.  “Why, that would be the Bishop, good sir.”
He laughed, settling back into his chair.  Skinny, but not healthy, the sickly man preferred the confines of technology.  Working with Wolf was the most fun he had ever had.  Now, to see how far the reporter could get.

Until next time, a quote,

“Better a good journalist than a poor assassin.” -Jean-Paul Sartre

Peace out,

Maverick

Elitist Professors Make Poor Judges of Character (A Response to Professor Thomas Morse)

Well, rather than tackle some large publication, I decided to tackle the stupidity in an Op-Ed article of my college newspaper, written by a foul, elitist snob who knows so little about the real world that it is more than a little insulting.  But we’re going to keep this professional (since this guy sounds like the sue-when-butthurt type), so we will attack his points in the aforementioned article.

The article is in my college newspaper, The Northern Light.  We are going to be using the article in the physical paper itself, since the online article could be changed.  The premise of this article is that financial aid should not be given to first-year student.  The professor also makes an argument that athletic scholarships should be gotten rid of entirely, because the people who earn them aren’t worthy.  Their one scrap of evidence is pathetic.

A disclosure before we get too far into this – I do NOT like athletics at my college.  We are building a new sports center, for the express purpose of making money, and I think that it is an eye-sore that is wasting this college’s academic potential.  With that said, I will get to why this man’s argument that athletic scholarships are a waste of time is BS in a second.

The man’s argument for why first-year student shouldn’t get financial aid is such hyperbole that it is almost amazing.  The argument is that since they are given “free money,” they will waste their time and not try.  Uh, what universe did this professor come from?  He makes a point later that the kids who are given financial aid think that college is high school and treat it as such.  What’s more, he makes the argument that so many kids don’t try because there are so many banks who give loans with “loan forgiveness” as a regular thing.

Here’s an article, Professor Morse, from a person 1001X smarter than you, who did that much more research than you.  His name is Matt Taibbi.  This article (linked here) appears in Rolling Stone magazine, talking about how the Obama administration nationalized student loans.  Now, it is easier than ever to get a loan to go to college.  The stated reason for this was so that more students could get to college.  However, for the poor kid who takes out one of these loans, what they don’t realize is that they are entering into financial slavery, for probably the rest of their lives.  What’s that, they should have known better?  Gee, who is telling them the truth?  You?  Are you telling students about how ugly this government’s efforts to get their money back is?  Financial Aid people sure as hell aren’t.  No, they are very happy with not telling them about the dilemma they are entering into.  Know why?  Because if students knew the truth, they wouldn’t go to college!

See, this is the problem – this elitist professor, who is so proud of his own narrow intellect sees everything through his arrogant filter, excluding the truth.  He, quite literally, doesn’t know better.

But to your second point – all athletic scholarships should be gotten rid of.  The argument the professor makes is that the students who get these haven’t earned it.  I guess, in his mind, if a student is good at sports, they are obviously stupid.  Is that really what you think?  He also arrogantly says that scholarships for the arts should be gotten rid of too.  I guess poets and writers are just beneath him.  Arrogant bastard.  His defense of his position was the snafu at Oklahoma State.  Does this man honestly think that other academic departments aren’t rampant with corruption?  In my own degree program, there is a professor who bribes his students with good grades while not doing his job.  Corruption exists within every institution.  It’s called human nature.  I was unaware that you were above it.

For those who think that I am going after this man a little hard, you’re right.  No mercy here.  This kind of elitist arrogance annoys me, because it displays a blatant misunderstanding of the students that this professor claims to be in support of.  Do you know who the real people who don’t care are?  The people who treat this like high school?  They are the students who are having their education paid for by mommy and daddy.  I had an old roommate here at the dorms like that.  He came to this college for the express purposes of sex and booze.  He got it in spades, then dropped out.

Elitists like Professor Morse make incredibly poor judges of character.  Just like the arrogant professors who don’t give a crap what their students think about stuff because they assume that they are already smarter and so the student isn’t worth listening to, you aren’t in touch with the real world.  It is ironic that you say that students will one day learn what it is actually like.  While I doubt that this will ever reach your eyes, I can hope that some part of this response will let you know how little you know about the “real world.”

Until next time, a quote,

“The more you learn, the less you know.”  -Omar Little, The Wire

Peace out,

Maverick

The Iron

She arrived at the hanger in a car she “borrowed” from somebody.  She never used the same one twice and she always made sure that the vehicle was back in its place before the owner could come out of the trance she put them in.  Quinn was in a good mood.  They didn’t know anything about her work with Winter’s Shadow.  It was a good assumption that they wouldn’t care about a Number who is with one of their soldiers beyond if she was a direct threat or not.  The poor simpletons.  They have no clue how dangerous I really am.  But no matter, I’m safe, for now.  While things were changing, she finally felt that she had a firm grasp of the situation.  Now, it was on to more pressing matters, like her revolution.

The hanger was quite old.  It had been used during the war as a hideout for the military.  The impacts on the walls told an ugly story.  She parked the car and got out.  Her mask and persona as the Wolf were on.  It was time to get to work.  She walked in, seeing Deathstroke, Ghost, Gabby and Riddler were already here, along with several of their lieutenants.  She wasn’t surprised that Merc never came to these meetings.  Gabby was his envoy and he caught every word through a headpiece that had unbelievable range and clarity.  Something to look into – the tech that made it work.  Her latest device was sitting in the center of the room.  Large, covered mostly in a tarp, incomplete.  Riddler had assured her that it would be done soon.  There was a little time, and he always came through.
Deathstroke walked over, leaning in close.  “Deadshot got word to me this morning – the Specials trashed the hideout of some of his people.  We had Oracle conference him in but he’s at one of the safe-houses a ways north of here.”
“That’s…problematic, but whatever.  At least he’s safe.”  It was a setback she could afford.  If the globalization of communication had one upside, it was that reaching far-away audiences was easier than ever.  And thanks to their link to PRISM, they now had access to the entire spy network of the Empire.  Truly, she had the keys to the chocolate factory.  Now it was time to make it work for her.  Again.
“Alright, let’s get this meeting underway.  Everyone make your way to the conference room.”  They started to head that way.  “Riddler, a moment, if you please.”
He walked over, leaning against the tarp that covered his latest project.
“I need this done in the next week.  Can you do it?”  Her tone was dead-serious
The man smiled, winking at her.  “You know it.  It don’t look like much now, but we’ve almost got this project finished.  All we have to do is cover it.  Something tells me that this is a project that is going to heat up fast.”
Wolf looked up at him.  “But of course.”  She motioned for him to follow.  It was time to get the ball rolling on larger plans.  She had a gut-feeling that something was up.

The conference room was pretty typical.  A large oak table, a few TV screens at the front of the room and a laptop at the head of it.  The group took their seats as the room went dark.  Wolf cued up Oracle.
“We got everyone tuned in?”
The voice of a young man replied, “yes ma’am.  We’re good to go.  I got Merc linked in too.  No reason that he should have to get all his info from Gabby’s earpiece.”  There was a chuckle.  Gabby looked annoyed.
“Alright then, for those who aren’t aware, the Empire is ramping up efforts to find us.  Understandable.  We just hit them on their own turf.  The mission in Seward was an overwhelming success.”
“The fleet the Empire assembled has retreated back to Vancouver, for now,” Oracle chimed in.
“Indeed.  Now, we should strike while the iron is hot.”
Deathstroke leaned back.  “And just what the hell does that mean?”
Wolf stared back at him.  “It means what I said.  This is the perfect time to launch another attack.  I have a very specific target in mind, and Riddler has nearly completed the mechanism I need to do it.”
“What target?” Merc replied.
“Oracle, show images from Operation Beta 7.”
“On it.”
The TV screens came on, showing pictures of a military base.  It was large, well-defended and had a bunch of hangars that were massive.
“What you’re seeing is a base just north of Lake Kasba.  It’s being used to construct engines for more airships like the one we took down in Seward.  That one was a prototype that was meant to lead their war machine into Asia.”
The group sat there, very quiet.  This didn’t feel good.
Finally, it was Merc who spoke.  “I’m assuming that you have a plan for this.”
Wolf smiled under the mask.  “I do indeed.  We’re going to bring down the entire base.  In just under half an hour.”
Everyone was speechless.
Finally, it was Deadshot who spoke.  “No fucking way!  We’ve done a lot of crazy things, but that’s just nuts!  How do you plan on getting this done?”
Gabby leaned forward as well.  “And why would they build these things long-hand?  Why not mass-produce them?”
Riddler shook his head.  “No way.  The fuel that these engines use is delicate.  Mass-production is not.  It’s time-consuming, but necessary.”
Everyone nodded.  They still didn’t know what the exact nature of the fuel they used was.  Except Riddler, and Oracle.  Probably Merc too.
“I plan to use the new machine that Riddler is constructing to bring the entire base down around them.  This mission will be a covert one.  I will have Merc’s people disguise themselves as base personnel, with Ghost and his unit covering us.  We will drive the machine into the base, plant it in the drainage system underneath the center of the base and get out.  We will activate the device remotely and as I said, it will be done in half an hour.  Merc, I trust this is okay with you?”
A brief pause.  “You don’t mean for them to be getting shot at, right?”
“Absolutely.  If guns start firing, that means that something went wrong.  But I will keep Ghost and his unit there for protection, along with Deadshot and his unit in the nearby area as well.  They will never be in harm’s way.  Not directly, anyway.”
“Alright then, you’ve got my go-ahead.  Gabby, get the people you trust most and follow Wolf’s lead.”
The girl was shaking a bit, but nodded.  “You got it, boss.”  She looked to Wolf and nodded.  Wolf could see how nervous she was.  I’ll chat with her later.
Oracle came on suddenly.  “Head’s-up, boss!  You’ve got several incoming vehicles!”
Everybody got up.  Wolf looked to Ghost, who vanished as she did.  He wouldn’t go far.  That man was indeed a precious investment.
“What kind, and how many?”
“It’s cars.  Typical Asian-model cars.  There are seven of them in total.”
She relaxed a bit.  “Alright, everyone, we have guests.  Keep it cool, unless they try something.”  She was looking specifically at Deathstroke, who had his blades in-hand and seemed itching to use them.

The headlights of the cars could be seen at the front, parking.  The group assembled in the hangar, sitting wherever there was a chair.  Except for Deathstroke, who kept VERY close to Wolf.  A loyal man.  She made a note to remember that for the future.  The door to the hangar opened and in walked several men in suits.  They were armed with sub-machine guns.  It was new models, military-grade.  The men were all Japanese.  Wolf got a pretty good idea who this was going to be.  She made a point to find out how they found their location later.
After the security was covering the door, in walked several other people.  Their faces were kept in the shadows.  They don’t want us to know who they are.
Wolf looked at Deathstroke.  He just nodded.  She knew she could trust him to keep his cool.  That was good.  There were five men in the room of importance.  But who were they?  Their security pointed their guns directly at the members of Winter’s Shadow.
“Tell your people to disarm.  We don’t want this to be…confrontational,” one man remarked, in their language.
Deathstroke laughed, “that’s rich, coming from the guys who have guns pointed at us!”
“A necessary safety precaution.  One can’t be too careful.  Now, disarm.  I won’t ask again.”
Wolf snapped her fingers.  Out of nothing, Ghost and his people materialized.  They had guns almost on the heads of the important people they had, along with several in security.
“Oh, I think that we’re the ones who have the power in this situation.”  Suddenly, she knew.  That voice, she had heard it before.  “Genbu Sumeragi, one of the heads of Matsumoto Industries.”
The group was stunned.  The security chief raised his weapon to Wolf.  “Anyone who knows that name must die!”
“Lower that fucking gun or I will take your boss’ head off, asshole!” Ghost snarled.  “Along with the rest of these pieces of shit!  Do you get me?!”
The security people stood down.  Wolf started laughing.
“Ah, how pedestrian.  You’re soft, and your methods are outdated.  If you had come to me under a banner of peace, we might have had something to talk about.  As it stands, you have insulted me, so my people will see you out.”  She started to walk away.
A younger man stepped into the light.  He had a dark look on his face.  “Our apologies, Wolf.  My…associates are suspicious people.”
“I caught that.”
“Perhaps we can begin again.  My name is Ayato Kusaragi.  I am another of the heads of Matsumoto Industries.  We came here to offer our support in your war to bring down the Empire.”
That got her attention.  “Alright, I’m listening.  Make an offer, but make it good.”
The man nodded.  “We understand that you are looking to make connections in Asia to get better technical prowess.  We might be able to offer that.  The R&D at our offices have been hard at work preparing for our own war with the Empire that seems months away.  We can use it to help you.”
Wolf turned back around, facing him.  “And what do you get in return?  Money seems a little small-time for your industry.”
The man smiled.  “We want tech designs from the Empire.  Nothing would make our nation prouder than to be able to turn the enemy’s own weapons against them.  We understand you brought down an airship of theirs recently.  A prototype.  Do you have the specs for it?”
Wolf smiled under the mask.  So that’s their game.  “I have basic specs, but none on the engines.”
The man looked back at his cohorts, who all still had guns pointed at their heads.  They nodded.
“We can work with that.  For all the new technical data you can furnish us, we can get you armor, satellite links, weapons and even some new vehicles of our own.  As a gesture of good faith, we have a vehicle that might interest you.  It’s an armored command vehicle that is outfitted with the best defenses and tech that money can buy.  We have it waiting for you at the port in Vancouver.  You’ll find it with a man who is loyal to us.  We’ll send the information to you once our business has concluded.”
“Alright then, we have a deal.”
An older man stepped forward.  “Wait!  Before we make this deal, we must have a gesture of good faith from you.  Lose the mask!  Otherwise, no deal.”
Wolf looked at him long and hard.  “I’m sorry you feel that way.  Ghost, see them out.”
“Gladly, boss.”
“Wait!”  Riddler said.  “We’re just going to throw them out, because they want to see your face?!  That’s nuts!  This is a great opportunity!”
“I am inclined to agree, Wolf.  Are you certain?” Deathstroke replied.
She looked up at him.  “I am.  Sorry, gentlemen, but I can’t give you what you want.  Ghost, get them the fuck out of here.”
“You got it.  Move, assholes!”  They started walking away.  The youngest of them gave her an imploring look, but it meant nothing to her.  Her identity was a secret.  It had to be that way.

Back in the conference room, it was a much more sour mood.  “Alright, so, we will begin this operation the moment that Riddler completes the device.  Understood?”
There were murmured noises of agreement.  It was the best she could get.
“Alright, then you are dismissed.”
They all started walking away.  Only Gabby remained.  She sat there, looking over at Wolf.  “Do you really think that this is the right thing to do?  This could be a great opportunity for Winter’s Shadow.  A corporate network could help us immeasurably.”
She sat back in her chair, enjoying the darkness.  “I am sure.  Those fossils would use their power to try and coerce me into doing what they want.  Not going to happen.  I would have liked their resources too, but that’s how it goes.”  She caught that girl’s look.  “You don’t agree?”
She nodded.  “I don’t.  This is the best opportunity that we have ever had.  How could you just throw it away like that?”
She clicked the button underneath the mask, which raised the back of it up.  She slid it off, looking right at the girl with her own eyes.
“Gabrielle, my identity must remain a secret, at all costs.  If it weren’t for you having seen who I am, I would have not told you either.  I’m glad that you kept it a secret from Merc.  That means a lot.  However, it must be this way.”
“But-!”
She shook her head, walking over.  “I need to know that you’re with me, Gabby.  The others will stay with me.  I get things done, so they will put up with it.  You, on the other hand, are my only voice to the Runners.  Will you put your faith in me?  Can you do that?”  She stood over the girl, her arm’s on her shoulder’s.
Gabby closed her eyes.  She felt something inside of her.  She didn’t know what it was.  It felt good.
“I’m with you, Quinn.  Until the end.”
She smiled.  “That’s my girl.  Now, head out of here for now.  We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Gabby got up, smiling at her as she walked away.
Quinn sat back in the chair.  She just had to turn away help because they were stubborn.  A pity, but it had to be done.
Just then, Oracle came on.  “Hey boss, that young guy with the group, he just sent a message.”
She rubbed her temples.  “What message?”
“He said that the command vehicle was still waiting for us, and he would honor your arrangement with him, regardless of what the others thought.”
The dark smile came back.  “Excellent!  Let him know I appreciate it.”  She cut the link.

The closer people say they are, the further apart they drift.  It’s the laws of nature.

Until next time, a quote,

“The more you learn, the less you know.”  -Omar Little, The Wire

Peace out,

Maverick

The Specials

Her mind was buzzing as Emily got back home.  A new relationship, which she had to keep secret from everybody else.  It was hard to watch Quinn go to her dorm, but she knew that it had to be done.  If they were together too much, people would get suspicious.  She had to check in with the Specials.  It was certain to be awash with military anger.  Winter’s Shadow had crippled their war machine, on their own turf.  This was a costly, bloody loss that had crippled their plans to move on Japan.  The AU was a prime target, and now they lost their best advantage.  Whoever had attacked them knew about the airship.  This attack was too precise to be a coincidence.  How had they done it, anyway?  She saw the footage.  They blew up the side of a mountain on it!  How they had done it was a major point of speculation.

The home base of the Specials was underground.  Several stories underground.  The most well-kept secret in the Empire, from the Empire.  The Numbers knew about them, but the aristocracy was kept in the dark.  It had to be that way.  The aristocracy was completely concerned about their image.  It didn’t matter what the Empire did.  It only mattered what they were video-taped doing, and what video footage got to the Net.  The Internet was a war-zone all its own now.  Dozens upon dozens of hacker organizations were regularly bringing down the Empire’s censoring efforts.  For every new wall they put up, the hackers tore it down.
The facility was part of a larger underground network.  It had R&D labs, intelligence offices and a space where new tech was developed and tested.  The Specials lab was very much to the side of it all, in case a member of the aristocracy who was contracting to them came for a tour.  Everything was done to make it unnoticeable.  It was working almost too well.  Some of the new arrivals in the program couldn’t find it.  A laughing point for all the veteran soldiers, like herself.  The Specials lab was not like the other labs.  It was a lot less clean, but not to a point where it is distracting.  It was very much like the lounge room of an office, but with a place for them to test weapons attached.
She walked in, sliding her ID card through the door.  After a palm-print scan, she was let in.  Several of her comrades were already there.  The first was Inferno.  As the name implies, he could command fire.  He was a very skilled Special, adept at the skill he had.  He learned to use his talent for short-range levitation or flight, hurling balls of fire, generation energy that he could fire to make a target explode without anyone seeing where it came from and could even power other items with it.  His favorite was a chain that he could turn into a flaming whip that could seamlessly cleave a person in two.  But perhaps the most disturbing ability he had was to be able to turn his body into flame.  He could go through doors, become impossible to hit and it almost appeared to be teleportation, except that it took a little longer.  The next was Shockwave.  She was a master of electricity.  She could recharge her talent with any electrical source at her disposal.  They had her work exclusively in cities.  Since she was immune to any electrical charge, she could use power lines the same way that a skater uses his board.  She could send bursts of electricity, but also could send out a wave of it to not only fry any and all circuitry in a given area, but also shut down the electrical impulses in the brain.  It made sure that she was never, ever in danger of being caught.
The third was Full-Crank.  His talent was bizarre.  He could control metal, but his talent was, flexible, as it were.  He could turn any metal he could get his hands on into whatever he wanted.  With it, the man could literally turn any metal object he wanted into whatever he wanted.  He could also merge weapons.  So if he was in a place with enough guns, he could merge them into a larger weapon, along with their ammunition.  But this process took time, so it was not something that could be done on-the-draw.  At least, not for complicated creations.  On the other hand, ruined tanks were something he loved to play with.  Turned so much of the enemy’s lost munitions against them.  The last one was Radio.  She was another odd duck.  She could control sound.  While the might not sound like much, sound waves are absolutely everywhere, all the time.  Control of them was powerful in a way that a normal person could not understand.  With it, bullets never, ever touched her, she could jump off any height and survive without a scratch (by using sound waves to displace the force of gravity, literally obliterating anything nearby, depending on how high she leapt from) and best of all – she could turn sound against her enemies.  Powerful shockwaves would rip enemy lines to pieces.  Powerful, but also a problem.  She had to have strict control of it, or else she would turn people’s speaking voices against them.
Emily walked in and sat down.  The rest looked up at her.
“Well-well-well, look what the cat dragged in,” Inferno mocked.  His New York style accent was sharp and heavy.
She gave him the finger.  “So, what’s the news from HQ?”
Radio walked over and sat closer.  She was soft-spoken.  Understandable.  “We’re being mobilized.  Winter’s Shadow hurt the Empire.  We’re being tasked with hurting them back.”
Full-Crank snorted, leaning back in his chair.  A native man, his long hair was being tied back by an interesting creation.  A kind of scrunchie made from steel.  And he never had to touch it.  “Easier said than done.  The populace hates us, so they will never, ever give up a member of Winter’s Shadow.”
“They will this time!” Shockwave replied, a dark smile on her face.  “Empire’s putting up a reward of twenty million for anybody who gives up anyone in their organization.  Doesn’t matter who.”
“For the poor in this Area, that’s a lot of money.”
Inferno smirked, leaning in.  “Throw enough money at something and you’ll find people’s loyalty becomes pretty damn shaky pretty quick.  Know what I mean?”
Emily sat there, a dark look on her face.  So Quinn was right.  This is what she lives with.  She shook her head.  No, I won’t start thinking that way.  Once we get rid of Winter’s Shadow, then we can start helping people more.  Things will get better.  I’ll show Quinn that things will get better.
Radio saw the look on her face.  “Is something wrong?”
She looked back at her, smiling.  “No, nothing.  Just thinking about some things.”
Full-Crank looked over at her with one eye closed.  “Yeah, like that new girl of yours?”
That got him an ugly look.  “If you go blabbing my life to just anybody then you’re going to fuck this up, gears.  You do that, then I will fuck up you!  Got it?”
He backed off.  “Relax!  I didn’t mean nothing by it.  We all got our own quirks.  They don’t leave this room.  It’s like Vegas, you know?”
Radio chuckled.  “Yeah, but what happens there doesn’t stay there.  That’s the problem.”
“Whatever, you catch my meaning.”
Emily sat back, rubbing her temples.  She wasn’t surprised that the military knew about her private life.  The Specials were some of the most closely-watched people in the Empire.  At the Academy, she had a dozen people who were keeping tabs on her.  But the military was nothing for her to worry about.  They’d keep her secret.  There was a divide growing between the military and the aristocracy.  More and more secrets were being kept, which was proving to be profoundly easy, since the aristocracy was an ignorant bunch.  Those who knew didn’t care and those who cared didn’t know.  But still, it was weird to have people watching her every move.  She wondered if they were watching Quinn too.  No, no way.  She’s a Number.  If the military cares less about any group of people, it’s them.
“But back to Winter’s Shadow, we’re being tasked with squeezing every contact we’ve got.  They want names, places and bodies.  It’s about to get ugly.”
Radio cocked an eyebrow. “Why?  I mean, think about it – they didn’t set the Empire all that far back.  I mean, that ship was a prototype.  We’ll have a whole fleet of the damn things soon enough.  And if nothing else, this gives us valuable data for mass-production.”
Full-Crank rolled his eyes.  “Are you kidding?  We’re making more, but those things are too damn big to mass-produce.”
“Not to mention that we can’t industrialize the engines.  Nova Particles are delicate.  The fuel made from them even moreso.”  Shockwave was something of a nerd, but she had a point.
“Well, whatever the case, we’ve got our orders.  I think this also comes on the back of the fact that two of the Specials are dead.”
Everyone’s jaws dropped.
“What?!”
Inferno had a dark look.  “It’s true.  Frostbite and Whisper bit the dust on that same mission.  They were tasked with going after Winter’s Shadow after the attack.  They caught up with them, but they were waiting for them.  That fucking sniper of theirs crack-shot Whisper with his pistols and the fucking ninja got Frostbite.  Coordinated executions.”
The lot of them got quiet.  Two Specials killed, by normal people.  This was NOT good.  Emily looked at the screen in the room, displaying the image.  She saw Wolf in a picture they shot.  If only they could get the mask off.  She wanted to look her in the eye as she died.  I’ll make that bitch pay.  One way or another, I will make that fucking bitch pay.

Back at the Academy, Quinn was quiet.  Emily’s watchers were paying attention to her.  Time to get some work done.  She slipped out the window, coming up behind one.  It was a young woman, with a cold look in her eye.  She grabbed the woman and pulled her toward her.  Her eyes had a blue glow.
“So, what do you all know about me?”

Until next time, a quote,

“Dead is dead. There’s no such thing as a good way to go.”  -Jack, Mass Effect 2

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Worst Book-to-Film Adaptations

So, for those who think that this is going to be a rip-off of my top 10 worst adaptations of all time list, don’t.  I had a lot of things that weren’t books in that list, and I am keeping this list exclusively to books that I do have either a modicum or a fuck-ton of admiration for, or at least know that the book was a hell of a lot better than the film, as you will see with a couple of choices.  If you have any books that you love that Hollywood ass-raped, please, let me know in the comments section.  And my apologies for the fact that Hollywood is a money-grubbing piece of shit.

The Hunger Games10. The Hunger Games
Novel by Suzanne Collins, film directed by Gary Ross
Know I’m going to get some female hate with this choice.  Especially since, I have the same opinion of the book as I do with the film – they are both ripping off Battle Royale.  For real, both of these things are ripping it off.  The only difference is that Battle Royale took itself seriously.  It actually tried to be good.  This piece of shit film, on the other hand, has massive plot holes that a person can drive a Buick through and they tone down the darkness of the source material because they want to market it to teenage girls.  For real, the marketing for this movie was unbelievably huge.  They marketed this film before it was even set for release.  And, just like the Twilight films, the stupid teenage girl audience (though smarter than the stupid Twilight fan audience by leaps and bounds, which isn’t saying much) ate it up.  The hype for this movie was insane, but the end product was boring, had none of the sociopolitical commentary of the books and had no internal consistency or logic.  See, a lot of people will argue that plot holes work in the book.  That doesn’t hold water because of the fact that a film adaptation should have its own consistent internal logic, for those who have never read the books before.  This film was a boring waste of cinema, and could have been so much more.

The Lovely Bones9. The Lovely Bones
Novel by Alice Sebold, film directed by Peter Jackson
Oh man, a lot like the work at the top of this list, this was a film adaptation that just wasted good source material.  Not to mention that, to market this film to a wider audience, Peter Jackson REALLY toned down the darkness of the source material.  Right at the beginning (spoiler alert), you see the main character get raped and murdered.  It goes into some pretty gruesome detail.  Not to mention that all the afterlife shit that Jackson put into the film was never in there.  It was all something that he made in order to market this book to a wider audience.  That is it.  The story was contrived and ridiculous, the humor was in extremely bad taste from a normally-funny Susan Sarandon.  This film got just about everything wrong.  What’s more, the blatant reincorporation of things was just awkward, like the tracking shot on the girl’s ugly hat, the father’s speech about his building model boats and never giving up and the girl that they had some internal monologue about in the beginning.  It is a terrible movie, which was only praised because it looked good.  And that is also debatable.

The Runaway Jury8. The Runaway Jury
Novel by John Grisham, film directed by Gary Fleder
Man, what a boring waste of film.  This was a movie that, from where I was sitting, just bored me to tears.  There was a similar plot to the book (kind of), boring characters, boring tension and the climax was so glossed-over that I was left wondering where it went.  The book was a character study into a man who is cleverly manipulating a jury during a trial about a class-action lawsuit against a tobacco company.  It plays on the various strengths of the legal system, along with its pitfalls, like how the people in the company were able to go after the various jurors and their families.  It was a very good thriller.  The movie had a plot that was all over the place, along with terrible pacing that left the end of this movie feeling like we were in the middle somewhere.  I get the feeling that this director was given this project, but didn’t know what the hell to do with it.  Though to his credit, this story was not something that could have been adapted easily.  I’m shocked that they did as well as they had.

White Shark7. White Shark (film titled “Creature”)
Novel by Peter Benchley, TV film directed by Stuart Gillard
Okay, this movie just sucked.  Almost all TV movies do, but this one, like most adaptations of Stephen King’s work to TV (none of which you will see here.  Sorry to disappoint), just fell flat so fast.  Boring casting choice, horrifically-bad creature designs, a boring plot and missing ALL of the personal elements of the book, like the main character’s son’s blossoming relationship with a deaf girl, made this into a complete piece of boredom.  What made it worse is that the publishing company for this book, which was a pretty interesting monster story, decided to try and cash in on this piece of shit film by changing the title of the book to match it.  Alas, everyone forgot about it, which is more than I can say for most on this list.  No apologists exist for this garbage, the film is just a giant waste of time.

Congo6. Congo
Novel by Michael Crichton, film directed by Frank Marshall
Oh boy.  What can I say?  The bad gorilla costumes would be a talking point in and of themselves, but they are just the tip of the iceberg with this piece of shit.  Staring two boring protagonists, Tim Curry in one of the most racist stereotypes that I have ever seen and having Ernie Hudson and Bruce Campbell being the only cool thing in this movie was just insulting.  The book was a classic monster adventure story.  It was one of the least scientific of Crichton’s novels, but it was still fun.  This movie, on the other hand was boring, the various ethnic groups were horrific stereotypes and its only redeeming quality is the laser-gun at the end of the film.  This film is almost in the so-bad-it’s-good category, but alas, it misses it by a narrow margin.  But it isn’t the only Crichton novel to get a dump taken on it by Hollywood.

Disclosure5. Disclosure
Novel by Michael Crichton, film directed by Barry Levinson
It’s ironic – the book that this film was based on was a very intelligent social criticism of the changing gender roles in this country, while taking a hard look at the social attitudes that both men and women have.  And it did it incredibly well, while still lending some of Crichton’s sci-fi talent to the mix.  What’s more – it never takes a side.  This novel just puts the issues out there, letting the audience come to their own conclusion about what the right and wrong ways are.  This film, on the other hand, wastes every last drop of that potential to create a by-the-numbers film about corporate corruption.  It kills me how the acting talents of Demi Moore and Michael Douglas are wasted, when they could have sold this premise a lot better if only they were in a film with a better director.  A film like this needed a director like David Fincher or something really smart to handle it, because the source material tackles some pretty tough stuff, while never sounding preachy.  This was a boring film that doesn’t exactly shit on its source material, but it does waste what was a lot of potential.

Dune4. Dune
Novel by Frank Herbert, film directed by David Lynch
Two things about this train-wreck.  First, I commend David Lynch for trying to distance himself from this movie.  Not in any way the film he wanted to make, studio pressure stopped him from using the bulk of his directing talent.  Two, the Sci-Fi Channel, back when they were good, remade this into a surprisingly-good TV movie (one of the very few).  This film was a disaster!  It was one of the few movies that everyone in my old man’s generation who saw it says that they walked out.  The plot was more complicated than Lost, the acting was stiffer than stuff in The Last Airbender, the effects were terrible and worst of all – there were some pointlessly-grotesque scenes that had no reason to be there.  This movie was a train-wreck that even the director tried to get the hell away from.  It’s telling when, in some versions of this movie, he credits himself with the name Alan Smithee.  Also to his credit, he admits to selling out for this movie, saying that it being so bad was no fault but his own.  This movie was a spectacular kind of train-wreck that we don’t get to see very often.  Everyone who saw this movie hated it and for damn good reason.

Eragon3. Eragon
Novel by Christopher Paolini, film directed by Stephan Fangmeier
Another terrible film that Jeremy Irons can add to his impressive resume of terrible films, this movie ass-raped the source material.  Not only did it get dozens of things from the book wrong, like how the main character’s cousin wasn’t dead (a HUGE plot point in the second book, him being alive), how the Ra’zac were not able to killed (in the book, and another huge plot point in the second book), and perhaps worst of all – the rushed and cliched romance of Eragon and the elf Arya.  This film was terrible.  The “climactic” battle at the end was beyond bad, the set designs were boring and every single portrayal in this film was wrong!  It got NOTHING right!  Not one thing.  It deserves every single bad review that it got.  A film that should have been a deep character study into Eragon & his relationship to his dragon was a by-the-numbers, generic and entirely-too-short fantasy film, much the same as the film adaptation of Dungeons and Dragons (another awful movie with Jeremy Irons).  This film was terrible.  I hated every minute of it.  It doesn’t help that the day I saw this movie was a day which I lost a friend, following a car wreck and a lawsuit that followed it.  And it is a film that will join the many, many adaptations that are never, ever getting sequels.  Thank god…

The Golden Compass2. The Golden Compass
Novel by Phillip Pullman, film directed by Chris Weitz
Now, with this film, I have to make a couple of points about why I hate it.  Because, ironically, it did get some things right.  The casting was pretty damn good for a lot of the characters.  The girl they got to play Lyra was good.  Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel fit the bill pretty damn well.  Sam Elliot as the soldier-turned-mercenary Lee Scoresby was awesome!  Having Cathy Bates as his daemon was pretty cool too.  Oh, and Sir Ian McKellan doing the voice or Iorek Byrinson was awesome!  Here’s my major problem – in order to sell this film to a more broad audience, the studio in charge of it took away something that made the book great.  See, the book was, quite blatantly, shining a harsh light on the church -particularly the Catholic church- and its rampant abuse of power.  Every element of this book was connected to the church and how it was using its power to drown out science.  It was a harsh and very well-done criticism of religion, with Lord Asriel symbolizing the protestant church and a viewpoint that the Vatican (called the Magisterium in the book, when it is called by name) didn’t want to spread.  In the film, they played it off as some kind of government entity, because they didn’t want to lose money to the people who already hated this book because it was giving the church the finger.  A lot.  And very well, too.  What made this even worse is that the ending was bullshit, with Roger still being alive and Lyra not going into another world, which she did at the end of this book.  This film was garbage, and it kills me how many people who could have been amazing were in it.

And the worst, absolute worst book-to-film adaptation of all time is…

World War Z novel cover1. World War Z
Novel by Max Brooks, film directed by Marc Foster
Part of me wants to find this film to be amazing.  It is genuinely amazing, given the problems in production, that this film isn’t a complete piece of shit.  Well, more than it already is, for those of us who have read the source material.  This film shits on the amazing source material it had to work with in a way that only The Last Airbender can top.  This film is garbage, from start to finish.  For one thing, it’s all from one perspective – Brad Pitt’s character.  The novel was written from the perspective of a journalist after the fact.  He was getting the stories of all the people who had been involved in this event and showing how humanity had come so close to apocalypse but avoided it because of the plan of an Afrikaner and his utter lack of humanity.  It was a brilliant sociopolitical commentary about society, with some amazing amounts of research done.  This movie, on the other hand, is a PG-13 action film, with absolutely NOTHING from the book, except the title.  A decision CLEARLY made to sell tickets.  Oh, and it has Brad Pitt in it too.  Well isn’t that just special.  He plays a stay-at-home dad who just happens to be brilliant at everything.  A surprisingly common cliche, now that I think about it.  This film is the worst, the absolute worst adaptation that I have ever seen of a book I love.  What makes it even worse is that they are hoping to make a franchise out of this.  Ugh…

So, what book-to-film adaptations get your blood boiling?  If you comment the Twilight films, I will mock you, because the books were worse that the films.  Oh yeah, I went there.  For real, hit me back in the comments section and let us know.

Until next time, a quote,

“The only rule that ever made sense to me I learned from a history, not an economics, professor at Wharton. ‘Fear,’ he used to say, ‘fear is the most valuable commodity in the universe.’ That blew me away. ‘Turn on the TV,’ he’d say. ‘What are you seeing? People selling their products? No. People selling the fear of you having to live without their products.’ Fuckin’ A, was he right. Fear of aging, fear of loneliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure. Fear is the most basic emotion we have. Fear is primal. Fear sells.”  -Max Brooks

Peace out,

Maverick