Chapter 29

Scott walked past Conrad’s empty reception desk. He looked at the desk, vacant, with a hint of dust forming on it. AET had lost its prestige. It had even been a while since Conrad had a secretary. Conrad’s office door was slightly open. Scott knocked tentatively a couple of times and then walked straight in to the office.

The office was dim. Scott strained and squinted his eyes to try to adjust to the darkness. He could just barely make out the silhouette of Conrad at his desk.

“You sent for me?” asked Scott tentatively.

Conrad coughed a few times before managing a quiet, scratchy response. “Yes, take a seat.”

Scott’s eyes just couldn’t adjust.

“Conrad, is the darkness necessary? Can’t we turn on the light?”

Conrad coughed again. “No, the fluorescents – the light hurts my eyes.”

Scott decided not to sit. He stepped closer to Conrad. Even without the light, he could tell this was not the Conrad he was used to.

“I wonder if the light hurts his eyes or his ego,” Scott thought to himself. He decided to press the issue.

“Conrad, please, I need some light in here. A desk lamp or something? The darkness is overwhelming.”

“Fine,” croaked Conrad, as he flicked on a small desk lamp and turned it away from himself.

In the split second the light shone on Conrad, Scott could see the outline of what seemed to be a wheelchair. As his eyes adjusted, he finally got a glimpse. Conrad’s signature three-piece suit was gone. Instead, he sat there with a polo shirt and some slacks. His solid figure had transformed into a gaunt, sickly form. If it wasn’t for the voice and his trademark terseness, Scott would not have been able to pick this Conrad out of a lineup.

“What,” croaked Conrad, “Are you gonna just keep gawking at me like that, or can we talk about the status update?”

Scott squinted. “He may not look sharp, but he’s still an asshole,” he thought to himself. “And in a mood today too.”

Scott resolved to get this over with quickly.

“Yeah, sure, I have a status update. Things are moving well – so close to the plan, I’d call it promising even.”

“How so? Where did we leave off?”

“Well, if you recall, we heard rumblings about the electric vigilante holed up in Mondale, so we started sending teams of armed robbers, hostage takers, basically generic thugs and villains.”

“Yeah. That was what, a week or so ago?”

Scott grimaced. It had been a lot longer than that. They’d already sent out six different crews. “Wow, his health is really taking a toll on his mind. I better not argue with him, don’t stress the poor guy out,” he thought to himself, before responding aloud.

“Uh, yeah,” Scott agreed with Conrad, “a few weeks.”

“And how is the project making out?”

“Successes and failures.”

Conrad looked confused. “You said things were promising.”

“Well they are. You see, Neil is getting quite good at dispatching our teams in a hurry. Regrettably, he’s actually quite adept at this. But we kind of expected that as an outcome.”

Conrad nodded. “Yes, I wouldn’t be sending the B squad if I wanted him dead. It’s important that we use expendable men so we can figure him out, learn about his powers, find a weakness we can exploit.”

“Yeah, but in the process, we’re making him somewhat more effective in hand-to-hand combat. I don’t know why it’s so important for you to get him here alive.”

“Of course you don’t, moron. I have to spell everything out for you. We’ve tried to replicate the experiment over and over again and it hasn’t worked out. We need to capture him alive so we can reverse engineer why he’s so damn special.”

“I hadn’t realized that the team was out of ideas. That makes sense. It’s so important that we bring him in alive before we kill him to dissect him.”

“I’m catching your sarcasm and I don’t appreciate it. We both know there’s more to it than just that. If he dies and the powers vanish, so does my chance at healing. I’m dying, Scott. I’m running out of chances and I’m running out of time. I’m not screwing around.”

Scott nodded. That actually made sense to him.

“So,” Conrad continued, “Is that all you have for the status update? You came here just to tell me that he’s getting stronger and that you don’t understand the mission?”

“No, Conrad. We have good news. We’re pretty sure we found a weakness.”


“Well, we’d been experimenting with different body armor and we found that he was less effective against a specific type of armor. We have a theory about how to dissipate some of his electrical outbursts.”

“You mentioned hand-to-hand. Is he still doing a lot of hand-to-hand fighting still? Is it even useful to be able to dissipate his electrical attack?”

“We can’t be sure about anything. It’s just another tool for us. We’ve found that he likes to try to move in quietly and take down the majority of our guys with stealth. It would be nice if that were off the table. We’re doing our best. It’s not like there’s a guidebook on how to subdue someone with powers.”

“So, that’s all we have? We might have some way to neutralize his sneak attacks? You call that promising?”

“Well, there’s other things we’ve learned. He’s not invincible. He still reacts to injury. He recoils when shot, for instance. That’s useful to know as well. It means we can catch him off guard for a second.”

“So, we’ve lost a number of our men, spent a ton of money on R&D and we’ve only managed to glean these trivial details? This is a complete waste.”

“Well, that and we think we might be able to disable his powers.”

“What the fuck, Scott? Why didn’t you lead with that?”

Scott imagined speaking his mind. He thought to respond “Because I’m finding pleasure in messing with your disease addled-brain, you pompous asshole.” He relished the moment for a bit before responding aloud.

“Um, didn’t I start with that, Conrad? I thought I lead with that.”

Conrad stammered a bit before responding. “Uh, I think you… I think we talked about it. I’m not sure.”

Scott had to fight to stifle the sadistic smile forming on his face. He rather enjoyed messing with Conrad. He interrupted Conrad’s stammering and continued.

“So, we were talking about the plan.”

“Ah, yes,” agreed Conrad. “The plan. What’s the plan?”

“Well, now that we’ve built up Neil’s confidence, we’re going to bring the – how did you put it – the A squad. We’re going to wear the armor we’ve been developing and we’re going to bring the weapon we’ve put together. Everything that Neil has come to expect will be wrong this time around. He won’t get the drop on the peripheral guys, he won’t have the advantage of stealth and as his confidence erodes and his plan falls apart, he’ll find himself in a world of trouble.”


“And that’s when I’ll show up and personally kick his ass and deliver him to you.”

“You underestimate him.”

“You underestimate me, Conrad,” Scott thought to himself.

“I think I’ve estimated him just fine, Conrad. Mark my words, I’ll have him here by the end of the week.”

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1 comment:

Richard Belzile said...

No notes, though I've been thinking about starting to sketch out some of the aspects of the book and adding them to the notes retroactively.

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I am Sinewave: Spark

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