Vikki and the Dwarves Job

dertreeicon

Author note: This is an older story that I dug up because I was sick last week. This is technically Chapter Four but stands on its own.

Tales of JOBCo

Vikki and the Dwarves Job

“Thank you and have a good night,” Vikki said handing the last customer of the night her bag of cookies. She turned off the lights in the display cases at Jolly Ole Biscuit Company and put up the closed sign. Everyone in the mall called it “the cookie store” but it was really just a counter with glass display cases and a baking area in the back.

Jesse, her co-worker for the night, was already putting away the unsold cookies. Tonight had been Vikki’s first time working with her. She was just few inches taller than her own 5′ 6″, with brown hair, and a slim build that hid how strong she was. She had been standoffish at first but over the evening she had seemed to warm up to Vikki.

“You’re not what I thought you would be,” Jesse said wiping the counters while Vikki cleaned the soda fountain.

“What did you expect?” Vikki asked.

“Well, I thought you’d be more intimidating.”

“Intimidating? Why would you think that?” Vikki asked.

“Well, I mean, I just thought being what you are… I just assumed that you’d be more… grrr,” Jesse made a snarling face and held her hands up like claws, “You know?”

Did Jesse know she was a…? She couldn’t know. Could she? Vikki faked a smile, “Is this about that mob on Monday?”

“No, well kind of, but you know what forget I said that. I should know better than than to buy into stereotypes.”

“Ok sure.”

Jesse stopped cleaning and walked over to Vikki. She folded and unfolded the towel in her hands as she spoke. “So, I know we just met today and we don’t really know each other very well but,” Jesse took a breath and the sound of rustling leaves, creaking branches and whistling wind came from her mouth.

Vikki stared for a second and then said, “What?”

Jesse once again spoke but this time Vikki heard, “Will you [rustling leaves] through the [snapping twigs] with me and [birds chirping] from harm?”

“I don’t understand what you’re say.”

“Will you walk through the forest with me and keep me from harm?” Jesse said plainly.

Forest? Did she mean the park? Vikki lived on the other side of the park bordering the mall so it wouldn’t be out of her way. “Um, you mean tonight after work?” she asked.

“Yes, tonight.”

“Uh, sure,” Vikki said.

After work, Jesse led her in a winding path along the the park trails. Every time they approached the edge of the park, Jesse took the trail back into the park.

“Um, hey, do you know where you’re going?” Vikki asked.

“Yes, it’s just a little bit farther,” Jesse said over her shoulder.

“Ok, it’s just that we’ve been walking around in the park for half an hour and-”

“Here it is,” Jesse said stepping off the paved path onto a dirt one that led into a small grove of trees.

“Wait, where are you going?” Vikki asked Jesse’s rapidly retreating back.

Jesse stopped, turned, and said, “I’m going to the forest. You said you would walk with me.”

“Ok I said that but I thought you just wanted to walk home. Is this going to take long?”

“No time at all,” Jesse said with a smile, “Come on.” She turned around and began walking. Vikki hesitated but she had said she would walk with her, so she followed.

The trees began to grow closer around the path and the underbrush wildly thick. They walked for several minutes, much longer than Vikki thought it would take to walk through the grove she had seen from the paved path.

The path widened, opening up into a small clearing around the gnarliest tree Vikki had seen. The trunk was several feet across, covered in knots and twisted like a rung out rag. Its bare branches were like snakes bursting out and over the clearing. The tree’s bark was dull lifeless gray.

Jesse walked up to the tree and placed her hand on it, “Stand behind me and place your hand over mine. And do not remove it until I tell you to.” Vikki looked at her puzzled. “Come on we don’t have all night,” Jesse said. Continue reading

Henchmen For Hire

Author note: This story is set in the same world as the Scientist of Death stories.

Most people would be scared shitless if a supervillain walked into their office but for me this was just my three o’clock meeting. His name was Wireframe. According to the application he had submitted he was baseline human in powered armor. These guys are a dime a dozen but at least he had a gimmick in his look. His armor was coated with a zero reflective paint with the edges trimmed with red. It gave the effect of a black hole contained by a 3D wire frame graphic. Thus his name.

I stood as he entered and offered my hand, “Good afternoon, how are you doing today?” He ignored my hand and sat down.

“I’m need to hire a dozen henchmen for a bank job. Can fill this request?” His voice was modulated a little too much and buzzed on certain sounds. I sat down behind my desk.

“Henchpeople,” I said.

“What?” he asked.

“We call our employees henchpeople.

“Your organization is named Henchmen For Hire, is it not?”

“It’s a legacy name. Also we don’t call them bank jobs; they’re heists.”

“Whatever. Can you get me a dozen ‘henchpeople’ or not?”

“Of course we can. Do you require any specialist types?”

“Types?”

“All our henchpeople are trained in basic combat, crowd control, and ex-filtration techniques. We also have specially trained groups. These include demolition, heavy combat, stealth, and tech. Will you need any of those?”

“Uh, no. I- I don’t think so.” He sounded unsure.

I brought up a contract form on my tablet and started filling it out. “Ok, twelve standard henchpeople for one heist. What date?”

“Next Thursday.”

“Ok. Will you be providing weapons and equipment for the henchpeople?”

Wireframe hesitated before answering, “Uh no. Do I need to?”

“Not at all. Some supervillains like their henchpeople to use custom weapons and armor to keep on theme. We can’t replicate your color scheme exactly but we can do black with red trim or anything else you’d like.”

“That sounds ok.” I added it to contract.

“Great, I just need a payment method and you’re good to go.” I gave him a big reassuring smile.

“You will be paid after the job is done.” Uh oh someone thinks they’re in charge.

I stared into the blackness where his eyes should be. “Now that is a problem. We require payment upfront.”

“I can’t pay upfront. If I could, I would just hire my own henchmen.”

“Tell me how does a supervillain like yourself afford a custom powered armor suit but not henchpeople?”

“I was part of the team developing the suit for a military contractor and I stole it,” he said.

“Story as old as time. Did you create any exotic technologies for the suit?”

“It uses a carbon-nanotube weave to decrease the weight to protection ratio,” he boasted.

“Yeah, so does our armor. Come on, give me something good. What about the paint job?”

“What about it?” he looked down.

“Zero reflective coatings are useful but the ones I know about are fragile. Your suit is coated in the stuff so it can’t be that fragile. How hard is it to apply?”

“Once mixed, it can be painted on with a brush or sprayed on.”

“Interesting. And you know how to make it?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, I’m going to send you down to one of the tech labs. You talk to them about the paint and they’ll let me know if we’re interested in buying or licensing it from you. If we do, you come back up here and we’ll talk money.”

“And if you don’t?”

“You could always start robbing gas stations and work your way up to a heist.”

A few minutes later, Wireframe was heading to the labs. Too many young supervillains think they can go straight into pulling off heists. They can’t afford good help and try it solo only to get their asses beat by the local superhero. This one seems a little smarter. We might just be able to turn him into a regular client.

Boom Mics and Movie Mistakes

So back in 1999 I saw the Sixth Sense in the theater and thought it was great except for the boom mic popping in at the top.  Later when I saw it on vhs the boom mic was gone.  I never gave it much thought.  At most I thought when movie had been cropped into the full screen version they had cropped those scenes in a little more.

Last night I was listening to episode #289 of My Brother, My Brother, and Me, in which one of the brothers talks about how he saw one of the Night at the Museum movies and the boom mics where clearly visible.  The other brothers mock him for suggesting such a high budget movie would allow boom mics to appear in the frame.  In the next episode they mention they got some emails explaining that movies don’t come pre-framed and it’s up to the theater to “letterbox” the movie correctly.

This practice is also the result of many movie mistakes wherein something that should be just offscreen is made visible by bad framing either in the theater or when transferred to vhs or dvd.  For instance, in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure the gag of him pulling out an absurdly long chain is ruined by bad framing showing the chain entering the bottom of the container.

It boggles my mind that filmmakers would leave it up to thousands random people to make sure their movies were shown correctly.  Like I wouldn’t publish a book and tell the readers, “Don’t read the paragraphs at the top and the bottom of the pages.  They’re not part of the text.”  I would guess there are mechanical reasons that the physical frame of film has to be a certain height and width to work with existing projectors but I don’t understand why the “letterboxing” wouldn’t be applied to the film before copying it and sending it out to  the theaters.

Cipher Codex – The Arrival

Stephanie woke up on her back under part of the roof that had collapsed. It had come to rest against the garage counter forming the hollow she found herself in. Water streamed down from the counter and she could hear rain tapping above. Her head ached, possibly from being hit by the roof, maybe from hitting the floor but, other than a few other minor aches, nothing seemed broken.
“Steph! Stephanie!” someone yelled.

“Marcus!” she called back, “I’m under here!”

“Where are you?” Marcus yelled. The piece of the roof over her sagged and shifted.

“Stop! You’re going to crush me!” she screamed.

“How do I get you out?”

“The end isn’t blocked I can just crawl out. Give me a minute.” She rolled over and began wiggling her way along the counter to the open air. A young bearded man, Marcus, appeared at the end and reached in to grab her. She offered her hands and he pulled her the last couple of feet out.

The house was gone. The street was gone. Hell, the entire city was gone. In its place was an empty field surrounded by trees. All that remained was the wreckage she had crawled out of. Part of the garage where they had been preforming their experiments and part of the living room that shared a wall with the garage. The separating wall stood off center on a piece of the foundation which looked about ten feet wide. As Stephanie walked around the chunk of house she could see it was longer in the other direction by several feet. The piece of roof she had woken up under had a rounded edge. So did the top of the wall and the edge of the remaining foundation.

“What happened? Where’s the rest of the house?”

“I don’t know,” Marcus said. He grabbed the edge of the collapsed roof and started pulling.

“What are you doing?”

“The Professor was storing her camping gear right about there,” he pointed through the roof, “She had a tent, sleeping bags, and uh camping stuff in a container.”

“Right ok.” Stephanie grabbed the edge beside him. “On three. One, two, three.” The two of them pulled it off the garage counter and let it fall on the floor. They carefully stepped up unto the wreckage. Marcus started prying the lids of the plastic containers the Professor had kept under their workspace. It had been her house and she had been funding them so there had been little they could do to dissuade her from keeping whatever odds and ends she stuff into a container under there. Now it would be very fortuitous for them as soon as Marcus found the right one.

Stephanie wandered over to The Machine. They hadn’t decided on a name yet and usually just called it The Machine. They had been running a test and then she had woken up under the wreckage. Had the test caused whatever this was to happen? She opened the front panel and gasped. The innards of the machine had been reduced to twisted melted plastic and metal garnished with scorched wires.

“Found it!” Marcus said while pulling a container from under the counter. From inside he pulled out a jumble of cloth and wire. He hopped off the wreckage, looked around before throwing the jumble of cloth and wire into the air. Free of any constraints the wires sprung outward expanding the cloth into a rectangular tent shape. Marcus walked around it fussing with a few bits that didn’t lay right and locking the struts in place. “Grab the box and let’s get out of the rain.”

Stephanie picked up the container with the rest of the camping gear and walked it into the tent.

A short while later they were both sitting in separate sleeping bags beach towels draped over their shoulders while their wet clothes slowly dried spread out in what little space there was in the tent. A solar powered lantern helped take some of the gloom out of the tent.

“What else is in the box?” Stephanie asked Marcus.

“Rope, tent spikes, flashlights, water bags, water purification tabs, you know just camping stuff. Have you got a signal?”

Stephanie picked up her phone that had been charging off the lantern and unlocked the screen. No service. She lifted it over her head and turned it back and forth, still no service.

“Nothing,” she said putting it back down. “Where do you think we are?”

“The countryside? Where else would we be?” he said.

“Ok I’m just going to say it: WHEN do you think we are?”

“That’s not possible.”

“The machine creates a time bubble-”

“Time distortion field effect,” Marcus corrected her.

“Whatever we call it, it changes how time moves.”

“We’ve only been able to generate distortion fields a few millimeters in diameter.”

“I looked at the machine and it’s been slagged like a huge amount of power went through it. A large enough power surge could have expanded the time distortion field.”

“Even if it did, that doesn’t make it a time machine.”

They were interrupted by someone shouting outside the tent. The specific words were unfamiliar but they recognized the cadence and sounds of the language.

“That sounds like Old English,” Stephanie said, “Which puts us somewhen between the fifth and eleventh centuries.”

“Ok, we invented a time machine.”

Author note: The title Codex Cipher will have more meaning in future parts.

Gillian Reviews “Dimension 404”

Dimension 404 is a six episode scifi anthology series by Rocket Jump airing on Hulu.

Ok, so this isn’t the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits.  The show is more akin to Black Mirror but with a lot less depressing consequences.  Its episodes are centered around modern tech culture and pop culture with a scifi wrench thrown into the machine.

I’m going to be honest the first two episodes felt mostly average.  Rocket Jump has made a lot of really smart and cutting edge shorts.  I just didn’t feel these first two episodes live up to what I know Rocket Jump can produce.  Even Patton Oswalt doesn’t elevate the second episode, Cinethrax, above good.  From Wikipedia, I can see the first two episodes had several people working on the story and writing the episodes.  The rest of the series has just one writer per episode.  It looks like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen on those first two episodes.

The third episode,Chronos, is absolutely fabulous.  A procrastinating physics student discovers that her favorite ’90 cartoon seems to have been erased.  And then the main character from said cartoon appears in real life leading to an adventure through time.  The writing of this episode is really good which can be be hard when time travel is involved.

The fourth episode Polybius is based on the creepy pasta about a video game cabinet from the ’80s of the same name that had some unusual effects on players.  It’s set in the ’80s, the one episode not based in modern times.  Another solid story but it does lean on the video game tropes a little hard.

The fifth episode, Bob, is tied with the third as my favorite.  An Army psychologist about to head home for Christmas is tasked by the NSA to help the giant brain they’ve hooked into the internet with some performance issues.  I especially love this episode because Jane the psychologist is shown talking to her wife and daughter at the beginning and no one ever says anything about it.  There’s never a scene where she gets mistaken for straight.  Also, I love how much diversity there is in this episode.  Jane is played by Constance Wu.  The NSA agent who picks her up is a woman, going by her actress’s nationality she’s Chilean.  The Director of the NSA black site is a white woman and the technician who tends to Bob is black, played by Malcolm Barrett who also plays Rufus on Timeless(another show I love).  The only white man of note, in this episode, is the terrorist Bob is trying to track down.

I really like this series and hope they continue it. There’s one more episode left in the series to air on April, 25, on Hulu.

Rating 4/5

Scientist of Death Issue #4

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“Can I get a discount on this?” The customer shoved the item across the counter. “It has a stain right here.”

I looked at the indicated spot. The slight discoloration was probably not a set in stain and dabbing it with a wet cloth would most likely remove it. Not worth a discount in my eyes but store policy was more lenient.

“I can discount it by five percent,” I said.

“Is that all? I can’t get it half off.”

“No, five percent is all I’m allowed to do.”

“The other woman always gives me half off.” A blatant lie. No one except the managers could approve a fifty percent markdown and they rarely work the registers. I bit back on calling her on the lie.

“I’m sorry, it’s story policy,” I said.

“I’d like to speak to the manager.”

My hand reached for the button on my headset that would broadcast my voice to my co-workers and manager. As I depressed it, I felt a slight wiggle to the button. The switches and buttons on the sonic cannon I had handled the other day had been rock steady with smooth, crisp action. I looked around at the smirking customer, the other cashiers sneaking pity looks at me, the waiting customers in the queue and released the button without saying anything. I took off my walkie talkie.

“I quit,” I said to the customer.

“What?”

“I quit. I refuse to serve people like you who think you can just bully people like me to get whatever you want. I quit.” I grabbed the lanyard around my neck and yanked it straight down snapping the strap. The strap was made to snap apart to keep employees from accidentally being strangled by their lanyard but the effect was still dramatic. One of the other cashiers was speaking into her walkie no doubt informing every other employee of my actions.

I walked through the store to the break room where I retrieved my purse and left the store not physically for the last time, because I would have to return for my last check, but in spirit for the last time. From an inside pocket of my purse, I pulled out the receipt with an address and phone number on it and dialed the number.

It rang twice and the Doctor of Death answered, “Hello.”

“Do you have a workspace I can use or should I find something?”

“I can find you some space.” I could hear the grin in his voice. “Come by tomorrow. Glad to have you back.”

“I’m not back. I’m just working tech.”

“Sure.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hung up before he could say anything else.

***

The next day, I returned to the office suite the Doctor of Death was using as his current front of operations. The waiting room was exactly the same including Susie the receptionist. I had hoped she would not be here since the last time we saw each other I had shot her with a sonic cannon.

She smiled, “Ms. Parks. So nice to see you again.” Was that a genuine smile or a shark smile.

“Hello Susie. I just wanted to say I’m sorry about shooting you the other day.”

Her smile tightened into something like a grimace. “Of course, mistakes were made on both sides.”

“I’m glad you see it that way.” Or at least you’re willing to pretend you do, I thought.

“I hope you will be as forgiving.” She pulled out the sonic cannon from behind her desk and fired it at me. The edge of my personal force field flared white as it absorbed the energy from the sonic pulse.

“Glad to see my paranoia wasn’t totally off base. If you could buzz me in, that would be great.” She glared at me but pressed the button to allow me entrance to the back. “Thank you.” I paused at the door and said, “For what it’s worth, I really am sorry I shot you.”

“Dr. Ford is expecting you,” she said through gritted teeth. Her eyes locked with mine in a challenge. Never leave an enemy at your back, especially not one willing to attack you from the back.

“Do you know who I am?” I asked casually.

“You’re some tech genius The Doctor wants to work for him.” She was almost sneering.

I walked closer to her desk. “Technically true. I’m also The Scientist of Death.”

“The Scientist of Death is dead.”

“No, just retired.”

“And he was a man.”

“Things change.” She began looking over my face and body for those telltale features. I watched for the moment when she realized I might be telling the truth. “Before I left the supervillain life I would have killed you instantly after you tried shooting me.” I stepped closer into her personal space. “That was five years ago. Today I’m letting you have that one shot but only that one shot. Try anything else and I will end this petty “feud” between the two of us permanently.” I reached out and snatched the sonic cannon from her hands.

To her credit she didn’t flinch or back away. She simply said, “Understood.”

“Good. You have a nice day,” I said and walked into the back.


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Gillian Reviews Predestination

My roommate and I watched Predestination, a movie based on the short story “-All You Zombies-” by Robert A. Heinlein.

When I first heard of this movie and what it was based on, I was interested in seeing it.  The one trailer I saw made the movie look action heavy and was focused on the Fizzle Bomber who isn’t a character in the short story. I assumed the filmmakers had taken the basic idea and changed almost everything else.  The movie is actually very faithful to the short story and expands it without rewriting it into a different story. The Fizzle Bomber plotline shows up mostly at the beginning and end and a few scenes in the middle but it doesn’t overwhelm the story like I thought it would.

Even going into the movie basically knowing the entire story, I still really enjoyed it. If you like smart time travel movies, then you will probably like this movie.

Rating 5/5

Scientist of Death Issue #3

Issue #1 here and Issue #2 here in case you’ve forgotten how we got here.

The Doctor of Death smirked at me, “I knew you weren’t out of the game.”

“I’m just asking. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Sure, sure.” He reached into a box box behind his desk and pulled out a device I was familiar with.

“Is that a Gurrola Sonic Cannon?”

“Mark two,” he added.

“Bullshit. No one has a mark two.”

“I have a source who found a small cache of them. The only problem is they don’t work and I don’t know how to fix them.”

“May I?” I asked reaching for the sonic cannon. He handed it over to me. GSC Mk 2’s were considered bleeding edge of non-lethal weaponry at their time. Even by modern standards they were incredibly advanced. I extended the projection chamber from over the main housing and locked it in place. What it should have uncovered was a smooth machined aluminum housing for the sound generator and amplifier unit. Instead a section had been cut out and a small circuit board had been installed. “What’s this?”

“After market modification.”

“After market modification? Hmm.” The board had a printed circuit, dozens of resistors, transistors, and diodes, a row of ten switches, and a rheostat. Several wires trailed off the edge of the board and snaked into the housing. “What does it do?”

“I dunno.”

“All of them have the same circuit board installed?”

“Yes.”

I lifted the cannon to my face and sniffed the open housing. No burnt smell, maybe the original hardware hadn’t been fried. Without a careful analysis of the circuit I couldn’t know what it did. The board was held in place by a few spots of solder. A forceful tug snapped it free of the housing leaving it attached only by the wires.

“Ahh-” the Doctor of Death began.

I held up a finger and glared at him, “I’m working.” I tilted the cannon hoping to see where the wires were attached. I thought back to the circuit diagrams of the GSC Mk 3 I had seen over twenty years ago. Nope, still no idea what the circuit did. Taking a firm grip on the wires, I yanked them out with a hard tug.

The Doctor of Death made a strangled gasping sound.

On the other side of the housing I flipped the main power switch and heard the distinctive hum of a Gurrola Sonic Cannon but with an undertone I had never heard before.

The Doctor of Death raised an eyebrow, “Really just like that it’s fixed?”

“You dare question The Scientist of Death. I’ll show you what happens to someone who questions me,” I said slipping back into the hyperbolic personal far easier than I thought possible. I adjusted the cannon for low power and fired at second chair I hadn’t been sitting in. A sharp clap filled my ears. I shouldn’t have heard anything; the joker who had tried modifying the gun must have damaged the damping shield. The chair slammed against the wall which shook from the sound pulse. I turned back to the Doctor of Death with my own eyebrow raised.

“I guess I should know better than to –” He was cut short by the door being kicked in by his receptionist, Susie. She aimed at me and I instinctively fired the sonic cannon at her. The sonic discharge again clapped in my ears and sent Susie flying back through the door into the hallway.

“What was that about?” I asked my heart pounding.

The Doctor of Death hurried around his desk and out the room to check on Susie. “You did fire a sonic cannon with out warning.”

“I guess I did.” I took a deep slow breath. “Still charging into a meeting with a…,” I squinted at the gun laying on the floor, “What is that?”

“Hmm, Morris Maser Gun.”

“Not very non-lethal,” I commented.

“In house security is allowed lethal weapons.”

“I guess times have changed.” As I powered off the sonic cannon and retracted the projection chamber, I noticed my ring finger twitch. “Well, now that you know how to fix them, you really don’t need me anymore.”

“The job offer is still on the table. I could use your tech skills.”

“I’m retired and I should stay that way.” I set the sonic cannon on the desk and picked up my purse.

“If you ever change your mind, just give me a call,” the Doctor of Death said as I walked out through the open door to the empty reception area.

***

Later that night I sat in the dark thinking. I had had fun today. Shooting Susie had been unfortunate but the rest was good. Holding a sonic cannon after years, examining the circuits and making the quick fix had felt like the old days.

Could I work for The Doctor of Death? I had thought my career as a supervillain was over. My plan had been to leave all that in the past after I transitioned. I didn’t need to return to being a face in the League of Evil. All I really wanted was resources and equipment for tinkering and improvement of tech. The heists and warehouse raids had just been a means to an end. But if The Doctor could provide me with all that…

A lamp snapped on. “Why are you in the dark?” Julie asked.

“I was thinking.” She walked around the room turning on lamps until the illumination of the room was at normal levels.

“Thinking about what?” she asked.

“I went to see that guy who recognized me yesterday.”

“Your friend?” she asked sitting down next to me.

“Ex-coworker,” I corrected. “He’s got his own business now and offered me a job.”

“That’s great. Why don’t you take it? It sounds like he’s cool with you and it’s got to pay better than retail.”

“It would pay better. I’m just not sure I want to get back into that … environment.”

“What’s so bad about it?”

“Nothing on the surface. It’s hard to explain. Some of the guys in the industry can get real confrontational.” Laser duel confrontational.

“Well it’s up to you if you take the job. I’ll support you either way.” Julie snaked an arm around me and pulled me into a hug. I brought my own arms up around her as well. How long could I lie about I was really doing? I wondered if our relationship would survive if she knew the truth about me.

Author note: The story doesn’t end here. The Scientist of Death hasn’t even really begun her new villainous adventures. Sorry it’s taken so long for me to get back to this story but more will be coming.

Super Hearing Loss

“Hey, do you have that report ready?” I jolted upright in my seat.  My hands clenched the edge of my desk and I let out a short shout. As I steadied my breathing, I turned in my chair to face the office manager.

“Yes, I was just putting the final touches on it and then I was going to email it to you.”  I clicked over to the report on my computer.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. Are you all right? You seem a lot jumpier lately.”

I smiled. “I’m fine.”

“Okay. I’ll be looking for the report soon.” She walked off to check in with another employee. I turned back to my desk and resumed work on the report she wanted.

There had been a time not too long ago when no one could surprise me. A time when I could hear their footsteps, the rustling of their clothes, the beating of their hearts. Sitting at my desk I could pinpoint everyone’s location within three floors.  I could hear everything.

That was before the new DNA screenings that could detect the gene sequence that gave people powers. I’m not sure how they got my DNA.  After my powers developed, I was careful about who took my blood or anything that might have DNA.  Despite my precautions, one day two men from the “government” came knocking on my door with test results. They talked to me for a couple of hours but in the end, they gave me three choices: work for them, be imprisoned as a threat to national security, or take a designer drug to suppress my power.

There was nothing at my job, in the entire building, that could be a national security risk.  I had never used my power for anything more than harmless eavesdropping.  If I went to work for them I knew that they would use me for something that would mean I could never be free of them. In the end, I chose my freedom over my power.

I don’t have it so bad. Some people can’t, or won’t, take the drugs because without their power they lose bodily functions. Some become too weak to stand. Some can’t see or hear at all. Some can’t breathe. I still have normal human hearing or at least that’s what the tests said. It’s still too quiet for me.