Monday, August 30, 2010

Threshold - 1



I woke up in the early hours of the morning, my skin still tingling with the memory of my dream. I sat up on the collapsed bed and jammed my fists into my eyesockets.

When I felt coherent enough to speak, I got up and stepped out. I hadn't gotten two steps before I heard voices.

Sumerset had told me to lay low, but I could tell by the way they were talking that at least one of them didn't want to be heard--and that got my attention. I peeked around the corner. The boy I'd met earlier had Red cornered in the hall; his posture was aggressive and insistent, while Red's was ambivalent.

"...don't even know her," he said.

"I trust her."

"Why? She attacked you--you even said so yourself. She was with Bonesaw and the others--you have no idea who she is or what she wants."

Red sighed. "I know she is not with Voodoo."


"If she intended harm, I would know."

"Look--Red. I'm just worried about you, alright? I care about you." He reached for her arm; she drew away.

A knot formed in my belly. I felt my body tense.

"I can take care of myself," she told him. "There are things I must attend to. Excuse me."

"Red--I just want--"

"Please, William," she said, and then she drew her hood back up. "I must go."

She slipped down the hallway, leaving William behind. He fumed for a minute, then turned and went through the door behind him.

Drama. Fantastic.

I wondered about the situation that had lead up to that, and William's connection to Red. I found myself dwelling on Red--in particular, the shape of her mouth as she walked away--small teeth denting into her lower lip. My mind wandered back to my dream and I did my best to shake the thought off.

Eventually, I went downstairs to check on Sumerset. He had turned the apartment's main office into his workshop; the suitcases he had me help him drag in were loaded there, with at least two of them open. Laptops hummed, powered by a miniature gas generator he had brought with him. The Battle Suit was laid out on a table--sleek and black and deadly as ever.

When he saw me, he threw me a brown package. "Food," he told me. "Better than whatever swill they're making here."

I tore it open with my teeth. Inside was a series of smaller packages, along with a plastic spoon, tabasco sauce, a double pack of chewing gum, a tiny sleeve of instant coffee--an assortment of supplies. I looked up to him with a raised eyebrow.

"Water's on the table," he told me and gestured. I saw a tiny coffee maker he had plugged into the generator, alongside several bottles of water--he was using it to make near-boiling pitchers of hot water. "Just follow the instructions and heat yourself up something."

I was hungry. I fumbled with the small water heater included in the package, tearing open what looked like a bag of spaghetti with meatsauce; I followed the instructions on how to heat it. Meanwhile, Sumerset had the Battle Suit's helm plugged into one of the laptops and was typing.

I noticed something on the far side of the room--something big. Sumerset had apparently been working with it the night before--it was an immense gray arm wrapped in kevlar. The 'hand' looked like a giant gauntlet built out of interlocking pieces. Sumerset caught my look as he worked and shrugged.

"Probably won't need it," he said.

"What is it?"

"Plan B," he said. "Just in case."

"A giant fist is Plan B?"

"More or less," he said, and then he gave me one of his nasty grins.

The spaghetti finished heating. I poured it out into a bowl, tore out a plastic fork, and sat down in a chair to eat. There were spicy crackers and chipotle-flavored bread inside the package too. As I ate, my mind wandered back to last night's dream; I watched Sumerset working, trying not to blush.

"So, uh, Sumerset."


"You remember the paintings I told you about? The three things that Red saw?"


"I left one thing out," I said.

"What's that?" he asked, his fingers working while his eyes stayed glued to the laptop's screen.

"She saw that the Skull would kiss her."

Sumerset stopped typing and looked up at me. "...she still doesn't know who the Skull is?"


"Christ. Is she dense or something?" he asked, and then he lifted his hand. "I mean, no offense. But Christ, really?"

"I think she's naive," I said. "Takes people at their word or something like that."

"How the hell has she managed to face off against Voodoo Jones for six months if she can't figure out some baseline shit like 'people lie'?" he asked.

"I don't know. She said something about being able to sense intentions--"

"Well, fine. Either way--prophecy's weird, kid, and it goes for the gold in contrivance. There could be a thousand different reasons that you kiss her. Might even turn out to not be you."

"You think?"

"I don't know. No use thinking about it, though," he said. "Either way, we've got work to do. Finish your MRE. Have some coffee, do some stretches, then get in the Battle Suit so we can run a few quick demos on the rooftops. Once you feel comfortable in it, we're going to hit the fuck out of Voodoo Jones' headquarters."



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