As any good chef will tell you, "Presentation is key."
Sure, good quality ingredients are also required, and skill is undoubtedly essential, but to the customer, both of these are easily forgiven if you provide a dish that stimulates the senses.
Sure, with proper training in the darker culinary arts, anyone could animate several tons of lunchmeat and send it on a path of devastation, but Edward Meyer wasn't just anyone. As he stood in the shadow of his gastronomic giant, he knew that now the real presentation would begin.
It was a shame that most of the potential audience had fled the scene. Sadly, it looked as if this might be a more intimate affair. Edward sighed. In that case, candle light would have been a nice accent, but sadly, not an option at the moment.
"Well, Mr. Grayhound, I'm so very glad you arrived."
"I was in the neighborhood." Chris stated as he dangled upside down from the meaty fist of the giant. It was not one of his prouder moments. He tried to make the best of it by crossing his arms and trying to appear in control. It wasn't really working, but we'll humor him.
"Yes, well, I suppose a proper invitation would have been better, but I figured that a nice surprise would be more in character. You do realize that you brought this all upon yourself, right?"
"Excuse me?" Chris said with a raised eyebrow. "You're the one that grabbed that stupid spatula and started busting up Boise. You know how much I had to pay to get my car rebuilt after having one of your pancakes flatten it?"
"Ah yes, the Holy Spatula of Ayehoep. It was the one thing I needed to take back my family name from the evil that had befallen it." Edward paused for a moment, "Actually, that's always bothered me in a way. How did you do that?"
"Do what?" Chris asked.
"Well, one minute I'm standing in the museum holding the Spatula the next you show up in a cloud of dust and shoot it out of my hand. Scared the willies out of me."
"What?" Chris asked in disbelief. "Look buddy, you were the one on the destroy the city with baked goods binge. That's what the whole trial was about, remember?"
"Ah yes, the mockery of a trial you put me through. I don't know how you managed to pay off all those witnesses to condemn an innocent man, but the wasted no time packing me up and sending me to that hell-hole."
Edward put his hands to his ears trying to block out even the name of the place. "Yes, there! You have no idea what that place is like, or the horrors that even I saw."
"What? Did they make your eggs runny or something?"
The Chef stopped and looked toward Chris. Chris stopped smiling. "No. In the purest sense of the words, the Facility is the Hell on Earth. If you doubt me, go there yourself sometime." Edward looked away. "You 'Heroes' speak of doing justice, yet keep a blind eye toward where your precious justice is measured. I'd die before I ever went back, and while I was there, every moment I wasn't concentrating on survival I was planning on how I will extract my revenge on the man that put me there."
Edward closed his eyes and threw his head back, "And now that moment has arrived! Any last words, Grayhound!" He leered evilly and raised his hand to point to the defiant Grayhound.
Or at least where the Grayhound had been.
For that matter, where the Gollum had been as well.
Edward spun around frantically looking for either when he noticed a rather large number of what appeared to be large wallabies in flowered shirts eating sandwiches.
"Sorry about the delay Chris. It took me a bit to find enough rolls." Puppyboy stated as he wadded up the last of the plastic bags. "Wow! These guys were hungry!"
"HEY!" Edward shouted, more than slightly annoyed.
"Oh, yeah, that's right." Chris said then flicked his wrist forward. Edward felt two thuds against his chest then his body spasmed violently. He fell after a few seconds unable to move.
"Well, whaddya know? The tazer really does work." Chris said as he pressed the retrieval button and the contacts retracted back into the weapon. "Help me get fancy-pants into the bus, willya?"
Chris and JB secured Edward into the luggage bin of the bus. Before he closed the lid, he looked at his captive. Edward was crying. Edward knew that his next stop would be back in the Facility, more than likely in the "Hard Timer" section. He probably wouldn't survive.
Chris continued to look at Edward. Something bothered him at a very deep level. "Hey, is it really that bad?"
Edward slowly turned his head toward Chris. His voice was barely a whisper. "Worse."
Chris looked at Edward for a few more seconds, as if weighing far more options than he originally planned, before finally closing the door. "JB, gather our guests back into the bus. We need to leave. Now."
Hi, it's me Bob.
Bob? Hi it's Mark.
Mark! Good to hear from you. How are you?
Tired, but good kinda tired.
Well, the Gayhound, err, Mr. Reid has really been on me about schoolwork. He's kinda strange really. One minute he's grilling me about history and math, the next we're playing Soul Caliber. You want to know the weirdest thing though?
He's no where near what I expected. I guess I kinda expected him to be all show and bluster, or a bit psycho, but he's not. Don't get me wrong, I still think he's a total jerk most times, but he actually seems to care about folks. He's kinda like you really.
Excuse me? I'm not so sure that's a complement.
No offense, Bob. I just mean that there's a good deal more to him than you think. I guess he just doesn't make that good a first impression. He's nothing like his brother.
Yeah, JB's kind of a trip. He's got a weird angle on things that you just don't think of, and he just seems to know all this really weird crap. Like for my Lit class we had to read "Great Expectations" which I thought was really dull and kept wandering around aimlessly. So I told JB and he told me that it was the first soap opera. Turns out that the guy who wrote it did one chapter at a time and based it on the letters he got the week before.
Really, I hadn't known.
Yeah, that and apparently Dickens was also trying to make a point about how bad Victorian prisons were. Apparently folks could buy their way into better facilities and the guys that couldn't were pretty much screwed.
Yeah, I guess. I like the stuff I do with Sandy better though?
Yep, she's the woman that Mr. Reid hired to help me with my "self defense" classes.
Interesting, tell me more.
Well, there's not a lot to say really. She's got me doing a set of exercises that seem to really help keep me focused. Granted, she's got to 'recharge' every so often and watching her absorb rocks is kinda freaky in a way
Careful, my boy.
Right, anyway, she really has been putting me through the paces, and I think I've been helping her out as well. She's really nice.
So I take it you like this Sandy?
Yeah, sorta, but she's already spoken for, granted, they'd be the last ones to admit it.
What do you mean?
Her and Mr. Reid, I think they like each other, but keep acting like they don't. I can always tell whenever Mr. Reid is going to drop by on training because Sandy does her makeup and dresses better than normal. Then, Mr. Reid spends most of the time watching her more than me. And they fight like they're already married anyway.
Heh, well, some married couples I suppose..
Yeah, I guess.
Does Mr. Reid talk at all about his day job?
Nope. Well, other than telling me to avoid it for something less dangerous, like bomb disarming or in-flight jet engine repairs. Hey, how's Margie?
Oh, she's fine. Although she's in the doghouse at the moment?
Uh-oh, now what?
There was a rather large mess on the front steps when I came home last Tuesday.
I didn't think she could do that sort of thing.
She can't, but apparently the two Jehovah's Witnesses she barked at can.
Ah, so she popped up rather unexpectedly?
I can only guess. Still she knows better than to jump up on the house. She might break the roof.
I bet. Oops, better go. I think I hear Sandy, and.. Wow! I'm guessing Mr. Reid will definitely be dropping by later.
Ok, have fun. Glad to hear things are going well for you.
Thanks again, Bob.
Not a problem. Just keep me up to date.
Will do. Bye!
Good bye, Mark.
Edward woke up when Chris reopened the bus' luggage bin. Chris didn't bother with formalities. "Ok, talk."
Edward blinked a few times. Trying to remember where he was and what happened. Chris sat down next to him. "Tell me what you can about the Facility."
Edward sighed heavily. "Why? What difference will it make? It's not like there's anything I can do to prevent the inevitable. Well, other than killing myself, but I'm too much of a coward to do that."
Chris showed no sign of emotion. "Quite the contrary. A coward is unwilling to face fate head on instead opting for the simplest solution. Besides, who said that anything is inevitable?"
"There is death and taxes, you know.."
"Walt Disney proved that even those aren't always an issue. Tell me about the Facility."
Edward slumped. "Where do I begin?"
Chris stared out into the night. "In the early 60's several major Asylums were closed down due to a combination of political agendas and pro-prisoner agendas. Many of these were specialized institutions that contained one or two supervillains in specialized containment. The protests centered around these individuals being held in unusual manners. In some cases, these prisoners were held in what amounted to solitary confinement due to their somewhat specialized nature."
"The courts agreed, and the institutions were shut down. Many of the inmates were transferred to various high security facilities, others had their sentences reviewed and were released into halfway homes or rehabilitation programs. There were several major success stories that were paraded out to the public."
"Unfortunately, there were also several major failures that were not so quickly disclosed. The public was already very wary of the government, and superheroes faced even harsher scrutiny. Many of the riots were quickly covered up. Some were ruthlessly dealt with."
"The Facility was created shortly after several major prison riots in the late 60s. It was designed to house all of the 'enhanced' prisoners or those that could not be contained by more conventional means. Several groups funded it privately, USHA being principle among them. It was also determined that in order to avoid future incidents, it would be located in a remote section of the Pacific Northwest and would be privately staffed."
Edward looked at Chris. "It would seem that you know quite a bit about this place."
Chris continued to stare out at the night. "How I know is not your concern. Understand that I knew as much as the average citizen when we first met. Tell me what you know of the place."
Edward stared at Chris. "From what I've been able to tell, the place is run by ex-inmates or 'residents'. There are several areas that they place prisoners, excuse me, residents into. I was in the low to medium security area which meant that whenever the suppressors went out"
"Suppressors?" Chris asked.
"The area is surrounded by several devices that suppress most superpowers. One's usually enough but there are supposed to be a bunch for safety reasons. Even though it's never supposed to happen, occasionally they go out and suddenly you've got a bunch of very powerful folks getting to take their shots. More often than not, it's the guards doing the shooting. I just learned to find a safe corner fast and make myself as invisible as I can."
"I see. Go on"
"As I was saying, when the suppressors went out, they always were off for two minutes and thirty-three seconds. Just long enough for some folks to do some serious damage. Even after they came back on, you learn to keep your head down pretty much for the rest of the night. Next morning, there's always at least one hearse pulling out of the infirmary block."
"Why did they put you in the low security area."
"Because I wasn't considered a major risk, and because I could afford it."
Chris raised an eyebrow at that. "You bribed your way?"
"No, I paid it. The ones I feel the worst for are the ones that have the least. They're the slaves in there and the staff doesn't do much about it."
Chris sat thinking for a few more minutes. "Turn over."
"What?" Edward asked.
"I said turn over so I can reach the cuffs."
Edward was confused. "Why are you doing this? I told you that I planned on killing you."
In a flash Chris had Edwards shirt wadded in his fist and lifted the man off of the floor of the compartment. "Don't think that I had forgotten about that or the fact that you're still very much a dangerous man. So am I."
Edward didn't doubt that.
Chris relaxed his grip, "That said, I also need your help. You're the only one I know of who's been there and can give me the information I need."
"And what information is that?"
"How to shut down The Facility."
Chris smiled. "You're right. Still want to kill me?"
"No, mostly because there wouldn't be enough of you left to make a difference."
"So do we have a deal?"
Edward was very confused. "What's in this deal for me?"
"You get to leave Boise tonight, alone, never to return."
"Sounds good to me.."
"and you give up this 'vengeance' thing. All of it. Even where your family is concerned."
Edward's face flushed purple. "WHAT?! After what those bastards did to my family name and reputation? They need to pay, my honor.."
"is so important that you'd be willing to go back to The Facility?"
Edward stopped. "How do you know I won't lie and say yes?"
"How do you know I haven't planted a sub dermal tracking device on you and won't send the frequency to our mutual friends?"
"You expect me to believe that?"
"You were asleep for a while. Possibly your decision, possibly because of some gas I had pumped in. Maybe your arms and legs are asleep because of the bindings and being in close quarters, maybe they're asleep to numb the insertion point until the muscle injection swelling disappeared. As you pointed out earlier, I may be insane, but I prefer to have the upper hand. So, do we have a deal?"
Edward weighed his options. "What do you propose I do with my life?"
"That's not my problem. That's yours. Off hand, I'd say that you're a very talented chef who needs to go make a name for himself. Preferably a new one with no easily traceable ties to the past. If your information pans out, I'll make sure that you get enough of a start to get going. After that, you're on your own."
"Do you actually believe that you will be able to take out someplace like the Facility?"
Chris said nothing, instead he held up a small key.
Will the next episode not be
so damn dialog heavy?
Will there actually be some jokes in it?
Where the heck is this going?
Nope. No idea either.
Tune in next time for:
A Civil Second
Previous Chapter Next Chapter