25.4 Milestones

Rob gave a sigh as he looked over the corpses of his subordinate.  He looked to the owner, a big biker looking type named Harry, as he bent to draw the butcher’s knife from Hector’s throat.  While he was at it, he took the wash cloth that Hector had had tucked into his belt as well.  “You have a closet or something with a lock I can use?”

Harry was oddly calm, given the panic Hector’s multiple suicides were evoking in his customers.  “Yeah, my office.”  He led Rob back to the room in question, not asking any questions on the way.

Just before he shut the door, Rob told him, “Don’t let anyone in.  If I’m not out in an hour, call Phoenix PD and let them know to send in a cleansing team to take care of me.”

“Yes sir.” Harry said, as the door closed and the lock clicked into place.

Rob opened his shirt and placed the tip of his borrowed knife between his fourth and fifth ribs, angled it just so, then slid it home with his left hand.  He slumped down into Harry’s chair, gave a short pained cough, ignored the blood in his mouth, and whispered to himself.  “And it was such a nice day, too.”

In a quiet room, filled with quiet, competent men and women, three desks were now manned by three corpses.  Within seconds of the gunshots, three Analysts had notified their charges and switched from their own to Hectors’ desks, simply pushing his corpses out of their chairs.

“Operative Grim, respond.  I say again, respond.  This is Analyst Jones, please respond.  You cannot beat Taker like this!”  The only thing coming back over his communicator was a rage filled howl.  Despite the volume controls, it was clearly audible to the men and women sitting next to him.

“Operative Grave, there are two conflict spots to be dealt with.  Lord Taker is at the Circle with Operative Grim.  Hive had him pegged as a kinetic absorber with high defense, normal strength and some form of duplication, likely linked to the absorption.  Operative Grim is not responding to communication and has virtually no chance of victory as is.  I say again, Operative Grim is in dire need of aid.

“The second location is an abandoned manufacturing facility, location details being sent now.  Lords Starve and Viral are both present, accompanied by approximately fifty Battlegrounders with mixed small arms.  Be advised, six police officers are on site, likely to be unable to disengage.  Starve is female, wearing a brown robe, and known to be a directed Null type.  She can semi-permanently remove powers from anyone in her line of sight but not counteract the effects of powers in use.

“Viral, real name Joseph Stein, is wearing stained white clothing under a white hooded cloak.  His Empowerment registration exam lists him as a Jones type.  Manifests in the form of compulsive verbal commands, unresistable so long as the victim can rationalize them.  Said commands can be spread from person to person via conversation, provided the rationalization works for the secondary victim.

“Recommended response: utilize assets on site for first conflict and asset designated Control for the second.  Its short range telekinesis should allow you to avoid friendly fire.”

A choked voice responded.  “Ack-know-ledged.”  It was clear enough, lacking any indication of pain or discomfort, more as if someone had something lodged in their throat.

“So, in the mood for dessert?” Liz asked.  “They do a great tiramisu here, but I don’t know if I’ve got room-”  She interrupted herself to leap across the table, both hands grabbing for the steak knife Hector had raised to his neck.  “Ahh!”  Her pained outcry and his desperate grunts attracted attention every bit as much as the remains of their dinner crashing to floor.

“Liz!  No, your arm, it’s-!”  There was fear and concern in his voice, as well as blood on his neck.  Liz might have laughed at the incongruity under other circumstances but right now she couldn’t afford the distraction.  He still hadn’t let go of the knife.

Luckily, when an obviously injured woman and a man are wrestling over a knife in public, bystanders are far more likely to aid the female.  One waiter and two diners soon had Hector pinned.  He struggled but seemed reluctant to hurt them in the process.  Another of their fellow diners was attempting to assist her with her own injury.  The stitches were broken and her arm was covered in blood.

“There- there should be some bandages and a tourniquet in his bag.” she said through clenched teeth.

The helpful older man bent beneath Hector’s side of the table and did something with one of the bags before calling out in a panicked voice.  “I- I can’t get it open.  There’s some sort of- of lockbox inside.”

“The other bag.” she grunted.  In a few moments he returned with the materials and she guided him through the process, working from her memory of her first meeting with Hector.  She screamed when the tourniquet tightened but the whole time, the worst thing was the sick terrified look on Hector’s face.

Officer Collins was absolutely terrified.  It didn’t stop him from firing on the howling madmen who poured out of the building after Operative Hive shot himself, after all of them did.  Neither he nor his fellow officers were the sort of men who would flinch from danger.  It didn’t stop him from noticing the purple clad figure approaching.

It was, or had been, a local teen.  He’d been bullied at school, abused at home and ignored by stressed out teachers, basically checked off all the boxes on the list.  One day, Cory Veldtman had come to school in a homemade purple costume, complete with crude mask.  He’d Empowered with some sort of TK, torn the place up pretty bad.  Operative Grave had had to put him down.  Not a good ending.

Now, his corpse was flying through the air, still wearing the scraps of the clothes he’d died in, standing at parade rest on the hood of a battered pickup truck.  It was good to know that the Battlegrounders wouldn’t tear him and his fellows apart.  The truck crashed to the ground, killing a handful of those same madmen.  The corpse still stood upright on the remains of the vehicle, surrounded by a cloud of blood, a mixture of fresh drops and flecks of dried blood.

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7 comments on “25.4 Milestones

  1. And now we’re up to four, personal best for quite some time.

    This scene is stretching out longer than I expected. Pacing feels okay to me but I’ve found that my judgment can’t always be trusted in that regard so please let me know if it feels like it’s dragging out too much.

    On a different note, thank you to everyone who’s supported Citadel (and me) in the past, present and (to you internet time travelers reading this later) the future. Your comments, votes, reviews, purchases and recommendations mean a lot to me. Thanks to you TRAINING IN NECESSITY is currently (again, unless you’re one of those time travelers) the 90th best-selling superhero e-book on Amazon. Citadel is also the 9th most popular story on WEB FICTION GUIDE and the 7th most popular superhero one.

    That is just incredibly cool to me. 🙂

    Of course…. it’d be even cooler if those numbers were higher. Well, smaller, you know what I mean. If you want to help with that, you can BUY a copy of the book and/or leave a review of it on Amazon. (It’s only a buck.) You can also RATE AND RECOMMEND Citadel on WFG. Regardless, just the fact that you’re reading this means you’ve almost certainly read close to 200,000 words that I wrote and for that alone I thank you heartily.

    I’ve said this before and will again, but you people rock!

    Edit: Small change made at the end, I removed foreshadowing for something that won’t happen quite so soon now.


  2. To me, the pacing isn’t an issue. I see a very complex situation unfolding, and I think your pacing is fitting, but keep in mind my main reading material atm is The Wheel of Time for the 2nd time, do my pacing ideas may be off from your main reader base. My biggest criticism is the lack of “airtime” for jason. He is my favorite character and has been since he first felt fear. I love your development with him,I think your charctarization (sp?) Is really well execute.


  3. Whew so at least one Hector survived, now the question is: will the order to kill himself persist in time? Even if it doesn’t though the Citadel might be a bit more Wary of using Hectors everywhere. They might restrain those doing certain duties and keep a few sedated at all time as suggested somewhere in the comments. A repeat of the suicide order could disrupt things badly (thought they seem to have adapted quickly, probably because its not the first time something similar has happened) but the situation could have been much much worse if Viral had told him to kill people instead. Imagine every hector in the country suddenly going on a killing spree at the same time? Especially considering some of the places he probably has access to at the Citadel.


    • Lord Viral needs to have rationale for his power to work. Not sure what the rationale was for suicide, but I imagine murder would’ve been harder to make work. I think Hector would have been fine in that case.


      • Stated by Hector Prime to his mother, though he didn’t realize it at the time. Killing himself was the way to protect the city from what he might do under Viral’s influence. Hector was especially weak against Viral, as compared to most Jones types, because any rationale that’d work on one of him is both perfectly suited to the rest but also communicated instantly to them all. If that doesn’t make sense in retrospect please let me know so I can do a bit of a rewrite on it.


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