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An Habitual Offender, Chapter 1

Rage

He sits at the second story window of a rundown duplex, overlooking the main drag of the city’s bohemian neighborhood. Night after night he sits. Year after year. He never sleeps. Ever.

It is another hot summer night in this city near America’s Gulf Coast. At 3 AM it’s eighty degrees fahrenheit, relative humidity ninety-two percent. Typical.

He watches the freaks and weirdoes, the hookers and drag queens, the punks and rockers. The lusty heart of the city is somewhere nearby. Here in the space between downtown, suburbia, the college, and the richest neighborhood of all. The border zone... the Bardo.

He knows that he does not need to sleep, but he does not know why. He has lived here for years, but he does not know how many. He does not know who pays the rent or bills. Couriers deliver groceries from the natural food store regularly. They do not speak to him. Sometimes he sees fear in their eyes.

“Why am I thinking about these things?” He startles himself by speaking out loud. He rarely speaks, saving his voice for the many stray cats he feeds.

He looks at the clock. 3:30 AM now. Time has passed very strangely for some days. Elastic, speeding up and slowing down at will. Am I someone’s idiot child all grown up? I don’t think I’m stupid. What did I do before I got here? Was I a bad guy?

A flash of white hot anger courses through him after that thought. “I wasn’t a bad guy!” His shout is swallowed by the darkness. The city’s denizens, bent on their own desires, pay him no heed. Just another crazy howling at the moon. Quietly now. “I was a good guy. One of the best.”

The clock ticks on. 4:00 AM. There is a knock at the door. He leaps from his chair by the window, terrified. Who can that be at this time of night? No one I’d want to deal with, that’s for sure.

He tries to quietly make his way to the door. He feels clumsy, weak. He’s afraid to look through the peephole. It could be that guy with the ice pick. When he finally looks, no one is there. He waits, listening, rarely breathing, for ten minutes. He hears nothing.

Satisfied, he opens the door. He sees a small box sitting on the threshold. The heat and the damp and the stink of the city fling themselves on him like demons. He ignores all of it. Heat feels good. It always has.

The box has a tag from the courier service on it. The tag is blank in all fields. One side of the box has a circle drawn on it. This comforts him somehow, it’s friendly and familiar. But why? He picks up the box and closes the door.

He sits in his chair by the window and opens the box. A wad of bubble wrap fills it. He pulls it out and unfolds it. Inside are two bubble wrap envelopes. One contains a thin circle of silver. The other contains a thin circle of gold. “Bracelets.” Without thinking he places the gold bracelet on his left wrist, and the silver one on his right. He raises his arms to admire them. He is struck by a wave of vertigo and then he faints.

Kevin VanEvery regained consciousness laying on the floor. “What the hell happened?” He looked at the clock and saw that it was later afternoon, nearly 5:00 PM. He dragged himself up off the floor and stumbled off to the bathroom. He splashed some water on his face and looked in the mirror. “Who are you?” He felt as though he was seeing himself for the very first time. Brown eyes, long brown hair shot through with gray, pulled back in a ponytail. Salt and pepper full beard, rather shaggy. A kind, but sad face. Why so sad? “Something’s not right.”

He went and found a pair of scissors and cut off most of the beard. Soon the ponytail was gone as well. He felt that long hair wouldn’t do anymore. Wouldn’t fit. Wouldn’t fit what? He shook his head and turned on the shower. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d bathed.

After he was done he shaved the rest of the hair off his face. He looked at himself again. Better, he thought, but I’ve gone gray sitting at that window. For what? Then he remembered the box.

He sat down in the chair and picked the box up, turning it over in his hands. He realized that it was not a circle on the side of the box but a red letter “O”. He didn’t know how he knew.

He raised his hands, palms up, to look at the bracelets again. He faints again. He dreams.

He’s flying a plane, a fast jet. Then he is flying without the jet. He dreams of red and yellow, flashes of light, of fire and hot metal. Someone calling his name. Tragedy and triumph and tragedy. Blue-gray hair that smelled of roses and lavender. Fiery red-gold hair that smelled of love and death. The plane was plummeting towards earth and he was chasing it. Not fast enough. Not fast enough again. Blackness.

He opened his eyes and eventually determined that another twelve hours had passed. He sat up and rubbed his head. Did I do something bad? No, that’s not quite right. Something wrong. He heaved a great sigh. I let someone down. It was bad.

Dawn found him in his usual place by the window. The streets were about as quiet as they ever get. I used to go home about this time. His window looked North. Over there, somewhere. Very close. Big house. I lived up top.

At this point, he realized that he’d been turning the bracelets around his wrists, one after the other, like worry stones. He was worried. Afraid to look at the things. I feel different. Like a cloud in my mind is thinning. Then he knew it would be safe to look at the bracelets again. Plain, thin, masculine. Something one might imagine on a soldier or slave in some bogus Arabian Nights fantasy.

So was I soldier or slave? He was looking at them closely now. He pulled them away from his wrists and attempted to examine the insides. He was incapable of removing them because he vehemently did not want them off his body. Each one had a very tiny letter ‘o’ engraved on the inside. Not a slave, he realized. These things were my freedom. Are they magical?

Then he remembered Clarke’s maxim: A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And he now remembered that they were essentially artifacts from the future. “Holy shit.”

What did I do with these? What makes them work? He pondered for a while longer. Dull sparks flitted through his brain. Desire. The will to become. “Become what?”

Mighty. I was strong. I was brave. I was foolhardy. Hot headed. Angry. But that wasn’t really such a bad thing. He stood bolt upright, knocking over the chair. He knew. He knew how they worked.

“Now!” As his cry ended he raised his arms high above his head. He slammed his wrists and the two bracelets together. He heard a subdued explosion, a ‘kpft’-ing kind of sound. A puff of smoke, and a faint smell of cheese and onions.

There was something covering his face and head. A balaclava? His clothes felt all tight and clingy. Gloves. Sturdy boots. A moment ago he’d been barefoot, in jeans and a t-shirt.

He looked at his hands. Yellow gloves, with flaring cuffs reaching halfway up his forearms. The bracelets were gone, replaced by hefty yellow wristbands, perhaps a handspan in length from front to back. The wristbands had six large cylindrical capsules spaced evenly about their circumference. All glowed a bright red. The wristbands were neither metal nor plastic, and he knew that they were virtually indestructible.

Red skintight suit. The boots were yellow with large folded over cuffs. Long yellow cape. Red and yellow, the colors of fire. Fire is my friend. I am Fire. Scourge of Darkness. Vanquisher of Evil. Defender of the Light. “Good Goddess, I was a superhero!”

The kitchen of his duplex had a door that opened onto a tiny outside landing and staircase. He found himself standing there, looking at the sky. I belong up there... not sitting by that window night after night like some empty shell. How many years? How long since I lost my mind? How long before I gain it back?

Another thought dawned. The will. The will to become. I fly because I wish it. He gathered himself for a vertical leap. “FLY!” He flung himself into the air.

The leap did not end. The Earth was no longer strong enough to hold him. A force was pushing against the soles of his feet. He looked down and saw... what? At first he thought he saw flames coming from the bottom of his boots, but that wasn’t quite right. The energy conversion was far more efficient than mere fire. An organic thermal photonic maser. Who told him that?

He was already at about one thousand feet and climbing rapidly. He moved into the cooler layer of air, fought off the sudden but slight chill, and kept climbing. The city’s freeway system began to reveal itself, its’ loop and suburban arteries. He began following one south and east, towards the loop, towards the coast.

That way led him towards the industrial district, the factories, refineries, and the great ship channel. It all looked cleaner than he remembered. He reveled in the memory. I have memories! I can think again! My mind has been missing for a very long time.

There was a huge sign over that way. He changed course, dropping down for a better look. The buildings around it were a mix of new and old. He felt that he’d been in some of the older ones. Doing... something.

The sign read ‘Engelhart Industries’ It released a great load of memories so heavy that they nearly knocked him from the sky. He steadied himself, narrowly missing the sign, and resumed his original course.

I’ll be going back there very soon. He hadn’t noticed the abundance of odd shapes, protuberances, and antennae on the sign and its’ supports. But some of them had noticed him.

Barney Engelhart was the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Inventor of Engelhart Industries. His office looked out upon the great sign, though he was looking at his monitors when the crimson and yellow figure flew by. A symbol began blinking in the corner of one monitor. A red and yellow letter ‘O’.

After a few blinks, he realized what he was seeing in the corner of his eye. A wide range of emotions ran through him in a matter of seconds. Then he sighed and buried his head in his hands. He reached out and fumbled for his ‘Do Not Disturb’ button. He had things to think about, and things to do. He was troubled. Yet, somehow, it made sense that it should happen now. Where goes the world?

Kevin banked left, turning North, flying over the channel bridge. He remembered that he flew this route counterclockwise, just to be a bit contrary. Soon it was time to turn left again, heading West over the northern parts of the city. Then the West Loop, heading South.

I grew up somewhere on this side of town. What’s that? A great shopping mall, with three or four more additions that he didn’t quite remember. But there was that huge greenhouse, that great atrium roof. It wasn’t the original, because he’d helped to tear that one off. But who was that skinny guy who picked it up and slammed it down?

This reminded him of other things. He broke course, turning East towards downtown. I’ve got to find the place. The aerie.

Soon he was over the richest neighborhood in the city, above its’ grandest boulevard. He could see the huge country club building, and there, a block to the South, was it. The great mansion... the Manse. My home for some ten years. As soon as he was sure it was the right place, he broke off and sped towards his duplex.

He touched down carefully on his landing and quickly went inside. Now what? He do I change back? He knew that this change was trickier. These wristbands could be dangerous if not properly controlled. Desire. The will. Perhaps once there was a code word. He raised his arms above his head. “Change.” He struck the two bands together. Again, there was the kpft-ing sound, and the smell of cheese and onions. He was mundane again, jeans, t-shirt, bare feet. But he remembered... he remembered many things.

He was also incredibly hungry. He went to the kitchen and ate everything he could get his hands on. It felt good, fuel for the fire. He felt alive... tingly... alert now like a jungle cat.

It’s time to start doing stuff. I don’t want to stay here any longer. He searched the duplex and found nothing that showed any expression of personality, nothing of any worth. Just as well, I want to travel light and fast. Very fast. He took the key out of his pocket and flipped it onto the crummy dinette table. He threw the box and bubble wrap in the can outside.

He looked over at the chair and stuck out his tongue at it, then laughed. Then he looked at the calendar and stopped laughing. 2006. Seventeen years. Seventeen years as a mindless zombie.

“Time to find out why.” He looked at his bracelets, and realized that there was no code word. Only the will to become. He smiled and struck the bracelets together and became... what did they call me? No matter, he was already out the door, flying high and hot to the North and East. A very long and hard flight lay ahead of him. To a place that part of him now feared, and part of him now yearned for. Greenland.

Barney Engelhart stood on the landing of the duplex. He tried the door. Unlocked, of course. He went inside and found nothing of interest, as he expected. He righted the chair, picked up the key, and locked the door. He went downstairs to his car and got inside.

“Back to the plant, please, Mr. Carruthers.” He picked up the phone and pressed a button. “Mrs. Hawkins, please make arrangements to have the duplex cleaned and put up for rent. I won’t be needing it anymore.” He sat back and sighed. I’ve done my part, the next move is someone else’s.

Many hours and many, many miles later, the figure in crimson and yellow lands near a crevasse somewhere in Greenland. He collapsed at once, exhausted from the journey. Thank the Buddha it’s summer... it’s so damn cold! He lays there in the sunshine. After some unknown time he understands that he has been absorbing the sun’s energy into his body. He begins to feel better. Eventually he can sit up and look around.

One crevasse out of many that look just the same, filled with great boulders. Upon closer inspection, he spots old scorch marks and scars on the walls. Unnoticeable unless one was there.

“Time for the hard work. Ra give me strength.” He drops down into the crevasse and seizes a boulder. With a great shout, he lifts the boulder and flings it out. Another. And another. And another. Hours pass. Finally, the last boulder had been thrown.

When he got a good look at it, he almost fainted again. A sleek, curvaceous, hypersonic jet. Even now in her wrack and ruin she looked fast. Very fast. Six seats, six engines, six times the speed of sound. The SexJet.

What was once his pride and joy was now the depths of his despair. He fell to his hands and knees. “I’m sorry... I’m sorry, Jim.” He sobbed, repeating himself over and over again.

How many hours or days had passed he did not know. He knew he’d desecrated a tomb, but it was necessary for his own survival. Eventually he felt enough presence of mind to approach the jet. It was pale not-exactly-yellow, the natural color of the skin material. It could not be painted. Certain parts had other colors nano assembled in. The starboard side of the windscreen was shattered. He couldn’t bear to look inside.

He went around to the port side. The airlock was located towards the stern, overlapped a bit by the wing. He didn’t bother to clean the opalescent panel beside the door before slapping his right hand upon it. After a frighteningly too long pause, the door slowly cycled open. He stepped into the airlock. “She lives.”

The inner door opened and he stepped inside the cabin. The ceiling was just high enough for him. The sight hit him in the gut like ten tons of stone. He sank to his knees, gasping for breath. I just wasn’t good enough... damn me to hell.

When the wave of nausea and self-hatred finally subsided, he looked towards the cockpit. Second seat back on the right, the flight engineer’s station. A single green lamp glowed. Tears filled his eyes, blinding him. “She lives.” Then he was gasping for breath and losing track of time again.

When his mind returned, he stood up. We had cables strong enough to lift her. He found the right locker on the second try and pulled them out. Then he went outside and spent several hours wrapping the cables around the fuselage and wings. He tied the loose ends into something like a harness.

He tied himself into the harness and floated into position above the jet. He lifted up until the cables grew taut. I’ve never lifted anything this heavy, have I? It’s probably gonna hurt a lot before I’m done. He raised his eyes towards the sun and prayed for strength. Then he began to scream, a deep, primal scream. He felt himself tapping into a massive reservoir of rage and pain and suffering and despair. He screamed louder and louder, the anger burning white hot inside his head. His face was now as red as his suit, and still he screamed. The noise could be heard miles away, but no one was near.

He heard the cables creaking, the rocks began to groan. Then he remembered. He put his hands down at his sides, and mighty beams of energy burst forth from his wristbands. He felt the power coursing through his body, waves of heat rising from him. There was a scraping sound, some rocks fell down, and then the SexJet was free, slowly rising and swinging in her harness. And still he screamed, loving the strength that the release of his anger gave him, rising towards the sun with his burden. He flew slowly South and West, back from whence he came.

After a very, very long and painful journey he set the jet down among some sand dunes near the beach. He collapsed face up on the sand, and was unable to move for many days. He contemplated his pain and weakness as the beginnings of his penance. To purify him enough to earn his place in hell.

Eventually he recovered enough strength to sit up and untie himself from the cables. He forced himself up onto wobbly legs. He was dizzy, hungry. He hadn’t eaten in something like three weeks. A reflex made him look at his right wristband. One capsule on the inside of his wrist was yellow on less than a quarter of its’ length, and black along the rest.

“I’m out of gas.” He scratched his chin. “I need food and a shave.” He know the only place he could go. That’s why he chose this spot to lay low, literally.

At dusk he launched himself into the air, though without the vigor to which he had become accustomed. He felt unsteady as he turned toward the sign. Engelhart Industries.

He hovered about a thousand feet above the complex. Miles of girders and pipes and tanks in every direction. He saw a storage yard near the building he recognized. How many levels of security? Not everyone here could have Top Secret clearance, could they? I’ve just got to get past the worker bees. If Barney doesn’t know that I’m here by now the whole damn thing is doomed anyway. He curled into a ball, wrapped his cape around himself and plummeted to the ground. The noises of the complex masked the heavy thud. It was his best guess at avoiding security cameras.

He lay still for many minutes, studying his surroundings. No activity nearby. Through a window he could see a custodian cleaning an office. He was interested in the building next door. The fire escape. This yard was probably the mustering point for fire drills and evacuations from all the surrounding buildings.

He scuttled over to the fire escape. It was a fixed stair running to ground level. He climbed to the top floor. He was relieved to find the opalescent panel still beside the door. A thick layer of grime was upon it, but it responded to his touch. The door opened. He stepped inside. There’s no way he can’t know I’m here. Will he actually let me in?

He walked down the dim hallway to the far end. His hand was shaking as he reached for the handle. He wouldn’t blame anyone if a death ray struck him down. Hell, I’d fuckin’ thank ‘em. Dim lighting inside the door. A large office/laboratory. Many amazing inventions had issued from this space. From one of the oddest and most creative minds the world has ever known. Kevin reached up and pulled back his cowl.

“Barney...” His voice faded into the darkness. “It’s me, Kevin.”

Long silence.

“I know... I was wondering when you’d turn up.” Barney stepped out from behind some equipment racks. “Though I’m not at all pleased about it.” He looked at Kevin warily. “How do you feel?”

Kevin looked at Barney. He hadn’t changed a bit. Six foot four, skeletally thin, another six inches of light (now lighter) brown ‘fro. The hair had powers of its’ own never fully understood.

“Umm...” Kevin felt dizzy gain. He steadied himself against the wall. Not now! “Hungry.”

Something in Barney’s expression softened ever so slightly. “The fridge is over there.” He pointed to the corner farthest away from him. Kevin went to it, turning his back to Barney. He sensed the presence of massive amounts of security devices monitoring his every move. Fine, they’ll register ‘no blood sugar’ and that will explain everything. Then hunger took over and he didn’t think about anything else for a while.

He was sitting on the floor, back against the fridge, working on a gallon of milk when Barney came closer. “How long?”

“Three weeks and a bit, I think.”

“How Do You Feel?” The emphasis on the words was strong and unmistakable.

“I think I feel more like myself.”

“Is that a good thing?”

Kevin looked at Barney for a long time before replying. “I hope so.”

“How much do you remember?”

“I don’t know. Some things.” He was afraid of what Barney’s reaction to his next statement would be. “I’ve been to Greenland.”

Barney’s eyes narrowed and his lips thinned. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

Suddenly he remembered what he wanted here. “Barney, I need Building Seven.”

“Building Seven? But... oh god, I cannot fucking BELIEVE you! That was WRONG!”

Kevin couldn’t look at him. “Maybe it was... but I need the SexJet.”

Barney turned away from him and began to pace the room. “What the hell for?”

“To help find out what the hell’s wrong with me. Where the hell I’ve been. Where the hell I’m going.” He looked at Barney, trying to catch his eyes. “Look, man, I know we saved the future, but the Big O forgot to save one for me!” Then he drank about a quart of the milk in one great chug.

Barney stared at him for a long, long time. Finally he walked over to a console and typed for a couple of minutes. “I’m probably going to regret this.” He didn’t look up from his screen. “Go over there and recharge. No one will see you. I’ll send over some pizza later.”

“Thanks, man.” Kevin finished the milk. “Deep dish.”

“Get out of here before I change my mind.”

Kevin did.

Building Seven was E.I.’s second most secret facility, after Barney’s own Building Two. Many components of the SexJet were built and tested here before the final assembly in the hangar at the manse. He remembered how incredibly fast it went together. The Big O had subtly steered E.I.’s R&D in the years before he assembled the team. Barney got his first Doctorate when he was sixteen. He founded E.I. (as Engelhart Enterprises) a year later. Eight years after that, the Offenders went into action.

Kevin palmed his way into Building Seven, the scent of ammonia announcing that the panel had been recently cleaned. He vaguely remembered the interior. Big building, lots of stuff and a crane. He now recognized many changes, though. Some things just looked newer than other things. His feet led him on. He came to a red door. He palmed it open, revealing a chamber the size of a phone booth. The interior was clearly designed to withstand tremendous heat. He stepped inside. There was a ceramic knob sticking out of the wall. It had a pointer molded into its’ surface. The door shut, then he turned the knob all the way clockwise. The walls lit up with intense heat and bright violet light.

He hadn’t felt this good in years...

When the chamber cycled open, it was morning. Day and night was about all he could keep track of right now. Something like a month since the package arrived. He found the control room and opened the big doors. After some fiddling with the computers he got some information about the building’s equipment. Soon he was riding a heavy cargo lifter towards the jet’s hiding place.

Two hours later he returned to Building Seven with the jet. Under the lights she looked really bad. He set her down on the service cradle and parked the lifter. He found power and data cables with appropriate adaptors and hooked them up. The tool chests held familiar items, alongside their more modern equivalents. This was going to be fun.

A console bonged, and the display informed him that the pizzas had arrived. Six deep dishes later he was ready to work. He glanced at his wrist and read full charge on the capsule.

For the next two weeks he did nothing but work and eat. No more memories resurfaced. That didn’t matter, though. His focus was on repairing the jet. He hadn’t given any more thought to why he needed it. He decided to worry about that later, when he was finished with the task. I need to talk to Barney again when I’m done. I need to find the others. I need to find the rest of my mind.

There came a morning when he was done. He wanted to wait until nightfall before he went back to Building Two. He spent the time at a computer console learning about the World Wide Web. I feel as though this is familiar... but computers weren’t like this... back when. What have I been doing all this time?

He typed in a name. The results came back. A short distance outside London, England. That made sense. He realized that this was why he needed the jet. Neither of us should be trying to fly that far. I’ve seriously overtaxed myself. I don’t believe I’m recovering quite as fast anymore.

Later on he found himself daydreaming about laying on a hot rock inside some volcano’s caldera. I always wished that I could just forget the world for a while... But I guess this time the world forgot about me. There’s nothing about superheroes in the news. Is our time over? Is that why I’ve been a zombie git all these years?

Night came at last. Why do I so love the dark and the night? I need the sun’s rays, but I know that I was out almost every night. Maybe I can talk to Barney about this. He pulled his cowl over his head and went outside.

He climbed the stairs. When he got to the top he saw that the hand scanner had been cleaned. A bit of courtesy. He went inside and down the hall. He opened the lab door and entered. The room sounded as though more things were at work now. Barney must have one big-ass computer in here.

Barney was seated at his desk. He still looked wary. “So you’re done.”

“Yeah. Thanks for all the pizza.”

“So what do you want now?”

“The rest of my memories.”

“I can’t give you that. It’s beyond my capabilities.”

Kevin was confused. “I... thought that’s why you sent me the bracelets.”

Now Barney was confused. “Sent you ? I thought you’d hidden a spare set.”

“The courier service delivered them. There was never a spare set. Ever.”

“You seem to remember a lot.”

Kevin shook his head. “No, not really. Some faces, some names, some... events. The strange thing is that I don’t feel like I’ve been hibernating. I know things – I think I’ve been learning things all the while.” He looked around the room. “What about a brain scan?”

Barney sighed. “Useless. On these instruments you’d essentially be a blank spot. Only the Big O’s equipment works on you and that’s –” He stopped himself. Kevin could see that Barney was upset about saying too much.

“You just used the present tense.” Kevin was smiling just a bit. A clue.

“You can’t go there. You mustn’t go there. Please.”

Kevin wondered if he meant the big house. “Well, actually, I was thinking of tracking down John.”

“He might not be happy to see you.”

“I just hope he’ll talk to me a bit.”

Barney was looking at him. Examining him. He frowned. “Hence the jet. I still can’t believe you towed it all that way. You shouldn’t have been capable.”

“I wasn’t really. But I didn’t know that then. I had to put it down a lot.”

Barney looked at a monitor and typed for a bit. He didn’t look up as he spoke. “I can’t really stop you from doing anything, I can only ask... Sure, go find John – but please stay away from the Manse.”

“Why?”

“If you don’t remember, I’m not going to tell you. It’s for you own good.” He looked at Kevin. Kevin said nothing. “I’ll track the jet from here. Her computer now has contact information for all our operations worldwide. When you find the number for the London area ask for Fiona MacDonald. She can help with anything except for trouble with law enforcement agencies. Try not to get yourself arrested. Or noticed at all, preferably.”

Kevin flung his arms out into a sort of ‘who me?’ sort of gesture that didn’t go over so well. “Right.”

“Tell John I... things just haven’t been the same without him lately.”

Kevin nodded once, and left the room without speaking. He stepped outside onto the landing and looked over at Building Seven. Yellow strobes began blinking and the hangar doors started to open. A bit of a smile reached his lips. “Thanks, Barney.” He sprang from the landing and and flew towards the hangar doors.

The SexJet’s beacons were flashing, the cockpit lights were on, the airlock door was open. Angry Man landed just inside the doors. “Again, thanks.”

He entered the jet and the smile left his face. The co-pilot’s seat was missing. He’d decided not to replace it. Hadn’t seemed right somehow. Six seats... who was number six? Second seat on the port side. He reached out to touch a shoulder that wasn’t there. What is this I feel?

The question was chased away by the flight engineer’s console booting up, followed by the mains. Time to go to work. He strapped himself into the reinforced left seat. Much the same, yet different. Barney had supplied many new modules for the rebuild. A new heads up display showed him the preflight checklist. He began the process.

Soon it was time to start the engines. A soft button lit up with the word ‘Boost’. He pressed it. The text disappeared, and the turbo-pumps began to whine. A bar graph began to rise, red to yellow to green. The button lit up again, now reading ‘Start’. He pressed it. He felt a stronger vibration as the first Baby Blowtorch turbojet spooled up. A sweet sound. When the pitch was right, he looked at the button. His finger was already upon it, for he knew what it now read. “IGNITE!”

Chuff-chuff-chuff – VOOM! The plane rocked slightly to starboard as the engine built up thrust. The board was green, and he repeated the process for engine number two.

He checked the instrument panel. Then, a memory from long ago. “Two turning and none burning.” An old pilot’s invocation. Then a horn sounded, and the cradle the ship was resting on began to slide out the door.

“Nice touch.” He started the other four engines, then throttled up one and two. The jet floated out of the cradle, light as thistledown. He cleared the top of the building, rotated the engines to lift the nose, then pushed all six throttle levers to full thrust. The plane leaped towards the moon. South to the Gulf, then east to the Atlantic Ocean.

With the course laid into the nav computer and the autopilot on, he had time to read. He studied everything new about the jet. He read news feeds. He studied maps of The British Isles. The jet was stealthier than before. He could fly and land anywhere without detection by any radar he might encounter.

In a room full of musical instruments and production equipment somewhere outside of London, a double neck bass/guitar combo moaned. Something like unto St. Elmo’s fire flickered up and down the frets. John dePebble stirred in his sleep. Once again, his dreams became troubled.

An Habitual Offender by
Kevin L. Corridon is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

kelson.philo's picture

A very intriguing beginning.

A very intriguing beginning. "The will to become" was nicely phrased.

It certainly looks like a novel to me!

The exhilarating, intriguing, pacily written opening chapter makes me eager for the second - and the rest, in due season.

thank you

Based on a comic book developed with four friends in high school circa 1979. It's when I truly got the writing bug.