09 July 2010


By Curtis C. Chen

"I'm going to let him out of the bag for a minute."

"Do not let him out of the bag."

"Just for a minute."

"Do not open that bag!"

The armored truck's front left tire hit a pothole, and Derek cursed as he bounced in the driver's seat. The heavy vehicle, swathed in steel and doused with drag-inducing kinetic wards, handled like a drunk beaver on stilts.

Jay, the younger man in the passenger seat, craned his neck to look at the man-sized lump wrapped in sackcloth and chained to the floor of the rear compartment.

"Are you sure he can breathe in there?" Jay asked.

"You do remember what his power is, don't you?" Derek replied. "He's a persuader. He influences people, gets them to do what he wants."

"Well, that's why we're wearing these, right?" Jay lifted the diamond-shaped pendant around his neck. "Besides, if he were controlling me, I'd probably just pull my gun on you."

Derek grunted. "It's not that simple. He doesn't pull your strings like a puppetmaster. He gets under your skin, into your subconscious. Makes you think you believe things you don't. You don't even realize you're being influenced. Guys like this don't leave fingerprints."

"Guess we're lucky to have caught him at all, then." Jay cocked his head. "Did you hear that?"

Derek kept his eyes on the road. "No."

"Sounded like coughing."

He unbuckled his seat belt and leaned toward the doorway. Derek took one hand off the steering wheel, grabbed the roll bar behind his head, and yanked the wheel over hard. The truck swerved, knocking Jay's head against the passenger side window. The truck flipped onto its left side, scraped down the road, and shuddered to a stop.

Jay's unconscious form had fallen onto Derek and pinned him. Derek flexed his fingers, tracing sigils in the air. A blue cloud appeared and levitated Jay's limp body into the rear compartment. Derek disentangled himself from his seat belt and the airbag which had deployed from the steering column, then climbed through the doorway.

The prisoner stood on the wall which was now down, both arms lifted by the shackle and chain holding him to the vertical floor. His head, still bagged, wiggled from side to side, but stopped when Derek hopped down into the compartment.

"What's going on?" the prisoner called out.

Derek didn't answer. He looked down and moved his fingers again. Jay's right arm stiffened, lifted a key off his belt, and clumsily unlocked the shackle around the prisoner's left wrist.

"You gave him a dead charm," the prisoner said. "You're a controller, too! You breakin' me out, bro?"

Derek drew his sidearm from its holster, cocked it, and aimed at the prisoner's chest. "Killed while trying to escape."

"What?" The prisoner jerked back. "Wait! Let's talk about this!"

"Say hello to my daughter for me," Derek said.

He pulled the trigger once, twice, three times, and then it was over.


Photo: Blade Runner "spinner" flying car at the Science Fiction Museum, Seattle, September, 2008

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