Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pandora's Playground 8

"Restricted floor access, forty-fifth floor," announced the familiar pleasant voice as Deathgrind stepped into the second sea of security officers on his way to the party. He had expected this layer to be less accommodating than the first, but again, scanning his credentials was enough. The guard motioned to elevators on the other side of the room.

"Enjoy the party," she finished the sentence uncertain, then asked, "Would ... you like me to check your cape?"

Deathgrind chuckled, then replied in as polite a tone as his voice changer would allow, "No, thank you, ma'am."

The cape was an integral part of his ensemble for the evening; it hung in what he believed to be a timeless fashion over both of his shoulders, to say nothing of its tactical value. The armor he wore was a minimalist version of his usual, designed to be sleek, stylish and comfortable. Although armored plates still covered his most vital areas, few were visible. Those showing were diminutive, with swept shapes and gold etchings. His sturdy metallic gauntlets were replaced by supple black leather gloves; rather than a helmet, a tight cloth mask crowned with a velvet top hat hid his identity. Confident that his guise would outclass everyone in attendance, Deathgrind resumed his swagger across the room.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pandora's Playground 7

The huge man snorted as he was wrenched from his dreams by a noise he was not yet awake enough to identify. Stretching his neck, he could feel a glob of snot that bridged all the way to his no longer white tank top. He failed to wipe it off twice before remembering that he had to do that with his left hand. Everything had to be done with his left hand, now. He looked around for any furniture he could reach, but resigned himself to clean his hand by way of his jeans again. The noise came again; it was a rapid succession of knocks on the door.

"Gimmie a minute!" he shouted, pushing forward on the stick controlling his wheelchair. It groaned forward; the motor was not made for as much weight as it had to carry. Halfway to the door, his right leg, held stiff and straight out by a brace, brushed a pizza box off of a table. The hardened, leftover slices spilled out next to a pile of crumpled beer cans. The rattling of the cans urged him to reach for the bottle of pain pills he kept on that table. He popped a few into his mouth and chewed. It was too early for this shit.

The door rattled against the frame when it was assaulted this time. An agitated voice yelled from the other side, "C'mon! Two more deliveries after this. I ain't got all day!"

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pandora's Playground 6

Despair fell heavy on Dechs when he realized the situation he was in. He already had over two hundred thousand tied up in the pot, most of it was trying to scare his opponent out of the hand at the turn. There was no need to look at his cards, but he did anyway, reminding himself he should have just folded the suited eight-ten. It was a decent hand, but something about this hand had always brought the worst kind of luck. Why should today have been different? Yes, he had the high straight on the table, but the river was a third heart and that bastard across the table had the flush. Maybe.

The dealer tonight was less attractive than the one he remembered seeing last week; the impatient scowl she tried to hide was not doing her any favors. Ten people had taken seats in the private room nearly three hours ago; another five minutes would not make a difference. Of the eight players who had already run out of luck, Dechs had finished off three himself, along with four glasses of a delicious Laphroaig quarter cask the casino was happy to provide. Unfortunately, all three conquests were the current short stack, failing to secure a chip lead against his final opponent. That opponent sat motionless, save for the flipping of a chip over and again between his spindly blotched fingers. Every so often, the chip would make a distinct clink as it struck past the gold Masonic ring, a sound which somehow broke its owner's composure. Each noise let confidence leak out as the slightest twitch of a smile, barely noticeable within all the wrinkles of his face. That meant the flush for sure. Damn it, there was no easy way out of this.

"All in." Dechs pushed his chips forward and spoke devoid of emotion.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pandora's Playground 5

Out of the twenty windows along the outside wall of the motel, only five did not have sections boarded up or cracked. Two cars were in the parking lot, the better of which was missing one of its rear wheels. The street corner to the left was home to a pair of working girls, the other to a degenerate selling an assortment of powders in plastic baggies. The street itself was littered with glass bottles, syringes and cigarette butts, among other sorts of refuse. Gang graffiti decorated more nearby buildings than not. Despite all this, the motel remained in business, most likely attributed to the proprietor, whom Deathgrind had noted as more than capable of defending his territory. He further noticed that the rates were reasonable, even including the 'no questions asked' charge. This would be a delightful spot to perform the interrogation.

Deathgrind carried the psychic up to the second floor, still unconscious and over his right shoulder. Slung across his back, under his cape, was his most familiar weapon, a two handed axe made from the same alloy as his armor. The semicircle blade, almost two feet from heel to toe, protruded over his left shoulder. The cheek bore ornate etchings, but the blade itself was the true work of art. A trained eye would see how the metal had been folded over itself time and again while it was being forged, resulting in an edge far more keen and strong than could be produced by any other method. The end of the haft hung by his right knee, only visible from the front or when the cape fluttered just so.

Upon entering the room, Deathgrind first found a sturdy wooden armchair into which he half tossed the psychic. Kneeling next to the chair, he wrapped several layers of duct tape around each wrist and ankle of his prisoner. There came a stir and a groan, then a sudden jerking, as the psychic awoke and gazed about the room. He found it frightening enough with the poor lighting, brown-red stains on the floor and a couple spent shell casings, never mind the behemoth who was just now leaning his axe against a wall in plain view. There were a few discarded bondage toys that gave the room a sort of dungeon feel, but the axe was the crowning piece of intimidation. That was all the time he had to observe before an electric shock caused him to shudder violently.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pandora's Playground 4

Dechs Kaison sat behind the grand mahogany desk in his office, staring into the empty glass that still smelled of malted barley. The bottle called to him from its place on the minibar, asking at the very least to be put back on the shelf. Dechs gazed from the glass to the bar, then to his cane resting at the edge of his desk; the white gold head had already been fixed to a new charcoal black shaft. With a frustrated grunt, he propped his feet up on the desk and glanced over at the fish tank. The two Indonesians were as beautiful and lazy as ever, floating about slower than even the minute hand on his gold Movado timepiece. Who would be first to arrive?

The sound of a sliding door was followed by the heavy footfalls of an armored boot; a reflection of red and black appeared on the glass of the fish tank. Deathgrind was only ten minutes early. "I appreciate you meeting with me on such short notice."

"To be fair, I consider giving me notice at all to be an improvement." Dechs planted his feet back on the ground and stretched his open hand toward one of the leather chairs sitting across from himself. "Have a seat. George should be here any minute."

"George?" Deathgrind prodded with a tilt of his head. He flung his heavy cape over the back of the chair as he slumped into it.

"Said you needed a doctor. I called in my best."

"Best in what area?"

"My. Best." The words were at the same time reassuring and final.

Deathgrind grunted approval, then craned his neck as a brief metallic ratcheting rang out. In looking for the source of the noise, he instead found a man standing behind the minibar. Deathgrind could count four hairs on top of the man's head and twice that number in wrinkles around his eye alone. A snap judgement put him at five and a half feet tall, weighing no more than a hundred forty pounds. He ripped off a pair of blue plastic gloves and dropped them in the wastebasket on his way around the bar; there was a spring in his step that belied his apparent age. Pulling down the surgeon mask, revealing teeth too perfect to be originals, he blurted, "Sorry I'm late. What do you need?"

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pandora's Playground 3

The trap sprung right outside the tunnel, yards before the first split. Someone dove into view from the right; Deathgrind swerved, but felt like the right side of his stolen truck had hit a ramp. He was spinning, rolling and hurtling forward. The truck was sliding on its roof before the gunshots rang out, two high caliber pistols and one small. Ramming into the Jersey barrier pinned the driver side door closed while a beast of a man tore the passenger door clean from its hinge. Deathgrind was facing the tunnel he had come from and the other three people who had jumped him, reloading.

None of it mattered. They had already failed.

Deathgrind had managed to brace himself against the worst of the wreck. Most of the bullets connected, but none had made it through his armor. The man-beast surged in through the missing door, not expecting Deathgrind to be conscious, let alone coherent enough to retaliate. Deathgrind delivered what was an uppercut for him, driving face into ground, then followed with several strikes to the base of the neck. Unbuckling, he fell to the ceiling and started to crawl out over the limp body.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Pandora's Playground 2

Like the rest of the building interior, the elevators had been completely redone. The warm old character had been replaced with sterile stainless steel. The walls were decorated with a frosted design mimicking New York's old skyline, a 360 degree panoramic view as seen from this location, complete with the Twin Towers. There were no controls inside the elevator, save for the small touch screen which only had a card reader and a button to return to the lobby. Big band jazz played over the speaker inside, but there was hardly enough time for a whole song before the elevator stopped.

"Ace's office, sixty first floor," announced a delightful female voice.

The hallway fell silent as soon as the doors closed behind Deathgrind. He walked to the south wall and its dismal view of what remained in the city, made all the more poignant by the image inside the elevator. In fact, he might not have noticed the holes in the skyline were it not for that recent reminder. Held captive by the city, he could not turn away from it, even as the sound of footsteps approached. Every other step was punctuated by the striking of metal on tile. Step, crack-step, step, crack-step. They stopped about ten feet away. A man's coarse, calm voice called out, "It took you long enough to show up. I was beginning to think you hadn't got my message."

"Of all the things your message was, Mr. Kaison," there was a smile in his tone as he finished, "subtle was not one of them."