Direct sequel to Binding but this makes sense as a standalone.
I knew I was doing the right thing.
I just wish it didn’t have to hurt so much.
It was strange, hidden in the heavy rain, body wound tight like a cat about to pounce, watching the mobsters and gangsters move across the oil platform. It was my first time I would be doing anything like this, yet my mind couldn’t escape the fact that I had hurt someone.
The Suit wasn’t made for me; it was made for the world. We, as a team, wanted to save the world, so we designed a suit that could protect anyone no matter the cost.
I stole it because he scared me. There was this look in Hector’s eyes that didn’t seem right. This greed, this insatiable thirst for something he was too scared to say out loud, and of course I understood that. I wanted things for the world too.
But I often felt like I wasn’t talking to that cunning aleck I grew up with. But perhaps I was wrong, perhaps I was always trying to find something that wasn’t really there.
I could see him lying there wide awake in bed, terrified that some one had stolen his baby and was going to use it to destroy the world. I felt his heart beat in his chest, this loud thump thump that if accelerated any further would dare to kill him.
Yet there I stood, wrapped in the metal, the synthetic body warped to fit the exact proportions of my body. I felt lighter in it than in my Sunday best.
The breastplate squashed my breasts against my chest like any old binder would. I felt alive.
A sudden lurch and a fatigue unlike any other came over me. The window was closing, the window I needed to slip through to become something more than I was a moment prior.
If I was to strike, it had to be now.
I shut my eyes and breathed, realizing I hadn’t been for the past minute as it all flushed out at once. I had to forget about Hector. Just for now.
I didn’t think it was going to bother me so much.
It just because of the time. So many hours in the lab with Lucius, it does something to you. Someone stole my baby and I didn’t know where she was.
Not like I was present, really. The past few weeks of tinkering I was here, organizing things for our little boat side robbery. It wasn’t fair to Lucius of course to split my mind so evenly, but he would never be on board with — this.
How do I put this without being offensive?
This — transition, obviously — was important to him, but it took up a lot of his brain space and I needed his head in the game.
I wanted him to be happy, but unfortunately his belief in happiness was that we should give everyone a second chance and talk things over with them and blah blah whatever.
I wish I could be more like him.
I hugged my overcoat closer to myself as the wind swept in from the sea. It was so deathly silent. I had been planning this operation for months and here we were — doing my plan, point for point, second for second, and yet I heard nothing.
Why would someone take the Suit? It didn’t make any sense. No one knew we were making it — maybe it was some kind of vigilante determined to use it take down evil. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.
Please let it be someone who knew what they were doing.
My first landing was rough; I tripped and stumbled forward, collapsing the patrolling mobster into the tower I intended to push him against. It took him a moment to come to and understand what was going on, but by the point I had wrapped my gauntlet around his throat.
His flesh squished inward so easily — but it was so vital. If I wanted to, I could end him. To be honest though, that wasn’t what I was thinking about when I grabbed him — believe me, I wish it were. I’d rather be thinking about the moral and ethical dilemmas a vigilante faced every evening as opposed to the loud stream of expletives that clouded my mind as I sloppily made my attempt to knock him out.
When his body hit the wet ground, my chest was so tight and my face so pink beneath the black helm of the suit. At this point, my mind did spring to something more serious — perhaps this was a bad idea and perhaps I still had time to escape.
No one needed to know I was there and I could forget about this.
I wanted to think about how the weapon that was being constructed mere yards away from me would end the lives of thousands if it were to reach its intended shores, I wanted that to be my motivation.
Not the guy that came around the corner to tell a joke to his buddy whom he was shocked to find slumped over at the feet of a quivering masked man.
I mean — I won’t complain, it worked, and it saved me some time — but that moment knocked at least a few years off my life span. I’m fifty five now and I already feel that I am at death’s door. A bad knee, a cough, and digestions problems, all because of this sensitive moment in my twenties.
I heard gun shots echo through the sky and I nearly vomited.
First the Suit and now this. Some personal vendetta was being unfolded against me, I thought. My skin tightened and I longed to rip the railing off of the boat and throw it into the sea, or maybe punch the windows that whizzed past me as I dashed down the length of the vessel.
I wanted — needed — to kill.
Not healthy I know, but believe me, I’ve been working on it with my shrink for the past few years now and she’s taught me a lot about the wonders of stress balls.
Maybe if I had a stress ball that night everything would have gone better. Ah, then again, you don’t want to be known as the weird mob boss who hands out stress balls to keep everyone calm and collected, ha ha…
Murder, isn’t that an interesting thing to jump to in a weak moment? It’s telling because in that moment, or at least in the moment of calm after it all passes, you learn everything you need to know about yourself.
You learn that you are fucked up, and you can either embrace that and let it be or you can fight it, and lose. You won’t win that fight, trust me.
I nearly tripped on the water — and I wanted to scream at someone for not cleaning up the mess. Of course, this was just the nature of the beast because we were in the middle of the ocean. I did mouth off to the idiot mook who saw me trip, my voice shooting up into that innate prissiness that I tried to keep away from them.
I didn’t want to play the entitled trust fund baby mouthing off at his dad’s hired thugs, I wanted to be someone in control, ah, but that wouldn’t happen for a long time.
“What’s going on?”
“I’m not sure—they, they just started shootin’ is all.”
“I want them dead,” I heard myself say.
Lucius wouldn’t have been proud of me right now; he couldn’t understand.
I flipped and turned and pivoted, gliding away from each mobster and flowing into my next strike.
It was like a drug — hurting these people gave me life. I knew it was wrong to give in to violence, but these were our abusers and murders. They hated us — and they had to be stopped.
I dropped one cowering scum bag and let his unconscious head fall into a metal pipe as I threw myself back into the shadows, a hail-fire of bullets soaring into where I once was.
They would be coming soon so I needed to move. I remembered when my first mask had been torn off and how they looked at me — this little girl playing hero.
There was something satisfying in who I was now.
If I had been looking into a mirror, I might have scared myself.
Creeping across the crane as the rest of the gangsters swarmed at the base, I looked over to see a man I recognized from college — his name was Clancy. He was one of Hector’s best friends. I never really saw the appeal.
There was this — gentle, rising and falling in my stomach. It had to be just a coincidence. I always knew Clancy was trouble.
Clancy climbed into some sort of chair and I realized he was activating the thing I came here to destroy.
What was that idiot doing?
We hadn’t even tested the damn thing and he was already turning it on.
Still though, we needed this guy killed. I couldn’t let this happen on my first job — I needed this — or rather — the people — the people needed it.
This shadow darting from man to man, striking them down one by one, was noble. They were putting their life on the line for folks they would never meet or know as a friend.
They were also stupid. Their view of the world must have been so black and white to parade around in a costume of all things. This isn’t a world where anyone gets to do exactly what they want — this is a world of sacrifice.
I do what I do because it saves some people, and yeah, if that means I have to kill someone — I’m the one who will be losing sleep over it at night, and I was fine with that.
It was hard not to smile when the death ray — okay, the particle disintegrator — lurched upwards. Despite the moron that was at its helm, I knew we were ready to get rid of a world-class nuisance — some hopeless idealist who waited their whole life for this moment — only to pathetically die.
You can call me sick. I don’t mind.
It was only a matter of time before they spotted me, and more importantly, before that haze would overcome me again. I needed to fight. Right now, I had to strike. I had to fight.
But when I jumped off the crane and avoided the first blast, I landed in front of the man giving orders and I looked up at him, ready to grab him as a hostage to get me out of there.
He was much younger than I expected, his curly hair already receding backwards with the great turmoil he put himself under. Heavy overcoat hiding those narrow shoulders of his, making his chest into something formidable. A permanently clenched jaw and steely gray eyes that had darkened over the years. Pale skin that was stretched to the limit with each gesture. Hands at his side, the fingers dangling lifelessly, like the numb hands of a murderer.
I say these things because it was apparent after a second that I already knew this person. I had known him my whole life really and it destroyed my world when I realized who was behind all this.
The shadowed figure dropped directly in front of me, legs bent inwards, hand planted firmly on the ground, preventing him from falling.
It was the Suit. My baby. Wasn’t it enough for this thief to steal the suit? What could he want with my death ray —
He was staring at me, so still that I could see his chest rise and fall.
He had come all this way and now all of a sudden this freak was getting the shakes. Coward. If he was closer, I would have spat on him.
Why wasn’t he moving? It’s as if he was — frozen? Transfixed by me, like he didn’t expect me to be the guy.
Oh my God.
I couldn’t see his eyes behind the red visor of the mask but I knew how he was looking at me right now because…
I knew him.
Hector Morton Welles. My best friend since my childhood, a man born into a rich family that took me in when my parents didn’t want me anymore. A man I had to fight not to fall in love with. A man who not only wanted to change the world but to mold it into his own liking — someone not afraid to die if it meant saving at least two lives. This noble but somehow evil, disgusting being that I called my best friend.
Lucius Eliwood Gawain. My best friend since my childhood, a woman who wanted to be in the boy’s club. A gaunt fella with a tooth brush mustache and coke bottle lenses for glasses, always dressed in corduroy.
Those giant pearly whites of his always stuck out when he laughed.
So he was in charge of the mob?
I — I — I wasn’t surprised? But I was angry that I chose not to see this.
God. I loved this man.
I grew up with him, we went to first grade together and played in the playground, dancing around making airplane noises. I counted on him every day to sit next to me on the bus and he would even let me hold his hand when I felt sad.
I wouldn’t be the man I was if it wasn’t for him and he had been so kind and forgiving to me. When my family abandoned me, his doors opened up and gave me shelter.
I hoped he felt the same way about me. That I had a positive effect on him. I thought I made him strong.
I guess not.
Was this my fault? Did I do this to him? Did I push him away and make him into — this?
Was I pushy? Did my transition hurt him? Did my attempts to make him more socially conscious — I — fuck, that doesn’t even matter right now, what am I talking about?
Men with guns were looking to him for what to do next, selfish men that didn’t care about the world beyond their own borders. And he was smiling, that cocky smirk with cold eyes that passed through anything. Like he didn’t even know me, the way he would look at me with his friends sometimes in high school when he was embarrassed by my “cross dressing.”
I loved him.
True, it had been fading for a long time, but every now and then he would say something and smile at me and — did — did he just — he totally just looked over to Clancy to see if he was still pointing the death ray at me.
Behind the mask, my mask, my creation, my baby. This wasn’t what it was supposed to be for — no — he — he knew. He knew he was going to do this to me. From the very start he wanted the Suit to be used for good, to not be too powerful or to — The whole time? Years?
No, that can’t be right — he wouldn’t do that to me, he’s shocked, right? Shocked to see me standing here with my goons and overcoat. He’s too stunned to speak, maybe he’ll stop, maybe he’ll understand that what he is doing is wrong, he’ll fall to his knees and hand me the helmet and I’ll forgive him.
I’ll — forgive — no. He is embarrassing me again. He has stolen from me and now is going to ruin my first steps into my new world.
But, he didn’t — he didn’t know it was me doing — okay, okay, I — that has nothing to do with this. Lucius wants to do the right thing and this isn’t — necessarily — he’s — Should I tell him that Clancy is about to blast him with the Death Ray?
…son of a…fucking bitch.
Nah. He’ll figure it out.
I flipped into the air as the green beam soared under my feet, tearing the Earth apart, knocking debris into the air.
There wasn’t anything I could to protect myself while airborne, the only thing that was really left was to curl into a ball and hope I didn’t get hit in the head but then —
Pain. And agony, and a blur of gray as my carcass rolled across the ground, dust kicked up around me and shrouding me, a crunch to my bones that I did not think was possible.
The red tint that passed over my eyes through the mask vanished — halfway, and I felt the cool air throttling into my head for a mere second before I crashed into a stone, and again, a new pain that I never would have been able to even imagine and to this moment — be able to articulate — clamped onto my head and —
Black. Color again. Gray. Red. Black. Gray. Darker. Black again, a vacuum blowing through my ears.
Oh my God.
I should’ve told him.
I pulled myself out of the new formed ditch, half the helm falling to my feet, my vision steadying on Hector watching me from afar.
Everything stung and I couldn’t even imagine what had happened to my body, what had hit me. I felt burning all over I guess, but that couldn’t be it. There had to be more.
I wanted to die, I needed to die, I needed just a bit more to throw me over the edge and end the suffering.
But I couldn’t let him see that side of me, couldn’t let him have the satisfaction I am sure he was fighting to truly enjoy in this moment.
He needed to know that he was scum and that even if I were to keel over and die — that — he was nothing and that even my corpse was stronger than him.
My twitching fingers struggled to hold me above the ground, my chest bowed before the dust, and I looked up at him, using every scrap of energy I had.
And I focused on him, I stared into him, and that massive blur that was all I could make out for once faded into his outline, and I saw a straight line curved slightly upwards fall into something sadder — something more defeated.
He understood, I think.
Fingers twitching, needing something to strangle the life out of.
Blood had replaced the skin on his gangly neck, sticky like flypaper, dripping onto the shoulders of my baby.
A hazel eye that was usually so bright and loving glaring at — me, I suppose — with the bottom row of teeth held straight and gnarled, a wheeze pushing through the bone.
A chest heaving, throbbing the whole body into this rapid breath, a flushed cheek pink from the cold ocean wind exposed to it.
Sweat-matted hair sticking out of the mask like loose wires, hung partially over his eye, a stone caught in its curl.
Glowing, he was glowing. Ever youthful, still caught in that second puberty of his, it was like some kind of — angel, was angry with me — and in that moment, yeah, it did feel like I was the bad guy here. Like I clipped the wings of this pure Angel who just wanted good for the world.
But he didn’t understand yet. He didn’t understand that his vision was impossible, that sometimes you needed to break a few eggs and such.
Who am I kidding?
This is just me right now. A self-reflection, why am I lying?
I’m the bad guy. But I couldn’t help but look at him and feel this familiar surge signaling me to hate.
Cold, I felt cold. The guns held by these men around me made sense. It made sense that this is where I was and who I was.
Remorse? No — maybe pity. Isn’t it strange?
To grow up in love and to work together and be in love and to then look at them dying at your hand and all you can think is — good.
If I had lived my whole life to do that to someone — to teach him that he was rotten inside — I guess that would be enough.
We were stronger than them but they were willing to do more.
I survived though, oddly enough.
He got away. I think I let him do it. I’m not sure.
He was stronger than me after all. Which meant I had to fight harder because I alone could never stop him.
I’d like to think if he died that day he would have become more stronger than he had in his long life. But maybe that’s just me bullshitting. He was stronger either way. I lost.
I became a father to my everything. My beautiful daughter. Katrina.
I had a son. Matthew. It felt like I had to bear a son, that I had to lend the rest of my humanity to something before I lost it.
I kept fighting. I can promise you I dedicated every scrap of energy each day to fight. To resist. I kept the mask and used it for war. In my day to day life, I got hired as a Clinic Receptionist at the LGBT Center and moved on to run my own homeless shelter for LGBT Youth.
I continued arms dealing, it brought me pretty far in life. It was strange coming to the lab in the coming days to tinker away at a new weapon without my partner.
I couldn’t remember the designs and a few years later, I shut the lab down and hired better people to do that kind of work for me.
My desk had a water cooler beside it. Felt pretty nice.
It hurt, of course. The pain from that night never went away, but it was a kind reminder of death. That’s what my therapist helped me interpret it as.
The point is I moved on. I lived my life.
I’m sorry Lucius.
It could have gone differently, but…I…
What I am trying to say, to verbalize, to communicate, to — to — to —
We are stronger than them. Always.
Don’t be afraid.
Get out there and —
When did everything get so messed up?
What — what — could have caused — this?
— change the world.