The Negative Man: City of Chaos (Chapter 2)

Less than two weeks until The Negative Man hits the shelves, both in paperback and e-book form.  If you missed chapter 1 – read it here:  https://ragnarokonice.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/the-negative-man-city-of-chaos-chapter-1/

So without further interruption, Two Dudes, Brews, & Books presents –

The Negative Man Cover

Chapter 2 –

Thursday Morning; Alameda Apartment Complex

I turned my television on in the morning to the local news. It seemed they were in the middle of live, late breaking news already.  “I’m sure the Pacific Station Electric Authority will have more for us on the power surges and random outages citywide.  Thanks the latest down at the power plant.”

The camera changed from one angle to another of the news host, Brandon Howard. “But the news you all want to hear about is the fight between The Ace Diamonds and The Dark Lion.  We’re going downtown where correspondent Geri Paisley is on hand with Police Chief Grimes.”

The screen flashed right to PSPD Chief Harvey Grimes talking about the disturbance the night before. Geri was in the process of grilling him about the activities the night before.  “So you’re okay with The Dark Lion killing one of The Aces?  Shouldn’t he be arrested for murder?”

Grimes voice was like a growl from a large bear. A very angry bear that was interrupted from hibernating.  “Murder?  The man did us a public service!  If he puts those other three assholes six feet under, I’ll personally give him the key to the city!”

Murmurs broke out amongst the reporters. Paisley asked a pretty shocking follow up.  “Let me get this straight?  You’re okay with The Dark Lion, or any of the other super powered vigilantes killing criminals?  What about due process?”

“When will you prissy idiots understand?” He slammed his hand on the podium.  “These super powered criminals have declared war on Pacific Station!  For all we know The Negative Man’s behind this!  The only place these criminals can’t hurt us is with their dead bodies in wood boxes!”

I flicked the TV off, a bit shocked by how far Chief Grimes was willing to go. Any hopes of talking DL out of killing anymore of those villains just went out the door.  Over the past few weeks, I’d been getting frustrated with his lethal force.  I thought we were better than that.  Getting ready, I hopped in my car and headed back to the office.

I spent a majority of my time there. Between my regular nine to five IT job, most nights were spent behind the desk in John Wonderton’s secret lair.  It was a hidden floor directly below his, separating the thirtieth floor from the twenty-ninth.  Only the man upstairs knows how he got the permits for that without raising suspicion.

The Wonder-Tech building was just on the edge of downtown.  The glass monstrosity shined in the sunlight, hurting my eyes.  I guess all those years looking at computer screens late into the night fried my eyes, making them incredibly sensitive.  My polarized sunglasses were my saving grace.

I dug into my pocket with my left hand and pulled out my keycard to get in. I nodded at the newest security guard (I never learned their names, they generally only lasted a week for some reason), and headed for the elevator.  I was the only one close by, which was nice and I entered.  Hitting the twenty-seventh floor, I leaned back ready to go up.

A hand stuck in between the door and the incredibly beautiful Heather Adams sauntered in. I’m no slouch at five nine, but in her tall black heels, she was easily six foot.  Her skirt barely covered her ass, and the white shirt she was wearing hugged her toned body.  She’d been an all-conference softball player in college and remained in remarkable shape to this day.

Playfully she hooked her finger around my sunglasses and pulled them off. “Jericho, I swear you cover up your eyes on purpose.”  I’d known her almost since day one of starting here (we were hired two days apart) and I still wasn’t used to the attention she gave me.

The fluorescent light of the elevator was harsh, irritating my eyes. “Forgive me, I’m like a mole.  The light doesn’t agree with me much.”

“Stop staring at computers all night and that won’t happen!” Her shoulder length brown hair with blonde highlights shuffled as she gave a small laugh.  “I’ll never understand why Mr. Wonderton makes you work so hard and so late.”

My hair was almost shoulder length too, but not nearly as attractive as hers. I tucked my black hair behind my ears.  “We’re working on some pretty cool prototypes.  Or we were until the servers got swiped last night.”

“I heard about that this morning. Chief Grimes went off on a reporter about the whole thing!  I couldn’t believe he okay’d the use of extreme force.”

Before I could respond, the floor dinged. “Well this is where I get off.”

She flicked my nose. “I’ll be seeing you around Jericho, don’t you worry.”

I got off the elevator confused. Heather always took an unnatural interest in me, but I was just a weird computer guy.  The guy who greeted me off the elevator couldn’t help but notice too.  “Adams talking to you again?  I’m telling you, she’s got something for the dorky, brooding type.”  He shook his head.  “Why couldn’t it be me?  She wastes her attention on you, I swear.”

“Yeah, stopped the elevator to get on with me. A girl like, she’s probably just toying with me huh?”

Mike Blackfield nodded knowingly. “Girls like her want to have nerds at their disposal. Flash us a smile or brush up against us and they think we’ll be at their beck and call.”

“Aren’t we?”

He laughed. “You’re damn right we are!  What else do we have going for us?”

I entered my office and clicked the shade button. Much better.  With another click, the radio came on and I got down to work.  I opened my email and saw DL sent me one already this morning.

Jericho,

Attached is a blood analysis from Diamonds. I want you to read it over and come up to my office later to go over your findings.  As always, keep this between us.  Also, can you get with Jenkins about the servers?  I figured between the two of you there’s a chance we hadn’t lost everything.

John W.

Jenkins could wait, but the blood analysis was too tempting to put off. I opened the attachment and began reading what the Mass Spec came up with.  Genetics weren’t my area of specialty, but I knew a bit more than DL did.  Plus whatever I didn’t understand, I’d just use the Internet to figure out.

I must’ve lost track of time because I heard a knock on my door. It was always open, but I think people were leery of me.  You know, that creepy IT guy stereotype.  Looking up, Heather Adams was back.  She had a few files in her hands too.  “Are you busy?”

I motioned for her to come in and take a seat. “Yeah, John has me going over some schematics, but what’d you got there?”  I pointed at the files.

“Phil Jenkins gave these files to me to review.” Heather was our legal editor by the way.  “I have some concerns, but before I go to Mr. Wonderton, I wanted to run them by you.”

She handed me the files and gave me a few moments to look over them. “These are prototypes for the next gen of cell phones.  What’s got you bothered about ‘em?”

She pulled her phone out. I recognized it right away as the Mercury Five by gl-O-bal Labs.  gl-O-bal’s owned and operated by Owen Walker, a true genius.  John Wonderton’s a smart guy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s more the shrewd and merciless business man type.  Owen is one of those truly special men that come up with every design by himself.

She handed me the phone. “Look closely at the Mercury Five and the design Jenkins is proposing.”

As soon as Heather pointed it out, the similarities were uncanny. I won’t bore you with details, but suffice to say Jenkins wasn’t coming up with his own work.  “John’s going to be pissed.”

“Yes he is. He wants to beat gl-O-bal, but not like this.”

I slid the phone back to her. “Obviously we need to tell him, but I’m guessing you don’t want to be present when I do?”

She gave me that award winning smile. “He won’t bite your head off.”

“True.” I sat there for a minute, letting her sweat it out a bit before answering.  “I’ll take it to him, but you owe me in the future.”

Heather winked before getting up. “I’m always good to pay back my debts.”

I’m sure she was and as she walked out, I’m not going to lie – I totally watched her ass sway back and forth until she reached the elevator. She turned around and caught me, but seemed to enjoy that.  Add in a small wave as the elevator closed, I could almost hear Mike’s head explode.

I turned my attention back to the report on my screen. It confirmed what we figured out last night during the confrontation, Diamonds was immune to feeling pain.  Not exactly a very useful super power, but he also called himself the diversion.  That would make sense, use your weakest link to do so, knowing the chance of survival might not be that great.

Bad Jericho. Don’t try to dissect their plans.  This was DL’s problem not mine.  My problem was going to be fixing Jenkins’ shitty work and get him to create something better.  I looked down in disdain at the knock off prototype drawing when I noticed something very peculiar.  On the display was a drawn up game of solitaire.  I knew Jenkins was weird, but this was a bit over the top.

I narrowed my eyes and looked even closer. The only card that was actually legible was the Ace of Clubs.  Annoyed, I doubted that was a coincidence.

-Jeremy

You can still get in on the pre-order special of 99 cents.  Head on over to http://www.amazon.com/Negative-Man-Pacific-Station-Vigilante-ebook/dp/B018XQAGTW/!

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About Jeremy Croston

I'm a comic loving, soccer playing, devoted husband who has a writing addiction. I can be found at Orlando Solar Bear hockey games, at the local sports bar cheering on my teams from Philly (go Flyers!), and being led astray by my schnauzer, JJ. Check out my Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston to see my collections. Feel free to friend me on Facebook too at www.facebook.com/jcroston2 (there is another one of me out there apparently). Outside of writing, I work in business development and am considered an expert in all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thanks for stopping by and looking forward to talking to you soon!
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