Release Day Special! The Negative Man: Prelude to Chaos (Chapter 12)

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Chapter 12 –

Monday Evening; Wonder-Tech Tower

DL had even called in Massacre for this. I wasn’t a fan of that choice, but it wasn’t my show, either. After I had laid out everything I knew, “I’m to bring the prototype for the charger to this address. I’m guessing that’s where they are keeping the core.”

John was leaning up against his workbench. “Do you think this is two dissenters from the army going AWOL or do you think the general is in the know, too?”

It was tough to say. My gut told me the government was always involved in such things, yet General Whisant seemed too level to get involved with a plan to blow up an entire city. Haphazardly, “If I was to make an educated guess, I think Esposito and Pabon are rogues on their own. This feels too much like an extremist attack, not a government sanctioned op.”

“I agree.” Wonderton turned to PJ, “We’re going to let Jericho steal and deliver the prototype to them. You and I will act as his backup. As soon as he delivers it, we pull him out and take the rangers head on.”

“These two are just regular soldiers, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble, right?”

He shrugged at my question. “It is tough to say, Jericho. I get the feeling there’s more to Esposito and Pabon than we realize.”

“John,” PJ spoke up. “Not to add to this, but we should probably go out and see if we can find that Cieslik kid. The local Leo’s aren’t having any luck.”

Wonderton rubbed his temples. “You’re right. Plus he was my employee and a good guy. Let’s suit up. Jericho, you sticking around to stay on comms?”

I had nothing else really to do and secretly, I was beginning to enjoy the work. “Yeah why not? Plus, if you don’t mind, I’ll look at some of your other gear and see what I can do.”

He picked up the Lion Claw. “I don’t think that’s a bad idea. This turned out fantastic.”

It didn’t take long for the two of them to get ready and hit the streets. The moment they were gone, I routed everything to my tablet and took the elevator to R and D. I wanted to see this charger that had everyone so jazzed up. The offices were locked, but that was no problem. A quick burst of polarity quickly unlocked the floor, giving me access to everything.

I figured Jenkins kept his most top secret work in the back lab and sure enough the charger prototype was there, under a glass housing. I was quite surprised to see a man like Jenkins come up with something so advanced. He didn’t seem capable. I manipulated the key lock pad and the housing lifted up, giving me access to the prototype.

Upon inspecting it, “Phil, how could you overlook that?” He had crossed the positive and negative intake wires. I grabbed the stabilized tweezers from the table and made the change. When he fired that thing up tomorrow, it was going to work like a dream.

My eyes drifted around the room, seeing all the exotic trinkets Jenkins was up to. Wonder-Tech was mostly a cell phone manufacturer with dabbling in other ventures. Some of the things Jenkins was developing seemed way off base. But before I could investigate, I got buzzed in by DL. “Jericho, we have a potential lead.”

How could that be? Acting cool, “What’s up? Do you need me to look into something?”

“Can you pull up a residential security camera that is adjacent to the Cieslik residence? Police didn’t notice the owner of the house had one, but I did.”

Swallowing hard, “Yeah, send me the address.”

A few seconds later, the address popped up on my phone and I entered it in. The security company had a pretty flimsy firewall to keep hackers out, so I was in without a problem. I scrolled through the footage on my tablet to the night in question. You could clearly see Cieslik get out of his car with his wife and then stumble around as she entered the house. A figured then rushed him and subdued him. From the vantage point I had, you could almost say it looked as if Cieslik got tased.

And that’s the story I was going to go with. “An unknown assailant appears to surprise him and used a taser on him.”

“A taser,” DL mumbled. “That reeks of military. Why would Esposito or Pabon abduct the guy that was working for them? Maybe Erin had a change of heart?”

There was a change all right, from living to dead. “The only way to find out is to confront them. Maybe we should go to the address tonight?”

“No.” He sounded sure in his answer. “They might not even be there. We have a plan and it’s a solid one. Even though I don’t like the idea of you going into the field, let’s not deviate this late in the game.”

With nothing left to do, we shut down the comms. I went back upstairs and was getting ready to call it a night when I got the hankering to do something. There was a pair of old goggles setting on a shelf above the workbench. They’d look as if they’d seen a lot of battles; scratches and chipped paint covered them.

I flicked the toggle switch to on and the eyes flashed for a minute before shutting off. I figured these weren’t going to be getting any use, so I put them in my bag. I kept a pretty bare bones apartment, but I had enough tools to mess around with these and see if I could bring them back to life. Plus, it’d keep my mind going until tomorrow. With a new project in hand, I flicked the power switch to the secret room off and headed on home.

-Jeremy

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Release Day Special! The Negative Man: Prelude to Chaos (Chapter 11)

We did it everyone! First and foremost, a happy Fourth of July to all who celebrate it. May your day be full of brats, beer, and Negative Man. Yep, Legends Can Die is officially out on the Kindle and the paperback version is available at most major retailers’ websites. This book is the culmination of a year of planning, writing, and putting together one of the coolest plots I think I’ve come up with. I really hope you enjoy it.

As the day goes on, the rest of Prelude to Chaos will pop up on the blog. We’re going to start here with Chapter 11 and keep coming back as we plow through to the finish!

Want the books? http://www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston

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Chapter 11 –

Friday Night; Cieslik Residence

I followed Erin and his wife home. When they pulled into the driveway, she got out and went inside to check on the kids and babysitter. Erin, a bit drunk, stumbled out of the driver’s door and stretched out. This was my opportunity. I rushed forward and using my powers, subdued him. I dragged him to my car, loaded him into the trunk and left. Sorry Mrs. Cieslik, you’re about to become a widow.

I stopped driving once we got out to the secluded area known as Dungeon Cove. It was well outside the town and the rocky terrain made the cove almost inaccessible to regular old Joes. It was here where I dumped area and slapped him a few times, waking him up.

Erin didn’t fully realize what was happening right away, that is until he really saw who it was. “Jericho? What’re you doing, man?”

“We were friends. I tried to live a good and decent life and then I find out my one friend is working with those two crooked captains, Esposito and Pabon.”

He put his hands up. “Listen I can explain. They’re paying me a lot of money to steal Wonder-Tech prototypes.” He tried to stand up, but slipped on the wet rock. “I was going to warn you before it went off, give you time to leave.”

I honestly believed he was going to do that. Unfortunately, there was something he didn’t know about me. I grabbed my mask from my jacket and put it on. “Why would I want to leave the city I’ve chosen to reshape?”

“No…” Surprise always seemed to be the reaction. “Jericho dude, tell me you’re not The Negative Man.”

The time for charades was over. “Where are Pabon and Esposito? Tell me, because it’s only going to get worse if you don’t.”

He was trying to get away from me, but the rocks were just too damn slippery. “I don’t know! I was supposed to deliver the charger to them once Jenkins finished it. They were going to text me the address.”

Erin knew too much. I hated the idea that he had to die; it just was the way of the world. “Thanks for being a good friend. Maybe in the afterlife, if there is one, drinks can be on you.”

Like I did to Valiant, I was quick and efficient, not prolonging the suffering needlessly. When he was dead, I kicked his body into the water, letting Mother Nature do away with the evidence.

**** 

When I turned on the news the next morning, the top story was the abduction of local man, Erin Cieslik. Police Chief Harvey Grimes wasn’t all that positive, basically telling the viewing audience that this was probably going to end up being a homicide case. Granted, he was right, but man, he was a terrible interview.

I sat down with my bowl of cereal in hand and was getting ready to turn the television to the West Coast Sports Network when my door was rather rudely kicked in. The owner of said foot, Captain Channel Esposito, stormed in with his partner, Captain Joshua Pabon right behind him. Both men had assault rifles strapped to their backs, like they were getting ready for a war.

It was surreal to watch them calmly take seats in my living room, not even breaking character for the fact they just kicked in my door. “You’ve been drafted to support the army,” Esposito said calmly. “As such, the nature of this non-voluntary assignment is extremely classified.”

“We need you to deliver us the prototype that Erin Cieslik was supposed to get,” Pabon added in.

I played dumb. Giving away my hand in this situation wasn’t going to get me anywhere except for more dead bodies. “What in bloody hell are you talking about?”

Esposito smiled. “I told you Cieslik kept his mouth shut. Jericho here is in the dark.”

Pabon leaned in, “You’re familiar with the prototype charger that a man named Phil Jenkins is developing for your company, correct?” I was. “Erin was going to steal it for us, that way we could complete assembly for the plutonium core. This crooked town needs a nuclear cleansing.”

“Wait, so you two are the ones who bought the core from that super?” I knew all of this, but it was fun to watch them squirm a little. “Channel, not just a few days ago you were here telling me you weren’t involved.”

“A necessary lie to keep you off the path until we were ready.” He stood up, getting ready to launch his villain speech. I knew this move, as I had perfected it myself. “My wife was killed by one of these freaks. Supers… they are a blight to our society and the west coast, especially Pacific Station, embraces them. Well, no more. With that plutonium core, we’re going to make a mark that will act as a beacon to the rest of the nation.”

And people thought I (or rather The Negative Man) was extreme. “What about all the innocent people you’ll kill?”

“No one here is innocent. Go to an elementary school and the kids worship The Dark Lion. Not our soldiers, they worship a monster.”

I was going to get through with reason. The ideal plan would be to go along with this and find the core. “Obviously I have no choice, so when and where do I need to get this charger to you?”

Pabon pulled out a scrap piece of paper with an address written down on it. “Erin was going to make the delivery Tuesday night, once Jenkins ran his last field test. You’ll be expected to do the same.”

There was really nothing left to say. I took the paper and the two of them left. Before Channel completely disappeared from view, he added, “You’re a good man for accepting this mission. Sometimes you need to burn Rome to save it.”

-Jeremy

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The Negative Man: Prelude to Chaos (Chapter 10)

We’re getting pretty close to the end. We’ll have this story wrapped up by Monday next week, I believe.

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Chapter 10 –

Friday Evening; Beaches Boat Club

The dreaded Christmas party was here. Erin mostly did everything to get this shindig off the ground and, believe it or not, the place looked pretty good. In the middle of the hall was a huge Christmas tree decorated from top to bottom. Along the back wall was a massive spread of Italian food, with the open bar right beside it. I was one of the first people here and I was glad no one was around to see my kind of enjoying myself.

No one that is until Erin showed up. “Is that some Christmas cheer I see on that Scrooge-like face?” He was holding a cup of spiked apple cider. “Can’t blame you though, this place looks rockin’!”

Another voice joined in the agreement. “I do say, for two IT guys, you sure brought this together very nicely.” John Wonderton was dressed in a suit and tie. Man did he make Erin and I look underdressed for the occasion. “I think I’ve earned a night of relaxation. I’m going to grab a beer and enjoy the music.”

Not long after Wonderton hit up the bar did most of the employees of Wonder-Tech and their dates arrive. Erin left me hanging once his wife showed up, so I kind of stuck to myself along the far wall. Heather Adams showed up, too, looking amazing. Unfortunately, her boyfriend was with her, not that I would’ve said anything anyways.

A few people came up at different moments and chatted me up here and there. Most of it was pity, but some were generally interested. Still, the night started to wear on me, so I ducked out and got some fresh air close to the beach.

My mind immediately went back to the plutonium core and the two ranger captains. Knowing what I did about Channel’s past, it was safe to assume he got Pabon in on this to help him. The two of them then ‘stole’ the funds without Whisant knowing and made the deal themselves. No offense to the men, but what would the two of them be able to do with a core that must’ve not been working.

I came to that conclusion because if it had been working, I can’t imagine they would’ve sat on it this long. I pulled out my phone and did a cursory search for doctors and engineers in the area that would be able to help them do anything with the core. Only one name popped up – Owen Walker, the head of gl-O-bal.

There was no news of Walker being kidnapped or anything, but it was worth looking into. Suffice to say if they hadn’t reached out to Walker, then I really had no idea what their plans were. The only other person in the city who could arm that thing was me, and they had no idea who I truly was.

I knew now wasn’t the time and if I didn’t go back to the party soon, Wonderton would wonder (say that three times fast) where I went to. Resigned, I made my way back towards the festivities.

 

****

 

Have you ever watched grown ass people play Pin the Tail on the Reindeer? It was a nightmare. The only redeeming part was the free drinks. Most of the ones playing were three sheets to the wind. All I could do was shake my head in despair as Erin stumbled towards the reindeer in question and fell face first into its backside.

“This is quite the entertaining affair.”

Wonderton’s sense of entertainment was about to be called into question. “There is so much else we could be doing. We have a solid lead and could be getting information from them.”

“Consider this a lesson.” He was my teacher now? “One must always retain a bit of their humanity even in the darkest of times. That humanity allowed me to defeat The Negative Man.”

That was a stretch. More like my exceedingly questionable judgement. “What does humanity have to do with it?”

He spread his arms wide. “The enjoyment these people are having tonight is the reason we fight in the shadows. If there wasn’t good people like this to keep safe, then why bother?”

Damnit, I hated myself for actually taking in what he said. This was beginning to remind me a bit about my dad, Ellison Staley’s outlook on life. Well before a certain jerk named Cooper stole that from both of us. “So I’m guessing there’s nothing else to do but drink and be merry?”

“You could mingle with your co-workers.”

“Sage advice from the guy who avoids human contact even more than I do.”

With that said, the two of us went our separate ways. Me, I went over to the bar and ordered another beer as Wonderton walked around and pretended to be a boss that cared. Chances were he was also handing out Christmas bonuses. I had received mine the day before.

Deciding not to be a Debbie Downer, I began looking for Erin. He seemed to know how to let loose, so I figured I’d give it a shot, too. But she was nowhere to be found. I spotted his wife however, so I made my way to her. “Mrs. Cieslik, have you seen Erin?”

“Jericho,” she hiccupped. She’d been drinking quite a bit, too. “He stepped outside to take a phone call. He’ll be right back, I think?”

The idea of heading back outside for just even a minute was appealing, so I went out there to give my buddy crap for taking a phone call during a party. When I stepped outside, there he was on the phone like she said, but I froze in place.

“They have no idea I’m your man on the inside, Channel. As soon as R and D gets that prototype charging station complete, we’ll be able arm that core.” Esposito answered him, but I couldn’t hear. “You’re damn right. We’ll show this hippie loving town what happens when you give those super freaks too much leniency.”

Until tomorrow!

-Jeremy

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The Negative Man: Prelude to Chaos (Chapter 9)

Aaaaannnnddd we’re back! Chapter 9 awaits!

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Chapter 9 –

Wednesday Night; The Tidal Bar

“Hahahaha! You, in charge of the Christmas party? Did Wonderton lose his mind?”

And there was Erin, giving me the boost of confidence I needed. “You could be less of an ass and more helpful.” I held up two fingers, signaling to the bartender we needed two more beers. “I don’t know the first thing about Christmas parties or what not.”

We each grabbed the fresh beer on front of us and clinked glasses. “Here’s to doing shit we really don’t wanna.”

“Amen, Jericho. Want to pay the bills? Do stupid stuff for a very rich man.”

We ended up having three more beers together before parting ways. I stupidly drove myself home even though I had a decent buzz going. Alcohol didn’t do as much to me as it did others, yet driving home impaired wasn’t the best decision.

When I got to my apartment, I found my way to my couch and crashed. Being on top of things, I had planned in advance and set my phone alarm to go off at six the next morning.

My phone isn’t what woke me up. Someone grabbed me and restrained me quite quickly. By the time I was out of my beer induced hazed and properly with it, I was tied up on my couch and a man with a gun pointed at me was sitting opposite on a chair.

Seeing as how he had no idea what fire he was playing with, “You’ve gone this far, you might as well introduce yourself.”

He had this gruff, almost smoker like laugh/cough combination going on. “I appreciate a man who doesn’t fold under pressure.” The gun didn’t move. “Someone tells me you’ve been snooping into things you shouldn’t be.”

I knew exactly who this was. “Captain Esposito, I think you have some bad information.”

There was no denying it. He sighed a little bit and pulled back his mask. Yep, I called it. “This makes things a bit easier.” This time he lowered the weapon. “I have a request from the very top. Stop looking into the cash.”

“Why? This just proves you know where the plutonium core is.”

He went right into denial mode. “No we don’t. We were planning on buying it back from the super Valiant and his girlfriend. Someone stole the cash from us and bought it.”

Wow, talk about a black eye just getting bigger. “Not only did you lose the plutonium core, you lost five hundred thousand dollars? For God’s sake man! No wonder no one thinks the government can get shit done.”

“I like you, kid. Stop looking into the money, it’s a false trail.”

Captain Esposito got up and walked towards the exit. When he opened the door, he pulled out a small pocket knife and tossed it over to the couch. “We know where the answer lies. It’s with the super community. Get us that list.”

By the time I undid the restraints (not with the knife, with my powers of course) and run outside, Esposito was gone. Annoyed, I sent a text message to DL, telling him to meet me at the office early.

 

****

 

“We play along with them and make them the list they so very much want.”

“Are you sure?” I was half expecting the barn burning Dark Lion to show his head and go bash a few Army Rangers. “Neither of us believes any of the supers still active in the city are behind this.”

He handed me a pen and paper. “No, but we need them to think we bought their story. Let’s see how this plays out.”

The rest of the morning before the regulars wandered into Wonder-Tech Tower was spent compiling a list of supers. It wasn’t that long of a list anymore, especially after a certain guy named The Negative Man laid most of the city to waste in an effort to rule by force. Either way, I was done and in my cubicle by eight thirty when Erin waltzed in.

He looked like a guy that drank a bit too much. He hadn’t bothered shaving and his eyes were bloodshot. “Look at you getting here early. Damn dude, I could barely get out of bed this morning.”

“Waking up wasn’t the problem. Had an infestation problem when I got home.”

He groggily smiled. “I appreciate that. My old lady was a bit pissed I came home smelling like that much booze, but she eventually caved and let me into our bed.”

I think I’d rather have dealt with Captain Esposito than an angry woman. “Good news buddy, you’ve been drafted to help me with the Christmas party.”

“Ahhh man, you’re messing with me aren’t you?”

He didn’t need to know that I was the one drafting him, not Wonderton. “No dice. Thank of the Brightside, we get to actively avoid our jobs today to get things set up.” Again, that was more me talking than anyone else.

My hungover co-worker looked like he was just saved. “You know what? Helping with the Christmas party doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all.” He pulled out his cellphone. “I’ll call the lady, she knows a few caterers.”

While Erin started handling that, I jumped on my computer real quick. He wasn’t looking, so I used a bit of my own juice to hide my IP address, for a few minutes anyway. I did a quick search on Channel Esposito, seeing if there was anything that could give me a clue about the man who threatened me last night.

His name popped up on a few government websites and was an active Army Ranger. Just when I was about to call this another dead end, I found an article from a number of years ago. The headline read:

“Ranger Wife Maria Esposito Killed by Super”

And here was the link I was looking for. Channel’s wife had been killed by a rogue super after he broke into their home. Whisant might not know this, but I had a very good feeling his two captains were the ones who bought the core, despite what Esposito told me last night.

“Dude,” Erin called out. “Not only did I get us grub, but I got the hook up on an open bar, too!”

I gave one last look at my screen before saying, “That’s awesome.”

Stay in your seat… here comes chapter 10!

-Jeremy

You can find my books at http://boltbookspub.wix.com/home

 

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The Negative Man: Prelude to Chaos (Chapter 8)

I hope everyone had a great weekend, and a happy Father’s Day to all you awesome dads out there. I totally enjoyed my first one. Jak and Steph outdid themselves for sure.

Any-who, not much to say today. Let’s keep going in our story, shall we?

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Chapter 8 –

Wednesday Early Morning; Wonder-Tech Tower

I’d been burning the midnight oil. Between working on a better prototype for DL’s glove, I’d been scrolling through endless hours of security footage that I hacked from the ATM. I set up an algorithm to ping each time money was withdrawn that would zoom in on the cash and alert me to the serial numbers taken. Thank the maker for algorithms.

As for my other project, I had just made my greatest enemy a gauntlet to be proud of. Using carbon steel and better soldering techniques than Wonderton, this thing was pure destruction in its most beautiful form. Wait a minute, was I becoming okay with being a sidekick to a super hero vigilante? No, I reminded myself this was part of the experiment, to give him the best chance possible to succeed. If not, I would have to kill him.

My algorithm worked. The computer began whistling and froze the screen on the transaction we needed. The man making the withdraw was smart, he kept his face out of sight, but not his forearm. I recognized that tribal tattoo anywhere. Captain Joshua Pabon took the money and put it in the briefcase that would later be handed off to Valiant.

DL was still out on patrol. I radioed him over the comms. “Unless you found something, you should get back so I can show you our suspect numero uno.”

“All right, coming back now.”

I knew it wouldn’t take him long at all to get back, so I wasn’t surprised when just a few minutes later when the door opened. I should’ve known better, as it wasn’t John Wonderton walking in. It was a large man that looked as if he missed a few rungs on the evolutionary ladder. My unexpected presence startled him, too. “Who the hell are you?”

Hell, I was going to have to kill someone in DL’s lair. Well this would certainly blow my deep cover. “I think I should be asking you the same question.”

The man didn’t answer me. Instead, he charged at me, causing me to move out of harm’s way. He didn’t stop until his head buried itself in the back wall. His head just cracked cement like it was nothing. He was another super.

“PJ, back down now!” I turned and saw DL standing in the entrance. He flipped up his goggles and gave this PJ an evil look. “I told you I had enlisted the help of a computer guy.”

He didn’t even look hurt as he pulled his head out of the hole. “Yeah I know that, but what’s he doing here at this time of night?”

DL strode in and dumped his goggles on the workbench, beside the new arm wear. He picked it up, inspected it and gave a small smile. “This will do nicely.” Only after that did he address his ox of a friend. “If you weren’t out on some booze cruise, you’d know we were working on finding a lost plutonium core.”

This PJ looked taken aback. “A missing atomic bomb? I’m gone for seven days and shit really does hit the fan!”

“Since big and ugly here knows who I am, can someone fill me in on who he is?” I was annoyed that he attacked me and he also knew about me. “No offense,” I added.

DL shook his head. “This is PJ Douglas, also known as Massacre. He is another vigilante.”

Massacre, I remembered him. He was never really on my radar due to the fact he was more a public menace than an actual threat. I was beginning to regret that choice. “As long as you don’t try to run me over again, we’ll be aces.”

There was growing tension in the room, so DL brought us back on track. “You said you had something?”

I tore myself away from Massacre and went over to the monitor where the picture of Joshua Pabon was taking the money from the ATM. “Do you recognize the tattoo on the screen?”

His eyes focused and he began to snarl. “Never trust a government agent…”

“Now that we know this, we have a reason for him to meet one of those vigilantes they seemed so eager to get a list of.”

Smiling, “That is an excellent idea. I think in the morning, we’ll set up a meeting with Whisant and his Rangers. What happens after the meeting, who is to say?”

I liked this version of The Dark Lion. I always wandered just how far below the surface the true Dark Lion laid and it seemed not too far. A man who wasn’t afraid to rough someone up, yet not cross a line. He was someone I couldn’t be and the city, maybe even the country needed that.

I stretched out my arms. “It seems we have a plan going forward.”

“That we do.” There was now something odd in his voice. “I have one last task for you, Jericho. This is a request from your boss, John Wonderton, not The Dark Lion.”

Hmmm, I didn’t know if I liked the sound of that. “What can I do?”

“Friday night is the annual Wonder-Tech Christmas Party. I’ve slacked in recent years organizing it.” Oh crap… “That’s where you come in. Can you organize the festivities for me?”

Douglas began to snicker like a fool over on the far side of the room. I was shocked. Me, The Negative Man, with a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering, was being asked to organize a holiday party? “This isn’t a joke is it?”

“This year has produced many reasons to celebrate.” He then gave me an awkward John Wonderton smile. “Think of this as a chance to get drunk and let loose.”

I wanted to let loose all right, just not in the way either of these two idiots would survive.

-Jeremy

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The Negative Man: Prelude to Chaos (Chapter 7)

Yep – laziness got the better of me yesterday. I’d like to say I’m sorry, but ehhh, it happens. To placate you, here is a picture of me and Jak from this morning’s Donuts with Dads. Babies make everything better.

jak and me

Now on to the show!

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Chapter 7 –

Monday Evening; Station Public Library

The work was tedious, yet I found myself enjoying the challenge. Something that didn’t come easy for me; that’s what my life had been missing. I was in deep on a secure tablet, trying to ping something off the serial numbers I had stored here.

My first stop had been to the national treasury to see if I could pick up the batch that had any of these numbers in it. That produced no results, which was very odd. I got the feeling someone deleted the information, or at least tried to. My next step was to go a bit deeper, really get into the encrypted files and see where the deletion came from. Whoever it had been on the other end, they knew how to cover their tracks. I was chasing a ghost, almost.

From the back corner of the library, it was time to use a little Negative magic. I did a quick look around and breached into the mainframe with my power. I’d used this trick a lot as a young, mischievous kid, and I overpowered the firewalls. I had about five minutes before anyone would notice.

I quickly scanned the lines of information, looking for the lost entries. I found them, deleted just two days before the truck heist by a user named EC. I pulled up the deleted serial number batch and began my trace. From the mint, this particular batch came to Pacific Station and was put into circulation at an ATM outside of Pacific National Bank. No sooner did I get that information than I was locked out.

It was time to go before they could retrace me. I scrubbed the info off my tablet, put my ball cap back on and made a beeline straight for my apartment complex.

**** 

The next morning, after saying a quick hello to Erin, I immediately went up to Wonderton’s office. His assistant was surprised to see me unannounced, but John waved me right on in. “Jericho, what brings you up here this early?”

“It’s about that cash transaction you asked me to look into.”

He immediately went from CEO to Dark Lion. Lowering his voice, “What did you find?”

“I traced the stack to an ATM right here in the city, outside of Pacific National.”

This piqued his interest. “Let’s talk more about this after hours. I’ll set up a meeting.” This was probably all for show, as his assistant was very nosy. Taking my cue, I walked back out and took the elevator back down to my hole by the server farm.

No sooner did I get off the elevator was I accosted by Erin. “Dude, what’s going on? That’s two visits in less than two days! Plus, I hear you’ve been promoted or something.”

“What?” I thought his line about his new head of IT or whatever crap he told Whisant was just more Wonderton bullshit. Erin had the email printed out and gave it to me.

Wonder-Tech Industries

Congratulations to Jericho Staley.

He is the new head of the IT Department. 

-John Wonderton 

It was as short and painful as actually talking to the man himself. Then I wondered if this came with a pay raise. Either way, Erin was ecstatic. “This rocks! Beers are on you Wednesday night, Staley!”

I could live with that. “I had no idea. Either way, I don’t think it means a whole lot.”

Well it didn’t to me. The rest of the day, Erin would slide on over and toss in one of his crazy jokes, smiling and laughing each time. We ended up working through lunch as Research and Development accidently closed a firewall to the internal network. That idiot Phil Jenkins was a hazard. I’d only been here a little over a month and I knew that.

At four thirty, I was done. Wonderton’s assistant hung around until about five, so I grabbed a few gyros at the food truck that was closing up across the street and ate in peace. When I saw the rest of the minions file out, I finished my dinner and made my way back in.

Wonderton was already in the hidden portion of his office when I strolled in. He was working on something on a makeshift work bench, but was doing a lousy job with it. He put down his tools when he saw me. “Okay, we can talk a bit more freely.”

“Like I said, I traced the money back to the ATM at Pacific National. I figured I’d hack into the security footage and maybe get lucky finding the guy who withdrew it. However,” there was always bad news in this town, “I think this goes deep. The files containing the serial numbers of this batch were purposefully deleted just a few days ago.”

“Do you think our new general friend might have anything to do with this?”

That I didn’t know yet. “Anyone could be involved. The best chance we have is getting a face on withdraw. Besides, the amount of cash they paid, either a portion was withdrawn from this ATM or they needed extra funds to meet Valiant’s demand.”

He nodded in agreement. “So it’s settled, you look into that and I’ll do my thing – take to the streets.”

I couldn’t help but notice what he was working on. It was a glove that had what appeared to be claws on the fingertips. The idea was solid, but the execution was horrid. “Do you mind?”

“Oh?” He saw me looking at his glove. “I don’t usually let others work on the gear…”

I went over and flicked one of the claws and it popped right off. “I think it’s about time you did.”

-Jeremy

You can find all my books at http://boltbookspub.wix.com/home

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The Negative Man: Prelude to Chaos (Chapter 6)

Before we get to the chapter today, I’d like to drop some news on everyone regarding The Inglewood Chronicles. As everyone knows, later this year, the much delayed fourth book will hit the Kindle Bookstore and paperbacks. The title was The Wolves of Chernobyl, but after finishing the first draft, a new title came to mind. What is it? Good question. How about I show you instead…

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That’s right fans, The Daemon Within. Look for more information about that later this year. I want to tell you so much more about it, but we’re in the middle of a Negative Man release damnit! On to the show!

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Chapter 6 –

Sunday Morning; Wonder-Tech Tower 

I was sitting in one of the guest chairs, watching Wonderton pace the carpet floor in his office as we awaited this general to show up. The moment he stopped pacing, I looked up and saw three men step off the elevator and make their way towards his office.

The lead man was probably in his early forties, straw colored hair and had glasses over his green eyes. The two men behind him looked like certified badasses. The words special ops immediately came to mind.

General Whisant opened the door and stepped in. He had a slow draw to his voice that was immediately likable. “John Wonderton,” he said as he stuck out his hand. Wonderton shook it. “And who might this be?”

I stood up as he made the introduction. “This is my new head of the IT department, Jericho Staley. He is an expert in computer forensics and cyber tracing.”

I actually was, but I figured Wonderton probably didn’t know that and was just trying to blow smoke up the general’s ass. “It is good to meet you, sir.”

“No need for formalities or pleasantries, you gentlemen are about to be asked a very big favor by the United States government.”

Wonderton stepped in and asked a question. “If you don’t mind me asking, sir, who are the rather imposing men you’ve brought with you today?”

Whisant turned and introduced them. “This is Captain Channel Esposito and Captain Joshua Pabon, both Army Rangers. They’re here to assist with finding the lost plutonium core.”

Army Rangers… those were some bad men. I’d heard rumors of a black ops team consisting of Rangers and Seals used by the government back east to eliminate supers. It made me wonder. Both of these guys looked hardcore. Esposito had a beard with eagle like eyes. Pabon was more subdued, but the huge tribal tattoo on his forearm was easy to spot.

“On to business then – as I told you last night, a plutonium core was stolen by a few supers. That core is my responsibility and we need to find it. The reason I’ve come to you, John, is simple. You have the most resources in the city and you have a reputation for being a tough as nails businessman. I was hoping to tap into both of those qualities.”

I was a bit dumbfounded this general would come to a civilian for help. I got the impression that if he went to his superiors and said, “Oops, I misplaced a potential bomb,” that they would frown highly upon that. Use a few civilians however, we find the core for him and no one is none the wiser.

John seemed to catch that vibe, too. “You’re coming to me because this is a colossal screw up and you can’t afford having the government knowing about this, right?”

Whisant smiled. “This is why I’ve come to you, John.” He stuck his hand out again. “Are you and your IT expert in or out?”

This was a complete no duh situation. Wonderton grabbed his hand. “We’re in. You can expect complete secrecy on our end as we assist.”

“Good, good. So what can I tell you to get this project off the ground?”

“Just how dangerous is this core? Is it a working bomb or does it need to be enhanced in some way?” I didn’t meant o blurt out my question, I was just naturally curious. This had been the best thing to happen in the weeks since I hung up The Negative Man persona.

Wonderton looked a bit pissed, but oh well. Whisant was quick to give us an answer. “That’s a fair question. I don’t know to be honest. If the plutonium is still in a pure state, than yes, it is a bomb this very minute. If the material has been compromised by years at the bottom of the ocean, then I’m guessing some leg work would have to be done to make it functional.”

“Do you want a functional bomb, general?”

“What I want doesn’t matter, John.” He shrugged his shoulders a bit. “What the government wants is the core back, intact if possible. Now if it can’t be recovered, then we are under orders to dismantle or destroy. However, this is a last resort.”

Captain Esposito stepped forward. “Sir if I may?” Whisant nodded his head. “We will also need a list of as many active supers in the area. The west coast is more lenient when it comes to allowing them to be active, something that is a bit unusual for us.”

I wondered how they would react knowing that the two most powerful supers in not just the city, but potentially the world, were in the room with them. Something told me to leave that tidbit out. “I can compile a list with rumors and such I find on the web.”

Captain Esposito seemed good with that. “The sooner we get that list, the sooner we can prepare ourselves for the worst case scenarios.”

“Let’s not go there, Esposito.” Whisant seemed a bit more rational than his captain. “Our efforts here are strictly to secure the core and get it back home. We’re not here to enforce any laws that this state doesn’t recognize.”

Wonderton and I quickly shared a glance of concern. He decided it was time to end this meeting. “We have our work cut out for us. General, we will get started as soon as possible and keep you in the loop with anything we find.”

That made the general smile. “Glad to hear it. We will continue to mount our own efforts as well. My hope is between all of us in this room, we can find the core quickly and we can get out of your hair.”

“We’re glad to assist the government in any way we can.” C’mon Wonderton, you could’ve sounded a bit more sincere! Either way, the three men across from us seemed to buy what he was selling. We all exchanged handshakes and they left, heading back out the elevator.

We waited until they were out of the building before we headed back to the old secret lair. Once inside, “There is something bad going on here, Jericho.”

“I kind of picked up on that.”

Wonderton flipped open the suitcase of money. Even a rich guy like himself was a bit impressed with the stack of cash inside. “When can you start tracing this money? I just have a bad feeling after that meeting.”

I grabbed a stack of twenties and plucked a few out. “It’ll take some time, but I can get started right now.”

-Jeremy

You can find all my books at http://boltbookspub.wix.com/home

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