His look of brave defiance turns into bemusement as I enter the room. Although I have made certain that he is securely bound, and the chance of him escaping is minimal, it is quite apparent that he now thinks he has the upper hand. This is, of course, an error, but I make a note of it, being underestimated is a tool I may be able to use to my future advantage. My eyes narrow at the smugness of his voice, "So, you've caught me. I suppose now you're going to gloat about your brilliant and evil plan then rig me up to some sort of slow-moving--"
I interrupt him by plunging a stiletto
through his ribcage to its hilt. Messy, but effective. The only sort of sound he's making now is a sort of wet sucking noise, and that is silent soon enough. In death, he's wearing a comical expression of surprise. Sotto voce
I say, "Actually, my timetable required your death be quick and expedient. No escapes, this time."
Unfortunately for the recently deceased Swifthand (né Alexander Johnson), super speed did not grant him immunity from Damascus steel. I ring for someone to dispose of the body someplace discreet and for someone else to retrieve and decontaminate my dagger. Then I prepare for bed. It is, after all, a school night.
The next morning I take inventory of everything I will need for school as is my habit; Ovid's Metamorphosis, my custom PDA, Plato's Euthydemus, a length of piano wire and leather gloves, Baudelaire's Fleurs Du Mal, incriminating photographs of my classics teacher indulging in unnatural acts with household appliances, three notebooks, a syringe full of sodium pentothal and a sack lunch. Arlington is doubtlessly waiting outside with the Bentley warmed up. I wish I could convince him to ferry me around in a less conspicuous automobile, but he feels that riding around in, say a Buick, would be beneath me. Although he's far too proper to ever actually say it, I know he disapproves of my decision to drop the family surname despite my arguments that one could hardly blend in with a name of such notoriety. Arlington does not understand the point of camouflage. Also, Von Wicked is a stupid name, and I'm pretty sure that Father made it up.
I slide into the back seat of the Bentley and Arlington says, "Shall I arrive at the usual time to escort you home, sir?" I nod, although I'm not entirely certain. There are some unpleasant loose ends I need to tie up to complete the business in Shanghai, and the fact that Swifthand very nearly uncovered a vital bit of my operations, even if by accident, unnerves me. There are so many aspects to the family business that I am merely competent in when necessity compels me to be without peer. And all of this is compounded by the fact that when you are not old enough to legally obtain a driver's learning permit, more subtlety and secrecy than usual is a requisite for effectively governing an organization such as mine. Being underestimated by your enemies may be an asset, but it is almost always a serious disadvantage to be underestimated by your underlings.
I'm early to school as usual. The Academy is generally perceived as an excellent High School, with a very selective admission process and substantial tuition fees. My own opinion of the school is less than glowing, judging from my Biology teacher's nearly rudimentary understanding of the processes and theories underlying modern genetic engineering, I have the sneaking suspicion that the faculty here is hardly raising the bar for academic excellence. Engaged in a private reverie of sorts, I am taken unaware when I receive a sharp, hard shove to the back and fall forward, sprawling onto the marble floor. My eyeglasses clatter to the ground and the lenses shatter. I am annoyed, I should have been more aware of my surroundings. My palm is bloodied and I fear the crème brûlée in my sack lunch has been ruined. I hear an annoyingly masculine guffaw from behind me and a grating voice, "You're such a cumstain, Julian"
I do not need to look to know that this voice belongs to Anthony Fairgrass, a brutish senior who fancies himself my bête noire. Anthony is a scholarship student, and his father's sole source of income is from the proprietorship of a small bicycle store. The bicycle store does not have fire insurance. Briefly, I toy with the idea of having that store burnt to the ground; its loss would be insurmountable for the family Fairgrass and Anthony would doubtlessly have to withdraw from school. Fortunately for Anthony, I distrust revenge as a motive; it is too easily manipulated and controlled. I table the idea until the time that Anthony actually becomes more than a nuisance and poses a serious impediment to one of my goals. I pretend to grope around blindly for glasses (I do not actually need them, but have carefully cultivated the perception in others that I have extremely poor vision; the better to seem harmless. It would not do to let on to this). Someone grabs me by my elbow and helps me up. It's Erik Jones-Nakata. He's an attractive boy with exotic features. We have a good deal more in common than he knows. We're both orphans. Erik is the son of the black feminist Superheroine Sister Smolder and her paramour, the Japanese-American hero ShadowSeraph. His parents' death was directly the result of my parents' actions, I'd like to believe that this was nothing personal, but the evidence does not support that conclusion. Father appears to have had a nasty penchant for vengeance and gloating over the defeat of his enemies; I believe this points to a certain weakness in his character. I like Erik. He's friendly and good-natured. Of course, if he had any idea of my ancestry, I doubt that any camaraderie would exist between us at all.
"You okay, Julian?" he asks, typical concern registering on his face. I smile at him weakly, trying to ignore the queasiness I experience whenever he's around, trying to prove mastery over the inrush of chemicals he provokes. My palms are sweating. His lips are very full and I imagine what it might be like to bite them. He grins at me and spreads his hands out, "God, Anthony's a prick. I don't know how you manage to keep so calm when he fucks with you. But I bet it drives him crazy."
I smile back, "Well, he wants to intimidate me and unnerve me. I figure if I'm neither intimidated nor unnerved he'll either give up and get bored. Or he'll crack."
Erik laughs. He runs a hand over his lustrously curly brown hair and says, almost shyly, "Why don't you have lunch with me and Theresa today instead of always in the library. I have a feeling that no one here really knows you. Maybe I could get to be the first."
I can hear my own heartbeat thundering in my ears, I'm certain that I have turned an unpleasant reddish shade. I want to spend time with Erik, and I am uncomfortable with this because at present he is neither an asset to my goals or a pawn to be manipulated. I don't believe he really wants to get to know "the real me", but I assent to meeting him for lunch anyway. He waves and runs off for his first class.
My first class is Classics, and because I have a certain amount of leverage in that class cleverly hidden in my book bag, I decide to skip it and finish the Shanghai business. I duck into the library and tap into their network with my PDA. Most of the e-mails received are fairly routine; the missile strike was successful, the potentially devastating crop blight was not, The Academy will be presenting Our Town as its seasonal play. I quickly type off replies. To the missile team, I give them detailed instructions on how seize control in the aftermath, I assure the agriculture team that the blight was an interesting experiment but its failure does not necessarily impede our progress, I inform the Drama teacher that I regretfully decline to audition for the part of Professor Willard. I then type out a quick memo to my man in Shanghai with a plan for pacifying both the local crime syndicate and suspicious government officials in the wake of the assassination. I send a quick request to Arlington to bring me lunch, since my quiche has been hopelessly squashed. First hour ends before I'm quite finished and I have to hurry to avoid being late to Literature.
I'm not very focused during literature and only half-heartedly listen to my peers make spurious assumptions about French Symbolists in general and Baudelaire in particular. "Freshmen," I mutter out loud to no one in particular. Really, I'm preoccupied today, both with planning for the theft of vital weapons data from the government and, sadly with lunch with Erik this afternoon. Try as I might, I can't get him out of my head. One of the unfortunate side effects of being a fourteen-year-old boy is that I cannot escape having the emotions of a fourteen-year-old.
Third hour is Biology. We have a test on cellular mitosis. It bores me, but I answer all of the questions correctly. Fourth hour is drama, we do some silly improvisational exercises and I go through the motions while looking at the clock the whole time. I count the minutes until lunch. When the bell rings, I spring out of my seat perhaps a little too eagerly. Arlington is waiting outside for me with a croque monsieur and a light salad. I am pleased that he did not bring any wine. Last year he made the mistake of bringing me my normal lunch, and I had to explain to displeased middle school administrators why a thirteen-year-old was in possession of a bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. The explanation that it was of a particularly good year did not wash.
I find Erik and his friend Theresa waiting outside underneath one of the school's ubiquitous evergreen oaks. They wave and beckon at me. Theresa is a large, friendly girl who wears too much eye makeup and delights in shocking her old money family. I join them; Erik grins and says, "Glad you could make it. For a minute I thought you said yes just to be nice."
I smirk slightly, "I never do anything just to be nice."
Theresa chortles in evident amusement and winks at me, "you're kinda feisty, I like that."
We break into meaningless small talk, and Erik sits close to me, so close that I can feel his body heat. My mouth feels dry. I wonder if he's even aware of his effect on me, and if he's manipulating it. I hate the idea of being controlled. But I like the idea of Erik. Theresa goes off on some sort of rant about the current political situation in the country and the incompetence of its leaders. Still flustered by Erik, I riff, "The world will be a much better place for everyone once I've taken it over."
They both laugh. Good. It's far too early to have such statements taken seriously. The bell rings. We disperse and go to our fifth hour classes.
The rest of the day is a blur. I examine and re-examine everything about lunch. I dissect Erik's body language, his facial expressions, Theresa's wordless communication to him. It's important not to impart too much meaning to everything, but yet there's a sneaking suspicion that perhaps my attraction to him is reciprocated. A faint ghost of what might be termed guilt troubles me as I realize what my heritage might imply. My parents killed his parents. And for petty revenge, not out of necessity. I realize this means that I can never truly be honest with Erik. And without honesty, there could never really be any sort of equitable relationship. Still, I like him.
With the events of the day not requiring me to resort to any actual violence, I meet Arlington outside at precisely my regular time. The drive home is silent. And, as if the day did not present enough complications, when I check my e-mail on my home computer there is a message waiting for me on my most private account. I do not recognize the sender. Curious, I open the e-mail. The body is one simple line written in all caps:
YOUR PARENTS ARE ALIVE.
I reel from the implications of this. It will most likely take me weeks before I can verify or dismiss this claim and even longer before I can act on the information should it prove true. However, if both my parents are still living, this would suggest that they acted in concert to fake their demise. Why? More importantly, why would they go to such great lengths to hide their existence from their only son? It has been nearly three years and there had been no evidence to contradict what my retrieval team had concluded from the ruins of Chateau Trebuchet: my parents had apparently destroyed each other. Whatever their reasons, it is already apparent that their weaknesses in character could cause a serious impediment to my long time goals. Should they still be alive, it would be prudent take steps to neutralize any threat to my plans. Perhaps they should have stayed dead. It does not seem productive to follow this line of conjecture any further at this point. I turn my thoughts once more to Erik and his smile and prepare for a conference call to Milan. There are so many things to do, so many contingencies to plan for and I'm not getting any younger.
The Von Wicked Chronicles
by Excalibre and Evil Catullus
I remember when it was me who made you want to take over the world and enslave humanity
Latex. High heels. Knives. (Excalibre's writeup)
It's not my fault that I'm so evil
I was a teenage Overlord
Lady Deathblast's Lover
This little light of mine
The Thanksgiving battle
My funny villaintine
Robots and comic books
This wicked life
The education of little overlords
All things truly wicked
Darkness lights its own way
How it all began
Sometimes I think you love that doomsday machine more than you love me.
They are mine. They are dead.
There is a crack in everything