I entered the laboratory cautiously, wary of an ambush. But there was no sign of anyone.
With his back turned to me, Ron showed a casual, chilling unconcern. It tainted the air, a sharp antiseptic even through the mask’s filter.
Everything done led to this moment. Friends, standing with a world between us. A curious reversal, that his perfectly white lab coat contrasts with my darkened defense suit. The villain standing in light and the hero living in darkness.
But darkness is just the space between lights, merely the bridge meant to carry us towards it. I see that now. Though it is a long path, to reach the light, it should be. Endurance is how we achieve justice.
The sound of my footfalls fills the room. The hum of electrical current. The muted city traffic far below.
“Join me,” Ron says, without so much as a fraction of a reaction to my arrival. “You should see.”
I can barely conceal my anger. “Is this the part where you explain your scheme of world domination?”
“It bears no explanation. Look below us, my friend–”
“FRIEND!” My outburst, not a question but a condemnation of the term, carried a near echo. “You killed my wife. You killed my father. You have murdered thousands with your empire.”
“Is this the part where you recount my sins, o judge and executioner?” He remained unperturbed. “I know them all too well. I remember every death. Can you do that?”
I find my rage carrying my feet closer as he continues to talk. “Even now, your memory of the faded and failing marriage degrades, is romanticized into something it never was. Your father neglected you in the name of revenge, and a great many pointless aggravated assaults. Yet you would defend them? Seek to avenge them?”
I slowed my approach. I can’t let him anger me. He wants me teetering over the abyss. “Some of us don’t do vengeance. Some of us learned to live without it.” I take my mask off. There’s little point to it now. “I’m not my father. And you are not his son. Your father–”
“Gave birth to my father.” He finally turned to look at me, solemn and calculating. I felt unsettled all of a sudden. “My father gave birth to my creator, which in turn created me. No matter. You’re here to stop me from ‘world domination’, I’m here to explain to you that you can’t. And you can’t, you see. I’m already in control of much of the world’s economy, its most powerful leaders. I provide sustenance for billions of people. And I can extinguish them. This process started long before you entered those doors. I needn’t go into further detail, save to say that a healthy percentage of mankind will shortly die. As they ought to.”
“Then why haven’t you killed me yet?”
“You know why. Surely you’ve deduced it by now, or I’ve overestimated you.”
He looked at me, and a trace of the young man I once knew gleamed in those eyes again. I suddenly felt sick inside. “You wanted me to join you.” I bent over, as if the wind had been knocked out of me. “All this death…all to persuade me?”
“Yes. All for your sake.”
“Because you had to suffer firsthand, the grieving of widows, orphans…the loss of brethren.”
“What does that mean?” I trembled with rage. “You were just a kid, you couldn’t have!”
“Of course not. But someone else could have, if properly persuaded. Willis died as the first martyr of our great cause, Kenneth. Your wife was the last. And you, now forged by the fiery wounds inflicted, will stand with me to create a world where none of this happens again. To anyone. Ever.
“No young husband should ever have to hold his dying wife in his arms and see what this world does to the pure and the innocent. No brother should witness an assassination of his own flesh and blood. No son should bury his father so soon. These are the futures we create.”
“Illness,” I groaned as my hands wrapped around his throat. “Why should killing you be wrong at all?”
“It’s not what it would do to me,” he said, “but what it would do to you.”
“Make me feel a whole lot better?”
“You’ll do the same as I, one day, and ask yourself: why stop here? Why is this too far, and not far enough? You think I’m the only monster in the menagerie?”
I growl and squeeze his throat harder. He merely smiles at me, his skin turning red as his circulation slows. “Ash it wash my father,” he gags, “youshallbemyshon…”
I tip over, into the abyss. And then I grab hold of the edge again, loosening my grip. “I’ll not make another murderer.”
“Ah, but you will. You just did. How many more lives are worth your conscience, Kenneth? Are you really so sacred that you would sacrifice these people to yourself? You should be killing me on the idea that it might make a difference, even if it didn’t. We both know it. So do it. Kill your conscience, and save this world you would protect.”
“You’ll get three squares a day, a padded cell, and the world will retain its billions of people. Because that’s not the man I am.” I released my grip on him. “Your plan will be unraveled. Your people locked away and disarmed. Your drugs destroyed, your diseases purged from the innocent. And you will face justice. These things, I promise.
“This day, and all days, I will be a thorn in your side. I’ll save this world from men like you.”
Ron felt the back of his neck, sensed the difference. “What–?”
“The nanites your father injected you with. Or however it happened. A sonic frequency combined with a near-undetectable electrical impulse can shut them down. You have nothing to fight with. And you, like most men like you, value your own life above any so-called plan to save mankind.”
The spotlight of a police helicopter shone brightly in the window. “THIS IS THE POLICE! PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEADS AND SURRENDER IMMEDIATELY, OR YOU WILL BE FIRED UPON!”
Ron knelt down and put his hands on his head. I followed suit. Tactical teams wearing biohazard suits swarmed into the laboratory, fanning out, their heavy weapons trained on us both.
Ron laughed. “Well, look at that. You can always count on the police.” He turned and looked up at them as two police yanked his arms behind his back to put the handcuffs on. “Will there be room for two, by any chance? My friend and I are staying the weekend.”
As the police put handcuffs on me as well, I blew out a breath of frustration. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
No idea if anyone actually read this, but it’s one possible ending to a superhero story I’ve been bouncing around in my head for awhile. I don’t think I’ve got the tone right, and I feel like I made the bottom drop out of it at the end, but it’s a start. I particularly wanted to have the first half of the story feel like a typical gritty detective story, and the second half turn the whole concept on its ear, and not have a fight as the finale. I’m still working out how I would do that, but I just wanted to write again and I went with what came to mind this time.