Enjoy Chapter Two of DarkLight Redemption. And, if you like what you read, please spread the word.
I’ll be back on Monday!
Secret identities are a surprisingly rare commodity these days, but I’ve managed to keep mine intact. My choice of costume helps since my mask offers nearly complete facial coverage.
It’s constructed of a spandexy space-age material that covers the top of my head to my nose. It extends down my neck as well, just leaving my mouth and jaw exposed. I haven’t shaved for a couple days, so I’ve got a decent amount of scruffiness happening. But that’s hardly a distinctly identifiable feature.
The eye holes are pretty wide, but lots of people have blue eyes. I’d once considered an open-topped mask so I could work the whole hair-dramatically- blowing-in-the-wind thing. But dirty blond hair coupled with a strongish jawline, six-foot-tall athletic build and blue eyes does form a decent Wanted poster.
Since you asked, my costume is two pieces: top and bottom, long sleeves and pants. I wear gloves, too, because if you can’t keep your fingerprints to yourself, then you can’t keep a secret identity.
Color scheme is charcoal gray with midnight blue trimming. The mask and the symbol on my chest are both blue. The symbol is an eight-pronged crystalline compass. I’ll be honest: It doesn’t really mean anything — I just thought it looked cooler than a stylized DL. Get it? For DarkLight?
Yeah, I thought it was lame, too, which is why I went with the other thing. Anyway, no cape for me, though I was tempted by the thoughts of it billowing badassedly in the wind. But it really wouldn’t serve any purpose besides getting in the way.
Unlike many other Post-Humans, my costume is neither spandex nor leather. It’s not skintight because, while I’m in pretty good shape, I’ve hardly got what you’d call a herculean physique.
Truth is, I did try a full costume made out of the same material my mask is made out of. But I sweat through it in ten minutes, and it bunched up in all sort of uncomfortable crevices.
So I go with a nylon/canvas hybrid. It looks good on me, and I’ve got a full range of motions, so I’m happy with it. That being said, I fold it up and drop it in my duffle bag before making my way to Weston Tower.
I put on a suit because I’d look just a suspicious going to a meeting with Drake Weston wearing a t-shirt and jeans as I would wearing my costume. He does have several subterranean entrances to the building, but they’re generally saved for emergencies.
After signing in at the lobby desk, I’m escorted to Weston’s private elevator and sent up. They don’t bother sending security up with me since I’ve been here plenty of times before.
Weston has some contingency plans in place in this building since — while he may be the most powerful man in the world — he’s still just a man. This is why every light in the building emits an energy signature that interrupts the powers of any Post-Human under them.
He sold the technology to the government a few years back for a couple billion dollars. It’s mostly used by P.H.A.T.E. for imprisoning captured supervillains.
One thing you have to hand to Drake Weston is that he knows how to play all the angles. I’d respect the man even more if he weren’t a power-hungry megalomaniac.
When the elevator doors slide open, I’m met by a pair of the most beautiful big green eyes I’ve ever seen. Once I get past them, I take in a view of short red hair, pale skin and tall, lean gorgeousness.
She smiles at me, and we nearly bump heads as I’m leaving the elevator and she’s getting in. Pretty smile, too. This is the kind of girl that could get me in trouble, especially if she’s got business with Weston.
I manage to grunt out half of a couple of words. Think I was going for either “Pardon me,” “Excuse me,” “I’m sorry” or “My bad.” Naturally what came out sounded like “Perdexmesorrbad.”
She gives me a sweet, smokey chuckle and replies, “S’noprobkay.”
Seems she’s as bad at this as I am. We exchange friendly smiles and swap spots. The elevator doors slide closed, and I find myself in Drake Weston’s office.
A woman with a different sort of beauty walks over to me. Elizabeth Stokes, AKA Whisper, greets me. She’s got a sharp aristocratic nose, chin and cheekbones, long, wavy black hair and eyes to match. Black eyes, I mean, not wavy. I’m not even sure what wavy eyes would entail.
She always seems to have a slight smirk, which I always notice because I never look her in the eyes. See, Elizabeth can take control of a person’s mind for twenty-four hours if she looks them in the eyes. Even though her powers are nullified here, just like everyone else’s, it’s a force of habit.
It’s a really hard habit to break since I once found myself in a thirty-foot-wide crater in Paris with no memory of the previous day after the first time we met. News reports filled me in about missing works of art afterward. That was before I got into the villain business so it was all quite embarrassing.
I would have ended up in one of the Post-Human prisons myself if my mentor, Charles Porter, hadn’t found the artworks and returned them. Never could pin it on Whisper, though.
Charles Porter, AKA MasterBlaster, is one of the first and greatest superheroes in the world. He’s also one of the main reasons that I hate myself every time I walk into this building.
“We heard that you ran into a little trouble, Thomas,” Elizabeth tells me in her vaguely Eastern European accent, and I regain my train of thought.
“I wasn’t expecting BioBorg to be with the convoy,” I reply.
“And we were not expecting you to waste escape time playing with exploding cars,” Elizabeth retorts, her smirk stretching a bit wider.
“Now, now, Ms. Stokes,” Drake Weston says in his baritone voice as he walks out from behind his desk. “Our young man accomplished his mission. That’s all we ask for in the end.”
“Yes, Mr. Weston,” Elizabeth says, and I smirk a little when hers shrinks.
“It’s always good to see you, Tom.” Weston offers a handshake, which I reluctantly accept.
His brown hair is perfectly sculpted and parted to the side. The suit he’s wearing costs more than the gross national product of some small countries. His calculating eyes and strong chiseled chin always make me feel like I’m a dumb teen sidekick again.
Weston is not yet fifty years old, and he’s owned a chunk of the world for nearly half that. Last year he was named both Forbes‘s Most Eligible Bachelor and Fortune’s Most Powerful Man. It wasn’t his first time topping either list.
I owe the man a great debt, but I never stopped wishing I could find a way to get him locked up. He’s just too damn good, though, and no one has ever been able to put together a strong enough case against him. An army of lawyers and a ledger filled with all the right names will do that for you.
“How is your family?” Weston asks in a way that is friendly and menacing at the same time.
“They’re well,” I say through a forced smile.
“And the bar?” he asks. “How’s business these days?”
“People always need a drink,” I say as he finally releases my hand.
Only three people in the world know my secret identity: Charles Porter, Elizabeth Stokes and Drake Weston. The only one of them who isn’t a morally impaired evildoer is the man whose trust and faith I betrayed.
Weston only mentioned my family and the bar I own to remind me that, even though I’m finished working for him, he still holds all the cards. This is the one man who could destroy the strongest of Post-Humans just by picking up the phone.
I follow him to his desk. He walks behind it and gestures to the chair across from him.
“Please, have a seat.”
“I’d rather stand, if that’s alright.”
“As you wish.” Weston remains standing as well.
He crosses his arms across his chest and looks out his seventy-fifth-story window. He views New York City the same way he views the rest of the world: as a chessboard. And he is the grand champion.
“You’ve done some great work for us, Tom,” he says without looking at me.
“Not sure that’s the way I’d put it, Mr. Weston.”
“No, I’m certain that it is not.” He finally turns to look at me. “I realize that you find the jobs I asked you to do rather repugnant, but at least I spared you from the worst of it.”
It’s true — I’ve been involved in numerous heists, but there were lines he’d never asked me to cross. That was for his benefit as well as mine since even I’m not sure how I’d respond to such a request. While I’m sure he’d considered it, it was not a headache he wanted to deal with.
My lack of response is response enough for him.
“What will you do now?” he asks. “Will you go back to thwarting the nefarious plots of Post-Human criminals?”
“Honestly, I’m tired of the whole scene,” I reply. “I’d just as soon toss my costume in the trash and spend the rest of my life tending bar.”
“Perhaps that’s for the best,” Weston says. “MasterBlaster has filled your old position anyway.”
“I’m too old to be a sidekick,” I say like the over-the-hill twenty-five-year-old that I am.
“Indeed,” Weston replies. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about the new LightBlast, would you?”
“No,” I reply in regards to the young man wearing the title that I used to carry. “Just that he’s been active for a bit over a year. Which means that I’m shocked you don’t already have a three-inch-thick file on him.”
“I will eventually,” Weston nods. “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in staying on with us, would you?”
“No, sir, I would not.”
“I thought as much,” he says. “If I may ask: What did you think of our new girl?”
“She did her job.”
“She did,” Weston agrees. “We have high hopes for that one. She’s the first second-generation Post-Human to become active.”
“Is that so?” I ask, trying to hide what interest I do have in her.
“We see enormous potential in her,” Weston finishes and walks out from behind his desk. “I’ve always seen great potential in you as well, Tom. It’s just a shame that this is the end of the line for us.”
My pulse quickens for a moment, as I’m not sure whether or not I should take that as a threat. I hear Elizabeth walking up behind me, and I realize that I could be in trouble.
I turn so I have them both in my line of sight, just as she holds up a briefcase.
It’s a familiar case. I’ve collected about thirty of them under these same circumstances. Elizabeth opens it up to show me the cash within, and she closes it after I’ve seen it. Once it’s snapped shut, she hands it to me.
I look back to Weston, who extends his hand once again and says, “I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors, Tom.”
I accept the handshake and then make my way back to the elevator. I step inside and turn to face the office once more. Elizabeth stands next to Weston, and they’re both watching me.
“If you change your mind about my offer, you know where to find me,” Weston calls as the doors close in front of me.