Redemption: a story




The slender, black-haired man in the corner checked his watch for the fifth time. It was late evening and the coffee shop was almost empty. Outside, the fading sunset made the exposed girders of Faultline sparkle, as if they were made of silver and not rough steel.

The front door banged open, and a woman in on official-looking tan power suit approached his table, dumping a bulging handbag on top of it , rattling the table and spilling his coffee.

He looked up. His eyes were hidden behind an extremely dark set of wraparound shades. The metal of the collar round his neck gleamed in the flourescent lights. A tiny green light winked slowly on and off just under his chin.

"Agent Branson?" His voice was low and halting.

"That's me," she said, shrugging off her overcoat and draping it over the back of the chair. Her tome was clipped, precise, and managed to convey a sharp dissaproval.

"Coffee?" he asked, lifting his damped cup slightly.

"No." She slid into her seat and retrieved a bulging manilla folder from the handbag, which left it mostly deflated. Flipping it open, she pulled up the cover sheet, and began reading from it in a staccato voice.

"Okay, so, Thomas Wraith, also known under the pseudonym Nox Noctis, being latin for darkness. Cute name, I'm sure you picked it yourself. I see you were released on your own recognisance five days ago-"

"Excuse me."

She looked up sharply. "Yes? what?"

"You haven't told me your name."

There was a pause. "You know my name."

"Your first name."

"You don't need to know my first name. You can continue to call me Agent Branson. If that won't do, you can call me Ma'am."

"You know my name."

She shut the folder with a snap and laced her hands on top of it.

"Yes Mr. Wraith, I know your name. I have, of course, read your file. Which means I also know why you are here, and why you are wearing a class five superpower inhibitor collar."

The silence which followed had a very heavy quality. The man with the dark hair sat back.

"You don't like me."

She spread her hands. "Should I, Wr. Wraith? A lot of people are dead because of you. Some of them were bad people. Some of them were trying to do the right thing. Have you forgotten about Stanley Hammond? His mother hasn't. I hear she lost her house after his death, did you know that? Or shall we discuss Alicia Grosvenors husband, who committed suicide after-"

"Stop." His voice cracked slightly. She did stop. There was another pause.

"Mr Wraith, I am an officer of the Paragon city justice system. I am not your friend, I am not your confessor, and I am not here to give you a shoulder to cry on. I am not here to give you absolution. I am here to ensure that you are not still a threat to society. I am watching over you on behalf of Stanley, Alicia, and all the other people who, thanks to you, can no longer accuse or remind you of your crimes."

She was leaning forward now, her eyes boring into the dark eclipse of his sunglasses. Her eyes were very green and very bright.

"I am aware of the work you have done for Vanguard. I know why they have elected to release you. I do not concur with their decision."

The parts of his face that were visible around the sunglasses were set and white.

"Then why, Officer Branson, are you...assisting with my rehabilitation?"

She pursed her lips.

"The Metahuman Rehabilitation program is very new. It has attracted a lot of very young, talented, idealistic law enforcement officers. They believe that they can you into productive members of society."

He cocked his head slightly.

"You think they are wrong."

"I think they are wrong in your specific case. If I didn't believe in what the MRA was doing, I would be in another department."

"That doesn't answer my question."

She swept the file off the table and back into the bag.

"In short, then: I am here to watch you. I am here to keep you in line. I am here because I think your case demands an agent with experience and...a paucity of idealism."

"PPD agents say 'paucity'?"

"They do when they read classical literature. Don't try to insult me, Mr. Wraith, it would take more wit than I think you have. do you think you're the only person educated at an ivy-league school?"

He bowed his head stiffly.

"I see. Are we about done, Agent Branson?"

"Just about. Our next meeting will be here, 5:30PM in exactly two weeks." She began gathering her things and stood up. Wraith leaned forward and stared into his coffee cup.

" collar?"

She stopped, her coat slung halfway on.

"You already know the answer to that, Mr. Wraith. Why bother asking?"

"You don't even have the key, do you?" He looked up and gave a smile that looked as though it had been soaked in lemon juice, it was so sour.

"I wouldn't tell you if I did. Goodbye."

Looping the handbag over her shoulder, she walked purposefully out.

The slender man with black hair sat looking out of the window for a very long time.



I must say, not bad.
I'm at a loss for other words.
Well done .