Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Chapter by SGCool

Our first brush with Roger, the dapper sociopath.


Nova City Correctional Facility. Laying some ten miles from the outskirts of the city, it is a place for the justice system to funnel the various malcontents and ne'er do wells brought to them by the many metahumans that patrol the streets in the name of righteousness, obligation, or sheer boredom. Considering the size of the population, there is no shortage of heroes or villains, and so the prison is swollen to bursting with inmates. This doesn’t stop the dumping of more inmates there on a daily basis, however. ‘There’s always room for one more’ is the unofficial motto of the facility.

Let’s take a closer look. The prison is large enough to look like a small, walled in city. There are no fewer than ten fences on the outer perimeter, each one twenty feet high with razor sharp barbed wire curled along the top. Guard towers dot the landscape; high powered searchlights on top and an arsenal of weaponry inside. The prison itself is a monstrosity of stone and steel, with extra thick walls and steel doors that look more like iron portcullises from a medieval castle.

There’s the roof, scarred and patched up from numerous escape attempts, most of them unsuccessful. The bars on the small cell windows provide meager light for each inmate, although here and there the bars have been replaced with sturdy mesh or bricked up entirely. This is a prison that houses many metahumans, after all.

Zoom in on one particular cell. It belongs to a Roger Petruchio Hamlet Pink III, a man who considers himself a misunderstood genius, where the city considers him a nuisance. He is six foot four, incredibly thin, not quite forty, and has a head of snow white hair and an immaculate fashion sense that, in the times when he was free, made people wonder if he was fabulously wealthy, a flaming homosexual, or both. He has certainly been the former, and the latter is known only to himself.

He wears the orange jumpsuit of the prison system, white slip-on shoes, and a peculiar collar made of thick, dull metal around his neck. Right now, he is hunched over the toilet.

“Concentration,” he mutters, hands working at something he’s holding over the water. “It’s gotta about concentration. I mean what else could it be?”

On the toilet seat rests a plate with several small piles of differently colored dust on it. Every now and then, Roger reaches over and carefully teases out a few grains and brings them to the center of the plate. He then dips a finger into the toilet bowl and lets a few drops of water fall onto the dust, and swirls the result into a paste.

A scuttling noise at his foot caused him to look down. Several large cockroaches squat by the base of the toilet, looking for all the world like soldiers standing to attention. One stands right by Roger’s foot, in front of two others who are holding a fourth roach by its legs in between them.

Roger turns and looks down at them. “Did you bring me another guinea pig?” he asks.

The roach by his foot waves a front leg in a manner that suggests a salute.

“Good,” Roger says. “Because I just cooked up another batch that I’d like to test.” He bends down toward the two roaches and their captive. The captured roach struggles to get away, but the other roaches are too strong and hold it fast.

Roger places a tiny metal disc in front of the captive roach. On it is a smear of the paste from the plate.

“Eat up,” says Roger softly.

Instantly, the captive roach stops struggling. The other two let it go and it scuttles forward, eagerly gulping down the paste. When it is finished, it backs a few inches away and stands motionless. Roger and the other roaches watch it intently.

Several uneventful minutes go by. Roger taps his fingers on the toilet seat in a gentle, percussive tattoo. The roach begins to clean its antennae.

Roger sighs as the roach moves on to its forelegs, running them through its mouth  parts. He turns to the plate balanced on the toilet seat and moves to pick it up when he hears a small buzzing on the floor. He turns back to see a peculiar sight: the roach had stopped cleaning itself and was now vibrating; its entire body shuddering quickly enough to make it seem like just a blur on the floor. A high pitched squeal begins to emanate from it, like air escaping a balloon.

Roger leans in close, fascinated. The squealing noise comes from the roach’s legs, which are frantically pumping against the floor in an effort to gain traction, looking for all the world like a car burning out on asphalt. They are moving so fast, they look like little blurry circles on the roach’s sides. The roach shudders faster and its squealing gets louder. Roger would almost swear that he saw it start to turn red.

Suddenly, with a small sonic boom and faster than Roger could see it, the roach takes off toward the wall of the cell, hits the concrete, and explodes in a miniature mushroom cloud. A miniscule wisp of smoke drifts through the air around a tiny blackened crater on the wall.

Roger leans back against the toilet, an impressed look on his face. He takes a napkin and a crayon out of his shoe and writes something down.

“Well, it’s a start,” he says, finally. “Dismissed.”

The other roaches scuttle away quickly, presumably to upgrade their life insurance policies.

Roger sat on the edge of his bed, writing in a small notepad with the crayon that he had been allowed to have on the condition that he not try to stab anyone with it.

“Too fast, too soon.” he muttered. “Burnout. Splat.”

The crayon moved furiously against the notepad.

“Concentration might have been too high...or maybe it needs a fixer…”

The sharp report of a nightstick against the bars of the view window jolted Roger out of his meditative musings.

“Lunchtime, jerk off.” The food slot slid open and a tray was shoved through, cleared the little balcony on the inside, and landed on the floor with a loud clatter.

Roger recognized the voice. It belonged to a particularly unpleasant guard named Van Cleefe. Roger leaned forward and grabbed the tray, bringing it up to rest it on his lap. “What’s this?” he asked.

“New lunch program,” replied Van Cleefe.  “The city wants us to start feeding you better food, as if you scum deserve it.”

Roger prodded gingerly at the food. It wasn’t the usual spread of meager portions, instead consisting of a cup of canned fruit, a biscuit, baked beans, a very thin slice of pound cake, and three deep fried bars of something. Not a whole lot more than what he was used to, but it was something at least.

“What are these?” the he asked, pointing at the bars on the tray.

“Fish sticks,” said Van Cleefe.

Roger made a face. “I hate the smell of fish,” he said.

Van Cleefe leaned close to the bars, a sneer spread across his face. “We were kind enough to give it to you, Pink, and you’re gonna eat it all,” he said. “Or I’m gonna be back tonight and I’m gonna take the cost of the wasted food out of you with my little friend here.” He tapped the nightstick menacingly against the bars. It echoed loudly throughout the cell. “Do I make myself clear?”

Roger stared at him, a blank expression on his face. Slowly, he reached up and tapped the collar. “You are incredibly lucky I haven’t figured out a way to get this off,” he said.

Van Cleefe reeled back away from the bars, bellowing a hoarse laugh that recalled years of smoking a few packs a day. “You think you can take me, jerk off? I spent ten years in the marines and did four tours before they discharged me. And you know what they discharged me for?”

“Smuggling snack cakes?” said Roger, poking at the fish sticks again.

Van Cleefe put his face back up against the bars. The sound of stubble against metal and a faint smell of liquor permeated the cell. “I was too violent, they said.” He let that hang in the air for a few seconds before pulling away from the door. “Enjoy your lunch, jerk off. I’ll see you tonight.”

Roger continued to poke at his food as the heavy footsteps faded away down the hall. “I spent ten years in the marines,” he said in a mocking tone. “I did four tours of a chocolate factory.” He picked up a fish stick and turned it over a few times, contemplating the soggy texture and questionable smell. Slowly, he lifted the fish stick to his mouth and took a bite. A sudden pain filled his mouth as he bit into the fish stick, which was entirely solid and hard as a rock. It clattered to the floor as he dropped it to clutch his mouth and whimper. When the pain had subsided, he put the tray to the side and picked up the fish stick, which now seemed noticeably heavier than when he had first held it. With a fingernail, he scraped the breading off of one side and stared in disbelief at what was exposed.

“What?” he whispered, as if speaking too loudly might shatter this sudden unbelievability. A slow grin spread across his face as the reality sunk in that this was real; it was actually happening. He clutched the unexpected treasure tightly in his hands and held it to his chest, his future suddenly full of possibilities, none of which included a prison cell.

“Ten years in the marines, huh?” he said softly.

“Would you like to tell me how you’re feeling right now, Roger?”

The prison psychiatrist, Dr. Gene P. Whirley, peered over the top of his horn rimmed spectacles at the couch, which Roger was perched upon. He sat cross-legged and held in his lap a large sketchpad, and was busily scribbling away at it with a pencil.

“I’m feeling very focused right now, doc,” Roger replied.

“Do you find that drawing helps you?” Whirley had a soft, droning way of speaking that put one in mind of ugly sweaters, overly large glasses, and mugs that say ‘world’s best dad’ on them.

“Well, some might find it sketchy, but I hardly think you could draw any real conclusions from that.”

Whirley made a noncommittal noise of agreement as Roger’s joke flew over his head like the number one over a cuckoo’s nest. He took a quiet sip from the coffee mug on his desk, which indeed read ‘world’s best dad’. “You know, Roger, I have to say that I really think these therapy sessions are helping you a lot.”

Roger grunted and kept drawing.

“It’s very clear to me that you’ve become a much less angry person,” Whirley continued. “We’ve been seeing each other long now?”

Roger didn’t look up. “Eight years.”

“Eight years.” Whirley nodded slightly. “That’s quite a long time. I’ve seen some real progress in you, especially recently. Do you know why that is?”

Roger smiled faintly and used the pencil eraser to scratch underneath the metal band on his neck. “I guess you could say that things have been really going my way recently.”

“I think it’s because you’re learning to let go,” said Whirley with another sip of his coffee. “Eight years since you were apprehended and you’re already very much at peace with yourself. Would you say that’s true?”

“Absolutely,” said Roger. “My chi is one hundred percent aligned.”

“And I think that peace is coming from learning how to forgive,” said Whirley.

“Oh yeah,” agreed Roger. “The other day, I caught Slinky cheating at cards during recreational time, and I only threatened to make him eat his own ears a little bit.”

Whirley chuckled softly and shook his head. “That’s not what I’m talking about, Roger.”

There was nothing but the scratching of pencil against paper for the next few minutes.

“I don’t follow, doc,” said Roger.

“You’re a brilliant man, Roger, that much is clear.” Whirley scratched his bottlebrush mustache. “So you must realize that there’s only one way to truly be at peace, and that is forgiveness.”

“Slinky didn’t even cheat that badly,” said Roger. “Just the old ‘five aces’ trick. No big deal.”

Whirley leaned over the desk and looked down his nose at Roger with a stern, unblinking gaze.

“Roger,” he said. “You’ve got to learn to forgive the person who put you in here.”

There was a sharp crack as the pencil broke against the paper. Roger looked up to meet Whirley’s gaze. If Whirley had been a little more observant, he would have noticed  that, for a split second, there was a manic, murderous look in Roger’s eyes just before it melted back into his usual disarming, friendly expression.

“Is that all?” Roger smiled. “No problem.”

“Excellent.” Whirley smiled back. The clock on his desk, an antique analogue clock, began to chime gently. “Well, it looks like we’re out of time. I think that was a very productive session, and I look forward to our next one. There’s hope for you yet, Roger.”

“Thanks, doc,” said Roger, as a guard came into the room, cuffed him, and began to lead him out. “I feel the same way.”

As soon as they had left, Whirley leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and let out a long sigh. He stood up and cradled his coffee, looking out the window onto the grassy veranda and the barbed wire fences off in the distance. After a few minutes, he walked to the couch to look at what Roger had drawn. He began to take a sip from the mug while the other hand reached for the sketchpad and turned it face up.

Whirley’s eyes bugged out. His cheeks bulged. The mug and sketchpad had barely hit the floor before Whirley was at the trashcan, vomiting noisily. Behind him, a puddle of coffee began to spread and seep into the carpet.

Van Cleefe strode down the hallway, whistling a tune and dragging his nightstick across the wall. The tip skittered across the painted cinder blocks, making a heavy wooden noise as it scraped against the rough surface. His shiny dress shoes stomped against the concrete, echoing loudly through the halls and causing his rolls of fat to jiggle unpleasantly. He would occasionally take the nightstick away from the wall to twirl it in his hand.

Whenever he reached a cell, he would smack the nightstick against the door with a loud clang, usually eliciting a muffled cry of alarm from the inmate within. He would then chuckle to himself under his breath and twirl the stick again.

As he approached Roger’s cell, he stopped and pressed himself against the wall like a soldier in a firefight. He held his radio up to his face.

Ksh, we have located the suspect. Going in now to apprehend him, over, ksh.

Ksh, you are cleared for entry,” he replied to himself in a muffled voice. “We have snipers on the roof covering you. Godspeed, detective. Ksh.”

He clipped his radio back onto his belt and held his nightstick is if it were a rifle. “Time to get some, motherlovers,” he said. He turned to the cell door and slotted his card key through the electronic reader. With a little buzz, the red light turned green and the door unlocked.

“Wake up, jerk off!” he said, opening the door. “It’s time to show you what happens when you smart off to your betters!”

The cell inside was pitch black. Van Cleefe couldn’t even see the normal rectangle of light from the door frame; it was like the room was entirely filled with black liquid that no light could penetrate.

Van Cleefe squinted as he tried to see into the cell. “You’d better not be trying to escape, Pink,” he said, trying to sound brave, but there was an unmistakeable quaver in his voice. “You know how we respond to funny business.”

Something flew out of the doorway like a frisbee and hit Van Cleefe squarely in the sternum. He caught it with both hands and looked down.

It was Roger’s metal collar. Van Cleefe looked back into the cell, wide-eyed. The collar clanged to the floor as Van Cleefe grasped at his radio. As his fingers closed around it, it felt hairy and had entirely too many legs, and he realized that it wasn’t his radio. He screamed as the tarantula bit into his hand, and waved his arm in an attempt to get it off of him. It sailed through the air and landed on the floor, where it skittered away into the shadows.

Van Cleefe whimpered as he cradled his throbbing hand when he felt a beckoning. He looked back into Roger’s cell.

“Drop your key, Van Cleefe.” The voice in his head was sonorous and commanding. It could not be disobeyed. Van Cleefe took the card key from his pocket and dropped it on the floor. “Now take out your gun.” With trembling fingers, he pulled the nine millimeter from its holster. “The other guards aren’t very nice to you, are they?” Slowly, with a dull expression, Van Cleefe shook his head back and forth. “They call you names behind your back. They make fun of your weight and how you can’t keep a girlfriend. That’s not very neighborly, now is it?” A trail of spittle dribbled out of the corner of Van Cleefe’s mouth. “Don’t you think it’s time to show them how you feel?” With a slow nod and a head full of cotton, Van Cleefe turned and shuffled away, the gun still clutched tightly in his hand.

“Van Cleefe, it’s been a while since you reported in,” the radio at the base of the cell door crackled. “All quiet in wing B?”

Roger stepped out of the depths of the cell and kicked the radio as hard as he could. It bounced across the floor and hit a wall, breaking apart and spilling its electronics onto the ground. With a toothy grin, Roger adjusted his lapels and ran his fingers through his snow white hair.

“Guess who’s back?” he said.

Sirens blared and lights flashed throughout the prison, bathing the concrete in cycles of red and yellow. A voice over the intercom advised the prisoners to return immediately and calmly to their cells or face severe repercussions. The inmates, if they heard, were too busy locked in combat with the prison guards to care and too tantalized with the thought of freedom to comply. Where it was possible, the guards had outfitted the metahuman prisoners with headbands to neutralize their powers, but there were some with whom that had been an impossibility, and they had merely been restrained. Once free, it was only a matter of time before they beat the prison staff back and made for the front gates.

In his office, Dr. Whirley fumbled frantically through the drawers of his desk.

“It’s in here somewhere,” he gasped to himself. “Have to find it...have to find it!”

Official documents were thrown into the air and floated gently to the ground, creating a snowstorm of paper, post-it notes, tape, and other office supplies.

“Ah ha!” Whirley shouted, pulling a small automatic pistol free from the confines of the desk.

Just then, the locked door shook on its hinges.

“Go away!” shouted Whirley. “I...I have a gun!” He pointed it with trembling hands toward the silhouette moving on the other side of the smoked glass window.

With a crash, the door was kicked inward and landed on the floor amid the avalanche of documents, causing them to swirl up into the air once more.

“Hi, doc,” Roger said casually, stepping into the room.

A few minutes later Roger emerged into the hallway, clutching a thick file folder under his arm and whistling a tune. The label on the folder once said PROFILES in a bold and fancy script, and was now crossed out with a thick marker. In neat handwriting underneath it was written the word Candidates. In the other hand Roger held a lump of putty with wires sticking willy nilly out of it and a calculator shoved into the front. He stuck this onto the wall, pressed the minus button, and ran like hell.

When the explosion was over and the dust of pulverized concrete had cleared, Roger emerged from the hole into the moonlight, took a deep breath, and smiled.

© 2017 SGCool

Author's Note

Fish sticks, explosions, making illegal drugs in the toilet...prison sounds like a blast.

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Added on June 27, 2017
Last Updated on June 27, 2017
Tags: Humor, Comedy, Satire, Superhero



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