Chapter 1: Speeding Bullets
"The first time I ran faster than the speed of sound I panicked. For a few moments I thought the boom I heard was my ear drums bursting because suddenly everything went silent. I tumbled over the course of two miles and broke my left leg. It took the doctor 7 times to reset it properly as it healed at an accelerated rate. I was 13 and had my powers for about a month. As I lay there in agonizing pain, my leg twisted in a way it shouldn't have been, blood running down my forehead into my eye, I just remember smiling. I was 13 years old and I was the happiest boy alive.
Everything else fell to shit of course. I dropped out of school, travelled the world at supersonic speeds, paying for my sprees with crime binges. I was caught once, trapped in a hole I couldn't get leverage and get out. I bloodied my hands trying to dig at super speed. Ha, I'll never do that again. Try punching something at mach 2 some time, see what happens. See you have to be more subtle than that. I learned how to use my powers to my own advantage but I lived without an identity, without a home and ultimately afraid of every corner. And then I got your note. I have to admit I was intrigued from the start. I've known for a while that there were others like me but so far no one knew I had these powers. So how did you find out?"
I look at him for a long moment before turning my attention down to my coffee, sitting atop the table next to my chair across from his. and lift it to my lips. I take care to drink slowly, all the while looking into his eyes before setting it down once more, clearing my throat and beginning to speak. Those few moments tell me what I need to know.
"You'd be surprised at the things I know Mr. Miller. And at who else knows. "
I throw the manilla folder full of pictures onto his lap. The first couple of photos slide out on landing and show in slow motion detail the sins of his youth. He takes a close look at the first, not for its content but rather for some sort of datestamp or such. I'm certain that he sees the NSA letters in the corner before continuing.
"So you can see where I might be of some help to you."
"What do you want?" The first reply of these people is always the same. They see the world through the eyes of cynics and cowards. Some are guilty for the crimes they've used their powers to commit, no matter how slight the offense (once I interviewed a boy who'd used his enhanced strength to win a crucial football game and felt horrible afterwards.) This group will follow their instincts into the easiest way out for them. The other group, well they are scared. Scared after a life of feeling different, sure that they would be dissected or exploited if found, scared for the people who would be hurt trying to leverage them. They'll do anything to avoid disclosure.
Miller belonged to the first. The crimes he'd committed were unspeakable and if anything less stood in the balance I'd take him in myself, but there is nothing more important so I bottle my outrage and continue the observation.
"How did you receive your powers?"
"It was 19 years ago this october. I was born in May but I celebrate my birthday from when I was reborn in speed. I was always a bit of an oddball in the tiny mountain town I grew up in but one day they had a special train shipment passing through town. The police kept everyone at least a mile back, which in that town was halfway into main street. But I was curious and snuck around them through the woods. I always liked sitting by the tracks and watching the trains go by but I knew this one would be special.
I sat there as this strange metal thing slid down the tracks. It moved like a train but it was more like the maglev things you see nowadays. It just floated through, silent and sleek and I was mesmerized. It was then that something strange and unbelieveable happened but I was there and I swear it's true. Something came streaking out of the sky and smashed into the center car. It exploded in this weird lightshow without any sound. But I felt the blast for sure. It sent me reeling backwards about 60 feet and then it just stopped and so did everything else. I managed to get back to the ground from hovering there and start to move. Instantly everything was moving so slowly around me. It took me a while to get used to that but finally I made my way back to town.
When I got there it was the same, nothing moving, nothing not even the dust in the air. It was like time was standing still like in that twilight zone with the watch and I was the only one still moving. It didn't take me long to see that wasn't so. A bird flew down from the south sky and I knew that there was more to this even as it too was paralyzed. That's when I ran, I ran and everything flew past me at normal speed but when I stopped it was moving so slow and I had to concentrate to get it to come back into focus. The best I can describe it is that, just like when you stare and you have to blink to reset. I realized then that I had superspeed and that the world was my oyster."
He thinks its unbelieveable and he's right, but this time I happen to know he isn't lying. The government was moving an experimental new bomb through back woods towns that day to avoid population centers and there was indeed a meteor shower that hit that small town. Moreover, the area is now at the center of a government research base which bears investigation. Of course, those meteors weren't exactly normal which is the entire problem. The coincidence is beyond belief and the effect even moreso but the more I learn the more I see that it's the very nature of what we face.
"And when did you first kill someone?"
He looks down, the grief on his young face makes him seem ancient and his hair is worn and grey before its time. "I was 17. It was self-defense which made it all the easier. I was caught stealing some fruit from a stand in baghdad and he had me by the arm and neck before I could move. He was choking the life out of me and I just kicked out of reflex. The hardness of his body went away replaced by something soft and sick as I withdrew my foot. His hand went slack and his face white and blood was everywhere. I ran off as quickly as possible and washed myself for hours before I felt clean of his smell."
And then, just to make myself feel better about everything that was going to happen, I went ahead and asked the question.
"And when did you first murder someone?"
"It was a girl." Of course it was I thought, it always is with the criminals. "I saw her for days and watched her, she was amazing, one of those bodies that just wouldn't quit and an angel's face. I had to have her. So one night I followed her home and snuck in behind her. I checked the house and once I was sure we were alone I struck. That's when I realized my mistake. See once I was in the act, I had to slow down to normal again and she saw me, my face, and well I wasn't thinking DNA at the time but all of that added up and I panicked. I knew then I couldn't let her live. After all what's the use of being able to criss-cross the globe if everyone is looking for you? So I finished my business and then before she could even scream I took her to the middle of the Pacific."
"And then what?"
"And then what what? I went home."
"No. I mean when you got to the Pacific, what did you do with her."
"Oh", starts, the smile on his face from reminiscing about his conquest fades to the indifference of a spoiled child who breaks his favorite toy. "I just let go."
He sits uncomfortably for a moment and then looks up to me again, his self interest firmly reasserting its control.
"So. You never did tell me. What do you want?"
I smile a small grin, the knowledge of everything that will follow makes it all the better. "Let me just be frank. You said it yourself, what's the use of being able to go anywhere if you are wanted everywhere? These men that took these pictures. They should scare you. You scare them and so they have devised all manners of way to dispose of the threat they perceive to be building.
There is a war coming Mr. Miller and I intend to make a stand. You are an actor in this drama and an important one at that. For now, you may go, but someday, someday soon, I will be calling on you to play your part. And when that time comes, I will tell you a secret."
"Um, ok. That's it? Someday I have to do you a favor and you're going to give me some info."
He stands up, takes his photos into his messenger bag and starts to leave.
"One more thing Mr. Miller."
He nods to inquire.
"After the play is over, the secret I'm going to tell you you cannot be trusted with. So I am going to have to kill you. I'd be lying if I said I was sorry for that."