8FOLD/ACRA: Jolt City # 9, ...a.k.a. the Hallucinated Man!

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 17 12:58:27 PDT 2007

   Martin Rock stands in the center of a city street,
a bag of money in his hand, garbed in a Vibra-Jacket
and laughing maniacally at stymied speedster
Darkhorse.  "Face it, Darkhorse," he says, "you can't
hit what you can't touch!"
   How did Martin Rock-- a.k.a. the Green Knight--
embark on a career of super-crime?  For the startling
answers, you must read the story of Martin Rock...


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   # 9 JUNE 2007 
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   The death of January brings hope: Roy Riddle finds
a Vibra-Jacket in the white-white snow, sitting on the
steps of his church like an offering to God, but
gift-wrapped with a note for the Green Knight.  It
opens tersely and closes boldly: "Green Knight.  A
   No body in between, just head and feet without the
benefit of neck or ankles.

   Martin looks the vest over in the Knight's Den. 
"If this is legit, it could save the whole city."
   "Any reason to think it's not?" asks Riddle.
   "Well, we won't know for sure until Fay Tarif looks
it over.  But it could be a trap."
   "But the note says it's from a friend."
   Martin stares at him in disbelief.  "I bet if
someone put an eighty-foot horse outside, you'd haul
it right in, wouldn't you?"
   "No.  Doors aren't that tall."
   "This is what we've been hoping for," admits
Martin.  "For weeks everyone-- myself, the police,
even Darkhorse-- we've been unable to stop people with
these vests.  But Fay Tarif can take this, find a way
to neutralize its effects.  We can stop this, turn
things around.  We can take down the whole
organization, and tie it all back to Snapp.  And he
has to know that."
   "I'm not following," says Riddle.
   "If this is a real Vibra-Jacket, there's one of two
ways it got here.  One is that Snapp planted it, which
means it's a trap."
   "Or he's repented, and he wants to be caught so he
can atone."
   Martin stares at him again.
   Riddle adjusts his pastor's collar.  "Or it's a
   "The second option is that someone out there is
willing to cross Snapp, his entire organization, and
the dozens of dozens of floaters who can walk through
walls and stick their hands into his heart.  Of the
two, a trap is far more likely."
   "Say, this friend," says Roy, brandishing the note,
"you think it's the same one as before?  The letter we
got that had your identity in it?" [*-- see JOLT CITY
# 6.]
   "That's what I'm worried about," says Martin as he
pulls on his mask.  "Because if it is-- and if Snapp
is behind this after all-- then he knows who I am..."

Jolt City University.
   Fay gladly accepts the vest from the Green Knight
and Officer Danielle Handler.
   "Give me an hour and I'll know whether or not it's
legit," she promises.  "As for what Snapp's done to it
to disable the fail-safes... and coming up with a new
   "Well, there's no way to know how long it'll take,
is there?" says Martin.
   "No, there isn't," twinkles Fay.  "But I'll keep
you posted."

   Dani and Martin walk across the campus.
   "So, hero," says Dani, "haven't seen you in a few
   "Whenever you've paged me, I've shown up," says
Martin.  "Like always."
   "Yeah," says Dani.  "Only I thought things weren't
like always anymore."
   "Yeah."  Martin feels something move in his belly,
heavy and hard.  "I've just... been in an awkward
place, lately."
   "You mad at me?"
   "Nah.  Why would I be mad at you, kiddo?"
   "Erika Fumetti."
   "No, I... I forgot all about it," Martin lies.
   "I'm sorry for what I said."
   "Hey, it's water under the bridge," he says.  They
come to the parking lot.  Martin starts to unchain his
unicycle.  Dani fishes the keys out for her patrol
   "Can I give you a ride anywhere?"
   "No thanks."
   He hops on his unicycle and leaves her.

   But she doesn't leave him.  Her face and voice
follow him as he winds his way down the city streets. 
Nags at him.
   Just shy of three weeks ago, they had professed
love for one another, despite the fact that Dani had
no idea who the man was beneath the mask of the Green
Knight.  It was a strange, puppy-dog kind of love (a
roses-and-soda-pop kind of love), the only kind of
love that could accommodate a complete lack of trust
and intimacy.
   He had wanted to tell her, but he was afraid; she
might love the heroic Green Knight, but she had no
love for Martin Rock, the shady homeless bum that had
been the main target of the park sniper.
   Pam, by contrast...
   Pam liked Martin Rock and accepted him before he
told her the secret of his dual identity.  Hell,
Martin Rock got Pam kidnapped five days after they had
met, and she forgave him!
   But it still doesn't feel right.  Maybe it's
because Martin's relationship with Pam started on a
purely physical level, as opposed to the chaste
courtship of the Green Knight and Lt. Handler.  Or
maybe it's because Martin was still "with" Dani the
first night he and Pam had made love.  Not that he's
"with" Pam now, either.  Things are ambiguous. 
Casual.  Hazy.
   And Martin doesn't like it.  He doesn't like
ambiguity and the introspection and angst that often
accompanies it.  He doesn't live in his head, but
rather in the tangible world: he lives in his muscles
and sinew and blood, in his unicycle and costume and
city.  He wants things to be clear and chiseled.
   Getting too old for this Betty-and-Veronica shit...
   Pam knows his secret identity.  He told her, and
he's sure that was a mistake.  What does he really
know about her?  If he added up all the time he's
spent with her, it wouldn't even amount to a week. 
Part of him wonders if now he's stuck, and that same
part of him remembers that this is how he often used
to make decisions, by backing himself into a corner
and acting rashly.
   He's known Dani for much longer.  If he told her
his identity, he knows he could trust her with it--
even if that might mean the end of their relationship.
   But would it though?  He's really not sure exactly
how Dani feels about him.  It's ambiguous and hazy,
and it's probably that-- the fifty-fifty chance that
she might accept him and love him as Martin-- that
frightens him.
   If only there was some way to test the waters... to
let Dani get to know Martin...

   Martin gets a page from Dani.
   "What's up?"
   "Fay Tarif called.  It's definitely a real vest. 
And she thinks she has an idea as to what's going on
with the fail-safes.  She needs some more time to run
some tests.  To be sure."

The next day, JCU.
   "You remember how the Vibra-Jacket operates?" says
   "It vibrates the person wearing it out of synch
with reality," says Martin.  "Same principal as
speedsters like Darkhorse."
   "Or like Dr. Metronome?" says Dani.
   "No," says Fay.  "Dr. Costello looked into the
metronome belt in the early stages of development. 
The way that works is, your body is made up of
molecules and the molecules of atoms."
   "I know that," snips Dani.
   "And there's spaces between the atoms-- tiny, tiny
spaces.  The metronome belt vibrates the atoms in your
body so that it can slide between those spaces."
   "And how is the Vibra-Jacket different?"
   "Well, the metronome belt is actually pulling the
body of its wearer apart.  If there is a malfunction,
one risks scattering yourself to the winds.  Dr.
Costello-- and the army-- felt that was too big a
   "Two objects-- two atoms-- cannot occupy the same
space, right?"
   "That's basic physics," says Dani.
   "But an infinite number of atoms occupy the same
space all the time," says Fay.  "Parallel worlds. 
They exist in the same exact space-- just on different
frequencies.  What the Vibra-Jacket does is 'tune' its
wearer slightly out of synch with our reality and in
with another.  Much less danger."
   "Yeah," says Martin.  "Now you only have to worry
about ending up in another reality."
   "That's still a living soldier," says Fay.
   "Can't something from the other side get them?"
   "That was really a non-issue," says Fay.  "There's
not enough of the wearer in existence in that other
   "They'd be like a ghost," says Dani.
   "Exactly.  The government saw another tactical
advantage.  If you want to get from point A to point
B, instead of battling through enemy territory, you
slip into another reality-- a peaceful one-- at point
A, travel to point B, and slip back."
   Martin scratches his chin through his mask.  "Could
we get to the point, though?"
   "We developed fail-safes," says Fay.  "Ways to snap
someone back should they go rogue.  But, as you know,
they've proven fruitless.  Suffice to say, the vest
has been tampered with.
   "Namely, instead of tuning slightly in synch with a
neighboring reality, it's now tuning slightly in synch
with ours."
   Dani snaps her fingers.  "You mean they're more in
tune with another world than ours!  That's why our
fail-safes can't affect them-- just like something
couldn't affect them from the other world."
   Martin raises his finger to make a point.  "When I
tried on the Vibra-Jacket, I was completely aware of
my surroundings here, on this earth-- I had no
consciousness of another reality.  If the doctored
jacket puts them in another reality, how would they be
aware of this one, and able to interact?"
   "I'm not really sure," says Fay.  She opens a
drawer and pulls out a fail-safe gun.  "Why don't we
find ourselves a floater and ask them?"
   "This will work?"
   "It should," says Fay.  "Instead of destabilizing
the effect of the Jacket like its predecessor, this
modification actually over-rides the tuning mechanism,
tuning them into the frequency of our reality."
   "Just... point and shoot?"
   "Point and shoot," says Fay.  "I'll have specs
ready for mass production for the whole police force
by tomorrow."

   Martin brings in a dozen floaters over the course
of an hour.  But as much as Dani's officers push, they
can't find anyone willing to implicate Snapp.  They're
too scared.
   So Martin grabs some more, and the cops lean
harder.  Still nothing.  Doesn't matter.  He keeps
   He runs himself ragged, as if he's making up for
all the time when he was powerless to stop them-- as
if to say, not here, not in my town, not anymore.
   Two days in, Cradle Industries begins to
manufacture the fail-safe weapons; by nightfall, the
police have joined Martin in his one-man war.  He
doesn't slow down.  Keeps pushing, pushing harder.
   Still nothing.
   "Slow down, baby," says Pam during a brief and
atypical respite (body has to eat).  "You've got to
slow down."
   "I can't.  We're so close.  Almost got him.  After
all this time.  He's right within our grasp.  Just
gotta keep going, just gotta find the right person..."
   But nobody flips.  The futility begins to sink in. 
Sure, they're making arrests, making some headway, but
there's no way to tell how much: the number of
floaters is seemingly infinite.  They still don't know
how and where the vests are being manufactured and,
more pressingly, they still have no way to tie it to
   Foster, the District Attorney, holds a crisis
meeting in his office.  Dani and Martin attend, along
with the chief of police, Darkhorse, and ADA Fisk.
   "These boys you've been bringing in, they're more
scared of Snapp than prison," says Foster.  "If we're
going to have any leverage at all, we need something
that scares the ever-loving shit out of 'em. 
Accordingly, I've authorized Jack to tack on a SV
charge for all floaters."
   Martin's voice takes on an uncharacteristically
high pitch.  "You want to try them as supervillains? 
They're kids!"
   "Most of them are around twenty," offers the chief
of police.
   "And they'll be over fifty by the time they get
out," says Martin.  "If they live that long. 
Conditions in those prisons are brutal."
   Foster shrugs.  "You've got no problem sending your
costumed adversaries there."
   "That's different," says Martin.  "They're actual
   "So are these kids," says the chief.  "They're
using advanced technology, giving them powers beyond
that of ordinary men, to commit crimes.  That's the
definition of a supervillain under the laws of the
United States."
   "So now we've got something they'll be scared of,"
says Foster.  "They'd gladly sell out Snapp if it
means they just get a short stint in the local

    Martin and Dani make their way down the hall, the
slight quiver of their heads trying to shake off the
lingering disquiet even as their silence acknowledges
the necessity of Foster's plan.  Fisk and Darkhorse
try to catch up to them; naturally, the latter arrives
   "Hey man," says Darkhorse, shaking Martin's gloved
hand in a blur of black and green.  "Been a while."
   "Y'know, it'd be cool if we could have a proper
team-up.  Y'know?"
   "Well, maybe sometime."  He nods to Fisk, who is
waiting to speak.
   "Why not next week?" says Darkhorse.
   "It's not really the kind of thing you can plan..."
   "Well, yeah, but, like: we could go on patrol
together...?  Next Wednesday, maybe?"
   "I don't really do that," says Martin.  Then,
smiling under his mask, he adds: "Not in the market
for a sidekick."
   The speedster's exposed white muzzle twitches in
discomfort for approximately a hundredth of a
millisecond, but if Martin notices it, he doesn't say
anything, instead turning his attention to the ADA. 
"Mr. Fisk?"
   "I just want you to know that I disagree strongly
with the DA," says Fisk earnestly.  "Furthermore, I
have no intention of actually trying any of them on an
SV charge.  I'm figuring the threat alone will give us
a few witnesses before it becomes known that the wolf
has no teeth."

   And it works: they get four bites right off the
bat, and one of them knows where all the vests are
being made.

   Now, Martin's seen some weird things in his time,
but for the most part he's been able to deal with it,
amending his perception of the world to include
six-inch tall Mafioso and invulnerable librarians and
even giant lovesick robots.  It's only when there's an
extraordinary bit of weirdness going on (time travel,
alien invasions, the occasional war across space and
time for the fate of the universe itself) that he has
trouble accepting it.
   So he is understandably less confident and
cool-headed when he finds out why they have been
unable to locate Snapp's Vibra-Jacket manufacturing
operation in Jolt City-- namely, that it does not
exist in this Jolt City or, for that matter, on this
earth, but rather in the Jolt City of a reality that
vibrates at a different frequency than our own
(meaning, much to Martin's chagrin, that he will
require Darkhorse's assistance in breaking safely
through the dimensional barrier), an earth dominated
not by homo sapiens, but rather helix pomatia: snails.
   "It's the snails that are manufacturing the
floaters," says Foster.  "They've been enslaved by
Snapp's men.  He's overthrown the legitimate
government of the snail-earth.  Extra-dimensional
warfare is a capital crime.  If we can tie him to it,
he'll be in jail the rest of his natural life."
   "We'll tie him to it," says Martin.  He nods to
Darkhorse.  The speedster grabs his arm and begins to

   Martin expects to feel ill, but is pleasantly
surprised to find nothing of the sort.  Soon, they're
whole again, and standing on what Martin presumes is
the snail-earth.  This is confirmed by the squeaky,
nasal voices he hears at his feet.
   "Viva la resistance!"
   Martin looks down to see a small squadron of snails
with snail-sized machine guns mounted on their backs.
   "Are they speaking French?" asks Darkhorse.
   Martin's reply is lost under the sudden and
terrifying sound of gunfire.  Bullets fly through the
air, tearing through flesh and smacking into bone.  It
hurts, but since each bullet is slightly larger than a
grain of sand, Martin isn't particularly frightened.
   It failed!, says one of the snails-- probably the
commander-- in French.  Break out the tentacle
   With uncanny speed, the snails lob grenades the
size of a fingernail at the two heroes.  They have the
same effect as a Fourth of July party snapper.
   Martin puts his hands on his waist.  You know, he
says in slow but flowing French, you're really
starting to piss me off.
   He speaks French!, says one of the snails.
   "You speak French?" says Darkhorse.
   "And several other languages," says Martin.  All
part of his extensive training as sidekick to the
original Green Knight.  At the time, he rolled his
eyes, but now he's happy Ray crammed it all into his
   We come in peace, he says: we're friends.  Enemies
of Samson Snapp and his men.
   The snails converse among themselves, and Martin
distinctly hears the argument bandied about that none
of the other giants wore such outlandish clothing, and
so perhaps they can be trusted.  Another favours
Martin's apparel because it resembles the colour of
   Finally, the snails turn back to the two heroes. 
Martin translates for Darkhorse: "They're going to
take us with them.  They're going on a raid tonight--
going to try to free some of their brethren from the
Vibra-Jacket plant."
   "We're in," says Darkhorse.
   Martin translates for the snails.
   They nod grimly and begin the long and arduous
process of turning around.

   Within ten minutes, they had progressed three
yards.  A record, boasts one of the snails: we should
be there within a month.  Take them completely by
   As the snails begin to set up camp for the night,
Martin relays the projected arrival date to his fellow
   "A month?" says Darkhorse.  "You can't be serious."
   "I admit that I thought it'd be best to play it by
their rules and just sorta help them out," says
Martin.  (What he doesn't admit was how much he
enjoyed seeing the speedster bristle and squirm moving
at what was literally a snail's pace.)  "Let it to be
their victory.  But this is ridiculous."
   "I could try to use concentrated bursts of speed to
vibrate their molecules in such a way that their
metabolism is artificially altered, allowing them to
produce locomotive mucus at a rate of approximately
ninety-five gallons an hour, greatly increasing their
rate of motion."
   Martin blinks.  "Are you insane?  Do you have any
idea what you're talking about?"
   "I majored in biology," Darkhorse harrumphs.  "And
I've had my speed powers for a while.  I think I have
some idea of how they work and what they're capable
   "Your metabolism's fast?"
   "You need to eat a lot of food, drink a lot of
   "More than most people, yes."
   "If snails produce ninety-five gallons of mucus an
hour," says Martin sharply, "how much water would they
need to ingest?"
   "Oh.  Hrmm.  Didn't think of that."
   "And how much water can fit in their tiny, tiny
bodies at one time?"
   "Yeah, you have a point there."
   "They'd dehydrate in a matter of minutes..."
   "Okay, okay!  But we can't wait a month!"
   "Then I guess we'll have to do this ourselves,"
says Martin.

   The general is suspicious: If you are, in fact,
working for Snapp, then we'd be completely at your
mercy.  You could report our position and they'd be
upon us within minutes.
   Martin concedes the point but counters that if they
were working for Snapp, they wouldn't need directions
to the Vibra-Jacket manufacturing facility.
   The general nods, his round jaw set in grim
determination.  Then, in chilling, faltering English:
"I warn you.  You betray us, retribution will be swift
and most terrible."
   Martin nods.  The general pulls out his map. 
Martin balances it on one fingertip.  With his free
hand, he fishes out his magnifying glass from a pouch
in his belt.

   The factory is gargantuan for this reality,
standing ten feet tall and stretching across a hundred
square feet.  Martin surveys the scene from behind his
miniature binoculars.
   "Two guards at the front," says Martin.  "What
we'll do, is..."
   Before he can finish his sentence, Darkhorse has
returned with the unconscious bodies of the two
   "We can slip on their uniforms and sneak in,"
suggests the speedster.
   "With our masks?" says Martin.
   "Hmm.  Didn't think of that."
   "Let's just sneak down.  Quietly.  Slowly."
   "I hate that word."

   Martin peers into the window.  "A few men, heavily
armed.  I'll cause a distraction.  You evac the
snails-- but be careful, okay?  They're just little
guys.  And..."
   "And what?  You'll take out Snapp's men?  That's
what we did last time with the park shooter.  This
time, you do the crowd control and I'll take care of
the guards."
   "I'm not fast enough to evacuate all the snails,"
says Martin.
   "Well, I'm fast enough to do both."
   "What?  Wait, hold on..."
   Darkhorse streaks in and, five seconds later, he
stands before Martin with two piles: one of safe (if
slightly confused) snails and one of unconscious
thugs.  "Getting slow in my old age," he smirks.
   "I'd say."  It's not Martin who says it.  Suddenly
a figure pulls out of Darkhorse's body, clothed in a
vibra-jacket and armed with a machine gun.
   The butt of the gun collides with the speedster's
skull.  He falls hard.
   Martin realizes that if he moves fast enough, his
adversary won't have time to use his gun.  He leaps
towards him-- and then through his vibrating atoms. 
Martin lands in the dusty earth.
   The loud ripple of gunfire announces its deadly
bullets.  Martin rolls towards the attacker, narrowly
missing the arc of the bullets.
   He grabs at the attacker's leg, but again finds
himself grasping air. The man darts off.
   Martin reaches into his belt for the fail-safe gun.
   More gunfire: Martin does a surprisingly elegant
and necessarily quick back flip, sequestering himself
safely behind a four-foot tall house.  Unfortunately,
he drops the fail-safe in the middle of the maneuver.
   Martin tries to reach for it, but the gunfire
proves a deterrent.  He hears a sound like breaking
bone.  The gunfire stops.
   He pops his head out.  The man rabbits as fast as
he can.  Martin comes out from behind the rock.  It
was not bone he heard breaking.  It was the fail-safe.
   He catches his breath, wondering how he's going to
capture an armed man without a way to neutralize the
   It is at precisely that moment that his opponent
evaporates in a pint-sized mushroom cloud.

   All our other weapons failed, explains the general:
We were reluctant to use the atomic bomb.  But we had
no other choice against such giants.

   "We are extremely grateful," trills the President
in her heavily-accented English.  "We build life-size
statues in your honour."
   "That's not really necessary," says Martin.
   "But it is appreciated," says Darkhorse.  "Need any
   "No.  This we do ourselves, though it takes a
hundred thousand generations.  Your names will live
forever-- Green Knight and Dipshit."
   Darkhorse stares at Martin.  "Not cool, man.  Not

   Most of Snapp's men turn on him.  There are
ledgers, fingerprints, and even surveillance tape, all
tying back to Snapp.  Danielle makes the collar.
   "Samson Snapp, you are under arrest for the
unlawful invasion and conquest of an entire planet."

   Martin meets Dani in her office.  "How'd it feel?"
   "Felt good," she says.  "Felt right.  I've waited a
long time to do that.  Wish you had been there."
   "No, that wouldn't be right," says Martin.
   "What do you mean?  We did this together."
   "Cops make the collars," says Martin.  "It's not my
area.  It's yours.  And that's why we worked well
together.  I did things that you couldn't, and you
made sure that they stuck."
   "So it's over."
   "So what about us?" says Dani.  "You were given
permission to help me take down the city's biggest
drug-lord and now, at long last, we've done it."
   "I heard along the grapevine you might get
promoted," says Martin.  "Four-colour liaison for Jolt
   "Yeah, maybe.  But if I don't?"
   "Probably some other position then," says Martin. 
"You deserve it."
   "But where does that leave us, then?" says Dani. 
"Come on.  Stop stalling."
   He gets very quiet.  "I don't know.  Things are
   "Why can't you trust me?" says Dani.  "What can be
so terrible that you can't tell me who you are?"
   "It's... it's more complicated than that..."
   "Is there someone else?"
   That's not the question he was hoping she'd ask. 
"I don't know.  Maybe."
   "Maybe?  How is it maybe?  Either you're married,
or you're not, or you're seeing somebody, or you're
   "Are we even seeing each other?"
   "Well, there you go.  We're maybe together."
   "So, how many maybes do you have?" says Dani.
   "Just be honest with me."
   "Give me time," says Martin.
   "Give me trust," she counters.
   He nods, slowly.  "I have to go pick up a new
fail-safe gun," he says.  "Get back out there, grab
some more bad guys."  He shrugs.  "It's what I do."

   And he does it over the course of the next two
weeks: stopping robberies, bringing in more floaters,
and occasionally battling the odd costumed nutter.  He
spends most of his nights on patrol, sleeping a few
hours here-and-there in the Knight's Den.
   He stops by to see Pam now and again, sometimes for
food, sometimes for sex, mostly for company.  He
doesn't have a key or anything; if he did, it would
mean that he lives there, that he and Pam are an item,
a sure thing-- which means that he and Dani aren't.

   Changing in the shadowed night of an alleyway, he
notices that his costume is ripped along the side. 
"Shit.  I hate sewing."

   Pam's cooking when she buzzes him in.  "Salmon,
rice, broccoli with cheese," she lists with a quick
peck on his cheek.
   "I'm not a big fan of broccoli," says Martin.
   "Good," says Pam with a nonchalant twist of her
spatula.  "More for me then.  You staying tonight, or
are you going to your secret hideout?"
   "Probably the hideout," says Martin (emphasis on
the first word).  "I, uh, got a rip in my costume."
   "Don't look at me.  I hate sewing."
   "Yeah, me too."
   "I'd like to see your hideout sometime.  Probably
underground, right?  Secret passages and high-tech
   "It's not much," says Martin.  "Twin bed and a
chair, some supplies.  Ugly little room.  Have my own
toilet though."
   "I'd still like to see it," says Pam.
   "Well, maybe some other time.  Not right now."
   She doesn't press the issue.  "Grab a couple
plates.  Just about done."

   Shortly after the meal, his bleeper goes off. 
"It's Dani Handler."
   "The cop," says Pam.
   "Right.  She's using the emergency code.  Gotta be
something bad."

   Dani meets him in front of the police station; one
wing of it is completely destroyed.  Smoke hangs thick
in the air.
   "Evidence room," Dani explains.  "Everything is
gone.  Ledgers, video tape.  Anything tying Snapp to
anything just blew up in our faces.  Literally."
   "We still have the witnesses."
   Dani nods and looks him over. "Your costume's
   "Yeah.  I didn't have time to fix it yet."
   "I can sew it for you tonight," she offers.  "Here
comes Fisk."
   "More bad news," says the ADA.  "All the witnesses
are dead or unaccounted for."
   "All of them?" says Martin.  "But they were under
   "In undisclosed locations," says Fisk.  "Which
means we have a rat."
   "No witnesses, no evidence.  Where does that leave
   "No case," says Fisk.
   "Snapp's not going to go free," says Martin.  "Not
if I can help it.  Call up Darkhorse.  We're going
back to snail-earth."

   They land in front of the statues, which are
complete up to the ankles.  "At least they got my name
right," say Darkhorse, in reference to the plaque
bearing his name.
   "Yeah, sorry about that.  C'mon.  Let's go find the

   But the President has changed.  "You dealt with my
grandmother," says the current President of
Snail-Earth in perfect, polished English.  "She passed
well over a week ago.  She always spoke highly of
   "I'm sorry about your loss," says Martin.  "We're
looking for witnesses so that we can punish Snapp for
what he did to you and your people."
   "We'll try to round up whoever's left," says the
President, at once hopeful and dismal.  "When's the
   "No way to tell.  Could be months away.  Or a year
or more."
   "Months?  But by then dozens of generations will
have passed.  Anyone who was around back then would be
long dead."
   "How old was your grandmother," says Martin
delicately, "when she passed?"
   "Six weeks," says the President proudly.  "A

   Martin and Dani in her office.
   "All that work, for nothing.  We're back to square
one, hero.  No leads."
   "There has to be something we've overlooked," says
Martin.  "Some road we haven't tried yet.  We can't
just let him go free!"
   "There's nothing we can do," says Dani.  "Thanks to
the rat."
   "We find the rat and lean on him, we could still
get Snapp."
   "Internal Affairs is coming up empty," says Dani. 
"No one's talking."
   "But if we catch them in the act, they'll have to
talk.  If we can arrest someone with a vibra-jacket,
get them to testify against Snapp-- he'll send someone
to kill them, we catch the killer and they'll tell us
who told them where the witness was..."
   "That's a dangerous plan," says Dani.  "A lot of
   "No, just one," says Martin.  "If we can just find
the right bait.  Someone who can take care of
themselves.  A plant."
   "That's entrapment."
   "Only if we were going after Snapp," says Martin
with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.  "But if we're
just trying to catch the rat, and he just happens to
tie back to Snapp-- well, happy accident."
   "We could ask Darkhorse," suggests Dani.  "He'd be
safe from any floaters."
   "No.  Darkhorse doesn't know how to stick to a
plan.  We need someone meticulous.  We could always
ask Fay Tariff to whip up something to protect our
undercover guy."
   "I have an undercover guy," says Dani.  "And he's
planted in Snapp's organization, so he knows enough to
appear credible.  Not enough to get Snapp in jail, but
enough to make Snapp thinks he does.  But he's too
young.  He's just a kid.  Even if we could guarantee
his safety ninety-nine percent, I still wouldn't like
   "I'd go myself, but there's the whole secret
identity thing," says Martin.  "Though there is
someone I could ask... someone who just might work..."
   "Let me go find him," says Martin.  "If he says no,
there's no reason to upset you."

   A couple hours later, he makes the call.  "He'll
meet you at the Quick and Easy down the street in ten
   He hangs up and gets changed.

Quick and Easy.
   "Martin Rock?"
   "Nice to see you too, Officer Handler," says
Martin.  "Sit down and try being less obvious."
   "Sorry. It's just a bit of a shock."
   "I'm a concerned citizen."
   "People died because of you."
   "All the more reason for me to be concerned." 
Martin brings an onion ring to his lips.  "I screwed
up, now I want to make up for it.  Is it that hard to
   "Okay.  So how does this thing work?"
   "Give me a number where you can be reached."
   He gives her Pam's number.
   "This your home phone?"
   "Not exactly.  Still kinda homeless.  It's a
friend's number.  But it's where I stay, mostly."
   "Oh, this is gonna be lovely."

   "Are you out of your mind, hero?"
   The Green Knight crosses his arms across his
verdant chest.  "Martin Rick's a good man who's had
some bad luck.  He understands the risks and he wants
to help.  Give him a chance.  Get to know him."
   "Can he be trusted?"
   "I trust him."
   "That'll do, then," says Dani.  She sighs.  "At
least he'll be a convincing scumbag."
   "That a girl."

   Pam covers the phone with her palm.  "Martin?  It's
Danielle Handler.  Does she know...?"
   "No.  It's something else. I'll explain in a sec." 
He reaches for the phone.  Pam hands it over. 
   "Mr. Rock?  This is Danielle Handler.  Can you meet
me tomorrow?"
   "Sure.  Time and place?"
   "JCU.  The Kistler Building.  Lab Four."  Fay
Tariff's lab.  "Eight a.m. sharp."
   "Okay.  See you there.  Bye."

   Martin explains the plan to Pam.
   "Isn't that dangerous?"
   "Pam, c'mon.  I'm the Green Knight.  I can handle

   "I'm going to introduce you to Fatima Tarif," says
Danielle as she leads Martin towards Fay's office. 
"She's got something which should protect you from
Snapp's men when they come to kill you."
   "I'm all for that," says Martin.
   "Afterwards, you're going to meet one of my
contacts within Snapp's organization.  He'll tell you
all you need to know so that you can pass convincingly
as a stoolie."
   "And when will all this be going down?" says
Martin.  "When do you get to slap the cuffs on me?"
   "When I feel you're ready," says Dani.  "When I
feel I can trust you one hundred percent."
   "You can trust me, Danielle," says Martin, careful
not to use the Green Knight's pet name for her.
   She snorts.  "I'll be the judge of that."

   Fay looks Martin over like she's going to eat him. 
Dani makes the introductions and Fay gets down to
   "The fail-safe gun snaps floaters back to our
dimensional frequency.  What I've done is I've found a
way to make its signal automatic-- it's always
broadcasting, always snapping the floaters back,
within a limited space-- a radius of about ten feet. 
And it now takes the form of this small chip."
   She holds it up for Dani and Martin.
   "Looks too small to carry," says Martin.
   "That's because you're not carrying it," says Fay.
   "There's no way you'd be allowed to carry a
fail-safe gun with you once you're under arrest," says
Dani.  "The chip has to be undetectable."
   "So, what, I'm going to carry it in my mouth?"
   "Under your skin," says Fay.  "The only way we'll
be sure that it'll be missed in a cavity search. 
We'll embed there surgically-- just a small cut-- just
like those electronic id-tags for pets."
   "Is it going to be radioactive?"
   "Probably not," says Fay.
   "We'll get it removed as soon as the investigation
is over," assures Dani.
   "I don't know," says Martin.  "I don't like this at
   "You said you wanted to help," says Dani.  "And you
said you didn't want to die doing it."
   "Okay," says Martin.  "So when do we do this?"
   "Now would be fine," says Fay.  She smiles
lasciviously.  "Now strip."
   "Excuse me?"
   "Just the shirt," says Fay.  "Spoil-sport."

   It only takes about fifteen minutes to imbed the
chip behind Martin's neck.  "Relatively painless,"
says Fay.
   Martin pulls his shirt back on.

   "My guy's ready for you," says Dani.  "He'll meet
you at the park in a few minutes.  Get going."
   Martin's voice trembles a bit.  "Which one?"
   "You know the one," says Dani.  "Call me
afterwards."  She gives him a scrap of paper.  "That's
the Green Knight's secure line to my office.  It's
very important that you don't give it out to anyone."
   "I won't," says Martin.  "Ciao."

   Martin notes that Dani is trusting him, if only
just a little.  This feeling of slight elation is
mitigated, however, by his current destination: the
park where the massacre took place, the shooting the
general populace of Jolt City blames on Martin Rock--
who was, in fact, one of its victims.

   He's able to spot the undercover guy soon enough. 
"Derek Mason."
   "We meet again, Mr. Rock," says Derek.  "I want to
thank you again for stopping the Crooked Man.  You
saved my life."
   Martin doesn't know how to respond to this, and so
he just nods.

   Derek gets to work, telling Martin things he
already knows.  Martin, for his part, pretends

   "Well," says Derek, "that's about all I can tell
you.  I want to wish you luck."
   "Thanks," says Martin.  "Uh, Mr. Mason?"
   Derek smiles.  "Derek."
   "I was just wondering, did Handler choose the park,
or did you?"
   "I did."
   "Ah.  One more question?"
   Derek exhales, nodding as he does so, a slow, sad
little jerk of his head.  "This place changed my life.
 It made me sure that I wanted to do this.  Wanted to
make a difference.  These children are dead.  It
reminds me of why I want to help take Snapp down.  I
like this place, though it makes me sad."
   "But Snapp had nothing to do with this," says
   "Neither did you," says Derek.  "So don't blame
yourself.  You're a good man, Mr. Rock.  I know that. 
So do some others.  Including, apparently, the Green
Knight.  Not bad company, that.  As for this... it's
hard to explain... I guess what it comes down to is,
if I had been in the park that day, and I had gotten
shot, what would people say about me?
   "I was a drug dealer.  Not a particularly good son.
 Didn't make a positive impact on anybody.  I don't
know how much time I have on this earth, Mr. Rock. 
But I want it to count.  These lives were taken away
before they had a chance.  So I got to live and work
extra hard.  Does that make any sense?"
   "Yeah," says Martin.  He puts his hand on Derek's
shoulder.  "Yeah."

   The Green Knight meets Dani in her office.
   "Just got off the phone with Fisk," says Danielle. 
"He'll be expecting Martin the day after tomorrow.  
I'll arrange to have an officer pick him up for
possession of a Vibra-Jacket.  If you or I do it, it'd
be too high-profile.  Might set off some alarms."
   "So, what do you think?"
   "I dunno.  I still don't like him.  But we don't
have much of a choice, do we?"
   "Martin's not such a bad guy," says Martin.  "When
you get to know him."
   "Well, I'd rather not to get to know him," says
Dani.  "He's a dangerous man to know."
   "So am I," says Martin.
   "You're different," says Dani.  "You're trying to
do something with your life.  Trying to make a
   "And he's not?"
   She doesn't answer.
   He moves towards the window, and drops into the

   He spends the night with Pam, but does not make
love to her.  He's made up his mind: after they've
taken care of Snapp, he'll reveal his secret identity
to Dani.  And then if she'll have him, he'll be hers. 
Quick and painless.  He can't let things keep going
the way they're going: it'll get too messy.

   Dani hands Martin Rock the jacket.  "Tomorrow
morning, eight thirty, wearing this jacket, come
running down DeWitt.  You'll run right into a police
officer, and he'll take you in.  Then what do you do?"
   "I tell the police I can give them Snapp," says
Martin.  "I meet with Fisk, to keep up appearances,
he'll set me up somewhere secret, and we wait for guys
to kill me.  Once they haven't killed me, you'll lean
on them and trace it up to the rat and hopefully to
   "And you're sure about this?"
   "Yeah.  Why wouldn't I be?"
   "How about Pam?  Does she know?"
   "What do you know about Pam?"
   "I do my job," says Dani.  "I looked up the number
you gave me.  Did some digging.  And I know you and
Pam Bierce are an item.  Did you tell her about the
   "Can you trust her?"
   "Yes," says Martin, and the answer comes quite
naturally.  "Yes, I can."
   "And she's okay with your picture being splashed
across the front page?  Even if you're cleared
afterwards-- there's going to be some stink."
   "There's some stink anyway," says Martin.  "People
expect the worse of me.  Which is why I'd be a good
   "That much is true," says Dani.  "Get a good
night's sleep, and don't screw it up tomorrow."

   Martin lies in bed next to Pam.  It's true what he
said.  He does trust her, more than he does Dani.  And
what's more, that trust came more readily.  He has no
secrets from her.
   Except, of course, for Dani.

   The arrest goes off without a hitch.  Once the
interrogation begins, Martin plays his role well: the
weasel everyone else expects him to be, desperate to
save his own neck, cocky to the point where it's not
just a fault but an irritant.
   "I can give you Snapp," he says.  "But what can you
give me?"
   "That's for the district attorney's office to
decide," says the interrogating officer.

   Fisk keeps Martin waiting for half an hour for,
Martin supposes, verisimilitude.  When he enters, he's
all suit and no smile.
   "Make me an offer," says Martin, "and I'll tell you
what you want to know."
   "Are you sure you don't want an attorney present?"
   "Nope," says Martin.
   "You are then waiving your right to an attorney?"
   "Seems to be the case," says Martin.  "Now come on
and stop stalling.  Throw some numbers at me."
   "Life," says Fisk.
   "Life?" scoffs Martin.  "I'm giving you Samson
Snapp on a platter and you want to give me life in
   "You're not giving me Snapp," says Fisk.  "You're
not a part of his organization.  You have absolutely
no information on him."
   "Well, let me tell you what I know," says Martin,
clumsily launching into a few factoids.
   "You're lying," interrupts Fisk.  "Just trying to
save your own skin."
   "Hold on a second," says Martin.  "Fun is fun, but
maybe there's some kind of misunderstanding.  You're
right, I'm not really one of Snapp's men.  I'm
undercover.  This is a sting operation.  You knew
about this."
   "I know nothing," says Fisk.
   And then it dawns on him.  "...You!  You're the
   "I'm not going to dignify your accusation with a
response," says Fisk.  "I am the Assistant District
Attorney of Jolt City, sworn to uphold the law.  And
you?  You're Martin Rock.  The scum of the earth. 
Who's going to believe you?"
   "Handler knows," says Martin.  "She's going to take
you down!"
   "Danielle Handler's not in any position to do
anything," says Fisk as he heads for the door. 
"Danielle Handler is dead."



Tom Russell


"Personality is everything that's false
in a human being."-- Sam Shepherd


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