[Contest][Misc] High Concept Challenge #1: The Forgotten Man

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 3 04:59:55 PDT 2009

[Contest][Misc] High Concept Challenge #1: The Forgotten Man
Aaaannnd desperately sliding in for a late minute posting of another story:
High Concept Challenge #1: The Forgotten Man
Written and copyright 2009 by Saxon Brenton
     Time seemed to always be at a premium these days.  That was why the  
Forgotten Man was currently so pragmatic in dealing with the underlings,  
thugs and gun-toting gang members of the City's mobs.  Time was when he'd  
have enjoyed a good rough house with these low level scum, laying them  
out with haymakers to the jaw, all the while taunting them with appalling  
puns.  Now he saw them as nothing more than obstacles to his goal, and he  
killed them with utilitarian efficiency.
     He was ruthless but above all he was quick.  By the ache in his bones  
he could tell he did not have much time left, but he nevertheless glanced  
reflexively at his pocket watch and grimaced.  There was only three  
minutes left until the Forgetting Hour.
     No indeed, he did not have much time left.
     The masked vigilante stepped across the bodies and jogged to the  
stairwell, reloading his guns as he went.  He paused for only a brief half  
second to listen for any further gangsters, and then ascended the stairs.   
Somewhere above him was the mob boss Al D'lambert.  Tonight's target.
     As he made his way upstairs the Forgotten Man felt anger.  Anger at  
D'lambert.  Anger at the criminal underworld in general.  Anger at himself  
for the carelessness of lapsing back to the habits of hero and public icon  
rather than the more vital task of relentless avenger.  He wouldn't be  
running late if he hadn't stopped to bust up that standover attempt that  
he'd stumbled across at the jewellery store in Bay Street.
     Consequences.  Always consequences.  More than you could ever hope  
to deal with.  The Forgotten Man had deliberately gone and kicked over the  
anthill of underworld crime in the City in the full expectation that it  
would throw the insects into turmoil.  And, yes, that meant that the  
increase in mob related crime and spill over from their gang wars as they  
jostled for advantage was not only the Forgotten Man's fault but also his  
     But there responsibility and there was responsibility, and they were  
as different as day and night.  Better to crush the insects that ruled  
the nest and thereby put an end to the entire infestation, than to try  
ineffectually to stop every robbery, thwart every standover attempt, and  
protect every innocent.  He would have tried in the past.  Back when he  
was just a regular costumed hero.  But now he had to focus on laying the  
hoodoo of the Forgetting Hour on one other key person each and every day.
     Two minutes to seven o'clock.  Johnny Scarpezi stepped out onto the  
landing.  He was one of D'lambert's right-hand men, although that was  
neither here nor there at the moment.  He was just another obstacle, this  
one with a tommy gun that burst forth a hail of fiery hot metal death  
straight at the chest of the Forgotten Man.
     As if *that* could make any difference in the concluding moments  
before the Forgetting Hour.
     The bullets bounced.  The Forgotten Man would ache from the bruises  
later this evening, after all of the built up energy of the Forgetting  
Hour was released off in its one moment of chronosynclastic vengeance.   
But for now the temporal buildup empowered him with escalating levels of  
endurance, strength and speed.  He leapt forward and disarmed Scarpezi  
with one inhuman swipe of his hand, and before the man had time to react  
grabbed his head and snapped his neck with equal economy of motion.  He  
left Scarpezi's corpse where it dropped, not even bothering to glance at  
it.  It was almost time!  He could feel the imminence of the Forgetting  
Hour.  The imminence and the immanence.  It lived!  It breathed!  It  
thirsted for justice!
     One minute to seven o'clock!  The Forgotten Man reached a locked  
door.  D'lambert was hiding behind it.  Perhaps he though it would protect  
him.  Fool!  He had merely trapped himself.  The vigilante broke through,  
splintering the door in the process, to reach the rat who was cornered  
within.  He was met by another hail of gunfire.  It did D'lambert no more  
good than it had for Scarpezi.
     As he grabbed D'lambert his hands were glowing again.  In his mind he  
could hear the tolling of the Forgetting Hour as the final seconds counted  
down.  It was almost seven o'clock, which meant that it was midnight some  
three-and-a-half thousand miles to the east in Greenwich.  The Forgotten  
Man threw D'lambert prone onto a table, and then Bound him to that spot by  
taking a study stake of hardwood timber and using it to nail the mobster's  
stomach to the furniture top.  D'lambert screamed, and yes, there was  
blood.  Good.  Juris demanded no less.  The Forgotten Man ignored both and  
shoved his hands, now streaming with incandescent light, into D'lambert's  
face.  The dying gangster may be Bound physically, but now he would be  
Bound temporally!  Bound into a temporal cul-de-sac from which there would  
no escape.  The Forgetting Hour was upon them!  Cosmic forces came into  
alignment and fell into place with a reverberating shudder that made the  
entire planet echo but which were simply too big for the workaday world notice.
     The Forgotten Man sagged back, momentarily exhausted by the effort  
of directing the power to a specific purpose.  D'lambert was gone, and all  
that remained to mark his passage was a bloody hole in the table where the  
stake had been rammed home.
     The Forgetting Hour had passed.  No one who had seen or interacted  
with the Forgotten Man in the past 24 hours would remember him.  It was a  
small price to pay.  In fact, it was hardly a problem for an established  
pulp hero who already had a hidden lair and habits of working in secret...  
Although the Forgotten Man had sometimes speculated about the type of Hell  
that a normal man or woman would experience if they had found themselves  
in such a situation without his preparation.  Why, such a thing could  
drive a man mad!!!!!
     Nor would anyone who had seen Al D'lambert remember him either.  Not  
only would he soon die of his mortal wound, but Bound as he was in the  
single second of the stroke of seven o'clock, no one would ever remember  
anything about him either.  The surviving members of the gang he had led  
would find themselves suddenly leaderless and seemingly always having been  
leaderless.  And being criminals, they would be too short sighted to wonder  
about how such an improbable state of affairs had come about.  Even after  
all the recent newspaper articles by the more perceptive reporters in the  
City had pointed out the phenomenon, the mob members would still be too  
stupid to cotton on.
     And in their stupidity and greed and territorial aggression they  
would scheme and fight and die.  And one by one the Forgotten Man would  
pick off the new mob leaders, and start the cycle anew.  In the end,  
either directly or indirectly, he would destroy them all.
     But not now.  Now he had to rest.  By the pre-dawn hours of tomorrow  
morning enough of the power would have returned as the Forgetting Hour  
approached again that the vigilante would be revitalised.  Then he could  
start his work again.  However for now he was at low ebb, and had no one  
else that he could pass his task on to.  Not even to his former fellow  
heroes.  Even though many of the other costumed crusaders had experience  
in the weird and unearthly to comprehend the situation, the limitation  
of making them understand anew each and every day made the prospect  
unworkable.  No, this was his burden alone.
     Such was the fate of the Forgotten Man.
Author's notes:
     Written for Tom's 'High Concept challenge'.  This is a bit of a  
dog's breakfast, since for some reason I started with an incongrous  
image (from the first issue of _Girl Genius_: of criminals being placed  
in giant glass jars to die in public of exposure/starvation/dehydration/
whatever, and then hammered the square peg of the Forgotten Man concept  
into it.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au     saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
"These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex 
world of jet-powered apes and time-travel." - Superman, JLA Classified #3
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