Friday, November 28, 2014

Voyager Two

I am so far from you now.

I remember watching TV as the Voyager 2 probe sent back the first images from the planet Neptune. I was nine years old. My father told me the probe had been launched three years before my birth. I imagined it up there all through my lonely youth, toiling forward in dark and uneventful silence.

I go through routines. Alarm. Commute. Job. Takeout. TV. Sleep. Alarm. Commute. Job. Takeout. Sleep. Hurtling, as ever, through the dark. I wondered in those nights as a kid, if Voyager ever got lonely. Did it remember in its circuits or its bones what it felt like in the warmth of the sun?

Though there is nothing, really, now to observe (Neptune was the last friend it made) Voyager keeps it up, checking and rechecking, waiting for some sign, magnetic or gravitational, that it has passed some definable border, some sign of progress.

Seven years ago, the digital tape recorder failed. In 2008 the planetary radio experiment cut out. The place doesn't smell like you anymore. I found a hair on my jacket and it took me a couple of minutes to realize it was one of yours. What could I do with it? Couldn't throw it away, so I was stuck on the floor in my coat and shoes ready to go out to some stupid movie with this ridiculous blonde curl in my hands and nowhere to keep it. Some time next year, they figure, the gyroscope on Voyager 2 will give out. Another ten years or so after that, its nuclear heart will finally stop beating. It will still be moving, of course, carried forth by inertia, an echo of us in the long night, keeping its solitary vigil. Not lost, exactly, but headed nowhere in particular, its only choice to just keep moving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Speeding Bullets

I don't know which story you've heard. They are, in fact, mostly lies, and I would know, I used to own the damn networks. He was not cooked up in some Middle-Eastern (or Kenyan, thank you, President Trump) Islamo-Fascist Genetic Cookery. He was not sent as an advance scout to breed with human women. He most certainly did not sell his soul at a crossroads like some old blues man.

The truth is he was born on the other side of the Sun. The truth is our planet once had a twin. In one of those rare candid moments he told me he thought Earth got the looks, but Krypton, well, Krypton got the brains.

That was until a rounding error or some such sent them all packing and he found himself the lone survivor, a rocket ship baby in the reeds of central Kansas. Utterly unprepared for a life on Earth. I sometimes think he would have had it easier born with green skin and antennae rather than brown skin and crinkly hair. And let me put those other rumors to rest. I actually, in hind sight, liked the guy. Who is Don Quixote without a windmill to tilt against?

That's all over, now.

The last time it happened, the last time he caught me, was right after that Brown kid got shot. I remember the news in Metropolis Precinct One's HQ. I remember the grinding of his teeth like a bridge about to collapse. Bail set at one billion dollars. I was out the next day.

"I don't know if you know," my benefactor said, an official, representing companies, interests, men with deep pockets, "how much they hate him. How much they're terrified of him." He intimated something big was on the horizon. They wanted me on the lam for deniability. Unimpressed as I am with being someone else's puppet, free is free, and this is my last shot. I've been on the run three months. Metropolis PD impounded my helitank. I've seen her on the news, mowing down protesters with rubber bullets (honest).

It's dark out. Autumn chill setting in. Three in the morning and the precinct is nearly deserted. They seized the rest of my assets too, but the tank has a Kryptonite power core. All I need. Whole place lit up orange with high sodium lamps. No point in going for the stealth approach. I'm Lex Fucking Luthor.

I'll miss him, of course. The rest of them? Bored billionaires and lapsed royalty. I'll have them sewn up in a week. It was gratifying, at first, the way they turned on him in small and subtle ways. Now I suppose it just made it easier. I hate easier. A pair of duty officers approach down the steps, guns already drawn.

"Gentlemen," I tell them. "I'm here for my ride."

The one in Gotham has a spotlight to get his attention. For Superman, there's no need. The alarms have already been raised. He probably heard them back in Missouri. I angle her up above the skyline of my city and drink it in. (And speaking of drink, thank God these knuckle-draggers never broke into the mini-bar.)
I had three months to listen to the chatter from underground. Can't have him operating like this. The super-menaces, Bizarro clones, the Atomic Skull, Metallo, Brainiac, all there to keep him busy, to keep him distracted, to keep him guessing. Me most of all. And that was all fine, but the game has changed. Men in power, men of privilege, terrified now. They built a machine under Liberty Island. My destination.
I hear him before I see him, the clap of thunder keeping pace wit me but waiting to see what I do. Could have a biological payload on this thing, or nuclear. Or chemical. Haven't tried a good nerve agent in a while. Good for a laugh. He gives me this look like I've seen a thousand times before, the "I'm disappointed in you" look, the "You should use your vast intellect to feed the hungry not build helitanks and Kryptonite death rays" look. So I put her down at the feet of Lady Liberty. I think he knows already something is up when his feet touch the soil. All that lead. I step out of the tank, regal as ever in my old battle armor and my scotch-and-soda.

"What's your game, Luthor? I'm in no mood."

"I know. I saw you on the news. Marching with the protesters. Last straw, you out there, the one black man on Earth immune to bullets.

"Get to the point."

Oh, he's all business. "I'm going to miss these little chats," I tell him. "I really am. The two of us. Outlaws. I think they've helped me grow."

"What's under Liberty Island?"

"I honestly have no idea. Shall we take a look? The Man of Steel and the Billion-Dollar Bail Jumper? I'll admit mine doesn't have the same ring. I'm sure you can find the door."

He could have made a go of it, he really could. Below there's a hum of electricity and the Geiger counter on my armor is pitching a fit. Keeping the Towers standing, Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake. Me. I don't suppose it'll ever make sense to him. The ways in which they hate him. His people ate sunlight, for Christ's sake. We get down to the base of the chamber and I recognize it. One of my own designs. A massive cyclotron. Beneath the magnetic ring, on the main floor, are thousands of munitions crates, and I finally get to see it, the moment when all that repressed chin-up carry-on melts away. I glance at one of the crates up close, confirming what I already know.

"They ship out tomorrow," I tell him. He doesn't look like he hears me but I know he can. He can hear my goddamn cells divide. "Starting tomorrow every cop in America will be carrying Kryptonite bullets."