Day 236 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: What happens in this building?
Shannon: The building holds a group of scientists who love astronomy. They often spend their nights on the top floor, studying the sky.
Erin: Every room is the same. They used them as controlled environments for illegal human experimentation.
What happens behind those windows?
It had been an age since the Aviator flew the skies over Vainville in the service of humanity; his mandate had once been to protect humans at any cost. But that was when he was the best hero anyone had ever seen with physical powers unmatched by any villain or hero in the known world. Of course, that was also before he met his arch nemesis, Mort (yeah, his rival had the stupidest name) and lost everything he’d ever known or loved. In one year the arch villain had managed to force the Aviator’s entire line of blood relatives indefinitely into hiding, brake up his otherwise extremely happy and healthy marriage, and completely ruin his credit rating. After that it wasn’t a question of if, but rather when, our hero would finally snap.
As I’d written it way back then, it started one dreary autumn afternoon as the rain pelted down like bullets from the sky, and Mort was out collecting taxes; see, while Mort was a terrifying villain bent on destruction, he was, first and foremost, an ingenious businessman with models and forethought. That year I’d been subletting a room from a friend, along with three of her other friends, in the inner-city that overlooked a particularly shabby alleyway behind the Second Bank of Vainville. As Mort was counting his payment and writing the bank manager, a terrified little owl of a man, a receipt for his accounting, our hero had fallen from the sky in that well-known pose of power. With his fist shattering the pavement around his landing site, he was trying to prove a point about strength, though our malevolent overlord wasn’t that easily intimidated.
He just chuckled in that villain-y way and told the clerk to wait inside for the receipt, “I’ll be with you in a minute; just have to deal with this shell of a man, here.” In one of my few moments of youthful wisdom I’d grabbed my phone and recorded the entire encounter. With a heavy sigh, Mort had called a vicious bolt of lightning down from the heavens to strike the spot right between the two supers, causing an enormous commotion.
People all along the building rushed to the windows and our hero had a large and varied audience to play to. Cheers broke out sporadically as the Aviator flew straight at Mort and pounded him into the ground in one go, leaving the villain reeling on his back. I trained my camera to the soon-to-be-defeated man with lightning in his eyes. Another bolt struck, this time hitting the Aviator dead in the chest, but as he collapsed I could tell it didn’t have the intended affect. Instead of forcing the hero into the ground, it gave him renewed strength which he used to pounce at his enemy.
I have a video of the Aviator’s fist punching right through Mort’s chest and the instant the light went out of the villain’s eyes. There was a silence that stretched throughout the city, punctuated here and there with the haunting scream of a siren or call of a cat. When the hero finally looked up from his victory, there was a horrifying joy in the way his lips turned up at the edges and his eyes crinkled. Though I wanted to pry my eyes from the vision of a man we all looked up to bending over a dead body with such glee, I couldn’t even turn the camera off. As he flew into the air, slowing down as he passed his civilians, I got a shot of him grinning close-up with blood splattered across his face.
Every year on the anniversary of Mort’s death, and the Aviator’s rise to power, the citizens of Vainville gathered at the spot to pay tribute to the late villain we wish was still alive. As far as anyone is concerned, the Aviator became the greatest, most powerful villain the world had ever seen the moment he killed his enemy. I suppose no one realized the thing they wanted to happen most, the hero to actually beating the villain to death, didn’t have the intended effect.
That anniversary also happened to be the moment I started my long and arduous journey to becoming a villain myself. I started by learning how to use my power to the best of my abilities; I can stop time to some degree, and borrow other people’s powers for a short duration. Combining my two abilities has led to keeping another person’s ability for up to a week, though it did give me an insane headache and I was jumping at five-minute intervals for a day. On my own, that was all I could learn, which led me to stand before the towering spiral skyscraper the Aviator had built for his own nefarious gains. Over the course of construction, there were dozens of mysterious accidental deaths that involved builders and designers falling from the very top of the tower.
As I leaned against the cold window across the street, admiring the full view of the building itself, I noticed a man pacing back and forth in a suspicious manner with his hands in his pockets. A hoody covered his face, but as he whispered to himself in gibberish, I recognized the lips that framed the words as someone I’d known personally years ago. Hopping over the railing and onto the road, I paused time to avoid the taxis whizzing by at highway speeds, and was standing right in front of the figure before anyone on the street knew what was going on.
When he looked up, almost running into me, I asked, “You’re Mort’s brother, right?” Stunned eyes blinking up at me, glanced around nervously, and settled on my sincere face.
“Yeah, I’m Mort’s brother. I, uh, I’m here to see the Aviator but they won’t let me in the door,” he explained, letting his gaze flit to the doors periodically. Pausing time around us, I admired the quietness of no-time as opposed to the constant noise of the real-time world, and unzipped the man’s jacket.
Too surprised by what I’d seen to hold on to time, I whispered, “You’re gonna destroy the building, aren’t you?” With a sheepish nod, the man continued his pacing and I just stared around in horror as I waited for something, anything to happen. When he didn’t do anything for half an hour, I bade him goodbye and rushed to the front door of the Aviator’s Villain League Headquarters and the guard let me in.
After a quick explanation about Mort’s brother, the secretary called for security and a small crew of low-level supervillains charged out and arrested the man with little resistance. As they carried him away to the cells, where they wouldn’t speak of his punishment, I waited to be seen by the dictator himself.
The first floor was full of reflecting black tile and glittering silver accents that made the physically cold space feel even chillier. Leather sofas were cluttered to the one side, while the other enormous space was filled with an ornate black grand piano that looked as though it had never been touched. As I took a seat on a hard couch, I watched two women silently strutting out the front doors wearing jet black dress suits. There was not a sound in the room apart from the click of heels on tile and fingers on keys.
When the secretary called my name, I rose and instinctively smoothed my wrinkled t-shirt that was covered with a ragged, paint-strewn denim jacket; I definitely didn’t look the part of a corporate villain, which was beginning to concern me. I was shown to a bank of elevators and the secretary pressed a button on the middle, and then keyed something in before it slid open gently. Turning on her heel, she left me to decide whether I was going to get in the small metal death box or not. If I hadn’t just saved the building from being blown to smithereens I would have thought twice about merely asking for an audience with the Aviator, but today was the day I became someone special.
As soon as my feet hit the slick steel floor, the doors shut and the top level light lit up with an inky grey glow that was mildly unsettling. No music played in the box as it zipped through the air and I struggled to hold on to my lunch, but the ride was quick enough that I didn’t miss the lack of auditory stimulation. Instead, my mind wandered through all the various exclamations the Aviator could have for my outburst today; from happiness that I’d saved his life, to fury that I made him appear weak enough to be scared of a little man without any powers. The second the doors opened on a tall office filled with floor-to-ceiling windows giving a spectacular view of the city, any assumptions I’d made flew out the window.
A tall, thin man in a tight-fitting suit stood behind an enormous stone desk with his hands behind his back, admiring his city. “Ah, you, the time-bender. I was so hoping you’d make it up here; I have a job for you,” he purred, turning to reveal a long, jagged scar slicing the former-hero’s face in two.
Heather follows the other servants out of the dorms, and down the halls. There is a room with lots of glasses filled with liquor, as well as plates of treats. Servants pick up trays and walk out into another room. Heather does the same, finding a large viewing room overlooking an arena. The only other non-servants in the room are the guards.
Heather finds a spot on the floor and stands there. She waits with the other servants, looking around for what they are waiting for. Then the big doors behind them open and people trickle in. Some stand, talking. Others take seats, all facing the window. The only place that stays empty is the long couch in front. Everyone sitting then stands, and all turn to the main doors. A servant girl nods for Heather to turn as well.
She does, just in time for the Grandmaster to walk in, along with a few of his closest companions. Heather guesses the last bit, considering they sit on the couch with him. He motions a servant over. She bows, holding the tray out. He takes a glass, then waves her away.
“Let’s start the games, shall we?” Heather looks out the window as someone takes a glass from her tray. She sees the arena seats are mostly filled. “Send out the first fighters,” he declares with a wave of his hand. An announcer’s voice booms over the arena. People start cheering as some gladiators come out of a gate. They then clash in the middle.
Heather looks away, sighing. Another patron takes a glass from her tray. ‘This is brutal.’ She sneaks a peek at the window again, but the bloodshed is too much for her, even if it is far below her. ‘I’ve been in fights, but this is a duel to the death, for sport.’ She just about throws up in her mouth.
Thankfully, she doesn’t have to watch the gladiators. She simply turns her back and makes sure a few people are between her and the glass. Hearing cheers around her, she wonders what other revolting things happen in the tower behind the arena. Wonders, yes. Wants to learn, no.
She’s perfectly okay just to wonder.
She starts to look around, taking in the decor, subtly. She looks for any exits that aren’t obvious. Only ones she can find are the door she came through, and the main two doors. The window looks thick, and goes straight into the arena.
“You servant girl!”
Heather snaps her head to look at the person. They point to her empty tray. She takes the empty glasses back to the other room, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. She puts the tray down. As the only person in the room, except a guard, she takes a moment to take a deep breath.
‘I miss Earth. My friends, Steve, Bucky, August…’ She smiles to herself, ‘I hope he doesn’t worry about where I am. Some would tell him what happened, right?’
“Get going, servant girl,” the guard states.
Heather doesn’t look at him, knowing that they wouldn’t take too kindly to that. She picks up a new tray and walks out. She sees the end of another match out of the corner of her eye. ‘One thing I know, he’d be appalled at all of this.’