Shortcircuit V1 C15

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Ryan held his helmet in the palms of his hands, feeling the weight. It didn’t weight much more than a motorcyclist’s, so no sore necks for him. He rolled his chair back, sprung from his seat, and slammed it as hard as he could against the corner. It barely scratched the visor. Pretty good for an impromptu kinetics test. He was just about ready to roll.


He noticed a small device just behind his desk. Kneeling down, he picked it up. It was a USB. Probably one of the guy’s, he thought. Might as well see who the clumsy one is.


Rolling over to a computer, he plugged the a device in and waited. The pop-up window said Wilbur was the owner, but that wasn’t the strange part. The files were all named such things as ‘tests’, ‘subject’ and ‘weekly report’. He double-clicked a random file and was met with biology jargon. The further he read, the more horrified he became. These were Skinnyman’s files, and he was conducting these experiments on human beings. They were going to conduct these experiments on his sister.


Sweating now, he began to search for something that indicated a location, glancing over his shoulder every minute. Eventually he got an address for an abandoned steel mill. He recognized it as one the kid from the hospital gave him, but he hadn’t gotten that far down the list yet. He cleared the screen and yanked the USB from the port, staring at it for a few moments.


Wilbur must be Shortcircuit. That would explain why Fritz has been so nonchalant about his gloves going missing.


At that moment, it didn’t matter to him. He was shaking with impotent rage, and he needed an outlet for it before he went insane. He placed the USB back where he found it, grabbed his helmet and other assorted armor pieces, and went back to his apartment for some guns.




Ryan waited until the sun had long set before making his way to the steel mill. His phone blew up with calls and messages from his co-workers, asking where’d he gone during his shift, but he ignored and blocked them. A new identity for him and Lisa in Canada awaited them – or they’d die together. Whatever happened in the next hour, he certainly wasn’t sticking around Blackburn any longer.
He camped out on the outside catwalks, surveying the building. Other than a smelting floor that probably wasn’t in use by Skinnyman, he expected the hallways to be cramped and narrow. His choice of an SMG would be perfect. Gripping a P90 in his hands, he rolled his shoulders. He was still breaking in the full suit, but the armor felt as light he’d hoped.


Two sentries were guarding the front entrance. A third was patrolling the catwalks, but he was on the ground floor at that moment. Ryan took aim at the pair and drew a long, deep breath before squeezing the trigger. A short burst ripped through the air and into the first guard’s skull. The second guard staggered back, barely exclaiming ‘What the fuck!’ before Ryan put three in his chest.


Just like that, what were once men were now stiff piles of meat. Ryan had never killed anyone before. He’d heard stories about war vets zoning out after their first kills, disassociating with reality in order to cope with the magnitude of snuffing out a human life. But he wasn’t feeling a goddamn thing. Maybe it was because they weren’t the first dead bodies he’d seen around Blackburn. Or maybe it was because anyone who did to people what they did deserved to die.


He got to his feet and scanned the catwalk. The third sentry must have scampered off. He made his way past the dead guards and into the side entrance before stopping by the bio-scanner. After figuring out what it was, he dragged one of the guards inside by the arm and used his print to gain access to the lift.


The files mentioned that the B2 level was where the experiments were carried out, so that was where he headed. The lift came to a halt and the grate pulled back, revealing half a dozen of Skinnyman’s thugs in a firing squad formation.


A deafening cacophony filled the floor as the thugs emptied their magazines. Ryan wasted no time leveling his weapon, firing in a horizontal sweeping motion despite being peppered by gunfire. The thugs, most of whom weren’t wearing any armor, were cut down like flies. Ryan slumped to the ground, running his fingers over his torso and feeling several 7.62 rounds in his vest and quite a few 9mms. He let out an labored, but elated laugh. “Holy shit…” One thug was still squirming. Ryan reloaded and popped a few more rounds into him.


Down the hall a goon stuck her head around the corner. “Holy shit!” She retreated behind the wall. “He’s still fucking breathing! What do we do?!”


Forcing himself to his feet, Ryan began stalking the halls, entering every room in the hopes he’d find Skinnyman’s captives. The guards seemed to have fallen back and the floor became unsettlingly quiet, the only noise coming from the faint whirring of machines. All he kept finding were supply rooms, an empty rec room and rooms that were completely barren.


Eventually he came to what looked to be an open operating room. Several empty stretchers lay about, and most of the equipment seemed to have been removed. If Ryan had to guess, they were anticipating Shortcircuit to have called the cops in. Bits of shattered window and broken test tubes were barely illuminated by a hanging bulb. He stepped around a puddle of mysterious liquid and made his way to the back. Several body bags remained piled on a table.


“Oh, Jesus…” He set his helmet on the sink, fearing he might vomit at any moment. Taking a moment to center himself, he unzipped the first bag. He sighed in relief when he saw that it was a man. That was as far as he could discern. Age and race were a mystery – his skin had turned blue, and severe frostbite had eaten away at the extremities and nose. It was the tail end of winter outside, but this was far worse than your typical case of hypothermia.


He moved the first victim to the side before moving on the second. It was also a man, blood congealing around his eyes, nose and ears. All his hairs were all sticking straight up, as if someone had rubbed a charged balloon along his body. He recognized the type of burns on the palm of his hands – electrical burns.


The third bag was noticeably lighter than the first two, to the point where he thought it was a child. He unzipped the bag and let out a scream. Even with her loose, cracked skin and lost fat, he immediately recognized it as Lisa. The smell of pooled sweat was making him gag. He hurriedly zipped the bag up and began puking in the sink.


Logically he had known this was a possibility. But he hadn’t allowed himself to dwell on it. He’d put so much effort into this plan, thought so long about a life after Blackburn. But all that was left of his family was in a body bag fifty feet below ground. For an eternity he sat slumped against the sink, contemplating just blowing his brains out. Then, filling the doorframe, stood a thin figure with glowing yellow eyes.


“You’re no policeman. Are you another vigilante? Who are you?”


Ryan grinded his teeth. He got up, put his helmet back on, grabbed his P90 from its sling and opened fire. Three seconds later and fifty bullets hung suspended in mid-air.


“How the fuck…?”


“It’s really quite trivial.” Skinnyman let the bullets clatter to the ground. “There’s nothing for you here, boy. Shortcircuit has drawn too many prying eyes. Though I can make it a pair less.”


“Go to hell.” Ryan slung one of the stretchers at Skinnyman before hopping out the window. Two guards were now standing in front of the lift. They took pot shots at him, forcing him to run down the hall. He remembered an armory among the supply rooms. He made his way there and began rummaging through the supplies, his pounding heart driving him to move faster.


“Come on, come on…” A box of grenades sat inside a crate. It would do. “Come here you emaciated prick, I’ve got something for you!”


He peeked his head out the door and to his left. Nothing. When he spun to his right, he nearly bumped right into Skinnyman. Instinctively he threw a punch, but Skinnyman tossed him into the wall. Ryan could feel the muscles in his neck begin to twist. The struggle against the psychic control was painful, but eventually he worked a grenade off the belt, pulled the pin, and let it drop to the floor.


Skinnyman let him drop to the floor, focusing his attention on the grenade. Five seconds passed, then ten. Had he used a dud? Ryan used the opportunity to pull out his sidearm and fire several rounds into Skinnyman’s gut. To his surprise, it actually worked, and Skinnyman’s charcoal robes began to turn crimson. The psychic stood motionless, but when Ryan attempted a headshot, the bullet froze in place.


“You are all kinds of messed up…” Ryan raced back the way he came, making sure to toss a grenade into each room he passed, shredding everything Skinnyman had left behind. When he came to the room Lisa was in he came to a complete halt.


“I’m sorry sis…” He was down to a few spare grenades now. He tossed one in and began making his way back to the lift. The two sentries remained there. He cooked a grenade and hurled it their direction. They didn’t even have a chance to react before being torn to bits. There was one more grenade on his belt. He almost pulled the pin on it. But… why not save it for later? Walking over the pile of corpses he’d created, he entered the lift and made his exit.


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Shortcircuit V1 C14

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Rushing to avoid being followed by Skinnyman’s men, Wilbur found the backpack that kept his regular clothes where he left it, behind a dumpster in Downtown. He’d have to find a better spot in the future – his clothes smelled like old banana and hobo barf.


When he got back to HQ, the receptionist kid looked up from his computer and stared. He almost pinched his nose, but thought otherwise. “Mister Scholz? You uh, out on the town?”


He shrugged. “Sort of.”


Not feeling friendly enough to say anything else, he took the elevator down to Creative Sciences, tossing the USB between his hands. The engineers were are at their stations, plugging away at their projects. He’d really have to start introducing himself and memorizing names. Wearily he made his way over to Ryan’s station, the only one he remotely knew, keeping his distance as to not offend his nostrils.


“Hey, uh, Ryan. Have you seen Fritz anywhere?”


Ryan was working on a helmet and didn’t look up. “No, he left a while back. I thought you asked him to attend to something?”


“Yeah. I guess he’s elsewhere…”


He made to leave, but Ryan cleared his throat. “Hey boss? I wanted to apologize for my uh. I guess attitude, earlier. I’ve just been going through a lot lately in my personal life, you know?”


Wilbur shook his head. “It’s nothing man. I get a lot worse shit from our competitors and May Day protestors.”


Ryan snorted and looked up. “So what’s with the backpack, and why do you smell like you’ve been dumpster diving?”


Glancing down at his clothes, Wilbur shrugged. “It’s really a long story.” He gestured at the helmet. “Before I go, can you tell me more about what you’ve been working on?”


“You mean the armor? Yeah, sure. Basically we made this, well, I guess you could call it rubber-like material that hardens with pressure, kinda like non-newtonian fluids, but in solid form. Considering how tough it can be it’s still pretty flexible. It’s no ballistic ceramic, but if you cover your tank or bunker with enough of this, nothing’s getting in. It’s not as good for body armor, though. Since ceramic and steel are better for plating I was trying to go for a body-suit style thing. Less weight and more overall protection. Problem is that using enough material basically makes you the Michelin man, and you might as well stroll in with a tank. We did manage to crack it though. Instead of going for maximum thickness, we divided it into layers and worked from there. Make a hexagonal pattern and it improves mobility considerably with negligible reduction in protection. Then we adhered the outside of the layers with buckypaper so we can add non-newtonian fluid in between. This gave us the added benefit of making different types of armor. One layer is type II, two is III-A, etcetera.”


Wilbur nodded along. “Sounds good. Much better than toasters. Do you think you could weave it into clothes?”


“Hmm, we haven’t meddled with that too much, but I don’t see why not. Would probably reduce the overall protection, but you’d still be getting some pretty durable wear.”


Leaving Ryan to his work, Wilbur headed up the elevator to his penthouse. There he found Nisa and Fritz hanging out in his office, the latter leaning back in his desk chair and laughing.


“Hey Willie, I was just telling her about that time when you were fourteen and almost burned Creative Sciences down.”


Wilbur grunted, tossed his backpack into the corner and slumped against the window. “I never did get that laser to work properly. You enjoying your stay at Hotel Scholz, Nisa?”


She glanced around. “It’s not bad. Rich people can get pretty tacky, but you keep it streamlined.”


He nodded. “I was able to follow Skinnyman back from your apartment to his lair. The former got trashed, unfortunately.”


“Dammit…” She closed her eyes and pinched her nose. “Did you… did you get a good look inside?”


“No. I heard more than I saw. Why?”


“Oh, nothing, I just. Wanted to know the extent of the damage.”


He shrugged. “I can cover that.”


“You don’t have to,” she said, more an order than a suggestion.


“Are you sure?”




Wilbur got up, fetching a bottle of water from his cooler. “Skinnyman almost killed me, again, but not before I downloaded his computer files. I get that to Jeff and that should have him put away for good.”


Fritz looked conflicted, but ultimately settled on saying “That’s good. I think… I think your parents would be proud of you.”


Wilbur nodded. “Yeah.”


Nisa walked over and, to his surprise, threw her arms around him. “Thank you Wilbur. You’ve gone to far more trouble for me than most people would. You’re a great guy.”


Laughing nervously, he patted her back. “It’s nothing, really.” He pulled back, frowning. “You don’t have any place to stay, do you?”


Nisa looked off to the side. “Hmm… Jessica and I can work something out.”


“Why don’t you stay here for a while? At least until you can get your apartment fixed?”


She stood in thought for awhile before putting her hands up. “Alright, okay. I’m buying my own shampoo though.”


Wilbur snorted before pointing at Fritz. “Hey buddy ol’ pal, I have a project for you.”


“And if I don’t wanna?”


“Then you’re fired.”


“Aw, not again. What do you need boss man?”


He gestured towards his backpack. “My clothes got singed by acid or some other godforsaken substance in Skinnyman’s lair. Can you start making some new sets made with Ryan’s armor? Take your time, I’m not going to be going out again for a little while.”


“I’m Q now?” Fritz got up from his seat. “I still don’t condone your foolhardy vigilantism, but damn, I can’t deny that’s a sweet gig.”


Nisa pulled on her jacket. “I’m going to attend to some personal things. After that… can I take a look at the Scholz Chemicals branch?”


Wilbur smiled. “By all I means. There’s some stuff I needed to do over there anyways, I can give you a guided tour when I’m done.”


Nisa smiled back and went off to her business. Fritz began laughing to himself.




“Don’t what me! You know exactly what I’m talking about, with your doughy eyes.”


“Pheh, bite me.” He shooed him off before patting down his pockets. “Now where did I leave that USB?” He couldn’t find them there, so he began to pilfer the contents of his backpack. He was sure he had just held the damn thing. Five minutes later he still couldn’t find them.


I guess I left it downstairs… Couldn’t have gone far.

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Shortcircuit V1 C13

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Thank God Skinnyman and his gang were petty. Wilbur had arrived in time to see them ransack Nisa’s apartment, allowing him to tail them back to what was presumably their main base of operations, a steel mill in, of course, Olympic City. A warehouse, a chemical factory, a steel mill… how much real estate did Skinnyman own?


He waited until a good ten minutes after they had all gone through a side entrance to climb down from his hiding spot. Several layers of metal catwalks connected the front, sides and rear of the building, but curiously, not a single goon was on lookout or patrolling. He wondered if that meant they had doubled security inside.


It took quite a push to open the hefty wooden doors just a crack. He peered inside, half expecting an ambush. All he saw was an old-fashioned metal lift behind a grate. Shoving his way inside, he took a good look around the room. The place certainly showed why the region was called the Rust Belt. The only sign that the building was still in use was a biometric scanner near the lift. Must control the grate, Wilbur quickly deduced. He didn’t bother attempting his handprint, in case it would set off an alarm. He’d have to wait until another guard came around. That was probably a good idea, considering his chest still hurt like hell.


Several hours passed with him dangling his feet over the catwalk, playing chess on his phone. He shut his phone off to conserve battery just a few minutes before a lone mook made a beeline for the entrance. Great, he thought, should be easy pickings.


Dropping down, Wilbur attempted to emulate the classic superhero landing. All it did was splatter him across the ground.




Snapping to his feet, he flung a bolt of electricity at the goon. Reflexively he dove out of the way before tearing two chunks of concrete from the ground, holding them out like clothing irons.


Oh. An anomaly.


Part of the ground curled up in front of the goon, allowing him to run up and launch himself off it. Wilbur jumped out of the way as he came crashing down, causing bits of earth to erupt from under Wilbur’s feet, knocking him down. Wilbur only just managed to get back to his feet and put his hands up before the goon began tagging him with the concrete. They were pushing blows rather than strikes, but damn did they still sting.


Remembering the spacing techniques that drunk old bastard had taught him, he got away from the goon, hands up the whole time. “Calm down buddy, I’m just here to unearth what your boss is doing here… That was terrible wasn’t it.”


“Yeah.” The anomaly propelled the concrete blocks forward, forcing Wilbur to duck. The ground beneath him shook just enough to destabilize him. He flung a wild bolt before going down, but it didn’t hit its mark. A momentum-fueled knee flew into his gut, but the kid was smart enough to keep his distance, not allowing Wilbur to grab his legs. Instead he spent his time forming a concrete shield to block Wilbur’s blasts.


“Where does he find you guys,” Wilbur wheezed, jumping back to his feet for what felt like the hundredth time that week. “Is there some sort of superhuman yard sale I wasn’t aware of?”


The anomaly just shook his head. “Dude. Shut up.


Well that was just rude. Wilbur tapped the display button on his helmet before unleashing a flurry at his head and feet. The goon brought the shield up to his face, allowing a bolt to sneak underneath. He attempted to steady himself on the shield as he fell, but it slid into his shins instead. Wilbur pounced on the opportunity, zapping him into submission.


It took Wilbur a minute to drag the shield away – damn thing must have weighed a ton. The kid was much easier, not putting up any resistance despite remaining semi-conscious and groaning. The scanner accepted the prints and the grate retreated into the walls. He pushed a button on a control panel, letting the lift take him down into the base.


The good thing about the layout of the steel mill was that it didn’t seem the architect who designed it was on opium. The corridors were simple and straightforward, taking Wilbur where he needed to go. The bad news was that it was still a dark, narrow, oppressive hellhole, so he wasn’t sure he really wanted to go anywhere but to a massage parlor. As expected there were plenty of sentries around, so channeling his best Solid Snake impression, he took things slow.


On the B2 level he found a room with actual windows in the corner. Must have been important. He peered around the corner he was pressed against before making a break for it. He opened the door and was greeted by a lone researcher at a set of computers. Wilbur brought the crook of his arm around the researcher’s neck, choking him out before he could yell for help. Knowing the guy wouldn’t stay out for long, Wilbur took his seat and set a USB on the desk.


An account was logged onto the computer, so Wilbur didn’t get a chance to test out his leet hacking skills. He plugged the USB and an SSD into the computer and let the decryption program do its thing. Once the program finished unlocking all the documents it automatically downloaded them into the SSD. There were probably a lot more useful files like videos or audio but considering how paranoid Skinnyman seemed to be, he would be spending hours before he could get everything.


The lift began to whir outside. The grate retreated, then he heard a familiar booming voice call out “He’s here. Find him.”


Impossible. He had tred like a mouse, no one had seen him. Was there a camera he had missed somewhere? Or was Skinnyman now clairvoyant too?


Wilbur yanked the USB and SSD from the computer, pushing the office chair on top of the researcher for good measure. A guard wandered by the office door, flashlight of his shotgun penetrating the dark. Wilbur yanked him forward, twisting the gun from his hands and as he went tumbling into the computers. He racked the fore-end for dramatic effect.


“You scream, I blow your brains out.”


Nodding, the guard slumped under the desk. Wilbur rushed out and peered around the corner leading towards the lift. Skinnyman stood facing forward, and two guards were looking down the hall. The one closest to him raised their gun. “Hey, is there someone there?”


Savvy bastards. Wilbur stuck the shotgun out and purposefully shot at the wall. The guard froze in place just long enough for Wilbur to drop the gun and electrocute him. The shotgun began to move along the ground as if drug by a string, right into Skinnyman’s waiting hands.


Oh no, not again.


Wilbur dashed down the hall, pellets slicing the air behind him. He skid to a halt in front of a fire alarm and threw it. A twisted wail bellowed from speakers that struggled with each thrum. Unable to properly communicate, the guards meandered confusedly about. He didn’t have too much trouble with them except a pair who were smart enough to move together. A bullet whizzed by his helmet, forcing him back the way he came, right into the path of Skinnyman.


Wilbur managed to fry the shotgun before it could be used, but Skinnyman wasted no time slamming him into the wall, lifting him several feet off the ground. An uncontrollable shiver shot up his spine as he stared into those lifeless yellow eyes. The goons rounded the corner, aiming at him but not taking the shot since Skinnyman was in the way.


“Those gloves.” Skinnyman gestured with his head. “You’re not a real anomaly, are you?”


He didn’t get a chance to respond before he went hurtling through a window. A tranquilized ‘patient’ lay on a stretcher, along with several body bags in the corner. If Wilbur got out of this alive, he was going to make sure these sick fucks pay. He grabbed hold of an empty stretcher and slung it at the two goons when they attempted to follow. Skinnyman flew right over it, peppering him with vials of who-even-knew. He sent forward a stream of lightning, forcing Skinnyman to hold position and collect it into a ball. He dove out the window before he could be electrocuted to death.


Sprinting as hard as he could, Wilbur beat Skinnyman to the lift by quite a distance. He slammed the button. Then he slammed it again. The lift wouldn’t budge. Turning, he saw Skinnyman down the hall, arms forward and knees bent, straining. His heart jumped into his throat.


You have got to be kidding me!


For a moment he froze in fear, brain shutting off. Then a thought flickered into his mind. The elevators at HQ all had escape latches. Even though it was old, this one should have one too. He glanced around the ceiling until he found it. He pushed the latch open, climbed through and began scaling the ladder.


He almost made it up to the entrance before a rung above him snapped off. All the rungs below began to dip out into space. Wilbur looked to the support column of the elevator before hopping onto it and shouting down the shaft.


“Yeah, fuck you too!”


Managing to shimmy up just enough to launch himself back onto the rest of the ladder, he slammed the emergency retract button for the grate and pulled himself up. The terrakinetic anomaly must have left, because no one stopped him from throwing the doors open and running far, far from the steel mill.


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Shortcircuit V1 C12

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The gang’s tinted SUV rolled towards the Witch’s Brew soon after it had opened, and Charlie felt like he was going to puke. Not out of nervousness, but because that Shortcircuit motherfucker had given him a good frying – again. He half expected a xenomorph to burst from his chest, the way his week was going.


At least the boss seemed grateful, as much as he could manage, that he’d ratted out the source of their latest headache. When he’d gone for a drink after escaping the hospital, he’d manage to overhear Mouse squealing to Higgins and receiving information about their operations in return, information she must have then passed on to Shortcircuit. Shortcircuit and his pig buddies had cleaned out the Scholz factory base, and Skinnyman was pissed. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of equipment, data and weaponry had been seized. Worst of all, everything they had learned about replicating the aspects of enhanced strength anomalies had been set back. At least most of the staff had managed to flee.


The driver pulled into an alley and everyone climbed out. Skinnyman took point, strolling straight to the door before turning briefly back to the group.


“No one enters or leaves until we’re gone.”


With that he pushed the doors open, and the gang fanned out. Skinnyman looked up at a camera that hung in a ceiling corner, tearing it from its hinges. Most of the patrons froze like deer in headlights. One woman, however, simply lost it, screaming bloody murder. Skinnyman turned his gaze to her, and she began to gasp for air.


“Let’s not be dramatic,” he hissed before relenting. “I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience, ladies and gentlemen, but a particular patron of this establishment has been – very bothersome. As you all know I’m conducting very important research. It can’t be interrupted or delayed. Some of you must know who Mouse, also known as Nisa Verion, is, correct? Is she here?”


The crowd shook their heads almost in unison.


“Where could I find her?”


“Go to hell.”


Skinnyman looked up at the end of the bar. Some ginger chick was staring him down, fearless. Charlie had to admit, it was impressive. Skinnyman let slip a small laugh.


“Jessica? Yes, I remember you. It’s been – a while, hasn’t it?”


The bar stool crashed down, and Jessica looked to be suspended by her neck by an invisible hand. She managed to get her feet onto the bar, but it didn’t help any.


“I will take you apart if I must. Where is Mouse?


Keeping one hand on her throat, Jessica gave him the finger. “Kiss… my ass…”


Before he could do anything further, the bartender popped out of his hiding spot, putting his hands up. “Okay, okay, stop! Go check her apartment. The address is 8051 Darlington Avenue, suite 207. Just let everyone go, okay?”


Jessica slammed to the ground. The bartender tried to help her up, but she pushed him away.


“Very well,” Skinnyman said. “But if that information is incorrect, I’ll be back.” Just like that the gang retreated, leaving behind a stunned crowd.




If it weren’t for the fact she’d taken a small dosage herself, backwashing a gallon jug of water into extra potent ketamine would have been boring as all get out. Fortunately, the ability to totally control her physiology let her ignore the age-old adage of not touching your own supply. No nasty side effects for her. Just tedium.


What was supposed to her room was really a makeshift drug lab, aside from her bed. In Blackburn, especially in the Cauldron, people didn’t ask too many questions or peek around your living space that much. Almost the day after escaping Skinnyman’s clutches she became the top drug producer and distributor in the Blackburn metro. It came naturally, after all. She didn’t even know what to do with all the money she raked in on a weekly basis. Most of it was blown on expensive booze and designer clothes.


Her cell phone blaring the Ramones snapped her out of her ruminations. She didn’t remember playing any music… oh wait that was her ringtone. She flipped it over. It was Jessica.




Jessica let out a haggard cough before speaking. “Skinnyman. It’s fucking Skinnyman. He came to the bar, started asking about you.”


“Shit!” Mouse staggered to her feet. “Shit! Oh, no…”


“You need to get out of there. I don’t know what you did but he’s fuming.”


She glanced over at her dilution table and frowned. Hopefully that pencil-necked motherfucker wouldn’t care enough about her drugs to destroy them. She snatched her jacket from the closet and ran out the door.


“I passed on some information Jeff gave me to Shortcircuit, but there’s no way he could know that!”


“Are you going to be okay? Do you need me to call my mom?”


Mouse scoffed and began down the stairs. “Please, no. I need to call Wilbur.”


“Hmph. Alright. Take care of yourself Nisa.”


“Yeah, you too.”


She opened a back door exit and was greeted by some punk kid who was just staring at her. “Move, dipshit.” She tried pushing him aside, but suddenly his arms flung around her in a bear hug. After swallowing her surprise, she launched her knee into his groin. He opened his mouth to yelp, allowing her spit something down his gullet. Honestly, she wasn’t even sure. He dropped her and began to spit on the ground, allowing her to begin sprinting.


A quick dose of PCP allowed her to run like an olympian, well into Downtown. Eventually though even her drug-assisted stamina wore out, and she stopped to pant in an alley. Someone flung a back door open and she jumped a mile. Some cook carrying a pot of grease just raised an eyebrow.


“Fuck…” She caught her breath before dialing Wilbur’s number. He took his sweet time answering.


“Nisa?” he groaned. “Please tell me you just want to hang out and not play informant…”


“Skinnyman’s after me,” she blurted out. “Oh geez. I don’t know how, but he knows I’ve fed you info. One of his goons tried grabbing me outside my apartment.”


“Argh, it just gets worse with this guy, doesn’t it?” A pause. “Come down to our headquarters building. Ask the receptionist for Fritz, I’ll tell him you’re coming. He’ll take care of you.”


“And what about you?”


“Heading to the lion’s den.” She heard him get out of his chair. “I’m going to see if I can’t head to your apartment in time to tail Skinnyman back to his lair.”


“Christ, you’re an idiot.” She coughed. “If you die-”


“Pffft. No offense, but I’m more scared of what Fritz will do to me than you.”


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Shortcircuit V1 C11

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As if Skinnyman hadn’t done enough to piss Wilbur off. Now he’d learned that he was using a building with his family’s name on it? From behind a dumpster around the corner he watched Skinnyman’s goons patrol the exterior of the building. They were carrying the same weapons and wearing the same gear as the thugs from the smaller warehouse, so he didn’t expect to have much trouble with them now that he knew what he was getting into. He waited until he found a hole in the patrol and snuck in closer to the building.


The chemical factory had been outdated even back when it was still in use, which didn’t allow it to age gracefully. The bricks of the outer walls were chipped and missing in places, and it was hard to imagine the interior being any better. Thankfully, this meant that there were a lot of gaps leading inside that had been overlooked when the bigger holes were being covered up. He crawled inside after a quick glance around, making as little noise as possible. The three guards outside weren’t a problem, they hadn’t placed many in patrol to avoid raising suspicion, but if he got caught unaware inside he would be in trouble. As good as kevlar was, it stopped being anything more than flashy clothes after two or three shots. Handgun shots, that is, rifle bullets would go right through it, and probably right through him.


Inside he was greeted with a mess of rusted and wet pipes, catwalks, and metal stairs that either led everywhere or nowhere, depending on how familiar you were with the location. Wilbur had never set foot in the place, so he was stuck with going nowhere. Staying low as he moved further into the building, he kept an eye out for any armed goons as he tried to get his bearings. Thankfully it seemed that the interior was divided into two categories, tight and claustrophobic walkways and hallways, and open and wide spaces. Whatever Skinnyman was doing here it would be in the latter areas.


He heard them before he saw them, a couple of goons patrolling the area and chatting, pistols at their waistband – it seemed they didn’t expect many intruders to get in. Keeping some distance behind them he trailed them for a bit, trying to overhear any useful information. Disappointingly, they were more interested in talking about inane personal crap. He aimed at them both and zapped them at the same time, causing them to fall flat on their faces.


“Shit,” he whispered, wincing. The electric shocks cramped their muscles and kept them from screaming, but bodies were loud when they hit the ground. Hiding behind the closest cluster of pipes he waited for any shouts or footsteps. After he was sure that no one was going to appear from around the corner, he approached the fallen goons and took their weapons away. He gave them one look before tossing them behind the pipes.


He was about to move on when he realized just how obvious the two unconscious bodies were. He searched around for any spot big enough to hide them, but hidden away enough to not draw attention. Grunting, he began to drag them to a spot between the pipes and the stairs. Turns out dragging a body wasn’t as easy as it was in video games.


Continuing to move towards what he hoped was the center of the factory – because where else would they carry out their evil plans – he kept his ears peeled for any footsteps or voices. He could hear the faint murmur of talking and of walking, but the mess of pipes and metal caused the sounds to become distorted, making it seem as if they were coming from nowhere in particular. Realizing that his steps probably wouldn’t sound too different than that of the other guards, he picked up the pace and followed the biggest cluster of noise. He found a group of guards in an old office – or, more accurately, they found him.


“Intruder!” shouted the goon that was opening the door. Wilbur didn’t even give him a chance to raise his gun before blasting him and slamming his foot into his chest, sending his body tumbling onto his friends behind him. He ran into the room and tackled the goon in the back, who had been fumbling with her gun, and slammed the front of his helmet onto her nose. The three other goons that were on the ground had already stood up and were pointing their guns at him.


He was about to roll onto his back and use the female goon as a meat shield, but quickly discarded the idea. He was more bulletproof than she was and it didn’t sit well with him. Instead he got off her and rolled to the side, flipping the metal table up and hiding behind it. He felt the bullets bounce off until the gunfire stopped and he heard the triggers being pressed in quick succession – empty magazines. He stood up and was about to zap them all before he got tagged twice in the chest.


“And that, you morons, is why you don’t just shoot carelessly.”


“My fuckin’ nose,” moaned the woman still on the ground.


“Stop bitching. You two, be useful and bring his ass here.”


“Pft, whatever.” Wilbur could hear them reload as they moved towards the table. When they leaned over it they were faced with a red neon display he’d programmed into the helmet – 😡 – as well a bolt to the chest.


“Motherf-” the third goon didn’t get to finish his sentence before a pistol went flying into his face.


Hearing the impact of metal on meat, Wilbur stood up and blasted the man, then nonchalantly zapped the woman on the ground. When everyone was nice and sleepy he sat down on the closest chair and massaged his chest. The armor had stopped the bullets from penetrating, but goddamn his chest was still on fire – worse still, his jacket was ruined. When he was sure that breathing wouldn’t make him pass out from pain, he tapped a button on the side of the helmet, erasing the display, and got out of the room.


Stealth was out the window now so he stopped worrying about noise and worked his way towards the center of the building, hoping to find at least something of use before he was rushed out. As he was nearing a corner he saw two other guards appear, seemingly going towards the source of the gunshots. Instead of stopping Wilbur kept his momentum going and tackled both of them, sending all three rolling on the ground. He tried to stand up but was knocked to the ground by one of the guards, who proceeded to throw punches at his head. When he realized that wouldn’t work he instead went for his chest. Normally the jacket would make hits like these bearable, but the pain in his chest was still fresh so each punch was agony.


Driven by instinct, Wilbur grabbed the goon by the head with both hands and zapped him until he fell on top of him. With a lot of effort, he moved the unconscious body away from him and tried to catch his breath. He caught the other goon aim his gun at him too late. Balling up from the pain of another shot, he raised his hand and shot several times in his general direction without looking.


After being relatively sure that he wouldn’t get shot more, he stopped zapping the air and tried to sit up, a task that was becoming more difficult each passing second. He first looked up to confirm that, yes, he had in fact hit the shooter in his panicked fire. Then he took a second to inspect the damage. Luckily for him the shot hit him lower than the last two, so the bullet didn’t get a chance to penetrate the torn kevlar. Yeah, as soon as he got home he was going to get a full body massage. Maybe put the hero stuff on hold for a week. Or ten.


After a minute he opened his jacket, letting the squished bullets fall to the ground, and took a look at the vest. Yeah, it was in bad shape. If Ryan’s armor was really all it was cracked up to be, he might give him a raise. Maybe.


Taking it slower this time, he continued his advance deeper into the facility, hoping not to bump into any other guards, or at least to see them before they saw him. His hopes were answered in both regards, because not only did he find the center of the operation without any further incidents, but the guards stationed there didn’t see him as he peeked into the scene.


The place was a mess of plastic curtains, tables sprawling with equipment and samples, computers running all kinds of programs, researchers all over the place, and what he assumed were people strapped to hospital beds. He couldn’t see through the curtains to properly see, but whatever was going on, he would bet Fritz’s savings that it was both illegal and unethical.


There were only three guards rotating outside of the testing area, circling around it at a steady pace. He assumed these were left behind to guard the researchers while the others went around looking for him. These three didn’t worry him, but he knew he was in no shape to carry however many people were being held here, and he also had to consider the rest of the guards that were looking for him. It was best to play smart and call in some backup. Heading halfway back up the stairs, he took out his phone and dialed Jeff.


“So, Jeff. You busy?”


He could make out the sound of a movie being turned off. “Not anymore. What’ve you gotten yourself into now?”


“You know that chemical factory you got kidnapped outside of? The one with my name on it, by the way, so it’s my property thank-you-very-much.”


Jeff let out a long groan. “Yes, Scholz, I do. You sound terrible, what’s going on?”


“I snuck into the heart of it. They’ve got human test subjects held, presumably, against their will. I’m honestly a little scared to see what they’re doing, but they’ve got all these chemicals and test tubes and it’s eerily silent in there – can’t be good.”


“Good lord. Sounds like Skinnyman’s work alright.” A pause. “Is it fair to say by calling me, you haven’t caused a huge ruckus this time?”


“Just a small to moderate one.”


“I can work with that. Go ahead and take some pictures of the place. Text them to me, and I’ll make sure SWAT gets them. It’ll make their job ten times easier – and safer – if they know what to expect.”


Wilbur gave a salute, even though Jeff wouldn’t see it. “Aye aye, cap’n.”


Feeling somewhat calmer about the current situation, he snuck closer to the laboratory area and snapped several pictures, making sure to include each guard at least once. He sent them to Jeff as well as a couple messages explaining what he knew about the outside rotation of the guards, as well as the fact that there were probably more inside roaming the place. When he finished sending as much information as possible, he retreated further back so that he would be hard to spot but would still be able to see the main area. He would be restless just sitting around doing nothing but he knew that was the smart thing to do. He would jump back into the action once SWAT had his back.


His plan worked perfectly for about half an hour, which was when one of the figures in the beds started to struggle and make noise. It couldn’t be called a scream, because it sounded more like the grinding of rocks against each other. This unsettled him, particularly the fact that none of the researchers appeared surprised by it.


He moved closer and waited until the sound was louder to zap the guard, his fall muted by the horrific noise. He didn’t bother hiding the body and instead repeated the process with the other two, until it was only him and the researchers left.


“Drop your test tubes and put your han- Holy shit!” He didn’t finish his quip when he moved aside the curtain and saw what was behind.


The area was surprisingly organized considering where they had set up shop. There were six beds arranged neatly around the area with a computer and a table full of equipment next to each other. There were two researchers per bed, with each one switching between the bed, table, and computer in a practiced fashion. This wasn’t their first time doing this. What had made him freeze on the spot was the state of the people on the beds, if one could still call them people.


Each one was different than the other, but they were all horribly disfigured. The source of the noise resembled an ivory statue more than a person. Their skin was mostly missing and instead of muscle, brittle bone could be seen underneath. There were no breaks in the bone structure so it was impossible to imagine they could move without causing it to break. The growth covered even their face with vague holes where their mouth and eyes should be. Somehow it still managed screaming its jagged scream.


The one to the left looked like its muscles had been inflated to a ridiculous degree, ripping the skin in places and growing outwards from the cracks, as if searching for more space. The next one’s bones seemed to be greatly deformed or otherwise completely different from human bones. While the damage seemed to be mostly internal, the poor sap was contorted in an impossible and painful position. The next two were opposites of each other, with the first one looking as if they had melted onto their bed and the next one looking as firm and brittle as stone, some limbs seemed to have broken off. The last one had their bones sticking out from everywhere, looking to be in the middle of being turned inside out.


The researchers were equally frozen. Wilbur noticed that they were almost all younger than him, college age or close enough. Some were nervous and sweating, while others were simply surprised. In reality he didn’t feel too well himself and had to hold himself back from throwing up in his helmet. One of the researchers took this as an opportunity to try and run away. Wilbur zapped him without a second thought. He then proceeded to zap all the others, not giving them a chance to act.


Keeping his eyes off the people at the beds, but wanting so badly to look at them, he sat on the ground and tried to keep his breathing under control.


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Shortcircuit V1 C10

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Jeff was taking an awful long time to show up outside the Witch’s Brew. He and Mouse had a routine going where they’d meet bi-weekly to exchange information, Jeff giving her heads up on major happenings around town and Mouse helping him put away criminals far worse than her. The man was never late – if anything, he was usually the one waiting on her. She decided to pass the time by forming a dose of mescaline to chew on.


About half an hour later a shiny black Corvette pulled up to the curb. “About time,” she called as Jeff got out. “You get lost on your way here, rookie?”


“Ha ha.” Jeff made sure his car was locked before sticking his keys in his coat. “Had to deal with half the Vitelli family getting locked up. Turns out Shortcircuit was right about the cartels supplying the drugs, so that’ll be fun…”


Mouse smiled. “Did our mutual electric friend tell you that I gave him that info? You’re welcome.”




“Tsk, go figure.”


Jeff squinted. “Is that mescaline on your breath?”


She stuck her tongue out. “You want some?”


“No, no, I’m good. Did you tell him to tear the place apart? He was like a bull in a china shop.”


She shook her head. “No, I just gave him the tip. Can’t blame me for that. Now, I’ll tell you what I know about the Mexicans, but first…”


“Right.” Jeff stuck his hands in his coat pockets. “I’ve been continuing my investigation into Skinnyman. He’s been more active than usual as of late. Areas to stay from are anything north of Harris Ave, Rockport Lane, Kingston Road.” He adjusted his hat. “And especially the old Scholz chemical factory in Olympic City.”


“Shit!” Just the name sent chills down her spine. The first forteen years of her life were spent in that godforsaken building, forced to make concoctions for hours on end. Not once did Skinnyman reveal his face to her. She spat her mescaline onto the ground and paced a little, garnering a few onlookers. “What are you staring at?”


Jeff sighed. “Yeah. I wasn’t able to get a good look inside before his thugs threw a bag over my head, but whatever’s going on it can’t be good.”


Mouse revealed all she knew about the Cortez Cartel as fast as possible. Jeff had definitely killed the mood, no more drinks for her. Once that was finished she paid her tab, went straight to her apartment and crashed.




As usual, Mouse didn’t bother waking up until eleven. Her landlord was a pretty swell guy and didn’t ask questions about where his money came from. She shuffled into the main room to make herself some coffee when she noticed Jessica sprawled out on her couch. Jessica hadn’t had a place to stay since she and her mother fell out, so she usually spent the night at either her place or whatever guy she was seeing that week. Mouse leaned over her face and snapped her fingers.


“Hey dipshit, you’re drooling on my pillows.”


She swung a pillow at Mouse. “Cut me some slack,” she grumbled, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. “I was up all night scooping up dealers from the greaseballs. I’ll buy you ten pillows…”


“That’s good, because I know where not to deal now.” Mouse scooped some coffee grounds into the machine. “He’s active again.”


“Hmph. Judging by the pronoun game you’re playing, I’m guessing it’s Skinnyman?”




Jessica buttoned up her flannel. “Shit, why don’t you sic Scholz back on him?”


“Because I want him alive and keeping the streets safe for business, not dead, or getting his organs rearranged. Besides, he saved you from those aforementioned greaseballs.”


Jessica shrugged. “Hey, he’s the one who wants to play hero. The whole city will want to jerk the dude off if he takes out Skinnyman.”


Mouse began pouring herself a cup and rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll give him the idea, but I’m telling him it’s yours.”




Mouse gestured towards a stack of boxes in the corner with her mug. “I’ve got a couple hundred tablets of X ready to go. You can go ahead and start distributing it now. Buy me some pillows and maybe a Corvette while you’re at it.”


Jessica shambled over to the boxes, leaving Mouse to give Wilbur a call. He picked up rather fast.


“Hey Nisa, what’s up?”


“I’ve got some more work for you. Jeff knows where Skinnyman is active. Jessica’s idea.”


“Oh boy. Can it wait? I have a board meeting shortly.”


“Yeah, sure.”


“Meet up at the usual spot, one thirty?”


“You got it.”




At least Wilbur got the memo on how to dress. He showed up outside the Brew in a TF2 t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Mouse had to admit though, it was strange seeing a multi-millionaire tech CEO in such casual clothes – but not in a bad way.


“Hey.” She pointed at his shirt. “What’s your favorite hat?”


Not missing a beat he replied “Stout Shako.”


“Potassium Bonnet.”


He shook his head. “Come on, cut it out. That’s too silly for you.”


“You best believe it. Potassium’s good for you.” She opened the door and gestured him inside. Wilbur took a seat at the center of the bar and ordered some kind of German beer.


“What do you want?”


She shook her head. “Shit, just get me whatever. You’ve given me enough money.”


He shrugged, turned to bartender and pointed at her. “She wants dog water.”


Snorting, she lightly punched him. “Just get me a Guiness you prick.”


“Hey, you said it was up to me. I’m just a blue-collar working stiff trying to make my way in this crazy crazy world.”


“Jessica’s right, you are a blowhard.”


They got their drinks before Wilbur asked “You got those addresses for me?”


She slipped him a folded piece of paper. “Just – be careful, okay? You know what he’s capable of.”


He nodded. “So what is the deal with Jessica anyways? How do you two know each other?”


She took a long time on her next sip. “We met when we were younger.” It wasn’t a lie.


“I see. How old are you anyways?”


“Asking a woman her age?” the bartender quipped. “Smooth.”


Wilbur waved dismissively. “Pheh.”


She smiled and folded her arms. “Twenty-five.”


“Twenty-seven,” he answered. “Were you born here?”


“Not sure actually. It’s complicated orphan stuff.”


Wilbur raised his glass. “To dead parents.”


She raised an eyebrow.


“I mean. In their honor, not celebrating them dying.”


They clinked glasses. “You’re one weird ass dude, Wilbur. But you’re alright.”


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Shortcircuit V1 C9

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In retrospect, Wilbur wasn’t sure why he’d thought staking out a mafia hideout would be any cooler than it turned out to be, which wasn’t very. He’d been crouching in the woods for two hours just watching sweaty Italians wash cars. In the future, he’d need better plans. The place closed at eight, and last he checked the time it was seven-thirty.


The mobsters seemed to be taking an unusually long time with one particular car, and not doing much washing at that. They popped the trunk, removing – something. The window he was looking through was so small he could barely make out their movements. He pulled up the video camera on his phone, just in time for one of the mobsters to start placing powdery white bricks on a table.


“I think you guys need to get into a different business,” Wilbur chuckled to himself. Having gotten the footage he needed, he could go then if he wanted – but that wouldn’t have been any fun.


He waited until a few minutes after closing before sliding up to the window, gently rapping it with a knuckle. The mobster closest to him gave a blank stare, slowly pushed the desk with the bricks out of view, then opened the window.


“You short of a few brain cells? Get lost.”


“Me? You’re the one bringing drugs into my community, pal. Tell you what.” He wiggled his phone just out of reach. “Give me free washes for a month and I won’t send the pictures I took of your operation to the five-oh.”


“Yeah? How about I feed you that phone?”


The mobster jumped forward, grabbing wildly. Wilbur yanked him out by the arm, giving him a swift kick to the gut before disabling him with the gloves. The rest of the gang seemed stunned. Leaping inside, Wilbur was met with three drawn pistols.


Hope I spent well, he thought with a small laugh. Before the three mobsters could empty their magazines into him he brought both his arms up and zapped the two closest to him. The electric shock made their muscles clamp and squeeze the triggers, the guns firing wildly. Thankfully the shots went wide, missing him and breaking the open window behind him. The third gunman quickly got over his surprise and fired at Wilbur. Half-dodging and half-falling Wilbur threw himself behind the closest object, the red tool chest next to the car.


“Fuck!” Wilbur and the gunman exclaimed in unison. Wilbur had gotten tagged with two shots, one hitting the jacket straight on and the other grazing the front of the helmet. The kevlar vest and the outside layer of the helmet did its job in stopping the bullets, leaving him out of breath and with throbbing pain on the side of his chest. The mobster hadn’t been so lucky – he was on the ground clutching a wounded leg and screaming.


“Ricochet,” Wilbur said as he stood up and tried to catch his breath. “Always gets you when you least expect it.” He leaned around the tool box and gave the goon a quick zap. No point in giving the guy a chance to shoot him in the back.


He could hear the commotion in the other room as the rest of the gang reacted to the sound of gunfire. Hiding behind the the front of the car, he leaned so that he could get a good view of the door to the front of the shop without being an easy target.


“Yo, Antonio, what the hell is going on?” A mobster holding a gun opened the door and peaked in, quickly noticing his friends on the ground. “Oh, sh-” Wilbur didn’t let him finish before he fried him from his vantage point, making him fall back and leave the door half-open against his body. He could see the rest of the gang members step back in surprise, trying to find some cover. None of them had guns.


Sliding over the hood of the car he sprinted through the room and slammed his foot against the door, violently thrusting it into the man trying to get a view of the room. Letting his momentum carry him he threw himself against the man and grappled him against the wall. He quickly drove his knee into the man’s stomach and threw him on the ground, with a quick bolt for good measure.


Standing straight and stretching to alleviate the pain in his chest, he took a moment to further process the scene. The were only three goons left, holding wrenches and a screwdriver, staring him down. He couldn’t quite tell if they were nervous or simply sizing him up, so he feinted jumping at them, making them flinch and move a step back.


“Not so cocky without our boomsticks, are we?” he said, zapping the one closest to the exit. The other two flinched again.


“Alright look man, you win.” The goon lifted the wrench as if to shield himself. “Just take the money and we’ll let this slide.”


“What? No, no, I’m not robbing you. You’re the criminals here! I’m busting your drug operation!”


The two goons looked at each other before dropping their weapons and raising their hands. “Shit man, whatever you say. Just don’t fry us.”


Wilbur laughed victoriously, steadying himself on a desk. The goons looked back and forth between each other and him. “Guess I should call the cops now,” he said, catching his breath. He dialed Jeff’s number and picked the loose handgun off the ground. “You two go help your pal in the other room with his injury. Maybe help him with his aim too when you get out of prison.”


They hastily shuffled into the next room before Jeff picked up.


“Detective Higgins speaking.”


“Boy Jeff, do I have a present for you! Do you know Wash Rush in Little Italy?”


“Yeah, why?”


Wilbur followed the goons, walking around to the rear of the car he’d been spying on. There were dozens more drug bricks in the trunk. “The Vitellis have been running a drug distribution ring out of it. Smuggling bricks of cocaine through cars, probably delivered by Mexicans.”


“Shit.” Some shuffling. “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be over there with backup ASAP.”


ASAP turned out to be almost thirty minutes. Talk about a waste of tax dollars. When the cops finally arrived, uniformed officers made a round of arrests and CSI began documenting the drugs. Jeff pulled him aside.


“How did you know about this operation?”


Wilbur shrugged. “Informant.”


“Right.” Jeff stroked his chin before gesturing around the shop. “And uh, the slasher movie scene? What’s up with that?”


“Hey, they attacked me first! I was just taking some pictures.”


Jeff raised an eyebrow. “They just randomly attacked you, no provocation?”


Wilbur shook his head. “Why are you questioning me? I’m not the one smuggling drugs here.”


“No, you’re the one who might be sued for assault and battery.”


“Pheh.” Wilbur waved him off. “Tell them to call my lawyer.”


Jeff groaned and pinched his nose. “There are rules to this, Mr. Circuit. Keep this up and I won’t be able to cover for you any longer.”


Wilbur put his hands on hips. “Rules? Aren’t you supposed to be suspended, Detective Higgins?”


“I’m on administrative duty,” Jeff grumbled. “Look, next time, if nobody is in immediate danger, just act as a good witness and give us a call. If you want to kick some ass, do MMA. It’s legal and you get paid for it.” He shrugged. “It’s not like you need the money, but.”


“Great!” Wilbur clapped. “Am I free to leave now officer?”


Jeff laughed. “Please.”



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