A DAYS OF RESONANCE SIDE STORY
Brett P. S.
Copyright © 2016 Brett P. S.
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Flash Point (noun): “The temperature at which a particular organic compound gives off sufficient vapor to ignite in air”
Hugo Gerard, a slim build man in his early thirties, stood anxious in line at the Greenburg Reserve Bank in Chicago, Illinois. He stroked back his thinning hair and licked his thumb. He pressed his fingers into the frill of his plaid vest to squeeze out a stain that had been there since he landed a splotch of ice cream on it a few hours prior. To his disdain, the damned spot wouldn’t come out. He could resort to more aggressive means, but he’d rather wait until farther away from prying eyes. God knows people would notice the stench of viscus fumes and burning fibers if he did it poorly. He hadn’t had much practice controlling his resonance, much less perfecting its subtlety. He’d be lucky if he didn’t char his suit in the process.
Hugo tucked his folder underneath his arm and continued waiting as patiently as he could while the line between himself and the teller shortened by the minute. Oh right, the line was made of people. A shame. He’d almost forgotten in the thick of his angst. Hugo huffed and inched forward as another customer completed her business. He preferred a person-to-person interaction. It provided him a degree of mental clarity usually sapped from him through the process of his own isolation when he wasn’t nose deep in a dry textbook.
Greenburg Bank carried a short host of personal tellers beneath a ceiling three stories in height. The ceiling work was impressive, regardless of how often he’d visited; he often found himself staring up at the billowy clouds and cherubs with their Greco Roman motifs. There were other floors than those on ground level, but those were reserved for a special kind of customer, the kind who carried much larger investments lining their pockets. Hugo sighed and folded his arms.
“Sir?” Hugo heard something, but the paintings above him caught his eyes. “Sir, how can I help you?”
He glanced back to his forefront to see a middle-aged woman with short black hair, her arms crossed over the counter. Hugo smiled and eagerly handed over his envelope, a manila package sealed shut with a special invoice inside.
“I’d like to deposit this into my security safe, ma’am,” he said. “I’d thank you and your people if you didn’t peek inside.”
The woman smirked. “You know saying that obligates me to look inside.”
She’d already grabbed the package before he said that. Dammit. She pinched the top of the envelope with her thumb and index finger and prepared for a swift ripping action. How could she? Hugo acted on instinct and reached forward to grab it, but she drew back. This time, her casual expression and forced smile turned to angst and irritation.
“I’m going to take this in back,” she said. “You’re lucky I don’t call security, but I will if you don’t sit tight.”
“But …” Hugo started until she cut him off.
“Have a seat, sir. I just need to make sure you aren’t storing drugs or illegal Resotek inside.”
This was the last time he banked with Greenburg. Hugo tightened his fists. He could try something to stop her, but he relaxed his hand and heaved a sigh. It was his fault for bringing it up in the first place, but the teller and staff wouldn’t discover any kind of nefarious contents. He slipped in a single privately printed ID, one he intended to reclaim when the situation called for it. He tapped his shoes as the woman stepped back and held the package up to the light.
She was about to walk off when a resounding crackle sparked in the air and ripped through Hugo’s eardrums. He knew that sound. He dropped at least half a second prior to the customers behind him, and he planted his face into the tiled marble flooring. Resotek firearms carried a particular cry when they hurled chunks of metal through the air, like lightning or sometimes birds chirping. He inched his face to the side enough to catch eyeshot of a group dressed in tactical vests colored black and gold.
“Pinnacle,” Hugo muttered.
Protagonist goes to city bank when a robbery breaks out, and he becomes a hostage.
A burly patrolman dressed in beehive battle armor strode up and down the lengthy line of hostages. Hugo was a part of it, tucked back against a countertop with his hands bound in a combination of rope and duct tape. Observing the situation, Hugo couldn’t help but smirk a little. Pinnacle had spent so much of its wealth acquiring Resotek armaments that the remainder of their empire was held together with odds and ends.
Case in point, he wriggled a piece of broken glass from entry to slice away the layers of adhesive joining his wrists. Pinnacle wasn’t normally so messy, and a bank robbery didn’t fit their MO. Pinnacle went after resonance users, and he hadn’t heard of any chance visits to Chicago from either the Order or Caliber. However, they could have targeted a lesser-known resonance user, and in such a case, Hugo knew of at least one who might be present.
He shrugged, ripping free the last of his bonds. He kept his arms behind his back and reached into his back suit pockets. The woman to his left side, ironically the bank teller … well, it wasn’t so ironic. The gunmen sorted them by proximity when the rifles fired and the populous dropped for cover. Moving on, she sneered at him and gave him a look that said, don’t be stupid. Fair enough. He intended to keep his head attached, and he gestured a thumbs up by the floor. She stared at it blankly and sunk back.
“What’s your name, ma’am?” Hugo whispered, eyeing the patrolman as he calmly approached them.
“Are you serious?” She whispered in a hiss.
“Never more than now,” he said. “I’ll ask again. What is your name?”
The both of them fell silent as the patrolman strode past them with prying eyes. He carried a resilient piercing gaze, but Hugo kept his eyes low and his resting posture in a submissive position. He pulled off the persona of a meek individual fairly well. He’d need to work on that. Perhaps he was too good at it.
“Sandra,” she said. “Sandra Fischer. Listen, I just started working here. Don’t do something that’ll end up with both of us dead.”
Hugo smiled. “Miss Evans, doing nothing is exactly what will end lives. You don’t know the lengths Pinnacle will go to in the name of collecting their prize.” He paused. “They will kill us all, or at least half I assume. I don’t like those odds and neither should you.”
Miss Fischer paused, sizing him up. “Are you … one of them?”
“I’m nothing special,” Hugo said.
He opened his right palm to show a sealed glass container similar to the old stink bombs he used prank people with when he was younger. The enclosure was no larger than one centimeter in diameter and a soft green liquid flowed underneath. He closed his palm.
“This is though. My special concoction, compressed into liquid form. Once it hits air, the chemical will expand into a gas, and then the fun begins.”
“We need better security,” she said with a sigh.
Hugo carefully scanned the positions of the Pinnacle operatives. The patrolman carried a class 9 Resotek rifle with a modified grip, but the model stood out. The frequency would have been from heat stroke, if memory served, a resonance user with powers tied to friction. It served as an ample means of amplifying an ordinary firearm’s penetrating power with minimal explosive material. An ordinary class 9 pistol carried the piercing power of a heavy-duty rifle. It was the bargain brand armament, hardly Pinnacle’s finest, but these guns outperformed mundane weaponry by at least three fold.
Aside from the patrolman, three gunmen stood at in the corners of the bank floor, away from the windows. CPD officers had already shown up, their cars flashing colors of red and blue in the middle of the evening from the parking lot. Hugo assumed the CPD had set up snipers just in case they could make off with a few lucky pop shots. It was a decent assumption. However, they couldn’t just shoot one. It had to be all or nothing, else the remaining men might decide to cash in on their investment. That was slang for murdering some hostages. In hindsight, probably didn’t need to spell that out.
In an ironic gesture of incompetence, two more patrols stood in the center of the ground floor, in plain view of the populous and the CPD forces. It stood as both theatre and a taunt. They were all but asking for Chicago’s finest to pop off a handful, just so the remaining gunmen had an excuse to let loose. That was also slang for killing hostages.
Hugo shook his head and heaved a sigh, standing up. He dusted off his suit and muted Miss Fischer’s frantic whispers and curses in time to see a loaded gun pointed at his head from across the lobby. Hugo raised his hands in the air to gesture surrender as the patrolman hurried over. Two other Pinnacle goons leveled their sights on his forehead, casting red dots that briefly caught his eyes.
“Come with me!” the patrolman shouted.
He took one hand from the butt of his gun and grabbed Hugo’s wrist more tightly than a pair of pliers as he dragged him toward the center of the lobby. He hadn’t expected to land his head on the chopping block so soon. This would actually work out for the better. Hugo smiled and gently waved his other hand, a farewell gesture to the captives behind him.
He and the Pinnacle grunt stopped inside beams of light firing through the doors to the bank lobby, glass fixtures much less fragile than his container. He gripped it tightly inside the hand not held by his forceful companion and staggered once the man threw him back. There wasn’t any kind of struggle, just the butt of a rifle hitting him upside the jaw. He’d remember that in the next few seconds.
“Idiot!” Another officer shouted. “Didn’t you check him for weapons?”
The grunt paused and sized him up oblivious to the tight fist he’d kept. He shrugged. “I don’t think …”
“That’s right,” the officer said, cutting him off mid-sentence. “You don’t think.”
The angry officer walked over with a wide stride and a series 9 pistol leveled at Hugo’s head. She reached the both of them and paused, shaking her head in disapproval. She took one hand off her weapon and smacked the man upside the head. Hugo liked this woman. If they’d met under circumstances other than a hostage situation, he might have viewed her differently. At the least, he could try not to burn her too badly.
“All right,” she said to the patrolman as if Hugo weren’t present. “I’m fed up with this. Odds are he isn’t even here, so we need to secure our exit.” She turned and smiled at Hugo. “It’s time to execute a hostage, and we seem to have us a volunteer.”
“Volunteer?” Hugo asked. “You … you must have me mistaken for someone else.”
“Drop it,” she said. Hugo froze and looked away, but she shoved the business end of her pistol against his rib cage. “I said now, or else I’ll make your end plenty painful.”
Oh, Hugo thought in pause. She meant the contents in his hand. Hugo relaxed and opened his palm, letting the container drop down and crack on the floor. A bit of shattered glass erupted into a smoky cloud with a green hue. The formula was his own design, a chemical compound designed for mass displacement and with a flash point much lower than breathable air.
The patrolman and she left little room for hesitation, and he’d have expected no less from Pinnacle’s top operatives. They leveled their sights on him and pulled the triggers on their class 9s, but no such luck. Hugo grinned and concentrated, lowering the flash point of specific patches of the gas until they erupted in flames, scorching both of them. He concentrated on their hands with searing fire and forced them to drop their Resotek weaponry.
“Such a shame,” he said.
Hugo kept a steady burn against their armor but, in sympathy, ignored their faces. He could have scorched them to cinders in a matter of seconds, instead leaving their bodies paralyzed and in shock. Modern medicine would recover some of what was lost. In preparation for the next wave, he grabbed the handle of the female officer’s pistol and set his sights on the Pinnacle forces heading toward him.
Hugo briefly glanced back toward the hostages and counted their number from a prime vantage point. Thirty-two captured. The rest managed to flee in the midst of the disturbance. For the moment at least, Pinnacle’s sights leveled on him, which served his purposes. Hugo placed both hands on his weapon and fired a blast that shocked him, coming from such a tiny sidearm. The force struck him off guard, and he steadily solidified his stance.
The five remaining Pinnacle operatives had already fallen prey to misshaped firearms, noticing they couldn’t pop a shot off against him. Two charged him with stun batons while the other three took cover. He’d need to draw them out if any good would come of his actions. Fair enough.
Hugo jumped back behind his chemical mist, and the other two operatives charged through it. He lowered the flash point of the entire area and lit them up like the Fourth of July, charred embers of their armor flaking to the ground.
“I’m surprised,” he said. “Most compounds don’t last that long. Pinnacle really spares no expense when it comes to Resotek supplements.” Hugo strode past he fog and threw his procured firearm across the lobby floor beside him. “I don’t believe I’ll need this for your lot.” He nodded to the lobby entrance. “There’s the door if you’re feeling squeamish. I don’t believe your friends will live through their encounter, and I doubt your superiors will blame you.”
Hugo took a bow and grabbed three more glass containers from his pocket while doing so, tiny pills that housed the practical application potential of his resonance. He could lower the flash point of oxygen, but doing so would cause the air to burn indefinitely until he could raise it again and raising took more effort than lowering. He lacked sufficient control as well, so isolating the manifestations inside tidy areas served his purposes. He made use of a variety of non-toxic chemicals, portions of bottles from the back end of his classroom.
“No takers, eh?” he said, standing up straight. “I should have expected as much.”
Hugo sighed and chucked the pills with a solid swing of his arm. The containments exploded in puffs of green smoke and wisps of gaseous air around two points of cover shielding the Pinnacle operatives. He allowed each of them no more than a dumbstruck moment of awe before he pushed out with his resonance and burned holes in the ground. From this distance, he couldn’t control the subtle difference between third degree burns and cinders, leaving behind barely recognizable remains in the wake of his move. The Greenburg bank retained its beauty, though with walls somewhat scarred by his actions. He’d apologize afterwards, if he ever received the chance.
The CPD made their move and rushed in, a swat team of men in blue and black body armor. Hugo raised his hands above his head, but the police had seen it all regardless. The swat team moved hastily past the ordinary looking man in a plaid vest and pants, instead striking down the remaining Pinnacle operative and securing the bank floor. He sighed, straightened the cuff on his sleeve and tightened his collar. Depending on the aftermath, he might have to cancel class tomorrow.
Hugo sat with arms and legs crossed in the center of a dark, foul smelling room in the heart of Chicago Police’s Headquarters. He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up over the tabletop for about three seconds before the door handle twitched from the other side. He hastily pulled them off but in the fumble, he leaned back too far and came crashing toward the ground. Hugo bruised his shoulder against the cement-backed flooring and winced as the visitor entered.
“So you’re the resonance user?” she asked. “You look like my old science teacher.”
“Chemistry,” Hugo said, correcting her.
He climbed his feet, set his chair back up and took a seat. He faced the woman, dark hair with some Asian heritage. She carried a cold stare and a folder packed with random papers. Her demeanor was the sort that seemed more construct and less human. A quick observation told him she worked for Caliber, but he couldn’t place his finger on exactly who she was. If he’d paid more attention to Magnum’s cronies instead of studying Resotek … she was still looking at him. He must have trailed off again.
“I teach high school chemistry,” he added. “It’s a nice school district, and the pay is appreciative.”
“Chemistry, huh?” The woman said, examining the contents of her folder.
She leaned back. He studied her a little more. She wore a plain silver suit with a high collar and slim, black slacks. It seemed somewhat commonplace, considering the variety of Magnum’s elites, but she needn’t be one of his top men.
“Listen, Mr. Gerard,” she started. “Pinnacle will come after you again, considering what you pulled, and the U.S. government doesn’t have the resources to police you on a 24 hour basis. Given their options, your eventual fate will come down to relocation in a witness protection program and that comes with a price.”
“I see,” Hugo said. “You mean to say I’ll lose my job.”
“It’s highly unlikely you will remain a teacher in any fashion,” she said. “That’s why Caliber sent me to meet with you. Name’s Sakamoto. I’m the organization’s official head recruiter.”
“You can stop right there,” Hugo said. “You don’t want to work for your organization. I apologize if I’ve wasted your time.”
“You misunderstand,” Sakamoto said. “I’m not asking you to work for Caliber. You’re not that powerful.” She chuckled and Hugo sunk back a little. “Caliber donates a considerable amount of its wealth to a joint education program between a number of governments. Perhaps you’ve heard of the JCU?”
That he had. Hugo rubbed his chin and proceeded to stroke back his thinning hair.
“You’re asking an awful lot of me,” he said. “I suppose I have little choice, however.”
“I expected you’d agree,” she said. “What a name. Flash Point. God, you’re pretentious.”
“You peeked!” Hugo shouted. “I was saving that for the big reveal!”
Sakamoto stood up and stuffed her papers snugly into her folder before she turned toward the exit. She walked over and pulled the door open but paused and looked back.
“We’ll send transport for you tomorrow morning,” she said. “The next semester begins in two weeks, professor.”