The Ruiner “That American Life” Pt. 1 Boundaries

I. Boundaries

Troy New York 1:13 am

The Ruiner didn’t get paid to justify or question the reasoning behind his orders and he had a strict internal policy about working for free, but he often found himself thinking about why he was doing what he was doing. Why did these people need to die? What crime necessitated a visit from someone like him?

It was rare that he felt what he was doing was as important as he was told it was. Many of his targets seemed to receive the death sentence because it was the easy, lazy choice and not so much because the fate of the nation, world, or universe depended on him killing someone for acting a little bit weird. It was something that never really made sense to him, but it seemed to be getting worse.

For example, last week he was sent to kill a man named Chuck Johansen for the crime of accidentally receiving mis-delivered mail. Yeah, the mail was from a highly important intelligence asset, and yeah, it contained some pretty wild information about a small third world country’s attempt to get a nuke, but it was encoded, encrypted, and written in some sort of invisible ink. It meant nothing to anyone other than the intended recipient and it also looked like a piece of junk mail offering a low-interest credit card. There was no reason anyone one sane could assume this situation was a high level threat.

None of that mattered though, not to the people who told Harris who to kill. To Harris it was senseless to kill someone who accidentally got a hold of something they had no idea was important, but his thoughts about what constituted sensibility were never asked for. It would have been less messy to wait for Chuck to toss it in his recycling bin and have some Agents dressed as trash collectors come by and pick it up before the usual trash guys came. That was less messy by spades, but sending Harris in was cheaper, and either way, the result was the same to those upstairs. He was starting to feel like a Stradivarius that was exclusively being played by a tone-deaf toddler. He was the magic eraser for a bunch of power hungry creeps who could no longer tell the difference between becoming a monster and fighting one.

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Psamurai #14

With a Little Help From My Friends

The news was calling it a comet, but Engelbert knew better. He imagined most people knew better but didn’t want to think what happened last year might happen again. If it did, most people felt secure in the notion that there was a  line of defense between them and annihilation. Engelbert was determined to prove he knew better on that account as well.

“There will always be the weak minded, ready to rationalize anything away,” he once said in a lecture to his A.I. and Ethics students, “That’s how Holocausts happen.”

These days Engelbert wasn’t lecturing anyone about anything, save for his cat who received the occasional admonition to not shit outside the box. His former student, Cheryl Ellers, had him ousted from academia years prior for misappropriating his Ph.D. candidates’ work. Every day since then he’s burned with hot rage and planned his revenge on his old protege. After tricking her, last year, into upgrading the Tabula Rasa protocol, he had almost all the pieces he needed to carry out his plot. Getting her to save the life of her arch nemesis, Simon Vyx, was just an extra insult to the injury.
He just needed to tie up some loose ends. Cheryl had a posse. They would need to be neutralized. For that he found himself trudging through poison ivy and thorn bushes in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning.

The beam of his flashlight swung through the dark and misty air in the dense woods off of the interstate. He knew the ‘comet’ had landed here. He was expecting it. He had invited it. His short, round body waddled through the underbrush, grunting and swearing with every step until he came upon a faint glow a bit deeper in. As he approached the glow, he noticed a small spacecraft parked and covered in hasty camouflage. It was crude cover, but sufficient enough this deep into the forest. Kneeling before a small glowing orb on a carpet of fallen leaves was a lithe figure, clad in leather, holding its hand before her in a way that Engelbert read as ceremonial or meditative. The figure seemed transfixed by the moon, as it stared up, unblinking.

“Devana the Mage Hunter?” Englebert croaked.

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T.J. Washington In “The Long Day” Pt. 1 Morning

Late to the game? Catch up here.

6:45 am Sam’s Bar

I woke up the same way I fell asleep- almost drunk and sitting on a stool in Sam’s new bar. I inhaled deeply while scratching my stomach around my belly button and made sure to suck in as much air as I could, since you never know when you’re gonna need it. When I was as full of air as I could be, I stopped rubbing my stomach and started on my eyes.

Nothing feels quite as good as the first eye rub of the day. There’s just something about it that keeps me coming back every morning. I usually start by rubbing with my palms, then switch over to the back of my hands. When that’s done I curl them up (my hands, not my eyes) and use the pad between my thumb and forefinger until I’m done. It takes as long as it takes. There’s no rushing it. There’s no reason to. Waking up is delicate and mysterious. Best not to mess with it.

When I finished with the rubbing, I blinked several times. After enough blinks, my vision cleared itself of the morning fog and I took a look around. I didn’t feel like getting off my stool just yet, so I started bending my head side to side while stretching my neck a bit. Still feeling sleepy, I held my hands up so I looked like someone trying to imitate a goal post and made a face like I hadn’t gone to the bathroom for months and twisted side to side from my waist while making weird moaning, yawning, almost zombie-like noises. This induced a pretty decent head rush and I found myself looking at thousands of tiny silver stars. They swarmed in from the sides, converged over my field of vision and began swirling in a circular pattern. After the tiny dots finished their elaborate dance, they faded away revealing to me my surroundings once again.

I waited for the “Wonka whooooo wubbby wub” noise to fade away before firing off one more yawn. When I finished that I shook my head and let my mouth make a flapping sound – just in case.

Waking up after sleeping isn’t easy. Nor is it simple. Hell- it’s not even guaranteed to work. Lots of things can go wrong while a person is walking back from the Land of Nod. It doesn’t stop once consciousness is restored either. Once the eyes are open and the brain hands over breathing control to the mind and your muscles are once again under your authority, you have to lure your soul back into your body. This is usually accomplished through a series of stretches, strange noises, and yawning. Usually.

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Crescent City Creeps #14

Born on the Bayou

Toli stood in front of his office building, glancing at his watch like it was about to perform a trick. His secretary Jenny poked her head out the door, looking at him like he was a hurt puppy.

“Mister Palazzo,” she said, “The phone won’t stop ringing. You have a lot of angry customers.”

“And no employees to do anything about it,” Toli replied. “Where is everybody?”

“Just a bunch of bums, I guess.”

“One or two maybe. But we’re talking about Stan, Jimmy, Walt- those guys have been solid employees for years. Never show up late, never miss a day.”

“Have you talked to your detective friend?”

“Funny you should ask. He’s been getting a rash of missing persons cases lately.”

“What a coincidence, huh?”

“Yes. What are the odds?” He looked back at her with a wry smile.

“You better take some of these calls or we’ll be up a creek.”

Toli sighed and followed Jenny into the building. Jenny handed him the receiver of her desk phone.

“Who’s up first?” Toli asked.

“Mr. Abrams, the fishmonger.”

“He’s a monger, alright.” Toli put the receiver to his ear. “Mr. Abrams? Yes… Yes… I understand… Listen, I’m in a bit of a bind… Yes, I hear you, Mr. Abrams. Not a single one of my employees showed up for work today… Yes, okay. Maybe you can send one of your people down to pick it up?… You’re short handed as well? So you see my predicament?… Yes… Yes, Mr. Abrams, I understand you’re trying to run a business… Are you sure about that?… Okay… Thank you for your business.” Toli handed the receiver back to Jenny.

“What did he say?”

“He said he’s taking his business to Ehrlich Shipping. Because Gunnar Ehrlich knows how to keep his employees in line.”

“I’m going to lose my job, aren’t I?”

“You could always go work for Ehrlich.”

“He’s creepy.”

“You can say that again, but he’s also the only game in town right now.”

The phone rang and they gave each other an anxious stare. Jenny lifted the receiver and inched it toward her ear.

“Palazzo Imports and Exports,” she said, and promptly relaxed back into her chair. “Hi, Detective Delareux.”

Toli made impatient gestures for the phone.

“Yes, he’s right here.” She handed him the phone.

“Delareux… Yes I do, I’ll be right there.” Toli hung up the phone. “Jenny…take a paid day off. I have to visit the Detective. It may take awhile.”

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Ray #14

For What It’s Worth

Ray, Cletus and Abby walked a marble path to the steps of what looked like an ornate cathedral, flanked by Seraphim guards. Two pink marble spires, encrusted in golden filigree pierced the clouds that hung low in the sky, framed on either side of a heavy oaken door, that stood three stories tall. The marble split in the middle and surrounded a fountain of frozen water, draped in the snow that had been falling since they arrived. The fountain was ringed by shrubbery bearing blossoms that glowed with deep colors that illuminated the snow that covered them. The path was lined with trees with low hanging fruit that lit the path with golden light. Cletus and Abby ogled in wonder at the sprawling Seraphim city the stretched out around him, rolling with the hills of the land. Ray scowled. He knew nothing good goes on in this building, especially when you’re led there by security. He was being taken before the Seraphim Council of Parthus. The council was populated by Seraphim Ray had fought alongside in some of the worst wars known to the galaxy. They fought side by side, slept on top of one another in flooding trenches, caught dysentery together, tended each other’s wounds and watched friends die together. That didn’t matter now. In times of relative peace, soldiers either fade away or become pencil pushing politicians and policy wonks. Ray chose neither option, much to the chagrin of his allies.

They were led into a cavernous chamber of white marble, dark wood and swirling, gold, rococo ornamentation. Ray was taken to the center and Cletus and Abby were seated off to the side. Behind an elevated stand, seated much like a judge at the bench, was a long, lanky Seraphim with features more drawn than an average Seraph’s.

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