Thursday, June 18, 2015

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Childhood

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Childhood

“Give it back…”

“Make me!” It was like a scene out of those old movies. Some kind of after-school special. It would have been comical were it not him.

Tso faced off against Chet Thomlin and his five cronies. Chet was a full head taller than him, more muscular and with an angular, chiseled jawline that was uncharacteristic for 15. Chet was also holding onto his new Leonard-Gamlin Neurocomm.

“I’m not playing games, just give it back.” Tso sighed.

“Awww, little baby gonna cry?” At that, Tso’s eyes narrowed. He reached into his left pocket and produced a tiny thumb button switch, just barely bigger than a pack of gum.

“No. Not cry.” His eyes were icy and purposed. “But if you don’t give it to me right now, I’m going to flip this switch and scramble your brains.”

Chet laughed, the guffaw of a half-dumb donkey. Two of his cronies though, the smarter of the two, if such a thing could be said, took a hesitant step back from their friend. The look of calm rage had quailed them even from their superior numbers.

“You’re bluffing, you don’t have anything to do that.”

Maurice, one of the smarter ones leaned over. “Chet, uh maybe…uh Tso doesn’t usually bluff.”


“Fuck you, this is mine now.”


“Stupid Ch-“

Tso’s finger depressed the switch early, casually, almost dismissive. The neural comm emitted a high pitched whine that caused everyone to reflexively flinch, and then it exploded.

Had Chet been wearing it, certainly there might’ve been a small crater where his right temple had been, but as it was just in his hand next to his head, the concussive blast merely knocked him clear off his feet sideways, scouring his chiseled jawline in second and third degree burns. The rest of the cronies were knocked backwards, and the boom was like a clap of thunder in the school gardens.

Tso sighed, put his hands in his pockets and turned to leave…and walked right into a security drone. “Goddamn-“

Junbei Yaochen was not a man who enjoyed interruptions.

Two black air-rafts, sleek and nondescript slid into the school’s air-dock with little preamble.

“Wait here.” Murmured Junbei. Three men in dark suits nodded, Rao stepped out and opened the door for him, and then lit a cigarette while he leaned casually against the air raft. Junbei walked towards the administration building alone.

He cut a formidable sight. Clad head to toe in a sleek synth-silk suit, tailored to perfection. He had a pair of small grey and silver glasses on, an elegant contrast to his salt and pepper greying goatee and business-like haircut. Vat grown leather gloves of black covered his hands, and a string of wooden beads in different sizes were wrapped around his neck loosely. Steel grey eyes looked out past the glasses, and the shrewed sharpness of his gaze betrayed ever so slightly his capabilities.

“Sir?” A seated secretary, pushed a floating arm terminal towards him to sign in. He did not touch it. Instead;

“Junbei Yaochen, I believe I was called?”

“Oh.” The secretary froze for a moment, and then as if realizing he would not deign to touch the sign in himself, began inputting his information herself. Her job, as it were. “That way sir, they are waiting for you, third door on your left.”

Junbei stepped around the receptionists desk and moved through the administration offices with a casual ease. The door was labeled “Mrs. Oshyenko, Principal” made from actual wood, not a synthetic facsimile. He rapped once, and then twisted the knob, admitting himself without preamble.

Inside was the principal, standing behind a heavy steel desk. Mrs. Oshyenko, he had met her exactly once before, ill-tempered in the way of people who had to manage children always were, dictiturn and dour, a woman in her 50s with a permenant downturn to her lips. Directly in front of her, a boy and presumably his parents. The boy was 15 and the right side of his head wrapped in a synthflesh bandage, he might have been crying earlier. His parents were nondescript, forgettable, the father smelled of grease and grain alcohol, the mother of nothing at all. To the side sat Tso, if he was sullen, his face was a careful mask of neutrality the instant he saw the door open.

His son rose immediately but did not speak, standing at a casual attention.

“Ah, Mr. Yaochen. Finally you decide to show up and grace us with your attendance.” Mrs. Oshyenko gestured to the empty seat alongside Tso, then sat down.

“I apologize,” said Junbei, his voice was smooth, and had no trace of accent which made the father glance at him, eyes narrowed. “I was in the midst of conducting my business, I am not easily reachable.” Mrs. Oshyenko sat back in her chair ever so slightly at that, suddenly wary. “Now then, to what do I owe this pleasure? Please inform me of what has transpired?”

“I’ll tell you what has transpired.” The Father spoke up, “Your son maimed mine!”


“Mr. Yaochen, This is Chet Thomlin and his parents, Mr Jeb Thomlin and Mrs Anne Thomlin. Today at around 1330, during the lunch interval, a security drone became aware of the detonation of a low impact yield weapon.”

“A bomb!”

“Yes, Mr Thomlin. It was a small explosive device. Chet seems to think that Tso here was the one who made it, or set it off, or both. Tso so far refuses to speak.”

“Of course.” He turned then to his son. “Explain.”

Tso spoke in rapid New-Mandarin, the Thomlins could not follow, but Mrs. Oshyenko seemed more than able to. “He took something from me without permission, it seemed as though he were deriving great joy from it and had no inclination to return it, so I thought to show him all of its functionality.”

Junbei narrowed his eyes. “My son seems to be telling me that your son stole something from him?”

“What?” Roared the father. “Impossible! My son isn’t a thief!”

Junbei leaned back in the chair, casual, dismissive. “Perhaps he is not a thief, but a bully then?”

“Why you-“ The father blustered, but the way Chet looked down at the floor, sheepish and ashamed told Junbei all he needed to know.

“You stole something from my son. Is that not so?”

“Mr Yaochen, it is not only the possibility of thievery we are concerned with, but the fact your son brought an explosive device onto our campus and detonated it!”

Junbei ignored her. “Are you aware that taking someone’s things has consequences?”

“It was just a joke.” Mumbled Chet.

“Ah! A confession.” Junbei made to rise. “I believe that this situation is adequately sorted then. Your son stole something from my son, and was sufficiently punished for his transgression. That is my take on it then yes?”

“Adequately sorted!” The father continued to bluster. “Your son maimed mine! Look at his face!”

Junbei pulled his spectacles down ever so slightly, as if making a show of considering Chet. “The work for a surgeon of no more than an hour or two, I can recommend a good doctor. Also assuredly my son’s intervention has saved yours from a ridiculous haircut.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could almost see Mrs. Oshyenko smirk in a way that didn’t reach her mouth.

The mother began to scream at him as well, an indecipherable clucking of chickens that he had no interest in sorting out. He grabbed Tso with a casual precision and hauled the boy to his feet. But what the father said next gave him pause. “No! I’ll call the sector police on you and your terrorist son, report it to the authorities and have the news come down on you like a-“

Junbei raised his hand to silence the man. The father stepped back from his half risen position, and the room fell into a silent tableaux. “That is the one thing you must not do.”

A manic glee fell over the other man’s face, as though sensing he might have some leverage there. “I can and I will! I’ll tell everyone! Your son will be hauled off as a terrorist and a-“

“Regrettable.” Murmured Junbei.

What happened next was almost too quick to follow. Junbei’s hand in the midst of his coat came out cleanly with a sleek, black Omni6 pistol, silenced in the front. Three distinctive thumps were heard and a glaring blue-muzzle flash reported three times as the father’s chest exploded in a mist of red. Mrs Oshyenko and the wife’s mouths both opened in a silent scream, before Junbei shot a further three times, each bullet drilling into the wife’s head. Chet then fell backwards in his chair, shouting once and paralyzed with fear.

Tso was staring at the way the blood was pooling out across the floor when he became aware of his father’s grip on his forearm.

“Tso.” He blinked. “Tso. Flatline.” His father never used his handle name. Tso looked up at his Lord Father, his faculties returned in an instant. His father had pressed a Dion-9x into his hands. “Shoot the boy.”

Tso raised the gun at Chet. Chet blubbered, wordlessly. Tears streamed down his face, and his pants might have been wet from voiding himself, or the blood of his own parents. Tso realized he didn’t care. The rapport of the Dion was louder than his father’s Omni, strikingly so. A bullet hole appeared in Chet’s forehead, seemingly casual, slow and softly in contrast to the kick of the gun.

“Three times, always shoot someone three times.”

Two more times Tso pulled back trigger, and two more blossoms appeared in Chet’s mangled face. Then his father made to pluck the weapon from his fingers, nerveless and trembling ever so slightly, before he thought better of it. Instead he pushed the weapon into Tso’s inner jacket pocket.

Mrs. Oshyenko’s mouth opened and closed like a soundless fish, her eyes wide.

Sighing, Junbei sat back down in the chair, tapping on the neural comm on his left ear.

“I will require a cleanup on my position, three to transport.”

Then he leaned forward, resting his elbows on the principal’s desk. “Mrs. Oshyenko, I apologize for this unfortunate incident. It was very regrettable. Would a hundred thousand silver be adequate compensation?” The principal looked at him, ashen and white, before exhaling in a rush. He pushed a credit chit into her fingers. “There there, just sit and rest, no need to thank me, I will arrange for everything.”

Junbei turned to regard his son, still standing staring at the three cooling bodies in the small office room. But while he expected his son to be trembling or guilty, Tso was neither of those things. Instead he stood poised and ready. Tso watched the blood pool further and further outwards.

Viperous thought Junbei. And he was proud.