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by Jeff McCoskey




=The quick brown fox jumpt over the lazy dog. Ten. Nine. Ate. Seven. Six. Five. Fore. Three. Too. Wun. Zereo. A. This translater nedes a litel worck. Too late fore that now thoe. Ile handel it later. Ockae. Restart. Deleete al befeore. . Marck.

==Ime here. Thats the first thing. Thats the moset importent thing.

==Um. Seckond wood bee the too broozers redy too bracke my legs if i macke a sownd. But i am here.

==This is the cichen of antoneoes dely. Wun fore six six bee. Chandler bulevard. The big gize wocking acros the sckrene just finisht serching the restront. Sum soret of hired musel aparently. Number wun is banging arownd the wock in frezer in the back. Yoo can here number too tocking in too a porteble fone. Shood bee abel too pese together the number hee diled later. Sownds like hese given the al clere. I ges the others wil arive shortly.==



"Okay, okay! Camera rolls in three, two...." Brian pointed the bulky camera at the center of the soundstage, depressed the 'record' button careful not to disturb the camera's position, and motioned to the young actors.

"Steve, I'm scared!" gushed a pretty young student. "They've got the place surrounded. I don't think they mean to take you alive."

"Fear not my love," said 'Steve.' "I didn't break out of the Fort to have it end like this. I won't give up our last chance without a fight."

"No Steve, you can't," pleaded the girl. "Don't you see? It's just what they want you to do. If you use your Omega against the police they'll never believe you were framed."

"I-I. You're right my love. We'll have to...." Suddenly, a cardboard door fell into the camera's view, followed by a young man in all black with a shiny badge on his chest. He sported a cap pistol.

"Freeze right there, Omega. Anything funny and I'll blow you away," screamed the new arrival. Brian frantically turned the volume control.

'Lori' threw herself in front of 'Steve.' "Don't shoot him! He hasn't done anything!"

'Steve' glowered at the 'lawman.' "Put the gun down officer. Lori is innocent."

The 'officer' was shaking. "G-get out of the way Miss. He's the freak, not you."

Steve continued, "You fool, you'll set off the gun! I won't let you endanger my girlfriend and unborn child." Steve raised his hands dramatically.

"Aah! No! Stay out of my mind!!" The officer panicked and began shooting wildly. Steve and Lori both fell to the floor. Brian zoomed in on them, where they lay in each others arms. Steve had a red splotch on his chest, Lori on her arm. Brian queued the tape with the pre-recorded voices as he focussed on their unmoving lips.

"Lori, my love, I am dying. All my love is yours...."

"No Steve, don't...oh no. He's dead." Steve's head lolled to the side in emphasis.

"Mommy? Daddy?" The voice was Brian's doing baby talk. Lori's hand crept to her stomach.

"Shhh honey. Daddy's dead. But don't forget him. When you grow up you'll make them all pay." Lori's face twisted to an evil smile.

"And cut! Great take. We better clean up before next period," said Brian as he rewound the tape. 'Steve' and 'Lori' got up. "Good job Roger, Sharon. People will think you're actually in love." Brian's voice was more bitter than he intended, but Roger, Greg and Sharon pretended not to notice.

"Yeah, whatever. Hey, I gotta bolt for Student Council. If I don't show, they might think I'm dead and inaugurate the VP." He turned to Sharon. "I'll see you later." They shared a smile between them, then Roger Blalock left the cleanup as usual. Brian suspected it was at least as much to avoid being seen with him and Greg as to avoid the work.

Greg laughed at his exit, apparently without rancor. "Prima Donna actors."

Brian addressed Sharon. "You sure forgave him quickly."

"Brian, don't start. Roger explained it all to me, and it was just a big misunderstanding. Pam and he..." Sharon shook her head in frustration. "Hey I don't owe you an explanation anyway."

"No I guess you don't," said Brian. Greg broke in carrying the big title board, which read "Deliverence from Love and Death (Communications Final Project by Brian Symsek).'

"Great stuff, Bri. It's an 'A' for sure. Mind if I hang onto the title board? Call it an early graduation present."

"Sure Greg. If I want it I'll steal it back while you're at college. Along with all my other stuff."

"The hidden benefits to a RETS education: access to the college-bound stashes." Sharon McNalley studiously avoided Brian's eyes as Greg continued his determined banter.

«FF» <00062>


==I donet noe whoo the man in the sharp soot and pony tale is. But heze obviusly the bos here. Hee waltsd in too antoneoes ofis like hee oned it. The lites ar stil of but heze in thare. I thinck i got a good shot wen hee past the ofis windoe. The meteing is stil foredy five minits awae. Ime lucky the dish washer didnt stae late todae.

==My foot is aslepe and my neck ackes. Ide giv anithing too shift just a litel. Exept a bulet woond i guess heh. Cmon antoneoe. Bee erly.==



Brian walked down the dank hallway nervously. The World War II vintage hallways of The Fort always gave him the creeps. Brian wore his Dynamax coveralls with tools dangling from all its loops and carried a portable radio. Greg's voice echoed from its tinny speaker.

"Ok, we got you on video, left at the next juncture and the access panel should be on the right hand side."


"S'matter Captain Video? Little nervous in the catacombs? You know they evacuated the block before they even let you in to look at the cameras..."

"Big talker, Austin, in your secure bunker. Better clean up that confidence you're oozing. You know how Tazakles frowns on sticky keyboards."

"Clean it myself, what're you kidding? That's what we got you RETS guys for."

Brian turned the corner, looked straight into the video camera at the intersection and gave Greg a one-finger salute.

"Ha! Cut it and print it! Ok guys ship this tape off to Big Taz. What should we title it?"

"How about 'Engineers are number one at Fort Deliverence.' " retorted Brian with a grin. "Here's the panel." Brian cautiously looked into the cell windows on either side to reassure himself that the prisoners were gone then unscrewed the panel. Behind was an access ladder that led upward to a locked door which Brian carried the key to. "Ok, I got 'em. I'm going to cycle the cameras manually cell by cell and you tell me which ones are busted."

After fifteen minutes of testing, which mostly consisted of checking serial numbers by the dim light from below and hearing Greg's "Yup" over the radio, Brian found one. "Seventeen E, ok wait one." He replaced the fuse. "Still negative." he pulled a portable keypad from his belt and angled it to catch the light. A form abruptly cut off all light from below.

"Oh shit."

"Brian, what is it? Are you all right? Still nothing on seventeen E. Brian?!"

Brian could see nothing of the bulk that occupied the access hatch except the glint of his smile. He tried to thumb his radio when something foreign squirmed into his head.

{No no technician we can't have that.} The feeling was repugnant. Someone had invaded his innermost self, and everything that was Brian and Brian alone was bare and unprotected. Brian had heard of people retreating into themselves after robberies and rapes, unable to cope with the violation of their homes and bodies. This was worse. There was no where left to run to.

Brian anguished, helpless, as his own arm defied his control and brought the radio to his lips. "{Nothing wrong here, just lost the handle on the radio.}" The voice was his, but Brian's mind had nothing to do with the words' generation. If only he could slip in the emergency code-word....

{No, I don't think you'll have time for that, technician. You need to shut down the window alarms. Hell make it all the sensors.} The interloper was firing Brian's neurons for him. As hard as Brian tried to think about Sharon, the Atlanta Knights schedule, or whatever, Brian's thoughts were dragged to the security schematics. His own knowledge was tweaked to identify the alarm system to the presence in his head. A moment later his voice surprised him again. "{Floor going down for a moment while I connect the troubleshooter. Back in ten.}" His hand did the rest. {Thanks technician. I won't even kill you.}

In despair, Brian had released all control of his muscles to the invader. Abruptly, that control returned. Brian floundered on the ladder, then fell the length of the access passage. Rude laughter ushered him to unconsciousness.

«FF» <00115>


==The ofis is stil darck. The sownds seme too bee pony tale turning the room inside owt. But hee wonet find anithing with the lites of. I think hese just bored. Stil noe sine of antoneoe. My leg is faling aslepe. My neck is reley throbing from this cocked hed angel. If i donet moov ile sckreme. Mabee if i moov very sloe i wonet macke a noiz. [crunk]




==Criset, that sownded licke thunder in here. Thay seme to thinck it wuz just pans setling in the sinck. Wat doo i doo now.==



"Well what does it mean that Dynamax lost the contract? Do we have to move, or will they sign us over to the new company?" asked Brian.

"You understand this is just grapevine stuff right?" said Greg. The two were sharing lunch at the Barbecue Pit in downtown Calhoun, which was strictly forbidden during work hours. Greg and Brian often violated it just to get away.


"That new Washington chick that heads SIRECOM must've decided she had to make a name for herself. You know how bureaucrats are, gotta have change or they're not doing anything. Anyway, word is she cancelled Dynamax's contract and went with SecuCorps for the next five years."

"You sure?"

"Sounds like it. Dynamax will finish out the year, but that's it. Security systems were never their primary business anyway, and they'll keep the Omega medical contract. I don't think there was anyone else capable of bidding on that part. But that'll be just the Med guys, and we don't see them much anyway. Management thinks a select few employees will stay with Dynamax, most of the engineers will go to SecuCorps, and the technicians," Greg eyed Brian uncomfortably, "will probably be let go. At least the ones without a security clearance."

"What kind of sense does that make? About 90% of the technicians don't have clearance. Won't they still need screw-turners?"

"SecuCorps has their own subsidiary company they work with — they don't keep in-house hourly people." Greg looked extremely guilty.

"They're talking about a third of the Fort Deliverence staff laid off!"

"That won't be good for Calhoun, that's for sure. You can bet Roger's working the political angle to get some temporary relief, but...."

"Swell. You know since that jailbreak attempt a few months ago I haven't had a security clearance. Double whammy. I'll probably be the first one out the door."

"Hey Brian, you know if things get rough you can come to me right?"

"Don't worry about me. I'm a RETS graduate, we always find jobs." Brian was mocking the electronics school's add campaign. Greg ignored the self-pity.

"Here's something to think about. Dynamax'll be auctioning off a lot of its outdated equipment before it leaves. If it's like the previous govern- ment equipment auctions, the 'outdated' term will be applied pretty liberally. My guess is quite a bit of video equipment, o-scopes, that kind of thing will go. You might could pick up enough to start a repair business of some kind. For a while anyway."

Brian just nodded glumly and tried to remember again why he'd thought Sharon had been reason enough not to go to college.

«FF» <00169>


==Antoneoe just came in. Thank god. Ive got the direckshunel on the ofis windoe soe wee should here evrithing thay say. Not too poleite ar thay. Thares the lites goeing on. Man. Hee is not hapy too see pony tale. Owe hel. Wun uv the broozers is pooting on bras nuckels.==



"A god. A Goddamned Indian god." Greg was halfway through his sixth beer, and it had been a long time since he and Brian had drank like that. They were in Brian's unkempt trailer home, which he'd recently traded his old Mustang for. He only had a few weeks of unemployment left, even after Roger's negotiated extension, and couldn't afford the rent at his old place. A year ago, losing the car would have about killed him. Only self-delusion prevented him from hocking all the Dynamax gear he'd sunk his severance into.

Greg had thoughtfully brought the beer, along with a not-too-subtle oversupply of munchies.

Greg and Brian again watched the news coverage of Tempest's battle with Kali in Times Square, ending with Tempest's apparent victory and death.

"Bet there's a lot more Hindus tomorrow," said Brian, though his voice came out devoid of the intended humor. He poured more beer down his unnat- urally dry throat.

"Bri — do you ever feel obsolete? I'm sorry I don't mean to crack at your status, I mean as a human." Greg was an old enough friend that Brian didn't take offense, but he responded with a confused look. Greg elaborated. "What if there hadn't been any Omegas? This god coulda pretty much had his way with the whole world of us."

"Our military...." started Brian uncertainly.

"Oh bullshit. There isn't a bullet made that could kill a god. Hell we work, used to work, at the Omega jail. Look at SIRECOM. What kind of budget does that thing have? But we still got homeless and hungry humans that don't get squat. Omegas're all over the news these days. Shit, I don't know what I'm saying, but it kinda makes me feel like...."

"You don't have to tell me Greg. I had one in my head."

Greg feigned nonchalance. Brian had never said ten words about the jail break since his debrief and Greg hadn't pushed it. Truth be told he was morbidly curious about it though.

"What was the guy's name? Tyrant — y'notice how these guys don't have normal names? Tempest, Tyrant, hell, I'm getting into a Leno routine." Brian paused, and Greg respected the silence. "But you want to talk about feeling impotent? The bastard was using my body — my thoughts. All I could do was ride along. You have no idea how degrading that is. I was nothing to him — nothing!"

"Bri — we're all nothing to them. To them all. How could we be anything else? They're taking on gods for Christ's sake, and all we can do is watch on TV and pray the home team wins."

"Man, back in High School I'd'a given anything to be an Omega. Y'know while Roger was monopolizing Sharon and we were faceless? Pow! Instant power, glory. Instant meaning."

"Yeah we all had that fantasy. Even Roger I bet. Every kid in America hopes he's got the gene that'll make him Overman. The one girl in school that did have it though, all she got was the ability to hover six inches above ground. What ever happened to Floater?"

Brian grimaced. "This is still Georgia. She moved out real suddenly. Roger had said the Klan paid her pop a visit. Maybe that's us normal humans equalizer — fear and prejudice. D'I ever tell you that's what inspired my final project at Calhoun High?"

"Ha! That's right. Damn good story too."

"Barely got a 'C' on it. Little too topical for the school board." They shared a humorless laugh. "God, Greg, what if the Klan is right on this one? I mean we mostly thought of the Omega as a wild card. Kinda like Lotto. But this Shiva thing — what if this is the start? What if this Omega gene is the end for homo sapien?"

"I dunno. They've been around a long time. And even Tyrant got caught."

"Yeah, by the Omega guards at the Fort, not by any of us."

"That doesn't mean the Klan's got the answer. Brian this conversation is turning wrong."

"Maybe. There's never been a Indian god running around, or a kid with the power of Overman before. Hell Greg, what if somebody pisses Tempest off? He's just a teenager."

"He's probably dead, Bri. Saving us."

"He's still more alive than us. Don't you see? Omegas are playing with the world and we're just the extras. With Kali, with my job, with everything."

"They don't have to do any of it though, do they? I mean how would Floater have stacked up to Kali? Maybe the Omega doesn't have anything to do with it. Maybe it just takes a decision to do something. I don't know. This is all just too much. Hell, how am I going to go to work at the Fort tomorrow? How can any of us pretend life is still normal? Gods are walking the earth. Gods and Omegas. Where does that leave us?"

Brian looked deeply into his amber drink. "You're right Greg. Life ain't normal no more. And maybe that is all it takes. A decision."

After Greg passed out, Brian dusted off his Dynamax equipment for the first time in months.

«FF» <00256>



"P-please Cassel. The Feds...."

"The Feds have been off yer case for months. They got nuthin' on ya." A thick bruiser put his fist next to Antonio's head, brass gleaming around his fingers. "They're gettin' wise to our other bag man, so it's your turn in the hopper again."

"I-I can't. Please! They almost put me in jail last time. I have a family to think of."

"That's how we know you won't go to the cops," smiled the pony-tailed Cassel evilly. "But we're a friendly organization. We don't want you doin' nuthin' against yer will. Paulo, convince the man." The first blow stuck the overweight Antonio behind his jaw, and blood flew from his mouth.




Brian looked at the array of gear as the sun came up. The past months had been a blur of creation. Brian had taken a temporary job at a carpet mill up the road to put food in his mouth (in the same plant as Sharon as luck or small towns would have it), but every other spare moment had been used tinkering.

His years of closed-circuit TV experience had made it relatively easy to craft small remote cameras that fed a compact taping unit. The hard part had been disassembling and decompiling the EPROM code in the Dynamax camcorder to modify the telltale onscreen data. Brian replayed the test tape. In addition to the genericized date/time stamp and video counter, the replay of his mobile home had a black strip across the bottom of the screen. Scrolling through the strip was standard font text.

==The quick brown fox jumpt over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumpt....==

Brian noted his voice recognition firmware was still pretty crude, but after all it had to fit on the limited EPROM space. And it gave him the important ability to comment as needed on the video without leaving his voice on tape. A compact directional mike would insure only the sounds he wanted ended up on tape.

The final modification to the screen was in the upper left hand corner. Brian smiled wryly. A small digitized symbol — the Scales of Justice, with an eyeball centered on the crossbar.

He had his equipment. He had his clothing, purchased from an Army-Navy store. He even had his first quarry. Antonio's Deli had long been rumored to be a funnel for drugs from coming from Florida through Atlanta and north. They'd never managed to get anything on him, despite the FBI investigating in town a few years ago. But they didn't have the free time that Brian did, or probably, the element of surprise. He'd planted a low-footprint recorder atop one of the video game machines. A slick looking man with a pony tail was captured on it, promising a meeting the next night.

Brian studied the small screen, his pulse rate climbing. He'd spent the last week making adjustments to his equipment that weren't really necessary. There were no more excuses. It was time to start his new life or just sign it over to the Omegas and live the rest of his days in the trailer. With a nervous laugh, Brian began laying out the cameras, recorder and monitors next to his dark commando clothes.

«FF» <00388>



Antonio lay weeping across his desk. Cassel eyed him distastefully. "Alright Pizza man. Your first delivery is next week. A suitcase will get dropped into your dumpster after trash day. Get it out and deliver it to Bascha's Concessions in Chattanooga.

"Maybe take your family along," Cassel added cruelly. "I won't even warn you not to let us down. Death depresses me. Clean yourself up." Cassel motioned and the two thugs followed him out the office and out the rear door of the restaurant.

==Hew. Not. Prety.==

Antonio lay for quite a long time, making Brian acutely aware of the painful set to his neck. His leg had no feeling in it. Eventually, Antonio straightened his office half-heartedly, abruptly turning out the lights in the middle of his efforts. He strode directly to the sink/storage area that Brian was hiding in. Brian had snuck in after the dishwasher left, moved all the pots out of the cupboard and into the sink, filling it with soapy water to allay suspicion. He had barely been able to cram himself into the space left.

Antonio quietly sobbed as he ran water and rinsed his face. Brian's pulse sounded like explosions in his ears. Antonio left eventually, distrac- tedly cursing the teenage dishwasher.


Brian waited until he heard the car pull away, then tumbled from the confining space. He danced about awkwardly in the darkness until the feeling came back to his leg, and his neck still arched painfully. He wasted no time getting out of the restaurant. He hopped on his dirtbike, elated. Adrenaline surged through his system, making him forget his carefully laid plans to shed his dark camouflage in favor of nondescript street clothes. He even forgot to wipe the dark grease paint from his face.

Those details were meaningless in the face of his achievement. He'd done it! On a whim he spun through Sharon's neighborhood. Their reunion at the mill had been pleasant, and he had to share his accomplishment with someone. Greg was on midnight shift. As he neared the place, he noticed a Mercedes with ROGERB license plates was parked discreetly on the side of the house. Brian sped on by.

He spent the rest of the night watching and rewatching the tape as he made a copy of it. Even hours later, he found himself hopping excitedly as he applied the preprinted shipping labels to the brown wrapper over the video cassette:

To: Calhoun Police Department. From: The Eye of Justice.

Even the name didn't seem as ridiculous in his current state of mind. Brian had taken the first step in reclaiming his dignity. He just hadn't expected it to be this exhilarating.


      /_\ T /\

The fun ends. Very quickly.

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