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by Jeff McCoskey


==Hoo. Wat. Ware. Wen. Wie. Doo I hav al those coverd. Hoo and wat fore shore. Ware. This cood be aniware. How to proov this is the fort.==

Brian hurriedly recorded a maintainance pylon bearing the markings, "Pole 8B, Wing C, Fort Deliverance Training Camp, 1940. Property of US Government."

==Not enuff. Hav to run camra on the way owt.== Brian was forcing himself to think things through. His first impulse had been to run wildly away. ==Wen. I got that coverd with the time stamp. Just in case I can dokument the entrans sine. On my way owt owt owt.

==Wie. Jeezus wie.

==Hav to setel fore hoo wat ware wen.==

The sounds of the Dynamax interns dragging away the Omega corpse had long faded. Brian finally got to his feet. The motion broke the ice his nerve was trying to set. After five steps he was running along the maintainance catwalk to the electrical room. At the top of the ladder, he again forced himself to think things through.

==Ime on tape. This is a felony. Wurs.==

Back in the equipment room, Brian first reconnected the catwalk sensors and then restored the video feeds. He reassembled the data analyzer, even though it meant losing his monitor, and left it connected to a sensor array as if gathering data. He no longer wanted to take the time and risk to return it. That also meant he had to wipe the stage makeup off his face.

Next he insured all the tapes were rewound prior to the time he arrived, so the cameras would tape over Brian's recorded presence. It was far too slow a process since he had play musical video feed to insure the main security cameras were not without video. Any tape not recording would show up on the central security board, and a guard would be dispatched.

==So now I never came in. How abowt my way owt.== Brian's original plan had been to boldface it out, just like he came in. With the awful video like a lead weight in his pocket that seemed suicidal—and the cameras would track his exit as impersonally as his entrance. ==Think. Think. Thares two camras if I follow the Dynamax corridor to the loding ramp. Maybee fiftene minits frum the controle room to here. If thay dont rush it.== Brian was able to depress fast forward on the two Dynamax Wing corridor cassettes with an uncomfortable stretch. If he held FF and REC manually, the booth would think the cameras were still recording. As much as he willed them to go faster, the time updated maddeningly slowly.


Tapes stopped. End of tape was triggered to the booth when the tape counter was one half hour from the end—on fast forward that was maybe four minutes. The guard started Brian's way four minutes before the first click. Brian lunged out the door. In his haste he activated the camera by the entrance station.

==Shit. Thay got my back. No time to go back now.==

Brian strode briskly out the loading bay. It was surprisingly easy. The other Dynamax employees only noticed his coveralls and obvious earnest mission. He didn't give them time to challenge him.

Despite knowing the cameras fed out-of-tape recorders, their unblinking glass lenses seemed to cast a spotlight on Brian.

Once he was out on the prison grounds, he made a bee-line for the exit. The maintainance yard was relatively free from surveillance, and the guards took his coveralls and badge at face value. Brian had managed to force a dispassionate expression onto his face—but it was frozen there. If anyone had forced him to talk, it would have shattered like the fragile shell it was.

At the guard shack he got another nasty surprise. The door guard was a friend of his older brother Chip. He could not fail to recognise Brian, disguise or no. In fact, the disguise would seem intensely suspicious.

Brian darted into the rest room before the guard looked up, but cowered by the door away from the camera. There was really only one option. Brian pulled the disposable razor from his pocket—he'd only taken it along as an afterthought—and carved off his dyed goattee. Hurried dry shaving by touch—now that's a man's shave, thought Brian desperate to be funny. He dabbed light smears of stage makeup to stop the bleeding, then took a deep breath. In the mirror he could see half his face from his perspective. He looked like himself, only more insane. He stuffed the pillow from his coveralls in the trash, and covered it with paper towels. Lastly he pulled a worn Dynamax cap over his dyed hair.

Brian turned to leave, passing a guard who was just entering. Later, when he allowed himself to think how close that was, it would be good for a sick laugh.

"Hey Bri—you look like hell."

"Yo Bingo. Yeah, just found out I'm getting laid off at Christmas. That sucks." His voice was choked enough to pass for whatever emotions Bingo would want to attribute. Brian cleared the metal and psi detectors as they spoke. The faux Walkman with THE TAPE seemed to fill half the room, though only Brian seemed to notice.

"Oh, geez, yeah sorry. I thought you were already gone. Tough break man."

"Thanks. See ya around. I'll tell Chip I saw ya."

"Yeah, do that man. Sorry again."

And he was out. Simple as that. He absently dabbed his face to see if he'd bled noticeably, but only came up with red dots. Despite the immensity of it all, or maybe because of it, now that he was out Brian felt like laughing and dancing. Some-impossible-how he'd kept his cool and done it.

==I of justis hel. Monster gonads of justis more like it. Heh.==

He even remembered to point his camera at the huge sign behind the parking lot. "Welcome to Fort Deliverance Federal Penitentiary, Property of U.S. Government. Operated by (newly painted) SecuCorps by order of SIRECOM. NO TRESPASSING. 181 accident-free days—Safety and Security."


Brian tumbled into his trailer. His cold attention to detail seemed a separate consciousness and almost frightened him.

The Dynamax coveralls had been burned in the woods behind the quarry on his way home. The place was snaked with dirtbike tracks, even in winter, and shouldn't have been suspicious. Even so, Brian had walked deep off-track to burn them, and dispersed the smoke with branches.

In his trailer, Brian grabbed a beer from the fridge, set it on the counter unopened, then laughed. He grabbed his bottle of Jack Daniels and headed for the shower. When he stepped out of the shower, his hair was returned to its normal sandy color, the bottle was 1/3 empty, and his courage was bolstered. He fired up the editting machine after closing all windows and turning up the TV.

Half hour later the bottle was half empty. "I can't show this," the alcohol helped him mutter aloud. "I say my own name three times. I show in detail how to break into the maximum security Omega jail. They caught my back on camera and Bingo knows I was there." Brian stared at the frozen image on the screen—two Dynamax interns wrapping a phoney noose around a dead Omega inmate. He slammed his fist onto the tabletop.

"You're a coward Sysmek! They're cutting'em open and covering it up as suicide. Poor dead bastards. Like you're gonna be if they figure out who taped this. Shit Symsek, this thing is huge. You're a fly, a fucking feeb. Quit kidding yourself." He turned off the editor.

Without the electrical hum, the TV audio blared in the trailer's interior.

"...rememba if you see croime 'appening, contact Hot Scoop! at the numba on your screen. Croime doesn't pay, but Hot Scoop! does. Be a hero!"

Brian's laugh was edged. The bottle would be empty by midnight.


Brian jumped out of bed at the pounding on his door. His first thought was, "They found me." His second was "Christ, get that turbine out of my skull."

"Brian?" Sharon's voice. Brian glanced at the clock, which showed time for work. Like a whirlwind that occasionally paused to retch, he threw on clothes then staggered to the door. Sharon had given up and was halfway back to her car.

"Sleepy. Just about gave up on y..." Sharon's face turned in shock as Brian's scent washed over her. "Are you drunk?" Brian could tell from her expression that anything he said would be taken as confirmation, so he said nothing. His brain had enough to deal with, what with all the construction going on. "You can't go to work like this." Her voice was firm, and not especially friendly. "I'll tell them you're sick, but you find your own ride from now on. What were you thinking Brian?"

As Sharon turned away in disgust, Brian's sick expression was only half due to the hangover. He resolved to take another look at editting his tape after the thunderstorm in his head slowed down.


Brian played with his two-year-old nephew Bo as Chip, Denise, Mom and Dad dressed the Christmas Tree. The house in Charleston was off the historical district which meant it was small, musty and had more character than most large cities. If you could forgive the occaisional hurricane, it was the perfect place to retire.

Brian felt he was twenty years in the past, still not allowed to help because he was too young. The house itself bore no resemblance to the one they grew up in in Calhoun, but the Christmas decorations and his family were essentially the same. They encased Brian in an armored shell of nostalgia—Dynamax couldn't touch him here. Not at Christmas.

"More!" demanded Bo giggling, and Brian laughed. He swung the little boy around like an airplane.

"Brian you know those arms come off," Chip said. Chip's abysmal sense of humor was comforting, as were most things about his strong older brother.

"What an awful thing to say," tutted Mom.

"He might be getting a little worked up, Brian," said Denise happy with worry.

"Ahh, we're fine, ain't we Bo? Kkkkkht. Tower to Flight Bo, come in flight Bo. Cleared for landing..."

"Hey, boy." Boy was Dad's generic name for Brian and Chip. This time it happened to refer to Brian. "Han' me them last string'a lights would ya?"

"Comin' up Dad."


"Just a sec Bo. Control Tower'll be right back."

"More! Moremoremoremoremore!"

"I told you..." started Mom. Denise handed off her bulbs and went to Bo's side.

"Hush, dear...."

"More planeride! Unca Bwian!"

"Uncle Brian's busy now. Maybe later."

"No, now! Unca Chip? Granpa?"

"Settle down Bo. Nobody likes a whiney-boy."


"That's it young man. Quiet time for you."

"No mommy, I'll be good. I promise I will." The boys eyes went wide with comically overdramatic contrition.

"Those are the rules."

"You're mean! I want my Daddy!" Bo ran off to his quiet corner, tears starting.

Patrick Solosbee's name hung in the air of the family room. Denise's eyes misted up a little. Brian never had any use for his brother-in-law, and neither had Chip. Patrick had been the classic Omega wannabee, trying to convince everyone he had the Trigger. His preoccupation had been more than a little goofy. Sober-minded Chip had threatened Patrick more than once early in the courtship, but reigned himself in when Denise appeared serious. He'd never kept from laughing overloud at Brian's rude comments though.

Patrick had been gone for five months. Not once had he contacted her. Police hadn't ruled out foul play, but even Denise had to admit the simpler option was more likely. Patrick had run off before when Denise first got pregnant, before they'd agreed to marry.

The Symsek's wrapped around Denise like a warm coccoon. Dad put his arm around Denise, which was tantamount to a dissembling emotional display. Mom's "there there dear, Bo's just upset, he doesn't mean anything" accompanied her patented two-hand arm squeeze. Brian and Chip muttered some inane things that carried a message beyond their words.

Brian probably got as much from the moment as Denise did.


Brian punched the edit button and finished the lower screen blackout. Again. In the three weeks since he had taped the reverse dissection, Brian had created seven versions of the tape with all incriminating footage excised. Each time he found some non-existant flaw, some fatal clue, preventing its release.

By now, Bingo would have forgotten the brief exchange at the guard shack, and the tape of his back was probably overwritten. Brian did not dwell on those facts. He had managed to half-convince himself that the story was too large to stay covered up forever, and didn't need his help to come out. He'd had to mentally mask the image of the inmate's contorted face as the noose slipped around it to make the conclusion. And anyway, this latest tape had too much description of how he beat the security. Wouldn't want amateurs getting ideas from his tape.

The phone rang. "Yello?" It wasn't Sharon. It was Greg.

"Bri! Can't talk long—there's been a major breakout attempt. We're locked down for at least 36 hours. I need you to take care of PB." PB was Greg's dog Penis-Breath. The mutt had a cleanliness fetish.

"No prob. What's up?"

"The shit hit the fan—all those suicides? Your old pal Tyrant was settling some scores, hey can't talk now. There's plenty of other folks that need the phone. Later."


Greg and Brian were at Greg's apartment, watching TV. Greg had just gotten released a few hours ago. PB drooled happily at his feet.

"This is incredible. These Hot Scoop! guys know more than I do and I was there."

"They're pretty up on O.J. Simpson and Heidi Fleiss, too," quipped Brian.


The Australian-sounding announcer droned on. "...Celaya, CEO of SecuCorps was one of foive innocent casualties in the criminal's brazen attempt to escape Fort Deliverance. The so-called 'Tyrant' used moind control on Celaya, sending him on a rampage through the security booths until he was gunned down by the guards. In all the confusion, Tyrant made his break for freedom, that ended when he too was gunned down on the prison's grounds. 'is body was added to the eight inmates who had been thought to be suicides, but ah now believed to be victims of Tyrant's jailhouse justice."

Unbidden, the image of Coroner resealing a suicide victim's carved body jumped before Brian's mind's eye. So the cards were on the table. Someone had provided an excuse for the suicides. The truth was not going to come out without Brian's help.

Greg had been speaking. "...locked up, never saw any of it."

"What's this about the suicides?" interrupted Brian.

"Yeah, we did find that out. Turns out Tyrant's psi-supressor had been left off the maintainance runs. Slipped thorugh the cracks. Someone's head is going to roll for that."

Brian closed his eyes. When Brian worked at the Fort, Greg had been one of those responsible for reviewing the maintainance plan. Greg was sharp and careful and had ordered a full-blown dry run. It would've been impossible to not catch the ommission during a run—the techs went cell to cell and would've noticed skipping one.

"I thought you sent them cell to cell..."started Brian.

"Yeah, I did thank God. It won't be me, it'll be the guy that didn't report it that bites it. If he's even still there."

Brian knew all the techs—he'd been one afterall. Nobody missed that psi-suppressor, and Greg had known that at one point. Just like Greg knew about the Hole at one point too.

"So it looks like Tyrant gets the blame for everything."

"Well he was the one that killed everyone," said Greg with mock-reasonableness.

Tyrant was a clumsy telepath. From experience, Brian doubted the rogue Omega was capable of the subtle manipulation of Greg's mind, let alone the dissections. It all boiled down to Brian's initial assessment. Whatever the truth was, it was not that Tyrant was the mastermind, and Brian had the tape to prove it.

The show concluded with the standard tag line. "...croime 'appening, contact Hot Scoop! at the number on your screen. Croime doesn't pay, but Hot Scoop! does. Be a hero! Tomorra, more on Tempest's girlfriend and her past romance with a non-Omega—the Omega Triangle."


In the end, it was Time Magazine that resolved it for Brian. Mom had gotten Brian a year's worth of doctor and dentist visits for Christmas. Good ol' Mom. She knew right away what losing Dynamax' health plan meant, though Brian would've preferred a CD player. In the dentist's waiting room Brian picked up an out of date magazine.

"Omega of the Year—Eric Anderson." Brian leafed through the pages. Tempest turned out to be a teenage god. The dramatic photographs were taken by Eisenstaedt and were evocative of a young, aware, Jim Morrison. The kid took a good picture.

An old man in the seat next to Brian, who he'd been avoiding eye contact with to forestall conversation, leaned over. "Pisses me off, I tell ya. That used to be 'Man of the Year', y'know." The rest of the man's bitter diatribe was lost to Brian.

Greg's mind had been altered. The riot at Fort Deliverance was a shell game with the truth. Omega of the Year replaced Man of the Year.

That night Brian watched himself dial Hot Scoop!, not sure until the receiver picked up if he'd go through with it.


Brian tapped his foot impatiently in the shadows. He was wearing the urban camoflauge he'd bought for his first mission, hiking boots, gloves, and a ski mask. He had embroidered a crude scale-and-eyeball logo on his left blouse pocket.

He wasn't sure the producers would even show, let alone meet his demands for a cash payment. They showed some slight interest when he announced himself as the Eye of Justice. It had sounded just mysterious enough after the Cassel case to warrant a passing notice on a prior show, so they'd heard of him. They had agreed to meet Brian at the defunct nuclear reactor on the campus of Gerogia Tech. It probably didn't hurt that the show was based in Atlanta.

The reactor was a University experiment that was shut down when people finally realized a reactor run by students was not a good idea at the geographical center of Atlanta. Brian had visited Greg a few times and partied under its shadow. It was public enough to have numerous escape routes, yet private enough not to draw attention.

Brian had arrived two hours early, just after nightfall, to scout ahead. A handful of students passed by all night, but besides the few cars parked across the street the place was empty.

Eventually, a man in a trenchcoat wandered around the corner.

"Stop!" hissed Brian in a whisper. The man did so. Brian had given a lot of thought into his presentation. He had decided that the best way to present his bonafides was with a display of technology. Brian motioned the man forward and handed him a Sony Watchman.

"What is this?" With a start, Brian recognised the man as Ian Rutledge, the Australian anchor for Hot Scoop!. Brian motioned to the screen, then began typing on a handheld keyboard. Block letters streamed across the small screen.

>I am the Eye of Justice. No evil escapes my sight.
>Did you bring the money?

"Cute. Yeh, its here. Who ah you? What koind of charade is this? You don't need awl this. We can protect your anonymity, if you're worried about reproisals."

>I prefer not to leave my anonymity in the hands of others.
>You are familiar with the riot at Fort Deliverance?

"Yeah. We ran a piece on it days ago."

>I have evidence the suicides were faked by Dynamax.

"Look 'ere, bloke. This is just a little silly ain't it..." Ian's voice died out as the small screen in his hands flashed to life. Despite the small size, the resolution was good, though Brian's text bar was too small to read. The view clearly showed a dissected corpse reforming under the ministrations of a balding man, then the corpse being fitted with a noose made of sheet. The men walked out dragging the corpse behind, clearly showing the tape was not running in reverse. Brian stopped it while the Dynamax logo was visible on their backs.

Ian was stunned, but not in a horrified way. In a way that seemed fit to a man winning the lottery. "'ow do oi know the tape is genuine?"

>The entire tape, which I edited down to mask where my identity might
>be revealed, has several shots that clearly place it inside Fort
>Deliverance. Nearly a month ago.
>Are you interested?

"An unsubstantiated home video? We usually can't run them without propa authentication. It's less useful to us if you won't cooperate in its validation."

>The tape is real Mr. Rutledge. It will find its way to TV.
>Should I go to Current Affair or Hard Copy?

Rutledge looked up to study the bizarre figure before him. Average height, caucasian, little else identifiable. The eyes stared right back from behind the ski mask. Rutledge licked his lips. "Oi brought half with me now. We verify the tape, and we give you the other half. 'owever you want it delivered. Best oi can do."

>How do I know you'll come through?

"Can oi call you Mr. Justice? Mr. Justice, if this is bonafide we will certainly want to continue to broka your tapes in the future. Call it mahket forces."

>Very well. Leave me your business card.

Ian Rutledge pulled a wad of bills from his jacket and mated it with a cardboard card. Brian reached to the small of his back and opened the player. His outward calm concealed turmoil beneath. Had he done his best to purge his identity from the cassette? Was there anything he was forgetting? He was jumping into shark-infested waters and there was no getting out ever again.

"Mr. Justice?" Rutledge waved the money impatiently. Brian briefly had a mental image of Judas Iscariot's silver, but it was far too late to turn back now.

They swapped money for tape, and Rutledge turned away. Brian gritted his teeth in anger.

"Rutledge," he hissed in a coarse whisper. The reporter turned back. Brian pointed to the Watchman he had tried to make off with.

"Roight, sorry. Almost walked off with it boi mistake." Neither of them believed it.

Brian followed the man's progress until he cleared the building's corner. He was startled by an engine starting. Across the street a panel van started up and drove off.

Brian bolted for his hidden dirtbike, kicked it to life, and gunned it across the campus grounds where a car could not follow. Had the van been a coincidence, or had Hot Scoop! outsmarted him and planted it there all day. What if they had been filming him? The roll of bills in Brian's pocket were all but forgotten as he tried to replay his actions all evening. What was there for a camera to capture? Was there enough to identify him?

It wasn't long before the worst eventuality came to him. What if it wasn't even Hot Scoop!?


Ian Rutledge stars in News for Sale and Brian spends his blood money.

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