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Part 1 of 2
by Jeff McCoskey
"Summer Sweeps part 1"
»Cue Video 1
A corpse laid on a table, viewed from above. It was opened like a book, as if post-autopsy. A sallow man in a lab coat was drawing his hand from the corpse's groin, the base of the cut, towards his neck. The body's flesh knit together under his hand, closing the flaps of skin, leaving not so much as a scar behind. Across the bottom of the screen, a black band scrolled with white narration.
==Thare going to think I plade this in revers. Focus on the hand. No nife.== The 'doctor' was sweating, and his eyelids fluttered as he finished closing the body. The corpse began to color, until it appeared to be a sleeping man, in contrast to the anatomy study of a minute before. ==Hese going to rase the ded,== read the caption. The picture went dark.
»Cue Camera 1
"With this video, a new koind of adventureh broke into the world stage. A man who didn't foight with fists, guns, or the Omega. A man who wielded the most powerful weapon of allthe Truth."
Ian Rutledge strode through a blue sound stage with variously sized photo-enlargements of crime scenes arrayed artistically across the set. Each photo was a dramatic screen capture from an Eye of Justice video cassette; each had the trademark scales and eyeball in the upper left, and each had a black band across the bottom with misspelled narrative. Center stage was a man-sized, three dimensional reproduction of the scale and eyeball. Ian walked a slow half-circle through the set, ending next to the sculpture as he spoke.
"Tonoight, Hot Scoop! looks at the mysterious career of the vigilante known as the Oi of Justice. From his dramatic revelations that toppled the mega-corp Dynamax, to drug dealers in pizza shops, to religious standoffs, to Deliverance breakouts, politics, and the Olympics. The Oi of Justice has operated throughout Atlanta and Northern Georgia, bringing to light what evil men and organizations most tried to hoide in shadow."
»Cue Camera 2
Ian turned to face a different camera. "But what do we know about the Oi himself? Precious little. Tonoight we'll examine his contributions to criminal justice. We'll also see if we can't put togetheh a profoile of the man behoind the camera, based on tantaloizing clues spread throughout his career. Lateh in the program, we'll also have the first eveh exclusive intehview with the Oi himself. For now, we'll turn our attention to where it all startedthe lost footage of the Oi's first case."
»Cue Video 2
A big man with a pony tail smashed his fist across an older man's jaw with a distant, but sickening, crunch. Blood flowed from the broken jaw, mixing with tears of pain. The scene was viewed from below waist height, and through a wide office window. Two other men held the victim in a sitting position while the first drove his fist into the man's chest. The digital symbol of scales and eyeball hovered in the upper corner of the screen.
»Cue Camera 1
"This footage was sent anonymously to the Calhoun Police Depahtment December 5th, 1994 from a mailstop in Marietta Georgia. Thanks to this tape, the police were foinally able to break the Manetti family's drug corridor through Atlanta. The victim is Antonio Romano, proprieteh of Antonio's Deli, a long-suspected mob front. He survoived the beating, turned state's evidence when presented with the tape, and was entered into the witness protection program. The perpetrateh, Sylvester Cassel, was convicted of assault, drug trafficking, and money laundering, and is currently serving 15-20 in a federal penitentiary.
"Many mysteries surround the footage. How did the Oi discoveh such damning evidence afteh the FBI and DEA were unable to crack it, even knowing the Antonio's Deli connection? How was he able to get so close without being detected? What is the meaning of the misspelled narration that accompanies the picture?
"These questions only became more urgent following the Oi's next caseand the one the country knows by heart. We showed the video at the top of the program. When Hot Scoop! broke the story of Dynamax' horrific experiments on Omega prisonehs, the country exploded."
»Cue Video 3
"...Hot Scoop!, the damning video has raised serious questions about the government's relationship with Dynamax..."
"...controversy continues, as two insider scientists now recant stories that confirmed the video evidence..."
"...Jarvin Tazakles dismissed the 'Eye of Justice's' revelations as a digitally rendered smear campaign..."
"...Congressional Special Investigation reissued its subpoena, after the first was reportedly torn up by Tazakles himself..."
"...recent breakout attempt at Fort Deliverance being reopened in light of the anonymous video by the so-called Eye of Justice..."
"...evidence continues to mount as reports from Dynamax facilities across the country report similar horrors..."
"...standoff between SEEKERs and Dynamax as unexpected as it is tense..."
"...repeat, Dynamax Detroit has shut itself off from the outside world through some sort of technological shielding..."
"...terrorists waging a battle inside Dynamax Detroit, where CEO Jarvin Tazakles is believed to..."
Long-shot footage from a Detroit local station, showing a blinding white explosion searing from the Dynamax facility, then abruptly going black.
»Cue Camera 1
"Afteh the break, we'll look at what these videos tell us about the Oi, and their effect on the eventful yeah 1995."
"...friendly reminder Rutledgeyour time's almost gone. You'll give us the Eye's identity, that's a fact. Just don't make us drag it out of you. We got guys enjoy that a little too much."
Ian's hand shook as he held the phone. Previous attempts to trace these persistent calls had resulted in a stolen cellular encoding, and stonewalled there.
"Whoi won't you believe I don't know who the Oi is?" Ian whispered.
"Easier for us if you're lying." The connection went dead.
Rutledge's remaining body guard glanced at Ian above his magazine, from across the room. From his expression, he had a question but disliked the likely answer enough not to ask. Or maybe just disliked the answerer enough not to ask. Rutledge answered anyway.
"Forget it Mr. Rutledge. As long as they're still talking they won't make a move on you." Of course, the terrifying implication was that they would't be talking much longer. "I'm the one in danger until then," the burly man added sarcastically.
Rutledge stared at him, as he pointedly went back to his reading. It wasn't Ian's fault the other body guard had been kinetically pushed into traffic, and was fighting for life in intensive care. What kind of body guard lets his Personal Suppresser batteries expire anyway? He was lucky he wasn't fired for an oversight like that. Or killed. Since that Omega hit, Ian had certainly kept his company-provided suppresser fully charged.
Ian restrained his defensive retort, and instead picked up the phone and speed dialed. At the sound of the recorded message, he slammed his hand against his desk. He exploded at the beep, "Goddammit Magda, you'd betteh bloody well pick up! Oi'm paying 500 a day for results, not phone tag! Oi don't have toime for anymore delays. If 'Atlanta's premier psychometric investigateh' can't get me the Oi, she'll get me my goddamn videotapes back. Froiday! Any games, and Oi'll have Hot Scoop!'s lawyehs all over your green card ass! Ring me back today!" Ian hung up shaking, from equal parts rage and fear.
»Cue Camera 2
The set lights came up on an arrangement of Eye of Justice T-shirts, baseball caps, comic books, board and video games and promotional movie posters. A popular theme was widely different artistic interpretations of the scales of Justice and eyeball logo. Ian was holding one shirt in particular, with the legend "He's watching."
"1995. The year #6 on Fortune's 500 was revealed as a modehn day Nazi death lab. The year aliens landed on Earth, and Tempest brought them to heel. The year Ovehman and Ovehgirl opened the Omega House refuge. And the year the un-trademarked Oi of Justice was the hottest mehchandoising fad in the country.
"Being one of America's most notorious outlaws, the Oi likely made no money from the household that was to take his name. Kurt Cobain wore this shirt during many of his concehts. The coveh of Sports Illustrated featured Kathy Oireland playfully hoiding behoind this baseball cap. You couldn't turn anywhere without seeing the Oi's symbol. Two years lateh and you still see the occasional T-shirt, or hear rumors that the long-debated movie may start filming. Something about the Oi of Justice caught the country's imagination. And Hot Scoop! was there in the middle of it.
»Cue Video 4
On grainy film stock, Ian traded money for the Dynamax videotape in front of Georgia Tech's defunct reactor. The other man was slender, medium height, and wore urban camouflage and a dark ski mask. From the distance and lighting, no greater detail was discernible. Ian's voice-over had a slight canned quality to it. "...he neveh spoke a word, instead communicating through a small portable television and computeh keypad. I had an impression of tremendous will and droive from the man, like he would see justice done irrespective of me, my program or the world. Yet, as a truth-seekeh, I sensed I had nothing to fear from whateveh Omega he might bring to bear on me..."
»Cue Video 5
"...truly a fascinating story. If you'd indulge me a moment, Jimmy, Oi'd like to move away from the Colony and get your reactions on the man that stahted it all, the Oi of Justice."
Jimmy DeLeon looked non-plussed. "Ian, as I told you Danny Anderson started it all, long before the public knew anything about it."
Ian laughed comfortably, "Fair enough. Nevertheless, I am interested in your opinion on the Oi..."
"I don't know that I have one. He's certainly proved to be a valuable ally to the Omega cause..."
"Let's talk technologically, Jimmy," prodded Ian gently. In spite of himself, DeLeon's eyes sparked and an eager smile snatched at the corners of his mouth.
"Ok. What do you want to know?"
"How much can we tell, just from the videotape?"
"Do you have any..." Jimmy was interrupted by a screen descending behind the seated discussion, playing a mild portion of the tape from Fort Deliverance. Jimmy leapt at the screen, bounced from foot to foot, then gestured to the booth off-camera to halt the picture.
"Jimmy?" asked Ian, afraid of too much dead air time.
"This is pretty slick, actually. Ian, you mentioned that he 'spoke' with you electronically. Was it misspelled? When he was typing for you?"
"Oi don't believe..."
"He's using voice recognition!" interrupted Jimmy triumphantly. "Conversational pace with you, no typos. Conversational pace here, it's awful. Even accounting for stress. But its phonetic. He's got post-processing software or firmware translating his voice. Probably firmware. Software'd do a better job."
"Could you maybe explain for the audience what fihmware is Jimmy...?"
Jimmy ignored Ian, and stabbed a dark finger at the time/date stamp. "Oh, its definitely firmware. He's created a brand new font so we can't tell what make camera he's using! Picture resolution is top-notch though. Probably cutting edge. SecuCorps, Dynamax, really upper range Panasonic or JVC. Especially those closed architectures he'd have to be some kind of electronic wizard to do that at home. Maybe a company man...?"
»Cue Camera 2
"That 1995 intehview with formeh Colony membeh, soon-to-be CEO of Overtech Processors, and current Elizabeth Anderson inmate Jimmy DeLeon revealed that the Oi was eitheh a formidable amateur or professional electronic engineer that had gone to great lengths to mask even his electronic oidentity. Of course, now that Oi font is standahd on most computehs and video cameras his job had gotten much easieh. 1995 was also the first year that video cameras provided a standahd 'onscreen icon' capability, opening the door for hundreds of phony Eye videos that police still deal with across the country.
"Shortly afteh that intehview, the next bona fide Oi of Justice tape came out. This tape is unique in the Oi's videographyit is both the shortest and concehns croimes and events much smalleh than he tackled previously or since."
»Cue Video 6
Through a backdoor window, through sheer fabric window covering, a man backhanded a battered woman. The black strip at the bottom was empty of scrolling narration.
»Cue Camera 1
"The man is formeh Calhoun city councilman Rogeh Blalock, a young politician whose stah was on the roise in the Republican party before this. The tape provoided police with the evidence needed to connect the councilman with an abusive extramarital affaih. This sordid story ended with an assault conviction, a divorce, and the crash of a promising political career.
"But the intriguing question here is, why this croime? Did the Oi happen upon it by accident? Why would an Atlanta vigilante be focusing on Calhoun in any case? Was the case, perhaps, personal?
"Of course, we have no answers yet, but these are among the many questions we intend to ask lateh in the program when Hot Scoop! intehviews the mysterious vigilante himself."
»Cue Camera 2
"From July 1995 to February 1996, the Oi of Justice suddenly closed. Speculation ran rampant that the Oi had fallen victim to one of his tahgets. Hot Scoop! even received video from someone claiming to have killed him. In one of the few missteps since Hot Scoop! first started following the story, we aired the tape. Hot Scoop! has since apologoized and increased its acceptance croiteria for unsolicited tapes. In the interests of jehnalism we will not now replay those tapes. But do remembeh that many news media were openly speculating about the Oi's death at the toime. Afteh six months of soilence, we expected the Oi had shut for good.
"The Oi himself answered these conjectures with the infamous Adam's Gahden video. A relatively tame video showing an illegal weapons stockpoile and megalomaniacal planning by the Alpha leadership started a standoff between an ATF/SEEKER task force and the cultists. It is uncertain how long the Oi remained undehcoveh in the Alpha religious commune, or what his level of involvement was. But the insoider footage of the first exchange of gunfoire is telling."
»Cue Video 7
Randomly jumping video scenes of trench chaos flashed across the screen. The first footage was of Allen Covenant getting his back broken, then wild shots of cultists running, dying and screaming above a soundtrack of sporadic automatic weapons fire. The sequence stopped with Reverend Black talking to a weirdly out-of-phase man behind a casualty organizing effort in a massive dirt bunker. At the edge of the screen, an out-of-focus bald man directed a new entry towards the heavily wounded section. That portion of the scene enlarged to fill the screen, digitally expanded such that lack of resolution masked any hope of identification.
»Cue Camera 1
"We all know how the standoff ended. Reverend Black used some sort of Omega to get the SEEKER code-named Sonic to deafen the battlefield. In the panic and chaos that followed, some ATF and SEEKER agents believed an attack had begun and unilaterally launched a counteh-offensive. Several bunkehs were collapsed, noineteen were killed in a violent but brief gun battle, then the Alphas surrendehed to authorities.
"The most tantaloizing clues emehged lateh as the investigation ran its course. A cultist calling himself Patrick Solosbee was instrumental in saving loives and organoising the surrendeh. His was the only body neveh recovehed from excavation of the Alpha compound trench system. A source inside the SEEKERs leaked this noight-vision footage of a cult membeh escaping the night of the final battle."
»Cue Video 8
A green-on-black silhouette of a man on a dirt bike sped away from the camera through a bizarre green-on-black digital forest.
»Cue Camera 2
"He was neveh caught, nor oidentified. Authorities refused to allow Hot Scoop! to intehview any cult membehs charged with croimes, and noted Omega-followeh Allen Covenant decloined an intehview, but our reportehs spoke with many of the cultists released for lack of evidence. This intehveiw aired May 1996, with an Alpha named Kristen Shepard."
»Cue Video 8
"You were the Alpha closest to Patrick Solosbee, weren't you?" Ian asked gently. The woman was attractive in a country way. Her freckled face was open, as if it was physically incapable of reflecting guile.
"We were in love." Her voice was solid, but it was a solidity of repetition that shored over underlying deep emotion.
"Lovehs? In the trenches?"
"Yes. But not in a dirty way, like you're making it out to be. Faith and Love were hand in hand. You can't understand unless you were there. God was with us until we went astray, His power enfused us allblessed my union with Pat. Pat's Faith was just stronger than mine. I betrayed him and I lost him." Kristen's eyes were still dry, but more repetition was needed to shore the last.
"He was the one organoizing resistance to Reverend Black's standoff, wasn't he?"
"He was one of them, yes. He and Maria saved most of the lives in there. I was with them, until the end. I should have been with them all the way. God revealed himself and showed me my errors in the trenches."
"You're referring to the flashes of loight that NBC caught on film?"
"I'm referring to God's visit to Earth, to bring me back to His Word."
Ian leaned forward and put a hand on Kristen's knee. "Kristen, was Pat Solosbee the Oi of Justice?"
She pointedly removed his hand. "I don't know. I think so."
»Cue Camera 2
"Not all Alphas are this charitable to Solosbee or the Oi. Many to this day view him as a latter-day Judas Iscariot. Nevehtheless, despoite some reluctant cooperation, an artist's sketch of Solosbee has never been produced. Hot Scoop! hoired psychics to telepathically attempt to extract the Oi's face from unsuspecting Alphas. Some Omega interference has woiped Solosbee's face from their memories, according to the specialists employed by Hot Scoop! This confirms insideh information from the SEEKERS that the Oi has somehow clouded the Alphas moinds. If this is an Omega ability, it explains how the Oi is so successful at getting his video evidence.
»Cue Camera 1
"Through his early videos we have managed to piece togetheh a picture of the Oia strong willed, electronic genius. Most loikly an Atlanta resident, based on his postmahks. Perhaps an Omega with the ability to mask his presence from othehs. Perhaps having some connection to the city of Calhoun. Perhaps named Patrick Solosbee.
"Who is Patrick Solosbee? Is he the Oi of Justice? We'll examine these questions, then speak to the Oi himself in the next half hour."
"You told us he was dead. Prob'ly faked that video yourself to get us off yer back. Gotta tell ya Rutledge, I gave even your journalistic credentials more credit than that. Good one."
Ian quickly smiled with the hood, mostly because it was the only smile he had seen in an hour, and his fear was eating him up. He wished he hadn't dismissed his bodyguards a month ago when the hoods seemed satisfied with the Eye's 'death.' His personal suppresser was little proof against a gun in the ribs and a ride to South Atlanta.
"Please, I don't know anything. I was as surprised as you when the Eye sent another tape. Don't you think I would have flushed it if I were faking his death?"
"Lost yer accent again Brucie." The second man piped up from the shadows behind him. Ian jumped at his voice. The first thug grabbed Ian's face in a condescending clutch.
"You're too much the glory hound not to, Brucie. No matter what the cost. Besides, he'd'a just sent it to someone else, right? You're reassuringly transparent Rutledge."
"Please. I've tried to find him. My psychometric cheated me, gave me copies back, and I can't get the originals..."
"Without tellin' yer station you swiped the originals in the first place," finished the first thug, enjoying himself immensely.
"If you know I hired a PI, why won't you believe I don't know who the Eye is?"
"I told you Bruce. Easier for us to get it out of you either way. Lucky for you, the Olympics got us as busy as the rest of the town. We won't be able to give you the attention you deserve till after the Games. I recommend you have an answer by then."
Ian seized on the hope. "Oh, guaranteed! This Alpha thing has all kinds of leads. Look, once I find out, I'll reveal it on the showthat way everybody wins!"
"Gotta love this guy," said the second thug to the first. "Always thinkin' of the ratings."
"Yeah, heh," Ian nervously laughed along. "Uh, can I go now?"
The first thug stepped up. "Not exactly. We need to remind you why it's a bad idea to cross us with phony stories." He fitted brass knuckles over his fist and smiled evilly. Ian whimpered.
"Hey don't cream his face, willya? My wife likes this guy for some reason. Break his toes. All of 'em."
»Cue Station Identification
Summer Sweeps concludes with the interview of a lifetime for Ian Rutledge.
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