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Part 2 of 2
by Jeff McCoskey
»Cue Video 10 (still)
"This is Patrick Solosbee's Calhoun Hoigh School yeah book picture. A shy young man: not particularly athletic, not particularly broight, not notable to his classmates in any way. He briefly worked in the Calhoun cahpet mills after graduation, married his hoigh school sweetheart, had a baby boy. Patrick's story begins like many, happieh stories in small southern towns. Up until the day he dissappeared."
»Cue Video 11 (split/still)
Solosbee's picture shrinks to half-screen, the other half is replaced by the grainy black-and-white still of the Eye of Justice. "April 15, 1994, Patrick Solosbee stormed out of his three-bedroom home afteh an argument with his woife. Like many of their arguments, it revolved around Patrick's claim that despoite lack of extra-ordinary ability, he had Triggered his Omega. Unloike other arguments, Patrick neveh came back. Eight months lateh, the first Oi of Justice tape is delivered."
»Cue Camera 2
"Patrick Solosbee had often made the claim that he had Triggered, beginning in hoigh school." Ian held up a worn yellow computer card with red ink fading from its surface. "He treasured a receipt from the 1990 Georgia State Fair, from one of the huckster 'Omega Detector' booths, showing positive results. From that experience, he seemed fixated on the oidea that he was an Omega. His young woife and motheh of his choild, the formeh Denise Symsek, grew worried that this adolescent obsession was interfering in the raising of their son. They fought, often. He had left her several toimes before, always over the same issue, always eventually coming back. Until the last toime. In a Hot Scoop! exclusive, we now present an intehview with Solosbee's estranged woife and brotheh-in-law."
»Cue Video 12
"Mrs. Solosbee ... do you still go by that name?"
"Yes, I do," responded Denise demurely. The room was small, with light wood panelling halfway up the walls, and framed needlepoint on the other half. On either side of the brown paisley couch were lights with lace lampshades. She was seated on her couch, holding her son Bo on her lap. The toddler was wearing an Eye of Justice sweatshirt. Denise's brother Brian was seated next to her, and was assuming a protective posture.
"Mrs. Solosbee, Oi'm sure the police have questioned you about your husband's involvement with the Alpha standoff last year."
"Do you believe Patrick Solosbee was in that commune?"
"I really don't know..."
"Ha!" interrupted Brian rudely. "Pat hadn't set foot in church since the wedding. He wasn't what you'd call spiritual. Or a man of action."
"Brian, please," pleaded Denise, openly hurt. Brian sagged briefly, straightening again as the camera closed in on Denise. "Pat was always looking to find himself, to find his place in the world. For years he thought it was as an Omega. Maybe he found God instead. Maybe he found something."
"You must know there is speculation that your husband is the Oi of Justice. A man claiming to be Patrick Solosbee was never oidentified afteh the Alpha standoff ended."
"Eya Jus-tiss!" exclaimed Bo suddenly, throwing his small arms in the air.
"Shhh, honey," said Denise with a sad smile, before looking back at the camera. "Yes, we figured that's where the police questions were leading. Lord knows I'd like to believe Patrick finally..."
"C'mon Denny," Brian again interrupted, forcing a sudden pan back. We all know Pat didn't have the guts for anything like that. Either he got sucked into the cult like those other wackos, or the Eye scanned the police Missing Persons for a convenient identity."
"That's an intriguing oidea, Brian. Whoi do you say Patrick couldn't be the Oi?"
Brian snorted. "The guy was a loser." Denise recoiled from him in pained anger. The camera now zoomed in on Brian. "You know it's true Denny. He couldn't handle his job, his responsibilities, you or Bo. So he cut and ran, like a coward. He'd been doing it to you since high school, and he just got flakier since. He's in some shelter somewhere, living off the public dole, trying to convince the other bums that he's the next Overman, and not doing a damn thing for anyone but himself. That's Patrick Solosbee."
Bo sang a non-descript melody, "bum, bum, bum," to impress his uncle, clearly not understanding who he was talking about, or the effect it was having on his mother.
"Mrs. Solosbee, do you agree with your brotheh's assessment? Should the police rule out Patrick as the Oi of Justice?"
Denise hugged her son, burying her eyes on his back. Her grip was so tight, Bo started squirming uncomfortably. "He's my husband and I love him. That's all I have to say."
»Cue Camera 1
"So the mystery deepens. Police sources confirm that Patrick Solosbee is no longeh actively being considered as a possible oidentity of the Oi of Jiustice. The sword of Truth that the Oi so effectively wields against criminals still cannot pierce his armor of secrecy."
»Cue Camera 2
"Afteh the Alpha standoff ended in February of '96, the Oi was not heard from again until June. This film is slowed and computeh-enhanced, since running at actual speed we would be unable to see anything but blur. The footage is from security cameras at the Elizabeth Anderson Correctional Facility, formehly Fort Deliverance. The Oi's old stomping ground."
»Cue Video 13
A short freeze-framed sequence of blurred figures is repeated several times. The shot is from a stationary security camera mounted in a corner tower. The length of the outer wall is dramatically fore- shortened along the right side of the picture. To the left is cleared yard and further out a hill covered with pine trees. The figures appear in the upper corner of the picture, from the distant wooded area. In four successive shots they jump from great distance, to near the wall, to sailing over the wall, to dropping behind and out of sight. The figures are piggy-back, one riding the other's shoulders. The carrier is identifiable only as a beefy old man. The passenger is hooded, and wears urban camoflauge. In the frame over the wall, his hands are raised in the air, as if riding a roller coaster.
»Cue Camera 1
"The loweh man has been oidentified as Harvey Hauptmann, Overman. In intehviews following the events in Antartica, Overman let slip that the passenger was indeed the Oi of Justice. This footage was leaked to the press after Overman broke into the maximum security prison. The only prisoneh confirmed to have escaped during this time was the 80's master-criminal known as 'the Fix.' Overman and the Oi's roles in the prison break, as well in subsequent events, have been classifoied as 'State Secrets' by federal authorities, so we cannot determine the depth of the Oi's involvement. As catastrophic as the Fix incident was to become, it is ultimately just a tantaloising footnote to the Oi's careerbut it raises some interesting possibilities. With governmental authorities covering up his involvement, is it possible that the Oi has government contacts? It would certainly explain his knowledge of missing persons, and the secrecy surrounding the Deliverence break-in. Could the Oi be a plausibly deniable government agent, working around the law to catch criminals otherwoise shielded by the legal system? Georgia government offices decloined to comment on this possibility."
»Cue Video 14
In a massive crowd of people, the picture focusses on a pair of foreign athletes, seemingly enjoying a nighttime concert. The final strains of a popular female singer's one hit fall into the hubbub of the crowd. A gym bag is dropped by one of the athletes as they applaud.
The footage jumps forward in time. A woman approaches the oblivious athletes from offscreen, to the soundtrack of a cover of 'American Pie'. She drops an identical bag beside the first, glances around, then picks up the athlete's bag and melds into the crowd. As she glanced around, the camera zoomed in, showing the famous face of a female American basketball coach.
==Very smooth. Not enuf oze in smooth for that won.== Scrolling narration flows through the black bar at the foot of the screen.
Again the tape counter jumps forward, this time changing scenes completely. It is a dark interior, neon bar signs providing the only light. Same-sex couples mingle in the background, conversation competing with harsh music and clinking bottles. The coach is seated in a private booth in the foreground. The camera is practically right next to her head, yet somehow she seems oblivious of it. She glances inside the bag, irresistably drawn to the piles of money inside. ==Imajin. Hitting the lottery and bekoming a moovy star all in won nite. Sum gals hav all the luk.== The scales-and eyeball logo in the upper corner fades last.
»Cue Camera 2
"That familiar footage ignoited the Olympic scandal. It documented American basketball coach Corrine Parsons selling the as-yet-undetectable Rapidfoire Trigger drug to Portuguese athletes. The drug was invented boi criminal chemist Dr. Raul Nunez and is woidely copied for specialty illegal mahkets. Populah athletic culture has it that the drug soimultaneously produces Omega performance and defeats Omega screening. Until this incident, there had been no documented case of its use in international competition.
"As a result of the Oi's video bust, Ms. Parsons was convicted of illegal drug trafficking, the Portuguese Track and Field team was expelled from the Olympics, and an opportunistic illegal drug lab was closed down. There was no proof that Ms. Parsons corrupted the American women's basketball team with her illegal actions, but the Unoited States withdrew the team from competition anyway, forfeiting another sure gold medal for the States."
»Cue Camera 1
"But for the Oi, the story just begins there. Not two days afteh the video aired, this was the scene at Centennial Park..."
»Cue Video 15
The picture is devoid of the scales-and-eyeball signature. The home video voice-over unimaginatively comments on a late night Olympic entertainment. Regular steel risers of seats are for the most part empty, as people prefer to mill about socializing and only marginally pay attention to the distant stage. To the right, a lattice of aluminum bars form a light tower that stretches beyond the top of the frame. Without warning an explosion fragments the base of the tower. People not caught in the blast seem to freeze in fear for a moment before panic sets in, then the crowd surges away from the site of the explosion and the camera jostles in flight.
»Cue Camera 1
"The Olympic bombing. Local hero Richard Jewell was briefly considered a suspect, until the police noticed a curious fact. The explosion occurred precoisely where the Oi must have been standing to film the Rapidfoire exchange a week prior. Someone planted a bomb precoisely where the Oi had stood. Initially, the FBI and Atlanta newspapehs blamed the bombs on the Oi himself, as much to reassure the international community as oveh any hard evidencea fact first reported by Hot Scoop! Nevertheless, he was rigorously pursued throughout length of the Games. Aftehwards, the Oi's alleged connection to the bombings was quoietly dropped. Lack of evidence or leads killed the investigation until the second bomb went off.
"Oveh the next several months, otheh bombs were planted, again following the Oi's video tracks. The bah where Ms. Parsons fled to was bombed, an explosive devoice planted where the footage was taken. Then an abortion clinic, where an Oi of Justice tape had been filmed, protesting 'criminal treatment of the unborn.' Then the reacteh at Gerogia Tech, where the Oi first came to global notice, and where he was nearly assassinated. Ironically, it turned out lateh that the abortion tape was a forgery, and had not been initiated by the Oi at all.
"The latteh bombings were particularly nasty, as second explosions occurred hours lateh at the same sites. Police now theoroize that the second explosions were toimed to the middle of the night to try to kill the Oi, should he investigate.
"The Oi was caught in a quandry. If he continued filming, more innocents might doi at the hands of his bizarre bomber-stalkeh, the so-called Oi-Gougeh. Ultimately, the Oi decoided to hang up his video camera until the bombeh was caught. Since that toime, the Oi of Justice has been absent from public view. The bombings have ceased. And America's voice of Truth has been soilent. Until now. When we return, the long-awaited intehview with the Oi of Justice himself."
"Killed ya not ta run that video, din't it Brucie?" the harsh voice whispered, gloating. Ian continued fingering the plastic cassette in his hands.
"Just video evidence that the SEEKER plaza explosion was not the work of the Oi-gougeh," whispered Ian back lightly. "Government coverups neveh catch the audience like a red-handed apprehension."
A second voice whispered from the other side. "Feeling a little sure of yourself aren't you? Kept your accent this time."
Ian said nothing in the darkness. Nearby streetlights on the other side of the Georgia Tech reactor structure cast long, dark shadows over the lawn. An army might be hiding in the darkness without fear of discovery. The Eye of Justice had agreed to meet Ian there to retrieve the tape he had sent before the bomber's pattern had emerged. Ian had insisted on the face-to-face meeting as a prerequisite for not televising the footage.
The three were not exactly together. Ian had located the small remote camera earlier in the day, at the prompting of his two guardians. Those two were now crouched under the camera, out of its sight picture.
"Anything fancy when he shows, Rutledge, and we'll burn you both down, instead of just puttin' out the Eye," hissed the first in warning.
Ian was strangely calm. They intended to eliminate himself and the Eye both, Rutledge knew that. He'd stalled, at great cost to himself, as long as possible. It was in the Eye's hands now. Ian fingered a small remote in his pocket. Well, not completely in the Eye's hands. The remote would trigger a hidden camera of his own. With luck, he'd get the whole thing on tapethe Eye's death, the identities of his killers. All he needed was enough luck to get hit in his kevlar-cloth vest, then somehow scramble away. The biggest payoffs come with the biggest risks, right? Sweat broke out on Ian's forehead. He hoped he'd be alive to collect his Emmy.
"Goddamn, I'm cramping up here," snarled the first voice.
"It's your ass if he doesn't show, Rutledge." Ian ignored them, and bored his gaze into the darkness looking for the Eye of Justice.
A mobster pounded his leg into the ground to wake it.
"Fuck I need a cigarette," number two hissed.
Ian shifted. His cool was eroding. What if the Eye didn't show after all? What if there were more cameras? What if the Eye left him to die?
Then the sun turned on. Three halogen lamps from three sides speared from the darkness, impaling all three skulkers.
"Christ, what the hell is that?!"
"Shit, I'm blind!"
Ian brought his arms over his face. In the wash of brilliant light, Ian felt himself manhandled. He fought back, suddenly panicked about dying before he turned on his cameras. The cassette was torn from his grasp, and a taut loop circled one underarm and around his neck. He stabbed at his remote with one hand and lashed out with the other.
"Shit it's the cops!"
"It ain't the cops, it's the friggin' Eye. Shoot out them lights, idiot!"
"Fuck you, shoot at the shadows, Rutledge is bolting!"
"You're dead Rutledge, dead!"
Silenced spits searched the sea of light for anything, and the blinded thugs tumbled for the safety of shadows.
The panicked shots did not find their intended targets. Before the first shot, Ian was jerked into the air with a whine of rope and pulleys, the noose cutting into his side. The Eye was hanging him? There was a clatter of feet on metal walkway, then he was rudely stripped from the noose and hauled into darkness. A hand on his shirt hustled him through an interior maze, presumedly in the reactor building itself. Ian struggled against his captor. He was shaken roughly.
"Ian, you are an asshole. I'm saving both our lives, now settle down or I'll leave you." The voice was a coarse whisper, labored from exertion.
Ian allowed himself to be led down several flights of stairs, ultimately to a dirt bike stashed with a pile of dusty iron building materials. His eyesight was finally returning, and he made out the slender, dark shape seated on the bike ahead of him. There seemed to be a horn on the top of his head with a glowing green tip. Later, Ian would decide that this was a pair of night vision goggles, off the eyes.
"Hold tight." The motor roared, the Eye kicked through a door with a jangle of cut security chain, and the bike sped across campus as if chased by demons.
»Cue Video Feed
The set is darkened such that Ian is spot-lit on a black stage. The scale and eyeball logo floats in the upper corner of the screen. "Welcome back. Tonoight, we have examined the history of the amazing vigilante known as the Oi of Justice. His career generates many intriguing but ultimately unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries. There is no betteh person to assist us in plumbing these mysteries than the man himself.
"America, please welcome the Oi of Justice.
"At his request, we will not show the Oi, nor broadcast his voice. As a matter of fact, he is now filming me from our studios, and that video is what you are seeing on your screens at home. Ladies and gentlemen, you are seeing the world through the Oi of Justice." Ian turns his attention somewhere above the camera.
"Eh, how do you prefer to be addressed?"
In response, white, scrolling letters move right to left across the bottom of the video feed. ==No nede to stand on formality. Call me I.==
"Thank you...Oi. Let's staht with the question many in the audience are probably asking themselves roight now. How do they know it's really you, and not one of our technicians faking?"
==Well thares alwase the jernalistic integrity of hot scoop. Ime kidding. Wonce I reelized thare was a danjer from forjerese. I enkorperated a validation code into my tapes. Nachurally I will not giv that code out==
"Since it could then be duplicated."
==Yes. I will relese it won day. Maybe posthoomusly. This intervue will validate then.==
"So for now, we go on trust."
The picture shook slightly as the camera 'nodded.'
"Doesn't this open you up for numerous pretendehs abusing your name and reputation? Especially in loight of modern camera technologies you have influenced."
==By now it shood be pretty obvius wat is my stile and wat isnt. If sumwon els out thare gets the goods on tape and uses my name. I think thats grate. If the name i chose is useful to others even better. I gess if sumwon went overbored i cood alwase relece the code.==
"True enough. Well, Oi, what made you decoide to pursue this, uh, loine of work?"
==This line of work persude me. The polece and other omegas were dooing thare part to make society work. But the work they do can alwase use more help. I was capabel and willing. Thats probebly a poor anser. But its the only won ive got.==
"So you are an Omega then? What exactly is the nature of your mutation?"
==I will not discuss anithing that cood be used to identify me. Regardless. I dont nede the omega to do wat i do.==
"Are you saying that anybody could do what you do? Anybody could put their loife on the loine for a few minutes of film? Isn't that a bit loike saying, 'Anybody could destroy Mount Everest if only they had the powehs of Tempest'?"
==No. Wat i do dosnt requoire any of that. With or without the omega. Anibody can make a difference. That is pretty much wat ime saying.==
"Hot Scoop! certainly does its part to make a difference. Since Dynamax, we have donated over 50,000 dollars to the Big Brotheh/Big Sisteh National Organization on your behalf. The audience should know you take no fee other than that donation."
==Yore rele humanitariens.==
"Oi, let's move on to some tougheh questions. Do you in fact work for the Government of the Unoited States?"
==As I sed eean. I will not anser questions desined to identify me.==
"Oi see. Um, you've seen the footage and analysis we've presented here tonoight. Any comments?"
==Yuve wasted a lot of time on me the person. Its not about that. Its about getting the truthe to the peepl who can act on it. Its about reveeling the damej the criminal element wants to hide.==
"Let's talk about the criminal element..."
Ian's question is interrupted by an explosion offcamera and a fireball sweeping across the screen.
It abruptly goes black. Thirty seconds later, a test-pattern comes on.
»Cue Network Feed
"...bomb has detonated in the Turner Tower recording studios of Hot Scoop! news magazine. Anchor Ian Rutledge and the vigilante Eye of Justice as well as production staff are believed to have died in the blast, though detailed reports are sketchy at this time..."
Ian sagged in his chair. The Eye straightened in his, next to the monitor.
"That's that, I suppose." The monitor spelled out the Eye of Justice's answer, translated from his faint whisper.
==Yes it is.==
Ian could not meet the other's eyes. "Why did you decide to help me?"
==I was pretty pissed wen you set me up to be killed. On camera for yore awdience.==
"How many times can I apologize? I was under duress, I told you that."
==Duress explanes the setup. Not the film.==
Ian pursed his lips sourly. "What happens to me now?"
==Now you use this fony explosion to get far away. Take the tape of the bommer and yore blakmalers. Enter the witness protection program. Eventually thay will figure out that the explosion in turner tower wasnt damajing enuff. And wen my next tape comes out thale no we didnt die. Unless the feds beef up the deception.==
"And they won't do that unless I turn evidence on the mob and these wacko Alpha sympathiser-bombers. Eye-Gougers. What a name."
==Yue press gise hung it on them. Thay coodnt resist trying to get me personally, as we figured. And now yuve got the gowjers on tape, planting that bomb we defused in yore studio. The feds can do the rest from that.==
"You never answered my question, Eye. Why help?"
The Eye's whisper grew into a vindictive hiss. ==Becuz yuve never ben more than a slip in ratings away from betraying me. Becuz yude rather film my deth than prevent it. Becuz yue ran the reactor video nowing a bom wood be planted.==
==.== The Eye leaned forward, his eyes glinting just outside the wash of light.
==Becuz itl be. Hell. For yue staying out of the spotlite. Enjoy yore retirement eean. Ile relese the tape in a month wether yue hav or not.== The Eye stood, detached some wires that led to his body, drew back into the shadows and was gone.
Ian held the video cassette in his hands. Hiding out until this episode aired, fearing an attempt on his life the whole time, had been rough. But aside from recent tensions, Rutledge had been a terrific ride. Did this have to be the end? Ian was already imagining a little plastic surgery and change of accent and he could be back in business in a year.
But, could he live that way, knowing if his secret came out he was dead? The scales-and-eyeball on the video case stared back at Ian. Damn the Eye anyway.
Oh, the fun OMEGA is gonna have. Voyeur will be part of it.
(Could I provide less information?)
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