One of Them
Alden stopped immediately. He knew the only thing a CON Man didn’t enjoy killing was time and he didn’t feel like testing their patience today. Shoot first, ask questions later was CON protocol. They were peacekeepers, Agents of CON, enforcers of the Construct upon which the great CON (Conclave of Nations) was built. They took pride in doing their job efficiently.
Alden raised his arms and faced the CON Men as they dismounted their cycles and approached him with their palm guns aimed at his chest and black capes blowing in the wind. As a mechanic, he couldn’t help but admire the complexity of their mechanical makeup. In fact, to call them men at all was a matter of heated debate among some citizens. At first glance, the only thing remotely human about the men was the skin of their foreheads and the black top hats which perched properly atop them.
Once a man was chosen for the ranks of CON forces he received a series of mandatory “upgrades”. Limbs were replaced with robotic ones, giving them superior strength, speed and height advantages over ordinary citizens. Steel plates were affixed to their skulls for protection. Their faces were muzzled with black leather masks and a pair of round, red lenses hid their eyes from the public. It was the red lenses that had earned CON Men the nickname of Red-Eyes among those who secretly despised the Construct.
“Alden Two One?” The first of the towering CON Men asked as he approached. His voice was amplified and somewhat broken by the static of a radio implanted beneath the muzzle.
Alden nodded, still in awe of their impressive physique.
Without another word, a blast of electricity emitted from the CON Man’s palm. The powerful current connected with Alden’s chest, instantly paralyzing him and causing him to collapse in an unconscious heap beside his cycle.
* * * * * * * * *
The very next moment (or so it seemed), Alden awoke seated in the center of a dimly lit, circular room, on a cold cement bench, slumped over a cold cement table. He had no idea how long he had been out, but his legs were still tingling from the shock of the pulse which meant it couldn’t have been more than a few hours.
Scanning the circumference of the room, Alden was somewhat surprised to find that he was actually alone – no CON Men, no guards, no one at all. The walls were formed of concrete, but artistically cut in crisscrossing, layered angular lines. The only entrance into the room was a rectangular door set back in a double layered archway.
As Alden continued his exploration of the room, his gaze shifted toward the ceiling where a massive winged statue circled overhead, glaring down at Alden. It was Cockatrice, the two-legged dragon with a rooster’s head, the symbol of CON. It’s eyes, though only stone, were mesmerizing and seemed almost alive. Alden grew quickly uncomfortable with the gaze and looked away.
In the same moment, the doorway to the round room opened with a loud crack.
A tall, slender man in pinstripe slacks and a lavishly decorated trench coat emerged from the doorway carrying a leather satchel. His polished black shoes clacked loudly across the stone floor as he approached the table where Alden sat. Alden tried to stand but found his legs still unable to move.
“Greetings, Alden,” the man said in a strangely friendly voice. “Forgive me for the temporary pain you must be feeling. It couldn’t be helped, I’m afraid. It will pass soon enough.”
Alden rubbed his legs in response and stared back at the man who now sat across the table from him. He seemed strangely familiar to Alden. His face was as perfect as a poster – his skin unblemished, his raven black hair neatly trimmed and combed just-so, and his teeth were as white and straight as any Alden had ever seen. Clearly he was somebody important.
“Do I know you?” Alden asked, boldly.
“You should,” the man insisted, pulling a file folder from out of his satchel. “I am Lord Langley.”
Alden’s stomach dropped, how could he have not known. Lord Langley was the man who would soon decide his place as a child of CON. At sixteen, Alden’s abilities would be assessed and considered by the Lord. A decision would be made based on his abilities and the needs of the District. The Lord’s decision, if approved by the District Master, would be final. If he chose Alden.
“Forgive me, my Lord,” Alden said, bowing his head in reverence. “I didn’t recognize you in person.”
Lord Langley waved a hand dismissively at the boy and turned his attention to reading over the contents of his files.
“What matters is that we know you.”
Alden glanced nervously across at the papers. “Am I in trouble?”
Langley looked up from the reports and smiled.
“Should you be?”
Alden shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. The last thing he wanted to do was incriminate himself.
“We’ve been watching you, Alden. We have great interest in your, how should I say it…”
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Sorry! This is where I have to leave off the writing today. I’d love to hear comments on where you think this conversation should go between Langley and Alden. There are any number of directions I’m considering. Does Langley recruit Alden to be a Red-Eye? Or how about joining some kind of mechanic corp based on his skill set. Or perhaps this meeting has nothing to do with his placement, but with CON’s desire to track down Alden’s father – and they believe Alden might know or have a way to lead them to him? Or maybe you are seeing something else in the works… I’d love to hear YOUR ideas. Thanks for joining along in this writing adventure with me. ~ Chris