Sometimes when you brush away the dust from your old junk, you can find a gem. I'm finally starting work on a story that I've been planning to write for years, so I went digging for some notes I recall writing, and I also found this and it made me smile. Mason is so sharp in this and I love it. I sometimes think my writing is the worst but other times I find myself thinking I'd be a fan of this person if it wasn't me.
And before I launch into some sort of insane motivational speech about being your own biggest fan, I'll just say I hope you enjoy, my friends.
P.S. this is not a direct sequel to the other stories in this series, but it's loosely related. (Because I wouldn't do anything confusing like writing the previous story backwards with no explanation. Who would do that?)
"But I don't see the point, sir. She can't do any more murders now she's in a safe house." Hank Smith put his hands behind his head and leaned back in the chair. The chair that he was not invited to sit in, Mason noted. Nobody was invited to sit. The chairs were merely there to give the impression that others were invited to sit, but not you. A psychological trick.
"The point is that Adam thinks he has won," Mason said. "He and his band of terrorists think they are above the law, but he is sorely mistaken."
Hank didn't appear to be listening, and put his feet up on the desk. Mason gritted his teeth. Nobody put their feet on his desk. Not even him. Mason stood and leant forward. "And if he thinks I will allow him to harbour a murderer, he has another thing coming. I will not allow a freak to escape justice."
Mason slammed his palm down on the desk, unbalancing his second in command enough to send him sprawling onto the floor. Hank picked himself up and remained standing this time. "So what, I go bust into the safe house and grab her?"
"Congratulations, Mr Smith. Another successful deduction."
"How?" Hank asked, picking his teeth with a fingernail.
Mason shuddered. "I have every faith that you and your imagination can take care of the details. And this goes without saying, but do not let her fall back into Adam's hands."
"Is it true about you and him?" Hank asked. He was now fiddling with the buttons on his jacket.
Mason raised an eyebrow. "To what are you referring?" He asked.
"You're jealous of him. Everyone says so."
Mason stared at his second in command for a few seconds, careful to keep his expression blank. The man was still standing there, waiting for a response to his imbecilic comment. Mason looked away, then fixed him with a stare. "Time is of the essence, Mr Smith."
"Miss Sharpe," Mason said with a sigh. "She will not capture herself."
Hank laughed. "Right." And was mercifully heading out.
"Mr Smith?" Mason called. "Do not fail. You will not get a second chance. For trying my patience, you have already used your first."
"Okay, Mr Eckhart."
Mason wrapped an arm around himself and rested his chin on his other hand. He turned towards the window to survey his empire as he often did when doubt threatened to creep into his mind.
That meathead had no idea. He had most likely misheard something. A scientist was walking past. What did she think of him? Surely she had no idiotic delusions of him being jealous of Adam Kane, of all people.
It was early evening on his usual patrol of the facility when he noticed something amiss. The lights were out in Dr Breedlove's laboratory. That wasn't unusual. The middle aged hippie liked to take naps at bizarre times. But Mason could see the flickering of a torch inside. He felt a surge of adrenaline and slowly opened the door. He could see the outline of a skinny guy with long curly hair backlit by the torch he was using to help him rummage through a box. Mason took his gun out of its holster and crept towards him.
The man was making so much noise moving around components that he did not notice Mason's presence at all. Mason grabbed the back of the man's shirt and slammed him down on the bench, pressing his gun against his temple. The man had dropped his torch and it illuminated his features grotesquely, but his expression was strangely serene.
"State your business!" Mason demanded. The man's lack of response inflamed his anger.
The lights in the lab suddenly flicked back on, blinding him.
"I said, state your business!"
"You need to take a chill pill," the man said in a warm, friendly voice. Mason blinked, noticing the man's lab coat and ID badge. Stolen. Must be.
"For goodness' sake, Mason, calm down!" That was Dr Breedlove, ambling into the lab in his unauthorised sandals.
Mason let go of the man but kept his gun pointed towards him. "Stop telling me to calm down!" He shouted, suddenly feeling like he was being treated like a child.
Dr Breedlove laughed. "Mason,"
"Paul. I am apprehending an intruder in a perfectly authorised manner."
"Mason, you haven't met my new assistant geneticist, Dr Adam Kane."
Mason looked at the stranger again, who grinned and gave him a thumbs up. He watched in no little embarrassment as the intruder placed a hand on his arm and gently pushed down, angling the gun away from him.
"I don't expect you have introduced yourself," Dr Breedlove said. "This is Mason Eckhart, one of our security officers."
"I'm sure you'll be a hit with the kids," Adam said, his eyes crinkling when he smiled.
"I'm here to help Paul with a project that, if successful, will save and improve the lives of thousands of sick kids," Adam said, beaming with enthusiasm.
"Fascinating," Mason said deadpan. He stalked off towards the door, deliberately avoiding looking at Paul, who was trying to catch his attention.
"Is there something you'd like to say to my esteemed colleague?" Paul called after him.
Mason turned his head. "No."
"An apology may avoid the need for an official complaint."
Mason sighed in irritation and continued on his way.
"It's okay, Paul. Some people lack the gift of good manners."
And that was the first time Mason wished Adam Kane dead. It would not be the last.
Mason's second encounter with Adam was weeks later, when he came across him sitting with his head in his hands on some steps in a secluded part of the facility's grounds.
Adam looked up as his shadow fell over him. "Trouble in paradise?" Mason enquired.
Adam's eyes were red and he was blinking in a suspiciously fast manner. "I couldn't save him," he said, his voice cracking.
Mason sat down beside him.
"He was only seven."
"Ah well, what is one less child in an overpopulated world?" Mason said.
"How can you say that? To his parents, to his sister, to his friends... he is everything."
"They will get over it."
"No." Adam's brown eyes were so intense. "No they won't."
"They will," Mason said forcefully. "I did."
"I'm sorry. When did-"
"Don't patronise me."
"Sorry, forgive me." Adam ran his hands through his hair.
He even has a stupid perm, Mason found himself thinking.
"Do you know the worst part?" Adam said, laughing softly. "I know what went wrong now. If I had another chance, I can say with absolute certainty that I could save him."
"Then nothing is wasted. This was a valuable lesson."
"But that won't bring him back. Every human life is precious and should be protected. If I can't do that, I'm a failure as a geneticist."
Mason shook his head, confused at Adam's refusal to grasp his logic.
"This bothers you, yet a gun to your head does not?"
Adam frowned as if he was surprised by the question. "I became a Buddhist during my postgraduate studies at Stanford. I mastered techniques to control my emotions in times of conflict. But that does not make me inhuman and emotionless." Adam stared out over the grounds for a while. "Where did you study?"
"Are you joking?" Mason said.
"The Colorado State Correctional Institute."
"Are you joking?" Adam echoed.
Mason just smiled.
They sat in silence for a while longer. Mason stood up and turned to go.
"Hey, thanks mate." Adam said.
Mason felt himself shudder. Casual friendliness always irked him. "What for?"
"For listening. Paul said I could always talk to him, but I feel I have to keep a lot to myself. I don't want him to think I'm not capable of doing the job."
Mason simply nodded and filed that piece of information away for future use.
Soon, Adam was the golden boy of Genomex, credited with saving the lives of dozens of children. How he did this was beyond Mason. Something to do with computers? He had spoken to Dr Breedlove about genetics in the past, but it had quite frankly bored him.
Mason had to admit feeling a little bitter towards him at that point. He had been passed over for several promotions while Adam was being mobbed by the press for interviews.
So Mason did the only thing he could think of.
"I'm just concerned that he might not be emotionally prepared for this type of job, Paul."
"But he graduated top of his class at Stanford. And without his help, we couldn't do all of this." Dr Breedlove motioned towards a notice board that was covered with pinned up thank you cards.
"I just think you should watch him. The emotionally weak can be volatile and unpredictable."
"Yes. Good point. Thank you for telling me."
Mason avoided coming into contact with Adam after that. He had expected him to quickly disappear from the company under unexplained circumstances. But every day that he saw him on the CCTV cameras made this seem less and less likely to happen.
But one day he was careless and ended up passing him in a corridor.
"Hey-" Adam called as they passed one another.
Mason turned around and adjusted his glasses to look over them. An old trick to calm nerves. One couldn't be anxious about a person one couldn't see clearly. "The universally beloved Dr Kane." He said.
At first Adam didn't say anything. He fidgeted in an uncharacteristic way. He took a few steps towards him and laid a hand on his arm. "I understand why you did what you did," he said.
"Well, I'm trying to. If I was so unsure of myself and insecure, I might act the same way myself."
Mason pushed Adam's hand off him. "I have never met anyone so condescending."
"I'm not your enemy, Mason." Adam folded his arms.
"Oh yes, I'm Adam Kane and everyone wants to be my friend. No. You can't manipulate me like you manipulate genetic code."
Adam smiled. "I think you're projecting."
Mason frowned. "Excuse me?"
"You're projecting your own emotions and motivations onto me. I'm here to save lives. And if I make friends with colleagues along the way, where's the harm in that?" Adam sighed. "We can be friends, or we can ignore each other. I don't care which. But don't try to oppose me. I mean you no harm. You will only make yourself look ridiculous."
Mason turned and walked away.
"Why would I be jealous?" Mason muttered to himself. "I am the Director of
Genomex and Security Chief of the GSA. In the end, I am the successful one. All Adam has is his group of adoring freaks and a guilty conscience that gives him a false sense of what is right."
There was a noise behind him and Mason whirled around. Hank was getting up off the floor, a silly smirk on his face. "Dropped my keys, sir." He said, holding them up in the air.
Mason smiled humourlessly and reached for the sub-dermal governor remote. He pressed the button and watched Hank sink to his knees in agony, dropping his keys again.
Dropping the remote back onto his desk, Mason walked over to him. Hank was still lying on the floor, reaching for his keys despite them being out of his reach. Mason picked the keys up and stood over him, swinging them. "That is nothing compared to what will happen to you if you fail," he said, a genuine smile playing on his lips. Either outcome would be quite satisfying.