Rich (Bombman) Kassidy
1 - Hard Times Ahead
Been awhile since I've written anything, eh? Well, I've been busy lately, what with my inability to even leave my damn house (not that I did before).
This story takes place just after my as-of-yet-incomplete S6 explain-all origin story "Answers", which I may or may not complete. To paraphrase what hasn't been explained yet, the S6 has moved from Dr Light's Tokyo lab to the center of the American homeland: Oklahoma City. The reason for this location was due to less population in the immediate area of the base, and also because one could reach all areas of the country within half an hour from this point.
It is also important to note that the truth behind Dr Light's "volunteer" program has not been revealed to the S6, and Ben's distrust of the white haired scientist continues to grow. This also takes place years before General Cutman's rise and fall in "Orange Hell", so those expecting to see the orange bastard again may be disapointed. However, this story will reinvent a classic S6 villain, this time as a serious character instead of the somewhat bumbling fool we all know him as.
My goal with this story is to show that you don't have to be evil to be on the wrong side of what is percieved as right. So, without further babbling, I give you my third S6 mini novel: "Economic Ruin".
It wasn’t a glamorous job by any means, but it paid the bills. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder how four years of vocational training in business skills fell through, and now he finds himself sweeping up the dust left over from the people he once considered his peers. Just two years before, he owned his own business- how could two years completely turn his life upside down? It just didn’t add up. It never did. But no matter how much he tried to explain it, he had to go back to this job he hated. To him, it was degrading. Cleaning up other people’s filth? This was high school drop out territory, not the work of a star student of a high-ranking university.
His self-wallowing thought process was interrupted by some sort of commotion outside. As he headed towards the lobby’s window, he figured that it was probably just the drunks getting kicked out the bar across the street. It happened often enough to justify that reasoning. After all, this wasn’t exactly the best part of town to be in during twilight hours. As he continued the short journey to the large plate glass window protected by steel bars, the sound of the fighting got closer by the second, providing clues that this was no ordinary bar fight. In fact, it sounded more like his son’s video games than a pair of drunks going at it.
Mere steps before he reached the window, his suspicions were confirmed as the window was blown inward, and something was thrown right through the heavy, protective security bars. Instinctively, the night janitor shielded his face from the wave of debris that came crashing around him, causing small abrasions on his thick forearms. As the dust settled, the apparent projectile groaned and began to move again, struggling to its feet. The more the dust cleared, the more of a clear view was available.
It could almost be mistaken for a human from a few meters away, if one were to ignore the thick armor plates that covered its entire body. It’s mid section was a simple black sphere, topped with rectangular plates painted a bright shade of “Danger Orange”, with a sunny yellow head plated firmly on top of the stocky frame. The whole thing wore these three colors as part of a color scheme. It appeared to breathe heavily, which surprised the sanitation worker, who thought that robots didn’t need to breathe.
After taking a few seconds to collect itself, the robot looked around its new surroundings. Noticing the janitor, clad in his one piece blue work suit, the heavy set robot asked, “are you alright?” in a surprisingly concerned tone. Words did not come easily to the man as he observed this strange phenomenon, so all he could muster was a quick nod or two. With that, the bulky robot leapt back onto the street, apparently back into the fray that set it tumbling into the nearly deserted office building in the first place.
After a few seconds of memory searching, the navy suited worker recognized the bipedal projectile that just moments before had assumed the role of mechanical wrecking ball. It was one of those “super heroes” the news was always babbling about these days- the Sinister Six. The Sinister Six were apparently the work of some famous roboticist in Japan, who sent them over to this side of the world to play policemen for the whole Western Hemisphere. Each news network had its own take on these supposed heroes, some claiming they’re an asset to society, while the other half claims they’re a menace. After witnessing the scene that just took place, the janitor was starting to agree with the latter.
With that thought, the janitor turned his attention on the massive mess of rubble and glass shards that lay before him, almost mocking him. A long night of clean up time lay ahead of him, but first he reasoned that the police should be made aware of this situation, as well as his night manager.
After contacting the police, the sanitation specialist contacted his boss, whom had a suprising response to the situation:
“Jeez, Chuck. Well, tell ya what- wait for the situation outside to wrap up, wait for the cops, tell ‘em what ya saw, then go home and get some rest. I’m sure ya need it.
“What about this mess here? You want me to just let it be?”, questioned the worker.
“Yeah, that kinda mess isn’t something you can handle alone, so we’ll call in some specialists in the morning. Don’t worry about it.”
After a few more lines of banter, the two said their “g’nights” to each other, and Chuck did as he was instructed to- wait for the cops.
Hours later, Chuck stumbled back into the tiny apartment he begrudgingly called home. In fact, the term “apartment” was used in the loosest sense possible in this case, as it was no more than a tiny living space, an even smaller bedroom and bathroom, and an area dedicated to cooking and an outdated refrigerator that barely kept anything cold. The carpeting had long since been removed, probably to get rid of what ever stains had saturated it. What was left was a noisy wood floor that was full of cracks and stains. Luckily, Chuck had long since gotten used to the stale scent that greeted him every time he opened his front- and only- door.
In the corner was a simple weight set that kept him busy, as he had no TV, or even a functional radio anymore. Next to that was a small workbench used to fix various tools and other doodads he found laying about. Screws and assorted fasteners were surprisingly well organized, as the man who used them didn’t necessarily like living in such a rat’s nest. In fact, he often stayed up at night, wondering the same thoughts he was thinking about at work prior to the “incident”.
The bedroom was in no better shape than the main living space. Scraps of long faded wall paper clung to the nearly rotted drywall. The bedroom was just that- it had space for a bed and nothing else, not even a nightstand for an alarm clock. The bed itself was something that might have been mistaken for a medieval torture device, as springs occasional shot straight out of the pancake thin mattress, injuring anyone unlucky enough to be laying atop at the time. The bed sat at an awkward angle, propped up by old, ragged books on one corner to substitute a leg that had rotted off long before Charles ever. To left of the bed was the even smaller bathroom, which kept just enough room for a toilet and what was perhaps the smallest shower anyone had ever seen. The walls of the bathroom showed heavy water damage, as whenever the person above took a shower, or even flushed the toilet, water streamed down the walls like it was in a race.
Perhaps the only bright spot in the entire apartment was the single framed picture he kept. It showed what seemed to be a completely different person with his wife and baby son. In that picture, a smiling Charles Willow stood happily next to his newly-wed wife and newborn son, ignorant of the hard times he had to face in the future. Just three years after the picture was taken, that same smiling wife would say he wasn’t good enough, and would take his son away from him. Weeks later his job would lay him off, citing the need to cutback. After the divorce, Willow was left with next to nothing, save for a few small personal items that would later be sold just to feed himself.
Chuck rubbed his face, which still itched from the cloud of dust he was staring into a few hours ago. Hopefully, a nice shower would fix this. Too bad he couldn’t take a hot shower, as the complex’s water heater, as well as many other amenities, had given out long ago due to neglect on the landlord’s part. Willow looked into the bathroom’s filthy, yellowed mirror, barely recognizing the man that stared back. His once neatly trimmed beard had given way to a certain degree of raggedness, and was showing new gray spots almost every day. His dark brown hair was no longer the neat crew cut he had kept, and it was now an equally rough nest of matted down follicles. His eyes, which had long since lost any glimmer of hope, now displayed signs of sleep deprivation in the form of both redness and the tell tale dark circles beneath them. His face, which had always had some degree of baby fat even into his thirties, was now a thin, pale version of his younger self.
One ice cold shower later and Chuck at least felt a little better, if not looked the part. After getting his “sleeping clothes” on, he went through his usual workout routine before finally getting some sleep, just as the sun began to rise on the city. Maybe tomorrow will be better- and robot free.
Twelve hours later, Willow began the bus trip to his work place to get a start on his long night shift ahead of him. As he exited the bus, which stopped mere feet in front of his place of business, he noted something strange. A new, strange set of mechanical whirring could be heard coming from the building, which still showed some signs of the previous night’s activity. Usually, the streets were stone silent by the time he came to work, as the bustling workforce had long since went home to their families, and the drunks hadn’t drank enough to get rowdy just yet. This new set of metallic clanking inside was unnerving to Charles.
As he made his way through the oversized revolving doors, his seldom-seen boss was waiting there for him, ready to intercept his trip to the punch clock.
“Chuck…”, he began without his usual bravado. “Look…I was going to wait for this thing, but what with last night’s ‘accident’-“
“It was no ‘accident’. It was those super robots fighting some kind of ‘bad guy’ or whatever.”
“Right. Them new Sinister Six characters, huh? Yeah, they’re good for these kinda things. But y’see, there’s another matter at hand here, Chuck, namely yer replacements.”
“Replacements?” Chuck repeated, bewildered. “Replace me with what? Those tin cans you have over there?”
“’Fraid so. Look, this got handed down to me from above a few months ago. There was nuthin’ I could do about it! I wanted to give you a heads up, but I could never find the right way t’do so. I’m…I’m sorry, Chuck.”
“Sorry? Those…things don’t have bills to pay. I had to spend half a year trying to find this job, and I don’t think I can find another one in this crappy economy! Listen: if I don’t pay my rent on time EVERYTIME I’m out of luck. If that happens, I’m screwed. Please, isn’t there anything you can do? Can’t you talk to someone.”
“I tried! I really did. But things just happen. You were a great guy to have work fer me, Chuck. You were never late, you never took a long lunch, and you never once complained about anything! But everyone’s buying into these new Japanese robots. They’re so cost efficient th’ top brass just eats ‘em up without thinkin’ of the little guy, y’know? I’m sorry man, but if I raise a fuss I’ll probably be the next to go. I wish there was somethin’ I could do for ya man, but I’m all played out.”
“…I see.” Was all Charles could say while eyeing his robotic replacements. “Well…thank you. At least you tried.”
With that, Willow about faced and headed for the large, four-planed door for the last time, but not before glaring at the “winners” in this economic game. With the large, rectangular void atop their head and their powder blue finish, the all purpose utility cleaning androids, dubbed “Dustmen” by the Russian factory that produces them worked tirelessly and nearly all hours of the day.
It was at that moment Charles Willow vowed to himself that he would put an end to this threat on the human workforce of the world…by any means necessary.