--Chapter Five: The Hunt
(Leo, as Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, talks with Aeris (as her namesake) about the group they’ve assembled to save the world from Sephiroth.)
Leo: Alright, time to decide which two of you go in my party.
Aeris: Okay. Who were you planning on picking?
Leo: Well, let’s see… your main skills are with magic and defense. Sure, that could be useful, but I don’t think this next mission will specifically require it. I’ll take Barrett along, since he’s got a gun for a hand and all… and for the other member, I’m still undecided.
Aeris: Why not pick Cait Sith? He’s been getting pretty powerful.
Leo: Please, that guy’s a cream puff. I mean, come on; his main weapon is a megaphone. What’s he gonna do, yell his enemies to death? That’s not exactly what I call a winning strategy.
(Cait Sith stands behind him with a megaphone. He holds the device right up to Leo’s head.)
Cait Sith: ARE WE GOING TO KILL SEPHIROTH YET?
Aeris: (after Leo falls to the ground in panic, to Cait Sith:) I think our leader’s just rethinking his strategy.
“Why does the subway announcer have to be so loud?” asked Leo, backing away from the speaker.
Aeris lent him a paw while his inner ear regained its sense of normalcy. The two were walking along an upper rafter in the Toronto subway system. It was hard enough, even for cats, to keep their balance on the thin steel, and loudspeakers directly above them did not help matters at all.
“How do we know which train to take?” he asked.
“Well, the one we want goes to the Sky Dome. That’s where Krug was earlier, and it’s where Pants Man will be tracking his trail from.”
“Okay, so we wait for the announcement for Sky Dome?”
“Actually, it’ll come on that screen with the lights.” She indicated a digital display board on the wall, next to a map of the subway system.
After a moment of patient silence had passed, the loudspeaker started again.
“THE TRAIN IS APPROACHING. PLEASE KEEP AWAY FROM THE OPEN TRACK. STAY CLEAR OF THE DOORS AS THEY OPEN. THANK YOU.”
Leo panicked on the first sound and almost lost his grip of the rafter. Aeris had to steady him yet again before she could read the light-up sign and say, “Look, this is our train. Get ready to hop down.”
When the incoming train stopped, they jumped down to the roof of a car. It was slick, but their feet held.
Aeris said, “Grip one of these grooves here so you don’t fly off when this thing starts moving.”
Leo was still mildly shook up, to say the least. He said nothing and obeyed her command.
“THE DOORS ARE NOW CLOSING—”
At least it was not as loud from below. Leo tucked his ears down and braced himself as the train started moving.
Daylight was still lingering over Toronto as Scott walked away from the Sky Dome. He had enough leads to know that Krug had gotten away in a stolen vehicle, and he had a vague idea of what to do next. Pure detective instinct settled in his brain.
Even a monster like that will need time to let things cool off after something like this happens, he thought. So he’ll be hiding out somewhere. But what really gets me is, although I know Krug’s barbarian enough to pull a stunt like eating a man on live jumbotron, I also know he’s too stupid to have planned his escape so well. Smoke bombs and getaway cars just aren’t his cup of tea. There must be someone ordering him around. But why would anyone send a monster to cause a huge scene at a Blue Jays game? To cause random chaos? In that case, I should be looking for an anarchist… but then, how could anyone explain all the computer store burglaries? Those were too specific in nature to be the work of a random anarchist; Krug even went for the same aisle in every store he hit: the aisle of CD-Rom and DVD-Rom drives.
He crossed the street to a parking garage, in front of which Krug was said to have done his carjacking. It just doesn’t make sense, he thought.
Just then, a light flickered from the fourth floor of the garage. To any passer by, it would have seemed a fluorescent light was simply flickering on as night came closer. Scott, however, saw a pattern to it.
Wait… it’s not Morse, but it looks familiar… Each flicker was of equal length. The spaces in between were mainly what changed. Sometimes the light would be on for a split second and then off for five, and sometimes there would be several split-second intervals of light, separated by an even shorter off time, suggesting a pulse rather than a continuous light or dark. Then it occurred to him: Binary! The flickers were ones, and the off times were zeroes.
Scott went up to the fourth floor and stepped under the light. He looked up and caught its pattern. He recited: “A-Space-L-I-G-H-T-Space-S-H-I-N-E-T-H-Space-I-N-Space-T-H-E-Space-D-A-R-K.”
The light turned on and stayed on. A figure walked away from a place on the wall where Scott figured the light switch would have been. It came closer, slowly, until Scott smirked in recognition of the shape.
“Glad you could make it,” said the figure.
“Why, Commissioner, I had no idea you knew binary code.”
“I worked computer surveillance as a detective for fourteen years. You’ve solved a couple cases yourself with computer data. All I had to do was hope you hadn’t given up this little crusade of yours; and lo and behold, you’re at the scene of the crime, like any other detective on a trail.”
Scott saw his former employer walk completely into the light. The man had aged subtly, but noticeably since their last visit.
“Monster got the boys at the station a little worked up, eh?”
The Commissioner sighed and ushered Scott to a side area where they could talk discreetly.
Commissioner: I’m sorry about our misunderstanding the other day. I had no idea what our forces would be up against. You know, after battling with that thing, you’re lucky to be alive.
Scott: Luck had nothing to do with it.
Commissioner: Ha! Well, you’ve still got your sense of ego, Hot Shot, but how are your case-solving abilities holding up?
Scott: I got a few leads, but I’ll admit some extra info would be appreciated.
Commissioner: Oh yeah? Well, tell me what you know, and I’ll brief you on what we’ve figured out so far.
Scott: What, you mean right here?
Commissioner: Of course not. Get in my car over there. We’ll talk it over at the station.
Krug knew his orders were to stay at the hotel for the night and all day tomorrow, so he tried to kill the time by watching television. The national news was broadcasting the Toronto monster story. Krug was intrigued; he was actually on TV! Of course, he had very little idea of the true significance of being the main news story in the country, but he liked seeing the replay of the massacre… To the monster, it was like reliving a happy, tasty memory.
Then he started paying attention to the words of the reporter…
“People everywhere are keeping their eyes out for this terrible creature from the netherworld. Some are calling it a sign of the apocalypse. Others don’t know what to think. One thing is clear, though: citizens of the Toronto area had better watch out for this horrible, horrible monster…”
Krug’s smile waned. “‘Terrible?’ ‘Netherworld?’ ‘Apocalypse?’ If Krug knew what those meant, Krug might not be happy…”
However, he did know what “horrible, horrible monster” meant, and he did not like being referred to that way.
“Krug not a horrible monster. Krug a GOOD monster! Krug do exactly what Krug told to do. Krug carry out his mission. How dare person in big plastic box with screen say Krug horrible at being a monster?”
The reporter finished, “This is Al Carton, reporting live from the Sky Dome. Back to you in the studio—”
Krug punched a hole through the screen. Smoke trickled from the wreck of the TV, and pieces of glass embedded themselves in his hand and arm, but he did not care. He felt his honor had been violated. There was only one thing to do: go back to the Sky Dome, talk to that reporter, and set him straight. People simply could not go to sleep tonight thinking the almighty Krug was a failure, after all. They had to know that he was in fact very, very good at being a monster… Perhaps he could even give them a demonstration, he considered, grabbing some discarded soy sauce packets from the hotel room’s kitchenette.
Krug put on his street disguise—the frock coat had been hemmed back to its original condition—and walked out of the hotel room, soy sauce in pocket.
“…And that’s all I got.”
The Commissioner sipped his coffee nonchalantly. The only thing Scott seemed to know that the police had not known, at least up to this point in the investigation, was that the creature’s name was Krug. Still, a name could be a very important thing to know.
“Well?” said Scott impatiently. “I did my part in the deal. Now, what do you know about the case?”
The Commissioner sighed. “You know how there are some times when it’s best not to let an agent know all the particulars of an assignment? Especially when the work done is supposed to be top secret, that is.”
Scott raised an eyebrow.
“Well, I have a confession for you, Pants Man: in several of your past missions, you were doing a lot more than you thought you were.”
Now Scott raised the other eyebrow.
“The elderly man you caught in the nursing home was not a mere citizen on bail. He worked for the largest crime syndicate in Toronto. He was extremely close to the top.”
“Crime syndicate? You mean we have a mafia problem?”
“Not mafia, no; much worse.”
Scott discovered he had run out of eyebrows to raise, so he perked his ears up instead.
“This is an association simply known as ‘The Firm.’ Their dealings are wrapped so tightly, even the feds do not know much about them. The feds would rather leave anything they can on the matter to local law enforcement; they gather the same information we do, but for some reason they expect me to do all the work. It’s as though, since The Firm chose Toronto as headquarters, it’s somehow completely under my jurisdiction, no matter the actual scope of the crime committed.”
“Must be either an extremely formidable or extremely weak Firm you speak of; usually the feds can’t wait to take a case from the locals. They love getting credit for the arrests.”
“Call it the
extremely formidable side of the coin. These people run massive money
laundering scams. They do business in every form of underground paraphernalia
you can imagine. They also do assassinations. So in those respects, it is like
the mafia. But The Firm works for some of the wealthiest and most powerful
people in the world. The crime you stopped in the nursing home was really a
multi-million dollar American drug company scam aimed at turning the current
U.S. black market for cheap Canadian medications into a means for corporate
profit. The Firm thought it could help turn these underground sales into just
another sector of company resources.”
“Like the tobacco companies,” said Scott. “You lobby the US Congress to stop illegal sales, but since there’s going to be a black market no matter how many Senators you pay off, why not have a share of that black market for yourself?”
“But that drug company mission failed, because—”
“Because The Firm never expected a superhero with boxer shorts on his head to come along and do a solo number on one of their highest agents.”
The Commissioner continued, “We have reason to believe that The Firm is also behind the making of Krug. A pure lack of information about the agent they’ve assigned to this mission tells us that someone very high up is taking care of the project. There’s even a possibility that more than one top agent is on the case. This monster must be their top priority. But we do not know who is hiring The Firm this time, or what their end goal may be. All of our conventional methods are coming up short on this matter. The fact that citizens of Toronto are fearing being eaten alive right now doesn’t help. We are failing, I believe, because we are doing everything The Firm expects local law enforcement to do. Meanwhile, Krug is completely unpredictable, and his every move catches us off guard. Simply put, we need you back, Pants Man, and we need you on this case, pronto.”
“Any special weapons I should use?”
Sighing, the Commissioner pulled the Super Soaker 200 from under the desk. “Anything else?”
Scott picked up the gun and caressed it lightly. He said, “Just a point of curiosity: where do we meet for the next briefing?”
“Same garage as tonight; the place is as secure as any I can think of. I’ll give you the same signal.”
“Heh. You mean the binary code.” Scott laughed as he stood. “With all that knowledge of computer language, it’s a shock you turned out a policeman and not a total geek.”
The Commissioner pointed at him and said, “I let you back on the force, Pants Man. Don’t press your luck with smart remarks.”
“Now, the next time I see you, you better have some boxer shorts on that head of yours, understood?”
Scott left the station with new determination. Somewhere in the city, a heartless, furry fiend lurked in wait of its next instructions, whatever they may be. Pants Man was Toronto’s only hope.