THE NICK OF TIME
(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III
The news traveled fast- Dr. Flesh has gone mad.
He cut a swathe through the streets of Olathoe, working his way from poseur radicals to hardcore revolutionaries but always the question was the same... “Where is Morgan?” Mutilation and death followed in his wake, and if they happened to be dealing to finance their glorious revolution? All the better.
The news reached Morgan soon enough, reports of Dr. Flesh heading towards Eagle Point, his face streaked with blood and white powder. “And of course the Constables are doing nothing to stop him.” Kerr said. He was a stout man, an ex-Sentry with an unpleasant dress sense. He wore a gauntlet with an electronic keypad on his right hand. He poked at the buttons as he paced the third floor of the modest Tudor building that he and Morgan called home.
“Madness.” Morgan was stoop shouldered and dressed in simple robes. In a strange nod to vanity he was never seen without his powdered wig, rumor said he even slept in it. He frowned as he peered out the window onto the street below. A dozen of his most loyal and brutal followers were camped there; a necessary show of force he was more and more uncomfortable with as the night wore on. “Completely out of character.”
“He's a thug and a junkie sir.”
“Be that as it may.” Morgan turned back to the fireplace, thoughtfully stirring the embers with the poker. It had all begun simply enough for Morgan, a year ago he had left the Spire and lost himself to the city. He had moved among the population like a campaigning politician, he had healed the sick, rescued children, counseled peace and offered hopes of renewed prosperity.
Prosperity that had been slow coming under the Monarchs and their Regent Mr. Kriely.
Soon citizens were flocking to his every appearance, statesmen were eager to be seen at his side. Morgan accepted blessings from the leaders of every religious faction graciously, but kept his faith to himself. Even Mr. Kriely was heard to grudgingly acknowledge that this man was a force to be reckoned with.
After a few months of basking in public adoration, Morgan began to draw lines in the sand. Members of the Church of the Rebirthed Pendaroth, always critical of the Monarchs, were rounded up by the Sentries and shipped off to work camps. At public rallies Morgan began to rage at the callous disregard for the citizens' rights displayed by the Monarchs. He wondered aloud if perhaps, the Monarchs had been in power for too long. After all they had led the City from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, perhaps it was time the torch was passed, and perhaps the City of Olathoe needed a new leader to help them meet the challenges of the twenty first century. Morgan never openly sought to be this leader, but when the people called his name he listened.
Of course the Monarchs' Regent did not sit idyll while revolution fermented in his backyard; but somehow Morgan managed to walk away unscathed from the worst they could muster. The suppressions of his followers only fueled the citizens' growing paranoia and drove more supporters into Morgan's' camp; and then the Monarchs' near extermination of the shape shifting Vlodek left the City ripe for an upheaval.
Morgan made one final public appearance; he told the assembled crowd that they could take control of their destinies once more. The speech was a rousing success; there were widespread riots and protests through the city for days afterward.
The Sentries quelled the unrest with savage force, leaving an uneasy peace. Morgan withdrew to his fortified home at Eagle Point. The house and taxes were all in Kerr's ex-wife's father's name so no one knew Morgan was even there.
Until now of course.
A single gunshot shattered the third floor study window. Kerr threw himself over Morgan, pushing them both to the floor.
When no other shots followed both men got up and moved cautiously to the window. Kerr made a sobbing sound at the sight, Morgan simply cursed. The men guarding the front entrance had been reduced to a single puddle of quivering, boneless meat. It might have been a trick of the moonlight, but Morgan could swear it was still moving.
Kerr said, “What kind of man....”
The door exploded inward, wood and metal shrapnel clattering across the room. Dr. Flesh strode in, his to wide, his grimace inhuman. His clothes were torn and ripped but the flesh beneath was untouched. Blood caked his fingers and streaked his clothes, but not a single drop was his. “Morgan!”
Kerr threw himself at the man, punching wildly even daring to bite. Dr. Flesh stumbled back a step but refused to topple over. He let his hand sink into the flesh of the man's neck as through it were a soft pudding then he grabbed hold of the bony length of Kerr’s spinal cord and pulled it free.
Morgan stood there, brandishing the fireplace poker, “Waste! All of this was waste.”
“Come on.” Dr. Flesh let the other man's body sag to the floor, “Come on!”
Morgan raised the length of metal and struck him across the side of the head. Dr. Flesh cried out and dropped to one knee. Instinctively he raised his hand to the wound only to have Morgan again, this blow smashing his fingers. Dr. Flesh groaned and pitched forward, catching himself at the last second with his left arm.
“This I am sure you have realized this is no ordinary metal I hold in my hand.” Morgan said, “I had it specially made just in case you or one of the more reputable members of your family came calling.”
The hated name roused Dr. Flesh from his pain, he tried to attack but Morgan was ready. He swung his club hard and fast. Dr. Flesh sobbed and fell, his left arm broken at the elbow.
“I traced your exploits back through history until I came across some records pertaining to King Philip III's desperate quest for an absconded servant, his Royal Freak Maker, his Grande Comprachio. A man who did not age, a man who was something other than human, a man who could not be injured or restrained except by weapons and manacles made of iron in its unrefined state. A man of honor.” Morgan's eyes narrowed with distaste, “Although I find it hard to believe that one who traffics in the production and sale of deformed children could ever have any sort of honor.”
Dr. Flesh cradled his useless arm, “Fucking hypocrite! You call what you did honorable?”
Morgan crossed his arms, “What are you talking about?”
“You killed Scamander!” Dr. Flesh tried to stand under his own power, but swayed uncertainly and fell to his knees, “You killed all of them, and I wasn't even there! It was for nothing you stupid fuck!”
A slow smile spread over Morgan’s face, “Listen to me Comprachio, I don't know who your friends are much less who killed them. Polonius and I had other plans for you.”
Dr. Flesh blinked, his pain momentarily forgotten, “Polonius?”
“Ah yes.” Morgan leaned on the fireplace poker like it was a cane, “Your attempt on my life would have been just the catalyst my followers needed.”
“But…” Dr. Flesh slumped, “I'm…”
“Washed up? Addicted? Broken?” Morgan said, “That is why we chose you, that is why I let you murder my favorite courtesan.”
“I’m not a murderer, I’m an assassin.”
“You’re a thug and not even a very good one at that.” Morgan sneered, “All you ever had was your grotesque ability and now thanks to your injuries you don't even have that.”
“Maybe.” Dr. Flesh launched himself up at Morgan and clamped his one good hand down on the man’s throat. The wrought-iron poker dropped from Morgan’s grip and he clawed at Dr. Flesh’s face. Dr. Flesh held on, grinning madly. Morgan found his wounded arm then and struck at it again and again.
Morgan pulled free, got to his feet and tumbled backwards crashing into an endtable; candles and old books scattered everywhere. Dr. Flesh hissed each breath through his teeth, he lifted the fireplace poker, the flesh of his hand began to smolder. “You think you're the first to leave me like this?” Dr. Flesh swung at Morgan, the tip of the poker catching him in the throat. Morgan sputtered crimson and tried to crawl away. Dr. Flesh turned him on his back with a single well placed kick to the ribs. “You think I don't know what I am?”
Morgan tried to beg.
Dr. Flesh raised length of wrought iron high over his head and brought it down hard on Morgan’s head. Bits of bone and powdered hair spattered his boots, them he moved on, to the ribs and the limbs. Striking Morgan again and again until his pleading and protests faded to gurgles and his breaths became a death rattle. Even in the midst of his fury Dr. Flesh made sure the face stayed intact and recognizable.