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Perspectives on the Absurd (A Short Story)

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Post by Stoic on November 20th 2019, 7:13 pm

The bullets whizzed by his head. Why did it always have to be machine guns? As the vigilante ran for cover, there were several direct hits from the automatic weapon to his back. Luckily, they were low grade submachine gun ammo, probably .22 rounds. Stoic's titanium plated Kevlar armor had no problem with this type of damage, even if it still hurt like hell. He flinched and grunted under his mask as the shots made contact, but he had reached the cover he sought, sliding behind a marble pillar. He could hear the machine gun cutting into it, but it was only powerful enough to cause some unsightly damage to the pristine marble rather than actually going through it all.

Does anyone have any respect for the arts anymore? Luke thought. These thugs had been ripping up this art gallery since they got there. They clearly weren't the gentleman scholar type of art thieves. No, guys like this didn't actually care about what they were taking. All these people wanted was the cash. Stoic was honestly disappointed. When he heard about these art heists, he was hoping for someone a bit more interesting than your common criminal.

Luke breathed a moment, lowering his heart rate back down to normal. This required complete focus. He couldn't let fear guide his decisions. Doing that had got him shot more than a few times. He needed to detach himself from the emotional aspect of this situation. It was frightening, and one slip up could mean death, but he needed to push that out of his mind, and actually find a solution instead of being crippled by what could happen. That's how you could force yourself to do anything—simply forget about the aspects of the outcome that can't be controlled, like chance, and focus on what you can personally do to increase the likelihood of getting the result you want. Forget about the infinite potential consequences that are pointless to waste energy on, and do something that will actually help you. Move forward. Always move forward.

Luke thought a moment, putting together a plan as quickly as possible. This guy was trigger happy. He shot anything that made even a little noise. Stoic thought about trying to tank the shots, His armor had held up fine up until then. But that was incredibly risky, and not exactly elegant. No, there had to be a better way. Why would someone be so quick to shoot? Why would they spray many more bullets than necessary at the slightest sound?

He was scared.

It occurred to Stoic now that that was obvious. This man was as scared as he was, perhaps more so. Luke smiled. That's what he would use. The vigilante pulled a handful of smoke pellets from his bandoleer, throwing them on the ground in the direction of the thief. The military grade smoke screen quickly filled up the room, but Stoic didn't move. He wasn't using the smoke as cover. No, with this guy that would be suicide. Why? Because he was scared.

"W-where where are you!" the man yelled. As expected, he started shooting..... Everywhere. There was no way Stoic wouldn't have been shot if he went out there. Smoke didn't always work as an impenetrable shield. Sometimes it just made people more violent—like a cornered snake. It was an amateurs mistake to assume you had a better chance of not getting hit with smoke popped. Sometimes the opposite was true.

The bullets rang on and on. The guy must have had an extended clip. That didn't stop him from being very, very liberal with it though. He fired and fired, right up until the smoke faded, and that satisfying 'click' Luke was looking for rang out into the room. Luke smiled. He ran out of ammo. As soon as the vigilante heard the sound, he was moving quickly—faster than what you might expect. Stoic always moved so slowly and methodically, until he needed a burst of action. Like a cat who surprises you with it's speed when it finally pounces, Luke was charging at the man with every bit of agility he had.

The man fumbled, trying to reload as he was charged, but it was too late. Stoic grabbed the gun, wrenching it from the man's grip with his enhanced robotic hand. The vigilante then jammed a knockout dart into the man's neck. He usually threw these, but they worked great up close as well, especially when you didn't want to hurt someone. The guy probably deserved worse, but he had been scared—terrified even. The least Stoic could do was soften the take down.

"Easy, easy. You're taking a nap," Luke said through his mask's voice modifier as the man slumped. Stoic let him down as gently as possible. He was definitely glad to be done with that. He hated being shot at

Stoic had to act quickly, though. That man had been commanded to stay back and 'deal' with the vigilante, leaving the other three thieves to make their escape. Normally Stoic wouldn't have bothered going after such criminals. He didn't care too much about thievery, at least not enough to stop them personally. That was more a job for the police. However, these men had evaded the law for five consecutive heists, and were exceptionally brutal. They had left a trail of 25 bodies up until that point. That was unacceptable in a city supposedly protected by Humanity and his vigilantes.

_______________

More gun fire. This group was obsessed with machine guns. Luke weaved on his motorcycle, trying desperately to avoid the streams of bullets coming out of the grey van ahead. They dug into the asphalt and various vehicles. Stoic growled in irritation. The cops were probably on their way now. If the law started organizing a proper pursuit the vigilante wouldn't be able to get to them before their inevitable arrest. Stoic needed to speak to them. He needed to know who was behind this. It was far too complicated for one of the people actively doing it to have planned the heists. No, there was a mastermind behind this. The cops were too stupid to even figure that out if they were the ones to interrogate these men.

Luke pulled the throttle on his motorcycle, picking up speed rapidly. He had to be bold if he was going to do this. If he just sat back and avoided bullets all day, he'd be fine, but the mission would be a failure. He was then only ten feet behind the van, making him a huge target, but he was still picking up speed.

The shots came quickly, some hitting him in the chest and one in the mask. Again, they were just machine gun rounds. Nothing his armor couldn't handle. He still gritted his teeth in pain, though, almost losing control. The vigilante didn't, though. He was too determined—too focused. Even as he was being shot at he charged full speed at the back of the van, then in one fluid motion, leaped from his bike, letting it crash behind them. He had gripped into the metal of the van with his robotic hand.

By now cops were everywhere. There was even a helicopter above. His time was getting short. He needed to speak to these men as soon as possible. Stoic pulled Nomos, flipping it around and banging the handle into the glass of the rear window several times, until it shattered. This prompted another stream of bullets from inside the vehicle, which came flying through the back doors. Again, Stoic was hit. This time he was sure one of them did some damage in his chest—a rib must have broke.

Despite the pain, Stoic held on with his normal hand, then used his robotic one to reach through the window and open the door from the inside. After that it was only a matter of rolling inside. He made sure to cover his vital areas as he did, though. He didn't imagine these people would be less trigger happy as he entered their getaway vehicle. He was in fact right. The two in the back shot at him with machine guns at point blank range.

"Would you please STOP FUCKING SHOOTING!?"

It was like getting punched everywhere constantly. Luke howled in pain under his mask, reflexively moving to stop the assault. He charged one of the gunman, punching him in the head with his robotic hand. He held back of course, but it still knocked the man cold. Unfortunately, his finger was still on the trigger when he went out, meaning his gun shot the other gunman, riddling the unarmored man with bullets. Luke was sure he was dead. That was a shame, but they had known the risk when they decided to take the course of action they did.

All that was left was the driver, who, realizing what was happening, raised a handgun. This was a .44 Magnum. It would most likely cause serious injury, or perhaps death even with Stoic's armor. No, the vigilante wasn't going to tank that. Instead he dodged the shot, pivoting to the side and tearing the weapon from the man's hand. The vigilante then wrapped his arm around the driver's neck from behind the seat, making it clear he could choke him out if needed.

"Keep driving! You're going to tell me everything I need to know, then I'll leave you to the LAPD. Otherwise, I'll snap your neck. Is that clear?" Stoic said, still quite irritated from the pain of getting shot. He honestly probably wouldn't kill an unarmed man like that, but he sounded honest in that moment. The man was sufficiently scared.

"Y-yes. What do you want?!" the man said, voice quivering as he struggled to keep the van on the road. Luke squeezed a bit harder to make his point.

"Stay on the road! I don't feel like dying in this pile of shit. I want a name," Luke said. The sirens and sound of the helicopter chopping through the air was making him anxious. The man whined a little, so Stoic reduced the pressure a bit, allowing the man to speak.

"I don't know his name. They called him Gadfly. I never saw him. He just sent instructions!" the man said. Stoic didn't think given the situation the man was in that he was lying. That meant he had nothing to go on but a name. Stoic sighed, letting the driver go.

"Stop this thing."

_______________


Luke paced back and forth in his apartment. He often performed this act when trying to think deeply on something. It was as if the movement helped spur his intuition. Thankfully Malachi was out, otherwise he would have seen a line chart not unlike something you'd find in a conspiracy theorists house. It had pictures and papers connected by long red strings. The photos were of the robberies, various art pieces, and some of the arrested men being shown on TV. All of these visual aids connected to one word in the center: Gadfly.

Luke stopped briefly, staring at the word intently. His facial expression was neutral and piercing, until finally, a smile crept up on his face. The vigilante chuckled. Who would choose such a name?

"Very cute," Luke whispered. Patterns were finally linking together in Stoic's head, as they always did when he worked at a problem long enough. These patterns and connections eventually linked up to insights. It wasn't necessarily a logical process, though. He wasn't using simple deduction, but rather feeling out the general essence of all the pieces of data. It was not a + b = c, but rather a scatter plot, with each dot signifying a piece of information, and a line cutting through the clusters to signify their trend.  This data, seemingly unrelated, swirled in Lukas' head, until pieces started to slam together. A picture formed through this intuitive process—A map of what was truly going on, inferred based on the framework of evidence he had. This was how Luke's mind worked. Inductive and intuitive, focused keenly on probability and prediction.

Look who wants to be a modern day Socrates. You don't want the money at all, do you? You want to play a game. What sort of person would go through so much trouble just to make a point? Luke thought, his smile getting wider. He knew exactly what kind of person would do this.

Me. I would do this. That's the point. Maybe not at first, but when I started taking interest in your bait, you took interest in me. If the police had any brains they would have focused on the sort of art you were taking—absurdist and nihilistic, jolly yet morbid. It's all been very undermining and subversive, up until recently," Luke said, gazing at the newer pictures which seemed to have a clear Stoic message. They illustrated virtue in the face of unstoppable odds—tranquility in the face of the despair of the world. It was agonizingly explicit to Luke, yet probably went over everyone else's heads: Whoever was doing this was calling him out, and Stoic knew exactly where the confrontation would be.

"Consider the challenge accepted, Gadfly." It wasn't hard to figure out. Luke had seen that the art stolen somehow indicated the thieves next target. Sometimes it was more obvious than other times, such as all the artwork stolen being depictions of the namesake of their next target. Other times it was more difficult, like in this case. Various paintings indicated instruments of the film or performance industry, such as a camera or curtain, and another depicted a lone Dionysus, God of the Arts, on top of mount Olympus. Being in LA, there was only one place that the mastermind could be referencing. The time was easy as well. The strikes fluctuated between being exactly three days from each other to five days, on and off, something referenced in the very first robbery by a painting of a clock.  So, Luke knew the time and the place. All he had to do now was get ready.

_______________


The wind blew through Lukas' blonde hair as he waited, fully geared. It was the early morning, 6am, just like all the others. The place was oddly deserted though. There was no sigh of thieves. No sign of anyone, really. Luke checked his watch, the loud ticks humming away. He hadn't been wrong, had he?

No, it was obvious. He couldn't have been.

Where are you? Luke thought. Would this guy not go through with the operation if he had somehow figured out Stoic knew about it? .....No. That made no sense. He was practically begging Luke to figure it out. He wanted him here, and not to kill him. No. This guy wasn't the type. So, where was he? What was the game?

"Sorry I'm late," said a voice from above, a hint of child-like excitement in it. Stoic didn't move. He didn't even react at all, in fact. As curious as he was, he didn't want to give anything away when he could just wait and let this guy spill his guts. The teenager above chuckled, plopping down into a city position on top of the the bars that held the massive Hollywood H in place.

"You didn't come out here to not say anything to me, did you? We both know that would be boring. Plus you'd probably be ripping off your friend Humanity, wouldn't you be?" the voice said. It was jolly, perhaps even cheerful. Not a hint of care ran through the amused tones. it gave Stoic goosebumps. Who was this kid?

"I don't know what to ask. You probably won't be telling me your name—not yet. It's already obvious why you're doing what you're doing, and why you essentially invited me out here. What is it you think we have so much to talk about?" Stoic said, finally looking up at the boy. Through his mask he saw someone of around 19, with silver and black hair. He wore a rose colored shirt button up and jeans, with matching rosy converse. His hazelnut eyes had a sense of mischief to them, as if they were in on a joke nobody else knew about. He was honestly a striking individual. So seemingly innocent, yet clearly treacherous—even terrifying.

Cicero's eyes turned up, as if in thought, and he rested his head on his hand. This was not a serious posture. The tones of mockery were heavy in it, as if he didn't take even his movements seriously. He was playing pretend. That was the perception Luke got from the kid. Everything he did was ironic and filled with a detached humor.

"You? At a loss for words? Come on. You could go on and on about a glass of water for three hours if you felt like it. There's plenty to talk about," Gadfly said, jumping down from the H and standing a good six feet from Stoic. "Clever huh? I knew you'd come. You look into things a bit too much. While everyone else is going about their day you're trying to figure out the significance of the design of a pencil, whether there is one or not."

"And how would you know?" Luke said. He of course had a good idea how, considering what he knew of the teen's mental capabilities, and he was sure the kid knew that he had a good idea. That didn't stop them from going through the moves, though. Just because they both saw a few moves ahead didn't mean the game didn't need to be played. Gadfly smirked.

"I know who you are—better then some of your friends do, even. You're the Lone Observer, disconnected and discontented with the world around you as it heads into the abyss you see coming miles away. You're the pessimistic optimist—the guy who knows how screwed the world is, but goes about trying to make it better anyway. You're the individualist. The guy who can't stand conformity because at rock bottom he hates people, but that still finds himself getting lonely. You're the strategist in his own little world, striving to tell your story without much consideration for the stories of others. But, most importantly, you're that Stoic. The one that's seen under the surface of what reality seems to be. You've recognized exactly what humanity is, and how hopeless everything really is, yet you strive to be better than that—more virtuous than that. You can't accept being just as damned as everything and everyone else, you're too prideful for that," the Gadfly said. Stoic was at the same time annoyed and intrigued. Looks like he had a talker on his hand, and worse, one that had unexplainable insight into him. What could this mean? There was really only on way to find out. Luke would play along.

"Keen observations, if a bit wordy. Say you're right about all that, anyway, why do you care? Why bring me here? Why steal art and get people killed? I have my suspicions, but I want you to say it," Luke said. The two men stared at each other, six feet away, unmoving until Gadfly stepped forward. First it was just one step, then two, then he was invading Luke's personal space. Uncomfortable as it was, Luke didn't move. This guy wasn't going to hurt him.

"Why do I care? Because..... I was just like you once. An outsider, trying desperately to convince the world out of it's absurdity. I saw so much wrong with everything—things that nobody seemed to even consider. But I got tired of being so lonely. I got tired of seeing into things with such depth without being able to do anything about it. People don't recognize the most insightful among them, let alone listen to them. So, I accepted the stupidity. I accepted the world for what it was, just like you did, but instead of still stubbornly and knowing fighting a lost battle for the sake of my own self righteous pride, I just play with them all. They're so adorable, aren't they? The little people. They don't know anything about anything, and yet they run the world. They're going directly into Hell in a hand basket, and there's nothing to do to prevent that. So, I'm just going to have a laugh at their expense. I'm going to point out to them just how small and weak they actually are. At least then I can have some fun and feel good about my self, to be frank. Otherwise I'm like you: I'm a guy that sees the End that he can't change, and who lets the struggle against it take every bit of enjoyment out of his life until he dies in a helpless heap, rambling warnings to a people that can't hear him," Gadfly went on. Stoic's eyes went wide under his mask. Sure, this kid had a bit of a overly dramatic flair to him, but he was telling the truth. It all more or less lined up. At least Lukas knew he was right about the guy, though.

"So it's as I thought. Everything seems pointless in a world that won't listen and won't think, so you just screw with it to fight off the nihilism boredom brings. You think that makes you special? It makes you selfish, actually. You squander your gifts and contribute to the problem instead of trying to be a part of the solution. Sure, I'll likely fail, but at least I tried. As far as I'm concerned you're just like them," Luke said. Gadfly then stepped forward again, inches from Stoic's face. His breath smelled strangely like cherry. His laughing eyes stared into Stoic's, who didn't move.

"Yeah.... I would say that," Gadfly said, pulling Stoic's mask off. Stoic didn't stop him. It was obvious the guy already knew who he was. What followed was a long kiss, with Gadfly entirely the aggressor. It lasted about five seconds before Stoic shoved the kid, causing him to fall to the ground. Stoic then picked his mask back up, but left it off.

"I'm Cicero by the way. It's nice to meet you, Luke. You won't have to worry about the robberies anymore. I've got something much more fun planned for us," Cicero said smiling widely. Luke glared at him with pale grey eyes. What was he to do with this guy? He was a seemingly obsessed lunatic. Last time he had one of those LA turned into world war three. He could arrest him, but what would the police say? It wasn't like there was any proof of what he did. This guy was too clever for that. Unless Luke intended to kill him, there was little he could do.

There was of course the reasoning at the back of the vigilante's mind that he would never admit to himself: that having someone like this as a rival was incredibly entertaining. His excitement had never been higher during an operation. To simply converse with someone who understood the things he understood—who spared with him intellectually—was a rarity these days. Was it selfish? Could it get people killed? That was a possibility, but Stoic had enjoyed Cicero's little game so much, he couldn't bring himself to end it prematurely.

"Never do that again. I advise you to get out of town. Next time I won't be so civil," Luke said, turning his back to The Gadfly. Cicero laughed, still laying on the ground.

"Oh honey, I'm counting on it."

_______________

Days went by. Weeks in fact. There were no robberies. There were few crimes, actually, or at least one's big enough for Stoic to take an interest in. Nothing the cops couldn't handle. There was a sense, though, that even if they couldn't Luke wouldn't bother. Whether Luke wanted to admit it or not, there was an element of thrill to this vigilante thing, even if he had turned his back on that for the most part. He wasn't Drifter anymore. He was doing this for the right reasons. He had a code.

That still didn't stop the man from thinking about the little chase The Gadfly had put him through, or smiling as he remembered how he went toe to toe with someone his equal. He couldn't help but imagine what more would come of this game. Could he let it go on? Of course not. But that didn't matter. He just wanted some stimulation. Going after brain dead street thugs got incredibly dull. Even one more time with a competent opponent would be worth it.

Luke sat in his apartment, drinking a bit of brandy as these thoughts ran through his head. He scrolled through his phone, looking at the various news articles. Politics, mostly. It was something he had been interested in at a time but that he couldn't bring himself to care about anymore. It was always the same, anyway.

One story caught his eye, though. The statue of the heroes that was erected after the LA revolution was prevented had been replaced by a almost identical one, only it depicted Charlatan, Humanity, and Stoic. These were people the public mostly thought of as criminals. It made no sense. Nobody but the others knew who had done much of the work in preventing catastrophe that day, and none of them were so attention seeking. Who could hav-

Luke dropped his brandy, the glass shattering against the ground as the revelation hit him. This was going to be a recurring thing, wasn't it? A familiar voice behind the vigilante confirmed what Luke had just realized, almost on que.

"Do you like it? I know how much you enjoy getting gifts. I figured you should get the recognition you deserve."

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Stoic
Stoic
Posting Apprentice
Posting Apprentice

Male
Status :
Online
Offline

Quote : "See, I am a serious vigilante with serious themes dealing with serious issues. You may some day achieve this grand seriousness, but for now, fetch my coffee."

Warnings : 0 Warnings
Number of posts : 286
Location : The Moral Highground
Job : Vigilante, of course.
Humor : You cannot ban that which is neither banned nor not banned.
Registration date : 2015-07-27

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