“Ey, man,” Valpatine calls, jolting you from your thoughts. “Come stand over here.”
You walk to the blue screen he has against one of the walls. You smile and try to look like your smiling for the dmv camera, but there’s just too much on your mind.
“Ey, man, smile,” Valpatine tells you.
“I am smiling,” you argue. Damn it. You were smiling. And you were giving him a smile that in all honesty, you really didn’t feel. What more did he want from you?
Valpatine shrugs and gives you and wait and see chuckle. “Alright, man. You are not getting a new one.”
Right after he says that, your face goes from a smile to a WTF. And that’s when a bright white flash hits your eyes. Valpatine falls over his desk, laughing at you. “Aw, you bastard,” you say to him as you walk around the desk to see what your picture looks like on the monitor. “Come on, man,” you say to Valpatine, who still has not stopped laughing. “Are you really just going to let me walk around with my picture looking like that?”
“Look man, I told your sad ass to smile. Next time smile.” Wiping tears from his face, he reaches over and pulls a card out of a machine. He hands it to you. “There you go, Mr. Smith. Enjoy.”
You look at the photo, glaring at it. “I hate you,” you say to Val.
“Yep, that’s what she said.” He has finally stopped physically laughing, but the joy is still in his voice.
Ironically, that’s when the answer hits about what was so strange with everything that has been going on. “It is the silence,” you whisper to yourself.
“I’m sorry. You said what,” valpatine asks.
“It is the silence. That’s what’s been so strange about this whole day…well, aside from the obvious.” Valpatine seems to be taking in what you’re saying. “Think about everything that’s happened today, even in the few hours that you’ve been with me. There has been no mention of my wife, no mention of the cops looking for me because of what went on at my house, no mention about me killing Calvin…”
“Wait, that was his name?”
“Yeah, see, you didn’t even realize he had a name. Not even Lindsey at the bank has been mentioned as a missing person or anything.”
“So, then you’re saying, if these guys are so powerful and are everywhere, why all the secrecy.”
“I’m wondering how powerful you have to be to create all the secrecy.” You pace around the room as question upon question enters your head. “What this really means is that they can kill me or anyone else, and when they do, it will be like I never existed and there’s no one who can stop them.”
There are a few minutes of stillness in the basement as you both consider what all of that could mean. “That’s the craziest conspiracy I’ve ever heard in my life,” Valpatine says.
“Yeah, me too. The question is why? Why all the secrecy for me and a bank teller?”
“What the hell have you been getting mixed up in in your spare time, chief?”
“I do not know,” you answer honestly. You sit down and think. You think harder than you have in your entire life. “I can recount to you every single thing I’ve done in the last week. I can tell you who I’ve talked to, where I went. I can give you times and phone calls. Everything. There is nothing in my memory that looks even remotely like some spy shit.”
“Alright, well, let’s look at this from another angle. Who all could do something like this, could make an entire series of wrongs disappear? Vader?”
You chuckle at that a little. Valpatine was a nerd to the core. “I think it is a little more local than that.”
He scoffs. “Please, kid, you can’t tell me this is some shit put down by the local pd? Them boys ain’t that far up the food chain. You talking about some shit like the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, hell, the effing El Presidento of the US of A’o.”
You ponder your friend’s words. He’s right. All of what he’s saying. What’s happening to you is happening in secret. And with all of the agencies out there that have authority to do something like this, finding the right one is going to be near impossible. What is clear though is that what’s happening to you is happening with government approval. Which means, “I’m not safe in my own country.”
“Wow,” Valpatine says. “That has gotta suck.”
You shake your head. “I can’t leave the country. Not without knowing what happened to my wife.”
“Well, look, sport, it may be a good idea to get away from the problem so that you can get your head together and get a better look at the bigger picture.”
“I can’t help but wonder if there are other people out there going through what I’m going through.”
He chuckles at you. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but I really doubt that there’s a support group for people running from unknown government agencies for unknown crimes.”
“No, you fool. What I mean is that, if there are other people out there running like I am, maybe we can work together and figure this out.”
He scoffs. “And you call me foolish. Slick, you’re talking about teaming up with unknowns during a zombie apocalypse. You’re better off on your own. Besides, if you have done some disreputable acts recently, like, I do not know, killed a few people, and you can’t remember, what makes you think some other sucker is gonna be in any better position than you are?”
“I do not know!!” you yell, snapping at Valpatine after having lost a goodly portion of your patience. “I do not know. All that I do know, is that I can’t just wait around here for them to come and get me with whatever it is that they have that I do not know about. We do not know what they’re planning. We do not know what they can do. And I can’t figure this out on my own. I need help.”
Valpatine seems to understand and has a serious look on his face, as if he is just now getting how important and jacked up things are. “Alright, cousin, alright. I’m with you. You know me. I’m always down for technological warfare. So, I’ll run some checks and see who else has fallen off the grid in the last month. With the way that they have perfected doing this to you, I’m sure you are not their first case of ‘failure’.”
“Alright, shit. Where do we start?”
“Welp,” he gets up and grabs the defibulaters he keeps on his wall. He turns them on. You can hear the sound of the electricity powering up the life saving instruments. “Come here,” Valpatine orders as he rubs the pads together.
You look at like Valpatine as if he has finally lost the last remnants of his mind. “For what? You’re not hitting me with that.”
“If we wanna catch the enemy, we gotta think like the enemy. And if I were heading some secret organization, the first thing I would with my employees and make sure they were giving off electromagnetic pulses all over the place so that we could find and eliminate any defectors. Now get your happy ass over here so we can stop that thing from transmitting.”
You look at him then at the defibulators then back at him. Something in his eyes…he just looks way too happy to be doing this. “Wait a minute, man. Shouldn’t we check to make sure I have something in me before just jumping into this? I mean, those things hurt.”
“Oh, yeah. Like a bitch. I’ve done it to myself a couple times.”
Well, that explains everything.
“It is either this or you can walk around jumping through hoops like a trained animal while transmitting like a regular radio tower.”
Damn it. Valpatine was making sense. You hate it when he makes sense. It is never a good time for anyone but him. “Alight,” you groan like a child about to put to a task he doesn’t want to do. “I’ll do it.”
“Of course you will because you are a man of reason.”
You walk over to the where Valpatine is standing looking armed and dangerous. “Alright. Sit in that chair, pancho.”
You sit down in one of his many rolling swivel chairs, the anticipation is almost enough to kill you. You eye the difbulators as if they are weapons of death and not things that are going to help you in your quest to find your wife. “Alright,” you say. “We do this on three.”
“That’s cool, kid. Your count or mine?”
You take a few deep breaths before you count off in order to prepare yourself. “Alright. You ready?”
“For like the last year, sissy. Hurry it up.”
You glare at him. You remind yourself that you are doing this for your wife and whenever you found her, she was going to owe you big. You never wanted to hear her complain about the car show again. “Alright. We’re doing this.”
Valpatine rolls his eyes with impatience.
“One…” Before you even get to two, you are jolted across the room by what feel like a hammer crashed down on your chest. You yell as you hit the wall at the other end of the room. Then you fall out of the chair, grasping your chest and gasping for air. You can hear some kind of screeching like a clown or something.
Valpatine! That little bastard was laughing at you. And laughing hard, like he was part of the crowd at a Steve Harvey concert.
“Oh, you son of a bitch,” you groan as he helps you from the floor. “Can’t you count? I said on three.”
“Oh, please, you big sissy. Go whine to ya mamma.”
Valpatine helps you into the chair and then walks away. Your vision is still blurry, but you can hear a lot of movement going on. You hear him unzip something. You want to ask him what the hell is going on, but you’re still feeling out of it and the jolt did nothing for your headache.
“Come on, Magneto. Pull yourself together. We gotta go.”
Your vision getting clearer, you can now see Valpatine taking computer parts and shoving them into a bag. “What are you doing?”