In my last post, I famously aimed to finish Bob Moore: God Complex by the end of October.
Yeah, that didn’t work out.
I’d like to say my goal was unachievable – but it wasn’t. I just got busy. And then the holidays happened. And a bunch of other stuff. All in all, I’m up to chapter 19 which puts me on the downward slope side of writing this book. Will I be done by the end of January? Maybe. But I’m not going to make that prediction again.
Touch of Pain went through some revisions and I expect my final Beta reader to finish with it by the end of the week. That means I’ll either have to stop working on Bob and finish it up or put it aside and finish up Bob first.
But, for now, enjoy these two deleted scenes from Bob Moore: Hostile Territory. If you haven’t read the book, there are spoilers after the break.
There are a slew of deleted scenes from Bob Moore: Hostile Territory. There are a number of reasons for that, the most important of which is that agents normally ask for either the full manuscript or the first five chapters. As I had (half-heartedly) decided to shop Bob around to a few agents, I knew I needed to make sure chapter 5 left off someplace good. In the final manuscript, it meant he was on his way (or maybe just arrived) at the Super City. As such, I had to cut whole chapters and condense a lot of stuff to make it fit. I think the book was better for it but we lost a few (I thought) memorable scenes.
The first long cut starts where Bob is having a celebratory dinner with Alan (after successfully investigating EnviroKop where he posed as an accountant), the second is from after Liz’s town meeting (another deleted scene) where Alan is driving Bob back to his place to pick up his car just before Mind tells Bob that they are being followed (by the Vice President it turns out). In this version, Leon is not in the car. Also, the Condor scene (which ended up being changed into a prelude) has just happened.
* * *
Swell was still suspended near my door when I pulled the newly blue convertible out of the garage. Sweat was dripping down his face, though he did little more than stare daggers at me. I simply winked at him. The sun was setting and the wispy clouds on the horizon made the oranges and pinks look like something out of a postcard. If it weren’t for the Super City spoiling the effect…
I turned back to the road and exhaled. It had been an interesting day and I was looking forward to this dinner. Suzi’s cooking was always excellent and I had added my new, larger belt to my standard wardrobe: a black jacket, white shirt, and black slacks – all of them treated for resistance to the major elements by Ted Vente, known in the super community as Tinkerer. Ted and I had a sort of friendship. He’d provided me with resistant clothing and my Inertial Dampener plus a few other gadgets, and I’d provided him with money, a friendly ear and the occasional piece of information. Plus, I’d sent a lot of business his way.
But the arrival of The Raven had changed everything.
Gale, leading the last of the supers she could round up, had stopped The Raven. But not before he’d…
I swallowed the thought away. I glanced down at my leg, the metal covered by my slacks. Had I been conscious at the time, I would have told them I’d rather die than accept super replacements. Ted should have known…hell, Gale should have known…and it had nearly destroyed my relationships with both of them.
After my rehabilitation was complete, Mind had helped me examine the legs. Take out some of Ted’s surprises. Ted hadn’t been too malicious. Just a few strength enhancements and a tracking device or two. I’d insisted on removing the strength enhancements, though it was hard to exactly match my natural strength, making me, at times, a bit clumsy. Running was often painful. She had also refined the design, allowing me enough space to add a few small storage compartments. She’d wanted to install a communicator that would allow her to send her voice directly into my nervous system.
Yeah, I had vetoed that one with prejudice.
As always, Alan Wagner’s family house had the sort of lived-in look only kids can create. Not sparkling clean, but Suzi had obviously been driving Alan and Sarh hard to straighten up. The times I had stopped by unannounced, you couldn’t take two steps without hitting some sort of toy car or action figure.
We ate outside, Alan grilling the burgers and Suzi serving up the potato salad she knew I loved so much. She scowled, as she always did, when Alan poured me a scotch, but that argument had been long settled. I drank. She didn’t. We’d have to get past that.
I cleared my throat, “Seems like I’m being followed.”
Alan’s eyes tightened, “That Swell fellow?” Alan sipped his wine. Something white with an ice cube in it.
“He says no.”
Alan’s eyebrows went up, “Does he?”
I shrugged, “He tried to pay me a visit. I’ll call Gale to pick him up tomorrow.”
Alan shook his head, “Damn, Bob, you play a dangerous game.”
I sipped my scotch. Blended. I’d given them a bottle of my favorite, but somehow they always got “lost”. Suzi’s encouragement for me to drink something else. “Doesn’t much matter as long as I keep winning.”
Alan exhaled slowly, “So, you think it could be EnviroKop?”
“Or any number of people I’ve pissed off over the years. But yeah, that’d be my guess.”
“You going to tell Gale? Have her look into it?”
“What, and hide behind my ex-wife’s cape? I don’t think so.”
Alan shook his head, “I don’t know, Bob, EnviroKop is a pretty big company.”
“Speaking of which, you figure out who is at the top?”
“No, not yet.” Alan said it in that familiar tone that said he wasn’t about to give up until he’d extinguished every possible lead.
“But you’re not hopeful.”
Alan sat back, “Honestly? It doesn’t look good. Oh, for sure they are an evil corporation. Usually, I’d say super villain right away. But,” again he shook his head, “I can’t figure it. They never went after the super rich or powerful. No high level politicians. Not even senators.”
“That doesn’t track. Don’t super villains usually use these security company fronts to fund their various schemes? They set up mass robberies of all their clients to fund their zombie army, giant robot, or world domination plan or simply take information or leverage to blackmail the rich and powerful?”
Alan nodded, “That’s usually the M.O., yeah. It’s weird. Ninety percent of their clients are middle class. That’s why I’m not sure there is a super behind it.”
“So, I have you to thank, do I?” Suzi walked through the door, baby cuddled under one arm, another bowl of her potato salad in the other hand. She handed me the bowl, sat and cuddled the baby as I sipped the last of my scotch. I leaned back and loosened my belt. The baby giggled, reaching up toward her long, tightly curled hair.
Suzi was perfect. Well, not super perfect, but tippy perfect. Her deep ebony skin was only a shade or two lighter than Alan’s. Her hair, usually pulled back, was in a bit of disarray, framing her face and giving the baby something to play with. She wasn’t the sort of pretty that would take your breath away, but she was the type that, once you spent some time with her, you knew you were out of your depth. Insightful, opinionated, loyal…perfect.
“For a baby name? I never thought you’d ask! Of course, I’d be honored if you’d name the little tyke Bob.”
She rolled her eyes playfully, “For my husband doing something other than sitting outside that blasted building just in case you needed help.”
I looked at Alan. He found something very interesting at the bottom of his wine glass. “Really? Alan?”
He huffed, “You know, just in case.”
I shook my head, addressing Suzi, “I told him to stay home. That I was fine.”
“But you weren’t today, were you? You needed me!”
“I called you, you dolt! Suzi?”
“Still…” Alan responded weakly.
I put my hands up, “Sorry, Suzi. If you can’t control him, what do you expect me to do?”
She smiled, warmly, “I’m just happy he didn’t have to go in that dreadful place.”
I smirked, “Accountants aren’t so dreadful. As long as you know something about baseball. I swear, someone should do a study. I’m betting something like two out of every three baseball fans are accountants. America’s pastime, my ass.”
“Language, Bob,” Suzi chided.
I glanced over. Sarh’s head was bobbing, his eyes half closed in front of some cartoon in the living room. The sliding glass door was open and the sound of something breaking over the head of something else wafted out.
“I’m sure he’s heard worse.”
“And I’m sure it was from you.”
“Still, it was worse.”
She laughed, “Okay. Enough. So where are you boys off to again? Not another club I hope.”
I grimaced at the familiar jab. Alan and I had met at an S&M club. He was there doing research for a story, I was there for information on who had blown up Liz’s office and half her face. That night had changed my life in a lot of ways and had culminated in the loss of my leg. But Alan and I had become fast friends so at least some good had come out of it.
“Yeah, Alan. When are you publishing that story again?”
Alan cleared his throat and glared over his hand at me. He hated it when Suzi and I ganged up on him, which, of course, was why we did it. “Meeting. Liz is holding a sort of town hall thing. I’m just tagging along for moral support and to be on hand when Bob starts a riot.”
“There might be TV cameras there. Could be on the news tonight.”
Suzi smiled, “My dashing man, on the television? Oh, be still my heart.”
I leaned in, placing my elbows on the table and my chin on my hands, “Alan,” I said in my best little girl voice, “you are sooooo dreamy.”
Alan stood, “Enough, you two. Bob, let’s…” Alan’s voice trailed off. “Where’s Sarh?”
I jumped out of my seat, Suzi standing slowly. Alan called out the boy’s name as I raced into the house. A vision of the black BMW shot through my head. Had I been followed? I didn’t think so and Mind had me drive through the financial district, the only area of town that was fully covered with cameras she could take over and monitor, and said I hadn’t been. But she wasn’t infallible.
I pushed the sliding glass door fully open and Alan and I stepped quickly inside. The couch was empty, the cartoon Betamax tape showing the logo of the studio. Alan turned toward the bedrooms, calling for Sarh. I spun in place.
Something was off.
Next to me, Suzi walked in, he face pale. Alan came out from the hallway, his head shaking. He walked into the kitchen, calling the boy’s name. No response. Alan walked back in, his face drawn.
“I’ll call the neighbors. Get everyone outside.”
I cocked my head to the side. The couch. The pattern, it was…different. I reached down and felt something that was decidedly not a cushion.
“I’ve got him,” I whispered. I wrapped my arms around the object and picked it slowly up. The shape of a little boy, but looking just like the fabric on the couch, showed up clearly against my white shirt.
“My God,” I whispered. “He’s a super.”
“How the hell can that be? He’s only three! No one manifests this young.”
“Bob said worse.”
I knew from personal experience that early manifestation wasn’t as unheard of as Alan suggested. Nineteen, for example. It was, however, very rare.
“What do we do?” Suzi’s eyes were wide.
I glanced at Alan, his face a mixture of fear and joy.
I shook my head, “I don’t know.”
The boy, jostled to wakefulness by the movement and our voices, opened his eyes. Like water washing sand off a sidewalk, the fabric pattern disappeared from his face, skin and clothes.
* * *
Alan pulled out of the parking lot into near deserted streets. It was late; nearing ten. In my ear, Mind was mercifully silent. I could only hope she was hard at work delving into the hundreds of systems at her disposal for information on the Condor’s contact. I rubbed my metal knee absently. She’d find out the lab or super that had grown those clones and I’d find out if they were the one that Tay had used. If not…I had one other option.
Alan cleared his throat. I’d been deep in thought and hadn’t noticed how quiet the car had become. It wasn’t like us. We were usually so chatty when we were together. Trading work stories, talk about our latest case, or just rattling off anything. I took out my flask.
“You want a hit?” I offered the metal container to Alan. He shook his head, eyes still locked on the road. I took a sip and wiped my mouth, “All right, spill it.”
“Huh?” the word escaped explosively. He was holding his breath.
“Come on, Alan. What is it? Another case already? You know I’m in. It’s Suzi you have to worry about.”
“No, no, not that,” he paused. “Well, there is this thing that came across my desk the other day. But, no, that’s not it. It’s just…”
I paused, and then took another sip, “Ah.”
“It’s weird right? So young?”
Nineteen flashed through my mind again. “Well, yeah. I mean…it isn’t unheard of…”
Alan turned to me, his eyes searching, “Really? You know this? Powers can manifest this young?”
I took a breath, “Yeah. Sure. I’ve seen it before.”
“Yeah? What does it mean?”
Alan’s words came falling out, “Does it mean his power will be especially potent or will it fade? I mean, it isn’t dangerous is it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
I nodded, sipping. I’d only known one other child to manifest so early. Nineteen. She was a clone in the care of a madman named Tay. Alan had probably met her before but her power, telepathy, had caused him to forget. Everyone forgot her. It was a sort of defense mechanism. I’d taken her from Tay, rescued really. But The Raven was on the loose and he’d killed many of the world’s supers. And her power was killing her. Our only chance was to get her to the Bulwark and hope someone there could save her. During the battle with The Raven, Nineteen had slowed him down enough for them to kill him. But not in time to save herself.
I rubbed my knee again. I couldn’t tell Alan about her. I couldn’t tell anyone. The Super State had dubbed all telepaths dangerous and to be detained or killed. They wouldn’t like that I was trying to save the next clone in line. Tay had promised that there was a 20th clone. I had to find her.
“But…” he faltered. This wasn’t like Alan. The reporter in him didn’t usually allow him to be so clumsy with his words. Plus, he was a smart one. It wasn’t like him not to know…
“You want me to talk to Gale.” Alan didn’t turn to look at me. I sipped a bit more of the amber liquid, letting the burn in my throat distract me. “I don’t know Alan.”
“I know she’s been trying to call you.”
“And that you’ve been avoiding her.”
“So, what are you saying, reporter?”
“I’m saying…” again he paused, nervous. “Please.”
I wiped my brow and turned to stare out the window again. I had been avoiding Gale but I couldn’t say why. After The Raven and all that had happened…I just didn’t want to see much of any of them. The supers. My new assistant was okay, as were the few others I interacted with on a regular basis. But Gale? The thought made me strangely uncomfortable.
“Alan, I know you’re excited about this but you don’t know these people like I do.”
“I know Bob…”
“And you and Suzi need to really talk about this. If they find out your son is manifesting so young…well, I don’t know how they’d react.”
Alan’s brows drew together, “I figured they’d just test him and see how powerful he is. What he can do and such.”
“Oh, for sure. But what if they decide he’s too powerful for a couple of tippys to raise? What if they decide they need him for a mission or that they need to keep a watch on him to make sure he’s given the proper training? Think, reporter. You’re a smart guy. What do you think they’ll do? What lengths to you think they’ll go? And, on top of that, what do you think the government will do to protect you if the Super State decides to push?”
“That’s why I wanted you to talk to Gale. I figured she would do the right thing.”
I laughed, “Oh, she’ll do the right thing all right. No doubt about that. But don’t confuse the ‘moral’ thing for the ‘right’ thing. The moral thing is to keep you and your son together. The right thing will have a lot more to do with the ‘greater good’ or as I like to call it, ‘our bullshit reason for doing whatever the hell we want’ than anything moral.”
Alan fell silent, his eyes narrow and lips tight. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear but it was probably true. Oh, he had a point. I could probably get Gale to promise to bring the kid back no matter what they found but it wasn’t like Gale had any problems reneging on promises with me. Like, oh, our vows.
“Listen Alan. Let’s just…”
“You’re being followed!” Mind’s voice blared into my ear.
I turned quickly, scanning behind us for any sign of a car. Sure enough, off to the side, a black sedan was parked just behind a brown van on a very deserted street.
“Up ahead as well. I count at least three different cars. They are crisscrossing your path, keeping you in their sights.”
“What,” Alan was staring at me, his eyes searching.
Damn. Alan was a smart cookie. I’d stopped in the middle of a sentence. Would he figure out that Mind had interrupted? Could he? Sure, he could but it’d be a big leap of logic. But I wouldn’t put it past him. I had to cover.