A re-post of a short story from my former previews an extras section. Matrix Boy is a re-write of a section in the first chapter of Moon Girl written from Tim's POV. Slight spoilers if you haven't read the whole book but if you would like to read the original first chapter you can find it here.
Hope you enjoy
My head throbbed. Dad's such an asshole...
He invited me to his evil scheme then knocked me out and kidnapped me. I didn’t know where I was so I just had to hope Lani had kept track of me. I started to get to my feet and rubbed my eyes, making sure to brush my collar as my hand went down.
Communicator was still safely hidden under it. Good.
Looking around as I expected I had no way of knowing where I was. I was safely confined in an illusion and this one was up there in one of the weirdest I had been in. The world was dark, except for the green glowing numbers that changed between zero and one. They moved, zooming in rows down the walls and across the ceiling to a ball of shinning data.
"Database?" I muttered,
It had been a while since dad's illusions were so literal.
"And here we have guest number one!" I turned unsurprised at what I saw.
Two bulky guys in masks dragged an unconscious man through a door I couldn't see. They dropped him on the ground and behind them my dad walked in, looking like the colourless joker his villain persona seemed to have led him too.
A sharp suit, black hair jelled back to his skull. His eyes, the same icy blue as mine looked up and his smile widened.
"Morning, Lukey!" He greeted me.
I just glared at him, "Did you really have to hit me over the head?"
"I have to at least try and keep this place a secret, Lukey. I'll finally be able to make you see." Apex danced and I just looked away,
I hated what he has become.
"We'll see," I told the floor.
I shook my head of it and watched as father and his henchmen left to go get more hostages. I always had to do this, push away the memory of a dad that was sane, a dad that cared for people. Try to separate the insane man that dragged in hostage after hostage from the man who raised me.
It sucked but I had to do it. My worry should be on the hostages being brought in. Even if he had it he didn’t deserve my concern.
About twelve people were brought in and one by one they started to wake. People had all sorts of reactions to dad's illusions but then, they were affected by emotion and having just been kidnapped a lot of people would be scared.
One woman woke up with an ear piercing scream, another started crying, another started scurrying across the floor. I just watched. As much as I didn’t want people to be going through this, for now, there was no point in calling back-up. Apex held all the cards right now, if Lani came in it was likely she'd just hurt people. I had to wait for an opening.
"So, where do you think you are?"
It's kind of embracing because I literally jumped. I did not expect anyone to be as calm as to come up to me and start a casual conversation. I worried about the kind of person who could be so calm in such a situation.
I fixed my glasses and took in the short redhead that asked me a question. She was dressed smartly like all the others. A purple button up shirt and smart black trousers. Her eyes though. They were almost....bored?
She looked like she had been through this a thousand times, like it was as practised as making coffee in the morning.
"I think..." I looked around,
No one else was calm. No one else looked like it was another day at the office like she did.
"In a database." I answered trying to fathom her, "You seem really-?"
"What does a database looked like?" She frowned in confusion as I narrowed my eyes at her completely cutting off my question.
"Zeros and ones," I told her, annoyed, my answers as to why she is so calm might have to wait.
"Right...so it's the matrix for you?" She nodded.
Both of us were on guard it seemed as our eyes snapped to a man shuffling around, backing away from something we couldn't see. I didn’t even have to listen to anything else he said to know what he was seeing.
"D-don’t touch me there." He stuttered but didn’t seem to mean it.
"Is he...?" The redhead was blushing.
"I-I hope not."
I turned away. I didn’t know what was worse, dads power for making that happen or the guy for being weird enough to have those kinds of thoughts in this kind of situation...
The redhead turned away too and I tried to not hear what was going on behind us.
"So...Where are you?" I asked, curious.
"The moon apparently. It's quiet and the view's pretty nice so I can't complain."
The Moon? Quiet? Can't complain? She wasn’t even faking it. She was actually as calm as she looked. Just who was this girl?
"That says a lot about you."
My dad's voice came out of nowhere and I found all my curiosity leave me. I had to keep focused on the task at hand because as my father began to materialize into the air I knew he was about to start whatever insane plan he had come up with this time.
"Are you having fun?" He asked them.
I didn’t take in the people around me, I kept my focus on Apex but a woman answered.
"Showing us horrible things?!" She cried out at him.
I already knew his answer to that, horrible things, horrible person.
"Oh, I'm not 'making' you see anything. You yourselves are shaping the illusions. I'm just giving them power. If you're seeing horrible things that just means you're a horrible person."
There were a few moments of silence as those words sunk in then a man behind me yelled in rage,
"What do you want with us?!"
Que villous monologue.
"As I said to the world last night, I have a show to put on. A show to dazzle and probably make a lot of people puke, and you, my friends, are the stars of that show," Dad told them in a proud and animated fashion. "The show will be called ‘Apex Job Hunt’ in which I will pick two of you each week to battle it out for a chance at the Apex prize: freedom and life! Only one of you will have the privilege of coming out of this alive."
Ouch...that was worse than usual. Dad liked making people do horrible things to each other but dragging it out and making a TV show of it was new. I had to stop this before it could start.
I could feel it in the room the news of their fate, dragging down the atmosphere. I heard some yelps as people's illusions changed with their emotion. Mine hadn't, nothing had changed really for me.
"Why?" Came the voice of the Moon Girl beside me.
Her voice was flat but there was something in it that made chills run down my spine. I looked at her and her face still looked bored. She still looked like she'd been through this a thousand times but there was a dark shadow over it now. It changed from her looking like this was another day at the office to looking like it was another day at the slaughterhouse.
"Why?" My dad turned to her seeming amused by the darkness that glared at him, "Must I answer that? Why do I do anything? To show the world. Make everyone see."
"The way you do," I growled.
"Exactly!" Apex pointed at me a wide grin at my response, "To see the monsters that lie in everyone. Even the most normal and nicest of people."
He gestured to the room and the hostages snapped.
"You're the monster!" A woman barked.
"You can't keep us here!"
"You can't make us fight each other!"
"You're a psycho!"
I cringed, I hated what he did to shut people up. I literally closed my eyes and looked away as my father's smile grew and grew.
Then he laughed.
That laugh makes me want to puke. That laugh lets me know my dad may as well be dead. It's loud, it's high pitched and it echoes around the room and outlasts any protest. I just had to endure it. I gritted my teeth through it and thankfully it eventually died down.
I took a deep breath before turning round to face him again and was shocked to see Moon Girl had moved. I didn’t have time to say anything because before I could so much as open my mouth she'd grabbed my dad as he turned around.
I was stunned by the fluid movements that took my dad's smug grin and pointed it at that ground. A sensible black shoe on his back, his arms bent behind him in an uncomfortable position.
She better not hurt him...he's an asshole and he deserves it but that's my job.
"You can't see a monster when it's standing right in front of you." She said still so eerily calm as she restrained my father, "I won't let you do this to these people."
That gave me pause. She was doing this to protect people...true, the only people I know who could be as calm as she is about this situation are all heroes but... she isn't...maybe she should be.
"W...What are you? Some kind of hero?" He father hissed at her.
"Would a hero really be doing this?" She asked blankly putting more weight on my dad back until there was a sickening crack then a cry of pain, "Pathetic." She muttered and cold fear rushed through me.
I panicked. She's not a hero and there is nothing stopping her from killing my father right now.
"There are better ways to do this, Moon Girl!" I barked at her then slowly started to move towards them.
I didn’t want to give her any reason to snap his neck or something. She turned those dark eyes to me and asked in the same way someone would ask for a cup of tea.
"You want me to let him carry on with this?"
I had to suppress a chill. This girl was terrifying but at least she had good intentions. There was a chance I could talk her down.
Just what do you say to a monster like her?
"What if I said I can get us all out of here unharmed and all you have to do is knock him out? Apex will be taken to prison and no one will get hurt."
I thought cold logic would be easiest. Someone so calm could understand that, right?
I stared into the dark abyss of her eyes, holding her gaze as she considered. She didn’t give much away but she still looked sceptical. I had to think of something, anything.
"For the sake of one less death."
I tried and prayed she'd listen. With how quickly she took down Apex and how calm she was I doubted I could take her down without using my trick and I wasn’t in costume right now. I couldn't let it come to that.
I felt a bit of relief when I saw her eyes drift down slightly. Something about that had gotten to her, thank god. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
"But...he wanted to kill us." The two of us turned out attention to the teary woman whose face was starting to twist with anger as she snarled, "Why shouldn't he die?!"
Oh god, here we go.
Just like always the other hostages got on the bandwagon. Just like always they started to wave the murder flags.
"She has a point," Joined a man, "That monster doesn't deserve to live."
I wasn't looking at him but I knew my father, despite any pain he was in, had a smug grin on his face.
"And now you're proving his point" I roared at them, "You’re all as much a monster as him if you decide to kill so quickly!"
I prayed and prayed that this group would be the ones to prove him wrong. That this group would be able to let it go, able to prove that not everyone is a monster in the right circumstances.
But my hopes were too much for humanity.
"We're not the ones who wanted everyone to kill each other."
"And he’s hurt and killed loads of people. We've all seen the news."
I seethed, "We can't stoop to his level. Just because he's killed doesn’t mean we kill him in cold blood right here."
"We'd be saving people. It’s the right thing to do."
"No, it is not! The right thing to do is put him through the system. Make him sit in jail for what he has done so he can-"
"The jail can’t hold him!" I was interrupted.
"That doesn't mean you all get to play judge, jury and executioner, you-"
That time I was stopped by a loud pair of cracks. The entire room went quiet and my heart stopped. I whipped round to see my father start to fall to the ground and have his head meet the sensible black shoe of Moon Girl on the way down and slap onto the floor, prone and still.
"He’s alive, just both his arms are broken." Moon Girl declared.
Oh thank god, but still, "I just said knock him out!"
She shrugged, "You never said 'just'."
"At least you didn’t kill him." I sighed, trying to breathe out the panic attack I just had.
"So..." I looked at a hostage who spoke expecting them to throw another argument at me but it seemed with dad out cold everyone had calmed down, "Can we leave?" She asked.
I took another deep breath trying to throw away the frustration at their flippant attitudes. This is why dad was wrong. People could be monsters but it never lasted long.
"Yeah, I just need to make a call." I pulled out the tiny one-way communicator on my collar and walked away so there was a good distance between me and the others.
"Dart. I need pick up, Apex has been taken out but tell HQ to bring a second van. I have a potential recruit."
I looked back to see the hostages gathering around Moon Girl as she backed away, dull eyes and a slight blush. I smirked, looked like the terrifying woman didn’t know how to react to praise, that was going to be interesting if she managed to become a hero.
Either way, I put the communicator back in a hidden pocket under my collar and rejoined the others.
"Alright, We'll be picked up soon," I announced.
I was always interested in writing this since finishing Moon Girl 1. Considering Tim's connections I always wondered what was going through his head when he was in the room with Apex and what his first impressions were of the woman that would turn his world upsidedown.
'Just what do you say to a monster like her?' Is a line that really makes me giggle now that we've had Moon Girl 2.
Feel like reading some other random bits of fiction. I did a small piece from a writing about a small wizard and a house invasion and posted it here. Also if it's made you interested and you haven't already you can grab a full copy of Moon Girl 1: Moon Rise on Amazon.