Time was running out. If Vigil couldn’t find the way in before midnight the USA was going to have a rough month. A bit of an understatement, but it was still hard for Vigil to believe Nancy’s information. It didn’t seem realistic. But Recluse was fond of discovering a path to the impossible.


Vigil met some luck. After walking around the sprawling concrete complex, he finally found one. Vigil was beginning to think that Recluse hated the sun so much that he had removed all the windows from his architectural plans. Which Vigil had, but Recluse’s builders had not followed it. Vigil worried if his map was still going to be viable once he got inside. It was time to find out.


Funnily enough, despite the lengthy search needed to locate this window, now things decided to go Vigil’s way. Because the window was unlocked. So Vigil slipped in and braced for a trap. The hallway was quiet. No lasers or automated squirrels. Yet.


Vigil checked his pad one more time and memorized his path. Nancy’s warning was still in the corner of the tablet.


He started implementing the Dark plan today. He will finish at approximately 11:47 pm. Use the map I found and get in there now! There’s no more time for surveillance. Cops are a no-go. And be careful John.


Nancy almost never used his real name anymore. She was nervous about this one. And who could blame her? They had lost the last five battles.


Recluse had started small by deleting Facebook. The company was working on remaking it, but not everyone really cared to rejoin it once it was finished. They were fine with using other social media once forced to. But then the phone lines went down. You can imagine the chaos that created. Then he targeted electricity itself. Half the country had implemented rolling blackouts since too many power stations had been destroyed. Lives had been lost too. And now the internet was in jeopardy. The lack of communication would slow the economy down to the stone age since it was the only connecting force still up.


As Vigil crept through the hallways he felt more inadequate than ever. His first two wins protecting the city’s mall from a bomb and destroying mechanical squirrels from eating power lines had given him confidence. His fame as a vigilante had begun. But that had ended quickly. Vigil had tried to stay away from law enforcement at first. But after the steady failures, he had Nancy send out their information in hopes of acquiring larger help. But the government had dismissed her. Their eyes were all in New York, where they believed they had the terrorist cornered there. All the clues led there. All of them except for Nancy’s hacking. But every time an agent looked over Nancy’s computers, the words changed and pointed to New York once more. Somehow Recluse knew who was looking at his computers, and when. And he only wanted Vigil to find him.


That disturbed Vigil even more. He didn’t want an arch-nemesis. Especially one who was way outside his league. But right now, Vigil had no choice. So he took a breath and pulled out his gun and crossbow. Then cracked the door open slowly.



Recluse wondered if he should have waited longer. But vigilantes were so hard to find these days. Besides, higher stakes usually brought out the best in people. And he was having fun. Just watching Vigil sneak through his corridors was like watching a crime show. And Recluse was the creator and actor of it. It gave him chills.


The microwave dinged and the villain gathered his popcorn for the show. But since he had a part in it, he had to eat first. It was so salty he had to down a mouthful of coke with every handful of popcorn. Just the way he liked it. He checked his computers and opened the program that created a large loading bar and put it up on the screen. Then he cleaned his fingers and shined his big red button. He shifted his bullet-proof vest and waited for his hero.


It took longer than he thought, but eventually, Vigil did poke his hooded face into the room. Their eyes locked and Recluse gave a friendly smile. Vigil got one shot off from his crossbow before he triggered the trap. The bolt sliced through Recluse’s ear and slammed into one of the computers with surveillance on it. The trap was a bucket full of water dumped on Vigil’s head. His vision was blocked and Recluse skipped over to hide behind the fridge. He heard the bucket slam down on the ground and Recluse counted to five. Then he released his second trap with a button. He heard the panels open on the ceiling which proceeded to lock on to the only moving target and shoot it to death. That one caused a lot of cursing which gave Recluse a moment to laugh without being heard. He was eager to look at the photos his computer had automatically taken. But later. Now it was time for the speech.


Recluse picked up the contraption he had on the ground and stepped around the corner. He pulled the trigger as soon as he saw Vigil wiping silly string out of his eyes while he eyed the computers with his gun pointed out. The shot fired chains that proceeded to grapple Vigil violently. Recluse winced at the grunt, but he did have to show some seriousness to the encounter.


After affirming that the weapons had been knocked out of Vigil’s hands, Recluse crouched in front of his prize and taunted. “Is that all you got Vigil? How many times have we gone through this and yet you still fall for the bucket trick?”


Vigil just glared and tried to struggle free. Recluse scanned him for additional gear, but it was all cheap and would help him get free. The crossbow was the nicest part of Vigil’s equipment. Recluse picked it up fondly. “I yearn for the days where great craftsmanship like this wasn’t overshadowed by factory forged junk.” He kicked the gun away.


“Not this again.” Vigil said.


Recluse turned back around. “Oh he can talk, can he? Great. Have you ever been in a debate? I’d like to make my case on why I think the world would be in a better place without all this technology. Then you give me a reasonable argument against it. If you can convince me I’m wrong, maybe I’ll change my ways. How does that sound?”


Recluse took the lack of an answer for an answer and began his speech. He’d given Vigil hints of this at different times but now he could unravel the whole thing. Recluse beamed as he gave his villainish speech and even revealed the grand plan of reverting the entire world, country by country to the dark ages. He walked around the room and turned away from Vigil, giving the hero ample time to come up with a counter plan. After a final flourish, Recluse turned around and prepared to show shock on his face when he found Vigil freed.


Vigil was not free. Recluse’s shock was real. But he recovered quickly and decided to put more pressure on the hero. The best stories had tension build up until the last second. So he sauntered over to his computer and worked on it a bit, changing the program’s loading bar rate to speed up, and said, “Ah, excellent! My virus should be ready to go sooner than expected. I guess if you don’t want to argue my plans you must agree with them. How about we pop some champagne in ten minutes at the close of the internet.”


He typed more gibberish and kept his eyes glued to the computer. After four minutes he turned around. Vigil had not moved. Recluse frowned then looked closer. Vigil was crying.


Recluse sighed. He was going to win this one too. At this rate, the world really would be in the dark ages. He was going to miss Netflix. But he had to keep his word or no one would take him as a serious villain. Perhaps he could find a better hero to play with next time. Then Recluse closed the fake programs on his computer and opened up the code he had been working on for months. He clicked send and waited a moment. Then he tried to open up google. No signal. He had won. Recluse leaned back in his chair. He didn’t want to win.


Photo by Andre Benz


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