Thursday, December 17, 1999
From outside his apartment, Rick heard his alarm system beep twice - an indication that it was being disengaged - before he had fished his keys out of his pocket. It had done that every day for the past week, since Hundred had evidently taken up residence at Casa Bradbury; he spent more time on Rick's couch than in his own apartment. Hundred didn't talk much about his private life, but Rick had learned that Hundred's dad died when he was a kid and he didn't talk to his mom. And she never called him or visited at the hospital either, at least not while Rick was there, which was damned near every day. The only other person he saw in Hundred's hospital room was that cranky old Russian guy, Kremlin. He called at Rick's, too, and hung up on him when Mitchell wasn't in.
Rick couldn't bring himself to tell Hundred to leave; partly it was the guilt - he couldn't quite shake the feeling he was responsible for the accident that blew off half of Mitch's face, no matter how many times Hundred said it wasn't his fault - but mostly, he didn't mind the company. It was a little lonely without his girls around; Hundred always seemed to know when it was their weekend to visit, and made himself scarce without a single comment about Rick's parenting skills or ex-wife.
The sound of the alarms on his front door and windows shutting down - and Hundred's uncanny ability to predict the exact moment Rick got home - never failed to disconcert Rick. Although, it could be that Hundred sat in his living room, in his borrowed pajamas, and practiced. . .talking to clocks or alarms or whatever it was he did all day while Rick was at work.
"Honey, I'm home," Hundred called out, sounding excited about something.
"That's supposed to be my line." Rick shut the door with his foot and his alarm system re-started with another beep. Yeah. Still creepy. He hadn't programmed it to re-start automatically, which Mitch knew because Rick had explained how all his security measures worked and why he liked them to function exactly as he programmed them to work the second day Hundred dropped by without warning and scared the ever-living bejeezus out of Rick. Hundred had been lucky Rick hadn't shot what was left of his face, though Hundred assured him he could talk to guns. Rick was not very assured. He hung up his over-coat on the hook behind the door and stashed his gun on the top shelf of the small closet by the door. It was about the only thing he was fastidious about; he didn't want his daughters accidentally getting a hold of his guns. "Do you want to order pizza or Chinese. . . Huh."
"Wait! Don't step on that." Hundred reached in front of Rick's foot and moved a pile of paper on top of another pile of paper on top of the ugly coffee table. That and the couch on which Hundred staked his claim and stashed his few personal belongings were the only pieces of furniture Tamara had left him with.
Unlike the previous days, Hundred had been busy. Rick picked up one of the crumpled balls of paper that littered his living room floor and smoothed it out. It was. . .a bunch of lines and a couple squiggles. He rotated the page ninety degrees, and still couldn't make heads or tails of it. "Are you designing a. . .spaceship?" It was the most bizarre thing Rick could think of on short notice.
"No! Here." Hundred shoved more papers at him and Rick did his best to keep up.
These drawings looked a little like a bike helmet. "You bought a motorcycle? I give up?"
Hundred sighed and scratched at an exposed patch of skin under his bandages -- they no longer covered his entire face; it was just the area above his left eye that was taking longer to heal, and according to the doctor, itching at it would only make the scarring worse. Rick slapped Hundred's hand away. "Don't do that. Are you taking your meds?"
"Yes, mom," said Mitch.
Rick rolled his eyes and waved the drawings in front of Hundred's face. "What are these anyway?"
"I've, ah, been having these dreams--"
Even under the bandages, Hundred's 'I'm not fucking around' look - which Rick had only had directed at him once before, when Hundred flat-out refused to go back to the hospital - was plainly evident. He pulled the papers from Rick's hand and spread them out in some order that made sense only to one Mitchell Hundred.
Rick blinked. Okay, so the pictures were starting to make sense, if sense had gone on a bender and ended up swimming with the fishes. "Maybe you should stop taking your meds. Or stop watching Superman. The special effects are cheesy. Seriously, Mitch?"
Hundred's eyes glowed a little bit greener, which was funny because before his accident, Rick would have sworn they were brown, but some people had hazel eyes that could go green or blue, depending on the light or what they wore or some shit like that. But that wasn't the point. The point was, "You can't tie a bed sheet around your neck and pretend you can fly!"
"It's a little more sophisticated than that," said Mitchell. "Look, it's got wings and a compartment for fuel and--"
"You've been dreaming about a jet-pack?" Rick did not know how it was possible that he sounded more ridiculous than Hundred, when Hundred was the one with the hard-on for clocks and disabling alarms and now this weird sci-fi stuff. "I knew I shouldn't have rented all four Superman movies."
"The fourth one doesn't count. And it's not about the jet-pack. It's about doing something good. . ." Hundred's voice dropped off.
Rick took a moment to process. "Let me get this straight. You get blown up and now you think you're Superman? Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Lights off," said Hundred in a voice that settled oddly in Rick's ears. He blinked at the sudden darkness and rubbed the goose bumps on his arms, while Hundred continued speaking in a more normal tone. "I have powers. I can hear your watch, the microwave, the downstairs neighbour's goddamn electric blanket, the elevators -- which, by the way, is how I know when you get home. When I blacked-out the city. . . I don't think that was a fluke. I mean, I think I could do it again, if I tried." There was a small pause. "Not that I would. I want to help."
"Is this about being fired?" Rick thought Hundred took the news that he was being laid-off a little too well.
"No! Not entirely. I can talk to machines, Rick! I hear everything that makes the city tick and when stuff happens that shouldn't be happening."
"So go to the police."
"I've tried. Do you know how stupid it sounds when I say, 'I have no proof, but a robbery is about to happen' or 'The water pipes tell me they're leaking'?"
". . .You might have a point." Rick wasn't sure what else he was supposed to say, so he stated the obvious: "You want to fix the city."
"I'm a civil engineer: it's what I do." Hundred looked at him, an eerie greenish light glowing through his bandages. "But I can't do it alone."
"Turn on the lights, Mitch," said Rick.
Hundred muttered something with his other voice and the lights came back on, illuminating his earnest expression.
Honestly, it was a little painful to see because Rick didn't believe in superheroes, and here was Mitch, who really wanted to be one. Since the accident, the guy wouldn't even go out in public for longer than ten minutes at a time and now he wanted to put on a costume and fly around the city, looking for trouble. . . And what was wrong with Rick that he was starting to believe this was possible? "Just so we're clear. You're not bullet proof. Or equipped with laser eyes. And you don't have X-Ray vision, right? Or a secret spandex fetish?"
Hundred looked down at the bunny rabbits that dotted his flannel draw-string pants. "If I did, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing these."
"Are you mocking my clothes?" There was nothing wrong with being comfortable, which Rick was going to say when his stomach grumbled. "Can we get back to the important decisions, like what we're having for dinner?"
Hundred tilted his head, considering something far beyond the business of day-to-day living. "We're going to change the world -- or at least this corner of it." His eyes gleamed.
"Not without dinner first, we're not," said Rick, picking up the phone. Some people had family members programmed into their speed dial; he had the pizza place around the corner. If Hundred was going to pursue his cracked out ambition to be a superhero, one of them had to stay grounded long enough for his dreams to be realized.