A few years ago the old man made a deal with the owners of Ghetto Computers. They stayed out of his business, and he didn’t report theirs to the Enforcers. In exchange, he lived in the building’s basement, constructing and programming night and day. And so MegaKat city went on.
He didn’t have a name, or even a distinguishable face. His fur was in a ghastly matted state, and his limbs were held at infeline angles. He couldn’t talk or even move without mechanized assistance. All this made him very conspicuous, and yet he was invisible. He was the <Secret>.
Deep in the shadows of the corner he sat in his chair, lost in thought and the pains of Lou Gehrig’s disease, for which there was no cure, and for which he could never be treated. He had to treat it himself.
The amazing part was that he was perfectly capable of doing so. After all, the disease has no effect on the mind, and his was brilliant. He was merely… misunderstood. To him, the merits of the manipulative device created by Professor Hackle far outweighed its downsides. That was why he had stolen it. He intended to use it to take over the city.
But to every villain there is a flaw, and his was his condition. Unanticipated, it moved as quickly as he did, and threatened to destroy him before he could modify the device to allow him to retain control of his facilities and continue work. He felt fortunate to only have to compromise some of his brain – which he could spare – rather than lose his freedom. Still, he degenerated, relying more heavily as the days wore on on his machines. In the corner he thought about this, an upgraded prototype of the device suspended before him. He casually batted at it with a mechanical paw he thought-controlled. To him it was as simple as blinking an eye used to be.
A vague recollection ran a shadow across his mind, and he remembered.
::The city – the device…::
His body was too far gone. He needed a virile assistant – one who could perform the locomotive tasks he could not, one who could access the files at Enforcer HQ that pertained to him, one who could tell him the dangers, and one who could stop them. One who could kill everyone who stood in his way.
This resolution had entered his mind weeks before, but he was powerless to act on it. There simply were no recruitable kats who passed by his lair – until that very fateful day of Enforcer Graduation, when a disconsolate Derek Whitepaws strode past his sensor array, Enforcer jacket over his shoulder like a sack, flapping in the wind. Pollution in the air was beginning to oxidize the brilliant silver of his undesired merits.
It did not matter to the Secret that an explanation was lacking for the young tom’s unusual conduct; the elation of the moment overwhelmed him and, overcome with emotions so rarely experienced, he activated the trap that would be the end of Jason’s best friend as he knew him.
* * *
Derek never expected the alley to give way beneath him; in fact, at that point in time and for a few hours before, he had expected nothing at all to happen. He wanted – no, he *needed* – a fight. Unconsciously that was what had led him to walk, in full uniform, through Chance Furlong’s old neighborhood. It didn’t matter to him if he was shot. He was dejected and resentful, and this he did not want to be, because the resentment was directed at Jason. He couldn’t live like that, and so he wandered off, silently, without a word of explanation, knowing that if he stayed, his emotions might overcome him. If that happened, then for the second time that day he would be standing over his friend with a foot on the gray kat’s back, the littler officer this time in need of orthodontic work.
Left, right, left, right; the Enforcer focused attention on his steps to drive out the offending imagery. He swerved to avoid a patch of blood and broken glass. Its presence disgusted him. He shuddered, and looked up at the sun.
And then the ground was gone, and he was falling, down a chute, and sliding across a floor on his belly, head-first into the wall.
The Secret was disgusted with himself. His first prisoner – and he had botched things already. The black kat was unconscious on the squalid floor, his impeccable uniform disgustingly soiled. The Secret waited patiently for him to wake, then impatiently.
At length he resorted to his robotic prostheses, and the gracile agracite limbs reached outward and down to pick up the fallen prometheus, shaking him to awareness.
“Where am I?!” he demanded.
The secret’s tin-can voice answered from the darkness.
“Who are you? What do you want from me!”
The Secret had forgotten the nuances of interfeline communication. He decided to adopt a more amiable approach to his interrogation.
“I’m nobody, who are you?”
Derek laughed at the line from Dickinson in spite of himself.
“What?!” demanded the Secret.
“Nothing,” said Derek, realizing the trouble he could get into with the wrong action. These metal-whatevers must be made of agracite; there was no way he could free himself and get his gun, and even if he did, he couldn’t identify a target objective. He would have to play along.
“What brings you here?” asked the Secret.
“I was going to ask you the same question.”
A shrill noise came out of the voice synthesizer – laughter? – and now Derek knew exactly where the kat was, if it was a kat at all. Something smelled like public toilets, though, and Derek knew it wasn’t just the floor.
“You are strange, Enforcer, and I appreciate strange. I, myself, am strange.”
‘Really, I never would have guessed,’ Derek thought.
“You bear the weight of the city on your shoulders, this I see.”
This sentence was garbled and Derek knitted his brows as he attempted to make sense of it. The Secret continued.
“You are highly upset, perhaps disgruntled? Do you not like the state of affairs?”
“No,” said Derek, for the sake of a reply.
“Then perhaps you would like to do something about it.”
Derek’s striking eyes widened.
“You’re a supervillain, aren’t you!” he exclaimed, but quietly.
The shrill noise – punishment? – sounded again.
“You might say that. At any rate I am… disgruntled, and if that is all the requirements for the job, then you are as well.”
It was flawless, evil logic. Derek recognized the trick.
“Wait a minute. You know that’s not so.” He was stalling.
The Secret recognized the trick.
“I will, of course, cut to the chase. You would never commit a crime, is that correct?”
“Absolutely.” The words cut the darkness, a verbal sneer.
“Then you may consider yourself fortunate, for that will no longer be your handicap.”
Derek felt horror.
“You will commit them, and you will thus allow me to correct the wrongs of the city.”
“I can’t! I’m an Enforcer!” This got him nowhere. Out of the Secret’s corner a device suspended invisibly began to hover nearer. He changed tactics.
“They’ll catch you – they’ll kill you! It won’t work! I won’t allow it!”
On the other side of him a drill appeared, lowering, nearing his cranium. Sweat poured from him so suddenly that he nearly dehydrated himself in seconds. He knew what was about to happen instinctively.
“If you like, you can justify this by declaring yourself the victim. Although I’m sure few will agree.”
Derek froze, filled with a fear that few ever knew, and as the drill closed in, and the mind control device followed it, he released a primal scream so deafening that the Secret himself could not tell that it was a name.
* * *
As the device ruptured his synapses he felt a curious sense of release. Life and love flew by him, swirling, dancing, mingling in a spectacular catharsis of his mind and passion. His reasoning capacity was being torn away. In its place came primitive desires and instincts, bubbling upward, engulfing him. The old Derek died there, drowned in it. The new Derek was the Secret’s slave. He blacked out.
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