Set more than a hundred years in the future, Ben Zenith is a suave, sophisticated and dedicated civil servant to the elite political party, Ring of Apollo and its leader Astorfax Apelino. Given the monumentally important objective of guarding a "data transport task" he must keep an eye out for the danger that could be around every corner. With the Ring of Apollo's primary rival for political power, REEF and a manic looking clown that answers to the name Pierro Parsifal who knows if he will be ab
Thank you, for listening into PLC radio, where we promise that tomorrow will always be better than today.”
The radio, a Jefferson 2-26 model sat on an ornate oaken table, and began to belt out tunes from the former decades. A blue leisure suit was carefully counting pocket change that was currently present in its neatly stitched pockets.
The blue leisure suit’s name was Ben Zenith, a peculiar man in his late 20s with a tendency for attracting trouble.
Or was it trouble that was attracted to him? Either way he couldn’t blame her for not being able to stay away.
He was such a handsome devil.
As Ben was pondering on his own personal modesty the phone rang. Ben got up from the couch and coffee table where he was counting his money and walked over to the stool where the phone was and answered it.
“Hello, who’s there?”
“This is Othello, is this...a Mr. Zenith?” The voice said in a calm and yet strangely condescending tone. Ben grimaced, having an idea in mind on what this phone call was going to be about.
“Yes, this is Mr. Zenith. What may I help you with?”
“It is The Ring of Apollo. He... wants to talk with you. How soon will you be able to make it to Castle Apelino?”
Ben looked over to the clock at the counter.
“I’m on my way.”
The winding streets and narrow alleys were the trademark of the city, Callisto. You found very few wide open areas there and the ones you did were usually the important places that common folk tried their best to stay away from.
Which was exactly why Ben was there right now, walking to the office of a very important man, Astorfax Apelino.
He walked in through the doors that signified city hall and as always was greeted by the sight of people rushing this way and that. Orderlies were trying to do important jobs, politicians trying to make important deals and ordinary people trying to make the most important decisions of their life.
You see this was why Ben didn’t like the place too much.
It was way too stressful.
He turned left, walked past a mural or three and stepped onto the moving conveyer belt that would take him down the corridor, to Mr. Apelino’s office.
“In 2098 after the damage done by World War 4 and with a crippling recession that hadn’t been since the early 21st Century things looked bleak.”
Ben frowned and turned to see a row of monitors along the conveyor belt. They showed a series of repeated and well known images from the time the monitor was speaking of. He sighed remembering going over the details of those events in history classes as a child and recalling the problems back then.
“Beside those main two there were other problems such as the remnants of biological warfare and the tensions between other countries. The world seemed like it was riding on its last penny when out of nowhere came the Workers Against Denouement or WAD. WAD was lead by Tom Fisherking, who used clever manipulations against the masses, while also increasing morale, to ride out the recession and then began his career as the “Minister of the All” by passing the ‘Rebuild and Restock’ rehabilitations act of 2107.”
Ben noticed that now the usual solemn and serious music that the monitors had been playing had give way to a more upbeat and optimistic rumble. The type that would have been played at war rallies to get the soldiers blood pumping to create a sense of patriotism.
“Then in 2128, when Fisherking was 71 there was a near schism in WAD over leadership. This was supposedly ignited by Fisherking’s much younger protégé, Ego van Carr, who attempted a Coup on the Fisherking Administration. The incident itself was thought to be aroused from the 2125 riots which called into questioning Fisherking’s harsh conservative methods of leadership in contrast to van Carr’s who gathered attention to himself in those very same riots, making phenomenal use his troops carried by his radical behaviour. Sadly it was only a year later that Fisherking was assassinated and a schism actually occurred parting into two groups; The Ring of Apollo and the Radical Establishment of Entrusted Freedom or REEF. The Ring of Apollo is now a powerful political body and headed by Fisherking’s adopted son, Astorfax Apelino. It acts as Callisto’s civil soldiers warding off attacks from the now terrorist group REEF, it is unclear, however if Ego van Carr is still the head of the organisation as he has not been seen or heard from for years, however it is still popularly believed that he is the leader of REEF.”
The video ended and Ben Zenith found himself outside Mr. Apelino’s office doors. He put his hand on the handle and let himself in.
The room was just as he’d remembered it. Tidy, neat, filled with large comfy armchairs and dusty old photo frames showing Astorfax’s many achievements. And then the desk... that large and foreboding thing that made you feel small and unassuming like you had been called to the principal’s office and you were just waiting for the silence to break.
How he hated that feeling.
He was never a good student.
And here they were in this huge place... waiting to see the first move. Ben was a little tempted just to play along just to see Astorfax’s face when he realised he’d wasted enough time but he knew he was never going to bethatpatient.
“So... what do you need me for Mr. Apelino?” He said while sitting down on the big comfy armchair opposite his boss.
The aged man smiled. “What’s this? Just a ‘what do you need me for, Mr. Apelino?’ That’s all? I was expecting a little more to be honest. All this time and you talk with me in such a callous manner? You’d swear I never pulled you off that street in San Guan in the first place.”
Ben shrugged. “And you would swear that this was our first meeting, considering that our meetings in the past have been nothing but short and sweet and to the point.”
“Fair point, well I suppose there is no meaning to butting heads on this matter any longer and we should just get down to business, hmm?”
“Sounds good to me,” Ben said with as much a lackadaisical tone he could muster.
A holographic screen emerged out of the desk. “Very well then, your assignment is...”
Ben’s eyes widened.
“A little... girl?”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’d be surprised if you did.”
“Fine just don’t look at me like that, I’ll tell you what you want to know, just stop glaring!”
Ben did stop and waited for Astorfax to continue.
“This little girl’s name is Alessa Nanowavich, you may have met her father, Alastor Nanowavich, a high ranking official before he died.”
Ben gave a brief nod and Astorfax continued.
“Well before he died he volunteered his daughter for a data transport task of which she holds the password. Do you understand now?”
Ben gave another nod. “To safely escort the cargo to its destination, right? There is only one problem with that though.”
“Oh, and what is that?”
“The cargo is a little girl.”
“True and so...”
Ben decided for the first time since entering the office to admire the view and gazed out the window.
“Kids should never be involved in war.”
“Ahh... would this not have more to do with your past then that child’s?”
“I’m telling you what I know and what I know is that kids are far too innocent for battle. You should not have condoned this.”
Astorfax in fairness to him, nodded his head grimly and said, “I agree with you one hundred percent but,” he put his hand on Ben’s shoulder “, this is our chance to deal a real blow to REEF, perhaps one of the few we’ll ever get.”
“But why a child?”
It was Astorfax’s time to shrug. “It’s like you said, Children are innocent, no oneeversuspects a child. That’s what makes them such prime targets for missions like this.”
Ben remained stone-faced.
“Look, you don’t have to like it, just do it and make sure REEF doesn’t get to her in the meantime.”
Ben gave his patented stone-faced nod.
“And while we’re on REEF, check this out.” The adopted son of the Fisherking typed some random letters on his keyboard and the screen changed from the innocent, cute looking little girl to a white-faced, scarlet haired manic looking clown.
“This is Pierro Parsifal, a high ranking terrorist that has a penchant for music and the circus and is as deadly as he is weird looking. He will be the one you’ll have to look out for.”
Ben nodded one final time before getting out of his seat and taking the envelope that Mr. Apelino handed him.
“Those are the details on where you are to pick up and drop off the cargo remember, you’re one of the best, good luck.”
Ben was waiting at the train station when the train coming from Lars Mon Du pulled into the station. He held up a large cardboard sign with the words ALESSA NANOWAVICH printed on it.
A little girl that looked just like the one he saw on that screen back in Apelino’s office appeared in the distance shepherded by two large bodyguards that flanked her either side.
They came up to him and one looked him dead in the eye.
“Who are you?”
Ben smirked, “The Black Bird of course!”
The two gave a nod, the other one, the one who hadn’t talked to him, whispered into a mouthpiece, “The parcel has been passed, repeat, the parcel has been passed, ring-a-ring-a-rosey is underway. The Black Bird has the Shiny.”
And without further adieu they left.
Leaving him... with a child.
Surely this is going against some form of Social Services agreement?
Well he wouldn’t be stuck with her for long, seeing as he knew where to go, the only problem he could see would be the getting there and even so that wasn’t much of a problem. He peeked at the kid who was just standing next to him. This mightn’t be so bad after all, seems kind of quiet.
He outstretched his hand and gave her a big smile, “Why hello there, my name’s Ben Zenith, what’s yours?”
She gave him an equally big smile while shaking his hand and said, “Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman!”
“I’m not English...”
It was not too long later that the oddly paired duo found themselves in a cafe, ordering a coffee and a hot chocolate for his ‘daughter.’ Ben himself had a map out on the table trying to plan the best route to get Alessa to her destination safely. Alessa herself, meanwhile was...
“Would youpleasestop that.”
“Because it annoys me.”
“Because I have a low tolerance for childish nursery rhymes!”
“Because I’M AN ADULT!”
“Okay, that’s it!”
He grabbed her by the hand and marched her out of the cafe, ignoring the stares they were, or rather he, was generating. Alessa on the other hand looked like she was about to cry faucets.
“B-but what about my hot chocolate?”
“I’ll buy you two hot chocolate if you stay quiet until we get there and do as I say.”
Alessa sniffled a bit but managed a nod before hurrying a little to keep up with Ben’s large strides. He held up the map of Callisto city and studied it, bearing in mind not to bump into people. He proceeded to look between the map and various landmarks several times before suddenly taking off in a random direction. Alessa being dragged by the wrist looked up at him.
“Where are we going?”
Ben rolled his eyes.
“To feed the ducks.”
No buildings, many exits and wide, open spaces where you can see a person travelling towards you from a far distance; the park. That’s why he chose it. As he saw another cafe he threw a smile to Alessa.
“What about that hot chocolate I promised you?”
Her face lit up with a 100 watt smile.
“Fee-fi-fo-fum! Let’s go have some!” She said practically shaking with joy. They walked over, ordered two hot chocolates and sat down on a nearby bench. Ben let his head hang back and Alessa began fidgeting with the buttons of her coat. The beverages arrived swiftly and the two set about drinking them.
“I think these hot chocolates are much better than the ones served at the other cafe.”
“Ya they got more sugar in this one!” She giggled and Ben gave a short laugh too.
The atmosphere fell into silence as the two enjoyed the view.
“Mr. Zenith... did your parents die too?”
“Yes they did.”
“They were caught in a terrorist bombing in San Guan...”
“Do you miss them?”
Ben scrunched up his face in concentration.
“I do... sometimes.”
Alessa nodded and hugged her legs.
Ben gave a weak smile and ruffled her hair.
“My, what a sad and most unfortunate tale.”
Ben jumped out of his seat, picked up Alessa and turned around. He was staring at a white-faced, scarlet haired manic looking clown.
“Pierro Parsifal.” Ben said in a completely neutral tone.
“Benjamin Zenith.” Pierro said in a fully anxious tenor.
The two stared down at each other ready to make a move, the tension was high, to seewhowouldliveandwhowoulddie.
And then Ben ran off towards the exit.
Parsifal stood there, looking completely bored. He then with one hand dug into his pocket and produced a handgun while with the other pulled on a ring attached to a near invisible wire and inflated like a balloon.
“Oh no, wait, don’t run.”
And with that flew after them.
Ben was doing something very uncommon to him, he was panicking. Or at least he wastryingto but every time he got close, the small weight that he was carrying around like a shopping bag wouldremindhim that he had ajobto do.
And since his job entailed getting a certain little girl to a certain destination he did what everyone did when they needed to get somewhere without any means of there own.
He called a taxi.
“Taxi!” He called.
A yellow car pooled up by the sidewalk outside the park and Ben immediately shoved Alessa into it followed by himself. He took out a handful of twenties.
“To Elmo’s Tower, pronto.”
The cabbie gave a nod, slammed his foot down on the gas and they sped off. He turned to Alessa and tried to give her a reassuring smile. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
“I’m scared, Benny.”
Ben gave her a hug.
“I know you are but you’ll be fi-” He was interrupted by the cabbie suddenly braking. Ben was about to let loose a fine series of swears but before he could even get the first one out the cabbie said “Is it Halloween already?”
A large clown shaped balloon was floating towards them, towardsthem!Ben quickly dropped the cabbies fare into his lap and turned to Alessa.
“Listen carefully, Alessa, I am going to get out of this car and distract the clown,” he ignored her cry of ‘no’ and continued “I then want you to run to that tower at the end of the street give them your name. Can you do that?”
She shook her head vigourously. “No! I don’t want Benny to die!”
Ben gave her hisrealreassuring smile and gave her a thumbs up.
“Are you kidding, haven’t you read the stories? Cool heroes like meneverdie. Now get ready. See you later, kiddo.”
Unfortunately that was the last time Alessa ever saw Benjamin Zenith alive.
His plan worked just as he’d thought and Parsifal was hot on his tracks. He took out his well concealed handgun and started returning fire on the murderous clown. Ben hid behind a stone pillar and tried to hit the floating clown.
“By the way Zenith... I think I’ve heard that name before?”
Ben said “I would think so; you’re talking to one of the best civil soldiers of The Ring of Apollo.”
“Hmm, doubt it.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
Parsifal paused for a moment to gather his thoughts.
“Well to be ‘one of the best’ I’d of at least thought that you’d have to be a better shot.”
“Oh, you mean like THIS!”
Like a hot air balloon that had been popped, Parsifal deflated, helium rushing out of the bullet hole in the float-suit that he’d been wearing. Unfortunately for him he’d been about 11 feet in the air and the sudden fall gave him as much shock as there was pain. Ben walked towards him.
“I wonder if you can still feel pain?” He kicked the mass of unmoving flesh and grinned as it gave a startled yelp. He pulled the clown to his knees, making sure to grab the handgun and throw it a fair distance away from the both of them.
“Now let’s get this straight up, buddy. Is Ego van Carr still the head of REEF!? Is he the one who sent you!?”
He shook the clown a little to showwhowas in the position of power and waited for his reply. The clown took a few weak breaths and with bloody eyes looked into his.
“I’m not telling you nothing.”
“Wrong answer.” Ben grabbed the assassin’s left hand.
“Mistake number one.” Ben grabbed Parsifal’s pinky finger. “You attacked the kid.”
“Mistake number two.” He ignored the clown’s scream of pain and moved onto his ring finger. “You attacked me.”
“Mistake number three.” He continued onto his middle finger. “You got distracted by your enemy in a fight.”
“Mistake number four.” He was at the index finger now. “You failed to do a background check on your mark’s bodyguard like, say, that he is adept in torture and interrogation techniques?”
“And finally, mistake number five.” Ben gazed icily into Parsifal’s own icy gaze. “You made five more mistakes.”
He’d never heard a man scream so high.
The tortured clown, both physically and mentally, laughed before flopping down on the ground.
“Before you do that, are you going to break your own finger?”
Ben narrowed his eyes shrewdly at him. “What do you mean?”
The clown smiled. “Imean that for one of the best you sure made abigmistake!”
Ben pulled him up by the collar so that they were facing almost nose-to-nose.
“What have you done!?”
“Well, you see,” he gave a laugh followed by a giggle, “I’m not a fighter but a lover, a lover of music. And what I plan on listening to... is a SYMPHONY OF DESTRUCTION!” He took out a standard model detonator and with his good thumb pressed the button.
Ben felt a small part of him die, along with Alessa as Elmo’s Tower was demolished in a set of explosives.
The day after the terrorist bombing, Ben Zenith in his blue leisure suit heard a knock on the door. He made the strenuous effort to get up from his couch to open the door.
“Hello, there Mr. Apelino.”
“Hello, my boy.”
Ben closed the door and made his way to the kitchen. “Do you want anything to drink?” he asked over his shoulder.
“No, nothing at all, I’m here on business after all.”
“As usual.” Ben sat down on the couch from Mr. Apelino.
“As usual.” Mr. Apelino agreed.
“Then as per ‘usual’ we best keep this short, sweet and to the point, right?”
They both shared a laugh at that before Mr. Apelino’s face turned solemn.
“It’s about Alessa...”
“...” Said Ben
“As you know, the reason she was under your protection in the first place was because she had been volunteered for a data transport task. That data is what we need.”
Ben looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“The data in question was a password, did she ever, even by chance, tell you a password?”
Ben hung his head back and stared up into the ceiling, as if he could see past it.
Apelino did. He rung up a number with his mobile phone and repeated the words into the receiver. His eyes widened after a few moments, followed by a smile. He ended the call.
“Well, the password was correct, and it’s just been confirmed that Ego van Carr is still the leader of REEF and with the new information that password will give us, we should be able to find him! Good work, Zenith, you really are one of the best.”
“So I’ve been told.”
Without any other issues, Apelino left, leaving him all alone... with himself. He passed his reflection in the mirror noticing that he looked a little less handsome then the day before.
He walked over to his Jefferson 2-26 model radio sat on an ornate oaken table...
“Thank you, for listening into PLC radio, where we promise that tomorrow will always be better than today.”