Break

I still drink my coffee from mugs. I can’t use the handle, of course. I have to sip my drinks through a straw.. Yet, I still like using mugs. There’s just something about the design of a good mug. When I first received this curse and and thought I could use it for good, I practiced on mugs. With cups and glasses, a small touch would break the whole thing. There was no stopping the break once a crack started with those. With a mug though, I could practice control. I would touch the handle and try to halt the break at the joints. I would touch the body of the mug and try to keep the handle in tact. Eventually I got to where I could touch the mug at any spot and only the handle would fall off. I had to only touch it for a second. Any longer and it would continue breaking, but it had me believe I had mastered control of what I then called my ability. The practice was meaningless though. The techniques I learned were useless when the form I was breaking changed. I had to break a lot of arms before I could break just the hand.

Every day my coffee is served in a different mug.Well, not always different. Sometimes I don’t break the mug after I’m done, and those pop back up. I will be breaking this one after I finish my coffee. Number One Boss. I get it.

I sip on the coffee and watch the briefings scroll by on the monitors before me. I can control the feed with an eye tracker, but the default scrolling is what I need for the most part. Seventeen died in a fire last night. There will need to be an investigation to see if anyone needs to be broken for this. If it’s arson, it won’t go public. We’re a week away from two years free from crime. Can’t have the streak broken by something as minor as that. Besides, it’s not like the perpetrator will go unpunished. They’ll just go without publicity. Even if it isn’t arson. Someone still may need to be punished for this. We can’t have faulty wiring or buildings or anything else that someone has a hand in being subpar. We have gotten rid of crimes. Not we have the hard part of discouraging laziness and shoddiness. Utopia is a finely tuned machine that must have it’s faulty gears and cogs broken and replaced. Though maybe its something else. Perhaps the inspectors are intentionally letting things go so they can blame me and oust me. I log a note to look into that.

I read the morning briefings. Mostly budget squabblings that are below my concern. Plans for the crime-free festival upcoming. Major geopolitical stuff that mostly has no bearing on us. I sip the last of the coffee and go to break the cup. I don’t need a mug to tell me my place.

I bring my cup up. The graphic on the cup twitches. I pause. The Number One Boss text spins to the other side of the cylinder and is replaced by a mouth and a pair of eyes.

“Hello.”

“Uh, hello.” I lower my cups.

“I’m Muggy.”

I blink.

“But you can call me boss on account of my tattoo.” One of the cartoon eyes winks.

I bring a cup back up and point it toward the mug.

“Remember the break-in last month?”

I stop. What can this mug know of that?

“I know who did it. I know why they did it, and if you keep me around I can tell you everything.”

My assistant meets me outside my door.

“Can you get me another coffee for this meeting?”

“I will have a cup waiting for you in the meeting room.”

“Make sure it’s that mug I have in my room. No worries if that delays it.”

“Oh, okay. Yes, sir.”

I take my time walking to the meeting and the mug is there waiting for me. Everyone is waiting for me. They can’t really start without me. I smile and sit down and someone I appointed stands and starts speaking. I don’t listen. I watch as they present charts and graphs about efficacy and budget, but my eyes keep returning to those on the mug.

“You can hear it in her voice,” says the mug. “All of these facts and figures are just a smokescreen. They keep reporting these generous figures to lure you into that sense of security. Meanwhile, nothing is secure. When was the last time you walked the streets out among your people.”

I think. Just last week I went to the opening of that new park. Does that count?

“You know that doesn’t count. Surrounded by guards and personnel. Insulated from the outside like someone holding my handle is insulated from the heat I contain.”

When was the last time I actually went out without a whole entourage?

“The safest place in the world, everyone around you claims while never leaving you alone. Are they afraid of violence against the bringer of peace and safety? They’re shielding you from the facts; keeping you misinformed so they can depose you.”

“Excuse me,” I interrupt her. ‘I’m sorry to interrupt. Good presentation and all, but if I don’t ask now, there’s a chance I won’t remember.”

Slight laughter from those around the table. A laughter at my self-deprecation or an inside joke about a believed mental decline they intend to seize on?

“Would it be possible to get access to the raw CCTV feeds in my office?”

She is stunned for a moment. A dumb question or is she thinking of a reason to deny me access fearing what I may find?

“Are the daily reports and accompanying footage, not to your liking?”

“No, those are great. I just want access to quiet my mind every so often, you know?”

“I understand sir. We can have a monitoring station installed in your office by next week.”

Stalling or actual timetable? “Great. Continue. Sorry, again, for interrupting.”

She smiles, but I can tell she’s annoyed underneath. She continues presenting how safe the streets are. Is this truly propaganda for an audience of one? She finishes and gives way to the next speaker. I forget his title, but he’s talking about the plans for the festivities marking the second year without crime.

The mug starts talking over the man and his words about the logistics of the planned events. “You think the heroes will let this happen?”

When was the last time I had to deal with those super-powered do-gooders trying to topple my nation? Destroy everything I’ve built here.

“It’s been too long. They’ve been planning something. The big celebration would be the perfect opportunity to strike too.”

I clear my throat and the man presenting pauses waiting for me to follow-up with something more.

“Logistics are important, but my mind is on safety first.”

The man sits down and Michon’s right-hand man stands in his place. Everyone calls him Elo even though his name is something longer I can never recall. “No threats currently on our radar that haven’t been dealt with.”

Poor speaker or obfuscation? “What an odd way to phrase that.”

“Sorry, let me clarify. We are already on top of anything that could possibly be a threat. There were rumblings about a planned demonstration by the FFFUCR that has been ferreted out and dealt with.”

“Is that the Freedom Fighting whatevers?”

“Fighting For Freedom Under Corrupt Regimes.” He smiles. Because of their absurd name or perhaps he believes my regime to be corrupt, illegitimate. Something he shares with an unlikely ally?

“Any others?”

“A few smaller ones not worth mentioning. Honestly, with FFFUCR out of the picture, it will be smooth sailing.”

“And Aegis?”

Everyone freezes.

“Seems you hit a nerve,” says Muggy.

Elo shuffles at the front of the room unsure how to answer my question. Michon stands up in front of him.

“Aegis won’t do anything. You know this.”

“He’s lying. You know this.”

“How am I to know this exactly?” I ask. “No word of them on my security briefings.”

“Because they’re of no threat.”

“No threat to him once they’ve taken you out.”

“No threat? A group of super-cops is no threat to a state they deem as illegitimate and headed by a villain?”

“Aegis is yesterday’s news. They haven’t been relevant on the world’s stage since Amy disappeared.”

“Amy’s back.”

“Yeah, Amy’s back.”

“And that’s all the more reason they aren’t going to come crashing our parade.”

“Actually, we don’t have a parade planned for—”

“Metaphorically speaking. She was the bedrock of Aegis and it collapsed without her. What they’ve built since then is back in shambles with her reappearance.”

“And you know all of this because . . .”

“Because I’m head of security and I’m well aware of the situation here and abroad. And that’s why you shouldn’t second guess when I tell you that Aegis is not worth thinking about, let alone worrying about.”

“He’s lying. He’s lying to protect Amy and overthrow you and—” and I reach out and touch the mug. The cracks feel preordained. They run in lines across the surface and then connect with the lines on the other side until what once was whole is in pieces. The coffee inside spills from its carcass and across the table. The people seated nearby grab their folders and papers to keep them from getting wet, but do not dare stand and flee. I stand and leave the room and the mess behind.

He knocks on the door but doesn’t wait for my response to come in. He knows if I didn’t want him in here, I could have barred his keycard working.

I hear the door close behind him, but I don’t turn to face him. I focus on the ice baths before me.

“Are you alright?” he asks.

I plunge my cups into the icy water. If he says anything as a follow-up it’s drowned out by the noise the baths make. I feel the ice suspended in the water. I feel the molecules of water bonded to one another. Then I feel them break. I feel the ice crack and dissolve. Their rigidity fails and the solid becomes liquid. Then the bonds between the water molecules break and they float away. It feels like the one time I’m able to let loose with my curse. The one time a day I’m able to just let my hands do what they want instead of the constant restraint. It’s not much. And I’m not truly unrestrained. But for one moment each day, I allow myself to feel the power without burden.

“I’m worried about you.”

I turn around to face Michon. His face is full of worry. Actual concern or . . .

“You can talk to me,” he says.

I break. I feel tears well up in my eyes. “I can’t lose all this.”

“You won’t. You’ve got such a great team here. We’re all working to keep this place working for your vision of good.”

“It feels like I can’t trust anyone. Everyone seems out to get me.”

“There’s no one out to get you. One, all of these people admire you and respect you. You inspire everyone here. Two, I’m your head security officer. If anyone were planning against you, I would know about it. And then shortly after there would be no one planning against you.” He chuckles.

I swallow. This is harder than I thought it would be. “What about the break-in last month?”

“An anomaly. The flaw in the system has been dealt with. There was no nefarious cause behind it.”

“Why are the details always so scant on this subject?”

Michon’s turn to swallow.

I turn away from him and towards the computer. “They gave me those raw feeds I asked for. They wanted to wait until they could install a whole mess of monitors, but I insisted I wanted the access now. They gave it to me, because who would ignore a request from their ruler. See, I wanted to see what had triggered the alarm.”

Michon starts to speak, but I don’t let him.

“I know. I know. You said it was nothing. A malfunction of the system. An anomaly. You’re fond of that word. But I scrubbed through the footage and . . .  it appears that you are right. I had been paranoid about nothing.”

“See—”

“But then you know how paranoia is. You can’t stop scratching even if the itch has fled. So, I did some digging. They have this live stream. It’s a stupid little thing. They set it up so you could always see the flag this here nation flying high. Some citizens going the extra mile to display their pride for their country. I don’t get it personally, but I did find it helpful. Because the flag it watches is that one right outside of our fortress here. And just beyond the pole that displays the flag of this great nation, well, it’s your window. Now, the resolution isn’t great enough to see what you’re up to in there, so don’t worry about that, but it is enough to see that you had a visitor the night of the break-in. One capable of flight. One that had just recently returned from an absence.”

It was Michon’s turn to have tears well up in his eyes. He swallows back a lump in his throat. “It wasn’t . . . I can explain it.”

“Please do.”

Michon’s mouth starts moving, but I can’t hear his words. A voice is talking over him. I can’t focus on either at first, but the other voice overpowers Michon’s. It’s a whisper, but still louder than Michon’s in the end. I look to my right to see where it’s coming from. Muggy. No longer a mug, but the visage of one, faintly glowing, perched just above my shoulder. Its cartoon mouth mouthing only a single word over and over. “Lies.”

I pace around the room as I had been doing for over an hour.  Waiting was the hard part. No, waiting was the easy part. Asking would be the hard part. Asking from a despicable being such as him. I shudder. The computer monitor across the room lights up with the call.

“Answer,” I say aloud.

“I hear you have a request.”

It takes all I have not to hang up on him. “Yes.”

“Well, I’m sure whatever it is, we can work out an appropriate payment. Perhaps some diplomatic immunity. Maybe set me up with a workshop in that little country of yours. Could be nice to be in such a crime-free environment.”

I take in a deep breath. Don’t let him rattle you. “We can work out something I’m sure.”

“So, what is this request of yours?”

I look down at Michon’s broken body. “I hear you’ve been making some robot clones. I need one.”

 

The End.

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