Extra Pulp From the Mind of Tommy Hancock
Welcome back to IDEAS LIKE BULLETS and I'm glad to say someone has taken the first shot!! After I posted the outline for THE NINTH CIRCLE in my last column, three fellow writers and I visited and THE NINTH CIRCLE is now an idea that will be a four story anthology in March, 2011 from Pro Se Productions! This is how this column should work!
Today's idea from Hancock's six shooter of imagination is actually a modern take on a golden age concept I developed. I'll cover the original character (who is also open for use) first, then let the segment concerning his modern counterparts speak for itself.
The character's name is PERSONA. The original Persona was Gabriel Vincent, a sailor on a luxury ship in 1941. Vincent assisted a group of saboteurs in setting explosives on a ship. Realizing that the intent was to destroy the ship and all its passengers instead of just cripple the vessel, Vincent doublecrossed the spies at the last minute and attempted to evacuate the ship and stop the explosion. Although he helped get over 100 people evacuated in time, he was unable to evacuate to save everyone. In a last minute battle with the saboteurs, Vincent was standing literally over the experimental bomb (using some sort of unknown radiation) when it exploded. Vincent was the only survivor of the non evacuated pulled out of the water. As he recovered, he learned two things: 532 people died on the ship...and Vincent, his face horribly scarred...had the ability to become any of these 532 people he wanted to, down to their memories.
The piece you are about to read is from a story written sometime ago and introduces an idea that, well...takes advantage of the original Persona's tale. You'll see...and no, the really cool assassin who is a part of the scene is not available as he, Patch Tatters, will be a titular character in my upcoming THE VARIED ADVENTURES OF PECULIAR ODDFELLOW novel.
Anyone interested in either Persona or the Persona Project, let me know. I will retain rights to the concept, but what you do with them is really up to you. let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Taverly looked at his employee again. The man was well built, wore nothing but black, down to the eye patch over his right eye. His coal black hair was short and currently matted to his forehead. "I just hope you've not misled me concerning your ability to eliminate him, Mr. Tatters."
The man grinned mischievously. "Please, Taverly, call me Patch. All my employers do. And speaking of misleading," he raised his left hand, his fingers holding a tiny cylinder, "I believe you may be more fluent in that than myself." He pressed the end of the cylinder with his thumb.
The burst of light was almost explosive. Taverly shouted, his voice rising to almost a scream and never lessening. He stumbled back, throwing up his arms. As he did, something happened. The colors of his suit and his skin shifted, mottled together. For the briefest instant, Taverly's entire body seemed to run as if it were a fresh painting caught in summer shower. He dropped to one knee as the mixed colors faded, starting at his feet and going up, faded to a pure white. His form also changed, contorted and shrunk to that of an athletically built young woman.
"Damn..you." She looked up at Patch Tatters, her eyes squinted. He offered her a hand up, but she slapped it away and stood on her own. She stood rather tall for a woman, nearly six feet, and looked nothing like Taverly. She wore a white costume, full body suit and full face mask. Thick white hair cascaded down her back in full curls. Her face was almost featureless, except for two black slits where her eyes must have been.
"Sorry about that." Patch Tatters lowered the light in his hand, but, using his right hand, undid the holster on his leg and pulled the specially outfitted pistol from its holster. "Didn't know you were a lady." He snickered. "Don't guess it'd have mattered, though."
"What..what did you do to me?"
"Nothing, really." Patch raised the pistol, not out of fear, more out of caution. "Once I figured out who...or at least what you were, it was just a matter of disrupting your concentration. You Persona types have to work like demons to keep up your illusions. Especially when you go transgender, I understand."
The woman stood still, studying him. As she regained composure, her posture changed, showing her confidence, her poise, even a hint of arrogance. "I know you didn't make me. I'm better than that."
Tatters laughed. "I don't know about that, but you're right. Most of you who survived the Persona Project have one fatal weakness. Probably the reason the program was discontinued. You all develop markers, some distinct characteristic, gesture, or abnormality that you just can't help but display. You all have it, but I understand that some of you have learned to mask it excellently." He nodded his approval of her ability. "No, I found out you weren't Taverly quite by an accident of your poor research. I checked into Taverly's background, just as I would any employer. Verified his physical appearance, employment with a government agency, even his shoe size and penchant for tailored suits. And the fact that Quentin Taverly died seven years ago in an 'accident.' One I'm assuming you caused. After that, the leap to you being a Persona wasn't long."
"Aren't you a little genius?" She sneered, completely unimpressed with the man she'd paid 100 million dollars to kill the Public Defender. "How, pray tell, does a common murderer know so much about the Persona Project?"
"You forgot again," Tatters playfully chastised. "I'm going to have get new business cards that explains this better. I am in the business of dealing with people with extraordinary abilities for money. That usually means making sure they don't ever fly, shape shift, or fire death rays again. For a man in my profession, research is key. I know all I need to know about most heroes and villains. For instance," he walked closer to her, the gun still leveled at her chest, "I know that the Persona Project was a failed private enterprise experiment of the late eighties. Based on the accident that gave the original Persona, Gabriel Vincent, his powers in 1941, a conglomerate of businesses selected twenty five people to undergo extensive tests and treatments, hoping to give them the power to assume any form."
"Problem was," Tatters said, walking around her slowly, enjoying his monologue, "the scientists involved didn't know that Vincent's power revolved around the fact that Vincent's power consisted of being able to become any one of the 532 people that died on the ship that exploded with him on it. Your 'creators' didn't know that since they mimicked the same events, that they were dooming all of you to the same fate. To only being able to assume the identities of those who died around you or due to your actions."
"We..we were let go." Her voice faltered, but only slightly. "Twelve of us went insane, were 'dealt with' onsite. The other thirteen were just let loose. We were nothing when it was over. Just blank...white slates. They had erased us and left nothing but shells. Shells that could only be filled by the deaths of others. Some of the others went out and became villains, but most of us went to work for governments, mercenary groups, anywhere we could work at adding to the identities we could use. There aren't many of us left. Six, maybe seven."
"You," Tatters asked, unsure if she'd answer, "How many have you killed to become them?"
"341." She laughed sadly. "You'd think it'd be hard to remember that many, but it's not. It's quite easy when they are what makes you a person."