Felicio Chapter 27 – Aftermath

The night was long. A fine rain poured down relentlessly. It had been going on for hours and even though the drops were gentle they had turned to the ground to a muddy slosh. Alan Lang stood under an umbrella, the fine streaks were pattering down all around him. In one hand he held a cup of steaming tea, but it was mostly filled with rainwater now. He took a sip and his face twisted in disgust. He looked out over the scene before him. The madness had ended and the arena seemed peaceful once again, but all around were the remains of those victims who had been crushed in the mania. Broken bodies were being dragged through the mud by medical personnel, trying desperately to save those who were still breathing. Most of the bodies were lifeless sacks of flesh. ‘A senseless tragedy,’ Alan thought. No-one had really known how the whole thing had started. One minute things were normal, then everything exploded. The only thing he did know was that Edukation was the cause.

“You don’t have to be here,” Lauren said, squeezing his arm. He looked at her hand and then at the people milling about around them. She withdrew it, glancing away.

“I do. Until we find out who’s responsible this is all on us.” He crunched the polystyrene cup in his fist and threw it on a nearby table, walking away from her. She looked at him desperately, wishing that he would let her in behind his barriers, but those walls had been up for so long she wasn’t sure anything could tear them down.

He walked on through the rain. All around him the medics called out to one another, even now people were still being pulled out. It was almost like the remnants of a warzone, he thought, but there was no battle here, no cause that was fought for. The stage was now a broken mass of wood and metal. Shards of sharp, broken pieces sat up in a jagged formation. Wires crawled across the ground, hidden amongst the mud and muck. The great metal structures that had toppled onto the unsuspecting crowd had been heaved across to allow the medics to prise away the people trapped underneath them, but the rain had yet to wash away the smears of blood that stained the metal. With each step his heart grew heavier and with each glance at another dead body he lost another little piece of his soul. ‘Or was the last of my soul used up long ago, and all that’s left inside me is dust?’ He couldn’t find an answer. What with the riots and now this it was like the city was falling apart, and it was taking him with it. At least Felicio had been quiet recently, although he wasn’t entirely sure whether that was a good or a bad thing. Frankly he was surprised that the vigilante hadn’t showed up here to prevent this tragedy, but then again who knew what went on in the mind of someone who dressed up to fight crime.

 

***

Peter heard the rain patter against the window as the rosy sun peeked across the horizon. He sighed contentedly as he looked down and saw Stacey’s perfect face resting on his shoulder. In truth his body was beginning to ache and cramp up after lying in the same position for so long but he dared not move for fear of disturbing her peaceful slumber. Her lips were slightly parted and her breath felt warm against his skin. As he kissed her head she gently shifted her position and nuzzled further into him. He drowned in her scent and relived every moment they had shared, and his heart swelled so much he feared it would burst. Never before had he felt so much intense passion for someone, and part of him was afraid that it would slip away yet there she was in his arms, and there she would stay.

Time wore on and eventually she turned over, and Peter was able to free himself. By this point his belly was growling so he searched for cereal and turned on the radio. As he crunched the cereal he gazed out of the window and absent-mindedly listened through the advertisements until the news came on.

 

And now the latest from the tragic accident that happened late last evening. Bugle Park is still cordoned off as the emergency services try and help the victims of the tragedy. The death toll continues to rise and we still don’t know the cause of the riots, but this, coupled with the recent criminal activity has led some to come out and…’

 

The news drifted off into the background. Peter staggered back and the bowl crashed to the floor. Milk spread around his feet although he didn’t notice the coldness. He barely noticed anything. A sick feeling rose up through his gut and all his strength sapped from his limbs. Suddenly he felt gaunt and hollow, as if his essence had been ripped out of him. Upon hearing the commotion Stacy leaped out of bed and rushed to his side.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice trembling.

“I…I should have been there,” he said, and pushed past her. He grabbed some clothes and before Stacy knew it he was gone. Then she heard the radio, and it became clear, but all she could do was wait and hope that he returned.

Never had a night felt so bleak and never had a journey seemed to futile. He hoped against hope, but something inside him told him to expect the worst. He reached Bugle park and saw all the vehicles parked and all the police guarding the entrance. He skirted around and found a place that no normal man could reach. He rustled through the underbrush, not feeling the sharp branches scratching at his skin. When he emerged he saw the devastation, and wiped the rain from his eyes in disbelief. He wandered out trying to catch Stephanie’s scent but it was impossible, so he had no choice but to follow the stench of death. The medics had catalogued the bodies and were waiting to take them to the morgue, but while they were still there Peter took the opportunity to creep among them and search for his best friend. With everything else going on nobody paid him any attention, and with every face he saw he felt a mixture of relief and pity, until eventually his worst fears were realised. She looked so…peaceful, but so un-Steph-like. ‘It can’t be her,’ he thought, and yet it was. He held her cold hand but it didn’t grip back. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he should have said, and so much she would never hear. He let her hand slip away from his and ran through the mud back to Stacy. As he sprinted he wasn’t sure where the rain ended and where his tears began, but as he reached Stacy he collapsed at her knees, and she fell to the floor with him.

“I should have been there,” he said through gasping breaths, “I should have been there to save her, to save all of them.”

“You couldn’t have known,” she said soothingly, trying to reassure him, but it only served to make him more agitated.

“No, I should have known. It was my duty to be there. I should have seen it…of course. All those people on Edukation. I could have saved her.”

“These things happen, it’s not your fault, you can’t take all of this on your shoulders.”

He looked up at her, his bloodshot eyes seemed so different from the ones that had professed love just a few hours earlier, after they had been lying in the blissful aftermath of passion.

“Yes I can, it’s what heroes do.” She couldn’t find a response for that, so she held his shuddering body as he mourned the loss of Stephanie. 

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Felicio Chapter 26 – The Other Side

Peter was sitting on Stacy’s bed with his head in his hands. The burst of passion had subsided and all his doubts and fears were pouring out of him. The floodgates had been opened and for the first time in his life he was allowing himself to be vulnerable. Stacy sat beside him in silence, not wanting to interrupt the flow of his speech. She sat there waiting, her heart swelling after each word that escaped in his cracked, fragile voice.

“…and they came at me. What was I supposed to do? I hate this, it’s like before I was in this cocoon and I was safe and ever since I’ve become Felicio I’ve been exposed to so much. The world is a horrible place. Everything I’ve seen over the past few months…I always used to think that people were basically good, that in the end everything would turn out okay but now I realise that’s just a lie people tell themselves to fool themselves into thinking we’re actually doing some good here. Sometimes I wonder what’s the point. This Michael…his plans are so much bigger than me. What can I really hope to achieve? And now he’s hired these assassins. I’m just one man…not even a man. I’m just a boy. But that’s only now. When I’m wearing that suit something else takes over. This deep part of me comes up and washes over me and just strips away everything that I hate about myself but even then I don’t like some of the things I’ve had to do as Felicio. But I have to do them, to fight them I have to use this darker force inside me. And I’m just…I’m so scared that one day I’ll snap and I’ll forgot everything and all that will be left is this dark thing, and I’ll be no better than them. But I can’t let them win. What they’re doing…all this Star Children crap, it’s not right. And it’s only the beginning. I need to stop him here and now because if it gets any bigger I won’t be able to do anything.”

“Can’t you tell the police?” Stacy said softly.

“The police hate me,” he said.”

“I meant as you, not as Felicio.” He’d forgotten that they were only after Felicio.

“With what? I have no evidence. They’re not going to believe some kid. Besides, I know how these things work. He’s got money, and if I accused him who’s to say he wouldn’t hire an assassin to kill me? Or the people I love…” He glanced up at her, his blue eyes gleaming, and blushed. She smiled back and squeezed his arm, moved closer to him and rested her head on his shoulder.

“I know you’ll always protect me. And I’ll do whatever I can to help you.” Peter sighed.

“Sometimes I just don’t know…and on top of all that I have to figure out what my life as Peter is going to be like. The only thing that makes sense to me is Felicio but somehow I have to find some way to be happy as Peter, and I have no idea what to do. The truth is I never felt myself as Peter, I always felt like I was born into the wrong body, or the wrong place or time. I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged anywhere, except when I’ve been Felicio. And when I’m with you…but as Peter I don’t know what I’m supposed to be. I’m so unsure about everything. It’s like I’m still a child. But when I’m out there, I feel alive. Like it’s what I was always meant to do.” Stacy smirked and cuddled up to him.

“You’re putting far too much pressure on yourself. I don’t think most people know what they want to do with their lives, things just happen and you go with it. I’ve just been lucky.”

“I don’t want to just live though. You know what it’s like, it must be the same for you and performing. Like there’s something burning inside you and if you don’t let it out you’ll end up being half-alive, like a shadow of yourself. That’s what Felicio is. But sometimes I’m worried that I won’t be able to balance the two sides of me.”

“There are other things to life. You can’t be obsessed with one thing. I mean, I know it’s a big part but there’s so much more. You could travel, you have your friends, you have me.” Peter listened but he didn’t seem entirely convinced. Then she leaned in and kissed him, and he started to become persuaded.

                        At one point he broke off, her sweet breath still hot on his lips.

“I meant to tell you,” she kissed him again, “Steph invited us,” and again, “to a concert,” and again.

“We could go,” she replied, “or we could stay here and I’ll show you everything life has to offer,” and as she said this she pulled her top over her head, and Peter gasped as he gazed upon her perfect body.

 

Meanwhile, Stephanie was standing outside the arena waiting for Peter. The event was close to starting and she could hear the crowd chanting, but she wanted to wait. She tried calling him but there was no answer, and she worried that something had happened. Chewing her lip, she glanced both ways down the street to see if she could see him, but they were mostly barren. Before Felicio she wouldn’t have been so worried, as Peter had a tendency to drop off the radar, but now he was constantly putting himself in danger she couldn’t help but think of the worst. She looked nervously at her watch and tried calling him once more, but when there was no answer she reluctantly went in.

She made her way through the crowd as the first band started to play. There were so many people she recognised from college. The arena was a makeshift stadium in a park that was in the centre of town. Lots of marquees ran around the edge in a circle while the stage was a huge scaffold. There were no seats, instead the audience were herded together, tightly-packed in the land in front of the stage. Stephanie noticed that they seemed more energetic and hyped up than usual, and even though the song was mediocre they were screaming with wild abandon. This carried on through the other bands, and Stephanie began to worry as she recognised a number of people as ones she and Peter had identified as Star Children. She tried calling Peter again, but again he failed to answer.

Looking around, she thought something seemed wrong, although she wasn’t sure what. Her heart beat faster, and her instincts told her to get out but everywhere she looked there were people blocking her way.

Suddenly the whole atmosphere changed. The music stopped and she looked up. Someone had thrown something on the stage. The singer hurled abuse at the offender, but then he was silenced as a bottle whacked him on the head. He collapsed, the microphone making a thud that squealed through the speakers as he fell. His bandmates dragged him offstage as other missiles were falling all around them. A lot of the crowd were now like animals, there bestial nature coming to the surface. They moved like a swarm, and Stephanie was barraged one way and then the other, terrified at what was happening. At one point she was thrown to the ground and all she wanted to do was curl up, but she was so afraid of being trodden on that she managed to push herself up and get taken along with the current. Everyone around her seemed to be moving with purpose and seemed to be conscious of their actions but there was something in their eyes, something that had taken control of them, and for the first time in her life Stephanie actually thought she might die.

Peter and Stacy were writhing in bed, by now they were in a state of complete undress. At first Peter had almost trembled under her touch; so nervous because his body wasn’t used to the sensations, but the nervousness quickly turned to excitement and their hot breath washed over each other’s glistening skin. Their hands groped and stroked, their mouths opened and shut with quick gasps and intense sighs, their tongues licked, their teeth bit and their bodies came together and Peter felt as though he was going to burn in a blaze of passion. With each thrust the intensity grew, and everything apart from Stacy, even Felicio, slipped away from his mind.

As they were engaged in the act of love Stephanie was running from her life. Twisting and turning through the crowd she tried to find a way out, but every way only seemed to lead to more danger. The world seemed darker. There were bottles flying and fights breaking out. The air was filled with screams and the floor was littered with bodies that had been crushed. Then everyone stopped and pointed at the scaffolding. She squinted, and saw that some people were climbing up the side, trying to reach the top. ‘Oh God no,’ she thought, and then it all happened too quickly. The scaffolding couldn’t handle the weight, and when most of the people reached the top it started to topple forward, and before they could climb down the big structure fell forward, crashing down into the crowd. Those who had climbed were tossed from the sky, and fell on the fleeing people. With an almighty creak the tower fell forward, to Stephanie it appeared to happen in slow motion and it was as if she were paralysed. Eventually she tried to run but it was too late, the tower collapsed and she was crushed along with the others around her. ‘Peter, help me,’ was her last thought, but as she was screaming in agony he was a world away, screaming in ecstacy.

Swagbucks – Be Rewarded for Being Online

I’ve had quite an expensive August so last week I was looking at some opportunities to make some extra cash online. I’ve tried the online survey thing before and all the sites I tried seemed to promise a lot but rarely delivered. I looked around a bit and I came across Swagbucks,  and everything I read was positive so I decided to give it a try. I’ve been using it for a week now, so I thought I’d give you my impressions.

I know that a lot of my followers are writers, and obviously it’s not the most lucrative endeavour for most of us so it’s always good to have a bit of extra money. Plus, we’re online a lot so it makes sense to to be rewarded for something we’re already doing. Swagbucks is a website that gives you rewards for searching, playing games, taking surveys and watching videos. It has a good vibe and over 1 million likes on Facebook. Swagbucks are points that you can trade for rewards, usually they’re e-giftcards but if you get enough swagbucks they do have cash rewards available. I managed to reach 849 swagbucks in 5 days, and that’s enough for a £5 Amazon gift voucher. 3 days later and I’m almost halfway there again, so if I keep this up I’m looking at £20 in Amazon vouchers this month! 

So, how do you earn swagbucks? 

Surveys: This is where the big swagbucks are. When you join you fill out personal information and Swagbucks will send you surveys they think will suit you, according to the information you provided. So far I’ve been getting at least one a day, and some of them have been worth 100-200 swagbucks. They’re simple and won’t take up much time. It’s important to answer honestly, but I think you can fudge the answers a little bit, especially in order to qualify for the survey. If you don’t qualify you still get a swagbuck, and usually it won’t be long until another survey is available. 

Special Offers: Swagbucks works in conjunction with some other companies to bring you special offers. If you sign up to one you’ll be able to earn swagbucks for doing so. For example, at the moment you can earn 714 swagbucks for signing up to Lovefilm and get 2 months for the price of one. Some of the offers are entering competitions and honestly some of them do seem a little scammy, so use your best judgment if you decide to sign up to these. Usually if they ask for my phone number I’m wary, and I never give out my card details. I’ve also set up another e-mail account just in case I get hit with a lot of spam. 

Shopping: I haven’t tried this yet, but for those of you that shop at certain stores you can earn swagbucks for shopping. Starbucks are offering 2 swagbucks per pound spent, Kobo is 3 swagbucks per pound and Body Shop is 5 swagbucks per pound. If you’re planning to shop through one of these stores it’s nice to get a little something back. 

Playing Games: There’s a game section of the site where you can play casual flash games. It’s nothing too intensive and you can earn 10 swagbucks a day. They do claim it’s possible to win up to 100, but that’s only by entering tournaments, and judging by the high scores some people get I don’t think it’s worth it. There are a number of games that are quick to play, and you earn swagbucks by playing a game two times. For example Fyoozd is a game that has a 1 minute time limit, so I play that to speed through them and get my 10 swagbucks. 

Search: They like you to use their search engine and at random intervals (usually three times a day) they’ll reward you with swagbucks, just for searching! It’s not quite as accurate as Google, but it turns up reliable results. Don’t keep repeating searches just to earn swagbucks, just search normally and if it hasn’t happened come back and try again later. One day I earned 52 swagbacks (that’s not the norm though, but usually I get 10-20 a day from searching). 

Watch Videos: The basic idea is that you watch 10 videos and receive 3 swag bucks for doing so. It sounds like a waste of time right? I mean, who wants to sit through ten videos for a measly 3 swagbucks. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to. The video counts after at least 20 seconds, and then you can skip on to the next one. Some of the videos are actually quite entertaining, there are a lot of “Top Ten Fun Facts” about celebrities, and they have movie trailers too. You only get rewarded for watching each video once per day, but it’s easy to rack up the swagbucks. I just mute the sound and leave them playing in another tab while I do something else. It’s quite handy, especially for us writers; I often just flick over and skip to the next one while I’m thinking about the next sentence to write. If you’re on the computer a lot this is a good way to make the time count, and it’s just great that you can leave them running while you do something else. 

Social Media: Liking them on Facebook gives you an extra 5 swagbucks. It’s good to keep up with the news and postings anyway, and sometime they’ll have hints or tips to give you some extra rewards. They have a twitter page too, and a blog, which is worth checking out. 

Swag Code: Every day (I think it’s just once a day, but I’ve only been using it a week so sometimes they may have more) they’ll release a code, which can be found either on their blog, the Facebook page or the Twitter page, that you can enter into the site and get a reward (usually it’s only a nominal amount, but hey, might as well right?)

Daily Poll: They have a daily poll that is just a question posed by another user, and by answering it you get one swagbuck. You can also submit a question and if it gets chosen to be the poll of the day you get a bonus reward. 

Toolbar: By installing their toolbar you get one swagbuck every day you open the browser that it’s used on. Honestly, I’m not a fan of toolbars and I’m sure many of you savvy computer people share my disdain for them, so I was reluctant to install it at first. However, it is quite handy. There’s a search bar so you don’t have to keep going to the main search page, an icon that keeps you up to date of how many swagbucks you have in your account, and a button that lets you check if there’s a code available. Having said that, I did notice that it slowed my browser down and in the end I uninstalled it from Chrome. Now I just have it on Internet Explorer and open that up once a day to get the swagbuck (again, it may not seem worth it, but over a year that’s 365 swagbucks). 

Daily Goal Bonuses: On the top left hand corner of the main page there’s a tracker that tells you of the daily goal. So far it has ranged between 50 and 100, and I’ve made the daily goal every day bar one (my time was limited that day). You get a 10% bonus (today’s daily goal is 90, so I get 9 swagbucks as a bonus for reaching it) and these bonuses are dished out at the end of the month. It’s a nice little incentive and it’s quite easy to reach the goal. 

Referrals: If you refer someone you they will match every swagbuck that person earns through search. So if you do decide to sign up I’d appreciate it if you use this link – Swagbucks. :)

Overall, I’m glad that I signed up. It’s reliable, rewarding and there’s a sense of fun and community about the whole thing. They give their users a lot of little bonuses, which I really appreciate. With a lot of these things it takes a long time to actually see any return, so it was refreshing that I’ve already been able to cash out in my first week of use. I’d definitely recommend it because it’s just a good idea to be rewarded for things that you’d normally do anyway. 

Kick-Ass 2 Review

For those of you that follow me, you may have noticed a lack of movie reviews recently. This isn’t because I’ve been taking  a break from watching movies, it’s because I’ve started writing for a website called Flickering Myth! It’s a really cool website with some great features, reviews, news and other fun stuff so go check it out! A couple of other people are covering Kick-Ass 2 so I’m able to post my review on my blog. 

It’s a really fun movie, probably not quite as good as the first one but it was damned enjoyable. Obviously, if you’ve seen the first one you know there’s going to be a lot of bloody violence and a few scenes that will make you wince, so if you’re squeamish it’s probably best that you avoid it. I also should mention that there is a post-credits scene, which I and my friend missed because we’re idiots. 

The film is structured well, although a few bits were predictable, including some lines. I find it interest that it’s called Kick Ass when really Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the star of the show, and this is more about her character development. Kick Ass (Aaron Taylor Johnson) himself doesn’t really change throughout the movie. The rest of the cast was great, and Christoper Mintz-Plasse was just hilarious with some quotable lines. I’m very impressed how a character can be so funny yet so dangerous at the same time. 

I do feel, however, that the film goes against its own rules sometimes. They keep saying ‘this is not a comic book’, and yet there are moments that aren’t realistic at all. I mean, I don’t think Hit Girl should be able to take as much punishment as she does. Most of the time it is a realistic film, but Hit Girl seems to have an extra factor. Maybe it’s just because she’s so badass. 

One thing I really didn’t like about the film was the fact that some elements from the first film were just abandoned without much impact. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but there were some things in the first film that Kick Ass strived for, and they were simply pushed aside with a mere line or two of dialogue. I think this may harm re-watches of the first film. Also, it was quite unclear how much time had passed between the two movies. It doesn’t matter so much when you’re watching it, but it’s one of those things that you wonder about afterwards. Another criticism is that the final speech doesn’t really mesh with what he’s setting up to do, and while the first one had some relevant points about the reality of being a superhero I think some of the issues addressed in this film are brushed away in favour of having something shocking happen.

There were some really nice touches from the director. I loved how subtitled dialogue was in dialogue boxes, and I liked the mirroring of Kick Ass integrating himself into his superhero team while Hit Girl was trying to become popular at high school. 

Overall it’s a very entertaining film but Hit Girl really is the star of the show. I think it’s quite damning that a 15 year old girl is more heroic and inspiring than Superman was in Man of Steel. It’s fun, it’s quotable, and even though it’s a little predictable it won’t take away from the enjoyment. 

Felicio Chapter 25 – Shafted

“I expected a tougher challenge, you disappoint me Michael,” William Withers the Third said, bow in hand. Skan was silent beside him.

“Mmm well, perhaps I overestimated him,” Michael admitted.

“Don’t think that means you can reduce my fee.”

Our fee,” Skan growled. William narrowed his eyes, bent down and examined Felicio. After a few moments he stood up. “I don’t see a sword stuck in his back. We’re not teaming up here Skan, I still haven’t forgiving you for Budapest.”

“It wasn’t my fault you were taking too long to get the job done.”

“These things cannot be rushed, there is a certain elegance in killing, I thought you would have understood that.”

“Oh I do, more than you know.”

 

While they squabbled, Felicio lay on the floor. The arrow had torn through his flesh and scraped against his bone, the tip of the arrow nestled in a fracture. Blood was sputtering out and staining the wooden shaft, and pain coursed through his body in steady, intense waves. His mind was slow and feeble and everything seemed so far away but the voice in his soul spoke, that same voice that had been with him ever since that fateful day in the museum. ‘Be strong. You are a child of warriors. Surrendering is not in your nature.’ The words were sharp and clear, as if they were a scythe slashing through the overgrown hazy mess of thoughts in the jungle of his mind.

 

“Take him away and dispose of him,” Michael ordered.

“Do you wish him unmasked?” William asked. Michael considered it for a moment as he looked down upon the fallen hero.

“No,” he ultimately decided, “he was nothing but an inconvenience, he was probably just some loser looking for some meaning. Let him die as a masked man, no one will ever know who he was.” William and Skan hoisted Felicio up, the hero groaning as they did so, and dragged him out of the room. Michael sighed as he saw the deep dark stains that had been left on the carpet by Felicio’s blood. He picked up his glass and took a sip of his drink, then walked over to the window. The wintry gloom made it appear as if a curse had spread over the city, as if a mystical darkness was enveloping it in a shroud of despair and misery.

Ahhh first this small town and then the country. And who will they look to help rebuild it and save their children from this horrible fate? Me. And I’ll gladly say yes. If only father could see me now. He who said I wouldn’t amount to anything. Well now who’s rotting in the ground while I’m about to control a kingdom.’

“Here’s to you father,” he said bitterly, raising the glass to his lips and draining the whiskey from it. His smug mood of moments before had been soured by the memory of his father, and he was unaware that his grip was tightening on the glass until it shattered, and the shards cut into his hand. Grimacing as he watched the blood flow freely, he pulled out the fragments that had caught in his skin and placed them on the desk. ‘I suppose a little more blood won’t make much of a difference.’

 

“Where are we taking him?” Skan asked, breathing heavily.

“To the kitchen. I find industrial ovens are a good way of getting rid of bodies.” Skan looked at him with disgust.

“You’re so barbaric.”

“When you’re my age you’ll look for the most expedient way to dispose of bodies too.”

“It’s a long time until then old man.”

 

They two of them walked through the bowels of the tower, as if there were dragging a prisoner to the dungeons of a castle. William was tall and lean while Skan was stocky, but they were both in good condition so they had no problem supporting Felicio’s weight, but what they didn’t realise was that while they were shuffling along Felicio was slowly but surely regaining his strength.

 

“I’m surprised Michael didn’t call in Pierre,” William said.

“Didn’t you hear, Pierre died?”

“No, really?”

“Oh yeah, you know how he always liked to meet his targets face to face? This one was paranoid and he had poison-tipped gloves just in case anyone tried to attack him. They shook hands and that was it.”

“Poison-tipped gloves? What a clever idea.”

“I know, I wish I’d thought of it.”

“Poor Pierre though, I’ll miss him. He owed me three thousand.”

“He owed everybody.”

“That’s one way to get out of debts I suppose.”

 

They kicked the double doors of the kitchen open and all the staff looked at them in shock.

“Alright everyone out, chop chop be quick about it chaps,” William said. The staff bowed their heads, and quickly shuffled out of the kitchen. The room was steamy and the smell of sizzling meats and spices hung in the air. As they walked through Skan and William picked at the cooked food.

“Not bad,” William said.

“Wouldn’t eat here after tonight though.”

“Wouldn’t eat here at all, who knows what Michael is lacing the meals with.”

They set Felicio down and went to inspect the oven. It was already turned on, and they could feel the heat bathing their faces. Skan put on oven gloves and opened it, removing the metal grates to create a box of death. After preparing the oven they took a moment to look at Felicio.

“Aren’t you a little curious about who’s under the mask?” Skan asked.

“A little,” William agreed. The two men looked at each other. Even though Felicio was sat hunched over with an arrow sticking out of his back there was still a part of them that felt trepidation. Skan tentatively moved towards Felicio, reaching out his arm. The kitchen was searing with heat and a sheen of sweat covered his brow. He licked the salty drops off his lip as they trickled down his face, and just as the tips of his fingers brushed Felicio’s mask something sparked inside the hero. Before he could react Skan found his arm bent at an unnatural angle and his face was inching ever nearer to the hissing scream of a pan. Without remorse Felicio pressed down and forced his eyes shut as he tried to quell the rise of vomit. Skan’s screams filled the kitchen and William was horrified as he watched his associate’s flesh char and turn white and became mottled. After a few seconds Felicio released his grip and Skan fell to the floor, cradling his arm, too shocked to cry out in pain.

                       

After he recovered from his shock, William fumbled at his bow and tried to ready an arrow, but Felicio was too quick and in the cramped quarters of the kitchen William didn’t have enough room to manoeuvre. Felicio stepped past Skan’s body and mercilessly strode towards William. To the old English gentleman, Felicio seemed like a titan towering above him. ‘Those eyes,’ he thought, terrified by the mask, which gave no hint of the man underneath. It was like nothing William had ever encountered before, and he found that his wits had completely left him. In the delirious heat his trembling hands let the bow fall from his fingers. Felicio took the final step forward and sent William crashing to the floor, head spinning and blood flying from his mouth. Felicio put one foot on one end of the bow and lifted the other end, snapping it in half. William watched on and cried out, almost as if it was one of his one bones.

                        Felicio walked through, remorselessly silent, leaving the two assassins defeated on the floor. With a grim resolve he returned to the top of the building, looking to confront Michael again. The arrow still jutted from his shoulder, but the pain had become a part of him. However, when he entered the room he found it empty. His blood had dried and crusted on the carpet, but he was surprised to find another, smaller patch near the window. As he looked out at the shadowy city he saw a car drive away, and he clenched his fists in frustration.

 

Felicio made his way to Stacy’s house. He tried to reach around and pull the arrow out, but he only succeeded in breaking off a part of the shaft. When she opened the door he collapsed into her, and she carried him to her bed. He pulled off his mask; she expected to see pain in his eyes but all she saw was anger.

“Should I be worried?” she asked. Her first instinct was to collapse into panic, but Peter was no ordinary boy and his calm composure gave her strength.

“No, I’m fine. I just made a mistake.”

“You should really go to a hospital?”

“Just patch me up, I’ll be okay,” he said, pain was something he was becoming used to.

“Are you going to tell me what happened?” she asked as she went to the bathroom to get some bandages. Ever since she had started dating Peter she had stocked up on basic medical supplies.

“It’s…” and then a sudden realisation dawned on him, “did you ever take Edukation?” he said, his words were slow and hesitant as if he was afraid of the answer.

“What?”

“Even if it was just once, just tell me.”

“No! I was never involved in that, I told you, I wasn’t involved in any of that,” but as she looked into his eyes she could see that he didn’t fully believe her.  

“I wasn’t.” And then Peter knew that he had made a mistake.

“Okay! I’m sorry, I’m just, I’m worried that’s all.”

“Yes, well, here’s a tip, try to believe your girlfriend when she tells you something,” she said icily. Suddenly the pain from the arrow wasn’t anywhere near the pain in his heart, for in his inexperienced, fragile mind the slightest hint of dispute could be the precursor to their relationship falling away. He could either stay quiet and let the silence fester within him, or he could do what he did, which was to yank the roll of bandages from her hand, throw it around her neck and pull her down. At first she tried to resist, the initial anger from his hurtful look hadn’t yet passed, but she soon softened and all the pain was forgotten. 

Exclusive! Superman vs Batman Plot Revealed!

Yes, you read it correctly, this mild-mannered blogger is proud to be able to reveal this world exclusive, the plot to the much talked about Superman vs Batman movie, scheduled for release in 2015. My source at Warner Bros. (a very reliable source, she’s responsible for bringing Henry Cavill his Custard Creams) had this to say, “They [Zack Snyder, David Goyer] realise that a physical confrontation is difficult because of the difference in power levels, so they’re going to focus more on a battle between the intellects of the two men by pitting them against each other in a series of board games.” 

Can Batman use his detective skills to figure out the mystery identities in Cluedo and Guess Who?

Will Superman’s farm-boy frugality triumph over Batman’s financial acumen in Monopoly?

Is Batman prepared for the maelstrom of chaos that is Hungry Hungry Hippos?

Marvel! At the World’s Finest testing the limits of each other’s patience. Gasp! When an argument breaks out over whether Superman using his x-ray vision in Battleships is cheating or not. Prepare! To be on the edge of your seat at the tense climax as the two heroes enter a race against time…as they play Buckaroo.

Witness the two legends as you’ve never seen them before. Superman vs Batman, coming 2015. Experience the excitement in IMAX 3D.

 Directed by Zack Snyder

 Starring Henry Cavill as Superman, George Clooney as Batman, Adam West as Alfred and introducing Mr. Monopoly as Lex Luthor.

Felicio Chapter 24 – First Blood

Peter walked through college. At first everything seemed normal but then he heard the fast patter of feet. A girl called Jacqueline ran past him, screaming, ‘Morning! Morning! Morning! Morning! Morning!” in a high-pitched voice. She was running so frantically that she ended up spinning, losing her balance and clattering into a wall. She promptly crumpled to the floor, unconscious. Peter checked on her; her pulse was racing. Then, his attention was caught by some more noise. He walked into the heart of the main college building and was met with complete bedlam. Doors were flung open, paper was strewn about, and everyone was manically destroying everything they could get their hands on.

Peter walked through with a look of horror on his face. His peers had descended into rabid animals. Either the teachers had deserted the area or the students had…well, that didn’t bear thinking about. He had half a mind to don Felicio’s mask, but there were so many of them and he didn’t think they really deserved to bear the mark of Felicio. He would save that for the ones responsible…

                       

There were so many people he recognised tearing through the halls and the classrooms. As he peered in the doors he saw the upturned tables and chairs, it was a maelstrom of chaos and he felt so powerless to stop it. With this and the recent rioting in the town centre it seemed to Peter that human nature was inherently destructive, and he wondered why he was even bothering to save them from themselves. Sometimes his mammoth task felt so futile, as if he was wading through the tide of the darkest parts of the human soul. Yet then he thought of Stacy and Stephanie and Emma, and all the good that was in the world, if only people took the time to realise it. In that moment his heart was filled with hate as he thought of all those who sought to tear it down; he had to make them pay. In the distance he hear the wail of sirens. The police would be here soon to clean this mess up, so he changed into his costume and went to seek the man responsible.

 

Felicio raced across town. He knew where the one responsible would be and he was determined to bring him to justice. He wasn’t particularly close with the Star Children, but nobody deserved what was happening to them. The town was still being repaired from the night when Ash led the riots. Windows were still boarded up and the brickwork was still charred. So much destruction…and what for? He asked himself. He couldn’t come up with an answer. It was almost as if this part of town had been forgotten. Car wrecks littered the streets as if it were a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In the distance he could see the arena where he took Ash’s life, and next to it was the pristine white building that should have been covered in the blood of all the lives it had taken. It rose high and towered over the broken area, and as he approached it Felicio gritted his teeth, somebody had to pay.

When he reached the building he used the same pipes and ledges to climb up, his limbs twisting in ways he never would have thought possible a few months previously, but it was all second nature to him now. He pried the window open; the room was empty so he crept in and rifled through the drawers, although he couldn’t see anything of interest. On the other side of the door he heard footsteps, so he nimbly leapt to the other side of the room and hid behind the edge of a cupboard. The room was large, taking up most of the floor. Michael Rowell entered and sat at his desk, another man came in with him and shut the door. Felicio was in the middle of the room, where a cupboard sat against the wall. Felicio didn’t need to look, he could tell where the men were by the sounds of their breathing and their footsteps. To the other side of the room was another desk and more chairs, and at the end was a large window. The building had an indent in the middle, which meant that the window of a room in another part of the building looked in on the room that Felicio was in. He waited a few moments for the man to leave, but when it didn’t happen Felicio sprung out, and before either of the men could react Felicio hit the other man with a sharp right hook which floored him.

“Ah, it’s so nice to see you again,” Michael said coolly, “please, have a seat.” Felicio curled his fists into balls and pressed them into the surface of the desk; if he’d have put his full force onto it the desk would have snapped.

“I know you’re behind this. I want to know why, why are you doing it?”

“Doing what?”

“Don’t play coy with me. I know you’re the power behind Edukation and you’re the one that made the Star Children go crazy.”

“I wouldn’t say that, I think if you’re going to take drugs you should be aware that they’re going to have negative effects. It’s sad really, but I suppose there’s no helping some people.”

“They need help from you.”

“As far as I know you’re not from the police, and you don’t have any evidence, and you’re trespassing on private property.”

“I don’t need evidence. I know the trail, are you going to tell me Lewis being here is a coincidence? Don’t take me for a fool.”

“Oh I would never take someone dressed in a costume like that for a fool,” he smiled contemptuously, “and I don’t see why I should tell you anything.” In a flash Felicio pounced over the table and had Michael by the throat, letting the tips of his claws dig into the man’s soft flesh.

“You remember what I did to your lapdog Ash,” he said.

“That is a quite compelling reason,” Michael said, Felicio enjoying watching the sweat form on his brown. Felicio released him.

“Talk, or I’ll give you a mark deeper than the one I gave Lewis.”

“I suppose there’s no harm telling you since there’s nothing you can do. It’s quite simple, you see, you may think that the endgame of this was to make these children go crazy for some reason but you would be entirely wrong. I care nothing for these people, they were but a test sample. The only ones who can profit from chaos are those who know it’s coming. So we introduce Edukation, which will probably have to be re-branded now, which is mostly harmless really, and then when a certain number are hooked we give them the other pill and we let events unfold as they will, and today was just the beginning” he said, sounding smug.

“And what about all the people whose lives you ruin?”

Michael shrugged, “I don’t force Edukation upon them, only provide it to willing parties. I am not responsible for what other people do with their lives. You have a rather narrow view of the world don’t you? There are good people and bad people, and the ones in between are just there to be saved. It’s quite sweet really.”

Why is he not scared?’ Felicio thought. He unsheathed his claws but still Michael didn’t tremble. As Felicio raised his arm to strike he heard a ‘whoosh’ and before he could react he cried out in pain as the arrow punched into his back, just below the shoulder blade. Even with his enhanced abilities the strike was enough to send him to the floor. Michael got up and walked over him.

“You should probably invest in some better armour.” It wasn’t long before the archer entered the room. He looked at his prey and smiled.

“I guess that’s first blood to me,” William Withers III said. 

When a Bad Review Isn’t So Bad

Getting a review is always exciting, there’s the moment of sweet anticipation that either leads to elation or despair. Everybody likes a good review, I’m not going to lie, if I get one I walk around with an extra spring in my step. Bad ones however, well, depending on the content of the review they can often plunge a day into darkness, no matter how brightly the sun is shining. And yet a bad review isn’t always as bad as it may seem.

I used to think the hardest thing about writing was actually working up the courage to share it with others, but I think the hardest thing is to get people to give feedback on the books. Recently I got in touch with a few people, and so far I’ve had quite positive reviews for ‘Fraudulent’ and ‘I, Tomorrow? and Other Stories’ but ‘Angelic Hellfire’ has come in for some criticism. Surprisingly it didn’t bother me that much, I mean, obviously no-one likes to hear that somebody didn’t enjoy their book, but I think there are two main reasons why you wouldn’t like the book; either you don’t like the writing style or you don’t like the story.

It’s a lot harder to take when somebody doesn’t like your writing style because it’s something that is very hard to change. I’m not sure about other writers but I’ve never really put much thought into how I write, I just write in the way that comes naturally to me. So that criticism can sting a little, but if someone doesn’t like the story it doesn’t bother me too much, because not everyone will like everything, and if there is a major problem (like a massive plot hole) it’s something that can be fixed. My stories often have a lot of angst and with ‘Angelic Hellfire’ there’s a big shift in tone between genres, which I think people find jarring (although in my mind it is an organic development). If people don’t like angst that’s fine, obviously my stories won’t appeal to them so I don’t feel too bad, I just hope that the people who do love angst discover my books! 

Red 2 Review

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Red. I remember liking it but not as much as I thought I would, given how everybody raved about it. I have to say I really enjoyed the sequel. It was fast paced, funny, and everybody got a chance to shine. Even Bruce Willis, who sometimes can be a tad…subdued, seemed like his heart was in the film. The story wasn’t anything special (Willis’ and Malkovich’s characters are framed for being involved in a secret mission and they have to find out the truth all the while being hunted by various governments) but what sells the film is the chemistry between the cast and the slick direction. 

With a number of characters in different countries it would have been easy to lose focus, but there was a nice animated cut to show the country we’re travelling to. The action set-pieces were dynamic and visceral, and at no point did the action seem repetitive. All of the cast were on top form, even the supporting characters (Brian Cox in particular did a lot with just a few minutes on screen). At one point I thought there was a danger that some of the main players would be put to the side, but those doubts were swiftly dealt with. 

Despite all the big names included in the film I think Mary-Louise Parker stole the show. I loved her jealousy of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character and all the comedy that came from her relationship with Frank Moses (Willis). Anthony Hopkins was great too, and after his performances as Storm Shadow and now this movie I’m becoming quite a fan of Byung-Hun Lee. Also, Neal McDonough really resembles William Shatner. He almost looks like someone melded the two Captain Kirks. 

The only negative thing I do have to say is that the resolution of the plot was a bit predictable and arbitrary, and it seemed to happen because they needed the film to end, not because it felt organic. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the film though because the plot was secondary to the chemistry between the actors. It’s a fun two hours and it’s well worth seeing.