Review this story                                                            Stories # - L | M - Z | Authors

Breaking Point
The Capt. Conduit Saga
by Brad Blanton

The worn-out cot springs shrieked loudly in protest as John Sinclair carefully sat on his bunk. He wasn’t about to take for granted that they would hold his weight, but they did, just barely. He wondered how old those springs were. He imagined, as evidenced by the rusted spigot on his sink and the faded paint on the walls, that they’d been there quite a while. He remembered that prison cell luxuries such as new cot springs or fresh paint hadn’t been on the top of any of the maintenance department’s “To Do” lists while he was a prison guard in Alabama. Those things had rarely made the lists at all. Apparently the same was true here in Paragon City’s Ziggurat prison.

Thinking of his past in Alabama made him think about how he came to be in this cell. He was a superhero now, able to generate and control electrical current. He had come to Paragon City a little over two years earlier seeking to start a new life for himself, but he had remained bitter and angry about having to give up what he had considered a perfect life in Alabama. He had registered with Freedom Corps and with their help he learned to control his powers, he had earned his official Super Hero license and became an active crime-fighter under the alias Capt. Conduit. Though reluctant at first, John liked fighting crime. Fighting crime had given him an outlet for his frustrations because he felt like he was really making a difference in the world by capturing criminals. That feeling disappeared the night Joey Marcone escaped from prison and John was called in to recapture him. John realized that, since Paragon City’s courts did not believe in the death penalty, Joey Marcone would eventually be released from prison. So, instead of turning Joey over to the police, John had executed him. Since that night, John’s anger and bitterness began to surface more often. Criminals tended to have quite a few more bruises on them when he handed them over to the police. He hadn’t killed anymore, but he had made some wish they were dead.

The only time John wasn’t angry or bitter were the times he spent around his neighbor Mary and her children. They made him smile and reminded him of happier times. They were the only people in the world that truly seemed to care about him, he thought of them as family, and as such he would willingly do anything for them. It was, in large part, because of this that he now called this cell his home.

It happened on a Saturday afternoon while John was lying back on his couch watching television. He heard a loud crash that had nothing to do with the two cowboys fist-fighting on his TV screen so he hit the “mute” button on his remote. Listening intently, he soon heard scuffling, then the sound of glass breaking. He quickly leapt to his feet and quickly donned his blue and white leather costume, including his flowing cape. He’d gained a good deal of notoriety as Capt. Conduit, especially in this neighborhood, and whenever common street thugs caught a glimpse of his costume they generally chose to run instead of fight. He hoped that would be the case now.

He slowly opened his apartment door and cautiously peered out into the hallway. That was when he felt his heart sink to the pit of his stomach. He saw that Mary’s door was cracked open, and he could hear unfamiliar voices coming from inside her apartment.

“Just give us what we want, lady, and nobody gets hurt, “ said a rough male voice.

“But we don’t HAVE anything!” came the panicked reply.

He immediately recognized Mary’s voice and started toward her door when he heard her scream, “Benji, NO!!!”

John’s mind raced as he heard a dull, metallic “thunk” and a deep male voice cry out in agony. His hand was almost on Mary’s door when he heard the gunshot. John burst through the door just in time to see Benji, standing on the living room carpet, let an aluminum baseball bat slide from his hand onto the floor before he collapsed next to it. Beside Benji he saw another person laying on the floor, a young man wearing dirty jeans and an orange vest, rolling around and grimacing in pain as he held his kneecap, which Benji had, apparently, attempted to knock out of the ballpark. Mary immediately rushed to her son, tears streaming down her face, screaming in pure horror.

Another gunshot rang out and a bullet slammed into the wall next to John’s head as his noisy entrance succeeded in turning the shooter’s attention his way. As he dove for cover behind a kitchen countertop, two more gunshots rang out and bullets whizzed by, shattering glasses and plates that were sitting on the countertop to dry.

“Let’s get the hell outta here, Bobby, that’s Capt. Conduit!” one of the Hellions yelled over Mary’s pleas for help, “BENJI! Oh my God, NO!! John help him!!”

Mary knew he was Capt. Conduit. Benji and Michelle had told her about his “abilities” the day after they first saw what he could do. She had explained to the children why it was important that no one knew about his powers and agreed to never tell anyone. Under the circumstances now, John would forgive her for calling him the wrong name.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Go ahead, I’ll cover Mr. Hero here and be right behind ya” the shooter said.

John poked his head out from behind the counter just in time to see the shooter backing out of the window onto the fire escape. The Hellion noticed him and fired off another shot, forcing John back behind the countertop. John heard footsteps hurriedly running along the metal of the fire escape, so he leapt to his feet and rushed to the open window. The Hellions had stepped onto the vertical retractable ladder near the bottom of the fire escape and rode it quickly to the ground. John saw them rushing across the street into the alley.

“John! Help Benji, he’s unconscious!!” Mary yelled frantically.

“He’ll be ok, go call an ambulance, “ John reassured her. When she didn’t move he barked “Now Mary! Go call!”

He had never spoken harshly to her in all the time they had known each other. His harsh tone startled and frightened her, but she got up and hurried out of the room. When she was gone, he turned his attention to the crippled would-be burglar that was still writhing in pain on the floor. As the thief’s eyes met his, John wordlessly raised his hand where the criminal could see it and clenched his fist. The helpless man stared at the fist, and his eyes widened as arcs of electricity began to crackle and dance around it. With a cold, inhumane sneer, John quickly extended his arm and released the built-up current. The Hellion’s body, suddenly infused with so much current, convulsed and contorted unnaturally before laying motionless on the carpet.

John quickly turned, climbed out through the open window onto the fire escape and dove headfirst toward the asphalt six stories below. During his time as a hero, John had come to understand his electrical manipulation abilities and had taught himself how to do some pretty amazing things. One of the things he had learned was how to control the static electricity in the air around him, granting himself the ability of flight. Mastering this new ability hadn’t been easy, in fact, he’d broken more than a couple of bones while practicing, but master it he had. Flying, now, was almost second nature to him. He stared intently at the quickly approaching asphalt, building more and more speed as he fell. At the last possible second he adjusted his trajectory to be parallel with the ground, no more than a foot above the asphalt. He quickly flashed across the street, nimbly dodging between, around and over cars, and into the alley the two Hellions had entered.

John spotted his prey, still running as fast as they could, some distance ahead. He gained enough altitude to speed past them without being noticed, and landed directly in front of them, causing them to come to a sudden, frightened stop in the alley. The shooter still had his pistol in his hand and raised it to fire. John quickly raised his arms and, taking a step forward, clapped his hands together with all his strength. The resulting thunderous explosion of air and electricity shattered nearby windows and blew the thugs to the ground leaving them stunned and holding their ears. John stepped toward them slowly.

Anger and disdain filled his voice as he snarled, “You maggots picked the wrong people to mess with this time!” As he spoke John became more and more furious.

“You made a BIG mistake going after friends of mine!”

Arcs of electricity began to crackle to life around his hands.

“It’s not enough for you to mug people on the streets” John shouted, “now you have to break into people’s homes?!”

Now living electrical current, seemingly feeding off of his rage, surrounded John’s arms and shoulders.

“You terrorize helpless women,” he screamed, “YOU SHOOT CHILDREN!”

Just then a bolt of electricity arced from John’s shoulder to a nearby electrical transformer causing it to explode loudly in a shower of sparks. The two Hellions, still lying on their backs, shielded their faces from the sparks with their arms, but John didn’t even seem to notice.

Now John stopped screaming. Instead he lowered his head and saw his clenched fists, surrounded by electricity and trembling in rage. Calmly, softly and in a voice that sent cold chills through the two criminals, he said, “It’s time to ride the lightnin’ boys.”

John closed his eyes and concentrated on the energy building within. He could feel it growing stronger, much stronger than he’d ever let it before. His whole body trembled as he struggled to contain the power, until he could no longer hold it in.

John opened his eyes and screamed in feral rage as he released the pent-up electricity toward the condemned. His voice was unheard, however, as the bolt of lightning exploded from his hands with a thunderous blast that dwarfed his comparatively tiny vocal cords. And even though he was wearing his protective tinted goggles, the flash from the blast was enough to wash out his sight for several seconds afterward. John dropped to his knees in total exhaustion; sweat running down his face from the exertion. He’d put everything he had into that blast. When his sight returned, John could barely recognize the charred remains of his victims smoldering on the ground before him.

In his blind fury, John had failed to notice the police patrol sentry robot, that had been dispatched to investigate reports of explosions being heard in the area, hover up behind him. It caught his attention when its public address speaker barked out, “HERO DESIGNATED CAPT. CONDUIT, YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR MURDER. REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE, OR YOU WILL BE SUBDUED BY FORCE.” Knowing that those patrol bots also carried a stun gun that could bring down just about anybody, John could do nothing but put his hands behind his head and surrender.

“CAPT. CONDUIT MURDERER?” the headlines had screamed. The authorities had arrested him under his superhero alias, and the media was having a field day. The Federal Bureau of Superhero Affairs protected the identities of heroes at all times, even when they were on trial for murder. He had even had to go to court in his costume. He’d been assigned a public defender that tried to argue that John didn’t realize he’d put that much juice into his blast. But when the District Attorney showed the video taken by the patrol bot, he knew the jury would never believe it was an accident. Also, the fact that Benji had survived the shooting, ironically, actually made the DA’s case even stronger. His defense lawyer said that if Benji had died, then he could have gotten more sympathy for John out of the jury.

At the end of the trial, when the jury returned a guilty verdict, John had already mentally prepared himself to accept his fate. When the judge banged his gavel to signify the trial was over, John had stood to return to his cell. That was when he felt a tug on his cape. He turned, expecting to have to face another reporter waiting to stick a microphone in his face, but what he saw instead nearly brought him to his knees.

The familiar 8 year old, curly blonde-haired girl looked up at him through red, puffy eyes with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her voice cracking as she tried to speak through the tears, Michelle asked him:

“Mr. Sinclair, why did you have to kill those men?”

Those beautiful blue eyes that had so often melted his heart now broke it as they were filled with the disappointment and pain that his actions had caused.

Sitting here now, in his cell, remembering that moment, John’s own eyes welled up with tears. As the full weight of what he had done and where he was came crashing down upon him, he began uncontrollably sobbing into his hands. After a moment, he spoke aloud to no one in particular:

“My God, what have I become?”

The Captain Conduit Saga:

    Review this story