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November 26, 2017

The Dividing Line


He was never destined to be one of the Supers that dominated the news each day, showing off their gifts and how great and admirable they were. He was never destined to be Mousy Martin Munn who worked at a Big Buy repair center, either. No, he was born to be the one that used his gift of his own free will, to be the one that even the Supers talked about.
Did that make him a villain? Just being who he was instead of what the world told him to be?


 THE DIVIDING LINE
 By Beth Brown

 
     The incessant screech of an alarm clock filled the tiny apartment. As soon as the sound reached through sleep and pulled him into yet another day, Martin groaned.
     He stepped, bleary-eyed, through cast-off electronic parts catalogs, schematics, and empty plastic soda bottles to the dim bathroom. He avoided a glance at the mirror on his way to the toilet because it would show him exactly what he didn’t want to see. He raked a hand through greasy hair and gave half an attempt at smoothing his disappointing mustache, but he knew he still looked like mousy Martin Munn.
He went through his morning routine, one so well practiced that you could mistake it for pre-recorded, and prepared for another shift. As usual, he hoped today would be the day something at work actually surprised him.
 He locked his door as quietly as he could and crept slowly and carefully towards the stairs. When he had only a few yards to go, the sound of sliding lock chains made him quicken his pace.
“Oh, Martin! I’m so glad I caught you!”
Tensed, but forcing the most polite expression he could muster, he turned to see his neighbor Mrs. Kasinski leaning out of her door in a housecoat and curlers. Her tiny stature paired with the puffy pink rollers in her white hair made her even more cartoonish than usual, a feat that he didn’t even know was possible. “Hey, Mrs. K, uh… I’m just off to work now.”
“Yes, I figured as much. You’re so punctual and all,” she grinned. “I was wondering if maybe when you get back this evening you might be able to help me with my computer again? It was working so well after you fixed it up for me last time, but now it’s doing all kinds of strange things. I can’t seem to get to my niece’s photo albums at all. She just got another cat, you know? I’m dying to see it!”
“I’ll try and stop by later,” he said, slowly backing towards the stairs.
“Oh, thank you, dear! I did tell you about my niece, didn’t I? Judith? She’s about your age, and single, too,” she said. Martin tried his best not to flinch when she waggled her brows to punctuate the statement.
“Uh, you did. See you later, Mrs. K.” Without apology, he turned and darted down the steps. Social niceties weren’t exactly his forte.
On the subway, he did as usual and stared at the floor. Nobody ever noticed, and that was fine with him. The other passengers were rapt in digital tablets or the screens of mobile phones. Martin had no desire for either--he dealt with more electronics than your average person during his workday and had no reason to punish himself with more.
His thoughts drifted back to Mrs. Kasinski’s request to fix her computer yet again. An involuntary sigh escaped him, but no one on the train even glanced in his direction. He’d removed more viruses, malware, and other junk from that woman’s desktop than he could count. Every time, he’d explained to her about how email attachments and messages from people you don’t know were the likely causes, but she never seemed to let the lesson sink in. It was tiresome.
Martin knew he was jaded. He didn’t care. What his mother called his “special spark” was not so special to him after twenty-something years of using it to help people who thought that circuit boards would respond if you whacked the housing of the gadget hard enough. She’d warned him to keep his gifts a secret, that other people might be jealous or frightened. To Martin, that just meant lots of unwanted social interaction, so he’d taken his mother’s advice. Lately though, his thankless job and the constant requests for computer help from his neighbor were making that secret feel like more of a burden than a gift.
Maybe today would be the day he showed them all how much they really should be thanking him for.
He drew a deep breath of defeat. He knew he’d have to get over a lot of his awkwardness before he could ever pull off anything like that. “Man up,” as his dad used to say. With his routines, his job, and his quiet time, he could control the spark now, even though he sometimes didn’t want to.
The train rumbled to a stop and jostled Martin out of his thoughts. He walked the few blocks from the station to the Big Buy without so much as a glimpse up from the sidewalk. At the repair center at the back of the store, he punched his time card and wondered for the millionth time why a store that sold cutting edge technology still relied on a time clock. Before taking his usual position at his workbench, he grabbed the clipboard by the door to the repair room and noticed the intake log for the day was especially full.
“Whew! I’m so glad you’re here. I was starting to worry that you might be sick or something,” said a voice from behind him. Martin didn’t need to turn to know it was Lydia. She was the only girl who worked in the repair center, and her voice was unmistakably sweet and musical. No doubt that’s why she was at the counter instead of in the back--she had a way of soothing customers with her friendliness.
“Why would you think I might be sick?” He peered over his shoulder to see her moving closer. His heart sped and he teetered on the edge of panic.
“Because you were like two whole minutes later than usual!”
“Oh. Uh, yeah. I guess it was the train,” he mumbled.
“How about that intake, huh?” She pointed at the list in his hand. “What a mess. Some crazy virus got through a ton of filters and security programs last night, so now everyone piled them on us on a Monday.” She turned to take her place behind the counter, but stopped short. “Oh, I almost forgot! Jordan is out taking care of some on-site stuff, so I don’t know when he’ll be back in to help in here,” Lydia said.
Martin felt his day was suddenly perking up. Jordan was an over-cologned douchebag who went to a technical school because he lost his college scholarship when he tore something in his knee and couldn’t play football anymore. He moved to New York to try and be an actor, but he used his IT certification to pay the bills. He wasted his time when he was in the repair center, unless you count the time he spent trying to flirt with Lydia.
Martin hoped he wouldn’t have to see Jordan at all that day regardless of how many dozens of computers were there in the service queue. As though she has heard his thoughts, Lydia leaned in and whispered, “Maybe if we’re lucky, he’ll get stuck servicing a call center or something.” His eyes darted to hers, but just for a moment. He was too stunned at the comment to respond, but he managed to work out of huff.
Lydia smiled and took her post. She was calling a handful of customers to let them know their computers were ready for pick-up when Martin finally pulled his brain out of the haze and got his feet moving into the repair room.
Machines filled every service rack on three walls, four shelves high, and almost completely covered the workbench. He puffed his chest and stood tall, as if the computers were an enemy army and he a general about to defeat them.
Each machine wore a sticker printed with a customer number, a brief description of the complaint, and the intake date and time. Lydia was good at her job, which included moving the computers into the repair room and making sure they were stored in order from earliest in until latest. A quick scan of the tag on the machine at the center of the workbench revealed that she hadn’t been exaggerating when she said that people were piling them up that morning--it had been the first to arrive and came in just over an hour ago.
“What the hell is wrong with people?” Martin hissed. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you can’t win a Nigerian lottery if you’ve never entered one.” He rolled his eyes and removed the screws holding together the case with his electric screwdriver.
He reached inside and let his fingertips hover just over the motherboard. Slowly, he moved his hand lower and stopped over the hard drive. A prickling sensation began to spread from his fingers, into his palm, and then to his arm. He let his mind move through the sensation, feeling it jumping and skipping from neuron to neuron and out through his hands in an invisible thread.
His mind reached the hard drive and sifted through its contents like sand until he found what he was looking for. The virus was raw and ugly, not quite what he’d expected for something so insidious, but it had latched firmly onto the data. A strange blend of annoyance and admiration rose up in him directed at the creator of such a thing. Elegant viruses were like careful predators. This ugly beast was clumsy but incredibly effective.
Again, that unfamiliar twitch of a grin appeared on his face. This was not an infection built by painstakingly slaving over a keyboard. It was too organic for that. Whoever was responsible for this was young, and they were most certainly daring. Martin could tell that they also had a gift not unlike his own.
As he felt the surge release from his fingertips, melting the virus into an almost-undetectable wisp of ozone, he recognized the admiration and irritation he’d felt as something like envy. That realization annoyed him even more.
“So what?” he muttered. He replaced the computer’s outer shell and then moved it to the rolling cart at the center of the room. “I could show him a thing or two.” His brow furrowed and he noticed the envy bubble even higher in his gut.
Martin moved through the rest of his day mechanically. He listened for Lydia on the phone or at the counter with customers, and when he was sure her attention was elsewhere, he did what he did best. While he dissolved virus after virus, his thoughts swirled and became darker. He was a kid once, just like the creator of the nuisance that was clogging up his Monday, but he’d never thought to do something so inconsiderate or destructive. Sure, the internet hadn’t really been a thing when he was younger, but newsgroups and digital bulletin boards were just emerging. The telephone infrastructure could have given him an outlet for all kinds of mischief and malice, but he’d kept himself in check. “A gift like yours can help so many,” his mother had said. If she could see him working like a hamster in a wheel to “help” people who were too dumbed-down by their own devices to help themselves, then she might have a different opinion.
Martin seethed. More viruses dissolved. It was nearly five o’clock when he started to open the case on the last computer in the repair room, but Lydia’s voice carried under the crack in the door and caught his attention. There was something odd in it, something that made her turn towards the corner and talk in hushed tones. Martin stilled to listen more closely.
“Yes, that’s right. Lydia Thompson. Yes. Well, I’m calling to find out if there’s any way you can avoid charging me another late fee this month if my payment is made before the fifteenth? Are you sure? But I can pay by phone!” A sigh. “I’ve had this loan for three years and I’ve only recently had any trouble making payments. You can’t make an exception just this once? Yeah, I’m sorry, too. Thanks anyway.”
She hung up the phone with a bit too much force just as Martin turned to look through the repair room door. Jordan walked toward the repair center with his usual swagger right before quitting time. He pasted on a cocky smile, “Hey there, feisty, the customers getting under your skin today?”
“No, Jordan,” Lydia said. Her tone was unusually flat and her words clipped. Jordan seemed not to notice and continued with this syrupy chatter.
“Oh, some choppy relationship waters then? You know what can help take your mind off of that, right? Let me take you out for a drink tonight. Come on, it’s been a long day.”
Martin saw a muscle flex in her jaw just before she responded. “I’ve told you before that I’m not interested. Besides, I have to work my other job tonight--Jolly Fats, remember?”
“I remember. Repair desk by day, hot waitress by night. I sure love a lady that brings home the bacon.” Jordan leaned on the counter a little too close and Lydia tried to step back, but the corner stopped her.
“Listen, Jordan, it’s been a bad few weeks. My roommate moved back to Kansas and now I’m scrambling to make her part of the rent on top of the mountain of student loan debt I already have. I’m not in the mood for jokes. Or dates.”
She pushed past him and rushed for the repair room door. Martin turned back to his work just in time for his eavesdropping to go unnoticed. “Hey, Martin, I just… Oh my god!” The surprise in her voice made him jump, dropping the mechanical screwdriver with a clatter.
“I’m so sorry, but whoa. Are those all done?” she asked.
He pivoted to see her gaping at the collection of computers nearly spilling from the rolling cart and those stacked on the floor around it. All of the wire shelves that were filled that morning stood empty. “Yeah. All finished,” he said.
“No way. No. Freaking. Way. You are amazing, Martin!” He stole a glance at her huge smile just as Jordan squeezed past her. The look on his face didn’t match Lydia’s. At first, Martin swore he saw a jealous look flash across Jordan’s features, but it was quickly replaced by non-chalance. He raised an eyebrow, feigning that he was unimpressed.
Martin could feel his chest tighten in anger. His skin flushed and he tried to hide the tremble that rose in his body by clenching his teeth.
POP!
Everyone in the repair room jumped at the noise. Martin tried to play it cool as he turned back to see a wisp of smoke rising from the rear vent of the computer on the workbench. A computer that wasn’t even plugged in. “Huh. That’s weird,” he said, hoping that he sounded more convincing in his attempt at deception than he felt.
Jordan let out a chuckle, “Dork.”
Lydia whipped around with a glare, but Jordan had already turned leave. She stepped closer to Martin and made his hands go clammy, “Please tell me you don’t listen to that jerk. He has no idea how you do this job so much better than he does and I think it makes him mad.” She touched his arm just lightly enough to feel it through his shirt, and Martin felt sparks stir under his skin. “I mean it. He’s a jerk and you’re a sweet guy, Martin. Don’t let him get to you.”
He risked a look at her face and found her concerned eyes looking back. He felt like the moment lasted longer than necessary, but he wasn’t sure what that meant. Maybe she was waiting for an answer? “I won’t,” he said.
“Good!” She gave his arm a friendly squeeze and smiled until her eyes sparkled because of it. “Now let’s get out of here.”
Martin couldn’t believe it. On what was probably the busiest workday they’d had in the two years they’d worked together, Lydia actually walked with him to the subway. His eyes stayed mostly on the sidewalk as usual, but he occasionally looked over at her as she talked to him about her recent struggles with money. Strangers looked at them--at him--with questioning eyes. He figured they were probably stunned because he was just Martin Munn, the quiet guy who blended in with the background, and there he was with Lydia, all smiles and sunshine despite the subject of conversation.
They waited on the platform for their trains and Lydia continued to talk. She talked about rent, getting used to New York, failed relationships, how hard it was to date there, whatever topic she deemed fit at the moment. Her voice soothed him and pulled his thoughts away from their usual dark recesses, the push and pull of his gift, the way his family acted ashamed of it despite what they said.
A train rumbled to a stop and she said, “This is me! Thanks for listening. I’m sorry I hardly even let you get a word in.” She chuckled. “It’s how I deal with stress. I never shut up.”
A pang of something hit Martin in the gut. She was sorry? “Please don’t apologize. I like to hear what you have to say.” He could tell that he’d replay those words over and over again in his mind for weeks, wishing that he’d said something smoother.
He saw a flash in her eyes then, a subtle change in the tilt of her head. He thought for a split second that it must be his imagination, but there was something different. Whatever it was, Martin hoped it was good. “See you tomorrow.” She smiled then and boarded the train.
He rode home in a subway car packed with people, again with their faces glowing with a ghostly blue pallor from their handheld electronics, but it didn’t seem to bother him as much. He was still feeling the rush of walking with Lydia and being at the center of her attention. It was heady.
A tiny thought whispered at him through the roar and rumble of the train. What if people knew him for more than his quiet, harmless outer shell? What if people could see the real Martin? Would he be respected? Feared? Would he be seen then as good enough for Lydia?
Lydia was very understanding. He’d never seen her have her feathers ruffled by an angry customer. The only person she’d ever shown an inkling of dislike for was Jordan, and that was only because he was relentless in flirting with her and was so terrible at his job that it made hers more difficult. Martin was willing to bet that if he helped Lydia, showed her what he could do with his spark, then she would be fascinated. She might even look at him all the time the way she looked at him before she boarded her train.
Maybe she could even love him.
He was so consumed by the excitement of these new thoughts and feelings that he nearly missed his stop. His usual detailed, almost clockwork routine had been snagged. Somehow he was able to shrug it off. The old Martin never would have managed that. Though he wasn’t quite used to him yet, he was starting to like the possibilities of this new Martin.
He ducked into the corner shop on the way back to his apartment and bought a turkey sub for dinner. A full-fledged grin stretched across his face when the cashier looked at him and then did a double-take at the sandwich. “Are we out of chicken salad?” she asked.
“No, just thought I’d try something different.”
He climbed the stairs in his building to the fourth floor and tiptoed past Mrs. Kasinski’s door. Just as he pulled his key from his pocket, her head popped out from the opening down the hall. The sounds of a loud game show poured out into the hall and she nearly had to shout to be heard over it.
“Martin! You’re back!” How had she heard him in the hallway with the chorus of cheering and applause trumpeting from the television?
“Hi, Mrs. Kasinski. I’ll be over later to take a look at your computer, I just want to grab something to eat first,” he said, holding up the sandwich as proof.
She poked out her bottom lip and made a cartoonish pout. “Certainly, dear. Don’t you think you’ll be able to fix it up in just a couple of minutes like you normally do? I was really looking forward to seeing some of those photos before eight o’clock. That’s when the new season of Dancing with the Supers airs, you know.” Martin clenched his teeth. If he was going to get her off of his back, he might was well just fix her machine and get it over with. If he was lucky, she might even manage to make it a full twenty-four hours without reinfecting it.
He dropped his key back into his pocket. “Why don’t I take a look at it now?”
“Oh, would you?” she trilled. “You are such a sweetheart!” She stepped aside with a flourish and let him in and then led him past the blaring television and around the corner into her kitchen. The computer, slightly greasy and yellowed with age, sat on a repurposed microwave cart beside the dinette. “Can I get you anything?” she asked.
“No, thanks. I just need, uh, a few minutes to concentrate and find out what the problem is.” He had her accustomed to letting him work alone, and had only managed it by convincing her that he had an attention span problem and was very easily distracted.
“Certainly, dear! Certainly!” she scuttled into the living room just in time for the game show to return from a commercial break. Martin waited a minute and then leaned back to peek around the corner to make sure that her focus was elsewhere.
The machine was already powered up, so a simple nudge of the mouse was enough to wake it. He deleted most of the blinking widgets from the desktop and then took on the daunting task of beefing up her spam filter. Mrs. Kasinski was a nice old lady, but her friendly and trusting nature was exactly what made her so susceptible to the people who prey on those as naive as her.
While skimming through her inbox to see what sorts of spam had been making it through, one subject line stood out at him from the hundreds of others: “Erase Your Student Loan Debt NOW!”
One simple sentence. One tiny hint of an idea to nibble at him.
He was trying to take steps to make Mrs. Kasinki’s computer more resistant to attacks in the future, and to do that, he had to work the old fashioned way. Despite his attempts, his spark stirred and tried its hardest to become an unignorable distraction. It was working.
Thanks to his mother and his strict upbringing, he’d been consumed with guilt at the thought of ever using his gift for something as selfish as financial gain. It was fraud, theft even. People wouldn’t understand if he suddenly quit his job and had a mysterious pile of money in his bank account. They’d eventually track him down and find out how he did it. He’d be labelled as a villain for the rest of his life.
But the idea that took root in his mind in Mrs. Kasinki’s kitchen was different. It wasn’t selfish, not really. With a quick reach through the machine and out into the internet, he could find Lydia’s loan and pay it off. If he dared to tell her that he was responsible, maybe she would understand why he did it. She’d know it was because he liked her, that he cared about her.
He always expected that a moral dilemma such as this would take longer to sort out, but he knew in just a few moments of contemplation what he needed to do. His hands clenched the top of the keyboard and he let the pent up ripples of his spark out through his fingertips. They moved quickly and silently through the cord and into the computer’s motherboard. From there, he reached out with his mind and opened the tiny door that gave him access to the Web.
Several minutes later, he was still sifting through the grains of student loan data to find Lydia’s. He had no idea that there would be so many to work through. The hairs on his arms and neck started to prickle, so he opened his eyes to check on Mrs. Kasinski. She was still engrossed in her television, but the feeling of being watched was ever present. He dove more deeply into the data and noticed something different, something like a slip of paper from a fortune cookie. Martin pulled it from the grains and unrolled it.
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE.
His heart pounded and sweat beaded at his temples. It took a moment to process what he’d found, but when he did, fury boiled up in him. This was the little shit that had launched the virus that was all over the news. The one that had made his--and Lydia’s--workday so much trouble. The kid who thought he could scare Martin with a piece of digital paper.
He took a few deep breaths and found his resolve. After sifting through the last of the student loans and finally finding and changing the one he’d been looking for, Martin conjured up all he could remember from what he’d dissolved in all of those hard drives earlier that day. The kid had built a virus out of digital junk, whatever he could pull from the castoffs of hosts and mail servers all over the world. It was dirty and lacked any elegance, like gum on the bottom of a shoe, but Martin had been surprised to find bits and pieces of a signature in it. This guy, much like a traditional hacker, was proud of what he’d made regardless of its clumsy construction.
Using the bits of the signature he could recall, he tracked down more infections across the Web. Instead of dissolving them, he looked at them more closely. The virus was built from spam, most likely all of the infected messages that had been caught and quarantined by spam filters for years.
A knot twisted at his gut. This was what he’d have to deal with every day until who knew when? This trash?
Martin knew he could have made something better, that he could have been the one that hundreds of internet security specialists were trying to track down, that he could have been the one that the world was talking about today.
The one that they feared. The one they revered?
For the first time in his thirty-five years, he let surface what had been repressed for so long. His mother had known, and that was the reason behind her trying to guide (or rather to control) how and when he used his gift. He was never destined to be one of the Supers that dominated the news each day, showing off their gifts and how great and admirable they were. He was never destined to be Mousy Martin Munn who worked at a Big Buy repair center, either. No, he was born to be the one that used his gift of his own free will, to be the one that even the Supers talked about.
Did that make him a villain? Just being who he was instead of who or what the world told him to be?
Anger and frustration pushed him deeper into the ditches of the internet. He could see clearly then how to stop his nemesis and to make certain he would never be a thorn in his side like this again.
Martin built a megavirus. It was not a misshapen pipe bomb like the viruses he had dissolved all day, but rather it was a polished warhead with an atomic payload. He did it in just a few minutes, and he smirked with the thought that the kid’s creation had probably taken him days, maybe even weeks.
His eyes narrowed with determination and he set off his charge.
He watched as the shockwave rocked through the internet, piercing even the toughest of firewalls. His grin returned.
“All done, Mrs. Kasinski. Sorry it took so long, but you shouldn’t have any more problems like that,” he said as he strode to the door, sandwich in hand.
The old woman looked as though she’d been snapped awake by his sudden announcement. He had reached the hallway and closed the door behind him before she called out her thanks.
Martin sat on his threadbare sofa and chewed at his dinner without really tasting it. All he could think of was Lydia. He needed her to know that it was him that had helped with her loan. She could quit her second job if she wanted to, or at least she could rest easier knowing that she had one less bill to pay.
He couldn’t get her out of his head. Not even the magnitude of what he’d done to rid himself of the clumsy virus-building nuisance had room to take up any space in his thoughts. He knew he wouldn’t sleep until he told her, so he resolved to go to her and tell her then. A phone call wouldn’t do. This was a face-to-face talk if ever there was one. Martin knew he wasn’t the best at reading people, but he hoped he’d be able to decipher something positive.
An hour later, wearing a clean shirt and a look of determination, Martin stepped off the train a block away from Jolly Fats. He slipped into the noisy restaurant and waited at the front until the hostess came to greet him. “I’d like to speak to Lydia for a moment. Please tell her it’s Martin.”
The young woman looked him up and down and her expression contorted with confusion. Without a word, she crossed the room to where Lydia was distributing drinks at a table surrounded by men shouting and cheering at one of the restaurant’s many television sets. Martin guessed it must be a sports bar.
The hostess leaned in and whispered to Lydia, who then turned to look in his direction. A worried look settled on Lydia’s features as she hurried toward him. “Hey, Martin. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, it’s fine. Great, actually. Um…” He took a breath and pulled up his newly-found courage, “Do you have a minute? There’s something really important I need to tell you about.”
“Sure,” she said, worry starting to creep into her voice. “Hey, Jenna,” she called to the hostess, “Would you mind covering my tables for a minute?” Jenna nodded, never taking her skeptical eyes off of Martin.
Lydia motioned for him to follow and they moved into an empty corner of the restaurant near the end of the bar. The glow from the television screens overhead lit her blonde hair with a thousand colors and Martin lost himself in the moment. “What’s up?” she asked. “You’re starting to freak me out a little.”
He let his shoulders relax and remembered the rush he’d felt when he decided to clear her debt, knowing that his power was something that gave him that opportunity. He had an advantage over the other men who competed for Lydia’s attention, and he needed her to understand that. “Everything is fine, really. I came here because I wanted to give you some good news. You told me about how stressed you’ve been lately and I realized that I could do something to help you. So I did.”
“What are you talking about, Martin?”
“You always say that I’m good with computers. Well, the truth is I can do a lot of things with them that I haven’t really let anyone know about.” He took a deep breath and looked her in the eye, trying to find the words to best explain his ability without upsetting her. “I can get into the system, get in and see things from the inside. It’s like a gift, I guess. Some people have super strength, some fly, I can see and feel the machines.” She stood quite still, her eyes blinking and her lips parting just a fraction. He continued, “Earlier I got into a system and made some changes to make your life a little less stressed.”
“Wait. You’re a Super?”
“Not exactly. I’m more like… I don’t know. Something else.”
Before she could respond, the televisions overhead all switched over to talking heads with breaking news. Everyone in the restaurant stilled and turned their attention to the broadcasts, probably expecting a report of another portal opened to different dimension that resulted in the destruction of half a city somewhere.
The closed captioning was choppy and the tickers across the bottoms of the screens weren’t of much help. Someone in the back of the room yelled for the bartender to turn on the audio, and he quickly complied. “Programmers and network security specialists are stunned tonight as they report to our sources that an anonymous party has launched what they’re calling a ‘beneficial supervirus’ whose effects are being felt around the world at this hour. That’s right, a helpful virus has somehow infiltrated systems ranging from international government servers to home and office computers. The results are astonishing: experts tell us that spam and malware have completely disappeared and new attempts at these digital nuisances are being eliminated as soon as they are deployed. Thanks to this mysterious figure, projections for increased productivity, network security, and protection from identity theft are so high that those experts researching the event are concluding that we all have a Super to thank for this incredible turn of events.”
Whoops and cheers erupted from some parts of the room. Lydia looked back at Martin, her brow furrowing. “This was you?”
His response was trapped somewhere in the back of his throat. Martin had wanted to annihilate his new rival and instill awe and fear in those who had taunted and underestimated him, never to be put on a pedestal as a hero. He’d wanted the recognition for sure, but not like this. He had wanted to finally let the world see him as he really was.
The line he’d always worried about crossing, the defining line between good and evil, looked now like more of a ghostly filament than the bold wall he’d imagined. Right and wrong should have been much easier to distinguish.
He wasn’t sure anymore where he fit. He wasn’t even sure of where he wanted to fit because all of the labels were too restrictive, too complicated. Lydia threw her arms around his neck then, and clarity came.
Good or evil, he just wanted to be Martin.