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The Capt. Conduit Saga, Part 5
by Brad Blanton
A loud, electronic buzzing, followed by a metallic click, awakened John
Sinclair. Even half asleep as he was, he instantly recognized the sound
of his cell door being unlocked, a product of his many years having
served as a prison guard.
“Wake up, Cap. Time for your session with Doc” a voice called, seemingly from miles away.
After a moment, John’s mind actually processed what he had just
heard. He awoke with a start and forced his eyes open. Big mistake. The
light of the afternoon sun coming in through his cell window blinded
him instantly and John had to slam his eyes shut once more to fight
back the tears as he sat upright in his bunk. He rubbed at his eyes,
trying to appease them, and then remembered the voice he had heard.
“What?” he asked weakly. He forced his eyes open once more
as he turned his head toward where he thought the voice came from.
“Come on Cap, get up. You are going to be late” the voice
called out again, from the opposite direction John was looking.
He whirled his head in the right direction and blinked a couple times
trying to force the blurry image in front of him come into focus. Then
he recognized the voice of his prison guard.
“Oh, hey Greg” he said, his voice cracking as it tried to remember how to work.
Then John really heard what had been said and said “Oh! Jeez, is
it 3 o’clock already? I must have dozed off when I was reading.
Ok, I’m up. Give me a minute to get ready.”
“’Dozed off’? Cap, you were sawing more wood than a lumberjack!” the guard quipped.
He stood up, ignoring the comment as well as the protests of the cot
springs as he did so, and went over to his sink. He removed the small
mask that the prison had issued him as part of his clothing and
splashed some water on his face. He had been tried and convicted of
murder as his superhero alias, Capt. Conduit, something that the city
government officials admitted had never happened before. Still, the
government was extremely serious about protecting the privacy rights of
superheroes, and so he’d been processed into the criminal system
as Capt. Conduit. To protect his identity, the prison warden had
allowed him to wear a mask and for his own safety had given him a cell
that was in a wing of the prison complex that was undergoing renovation
away from the other prisoners.
The sentence he had received also illustrated just how unusual his case
was. In addition to his criminal trial, the Federal Bureau of Superhero
Affairs, the federal agency that issues and regulates official
superhero licenses, had held their own inquiry and revoked his license
for two years. The criminal trial that had followed seemed to take
their cues from the FBSA’s actions. The jury agreed that due to
his prior contributions to the community as Capt. Conduit and the
mitigating circumstances leading up to the double-murder, that lenience
could be granted in his case. John was sentenced to 2 years in prison,
which would be accompanied by mandatory counseling and anger-management
sessions. In response to this, the FBSA had further ruled that only
upon successful completion of the counseling and anger-management
programs would they allow John’s hero license to be reinstated.
So here he was, a former prison guard turned hero, and a former hero
turned prisoner. He was now 18 months into his sentence and had gotten
to know his guards fairly well. He treated them with respect and, in
turn, they treated him with the same. Lieutenant Greg Faser was a
little different, though. He was a young man in his mid-twenties who
was eager and full of promise. He reminded John of himself at that age
and he had formed a bit of a friendship with the young man. John only
called him “Greg” when he was sure no one else was around,
otherwise he knew the young man would get reprimanded.
John replaced his mask and turned to the prison guard waiting patiently outside his cell, “Ok Greg, let’s go.”
As he stepped into the doorway of his cell he dutifully held his wrists
out and let the young guard shackle his wrists and ankles. When they
were secured, Greg took him by the arm and began escorting him toward
the medical wing for his weekly counseling session.
“Dr. Johannssen, I have your 3 o’clock here, “ Greg
spoke into the doctor’s office when they had arrived.
“Ah, yes, Capt. Conduit! Good, good. Bring him right in
lieutenant, I am ready for him just now” the familiar
German-accented voice replied.
John was escorted into the psychologist’s sparsely decorated
office that he had been in hundreds of times before and was instantly
greeted by the small, white-haired doctor as though it had been years
since their last meeting, and not last week.
“It is good to see you again, my friend. You are being treated
well, I trust?” Dr. Johannssen asked, his standard greeting.
John smiled and said, “Yeah, they take care of me.”
Dr. Johannssen smiled, his eyes gleaming behind his wire-rimmed glasses
as he said “Good, good.” He then turned his attention to
Greg and said, “That will be all lieutenant, thank you.”
“Ok, Doc. If you need me, I’ll be right outside the door here.” Greg replied.
“Thank you Lieutenant Faser, “ John called as Greg opened
the door to leave. As he stepped through and closed the door behind
him, he could have sworn he heard Greg let out a snort of laughter,
making him fight to contain a snort of his own.
“A smile! This is good!” Dr. Johannssen said when he
noticed John’s grin. “When you first came to see me there
were not so many of those. Now I see them more and more. You make
excellent progress, John. Please, have a seat.”
Dr. Johannssen was the only man in the prison who knew his true
identity. It had taken quite a while for John to open up to the elderly
doctor, but he had come to trust Dr. Johannssen. Sometime later, he had
realized that Dr. Johannssen was the first person he had truly trusted
since his wife left him. Whereas he had resented being forced into
these sessions at first, he had come to enjoy them now and he even
looked forward to them. All of this raced through John’s mind as
he settled into the couch facing Dr. Johannssen’s desk.
When he had settled in, the doctor continued, “Every time you
come to me I see a new man, John. You seem happier and full of life. I
will tell you, I was truly worried about you after you received the
letter from your former super group, but I see you have bounced back
nicely since then.”
Mentioning the letter made John think back to his first days here at
the prison. After only a month of being here, he received a letter from
the super group he had been a member of, The Paragon City Patrol. It
basically said that since he was now a convicted murderer, they no
longer wanted to have anything to do with him. John figured it was more
for public relations than anything else.
“Yeah, doc, that was a pretty rough time. But I eventually
realized that I had to get things straight inside my own head before I
could be any good in a group.” John replied.
“Yes, this is so,” stated the doctor. “Let me
see…” he said as he checked a paper on his desk.
“Yes, I see that you have only 6 months left on your sentence. I
think that, if things continue the way they have been, that you could
easily be reinstated as an active hero when you are released. Your
progress is that good. Do you think you will seek membership in another
group if you are reinstated?”
Now John sat back in his seat and stroked his goatee thoughtfully. He
hadn’t really thought about that. “I don’t know
doc,” he said at last. “I doubt any group would want to
have anything to do with me, though, so why bother?”
The elderly doctor just smiled mischievously, as if he had anticipated
that answer. “I am not so sure about that, my friend. I have
something here you may be interested in. I have done some checking and
have come across a group that I think could be a good fit for you.
Here, I have some of their literature.”
John took the pamphlet Dr. Johannssen was holding toward him and he studied the plain black cover and team logo.
“NRF?” John asked quizzically.
“The No Remorse Force,” the doctor said with a smile.
“As you can see by their name, they are not the sort to judge a
person by who they were, but by who they are now. Perhaps you could
contact them. It could do no harm.”
John thought for a moment. “Maybe. I don’t know, doc.
I’ve kind of been thinking of retiring anyway. I mean, like you
said, I’ve been happy the last few months. Maybe it was all this
superhero stuff that was making me unhappy to begin with. I mean,
I’ve told you before, I never wanted any of this stuff.”
Now the old doctor’s smile faded. “Now, John, you know that
your unhappiness was not caused by your actions as a superhero. We have
discussed this before. Now, if you want to retire as a hero, then that
is certainly your choice. Perhaps, since you have learned to control
your powers now, you could even blend in with society seamlessly as you
were unable to in Alabama. But I do beg you to think about this
decision a bit more before you make up your mind. Read that pamphlet I
gave you and think about your decision, alright?”
John sighed. “Ok, doc. I will, I promise.”
The old doctor smiled once more and said “Good. Now if you will
excuse me, I believe our time is up. I will see you again next
John stood and said “You know it, doc. I’ll be here with
bells on” as he spoke he held out his shackled hands and jingled
The old doctor laughed out loud and said “A joke! Yes, you ARE making progress my boy.”
Dr. Johannssen called for Greg, who promptly escorted John back to his
cell. Once there, John lay on his bunk thinking about the points Dr.
Johannssen had raised. Could he be happy as an active hero, and if so,
could this NRF group truly accept him after all he’d done? John
flipped read through the pamphlet several times thinking about all of
the information it contained, trying to see if it held the answers to
“Well, if it ain’t Cap’n Sinclair,” rumbled a
deep, gruff voice while he was intently studying the pamphlet for the
5th or 6th time.
Alarm immediately shot through John’s mind. No one was supposed
to know his true identity. Then he realized he had recognized that
voice. It was a voice from long ago. A voice that now only visited him
in his nightmares. His heart pounding in his chest, John looked up from
the pamphlet, and there before him staring through the bars of his cell
door was the face that had haunted his dreams, that had tormented his
thoughts ever since that fateful day in Alabama.
“McGee!!” John screamed out.
The face staring at him just broke into a sickeningly evil smile.
It couldn’t be. It was impossible. This had to be some kind of a
trick. Yet here he was, Dick McGee, nicknamed “The Ripper”
because of the gruesome manner in which he had eviscerated his victims
bodies, who had been sentenced to death in Alabama…the man who
had been in the chair when John had been electrocuted all those years
ago. John’s mind struggled to remember the events of the past. He
realized just then that he’d never been told what happened to
McGee after that. He’d never really thought to ask. He’d
just assumed the state had executed him at a later time.
“I knew ya couldn’t forget your old pal, Ripper.”
McGee rumbled out. He was a monster of a man. Easily 7 feet tall, as
wide as a Mack truck and large, muscular forearms that looked more like
tree trunks than anything else. He had always been a very imposing
figure, even back when he was on death row, but what had unnerved John
then, and what was terrifying him now, was the sheer bitter coldness in
his eyes. When John looked into those eyes even now, they made his skin
crawl in a way that nothing he had ever experienced as a hero had ever
Still in shock, John finally managed to make his vocal cords work.
“Wha…how…when…”, now that his voice
worked, he realized his mind wasn’t ready to. Finally he gathered
his senses long enough to blurt out “What are you doing
“Whatsa matter, Sinclair? Ya look like ya seen a ghost”
chuckled McGee. ‘I’m here to make ya an offer. The folks I
work for have been keepin’ tabs on ya.”
John’s mind screamed. “What are you talking about? Who do you work for? Why are you in Paragon City??”
McGee just grinned again. “I’m working with an outfit calls
themselves ‘The Family*’. They wanna offer ya a job. They
liked what ya did to those 2 punks. They want ya to do more of it, only
this time for them.”
Now John bolted from his cot onto his feet. “The Family?! How did
you get mixed up with them?” It was then that John saw the prison
guard standing next to McGee. It wasn’t one of his usual guards
and he suspected he was a crooked cop on The Family’s payroll.
McGee’s grin turned almost feral as he lowered his voice and said
“Who do you think arranged for your little
‘accident’? Yeah, that’s right Sinclair, you were
just a diversion to get me outta the pen. They liked my work, see, and
they knew I’d work for them if they busted me out. So they rigged
your little control booth to fry you instead of me, and in the
confusion some of their boys hauled me outta there. I’ve been
working for them ever since. Now they want you to work for them too.
Like I said, they liked what they saw. You and me, we’re the
same. We like hurtin’ people. We like killin’ people. Might
as well make a buck or two for doing what we like, right? I can see
I’ve given you a lot to think about, so I’ll leave you to
just mull it over. I’ll be in touch.” And with that, he and
the crooked guard walked away.
John’s mind raced, screaming for him to stop McGee, but his body
refused to react as he was paralyzed with pure shock. It hadn’t
been an accident. It had NEVER been an accident. The Family had been
responsible for it all along. In and of itself, electricity began to
dance around his body as the rage he had worked so hard to bury deep
within suddenly flared to the surface once again. John was only faintly
aware of a red light in his cell flashing and a klaxon in the hallway
blaring out a warning.
He was too consumed with his thoughts to pay any of it any attention.
He was becoming more and more consumed with his thoughts by the moment.
He didn’t even notice the police patrol sentry robot arrive at
the door of his cell. The next moment all of his rage and confusion was
replaced with agonizing, mind-numbing pain as he was stricken by the
patrol-bot’s stun gun. John collapsed to the floor of his cell in
a heap, and as his world slipped into darkness yet again, one single
thought ran through his mind:
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