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There exist creatures, capable of changing the structure of their own skin and, sometimes, even cartilages and bones. These creatures can take upon virtually any form or at least drastically change their guise. For each shapeshifter (capable of changing bone structure) and facedancer (capable of changing only the face, sometimes without actual ability to modify the skull shape) A.E.G.I.S. has...


Perspective: Paul R. Jones


"Collisium" club. Probably was the worst place in town, but I loved it. It had the exact thing that I required – emotions. They were my air, my water, my food. I did not really care much for anything else. And in this club where dancing blue was replaced by red and then by green, where music is so loud you can’t hear your own thoughts, where you could get anything you wanted from beer to illegal booze – here, in this palace of promiscuity and depravity, which seems to never stop… I got an abundance of emotions here. Hatred, lust, fun, adrenalin hanging in the air as if it’s made of blood. I worshiped this place. If I could I’d live here, but as it is, even fun can be tiresome.

A lot of people knew about me here, but no one actually "knew" me. I came here around nine in the evening, stood on one of the balconies, from which a glorious view of the dancefloor opened, observed, and scented all of the emotions filling up the club. I felt as if physical waves of fervor were coming off the crowd, which looked like a raging ocean. Here and there a reef of hate rose up from a fight or a sponge of madness – from someone getting batshit drunk.

All of this filled me up, lifted me up, making me feel something, that even lovemaking can’t produce. It was as if I was able to see through the eyes of all those down below: thousands of eyes, looking at each other, at half naked bodies, inside themselves and even into nirvana of the dance of lechery and debauchery. I imbibed all of this, all the thoughts, all of the emotions… They changed me, they created me. Every night in "Collisium" was like reincarnation after death.

I stood on the balcony alone. Some random people I know came up to me infrequently, not bothering me too much. But when I was about to leave, after getting a fix of emotions, I heard a fruity voice behind my back:

- Are you bored, handsome?

- If you’re from Rosita, then go back to her and tell her, that if she forgets, that I do not use her whores, just one more time – I’ll burn her little shop to the ground.

- I do not know who that is, but if I meet her, I’ll make sure to pass along your message.

Owner of the voice leaned on balcony’s rails. I turned my head and saw a girl with chiseled body, dressed in jeans and black top with pink stitches. In dim light I saw that some strands of her long dark-blond hair were dyed violet and cut shorter than the rest. She had babyface with perky nose with a medusa piercing in the upper lip. She wore lenses, that made her eyes as violet as those strands of hair. She looked back at me, smiling:

- If you have stared enough, maybe, we can introduce each other? – She gave me her arm with neatly cut nails. – Jade.

- Pusher, - I said and kissed her arm.

- And what’s the name?

- I do not have one.

- Then why "pusher"?

- Because they call me that, - I replied, nodding to the crowd.

She did not ask anything more about the name and I did not elaborate. Besides, how would it have sound if I told her, that I’ve been called Pusher, because I pushed people to emotions? Sometimes it could be just pick-up routine, sometimes it could be deeper plans spreading out for weeks. How would it have sound, if I told her, that it was not enough for me to imbibe the waves coming off the dancefloor? No matter the amount of emotions from the crowd, they were weak and couldn’t satisfy my hunger completely. Like a brain, that sometimes needs a sugar rush, I needed really strong emotions. And, unfortunately, I considered emotions strong enough only if they were for me. Did not matter what kind of emotions: sexual desire, hatred, contempt, thankfulness. Would she understand that? Doubtful. But it did not mean, that I would turn myself away from another strong dose, so I started playing. At first, I made it look like I’m not really interested in her and continued to watch the crowd, until she asked:

- What are you looking for in there?

- Nothing.

- Then why are you standing here?

- I like to watch the crowd. I like to watch how a crowd of people turn into herd of stupid sheep, driven only by the warmth between their legs.

- Does that warmth drive you anywhere?

I turned, my back to the crowd, leaning on the railing, and looked at her, weighed her. I tried to give my look more contempt, but she continued looking back at me as if laughing in my face. I smirked. I liked it: it was good when a person did not easily give up one’s emotions, but I had to fight for them, to stretch them out with pliers. I asked her:

- And do you want something to start moving in my crotch and driving me to you?

She turned to the side, as if trying to show off her breasts:

- Why not?

- Maybe, I don’t like you?

- Then why are you talking to me?

- And why do you keep asking questions?

- And why do you keep answering them?

- Maybe that’s enough?

- Enough of what?

- Of asking questions. We are speaking in questions for a minute now.

- Really?

- Stop it!

- Stop what?

- My God! Never thought a girl can be so stubborn.

- I’m Taurus.

- That explains a lot.

- Why so nervous?

- Maybe I want to be alone?

- Be, then. And I’ll stay around in case you get tired of being such.

We fell silent. I stared at the dancefloor again, feeling with my skin, how Jade is still looking at me. I even got a stray thought, that she is undressing me in her mind. Unlikely, but why not? And I waited. I waited for her to become nervous, for her to decide, that she can forget about me. But I did not feel any nerves from her. Curious. What’s the secret? Confidence?

- Ok. What do you want? Booze? Dancing? Sex? Money?

- I just wanna talk to you.

- Why with me?

- You’re cute.

- Thanks for the compliment, but that’s unconvincing.

- Believe it or not – your choice. But you are already giving me what I want?

- Indeed… We are talking after all.

- Indeed, we are.

- Does it mean I lose?

- Why is that?

- ‘Cause now I won’t be able to avoid questions and maybe even answers to those questions.

- If you don’t want to – you do not answer.

- Are you a reporter or something?

- Of sorts.

- Then why me?

- It’s me who should be asking questions here, not you.

- Is a dialogue not supposed to be a two-sided thing?

- Ok. Because you are a local celebrity. And you’re cute.

- Really? And what did I do to become famous?

- Well that I do not know. No one can say anything of value. Any idea why?

- Fear.

- Fear?

- Yes, fear. All that is required to control the oppressive majority of the crowd down below is fear. Someone is afraid of spiders, someone is afraid of close spaces, someone is afraid of females…

- Very funny…

- I’m serious. They…

I talked. I talked almost without interruptions. And she listened, sharply, interested, curiously even. I never thought someone can listen to me with opened mouth. Not literally, but still. And I was talking total bullshit: I’m not sure I believed some of that myself. It might have had some logic behind it, but that did not change the fact it was bullshit. And yet… I needed a listener. I needed someone whom I could tell my thoughts to. That person could be discordant with my thoughts, or even uninterested in them, actually. What I needed was someone who would listen to me, instead of forcing my mouth shut as soon as I opened it. And Jade listened to me, asking things, laughing, but still seriously taking on everything I was saying: I could see genuine interest in her eyes. Too bad it all turned out to be a game in the end.

We started "dating". Or rather "meeting each other". Sometimes at my place, sometimes at hers, sometimes somewhere neutral. Not a hint on sex, just talks: science, politics, life in general, small talk. It was still a game to me. As well as for her, but we were playing different games. In the end we did sleep with each other. Probably, too late: game turned into attraction; attraction turned into "love". After the sex… For some reason I told her I loved her. She did not respond to that. When I looked at her, I saw her eyes were closed and thought she fell asleep and did not hear me.

Next day, I was getting through to my beloved balcony in "Collisium" and in the crowd I saw Jade dancing with some guy. Under the effect of jealousy, I got close to her, grabbed her by the hand, rudely turning her to me:

- What the hell, Jade?

- You’re blind or something? I’m dancing with a guy.

- But I thought, I was your guy!

- You don’t get it? We were hunter and prey. I got what I needed from you and now I do not need you.

From emotional shock, I left her hand:

- What? How? I…

- Did you really think I did not know why you are called Pusher? Did you really think I did not know you like to provoke people into emotions, feed on those emotions and then disappear from the lives of your victims? You have any idea how many suicides you caused?

- What are you talking about?

She came closer to me, her finger against my chest:

- That Pusher got pushed.

Anger burned inside me: "How could she lie to my face?" My fists clenched, nails cutting my skin to blood:

- How dare you… - I did start, but her "guy" came up to me now and put his big hand on my chest:

- Don’t do it, man. Unless you want trouble.

- Oh, I do need it, - I hissed, my left fist shooting him, but he dodged, grabbed my hand and bent it behind my back, kicked me to the ground. No one even stopped dancing. No one cared. And I was sitting there on the floor, dumbstruck, shocked, debased, insulted, devastated, watching as the guy took Jade by the hand and left.

She did not even look back.

I sat on the floor, feeling like self-pity is filling up my brain. I was in the crowd, but I was outside of it. I was somewhere far away, with pictures of the future I lost. I came back home, still seeing how me and Jade have a daughter Dakota, how the girl marries, and we get grandchildren, how I die under a car, how gray-haired Jade mourns me, how she then dies from heart attack and Dakota divorces…

I saw all that and blamed myself for destroying that future. It was all my fault. I should have not been playing from the start. Or I should have been playing till the end. Days had passed, weeks… I did not go anywhere, barely ate and only was punishing myself. At some point I realized, I could not go on anymore. I deserved all this. And the honest, the right thing to do was to get the world rid of myself.

I took out Magnum, which was left to me by my dad. When I took it, felt its weight, memories of him rushed to me: how we visited shooting range, where we used that gun. How we went hunting once, taking Magnum along as well. How I dropped it, when we were crossing a brook and I slipped and fell into the water myself. How father checked all the bullets and found that all of them were lost now, except for one, which could work yet. How a bear attacked us, hurting dad badly. I was able to shoot it using the rifle we had. How my dad with his final breath asked me to use that remaining bullet only when I don’t see any other way anymore. I thought it was just some crazy talk, but now that made sense.

I loaded the gun and sat on the bed. Self-pity was blasting in my head: "I guess this is how my "victims" felt, huh?" I deserved that. The only thing I was good at I used to hurt, and it was now used against me. I… Why was I doing it really? For companionship, maybe? Now, the moment I was even ready to stop, to change, my heart was ripped out by the very weapon I used myself before. So I took up the gun with both of my hands, feeling as a little child against it, seeing the bloody face of my father. I opened my mouth and with shaky hands put the barrel inside, feeling the cold of metal against my palate, tears running down my cheeks…

And I pulled the trigger…

- And? – Craig Andolinni asks me, after I sip a bit of whiskey and fall silent for a moment.

We are in "Tower" bar. And we are here not for the whiskey, but ‘cause we have a mission. A.E.G.I.S. got info about a new facedancer, who is supposed to be hanging around this bar. We are tasked with bringing him in.

I make another sip, thinking on how to tell Craig, a crude Italian with square-like jaw, how my story ended. I look around, hoping to see our facedancer and avoid the question. And I see him, indeed, but that does not help me to avoid the question: Craig was the facedancer. When I was turning my head I noticed a silverfish glow in his eyes, so typical for facedancers.

I feel a bit sick. Could it be that Director Choler knew about this? Knew and thus chose me specifically?

- Hey, Paul? Everything all right? – pseudo-Craig asks me.

I look at him and answer, slowly pulling the gun from the holster, so that he won’t notice:

- Yes, yes, everything’s fine. Just got lost in thought for a second.

- So, what happened, when you pulled the trigger? A phone rang? Or did you actually blow half your brains out and then got reanimated somehow?

- Come on, it was 1989. If I did blow my brains out, I would have been dead for 9 years, soon to be 10. It misfired, obviously. Felt like my father prophesized it somehow. I felt devastated, that even a bullet did not want me, cried for hours… But that changed me. I started working on myself and in the end got a family, and got a job in A.E.G.I.S., where they taught me how to identify a facedancer.

- Yeah, amen to that: we do require such a skill today.

- Not anymore.

- Hm?

I stand up, pointing the gun on Craig:

- Facedancer, by the power bestowed on me, - I start, but facedancer lunges at me, throws me against the table, breaking it to pieces with my weight. We fight till I get him on the back, break his nose and point the gun at him again.

- You are under arrest for usage of powers for personal gain, suspicion of murder of A.E.G.I.S. agent and also, - but he interrupts me:

- Remember your dream tonight? Well, lucky for you, you just made it so your son will make it a reality!

I feel weightless, as if ground gave in under me, but I take a hold of myself and get the handcuffs out:

- Shut the fuck up and give me your arms! And just try to do anything funny here!

- Oh, I will, - whispers pseudo-Craig and hits me in the back with his knee. My hand shakes, and I pull the trigger… Nice round hole appears in the facedancer’s forehead. I watch the blood running down his face, guessing, how the hell did he know about my dream? And what did he mean by saying, my son will make it a reality?


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