ACT I SCENE
Antioch squinted against the glare of the sun as he and Gary walked out of the apartment building lobby. His head swam in a thin fog and his tongue felt coated in sandpaper, the price for too much drinking. It didn’t help that Gary was bouncing around like a chihuahua high on rocket fuel. A twinge of guilt had prodded Antioch when Gary had passed out, so he brought the little human home to sleep it off, but whatever guilt he might have experienced was quickly withering away.
“Let’s do this” Gary said.
Antioch frowned looked at his diminutive friend. His clothes were rumpled from sleeping on the couch and his topknot looked like it’d survived an electrical storm.
“Where do you get the energy” Antioch asked. Gary just smiled up at him and shrugged before turning and walking away. Trudging after his friend, the vein in his temple throbbed a little harder.
Though it was still early, the city had already woken to start its day. Cars honked at each other, drivers anxious to move, or at least to get people out of their way. The sounds of construction, a background noise at best on any other day, bored into Antioch’s head while tourists blocked the steady flow of foot traffic to take pictures.
Turning right on Broadway, the crowds became thicker. Though most people avoided him in the street, one of the few benefits to being green and seven feet tall, people began bumping into him. Antioch’s hearing, better than a human’s, picked up shouting from ahead. Over the heads of the people Antioch could see groups separated by police barricades, waving signs and posters at each other.
“What’s going on” Gary asked. His voice was already being drowned out by the shouts of the mobs.
“Protest” Antioch said, shrugging his shoulders. Protests were nothing new in the city, while there seemed to be more of them lately. People protested about anything and everything. Gary had once tried to convince Antioch to join a protest a movie that didn’t have a non-human in the leading role. Antioch had seen the movie and was quite glad it hadn’t. The movie had been so bad, having a non-human in it would have just tarnished their reputation.
As they got closer to the opposing mobs, Antioch began making out some of the posters they were carrying. Lip curling and hands balling into fists, Antioch’s shoulders hunched forward threatening to rip his suite jacket at the seams.
Gary, watched his friend tense and took a step back, pushing against the people around him.
“Dude, what’s wrong?”
A rumble began in Antioch’s chest, the noise too low to be heard, but the press of people around him could feel it and began moving away from the ogre.
Words on the signs flashed though Antioch’s head as his blood pumped faster. Monster, they screamed in technicolor hues. It was a word that humans had used against the other races since their boats had landed here. When he was a cub Antioch’s adopted mother, a human, had washed out his mouth for using that hateful word. It was the worst thing a human could say against his kind, and here it was, painted on signs and waved around in front of people and news crews alike.
Antioch, breathing hard, stepped forward, pushing through the crowd like a cutter ship through ocean water.
“Dude” Gary said, following his friend. “Dude!”
Antioch’s rage set a staccato rhythm against Gary’s yelling as he dragged the small human behind him. He would destroy those words and crush the frail people holding those signs. Antioch’s hands flexed and muscles flexed as he pushed and shoved his way through the crowd.
People around him were beginning to yell and a news camera turned its glass eye at him. A few had already stopped shouting their rhetoric at each other to see what people were screaming about.
“Antioch! Stop man, stop” Gary kicked at his friend’s ankle hoping to get his attention, or possibly to trip him if he could, and had the same effect as a gnat kicking an artillery shell. Running around in front of Antioch, Gary planted himself, arms held wide. “You’re going to have to run me down” Gary said.
Antioch stopped short of the little human standing in his way. This is strange Antioch thought. He reached out and prodded the squishy man.
ACT II SCENE
Antioch strode into the lobby of Wolfe Accounting, face and shoulders set with purpose and nearly pissed himself when the first security guard looked at him. His heart beat so loud in his chest that he thought the guards should be able to hear it. Walking through the throngs of people, Antioch made his way over to the screening desk, set his satchel on the conveyor belt and stood in line.
Looking around the lobby, Antioch frowned at the changes that had occurred in the last couple of weeks. Gone were the paintings that had once adorned the walls of the entrance. The once airy, open lobby of the building now seemed darkened. The security desk, black marbled and tall enough to hide the bank of monitors behind it, now stretched across the lobby, broken only by three metal detectors that allowed passage into the rest of the building. Now the lobby felt less like a place of business and more like the entrance to a high security prison, gray and foreboding.
Stepping through the metal detector was a humiliation all its own. Antioch squatted and shuffled through sideways. Even compacting himself as much as he could, his back and chest still rubbed against the inside frame of the machine. Leave it up to accountants to buy the cheapest, smallest machine they could, he thought. Straightening up, he held out his arms for the wand. Some of the non-humans had oddly metallic areas and the wand was an extra precaution.
Looking at the conveyor belt, cold flashed through Antioch as he watched a security guard open his satchel. No, no, no. The security guard pulled items out from his bag and inspected them. One by one, files and electronics were pulled out, pawed and put to the side. Antioch’s brain seemed to freeze. He couldn’t let the guard find the drive. What was he going to do? Antioch loomed over the guard, hoping his size would intimidate the man until he could think of something. The guard, however, paid him no attention. Reaching into the bag, the guard began feeling around the bottom. Antioch knew that the drive would be found at any second. He had to think, had to stop the guard.
Antioch slowly raised his hand, balling it into a fist to slam into the guard’s head.
“Antioch. Antioch Wight!” a voice called. Startled, Antioch looked around and let his hand drop. Anise, Mr. Wolfe’s secretary, was calling him from the elevator lobby. Antioch started at the diminutive gnome, torn between running, fighting and falling to his knees and begging forgiveness. “Antioch, Mr. Wolfe is waiting for the quarter summary. Did you finish it yet? He’s not happy and definitely not patient.”
Antioch started at her for a moment. The little gnome’s arms crossed beneath her breasts and her foot began tapping. She wants an answer.
“I, um… Almost?” he said. “I’ll have them done by this afternoon.”
Anise humphed and turned toward the elevator. Antioch shivered slightly. That little woman reminded him of his mother when she knew he wasn’t on task, though at least his mother could be warm and caring. Antioch thought Anise could give cold lessons to an ice cube.
“Here ya go, buddy.”
Antioch turned back to the security guard and watched him push his satchel and belongings toward him, his heart jumping into his throat. Perched on top of his files was the drive.
“Uh, thanks,” Antioch said, scooping his belongings into the bag. Relief flooded through him as the tension in his shoulders eased. The guard ignored him and turned to look through the next bag.
Antioch walked to the elevator bank, clutching the satchel to his chest and pushed the call button. As the chime rang and the steel doors of the elevator glided open, Antioch stepped in and turned around. Staring into the lobby, Antioch saw his co-workers and friends lined up like cattle in a chute. As the doors slid closed, Antioch couldn’t help feeling that this was going to be a very long day.
ACT III SCENE
Antioch stared at the guard walking into the security room. Beneath his arm was a red folder. Antioch swallowed the gorge rising in his throat. There was no mistaking that folder. It was the same one he’d dropped into the shred bin. Antioch’s heart sank and he knew that he was caught.
“Mr. Wight, meet Mr. LaBeau,” said Wolfe. LaBeau’s smiled, though the it never touched his eyes. As the light reflected off his overly bleached teeth, Antioch couldn’t help imagining a shark smiling right before it took a bite out of a surfer.
“Mr. Wolfe,” Labeau said, handing across the folder.
“Were there any problems?” Wolfe asked.
Labeau shook his head. “Everything went as planned. We retrieved the documents before they left the building and sent a unit to follow the truck. It arrived at a warehouse near the pier. Once the unit confirmed that the target was on scene, the charges were detonated.” Labeau ran through the operation like it was a military strike.
Charges? Detonated? Antioch’s eyes shot open.
“No!” he shouted and jumped from his chair.
Quicker than Antioch thought any human could move, LaBeau had a stun stick in his hand and shoved it into his gut. As the electricity burned through him, Antioch’s muscles seized and his head flew back in a soundless scream. Moments became an eternity before Antioch dropped to his knees, gasping for the air his lungs couldn’t take just moments before.
LaBeau stepped forward and slammed his boot into the side of Antioch’s head, knocking him to the floor.
“We’ve been watching you for some time,” Wolfe said. “Your moment of fame gave us the perfect opportunity. We could have had riots in the streets. Mr. LaBeau was in the alley with you and Mr. Johnson. You were supposed to die as well, but the unfortunately early arrival of the police caused a change in plan. I was most displeased with Mr. LaBeau’s failure.”
LaBeau’s eye twitched and his foot lashed out again, this time connecting with Antioch’s ribs.
“Now that your friends are done, you are no longer necessary.” Wolfe turned to LaBeau. “Finish this. When you’re done, get rid of him and the security tapes, then come to my office. I need you do make another visit tonight.” Labeau nodded and Wolfe left the room, pulling the door silently shut behind him.
LaBeau regarded Antioch on the floor with the professional interest of a butcher toward a spring lamb.
“I’ve never killed an ogre before,” he said, walking around Antioch. “Is it possible to beat you to death? If I cut your throat, there’ll be blood everywhere and a mess to clean.”
Antioch groaned, curled up on the floor and squeezing his eyes tight against the pain. His stomach twisted in knots over the horror. Gary’s murder, the death of his friends, all his pain caused by Wolfe. He’d worked for Wolfe accounting for seven years. He’d devoted himself to being productive, to doing the best possible job, and Wolfe had betrayed him.
Antioch tried to lever himself off the floor, but LaBeau jabbed him with the stun stick again. Pain coursed through him once more, but this time the electricity didn’t affect him as badly. The third time the stick was brought down, Antioch barely felt the charge at all before LaBeau stepped back.
“You – you can’t – do this,” Antioch panted, knowing he was going to die if he didn’t act quickly.
“You can’t stop me.”
LaBeau stepped forward again, bringing the stun stick to bear. This time Antioch was ready. His hand swung around, catching LaBeau in the ankle, causing his tormentor to stumble back. As quickly as he could, Antioch used the desk to pull himself up.
Labeau straightened himself, only this time to find himself facing seven feet of pissed-off ogre. Reaching into his coat, not caring about either the noise or the mess it would make, LaBeau tried to draw his revolver.
Antioch threw himself forward, grabbing the human around the neck and slamming him into the wall. Though LaBeau was taller than most people, he was still a good foot shorter than the ogre and lacked the non-human’s strength. Flexing his muscles, Antioch lifted the man off the floor with one hand and rammed his other into LaBeau’s stomach. The impact caused the air to rush out of LaBeau’s lungs and drop the gun he was clinging to. Antioch tossed the man against the security desk and stooped for the gun.