Chad glimpses what could be a different side of the Masked Player.
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End of previous episode:
Chad studied the man before him as he sipped on his Americano. He could tell this “Masked Player” dude really did relish the attention he got for his outlandish outfit. The hat and jacket matched nicely, both a deep teal so dark it might be mistaken for black or indigo from a little way off. But up close the mask was obviously darker. Looking at it, Chad felt like he was looking into it, like a portal to a deep dark dimension all its own. Chad couldn’t pin down a color—the mask seemed to possess an almost iridescent shimmer, like the ghost of a rainbow on black water.
“Ah, the life of a student,” said the Player. His gaze wandered, his expression turned thoughtful. “I remember those days. I spent years studying under a thespian virtuoso. But the theater has never been my sole pursuit in life.” He snapped back to Chad. “What do study, my young friend?”
“Too much,” Chad replied. “Biochemistry.” He sipped his espresso. “But I’m not sure if I’ll do anything with it.” The masked man bolted forward in his chair. “Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time at school.”
The Player was leaning over the table. “Surely you jest!” Something in his eyes had changed. “No love for the sciences? The keys to our vast and intricate universe are locked away in the vaults of knowledge buried in the studies of science! The investigation of the sciences is an endeavor replete with the truest pleasure, and fulfillment beyond imagining! In our advanced society, the minutest secrets of existence—the very breath of life—at your fingertips! The dreams of the heart, no matter how extravagant, can be achieved through implementation of the sciences!”
Chad was taken aback at the ferocious response aroused in his new acquaintance. But the man was clearly not finished. Chad took another sip of his coffee.
“Even Shakespeare, poet to the world, could not have grasped the beauty of life revealed under the scrutinizing eye of modern science! Such intricacies, never before understood; the clashes of opposing forces, the mayhem wrought upon weakened organisms by the slightest nuance in chemical interaction! Oh, he would have worshiped science as he worshiped the arts, had he lived to see its splendor!”
Getting a little. . .off topic. Chad was starting to see the man sitting across from him in a different light. He seemed a little agitated, sure, but no open aggression had surfaced yet, and something compelled Chad to stay and listen.
“The possibilities are boundless!” the Player continued. “There are so many ways that the simple, the ignorant—the weak—can be influenced for the benefit of greater men and our world! Is it not so?”
“I mean, if the influencing you’re talking about looks like pointed manipulation, that’s pretty fucked up,” Chad said. “That’s Hitler- Stalin-type shit. Sure, it sounds good in the head maybe, but power plays aren’t usually in the interest of protecting those who can’t protect themselves.” The Player had settled back thoughtfully, Chad’s response apparently an unexpected one. Chad took note of this and continued. “You have to know someone’s story. People lose their way all the time: the weak ones. . .and the powerful ones. Power doesn’t give the powerful the right to do as they please. No one is above justice.”
The man smiled. “I like you! On this it seems we must, in part, disagree, but your words pronounce you, like me, a man of astute intellect.”
“Well, thank you,” replied Chad with a smile. “But I think—”
“Listen, lad.” The masked man sat forward earnestly. “Listen close.” His demeanor radiated gravity. “I have studied the sciences for many long and arduous years.” His gloved hand clenched the table in a death grip. “There are dark secrets. I have uncovered them. Few—if any—of the leading scientists of our day know of these things. And none know them as deeply as I.”
Chad’s suspicion of mental instability was growing stronger by the minute. Crazy name, check. Crazy outfit, check. Crazy talk, also check. But even now, something about the man drew him in, a strange feeling that there was some kernel of reason in his excited words. Besides, it wasn’t every day Chad met someone wearing a theater mask who claimed to possess dark sorcerous knowledge of science. And it definitely wasn’t every day that he met someone who told him he was a man of astute intellect.
“You would do well to join me, lad,” said the man. “Those not aligned with me in my endeavor will be left behind among the ashes—and those who would think to oppose me shall ﬁnd me a force to be reckoned with.”