Talon had worn the mask for a good number of years, It had been a nearly perfect way of keeping his feelings separate from his personal life, letting him focus on his contracts, and stay keen on mission. When he’d been employed to do a job, he’d put the mask on, and then he would become “the Blade”, his professional name.
But putting on this mask was more than just covering one’s face. The mask was special, and what it did for him was incredible – it enhanced his abilities, senses, and gave him several special advantages that were amazing – magical. He could alter his form to some degree with it – morph various parts of his body, and take on someone’s likeness. He could even take on more unnatual shapes and body parts, but that tended to induce strange sensations and he was careful with doing that. He’d used its power to bring down numerous targets throughout his career, and now he was at the point where he had a decision to make.
His last target, a man of ability, power and wealth, had been contracted to be spied upon, and then killed. Talon had accepted the job, had spent months investigating Rhodes (the target), but here at the end, the target had managed to slip away. That had never happened before – him losing a target. And now – now he had to ask himself ‘WHY?’.
Was it because he’d gotten sloppy or careless? Had he spent too much time with his target, come to like and admire him? Or that special way the man had gotten inside his head – past his clinical detachment? This time… it went deeper. And maybe the assassination game become too terrible and cynical for his conscience. Perhaps he had slipped up.
But he’d gotten far too involved in that way with Rhodes. Perhaps that was what had changed, and how the man had escaped. Talon had scared him off.
Rhodes, a man in his 30s, had been a successful businessman, and he’d also been involved in the darker dabblings of the underworld, as part of the business he’d inherited with his father’s demise. He’d run the business more efficiently than anyone else, and it had pissed off some of his father’s rivals. Rhodes had become more and more prominent, and was usurping their power. So they took the contract out on him, and Talon had accepted.
Talon had insinuated himself into the man’s circles, and started to investigate. He found that Rhodes wasn’t so much usurping , he was changing the way the crime syndicate’s business was done, cutting out the ones that had been trying to keep the old status quo, and maintaining the drug trade, weapons and flesh trade. Changing the nature to more legitimate business. But he was ruthless in doing so. As ruthless as any drug lord or king pin.
But Rhodes had a weakness, and that was he was lonely, and he sought out.. companionship, but not just anyone. Talon had used the mask to become what Rhodes wanted, that special ‘someone’, over a course of several months.
The problem was, he’d also found that Rhodes gave him something he was lacking, as the mask failed to insulate him. It was like the mask failed on the mental defense aspect, and Talon’s emotions grew before he had realized it – and he’d fallen for the man.
It had happened when he was going to extract the last information. He was trying to force himself to finish the job. The mask tried to rally and help him do that, and so he worked feverishly at the last, getting the last of the espionage – plans, bank accounts, shipments and deployments.
But when it came to the surgical precision of dealing a death blow, he just couldn’t do it. And Rhodes had left with a look of horror and disbelief – betrayal – on his face, even though Tal hadn’t struck when he could have. And Tal was the one that felt like he’d been stabbed now.
Rhodes had escaped, and Tal had fled the penthouse, and finally made it to his hide-out/safehouse.
He looked at the mask, and frowned. “You failed me, and I failed myself. How could this be? And now my heart is breaking. What did you do to me, Mask? “
The eyes glowed red, and a sepulchral voice resounded in the room, “Our bond weakened when you found your match with the Rhodes male. You let him in, and did not want me to end him. That was your doing, not mine. Your resolve faltered. We are no longer synced.”
Tal gritted his teeth and felt his heart race, as the mask seldom spoke. And never liked this. He gulped and narrows his own eyes. “No.. longer.. Synced.. You mean.. You’ve been.. In my head all this time? All these years? “
“Yes, the first time you accepted the mask, you accepted me, and we have co-existed. Now, you have withdrawn, and given yourself to another, this Rhodes. Somehow you broke our bond. “
Tal narrowed his eyes, and shook his head, “Gods- I’ve been a host to a magical parasite.. All this time… “
“No, you have been host to a demonic mask, and I have been your guide in this world of intrigue, and death. Now you’ve chosen to leave the game. Unless – of course, you want to make a bargain with me.” There was a pause, and the eyes of the mask glowed in pulses with its words. “I can make things the way they were. We can be one, again – forever – if you wish. Just say the word, and these aberrant feelings will be gone.” It paused again, and then whispered like a lover might. “You’ll regain your hunger and zeal for the game, and we’ll hunt with impunity. All you have to do is say the words. Tell me you want this. Want me.”
Tal was tempted. The mask had been his ..companion? For more than a decade, even if he didn’t realize.
“If I did this. What would we do?“
“We would find and kill Rhodes,” The Mask said, its voice almost purring aloud. “ This would prove our bond is true. And then we would proceed to dominate the business of espionage and assassination, as we have for the past 10 years. “
Talon felt his heart race, and saw again in his mind, Rhodes face – the betrayal, anger, and fear. There was no way he’d ever win the man back. They could never have that bond again.
He looked at the mask, whose eyes had shifted from red to a soft blue glow, and they slowly pulsed, in time with the beat of Tal’s heart. “You know it’s what you want,” it said.
There was a knock at the door. Tal slowly placed the mask on the table before him, and its eyes shifted to red again, angry at being left aside, “Do not answer that door; put me on, and we can go forth.. “ Tal gave the mask an annoyed look, and shook his head, making a shhhshing sound.
He grabbed the sword that lay at his side, and unsheathed it. No-one should know about this place. No one.
He stalked silently to the door on bare feet, wearing only black leather pants that clung so tight they were a second skin. His tattooed chest barely moved as he controlled his breathing, almost silent. He gripped the door handle, yanked it open, and with precision, lashed his sword lashes out – it was only by a supreme act of control that he did not sever the man’s throat, halting just at the neck.
Rhodes was in the hall. He was in a dark jacket, black jeans and a gray hoodie underneath. His shaggy black hair was held back by a black ball cap and in a ponytail. He almost looked like someone trying to disguise himself – like a media star hiding from the public.
His eyes were wide, the sword actually touching his throat, but not cutting it. He looked totally resigned, as he looked into Tal’s eyes, no longer filled with rage or the look of betrayal. Instead, there was something else. Something fierce. Something brave. Something raw.
“I came to find you.. To find out.. What it was I saw.. “ he said, as he swallowed and held up his hands..
Tal held the sword steady but wanted to scream, but he held firm. “How.. how did you find me?”
“I ..can explain. But if you .. are going to .. finish what you started.. Then do it now.. I can’t live .. without you, Tal.“ The man reached up and pulled off a mask just like Tal’s own, almost identical. Rhodes looked at him – and his features shifted subtlely – nearly the same but with brown hair and green eyes. The eyes of his mask were red and narrowed as if in anger.
“I’m Trace- I have been Rhodes for a while, now. I killed him and took his place. But I knew his family was trying to get rid of him. They were making him into a sacrificial goat. But it wasn’t him you were stalking, it was me.”
Tal’s eyes widened in realization. His heart nearly burst, and he gasped softly, the sword arm lowered. He paused a moment, and tilted his head, looking from the man to the mask he held, and then over to the one on the table in the room. “You .. wear a mask too?” he said, incredulous.
Trace laughed and sounded like he was about the cry, and shuffled his feet, and sighed, “yeah.. In more ways than one.. But.. it stopped working about 2 months ago.. I.. I want you.. What’s your name? Your real name? “
“I’m Tal.. “ and it seemed there was a tense moment.. But it broke when Trace moved in, and Tal let him, falling into one another’s arms. They kissed, and held onto one another for a long time in that hallway. The other Mask fumed in the room, eyes glowing red and green and orange..
They talked softly, for some minutes, finally parting, and agreed what had to be done.
Tal walked into the room, sheathed the sword, and looked down at his Mask. It had taken on a sullen appearance. “We could have been great together, Talon. It’s still not too late. Put me on. We can have it all. “
Tal gestured for Trace to enter with the steel case. He opened it up, placed the mask in the soft blood-red velvet of the inside of the case. “No more Masks, “ he said to the thing. And he looked up at Trace, and the other man placed his own mask inside, as well.. They closed the case, together, and the sullen glow of the eyes was cut off.
Trace nodded, and sighed, “If there’s no more masks, then we have to talk. “ He smiled at his .. lover? Companion? Fellow victim?
Talon smiled in return, and sighed as well, taking the case with him, as the two left the place that was neither home nor haven any longer. It was just another form of a mask to hide behind. They didn’t need them any more.
Inside the case, the two masks eyes glowed and softened. “Do you think they suspect,” one asked the other.
“It doesn’t matter,” came reply. “The seed is planted. Perhaps we will be called on in a few months or even years, by them or another generation. We have time – all the time in the world.”
Face paint- :[P]:- Midas Fauxe:// Line (TSA)
*Bolson / Tattoo – Odric (Store)