Shadow Knight: Judgement Day
Chapter 7: The Second Player
Lunar City Courthouse: June 4th, 2021: 10:25 AM
As Shadow Knight and the two detectives raced off towards the third round of Mastermind's twisted game.
In his office, going over a court case, District Attorney Harry Vincent was also mulling over the wedding ring he still had in his suitcoats pocket…and how he was going to pop the question to Rachel Kishi.
Why was this so hard?
He knew he loved her; he knew he wanted to spend the rest of her life with her.
Even with all the craziness her brother's world and her moonlighting vigilante work produced, he wanted to be with her till death did they part.
But when he tried to ask her, either he chickened out, or something came up and got in the way.
Maybe this was a sign, his indecision and all these failed attempts at asking Rachel to marry him, that he and Rachel were not meant to be together?
That couldn't be the reason, he knew he loved her, he knew that without a doubt.
Then WHY couldn't he have said so back in the kitchen earlier today?
"Harry," he said to himself, "Just ask her when you see her again tonight. Get it over with. You're driving yourself insane…." He then sighed, "Well Rachel is a woman worth going insane over."
That was when the IPhone in his pocket began to ring, he pulled it out and read the caller id, he saw that it was a call from Rachel.
Strange, she usually called him on her lunch hour…and that wasn't for two hours.
He slid his finger over the "answer call" symbol on his IPhone's touch screen and placed the IPhone to his right ear, "Rachel?"
"Not exactly District Attorney…" an unknown male voice responded on the other end, "sorry to disappoint you, but Rachel Kishi can't come to the phone. She's a bit preoccupied being my prisoner."
For a moment, Harry Vincent's heart stopped.
He suddenly recognized that voice, and now his fear of rejection was replaced with plain fear as he realized that he was talking to The Mastermind…and he had called him with Rachel's phone number.
"What's the matter?" The Mastermind's voice asked, "lost for words?"
"How…?" Harry Vincent began to speak.
"Let's skip with the formality's and get right to the point," The Mastermind's voice said curtly, "I know everything Mr. District attorney. I Know that Shadow Knight is Kagae Kishi and that Rachel Kishi, Detective Renee' Alvarez, and others are in on his whole vigilante justice operation in this rotten city. Right now, he's out there, running the gauntlet I've placed for him. But why should Shadow Knight be the only one who deserves to be tested."
"Tested?" Harry Vincent scoffed, "You mean mentally tortured and killed!"
"What's the point of a challenge if it's not challenging? What is the point of an individual's choice if there aren't consequences for their actions? What is a game, without the risk of losing?" The Mastermind asked indifferently.
"Enough talking in riddles! Where is Rachel? What have you done to her!" Harry Vincent demanded angrily.
"You forget Mr. District attorney" The Mastermind scolded, "I am a teacher, I don't give away the answers. No, you want answers to that question, you're going to have to play the game as well."
"What game?" Harry Vincent demanded.
"I know how much you care about Rachel Kishi Mr. District attorney" The Mastermind responded, "I know you've been VERY intimate with her; it's gotten to the point that you took your late mothers wedding ring out from your safety deposit box in the Westpoint Bank and desire to put it around her finger and hold onto her for the rest of your life. How touching. I wish I could say 'congratulations', but as you are already aware…I don't hold 'love' in such high regard. I fell in love once, and it ruined my entire life. The woman I gave my heart to just used me to get what she wanted. That is just human nature, we say what we think we need to say to get what we want. Love? It's just a falsity, an illusion made up to hide the fact that when we say we 'love' someone…we're just being selfishly superficial about such a claim. There is no such thing as love. Men and women fall in love, date, marry, make vows to honor one another… and then cheat on one another and divorce the second a 'fresh new model' comes around the corner. We don't fall in love because we enjoy that person's company, we do it because we get something out of it, and when we don't get whatever superficial item that is, we toss that person away like used trash. Intelligence and personality are not seen as desirable in a mate, we seek out the brainless bimbo who spreads her legs for a cheap thrill and shun and shame the wholesome but 'homely' girl who wants to save herself for someone special and raise a family. We infatuate ourselves with the Bad Boy or brainless jock who turns out to be an abusive prick and scoff at the true affections of an unpopular nerd or frumpy woman who wouldn't dare hurt a hair on that person's head. Why? Because people are inherently selfish and shallow, and so are their so-called declarations of love, loyalty, and affection. Nothing but a mask to hide their dishonesty. They don't fall in love with another for love, they fall in love for benefits, power, wealth, social status and lust. Love is as falsity. A Hedonistic illusion. That's why it's a weak foundation for human comfort and leaves nothing but pain and misery in its wake! Just another one of mankind's flaws disguised as a strength."
"That's not true…" Harry Vincent protested, "Rachel and I, we….we have something special, something real. She's…"
"She's rich and powerful…" The Mastermind pointed out, "If she wasn't the daughter of the richest family in the city, would you have even met? Wealth and power Mr. District attorney, the yin to the yang of human greed. Further proof that love is a disguise for a play at power and status. If the person is rich, men and women latch onto them and drain them dry like a leech and move on to the next rich social ladder sucker. If the person has kids already, they are even less desirable. There are thousands of people like that in this city…and then there is you and Rachel. What a puzzle! What does a District attorney want with one of the richest businesswomen in the city? My theory…You didn't get these feelings for Rachel because you love her, you got them because she's got a sexy body, she's powerful, wealthy and she's barren. This is the ONLY reason you 'love' her, she's the entire package. If you had to go through hell for her, she wouldn't be worth it at all in your eyes. They say that a good woman is a woman worth hell, worth dying for. I say that given the opportunity, those that say that would immediately turn around and walk away because there are as they say, 'plenty of fish in the sea'. I want to test that, as well as Lunar City's nature. That's where you come in. I just sent you a text message file, look…"
The IPhone in Harry Vincent's hands vibrated, and he pulled it away from his ear to see what it was.
It was two stoplight icons, one red, one green.
"Touch the red stoplight icon, and you stay out of the game and Rachel is left to her fate, press the green stoplight icon, and you join the game. If you stay out, Rachel won't know you didn't risk your life for hers…but start the game, and you will be put through hell to rescue her. Ask yourself if you love her and if she's worth all of that?" The Mastermind's voice asked.
Harry Vincent didn't even take a moment to think about it.
He pressed the green stoplight icon.
"Well…" The Mastermind's voice said in an unimpressed tone, "getting into the car is always the easy part, until the rollercoaster gets to the top of the climb and then we scream to get off. Let's see if you are so determined to save her afterward. Now place the IPhone in front of your face and we can begin."
Doing what he was told, Harry Vincent placed the IPhone before his face.
That was when suddenly a strange, repeating, and flashing pattern appeared on the screen of the IPhone.
For a moment, Harry Vincent felt dizzy, lightheaded, mindless.
The kind of sensation a person felt when they were asleep or dreaming.
Then in an instant, the IPhone in his hand vanished and the confines of his office instantly melted away…and he found himself inside of a dark and dusty room.
There was only a single light in the middle of the room, hanging from the ceiling.
Underneath the downward cone of light, was a table, and on top of that table were three boxes.
On those boxes were painted silhouettes of animals and insects.
A snake, a spider, and a rat.
It didn't take Harry Vincent long to figure out what had happened, he was aware of The Mastermind's mind tricks and hypnotism gimmick.
This 'teleportation' was another one of his magic tricks.
The only thing he wondered was if he had ever been in his office at all when he had gotten that phone call.
He put the thought aside, as it did not matter, all that mattered to him was rescuing Rachel.
"Ah…" The Mastermind's voice spoke to him from an unseen P.A system, "you're awake. Good, now we can begin. The game is simple, Shadow Knight has seven rounds he needs to complete, you only have six. Make it to the end of these tasks and Rachel lives, fail the round, and, well…as they say, plenty of fish in the sea. Before you lies your first challenge. I call it 'Hand of Fate'."
Harry Vincent refrained from rolling his eyes and paid attention since he knew The Mastermind wasn't someone to not take seriously.
"To get out of this room is quite simple. Inside one of these boxes is the key needed to open that door and proceed on to the next level. You simply must find the box it's in. Chose the box, reach in with your hand, and grab it and you're on your way" The Mastermind explained, "However, the boxes also contain spiders, poisonous snakes, and diseased rats individually. Hence the symbols are marked on the side there. The task is simple, decide which box the key is in and then we'll see if you were right. Fail, and the deadly creatures inside will be released, you'll be at their mercy and the game is over. You have 14 minutes to solve this puzzle…Game on Mr. District Attorney!"
Harry Vincent stood there, puzzled, thinking about what his next choice should be.
From what he had gathered from Shadow Knight and the case study made on the encounters with The Mastermind so far, he knew that if he wasn't careful a wrong choice could and would be his last.
The Mastermind was adamant about fair play in his challenges and death traps, so there wasn't a chance that there wasn't a key in one of those boxes.
But he was also a master of mind games and puzzles, so the solution might not be so simple as winning a key by choosing the right box.
Hell, he couldn't even say for sure if Rachel was even at the end of this gauntlet.
But he couldn't afford to stand around, he had to pick one of the boxes.
One box held spiders, the second box held snakes, and the third rats.
No tools could be seen that he could use to take the key out of the box of creatures it lay in, but there was a slot of each box big enough for a person to stick their hand in…so it seemed that Harry would have to stick his hand in and risk potentially being exposed to those dangerous animals and insects.
There had to be an angle, a clue to this puzzle.
The key had to be in the box filled with creatures that were the least likely to kill or infect him with a disease…but which one was it?
He had been bitten by a snake once as a child, during a scouting trip, he knew that snakes were deadly if poisonous and that left out the box with the snakes.
The box with rats didn't seem likely either since even if they didn't bite you, touching them unprotected could give a person deadly diseases and illnesses.
The Spider Box, perhaps?
Was that the least dangerous option?
Would that be the one that had the key in it?
Spiders did bite, and they had venom, but were they any more or less deadly and option to face than the other boxes contents?
Maybe they were, he didn't hear much about deaths caused by spider bites than he did from the other two options.
Still, the idea of putting his hand into that box's slot and exposing himself to a bunch of spiders while digging around for the key to proceed onward wasn't appealing.
But he was the district attorney, he was used to steeling himself towards facing something he didn't want to face, be it losing a court case…or a box of spiders.
Steeling himself and screwing his courage to the sticking place, Harry Vincent pulled back his right shirt sleeve…and placed his right arm into the entry slot on the spider box.
He reached around and found nothing.
Nothing, save for something small and metallic.
He grabbed this item, pulled his hand out of the box, and saw that it was indeed a key.
The Key to the next challenge!
"Congratulations," the voice of The Mastermind congratulated, "That is the answer: The Box of Spiders. Only a small percentage of arachnids are deadly poisonous. The key was in the box."
"But there were no spiders" Harry Vincent pointed out, "You were just playing mind games weren't you about the rats, spiders, and snakes."
"No…" The Mastermind said in disagreement, and then a camera projector that had been hidden in the corner of the darkened room came on, and live video feed images of a bunch of rats, and snakes from inside the two remaining boxes it seemed.
Harry Vincent was floored by this revelation, and realized that if he hadn't picked the right box…good lord!
The Mastermind's voice continued to speak through the hidden speakers in the room.
"There were diseased rats and poisonous snakes in those boxes. What is the point of a game, or life for that matter, if there are no consequences for poor choices. It seems you won the right to proceed to the next level. But beware District attorney, the rules of a game and challenge is that the next rounds and levels are harder than the first. On to the next level! Your damsel is waiting for you to save her. Don't keep her, or me, waiting."
That was when a secondary pair of lights came on, revealing the sight of a door, which opened up automatically.
Lights came on on the other side of the door, showcasing a twisting stairwell leading up somewhere.
"Be sure to take the key with you" The Mastermind's voice advised, "You'll need it for the next trial."
Realizing that this was the way towards the next challenge to rescue Rachel, Harry Vincent gather his wits and courage…and proceeded onward.
He was unaware that Rachel Kishi was being forced by The Mastermind to watch his entire journey towards the chamber where she was being held captive.
The Mastermind had explained to her in private of his theory that if the man she loved was put through hell, he'd gradually lose that affection and ultimately opt to save his own life instead when given the opportunity.
There was no such thing as love or true love for that matter in the Mastermind's eyes...and Harry and her were going to prove it for him while her brother and the citizens of Lunar City tested his other theory's.
Like Harry Vincent before her, she denied that this is what would happen with her and Harry.
But secretly, even if she was touched by his bravery, and fearful for his life as he faced Mastermind's challenges to save her…even she couldn't help but wonder if the Mastermind was right.
If Harry made it to the end of the gauntlet, with the Mastermind knowing who she was, making her dangerous to be around now…would he still want to be with her?
Was what she and Harry had not as strong and true as she wished it to be?
She wasn't sure which would be worse for her to bear, watching Harry Die…or discovering he didn't truly love her as much as she loved him.