THE SOUND OF THE BABY’S HEARTBEAT GREW LOUDER
With what remained of Benjamín Méndez buried and all but forgotten, Rapid City moved on to other things. There was, after all, a hot bit of celebrity gossip to discuss: Leonard and Aubrey Cabot were going to have a baby!
The local media’s obsession with Leonard Cabot was nothing new. Being born into one of the state’s most affluent families has that effect. Being a world-class athlete since middle school didn’t hurt, either.
Leonard’s father, John Montgomery Cabot (or Monty, as his friends called him) had been a beloved philanthropist and champion of Rapid City, and Leonard’s mother, Marylin, was the first woman in the city’s history to be elected mayor. When the couple tragically passed away in a plane crash back when Leonard was twenty-five, almost every school and business in a thirty-mile radius shut down for the visitations. This kind of legacy was a lot to live up to.
Magnificent Man came with his own set of expectations as well. The Valor Society was just beginning to hit their stride. Already general crime in the city was decreasing, and they were turning their attention to bringing down Ominous, the crime syndicate in Southside Vance suspected as playing a role in his nephew’s murder. Soon, Magnificent hoped, he could bring his friend the justice Darnell deserved.
Even in the good times, Leonard felt the weight of all of this. He was happy, but there percolated in the nape of his neck the pins and needles of anxiety, a pressure that kept him almost always on edge.
Looking back, not even Magnificent Man himself could have imagined just how clairvoyant such instincts were. For now, though, in the afterglow of success, in the excitement of a new baby on the way, the people celebrated alongside their favorite son.
And Leonard did his best to soak it in.
“Seventeen weeks already!” gushed the ultrasound technician. “Time sure flies!”
Her name was Amber, and Leonard had been staring at her quizzically since he and Aubrey had walked in the room. Amber seemed familiar, the way a television star seems familiar when they pop up on a different show in different context. You know the face, but you can’t really place it.
Did we go to high school together…
Maybe it was her boisterous demeanor that recalled someone else, some caricature of a person—her hair too big, her makeup too thick, her voice too loud, her maw too wide. He watched as she spread ultrasound gel on Aubrey’s exposed belly, saw his wife flinch at its temperature. Amber giggled enthusiastically.
“Oh I’m sorry, my dear. That stuff sure can be cold!”
Leonard felt like he was losing his mind. What about this woman seemed familiar? And why was she grating him so?
Truth be told, none of this was Amber’s fault. Leonard had felt irritated all day. Here he was on a “day date,” a rare kidless and work-free outing with Aubrey. They had gone out for breakfast, walked the shopping district for a while, went to a movie. And now he was going to see his baby for the very first time. He was having a great day, really, and should’ve been in a great mood. And yet his mind was annoyingly somewhere else. He was distracted; his thoughts were like mosquitos buzzing subtly at his ears.
Amber began to move the transducer across Aubrey abdomen, the baby’s muffled heart pulsing through the ultrasound speakers like transmissions from some distant, underwater planet. Leonard noticed lipstick on her teeth then—Amber’s, not Aubrey’s. He shook his head and cursed soundlessly to himself.
Get your head in the game, dumbass.
Aubrey looked over and smiled at him as Amber found the baby’s heart. Leonard could see it beating in the grainy image on the screen. The baby, so small, moved its head away from them, camera shy.
“It’s real,” Aubrey said softly, reaching out to take Leonard’s hand. There were tears in her eyes. “There’s an actual baby in there.”
Amber laughed loudly, too loud for the size of the room. Leonard clenched his teeth.
“Yep! No denying it now!” she commented, giving Aubrey a big, toothy smile.
Leonard wanted to laugh, too, somewhere in his head. He wanted to smile back at Aubrey, to tell her he loved her and was proud of her. But his tongue was locked to the roof of his mouth and a shivering pain was creeping over him, icy fingers running through his hair.
The sound of the baby’s heartbeat grew louder.
Leonard looked at the machine as the sound intensified, his face twisted up. The women in the room were still chatting jovially to each other. Neither seemed bothered by this volume malfunction. His head began to sing, to pulsate, the sound growing still. He stood quickly from his chair.
“Isn’t anyone gonna turn off that damn machine!” he shouted. Both Aubrey and Amber jumped, alarmed.
“Honey,” started Aubrey. “What’s gotten—”
But she was cut off as a scream tore from Leonard’s mouth, ripped from the very depths of his lungs like a tree being ripped from the ground roots and all. He grabbed his head, reeling, and staggered to where the ultrasound machine was plugged in. He yanked the plug from the wall and the screen went black, his baby vanishing.
But still he could hear the heartbeat.
Louder than ever now, the sound invaded Leonard’s senses, racking his mind and moving to his stomach. The nausea came, that bitter bile biting at the back of his throat, licking at his uvula. He doubled over, gagged hard but kept things down, and sprinted like a wounded animal from the room.
He made it to the bathroom just a few doors over before he wretched; scrambled eggs, english muffins, popcorn and more all made their encore appearance. Everything tasted like orange juice and movie theater butter, sour with viscosity. He collapsed to the floor of the bathroom, sweat pouring from every pore. The sickness was passing; the earthquake in his head began to fade. He felt exhausted, more tired than even that time back in college when he had tried to run a triathlon. His arms and legs were weights holding him to the ground. Sweat stung his eyes.
After a few breathless moments, Leonard managed to crawl from the bathroom. There in the hallway, of course, he found his petrified wife and a bevy of curious onlookers—nurses, doctors, and patients alike all waiting for him. Aubrey’s doctor, Amir Methesda, rushed forward to help Leonard stand.
“My god, Leonard,” he exclaimed, “What happened? Are you alright?”
Leonard wiped his mouth and swayed a bit, still woozy from the episode. Amir wrapped an arm around his waist.
“Come on, let’s get you to a bed.”
DOCTOR METHESDA FOUND A QUIET place for Leonard to lie down, and after Leonard assured Aubrey she could finish her appointment without worrying about him, Leonard was left alone with his thoughts. Given the incident, however, his thoughts were the last place he wanted to be. He clicked on the tiny old television in the room and shut his eyes, letting the low-volumed hum of a newscast wash clean his mind.
At least… that was the hope.
… of yet another mysterious bank robbery happening in the city’s financial district. This time, MIFinacnical’s branch on Pearl and Division was the scene of the crime. Witnesses are reporting that, quote, “an incredibly fast man,” entered the bank precisely at 9am this morning, subdued a security guard, and then demanded access to the vault. Surveillance footage obtained by Action News 8 shows the man entering the vault, gathering up the money into an oversized duffle bag, and then vanishing in a blur. This is the fifth such robbery in the last two weeks, with the most recent three coming in just the last four days. Police have yet to name a suspect or even any leads, only noting the uptick in events and to caution that the man, whoever he is, should be considered armed and “super-powered.” Police Chief Ron West has also said he’s increased patrols in the downtown’s financial sector in hopes of catching this rapid renegade in the act. If you or someone who know has any information helpful to his case, you are encouraged to call Chief West’s office at the number below.
Joining us now to discuss this latest incident of super-powered villainy is Elouise Harrington, author of the book “Crime in The Age of Titans” as well as the forthcoming “Mr. Magnificent: A Hero’s Journ—”
Leonard clicked the television off. Three robberies in four days now. The perp was growing bolder. Leonard shook his head, upset. He had been choosing not to deal with this issue until further ground could be made on the Ominous front, but it was becoming clear he’d have to get the VS involved. This bank robbery ruckus was becoming not only a threat to the city, but was threatening to besmirch everything he and The Valor Society were working towards, all the progress they had made in Southside. Since this super-powered speedster seemed too much for the police to handle (understandably so), Magnificent Man could ignore it now longer.
Leonard sighed and closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He felt wrung out, emptied like a sponge twisted in strong hands. What was supposed to be a joyous day had turned into something else entirely. Why had he reacted to the heartbeat of his own child that way? Something baleful coiled in the pit of his stomach, a sinister snake about to strike. Leonard did his best to ignore it.
I’ll call Jim, he thought, taking a deep breath, searching for a way to feel in control again. Get him on this robbery junk for the next couple of days. It’s right up his alley.
Feeling a little more resolute, Leonard slipped into an unintentional sleep, right there in the doctor’s office.
so, book of matches... what is tales from rapid city anyhow?
TALES FROM RAPID CITY IS AN EXCITING NEW SUPER-POWERED UNIVERSE TOLD AND SHARED IN AN EXCITING NEW WAY.
Written and developed by Book of Matches co-founder, Geoffrey Young Haney, with creative assistance from Matthew A. Rodriguez (Defenders of Eden), Tales From Rapid City vol. 1: Magnificent, tells the tale of Rapid City's most illustrious hero, Magnificent Man, and his tragic fall from grace.
On the dedication of a statue raised in his honor, iconic superhero, Magnificent Man, is challenged by an old friend, Vance Waters (who secretly fights a few towns over as the superhero known as Bulletproof), to start making a real difference; to stop playing it safe and to bring his power and influence to areas of the city that really need it—areas like Southside, one of Rapid City's more forgotten neighborhoods.
Accepting this responsibility, Mag teams with Bulletproof and their estranged friend Jim Young (The Detective) to form The Valor Society. They set out to recruit other heroes from around the nation to join in their cause, and together, these heroes will stop the crime and corruption the police and politicians seemed unable—or unwilling—to address.
But with the formation of a team of masked heroes comes powerful resistance. From the onset, The Valor Society finds itself up against a range of super threats, including Benjamín Méndez, a wannabe super with erratic and terrifying powers who didn't make the cut for the VS, a cocky bank robber with super-speed who goes by the name Blaze, and a shadowy counter-organization, The Mirari League, whose media-grabbing methods and appealing rhetoric bring into question which team of supers really has Rapid City's best interests in mind.
It's an all-out struggle for the hearts and minds of the people, a struggle that leaves the titular Magnificent Man forever altering the path of his life, the lives of the ones he loves, and the city he calls home.
Tales From Rapid City is a universe in the truest sense of the word, one with a vast storytelling scope. Comics, short stories, films... we're building our own little Marvel/DC here. Of course, that vision lies a ways down the road, when many minds can come together to fully flesh out the world of Rapid City. For now, it's just a few of us and a website. And that's just fine to get this introductory story told. Hopefully you'll see as much potential in this as we do.
Throughout 2018, the tale of Magnificent will be available FOR FREE in five, six chapter "parts", with new chapters coming every week. Valor (Magnificent #1) begins March 27 with Chapter One: The Disorienting Feeling of A World On The Brink of Collapse and continues every Tuesday with new chapters until May 1st.
Valor (Magnificent #1) will then become an ebook, available on Amazon, with preorder beginning April 19. On May 10, when Valor is officially available to own as an ebook, the chapters available here on our website will be removed, and the next segment, Disorder (Magnificent #2), will kick off (again, FOR FREE) here on our site on May 15.
By releasing in this fashion, both as a free story and a more traditional ebook, we hope to reach multiple audiences—those "early adopters" excited about this story who want to read along as we go on this journey together, and those in the wider reach of the ebook market, who will hopefully join those "true believers" reading along right here on our website.
Tales From Rapid City vol. 1: Magnificent, will conclude in time for Christmas, with an illustrated TPB (trade paperback) collecting parts 1-5 available in print and digital formats on December 17, 2018. We hope you'll come along with us on this exciting adventure. Tales From Rapids City (volume 1 and beyond) has been percolating in different ideas and formats since 2013, and we're very excited to be able to bring it to you now in this unique way.
So excited, in fact, that from now until the ebook release of Masquerade (Magnificent #3) on August 16, anyone who emails firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us what they think of the project will receive both a print and digital copy of the final collection in December. That's a thank you from Book of Matches for supporting this dream (and a bit of an easter egg for reading this boring "info" section for this long. :D)
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN CREATING IN THE RAPID CITY UNIVERSE?
Book of Matches Media is a collective, a group of artists all about collaboration. And Tales From Rapid City is no different. If you're a writer or artist who would like to get involved in this project in someway, feel free to email us. As stated before, to see this universe to its ultimate end, we'll need lots of talented people on board. So if you dig what we're doing and think you could contribute, give us a shout!
copyright © 2018 Book of Matches Media
Tales From Rapid City, unless otherwise expressed, is a work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
This original work of fiction, unless otherwise expressed*, is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
To learn more about Creative Commons and the culturally important work they do in the face of a broken copyright system, click here. If you have any questions specific to what is covered by our license, to any of our project's specific rules under such license, or if would like to know more about why Book of Matches Media uses Creative Commons, please feel free to email us.
*The characters known as “Cloptic” and “Windrush” are licensed creations of Matthew A. Rodriguez and are property of Ideas From Mars LLC. Therefore, they are the only creations within this narrative that do not fall under our CC License, so they may not be included in derivative works without expressed written consent.