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2020, Weed California

     Three months had passed since that fateful night in the Sculpture Garden, yet Eddie could still think of nothing else. He could easily, at will, recall each and every precise emotion and thought from that event. It was as if the experience had been branded onto his brain.
      That thing was so fucking amazing! The way it cut through flesh, through metal, like they were nothing. I want that! I want that fucking power! But how do I get it?
The town was still recovering from the tragedy of that night. Being a small area, everyone knew someone who had been murdered on the highway. Rumors ran rampant as to what exactly had killed their friends. Had it been some kind of rabid wild animal? Was it a single psycho or some kind of cult? How had it/he/them killed four police officers and countless civilians? It would take an extended period of time for the town of Weed to regain its footing.
     Eddie could sense this uncertainty and went to work on figuring out ways he could take advantage of it. Add to the tremulous environment the fact that Weed currently had no police officers, and it made for a perfect proving ground for the aspiring criminal architect.
     Armed with the gift of gab and an almost supernatural sense of when people were lying, Eddie began to create the information network that would eventually grow into an international organization. 
     Eddie started small and took his time expanding. An initial crew of three couriers, which included Pascal, grew into a spiderweb of criminal activity strung throughout the four mountain towns of Weed, Dunsmuir, Mt. Shasta, and Yreka. By the time he was twenty, Eddie had expanded south as far as the Bay Area and north as far as Portland. He even got a couple of scams up and running in Reno.
     Eventually, Eddie’s network grew large enough to get on an apathetic old Scotsman’s radar. Compelled into action even though he had sworn he was done meddling, Marcus sought out the young criminal mastermind. He caught up to Eddie outside a bar in Dunsmuir one night.
     “You must be the notorious Eddie Martinez, Scourge of the Mountain,” Marcus called out cynically. “I’ve been looking for you, lad.”
     “I know you,” Eddie stated flatly, turning to face the old man.
     “I don’t believe we’ve met before tonight,” Marcus responded, somewhat taken aback.
     “We haven’t. But I still know you,” Eddie remarked cryptically.
     “Are we playing riddles now, boy? I love riddles,” Marcus exclaimed sarcastically.
     A couple of very drunk gentlemen came teetering out of the bar and knocked right into Eddie, causing him to stagger back a couple of steps. As Marcus moved in closer, fearing he may need to intervene, Eddie merely faced the men down with a slight smile on his sharp face. After a moment of complete stillness, both of the drunks muttered apologies and hastily withdrew, giving Eddie a wide berth. How interesting, Marcus thought to himself.
     “I was there that night,” the young man stated, resuming his business with the Scotsman.
     “You were where, what night,” Marcus inquired, more and more curious about this odd figure.
     “At the Sculpture Garden. I saw everything. I saw that amazing creature,” Eddie answered, his dark eyes practically glowing with intensity.
     Marcus stood stock still, processing what Eddie had revealed to him. Around him, the remaining stragglers from the bar wandered by, the evening’s party winding down.
     “There’s nothing amazing about the Assassin, boy! It is an evil wretch steeped in blood and fear,” Marcus spat. “That fucking beast took my best friend from me!”
     “So it did catch up to you! I knew it would. I knew nothing could stop it. That’s real power,” Eddie gushed manically, coming nearer to Marcus. The empty night around the two men leaned in closer as well. A solemn quiet descended.
     “Kindness is real power, lad. Love is real power. Compassion is real power! The Assassin is weak because it only knows one thing, snuffing out life,” the Scotsman stated furiously, flecks of spittle dotting his craggy beard.
     “But isn’t that the ultimate display of power, to end someone’s life?” Eddie asked, now standing directly in front of Marcus.
     “No, lad,” the tortured former Resistance fighter answered softly, eyes downcast, “Taking a life is a display of cowardice.”

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