Episodes 10 24+35, 39
Finger…One of the most feared figures in down-world cunning- yes, intelligent- yes handsome- perhaps, cocky- sometimes…Dangerous? You bet! He smiled to himself as he lay on his back, hands folded behind his head. The bed was wide, plenty big enough to accommodate one of his height; but he lay on it slantwise with his knees and feet dangling over the edge. It felt freeing somehow, sprawled out, basking in the ample sunlight that poured through window. Pity he couldn't stay. As much as he enjoyed the respite he just wasn't cut out to be a tower kid. 'Soon I'll be back down below in the thick of things.' he sighed "After all someone has to monitor the Monitors- and Brad, in his wisdom, has declared I'm the best one for the job.
"Psst," the quiet sound drew his attention but he ignored the interruption for a few heartbeats, Smug in his musings. If he was correct, this particular visitor was noted for his persistence.
"Hello, Fin? Are you there?" the quiet voice called again.
His face broke in to a contagious grin, "Fractal." He answered leaning up on one elbow to greet his friend.
"I had heard you returned and just wanted to…" the absented-minded genius began but his words drifted off as his thought turned instead to rubbing his hands together trying to remove a rapidly congealing green substance left there from one of his latest experiments.
The stalwart Monitor commander could not help but smile at his frowning companion. "You don't need an excuse to come see me. Come here tower-boy." Fin offered amiably.
Fractal looked up, removing his thick spectacles; to get a better look at his friend. They really only magnified things close up. In most instances he saw better without them. "I've been hearing things Fin… or is it Finger now?"
"It'll always be Fin to you. 'Finger' is just a façade Macro's came up with; something to strike fear into the flunkies. It seems rather effective so far."
"First he bars you from serving on the council, now he's given you a new name. He's doing everything he can to paint you as some kind of monster. I worry about you Fin. What will we do if Brad can't keep Macro's ambition in check?"
"What will we do?" Fin laughed, "You're the genius, I'm just the trained muscle remember."
"Come on Fin-lad, you know that when the time comes for Brad to pick someone to succeed him as head of the Council, you're every bit as qualified as Macro, some would say more so."
"I don't want to be leader of the whole world," Fin shrugged dismissively. "Maybe he'll pick you."
"I may be a genius but I'm no leader." Fractal settled uneasily on the edge of the bed. "I've seen the way a simple word from you can quiet an unruly crowd. You've got presence. No one listens to me. The mere fact that I'm on the council is proof that Macro doesn't see me as a serious threat. He knows if he threatens my privacy or starts hindering my projects… I'll knuckle under like a house of cards. My autonomy is paramount and always will be. It's a weakness Macro will, and has, used to his advantage."
"So this time you didn't even defend my request to sit on the council." Fin nodded understanding.
"Brad never even saw it. I'm sorry." Fractal whispered and put his glasses back on. With that small action the room and anything farther than arm's reach became hazy and indistinct and the sunlight made shadows dance with rainbows. This solved the problem of having to meet his friend's gaze. The genius used his glasses in this fashion many times over the years…it made it easer to deal with life's unpleasantness. Fractal reasoned Fin saw more clearly than anyone. His travels often took him away from the tower and beyond the inner circle, even to the edges of the earth. He saw kids hungry, beaten, lost and alone. Kids with no club affiliation… abandoned by all—All but Fin that is. "Have you found anything interesting, out there, lately?" Fractal asked.
"I captured a wild one this last time—" Fin's eyes blazed with fervor as he recounted his latest exploit knowing that his observations were likely the only way the reclusive academic could experience what it was like at the edges of the world. "I had Geoff and Bug along. They're not really lieutenant material but I keep hoping they'll show some spark of quality, better they're with me than out on their own I suppose. Some of my men do tend to get a bit…overzealous." Fin shook his head and sighed. "Well, anyway, we were down the corner of Hard Place and Rock Street and heard this scuffle in a storm drain. The poor runt tried to get away. We had him cornered and he bit me!" Fin Laughed. "The little beast was grubby as a digger and smelled twice as bad. I managed to get him up over my shoulder and carried him to the petty cab. He struggled and kicked fiercely trying to break away but I wasn't having any of it. We had to chain him good and tight; I even had to collar him. I expect he'll prove quite a handful for Ms. Bar and the keepers at the friendship mission. I don't expect them to have much luck with him, but that's fine. First opening I get he's mine. I'll be grateful if they hose him down and get him into different clothes. I'm sure he's got fleas.
"What is his name… your new acquisition?" Fractal asked.
Fin grimaced a bit, "I'm not sure that he had one… He's a savage."
"And you're the one to tame him?" The inventor took his glasses off again and touched his friends arm gently. "You know what will happen if you can't get through to him."
Fin let out a deep sigh. "I remember what it is like being an outsider, alone in the world. I've been hunted by dogboys before. That melancholy howl haunts my dreams even still. I can't forget that if you hadn't found me I would be one of them. Believe me when I tell you it's not too late for this Savage. He's not as bad off as I was. I can do it. He's to be one of my special projects."
"Just be careful. It's not as easy as you might think," the inventor cautioned, straightening his bowtie and smoothing down the wrinkles on his white lab coat.
"How hard could it be if a Tower-brat like you could manage it?" Fin said and playfully cuffed his onetime keeper up-side the head. Fractal knew his friend enjoyed the veneer of civility but even after all this time he knew the 'wildness' had not been fully expunged. Fin's somewhat prominent canines and reckless grin were a testament to a feral heritage that could not be denied. Beyond the inner circle was a ruthless world and Fin… or 'Finger' as Macro styled him now, was truly a product of it. Countless times Fractal had needed to remind his companion that dog-boys were nothing but freaks of nature, the genetic antithesis to everything the tower stands for… evil creatures who feed on fear.
"Even dumb animals can be trained—" Fractal began knowing Fin would finish the statement just as he had so many years ago.
"—It's the cunning ones you have to watch out for." Fin answered with a mock scowl and let out a throaty "Grrrrr."
"Don't make me get out my whistle." Fractal teased.
Fin half cringed behind upraised hands, "Oh, please, no!" he said, only part in jest. That earsplitting blast would likely still send him scuttling into the deepest, darkest, hiding-place he could find… not that there had been many places to hide in the 'kennel' where he had first been kept. Those had been frightful times; his whole world had been set on its head. There had to be some better means for him to keep 'His Savage' in line… Realization hit, "All I need to do is prove to the pup that I'm the one that deserves to be pack leader." Fin breathed, hardly daring to hope it was really that simple. It had not been threat and fear that had tamed him, though both had been necessary at the outset. The tower boy had earned Fin's respect and that was what won him over. Dog-boys have no notion of loyalty…but kids do. And Savage, despite his wild ways, had not let the beast within rule him completely. Not yet. There was still hope.
"Do you still regret being brought to the tower?" Fractal asked quietly and was relieved to see Fin shake his head 'no.'
"I remember there were nights I howled myself hoarse not realizing how high the tower is and how thick its walls are. Countless times I threw myself against the bars of my cage, the fetter they put around my neck rubbed me raw from straining against it. I somehow thought the others would come for me…my pack." Fin's voice was melancholy but he kept his promise to always speak truth to Fractal, even if it was painful. "The wild ones live eternally 'in the now' with no thought to the consequences of our actions; Savage hadn't been taken in by a pack when I found him… he was still alone. He didn't have to learn how faithless our kind can be. Its may go easier for him because of that. You found me bruised, battered and bloody… but it was as much from captivity as from my previous life. You opened my eyes to so many wonders, Music, Art, Literature and Science. I am changed; I can't go back, surely you can see that."
"You ARE my friend Fin." Fractal said surreptitiously wiping a tear from his eye.
"And you're mine, tower boy." Fin laughed, "But enough of this, I have work to do… and I'm surprised you've left your laboratory this long."
"My?…OH MY! You are absolutely correct…I fear I've left something…burning!" the occasionally scatterbrained genius remembered and made a frantic exit, leaving the door wide in his haste.
"Oh well." Fin shook his head and arched his back before rising. He sat on the edge of the bed long enough to pull on his knee length riding boots. He didn't have a mirror and wouldn't use one if he did. He ran his fingers through his short blond hair. When he's first been brought to the tower they'd shaved much of it off Fractal said it had been necessary at the time. But he thought it was growing in nicely now. Still, he never tried to part it on the side with a comb the way Fractal did. The blond fringe on top was long enough to tie in a tight tail and so he did so. What did it matter, he wore a hat or helmet half-the-time anyway. Fin stood and straightened his blue shirt, securing the metal clasp tight at his collar, a badge representing the need for self-restraint. He grabbed the quilted jacket with gold epaulettes from the back of a nearby chair and slung it over his shoulder before striding out the door.
Tower functionaries and peons scattered at his approach. Others shrank back as he donned the jacket and drew his sunglasses from the pocket. Lastly he pulled his characteristic leather gauntlets from beneath his wide belt and slapped them idly against the palm of his other hand. His hands and nails were pristine, few would suspect that when he'd first been brought to the tower they'd been torn and bleeding from years of grubbing in the dirt. He pulled the gauntlets on and became 'The Finger' once more.