How Jack Dante and Bob Nicholson might have met for the first time.


"It's alright Jack, you're not in trouble."

Well so he said, but to the eight year old Jack Dante this was obviously not the case. They do not take you from your home (well, the place where you live anyway) and stick you in a jail cell for good behavior. They'd taken anything from him that could be used as a weapon, he thought, and looking down at his feet he saw that they took the laces from his scuffed up sneakers. Messy black hair fell over his eyes, blocking the room and it's new inhabitant from view. He scooted back farther into the corner, curled into himself, tried to vanish from view. But the man was talking again. "I'd just like to hear about your machine Jack. I'd like to know how you built it."

This was different, none of the others had said anything like that. Mainly they asked him why he killed her, and how he felt about it, and yelled at him. Slowly, carefully, he uncurled himself and brushed the hair out of his eyes to look at the man for the first time. Then Jack just stared, because whoever this was clearly didn't belong. While the room was dirty and sparse, his new visitor was wearing a three piece suit, and had bathed more recently than the guards had. Of course, his face had that same patronizing expression on it, like it was some huge deal that he was talking to Jack. Jack, being nearly nine, did not appreciate being talked down to. So he stared right back at the new man awhile. Eventually he asked, "Who are you?"

"Bob Nicholson, but call me Bob" he said, with forced cheerfulness. He'd already introduced himself once to this kid, and he did not like to repeat himself. Still, the payoff could be worth it, if Jack would say more than three words at a time. He assayed another sentence. "I work for the CHAANK Corporation." Still nothing. "We make weapons. Guns. Rocket launchers, drone bombers, that sort of thing." It was as if he'd flipped a switch in Jack's brain. He hopped off the bed, blue eyes suddenly luminous with interest.

"Like RPGs? Those are cool! I tried to make one but it didn't fly right." Dante paused, and then reported, matter-of-factly, "It did blow up though." Bob nodded. Dante's record was full of similar demerits, it seemed to only way to get him to stop was to put him in solitary confinement. Even then he'd inevitably manage something with the wall sockets, 'til his caretakers simply gave up. They'd tried medication, the record stated, but it was too expensive to keep treating him. "I think I know what I did wrong now though, if it had more thrusters it would fly more balanced instead of spinning around in a circle like that, and then it'd go where you wanted. It's too heavy to throw." The words spilled out one after another, like rats deserting a sinking ship.

Nicholson held up a restraining hand, but Jack went on regardless. His hands shook and dove through the air, gesturing at designs that only he could see. Nicholson wondered what would happen if he just kept going, would he wind down or explode? "Jack!" he exclaimed, and that seemed to interrupt Dante's screed. "You were going to tell me about the machine that killed Miss Doe." At Jack's blank look, he clarified: "Sarah."

"Oh." With that, Jack retreated back into silence and Nicholson barely kept himself from screaming. It looked like he was back to square one with this kid. Bob crouched down next to Dante and tried to brush some of the hair out of his eyes. Jack jerked backwards and shielded his face with his hands. "Don't touch me!" he shrieked, and Bob recoiled. However, Bob recovered quickly.

"Look," he ground out, voice rising, "I'm not here about the girl. I don't care about the girl. The girl is completely irrelevant. In half an hour I am going to leave and she will still be as dead as when I arrived. But you have a chance to change what will happen to you." Jack was frozen in place mid-scramble, staring at Nicholson. He continued, "Do you know what happens to people like you who kill little girls? Jail, and I assure you it is much worse than what you're used to." Nicholson paused, realizing that he had no idea what exactly would work as a threat to this kid. He had no family, no friends, nothing that could really be used as leverage. Maybe it was time to try the carrot, instead of the stick. He spoke softly, coaxing. "But it doesn't have to be that way. You're brilliant Jack, think of what you could design with real supplies, not just what you've had to steal. With people who understood your work. Sarah didn't understand, your teachers don't either. But I do." Jack now sat cross legged on the floor, nearly motionless. It was impossible to see his expression through that curtain of hair, but Nicholson was half afraid that if he tried to move it again he'd get his fingers bitten off. Instead, he went on "I think your talents would be wasted making shanks in Juvie. I think you should come live with us." There, the die was cast, as they say.

"What?" Dante didn't sound happy or excited, he just sounded baffled. "But... all my stuff is here."

"You can get new stuff, Jack." He noticed desperation beginning to leak into his voice, quelled it. "We can buy it for you, top of the line, whatever you want. But only-" he paused for emphasis "-if you come with us."

"Well... alright. I guess." Hardly the enthusiastic 'yes!' Nicholson had been hoping for, but he was out of time. This detour had been costly enough, he couldn't delay it further.

"Great, I'll send someone to discuss the details. Pleasure meeting you Jack." Before Jack could even respond, Nicholson was gone. The guards shut the door behind him and it was as if he'd never even been there.

Well, Jack was used to being alone.