“…nd the nominees are…” Jessica Chastain stated as smiled for the hundreds in attendance and the millions watching across the world. “Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther 3!”
The audience applauded, and a clips tape played of the best bits of his stunning performance in the Marvel action film. Jessica’s co-presenter, Margot Robbie took her turn. “Jeffrey Dean Morgan in I Am Stalin!”
The applause was louder for the stunning performance as Russia’s 20th Century despot/hero which had already won him a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award. Jeffrey waved and blew kisses when the camera landed on him; his friend Paul Rudd launching across the table to pretend kiss him on the mouth.
“Mark Metcalf in The Chronicle Of Washington!” Jessica said as the clips tape played for the young actor from California who was on his way to super stardom in this film about Pierre Charles L'Enfant who designed the American capital. Mark smiled and waved.
“Harvey Keitel in Broken Promises!” Margot announced as the room erupted. Harvey had become the oldest nominee at age 81 and if he won would also become the oldest winner and his first Academy Award after a long career.
“Chovek Kematian in The Transit of Venus!” Jessica said as they showed the tall and handsome actor from Latvia siting next to his fiancée former porn actress Kylie Page. He cheers’d his glass and smiled. The orchestra began their drumroll to quiet the audience and cue the presenters. The camera showed the quartet of nominees on the big screen eagerly and tentatively awaiting the announcement.
“And the Oscar goes to…” Jessica said as she fumbled the envelope to Margot.
“Don’t do a Beatty,” Margot joked as she opened it. They both looked at it, then each other and then straight down the barrel of camera number one and said in unison.
“JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN!”
Mark and Chovek posed for a gaggle of paparazzi. “It’s an honour just to be nominated,” Mark said to the throng of questions.
“Would’ve preferred to win, pay check is an instant twenty,” Chovek muttered. “It’s why Howard dropped out of Iron Man.”
“True,” Mark waved them off. “Okay that’s enough, thank you. Go bug someone else. So, what’s up next for you?”
“Off to Prague for a six-month shoot, some musketeer’s thing,” Chovek nodded across the room at Taylor Lautner. “I’m taking points over pay check.”
“An Alec Guinness deal, cool,” Mark he waved at his co-star Chloë Grace Moretz who mimed back something undecipherable. “Me, I’ve got a six-episode spot on the Wastelanders and a Japanese car co…”
Chovek patted him on the shoulder and smiled. “I didn’t ask.”
Mark scowled as watched the tall Latvian mingled with the other stars of the Hollywood galaxy. Chovek fitted in nicely in the vapid world of show business, Mark was still adjusting. At heart he was still the kid from Crescent City who’d put on shows for the families at the marina, and movie making was just like that when the producers, personal assistants, executive producers, sponsors, paparazzi, and agents were removed. He sighed and put on his Hollywood smile as another photographer flittered past.
“Tough luck kid,” Harvey Keitel slapped him on the shoulder and shook his hand as only old school men can do. “I liked your film.”
“Thanks Mr Keitel.”
Harvey looked at him. “Mark, I’m Harvey. Mr Keitel is my father and he passed away long before you were born.”
“Harvey,” Mark smiled and pumped the handshake. “Broken Promises was amazing.”
“I’m just edited well,” Harvey joked. “Enjoy yo…hold on. You? Take a photo of us two losers. Got it?”
The pair smiled, genuine smiles before Harvey moved on to another famous huddle. Mark glanced at his watch and headed for the exit. He dodged a waving Jim Carrey arm who was telling some fanciful story that had Ben Stiller in stitches and sidestepped around a very messy Sharon Stone.
“Are you leaving Mr Metcalf?” asked one of the security.
“Yeah, early start tom…”
“This way,” He interrupted as he escorted him to a side door and a waiting fleet of Prius’. “One of these shall take you back to where you are staying.”
Mark got into the back of the green one at the start of the line, the driver shut the door and asked, “Where too?”
“The Jeremy West, 8490 West Suns…”
“Got it!” The driver said, and they were off. The radio was playing some pleasant jazz, Mark rested his head on the tinted window looking at the chaos that was an awards show.
“So, did you win?” The driver asked, and Mark held up his hands. “Unlucky. What was your film?”
“The Chronicle Of Washington.”
“Never heard of it. Was it any good?”
“I liked it.” Mark joked.
The driver grunted something and swerved the Prius around a stationary car. “Isn’t the Washington Chronicle a newspaper?”
Mark shrugged. “The Washington Post is a newspaper, don’t think the Chronicle is, but don’t know.”
“Is that the one with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep?”
“No, I wasn’t in that one. That’s The Post.”
“Oh…. what is going on here?” The car stopped behind a large white truck emblazoned with medical waste warnings with its hazard lights on. “What’s this fool doing?”
The driver indicated and went around, straight into the path of an oncoming petrol tanker. The resulting explosion sent a mushroom cloud of flames and smoke into the air, shattering windows for blocks around. Mark screamed as the fire engulfed him.
Mark stood up, shaken, dazed. He wobbled to his feet and noticed he was inside the inferno, yet somehow wasn’t being burnt to death. “What the ^%$#?”
He stepped out of the wreckage confused. He felt different. Slowly he walked out of the flames to the cheers and the amazement of the gathered crowd and firefighters. Cameras and cell phones recorded the whole thing including the fact he was stark naked. A firefighter quickly covered him in a thermal blanket.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I didn’t win an Academy Award?” Mark blurted out as he promptly passed out.
Mark opened his eyes to a room full of people, none he recognised. “Um hi?”
“Hello Mr Metcalf,” said a man in a dark suit and aviator glasses. “My name is Agent Bush from the Department of Homeland Security. We’ve got some questions for you?”
“Am I in trouble or something?”
“No, but we’re all rather curious on how you’re alive,” Cooper replied. “Also, that the doctors here haven’t been able to penetrate your skin with a needle nor scalpel.”
Mark touched his skin, pulling up a piece and watching it snap back like it normally would. “Is this some Ashton Kutcher prank? Because…”
“No Mr Metcalf, this isn’t a joke. It seems somehow from the accident you’ve developed powers.”
Mark smiled. “Like Superman. Ha ha ha good one. This really is joke.”
“We’d like to take you to a secure facility and run some tests,” Cooper said.
“Am I under arrest?”
“No, we’d merely like to…”
“Can I go? Because if you’re not arresting me and I feel fine, I’m going to go because I’ve got a script to read for a TV show I’m in.” Mark swung his legs out of bed and stood up. “Where are my clothes?”
“They were burnt up in the explosion,” Agent Cooper replied. “Now Mr Metcalf…”
“Could you call me Mark, Mr Metcalf is my dad,” Mark smiled to himself as he used Harvey’s joke. “Look I’d just like to go home, please.”
The Agent touched his earpiece. “Sorry Mr Metcalf, but you’re going to have to come with us.”
Mark stood up. “No.”
“Mark Metcalf, we are detaining you under Section DP-7 of the…”
Mark ignored him and headed for the door. Three men grabbed a hold of him, Mark stopped. “Get your hands off me, please.”
“Stop resisting!” The ordered as the strained to move him, Mark just watched them bemused why these three burly men couldn’t move him. Mark flexed and shook his arm and sent the trio flying into the wall with a huge crunch.
“Oh wow!” Mark gasped.
Agent Cooper drew a gun. “On your knees, Mark!”
Mark looked at him. “No, I’m going home.”
Cooper pulled the trigger. The sound in the combined space was deafening. Mark looked quizzically at the bullet he’d caught in his fingers like a bug then flattened it like it was plasticine. Everyone was aghast at what had happened.
“This is amazing!” Mark exclaimed as he dropped the flat metal onto the floor. “I’ve got to tell my mom. I’m going to go now, okay?”
Agent Cooper silently nodded, and Mark wandered out of the room.
Mark looked at the horde that enveloped his parents’ house in Crescent City. Police had formed a line with barricades around the house as the media and hundreds of onlookers blocked the street.
“Are you okay?” Mrs Metcalf sounded worried.
“I’m fine, this is all just a little bit crazy, huh?”
“Did you win? I fell asleep before your category was announced and then the accident and you were all over the news…”
“Mom, I’m fine, never felt better. No, Jeffrey won. Okay, I’m never going to get through these people. I’ve got this burner phone, so I lost all my numbers, could you call my agent Gupta Zardari for me and tell him I’m alive and okay.”
“He’s here if you want to…”
“MARK!” Gupta yelled down the phone. “WHERE ARE YOU? WHAT’S GOING?”
“I’m down the road, trying to work out how to get inside.”
“I WILL FIX THIS! STAY RIGHT THERE.”
Mark stepped out of the ambulance dressed as an EMT and walked into the house to be hugged by his mother, father, sister and agent. “Did I not tell you that would work!” said Gupta happily. “If it could work for Orson Welles it could work for you.”
“That was pretty cool hiring and ambulance to get me in,” Mark said. “But…”
“But nothing!” Gupta snapped. “Now talk to your family! I will deal with these vultures.” And he headed out to do battle with the sea of journalists.
“You okay?” Mr Metcalf asked.
“Fine, just a bit embarrassed the entire world’s seen my junk y’know,” Mark said. “It’s beyond surreal.”
“So, you like Superman?” Amber his sister asked. “Can you fly? Shoot lasers?”
“I haven’t had a chance to test out what I can do, but I did catch a bullet in my hands,” Mark shrugged. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
“You’ll need a cape,” Mrs Metcalf joked. “And something to eat.”
“Can you read minds?” Amber asked hesitantly.
“Yes, yours is blank.” Mark laughed. “I’m still me I just, I don’t know, I’m really strong and some guys from the government tried to arrest me at the hospital but I just walked out because they couldn’t stop m…”
The was a knock on the door. Mr Metcalf went to investigate and was back in seconds as three heavily armed police officers frog marched him into the lounge room. Gupta was detained by another and twelve officers poured into the room guns drawn. Mrs Metcalf and Amber screamed, and Mark protectively stood in front of them.
“Get off my dad!” Mark snapped at them. “I’m warning you!”
Agent Cooper entered the house. “Mark, you need to come with us.”
“Because you’re in extreme danger and a danger to others.”
“I don’t understand.”
Agent Cooper took of his glasses. “Mark, people out there are thinking you’re a god or something.”
“But I’m not!”
“Mark, you survived an explosion unharmed that killed nine people. Your skin is seemingly impervious, and I watched you catch a god dam bullet in your hand that I fired at you. That’s pretty god like. The longer you’re in the public view the more damage you’re going to cause. And fighting us won’t help you.”
“Let my dad go!” mark demanded. “And Gupta!”
The officers released them both. “We did something for you, now you do something for us.” Cooper said. “To be honest I don’t really understand this myself but please, we need to get you out of the public eye.”
“Are you kidding?” Gupta piped up. “As Mark Metcalf’s agent and also his lawyer, accountant, confidante and friend, this is best publicity for him EVER! We need to capitalise on this; talk shows, press conferences, lunch with the President.”
“I don’t like the President.” Mark stated. “I voted for the other guy.”
“Mark, we can use this! Also, you’ve done nothing illegal except possibly resisting arrest but that we can get a judged to commute to community service.” Gupta rambled away. “Mark is an Academy Award nominated actor who is now the biggest news story on the planet and YOU want to put him in a box. I say no.”
Mark looked at his parents. “Well?”
Agent Cooper groaned. “This is not up for discussion! Mark, you need to come with us.”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want too son,” Mr Metcalf said.
Mark looked at the agent. “Please leave my family alone.”
Agent Cooper paused, listening to instructions via his earpiece. “Please reconfirm…. I understand. Arrest the family!” Cooper ordered, and the officers pounced. Mark grabbed one by the collar and threw him across the room, out the window and into the crowd of journalists. He pushed Agent Cooper backwards that he flew into and through the wall into the garage. Like a blur Mark pummelled the officers into submission and within seconds they were all out and his family safe.
“That was amazing!” Amber gasped at her big brother’s actions.
Mark picked up their guns and crushed them all into a large ball before walking outside. Gupta quickly followed him. The horde of ravenous news hounds surged as Mark came out onto the landing, the sound of cameras and shouting of questions was cacophonous. Mark turned to Gupta.
“Block your ears, this may be a bit loud.”
Gupta did as he was told and Mark out his fingers in his mouth and whistled. It was like so loud that it hurt and instantly silenced the crowd. Mark smiled and waved.
“Hi. My names Mark Metcalf and I got super powers. Any questions?”
Continued in Issue #1 just click