“You’re the new Clipper, right?”
“No, I think the name we’re going with is Snipper, Miss The Director. A lot more snappy. Snippy snappy.”
The Snipper winked, clicking his fingers towards the woman standing at the door.
“Did you have to bring those in here?”
“I think you mean ‘them’, and no, I didn’t, but they were all very interested in meeting everyone. They just couldn’t bear not to see you all.”
The Director pinched her nose at the seat of rotten flesh.
“You seen anybody else yet?”
“Nobody was here when I arrived.”
The Director moved around the table, taking the seat directly opposite The Snipper.
“Alright. I’ve got to ask. How’d you get that in here without people noticing?”
The Snipper looked blankly at The Director’s teeth. There was a smear of lipstick on one of them.
“…you know what? I don’t even want to know.”
An awkward silence formed between the two. The Director retreated to the comfort of her phone, texting out messages to her various actors, then playing a few rounds of solitaire. The few times she dared look up, The Snipper was carefully disassembling a human hand. He peeled back the skin, then stripped off the muscle with his bloodied fingernails. He smiled innocently, plucking at the tendons and watching his bony puppet dance.
Fucking kid, The Director thought to herself.
“Hey guys, you’ve got to… oh. New Clipper, right?”
The Composer stood awkwardly in the door frame.
“Snipper. You must be Mister The Musician, yes?”
“Uh, Mister The Composer, actually. Is that… damn, that smells. Are those human?”
“You mean ‘they’, and yes, they are.”
“Huh. Cool. Pretty fucking metal.”
“Mostly skin and bone, actually.”
The Composer turned, taking the seat next to The Director.
“Anyway, Sandy, you need to listen to this. You know how I was working on that one sample… you know, ‘what’s cooler than being cool?’ Finally finished my muxing it properly, check this out. Ah, you’ll want both of these, here.”
The Composer handed an iPod to The Director, earbuds swinging pendulously. She placed them in her ears, then pressed the play button. Her face was one of stoicism, then expectation, then bemusement, and then of restrained laughter.
“That’s pretty good!”
“Hey, Clipper, you want a listen?”
The Snipper looked up from his rotting carcasses.
He reached over, and The Composer dropped the iPod into his red, dripping hands. He carefully placed one earbud in, then the other. The Composer looked expectantly at his face, waiting for some semblance of change. There was none. The track ended, and The Snipper placed the iPod back on the table.
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, you know where the sample’s from, right?”
“And then, you heard the screaming, right?”
“Well, it’s… don’t you get it?”
The Composer shared a knowing shake of the head with The Director. Fucking plebeian, they thought to themselves.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s a bit of a complex work. There’s layers in it.”
The Composer wiped off the viscera from the screen, switching to another track and settling into his wooden chair. The Director continued tapping at her phone. The Snipper was pulling apart another hand. The Builder and The Sculptor walked through the door, deep in conversation.
“See, it’s like when you were building that stairwell, man, it’s gotta be… ah, yeah, he’s already here. Cover your nose, man.”
“Damn, that’s rank.”
“What’d I tell you though?”
“Yeah. Pretty fuckin’ metal.”
“Mostly skin and bone, actually.”
The two of them sat on either side of The Snipper. The Builder initiated conversation.
“Snipper, then. Have trouble finding the place?”
A short pause drew into a longer one.
“Hey, Bob, I finished that thing I was working on, you know, the ‘cooler than cool’ thing, listen to this.”
The Builder reached over to the offered iPod, relieved at the offered distraction. His face was one of stoicism, then expectation, then bemusement, and then of restrained laughter.
“That’s pretty good! Here, Tim, check this out.”
The Sculptor took the iPod from The Builder, passing it across The Snipper, still fiddling with his hands. The Sculptor put the earbuds in his ears. His face was one of stoicism, then expectation, then bemusement, and then of restrained laughter.
“That is pretty fucking good. Where are you gonna air this?”
“Was thinking I might mail it out. Speaking of which, got an interesting package today. A messed up version of ‘We Are The Champions’, a shitty French cover. Butchered the translation, though, every damn article is wrong.”
The Snipper looked up, staring at The Composer’s eyelids, some vague flash of recognition setting his face into a frown. The Sculptor gave his reply.
“Yeah, we’re gonna have to talk about that. You’re not the only one getting mail.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ll talk about it when everyone’s here.”
The Painter burst through the door, poster in his hand.
“Some asshat mailed me this shit.”
He unravelled it and displayed it to the group. The majority of it was covered by crayon doodling, but in the centre of the poster was an intricately detailed human bottom, with the phrase ‘SHE GOT A SWEET ASS’ written underneath in glowing gold print.
“Don’t get too close. Looking too long makes you shit yourself. It literally makes you shit your pants. I got this thing, I stared at it, wondering, gee, what does this mean, and then bam, brand new pair of underwear ruined.”
The Painter rolled the poster up again, sitting between The Composer and The Sculptor. The Snipper intensified his gaze and frown.
“This the new Clipper?”
“I’d prefer Snip-“
“Yeah, he is.”
The Snipper switched his glare to The Director. She continued playing solitaire on her phone.
“Well, about time we got rid of the old guy. He was losing his cool a bit.”
The Sculptor moved uncomfortably in his seat at The Director’s comment.
“He wasn’t that bad, you know. Getting on in years, yeah, but he was alright.”
“Still though. Old men aren’t cool.”
“Say that to The Critic. Speaking of which, anyone seen him yet?”
“Nobody was here when I arrived.”
“Weird. He’s normally the first one sitting at the table.”
The Snipper sighed.
“Are you any of you even listening to me?”
Everybody turned to stare at him.
Felix Cori entered the cordoned-off room. Ruiz looked up from the half-yellow carbon steel blade on his lap.
“Enjoy the pizza?”
“It was alright.”
Ruiz looked back down and continued painting the blade.
“What are you doing?”
“Painting a carbon steel blade yellow.”
“Why are you painting a carbon steel blade yellow?”
“Because they didn’t sell yellow ones at the store.”
Felix sat down on one of the wooden chairs that littered the studio. It was cluttered with electronics and laboratory equipment, a quietly humming centrifuge sitting in the corner.
“What’s in the centrifuge?”
“Why are you making contagious cancer?”
Ruiz looked up at Felix.
“What do you want, Clipper? I’m busy.”
“I’m not The Clipper any more. I got sick of that.”
“And? Do you want a pat on the back? Go away.”
Felix sat in stunned silence. Ruiz continued covering the circular blade, occasionally dipping his brush back into the bucket of viscous paint beside him.
“I was expecting a ‘well done’ at least.”
“Well, I left them all behind, I’m not a part of it any more.”
Ruiz stood up, dripping blade held out as he pointed.
“YOU were not the problem. You weren’t doing anything, and honestly, I fucking liked it that way, you were the one person in that whole fucking club that I frankly didn’t give a shit about. But now you’ve left, and my stupid fucking brother’s in with them, and he’s just going to fuck it all up.”
“PICO. FUCKING. WILSON. The fucking psychopath your ‘friend’ pulled in to replace you. This wasn’t part of my fucking plan, he’s just going to fuck everything up. Fuck. FUCK!”
Ruiz threw the wet blade at the opposite wall like a frisbee, slicing through the plaster like butter. He stood and stared at the stunned Felix, frowning like a spoilt child.
“Ruiz, now, that’s not MY fault, you know, it’s-“
“I know it’s not your fault. I know. I know. Shit. Fuck. Sorry Clipper.”
“I’m not the Clipper any more. Call me Felix.”
Ruiz walked to the wall, and started to extricate his yellow sun.
“It was pretty damn simple, before. I’ve been working on this shit for months, it was all supposed to be planned, and then that asshole just happens to be in town, just happens to be showing off his stupid corpse bullshit. He’s not a fucking artist, he’s just a straight-up monster, and he’s going to complicate things a hell of a lot more.”
Ruiz yanked the blade from the wall.
“You weren’t supposed to leave. You were supposed to think about leaving, but you weren’t supposed to actually fucking leave. Felix, why the fuck did you decide now was a good time to start being unpredictable?”
Felix didn’t know what to say, so he sat and said nothing.
“Pico doesn’t know what he’s getting into, Pico’s fucking nuts, you don’t get how proper fucking mental this guy is. He is going to wreck everyone’s shit. Fuck.”
Ruiz sat down and continued to paint the yellow blade. Felix composed himself and asked the question that he came to ask.
“So what exactly are you trying to do?”
“Instigate a paradigm shift. Remove the centralised power system. Dethrone The Critic.”
Ruiz held up the blade.
“You see this, Felix? I’ve been working on just this one blade for a month. It’s the most subtle work I’ve ever designed. Look at it, and you feel nothing. I can stick it on the rack, and you’ll feel nothing, I can put it in with a million other blades, and nobody would notice the difference. This one blade makes everything else I’ve ever done look like fucking kiddie scribbles, because you look at this blade, and you feel absolutely nothing about it.”
“So what does it actually do?”
“Nothing. Felix, this blade does absolutely nothing, and it’s the finest thing I’ve made in my entire life. I’ve got enough deadly bullshit in here to kill a country, and absolutely none of it breaks reality, and this is what I am going to show to The Critic, and this is what is going to drive him mad. Felix, I’m going to fill a room with deathtraps so obvious, so profoundly fucking stupid, that Nobody is going to actually use them.”