Mightier Than The Sword
by Arlene F. Marks
Ultraman enters the room slowly, pausing in the doorway for effect. He has purposely kept us waiting for ten minutes. A smile tugs briefly at the corners of his mouth as he steps ponderously over to the dark green chair at the center of all the lights and cameras. This is the final interview. All the safe and simple questions have been asked and answered. It's time for the tough ones. That's why the network hired me. Our viewers want to know.
The chair is especially designed to accommodate his bulk and support his weight. Hyperdeveloped muscles are evident even beneath the fabric of his suit coat. They bunch and shift beneath his skin with every movement he makes. Together with his granitic features and the brow ridge that canopies his eyes, they turn him into a caricature of physical strength.
The other ten are living caricatures as well, of keen sensory perception, flexibility, sensitivity and intellect. But there were twelve to start with, a dozen embryos in the first generation of the experiment; and eyes were averted each time I brought the subject up in the earlier sessions. Talk to Ultraman, I was told.
"I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about your brother--"
"The Infamous One?" he cuts in. The stony face is scowling.
I school my own features and keep my voice steady. "I was going to use his given name."
"I'm amazed anyone even remembers it. Let me save you some time," he says, and there's a hard edge of impatience in his voice. "Everyone who interviews us is curious about the twelfth embryo. We answer their questions, then they edit out all mention of The Infamous One before publishing the article or releasing the video to the media. You didn't really think you were the first, did you?"
In fact, I already know I'm not. What I don't know is how someone whose evil misdeeds are a matter of public record could come to be so taboo that not even other investigative reporters will discuss his origins with me in private.
When I tell Ultraman this, he utters a laugh that rumbles inside him like an earthquake. "So you've come to the source. All right, I'll tell you the story. But don't say you weren't warned, any of you."
I am suddenly aware of the technicians holding their breaths all around us in the darkness, and I wonder whether I should ask them to leave the room. Then it's too late. Ultraman has begun to speak.