Thirty more seconds. She’s been at this for nearly an hour and her legs are screaming that she’s done. Just thirty more seconds though. She can taste the sweat on her lips. Her fingers tingle. Her hair threatens to fall in her face every few seconds. She knows she can make it though. That realization should come as a relief but instead it makes her angry. Life is about pushing yourself. Anything less is a sign you’re letting yourself off easy.
Feeling her anger overwhelm her, Kalenia Wallace increases the speed on the treadmill and adds an extra minute to her time. The treadmill whirs faster beneath her as her feet pound the ground. Her muscles swell and her legs threaten to burst. Forty five seconds. Her vision’s obscured by not only her hair but also the amount of sweat dripping down her brow.
Attempts to wipe away the sweat are barely worth the effort. It’s like using an umbrella in a tsunami. As soon as her hand comes away from her face, she’s soaked again. Thirty seconds again. She turns the speed up higher, this time going as fast as this hunk of metal can handle. She feels herself getting closer to the back of the treadmill, unable to keep up. Is she going to fall off the back? Pushing harder, she manages to move forward inch by inch.
Fifteen seconds. Breathing in and out, in and out, in and out. Don’t stop. Just don’t stop. Zero seconds. She grabs the sides of the treadmill and steadies herself as the path between her feet comes to a halt. Her feet rest on either side of the track.
Kalenia heads toward the bathroom in desperate need of a shower before continuing her day. For as long as she can remember, any time she’s nervous or has an issue she works it out by working out.
Every day is a workout day of some sort but every day doesn’t need to be a primal test of her limits. She only pushes herself right to her breaking point on days she can’t get out of her own head. Back in high school these workouts usually happened when a boy didn’t return her feelings or her parents were fighting again. School itself came easy but everyone has challenges. As she’s gotten older, the reasons have changed but she still needs a workout like this at least a couple times a month. A fight with her boyfriend, a bad day in court, and she finds herself pushing until she has to turn back or collapse.
When she was younger these challenges usually came on the basketball court instead of on a treadmill. Kalenia was an all-state shooting guard in high school and that opened a lot of doors for her. She had her choice of colleges and went for the best. Her four years were full of study while juggling a desire to dominate on the court. On bad days she’d tell herself she had to score forty, or she only let herself shoot from a specific spot on the court. She has to work harder to find motivation now.
One of the top recruits in the country during her senior year of high school, the expectation was she’d be one of the best players in the nation and eventually turn pro. That never happened. She was a good starter on one of the best teams in the country but it was rare to see her dominate a game. Studying came easy when she was younger but a challenging course load took it’s toll in college. Basketball could no longer be her entire life. Realizing she had to choose between the two paths before her, study became the priority. She wasn’t one of the best players in the country, but she did graduate near the top of her class.
Going pro was never completely ruled out. On the night of the WNBA draft she excitedly watched with her family, hoping some team might call her name. Nobody was all that surprised when it didn’t happen though.
Her agent tried to sell her on moving to Europe and playing there. Plenty of teams were interested. It just didn’t seem worth it with a pre-law degree under her belt and a scholarship to law school waiting. The money being offered sounded good but it wasn’t life changing. Earning it would have required living in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan or some other country she can’t pronounce, in an unknown culture among people she couldn’t understand. Her mother sat her down and asked if that was the life she wanted. They both agreed it wasn’t. She figured she could make better money after graduating law school anyway. She was right.
She rarely makes time for basketball anymore. With nothing at stake the sport doesn’t hold much interest. Training never stops though. Any edge she might gain from keeping herself in great shape is worth the grind. On a day like today, that edge is crucial. Today she’s filing suit against the state of Michigan, claiming her clients’ civil rights are being violated. Her firm does a lot of pro bono work but this case they’re actually getting paid for. There are some very rich men and women who have no interest in the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act, otherwise known as VMUS, staying on the books.
A few months ago Richard Hughes won one of the most contentious presidential elections in the history of the United States. She’s not impressed. Everyone knew this buffoon couldn’t win, right until he did. She didn’t even bother to vote. By the time it started looking like Michigan would go his way it was too late. Every time she thinks about it, she wonders what might have been if enough people like her showed up.
She spent the final hours of election night staring at her television in disbelief. She kept going over all his campaign promises in her head and wondering how her country could get this so wrong. She proceeded to get very drunk. The next morning she had to order a new living room rug.
Nothing will make her feel good about failing to vote but today she can fight back against the man’s bigotry. Today she’s challenging one of Hughes’ most outlandish campaign promises. Almost before he could remove his hand from the bible he was signing the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act into law. This allows anybody with the inclination to register as a vigilante and patrol the streets, dishing out their own form of justice.
The act’s rules are so vague as to be worthless. The language describing keeping the public safe can fit whatever definition an individual wants. Thousands of interpretations are competing against each other in the streets while the public feels less safe than ever. The president has deemed the act a massive success. It doesn’t feel that way as you drive through Detroit.
In her hours of research, Kalenia has found some stories of places where the act’s going well. Usually in small towns where there are only a few volunteers. Most cities have seen a lot more mixed results. Armed men and women roam the streets, guns in their hands and something to prove in their hearts. Every day she hears about someone losing their life because an untrained vigilante decided they were dangerous.
There’s no standard of proof. How do you prove a feeling? The vigilante’s word is all that counts. When has anyone’s word ever served minorities in this country? Minorities aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of this act but the effect on their communities has been the most drastic.
A pretty strong argument can be made that the whole program’s illegal. At the very least it violates due process and the right to a fair trial in it’s current form. The goal is to tear the entire program down but their backup plan’s to force stricter and more enforceable rules into place. That would still save lives.
Already the program’s been changed to require vigilantes pass a proficiency test but it’s so easy that almost everyone passes. Nothing stops the mentally ill from signing up. Former felons don’t have the right to vote in most states but they have the right to be a vigilante. Once you pass that simple test there’s no further oversight. Have a good time gunning people down. Cops get away with a lot in this country but they wouldn’t get away with half of what these vigilantes have.
This may be the most high profile case of her career. They’re starting at the state level to test the viability of their case but if they win, they have a chance to set a precedent. Public opinion on the act has been all over the place. The administration has been releasing great looking crime statistics which fail to mention all the crime the vigilantes themselves commit. Meanwhile, the media reports constantly of the many violations. It leaves the public free to believe whatever they want. A slight majority now oppose the act but it’s close and there’s still a large portion of the country insisting this is the only way they can be truly safe.
With her shower over, Kalenia searches her closet for the perfect power outfit. After a few false starts, she goes with her favorite red suit. A final glance in the mirror confirms she’s giving off the vibe she’s looking for.
Grabbing a granola bar on the way to the garage, Kalenia smiles when she notices her car and her outfit match. A beautiful red convertible’s her way of getting around town in style. In Detroit it’s not always smart to show off any kind of wealth. Projecting the right image comes at a cost. She keeps the car hidden in the evenings at least. She liked this house from the moment she saw it but she really fell in love when she realized the garage was beneath the building.
Hopping on the highway, Kalenia heads toward the city. She starts her day a little later than the average worker so she avoids the worst of downtown traffic most days. Entering the city proper, she passes row after row of half abandoned neighborhoods and run down buildings.
Time hasn’t been kind to Detroit. Growing up only a few minutes outside the city, she always wanted to give back to the people she watched struggle. After graduating law school there was never a question she’d move home and try to make a difference. Joining up with the most powerful law firm in the city has allowed her to do so while getting rich in the process. They represent a lot of wealthy corporate clients but they do just as much great pro bono work. That’s where her focus lies.
Driving this stretch of the city, you see two different Detroits existing side by side. One’s still dead or at least dying while the other’s trying to claw it’s way back to life. That strange juxtaposition exists all over the place. The main downtown hub where she works has fought it’s way back from the brink and is starting to thrive again. To get there though she passes through areas where it’s odd not to hear gunshots in the distance.
Today’s typical. Sitting at a red light, the sound of gunshots ahead wake her up faster than a cup of coffee ever could. Making sure her doors are locked, Kalenia gets ready to detour down a side road before a closer look changes her mind. Down the street she sees a black man on the ground, huddled in the fetal position, being kicked by three white men wearing bulletproof vests.
Who fired those shots? The three men doing the kicking are all holding automatic weapons so they seem like good suspects. A quick glance at the time tells her she needs to get to work. This is what she does though. A closer investigation seems mandatory.
Pulling to the side of the road, she leaves space around her in case she needs to leave in a hurry. Opening her glove box, she pulls out a can of mace and slips it into her purse. The can’s been sitting here since a year ago when she caught a group of men robbing her car. She’s not sure what mace can do against three men with guns but having it makes her feel better.
Exiting her car, she approaches what looks more and more like an assault. The man on the ground’s still trying to protect his head but at this point she’s not sure he’s conscious. His arms may have slumped there when he passed out. She scans the area for any sign of a gun but the only ones in sight are in the hands of the attackers. She clears her throat. “Excuse me, can I help you gentlemen? Any reason you’re still kicking the fellow on the ground?”
They spin in her direction. The one on the left raises the barrel of his gun, ready for a fight. The man next to him grabs the rifle by the barrel and points it back down before he’s able to escalate things further. “Move along ma’am. Nothing to see here. Just dealing with a dangerous criminal.”
It takes all the strength she has not to burst out laughing. “He doesn’t look dangerous down there on the ground getting kicked over and over. Pretty sure he’s unconscious at this point actually. He’s definitely close enough that you don’t need to continue assaulting him.”
The third man who hasn’t engaged until this point makes a move toward her but the one in the middle is still trying to keep the peace. “Ma’am, I need to insist you move along before my friends get other ideas. We’re licensed vigilantes doing our job. I can assure you this man was presenting a danger to the public. Maybe we took things a bit far but we’ve got it handled. Nothing for you to worry about. If you keep pushing my friends I can’t promise they won’t give you something to worry about.”
This is right up her alley. Kalenia spends most of her life dealing with difficult people and this group certainly qualify. “Well I certainly appreciate you fine gentlemen keeping us safe. These are dangerous streets as I’m sure you know. The reason I ask about what’s happening is I’m actually a civil rights lawyer and this man seems to be taking quite a bit of abuse. That kind of brutality could start a riot in the right place. If you’re going to take him into custody, you should do so. I’d just like his name and all your names so I can follow up on what happened here. If you’re not going to take him into custody, I’d still like all of your information because I’d like to see if he needs representation.”
The smiles are gone. Kalenia starts to wonder if she’s overplayed her hand. Vigilantes are allowed to take any action they deem necessary. Theoretically they could put a bullet in her and claim she’d been dangerous too. They’d have a hard time proving she was going to hurt them with her big, bad can of mace but stranger things have happened.
The only good thing about these guys is that the most sensible one seems to be running things. “Well, I guess we’ll call the cops and inform them about this. You can wait until they get here if you like but you’ll need to stay in your car. Not negotiable or we’ll have you taken in as well. We’re not required to give you any information and we won’t be doing so.”
Kalenia decides she’s pushed her luck far enough. She only has to wait in the car for nine minutes before an officer pulls up. He gets out of his car and has a few words with the vigilantes. The man on the ground’s starting to come around and is quickly placed in handcuffs. Seeing a chance to reinsert herself, Kalenia climbs back out of her car. “Excuse me officer.”
One of the vigilantes starts to protest, telling her she needs to wait in her car. The officer tells him to eat shit. Before the vigilantes can jump back in, Kalenia hands the officer her card and explains that she was driving to work when she stumbled upon these men assaulting an unarmed man on the ground. Offering to answer any questions they have, she gets ready to head to work before one of her firm’s partners has a meltdown.
Halfway to her car she has a change of heart and heads back to the officer. He’s finishing closing the man in the back of his car. Offering a second copy of her card, she asks the officer to make sure the man gets it if he ends up needing a lawyer. The vigilantes stare daggers through her but she stays calm, thanks the officer for his time, and makes her exit before this escalates further.
Cringing as she sees the time on her dash, Kalenia hits the road as fast as she can. She’s pushing it but she should still have time to prepare before heading to court. She’s not far from her office and she turns a ten minute drive into a five minute one. Entering the firm’s grand entrance in a hurry, their receptionist smiles her way. “Good morning Ms. Wallace. Good luck in court today. I know you’ll do great.”
Kalenia knows she will too. When she sets her mind to something, she tends to make it happen. This morning clarified what’s at stake. Thanking the woman, she grabs an elevator to her office on the fourth floor.
Outside of her office she’s met by her assistant. “Morning Ms. Wallace. All the files and notes you requested are on your desk. Oh, and so is your coffee.”
She knows he’s made it just the way she likes. She went through three different assistants before she found one who could get the details right. She knew the last one wasn’t going to work out when her coffee was too sweet every day and over time he proved her right. Before leaving he hands her a note from Jason, saying he wants to meet before they head to court.
Jason’s one of the top lawyers in their firm. He’s on track to make partner in the next year or two but on this case he’ll be her assistant council. Normally they wouldn’t assign two of their top attorneys to the same case. Most of the time if there’s another lawyer with her it’s one of the rookies who needs to be shown the ropes. Sometimes they just give her a legal assistant.
This isn’t a normal case though and they need to bust out the big guns. Today’s just a preliminary hearing. Hopefully setting a trial date, going over details of the case. The basics. Despite that, Kalenia can’t stop fidgeting in her chair.
Of all the people she could have been paired with, why did it have to be Mr. Boring? Jason’s a confident guy and has the strong jaw of a man who was probably good looking in his twenties. Now in his forties, he has a bald spot and a beer gut.
She hears a knock on the door and looks up to see Jason smiling that million dollar smile he’s known for. That has to be the reason he’s so good in court. Juries trust the smile and think someone with such a monotone voice can’t be trying to trick them. His suit looks a bit ruffled, like normal. It’s the look of a man who could still be presentable, but doesn’t care to make an effort. He slides into a chair across from her. “Morning sunshine. Hope you got a good night’s rest. Was starting to get worried about you this morning.”
Kalenia explains what happened on her way into the office. Jason sits there shaking his head. “I don’t get why they let these vigilantes run wild. Why would anyone think random people know what a criminal looks like? Half the time the police don’t even know.”
His stance on vigilantes is probably why he was picked to work with her. A week after the program started his sister was confronted coming out of a grocery store. Wrong place, wrong time; apparently another woman stole a purse down the road and had a passing resemblance to her. The guy thought she was dangerous, might even have a gun. He ended up breaking her leg. Just a misunderstanding.
She could have sued the police department if they pulled something like that. With vigilantes there’s no recourse. The program absolves them of all liability. Everyone washes their hands and goes home. “I hope that guy calls you. Not sure what we can do for him though. Maybe go after the police department for wrongful arrest.”
“We need to get going soon. What did you want to see me about?”
“Just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page going in today. We need to get to trial as soon as we can. They’re going to want to delay and push this off. They want more time to get the public on their side so they can spin this. I think they probably win that fight but we’re way better off if we can go right to trial. You want to take lead today?”
Kalenia nods. She’s lead council and while she may use Jason for some cross examinations, he needs to know this is her show. Jason slumps in on himself, looking almost like a blow up doll deflating. “Judge Graham was not a great pull. You think we should ask him to recuse himself? He’s known the president for years. I think we have a good argument for a conflict of interest. He probably won’t do it though. I dunno, he’s such a bad pull for us that it might be worth the risk.”
“No, we’ll live with Graham. He won’t step down and by asking we further prejudice him against us. We don’t take chances here. There’s too much at stake. The laws on our side, we can win this on facts. We don’t need to swing for the fences.”
Kalenia takes a sip of her coffee. It’s absolutely divine, as she knew it would be. Jason hesitates but finally agrees that it’s probably the right move. With most people that’d be a relief but with Jason it makes her eyebrows go up. Usually he’s the guy playing things by the book while she’s the one out taking risks. Is she being too cautious? She considers changing course but decides that showing she’s the boss is worth a lot more than getting Judge Graham off the case.
It’s going on ten and Kalenia knows they need to be in court in an hour. “I’ll see you in court.” Taking the hint, Jason exits her office with one last flash of that smile. Kalenia opens the enormous folder sitting on her desk, skimming it one last time before heading to court.
“All rise for the honorable Judge Graham,” the court officer says.
Judge Graham enters the courtroom and ascends onto his throne. “Be seated,” he says in his small, mousy voice. Judge Graham’s a small, middle aged man with a bad habit of ruling against their office. He wears large, thick rimmed glasses and in the eight cases Kalenia has argued before him, she’s only won three. Some lawyers might feel okay about that but for Kalenia it stings. She’s done better before every other judge in the district. A strict conservative, he seems like a strange choice for this case. He does tend to side with the letter of the law though.
Graham announces the case as Bright and Heathcliff vs. State of Michigan. “How are things coming with discovery? When would you both like to get this show started? I don’t mind getting it on the docket and getting this over with.”
Seeing an opportunity, Kalenia leaps to her feet. “Your honor, we’re in favor of going straight to trial, our discovery is finished and we have everything we need. We’re very confident in our case.”
Graham nods and looks to opposing counsel. “Mrs. Handile?”
Opposing counsel for the state is Mia Handile, a tough lawyer in her own right and someone Kalenia’s annoyed to see. She’s won four of the six cases they’ve faced off in but they’ve only faced off a handful of times so she doesn’t have a strong feel for Handile’s style. They’ve been acquaintances for years, attending the same law school. Mia was just a few years behind her. Kalenia actually interviewed Mia a few years ago and offered her a job but she ended up declining.
It’s Mia’s turn to get to her feet. “Your honor, this is a large and complicated case. We have a lot of people to locate and interview and we’d like more data on the success of the program than is currently available. We’d request as much time as possible so we can properly prepare our case. A continuation for a year or so should be enough.”
Kalenia’s eyes practically bug out of her head. She thought the woman might ask for six months but a year? That’s insane, nobody gets a continuation for a year. What game are they playing? She has to bite her lip and push her legs down to avoid jumping up in protest. Judge Graham doesn’t like a lot of emotion in court so she has to be good. Her temper isn’t going to ruin this case.
The judge looks back and forth between the lawyers with a twinkle in his eyes. Here’s his chance to break someone’s heart and he’s relishing it. “Mrs. Handile, that seems a long time for a case that Ms. Wallace is already prepared for. I know prep is crucial in a case like this but I’m not going to give you a year. You’ll get six months and like it. We’ll set jury selection for October 17th.”
Kalenia can’t stay silent any longer. “Objection your honor, that long of a delay is unfair to my clients who are ready to proceed and are the aggrieved party. I want that on the official record.”
Graham just grins. “It’s noted Ms. Wallace but the objection is denied. I think this is a fair compromise.” Mia has gotten the first win. Graham may see this as a compromise date since he split their requests in half but Mia knew she was never getting a year. This is the best she could have hoped for. She can ask for longer than she actually needs but Kalenia can’t ask for less than zero. No one here’s a time traveler.
With his ruling handed down Judge Graham asks if there are any other motions or anything else the two ladies need today. The one thing they can agree on all day is that they’re done and the judge announces their dismissal with a bang of his gavel. The bailiff asks them all to, “Please rise.”
As Graham makes his way down from the bench and exits the room, Kalenia settles in for a very long trial.
Leaping from one roof to the next, Kalenia grins as the six foot gap between them barely slows her down. A chimney stack rises before her. She scales it like it’s nothing and rolls down the far side before vaulting to yet another building several feet away.
As she crosses to the next rooftop, one of the biggest in the area, she knows she doesn’t have an easy path forward. Unless she wants to go back none of the other buildings nearby is close enough for her to reach. Instead of turning around, she starts looking for an alternative. She’s only four stories up. There’s always another option.
On one side of the building she finds a ladder but glancing down, she can see it only goes to the second floor. She slides down anyway, making sure to catch the last rung. With a good grip on the ladder, she rocks side to side, trying to create momentum back and forth. When she feels she’s got as much motion as she’s going to, she flings herself at the nearest windowsill, catching herself by the tips of her fingers.
From there she climbs hand over hand to the edge of the window and swings herself to the gutter pipe. These aren’t her favorite ways to get off a roof but she only has a couple stories to go. It holds her as she shimmies down. Hitting the ground hard, she takes off running through the alley she landed in. Scaling a chain fence she heads back in the direction of the park where she left her car.
During law school Kalenia felt lost without basketball in her life. Sports had been a foundational part of who she was for as long as she could remember and joining a weekly pickup game wasn’t cutting it. There weren’t any stakes. One day she was alone in her room when she stumbled upon a parkour video on Youtube while getting ready for class. She didn’t make it to that class, or any others that week.
Ten hours of video flew by until she couldn’t take it anymore. She’d discovered a new world which she needed to be part of. The grace and speed the athletes showed as they moved down, over, and through obstacles were mesmerizing. The more videos she watched, the more her mind kept landing on a single thought. I can do that.
Detroit isn’t the best city for parkour. Even the most ideal areas are a hodge podge of some buildings which are close enough and others which are so far apart that nobody alive could move between them. She’s good but she doesn’t have wings. A thirty foot gap isn’t going to work. She’s given thought to training with a grappling hook but with how busy work keeps her, the timing hasn’t worked. Besides, her favorite part of parkour is the fluidity of motion and there’s nothing fluid about a grappling hook.
Running down a main street Kalenia passes a number of people but none of them pay attention to her. Not ready for this night to be over, she darts down an alley between two buildings so close together she can barely get her shoulders through. As good a place to start climbing as any. She presses her feet into one wall and her back into the other. Inch by inch, she makes her way to the roof. It’s only a two story building.
When she first started doing this a video of her ended up online. It was shot from a long distance and as far as she knows nobody has ever recognized her. Afraid of the effect this could have on her career if she was more visible, she’s worked hard to stay inconspicuous ever since. She mainly goes out in the evening when it’s starting to get dark and she sticks to alleys as much as possible.
This isn’t an everyday thing. When she first started it was; for months she never missed a day. Now she mainly goes out after a hard day, when she’s really on edge. The days a hard run on the treadmill won’t calm her down. It’s a great way to blow off steam and she appreciates the danger and sense of true challenge inherent in what she’s doing. There are real stakes, higher stakes than anything else she’s faced in her life. She’s great at this but she’s still one wrong move from cracking her head open on the pavement.
Back on a rooftop, Kalenia gets back to leaping from roof to roof. Only being two stories in the air, it isn’t long before the building before her is a story higher. Rather than stop, she looks for a way up and sees a series of ledges she can use for hand holds along the side of the building. Flying through the air, she grabs one and throws herself up to the next. She does this again and again but the third ledge she grabs starts to crumble as she grabs it. That’s pretty common with old buildings and she knows how to scurry to the side. A few beads of sweat fall off her brow but she keeps moving. It only takes her a few more seconds to reach the roof.
The park where she left her car can finally be seen in the distance. At this point it’s just a matter of plotting a way down. This is a brand new route so she’s improvising every step of the way. There are a few routes in her regular rotation but even parkour can get boring when you do the same thing enough times. On really bad days she creates a new path, just to see if she can pull it off.
There’s no obvious path down from this roof other than the fire escape and that’s too obvious. If she heads down the street another building might present a better path but it’s getting late and that takes her further from her car. Obvious paths like fire escapes and ladders that go all the way to the ground are annoying. The whole point of this is to push herself to the limit. A path that anyone could use doesn’t give her that.
The fire escape presents one advantage. The ladder at the bottom is up so she’ll have to jump from there. It’s not perfect but it’s going to have to do tonight. Taking three or four stairs at a time, she reaches the bottom level of the fire escape. Hoisting herself over the railing, she drops. Catching the edge, she straightens her body before allowing herself to fall the rest of the way. She lands on her feet.
This route won’t be landing in her regular rotation. It wasn’t the easiest route she’s ever taken but it was a long way from the hardest. There’s little flow to it and most of the challenge came from it being new. Another try or two and she’s pretty sure she could do this in her sleep.
If the goal tonight was to clear her mind and think then the mission was a failure. She probably should have run an old route where she could zone out. She’s not sure how to balance her anger with a desire to clear her head. They’re fundamentally opposing goals.
Slumping against her car, for the first time all night her mind’s clear. If she has to wait six months, she has to put those months to good use. Giving an attorney as good as Mia Handile an extra six months of preparation would be a fatal error. Her case is completely ready though. She can seek out more clients to add to the suit but that gives Mia an excuse to seek another continuance. She can search for better sob stories to put on the stand but she already has plenty.
A sudden epiphany dawns on her but she dismisses it. That can’t be a good idea. Nothing else is popping into her head though and it keeps slipping back in. What if she signs up for the vigilante program? She’s in great shape, tough as leather, and unafraid to do things most people would find insane. If those morons this morning can be vigilantes, why can’t she?
The case is the obvious answer. It could be a disaster if the public found out the attorney prosecuting the case against VMUS had signed up for it. The media would have a field day and Mia would almost certainly move to dismiss the case. What better research is there though? If she’s half the lawyer she thinks she is then she can sell that if she has to.
For the first time in years Kalenia skips her workout the next morning. She thought she knew everything there was to know about this program but last night she realized she didn’t have a clue where to sign up for it. A quick internet search revealed there’s an office handling sign ups a few minutes from her work. She can make an appearance, file some paperwork with her assistant, and then slip out for the day. She’s biting her lip again, afraid this might be a big mistake. Only one way to find out.
Stopping at the office, she’s thankful to find her coffee ready and waiting for her. She’s almost never here this early but somehow her assistant knew to have it waiting. A quick sip finds it as perfect as ever. She drops a few motions she prepared last night on her assistant’s desk and asks him to make sure they’re filed. She also requests he prepare all the files she’ll need tomorrow.
He’s surprised to see her leaving so early but she makes up an excuse about meeting with a potential new client and he knows better than to push her. They get along but he knows he’s her fourth assistant this year. Besides, at this point Kalenia doesn’t have to punch a clock. Most of the time she’s free to come and go as she pleases. With the amount of business she brings in, she certainly should be. He wishes her a nice day and she’s on her way.
One of the partners practically runs her over as she hurries through the lobby. He’s apologetic and asks to grab lunch in the next couple weeks to go over the VMUS case. She’s quick to agree. Any chance to get in front of a partner is worth taking.
It’s only a ten minute drive to the registration office. There’s no parking lot but she manages to find a spot on the side of the road a few blocks away. Approaching the office, there doesn’t seem to be much of a line. Maybe the initial excitement and rush of people have already passed. There’s only one employee working as she enters the office, but there’s also only one person ahead of her and they’re wrapping up.
A young and fairly attractive man’s behind the counter and greets her with a grin. She doesn’t return the look. “I’m interested in signing up for the vigilante program. How do we make that happen?”
“You’re certainly in the right place. We’ll just need to go over a few details and get you set up for the test. Shouldn’t take long. If you get through the test you’ll be a fully authorized vigilante, able to take any action you decide is needed to keep people safe. There’s really no restrictions. Just keep people safe and everything else takes care of itself. You can still be charged with a crime if you can’t justify it though so don’t be stupid about things.” Kalenia nods. What crime can’t she come up with at least a terrible justification for? It seems like a bad joke.
”You’ll need to pass a test out in the suburbs which we’ll get you scheduled for. It’s a live test with you taking on some volunteers. Sort of like an obstacle course. They use rubber bullets but it’s still dangerous so you’ll need to sign a waiver. A rubber bullet from distance will do some damage but it won’t kill you or anything. Just leaves a nice bruise. Up close though it can seriously hurt someone. You can bring whatever gear you need to the test. What kind of weapons do you use?”
She tells him she doesn’t have a weapon. He doesn’t seem surprised. “That’s okay, a lot of people don’t and plenty of the people who do can’t use them anyway. Volunteers don’t like being shot you understand. If we allowed that we’d be out of volunteers real quick. We can provide you with a gun that shoots rubber bullets to use on the test. Will you be wanting one?” She nods and he continues. “That’s really all there is to it. We try to keep this process pretty simple. We just need to get you scheduled for your test then. When would you like to take it?”
Considering how busy her schedule is and that she’s already said she won’t be back today Kalenia doesn’t want to wait. “How about today? The sooner the better.”
The man starts scanning through his computer. ”Normally we’re pretty full at least a few days out but daytime spots are slow to fill up. We can get you in mid-afternoon, or if you think you can make it in the next hour we can get you in at noon. It’s only about a thirty minute drive so you can probably make it. Do you need to go grab any gear or anything like that?”
Gear would probably be good but at this point she doesn’t have any. She’ll have to figure that out later. Confidence has never been an issue for her. “No, I can go straight there, everything I need is with me.”
“Great! I’ll just need to get a little bit of information and plug it in. Should just take a couple minutes longer. Can I see your ID?” As he asks, he pushes a stack of papers across the counter to her. “Here’s the liability and disclosure forms you need to sign. Since you’re in a hurry, you can start filling them out while I get everything filled out in the system.”
Kalenia furiously initials and signs a variety of pages saying the government effectively has no liability for either what she does or what may be done to her. She simultaneously has no liability. Nobody’s responsible. She provides the few basic bits of info they ask for like an emergency contact and her blood type. They hit a lot of different subjects in these forms. There’s even a page giving them permission to dispose of her body if she dies and no one claims her. Awfully morbid but good to know.
After a few minutes she’s handed her license back. She hands the paperwork to the agent and after applying a few stamps, he hands them to her once more. “You actually take these with you to the test. They need them there. We have everything that you should need at this point though. They’ll be waiting for you.”
This guy’s been smiling since the moment she walked in the door and she finally repays him in kind. By the time she’s back in her car, it’s almost 11:20 and she knows she’s cutting this close.
She was told this drive would take thirty minutes. She’ll do it in twenty. Pushing the accelerator down hard, she speeds onto the highway toward the suburbs.
As the testing facility comes into view in the distance a glance at the clock reveals the trip took twenty two minutes. She’ll have to figure out how to pick those two extra minutes up next time. After parking she gets out and surveys the place. This used to be a sports stadium but after the team moved downtown it was no longer needed. She’s been here before but it’s been years and all she remembers about the inside is that it’s huge. If it works for testing then they must have remodeled the place anyway.
Walking in the front door Kalenia goes directly to the desk. She announces that her name is Kalenia Wallace and she’s here to test for the vigilante program. Asking for just a moment, the employee before her whispers something unintelligible to another coworker. She in turn picks up a phone and whisper into it, before going back to staring at her computer screen.
The moment passes but nobody makes a move to help her. After about thirty seconds, as she’s starting to lose her patience, an older, white haired, official looking man comes storming out a door in the back of the room. His eyes dart wildly around. Spotting her, they lock eyes for a moment before he marches right at her. “You, Ms. Wallace. I need to have a talk with you in my office.” He’s loud though not quite yelling. ”Please, follow me.”
Kalenia stands her ground. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here to take a test to become a vigilante. Is there some sort of issue with that?”
The man isn’t used to being spoken to in this way. He gets madder, his face turning a bright red. “Ms. Wallace,” he says through gritted teeth. “If you would like to step any further into this building, you will first step into this room behind me, and we will have what I hope is a very pleasant chat.”
He turns and walks away. Kalenia initially stands in place. She looks to the man behind the counter but he won’t return her gaze. What she can see of his face makes it clear he won’t be defying his boss. Not sure what else she can do, she follows the old man through the still open door.
Kalenia finds herself in an office where the man has taken a seat in a plush leather chair behind a beautiful oak desk. He’s clearly still annoyed but now seems to feel in his element. He offers her a chair but she declines, preferring to stand. “Ms. Wallace, my name is George Stephan. I am in charge of this facility and I take running it very seriously. So far it’s been a pretty simple job but today I was surprised to hear that the lawyer trying to sue us out of existence was set to join our program. That seems like a conflict of interest to me. That is something I am in no way going to enable, so I am denying you the ability to test for our program. You may see yourself out.”
Kalenia stands there silently, listening to every word and letting the man finish. She carefully crafts her reply. As he finishes, she starts. “Mr. Stephan, I appreciate your kind invitation. Here’s the thing. There are laws about who can and who can’t sign up for your program. I’m a lawyer and as someone dealing with your organization, I know them as well as anyone alive. I fall fully on the can side of things. There is nothing stopping me from joining. I don’t have to justify myself or give you a reason but I’ll be nice and do so anyway. I’d like to see how this works from your side of things. Maybe it makes me approach my case differently. Maybe it doesn’t. Since you’re a public agency, there is nothing wrong with me doing that. If you have an issue with me signing up, I will add myself as a plaintiff in my case. I can assure you that I’ll absolutely win that fight. I can make this very public and very nasty for you, or you can make this easy. It’s your call.”
Mr. Stephan stares at her long and hard. It feels like he’s considering jumping across his desk and strangling her where she stands. A vein in his neck’s pulsing. Instead of doing any of that, he picks up a phone and presses the speaker button. The voice that comes over the speaker sounds like the man from the front desk. “Register this woman. Give her the paperwork and be done with it. Then get her out of here because I don’t want to see her again.”
The voice comes back, sounding confused. “Do you mean let her take the test?”
Stephan actually laughs at that one. “No,” he says, staring straight at Kalenia. “I’m not letting the lawyer suing our company die on our property. Zero chance of that. I don’t really care if she’s ready to handle the streets or not. She’s perfectly free to die, she just can’t do it here. She’s registered. Now get her out of here.”
As she walks out of the office she turns and looks back at Stephan. “You were right, this was a very pleasant conversation.”
Dynamo #2 Coming July 20th
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