Blog

Starting in August We’re Coming to You Four Times a Week!

I’m coming to you today with some fun news about Vigilantes Making Us Safe and our schedule going forward. I’ve always been up front that I like to experiment and try things. This latest change isn’t necessarily fundamental to how you’ll read our stories but it does effect when. Until now we’ve been publishing one story a week every Friday. We’ve cycled through various series. What that means though is that if you’re only interested in one of our series, you’re waiting a month between installments. That’s not ideal for web publishing where even once a week isn’t a ton.

To remedy this we’ll be changing things so that each series gets a release every week. That means instead of seeing a new release once a week, you’ll get multiple per week. Right now that number will be four per week but it can rise and fall in the future depending on our release schedule. Between volumes there will be a break of a couple of months in most cases to give new series time to shine. To allow for this much faster publishing schedule, average story length will drop. We’ve been averaging 6000-8000 words per chapter and that’s not sustainable releasing multiple times a week. The average for each release going forward will be closer to 1500-2000 though we’ll have longer and shorter parts depending on what makes sense for the story. You’ll never have to wait long for another release though.

Over the next week or two you’ll see the web site start to shift as we bring this live. All current stories will stay online but new broken up versions of them will be released to get our current content in the spirit of this new style. Our releases for the next few weeks will be rolled out along with this. Starting in August we’ll begin our true weekly releases. Our current schedule is:

Hitbox releasing every Monday.

Rebel Rebel releasing every Wednesday.

Dynamo releasing every Thursday.

Serenity releasing every Friday.

Our new series Toxic will debut the first Saturday of September and release every Saturday.

I look forward to continuing to bring these releases to you regularly and I hope you enjoy the regular updates.

Advertisements

Rebel Rebel #3 Define Success Part 3 (of 6)

Rebel Rebel Vol 1

Failure. Loser. Worthless. Ever since he decided to be a vigilante, Ryaan Asfour has spent hours going over how this day would play out in his head. He ran through a lot of possibilities but they all ended the same way. He knows what he can do and he never imagined he wouldn’t be able to pull this off. Walking back to the front of the testing facility, it’s all he can do to keep from crying.

He put everything he had into trying out for the Vigilantes Making Us Safe (VMUS) Act. He used virtually every dollar to his name to get the equipment. He went out and got a fake ID showing he was old enough. He lied to his family. What else could he have done?

The only reason he’s involved in this program is a desire to keep people safe. Too many of the newly minted vigilantes hitting the streets are harassing people, threatening them, even killing innocents who are just trying to get home each night. That has to stop. Someone has to protect these people from the people who are supposed to be protecting them. He thought he could be that person.

Right now the only thing he wants to be involved with is a bed. His back’s burning from being shot with a rubber bullet at close range. They warned him how dangerous this could be, the volunteer shouldn’t have been shooting that close. It all happened so fast that he didn’t realize what happened initially. There was pain but nothing like it is now. It’s growing by the moment. With the test over, there’s nothing left to distract him.

The earliest people to sign up for the program didn’t need to take a test. Why didn’t he sign up sooner? He’d have signed some forms and been on his way. Now he has to wait another month to try again. That’s way too long. Another month of these lunatics running around wreaking havoc and he’s not sure there’s going to be anything left to protect.

Reentering the facility’s indoor offices, he’s taken to a small room where the gear he wasn’t allowed to use is stored. Everything used on the test has to be nonlethal. Opponents here aren’t criminals, they’re innocent volunteers. It’s hard enough to convince them to come in and potentially be beaten up or knocked out. They weren’t going to volunteer to have knives thrown at them.

There has to be another way. Once his knives are back in their holsters, Ryaan starts searching the facility for someone he can appeal to. There’s a guard watching over the room with confiscated gear so he starts there. “Is there anyone I can talk to about taking the test again sooner, or maybe about an appeal? I was really close and I know I can do this.”

The guard has a kind face and is at least nice while he breaks Ryaan’s heart. “Kid, we all watch the tests and see how they go. You weren’t that close. You got hit because you rushed at the end. The higher ups might have considered an appeal or time extension if you ran out of time. Especially since there were only two volunteers left. Some people only have to take down six. For that many volunteers you actually did alright. You knew time was running down though and you got sloppy.”

He doesn’t want to hear it. Shaking his head, he puts his hands on his hips. “I know, but what choice did I have? I was running out of time.”

“That’s a good sign that you aren’t ready to go out there. That’s why we have the tests. You can retake it in a month and hopefully by then you’ll work it out.”

That’s mostly the answer Ryaan expected but that doesn’t make it easier to accept. “People are getting hurt now. Waiting a month is going to let more people get hurt. They need me. I can help now, let me.”

The guard sighs loudly. He puts a hand on Ryaan’s shoulder. Ryaan considers shaking it off but decides against it. “I’m just talking kid. Guards don’t make those calls. Only the head of the facility can override a failed test and I can tell you he isn’t gonna do it here. If you want to talk to him, I can make that happen, but I can tell you right now you’ll be wasting both of your time. He’s not big on his time being wasted either. Making a big stink out of this is a really good way to make sure that when you come back to take the test next month, you have the hardest possible version waiting for you.”

Feeling broken, Ryaan realizes the only thing he can do is walk away. After a final glance around the room to make sure he isn’t forgetting anything he thanks the guard for his time and looks for the exit.

The original plan was to use the rest of the money from his summer job to get a ride home. Plans change though, now he has to get back to the Chicago suburbs next month to take this test again. It isn’t a cheap trip. Looking into ways he can save, his phone reveals a train station a few miles away. He can walk that.

Removing his mask and his knives from his costume, he sadly slides them into his backpack so everyone on the train doesn’t lose their mind. He considers changing the rest of his suit but decides against it. No one will recognize it. They’ll just think he’s some funny looking foreign guy in funny looking foreign clothes. A lot of them see him that way even if he’s wearing basketball shoes and a Bulls shirt.

The only stop he makes is to search the parking lot and make sure his Uber driver Ralph isn’t waiting outside. The guy dropped him off earlier and he offered to come back to handle the return trip. He’s nowhere to be found and Ryaan can only hope he doesn’t waste his time. He seemed like a nice guy and Ryaan feels bad leaving without seeing him but he can’t afford to pay him at this point even if he does show up.

The ride back to the city’s boring. Staring out the window, there’s nothing to watch except the different neighborhoods, defined by different graffiti or a lack thereof. Listening to his favorite music helps, though only so much. He’d almost be having a good time rocking out if it weren’t for how bad his back feels. Every time the train hits the slightest bump, he feels the sting rock through his body. Since these tracks are going on 100 years old, there are a lot of bumps. He’s nervous to look in a mirror and see how bad the bruising is.

Relieved to finally pull into his home station, he slips off the train. A few eyes follow him but most people don’t even notice his colorful shirt. As slow as he’s moving, he barely manages to hop onto the platform before the doors slide closed. He’s still a few miles from home and his body has tightened enough that walking sounds like torture. Without a good alternative, he sets out anyway.

As he walks through the streets he’s spent most of his life on, Ryaan feels more eyes on him than normal. Apparently this costume draws unwanted attention after all. He ignores them, there’s nothing else to do. He can’t help but wonder about his next steps. He wanted to protect the people he cares about, people who really need him. Because he wasn’t fast enough they’re on their own.

Is this crazy? He’s good with a staff and great with a knife but there are plenty of people who can handle a weapon. Adults, people who are actually allowed to sign up for this program. Why should he get involved? He has the will to do it but right now that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Music blaring in his ears, Ryaan tries to block out the world around him. Let people stare if they want to stare. He won’t notice. The music’s almost loud enough that he doesn’t hear the screaming a street away. Almost. He tries to ignore it when he first realizes what he’s hearing. Not his problem and not that uncommon in the city. The screams continue though and before long, they’re all he can hear. His music might as well not be playing.

Removing his earbuds, Ryaan searches for the source of the screams. It’s definitely a woman and she sounds like she’s on the next street to his left. Hurrying to the next alley, he looks between the buildings for any sign of the source. He can see a bit of the next street but he can’t see any sign of the woman or whatever has her screaming.

Whatever it is, it’s moving away from him and it’s moving fast. He could walk away. That’s the easy thing to do. It’s what he’s supposed to do. He couldn’t even pass a test. If he wants to help people in the neighborhood though there won’t be many better opportunities. Considering his choices, he realizes there’s really no choice. Ryaan starts sprinting down the alley in the direction of the screams.

Reaching the next road, Ryaan’s head darts in all directions. He catches a glimpse of a woman being chased by two men. A feeling of nausea sets in. He recognizes those guys even from behind. Their outfits are hard to forget. It’s the so called, “Goggle Guys”, a pair of idiots named Billy and Jimmy. These morons somehow managed to become licensed vigilantes where he failed miserably. He so hopes these morons registered before the testing started.

These are the guys who beat the crap out of him and left him laying bleeding in the rain. His only crime was trying to protect a family they were threatening. Vigilantes are supposed to protect people but these two don’t have any interest in protecting anyone. They just like running around in the streets waving their guns around.

Even in the city this much screaming doesn’t go unnoticed. Looking at the windows and doors along the road he can see many people watching but nobody’s making a move to help. Ryaan’s first instinct is to blame all of them for letting this happen. They have the power to do something and they hide. Then again, it is scary to start a fight with guys brandishing guns. Especially when they seem eager to use them. His knees feel weak but he’s not sure if it’s from his test or from seeing the Goggle Guys.

Darting back into the alley he came from, Ryaan reaches into his bag and pulls out his mask. He doesn’t want these guys to recognize him. The mask goes over his face while his knives slide into the various pouches built into his costume. Once they’re all in place he tucks his backpack behind the closest dumpster and rushes out of the alley.

They’re pretty far up the street by now but they aren’t moving that fast. They let the girl get a little ahead of them and then hurry to close the distance. They’re toying with her. It doesn’t take Ryaan long to catch up. The girl darts down an alley hoping to lose them but they’re right behind her. As he sees her turn he swears under his breath. She went the wrong way.

The pair won’t stop shouting vile things at her. The larger one named Billy’s closing in on her. “Stop running ya stupid girl. We just want to talk. At least at first.” The last part of this comes with a little bit of a snicker.

This alley doesn’t go all the way through to the next street because of how close the next set of buildings are to each other. The girl reaches the dead end and turns to face her pursuers, her eyes wide and terrified. She looks wildly around for a path out of here but there’s nowhere left to go.

Ryaan enters the alleyway right behind the Goggle Guys. After taking in his surroundings, his eyes settle on the girl being chased. He knows her. She’s named Mina and she’s a close friend of his younger sister Nadia. She’s a year older than Nadia and entered high school this year. Ryaan hasn’t paid much attention to her since he’s a few years older. He’s seen her in the halls here and there but that’s about it.

Their moms were friends before his mother took off a few years back and before that Mina’s family came over for dinner at least once a month. Since his mother left town things haven’t been the same. Mina’s mom probably doesn’t want to see Ryaan’s dad. Even when Nadia wants to hang out with Mina she usually goes to her house.

Right now Mina has a lot on her mind. She doesn’t even notice Ryaan entering the alleyway. Her eyes are locked on the Goggle Guys who are closing in. Their guns are drawn, though so far they aren’t pointing them at her. Jimmy, the shorter of the pair, says, “Why’d you run away little girl. Got something to hide? My friend was just trying to be nice and make some conversation. Suddenly you go tearing off like a bat out of hell. That’s kind of suspicious.”

Mina manages a quiet apology, though she’s visibly shaking and tears are starting to well in her eyes. Jimmy looks to his partner, tapping his gun against his hand. “Well that’s nice. I like an apology. We’re going to need a bit more than that now though. If you’ve got something to be sorry about, that’s concerning to us. After the way you ran off, that’s the kind of suspicious behavior we’re authorized to look into. We’re going to need to search you now. Hand us the backpack.”

Without a second thought, Mina throws her backpack at their feet. Her arms wrap around her body as she tries to make herself small. Jimmy picks up the bag and starts rifling through. He pulls out books, notebooks, and a variety of other school supplies. They all end up on the filthy ground. A calculator bounces off the pavement. He absentmindedly flips through the notebooks but doesn’t say anything. After a minute he pulls out a banana and seems to get a real kick out of the piece of fruit. “All you folks love your bananas now, don’t you?” He tosses the fruit to Billy who opens it and takes a big bite, apparently oblivious to the gross comment his friend just directed at a teenager.

Ryaan’s shaking with rage at this point. He wants to jump these guys, to get back at them for what they did to him the last time they met. He can’t though. He doesn’t want to put Mina in danger if he doesn’t have to. These guys are creeps but they’ll probably let her go after searching her bag. If they do he has to stay out of this. For now he watches while Jimmy finishes tossing everything in the bag onto the ground. He tosses the bag on top of the variety of school supplies and snacks. A gross smile crosses his face as he looks at the uncomfortable girl. It doesn’t take Ryaan long to realize these two don’t plan on letting Mina go.

Jimmy gives her a nice smile, trying to sound friendly. “Well, everything looks good with your bag. I appreciate your cooperation on that.”

Mina can’t seem to speak louder than a mouse. “Is that it then? Can I go home? My parents are going to be worried if I don’t get home soon. Please let me go home. I promise I’ll be good.”

Jimmy seems to think this is a hilarious joke. Billy starts laughing along after a few seconds, though Ryaan doubts he knows why he’s doing so. Jimmy walks right up to the girl, pressing his hand against her cheek. She flinches away but doesn’t stop him. “You can definitely go soon sweetheart. We obviously wouldn’t want to worry your folks. We need to make sure we’re protecting this neighborhood for everyone though and we can’t be too careful when it comes to you people around here. So here’s what we’re going to do. My buddy here,” he says while pointing to Billy, “is going to give you a nice search. He’ll be real friendly about it and if you just stay nice and still it’ll be over fast. Does that sound good?”

Mina visibly cringes at his comments. At this point tears are flowing freely down her face. She doesn’t say a word. Ryaan decides he’s had just about enough of staying out of things.

He makes his way into the alley, positioning himself a few feet behind the men. “You’re not going to lay a finger on the girl. You’ve had your fun. She’ll be going home now.”

The Goggle Guys turn to face him, apparently so concerned by little Mina that they turn their backs on her without a second thought. Billy stares dumbfounded. Jimmy runs his eyes up and down Ryaan. “Who the fuck are you?”

“I’m a licensed vigilante the same as you guys.” Ryaan doesn’t have a problem lying through his teeth. “What reason do you have for giving her a hard time?”

Jimmy’s eyes pause on each of the weapons tucked in Ryaan’s suit. Not seeing a gun, he stays calm. “Listen kid, and I say that in the nicest way but you’re clearly young as fuck, get the hell out of here. We’ve got this neighborhood and we sure as shit don’t answer to your ass. This girl ran from us for no reason we can figure out and we need to make sure there wasn’t a good reason. That’s all. Once we’re done searching her we’ll send her on her merry fucking way as long as we don’t find a bomb strapped under her clothes or some shit like that. Sound fair?”

Slowly he shakes his head. “Afraid not guys. She probably ran because she’s a little girl and no offense, but you two are some scary dudes. I mean that in the best way. I’m over here shaking in my shoes. She’s not wearing especially loose clothing, you can see that she doesn’t have anything dangerous on her. That’s all you need. You’re going to let her walk out of here now. If you don’t, we’re going to have a problem.”

Billy’s always looking for a fight and raises his shotgun slightly, though he doesn’t yet point it at Ryaan. Jimmy seems a bit more in control. He reaches toward his friend, giving him a look. The gun lowers slightly, though not to it’s original height. “Look kid, we’re not letting this kid go without searching her. No way. We wouldn’t be doing our job. You can stay for it if you want but that’s the best we’re gonna do. Maybe you’re the type who likes to watch or something. Does that work or do we have a problem?”

Ryaan doesn’t bother to respond. If there’s going to be a fight, he’s going to win it. Considering he’s against two grown men with guns he needs to fight smart. He lunges toward Billy, trying to get close enough that he can’t get a shot off.

The large man seems surprised by this sudden move and jumps back slightly. That’s all the time Ryaan needs to reach back and grab his bow staff. Pressing the button to extend it, the staff grows to full size. Ryaan flicks it directly at Billy’s head. The step backward changes his aim slightly and the blow ends up catching the man’s throat instead of his head.

It connects with a sickening squish and the large man drops his gun and reaches for his neck. Ryaan sets his feet and spins, with his arms straight out and his staff in front of him. He hits Billy in the side of the head with his next shot. It sounds like he hit a brick wall. The large man stumbles backwards and then falls on his butt. Ryaan leaps forward and kicks Billy in the side of the head. The large man collapses to his side and lays still.

Hearing what sounds like an explosion go off, Ryaan freezes. Wanting to know where the noise came from, he shifts his eyes all over. After a moment he turns his head to see Jimmy pointing his still smoking gun straight in the air. Mina stands at his side, being held in place by the man’s other hand. As Ryaan turns, Jimmy changes his aim, pointing at the girl.

He has a smaller pistol which Ryaan didn’t notice until now. The short man is bright red and looks like he wants to puke. With a gun pointed at a teenager though he also looks terrifying. “If you care about this fucking kid then cut the crap and surrender.”

Ryaan doesn’t move. His pride isn’t worth Mina getting hurt. He makes a downward gesture with his hand before slowly crouching to set his staff on the ground. Jimmy relaxes slightly, easing the gun back from Mina. Ryaan considers surrender but knows he can’t trust these guys. There’s no guarantee Jimmy doesn’t shoot them for fun. If he wants this to stop he needs to end things. Luckily, crouched as he is, his hand’s only a few inches from the knife stashed a few inches above his boot. Also lucky for him, Jimmy’s hand holding the gun is far enough from Mina that even if his aim isn’t perfect there’s no risk he’ll hit her.

Wrapping his fingers around a knife, Ryaan flings it at Jimmy. It finds the man’s hand, eliciting a scream as the gun goes clattering to the ground. Mina scrambles deeper into the alley, getting as far from the fight as she can.

Ryaan grabs his staff back off the ground and rushes the man. Jimmy’s not prepared to fight, he’s using his remaining good hand to put pressure on his cut. As Ryaan closes in, Jimmy tries to fight back anyway. He dodges the first strike of Ryaan’s staff. While Ryaan’s off balance, Jimmy darts in, trying to get close enough to render the staff useless. Releasing his injury, Jimmy starts raining punches on Ryaan’s chest with his good hand. When Ryaan starts circling away from that side of the man’s body, Jimmy tries one with his injured fist. It knocks the wind out of Ryaan but if Jimmy’s scream is anything to go on, there won’t be more punches coming from that side.

Fighting for air, Ryaan looks for an opportunity to strike back. He continues circling toward the injured hand, causing Jimmy’s next few punches to find nothing but air. He needs to put space between them but his back’s nearly touching the brick wall of the nearest building. Continuing to circle, it isn’t long before he feels open air behind him.

The breeze on his back tells him this is over. A few quick steps backward set him up. Now able to use his staff again, he starts jabbing Jimmy in the face, disorienting the man. Wildly swinging his staff now, he’s landing hits all over the man’s body. Jimmy makes a few half hearted attempts to hit back but he’s not even close to finding his target. With a final hard shot to the side of the head, Jimmy goes down. He starts to rise again, but a hard kick in the ribs seems to take the last fight out of him.

Still gasping for each breath Ryaan presses the button to retract his staff and slides it back into the leather holster on his back. Turning to look for Mina, he realizes this isn’t as over as he thought it was. Mina’s holding Jimmy’s pistol in front of her. It’s pointed right at his chest. She must have chased it down after he lost it. She stares at him and he stares back at her. Neither moves for what feels like an eternity. Mina fights back tears while Ryaan can barely manage to keep breathing.

Ryaan’s the one to break the silence. “It’s okay now. I just wanted to help. You can go ahead and put the gun down and go home.” Mina doesn’t say anything, she just keeps staring and pointing the gun at his chest. Her eyes seem blank, as if nobody’s home. Her arms are shaking more by the second though. “Really, I’m a friend, I promise. You have nothing to worry about.” Still no response. She continues to shake, seemingly operating in a trance. Unable to think of another option he tries to connect with her directly. “Mina, please go ahead and put the gun down. I’m a friend.”

Hearing her name seems to snap Mina out of her trance, at least a little. “How do you know my name?”

Ryaan smiles under his mask. At least she’s talking now. “I’m a friend.”

She may be reacting more, but she doesn’t seem to be calming down. If anything she’s getting more agitated. He starts to worry one of these shakes is going to shake her finger into the trigger. Maybe letting her know that a mystery vigilante knows her name for no reason isn’t how he wins her trust. Not wanting to die here, he only has one other idea. After a quick glance down to make sure neither of the seemingly unconscious Goggle Guys is looking his way and looking to make sure nobody’s at the end of the alley, Ryaan slowly reaches up and removes his mask.

It takes a moment but this finally seems to bring her back. She slowly lowers the gun. She starts to say, “Ry—,” but he shushes her.

“Don’t say my name. I don’t know if those two are actually unconscious and I don’t want them hearing.” He slips his mask back on before continuing. “Now put the gun down Mina, you don’t need it, they’re not going to hurt you.”

She does what he asks but can’t seem to tear her eyes from the two men on the ground. “I was so afraid. The big one said something gross when I walked by him on the street. I didn’t even realize I was running until I noticed them chasing me and then I felt like I had to keep going. I don’t know why they wanted to follow me so bad.”

Ryaan puts a hand on her shoulder. “They’re idiots looking to give people a hard time. It probably didn’t have anything to do with you. Go ahead and leave their guns, neither of them is going to report they got beaten up by a couple of brown kids. Let’s get out of here.”

Mina nods and puts the gun down. They slip away from the alley, pausing only for Ryaan to retrieve his throwing knife. There’s a bit of blood on the blade and he reminds himself to wash it later. With the added cost of having to take the vigilante test again, the last thing he needs is to waste a knife and have to buy another set.

Pulling Mina behind him by the hand, Ryaan rushes to the alley where he stashed his backpack. He’s relieved to find it’s still behind the dumpster. They spend the next few minutes moving from street to street, trying to put as much distance as possible between them and the Goggle Guys. After they’re far enough away to feel safe, Ryaan pulls Mina into yet another alley and takes off his mask. This time he takes all of his knives and his staff off and stashes them in his bag. They stand there catching their breath, not saying a word.

Mina leans on a wall, staring at him. “Ryaan, not that I’m complaining since you kind of saved me, but what in the world are you doing running around in a costume? Why do you have a bunch of knives?”

Ryaan almost giggles. When she puts it like that it sounds absurd. “I tried out for the vigilante program this morning but I didn’t pass.”

Mina’s eyes go wide. “So you were lying back there when you told them you were a vigilante?”

“I think of it more as bluffing but I guess I was. I hoped I could convince them to back down so I wouldn’t have to fight them. They kicked the crap out of me a few weeks ago when I tried to stop them from harassing another family around here. They’re crazy and shouldn’t be able to walk the streets. Somebody’s going to end up dead.”

A look of realization comes over Mina. Her head tilts to the side. “I thought you had to be eighteen to be a vigilante. You’re a junior. Did you fail a couple grades at some point without Nadia telling me?”

Feeling the sting of her words, Ryaan looks at the ground. “I have a fake ID. I know it’s dumb but no one wants to do anything about this. When you were running there were a ton of people watching, just staring out their windows, but no one did anything. Even without passing the test, I couldn’t let them hurt someone.”

Mina rushes up to him and squeezes him in a big hug. Ryaan cringes in pain. Not only is his back still giving him a hard time after his test, he thinks Jimmy bruised a few ribs when he got in close and wailed on him. Mina notices his discomfort and quickly releases him. Suddenly the moment becomes awkward. “Are you okay? He got some good hits on you.”

Ryaan tries to give a reassuring smile. “I think so, I’ll have a few nice bruises but I’ll be fine. They’re not all from right now anyway. I got hurt while taking the test this morning.”

Mina points at his shirt. “He got some blood on you.”

Looking down, Ryaan sees a smear of blood across his ribs. It must be from when Jimmy tried to punch him with his injured hand. He shakes his head, trying to figure out what to do. “I’m glad you’re okay but I need to get home and try to get this blood out before it sets. I don’t exactly have ten of these. We’re not far from your house now, do you think you’ll be okay?”

Mina thinks for a minute before saying, “Why don’t you just come back to my house? My mom’s out with some friends so there won’t be anyone home. You can get changed and put some ice on your ribs before heading home. I assume you don’t want them to see you like this. I know your dad would never let you run around if he knew.”

Ryaan considers this and decides it probably is best not to come home in a weird outfit covered in blood. He takes Mina up on her offer and they head to her house. It’s less than a mile away. They make only minor conversation the rest of the way.

As they walk into her house, Mina seems to really breathe for the first time since her attack. Ryaan may not be on his home turf, but he feels at home here as well. He’s been upset since he failed the test but today wasn’t a bust. He was actually able to help someone. Without his mind being torn between ten things, he notices Mina’s turning into a very pretty girl.

He hasn’t seen much of her lately but he’s always thought of her as his kid sister’s friend. He’s not seeing a kid now. She has long black hair and a slightly lighter complexion than he does. Her eyes are a pretty hazel color and she has a really nice smile when he finally gets to see it.

She offers Ryaan a bag of ice which he sticks under his shirt. The cold feels weird on his ribs but it offers relief. They sit down to relax but after a few minutes Mina’s gaze returns to the blood on his shirt. “Why don’t you give me your shirt. I do most of the laundry since my mom and dad work a lot. I’m good at getting stains out.”

Without thinking Ryaan takes his top off. It doesn’t take long for him to regret it. He feels incredibly awkward standing there without a shirt in front of Mina. She blushes, trying to look away. After a moment she takes the shirt and heads to her laundry room. Ryaan uses her absence to grab his regular shirt out of his backpack. He manages to put it on before she returns. When she comes back and smiles at him, suddenly all the pain he’s felt today is worth it.

They return to the living room where Ryaan can sit and keep the ice pack from moving around. Mina sits in a chair across the room and stares at him. She keeps doing that. It doesn’t take long for them to both realize they have no idea what to talk about. Mina says, “Your shirt will be clean in thirty minutes or so. I can dry it too if you want but that will take longer.”

Ryaan tells her that will be okay and thanks her for the help. Now it’s Mina’s turn to laugh. “I think if anyone owes a thank you it’s me. You saved me from those guys. I can’t believe you’re trying to be a vigilante though. That seems really dangerous. None of your family knows?”

Ryaan shakes his head. “I’d appreciate if you don’t tell them. I know you and Nadia still hang out some but I don’t want her to worry.”

“No problem, I’m not going to blow your secret. I think you should tell them though. At least Nadia. She’d be really supportive. Plus, you know she’d make you a better outfit than what you’re wearing. Did you make that yourself?”

Ryaan confirms that he did. His feelings are slightly hurt but she’s not wrong about Nadia and clothing. She’s always done a lot of patching and repairing of their clothes. Something she picked up from their mom. When they first moved to the US they had almost no money and mom made most of their clothes. When he started school he remembers how embarrassed he was when he realized none of the other kids wore homemade clothes. His parents, always trying to be American, somehow came up with the money to buy him a cheap new wardrobe.

Mina crosses her legs, putting her head in her hands. “Are you going to take the vigilante test again?”

He opens his mouth to answer but nothing comes out. He realizes he hasn’t really considered the question. He has to, doesn’t he? As much pain as he’s in, today taught him that helping isn’t a choice. He saved someone in trouble and it feels amazing. He wasn’t registered when he did it though.

He definitely wants to keep going but waiting a month for the test sounds like torture. What if he does this without registering? What will happen if he gets caught? Mina runs over to her computer and a quick internet search gives them an answer. Since the passing of the act the only punishment for vigilantism without registration is being required to register. They must have come up with that one before the test was required and not changed it. Unless something changes, he’s not even taking a real risk by skipping the test. Plus, he doesn’t have to use his fake ID to be a non registered vigilante.

Looking over Mina’s shoulder, a smile starts to spread across Ryaan’s face. “I’m just going to help people. I’ll worry about registering if someone catches me.”

Mina’s face lights up with excitement. “I like it, you’ll be kind of a rebel and do your own thing. That’s really cool.”

Something clicks in Ryaan’s head and reminds him of one of his favorite songs. “That’s what I’ll go by, I’ll be the Rebel.”

The look on Mina’s face is priceless. “You mean I get to name you? That’s awesome!” She starts to go in for another hug before remembering how much that hurt him last time. She stops herself, looking sheepish. “Ryaan, I won’t tell anyone about you either way but can I help you? I want to repay you for saving me.”

It’s Ryaan’s turn to want to hug her. “That’s really nice of you Mina but this is really dangerous. I know how to fight thanks to my parents. Unless you have some kind of training, you’ll just end up getting hurt.”

Mina’s mouth is practically gaping at this point. “I’m not going to be running around the streets in a funny outfit Ryaan. My parents would kill me. I can still help you though. If your clothes get bloody I can clean them. If they get damaged I can fix them, maybe not as well as Nadia but I can handle some basic sewing. I might even be able to make you a better costume as a thank you.”

“Okay, so you can help with the costume?” Ryaan processes his options. This is the best he could manage after a lot of effort and it’s not great. A good costume goes a long way to being taken seriously as a vigilante. If she can do better, he knows taking her up on the offer’s a good idea. Ryaan reaches out his hand. “Sounds like a plan. I can’t wait to see what you can do.”

Mina grabs his hand and shakes it hard. As she does so, in the background the washer buzzes loudly to tell them his clothes are clean

Rebel Rebel #2 Available Now

Rebel Rebel #4: Available August 10th

Previous Story: Hitbox #3 Available Now

Next Story: Dynamo #2 Available July 20th

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 8

They don’t miss the broccoli casserole. Marco doesn’t at least. Kalenia always misses anything to do with broccoli. Ever since she was a kid and her dad freaked her out by telling her broccoli florets were little green trees she’s never touched the stuff. If it’s absolutely drowned in cheese sauce it’s edible but if she’s going to eat vegetables, broccoli is way down the list. When they first got together Marco insisted she try the casserole. She likes rice, she likes cheese, surely she’d like it. His Aunt Cecilia’s been making it since he was a kid and it’s his favorite food. She tried a bite. Tastes like broccoli. A bite with only the cheese and rice is good but still not worth all Marco’s fuss.

There’s plenty of other things to eat and everyone else seems to be having a great time. Kalenia feels alone. Even after three years she still feels weird around Marco’s family. Maybe it’s her own insecurity but she’s never felt welcomed by most of them. They’re perfectly nice to her face and Marco says they like her, but he makes his lying face when he says it.

As long as Marco’s there she can tolerate his family. He’s always being sent out of town for work though and she’s left to show up alone. Suddenly no one really wants to talk to her, or they start to and then something magically comes up. They’re still nice enough to her face but everything gets awkward. The only reason she still goes is that she knows the first time she doesn’t she’ll never hear the end of it. She used to think they had a problem with Marco dating a black woman but then his cousin Hector married one. Everyone seems to love Hector’s wife so maybe it’s just her.

She’s tried repeatedly to figure out why they have an issue. It probably didn’t help that Marco told them about her parkour. She asked him to stay quiet about it but he doesn’t keep secrets from his family. She knew as soon as they found out she’d be the crazy black lady who jumps off buildings. Marco thinks it’s cool and that she’s brave. Some of the younger people in his family think the same. Some of the teenagers have even asked her to teach them. Their parents’ horrified faces put an end to that real quick.

Because of how uncomfortable she is at his family gatherings Kalenia usually doesn’t let Marco out of her sight at them. It helps her feel comfortable. Today’s different. When a few of his younger cousins ask him to come see their new video game, she encourages him to go. He looks at her like she’s lost her mind but she assures him she’ll be fine for a few minutes. He didn’t look this surprised when he found out she was a vigilante. Her encouragement eggs the kids on and Marco’s quickly dragged away amid a whirlwind of cheers.

There’s a method to Kalenia’s madness. Working her way through the crowd, she scans the yard for the one person she needs. She finds her sitting at a weathered picnic table under a shady tree near the back of the yard. Most of the crowd’s avoiding the area so they’ll have some privacy. She walks up and gives the woman a friendly, but not overly familiar hug. “Hi Emma, how ya doing?”

“I’m alright, wish it wasn’t so hot.” Sweat’s dripping down her face despite the sun dress she wore today. “It’s too early in the year for this heat. What happened to spring? How are you treating my son?”

“Haven’t had any major complaints lately,” she says with a grin. “Has he talked to you today?”

Emma smirks in response. “About what? You wanting to be some sort of vigilante who jumps off buildings? He might have mentioned it.”

If Marco doesn’t keep many secrets from his family, he keeps none from his mother. She knew he’d tell her, it was just a matter of when. She wanted to beat him to the punch but at least Marco saved her having to explain. Still, she wonders when he managed to get her alone. Until he was dragged away by his cousins the only time they weren’t together was when she ran to the bathroom. She wasn’t even gone five minutes. Sometimes it feels like Marco and his mother have an almost psychic connection.

“That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. I could kind of use a favor and I’d rather you not tell Marco about it. I’m not asking you to lie or anything, just don’t go out of your way to bring it up. I don’t think he’d like me involving you but I can’t think of anyone who’d do a better job.”

Shaking her head, Emma seems to think she’s joking. “Looking for a partner or something? I can’t see myself climbing up too many buildings but I have a nice left hook.”

Kalenia could hug the woman again. None of Marco’s family makes her feel terribly welcome but Emma’s better than most of them. She has a sense of humor and she’s the one who makes sure Kalenia’s invited to everything, even when she knows Marco’s out of town. They’re not best friends but she treats her like part of the family.

“If I need one you’ll be the first person I call. For now though what I need is a costume. Something to hide my face and hopefully help keep me safe while I do this. It needs to be light and tight. I don’t want it getting caught on anything and I still need to be able to climb those buildings. You make such beautiful clothing. Do you think you could manage it?”

Emma leans forward and puts her head in her hands. She’s been designing clothing for the better part of twenty years. She has her own clothing line which sells in some local stores and which she sells online. It’s quality stuff and while it hasn’t made her rich, it sells. Kalenia knows she can do this. The real question is whether she will.

“Light and durable are the most important things?” Kalenia nods. “I can make you, well, basically a modified leotard made of some really strong material. Maybe adapt it to cover your arms and legs some so you blend in. It won’t stop bullets or anything but it will stop you from getting scraped and scratched up when you climb. Add in a pair of gloves with nice grip, some sturdy boots, a mask of some sort to hide your face. You have too much hair for a helmet or anything like that but I can do a mask. Probably mostly black so you’ll blend into the shadows at night. Any of this sounding good? Feel free to interrupt and give your opinion any time.”

Kalenia feels like jumping up and down. “Clearly I came to the right person. How soon can you get it done and what will it cost?”

Emma shrugs. “A few days. It won’t cost a ton, I’m not making it out of cashmere. Couple hundred dollars. You can afford it. Why should I do this though? Why should I risk making my son mad at me?”

Kalenia actually has an answer for this one ready. “Because it will keep me safe and keep me from screwing up my career. Both of which will make your son happy. Also, because we’re family.”

Emma groans at this last part, Kalenia went right for her weak spot and she knows it. They aren’t actually family yet but Kalenia knows she already considers her to be. “Fine, I’ll have it done in a few days. You’ll need to drive over and pick it up. I’m not your delivery service. I assume my son will see this thing at some point, so just make sure you don’t tell him I designed it, alright?”

Kalenia can’t hold it in anymore. She jumps up and gives Emma another hug, this one a lot more affectionate than the first. Emma groans but hugs her back, though not nearly as tight. After letting go Kalenia gets serious again. “I want one more piece actually and it’s one I want you to more find me than design for me. You can modify it if you like but I may not be able to hang onto it for long and it may need to be replaced a lot so don’t put in too much work. I need a big trench coat, with plenty of compartments and pockets to store weapons and things in. I can’t climb well in that and I can’t necessarily fight well in it so I want something I can ditch if needed. Can you do that?”

At this point Emma’s rubbing her temples. “I can get it. I actually have an idea for one I won’t have to modify much. It’s like five hundred dollars though and will probably take a week or so to be ready. That okay?” Without even thinking Kalenia gives her the okay and asks her to get started as soon as possible.

After a few more minutes Marco returns from his cousins. His hair’s all over the place and what appears to be grape jelly is smeared across the side of his face. He looks shell-shocked; like he just walked out of a war zone. He sits next to his mother and Kalenia but doesn’t say much. With an annoyed look on her face, Emma grabs a napkin and starts scrubbing the jelly off his face. He pushes her hand back and takes the napkin himself, wiping the remaining jelly away. He looks between the two women and asks, “Everyone getting caught up and having a nice time?”

Simultaneously the two women reply that they are before starting to chat about work. Marco sits there staring into space, letting them dominate the conversation.

 

Part 7

Part 9

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 7

Feeling nothing but her soft, satin, designer sheets against her bare skin, Kalenia Wallace wakes up feeling amazing. The morning sun’s shining in through her bedroom window and she has to blink a few times to adjust her eyes. It must be mid-morning. When was the last time she slept until mid-morning? Middle school? At least it’s her day off.

“Good morning,” she hears from behind her. She strains her neck to find her boyfriend Marco laying beside her. She rolls over and kisses the man before burying her head in his chest, if for no other reason than to keep the sun out of her eyes. He wraps his arms around her and holds her close.

Marco got home last night after spending the last week out of town. She holds him tight, glad to no longer be alone in their king size bed. She told him he had to be home today and he made it happen. His family picnic’s this afternoon and even after years together, she still isn’t comfortable being alone with his family. She would still have had to go if he was out of town, the gossip if she skipped would never have ended. Since he’s back she can stay by his side and always have at least one person to talk to.

After several more minutes of laying together, Kalenia pulls her head away from him and looks him in the eye. “Is it still morning?”

Marco doesn’t respond at first, not noticing that she’s finally acknowledged his greeting. After realizing she’s talking to him, he looks down at her with a smile. His facial hair’s a little overgrown and in need of a trim after his trip. “Barely. We need to get up and moving soon. The picnic’s in about two hours.”

Kalenia manages to twist her neck just enough to glance at her alarm clock. It’s a little after eleven. For someone who usually rises before the sun, that might as well be dusk.

They enjoy each other for a few more minutes but Marco’s the one who finally jumps out of bed, offering to take care of breakfast. Kalenia sighs. She was enjoying laying there holding each other, lost in their reunion. It was peaceful. She knows the second she tells him what happened last night that peace is going to end. She wanted to hang onto it a little longer.

It isn’t long before Marco calls upstairs that breakfast is ready. Kalenia groans, but she manages to slip her legs over the side of the bed and untangle herself from the sheets. Slipping on her bright red robe which barely covers her butt, she makes her way downstairs to finds Marco’s idea of a light breakfast waiting.

With the picnic only a couple hours away, she would have been fine with a bowl of cereal, or maybe some oatmeal. Instead there’s a huge plate waiting on their kitchen island with scrambled eggs, bacon and a bagel from her favorite bakery. It’s covered with a vegetable cream cheese, spread thin but not too thin. Part of her wants to wait on the picnic, but another part’s salivating. She’d normally almost be to lunch by now and she’s starving.

Pulling a bar stool up to their kitchen island, she digs into the feast. Marco considers himself a bit of an amateur chef and even when throwing together a quick breakfast he can’t keep things simple. He’s whipped creme fraiche into the eggs and cooked the bacon in duck fat. It’s a little fancy for what was supposed to be a basic breakfast, but it’s also delicious.

It’d be so easy to wait until after the picnic to get into this. She knows Marco’s going to think she’s making a huge mistake. He respects honesty though. The longer she waits to tell him, the angrier he’s going to be.

Nearing the end of her meal Kalenia slides her stool back slightly, ready to get to her feet if the conversation demands it. “I may have done something you’re going to think is really stupid.”

Looking up from rinsing the breakfast dishes, Marco’s eyes narrow. “How stupid are we talking? Shaking my head or bashing it through a wall?”

Swallowing the final bite of her eggs, she walks to the sink and hands him her plate. “Probably closer to the second.”

He sighs. “Lay it on me.”

“I may have gone and registered to be a vigilante.” She cringes back from him, waiting for the explosion. She’s the lead lawyer suing the state government to overturn the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act. She’s been working on this case since the day President Hughes unveiled his plans. Under the act anyone can sign up to walk the streets, supposedly keeping the public safe. There’s no oversight, almost no restrictions. How credible will she be in court if one minute she’s saying this is unconstitutional and the next it’s revealed she signed up herself? She can argue it was research all she wants but will a judge agree? Will a jury?

Marco closes his eyes for a few seconds. He’s mouthing his way down from ten, trying to stay calm. She admires the attempt. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Her hands go to her hips, ready to sell her decision even if she’s not confident in it herself. “It’s a great opportunity to see this thing from the inside. I’ll have a whole new perspective to argue my case from. I think it’s a great idea.”

“I can definitely see that. I can also see this coming out at trial though. Especially since you’re suing the government and the government has all the program’s records. They can drop a bomb on you at the worst part of the trial to make you look foolish. You’ll never know when it’s coming”

She spent time thinking about the risks of her plan but never gave much thought to how much control the prosecution might have over that reveal. Already she’s planning a counter to it. “That’s easy to get around. I just won’t hide it. I’ll be clear that I’m a vigilante from day one of the trial. It still might play poorly with the jury but they won’t get the shock value.”

“I’m not just concerned about your case you know. I mean ya, I want you to win, but I’m also concerned about you. You aren’t trained in martial arts, you don’t know how to use any weapons. I know you can handle yourself but it takes a lot more than that. I don’t want you getting hurt.”

Closing the space between them, Kalenia takes his hand and pulls it to her face. She places a gentle kiss on it before placing another on his lips. Initially he pulls away, but after a moment he returns the kiss. “It’s sweet that you’re worried about me, but you’re right, I can handle myself. Better than most people. I work out every day, I’ve taken self defense classes and I do parkour. If I can climb buildings and jump from roof to roof ten stories in the air, I think I can handle a few criminals. If I need more self defense classes or weapons training, I promise I’ll get it. I know you’re going to worry, but you don’t need to.”

The look she gives him is one he’s all too familiar with. It tells him he needs to accept this because it isn’t going to change. That she’s made up her mind and he can either get on board, or he can walk away. She really hopes he gets on board because she loves this man and doesn’t want him to hate her.

After a few seconds of looking at each other he closes his eyes again and nods. Kalenia squeezes him tight to her and kisses him again. Finally letting go she says, “Come on, go get ready. We’re going to be late for the picnic and all your aunt’s broccoli casserole’s going to be gone. You’ll be pissed if you don’t get any.” Marco laughs and proceeds to make his way back upstairs. Kalenia stares after him, thinking about how much better that went than she expected.

Part 6

Part 8

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 6

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.”

Part 5

Part 7

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 5

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.

Part 4

Part 6

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 4

“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.

Part 3

Part 5

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 3

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.

Part 2

Part 4

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 2

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.

Part 1

Part 3

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 1

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. Pulling out of this house always causes a pang regret.

Part 2