Pulling into a parking lot in the western suburbs of Chicago, Martina sees a large brick wall surrounding what appears to mostly be an outdoor facility. A small indoor area sits in the center of the building but the outdoor area is huge in comparison. Only a few other cars are in the parking lot in the middle of a weekday so she hopes she won’t have much of an audience.
Taking her gun from it’s holster, she slips it into the glove box of her car. She was informed when signing up to take this test that only non lethal weapons are allowed. Now she has to hope a pistol firing rubber bullets is enough to take down a group of armed volunteers. It hardly seems fair but she knows several people who passed this test and if they’re anything to go on, it can’t be that hard.
She takes a moment to consider how important this is as she gets out of her nearly twenty year old four door sedan. There’s already a huge list of repairs due on it which she’s been declining every time she goes to the mechanic for an oil change. If this doesn’t work she doesn’t have a backup for her backup plan. She won’t be able to afford her parking spot, let alone keep this thing running.
Entering the front door, she finds herself in a poorly lit room with a couple of bathrooms off to one side and a tall front desk ahead. A couple of bored looking employees sit there staring into space. They barely seem to register she’s entered. She walks up to them and tries to appear happy. “I’m here to take the vigilante test. How do I get started?”
The young man sitting behind the counter doesn’t even take the time to remove his head from his hand. He just tilts his face up at her. “Do you have an appointment?”
“Yes, for Martina Alvarez. Should be for one thirty. I might be a few minutes early. Traffic wasn’t as bad as expected.”
With a sigh the man stands and takes a look at his computer screen. It seems to take him a long time to find anything. “Martina you said?”
“That’s right. Is there an issue?”
“Nah, you’re here. Do you need to get changed or anything?”
“Figured I’d wear this.” Jeans and a tank top with a good pair of boots seemed appropriate. She’s got a leather jacket on over it but depending on what the course is like she can take it off.
“Whatever, your deal. Lot of people like armor or something. I’m sure you’ll be fine though. What weapons do you plan to use?”
“I can’t use a regular gun, correct?”
The man starts laughing at this. “Not a lot of volunteers would stick around long if we let you shoot at them. Sorry. Some of these guys could use it but that’s another issue. We have a gun that fires rubber bullets you can use after signing a waiver. Rubber bullets shouldn’t hurt too bad but it can still be dangerous up close.”
“I was a cop, I know the drill.”
His face comes to life with astonishment. “Then what the hell are you doing here?” She doesn’t have an answer ready for him. After a moment he shrugs. “Whatever. The test is pretty simple. You have thirty minutes to take down however many guys are in there. Or girls, could be girls. There’s going to be between six and ten and you’ll be notified by loudspeaker when the test ends. Take them all down. If you shoot them in a place that would likely put them down they’ll go down. If they shoot you in a place you’d likely go down, test’s over.”
Taking the pistol, she’s led into a small room with only what appears to be a garage door ahead of her. She’s left alone to sit and wait for whatever comes next. A few minutes go by before the door fights its way upward. A beautiful green field filled with massive trees sits ahead. Her gun’s already drawn and ready for anything. She turns left and tries to stay near the wall so they can’t sneak up on her.
Disappearing between the trees, she doesn’t see any sign of people. This place looks huge. From where she is the far wall can’t be seen and she starts to worry about how she’ll find anyone with so little time. She can’t hear anything except the sound of her own footsteps and tree branches flapping as a light breeze pushes them around.
Emerging from the wooded area, a few rows of buildings stand ahead. She slowly moves toward them. The first building she reaches works as cover and she glances around the corner for any sign of the volunteers. Still nobody. Moving from building to building, she looks inside each for any sign of people. In the last building of the first row she sees a woman sitting at a table through a broken window. Inside the lights reflect off the broken glass piled on the floor. The woman’s facing the door and doesn’t seem to notice her yet. She ducks down to keep things that way.
Creeping around the other side of the building, she looks for any other way inside. Nothing stands out. With the door being out as an option, she returns to the window. A doorway between them makes it a difficult shot but the only other option is rushing the front door and hoping to dodge the woman’s shot.
Lining her shot up and hoping this gun fires straight, she squeezes off three shots. The woman isn’t expecting them and is knocked back when the first connects. She looks back and forth for the shooter and when she sees Martina in the window she gives her a dirty look before laying on the ground.
A shout goes out in the distance as the sound of several people running reaches her. There’s no cover in sight so she starts moving away from the noise. Ducking around the corner, she waits for anyone to show up. A man runs past the gap between buildings ahead but doesn’t seem to notice her. There’s a rustling to her left and she turns in time to see another man turn a corner and raise his gun. Ducking back between the buildings, rubber bounces past her and falls in the dirt.
Running to the other side of the building, the first man she saw comes back around the corner. She lets off three shots and they bounce off the man. His momentum carries him for a few more steps before he can process what happened and drop. Martina keeps moving. The other guy has to be close and he’ll catch her if she stays still. There could be another seven just like them right behind.
Reloading the gun, she sees a staircase ahead of her leading to the roof. She races toward it and takes the stairs two at a time. Maybe from the roof she can find some sign of the other man. Her head rises over the side of the building.
Another man’s sitting there. He’s already turning to her when she manages to squeeze a couple of shots off to take him down. On the ground she can hear legs coming toward her and the man from before pops into view. His gun’s pointed up at her and he squeezes shot after shot off but his aim sucks and most of his shots bounce off the side of the building. One does connect with her left shoulder though and the pain’s fierce. No announcement comes on to end things though so she has to assume it isn’t lethal. Through gritted teeth Martina fires a few shots at him and he gives up and lays down.
Four down’s a good start but there could still be a lot left and she has no clue where the rest of the group are. The world around her is quiet and she assumes there’s no more in the immediate area. Catching her breath, she realizes she shot more people in the last ten minutes than she has in her entire career. That nobody’s seriously hurt helps but hopefully shooting people won’t be the only way she can protect people or use her registration to make a living.
Returning to the ground she checks the rest of the buildings here but there’s no sign of other volunteers. She reaches the far side of this area and looks back to the woods. The rest have to be out there. She rushes into the trees, hoping something will catch her attention.
At first she methodically darts from tree to tree but soon she realizes that’s taking too long. If she keeps this pace she won’t cover half the distance needed before her time runs out. She starts to run, her head darting from left to right, hoping to see any further attackers before they see her.
Her wish is granted. Ahead she sees two more men working their way between the trees. She takes cover and watches them move. They’re not that big and she starts to think of ways she could take them down without firing a shot. Thinking of Zoe gets that out of her head. She needs to pass this so she can start applying for jobs as a vigilante. She told her daughter things would be okay but in truth if she’s out of work for any significant amount of time they won’t be able to make rent.
They’re coming her way so she waits for them to reach her. When they pass the tree she’s standing behind, she jumps out. One of them must see her out of the corner of their eye because they turn and start firing. Martina’s already moving by that time though and she manages to get the second man between them. His partner shoots him right in the chest.
The shooter and his partner both have their mouths drop. They pause, seemingly unsure what to do. Martina doesn’t stop. Shooting, she hits the man who shot his partner. He goes down and tosses his gun. The man who was shot doesn’t seem to know what to do. The loud speakers do. “This vigilante test is over. Congratulations on taking down all volunteers. Please proceed to the entrance.”
The last man standing never bothers going to the ground. He kicks at the dirt as he walks away, clearly not liking the speakers’ verdict.
When she reaches the front of the facility, everyone seems to be smiling and clapping. She has to fill out a bit of paperwork but soon the same man who walked her through how the test works hands her a certificate telling her she’s a federally authorized vigilante. “You’ll get a permanent card in the mail in two to four weeks. For now, try to keep this on you. If needed the cops can look you up but its a lot more work.”
“I know, I was a cop.”
Blinking a few times, the man stares through her. “Why the hell are you doing this then?” She still doesn’t have an answer.