Dynamo Vol. 2 Exit Strategy Part 4

Going home after everything she’s dealt with in recent weeks feels amazing. That isn’t to say everything’s immediately better. Reaching her bedroom on the second floor of the house proves painful so Marco sets her up on the couch. Not what she was hoping for when going home but he wrapped the cushions in a set of her sheets so she feels a little more at home. The first night he sleeps in the recliner next to it but after that she assures him he can sleep in their bed. No reason he shouldn’t get a good night’s sleep because she can’t be there. He reluctantly agreed.

The transition home’s made a lot easier by her decision to give up being a vigilante. Despite the kind words from George Stephan, she knows she’s making the right decision. If she wants to protect people she’s better doing it in court. The remains of her costume and gear are stashed in the closet in the garage. Marco’s eyes go wide when he sees how much she has, especially when he sees her giant box of grenades. He doesn’t say much though as they lug it all into the closet. Her body suit was mostly destroyed when she was shot and a replacement hasn’t come yet but her gloves, mask, boots and her trenchcoat are piled on top of the boxes.

Returning to work’s a little more difficult. Her bosses haven’t forgotten how quickly she returned from her other recent injury and they push her to take all the time she needs. They don’t like hearing that she’s already done so and she’s ready to get back. Already her head’s spinning with thoughts of her coworkers poaching her best cases.

She has a penchant for winning though and two days after returning home she’s back on the highway into the city. After their latest conference call the partners said they’d consider letting her return to work today if she takes it easy and stays out of court for at least a little longer. When they never called her back to provide a final decision she took it as approval.

Walking through the lobby three people stop her to ask how she’s feeling. She grumbles that she’ll be fine once she gets her coffee and manages to get to the elevator without causing a major incident. When she reaches the third floor her assistant’s waiting for her with a cup of coffee which she knows will be made exactly the way she likes it. He’s the only person here she bothered to inform about her return today. The only reason he got to know was because someone had to schedule her appointments. She agreed not to go to court yet but that doesn’t mean she’s going to sit around reading case files all day.

That is how she spends her morning though. Sipping coffee and reading up on her cases. She has to go to several other lawyers’ offices and practically threaten them to get her cases back but they all give in. That leaves her with weeks of notes to review.

Her first meeting of the day’s with Edgar Juatco, a man she believes is wrongfully accused of being an accessory in a gang murder. He used to be a member of the gang but he’s been out for years and has a strong alibi which the district attorney hasn’t been able to poke holes in. He’s the one who provided the tip that led to all of this happening. She tried to use the information to work out a plea deal but when she found no deal was coming she took matters into her own hands.

Edgar walks into her office wearing the same suit he wears to court. He looks good, every hair in place. There’s a sad look on his face though and his tie’s been slightly loosened. She starts to stand to greet him but he puts a hand up. “No need for that Ms. Wallace. I heard about what happened, take it easy. Glad to see you’re looking good. How you feeling?”

Gritting her teeth, Kalenia offers a hand to Edgar which he quickly takes. “I’m good.” She nods a few times, trying to make sure she believes it. “For someone who got shot I’m actually really good. What did you hear.”

Sitting in the chair across from her, Edgar unbuttons his suit jacket so he can stretch out. She can smell a faint aroma of marijuana on him. “Not a whole lot I guess. You were at that casino gambling when things went down and a bunch of people got shot. Took one right to the gut. Told my friends my lawyer was there but she was too tough to take out.”

She smiles and pushes her hair back. “That’s sweet. I got really lucky though. Another reason to try and stop this vigilante act.”

“I’m with you on that. They’re the reason I’m wearing this suit.”

Looking him over, she notices he’s even wearing his dress shoes. He’s never felt the need to dress up to meet here at the office. He’s shown up in wife beaters before. “What do you mean? I figured you got confused and thought we were going to court today.”

He shakes his head, looking down at the ground. “No, nothing like that. A friend of mine, good guy, was one of the people who worked security at that thing I told you about. Some vigilante showed up and took his ass out. Just came from the funeral. Pretty torn up about it. Keep thinking if I was there to watch his back maybe he’d still be here. Or even if I hadn’t been selfish and I let the cops have the tip without letting me off, you know?”

The blood runs out of her face. “I’m so sorry about your friend. If you’d been there though you’d likely have been another victim. You’ve gone straight. Stick to that.”

He shoves his hands in his pockets. “Know you’re right but between the charges and now this, feels like I’m never going to do enough to get clean.”

“Look at me.” He does. “You are doing plenty. You are going to beat this thing. You have the best lawyer in the city in your corner. Me. A bullet didn’t keep me down, partially because I needed to come back here and defend you. So you don’t get to give up, alright?”

He looks up at her, his eyes wide. “If I’m not giving up then we need to see about another option. I still want a plea bargain and I was offered another job.”

She takes a deep breath and puts her hands behind her neck. “What sort of job?”

“Similar to the last one. They’re desperate to get some stuff out of town apparently, after what went down at the casino, selling to people they shouldn’t be, people who they haven’t properly vetted so they need a lot of security. It’s even more dangerous for me to give this meeting up than the last one though. They might connect that I was offered both gigs and I have a reason to want to cut a deal. Even with the guilt from last time I can’t give this one up if they won’t cut a deal.”

Kalenia starts digging through the piles of junk scattered on her desk. At the best of times her office can be described as organized chaos but today it’s worse than normal. In her absence others had no clue where to put anything so anything and everything was piled wherever it fit. There’s all sort of mail, files, requests, documents. She finally finds a notebook and tosses it across the desk. “Write down anything you know. I want to go into negotiations with every bit of information. We have a trump card. Your last info was good and I can prove it from the stuff you filled out then. This time they’re going to take you more seriously. If this is a big deal there’s a good chance they’ll drop the charges. They’re losing anyway.”

He grabs the notebook off the desk and takes a pen she offers. “So names, date, time, location, all that?” She nods. He opens the notebook but when he does so an envelope falls out and falls to the ground. He picks it up and looks it over. “Guess this is yours? No addresses or anything on it.”

Taking the envelope from him, Kalenia looks it over. It’s sealed but there’s no return address or even her address on it. Not even a name. It feels like there’s something in it though. Did one of the partners leave it here? She hesitates to open it but after patting it down from end to end all she can feel is paper. While Edgar writes, she opens it, trying not to make it seem like a big deal. There’s a single piece of lined notebook paper folded up inside. She sets the envelope down and pulls the paper out.

The three folds come undone and she sees there’s no handwriting. Whoever left this here went with the old serial killer method of cutting letters out of magazines. The note’s short but it gets the point across.

 

I know who you are Dynamo. If you don’t want others to know, I suggest you play ball. I’ll be in touch with more demands soon. Ciao.

Part 3

Part 5

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Dynamo Vol. 2 Exit Strategy Part 3

The morning before she’s set to go home, Kalenia pretends to sleep as Marco walks in. It’s time for her to make a choice and while she’s fairly sure she knows what to do, she still goes back and forth in her head every few minutes. Throwing the curtains open, light shines into a room she’s kept dark for most of her stay. He settles into a chair nearby and puts the news on with closed captioning, muting the TV so he doesn’t wake her.

Slowly she opens her eyes, a grin forming on her face as she makes out her boyfriend. The light shining from behind him makes him look slightly off but she squints through it. He smiles back at her and she scrunches her face up and sticks a tongue out at him. He pulls himself up and walks over to give her a kiss. It’s back to the quick pecks. He’s trying to look happy but she can see the fear behind his eyes.

He starts to walk back to the chair but before he can reach it Kalenia says, “I’m giving it up. Just so you know.”

Turning around, the look on his face isn’t as happy as she expected. One eyebrow goes up and he walks back to the bed. “By which I assume you mean…”

“Being a vigilante. I’m done with it when we get home.”

He nods but won’t look her right in the eye. “Are you sure? I don’t want you doing this only to avoid a fight or make things easy between us. I thought about it too and I decided I’m not going to leave if you decide to keep doing it. I’d rather you quit, but I want you to do what you think is right.”

“I’m sure.” She grabs his hand. “Look at me.” He does as she asks. “I got lost in all of this. Really and truly lost. I started because I wanted to do research for my case, thinking I could help people by knowing more about how this worked. It went way beyond that. I started out desperate to stop the program and by the end I was desperate to be a part of it, even if it killed me. That’s crazy. I don’t want to die. I want us to grow old together and have a good life.”

“Are you going to miss it?”

She nods. A few tears form in the corner of her eyes but if anything her smile grows. “I’ll miss it a lot. That’s not a good thing though. I didn’t learn anything to make me think about the program differently. I still think it’s the wrong way to protect people. I believe in my case. If I believe that, I can’t continue being part of it when it isn’t helping the case. If anything I’m making my case worse by making vigilantes look good and potentially compromising myself. I need to stop. I’m doing this for you but I’m also doing it for my case and for myself.”

He pulls a chair close to her bed and grabs her hand again. “So how does this work? Do we need to go down to the vigilante office and remove you from the program or something?”

“We don’t need to and I’m not going that far anyway.”

His eyebrow goes up again. He uses his free hand to push his hair back, taking a deep breath while he does so. “Any reason? Seems like a good idea so you’re not tempted to dive back into it the first time you see a problem.”

She swings her feet over the edge of the bed so she’s facing him. She pulls herself to her feet and walks over and sits on his knee. There’s actually not much pain. A combination of healing and strong pain medication. “You’re right, but I’m not promising I won’t get involved in anything. I’m promising I won’t go out and actively be a vigilante. If I see someone needing help and I can help them I may still do it. That was true before I became a vigilante too. The registration protects me if I need it.”

“You’ve thought this through.”

“I have.” She pauses, not wanting to share the last part but knowing honesty’s important as they get back to their life together. “There’s another reason too.”

“Spill.” He looks up at her with eyes that are somehow happy and suspicious at the same time.

“Well, there’s a chance the people who were running the casino figured out who I am. Not a certainty or anything but a chance.”

“How?” He wraps his arms around her, holding her tight.

She shrugs, leaning her head on his shoulder. ”I wish I knew. There’s a guy who may have used some clues they found about me to find out. If they come after us though I need to be able to protect us. I’m keeping the weapons for now. I’m not getting rid of what’s left of the costume. If they come after us, I’ll use the vigilante act to protect us. I’m not out looking for anything new. I’ll be tempted but I’ll fight through it. Do you trust me?”

There’s a hesitation but he nods. “I trust you. It’s going to be alright.”

“I know it’s going to be alright. Now let’s get me home. If I have to spend another night in that hospital bed I’m going to scream. I want to feel my sheets on my skin.”

Marco glances at the door before leaning in close to kiss her. “If I see your skin against only the sheets, I may not be able to resist.”

Laughing, she pulls him in for another kiss. “You’re going to have to hold out a little longer big man, we can’t get back to that for a few more weeks.”

He sticks his lip out and pouts but he’s struggling to keep a grin back. “Somehow I’ll survive.”

Part 2

Part 4

Dynamo Vol. 2 Exit Strategy Part 2

A knock at her door causes Kalenia to jump in her bed. Turned on her side with her blankets twisted around her, the first thing she can see is there isn’t any light coming through the window Marco left open. Most of her lights are off but the one over her bed’s still on. “Excuse me Ms. Wallace, I apologize if I’m disturbing you but I’d like to talk if you have a few minutes.”

Out of the darkness walks a man Kalenia never expected to see in her hospital room. She glances at her morphine drip to make sure it wasn’t turned way up. George Stephan, the man running the Vigilantes Making Us Safe testing facility outside of town’s standing over her bed. Hes a short man with long white hair slicked all the way back and a large mustache. He’s wearing a suit very similar to what he was wearing the last time they met.

Looking to the door, she doesn’t see anyone nearby. The last time she saw the man he was so red she thought he might explode. Today he looks calm though, with a small smile under his mustache. She nods. He grabs the chair from the far side of the room and drags it to the side of her bed before sitting and crossing his legs.

“I greatly appreciate it. I can assure you I don’t come here to give you a hard time or make your life difficult. I heard what you’ve been through though and I wanted to offer some assistance.”

She presses the button to slowly put her bed back into a sitting position. Soon she’s towering over the man in his chair. “Is this something you do for all the vigilantes who get hurt?”

“Not quite. Your case is a bit unique though.”

“Why? Because you sent me out without requiring testing? Feeling bad about the way you acted?”

The man looks down, gripping his hands tightly together. He looks upset but not angry. “Perhaps a little but that’s not why I’m here. You know very well that I was against your becoming a vigilante. I must say that based on your recent actions I would reconsider that stance. A lot of people have been helped by what you’ve done. That gang was dangerous. They’re still out there but their power has been significantly cut into. If anything our program owes you a debt of gratitude. I don’t know that publicity like you’ve given us is good for your case but it isn’t bad for us.”

He might be right. She never expected the media to report on this as a vigilante case since she kept her face out of it. The police knew though and someone seems to have leaked it. Now the press won’t shut up about this major victory for President Hughes. Maybe Marco’s right about giving this up.

Kalenia’s eyes narrow and she brushes a few curls of hair from her face. “That why you’re here then? To gloat?”

“Nothing of the kind Ms. Wallace. I’d actually be here whether you turned into a good vigilante or not. I should have behaved better the last time we met. In truth I take this position fairly seriously, despite being forced into it. I believe vigilantes can be a force for good. Our program has a lot of flaws, I will freely admit.”

“On the record? I’d love to take your deposition.”

He laughs but uncrosses his legs and leans forward. “That wouldn’t do much for my goals of making us a force for good. That would help us no longer exist. I’m a fan of the negative coverage of the act. I believe it will get the public involved enough that they demand the changes we need to become sustainable. In the mean time my goal is to discourage negative vigilantes and take care of the good ones. You’ve proven to be a good one.”

For the first time since they met Kalenia smiles while he’s in the room. “Well, thanks I guess. I don’t need much though. I have good insurance, hospital’s taking care of me. I’m pretty much set.”

“I confess that I couldn’t do much with that anyway. My discretionary spending is limited. No, I can offer you something much more valuable. Information. Information which I believe might actually save your life.”

Despite the drugs she feels awake now. Using her hands to help her sit up further she looks him in the eyes. “Care to explain that? I’m awfully invested in being alive.”

“I’d think so. I have reason to believe that the gang you took on knew who you are. Possibly due to the actions of someone working within my organization.”

It takes a moment for Kalenia to react. This isn’t anything she didn’t already know but she doesn’t want Stephan to know she knew. It might throw her motivations for some of what happened at the casino into question. She’s not completely sure what her motivations were. Her eyes go wide. “You mean I’m exposed? Isn’t all of that supposed to be confidential?”

He nods, slowly. “They absolutely are. I can only apologize. As the man running my organization it is my responsibility to ensure security is taken seriously. A man stopped showing up for work two days after your injuries. Attempts to reach out to him and find out where he went were unsuccessful. I found it suspicious so I dug into his records and found he had accessed the private records of a number of our vigilantes. I’m contacting each of them but your recent injuries didn’t seem like a coincidence. That’s why I wanted to come meet with you personally. I assume someone involved in that organization likely now know who you are. I would take precautions to keep both you and your loved ones safe. I am willing to provide you with a security detail outside your room until you leave the hospital. Of either vigilantes or police officers, your choice.”

She considers her response. She doesn’t want to give away what she knows but she also doesn’t want to appear ungrateful. If they were going to strike at her family they’ve had weeks to do so. She smiles at the man but puts her hand to her chin appearing thoughtful. “I really appreciate the offer but my family values our privacy. I’ll tell them to be careful but if they haven’t come after us yet I don’t know that they will.”

The man nods before reaching into his pocket and pulling a card out. He sets it on the table in front of her. “I will leave you with my card. If you change your mind, please call. I know you may need some time away after all you’ve gone through but I do hope we see you back out there. You may not be sure this is the right way to help people but you are helping.”

He walks forward and offers his hand which she shakes. He starts to turn around when Kalenia has an idea. “There actually is one thing that would be a big help?”

He turns and walks back to the bed. “I will do my best to make it happen then. How can I assist?”

“I understand if this isn’t possible but can I get the name of the agent who stopped showing up for work? I’d love the opportunity to do some digging and try to track them down. I’m pretty good at finding people when I need to be and I’d love to find out for sure what he knows and what he might do.”

The man closes his eyes and crosses his arms. “I’d like to, but I really can’t give you that. I can assure you though that we’ve dedicated significant resources to finding him and haven’t been able to turn anything up. I don’t imagine you’d do any better.”

“I’d like to try still. I’m sure your people are great but this is my life.”

He turns to start walking out. He pauses in the doorway and pokes his head out, looking both ways. Without turning back around he says, “Lamar Hughes.” Without another word he walks out the door and closes it behind him.

Part 1

Part 3

Dynamo Vol. 2 Exit Strategy Part 1

Boredom sets in after a few days stuck in a hospital bed. You get tired of people staring at you. Are they waiting for you to die? Do they think you’ll get better? More than anything Kalenia Wallace wants to go home. To return to work. To have her boyfriend Marco wrap his arms around her and tell her it’s alright. None of that’s happening at the moment.

The last time she was hurt while acting as a vigilante under the Vigilantes Making Us Safe, or VMUS, Act she was able to get back in the office within a few days. She shrugged off being stabbed in the shoulder. Pushed through the anger and the hurt. Comforted herself with training and weapons which she was sure would keep her safe. They didn’t work. She was still every bit as vulnerable to a man with a gun. This time though she couldn’t push through it and pretend nothing happened.

When Marco arrived at the hospital she expected a big fight. Instead she found him sleeping by her bed when she woke up from surgery, his eyes red from crying. The next time she opened her eyes he was holding her hand and smiling at her. They haven’t talked about the reason she’s here or how she got hurt. He even stepped outside when a detective showed up to question her. After two weeks of sitting around here they’re walking on eggshells. Marco’s smart enough that he has to have figured out at least the rough details. Even if he’s content to sit around playing the doting boyfriend now, that’s going to pass and a fight’s going to happen.

Everyone keeps saying how lucky she is. The bullet nicked her liver but somehow avoided major blood vessels. A few inches in almost any direction and there’s a good chance she’d have never made it to the hospital. Even if she did she’d be in for months of physical therapy and hospitalization. With the bullet missing anything major though the doctors are talking about discharging her in a few days or maybe a week. She’ll need to take it easy for a month or two but she can go home and get back to her life.

A giant stack of paperwork sits next to her bed. Her assistant was here on the second day she was in the hospital to bring all of her case files. Her clients need the best legal defense and they aren’t about to wait. A few cases did have court dates pushed back while others had to be reassigned but plenty of others are still upcoming. She can’t wait to get back into the courtroom. A part of her even wonders if she can play the injury up in court though another part of her feels guilty even considering it.

Orange Jello and soup are the only things she’s been eating. Anything else makes her stomach upset with the medicine they have her on. A packet of the jello’s sitting on the tray next to her bed right now but her focus is on a case file for Edgar Juatco. He’s back in court next week and she’s hopeful she’ll be back on her feet in time to represent him. She keeps glancing at the door, hoping to see Marco walk in. He went back to work last week but has so far refused any trips out of town. His work’s been great at giving him the time they need. He should be here any time.

A nurse pokes her head in to ask if Kalenia needs anything but she shakes her head. She’s used to spending time alone but it’s one thing when you’re in your own house with a giant TV, stacks of books, bottles of wine. It’s another when you’re in a strange bed in a strange room and want to be anywhere else. She breathes a huge sigh of relief when Marco walks in, tossing her case file back on the stack.

“Thank god you’re here. I can’t take another minute of daytime TV.”

Walking to her bed, he leans down and gives her a kiss. It’s brief, his lips barely brushing hers before pulling away. That’s the only way he’s kissed her since she’s been here. At first she thought it was because he was afraid to hurt her but her mind’s starting to wander. A bundle of lilies, her favorite flower, are slipped into the vase by her bed as the ones from two days ago are taken out and tossed in the trash. “Glad I get to keep you entertained.” He takes a jacket off, something he wears all times of year regardless of the weather, and tosses it on a chair before slumping into it. “How are you feeling this afternoon?”

Positioning her bed so she’s sitting up, she feels a slight twinge in her stomach. She figures she’ll be feeling that for a long time. “Mostly alright. Dr. Batra’s been around a lot and he’s pretty sure I’ll be going home later in the week. He wants me to wait a few weeks more before going back to work but I don’t see why I can’t work as long as I take it easy.

“You should take your time. The clients aren’t going anywhere. They need you at your best.” There are large black circles under his eyes. She knows he hasn’t been sleeping much but he won’t talk about it. Every time they’re together he wants to focus entirely on her.

“These clients can’t wait. I’m the best lawyer for them so I’m going to push through it. and get back. Don’t worry, I can handle it.”

Marco flips over to the news and the conversation fades for a few minutes. When it goes to commercial though he turns back to her. “So, your mom called.”

“Oh? Any change on her coming to visit?”

He laughs and leans forward. “You know very well pigs will fly before your mother gets away from her new boyfriend and comes out here. Do you want me to give her your number here in the room?”

“No.”

“Alright then. Your uncle says he still hasn’t heard from your dad but when he does he’ll tell him. Your sister-“

“I talked to Shanika. She’s busy with the kids.”

“Right. Good news though is that you’ve got me and my mom’s going to stop by tomorrow during the day.”

Laughing hurts so she fights one back. “I’ll wait on her with great anticipation.”

They get quiet again. Marco starts rubbing his hands along his legs and Kalenia notices he won’t look her in the eye. “I’ve put this off but I think it’s time we talk. Your mom asked me earlier what happened and I didn’t really have an answer to give her. A lot of people are asking and I don’t have an answer for any of them. I mean, I think I do but I don’t feel right giving that until I’m sure and I might keep it to myself even once I am. What happened?”

Now it’s Kalenia’s turn to look at the faded blue carpeting on the floor. She takes a deep breath but it hurts and she clutches her stomach. She can see Marco tense up at the sight of it. “Well-”

“If you aren’t ready to talk about it yet we can wait, but we are going to need to do so.”

She shakes her head. “No, it’s better we get to it now. Having it hanging over me isn’t good for my stress level. You know I signed up for the vigilante act.”

She manages to look at his face and she waits for him to look back at her. When he finally meets her gaze, he gives a weak nod. “I was afraid the story would start that way. I hoped you just wanted to gamble but had a feeling that wasn’t it.”

“You want the truth, right?” He nods. “Okay then. I’ve been going out when you’re out of town. I didn’t want to hide it from you but I knew you wouldn’t like it and I didn’t want to argue.”

“What do you mean by going out?”

She glares at him and he shrinks back in his chair. “Let me get this out, then you can ask all your questions. I mean going out looking for criminals. I got a lead on a big drug bust. Which I handled beautifully by the way. Stopped the drugs from getting on the streets, caught some of the big guys in power, didn’t get hurt. It was perfect. One of the guys involved I found out had a connection to the casino. I went there and recognized one of the guys from the drug bust. Followed him around and found a big operation beneath the casino. I stopped it but when I was getting away one of their guys shot me.” Silence returns to the room. Marco’s head’s been working its way closer to the floor as the story continued. “That’s it by the way. You can talk now.”

He looks up at her with tears in his eyes. “Your shoulder?”

“That was from stopping an attempted rape. Totally worth it.”

“But you were out as a vigilante, right?” She nods. “Are you done with that?”

It’s a questions she’s been considering since she ended up here. “I know I probably should be. I’ve done this for a few weeks and I got seriously hurt twice. I’m honestly not sure though.”

Getting up from the chair, Marco walks to her side and takes her hand. He crouches next to the bed so he’s not towering over her. “Honey, I know you don’t like to quit. I want you to quit this though. You’re so lucky to still be here. You wanted to find a unique perspective to bring to your case. You got it. Why wouldn’t that be enough? You know I’m pretty understanding. I’m okay with you jumping off buildings all the time but there has to be a limit.”

She closes her eyes and looks away from him. “All of that’s true but think about what I did. I stopped a woman from getting raped. I stopped two truckloads of drugs from getting out on the streets. I threw their operation into disarray at the casino.”

“You killed people too.” His gaze is accusatory. He wants that to drive home everything she’s done but she doesn’t shrink from the gaze, looking right back into his eyes. His eyes get wider and he releases her hand.

“So you read the stories. I absolutely did, but so did they. The people I killed were people who needed to be put down. People who took pride in hurting others and putting crap out on the streets.”

“People you’d represent if it came down to it.”

She tries to sit up more but the pain’s too much and she has to lean back in the bed and squeeze her fists together until they start turning white. “Yes, if they were in a court of law. They weren’t here though and these weren’t low level nobodies. They were the people running the show, getting rich on the back of the people I represent. They’d have killed me if I didn’t get them first. I don’t feel guilty about it.”

Walking to the window, Marco moves a curtain aside. There’s not much to see from here. Only a parking lot and a few buildings in the distance. It’s still bright outside and with as dim as she keeps her room the glare hits her eyes and stings. “Look, I don’t want to make this a thing. I know you were doing what you thought was best and it was self defense. I love you. I want you to stop being a vigilante though. I want us to have a normal life. Can you do that?”

“I don’t know.”

He turns back to her, a smile spreading over his face. “Well, thanks for being honest at least. That’s more than you’ve been doing lately.” He picks his coat up. “Look, I need some air. I’m going for a walk. Think about it. I’d like an answer before you get out of here.”

“An ultimatum? What happens if I don’t make the choice you want?”

“Honestly? I have no idea. I’d rather not find out.”

“Why don’t you go home?”

Moving to her side, Marco takes her hand and squeezes it again. “I don’t need to go, I just got here. I’ll get some air and be back in a little bit.”

Closing her eyes, Kalenia struggles not to breathe deeply and make the pain worse. “No, you’ve given me a lot to think about. Take a night off. Get some dinner, watch some TV. We’ll talk about this later. I promise I’m going to think on it. Can you think about it too though? If I decide I need to do this, I don’t want you running out the door.”

He leans down and gives her a long kiss, the best they’ve had since she’s been here. “I don’t want that either. I don’t know that I can watch you kill yourself though. I’ll think about it. Promise.”

He starts to walk away but at the last moment she grabs at his hand. “Can you have a nurse or doctor or someone come in here when you get a chance? I could use some pain meds.” He nods before pulling his hand free and walking out. She closes her eyes and tries to drift to sleep.

Part 2

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 24

Everything feels wrong. Kalenia Wallace can’t believe she shot an unarmed woman who had surrendered. She had to do it though, didn’t she? She couldn’t make a deal with a woman like Lily. How could she ever trust her? She couldn’t let her keep pumping drugs onto the street, even if they weren’t the streets here in town. She threatened to burn her life to the ground. To have her family hurt or even killed. It was self defense. The VMUS Act gives her the power to protect the public and stopping someone from murdering everyone she loves has to qualify. It doesn’t feel that way though. It feels wrong.

Wiping the blood that splattered on her face away, she knows she needs to get out. She’s still shaking but she can’t stay here any longer. There’s still people who might need help in the warehouse and she needs to call for help. At first she planned to stick around to help the police but she doesn’t want credit for this. Instead she can drive until she’s clear of the building and then call it in. They’ll probably match the bullets here to the ones from the warehouse but she doesn’t have to make it easy on them.

Tearing herself from the sight of Lily slumped dead on the floor, Kalenia heads back down the hallway. Finding her way to the stairs she heads up until she’s back in the employee only area of the casino. There’s no sign of anybody around. It’s getting late and the casino’s likely to be nearly empty at this point. She tries to remember the path she took through these halls to get here but nothing’s clear.

Winding through hallway after hallway, it isn’t long before she’s completely lost. Several times she opens a door expecting to see the kitchen or something near it which would tell her she’s nearing a way out. Instead she finds herself staring into an office or a conference room. The kitchen’s one of the only locations that stood out on her way in. She sniffs the air once to try and search for any sign of food but the only smell in her nostrils is the metallic scent of blood. She won’t make the mistake of focusing on it again.

After more than ten minutes of trying to find her way out she starts to worry. She’s covered in blood and even this late the casino’s still open. Eventually she’s going to stumble upon somebody and when she does they’re going to be very surprised. She pulls her trench coat tighter. At least all of her clothes are black which hides how much blood she’s covered in.

Opening another door, Kalenia’s shocked to find herself staring onto the casino floor. She snuck into the employee area through a back door and if she’s right about where she is, then the back entrances are a long way off. She’s had no luck finding her way to them through the back hallways and she needs to escape. Looking out, she only sees a couple gamblers left and the type of gambler to still be playing slots after midnight on a weeknight isn’t likely to pay much attention to her.

Without knowing how long it will take to find her way out the back, Kalenia decides to chance sneaking past the gamblers. Seeing a bathroom ahead of her to the right she sees an opportunity to clean herself up to the point where she won’t look like she stepped out of a horror movie. Darting to the bathroom, she doesn’t think anyone noticed her. She breathes a sigh of relief when there’s nobody else in the bathroom.

There’s no lock on the door so she can’t keep others from making their way in but it’s late and she doesn’t need long. The sink runs red with blood as she works to scrub as much as she can off of her body. She focuses on her hands, her hair and her face. She wipes the most obvious parts off her coat but there’s too much to get it clean. She just has to hope it’s good enough to get her out of here without drawing attention.

The lack of paper towels is an issue. She would have known this place was evil just from checking the bathroom and finding nothing but hand dryers. Without other options, she rushes into a stall and pulls a roll of toilet paper loose. She starts wiping herself down the best she can. The red toilet paper piles up in the next sink over as she goes through it. She uses two rolls before she looks close to presentable. At a glance someone might not realize she just shot a person at close range. Anybody who takes a close look at her isn’t going to be fooled.

Flushing the toilet paper takes three tries and after each one she fears the toilet will clog but she’s finally able to get rid of it. Making her way out of the bathroom, Kalenia starts walking towards the entrance of the casino. Her coat’s pulled tight and as she walks past a few gamblers nobody seems to pay attention to her. She considers taking her mask off to seem less conspicuous but for now she keeps it on. She can’t risk being recognized, especially now.

Rounding the corner by the casino’s buffet, the front doors come into focus. She passes a couple of men coming out of the restaurant which closed a half hour ago, making sure to keep her eyes on the ground to try and stay inconspicuous. They don’t take any notice of her. A few seconds after she passes them one of the men lets out a scream. Turning around, she sees James stumbling after her with a gun pointed her way. He starts firing.

The two men try to get out of the way but one of them’s hit by a bullet and goes flying to the ground. The other ducks behind a corner only a few feet away. He’s crying and reaching for his friend who took the bullet in the gut. The injured man tries to crawl to his friend but he’s clearly in enormous pain. He lets out a loud moan.

Kalenia tries to throw herself behind a corner but she doesn’t make it. A bullet goes right through her stomach. She screams and drops her gun which goes skidding across the floor. The pain’s overwhelming. She presses one hand to the wound, trying to slow the bleeding. Blood’s still flowing out fast. With her other hand she reaches for her second gun but it’s inside the coat and she can’t get at it. James is getting closer.

When he’s about to fire again two security guards round the corner. They both reach for tasers and aim them forward. A woman and a man, they’re both young and the wide eyed look on their faces shows their terror. They do their job though and fire. They miss but James turns and runs back the way he came. He’s slow but the male guard chasing him doesn’t have much enthusiasm and quickly loses him.

The female guard rushes between Kalenia and the other man who was shot. “It’s going to be okay. Just hang on.” She grabs for her radio. “I need someone to call an ambulance now. There’s two people down. A guy shot them.”

She holds Kalenia’s hand as the man who was shot’s friend stays with him. The other guard comes back after a minute. “I lost him, went into the employee area and I wasn’t chasing him through those halls. Did you recognize that guy? He’s been around here a lot.”

Shooting her partner a look that could kill, the woman shakes her head. The pain’s enormous but Kalenia knows she has to keep her eyes open and try to stay awake. She tries to focus on breathing. She keeps thinking about her boyfriend Marco. After only a couple of minutes she can hear sirens in the background.

A crowd has gathered by the time the paramedics rush inside. The first paramedics move toward her but Kalenia waves them toward the injured man. “Help him. They were after me, he just got caught in the crossfire. Help him first.”

They do as they’re told but another paramedic crew is right behind and this time Kalenia doesn’t refuse their help. She tries to look brave but can’t avoid a cry as she’s lifted off the ground onto a gurney. She thanks the security guard who stayed with her as she’s wheeled out of the casino. The woman tries to smile but she can only manage with her lips. Her eyes tell another story.

The paramedics work to get her hooked to blood and to take her vitals. One of them squeezes her hand. “Don’t worry, we’re gonna make sure you’re alright. I know you’re scared but we’ve got you. We’ll be to the hospital soon.”

Kalenia’s starting to fade at this point. She’s fighting with everything she has to stay awake but the battle seems to be going south. She can feel that she’s lost a lot of blood. and everything’s spinning. Her hands and arms are drenched in blood. Nobody asks about the blood all over her clothes from before. They must assume it’s all from the gunshot.

By the time they’re speeding down the highway toward the nearest hospital, Kalenia starts to feel numb. “Something’s wrong.” Even saying so is a struggle.

Grabbing her hand, the paramedic in the back of the ambulance with her tries to look confident. “Don’t worry, that’s just from the medicine we gave you. You’re going to be alright. The doctors will get you right into surgery as soon as we get to the hospital. Is there anything I can do for you? Anyone you want me to call?”

She points to her coat wadded up on the floor. “My left inside pocket, in the coat.”

The paramedic reaches inside and pulls her cell phone out. “How do I unlock this?”

Her hand goes out. “Hand me the phone.”

He hesitates, seeing the blood coating her hands. “Why don’t you just give me your password and I’ll get in for you.”

More words. Every one a struggle but she has to explain. “I can’t. That’d be a big problem with my job. I can do it.” He hands her the phone and she tries to punch her pin in. She fails the first time but on a second attempt she manages to enter it correctly. She opens her contacts and pulls Marco’s name up. “Please take his number down so I can lock my phone. That’s my boyfriend. I need you to call him and tell him to meet me at the hospital. Don’t let them tell him everything, I’ll handle that. Just tell him I’m hurt and he needs to get there.”

Nodding, the paramedic jots the number down on a pad of paper he produces from somewhere and Kalenia closes her phone. She can’t focus at this point and drops the device. It bounces off the floor just as they go flying around a corner. Gravity takes over and the phone goes flying across the back of the ambulance. The paramedic tries to recover it before it breaks something and finally manages to get ahold of it. As he shoves it back into her coat, Kalenia can see the screen cracked.

They start to slow down and she hopes desperately that means they’re almost to the hospital. She can’t feel anything in her stomach anymore. She really hopes that’s from the medicine they’ve given her but she has a bad feeling it’s not. She can hear the driver up front shouting into a radio. “We’re coming in fast, I need a crash cart there right away. She’s bleeding bad.”

Abruptly the ambulance comes to a stop and she can hear the driver jumping out. The doors are thrown open and the lights from the hospital loading bay shine in. They’re blinding. She knows it’s silly but everything seems white for a minute and she has a terrible thought that she shouldn’t go into the light. She pushes it aside.

A few people climb into the ambulance and quickly pull her out. As she’s lowered to the ground, a kind looking dark skinned female doctor comes up to her and smiles. “I’m Dr. Batra. Don’t worry, we’re going to take great care of you. I’ll be with you the whole way and I’m going to make sure you’re alright.”

Part 23

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 23

For as long as she can remember Kalenia Wallace has always had a plan. She still remembers staying up late, crouched under the covers reading her mom’s legal thrillers when she was a kid and dreaming of the day she would become a lawyer and make people’s lives better. There was never any question she’d succeed. She’d be a lawyer and fight to protect people who couldn’t protect themselves. Everything has gone according to plan. When she saw an opportunity to strengthen her current case by signing up for the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act she didn’t hesitate. It was another opportunity to help.

Sneaking into the tunnels beneath the Power Drive Casino tonight was part of a plan too. She had evidence linking this place to a local gang and she needed to follow through and take them out. It all made sense in her head. Dangerous but danger’s never really registered with a woman who jumps off buildings for fun.

Being trapped in that basement with more guns than she can count pointed her way was never part of the plan. Trapped behind a crate with seemingly no way out, she looks around the cavernous room for any escape. Already the armed men she was spying on are starting to flank her. In a few more seconds they’ll have a direct shot and they’ll probably take it. She’s been offered the chance to surrender but that’s no guarantee they’ll let her go. As soon as she’s no longer an immediate threat they’ll probably make sure she’s never a threat again.

The shooters aren’t her main concern. She snuck down here to investigate the people running this gang and only two of them are still hanging around. Lily, a tall black haired woman in an expensive suit who carries herself like she has money is casually leaning against a box, content to let her men handle Kalenia. A large bald man with a noticeable limp named James is running things for the moment. She shot him last night while stopping a drug shipment and he’s clearly not over it.

Moving toward her slowly, James has his gun drawn but hasn’t bothered to point it. “Last chance girl, come out now or we’re going to kill you. Throw the guns down and we can have a talk and see if we can find an alternative.”

Half the room is blocked by the shelving unit she’s standing on so she can’t see a lot of what’s coming her way. She knows there’s at least a half dozen armed guards in the room and there might be more. She can see a few but many are out of sight. If she can’t see them there’s a good chance they don’t have a shot at her but there’s no guarantee. The crate she’s huddled behind is made of wood. There’s actually a lot of these wooden crates stacked down here, all labeled with the name of some flower shop in Chicago. Seems odd to keep a bunch of flowers underground but maybe they need them for the casino?

With her focus on the people trying to kill her, it takes far longer than Kalenia would like to admit to realize what these boxes actually are. They’re just like the flower crates on the trucks she took out last night. Which means packed among the flowers are likely a whole lot of drugs. She managed to destroy that shipment with some well timed fire and a grenade. If she plays this right she might be able to take out another. They certainly aren’t the only thing stored down here but as she looks around she realizes there are probably more boxes of drugs here than there were in those trucks.

“I’d stop your men right now if you don’t want me to do what I did last night. If they come close enough that they can shoot me I’ll take them out and then I’ll burn this whole shelving unit. Can you afford to lose even more of your product?”

Lily rushes forward, pushing past James. Her eyes are open and she’s got her arms out, trying to get everyone’s attention. “Everyone freeze where you are. Do not engage.”

As serious as she looks, James looks unconcerned. He uses his free hand to cover a yawn. “You think you have some power girl? Not at all. You can destroy a few more boxes if you really want to. But then you’ll be dead and we won’t have to worry about you taking out our product. Hell, I’m tempted to light the match for you so we can get this over with. I’m going to give you one last chance to turn this around though. Your call.”

Lily may be willing to play ball but James seems to be running things at the moment. None of the other men have lowered their weapons. Reaching into her trench coat’s pocket, Kalenia runs her hand over one of the two grenades she brought with her. She really didn’t want to use them in a casino but there aren’t any innocent gamblers to get in the way down here. “Last chance to put your guns down before I blow this place.”

“James, think carefully about this,” Lily says. She’s in his ear and trying to keep her voice down but noise carries in this cavernous room and she’s easy to hear. “How are we going to explain another shipment going up? We have to let her walk out of here. We’ll take her out later but for now let this go.”

With a pistol in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other he shakes his head before taking a swig. “Not after last night. A lot of good people are dead and Grant’s going to be too thanks to her. We’re taking her out now. She wants to lay down her gun maybe we can cut a deal but I’m not losing anyone else.”

Out of options and definitely not willing to put her gun down, Kalenia has to create a new plan fast. She tries to process what she knows about the room and what’s going on down here. There’s a bunch of drugs which will definitely burn but she’s standing behind them so she’ll burn with them. On the other side of the warehouse are a bunch of casino supplies. One of the boxes at least is filled with liquor but she has no idea what’s in the rest.

Spinning the grenade between her fingers, she slowly slips it from her pocket. She can’t start with the drugs without dying. She remembers which box James’ vodka bottle came from though and that’s going to burn beautifully. Negotiations are over so she pulls the pin and throws the grenade as hard as she can right toward the boxes. She’s rather impressed when it bounces and rolls right against the box of alcohol.

There’s only a few seconds for anyone to process what’s happening. James and Lily are still only around ten feet from the alcohol and it only takes a second for the danger of their situation to dawn on them. Lily reacts first and takes off at a sprint before the grenade’s even finished rolling. James is right behind her. “Everyone get down, she has grenades. Take her ass out.”

When the blast goes up, the alcohol only adds to it. Everything around it’s suddenly in flames. Lily and James are thrown from the blast. Lily gets far enough away that she isn’t hit that hard. After a few seconds she’s pulling herself to her feet. James isn’t as lucky with his limp slowing him down. He’s thrown hard into another shelving unit. The force of his body knocking into it starts it wobbling. Everyone in the room turns and watches it tip.

Falling away from James, the first shelving unit hits another shelf and starts a domino effect. Three units go down and are stopped only by a wall. Crates fall off and everything is pandemonium. Several boxes fall toward the flames and the fire starts to spread.

One of the guards comes around the corner with his gun raised. He’s facing the wrong way, not sure where she is. Kalenia doesn’t hesitate. She fires three shots into him and he falls. He grabs at one of the wounds but stops moving before hitting the ground. Even after last night shooting people still feels wrong, like she’s not the one pulling the trigger. She gave them a chance to surrender though and better them than her. When the man doesn’t move for a minute she takes off in his direction, hoping with him down she can find a path out of here.

Almost immediately she sees another man coming and again she fires into him. He turns but not fast enough. Before he can get a shot off he’s falling. The fire’s jumping from box to box. The flames are quickly overwhelming the warehouse and cutting off options. She tries to orient herself and look for the exit but between the smoke, the heat and the smell it’s hard to think. A gunshot flies by her ear and she turns, ready to fire back. She doesn’t see anyone though. Where’s the shooter?

She turns and runs, hoping somewhere she goes will present a path that leads to the exit. The smoke reaches the high ceiling and triggers a series of sprinkler systems. There’s a low hum in the walls and then water’s pouring down, drenching the room. Her suit goes from comfortable to water logged in seconds. She sticks her guns under her coat, desperate to keep them dry. She needs to make sure they keep working.

Kalenia recognizes the shelving units from right after she entered the room. As she heads toward them another guard pops into view. He’s facing away and doesn’t see her. His gun’s still in his hand but it isn’t raised. He looks desperately around the room. He turns, still not seeing her but revealing the profile of his face. It makes Kalenia pause for a moment. There’s no way he’s over twenty five. His eyes are wide and he looks terrified.

The terror on his face strings. What did this kid know when he signed up to come down here? A part of her wonders if she can sneak past him and let him be. She’d love to let him walk out of here. She’d probably even give him a chance to surrender if they were alone. There could still be a half dozen or more of these guys left though. Some may have run and others may have been caught under the shelving units but they could be right around the corner instead. With no idea how many others are still running around in here even a single word could be the word that gives her away. Instead, she raises her gun and fires two shots into him. He never sees them coming before they send him sprawling to the ground.

Rushing to his side, Kalenia kicks his gun under a box before checking him. He’s still breathing. One of her shots hit him in the arm while the other went in his side. He’s unconscious. There’s nothing she can do for him now. If she gets out of here she’ll send help. Turning him on his side to help him avoid drowning, she again tries to move toward the door.

Passing the knocked over shelving units, she notices James still sprawled on the ground near them. He’s either unconscious or dead. She’d love to check and be sure but she doesn’t dare take the time. There’s no sign of Lily. She must’ve gotten out. Knowing nobody left in here is worth her time, she keeps moving until she’s back in the tunnels leading upstairs. She pulls the heavy metal door shut behind her. There’s a loud scraping sound but that’s perfect. It’s loud enough that if anyone opens this door to follow her she’ll hear them coming.

The lights in the tunnels are still on but water from the sprinklers is starting to flood into the hallway. Closing the door to the warehouse should slow it but she didn’t get it all the way closed and it’s going to keep coming. Her only thoughts are of getting back upstairs and calling the cops. The flames didn’t reach all the drugs and if these ones are in plastic bags like the ones from last night the water might not destroy them. There’s going to be plenty of evidence to shut this place down.

There’s an intersection before the ladder upstairs that goes in four directions. One of those paths leads back to the warehouse while another leads to a dead end. The fourth leads to a locked door which Kalenia tried on her way down here. She goes past it so fast she almost doesn’t notice the woman standing at the end of that hall. She’s already started down the path to the stairs before she can stop herself. As she comes to a halt, she pulls a pistol from under her coat. She tosses her wet hair back, trying to keep it out of her face. Water rolls off her coat as she moves. This was a nice, expensive leather coat. She doubts it can come back from this soaking.

Leading with her gun she goes back around the corner to find Lily standing in front of the door. As Kalenia rounds the corner Lily sticks her hands in the air. “Alright, don’t shoot. I’m not armed. I’ll gladly surrender.”

Lowering her gun slightly, Kalenia advances on the woman. When she gets close enough she grabs the woman’s shoulder and slams her into the door with a loud thud. Forcing her to turn around, she starts to pat her down. There’s no sign of any sort of weapon or anything else that could be dangerous. “Do you have anything I should be worried about? I don’t want to have to shoot you but I will if I have to.”

The woman rolls her eyes. “No, I don’t have anything dangerous on me. I don’t have to carry a weapon. I hire people to do that for me.”

“That didn’t work out so well for you here.”

“I noticed that too. I think I need to hire better help. Then again, we don’t train them to deal with grenades. Doesn’t come up very often.”

Satisfied the woman doesn’t have any weapons, she spins her around. She’s completely dry so she must have gotten out before the sprinklers started. Her right cheek has a cut on it and blood’s dripping down her face. Her hair’s a mess with strands all over the place. Despite it all she doesn’t seem concerned about her situation. Her eyes are calm and the rest of her face betrays no emotion.

Kalenia shoves her back against the door. “What’s behind the door? Everything goes crazy and you rush here? Why?”

Lily’s wrists flex, trying to grab for something. She’s shoved hard into the door again in response. “That hurts. Why should I tell you anything? I don’t see what’s in it for me.”

“Maybe because I won’t shoot you if you tell me.”

The edges of Lily’s mouth twist upward slightly at that. “Please, I think we both know you’re not going to shoot an unarmed woman who already surrendered. If you must know it’s my office. There’s no huge secret to it or anything. It locks from the inside and I figured I’d be safe there. I hoped you were already dead but didn’t want to bet on it.”

Leaning in until her mouth’s only inches from the woman’s ear, Kalenia says, “Why are you just standing outside then?”

“The door’s locked. When your explosion threw me, I must have lost my keys. When I realized I couldn’t get in I was going to get out of here but then I turned around and you were standing there.”

“So you can’t open it?”

“Correct. You’re welcome to try if you like but I don’t think you’ll have any more luck than I did. If you want we can go back in the warehouse and try to find my keys but I have no idea where they are and I’m guessing you didn’t kill all my men so that may not be a great idea.”

Doubting the woman’s telling the truth, Kalenia wants to push the topic. She knows the door’s locked though and she’s not going back. The cops can search for the key when they get here. She’s done enough. “I don’t think so. We’re getting out of here now. I’ll let the cops handle your office.”

“I’d really rather we not go to the cops. Why don’t we make a deal to leave them out of this?”

Kalenia closes her eyes, trying to center herself. This woman knows how to push her buttons. “Why would I make a deal with you? You’re already caught and you don’t seem to have any help coming. You wouldn’t be offering me a deal if you thought you had backup on the way.”

Grinning from ear to ear, Lily licks at a bit of the blood from her cut that’s run down to her lips. “You’re right about that, but I do have a little surprise still. I think you’ll be interested to hear it Kalenia.”

The woman’s downright smirking at this point. It takes Kalenia a moment to realize what just happened. Lily called her Kalenia. That means Lily knows who she is. She freezes, not sure what to do. Denying it won’t do any good. The woman knows what she’s talking about and if she wasn’t sure before, Kalenia’s lack of response should give her all the confirmation she needs.

Smacking the woman across the face with her gun makes her feel better. She grabs her by the hair and tosses her to the ground. Lily stays down at first but slowly gets back to her feet. Kalenia drives a boot into her side and knocks her over. When Lily starts to get up again Kalenia expects to see fear staring back at her but as the woman stands up she’s laughing. Kalenia pushes her hard up against the door. “How the hell do you know who I am.”

Reaching toward Kalenia’s chest, Lily’s grabbed by the wrist, her arm forced back down. “I’m trying to show you if you’ll let me. It’s not a secret.” This time she doesn’t reach forward, she just points at the tear in the shoulder of Kalenia’s suit. “One of my men last night noticed your suit was damaged. They assumed it was from an injury so I went looking for recent hospital reports of vigilantes getting hurt. They keep track of all the injuries that come in. Turns out, shoulder injuries aren’t that common. It didn’t take long at all to track you down.”

Something doesn’t add up. She tries to wrap her mind around what Lily’s saying but it doesn’t fit. “That doesn’t even make sense. I didn’t tell the hospital who I was and they don’t track that information for vigilantes. Want to try again?”

“Well you’re right of course, they don’t keep track of that. They do take down details though like your costume, your height, your weight, that sort of thing. The same sort of things you had to give the vigilante office when you registered. Comparing them didn’t take long. There’s only about two hundred registered vigilantes in town so far and at least half signed up just to do it before the tests started. I hoped to find something good but I didn’t expect I was going to find the woman leading the prosecution against the vigilante act. For what it’s worth I hope you win your case. You’re proving right now that vigilantes are bad for business. Back to our business though. As I was saying, I think a deal works here.”

Kalenia’s eyes narrow. “I still see no reason to make a deal with you.”

“That’s because you haven’t heard what I’m willing to offer. I can’t go to jail. I’ll be dead in about five minutes. You heard what we’re planning for Grant after you caught him. They’ll do the same to me. Especially after I pushed to do the same to Grant. I don’t want to die and I don’t think you want your job and everyone else in your life to know you’re running around in a funny costume. So let’s deal.”

Clearing her head’s impossible. She doesn’t want anyone to know about this though, at least not anyone who doesn’t already know. “What did you have in mind?”

Lily’s smile spreads to her eyes. She thinks she’s won. “I’ll let you walk out of here without an issue. You go about your life as if nothing happened. We won’t come after you or anyone you care about. In exchange, you stay out of our business. It really won’t be that hard. We do some transfers in town but we don’t handle the streets here so we wouldn’t run into each other often anyway. To make it really worth your while, I can even throw in a few tips about the groups who sell on the streets here. It’s a win for everyone.”

It makes sense but dealing with these people feels lousy. She’s confident it won’t work anyway. “No deal, I can’t imagine all your partners are going to agree to that. Someone will shoot me in the back in a week or two if you know who I am.”

“My partners don’t need to know who you are.”

Blinking a few times, Kalenia starts to process what that means. “Just to be clear, are you saying you haven’t told anyone who I am? None of your partners, or bosses, or anyone else knows?”

“Correct. I had different people handle each step of looking up your information. None of them are going to connect the dots. I haven’t told anyone else yet. I just found out myself a couple hours ago and I wasn’t sure I could trust the rest of my group until they agreed to take out Grant. I have a lot to offer. If you want more, name it and I’ll try to make it happen. Like I said, I can not go to jail.”

“What happens if I refuse your deal?”

“Then my partners will find out who you are. I won’t really have a choice but to use that information. That’s the only bargaining chip I’ll have to try and keep myself alive. It won’t work mind you but I can’t not try. They’ll destroy you publicly first. You may well lose your job and even if you keep it there’s no way anyone will trust you to run your biggest case. Then they’ll come after you and your family. I didn’t have time to look into much about you but I understand you have a boyfriend. You probably have friends. I’m sure at least one of you has some family. Take the deal.”

Wheels start spinning in Kalenia’s head. She’s supposed to be in control here but the situation seems to be falling apart. Neither of those options works for her. “You’re giving me two choices. Either let you go and you let me go essentially or I take you in and it destroys your life but you’ll make sure I go down with you. Do I have that right?”

“More or less. I definitely prefer the first option where we both get to walk out of here happy.”

At this point Kalenia’s shaking. This isn’t how things were supposed to go but she sees another option. She closes her eyes for a moment. She can feel Lily’s breath on her face. That doesn’t make this easier. She takes a few steps back. Raising her gun and pointing it right at Lily’s chest, she fires three shots into the woman. Lily has just enough time to raise her arms in front of her. and start to scream but that’s quickly cut off as multiple bullets are pumped into her. She falls against the metal door to her office and slumps, leaving a trail of blood all the way to the floor. At this close range blood splatters everywhere and gets all over Kalenia’s suit.

Looking down at Lily, she doesn’t see any breathing. She leans down and checks for a pulse and finds none. Her aim was good. She says under her breath, “There was a third choice.” She’s not sure if she’s saying it to herself or the corpse. It doesn’t really matter.

Part 22

Part 24

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 22

Practically throwing her keys at the valet, Kalenia struts toward the front entrance of the Power Drive Casino. The cops may want to keep her away but it takes a lot more than that to put her off a case once she’s invested. She waited until the next night at least to give them time to get in and out before she showed up. If Valenzuela’s here she’d be afraid of him recognizing her.

Heads turn and eyes follow her as she walks through the automatic doors into the large, ornately decorated lobby. She went all out tonight. After spending most of the day in court, she found time to get her hair done so it makes a statement. She squeezed into her sexiest yellow dress. Her heels make her a good four inches taller than she actually is. Tonight she needs everyone to stare. She’s not in costume so she can be larger than life. Tonight’s her chance to hide in plain sight. If they spend enough time paying attention to her legs, they won’t pay attention to what she’s doing.

The lobby’s almost blindingly bright. Jewels, or at least something pretending to be jewels, adorn every surface in sight. Making the place stranger is that the casino’s theme is clearly the auto industry. All of the walls have paintings of classic cars, but they’re cars with jewels adorning their hubcaps, their headlights, and everywhere else they can go. That’s the kind of car she wants to drive, though it’d end up stolen in no time.

Not knowing where to start searching Kalenia heads to the counter and asks for a couple hundred dollars worth of chips. The girl behind the counter’s a chipper redhead who doesn’t look old enough to be here. With a big grin she asks, “What games will you be playing with us tonight?”

Kalenia leans forward, ready to show she’s a high roller and not likely to take any crap. “Why does that matter?”

The girl seems surprised to receive pushback and glances behind her. Probably looking to see if she has reinforcements if she needs them. “We actually only use chips for our table games. If you’re going to stick to the slot machines, we have a swipe card we can set up for you. We don’t want you to get to the machines and not be able to play.”

She almost feels bad for the girl, she’s trying to be pleasant. With a sigh she decides to let her off the hook. “I’ll be playing table games thank you. Set me up with chips.”

A stack of green and red chips are pushed toward her, along with a nice bag she can carry them around in. Wrapping the cord holding the bag shut around her wrist, she twirls it until it’s tight against her. Kalenia gives the girl a smile and heads onto the floor.

They’re way busier than she expected on a weeknight. People are everywhere, bumping into each other and causing the slots to make fake spinning noises. She doesn’t have a clue what she’s searching for. Anyone who looks familiar, anything that reminds her of last night, anything that looks like it could be tied to Mr. Vincent.

Choosing a game’s easy, poker doesn’t give her much control over how long her money will last. They only have one other choice. Setting herself up at a blackjack table, she tries to play things safe. Her goal isn’t to win a bunch of money. She’s here to watch the players. Her boyfriend Marco’s going to investigate if she loses too much so this stack needs to last. She wins a few games but her unwillingness to take big risks means the wins aren’t offsetting her losses. The man sitting next to her does a lot better. He quickly doubles his money. The casino throws free drinks at him and pretty soon that turns around. She accepts a martini for appearances but only sips it.

After nearly an hour of trying not to lose everything tonight’s starting to look like a bust. Her stack of chips looks sad and and nobody has stood out among the crowd. Plenty of interesting people are running around, but none that seem relevant. She’s seen two former clients and a federal judge with a woman who is definitely not his wife. None of them are tied to last night. Maybe the man in white really did just come here to gamble. Plenty of other people do so. The detective had to think it was more than that though. He wouldn’t have mentioned it without a reason.

When she’s nearly ready to give up a man leaving a nearby poker table catches her eye. Something about him seems familiar and he’s heavily favoring his left leg. Limping across the casino floor, he draws her eye. Kalenia moves to the nearest cashier to cash out. Taking the few dollars she has left, she hurries to catch the man.

He isn’t making his way out of the casino or to another area where he can gamble. Instead he meets up with one of the janitors and after whispering something to each other, they head through a set of employee only doors where she can’t follow.

Trying to figure out where she knows the man from isn’t getting her far. Could he have been a witness in an old case? Why does he stand out? Was he there last night? She can’t remember seeing him there. Unless he’s… no, the hair’s wrong. That can change though. Could he be the guy she shot last night? If she’s right, he was one of Mr. Vincent’s bodyguards. The one she shot in the leg before knocking out. That would explain why he’s limping today. He had long flowing hair last night and today has a buzz cut but that’s not a hard change to make.

If he was shot in the leg last night he certainly shouldn’t be walking on it today. Maybe she’s just connecting dots because he’s limping and she wants it to be him. Any lawyer knows the danger of confirmation bias. The more she tries to picture both faces though, the more she’s convinced they’re one and the same.

Desperate to investigate further, she starts looking for any excuse to sneak into the back of the building. A poorly labeled door, someone walking into the back that looks like they don’t work here, anything that would give her cover if discovered. She doesn’t find anything. Every door into the back’s clearly labeled, “Employees only.” Without other options, it’s time for somebody who can handle themselves if caught to investigate.

Walking up to the valet station, she asks the teenager parking cars for the location of her vehicle. He can’t stop staring at her legs and before she can stop him he’s already grabbing her keys and offering to get the car for her. “No thank you, I’m not leaving. I just need to get something out of my trunk.” He tells her where to find her car and tosses her the keys.

Walking to the far side of the parking lot takes a few minutes but she’s glad to find its fairly dark and nobody seems to be around. Popping the trunk, she finds her gear stashed underneath the built in drone. Her suit, trench coat, mask, boots and gloves are all tightly packed in a duffel bag. A variety of guns and a few grenades are rolling around unsecured. She’ll have to do something about that. Unsecured grenades can’t be safe.

What’s the best way to get into the back of this place? As a vigilante, technically nobody here can stop her. If they’re being run by the group responsible for last night though walking in the front door’s a bad idea. They’ll have a process in place to trash any evidence and she may well face resistance.

Changing in the back seat of a convertible isn’t easy. Especially when you’re trying not to show off to the world. She hasn’t seen a soul since she reached this part of the parking lot though and luckily she put the top up today. Slipping her suit under her dress means anyone watching in a security office won’t see too much. The rest of the outfit goes on over it and her coat wraps tightly around her.

As she starts to climb out of the car she catches a glimpse of herself in the rear view mirror and freezes. Her hair’s hard to miss and will connect the dots for anyone who saw her on the floor. She can’t believe she didn’t notice. After the time she spent sitting in a chair to get it done it hurts to ruin her new look but it’s for the best. Taking the pins out one by one, her hair falls around her shoulders. Now she’s ready to go.

A final stop at the trunk of the car has her considering her weapons. There’s a lot of innocent people inside and she doesn’t want anyone getting hurt. Shotguns that hit everyone in their path or grenades that blow giant holes in walls just aren’t safe to use here. She grabs a couple of pistols and slips them into the inner pockets of her coat. They’ll have to do. She has the trunk halfway closed before she hesitates. Without grenades she’d have never stopped the drug shipments last night. At the last second she throws a pair into her coat’s pocket. They may not be safe but they’ll be good to have if things get out of hand.

Cutting through the field on the side of the casino, Kalenia heads behind the building. She sticks to the shadows in case they have security cameras back here. She doesn’t want to find herself surrounded.

There are a number of doors along the back of the building but each one she checks is locked. She darts up to each of them and when the handles don’t turn she slips back into the darkness. At the third door she tries she notices a camera. It’s hiding above the small light illuminating the entrance which makes it hard to spot but a small blinking red light gives it away. The longer she spends back here, the more she risks some guard seeing her and heading out to investigate. They won’t treat her as a vigilante at that point. They’ll treat her as a criminal.

Nearing the end of the building she’s starting to run out of ideas. She may have to march through the lobby into the employee area of the casino after all. They’ll be on her in seconds. They can’t have her arrested but they certainly can throw her off private property. If they’re not feeling generous they could kill her and say they thought she was an intruder.

Creeping through the dark she sees a figure ahead bathed in light. As she gets closer, she finds it’s a young woman in a chef jacket. Puffing away at a cigarette the woman’s leaning against the wall with her eyes closed. The door next to her’s propped open by a large cement block. Jumping her would provide a way inside. That’s not right though, she just works in the kitchen. Even if this place is involved with gangs that likely doesn’t extend to the cooks. Maybe she’ll leave the door open. All Kalenia can do is wait.

Putting the cigarette out with her shoe, the woman turns to go inside. Since she’s looking away Kalenia sneaks closer. Her hope that the door will be left open quickly fades. The cook starts inching the block holding the door aside. It falls to the side with a crash and the cook leaves it. She moves inside and leaves the door. It starts to slowly swing shut and Kalenia searches for any solution. A long stick on the ground catches her eye so she grabs for it. As the door picks up speed, she rushes forward. At the last moment she’s able to insert just enough of the stick into the door to keep it from latching.

Nerves take over. The cook could still be right there. She might see the stick. She might be tipped off by not hearing the door latch. A million possibilities rush through her mind. Half convinced she’s already been discovered all she can do is wait. After a minute or two of nothing happening, she wraps her fingers around the door and starts to pull it open. It makes a loud creaking noise but opens without issue. Glancing down the hall, there’s nobody around.

This time she allows the door to close. The latch quietly clicks behind her. Loud sounds of metal on metal drift toward her from a hall to her left. The smells coming from that direction suggest that’s the way to the kitchen. Not where she’s likely to find answers. To the right she sees a long hallway leading to more hallways and closed rooms.

Each office offers an opportunity but she starts to realize how big the back half of the casino is. It might be nearly as big as the public area. The halls branch in all directions and every way she looks there are more closed doors. She’s nervous she’s going to run into an employee but so far the place seems pretty dead. It’s late at night on a weekday and they were pretty swamped. Hopefully employees don’t have time to hang out in back.

An open door ahead catches her eye but inside she only finds a break room with a beat up table and a loud fridge. No employees. Hearing noises around a corner, Kalenia ducks inside and closes the door behind her, leaving a small crack of light so she can hear what’s coming. With her back pressed against a wall she clenches her fists, hoping whoever it was keeps walking. Footsteps get louder and louder but soon they start to fade again. She glances through the crack long enough to see someone in a casino uniform. Not who she’s looking for.

Exploring hallway after hallway reveals nothing. Every so often she has to duck into an office to avoid an employee but most of these rooms seem empty and most are unlocked. She can’t help but feel any important rooms would be locked. None of the employees she glimpses through cracked doors look familiar. There’s absolutely no sign of the limping man.

Nearing the point of giving up, Kalenia’s surprised to stumble upon a staircase leading downstairs. A building this size wouldn’t always have a basement. It’s probably for storage or supplies but without any other idea where to look, she decides to check it out. She’s having no luck on this floor.

The staircase keeps going longer than she expected and the deeper she goes the dimmer the light gets. Kalenia finds herself in a cement tunnel with only a few stray light bulbs dotting the way. She must be at least a couple stories below ground. In the distance she sees a hallway like a cross splitting off in multiple directions. She sets off toward it.

With three directions to choose from Kalenia has to make a decision. She cups her ear in each direction but the only noise she can make out sounds like a dripping pipe. Down the path to the right there’s complete darkness so for now she rules it out. Straight ahead the hall goes another fifty feet or so before hooking to the right. To her left the path’s a similar length but instead of hooking it ends in a large metal door.

The door seems like the easiest path but when she pulls on the handle it won’t budge. There’s a strong looking lock and without a key she doesn’t see another way forward. This door’s so thick that her grenades probably wouldn’t make a dent. That only leaves one path to explore.

Unsure what she’ll find around the hook she chances a glance and almost swears at what she sees. A steel door exactly like the last one. After a moment she notices one difference though. This door’s slightly ajar. Pulling it open slowly, as quietly as possible, she finds a massive storage room, which explains why they needed to be so far underground.

Boxes overflowing with supplies are everywhere. There’s food, serving treys, uniforms, everything a casino could need that doesn’t need to be kept cold. It’s all stacked from floor to ceiling in clearly marked cardboard boxes resting on wooden pallets. There must be hundreds of them. On it’s own this isn’t surprising, a place this large needs supplies and supplies have to go somewhere. Closer examination reveals the room’s full of people though. A lot of them and they certainly aren’t servers getting supplies.

She’s too far away to hear what’s going on but the limping man’s here along with a couple of women who were definitely in the warehouse last night. They stood there screaming while the men they were with died. Cowards. They’re standing next to a third woman Kalenia doesn’t recognize. They’re all gathered together but there’s at least a half dozen bodyguards wandering around as well. Big, muscular men and one woman. They’re all dressed in similar suits and all are armed.

Kalenia searches for somewhere she can hide which is close enough to listen in. Scanning the area, she sees a shelving unit not far away where the ledges don’t seem far apart. She can climb that and get a great view. As long as she stays behind the boxes she’ll have cover. It’s a long way to get there but none of the guards seem to be paying attention. They’re focused on the area where the group’s gathered.

Without a better idea Kalenia races for the shelves. They loom over the crowd, at least twenty feet tall. She paces herself to keep her feet from pounding too loud. The entire way she keeps her eyes on the group. None of the guards look her way and she thinks she’s escaped notice. After catching her breath, she starts climbing. The shelves prove sturdy and don’t budge when she pulls herself up. Tired from the run, she decides to wait on the second level. That’s already seven feet up and she has a fine view. Trying to stay behind a box she finds she can hear if she focuses.

One of the women from last night seems to be in the unknown woman’s face. “It happened too fast, I didn’t get a good luck at them. What was I supposed to do, dive in front of the crazy woman?”

The woman she doesn’t recognize shoves the first one back and stares her down. “No, you were supposed to protect our product. We have a problem now. The whole scene’s locked down and we can’t even try to recover anything that wasn’t destroyed. You’re lucky the other truck got out of there or you’d already be dead.”

“Even that truck was on fire. We’re not going to salvage crap from it. Face it, she got us good. We weren’t going to recover much from the factory even if we could get in there.”

The limping man’s leaning against a box, not putting any weight on his injured leg. “Do you think Grant gave us up? I’ve watched his back for years and I can’t imagine he would but the cops showed up awfully fast.”

The unknown woman paces back and forth wearing a white pant suit. “Probably not, the woman probably tipped them off before her attack. I want to know if she’s a free agent or she works for another gang. We need to retaliate now but we don’t have a clue who to go after. Every day we sit around doing nothing makes us look weak.”

The woman paces right out of sight. The box in front of her provides cover but it also blocks too much of her view. She needs to move but she’s not sure where to. Climbing on top of the boxes could give her a nice view but someone would only have to look up to see her. She could move to another location but that means leaving cover and she’s lucky she made it here without being spotted. Wherever she looks she finds only bad options.

Settling for leaning around the side of the box, she can make out most of the group now. The unknown woman has finally stopped moving and her hands are on her head. “I don’t like it but I think we need to take Grant out.”

The limping man, who Kalenia now knows is Grant Vincent’s bodyguard, leaps to his feet. He winces when he puts weight on his leg but he manages to get in her face. “Look, I’ve known that man for fifteen years. You just said yourself he probably didn’t talk. He knows better. He’s not going to say a word. Why would we kill someone who’s loyal to us? It doesn’t make any sense.”

She puts a hand up to put space between them. “I know Grant’s close to you James and I know you want to protect him. I do too, you know how I feel about him. We’re out of options at this point though. It’s gone above our level. When they show up to investigate this and he’s alive he’ll die anyway and if that happens the rest of us are going to be dead too, and a lot more painfully.”

One of the women still hasn’t said anything. She’s sitting on top of one of the boxes with her face in her hands. What Kalenia can make out of her is as pale as her white blouse. Every so often she puts a hand over her mouth but for the most part she just watches. The excitable woman from last night steps forward. “I need to know what you decide to do. I can have him taken out tonight. If we’re going to do this, the sooner the better. We don’t want to give him time to spook and decide to talk.”

James limps over and leans against a shelf. “Damn this leg. Hurts like hell. We keep any booze down here? I could use a drink.”

The unknown woman walks down a row of boxes and pops the lid off one. She pulls out a massive bottle of whiskey and hands it over. “Maybe next time try not getting shot. I hear it hurts less.”

“Shut the hell up Lily. You weren’t there. She came in hard on one side of the building and drew most of us away, then snuck in another way. She had to have help. We should be focusing more on her and less on taking out one of our own.”

Turning away, Lily shakes her head as she turns from James. “We’ll have to put it to a vote. There’s four of us so if there’s a tie I break it. I think we both know how the two of us will vote.” She turns to the two women from the night before. “What do you two think? You’re not putting this entirely on us.”

The woman who spoke up before quickly chimes in. She’s chewing gum and bouncing up and down. “Take him out. Sucks, but we need to watch out for the operation. Plus, I don’t want to bring the bosses down on us. He knew what might happen if he got caught. Especially right now.”

Turning to the woman who still hasn’t said a word, Lily asks, “What about you? Care to put an end to this.?”

At this point the woman’s practically translucent. “I don’t want to make that decision. It’s too much.”

After another long swig of his whiskey, James sets the bottle down on the closest box to him. “You know there’s no way he’d vote to off any of us. We set out to do this together. We should finish together.”

“That’s a very nice sentiment.” Lily crosses her arms and walks right up to him before continuing. “It doesn’t help us get out of this though. Let me repeat, the — boss — will — kill — us if we don’t take him out. He has to know about the shipment by now. We still haven’t heard from him. What does that tell you? He doesn’t trust us anymore. If we’re going to win him back we need to take bold action. I need an answer Lacey. If it’s no, it better come with a plan on what we’re going to do instead or I break the tie for my side.”

Lacey jumps off the box and takes a few steps toward the door. She puts her head in her hands and looks like she could start crying at any moment. She finally stops herself. “Fine, do what you have to do.”

The first woman from the warehouse steps forward. “I’ll take care of it then. I want you all to go quiet for awhile.” She turns to Lily. “You need to get ahold of the boss, let him know we’re taking care of this. We need to prove we’re still loyal. I don’t want to wake up to my replacement standing over me one of these mornings.” She spits her gum on the floor.

At this point the quiet woman has tears in her eyes. Without a word she rushes out of the room. The one with the gum looks at the two remaining members of their group. “You didn’t have to get her involved. You know she can’t handle this kind of shit and it didn’t even matter. You were always going to break the tie Lily. I’m going after her to calm her down. If we’re not careful we’ll have to put her down as well. We’re already going to be down two of us, I don’t want to make that three.” She stomps out of the room.

Lily leans against a large crate and takes a deep breath. She closes her eyes and her hands grip the box. James takes another swig of the whiskey and offers the bottle to her. She opens her eyes long enough to notice and waves it away. “Get that away from me, you know I don’t drink.”

“Just figured if there was ever a time, it was now.”

“There’s never a time. What the hell are we going to do? I can call the boss and probably talk him out of killing us but if things go bad again we’re going to have an awfully hard time convincing him to forget about it. Plus, you of all people go against me and make me the bad guy. You know what we have to do.”

After another long swig of his vodka James slumps in on himself, the bottle hanging low to the floor. “I know it, but I don’t like it. I couldn’t bring myself to sign his death warrant. Sorry.”

“For what it’s worth, you know I am too. How do we take this girl out? We can find her easily enough but we need her in the ground and you say she seemed capable last night.”

“She was, but I’m not too worried about it. I think we can get it under control tonight.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because she’s hiding behind those shelves over there.” He points right at Kalenia. She freezes, unsure what to do. How did he see her? After a moment she jerks back around the box but it’s too late. “Impressive job sneaking down here. It’s time to come out and say hello though. Or you know, we could just fill you with holes right where you stand. Your call.”

Part 21

Part 23

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 21

It feels like she’s been sitting in the police station’s waiting room for hours. A glance at her watch tells her it’s only been forty five minutes. That’s more than enough. Kalenia Wallace isn’t used to being kept waiting and her patience has long since run out. She’s asked the receptionist when an officer will be with her at least five times and the answer’s always the same. “Ma’am, someone will be with you as soon as they can be. Asking me again isn’t going to make it any sooner. Please take a seat.” The smirk the woman gives her after each answer makes her blood boil. A small person enjoying the small power they’ve achieved.

Pacing back and forth, she’s interrupted by a young, sharply dressed detective walking into the waiting area. He looks like he belongs on a runway, not in a police station. Kalenia would bet good money he spent more time on his hair than she did today. His blond locks are puffed into a weird position vaguely resembling a bird. His suit’s very tight in all the right places. He looks around the lobby, searching for her. As if the place is filled with tall black women in cat suits and masks. “Dynamo?” She had to give a name and certainly wasn’t going to supply her real one. It was the first thing that popped into her head.

Crossing the room, she reaches her hand out and offers it to the detective. He grabs it tightly but betrays no emotion on his face before leading her into an interrogation room. She hopes that’s because he wants privacy and not because of her role in tonight’s case. He introduces himself as Detective Valenzuela and asks her to sit. She considers declining but he grabs a chair for himself and she doesn’t want to seem combative.

“I understand you brought in our friend Mr. Vincent and I was told you still have some questions. How can I help?” Finally she can put a name to the man in the white suit. He wouldn’t give her anything.

“Well, I wanted to know if I can help, or give a statement or if there’s anything else you need. I was also kind of hoping you might have more information for me to look into. That scene was pretty serious and I’m not about to let it go.”

Before he answers the detective leans forward and straightens his tie before moving a bit of hair that’s fallen slightly out of place back into it’s proper position. His five o’clock shadow’s designed to make him look unkempt but the length’s no accident. He must trim that every day. A sly smile crosses his face but his eyes shift around the room. “I appreciate you bringing Mr. Vincent in. We appreciate everything you’ve done. I don’t think we need anything else though. We’ve sent a team to the warehouse you told our officers about and they found most of what you said they would, as far as the explosion and drugs. They’re still investigating but I’m confident we’re going to have a strong case. I can’t share much more than that I’m afraid. This is an ongoing investigation. From what you told us the man you brought in didn’t tell you much and he hasn’t been much more cooperative with us. We won’t need him to be though.”

Kalenia leans toward the man and takes a moment to adjust her own hair. He seems uncomfortable with confrontation and she’s going to use every edge she can get. “Come on, you can absolutely tell me more than that. This man is a major player in a very big organization. I could tell that without him giving me anything. You must have some idea where to go next or what to look into. I gave you a ton of evidence.”

The detective leans further toward her, until they’re no more than a foot away. His smile betrays a confidence she didn’t expect. “You did give us a lot, and I am very appreciative. I have to tell you though, our official departmental policy is that we don’t cooperate with vigilantes. Legally we can’t stop you from doing what you do and we’ll certainly take any criminals you bring us off your hands but you’re not a police officer. The flow of information goes one way. We aren’t going to give you leads or deploy you. If we have a lead, we’ll chase it down. I’m sorry if that’s not what you were expecting when you came here tonight but we have a hard enough job without having to work around amateurs.”

So much for not handling pressure well. Kalenia feels like she’s been knocked back in her seat. On an objective level she appreciates their stance. She’s so anti vigilante that she’s leading the lawsuit to shut the program down. That doesn’t help her at the moment though. She needs information and isn’t ready to leave this to the police now that she’s involved. She tried to get the authorities to handle it in the first place and they wouldn’t touch it until she did the grunt work. The only reason they have anything to go on is because she got involved.

Deciding to try a different tact, Kalenia sets her lip to quivering and leans way back in her chair, wrapping her hands behind her head. “I’m sorry if we got off on the wrong foot Detective. I can completely understand your position and I don’t want to be a bother. I just thought you might need some more information and that I might be able to give more if I had some context. I know you don’t need my help but I want to do anything I can to protect people. That’s why I signed up for this and why I risked my life tonight. I’ll be going though if you don’t need anything else from me.”

Valenzuela’s eyebrows go up but he seems slightly more at ease. As Kalenia starts to get up, he reaches out and puts a hand on her forearm. “I completely understand. I didn’t mean to come across as aggressive. A lot of vigilantes come in here thinking they’re running the show is all. You’ve been very helpful. I can’t share much but I will tell you we’ve got some great evidence to go on and I’m confident Mr. Vincent will be brought to justice. That’s almost entirely thanks to you.” Nice but not useful. She starts to stand when he says, “Actually, before you go I do have one question.”

He hesitates, possibly trying to talk himself out of asking. She’s not going to let this slip away. “Of course Detective, how can I help?”

There’s no answer at first. He takes a moment to glance up at the camera in the corner of the room. “I probably shouldn’t say anything, but did you see anything that would relate to a casino?”

His answer’s unexpected but she isn’t willing to give him the satisfaction of showing it. She makes a show of putting a hand under her chin and tilting her head before answering. “Not that I can think of. There were a lot of beautifully dressed people. Actually, the trucks might have had a label on them but I didn’t notice for where. I’m trying to place it. What casino?”

Leafing through a folder, he stops somewhere in the middle. “Do you know the logo for the Power Drive Casino outside of town? They’ve been open a few years now.”

Got him. She snaps her fingers and smiles. “You know, I do. I don’t remember seeing anything like that in the warehouse though. Was there something like that? I can keep thinking about it but nothing comes to mind.”

Shrugging, he stands and starts walking toward the exit. “It’s probably nothing. We found a chip from there on Mr. Vincent. We’ll look into it though. He probably just went and played some cards there. We’re always looking to see if we can connect the dots. We don’t have any contact information for you. Are you able to give us your name? We may need to ask you to testify.”

“I’d rather not, privacy reasons you understand. If you need me to testify I’m glad to. I’ll give you a call in a few weeks and see if you need me. Do you know how quickly you’ll be bringing charges?”

“Hopefully soon but that’s up to the DA.” The detective shows her out of the interrogation room and gives her his card before saying goodbye. She thanks him, continuing to play up the nicer, friendlier version of Dynamo. Whatever it takes to get the information she needs. She considers offering a hug but decides that’d be going too far.

Part 20

Part 22

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 20

A few hours later Kalenia’s fully decked out in her costume and doing ninety on the highway, heading toward the address Edgar provided for tonight’s meeting. Marco took longer than expected to leave so she’s running behind. Not super late, but late enough. She needs to scope the place out before getting started and she’s worried she won’t have time.

The GPS she installed in the car gets her to Royal Oak without issue. Exiting the highway, she’s only a half mile from the warehouse. She considers driving right up to the building but security for a meeting like this is sure to be tight. As soon as she can see the building in the distance, she pulls into the first parking lot she passes.

Time to see if she got her money’s worth. Kalenia’s put the new gear through a test run or two in a field last night but this is a whole different ball game. She presses the button to launch her drone and the trunk of her car pops open. She grins ear to ear as the drone lifts into the night sky.

The controls are easy to use and flying the thing feels smooth as silk. The lights on the drone are bright and draw too much attention but she’s quickly able to dull them. The image on her tablet dims as a result but when she flies closer to the warehouse any worry dissipates. This place is lit up like it’s midday with many of the doors on the loading dock wide open. Whoever these people are, they aren’t that concerned with keeping a low profile. There’s a group of guards a few blocks down the road from the parking lot but that seems to be the only security before you get close.

The parking lot’s packed with far more cars than she expected. Two delivery trucks are pulled up to the building’s docks and their doors appear to be open. She tries to count the people inside but gives up when she hits twenty five and realizes she’s not even half done. She doesn’t need an exact number. Just knowing it’s a lot will suffice.

This is way too big. Taking down one guy put her in the hospital. She didn’t have the toys she does now though. She didn’t even have a gun. But this many people? She can’t take them all out. She said if it was too big she’d back out. Maybe it’s time to do so.

The more she thinks about it though, the more Kalenia realizes she doesn’t need to take them all down. She actually doesn’t need to take any of them down, though doing this without hurting anyone would be a trick. It’s those trucks. They’re where the drugs have to be. Judging by the size of them there’s a lot of drugs in there. She could call the cops but will they be any more likely to show up than the prosecutor was to take the tip she offered? Even if they do, who knows how much longer this is going on. They might not arrive in time. Whatever this stuff is it’s dangerous and right now she’s the only one who can stop it.

Every instinct in her body says to run. If she’s going to be a vigilante though, she might as well be a vigilante. Her instincts are the instincts of a civilian. She’s going to have to recalibrate them. For all the things that make her want to run, seeing the size of those trucks makes her want to stand and fight.

Looking for anything which might help her find a solution, she initially can’t find anything. Walking through the front door would be suicide. She needs a way in, a weak point she can get to the trucks from, something to avoid fighting all these people. Finally she sees it. There’s a ladder to the roof on each side of the building. The ladder on the side of the building with the loading docks is actually right by an open door. That can get her right where she needs to go. She’ll have to distract the people inside though. If she rushes in with them all inside someone’s going to shoot her before she can get near the trucks.

Kalenia starts looking for somewhere nearby she can park. She wants to be far enough away that one of these guys walking to their car won’t notice her but close enough that she can quickly retreat if needed. The field behind the building’s perfect. She can cut through it to the building and leave her car there. During the day they’d spot her but there’s only small lights on that side of the building. No one will spot the car if she parks thirty feet out.

She pulls the drone back. It takes a minute but it flies back to her car and docks in the trunk like a dream. Once it’s in place it even triggers the trunk to close but since her gear’s still in there she has to pop it back open. The three grenades she brought go in the large inner pockets of her trench coat. The guns go into holsters. She slams the trunk shut.

Cruising through the field, the car bounces up and down as the tall grass parts before her. She turns her car’s lights off to stay as hidden as possible. The lights from the building ahead guide her. She gets within fifty feet of the building before stopping and shutting the engine off. This is as close as she can get without attracting attention. Especially if the next part of her plan goes how she expects it to.

Hiking the last leg of the journey, it isn’t long until she’s standing on the edge of the building and looking up a long ladder. This building’s at least five stories tall and the ladder goes the whole way. She’s thankful she bought a back holster for her shotgun. Without it there’s no way she could make this climb. With her background in parkour the heights aren’t an issue. Even without the ladder she might be able to climb this building but it’d take a lot longer. With her guns holstered, she starts climbing.

Soon she reaches the top. Running to the far side of the roof, she looks down to see where all the cars and people are gathered. There’s not a lot of them outside. A few who look like security are pacing back and forth and a few others linger by their cars but the rest must be in the building. Scanning the roof, Kalenia notices a door which likely leads downstairs. Stairs might be easier for some people but she can make her way down the side of the building. She’s a lot less likely to run into people on the side of the building.

Reaching into her pocket Kalenia pulls out one of her grenades. She walks to the edge of the building and looks down. Nobody out there as far as she can tell, though it’s hard to be sure with how dark it is. She takes a deep breath and pulls the pin. Once that’s done she can’t get it out of her hand fast enough. She tosses it off the side of the building, trying to get it at least a few feet away. She hopes she was right about the lack of people.

A few seconds go by and she starts to wonder if the thing was a dud. Then there’s a flash of light and flames burst forth. The sound’s louder than she expected. If she’s going to keep using these she’ll want to invest in a good pair of ear plugs. It’s far enough off though that no real damage is done.

Knowing this will get one hell of a reaction, Kalenia rushes to the other side of the building. A lot of men and a few women rush out. They come through doors, through the loading dock, through every opening she can see. Many are openly carrying guns. A few make their way to their cars. Most start running around the side of the building toward the explosion. Is there no way out on that side? If so she may have miscalculated.

Kalenia crosses the roof again to view the site of the explosion and sees armed people starting to arrive, though in the dark they’re not easy to make out. Down at one end of the building she sees a light and what appears to be a window. It’s not big but it means there’s at least one way out over here. A door near the window opens as well and a light shines out. There are a couple of options.

Making note of the door’s location she goes back to the building’s front and looks around. Most of those rushing out of the building are gone, either around the building or in their cars fleeing.

She starts climbing down. Realizing she’s taking too long, she takes a deep breath, grabs the sides of the ladder and lets her feet off the rungs. She slides fast, making her way toward the hard pavement below. When she’s close to the bottom she grabs for a rung with one hand and manages to slow herself. Her shoulder feels like it’s going to snap out of its socket but she hangs on. Nearly at the bottom she jumps to the ground.

There’s five loading docks before her and all five sit open. Only two have trucks parked in them at the moment. Kalenia moves to the one closest to the trucks and hopes her black outfit will help her blend into the night. Peering over the dock she can see the number of people inside has gotten a lot smaller. There’s probably only ten left. At least half of them are women and don’t appear to be armed. One guy in a white suit with a terrible haircut stands out. He’s surrounded by what appear to be two bodyguards. Both are huge and have long flowing hair. None of them are watching the trucks.

Kalenia pulls herself onto the dock. Her shoulders both sting as she does so. One from her recent stabbing, the other from having caught herself going down that ladder. Once she’s on her feet she tries to stay low while moving to the nearest truck. It’s open, filled with wooden boxes stacked high. They go from floor to ceiling but they’re only against the walls and there are enough gaps between them that she knows she can find cover. She ducks behind the first set she can reach.

Peeking out to see if anyone noticed her, she doesn’t see any reaction. Everyone’s sitting around. A pair of girls off to the side are whispering in each other’s ears but they’re not looking her way. Apparently she was quick enough. Being in the belly of the beast is nerve wracking but she wants to know what she’s dealing with. Grabbing a box off the stack, she opens it to find only flowers. She checks another box and it’s the same. Different flowers but still just flowers. She really hopes she didn’t just attack a warehouse to stop a big flower shipment.

Moving some of them aside she finds what the flowers are concealing. There’s bag after bag of some sort of white powder. The flowers are a front. Nobody’s going to stop a flower shipment from making it’s way into Canada.

There has to be a way to destroy these drugs. That’s the only way she’s winning here. She comes up with an easy answer. They’re in wooden crates. She just needs to set them on fire. Start in the front of the truck, the flames will make their way to the back. She has to move quickly though and she won’t have time to set both trucks ablaze. A quick grenade should do a lot of damage to the second one. Even once that’s done the hardest part of the plan will be ahead of her. It’s comparatively easy to light them on fire, but escaping after doing so could be a lot more dangerous.

For once she’s glad to be an occasional smoker because without a lighter she’d need to use another grenade. She wants to keep one for an emergency. Box by box she starts to set the flowers on fire. They start to burn and quickly the boxes take the flame as well. The fire moves fast and the smoke starts to grow. She doesn’t have long. The people in the warehouse will notice the smoke any second. She needs something to distract them from putting it out before it spreads. Once she’s convinced the fire will do what she needs she heads to the front of the truck, toward the fresh air she’ll find there.

Stepping out she grabs for a grenade. As she breaks into a sprint, the other truck only a few feet away, she pulls the pin and chucks the thing among the boxes which look the same as in the other truck. The grenade bounces near the back of the cab and clangs off the floor.

As the grenade hits Kalenia’s already turning and drawing her guns. Her sudden movements have drawn the attention of the rest of the group in the warehouse. Several of the women in the group scream. The men who looked like bodyguards try to raise their weapons but Kalenia’s pistol gets to her hand first and she fires shot after shot. She aims for their limbs, not wanting to kill anyone. Three shots hit each bodyguard and blood splatters from them. They go down without firing a shot. One of them tries to dive aside and a bullet hits him in the head.

While the shots ring out the grenade goes off. The noise is loud but the truck contains the blast. Wood and flowers fly everywhere though and a glance at the truck finds white powder coating everything in sight.

Before the bodyguards are done collapsing Kalenia finds her way to the man in the white suit. He raises his hands, apparently not wanting to be shot with his protectors. Kalenia gets behind him and holds her pistol to the back of his head. “Looks like you’re my ticket out of here. We’re going and we’re going now. If you do everything I ask and don’t try to get away, I won’t hurt you. Try to escape or make a move against me and I do to you what I did to your friends here.” She gestures at the ground, the man shot in the head catching her eye. “Nod just a little if you agree.”

The man slowly moves his head, just enough to count as a nod. Kalenia glances down at the two men on the ground. The second man appears to still be breathing. The other is missing half his head. There’s no sign of life there. For a moment she wants to take this in. She just killed a guy. Maybe two. She doesn’t know anything about him or his life but she knows he’s dead and if she didn’t show up here tonight he wouldn’t be. She didn’t mean to kill him. She can’t worry about that now unless she wants to join him. She snaps herself away and pushes the man in white forward. “Let’s go then.”

With a sharp push she forces him toward the rear exit. She pulls out her shotgun and loads it before shoving her pistol into it’s holster. This is the part of her plan she’s nervous about. A lot of the people who went to check on her first grenade are likely still out there. Some of them went out the door she’s heading toward. That means she won’t be alone with the man in white for long. They find a hallway which seems to be filled with offices. Kalenia shoves the man forward, eager to keep moving.

They turn a corner and three men fill the hall ahead. Kalenia pushes the shotgun hard against the man in white’s back. “They need to know to back down right now or you’re dead.”

The man seems to have a strong sense of self preservation. “Let us go men, let us go! She’s not going to kill me. She doesn’t have the guts. Go back there and see if you can salvage the product.”

They look at each other for a moment before one of them reaches for his gun. Kalenia says, “Down!” The man in white does as he’s told and hits the deck. Kalenia let’s out a shot which rips through the men in front of her. The one in back is shielded from the blast by the other two. The shots rip into him but he’s still standing as the other two collapse. She goes to reload but his gun’s already rising.

She looks for somewhere to move. There’s no escape except for a couple of closed doors. Preying that the people who built this place were cheap she throws herself into a door. It cracks under her weight and she falls through, tumbling awkwardly to the ground. Her shotgun slides across the ground as she rolls across the floor. She scampers toward it, trying to get it back in her hands. She grabs it but her pursuer’s through the door. Still unable to reload, she dives behind the metal desk abandoned here before he lets off a blast.

Behind cover, she takes a moment to reload. When the shots pause she flies from behind the desk and returns fire. Her shot hits the man square in the chest and he slumps to the ground. Quickly reloading once more, Kalenia heads into the hallway.

She finds the man in white scrambling to pull one of the dead men’s guns from underneath his limp body. Unfortunately for him the man in question was large and he can’t move him. “Take your hands off the gun or you die like they did. I’m not playing with you. I still need you or I’d have put a bullet in you already.”

He does as he’s told with a bit of a sigh. “Can’t blame a man for trying. Where to?”

“Out the door, now. Don’t stop unless I tell you to. You’re going straight into the field. I’ll tell you where to go from there. If you hear anything but me saying stop, you keep moving. Are we clear?”

Making the okay symbol with his hand he says, “As a crystal.” He does as he’s told and heads out the door. As she runs after him and emerges into the night Kalenia looks left and right. There’s some people further toward the end of the building but she can only make out their shadows. Nobody’s close enough to notice them. If the man in white were to let out a shout he could probably get their attention but she’d make sure he was dead before anyone reached him.

They head into the field and after a minute Kalenia says, “Go right.” He’s following her every instruction. It doesn’t take long before they find themselves in front of her car. “Hands against the car now. Not joking.”

He spreads his hands as he’s told to but can’t seem to avoid giving her snark. “Is the lady with the shotgun an officer? Have I been a bad boy officer? Do you need to punish me?”

“Shut up or I’ll shoot you. I’m not a cop. I don’t have to keep you alive.”

He’s unarmed. If he had a weapon he probably wouldn’t have tried to steal the dead guy’s gun. Can’t be too careful though. She can’t worry about him pulling a weapon while they drive down the road. “Get in, buckle up. We’re gonna move fast.”

She shoves him in the passenger seat and locks the door before climbing in the driver’s side door. She pulls her pistol and points it at the man. “One false move and you’re still getting blown away. Keep it in mind if you think about trying to pull something while I drive out of here.”

With her free hand she starts the car and puts it in drive. Instead of reversing she does a u-turn and heads back the way she came, not having to push through tall grass this time. Leaving her lights off she makes her way out of the field and back to the road. Once she’s there she turns her lights on and speeds toward the highway. Soon she’s back cruising along at ninety miles an hour.

Clearing her throat to get his attention, Kalenia waits until the man’s looking at her. “Alright, here’s the deal. I need to know everything you know about that deal. I assume you’re some type of big shot. You’re the guy who had bodyguards and you’re the one who didn’t run outside to check on my distraction. That means you’re somebody. Tell me what you know and I’ll go easy on you.”

The man looks away at this point. “I’m not telling you anything. What are you going to do to me? I don’t think you’re going to kill me. You’d have already done it. You only shot my men when you had to. If I tell you what you want though, I can assure you that nowhere on this planet will be safe for me.”

“You’re right, I’m not going to shoot you if you don’t speak. Not unless you do something stupid. I’m taking you to the cops to see if they can get something out of you though. I’ll turn you over to them but keep a few things in mind. You’re going to jail unless you cut a pretty serious deal. Which takes giving the cops the information I want.”

Shaking his head, he still wont look at her. “I’m not taking any deal. Again, there’s nowhere I’d be safe. I don’t know enough for witness protection and they can get me in jail. I’m going to do whatever time I get. You can maybe prove I was selling drugs, that’s fine. You can’t prove anything more serious.”

“You’re really going to do hard time when you could cut a deal? Give me what I need and I’ll go after them. If I take them down you won’t have to worry about them.”

Sighing the man closes his eyes. “You have no idea how high this goes, do you? You might get the local guys but there will still be plenty of them left to take me out.”

“Just because you don’t talk doesn’t mean they won’t think you did. That could still happen if you shut your mouth. You went with me pretty easily.”

“I had a gun to my back. The later part no one alive saw. They could still put me in the ground but I’ll take my chances. I’ve been a good soldier for a long time. They see me doing serious time, they’ll assume I didn’t talk. You’re not going to get anything out of me. You’re wasting both of our time. Now take me to jail so I can get on with my night.”

Part 19

Part 21

Dynamo Vol. 1 Greater Heights Part 19

Standing in her garage and staring into the trunk of her car, Kalenia likes what she sees. If she’s going after these guys she has to get ready and she just got the car back after having it tricked out. It’s a thing of beauty. Her favorite part’s the drone she can launch at will to get a bird’s eye view of her surroundings. That wasn’t cheap but it’s so worth it. She doesn’t even need to get out of the car to fly it. There are controls built right into her dash.

Her boyfriend Marco’s inside getting ready for a work trip. He’s leaving tonight which leaves her not needing an excuse to go out. He’ll be gone for the next couple of days. She still needs to pick a few other pieces of gear. Going over the guns she could take, she decides on a pair of pistols and a shotgun, along with plenty of extra shells and clips. She fills every pocket of her trench coat with ammo. She has no intention of running out. The last time she went out on her own she ended up in the emergency room after being stabbed. That was taking on one guy. Tonight’s going to be a lot more dangerous with potentially dozens of opponents so she needs to be a lot more prepared.

As a finishing touch she grabs three grenades and throws them in her trunk with the guns, tucking them in compartments to keep them clear of the drone. A crate of grenades is sitting under her work bench where Marco hasn’t noticed them. He never pays attention to things in the garage. They took a lot of work to procure. She knows they’re going to come in handy at some point. Now hopefully she can figure out how to use them when the time comes. She’ll feel pretty stupid if she blows herself up, though if that happens at least she won’t have to feel stupid for long.

Marco leans out the garage door as she finishes closing the trunk. “Have you seen my blue and gold tie? I want to look like I’m a Michigan fan.”

“You can’t stand sports.”

He frowns. “I know that, and you know that, but the people I’m meeting with don’t know that. They’re big Arsenal fans and I want to show I’m a sports fan too. It’ll help them feel comfortable. Have you seen the thing?”

“Not unless it’s on your tie rack. Why not wear an arsenal tie?”

Rolling his eyes, he steps fully into the garage. “That would be way too obvious. I checked the tie rack. It’s not there. Do you remember when I last wore it?”

“Why would I know when you wore your tie? Check your bags from your last few trips. Maybe you left it there.”

Marco goes back inside and Kalenia takes a deep breath. That was too close. She should tell him about what she’s doing. Trying to keep this a secret from the man she’s sharing her life with seems like a mistake that could blow up worse than the grenades. She told him she signed up as a vigilante but he doesn’t know she’s gone out. He has to suspect after she got hurt but she thinks he bought her excuse. At least he didn’t challenge it. She’s not ready to tell him yet. She knows what he’s going to say and she doesn’t need a lecture. She can handle this. Maybe if she proves that before telling him he’ll take it better. He’ll still be mad she kept it from him but it might even out.

Kalenia makes sure her disguise is safely packed. It’s still got the knife hole from her attack but other than that it’s ready to go. She’ll have to get Marco’s mother to fix it when she gets the chance. If she waits hopefully she won’t get as bad a lecture about being safe. With her costume in place, she heads inside to help Marco find his costume for the weekend.

Part 18

Part 20