18 – Try It On

Previous Chapter

Sunlight fell in through my window, and brushed across my eyes. I opened them, and was greeted by an open curtain I could’ve sworn I had closed last night. Disappointed, I got up and shut my curtain. I had only hoped that I could have gotten a few extra hours of sleep, but alas.

I looked to my bed. I could try to go back to sleep. I sighed, and reopened the curtain. I wasn’t going to get back to sleep after that, anyway. I’m just surprised I hadn’t woken up sooner.

Groggily, I walked out of my bedroom, into the hallway, and to my kitchen. I sorted through my cupboards, and finally took out a simple breakfast ration. I actually had time to eat and cook, so I figured that I would do that this morning.

I tore open the cellophane wrap. Inside there was some pancake mix, hash browns, and a banana. This was a fresh breakfast ration. Luck me.

I mixed the pancake mix with water, then took out two frying pans. One I loaded with the hash browns, and the other I poured pancake batter into.

I cooked with both pans quickly, and had myself a complete breakfast within a few minutes. I threw away all of the trash, put my food onto a plate, then threw away the waste. I sat down and ate my breakfast.

I scarfed the food down within a couple moments, then cleaned off my plate and put it away. The time was only 8:14, so I still had the rest of the day to waste.

Wait. I just remembered. Shelby asked me on a date yesterday. That’s right. She wanted to meet for lunch. That means I should get to her house at about twelve. She’ll probably want to spend more time together than just that, though. That’ll keep me busy for a while. I only need to be busy for a little less than four hours.

With that in mind, I went to my basement and turned on my computer. I was going to work on a hacking algorithm that I had started a week or two ago, as a backup plan for if Holland was removed from his post. He was, and so now I ought to work on the algorithm again.

I opened up my text file with the code, and searched through it. Hackers became less popular after the internet became a commodity.  A hacker was even rarer than a serial killer in today’s age.

My code was around halfway complete. Passwords for most accounts in the police were a string of numbers and letters. All I needed to do was prepare the algorithm to test passwords with anywhere between five and twenty characters. My passphrase easily broke thirty characters, so there wasn’t going to be any issues concerning someone else trying to use my code to break into my own accounts.

My code’s biggest issue at the moment was putting passwords into the proper  text box. It would put the password into every place text could be placed on screen, and that would result in the code hitting enter and leaving the proper website. That made the code too time consuming to use, and so it needed to be fixed.

I spent a few hours patching and testing the code. The problem persisted, but I was able to keep the code from putting its entries into the address bar, which felt like a feat unto itself.

I think that it would be easier to fix the code if I would decrease the number of characters being entered into the text boxes. I might consider doing that, as it would also decrease time that the code would take to break into an account.

I tested and changed the code a few more times, then laid back and sighed. I wasn’t fixing the things that needed fixing. If only I could find some archives to give me a tutorial in coding. Maybe I’d have to look harder another day.

I checked my clock. It was 12:13. I was late, and Shelby was probably waiting for me. I sighed, turned off my computer, locked all of my locks, then left. If I moved quickly enough, I would likely reach her home within fifteen minutes.

Fourteen minutes passed, and I arrived at Shelby’s home. I knocked on her door, and she answered.

She was wearing a dress. It was peculiar, at the very least. Dresses weren’t very practical in the police force, and so people didn’t often wear them. That and the fact that dresses weren’t cheap kept them off of the shelf for poor people. I’m unsure as to how Shelby got one.

Either way, the dress was a faded grey color. I could tell that it was bolder at one point, but it had seen many more days than it was intended to. It had a light floral pattern on its side, in white rather than grey. It held a feeling of sturdiness and tenderness at the same time.

“Ren, you’re here. Perfect. I was just finishing up our lunch. Come on in, make yourself at home.” Shelby beckoned me inside. I felt compelled to follow her, even if she hadn’t prepared a meal. I took off my jacket, hung it up, then followed her into the kitchen. It became apparent to me after removing my jacket that she was wearing better clothing than I was. I supposed I’d have to keep that in mind for next time.

“Where did you get that dress, Shelby?” I sat down at her table. It was just as cozy as I remembered it.

“I’ve had it for a while,” she replied, “I just never had a reason to wear it. I thought that now would be as good a time as any. Either way, I might end up needing to wear this dress to some formal occasion. Sometimes Superiors go to parties and bring along a Commander. Its rare, but I’m still young.” I nodded in return. I suppose all of that makes sense. Maybe I should get some formal wear myself. I almost giggled at the thought of crashing a party.

“Do you like it?” Shelby asked. I was put off guard. I was never asked about my opinions on such frivolous things. I figured the best reaction would be to just say yes.

“Yes. It’s a well designed dress.” Shelby laughed a bit. I didn’t know if she took joy from the compliment or from the way I executed it. Either way, she was enjoying herself.

“I used to wear dresses more often as a child, actually. My father could sew, so he would often find fabrics and make a dress for me. It was painstaking work for him. I can hardly believe he would go through that much trouble for his daughter.” She started serving the food that she had made onto a couple plates.

“Did your father make that dress as well?” I wasn’t sure how to act in a date. I wasn’t interested in most topics if they didn’t lead something getting done.

“No, he didn’t make this dress. He died of starvation when I was sixteen. The last dress he made me doesn’t fit anymore. I had to buy this one, and I bought it used.

“My father was an odd man,” She went on, “He was just so much more tender than any man I had met before. He was wonderful at designing dresses. It was a talent that was just too underappreciated in the poor community.” She brought the plates over to the table. “He was so talented, he should have been making dresses for the rich. He couldn’t though. They just wouldn’t hire a homeless man and his dirty daughter to make them dresses. That’s why he starved. Refused to not let me eat, and would constantly give me his meals.” Shelby was tearing up at this point. I didn’t know what to do. I had never been placed in a situation like this.

“He never asked me to work. He only asked me to enjoy my youth while I had it. I didn’t even realise how sick he was until it was too late.” She sniffed, wiped her nose, and took a bite of her food.

“Sorry about almost crying. It just sort of happened.”

I nodded. “It happens. It’s no big deal.” She put her cutlery down and held her face in her hands. Oh christ, she’s having a breakdown. Let’s hope I remember what academy taught me about helping children.

I stood up, and sat on her chair next to her. I put her head on my shoulder, and held her. She pulled her face toward me, and kept crying. I pat her back, and held my head to hers. This was what we had been taught. I was lucky I remembered.

“Shelby. You’re okay. You’ve lived this long, you can live a little longer.” Turns out, I was a better actor than I had ever thought.

She sat up, away from me. “Yeah, I know. I just miss him sometimes. I guess today just a little more than usual.” She took a napkin and wiped her nose.

I really hoped that the next question I asked would be the right one. “Do you still have the last dress he made you?” She nodded, and was visibly more excited.

“Yeah, I do. It doesn’t fit anymore, because once I started eating a healthy amount I gained weight.”

She took my hand, and led me upstairs. I followed, glad that she was no longer crying. At the top of the stairs, there were only two rooms right across from each other. She took me into the room on the left, and sat me down on the bed.

“I still have it in my closet, so give me a moment to find it.” Just as she said, she opened her closet doors and looked for the dress. A moment later, and it was in her arms.

She held the dress proudly, and rightfully so. The craftsmanship was superb despite the poor material. It was made of swathes of blue and teal fabric, shifting between the two colors at what almost seemed random, yet still held a coherent sense of shading. I didn’t care much for clothing, but I could tell that this was something to be proud of.

She looked from me to the dress then back to me. “Ren, I think it would fit you.”

I blushed. I didn’t wear dresses. I had hardly even seen dresses, let alone wear them.

“Here, I’ll hop out real quick, and you can try it on!” She put the dress on the bed next to me, then left and closed the door behind her. I stared at the dress.

What had I gotten myself into? I wasn’t built for these frivolities. I had spent over ten years at a police academy learning how to deal with crime and kill criminals, and nothing had ever prepared me for the day that my Commander would want me to try on a dress. I could likely tell her no, but she might be offended. I had to make a choice, and quick.

Sighing, I took off my clothes, and put on the dress. It was surprisingly comfortable. I twirled the fabric around my calves, and felt the thin straps on my nearly bare shoulders. Given time, I could probably get used to this.

I opened the door, and briskly stepped down the stairs. Shelby was probably sitting in her front room, waiting for me. Therefore, I turned left at the bottom of the stairs, rather than right into her kitchen. However, the room was empty. Her furniture was there, but she wasn’t.

“Hey Ren, I’m in the kitchen. Come and eat.” I turned around and followed her voice.

“Wow. The dress fits you better than I thought it would. I thought it would be a bit small, but look at you.” She smiled. She seemed proud of herself. She had managed to get me into a dress. Go her.

I sat back down at my previous seat in at the table. I still felt odd wearing the dress, but I still figured that I could get used to it. At least this way I’m no longer under dressed.

We ate in silence for a short moment, before Shelby broke it. “So how do you like the dress?”

I considered for a moment. “Well, it’s comfortable at least.”

She laughed. “Yeah, they are pretty comfortable. It disappoints me that they were made less. You could easily make dresses out of the same fabrics used for other clothes. Oh well, I guess. Maybe you can make them in fashion again.” She laughed more. Apparently she still thought seeing me in a dress was a bit comical.

“Just imagine the headlines: Woman of the year: wore a dress while burning down homes! Man of the century: used dresses to bring about global change!” She laughed even harder. She was really cracking herself up.

“Man, wouldn’t that be great to see. If only. Too bad you don’t actually own a dress.”

We finished eating, and Shelby took our plates and cleaned them off.

“You can go get changed now,” she informed me. “Even if it doesn’t fit me anymore, it still means a lot to me. It was nice to see it worn again, though.” I nodded, headed up stairs, and got back into my clothes. It felt good, but it also felt like I was missing something.

I came back downstairs, and was about to tell Shelby goodbye when she hugged me. I pushed my surprise aside quickly, and hugged her back. She would appreciate it.

“Thank you, Ren. It was nice to have you here.” She let me go. I took my jacket, and left her home.

This will probably happen again. I don’t know how I feel about that. I couldn’t help but think to myself as I walked away. I hadn’t done anything like this before. Should I call it off, or just let it continue?

Next Chapter

17 – Motherhood

Previous Chapter

“Fifteen, come in. There is a report of a fugitive near your location. I need you to track her down and take her in,” Commander’s voice toned through my radio.

I picked up the sender end, and replied. “Send me the coordinates. What other information do you have?”

“A witness claims that she drowned her only child early this morning. Take that to mean she might be a threat.”

“Roger that, Commander. I’ve received the coordinates, and I’m tracking her now.”

I drove to the address that Shelby had sent me, and scrutinised the area. This was the first time that I had a legal reason to attack someone in a long while.

Suddenly, I saw legs flying over a fence and away from me. I accelerated and began to chase her down.

“Target is sited, she is fleeing on foot.” I ignored any reply I might have received. The perpetrator was not going to get away from me.

The woman ran through the streets like a maniac, and it almost looked like she had no self preservation instinct. She just kept running. I couldn’t blame her. Her life depended on it. Although, she didn’t yet seem to be aware of the police vehicle pursuing her.

As if just to prove me wrong, she suddenly turned into an alleyway to flee from me.

“Fuck all!” I screamed, braking my car. “Pursuing target on foot!” I dropped the radio, and hopped out of the car.

She ran as fast as her legs could carry her. The blue sundress she wore danced around her legs, giving her ample room to sprint freely. However, her lack of shoes made her feet susceptible to anything lying on the ground. 

She sprinted, and I sprinted after her. I caught up slowly, moment by moment. Once I was finally within her hearing distance, I yelled at her. “You’re under arrest! Stand down or I’ll be forced to shoot!” It was the same thing that I had been required to rehearse for years.

As was to be expected, she kept running. So, I closed some of the distance between us. After the distance had been closed, I drew my gun, kneeled, aimed, and fired in one swift motion. Her legs were swept from beneath her feet, and she rolled forward a few inches.

“You should have stopped running when I gave you the chance.” She didn’t respond to what I had said. She just lay there, muttering to herself. I moved in closer to hear her

“He- he made me do it. I was sleeping… I never wanted this,” she mumbled. Her eyes were glazed over. She had to have had a mental disorder. 

I looked at her leg, where I had shot her. Her calf was bleeding terribly, and her dress was smeared with the blood from it. I had been aiming for her thighs, but a calf works just as well.

“Ma’am, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be held against you,” I picked up her body. I needed to get her to my car and bandage her leg. She didn’t need to die out on the streets. She needed a proper execution, as I had been taught.

I ran to my car with her body in my arms. Her leg bled the whole while, leaving an awful trail behind me. She would likely die in my arms before we even got to my car.

“Please… stop…” She mumbled at me, her hand touching her leg. The blood that she had shed covered her hand halfway up her forearm.

I slowed down my run, and waited where I was. “What do you want?” I looked at her. Her eyes were still empty, but they seemed to be looking for something.

She raised her blood soaked hand to my face. “Let me go,” She slid her hand down my cheek. I felt the blood, even after her hand left.

“Ma’am, I legally can’t do that.” She had let her head go limp. She had stopped searching for anything, and simply hung.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll die anyway. ” Her voice was still calm and steady, and she didn’t panic. “My son- he’s here. He’s calling for me. He isn’t mad. Please let me touch him.” She had reached down, and grabbed my hand. It wasn’t as warm as when she had touched my face.

“Fine, miss. I’ll do as you ask. A shot through your heart should leave you funeral ready.” I set her body down, then drew my pistol.

I didn’t want the bullet to hit her ribs, so I felt her chest to find a gap that would still lead into her heart. It would be swift for her.

“Thank you, Alex. Thank you.” She didn’t move, and it almost looked like her lips also hadn’t moved either.

“Sure,” I placed my gun on the spot where her ribs left enough space to reach the heart. I pulled the trigger. The flash and sound happened quickly, and then her body laid empty.

“At first you ran, then I shot your leg. Then you attacked me, so I had to dispatch you. That will be the official report. Everyone is going to think that you were insane. Is that really better than facing what you had done?” I usually didn’t muse to corpses, but none of her behavior fit any violent mental disorder that I had ever heard of.

I picked her corpse up, and took it back to my car. “You killed your child, which is a bond that I had been taught couldn’t be broken. Yet, here you are. Dead in my arms. Your child is probably dead in your home. You claimed that you had killed him in your sleep. That isn’t possible.” I got to my car, placed her body in the back seat, then got into the driver seat.

“You are like nothing that I had ever seen before. This intrigues me. I think that I want a reminder of this intrigue. You don’t mind if I take a shred of your dress when we get back to base, do you?” I looked at my center mirror, and angled myself so that I could see her corpse. Her dress was completely red at the chest, and she was soaked down to her hips. On the side where her leg had been shot, the dress was red from top to bottom. The only blue patch left was her unharmed leg.

I started my car and began to drive. I quickly realised that I hadn’t radioed in to Commander to tell her about what had happened on any level. So I took the opportunity to do that now. “Commander, copy in. This is Fifteen. I have apprehended the perpetrator.”

It took a few seconds before Commander responded. When she did, she was trying to avoid sounding furious, and poorly at that. “Officer, do you understand how many protocols you broke at that moment?”

“Yes, I do,” I coolly responded, “However, the perpetrator was going to escape if I waited for permission. She was running quite fast, and had fled into the alleys. If I didn’t chase her, there wasn’t going to be any chance of arrest.”

“That means you arrested her?” Commander still wasn’t very calm.

“No. She died. That said, you going to need to send someone to collect the body.”

No sound came from the radio for another few moments. Then, a new voice cut in.

“Fifteen, how did the girl die?” The voice was Superior’s. I shrugged, and decided to tell her the truth rather than my made-up status report.

“She was running from me. She refused to stop even after I had told her I would have to shoot. I shot her calf, and she fell. I picked her up, told her the basics of the arrest, and she muttered something remorseful about her son, and claimed she didn’t do it on purpose. I carried her body up to my vehicle. Along the way, she asked me to kill her then.” Now was when I told a lie. “I took pity on her and decided to do as she asked. I shot her in the heart, and avoided any ribs. She was going to die from blood loss in her calf either way.”

Superior came back with a reply quickly. “I think that was the right thing to do. However, you most certainly won’t want to write that in your report. Make sure you lie there.”

“I will. Fifteen over and out.” I put my radio down. Just in time, too, as I had gotten back to base. I parked the car outside for a moment. I still wanted my reminder of this encounter. I opened the backdoor, and reached toward the woman’s dress. It was now that I realised that her fall had torn the fabric up to a terrible degree. I grabbed the remaining blue on the dress, and tore part of it off. I stuck the fabric into my pocket, shut the door, then got back in. I drove into the garage.

I picked my radio up one more time. “Commander, Superior, I’ve arrived with the corpse in tow.” I placed the radio back into its proper spot, then climbed out of the car.

“Damn it, Fifteen. Why do you always have to bring back bodies? Just a few arrests is all it would take to balance all of this out. Jesus, it’ll take months to clean this out of the seats. This car will have to be decommissioned for a while,” Officer Zoe complained. It looks like she was already waiting for me.

“Well, maybe if everyone I tried to arrest didn’t fight back I wouldn’t have to stain the seats so often. Sorry about that, Zoe. Maybe I could get you some tea to make up for it?” Her eyes lit up at hearing tea. She loved tea, but was only able to get a glass or two during celebrations.

“How did you get your hands on tea? You aren’t sleeping with Commander are you?” I laughed at her remark.

“I’m not sleeping with Commander. I suppose I can see why you’d think that.” She laughed in return.

“Whatever, I don’t care who you’re sleeping with or how many bodies you drag to base, that tea will be worth it!” She pulled the corpse out of the car and examined it.

“I could’ve sworn that I recognised this girl. I think her name was Asilynn.” Zoe threw the body over her shoulder, then walked away. “Hey, Fifteen! I’ll be back to clean the car in a bit, so don’t take it anywhere!” She pushed open a door, stepped through, and it shut behind her.

I sat about for just a little while. I needed this vehicle to be clean if I was to go anywhere. That, or I needed new orders. Either way, one would eventually come.

Turns out, one would come faster than I had expected. Commander burst through the doors. “Fifteen- Fifteen your face! My god!”

I had forgotten about the blood that Asilynn had smeared onto my face. I also forgot that she had grabbed my hand. To top it off, I had forgotten that she had just bled everywhere on me when I carried her into my car. “Oh. Right.”

“Jesus! Go clean yourself up! You’ve got blood all over you!” Commander pushed me toward the door, doing her best to keep her own hands clean. I tend to forget that people have such an aversion to blood.

I went to the locker room, took off all of my clothing, then got into a shower. We rarely showered here. When we did, it was usually after an execution or after an event like this. There wasn’t much need for extra water use around here.

I had only just realised that it had been two weeks since I had last showered. I might’ve cleaned myself off on my last day off, but I was busy finding Famine, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I let the water run over my body for a while. It was hot, and that wasn’t something that I often could use at home. Hot water took too long to heat up in the home, and I usually only had it when I heated it up over the stove.

I felt warm. It wasn’t the usual heat that I had gotten used to while outside. However, the temperature was getting colder every day. I suppose I ought to enjoy the warmth while it lasts.

After what felt like hours of standing still and having the only sound be running water, I finally got some soap and washed my body. Then, I washed my hair. Some blood had made its way there, too. I had been covered even more than what I initially knew.

I looked about the shower for a fresh set of clothes. There wasn’t one. The only clothing up here was the clothing that I had come up with. Sighing, I tossed on a towel and went into the connected locker room. It wasn’t my locker room, but someone had to have left something out.

After finding nothing sitting out in the locker room, I just walked through the halls and into my locker room. Only a couple of people saw me marching through the hallways, and they were both equally surprised. They likely stared as I walked past, but I only noticed their looks while they were in front of me.

I went into the locker room, opened my locker, and got dressed. It felt nice to have some proper clothes on. I tossed my towel into the nearest basket, then left.

It had been thirty minutes since I had gotten back to base, and I was just barely reporting in to Commander about the neutralisation I had performed.

I knocked on Commander’s door. “Come in, Fifteen.” She was expecting me.

I pulled the door open and stepped inside. The door shut itself behind me. “Commander.”

“Yes, you’ve arrived. What happened with the girl?” Commander seemed just a little more impatient today than usual.

“I had to dispatch her. Now, you can either receive the reality or the report I’ll be filing later.” Commander tapped her desk with her fingers.

“I can read your report after you file it. Tell me what happened.”

I related to her the events that transpired while I had chased the mother. I told her about how I had chased her in my car, before needing to abandon it and continue the chase on foot. I told her about my lucky shot that was placed in the center of her calf, and how I saw Asilynn crumple and roll to the ground. I told her of the ramblings that the woman had spoken just before I tried carrying her to the vehicle. I ended the story by telling her about how I decided to listen to her pleas for death and gave them to her.

“That makes sense. So what do you plan to say in your report? I’ll need to say the same thing, in essence.” Shelby leaned forward in her seat. She must have found herself invested in my story.

“I plan to say that I chased her on foot. She stopped around a corner and then attacked me. I misfired and shot her leg, before taking the gun immediately to her chest. Then, as usual, I took the body back to my vehicle for examination. I don’t think she was on any sort of psychedelic, however.” Shelby nodded.

“Well, we’ll have to see what the forensic guys have to say. For now, I think it’d be best to just let you go home and rest.” She sat back in her chair and let out a long breath.

“Thank you, Commander. It’s well needed rest.” I turned around, and twisted her doorknob.

“Wait, one moment Ren!” I heard from behind me. I turned back around.

“What do you need, Commander?” I anticipated her response. I had been lacking sleeping for too long now.

“Tomorrow’s my day off. I was wondering if you’d like to get together and chat for a while? Maybe over some lunch? Does my place sound good?” I shrugged.

“I don’t see why not. I’ll see you there. Goodbye, Shelby.” I left.

I would get to go home early, and finally catch the sleep I had missed. That was just what I needed.

So, I took my leave of the station, and finally headed home.

Next Chapter

Intermission – Haikus

A bonus section of If By Fire, with Haiku’s written from many character perspectives

Previous Chapter

A bonus section of If By Fire, with Haiku’s written from many character perspectives.

I would like a lunch
That isn’t nuts and berries
Every so often
-An orphan

Meals for the youngest
And meals for the elderly
A dinner for all
-Pestilence

Times are hard for now
But we will make it better
Hope for our children
-Famine

Heritage is rich
I have pride in my last name
And family tree
-Ramirez

I’ll try my hardest
To make the world its greatest
And make Father proud
-Shelby

For more acceptance
I’d fight until I collapsed
Smile on my face
-Claire

Secrets hold power
A fact which we all will know
When it’s time to speak
-War

Remember the past
When things were better than now
Try to recreate
-Vince

I won’t try harder
You know this isn’t my job?
I’m just getting paid
-Hero

I love my child
I want to give him the world
The ghoul tells me no
-A Mother

I’ve worked hard for us
My family deserves more
I’ll take what I need
-Gary Brown

One day they’ll know me
One day I’ll be our leader
A nation for me
-Holland

My teacher taught me
Taught me everything I know
About love and peace
-Miranda

Rules are suggestions
Reference points for the weak who
Can’t think for themselves
-Ren/Fifteen

Next Chapter

16 – Diplomatic Immunity

Previous Chapter

“Knock on the door, and wait to see who answers.”

Miranda stood at the door, and was being haughty about being ordered around. “I don’t see why you have to put me in this uncomfortable situation.” She knocked on Famine’s door, then took a step back.

We waited for a moment, and Famine opened the door in nightwear. Her hair was messy, and it was clear we had just woken her up.

“Who’re you?” Famine demanded from Miranda.

“My name is Miranda. I am the Superior who has been dedicated to this area. I am here to talk to you about your arsonry.”

Famine grabbed Miranda by her throat, and then took a knife she had apparently hung next to the door and placed it onto the side of her neck.

“Give me one reason not to kill you.” Famine’s words were as cold and sharp as the knife she held.

I couldn’t see Miranda’s face from my angle, but I imagine she had a look of panic. Her hands were trying to grab the answer that her face couldn’t, and it looked rather pitiful. It took some effort from me to avoid laughing.

“I- um- I’m here to help!” Miranda stuttered. She was not making nearly as good a case as I had when I approached Famine.

“Here to help arrest me? I’m not having it. Try again.” I think some of Famine’s anger might’ve had to do with the fact that there was a high ranking policeman standing at her door.

“No- no-” Miranda continued to stutter. She wasn’t make a good first impression for herself in anyway. I stepped out of the bushes and intervened.

“Famine, she’s with me. I wanted to see how well she could communicate on her own. Obviously, she would not make a good spokesperson.” Famine dropped Miranda, and kept looking at me.

“Ren, you asshole, you got me worked up over nothing.” She shook her head. “Come on in, you two.” Miranda entered the house, and so did I. Upon entering, Famine was already setting a kettle onto the stove.

“I hope you don’t mind tea, Superior,” Famine acknowledged the old woman. “On that note, what is your name?”

“It’s Miranda,” Miranda sputtered after a moment of delay. “I apologise if we woke you, miss.”

Famine shook her finger at Miranda, who had taken a seat on Famine’s sofa. “No, no, no, ma’am. I’m not some ‘miss.’ My name is Famine. Don’t forget it.” It sounded like Famine was still a little angry.

“Alright, Famine.” Miranda stayed quiet after that.

Famine turned her attention toward me. “So where’d you pick up a mighty Superior, Ren?”

“She was sent to investigate our base, after we framed Holland as an arsonist. Shelby distrusted a Superior sitting around, and wanted me to follow her home. I planned on killing her, but she’s a dreamer. She has some hopes that she thinks we’ll be able to fulfill. So, instead of killing her, I brought her over here. She’ll be more useful this way.” Famine nodded, and took a few moments to think over what she had heard.

“Good choice, Ren. Having someone with the power that a Superior has will certainly be useful. If you want to head home now, feel free. I’m just going to go through the rounds with Miranda here.” Famine put her hand on my shoulder and squoze it.

“Good luck, Famine. I hope you don’t fall asleep talking to her, like I almost did.” Famine laughed, and I walked out of the house.

Before I shut the door, Famine shouted at me. “Wait, Ren! Take these.” She handed me a bag that contained a kettle- probably a spare- and a few boxes of tea. “I have more tea than I know what to do with, and you’re the only other person who drinks it.”

“Thanks, Famine.” She smiled at me, then shut the door. I turned from her house, and began the walk home. When I finally got home, the clock said 9:47.

Next Chapter

15 – Once More, With Confidence

Previous Chapter

Superior didn’t walk from place to place very fast, and it certainly showed.  It seemed as if she was always looking for something, but she was never looking for it very hard. It was infuriating. Her slow pace meant that by the time we got to wherever she was staying, it would be very late. I would have to sleep poorly once again.

Superior walked, and walked, and walked. Her pace never broke past a vague meander. The sun was beginning its descent into the horizon, and yet I still had no clue how near to her house I was. We were still in the poor district, so there were no street lights to turn on.

On the bright side, that meant I could stay hidden easier. On the other hand, that also meant that she would likely get home even slower in the dark of the night.

I followed her for another few minutes. We weren’t getting anywhere. By the time the sun was beginning to set, she had just sat down onto a park bench, and didn’t do anything for at least half an hour. She was either acutely aware of her follower, or she was blatantly unaware. Either way, an amount of time was wasted.

She stared off at the sunset. I imagine she sighed often while thinking of some lover who dumped her for someone younger.

Eventually, the sun fell and the stars rose. I stood up, expecting her to do the same now that the sunset was over. Yet, she didn’t. She simply tilted her head upward and stared at the sky. There wasn’t very much that was worth staring at, so I decided that I was going to wait out her blank staring.

However, she continued to sit and stare. One minute passed. Then it grew into five minutes. Ten minutes began to bud. Twenty minutes had flowered. There was full bloom after thirty minutes. I stood up from my spot, and took my pistol out of my pants.

I would have shot her from where I stood, but she was poorly illuminated. I couldn’t make out her details well enough to take a solid shot. As any hunter knows, you have one shot before your prey is made aware of your presence.

I took a calculated step toward Superior. I took another. She was still about fifteen meters away. I took another few steps, careful to ensure my silence. I was not going to be discovered.

I inched toward Superior, as silent as I possibly could be.

Five meters away from her, I stopped. Her head was tilted as far back as it possibly could. I stopped where I was. There wasn’t any way she couldn’t have seen me at this point. I had lifted the pistol up to my waist when she spoke.

“Fifteen. How wonderful to see you. I’ve heard stories about you. People call you many things, including the elaborate ‘psychotic whore’ and the simpler ‘madman.’ Please, have a seat with me.”

I pointed my gun at her head.

“Yes, you plan to kill me. I shouldn’t expect anything less. I’ll gladly let you kill me. That will mean I don’t have to serve this fucking shit-storm of a country anymore. But please, grant an old woman one more request. Sit with me.” She pat the spot on the bench next to her.

I put the gun away. “You intrigue me, Superior. I’ll sit with you for a while.” I took the spot she had offered, and looked at her.

“I used to be stationed in this city, Fifteen. That was before I became a Superior myself, and I was stationed elsewhere. My superior was executed for treason a few weeks after he retired and I became his replacement Superior. I even worked in your police station before all of that. I had to become incredibly strict on the rules in order to get my Controller off of my back. It took me months of ruthless execution and enforcing the law harsher than is really necessary. Now, the police thinks that I’m their most trustworthy Superior. I might have been promoted to Controller myself, but for some reason they decided that I wouldn’t fit in with the rest.” She sighed and stared in silence for a moment.

I kept looking at her for a moment. “Is that all you wanted to say?” She shook her head. “No. I actually wanted to talk about the sky. Did you know that only fifty years ago you couldn’t see the stars here in this city? There were so many lights on all of the time. Once the government decided that we didn’t need to spend money on poor people, the lights were turned off in most areas. It’s the only good thing that has ever come from… from everything. Just look at the sky.”

I did as she asked. It was the same night sky I had been looking at for the past seven years that I had been graduated from the police academy. The only spectacular thing I saw was the light allowing me to see every night.

“I don’t know what you mean, Superior.” I kept staring at the sky, but I wasn’t really looking at anything.

“My name is Miranda, Fifteen.” She grabbed my hand. “Your name has power, you know. It means something more than the police tells you. Your name is what makes you special. It means that you are a person, and that you have a reason to be. What is your name?”

I shook her hand off. “My name doesn’t matter. Miranda, Superior, it doesn’t matter what I call you. Fifteen, Officer, Renegade, my name doesn’t matter either. It doesn’t hold any power. It’s just a word. My name was lost to the world long ago, and that’s how it will stay.”

Miranda sighed. “That’s what my first commander told me. He told me that my name didn’t matter to the citizens. That’s not true. Without a name, I’m not a person to them. I’m just a job and a title, and a feared one at that. Names create safety for people. Don’t you want that? Why did you join the police.” Miranda looked at me, desperate.

Desperate. She was desperate. However, I could tell that she wasn’t desperate for life anymore. She was ready to die, and- in fact- embraced death. No, she was desperate for… For an experience? She wanted to share something with someone. That was it! She didn’t want an experience, she wanted to give an experience. She hoped that I would change my view after talking with her.

She was a dreamer, too. She bought into the American Dream herself. She also craved to have her legacy go down in history. It’s too bad.

I stood up, and pulled my gun on her again. “You’ve said enough. I’m tired of listening. Miranda, you have one more sentence before I shoot you.” Miranda stared at my feet for a moment.

Suddenly her eyes shot up once more, with confidence prevalent in her starlit pupils. “You want me dead, so that must mean that you are the arsonist.”

I held the gun tightly. “Great analysis.”

“I want in!” She stood up and exclaimed. Her exclamation wasn’t loud, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t forceful.

“Are you saying that to avoid your own demise? Appeal to your assassin, and mercy will come?”

She shook her head. “I don’t care if you kill me. I want to do something that might make a difference out here.”

I still held the gun straight. Having a superior in the resistance group could be very beneficial to them. If I brought Miranda straight to Famine, that would build even more respect for me.

I lowered the gun. “Okay, Miranda. You can come with me. I’ll show you where to go. You’ll make a difference before tonight ends.”

She nodded. “That doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”

I put the gun away, and motioned for Miranda to follow me.

Next Chapter

14 – Inspection

Previous Chapter

“Line up. Stand straight.” Superior shouted at the officers. However, her shouts weren’t aggressive. She was commanding and loud, but she didn’t really feel like she wanted to inconvenience anyone.

Superior had finally showed up to investigate our Officers and Commander, after the apparent betrayal of Holland.

Superior was in her fifties, and had only aged so gracefully. You could see a certain amount of youth hidden behind her lightly forming wrinkles. She seemed exhausted, yet still excited for something. It was nothing that I would have expected from a Superior. She made me uncomfortable.

“Tell me your name, Officer,” Superior gently demanded from me.

“Fifteen, Superior,” I told her. I stood at attention, and looked beyond her just slightly.

She gave me a look of slight confusion. Then she returned to her own attention. “Everyone, take a look at Officer Fifteen. Notice the way that they stand at attention? That is exactly the way that you should look when you are standing at attention. Now, imitate Fifteen.” The rest of the Officers returned to their positions of attention, and- hopefully- fixed their stances.

“Better. You are all improving. That is good. Now, I will interview each of you one by one. On that merit, Commander, come see me in your office. The rest of you stand at attention. Fifteen, ensure this is done properly while I talk with your Commander.” Everyone else in line didn’t move, but I would be right to presume that they were disappointed in knowing that the freak they all dislike has just been favored by a Superior.

I stepped out of line, and relaxed my stance. I was currently Commander- not Officer- Fifteen. I had no need to hold myself as high as all of the Officers in line. They were beneath me, now more than ever.

I noticed that one female Officer was moving her hands around behind her back.

“What are you doing with your hands?” She was startled by my question, and tensed up.

“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again,” she sputtered out quickly.

“I didn’t ask for an apology. I asked for a reason.” Her eyes darted from side to side, and she looked unsure of herself.

“I- I wasn’t sure how to hold my hands. I waited for Superior to be gone before trying to figure it out.” She was still incredibly tense, and telling the truth might have made her tenser.

“Hm,” I mumbled before stepping further away from the line. “Who else doesn’t know what to do with their hands?” I was surprised to see at least a third of the officers salute.

“Fine. Pay attention to me, and I’ll show you proper hand stance.” Many of the officers pulled their heads away from attention, and stared at me. I put my back to them, and placed my hands into the proper attention position.

“Do all of you understand where your hands should be?” A collection of yes sir’s and yes ma’am’s poured out of the mouths of the officers.

“Perfect. Now, stand at attention once more, and turn your backs to me. I will ensure your hands are correct.”

Every turned around, then stood at attention once more. Nearly everyone’s hands were proper, with only a few mistakes here and there. By the time I had finished correcting those, Superior called me to the office, and Commander took my place.

I stepped into Commander’s office, and stood before Superior. I was supposed to stand at attention when speaking to a Superior. I didn’t. She had promoted me to Commander just a few moments ago.

“So, Fifteen. What are your relations to the arsoned homes?” She stared at my eyes. I could understand now how she had gotten the reputation of a totalitarian and a megalomaniac. It was odd, considering the way she carried herself in the room before. There was something she was looking for in me.

I replied after letting the air sit between us for a moment. “The only relation I have to the fires is as an investigator.”

Her next question came to me after a similar amount of time. “What is your relation to the deceased Officer Jade?”

“Co-worker,” I chose to reply immediately, and refused to hold a pattern.

“What is your relation to the deceased Officer Smith?” She replied at the same speed, clearly keeping up with me.

“Co-worker,” I replied just as hastily as before.

“What is your relation to the arsonist or arsonists?” She continued the haste, as if she had memorised a script.

“My goal is to see them, singular or plural, arrested, as they are a criminal who needs or criminals who need to be detained. I am an Officer, and therefore they need to be arrested.” I continued the rate of speed I was currently at. I realised that if I tried to throw patterns out of the window, I would appear suspicious.

“You answered with quite a bit of haste. It’s almost as if you knew what I was going to ask?” She leaned forward in her chair, obviously suspicious.

I continued the haste in my answers. “There isn’t any need to be slow with the truth.”

Superior slammed her fist against the desk. She stared at me for a moment. “Why did you delay your answer with the first question?”

“I decided to take a moment to collect all of my thoughts before I answered any questions. I need to ensure I remembered all of the details.”

Superior leaned back. “Interesting. Go out and line back up. I’m done questioning you.”

“Superior.” I saluted her, then stepped out.

“Hero,” Superior called out from the office. I got back to attention, and Hero slipped into the office. Commander gave small pieces of advice here and there to Officers, and they would change what they needed to.

This continued for a while, before Superior arrived from the office, having already interviewed everyone. “All of you are dismissed from duty for the rest of today. Meet back here tomorrow at 6:00 sharp.” Everyone piled out, then went into the locker room. I needed to stay, and follow Superior back to her hotel.

I got out of my uniform, kept my gun and concealed it, then went out into the streets. I needed a place to hide, so I looked for one. I thought about climbing onto the roof, but that would mean that I’d have to get back down. That means that the only other two places are these: I can either stuff myself behind and inside of the nearby- and overgrown- bushes, or I can slink around a nearby alley way. The alley is too conspicuous.

So, I decided upon the bushes. I’m always the first to get dressed and leave the locker room, so there was no risk of being seen at this moment. Swiftly, I jumped behind the bushes, forced my way inside of them as much as I comfortably could, then waited and watched.

Plenty of people walked out of the police base, but none of them were the girl I was looking for.

It took a full thirty minutes of waiting in a bush for Superior to finally appear from the doors. I watched her walk for about twenty meters before I got out of the bush.

Prepare yourself, Superior. You’re going to attract some attention.

Next Chapter

13 – Hoedown

Previous Chapter

I opened the doors to the empty warehouse we were meeting in, the noise and bustle of the protesters was immediately apparent, and I felt hard pressed to shut the door behind quickly. I didn’t want some passerby to hear an incredible amounts of noise, and get too curious.

“WE WILL NOT STAND FOR THE WAY WE HAVE BEEN MISTREATED!” There was someone standing atop a few empty shipping crates, above the rest of the crowd. He was screaming into a sound amplifier, and the crowd was excited to hear what he was saying.

I grabbed a nearby bystander, and screamed at him while I gripped his shoulders. “What is happening? Tell me!” He tried to shake free, before panic set in and he yelled, “Ma’am- Sir- um- We’re rallying!” I tossed the person aside, and forced my way past people, trying to get to the center. This level of disorder and noise is going to cause us to be discovered, and then everything will fall apart.

I tossed people away from path nonchalantly, and without concern for the people I moved past. After some amount of time, people began to move aside for me, and stared all the while. They likely whispered to each other, which lowered the volume. However, it didn’t lower the volume enough to count. I was going to solve this problem, and there was nothing that anyone was going to do to try and stop me.

“REN!” I turned my head to look behind me, and saw War making his way through the path I had cleared. However, as he walked, the crowd closed in behind him. There was no turning back from this war path. War got close enough for me to hear him without screaming the words. “Ren, what do are you doing? You shouldn’t just toss our followers around like that!”

I turned my whole body to face him. “War. Perfect. I assume you have a plan to make this idiot stop his behavior?” War paused. His angry look subsided quickly, and was replaced by his usual bravado of calm.

He shook his head. “No, I don’t. However, I’m glad that you also want this to end. We’ll fail if we can’t organise. Stop that bastard, then try to figure out who he is.”

I nodded, and turned back to my path. It had closed up in the time that I had taken to talk to War. That meant it was time to reopen it, and cut out just a bit of noise once more.

I tapped the shoulder of the woman in front of me. She turned around, clearly confused. “Move,” I commanded, shouting above the crowd. She gave me a dirty look, and turned back around. I shrugged, and pulled her away from the group. She seemed furious, and tried to attack me. However, unlike myself, I have training in crowd combat. In one fell motion, she was on the ground, and I was on my way.

I spent around a minute and a half tossing people in the crowd onto the ground. After that time, they grew wise once again. They got quiet, and moved out of my way as I approached. I looked like a celebrity walking down the red carpet, and my adoring fans standing aside as I passed. Well, except there is no carpet, and my fans were actually struck with fear rather than admiration.

Eventually, I reached the point that I wanted. The shipping crates. The man standing on top of the crates was still shouting into his sound amplifier, and the crowd was still going wild over his rallying cries.

“WE ARE THE WORKERS! WE ARE THE BEES WHO ENSURES THE QUEEN STAYS ALIVE!” Hearing that, I laughed. I wasn’t sure that this man knew very well how to create an analogy.

I began to climb up the crates, which were somewhere around two feet taller than myself. I had climbed three crates before I stood directly behind the man. He was still shouting into his device, but his crowd began to grow somewhat quieter. It sounded like a few people recognised me.

Yet, the rallying fool still failed to realise who stood behind him. So, I took a step closer to him and tapped his shoulder. He turned around to look at me.

“What do you want?” I pointed to his sound amplifier, “That.” He laughed, “You think that you can just take this from me? Whatever, get out of here, whore!” He turned around, and tried to shout once more. I cut him off by squeezing his shoulder with a vice grip. He turned around, and tried to swing at me. I ducked with ease, and pulled my pistol out on him. He immediately stopped his assault. “Hey now, take it easy. There’s no need for guns here.”

“Hand over your device, or I will shoot you.”

He shook his head. “You wouldn’t dare.”

I pointed the gun down at his foot, and shot him. He screamed in pain, then fell over. He didn’t fall off the crate, but I almost wish he had.

“YOU BASTARD!” He shouted, and the sound amplifier picked it up. The entire crowd became silent. I picked up the sound amplifier.

The crowd was beginning to murmur, and those murmurs were becoming shouts of outrage. I yelled into the sound amplifier. “SHUT UP!” The crowd refused to oblige. So, I shot a bullet at the cowering man. He started screaming more. “Son of a bitch! What the fuck!”

I ignored him. “Detain this asshole.” Everyone murmured, until War shouted above them. “HE COMMANDED YOU DETAIN THAT MAN!” After that, a few people climbed the crates and carried the injured person away, passing him off from one person to the other.

“YOU’LL FUCKING PAY FOR MY FOOT! I’LL FUCK-” One of the detainers gagged him. I was glad. His voice was really starting to drag on my patience.

I picked the sound amplifier back up to my face, and issued another command, “Everyone step aside, and let War and any other horsemen available come over here.” People began to shuffle around, trying to find the horsemen. War’s path opened up the fastest, and that was followed by Pestilence’s, and his was followed by Famine’s.

“The way that all of you carried yourself tonight was excruciating and irresponsible,” I lectured the crowd. “This sort of irrational action will be our downfall. If you want to remain a stable protest group, you’re all going to have to cease this type of behavior.”

Just as I finished my speech, the horsemen made their way up the crates and next to me. I handed War the sound amplifier, and he gave me an affirmative nod. “Thank you.” I returned the nod, then walked away.

Pestilence grabbed my arm. “I still don’t trust you.” He let me go, and I moved past without  acknowledging his statement.

I slid off of the top crate, and waited on the crate below me. There were still a number of crowd goers who stared at me. They didn’t matter. What did matter, however, was what War was saying.

“Now that we are in order, I am prepared to tell you what our next motion will be. Our next motion is to lay low. We are going to give the police time away from investigating the crimes that we have committed, in order to give ourselves a bit of breathing room when we next decide to attack. Your respective area leader will inform you of our next gathering. Any objections?”

There was a murmuring in the crowd. I stood upright, breaking my lean against the crate, and stared out at the crowd. One by one, the crowd noticed me, and began to quiet down.

“Good. Pestilence, you may take over from here.” War handed the sound amplifier to Pestilence, then stepped next to Famine. He turned back to the crowd. His face was just a steeled now as it had been when he first began speaking.

“Okay, fellas,” Pestilence began, “I have some great news. I finally found my grandmother’s recipe for Keke pua’a.” The crowd cheered, and Pestilence laughed heartily. “Oh yeah, I knew you guys would love to hear that.”

That was about the time I decided that being there was no longer necessary. Pestilence was only put up to speak to relieve the tension in the crowd. I climbed down from the rest of the boxes, and promptly exited through the nearest door.

Pestilence was the comic relief of the group. I never would guessed, what with the stares of death he consistently gave me.

Next Chapter

12 – If Youth Knew

Previous Chapter

My alarm went off, and I proceeded to turn it off. I had to get to work again today. It wouldn’t be an entertaining day. Miranda wasn’t scheduled to arrive until tomorrow. As such, I would likely just work my usual route. I wasn’t investigating any burn sites because there was no evidence to retrieve. It had all been burned.

I went upstairs, got a small breakfast, then left. I didn’t give myself much time to prepare anymore, as sleep was more important than anything else. This was especially true now that I constantly spent every night out on the town.

After a short walk- I still didn’t use the bicycle I had been given- I arrived at the Police Station. I went inside, and made my way to a locker room to get ready.

“There hasn’t been a fire the past couple of nights,” I overheard one officer say.

“Yeah. It seems like the arsonist has taken a break,” said another.

“I almost wish they wouldn’t. Nothing exciting happens now that they’re not lighting fires. Hell, maybe if I’m lucky, there will be a big weapon bust.”

“Hey man, don’t get your hopes up.”

I finished putting on my belt, and I left the locker room. I went to the meeting room. I was still just going to be told to go to my regular route, and so was nearly everyone else. Maybe a couple people would be told to do some finer forensics at the burn sites. Even so, it wasn’t too likely that they would find anything new. Our investigation units were an utter waste.

After a few more minutes, every had arrived and seated themselves in various places. I sat in the second row, two seats left from the center aisle, as always.

Commander took her place in front of all of us. She cleared her throat, and started giving out mission areas. “Martin, take your usual preassigned route. Hero, take your usual preassigned route.” This went on for a few moments, and then I was assigned my usual preassigned route. I left, got into a car, and drove to my area of watch.

Because I didn’t have a partner, my current preassigned route was that of scouting. My job was to drive around a few set blocks and scout for anyone who could be considered an offender or a risk.

Nothing eventful happened for far too long. I easily spent three hours driving about my wide berth, without doing anything. No one seemed to be doing anything illegal or stupid. I hadn’t even seen a petty theft yet. Usually, I would have arrested at least one or two people by now.

I parked my car, and decided to take a lunch break. This had begun to feel all too tedious. I stepped out of the vehicle, and took a look at the lunch assigned that day. It was a sandwich with processed lunch meats and cheese. It wasn’t a satisfying meal. It was the only thing that made me miss my childhood. At that time, I at least got a few good meals.

Then, I began to think. I didn’t truly believe that everyone was as impoverished as it seemed. Despite how many homes had fallen into terrible disrepair that could cause many deaths once winter came back around, everyone still managed to eat. I think it had something to do with meal tickets handed out to Police and Joint Forces veterans. They received a hefty amount of ration tickets, and it’s possible that they would pass out what they got, and keep a minimum amount to themselves.

Although, a lack of insulation and warmth was possibly much more dangerous than missing a few meals occasionally.

I finished my meal, and got ready to go back and continue my rounds. I opened my car’s door, and slid inside. I started the car, and drove away. Not two minutes into my route, I heard whimpering in my back seat.

I stopped the car where it was, and rushed myself out of the door. I tore open the back door, and saw a child lying on the floor in front of the seats, just below where I could see with any mirror. Once the door opened, the child panicked and flew to the other door, trying desperately to open it. Unfortunately, the doors only open from the outside. Once you’re inside the back seat, you’re stuck there.

The child wasn’t screaming. She was silently pulling on the handle of the door, frantic but quiet. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Usually, getting into an officer’s car illegally would lead directly to an execution. I wasn’t really all that afraid of executing a child. However, I didn’t believe that the protest group I was in would approve of more children being killed.

“Come here.” The child still panicked at the door, and it took me more cooing to convince her to get out.

Once she did get out, she was shaking with everything she had. I noticed she had opened and eaten a food ration in the back seat. She was probably orphaned.

Now, adopting her would be too much for me. I wasn’t going to take in a child that I couldn’t take care of myself. However, I figured letting her go would suffice. Maybe someone will hear about my mercy, and will spread the word. At this point in time, I need as much positive press as I can get.

“Kid. You’d best watch out. Once you start stealing from the wrong people, your life will go downhill. Now, I’m not going to do anything. However, another Officer might. The penalty for stealing from a cop is death. I certainly don’t want to kill you, and I don’t want to see you killed. Now get out of here.”

The child slid away from me and the vehicle, and scrambled into a patch of relatively nearby trees. It was only one of maybe six in our town. However, it was the largest. The child likely hid in there while she wasn’t trying to steal her next meal.

A few more uneventful hours, and I went back to the base to be debriefed by Commander. The drive wasn’t long, but it felt incredibly arduous. I wasn’t sure how anyone could handle that level of boredom I met.

I parked in the garage for our vehicles, and headed to the conference room. I took my seat, only a little more than a minute early, and waited.

At least, I would’ve loved to have just waited, but I was approached by Hero, who had questions to ask. “Hey Fifteen,” he sat next to me, and leaned in close. “I saw you let that kid go.” I was surprised to hear him say that, but I wasn’t going to let him know that.

“Yes, I let a child go. I gave her a stern lecture about the threats surrounding her, and told her to be careful who she steals from. I let her go.” Hero pat my back.

“You’ve got balls, lad. I know many other women, and none of them would have the gut to do what you did. Although, I’d suggest you be less conspicuous when you do generous things like that. One day, something like that will have-” He quickly stopped talking and moved over a seat as we heard the doors to the conference room open. The other Officers were coming in, followed by Commander.

“Alright,” Commander shouted above the noise, “Let’s not waste a second. Did anything important happen while any of you were out?” No one responded.

“Good. Less time I have to waste here. You are all dismissed. Except Fifteen. I would like a moment with you,” Shelby concluded. Hero gave me a distressed look, then left with everyone else.

I stood up, and jaunted past the table, toward Shelby. “Hey Ren. Famine is holding a meeting tonight, at eight o’clock. Here’s the address.” Shelby handed me a slip of paper. It was already five-thirty. The location was about thirty minutes away from here, which made it forty five minutes away from home. I would get to go home, then I’d have to leave again.

I sighed. “Alright. I’ll certainly be there. Do you want an escort?”

Shelby shook her head. “No, I’ll be fine. I’m heading there early anyway.”

I nodded. 

She continued, “I’ll see you there, Ren. Don’t do anything stupid, alright?” She got up to walk away.

“Hold on, Shelby. I have something to tell you.” She stopped, and faced me once more. “I had a little girl break into my car during my lunch break. She stole a ration. When I found her, I let her go. I thought you might like to know. Hero certainly complimented me on the action.”

A light lit up in her eyes. “Really now? That is something worth a compliment. Good job, Ren. It looks like your days laughing at a fire might be put behind you. Keep this up, and the horsemen might trust you again.”

Perfect. “Thank you. Now, we ought to head out.” Shelby nodded, smiled, and left. Her smile was more admirable than most other people’s. She could utilise that.

I left the police base, went home, had a meal, filed my report, then left. It was time to finally be a part of a real meeting.

Next Chapter

11 – Parley

Previous Chapter

It was dark, and raining. Famine had informed me- through a messenger- that they were having a meeting at her house. I was there, but she wasn’t, and neither was anyone else. I stood and waited, water pouring over me. If I had to wait for another minute, I was just going to force my way into her house.

A minute passed, and I was feeling rather impatient. So, I checked her windows. They were all locked. So, I used my police ID card to force the door open. Then, I let myself in.

The house was empty. I was furious that they had sent me here without being here themselves. I decided that I’d help myself to whatever I wanted to have. I put her kettle on her stove, and started to prepare myself some tea.

I heard some laughter outside. They had finally arrived. Forty minutes and five cups of tea later. I wasn’t angry, though, because I had had time to warm up and dry off.

The door opened, and the laughing stopped. “Ren?” Famine looked around quickly, and saw me within a couple seconds.

“Ah, you’ve finally arrived. You know, I actually quite enjoy tea. It has a wonderful and earthy taste. It’s also quite warming after being in the rain for half an hour.” I took a gulp from my sixth cup of tea.

“Oh. How did you get in?” Famine was still in the doorway, and I heard a couple voices whispering. That was bothersome, because only a couple voices were present. There should have been more.

“I used an ID to force the door open. It’s rather easy to do, especially on older locks like the one in your home.”

She shrugged. “At least you didn’t damage anything. That’s something,” she turned and motioned behind her, “Come on in.”

Three other people entered the one room house. One was a rather large man, of a seemingly Asian descent, except his skin was darker than any other Asians I had previously seen. There was also a fit black man. Lastly, there was a robed figure. An eye for Death.

“Ren, you took extreme actions last mission. Extreme actions that weren’t orders. We’re here to discuss whether we keep you as a part of our resistance, or if we get rid of you.” I made no acknowledgement.

“I’ll say what I want to first,” Famine continued, “I can’t believe you would just shoot a child on reflex like that. I can’t believe your gun was drawn with children nearby. I’m disgusted by your choice, and I want you out.”

The large man stepped forward. “I’m Pestilence. My ancestors are Samoan. I do a hefty amount of cooking. I used to be a part of a large family, so I understand the value of your family. You single handedly destroyed a family. I will not forgive that. I want you out.”

Pestilence stepped back, and the next man stepped forward. I assumed he was War. He spoke, “I am War, as you might have deduced. I haven’t ever had much of a family. The people here took me in. I understand why you did what you did, and I think it is justified. I want you to stay.”

So far, there were two votes against me and only one vote for me. I hoped Death favored me a little more than Famine and Pestilence. “I speak for Death, as he can’t be allowed to be seen around places like this. Surely, you all understand. Death believes that Renegade took a step that no one else had the guts to take. He respects that, even if it may seem wrong. Death demands that Ren be allowed to remain in the group.”

“So what does a tie mean, four horsemen?” I asked. They all looked at each other. Finally the Eye of Death spoke. “In the event of a tie, Death makes the final choice. Seeing as how everyone has already discussed the end decision, you will be allowed to stay, Ren. However, it will be enforced that you follow orders more strictly. If you take action before receiving an order, you will be terminated from us.”

I nodded. “I’m guessing you were late because you had finished discussing this amongst each other before coming here?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Naturally.”

“Well, I wish you at least had had the courtesy of letting me know. Alas, everything turned out well in the end. Is there anything else you wish to discuss while I am here?” The three horsemen looked at each other. The Eye continued to stare ahead, his face covered by a mask.

“Yeah, we got one more thing,” Pestilence stated. “Death has taken way too much of a liking to you. All of us are starting to distrust him, including War- and War agrees with him.” War nodded.

“Death has always been a good friend of mine,” War began, “I was friends with him while we were eighteen. His father had kicked him out, and told him to learn the way of the world. I took him for a few months. At that point, he had already been on the streets for at least three weeks. He hadn’t ever been in such a difficult situation before, and he needed help to survive on so little money. I gave him advice concerning those issues. He stayed in contact with me over the past five years, and we started this rebellion together. Famine and Pestilence were there from the start of our formation, but not when we lit the sparks of revolution.”

War looked around. He had a cold and unattached look on his face. Yet, his eyes betrayed his emotions. He talked in a controlled and calculated manner, except he had a certain light in his eyes that told me it was all bravado. He was hiding something. It wasn’t something that would break him, but it was enough to cause him distress.

His peers gave him a nod to continue. He returned the nod, and returned to his story. “Death has made it clear that the common man was where he belonged. After spending four years out on our streets, he felt ill at ease with rich men. He has always made it known that he wants to create change without causing death. However, he seemed to agree with your murders all too quickly. We cannot accept that without at least some semblance of distrust.”

I nodded. “That’s quite suspect. You are right to be suspicious. However, I am not Death. In fact, I would be an excellent tool to get to Death. Imagine if you let me continue to operate how I do. Death will likely want to meet the man who is causing problems to be solved even more efficiently than before. He would likely want to reward such a ruthless woman.”

Famine looked at her, contemplating my musing. War’s head stayed upright and straight, but his eyes wandered, searching for his own answer. Pestilence was seething. He would most likely express his anger momentarily. The Eye was impossible to read. His mask covered all of his face, and he somehow managed to keep his eyes averted without it truly showing.

Famine spoke first, “I agree with your plan. I might not like, but it is for the greater good.”

War followed, “This feeling of distrust amongst my own friend is new and terrifying. I need to trust this feeling. You will guide us toward this goal. I agree with your plan.”

Pestilence shook his head before speaking in a terse tone, “I disagree. If we let her continue to kill families, we are no better than men we wish to fight. I refuse to let him do anything like that ever again!” War and Famine nodded, but didn’t truly acknowledge what he said.

“You have a point,” Famine said, “But so do we. Our two votes overrule-”

“What about the vote of Death?” The Eye had decided to speak up. I took my last sip of tea, set my cup aside, then stood up from the couch. I walked toward the eye while I spoke.

“If you know what’s good for you, you won’t tell death about this plan. Ramirez.” The Eye stepped backward. “I know who you are. Now, so do the horsemen. You’d be better off with your mouth closed. Go. Tell Death everything that happened before we began to conspire against him. Your services are no longer needed. And, by all technicalities, neither is your life.” Now, I could see fear in his eyes.

“Yes- sir- ma’am- uh-” Ramirez stuttered. He stumbled away from me, and bumped into the door. He quickly rushed out of it, and slammed it behind him.

“So you see, I’m off to a good start on the no-killing rule. He won’t be a problem.” The horsemen looked at each other. Pestilence sighed.

“Fine,” Pestilence muttered, “He can stay. But you two better keep her in line!” He angrily stepped  past us, his chunky body jiggling lightly. I moved aside and let him leave.

“Well, that seems to be resolved. Is there anything else you two would like me to know?” War and Famine looked at each other.

“No, Ren, that will be fine,” Famine informed me. War looked away from both of us. “Feel free to head home. I’ll clean up your tea.” I nodded at Famine, then left her house.

I forced myself through the thinning rain, marching to my home. I was rising in rank already, and becoming a focal point for this group, and I’ve only been here for three days. I’m impressing myself more and more everyday.

Next Chapter

10 – Execution

9 – It’s a Date

“Hey Holland. You know where you are.” Holland looked around. It was useless, however, as he was blindfolded.

“Yeah, I remember. I’ve been waiting for an executioner. Is that you?” Holland let his head hang.

“Yes. I’m here to execute you.” Holland laughed.

“Great. Let’s do it then.”

“Hold on,” I gently pulled Holland’s face upward, “We aren’t done here. I have some questions about the four horsemen.” Holland shook his head. My hand sat beneath his chin.

“I’ve already said everything. It wasn’t me.” Holland made no effort to fight me. “Just shoot me already.”

“I know that. You are telling the truth.” I couldn’t see his eyes, but I’d be willing to bet they lit up under the blindfold.

“Does that mean you are going to try and get me out of here?” I slipped my hand out from under Holland’s chin. “No, that isn’t what it means.”

Holland looked confused. “Then why even mention it?”

“Hmm. That’s a loaded question. Do you know much about the horsemen of the apocalypse?” Holland shook his head. “Well, there are four. Clearly. It was said in the Bible that when these four horsemen-” I pressed my revolver to his head- “step onto earth, they will bring the end of the world. The first horseman was-” I pulled the trigger, and there was a click- “Famine.”

Holland sighed. “I’m going to have to hear all of this, aren’t I? Fine. Carry your lesson on.”

I shrugged, mostly for my own sake. “The second horseman was Pestilence. That means that the cities would be flooded with rats, cockroaches, and other such things. It can change with the region.” I pulled the trigger again. The second click rung out.

“I think I’ve figured out who you are. Fifteen. There was always something off about you. Oh well. I guess I’ll call figuring that out one more victory before my death.

“Very observant. It almost makes me regret framing you.” Holland perked up at hearing that.

“You framed me? You know this is recorded, right?” I laughed.

“You know it is very easy to tamper with recordings, right? We turned off the recorder already. According to official records, I’ve already shot you. Right after you told me to, I obliged. Nothing I say matters right now.” Holland grunted with rage, and struggled against his bonds. Then he sighed, and loosened all of his muscles.

“Why are you doing this?”

I laughed again. “I hate you, Holland.”

He gasped. “You know my name? How?”

“You were never very secure. In fact, I got all of the information to your police account eight days into the job. You left the information on a sticky note in your locker, which you also never lock. Also, changing your combination to one digit three times in a row isn’t very secure.”

Holland sighed while he shook his head, just to spice up his motions a little bit. “Great. I’m careless. Is that why you hate me? Fine, I’m a little headstrong if I had the balls to assume no one would go against me. Is that any reason to hate me?” I snickered at him. He really was oblivious to himself.

“That is exactly it. You thought that everyone would just like you, without question. You thought that everyone would just listen to you without a qualm, and held yourself above everyone else. You convinced yourself that the only reason you haven’t been promoted is because you are too efficient in the field. You thought that you would become some sort of hero by joining the force. You figured you would just make your way to fame by doing something ‘good.’ It’s laughable, really.” Holland sighed.

“Fine. Let’s just get on with the history lesson.”

“Okay. I can do that.” I patted Holland’s head. “The third horseman was War.” I pulled the trigger again. Again, the trigger held no bullet. “That leaves us with one last horseman. Do you have any ideas as to who that is?” Holland shook his head. “Why don’t you make a guess?”

Holland thought for a second. “I don’t know. Poverty?” I chuckled. “That’s a pretty good guess. But you are wrong.”

Holland sighed. “Who is it, Fifteen?”

I smiled. “Death.” I pulled the trigger, and Holland’s head was diminished to a mark on the wall in front of me. I spit on his corpse. “Good riddance.”

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