Patrol Report, recorded by whisper-mike. 2100 hours, March 22. Foundry City, Grid 81, Rodham Area. Working as Starlight.
Every few weeks, I sweep Rodham block – Foundry City’s Crime Alley – and clear it out like a new broom. This could be tricky. Rodham block and I have a long-standing feud, ever since I trapped the city’s foremost mob boss on a crime scene… and called the cops. And the Rodham block does not like to lose. I’ll have to be on my guard. Have to hope Daniel isn’t working on the block – running him in after a day like today would be more than I could handle.
Mother’s latest boyfriend called. Left a message: Mother wants the bracelet back, the one she gave me when my powers began to manifest. No ‘sends her love’. No ‘sorry’. Just ‘give it back’. So it is with bitterness on one shoulder and dread on the other that I set out. Inauspicious.
Tonight is no different to any other: there is the street ablaze with neon light, and I stalk down the sky like a celestial cat, above it all, only going down to the level of the streets when my duty demands it. A fitting metaphor for my life. As usual, tonight there are the pathetic streetwalkers, who need help more than they deserve arrest. I’ll cuff the panderers to railings without one instant’s hesitation, but I work on the basis that the girls’ lives are hard enough already. I don’t carry handcuffs. I summon them out of thin air and order them to remain extant until the police arrive.
Oh, lovely. A robbery in the next street. Like my name, in a twinkle of shimmering silver-lined cape, I cross the rooftops and drop to the pavement, my boots making barely a silken whisper as I land. How I do love to be silent. Until the dirty little pawnshop that is the crime scene is crisply hedged by walls of crystallized air, I barely breathe. But when that is done, I permit myself to cough demurely.
“Gentlemen. Shall we call this a warning, or have we met before?”
One of them pulls a gun, and I sigh. My working clothes are bulletproof in all vital points, just in case I have to be thinking about something else when I get shot at. However, in this case, I find it simpler to liquefy the revolver the robber points at me, and watch the gunmetal drip down the storm drain, safely out of the way. I don’t bother to liquefy, sublime, or otherwise remove the stockings the robbers have pulled over their heads: I’ve been long enough in the business that now, to me, a mask is sacred. You don’t touch someone else’s mask. Ever.
It’s a ratty little hole of a pawnshop, but it’s someone’s livelihood, I guess. More of a typical Rodham block livelihood than I’d thought, I realize as one of the thieves hurls a ring tray at my head, and sparkling diamonds fly through the air, along with a dozen little plastic packets of white crystals. Meth. Again. Every night, I see the effects of drugs on society, on individuals, and I have come to hate drugs. I don’t kill; that’s not the way the community does things, but if I did, the pushers would be the first to the morgue.
I’m about to decide that the pawnbroker can look after his own rotten drug-riddled store, when something about one of the robbers strikes a chord in the back of my memory.
“Daniel!” I scream at him. “Damn you, can’t you just stay out of my way?” It’s just so difficult running into him night after night. My evening has barely started, and suddenly it all gets much worse.
There’s another metahuman somewhere about. I can’t see him, but I can hear him breathing just beside me. And he breathes so loudly I could aim with one of my throwing stars and hit him at ten paces. By the height at which the breathing stands, I even think I know who it is.
“Go home, Gypsy,” I sigh. “You’ve got a cold, they can hear you on Olympus.”
No reply, but the parcels of meth collect themselves tidily into a pile by the store wall. To my disgust, I can even see fingerprints appearing on the plastic. Glancing down at my own highly serviceable black tactical gloves, I reach a decision.
“Daniel, go away. Daniel’s friends, stay.” I order the air to form a box around them. “And invisibility over by the wall, you can reappear, stat. I wasn’t given notice of anyone else working on my beat tonight, I want to know who you are.” He doesn’t, of course, just slopes off, leaving damp Converse sole prints on the sidewalk. Small feet. Short stride: a girl or a kid, but either way just an amateur.
By now Daniel is gone, and I watch him pass under the only unbroken streetlamp in the block, and out of sight. Then the unthinkable happens.
Sarpedon lets me down.
I know I’ve been fading for a few months now, but that’s always just made it harder to do the changes; it hasn’t dissolved one before I was ready. Now I’ve got two armed robbers in a fast-melting containment, and I never carry a gun at work. If I push the panic signal, I can get a couple of the community’s fliers down in half an hour, but that will be too late, and the signal’s meant to be saved for Big Bad situations – supervillains.
I’m definitely getting onto Rhadamanthus after this: Sarpedon’s brother, the patron of justice. Considering what I want the powers for, he might even give them to me without laying the obligatory balancing curse. Greek demigods don’t like to give people stuff. You have to be real specific what you ask for.
Not that that alters the current situation. And then I see the girl. She’s standing on the other side of the street, vivid red hair flaming in the dark, smile like a magnesium flare.
“Can I help?” she calls to me.
Crossing the street, she moves her hands strangely, and a jet of flame dances over the sidewalk. “I’ll hold the perps for you. They won’t go anywhere.”
I’m hotlined to the Foundry City Police Department, and the squad car arrives in a few minutes. The weird girl only has to scorch the cement a little to convince the robbers to stay put.
“I’m… Phoenix King,” she tells me eagerly once the police are gone.
“That’s lousy. Work on it,” I snap back. “And stay off the streets at night, kid, this is a bad neighborhood.”
Another voice whispers out of the darkness, and it is some few seconds before I notice that it is whispering inside my head. “Why did you let the first one go?” it enquires mildly.
If it can talk to my mind, I assume the voice can listen too. Because I did not need to detain him, I think as loudly as I can, effectively drowning out the real reason. I’ve worked with telepaths in the past, but most have the manners to ask permission before listening to other metas’ mindwaves.
“I have to carry on with my patrol,” I inform the human flamethrower coolly. “I’d prefer it if you didn’t tag along.” She does anyway, following doggedly although the powers glitch resolves itself and I stalk along the sky again. The invisible girl wanders along beneath me, leaving occasional footprints – appalling fieldcraft – and the telepath keeps popping up with questions I really don’t want to answer. Oh, and somebody’s twisted the time-scheme of the whole block, slowed it down in some areas, sped it up in others.
It’s going to be a very long night.