Hard Boiled – Episode One: A New Day 1.05

kavatarThe north-central Industrial District was one of the quietest places in Garrison after midnight. There wasn’t a lot of activity, not the legal kind at least. One gentleman was working late tonight, however… and it was actually one of his legitimate interests. He did this quite often… got a lot done after hours when there were no employees or meetings.

Still, there was one appointment on his calendar tonight. And even though he didn’t know about it, that appointment was only seconds away. Alfonse Begnini was sitting at his desk, drinking coffee and sorting import schedules, when he heard a knock… at his window! He turned around in his chair, then quickly rolled out of it onto the floor as two bodies, bound together with duct tape, came crashing through.

He was just about composed, getting ready to stand up, when a pair of black leather boots landed in front of his face. The man occupying those boots hovered above him. “This is no way to do business, Fonzy. I send you a message, you call a couple of guys in my patrol area and tell them to take me out, I send you a message, you call a couple of guys… see what I mean? I’m tired of playing ‘Thug Tag’.”

Begnini pushed himself back to his knees, and then stood. He felt a little weak in the legs, but he wasn’t going to show it… not to this costumed nutcase. “You think you scare me, suit? If you had something on me, you’d have used it by now. I’m just an innocent businessman, being harassed by a freak in a Hallow…”

Before he could get out the rest of his sentence, he was laying flat on his desk and the back of his head ached from where it slammed against the mahogany. The vigilante’s hand was on his chest, holding him in place, and his face was close enough to Begnini’s that the mobster could feel the static bleeding off of the man’s skin.

“Halloween is still two weeks away. But what the hell, better early than late, right?” The green-clad man held his free hand next to Begnini’s head. The mobster could feel the heat of the electricity arcing across the vigilante’s glove. “You like being late, Fonzy? The late Alphonse Begnini… I like the sound of that.”

The mobster narrowed his eyes. He wasn’t used to being threatened. “If you wanted to kill me, you’d have done it already.” Just then, the door of Begnini’s office burst open and two bodyguards, dressed in suits, leveled guns toward the costumed man.

Begnini smiled. “Why don’t you come back when you’ve actually got a reason to?” The green-clad man scowled, slamming Alfonse’s head against the desk one more time. He pulled the mobster to his feet and backed up to the wall. Once he was in position, he tossed Begnini aside. “Shoot him!”

As the bodyguards adjusted their aim, Kardiac dropped to his knees, and placed his hand over the wall power outlet he’d made sure was nearby before tossing aside his hostage. With a quick flash, the lights in the building went black. Springing from his crouch, the vigilante flipped backward out of the window.

The thugs had interrupted his second patrol of the Warehouse District, so Kardiac decided to head back there and give it one last sweep. The fastest way was through the Lourds near Parkland South, and as much as he hated going there, it was getting late, and “Eddy” had an early meeting.

It wasn’t so much that he was afraid of the Lourds. Hell, Kardiac could take the worst the Lourds had to offer. It was the poverty… he just couldn’t stand to look at it knowing there was nothing he could do to change it. Kardiac didn’t do hopeless very well, and the Lourds made him feel utterly useless. It would take an army of heroes to make the Lourds safe at night.

He was thinking about that, standing on the roof of one of the endless run-down tenements of the Lourds, when he saw her. She was too far away to get a good look, but there was no mistaking one thing about her appearance: she didn’t belong here. The clothes, the hair, the gleaming cleanliness… not to mention the walk. This lady might as well have been carrying a sign that said “Uptown”.

Any guess that she was lost was confirmed when she turned down a road that few Lourd natives would have the nerve to tread. The problem was, despite that, there always seemed to be somebody down that dark road… somebody a woman like that wouldn’t want to meet. With a deep sigh, the vigilante jumped to the next roof and took off at a run.

By the time he got to his fifth rooftop, he could hear the sounds of the alley. A man’s voice, then another… then a woman’s. He closed his eyes and listened… there were four heartbeats, and the woman’s was racing. Kardiac knew that sound… she was either having fun or absolutely terrified. He doubted she’d be having much fun.

Without another thought, he leapt off the roof, charged his feet, and ran down the grate of the fire escape. Electro-adhesion was one of his most useful, and most often necessary, tricks. He saw three men, all in beat-up street clothes, advancing on the woman, two were armed… one knife, one sword. A sword? Well, I’ll give him points for originality.

The one with the knife was too close… he’d reach her first. The woman was poised, looked like she was going to try to fight back, but Kardiac knew these streets… better to leave fighting to the professionals. He raised his left arm and snapped up his hand. A thin wire with a small hook on the business end shot out with a soft hiss. It connected to the back of knife-boy’s shirt.

Kardiac reached over with his right hand as he ran, grabbed the wire, and let loose. The charge ran down the length of the modified taser wire and sent the thug into convulsions. The charred cable fell to the ground in smoldering threads. I have got to get some stronger taser cable, he thought as he watched the ash settle.

The other two swung around to see their attacker. The unarmed one let the kid with the sword charge forward first. Kardiac smiled… he was hoping for that. Now let’s just hope that sword is the cheap replica I think it is. As the boy swung the sword low, the green-clad vigilante leapt straight up, thrusting his legs down on the blade. It was, in fact, as cheap as Kardiac thought, and snapped between the leather boots and the cracked asphalt.

Before the stunned kid could react, a quick punch to the throat, just below the adam’s apple, put him on the ground. Kardiac looked at the last kid, narrowing his eyes behind his goggles. Run, he thought, hoping the boy would get the message. He didn’t. Instead, he charged forward leading with his fist. Kardiac sidestepped, grabbed the would-be thug’s forearm, and twisted it. Then, using the arm as a lever and the punk’s speed against him, he swung the boy into a dumpster.

There was a loud clanging sound, followed by a thud as the boy hit the ground. Kardiac turned back to the woman. She looked remarkably calm, all things considered, but her heart-rate hadn’t changed… excellent poise-control. He didn’t walk towards her… he didn’t want to risk her running and getting further lost or worse.

“You look…” he choked on his words as she came into focus. He’d rescued a lot of people, a good number of them women, but never one like this. She had the look of Helen made flesh, the kind of woman that “Eddy” wouldn’t have the nerve to say word one to if he met her… not since Alex. Still, there was a degree of professionalism that came with this type of work, and “Eddy” wasn’t here. There was only a second’s pause before he managed to finish his sentence. “…lost.”

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