The laser beam shot right past his head. If he hadn’t ducked, it would have hit him right in the mouth. A laser beam to the face was not a sensation that he particularly wanted to experience. Something else he didn’t want to experience was the smell of burning hair, but for some reason he was. Wait, he stopped himself, why am I smelling burning hair?
He reached back behind his head and had a clump of his long red ponytail come off in his hand. “Oh, come on,” he shouted at the shooter. “Do you know how long it took me to grow that?” Then he thought of his daughter. “Tatiana is going to be pissed,” he mumbled.
It was rare that he ever resorted to using his own laser weapon, but this criminal had angered him. His daughter was going to kill him when he got home, so he was going to return the favor.
Daniel Carter leapt from behind the car he had been using as cover. He looked on as the criminal’s eyes went wide when he saw Daniel’s jump take him completely over top of the car by at least ten feet. He watched as the criminal’s eyes went even wider when the laser beam he had fired hit the criminal square in the chest. Most laser weapons wouldn’t penetrate the bonded metallic alloy armor that the criminal was wearing. As a Protector, however, Daniel had access to all of the best equipment.
The laser beam fired from Daniel’s weapon went right through the armor’s chest plate and out of the back plate, super heating the criminal’s insides as it went. By the time Daniel landed, the laser beam had hit an abandoned car in the background and caused its battery to erupt. All around him, the criminal’s cohorts scurried away. “It’s a Protector,” one of them shouted. “Run!”
Daniel smiled. He loved that reaction. “Don’t run away, guys,” he cried. “I just want to play!”
He was slightly disappointed when that didn’t stop them. Putting his laser weapon back in its holster, he sprinted after the closest one. It was hard to tell through the armor, but he thought that this particular criminal was female. Not that it mattered to him. Anyone who broke the law would be dealt with the same way.
It didn’t take long for him to catch up to her. When he did, he slowed to match her pace, lifted her up with one arm, and tossed her twenty feet backwards. Damn, he thought to himself, I used to be able to throw people at least twice that far. He was getting old. Soon, he wouldn’t be able to pick people up at all. That day was still a year away, though. For now, he’d enjoy it while he could.
Daniel glanced over his shoulder and saw that his Collector, Calrian Grusso, was moving to secure the woman he had thrown. Calrian’s workload had grown as Daniel’s skills had diminished, but to Calrian’s credit, he never complained. The Collector walked the extra twenty feet to put the electrocuffs on the female criminal. A few of her braver compatriots tried to help her out by taking shots at Calrian, but he calmly walked through the erratic shots while returning fire of his own with practiced ease.
Knowing that Calrian could take care of himself, Daniel began focusing on the ones who were trying to escape from him. Two long jumps put him next to another of the criminals. Before he could react, Daniel lifted him up and threw him at another of the criminals, who was taking shots at Calrian. He was aiming for the shooter’s chest, but hit his legs instead. Even from across the street he could hear the shooter’s leg bone snap. There wasn’t time to dwell on it, because he had to move on to the next one.
With his combination of speed and jumping ability, Daniel made short work of the remaining criminals. The last few smartly gave up before feeling the Protector’s wrath. Daniel didn’t have any electrocuffs on him, so he had to wait on Calrian to make his way through the ten people he had taken down. As he was waiting, he picked up the last one who had fought back against him. “Who are you selling these laser weapons to?” Daniel demanded.
“It’s too late,” the man murmured in fear.
“No, it’s not,” Daniel tried to reassure him. “If you cooperate with me now, they’ll only play hockey with one of your balls.”
“He’s going to get me.”
“Who’s going to get you?” When no answer was given, he pulled the man closer so their faces were almost touching. “If I were you,” Daniel snarled, “I’d be more worried about what I’m going to do to you instead of worrying about what your gang leader will do to you once he finds you.”
“He’s already found me.”
Daniel followed the man’s eyes until he saw a figure standing atop the parking garage behind him. “You cannot stop it, Protector,” the figure shouted.
“Anyone we know?”
Daniel turned towards the sound of the question and saw Calrian walking up to him. He dropped the criminal he was holding at the Collector’s feet. Without the man in his hand to distract him, Daniel took a harder look at the figure on top of the parking garage. Even with his enhanced vision, the figure was too far away to be seen clearly. What little he was able to make out was unfamiliar to him, though.
“No,” he answered. “I don’t recognize any of them. They must be new to Southside.”
“Oh good. New neighbors. ”
“That is good, Calrian. Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy inside when we make new friends.”
“Whatever. Go up there and bring your new friend down here so we can go home.”
Calrian had a tendency to be impatient, which Daniel attributed to the Collector only being eighteen years old. He couldn’t remember ever meeting a patient teenager in his life. Then again, he was never patient as a teenager either. That didn’t matter at the moment, however, and now that Calrian had taken custody of the last prisoner, he could now go have a chat with his parking garage pal.
He jumped across the street and landed at the base of the garage. With one leap per level, Daniel scaled the building until he was at the top of the five story structure. When he landed on the last level, he got his first good look at the figure who was there. The look left him confused.
What he was looking at wasn’t a man that should induce the level of fear the other criminal had shown. It wasn’t someone who could get away with threatening a Protector. In fact, the only way that Daniel could think of to describe the man was remarkably unremarkable. Although, the longer he looked at the figure, the more he got the feeling that something was odd about his appearance, but Daniel couldn’t pinpoint what it was.
“You cannot stop it, Protector,” the figure said again.
“I’m pretty sure I already have,” Daniel quipped. “If you look down there, you can see all your buddies that were rounded up by my Collector.”
“You can have those weapons and people. They are not important.”
Something felt off to him. Something wasn’t right. Daniel played along while his eyes started to look for a trap that he may have stumbled into. “Is that so?”
“They are not the endgame.” The figure pulled out a shiny marble about as big around as a quarter. It looked like a miniature ball of fire. “They are just the bait.”
As soon as he saw the marble, Daniel turned to jump away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the figure throw the marble at his own feet. He was four stories up still when he heard it hit the concrete. After that, he was surrounded by flames.