“What do Protectors do?”
His eyes jerked open to see his predecessor standing in his face. Daniel knew where he was, but it didn’t make any sense. This particular event happened twenty-two years ago. Somehow, he was reliving his first day as a Collector. “A Protector is responsible for putting down all the crime in Cincington and saving its citizens from harm,” his younger self said.
His predecessor, William James, launched into the history of the town. He spoke about how it used to be two separate towns, in two different states, with a river in between them. That river dried up many years before Daniel was born and the two cities became one. It was then divided up into five sections: Northside, Westside, Eastside, Southside, and Central. He remembered thinking that the section names were the most unoriginal names he’d ever heard. At least they were practical, though.
Like originality, the concept of states was no longer around in his time either. There were no United States anymore. It was just America.
When he had lived through this the first time, he had been enthralled. He couldn’t believe that he was getting a history lesson from a Protector. Daniel had still been ecstatic that he had been chosen for the Collector Program at the time. Now, he was just bored. Why was he brought back to this particular point in time? Ugh, he thought, it’s like those flashbacks in movies that serve no purpose other than to give some backstory.
“All of the changes that have happened over the last century,” William droned on, “can all be traced back to one single event. What event was that?” Daniel had known the answer, but he was so hyped up and nervous about being in the same room as one of his heroes that he remained silent. “The creation of Loexen’s first working prototype of the laser weapon,” the exasperated Protector answered his own question.
Loexen Corporation was a government owned company that had come up with the original laser weapon. With that, as William said, the world changed, almost overnight.
The government put all its efforts into finishing the project. All other projects were put on hold, and ultimately forgotten, to make sure that America was the first to perfect the laser weapon. Once they had accomplished that, their goal was to do whatever they could to keep the rest of the world from learning the secret. Every resource that the government had was put into the development and improvement of the laser weapons. All automotive, communication, and medical advancement became nonexistent because every American tech company turned their attention to the laser weapons. Daniel shook his head when he thought about how the people who lived a hundred years ago had basically the same cell phone that he did.
He blinked and found that he had jumped a little forward in time. Not much, just an hour or so. William and Daniel were no longer in the classroom. They were in the training facility. “Show me what you got,” William instructed.
Daniel had been cocky back then. He’d had a rough childhood and had been in many fights. When he was chosen to be a Collector, he thought that because of his upbringing, he was already a good fighter. William was about to prove him wrong. Daniel took one step forward and that was all he knew before he blacked out.
A pounding in his head woke him up. Daring to open his eyes, he saw that he was back in the present. He was laying face down on the street. Twisting his body so that he was on his back, he saw that the entire top level of the parking garage was in flames. Daniel knew he should get up. It might not be long before whoever that figure was attacked him again. But, he couldn’t help but think that he now knew why he had dreamt about that particular day.
“It was the last time I got knocked out,” he muttered to himself.
Calrian had run up behind him. As much as he wanted to have a long rational conversation with the young man, to give his body a chance to rest, he didn’t have time. “How long was I out?” Daniel demanded.
“A couple of seconds,” Calrian replied. “Why?”
“It was the longest and most boring couple of seconds in my life.” The Collector looked at him strangely, but he ignored it. “If you haven’t already, call the Fire Squad in to take care of that mess.”
“I, uh… I already, uh… have.”
The stuttering, and the fact that Calrian kept looking up at the top of his head, clued Daniel in that something was wrong. Daniel lifted his hands up and found that his hair, the hair he had been growing for months now, was gone. “No,” he said in disbelief. “Oh God, no.”
“What?” Calrian asked confused.
Daniel dropped to his knees, lifted his fists high in the air, and yelled until his lungs hurt. “No!”
When he was finished, the still confused Calrian asked again, “What’s the big deal? You normally wear your hair short anyway.”
Daniel shook his head. “Tatiana was the one who wanted me to grow my hair out.”
“Oh.” Calrian paused for a moment in thought. “Never mind. Go back to screaming.”
“It’s too late for that now. No, now I’m pissed.”
Daniel got up and started stomping his way back to the parking garage. “What are you going to do?” Calrian questioned.
“Find that guy and kill him.”
“Do you not see the raging inferno up there? He’s probably burnt to a crisp by now.”
“Then I’ll just have to kick his ashes.”
“Please tell me that you did not just say that.”
Daniel ignored him. Someone did something that was going to make him disappoint his daughter, and that would not be tolerated. Besides, he didn’t think that the man who threw the fire bomb was gone. The man certainly seemed like the type of guy who might sacrifice himself for his cause, but he didn’t think that’s what happened. Something about the strange feeling that he got when he looked at the man made him think that the fire bomber survived.
Daniel didn’t plan on letting him stay alive for much longer.
He quickly climbed to the top of the parking garage again. Just as he suspected, the fire bomber was waiting for him when he got back up there, standing in the middle of the flames. Daniel wanted to rush forward and attack the man, but doing so would only get him burnt. The serum they gave him to make him a Protector, which gave him enhanced strength, speed, and durability, did not make him impervious to flames. Somehow, the man was.
“You survived,” the man laughed. “That is good. I was hoping that you would be a challenge.”
“You won’t be laughing for long, flame boy.”
Daniel ripped a chunk of concrete from the wall and threw it at the man. All the man did was put his hands up, although Daniel suspected that he could have dodged it if the man wanted to. The concrete hit the man and erupted into a shower of smaller pieces. The man flew backwards and landed outside the circle of flames. This was his chance. Daniel jumped over top of the fire and lined himself up to land with his knees driving down on top of the man’s chest.
It was time to end this.