A Generation Born of Fathers

Broods.

Dreams of children, of a thousand tiny velvet feet dancing upon his back. Broad back, wide as a barn, fifty teams of children could vie at handball upon its smooth expanse. Clever-handed, his children, and deft. Eyes of oil. Builders, like their mother, he hopes.

Watches. City streets and highways like rivers of light. Currentless in the early hours. Speaks to his children, holds them close to his cheek, warms them with his turning blood. Astir in the sac, close to birthing, he sees faces, eyes, bodies, limbs rise to the meniscus. Traces their hands, their clever, many hands.

High crimes and misdemeanors. Murders and treason, betrayal and adultery: compassion, generosity, creation. Sings it to his children, all, all. Let them make their own. Take revenge, make love.

Stays. Watches. Broods. Plans a future yet to be, thread spooling out past his death, a legion of heroes grown fat and mighty on the thick meat of his heroic frame. Eyes milky, but strong enough. Let them eat and run; chance will sort the rest.

Letters of Marque and Reprisal

There isn’t anything much in the way of classes or certification or any of that; what would be the point? The Omsbudman certifies the prize and disburses the award and lets the coyotes worry about the unfit. Poor yellow dogs, they are always hungry.

It’s not a crowded field. Most are thieves and saboteurs, sneaking guns away and melting them down for iron. Small fry, a virtue of their inescapable invisibility; this should be his level.

Teeth and blood and scar tissue: the hungry ones whet themselves sharp on adrenaline and luxury and prowl Northwest and Grand looking for the idle and the dangerous. They are allowed no edged weapons, no deaths, no guns of any kind, no partnerships. Crime Alley survives, as does International, as embassies of violence, eruptions of the foreign, the invader: designated hunting grounds.

The Biker hates them, in their too-flash costumes and their bullet-proof skin. They build their houses beyond the city proper, in the hills and hoarded trees; his sympathies are all with the fox, never the hounds.

Mild-Mannered Reporter

It’s all a matter of legwork.

He files records requests, traces ownerships and chains of command, ambushes mid-level managers with a camera and a press pass, tails dealers with his camera hung discreetly at his side. He gets 10,000 words out of it, and there’s a wave of arrests that follow. There’s some talk he might be up for a Pulitzer; this is the third year in a row an article of his has shaken up the metropolitan underworld.

They set his place on fire while he’s asleep, for all the good it does. He walks out through the flames and puts his fist through the window of the car the hit squad is camped in. It’s a rare, glorious moment, the kind he never allows himself, and he savors the terror and the wonder written on their faces. This naked man, this burnished god licked clean by fire, glass and metal crumpled in his fists.

He follows after them lazily, 200 or so feet up, until they dump the car and go to ground. He makes a note of which warehouse they went into, and reminds himself to see what the City Clerk has on it in the morning.

Back at the apartment, the fire department wraps him in a blanket while he gives his report to the police. They want to take him to the hospital for observation, but the detective has a quiet word with the EMTs.

“Sorry about that, Clark,” he says. “New crew.”

“It’s okay,” Kent says. “Just doing their job.”

Lead Balloon

She knew how to fly which was great but she also knew because The Ombudsman had told her so that sooner or later it would wear off and if she was too high or going too fast well sorry Charlie but that was all so she didn’t fly very high or very fast. Flying wasn’t as much fun when you were only poking along at ten miles an hour or fifteen at the most because at that point you were getting passed by punks like the Biker on his dweeby six-speed. It was super-frustrating since she knew she could go faster if she wanted to. One time she put on a pair of goggles and a scuba tank and clocked herself at almost 300 miles an hour well 276 to be precise but she didn’t want to be too precise like the nerds who always knew what their SAT scores were because flying was way cooler than a high SAT score except maybe it wasn’t. Meaghan’s parents bought her a motorcycle when she got a 1500 on hers and a motorcycle was maybe cooler than flying especially if you couldn’t really fly.

She kept thinking that she’d just say screw it and go out and save people from burning buildings or maybe they’d need to get a bomb out of the city before it blew up but instead she wasn’t even on the Board and every time she nerved herself up to jump off the roof of the gym she thought what if this time it doesn’t work and she ended up a smear of road pizza and how everyone would pretend like they were sad at her funeral but really they’d be laughing because how stupid would you have to be to cack it like that so she didn’t. Jump off the roof, I mean. She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Instead she just flew to the mall and stupid places like that though one time she did get Jessica’s kid brother out of a tree and that was pretty sweet especially how impressed Jessica had looked so maybe someday she’d really show them something.

George Raft’s Spinning Coins

There were two clubs in the city, one over on 44th and the other one closer to downtown. They weren’t exactly the only clubs in the city, but if you just said “the club” and didn’t modify it beyond that everyone knew what you were talking about. The club on 44th street was a dingy hole in the wall affair, which suited the neighborhood fine. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood, not anymore, but you were more likely to see broken down jalopies parked on the curb than sedans. The club on 44th was open to anybody who wanted to walk in, though few did, and even fewer were allowed to become members. A guy named Rocky Fortune ran the joint and kept his eyes peeled for new talent.

The other club was in the middle of downtown, and was very exclusive. If you weren’t their kind of people, generally speaking you couldn’t even spot the place, though the signs were big enough and garish enough for anyone with the right kind of eyesight. Even assuming you could see the club for what it was, there was still the problem of getting inside. No stairs climbed the twenty stories to its unassuming front, and no door opened in either direction. If you belonged in the club, you knew how to get inside. If you somehow made it inside despite everything and couldn’t convince any of the bouncers that you maybe ought to be on the member rolls, out you’d go again, tied hand and foot and gagged, all the way down those twenty stories, generally bouncing once or twice off the pavement before settling down and spreading out.