The remainder of February passed by without any major incident; my dad went back to work, my mom had quickly adapted to Kenzie and I’s new routine and was supportive of our relationship, my mom and I began trying to reconnect. Kenzie and I would sleep at my place one day, at the lounge another and then have a break day on the third, rinse lather repeat. On those off day, I’d spend many of them with Chuan, who’d reintroduced me to videogames. All and all, everything was normal, quiet and beautiful.
Until the first tuesday of march. Kenzie and I were going to get changed for the daily training when Molecular intercepted us, wearing his full costume.
“Kenzie, we need you in gear, there’s a situation on the docks. We think it’s the NSBz and the Heishou.”
The NSBz, short for North side boyz, were a gang that had formed in recent years, they hadn’t been noteworthy until they’d acquired high tech tinkerer built weapons. Heishou Dang as they called themselves were another gang, mostly made up of chinese guys, although they had expanded to include other asian minorities to compete with local gangs.
“What about me?” I asked.
“Sorry Paige, but you’re not allowed to participate in this one, this is a serious case of gang warfare. You’re on your own tonight; Kickback won’t be there tonight, She’s not feeling well, and the other guardians are required to answer the emergency.”
I gave a hug to Kenzie and wished her good luck. They left me there alone to figure out what to do. I could have taken the evening off by myself, the young guardians were busy and my chaperone was out of commission.
I considered it, but I didn’t.
Instead, I went through the whole training regiment by myself, doing every exercise on the book. Just like Kickback had me do during the daily training; in multiple sets and I scaled up some easier exercises. When that was done, I timed myself on the mile long run.
When that was done, I went for a round with the punching bag, trying to correct my stance and remember the different punches Chuan had taught me.
My solo training was interrupted as I was practicing my shooting skills with a handgun. I still wasn’t too terribly good at it, but there was a marked improvement from when I had started.
I turned around and saw Kickback, she was in costume and leaning against the door.
“Hey M’am! Are you feeling better? Molecular told me you were unwell.”
“My migraine is mostly gone. It’s good to see you hard at work,” she said, “I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.”
“Since you weren’t there, I wasn’t sure what to do until I remembered something you said a long time ago.”
“What was it?”
“That if the young guardians didn’t have the discipline to train unsupervised, they didn’t deserve to be called that.” As I spoke, I unloaded the gun, set the safety and went to store it back into the cabinet along with the unused ammunition in a separate box. Just like she’d taught me.
“Alright, go wash up, then gear up and come to the entrance, I’ll be waiting for you.”
She put a hand on my shoulder, smiling and looking proud.
“Your diligence deserves to be rewarded at least this once; I’m taking you out on your first patrol. You’ve earned it.” Her words brought a mix of excitement and anxiety in my heart. She was giving me an opportunity to prove myself.
I went upstairs and showered quickly. Drying my hair with a drier rather than let it air dry like I normally did. When I was done, I rushed downstairs and put on my costume and tied my hair in a bun before checking that every bit of equipment was in the correct place.
Kickback was waiting for me in the lobby.
“Wait.” Kickback said. “Before we go, give me your taser and pepper spray.”
I did, taking them out of my utility belt. She took them and set them down on the reception counter. “Sandy, please have those put back in Shell’s section of the ready room.”
“Why?” I asked.
“You’re not certified to wield dangerous weapons yet. We had an oversight against the rogues but we simply can’t let an unqualified agent handle weapons that will possibly be used against civilians, even if they are less than lethal.”
That left me with nothing but my fist. Brawler rating or not, it made me feel naked not to have anything to fall back on.
“So what exactly does patrolling entail?” I asked as she started walking down the stairs.
“For the most part, it means we’re going to hit the street and wait for a 911 call to respond to. And when we do, we have to arrest suspects, in good condition.”
We went down into the garage and in one of the corner was a large motorcycle which she went toward. She gave me one of the helmet set on the seat.
“I hope you’re not afraid of bikes.” She got on and I climbed on the back. She told me to keep my feet on the peg at all time and put my hands on at her waist. “Ready for this?” It was a good thing we had commlinks or talking would have been hard.
We drove out of the garage and I clung to her tighter than I’d ever held onto anything. I rarely ever rode in cars or other transport beyond the car that calmly took me back and forth between school, HQ and home and that was still fairly recent. Riding a motorcycle was terrifying to me.
After a few blocks, I calmed down and my grip on Kickback loosened up a bit, letting me take in the experience. We went around for a while until Kickback pulled over at a gas station.
“Let’s fill her up and get something to eat. This could be a long evening.” She said, parking at a gas station paired with a convenience store and gave me some cash from her belt pocket. They didn’t have much to eat, but they did have warm taquitos left for god knows how long on the hotplate; Delicious, cheap and with enough fat they left a greasy glow on my glove even through their paper wrapping.
It was a good thing I had a fitted domino mask underneath my regular mask, it meant I could eat without hiding in a dark corner. Now, domino masks weren’t that good for concealing anything but I was a nondescript average looking white girl without any distinctive traits, not exactly something that was hard to find.
After a minute or two, a pair of teens walked closer, looking a little nervous. “Hey, you’re that new Guardian.” One of them said, a girl about my age with noticeable but very cute little freckles. The other, a rather average looking boy, held her hand, which I interpreted as meaning they were together.
“Yeah. I’m Shell.” I said, giving them a smile and offering my clean gloved hand to shake.
“So, like what are you doing here?” The boy said.
“This is my first patrol, I’m just waiting on instruction from Kickback. She’s inside paying for gas.”
“Cool, say would you mind signing an autograph?” The girl asked, her expression being one step away from a pleading sad puppy-dog face. "If it doesn't bother you too much that is..."
“Sure, it's not bother at all.” I answered with a smile. “This is my first time, anything you want me to write?” I fumbled around until I found the pen hidden inside of my utility belt.
“Thank you! Eh... Anything is fine, really. I’m Jacklyn by the way.”
“Well, it's nice to meet you Jacklyn.” I almost told her my name, force of habit was a dangerous thing.
I agonized to a second as to what to write, settling for a simple ‘Stay Safe, Jacklyn.’ and signing my cape name. It was probably really lame, but it was all I could think of.
“Thanks.” She said, taking her pad back. She looked genuinely happy, smiling and holding her pad with both hands close to her chest. “You know, you were pretty brave in that fight against BWL.”
“Thanks, I just wish it had involved a little less of me being tossed around. I’m surprised I didn’t break anything; I was blue all over for a week.”
“Shell.” Kickback called me out as she walked out of the station. “We’ve got a job on the radio.”
“Coming!” I yelled back, taking one last bite of my taquito. “I’m sorry, but I gotta go.” I said, my mouth half full.
“Good luck!” The girl said.
I ran to the motorcycle, and threw away my unfinished food.
“Burglary in progress. Three confirmed suspects armed with handguns. You think we can handle it?”
I put my helmet back on and she drove away at top speed, anticipation building within my guts. I was going to stop my first real crime; I would be a real hero.