Trenches

Alright, I’ll admit it. I have no idea what I’m doing here. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the cause. I made my sign myself after a late night craft store run. The cashier was so funny, asking if we had a project for school.
“No, ma’am, we’re actively participating in our democracy.”
That had been my best friend’s flippant response. I’d seen this kind of thing on TV and I was scared. They kept saying it would be fine though. Somehow, I don’t think they really understood.

Now, I was trying not to cry as I heard shouting and loud bangs that sounded a lot like explosives to my ears. That was when he appeared out of the smoke. A tall man with dark hair cut military short. He was wearing wraparound shades that obscured his eyes, a bandanna over the lower half of his face, and a tight t-shirt with a Spartan logo on it. He grabbed my arm and hauled me up.
“Come on, kid. How’re you doing?”
I tried to speak and started coughing. He cursed in a language I didn’t understand and handed me a bottle and a bandanna.
“Swish and spit. Wet the bandanna and hold it over your mouth. Got me, kid?”
I nodded once, uncertain. We both heard the sound that caught his attention then. It was like a loud pop and then something hissing. I didn’t think, I just moved. Doing as he’d told me, I kept the bandanna over my mouth as I stayed low hoping this stuff worked like smoke. He grabbed my arm and pointed, making signs I’d never seen. I could follow it though. Grab the woman near us and follow him.
He led us up a side street where there were a few people working on a sort of street triage. He nodded to them, clearly knowing each and every one of them. My eyes were burning and tears streamed down my face. The woman we’d helped out was worse off though. Another woman grabbed a bottle of something and was talking quietly to her, saying she was here to help. Not to worry a bit.
When my eyes were clear, I started helping. He coached me, teaching me things I never thought I would learn. I learned more about how medicine really works than I ever had before. And not gentle, kind, sterile medicine. This was rough and we could only do our best. Sometimes, I wondered what he was doing here. He was a soldier. He had to be. But he just laughed and said he fought in these trenches now, in this new kind of war for liberty. If he was a general, I think I would follow him to the ends of the earth.
“Come on, kid. You and me, we’ve got more people to help.”

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Hunters

“Have you ever noticed,” he started, leaning forward on the bench to light his cigarette. “This shit never starts on a normal night. No one ever says ‘oh, it was a quiet evening when all them corpses came shooting up out the ground.’ No, sir. It’s always a dark and stormy night when the dogs are howling and lightning cracks the sky.”
I leaned back, trying to ignore the smoke. Mack was my senior partner. I couldn’t exactly tell him to cut it out. The smokes or the tales. He was like that. It was why he kept getting stuck with the newest guard walking a beat. None of the folks with seniority would take him. Of course, it didn’t help that his last partner had ended up throat-cut and left in a ditch. Not that anyone blamed Mack. That’s just what you did when your partner turned into a soul-sucker. Me? I wasn’t going to get turned, and I wasn’t going to ditch Mack for a desk or a partner with less odd in them. He was one of the best at getting results in a job where most of us died or got turned. He tapped the top of the silver stake holstered at his side and I wondered briefly just how many soul-suckers he’d gotten with that thing. Or how many soulless he’d taken out with the axe holstered on his other side.
Those were our normal kit. A silver stake for the soul-suckers, a steel axe for the soulless, and zip cords for the thralls. They weren’t strong enough to require more than that. Add on light armor to cover all the major arteries and we were pretty well equipped for the job.
“When it starts, sure, but it happens all the time. Any night and sometimes during the day, if it’s dark enough.”
“Aye. Them damn tunnels. And whoever thought traveling underground was safe? Too close to the devils down in Hell.”
Sunlight stopped soul-suckers, but artificial lights did nothing. Didn’t even annoy them, more’s the pity. Standing, Mack took a long drag on his cigarette and turned to look at me.
“Come on, kid. We’ve got a tunnel on this patrol and I’m keen to give it the monthly clear-out before we find out we’ve got ourselves a breeding den or some such.”

The Justicar

Commander Cold looked up, eyes narrowing behind the visor of his suit as he saw the tell-tale blue and gold of the hero before him.
“It can’t be…I killed you.”
Justicar dropped off the ledge to land just in front of him, fist on the pavement. The hero stood, ice eyes boring into the villain.
“No, you shit-stain, you killed my twin brother. Lucky for me and not for you, we have the same powers and he had a backup suit.” Her voice was lighter than Justicar’s but the same strength and confidence was there as she grabbed Commander Cold and slammed him against the wall. “And you’ve earned yourself a one-way ticket to Pound Town.”
With one hand, she unbuckled her helmet and let it fall to reveal a decidedly softer face than the one Commander Cold had seen on the Justicar when the hero had been bleeding out on the floor of his base.

“I’ll tell them. I’ll tell every one of them that you aren’t Justicar.”
“They won’t believe you.”
Leaning down, she scooped her helmet back up and pulled it back on. She adjusted her helmet, getting the chin strap back into its proper place and when she spoke again, it was her brother’s voice they heard.
“Because as far as everyone’s concerned, I am my brother. And you killed Justicar’s civilian sister. Naughty naughty, Commander.”

“But just to be sure, before I drop you off with the police, who am I, Commander?”
She slammed him against the wall again, as hard as she could.
“J-Justicar.”
“You don’t sound confident in your answer.”
Again. And again. His visor cracked.
“Justicar! You’re the Justicar!”
“Good boy. Now come on, let’s go drop you off for lock-up.”

Justicar dropped out of the sky, unceremoniously dropping Commander Cold on the stones of the front steps of the police station.
“Officer, I need someone to take this man into custody.”
“Of course, Justicar. I’ve got him.”
“What should we put down for his crime?”
The Commissioner stepped forward and Justicar looked down, hands tight-fisted.
“Murder, Commissioner. This piece of shit killed my sister. I don’t know how he found out about her, but he did.”
“Don’t worry, Justicar. We’ll make sure he’s…taken care of.”
“Thank you, old friend.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“So am I.”

The Justicar showed for the funeral in costume, eschewing his secret identity entirely in that moment. It was a closed casket funeral since Commander Cold hadn’t left his sister in a state to be seen. At least, that was what the Justicar told everyone. He kept his helmet on through the whole ceremony, not even undoing the chin strap. There were some who said that they saw tears on the face on the stalwart hero of the common man, but there are others who never believed it.