He woke up to a knock on the door and for the first time, he knew immediately where he was. This daze and shock were finally leaving him. Outside waited Alvie. He put on clean clothes and without a word, stumbled out to the car with her.
“There are some people at the dojo now and I’m bored so I thought we could get a head start. How are you feeling?” she asked with a sweet smile as they headed down the empty road in the cool, cloud-scattered morning.
She reminded him of that teacher, Ms. Pedersen.
“I’m feeling pretty good, thank you. You?”
“Awesome! I’m excited to work with you; Mr. Menji says you’re a real hero.”
That’s what he’d wanted to hear his whole life. And though the path to get there wasn’t at all what he’d dreamt it would be, the title felt better than he’d imagined. He didn’t know how to respond; he didn’t want to. He let the moment linger but as he did, the feeling became more real, and with that reality came a terrible fear, so he tried to make it go away: “how many other students will be there?” he asked.
“Like 16, 17. We have multiple classes though. This is the highest-ranked division.”
“And I’m starting in it?”
“We need to push you. Mr. Menji said we don’t have that much time with you.”
“What did he tell you?”
“That you’ve got a lot of very serious work to do.”
“But he didn’t tell you what.”
They arrived and headed in; everyone was already there, sparring each other with all sorts of padding and gear on. They saw her and all stopped, bowed and sat cross legged on the wooden floor.
“This is Roy Lions, he’ll be joining us today. You all can continue.”
They stood, bowed to him and went back to sparring. Roy thought it was ridiculous.
“Okay so normally,” she started to him, “I’d have you go through all these belts and levels but really this is all based on reaction time, and knowing what to do in the split second between a dodge or block, and the next move. So I’ll have you spar with these guys to get into it.”
“But these are trained fighters; I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Well, take it slow and you’ll get it, I think.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah! There’s some padding over there.” She pointed to a corner where it was all stacked up. He fitted it all on and waited for someone who needed an opponent. One opened and he stepped up. The man bowed to him and got into a stance. Roy stared for a moment then threw a punch trying to end the awkward pause. Suddenly he was on the ground. He got back up and tried more thoughtfully this time, but with the same end-result. He got back up and tried even more thoughtfully.
He didn’t win any matches, but by the end of the day it took them a good few seconds to take him down instead of one instant.
The next morning Kell picked him up and they went out to the range just at dawn; it was raining lightly.
“So, you know how to shoot?”
“Just from video games.”
“Well, alright, that’s actually a genuine start, I’m sorry to say.”
“But I’m sure the real thing is much different.”
“Well the reflex and hand-eye coordination is pretty similar; just need to get used to it being the real thing, and adjust your muscle-memory and you should be well on your way. After that, simple practice will get you farther.”
“What are we shooting with?”
“AK-47’s; Menji says they’re the best, and the world seems to agree. They do the trick. I ‘adjust’ them to be fully-automatic as well, so watch out.”
“What does he want us to do with all this?”
“Menji and Pallister have been friends since before I knew of him. They’re both working to end the Cartel and we’re their point men.”
“Pallister has access to all these agents and SWAT Teams; what is he doing with us?”
“Well, since Menji’s not a part of the force, what he’s doing isn’t strictly legal.”
“Vigilante Justice, right. So why does he do it? Is someone after him, specifically?”
“Not at all. I used to have doubts myself, but, a year ago he left all his confidential files, money and estate to me in his Will: he wants us to continue this crime-fighting after his death.”
“Sure is. There are so few others like him these days.”
“Looks like he’s managed to find them.”
Kell chuckled, “looks like it.”
They got back at noon and Roy laid in bed, watching the rain out the window. He grabbed his two swords off the top of the dresser, set the larger on next to him and twirled the shorter one into the air, attempting to catch it on its way down. He caught it like an assassin’s dagger by instinct, in his left hand. He tried it a few times more, generally with the same result. Suddenly, Menji knocked and cracked the door open: “come out, I have something to show you.”
They went out to his front doorstep where a package lay, brought it inside, put it on the table and opened it: another box with some numbers and letters and a list of chemicals.
“What is it?” Roy asked.
“My newest shipment: cyanide. More than enough to kill 2 or 3 people.”
“What’s it for?”
“Nothing in particular, but considering what we’re getting into, we have to be prepared to fight by any means. This is the clean-getaway kind.”
“How much was it?”
“Free, I got it from a friend.”
“My sources are spread. Having one would be stupid.”
“Oh and something else, follow me,” they went on his computer, “of course, to get your identity, Pallister and I tracked down your whereabouts, and pretty much pinpointed you on that State Fair incident, as you now know. However, I myself looked into that tragic repercussion of the incident and found something nasty: your principal, Nicholas Park, fired the teacher. The judge, Cameron Park, revoked her license; they’re brothers. The judge had a personal problem with her going back for years; the judge’s son was in a high-up gang, always getting passed over for his crimes, obviously, and it looks like Katelyn Pedersen nailed him, simply being a good Samaritan. She got him in such broad daylight there was no way he could get out.”
“The judge was looking for a way to ruin her life.”
“Yes, because she ‘ruined’ his son’s already wasted life. I’m sorry, Roy.”
“You know with everything we’re doing here being based on raw justice; Justice beyond law or fear, using all these tools you have…”
“They’re too big of targets; it’d be unwise.”
“Beyond law or fear.”
“It is ill advised.”
“Then why did you set it up this obviously?”
Menji stared at him sheepishly, waiting for him to make a move. So he did in a rage, take the cyanide from the box, suit up and head out, taking with him only the poison.