Well, we’ve started work on the still untitled sequel to our adventure novel, Broken Nights.
As a special sneak-peek, we thought we’d upload the still UNEDITED first chapter for your reading pleasure.
By we, I mean me. I totally didn’t ask Mike about this, but he’s cool. Tell him he’s cool by picking up the first book here.
Without further ado, the first chapter!
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky to block the moon’s brilliance. The entire roof was alit in details, but the Guardian wasn’t noticing a single one of them.
With his head cocked to the side, anyone who might have seen him would have thought that he was listening to the sounds of the city, trying to pick out something specific. While that might have been partially true, the Guardian was actually listening to a voice being emitted from the ear-piece beneath his cowl.
“Silent alarm,” the voice was that of a gentle and familiar woman. Very familiar to the Guardian in that it was the voice of his sister. “It’s a residence. One mile east of your current location.”
The Guardian only acknowledged the directions of the voice by turning and running toward the east. As he neared the edge of the rooftop he increased his speed before planting his shoe on the edge and propelling himself off.
His feet touched down again on the next roof. There was enough of a drop that he dropped to his side and rolled to absorb his momentum before coming back up and continuing on. As he neared the next edge, the Guardian noted that the next building was taller than the one he’d be jumping from.
He didn’t slow his run as he neared the edge. Leaping again, he propelled himself at the next building, but this time he twisted only slightly, angling his trajectory only slightly to the right.
The wall rushed up at him, but so did the plastic piping that was coupled to the wall. It housed the phone and television cables for the different residents in the building. His fingers wrapped around the pipe as he pressed the high friction shoes on his feet against the brick wall. Hanging there for a microsecond, he jerked up and down on the pipe to test how it would handle his weight. Once he was satisfied that it wasn’t likely to tear away under the strain, he quickly scaled up and to the top of the building.
“Nearby traffic cameras lead me to believe that there are only two intruders,” the voice of his sister supplied.
Another two rooftops passed the Guardian by before the spacing between the buildings became too wide for him cross. As he came closer to the residential areas of Darden Valley, the Guardian was finding that rooftop travel was less possible. Instead, he chose to travel by the shadows on the ground.
Leaping fences, ducking under backyard decks, and traveling behind hedges became his new normal as he continued east. As the city peeled away and residences became cookie cutter housing surrounded by bike trails and cul de sacs, the Guardian was finally given the all clear.
“You’re here,” came his sister’s voice. “The blue house across the street.”
The Guardian slowly stepped from the shadows and examined the street. This late at night, none of the houses were lit up, but he didn’t want any of the potential intruders’ friends to make him before he was able to get into the house.
Seeing nothing, he sprinted across the street and to the blue house.
The door wasn’t closed all the way, instead it was pressed to almost latching. If passerby saw it, they would think that the door was closed and keep on moving. The Guardian wasn’t passerby.
Leaning in, he put his ear to the door and listened. Once he was fairly certain that no one was behind it, he slipped in and returned the door to its almost latched position.
The Guardian immediately began blending with the darker shadows of the house interior, stepping quietly as he moved deeper into the house.
About six months before he entered this residence, the Guardian underwent an interesting transition. The digital code of his brain was downloaded to a mainframe and altered to increase his perceptions, reaction times, and interpretation of his senses. Basically, everything that the brain controls and interprets was altered to work better and faster. The cost of such a transformation was more than he was willing to pay, but no one had informed him there would be such a cost until after it had already been done.
One of those enhancements to his brain, altered the internal volume and understanding of things he could hear. Using that enhanced ability, the Guardian took a moment to assess the house.
His hearing picked up the heavy clicking of the hammer of a gun and the whimpering of a small child on the second floor.
Quickly and quietly, the Guardian ran the stairs and stopped. The first assailant was standing just outside one of the rooms and was aiming a gun into the room. Whatever was in the room was holding his full attention and he was completely unaware of the arrival of the Guardian.
The Guardian rushed forward and swept a hand around the front of the home invader and pulled the gun from his grip before he knew what was going on. The move, enhanced by the increased speed granted the Guardian through his mental ‘tune-up,’ was so fast that the thug looked at his hand with confusion. Against someone as quick as the Guardian, any moments of slow thought were destructive to their chances of success.
In another quick movement, the Guardian flips the gun around and uses it to chop at the man’s throat. He coughed and gagged, backing up and away from the doorway and the Guardian. He clutched at his throat as his eyes watered. Every sound from him was a wheezing whisper of pain.
As his eyes began to clear, he looked up and seemed to notice the Guardian for the first time. His eyes widened as realization dawned on him and suddenly he knew who he was standing across from.
“Guardian?” he wheezed.
The Darden Valley Guardian nodded slowly.
In reply, the crook ran for the stairs, hoping to flee.
If this had been a minor crime, it was possible that the Guardian would have let the man go. Unfortunately for the home invader, he had drawn a gun on someone in the house. This man had the potential to take lives and had turned a home invasion into a potential murder scene. The Guardian couldn’t let that pass.
As he tried to dart past the vigilante, the Guardian kicked the back of his knee. As the man collapsed, the Guardian grabbed the side of his head and thrusted it into the wall before the stairs. The man went unconscious immediately, leaving a dent in the drywall. The Guardian lowered him to the floor gently and paused, listening.
After only a moment of quiet, the Guardian was satisfied that the scuffle with this thug hadn’t alerted his companion. He stood and moved to the open doorway.
Inside the room, two beds were a mess. The blankets on the bed on the left were dragged across the floor and almost reached the other bed. On the second bed sat two little girls with at least a year between them. They were crying and obviously scared as they held each other. The Guardian could see them shivering.
Slowly, he put a finger to his lips before smiling and offering a thumbs up. Shakily, they both returned the gesture. He mouthed the words “stay here,” and flattened his hand to mime the action. Content that they were both unharmed, the Guardian ducked back out the of the door way and began his hunt for the other home invader.
The hunt didn’t take long, as the other guy was exactly where the Guardian thought he’d be. Peeking around the door frame and into the bedroom of the parents, he sees that this would-be robber has been busier than his companion.
The parents were duct taped together and lying on the bed. The thug had moved over to the vanity and was dumping things into a Dora the Explorer backpack.
The Guardian didn’t try to be quiet, and allowed his feet to thud into the carpet as he entered the room. He drew his tonfa as the criminal turned. The tonfa was similar to a police baton, with a handle jutting off of it near it’s slimmer end. The angled grip like that also allowed for defensive grips that placed the length of the tonfa along his forearm.
“I thought I told you to watch the kids,” he said as he turned before seeing the Guardian. Dropping the backpack, he brought up his pistol.
The Guardian was already on the move. With lightning fast reflexes, the Guardian used another gift that his enhanced mental processes had granted him. Somewhere in his mind, the processes for predicting where things were pointed had been granted access to mathematics that the Guardian had no memory ever learning. With this new ability, he was able to predict where the gun was aimed, and step out of the bullet’s path.
Doing just that, he also threw the tonfa. It sailed across the room and hit the gunman’s wrist. The gun fell to the carpet with a thud.
The Guardian followed his tonfa and closed the distance with the gunman in only a few quick steps. As he stepped up to the gunman, the Guardian was mildly surprised that the assailant was stepping forward to meet him. He had assumed that the tonfa would have taken much of the fight out of the man, but that wasn’t the case.
The thug swung at the Guardian with his right. The thug was fast, but not as fast as the vigilante. The Guardian ducked the swing. He saw two more swings coming in and easily avoided both of them as well. As the fourth swing came in, the Guardian ducked it and came in closer to him. As he did, he swept his leg behind the criminal’s and gave a quick kick to the back of his knee.
Still using the momentum from ducking the last swing, the Guardian grabbed the thug by the throat and lifted him off of the ground as he lost his balance. Continuing the move, the Guardian slammed the crook onto his back on the carpeted floor. He released the burglar’s throat and punched him twice in the temple.
Standing up slowly, the Guardian grabbed the roll of duct tape and proceeded to secure both of the would-be thieves. Once that was done, he pulled a blade from a compartment under his tonfa’s sheath and cut the duct tape off of the parents.
“Your kids are alright,” he told them.
In his ear, he heard his sister say, “I have called the police and they are on their way.”
“The police,” the Guardian explained to the parents, “are coming.”
Before they could finish their hugging of each other, and before they could thank the Guardian. He had already left the house.
Returning to the shadows of the residential neighborhood, the Guardian headed back toward the city-proper.
The trip back seemed quicker than the trip to the blue house had been, but the return trips always seemed faster. He wasn’t on his way to a potential fight, the lack of anticipation changed everything.
Finally reaching the city, the Guardian found a building that would give him enough height to look out on the city. He charged the wall and allowed his parkour skills, learned after years of practice, to help him scale the wall until he could climb onto the fire escape. Stepping onto the metal, he climbed the thing steps until he reached the rooftop.
Once he could see most of Darden Valley, the Guardian asked his sister to stream the police scanner. She didn’t reply, but the radio started up almost instantly.
Letting the criminal activity of the night wash over him, he reflected on the night’s events.
The last six months had been different than anything that the Guardian could have predicted.
Enhancing his brain had been part of a city wide war against a company headquartered in Darden Valley. TrinCo was a corporate conglomerate whose research and development teams had discovered the technology that had allowed the Guardian to get his enhanced mental abilities. Specifically, the Guardian’s own sister had been lead engineer on the system.
That war had torn the city apart, but after the dust had settled everyone was certain of one thing: The Guardian had saved the city. That knowledge was felt down deep in every member of the city. They were now aware of the fact that the Guardian was watching over them.
That included the criminal element of Darden Valley as well.
The stories of the Guardian’s nightly activities had become the stuff of legend, turning him into a sort of Boogeyman for the local criminal element.
The effect had been oddly different than the Guardian could have predicted. In many cases, criminals were being more careful about when and how they committed their crimes. It was an average night for the Guardian to only need to show up to scare whoever from stealing, vandalizing, or attacking whatever. One moment, the criminals would be committing whatever crime they had chosen for the evening, and then in the next moment they would be running away after only having seen his shadow on the wall.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only effect his appearance on the scene had achieved. Knowing that Darden Valley had a kickass protector meant that a special breed of criminal was rising to the surface. Instead of the usual bad folks doing bad things, the Guardian had seen a rise in the criminals who did crime specifically to draw him out.
These criminals weren’t in it for the riches, they were in it for the name. They wanted to be known as the guy or gal who had taken out the Guardian. It was a dangerous new type of person that seemed capable of just about anything, but they all shared the same flaw that halted their efficacy: to get the Guardian’s attention, they conducted incredibly elaborate crimes. Those crimes were sometimes even too complex for the minds that had put them together, and a lot of those criminals would get grabbed up by the Darden Valley police long before the Guardian even considered going out to meet them.
Not all of them, though.
The idea of trying to make a name for themselves wasn’t really well thought out, either. Since the events of the city-wide riot six months ago, the news outlets no longer reported on anything Guardian related. The Guardian wasn’t certain if it as a press-wide idea, or if it had anything to do with his sister and her own…enhancements. The Guardian could always ask her, but it was a question he was happy not knowing the answer to.
Along that same note, it was interesting to the Guardian that the police had given up actually pursuing him. One thing that his sister had pointed out to him was that he was still on the Darden Valley Police’s Most Wanted list for a long list of crimes from vigilantism, to breaking and entering, to murder.
The war with TrinCo hadn’t ended at all like he would have preferred it to.
The owner of TrinCo, Stella Bernard, had been a skilled opponent. When their months long battle had finally pitted the Guardian and Stella against each other in a match of physical battle, Stella had the upper hand. Her training had been augmented in the same way that the Guardian’s own skillset had and both opponents had been evenly matched. When Stella Bernard got the upper hand, the Guardian had been forced to kill her or he would have been killed himself. He had been faced with no other options and regretted the decision every day of his life. While he preferred the fear that people showed him in the streets, he didn’t want that fear to be borne of his killing someone. It stained his mission to protect the city.
The regret over Stella’s death was a heavy one, because Stella had killed his sister.
It was slightly more complicated than that, but not by much. As the Guardian had been getting his upgrades, Stella Bernard had shot his sister to death. To complicate matters, his sister, Amy Night, had already downloaded her consciousness to the same system that had been used to upgrade both Stella Bernard and the Guardian.
That downloaded copy of his sister had access to anything that connected to the internet. That was how he was able to still be talking to his sister of his earpiece. Her connectivity had made her an invaluable asset to his mission, but he still missed his sister, and while he regretted killing Stella Bernard, his heart was heavier with his sister’s loss.
Standing up from his crouched position, the Guardian decided that it was probably late enough to call it a night. The streets were quiet and nothing major was grabbing his attention. The evening was done.
He stepped up to the next ledge and looked over it, gauging the distance.
“This one is too far,” the ghostly voice of his dead sister spoke into his ear. “You can’t make this jump.”
Ignoring her, he stepped away from the ledge and gave himself enough distance to gain momentum. Then he sprinted at the ledge. On his last step, he planted his foot and propelled himself into the air.
His fingers were only inches away from the edge of the other rooftop when he missed it.
Falling, he grabbed at the next best thing, a window sill. Planting his feet against the side of the building, he used the window and other protrusions from the building to climb to the roof that he had missed.
Once he was on top of it, Amy’s voice said, “I told you so.”
The Guardian smiled to himself. It was statements like that one that almost convinced him that this downloaded duplicate was the same person who had died six months before.
The Guardian’s smile disappeared as the pain of her death hit him again.
Breaking into a jog, the Guardian headed home.