In January of 2014, I was invited to join a rather elite super-group, The Protectors of the World. I came into the group, mid story. Unlike my most previous experience, the leader of PotW, Pallas, went out of her way to include Chance, The Harrier, in the ongoing tale, and made excellent use of his abilities as a detective. After pushing a suspect a little too far, Pallas asked me to come up with come up with a response that would test Chance’s resolve and commitment. This is what I came up with.

This doesn’t tell the whole story. Some parts occurred during real time role-play. I’m hoping there’s enough to convey the gist.

Hurt, fear, and anger welled in his stomach, pushed up his throat, and out past his teeth. Chance felt the rough gravel through his palms and knees where he heaved by the roadside. Winter’s bitter wind ripped through his silk shirt and jacket. He thought he was through when his body spit out another glob of bile on the Michigan highway.

He hadn’t even made it back to Millennium City. The car had been on its way from a small, private, airport when the call came in. Senator Channing hadn’t wasted any time in bombing a vulnerable spot in Chance’s life, Kori’s. Chance had stopped listening to his phone after Paz told him about the death. The face of Incul Adomo hovered before his closed eyes. Incul had a quick wit and a quicker smile. A smile now darkened.

Chance ordered his driver to pull over. He barely made it out of the car before he threw up.

“¡Jefe!” his phone yelled at him. “¡Jefe!” Chance picked himself off all fours, then struggled to seat himself, back against the tire of a black Mercedes. His mouth tasted bitter. “I’m here, Paz,” he told the phone. “How many others hurt?”

“Thirteen at last count,” Paz replied. “Things are still very chaotic here. MCPD is on site and some engineers. They want to check for other explosives and make sure the building is safe.”

He had traveled to Texas to get information and provoke a response. One dead and almost a score more injured twisted and curled Chance’s stomach again. He swallowed down another dollop of vomit. He had brought this on his people.

“Give them everything they need, Paz. Call Eddie. As a superhero, I want SCIU involved.”

“Claro.”

“Has anyone talked to Incul’s parents?”

“No lo sé” Paz answered. “Chance, we need you here.”

Chance stood, accepting help from his driver. “I’m going to find the Adomo’s first. Call everyone in. We’re going to need as much help as we can muster to keep things calm in the neighborhood and find the people who did this.”

He knew who did this. He knew who killed, injured, and threatened the people that put their faith in Harrier. That catalog of ten powerful men had just become a hit list.

——

She found him kneeling amidst hovering words and lists, photos and diagrams. Her husband’s eyes looked red rimmed; his face unshaven. Kori crossed to him silently and wrapped her arms around him from behind. A deep sigh of relief filled his right ear.

Chance closed his eyes and took a deep breath of her. Kori moved, setting in front of him, a hand on his cheek. She kissed him deeply before embracing him.

“I am so sorry,” she whispered to him. “I love you.”

The space of a few heartbeats passed before Chance spoke. “How many more, Kori? How many more will die? I look at this list of names….” She took a deep breath as he paused. “We could have them killed. Couldn’t we? Isn’t that how…” He turned his head away, unable to look at her.

Kori exhaled slowly before leaning in to kiss his cheek. The flesh tasted tear stained salty. “I can’t count how many have lost their lives in my past and in my family’s history. Nor can I count the tears.” His eyes found hers as she continued. “We make choices and hope for a better way.” Chance could see the love in her violet orbs. “But we can’t anticipate all of the tragedies.”

She reached out to touch his chest and rest her palm there. “These are important people, judges, businessmen, scientists. They’ll be well insulated by lawyers, plausible deniability,” he explained.

“Everyone has a weakness.”

“Wouldn’t it just be easier if they were dead?” he asked

“For some, yes. For others,” she cautioned and pressed on his heart, gently, “not so easy.”

“When I first met you, I saw what I wanted to be,” she told her husband. “And I strive for that every day.”

“You don’t murder.” She shook her head. “You’re not a villain. And the ability to stay the course even after enduring the pain of all these deaths is what makes you a hero.”

Chance swallowed as Kori moved her face closer to his. “My hero,” she whispered, “and a hero to your children.” He embraced her, held her tightly against him.

“We’ll take care of the families,” she told him, “and the services for them

“I love you, Kori. I… ” Chance choked on the confession, “I wanted them all, that whole list, just even for a moment, dead. Judges, Senators, all of them. They used their children as lab rats. Put chips in their brains to control them.”

Kori breathed a sigh of some relief. “It’s not who you are.” Chance’s body shuddered for a moment in her arms. “There are other ways to deal with them.”

“I need some help.”

“Anything,” she answered with a nod. “After the bombing I contacted a specialist that I’ve used in the past, along with Kei, and others at the castle.”

“I need a system hacked. A company called Cyberchane. It’s way beyond what I can do.”

“The specialist can handle it,” Kori explained. Kei has been infiltrating the MCPD for about a year now in several departments, and Gen can handle the UNTIL end of things.” Her eyes hardened. “Please don’t ask any questions about this specialist. He’s known as Raven and I used to work with him on past operations.”

“I won’t,” Chance assures her with a shake of his head. “He’ll be contacting you when he’s ready,” Kori said and then kissed him. “He owes me a favor for something I did for him. A huge favor, And he’s on our payroll.”

“I’ve had security increased in all of our major branch offices,” she continued, “the castle, and here in Millennium City as well.”

“Thank you,” Chance said to her. “You are my hero.

“Of course,” Kori replied, her lips turning into a smirk. “I’m your wife.”

——

The initial meeting went quickly, a few words spoken over a hastily devoured breakfast. The results came to Chance in the form of a flash drive and a note to his wife. “We’re even,” it read. The analysis took more time for Harrier to plow through than it took Raven and his team to steal.

Control. It was all about control.

Initially started as a method to provide battlefield telemetry, the DoD scrapped Project Apotheosis as too invasive. From the data Chance had gathered, if looked like Cyberchane decided to press on, anyway.

The tiny chips could allow remote control of a body, like a marionette on strings. The chips went into four children of the group, including Alex Harper and Justin Channing.

Chance reviewed the error logs on the implanted devices

20131227-13:56 Device activation, Alex Harper<br>

20140119-13;04 Device Failure: Justin Channing<br>

20140119-14:56 Device Failure: Robert Mann<br>

20140119-19:03 Device Failure: Marcus Gate<br>

20140125-17:53 Device Failure: Alex Harper

Apparently, failure equaled death. Their perfect brains, Chance supposed. Their perfect brains couldn’t abide by an attempt at foreign control. Only Alex has survived, a roll of the dice.

Sloughing through the financial data brought a slow smiled to his lips. A thin trail of dollars and cents traced from Cyberchane’s 56 employees right back to partial owner, Senator Oliver Channing. Obtained illegally, Chance knew he couldn’t take this to a Federal Assistant DA, but Chance had other ideas.

After making a secure copy of all the information, he dialed the offices of the Millennium City Horizon. “Susan,” he asked. “How would you like to bring down a political dynasty?”

“What do I have?” He chuckled. “Illegal experimentation, casual disregard for human life, all from the great state of Texas.”

Pictures hovered around him, faces staring to the unseen recesses of his living room. Chance turned as he heard Nora’s boots on the hardwood floor. “You’ve broken me,” he told her. “Kori and I chatted yesterday. Futuremax will be installing the holo-emitters in my BSP office, next week.”

The raven-haired young woman grinned. “Athena be praised,” she chuckled. “What are we looking at?” Chance spread his hands, a mage wielding technical magic. “These are pictures taken at the scene of the bombing.” He looked around as if trying to absorb all the details of the hundreds of images. “Everyone in the barrio came out. Those that didn’t help the injured took snapshots, just like they were supposed to” He flicked a few fingers. White circles appeared over a common face in the crowd. “That’s our bomber. Look how he’s moving away in time as everyone else is either moving closer or watching at a distance. He’s getting away.”

Nora opened the folder in her hands. “That is our bomber, Chance. The FBI got a partial print off the detonator.” She turned the folder to show Chance a picture. “You’re looking at Lawrence Shelby. He’s got a healthy list of priors. Bombing is his thing.”

“You got alias’ and last knowns?”

“Indeed, I do.” Chance turned to grab his jacket. A wave of a hand dissolved the floating collection. “Let’s go do this the old fashion way. On our feet.”

——-

Chance plopped down into the uncomfortable chair. People hustled and moved around them, some dragging luggage along behind. The detective fiddled with the newspaper in his lap than turned to look at the man sitting next to him. “Morocco, huh?” Chance said. “Nice choice. You’re got plenty of money stashed and it doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the US. Well done.”

“I’m sorry,” the other man told him, confusion adding wrinkles to his face. “Do I know you?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you do,” Chance said. “I certainly know you, Lawrence.” The detective bit back a smile as he watched the color drain from the other man’s face. Chance reached out to place the newspaper on Lawrence’s lap. The headline read, “Corruption at Cyberchane. Charges Expected.”

“Stupid boss,” Chance mused. “Got caught before the heat died down and suddenly you have to risk using a known alias to get out of town in a hurry.” Chance patted his thighs. “You thought we wouldn’t notice. We noticed.” Lawrence shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“I figure this is going to go down in two ways,” Chance told him. “You’re going to sit there then nod at me, once. I’m going to give the agents with me the high sign and they are going to come over and arrest you. No muss. No fuss.”

“Or,” Chance sighed, “You think you can get the drop on my with that handgun you smuggled past the security checkpoint and I get to shock you before you even make it to your feet. Then, I signal the cops and they come over and arrest your drooling, unconscious body.” A wide smile spread out over his face. “What’s it going to be?”

Lawrence swallowed then nodded, once. Chance raised a hand and waved. A small group of plain clothed agents descended on them. “Thank you, Larry,” Chance quipped. “Please do try to have a nice day…. In prison.”