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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lawbreaker - Chapter 1 by Azriel Johnson

    Peter Rhee loved the busy streets of Civitas.
    The bustling streets reconstructed so quickly after the cataclysm that if you didn’t know the history of the city, you could never tell.  The buildings were pristine.  The streets were clean with garbage cans at every corner and people actually *gasp* didn’t litter.
    Peter smiled at his own internal monologue and whistled softly as he walked down the street.  He was on his way to the MiniMart to grab some soda and bottled water.  His niece was coming over to hang out (her mom called it babysitting, but the niece was old enough now that her daughter was no longer a baby).
    A rumbling.  Subtle at first.

    Peter stood at the corner of Main and Broadway, the absolute center of the city.  He looked left.  Nothing unusual.  He looked right.  Nothing unusual.  No.  Wait.  A car flying in the air towards some bystanders.  Peter was useless unless....
    He looked around.  A woman on Main just around the corner from the flying car was lifting the front end of her own car and ripping the immobilization boot from the tire so she could leave.  The tickets clung to her windshield.
    Peter inhaled the surge of power.  He crouched and jumped over to where the car was about to land, smack dab on the heads of a family of five.
    Peter landed and held up his hands to block the flying car, denting the blue sedan’s roof.  Quickly, before he needed to breathe out, he dumped the car off to the street.  He turned to the frightened family.  “RUN!”
    Peter stomped with a purpose towards the source of the flying cars.  He couldn’t tap the strength again without going back to the boot stripping woman, so he’d have to improvise.  Someone with speed whizzed by.  Peter inhaled the surge of that person’s power and zipped forward, until he saw who was causing the ruckus.
    A small child, crying, throwing a temper tantrum.  She batted her arms like she was flying and shockwaves flew off of her in intermittent blasts throwing cars and people away from her.
    Peter had prepared to punch out whomever was causing the destruction, but he couldn’t hit a kid.  Could he?  Nah, Peter shook his head.  Let’s try to be a little more diplomatic.
    He exhaled and the speed left his body.  “Shit.”  He inhaled on one of the child’s blasts and blocked it just in time to save an old woman from being slammed into a building.  He crouched, holding his breath and moved toward the child.  As the child waved her arms, he pushed against the shockwaves minimizing their effect.  He was running out of breath and he wasn’t close enough to the child.
    He held his hands up to her and waved.  She looked at Peter.  Without breathing out, he croaked, “What’s your name, honey?”
    The child sniffled, “Maggie.”
    Peter, still holding his breath, “What’s the problem?”
    “I can’t find my mommy and daddy.”
    “Okay,” Peter said, barely hanging onto his breath.  “If I help you find them, will you calm down?”
    Maggie nodded and Peter let out his breath.  The power faded from his body and he half-smiled.
    “Here,” Peter said.  “Take my hand.  We’ll find your parents.”
    Maggie put her small hand into Peter’s and smiled, rubbing at her eyes.
    Peter surveyed the destruction caused by this five-year-old.  “Good thing Civitas has disaster insurance.”

~ * ~

    In another part of the city, Justin Caesar felt blurry.  He stumbled along the sidewalk, running into the buildings on his right side or into the street to his left.  Every time he coughed, there was blood.  He had come a long way.  He was homeless, hadn’t been employed since becoming an adult.  He was destitute and afflicted with a weird form of tuberculosis... or at least that’s what he thought.  He didn’t have money for a doctor after all.
    He saw the sign, “Free Clinic” and heaved himself in that direction.  Civitas was Mecca, the Taj Mahal, the source of all that was good and right with the world.  It cured people with incurable ailments.  He was only a few steps from the doors.
    He stumbled over the sidewalk and collapsed in the street.  He couldn’t move.  He could only see darkness.
    Who knows how long passed before Justin’s eyes opened to a blind bar light above him.  His irises narrowed and he could focus a little better.  The light softened as his eyes got used to it.  He turned his head to the left and saw a clear IV drip feeding into his left arm.  He turned his head to the right and saw a red IV drip feeding into his right.
    “Hello,” he called out.
    The shink of curtains being drawn back from his makeshift cubicle revealed a nurse.  She put a hand to his wrist to check his pulse.  She put a stethoscope to his chest to listen to his breathing.
    “Where am I?” Justin asked.
    “The Civitas Free Clinic,” the nurse said.
    “What... what are these things in my arms?” he asked.
    “The doctors diagnosed lung cancer.  This is Curasol.  You’ll be fixed in no time.”
    Justin smiled.  “I already feel better.”
    The nurse smiled back.  “That’s kind of the point of Curasol.  It opens the body up to all its curative properties and allows the body to fight off any infection, diseases or syndromes.”
    “You sound like a commercial,” Justin said, lightheartedly.
    The nurse put a hand on Justin’s head.  “Well, what can I say?  When something works as well as Curasol, who am I to be negative about it?  You should rest.  By this time tomorrow you should be right as rain.”
    Justin closed his eyes.  From beneath his eyelids, he observed the light above him turn off.
    Words bounced through Justin’s head as he drifted off into mental haze.  Right as rain.  Rain as right.  Wrong as rain.  Wrong as drought.  Rain as wrong.  Right as drought.  Right as wrong.  Wrong as right.

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