Atymsburg, Chapter 1.   Posted by Crier.Group: 0
Crier
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 Sees All
 Knows All
Wed 8 Dec 2010
at 21:03
Atymsburg, Chapter 1
Gary

     The bus ride from Vermont to Maryland was long and restless.  Gary lowered his spy novel and gazed wistfully at the approaching city.  His eyes went wide as they passed under a massive sign that exclaimed: Welcome to Atymsburg – City of the Atom.

     ‘At last,’ he thought.  As they entered the downtown streets, his gray eyes stared up at the magnificent towers around him in excited wonder.  It was his first time in such a big city.  There wasn’t a building over three stories tall back in Jeffersonville.

     Gary watched the sidewalks, observing the people in their daily routine.  So many things he saw were foreign to him.  There were long lines outside of restaurants, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and most of all, too much humanity.  He just couldn’t understand how so many people could live in such close proximity to one another.  In the whole of his memory, Jeffersonville’s population had never been more than 600 people.

     A flash of yellow caught his eye, and he watched what looked like a cheetah rushing down the sidewalk.

     ‘Novus,’ he thought to himself.  Gary was no stranger to Novusi.  His friend Dan was the most powerful Novus back home, but that wasn’t saying much because he could only teleport about 20 meters.  But the only place he’d seen a Novus turn into an animal was on television.  From what he’d read, Atymsburg boasted the highest concentration of Novusi in the United States.  He was eager to see more of them.

     The bus turned into the downtown terminal and slowly made its way to the depot.  Gary stretched his arms out, trying to remove the kink in his neck.

     The giant vehicle finally came to a halt at a curb.  The air brakes hissed as the driver disengaged the engine and opened the door.  Many passengers stood to get their luggage from the overhead racks.

     Gary sat patiently and waited for most of the other passengers to file off the bus before standing himself to acquire his own luggage.  As he pulled the raggedy backpack over his shoulder, he straightened his sweatshirt.  Bold letters proclaiming his home state became clear on the taut material.  He let a young woman go ahead of him before making his way down the aisle toward the door.

     The outside air hit him like a refreshing breeze after a rainstorm.  He inhaled deeply as he stepped from the bus.  It was a different kind of fresh air than he was used to, tainted with industry and society.  But anything was better than the stale scent of the mass transit vehicle he was leaving behind.

     Moving to the open panels on the side of the bus, he scanned for his duffel bag.  The heavy-set driver was pulling items one by one from the cargo compartment, setting them down in no discernible order behind him.  Gary gave a shrill whistle as the bus driver pulled the bag out.

     “Over here, Mort!” he called.  The driver paused and glared at him.  Gary had heard someone call him ‘Mort’ at some point in the trip, but apparently the driver didn’t appreciate such a familiar reference from a simple passenger.

     Smiling, Gary motioned to the bag and beckoned silently for the driver to toss it to him.  Mort gave the bag a heave and it landed just a meter from Gary’s feet.  The sour man gave the Vermont passenger one last glare before reaching back into the underbelly of the bus.

     ‘Friendly kind of Gary,’ Gary thought as he picked up his duffel and headed toward the main terminal.

     Now that he was among them, he gawked at the towering buildings, passively aware of the people around him.  All around the glass monoliths seemed to go up forever, truly earning the name ‘skyscraper.’  Massive shadows fell behind the buildings, shielding whole streets from the rays of the late day sun.

     Gary looked down one man-made canyon and saw a fascinating building in the distance.  The top of the spire glistened like a diamond, throwing rainbows of light in all directions.

     “Unc’a Gary!” a familiar voice called, pulling him from his rubbernecking.  He lowered his gaze to see his niece Nellie rushing toward him.  Her father waved from behind her.

     “Nellie!  Michael!” he yelled, dropping his duffel to the ground and kneeling down to accept tiny Nellie into his arms.  He lifted her up as she squeezed with all her might.  It felt good to see her again after two years.

     “You got big!” he insisted.

     “Yeah!”  She wrapped her legs around his mid-section and he supported her carefully.  “Happy to see you!”

     “Why thank you, Honey.”  Mike finally caught up with them.  “And who is this handsome fellow with you?”

     Mike chuckled.

     Nellie craned her head.  “That’s Daddy, silly!”

     “I know, Honey,” he whispered to her.

     “So how was the ride?” Mike asked as he picked up Gary’s duffel.

     “Not bad,” Gary fibbed.  “But if I ever plan to travel by bus again I hope someone has the decency to whack me with a shovel or something.”  They laughed together and headed for the terminal parking lot.

     “How’s Mom and Dad?” Mike continued.

     “They’ve been better.  Mom’s arthritis is.…”

     “INCOMING!!!” interrupted a booming voice.  Startled, Mike and Gary glanced toward the announcement only to see the form of a man hurtling over them.

     “Run for it!” someone screamed.

     “Hit the deck!” yelled another.

     The body whistled over the crowd and slammed into an empty tour bus, wrenching it in half.  A split second later, the bus exploded, rocking the ground and shattering windows all around the terminal.  Gary fell to his knees and held Nellie tight as debris scattered all around.

     Shielding his eyes momentarily, he lowered his arm and stared at the conflagration.  Thick black smoke rose from the flames as they consumed the bus.  Then, Gary noticed movement within the fire.

     Somebody grabbed his shoulder.

     “Gary!  Let’s get out of here!”  Mike insisted, tugging frantically at his brother’s shirt.  Gary stood slowly, his mouth agape as stared at the burning wreck.

     “My God.  He’s still alive,” Gary whispered as a man stepped out of the rolling smoke.

     He stood more than two-meters tall and wore a vest, pants and heavy boots; all made of black leather.  The flames licked at his body but didn’t seem to touch him.  He pulled a piece of twisted metal from the sleeve of his vest and dropped it to his side.  His gaze went across the crowd, stopping on Gary with a vicious glare.

     “Nice try, big boy!  But not good enough!” he shouted, pointing over Gary’s head.

     “Who?” Gary whispered as he started to turn, but a loud crunch of metal regained his attention.  He watched in awe as the leather-clad man dug his bare fingers into the side of a parked car and lifted it over his head.

     Gary stood stunned.  He’d expected to see more powerful Novusi here, but this was unbelievable.  Screams rippled through the crowd in the terminal as the bald man held the car above his head.

     “Eat this!!!” he exclaimed, hurling the vehicle toward the crowd.  Gary watched as it soared through the air, coming straight for him.  Everything seemed to go into slow motion.

     “Run!!” someone screamed.

     “It’s coming down!” shouted another.

     Gary couldn’t move.  He squeezed his niece tight and clenched his eyes closed.

     “Unc’a Gary?” Nellie whispered.

     “Just hold me tight, Honey,” he comforted as he awaited the inevitable.

     “HEE-YA!” came a sudden, ear-piercing scream.

     Clenching his eyes tight, Gary heard the loud crash of metal.  As a shower of glass fell to the ground, Gary slowly peeked up and saw the man in leather lying against a dented bus.  This time he remained still.  A sudden silence fell over the crowd.

     It was then Gary noticed a large shadow surrounding him.  He carefully turned to look back and squinted at a glint of sunlight.  Blocking it with his hand, he realized the light was reflecting from the window of a car.  His eyes adjusted to the dark and he saw a massive human form standing over him.

     The man must have been about four meters tall.  In his hands was the car that the bald man had thrown.  He wore bicycle pants and a sleeveless button-up shirt.  A silver emblem hung from his belt above his left leg.  His massive left hand was extended toward Gary.

     “WELCOME TO ATYMSBURG,” his voice boomed, “SERGEANT GOLIATH AT YOUR SERVICE.”

     Gary took three of the giant’s fingers and pulled himself up, Nellie still in his arms.  Goliath smiled as he shook Gary’s hand.


Dispatch

     Miles eagerly watched the bus terminal battle from the safety of the Carson Building.  Sergeant Steve ‘Goliath’ Cappino was now setting down the tossed car and moving to handcuff the unconscious offender, already identified as Charles Persons.  He’d been trying to crack open an ATM machine when Dispatch had sent Goliath to intercept him.  Now they could add charges of resisting arrest and property damage to the list of charges.

     The Police Chief had only been on duty for an hour today and was already thoroughly entertained.

     He keyed a button on his control board to open a line to Goliath.  There was a tone, and he watched the sergeant touch his ear-piece, activating the two-way communication unit.  The Chief removed his pipe from his mouth as Goliath confirmed the connection.

     “Good work, Sergeant.  Now get him cuffed and wait for a cruiser to arrive.  You may as well go with them in case he wakes up.”

     “Roger that, Sir,” Goliath responded.

     Miles closed the connection and removed the view of Goliath from his main display.  The pipe returned to his lips as the projection moved itself to a spot off to the far left of the wide monitor.  A three computer-generated dimensional map of Atymsburg now filled the screen.

     Dispatch settled back in his chair and glanced over the twenty or so small views to the left and right of the center map.  They showed main city areas like Atym Park, the downtown forum and recent missions like Goliath’s.  He puffed his pipe as he watched, waiting for another event to show up.

     With scanners spread out all over the city, the Chief utilized cameras, radar and even sonar to observe the streets.  Special microchips in each Policeman’s badge allowed him to track their exact position.

     Miles lifted his coffee mug to his lips.  Empty.

     A chime sounded.  “Transgression at Twenty-Sixth and Cross,” said Crier’s calm synthesized voice.

     “Zoom in,” Dispatch said as he set aside his mug and pushed his glasses up his nose. The map suddenly enlarged at the predetermined intersection.  It showed four red dots moving into an alleyway.

     “Victim determined.”  One of the dots turned blue.

     “Activate camera.”  The screen split and the main display showed the map and a live view of the streets.  The camera quickly zoomed in on the intersection displayed on the map.  Miles only caught a glimpse of two men before they disappeared into the alley.

     “Targets out of visual range.”

     “Nuts.  Map view.”  The display was once again filled with the map.  A green dot blinked nearby.

     “Who is that?” the Chief demanded.  A small box of information appeared beside it.

     Corporal Birch ‘Surge’ Skyes:
          ● Electricity Generation – Level 4
          ● Electricity Control – Level 2
          ● Unarmed


     “Oooo,” he winced.  Surge was still a bit of a rookie.  The police chief tightened his gaze on the four dots in the alley.  After puffing his pipe twice, he decided.

     “Send him in; locate the nearest back-up; and send a cruiser that way, too.”

     He glanced at his empty coffee cup.  “And ask Jasmine to get me some more coffee.”

     Rookies were always interesting to watch and he didn’t want to miss a minute of this.  Miles fell back in his chair again as Crier beeped Surge and gave him his orders.  Behind him, the door to his office opened and his assistant Jasmine walked in with a fresh pot.


Surge

     Birch peered down from the rooftop and spotted the three men surrounding a young woman in coveralls.  Two held her arms and a third stood in front of her.

     “Hold her tight, man,” said the scrawny one on her right.  He didn’t sound intoxicated; at least, his words weren’t slurred.

     “She’s a feisty one, eh?” the Asian on her left said with an irritating laugh.

     “Okay guys.  Me first,” said the balding one.  Based on the tone in his voice and the way he held himself, this guy was in charge.  He pulled something out of his pocket, and Birch recognized the distinct ‘snap’ of a switchblade opening.

     With his other hand, Baldy back-handed the woman across the cheek.  “Hey!  Stay awake, Bitch.  I don’t want you to miss any of this.”  Her eyes were open now, full of fear.

     Birch eased himself over the edge and onto the fire escape, careful not to make any noise.  He silently descended the stairs, glancing down at the scene below.

     The leader had unzipped the woman’s coveralls and was cutting at the bottom of her T-shirt.  Once through the hem, he tore it up to her neck, revealing a her sports bra.

     “Nice set of knockers you got there, Honey,” said the Asian with another annoying chuckle.

     “Oh yeah.  We’re gonna have some fun with this one,” Skinny said with a laugh.  Surge was tempted to quicken his pace as Baldy held the blade to the woman’s throat, but he didn’t want them to notice him yet.  Baldy slid his hand into her shorts, so Birch forced himself to continue carefully down the fire escape.  Skinny and the Asian pulled the sleeves of her coveralls off and let the outfit fall around her ankles.

     “Get her down!” Baldy ordered.

     Birch watched her struggle as the two men forced her on her back.  Baldy pulled down her shorts to reveal her panties as Skinny slipped his hand under her top and played with her right breast.  The Asian held her hand and started sucking on her fingers.

     Surge was just reaching the lowest platform when he heard one of the men yelp.  Looking down, he saw the Asian clasping his mouth while the woman tried to push Skinny away with her free arm.  Birch had to chuckle, thinking it served the guy right.  Her escape was short-lived though as Baldy back-handed her again.  The Asian regained his grip and angrily slammed her hand against the ground.

     “This’ll be easier if you just cooperate, Dearie,” Baldy insisted as he kneeled on her legs and began unbuckling his belt.

     This was the moment.  Surge knew he had to stop them now.  Taking a deep breath, he jumped over the railing of the fire escape.

     CRASH!  He landed in a cluster of trash cans, sending their lids tumbling and banging his knee pretty bad.  Holding his balance, he instinctively reached for the injury and winced.  Looking up, the three men and the woman were staring at him.

     The young Native-American straightened and limped toward them.  The light from over a doorway illuminated the silver badge on his left breast pocket.

     “Atymsburg Police!” he said with an authoritative voice.  “You’re under arrest!  Nobody move!”

     The three would-be rapists stood up and faced him, completely ignoring their female victim.

     “And if we move?” Baldy asked with a sneer.

     Birch had hoped he’d ask that.  He lifted fists and held them about half-a-meter apart.  There was a moment of silence, and then an arc of blue electricity shot across the gap.  The three men’s eyes grew wide as the energy crackled and filled the alley with a faint light.

     “Move,” he started, “and you get cooked.”  The three men stood very still.  Surge was feeling rather confident and stepped closer.

     “Drop your weapons and put your hands behind your heads.”

     The men complied.  As they did, Birch glanced around them looking for the woman.  He didn’t see her.  He figured she must have run off.

     Birch lowered his fists, cut off the lightshow and limped toward the men.  He eyed each of them carefully as he fumbled for his zip-ties.

     “Get on the ground,” he demanded when he got close.  Skinny quickly complied, but Baldy and the Asian refused.  He lifted his hand and sent a spark of energy up his forearm and around his fist.

     “I said get down,” he repeated, alternating his gaze between Baldy and the Asian with each word.  His eyes ended on the Asian, who started to kneel.  Baldy took a swing.

     With trained reflexes and a smirk, Surge caught the right hook in his left hand and squeezed.  Baldy winced as the Corporal lifted his electricity-covered right hand.

     “I warned you,” he said shaking his head.

     Surge pointed his index finger at Baldy’s head and smiled.  The wannabe rapist clenched his eyes shut.

     Nothing happened.

     Birch stared at his palm as the electricity suddenly faded out.  He didn’t see the left hook Baldy threw, knocking him to the pavement.

     “What’s wrong, Lightning?” Baldy mocked, “Forget to charge your batteries?”  Birch buckled as someone kicked him in the gut.

     Someone took a zip-tie and locked his hands behind his back.  They pulled him to his knees and another boot went into his stomach.  Surge felt blood in his mouth and spit.

     “Well, Boys,” Baldy said, “Looks like we get to teach the little freak a lesson.”

     “Yeah,” Skinny encouraged, “Show him who’s boss, Curtis!”

     “Mutated filth,” muttered the Asian.


Lady Chrome

     She rolled her eyes as the rookie crumbled to the ground.

     “AHEM!” she announced.  The men paused and slowly looked up at her.

     She drummed her fingers on her hips and shook her head, her skin glistening like polished steel.  Dark rust-colored hair danced over her shoulders as she regarded the scene.

     “Incredible,” she scoffed.  “It takes three, big, strong men to beat up a helpless woman and a rookie cop.  I just may have my work cut out for me.”  The three men stood completely still.

     “Now as I see it,” she continued, “You all got two choices: Conscious or unconscious.  Makes no difference to me.”

     Baldy straightened up.  He stepped over the fallen policeman and moved closer to her.  Skinny and the Asian flanked behind him.  Baldy pushed up his sleeves.

     “I don’t take no shit from no bitch,” he stated.  “Especially inbred mutant bitches.”

     “I love the direct approach,” she smiled as he approached.

     He lunged at her and threw a hard right across her chin.  Her head turned and she stepped back to hold her balance.  Baldy threw a quick left into her stomach, curling her over.  Then pulled his hand back to slap her.

     She caught his wrist in mid-swing and squeezed.  He opened his mouth to scream but uttered only a squeak.  She straightened up and glared into Baldy’s eyes.  A displeased look crossed her face.

     “Nice right,” she observed.  “Let me show you a little combo me mum taught me.”

     She pulled back her right hand and sent it at his jaw.  The crack when her fist struck was clearly audible.  Baldy listed to his right as she dropped his hand and made another quick cross with her left.  She lifted his head and pulled back her right once more.  Baldy glanced up just in time to see her steel-like fist slam into his face.

     Baldy fell straight back in an unconscious heap.  Skinny just stared.  The Asian stood wide-eyed.  She licked at the blood on her hand.

     “Next?” she queried.  Skinny took a step back.

     The Asian came at her with a metal bar.  He screamed as he slammed it down on her left shoulder.  She winced but didn’t fall.  Staring at her, fear overcame his chutzpah.

     “Better,” she said.

     She snaked her tail around her assailant’s leg.  He glanced down and saw the thick snake-like appendage and gasped.  She grabbed his wrists in her left hand and slid her right arm around his waist.  She pulled him close and looked deep into his eyes.

     “No prize for second place, Dearie,” she whispered.

     She pressed her silvery lips against his and could feel him trembling.  She brought up her left knee and lifted him several centimeters off the ground.  His whole body tensed.  She released him at all points and took the bar with her left hand.  The Asian crumpled beside her.

     Her gaze returned to Skinny.  She held the bar in her left hand, slapping it into her right palm.  Her tail whipped around behind her as she shifted her weight.

     “Last one already?” she said with a frown.  Skinny’s stare stayed on her as he stumbled back and tripped.  He dropped on his butt, turned on the ground and dashed for the street.

     She raised her right hand and extended it toward the fleeing man.  Lowering her head, she stared intently at his back.  She felt a twinge behind her eyes and her power released.

     Skinny was suddenly pushed forward as if he’d been hit in the back with a cannonball.  His head snapped back as his legs gave out and folded beneath him.  Falling to the ground, his face slammed into the black pavement.  He slid a short way before stopping near the entrance to the alley.

     She cracked the knuckles in her right hand with her thumb.

     “Some people’s kids,” she whispered.


Surge

     Birch lay face on the wet pavement.  He’d been thrown for quite a loop and now cursed himself for using up all of his energy on a display like that.

     Something nudged at his side.  He kept his eyes shut and obeyed, rolling onto his back.  He waited for someone to punch him or kick his head, but nothing happened.  After a pause that seemed like forever, he opened his eyes.  Shock registered in his purple eyes.

     A woman with metal skin was standing above him with her legs on either side of his head.  Her hands were on her hips and she was looking down at him.  She wore dark silky shorts and a red tank top.  She was very well muscled from his point of view.

     “As much as it would satisfy your darkest sexual desires,” she said with a British accent, “I’m not going to provide mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

     He laid in stymied silence.  She rolled her eyes and bent down to lift him to a sitting position and took his arm.

     “Let’s go, Rookie.  Get up.”  She pulled him to his feet and pulled at the zip-tie that bound his hands.  She broke it effortlessly.

     “Thank you,” he muttered as his cheeks burned with embarrassment.

     “Don’t worry, Kid.  It happens to the best of us.”  She glanced at the rank badge on his sleeve; an inverted teardrop topped with a curved stripe.

     “Corporal,” he explained.  She rolled her eyes.

     “So, what’s your name?”

     “Bir…,” he started, almost revealing his first name.  “Uh...Surge.”  He said as he rubbed his wrists.  The woman was moving toward Skinny.

     “Well, Bir-uh-surge.  Nice try on the fancy entrance, but it’s really not necessary.”  She patted Skinny for weapons and heaved him onto her shoulder.  “And that little show of power; cute but a bit excessive.  You can see why.”

     Surge moved to where the victim had been attacked.  The remains of her torn shirt had been discarded when she’d run off.  Surge knelt down and picked up the remains of the garment for a closer look.

    “Zip-ties?” the chrome woman requested, pulling Surge’s focus.  He handed her a few from his pocket and she set to binding the assailants’ hands.  Birch glanced at the shirt once more.

     “What did they do to her?” Surge asked out loud.

     “They caught her off guard and roughed her up a bit,” the woman responded plainly, as if reciting a sports score.  Surge clenched the ripped shirt and gritted his teeth.

     “You call this a ‘bit?’” he said angrily, holding up the shirt.  The chrome woman took a step back and glared into Surge’s eyes.

     “Yeah,” she started defiantly, “A bit.”

     Surge watched her as she snatched a bundle of clothes off a trashcan.  She tossed the garment over her shoulder, and Birch saw it was a gray coverall.  Moving past him, she headed toward the street.

     Surge kept his gaze on her as she moved.  His mind raced in confusion.  Then he thought he saw her legs, changing?  A siren approached in the distance.

     She got a few meters away and turned back to him.  Her face had lost much of its shine.  Her hands and legs were shifting to the pale pink of flesh.

     “You got heart kid,” she said, catching him off guard.  “Just watch your power consumption and ease up on the theatrics.”

     One of the men groaned and Birch glanced down.

     “Tell your buddies whatever you want.  I prefer to remain anonymous.”  She turned and continued toward the street.  Surge moved up to the men.

     “And you can keep the shirt!” she called back.  Birch looked up just as she disappeared around the corner.  He glanced at the ruined T-shirt and shook his head.


Dispatch

     Dispatch wasn’t exactly sure what had happened.  One minute Surge was moving into the alley after an unsuccessful jump to the street.  The next minute a young woman was exiting the alley unscathed.  The Chief notified the primary dispatchers and told them that he’d handle Surge when the rookie called in.

     A chime sounded.

     “Surge reporting in.” Crier said.

     “Speak,” Dispatch said smoothly, knowing that Crier had already activated his microphone.

     “Corporal Surge, badge number six-five-zero reporting at 26th and Cross,” came the trained response.

     “Corporal,” Dispatch started calmly.  “Just what were you trying to prove with that corny leap from the fire escape?  For that matter, what were you doing on the roof of that building in the first place?”

     “Chief?  Sir?  I …” Surge was clearly at a loss for words.

     “Never mind, Corporal,” the Chief sighed.  “Report.”

     “Yes, sir.  I encountered three men attempting to rape a young woman.  I tried to persuade them to come peacefully.  But.…” Surge’s voice trailed off.

     “Yes, Corporal,” Miles encouraged.

     “Well, I was knocked down.  The men were subdued by a ... Metal-skinned woman.”  The Chief perked up.  He checked the camera view to see if he could catch another glimpse of the woman, but she was gone.

     “At first I thought she was my back-up,” continued Surge, “But it seems she was a …”  The corporal hesitated nervously.

     “Yes?”

     “A civilian,” Surge completed.

     Miles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.  Rookies.

     “Did you get a name, Corporal?” the Chief asked.

     “No, Sir.”

     “Well, I hope you will take the initiative and get a name the next time a Sentry assists you.  For the report, you know.”  Miles saw a police cruiser pull up to the alley on his display.  “Is the victim all right?”

     “Well, I think she ran off, Sir,” Surge said without much confidence.

     Dispatch put his glasses back on.  “Turn the men over to the cruiser and return to your beat.  Don’t let it happen again.”

     “Yes, Sir.”

     “Dispatch out.”  The speaker cut before Surge could reply.

     Miles watched Surge meet the other officers at the entrance to the alley before removing the camera from his display entirely.

     “Cancel Surge’s back-up,” he muttered.

     “Affirmative,” Crier returned.

     The Chief shook his head.  As much as he hated it when civilians got involved with his people, it happily reminded him of the old days before he’d joined the police force.  Back then, unsanctioned metahumans dressed in garish costumes were running around everywhere, providing their own brand of vigilante justice.  He should know, he’d been one.

     This was the third time he’d heard a report involving this ‘metal woman’.  They spanned several months, but stuck out in his mind.  She seemed to have a working knowledge of law enforcement methods, and in all of the reports, she just showed up out of the blue.  She was just in the right place at the right time; or vice versa.

     She wasn’t a registered Sentry either.  Dispatch had access to the Private Identity database and there wasn’t anyone in it with powers like hers.

     “Crier,” he started, “Attach Surge’s report to the file on ‘Lady Chrome.’”

     “Affirmative,” Crier responded.

     Dispatch settled back into his chair and sighed.

     “Give me Carson One.”  The holo-screen instantly changed to a view that came from the camera mounted on the top of the Police Headquarters building.  He gazed thoughtlessly at his fair city.  Just another day in Atymsburg.

     He lifted his coffee cup to his lips.  Empty.