EMDAS 2011 - February (Origins) Competition Page
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Intense pain, chest area.
I took down the gangster easily enough, but I didn't expect him to manage to hit me. Firing his handgun with one hand; unaimed, random shots. Desperate shots, but he got lucky.
Armor not penetrated. Heavy bruising, fractured ribs possible.
It hurts bad. Body armor isn't all that it's made to be. I was even winded momentarily, but the momentum of the leap was sufficient to carry me forward and land on the enemy. Thankfully, he was alone. But he has done enough damage.
The pain is affecting me worse than I had imagined. If I wasn't expecting bigger prey soon, I would have used painkilling drugs. Or called it a night. But tonight is too important. And slowed reflexes and dulled senses aren't nearly enough to stop them.
Distract self from pain. Adapt tolerance level. Think.
I can endure. I just need a few moments to adapt to this level of pain, a few moments to trick the body into believing that this is the default state. One or two minutes should be enough. But first I need to distract my mind from the hurt. And then I think back. On when, on why.
On when I became Vigilante.
The results had been limited. Stopping some two-bit robbers, beating up a few no-name mobsters, foiling a few drug transactions; merely drops in the bucket, the lowest rungs of a dark empire. The Undercity spread in spite of my actions. Deeper. I needed to go deeper. It was more dangerous, but it was a necessary choice. Then I began targeting the predators higher up on the food chain. Destroying drug warehouses. Wrecking gambling dens. Crushing underground arms transactions. Crippling money laundering operations. It was strikingly effective.
Did I become Vigilante then? Did I only become Vigilante when I discarded ineffective methods and took on a grittier, a more exacting approach?
No, that is only the origin of the Vigilante feared by the Undercity.
I started going out at night, to the darkest places of the Undercity. Places where people don't want to go, places where people stay because they can't leave. A place of villains and victims, and often both in one. My plan was simple, too simple perhaps; I simply addressed personally the things I previously left in the hands of the police. The difficult part was the fighting; my physique was exceptional, honed from many years of training, but was I a fighter? In the end I managed, using my superior focus of mind and a combat style that exploited the many weak spots on the human body- eyes, nose, and groin. Effective, unscrupulous, and sometimes difficult to escape unscathed, but it was a choice I made.
Was this the beginning? Was I only a hero when I got down to things, and got my hands dirty?
No, that is only the origin of the Vigilante that prowled the nights.
Captain Shearer accepted a horizontal posting to the next state. I don't blame him; nobody wants to raise a family in this city. He has provided enough help. Which is more than I can say about his replacement, a career bureaucrat interested in lowering crime only when he could claim credit for it. Unreliable. The cops stopped following my tip-offs. I made a decision. The next day I gathered the materials that I had prepared for such an outcome. A mask that covered only parts of the lower face, leaving field of vision and ease of respiration unaffected. Camouflage cream, a far easier way of disguising facial features. Lightweight clothing that had a dark exterior, with a white interior to wear in lit urban environments. Bulletproof armor, procured from military surplus and modified for mobility at the cost of protection. Guns, a last resort when all other avenues are exhausted. And training, a lot of training, and experimentation. Experimentation on how to apply and wear gear for maximum mobility and effectiveness. Experimentation on the areas of weakness in bulletproof armor and on how to reinforce it, on how to exploit it.
Vigilante was forged from such methods and materials. But this is not the origin, the moment where one stops being merely a silent observer.
It still surprises me what knowledge one can get from patent databases. Coupled with a bit of ingenuity in obtaining encryption codes, I was able to build a functional radio transceiver with access to police operating frequencies. In the beginning I masqueraded as an police element, directing officers on the beat to crime hotspots I learnt of from my research. Though the cops were initially confused about the mysterious source of accurate tip-offs, they eventually traced the information back to a single sender, whom they named "Unidentified Vigilante". Despite not knowing of my identity or methods they continued to rely on my information. I did not even need to disguise myself under some police call-sign. The heavy crimes unit even instated an unofficial protocol for acting on my tip-offs. I heard that the protocol was created by a Captain Shearer. Valorous enough to capture the criminals, and effective enough to collect the evidence for the prosecutors to do their jobs.
I did something, at last. Vigilante did something. Was it enough? Would she say that it was enough?
No, she will never say that. This was only the beginning, for it will never be enough.
I joined my mother's charity organization. Even after her death I could have used her connections to obtain a considerable position within the charity, but that would not have met my purposes. No, I choose to put myself on the frontlines, to work directly with people. It was what my mother would have done. It also gave me good reason to needle in and out of the Undercity, to see and hear things. Alone, the things I learnt on the ground would be useless. But I also had access to information from other sources, information that few had thought to use. Ambulance dispatch locations from A&E departments, housing prices and rental rates, number of cabs hailed from particular locations; with analysis, all these provided information on patterns of crime.
Amateurish work. A start, but only a start.
On her deathbed my mother confessed a regret. She wished that she had done something about Kelly, anything at all. Those were my mother's final words before succumbing to cancer. After that I was truly alone. There was a considerable inheritance, more than enough for me to live out two comfortable lifetimes. I could have chosen that path, a path of blissful, hedonistic ignorance. I could have pretended not to notice that the city was slowly decaying, that the Undercity was spreading to neighborhoods that were once places to raise families. I could even have moved to another city. But my parents wouldn't have agreed. Kelly wouldn't have agreed.
Good people aren't good because they don't commit evil. Good people stand against evil.
There was a mocking irony that the manner of her funeral was far more lavish than the life she had lived. Contributed and sponsored by the media. It was after all a big story- "Bright girl on scholarship killed by addict father". Pulled the whimsical heartstrings of the citizenry. The follow-up story a few months later made news too... "Murdering parent killed in mob gunfight". The media called it poetic justice. I didn't feel the same. My father would have said, "There are causes, and then there are the causes." Kelly was killed by her no-good father, a drunkard, addict, and small-time pusher. She was also killed by a bullet. Both are causes, one merely more immediate than the other. And stepping back, moving further up the chain of causes, was the corruption and depravity of the Undercity. The Undercity, a place where vice festered and spread, an inexorable sinkhole that drowned and smothered its inhabitants. What chance did she stand?
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps. More reinforcements to take down. Still some time before they reach my hiding location. Enough time for one last recollection.
My father met Kelly only once, before his unfortunate medical mission. "This one's a keeper", he whispered to me. How he came to that conclusion, I don't know. She had a nice smile for sure, and the fact that she studied her way into a prestigious school despite her circumstances meant something. She seemed destined for greater things, and not only for herself. But it was not destiny or fate. It was an outcome she chose.
Nearby. Almost here. Wait for the moment...
It is always about choices. It begins with a choice, a choice between stepping back for your own good, or stepping out even if it costs you. It starts at each and every moment where such a choice can be made. It never ends. We must always choose, and keep choosing. That is the origin of Vigilante.
I leap out from the platform into the darkness, into the unknown.
Origin Story, at 1499 words.
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