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PLATINUM CITY CHRONICLES

Liberty Star # 1

The Right to Bear Arrows

2nd Chronicle

Written by Steffon Thomas

Illustration by Archsider Artist

           “Excuse me, everyone,” announced a man wearing a long dark trench coat and combat boots, as he stood atop a table in the middle of the crowded Crystalline Shopping Mall food court. He was speaking into his cellphone, which was feeding through the PA system allowing everyone in the entire mall to hear him.

             “My name is Donny Tomlin. And strapped to my chest is a particle bomb with enough payload to destroy this mall and everything in a two-point-five-mile radius.” He opened his coat and revealed a high-tech contraption affixed to a tactical vest, prompting panic as thousands of shocked and horrified patrons began heading for the exits. The stampede near the Kiddy Kandy Shop was so abrupt that a little girl got separated from her mother and swept up in the current of people.

            “Lucy?” her mother Margaret called out. “Baby girl? Where are you? Has anyone seen my daughter? Help!” But no one was listening. Instead they were scrambling toward the exits. To their dismay, they found that none of the sliding doors were sliding open.

            “Attention, please,” he said in a steady voice that everyone ignored. “I said, MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION!” The feedback caused by the sharpness in his voice forced people to cover their ears, and more importantly, to stop in their tracks. “I have hacked into the security system and locked all doors leading to outside,” he said, regaining his composure. “If anyone tries to break in or out, I will receive a notification on my phone, and I will detonate my bomb.”

            “Now, calm down, son. Just take it easy.” A team of security guards, led by Randall Jeffries, tentatively approached Donny, while simultaneously ushering people away from him. At that moment, Randy noticed that little 6-year-old Lucy was hiding under the very table Donny was standing on. Instinctively he took a step toward her.

            “STAY BACK!” The terrorist said, snapping his head in the security guard’s direction. “If anyone comes near me, I will pull this trigger!”

            “Okay, okay, we’ll stay back.” Randy said, holding his hands out in a calming gesture. “Tell us, what do you want?”

             “What do I want?” he sneered. “It’s simple. I want my job back! And not just my job, but the jobs of all the proud men and women who broke their backs and shed their blood, sweat and tears to build this mall.”

            “I don’t understand,” Randall said trying to keep is voice as calm and reassuring as possible. “Were you fired?”

            “Fired?” Donny responded as if spitting the word. “No, we were put out of business. My construction company, which my father passed down to me, is finished! I’m finished! Bankrupt! And it’s all because no one appreciates a hard day’s work anymore. Everyone wants to take the easy way out. Everyone wants to use hyper-people to do everything. What about the working man? What about the people who built this country? What about us? Everything is changing, man. And it’s not for the better…”

            “Sir, I understand your frustration. But how does it help to kill all of these innocent people?” Randall pleaded, making brief eye contact with Lucy. “There are children here. You don’t want to hurt children, do you?”

            “I don’t want to hurt anyone. But what am I supposed to do? Just accept the way things are?” He let the question linger for a moment, then answered it himself. “No. I’m not gonna stand by while this country goes up in flames. Today, my sacrifice, and the sacrifices of everyone here, will mark the beginning of a new revolution!” With that, he retrieved the detonator from a vest pocket.

            “LUCY!” Margaret screamed finally spotting her daughter and turning to run toward the terrorist.

            “No!” Randall said, turning to intercept her.

            “Long live Strips and Stars!” Donny declared, as Randall and everyone else screamed and jumped for cover. Just then the sound of glass shattering rang through the food court as LIBERTY STAR came busting through the skylight! Dressed in her red, white and blue tactical hero gear and sporting her high-tech eye visor, she instantly nocked 3 arrows in her specialized bow and fired! The projectiles, which were infused with particle energy, stuck in the ground in three locations surrounding Donny, who had dropped the detonator.

            Liberty Star stuck her landing and saw that the terrorist was already reaching down to grab it. She also saw that Lucy was covering her head trying to protect herself from the flying glass.

            “Save my baby!” Margaret screamed.

            The hero would have to move fast if she wanted to save not only Lucy, but thousands of other people. She secured her bow, then sprinted toward Donny’s table. She was just a few feet away when she went into a baseball slide, allowing her momentum to propel her under the table, where, in one motion, she grabbed Lucy while jabbing a fourth arrow into the ground before sliding out on the other side just as Donny pulled the trigger! The bomb whirred into ignition and… KA-BOOOM…

            But at that very same moment, Liberty Star clicked a button on her bow triggering the four arrows to activate a particle containment bubble which successfully captured the entire spectacular explosion – a colorful burst of cosmic thunder and lightning wrapped in a whirlwind of sound and fury that vaporized Donny before dissipating into nothingness.

            After a few moments, Randall, Margaret and the other patrons began to get to their feet. They looked up to see their savior, Liberty Star, standing tall with Lucy in one arm and her bow in the opposite hand.

            “Mommy!”

            “Lucy!” Margaret screamed, as she ran over and grabbed her daughter. “Oh my god! Thank you, Liberty Star! Thank you so much! How can I ever repay you!”

            “Just doing my duty, ma’am.” She said with a smile. She kneeled down to Lucy and put a hand on her shoulder. “You were so brave, Lucy. Now, make sure you take care of your mama, okay?”

            The little girl grinned from ear to ear and nodded. “Okay.”

            A few minutes later, the Crystalline Avenue entrance doors slid open and Liberty Star led thousands of people out into the daylight. Hundreds of emergency personnel were already on the scene, including Platinum City Police Vice Chief of the 53rd District, William Hunter.

            “Another particle bomb?” he asked as he approached the hero.

            “Yes, sir,” she responded. “And another member of the Stripes and Stars coalition.”

            “How many times have I told you, you don’t have to call me ‘sir.’ You’re the former Navy SEAL; I should be calling you ‘sir.’

            “Chain of command, sir,” she said with unmistakable seriousness. “I serve at the pleasure of the mayor and the Platinum City Chief of police—”

            “Yes, yes,” William said with a bit of feigned exasperation. “I know, I know. If this is the speech I’m gonna get every time, then, sure, call me ‘sir’ all you want.”

            “Yes sir,” she said with a hint of a smirk.

            “You don’t serve at the pleasure of anyone but yourself,” said Lt. Jake Sutter with disdain as he walked over from his car. “You’re a vigilante who just happens to have some connections at City Hall.”

            “Relax, Lieutenant Sutter,” William interjected, stepping between the two of them.

            “How can I relax when she’s allowed to carry around an unauthorized weapon of mass destruction?”

            “With all due respect, sir, as you know, my weapon has been inspected and is licensed through all of the proper agencies.” She stated with military curtness. “And under the constitution, I have the right to protect myself, and my fellow citizens, which is what I did today.”

            “That’s our job! And vigilantes like you make that job more difficult every day. You think it’s a coincidence that the guy in there was using the same technology you use? All of it should be banned!”

            “Lieutenant!” Willian snapped, finally getting his attention. “Get in there and help gather statements from the witnesses. We’ve gotta contain this area.” Sutter hesitated, as he continued to lock eyes with the hero. “Go!” Vice Chief Hunter urged. The disgruntled officer pulled himself away and went off to perform his duties.

            “Perhaps, it’s time for me to leave,” Liberty Star said watching Sutter carefully. With her focus on him, she barely noticed Little Lucy looking at her with wonder and admiration.

            “Okay, Liberty Star. We’ll debrief later this week.” Hunter said holding out a hand, which she took and shook heartily. “And Heather,” he said with genuine tenderness. “Thank you for what you do. More people appreciate it than you know.” She nodded before taking off.

            It took her a little less than thirty minutes to get back to her apartment in the 54th district of Platinum City. She usually traveled through the higher-level sky bridges of the City. Unlike the thousands of other bridges at lower levels, these were rarely crowded with citizens. Additionally, they provided a bird’s eye view of the portions of the megalopolis she patrolled.

            Her apartment was near the top of a high-rise building where mostly upper-class citizens kept residences. Hers was a two-story dwelling. The upper level was reserved for the workshop, where Liberty Star kept her outfits and worked on her gear, while the lower level was where Heather Kraeger and her husband Tommy made their home.

            On that evening, Tommy was out of town with their 7-year old daughter Betsy visiting family in Michigan. As she grabbed a bottle of water, she stared for a long moment at the plethora of photos covering the fridge door. She focused in on a picture of the three of them at a 4th of July celebration watching fireworks. The reflection of light on her daughter’s face sparked a memory of little Lucy’s face when Donny’s particle bomb exploded. She reminded herself of all the reasons she had continued fighting the war against evil and terror, even after her duties with the Navy SEALS ended. Next to that picture was an image of her mother, who had also served with the US armed services.

            After finishing her drink, she grabbed her jacket and headed out. She drove to the 65th district and parked in the south lot of Red Hawk Veterans Hospital. Upon entering she went up to the 26th floor where she found her mother sitting up in her bed watching the news.

            “Hey mom,” Heather said sheepishly.

            “There you are!”  Victoria Dario said with a new delight. “I wasn’t sure you were gonna come by today. I saw you on the TV. You were amazing.”

            “Thanks, mom.”

            “Well, what are you doing all the way over there? Come, sit! Stay for a while.” Heather pulled a chair over and took a seat next to Victoria, who quickly grabbed her hand and squeezed it tenderly.

            “How are you feeling?” Heather asked.

            “Oh, I’m fine,” Victoria responded, still halfway focusing on the newscaster who was covering the Crystalline Mall incident. “You know, the usual stuff; all those stupid pills making me wanna puke. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the medicine was worse than the sickness.”

            “I’m sure the doctors know what they’re doing.” Heather said, trying to sound more upbeat than she was feeling. “Any word on that specialist who was supposed to come examine you?”

            Victoria shrugged. “Who knows.” I hear something different every day. Mostly about budgets and stuff… I don’t know.”

            “You know, me and Tommy have some savings. We can—”

            “Oh, no, no, no! That money is for Betsy’s college fund. You invest in the future,” she turned her full attention to Heather for emphasis, “not the past.” She smiled tenderly, then refocused on the television. “Oh, this is my favorite part!” Cell phone footage shows the moment the bomb exploded inside Liberty Star’s particle containment field.

            “…Except for the suspect, there were no casualties, thanks to the intervention of vigilante superhero Liberty Star,” said the well-manicured newscaster. “The suspect has been identified as Donny Sheffield Tomlin, a resident of Platinum City. He had no prior record, but from the manifesto he gave before the explosion, we can surmise that he had been radicalized by the Stripes and Stars coalition.”

            The screen cuts to cell phone footage of Donny speaking out… “I’m finished! Bankrupt! And it’s all because no one appreciates a hard day’s work anymore. Everyone wants to take the easy way out. Everyone wants to use hyper-people to do everything.” Heather watches with weariness as the screen cuts to another scene. “…But what am I supposed to do? Just accept the way things are? No. I’m not gonna stand by while this country goes up in flame. Today, my sacrifice, and the sacrifices of everyone here, will mark the beginning of a new revolution! Long live Strips and Stars!”

            The screen cut to a panel of talking heads discussing the incident. “These yokels and their radical ideas, Victoria said with the disgust. “I’m just glad there’re people out there like you fighting for what’s right! The problem is that you keep kicking their butts and they keep coming back for more.”

            “The fact that Stripes and Stars is persistent is not the biggest problem,” Heather said somberly.

            “Oh yeah? What is it?”

            “It’s that they make some good points.”

            “Huh,” her mother puffed, still only halfway paying attention to her. “Well I guess that’s one way of looking at it.”

            It was well after nightfall when Heather returned to her apartment. She had barely put her jacket away when there was a knock on her door. She opened it to find two men in dark suits holding up official-looking badges.

            “Hello, Mrs. Kraeger. My name is Lawrence Knight. This is my partner, Cody Tremble. And we’re with the Weapons and Artillery Regulatory Program.”

            “What?” she said genuinely puzzled. “I’ve never heard of… WARP.”

            “We’re a newer agency.” Cody responded. “We work under the jurisdiction of the ATF.”

            “Okay…” Heather said, suspiciously. “Why are you here?”

            “Well, it’s simple really,” Lawrence explained. “We’re here for your bow and arrows.”

             “My… bow and arrows?” For a moment, Heather felt like she’d been hit in the gut with a ton of bricks. “What are you talking about?” She stepped back, as her face hardened into a defiant scowl.

            “Mrs. Kraeger,” Lawrence continued, holding up a calming hand. “We understand this is a bit sudden. But earlier this week, the government put in new regulations that gives us the right to collect and inspect all vigilante weapons and technology, after which we can decide whether they are permitted for use in civilian areas. At this very moment, there are WARP agents all over Platinum City and the rest of the country having this same discussion with other people like yourself.”

            Heather couldn’t believe what was happening. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears, as her mind raced to figure out what she should do. As a law-abiding citizen, the right thing to do was to hand over her gear. But as a private citizen, she felt the government had no right to infringe on her rights to own and use her weapons. She steadied her breathing and stared Lawrence in the eye. “And if I refuse?”

            “Then we will take your bow and arrows by force.” Lawrence and Cody put their hands on the guns holstered on their hips. “We don’t wanna do it, Mrs. Kraeger, but we will.”

            Heather looked from Lawrence to his gun, then to Cody’s gun and then up to his eyes. She could tell they were not bluffing. But neither was she.

            “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but the only way you’re getting my tech is over my dead body.”

            “Fine,” Lawrence said, with a devious smile. “Take her down!”

            Heather quickly kicked the door closed and jumped for cover as a deluge of bullets ripped through the wooden slab shredding it. She crawled into her living room and was about to get to her feet and run for the stairs, when Lawrence and Cody busted in and took aim. She leapt behind a sofa as the shots poured in. After a few moments, the bullets stopped. This is my chance. Heather quickly leapt over the sofa and tackled Lawrence, which sent his gun sliding across the floor. Cody reloaded and took aim, but Heather flipped into a spin kick that landed square on his jaw and sent him to the ground. Lawrence gathered himself and kicked her in the back of her left leg.

            “Ouch!” she yelped, before pivoting and backflipping into a devastating elbow drop that broke his nose. She mounted him and landed two more punches before quickly rolling out of the way of a barrage of bullets from Cody. Feathers and stuffing from the sofa filled the air for a few minutes as Cody and Lawrence picked themselves up and regrouped.

            “Where is she?” Lawrence screamed

            “I don’t know,” Cody responded. “But the boss is gonna be pissed off if we don’t finish this job.”

            “I’ll worry about the boss. You worry about finding her.”

            But they didn’t have to look long as they turned to see Liberty Star, fully geared up and equipped with her bow and a quiver of arrows, coming down the steps. “You wanted my arrows? Now you get my arrows.” She immediately nocked two of them and fired! Cody and Lawrence jumped for cover as the projectiles missed impaling them by millimeters.

            Liberty Star leapt forward and did a rolling tuck to avoid their return fire, before unleashing an arrow that ripped Lawrence’s gun out of his hand and pinned it to the wall. He got up and ran for the door. Liberty took aim, but quickly realized that she was in Cody’s sights. He fired. She turned and, using her goggles to track the movement of the bullet, let loose her arrow, which intercepted the shell and caused it to ricochet through the front doorway where it hit the fleeing Lawrence in the arm!

            “Ahhhh!!” he screamed out as he stumbled into the stairwell.

            The hero then maneuvered in and chopped the gun out of Cody’s hand before performing a spin-kick that knocked him unconscious. The fight was over.

            It was just under fifteen minutes before a squad of Platinum City police officers arrived on the scene. Heather watched as they took Cody into custody. He was defiant to the end. “…We’ll take your bow and your arrows! No one should be allowed to carry weapons like that! You haven’t seen the last of WARP! You haven’t seen the last of us!” he screamed as they dragged him out of the door.

            “What the hell is WARP?” Heather asked William Hunter as he walked over to her. “And why are they trying to take away my weapons?”

            “I made some calls to City Hall and DC. They’ve never heard of WARP.”

            “What?” she said incredulously. “Those guys weren’t federal agents?”

            “No. Apparently they are their own rogue organization.” he responded, looking at this tablet. “The only reason we know this isn’t an isolated incident is because right before I came here, I got a call from one of my colleagues who told me a similar incident happened at Larry Donovan’s house.”

            “The Gavel?”

            “Yup. Two guys came in flashing badges and told him he needed to hand over his hammer. Let’s just say he was a lot less civil than you were. Those two are both in the morgue.”

            “I believe everyone deserves an opportunity to stand trial for what they’ve done.”

            “Well, either way, rest assured, no one’s trying to take away your arrows.”

            An officer called the vice chief over to examine some evidence, leaving Heather to look around her apartment that had been turned into a crime scene in a matter of minutes. She saw the collage of photos on her refrigerator door looking back at her. She took a deep breath then headed up to her workshop to begin preparing for her next battle.

Meanwhile, Lawrence made it back to his condo in the 61st district of Platinum City. When he entered and turned on the lights, he was startled to find a woman with brunette hair waiting for him. She was wearing white tactical gear with the letters WARP emblazoned down her left sleeve. A mask covered the top half of her face.

            “Oh, it’s you?” Lawrence said, after a taking a second to catch his breath. “You scared me.”

            “It would seem you have failed to complete my mission.” She said coldly. “Tell me what happened.”

            “That’s easy. Liberty Star beat the mess out of us. Cody got busted. And I got my arm nearly ripped off—” Suddenly a punch to the jaw floored Lawrence. He looked up to see a suited man standing above him. He also had the letters WARP on his left sleeve.

            “It’ll do you well to speak to Snowblade with more respect,” the henchman said, just before laying into him with another crushing blow to the face.

            “That’s enough.” Snowblade said. “It seems Liberty Star and some of her friends don’t take kindly to our overtures. In this case the pen just may be mightier than the sword. Take me to my office.”

            “Yes ma’am.” the henchman said, opening the door for his boss.

            “Hey,” said Lawrence, who had pulled himself to his knees. “What about me?”

            “Oh, right? You,” she said sarcastically before suddenly unsheathing her frosty sword and stabbing him in his already injured shoulder.

            “Ahhhh!” he screamed as ice emanated from the piercing and spread over his entire arm. “What have you done?” Lawrence wailed. Then CRACK! his entire frozen arm shattered into a thousand pieces of ice. “Ahhhhhhh!!

            “Now it seems your arm is completely ripped off,” she remarked with a smirked. “Come, I think it’s time we liberate Liberty Star of her freedom.

To be continued in “The Right to Remain Frosted”

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