Neon Noir Nights

A detective with super powers searches for a missing girl with super powers in the ruins of futuristic San Francisco.


A hover car, its metallic surface shimmering in the neon glow of the city, descended from the smog-choked night sky onto the quiet street. The car parked beside a dilapidated apartment building, a crumbling monument to the urban decay, with boarded-up windows and vines that slithered up the walls like the tendrils of some ancient beast.

A woman, clad in all black with short, ebony hair, stepped out of the vehicle. Water splashed onto her shoe as she navigated a small puddle, the raindrops distorting her reflection into a kaleidoscope of alternate realities. 

The driver’s seat door swung open, and a large, muscular man emerged. Built like a mountain, his wide shoulders stretched out his jacket. They surveyed the surrounding area, where folly laid bare: shattered windows and wrecked hover cars.

Together, the pair entered the building. The chilly hallway was marred with holes and graffiti. A single flickering light, powered by a failing fusion generator, struggled to illuminate the area. The duo made their way up the creaking stairs, where they encountered three young adults on the second floor.

Red smoke billowed from the teenagers’ mouths as they clutched vapes in their hands. Electronic music blared from speakers embedded in a plastic mannequin’s chest.

“Yo, this music is terrible. Change it to something else!” barked the one sporting a pink Mohawk, his words echoing in the narrow hallway.

They turned their attention to the pair, their eyes lighting up with a mixture of curiosity and malice..

“Look what we have here!” Pink-Mohawk greeted as he blocked the pair’s way, taking the mantle of leader. “I’ve never seen you two in here before.”

“Probably just looking to buy some of D’s stuff,” the skinny one with silver caps in his mouth suggested, a walking embodiment of cybernetic excess.

“Boy, stop playing. They don’t look like they’re on the stuff,” Pink-Mohawk corrected, his eyes scanning the woman from head to toe. “Never seen anyone quite like you around here.”

The boys chuckled, but the pair remained unamused, their expressions stoic.

“D’s not here, but if you’re looking for some coke, I got some for you,” the crew giggled. Pink-Mohawk sauntered closer to the woman, who kept her gaze straight ahead. “It’s good for your hair and skin and packed with protein.”

Before his arm could fully encircle the woman, she seized his wrist and twisted it, forcing him to drop to his knees with a yell. His friends recoiled as the woman maintained her grip on his wrist.

“How about something better?” the woman suggested, her eyes piercing his. “I stomp your face until the blood turns your cotton candy hair red.”

“Get her!” Pink-Mohawk cried, desperation and pain etched into his face.

His posse advanced, but the large man interposed himself, causing them to cower back as the woman continued to scowl at Pink-Mohawk. They could only watch as she bent his wrist further, the cracking of his bones growing louder.

The woman released her hold, allowing Pink-Mohawk to rise to his feet as he rubbed his hand. Before he could take a step, she drove her foot into his crotch, sending him to the ground with a whimper. 

“Now get out of here,” the woman ordered, her voice cold and unwavering.

The teenagers helped Pink-Mohawk up, abandoning their drugs and mannequin as they fled.

“Why were you so hard on them?” the large man asked, his words laced with a tinge of concern. “Those used to be your type back in the day.”

The woman playfully raised her middle finger with a smile. Traversing the dimly lit, rain-soaked corridor, the two detectives arrived at a door guarded by a weary-eyed police officer. The duo displayed their badges.

“Detective Solar Kobayashi,” the woman introduced, her voice cold and detached. “And this is my partner, Detective Chuck Baxter.”

“Just be ready in there,” the officer muttered, shaking his head. “That guy’s a monster.”

As they stepped into the squalid apartment, a cacophony of machinery hummed amidst the stench of decay. Discarded food wrappers, empty bottles, and used condoms littered the floor. A nauseating pile of excrement festered in one corner. Chuck’s face contorted in disgust.

“Have these people never heard of proper waste disposal?” he inquired, appalled.

Solar’s gaze remained distant, her expression unreadable. A stark contrast to her partner’s reaction.

“Can you not smell that?” Chuck wondered.

Without a response, Solar’s eyes remained fixed on something in the distance. Following her line of sight, Chuck’s eyes widened at the horrific scene before them.

“Dear God,” Chuck gasped.

In the living room, a naked woman lay in a pool of blood, her face unrecognizable, her skull caved in.

“I’m not telling you pigs anything!” a voice shouted from an adjacent room.

Navigating through the filth, Solar and Chuck made their way to the source of the voice. Upon entering, they found a bruised man tied to a chair, his tattooed arms bound with rope. Blood dripped from his mouth onto his filthy tank top. Another man, sleeves rolled up, loomed over the captive, fury etched on their faces. Two uniformed police officers watched from the corners, one smirking sadistically.

“If you’re not going to talk, fine. I can keep doing this all night, you wretch,” the standing man threatened, his fist ready for another blow.

“Go on, detective, hit him one more time,” Solar interjected, her voice laced with ice.

The detective stepped aside, revealing their captive. “Meet our good friend, Randy.”

Solar approached Randy, who spat out blood, a malicious grin spreading across his face.

“What’s this? Here to persuade me with the age-old feminine charm?” he taunted.

His laughter was short-lived as Solar delivered a swift punch to his gut. He doubled over, blood spewing from his mouth.

“You see how this works? I speak, you answer. You don’t, and I’ll make you suffer,” Solar stated.

“Oh, you’re the Glitch they’ve got, aren’t you?” Randy sneered, excitement flickering in his eyes. “Trust me, lady, you don’t want to get inside my head.”

“If you know what she is, then you know it’s best to cooperate. You don’t want to provoke her,” Chuck advised from the corner.

Solar glanced at Chuck, and Randy seized the distraction to head-butt her in the nose.

“Son of a gun!” Solar yelled, staggering back a few steps.

She inspected her nose, blood staining her hand. Randy’s laughter continued until Chuck delivered a powerful punch to his cheek. The room fell silent, then Randy resumed laughing, now displaying a gap where one of his front teeth used to be.

“You’re never going to find those kids, but if you do, I’m going to love seeing the look on their faces when they find out what I did to their mother,” Randy boasted.

“Better proceed with what you came here for,” the detective sighed.

Chuck marched over to Randy, silencing his laughter with a precise strike to the back of his neck.

“I thought he’d never be quiet,”

Solar’s fingers delved into her pocket, extracting a small, obsidian container. From within, she procured two ebony plastic circles, each no larger than a human earlobe. With surgical precision, she parted Randy’s eyelids and inserted the circles like ocular implants. His eyes now fully veiled by the dark discs, she maneuvered a chair before him and settled into it, their gazes locked.

“I’ve never witnessed one of these contraptions in motion,” the detective murmured, materializing from the shadows.

As Solar fixated on the inky circles overlaying Randy’s eyes, his head drooped forward, his body remaining seated. Solar’s own eyes rolled back, her cranium tilting skyward to expose her gaping maw to the heavens.

“Unbelievable,” the detective exhaled.

The detective emerged from his corner, squinting to decipher the cryptic tableau. The spectacle was a rarity, its outcome a mystery to most.

When Solar’s eyes fluttered open, she found herself back in the same decaying chamber she had just vacated, now sprawled across a malodorous bed. A hologram of two women entwined in intimate acts flickered before her. The tattooed, hirsute arms that were now hers reached down towards her groin. Predictable, she mused, but she couldn’t spare a thought for the degenerate man pleasuring himself to holo-porn. She needed to navigate the tumult and extract the information she sought.

Suddenly, Solar felt the body she inhabited hurtle towards a minuscule black hole materializing at the center of the wall. Entering it, her environment plunged into darkness, her sight obliterated. When her eyes reopened, she found herself traversing a hallway, a diminutive brown Chihuahua yapping and snapping at her heels. A single forceful kick to its ribcage, followed by a whimper, silenced the puny canine. Cruel to animals too? What a shock, Solar thought. But reveal something of value.

The black hole materialized once more, swallowing her up. Now, a woman with fiery red hair, her voice a cacophony of anguish, confronted Solar. The disordered carpet and strewn beer bottles felt all too familiar. Progress, Solar thought, as the woman’s verbal onslaught grew increasingly coherent.

“Your indolent self never contributes around here!” the woman bellowed.

“I have a life too. How about you make yourself useful and fetch me another beer?” Solar heard Randy’s voice retort, dripping with condescension.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” the woman seethed, shoving Randy and invading his personal space. Anxiety burgeoned in Solar as she heard Randy’s breath quicken. “I pay the bills! I chauffeur you around! I purchase your beer, and all you do is vegetate on the couch and indulge yourself! You are a pathetic excuse for a human being. I don’t even know…”

Her words were abruptly truncated as a beer bottle in Randy’s grip collided with her skull, propelling her to the ground. Disbelief and terror filled her eyes as she gazed up at the man who pounced on her.

“Cow!” Randy roared in tandem with each brutal blow.

As his fists ascended for the next onslaught, the woman’s face became increasingly battered and bloodied. She attempted to shield herself by covering her face with her arms, but his fists tore through her defense with ease. Eventually, her arms fell limp, yet the savage persisted.

Solar winced at the urge to flee the scene that engulfed her, but she knew she couldn’t. This moment was too pivotal to forsake, as she might miss crucial information. She had to remain and witness Randy’s relentless battering of the now lifeless woman. Even as exhaustion set in, sweat cascading down his face, Randy’s vicious assault continued.

At last, he ceased. Rising slowly, a blend of blood and sweat dripped from his visage onto the inert form beneath him. He slumped back onto the sofa, exhaling a heavy breath.

“Hey!” Randy called out, glancing upward. “Activate the TV!”

The transparent screen flickered to life, revealing a portly man in a suit flanked by two scantily-clad young women, each no older than 23, leaning seductively against him.

“If you enjoy liquor and lascivious ladies, then come to B-Law’s Playhouse!” the man on the screen announced, gesturing at the camera. “We boast the finest girls in the New Bay Area. Many freshly 18!”

Randy cackled as he bounced on the sofa. Reveal something useful, Solar implored internally. She was on the verge of leaving the scene when the sound of a door creaking open captured her attention.

“Mom?” a girl around ten years old inquired, her voice quavering.

Beside her stood a younger boy, seemingly preoccupied with his nasal cavity. The girl’s eyes widened in horror at the sight of her mother’s body, as Randy continued to watch TV, unperturbed by their presence.

“What do you two want? Weren’t you supposed to be at your friend’s birthday party?” Randy inquired, his gaze fixed on the TV.

“What did you do to our mom?” the girl screamed, alerting the little boy to the grisly scene.

“Mommy!” the boy wailed.

“Don’t start bawling,” Randy sighed, visibly annoyed.

The children’s cries intensified, prompting Randy to spring from the couch. He advanced towards them, causing the siblings to retreat in fear.

“You monster!” the girl accused.

“I never liked you kids,” Randy muttered, lunging towards the pair with outstretched hands.

A brief wave of relief washed over Solar as the black hole reappeared, drawing Randy’s body into it. Now she found herself in a vehicle hurtling erratically down a desolate highway. The children were absent from the seats, but Solar could hear their muffled sobs and thumping sounds originating from the trunk.

“Silence!” Randy barked, casting a glance back towards the trunk.

With each passing exit, Solar strained to memorize the signs, but Randy barely acknowledged them, leaving them only within her peripheral vision. The thumping grew louder.

“If you two don’t hush,” Randy hollered, swiveling his head fully to face the rear, “I’ll hurt you worse than I did your mother!”

As Randy turned back, Solar heard his sharp intake of breath as the car swerved off the ramp just before the exit. In that fleeting, terrifying instant, Solar caught a glimpse of a sign – one she could remember before the abrupt, violent collision with a tree.

Solar exhaled sharply as her eyes snapped open.

“Solar, did you uncover anything?” Check asked, hastening to her side.

Ignoring the detective’s query, Solar glanced at Randy, still slumped in the chair.

“Solar?” Check repeated, finally capturing her attention.

               “I’ve located them.”

The hover car hovered several feet above the ground as Solar leaped out. The instant her feet touched the pavement, she sprinted down the hill towards the wrecked vehicle, its hood lodged between trees. She approached the trunk.

“Can you hear me?” she shouted, pounding on the trunk.

No response.

“Damn it!” Solar exclaimed.

Her heart raced, fearing the worst. Solar hurried to the front of the car and pressed a button. A clicking sound emanated from the trunk, but it remained closed. Check dashed to the car ahead of the police.

“The trunk won’t open. The crash must’ve damaged the car’s system,” Solar informed Check.

“I got this,” Check replied.

He placed his gloved hand on the trunk, gripping it tightly. As he pulled upward with considerable force, the trunk began to give way. Check clenched his teeth, straining to lift the trunk further. The sight of motionless legs in the trunk intensified Solar’s concern for the children’s well-being. At last, Check managed to fully open the trunk.

Solar’s eyes met the terrified siblings, trembling and crying inside the trunk. Relief washed over her as she extended her hand.

“Come on, it’s over now,” Solar offered with a weak smile.

She took each child by the hand and guided them out of the trunk. The siblings glanced around, visibly shaken.

“Where’s mommy?” the little boy asked Solar, tears streaming down his face. Both children appeared desperate for a shred of hope. “Is she alright?”

Solar lowered her head, exhaling deeply. She gazed into the children’s eyes and placed her hands on theirs, kneeling to face them.

“Your mother,” Solar began softly, hesitating. She looked away briefly, struggling to find the right words. When she looked back, her eyes were moist. “I’m sorry.”

The children sobbed uncontrollably as Solar bowed her head. Police officers approached and guided the siblings away. As the kids were led off, Solar walked to her car, her eyes filled with sorrow. She couldn’t help but notice their horrified and confused expressions, as if they were uncertain about their future beyond the nightmare they had escaped. Solar shared their concerns.

“It’s never a good thing to witness,” Check commented, breaking Solar’s gaze. “No child should have to endure that.”

Solar sighed.

“I just want to get the hell out of here,” she declared, climbing into the car.

As they sped away from the scene, Solar couldn’t shake the haunting images of the day. She knew the children’s lives were irrevocably altered, and the road to healing would be a long and difficult one. But for now, they were safe, and that was enough. Yet, the darkness of humanity had shown itself once again, and Solar couldn’t help but wonder how many more innocents would suffer before it was extinguished.

Five empty glasses sprawled across the table, rain drizzling in the neon-lit cityscape behind Solar at the open-air bar. The downtown area pulsed with life, throngs of humanity navigating the labyrinthine streets.

“Ron,” Solar beckoned, “another one. A pint this time.”

The bartender, a wiry youth, wiped a glass and approached her.

“You’re not driving tonight, are you, Solar?” he inquired.

“Autopilot, my friend,” she grinned.

He chuckled, obliging with a pint. Solar paid and downed the beer in swift gulps, releasing a satisfied exhale.

A commotion drew her attention. An older bartender threatened a disheveled man, dirt smearing his face.

“Please,” the man pleaded, “I just need water. Isn’t that free?”

“Get out, or I call the police,” the bartender warned.

Solar caught the man as he passed, slipping him a few dollars. He revealed a yellowed grin, departing with renewed vigor. A drone overhead projected a holographic ad.

“Separated from your family coming from the Old Bay Area?” the sultry AI voice asked. “Visit the New Bay Area’s Department of Travel office for reunification.”

Solar’s gaze locked onto the smiling family in the ad, the urban cacophony fading into the distance.

Solar’s spartan apartment illuminated as she entered, minimalist furniture and built-in cabinets dominating the space.

“Hello, Solar,” an AI greeted. “You have five missed calls from Skylar.”

“No, save the voicemails and play music.”

As Solar disrobed, Skylar’s hesitant voice played from the AI.

“Solar, all I want is to talk.”

“Delete,” Solar snapped.

The voice, angrier, continued, 

“Why are you acting like this?”


Solar, now in a tank top and boxers, stood on her balcony with a glass of wine, her focus on the city’s night skyline, sirens wailing and cars honking. Atmospheric music wafted through her apartment.

She sank onto her bed, blindfold and vapor pen ready. She inhaled and exhaled puffs of blue smoke in a trance-like state, the family from the holo-ad resurfacing in her mind. Soon, memories of Randy, his girlfriend, and her kids intruded. Solar refocused, the family reappearing and the music fading, offering her a moment of solace.

In the neon-tinged dusk, a vigilant security guard, armed with a pulse pistol, stood within the confines of his booth, his cybernetic eyes scanning the desolate surroundings. A dilapidated truck, paint flaking and corroded by time, approached the booth. A man with a wild, unkempt beard and a sunbaked face leaned out the window, extending a holographic passport.

“Quiet night on the edge of the world,” the man in the truck commented, a grin full of crooked teeth betraying the weariness in his eyes as he surveyed the empty lanes around him.

The security guard snatched the passport projection with a condescending flick of his cybernetic hand, though the man maintained his grin.

“What business do you have in the Old Bay Area?” the guard inquired, his voice cold and mechanical.

“My brother passed away, so now I -“

“Enjoy your visit,” the guard interrupted, tossing the passport projection at the man’s chest, where it dissipated into a myriad of holographic particles.

“You have a pleasant night, sir,” the man replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

As the truck distanced itself from the booth, the man’s smile dissolved, replaced by a look of disdain.

“Corporate pawn,” he muttered, directing the truck onto the bridge that arched across the vast, black ocean.

As the dystopian skyline of downtown San Francisco loomed, the man heard a muffled thumping noise emanating from beneath a sheet in the back of his truck.

“What in the fractured cosmos is that?” he wondered aloud, his eyes flicking between the rearview mirror and the dark road ahead.

Unbeknownst to him, under the sheets lay a teenage girl with dark red hair, clad in black sleepwear. She was awake, doing her best to remain motionless beside the disheveled furniture. The driver refocused his attention on the road when the noise ceased.

“Must secure it better next time,” he muttered to himself.

The truck continued its journey along the desolate bridge, destined for the place known as the Old Bay Area.

Sand enveloped her toes as the soothing sound of synthetic waves lapping against the shore filled her ears.

“Solar!” a young voice called out.

Solar removed her augmented reality shades and rose from her seat. The little girl from the holo-ad, a product of skilled programming, beamed at her, clad in a pixel-perfect swimsuit.

“Aren’t you going to help me build my sandcastle?” the digital girl inquired eagerly.

Solar glanced past the girl at the sandcastle, where the child’s virtual parents were assisting in its construction.

“Of course,” Solar responded, smiling.

The little girl leaped for joy. Solar stood, and the child grasped her hand, sprinting with her towards the castle. Their laughter filled the artificial air as they approached a moment of manufactured happiness. As they neared the sandcastle, Solar was interrupted by a piercing ringing sound. She halted, realizing she was the only one who could hear it. Her smile vanished as the noise intensified, causing her frustration. The simulation abruptly ended, the incessant ringing reverberating throughout the apartment.

“Solar, you have a call from Check,” Zara, her AI assistant, announced.

Solar removed her virtual reality goggles and peeked out.

“Send it to voicemail,” she suggested groggily, before replacing the goggles.

“I have, but he has been calling for the past twelve minutes.”

Solar yanked off the goggles and sat up abruptly.

“Put him through,” she stated, now irritated.

“As you wish.”

A holographic projection of Check materialized before Solar. He appeared unfazed by Solar’s casual attire.

“Don’t you sleep?” Solar yawned, rubbing her eyes. “This better be important.”

“It is. A teenage girl ran away from her foster home, and a surveillance drone spotted her in San Francisco. We’ve been tasked with bringing her back.”

“We’re homicide detectives. What does this have to do with us?” Solar asked, throwing her hands in the air.

“Her foster parents were found murdered by gunshot wounds, and the captain believes your unique abilities are crucial for locating her in the Old Bay Area,” Check elaborated.

Solar slapped her hands on her face, letting out a heavy sigh. On the hologram projection, a cybernetic Labrador retriever appeared, wagging its tail as it approached Check. Check affectionately petted the dog.

“Hey Domino, look, it’s Solar,” Check said to the canine.

The dog barked happily through the projection.

“Hey Domino,” Solar waved.

“He misses you,” Check informed her.

“I miss you too.”

The dog retreated, taking Solar’s brief smile with it as she turned to Check’s projection with a weary expression.

“I’ll be ready in a minute,” Solar groaned.

The hologram disappeared as Solar rested her head on the pillow, contemplating the challenges her keen eyes and technologically-enhanced mind would face during this new assignment. She knew that the Old Bay Area held secrets darker than the shadows cast by the towering, derelict structures that loomed over it, and finding the runaway girl would be no easy task.

Solar approached Check and Captain Pluton in the police station’s parking lot, the air heavy with a tension that hung like a smog. The captain, a distinguished older man with a receding hairline and wrinkles etched into his face, greeted her with a respectful nod that seemed to echo the weight of their mission.


“I understand this young woman was captured by a surveillance camera in San Francisco?” Solar inquired, her voice steady, yet curious.

“Indeed,” Captain Pluton confirmed, his voice a low rumble. “One of the few still operational in that city. We accessed the cameras after deducing she must be nearby since we couldn’t locate her in New Bay. Though the footage was near the city’s entrance, our informants within the city recognized her, allowing us to pinpoint her general whereabouts.”

“Is she a suspect?” Solar asked, her gaze as sharp as the question.

“Not at this time,” the captain replied, his eyes narrowing with uncertainty. “We simply want to bring her in for questioning.”

In the distance, a group of five individuals stood in a uniform line near an armored truck, their full tactical gear reminiscent of cyberpunk mercenaries. The word “SWAT” emblazoned on the side of the truck seemed almost anachronistic in comparison.

“Why did you call them?” Solar gestured towards the group, her tone cautious.

“Given the escalating crime in the Old Bay Area, their assistance is necessary,” Captain Pluton explained, admiration for the SWAT team evident in his voice. The detectives followed him over for introductions, each step carrying the weight of anticipation.

The team stood side by side, exuding a sense of calm and focus that was almost unnerving. One individual, with a chiseled jaw and crew cut, approached the detectives with the confidence of a seasoned veteran.

“Detectives,” Captain Pluton began, his voice heavy with authority, “meet Commander Cabler.”

Commander Cabler shook their hands, his intense eye contact a challenge they couldn’t refuse.

“Detective Kobayashi and Detective Baxter,” Cabler greeted formally, his voice laced with a subtle edge. He then addressed his team, “Circle up!”

They swiftly formed a circle around the commander and the detectives, the air crackling with tension. Captain Pluton stood slightly apart, his expression unreadable.

“Pay close attention,” Cabler instructed his team, his voice an iron command. A hologram projected from his watch, displaying a young girl’s headshot. “This is Ariel Moon, our person of interest. We’re tasked with locating her.”

Ariel’s youthful, innocent appearance belied the darkness Solar sensed lurking beneath the surface, a hidden story that had led the girl to her current predicament.

“Detective Kobayashi is our Glitch,” Cabler continued, his voice a low growl. “When she uses her abilities, Lieutenant Frost will guard her personally. You’ll stick to her like a shadow.”

A blonde woman with a dragon tattoo on her neck winked at Solar, who refocused her attention on Cabler, suppressing a shiver.

“Upon locating our POI, Kobayashi will escort her back to the truck.” Cabler surveyed his team, locking eyes with each member, a silent challenge. “Make no mistake—we’re entering dangerous territory. Your stun guns won’t suffice. If they shoot, you shoot back. Any questions?”

The team remained stoic, their silence a clear answer.

“Let’s move out!” Cabler ordered, his voice a whip that cut through the tension.

The team hurried to the armored truck, with the detectives in tow. Inside the truck, each member of the team prepared for the challenges ahead, the atmosphere thick with a mixture of anticipation and determination. Check maintained a stoic expression, while Solar found herself repeatedly catching Frost’s persistent glances. Unnerved but curious, Solar couldn’t help but wonder what Frost found so intriguing.

“Never mind, Frost,” a man with a stylish mustache sitting beside Solar interjected, his tone playful. “She’s always eager around any cuties, especially since her girlfriend left her.”

“Shut it, Flash,” Frost retorted, a hint of amusement in her voice. “You’re just bitter because it will never be about you.”

Flash laughed, the sound echoing through the truck. 

“Hey, no worries. I see more action at the playhouses than you could ever offer.”

Solar shook her head, ignoring the banter. She wore a bulletproof vest and carried her pistol, having declined the offer of an assault rifle; experience had taught her that her Glitch abilities were hampered by excessive gear.

“What’s so funny?” a younger member of the team asked, clearly annoyed. “We’re about to head into a dangerous area, and you all want to crack jokes?”

“Listen, Gram,” Flash replied, his voice tinged with sarcasm. “If you plan to stick with us for years to come, you’ll need to lighten up and not get so bent out of shape every time we have a little fun. Understand?”

Flash and Frost shared a laugh, but Gram’s expression darkened with anger.

“Would you get off my back,” Gram snapped, the anger in his voice cutting through the laughter.

“The only back you should be worrying about is your wife’s, and who’s going to take care of her when you can’t,” Flash chuckled, prompting another round of laughter from Frost. Gram’s face flushed with rage.

“You know what?” Gram began, his voice shaking with fury.

“How about you both shut up!” Cabler barked from the driver’s seat, his tone a clear command. “This is no time for fooling around.”

“Yes, Commander,” Flash responded, his tone suddenly respectful.

Flash and Frost straightened their faces and stared ahead in silence.

Seated beside Cabler in the driver’s seat was the imposing Lieutenant Brick. Towering over Check at over 6’5″ and with a broad, muscular frame, Brick was a force to be reckoned with. His massive hands enveloped the steering wheel, and his presence demanded attention. The atmosphere within the truck grew tense, each member of the team mentally preparing for the challenges that lay ahead.

The armored truck glided effortlessly through the checkpoint, bathed in a red scanner light emitted from the overpass ceiling. It had been ages since Solar last relied on security clearance to traverse the bridge without interference from border patrol.

The journey across the sinuous bridge seemed infinite. Streetlights illuminated the pedestrian path, revealing an eerie emptiness devoid of walkers or passing cars. Solar’s gaze lingered on the white-painted steel pillars that braced the bridge high above the ocean’s depths.

As the island known as the New Bay Area receded to a speck in the distance, a bullet-pocked sign emerged from the gloom. “San Francisco,” it declared, its population surpassing two million, and its elevation at a mere 34 feet. The city’s formidable skyline materialized from the shadows, numerous skyscrapers ablaze with only a handful of lights. Several buildings leaned perilously against their neighbors, creating chasms from the ensuing devastation. Vines slithered from crevices, ensnaring the structures in a suffocating emerald embrace.

“Welcome to San Francisco,” Flash intoned sardonically as the armored truck departed the bridge.

Navigating the city’s labyrinthine streets, the truck’s high beam lights sliced through the darkness, unveiling fissured asphalt and corroded pipes. Forsaken vehicles lined the sidewalks amid heaps of refuse, while pillaged stores stood as mute testament to the city’s decline. A feeble fire danced within a trash can, encircled by a huddled group donning threadbare hoodies.

Soot-streaked faces gazed at the armored truck with desolate eyes from the sidewalk. As the vehicle’s headlights engulfed them, they scattered like frightened insects, seeking refuge in decrepit buildings. They peered from shattered windows, their exhausted eyes unaccustomed to the sight of such an alien contraption.

“Look at this place. There’s hardly anyone here,” Gram gasped, surveying the desolation through the window.

As they delved deeper into the downtown area, the truck’s high beam lights melded with the city’s pallid glow. The murmur of civilization crescendoed, and more people materialized on the sidewalks, converging on a common destination with purpose in their strides.

Establishments peddling entertainment and pleasure radiated neon hues into the night, attracting loiterers who blasted music, socialized, and engaged in brawls over dice games. Street vendors hawked their wares, displaying freshly killed game animals, blood still seeping from their carcasses. Customized vehicles adorned with graffiti and spikes lined the streets, some featuring revelers dancing atop them, shooting flamethrowers skyward as they embraced in passionate kisses.

“Now this is the party,” Flash declared, his voice teeming with enthusiasm.

The armored truck slipped into a shadowy alley where two miscreants urinated on a lifeless form. Noticing the approaching vehicle, they bolted. The truck halted before the corpse, its headlights unveiling waxy, pallid skin – a clear indication it had been lifeless for several days.

Cabler and his companion exited the truck, and he opened the rear doors to release the others. Brick knelt by the vehicle, engrossed in a mechanical cube.

“What’s that?” Solar inquired, curiosity piqued.

Ignoring her, Brick manipulated the cube, and a green force field sprang forth, encircling the armored truck while the team stood just outside its perimeter.

“You wanna see something cool?” Flash asked, a mischievous grin playing on his lips.

While the others inspected their weapons, Solar observed as Flash seized the corpse’s wrist and dragged it toward the force field. He thrust the lifeless hand into the barrier, which emitted a vibrant sound as it cleanly severed the appendage, leaving a cauterized stump without a drop of blood. “Clean as a whistle, baby!” Flash crowed, clearly delighted with the demonstration.

Solar rolled her eyes; she had seen limb-slicing security systems before. Refocusing on the task at hand, she stepped into the center of the group.

“The informants reported that Ariel was last seen heading to VR’s 4 Us, just down the block. We’ll start our search there,” Solar announced.

“Let’s roll out,” Cabler commanded.

The team moved in unison with Solar and Cabler leading the way, their steps measured and purposeful. The neon signs of VR’s 4 Us beckoned them from a distance, a sanctuary of virtual escapism nestled in the heart of the city’s decay.

 Solar and Cabler strode side by side, leading the way as the rest of the team formed a haphazard phalanx behind them. They emerged onto the sidewalk and were met with an array of disapproving expressions from the pedestrians. A mixture of disgust, fear, and confusion rippled across the faces of the onlookers as they stepped aside, clearing the occupied pavement to let the group pass. The team maintained their focus, paying no heed to the bystanders.

It wasn’t until a belligerent man with a partially shaved head and gauges in his ears confronted them that their progress was challenged. “You think you’re badasses?” he sneered, sidling up to Solar, who kept her gaze fixed ahead. Solar could almost taste the man’s garlic breath as he invaded her personal space. “Without your gun and badge, you ain’t shit.”

Without turning her head, Solar landed a swift jab to the man’s nose, sending him sprawling to the ground, blood pouring from his nostrils. The group continued on as Cabler allowed a brief smile to cross his face.

“San Francisco,” Flash chuckled, shaking his head as he looked back at the fallen man.

The team entered VR’s 4 Us, a shop devoid of the loiterers that typically milled around other storefronts. Racks of VR goggles lined the walls while a teenage boy lounged behind the counter, utterly absorbed in the virtual reality playing out in front of his eyes.

Solar approached the counter and removed the goggles from the boy’s face. 

“Sleeping on the job?” she asked, her tone wry.

Groaning, the boy stood up, his nervous gaze darting from one heavily armed officer to the next. “Um, what can I do for you?” he stammered.

“New Bay Police.” Solar flashed her badge and displayed a digital image of Ariel on a touch pad. “This girl came to your store.” The boy nodded. “What happened when she came?”

“Nothing. She looked around and left,” the clerk replied, his voice trembling.

The officers exchanged skeptical glances.

 “Hold him down, please,” Solar instructed.

Brick moved behind the clerk and pressed his massive hands onto the boy’s shoulders. The clerk’s feeble attempts to free himself were in vain. “Hey, what are you doing?” he yelled, panic rising in his voice.

Solar produced a pair of black disks from her pocket. “I have rights!” the clerk cried out. “This is an invasion of my privacy!”

For a moment, Solar paused, giving the man a look of feigned concern before proceeding. She affixed the disks to the clerk and then herself. His struggling ceased as their minds were suddenly transported out of their bodies. Solar found herself inside the store, behind the counter, reading a magazine. Then Ariel burst in.

“Please help me!” the girl pleaded, blood staining her pajamas.

“What is it?” the clerk asked, startled.

“I asked around, and no one could help, but do you know how I can get across the border?”

“Uhhh,” the clerk mumbled, clearly at a loss.

Just then, a man with a disheveled appearance and gold-capped teeth emerged from the back room. 

“Little girl, it’s alright. I heard you need help getting across the border. I can help. Just come in.”

Ariel hesitated, but the man reassured her, and she approached him timidly. As she reached the door, the man shot the clerk a stern look. 

“Keep your eyes up front.”

Solar’s mind snapped back to the present, and she found herself standing in her own body again. The clerk, wide-eyed and panting, stared around in disorientation. 

“What just happened?” he gasped.

“In there,” Solar said, pointing to the back door.

Solar led the group toward the door, the others following close behind. 

“Nobody is supposed to go in there besides the manager,” the clerk informed them timidly.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Solar remarked. The boy slumped in the chair, his head down in defeat. Solar knocked on the door. A slider at eye level opened, revealing a pair of beady eyes scrutinizing her.

“Police,” Solar stated, displaying her badge.

“I don’t give a shit,” the man on the other side retorted, slamming the slider shut.

Solar knocked again, and the slider opened once more. “I thought I told you—” the man began, only to freeze when he saw Brick’s assault rifle aimed at his head.

“Open the door,” Solar said gently, her tone belying the threat.

The man’s hands shook as he fumbled with multiple locks, the barrel of Brick’s gun never leaving his temple. Once the door was unlocked, Brick lowered his rifle, and the team filed into a small office reeking of marijuana. A short man in a sunflower-patterned shirt stood to the side, his arms raised in terror.

“Put your hands down, Stich,” Solar ordered, advancing on the trembling man as she read his nametag. “You know who we are, and you know who we’re looking for. The girl came here looking for a way out of the Bay, and you led her back here. Where is she now?”

“I don’t know. I told her I couldn’t help her, and she left,” Stich stammered.

“Is that why you took her back here?” Cabler interjected.

“I gave her some money, I swear.”

“An asshole like you telling cops off is generous enough to help out a random girl in a place like this?” Solar questioned, her anger mounting. “I’m a Glitch, so I can just dive into your brain.” She stepped closer to Stich, backing him up against the wall. “But when I find out you’re lying, I’m going to leave images in your mind that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

“You can do that?” Stich whimpered, fear etched across his face.

A sly smile spread across Solar’s lips. 

“It’s a new trick I learned.”

“Alright, alright,” Stich relented, moving toward his desk. “She came running in here, said she was from the New Bay Area and wanted a way to get East, like towards Sacramento. I already knew she wasn’t all right in the head because who the hell would come from there to here for transportation?”

“So where did you send her?”

“The only people who can smuggle folks across the bay border.”

“And who is that?” Solar asked, her patience running thin.

“Shit, you can’t expect me to snitch. They’d—”

Solar lunged forward, her face inches from Stich’s. 

“They’re going to have to put you in the crazy house when I’m done with you!” she roared.

“To Vax. He owns a club called Blood Moon right on the corner,” Stich divulged, his gaze fixed on the ground in shame. “But they won’t let you in, I don’t care who you are. You need to be a familiar face.”

Solar studied Stich for a moment, her mind racing. 

“Fine,” she said at last.

Stich exhaled a huge breath, sagging back into his chair. 

“That’s why you’re coming with us,” Solar declared.

“What? They’ll know I snitched!” Stich protested, springing to his feet in desperation.

“Not our problem,” Solar retorted, already heading for the door.

Frost escorted Stich out of the door, while the teenage clerk looked on in confusion. 

“Stich, is everything alright?” he asked.

“You idiot, you spoke to the cops,” Stich snapped as Frost kept pushing him forward. “When I come back, it’s going to be hell!”

“I didn’t say anything,” the clerk pleaded.

They exited the store, and Solar stopped to face Stich.

 “After you,” she offered with sarcastic politeness.

Stich lowered his head and led the group, with everyone else following closely behind. As they walked, Cabler noticed the pensive expression on Solar’s face, as if she were grappling with something troubling.

“Everything alright?” Cabler asked.

“It’s just that boy back there,” Solar admitted. “I’ve never really used my powers on non-criminals without their consent.”

“You did what you had to do.”

The group arrived at the club where a line stretched down the sidewalk. Along the way, Stich kept his head down as people looked at him in disgust, seeing him aiding the police. Whatever reputation he had, it was now ruined.

The club was housed in a dilapidated stone structure, its red paint peeling off in most areas. Rusty pillars stood in some spots, hinting at the building’s unfinished state. People in the line wore jewelry and designer clothes, a testament to the importance of appearances even in poverty. As the police and Stich approached the front of the line, the crowd seemed unfazed.

A hulking bouncer stood by the entrance, checking people in. More fat than muscle, he nonetheless exuded a fearsome presence. Spotting Stich with the police, the bouncer lowered his digital pad in surprise.

“Stich, what the hell are you doing here with the police?” he demanded.

“I need to see Vax,” Stich mumbled, avoiding eye contact.

“Yeah, you can see Vax when you don’t have the 5-0 as your guests,” the bouncer retorted, waving them off. “Now get the hell outta here before you get in more trouble.”

“It’s best if you just open the door,” Solar warned coolly, “because if not, we’ll just force it open with your head as a battering ram.”

“Not tonight,” the bouncer chuckled.

He hurriedly tapped a few buttons on the digital pad, and a sheet of metal emerged, covering the door with a resounding clang. The crowd in the line grumbled in protest.

“That’s titanium steel. You won’t be able to get through that door now,” the bouncer announced, puffing out his chest.

Solar glanced at Check, who strode confidently toward the door as the bouncer continued to gloat. 

“So I suggest you just take your ass back—”

His words caught in his throat as Check placed his black-gloved hand on the door handle, crushed it effortlessly, and tore it away, leaving a hole in the door. The bouncer gaped in confusion, while Stich stared in disbelief, and Solar looked on in amazement.

The police sauntered into the club, leaving Stich to face the now-angry bouncer. 

“I… I’m sorry,” Stich stammered.

“You’re going to get it,” the bouncer growled, as Stich hurried after the police.

Inside the club, a hedonistic dance party unfolded. Gothic rock music reverberated throughout the space as blood-red lights illuminated the cracked concrete floor. Glass cages dangled from the ceiling, confining women in bikinis and face paint as they danced provocatively. Clubgoers swayed to the music, their bodies entwined, oblivious to the police officers weaving their way through the intoxicated crowd.

“Hey, sweetheart!” a man with bloodshot eyes slurred, barely registering Frost’s police uniform as he danced to the pulsating rhythm. “Care to join me?”

The man wrapped his arms around Frost’s waist, only to be met with a swift elbow to the nose. He crumpled to the floor as the surrounding revelers briefly glanced at the scene before returning to their debauchery, unconcerned.

Stich sidled up to Solar. 

“Over there,” he whispered, pointing hesitantly at the VIP section upstairs, where a man and two women lounged, flanked by a group of bodyguards.

“Let’s get on with it,” Solar urged, nudging Stich forward.

Stich got the message with the second, stronger push and made his way to the stairs. Upon reaching the next floor, he approached the two bodyguards, who wore scowls and matching scorpion tattoos on their necks.

The bodyguards eyed the police warily before returning their gaze to Stich. Their expressions darkened, and their hands crept toward their sides, though they stopped short of drawing any weapons. Stich whispered something to them that Solar couldn’t discern over the blaring music, but whatever he said clearly displeased them. Reluctantly, they allowed him to pass, with the police following suit. As the officers walked through, each exchanged a disdainful glance with the bodyguards.

Sitting on the sectional sofa, a man in a grey suit with a buzz cut and full-grown beard laughed as he embraced two women. The man, Vax, seemed oblivious to Stich’s trembling presence.

“Vax,” Stich whispered, unnoticed. He tried again, louder. “Vax!”

Vax pulled away from the women, his face covered in white powder. Snorting loudly, he locked eyes with Stich, who took a fearful step back. After a moment of silence, Vax broke into a grin, unaware of the police presence.

“Stich!” Vax called, raising his arms in greeting. “Come here!”

Stich hesitantly approached the table covered in cocaine and alcohol bottles, but remained standing. Puzzled, Vax asked, 

“You don’t want to sit down?”

“I have to tell you something,” Stich mumbled, avoiding eye contact.

Vax finally noticed the police behind Stich. After eyeing them, he turned back to Stich, now glaring. 

“Get out of here,” he ordered the women, who quickly left.

“Now, Stich,” Vax said, forcing a smile. “Why are the police in my club?”

“They came looking for Ariel Moon,” Stich stammered. “This lady is a Glitch,” he motioned to Solar. “She read my clerk’s mind and threatened to put disturbing things in mine if I didn’t comply.”

Vax studied Solar before nodding. 

“Well, why didn’t you say so?” he asked, inviting Stich to sit. As Stich cautiously joined him, Vax put his arm around him.

“Now that you’ve put it that way,” Vax started, smiling at Stich. Abruptly, he stabbed Stich’s hand with a knife. Stich screamed in agony and confusion.

“You idiot!” Vax yelled. “She lied to you! You think she could do that right after reading someone’s mind?”

Solar couldn’t manipulate thoughts, and even if she could, she needed rest after each mind hack. The police remained indifferent as Vax removed the knife from Stich’s hand, which began to bleed profusely. Vax tossed a towel to Stich.

Turning to the police, Vax’s grin returned. “Now, what can I do for you?”

“Ariel Moon,” Solar said calmly. “She came here.”

“Yes, she did,” Vax confirmed.

“And we know you smuggle people across the border, but that’s not our main concern. Is she across the border too?” Solar inquired.

Vax laughed heartily, shaking his head. 

“No,” he replied, smirking. “People need cash to get across. She had none, but she was desperate. I let her stay and gave her drinks to make her comfortable. She was going to spend a lot of time here, if you catch my drift.”

“I’ll say this once,” Solar said, her eyes locked on Vax’s. “Give us the girl.”

Unfazed, Vax laughed again and leaned back into his seat. Solar slammed her hands on the table. 

“Or we’ll tear this place up,” she threatened. “We’re not authorized to make arrests here, so any resistance will result in you and your goons being shot.”

Vax’s expression sobered as he glared at Solar, but then his grin returned. 

“You’ve come to the wrong place,” he taunted.

Solar’s eyes darted between the bodyguards, noticing their hands inching towards their weapons. Time seemed to slow down as she anticipated their move. In a split second, she drew her gun and shot both guards in the head before they could fire. The rest of the police swiftly joined the fray, their guns trained on two additional guards sprinting up the stairs, mercilessly cutting them down in a storm of relentless gunfire.

Whipping back around to face Vax, Solar’s heart raced, her focus intensified. She prepared to shoot, but Vax, sensing her intention, flipped the table for cover. Stich, his hand still pinned, was thrust in front of the overturned table.

“No, wait!” Stich cried, raising his free hand, desperation in his voice.

Solar hesitated for a moment but fired anyway, and one of the bullets accidentally hit Stich. Though she hadn’t meant to shoot him, she couldn’t let it distract her. He was collateral damage. Reloading her gun, her anger towards Vax grew, fueling her determination to bring him down.

With a sudden burst of speed, Vax leaped over the railing behind him, landing on the dance floor below. Solar’s heart pounded in her chest as she spotted him, shoving dancers aside, oblivious to the gunfire. The dim lighting and deafening music created a disorienting atmosphere, heightening her senses. “Get him,” Cabler called out, he and his team providing cover fire, their voices barely audible over the chaos.Solar leaped onto the dance floor, quickly shooting a bodyguard before he could attack. The crowd’s panic escalated, people trampling each other to escape. The police, from their vantage point, aimed down, ready for anything.

Bodyguards with submachine guns emerged from the maze-like layout. 

“They’re everywhere!” Gram shouted.

 “Good, now we won’t miss,” Cabler replied. The officers unleashed a hail of bullets, tearing through the bodyguards. 

“This is just like Korea!” Flash yelled, excitement in his voice. A cheer erupted from Frost as Cabler nodded, smiling, continuing to pick off the approaching guards.

As the chaos continued, Solar pursued Vax, maneuvering around bodies and gunfire. She spotted him on the other side, but couldn’t risk shooting with bystanders nearby. The adrenaline coursing through her veins fueled her chase.

Solar rushed into a room Vax went in, her eyes scanning the space as she listened for any sign of Vax. The sound of footsteps echoed through the room, growing closer. Solar spun around just in time to see Vax, his eyes filled with rage. In one swift motion, he knocked the gun from her hands and landed a punch to her face, forcing her to stagger back.

Vax lunged at Solar, fists flying. Solar, with razor-sharp reflexes, evaded most of his his wild punches, biding her time for an opening. However, Vax managed to land a solid hit to her cheek, the impact jarring her momentarily. Shaking off the pain, Solar seized the opportunity to counter. She landed a powerful uppercut, stunning Vax before delivering a rapid succession of jabs to his face and a precise chop to his throat. Choking on blood, Vax’s anger intensified.

He brandished a long, sharp knife and charged at her with newfound speed. Solar narrowly avoided the swift slashes.  She sidestepped and delivered a crushing kick to the back of his knee, snapping it. Howling in pain, Vax dropped to one knee. Solar seized his hand, kneed him in the face, and forced the knife toward his throat. Panic washed over Vax’s face, but Solar’s resolve was unwavering as she drove the knife into his neck, silencing his resistance.

Breathing heavily and touching her bruised cheek from an earlier blow, she picked up her gun and searched the room for Ariel. Frustration surged when she found no sign of the girl. Gazing at Vax’s corpse, Solar’s thoughts raced.

Frustrated, Solar muttered, 

“Screw it.” 

She frantically searched her pockets for the black circles, but they were gone. Her brow furrowed as she wondered how she lost them.

Determined, Solar placed her hands on Vax’s head, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. The world faded to black. When she opened her eyes again, she found herself back on the dance floor, witnessing Ariel pleading with Vax.

“Please, I just want to get out of this place,” Ariel begged, her voice trembling.

Vax laughed dismissively. 

“Damn girl, it ain’t that serious. Have a drink and relax. We’ll sort it out.”

 He handed Ariel a suspicious-looking drink. Reluctantly, she took a sip, and chaos ensued.

Solar’s vision changed again, taking her to a hidden room where Ariel, blindfolded and gagged, was tied to a chair. As the vision ended, Solar gasped and collapsed, her head pounding and nose bleeding. She struggled to her feet, the pain and disorientation fading as she moved. 

Solar found the hidden room and discovered Ariel, blindfolded, gagged, and tied to a chair. Rushing to her side, Solar removed the blindfold and bindings. Ariel’s jade eyes met Solar’s, a mixture of shock and relief visible in her gaze.

“It’s okay, Ariel. I’m with the police. I’m getting you home,” Solar assured her, trying to hide her own concern. 

Ariel’s eyes locked onto Vax’s lifeless body, her breaths coming in short gasps.

“Don’t worry. He won’t hurt you anymore,” Solar promised, helping Ariel to her feet and shielding her from the gruesome scene.

Back on the dance floor, the aftermath of the battle was evident. Broken glass, ruined furniture, and lifeless bodies littered the area. Solar and Ariel made their way through the carnage, Ariel clinging to Solar for support.

A bodyguard, missing a leg, crawled across the floor, leaving a trail of blood behind him. The metallic scent of blood filled the air as Cabler’s eyes locked onto the injured man, and he nodded to Brick. Without hesitation, Brick approached the bodyguard and aimed his rifle at his head.

“Wait, no please!” the bodyguard pleaded.

Ignoring the plea, Brick fired, ending the man’s suffering. Nearby, Gram stared transfixed at the lifeless eyes of another fallen guard, his first time witnessing such violence. Flash snuck up behind him, slapping him on the back, and jolting him from his daze.

“It’s just a dead body,” Flash said, grinning, though his eyes betrayed his attempts to hide his own unease. “You’ll get used to seeing them.”

Gram shook his head, his smile fading into a haunted expression. 

“I hope I don’t,” he replied softly, prompting Flash to drop his smile.

“Hey, you know I was just playing with you back in the van,” Flash said, his voice sincere.

“Yeah, I know,” Gram replied, managing a weak smile. “You’re an asshole, and I love you for it.”

The two shared a hearty laugh, their laughter a brief escape from the gruesome reality that surrounded them, as the flickering lights cast ominous shadows on the scene.

Cabler approached Solar and Ariel his voice authoritative. 

“Is this her?”

“Yes,” Solar replied, relief evident in her voice. “She’s in distress.”

Cabler examined Ariel’s dilated pupils. “They must’ve drugged her. Combined with the shock, that could explain her current state. The effects should wear off soon.”

Ariel, still overwhelmed by the surrounding carnage, barely registered Cabler’s words. Solar rubbed her shoulder, offering what comfort she could. Cabler announced, 

“Alright, party’s over! Let’s go home!”

As they left, Flash cheered, and the team departed the gruesome scene, Ariel in tow.


“Easiest mission ever!” Flash boasted, his voice echoing within the confines of the armored truck. 

The vehicle rumbled over the uneven road, its powerful engine purring. “Those old bay guys went down faster than those commies back in the day!”

He noticed Solar raising an eyebrow at him, her expression a mix of confusion and mild annoyance. 

“No offense,” Flash quickly added, his face flushing a little.

“Non taken,” Solar casually stated, her tone dry.

He shrugged, a sheepish grin on his face. 

“Anyways, drinks on me!” Flash declared. 

He laughed heartily, sharing in the camaraderie with Gram and Frost. Solar, however, tuned out their boisterous cheering. Her focus was on the silent and distraught Ariel.

“Ariel, can you tell us anything about your foster parents or why you came here?” Solar asked, her voice gentle yet persistent.

Ariel remained silent, her eyes fixed on the floor, a cold, unyielding stare. 

“Ariel, please talk to me. You’re not being charged with anything. We just want to bring you in for questioning.”

No response.

“You’re wasting your time,” Frost added dismissively.

“I didn’t kill my foster parents,” Ariel finally uttered, her voice barely above a whisper. She still refused to look at anyone.

Everyone in the truck turned their attention to the girl, their expressions a mixture of shock and disbelief. 

“Sorry, dear, but we ain’t the DA or judge,” Flash chuckled awkwardly. “There’s no judgment here.”

“Ariel, what are you talking about?” Solar pressed, her brow furrowed with concern.

Ariel didn’t respond. Solar sighed and leaned back, unsatisfied but with nothing else to do. Suddenly, the floor shook tremendously beneath them, jolting their bodies out of their seats. The inside of the truck flashed with red lights.

“What the hell was that?” Flash exclaimed, gripping the edge of his seat.

Cabler glanced at the holographic dashboard of the truck. A display of the vehicle appeared, a tire glowing an ominous red.

“Damn it, our tire’s out!” Cabler informed them. “It must’ve been an IED.”

Instantly, Cabler’s eyes widened at the sight of a small drone flying directly in front of the windshield. The drone had a gun attached to it.

“Get down!” Cabler yelled, throwing himself to the floor.

The drone unleashed a rapid barrage of bullets into the truck, shattering the reinforced windows. Everyone dove for cover, but Brick was caught in the crossfire. The bullets tore through his body, leaving him slumped and lifeless in his seat. As Solar huddled on the floor, she caught a glimpse of Brick’s motionless form.

“Someone get on the damn machine gun!” Cabler barked, his voice strained with urgency.

Frost took the initiative, crawling to the corner of the truck. She hit a button, and a machine gun emerged on the roof. One of the seats separated from the others, and Frost climbed into it. The seat raised her to the top of the truck, where the machine gun awaited. Locked onto the drone, she fired without hesitation. She screamed as the bullets rang out, the sound deafening within the metal enclosure. The drone dodged to the side, but Frost tracked it relentlessly, tearing it to pieces until it crashed to the ground in a shower of sparks.

When the gunfire ceased, everyone slowly rose to their feet.

“I got it, commander,” Frost reported, her voice shaky but triumphant.

Out of nowhere, a single gunshot rang out. Blood and gore rained down into the truck. Solar’s heart dropped; she knew it couldn’t be good.

Frost’s body plummeted from the machine gun perch, her lifeless form hitting the floor with a sickening thud. The team stared in horror at the sight of their comrade, her head missing from the gruesome impact of the gunshot.

“Jesus Christ!” Gram screamed, his voice cracking with shock and fear.

The team scrambled for cover, realizing they were still under attack.

As Flash struggled to his feet, a deafening bang echoed through the armored truck. He froze in place, his eyes widening in terror. The team watched in horror as a harpoon burst through the back door, impaling Flash’s chest. His body convulsed, blood seeping around the metal bar embedded in his flesh.

“Gram,” Flash whispered, his voice choked with pain, reaching out a trembling hand. Gram’s face twisted in agony, unable to tear his gaze away from his dying friend.

“No, no,” Gram stammered, shaking his head in denial as he reached for Flash. 

“Tell mom and dad,” Flash gasped, struggling for breath. “I-“

Before he could finish, the harpoon retracted, yanking Flash’s body out of the truck along with the door. 

“No!” Gram screamed, his voice raw with grief.

Through the gaping hole in the truck, the team saw a group of heavily armored individuals dressed in white, their faces hidden behind visor helmets. They wielded assault rifles, accompanied by an armored van that rumbled alongside them. A woman dressed in black, wielding a pistol, strode forward with a menacing glint in her eyes.

“Kill them all, but keep the girl alive,” she commanded, her voice cold and ruthless.

The squad raised their guns, preparing to fire. Outnumbered and outgunned, the police knew they faced impossible odds, but they steeled themselves for battle.

“You motherfuckers!” Gram roared, fury coursing through his veins as he opened fire. His bullets found their mark, taking down several of the assailants.

Amid the chaos, Ariel sprang from the truck, her gaze locked on the approaching soldiers. 

“No!” Solar shouted, panic rising in her chest. Instinctively, she raced toward Ariel, ignoring the hail of bullets whizzing past her.

As Solar reached Ariel, the girl’s demeanor shifted. Gone was the fear, replaced by a fierce determination that burned in her eyes. She extended her arms toward the advancing enemies, her palms outstretched.

In that moment, Solar realized the truth about Ariel. The girl was far more than a simple witness. She was a weapon, an instrument of destruction. As Ariel unleashed her hidden power, the air around them crackled with energy, a maelstrom of force erupting from her hands.

The soldiers were caught off guard, their bodies hurtling through the air as the shockwave tore through their ranks. The armored van shuddered, its metal chassis crumpling under the sheer force of the blast.

The other officers in the truck stared in disbelief, mirroring Solar’s astonishment. The attackers in white and their leader retreated, realizing they were outmatched. However, one soldier remained, raising their weapon at Ariel.

              “No!” the woman leading the group shouted in desperation as she fled.

The bullets sped toward Ariel, but inexplicably halted in midair, mere inches from her. Solar could hardly believe her eyes, and she knew no one else could either. The bullets clattered to the ground, and Ariel fixed the soldier with a chilling glare. The soldier lowered their weapon, seemingly aware of their grave mistake.

Without Ariel moving a muscle, the soldier’s body began to levitate. Panicking, the soldier flailed in the air before being drawn towards Ariel. As they faced each other, Ariel’s eyes bored into the soldier, promising retribution. The soldier’s armor started to buckle, contorting inwards and pressing against their body. The soldier screamed, the sound undeniably male, as his gear constricted, crushing his bones. His visor shattered, revealing an eye wide with terror.

Solar and the other officers could only watch in horror as the gruesome scene unfolded. The helmet caved in, crushing the soldier’s skull and spraying blood across the battlefield. The lifeless body fell to the ground with a sickening thud. Ariel’s expression of fury vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and she crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

Still reeling from the brutal spectacle, Solar rushed to Ariel’s side, knowing there was no time to waste.

“We need to get out of here, now!” Solar shouted. “Check, grab her!”

Check scooped up Ariel, her limp form draped over his shoulder like a ragdoll. Solar saw the soldiers regrouping and advancing.

“Run!” Solar yelled.

Bullets whizzed past them as they sprinted around a corner, disappearing into the maze of empty streets. After several blocks, they glanced back to find their pursuers gone, but they didn’t slow down.

Without hesitation, they darted inside an open store, only to discover it was a small convenience store. A lone cashier stood behind the register, leaping to his feet in surprise.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed.

The officers panted, scanning the store for potential threats.

“What are you doing here?” the cashier asked, stepping around the counter, bewildered. “You can’t—”

Cabler thrust his badge into the cashier’s face, his eyes burning with intensity.

“Get out,” he ordered.

The young cashier swallowed hard and scurried away. As soon as he was gone, Check locked the front and back doors, turning off the lights and flipping the open sign to closed.

“We need to address the situation,” Cabler said, tension lacing his words. “Did you know she was a Glitch, like you?”

“No,” Solar replied, shaking her head. “But she’s different. I’ve never encountered a Glitch with such power. Some can control specific elements or even people, but she has dominion over everything, alive or inanimate. It’s bewildering.”

Cabler gripped his walkie-talkie.

 “This is Commander Cabler of Metro Division. Immediate extraction required at Joe’s Goods in the Mission District. Three officers down, pursued by unidentified hostiles. They’re armed and extremely dangerous.”

“Commander Cabler,” the operator replied. “Armored truck en route. ETA: twenty minutes.”

“Understood. Over and out.” Cabler assessed his team. “We’ll have to hunker down.”

Solar frowned.

 “That’s inviting trouble. What if they locate us before backup arrives?”

“Got a better strategy?” Cabler countered.

“As a matter of fact, yes. We head toward the bridge and rendezvous with our extraction en route. It’ll be harder for them to pinpoint us, and we’ll have more room to maneuver if we’re discovered.”

Check nodded in agreement. 

“It’s a solid plan.”

Cabler sighed and relayed the change in plans. He noticed Gram, isolated from the group, his gaze vacant. Approaching him, Cabler placed a hand on his shoulder. 

“Lieutenant, we all grieve for your brother.”

Tears brimmed in Gram’s eyes.

“I can’t believe he’s gone. It should have been me.”

“No,” Cabler said firmly, shaking his head. “You’re still here, and that matters. Your brother had a strong heart, just like you. He’d want you to keep fighting.”

“I want to make them pay,” Gram whispered, his voice seething with rage.

Cabler managed a weak smile. 

“That’s the spirit,” he said, patting Gram on the back.

Ariel stirred, groaning as she woke. Solar knelt beside her. “Ariel, are you alright?”

“My head aches,” Ariel mumbled. Solar helped her to her feet. “I feel terrible.”

“Can you tell us anything about our attackers?” Solar asked softly.

Ariel’s expression grew haunted. 

“I returned home to find everyone dead. The white-clad assailants were there. I fought, escaped, and I’ve been on the run ever since.”

“Can you use your powers to help us get out of here?” Cabler demanded, his tone unsympathetic.

“Back off,” Solar snapped. “She’s been through hell.”

“We don’t have time for sympathy,” Cabler argued. “They’re hunting her. We need her help, especially since we’re down three officers.”

A brief silence fell as Cabler and Gram bowed their heads, honoring their fallen comrades.

“I’ve never pushed my powers so far,” Ariel admitted. “I don’t know if I can do it again right now.”

“Try,” Cabler urged.

“Leave her alone,” Solar retorted.

“It’s fine,” Ariel said, moving toward a shelf. 

She focused on the cans, which quivered. Her face twisted with effort, but the cans remained stationary. Gasping for breath, Ariel stopped. “I’m sorry, I’m drained.”

Cabler sighed.

“We’ll have to manage without her powers.” He glanced around the store. “We got 5 minutes to refuel on food and water.”

Check and Gram ravaged the store, ripping open food bags and gulping beverages. Solar took a swig of some water. She walked over to Cabler, who stared solemnly at the ground, his brow furrowed.

“I didn’t mean to come off like I saw Ariel as a weapon. She’s not,” Cabler admits hesitantly.

“You’re just trying to survive, we all are,” Solar responds understandingly.

Cabler sighs, clenching his jaw. 

“I did a terrible job making sure that happened, didn’t I?”

“It’s not your fault. No one could have expected this.” Solar pauses before asking, “How did you handle it in the military?”

Cabler’s eyes grow distant. 

“I just told myself it was part of the job and kept pushing forward. But that truth didn’t stop the guilt from keeping me awake at night.”

Solar reaches out and places a hand on Cabler’s shoulder, her voice gentle. 

“We’ll get through this together.”

Cabler looks into Solar’s eyes, and they share a meaningful gaze that lingers. Check braced Ariel as they moved towards the back of the store, their breaths ragged. The silence ended abruptly when bullets sliced through the air, one searing into Check’s shoulder. They faltered, Ariel’s grip slipping.

“Get back!” Cabler roared, desperation lacing his voice.

Ariel stumbled inside, the officers providing cover fire as they retreated, their shots finding their marks on several soldiers.

Scrambling out the back, Gram’s face hardened with determination as he aimed his grenade launcher at the store entrance.

“Show yourselves,” he growled under his breath.

The soldiers poured into the store, and Gram’s eyes flashed. 

“Gotcha!” He fired, the explosion engulfing the store in a fiery maelstrom. The officers paused, the heat and destruction a temporary distraction.

“Lieutenant, we need to move!” Cabler snapped.

Following Cabler’s holographic map, they jogged through the city, gasping for breath. All were drenched in sweat, but Ariel, leaning heavily on Cabler, was particularly strained.

“We’re almost at the freeway,” Cabler panted. “The bridge is close.”

Check’s legs buckled, and he collapsed, a tortured groan escaping his lips. Solar rushed to his side, her hands trembling as she removed his jacket to reveal his metal arm and blood-drenched shoulder. She secured the makeshift bandage with urgency and tried to help him up, but he crumpled again.

“Go,” Solar urged Cabler, her eyes full of fear. “We’ll catch up.”

Gram stepped forward, concern etched on his face. 

“Let me help.”

“No,” Check rasped, raising a hand. “Keep Ariel safe. We’d only slow you down.”

Cabler’s jaw clenched. 

“Good luck,” he said, his voice heavy. He locked eyes with Solar. A silent moment passed. “We’ll see each other again.”

Solar nodded, and Cabler and Gram continued with Ariel.

“Never imagined our night unfolding like this,” Check said, chuckling.

Solar smiled. 

“And to think it all started with that jerk Randy.”

“I bet he’s faring better than us right now, safe in his cell.”

“Well, you know how we sometimes ‘forget’ to supervise certain individuals due to their charming personalities,” Solar remarked sarcastically.

Their laughter filled the air. Solar glanced in the direction Cabler and Ariel had taken, noticing they were no longer visible. Her laughter faded.

“We’ve got to get moving. This time, muster all your strength,” Solar instructed.

Together, they quickened their pace, determined to reach their destination. Their footsteps echoed through the narrow, dimly lit streets, casting elongated shadows on the cracked pavement that seemed to chase them relentlessly. Weary but resolute, they pressed on for what felt like miles, the cityscape around them a blur of concrete and neon.


As Solar and Check rounded a corner, she caught sight of the soldiers up ahead. 

“Shit, get back,” she whispered, urgently pulling Check back with her. They pressed against the wall, hearts racing. Solar cautiously peered around the edge, trying to remain unseen.

She observed Cabler, Gram, and Ariel standing opposite the soldiers and the woman in black near the entrance to the freeway, close to an armored van. Cabler and Gram held their hands up, while the woman and the soldiers kept their guns trained on them. The woman nodded at one of the soldiers, who marched over to Ariel and stunned her, rendering her unconscious.

Cabler lunged forward, but the soldiers brandished their weapons, forcing him to step back. Two soldiers carried Ariel’s limp body to the van. The woman smirked. “You know what to do,” she called out.

Gram’s confusion was palpable, but Cabler’s smile sent a chill down Solar’s spine. 

“I sure do,” he replied. Drawing his pistol, he aimed it at Gram’s head and fired without hesitation, splattering Gram’s brains onto the pavement.

Solar gasped quietly, shock coursing through her veins as she watched the horrifying scene unfold. The woman approached Cabler, her gait casual, as if greeting an old friend. 

“Nice shot, babe,” she praised before locking lips with Cabler, their passionate embrace a stark contrast to the chaos around them.

When they broke apart, Cabler grinned. 

“Hell of a performance, wasn’t it Natasha?” he asked.

The woman, Natasha, chuckled. 

“Damn right it was. ’I need a pickup in the San Fran Mission District’ — so professional.” Her tone turned serious. “But you were supposed to let us get them there. It wasn’t supposed to be dragged out to here.”

Cabler raised his hands theatrically, feigning innocence. 

“I’m sorry, Natasha,” he said with a mix of sarcasm and sincerity. “I had to make it seem as real as possible. I mean, it was.” He paused, a flicker of sadness crossing his face. “My crew.”

Natasha dismissed his concerns.

 “Who cares about them? They were going to die the moment they took this mission. The only difference is my boss is paying you a lot for this.” 

“What about Ariel?” Cabler asked with concern. 

“Forget her.” She kissed him briefly, then whispered seductively, “We’re going to have the best sex ever tonight.”

Cabler’s eyes lit up, and he grinned. “

With as much money as I’m getting, we’ll be taking a lot of trips.” 

They laughed together, their callousness sending shivers down Solar’s spine.

“Where are the two detectives?” Natasha inquired.

“Far behind; they couldn’t keep up,” Cabler replied nonchalantly.

Natasha nodded to two of the soldiers. 

“You two, check for the detectives, and kill them if you find them.”

As the soldiers approached, Solar held her breath, her pulse pounding in her ears. The world she thought she knew had shattered, and she braced herself for the violence that was sure to come.

Cabler and Natasha stood by the van, tension thick in the air. The echo of gunshots filled the silence, leaving them uneasy. After a tense moment, a soldier returned, nodding to the pair. 

“I guess one of ours is dead too,” Natasha remarked, a forced chuckle escaping her. “Let’s go.”

As they piled into the van, Cabler took the driver’s seat while Natasha settled beside him. The soldiers climbed in, filling the back with their presence, the unconscious Ariel a vulnerable contrast among them. One soldier, isolated themselves in the corner, their silence drawing attention.

“Hey Jean, you alright?” a comrade asked, concern lacing his voice. “You haven’t said anything since you came back. I know Logan didn’t come back, but damn, say something.”

Jean remained silent, their face distant away from everyone. 

The soldier shook his head, muttering under his breath. 

“I’m just trying–”

His words were cut off as Jean’s gun roared, the sound ricocheting in the confined space. His body crumpled, blood splattering the van’s interior. Chaos erupted, soldiers scrambling for weapons, but Jean was relentless. Shots rang out, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. Natasha reached for her gun, but a bullet tore through her torso, painting the windshield red. Cabler’s face was splattered with her warm blood.

“No!” Cabler’s scream was primal, the guttural cry of a wounded animal.

Cabler drove on, his hands gripping the wheel with white-knuckled intensity. In the rearview mirror, Jean’s visor met Cabler’s eyes. The world outside seemed to pause, the city holding its breath. Back in its embrace, Check lay next to the dead soldiers, his voice crackling over the walkie-talkie.

“This is detective Check. Send all units to the New Bay Bridge!”

The van sped across the bridge, an ominous presence against the night sky. Jean aimed her rifle at Cabler, but he slammed on the brakes, her body thrown forward. The rifle skittered across the floor as Cabler leapt from his seat, his own gun at the ready. They locked eyes, adversaries amidst the carnage.

Their dance was violent, raw – the desperate struggle for survival. Jean swiped at Cabler’s rifle, disarming him, but he went for his pistol. She tackled him, and they grappled for control. The van door swung open, their momentum carrying them out onto the rain-soaked pavement. Cabler’s pistol skidded across the asphalt, vanishing beneath the vehicle.

The two warriors stood on the deserted bridge. Rain poured down, an unrelenting torrent that mingled with their face. The wind howled around them, but they were oblivious to everything but each other,

Cabler’s eyes narrowed, his muscles tensed, and his voice trembled with anger as he questioned Jean, 

“Why? What do you want from all this?”

Jean removed her helmet, and Solar’s face was revealed, a defiant challenge in her eyes. Cabler’s shock gave way to rage.

“You killed my baby!” He roared, his voice strained with grief and fury. “I loved her, you bitch!”

“You don’t love anything except yourself,” Solar spat, ice in her words. “You betrayed your friends for what? Money and power? And now you won’t be getting either.”

Cabler’s eyes blazed, his wrath a palpable force. 

“Oh, I’m still going to get that bag,” he snarled, a devilish grin twisting his features.

“Then take it,” Solar taunted, spreading her arms wide. “It’s a quarter till midnight, and only one of us is making it past tonight.”

Cabler let out a guttural roar and charged Solar like a raging bull. She braced herself and rushed towards him, but before she could throw a punch, he lifted her off her feet. The air was violently forced out of her lungs as Cabler’s shoulder rammed into her gut, driving her back into the van with a deafening crash. The impact reverberated through her body.

With a snarl, Cabler punched her in the nose, then continued with a series of vicious blows. Each strike sent Solar’s head smacking into the van, her vision blurring with pain. Desperate to fight back, she tried to muster the strength to retaliate, but Cabler grabbed her again, flinging her onto the ground with a sickening thud.

Solar could feel her head being lifted, and she braced herself for the pain that was about to come. Cabler smashed her face into his knee repeatedly, each hit echoing through her skull. When he finally stopped, Solar lay on the ground, barely able to move, her face a mess of blood and bruises.

Grimacing in pain, Solar muttered under her breath, 

“Oh my god.”

Cabler barked back, 

“God ain’t here, bitch! He’s dead, and so will you be!”

“Then I guess there won’t be any punishment for this!”

With a fierce determination, Solar looked up, her face bloodied and bruised, and rammed her fist into Cabler’s crotch. He howled into the night like a wounded beast. 

Solar, seizing the opportunity, grabbed Cabler’s head and used it to propel herself upward. She struck his head with her knee, forcing him to step back. Without giving him a chance to recover, she sank her teeth into his ear, her scream of rage mingling with his cry of pain.

Cabler tried to shake Solar off, punching her head, but she held on, her teeth buried deep in his flesh. Tasting his blood only fueled her resolve. Cabler’s arms wrapped around her, and with a surge of brute force, he slammed her onto the concrete. Her head bounced off the ground, and the pain was blinding. Everything went black.

A sudden memory flooded her mind – a group of uniformed girls laughing cruelly at her, taunting her as she cried on the ground. She spotted a metal food tray, grabbed it, and with ferocious anger, smacked the lead girl. The others gasped, but Solar wasn’t finished with them.

Her eyes snapped open, and she found herself pinned beneath Cabler, his hands crushing her throat. Panic set in as she clawed at his grip, struggling to breathe. They locked eyes – his full of menace, hers wide with terror. 

Desperation fueled her, and she jammed her thumbs into Cabler’s eyes. He screamed as she twisted her fingers, feeling his eyeballs beneath her fingertips. His grip on her throat weakened, and she continued her assault until a powerful punch left her dazed.

Blinking through the pain and haze, Cabler stumbled to his feet, his vision blurred. He reached under the car, grabbing his gun. As he aimed it at Solar, who was still gasping for breath, he wiped the mix of rain and blood from his face. Seizing her chance, she delivered another blow to his groin, bringing him to his knees.

Her senses still scrambled, Solar rose to her feet, her body screaming with every movement. Standing over Cabler, she rushed him and landed a brutal knee to his jaw, forcing him to the ground. He spat blood and cursed her.

Before he could rise, she struck him with his own gun, leaving him crumpled on the wet pavement. Legs shaking, Solar aimed the gun at the defeated man, her resolve solidifying. Cabler, his energy spent, glared up at her as she towered over him, the gun unwavering in her grip. There was no more fight in him left.

Cabler’s face shifted, his hardened expression giving way to a vulnerable sadness. His eyes, once menacing, now seemed lost as he looked down, lost in his thoughts..

“I thought I was making the world a better place,” he whispered, the weight of his words heavy in the air.

“You and every other asshole,” Solar shot back, her voice cold as she caught her breath.

She yanked a pair of handcuffs from her pocket and flung them at Cabler. They smacked him in the face, drawing his gaze to hers, a mixture of defeat and despair filling his eyes.

“I don’t think I can live with what I did,” he admitted, the anguish clear in his voice.

Cabler struggled to his feet while Solar kept the gun trained on him. 

“Don’t try anything stupid,” she warned, her grip tightening on the weapon.

“I already did,” he replied, the remorse heavy in his tone.

His hand moved slowly behind his back, toward his waistband. Panic surged through Solar. 

“Don’t!” she yelled.

In a split second, she pulled the trigger, the gunshot echoing through the night. Cabler’s body crumpled, sliding down the van’s side, his hand emerging empty. Solar stared at his lifeless form, her eyes wide and unblinking, as her breathing grew shallow and shaky.

Solar snapped out of her daze and raced to the back of the van. She flung the doors open and saw Ariel, who was just starting to stir.

“Ariel,” Solar called out, her voice wavering with relief. “It’s finally over.”

Ariel struggled to her feet, offering a weak smile. Solar returned the smile, but the tender moment shattered when Natasha, pale and drenched in blood, sprang up from the floor, pressing a gun to Ariel’s temple. Solar’s hand shot to her own weapon.

“I don’t think so,” Natasha wheezed, her grip on the gun trembling.

Ariel shivered in terror as Solar tried to reason with Natasha. 

“Give it up. The police are on their way, and your crew is dead, including Cabler.”

Natasha shrugged nonchalantly. 

“Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to take all their shares. Besides, he wasn’t that good in bed.”

“Look at you,” Solar said, her voice tense. “You’re dying. You won’t even make it to the exit.”

“I’m still alive, aren’t I?” Natasha retorted, her voice dripping with malice. “Besides, I’m doing a hell of a lot better than how she’s going to be feeling.”

Natasha leaned in close to Ariel’s ear, her voice dripping with sarcasm. 

“Hey, little girl, guess what? It’s going to be fun watching them peel your skin apart you Glitch freak!”

Ariel’s eyes filled with tears.

“Just like it was when your parents died,” Natasha taunted, the cruel revelation igniting a spark of anger in Ariel’s eyes. “They begged for their lives. I loved forcing them to choose who would die first. Your mother just wouldn’t stop crying, so I shot her first. Honestly, I don’t even see the resemblance.”

“You talk too much,” Ariel snapped, her voice trembling with rage.

Natasha’s gun began to tremble violently. She glanced between it and Ariel, her voice laced with panic. 

“Stop that!”

The gun continued shaking. 

“I said, stop it!” Natasha shrieked, pulling the trigger. 

Nothing happened. The weapon melted in her hand, eliciting a scream of agony. She dropped the molten metal and looked up to see Ariel advancing toward her, fury burning in her eyes.

Cornered and terrified, Natasha hovered in midair, her feet leaving the ground. 

“Please,” she begged through her tears.

Solar watched, her breath caught in her throat, as Natasha’s skin stretched taut like a canvas about to rip. The gruesome sight unfolded. Natasha’s agonized screams pierced the air, a cacophony of terror and pain, as her flesh was torn away in jagged, uneven strips, leaving her bones exposed beneath the raw, quivering tissue.

With each tearing motion, Ariel’s expression grew darker, her eyes narrowing, and her jaw set with determination.

With a final, gut-wrenching explosion, Natasha’s body burst apart like a grotesque firework. Blood, viscera, and bone fragments splattered everything in sight, painting the van with a sickening palette of reds and pinks. The air was thick with the metallic tang of blood and the cloying scent of death.

Solar blinked through the crimson haze, her face contorted in a mixture of shock and disbelief. Her eyes were wide with horror, and her mouth hung open, unable to comprehend the gruesome scene before her. She saw Ariel, her expression shifting from determination to exhaustion, as she lost consciousness and began to fall to the ground.

“Ariel!” Solar cried, rushing to catch her. She cradled the girl in her arms. “It’s going to be alright,” Solar whispered as the sounds of approaching police sirens filled the air.

As the rain poured down, Solar sat with a pained expression, nursing her bruised and swollen face. She watched intently as an EMT treated Ariel in the back of an ambulance. The entire bridge was a chaotic scene, filled with police cars, helicopters, and ambulances. A news helicopter circled above, eager to capture the unfolding drama. Captain Pluton and Check stood nearby, surveying the aftermath.

“How are you holding up?” Check inquired, concern lacing his tone.

“Well, aside from a concussion and a broken nose, I’m doing just fine,” Solar replied with a hint of sarcasm. “I’ll make sure to swing by the hospital before calling it a night.”

Captain Pluton frowned. 

“Explaining this to the chief and the media won’t be easy: corrupt cops, a shadow organization, and a powerful Glitch.”

“Leave Ariel out of it,” Solar insisted. “She’s been through enough.”

The captain sighed. 

“Fine, but we can’t protect her forever.”

Solar approached Ariel. 

“How are you feeling?”

“Better,” Ariel replied. “I just want to leave this city.”

“Same,” Solar agreed.

Later, as rain pelted the windshield of a hover car parked in front of an airport, Ariel turned to Solar. 

“You’ll never find them, will you? Whoever those people worked for.”

Solar’s evasive gaze answered her question.

 “They won’t come after you now,” she promised.

Ariel sighed. 

“But I’ll never know who really killed my parents.”

“I’m sorry,” Solar said.

Ariel smiled. 

“You saved my life multiple times and gave me a new one.”

“You’re sure about this? No family or friends to look after you?”

“This isn’t my home anymore. Too many bad memories.”

They hugged.

“Can I look into your mind?” Ariel asked.

“I need my cubicles, or else-.”

“It’s fine trust me.” 

Solar hesitated but relented, placing her hands on Ariel’s head. At first, Solar winced in pain, but then her face relaxed, her expression filled with wonder.

“How did you…?” Solar stammered.

“It wasn’t me,” Ariel whispered. “Thank you.”

Ariel closed the car door, leaving Solar with a reassuring smile. 

“Don’t be sad it’s over. At least you made it.”

As Ariel strode toward the bustling airport terminal, bathed in the dim glow of the night sky, Solar’s gaze followed her every step, her eyes brimming with a whirlwind of emotions. As Ariel gradually blended into the sea of faces, her figure fading from view like a fleeting apparition, Solar’s expression softened. With a bittersweet sigh, Solar’s car ascended into the sky, leaving behind the airport and making its way back to the city that had once been a home to them both.

Solar shuffled into her apartment, her steps heavy and slow, weighed down by the events of the night. Her face was a map of dried bruises and cuts. All she craved was the respite of sleep before the new day began.

“Welcome home, Solar,” Zara greeted her. “Skylar called again. I sent it to voicemail as requested.”

“Good,” Solar murmured wearily. “Goodnight.”


But as she reached her bedroom door, Solar paused, hesitating for a moment. She glanced toward the living room, where a single framed photograph caught her eye. It depicted two young girls with their arms draped over each other, their smiles radiant and carefree.

“Actually,” Solar reconsidered, her voice wavering. “Connect me to her.”

In her room, Solar stood with bated breath, her heart pounding in anticipation. Her face was a canvas of anxiety, and she took a deep, steadying breath. When the hologram finally flickered to life, Solar’s smile bloomed, her relief washing over her like a wave, more profound than she had felt in a long time.

Thank you for reading this story, I appreciate it. If you enjoyed it please head over to the link below to subscribe for updates on my writings.

Connect to the future with sci-fi stories

Get Sci-Fi Updates