Vigilant (Part One)
Disclaimers: This is a piece of uber fiction. Therefore all characters within belong to me. :) They may strike a remarkable resemblence to a certain Warrior Princess and her Bard, but otherwise, this piece takes place in contemporary times with original characters.
Warnings: Okay, weve got some violence (nothing too graphic), some language, and of course, the subtext is alive and well in everything that I write. This excerpt does not contain anything graphic, however if the thought of two women in romantic situations disturbs you, you most likely wont want to read this fiction. Go find some nice kiddie stories to read, or perhaps get out more.
Comments, please! I love to hear what Im doing right and what you folks like, so keep me posted. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lana worried the edge of her pencil with her teeth as she stared at the piece of paper on the desk before her. Mr. Bleisek hadnt hit them with this pop quiz out of the blue, since hed announced it at the end of class yesterday. But reading the assigned chapter would have definitely helped her finish these essay questions. Oddly, it was her mothers voice that quietly chastised her as she racked her brains trying to remember Pythagorass Theorum.
"If you hadnt spent the night in front of that computer, you would have finished your homework," the voice whispered in her head.
"Thanks, Mom," she muttered, the pencil still between her teeth. "Thats so very helpful."
She ignored the snigger that erupted at her right. A moment later she heard Tom Ross whispering something to Avery, who giggled appropriately at the joke. Lana resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Thats right," she thought silently. "Keep working on that pecking order, you twerp."
"All right," Mr. Bleisek announced, "Times up. Please hand your papers forward."
Lana grimaced, glancing down at her quiz once more. Shed done a better job of chewing the paint off her pencil than she had answering the five essay questions theyd been given. Sighing, she pushed the paper into the outstretched hand of the person in front of her. Summer school was a very likely possibility yet again this year.
The class burst into activity moments before the bell rang as everyone collected their belongings and chatted with their neighbors. Lana spent those last few minutes of class staring out the window. This side of the building faced Johnson, and across the street the police station buzzed with a quiet energy. It sat on the corner, and from the school one could see rear of the building, where newly arrested individuals were taken in for booking. She watched a young man struggle briefly with the two officers who escorted him from their squad car before quieting after one of the cops barked a few choice words at him. She couldnt hear what he said, but was fascinated by the fact that whatever it was, it had scared the kid enough to stop him.
"Ms. Wilson, Id like to see you after class, please," she heard Mr. Bleisek saying a moment later. She sunk a little lower in her seat as the kids around her exchanged knowing glances.
As soon as the clock ticked forward another minute and the bell rang an instant later, the students leapt to their feet to stream from the room. Lana sat where she was a moment before rising. She glared at Tom, who was crossing his eyes at her in a familiar expression. The room was empty by the time she made her way to the teachers desk at the front of the room.
Mr. Bleisek glanced at her after making her wait several agonizing seconds, reaching up to adjust his glasses. Lana frowned, recognizing how similar his thick lenses were to hers. "You only answered one of these questions, Lana," he said quietly.
Lana shrugged. "I know."
He sighed. "Look, weve already been through this. When you read the material, you do very well. Im not always going to let you retake these. I think youre taking advantage of me, Lana," he accused.
She pursed her lips in an effort to stop herself from laughing. Did she dare let him know that Geometry was absolutely the least interesting subject she could imagine? Maybe she should use the tired, "Im having problems at home," line. That one seemed to get a positive response. No, she decided, Mr. Bleisek was one of her kind, and a lot smarter than the students gave him credit for.
"Ill stop slacking," she promised.
He put up his hands and smiled. "Thats all I ask," he said. "You can try your hand at this one again after winter break if you want take it along with the next one."
Lana nodded. "Sure, Ill do that."
As she stared down at him, she realized that he gave her a lot of leeway when it came to her grade. It could be that he sensed a kindred spirit of sorts. Although they definitely didnt share the same passions her idea of a fun centered more around a brand new comic book or a good episode of Star Trek than taking PI out to the sixtieth decimal point, but they were from the same social club, that was certain. But maybe it was as simple as wanting to get rid of her come next June. Hed already had to deal with her last year in Algebra.
"Good. Maybe we can avoid bumping into each other next summer, huh?" he jokedbadly. Lana decided his reason for being lenient with her was more in line with her latter assumption.
"Can I go?" she asked. He waved her away and continued poring over the quizzes strewn across his desk.
The hallways were already clearing by the time she got to her locker, although she couldnt avoid the captain of the football team barreling into her and announcing, "Out of the way, four-eyes."
"Youre gifted, arent you?" she muttered after him. He was occupied with ogling the cheerleaders passing ahead of him to pay any attention, though. She was so happy that shed be graduating this year.
Opening her locker door, she was faced with the firm resolve of Sarah Pezzini, of Witchblade fame. The thin poster was tattered and liberally covered with tape, but Lana was still impressed by her steely gaze. Now that was a lifefighting crime with a mystical weapon, letting no one stand in your way to whats right. Being able to run around half naked and actually look good while doing so was a plus, too.
Sighing, she grabbed her jacket and threw it on. School was beginning to be more than just a drag. Sometimes she felt like standing in the middle of the hallway and screaming her lungs out, just to see what people would do. What she really needed was a break from all of the bureaucratic bullshit that forced her to come here every day, sit with a group of rowdy, illiterate morons, and pretend that she actually cared what year the United States entered the first world war.
Lana couldnt claim to be excited about Christmas vacation coming up next week, however. Two weeks in Florida kind of lost their sparkle when spent at great-aunt Sophias house. Theyd visit such hotspots as Sophies favorite flea market, and hit St. Johns for Wednesday nights mass. But she usually managed to escape for short periods of time. Now that she was older it should be easier. Maybe Sophie would even let her borrow the Buick for a little joyride. Lana snickered at the thought.
Hurrying outside, she was able to catch the metro bus, which meant she wouldnt have to wait until five to get home. Lana chose a seat near the back, where she ducked down and stuck her nose in a book. With everyone so intent on getting home after a hard day of work, she didnt normally get hassled at this time of day. Besides, she noticed that even though there wasnt a shortage of assholes in the world, they seemed to congregate in high schools across America. Out in the real world people tended to mind their own business.
When she got home, the clinking of dishware toward the back of the house let her know that her younger brother had been told to set the table. Shed hear about that. Lana snuck upstairs to her room, avoiding the creaky third step. Shed just stepped through the threshold of her bedroom door when she heard her mothers voice downstairs.
"Lana, is that you?" She froze in her tracks. Damn, busted. "Dinners almost ready, come back downstairs."
"Yeah, set the table yourself, lazy " her brothers voice drifted off as her mother berated him.
She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the bureau mirror set against the opposite wall of her room. It was a sad sight. Her nose and face red from the cold, a large jacket hanging oddly from her small frame, and her green eyes magnified by a thick pair of glasses, she looked every bit the class nerd. Glaring at the girl in the mirror, she pulled off her jacket and hurled it on the floor. A quick twist and her hair fell from its careless arrangement, dropping down past her shoulders. Her blonde hair was her only normal feature. Unfortunately it didnt rescue the rest of her from plainness.
"It would be nice if youd get home by suppertime," her mother mentioned as she walked into the kitchen.
Ignoring her, Lana passed the table, jumping nimbly over her brothers outstretched leg, and crossed the room to open the fridge. "I had to wait for the bus," she reminded her mother.
"Well, Jim managed to catch the 3:45 and get home on time."
Safely hidden by the refrigerator door, Lana rolled her eyes. She grabbed the gallon of milk and set it on the counter. "I was held up after class."
Her mother sighed. "Lana, why do you do this? You need to pick up those grades if you think youre getting into the UW. Look, they sent you some information in the mail."
Lana glanced over at the table as she reached for a glass from the cupboard. "You mean they sent you some information. Why do you keep soliciting this crap? I told you Im not going to college in the fall."
Her mother pursed her lips. Lana looked away to pour herself a glass of milk. "Why wont you even consider it? You know how important college is these days."
"Why? Why should I bust my ass for four more years just to get a piece of paper that says, Hey, now youre ready for your very own cubicle? No way. Besides, like anyone would take me with my GPA."
"I think that scoring in the ninety-eighth percentile of the SAT would warrant a second look from any school," her mother said sternly.
Blah, blah, blah, Lana thought. Yeah, Im some kind of genius, didnt you know? Its not like that test had been purposely skewed to benefit the sorry brains of Americas high schoolers. But she didnt dare say any of this to her mother. "I want something different for myself," she ventured, turning to join her family at the table.
Her mother eyed her over the dark rims of her bifocals. They shared the same eyes, and once her mothers hair had been a similar shade of blonde. But otherwise she managed to maintain a quiet dignity that Lana believed she was sorely lacking. No, her mother definitely hadnt been a nerd. Shed seen the photos from her yearbooks. Somehow the "babe" genes had skipped a generation.
"What? Do you really think your silly cartoon stories are going to support you? You need to learn a real trade. Something to fall back on."
"Comic books," Lana mumbled before stuffing a forkful of green beans in her mouth.
"Whatever," her mother dismissed. "I want you to take some time during spring break and visit a few campuses," she continued, as though Lana hadnt said a word of protest. "There are three here that look very interesting. I have the brochures." She passed them over.
Lana glanced down at the cover of the first one. The University of Wisconsin at Madison, it proclaimed in bold letters. She frowned. If she did drag her butt through college, it would have to be in the same state. She would have a hard enough time scrounging up the cash for tuition let alone out of state taxes. Imagining the huge student loans shed have to acquire in order to get through four years of college, she shuddered inwardly. How was working on her own any worse than racking up so much debt? Lana continued eating, letting the other woman chatter on about what she knew of the schools shed chosen for her. Once she was finally out of the house, there wasnt much her mother could do about it anyway, she decided.
Florida was turning out to be the state from hell. Three days into their vacation with Aunt Sophia, and Lana was about to hitchhike back home. Today her mother had decided that a round of miniature golf would just be a load of laughs. The idea of watching her seventy-eight year old great aunt try to sink a golf ball made Lana cringe. So as soon as they arrived, sweat-soaked from the lack of air conditioning in Sophies dilapidated Buick, she tried to talk her way out of it.
"Im going to head over to that mall over there," Lana pointed.
Her mother stopped and stared down the sidewalk. "I dont think thats a good idea, honey," she said. "It will be dark soon."
"What are you talking about? The place is packed. Nothings going to happen, there are tons of people there. You guys can finish your game and pick me up in front."
Her mother opened her mouth to argue once more, but was interrupted by Sophia. "Just let her go, dear. She doesnt want to golf."
Pursing her lips, her mother finally nodded. "Okay. But you stay inside until we get there. And dont go wandering anywhere else, you got it?"
Elated, Lana nodded vigorously. She started off, but was stopped when her mother called, "Have you got money?" Laughing, she waved them on and continued on her way.
As she followed the sidewalk, Lana wondered if her mother hadnt been right to worry a little bit. It was broad daylight, so it wasnt like anything was going to happen, but she spotted a few rough looking individuals loitering around the edge of the parking lot as she arrived. She passed them quickly, not even glancing in their direction. They jeered at her anyway, and she heard female voices as well as male making the rude comments.
Inside, she breathed a sigh of relief at the cool air surrounding her. The mall was laid out just like any other, with storefronts on either side of the corridor and random plants, fountains, and seating areas in the middle. It was pretty crowded, so she took a moment to look over the large map posted right inside.
"Excuse me," someone said just behind her as he bumped into her. She turned to see an elderly man with a brace around his neck lurch away from her, walking unsteadily. Shaking her head, she was about to turn her attention back toward the map when she spotted someone quickly circling her to fall into step behind him.
The woman was tall, and dressed too warmly for the Florida weather. Wearing jeans and a black leather jacket over a white t-shirt, she cut a striking figure. Lana just caught the side of her face before shed passed her, and stared a moment at the long black hair trailing past her shoulder blades before realizing why the woman looked so familiar. She reached into her bag and pulled out the Tattler magazine shed purchased at the drugstore the other morning. There, right on the cover, was a sketch of the "Urban Avenger."
This was a story Lana had been following since she first saw it on one of those nightly entertainment shows. Some woman had been running around several large cities like some kind of vigilante, stopping several robberies, muggings, and even a rape. The descriptions of the woman were remarkably similar in each case; tall, dark complexion and hair, brilliant blue eyes. Lana hadnt seen the eyes, but what if this was her? How exciting!
She stuffed the magazine back into her bag and started following the strange woman. After passing several stores, the woman stopped and started poking through a table of sunglasses just outside a department store. Lana noticed that the elderly man whod bumped into her had stopped as well, although he was busy eyeing the candy pressed against the front window of another storefront. There was no doubt about it. The woman was trailing him. Lana wondered why.
Maybe he was a pickpocket! She quickly fumbled through her bag, looking for her wallet. Yes, everything was in there. Suspicious, she glanced up toward the woman once again, only to be met with an icy blast of bright blue eyes. Startled, Lana dropped her bag. Just her luck, anything that could roll did skittering across the waxed floor and landing against the feet of passerby.
"Shit!" she muttered, dropping down to catch a roll of Lifesavers. It only took a few seconds to find everything, but by that time, both the elderly man and the woman had vanished. Lanas shoulders fell in disappointment as she searched the area for any sight of them.
She felt strangely despondent after this, and half-heartedly wandered the mall for another hour or so. All of the excitement of the afternoon had deflated in an instant, and she wanted nothing more than to go back to Sophies house and fall into bed. First thing tomorrow morning she was going to dig up everything she had on the "Urban Avenger." What a story that would make.
By the time shed reached the front of the mall again the place was clearing out. The sun was just setting, and it was starting to get dark outside. She waited a few minutes at the front windows, searching for the faded right headlight of her great aunts car, then decided just to walk back to the miniature golf course. Who knew how many games those three had decided to play? She wasnt about to wait all night.
Just as she passed a lonely, broken down four-door at the edge of the parking lot, Lana realized that the car wasnt abandoned at all. There were three people sitting inside. She passed it a little too closely before noticing this, and her heart lurched in her chest when the door on both sides flew open a minute later.
"Did you scratch my car?" A young man demanded. His flannel shirt flipped open to reveal a dark tattoo on the right side of his chest.
"No," Lana assured him, scurrying out of his way. As she reached the opposite side, a second man bumped up against her, thrusting his chest at her in an attempt to intimidate her. It worked.
"Got a quarter?" he asked. He tried to grab her but she slipped away from him.
"Sorry," she mumbled, starting to jog. The sidewalk was just ahead, and she could see several people walking by.
"Hey, where you goin?" the first one called after her.
Lana didnt answer. Hearing the sound of their footsteps approaching behind her, she started to run. She focused all of her attention on the people walking just ahead. Someone there had to be okay, she thought. At least if she was in a more public place, they wouldnt do anything, right?
"My buddy asked you somethin," a voice announced behind her as a hand landed on her shoulder.
She was whirled around to face him. He grabbed the strap of her bag and ripped it away from her, dumping the contents on the concrete. His friend arrived at that moment, bending over the pluck her wallet from the pile. Lana decided her best bet was to just let them have what they wanted and get the hell out of there. She edged away, steeling herself for a quick sprint.
"Hey, nobody said you get to leave," the tattooed one said.
"Go to hell!" she shouted when he reached forward. Unfortunately, she tripped as she backed away from him, landing hard on her backside and biting the inside of her mouth.
He shook his head as he stared down at her. "Thats not very nice," he said. He leaned over and grabbed her by the hair, startling her. "I think you need a few lessons in manners."
"I think you could use the same," a new voice interjected. Lanas gaze whipped past him to land on a very familiar figure standing nearby. A dark Cadillac sat idling behind her, its door hanging open.
The dark haired woman held the second man by the scruff of his neck, actually picking him up off the ground enough for him to be left dangling on his tiptoes. "Does this belong to you?" she asked Tattoo.
"Step off, bitch," he snarled. "This aint your business."
The woman shook her head. "You definitely could learn a few things," she murmured sweetly. She dropped his friend, who rubbed the back of his neck in shock. "Lesson one."
She moved so fast Lana hardly picked up each individual movement. One moment she was standing ten feet away from them, smiling, and the next she had Tattoos free arm bent behind his back. Lana could hear it creak in its socket from where she sat. He let go of her hair immediately, taking a swipe behind himself in an attempt to grab the woman.
"Lesson one," she repeated evenly. "Lesson two," she added, glancing behind herself. The second man had started to approach, but stopped in his tracks when he found the bottom of her boot an inch away from his face. Lana felt her jaw drop at the image she presented.
"Lesson three gets a little messy, but if youre game " her voice trailed off.
"We didnt do nothin," Tattoo said mutinously. "Let me go."
She did as he asked, a strange glee dancing in her blue eyes. Her stare dared him to make a move on her, but he exhibited a brain for the first time and backed down. "Uh huh," she stated when he turned to leave. Staring at her open palm a moment, he grunted and pulled Lanas wallet out of his pocket to slap it into her hand. "Now get out of here."
Their car screeched out of the parking lot a moment later, and the woman was kneeling next to her on the concrete. Shaken, Lana swallowed and tasted the bitter flavor of blood coating the inside of her mouth. She allowed herself to be pulled up to her feet, staring silently at the amazon standing beside her.
"Are you all right?" the woman asked.
"Uh yes," Lana whispered.
Eyeing her speculatively, the woman quirked her head to one side. "Well then, if everything is okay " She shrugged when Lana didnt answer, and turned to leave.
"Wait!" Lana called. She hurried to the spilled contents of her bag and pulled the Tattler out from under the sweatshirt she always carried with her. "This is you, isnt it?" she asked.
The womans bright eyes scanned the cover of the magazine. "I dont know what youre talking about," she finally said, shaking her head. "But I better get going, Im in the middle of " she gazed around the parking lot a moment, looking for something.
"No," Lana protested when she moved away once again. The woman sighed and paused. "But you saved me," she added weakly. "Just like in the story."
"Look, kid, Im working here, okay? Ive gotta get moving."
Lana shook her head. "Im not a kid."
This made the other woman smile. "How old are you?" she asked.
Blushing, Lana answered, "Eighteen."
Nodding briskly, the woman said, "Kid, like I said, Im working"
"Are you undercover?" Lana interrupted rudely. "Are you a cop?" That would explain her quest for justice.
Sighing, the woman turned to gaze at the opposite end of the parking lot once again. "No, Im not a cop."
"A private investigator then? Youre trailing that old man because hes a pickpocket or something, right?"
She looked surprised that Lana had noticed what shed been doing. "No," she said firmly. "I take pictures." At Lanas confused look, she added, "Did you see that neck brace he was wearing? Well, he put a claim in to his insurance company that he was incapacitated by a car accident. They dont think thats exactly the truth. This is where I come in," she finished.
"Oh," Lana said, disappointed. She then recalled the small black case the woman had been carrying with her in the mall. Her camera, obviously. That definitely wasnt as sexy as being a cop.
"Look, I know you were following me earlier," the woman said. "You already made me lose him once today. Im on a schedule here. If you keep it up, next time Im calling the cops, okay? Now get back to your mommy and have a nice vacation."
Lana frowned. It was that obvious? She glared at the womans back as she turned to get into her car. "Youre rude," she muttered. "I bet youre not really the Urban Avenger, after all. Insurance," she said, disgusted.
But she didnt turn away to grab her things until the Cadillac finally swung out of the parking lot to surge down the street. A small smile played around her lips as she watched the woman go.
To Be Continued in Part TwoReturn to Main Page