Baltimore, Maryland, the present. Summertime. Ten twenty-two P.M. and counting.
“Hold nothing back. Give everything.”
As I muttered those two sentences, I couldn’t help but think they had to be the most clichéd lines in existence. Still, as I stood on the rooftop overlooking Tilbrook and Main, Baltimore’s version of Crime Alley, an abandoned low-income housing project downtown, they came to mind and had great resonance and meaning. The city’s council had long since given up hope of reclaiming the area, and since no one else cared, here I stood, keeping watch.
When it came to protecting the citizenry, there were always two ways to do it. One, put your trust in the police and let them handle the rough stuff. It sounded like a good idea, but the cops were overworked, undermanned and underpaid, so in order to take care of the overflow in crime, that was where Dana—my girlfriend—and I came in.
Darkness swathed the area, but my eyesight was sharp, and I picked up the form of Dana perched on the rooftop of a rotting apartment that overlooked the warehouses. We were on stakeout, sitting pretty perched high above the street, an area populated by many abandoned apartments and warehouses. Only the homeless, the drug addicts, the gang members and the roaches were around…and most of the time the roaches steered clear.
I scanned the zone below, looking for signs of trouble. Abandoned area or not, some innocent people still lived near here, people who needed protection, and the Metas—that was what we called ourselves, a tribute to a defunct cable television show—were here to provide it. A full moon shone directly overhead, illuminating the area in a ghostly glow.
Dana swiveled her head in my direction, gave a hint of a smile, and turned her attention back to the alleyway. Had to love our celestial neighbor, as its rays outlined the skintight black bodysuit she wore, accentuating the curves of her body. Five-nine, the same height as me, she had long, silky black hair, cool purple eyes, and a face most guys would gladly receive an ass-kicking for in return for the opportunity to say hello.
Too bad it wasn’t happening, not for them, anyway. She reserved her affection for me, although at times I wondered why. It had been hot during the day—Baltimore’s summer temperature usually went up to around a hundred—but the rains had come about twenty minutes ago. A welcome coolness hung in the air even though extremes in temperature hadn’t bothered me for a long time.
So had personal appearance. I caught sight of my reflection in a puddle. I wore the same kind of bodysuit Dana did, but she looked way better in her outfit than me in mine. Some people had the looks, and others didn’t. I fell into the latter category.
If you had to describe me, then the adjectives of slender and narrow-faced would have started things off. Toss in “seemingly without any appreciative muscle along with having no distinguishing marks” and that summed it all up. Up until six months or so ago, with those looks, I’d have been destined to join the Forever Alone crew, a geek without friends or the possibility of finding them.
However, that was six months ago. A lot could happen in the space of a half-year, and in my case, a lot had happened.
Dana’s voice came through on my intercom, a little device she’d rigged up in her spare time and which sat snugly in my left ear. My hearing happened to be very acute, but this gizmo made listening in somewhat more pleasurable. Just tap it and receive call. It had a range of over three hundred meters and could pick up the most sensitive of sounds. “Hey, you got anything to eat? I’m dying for a few donuts.”
She would have to think of food at a time like this. Here we were, stakeout time, trying to catch the criminal scum and help out the Baltimore police, and what was she thinking of? Sweets, it was always sweets.
I tapped twice to reply. “I thought you had some.”
An empty paper bag sailed through the air and landed at my feet. So much for her evening snack. “I’m out.”
She was out. “We’ll buy some more on our way home,” I whispered.
A grunt of what had to be disappointment greeted me. “Fine, I’ll go hungry.”
With that, she flipped her hair back and parked herself on the ledge. To someone who didn’t know her as well as I did, it may have seemed she didn’t care or wasn’t being watchful. Wrong on both counts, as her eyes, ever on the move, measured the area, rated each square inch for trouble, and did it faster than the average human could.
Oh wait, she wasn’t human. Then again, neither was I, not entirely. The quiet of the area gave me some time to reflect upon that last thought. It also made me reflect upon how I’d gone from pud to stud as well as how we weren’t alone in the universe anymore…
Six months ago
An autograph, it had all been about getting an autograph. Two weeks shy of my eighteenth birthday, I’d been a huge fan of The Metas, a superhero action show about twin mutants, Dana and Van, protectors of Tacoma, Washington, my home city. In the show, they flew, possessed super strength and they kicked butt, mainly against a shadow agency that often sent super-powered scum to trap them.