3: Skulker

The heavy pounding of the guitar shook the foundations of the supposedly abandoned bar. Ben joined the screaming voices with a grin. The filthy walls of the basement were covered in various posters of bands who had graced the venue before. More power than simple sound shot from the speakers mounted to either side of the makeshift stage. Always fun when the band has super powers, Ben thought.

Two halves of the roughly fifty person crowd separated, Ben included, and jumped to the sound of heavy metal. The beat picked up. Ben threw his mostly empty beer bottle into the face of a skinhead across from him, then joined in as the opposing sides charged. He ducked under a punch from somewhere, then came up in a shoulder check. The mass of people on the other side knocked him back. The press of bodies on all sides barely kept him on his feet. Ben laughed and sang along to the unintelligible lyrics, fist raised in the air. Someone screamed in pain off to the side. Ben pressed forward, twisting out of the way of a switchblade as it flashed out of the mob. Fucking skinhead.

The next stab the skinhead took, Ben grabbed his hand and drove a fist into his wrist. As the knife dropped, Ben jabbed a thumb in his eye for his trouble. The skinhead’s shock of pain allowed Ben to bring the elbow of his free arm down on the skinhead’s nose. People around them cheered. Before the skinhead could recover, Ben shoved off of him and vanished into the mob around them.

The drums reached a frantic pace. The mob eased off, then slammed into each other again. And again. And again. Ben lost track of the skinhead, time, and the stage, but no one else tried stabbing him again. Then mood of the mob shifted.

Police sirens sounded, barely audible over what could only loosely be described as music. He laughed as warning shots were fired overhead and the door at the back of the room burst open. It just isn’t a good underground mosh pit without the cops showing up. The mob began to disperse; the band cut off. Ben sprinted past fleeing mob members towards an open window set high in the wall of the basement. Shit, too tall to climb quick. He grinned again. Eight feet away, he reached, jumped, and teleported.

The teleport put him close enough to the window, still in the same position as when he’d jumped on the ground. His extended hand grabbed the ledge, and his momentum carried him fully through. He sprinted into the night as others began to climb the wall behind him. Others surged towards the police, who responded with rubber bullets. He teleported between the two cops waiting by the windows before they could react.

With a couple more teleports, Ben left the sirens and screaming far behind him. Damn that was fun. Gotta remember that band. He slowed to a walk as he approached his car a few minutes later, an old forest green jeep with the back bumper rusted off. Scanning the abandoned parking lot, he unzipped his pant pocket and fished out his keys. The engine rattled as he attempted to start it. The check engine light lit up for the millionth time. Damn thing’s been having ignition problems for the last month. The engine started properly on the third try.

Time? He turned on the headlights, then tapped the clock on the jeep’s radio. Three AM. Got some time before work starts. The engine didn’t squeal in protest when he put it in reverse, so Ben backed out of the parking garage and onto the empty streets. He kept an eye out for any police cruisers on the road on his way back to his apartment. I don’t think the grenades in the back are legal.

Twenty minutes later, Ben slipped back to his apartment complex. His hands drummed against his legs from residual adrenaline. No one saw him as he entered his apartment and closed the door behind him. He jumped up a couple times in the living room, landing light on his feet. Need to do that more often. Work is killing me. Got maybe an hour until it’s back to the grind. Damn bakeries and their early hours. Sleep?

In his bedroom, Ben grabbed the long rifle off his bed and leaned it in the corner. The knives he threw on his desk. Uniform clean? Yes, good. He checked himself over as he changed. Some scuffs on my shins, didn’t even feel those. That’s a nice bruise on my chest, but no big deal, the uniform should cover that up.

He held up the red collared shirt with the happy, smiling donut on the right breast. Should patrol tomorrow night, though. Sanchez has been getting real bold lately. The glint of his grinning mask on the nightstand caught the his eye. Gotta pay the bills. Not much else if you don’t have a high school diploma. Besides, donuts are fucking awesome. There’s about a billion worse jobs, and I’m not missing out on much sleep anyways. He smiled to himself. Just gotta keep telling myself that.

He put on the shirt, then crashed on the office chair in front of his computer. Any other bands like that? Ones with powers? Let’s see here. Some fucking country singer, nope. Jazz, nope. Some religious nuts bitching about powers, nope. Come on, the world isn’t this boring. There’s gotta be something out there. He tore himself from his computer after an hour or so. No point putting it off. Time to make donuts, motherfucker!

***

The next night, Ben grabbed a black duffel bag and laid it out on his bed. What do I need for tonight? He grabbed his sniper rifle in its sheathe first, stretching the bag lengthwise to fit it in. His few remaining flashbangs he’d stolen from one of Sanchez’s arms dealers went in next, followed by a pistol, its holster, and two magazines. He stuffed a switchblade into his boot and tossed a few more into his bag.

He moved onto the gear his brother Rob had made, pulling a long, curved knife from its sheath. Shit, do I need to sharpen this? He said something about that. He held it down on his desk, edge pointed up. With his free hand, he plucked a hair from his head and dropped it an inch above the knife. The strand of hair split in half the moment it floated down to touched the edge of the blade. Nope, still good. He set that in the bag, then examined his mask.

On the outside, it looked like solid metal. Inside, two circular bits of glass marked the eyes. Over the mouth sat a small block of white plastic with slots over it. Rob had assured him any toxin going through would be neutralized. He had tried explaining how it worked once, everything he’d said went way over Ben’s head. It works, that’s all I need to know. Soft grey felt covered the remainder of the inside.

He placed the mask in the duffel bag and zipped it up. Where do I want to go tonight? Downtown? That where Sanchez’s guys have been? Shit, I dunno. Flying blind is only so fun for so long. With the bag slung over his shoulder, he returned to his jeep. Five attempts to start it later, the engine rattled to life. North? South? Fuck it, right sends me north, and I don’t have to wait for this damn light.

The streets were close to empty once he began driving, with nearly half the cars he passed by cop cars. Damn, they’re out in force. He kept his speed reasonable, not too fast, not too slow. Cops tended to despise vigilantes like himself. No one paid him any mind, he was just a guy driving in a beat up old car. He stopped at the top of a parking garage and strapped his equipment on over his hoodie and black pants. He slipped his mask on last. Skulker time!

Skulker ran to the edge of the garage and jumped up to the edge of the wall. His teleport at maximum range brought him just across the street and onto the roof of the next building. He jumped from one building to another, never staying for more than a minute to observe the area. He didn’t expect to find anything, but trying never hurt and it got him active.

The city’s criminal element had come roaring back with an almost cult like fervor since nearly disappearing last Christmas. ‘Sanchez will have his due.’ I’ve just gotta find someone who won’t just say that over and over again. From what he could pick up from the police band, the cops weren’t having much luck either.

He eventually stopped and sat on the edge of a building overlooking the Rocky Mountain Shopping Center, deciding to relax for a bit. It was a quiet April Monday, the air was refreshingly cool. It probably wouldn’t warm up until sometime in May. The donut shop where he worked at was below him. Shouting came from the north side of the strip mall. Well what do you know? Grinning in anticipation of something to do, he hoped back to his feet and teleported.

Before he reached what he had judged to be where the people were, he saw three men running hard away from the street, blocked from Skulker’s view by the building he was standing on. Hi there! He drew a switchblade. Just as they were about to run under his position, he jumped off the building, then teleported to the ground.

As he landed in a crouch, he drove the blade into the foot of the first man, the one with an impressive black eye. Skulker took advantage of the man’s forward momentum to flip him over his shoulder, tearing out the knife in the process. The other two barely had time to react before Skulker righted himself and drove a kick into the stomach of the second man. The third man had a knife, and swung it wildly at him.

Skulker teleported a couple feet through the gap between the two men, to just behind and to the side of the knife man, then spun and slashed at the armed man, leaving a shallow cut across his back. The second had recovered and swung a punch at him. Skulker ducked his head, saw that the man had overextended himself, then turned and brought his elbow into the man’s throat as hard as he could. He went down gurgling.

It was just Skulker and the knife man now. The man tried a desperate stab at Skulker, but he spun out of the way and drove his foot into the man’s knee. He collapsed, knife coming free of his grip.

“Sanchez’s boys? I got some questions for you,” said Skulker as he loomed over the man, pistol aimed at his forehead.

The man laughed through ruined teeth. He spat blood and said, “No, you little prick. We’re gonna die. There’s a-”

“Not what I’m lookin’ for.” Skulker cut off the man with a shot to the head. Before he could move on to the next one, he noticed someone about five feet away to his side and felt his smile evaporate. A big girl in ratty old clothes, with a massive pair of wings, clawed hands, and a tail loomed by the entrance to the alley. She might have been up to seven feet tall if she stood up straight, but the wings extending above her head made it hard to tell. Inhuman silver eyes locked onto him

Oh fuck me, that’s a feral.

“Shit” he muttered.

The feral hunched over and hissed the moment Skulker made a move, claws uncurled and ready. He froze. He didn’t bother trying to talk, ferals couldn’t. They stared at each other for a long moment, his pistol still halfway between it and the dead man. If the stories were true it wouldn’t even feel the bullets. Why the hell aren’t you attacking? He prepared to freeze time the moment it made a move towards him.

The feral’s hissing died down, and it slowly started to back away. Skulker remained in place until she disappeared down the corner she came from, their eyes never leaving each other. Skulker took a deep breath and relaxed slightly. Beside him, the man with the bleeding foot whispered, “Sweet Jesus, thank you.”

Fuck. I’m definitely gonna have to call cops now. Animal control is gonna need their help. Should have just shot the damn thing once it was running off.

He pulled out a disposable phone and dialed 911. “Hello, this is 911, what is your emergency?” asked a calm female voice.

“I’m Skulker, vigilante, on 16th. Spotted a feral. Big, lizard, female.” One of the thugs at his feet groaned, rolling over with a hand pressed to his ribs. “I also got three would be muggers here, one dead, two injured.”

He hung up the phone before the 911 operator could respond and teleported away. Once he had a block’s worth of distance between himself and the scene, he turned and headed towards his car, keeping out of sight the moment he spotted the headlights of a car. Fucking feral.

Wait a minute, it was wearing clothes. What kind of feral does that? He slowed, reconsidering. Murder and disappearance rates had risen in the past year, though he hadn’t hear of any murders chalked up to animal attacks. Can ferals be smart? And what the fuck was it doing around those three assholes? Damn it, something super weird is going on here.

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14 thoughts on “3: Skulker

  1. FIRST!
    Also, thank you for the chapter.
    ALSO, “…where he worked at was below him. Shouting came from the north of the strip mall…”
    Change “shouting” to “a womans scream”.
    It’ll probably fit better.
    Ie. How did skulker know it was the men who did wrong?

  2. I don’t really think “can ferals be smart” would be the first thing he woulda thought lmao. Not when like literally no ferals ever recorded weren’t. And any of the ones that could talk hate humans.

    • I think skulker meant smart as in ‘smarter that their instincts’ rather than ‘smart enough to use tactics’. The African dog is a good example. They can use pritty amazing tactics, have a complex hierarchy and voting system and give the young and weak first picks on food, allowing for them to get to full strength and quickly help out with the pack.
      They may be smart but it is quite a distance away from being able to create tools, farms, shelter and large communities.
      The ‘smart’ ferals are probably in
      the same vien; theres probably a few that can understand and put tactics into effect but there has never really been an instance were the ferals didn’t attack when directly confronted. And remember this is a re-write; it could be entirely different from the original that we know and love. Just because there were ferals that could ‘talk’ in that series doesn’t mean that there will be in this one.

  3. I suppose…
    It still seems a bit extreme to kill someone just because they’re armed.
    What if they were just regular trouble makers?
    In other words: what stands out, something that can be seen with just a glance, that makes them deserving of being brutally attacked rather than to be questioned?
    Heck the guys were even running away from something; generally the people running away are not the aggressors.
    At the moment, without the previous chapter as reference, I have no logical reason to believe that these men are ‘bad’.
    They could just people who like to carry a weapon on them at all times and be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Skulker could have potentially killed a regular citizen because of his lack of evidence.

    • “Skulker could have potentially killed a regular citizen because of his lack of evidence.”
      Yes. This is exactly what vigilantes and mob justice runs the risk of doing. That is exactly what I’m trying to portray here.

      • Oh I see…
        I’m not going to question your work anymore, but I still feel that there should be some context for skulkers aggressive actions.
        Also, what is probably part of the confusion; I never thought thought of a vigilante as a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ sort of thing. I always though of it more as someone like Dexter or maybe Batman. Someone outside the law sure, but also not someone who’s all that trigger happy, only killing when necessary.

  4. Yeah going through it again, it is weird. Maybe one of the changes is part of skulkers abilitys? Space or time type powers always do have alot that can be expanded upon, so its going to be interesting to see where this goes (if this isn’t just a typo).

  5. You should give it more screen time in this version, or at least make him practice so that it doesn’t start killing him.
    Also, going back through my memories, I think I remember one time where he pushed his ability too far making him go unconscious. Or something like that…

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