My first ever guest blog spot has to go to none other than Josh Klafter. He's an incredible writer and an even better friend. I'm eagerly awaiting the completion and release of his debut novel, but we can all get a taste of the universe his novel takes place in with this short story.
Klafter is a fiction author and gonzo journalist living in New York City. When he isn't writing, Josh can be found working at his synagogue, embarrassing himself at a convention, or in his apartment researching and analyzing the writing of George R. R. Martin.
You can see Klafter and his work on:
Check out Klafter's short story below. I guarantee it'll suck you in and you'll be wishing for more!
Mission Log #257
Team: The Protectors of the People
Team ID: 6264545
Team Leader: Sensori
Mission Log # 257
Every team has that one mission, the unforeseen disaster waiting to happen. It’s inevitable in our line of work. If you don’t believe that, you must be new here. For all you hotshot rookies who think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, here’s what’s in store for you. You get cocky, you go in arrogant and come out crippled. Crippled by a clear defeat, or the loss of innocent bystanders, is one thing. Crippled by the loss of a team member is entirely another.
To the council, I apologize for the delay in this recording. With the funeral this past Sunday… no… I’ll be honest. I’ve been delaying the inevitable of this recording out of fear. This log will be the hardest I’ve had to record yet, but, without a doubt, the most important. I hope this will serve as a lesson in caution to all the other career heroes in New York... no... the world. I hope you’ll bear with me through this log, and be patient if I find myself tearing up. The message is too important.
Ok, here goes nothing.
I had gotten a lead from my buddy Paulie Ramirez down at the Nassau County Police Department. He believed that a group of registered villains had moved into a small house in Franklin Square, a family-centric residential area under his jurisdiction. While he had their location, what he didn’t have was a bite, a warrant to get him through the front door. Of course, that’s when you turn to registered heroes.
I saw this as nothing but a small-time gig, checking out the house, seeing if there’s anything suspect about the fucks living there, and taking them down to the station if anything goes awry. So rather than take my whole team, I grabbed Connie… oh, excuse me, registered hero alias: Force of Nature… and Brickbreaker. We even grabbed a couple of beers at Pig n Whistle down on 36th before hopping on the LIRR (we didn’t want to use up any of Force of Nature’s stamina in the off chance we would need it later).
After about an hour on the train we found ourselves at the front door of a small home, as nondescript as any of the others. The neighborhood was silent, as you would expect from a family town at 11:30 on a Saturday night. However, the first thing I noticed walking up to this house was that the front room’s light, though dim, was clearly on. When you’re surrounded by completely darkened houses on all sides, you notice this. The two cars in the driveway didn’t do them any favors in concealing that they were home. Strike one.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK “Global Heroes Alliance open up,” (standard procedure).
No answer. Repeat, no answer. This would have deterred me if I didn’t know better. I gave the third obligatory knock and announce, but no one inside budged. Wiggling at the doorknob, it gave me no resistance, and the front door slid open. Strike two. I should have known right then and there to turn back, but I was naive, buzzed, and, to be honest, looking for some action.
As the three of us tiptoed our way into the front den, we immediately noticed the room was empty. I used my difference to track all of the five occupants of the house down to the bedroom at the end of the hall. Motioning for my teammates to follow, I took the lead as we snuck our way down the narrow, darkened hall. The only thing illuminating the way was a dull, yellow light leaking out from the farthest door. Seconds later we found ourselves in front of it.
“I know what this looks like, probably just a family getting ready for bed, but be ready regardless, we never know,” I whispered to my teammates.
Looking back, that was the first wise thing I had said all night.
Three, two, one, and we burst into the bedroom.
In front of us was only a bed. At its center, in a mess of blankets and pillows, lay a little boy. The face of this boy will never leave me for as long as I live. His long, blonde hair drooped down over his peachy, smiling face. Remember how he looked, I beg you. Surrounding him were four adults, all of whom dawned the black, striped brand of a formerly-incarcerated villain on their necks. All of whom except one, Paulie Ramirez. Strike three.
“Wait,” I remember audibly taking a second to process what was in front of me.
As soon as I understood, I acted.
“FORCE, GET OUT OF HERE, NOW,” I screamed, pulling out my staff.
She understood immediately, and hurtled herself through the window ahead, forcefield on, of course. This sent shattered glass raining down on all of us, but that wasn’t much of a deterrence; the fight had already begun. I hated myself for even thinking I wouldn’t need my staff, but thank God I brought it. Brickbreaker’s fists were locked and loaded, so I was still confident we could take them at this point.
His voice, I remember it vividly.
“Please, stop fighting…”
It was meek, timid even, but its power was unquestionable. All four of them, including Ramirez, stopped what they were doing and moved back into their positions at the side of this kid.
It was at this point that I realized we were dealing with a mission way over our ranking. I’m going to try my best to recall our conversation, for the sake of finding this bastard, but... I’m not in the best frame of mind and may be forgetting the exact wording.
Kid: Ah the Protectors of the People, here at last.
Me: What do you want, who are you?
Kid: I guess you could call me a fan. I admire your team’s work.
Me: Are you hurt, are you in danger? (ugh… so naive)
Kid: Especially you Sensori. Your passion, your energy, I could really use that.
What happened next really is unexplainable, but I’ll try my god damn best. It felt like the weight of the world crushing down on me. I could hear Brickbreaker shouting my name, feel him trying to shake me, but it was so... minimal. My senses were muffled, the pressure was killing me. My vision was blurred, but I could see the kid glowing, illuminated in an orange, yellow tinge. Only then I realized that this glow was flowing from me to him.
Then it happened. Brickbreaker threw himself in front of the glow, pushing me away from its grasp. I immediately felt the relief, my lungs clenching, gasping for missed air. I turned just in time to see him floating feet off the ground, spasming, shaking, and screaming. Sparks were bursting from his body; I’d never seen anything like it. Suddenly, the boy shrieked, the aura stopped, and Brickbreaker crashed down onto the carpeted floor, steam oozing from his body.
Before I could even attack the kid, Brickbreaker roared, shot up, and grabbed me in his arms, hurtling us down the hallway and out the front door in a manner of seconds. Down the block I saw the familiar purple energy of Force of Nature’s difference; she was ready to teleport us at a moment’s notice.
The face she made when she saw us racing toward her… God. She burst into fuckin tears, I couldn’t bear it. I looked up and saw, for the first time, what really had happened to Brickbreaker when he saved me. His skin… or lack of… was ripped raw, blood gushing at a rate I had never seen in my entire time as a career hero. He roared through the agony he must have been experiencing… I’m sorry… I’m sorry. Give me a minute here.
RECORDING PAUSED (66 seconds)
He didn’t make it back to the city, whatever life he still had left him in the portal.
If any of you were at the funeral… you would
already know that I didn’t make it out of this either… not really. Whatever
this kid did, whatever this kid took from me, he succeeded. I’m a cripple… A
RECORDING PAUSED (153 seconds)
I may not be able to walk, or fight... or use my difference. But I still have my mind. I won’t stop until this kid… if he even is a kid… is buried in the ground. I hope this log will give the council the ammunition it needs to declare a level 10 threat. No hero is safe… no different is safe. Together, we can stop him. Divided, he’ll take us out one by one, until he’s the only one of us left.
… Stay safe heroes.