A MAN OF ACTION • by Liz Colter

The need to hunt my enemies defines my world.

Pacing, I pass the front window. I count twenty police cars and a Special Forces wagon outside. Officers crouch behind their vehicles and barricades, afraid of me, yet I feel no fear of them.

I jab twice at the air to test my strength, right punch, left uppercut. The wind whistles with my speed. The white of my gloved hands blurs, the gold vambraces at my wrists flash in the sunlight. Blood, bright red, stains one glove.

“Defending Angel,” a man wearing a suit and tie says through a police megaphone, “your daughter is here. Perhaps you’ll listen to her.” The man passes the loudspeaker to a dark-haired girl of twelve or thirteen.

“Daddy,” she says. “It’s Anna. Dr. Atom released a gas when you saved the hostages at the Statue of Liberty this morning. Some of the hostages were exposed and now they can’t remember anything. The police think the same thing might have happened to you, Daddy. They think you were the target, not the hostages.”

Dr. Atom, is he my enemy? No answers come to me, the same as they fail to tell me if the girl is my daughter. My world is comprised of intangibles. A sense of destiny. A desire to protect. An urge to fight.

“Daddy,” the girl continues, “you’re a good man. Hurting those bystanders today wasn’t your fault. Please come out and let these people help you.”

I leave the window and walk through the house looking for answers without knowing the questions. I scan mementos on the shelves, books on the coffee table. Nothing is familiar.

In the smaller of two bedrooms, girly knickknacks decorate the room. A framed picture stands on the dresser; a black-haired girl of maybe ten and a large man, lantern-jawed, blond. Both are smiling. His arm is around her shoulders. He wears the same as I wear now, a tight bodysuit of white and gold with a pair of angel’s wings emblazoned on the chest. A white cape hangs from his shoulders. The sign on the building in the background says Metro Adoption Agency. I go into the bathroom. The same blond man is in the mirror.

A loudspeaker blares outside. A girl’s voice drifts to me, amplified and quavery. Her voice is familiar, as if I heard her only a moment ago. The feeling of familiarity fades.

“Please, don’t let Dr. Atom win,” the voice says. “My birth parents are dead because of him. Don’t let him take you from me, too.”

In the next bedroom I lift a book from the nightstand, “Inside the Criminal Mind.” I put it down and touch a large, ornate plaque. The inscription says “To Defending Angel, with thanks from a grateful nation.”

I leave the bedroom and notice another next to it. Within are girlish things, teddy bears on the bedspread, posters on the walls. There’s a picture on the dresser, a blond man with a young girl.

“Please, Daddy,” someone outside says. A girl on a megaphone. “Come out peacefully.”

Nothing about me is peaceful. Restlessness paces inside me like a panther, a need to find an enemy to defeat. I’m a man of action. I don’t know how or why I’ve come to this place, but it’s time to leave.

Opening the front door, police cars and officers line the street. A Special Forces wagon is parked to my right. A teenage girl stands at the front of the caution tape. She’s frightened. She backs up.

An officer so young he’s little more than a boy grabs her by the arm. He yanks open the nearest police car door and shoves her inside. She gives a cry of alarm as she falls to the seat. Maybe the officer isn’t what he seems — enemies can be cunning. The need to protect her explodes within me.

I cross the lawn and leap the fence. Grabbing him by the collar as he tries to follow her into the car, I throw him, one-handed. He crashes head-first into the wagon. Blood pools beneath his head.

The girl is safe. The remaining officers hide behind their vehicles, too afraid to shoot. People this fearful can’t be the enemies I seek.

Action. The need for it gales within me. I jump. Power surges through me as I launch into the air. An order is shouted. Bullets strike me, but I take no notice.

A city spreads below me, and beyond that, a nation. I will seek out my enemies. I will defeat them all.

Due to a varied work background, Liz Colter (who writes novels under the name L. D. Colter) can claim a moderate knowledge of harnessing, hitching, and working draft horses, canoe expeditioning, and medicine. She’s also worked as a roller-skating waitress and knows more about concrete than she really needs to. Her stories can be found published or upcoming in Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, Pseudopod and Daily Science Fiction, as well as her contest winning story in Writers of the Future. She has three completed fantasy novels (release dates not set) and is hard at work on more. A complete list of her published works can be found at her website: www.lizcolter.com. If you drop by, she’d love you to sign up for her newsletter!

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