[City sounds, bay sounds]
Narrator: New Ark City. The “city of progress” as Mayor Edward Fields calls it. He announced the renaming of the city, which was formerly known as New Arklow, at the ceremonial opening of the new iteration of Blackburn Labs in the Center College part of the city about a year ago. To him, that is progress. Science drives the future. I don’t know that he’s wrong, but one thing is certain. He doesn’t know the effects of science and money like I do. Hell, he doesn’t know New Ark City like I do. While the mayor devotes most of his time to these ridiculous ceremonies, there are people in Reverent Heights who are suffering and going hungry due to poverty. Unemployment citywide is skyrocketing, and consequently homelessness and vagrancy runs rampant through the streets. The Parcelli mob partially absorbed the MacNamara gang and now actively controls half of Reverent Heights and Falcon Village. Organized crime has been a problem my entire 28 years of life. The police department ignore the crime that goes on here. Drugs are becoming an even bigger problem than they were before. All the robberies, arson, assaults, muggings, murders... I won’t lie to you, it is weird of me to say anything about the money in science. I am technically the richest person in this city, from one of the oldest families. My family OWNS that science lab, all the surrounding buildings and the college itself... It’s a long story. It was my idea to rebuild this fancy lab to replace the one the one that burned to the ground years ago. I thought maybe it’ll help somehow. Maybe it’ll create jobs, or maybe it will come up with some kind of medicine or sustainable food supply... Whatever. Even if this city has issues, it’s still my city. It is my honor to protect it. You know, when the Irish settlers landed here on the edge of Massachusetts in 1710 and gave this place it’s name, the town elders had agreed almost unanimously on New Arklow, but one elder said no. Thomas Wade was his name. He sensed something in the energy of the soil. He said, “There is a darkness here, in the soil. This... this is Cathair gan solas.” The City Without Light. He was almost laughed out of town. Almost. Instead his family moved onto the land that would become Reverent Heights. The next century, building the city, was hell for the Wades. They were the only founding family to refuse to own slaves, believing it to be immoral. They created Reverent Heights as a village where slaves would be freed and protected by the Wade family. Because of this Reverent Heights is still the population with the largest number of black people. The town called the Wade family crazy, accused Thomas Wade’s First Nations wife, Ayita Redfield, of witchcraft and executed her and Thomas in front their adult son and teenage daughter. The name would be changed to Redfield-Wade and the line would continue on despite the almost exile. The family continued to welcome and house the freed and escaped black slaves for 150 years until slavery was officially abolished. As was naturally bound to happen, several Redfield-Wade family members married and procreated with Black folks and Native Americans who happened to be here, which due to racism, tarnished the family’s reputation further. They still look at us weird in the streets. I guess that is where I come in. If you haven’t guessed it already, I am a Wade. My name is Jordan Redfield-Wade, son of Terrance and Malia Redfield-Wade, one of a very few direct living descendants of Thomas Wade. So, I guess I have a particular connection to this city, or something. The blood of the city runs through me. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you what I look like. I am roughly 5 foot 10, Black wavy hair and I’m often told my skin is the color of glowing salted caramel and that my hazel eyes are the color of honey with the smallest hints of emeralds. I’ve never been a fan of food comparisons for skin color, because I mean, I’m not a food, but I can’t deny that it is effective. Anyway, back to the Redfield-Wade family. We made investments, formed very fruitful partnerships. We single handedly built this city after the rest of the founders lost their money when slavery ended. When my ancestors built Reverent Heights, they started educating the children in that area. The schoolhouse they did that in became Redfield Academy, which I went to. Now we have multiple public schools as well as that one, some of which I’ve also gone to. One of the other New Arklow founders started Arklow College. This led to funding, which was properly invested. One of my great-great-grandfathers decided to start a medical research facility as a tie-in to Redfield Academy. Mysteriously, Arklow College burned to the ground that same year. The Redfield-Wade’s rebuilt Arklow College as Ark University and took ownership of the university. Somehow, we managed to spread into several fields, which wound up consolidated into one company: Redfield-Wade Collective. They added a technological development branch of the university, as well as a medical branch. This was a smart move, that created and maintained safe jobs for all inhabitants. Revenant Heights was a refuge and a haven for the good, the honest, the downtrodden. The rest of the founding families in this city, their folks made poor investments, or assumed that building an economy based on the slave trade was a good idea. My family handled it all themselves, with care, love and affection. I know that I am cut from that same tough cloth, but it’s really hard to live up to it. But I’m trying...
This particular night, I was sitting perched next to the gargoyle that sits on top of the courthouse. Here is the only place I can look out and see the entire city. The city is almost beautiful from up here. It looks calm, despite all the lights. Looking out across the neighborhoods I grew up in, I could see the harbor. Beyond the harbor and the Massachusetts Bay lies the Atlantic Ocean. If you are up this high and breathe deeply, you smell the sea salt in the air. I can feel it on my face, as the wind blows. I close my eyes, and brush my thick, wavy hair from in front them. I’ve been told my eyes are definitely from Redfield half of my family. I am jerked out of my salt water day dream by a voice in my ears. My skin bristles, even though I know this voice better than any other voice in the world.
Johanna: I’ve got a 2-1-1-Henry in the Alleyway near the corner of Second Street and Washington.
Jordan: [playfully annoyed] Can I get that first part in regular English, Johanna?
Johanna: [playfully annoyed] Ugh, what, have you forgot the police codes? Jeez, no wonder you didn’t make it as a cop. Highway Robbery, obvi.
Jordan: [joking] But they aren’t on the highway. Also, I quit the force. I didn’t get fired or fail out.
Johanna: [exhasperated] It means a mugging, dumbass.
Jordan: [fake shock/offense] Johanna Lovelace, watch your language! What would dad say?
Johanna: [mocking/mom tone] Jordan Anderson Redfield-Wade, stop wasting my time, and get your ass over there! You have a life to save.
Narrator: I checked my watch.
Jordan: [chuckling] Fine, be there in... 2 minutes and 15 seconds..
Narrator: I was 4 blocks away. I unhooked the rope dart from my belt, and jumped from the gargoyle’s perch. I let the wind rush past my face for a moment, before hooking my rope on a streetlight beneath me. This dampened my fall, so I could land on my feet. I began sprinting the 4 blocks to the alley. I decided the best approach was to come from above. I slung the rope around a fire escape, quickly scaling the wall. I reached the roof of the 5 story building quickly, and looked back at the clock. 2 minutes and 3 seconds. Damn straight.
I looked over the edge on the other side of the building. I saw a man lying on the ground unconscious, and a woman fumbling with her purse trying to grab all of her valuables. A thug was pointing a gun at her, and she was crying. I recognized the man as one of Antonio Parcelli’s mobster goons. I’ve got a special grudge for these assholes.
Thug 1: Give me the money, bitch. What’s taking so long?
RedWing: Drop the gun.
Narrator: I had lowered myself behind the man, and was swinging my dart with my right hand preparing to attack and defend.
Thug 1: You’re the one they’ve been talking about, aren’t you? The punk with the red mask.
Narrator: The man aimed his gun at me.
RedWing: Um, first of all, rude. I’m not the punk here, champ. Second of all...
Narrator: I paused realizing I didn’t have a second of all, and then I remembered.
RedWing: I’d tell you my name, but it won’t matter if you’re smart. If you run back to Parcelli now and leave these people alone, I won’t hurt you as badly.
Narrator: Always give the bad guys and out. That’re rule number 1.
Thug 1: I don’t think so, punk.
Narrator: Really, repeating the same insult as before? Very original, dude. Must be hard to find an intelligent goon these days.
RedWing: Suit yourself then. Miss, you may want to move. This will probably get a bit... messy.
Narrator: The man’s finger began to close on the trigger, but the dart knocked the gun from his hands. With surprising speed, he pulled out a knife and lunged at me. I pulled my dart back into my hand, and held it to block the swing of his knife. The stainless steel of his knife crashed against my Darque Steel dart, courtesy of a new synthetic metal developed out of the Blackburn Labs. The stainless steel chipped
Narrator: (cont) and the goon looked confused and shocked. Within the span of that second, I used the chain and rope of the dart to create a loop and then wrapped the loop around his neck like a noose. I smirked, put my left leg up and used it to push him back a few paces. His hands dropped the knife as he grasped at his neck, choking from lack of air. I paused in this moment for a second.
Thug 1: [Choking noises]
RedWing: [breathing heavy] My name, champ, is Redwing. When you wake up in lock-up, be sure to let all your boys know.
Narrator: He looked confused when I said wake up, and slightly purple. I raised my right leg as if to do a roundhouse kick, wrapping the rope around my leg. I brought my foot down hard, and the goon fell in front of my feet, where I delivered a swift yet gentle kick to the head. He was knocked unconscious, and I removed the rope from his neck. He’d live, but he’d be very, very sore.
Johanna: [sigh] Really? Telling him your codename, huh?
Narrator: I could practically hear Jo’s raised eyebrow through the phone line. I ignored her comments. I looked up at the woman, who hadn’t moved from her husband’s side.
RedWing: Ma’am, are you okay? Does this man need medical attention?
Woman 1: [crying] H-He’s been shot.... He’s bleeding... from the chest...
Narrator: I noticed the blood on her hands and shirt. It was a lot. It had missed the heart but if the bleeding continued, he’d bleed out. I turned to the woman.
RedWing: Hold him steady. Prop up his head. [to Johanna] Lovebird, notify the authorities and an ambulance.
Johanna: [all business] Don’t call me that. [pause] Okay, roger that, they are en route, but it’s going to be a few minutes. You need to get out of there.
RedWing: I have to help this guy. He’ll bleed out if I don’t.
Narrator: I muted the comm device, right before Jo could protest. I turned my attention back to the bleeding man and his wife.
RedWing: I need you to hold him very still and close your eyes, okay? This will help a little bit, but I need you to not freak out, can you do that?
Narrator: She nodded, and I held my hands over the wound. My eyes glowed a slight red color as I commanded the red energy to form a tiny force field around the wound in his chest. My hands glowed, and the red matter responded. My friend Keiran LaCroix, a kid I’d known
Narrator: (cont) since middle school, had taught me a little bit of anatomy back then and I always thanked him in those moments for that. He’s the only one I know that can keep up with and possibly exceed Johanna’s preternatural intelligence in practical biology. Within the sphere, atom by atom, I focused hard on extracting the bullet and rebuilding the injury. The skin proceeded to put itself back together, leaving no scar or mark of any sort. I heard the woman gasp as the bullet hit the ground, and my eyes stopped glowing.
Woman 1: [a little afraid] W-who are you?How did you do that?
Narrator: It is my policy to not answer those kinds of questions for civilians, so I used my usual response.
RedWing: Ma’am, I’m one of the good guys. Now, he lost a fair bit of blood. Tell the paramedics that. They will be here in 20 seconds. Your husband will be alright. But I’ve got to go now.”
Narrator: It was true, I could already heard the sirens. I stood up and swung my dart toward another fire escape, swinging up there. The woman called after me.
Woman 1: Wait... sir... Thank you!
RedWing: [calling back] Don’t mention it. At least, don’t mention me. Especially not to the cops. [pause] Oh, and lady, I’d invest in some Pepper spray. This is a rough part of the city.
Narrator: I stopped on the roof, looking back at her. I raised a hand in farewell, before vanishing away from the ledge. I jumped from roof to roof, heading deeper into the city. I realized I had shut my comm off, so I switched it back on.
Jordan: Sorry, Jo.
Johanna: You really cut that close. I hate your theatrics. [sigh, takes a swig from a bottle] This is why they make wine, you know that, right?
Jordan: You know that’s false. They made wine initially to be a dietary aide and diuretic. [laugh] Anyway, relax. I just didn’t want there to be a body count. Should I return to the bunker?
Johanna: Yeah, it seems like a slow night. Besides, Parcelli is gonna be pissed. This is the 5th goon you’ve gotten arrested in 3 days.
Jordan: Good. We’re doing our job then.
Narrator: I scaled to the top of a 12 story building and looked down.
Jordan: I’ll see you in a little bit.
Johanna: You know, I think I need a legit code name. If you keep saying Jo in front of people, they are bound to figure it out. Also, stop trying to make Lovebird happen. Lovebird will never, EVER, happen.
Jordan: [joking] How about PidgeonGirl?
Johanna: I will literally kill you in your sleep.
Jordan: Geez, lighten up, Jo.
Johanna: What’s our format for names? A color and a bird?
Jordan: I mean, kind of? Red is a color and Wing… is on a bird?
Johanna: [thinking] Hmmm. I’m thinking… WhiteHawk.
Jordan: You know what, I don’t hate that one. We’ll figure it out. Later, Jo.”
Johanna: Get back safely.
Narrator: Jo wished me that everytime. I think it has something to do with her mom dying when she was young. In any case, it always makes me smile to hear. I responded the way I always do.
Jordan: Always do, love.
Narrator: I switch off the earpiece, and looked toward the cathedral.
My breath caught in my throat. I noticed at first the moon, which was full and seemed larger than usual. Silhouetted against the moon was the figure of a man. The figure was staring right at me, and though I couldn’t see his face, I knew he was staring right into my eyes. I couldn’t breath... I didn’t know what was happening.
I didn’t grab my weapon, but I began walking toward him. He was walking toward me as well, with a little more purpose it seemed. I was so entranced by him that I didn’t notice when I walked directly off the edge. I suddenly felt myself falling, but felt as though I couldn’t move. The ground rushed toward my face, and everything went dark.
Narrator: Meanwhile, across town… [We hear the sounds of grunting and groaning, and a squeaking bed. Clearly the sounds of intimacy. Then we hear the heavy breathing of 2 men. They aren’t named in this portion of the story, but they are Dean and Tim.] A man with bright green eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep and stress, and the beginnings of a five o’clock shadow, rose from the bed. The partner who still in the bed sat up, placing a hand on the dragon tattoo on his left pectoral muscle, still breathing heavily, filling his lungs. His brown eyes followed green eyes around his room. This is the pattern, every few nights or so. The green eyed man sends a text saying he’s at the door, they have a round or two, and then he leaves. The sex was certainly electric, but there was a distance, and the dragon tattooed guy had started to feel it. It was as though the green eyed man wasn’t thinking about him while they… well, couldn’t really call it making love, could you? Brown eyed boy heard himself say it, and couldn’t stop it.
Tim: You know… you could stay the night. I don’t think it would hurt.
Narrator: The Green eyed boy cast a glance over his shoulder at him, and it made him shudder a bit. There was a dismissive chill to it.
Dean: [flat] … I can’t. I have to work. Graveyard shift tonight.
Tim: [scoff] It’s after midnight. You don’t have to work, you just don’t want to be here. Wouldn’t want to get too close. Why? Are you afraid you’ll start to actually care, and you’ll have to look at me for a change?
Dean: [pausing, just as flat] I can see you perfectly fine.
Tim: I think you know what I meant.
Dean: Certainly did. You don’t want to be close to me.
Tim: And who decided that?
Dean: I did. I have a tendency of breaking the beautiful things I find. I don’t want to be the reason you break.
Narrator: Green eyed boy finishes buttoning his shirt. He put on his jacket, and made his way to the door. He opened it, but stopped to look back.
Dean: I… I’m. [sighing and at a loss for words] Thank you. And maybe one night I will stay. But that night isn’t tonight.
Narrator: Their eyes meet and the boy in the uniform closed the door behind him. The brown eyes boy looks out his window, seeing the large bright moon flooding his room with a pale blue light. He placed a hand on his neck, closing his eyes. He shook his head a little and fell back down on the bed. He took a deep breath, at least revelling in the smell of the green eyed boy lingering on his pillows. He let the air own, and opened his eyes one more time.
Tim: Where do you do when you are here?
Narrator: In another part of town, the police have brought in the criminal I helped them capture. One officer is taking a witness statement from the woman. Her husband was there as well, though he wasn’t doing much of the talking. 2 Officers sat in the main lobby, doing desk work.
Carey: And another one. That’s quite a few in the past few days.
June: I feel like our department should bake that masked hunk a cake. He makes all our jobs a hell of a lot easier. A cakewalk, if you will. [laugh]
Carey: [groan] Ugh, I won’t, thanks. [pause] Wait, so that’s what you think of him, that masked red guy?
June: I mean, I call em like I see em. These days, it’s hard to keep tabs on organized crime. We lost half of that unit after that huge corruption scandal in that department.
Carey: I still can’t believe Marty was the only snitch, and yet they got rid of half the department. You’d think it would’ve been someone like Buzz Needle. Why did they keep that one?
June: Oh my god, I hate that creep. I caught him one time sniffing panties in the locker room.
Carey: Did you report him to Chief Lovelace? Or go to HR?
June: Nah, I punched him in the face. It was much faster.
Carey: Yas, ma’am, good job sweetie.
June: Why thank you.
Carey: Maybe they can catch Buzz Needle in a… Sting Operation. [starts chuckling]
June: [cracking up] Oh, that was… really bad.
Carey: But seriously, you think this vigilante guy is okay? I’m worried he’s going to create a bunch of copycats. Like, what if everyone starts dressing up in spandex and beating people with bats and whatever?
June: That seems like a specific kind of fear. Also, he hasn’t used an bats from what I heard.
Carey: I feel like I’m more worried about the folks who are running around in spandex. I see enough of that on the weekends.
Carey: Oh, for wrestling. Literally the only “sport” I can watch.
June: You’re afraid of copycats though? From what I’ve heard, this one’s like a ninja or something.
Carey: You know what else I found out?
Carey: That he’s got a really nice ass.
June: Who told you that?
Carey: My imagination.
June: You’re such a perv.
Carey: LIES! That’s Buzz, remember? In any case, I guess I won’t complain for now, but I tell you what, if we catch that RedWing character, I’ve got a LOT of questions for him.
June: Same, gurl, same. Speaking of questionable characters, wasn’t Dean supposed to be on night duty?
Carey: Chief gave him the day off.
June: Lord, you know that man ain’t been alright for a year. How does he stay on the force?
Carey: Nepotism, if I had to guess. You know he was dating the chief’s son.
June: They broke up though, didn’t they? The Chief was ready to kick him out. If he weren’t such a good cop, I reckon he would have.
Carey: Listen, breakups are hard. They hurt. The only way we can get over them is time, forgiveness of the self, and resilience, but all 3 of those are a process. He’ll get there, eventually.
June: Look at youuuuu. Gettin’ all philosophical and whatnot.
Carey: I have my moments. I’m gonna get some coffee… It’s a slow night. D’you want to pick to podcast to listen to?
June: Sure. I found these two great ones called: Wine and Crime, and Yesterqueer...
Narrator: I awoke in an apartment I didn’t recognize with the sunlight hitting my face. My head hurt, kind of like a hangover, but bitchier. It was empty, except for the mattress I was on, a few tables and chairs, and a blanket. It was a big apartment, so I was definitely in the ritzy North Side, roughly 3 miles from Blackburn Labs, which was on the same block as my office. I sat up, and realized my mask and suit had been taken off, and replaced with a grey tee shirt and grey sweatpants. I suddenly felt a little exposed. Whoever has brought me here had seen me mostly naked.
Narrator: I began to remember pieces of the night before. I remembered blacking out while I fell. Had I hit the ground? It didn’t appear so, unless I’d developed super healing. Who had helped me? Had a civilian broken my fall? Who was that figure?
Narrator: I saw my suit over in the corner, folder neatly and tied securely by my rope dart. Sticking out was a little note. I picked it up and read it aloud.
BlackBird: “Sorry I had to leave. We will meet again soon. - BlackBird”
Narrator: Uh, BlackBird? Who is BlackBird? Do I know a BlackBird? I don’t know a BlackBird. Was BlackBird the mysterious figure? Why would the mysterious figure go through all that effort to help me when he didn’t know me? Better question, HOW did he help me? I literally walked directly off a roof. Is he... like me? Wait.... Why did I walk off that roof?
Narrator: I held onto the note, and changed into my suit. I put my mask on. I looked out the window. Dammit, it’s light out. I’m probably late to work. Granted, being late to open my own detective agency is usually not a huge deal. Fairly sure my boss wouldn’t care, but Jo would. I didn’t really want to hear that lecture.
Narrator: I walked to the window with the fire escape, and exited the building. I brought the shirt and sweatpants with me. They probably belonged to BlackBird and I intended to return it to him. I chose the rooftop route, and made my way to my Reverent Village apartment. Jo would probably still be asleep, and I can silently sneak in. When she wakes, I’ll have her examine the note for DNA. I’ll find him. I don’t know why it’s so important, but it is. I have too many questions. I must find BlackBird.
Narrator: A middle aged man in a white three-piece doublebreasted suit with an eggshell and ivory Homburg hat on his head, holding a fancy gold-tipped cane is sitting in an ornate dark throne in an abandoned rundown warehouse, lit only by hundreds of black candles that cast an eerie light over the seen. A woman in dark violet boatneck empire waist flowing floor length dress sits on a throne next to him, an amethyst manicured hand on his. Before him, kneeling on the ground, is a young man with dark black hair, a black tank top and camouflage pants. The young man is staring at his master’s feet, not daring to meet his master’s eyes. The master regards the protege with a wicked grin. It is eerily quiet in that room. The master speaks.
Edward: I have felt it this evening. The spell has been broken. They have found one another. It is time to set the plan in motion. By the end of this week, we will rise. We will have more power than we could ever imagine.
Cassandra: Indeed we shall, my love.
Alejandro: My Lord... is there enough for me as well?
Edward: My dear boy, you will rule along side us. You will have everything your heart desires. I will be the king, and you will be the prince. I have a gift for you.
Narrator: The woman in violet stands and steps forward holding an item. She stands before the young man, and using both hands, she puts a crown on his head. The young man smiles, and she kisses his young man on the forehead.
Cassandra: And what a fine prince you will be. Rise, my boy. Take your place next to us.
Narrator: The woman in violet raises her hand toward the place on the opposite side of the man in white. She whispers a word, but her speech is different.
Cassandra: Sie a solio. [See-Ay Ah So-Leo]
Narrator: A matching throne to the one that the man in white is sitting in appears with a flourish. The woman takes her seat, and the young man tentatively rises before taking his seat in his own throne. He reclines into the comfort, relaxing and embracing the feeling of power slowly filling him. A wide grin spreads across his face.
Edward: And now...[chuckle] Let the games... begin. [long evil laugh, which we fade out on echoing]
Cassandra + Alejandro: [joins in with their own evil laughs]