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Authors: J. Clevenger

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Citadel (Book 1): Training in Necessity

BOOK: Citadel (Book 1): Training in Necessity
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Training in Necessity

By J Clevenger

Copyright 2014 by J Clevenger.  All rights reserved.

 

For questions, comments or to view additional work by the author, visit:

www.unillustrated.wordpress.com

FOREWORD

So… I wrote a book.  Yay me!

              Hopefully, you’ve either read or are planning to read that book.  This pleases me greatly.  This was originally written as a web serial novel at
www.unillustrated.wordpress.com
so, before anything else, I want to thank everyone left comments, criticisms and advice for me during that process.  Their support meant a lot to me, still does.  I think it’d be fair to say that if not for the positive response I received, there’s a good chance I would’ve given up and spent my time playing Diablo III or something instead.  So yeah, thanks!

              Hope you enjoy.

MONSTER

 
Final interview with Alan Reyd,
Excerpted from
Heroes and Monsters

 

I'm the guy that gave him his name.  I was the first one to call him Monster.

I... I don't really know what else to say.

I know I agreed to talk about it, but... shit.  Okay.  I guess I'll just start then, tell you how it happened.

I was a camera guy for Apex studios.  This was a while back.  The country hadn't split yet, no East and West.  It was just the United States.  Anyway, we were in LA, working on the pilot for some stupid teen drama.  I don't even remember the name anymore.

It was the middle of the day.  We'd been working all morning, trying to finish as quick as we could.  The director was some kinda big shot or something, had to fly out to New York for a movie the next day.  Only reason he was on a crappy little show like that... it was because his nephew was one of the leads.  Or he would have been, I guess.

So I'm standing there, and I'm waiting for the twenty four year old chick they've got dressed up as a teenager to remember her lines.  All about how her boyfriend's lyin to her or something, when this guy walks in.  He wasn't a big guy, just kinda average sized.  Dressed pretty weird too, all in black leather, like those motorcycle guys wear.  The ones that do the jumping and stuff, not the street gangs.  He's got this big helmet, all metal and with no visor or anything.  It's just got a narrow little slit in front of his eyes.

At first no one notices, I don't even know which door he came through.  This guy walks right up to the director and just stands there.  The director's name was... Mitchell Tanning? Turner?  Fuck.  Anyway, Mitch turns around and asks the guy what he's doing on the set.  This is a film studio, so weird clothes don't exactly stand out.  Some guy getting in a director's face?  That stands out.  So Mitch is just startin to tell him off, his face is getting all red, when his phone rings.

Like I said, this is a while back, so cell phones were still those big clunky things, the size of your hand.  No one had em built into watches or whatever yet, and they're still really expensive.  So instead of yelling, he answers the phone.  He listens for a minute, and his face goes from red to white, just like that.  His eyes get all big and he says something I couldn't hear.

That's when the guy in black stabs him in the gut.  Mitch just folded up, slumped over the knife.  I got no idea where he had the thing before that.  It was a big one, like a hunting knife or one of those ones guys in the military carry.  So, everyone starts shoutin and runnin one way or the other.  The normal people are running for the doors, screaming for help and all.  The heroes rushed him.  Even that chick, the one who couldn't remember her lines, tries to stop him.  The cowards, like me, we just froze in place.

He killed em.  There were maybe four or five guys, and that actress, brave enough to go after him without hesitating.  Well, he just stabs them, too.  And he's fast, like I could see what he was doing but I couldn't track it.  I've seen the video since then.  It's just neck, face, chest, he steps to the side then back, back and they're all down.  Never laid a hand on him.  While that's going on, all those regular people, the ones who ran for it?  They couldn't get out.

I mean, this was California, right?  Back when the states still meant something.  We had all kinds of fire safety laws and stuff.  So, there's at least three doors, and all of em are supposed to be unlocked.  Not one of em will open for these guys.  He just walks from one group to the other, calm as if he's walkin down the street, and he kills them too.  Most of em he stabs in the back or he cuts their throats, but anyone who tries to fight back... he gets them in the stomach.  I could hear em screaming.  They all died... but the ones who fought back?  They didn't die quick.

After that he starts going for the stragglers.  Some of us try and hide, but he just walks up and kills em.  Eventually it's just me and a woman from crafts.  Mary?  I didn't know her or anything, just saw her around every now and then.   So it's me and her, trying to get a door open.  I've got a crowbar that was lying around somewhere, I still can't remember picking it up, and we're both pulling on it.  The door won't open though.

So, I see him walking over, and I see the door, and I see Mary pulling on the bar as hard she can.  I know there's no way we're getting out of this.  There's no way we're gonna stop him.  But... I see a way I can live a little longer.  I... oh God help me!  I pushed her back towards him.  The last thing I saw of her was her face.  She just looked so surprised, or maybe confused, like she doesn't get what's going on.  He cuts her throat from behind and she kinda falls down on her knees.  Her face goes blank, then she sorta slumps to the side, and I know she's dead.

Then he points at my camera.  I'm standing there, shaking and begging him not to kill me, and he goes on pointing.  Eventually, I get what he wants me to do.  I walk back over and get the camera pointed at him and running.  He just stands there, at first.  When he finally talks, his voice is all messed up.  It's hoarse, raspy.  Like a guy that's been screaming at a concert or something, but worse.

"A man who does this..." and it's hard for him to talk, you can hear the pain in his voice.  It's still scary as fuck.  "What do you call such a man?"

And he's waving that big knife around, pointing at the bodies and the people that are still dying.  I don't remember answering but you can hear my voice on the video.  I know I sure as hell thought it.

"M- Monster."

Then he just nods his head, like he's got what he came for, and he walks away.  That door me and Mar-, we were trying to open?  He just walks up to it, turns the knob, and walks right out.

Oh, and the director?  Mitchell whatever?  The phone call that he got right before Monster stabbed him, it was from his wife.  Apparently, he'd been at the guy's place before he came to the studio.  Gutted his wife and killed their son.  She spent the last couple hours of her life crawlin across the floor...  I can't even imagine what it musta been like.  Then she finally gets to the phone, can't have been thinking right at this point, and she calls her husband.  Just in time so that her bleeding out is the last thing Mitch heard, what he got to think about while he was dying from that knife wound in his gut.  Least that was what the papers said, that last little detail that made him a household name.

Fucking Monster.

 

CHAPTER 1:  INTRODUCTIONS

Downtown

Vanessa stood outside Adama's Coffee on the first floor of the Tennamen building.  Sure, it was a huge chain and there were more convenient locations, but this was the one where she'd first met her husband.  They made it a point to have lunch here at least once a week.

She had to drive through lunch hour traffic from the other side of the downtown area but he was the one running late.  Why could he never make it on time?  The man worked in the building across the street.  It shouldn't be that hard.

There was a thunderclap.  She looked up at the sky, squinting against the sun's light that reflected off the glass and steel of the area's high-rise buildings.  She couldn't see any clouds, no sign of rain.  Weird.  There it was again, louder.

People were leaving Adama's and a small crowd was starting to form.  Someone was pointing.  What did they-?

Oh.

There were two men in the sky.  One of them was a stranger, just a humanoid figure covered in blue fire.  She thought she recognized the other, the one wearing a bright green and yellow costume, complete with cape and mask.  Gravitar, maybe?  He was supposed to be pretty powerful, but he was new.  Vanessa didn't know anything more than the name. 

She smiled.  Her husband disagreed, but she'd loved superheroes since she was a little girl.  That was when Gravitar punched the blue man, hard enough that she could feel the shockwave and hear that sound that wasn't really thunder.  He fell to the street and landed on a taxi, crushing it.

Oh God, there'd been people in the cab.

She started to move forward, determined to help, but there was something holding her back.  It was her husband, late when it didn't matter but he was always there when it did.  He had a grip on her wrist and he was shouting.

"We have to get inside!  It's not safe!"

The burning man's hands were visible, sticking up from the cab's roof.  A stream of blue fire shot out, missing his opponent but striking one of the nearby buildings.  The fire seemed to stick to its windows and Vanessa could see the glass melting.  The building’s entire side seemed to be sinking in, like a sandcastle too close to the water.  She stopped fighting her husband's pull.  More people were coming out to watch and some of the crowd was trying to get back in.  They couldn't make any progress.

Vanessa heard the sound of thunder again, people screaming and the tortured shriek of metal pushed past its limit.  She was falling, the world spinning around her.  Her husband's grip was gone.  Had she tripped or-?  She hit a window, broke through.

There were other people all around her.  Broken glass and blood and broken bodies.  What was wrong?  She couldn't think right.  She heard thunder, followed by a flash of blue light.  Was that right?  Lightning was supposed to come first. 

There was her husband, crawling towards her with blood on his face.  He looked so scared.  She smiled to let him know it was okay.  She loved him so much.

Private Housing

Isaac examined his new residence, a large two story house.  The lack of a driveway or paved streets stood out.  Everything about the “neighborhood” was like that.  Normal on the surface, a little off once he looked closer.  The houses were well maintained and widely spaced.  Light shone through the windows.  However, the roads were packed dirt walkways and there were no power lines or telephone poles.  Instead of a distant city center, there was a single, massive stone spire. He’d just spent the last twenty minutes walking from the tower, so he knew the dirt road was surprisingly free of dust.  Definitely a little off.

The only thing he wanted now was to settle in and relax at what would be his home for the next few months. He tried his key and, not surprisingly, it worked.

“Hi, I’m Hector. You Isaac?” asked one of the two Hispanic kids playing video games on the couch.  They were eerily similar, even wearing the same thing.

Twins?

He passed by a stairway, into the shared space that served as the building’s living area.  There was a bedroom to the door’s right, furnished but empty of personal belongings.  Just past the living room was a kitchen and a room with the door closed.  Probably another bedroom.

“Yeah.  How'd you know?"

The kids both smiled.  Hector’s brother spoke up.

“You're the last one to get here.  Jason and Kelly already grabbed the upstairs rooms on your side, so the bottom room by the door’s yours. Kelly brought a bunch of stuff so probably won’t be done unpacking for a while.  Jason might be sleeping or reading.  He got here a couple days ago but he doesn’t seem like a real social guy, you know?"

Isaac nodded his understanding, a bit taken aback by the detailed answer.

"Got anything other than the one bag?”

Isaac hefted the item in question.  Once, he would’ve thought of it as heavy.  Now, it held everything he owned and he barely noticed the weight.

“No, just this.”  He wanted to ask the kid’s name but there was something bugging him here.  “Hang on.  Jason, Kelly, you two and me.  These buildings are rated for six and you said I was the last one in.”

The twins, both looking away from their game now, nodded in synch.

“Do we have an empty room or something?”

A knowing grin sat on both faces as they answered in perfect unison.

“Oh, no. I paid extra to get three for myself.  I tend to take up a bit more space than most people.”

As he realized what the twins meant, what Hector meant, it finally hit Isaac.  This was a training program for people with superpowers.  If it seemed like things were only a little off, it was because he wasn’t paying enough attention to see the real differences.

The next morning, Isaac woke up a good half hour earlier than he’d planned but didn't mind.  The smell of fresh coffee and the sound of bacon frying was a better greeting than his alarm.

Several sets of his training uniforms had been issued before his arrival.  It was a lightweight but durable pair of pants and a long sleeved shirt, black with the Citadel’s logo in white over the left breast.  Not forgetting to turn off the unneeded alarm, he dressed for the day, then left his new room.

Isaac entered the kitchen and was unsurprised to find Hector, busy at the stove. Another of his new roommates was seated at the table.  The boy somehow managed to make his uniform look like something from a prep school. He was smaller than Isaac, probably about average height, with a slim build and gelled blond hair.  Isaac thought he looked like a swimmer but he wouldn’t have sworn to it.  The only thing that detracted from his well-groomed, neat appearance was a pair of dark, wraparound sunglasses.

“Morning guys. I’m Isaac.  Nice to meet you…?” he trailed off, unsure which of the two possibilities this was.

“Jason. A pleasure to meet you as well, Isaac.”  The kid’s smile was polite enough, but seemed a bit distant.  Hector had been right, definitely not the social type.  “Do you mind if I ask you something?”

“Sure. “ Isaac looked to Hector. “Okay if I grab some coffee?  I’m happy to chip in as soon as I figure out where we can get groceries around here.”

“Not a problem, man. I already ate, so this stuff is for you guys.”

“Hey now, you don’t need to do that.”

“I agree.” Jason added.  “However, Hector has prepared breakfast every morning since I arrived.”

“Just makes sense to me, guys. I already go through so much food that feeding three more mouths doesn’t really matter.  Not to mention, at least one of me is pretty much always awake.  I don’t want you thinking you lost the roommate lotto, so I figure I should do something to make it up to you.” Hector slid a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of Jason and another to an empty place at the table, presumably for Isaac.

“Sorry, Jason. Didn’t mean to get distracted.”

The boy just shrugged.  "I simply wondered why you chose to join the Citadel."

Isaac sat down to his surprise breakfast.  “I assume you really mean, why did I join at my age?”  The coffee was instant and the eggs had a bunch of stuff mixed in with them.  A forkful convinced him that Hector could easily find work at a restaurant if the Citadel thing didn’t pan out.

“That is correct. I was given to understand that the average age of trainees was twenty one.  You appear to be in your mid-thirties.  Someone your age would normally be expected to already be well along their path in life.”

Isaac took a bite of bacon while he decided how much to say.

“I used to be an accountant. The company I worked for went under and my powers popped up.  Seemed like the thing to do.”

“Reasonable.”

The following silence wasn’t exactly uncomfortable, but Isaac was still happy to hear heavy footsteps from their final roommate.

“Hi everyone. I’m Kelly.”

If anything, he was younger than Jason, but Isaac couldn’t think of him as a kid. Probably because of his size.  Kelly was almost as tall as Isaac and a little wider.  He had blond hair, blue eyes and his smile was every bit as big as the rest of him.  Rather than a uniform, he wore sweats and a loose tee shirt.

“Jason.  We met last night.”

“I'm Isaac. Nice to meet you.”

“Sorry, wasn’t trying to listen in, but did you say those eggs are for everyone?”

“Eat up.” Hector grinned as he handed over the last of the food and began cleaning the dishes.

“I still have to change before class. It’s just the welcome speech today, right?”  Kelly was wolfing his food down so fast Isaac worried he’d choke.

“That is what the schedule shows. However, I doubt that will require the full, eight hour period.  We should expect some form of training as well.” Jason answered.

“See you then. Thanks for the food!”  With that, Kelly’s plate was bare and he was on his way back up the stairs.

Instruction Area

Isaac looked around the large auditorium style room, unable to see Kelly. The other three had left immediately upon finishing breakfast and he hadn’t seen the cheerful young man since.  The room lights dimmed and an older woman took the podium with the help of a cane.   Isaac gave a shrug and settled down.  Kelly was legally an adult; he could look after himself.

“Welcome to the Citadel.” Isaac was startled to recognize the speaker.  “I said that to most of you during your interviews.  Now I’m saying it to you as a group.”  She wasn’t much older than him.  There was grey in her hair but that wasn’t new.  It was her clothes and the mannerisms that had changed.  Now she wore the same uniform as him, with the colors reversed, and she clearly needed the cane to walk.  He found the latter difference disturbing.  “My name is Melody Shift and I am the Citadel’s Director of Training.

“As Citadel operatives, you will be the primary protectors of this country. Most of you already know this, or think you do.  What you don’t understand is what you will actually be doing.  Contrary to popular perception, you will spend relatively little time fighting empowered criminals or invasions from the Battlegrounds.  You are not the army.  You are cops.

“People get into drunken bar fights. They beat their spouses.  They rob convenience stores.  They rape and they steal and they kill for a thousand reasons and for none at all.  Some of those people have powers.  Ordinary law enforcement cannot deal with them, not safely.  Ninety nine out of a hundred days, as stationary operatives or as part of an intervention team, that will be your job.

“On the other days, you’ll deal with the next Tyrant or King in Winter. Monster will be the one robbing a convenience store or maybe you’ll have to fight that invasion after all.  People will remember the first ninety nine.  Those are the ones they see and those are the ones that affect their lives.  You cannot afford to fail them on those ninety nine days.  On that last day, if you fail them, they will not remember.  Their lives will be over.  You cannot afford to fail then, either.

“That is who you must become.  The ones who protect.  Those who cannot afford to fail.”  Cane or no, there was no frailty in her now.  “You aren’t those people yet, but you will be.  We will teach you and shape you.  We will not allow you to fall short.”

When she was finished, the room was silent. Isaac felt the burning in his forehead that meant his power was active, saw the barely visible glow that meant it was near its peak.  As he tried to calm down, and wiped moisture from his eyes, he missed the introduction of two others.  A man and a woman, each wearing a white shirt and black pants, had joined the Director on stage.  The man was speaking softly.

“-the first phase of your training. This includes Physical Conditioning and Basic Combat.”  The speaker was clean shaven, with light grey hair, dark eyes and skin a little lighter than Isaac’s.  “Please meet me outside the auditorium.  I will be pleased to show you the training area.”

“Wait.” The woman interrupted before they could begin leaving.  “Coach Achala is usually a little too focused on your combat training.  Everyone meet back here tomorrow at eight for Ethics.  You should all find an assignment waiting in your boxes tonight.  Finish it and have it turned in at least 2 hours before then.”

She was a little shorter than Achala, with long brown hair and glasses.  They set off her lightly tanned skin very well.  She reminded Isaac of a sporty librarian.

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