New Recruits Part 1 by Paul McManus
These journals start in 2019, and as well they might considering how things were then; nothing like the calm and order we enjoy now. The whole world was bickering and threatening like never before and things didn’t look like changing any time soon.
Eastern Europe set it all off when the new states collapsed; the word of anarchy and “new paths” spread, carried on the back of an ever hungry media. The wilderness that was the old Russian Federation became a new, free land where modern day warlords and cult leaders carved miniature empires. The other nations would once have intervened to restore stability but they were too busy with their own wars, both domestic and abroad. The mushroom clouds of doomsday were always close at hand.
Fear is a terrible thing; good people become desperate and selfish; the forbidden pleasures become justified, and tomorrow may never come. I’ve always thought that many of the horrible people around in those days might have just been irritating had they not lived in the pressure cooker that was our time. Pressure like that twists and warps, until humanity becomes unrecognisable, both in face and spirit. That’s why we were needed.
I’m often asked how we all got together in the first place. People usually think it was a case of us bumping into each other whilst fighting-the-good-fight. If that was the case it would certainly lend itself more to the heroic image of our brand of crime fighting, but the truth is it was more of a job opportunity than anything else. Even Sabre, who captained us and formed the team, was basically a Ministry employee; although he certainly didn’t need the money. Don’t get me wrong, we all believed in what we were doing to various degrees but that wasn’t the full picture. I would imagine that most police officers believe in what they’re doing but it doesn’t follow that they’d spend their time fighting crime if there wasn’t a wage at the end of the month. That doesn’t make them bad people, just practical. That’s the way I’ve always seen it anyway; yes I want to fight the dark forces out there (sorry if that sounds dramatic but it’s true) but I want to be able to pay the bills and have a decent lifestyle in the bargain. Joining The Militia gave me the chance to get all of that in one certified package, complete with a very generous pension scheme and all the day to day back-up and support I could want.
It’s all very well going it alone but that’s exactly what it means. If you get your teeth kicked out whilst trying to do the decent thing, your boss still wants you working the next day; get beat up too often and it just looks like you’ve got a problem. No, the hero thing’s got to be a full time job. With all of this in mind, you can imagine that when Sabre approached me with a recruitment opportunity I was more than happy. I’d had a few close shaves at the time and the dangers of my vulnerability working solo were becoming more obvious; couple that with income problems and you have an eager applicant. I was willing to jump through a lot of hoops for the chance to join an officially sanctioned team. I won’t bore you with the details but there were plenty of hoops to be jumped through. I was tested, questioned, examined and rated until I wondered whether they’d found something wrong with me. But that’s the price you pay for being legit: everything about you, and I mean everything, gets stored away in one of those Ministry super computers and you’d better hope their security’s as good as it gets. To be fair, I’ve never heard of a leak of any kind, but then they’d hush it up, wouldn’t they?
It was months before we got to the point when everyone would be brought together; of course Sabre had met us all and must have been pretty sure it was a good choice. I wouldn’t have fancied his job; although I’m sure there were a lot of boffins working with him behind the scenes, trying to match powers and personalities.
When the day came for the big meet-up we were all driven separately to an old stately home in the middle of nowhere. Costumes were a must, even though secret identities were never going to last long between us all. It just wasn’t practical, or realistic.
Everything was staged to be dramatic and up-beat; we all entered this beautiful sun filled ballroom at exactly the same time and Sabre smiled that wholesome smile of his, saying proudly, “Ladies and gentlemen I’d like you to meet The Militia.”
Of course we all grinned stupidly, what else could we do. I hate things like that; it’s not that I’m particularly shy but the showiness of the situation seemed false. Had I been dressed normally I would have put my hands in my pockets and counted my change but I was in the costume Sabre had given me.
It was a step up from my home made version and, thank God, it didn’t include spandex. The Kevlar pads and utility belt; yes, a utility belt, actually made me look impressive.
After an eternity of looking around we were lead through to a lounge where drinks and food were being served. Ice-breaker time.
There were only five of us at first so things took a bit of getting going, but once we’d had a few drinks we all got a bit more chatty and started having a laugh. In case you’re not too familiar with the line-up I’ll flesh them all out for you, although I’m pretty sure you’re aware of us all; we didn’t really manage to keep much of a low profile.
I’ll start with Sabre, our captain. His real name was Steve Hamilton and he came from a family line of crime fighters. If he had any powers or mutations they weren’t obvious other than that he seemed talented at everything. It was like he was Olympic gold standard at whatever he did. It doesn’t stop there though, he had a real gift when it came to gadgets. Some of the things he came up with could have earned him a fortune if he’d patented them; not that he was short of a few quid. Costume-wise he went for the protective bodysuit and full mask look; and bloody impressive he was. He rolled the bottom of the mask up sometimes to be more approachable to the public.
As far as Steve/Sabre’s personality went, he was okay, but to be honest he sometimes got on my nerves with his “I’m right and I know I am” attitude; he usually was though. I don’t know, I mean when someone’s that perfect you can’t help but be irritated; I can’t anyway. Most of us, except Scarlet, found him to be a bit too straight laced but I suppose that was only to be expected in view of his family link to the Ministry--he must have known some of those suits since he was a kid.
Next came Pulse, or Jenny Reed. Along with me she provided some ranged attacks and acted as a scout because of her flying ability. She had a form of energy mutation which is still as much of a mystery now as it was then. I liked her but I was never really sure if she gave a toss about anybody but herself. What I am sure about is that she thought she was working below her league, but she must have been rated too low to get a place in one of the big names.
Well, now I come to my best mate in the team, Bombardier, or Pete Jones as he was also known. He was a big bloke and when I say that I mean powerful looking, like there was more than a hint of bulldozer in the family. He wasn’t massive, only about six five but he was broad, solid and as strong as ten men. That’s putting it very simply; I’m sure The Ministry had some decimalised ratio system or something. So, Bombardier was our muscle, but I’m happy to say it didn’t extend into his personality--he was a gentleman, not loud and brash like a lot of big guys. I don’t mean he was especially polite or well spoken (far from it) but there was no bullshit, macho stuff about him. What you saw was what you got; he wasn’t dim and he wasn’t especially clever. Out of everyone he was the one I was most at ease with and we had a lot of laughs together. Whenever the opportunity arose, we’d get in our civvies and have a night out. I was always amazed how often blokes tried to start trouble with him. I suppose that just shows how close we are to animals, some arsehole’s always trying to be top dog. Pete usually managed to walk away without any real violence; a casual pat on the shoulder can be a clear warning. But sometimes it was unavoidable.
One night I remember in particular was when we we’re leaving The Orb Club; we were both worse for the booze but having a laugh. These two nasty looking bastards bumped into us both, sending me falling, laughing to the floor. Straight away they were in Pete’s face looking for trouble but he smiled and turned to help me up; that’s when they attacked. They had no idea really. Yes, they were big and mean but that wasn’t enough, as they were about to find out. They punched and kicked like they had a reason to hate Pete but he just smiled and pushed them away.
There were always broken glasses and bottles in the gutters at that time of night and one of the idiots saw an opportunity. We were walking away, pissed off by events but unperturbed really. Then the pint glass was rammed in Pete ’s face. The only thing it did was get his attention; the scumbag had no idea he couldn’t hurt him. Pete knew that and he lost his temper; I didn’t blame him; if I’d been the victim I could have been blinded.
I never found out the extent of the thug’s injuries, and I didn’t care, but an angry slap from Bombardier could be a real life changer. Even heroes lose their tempers sometimes.
The other female member of our little company was called Scarlet, aka Helen Witherspoon. She was our brawler alongside Bombardier, but her muscles were mechanical, in the form of a very clever alloy battlesuit; I knew it was clever because Sabre was impressed. Scarlet didn’t have the strength of my drinking companion but she was no weakling and could certainly move when she wanted to. She was a lovely girl, if a bit of a stickler for the rules and withdrawn at times, but good company all the same. I spoke to her at the ice-breaker and passed her a drink, which she smashed on her helmet as she tried to reach her mouth. She flipped the face plate up, blushing and laughing with embarrassment and nerves: classic Helen. She was all business when we were working though.
And last, but hopefully not least, there’s me, Martin Duffy. I used to go by the name of Disc in those days, but that’s probably confusing considering the nature of my abilities. I could move things with my mind: telekinesis. Before you start making assumptions, that doesn’t mean I’m a genius or anything, far from it; people always make the leap. The name came from valuable experience.
You’d think there was always something around for someone like me to use as a weapon and you’d be right, it’s just it’s easier if I’m familiar with things. On more occasions than I care to remember I nearly brained myself, or an innocent bystander, with some unwieldy object while trying to play the adept hero. As a result, I kept two discs holstered so that I could whip them around when required: very effective.
So, that was us and how we all became what was known as The Militia.
The first few months after we formed-up were gruelling, with fitness training, team training, power training, medical training, the list goes on and we all lost it at times I can tell you. But in the long run it was worth it and I was in the best shape of my life.
Finally, it came to finding out where we would be calling home; it was no surprise to any of us that the grand old City of Lockway was announced. Sabre was overjoyed; it was a great prize and a demonstration of The Ministry’s belief in our abilities as far as he was concerned.
I remember the scene as clearly as if it was yesterday. We were all in the lecture room, chatting and laughing about where we might end up. Sabre walked in, unmasked and chiselled, with a smile difficult not to copy.
“Ok ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to tell you where our hard work has got us. I have just finished receiving instructions for our activation date and placement.” There was his trademark dramatic pause before he continued. “ It’s Lockway.” The big grin.
At first the room was silent then Jenny burst into life. She was ecstatic,“ We’ll be big names before you know it; Lockway’s always on the tv. Did you see the news last night? The Dip’s been declared a no-go zone for the normal police; only the Civil Disorder Units are operating.” She was the happiest I ’d ever seen her. Ironic when you consider we’d been told we were off to one of the most violent cities in the UK; and that was saying something in those days.
Bombardier was clearly pleased but in a much calmer way, “It’s a good chance for us to make a name for ourselves; it’s a rough city.”
“Yeah, The Enforcer was killed a couple of months ago. The news said he died saving a family from a fire but I’ve heard different.” Scarlet had a few connections of her own and they were usually right. I knew what she was getting at, we’d all heard whispers.
Enforcer was a well known vigilante who’d worked the streets since things turned bad. He wasn’t Ministry registered but they tolerated him and the police considered him a friend. As far as the non-criminal element in The Dip were concerned, he was a real hero, and a law enforcer who couldn’t be bribed.
It was reported on the news that his death was the result of a suicidal rescue of a family who were trapped in a burning tower block. The reality, as far as we were concerned, was that he’d been murdered. He’d been fighting a long campaign against a crime boss known as Stick. After Enforcer’s death, leaflets had been found all over the city; they showed him with a blow torch working on his face. There was flesh, blood and bone behind the mask. It was all hushed up and labelled as fake but we knew better. That was the kind of risk we were taking and it was a sobering thought for us all.
I tried to lighten the mood; there didn’t seem any point in dwelling on the realities of what we were doing. When you wore a mask and used a punchy name, it seemed bizarre to spend too long thinking of the real issues anyway, that picture was too haunting to dwell on. “If this isn’t a good excuse for a few beers I don’t know what is.” That always was my solution.
Sabre normally frowned on us drinking but he could see what I was doing and was with me all the way. It was a great night, filled with booze, excitement, laughter and a few quiet moments of thought.
Moving in to our new headquarters was exciting and really seemed to mark us as professionals, despite the fact that we hadn’t achieved anything as a team by that point.
HQ, or The Fort as we called it, was everything you’d expect it to be in terms of security. It was situated in the cliff side, overlooking The Dip, on the edge of the boundaries of the newer, smarter section of the city. Military issue holographic projectors kept us hidden from the people below. In case you’re wondering, The Dip is the original Lockway, but when the new section was constructed above it, the two parts of town were soon seen as very different places. There was no real border between the two but there was no mistaking which name to use—all you had to do was look around. If you weren’t worried, you probably weren’t in The Dip.
From our observation room we had a clear view of the Victorian skyline of the old part of the city. As usual, there were bright flashes here and there where rival gangs or mobs fought for territory, drugs, people and any other commodity that was worth something. The bright lights of police choppers lanced down into the chaos of the conflict below; occasionally attracting a hail of bullets as they hovered. In some places the flashing blue lights of a laboured police force could be seen in defensive circles like wagon-trains in the old westerns. Progress.
We all gazed down in silence on the massive sprawl of our city as it crackled in the night.
Our publicity reached the streets before we made an appearance; we were supposed to make people feel safer, or not, depending on their habits. When we made our first patrol it was in pairs, with Sabre working solo as recon. He was a difficult man to spot when he didn’t want to be seen.
I was teamed up with Scarlet; Bombardier and Pulse were the other pair. I’d have been happier with Bomb but the idea was to be seen as approachable, hence the gender mix.
It was conflict from the moment we showed our faces—The Dip wanted to know what we had.
“Incoming!” Scarlet’s shout made me jump. She was already moving as I spotted the two flaming bottles cartwheeling towards me. That’s right, me! You didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that Scarlet probably wouldn’t be in any danger from a couple of molotovs.
I sent both discs spinning at the missiles, causing them to shatter well short of their target. Scarlet was sprinting towards the alleyway where they came from and I followed in pursuit. I kept my little friends in guard position.
Scarlet’s voice came clearly over the radio, “I’ve got them.” Excited breathing—silence. “Both men down.”
Sabre responded, “Well done Scarlet. Disc, link-up as soon as possible.”
“On route Boss.” I got a tingle just saying it. I felt like a little kid transported into a movie.
Our two attackers were on the floor and looking a lot less threatening. They were both gang members, nothing but kids really. The pick-up unit was on its way so it was just a case of holding the fort. I cuffed their wrists while Scarlet kept an eye open. There was no-one about but I felt exposed‚Ä“we were in a small car-park next to a row of shops.
Only minutes later Pulse and Bombardier were greeted by the city. “Assistance required.” The voice was Pulse’s. She sounded calm but there had to be a reason for the call. I could hear shouts and gunfire in the background.
“I’m on my way Pulse.” Sabre. “What’s happening?”
“Some CDOs,” That’s Civil Disorder Officers, “got into difficulty and we were called in to help. We’ve got a little war going on here; it’s a gang fight that’s turned our way. Bombardier’s in the thick of it. We’re doing ok but they’re coming out of the woodwork here— Jesus!” A loud crackle of automatic fire. “Too busy, out.”
“Ok, I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Sabre sounded calm but I knew he would be anxious on our first outing. “Disc. Scarlet. What’s your situation?”
“We’re waiting for pick-up for our two friends but it doesn’t take both of us. Do you want me on scene? Scarlet was excited, I was myself.
“Negative, stay together. Don’t move until after pick-up. Keep the channel open.”
“Bombardier respond.” Sabre.
“Bomb here‚Ä¶” Pause. “Busy Boss.” The sound of shouts, screams and cracking gunfire provided a background to his voice.
Scarlet and I looked at each other in frustration. We knew we could be waiting a long time if it was a busy night. We could have left our prisoners but if they were found by another gang—
It seemed like hours with us just shuffling our feet and the sound of battle coming over the radio.
Sabre arrived behind the mob and picked off the gunmen who were trying to hit Pulse as she hit back. Bombardier was in the thick of it. The Civil Disorder Officers were making progress thanks to the back-up. I was feeling robbed by our little event when everyone else was getting stuck in. See how stupid I was.
Scarlet jumped in front of me just as I was starting to complain about wasting my time. I staggered back, “What’re you doing, Sca” More gunfire but this time it wasn’t over the radio. I could hear the bullets meant for me impact on Scarlet’s armour. That was twice in one night she’d kept my career from ending quickly.
The training kicked in and I rolled out of the way as Scarlet tried to keep her feet.
Two guys were making a run for it, probably away from the big scene down the road and had run right into us. I sent my hardened rubber disc swooping around in an arc to knock their heads in and kept the metal one up as defence. It was a wise move. The first gunman let off another volley at my partner so he didn’t see it coming and dropped like a stone. The second man had some time, and some skill. He ducked and opened up at me‚—thank God for practice. I followed his aim with my guard disk, blocking the bullets, and clobbered him from behind with the other. He was lucky really; Scarlet had been shocked and was looking for someone to take the blame.
Minutes later the police arrived to take our assailants in. By the time we met up with Sabre and the others it was just a case of mopping up. The choppers were overhead and two more Civil Disorder Units were on the scene. Everybody was ok but Bombardier was bloody and looked as though he’d been in a fight with some bears; he was as good as new the next day.
That wasn’t the end of the night for us but it was all pretty tame after
that. Sabre’s name or description kept cropping up on the police channel; I’ve
no idea how he got around like he did. A few more scuffles and a few more
hours and that was the first glorious night of The Militia over. We’d made an
impact; some friends in the force; a few enemies in The Dip; and hopefully a
difference. I know it’s sentimental but I think I’ll dedicate this first
entry to someone who deserves to be remembered: Timothy Jones, aka The
Enforcer. There but for the grace of God—
Militia is © and ™ 2006 Paul McManus.