Flynn Brickshelm knocked on the back door of Leonard Calgray’s home. He held a makeshift warrant for Leonard’s arrest in one hand, a warrant that was signed by every member of the town council, and additionally, by five citizens closely tied to his alleged crimes against the town. With the knowledge that Leonard helped rob a bank, and the potential to have real evidence to use against him, the time for action had arrived.
Obviously, Flynn was uncomfortable in this situation.
By all accounts, Leonard still possessed at least one firearm. The weapon had been stolen from Rayland’s secret cache at some point after the town militia had been formed. Confronting Leonard meant confronting the possibility of seeing that weapon too.
Just one more reason Flynn didn’t care for Rayland Walsh.
No one had answered while Flynn reflected on the situation, so he knocked again, but there was no sound coming from inside the home.
He waited a few more moments, then his impatience got the best of him. He pulled a trash can over to the closest window and climbed on top to peek inside. He saw no one, but he did notice there were piles of clothing and discarded food scattered around the apartment.
Flynn reached down to his belt and snapped his radio free. “Did he make a run for it?”
“Not out the front,” Ronin’s voice crackled through the radio in response. “He could be on the roof, I guess.”
“Alright. I’m going in.”
Flynn set the radio down and prepared his right foot, bracing himself. When he was confident in his stance, he kicked hard against the apartment door, and it flung open in response.
Inside, Flynn found no one. There wasn’t a sign of Leonard anywhere.
“I think he made a run for it before we arrived,” Flynn said after he retrieved his radio from the outside steps. “No one is in here.”
“Did we check the roof?” Ronin asked.
“No roof access from this apartment,” Flynn replied.
“Well, good riddance. I suppose you don’t want to leave it at that?”
“He has a weapon. We can’t just ignore him.”
“Fine. Want me to help you search the apartment?”
Flynn contemplated the help for a moment, especially as he eyed the pile of clothing on the living room floor, but ultimately he decided he would be fine alone. “No, head over to Town Hall and tell the council he wasn’t here. They’ll need to decide how we proceed with this.”
“Whatever you say, boss,” Ronin replied. “I’ll call if anything comes up.”
While Ronin made his way back to Town Hall, Flynn began the lengthy process of sorting through Leonard’s disposed belongings. It became very clear, very quickly, that the only things left behind were items of no value. The clothes on the floor were all different sizes and shapes, likely from various members of the militia. The food had been scattered on purpose. Nothing had bites taken out of it, and it all appeared to be about the same age.
Leonard had made this mess on purpose.
Flynn had no idea why, but it was impossible to come to any other conclusion.
Finally, when he had finished digging through the garbage, Flynn checked the fridge for a drink, only to find a trash bag filled with money stuffed inside. On top, there was a letter taped to the back. Flynn made an audible grumble, but he flipped the letter open and began to read:
I figured you’d be coming for me. I mean, I can’t just try to overthrow a government and go back to living a normal life. So, I decided I needed to go. Don’t worry. I won’t cause you any more trouble. Before I go… I thought I should share just one thing. I’m not the only bad guy in this town. Rayland gave me the gun. He’s the one that found them. Call him out, if you dare. In fact, ask Walsh about the names.
Obviously, there was a lot to unpack in the letter. Rayland lied about the weapon. It wasn’t very surprising. Flynn had already assumed as much. At the beginning of the town’s conflict, Leonard and Rayland appeared to be buddies. It was only as things progressed that the two fell out with one another. Still, is that what Leonard meant about not being only bad guy? The whole situation was upsetting, and Rayland clearly had the answers.
He contemplated it for only a few seconds before skepticism flooded his mind. Leonard Calgray was not a man of honesty and integrity. All of this could be a diversionary tactic. Or, maybe Leonard had finally run out of ideas, and honesty was his best path forward… scorched earth policy.
He took the note and carefully folded it away in his pocket. He made a mental note to visit with Rayland soon and have a real discussion about the firearm. Tomorrow he could come back and finish his search of the apartment. For now, he needed a break.
The town firehouse was the base of operation for Flynn and his “Protectors.”
After disbanding Leonard’s thugs, Flynn went to work creating a group of individuals that would only help the citizens, rather than frighten them. He had decided upon the “Protectors” moniker after hearing Ronin talk about a similar group in the Upper Levels known as the Guardians.
Flynn’s idea had sold well with the citizens. They were still skeptical, of course, especially with the mentality that Leonard had brought to the town, but Flynn was determined to make people feel safe, not scared.
The council agreed.
They gave him full control of the firehouse, and he went to work on building a place where anyone could stop by at any time to get help. The trust from the citizens trickled in at a slow pace at first, but one day William Everett came rushing to Flynn begging for help. His daughter, one of the only children in town, had climbed onto a ledge of Oliver’s restaurant, and now she couldn’t get back down. Flynn jumped at the opportunity to help, and with a ladder from the firehouse he got the young girl down without a fuss. The moment he did that, William went on a personal mission of selling Flynn’s Protectors as a necessity for the citizens. His relentless support led others to warm up to the idea, and soon the Protectors were free of any legacy left by Leonard.
A year in, they were frequently called to aide the citizens, and Flynn loved it.
When he reached the front door of the firehouse, he paused. The large doors should have been closed at this hour, but it was open wide with no one around. He looked inside and saw the fire truck was missing. His initial thought was that Leonard had outsmarted him and stole the fire truck to make his escape from town, but a moment later he caught sight of a note near his desk.
Thankfully, the note was from Frank. The Protectors had been called to one of the farms out near Willow Creek. Frank had taken the fire truck in case they needed any help. He was about to set the note down, thankful that it wasn’t a new problem to solve, but then he heard someone clearing their throat behind him and he nearly jumped out of his skin.
He spun to see Ruby Rose standing at the threshold, a gentle smile on her face.
“Oh! You scared me!” he said.
“I did?” she asked. “I’m sorry, I was just hoping to talk with you. I didn’t see anyone here.”
“No no, it’s fine,” he said, collecting himself. “What do you want to talk about?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I know you and Elsie had me agree to a temporary thing, but Flynn, I am ready to go full time with the Protectors.”
Flynn tried to look surprised, but he wasn’t. “Are you sure?”
Ruby nodded firmly. “The Explorers have a full rotation of pilots that handle the helicopter. We have redundancy to spare out at the Grid now… ships and personnel. The truth is, I’m just not needed anymore.”
“I’m confident you’re needed,” Flynn countered. “Most of the citizens here in town have walked out of that dark hallway and straight to your welcoming face. Have you talked to Elsie about this?”
“I understand your hesitation about the transition,” Ruby said, pacing for a moment in the open area of the station. “I have given this a lot of attention. Elsie is running Mission Control like a champion. Everyone has a place and a purpose there. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that it just isn’t the right place for me. You decided to leave the Explorers too. I would think you would understand.”
“I wouldn’t say our scenarios are exactly the same,” he said, feeling a little grumpy. “I was injured after a dangerous mission went wrong. I came home rather broken. I don’t know that I decided I wanted to leave the Explorers as much as realized I couldn’t stay.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, quickly backtracking. “I didn’t mean to offend. I just… I feel like I know what I want. Being a part of this team is exciting. I feel like I’m a part of the community in a way I never could before. I want to be here. All I ask is for you to consider it.”
“There’s nothing to consider. Ruby, I’ll let you join the team the moment you want. Before we make it official, however, I would really feel better if you took some time to talk to Elsie or maybe even Olivia.”
She smiled widely. “Really?”
“Yes,” Flynn replied. “You’re a valuable member of this team. I would be a fool to turn you away, but I want to hear Elsie sign off on this. I don’t want to invoke that woman’s wrath.”
Ruby thanked him profusely, then she practically skipped out of the firehouse.
In truth, Flynn was happy to think that she would be joining his team. They could use someone like her. She was a guardian angel to most of the citizens here in town. Knowing that she was becoming a Protector would be another win for public relations.
It would also leave a gap in the arrival process.
Flynn had seen how the new arrivals were being greeted by other pilots. There was not the same kind-hearted engagement that Ruby always delivered. They were quick to do introductions and throw them aboard the helicopter. They didn’t take time to consider the insanity of the situation from the perspective of the arrival.
He made a mental note then, that if she did join them, she would first help Elsie set up a system of training for other pilots to attend. A kind of bed-side improvement for all the pilots and co-pilots that would help them work with new arrivals on a more personal level.
The first task for his newest recruit… not a bad idea at all.