Tales of the Titan City Police Department - Day One
In today’s update, future Titanites, we have something a bit different for you. Let’s visit TCPD HQ with a new recruit, to discover a little about the city’s crime factions, its most elite police unit, its districts, and herself …
Kathleen Aurelia sat on the hard seat of the beat-up, wooden chair in the Chief’s office at Preszewski Center, willing herself to stay relaxed, to project the image a SWAT Trooper ought to project. Confidence, she thought, but not arrogance. Competence, but not looking like I think I know it all. She felt a bead of sweat run down her back beneath her uniform shirt and willed herself to keep her nerves hidden.
She told herself she had nothing to be nervous about. She’d served in the military. Spent years working a beat in DC. Trained for SWAT in weapons and tactics. Even dealt with a powers-related crisis once, keeping spectators back from a duel between a flying hero and some laser-shooting airplane-thing flying down the National Mall. But that had been from a distance; guard duty. She’d never even fired her weapon. This was different. This was Titan City.
“Don’t transfer there,” her best friend had said. “Titan City’s crawling with super-fights and villains, not to mention Scorpion invasions and robots and monsters and things! Even some of the street gangs can shoot fire out of their hands! And SWAT’s gotta fight them all!”
“Doesn’t that mean that’s where I’m needed?” she’d replied. Kathleen was tired of standing on the sidelines. She had to make a difference. And the bumpers stickers all said, Anyone Can Make It In Titan City!
And so, here she was, waiting to meet her new boss, the Deputy Chief, Tactical Units (SWAT & K-9), as the lettering on the shoddy, glass-walled office put it. Just moments ago, a SWAT veteran who’d introduced himself as Lenny Alvarez had grinned at her and welcomed her to the team. “The Chief wants to see you,” he’d said. “Probably wants to give you The Speech.”
Kathleen could hear the capital letters. She raised an eyebrow quizzically.
“Don’t worry,” Lenny had said. “The Chief’s great.” Seriousness fell over his face like a shroud. “Just don’t lie to him and don’t hide anything. The Chief has high standards, and he can smell dishonesty. Oh, and don’t stare.”
Kathleen was still puzzling over that when the door opened behind her. She turned and nearly leapt from her seat. A wolf, a huge creature with thick, smoke-grey fur, a pointed snout, and a lashing, bushy tail, had just walked in. On its hind legs. Its baleful, yellow eyes locked with hers. “Don’t get up,” it said in a deep, raspy voice, and Kathleen barely restrained a yelp of surprise. It slid around the particle-board desk and sat down in the cheap, padded chair behind it, levering its tail out through a hole in the back. It sat up ramrod straight and gripped the chair’s arms with clawed hands.
For the first time, Kathleen noticed it wore a faded, navy blue t-shirt marked TCPD SWAT and a pair of sturdy sweatpants with a shiny badge slung around its neck on a chain. Now that the shock had passed, she saw it was more human-looking than she’d thought, like a fur-covered man with a lupine head and tail. “Chief Gherrenfur?” she ventured. Instinctively, she extended her hand to shake.
Gherrenfur’s palm felt smooth as soft leather. “And you’re Aurelia, the new recruit. But not new to Special Weapons and Tactics. Your record speaks well for you, Aurelia. But a record only tells you so much. Deeds are what matter, not scratches on some bureaucratic form.” When she didn’t respond, he added, “I surprise you, don’t I.” It wasn’t a question.
Kathleen fought the urge to shrug. Don’t lie, she thought. With that nose, he probably literally [/i]could smell dishonesty. “Yes,” she said.
“You’re brave to say so,” said Chief Gherrenfur. “You’re nervous, but you’re not letting it rule you. That’s good. You’ll need every ounce of that courage in Titan City. I know this isn’t your first rodeo, but this is a rodeo where the bulls can fly, the broncos can walk through walls, and the rodeo clowns shoot lasers from their eyes.”
“And the trailboss can smell fear and honesty?” Kathleen’s mouth curled up in a crooked smile.
Gherrenfur’s long, red tongue lolled from his mouth, and he made a gasping noise. She realized he was laughing. “Exactly. Hear me well, Aurelia. Titan City’s got scads of heroes. Some of ‘em deserve the name, and some don’t. The costumes alone mean nothing to us. I expect the capes to earn my respect the same way I expect you to do the same: by action.”
“Yes, sir,” she said. In spite of herself, she began to relax. Gherrenfur’s ferocious honesty was refreshing.
“And at the same time, they can’t be everywhere. When Scorpion invades or some loon with a disintegration bomb blows up a pylon on the Hercules Bridge, we hold the line.” His voice growled with fierce pride.
Gherrenfur gestured toward a map of the city. “Look, there it is, the territory we guard. North Titan’s relatively safe—small-time gang activity, muggings, white-collar crime, villains by ones and twos. Exciting, but not where we’re needed. Much better than when I first got here, right after the Hurricane. South Titan, on the other hand …”
Gherrenfur’s lambent eyes lowered to the half of the map below Steward’s Bay. “The gangs alone are making a mess down there. At the bottom of the pyramid, you’ve got your Rooks—small-timers looking for edge: notice from an underworld higher-up, an in with a stronger gang, or, most of all, powers.” He shook his head.
Kathleen pursed her lips. In Titan City, it seemed, even the petty thugs wanted superpowers.
“And they get worse from there. Around here, in Ironport,” Gherrenfur gestured toward an inlet cleaving into the coastline, “and a bunch of other places, you’ve got the Pyrebrands running around. A bunch of Chaser addicts—you know Chaser?”
“No,” said Kathleen.
Gherrenfur’s ears flicked back mirthlessly. “You will. Chaser’s a fancy drug. They drink it in a shot. If they drink enough, their skin cracks open, and flames shoot out of their bodies.
“Then there’s the Unforgiven.” The hackles on his neck visibly rose for a second. “Creepy guys. I’ve heard stories about them sucking people through mirrors or drowning them on dry land.”
An hour ago, Kathleen would have been skeptical of an entire gang with such freaky powers. Then again, an hour ago, she wouldn’t have believed she’d be having a conversation with a dog.
“And at the top of the heap, you have our charming organized crime syndicates. The Black Rose has been around since at least the twenties, controlling drug trade, tech smuggling, protection rackets, human trafficking … if it has a taint of vice, it has the stench of the Black Rose on it.” Gherrenfur’s voice rose to a snarl. “And no matter how much they talk about ‘honor,’ they have no idea of the meaning of the word.”
“What, they’re, like, an Italian mob family?” Kathleen had heard FBI men discussing anti-mob operations while in training at Quantico.
“Perhaps,” said the Chief. “Only with cybernetic enhancements under their suits.”
This time, she didn’t even blink in surprise. And she could swear Gherrenfur smiled at that.
“Then, over in Lotus Hills—it’s a beautiful place, by the way; I’m told it’s like stepping into an Asian city—lies the power center of the Five Dragons. Don’t let the name fool you; there are five hundred or more of them. Where the Black Rose goes in for technology, they use magic, burning little charm-strips or invoking the power of water to stretch their limbs or the power of metal to rain down shards of iron.” Gherrenfur’s ears pricked up. “You believe in magic, right?”
Kathleen couldn’t help laughing.
Gherrenfur snorted. “Humans. Well, not to worry. The first time one of their Initiates blasts you with a thorn-storm out of thin air, you will. And much as the Five Dragons and Black Rose hate each other, the only thing they hate more is us.” He leaned back in his chair. “There’s plenty more going on, but those are the broad strokes. You’ll learn as you go. Any questions?”
How about, “What have I got myself into?” she thought. “No, sir,” she said.
Gherrenfur waved her off. “Go see Lenny outside. He’ll get you settled in. Oh, and Aurelia … one more thing.” He stared straight at her with his cold, lupine eyes. “The heroes can afford to play fast and loose with the law. Sometimes—and don’t you dare repeat this outside this office—that’s what the city needs. But we can’t be like that. We have the TCPD’s honor to uphold, and that honor begins with following the law. Without honor, we become nothing. You understand?”
And in the simple conviction of his voice, she did. This, at last, was firm ground. “Yes, sir. I won’t let you down, sir.”
Gherrenfur’s nose twitched. “No, I don’t think you will. And call me ‘Chief.’ Everyone does.” His ear twitched, and a moment later, the battered old phone on his desk rang. “Chief Gherrenfur,” he answered. “Commissioner Zheng? No, sir, that meeting finished a while ago. Wait, there’s a what in Charleston? Grrrr. Why am I not surprised? Of course, Commissioner. I’ll assemble a team immediately.” He put the phone down.
Gherrenfur bared his sharp teeth in what Kathleen was coming to recognize as his smile. “Today is your lucky day, Aurelia. It seems one of our local villains has picked this morning to flex his muscles. And he’s brought some friends along. Go downstairs and grab your gear. Time to suit up.”
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