• Chapter One
    A drunken man swaggered out of a bar three blocks away, his feet carrying him to a group of women leaning against a wall. He asked an unintelligible question and was promptly slapped by one woman. From somewhere in the distance police sirens were heard. It made no difference what they were racing towards. No police man in the entire city cared what happened in the streets. On the other side of the city two men were mugging an innocent businessman, one who had unfortunately been delayed at the office, and had to lend his car to his wife so she could pick up the kids from school. On any other night the man would have found a savior from the shadows, someone to strike down the muggers and deliver him from the pain. There was a hero in the darkness; someone who could prevent the beating if he chose to move from where he was. The man did not pray straight to God but to this unseen vigilante for some miracle deliverance.
    No one would save him tonight though. Tonight there was a larger goal for the hero perched on the steeple of the single remaining church in the unforgiving city. He waited like a gargoyle on the ledge, waiting for the signal that would send his final plan into action. Patience was a virtue, and this man was rich from it.
    Low murmurings entered his thoughts from the wireless earpiece resting beside the dark statue’s head. Moving slowly, making each move deliberate, the man stood.
    With a simple flick of both hands he cast his black-as-a-raven coat behind him and jumped, the back of his coat trailing his fall like the wings of some long-forgotten dark angel.

    Chapter Two
    Jacklyn Moore leaned against the railing of her balcony as she looked out across Washington D.C. She sighed as she realized how different the great city used to be only a few years ago. Her loft looked out over the immediate monuments of Washington, and the once great symbols of the United States’ pride were now in post decay. The white on every monument had faded to an ugly and dull gray that died away into the eternally dark sky. Her vision shifted to the former White House, now named the Center of Control. It was the source of all the chaos that had befallen the country. One man lived in the Center; an evil, manipulative man who was out for nothing more than power and self gain.
    And he was the President.
    President Franklin was the worst thing to ever happen to America. His frenzied politics and muddled policies had sent the country into a severe economic depression that strangely didn’t affect the government or the wealthy. The poor, however, were left to fend for themselves in the fresh dog-eat-dog society created by the horrid man. Jacklyn tirelessly waited for the next election, and her chance to become more than a Senator. But in this confused year of 2016, she might never see her dream of changing the country fulfilled.
    She shook her head, causing her brown hair to shift uneasily around her face. Turning to the left, her brown eyes could view the inner streets of Washington. Every light was so dull that they might as well have been shut off for all the good it was doing. Only a few bodies were visible moving down below. The streets belonged to the corrupt who decided to take matters into their own hands and openly do whatever they pleased. It was suicide to walk the streets of D.C. at night. At least it had been before he had stepped in to make a change.
    “Evening, Senator.” The new voice broke Jacklyn out of her thoughts. She turned to see a man stepping from the shadows. Usually his appearance brought death to whoever he was visiting, but in this instance, he visited an old friend.
    “Gabriel,” she said breathlessly. But in his current state he wasn’t the friend she remembered from when they were young. He was what the citizens were calling Justice; due to the virtue he was trying to bring forth. She got a good look at him. No matter how many times she saw him dressed as Justice, it still sent chills down her spine.
    Starting from his head, Gabriel wore a black hat with a thick rim that cast a shadow over his already blocked face. His black-dyed hair poked out slightly from the hat, but it didn’t reach the black sunglasses that covered his blue eyes. A scarf was wrapped tightly around the rest of his face like a great gray snake, blocking his nose and mouth from sight. His black shirt was tucked into black pants, held up by a black belt; all of this was covered by a black leather trench coat fastened together by one button across his stomach. He appeared to be a real shadow. Somehow he had managed to keep his boots completely soundproof, while his black gloves flexed uneasily as they covered his hands. This was Justice; hero of the defenseless and liberator of the hopeless.
    “Jacklyn…some things have changed,” he said with deliberate slowness. Obviously these were things that she wasn’t going to approve of. He took another step forward, pausing to make sure she wouldn’t back away.
    Jacklyn sighed. “What things, Gabriel?” So many things had been changing since Justice had surfaced. Some were good, but some…some were just trouble; trouble mostly for Gabriel.
    He cocked his head to the side. “You know, you’re the only one who still calls me Gabriel while I am in this façade.” It was an attempt to make her feel more comfortable about whatever had changed. It wasn’t working. Justice paused before continuing. “Looking into the subject with a deeper intensity, I’ve decided that Franklin isn’t behind what has happened.”
    This was news. Jacklyn even let her shock drip into her expression. Gabriel had been so sure that Franklin was behind everything and that he had to be stopped. To make such a drastic change in opinion so quickly, something big had to have happened. She looked into the blue eyes behind the glasses. “Are you absolutely positive? How do you know? Where did you find this out?”
    He took another pause before answering. She realized that what he had done to get this new answer wasn’t ethical or moral in her mind. “I…obtained some information that points my tracking in a new direction. Franklin is only a pawn, a figurehead for whoever is running this show.” He pulled out a small square that looked like a miniature computer screen. The device, called a Tracer, was a portable video recorder designed to spy on any potential threats in society. Justice pressed a finger into the center of the Tracer, and it came to life with a white flash. “Play back,” he said.
    The device showed a back alley, with two men standing alone. Jacklyn recognized the one on the left as Franklin. He was a tall and young man, with short dirty blond hair. His eyes were constantly darting around nervously. The other man kept himself in the shadows, hiding his face from view. This man was slightly shorter, but kept an air of dignity about him.
    Franklin was talking. “…Are you sure about that? Why would he want me to change things so quickly?”
    The other man stopped him by holding up a hand. “He has his reasons. The upcoming election is crucial to you, and more importantly him. You can’t lose.”
    Franklin was pleading. “I won’t. You can guarantee him that.”
    But his associate stopped him again. “Moore is a threat. Her views…they give the people hope. She has the support of many of the weak. And the weak outnumber us greatly. If she runs and doesn’t win, it could cause a revolt that he’s not ready to quell. We need you in the presidential position. The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them, and that has to be us and not Moore.”
    The President looked shocked. “So? What does this have to do with me?”
    “I thought you might ask,” the man in the shadows said. “We need you to arrange the assassination of everyone close to Jacklyn Moore. Get the Restrictors to do it. We need it done clean and have no traces left.”
    “Why kill only those close to her?” Franklin asked. “It seems easier to kill her and be done with it.” This was met with a laugh.
    “This is why you’re only a face to the people. If we kill her then the public will get suspicious. But if it’s only her closest friends, then we can pass it off as accidents and convince her to pull out of the election.”
    Franklin looked caught. This was evidently one of the worst things he had ever been told to do. “Who all would have to be casualties?”
    The unknown man reached into his jacket and pulled out a piece of paper. “The closest people to her are a couple; Gabriel and Angela Wright. They should be the only people that need to die. Their deaths should be more than enough to convince Moore to step down.” There was a pause in the conversation. Franklin looked like he wanted to say something, but was unaware of how to say it.
    Finally, it blurted out. “What about this Justice figure? He’s been slowly turning the tables on us and he’s been silently sneaking around our city…waiting for something.”
    This was met with a snarl. “Justice does not exist. There is no night walker who is trying to save Washington. He is a myth, and idea started by the poor to give each other hope. Heroes don’t exist in real life. This Justice is merely a fabrication of weak minds. Do not fall prey to these lies.” Gabriel gave a small chuckle. Trying to keep to the shadows and remain nonexistent was working. Either the powers really believed he didn’t exist, or they were too afraid to admit it. Jacklyn stifled a sigh; Gabriel was so wrapped up in not existing that he was truly fading into the framework of the world. Jacklyn didn’t want to lose her best friend, but Justice was erasing any traces of humanity in Gabriel.
    Back on the video screen, Franklin had agreed to seek out Gabriel and Angela. “Good,” the other man said. “Once those two are out of the way, we will deal with Moore accordingly. Until then, enjoy the public position you have.” The video screen went blank, and Justice tucked it back into his coat.
    Jacklyn turned to look at Justice. With no aspect of his face visible, it was impossible to read his expression. However, if she knew Gabriel at all, he was itching with anticipation for what he got to do next. It scared her; Justice had no emotions, but Gabriel was filled with them. One would outweigh the other eventually. And to do that, the other had to be overcome. But she would deal with that when the time came. For now she had to focus on what Justice would do next.
    “I have to go,” he said as if reading her thoughts. “First I need to find out who that other man was. Then I need to find him and…have a nice chat with the man.” He turned and made his way to the railing of the balcony.
    Jacklyn reached out and grabbed his arm. He stiffened slightly, not used to physical contact while he was Justice. “Don’t go yet Gabriel. You are always dropping in unexpectedly then running off just as soon. God only knows how this is affecting Angela.” The mention of his wife’s name caused him to wrench his arm from her grip. It was a low blow, but she needed to exploit it. He needed to retain some amount of humanity. There was some relief in his response to the name. It showed he was still Gabriel on the inside. “Please Gabriel. The people can wait for Justice just a little bit longer, can’t they?”
    He turned back to her. “No. Justice can’t wait. I’m needed by those who can’t make the change themselves. The frail and powerless need me. I can’t be selfish when it could ruin millions of lives. I have a destiny and an obligation to them.” There was no arguing with him. His mind was set on these plans, and she was powerless to stop them.
    Then he surprised her by sighing and pulling her into an embrace. “It will be okay. I’ll finish this, and then things will be better for Angela and you.” The words were comforting, but Jacklyn noticed what was missing.
    She pulled back and looked up into his face. “Where are you in this better world?” He didn’t answer. “You plan on succeeding don’t you?”
    He turned his head away from her ever-so-slightly. “I do. And I will.” There was a pause. He hadn’t answered her question. Realizing this, he knew it was unavoidable to talk to her. “Succeeding and surviving don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand for me. To succeed, I might have to make a sacrifice in order to do so.”
    Jacklyn stepped closer, but Justice stepped back. “No…no, Gabriel…you’ll make it…you have to…” She reached out, but he seized her wrists and gently pushed her away.
    He shook his head. “Jacklyn, you have to trust me. If there is any way I can stop these injustices and survive, I will. But this is real life; and in real life the hero doesn’t always make it to the end of the story.” Suddenly his head jerked to the doors leading back into Jacklyn’s room. “You should get inside. It’s cold out here. Besides, someone’s coming. And remember; everything must be doubted in this world.” Without another word he stepped away and fell backwards over the railing into the shadows below.
    His last words…how very Karl Marx of him, Jacklyn thought as she leaned over the railing. Slowly, she shuddered. And it had nothing to do with the cold.

    Chapter Three
    Jacklyn wandered back into her room. Sure enough, just as Gabriel had said, a knock came at her door. She called that she would be there in a minute, and threw on a sweater as she made her way to the door. It truly had been cold out on the balcony. She hated it when Gabriel was right about everything.
    The door was opened to the meek face of Stewart Johnson. He was Jacklyn’s campaign manager, and was a fairly nice person. His only fault was that he constantly agreed with whatever Jacklyn said. Even when she wanted his opinion, his response would always be hers. But she would just sigh and move on. She counted it a victory that her campaign manager only had one quirk about him. The usual queue nowadays had at least five.
    “Good evening, Ms. Moore,” he said anxiously. His eyes darted around the room, obviously feeling uncomfortable.
    Jacklyn laughed. “You can call me Jacklyn, Stewart. How many times do I have to tell you?” She shook her head. “Come in. You can set campaign things on the table over there.” Jacklyn took the moment to examine her home. It was a spacious apartment of course. She was a Senator after all, and Senators got special benefits. Right now, her home was a clutter of personal effects. The living room was an impassable mess; random papers, cups, bowls, and numerous other items lined the floor and everything else. Her table was just as crowded with boxes across the surface. “On second thought, keep them with you. If you set them down they might get lost.”
    Stewart mumbled something about agreeing then moved to the couch. Jacklyn cleared a spot for him. He sat down, and she collapsed into the chair across from him. “Alright,” he began slowly. “Where do you want to start?”
    Jacklyn had closed her eyes. “I don’t really care. Wherever we left off last time should work.” Her thoughts weren’t with campaigning. They were focused on Gabriel running through the streets, eliminating the corrupt; putting himself in the lucid range of danger. She could just imagine him staring down a group of thugs that loomed over him. The worst part was the thugs would be the ones in danger. Justice would show no mercy in his mission to save the country.
    “Okay,” Stewart slowly said. “Um…we left off with advertising I think.” He clearly didn’t want to upset Jacklyn. In his mind, his job hinged on every word he said; even though Jacklyn had told him that she truly didn’t take everything so seriously. He pulled out a piece of poster paper and gave it a look over before handing it to Jacklyn. She took it half-consciously and looked down. Her face stared back at her, a look of determination on her face. No smiles; that’s what Franklin did. A smile meant that everything is okay. In these times, it wasn’t.
    Jacklyn’s brown eyes met themselves on the poster. The deep shade of brown looked up from the poster with understanding as much as resolve. In the background waved an American flag and an eagle soared above her head. The bottom of the poster simply said, “The Hope for Tomorrow,” then her name. She pondered over it, mostly to distract her mind from thoughts of Gabriel and Justice.
    “Does that work?” Stewart asked quickly.
    Jacklyn was still looking at the poster, though her mind was far from the picture. “Mhm. It will.” She thought she caught a glimpse of Stewart sighing in relief.
    “Good,” he said. “I’m glad it will.” He reached and pulled the poster from Jacklyn’s loose grip. Her eyes shifted to the soft, cream colored walls. She wished she could know where Gabriel was, and what he was doing. Well, she thought, I already know what he’s doing. But…I’d like to know specifically, I guess. Stewart was saying something about spots to put up posters. Poor fool, she mused to herself. He has no idea of what’s going on within his own city’s borders. No idea that Justice is protecting him, along with everyone else.
    “Where are you Gabriel?” Jacklyn whispered to herself as she stared at the walls that seemed to be closing in a little more each day.