Shark and Sparrow

Shark and Sparrow
Chapter 1, by Anonymous

“Chances are, if you're in this room, you are the best we could ever ask for,” Commissioner Beauregarde took off his hat. He was never good at memorizing speeches; he much preferred to ad-lib, but this meeting called for ceremony. He slipped out his index cards without anyone being the wiser. “Mainport City, for reasons unknown, has become home to over one hundred known super-powered or otherwise exceptionally dangerous individuals. This is the largest concentration of so-called 'super-villains' in the country, and possibly, the world. Each of these individuals have their own support teams, their own underlings, and a few even have their own…sycophantic fan-clubs.”

His next card fell to the ground beneath the podium. He froze for a moment in terror. He had been a soldier in the Queen's army, he'd hunted men across the world, and he'd been a policeman in one of the roughest cities you'd ever see, but public speaking was the thing made him nervous .

Luckily, he remembered the stats by heart, so he wouldn't have to look like an idiot bending down to pick it up. He cleared his throat. “For these…unprecedented circumstances, five countries, fifteen defense contractors, and dozens of international corporations and organizations have chosen to fund Mainport's last chance to free a city held hostage by madmen who would be gods. On behalf of the Mainport City Police Department, I welcome you to the Special Powers and Abilities Rapid Response Operations Wing. Captain Santoros, if you will…”

Beauregarde stood down as Santoros stood up. The balding no-nonsense war hero was born for this unit even though he wasn't Beauregarde's first choice. The man got results, he brought in cases and cleared them, and his streets were safer than most. Santoros was in a battlefield everywhere he went in life, but the SPARROW unit was a new environment; the Commissioner prayed the Captain would find the difference between enemies and allies.

Santoros looked awkward in his dress-blues, in fact, he looked awkward in anything that didn't have a bullet-proof vest lining it, but he carried himself like he was addressing the men in a locker-room before a big game. Welcome to Mainport, gentlemen! The most crime-ridden city in the country!” A few of the men clapped and hooted. “I've seen the things, police deal with in New York, LA, Detroit, hell I guess I've seen it all. And the police there deal with it! Cause they're the hardest meanest mother-fuckers you'll ever see in a beat-cop uniform!” A couple more shouted a Hoorah. “But here in Mainport? Cyborgs! Witch-Doctors! Demons! Immortals! We've got escaped mental patients who just so happen to know how to build giant fucking ray guns! Shit! We've got escaped mental patients who think they're going to do our job for us and be 'some big damn hero' while killing civvies in the crossfire! Well the SPARROW unit is here to put a stop to all that!”

The Captain's stance on the vigilantes patrolling the city streets was both understandable and completely unreasonable. It was something the two had had words over before, and they'd have a lot more words over it before long. If Mainport were to ever truly be free of this super-crime, the SPARROW unit would have to work with the 'heroes' instead of against them. If Captain Santoros weren't police, he'd most definitely be a vigilante himself. Sometimes, Beauregarde thought that Santoros was somehow…envious of them. If they busted up a criminal's jaw, they'd get called a hero, but if a police did it, they'd have to file thirty different kinds of paperwork and receive sensitivity training, which Santoros had been a three time graduate of already.

As the Captain went on explaining the details of the unit, Beauregarde's eyes wandered around the room. In the crowd he did not in fact see the “best we could ever ask for.” Most of the SPARROW unit was made of police collected from all over the country (and even a few foreign ones) that were more soldier than cop. They were bruisers and enforcers. They came from ganglands, mafia entrenched streets, even border-patrol. Some were veterans, some were ex-special forces, and some were no doubt government plants who were about to get the most unusual assignment of their lives.

They weren't chosen for their ability to solve crimes though, they were chosen for three reasons, the ability to think on their feet, the ability keep cool under pressure, and most importantly, their unwillingness to take bribes. Though all three would soon be tested, it was the last one that Beauregarde was worried about.

Although the need for the SPARROW unit was more than apparent, its creation was primarily to relieve the MCPD enough so they could focus on what could only be called “regular crime.What suffered most since things started going downhill was actual police work. Investigating grand theft auto, drug-dealers, even homicides was a chore when City Hall wanted you to catch a man who could control a hyena with his mind, or a sorcerer who turned the city's water supply into orange juice, or “Doctor Rape.”

“We've arranged the 'Target List' into a number of categories,said Santoros. “A lot of the individuals on this list are unknown persons, so to make things easier, they've all been given code-names, which you probably already call them by anyway.The lights dimmed and a projector screen descended. The first category, you'll notice, is labeled 'Special' that's Comstat speak for 'We Don't Know What The Fuck It Is.' I'm sure most of you have at least heard of Mirror Man and Echo, or as I like to call them Mr and Mrs Fuck You…” a couple of the policemen chuckled.

The Commissioner's eyes looked to the people on the stage with him. The governor was there, along with a couple heads of state. There were some Majors and Lieutenants all seated according to rank. But most interesting was the man at the far end. The Chief Constable. A national hero from Beauregarde's own Great Britain. From the stories he'd read on the man, he'd be surprised if he didn't have super-powers himself. Too many people had been chosen for the SPARROW unit without his consent, but the Chief Constable was one he could live with.

“Category three, mercenaries. A lot of these criminals are starting to band together and fight each other over territory or some bullshit. And then there's these 'heroes' who step in to try to stop it. Unfortunately for us, this opened up a black market particularly selling guns-for-hire, which have been our city's number one import for the past six months. First and second on this list are the Sade Squad and Crescent, and I need to stress this right off the bat, if you hear reports of them in your area, withdraw immediately and wait for backup. The Sade Squad particularly has a sick MO of injuring cops and ambushing and kidnapping the ones who go in to rescue them…”

An elderly man with tattoos on his jaw stepped in to the back of the room, flanked by three women. It was good that the lights were dimmed, or else this entire meeting would've ended in bloodshed. The elderly man walked over to a city judge who was sitting in the back and whispered in his ear. The two shook hands as the judge stood up and walked silently out the door with the man and his three companions. Mr. Mahi. The Shark of Sri Lanka. The Tongan Terror. The Pirate Lord of the Pacific. The only criminal in Mainport who could walk into a city council meeting and be handed a cigar. The only criminal who could walk into a specialized police unit's first debriefing and walk out with a judge in his pocket. When it came to policing, the Commissioner could typically see two steps ahead of everybody else, and the first major flaw with his own SPARROW unit was accepting Mr Mahi's donation of equipment and funding.

“Category four, Supernatural individuals. Remember a year back when the residents of the Riverside Cemetery decided to take a stroll down Main Street? This category is for 'those' cases…”

If Santoros had seen Mahi walk into the room, there'd be a fifty fifty percent chance that he'd throw the podium aside, leap across all the police officers in his way, and tear the man's throat out. Everyone in the MCPD hated the man, unless of course, they were in his pocket in which case he was “a noble benefactor and philanthropist.” Beauregarde had a strong dislike for the man reaching back to his days as a lieutenant when MahiCorp began building in the city. Trying to put Mahi behind bars back then at one point cost him his badge, his personal honor, and almost his marriage. But Mahi wasn't going anywhere back then and he wasn't going anywhere now. The only thing that got Beauregarde out of bed some days was the knowledge that, to Mahi, he presented the same problem.

“Now some of you are going to have problems with this next one, but you'll just have to shove it! Category seven, Vigilantes…”

It's announcement received mixed response from the officers. The few present that started in the MCPD had worked with the vigilantes since they were beat cops. And even those who weren't from around here had at least heard of a few. Professor Badass was on the cover of Time Magazine for crying out loud, and he was still on Santoros's shit-list. If the Captain found out that some of the equipment they'd be using came from the Professor's own armory, he'd probably pitch a fit. Noticeably absent from Category seven however, was Black Biker and Ironside. No matter what the Captain thought of other vigilantes, those two had been local heroes for decades.

“…and after Brother Sharp of course, rounding out Category Seven is the Monsignor, who, you'll notice is also in Category four, so no need to go over that shit again. Now, with the Target List out of the way, let's talk about Equipment. This is the most advanced weaponry you'll see outside of the USS Enterprise. As standard issue you will receive the Larsen 1480 Multipurpose Rifle. It's inner workings are adjustable by this panel on the side, meaning that with the right adjustments the Larsen can be a sniper rifle,” he pressed a few buttons and the barrel shifted to be narrower and longer with a elongated stock, “shotgun,” the barrel retracted more than half its length as the stock became bulkier, “sub-machine gun,” the gun shifted again, “or…I don't know…the world's most expensive pistol. But this over here is what I'll be carrying,he picked up what looked like a small mini-gun with vaccuum tubes placed strategically on the sides. “The Yakata PXZ Plasma Rifle all the way from the land of the Rising Sun. Capable of firing super-heated particle-clusters at speeds of over…”

It was an hour until the meeting was dismissed. For the next week they'd be entrenched in intense training exercises with a handful of volunteer vigilantes in the countryside. For all of Beauregarde's pleading with the mayor for cooperation with the vigilantes, he'd at least conceded with him on that.

“How did I do?” Santoros had already half unbuttoned his jacket as if screaming to get out of it and into something more battle-worthy.

Beauregarde smiled the smile of an old man complimenting his grandchild on the sand castle he'd just built. “You were yourself, captain. And despite what anyone tells you, that's all you're expected to be.The Captain produced a cigar out of nowhere, but offered it to the Commissioner first. “No thanks, but if you have a bottle of scotch up that sleeve of yours I'll nip a bit off that.” Surprisingly enough, Santoros had a flask on him. The two laughed as the men filed out of the room. Santoros lit up his cigar while Beauregarde kicked back the flask.

“One of the men told me he saw Mahi in the crowd.”

It couldn't be avoided. “Yeah, I saw him too.”

“You think he's still here?”

He twisted the cap back on the flask, “No, I saw him walk in and walk back out a minute later.” The Commissioner sighed. He handed the flask back to the Captain who pulled the cap back off and took a swig.

“The fact that that rat-bastard isn't on the Target List is downright fucking appalling…sir.”

The Commissioner put his hat back on. “Believe me, Captain. I know…I know more than anyone. There's supposedly a case building against him somewhere, but I guess I'm out of the loop on that. For now at least, we're better off chasing down Boss…N-word, and his witch-doctor friend. I don't know who's more dangerous.”

“With all due respect, sir, if he calls himself Boss Negro, I think we should be allowed to call him that.”

Beauregarde laughed. “You're allowed to talk like that because you're Santoros, who has to say the word Fuck every five minutes to reassure himself that it's still a word. Me? I'm the Police Commissioner. To me, he's Boss African American and if he's anything other than that then the Mainport Gazette gets to dine first class on my ass.”

Santoros chuckled. “Are you coming up to the training tomorrow?” They started moving towards the elevators.

“I'll pop in from time to time, but I'm going to debrief the precincts on their new priorities over the next few days.”

“'Kay, I gotta run back for something. I'll see ya' around.”

Beauregarde stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor. The elevator shook up and down before making its descent. Handing military super-weapons over to beat-cops. He was the one who'd come up with the plan, but even he'd never thought it'd go this far. He felt uneasy. Whatever SPARROW would become over the next few months, he'd be the one responsible for it. If something terrible happened, then he had the power to place blame on anyone in the department and get away with it. Only…that wasn't Beauregarde. Mainport needed a way to level the playing field and aside from arming the populace, letting every Tom, Dick, and Harry play at being vigilantes, this was the only way he knew how.

The elevator stopped. The doors opened. Mr Mahi, walked in leaving his three bodyguards behind. The doors closed.

The air was still and charged. The Commissioner broke the silence. “You're a brave man to walk into an elevator with your greatest enemy with no backup.”

Mahi smiled. He was getting old, but he was built strong and solid; tall as the Commissioner. The sort of man who looked immovable at any age. “You, Commissioner? Heh, you're not my greatest enemy,” he said through his thick Tongan accent. He smiled to himself. His eyes sparkled like he knew the answer to a riddle but he wasn't telling anyone. “No, no, if anything, I'd consider you to be one of my closest friends.”

The Commissioner's jaw tightened. “Why?” He felt dizzy for a moment.

“A man who visits the aquarium every day and sees the sharks can come to think of them as his friends. In this case at least, you're the shark, Commissioner.”

“You've tried to have me killed.”

“And you're still alive. That says a lot about our friendship.”

“You've tried to have my family killed!”

“Water under the bridge! Besides, that was a very long time ago,” Mahi pushed the button for the elevator to stop. His eyes became less soft and the laughter crept out of his voice, “don't pretend you and I aren't on the same level, Commissioner. We were both born to be warriors and when you've sparred with a man for as long as you and I have then you'd know that man better than your own blood.”

The two shared a silent moment in that elevator. For a hand-full of seconds in that honest moment, they could look each other in the eye and they knew that in some way that they could never admit to anyone let alone themselves, they shared some kind of twisted friendship.

“Why are you funding the SPARROW unit?”

Mahi's face didn't change. “It may surprise you to know, that there are citizens in this city that respect the sanctity of human life.”

“Oh please…”

Mahi held up his hand, “Fair enough. But in one way or another, half this city is made of my employees. The other half, at least, buys my products.A smile returned to his face and a sparkle crept back into his eyes. And besides all that, if there were an all out war between the vigilantes, the mercenaries, the madmen, and…well, myself, Mainport would be nothing more than a desolate crater.He pressed a button and the elevator began to move again.

Beauregarde narrowed his eyes. It made sense, unfortunately. He wished that Mahi were just another insane power-hungry criminal on the street instead of the cunning power-hungry business-man orchestrating everything from his penthouse office.

The doors opened and his bodyguards were waiting for him. The SPARROW unit is a much needed presence in this city, Commissioner. You're a smart man. We'll all be needing it if this city's to find a good balance one day.”

They turned to walk away, but Commissioner Beauregarde spoke up, “Stay away from my family, Mahi.” It wasn't a plea or a request. It was a threat.

Mahi turned around. His eyes shone. “Don't ask me to be something I'm not, Commissioner, and I'll never ask you to do the same.”

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