She must have been the fastest runner I’d ever seen. A glimpse of green flashed from her hand as she fled down the tight alleyway. Dark hair and a girlish figure were all I could remember as the driver pulled the squad car over to the side, behind the sirens of the officers already on the scene. “Usually quiet this time of night,” my partner said from the driver’s seat. He and I go out of our cars, drawn and ready, even though the suspect was already long gone. Two officers were already following her.
The lieutenant, a tall, lean, authoritative woman, gave us fresh orders. “We’re stationed on the other side,” she explained. Most likely she’ll be trapped, but she may come back this way. As she explained, she pulled out a holographic map, showing the locations of both the officers and the suspect. Somehow, using odd and awkward back alleys, she avoided without actually being able to escape. “When the next pair get here, I’ll send both of you in.” She saw the next squad car coming in the corner of her eye: she was famed for her peripheral vision in our department. “In fact, they’re here. We’ll stay here in case she doubles back. Go. Be careful.”
My partner, Stilkes, led the way, a dark red orb hovering in between two hands, one under and one above, with the orb floating directly between them. I had my orb drawn as well, a smaller blue orb.
We followed her down the alleyway, stopping at a cross section. “I’m sure she went that way,” he said, and turned the corner. Right before my eyes, I saw Stilkes fly ten feet in the air from a yellow-green blast. I turned and fired a blue bolt at the suspect, but she was gone again. I turned back to Stilkes. Stilkes stood up and leaned against the wall. “I’ll be fine,” he said, “Go after her. Get that bitch.”
I followed down one alleyway, and another, knowing she could appear at any second. I came sprinting around another corner and, sure enough, she was there. She was jumping up, trying to reach a window ledge just out of her reach. “Halt!” I yelled, orb drawn. She stopped and looked, terrified, gaunt, like a wild animal. “Don’t try it! I’ll have no choice but to kill you.” She quickly considered her options, her eyes jumping here to there, terrified. She could have made a desperate move, a last chance, possibly even overtake me and have another chance for escape. She didn’t tremble.
But, alas, she was beaten. Her head drooped with defeat, and she sank to her knees. Still cautious, I approached, not allowing my guard to drop. She was thin, too thin, like a feral animal that had been forced to the outskirts of society.
“According to the law of Social Order,” I stated, “I am legally obligated to take your orb from you. May you have mercy on your soul.” Carefully, slowly, I reached into her pocket, pulling out her orb from her pocket. The green color that had once been so prominent was gone, and in its place was dull yellow. It was the first time in my career that I actually had to confiscate an orb: it was rare in our district. As the orb separated farther from its owner, the color became dull, then, slowly, turned clear, and a look of peace overcame the suspect, and the girl began to look pale, white even, and then light gray. Particles drifted with the turning of her skin and she began to crumble, leaning to one side, and, finally, she slumped over into a pile of gray dust. The once vibrant orb was completely clear and could no longer float, a lifeless crystal ball in my hand.
A white t-shirt showing her belly ring barely concealed her breasts. It took a lot of effort not to stare at them, or the form of her hips in jeans, as she sat to one side, one arm holding her up and the other resting on the curves of her body. We were both on a blanket, overlooking the small town, and the stars were just about to emerge. “And then I told him to go home, you ruined one birthday cake already.”
She laughed, her whole body heaving. A flip of her dark hair revealed her pouty lips, a few freckles, and eyes, sensual eyes, that seemed to dared me, complete with eyeliner, lipstick, and makeup just for me. Was her laugh a little forced? Perhaps, but that only meant that she was trying, too, that she wanted in my pants just as badly. I moved a little closer.
“So you’ve never been up here before?”
She smiled, looking at me. “No, never. I love the view. And the stars. Do you know any constellations?”
I kept my smile up, even though I knew what was coming. “Not a darn thing. Could you teach me?”
“Of course,” she said, almost shyly. “That one’s…” I heard names and watched her pointing, feigning interest for a while, but then I knew my next move. Right in the middle of her sentence, I moved close. She sensed it, but kept going. She’s waiting. Mid-word, I landed a kiss right on her lips.
It was an awkward angle at first, but I made it work. As we made out, she instinctively put her hand up to my face. I’m not much for having my face touched by people I don’t know, but I let it slip this time, allowing my hand to follow the side of her body, skin against skin, starting at her extra rib and down to her waist, finally holding her waist with one hand and holding myself up with the other. Since her eyes were closed, I stole a peek at her orb, lying next to her. Vibrant pink. She thinks this is love. Fine by me. I grinned: I was getting lucky tonight.
A pair of headlights suddenly blinded both of us, flooding us and our immediate surroundings with light. I tried to cover my eyes and see what was happening; both were in vain until a car door opened and slammed. The lights stayed on. “Margerie, come with me.”
“Dad?” She exclaimed, standing. “Dad, I…”
“Not a word,” he said. “Car. Now.” Her head bent down. “Joey’s a nice guy.”
“Joey’s a nice guy, huh? Notice the color of his orb?” She said nothing. “Didn’t think so. Get in the car.” She moved to obey.
“And you, young man,” he said, challenging me. “I know you’re trying to drain color out of her orb. And I know what else you’re up to. I was your age, once. But you’re not even old enough to support yourself. Leave on your own, youngster. Be glad that’s all you get for now.” With that, he left, and darkness returned.
Well, my night was ruined. I picked up my blanket, floundering in the dark until I realized I could use my phone as a light. Too bad she’s under his thumb. Maybe when she’s older. I packed up, started the car, turned on my headlights, and headed home.
“Tonight on World Broadcast Network, home to the world’s most trustworthy news.”
“Hey Chad,” I yelled to the upper floor. “Live Programming’s on.” Although much of regular television had all but died out, Chad always appreciated live newsfeed, as though it was more real. I didn’t have much interest, but since Chad was going to change the channel anyway, I left it on. “Crime has statistically skyrocketed in the past six months, a drastic change since the Social Adjustment Measures were enacted. Authorities say this is due to more criminals being caught, while critics argue that these measures aren’t tough enough, citing the need for capital punishment for more offenses. One important aspect of the new Measures is that Authorities have granted the right to Police Officers to confiscate orbs from dangerous criminals immediately on the scene. Authorities believe this will eluviate the public outcry for justice and…”
Click. “How can you do this to me, Marvin? After all we’ve been through?”
“It’s not you, baby, it’s me.”
When my roommate finally came down the stairs, a stern-faced carrot top, he gave me the look. “You were taking forever,” I replied. Click. A very old movie appeared on the screen, black and white, with a giant lizard monster walking across a miniature city.
He joined me on the couch. “Could you at least recount what they talked about?”
“Confiscating more orbs. Oh, and crime is skyrocketing as well.”
He sighed. “Harsher punishments mean more criminals.”
“Or maybe they’re doing their jobs.” Click.
“Part of the system, man.” He pulled out his orb. “All about controlling these. They control our orbs, they control our lives.” Click.
“I’m not being controlled by the Authorities.” Click.
“Whatever. At least decide on a channel you want to watch.” Click.
He walked into the office, seemingly amazed with everything in it. It was a large room, collected replicas of antiques made to look exactly like their real counterparts. There was an Ivory chess set on the counter: the Boss didn’t know how to actually play the game. No one is brave enough to point that out, though. The visitor, a short, wiry man with thin, blonde hair and a second-hand suit, eyed the room with quick, nervous eyes and then rested them on the Boss. The Boss (god, I hate using that pretentious name) was a thick, bulging man with a charm that took attention off his quick temper. I sat next to him on the uncomfortable couch, striking an even more uncomfortable sensual pose that drew the visitor’s attention every so often, though he tried to hide it. I wore a dress with the silly opening in the leg. To me, that takes away the whole point of a dress, but it wasn’t my idea, I just get paid to look pretty (And yes, I literally get paid to look pretty. Nothing more, thank god). As much as I look like it, I’m not much of a girly girl. In fact, I’m not much for the cliché scene the Boss creates anyway. Cross-legged, I waited patiently for moron #1 to initiate contact with moron #2.
“Charlie Briggs,” the Boss said. “Have a seat.” Charlie saw a chair in-between two men in dark suits, the lackeys, and as uninviting as it looked, Charlie took a seat.
“They call me the Boss. I’ve heard good things, Charlie. So let me give it to you straight. You have talents that I could very well use, and I have something that you need. You follow, Charlie?”
With a gulp, he responded with a barely audible “yes Boss” and a nod.
“Very good. Now quite a few people are in the business of orbs. Color, you get me? And many of them refuse to work with me. I need someone to help me out, kid. Someone who can tell me what the other big boys are doing. And I would pay handsomely for it. So, what do you think?”
Charlie struggled to get his answer out. “We-Well, yes, I would s-s-sure like that.”
The Boss nodded. “Good. This is the big league, kid. And the big league kids get big rewards. Marcie, bring in the Machine, please.” He looked to me, acknowledging me for the first time that day.
I got up to leave, and when I came back, I was rolling out the Machine, a great big box of metal with cables, hoisted on a tall trolley. The breeze in the slit dress annoyed me as I sarcastically waved my hand to the Machine. Fortunately, no one here is smart enough to catch onto my sarcasm; all they see is a nice ass and long legs. Though that can be quite the advantage, sometimes. I sat back down near the Boss. “This Machine,” the Boss explained, “has color from orbs all over the world. The last shipment was from Africa. Warlords would do anything to support their civil wars. Anything with their child soldiers who aren’t good at soldiering.” He took a cable and pulled out his orb, a sickly green. He connected the cable and different colors flooded in, blue and red and white, all swirling together until they morphed into the same sickly green, only more dense than before. “Color is power, my friend. By helping me, you help yourself.” The Boss handed over the cable. “Try it. It feels good. Powerful.”
Charlie took out his own orb, a hysteric, bright purple at first, but as he gained color, the swirls started to turn to a distrustfully dark, ruddy orange. The Boss smiled. “You see? The next shipment isn’t quite as good. The poor and desperate usually pay up the best. This time it’s from a bunch of politicians. They need extra finances here and there, and they pay well. Very well. Eventually, my plan is to own the whole market on color. A monopoly, so to speak. You know why, Charlie?”
Charlie shook his head. “No, sir.”
The Boss grinned. “Because whoever can manipulate color can manipulate the world.”
My mom collected clear orbs every day. A short, dark, stocky woman who kept to herself, she always wore a heavy, oversized coat with large pockets, though, as I always admired, she was always able to look cute in it. She would stop by the hospital first, visit with some of the nurses and doctors if they had a moment to spare, and take a crate out to the van. Next was the Old Folk’s Home, which she always corrects with “Nursery”. She would go around town, collecting orbs, until she ended up at the local Police Station. Usually she wouldn’t let me come in, but this time I begged her. I was fourteen already. If that’s not old enough, how old do I have to be?
When I asked her for the hundredth time (though it had been a long time since last time I bothered to ask) she looked at me for a moment, weighed it, and nodded, turning to pick up an empty crate. “Finally!” I said, and then a hasty “thank you” before we got in the door.
Two men were in a conversation, and then one left, leaving an older man, gray hair, barrel chest, and a handlebar mustache, who was adjusting a worn-out ball cap. “Just as I was on my way out,” he said, beaming. “Caught me before I left, as usual.”
“How is it this time around, Randy?” My mom replied, eyeing the crate full of orbs on one of the counters.
The man caught on and switched her the full crate for an empty one. “More cocksuckers in jail this time. Too many lawbreakers. But a’least I’ve taken less orbs this week.”
She looked to me and nodded. “Alex, this is Officer Bill.”
He turned his head down toward me, tipping his hat. “Howdy,” he said. I didn’t respond.
Mom sighed and ignored me. “Taking orbs is nasty business.”
“If that were the worst of the whole fuckin’ thing,” he barked, as though his thoughts were a zit that needed popping. “I’ve dealt with quite a few in my career, I ‘ave. But most o’ those are criminals, black and white. They knew they did wrong and got punished for it. Some o’ these, though, somethin’s off. Their orb color, I mean. A’least a criminal’s looks healthy, rational I mean. Now, more and more turn a sickly yellow before they go. You know what that means? They’re sick, confused. Not knowing what to do. No peace in death.” He looked up, his entire demeanor changing in an instant. “But, somebody in this world’s got to keep the peace,” he added, attempting a cheerful smile. “That’s what we’re here for.”
We finally headed home for the night. I helped mom with the crates and brought them into the workshop. She piled them up with many of the others in a waiting line. I don’t think she ever got to the point where she didn’t have at least one crate piled up, and she worked long hours. As soon as the crates were down, she took the next one in line and examined it, finding a few broken parts where the orb was probably smashed. She took a substance from a tube and started to apply it, filling the holes. While she worked, I could see the orb in her coat pocket, glowing a light blue, but very light, and very dull. This meant she was focused on work, and not much else. Just to have a little interaction before I left her workshop and went to my room, I asked a question. “Mom, you said when I was older, I could ask you about the orbs. Why we have them, I mean.”
She stopped filling the cracks, swiveled in her chair, and, for the first time that day, looked at me. “We’re here to let people have peace. That’s what we do with the orbs, we let them rest. We also keep them from being misused by other people. You’ll know more as you age, but orbs can be manipulated for other people. Other people can give your orb vibrant colors, and other times they can drain it. There are good people in the world that try to help other people maintain good color. There are also bad people in the world who try to take color away from other people, use it for their own, even steal their orbs any color in them. That’s why it’s important to remember to keep your orb safe. You don’t have to be distrustful of everyone, but don’t let the colors control you. They’re easy for others to see and manipulate. Now, I have work to get done, and I’m sure you have homework.”
“Okay,” I said, and turned to leave.
“Alex,” she said. “I love you.” For the first time that day, her orb turned a light pink, with swirls of green, forest green, nurturing green. “I love you too.”
Then she went back to work, her orb turning a dull blue again as she worked on someone else’s former orb.