Prompt: this image
There was a struggle for power in every level of Valor City just ten years ago. It was a complete collapse, with everyone, in every societal increment, upset over their standing. Politicians thought their jobs too dangerous. Those of the blue collar thought the politicians didn’t even do anything. Those of the white collar ran it all but were still dissatisfied.
They’d accidentally created a world with no opportunities: a dull place full of crime but very little violence. There was never a boiling point; it was more of an explosion. The city fell apart in days, as absolutely everyone failed to fulfill their duties at the same time. With all the workers, regulators, and managers away, their infrastructure had literally ruptured. Water tanks leaked. Gas tanks blew up. A few buildings fell.
They needed strife back in their lifes, so that sort of thing couldn’t happen again. They needed arrogant criminals and they needed the conflict to be noisy, to keep everyone on their toes. This new struggle was short-lived, thanks to a brilliant man… or perhaps it was a woman… or maybe an organization.
Nobody really knew where the gifts came from, but they solved the problem perfectly. Twenty-six gifts dropped from the sky in sealed packages. They fell by small parachutes in the shape of each letter of the alphabet, and were picked up and opened by all sorts of random denizens of Valor City.
Debroah was one of the lucky few to come across one while she jogged in the park. She wasn’t even paying attention. She had headphones jammed so far in her head that they were practically ideas. The box struck her on the scalp and nearly knocked her over. Her body became tangled in the H parachute attached to it.
There was nobody around; she liked to jog in isolation, so she always chose the part of the park close to the storm drains. It smelled like sludge, pigeon waste, and stale ice cream cones. Debroah dropped to her knees, let her water bottle fall out of its sleeve and roll away, and examined the package. She thought she would need a box cutter, but it opened itself with a small sound like an automatic door.
Again she was faced with the letter H, this time four of them. She removed the contents and held it up: a green and yellow suit with a short cape. The repeated letter was built into every part of it. She again searched the sky for whatever plane had dropped it, but she only saw a few other packages making their descent in different parts of the city.
“You’ll never get away with this Quarrel Queen!” Heaven Hound shouted after her nemesis. The two costumed rogues, the new height of power for Valor City, were locked in yet another struggle. Twenty-six heroes and villains roamed both day and night, keeping the struggle real, keeping it visible. Heaven Hound, it was the best name Debroah could come up with for all those H‘s, was one of the good guys. Quarrel Queen on the other hand…
The Queen’s latest plot involved interrupting the local pride parade and controlling the minds of some of the celebrating citizens. That was the power granted to her by her Q-shaped headband: part of her gift from the sky. One of the floats for the parade had a large aquarium tank atop it, and inside was the city’s mascot: Greg the hawksbill sea turtle. Quarrel Queen knew if she could capture him the right patriot would pay a pretty penny online for the privilege of keeping the city’s pet as their own.
But it was not Pretty Penny opposing Quarrel Queen that day, in the middle of the chaotic streets and the colorful floats; it was Heaven Hound in all her glory. She could see the Queen at the end of the street, trying to make her escape as she walked along the edge of Greg’s tank. She had mind-controlled the float’s driver and ordered him to go as fast as the vehicle would allow.
Heaven Hound could catch up thanks to her own suit; it granted her the speed, posture, and power of a sprinting wolf. She dropped her to her hands and ran across the street, leaving sprays of confetti in her wake. The problem was the remnants of the scattered parade, all colorfully dressed as if they had received the same gift from the sky as the alliterative heroes and villains.
Quarrel Queen had their minds thoroughly vexed, and they thought Heaven Hound was the villain on the scene. They chased after her, grabbing with painted nails and shrieking. She could not harm them, as they were her citizens. As long as the sun rose and fell, Heaven Hound was a force for good. In the years since the heroes rose she’d never taken an innocent life, not even the ones transformed into henchmen by the wicked likes of the Quarrel Queen.
The villain cackled as her float rounded a corner and disappeared from sight. Heaven Hound was fast, but her endurance was limited. If she didn’t catch them within the next few streets it would all be over. Debroah knew a hero was only as good as their most recent victory, so she doubled her efforts, forcing her body to fall into rhythm with the super-powered suit. They were one.
Dusk was upon them as well, which meant her shift was almost over. That meant two fuses were burning on the confrontation. Heaven Hound growled as she ducked under the line of floats and ran through them, where the mind-controlled could not follow. When she found the best angle she turned on a dime and bolted down an alley. The float would be just on the other side… if she had calculated the speed correctly. There was a wall up ahead: twenty feet of red brick denial.
Heaven Hound took a deep breath, felt it burn inside her, and jumped. She scaled the pile of garbage and broken wood pallets pushed against the wall. She half-ran and half-climbed her way over it… and leapt.
The next street appeared. Quarrel Queen barely had time to look over before Heaven Hound collided with her, the pounce sending the villain flying into the sea turtle’s tank. The water interrupted her connection, dampened her powers, and the paraders were able to flee before she could resurface. Heaven Hound jumped in as well, ignoring the confused slapping of the turtle, and held the Queen’s head under the water for several seconds.
If she wanted to she could end it now, just let the last air bubbles rise and pop. Quarrel Queen would never destroy a person’s will again… but that would break the cycle. Twenty-six heroes and villains always fighting over right and wrong. It was loud, it was destructive, but it was all the quarreling in the city rolled into one event. As long as they fought each other, everything else went perfectly. The politicians couldn’t slack off. The managers couldn’t take advantage without someone noticing.
Heaven Hound loosened her grip, and Quarrel Queen gasped at the surface. The police arrived to take her into custody just as Heaven Hound threw her onto the street, sans headband. the Queen swore at the hero that bested her, and swore that she would return.
Hell Hound stood atop the tallest building in Valor City, holding Quarrel Queen’s headband. She watched another fight in the distance, framed by the sun’s weakening orange light. Burly Bastard battled the Justice Juggler. She heard people cheer the hero on, but the sound stung in her ears. Her shift was over; the sun was setting.
The colors of her costume slowly changed, from green and yellow to white and black. The four H‘s stood out in the growing darkness. She was not Heaven Hound anymore. Now she was Heist Heel, ready for another night of thievery and seduction. She looked at the headband. Her friend Quarrel Queen would want this returned. They always had such fun together, stripping the wealthiest of their money and putting smiles on their unknowing faces while it happened.
Twenty-six gifts. Twenty-six heroes and villains. Thirteen people.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by JasmoColors during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!