The thug runs down the crowded sidewalk, shoving people out of the way. Two cops chase behind him, blasters drawn. The thug shoves a woman into a fruit cart, sending a dozen oranges rolling down onto the street. The cops slip on the oranges and fall flat onto their backs.
“He’s getting away!” one of them shouts, firing his blaster at the thug, who nimbly avoids each of the shots.
“No, he isn’t,” the other cop says with a smile. “Do you hear that?”
Roaring sirens and flashing lights wash over the sidewalk as a man on hoverbike races past. He wears a black leather jacket emblazoned by a silver star and a blue stripe that clings to his muscular frame. A pair of aviator glasses, a thick mustache, and a motorcycle helmet cover his face, but his fellow officers can tell just from his body language who he is.
“It’s Starkicker!” one of the cops shouts, overjoyed.
Jet Starkicker, Space Cop, draws his blaster and fires at the fleeing thug. Civilians jump out of the way as he pulls his hoverbike onto the sidewalk. The thug is fast, most thugs are, but Starkicker’s bike is faster. Jet Starkicker closes in on the fleeing thug and grabs him by the back of his shirt.
The thug struggles against Starkicker’s grasp and trips. The front fender of the hoverbike slams into his back, knocking him to the ground. The speeding hoverbike flies over the thug. Jet Starkicker glances over his shoulder at the thug behind him. He knows that the turning radius on hoverbikes is awful, and that, by the time he gets back to the thug, the thug will be long gone.
Jet Starkicker grits his teeth and extends his arm out far from his bike. He hooks it around a streetlight and slingshots his bike, turning it 180 degrees in an instant. The hoverbike barrels back towards the thug as he crawls back to his feet.
Starkicker turns his bike, slamming it into the thug as it comes to a halt. He steps off the bike, draws his blaster, and points it down at the defeated criminal. “You have the right to remain silent, punk,” he says with a smirk.
A crowd of civilians cheers as Starkicker’s fellow officers run up to him. “You really saved our hides, Jet,” one of them says.
“Just doing my job, keeping the streets safe from scum like this piece of shit,” Starkicker says, kicking the thug in the side.
“Marvelous work, Jet,” Captain Lemongrass says, pouring two tall glasses of whiskey. “Care for a drink?”
“But Captain, isn’t drinking on the job against regulations?” Starkicker asks. He and the Captain stare each other in the eyes for a moment before laughing. Jet Starkicker takes his glass.
“Don’t pay mind to the whining of bureaucrats who’d never have the guts to do what you do, Jet,” Lemongrass says. “You’re out there fighting the good fight, keeping our people safe.”
“Come on, Cap, tell me something I don’t know.”
The Captain sighs. “Got a call from the mayor’s office after your arrest earlier. Bunch of people have their panties in a twist over excessive force,” he says, with excessive force punctuated with air quotes.
“Shitstain’s still breathing, ain’t he?” Jet says, rolling his eyes.
“Regardless, some lady from the mayor’s office is coming down to bitch at you.”
“Diversity hire?” Starkicker asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Probably. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure it becomes nothing more than a lecture,” Lemongrass says. “Besides, you won’t have to deal with the Mayor for very long. With the way he’s being raked over the coals for treating the aliens with kid gloves, he won’t be in power for much longer.”
“That remains to be seen, Mr. Lemongrass,” a woman’s voice says.
Tiffany Annalise, the woman from the Mayor’s office, walks into Captain Lemongrass’s office carrying a large stack of papers. She glances at Starkicker. “Oh, good, the problem child is here,” she says.
“What’s with the paperwork, Miss Analise?” Lemongrass asks.
Annalise slams the pile of papers down of Lemongrass’s desk. “This, dear Captain, are all the complaints we received after Officer Starkicker’s debacle,” she says.
“I got the guy, didn’t I?” Starkicker says.
“That isn’t the point!” Analise shouts in her shrill voice. “There are rules, rules that keep the people of this Colony safe. Rules that you seem incapable of following-”
“Easy, Miss Analise,” Lemongrass says, propping his feet up on his desk. “Starkicker may be unorthodox, but he’s still the best cop I have.”
“He’s a loose cannon!”
“He gets results,” Lemongrass says. “Your regulations are so concerned with doing things the right way, with castrating our cops so thugs don’t get their feelings hurt, that you’re stopping good cops from fighting crime.”
Analise points at Starkicker. “He’s a violent maniac-”
“No, not a maniac. I’m the guy who fights maniacs,” Starkicker says, finishing his drink. “What I am is a warrior. I’m a knight sworn to protect the people of this Colony from the sick freaks who want to mess with their property and their lives. I fight violence with violence. Violence is my tool and I have mastered it.”
Analise scoffs. “I’ll make sure you lose your badge. Maybe not today, but someday.”
Jet Starkicker sets his empty glass down and crosses his arms. “You know, if you weren’t a chick, I’d deck you for that.”
“How dare you-”
“Have a nice day, Miss Analise,” Captain Lemongrass says. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Jet Starkicker parks his hoverbike in front of a nice, suburban home. The lawn is trimmed and the windows are spotless. A young boy plays in the driveway, throwing a basketball at a hoop. The ball bounces off the backboard and Jet Starkicker jumps, catching the ball and dunking it in the hoop.
“Wowee, that was awesome, dad!” the boy says.
Starkicker runs his fingers through the boy’s hair, roughing it up a bit. “Good day at school, sport?” he asks.
“Uh-huh. Our teacher taught us about the history of the Colony and how the aliens came and how you’re keeping us safe from them,” the boy says. “Is it true that they can spit acid and read minds?”
“You don’t have to worry about things like that,” Starkicker says. “If any goddamn alien tries to mess with my family, I’ll be ready. I’ll turn the motherfucker to dust.”
“Be careful with your language, honey,” Starkicker’s wife says as she walks over to him, carrying a tray of lemonade and pastries.
Jet Starkicker puts an arm around her shoulders. “If you had a problem with the way I talk, you probably shouldn’t have married me,” he says in a playful voice.
Mrs. Starkicker laughs. “Have a good day at work, honey?”
“Beat up a few animals, got yelled at by a woman from the mayor’s office. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Starkicker’s son shoots the ball at the hoop. It hits the rim and bounces back. He jumps to catch it, but the ball slips through his fingers and bounces into the street, where it is hit by a passing hovercar.
“My ball!” the boy shouts.
“Calm down, it’s just a ball. Nothing to get worked up about,” Starkicker says. “I’ll get you a new one tomorrow.”
“Last night, an alien escaped from the seventh ward,” Captain Lemongrass says to a group of police officers gathered for the morning meeting. “Our officers put it down before it was able to hurt anyone, but it managed to get as far as Fifth Street before we caught it. This shows a hole in our defenses. I’m going to be doubling the number of patrolmen guarding the blue line, at least until we figure out how an alien slipped by.”
A wave of groans and complaints covers the room. The Captain raises his hand and the room goes silent. “Listen, I don’t expect you to like this, but this is how it has to be if we’re going to keep this city from descending into chaos,” he says. “Thirteen years ago, the aliens invaded this Colony. We didn’t ask for this, we didn’t want it, but we dealt with it. The bureaucrats tied our hands and stopped us from wiping them out, but we did the best we did. We forced them into the lower wards, where the thugs and the addicts live. And we need to keep these aliens there, make sure they don’t invade the nice parts of the city. Because, if we don’t, our society will crumble.”
The officers salute their Captain. “I’ll let you know by the end of the day if you have to guard the line tonight,” he says. “You’re all dismissed.”
Jet Starkicker catches up to the Captain as he’s walking back to his office. “Need me out there tonight, Captain?” he asks.
“I haven’t finalized the assignments yet, but no,” Captain Lemongrass says. “You’re a good officer, Jet. You deserve a night of rest. Let the others handle this one.”
“With all due respect, Captain, I’d prefer to guard the line tonight,” Starkicker says. “No offense to the others, but most of them are dumbasses. If something’s going to happen, I want to be there, so I can make sure the person responsible is punished.”
“Volunteering? Not sure if your new partner is going to be happy about that.”
“My new what?”
Lemongrass and Starkicker step into the Captain’s office, where a young space cop is standing. His uniform is tidy and his badge is shiny. He has a youthful face with the beginnings of a peach fuzz mustache. He perks up as Starkicker enters and offers his hand. Starkicker stares at it without taking it.
“Jet, this is Bobby Rook. He’s going to be your new partner starting today,” Lemongrass says.
Starkicker rapidly switches between glaring at Rook and Lemongrass. “It’s nice to be formally introduced to you, sir,” Rook says.
“Jesus, Cap, could you have gotten a younger cop?” Starkicker asks.
“Don’t pin this on me. The mayor’s office demanded I assign you a partner to keep you in line,” Lemongrass says.
“You don’t have to worry about my competence, sir. I graduated top of my class at the academy, with a degree in criminal punishment and perfect scores on all of the physical exams,” Rook says.
“Oh, fantastic. You got me a brown-noser with no experience working the street!” Starkicker says.
“No, I got you the only recruit who might be capable of keeping up with you,” Lemongrass says. “Besides, it’s good that he’s new. That means you can teach him to be a warrior of justice just like yourself.”
“I’m eager to learn, sir,” Rook says.
Starkicker grumbles a few curse words before sighing. “Don’t slow me down, kid,” he says.
Starkicker pulls the police hovercar into a drive-thru. A robotic voice asks him his order. “Two coffees, black,” he says.
“Actually, sir, I’d like some sugar with mine,” Rook says.
“No, you don’t,” Starkicker says, pulling ahead. “We have a long day ahead of us and I don’t want you watering down your fuel like a goddamn kid on Halloween.”
“Right,” Rook says, jotting Starkicker’s words down in a notebook.
“What the hell is that?” Starkicker asks, ripping the notebook out of Rook’s hands.
“It’s a notebook, sir. I’m taking notes, so I can better emulate your actions.”
Starkicker tosses the notebook out the window. He takes his coffee from the cashier and drives away. Starkicker is silent as the car drives through the city. After an hour of driving, it reaches a ridge on the Colony that looks out over the city.
Starkicker parks the hovercar and steps out. “What are we doing here, sir?” Rook asks, following him.
“You aren’t going to become a good cop by keeping track of everything I do. We’re here so I can teach you to be a good cop,” Starkicker says. “I come here every morning before I start patrolling, to get my head in the game.”
Rook steps forward, to the edge of the ridge, and looks out. From here, he can see the entire Colony; the densely populated urban centers where most of the Colony lives; the plush suburbs where first-class citizens like Starkicker live; the Oxygen farms surrounding the city; the endless sea of cold and black outside the Colony’s dome.
“Looking out at this, what do you see?” Starkicker asks.
“I see Lunar Colony 6, an enclosed city of approximately three million people,” Rook says.
“Yeah? That isn’t what I see,” Starkicker says, sitting on the hood of the hovercar and staring up at the sky. “I see the crack.”
Rook looks up, at the glass dome surrounding the colony. He’s never known a world not surrounded by the dome, so he barely notices it. Still, if he concentrates, he can see the not quite clear hemisphere covering the Colony. And, if he looks straight up, he can see the crack. A jagged line stretching across the dome, sealed shut by hardened grey metal.
“You remember when the invasion happened?” Starkicker asks.
“Somewhat. Admittedly, I was only a child at the time,” Rook says.
“I see it, every time I close my eyes. The sky broke open and an alien ship crashed down in the center of the city. We didn’t know what was going on, not yet, we just knew we were in danger. Oxygen was leaking, pressure was dropping, we were dying. We were under attack. If the Space Cops had acted slower, if they didn’t close the breach in time, everyone in the Colony would have died,” Starkicker says. “The aliens say that it wasn’t intentional. They think we’re stupid, they think we’re too dumb to see an invasion for an invasion. Well, I’m not dumb. I know they tried to wipe us out. I know they’re out there, biding their time, waiting to kill our women and children. I’m ready for them.”
Rook doesn’t say anything. “How long have you been here, on the Colony?” Starkicker asks.
“I was born here, Sir,” Rook replies.
“Your family, how long has your family been here?”
“My family’s been here for six. My great-great-great-grandfather was one of the original Colonists. Living in a place that long, it becomes a part of you. The need to protect this Colony is burned into my blood,” Starkicker says. “The aliens, they don’t understand that, having loyalty to your home. They’re like locusts, moving from planet to planet, killing and looting.”
Starkicker jumps off the hood of the car and walks over to Rook. “You want to be a Space Cop? You want to protect this Colony from those who would do her harm?” he asks.
“Yes sir,” Rook says.
“Good. There are three things you need to understand if you’re going to be my partner. Lesson one: Loyalty above all else. From this moment on, you are not Robert Rook, individual. You are a member of the Colony Six Police Department. If one of us is hurt, we all bleed. If one of us is killed, we all feel the pain.”
“This loyalty is needed for the second key to being a good Space Cop: we live and die by our might,” Starkicker says. “The mindless masses of criminals out there, they outnumber us one thousand to one. The only thing keeping you alive is your gun and your fellow officers. There are more of them, yes, but they’re disorganized, sloppy, stupid. We’re better than them. We’re precise, we’re trained, and we have each other. We are mighty.”
“This strength gives us the authority for the third and final thing you need to know: your job, above all else, is to punish evildoers. Your job is to make those who kill, who steal, who maim, afraid to even step out of their front doors. Your job is to make the spineless masses out there so terrified of you they won’t even consider breaking the law. Any questions?”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to remember all this if I still had my notebook?”
Starkicker scowls at him. “Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood, sir.”
Jet Starkicker sighs and walks to the edge of the ridge. He stares out over the city. “There’s a thing I do, every morning, before I go on patrol,” he says. “I’m going to show you it, and you aren’t going to tell anyone. And, if you do tell anyone, I will murder you. This is not a joke, I will literally shoot you in the heart and watch as the life leaves your eyes.”
“Okay…?” Rook says, a bit timid.
“Put your hands on your hips, stare out over the city, and repeat after me,” Starkicker says. He places his hands on his hips and Rook does the same. “I am a hero, I am the defender of this city from the beasts that want to destroy it!”
“I am a hero, I am the defender of this city from the beasts that want to destroy it!” Rook shouts.
“Now, how do you feel?”
“Like a hero,” Rook says shyly.
“Hold on to that feeling, because that feeling is pure.”
Starkicker squints at the city. “There’s a large crowd congregating on Sixth Street,” he says. “Get ready, Rook, it’s time for you to do some real police work.”
Starkicker’s car skids to a stop in the middle of the city. Dozens of rioters flood the streets. They shout, they scream, they chant as they march through the city carrying handcrafted signs. Fifty cops stand, shoulder to shoulder, riot shields and batons in hand, keeping the flood at bay. Captain Lemongrass stands behind the cops, holding a bullhorn. “Please disperse, this is an unlawful gathering,” he says, the bullhorn making his voice as loud as that of God.
Starkicker jumps out of the hovercar, slamming the door behind him. He and Rook run up to the shield-bearing officers. “Sorry I’m late,” Starkicker says.
“Starkicker! I’m glad you’re here,” Lemongrass says.
“What’s going on, sir?” Rook asks.
Lemongrass sighs and looks at the angry hoard. Their march has come to a pause ten feet from the police line. The tension in the air is as thick as steel. “Rioters, angry over last night’s incident,” Lemongrass says.
“Angry that an alien got out of the lower wards, or angry that we didn’t wear kid gloves while enforcing the law?” Starkicker says, rolling his eyes.
“The crowd isn’t too out of control yet, just some broken windows and graffiti, but that could change at any moment,” Lemongrass says.
Suddenly, a plastic water bottle hits Lemongrass in the head, thrown by the crowd. “Motherfucker!” Lemongrass says, holding his head.
“That’s it, I’m ending this,” Starkicker says, shoving his way to the front of the police line.
“Easy, Jet, we don’t want to cause an incident,” Lemongrass says, grabbing Starkicker by the shoulder. “These people have been manipulated into thinking we’re the enemy, don’t throw more fuel on the fire.”
“You don’t get rid of a fire by letting it keep burning, Captain,” Jet Starkicker says.
“Jet, these people are scared-”
“Scared, is that what you see?” Jet says. “I don’t see fear in their eyes. Fear is the emotion of a rabbit running from a fox. I see anger, I see hate, I see malice. I see a crowd of killers using last night’s incident as an excuse to loot and destroy. I see wolves. But no, I don’t see fear.”
Starkicker walks past the cops with riot shields, hand on his holster. Rook and Lemongrass look on with terror. “Listen up!” Starkicker shouts. “I’m going to count to five. By the time I reach five, I want each and every one of you to leave here and go home. This is your last warning.”
Various members of the crowd shout obscenities at Starkicker. “One,” he says, a slight smile on his face. “Two. Three. Four-”
“Man, fuck you!” a young man at the front of the crowd shouts.
Starkicker turns stone-faced. He glances back at Lemongrass, giving him a look that says let me handle this. Starkicker walks up to the man who shouted at him. The man wears a red hoodie. He stares the man dead in the eyes, so close that he can see the sweat dripping from the young man’s forehead. “You want to repeat that?” Starkicker says calmly.
“I told you to go fuck yourself, pig!” the man shouts.
Starkicker smiles. “Alrighty then,” he says.
In an instant, Starkicker draws his blasting, pistol-whipping the man in the face. The man staggers backward as chaos consumes the street. Rioters swarm Starkicker, forcing him to the ground. The riot cops charge in.
Starkicker struggles against the weight holding him down. Three or four rioters tackled him, he isn’t sure the exact number. One rioter grabs the barrel of Starkicker’s gun, trying to yank it out of his hand. Starkicker pulls the trigger and laughs as the thief runs away, clutching a bleeding hand.
The other tacklers run away, scared by the gun. Starkicker pulls himself to his feet and assesses the situation. The police are handily defeating the rioters, smashing them with batons and putting them in handcuffs. Still, some are fighting back. A large rioter picks up a garbage can and throws it at Starkicker. Starkicker jumps out of the way as the rioter charges at him.
A blaster shot strikes the man in the chest and he crumples to the ground. Starkicker looks over his shoulder to see Rook running in, blaster in hand. “Nice shot, kid,” Starkicker says.
“Are you okay, sir?” Rook asks.
“I’ve faced worse,” Starkicker says, elbowing a rioter in the face.
“The other officers have the more aggressive rioters in custody. Most of them are fleeing.”
Starkicker scowls. “Damnit,” he says.
“What?” Rook asks.
“If they’re fleeing, that means that they’ll be out there, ready to cause another riot the next time they feel bored,” Starkicker says.
“What do we do?”
“Go get Lemongrass, tell him to shut down eight street and ninth street. We’ll box them in, keep any criminals from slipping through the cracks.”
“Got it,” Rook says before running off.
Starkicker scans the crowd, looking for a specific individual. He finds his target, draws his blaster, and fires.
An hour later, the riot has been quelled. Jet Starkicker sits in the back of a hover ambulance. A paramedic bandages the scrapes received during the battle. Rook stands next to the ambulance, wiping the blood from his baton.
Sixth Street is covered in men and women with bruised faces sitting on their knees, hands chained behind their backs, guarded by an army of police waiting for cars to come and take them back to the station. Starkicker sees destruction as far as he can see; shattered windows, crashed hovercars, graffitied obscenities. The desolation disgusts Starkicker.
A pair of paramedics push a gurney towards the ambulance. Starkicker hops out and approaches them. “Hold it,” he says, stopping them in their tracks. “Where are you taking this man?”
“To the hospital, he’s been shot in the leg,” one of the paramedics says.
“Not yet, there’s something I need to do first,” Starkicker says.
He walks over to the feet of the gurney and looks over the man lying before him. It’s the man from before, the rioter in the red hoodie who told Starkicker to go fuck himself. The lower half of the man’s left is gone, burned off at the knee. The moment he sees Starkicker, the rioter jerks back in fear.
“Not so tough now, are you?” Starkicker says, smirking.
The rioter grabs a paramedic. “Get me away from this psychopath!” he shouts.
“Easy now, you don’t want to make this worse than it already is, do you?”
“You shot me!” the man shouts. “I was running away and you shot me!”
“In the leg. Be thankful I had the mercy to avoid shooting you in the heart.”
“Officer, we need to get this man to a hospital,” the paramedic says.
“In a minute,” Starkicker says. He pulls out a pair of handcuffs and throws them on the rioter’s chest. “Cuff yourself, you’re under arrest.”
“What?” the rioter shouts.
“Don’t bitch at me for arresting you. If you don’t want to go to jail, don’t do the crime.”
“What fucking crime?”
“Resisting arrest. Assaulting a police officer. Inciting a riot. Take your pick,” Starkicker says.
“I didn’t do anything-”
Starkicker grabs the gurney and flips it over, dumping the rioter onto the ground. Starkicker puts his knee on the man’s back and begins cuffing him. Rook runs over, blaster in hand. “Is everything okay, sir? I heard shouting,” he shouts.
“Nothing to worry about, kid,” Starkicker says. “This punk won’t be hurting anyone ever again. I bet prison’s fun with only one leg.”
“You’re insane,” the rioter says, sobbing. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Oh yeah?” Starkicker says, reaching into the rioter’s back pocket. “Then what’s this?” Starkicker pulls out a pocket knife and shows it to Rook.
“I work in a grocery store, I use it to cut open boxes!” the rioter whines.
“Sure, and you just happened to bring it to a riot,” Starkicker says, rolling his eyes. “You approached a police officer, carrying a weapon, screaming obscenities. Then you reached for your pockets like a fucking idiot, and I’m the bad guy for defending myself? Fuck you.”
Starkicker finishes cuffing the rioter and spits on him. He tosses the knife to Rook. “Bag that up as evidence,” he says.
Rook sticks the knife in his pocket and follows after Starkicker. “That was amazing, sir,” Rook says. “I didn’t even see that knife.”
“That’s the problem with new cops. They don’t see the threats,” Starkicker says. “You need to treat every person as a potential threat. Every time you step out of your front door, you need to be thinking about your family, thinking about what would happen to them if you were gone. You need to be ready to kill, or you’re going to end up in the ground. Understand?”
“I think so,” Rook says. “But, isn’t that type of thinking a bit dangerous? I mean, what gives us the right to be violent?”
Starkicker scoffs. “You act like that’s a bad thing. Here’s the thing Rook, we live in a violent world,” he says. “Let me tell you a story Lemongrass told me when I first became a space cop. In this world, there are two types of people: doves, and hawks.”
Starkicker gestures at the various vandalized buildings along Sixth Street. “Most people are doves. Calm, friendly, peaceful. If the world was made entirely of doves, it would be a good place. But the world isn’t just made of doves,” he says. He looks at the chained rioters being taken away by the police. “There are also hawks. Monsters without remorse, creatures who live only to kill and rape and steal. Hawks aren’t peaceful like doves, they live for violence. And, if you don’t kill the hawks, the hawks will kill the doves.”
“Then what are we, hawks or doves?” Rook asks.
“We, Rook, are something different. We’re eagles,” Starkicker says. “We’re like hawks, capable of violence, but we don’t use it for our own gain. We use it to protect the doves and punish the hawks. We keep society safe and civil. That’s what gives us the right.”
Hours later, after the sun has gone down, Rook and Starkicker sit in the hovercar, sipping coffee. They’ve been parked on Fifth Street for hours, keeping an eye out for aliens trying to cross into the city.
“Bored yet, Rook?” Starkicker asks.
“A little bit, sir,” Rook says.
Starkicker sighs. “Police work isn’t all fighting criminals, unfortunately,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s sitting in a car for six hours to keep the city safe from aliens.”
“Yeah,” Rook says.
They sit in silence for a few more minutes. “Sir, if you don’t mind me leaving, I’d like to go use the restroom,” Rook says.
“You don’t need to tell me every time you take a shit, it’s weird,” Starkicker says.
“Sorry,” Rook says, stepping out of the car.
Starkicker taps his fingers on the steering wheel, bored out of his mind. He steps out of the car to stretch his legs. He walks away from the car, up to the painted blue line splitting Fifth Street in half, and stares at it.
The line is simultaneously everything and nothing. When the aliens came, when the sky split open, the Space Cops forced the invaders back into the lower wards of the city. They wanted to go further, to wipe the aliens out, but the politicians and the media had told them no, forced them to let the festering hoard stay in their city, growing in power and waiting for their moment to strike. The Space Cops painted an unbroken line on Fifth Street, a border that the aliens were forbidden from crossing. Guards were stationed, checkpoints set up, law restored. And, for a time, things were calm.
But, as time went on, and the wounds of the invasion began to heal, security loosened. The politicians balked at the idea of guarding the blue line 24/7 and slashed the cops’ budget. And then, last night, for the first time in years, an alien stepped across the blue line.
A clanging noise breaks Starkicker from his thoughts. He draws his blaster and looks around, ready to fire. Something flies past his leg and he turns, trying to track it with his eye. He turns back to see an alien step over the blue line.
Bang. He pulls the trigger, he fires his blaster and shoots the alien. The invader crumples to the ground.
Starkicker’s heart is beating a million times a minute. His breathing is heavy. Sweat pours down his forehead. He would never admit it, but he is terrified. He takes a deep breath and walks over to the alien to make sure it’s dead.
He looks down at the alien lying before him. It lies in a pool of red blood, gasping for air. A charred hole sits in the center of its chest, created by Starkicker’s blaster.
What surprises Starkicker is how small the alien is. It’s only about four feet tall, with rounded features and big eyes. It’s a child. A little boy. He reminds Starkicker of his own son so much it hurts.
Starkicker glances over his shoulder and sees a rubber ball sitting on the ground. He begins to piece things together. The alien had been playing with his ball. It rolled over the line. He went to grab it. And Starkicker shot him.
Starkicker looks back at the dying alien. Tears are pooled around the alien’s eyes. For a moment, Starkicker feels remorse. Then he snaps out of it.
He did this to himself! He stepped over the line, he broke the law. Rules exist for a reason, to keep people safe. The aliens stay in the poorer wards, that’s the law. It isn’t Starkicker’s fault for enforcing the law.
And what was he doing, out at night? It’s like he wanted to die! For all Starkicker knew, he was coming to kill him, to kill his family. Starkicker was terrified!
Why couldn’t the aliens have just stayed on Earth and left the good people of Colony Six alone? They never asked for them to come, to flood their neighborhoods and destroy their culture. Six generations! That means something!
Starkicker is an eagle. He protects people. He isn’t a hawk. He isn’t a monster. He’s an eagle. He isn’t a dove, doves get eaten. But he isn’t a killer. He kills killers. He’s a good man.
The dying child coughs and reaches out to Starkicker. He stares at Starkicker with his terrified eyes. Starkicker places his foot on the boy’s throat and presses down. He feels the sound of the boy’s windpipe cracking, he hears the sound of blood vessels popping. He watches as the life leaves the boy’s eyes.
It isn’t hard, killing the boy. It’s easy. Because Starkicker is a warrior.
“Sir?” Rook says.
Starkicker’s head snaps back. Rook stands behind him, staring. Starkicker doesn’t know how long he’s been there. He doesn’t care, not really. He notices that his gun is still in his hand and his foot is still on the dead child’s throat. He moves his foot. He doesn’t put the gun away.
Rook walks over to the murdered child and looks down at him. “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s a shame, sir, that they have to break our laws.”
Rook reaches into his pocket and pulls out the pocketknife. He carefully places it in the child’s limp hand. “Crossing the blue line and attacking a policeman with a knife? Absolutely horrible,” Rook says. “Good job, keeping our city safe from these vermin.”
Starkicker steps into his son’s bedroom. It’s after midnight, and his son is fast asleep. He sits down on the bed and watches his son sleep. He’s reminded of what he fights for,
“Dad?” his son says. He’s barely awake.
“Go back to sleep,” Starkicker says.
“How was work?”
“Good, I kept you safe,” Starkicker says. He plants a kiss on his son’s forehead.
As he leaves his son’s bedroom, he places a rubber ball on his son’s dresser.