An excerpt from
Eight Million Strong
by James Chambers
(From The Side of Good)
7:43 A.M. Two drug deals, three burglaries—stopped. A kitten rescued from a dumpster. Solid night’s work! You’re welcome, Boyette City. #NightPatrol
7:46 A.M. Tonight’s Citizen-Protectors: Allie Park, Little Korea. Dabney Simms, Kirby Gardens. The city thanks YOU! #CitizenProtectors #8MillionStrong
7:51 A.M. Beautiful sunrise over St. John’s River! Only we can protect Boyette! Don’t let me down. #StJohnsSunrise #8MillionStrong
Lacie Ross lowered her phone and dropped her Giella designer handbag as she flopped into her chair. She stared at the small, gray box on her desk, worried if she opened it, she’d find something mundane inside rather than the fulfillment of a hope she’d cherished since sixth grade. A glance around the cubicle farm revealed her sleepy-eyed coworkers trickling into the office, coffees in hand, starting another uneventful day. They emanated invisible waves of tedium that failed to diminish Lacie’s excitement.
Her fingertips slid across the smooth cardboard.
Once she opened it she would have to choose.
Biting her lip, she flipped back the lid.
A pin of etched, gray steel in the shape of a stylized seabird nested on a silk cloth inside. The logo of the Albatross. Its eye—a red LED—blinked, inviting Lacie to become one of Boyette’s Citizen-Protectors, unlikely heroes who sacrificed their time and effort to protect the city. Some provided expertise or access to specialized information. Others used their jobs or social positions to monitor criminals or draw them out with misleading information. A few performed special assignments never made public. All earned the city’s gratitude.
Lacie knew by heart the Albatross’ slogans from his public service ads on the Internet, TV, and posters on the streets and subways, all branded with his signature avian silhouette.
Boyette City—Eight Million Protectors Strong.
If You See Something, Say Something—I’m Listening.
Your Streets. Your Duty.
Hang the Albatross Around the Neck of Crime.
Boyette’s anonymous defender flew watch drones around-the-clock in every part of the city and monitored it through thousands of mobile devices whose owners downloaded his “Eyes Everywhere” app—yet Lacie had never thought he’d ever really see her, let alone choose her for a Citizen-Protector.
She balanced the pin on her fingertips. The eye winked, on, off, on, off.
Those who accepted wore their pins every day, marked for life as Citizen-Protectors. Those who declined only waited until the blinking ceased and an acid reservoir dissolved the pin from the inside out. Growing up, Lacie’s circle of friends had asked each other a thousand times how they would choose.
“Morning, Lacie. I swear the subway gets more crowded every day. If I didn’t—” Sarah Lagos shuffled into their shared cubicle and plopped her tote bag by her chair before the sight of the pin startled her. “You’ve been called! What does he want?”
“I have to wear it to find out.”
“Are you going to?”
Pulse racing, Lacie smiled then pinned the gray bird to her blouse.
It perched above her heart, a badge of honor not yet earned.
She downloaded the Albatross’s app, which she’d never expected to need, and a gray bird, identical to her pin, appeared on her phone screen. “Connecting” flashed across its wingspan. The pin’s eye blinked from red to green. Lacie’s phone buzzed. The steel bird vibrated in reply, syncing, and its eye dimmed to a steady, cool blue.
A grid of four options resolved onscreen. Lacie tapped the globe icon and opened a map of the city’s downtown waterfront. The social media icon led to a swarm of links to follow the Albatross. A gear icon brought up a menu of app settings. The last icon, the Albatross’ logo, revealed her mission. She tapped it, and the word “Accepted” appeared at the top of the screen beside a running count: “22 of 30.” Then Lacie’s phone buzzed and the count rose to “23.”
Sarah looked over her shoulder. “What does he want you to do?”
Lacie skimmed the text. “Go to a warehouse on Morcey Avenue by 10 a.m. and wait for more instructions.”
“Do you think when he watches us he sees us…you know, in the shower and stuff? Rick and I were bad last night.”
Lacie laughed. “You’re awful. Pathetic and awful.”
“Yet very satisfied,” Sarah said, smirking. “Mr. Harris is going to be pissed. We have an audit this morning.”
“Tough, the law’s the law, and I accepted the call.”
~ * ~
Read the whole thing in The Side of Good / The Side of Evil releasing November 21, 2015.
Everyone loves a hero…but sometimes we can’t help but root for the villain…
Indulge both impulses with this nostalgic flipbook anthology—The Side of Good / The Side of Evil. After all, everyone is the hero of their own story and sometimes a change in perspective can make a world of difference.
Superheroes inspire us to be more than we can be, and on the flip side, Supervillains are reminders of the potential for darkness within us all. The Side of Good / The Side of Evil looks at the best and worst that über-mankind is capable of.
With stories by comic book and literary masters: James M. Ward, Bryan J.L. Glass, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Gail Z. Martin, Janine K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Walt Ciechanowski, Neal Levin, John L. French, and Kathleen David this collection is guaranteed to be super…no matter which side you pledge your allegiance to.
Featuring a never-before-published Furious(TM) short story!
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