By BH Mari

Chapter 4: “First Heaven

*** Your Title Here ***

Tai’s face was buried in her phone as she entered the elevator heading to the underground parking garage. She was intently watching a video on how to remove the ‘Dog but Kat’ meme from your digital devices without having to destroy them and barely noticed the other 2 people on the elevator at first. Eldritch memes were a serious problem and she had already lost one phone and wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again. But elements of their conversation drew her attention and she found herself eavesdropping, the video forgotten.

“Retelling the original Tru Harroin story is a weird choice, you know that right?” The woman said, eyebrows raised as her male companion sighed heavily. “I’m sure no one has thought about her in like 30 years at least.”

“It’s not weird,” he said. The way he said it made Tai think this argument had been going on for a while and he was sick of it. “People do it all the time.”

“People do weird meta retellings of books from nearly a hundred years ago?” she said skeptically. “Name one.”

He stuttered for a moment. “Okay, but it's not weird, it's unique.”

“Okay, Mr. Unique,” she said mockingly. “Who are you going to sell it to?”

“I can’t think about that,” he said. Tai imagined he raised his head in the air to affect a noble stance. “I can only think about the work. The rest will sort itself out.”

“Missed opportunity,” she thought, “you should have said ‘The art is all that matters,’ and left it at that.”

“It’s the same story though?” she said, exasperated. “Like the exact same story?”

“No,” he replied. “I’ve made some pretty significant changes.”

“Like what?”

A pause. “More stuff happens.”

The woman laughed. “Did you just say ‘more stuff happens’?”

“It’s hard to explain the plot of my novel on an elevator. I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re doing great,” she said. “I’m so confident this is not a waste of time.”

“Tru Harroin is a huge deal,” he said. “She was ahead of her time in so many ways and now I can use her to kind of tell the story of the ‘girl detective’ craze that she started.”

“Didn’t Nancy Drew start it?” The woman asked. Causing Tai to wince. She knew first hand how nasty the Nancy vs Tru debate could get and she braced herself.
The man groaned. “It’s complicated. Anyway, I think I can do something really special here, so I would appreciate it if you supported me on this.”

“It seems like all I do is support you,” the woman said, a slight trace of real bitterness in her voice.

“Yikes,” Tai thought, worried that instead of nerd rage she would have to awkwardly pretend not to hear a more domestic argument. She willed the elevator to move faster.

Before the man could say anything the woman spoke again. “So did you at least change the opening? Maybe open with a bang before getting into your 100 year old plot?”

“The opening is almost exactly the same, but with tons of easter eggs and foreshadowing.”

“That’s… something,” she said.

“We will start with a prologue that introduces a new threat to Tru, like nothing in the original series,” the man said hastily.

“That’s good,” the woman said, sounding like she almost meant it. “ And that will pay off immediately.”

The man laughed. “No, it won’t. Almost nothing happens on that front until the 2nd act.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Will people stay with you as you take the same path someone else already did?”

“I hope so,” he said as the elevator reached its destination. “I introduce a lot of new elements once the plot gets going, I think people are really going to like it.”

“I remember the original story had a big action scene early on. That would get readers hooked, do you still have that?”

“Yes!” the man said proudly. “But it’s smaller and more intimate.”

“So you made a cool action scene lame basically?”

“I’m taking a different angle, that’s all,” the man sounded frustrated, the way artists do when they try to explain their work and people don’t quite understand what they are going for, forgetting that others haven’t had the idea playing over and over in their head for months or even years.

“Maybe you should come up with a pitch for Netflix or any streamer really. They’ll take just about anything and they will give you this thing called money that you need to survive. And maybe do this Tru Harroin thing later. Or never. Not all ideas are good ideas. Not even all good ideas are good ideas,” the woman said in a tone that said she really wanted to be understanding but she had reached her limit.

The elevator doors opened and Tai exited, her focus split between her phone and the last words the woman spoke. She did not hear the man’s reply as she abandoned the ‘Dog but Kat’ video to scroll through her twitter feed for something interesting to distract her for the whole 30 seconds she needed to get to her bike.

The building’s large, cool parking garage was one of the main attractions for Tai. She liked the underground lot because it gave her a reasonably safe place to park her pride and joy, the Honda CB4 Interceptor. The black and red speed demon was one of a kind, a gift from Lady Esperanza for rescuing her from kidnappers.

The bike had still been in the concept stage when Esperanza came looking for a gift for the woman who saved her. Using avenues only available for the ultra privileged, she not only got the bike built for Tai, but also convinced Honda to work with LuxTech, still reeling from the Lore Luxor scandal and massive changes brought on by his sister Lana Luxor taking over.

So through the power of being insanely rich, Esperanza was able to produce a bike and make it street legal, all as a gift. Tai learned that she even arranged for a professional racer from the world famous, all female Pitstop Racing Team to be brought in to consult and test the bike as it went from concept to reality.

Tai had nearly been in tears when she first saw the finished product. Even Iwana was begrudgingly impressed. The bike was a hybrid in every sense of the word. It was a sportbike/cafe racer hybrid, but also an unprecedented hybrid of wind, electric,and gas power. The tank mounted touchscreen and the power generating fan surrounded by a powerful LED light gave the Interceptor a futuristic look and feel that filled Tai with a childish glee every time she climbed on and the bike roared to life.  

The only stipulations that came with the bike was that she had to check in with both LuxTech and Honda every 3 months so that they could monitor the bike and how it and its systems handled the wear and tear of daily use. It was a pain, but a price she gladly paid to own such an amazing ride.

She had just taken it for its 2nd check up 3 weeks ago, so all that was on her mind was the ride to San Francisco and racing north on the I-5 to get there before 1PM. Tai was practically salivating at the challenge.

Her excitement for the ride ahead vanished as soon as she passed a large support column that hid her bike from view when coming from the elevator. Instead of a gleaming red and black beauty sitting there waiting for her, Tai found a trio of scruffy looking young men filming the bike while one of them sat on it. She tried to control her annoyance as she walked up to the men, ignoring the mix of body odor and cheap body spray that assailed her nose, determined to get them away from her ride.

“Excuse me,” Tai said, trying to sound pleasant. “Could you please get off my bike?”

The 3 young men stopped what they were doing to look at her. The one filming lowered his phone and started scratching in his long, dirty brown hair as he looked at her. Another member of the trio standing beside him stared at her with unconcealed hostility. Tai noted that he was muscular but was starting to pad out his muscles with a layer of fat. He was roughly her age, so if she had to guess she figured he had been a high school athlete who had graduated and now didn’t have the motivation to keep working out.

The last of the 3 was rail thin and had an ugly smile that Tai immediately wanted to smack off his face. He lay across her bike in clothes that looked like they had not been washed in weeks. He added a bit of condescension to his smug smile and winked at her.

“We’re sorry,pretty mama,” he said. “Never seen a bike like this, so we wanted to get some pics. We didn’t mean anything by it.”

Tai noted that he made no move to get off the bike and that the larger of his two friends was looking at her with naked menace. With one quick motion she removed her backpack and set it on the ground. She kept her helmet still clutched in her right hand.
“It’s okay,” Tai said,striving to keep her tone light and pleasant. “Just get off my bike and go somewhere else. This is a private building.”

He laughed and still did not move from the bike. He threw up his hands in what she assumed was meant to be a placating gesture.

“Damn girl,” he said. “We were just admiring your ride. You act like we were trying to steal it. We just wanted to take some fucking pictures. Chill.”

“I’ll chill when you get your musty ass off my bike,” Tai said. She had hoped to resolve this with as little drama as possible, but she was now sure that was not going to happen.

“Besides, seeing some fucking idiot rubbing his loser ass all over my one of a kind bike is too much,” Tai thought as she became hyper aware of the man she decided to call Slim’s two friends. Shaggy(the only possible thing to call a clueless stoner), with the dirty hair and confused expression, was filming her now and the larger one, Crud Bonemeal(thank god for late night Youtube rabbit holes), looked like a dog eager to be let off his leash.

Slim laughed. “I’ll let that slide, only because you looking so fucking good in all that leather. Instead of getting all angry, just come over here and sit with me and I promise you, everything will be cool.”

Tai was about to repeat her demand for Slim to get off her bike when Shaggy laughed. Both Tai and Slim looked at him but his attention was on his phone. Finally he looked up, smiling at her as he spoke to Slim.

“Everyone’s like ‘she probably can’t handle the bike anyway, so take it from her,’ and ‘say you will get off the bike if she shows you her tits.’ shit like that.”

Slim and Crud laughed.

“True,” Slim said. “I’m guessing this bad boy has more power than she can handle, it’s why she’s so angry. But I ain’t trying to go to jail for a bike.”

Then he shrugged dramatically. “But I will take some titties. Especially a pair like that.”

All 3 men suddenly turned intense and hungry, their eyes on the outline of the swell of her chest in the tight crop top turtleneck she wore. Tai knew she should be afraid in this situation. But she felt like electricity was coursing through her body, leaving every part of her feeling like it was bursting with energy.

“So show them tits to my boys and our audience,” Slim said. “Maybe let me flick them big nipples I see trying to poke through your shirt, and we will let you be on your way.”

“Counterproposal,” she said, grinning. “You could leave now and not get your asses thoroughly kicked.”

All 3 laughed at that. Slim finally got off her bike, coming to stand in a line with his friends.

“You’ve been watching too much of that ‘girl power’ bullshit Hollywood has been force feeding everyone. We don’t want to hurt someone as fine as you. But I will defend myself. And if some round, juicy tits pop out while I’m doing so, oh well.”

“Last chance,” Tai said. “Fuck off back to whatever Axe Body Spray factory created you and never come back or spend the rest of the day at Cedars-Sinai lying about how all 3 of you got fucked up. Your choice.”

Slim was about to speak when Crud finally had enough.

“Fuck this stupid slut,” he snarled, stepping up to grab her tight ponytail of black hair with one hand while delivering a hard slap with the weight of his whole body behind it with the other. “I’m gonna put this bitch on the ground and then we strip her naked, see how tough she is then.”

Time slowed down for Tai as the big guy attacked. She easily ducked underneath, dropping down and delivering a hard left jab to his groin. She slid to the side as he collapsed, straightening to hurl her helmet at Slim’s face with a powerful flick of her wrist. The resulting crunch was one of the most satisfying things she had heard in a long time. He crumpled to the ground screaming and holding his face.

Tai turned her attention to Shaggy, who had dropped his phone and was advancing on her in a sad mockery of a boxer’s stance. Tai assumed the aggressive offensive stance that served as the foundation for her family’s karate style, the Seven Heavens. The Seven Heavens was born out of one of her mad ancestor’s attempts to merge the 4 main styles of karate into one master style. The result was a confusing mishmash that only the Asano family practiced and was looked down on by the rest of the karate world. At least until her grandmother Miko, the 4th Hand of Death, changed all that.

Trekking around the globe in her youth, she refined the Seven Heavens and became one of the most respected fighters in the world. It was still primarily a family only style, but no one called the Asano family mad for using it anymore.

As a kid Tai’s voracious interest in anything that allowed her to punch and kick things drew her to many forms of hand to hand combat. So despite it being a part of her heritage, she was not as well versed in the Seven Heavens as she would have liked. But that did not mean she was not skilled in what she knew, especially the attack she was about to launch as Shaggy came at her with his fists comically high in the air.   

It was called First Heaven and was made for situations like this. She almost felt bad as she flowed effortlessly from the stance to deliver a barrage of strikes with blurring speed, but she could not deny the thrill she got from feeling the impact of her fists with his face and upper body. He dropped like a rock just as Crud was getting back to his feet, his face pale but his eyes mad with rage.

As he charged her, Tai savored the moment as she weighed her options. She settled on a course of action as he wrapped his arms around her slim waist and lifted her in the air.

“I love this,” she thought as she maneuvered herself so that her feet absorbed the impact of the big guy’s attempt to ram her into a support column of the parking garage. She walked up the column while securing the big guy in a front headlock.

He was unquestionably stronger than her, but he was nowhere near as well trained, so he struggled to break her hold as she used the column as leverage to maintain her grip. Just when she started to feel him break free, she drove a leathered knee hard into his face once, then twice.

He staggered away from her, dazed as she landed gracefully back on the ground. She quickly advanced on him and hit him with the same rapid fire strikes that dropped Shaggy, setting him up for a spinning kick to the temple that put him down for good.

“Freeze bitch!” someone yelled through what sounded like a broken nose.

She turned to see Slim standing on unsteady feet, one hand on his nose as blood poured out and the other hand clutching a Beretta M9 that looked like it had seen its best days long before anyone in the garage was born. It shook as tears streamed from Slim’s pained eyes.

“You are going to fucking pay for this shit,” Slim yelled. “We were just fucking around and you had to go all psycho bitch.”

Tai’s smile returned. “Yeah, I’m sorry I misinterpreted the whole ‘strip me naked’ plan. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Tai felt oddly calm as she slowly advanced on Slim. Like before, she should have been terrified, but instead she found herself enjoying the moment. She could almost hear the drops of blood from Slim’s nose hitting the concrete, hear the pained breathing of his two friends as they struggled to recover from the blows Tai gave them, and most importantly she could smell the fear radiating off Slim as he pointed the gun at her.

“Have you ever shot someone before, Slim?” Tai asked, almost within striking distance at this point.

“Who the fuck is Slim?” Slim asked, the gun shaking more and more. “And yeah, I’ve shot motherfuckers before. I’m a name out there on those streets. And I’m going to make you say my name before I’m done with you.”

“Oh, I’m sure you will,” Tai said, lowering her voice seductively. “I just have one question.”

“And what’s that, bitch?” Slim said. She had closed the distance and he didn’t seem to be aware that she was nearly face to face with him.

“If you are such a stone cold badass,” Tai said. “Why is the safety still on?”

Slim’s eyes widened, and he took his eyes off her for a second to look at the gun. It was a second more than she needed as she grabbed the gun and Slim’s wrist and twisted. The gun was in her hand as she snapped his trigger finger with ease before calmly thumbing the safety off and backing towards her bike. Slim sank to his knees screaming in pain and clutching his hand, looking at her with teary, fearful eyes. She ignored him as she picked up Shaggy’s phone and tossed it to the dazed stoner as he attempted to stand without swaying.

“Alright boys,” Tai said. “That was fun, but either fuck off or everybody is going to need new kneecaps. Your choice.”

The three young men fled the parking garage without a backwards glance. Once they were gone, Tai quickly dismantled the gun and dropped it in the mailbox just outside the parking garage. If she was going to get in trouble for a firearm, it was not going to be for a rusty piece of junk she took off a dipshit.

With the gun disposed of, Tai returned to gather her things and climb on her bike. She cleaned a few spots of blood off her helmet and checked it for cracks but could not find any. Adrenaline still coursed through her body as she turned on the bike and watched as the touchscreen came to life and made the engine roar after a few seconds. The power of the engine seemed to vibrate through the core of her being as she straddled the motorcycle, a sensation she never got tired of.

She felt like a superhero. She felt like she could take on the whole world.

Grinning, she put on her helmet and tore out of the garage racing towards a new adventure, feeling so much like a bullet aimed for the heart of San Francisco.     


To Be Continued...

Back to What's New