As if the night sky wasn’t dark enough with the absence of the moon, thick clouds of black smoke stained with orange firelight rose to the heights of the skyscrapers that littered the city’s skyline.
The 16-story apartment would look like a large candle if seen from the heights of the derelict clock tower on the hill that overlooked the entire city. It was there that the city’s vigilante was, combing through remains of the rubble once again for any leads to the bomb blast three years ago. He was confident that he would find shrapnel of the explosive itself, if he could get closer to the center of the site. His many previous attempts mostly consisted of removing debris, and scans of the area led nowhere but deeper. So there he was, the Hero, occupied with something else entirely.
The young policeman bit his lip staring at the burning building. He wondered if he was just imagining it, but he swore he could hear screaming coming from the upper units, despite an evacuation having already taken place. “Is EVERYONE accounted for?” his partner, a stocky man attempting to grow a mustache yelled to the panicked residents. The young policeman turned back to the confused crowd, attempting to do a headcount. The onlookers were held back by his other colleagues, officers in the area put on distress call.
A particularly shrill scream drew his attention to that crowd, and he saw a young man attempting to break through the yellow tape and strong arms. “Killian, handle that,” his partner instructed. The young policeman nodded and ran towards the commotion. “My baby! My girl!” the young man screamed. “She’s on the 14th floor!” he sobbed hysterically. The officer holding him back attempted to placate him, but to little avail. Killian stepped in. “What unit?” he inquired. “1409! 1409!” the man hiccuped.
Wasting no time at all, Killian ran towards the inferno and analysed the best way to enter. The fire broke out on the 11th floor, and already made its way up to the 13th. The stairwell most probably would be blocked off with smoke and heat, and his uniform was not suited for such conditions. His eyes snapped to the building next to the apartment block, a shorter but not on fire shop-lot outlet. He reckoned its roof was just about level to the 14th floor and close enough to access. Ignoring the protests of his partner, Killian raced to the fire-escape staircase of the outlet. Running up the stairs floor by floor would take too much time and stamina. Throwing off his jacket and hat, Killian jumped up and grabbed the ladder of the fire escape, and swung, using his weight to pull it down.
As it slid down he climbed up, moving as fast as a ferret. Pulling off his leather shoes and cotton socks, Killian jumped onto the banister of the stairs and grabbed onto the overhead railings. He shimmied up onto the next floor with surprising ease and repeated his parkour act until he reached the topmost level of the fire escape. The drop was getting crueler and crueler with each arms-length he ascended. He glanced up at the apartment again, noting the heat radiating towards him. With a scrambling technique, he hoisted himself up onto the flat roof of the outlet, losing his tie pin clip in the process.
There were definitely screams coming from inside the complex. Killian gulped. His bare feet were bleeding from the too-hasty climb, but he barely noticed. He spent a few moments angling himself, determining the best window to crash in, when suddenly, a figure darting across a window startled him. The man’s daughter? She couldn’t possibly hear him over the crackling din of the floors below. He backed up, preparing himself for the running leap he would have to take to break into the building. He geared up, but was thrown off by the 13th floor windows blasting out. A collective exclamation escaped the crowd below.
Shards of glass scattered to the fire escape, creating strangely pretty tinkling sounds despite the horrendous scene. Killian dusted himself off, and readied the jump again.
But before he could take the first step, the window he was aiming for shattered outwards. A hunched figure flew towards him, clad in black. A red sash fluttered out like a comet’s tail behind, its other end wrapped around the figure’s head and around a bundle cradled close to its chest.
The figure tumbled to a safe landing just in front of Killian. He heard the figure suck in a fresh breath of cleaner air and saw it unwrap the bundle. A shaking, crying toddler resembling the sobbing man below was revealed. The figure gently pushed the little girl to stand and checked her up and down for any injuries.
Discovering none, the figure patted the girl’s head and stood up. Killian found himself staring into the most electrifying pair of violet eyes he had ever seen. Laced with long black lashes, Killian realised that the owner was in fact, a woman. He would have gaped longer, but the little girl, having recognised his police uniform, started wailing and tugging on his trouser leg.
He bent to pick up the toddler and cradled her over his shoulder, whispering reassuring words. “Your problem now,” the woman seemed to smile. All save those eyes of hers was obscured by that vibrant red scarf, slightly singed at the trail end. “W-who are you?” he tried to ask, but all he received in response was a sly wink.
Shouting approaching from the fire escape distracted him, and he went to lean over the edge of the roof to show his partner and the arrived firefighters the little girl, unharmed. He turned back to address the woman with the starlight eyes, but all he found was an empty spot where she stood. He looked around, scouring the rooftop, but couldn’t detect even a flicker of that red scarf. It would not occur to him until quite some time later, that the only person known to have eyes like that was a stone-cold murderer known as the Red Queen; Anya Jaxon.