There was still an hour before Daniel's Café opened for business and already there was a line around the block. The café was one of the oldest businesses in Columnvae and was beloved by all. Eating at Daniel's was one of the ten things a person was supposed to do before they graduated from the local university. Old timers who barely went anywhere would gladly wait for a table just to eat at the café. The café only served breakfast and lunch, and in the evenings the owner volunteered at a local soup kitchen. The citizens of Columnvae had given his family so much through their patronage to the café, and in turn, the owner enjoyed giving back to the community.
Although the café was always busy, today people had turned out in droves. Earlier in the year, Daniel's Café had purchased an espresso machine. On this crisp Saturday morning, the café was unveiling their first specialty drink, the Cap-PUMP-ccino. After some trial and error, the staff at the café had perfected the cappuccino. Now to commemorate the season, they were serving one with steamed milk infused with pumpkin pie spices. In addition, the café was also offering pumpkin pancakes to go along with their signature bacon and egg plate and to complement the Cap-PUMP-ccino. Fall themed drinks, like the café's Cap-PUMP-ccino, could be purchased at chain coffee shops all over town, but the citizens of Columnvae loved Daniel's and wanted to show their support for their favorite local business.
The café opened and the line started to move. Across the street a man and a woman sat on a bench and watched as customers made their way inside and placed their orders. No one present noticed that a third person stood on the rooftop a few buildings down from Daniel's. The café served a continuous stream of people all day. By the time the café closed at two o'clock that afternoon, the restaurant boasted its most successful day ever. Since the café was closed on Sundays and the banks wouldn't open again until Monday, the owner put the day's profits in the safe in his office. Then he locked up and went home.
The couple sitting across the street from the café were Doberman and Pincer, two low level Villains. They watched the owner leave and then Pincer pulled out a cell phone. Atop the building diagonal from where they sat, the third person used an electronic device to listen in on the phone call. Pincer confirmed that the target was good and then hung up the phone. Then she and Doberman stood up and made their way down the street. By chance, Doberman happened to glance up at the rooftops, but the other person was nowhere to be seen.
That night a van pulled into the alley behind Daniel's Café. Doberman sat in the driver's seat and Pincer road shotgun. The van’s side door slid open and two other Villains stepped out. Lady Locksmith climbed out first, followed by Circuit Breaker. Both were career criminals and aspiring master thieves who were on a cross-country crime spree. They had hired Doberman and Pincer to act as their muscle.
The day before, the four Villains had been driving down the Interstate when they heard a radio advertisement for the café's new Cap-PUMP-ccino. The plan had already been to stop in Columnvae for the night, but after hearing the radio ad, they decided to extend their stay for an extra day. Doberman and Pincer had staked the place out and now the thieves had arrived to rob it.
Lady Locksmith walked up to the café's back door and pulled a small drone out of her coat pocket. Lady Locksmith's father had been a burglar and safe cracker. Before he'd passed, he had taught Lady Locksmith everything he knew about picking locks and breaking into safes. Unfortunately, it turned out she lacked the steady hands that had made her father such a successful thief. To compensate for the instability of her hands, she'd tweaked a drone to pick locks for her. Lady Locksmith had programmed the drone with schematics for nearly every lock, tumbler, and safe out there, and she’d equipped the device with the tools and accessories found in a standard lock picking kit.
Lady Locksmith used the drone to scan the café's back door in order to ascertain which of the device's lock picking modes was the best fit. As she worked, Circuit Breaker stepped up to the café's electric meter and placed his hand on it. Circuit Breaker wore a special glove of his own design. He activated the glove and a localized surge of electricity shorted out the power throughout the entire building. The surge was designed to short out any security cameras or alarm systems. Circuit Breaker signaled Lady Locksmith and she used her drone to pick the lock on the back door.
Doberman and Pincer waited in the van while Circuit Breaker kept watch. Lady Locksmith entered the café and located the safe. She set to work programming her drone to break into it. Once inside the safe, she would take all the money within then she and her companions would leave Columnvae. Unbeknownst to the four thieves, a vigilante called Nic the Goth was watching them from the end of the alley.
Nic the Goth had originally come to Columnvae to attend the university. During his freshman year he'd watch student after student become addicted to drugs and eventually drop out of school. Nic the Goth realized soon after that Columnvae was a hub for drug trafficking. Columnvae was a mid-sized city, located on a major Interstate between the metropolises of Sa Lou and Kirkus City. Its location and large student population made it an ideal place through which to transport and sell large quantities of drugs.
Columnvae didn't have enough major crime to qualify for the Church to assign a state-sponsored Hero and the city had never been attacked by a Villain. If there ever were a major event, the Church would send in their main team of Heroes, the Vindices Catholicus of the United Americas. Yet, since it only saw sporadic incidents of minor crime, Columnvae was left to the protection of the city's public Peace Officers. The Peace Officers did their best to combat the drug trafficking, but the illegal substances continued to wind up in the hands of the university's students.
Upon realizing that the Peace Officers were not enough to stop crime in Columnvae, Nic the Goth had decided to step up and do something about it. He'd made a costume, donned a bolo mask, and taken to the streets. Nic the Goth enjoyed his life as a vigilante. He was able to stay off the radar of both the Church and the country's various criminal organizations and make a difference on the local level. Occasionally he thought about what the possibility of being recruited by the Church, but always decided that he preferred the freedom offered by vigilantism to the rules and regulations the Church’s Heroes had to follow. The Heroes had to turn in any money or gear they confiscated from captured criminals to the Church and they weren't allowed to use lethal force.
Nic the Goth had yet to kill any of the criminals he went after, but he was not opposed to it. In his opinion, there were certain situations where lethal force would become necessary. So far, he had not found himself in a situation that called for lethal force, but he was ready for it when the day came. Nic the Goth was armed with twin gauntlet-launchers. One fired projectiles such as darts or non-lethal ordinance, while the other launched a grappling hook. He kept a baton in his boot, as well as a utility knife, several gas grenades, and other necessary equipment on his belt. He also carried a special weapon, hidden in an inner pocket of his costume.
Out of costume, Nic the Goth had been waiting in line earlier that day to try the Cap-PUMP-ccino. Mug shots and arrest records were made public by the Church, both to shame criminals and inform law abiding citizens, and Nic the Goth made a habit of studying them regularly. As he waited in line, Nic the Goth happened to glance across the street. He instantly recognized Doberman and Pincer. He'd exited the line, gone home and donned his costume and gear. Then he'd made his way back to Daniel's Café and surveilled the two criminals from the rooftops. He'd listened in on their phone call and learned that they were planning to rob the café. He thought about tipping off the city's Peace Officers, but instead, decided to handle the situation himself.
At the end of the alley, Nic the Goth readied his gauntlet-launcher. He fired two darts, puncturing the back tires of the thieves' van. Then he quickly loaded a clip of five rubber bullets into his gauntlet-launcher and stepped into the alley. Nic the Goth fired two of the rubber bullets and they struck Circuit Breaker in the shoulder and chest. The wind knocked out of him, Circuit Breaker crumpled to the ground as Doberman and Pincer started to get out of the van.
At that moment, Lady Locksmith happened to exit the café with the money she'd taken out of the safe. Nic the Goth fired a third rubber bullet and it struck Lady Locksmith in the temple, knocking her out cold. It had been a dangerous shot to take, as even a rubber bullet could prove lethal if it struck the wrong place on a target's body, but Nic the Goth had to take the chance. These Villains weren't the run of the mill criminals he was used to facing. With four on one, he needed to do whatever he could to even the odds.
Doberman charged Nic the Goth as Pincer readied her gear and followed close behind him. Doberman wore an electronic collar that solidified sound waves. Pincer liked to joke that her man's bark was indeed worse than his bite. Pincer wore a rig across her shoulders that extended over both of her arms. The rig was fitted with six mechanical arms, each tipped with a razor-sharp claw. Pincer wore a transmitter over her ear that allowed her to control the mechanical arms solely with her thoughts.
As Doberman closed the distance between them, Nic the Goth fired his fourth rubber bullet. Doberman let out a bark and his device turned it into a solid wave. The wave knocked the rubber bullet out of the air and continued forward. Nic the Goth leapt to the side, but the solid sound wave caught his side and spun him into the wall of the café. Before he could fully recover, Pincer was on him. Three of her mechanical arms shot forward. Two of the mechanical arms caught Nic the Goth's right arm, one his wrist and the other his shoulder, and their blades bit into his flesh. The third mechanical arm tore the gauntlet-launcher from Nic the Goth's forearm.
Pincer spun Nic the Goth around and made to slice into him with two more mechanical arms, but he was ready. Extending his left arm, Nic the Goth fired the grappling hook from his other gauntlet-launcher. Pincer anticipated his action and stepped out of the way. Little did Pincer know, Nic the Goth wasn't aiming for her. The grappling hook sunk into one of the van's rear doors and Nic the Goth activated the gauntlet-launcher's winch. He was pulled forward by the winch so fast that Pincer did not have time to react. Nic the Goth extended his knee and caught Pincer in the stomach as the winch pulled him forward. Then in the next motion, Nic the Goth headbutted her and Pincer's nose broke with a loud crack. Nick the Goth followed up with a punch and knocked her out.
From behind him, Nic the Goth heard Doberman yell, "Pincer!" Before Nic the Goth could turn around, Doberman fired another solidified sound wave. The sound wave struck Nick the Goth and sent him flying down the length of the alley. He struck the van's rear doors with such force that they folded in on themselves and Nic the Goth landed hard in the back of the vehicle. As Doberman grabbed his legs and began to pull him out of the van, Nic the Goth pulled the pin out of one of his gas grenades.
As Doberman pulled him out of the van, Nic the Goth held his breath and tossed the gas grenade in the air between them. The grenade went off and Doberman inhaled the knockout gas. As he began to reel, Nic the Goth rushed forward and punched him twice in quick succession to ensure he went down fast. Then he bent down and unhooked the electronic collar from around Doberman's neck.
Nic the Goth straightened up, not realizing that Circuit Breaker had recovered and was standing behind him. Circuit Breaker placed his hand on Nic the Goth's shoulder and sent a surge of electricity through his body. Nic the Goth fell to the ground, all of his muscles seizing. Circuit Breaker began recharging his glove, intent on delivering a second shock that would kill Nic the Goth. Through sheer force of will, Nic the Goth managed to reach into the pocket in his costume and pull out his special weapon.
Once his glove was fully charged, Circuit Breaker bent down and flipped Nic the Goth over on his back. Circuit Breaker intended to deliver the fatal shock directly over Nic the Goth's heart, but he never got the chance. Turning Nic the Goth over revealed the gun in the vigilante's hand. Nic the Goth had taken the gun off a drug dealer he'd beaten a few weeks back and had held on to it for life and death situations like the one he found himself in now.
Nic the Goth fired the gun twice, and the bullets tore into Circuit Breaker's chest. Getting slowly to his feet, Nic the Goth tossed the gun into the back of the van. Then he bent down and checked Circuit Breaker's pulse, but the Villain was already gone. Nic the Goth pulled several zip ties out of a pouch on his belt. He used the zip ties to restrain and secure Lady Locksmith, Doberman, and Pincer. Then he placed the money back in the café's safe and anonymously reported the situation to the city's Peace Officers.
With everything at the crime scene taken care of, Nic the Goth returned home to recover from the fight. Tonight was the first time he'd taken a life, and he expected to feel guilt or shame. Instead, he felt exhilarated. He'd only taken Circuit Breaker's life in self-defense. Plus, he'd taken down four Villains on his own and thwarted a major theft. Back at home, Nic the Goth peeled off his costume and congratulated himself on a job well done.