8 For What We Will

End of shift, though not the end of the workday; Valiant was on the clock for another hour, gratis, to cover commuting time, a sop to the union for another year where the COLA lagged inflation. Price gouging, he corrected himself reflexively, without heat. An old grudge, that one, worn as smooth as a river stone.

The boss in his bulletproof office was white-eyed and sweating as the last workers filed past; he flinched when Valiant waved at him, good. This was the real pragmatic justification for the commuting bonus, to give the workers time to get bored and disperse before the bosses leave for the day. First in, last out, ha. Valiant grinned wolfishly, ran a red tongue over red, red lips.

Outside and the smell of tear gas and arson, even through the mask, heat beating up from the pavement through his thin soles. On the clock but off work; Valiant rubbed dry hands together and headed out, pockets weighted down with bricks.