A/N: This is a revamp of an idea that's been at various stages of the writing process for the past 4-ish years. In some ways, this is a first draft (since I haven't received feedback or seriously edited these exact words), but in other ways it's a 4th-5th draft because I've been refining this idea for so long. That being said, I would particularly appreciate comments about the characterization, pacing, writing style, and plot. TYIA!
A low rumbling shook the foundations of Skylar's home. Skylar stirred awake and squinted out her window. A roving searchlight peeked through her window, which was all Skylar needed to see to crawl out of bed and stumble into a sweatshirt and some slippers. She slipped downstairs towards the wide window that overlooked the street.
Her father was already standing there, arms crossed over his chest. “Did you see what was happening?” Skylar whispered to him.
He shook his head. “I woke up when the searchlight first started roaming, about five minutes ago. Since then, there's been no action.”
The next moment, four black SUVs pulled onto the street. Two dozen foot soldiers approached from either side and descended on the house directly across from them. Two officers lifted a battering ram and slammed it into the front door. The sound of wood splintering reverberated through the cool, calm night, and Skylar sucked in a breath. The battering ram smashed into the door again, and this time punched a hole in the wooden door. An officer kicked the rest of the door in and charged inside, followed by several others. The small white beams of their flashlights carefully searched the first floor, room by room, before moving upstairs.
Faintly, the sound of glass shattering and the scuffle of feet could be heard. Footsteps slammed against the staircase, and a few moments later a cluster of officers emerged. A pit welled in Skylar's stomach as she watched her next-door neighbor and mentor fight back against several officers, who were dragging him by the neck of his sleepshirt.
“Why are they taking Moore, Dad?” she asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft.
“I don't know, sweetheart.” Skylar's dad stepped closer to her and wrapped one arm around her shoulders, squeezing her tight. “It's probably nothing,” he said, voice wavering slightly.
If it's nothing, why are there so many officers? Skylar wondered, watching as Moore was slammed against an SUV and handcuffed.
“Let me go!” Moore yelled, his voice faint as it trickled through the thick windows. “I've done nothing wrong! This is tyranny! You'll pay for what you've done, to me and to all the other innocent freethinkers out there!”
The black SUV pulled away, and Moore's pleas faded into nothingness. Skylar watched as the SUV sped away, the sole vehicle on the abandoned street, and then turned her attention back to the few foot officers who remained. One was pouring the contents of a red container around the wooden porch area, and another stood supervising, holding a small box in one hand. Once the red container was completely empty, the officer gently deposited it in a nearby waste receptacle and nodded to his partner. Four more officers flanked them, standing at the ready, gold badges glinting in the moonlight.
The foremost officer pulled something indistinguishably small from the small box. He slid it across the box, and the scene was suddenly illuminated by the small but unmistakable glow of fire. The match tumbled out of his hand and landed directly in a freshly-made puddle. Immediately, the fire exploded upwards in a blaze of glory.
“No! They can't do that!” Skylar broke free from her father's hold and sprinted towards the door. She quickly unbolted the front door and sprinted down the steps and across the street until she was face-to-face with an officer. “You can't do this! It's blatantly unconstitutional. You're destroying evidence,” she sputtered, face turning a shade of crimson that matched the tones of the fire roaring behind her.
The officer laughed, revealing a gold tooth where his left canine should be. “And who might you be, young lady, that makes you qualified to tell me how to do my job?” He chuckled and drew a cigarette from one of his pockets, lighting it and tossing the match into the fire.
Skylar fought the urge to grab him by the collar and slam him against the remaining SUV. “Do you understand who that was? Randolph Moore. He was one of the best men I've ever known.” She fought to keep her voice from cracking, but it felt as if a tidal wave was rising up in her throat. “He stood up for what was right, and just, and fair, no matter the cost. The world needs more men like him, not men who extinguish who he is and everything he stands for.” She hurled the words like weapons, but they landed in shards at his feet.
The officer chortled. “You're cute, kid, but we have orders that go higher up than you can possibly know.” His tone was smug, complacent, and reeked of superiority. Skylar shoved her balled-up fists into her pant pockets.
“You'll pay for this. Every single one of you.” She forced as much malice into her voice as she could stomach. “I'll make sure of it.”
Her threats were met with chuckles and laughter from the group of men assembled. Taunts followed her back across the street to her own home, and Skylar wiped away a burning tear that had found its way out of her eye and onto her cheek.
Her father was waiting in the doorway for her and simply collected her in his arms. “You've done good, kid. You can't save everybody,” he whispered, stroking her hair.
Skylar's chest heaved, and her entire body shuddered as she collected herself long enough to step backwards and look up at her father. “What do we do from here?”
“We sleep,” her father answered, piercing sincerity in his eyes. “Then tomorrow morning, we make a plan for how we move forward. Right now, the only thing we can do is rest. What did I always tell you about courage?”
Skylar sniffled and wiped snot from her nose with the back of her hand. “Courage isn't always the roar of a lion,” she recited. “Sometimes it's a little whisper that says, 'We'll try again tomorrow'.”