Watching vultures gather on the building across the street is a hell of a way to keep busy. 

For Christ’s sake, I can’t believe I’ve made it this long in this bureaucratic heap, pouring through environmental documents, interpreting policies that reflect nothing more than a desire to keep unnecessary programs afloat. It becomes tiring answering questions from concerned co-workers who truly believe one more regulation might solve the world’s problems.  

The turkey vultures spread their massive wings, absorbing the amplified heat from the darkened windows near their favorite perch atop the Renaissance Tower. I can’t help but be envious of their ability to survive on the waste created by the rest of us. It's easy to look down on the unappealing traits bestowed upon each of these individual creatures. Never-the-less, I dream of urinating on my own legs to keep myself cool in the soon-to-be sweltering summer heat.  

It sure beats government work. 

If I felt this way when I was younger, I would pack a single bag with a change of clothes, tie a blanket to the straps that hung from the reinforced bottom and walk toward the freeway with a sign reading, “North.” I remember telling a roofer I had met in an Astoria pub that I came from Sacramento. “Do you work for the government or are you on welfare,” was his reply. I had no idea what he meant. I wish I could say that I still didn’t know.

But now I am an unavoidable product of my polluted environment. It’s not so bad. I own a home across the river and have a salary that affords for my family to live there. We have health insurance and enough credit to have Christmas one more time before we default. It could be worse. My program pays for me to sit here in my five-by-six foot cubicle and pretend to keep busy.  My mother lives nearby and pitches in when the going gets rough. 

I work for the State of California. I am a scientist within an environmental permitting program. I was proud when I was able to tell my folks the new title given to me. It wasn’t until sometime later that I fully realized the futility in environmental regulation. Maybe it was the intensity of the Occupy protests last winter that got me thinking. Maybe it was the words of Michael C. Ruppert and his Collapsenet staff that helped me make sense of the motives of those who would keep us oppressed. 

Whatever it was, I knew something had to be done. And no one was going to do it for me.
And so began the inevitable alteration into my current form. 

Looking back on this time, I find it hard to remember the expectations I had for myself.  Taking up this fight, any fight, against the state is no easy task and my ability to enact change was as limited as my knowledge of the true corruption hidden behind the closed doors of our garish government. But I was as committed to seeking the truth as I was to destroying the system that kept it from us. 

I admit my first efforts at state rebellion were feeble and childish. Like a three-year-old denied his favorite toy, I reacted as if I were the infant in this carefully designed parent-child relationship. Needless to say, my direct actions in the initial stages of my villainous transformation did not reflect a clear understanding of the issues at hand; the rationale behind my anger had not yet been fully articulated. I was foolish and young, hiding behind dumpsters and parked cars in the middle of the night while fiendishly exacting my revenge. The fear of authority that was instilled in my core since childhood seeped from my pores as I darted in and out of the shadows. I relied on stealth alone, of which I had very little. I had not yet developed the sophistication necessary to outrun the law, nor the capacity to defend myself if approached. 

It still amazes me that my first plans were carried out at all. 

My heart would race as I quickly spray-painted curse words on the benches of bus-stops and light-rail ticket machines in the heart of the city. Feverish chills would overtake me as I let out the air from the tires of loosely guarded government vehicles. I almost expected to be caught. Perhaps I wanted to be caught. Slowly, I became more comfortable with my delinquency.

I recall having trouble holding back my laughter as I huddled beneath the Capital Christmas tree on a cold winter night in December. It was all too easy. Dressed in black and stuffing my bag with over-sized ornaments, I gleefully slashed at the decorations drooping from the branches of this dying relic. I was filled with an overwhelming sensation that sent chills from my legs upward through my chest. I felt as though no one could stop me. 

The waist high metal bars surrounding the tree were easily scaled. Still, I tripped over them during my escape, landing flat on the illegal contents of my backpack. Such a spill could have been disastrous to my plan, causing a spectacle and catching the eye of an otherwise unwary night watchman perusing the Capital grounds. 

In all honesty, the lack of security to keep me from implementing my devious goals helped reassure my mind that a rebellion was indeed possible. I believe escaping unscathed from these repetitive small crimes helped in no small way to strengthen my determination as I prepared myself for larger exploits.
Coming in to work after an evening in the shadows was never easy. Getting used to a lack of sleep would take time. The headaches were the worst of it. The giant windows in the lobby of the CalEPA building seemed to let in more light than was actually available on those dreary mornings, exacerbating the throbbing pain in my temporal lobe. "Perhaps the rays are magnified by this crappy metal art," I would muse as I passed the massive sculpture that towered near the stairwell.

The tule fog that forms in the wetlands surrounding us had penetrated our urban environs. The view from my fourteenth floor window had been completely engulfed by a continuous white cloud that burned my retinas when I lifted the blinds. My head pounded from a lack of sleep.

I had made it up the elevator without being seen and crept into my cubicle 25 minutes late. I quickly turned on my computer to type in my password.

I shuffled loose paper in a last ditch attempt at making my workspace look as if something had taken place over the past half hour. As the computer loaded, I kicked my feet up on the desk and leaned back in my chair replaying the events of the night before in my head. I was eager to share my accomplishments with someone, anyone. The crap I had pulled off over the last few nights had been nothing short of amazing and keeping it to myself turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined. A surreal feeling of sleepy euphoria blanketed my mind like an internal continuum of the fog that lay over Sacramento that morning. My mind drifted in and out of a series of dreams for the next hour...
Perched above the crumbled ruins of this once bustling metropolis, I clearly see the impact our cause has forced on the inhabitants below. Huddling behind broken architecture destroyed by war, I watch displaced children seek shelter as their families fight for the remains of discarded food and torn clothing left behind by their less fortunate neighbors who had either died or could simply no longer carry their possessions. The great fires that raged from the abandoned chemical factories and diesel storage tanks flanking our once prized riverfront have left a poisoned sky to linger for months over large areas to the south and west of the city. Isolated pockets of survivors have been cut-off from their neighbors by the flood that covers the greater part of Sacramento. There is no longer any chance that these polluted waters will recede. 

I can feel no guilt for the atrocities of war that have left my people destitute. Having feasted for the past days on the rotting corpse of our failed bureaucracy, I know my efforts were not in vain. We stormed the Capital together and this victory is ours. 

Still I take some responsibility for the losses we all have suffered in our struggle for freedom. 

As I began to take on the persona of the Vulture, my family had no concept of what I was going through or who I was to become. I kept them in the dark, sneaking out in the middle of the night while they slept and returning before sunrise to slip into our small bed unnoticed. 

“Wake up, babe” my wife would say as the alarm blared. “It’s time for work, coffee’s ready.” 

It was all I could do after a long night out to muster a reply. “Good morning.” 

“Should we wake the boy?” 

“No, let him sleep, he looks so peaceful.”       

I would do anything to have the chance to wake my boy again, to spend just one more minute listening to his cries as I strip the blankets from the clutches of his tiny hands. But there is no longer any use in reflecting on what could have been. 

Those who survive this transition will forever live their lives free from the tyranny of the corrupted capitalist class and their perverted political henchman.  My people have been given a gift far greater than any loss they may have incurred in the interim. I have taken a vow to defend our new found freedoms. I have pledged to safeguard the privilege of human dignity for all who enter this sanctuary. And as the sun sets behind the twisted remnants of the once golden Tower Bridge, I, the Vulture, will remain their vigilant protector.
I awoke with a jolt. My office phone rang angrily as if it had caught me sleeping on the job. My eyes were held shut by a thick crust that momentarily protected me from the intense light of day. The fog had lifted. The clock in the lower right hand corner of my computer screen read 10:30 AM as I reluctantly reached for the receiver. I stopped short of answering, having seen my supervisor’s number flash on the caller ID and let it go to voicemail, sensing the threat of an increased work load on the other side of the line. “If it’s important, she’ll call back,” I told myself as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
My email box was filled with unopened messages from the past few days and the permits piled on my desk had been neglected for weeks. I began to feel overwhelmed. My juggler pulsated with an increased heart rate. Hearing footsteps approach the open door of my cubicle space, I clicked out of Facebook as quickly as I could and turned over my shoulder to see who it was.
“You’re late for the meeting, come on,” whispered a recently hired sci-aid sent to retrieve me.
“Tell them I can’t make it,” I replied sharply, “I’m swamped.”
I left early for lunch feeling frustrated from the tireless demands of my program. I headed south down I street on foot without a particular destination in mind. I often found myself pacing around the grounds of our state Capital on an extended break, hoping to spot a lively protest to take my mind off of work, but not today. I feared being recognized. I held on to delusional notions of secret video surveillance cameras and face recognition software being employed by teams of security officials to pick off petty criminals like myself.
It was time to bring my game to the next level. I had mulled over options for covering my face and hands in an effort to block my features from showing up on hidden cameras situated around the city. I had even accepted the need for strength and endurance training and had purchased some basic equipment to help me get into shape.
Tootsie’s on Eleventh was open and I ducked inside to get out of the cold. The pre-made sandwiches were two bucks cheaper than anything available at the La Bou across the way. Besides, the suits and coats that frequented corporate coffee chains always left me with an empty feeling that could never be filled by plastic personas serving overpriced pastries. I bought a turkey sandwich on wheat bread and left a small tip in the empty jar that lives on the counter top next to the register.
I smiled at my small brown sack, satisfied with the contents. It was the first time I had smiled all day. I held on to my lunch and slowly made my way back to the cube.
I picked up some gloves and a dark hat on my way home that night and committed myself to a strict diet and exercise routine. I was motivated to step up the frequency and intensity of my nightly attacks against the state, but I knew instinctively that more would need to be done if I were to achieve the level of notoriety reserved for a somewhat more elite criminal class. I believed, if I could just keep focused, that  a larger construct would be revealed to me soon enough. 

I had a desire for my work to be noticed by the public at large. As of yet, the hours of effort I had poured into making my malevolent mark had largely gone unexamined. The graffiti defacing the buildings and sidewalks of various government departments had been scrubbed out and painted over faster than they could be replaced. I had not taken into account that the budget allotted to maintain state property included costs that offset the small acts of vandalism I had perpetrated over the past weeks. My naivety was showing. There was, at this point, no blueprint directing my actions, no road map of potential avenues leading me from one idea to the next. I was guided only by a deep seeded frustration with the fickle nature of a broken bureaucracy.  

A decision would have to be made concerning the direction of my degenerate debauchery, and it would have to be made now. From this point forward, the time and money spent masquerading around the city at midnight would need to be managed in a way that elicited at least a meager response from the authorities. It would no longer be enough to simply act out my frustrations in spontaneous spurts of disorganized depravity. Hell, the cost of spray paint alone was enough to send me searching for a reasonable return on my investment. 

It was time to pull together a plan.

I made an attempt that weekend at recruiting a team of like-minded individuals, ready to forsake the comforts of their warm beds and embrace the freedom of night. I was searching for regular folks, similarly fed up with the failed political fraternity that made up the majority of bulletins and broadcasts espoused by our local news outlets. I believed as a collective, we could maintain a continuous level of criminality that created the attention I craved. Perhaps together we could pursue a program of unparalleled pandemonium so pointed as to require the perlustration of our performances by the local police. 

Finding this aggregation of agitated affiliates was easier than you might think. An anonymous Craigslist posting placed on a Sunday afternoon received numerous responses, and by the following morning I was spending my work time searching for unoccupied sites where our first meeting could be held. I had started something larger than myself and I intended to see just how deep this particular rabbit hole would go.
Our first rendezvous took place in an abandoned warehouse on Richard’s boulevard between 10th and Dos Rios. The venue was ideal, situated near enough the city center to act as a springboard for a spontaneous uprising while providing a large enough space to expand my criminal contingent over time. Broken glass lay strewn about from the shattered windows that allowed me to access the interior space of this surrendered storehouse.  An upstairs platform overlooking the ground floor was particularly well suited to the forum I had planned for the evening.

There must have been a dozen respondents to my original online solicitation. I had purchased a disposable phone to contact each of the potential candidates and gave the address of our meeting space to those I felt had something unique to offer. A rough questionnaire developed on the fly clued me in on the experiences and motivations of the men and women who bravely accepted my call. I acted on impulse, excited by the prospect of a formulated rebellion. I see now that the haphazard way in which I recruited these first initiates could have backfired, alerting the police to our activity by an apprehensive applicant, or initiating the intrigue of an imbedded informant. But I trusted my instincts and went forward with the arrangement. 

From the second story I looked down on the attendees as they arrived. Most had come on time. Despite the intense posturing and thuggish demeanor exhibited on the exterior of these penniless plebeians, their eyes exhibited a true fear of the unknown. I could see in the expressions plastered on their faces that they were confused as to how this all might play out. I sensed a growing discomfort and stepped out from the shadows to speak.

“Welcome,” I exclaimed from the rusting steel terrace that towered above the broken windows and cement floor of our grand depository, “I trust each of you has come tonight with a keen interest in collaboration.” 

A low-level grumbling rose from the ground below and I paused to gauge the reaction. 

“And, of course,” I continued, cutting off the murmurs that threatened to grow into a wave of undisciplined belligerency, “a burning desire to disrupt the systems of governance that keep us from achieving our true potential.”

“I have called for your presence here tonight to ask for your participation in an organized effort aimed at accomplishing such a disruption. I am asking for your help in bringing down an interconnected web of fascist bureaucracies that prey off the citizenry in order to advance their antagonistic agendas. You are the ones I have chosen to trust with the location of this warehouse. You are the ones with the skills and characteristics that I felt most suitable for this level of responsibility. Together, if you accept what I am asking of you, we will build teams of men and women working systematically towards the destruction of our state government.”
"And what's in it for you?" called a stern feminine voice from beneath my carefully chosen perch.

I couldn't pick her out of the crowd at first. She stayed behind the others, letting her shadow lean in and over the group as she held her post.

"What exactly do you mean?" I remarked somewhat dumbfounded, squinting down toward the floor with my left hand uselessly covering my brow.

She stepped into the light and looked me in the face. Her dark hair was cut short, and it fell straight onto her broad shoulders.
Her tight fitting clothes showed off a sculpted physique. 

"No one works for free, not you or anyone else here. So what's your angle?"

I wish I had had an angle. It would be nice to recount my development into the Vulture as a well-planned progression with clear interests and goals relating to my personal stake in a market of illegal activity. But alas, it was not that way at all. My intentions were pure no matter how naive.

"Why don't you shut the fuck up," someone shouted before I could respond.

"Let her talk...," I tried to say. But it was too late.

I honestly can't say who struck first. In the moments that ensued after those fateful words were spoken, a blur of kicks and screams broke out below me. Most of the participants fled immediately, fearing the police would be alerted to the commotion. But a few stayed to fight. I was in the former group, having slipped out of the second floor exit and scurried down the fire ladder. I ducked behind the trash cans in back of the building and watched the other runners take off in various directions. I could hear the fight still raging within the building and I picked up a heavy lead pipe lying on the ground next to me. The entrance was on the other side of the warehouse and I snuck around the perimeter to get a look at the damage.

What I saw was incredible and frightening. A man lay in the center of the floor motionless while the woman who had interrupted my meeting held another man by the hair, standing behind him with a knife pressed to his neck.

"Drop the pipe," she yelled at me.

I did what she asked, slowly kneeling down and releasing my grip on the lead object I had foolishly acquired.

"Who the hell are you?" I shouted.
 
"I was hoping you could answer the same question!"

A good friend made this for me, and it no longer exists because he cut it up. I never showed up to get it after three weeks of it sitting at his place. At least he sent me the photo. I'm sorry bro :(
“I am the Vulture,” I exclaimed with a surprising confidence.

It was the first time I had used the alias. I tried to exert some power behind my voice in order to retain some sense of authority, despite the feeble situation I found myself in.

“I’m going to let these men go, Vulture, and you and I are going to take a little drive.”

“And what about him,” I asked, pointing to the unconscious man still lying on the floor.

“He’ll wake up soon enough,” She replied, “and I’d like to be gone before he does.”

The man behind the knife slowly backed away and then sprinted into the night as she released her grip from his hair and pulled her blade away from his throat. I doubted I would see him again. Hell, I doubted I’d see anyone again. I was in way over my head. I desperately wanted to go back to my family and crawl into bed, shaking off this night like a bad dream. I should have dropped to my knees in front of this woman and begged for my life right there in the middle of the warehouse. Instead I composed myself with a strength I did not know existed within me and  attempted to relax my nerves.

She forced me to walk with my hands drawn behind my back down the street to her vehicle.  The paint was new and it gleamed as the street lights reflected off the glossy exterior. A neatly groomed chauffeur was waiting for us, and he opened the doors to the back of the car as we approached. I tried to remain calm, as if this was all to be expected. The woman, whose name at this point remained a mystery, placed her hand on my head and shoved me downward into the seats.

“Scoot over,” she said as she brandished her knife.

I made room for her to join me and as she made herself comfortable the chauffeur closed the back door and walked around to the driver’s side. Before I could assess my situation, the doors locked with a "thud" and the car began to move. The windows were darkened from the inside and I could not see out.  A divide was installed between the front and rear seats that kept us from interacting with the driver. By all respects, we were alone.

“Where are we going,” I mustered the courage to ask.

“That shouldn't concern you,” she replied sharply. “What should concern you is whether or not you will still be alive after this conversation. You have a choice to make, Vulture. My sponsor has taken notice of your actions and I was sent to ask you to join us.”

“And if I refuse,” I was dumb enough to ask.

“Stop the car,” she shouted.  The car came to an abrupt halt and she leaned over so the blade of her knife could be pressed to my cheek.

“If you refuse, I'll cut you right here and dump your body on the side of the road.”