No More Heroes – The First Rule of Night Club [Short Story]

This is a web-exclusive short story I wrote as a companion to my novel No More Heroes. To find out more about the No More Heroes universe and to read more short stories as they come, make sure you check out the official website!

At the edge of the central district in the City Over, a dark-haired girl in a faded shirt and ripped jeans kicked open the back door of a club and stormed out into the night.

“That was a mess.”

She tossed her fringe out of her face, annoyance on her features and a white-knuckled grip on the guitar cases at her sides. The backpack-wearing young man behind her met the door with one bony shoulder as it swung back towards him, a metal attaché tucked under one arm and a laptop bag cradled in the other.

“Well, my Dad did always say we’d be met with adversity.” He shrugged and kicked a longboard out into the alley after him. “Not the first time we’ve had a less-than-optimal gig and it probably won’t be the last.”

“Hecklers aren’t adversity, Tai, they’re a thorn in my goddamn side.”

“Yeah, well. I’m not about to disagree with Grumpy Henley.” Tai smiled and looked back over his shoulder, shaking dyed-orange locks from his eyes. “Where’s Wen gone off to?”

“I’m here, I’m here.” A red-haired girl appeared in the doorway, struggling with a pair of enormous black road cases, each half her height. “Sorry, had to go talk to club management. What a nightmare.”

“I hope the conversation included the phrase ‘permabanned’.” Tai kneed one of the cases out into the alleyway as Wen rolled it towards him.

“Not exactly, but I did have one security guard try to shrug me off when I suggested he could have done something about it. Even told him I could pick their faces out of the crowd, but nope.”

“Wow, screw that guy.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

“Great! Nothing like a bad mood to cap off a bad night.” Henley rolled her eyes and set her guitar cases down, gesturing to her friends impatiently. “Here, swap you guys. Give me the amps.”

Wen and Tai pushed the black cases towards Henley, who grabbed one in each hand and began to haul them out of the alley with great vehemence, skinny arms belying the strength with which she pulled the massive instruments. Tai stepped onto his longboard and pushed off after her, followed closely by Wen, who picked up the guitar cases as she passed them.

Led by Henley, the three of them rounded the corner out into the open and away from the central district, continuing down a poorly lit stretch of backstreet. Footsteps aside, they walked in relative quiet, their only accompaniment being the low, heavy rumbling of the road cases and the wheels of Tai’s longboard. The muffled ruckus of the club behind them tailed them as they went, an almost mocking reminder of the scene they had just departed.

“Couldn’t have parked a little closer, huh, Tai?” Wen remarked drily, after a few minutes of silence. “Any further and a Hawk couldn’t see it.”

Even in Henley’s sour mood she was still able to let out a peal of laughter.

“Ha-ha, big yucks.” Tai rolled his eyes. “Tell you what, next time you guys can get your own cars and find your own damn parking, okay?”
“Yeah right, in this economy?”
“Get an Uber then, I don’t care. Anyway, at least the walk’ll give Henley a chance to cool off. Don’t say I’m not good for nothing.”

Wen glanced back down the street and frowned.
“I don’t know about that one, friend.”

Tai followed Wen’s gaze, but could see nothing but shadows ahead. He looked at the red-haired girl questioningly but she only shook her head.

“Hey, Ax,” she called. “On your one o’clock.”

Henley’s abrupt stop was as short as her temper, the rattling of the road cases cutting off sharply.

“Oh for the love of – what now!” Henley cried, whirling around to face her friends. “I am not in the mood for this tonight!”

As Wen and Tai came to stand by Henley, the former leaned in to speak to her in hushed tones.

Henley tossed her head again, this time in contempt, and snorted audibly.
“Well, bully for him! What does he want me to do about it?”
“Shake in our shoes and hand over our gear, probably. That or he’ll shank us with it.” Tai made a face. “Guess I should’ve parked closer after all.”
“No kidding, genius.”
“You know what – forget this,” Henley scoffed. “It’s late, I’m hungry, and I’m not dicking around tonight any more than I have to.”

She turned on her heel and resumed her pace, more furious than ever, road cases in tow and the click of her low-heeled boots echoing her indignation. Tai elbowed Wen hard, gesturing wildly at Henley; Wen gave him a flustered look and a frenzied shrug in response.

“What do you want me to do about it?” she hissed at him.
“She’s your girlfriend, go stop her before she breaks something!”
“And go head to head with Grumpy Henley? Not bloody likely.”

Cursing under his breath, Tai quickly let down his bags at Wen’s feet and pushed off on his longboard to follow their bandleader.

Ahead of Henley, a group of men emerged from the shadows of a nearby building to stand in the street before her. There were four of them, all tall, rough and intimidating – and exactly the kind of people that Henley was not in the mood to deal with tonight.

Henley sighed impatiently and rolled her eyes, but continued walking forwards without falter, even when one of them flicked open the switchblade in his hand and started towards her.

“Alright,” Henley growled as she drew closer. “Let’s get this over with.”

And with that, she swung the case in her left hand up into the first man’s face.

The massive case with its heavy freight connected with a crack and the knife-wielding man was thrown sideways and hit the ground hard, his knife skittering across the street and blood spraying over the asphalt. The moment their compatriot went down the other men shouted and stepped back instinctively, not even sure entirely of what had just happened. Henley followed the momentum of the black case as it carried her around a half turn, lowering the enormous box to the ground in a smooth arc as she came to a stop.

She looked back over her shoulder, eyes flashing green, and a mocking smile crept onto her face.

“Who’s next?”

Disbelief and confusion buzzed in the air, but it was only a moment before the shouting started and two more of the men lunged at Henley with their arms outstretched, the fourth diving for the knife that their leader had dropped.

Mocking smile gone, Henley moved as if to swing again, but before she could a blue and brown blur came shooting past her; suddenly the tail of Tai’s Loaded Dervish was embedded in the second man’s gut, the longboard driving the wind from his lungs and acquainting the back of his head with the road. A second later came Tai himself, skidding across the concrete past Henley and jumping to pivot into a high kick that slammed the third man square in the chest with a sharp, electric zap and the briefest blue spark of static electricity. There was the sudden smell of something burning, and the third man went down with a strangled howl, a curl of black smoke trailing from the front of his shirt.

Tai landed effortlessly in a crouch on the ground and glanced up at Henley in alarm.

“Watch the amps, will you!” he spluttered. “My Dad’ll kill me if you break ‘em!”

Henley glowered at him.

“I thought you said you paid them off already!”

“Six, on your nine!”

Tai responded instantly to Wen’s warning, straightening from his landing and twisting out of the way just in time to dodge the fourth man as he dove towards him with his comrade’s knife outstretched. As the man stumbled instead towards Henley, she yanked the case at her side up before her and the man struck the makeshift shield and rebounded, knife glancing off the case’s hard surface and pinging harmlessly away. Drawing back her arm, Henley swung the case back towards the man, backhanding him across the face with the solid box and slamming him into the concrete where he bubbled blood and then slumped still.

Henley turned to regard their downed would-be muggers, neither having broken a sweat in the skirmish nor looking at all as if she’d just been swinging half her weight in amps around. Glancing at the street around them, she drew herself up tall and glared at their dimly lit surroundings.

“Next person to try pull that noise gets a punch in the teeth!” she barked at the shadows.

Tai tucked his longboard under one arm and came to crouch down at Henley’s side, running his hands over the road cases.
“There, there,” he said reassuringly. “Everything’s fine. No one’s giving you any flack now.”

“Not anymore, they’re not,” Henley grumbled.

Tai looked up at his friend with narrowed eyes.

“I wasn’t talking to you, you barbarian.”

“Hey, Tai,” Wen called, walking up the street towards her bandmates. “Come get your gear, you ass. I’m not a bloody octopus.”

“Yeah, alright, I’m coming.”

As Tai jogged back to retrieve his bags, Wen drew up beside Henley and looked at her in a fond but almost admonishing kind of way.
“You probably could have just ignored them and left it to Kinetic, you know,” she chided gently. “I heard rumours he’s out tonight. He could’ve dispatched this lot for you, saved you the hassle.”

Henley scoffed, lifting the road cases to briefly check for marks.

“Yeah, right,” she replied. “Like I’m going to count on a Vig that good. I wouldn’t trust that guy as far as I could throw him.”
“Well, to be honest – ”
“Don’t say it. You know what I mean.”

Wen laughed.
“I know, I know. I’m just joshing.”

She leaned in to give Henley a peck on the cheek and the dark-haired girl gave her partner a wry smile.
“Who needs some Kinetic anyway, when I have Hawk-eyed Branwen Archer by my side?”
“You got that right.”

There was the gentle rolling of wheels and Tai pulled up along Wen’s other side, loaded with bags once more, and gave his bandmates an easy grin.
“We good?”
“Only waiting on you, superstar,” Wen replied lightly. “Come on. Let’s try make it home before one.”

Her friends once more by her side, Henley cast one last look at the men scattered unconscious on the ground by their feet, and shook her head.

“Hecklers,” she muttered. “Thorn in my goddamn side.”

Introducing the Vigilantes of Team Roc:
Henley – The Ability to lift great weights with ease (Alias Axle)
Tai – The Ability to generate large amounts of static electricity (Alias Six)
Branwen – The Ability of passerine-like eyesight (Alias Hawk)

Find out more about the Vigilante universe
Get your copy of No More Heroes today!

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MOVE – A Parkour Documentary [Official Trailer]

Parkour – the Art of Movement. You’ve probably seen or heard of it before. But how much do you actually know about it? In this debut feature-length documentary by independent filmmaker and videographer Michelle Kan, we journey into the New Zealand parkour scene and take a look at the philosophies and principles that this discipline embodies, as well as sharing the stories of those in the New Zealand community whom parkour has helped in profound ways.

MOVE (Flow Like Water) – A Parkour Documentary utilises Chinese themes and motifs and the Maori concept of Hauora to illustrate the history, principles and philosophies of parkour, and features footage and interviews of not just the Wellington parkour crew, but of the greater New Zealand community.

Coming to DVD on October 18, 2016.
Now open for registrations of interest.

Soundtrack: ‘Black Lotus’ – GHOST DATA

Michelle can be found on Facebook and YouTube and can also be supported on Patreon.

No More Heroes – An Action/Adventure Novel [Book Trailer]

No More Heroes
An Action/Adventure Novel by Michelle Kan

Published: Jun 27 2015

The peaceful nights are kept under the clandestine and watchful eye of young, gifted vigilantes the world over. But a sudden rash of vigilante deaths heralds the arrival of a new and unfamiliar enemy – one whose motive is as unclear as their identity. Someone or something seems determined to disturb the peace, and they’re going straight for the watchmen to do it. In a city where those who are gifted make up their own rules, who will step forward when the threat of a swift end is real and there stands so little to gain?

No More Heroes is an urban fantasy action/adventure novel about young, would-be heroes who get more than they bargained for when they delve deeper into a world they never knew they were a part of. Featuring a diverse cast of players, discord, a mystery to be solved, plenty of literary action and high-stakes battles, No More Heroes is a story about self-belief and camaraderie, persistence in the face of trials, and what it means to be the best version of yourself.

No More Heroes is available in print and eBook formats. To purchase a copy today, please visit the official website.

Soundtrack: ‘CELESTIAL BODIES (feat. Jovani Occomy)’ – GHOST DATA

Audio samples from Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door (2001), Chocolate (2008), Righting Wrongs (1986), Dissidia: Final Fantasy (2008), Devil May Cry 3 (2005), Final Fantasy X-2 (2003)

Michelle can be found on Facebook and YouTube and can also be supported on Patreon.

NZIFF Review – ‘Chronesthesia’ (dir. Hayden Weal)

If you’ve seen your fair share of 48HOURS films, you’ll probably have a seen at least a couple films by Moffilaide, whose films I’ve always looked forward to. If you’re familiar with the standard their work brings to the screen, you’ll probably have a good idea of the expectations I had when I was going in to see the premiere of Chronesthesia – and the film exceeded all those expectations by far.

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NZIFF Review – ‘Life, Animated’ (dir. Roger Ross Williams)

Going to see Life, Animated was something of a last minute decision for me – since I already had so many films on my to-see list it was hard trying to pick and choose, but after seeing the segment on Newshub yesterday I was sold. The inclusion of Disney segments was already a given, but seeing a sample of the original animation created for the film had me sold and I bought my tickets straight away. I didn’t regret it one bit.

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NZIFF Review – ‘The Red Turtle’ (dir. Michaël Dudok de Wit)

Apparently I haven’t learned my lesson from Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya when it comes to watching films with Isao Takahata‘s name attached to it, because ouchThe Red Turtle is a French-Belgian-Japanese animated feature directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit and is a collaboration between no less than seven production companies, but is primarily the co-work of Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli. Ghibli is, to no-one’s surprise, my main reason for wanting to see The Red Turtle, since the quality and standard of the films they produce or co-produce are always top-notch, and this definitely didn’t disappoint.

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NZIFF Review – ‘After the Storm’ (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)

It’s always hard for me to describe the plot of a Hirokazu Kore-eda film to someone because they simultaneously manage to be about ‘something’ and yet ‘nothing at all’ – that is, in the best way possible. I’ve been a fan of Kore-eda’s work since I watched Still Walking several years ago and last year I was able to see Our Little Sister at last year’s NZ International Film Festival. The work that he produces is simple but high-quality; generally gentle in nature, they’re often borderline-philosophical slice-of-life stories about ordinary, everyday individuals in Japan and the way they navigate their relationships with their families and loved ones whilst trying to grapple with things like tradition, loss/trauma, and personal identity.

(Semi-spoilers ahead)

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Kentucky Route Zero (A Short Review)

Yesterday, after a long but well-worth-it wait, Act IV of Cardboard Computer’s gorgeous point-and-click adventure narrative game Kentucky Route Zero was finally released. If you haven’t heard of it before, you’ll know about it now – one of my favourite games, it’s a magical realist adventure in five acts about “a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it“. I don’t often write reviews for things online, mainly because I know I’ll get carried away and turn what was intended to be a short recommendation into a somewhat lengthy university-level essay, but to be perfectly honest I love Jake, Tamas and Ben’s work so much that I wrote the below as a review on KR0’s Steam page this morning to support them. If you’re looking for something new to play (and even if you aren’t) have a read of what I wrote, check out the game on Steam, GOG or, and consider giving it a go!

Act I – Ghosts in the Static

Kentucky Route Zero is truly the epitome of the quote “Every Frame a Painting”. Beautiful, sad and thought-provoking, it’s the kind of game you end up sitting in silence and thinking about long after you’ve finished playing. If you’re anything like me you’ll probably be screenshotting your way through your playthrough every chance you get; the cinematography and use of colour is just gorgeous and every move the camera makes works to frame the game’s subjects in the most gorgeous and cinematic fashion possible (much like Shadow of the Colossus does)*. The attention to detail in the storytelling is simply breathtaking and the humour and references to media/information theory are v clever in their implementation (see: the Shannon-Weaver model).

Act II – The Forest

Act II – The Museum of Dwellings/The Forest

If you enjoy stageplays, quietly weird fiction, and slow, thoughtful and intelligent storytelling then I definitely recommend this game. A wonderful example of Southern Gothic literature and excellent playwriting, it touches on themes such as debt, poverty, loss and being lost, and overcoming obstacles. The characters are diverse, sometimes quirky, often sympathetic, and always fascinating and engaging in their own rights. Having just finished Act IV last night in one sitting I’m left fairly heartbroken at its turn of events, but also hopeful that things will turn out okay in the end, even if the main players may not have much in the means of influence within the world of the game. Ben Babbitt’s soundtrack is beautiful and adds perfectly to the ambience of the game, and the aliased style of the graphics are simple and minimalist (especially whilst traveling the Zero) and yet perfectly unique and fitting to the feel and tone of the game.

Act III – The Lower Depths Hard Times Served)

Act III – The Lower Depths (Hard Times Served)

It’s a multitude of things that make Kentucky Route Zero as enchanting as it is – it’s a poem, it’s ghost story, it’s a piece of art cinema; it’s a collection of vignettes on what it means to be lonely vs alone and the many different ways people may find it hard to fit into society. In my experience, it’s best played late at night, when it’s quiet both within and without – being in the right frame of mind is key to fully appreciating the game, but KR0 does a fine job of bringing you into that mood as soon as you start up the game anyway.

Act IV – The River/A Delivery

Act IV – The River/A Delivery

I’ll finish here with a quote from a Tweet my friend (who gifted me the game) posted last night:
“He just wants to finish a delivery. She just wants answers about a family mystery. Things complicate, as they do. I hope they un-complicate.”

So do I… so do I.

Lightning Lab XX 2016 (Media Roundup)

From March through to June I had the privilege of being the in-house videographer for Creative HQ‘s Lightning Lab XX Accelerator Programme. An intensive three-month business incubator, LLXX was a venture on Creative HQ’s part to boost the visibility of women-founded startups and help close the gender gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – indeed, the only prerequisite to apply for XX was that the company have at least one female founder, resulting in eight diverse and interesting companies all coming together in the same space to learn and grow together!

During my time at LLXX I was able to meet so many interesting people and learn so much. I was initially contracted to create a series of weekly videos spotlighting the different startups participating in the programme as well as some retrospectives of happenings in and around the space, but I also had the opportunity to create content specifically for some of the companies, which was a really awesome experience. Every single day of the three month programme was in preparation for the big Demo Day in mid-July, where the CEOs of each startup presented a pitch to a room full of sponsors and investors. Being the mic-depacker for the evening I had front-row seats to the entire show, and I’m really proud of the progress that everyone made over the course of LLXX.

Now that Lightning Lab XX is over, everyone has gone their separate ways, but I’m sure each of them will be successful in their own rights, and I look forward to hearing about their ventures in future! Here’s a roundup of videos I produced for both Lightning Lab XX itself as well as the startups that I worked alongside during the programme. If you’d like to find out more about the startups mentioned, I’ve provided a series of links at the bottom of the page.

Little Yellow Bird | Ama | NoticeMATCH | Patternsnap | Geo AR Games
Music Ecademy | Sipreme | Liangma | Hive

To view the recorded livestream of Demo Day, click here!

Michelle can be found on Facebook and YouTube and can also be supported on Patreon.