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The Trade [Original Story]

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The Trade [Original Story]

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:32 am



Introduction

Folders and Ashtrays


A dim, decrepit room. The only source of illumination is a small, flickering candle flame in the center of a desk. The miniscule aura of light about the tip of the flame shows just enough to reveal cracks in the walls, bare rafters, and peeling paint. The space itself is small, barely large enough to work in, and the centerpiece is an ancient teak desk and a matching, creaking chair.

A figure is hunched over the table, an elbow planted on the desk, leading up to a hand, supporting the chin of a thin, gaunt face. Prickly black stubble, giving a distinct unshaven look. Sideburns leading up to brightening, close-cropped dirty blonde hair. A second hand, knuckles bent, fingers brushing through spiky clumps atop a pale scalp. Locked in between index and middle is a cigarette, the tip glowing and slowly burning down.

Movement. The figure taps the cigarette over an ashtray, before returning the sweet, sweet cancerous stick to his lips, and taking a long, final puff, before quickly extinguishing the butt and returning to work.

Three folders. Each adorned with a name in glossy, black print, cover and front page. The man opened the first and smirked down at the page. The picture looked, surprisingly enough, similar to his own portrait... similar hair, save for being slightly longer and thinner. The same mouth, the same skin, the same careless, reckless demeanour… the only change was the eyes. Instead of being a dull, subtle grey, they jumped off the page and looked out of place set against his other features, with small holes for pupils, and iridescent blue irises. Underneath, a name. Fraser Goldstone.

The two folders followed, with a larger man with straight, black hair, and an olive complexion, two years younger than the subject of the previous folder and five years younger than the figure in the chair. Daryl Alexander. In the photograph, he took on a very lively pose, winking as the camera snapped the picture, reaching out with his left hand to point. Very… photogenic.

And the final, a pale man with vibrant orange hair and freckled skin, built into a rather tall, lanky build. He stared into the camera with an expression which flipped the mood of the photograph around, a grim smile breaking into a chuckle, almost insane and macabre beneath glowing green eyes. Eyes hovered over paragraph over paragraph of pointless, needless information.

With an echoing slam, the final, thick folder was clamped shut, and laid atop the other two before pushed further into the desk. Grasping the pack of cigarettes on the table, the figure drew one, and slid down an engraved black Zippo, lighting it before propping it between his lips, tossing the packet aside, and opening the door to exit the room. Light flooded in for a split second, before the figure rolled around the door, his face finally in full, lit view for the first time before he felt the urge to chuckle, and slam it shut, leaving the folders, candle, and cigarettes sitting on the desk in the middle of the room as though they had never been touched.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

|| English (skyblue) || Spanish (gold) || French (limegreen) || Portuguese (vermilion) ||
avatar
Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

View user profile http://daedaluscycle.forumotion.net

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CHAPTER ONE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:33 am

Chapter One

Band Practice and New Faces


The room where we practiced wasn’t nice. It was an apartment in a bad, shoddy part of town. It was empty, and under the name of the property it had been labeled a ‘studio’, but I’ll be fucked if it was anything even remotely like that. It was three rooms and a hallway underneath a very noisy and unstable flat complex; initially, built in the late fifties, six different copies of the building with minor tweaks had essentially been carbon copied around town. In the past five years, the government had demolished all but this one, and I didn’t blame them.

So after the long, tedious journey down into the dingy basement, you pretty much had to wrestle with the door handle – which seemed to get more dusty every time we came down, which is just… not right – to get in, and for all that effort, there was no real reward; the main room, where we practiced, a room with a couch and a minibar that we all called the ‘chill’ room, and then a toilet tacked on to that. Lucky for us, the walls didn’t block smell, so if somebody had a particularly spicy curry the night before, the consequences were, to say the least, dire.

This particular Saturday morning, the drummer of our band, Projekt Nemesis (yes, spelt like that, and, yes, it was my idea, and I take all credit) had decided to be ill for the third week running in our practice sessions. Daryl, also known by his special band handle, King of Thieves, had however this week arranged for a replacement. This meant that we could actually practice to a rhythm, this week, which makes a big difference.

However, upon inquiring into this mysterious stranger, all I got was that he was a good drummer, and he was Irish. Daryl afterwards either fell asleep on me or forgot where he left his phone, because I never got a text back.

So there the three of us were; Frankie, Raul, and myself, standing, amps buzzing, microphone giving minor amounts of feedback, bass strings thrumming with energy… having set up fifteen minutes ago, which was half an hour after we were due to.

“Is he actually going to turn up?” Frankie decided to break the silence with his snide little voice. I swear to God the only reason the kid was in the damn band in the first place is because we were scared he had Mafia connections or something, the way he walked around town.

“I fucken’ hope so…” Raul, however, I liked a lot more. We’ve labeled him the ethnic spice of the group, but no-one’s actually quite sure where he’s from… he sounds Mexican, which is why we call him Sombrero, but he could easily be from anywhere South of that, too.

“Customary to curse blindly in Peru when someone shows up late, Raul?” I chuckled. I never liked swearing. Seems a little too rough for my taste… I enjoy finesse in every situation, always have done.

“São Paulo. And no. I just felt it was necessary, since the bastard is now…” His pale eyes quickly flicked to his wristwatch. “forty-five minutes late.”

“Yeah!” Frankie couldn’t contain himself. “You said the guy’s Irish right? Well unless he farts out rainbows and pots of gold, or can drum faster than Joey Jordison on speed, then I’m gonna give him a piece of my-“

“A piece of your what, kiddo?” All three of our heads flicked to the source of the interruption; the now-open door, in which stood a rather large, and strong-looking man in his late twenties, with close-cut ginger hair, pale grey eyes, and a few nicks and cuts all over the skin that was visible. In all fairness, he looked rather like someone we shouldn’t be challenging. Just like Frankie had stupidly done.

As he moved through, he dropped his bag down and extended his frame to reach about 6’3, stretching and yawning, squaring up with Frankie and chuckling moments after. “You look like you’re about to shit yourself, matey.” It was the truth; that fair Italian-American complexion had paled a lot more than normal, and stayed that way for a good few moments after Jakob moved away and inspected Daryl’s drum kit, making sure everything was up to standard. He got straight to business, crouching down to loosen a few drums to everything was to his liking.

I exchanged quick glances with the others before leaving my microphone and heading over to the new arrival as he stood back up, offering me a quick, questioning look, unsheathing his drumsticks as he did so, tapping lightly on a nearby cymbal.

“You’re the replacement?”

“Nah, just around, heard the three of ya’ jammin’ without a drummer, and thought I’d come in…” A deep laugh echoed out for a few seconds before Jakob shook his head. “Yeah, I’m Jakob. Daryl’s buddy… I’m sorry I was a tad early, by the way. Daryl said twelve, I thought I’d be here for ten to, but it looks like you’re all set up-“

“See, guys, it was an honest mistake!” I turned to Raul and Frankie, who were reduced to seven year olds clutching their instruments and quivering in their shoes that they’d even considered challenging this man who seemed to command an aura of presence that neither one of them wanted to attempt to invade. I turned to Jakob again. “Daryl gave you the wrong info… we start at 11, but it’s no big deal.”

“Ah, yeah… the guy’s a bit forgetful sometimes…” He didn’t bother apologizing, just flicked his hand in the direction of the other two. “Introduce me?”
“Well… I’m Fraser, a-k-a Major Disaster-“

“Major Disaster?”

“We all have… uh… handles… yeah, Daryl is King of Thieves, didn’t he tell you?”

“Nope.”

A quick awkward silence, before I picked back up. “Yeah… anyway, I’m on mic…” I flicked a hand in the direction of Raul, whose grimy olive complexion, cheap clothes, and frizzy black hair was inspected before Jakob nodded his huge head, and waited for a running commentary. “This is Raul, or, Sombrero-“

“They call me that.”

“We call him that,” I repeated. “because we’re not exactly too sure where he’s from-“

“São Paulo!”

“Shut up!” I hissed quietly, before returning to a grinning Jakob. “but yeah, he’s on bass. He can get a sweet rhythm going, enjoys slap, so we play a little bit of the Chilis sometimes, you know, Flea-“

“Yeah, yeah… I can drum along to a few songs, so we should be cool there.”

“Awesome!” I smiled up at him, happy things were going well so far. “And this…” The smile vanished and I put on a distasteful expression I’d use when handling three-day-old Chinese take-away. “is Frankie, also known as Kid Metal. You know, like…”

“Kid Rock, except he’s actually a kid.” He snorted with a little laugh. It appeared that he found the teen rather pathetic already. I beamed up at him. We were going to get on perfectly.

“Alright… Daryl told me you were good, but he never really… went into intricate details about the skill and pace you’re comfortable with-“

“Just play and I’ll pick it up.”

“Really? I mean some of the stuff-“

“Yeah, I’ll be cool.” He nodded, rather surprising me, before offering a little addendum to the approval. “Did Daryl tell you, by the way?”

“Hm?”
“Well, I’m pretty good buds with one of the roadies from Thin Lizzy, my dad set us up before he passed, and you know, every now and then I get free tickets, but one year, I actually toured with them-“

“No shit! Seriously? You were on stage with Thin Lizzy?!”

“Nah… I was backup drummer, you know, if anything happened to the guy out there playing… half the time, I hoped to myself secretly that he would, you know?”

“Haha, yeah, I can understand why… shit, you’re one lucky guy, you should have no problem keeping up.” Jakob nodded, and set himself down on the stool by the kit, rather proud that he’d already made a positive impression on me. “Alright, guys, let’s take Vermilion, both parts, from the top…”

And the rest, as they say, was history.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

|| English (skyblue) || Spanish (gold) || French (limegreen) || Portuguese (vermilion) ||
avatar
Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

View user profile http://daedaluscycle.forumotion.net

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CHAPTER TWO

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:33 am

Chapter Two

A Different Type of Gig

Band practice went past pretty quickly. Jakob appeared to be an awesome drummer, almost living up to Daryl himself. Whilst no-one, of course, could really replace the feeling you got playing in the band with Daryl – the same as playing with any of us missing – Jakob did a damn good job. We finished on an encore of The Beautiful People, Raul and Frankie packing up and leaving pretty quickly, just me and Jakob left. The big guy was messing about inside his bag, and I had retrieved a beer from the minibar, eager to get something ice cold down my throat to finish the session off well, standing around.

“So… Thin Lizzy, huh?” I slumped back onto the couch – hearing a few springs strain – and tried to make idle conversation, taking a sip of the beer.

Turning away from his bag, Jakob nodded slowly, before returning silently to whatever he was doing. I smirked. Obviously whatever he was doing was much more than chewing the fat. I could appreciate it, lying back and not being bothered; relaxation was as good as anything else. Maybe I’ll get a coffee after this… or maybe some lunch?

I checked my watch. It was getting pretty close to two, and in sync with my thoughts, my stomach began to rumble. Chuckling, and finding myself in a rather content mood – as was always the case post-practice – I got to my feet, only to find a rather hefty envelope thud into my gut, falling to the floor before I could catch it.

“Poor show.” Daryl said, tutting, and gesturing for me to pick it up, before returning to attend to his bag. I leant down and admired the envelope at a glance, before grasping it and slumping back on the seat. Lunch’d have to wait a few minutes.

“What’s this?”

“Open it and you’ll see.”

Shaking my head, not knowing Jakob well enough to know whether it was a trap, or a practical joke, I did so, finding the seal fairly easy to bypass. I opened it up, and took a look inside… there must’ve been ten wads of ten dollar bills, each maybe… forty, fifty thick? My face paled and my heart almost skipped a beat. Doing the math, there was anywhere from four to five thousand dollars in there. I looked from the envelope, to Jakob, and back to the envelope again.

“What the hell’s this for?!” I said, getting rather excited.

“Down payment for tonight.” Jakob lifted his bag over his shoulder and gave me a quick salute, heading for the door.

“Wait-wait-wait-wait-wait-wait!” I moved quickly, jumping to form a barrier between the Irishman – who now, that I was closer to him, and facing him, seemed to be even bigger – which wasn’t exactly an intelligent course of action, but… “What the hell is going on? What’s happening tonight? Why am I getting paid…” I took another look to the envelope in my hand, which I’d raised to Jakob’s face “five grand for it?”

“So Daryl didn’t tell you… hm…” Jakob dropped the bag and moved back, sighing. “We had… an arrangement for tonight. Daryl told me that if I stood in at practice today, you’d take his spot tonight. I need a fifth man, to complete the… uh… band.”

“Band?” I cocked my head. “What is this, a gig?”

Jakob chuckled, his massive chest moving back and forwards as he did so. “Of sorts, I guess ya’ could say that, buddy.” The ginger-haired man moved towards the window, scanning the surroundings, leaving just silence in the room for the time being. I wasn’t stupid. I knew he was looking for something.

“You know 6th and Kensington?”

I nodded. Not the most friendly part of town, and not too far from the… studio. “What about it?”

“You know the pawn shop down there? Uhh… Mickey’s, or something?”

I flicked through the memories in my head like an archive. 6th and Kensington, 6th and Kensington, 6th and Kensington… “Yeah!” It hit me. Mickey’s. Dilapidated sign, place looked like it was falling apart. The realisation was followed by a slow look of disgust. “You sure it’s Mickey’s?”

Chuckling, Jakob nodded. “Anyway… be there for ten tonight. Dress in all-black, bring gloves, a hat, and a mask too. Ski mask, boarding mask, whatever. What else… uh, a pair of binoculars, a torch, and… uh… a.. gun.” My heart started beating faster again.

“A gun?!”

“Yeah, don’t piss yer’ pants, kid. Just bring one. Doesn’t have to be loaded. But we’re serious about this.”

“I thought this was a fucking gig?!” Jakob burst into hysterics. I wasn’t following, at all.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me…” Jakob stared at me. “Kid, you know how you call Daryl, that, uh… what is it… ‘King of Thieves’?” A lump formed in my throat, and my mouth went numb.

I nodded.

“Let’s just say, the nickname’s got a bit of story behind it.” Grasping his bag, Jakob stood up and headed for the door. My stomach exploded into a swarm of butterflies, angrily flying around inside my gut. What was Daryl into? Hell, what was he getting me into?! “I gotta split. Get my number off Daryl, and give me a bell if you need me. Otherwise, ten tonight, at Mickey’s, and then you’ll get the other half of your cut.” And before I could say anything, he was gone. Just like that. Without even wondering if I was going to say no. I shook my head and plonked it straight into my hands.

It looked like today was going to be a bit different, after all.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

|| English (skyblue) || Spanish (gold) || French (limegreen) || Portuguese (vermilion) ||
avatar
Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

View user profile http://daedaluscycle.forumotion.net

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CHAPTER THREE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:33 am

Chapter Three

Ricky

I, figuring there wasn’t much reason to stick around considering that no-one was there, decided rather quickly to head home. I needed to have a drink, call Daryl, find out just what was happening, and then probably have a few more drinks. The drive back to my place was fairly uneventful, but that didn’t stop the lining of my stomach from exploding into a thousand thrumming dragonflies circling around my innards, which gave me a rather unsettling shaky feeling in my stomach coupled with an unpleasant, dull ache.

Despite checking my rear-view mirror every thirty seconds for some sort of magical police force, somehow having garnered precognitive technology in the past few hours and actively putting it into forensic use, losing several gallons of sweat whilst I was at it, the drive home ended without any detours to the local police station, and, thankfully, back at the block of flats I lived in. Unlike the band ‘studio’, it wasn’t totally worn down, situated in a fairly usual sort of neighbourhood for someone on my income (which was, to say, nothing, but it still wasn’t too bad) and everybody around seemed to be mostly pleasant, mainly around the same age as me.

I drove the Astra down the ramp and into the flats’ garage, parking it as quickly – and as shoddily, it appeared – as I could, before getting out, frantically locking the doors, and sprinting for the elevators. The delays – the doors closing, the lapses as the lift clunked past each floor – seemed like a separate eternity each, in themselves, as I madly twiddled my thumbs behind my back and moved between trying to look ‘cool’ and just wanting to get out of enclosed spaces and into my apartment, which, thankfully, I eventually did. The doors hissed open, and I bolted straight to my door, fumbling for my key, shoving it straight into the lock, and trying to twist it to the right as hard as I could, before I actually noticed that the door was a few inches open.

The whistle of a steadily boiling kettle echoed from inside, but, otherwise, the apartment was silent. I slowly withdrew my key, and crept in, trying not to make noise, the fact that I’d just bolted for the door and attacked the lock as if I were clinically insane not quite registering with me for the stealth factor. Slipping further down the hall, trying as hard as I could not to let my footsteps become audible against the marble floor, thoughts bounced around inside my brain as I wondered just who it could be. Police? Rival criminals, here to ‘whack’ me, as Tommy DeVito or Luca Brasi would say? Or perhaps even Daryl or Jakob, here to warn me of one – or both – of the former. Either way, it sounded like they were readying themselves a cup of coffee… and with my kettle, too. The nerve, taking advantage of someone just as much as you can before you put a .22 round through the back of their head!

Finally, the sound of muffled footsteps drew closer. It sounded like a single person, but, I told myself to be ready for an entire squad of people, each armed with fully-automatic Kalashnikov rifles, ready to cut me down as if I were an insurgent Taliban foot soldier-

Before I could even think of a plan of action, the figure appeared at the end of the hallway. Six foot three, a lot more muscular than me. I was frozen in place, my body suspended whilst my mind ran wild. And he clutched in his hand not a butterfly knife, or a suppressed Luger pistol, and not even a sawn-off Lupara shotgun, but an empty coffee mug, save for a spoonful and a half of brown granules sitting comfortably at the bottom of it.

This was no criminal, or policeman. This wasn’t even Daryl or Jakob. The man went by the name of Richard, and to those who knew him, Ricky.

Ricky Goldstone. My brother.

*****

We topped up the kettle, set it to boil again, locked the door, and Ricky set me out a mug, filling it with coffee and a spoonful and a half of sugar. He knew it without even asking from our teenage years – it’s how I’ve always had my coffee, and how I will continue to have it – filling both cups to the brim once the kettle finished boiling as I flung the keys onto the couch and hooked my coat up, vaulting over an armchair and landing in it rather spectacularly.

Moments later, Ricky took his seat on the couch – he’d already set out his suit jacket on the armrest, neat as ever – and began to sip eagerly at his coffee, seemingly ignoring the fact that it was still unbearably hot.

Ricky was taller than me by a good couple of inches, and had a much larger frame. He managed to maintain a rather nice complexion, his skin appearing just as if it’d been brushed by the sun, and smooth, too, at that. He had relatively short dirty-blonde hair, always being mistaken for highlights, and gelled up in a wild, explosive fashion at the front. My mother always claimed he had beautiful facial features and definition to match pale blue eyes, ‘perfect ratios’, or something like that – of course giving him bragging rights over me every single time in our younger years – and it seemed to ring true; he’d always gotten the better-looking girls.

Coupled with the fact that he always wore Armani suits, pencil-thin black ties, expensive Osiris shades (always the newest and most fashionable ones), and a chromed – and apparently very costly – Seiko watch from his collection, he looked something like a cross between a pretty-boy, a business executive, and one of those slick-stylish mob contract killers you see in the movies.

He’d loosened his tie, undone his collar, and rolled up his sleeves, still maintaining his ‘look’, however. I was the total opposite; on that particular day, I’d donned a cheap, striped cotton polo, and a pair of simple jeans, along with my favourite pair of grimy sneakers. I looked like a throwback 90s grunge musician; he looked like one of the men you’d see on a Davidoff ad.

“So how did you get-“ I started the sentence, and he cut me off by whistling and holding his finger at my eye-level, dangling a keyring from it, trying to make my stupidity blatantly obvious; of course. He was my brother, and the only family I had locally, so it made sense that I’d give him my only spare.

Managing to read my mind, (we were brothers, after all) he picked up on what was inevitably my next question, lowering the key and taking a decent slurp from the coffee. I winced; both mugs were still steaming from the scalding water he’d poured in just moments ago. That couldn’t have been anything other than a rich, bitter, Colombian blend of intense heat and pain.

“Daryl called. He told me you’d turn up here and be a complete wreck, and that I should bring some stuff for you.” With that, he lifted a small plastic bag from next to him on the couch, and stretched forwards to lay it down on the coffee table in front of him; as he placed it down, a heavy clunk resonating throughout the apartment. My head snapped towards the sound, previously scanning the room for anything unusual, my paranoia still somewhat present. I knew from pretty much every spy movie ever created that if they (whoever ‘they’ might be) wanted to get to me, they’d get to me through my family. So it was always good to be awa-

A blur. I jolted, and my cup did too, moving a few feet through the air before I managed to suppress the upwards force. That, however, didn’t stop all the scorching hot coffee landing all over my cream couch. I stopped and thought to myself for a moment, mentally facepalming as I realised the ‘blur’ had just been Ricky getting to his feet.

Carefully, still shaking somewhat, as Ricky shot me an odd look, I placed the coffee on a nearby coaster on the table, getting to my feet and wiping myself down – some of the coffee had landed on my leg, too, but it was mainly splashback and I didn’t worry about it at that point in time – as I blocked Ricky from leaving.

“Wait, Ricky… did… did Daryl tell you why I’d be a nervous wreck?” Ricky smiled, and nodded to me slowly, grasping his jacket and sliding it on, reaching into a pocket and brandishing a pair of Osiris shades (I told you!) before slipping them over his eyes like the most stylish goggles going.

“And before you ask, no, I’m not helping you further than leaving you all this stuff.” He gestured to the bag on the table, and then a larger, black sports bag, sitting in the corner of the room, rather content on his own. “You got yourself into this shit, and it’s time you started fighting your own battles, kid.” With that, the colour draining from my face as I tore his open multiple times inside the realm of my mind, he clapped me on the shoulder, headed for the door, and left. Had I been able to, I would’ve stopped him, gotten down on my knees, and begged him to stay and help. But, for the second time in what was apparently ten minutes, despite feeling like ten thousand years, I was rooted to the spot, blood rushing from my head.

The liberating sound of my own brother slamming the door and locking it behind him seemingly unfroze me from my comatose state. I fell back onto the couch and pressed the middle and index fingers of my right hand to my temples, massaging them slowly as the worst headache I’ve ever experienced came on. The nerve, I thought. the fucker’s only a few years ahead of me, too…

I sat there for at least five or six minutes before the prospect of opening the bags came to mind. Leaning past the slowly-drying coffee stain on the white cushions, making a currently unimportant mental note to clean that up later, I reached for the nearest bag – the plastic one - and pulled it towards me, the contents swinging in a pendulum-like arc for a moment before I planted it in my lap.

It was heavy. Metal, probably. Biting my top lip, I thrust my hand in, having in my mind a few ideas of what it could be – one far too over-the-top to be true. And as my fingers brushed against the cold steel of an unfamiliar yet oh-so-feared shape, I withdrew them from the bag and retreated it, eyes frozen in my head this time. I couldn’t do anything but stare. My delusions of grandeur and child-like fantasies of life as a ‘secret agent’ appeared to be coming true.

Seconds later, I dug up the courage to delve into the bag once more, and did so, retrieving the object, my heart skipping a good few beats as it rose over the edge of the rippling white plastic. Just as I’d thought. A revolver.

Etched along the side of the barrel, beneath the sharp, polished sight, was ‘Smith & Wesson Model 19’ in a fancy font. A small piece of metal jutted out underneath, and just before that, the frame. And sat in the center of that was the most ominous and easily-recognisable feature of a firearm such as this; the signature round cylinder. A rosewood grip. Double-action trigger. Perfectly-ridged and superbly polished hammer. It was familiar – too familiar – to me than any other firearm in the world. My father had owned one. This wasn’t it – he’d had a black grip – but it was close.

I set it down carefully, my hands shaking as if I were defusing a bomb. I delved back into the package, and removed the second – and final – item. As I’d expected. A 32-round box of .357 Magnum rounds. I placed them next to the gun, aligning it perfectly, before tossing the empty bag aside.

I gulped and wiped my forehead. I’d certainly need a good few drinks now. It seemed like Ricky had obviously picked this because he knew I’d be fam-

At that exact moment, my brain had processed exactly what had happened. I sprinted to the window, only to find that his car was long-gone; it’d been well over fifteen minutes since he’d left my flat. This was… this was bad. What did he expect me to do with this? Jakob had told me to bring a gun, loaded or not, and he’d actually supplied me with it. What was Ricky, psychic?

I dialed his phones – cell and home – several times, and left a few agitated (and paranoid, again) messages, but it seemed like it was to no avail. My own brother wanted nothing to do with me. Collapsing back on the couch, I picked up the gun once more, and swung the cylinder out. It rolled out smoothly, evident that this was either a well-kept or brand new weapon. I presumed the latter, from the look of Ricky’s clothing, anyway.

I pressed the cylinder back in, and set it and the box of bullets down on the coffee table this time. Making an attempt to hide it never actually came to mind. All my life, despite enjoying it when it was fictional, I’d always directly opposed gun violence. And now, in the past two hours, me taking part in an event even remotely related to it had not only been mentioned in casual conversation, but I’d been supplied, too.

I buried my face in my hands for a good five minutes, before rising to my feet and heading straight for the spirits cupboard.

*****

Author's Notes: Feel free to comment and stuff, guys.


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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER FOUR

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:34 am

Chapter Four

Paranoia

Three measures of Jack Daniels and eight hours in a surprisingly comforting bed later, and somehow, my rather pleasant dream of spending hours on end with an old school crush was brought to an abrupt end as thoughts of guns, knives, pawn shops, and hefty ginger Irishmen split and appeared sporadically throughout my dotted green meadows and lush rural cottages. I woke with a start in my apartment, bucking upright with a hazy plane of vision to greet me and an even groggier head than usual.

I cleared away the various spirit glasses, quickly showered, and threw some clothes on, jeans and a simple cheap striped polo. The gun was on my mind the entire time, and, of course, it was the very last issue I wanted to face. I hadn’t moved it since the previous night, and was sure that if I did, I’d feel even more like a criminal than I already did. I sat down on the couch once more, bowl of Lucky Charms in hand, and stared it down for a while, to see if it would disappear.

It didn’t.

I finished the bowl up, set it down on the table, and stared the thing down for another few moments, before grasping it in my hand, standing up, the heavy, concealed weight swinging like a pendulum under my grip, and I moved to the bedroom, pulling one of the drawers in my magnificent, king-sized trophy of a bed out, and setting it down ever so carefully, folding the top of the bag over to make it as small and inconspicuous as was possible. I spent a good two minutes messing with where I’d put it, trying to hide it as best I can, knowing all the time that if someone came looking for it, they’d find it right away, and this would be the first place they’d look.

I tried to push the issue to the back of my mind, slammed the drawer shut, and stood back up straight, running my hands through my dirty blonde hair, trying desperately to think of what to do next. It was like I’d hit a brick wall with my life; everything had ground to a halt, bar my heartbeat, and all paths had vanished, save for that into the criminal underworld. It seemed like I had no choice.

Perhaps if I accepted my destination, I could maybe ease the transit a little.

It didn’t matter. I looked up, my vision centering on the middle distance. I knew my eyes were narrowing, and a small smirk curled up onto the corner of my mouth. This expression, I could feel it creep its way onto my face… it was one of redemption. One when I knew I could see a way out ahead of me. I was stuck in a devastating mess… but there was a silver lining. It was snatching, grasping at butterflies as they fluttered by, but this could pave the way for a potentially beautiful career for me. It seemed to all unfold in front of me, a perfectly paved path leading straight into money, riches, status, sex-

A familiar-styled, triple knock at the door shattered it all, my expression rippling as the skin relaxed and I formed back into usual, normal Fraser, the train of thought derailing and exploding over and over until nothing was left but scorch marks. It seemed impossibly far away now; despite in my mind knowing that this was the leap I’d have to take if I wanted to reach it, fear had suddenly broke from the realm of surreality.

“Mail for Mr. Goldstone!”

*****

It didn’t take long for me to sift through the envelopes, not having to open most of them. Useless crap that, importance-wise, paled in comparison to my current situation. Mainly bills. I threw them aside, telling myself I’d deal with them later, when I probably wouldn’t. I grasped a coat, and a pair of aviator shades, and mulled over bringing a baseball cap to keep my identity hidden, before deciding against it, and heading out the door, locking it firmly behind me, taking the spare key, too. I wasn’t taking any chances, this time.

It became apparent that despite I’d been brought back to reality once, a part of my brain still lusted for that reward I’d envisioned for a split-second back in the apartment. A part of my brain, the downright crazy little hundred and twenty-eighth, a tiny fraction, or whatever it was, that still believed it possible, a beautiful future filled within reaches within my grasp. And over the next few days, that desire held me, like a donkey with a carrot on a fishing rod, constantly swaying in and out of my control; when, infact, the circumstances, my reactions, and even my thoughts, stemming from that, were all being controlled by a power totally unknown to me.

But, enough of that. As a musician, I usually made it my habit to check out the venue once or twice, get to know it, the general feel, the mood, before I accepted a job. Well, it seemed I was in on this, whatever the weather, but I knew it’d be nice to have an air of familiarity, if only a brush with the dimensions of the store. It was maybe a half-hour’s drive from my apartment. I knew the street. I could recall the stores, easy. It was… as Jakob had said, a not-too-brilliant neighbourhood, filled with Irish accents and burly guys looking like they wanted to smack the living shit out of a scrawny twenty year old for even stepping into their turf.

I tried to shift through the streets as quietly as possible, leaving my car a few blocks back, and reaching Mickey’s at around three. The sun was glaring down at me, full in the sky, and I groaned, wiping a bead of sweat from my forehead and flicking it away with my thumb. The summers in the city could be particularly brutal.

Nearing the shop windows, I looked in, and saw a plethora of old, rusty, assorted… well, it was really just crap. There were a few diamonds in the rough – literally, although I presumed them fake – and that piqued my interest, but otherwise, it was full of ‘ancient relics’, ‘treasured antiques’, and ‘beautiful old firearms’, which I presumed all of which one could construct from the materials bought from the thrift store next door. I rubbed the back of my neck nervously. What were Jakob and Daryl so interested in that was turning up here?

I briefly locked eyes with the shop-owner, presumably the titular Mickey, and turned away, obviously as guilty as ever. Another wanton glance gave away that he didn’t feel it too odd, and it hadn’t broken his tired, trance-like state which he probably assumed every Saturday after lunch. The final, home stretch, before he could probably retreat upstairs to a small, dingy, broken-down apartment, and the ‘ol’ ball and chain’, probably around the same age, thin as a rake, Irish, and explosively horrible.

A shout from the upper levels presumed my seersaying successful, as Mickey shook his head and returned ‘diligently’ to the till, sipping from a mug of coffee. Catching a whiff of the strong aroma from the door-frame, pretending to be a tourist and talking a bunch of garbled gibberish to an entity which could only be my invisible friend, I set Mickey’s concerns onto his other potential customer once more, and managed to avoid the deathtrap that was the store’s entrance, and decided to go and get a coffee from an equally dilapidated building on the other side of the room.

This time, however, I’d come prepared. I withdrew a couple of sheets and a Biro from my pocket, and began to eagerly sketch the dimensions of Mickey’s from a distance; a rare ability nowadays. My heightened sense of spatial awareness was something that seldom came in useful, and I was more than happy to take advantage of it in this situation. I presumed that other than leading upstairs, seeing as it was the last building before a small alley split, and behind the pawn shop itself there was a miniature labyrinth which linked on to the aforementioned opening, I groaned. The guy had himself a wife and a possible exit, too. Plus, those shotguns… the guy looked mid-sixties, but he was in the kind of neighbourhood that he needed insurance. Either the local mob was backing him up or he had an array of artillery in there suitable for a small army. Either way, I followed my creed, hoping for the best, and planning for the worst.

Daryl had told me I was to be a lookout, and that was all. That probably meant, that should the entire operation go tits-up, and the guy ran out the back, I’d be the first one outside. Which meant I’d be the first one chasing him. Which meant I’d be the first one likely to get a shotgun blast to the upper torso if he wanted to deter any pursuers. My palm immediately went to my forehead, and I scrunched up a torn-off sheet on which I’d jotted down possible options and plans.

I wanted to make this money, a part of me wanted to do well to keep the connections, but above anything, I did not want to have to fire that gun. That was imperative. I didn’t want to wound, maim, kill, even if it was accidental, and my shot went wide and the guy got crushed by falling bricks. Even carrying that… thing… was license for me to end up as a semen receptacle in the local county jail within the next couple of months. Possibly a dead semen receptacle. Probably a dead semen receptacle. And, yes, I knew already that I’d definitely be at the bottom of the pecking order should I go into a, as the government called them, ‘detention center’.

My second palm went to my forehead, as well, and I brushed an elbow along the table to move the third, successive, empty mug of coffee out of the way so the waitress wouldn’t have to reach over to my notes. I brushed my hands along the bristly base of what could become the beard, and checked my cheap, plastic Casio watch. Five-thirty; how had it come to this? How had I gone from screaming the chorus of a Slipknot song to planning last resort measures and the basis of my will (thanks to death by police when Jakob refused to give up whatever haul he wanted from that shop) in eight hours?

Infact, if at eight that morning a stranger had appeared within my apartment, claiming that I would have major ties to a criminal syndicate over the next twelve hours, even over the next year of my life, first, I’d ask just how the hell he’d gotten into my home, and second, I’d brand the claims as preposterous and impossible. Possibly even mixing the pair together in a behemoth of a word, forged myself for the very occaison, maybe even label the allegations as prepostible, or imposterous.

But all of that… all of that was irrelevant, now. I folded up the notes into a thick-ish wad of paper, slipped them into my pocket, and left a ten dollar bill on the table, amongst some change, the exact amount for the three coffees. I started towards my car; I had a good five and a half hours before I had to be back here. I had to shower, get changed, and probably down a little liquid confidence, and then plan things out, before driving back, and, finally…

…I just had to survive the night.


Last edited by Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:35 am; edited 1 time in total

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER FIVE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:35 am

Chapter Five

Raid

Rubbing my hands together, I watched as the white-grey smog that was my hot breath against the cold backdrop of the city at midnight puffed out into an almost mushroom-like cloud, before dissipating, splitting back into nothingness, in just a moment. The image had been both created and snuffed out, extinguished in a second. More than anything, the way I was pondering the cloud at that moment mirrored the thoughts I’d had of my life, and more importantly, life in general, over the past couple of hours. It was a little philosophical. It was something I was used to, small bouts of thought of matters like this coming and going sporadically within my life.

The point was that life could be given and taken away in just a second; the former required specifics, prerequisites, and nine months of preparation; but it seemed all that the latter needed to be fulfilled was a one-and-a-half inch-long, steel-jacketed, copper flash-coated .38 Special revolver bullet, and a tap on the trigger; and nine times out of ten, if you had half-decent aim, you’d blow away whoever just happened to piss you off at the time. And it seemed like tonight was open season on five-eleven blonde white alternative metal musicians, and I was standing right in the middle of the hunting grounds.

There were two reasons I was here. The first was primarily the money, and the second was that I had a lot of stuff to go over with Jakob, and, by extension, Daryl. Was he even called Daryl? Or was that just an alias the master thief had used when he hung around with me and the band? Perhaps he was just getting to know us in case his ‘team’ later called upon me, or Raul, or maybe even Frankie – as unlikely as it was – to either help or be shown a swift exit from this life for any of our previous transgressions, whatever they could have been. I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong. Maybe this whole thing was a set-

No. No, no, no. I needed to stop thinking like that. It was bad for me, and should it come to a situation later where my life could possibly be in danger – not from my teammates, hopefully – it would almost definitely be bad for my health.

I’d actually been there for what was in excess of half an hour. I was usually none too punctual when it came to deadlines, but seeing as this was make-or-break, and there was a hell of a lot of cash involved… I thought it’d perhaps good to be a little more prompt than I would regularly be. That, too, and I was paranoid as all hell. Half of me wanted this to go smooth, and the other half didn’t give a fuck so long as it was over quickly.

I was standing outside the coffee shop opposite Mickey’s, the same one I’d sat at a few hours ago. The lights were still on in the pawn shop, and I checked my watch. Almost time. It seemed like Mr. Carmichael was going to keep his store open all night; hell, it might have actually been his routine. I clapped my gloved hands together once more and let out another puff of breath, before shooting a glance towards the white plastic bag I’d set down on a somewhat damp plastic coffee table.

As of now, my attire was close to appearing as criminal as possible, but I was still missing the signature ski mask and shades; both of them sitting in the bag, along with the gun, binoculars, and torch I’d been instructed to bring. I had on a long-ish black raincoat, a pair of gloves, some black jeans, and a pair of boots. Fairly thick attire despite it being a summer night; either way, it was starting to get chilly out, and I doubted that my blood would warm up too soon, unless I got into the thick of the action. And I really, really didn’t want to do that.

“Haha, here he is!” A sharp, all-too-familiar Irish voice. Some rapid footsteps, then another shout directed away from me. “I told you he’d show!” I turned towards the source of the voice – inevitably, Jakob – and caught sight of his huge, hulking frame, alongside a smaller, younger guy – looking barely eighteen – and a thin, lanky man, set between the two.

The smaller guy had a near-identical haircut – similar in colour, too - to Jakob, and their features were almost dead-similar. Alongside the leader of the pack donning all-black, too, this kid seemed to mirror me with the whole raincoat-jeans get-up. The pair looked like brothers, at least cousins, and I was fairly confident they were related.

The lankier guy had the makings of a messy beard, and unsightly black hair, bags under wide, drooping eyes. He looked kind of uncomfortable, shaking around, shivering, and a little off-putting. He did his best to smile as the trio drew up, though, completing the triumvirate of criminals with a hoodie, a pair of army fatigue bottoms, and some black converse.

Once they drew close, I thrust out my hand, and let out a chuckle – a little more nervous than I was comfortable with – and rubbed the back of my head as Jakob ignored the handshake and pulled me into his mammoth embrace, squeezing me a little too hard. “I knew ya’d turn up, buddy…” He trailed off, splitting off from the bear hug moments before it’d started, and gesturing to the younger guy.

“This here’s Paddy, me little brother,” I raised a quick hand towards Paddy, giving him the once-over and chuckling, before reaching in to shake his. He seemed friendly enough, slapping me on the shoulder – wearing gloves, too – before breaking away, going back to an easy stance as he stuffed his hands back into his coat pockets. Jakob continued, gesturing towards the black-haired guy. “An’ this is Connor, a good mate of ya’ friend Daryl’s.” I nodded at the guy, who, unlike Paddy, didn’t offer his hand, and simply inclined his head back at me, offering a quiet ‘lo’. Well, it’d do.

We looked like a group of friends who’d just met up mid-way through a night on the town to a few onlookers; specifically, an overweight middle-aged man walking a dog, and a slender businesswoman who’d probably been working overtime and was rushing to get home. Next to Connor, I must’ve appeared the most nervous of the four as everyone set their stuff down on the table. Jakob pointed out my condition, slapping me on the back again, causing me to jump.

“I know it’s a ‘lil unsettlin’, but try to keep your shit together,” He trailed off into a chuckle, before I heard three metal frames clunk against the table as everyone took a quick double-back to make sure the street was finally clear. I gulped. Three guns. No more messing around.

The larger of the two Irishmen’s expression dropped, and he swiftly moved on to more important things. As in, our immediate source of income. He appeared to have no blueprints, no plans, and simply a few facts from a couple of hours of crude surveillance, from which Mickey was probably getting a little paranoid, but nothing too bad, yet, anyway. I listened intently as he started.

“So here’s what’s happenin’,” He began, everyone taking positions in a circle around the table. I felt a little childish rush from picking it myself, before suppressing it and staring up at Jakob whilst he continued. “That ol’ bastard behind the counter won’t go to bed for some time, so what we do is… perhaps express interest in an old antique or something. Now, his ‘security measures’ are pretty damn pathetic, he’s got a panel of glass, probably resistant to nine-mills, but to be sure, we’re gunna get him to raise the window, then straight up with me and Con drawing the guns and aimin’ them,” He made a crude ‘pistol’ with his thumb and finger, and pretended to take aim. “Dead trained on him.” With a chuckle, he stared towards Connor, who nodded intently.

The laughter vanished as quickly as it had come, and Jakob continued. “We’ll get the keys, bop the bastard on his head, roll in, grab our share, and take the alleys round the back to the ol’ multiplex a few blocks up, where our getaway vehicle’s parked.” It became quickly apparent ‘little’ Paddy was no stranger to these sort of plans, either, as he readied himself first of all, slipping on a pair of shades, akin to something out of Men in Black, and grasping a Beretta from the table, cocking it, pulling back the slide, and flicking the safety off, before stuffing it into his pocket. Jakob and Connor did the same with their pistols, and feeling like my heart was beating in my mouth, I went to follow suit, when a hearty laugh and a large, gorilla-like hand stopped me before I could reach into the bag. I looked up to Jakob, and he shook his head.

“No need for you ta’ use yours, unless shit goes south.” He retracted his hand, before continuing. “If you see anyone of a… suspicious nature… coming, in the case this bastard gets to his panic button in time – an’, trust me, it won’t be the five-oh – the signal word’s ‘zenith’.” I nodded. Perhaps he wasn’t just a crude thug, and liked to show some semblance of intelligence. Perhaps he just had a thing for funny-sounding words.

With that, however, he slapped me on the cheek, and I dove in for my tools – thankfully, able to just quickly slip the revolver – still unloaded – into my pocket, before pulling on my mask, and grabbing the binocs and torch. I was just a lookout. In the eyes of the law, that was an accessory to armed robbery, aiding and abetting, whatever, and it was still a crime, but… just a lookout. This wasn’t that bad, right?

Casting the plastic bag aside, I shrugged, feeling goosebumps raise all over my skin, and drew up to the other three, who all nodded to each other in turn, before Jakob looked to me, placed his finger to his lips, brushing the fabric of his mask, and grinned, nodding to me. The final signal. If I wanted out, here was the chance for me to say so, to leave and never have to come back.

But for some reason, I nodded. I willingly plunged myself into this criminal activity, and because of it, my first tie to the city’s underworld was forged; and it was just a small job, but that was how it always started – I didn’t know, I couldn’t even fathom the possibility of work beyond this. But… somehow… it happened.

And then, Jakob said those three words, the starting gun, the flare, the whistle, that began my race through life, my sprint, my descent into criminality, a grin creeping up the sides of his face, easily visible, even from my angle, as he pushed on his aviators.

“Let’s do this.”

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER SIX

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:35 am

Chapter Six

One-Time Job

We crossed the road promptly, and I made sure to wing it to the left, to make sure that Mickey didn’t catch sight of me and start to get suspicious. The three of them followed in as I split off, and stood on the corner between the alley, the road, and the store. They shut the door behind them, but I was trying to stay as close as possible to the store; I also presumed the ‘fancy’ display glass hadn’t had any special glazing treatment, so when I heard quiet Irish ‘hello’s uttered as my trio of would-be comrades entered, I realised that I’d be able to hear everything that went down as I had a hopefully uneventful time outside in the cold.

For a good few minutes, it appeared like the group were simple customers, Jakob doing the talking, putting on the typical Irish charm, expressing interest in an object, before Mickey would counter by appraising it and dropping how much he’d let it go for. The process continued, and the pair appeared to be getting on swimmingly, until I could hear Jakob requesting for the item to be brought, taking from his own words, ‘a little closer’.

I gulped. This was it. Either they pulled this off right, or they’d end up with a torso full of buckshot per person. The likelihood was that Mickey had a double-barreled shotgun down there, probably loaded. Running a pawn shop was a risky business, and so he needed a deterrent for gangs and thieves – thieves just like us, it appeared - and a twelve-gauge deterrent with the kick of a rhino from a single shot was, I reckoned, just about deterrent enough for all four of us.

However, I heard what could only be the simultaneous clicking of two near-identical revolver hammers being rolled back, and a third, more smooth, sleek click as Paddy drew his nine-millimetre – I could see him, at the front of the shop, from where I was positioned – before a silence hung in the air, indicating the old man’s surprise. No matter how morally questionable this ‘job’ was, I couldn’t help but grin for a split-second as I realised that we were in now; the game was over for Mickey Carmichael, and probably his wife, too.

I did wonder what he could’ve had that was so damn important or valuable, though. He was mainly a pawner of old wedding rings from divorced businessmen who wanted to get away from their relationships, along with antiques and weaponry. The guy’s stock – including his little treasure trove probably kept in an upstairs safe - couldn’t have been in excess of fifteen thousand dollars, but considering I’d already been handed a fat slice of that, and there was no way we were making off with that much loot, I made a quick guess that Mr. Carmichael had some behind-the-counter goods he was holding onto that were probably either ‘liberated’ from somewhere, perhaps the aftermath of a bank robbery, or he was holding onto them for a short time. Either way, somehow, Jakob had found himself in the know about this little shipment, and he thought he’d cash in on it, too.

Moments later, I heard the redhead’s voice myself, and could just picture a nice little smug grin going along to it as Mickey paled beneath musty orange lights and beads of sweat trailed down his face. “Slowly, now, ol’ man.” A trembling hand perhaps went to an alarm button or the previously-mentioned shotgun, but one of the revolvers was swept down and aimed dead on it – these guys were most definitely not messing around. They’d made it clear.

Quiet mutterings as the old pawn shop man nervously realised what was happening, and attempted to deny all existence of whatever we were exactly here for, but Jakob cut him across once more, voice charming and suave as ever. “Don’t let what we’re here for concern you. Just give us the key to the door.” The door. I’d seen it. The room was a simple cuboid-shape, but set around the inside was a U-shaped formation of bulletproof glass, screwed carefully onto a wall, with a locked, transparent door at the left edge, and all the stock sat around on displays otherwise. Behind the grate, where Mickey usually stood, was a staircase twisting up to the bedroom upstairs where he slept once the long, tiresome shifts were over.

Grinning, heart pounding faster than it had in years, I couldn’t possibly consider any fuck-ups now. Nothing could go wrong, and I could feel it in my bones. The police were the farthest thing from my mind, and apprehension was so far away it felt like a dream. I was five minutes away from being rich, for maybe ten, fifteen minutes of standing around and listening in to a heist in progress. It was beautiful.

And then, my perfect illusion was shattered all-too-quickly. Footsteps. Just around the corner. Too heavy, too rapid. I’d heard what could only be their car drawing up a few blocks away, but they’d walked the rest. My heart was still pounding in my mouth, but now for all the wrong reasons. Not thinking as I threw myself around the corner, restricting myself a moment too late, I spilled out into vision, catching snippets of conversations in some sort of Eastern-European language, and then hearing the cracking of metal on metal. But I was too late; my eyes caught the last of these mystery men enter into another entrance in the alley.

But my spatial awareness skills in kicked in a moment too late. I realised that it wasn’t possible for them to be going somewhere else, going over it, from the door they were entering… Mickey must’ve had some sort of one-way backup plan. That bastard… he’d… but… the men…

Oh… oh shit.

The realisation hit me like a hammer.

They were here for whatever were. These guys, unlike us, seemed a lot more serious, from what I’d heard of them in that split-second of dialogue. No laughter, no Latvian cackling. They were here to go in, take out everyone in sight, and then run off with the swag. Mannerisms. They were everything. I presumed they were armed. Frozen by fear for a moment, as soon as I regained control of my body, I threw myself towards the door, attempting to swing it open… when… silence.

Silence.

Unfortunately, I mistook it for a good break in speaking, perhaps that the others were just scanning their surroundings, or waiting for something to happen. The moment seemed like an eternity as I waited for it to just be uneventful and awkward, shrugged off. But there wasn’t any speaking, any angry European shouting. Throughout the silence, I just heard another gun being raised, hefty, bigger than the smaller-framed revolvers… and then… and then…

Perhaps the most devastating thing wasn’t the force, but simply the deafening noise this firearm created crashed through the quiet of the city streets at midnight, shearing through. Across the block, apartment windows opened, lights flicked on, and heads poked out of buildings because of it. The sound of it stunned me, my hand frozen in mid-step as I reached for the door, skin around my fingers paling, all warmth rushing from my body.

People say that in a situation like that, when you recognise something as a gunshot, your body shoots adrenaline through your veins as an involuntary reflex, the adrenal gland in your brain reacting to the noise in seconds. In the shots that have been fired around and near me since then, that’s been the case, but not then.

At that precise moment in time, once my body processed and registered what had just happened, I felt an unmistakably chilling cold wrack my body. My feet began to tremble, and slowly, my legs, too. My knees buckled, and I heard a second shot fired, accompanied by the crashing of glass as my three teammates threw themselves down for cover from what could be the only weapon capable of shattering glass like that in a single shot; the behemoth that was a sawed-off shotgun. I fell to the ground, losing all motor control once more, thought processes becoming simpler and simpler in moments.

My body curled itself into a fetal position as I was barely able to stammer two words. “So… c-cold…” It felt as if I had suddenly risen from my own form and become some sort of apathetic spirit-being; I heard everything. The mishmash of gunshots, the shouts of battle, more people opening, grasping phones, dialing the emergency services. The neighbourhood had erupted into a battlefield in a second, and moments later, that same battleground was abandoned.

The shouts were equal from either side; what sounded like Mickey yelped in pain as the crack of a revolver quickly snuffed out either his voice or his life, the agony knocking him into unconsciousness, or the cold embrace of death as I could only bear witness, pulling my knees up tightly against my chest, feeling the mucus inside my nose chill and turn from solid into rivers, tears forming at the corners of my eyes, ready to cry for men I barely knew.

It was over. My hopes, my dreams, it had all been crashed in moments. But that wasn’t the source of the devastation I felt. Someone would be responsible for all this. Presumed I survived – I was in no state to defend myself – I’d be found at the scene of this, probably unconscious, thanks to the woozy feeling I felt forcing itself into my head alongside so many other dormant emotions, and I’d be taken in. Able to provide no other motive, along with the gun and attire they’d find on me, there was probably a menagerie of charges mixed together in there.

The mask began to wet and chill around my face. It was especially cold, even for a summer’s night. I hadn’t remembered it being this chilly in a long time. I felt ill, badly ill. My stomach was churning, and I could do nothing about it as more shots were fired off, streaks of penny-sized light flickering over me as more pierced the brick walls of the store, musty red dust spraying onto the sidewalk.

It took some time for the gunfire to settle down, and the shop to quiet completely. In the distance, I heard sirens… feeling returned to my body, starting with the pads of my fingers and toes, and slowly rushing back to me, a welcome warmth against that unbearable chilling sensation. I was still perfectly content to stay there for the night, traumatised enough for weeks, but, somehow, trembling, my hand reached for the sidewalk, and I felt my muscles become more powerful than they’d ever been as two sides of my brain waged war for control. One wanted to give in, to accept the fates the world and the law would grant me. And the other… the other…

The other wanted me to stand up and throw myself into the fray, see the scars of battle on this once-peaceful street firsthand. The other wanted to win, wanted adrenaline to surge through my body, wanted to break down the dams I’d so carefully crafted, the limits my body had constructed to keep me ‘safe’, shielded from the outside world.

And as my grip curved and my wrists tensed, allowing my body to grasp that paving and pull myself up, I felt the sensations break into me at once, flooding into my body like a sea of pure, raw willpower. More of a rush than I’d ever had from anything else, any sport, any activity, mountain climbing, abseiling, football... sniffing and brushing tears from my eyes, I grasped my ski mask from my head, and tossed it aside, my eyes narrowing. The other hand, at the same time, reached into my pocket for the revolver, and brushed against the cool gunmetal, ready to withdraw it and cast that aside, two, but I let my fingers fall limp. I could need it to defend myself, if worst came to worst.

My body and my brain were synchronised perfectly, both running in hyperdrive, but when my hand fell upon that handle, pressing, trying hard as I could to open it, even in that enhanced, elevated state… it was a trial. A task, something my body tested my willpower for. Did I want to see this? What reactions would it dig up from me? Would I have come so far from the place of unbearable apathy and inability to act simply to just be unable to continue further once seeing my fallen comrades.

To this day, I don’t know what spirit that cold brass door handle awakened in me, but in times of strife, in times when it’s been necessary to… I’ve felt it push up and just give my willpower that one last boost, to allow me to rise above and beyond the regular call of duty. There was being able to shift into a heightened state, emotions, body, mind, all running in synchronisation… and then there was this. Something else. Something no amount of adrenaline could simulate, artificial or real.

I began to get a feel for the cold metal, slipping my fingers around it, but I stopped myself. No amount of ‘figuring out’ this simplistic structure was going to help me. I just needed to grasp it, tell myself ‘fuck the consequences’, slam the handle down, kick the door open and throw myself into the room, no matter what I might see. I knew it was going to be gruesome. What those shits could have done to my friends, and perhaps what my friends could have done to them. But, staring into the room from the window-pane, I saw no-one standing, the bodies that I knew littered the floors obscured by the darkened, heavily glazed lower edge of the window. It was safe, for my body, anyway. My mind, perhaps not.

But this was just a hurdle. Another challenge the world had set in front of me, the biggest yet, lying beyond that door. Perhaps I’d regret the choice later, but it’s what you do in the moment that matters, and I stick to that creed still today. Moments like these shape who you are, and who you’ll become.

So with that in mind, I closed my eyes, grasped the handle, and thrust it downwards, flinging it open, ready to fall into the arms fate, whether she’d be a cruel or bountiful mistress up to her and her alone.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER SEVEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:36 am

Chapter Seven

Blood

Stepping through the door, I wasn’t greeted, as I’d predicted, with the musty stink of death I was somewhat familiar with from when I’d once been with a girl who worked as a city coroner, and not the metallic tang of blood hanging in the air. No, the only overpowering stench that somehow found its way into my nostrils was that of cordite; spent gunpowder from the sheer amount of rounds fired.

Smoke and heat stung at my eyes, and quickly, my heart began to beat erratically, tearing at itself, as I flipped into overdrive once more; I saw one, two, three, four… seven bodies, Mickey’s limp, hairy arm spattered with blood and torn with wounds as it hung through the grate. Somehow, logic played through, and as I carefully stepped around cartridge casings, I caught sight of all three of my fallen comrade, tears stinging at my eyes.

Somehow, I don’t know how I restricted myself from breaking down at that very moment. The sight, the amount of death in the room was astonishing, and the memories do haunt me to this day, but it’s as if the same willpower that had allowed me to force myself to push open the door and step in had also built up temporary emotional resistances to allow myself to think logistically for just a second. To onlookers, I would look like an apathetic sadist who’d stumbled upon the remains of a gang gunfight, staring idly at how pieces of metal had sheared through the bodies of people who were but mutual acquaintances, close to actually being friends.

I crouched by the first body I came across, and stared from his wounds to the patterns of blood spray on the walls behind him. I didn’t dare touch him, knowing the connotations that could bring; fingerprints were a bad idea. Hell, it was probably dumb to be walking around in here, the amount of blood I’d traipse around.

Either way, lowering myself to the body, I felt the cordite vanish, along with the heat, the odour and humidity obviously sticking to the top of the room, and a new one, the musk of torn flesh and pooling blood creeping into the chambers of my nostrils, past my cilia, and my mind registering it; but something was still blocking the emotions this horrific sight would usually trigger. After spending a few moments, cold eyes scanning the corpse for the cause of death – which seemed to be multiple handgun bullets to the torso – I ascertained that it was Connor, and some of the rounds – hollow point, probably – had gone straight through.

Moving swiftly on, I pulled the gloves I’d taken off back onto my hands, stretching them, and running my index finger along the still-smoking buckshot marks indented into the wall. It was accompanied by an odd glinting, along with a fine, crushed powder sitting at the bottom; turning my head towards the angle the shotgun must’ve been fired at, I saw a somewhat irregular trail of shattered glass. This was the second shot the shotgun-wielder had fired before someone had taken the liberty of disposing of him quickly; the other Eastern-Europeans all had pistols, so the guy would’ve been the heavy artillery.

Jakob and Paddy, however, had been a little more intelligent in the heat of the fight than Connor; it looked as if they’d taken cover by the waist-high counter, crouching behind it whilst others unloaded at them, doing a fair bit of popping out and firing over once they heard a lapse in shooting, but the brief respite they’d had was apparently a ruse, it seemed; the Eastern-Europeans had won the tactical match in this particular instance.

Paddy was littered with rounds, including one hitting the tendon in his shoulder; a few seconds of more thorough observation made it appear that at that angle, there was no way he’d ever be using his left hand again without a fair amount of reconstructive surgery and months of recover time. None of that mattered, however, I reckoned, as the one that’d done the job was a particularly nasty little bugger that had shattered his sternum and probably either scraped or pierced outright his heart, killing him near-instantly. At least he hadn’t had to deal with that agonising pain in his shoulder for too long. His eyes were half-closed, as if he were still dazed, or had only woken up, but frozen in place, a pool of blood welling up around and intermingling with that of his older brother.

Jakob was also dead, to put it bluntly. It looked as if the one that’d done the job was a rather vicious little shot that had hit him whilst he was turned around and pierced his jugular at just the right angle, killing him as he choked and tried to gasp for breath for a few seconds. However, I reckoned that from the other bullets that’d hit his torso, he’d taken a fair few before going down. And from the shredded remains of the Eastern-Europeans, it seemed that it would have been entirely possible for him to have seen his little brother go down, and in a flurry of rage, ignore the holes in his gut and legs, and continue to unload on them until all of them had stopped moving.

Stepping around Jakob’s hot crimson death pool – still growing ever larger – I swiftly pushed myself through the gap in the ajar glass door, swinging slightly to and fro in the cool, gentle wind that was breezing in from the entrance to the store. The Eastern-Europeans, it appeared, had suffered an equal amount of casualties to our merry little band of bandits, specifically the shotgun-wielder, who had been put down moments before pulling the trigger on his Lupara, the barrel of which was cracked open, two live shells just loaded in before somebody had taken him out with a good old clean shot to the head, spraying an almost artistic spatter of blood, crushed bone, and grey matter on the dull wall behind him.

Skirting around the other two, who’d received equally nasty wounds, I glanced at Mickey, who’d taken four or five shots to the chest alone, before looking back around. This… this wasn’t right. Going back over events in my head, despite the noise being a little far-off, I’d definitely heard four distinct voices, four distinct cackles and drawls in some odd foreign language. That could be put down to misconception, however.

A third cheap, badly-maintained Beretta hastily dropped on the floor made four weapons, but one of the men could’ve fancied himself a gunslinger, a Billy the Kid, and tried going guns akimbo for this particular heist. But the thing that really gave it away was half a bloody footprint near the wide-open back door. One of these bastards was still alive.

The emotional walls in my mind prohibited me from feeling any sort of anger or hatred towards this man, and the regular Fraser would have cowered in fear and sprinted away; despite him apparently being unarmed, he was still probably a hell of a lot bigger than me, and a lot stronger. A one-on-one hand-to-hand fight in an alley was a bad idea, too; enclosed space, lots of sharp pieces of piping or bricks that can be used as crude implements or weaponry. And for the life of me, I have no idea why I stepped out of that door, hands in my pocket, breeze striking my face. Maybe the hand I had set on that Smith and Wesson revolver made me feel like a bandit, like Dirty Harry. Maybe I felt like dishing out my own little brand of justice.

But I think, more than anything, it was logic. Alongside the bloody half-print was a bill. And it wasn’t for one dollar, or five, or ten, or even twenty, or fifty. It was a beautiful, crisp, hundred-dollar Benjamin. So I retracted my hands from their comfortable positioning in the warmth of the pockets of my jeans, and began to break into a sprint, following a trail of mismatched dark red footprints down a labyrinth of alleyways, sirens in the background alongside my own internal soundtrack, electric guitars and drum beats pounding inside the inner sanctum of my head, haggard breath just willing me further into this world I’d so haphazardly plunged myself into.

I can’t remember whether I ran for a minute or an hour, but sooner or later, the trail of footprints ended as they turned around a corner; this was a neighbourhood I recognised. Maybe ten, fifteen minutes walk from my apartment. I’d been around these alleys once before on a night out with Raul and Daryl, and some of his friends – once more, begging the question of whether they were thieves or not – and I felt a spike of warmth raise inside me at entering familiar territory.

Throwing myself into the next alley, the footprints vanished. This was… confusing. Maybe he’d run out of footprints. Or run out of blood; I was fairly sure the guy was injured, too, from the splatters that’d been decorating his footsteps along the way. Maybe he’d wised up a little and had tried to hide from me in his sorry state. Or maybe he was just waiting behind me, trying to get a pre-emptive strike!

I turned around.

No-one was there.

I grumbled a little at my slightly disheartening prediction, when my heart skipped a leap once more – emotion and usual human reaction apparently digging away at those steel walls bit by bit and forcing themselves back in – as I saw a collapsed body next to two black sports bags. Sprinting up to it, I grinned like an idiot, happy as I’d ever been to see another human being dead or unconscious. Not only had this bastard gotten his just desserts – he was either gone from this world or on his way out – but, the spoils were no longer to be split four ways, either. It was a greedy sentiment, somewhat, considering eight people had just died in order for me to come into possession of these bags, but there was a silver lining for every situation.

I grasped both bags, heftier than I’d presumed for money, but, hey, the heavier, the better, I guessed. Something rattled inside, and I was a little confused as to whether the contents were solely money, but checking up would have to wait. I checked my watch; it was getting close to one in the morning. Prime time for muggers around this area – my home wasn’t exactly situated in the friendliest part of the city. And to come so far and fall at the last hurdle would be a damn shame.

So, grasping the bags and swinging them over my shoulders like a schoolboy on the last day of the semester, I high-tailed it back home, the blaring sirens slowly quieting in the distance. ”To the victor goes the spoils,” I told myself, grinning. And perhaps my triumph hadn’t exactly been of the traditional variety for these sorts of situations, but, hell, either way; it appeared I’d ended up on top.

My luck was starting to change, and I loved it.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER EIGHT

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:36 am

Chapter Eight

Information and Misinformation


A dimly-lit circular room sat beneath what could only be called a behemoth of an underground complex, littered with around almost two-hundred staff on that particular day, complete with its own fairly large armoury, soundproofed rifle range, and parking lot. The ‘building’, if it could be called that, to an untrained eye could have perhaps seemed akin to a hidden intelligence agency bunker, with personnel clad with expensive suits, shades, and black ties coming and going throughout the day, appearing, to most, suspect, but its true motive was far from official.

Inside the circular room stood a podium of sorts, a cone-shaped elevated structure forged from some sort of clear, simple stone, with four sets of small steps carved at ninety-degrees around into the platform, all leading up to a flat panel at the top upon which was situated a near-gargantuan, ornately-crafted, adorned granite throne. A single figure sat atop it, draped in a long black cloak down to his waist, where black slacks began, tucked into similarly-coloured boots at the ankle, no flesh visible. A few small wires and tubes trailed from what appeared to be his back, down to the floor, along the flights of stairs, and off into the pitch-black abyss that was the supposed ‘end’ of the room.

A sigh resonated throughout this man’s apparent abode, rippling forth from pale lips masked by the hood sat over his head. To onlookers, the only portion of his body visible would be a sharp chin protruding from beneath the shadow of the upper part of the cloak, accompanied by a small congregation of short, bristly black-grey hairs; and despite the rest of his form effectively being invisible to others, or, more, unseen, even this tiny piece of the puzzle that was this man’s – could he be called that – body was more intimidating to some than the force of an army of revolutionaries, or that of a storming rhinoceros.

Moments after the slow exhalation of breath, a gloved hand moved, seemingly, towards the chin, just an inch or so of a similarly near deathly-white wrist becoming visible as the sleeve fell down this being’s arm. And in a moment, the leather stretched, and, one at a time, fingers curled inwards, elbow propping the hand up as the prickly stubble on his chin was lowered to the top of this platform forged from the man’s own digits, using it as a resting point for his weary head, the thud of contact sounding much heavier than it should have been thanks to the creation of the room and its acoustic setup.

“Good afternoon, sir.”

The voice, clean, serious, and crisp, came from a form on the other side of the room, the figure it belonged to sitting atop a much more simplistic marble bench. This man was seemingly, from his posture, one inferior to the elevated man in the chair, but nevertheless carried, from behind two thin black lenses, sharp eyes, thin, and an odd complexion. It wasn’t evident at first glance, but upon further inspection, this man would have seemed as if he was some sort of merger child between the East and West; his name was Lewis Kai, and he was the son of an American woman and a Korean businessman.

The figure in the chair moved once more, letting the gloved hand that had been raised drop down and lightly grip the armrest as he threw himself out over the chair, almost bearing the appearance of one of the titanic tyrants of old. His other, nearly identical arm draped over the granite platform of the other side, and as he twisted his head a little more to suit this more relaxed positioning, opening his legs a little to adjust himself to be comfortable, a small carving became evident atop the throne. To a trained eye, it would have said ‘The death of one is a tragedy; the death of millions is just a statistic’, a famous quote from what was then almost sixty years ago.

“But it isn’t, is it, Mr. Kai?” A clear, booming voice echoed throughout the cavernous room, despite the man lowering his tone to what was to him but a whisper. Despite the volume having been lowered, the words still held a gravity of their own far important than any presidential speech, or new bill passed from Congress.

And in response, there was silence. The man in the chair didn’t move a muscle, and his subordinate arched an eyebrow, but that was it. “I can tell. I can smell it upon the air, see it in your eyes. You bear no good news for me this day.” A gloved hand went to the chin and brushed those black-grey bristles thoroughly before letting the limb fall limp at his side and continuing. Another sigh, this one more short-lived than its predecessor. “It matters not, however; news is news, be it good or bad.” A pause, before the man continued to talk. “Give me your report.”

The half-Korean sitting atop the granite bench unbuttoned his Armani jacket, and adjusted his similarly expensive black silk tie, and drew a small folded piece of white paper from his pocket; unfurling it, his head tilted and eyes, beneath the sunglasses once more, flicked to the clear black lettering upon the page. Scanning past nine lines of variable length with a thin, tanned finger, his nail came to rest clearly upon one line; and he read it out.

“The diamonds are missing. The information was apparently leaked. The man we sold it to, his brother, a family friend, and the pawn shop owner were all killed. Multiple gunshots. The opposing side suffered four deaths, too, one man found away from the others.” The piece of paper was promptly folded up to its original size and slipped back into the inner jacket pocket, and like a man possessed, Kai buttoned up the front of the black suit and cold eyes flicked to the man in the chair, speech, for the most part, finished. “He had the diamonds for some time, but the bullet wounds…” A pause. Kai’s shirt rubbed on something inside his jacket. Metal. The sound was unique.

Beneath his hood, the masked man closed his eyes and let the sound snake its way into his ears as if it soothed his soul, much like one would listen to heavily spiritual music. He let the other man finish. “…they were too much.” Pale eyes flickered back open in an instant, and the man unleashed a simple, sharp retort. Three words.

“Who were they?”

“Latvians. Neighbourhood thugs.” The answer almost as simple as the question. The man in the chair shrugged, and let out a short, quiet puff of laughter. This is why Lewis Kai was his most trusted employee. He gave only what asked for. The bare minimum, nothing more, nothing less; and he always delivered. In this line of business, this was invaluable, perhaps even more so. Priceless.

Recalling the sound from earlier, a grin crept up the superior figure’s face, and his eyes almost rolled back in his head in pleasure. This was something he enjoyed, immensely so. The beauty of this knowledge, this power… it was astounding. It made him so important that he was effectively bound to that throne, kept within the prison, the leader of an organisation so powerful they influenced world events trapped inside his own castle. It was a despicable idea, yet the man sat on his throne seemed to enjoy not looking over his kingdom, his empire, but envisioning it, and how he could tweak it with a simple movement, just nudging a pawn, adjusting their path with a single order to the man set in front of him.

“Kai…” The grin strengthened and the corners of his face contorted as it became apparent he was stifling a laugh. Toying with his subordinates worked on all but one; and Lewis Kai was this exception. He had the best poker face the older man had ever seen. He was a prodigy of this business… so young, and he could quite possibly be the man’s protégé once he passed away; but… he still had fight, and time left in him yet. For now, he’d try to break down the walls the man had so perfectly carved within the sanctums of his mind. “I thought you stopped carrying that unsightly thing, and changed to something much more… elegant?”

Alas, the pauses were not because the man had to formulate the sentence. It was call and response, tone; it meant everything in a conversation, even one of words so brief and such a simple exchange, employer to employee, as this was – although for the seated man, it was much more akin to a master to pet exchange, or a king to his pawn.

Kai let out naught but a grunt, and beneath the hood, the man arched his eyebrow. Oh? A sound? That was something new. Perhaps observed as success of his attrition, the seated man let out a booming chuckle, throwing his head back as he laughed, his pale, wrinkled lips becoming visible from the action, before moments later, all that remained to stand testimony to this odd reaction was the reverberating echo of that triumphant cry. “You’re letting up, Lewis…” Alternating through the terms that this man went by; there were so many, yet when the tables were turned, the seated man was almost always addressed as ‘sir’. With another grin carving his face in half, his expression became serious, and with a flick of his wrist, and a hiss of hydraulics, a small, circular hatch leading into the chair appeared, and on a sleek black metal platform, a tall frosted glass of clear water, with two ice cubes, rose.

The gloved hand reached for it, and the man allowed himself to slowly let his head move backwards once more as the cool lip of the glass pressed against his open mouth, and he lifted the glass appropriately with the timing, the entire contents of the glass vanishing down his throat in a few seconds before he set it back down on the platform, and once more, it disappeared.

The man, after years of experience in this position, found toying with his subordinates to be most exciting, and to play power games with them; to let them think they had a certain amount of power, when, really, he could pull the strings, and just control the fluctuations, the increases and decreases, whenever it suited him. That ice-cold water was, to him, a lot like knowledge. The more you have, the more you want. And your body keeps on taking it, and taking it, and taking it, until you find yourself about ready to burst; and you either break down and give in to your human urges, in the former case, you urinate – perhaps not such a weakness, considering it is the nature of the human body – but in the latter, there is a way to push past it, and to strive to surpass your limits, break through your weaknesses, and attempt to create yourself into a near-immortal being, to keep bettering yourself until you ascend above the others… and become something else.

He brought thumb and forefinger across his lips to collect a droplet or two in a small transparent lining around black leather-clad fingers, before lowering his arms to the rest at the side of the throne, and just tap his fingers, allowing those two globules to effectively be reformed in mid-flight, and hit the floor, splattering into naught but a wet patch which would evaporate in perhaps a few hours. The very idea of the water cycle using the human body as a piece of a much larger plan had inspired him to create his monopoly upon this beautiful city and make it his own; and with a grin, an old yet spry neck snapped towards Kai, face still obscured, and he spoke. He’d been ready to all along, but… he enjoyed dragging out these meetings, just to see the reactions of his ‘men’. And this man’s was always the same.

“The diamonds had a tracker in the bag from the South African warlords that were intercepted. Assimilate a similar piece of technology to their readers and attempt to hack into their mainframe. Find out where they are, and send in Troop and Wilkes to take care of it.” A pause to allow a single, silent breath. “Clear?”

Kai nodded once, and rose to his feet, propping up his sunglasses, and turning to leave, before one last powerful phrase from his ‘wondrous’ employer was allowed to reach his ears before he’d have to retreat into a world of mortals and crime. Scratching the hairs on his chin, the man smiled, and let the words escape. “Do not fuck this up.” It was a warning, of course, but the man was, if anything, a snake in the grass. Charismatic one moment, deadly the next.

Allowing a snort of laughter to escape, Kai retreated to the tinted double doors of the room and pushed them open, letting a single ray of light escape into the darkness of his superior’s cavern, flipping open a simple Motorola phone and browsing through his contacts list down to ‘T’, and ‘W’, before his face curved into a smile and he slipped quietly into an empty elevator, alone, raising through the building towards the parking lot as the message went out.

‘Retrieve the diamonds. If there are others involved, no survivors, and no witnesses.’

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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Posts : 96
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CHAPTER NINE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:37 am

Chapter Nine

Loot


Before I go any further, let’s just backtrack, or pause, so I can disambiguate. At this moment in time, I didn’t view myself as a criminal. I didn’t think that what I had done was particularly bad for my karmic load, and the image that I could conjure up of myself in a split-second wasn’t that of an immoral delinquent; but above all else, I never thought that getting lucky off a botched robbery would lead to the things it did.

However, it did seem Lady Luck was rolling the dies of fate in my favour that particular night; as when I returned back to my apartment, not only was my shoddy Astra still hanging about the front of the building, but it stood alongside a beautiful, magnificent, sleek beast of a vehicle; a fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro Coupe, sprayed in a glossy grey-black hue, standing stalwart in the silence, at that time, my twisted vision perceiving it as some sort of metaphorical guard dog, or perhaps considering the hypothesis that my guardian angel had just decided that I needed a sweet damn ride.

Drawing up to the car in awe, I trailed my hands along the impeccable paint coat of the body, fingers brushing against the cold metal of the aluminium-alloy door; when I recalled the fact that this vehicle was in fact uncannily familiar. Realising that the logic for a random muscle car, stock price easily in excess of twenty thousand dollars, appearing in my driveway somehow fell flat at the first corner, I searched through the more dank corners of my memories to draw up a single, simple fact, a reality that would have meant more to me had I not been drunk on a cocktail of adrenaline and what seemed like incredible good fortune over the period of the last hour; this was Ricky’s car.

My eyes narrowed as I realised that this car wasn’t the most important thing I had my hands on at the moment, and I broke away from it, shooting it one last wayward glance as I skirted around the hood, and my feet touched against the freshly buffed paving slabs of the entrance-way into the apartment block.

I pushed the door open, and attempted to ascend up the stairs as discreetly as possible, trying to clutch my bag o’ swag and display a calm, cool, and confident mannerism to the night cleaning guy, one that attempted to display the same sort of expressions and movements that would’ve been standard if, say, I’d just returned from a casual late-night gym session. However, this plan was thrown slightly askew by two things.

The first was that I had never really been too much of a good liar, and whilst this didn’t involve putting on too complex a poker face, I could feel his leers searing into me like a high-powered diamond-cutting laser as I doubled back to nod at him. Beads of sweat trailed down my head, and, suddenly, I felt like more of a moron than ever as a realisation resonated throughout the halls of my mind; he didn’t care. No-one did.

This guy was just a night-shift janitor. He just wanted to do his job and leave the block as soon as possible. Maybe he got off on watching people like me walk in with various equipment and fantasise about what was inside, but the chances were that he was a regular, blue-collar, working-class, reasonable guy. Still feeling like an idiot, I fumbled for my keys in my pocket as I reached the door to my apartment for the second time that day, my hands becoming clammier and sweatier with every instant.

Facts began linking up in my head, everything connected into a web of conspiracies and paranoia. What did Ricky know? Why was his car here? Was he in on this, too? Was he with Daryl and the others, or was he working for the Latvians? Shit, the Latvians! Images flickered through my head in a sequence; lawyers, court, judge, gavel, bars, prison, death row, execution-

Everything went silent as I somehow brought it upon myself to turn the handle and push the door open. I stumbled into the welcome coolness of my lovingly familiar humble abode, and my knees almost buckled; this place was my haven. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a fortress, but for some reason... I just felt... safe. At least for tonight. Safe, away from prying eyes, whilst I had time to sleep, and think. It seemed like the best bet to just get my head straight for now, and save the questions for later. This in mind, I shut the door behind me, and jammed the key in the lock, lifted the handle, and twisted, before releasing my grasp, dropping the bag, and falling to my knees.

But every human being returns to their nature when those do-or-die moments fade into the past in a matter of moments, when synapses stop firing at the speed they do when your blood surges with adrenaline, and when the blur stills into an image that can be captured by the camera that is the human mind; for some, this would be hunger. For others, anger. And for more still, pride.

For me, at this moment in time, the sin I represented best was greed.

Crawling across the floorboards, unable to move the rest of my body for some reason, I pulled myself towards the sports bag filled with the trophies of my oddly-circumstantial triumph using a single limb, my bare fingertips scraping against wood and catching splinters; and every time these swift bursts of tiny amounts of sharp pain were registered, there was no reflex, no reaction. I didn’t care. I needed that bag more than ever now. It was the key to the beginning of the rest of my life, to leaving this impoverished state behind.

Sure, I wasn’t starving in Africa, or being shot to shit in Afghanistan, but life had been better and could really get better with just that bag which was now less than a metre away. I pulled my form towards it once more, grunting as I did so, and possible plans ran through my head. What would I invest in? A record label, better equipment? Or perhaps I’d go into the stock market. That seemed like a good idea. I didn’t fully understand how the markets worked in that detail, but, hell, I could learn.

I certainly had enough damn money to.

That last stretch seemed like the one that drained me the most, when, really, it wasn’t beyond me to crawl to my feet, stand up, and carry it into the next room; but my desperation, my need for tonight’s payout was overwhelming. Hell, if every night was as fruitful as this, maybe I’d go into the... ‘business’... full-time.
Finally, as my hands finally wrapped around the sleek, smooth black fabric of the bag’s nylon handle, I suddenly felt at rest. I tugged on my treasure trove a few times, and it fell onto its side, and then easily slid towards me with a couple more pulls. Somehow, knowing that my prize was secure, it gave me some sort of sick, soothing relief, set deep in my heart. My riches, my wealth... it was going to get me out of this, I just knew it.

It felt like hours that I laid there for, sprawled out upon the floor, clutching my newfound hoard as one would a lover, but in reality, it must have been but a few moments before I regained full control of my body, and forced myself to my feet. Grasping the bag solidly in one hand, it swung back and forth like a pendulum, contents chattering and crunching lightly inside. I arched an eyebrow... perhaps it wasn’t just money in there. Oh well, ‘the more the merrier’ was certainly a welcome phrase when it came to this sort of thing.

I set it down lightly on the glass of the coffee table, and noticed the leather of a Chevrolet key fob sitting atop a neatly folded piece of white paper addressed, undoubtedly, to me. I rubbed the back of my head, and lifted the keyring to my vision, cocking my head and watching it dangle as shimmers of light danced along the edge of the metal. I knew already that this was the key to the beautiful monstrosity of a vehicle parked outside; I didn’t know so much why Ricky had left it to me, but, hey, I wasn’t arguing.

I lowered the keys back to the surface of the table, and picked up the piece of paper, smirking as I admired the handwriting on the front; no matter how quickly he’d written this, the bastard had always had a knack for handwriting. It looked almost perfect, joint up, no smudges... he had just put pen to paper and worked his magic. He’d always been a better writer than I had; it would make sense that calligraphy was his strong point.

Wasting no more time, I flipped the paper open, and scanned through a brief note written by hand on blank paper; shit, he really hadn’t put too much of himself into this. ‘I had to leave for a business trip at the last moment. Take care of her, and if there are any scratches, I’ll send the bills straight to you. Ricky.’ I shook my head and chuckled lightly; well, at least that was one odd occurrence accounted for tonight.

My head flicked upwards, plane of vision centered on the bag, and I felt my eyelids close half-shut as I scanned the thing for every detail, any possible traps, anything I wouldn’t be prepared for. The bag’s contents were, alongside, inevitably, money, for the most part unknown to me, which only meant I had to be extra careful.

Jumping to my feet, I went to each window in turn, shut it, locked it, and drew the curtains. I barricaded the door with my dad’s old nightstand – all semblance of sentimentality had been thrown completely out the window – before returning to the couch, and pulling the hefty sack onto my lap, grunting as it almost smacked the air out of me just from the sheer weight.

But now wasn’t the time to focus on that. The moment had returned. Adrenaline was surfacing within me again. I could feel the energy crackling in my blood, my fingertips, my palms, my wrists, arms, shoulders, every last damn piece of matter connected to me, down to the last damn strand of hair on my head was sparkling with a fire I’d never felt in this sheer volume before.

My fingers were sausages, and my hands were raw steaks, but, somehow, I managed to fumble and grasp the zip; and as I dragged it along its path, it seemed to almost take forever, but when I finally pulled the flap over and stared down at the contents of my bag of booty, the moisture vanished from my lips, and the sweat from my brow as my body fell into a state of trance at the sheer meaning of this sight.

It is, to this day, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and also the most eerily ominous, the latter not for appearance, but simply for the consequences. The consequences, which caused the events of the next few days to be the most important of my life so far. And, as I stared down into the pack, a grin surfaced onto my face, followed by what could only be true and pure joy. But, still, I was unable to celebrate yet, as my body was frozen in place from what all this meant, and what it would mean in time.

I had been wrong. There wasn’t a single dollar in that bag. I had presumed it to contain maybe sixty, seventy thousand at the most. But the contents were worth so much more. No, what was in there wasn’t money. It wasn’t simple, cold, hard cash.

No, set in there were dozens, probably hundreds of tiny little plastic Ziploc bags, all sealed, and each containing clear, perfectly-cut, twinkling gems, who lavished the rays of artificial light shone down upon them from the flickering bulb hanging from the ceiling from a single wire.

And then, after what seemed like years of ecstasy, my body on fire despite how passive I remained, a single, trembling word escaped my lips.

“Diamonds."

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER TEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:38 am

Chapter Ten

Contingency

As the last sparks of adrenaline surging through my bloodstream faded, paranoia, almost a counterweight to the final residual rush leaving my body, returned in but an instant. Questions were eels flailing as they tried their best to wriggle around in the dank abyss of my mind as I struggled to come to grips with what had happened.

I turned from one direction to the other, and then to the other, hearing sirens in one direction and the cocking of nine-millimetre pistols and Kalashnikov rifles in the other; they were coming for me, I could feel it. I didn’t know who ‘they’ exactly were, some unknown power, but I knew they were hostile, and thanks to my... liberation of the diamonds, they were coming for me. Some bore uniforms, and I knew them to be police, the protectors of our society, but everyone was in on it, the workers, the criminals, the law, everyone. It was open season for Fras-

No.

I tried my best to calm myself, launching my body onto the white fabric of the couch, feeling it ripple and indent beneath the force of my weight, and clammy fingertips went to my face, stretching my eyelids, as my other hand subconsciously gently trailed along the cashmere-like material of the seating’s lining. I was so focused on trying to distract myself and knock the issue’s importance down a rung or two that all my diversions lead straight back to the source of my worries in discomfort; in short, it felt like my brain was shorting out, and my psychology and natural response to over-complicate the matter was only making it worse.

This wasn’t something I could run away from. The diamonds were a temptation; unlike the gun, which I had never wanted in the first place, these tiny little gems were about to cause me a world of strife, and yet I knew that I’d find myself totally unable to relieve my possession of them – a payout this big was exactly the thing I’d been needing since I’d left college. I could start my own business, weave my band’s name into the books of some record company... with a cash source like this at my fingertips,

To an extent, my deluded mind actually personified a simple bag, despite the contents. Hallucinations began. I was clean, sure, but every time I looked at the bag, somehow, the image became more imposing, more threatening, more intimidating... it just further drove the point home that there was no getting out of this. As much as I could try to deny it, I was well and truly fucked.

Pulling my knees further up onto the couch, I spent some time pondering the possible paths that the next few weeks could play out, and most of them resulted in death, torture, or prison, no matter how outlandish they were. The few that didn’t, however, were distinctly more horrible, with outcomes that were well beyond me to fully get to grips with; and in the end, it just pushed me farther down the path of the shivering wreck as my vicious, self-perpetuating depressive cycle continued. My mind was in full-on paranoid turmoil, carved between trying to play a clairvoyant and a realist; but I knew that neither would save me from my inevitable fate. These diamonds would indubitably be the death of me.

Within another fifteen minutes, I was in exactly the same position on the couch, cradling a bottle of scotch as I sipped from a rather liberal measure of it that I’d poured myself.

I can only recall the remainder of that night in somewhat of a haze, but I seem to remember thinking that I’d somehow managed to develop lymphoma, considering that I woke every two or three hours, the first time, still drunk, although that was somewhat tangible, but every period of waking came after a shrill scream to end a devastating nightmare; and every period of waking had the same common features. Chattering teeth, body slick with sweat, an unbearable heat, and then, moments later, a freezing cold.

*****

Luckily enough, bar a mind-numbing headache, when the first rays of sunlight pierced through my window and beamed upon my face, I stirred and promptly woke, the last bout of sleep somewhat more natural than the last. To both my grievance and happiness, the diamonds were still set firmly in the same place upon the coffee table, and as my haggard figure sat up upon the couch and set the empty whiskey bottle next to an also depleted spirit glass, I realised that sitting around and wallowing in my own paranoia wasn’t going to help me at all.

I felt stings of guilt due to the fact that I’d sat idly by whilst three of my acquaintances - hardly innocent, but, still – had been slaughtered, but rather oddly managed to overcome them, my attention set fully upon the rather unfortunate payout that sat within my living room. I settled that the next course of action was to rid myself of a rather dreadful hangover before continuing with deciding on the fate of both my own wellbeing, and, obviously, the diamonds.

Two bowls of Lucky Charms, a shower, and a jug of coffee later, I sat down, and slid the still-open sports bag aside some, before carefully setting down a short, red-covered book, bearing a worn leather front and a somewhat tatty spine, adjacent to it. Another few moments went past, during which I simply attuned myself to the ambience that was the second hand ticking around my watch, face buried firmly in my hands.

Then, finally, I laid my right index finger upon the cover of my book, and slid the thumb underneath the cover, bringing my left hand up to keep the body of the paperback ready as I folded the front outwards, and stared upon lettered tabs cut rather neatly into the sides of the pages, descending through each and leaving almost a small sectioned staircase, which I eagerly trailed a finger down, swapping the positioning of my hands over.

It was a simple address book. It had belonged to me for years, since I’d left home to go to college, a gift, amongst other pieces of stationery which I’d initially thought useless when they actually turned out to be things that I found myself dependent upon; and whenever I needed to call for anything, considering my lodgings didn’t have a house phone, and, half the time, my cell was broken, I simply consulted a repertoire of names and numbers. A phonebook in a nutshell.

I knew it well enough to remember in a split-second that I’d organised by surnames, and flipped past the first six letters, leaving me on the first page of the seventh. H. I knew that the man I was looking for – and, subsequently, his contact details – would be on the first page – hell, he’d always been on the first page of this letter, for as long as I could remember, browsing through my mother’s counterpart of the book for my friends’ home numbers.

The point was, despite the fact that my father, a wealthy company solicitor with a web of contacts, knew hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, personally, and well enough to call them by their first name, Douglas Haner was always a name that I’d seen underlined, highlighted, whatever; it was always distinct.

Doug and my father had met during college. I knew this, because I’d been told the story off by heart, dozens of times. Ricky probably knew it better than me. My dad was a successful lawyer; or had been, before he’d passed away, anyway. Doug was an executive, good with finances. The pair had approached their first semester of college together, each as blank canvases, and when they left, each with a degree in their respective field under their belts, they were hardened young men, carved from stone, ready to take the world by storm.

Whilst things hadn’t always gone to plan – the company Doug worked for went bust before the man hit thirty – the two had been in contact for as long as I could remember. Doug lived a decent distance from us, but I remember that he always came to visit once a year, and probably called my father around once every couple of weeks.

Sure, Doug had been successful further along the line, but no placement was ever really permanent for him. A few years before I headed off to take my own college course, we got the call that the guy had started his own business; right here in the city that I was now living in.

Dad had made a few jokes back before I moved over here, stuff like ‘Oh, if you ever get in a tight spot, give ol’ Dougie a call’, and the like, but I’d never taken them to heart. The guy had been nice, but I’d never really... spoken to him, much. I knew he’d been at both my and Ricky’s christening, I could remember him being a little too... cheerful at a few New Years’ dinners, and I’d seen him last at Dad’s funeral, maybe two years ago. I hadn’t spoke to him over the phone since then, probably.

And now, I needed him, more than ever. It was depressing to think about. I mean, what if he didn’t remember me? What if he didn’t even want to talk, or help me out? What if Dad had been the last and only tie I’d had to him? It was confusing, and my gut was a pit of vipers writhing around before I finally just decided to hold the book open and reached for my Motorola.

Keying in the numbers, for some reason, my fingers trembled more than they were supposed to. It was a phone call, I had no reason to be so anxious. I guess I did have the equivalent of a small – actually, probably a fucking massive – fortune sitting in my front room, and this was the make or break, but if worst came to worst, and Doug wouldn’t help me out, personally, I could just burble ‘wrong number’, and hang up, before thinking about another way to work with it.

But, I did know that this was my best bet.

Either way, the number was in, now. I almost dropped the phone as my thumb hovered over the small ‘dial’ icon, radiating a dim green glow beneath the shadow of my frozen digit. This was it, make or break. I exhaled, and pushed downwards, raising the phone to my ear and waiting for that tone. Perhaps the phone’d be busy. Perhaps it’d be an automated machine. I didn’t know for sure, maybe it was best if I just backed out –

“Haner’s, Rochelle speaking, how can I help?”

I gulped. I knew Doug worked out of the store itself, probably in some backroom. We’d heard the details. I scratched the back of my head, and drew in a long, deep breath, hoping she didn’t put down the phone, thinking I was a prank caller.

“H-hey. I-is Douglas Haner there?”

There was a short pause. The receptionist responded hurriedly after realising that she’d left me hanging for so long. “Sorry, sir. Uhm, yes, I think Mr. Haner’s in, I can forward your call to him if you’d like?”

“That would be g-great, thanks.”

A click. The hold tone kicked in, and I unleashed a fearsome breath upon the room, throwing my head back, and undoing my top button with a single hand, letting some air circulate further into the underneath of my shirt, breathing heavily; I could still hear the music, it was fine. Calm, calm, calm. I was one step closer to bringing this shitstorm down to a level I could cope with.

See, I mentioned Doug ran his own business. A store; it was branching out into a few other cities, Memphis, New York, Washington, as of the last couple of years. He seemed to be doing pretty well, making a decent living off it. Hell, I’d bet the guy was sitting in the backroom of the main branch now adjusting his tie before his assistant transferred my call over.

But, see, this business, the eponymous ‘Haner’s’, was completely relevant to my situation, and his expertise in the particular field was the only reason I’d called. Sure, I had the makings of a personal bond with him, thanks to Dad, the guy knew what he was doing around large sums of money; but, get this. Haner’s was a jewellery shop, best known for their skills at appraisal and being the perfect middleman in locating a buyer, for a small finder’s fee. Guess what their speciality was?

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER ELEVEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:38 am

Chapter Eleven

Conjuration

Looking – and feeling – slightly less like a social pariah than usual, I promptly left the apartment after I’d arranged a meeting with Doug in half an hour. Luckily enough, it seemed he had remembered me. For fear of my phone being tapped, I hadn’t relayed the every detail of my situation, instead trying to keep it as vague as possible; considering that the jewellery appraiser asked no further questions, I presumed he was used to secrecy on... certain, special cases. And, it just so happened that I qualified to be one of those.

Either way, I’d donned some rather more formal attire than was the norm for me, to at least look presentable for today’s little engagement. In reality, I was trying to tweak every variable I could control to its best possible state; to use a technical phrase, I was shitting bricks the size of New York. I’d even worn my nicest-smelling Davidoff aftershave specifically for this morning.

Alongside that, however, I’d donned a crisp, freshly ironed white shirt, and instead of a suit jacket and cufflinks, I had instead decided to simply roll the sleeves up and throw on a tie. The shirt was tucked in, of course; I was going for smart casual. Hell, I didn’t want to seem like I was trying too hard, but I at least had to make an effort. Doug had seemed like the kind of guy that would respect that, you know?

And... this was going from some childhood memories and a rather succinct phone call which very well could have been faked. The man on the other end, may have, infact, not been Doug at all. It could be a taped recording, or someone using a computer to play sound clips into the voice receiver... it had sounded a little fuzzy... perhaps some little computer whiz was messing around with me. An MIT drop-out who decided he wanted a little stock in the diamond business, and that a single store in the middle of the city was a great place to start... hell, what about if his benefactors, a group of middle-aged men clasping Smith and Wesson revolvers and chomping on cigars whilst conversing in voices that sounded oddly as if they’d been eating cotton wool for the past few hours-

I clutched my forehead, and let my hand skate round the clammy skin to rub my right temple. The pain was swiftly soothed, although the dull throbbing – the makings of a headache – still lay underneath. The paranoia, adrenaline, and alcohol combined was near deadly, it seemed.

However, despite all my doubts, I locked the door – and tried the handle, making sure it was definitely shut – and descended quickly down the stairs of my flat, a small Ziploc bag hidden inside a pair of balled-up socks in my front pocket, and... as stupid as it was... for some reason, I’d decided to tuck the revolver into my sock. It was clunky, and not nearly as comfortable as the dashing, ex-Ranger FBI operatives in the forensic crime dramas I watched late at night made it look. After around fifty metres, the metal rubbing against my ankle became a lot more irritating than I’d thought it would, and after some re-adjustment leaving the ugly, polished handle prodding out into my trouser leg, I was fit to continue.

Every step I took from my flat made me consider turning straight round, fumbling for the key as I sprinted to the door and just managed to slide it open and lock the entrance behind me, before I collapsed on the couch and turned myself back into the sleepless wreck I’d been the past three nights; however, I convinced myself that, no matter how much of a low point this would be labelled for the rest of my life, I would most definitely go home a richer man. Carrying that burden, that liability, oddly positioned, slapping against my shin, and set awkwardly at the bottom of my leg was... perhaps worth it. I didn’t yet know. Between fear and impulse, I’d yet to make any real decisions about what I’d do with the diamonds. I mean, sell them – that much was obvious – but I’d really have to be careful to avoid heading off to the morgue in a body bag.

I’d done a little calculation of my own; as it turned out, the diamonds were all around a fifth of a carat in weight, a carat, in turn, being a fifth of a gram. Each bag was five diamonds, which meant that each bag was a carat, and five bags were a total of a gram. I hadn’t ever been particularly good at estimating something based solely on appearance, but between the padding – made to keep the bag inconspicuous and appropriately weighty for if it fell into the wrong hands – I reckoned there was maybe five hundred bags. That was a hundred grams of diamonds in total.

After a little research, I’d found that, by cross-referencing data from several websites, most low-end diamonds – I wasn’t getting my hopes too high – were a little over $700 a carat. That meant that I was looking in around the region of... well over $300000 dollars.

I’d worked before. Stacking the shelves at a local convenience store in the rural town where I’d grown up with an ever-successful academic of a brother, and business-oriented parents who pushed me to truly grasp a sense of independence, and understand the value of money. As soon as I was eligible to be working at minimum wage, well, I was. The job was shitty, boring, and part-time, and along with school, it made me exhausted most evenings, but the pay seemed like I was doing pretty well for someone with little-to-no experience in ever getting off my ass.

College, too, I’d had to hold up jobs. I’d gone between a few, but, either way, I understood the value and meaning of a dollar – despite how crazy inflation had been over the past few years – and with this much money... I could live the rest of my life in luxury. A penthouse apartment, at first. I’d rent it. I’d lease cars bi-monthly, just to be safe, and make sure that my investment strategies worked. Before long, I’d have enough to buy the penthouse straight-out, and every single one of the cars I’d driven. It had been one of my life’s possible routes; I’d just never had enough financial support from Mom and Dad before they passed away... and most of the inheritance had gone to their favourite. Ricky.

I’d never been bitter towards him for that, surprisingly. A few years of sibling rivalry, but nothing, really. He’d always been the smart one; second-best... yeah, I had to deal with that for some time. But... I was used to it, in all fairness. You take the cards you’re dealt, and you make the best of them. I’d been waiting around long enough – and lo and behold, a window of opportunity had presented itself. I’d dived right through it.

It was just a question of whether it was diamonds or dog shit on the other side.

*****

I took Ricky’s Camaro – a monstrous beast of a vehicle – and felt extremely proud of myself, carrying my shoulders proud with a lot of swagger as I parked it on the sidewalk outside Haner’s. Liberating a pair of aviators from the dashboard, I’d slipped them on and stepped out, shutting the car door loudly and affirmatively as I walked away, a particular Australian band’s greatest hit playing on my own personal radio. I didn’t even bother to look behind me as I threw my hand back, clutching the fob, and pressed down on the button. I could feel the eyes of the public on me as I strolled down the street, and slowly realised that the road wasn’t as populated as it should have been.

I immediately sunk back into my shell as I saw elderly women cackling from across the street and pointing over me. My fleeting moment of overwhelming cool had been ruined by cockiness and arrogance, and a plummeting feeling hit me in the form of a serious blow to my self-esteem. Hell, grannies were laughing at me. I felt an overpowering urge to flip them off and sprint away, but I think that would probably be the decisive factor in me ending up going to the ‘bad’ region of the afterlife; I mean, I’d had a fairly evil week, after all.

Hastily, I put that behind me, and attempted to look as professional as possible as I strode confidently up to the door – probably further reinforcing the stereotypes of the youth of the modern world, but, oh well, I was going to make a pretty penny – and rubbed the side of my beard, before taking a deep breath, and pushing the door open.

Despite the ridiculous temptation to simply turn and dash away, tail between my legs, it seemed that my confidence in myself was building with each of these events; money had been an incentive for both, although a significant amount of adrenaline had triggered the first. It was odd. A week ago, I’d never have believed someone if they’d told me I was to stride into a jeweller’s in seven days’ time and make a deal resulting in me being $300000 richer.

But, somehow, that courage buried beneath me – as unlikely and strangely sadistic as it had been last night – had broken through the steel walls of its mental cage in an instant merely hours ago; and though it had been imprisoned since, I knew the ins and outs of the place. Nothing had changed. I’d split myself from the mould of personality I’d created for myself, and an inner bravery – if you’d call it that – had risen from me in the heat of the moment. It just hammered home the point that, despite appearances, I had a monstrous flood of emotional responses lying locked away, ready to be evoked by the simplest and most primal of actions.

Plucking it out wasn’t as easy as it had been. Without fright as a stimulus, my first few attempts at closing my eyes and calming myself to become that same cold, calculating, quick-thinking menace of a man that I’d been last night worked to no avail; but it did become apparent that if I concentrated hard enough, I could at least siphon a little of yesterday’s resolution to collect myself somewhat.

In a moment, the change was evident; thoughts became collected and organised, if but hung together on a single, flimsy piece of frayed string. It was ready to snap at the last moment, but I could lay my memories and facts out before me and read through them like a textbook, as opposed to having to spend hours attempting to stumble through pieces of information which were, in short, useless to me in moments when I needed something I desperately couldn’t locate.

My eyes narrowed. Morals and ethics could wait. In an instant, my bumbling concerns of the creature I’d turned into last night vanished, and of whether my alter ego was someone I was more in fear of than willing to lapse into; but like this... I felt changed. A different man altogether. Confident, smart, cool. I wore the shirt, the tie, the sunglasses... all with pride. Demeanour was everything, and, here, it was second-nature. I no longer had to think about poses, stances, walks... everything was natural.

Who I had been fifteen seconds ago was naught but a ghost of a memory; and whether he approved of this transformation, now he could fully access and comprehend the abilities and judgment of this callous, merciless soul, didn’t matter. It was an unnecessary piece of information which didn’t factor into my current situation. It was to be ignored. The ends justified the means... Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince. A book I’d never have remembered as that simpleton of a musician, not a minute ago. Now, I could read through every word as if I had it in front of me. Interface with it, remembering every page of the text, the creases of the pages, as I hunched over it, years ago, in my ramshackle college dormitory. I had changed. I was a different person. Stronger, more knowledgeable... almost ridiculously so. I smirked, thinking to myself one simple thing... ’What if Ricky could see me now?’

I had changed. And, boy, did I feel good.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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avatar
Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
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CHAPTER TWELVE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:39 am

Chapter Twelve

The Meeting

For a start, the room was... musty. The air was sticky, warm. A lot hotter than it had been outside. Elevator music played faintly from speakers set at the top back corners of the room. Normally, it would have been occupied by middle-aged women clutching their snakeskin handbags and brushing their chinchilla fur jackets, but today... today was different.

Save for myself and one other person, the room was vacant. Displays for various prices of diamond jewellery were set and highlighted with a price for row after row, on all three walls but the back. The windows had been painted over so that any passers-by would actually have to enter the shop even to just browse their wares at a glance.

Aside from that, the room was well kept, almost pristine. The floor was comprised mainly of white tiles, the kind you’d see in a kitchen; I presumed they were mainly there so the aforementioned upper-class women could sneer effectively as their heels slammed against the ground and made a rather satisfying clicking noise. As I stepped inwards and the door shut behind me, I could even smell the overpowering scent of perfume from what was most probably the last customer having just left – or, perhaps, it was window cleaner. I couldn’t distinguish between the two, not usually, anyway.

Doug sat at the counter. It seemed as if he’d cast everything aside specifically for our meeting; a single black chair, looking ridiculously out of place, had been set out for me. The phone was off the hook, and the wire dangled over the edge, alongside the register and card machine having been slid along the surface, too. An eyeglass, a cloth mat, and a Blackberry now replaced them. Well, at least he’d set things aside to make me feel at home.

As the man waddled over towards me, yarmulke shifting from side to side, just about covering the entirety of his bald patch, I told myself that I needed to be careful. If Doug were a legitimate diamond dealer, he’d be able to pick up that these were stolen goods easily, and would quite possibly tell the police. If he didn’t, however, he’d try his absolute best to rip me off. I smirked to myself as a grin split his face apart, remembering a line from old English lessons, which were beyond ancient to me now. There are daggers in men’s smiles...

“Fraser, Fraser, Fraser!” It became evident, as he wobbled his way towards me, that since the last time we’d met, I’d grown a significant amount; enough to dwarf him in comparison. I’d always remembered Doug Haner as being a rather imposing figure, although I was at least a head above him now. Irony at its best. “Oi vey, it’s been a long time since we’ve met, aye?”

It seemed Doug was one for rhetorical questions; not a moment after asking, he hobbled back around the counter, and seated himself upon the chair with an ‘oof’, smiling up at me, the same over-enthusiastic grin set upon his face. It was all a lot clearer now; he wanted me to think he was doing this out of the ‘kindness of his heart’. In reality, from what I’d told him over the phone, he knew he’d get a decent cut if he turned into my intermediary for the sale of the bag’s contents.

Normally, I wouldn’t have even bothered with someone like Doug. I would’ve gone to someone I could trust, someone Ricky knew. Nevertheless, time was of the essence, here. I had stolen merchandise on my hands, and as far as I knew, the police, the mafia, and the family and friends of the Latvians were after me for this. ‘Hot potato’ didn’t even begin to describe the gravity of my situation. I needed to get rid of these things, and fast.

Doug clapped his hands together, and I heard the dry insides of his palms scrape against each other as he gently rolled his fat, stubby fingers back and forth. As well as being shorter than me, it seemed that since we’d last met at my father’s funeral, Doug had put on a considerable amount of weight. His neck now looked comparable to that of a turkey’s, and below the tucked-in shirt, the leather of his belt strained, and his trouser button almost threatened to pop, bulging outwards under what seemed like a colossal amount of pressure.

But, I wasn’t here to make judgments about how Doug Haner lived his life. I was here to get these diamonds appraised. And that’s exactly what I’d do.

That thought was the only thing that kept me from turning tail and sprinting out the door when Doug pulled open a tray, removed a sleek, well-maintained, polished, black SIG P229 handgun. For a moment, I thought that the fruits of my labour were as good as lost, and that my brain matter probably was, too. I was frozen stiff in place, but when he set the gun down on his right side, stretching to ensure that it was apparently as far out of his reach as it could be, I realised that it was – somehow – meant to be a backhanded reassuring gesture. He was coming clean with me; no more secrets.

My heart stopped pounding as if I were in an interrogation room, and, suddenly, I realised the awkward break in conversation meant that he was waiting for either me to talk, or me to mirror his actions. I almost readied myself, out of instinct, to deny having brought a gun, but, lips pursed and larynx humming as I just about readied to speak, I realised that I had. A pensive moment to dwell on what this entire debacle had turned me into later, and I fumbled at my shoe, face still pale as a cadaver’s, retrieving the revolver and drawing it from the rather uncomfortable hiding place in my sock, before setting it on the opposite side of the counter to Haner’s pistol, before smiling awkwardly and stopping myself from adjusting it and appearing as if I had serious obsessive compulsive disorder.

I did have to admire Doug on one point, though. The SIG, whilst definitely not as powerful as the revolver, definitely had the advantage. It was lighter, more compact, easily hidden... compared to the semi-automatic beauty of a handgun, my Smith and Wesson almost looked ugly, at least to a firearm fanatic’s eyes. His armament almost completely represented the discretion necessary to be employed in a field like this; whereas mine was a perfect contrast to that, demonstrating my bumbling and stumbling into matters I knew naught of, and my pathetic attempts to pretend as if this were a world I belonged in.

“Let’s get down to business, then, eh?” A sharp chuckle later, and that dry, snide tone suddenly seemed a lot more warm and welcoming. Despite all the cold judgments I’d made of Douglas Haner so far, it seemed as if this meeting was going to be somewhat painless.


I remained antsy for as long as the man was holding even five of my vast assortment of diamonds; however, he remained true to his word and profession, and handed them back after a few minutes of meticulously inspecting each, causing me to promptly tuck them into my pocket and shoot a paranoid glance from left to right before snapping back to reality and re-involving myself in the conversation.

Doug’s words confirmed my calculations; these were, indeed, low grade, uncut specimens; he told me that the bag itself was probably worth anywhere from six to seven hundred dollars. His expression continued to look somewhat regretful and seemed to still carry a soft – though most probably falsified – sense of sadness. He folded the glasses up and sighed, setting them down on the table, and I scratched the back of my head, realising that the worst was yet to come.

Apprehensively, I posed the question. The deal-breaker. The thing I’d been rushing to ask all morning. It was time to make or break the deal. “You’ll still be able to buy them off me, right, though?”

And I got the number one thing I didn’t want to hear in response. A chuckle. Quiet, at first, but it quickly escalated into loud booming which resonated throughout the walls of the store showroom. I winced and cringed, wondering just why this was so hilarious to him. Reverberating throughout the caverns of my ears, the sound began to get more and more mocking by the second, eventually causing me to ball up my fists... I still had that little warrior spark within me, I was a time-bomb ready to go off-

It... faded. Slowly, quietly. The last few chuckles ended with a hack, eventually turning into a cough; bastard deserved it, in my view. I just wanted to find out what was so hilarious, and whether my question was a yes or a no. “Haha, you’re funny, Mister Goldstone,” He said, using the table as support as he pushed himself up, retracting the SIG and tucking it back into the drawer with a single movement, before he slammed it shut. I quickly doubled back behind me, before snatching up my revolver and slipping it into my shoe as fast as I could; I never knew who was going to be waiting outside; be it a fully armed SWAT team cradling assault rifles and shotguns, or gangbangers with MAC-10 sub-machine guns and cheap knock-off Glocks. Haner continued, and I snapped my neck towards him, raising to my full size to at least help me feel a little more intimidating. “I can’t buy them offa’ you, Fraser, but I’ll do my best to find you a buyer.”

My hands trembled. Fuck. That meant I had to hang onto them for longer. Well, at least some hope was better than no hope... right? “H-How long will that take?” I wiped my brow, feeling the sweat beads form. I needed to get out of here, now. Was that itching sensation in my back really there, or was it just the paranoia kicking back in? That ‘fighter spirit’ that I’d instilled myself with but twenty minutes ago was all but gone now; I’d been lying to myself about a passive rage lying latent within me.

“Three to four days, I dunno,” He brushed it off, flipping his hand at me as he turned himself around, wobbling, once more having to use the furniture around him to keep himself upright mid-movement. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what that sentence meant. Three more nights. Three more nights where I had to sleep with a gun under my pillow, the door double-bolted, excuses and alibis ready and waiting on the tip of my tongue. No amount of scotch would help me through this. I needed this burden to leave me, so I could sit in peace atop my mountain of ill-gotten gains.

I clouded my true emotions with a smirk, turning slowly and moving one foot at a time. I just had to simplify this. Well, who ever said making money like this was easy, even in the criminal world? I rubbed the back of my head once more, and began my walk towards the door. It was just three more nights. Three more nights couldn’t be that bad, surely? I could tough it out, right? I could tough it out. I was being stupid, and I knew it. Three more nights was nothing. Hell, I could’ve done a week if I wanted to!

Trying to mask my true dilemmas, conflicts and insecurity with false bravery seemed like the best thing to resort to at the time. But nothing could prepare me for the veritable shitstorm heading my way; and those two words seemed to almost bring it upon me. I personally blame Douglas Haner alone for the events that unfolded during the few hours after our meeting. My hand was on the cold metal of the doorknob, half-twisted as I readied myself to slip out and leave as if I’d never been here in the first place. For all I cared, this place could burn and I wouldn’t give it a second thoughts. Hell, this entire street could. Haner had been no help whatsoever that day, and he would never turn out to be any, either.

Maybe I should’ve viewed what he said as fate smiling on me once more and guiding me with her soft hand through these trials. Maybe he was truly innocent and just dropping a little tip to help me out. Or, maybe he was in on it from the beginning, and just felt like teasing me and being an asshole.

Either way, nothing had prepared me for the surge of feeling that shot through every vein and artery in my system when those eight words rolled oh-so-simply off of his tongue. Nothing had prepared me for the gravity of the next impendent heartbeat which was the last at regular, resting speed before I raced off towards my car, the organ pounding like a bass drum in an eighties heavy metal hit.

“Have you made sure you’re not being followed?”

Oh... oh shit.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:39 am

Chapter Thirteen

Fulcrum

Life can often be compared to a lever. Two polar opposites. Sometimes moments can surface of great importance that define a person, and, to speak, whether they pull or push the lever to one of the different stations, be they archetypical black-and-white ‘good’ and ‘evil’, or perhaps something of a slightly more deceptive triviality, something where the real bearing and meaning lies just an inch beneath the surface. There’s another lesson where age-old adages speaking of ‘diamonds in the rough’ can be proved to be true time and time again, but that’s not the point of this particular spiel.

In every lever-like situation with two extremes, there must be a fulcrum. Some will refer to it as a neutral point, where one sways towards neither of the two sides, but... I like to go for something a little more literal and slightly less linear. A fulcrum is one of the basic points of a lever system. Without it, the entire design crumbles and fails to work. And seeing as the fulcrum is the central piece of the mechanism, you can understand to a certain extent that it holds both of the sides up. All it needs is a push in the right direction, and the balance swaps from one side to another, but the fulcrum is irrelevant to the information of which side represents which. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter. It’s binary. One side or another. An ultimatum defined.

So I take you now to an instance that you’ll recognise. An issue of great importance at the time. My lever. My extremes. But, far more importantly, my fulcrum, and just what it mattered to the entire situation. I didn’t yet know it, but the two sides of the coin were for me, as I’ve mentioned before, a typical moral dilemma, except now unbelievably complex, with every variable, every factor, every tiny little detail able to set off a series of events in motion if it was altered or pushed in a single way. My life at this moment was a precarious balance, and at this point in the tale, I was just beginning to open my eyes and realise it.

But, as for my ‘fulcrum’? It was my sanity. The very state of my psyche. And, more importantly, the fact that the black tendrils of paranoia were finding crags and cracks in every side, weaving in their despicable black tentacles, and shaking the very foundation of my judgment and intelligence. My entire existence had been something comparable to an earthquake simulator or sitting backwards on one of those bulls in the cowboy bars. But, thanks to the rather irritating little fat man in a jewellery store on the further reaches of town, I was now having a truckload of figurative rocks launched at me from catapults, too. And they were covered in boiling oil. And set on fire.

I knew as well as the next man that the situation I’m in had the chance to prove to be the most lucrative business opportunity of my entire life so far, and possibly for the remainder of it. The only problem was, by now, any sane human being would have run for the exit door and pounded on it until their hands were worn down to bloody stumps. I, however, was sitting contentedly at the highest point of the range, with an extra-large super-colourful bullseye painted on my back for the convenience of the aforementioned trebuchets.

I thought my goose was well and truly cooked once the realisation had hit me like a lightning bolt; but in reality, the situation would turn out to be even better than I had previously imagined – but more of that later.

The Chevrolet had previously been near-silent, almost gliding over the road on the way back down; now it roared with fury as beads of sweat trickled down my face, my breathing heavy amidst the bellows of the engine. The sheer noise and power the car emanated was a front for what I truly felt at that moment – fear, and paranoia. I wasn’t able to count the number of times I nearly jack-knifed on the way back to my apartment on a single hand, but it only intensified the situation. I was on the verge of passing out; my heart was very literally in my mouth, and the bile collecting at the top of my throat made me feel like I was going to start projectile vomiting every which way – and I told myself that it was a worthwhile sacrifice if it would simply stop this entire debacle; but it never came. I’d been pushed to the edge but only my own caution stopped me from making the jump.

This would be a perfect time for whomever to strike. Detectives, bounty hunters, mercenaries, assassins... gangsters. It didn’t matter. Time was running out, and I apparently didn’t have any more of it to extrapolate upon the precious little I already knew – probably for the best – thanks to the turn to my street coming up. I immediately killed the noise, and made a massive drop in speed; didn’t want them hearing me. Couldn’t give myself away. Not now.

My eyes flickered again, and a familiar heat burned at the back of them. Shit. That... that was... it was coming back. I felt my hand trail down my leg and reach for my foot, and despite my best attempts to retract it and pull it upwards, the newer, dominant, more powerful Fraser wrestled atop of me, and lapsed in completely. I began to work on auto-pilot, keeping a single hand on the steering wheel as I rolled the cylinder out, counted the rounds, and snapped it back in. Loaded with six fresh cold .38 rounds ready to put an end to just about anyone should I be so inclined. As if I’d made the same routine movements a thousand times, I pulled my thumb back on the hammer until I heard the click resonate through the dark interior of the car, swerving around the corner and tucking it into my pocket.

I shifted back into that gliding movement, with the car barely sliding upon the road as I parked it, pulled open one of the doors, and shut it slowly, softly behind me, locking it by simply tapping a button on the keyfob in my pocket, other hand firmly resting on the hilt of the revolver. In my daze, I’d set the aviator sunglasses back on my face, and stood on the door with a true look of apathy set across my face. I looked as if I were about to cook myself a particularly mediocre breakfast. Or change the toilet paper. Or head to work. Certainly not perform a... ‘specialised house-cleaning’, to put it in more subtle terms.

I don’t know how I knew; Doug’s statement had only set off alarm bells. But I remember, ascending that staircase, I couldn’t hear anything or see anything for ten seconds, at the pace I was moving, yet a part of me knew. I felt it in my gut. My apartment had been invaded. There was someone in there.

Every now and then in life, each individual seems to find a moment where he can predict something totally outlandish happen. Some have it happen more than others. Some have it happen maybe once in their entire lifetime, and pay it no heed. Some milk it and name themselves clairvoyants, when in reality they’re simply glorified conmen with enough people around to witness a stroke of luck at a certain point in time. And these decisions can be something as trivial as possible, something like announcing that the man across the bar will stand up and begin arguing with the bartender, or on the other hand predicting a murder surfacing in the news the next day.

For me, the former was far too simple. And the latter, quite probably, true. I was involved in something far too complex for my understanding at this point. The real connotations of the situations had escaped me. But that didn’t matter. It was do-or-die time now; and I was lucky that this side of me had lapsed into control at that particular moment.

My heart only pounded faster when my feet went from the last step on that glistening marble staircase onto the surface of the landing. I scowled at the janitor through my shades, and turned back to the entrance to my apartment. The door was ajar, maybe five or six inches. And I grinned.

To put things into perspective, not a single day ago, I’d been paranoid that this man was some espionage-oriented special agent placed here in order to capture information from me during my absence. Now, I was ready to grin and dive into my apartment with a newfound taste for bloodlust, ready to fire off at whoever stood within – friend or foe.

I moved towards the door, and the man scuttled off to the next floor. Removing the revolver from my pocket and holding it in my left hand, I glanced towards the dimming lightbulb of the open floor of the block of apartments, and backed up against the outside of the wall, inches away from the handle. Splinters of wood and cracked paint indicated it’d been forced open. I knew this place better than anyone, so, confidently; I simply touched the brass-coloured metal handle and put enough force behind my push to ensure it swung open near-silently. The relative cacophony inside escaped and found its way to my ears; maybe it was time to start thinking about this a little more before I pulled the trigger on the entire thing. I was second-guessing this second personality, and he didn’t like it. Growling, I found myself holding the gun against my chest, and allowed the man to do his work. My quandaries and qualms would have to wait until after the moment of action.

Papers, boxes, all being rifled through. Enough noise to cover my moving from the landing in to the open corridor; the wall opposite would shield me until I chose an opportune time to reveal myself, and even then, the entry-way turned straight in and right, meaning that I could take cover behind the dining-table if I felt the need to. The couch was lined up length-ways against the end of the wall anyway. More cover.

“Look in the bedroom.” A voice murmured. American, like me. Couldn’t identify a state or birthplace from four, simple muttered words. Didn’t matter. He was a threat. He was probably armed. I should’ve expected this, dammit...

I’d checked for bugs and hidden the bag before leaving, but I’d never expected a full raid like this. His cohort – I knew there were only two thanks to a separate grunt of approval and a pair of footsteps trailing off into my room – obeyed his orders – perhaps showing some sort of seniority or authority, but this wasn’t the time for analysis. With a grin, I shimmied along the wall, allowing the bare fingertips of my free hand to trail along the rough bumps of the paint behind me as I moved briskly yet silently.

I took hold, and inhaled, taking care to make my breathing sub-sonic. My heart leapt upwards I heard an uneasy silence – save for the comrade in the bedroom pulling open the drawers beneath my bed – and then footsteps towards my position. The other hand instinctively fled to the hilt of the revolver, and I wrapped the two together. Even like this, I had worries about killing another man. Mainly because of the mess. I’d just had the walls repainted.

He stopped for a moment. My every movement, twitching, blinking, light breathing... it all became manual for a single fraction of a second. I had to control it absolutely and completely. Autopilot had fluttered away like an anxious butterfly nearing a murder of crows. Was I ready? Killing another man was something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to let myself live with. But... it was a means to an end. This guy was probably a career criminal anyway. It was... justifiable. I felt my original personality seep back through, and immediately become locked out a moment later.

My face steeled as I heard him collapse onto the couch, my heart rate settling. This would be easy. I’d hunted before, in the country up at my father’s estate. Even as children, Ricky and I had been trained with basic survival skills. It was the way the world worked. Survival of the fittest. Natural selection. High school biology flooded back into the cavernous arches of my mind. Justifiable. That was the only word I needed to know.

Death came to everyone. I was just bringing it a few years early.

The guy leant down and picked up a cigarette, propping it lightly between his lips. A lighter came next. He rolled it back once, only producing a spark, soliciting a curse from the man as he flicked the flint, shaking his head slightly, the leather of the couch straining against his athletic form. This guy was probably a jock of some variety in high school. But, as I’d said, analysis didn’t matter. The less I knew about the target, the better. This part of me could kill, but the other part had to sustain normal life for the rest of the time.

He rolled the wheel once more. Still nothing. The audible hiss of gas clicked off as he pulled his thumb from the button and unleashed a string of foul language directed at the lighter. I smirked. Maybe I’d let him have this last smoke before he was done. He gave the mechanism a shake, flicked it once more, and cupped a hand around it, before rolling back the wheel a final time.

The spark and the gas clashed, and erupted in a beautiful fount of flame. The crisp roar echoed through the inner caverns of my ears, reverberating time and time again. Such a beautiful noise, partnered with a beautiful image. He raised the flickering, dancing fire to the cigarette, and set the tip of it ablaze, tobacco and burning with a deathly orange-black ember as he inhaled on the end of the filter.

He pocketed the lighter once more, and, satisfied, let the stick rest between his lips, sucking back on it from time to time. With a smile, I tilted my head, and arched my body forwards, pushing it out and around the corner. I raised the gun up to my eye level, and positioned it maybe six inches from the back of his head. At this range, my pulling the trigger would release a beautiful spray pattern of grey and crimson intermingled upon the entire room, and quite possibly force me to end up buying a new coffee table.

Do or die.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

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Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
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Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:40 am

Chapter Fourteen

Explosion


Unwavering, unflinching, my hand was steady. No external variables could possibly push me now. I had made the decision, simulated the outcome dozens of times in a single split-second. It was the same every single time. I pulled the trigger. The gunpowder in the round exploded, and the revolver kicked back into me like a mule. Before the guy even registered the sound, his face got turned into an ugly, bloody, shredded mess of an exit wound.

Yet, if you run it through ninety-nine times with every variable taken into account and it succeeds over and over, fate itself sometimes likes to stick a spanner in the works and apply some sort of cosmic shifting which will set of a chain of reactions, disrupting your plan in just one tiny aspect, that proves to be of the most ignored yet monumental importance, and everything falls very much to pieces.

This is exactly what happened in my apartment.

I inhaled. Exhaled. Inhaled. Exhaled. Heard the fine fabric of his Armani suit strain and rub against the leather of my couch. The musky, strong smoke from his cigarette filled the upper reaches of the room and snaked its way towards and into my nostrils. My hand didn’t quiver. My fingers didn’t slide. I didn’t shuffle an inch. I was a ghost, a vengeful spirit, ready to unleash all hell with just a pound of trigger pressure. And had I been a split-second earlier in my action, ignorant of the passive personality of my former self scratching away at the dams I’d built around the stability of my very psyche, I would have sprayed the bastard’s grey matter all over my beautifully-furnished apartment.

But... I wasn’t. And that’s what mattered.

My finger tightened on the trigger. I felt it go past the safety mark, and the tension on it increased. My hand began to vibrate at the lowest of frequencies, thrumming like the skin of a drum; and then, the fruits of my true self’s labour came to light, and in an instant, I was back. Sitting there. Gun raised. Pointed at a man I didn’t know, didn’t care about, and most importantly, had nothing against.

It took me a few moments to process all the information, my breathing getting more and more haggard by the second. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who could now make sense of this; either he heard my ragged breath, or the simple rate at which my heart beat, aching to seemingly burst from my ribcage in a glorious bloody fount, shooting off scraps and shards of bone like fireworks, but he turned around. I panicked. Fumbled. Took aim as best I could. And as his lips opened and he jumped to his feet, hand rushing to his jacket pocket with a flabbergasted look of alarm on his face, the suited man with the close-cropped black hair and the rough stubble did exactly what he shouldn’t have done.

He solicited a response from me. A reflex. An instinct. I made use of the tools – or, really, tool – I had at my disposal.

I pulled the trigger.

The sharp crack of the revolver’s barrel exploding with an unfamiliar power, noise, and fury was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It was deafening, the clattering explosion seeming like it carried enough force in simply noise to bounce across the room knocking ornaments, jugs, jars, pots and books across shelves indiscriminately. It rolled from side to side, and my ears rung with the most intense, high-pitched buzzing I’d ever heard – rather ironically allowing me to bear witness to both of our chaotic reactions to each other with all the ugly noises of the human world blanked out entirely.

The man’s cigarette dropped from his lips, and I released my hold on the gun, letting it fall to the floor. The recoil was comparable to a mule kicking me in the shoulder; both my radius and ulna felt as if I’d smashed my fist head-on into a brick wall, and my elbow the same moments later as it made contact with the rather solid and unyielding floorboards of my apartment.

The muzzle flash from the gun coupled with the noise made me shut my eyes tight; but they re-opened on reflex not a moment later to watch the results of my handiwork. Falling slowly, too slowly, I saw the scene unfold before me almost in slow motion, every dynamic, every movement, every response unfolding as a series of systematic events. The man threw his arm up, but it was too late. The round made contact, grazing the top of his forearm and shearing straight through his shoulder; blood spattered across the hundred-dollar heirloom armchair behind him, only resulting in a trivial thought – on my part – of ‘ooh, that’s going to cost a lot to get out of the fabric’.

Turning from a well-composed, slender-framed tower of a man to a quivering wreck in an instant, he collapsed on the floor, the last of his agonised cries bouncing from wall to wall as the blood began to seep through the fingers he pressed over it. But things weren’t over yet. I couldn’t throw myself to the ground and submit. Even if my evil twin had been the one who’d entered the room, I still had access to the facts. I saw everything he’d seen; his memory was my memory, and luckily enough, in unison, the pair were an open book for me. Long story short – I remembered that the guy had a partner.

Scrabbling backwards along the grimy, dirty, and rather tattered rug that had been in the apartment for just about as long as I’d owned it, probably longer, I retreated into cover behind my shabby dining table, scrambling wildly as I threw myself down to the floor, flat outwards, and brought a chair down with me; I pressed my knees against it and cocked the hammer once more. The signature click of the Smith and Wesson was audible amidst the chaotic cacophony that the apartment had erupted into.

I knew that the fragile structure crafted from wood and fabric would do little to protect my rather fleshy form, but even so, it made me a smaller target, and harder to hit. Readying myself, as the first suited man rolled around on the floor clutching his sheared shoulder, I rose my eyes just a few inches above it, resting the barrel on the side of the armrest and aiming through the labyrinthine collection of chair and table legs, gun trained on the door moments before the man’s comrade threw himself out, sunglasses donned and both hands gripped solidly around the hilt of a sleek, well-maintained semi-automatic pistol. He wore a suit, of similar quality to his friend’s – for the moment – and had longer, brown hair, gelled back and combed over. Younger. Late twenties, early to mid thirties, maybe. Peak physical condition.

He couldn’t initially seem to find me, scanning the room hap-hazardly as he took in haggard breath after haggard breath, view constantly flicking towards his partner, writhing in agony on the floor with blood pooling and drying around his fingers, screaming as he gingerly did his best to place pressure on the room; he was scared. He was panicking. And above all else, he was indecisive – he didn’t know whether to attend to his friend’s wound, or seek the assailant out and take care of him first. And that would be his undoing.

Exposed and standing in plain view once more, my shuddering hands, regardless of the cold flushes seeping up through my bloodstream and tingling upwards along my torso and neck, raised the barrel and lined up the ironsights. The other Fraser was nowhere to be found. In the split-seconds that remained before I was uncovered, the man’s eyes following the barrel of his gun as he flung his arms wildly around the room, I searched the vast depths of his mind for this hidden separate personality – and to no avail. The only reasons I had left to justify pulling that trigger were greed and adrenaline.

And in my mind I knew exactly which one took pole position.

Another deafening crack, no worse yet no better than that which came before it. My ears rung and I winced, and the splatter of blood along with the tearing of flesh knocked the second man down just as his comrade managed to bite through the pain and rock forwards onto his knees, wincing as he did so. The pair of them unleashed screams in unison, one from shock and the other from sheer, overpowering agony. I’d heard the bullet slam into the drywall behind him, and seen the cloud of bloody dust spray up into the atmosphere of the room; from what I’d seen, the man had gone down clutching his leg. Hoping it was a non-lethal shot to the thigh, I crawled back up into the corner, still protected and obscured somewhat by the dining table... but the likelihood was that both of them had dropped their pistols.

I still held my gun, training it on them as I got to my feet, but dumbstruck and in shock for what seemed like hours – but was barely seconds – as the pair of them attempted to pull each other up, and the older, short-haired one, who’d taken the bullet to the arm, supported his comrade on his shoulder. Wincing from the pain, I became neutral and oddly content in my state for a few moments, the adrenaline euphoric. The panic of the moment was over. My life wasn’t initially in danger; they were... for lack of a better word... defeated. However, I processed the facts and lined them up in a row; my brow furrowed. I couldn’t allow them to leave here alive if I was to survive.

Raising my form to a crouch, and propping the revolver on the table, I took another shot as the pair together hobbled to the door, both crippled by the pain. The round went wide, and, now, I realise that was probably for better rather than worse. Another two struck the wall as they dove for the door and I heard the soles of expensive dress shoes make a distinctive clack-clack down the marble staircase, before I collapsed, a heavy-breathing wreck, allowing both arms, and with them, my weapon, to fall to my side. I dropped my head back against the wall, using it as some form of support, before all returned to silence.

Neighbours shuffled outside, but none dared enter. I set my gun down on the table, and, frame suddenly heavy and sluggish, walked to the door, shutting, bolting, and locking it behind me. I could take a few seconds of respite. Adrenaline had been fleeting; gone as quickly as it had come, like a brief embrace with a loved one before they leave for greener pastures. And surprisingly enough, the imagery that evoked really seemed rather pleasant, considering my current situation. I was in the shit.

First came the moral conflicts as my usual, snappy, sarcastic, and, above all else, paranoid self lapsed back in. These men could die, from blood loss, infection, heart attack caused by it... and maybe even just the pain itself forcing them into a coma, and then, eventually death. And what of their families? Friends? Shit, who even WERE they? I’d just taken what I knew and reacted. That was fine. Right? Right!?

I grasped at my hair, eyes wide as I became a messy wreck, having zipped back and forth between a number of different compromises between what seemed to be my two personalities over the last half an hour. It was odd. I could seem to accept it, something most people diagnosed with a split personality disorder took months, possibly even years to overcome.

Then, the relative volume of dozens of simultaneous button presses and keypad tones clued me in to the next issue – something of incredible importance, especially when it came to my survival. Pursuit. Be it the police, employers, or higher-ups in whichever organisation that these men had belonged to, undoubtedly, my resistance would have sent a message. And it did. I was not someone to be fucked with. However, ninety nine percent of the time, egotistical decisions rise above those of a more practical and sensible nature, meaning that, without any shadow of a doubt, they were going to send more people after me. Fuck.

Philosophy and whatnot could come later, as could rest and relaxation. I felt my heart kick into overdrive once more, but for the time being, even as a ring of flames burnt around it and I readied myself for flight – rather than fight, this time, deciding to let my reasoning and apprehension skills take paramount, probably for better outcome – the other side of me lay dormant within, whispering to me but a single, simple word, before which came waves of laughter, washing over me with a sense of damning finality.

Run.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:40 am

Chapter Fifteen

Culmination


Hurried footsteps reverberated off the stone walls of the deepest corridors of the underground complex, bouncing to and fro like the noise emitted from a tempest of bullets and shrapnel. The lowest subterranean level. That which contained the fruits of the organisation’s labours embodied in a single mortal form. The sanctum.

A pneumatic hiss as the final set of doors opened before him, and the suited half-Korean young man stepped into the dome-like, expansive circular room he was so familiar to yet so estranged from. The cold hit him like a wall; there had been, mysteriously enough, no measures taken to heat this room – the entire complex was kept comfortably warm on an equilibrium able to be altered in each individual room, yet this room had been constructed with no insulation – or air conditioning – whatsoever. In the summer months, it became boiling hot, and as winter dawned, as it was so at the moment, one could mention to an outsider that they were actually below ground in the Arctic, and it would be somewhat believable.

But Kai threw on his poker face, gritted his teeth, and decided to bear it. He did so multiple times a day, and it was because of this pathetic facade that the seated man in the centre of the room grinned every time his highest subordinate, his greatest mortal asset, entered the room. The transparency of such a simple guise over Lewis Kai’s discomfort was almost dangerously shocking considering the nature of his business, yet the man in the chair knew it to be little more than a weakness from the cold after a few moments of careful analysis each day – before he predicted what would come. Some days the news was good. On others, it was bad. Today, as his employee brushed the final flecked of snow from the shoulders of his coat, the man in the engraved granite throne smirked beneath his hood as he felt the bad news coming before it actually arrived.

It was a knack he’d developed over years of working in the business. A little trick. Careful analysis that would’ve taken a lesser man days to execute in full could be done in seconds within his thoughts. He’d honed his skills beyond the point that most would consider impossible, and this was what made him the only viable candidate for the position he sat in. The leader of the organisation, and its greatest power. The figurehead of an empire. The largest diamond set within a gilded crown.

The Broker.

“Troop and Wilkes failed.” The four simple words flew across the room like darts, each hitting the target of the other, yet-silent participant’s ears. The words snaked in and he stirred not an inch, statuesque and frozen in place for a good few seconds, before fabric shifted and the corner of his mouth turned upwards in a wicked smile. He re-aligned his body, and tugged at the sleeve of his cloak, remaining seemingly unaffected by the ‘news’ as he offered an equally blunt reply, this time a question.

“So it would seem. Casualties?” The smile vanished from his face, fading into memory as it did so, the reply simple and seemingly devoid of emotional, and tired, if anything. Bored. The hunt had not been enough to sate the bloodlust of the seated man for years. Everything had been routine. He was respected, and feared, and enough so now all but a few had the stupidity or blind courage to turn against him. It was ridiculous. A man spends all his life wanting to be feared, and, once he does, he realises that he feels a sense of... longing for the resistance, the challenge, that which is now vacant.

Kai shook his head, neck turning and straining against the finely-folded smooth collar of his shirt on either side, before it returned to its rightful place, staring downwards, hand behind his back as the servant awaited orders. Almost sycophantic. Not that the Broker didn’t appreciate it, but, still...

His ears pricked up. For the first time in months, possibly years – probably years – he stirred in surprise, and a sudden sense of nostalgia washed over him. This was... unexpected. Of all the morons who had possessed the courage to lash out against his empire – and, thus, be mercilessly crushed, with no exceptions – all had failed in the long run. They were badly planned, disorganised, and usually spurred on by hatred or loathing. This was textbook, and, occasionally, an agent perished before the others shot the assailant down, with the perpetrator occasionally disappearing, only to surface in the bowels of the facility days, perhaps hours later, a prisoner tortured in the dungeon of this horrific castle until he begged for death, and some executioner troubled enough by this finally submitted to the man’s final wish.

None were ever injured in an act of vengeance or stupidity like this. This was... odd.

A panel slid open on the stone arm of his chair, and, once more, a panel slid up near-silently, carrying upon it a glass of water, not a single drop of which had been spilt upon its tray. The man began to move his arm towards it, before stopping it in mid-transit, smirking to himself as his eyes widened, and a realisation hit him. The tiniest of details, the most miniscule of mechanical faults, and quite probably a one-off, and he’d only noticed it now. Probably wear and tear, maybe natural, maybe an oversight on the design. Something totally insignificant in the grand scheme of things... yet it made all the difference.

The Broker knew his pausing and his expression would not go unnoticed; and sure as the sun would set that very evening, Kai stared upon him with a quizzical demeanour set upon his form. He didn’t understand. This man was the answer to every question, the solution to every problem; and when that failed to ring true, society and his already-slippery grasp over the organisation would begin to loosen ever further, before everything he’d worked so hard for, for what he’d known of this life, would slip away into oblivion.

Snapping his neck up, still keeping his features – above his hawk-like nose and the sharp grey stubble of his chin – obscured by the deathly black hood, elusive, simply for the point of being so – he realised his subordinate had not only noticed his response to the failure of the transit system, but the twisted sense of nostalgia, also. Kai was sharp enough, but he would be unable to differentiate whether the change in expression was due to the news, or a separate, external factor. This was... good. Mistrust could still be prevented yet.

See, the slightest of mechanical and hydraulic failures in the elevator system – one of many of the modified chair’s plethora of features – had opened up a world of possibilities – but more importantly, shed light on a possible weakness. A chink in the Broker’s armour. Something which could drive a wedge between the two distinct factions in this organisation, and possibly trigger a civil war, which would further send the city into a maelstrom of chaos and turmoil – yet at the head of it all, the thing that the Broker cared about most, like every selfish man, and, little did he know, the factor that would prove to be his undoing, was his life. He’d grown rather accustomed to this pleasant, comfortable existence – even if it was slightly dull and lacking in excitement – and was greedy enough to not be ready to give it up and brace the jaws of an undoubtedly fiery hell, with a sector set out especially for him, just yet.

Alongside all this, another understanding came. Kai was intelligent, and sharp-witted, but he was not unique in his ability to comprehend, analyse, and understand. There were others out there with attributes similar to this – and if he could sense a sudden weakness, then others could, too. Others with wills much more dangerous than Kai’s – simply to protect, serve, seek, and destroy.

But at the top of this flood realisation, this sudden enlightenment, was one simple fact: he’d been protecting himself and his grail of knowledge all locked away safely in his brain from any external threat or access, anyone who wanted in on everything he’d attained over years of painstaking, back-breaking work, soliciting blood, sweat, and tears from all involved; yet the greatest danger was not from the outside, but from the inside.

Thus, measures had to be taken. A solution had to be found to this dilemma. A contingency had to be activated – but the Broker could not show his paranoia, his awareness of this supposed possible threat. The Broker had a set of individuals in mind that could certainly use ‘tending to’, once a method of solving this problem had been uncovered. The organisation was long overdue a cleansing, a... purification. It was of the highest importance. Even the Garden of Eden needed pruning every once in a while... but he had to take it slowly, ease into it. Even with Kai.

“Sir?”

The Broker snapped back to reality as the suited half-Korean stood there, hands behind his back, ears pricked, sycophantic as he waited for his master’s very beck and call. His stature and stance spoke words of him; he was disposable, an expendable asset, loyal in servitude to one master, and fiercely so. He was the Broker’s – and the Broker’s alone – to command, there to attend to every will for which the man had no other to. He smiled, knowing this, that his manservant would be the last of all to betray him – he had no reason to want vengeance. He was a good man... just in a bad line of business.

The seated man’s brow furrowed. For now, however, as good a man as he was, Kai needed orders. Speaking as sternly as he was used to, the Broker let his hand fall to the cup, and raised it up, a solid grasp around the frosted glass, before he moved once more, pressing the cold surface against the skin of his lips. With another, final, slow movement, he tilted the back end of the cup upwards, allowing the cold liquid inside to trickle down into his mouth, before it journeyed through his gullet and throat, eventually sitting, contented, at the bottom of his stomach in a few seconds, allowing the man to sigh under his breath, and set the glass down before the final patches of cold around the outside faded and he unleashed a torrent of steamy breath upon the room’s atmosphere.

He had decided on new orders. It had taken him a split-second; he was the chess-master. His queen and king had long since been vacant, as had his rooks, bishops, and one of his knights; leaving but a pawn and a single horseman remaining on the board, available to him, not struggling in another far-off battle. His strongest available commander, he would fling Kai into the fray should the time come for it; but for now, they were only in the opening stages of the climax. The beginning of the end.

Lewis Kai would have his time before then. But for now, it was the pawns’ time to devote themselves to their masters. “Send three more in...” He mulled over the thought as his hand moved now to his prickly stubble, thumb and forefinger brushing across it as one would with the bristles of a toothbrush beneath the torrent of water falling from the mouth of a tap. “Booth. Hamilton. And Russo.”

Kai turned on his heel, and grasped his coat, shrugging it back on and readying himself to leave. He knew standard operating procedure. He’d received his orders. The Broker frowned upon loitering and loafing around; their conversations were usually far more brief than this, as abridged as they had to be in order to get the job done quickly and efficiently. The delays were mainly on the Broker’s part.

For a split-second, as he moved towards the doors to leave, he stopped, frozen in place as he flicked his collar up, almost having noticed something, showing a telltale sign of concern; which evoked a similar feeling in the Broker. He didn’t want to have to kill Kai. The man was loyal. He needn’t become a liability...

And then, he moved again. But another quiet command drifted across the room, and found its way towards Lewis Kai’s cochlea, snaking in, a tendril of deceit, the Broker known for having his most powerful weapon be his words. “Stop.”

A pause. Everything became still. No movement within the cavernous dome of a hall for a moment. A brief smile as the Broker looked to the floor, attempting to mask his smirk by moving. Kai still faced the doors, but he knew something was wrong, and he could tell it. Ready to obey the next command his master gave him without a moment of hesitation, he listened intently before bowing his head, pulling on his black leather gloves, and moving to leave, allowing the solid, patterned, steel automatic doors to hiss open and shut one last time that day.

“Prepare... the Daedalus.”

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:40 am

Chapter Sixteen

Fugitive


My heart and brain simultaneously kicked into overdrive.

Sweat droplets formed on my brow. I jumped, synapses firing, electrical impulses shooting through my neurones, my skin on fire as my fingertips tingled with sudden enlightenment. I knew the statistics. Four minute response time. 13:26PM. If I wasn’t out of here by then, I was fucked. I could avoid a lengthy chase sequence if I got in the car in the next three, four minutes – which meant being downstairs in the next two.

I wasn’t quite sure where I’d head, but I was at least confident that the Camaro would be more than fast enough to take me there pronto. Two near-identical black sports bags sat atop the coffee table, and I raised my eyebrow for a split-second before brushing anything clouding the matter away; it had been here since my last visit to the apartment. Ricky must’ve left it along with the keys. Probably supplies should I dent his car; he loved that thing.

I didn’t have much time, though. I needed to collect essentials and get moving. Hopefully they’d all be scared enough by the cracks of the gunshots to stay well away, but I did not want to be greeted by a police barricade the moment I opened the door.

I swept some essentials into an open backpack I found handy; sweeping through the cupboards, I threw in the box of .38 rounds – decisively well-hidden behind some coloured frosted glasses – the remainder of the bottle of scotch, my favourite measure glass, Lucky Charms and milk, and, finally, the two yet-unfired near-identical Makarov PMM pistols. Small, compact. Probably concealable. Maybe hip or ankle holsters; I presumed a shoulder holster would probably pack something with a little more punch for operations where the agents would be sent in with an extra dose of firepower; something they really should’ve brought along to my little slice of heaven. Along with vastly improved reflexes. Shocking, really, for men of their presumed calibre.

The pistols were chambered in their own, specific, unique round, and I knew that from memory that they were infamous for use by the KGB in Cold War black ops, on the Russians’ side. I would’ve smiled, had I really had time to process the data, leaving some information to mull over and reminisce about – but time was something I didn’t have copious amounts of. I threw the pistols into the plain, navy backpack, zipped it up, slung it over one shoulder, bottles and glasses clinking together inside, grasped both of the others in one hand, and made for the door, fumbling in my pocket for Ricky’s keyfob.

I picked up the pace as I reached the open doorway; inching it open, I saw warm puddles of crimson lead an inconsistent, yet clearly visible trail down the stairs. Not wanting to leave any footprints, I carefully – and swiftly – trod around the patches, and made haste towards the staircase on the opposite side, descending it as quickly as was possible – it was stupid of me to have parked out front, but I had to make do with what precious little I had. Improvisation had always been one of my strong points – and here, I seriously begun to hope it would shine through at least a little.

The rapid tapping of my shoes against the marble made a royal cacophony to break the otherwise eerie silence of the foyer of the apartment, as I leapt the final three steps and bolted for the door. I’d seen doors slam shut as soon as mine had inched further open, and the atmosphere was well and truly clear to me; I was just a pleasant, young, ambitious kid, compared to the others who lived here – and now I’d snapped. Mr. Delgory, the middle-aged divorcée in room 13. The Sivanya family, room 9. Mr and Mrs. Wyatt, the elderly retired couple settled down in room 19. I’d spoken to them all briefly, and I knew the majority of them on first-name basis. I’d have to leave this life behind whatever the weather, but now I was just a statistic, another dropout who’d lost his temper and once more conformed to the stereotype of the youth of today.

If only they’d known the story behind it.

The fear – not my own, but others’ – became almost overwhelming. I threw my wrist up into my vision as I burst through the double doors, and heard chains slide open inside. The watch read 13:29. I needed to get moving, and fast; there was no time to soak in the ambience of the city, now a hundred times more daunting than ever now I was trapped within the web of the criminal underworld. I would just be another no-named body caught up in the mess; but now was not the time for paranoia and sentimentalism. Now was not the time for fight. Now was not the time for my last stand. Now was the time... to run.

I threw myself into the driver’s seat, pressing the ‘unlock’ button on the key not a moment before, and my bags onto where my happy passenger should have been. Pulling the door shut, jamming the key into the ignition, and twisting it, I’m fairly sure, beyond the boundary at which it should’ve stopped, the engine sputtered into life with a start, and then continued with its trademark grumbling low roar. The dashboard read 13:30. Sirens were getting closer and closer in the distance; heads turning in the street, from my car to the source of the noise. I took a deep breath in, and then slowly let it all out, the last few specks of white fog splashing across the window with a translucent white patch of quickly-fading condensation.

And then I slammed my foot down on the gas.

Yanking the steering wheel to the side, I wrestled with the Camaro once more – but this time under a ridiculous amount of pressure, one so monumental that I’d not even had thoughts of prior to these last few seconds. I had to struggle with both the raw power of this care and the other side of me threatening to shatter my sanity and crush it into a thousand tiny marbles rolling along the floor and far away, out of my reach. It would be disintegrated, turn to sand and ash between my fingers, something I’d once held of the greatest importance and in the highest regard. My own ethos; my way of thinking. My mental stability. That which underpinned everything else. It was about to turn to mush, and I couldn’t tell whether I was to blame or not.

I swerved into the left lane, and threw myself around the corner with such momentum that my face began to feel as if it was tugging to the left ever so slightly; even with my foot down on the gas, in such a labyrinthine, daedalean criss-cross of streets, it was unlikely that I’d pick up too much speed on what few straits I could come across; I simply needed to turn around corners without losing too much speed. If I didn’t, or I crashed, the police would be sniffing up my ass – metaphorically, of course – in a matter of seconds. I pulled the car, tyres squealing, around another two corners, working in as much of a zig-zag as possible, taking the first exits I could from each street. The city was a maze that I needed to get lost enough in that the police were never going to find me; but with each turning, my balance became increasingly delicate and precarious.

The Camaro would quickly have had enough of my stealthy, almost cowardly tactics; it was a beast meant to stand its ground and fight, a monster of a vehicle that made it known as it charged down the streets, carving the previously silent atmosphere in two asself it zoomed past. It didn’t suit the situation, but, unfortunately, I didn’t have another car just as fast, with a silent engine, so I told myself that I’d have to make do until I’d shaken the ‘5-0’ off of my tail.

I kept doubling back and checking for flashing lights and those signature black-stencilled district numbers embossed on the roofs of the saloon car, with two steel-faced cops, both played in my visions and daydreams by a slew of 1980s action film actors; but the cars never came. The police were nowhere to be scene. I had left the crime scene in dust what felt like hours ago, but was barely minutes; why was there no sign of pursuit?

I pulled the car – barely – around the next corner, and as heads turned towards me, from a couple of blocks away, I slowed and tried to triangulate the source of the sirens, to see if the police cars were moving at all – and whilst it seemed the safest bet was to reach my destination as rapidly as possible, I felt oddly... calm. My heart was pounding in my mouth, my forehead was clammy and coated with a slick, thin veil of sweat, but I felt like I was being stupid, running from nothing but a ghost, an illusion I’d conjured up in my own mind.

Why were the police not chasing after me? They’d surely been given reports of my fleeing the scene now. How could anyone have not heard the amount of clamour the Camaro had made? Surely they weren’t all in a state of shock; there were over twenty people on that block alone. Not wanting to linger any longer, now I’d gathered the information necessary to only further increase the amount of questions swimming through my head like a rather confused shoal of goldfish, I rammed my foot down on the pedal – an ambush was the last thing I needed right now.

Speeding down the street and almost knocking over an old lady, an ancient Saab almost collided head-on with me, a rather agitated Indian man in the driver seat furiously slamming his hand onto the horn; but I was in a different place. My current predicament and thoughts the consequences that would surely arise thanks to the stance I’d taken on it had faded in priority; and once more, I simply sat, deep in thought, as I somehow managed to work my way through the maze of a city, hands fastened to the side of the steering wheel.

And then, it clicked And then, it clicked. The guys in suits in my apartment. The sunglasses, the almost military-style haircuts, the compact special-ops pistols. All too late, the variables fit together like pieces to a puzzle; and then two blacked-out Cadillacs curved inwards onto the street, three hundred metres behind me.

Shit.

The police weren't chasing after me for a single simple reason; they weren't headed off by the commissioner, or the head of the city's law enforcement branch, or even any real legal figurehead; they were an organisation forged solely of puppets. They'd been paid off; they were there to contain the scene, and they could turn a blind eye if these... somewhat less scrupulous figures... ended up having to 'deal' with me in a rather more... traditional and simple manner.

But waving a few dollar bills at the odd patrol cop never happened any more. There had been a big few instances in the eighties in the city where rings of corrupt policemen had been rounded up and subsequently arrested themselves; and even beyond that, who had the power and the money to pay off an entire squad of patrol cars? It had to go through the division leader. The consequences that stemmed from this were scary; suddenly, it seemed like either I was being hunted by a government agency who'd had a hand in some dodgy dealings, or, on the other side... a criminal underworld both powerful and almost invisible which had enough money or influence to hold the police force in the palm of their hand, and use them as their own disposable, expendable set of assets; an army pledged to helping people bound to the will of one who made profit from others' misfortune. The air was thick with irony that day.

I squinted as they started to close in on me, unable to discern who manned them – trying to get a grasp of whether it was the same suits who’d ambushed me or not – and, once I’d realised they had no intention of slowing down, I pressed even further down on the accelerator. After the brief split-second of respite, the jumpy, fast-paced rhythm of heartbeats pounding in my chest returned, and adrenaline began to flush through my veins. I felt something deep beneath me begin to emerge, rip forth from the prison I myself had tirelessly and painstakingly forged for it. The separate personality I’d repressed.

Adrenaline had weakened the locks, and snaked around this defined form, tendrils of the chemical prodding and poking at it, ready to push it into a rage fuelled by an intense bloodlust and little else. I knew I would be unable to resist the pull of the other Fraser this time, and I knew I’d drift into limbo once more as he wrested control, but I could feel it, the understanding, the one thing concrete and solid that I could fully comprehend, sitting there, an isolated fact in my mind. He would return. And he’d be angrier than ever before. He’d take hold, shake this city, and wouldn’t let go until he was ready to have me deal with the consequences.

I didn’t have much time left, and the battle to keep hold of my identity wasn’t doing much to assist my already-shoddy driving skills. I swerved to the side to narrowly miss a rather large stone bollard, but realised too late that I’d pulled too far – and was now headed directly towards a rather sturdy-looking wrought iron gate.

Slumping back into my seat, I gave in. I let him take control. And I knew I’d regret it. But the ends justified the means. It was as necessary as it would ever be.

It was all just in order to survive.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

|| English (skyblue) || Spanish (gold) || French (limegreen) || Portuguese (vermilion) ||
avatar
Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

View user profile http://daedaluscycle.forumotion.net

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:40 am

Chapter Seventeen

Chase


My eyes narrowed, and the blood of something less than a man yet more than a monster roared inside me as I spun the steering wheel, frantically trying to regain control over the beast of a vehicle. It missed the iron gate by inches, but the stone front of one of the nearby bollards smashed into my right headlight, immediately shattering the glass casing, and causing a rather nasty-sounding crunch against what I presumed was the bulb inside; the metal rung on the side also scratched a good few feet down the side of the car during my attempts to pull it away. It didn’t look as pretty as it had a few minutes ago, but it still worked, and that was what mattered.

Pushing my foot hard down on the gas as the car threw itself further down the narrowing street, I noticed that bystanders had yet to be in awe and fear of anything, bar the somewhat intimidating one-eyed front of my car; growling, I dug into my pocket for the revolver, and pressed the snub against the window button. The mechanism brought it down with a slow, lurching, grinding sound, but time itself seemed to slow, the car’s advancing down the street fading into the background as it seemingly became distorted by my actions, as I threw my arm out of the window, aimed the hand cannon up into the sky, and squeezed the trigger.

That same donkey kick of a shot threw my elbow back once more, but I managed to contain a fraction of the recoil, this time, holding it in place just before it made contact with the exposed portion of the window, leaving it simply jarred, instead of possibly broken. Not only was I a fast learner, but it seemed I was improvising and recalling things I wouldn’t have in my usual state when they were necessary. My heart was pounding and my head throbbing – the crash of the gunshot not exactly helping – but the reaction of the masses had been exactly as I’d desired. High-pitched screams filled the air, and the cacophony of hundreds of footsteps slapping against tarmac resonated throughout the interior of the car for a few moments, before it was muffled thanks to my window closing back upwards.

Near-silent panic was stricken across the fleeting faces of those I could see for but a moment before they disappeared into what they presumed to be refuge. They were lucky that my quarrel was not with them; I had simply needed to clear the roads. The situation itself had already done little to spur them on, so... it was necessary to ‘escalate’ it.

However, the brainwashed sheep of the age following the crowd mindlessly was not the issue I had to deal with that day. My issue, my worry, was survival. I had to deal with – or escape from – my pursuers before they quickly turned to assailants, captors, and executioners.

The car swerved around yet another corner, and the two Cadillacs – and their drivers – had seemingly not flinched at the gunshot, their driving still as seamless and flawless as ever. They thrummed near-silently down the black tarmac of the road as I struggled for control over my vehicle, the beast howling monstrously between my grasp, writhing as it desperately wished to be free of its shackles. I was still superior, for the moment – but the question was ‘how long can I keep hold of this car before all hell breaks loose?’

I had been too slow in my pulling around the latest corner; I felt the two right wheels float an inch above the ground for a split-second, before slamming back down, and causing a rather uncomfortable set of shaky vibrations in the entire interior of the car – and just as I thought the situation was all under control, I checked my wing-mirror again, a fleeting glance at first, before my eyes flicked back towards it and fastened on the image I then saw.

Both cars, directly aligned behind me, almost neck-and-neck with each other, had rolled down the passenger windows. The two men seated inside executed the next set of movements in an almost textbook fashion; they grasped the roof of the car, and drew what appeared to be a black sub-machine gun from somewhere inside the car, and aimed it towards me. The entire string of events seemed almost surreal.

That was, until I felt the firestorm of bullets tirelessly barrage the back end of my car. All manner of noises and sounds filled the car, as the glass windshield of the car’s back end cracked first, then shattered. I was fairly sure that both tail-lights had been completely obliterated, and in the ensuing chaos, I had to throw my head down just to avoid being turned into a pin-cushion for nothing but a storm of terrifyingly fast nine-millimetre rounds.

The distinctive crack-crack of the weapons. The assortment and collection of unpredictable muzzle flashes set on either side of me. I felt trapped. There was no way I could escape; I was imprisoned by light and sound, and I couldn’t retreat; I could never retreat. There was no chance to retreat. I’d be gunned down quicker than I could anticipate if I set a single hair of my head outside the safety of the car – and even that was being constantly assailed by a never-ending stream of bullets. They’d figured the timing out so that every time one had to stop to reload from a seemingly unlimited pile of clips, the other kept a complete and constant rain of shells firing down on me.

A lesser man, a lesser side of me would’ve snapped under the unbelievable amount of pressure and tension. I could feel him grating and twisting inside of me; the Fraser the world had used to know contorting, writhing beneath my skin, screaming as he over-calculated and realised that our relative survival rate was almost definitely a single digit. But unlike him, I was not putty in any man’s hands. Everything he had endured, I had, too. And whilst he’d shrugged it off all those years, I had come into this world but days ago, carved of stone, and fuelled by gasoline.

No matter the distinctions between the pair of us, it all came down to one thing in a situation like this; I would resist. He wouldn’t.

My driving became slightly more shaky as I withdrew a single hand from the steering wheel, only to continually snap my head back and forth between the road and the others behind me; I was spiralling down a seemingly endless slanted road, which was both an advantage – gravity was on my side – and a disadvantage – considering that, in the next few moments, I knew I would have to adjust my calculations in order to make my attempts at shaking off my pursuers count.

A fumbling hand went for the first of the PMMs laying in the open glove compartment. I wrapped sweaty, slippery fingers around cold, solid metal, and nudged the window button with the barrel once more – however, this time, a different gun sitting in my hand. The things about the Makarov – once more, I knew this simply from video games and a few hastily-drawn facts from the back of my mind, courtesy of Dad – that it held over the Smith and Wesson were it fired faster, more accurately, and had a larger clip size; in return for the fact that it was a hell of a lot weaker.

This, however, I knew wouldn’t matter. My actions weren’t intended to leave my pursuers dead. I knew that, realistically, doing what I was about to had a success rate of lower than a single percent if I was aiming for that angle. I wasn’t trying to throw them off completely, and leave a pair of corpses in my wake – I’d be more than happy to, if the situation called for it, but this was simply a distraction.

I aimed the pistol out of the window, and tilted it so it was best aligned towards the Cadillac on the right. Between checking the road and looking back, I only had a small window of time in that my shots were viable, and, so, I looked forwards, then back, fired three times, before rinsing and repeating; I heard the high-speed whizz as almost every shot went wide, or bounced straight off the hood of the bonnet, a free round ricocheting and hitting something else in the background.

Adrenaline pumped through my body faster than ever before. The final shot echoed through what felt like the entire city, and my wrist began to ache from each of the shots’ recoil, all taking their toll at once. My heart leapt, however, as I heard a distant cracking of glass; my head snapped backwards once more, and, for once, true to my senses, I had indeed fired a shot on-target. The right-most BLS ground to a screaming halt; I saw no spray of blood, and presumed that I’d done nothing but scared them off, but hoped that I had really made contact of some variety; it was nothing personal... but one less pursuer made this entire debacle a fraction easier to swallow in the grand scheme of things.

And then, I heard it. That yowl. That death scream. The man howled with pain, later than he should have done, and every last nanosecond of his screen reverberated through the halls of the city, and along into the cavities of my ears.

This was the brink of my paranoia. The furthest that the lesser Fraser could go, with his issues and decisions based on petty morality. Disabling the two men in the flat – possibly permanently – had stretched him, but he had at least known that it wasn’t murder; watching them hobble away, spattered with blood, was one thing – but now, this ambiguity on whether he’d killed someone or not... it was almost unbearable for him. For me, it was simple. Hammer, barrel, chamber, windscreen, head, skull, brain, blood. The path of a bullet. It was statistics, numbers; the formula for calculating velocity. The volume of a cylinder, realistically figuring out how much gunpowder was in a single round. The serial number on the bottom of a cartridge casing, spilled with its nine brethren along a single road through the city. But it had twisted and moulded another man into something else. He was now not clay in the world’s hands; but putty in mine.

In that instant, he changed. I changed. We fused together. I became dominant. Two became one in an instant, and all of my silent qualms, the clouded corners of my vision... they all vanished. As if I’d clicked my fingers and all my problems had subsequently left. The other Fraser was gone. It was me, and me alone.

Let me stop for a moment, and put it into simpler terms. This is a milestone in my memoire. From here on out, I do not change. Yes, this is an author’s note, readers. To whomever it may concern, from here on out, I turn into a dick, to put it bluntly. There is no repentance, no redemption. I here begin on the downwards spiral of self-destruction as I carve my way through this city and down towards – inadvertently – the man responsible for it all. I just needed to get this down on paper. I needed to take inventory. This isn’t going to be some story where the kid goes home at the end of the day, kills the bad guy, and gets the girl. It starts off dark, and gets worse. This is a tale of greed, power, and a longing for the latter which results in an escalated level of the former. It turns to a vicious cycle. You need to understand that I never intended for this to have a happy ending.

If this displeases you, you should stop now. If not, by all accounts, carry on.

I still had another car to deal with; but it was simpler, now. It all made a little more sense; fraction by fraction, the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and everything clarified itself. I wiped the sweat from my brow, ran my free hand through my hair, fastened my eyes on the road, and slammed my hand back down on the steering wheel, glancing a single time at the wing-mirror to watch the singular remaining BLS straighten up behind me, and roar with power as it charged after the Cadillac.

The driver was angry. I saw his plain face, hardened by years of work like this, sitting atop a body garbed in a suit, brow furrowed above a pair of blacked-out sunglasses. His mouth was opened, and the passenger’s too, wearing near-identical clothing. I could see the spittle fly from their tongues and splash against the windscreen. The little noise that breached the sanctity of my back windscreen indicated that another accompanied them; a female voice. Perhaps they had all been friends with the man I'd killed. They were angry. They wanted vengeance.

I guess that made four of us.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:41 am

Chapter Eighteen

Crash Landing


Everything came back to reality in an instant. I snapped out of my philosophical trance, and managed to force the Camaro around another corner, the second BLS hot on my trail. I could tell, almost immediately after pulling the car back into alignment with the road, that the beast would take few more of my attempts to restrain and control it before breaking free.

The actions and driving of those in the car behind me quickly began to become less ‘smooth and seamless’ and more ‘reckless and crazed’ so quickly that the change was almost visible; one moment, they had been cruising down these streets as if they’d driven them in this exact pattern every day. Now the driver had as much control over his car as I did mine; this... this, I could use to my advantage. A wicked smile crept onto my face as I began to quickly deduce a plan of action for dealing with the last pesky three suits barely fifty metres behind me.

The tables had been turned; the odds flipped. The house was no longer winning, and on home turf, as well; not only would I evade them, I would ridicule them on their own grounds. But, whilst the sports metaphors were all well and good, I needed to do something about the last trio of them. I knew of a method I considered swift that would ensure none of them would have the mental stability to step into a car again – but the topic of debate wasn’t whether I could execute my plan; more whether the thrumming, roaring beast beneath my grasp would allow me to.

It would be a tight push, and despite my best efforts, the doubt was still there in my mind – a shadow, a mark left from the sceptic who had once inhabited this body but minutes ago. But the difference now was, the things that a lesser man would call me a fool for even considering attempting, I would go through with. But above and beyond all that; I would succeed.

My pupils narrowed, and it felt like bleach poured through my veins as I strained to turn onto the road which lead onto a warehouse complex. It was a strait; and unsurprisingly enough, considering my ‘crowd dispersal’ methods sampled but a few minutes ago, it was absolutely deserted. Not a single crowd, person, or vehicle lined the streets; yet swathes of them lay parked atop a huge multiplex of levels; a true parking lot. A grin slipped onto my face as I realised memory had served me well once more. Excellent.

I heard a series of a few soft, fleeting clicks resonating throughout the atmosphere as clouds tumbled overhead; this was widely known to be one of the clearest areas of the city, inhabited by almost no buildings, with the skyscrapers almost completely behind, the complex on one side with the shipping companies on the other, the very edges of which curved along a stony bay, the majority of which was now obscured by trees. The landscape itself, once probably green and flourishing with flora and fauna alike, was now dotted with small, bland, bleak grey buildings and complexes, ugly blemishes upon a once beautiful, picturesque scene.

However, the environmentalist that I could’ve become was quickly shaken away as another round of bullets pounded into the exterior of the car, glancing once more along the last fragments of glass in my back windscreen, and creating a relative cacophony of ripping and shearing sounds as bullets tore through the fabric and leather. I threw myself down to safety once more, checking with a fleeting glance to ensure my head was obscured by the door, before slamming my foot down upon the accelerator.

The road was about a solid three, four-hundred metres long before the first turning began; which lead almost straight away towards the multilevel parking complex. No twists, no turns, no bullshit; on the other hand, as destructive as these businesses most likely were, they definitely didn’t mess around. Scenic and iconic landscapes had been given up for efficiency, and, suddenly, my new, reborn visage was struck with a look of realisation, amidst the torn leather and shattered glass – bullets now passing through and smashing into the front windscreen, too – as I now understood. Compromise was necessary in a world like ours; and resistance was futile.

Oh, how poetic that was when it came to my current situation.

I was bargaining with my assailants’ lives, however, not mine. What my former self had not understood was the necessity of their death; I, however, was quickly able to grasp and accept this. Dwelling on it for a split-second, I then realised the turning was coming up – the rain of fire upon the car’s posterior ceasing – and I threw my head up, doubled-back to ensure the BLS was far enough away – it was – and yanked the steering wheel to the side, twisting and turning with all my might, the plastic scratching and burning against my hands. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but survival was another necessity in this debacle. It had been for both me and the hippie. The few things we maybe had in common were our self-preservation instincts – although just how far we were willing to act upon them was an entirely different story.

The pursuit went more or less the same for the next minute or so. I gunned it down the final strait, under a constant stream of fire, courtesy of the BLS’ passengers behind me. But this was merely phase one of my stratagem – whilst they thought I was simply playing an extended, convoluted game of cat and mouse – which, to some extent, I was, attempting to exhaust their ammunition pool – I was actually leading them further and further towards their doom. The lot was getting close now; the second burst of fire ceased, and I threw my head back up. The final turn into the parking lot was followed by a ramp, and a speed bump; I felt the front wheels pop up, and then the back, however my calculations had been inaccurate in maybe one respect. The left side of the car’s exterior smashed – rather brutally – into the side of one of the bollards, causing a thorough drop in speed.

For a moment, it would appear that the habitants of the Cadillac were catching up; I was supposedly in their clutches once more. However, they too hit the speed bump, and just as my acceleration picked up, the sweat beads on my brow began to dry, and a far more elusive game begun. ”Time to play Fraser’s Labyrinth,” I thought, cackling, the lesser side of me cringing with my seeming lack of creativity. Not only was I immoral, cold-hearted, and a murderer, I definitely didn’t have a way with words as my previous self had. Oh well. That could be amended, all in good time.

The strategy, from here on out, was actually deceptively simple. I was fast enough to outrun the BLS, yet slow enough that I’d still give them a lead on where to go. I’d braved this parking lot many a time before, and had every time made a note of the adjacent building, which, on the top level, appeared to be deceptively close – much closer than it actually was.

I threw the car around the first curve, scaling the ramp and rising up to the first floor, hearing the silent thrum of the BLS behind me. Blood burnt like acid through my veins, adrenaline soothing it yet a catalyst for the pain at the same time. I simply wished to be free of these cretins, but it was so that I would be unable to have my peace unless I first outsmarted them.

The Cadillac and its driver followed the exact same route. Brilliant. A sheep. No... no sheep; this was a ram. He was angered, and thought that if he drew close enough, he would be able to butt me with his horns. However, there was a distinct aspect of rams that the employer of these men had failed to take into account. Above and beyond everything else, despite a supposedly sexualised nature, and an affection towards anything hard that could resist the touch of its horns, rams had... well... a ram-sized brain.

Which was to say, much less subtly, that they were fucking stupid.

The second and third floors followed exactly the same pattern; leaving but one floor between this and the roof, where I could finally be rid of the pests on my tail. However, matters were complicated slightly as I heard the click and rapid tapping of a sub-machine gun’s tassle being knocked, bolted, and readied. I’d not factored their automatic weapons into my equation; and, subsequently, this could be... well... inconvenient.

I threw myself into the next ascending curve earlier; a red-headed woman, also garbed in a suit and sunglasses – the second passenger in the car, sitting in the back seats – raised the weapon, rolled down her window, and pointed it out. Rather angrily, she scrunched up her face, screamed a vengeful sentence littered with many assorted – and colourful – profanities, before unleashing a crackling burst of fire from the window, striking along the side-skirt of the car; my eyebrows raised, and my eyelids widened as I threw my legs up straight, feet pinned to the underside of the glovebox. A bullet to the calf would ruin everything I’d worked so hard for these past few days; I couldn’t stop now. No. This plan would work. I would succeed. I knew it. Thoughts of negativity were swiftly silenced in my brain, courtesy of a locked-up lesser man. Fraser Goldstone had once been a pessimist; now, however, he was an opportunist.

The red-head, however, would not get another chance. She retracted into the car, reloading, as I emerged quickly onto the final shielded floor before the roof, and spun the back wheels into the curve – the revolution speed of the wheels combined with the not-so-heat-resistant rubber of the tires spraying out a little smoke from behind – before I stuck my foot straight down on the pedal, a better driver than I’d ever recalled myself being before.

Emerging onto the roof of the building, I smirked, and quickly threw myself out straight, trying to centre-align the car as much as possible – yet leaving a well-calculated distance between my tail-lights and the BLS. The blacked-out Cadillac emerged a split-second later, quickly drawing up. One hand was on the handbrake – another on the wheel. I had to time this just right, or I’d end up fried, seared, roasted, sheared, or riddled with bullet holes. It was a risky manoeuvre – and I hadn’t yet considered this. The pessimist in my mind damned me, screaming and lashing out against his binds as he tried desperately to abandon ship.

The BLS drew up with a silent thrum. No more than ten metres between myself and the Cadillac – and it had to now be sustained. My driving abilities – that I presumed to be latent, and courtesy of several ‘lessons’ Ricky had given me when I was still in high school – had served me well thus far, despite the nature of the beast beneath my shackles. I’d grown somewhat attached to the Camaro, however, but I was most fearful not of the redhead’s nine-millimetre machine gun, but of my brother’s reaction to his car; it was beaten up beyond measure, and the body-work probably chock-full of bulletholes.

But that didn’t matter. With the diamonds in my passenger seat, and the amount they were worth – according to Haner – I could buy Ricky another ten Camaros. A means to an end. A necessary evil, smashing up such a beautiful yet restless and frantic creature such as this.

That, however, was not my dilemma. I kept my eyes flicking between the windscreen and my wing-view mirror. The red-head emerged once more from the side, slamming a fresh clip into the UMP. I was maybe thirty metres from the edge.

She bolted it. Twenty left before the barrier. She cocked the hammer, and threw out another hand to grasp it, mouth open, freckles now distinct as she readied herself to scream, the expletives now much more audible than they’d been a few moments ago.

Fifteen metres.

I yanked the handbrake back, and put all my upper body strength into turning the steering column. I’d not been expected to jump ship; the Camaro had forseen it least of all, a rowdy lass ready to see the chase through til its finish. I felt the side slam into the barrier, and the door-handle jammed straight into my rib cage. I grunted with pain as the entire interior of the car was racked from side to side, and the Chevrolet allowed itself to skid a few inches aside; we were not unscathed, but together, in unison, the Camaro and my excellent driving had managed to execute the plan almost perfectly.

The Cadillac had slammed into the barrier completely head-on, as predicted. The force and speed behind it had pulled the redhead forwards, and she’d been knocked against the window-frame, either unconscious, or dead; either way, she was slumped against a shattered window, bleeding. However, the front seats...

I'd turned the front seats of the car into a windshield cannon rather successfully; as they hit the barrier, both driver and passenger were sent flying forwards thanks to the momentum; yet whilst the passenger had equipped a seatbelt - appealing to his own common sense - the driver had, unfortunately, not taken such safety measures. Instead, he was launched out of the windscreen at a break-neck speed with a ridiculous amount of force, before quickly plummeting to his death below, with a distant crack, and an audible squelch.

Ten points.

I was somewhat disappointed that the car hadn’t gone up in flames – as it would have done, had this been any Hollywood blockbuster – yet it was probably best for my safety that it didn’t. Now handling even more like a rickety old banger, I quickly surveyed the scrumpled, shrunken wreckage of the Cadillac BLS, and presumed that both passengers were definitely out for the count. It was time for me to take my leave.



I headed back into the city almost as fast as I could; the shock from the gunshot had faded, but, I was confident enough that despite the alarm my near-totalled, bullet-riddled car caused in the faces of civilians, the police would not take action. This was obviously not their matter to be concerned with; they were damage containment, little more.

The question remained, however, of where I would spend the night. My place was certainly not an option after that debacle; I needed somewhere safe. A sanctum, somewhere where I could barricade myself in and sip Jack Daniels through til the morning, like a true action movie hero. A Steve McQueen. A Sean Connery. A Chuck Norris.

My eyes wandered, and, quickly, I found my gaze fastened on the Chevrolet keyfob, my mouth opened and my body chuckling as an almost instantaneous reflex. It was brilliantly simple; as if everything had been plotted and planned. Ricky had been on a business trip; and he’d left me his keys. The Camaro, I was supposedly ‘babysitting’, but he hadn’t thought to take his house key off. Then again, I was fairly confident he hadn’t gone away presuming that I’d become the city’s number one most-wanted over the duration of the week.

The rest of my journey was somewhat uneventful; the trip to Ricky’s apartment building was one I knew off by heart, thankfully; his penthouse apartment was beautiful, well-furnished, and a brilliant vantage point for any possible assailants. I’d been told it had reliable security measures, too which was always a plus for a fresh-slate renegade such as myself. If I wanted to, I could always watch how the police dealt with the carnage at the multiplex, too – it would certainly be interesting to just observe for a few moments, rather than act. I was well overdue some deserved relaxation.

A brief smile was maintained upon my face as I parked the car in the apartment’s underground garage, grasped my bags, locked the door, and took the elevator up; a short woman in her mid-fifties accompanying for the duration of the trip me stared, I’m fairly confident, at the state of my bloodied, dusty, crumpled attire the entire time, but I was on too much of a rush to care. I almost kicked the door open when the key wouldn’t fit, before realising that I was using my keyfob instead of Ricky’s, and when I pushed open the door, and stared upon the haven before me, I cursed with such relief, locking the door behind me and launching myself onto the nearest couch, bags set neatly next to me within the next five minutes.

My brow furrowed, however, over the course of the next hour, as I made myself at home, bottle of scotch in one hand, PMM in the other – I had the freshly-loaded Smith and Wesson sitting in a kitchen drawer, the location of which was now committed to memory. I mulled over the day’s events, whittling away the entire night as the gentle sun set on the horizon, my half-drunken self deciding that the shadier entity responsible for this entire thing – tied to the diamonds in one way or another – would not just leave it at this. I’d simply aggravated a vicious cycle that wouldn’t end until some serious development had been made – namely, my death.

I wasn’t sure whether it was my new frame of mind, my repression of my paranoia, the adrenaline in my veins, the gun in my hand, the scotch in my belly, or a mix-and-match combination of any or all of the five, but I had a certain... courage instilled in me. I could feel it, burning deep within. It willed me onwards, further. This would not end today. I knew that, sober or not. But one more thing was clearer now; one more fact, probably insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it would allow me to hold my head high even if I was executed mercilessly in my alcohol-induced slumber. I would not bow. I would never surrender, never give up.

Fear was for the weak. And I had a new strength lying in wait inside me, something that had emerged once before that day, and was ready to do so again.

One thing, however, was certain.

Ricky was going to be pissed when he found out just what had happened to his car.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:42 am

Chapter Nineteen

Breaking Point

I woke to a noise and an intermittent, throbbing pain in my side. Somewhat unpleasant and now uncomfortable –also thanks to the left half of my face being numb due to sleeping on a leather-lined couch – I rose, sitting up, setting the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels on the coffee table, and raising the PMM to my eye level.

Groaning from the hangover, I quickly realised – even in the state I was in – that something was dangerously wrong with this picture; and, no, the lesser man within me had not returned. I was not paranoid, and not scared of a tool, a machine. I no longer cared. I was indifferent; it was simply a conduit, no more than a weapon of defense through which I would enforce physical punishment. No, the problem began with the noise, and ended with the hammer and safety switch of the Russian pistol being... not yet ready. The pistol was inert. In this state, it was useless to me.

I drew back the slide, and caught the chambered round, setting it aside the bottle on the table gently. I let the metal clip fall into my hand – heavier than I remembered it being from my father’s collection as a child – before taking the round on the table and thumbing it back in. I counted, based on the size I knew from the single round, and took a guess that the clip was full; special-issue at ten rounds. Usual was eight.

Slamming the clip back in, drawing the slide, cocking the hammer, and finally, flicking the safety off, I set the pistol down and walked towards the kitchen, feeling ever so slightly more at ease. There was something... calming about it. It was ironic, more than anything, that I would feel at peace around weaponry, considering the state I’d been in not days ago when my brother had presented me with a revolver.

The noise was still faintly blaring in the background. Indistinct, in my current state, I couldn’t distinguish it from the blur of the city – a window was an inch or two open, providing a chilly breeze that washed through the atmosphere of the apartment, another factor that had most probably lead to my waking.

Flicking the coffee machine on, I flung both a drawer and the refrigerator door open, scanning the interior for anything I could drink. I was still lulled into a lowered state thanks to my hangover, but above all else, my throat was parched. I didn’t want water – I’d never had a fondness for it – but Ricky had little else that would suffice. Muttering a few words about his apparent distaste for grocery shopping, I grasped a half-full bottle of milk, chugged back a mouthful, and set it down aside the coffee machine, and my espresso cup, within which would soon be what I considered to be a god-given gift upon the modern world. Beautiful, excellent, incredible, the blood which flowed through me, my life essence; forged from a pinch of powder, some heated water, and a simple few drops of milk. Coffee.

Hot or cold, I would drink it; black or white. Sweet or bitter. It didn’t matter. I needed to feel rejuvenated; I needed to be powered, caffeinated. And this was the docking station for my body – recharging would take a simple matter of seconds once this liquid was within my stomach. Caffeine seemed to burn faster for me than anyone else, and rushed into my bloodstream within minutes, apparently.

I grasped the Model 19 from the open drawer, and set it on the island by the coffee machine; a hiss, a few sloshing sounds, a rather odd-sounding mechanical clank, and my beloved spilled out into the mug beneath; once it had finished, not wasting a drop, I drew the cup out, and held it between my hands as if it was – funnily enough – crafted of diamond. I took a single whiff of the beautiful, sharp aroma, and that alone seemed to wake me up. The milk went in within a moment, and I took another chug before setting it back in the fridge, and downing the coffee in an instant. I shook my head, set the empty mug down on the side, grasped the PMM, and returned to the couch.

And then, as if by magic, the coffee granting me some form of enhanced perceptive sense... I heard it.

Sirens. A silent, all-too-familiar rev of an engine. Muffled, quietened, hushed voices. My head snapped towards the window left ajar, and I rushed towards it as slowly as I could, my sloppy, crumpled, bloody attire uncomfortable around my slowly re-energising form. I pressed my ear towards the opening in the window – trying not to make myself too evident – and stared up across the horizon, looking at what pretty pictures the clouds in the sky had decided to form me tod-

No. I needed to pay attention. This was serious. No more lackadaisical moments. An attitude like that would mean my end.

My brow furrowed, and I stared down towards the congregation. Both eyebrows widened, and I almost dropped the revolver, the only thing stopping me being the regard for both my noise level and safety – Hollywood had given me some brilliant advisories about never dropping loaded guns.

Most cars identical to the two I’d brushed with before, there were more than ten below. A congregation of over thirty men; each holding something, blacked-out as they were. All wore suits; none seemed to be garbed in protective or bullet-proof gear. No comms systems; all wearing shades. The sunlight danced across the hoods and bodies of their cars, the lenses of their sunglasses, and what they cradled in their hands and arms. One man stood at the rear end of the pack, and the whispering was immediately silenced as he held up what appeared to be a long, black pole.

Synchronised footsteps. They marched towards the lobby. A sea of clicks. An ocean of hammers cocking. Waves of fabric straining as they all shouldered or raised their weapons, marching upon the prestigious apartment building, an army of gangland soldiers that all would do their best to consider invisible and ethereal. I knew they could be here for one man, and one man alone.

Me.

I had mused on this the night previous; but it seemed the ‘hydra theory’ I’d concocted had been taken and put into overdrive. Wounding four and killing two had not solicited a force twice or even three times as strong; it had brought forth an army. I had deeply underestimated this criminal entity. Running was the safest option; but I had nowhere to go. If I was trapped in the elevator, it would be fish in barrel. If I ran downstairs, sprinting down the stairwell, their unimaginably large force would cut me down before I even took descended three steps; my blood would pool upon those beautifully polished marble stairs. I would be dead before a scream could even exit my mouth; in mid-flight, my lungs would be punctured and my death yowl would turn to a wheeze, a strong, fast exhalation. I would cough up blood, if I was lucky enough to still have a recognisable mouth, and they would surround me, before filling me with enough hot lead to extract, melt, and mould into a water pipe.

I was well and truly fucked.

The only option was to fortify. Barricade. But, no, they’d be expecting that; they’d drop explosives, most probably, and just evacuate. I’d be burnt to cinders before I’d even had a chance to escape. The entire building would turn to rubble, and the troops outside would watch. I didn’t give a fuck about the other residents, but I certainly gave a fuck about me. I still had diamonds to sell.

Ricky’s apartment was less expendable than the car; costs were racking up, but this was only the start of a very successful commercial enterprise. I’d move myself to Dubai, and begin in some sort of market there; with enough money to start myself up, I could be a huge business entity in a matter of years. It was just the down payment I needed; and in one of those two bags sitting on the table, I had it.

The plan of action was simple. I just had to resist. Hole up in here, and once I heard them advancing, open fire. I’d cut down anything that came through that door, then rush to the bedroom to reload. But with what? A revolver and the PMM? Sixteen rounds wasn’t enough to cut down even half of those, considering how stubborn the guys seemed. They were gonna fight this out til the end, if they needed to. They had their instructions, and like mindless drones, they would follow until I lay bloody, bullet-riddled and dead upon the floor of my older brother’s apartment.

What a way to go, eh?

That did, however, raise a question. Just what was in the other bag? My backpack was in the room; and one of the sports bags had the diamonds in. The other was near-identical, but I seemed to remember it as being a hell of a lot heavier. Maybe Ricky had left me some supplies alongside the car and his keys... Jesus, how much did he know?

Maybe it was inadvertent. Maybe he just had a knack for guessing that I’d need a little more firepower. Maybe he was more deeply involved than I could ever imagine. Questions fired through my head like an Armalite AR-10 as I picked up both bags, the bottle, and the Makarov, and lugged them into the bedroom, throwing the first – the diamonds, judging by the weight – onto the bed, before setting the other down at the foot of the bed with a solid clunk.

Unzipping the bag, the first thing I noticed was an unreal amount of glare from something within. Chromed. My head snapped back towards the door, midway through opening the bag, and a bustling stampede of footsteps outside encouraged me to do two things; first, a threw a look towards my watch – it wasn’t even 8AM yet, how did these guys mobilise so fast?! – and then continue unzipping the bag.

Inside, however, there were no weapons. No supplies. No ridiculously oversized knives, pistols, revolvers, swords, clubs, explosive devices, or anything. Just... a chromed box, maybe a foot and a half, two feet tall. Four drawers. Two numbered spin-dials either side of a pair of clips. And a cryptic post-it note on the top reading the word ‘Rosetta’ in hastily-scribbled biro ink.

I could smell the Davidoff in the air. This was Ricky’s doing, alright. My ears pricked as I noticed the ever-constant sound of footsteps drawing closer. I didn’t have much time. I needed to hustle.

Rosetta. Four-digit number. Shit, shit, shit. Rosetta was the middle name of our mother. I remembered that much; although my other self had kept such facts hidden from me, evident due to huge blank patches in my memory. I couldn’t put a face to a name, but numbers, statistics, certain snippets of memories; I could remember them. A boy with a set of faceless parents. It was tragic, really. Being unable to remember the two people that you love the most.

But now was not the time for sentimentality. It was time to act. Rosetta, Rosetta, Rosetta. Birthdate! That was it. Quickly, I recalled the day – May 6th – and scrambled to key in ‘0506’. A click sounded out, but I frantically tagged on the clips to no avail. Shit. Maybe it was something slightly harder to remember; year, maybe?

My mother had been later at giving birth than most people. Thirty-five. She wanted to be able to grow old with her children still able to experience youth; and enough life-time earnings to support a stable family. My mother had always been an independent woman, and very much the leader of the pack; much more fiery than my ever-neutral and business-centric – yet still caring – father. Gwen Rosetta Goldstone. Hopefully I’d find in the next few moments, some of that daring Irish spirit had been passed down to me.

The television still on in the room, the cars still chasing in the city, and the footsteps still slapping against the stairwell in the hall, I figured I had to hustle. Every ounce, every milligram of that caffeine was being strained and forced into brainpower. Thirty five. I was twenty. That meant... shit. 1959. I scrambled to key the numbers in; but still, no click resounded. Nothing. I fell back, hopeless, desperately searching the last caverns of my memory for something, anything that could help me.

And then, in my lowest moment, it all clicked. The gears and cogs aligned perfectly, a well-oiled machine, and through the darkness, I saw a highlighted image of myself, standing, cradling an impossibly-shaped box forged of nothing but brightness and serenity in the smog. It was the first time I had ever witnessed the miracle of childbirth; my baby niece had come, screaming and scrawling, courtesy of my late older sister, Courtney, into the world, caked in blood. I was barely sixteen at the time; yet Court was past twenty-three, married, and giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Rosetta Francine Marigold. Her new husband. Dean Marigold. Courtney Marigold. Rosetta Marigold.

She, however, had died. A tragic accident two years after childbirth meant a grieving Dean had to raise the child alone; and it left the youngest of three without an older sister, a mark on the map to guide him. A mark on the map, one of the saddest, most solemn events in my life. Courtney’s funeral. Something I should feel regret for.

And, yet, I didn’t.

I felt only joy. Courtney had served me as a role model in life, and a beacon of hope – if twisted – in death. She would mean my survival. And for that, I was thankful.

I keyed in the numbers. Two-zero-one-two.

Four simultaneous clicks resonated through the room. Four spring-loaded drawers shot open, each open at different levels.

The system was reliable and efficient. The hydraulics had been kept working incredibly well; the mechanics were designed to work exactly like this. The base of the lowest drawer was wider than the third, the base of the third wider than the second, and so on, and so forth. The first drawer was the only clear sight to me so far, but I would need to move quickly.

It was a set of pistols. Identical. Polished, beyond beautiful, set alongside a velvet interior. Colt .45 ACP M1911A1s. A shimmering black sheen, the natural light of the outside dancing along their two frames. The hilts too painted an-ever-so-lighter shade of black, inlayed on each was a beautifully-embossed silver Celtic cross. I could see just from the shape – my father had owned a pair, near-identical, save for the inlays – that these were chambered and tweaked to accept the nine-round magazines I’d familiarised myself with as a child.

“Jesus Christ, Ricky,” I muttered, brushing my fingers against them gently. “Where the hell did you get these made?” It was no doubt. The custom work, the craftsmanship... both overtly evident. These were stylish. Designer pistols, if there were ever such a thing. The Ralph Lauren of handguns. The Levi Strauss of semi-automatics. The Paul Reed Smith of firearms. The trigger, the slide, the barrel, the hilt, even the safety switch... everything was tweaked and engraved to near-perfection.

I removed them both, handling them as if they were solid gold, and laid them on the bed, bringing up the distinctly uglier revolver and worn PMM – thanks to years of service – alongside them. If I was to march into battle, it would be with nothing more than the best blacksmithing, and thanks to none other than my brother.

The second drawer was row upon row of clips, and a few specialised insets for... something slightly smaller, yet most definitely packing more punch. Red, and lined with gold, I could distinguish them easily. Shotgun shells. Excited now, I slammed the second row in, along with the first, only to be greeted with four M67 hand grenades on the next level, two of which I greedily snatched up, planting them next to the menagerie of pistols at the end of the bed. The footsteps quickly ceased, and I snapped back towards the door, ensuring that none had come to disrupt me yet; no, I still had moments. Minutes. They were breaching, readying themselves. I had to time my response and assault.

And the fourth drawer contained the best prize of all. Something I had been waiting for, something that I’d longed to have for countless days and weeks, something that would have been so helpful over the events of the past few days...

A grey-coloured Serbu Super-Shorty. A midget shotgun, that packed just as much punch as a regular model at the size of a sawn-off. It was... excellent. Top-class. Something I’d only dreamed of holding before. My gun-nut senses went wild as I took it from its tray, forgetting for a moment of my predicament, cradling it in my hands, and folding the pump forwards with a quiet click, gasps of awe reverberating around the cavernous bedroom. How the... never mind. I didn’t want to know. I definitely didn’t want to know.

I snapped back to reality, taking the shotgun in one hand, and pocketing the revolver and the Makarov, grasping a single hand grenade in three fingers, holding it as one would a bowling ball... a bowling ball filled with explosives, phosphorus, and other deadly substances, but, hey, it was definitely a winner. You can never go wrong with a grenade – to this day, I stand by that statement as one of my more... militant creeds. Pack explosives to the brim – you never know when you’ll need them. If shit ends up, as one would say, going south, a grenade can save you from a hell of a lot of problems. An explosion can do wonders in the right place; and yet go devastatingly and horribly wrong in the other.

Throwing myself behind the counter, opposite the wall of the corridor, I made a few, quick calculations. I could hear, now. Haggard, excited breathing. Muttered words, responses, the men assuring each other they were ready for whatever horrors lied within. And I could tell them, there and then, that they definitely weren’t.

The first two raised their feet. Weight creaked backwards as they lifted to kick. I pulled the pin from my grenade with my thumb, letting it clatter and bounce to the floor with a series of high pitched ping sounds. And then, as if it were a tennis ball thrown towards an obedient, playful dog, I threw it. I rolled it along the floor, heard it tap against the wall, and roll further down the ever-so-slanted corridor, and towards the door.

To me, war was an art. A fine art. It required a steady hand, and a ready hand.

But above all else, the most important thing, the paramount criterion, for going to war... I believed to be the mind.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER TWENTY

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:42 am

Chapter Twenty

Killing Floor

Halfway into realising the magnitude of the oncoming blast, I stuck my fingers into my ears a split-second too late; they weren’t fully dug in by the time the still-rolling grenade detonated, around the same time as the first kick making contact with the frame of the door, creating several splintering sounds a nanosecond before the room erupted with fire, force, and noise.

I clamped my eyes shut and slapped my hands over my ears, but the sheer volume of the explosive was not only deafening, but agonising. Fumbling in my pockets, I tried to collect both my body and my mind as I realised I had thinned their assault force, and done nothing more. I readied the Serbu, holding the pump with one hand, the other wrapped around the hilt and trigger. I skirted around the side of the central kitchen ‘island’ as star-like patches and flares of light danced and faded in my vision, re-appearing, an echo, an imprint, every time I stopped to blink for an instant.

I knew the Super Shorty had two rounds in it, but that would be enough to blow away anyone coming through the door. The thin passage-way put me at a direct – and fortified – advantage. No matter how many people they had, they could push – at most – three in at a time.

I threw myself from the corner of the island up against the refrigerator door, hearing spluttering and coughing, and the crackling of flames as they began to bubble the dried paint on the walls of the entryway. My face became stoic, and I inhaled, setting myself a target. A niche, on the wall opposite for me. It would be cosy, but given with the fact that they’d most likely still be stunned from the grenade – these guys weren’t special forces, after all – and they weren’t expecting this, due to the minimal amount of noise I’d allowed my body to make, I would be able to make it, so long as I was fast.

And hopefully, along the way, I could fire those two shotgun shells, ready and chambered, too.

I threw myself out into the range, bolstering my mind for the sights to come. Three corpses lay on the floor in the entry-way, bloodied, battered, and bruised. The door was shattered and the walls scorched and very nearly blown apart. A single, dismembered arm provided the smell of burnt, dead flesh in the middle of the corridor, smearing a bloody trail as it flopped further towards me.

But the most unfortunate of the four affected had been the man who had most likely been directly in line with the explosion. The force had flung him backwards, and the head had seared his entire front, with the smell of burnt fabric hanging alongside charred flesh as a companion, his attire absolutely decimated, and, from the looks of it, scorched into what was left of his skin. Little patches of flame were dotted around the man, pinned to the wall by a stray, stake-like sharpened splinter of wood, presumably from the door. It almost looked poetically biblical, as well as ironic, thanks to the fire still eating away at the wood from beneath.

These men, however, were but four of thirty, plus. I knew this, and this was why I didn’t allow the smallest of grotesque triumphs, the relative tiniest of gory victories, to get to my head. I’d simply cut through four pawns with a knight. The game was nowhere near over yet – and playing in defense had granted me a small bonus of almost precognitive knowledge, but I knew that I’d have to play with strategy and tactics from here on out.

I felt vomit bubbling up inside me, courtesy of the lesser Fraser still trapped within; but I repressed it. My senses, my mind... they were both stronger than his. These images were to me what candy was to a child. An incentive. Something to push me on, spur me further, forcing me, urging me to carve a bloodier swath through the troops remaining.

Three more, however – and, live, too – had entered the fray. My analysis of those deceased agents had left me with a slightly lesser amount of time than I would have hoped; my actions were, consequently, slower – but still fast enough to provide survival. The three seemed as if they’d also been close to the explosion’s epicentre, blasted with soot, black dots specking their white shirts and grey, brown, and blonde hair, respectively.

First round readied and pumped, before they had time to raise the weapons in their hands – now a slick Beretta M92, as opposed to the PMMs that the two in my own apartment had been armed with – I unleashed the first shot. I realised now just how much power this devilishly, deceptively small cannon cradled in my hands contained; it had a kick easily ten times as strong as the revolver, and jarred my shoulder, creating an impact which I knew would easily bruise in the minutes to come.

The first blast sheared through flesh, sinew, and bone indiscriminately; the pellets struck two of the four, cutting them down and adding more eviscerated bodies to the pile, totalling six now out of action; the third stumbled backwards and pulled the hammer back on his Beretta, readying himself. He’d been shielded, somewhat, by the brunette and blonde now laying slumped, bloodied, groaning, and half-dead on the floor.

The pump’s resistance required a lot of strength to overcome, but my conviction was strong. I knew I had beaten the final man of this wave to the punch, and a smug smile lined my face as I fired the second blast, and watched his head turn to a gruesome crimson-pink mist courtesy of my aim; the walls were now not only scorched and crumbling, but riddled with miniature metal pellets, too. The Super Shorty was an efficient yet troublesome beauty of a weapon, its only possible downfall being its clip size.

I wasted little time, throwing myself into the niche as the white team on the chess board began their assault, nine-millimetre rounds pounding against the wall, creating clouds of dust, paint, and crumbled stone as they all rushed to positions, attempting to flank me. I managed to isolate three separate sets of footsteps between the cacophony of assorted gunshots coming from what seemed to be every direction inside a one-hundred and eighty degree radius.

I had brushed over the box too quickly, and cursed, spluttering thanks to the pain in my rib, a sore throat now to add to the hopefully minimal list of injuries, compared to the six and a half – I didn’t count the freshly-bleeding Mr. Headless as a full casualty, ironically enough – dead men lying in Ricky’s hallway. However, I let out a short rush of breath – subsonic compared to the barrage of rounds never-ending and pounding away on my position – as I checked my palm for something. A source of pain; sharp, unfamiliar.

My palm was bleeding. A short, deep red line of blood had been drawn along my hand. I wasn’t sure how it had happened, and despite its insignificance, that metallic tang in the air lulled me into a frenzy. A lust for the crimson, a hundred fold that had been shed, of those inadvertently responsible for causing me this comparatively miniscule amount of pain; but it was principle.

Simply enough, things had gotten personal. These bastards had made me bleed.

I dropped the Serbu. It was unnecessary weight, weight that needed to be shed now the troops had advanced. I heard another two sets of rushed footsteps, and heard two heavy bodies slam into the remains of the pillars outside. Five more had entered the fray. Five more would leave this place in a body bag.

This was no longer a game; no longer a field of experimentation for me. Every man had a darker side; I had been Fraser’s, and now that I had become him, I had something deeper, something more violent and passionate, ready to be evoked and awakened in a fit of rage. Curtains of red descended upon my vision, and I drew the PMM and the Model 19, making quick, routine checks. I felt adrenaline surge through my bloodstream faster than ever before; hatred and pain were irrelevant. All that mattered was my seething, burning, incandescent rage... and the two hand-held conduits for it sitting, clenched in my bloody palms.

Every man has a monster.

The gunfire ceased. Five simultaneous clicks, each repeating in sequence and in order. They were out. And I was in. My blood became burning, fiery, crackling phosphorus, far hotter than the flames beneath the impaled man. It became surging electricity, crackling like a discharge from a faulty main grid. And it became ice, colder than even the frozen Siberian tundra. I was everything, and nothing. A man, yet a devil.

I cocked the hammers on both guns, and grinned, hearing snappy, shouted orders from one to another. ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Did we get him?’ ‘How can one man survive all this?’

And with a deathly grin upon my lips, I whispered one word, a single collection of syllables to an ethereal audience I knew not to be there. ”Showtime.”

The room exploded into gunfire mid-way through five simultaneous reloads. The Model 19 – held in my left hand – and PMM – in my right – were each an extension of my limbs, representing the perfect middle-ground between accuracy and speed against stopping power and sheer grandiose. Sixteen rounds was more than enough for five people, so I had necessary resources to make it stylish.

I threw both hands out towards the closest niche, maybe separated by three feet of solid wall, sprinting, having just thrown myself out into open view. The element of surprise was my best friend; I launched two shots from the PMM, and one from the revolver. The first two caught the man straight in the chest, forcing him back into the wall and creating a bloody smear, and the third turned the back of his face into a colossal exit wound, spraying bone fragment and grey matter against what had once been a rich creamy-white tone of dried paint on Ricky’s beloved apartment walls.

The remaining four hustled, not exactly in any hurry to be on death’s doorstep any time soon. But they were too late. I had become automatic; machinated. I was a well-oiled mechanism, a system. My input was ammunition, energy, and incentive – my output, blood, pain, and death.

The two further down, on opposite sides of the corridor, met their end next, as I stood at a dead balance between my previous hiding place and the refrigerator. I flung the two guns out to either side, and began a manoeuvre that I’d always wanted to execute, secretly, if things ever escalated to a gunfight like this. Firing as fast as I could from the PMM, I unleashed two shots into the man on the right, and a single from the Model 19, before crossing over with both arms over each other, and giving each man a taste of what the other had experienced. Two more shots from the Makarov, and one more from the revolver, left their lives cut abruptly short as they slumped to the floor, creating two more unique bloody smears to compliment that of the first of the wave down. The smell of cordite hung satisfyingly in my nostrils as I advanced further.

I heard the click of hammers; the Berettas I’d come to know so well after the last few minutes. I let a chuckle come forth, the red spotlights that had never been there to begin with still shining down plain into my view. They knew it now. I was the messenger of Osiris; the bringer of their judgment. I was the Messiah of their death, and the sooner they came to accept it, the better.

And here’s a hint for what happened next:

They didn’t accept it fast enough.

I became a dancing barrage of hellfire and destruction. I was the almighty cleaver of death and terror. A whirling dervish of agony, white-hot rage, and gunpowder. I became death incarnate, taking up the grim reaper’s mantle for a split-second as I threw myself further into the fray.

Shots were fired in every direction. These two had positioned themselves almost identically to the last two, just maybe a metre and a half further down, up against the shockingly symmetrical pillars that Ricky had chosen to place – I’d spent a lot of time with him whilst he’d remodelled the apartment – due to what I presumed to be a small bout of OCD. It didn’t offset me or him at all; it was simply more fuel to the sibling rivalry fire, providing bricks upon which we built a firm foundation of ‘witty’ banter.

But enough of the past. The present is what we all live for, aye?

I began to pick up speed and momentum, spinning like a grossly twisted wheel of fortune deciding on who saw the other die. Each raised their pistols, ready to unleash the single bullet which would hopefully end my life, but, alas, as their nine comrades had been, they were simply far too slow. The man crucified above the fires flailed in the winds brushing in thanks to the holes my explosion had caused, and not a single blink was given as I fired once, then twice. No aiming, nothing. Just two sequential trigger-pulls, evoking not a shout, or a responsive aggressive action from each.

I had been deadly accurate, as I had expected myself to be in this heightened state, but my single miscalculation had proven rather... wet. Each man’s head erupted into a short, fount-like spurting of blood, spattering both me and my clothing, creating a collage of different types of blood, dried and fresh.

I didn’t care, however. The PMM and revolver were all but exhausted; two rounds remained in the Smith and Wesson, and three in the Makarov. These weapons were now... unfitting. I had sensed an interval, a break, coming up, where I would be given a short window, an opportunity, to recuperate and perhaps collect my resources once more, but, looking towards the empty door-frame to hear the rapid scuttling of frightened footsteps, a pack of dogs running away with their tails between their legs, I knew this only meant one thing. The elite was coming. I had seen him. Clutching that black pole. Wearing an off-colour trench-coat, a different shade of black. Commanding an aura of authority I had previously not thought possible digging this fair into a scene of gangland warfare. No, this man was much more than a mere criminal. He was a businessman, coming to collect reparations, payment. I had scorned him, or his master, and now he was to retrieve his loaned property, alongside interest – my head.

I turned and grasped the Serbu once more, letting the interval rack through my mind, and the bloody curtains ascended. I wiped the specks of blood from my face, and placed two fingers on my temples, laying the revolver and the pistol down on the island as I rushed back into the bedroom, grasping two more shells and loading them in, footsteps – now eerily loud, and singular, amongst the relative silence of the apartment building – resonating through the open door and into the cavities of my ears. I cursed repeatedly; this was something that added the spice of terror to even my previously unflinching near-blind bravery. This man wanted to give me, quite possibly, a fate worse than death, if such a thing was possible.

On the lower, intact floors, I heard doors being chained and bolted as I loaded two fresh shells into the short-barrel shotgun, throwing it out towards the island, letting it skid along the floor, just far enough so it was in reach. I grasped the two Colts, and pulled back the hammers – still filing a little mental note about how smooth and light these pistols were – before wiping my brow with the left-most barrel once more.

And, finally, I tried to will that red curtain to descend once more. To allow the play to continue on, to allow my bloody ballet to reach its climax and finish with the victor emerging unscathed and above the rest; but I knew life far too well. I knew its cold touch, its evil sense of irony and sarcasm. I would not win. I would die here. My play had already reached its climax; my rhapsody had already found its crescendo. There was nothing I could do but provide a futile struggle against this man who was perhaps a juggernaut when compared to my form, or maybe possessed some power that I had, up until now, presumed the territory of comic books and film.

I heard the straining of leather. I heard the dull thrum of electricity, yet combined with a high-pitched whine that almost caused my brain untold amounts of pain. And I heard a triumvirate of sharp metal sounds as the pole tapped against the floor three times, each spaced out equally, giving me reason to bite my lip and curse under my breath.

It was time for Fraser Goldstone’s final dance.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

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Join date : 2012-07-17

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Aspect Level: Final
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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:43 am

Chapter Twenty-One

The Last Stand

I had positioned myself, cradling the Serbu, behind the island where I had began the previous wave of the assault; I now knew, however, that this man was not a being to be trifled with. My mind ran on overdrive as he stepped ever-so-slowly into the room, an executioner walking up to the block with a fiendish grin on his face and axe in hand, the image intensifying with every step.

That... that was when I told myself that I wouldn’t be leaving Ricky’s crumbling, destroyed apartment alive.

Who was he? What did he look like? I’d caught a few snippets of his general appearance... but... white? Black? American? British? I didn’t dare to peek over the top of the mantle; I knew this was a game of chicken. If I stuck my face out too far, he’d cut me down in an instant, and sit there listening to the wind whistling through another hole in my head for the rest of the morning.

And then... then he spoke. “Wakey-wakey, Mr. Goldstone,” The voice was crisp. Sharp. Deep, but not ominously so. Accent was neutral; he sounded as if he were from around the general area. I could sense a high-class background sitting beneath it all; but an analysis of that depth was unnecessary. Think, think, think... weapons, sounds, weight... dammit, I needed to use my brain to my advantage; it couldn’t be another dead weight sitting in my skull. “Now, I’ve specific orders for taking care of you... you’re just prey, to me... but you might call it a habit of mine to play with my food...” He trailed off, before continuing around the edge of the room; I was a decent judge of distance, and I could hear that he was far off, but still inside the room proper.

I skirted and snaked around the centrepiece of the room appropriately; I couldn’t let him get a see at my hand just yet. Or, more, what I was cradling in it. I had to use the element of surprise as best as I could; and pulling out this little twelve-gauge beauty certainly, I thought, would help... shift the odds a little. Make my last stand a little more... final... and perhaps, just perhaps... not just for me. That dull, electric thrum lay ever-present beneath his speech. “What? Cat got your tongue, Goldstone?!”

I smirked; I could tell his gaze was piercing whatever solid barriers that laid in the line of fire from me to him. Just what was he carrying? He definitely wouldn’t be pitted against me with the same sort of equipment as the infantry at the door... silenced pistols? Sub-machine gun? Rifle? He sounded like a man of precision.

However, even in my last few minutes, I had to still work with psychology. Make sure my defences were bolstered. If I was going down fighting, I was going down with honour, too; I would be no coward in the back seat waiting; plus, it was common courtesy. I had to return his speech; let him show that his little games of cat and mouse weren’t going to work on me. I would fight back; and not just with pistols and shotguns. His smirks had to be met with grins; his stinging words with phrases equally laced in poison. This fight was not going to be a massacre, as my slaughter of the first wave of mooks had been; this was going to be reciprocal. Even if I did leave here bloody, beaten, bruised, and above all, dead, I would become a phenomenon; an anomaly in this gangster’s workplace. ‘The one that almost got away.’

I trawled the very depths of my mind for stratagems and gambits alike; anything, just anything that would help me get out alive. Until then... I had to stall. “I wish I could say that... but you sound far too much like your head’s up your own ass for me to give you any more satisfaction!” The growl quickly turned to a shout, and I ended it with a chuckle. Taunting and flaunting. I needed to make him angry. When humans got angry, they got sloppy; it was true, even for me. I had left mistakes; moments during my stylish display of the last few minutes, I had been left open. And, hopefully, I’d see the same happen to this man... over time. I just had to keep him busy.

“Aha! You’re not stunned into silence, after all... and you can construct a decent sentence... not bad, not bad.” I flicked the pump of the Serbu forwards. Ready to shoot; ready to react at any time. “Tell you what. You might be worthy; and I’ve been given the courtesy of your name, so, perhaps... perhaps I’ll tell you mine.” A pause. The footsteps began again; I shuffled accordingly, in the opposite direction. We were circling each other; I was just trying to keep myself under cover, the entire time.

And the question that took the highest priority amongst the sea of queries racing through my mind just happened to be phrased in three simple words... why wasn’t he?

It was odd. Mysterious. He’d seen that I wasn’t your average pissed-off victim in this position; I wasn’t running around with a kitchen knife and a jammed peashooter. I had decent equipment; explosives, pistols, a shotgun, the lot. Maybe he’d counted out the rounds. Maybe he was being stupid. Or maybe... maybe he had some advantage I didn’t know about. “My name is Kai.” He stopped. Again. This was getting far too routine. “Let me tell you something, Goldstone. Your handiwork is impressive. I’ve seen your record. Aside from a few hunting trips as a kid, you’ve pretty much never held a gun in your entire life.”

I raised both eyebrows; my eyelids shot wide open, revealing the bare, bloodshot sclera of each of the orbs. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. An extra shot of epinephrine flew straight into my system; my heart began to beat as fast as my brain was generating new questions. This guy... how did he... no... that wasn’t possible. There was no way it could be possible. He took advantage of my silence, too. Continuing; trying to grate at me even further. “Oh? You didn’t think I knew about... all this?” He stepped back. “The bottom line is, Goldstone... I know everything I need to in order to put you in the ground.” He hissed the last few words, spitting them out like undercooked food; Kai. That was a surname. Obviously Asian. China? Japan? Korea?

I needed to stay in control. He knew too much. Far too much; and I couldn’t let it get to me. He was continuing; not giving me a chance to get a single word in. This was bad. I had to keep it on a balance – and given my situation, it would most likely be precarious, at best – and Kai knew he was gaining ground, making headway; psychologically as well as physically. Hell, maybe he could even hear the rushing in my heart rate. The change in my breathing patterns. Just who was this guy?

“Do you think Ricky would be proud, Fraser?” He continued, sneering, letting a chuckle escape, stifling it midway through and turning it into a snort. “You fucked up, big-time, Goldstone.” The second of silence lead straight into cocky, triumphant laughter. “It’s funny; it really is. You have no comprehension, whatsoever, or who you’re dealing with, do you?”

With that, the thrum turned to a whine. The whine quickly escalated in noise and pitch; becoming unbearable. Beneath the horrific cacophony, I heard Kai’s hands strain and wrap around something; that metal pole, presumably. The Serbu dropped from my hands, and hit the floor, rattling from side to side as it did so. I went to clamp my hands over my ears, but the entire room exploded before I could do so.

In a split-second, the neatly-ordered ornaments and utensils were thrown into absolute chaos. Someone... something was pushing, sweeping a huge concussive force through the room, centred on me. Cupboard doors flew open; cups, plates, mugs all hit the door, expensive china, shattering at the drop of a hat. The room erupted into catastrophe in a single second. I was scrabbling, desperately trying to maintain balance, trying to grasp hold of the shotgun and pull myself behind the island, trying to resist; but even then, I heard the paint and glue crack. Everything was coming loose. The tiles themselves were vibrating; someone was throwing an unbearable amount of force into this small area, and I had a pretty good idea of just who it was.

Once I’d taken cover, the disaster quickly began to subside. The room’s tremors ground to a halt, and everything became still for one moment; save for panting in the background, and an easily audible sound, malice and victory lying in a single exhalation of breath; the most devilishly evil sigh I’d ever heard. This Kai... he was something more. Not just a commander; he was elite, alright. The whine quickly reverted back into that same, dull thrum, and I collected myself.

I managed to switch myself back on and run a quick scan for all critical and vital functions fairly quickly, before trying to swing myself back around to accommodate for his moving. This had tired him, too; it seemed as if he couldn’t maintain whatever the fuck he was doing for too long. By my reckoning, either it was related to that dull whine, some sort of prototype technology... or the world was going batshit crazy, and it wasn’t just me. I heard him shrug off something and throw it aside; I saw the rather expensive raincoat land on the floor, in my periphery. We’d made a one-hundred and eighty degree cycle of the room now, and we were almost perfectly aligned. I had stayed on more or less one side of the island for the entire time, and hadn’t dared to yet show my face.

Despite my entire body being in disarray, and my body still recovering from the ear-splitting shriek that whatever Kai possessed had produced, I told myself that now was the perfect time to act. Years and years of playing fighting games as a child had told me that right after an opponent performed a special attack was when he was at his weakest; and surprisingly enough, I’d managed to remain more or less unscathed from the devastating shockwave that the Asian had unleashed. It was time to move.

Springing up like a knife-wielding clown at the most inappropriate moment in a horror movie, I unsheathed both pistols in mid-flight, and began to unload. The Colts were smooth, light, and almost perfect; it felt as if they’d been fitted to my hands, my fingers lying oh-so-snugly on the triggers. It was beautiful. But the euphoric sense of finally being fitted with a customised weapon passed; and I took aim at the man – who was garbed similarly to me, albeit in a much more expensive shirt, and a pair of black suit trousers – guns akimbo once more, and unloaded. I squeezed the trigger on the right gun first, shortly followed by the left, and the barrels exploded with a barrage of hot nine-millimetre lead, all trained on Kai. Firing from each barrel in sequence, I didn’t have time to check the effects, only loosing three rounds from each before I ducked back down again, concealing myself as best I could. A smug, triumphant grin lay ready on my face, head against the surface of the island’s cupboard door, panting as I did so. I would survive to see another day. There was no way that he’d survive tha-

“You know something, Goldstone, you’ve got balls.” He... what? No. He wasn’t even sighing. No grunts, nothing. No man took six shots to the body like that and stood without even letting out a single noise. There was... how was he... this wasn’t happening. “Balls, guts, gusto, whatever. I don’t care. Fill in the blanks. But balls won’t get you far in this city, kid.”

I heard six metal projectiles hit the floor with a series of pings, sequentially, before rolling away, most likely slamming against one of the pillars or many of the dismembered bodies left in the corridor close to Kai, who laughed, and continued to talk. “Yeah, I bet you’re surprised now, you smug little shit. You don’t realise, do you? My boss is the boss. Nothing happens in this city without his say-so. Shit, he’s got the Mayor, the council, the senator... all wrapped around his fingers, like some sort of star ventriloquist. And that’s what the small-time players don’t get.” Shit. Shit shit shit. “Those diamonds are ours. You can’t just pull a hit and run job. You run to the next city on the line? We’ll get you. You run to the next state on the line? We’ll get you. Hell, it might take a little longer, but if you jack a plane, change your face, and your name, and head on down to some island in the Antarctic, fuck it, we’ll get you.”

He continued. I decided to let his monologue go on for now, picking up the Serbu – which I’d dropped before making my first attack – holstering – well, in my pockets – the M1911A1s. For now, I had decided to make myself stalwart, and, for lack of a better word, silent. I’d made my presence known twice, and I couldn’t let him get to me anymore. “This technology here?” He tapped the pole against the floor again; this time, the thrum turned to a whine once more, but Kai reined it in and let it dissolve and subside, my heart still beating. False alarm. The bastard chuckled, as if he’d heard and seen everything; it certainly seemed like he had a certain omnipotence about him. “It’s called plasma window tech. I’ve never heard of it, but my boss got a few people on it. Turns out that this shit’s still in the prototype stage, but they’re planning to outfit soldiers with a slightly... less versatile version of it.” Another low, dull laugh. It was, really, like he was talking to a child. Some sort of anger burned deep in my gut, but I managed to repress it; things couldn’t yet get out of hand. “It creates a sustained kinetic barrier which can be forced forwards – as you, I guess, know – and, on the other hand, remain neutral – and reflect incoming projectiles. To sum it up,” Wait for it... “It pretty much means that I’m... bulletproof!”

With the tensions raising in his voice, the way his larynx was straining and the sense of suspense rising and falling, I could tell that he was readying an attack. That was his one weakness. I could finally pin it down; he liked to play around with his opponents just a little too much. Sure, he could’ve flown in the window with a .308 and given me a new asshole, but the guy instead to make this entire thing close and personal.

Although, with that, I still wasn’t going to get anywhere. If the guy wasn’t talking shit, and that plasma window thing wasn’t just a cheap parlor trick, then he was practically untouchable. Which left me two alternatives. Escape, or stalling.

The former was rendered as non-viable thanks to the – to use a technical term – shitload of guys waiting downstairs for me. And the latter... well, Kai was only going to play with me for a while longer before he got angry. My guess was that I’d get beaten, or caught out playing this glorified game of trading blows; but it was still better than nothing. Maybe there was another gap in his armour – so to speak. Maybe I could circumvent this thing. Flipping science the bird would certainly be a significant achievement.

The entire time that he was giving the spiel, I’d been crouched, holding the Super Shorty and ready to move. Analysis in pitches, volumes, everything... if I was too early, he’d blast me in mid-flight and give me another broken rib. Or maybe a broken neck. If I was too late, I’d be subjected to another ‘demonstration’ of just how his precious toy worked. And my bets were on this one being ever so slightly more... ‘concentrated’ than the last.

I tensed my legs. This had to be perfect. And in that split-second gap between him finishing his speech and raising the million-dollar toy lightsaber, I threw myself as far forwards as I could, skidding down into the lounge, and landing, safe and sound, behind one of the couches.

The leather couches.

They hadn’t been bolted or glued down. Shit. Well, maybe my plan had a flaw or two, but I hadn’t expected to stay here for longer than a few seconds, anyway – and, even then, mid-flight, I’d caught a quick snap at his gear. It appeared that whatever he was using was linked up to some sort of backpack, slung over one shoulder. It basically looked like a simple metal bo-staff, with three flashing rings equidistant along the length, and a wire attached at the top. My bets were that the pack contained some sort of power source, and that the attacks were projected from the pole. With my better understanding of the scene came further attempts to use my analytical skills to pick things apart.

I felt a pang of horror surge through my gut as the coffee machine shattered and spilt its beautiful contents all along the floor, alongside a few more meaningful cups and mugs – and an array of kitchen knives, skewering through the exact position that I’d been in not moments ago. I made a sharp intake of breath, looking gingerly at Kai’s handiwork, before crouching back behind him and letting my thoughts race as the Asian grumbled and began to advance.

The power pack was a weak point, obviously; and even then, he’d said the tech was prototype, so there was probably a chance of overheating or some other fault – but, that alone, I couldn’t rely on. I took another look at the images I’d snapped, running through the precious little information I had, trying to connect the dots... there was something, an opportunity, a window I had to use...

And then, all my gambits, all my thinking, all my stratagems, hell, all my efforts cumulatively came together and fell into place, the final piece of the puzzle and the solution coming with it. I organised my thoughts; collected them, and formulated a plan of action. All sense of ambiguity was gone. I just needed to stall enough so I could get into the right place.

I sprung up once more, and fired both shots from the Serbu on him, both making my presence known and trying to keep him at bay. I threw the shotgun aside, and drew the M1911s once more, grinning to myself as he unleashed a spurt of laughter. My resistance was so futile to him. Beginning his advance, I heard the thrum gently rise in pitch and volume, the end of the staff crackling as he readied the pole to release another burst of energy.

Now... now it was my turn to speak. “You might be bulletproof, Kai, but you’re still an ass, and a coward. What kind of man fights his battles like that? It takes all of the fun out of the hunt,” I grinned as I heard his laughter descend into a low, wrathful growling for a split-second. “Oh? What’s wrong? Have I touched a nerve?” The icing on the cake.

I readied myself once more, pistols ready, feeling my irises narrow as the control balance shifted once more. I leapt towards the second, opposite couch, just in time, skidding behind it and pulling myself into cover, my legs almost slipping out, as he shot the forcefield forwards, catching the sofa – and sending it flying through the penthouse window. “You’re still wetting your muzzle in this entire business, Goldstone. I’ll let what you just said go.” I threw myself up once more, firing another two rounds, one from each pistol this time. Shit. I had to be careful. It was like I was that one irritating head in that game of whack-a-mole at the carnival that you could just never catch. He let out a short, abrupt laugh, before continuing, spinning around to face me and block both rounds. He heard me before I’d even sprung up. He was certainly alert, and didn’t let up, I’ll give him that much. “You’re a new pup!” He continued. “Straight out of the last bitch on the line; the first of the litter to reach the top of the hill...”

Heh. Seemed I wasn’t the only one for metaphors in this game. “Yeah, sure! Why not be proud of your achievements? You’ve taken your first steps into the underworld, and you made a pretty good haul – sure, we caught you out – but don’t get ahead. You’re being cocky. Shit, you’ve still got a long way to go before you’re anything close to top dog – if you survive! Bahaha!” With that, the entire room erupted into chaos once more; Kai lashed out earlier than I predicted, catching on too soon. Mid-flight, as the couch slammed into the wall, I unleashed another two rounds, all of which the field’s periphery blocked. And here... here was where my plan, all my stalling... came to fruition.

Or, at least, it should have done.

I threw myself into Kai’s blind spot, aligning myself roughly with the front of the island. I now had four rounds left in each pistol – the standard magazines had obviously been replaced with extended variants – and I could see directly towards his power pack.

See, I could tell earlier on that the field was, at most, on a one-hundred and eighty degree radius. It was pretty easy to deduce, considering that the dust, the rubble, the assorted crap; it wasn’t blowing backwards when Kai used the staff. There was no strain on whatever wall he stood in front of; presumably because this was impractical, and drained twice as much energy. But for sharper tacks, such as me, this presented an opportunity. Kai was open. His back wasn’t protected. And I could take advantage of that.

Had my plan worked... perhaps things would have played out differently. Kai would have collapsed, spluttering and coughing, and perhaps I would have escaped the wrath of the troops outside. Maybe I would have survived to escape the city, the state, or the country, but I know now that everything Kai said rings true. His boss... the Broker... would have caught me. He would have me brought before him, and killed for murdering his best lieutenant. An eye for an eye. This man was not expendable.

But this is no time for thinking about the possibilities of what could have happened. This story... this memoir... it’s about what did happen.

I raised my pistol, tired and exhausted from the entire debacle, and ready just to let things end. To rise above, triumphant, and prepare for my flight, or further fight, if they sent the next wave up. My finger was on the trigger. I was ready to squeeze, and end this man’s life.

But something happened.

I paused.

To this day, I don’t know why, but that hesitation... maybe it was some sort of precognition. Maybe it was further knowledge. Or maybe it was some higher, divine power... deciding that it was not yet my time to die, and that I had further trials and tribulations in life to face.

Either way, Kai spun around not long after. I pulled the trigger three times, and all three were caught in the field’s range, dropping to the floor and becoming inert in a matter of seconds. Brow furrowed, grin on his face, he raised the staff, and forced me backwards with what I presume to be the strongest push of all.

The force was devastating. I slammed back against the island, my back moving first, and my entire body rippling. I tried to writhe and struggle in pain, but I was immobilised, even from that split-second of force. My head made contact a microsecond later, the force released, and I slumped to the floor, spiralling into oblivion.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:44 am

Chapter Twenty-Two

Enclave

Thanks, in part, to my lapsing in and out of consciousness, the events of the next few hours have always seemed nearly... surreal... when I brush fondly over the old memories. It was as if I had found myself in a state of insomnia; never quite fully in that oblivious, luscious world of dreams and sleep, but never really totally awake, either. Informed now that hours must have transpired between the beginning of my somewhat-oblivious state and when the feeling subsided much later, I realised that events infact whipped past much faster than the time they realistically took to occur.

Blurry-eyed, still falling into and out of an entranced, paralysed state, I felt my body slumped, almost thrown onto a rough, metal surface, and people congregated around me; giddy, at the time, I felt like the centre of attention. Semi-conscious, I felt an engine splutter and roar inches beneath me, and a heat began to collect around my lower back; I was in a van. Some form of troop transport, and most likely what a large majority of the small army that had previously surrounded Ricky’s flat had arrived in.

I remember idly listening to the brief, scarce conversation firing through the van; everyone seemed to be scared of something. If not me, perhaps the driver, or the passenger up front; they too had been assigned to sit in the back half of the van; presumably something of rank. It was easy to tell Kai was above the common infantrymen; the advanced technology, the higher-than-military-grade prototype weapon, the attire that set him aside from the norm and the masses... whereas, on the flipside, they were constrained to black suits and their weapons were chosen for them. In short, even in appearance, Lewis Kai held the aura and presence of an authoritative figure. He had a personality. The others... at first glance... didn’t. They were anonymous. And perhaps that was best, in a business such as this...

A few lines of dialogue in particular stood out; vivid and colourful amongst those black and white memory sequences. Nothing was particularly interesting, outlandish, or odd about the word choice specifically, or even the way it was ordered... just, perhaps, personal significance and relevance to my current situation.

“Shit... you hear about what this guy did?”

“Yeah... he’s gotta be some special case. Y’know the boss sanctioned Kai’s prototype to bring him in, right?”

“Shiiit...”

The voices trailed off, and so did I; straight into the warm embrace of sleep, once more.

*****

The next time I remember coming back to the world of the living, I had a far more established sense of clarity. All five senses seemed to be, at least, functioning, although there was a nauseating feeling sitting deep in the pit of my stomach; something really didn’t feel right. At all.

My sense of bearing and position was the first that came through to the fullest of its extent. I was thrown down onto my knees, my hands now tied behind my back. No matter how much I strained to open my eyes, I couldn’t see beyond some opaque curtain of blackness. An obstruction. A blindfold, most probably. I began to register things properly; the sound of shuffled footsteps, my sense of hearing coming around, too. I managed to rein in four of the five main senses fairly quickly; a salty, acidic flavour, almost reminiscent of bile or vomit, obscured my sense of taste. Sound was vacant save for the straining of fabric; I quickly put together a mental scene, managing to file the facts together. I was probably flanked by two henchmen.

Touch... was somewhat useless, considering my bindings, and, finally, the oddest of them all. A familiar scent had struck me the moment I’d awakened properly and fully, something that I knew, but couldn’t certainly place my finger on the exact aroma. Salty – perhaps contributing to the taste in my mouth. Where were we?

A sound struck my ears. Coarse, yet smooth; commanding, yet soothing. A voice. Before it could even muster a single syllable, I found myself entranced and enthralled. The man of which the voice belonged to... my mind began to run straight into overdrive producing images, snapshots, faces... this man was intellectual, powerful, charismatic...

“Come, free our guest from his bindings. Fetch him a chair. Remove that ridiculous impediment of his sight; it is far from fair to restrict the most basic of a man’s rights. This is an interview, not an interrogation.” The sound of water sloshing and swirling within a grasp. An all-too-familiar grumbling; that voice! I knew it. Kai. Then this was the boss he’d spoken so much of-

Manhandled without a moment’s notice, I was pulled upwards and forced back into a chair. As a man at my front removed my blindfold, taking it and stuffing it into a pocket, I heard the brandishing of a switchblade, only to cut the simple plastic tie crossing my hands. The material snapped, and I whipped my arms forwards, gingerly brushing my wrists and shooting Kai daggers. In return, I got a look which, very simply, said ‘move out of that seat and I will cut you down without a second thought’.

It was then that I felt the guns in my jacket pockets, but it was far too light to be loaded. They wanted to give me a sense of false security; they wanted to trick me into thinking that I was on even ground; when, sure enough, I knew, beneath that thin facade of a layer of ‘solid’ dirt was ice, thin, weak ice, ready to crack and give way to the freezing depths below without another moment’s notice.

“You’ll have to forgive me, Mr. Goldstone, if I’m not as at ease as I should be,” That voice again. My head snapped towards the source, far away and far above, and, finally, I could see my captor, the man who was at the head of this all, for what he truly was. “See, I have been moved from my... original sanctum, if one could call it that; it’s almost a prison. A prison for the mind, where it can be allowed to grow and germinate under the most ideal and necessary of circumstances. Irony is a cruel mistress, Mr. Goldstone; I am imprisoned in my own palazzo.”

Had he been standing, he would have reached maybe six feet, more or less. This man, however, sat on a throne, which caused my simple wooden seat to pale in comparison, slumped backwards in an almost-hedonistic manner; it was easy to see from his body alone that the world was his oyster. The throne was magnificent; an immaculate, kingly chair, carved of seemingly impossibly white stone, bearing a sheen unlike any I’d ever seen. It almost hurt just to look at it.

“That, uh, sucks,” I responded quietly, still scanning the man and my surroundings carefully; perhaps there was something I could use to my advantage.

From what little I could make out here, his stubble was black, but greying; his voice was near-perfect, which suggested that age had been kinder to him than most; I presumed that he was perhaps forty, maybe coming into his fifties. His form appeared muscular, but not overly so; he seemed comfortable, with what I presumed to be naught but a black robe barely covering his top half, wearing a pair of black slacks for the bottom. The hood from the cloak hung far enough so that only the tiniest portion of the tip of his nose was obscured; and whilst one hand draped over the arm of the throne, his other clenched a tall, thin frosted glass of liquid, half-empty. Presumably water. He rose the cup, tipped the edge of the glass towards me – I could see him arching an eyebrow in surprise beneath his hood, the image firmly implanted in my mind; an eyeless face staring at me in contempt – before bringing it back, knocking his head backwards – still doing it uncannily so, the hood almost... glued to his forehead – and letting the last of the water slosh down into a welcome mouth, a snake-like tongue shooting out to scavenge the last of the moisture from the cup’s interior, before the glorified vulture of a man slammed the glass down. Hard enough, even, that I thought it would shatter from the sheer force. It didn’t.

I panned out a little, to catch a better view of the room, taking a quick look from side to side and snapping a shot of each, before my eyes went back to the front. The room was small; smaller than usual for a man as grandiose as he who sat before me. The man’s throne was elevated above all else, on a raised, dome-like stone pattern, suspended in the centre of the floor – the rest of it being metal – with a set of carved stone steps leading up to the perch where the king of the hill had sat, idly drumming his fingers across the arm of the chair. Long, dim strip lights were lit overhead; two sets of double doors at either end of the room. An unfamiliar, almost... upsetting chill rushing along on the still breeze of the room. Perhaps the man in the throne was used to a colder climate? Russian, perhaps?

Two identically-dressed henchmen to flank me, with Lewis Kai further back. The room seemed to widen in the centre, and thin at each end, almost like an ellipsis, or an oval, as well as being on a downward slant from the side opposite to myself; it was a simple design, probably quite cost-effective, too. Structurally sound.

The break in conversation made me think it time for a question. Splitting the silence in two bluntly, as if I wielded the world’s heftiest cleaver, I shouted out towards the man at the other end. “What exactly do I call you?”

The response came quickly enough, followed by an unnecessarily convoluted statement and question. “You may call me... the Broker.” A smirk lined his face; that much, I could see. Even from this distance. His little lapdog Kai chuckled, too. It was pathetic. “I already know your name, and common courtesy should suggest that as you have queried me, it should be my turn to return in kind, no?”

He waited for no answer to continue. Only half of me knew it was rhetorical; the other half left my mouth agape to respond, before my own common sense – what precious little of it remained – stopped me from doing so, giving me an expression that looked like I’d been frozen in time on the wrong end of a particularly painful Laurel and Hardy sketch.

“Twelve men. Twelve men, Mr. Goldstone. Twelve, high-trained, ex-military, well-armed men. For a small-town pacifist who’s never held a gun – with dark intentions in mind – before this week, twelve men is beyond an achievement. Beyond revolutionary. It shows signs of a master gunman, a warrior comparable to the Vikings, if you will,” He paused. It was my turn to smirk smugly now. I felt kinda proud of myself. Twelve guys was pretty good, actually. I let the guy continue. “So, just how did you do it?”

I fumbled for words in my head. Compliments... his language was so flowery. So well-thought out, so precise, so eloquent. How was I even going to begin to rival this?

“Uh, it’s pretty simple,” I began, making some hand gestures and slanting my eyes to accommodate my body language. “You just, uh... aim and pull the trigger, I guess,”

A little note; I don’t count this amongst my greatest victories over the English language. She’s a fickle beast indeed.

Luckily, the Broker reacted well. Raising an empty glass in mockery of an ancient toast to a warrior’s ways, he spoke once more, a low chuckle beneath his voice. “’Aim and pull the trigger’. A warrior’s creed if ever I’ve heard one,” He said, beaming towards me, a facade over the wicked grin I could still see there. This was a man of business. I knew as such thanks to Lewis Kai. “To life’s simplicities, Mr. Goldstone,”

He continued. I let him, still pretty ashamed that I hadn’t come back with something as eloquent as I would’ve liked to the previous plethora of compliments. “Most would think me angry, perhaps furious, at the loss of twelve men, but, no; men are assets, Mr. Goldstone. Flesh and blood to a business’ stone and paper. They are expendable,” I could tell this wasn’t going anywhere good. His expression began to darken. He was a sly one, indeed. “And because of your... liquidating... twelve of mine, I have... a proposition for you.”

I nodded sheepishly. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this. The guy sure spoke a lot. Killing was more my game, now. “To put this bluntly, I require... recompense for the fallen. The loss of twelve men... my business... can handle. So, perhaps, you owe yourself to me in return,” He said, before dipping his head and smiling, that wicked grin surfacing finally. Every man has a cardinal sin. Now I could see the Broker’s. Greed. “Or... perhaps... I will have to take my loss... a little more personally...” To feel death twelve times over? I began to crumble at the oncoming train of thought. Even my newly-established mindset couldn’t think about just what this guy would have done to me.

“You... you, Mr. Goldstone, are about to witness a stroke of good will from me, yet unseen by many; Mr. Goldstone, here, I offer you the opportunity to become... reborn. Rise from the ashes and your former self; come, once more, bloodied and sprawling into the world.” I myself rose an eyebrow at the birth metaphors. They were getting... a bit odd. “Suffice it to say that you will be a child once more; a protégé for myself or the good lieutenant here,” He gestured an idle hand towards Kai. “To take under your wing. But however, not a child of mine; a child of, very simply, the business... the organisation.”

My reaction was the same as Kai’s, although better contained. Shit. I thought I wasn’t going to live to see another day... and here this guy was, offering me a job? I could see Kai absolutely fuming, his face reddening further with every second; I thought I may as well listen to what the old guy had to say. Little did I know that it would be one of the most influential speeches of my life.

He continued on with a little fluff. “Surely you’ve heard of my business’ nature, no? Lewis informed you?” I nodded, but he continued anyway, creating a light humming sound as he decided on what to follow up with. “Whilst Lewis may have only clued you in to our... shadier dealings, let it be known that a good percentage of our operations and enterprising finds its roots in legitimacy. We are... brokers. Salesmen. Each and every one of us. We buy and sell information. It’s very simple; in this new world, knowledge is power,” He chuckled. “And with enough knowledge, your area of possible control expands. The more you know, eh?” With that, he rose the glass once more, and I almost thought about raising an imaginary one of my own.

With a hiss, as he placed the cup back down, it shot into – seemingly – the chair. Even I arched an eyebrow at this, turning my head from side to side; even the near-crazed Kai seemed to be used to this. I shrugged gently and thought nothing of it, letting the man continue, encouraging him. “The more you know, indeed,” I did my best to sound insightful, but with a stifled chuckle from each of the henchmen, it appeared I was still on square one with this guy. He was playing me like a board game.

“See, with what we know, we can do two things. We can exert control, and use the information to... guide... people onto paths best for us, to put the term most commonly used – ‘blackmail’ – more lightly,” A smirk. The man obviously held no qualms over the illegal territory of his business. I didn’t quite mind, either. He also shot – what I presumed to be – a look at Kai; clearly noting his jealousy. Shit, I hoped I didn’t have to work with the guy... this seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up, in light of my new... attitude adjustment. “And the second is our biggest export. We can... take a slice of the profits... on some of our customers’ darker exploits.”

He continued on, still. “If they don’t pay up is where you, hypothetically, of course, would come in. You would be a lieutenant. One of my most trusted enforcers, alongside Kai, who takes care of the biggest mistakes and errors in the business. He’s what the business affectionately refers to as a ‘cleaner’.” The grin sharpened, and the slat opened once more, delivering a fresh glass of water – complete with ice – up into the waiting hand of the Broker. Huh. It seemed as if he had his every whim waited on.

And with reason, too. The guy was quite probably the head of the biggest criminal enterprise the city – maybe even the country – had ever heard of. His operations seemed to stretch out further than I’d imagined; according to Kai, everyone was in this guy’s pocket. His reach was further than the amalgamated power of the city’s legitimate corporations. He could stretch, spread, and place his resources however he liked; and everyone who gave a damn would look the other way, for fear of breathing through a whistling hole in their head if they even considered exposing the grim criminal underworld this city possessed. I’d never even heard of the guys before; hell, maybe they were the reason that all those conspiracy theorists who sat in their parents’ basements dwelling on the next huge government cover-up existed.

And what he said next just sweetened the deal; well, that’s a bit of an understatement. Really, it sprinkled an entire jar of sugar over the entire proposition. “I have over one hundred men under my command in the mainland complex. The fortress itself contains military-grade technology and equipment; and prototypes beyond that level still being developed within those very halls. We control every enterprise – criminal or not – in this city that you could possibly think of. As a lieutenant, you will report directly to me. There will be no middleman. You will essentially cut out all the grudging levels of manual labour that many have to spend years traversing through to get to the position I’m offering. You will be granted a team, four specialised individuals of your own choosing, inside or outside the business and its associates.” All this translated as three words to me. ‘Guns’, ‘money’, and ‘power’. Hell, this sounded better with every minute; but I couldn’t fall into this guy’s trap, no matter how much he sugar-coated it. There was only a sliver of a chance this was legit; he was most likely pissed to high hell. I’d committed near-unforgivable travesties, and this guy was going to let me walk away with the biggest paycheck I’d ever had in my life? There either had to be a downside, or he was just being charismatic about the last falsified job interview I’d ever have.

And then came the words that I never wanted to hear, but I knew I’d have to; the flipside of the agreement. The lemon juice to the sugar of the deal he was offering me. “You do, however, have to pay a price. We need a tie, a bond to you, to ensure that you won’t leave all-too-quickly with very... sensitive information. A single string, a single group of memories will be taken from you; inadvertently, I will not lie, we may take everything you know about the one dearest to you, whomever that may be... but, alas, c’est la vie.”

So much information to take in... I couldn’t think. So many questions; it was too much to process, too much to respond to, word-for-word. Reality seemed as if it wasn’t featuring at all; this all seemed to be a dream, established from within the darkest fathoms of my mind. I still felt like I was swaying to and fro; everything was real, but yet, nothing was. This... how did they have the technology to manipulate and extract from the most personal part of a person’s mind? Just how far did the reach of this Broker extend?! To even think about responses- “You will receive the memories once more upon severance from the group, as well as a most impressive resumé claiming that you’ve worked for three or four large, prestigious businesses. And, beyond all else... the diamonds... those hard-earned little jewels... they’re yours.”

Boom.

There it was. The clincher. He’d sealed the deal in a split-second. It was everything I’d wanted to hear and more. So, what, I lost a stream of memories; it would probably be something insignificant. Like the first dog I’d ever had; sure, sentimental, but I wasn’t going to miss it if it was gone; hell, I wouldn’t know. And I’d be four hundred and twenty thousand dollars better off for it, too.

“I-“

“Wait,” He held up a hand. That suave voice had finally stopped the routine spiel that he’d been working on for what must have been years. The man was confined. But yet... he wasn’t finished. Something more? “If you take this deal, we will begin your training and... assignments... immediately. You will be well-cared for; resources, accommodation, and other luxuries will be provided courtesy of the organisation. Otherwise, I’m afraid that we’ll have to terminate all outsider knowledge there is of this agreement and this organisation... forcefully... if you understand the gist of what I’m saying.” Shit. So there wasn’t an option of declining it. All this yes-no business had been gone from the start. He was practically telling me what I’d do for a job from now on; I owed him, so I had to work for him. It made sense.

The Broker was intelligent. He was either lying through his teeth, or there was something in this deal sweeter for him than I could yet comprehend; maybe I was only seeing part of it? Maybe it was gruelling work that I’d never thought possible for a pitiful human to complete? Or... maybe... maybe it was that diamond in the rough. Maybe it was everything I’d been waiting for... and more.

Ricky’s cars would be my cars. His suits, my suits. We would finally be true brothers; true businessmen, able to walk together holding no shame or jealousy towards the other. We would be a pair. But... the Broker still had one final thing to say, something to get out of his system.

“Look at you. Completely and totally unaware of what you’ve stumbled onto. The progeny of bloodlines supposedly not yet whetted or dirtied by criminality; a legitimate father in the world of economics, an independent mother with her own business, and a brother taking after the pair of them... you must have very much let your parents down when you told them of your ambitions and aspirations, Fraser.”

I was far too thick-skinned and hard-headed to let petty insults get to me; but scratching beneath the surface... I could tell. The Broker had overarching intentions for me. He was going to reshape me; he would refine me. This wasn’t an insult; it was an insult bearing within it a hidden compliment. And as we both caught wind of this, our grins connected, and I realised just how great of an opportunity I was being given; as well as a free slate, and a hell of a lot of money. I was a few paychecks away from being one of the best-paid men in the entire city; possibly the entire country.

And then... I felt like vomiting.

For the first time in two days, that lesser side of me had pooled every last ounce of his strength, and struck back against me. It wanted to break that barring of my previous self’s moral code; the room was suddenly sent reeling, and the chair skidded backwards as my feet shot up. I felt... sick; another realisation came with this understanding. The sloshing of water wasn’t just from the Broker’s glass. Outside, I could hear waves breaking and cresting over rocks, endless tumultuous pillars of water crashing and collapsing over one another; frothy white horses racing to the golden sands of the beach...

Without saying another word, enough information in my head to make me feel like my skull was ready to split like an over-ripe melon, I grasped for my temples, and the Broker jerked a thumb to the doors behind him, muttering the last words of his far too long-winded proposition. “Think about it, Mr. Goldstone,” He said; I staggered to my feet, and began to sprint as erratically as my body would let me, stumbling and bumbling towards the other end of the room, hands outstretched; the double doors came into view, and I crashed into them with my body’s entire force, sprawling out onto a set of metal-lined wooden steps, rays of light shimmering down and illuminating the end of an uphill tunnel. That familiar salty scent filled my nostrils, now stronger than ever.

“Get some air...”

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:45 am

Chapter Twenty-Three

Revelations


”The sound of the sea is amongst one of the most comforting in the world.”

That’s not a quote you’ll recognise. It’s not one that came to mind at this moment, either; but in retrospect, I think it’s quite relevant. You’ll see why.

See, I’ve only ever heard this quote spill from the lips of one person. That one person was my grandfather, Alec; I must’ve been about nine years old at the time. We were vacationing in a small Greek-Cypriot village. My father’s parents had bought a small villa there around three years prior. At the moment that he told me this, we were standing on the bow of his prized, ancient, battered fishing yacht, idly grasping a hundred-dollar rod between his old, wrinkled hands.

Alec Goldstone was perhaps one of the biggest hardasses I’ve ever met. He fought in Korea; and some of the things he saw whilst on his tour stayed with him til the grave. It changed him, or so my father told me; and after he finished, thirty-odd, just married, he came home, scarred from all the blood, all the death. And all he wanted to do was settle down and live out the rest of his days in peace; but alas, that isn’t how the world worked. It isn’t how the world will ever work.

Grandpa Alec then signed up for a few jobs, eventually having his intellect recognised, and in the late sixties to early seventies, had a hand in founding one of the biggest shipping companies the state’s ever known. He made a decent living; enough to settle down, and by the time he did, my father, young and rising up in the world, wanted to carry on his legacy.

Fast-forwards to our Mediterranean vacation. Later that day, everyone bar my grandfather returned to port to catch lunch; he continued to sail out, adamant that he’d make his best catch of the week. Thirty minutes into our meal, clouds quickly began to accumulate over the bay, and the most ferocious thunderstorm I’ve ever seen hit.

The boat capsized. My grandfather drowned.

The relevance of this fact? I guess it finds its roots both literally and metaphorically. If you’ve been keeping up so far, you’ll know, that, at this point in the story, I’m standing... well, on a boat, in a bay. Metaphorically...

Fate has the cruellest sense of irony you’ll ever know.

*****

Slumped over the railings, I was there, suspended in thought, eyes locked on a shoal of silvery-blue fish idly swirling around a certain point in the waters; some left the school, but never strayed too far. It was almost hypnotic; I rose a single hand to cup my jawline, allowing my elbow to rest on the cold metal of the railing.

I was still wearing those same clothes; soaked with gore, I looked up to the sky and chewed on the inside of my cheek for a moment, trying to distract myself with the picturesque clouds floating along by. My blood was stinging, burning just millimetres beneath my skin, yet frozen in place; images of rivers of blood and ice entwined with each other dotted through my vision, and I shifted my stance once more, moving the weight of my head onto my right arm, this time.

So much had happened in these past few days. Hell, so much that I couldn’t even keep track of the days. I pulled back my sleeve, revealing the cracked face of my shitty little plastic watch, letting out a short sigh of laughter. I’d have to work this out manually. Letting the sleeve of the gore-stained shirt fall back down, I idly mused, once more, on how reliant humans had become on technology.

I let the issue of time escape me, and focused back on the meat of the matter. There was so much to think about... but in the end, it all looked like I didn’t have a choice. The Broker was going to kill me if I didn’t accept his deal. Survival was at the summit of my interests at the moment; closely tailed by greed, lust after the riches that I’d been scratching at all this time. Maybe... maybe I could work a deal out. I could work for him for two years, or something...

No. The Broker wasn’t that kind of employer. The only severance paycheck I’d be getting would be a bullet to the skull. ‘Letting him go’ seemed to have a few reasons under this light. I would work for him til the day I died, it looked like... but on the upside... money... power...

The facts laid out in front of me were so simple. And why, dammit... why? Why was it so hard to decide? I had my fate channelled into two paths from this point onwards, and one of them cut off before we, most likely, even got back to shore.

I’d have everything. Wealth, women, power, fame, respect... Not a single person in the damn city would question me. No-one who knew who I was, anyway. And training. Training! The Broker was gonna shape me into a someone whose abilities paralleled an action movie hero.

Even then, that didn’t matter. My abilities seemed to refined – if passive – already. Hell, I’d turned into a sociopath, and my current frame of mind didn’t seem to give two shits about it. It was terminology I didn’t fear, a name, a label I didn’t back away from. ‘Sociopath and proud’.

From college psychology classes, I knew the definition. Callous, cold, uncaring; the last version of my psyche would’ve shunned terms like these, would’ve been afraid of what society would say. And now... I just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong; the respect wasn’t needed, it was just a nice little addendum on the end of the entire thing. A bow, a piece of ribbon used to sweeten the package. Along with the dozens of little other perks.

Something, the repressed idiot within me, told me I should feel remorse. How did I respond?

I told myself that I shouldn’t feel anything.

Some would call me heartless. For lack of a better word, I was. I didn’t care. Egocentric and materialistic to a T; amorality was my cardinal sin. Well, perhaps not; but right and wrong just aren’t as black and white as you think. The grey area stretches for a hell of a long way, and true morals are states unattained by many. I was neutral; the chaos I’d caused had been for my own benefit. Maybe I was leaning ever so slightly towards the black, but the best part of the feeling was that either side was still firmly in my grip.

I could reinvent myself with this opportunity. And, fuck it, did I want to. The shithead within me had painted me as some ‘good guy’, the man who walked down the street and tossed a quarter at every homeless guy he saw. And what did I want to be? Nothing. I was a blank canvas. I was someone who could splatter paint on it – and above all else, blood. Some raw instinct within me seethed and burned with flames I’d never felt before. A searing inferno for hatred of the next Tom, Dick, or Harry who crossed my path. I felt like I had so much to prove. I just wanted to rip, cut, slash, tear, kill. It was a crosshatching of emotions, primal instincts, sophistry, greed, all thrown into the mix, and above it all, I sat on a silver throne just unsure of what I wanted to be.

I was changing with every moment, a shapeless, reforming mess of a man. My thought processes were erratic, strung together with glue and string; one moment, I didn’t care of the consequences. Another, I wanted to appear an intellectual, the chessmaster at the head of it all. But the Broker had taken that position for now; and what it came down to was independence. Did I want to be that puppet? A rook for him to control?

At the head of all these desires, these wants for things both natural and unnatural... was this robed omnipotent sitting in front of me with an opportunity to fulfil all my needs. So why in the hell wasn’t I leaping at a chance to take it?

Something was holding me back, confusing me. I needed to be refined. And at the very least, this man could do it. A few days ago, I would’ve shunned even considering this offer. But that lesser side of me was gone. I saw bigger things in this – I was going to become great. It had been decided. Morality was no longer an issue. But I still needed some time to ‘mull it over’ – after all, I couldn’t look too hasty.

Maybe it was time for a little retrospect. I just needed to think about it. All these conflicts between who I was and who I wanted to become, as well as the decision itself, were set aside. Hell, only the latter had even a degree of immediacy; the former would solve itself as time went by.

Mickey. Jakob. Connor. Paddy. The Latvians. The two guys in my apartment. The guy in the Cadillac. They’d all met their end – or some serious pain – because of these goddamn diamonds; and here I was, being offered a get-out-of-jail-free card. I didn’t want to end up like them. I was meant for more. It wasn’t conjecture, or even hope; I just knew couldn’t end up like them.

I knew my answer. I had to take the job.

Suddenly, thoughts of Jakob’s words, phrases, everything he’d said... it was all tied together. I realised now why they’d chased after me; they wanted their slice of profit on the diamonds... which meant that the Broker had been his benefactor. Shit... the Latvians... had he-

No. It didn’t matter. I didn’t need anything else complicating the matter further. The Broker knew what he was doing; that was evident enough. He could tell I had a keen business sense, and a sure shot with a pistol; the guy was offering me money, respect, training, and power, all in exchange for a term – however long it’d be – working for him. The offer was as sweet as it could seem, and as much as I was sure the man was twisting it, it seemed too much like he’d be true to his word. That was the conflict. Was I going to be broken the moment I agreed? Would I become a slave? Or would all these illusions, these pictures painted of grandeur... would they all ring true in the end?

I sighed, closing my eyes and letting just the sound of the waves, clearer than they had been inside, comfort me. The noise washed over me in flowing rhythm, a sequence of singular amalgamated sonic entities soothing me to no end. Everything calmed, everything was simplified. I watered it all down into weighing the pros and cons against each other. My intertwined criss-cross of conflicting desires, morals, wants... all shattered and repressed in but a second. Could noise really do this?

The fragments of a lesser, idealistic, religiously spiritualistic yet agnostic Fraser struggled against his bounds, attempting to convince me that we’d both go to hell. However, ignoring his inner voice as best I could, and, consequently, becoming my own demon, I decided to present the opportunity as one of a business situation, and the pieces slowly slotted into place; and the big picture looked altogether... pretty good.

I convinced myself one, final time. This was the way to go. It was the deal to make. And I’d only get one shot-

Footsteps. Within seconds, my eyes flicked open, the hairs on the back of my neck pricked. My hands reached into my pockets, and black gunmetal swished before me in a single, symmetrical swoop. I spun, hammers cocked, aim ready, despite the damningly familiar light weight of the gun. Shit, shit, shit! I don’t have any bullet-

“You gonna shoot me with those, kid?” That voice. That taunt. I knew it. It was... fuck. That asshole.

Lewis Kai. Stepping on my toes again, jabbing me. He must’ve known. Standing there, smug as ever, in the same coat he’d thrown away just moments before our little skirmish, our little game of tactics and stratagems. I sighed, and lowered the pistols. This guy had some serious pull. It was best just to give in. “Sorry. Reflexes, I guess.”

“Don’t apologise. With trigger fingers like those, you’ll get the jump on just about anyone sneaking up on you.” He smirked, looking towards me, and I got a better look at him, scanning his face up and down. Asian, although it wasn’t evident. Half? He had a distinctly bland American accent; it was probably best for this line of work. “Although, I’m curious as to how you develop that sort of reaction over... what, three days?”

I shrugged in response, letting out a short, almost awkward chuckle. “I’ve lost count.”

“Not surprised. Lot’s happened.” This felt far too friendly to be natural. There were evident lines and furrows of concern on the man’s face, no matter how well designer moisturisers could hide them. I could see. He wasn’t too happy about my joining his ranks; presumably, he’d had to work hard for a position almost parallel to the one I was being offered. It was almost understandable. A grimace on his face and a lapse in conversation solicited a sigh, and... holy shit, an apology. “Sorry about the-“

I leapt in with a response. Couldn’t let him get gratification just yet. “No, it’s fine. I deserved it.”

He scowled, obviously not to happy. “You’re damn right you did. You were being fucking annoying, jumping around like that, you little spidery fuck.” His face was far too serious for a moment, and with his hands in his pockets, I could almost predict him exploding in anger in a split-second. However, the faint redness quickly faded, and transformed into a jovial, joking look upon his face, moving into laughter once more; this time, genuine. I joined him after a few seconds, although I still felt awkward.

“Yeah, but you had the upper hand. I mean, prototype tech? That’s hardly fair, you ass.” He responded with a light punch to the shoulder, and we laughed for a good few more seconds before the conversation dropped. He reached into his pockets, and pulled out two near-identical .45 ACP clips; half-empty, both of them. I grinned, and switched the pistol in my left hand into my right, grasping both of them with a near-subsonic ‘thanks’, moments before I slammed them into the feed of the M1911s’ framework, one hand working in unison, before I flicked the safety switch on, for both pistols, holstering them in just a moment. Well, more, pocketing them.

“Next time, if you’re gonna shoot me, make sure you’ve got the appropriate resources, eh?” Another light punch, paired with a grin. Shit, maybe I’d garnered some form of respect from this hardass. And here I was, thinking that a master criminal’s office dynamics would take some getting used to.

Lewis joined me, moving up alongside, to press both arms on the railings, leaning further forwards than I did, staring off at the rock formations on either side. They were natural, and beautifully-formed; I’d learnt a lot about the city’s geography from a few hours spent idly in a library with an ex. She was a big reader, studying geology at the local college. I’d once or twice considered in enrolling in another course, but our relationship was relatively short-lived.

The man took a long sigh, similar to mine of a few minutes ago, just drawn out further, and slightly softer in volume. “He was a friend of mine, y’know?”

“Who?”

Lewis double-backed, staring at me with both eyebrows arched. There was obviously some fact that I’d missed... was he talking about my granddad? Shit, was he telepathic, too?!

“The Irishman.” Oh, right, it made sense now... shit. I immediately looked down at my feet, only just realising how much of an insensitive ass I must’ve seemed in the big picture to him, stealing everything Jakob had worked for. The guy seemed charismatic enough to be Lewis’ partner in crime; good cop, bad cop, maybe?

“I’m sorry...” I shuffled my feet once more, and turned back against the railing, using it to support my back. “Did he-“

Lewis cut me off, smirking to himself as he looked away, having predicted my next question. “Work for us? No. I asked him to, time and time again... but he said his loyalties lied somewhere else. The guy had a hand in plenty of legitimate dealings... got himself a reputation around the city as ‘Jake Silver-tongue’, and for a good reason.” Everything slotted neatly into the puzzle; the final unanswered question was tied up in an instant. The entire situation, the whole situation... it was clear now. Clear as... diamonds. “I’m betting it took him minutes to convince you to join in the heist, eh?”

I gulped quietly, nodding, and letting out a laugh. The guy had seemed so warm to me, despite everything he was involved him, and how short a period of time I’d known him for. Heh. “I’m sorry.” I re-iterated.

Lewis rolled back to mirror my pose. “Don’t be. His death started something revolutionary for you. Plus, I’ve already taken out my anger,” He chuckled, giving me another light punch, to make a hattrick. It was true, though; I felt like I’d just been dragged backwards through a hedge by a tow-truck, and had a headache to match.

The mood settled and quietened once more. For a solid minute, all that was left to bridge the sonic gap between us was the sound of the waves, calming. We’d both closed our eyes, some silent mutual agreement between the pair of us; we wouldn’t speak. It was just... disgraceful, to try and dethrone an ambience, a natural music so tuneful yet so irregular.

Then... finally...

“So... have you decided?”

“Decided what?”

“Don’t be a dumbass,” He said, shaking his head in denial. My eyes flicked open. “Are you in, or not?” I’d thought the offer was rhetorical. I mean, at the end of the day, live rich or die poor? The only thing that would convince people to take the first option was morals, and mine were pretty much smashed to pieces after the whole ‘repaint myself’ train of thought.

Lewis started towards the staircase, beckoning me with two glove-clad fingers, grinning a grin I’d come to know well over the next few years. He began to descend, and, silently, I wished he’d wait up, starting into a half-run after him to cover lost ground.

We both hit the first step at the same time, and as the sounds of the seas finally moved out of earshot, and we went to head back into the cavernous, unfitting cabin within which the Broker sat upon that distinctive white throne... I answered. The one word which would make my future. Which would change everything. Change my life. Change the lives of thousands of people. Change the face of criminal enterprising forever. Change me... change me into a mastermind, scheming some of the greatest operations the world had ever seen, and remaining an anonymous, invisible perpetrator at the end of it all.

“Yes.”

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

|| English (skyblue) || Spanish (gold) || French (limegreen) || Portuguese (vermilion) ||
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Maxim Jensen
REGNUM DEI

Posts : 96
Points : 39
Join date : 2012-07-17

Dossier
Aspect Level: Final
Power: Clairvoyance
Codename: Alpha

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EPILOGUE

Post  Maxim Jensen on Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:45 am

Epilogue

The Nail in the Coffin

Life... such a fickle thing. It comes and goes when it pleases. Some give it, others take. And what are they labelled for it? Saints and sinners, respectively. For executing the natural cycle of the world; for giving and taking.

In Hindu religion, there is a grouping of three deities, a trinity, who together control the ebb and flow of life, and, consequently, the world. They are called the Trimurti. One, Brahma, creates. The next, Vishnu, preserves. And, finally, the last, Shiva, destroys. Not any of them are looked upon as a terrible thing; all are respected as parts of nature’s grand plan. And one who can accept this can accept death; accept that all things must come to an end. Accept that nothing in this life and the many which will later come are finite.

And despite it all, mankind, as a whole, is troubled by death.

I sat there, in my garage, thinking, polishing the end of a Walther P99, my tool, as would be the trident of Shiva. In the... process... of destroying, of taking a life, it had become, unfortunately, bloodied. Like any good workman, from the very start of this all, I avowed to polish and maintain my tools.

Who was the man I had ‘removed’? I don’t know. Some high-up in the organisation I was now an asset for. Well, he had been. Now he was just another poor bastard with an exit wound for a face, sitting in a simple, polished wood coffin in the back of my garage.

Since my taking the Broker up on his offer, months had passed to this point, my training complete, and he had tasked me with the removal of nine specific... problems. Along with the termination of their work contracts, I was to also send them into the next world, whatever and wherever it may be. The man behind me was one of these nine. He was another number. A statistic. A victory to my name. One of nine, with eight more to come.

And just when would those eight come?

Soon. Very soon.

Mankind, as a whole, is troubled by death. Yet death represents new beginnings as well as a single end. The overarching web of social connections. As I thought of this, I tugged on my new attire; my armour. Black, fitting for such an operator as I was. Helped me sneak and slither through the night unseen and unimpeded by pesky ‘obstacles’... witnesses, the odd straight policemen, whichever takes your particular fancy. I wore a longcoat over black pants, dress shoes, and a vest. Fully buttoned-up and draped over my two shoulders; luckily enough, in my newest skirmish, I had managed to avoid dirtying that, also.

But, yes. A tangled net of contacts, friends, acquaintances, enemies... cut down one more, ten more spring up. It’s frighteningly similar to the modus operandi of the Hindu religion’s trinity of deities; with death, the cycle starts again, and more are born anew. Mankind, as a whole, is troubled by death, despite the possibilities and paths it opens up and presents. This web is a hydra, the monstrosity that Heracles of lore had supposedly slain; but unlike the beast, this natural creation will never cease to exist, it will never collapse in on itself, not til the day this world is brought to an end.

Mankind, as a whole, is troubled by death, despite the fact that it shows an infinite cycle, a path ahead which will seemingly never stop. Even if all good things have their end, is it not true that all good things also have their beginning? The cycle must surely go on. It cannot just end with death. Perhaps if this world ends, much like the hydra, ten worlds will spring up anew. The process is maybe in mid-motion; perhaps we are one of ten worlds brought from the death of a former globe our pathetic scientists and astrologers have not yet stumbled across.

But in spite of it all... in spite of the endless philosophical arguments the cycle opens up, in spite of it being the only thing humans cannot yet really fathom, in spite of only a handful being courageous enough to brave it...

Mankind...

Mankind... is troubled by death.

_________________

"I'm a runaway train on a broken track, I'm the ticker on the bomb that you can't turn back this time."

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Maxim Jensen
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