Even the best of combatants can be taken by surprise, and I was far from the best out there. I had not expected anyone to be in my bedroom for a single moment, let alone to come at me with my own halberd. Especially not with a second man coming up from where he’d hidden himself behind my bed.
Fortunately, as much as I was unprepared for for this, I did know my weapons. I knew the physics of them, from a knife to a polearm. I might not know individual weapons, but I’d purposefully been attacked by quite a wide range of weapons, and learned both the proper attacks and defenses.
This guy hadn’t. If he had, I would have been dead right off the bat.
Ideally, he should have used the spear point to thrust at me, to skewer me and run me through. Instead, he swung at me while I was still stepping through the door. A halberd is a long weapon, and it’s easy to misjudge where your radius of attack is if you aren’t used to it, even worse if you’re swinging it in a confined space like that.
The blade was too far to actually hit me, and even as the shaft connected with my chest, I was already moving back into the hall. Instead of doing any damage, my razor sharp blade dug into the doorframe.
I didn’t hesitate, instead grabbing the shaft and twisting slightly as I yanked hard upwards. The blade might be able to cut through wood easily with a good swing, but wedging it into the wall so that it couldn’t be yanked out easily would give me time to deal with the threat.
The second man wasn’t doing anything as I slipped under my wedged shaft and into the room. Ignore him for the immediate threat. The bigger guy let go of the shaft and stepped towards me. Ducked as I was, I had limited options, but sometimes you don’t need to move to use your best, as I went for a low uppercut.
My fist connected with his groin, and he immediately began to lurch over. I rose, and my other elbow connected with his jaw, snapping it shut. That would hopefully give me enough time to assess better before I had to deal with him more, if it didn’t take him out of the fight entirely.
I turned to look at the other guy, only to realize that he was working the bolt to an uzi. I didn’t even think, I simply charged him in a tackle. He hadn’t gotten the gun raised yet, but it was still a risky chance. As I slammed into him, wrapping my arms around him, I felt the gun go off, the muzzle blast sending heat against my stomach even as the gun couldn’t draw a bead on its target.
Unfortunately, I made a small tactical error: I’d hit him too close to the center of mass to topple him, and since he hadn’t fallen over, I’d continued to push the charge until he hit the wall. Or, rather, the window.
Never try to tackle an opponent that was standing in front of a window.
We both went crashing through. It might have only lasted for a few seconds, but I still couldn’t help but get that momentary thrill of being airborne again. I didn’t even think, didn’t react to the fact that the gun was blazing again, somehow not hitting me. I simply enjoyed the moment.
It didn’t last. It never did.
My opponent hit the ground before I did, doing a little bit to cushion my fall. It wasn’t enough to keep me from bouncing off of him and throwing my shoulder onto the dirt. Instinctively I rolled onto my back before realizing that was exactly what I shouldn’t have done, as more glass cut into my skin.
With a groan, I sat up, looking to my opponent — he was too busy writhing to do too much, but at least his gun wasn’t firing. Painfully, I got onto my knees and rolled him onto his side, looking at the deep lacerations on his back. Going through the window and the landing had shredded it pretty bad, but there was the good chance that mine was in the same shape.
I was just reaching back to deck him when that feeling of weightlessness returned again. I felt it before I could visually see the both of us lifting off the ground. Not out of the woods yet.
I looked around as we both continued to rise. People were fleeing the area, except for one person — I couldn’t make out if they were male or female, but they weren’t dressed like the guards. Plainclothes, lifting their hand into the air.
And then they suddenly snapped it back down.
It was telling, in a way, that only my opponent and I had levitated. But I didn’t have time to think about that, as the two of us slammed back into the ground harder than we had the first time. I’d barely had time to rotate so that I landed on my back, most of the glass hitting me there instead of the face.
I reacted by instinct, grabbing a rock and rotating up to my knees. I brought my other fist to the rock, twisted, and just as another person rounded the building to join the para, I threw.
It took half a second before the para screamed. “Grenade!” Female. Good to know.
As they dove for cover, I was already scrambling to my feet and running. I was lucky that they’d fallen for my trick, or that they’d even realized what I had pretended to be doing, and I wasn’t about to waste the opportunity. They were too far away to get to before the para could use her power again, so I ran for another street, using the hotel for cover.
As I rounded the corner, I felt myself lift slightly, but not enough to do more than make me stumble for a moment. I must have moved just outside the range of the power, or it was purely sight-based. More likely, sight targeting but with a radius of effect.
No time to dwell on it. I could hear her screaming after him, but I wasn’t waiting around. I rounded another corner as quickly as I could. Right now, I had two options: Stand and fight, or move the battle to another location and fight. They were willing to use guns, so if I stood, innocent people were going to get hurt. Better to run.
But first, I was going to do some briar patching.
I rounded the corner again. The hotel was big enough that it would buy me some time — most people didn’t actively sprint for fun like I did. My shoulder and back stung, but not enough to slow me down. I’d probably bleed out, but that was a worry for later.
Sometimes you had to choose between dying now and dying later.
I rounded the corner again, having made a full circle. The para had moved to the opponent that I’d put through the window, her back to me. With a burst of speed that I hadn’t known I’d had in me, I closed the distance and jumped, my knee colliding solidly with the back of her head.
As I tumbled, I realized that had been stupid — I was going to blow my knee out again with stupid tricks like that. Quickly, though, I found my footing and hurried back to her. She wasn’t out, but she was curled up half on the now-unconscious body, clutching the back of her head painfully. She couldn’t get a scream out.
I didn’t hesitate, though, grabbing one of her arms, pulling it tight, and putting my whole body into both wrenching it and dropping my weight on it. Some paras needed gestures to use their powers, and others did it as a reflex. I wasn’t taking chances.
She howled in pain as I felt bone break. As I let go, her body twisted to roll onto her side, but that only made it easier. I grabbed her other arm, pulled it taunt, twisted just a little, and slammed my knee into it hard enough to make the elbow pop the wrong direction.
I hated being so cruel to people like that, but I had to. There were more female paras than men, and as a general rule, they had a better chance of hurting you. I had to do everything that I could to disable them quickly, and two broken arms would do the trick nicely.
“Hey,” I heard someone yell from above as I turned and began to run again. “He’s over here again!” As if her screaming wouldn’t have informed them of that.
I heard something impact behind me as I ran, but I didn’t slow down to look. I had to get out of the city, which should have been easier since it didn’t have walls. Unfortunately, I was now completely lost. I knew that one way would be shorter to the city’s edge, but no idea which way that was.
“Don’t throw it you fool,” someone else yelled. He said something else, but I couldn’t make it out, not with how hard I was running.
It was hard work — running in a straight line would be faster, but I’d make a better target of myself. I couldn’t outrun a bullet. I had to use the buildings as concealment, preventing them from getting a direct line of fire. However, I also couldn’t stick to a pattern — if they figured that out, they’d try and cut me off, then open fire.
The fact that I had no clue where I was going didn’t help matters any, either.
I rounded a corner and about stopped in my tracks by who was down the street from me. Warden armor. Fresh and new, no customization. A cadet. He stopped dead in his tracks as I kept running.
“Jordan,” he said, trying to sound authoritative and failing. He looked frozen in his tracks. I adjusted the trajectory of my sprint. “Stop in the name of–fuck.”
He barely got the word out, sounding somewhat defeated, before my outstretched arm caught him by the throat with enough force that I almost went onto the ground myself. I didn’t stop, though. No time. I had more important things to worry about than why a Warden cadet was in the city and recognized me instantly.
I was noting that with the serpentine route that I was taking between buildings that I wasn’t wearing out nearly as fast as I should. My breathing was hard, sure, but with how long I’d been sprinting, I’d expected to slow down well before now.
I didn’t have time to contemplate it, though, when a man appeared out of nowhere, slamming into me. My world became a haze of pain as I blindly grabbed… something, my legs wrapping around it.
I regained some semblance of my wits to realize that there was a woman on top of me, rearing her fist back. Her fist shimmered, and we both moved to punch at the same time — her for my head, me for just below her armpit. The difference was that I was wrenching with my legs at the same time.
I connected before she did. All the effort that I put into that split second paid off, though, as the fist barely missed my head and went through the floor… all the way up to the bicep.
That was all that I needed. I wrapped my arm up to claw at her face as a let go of her body and moved from underneath her as she was still recovering from the surprise of her big miss. That distracted her enough for me to get on top of her and grab her free arm, twisting it so that she couldn’t use her punch power or whatever it was.
A quick glance revealed something large and shiny on the table next to us. Without thinking, I snatched it up and slammed it into the woman’s face as hard as I could twice. One more for good effort and she went limp underneath me.
That gave me a moment to take stock. She wasn’t in guard’s clothes, just a normal outfit. Either she was off duty, or she was just someone who lived here that was coming after me for some reason. Given the fact that she was now unconscious, and the metal mixing bowl was dented pretty badly, I hoped that I’d just given her a concussion and not caused any serious damage.
Wait. Dented mixing bowl. My eyes caught a heavy dough on the floor, too. Slowly, hesitantly, I stood and looked across the table, to where a woman was staring at me in shock, a long rolling pin in her hands. I was apparently in a kitchen. Good to know.
I smiled weakly. “Hi, uh…” I swallowed. “Sorry about your cookies.” I glanced at the bowl in my hand, then gently set it on the table. “And your bowl. And, uh, your floor.” I chuckled nervously as I glanced at the hole behind us, ignoring the fresh pain in my cheek. “And… Um, I’m sorry about everything?”
The woman made no response, still standing there frozen. Yeah, apologies weren’t going to cut it. Still, going into shock over something relatively minor like this? I was a little surprised.
“In here!” I heard someone yell from nearby. Annoyingly nearby.
No time to think. “Sorry,” I muttered again as I plucked the rolling pin from her hands. Not enough, I needed something more. I did a quick scan, then snatched a heavy copper tea kettle from the stove. The handle seemed to be fused with the kettle itself. That would do nicely.
A man charged through the hole in the wall, a short sword in his hand. No time to contemplate as he raised it — I swung the rolling pin hard, connecting with his wrist hard enough that I could hear and feel the bones shatter. Without hesitation, I wrapped my arm around his other to trap it as the sword clattered to the ground. Quickly, my knee was planted squarely into his groin. As he doubled over, I reared back and brought the tea kettle into his face, a hollow sound ringing from both the kettle and his head.
He collapsed, but my victory was short-lived as someone else was already coming through the hole… with my halberd. Fuck him. As the new asshole reared back to swing, I lunged forward.
The tea kettle impacted with his hand as he swung, keeping him from reaching momentum. A quick uppercut, using the rolling pin as a fist load, connected with his face, making him stagger. It was relatively easy to reverse the swing, using the elasticity of my muscles to add extra force as I drove the rolling pin down onto the top of his head.
He collapsed, instantly unconscious. That was a little anticlimactic, but I’d gladly take it. Another person with possible brain damage, but somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to care about this one.
The guy I’d snagged the sword from was still moaning and clutching his broken wrist. Good. Before I went any further, there were things that I needed to know. I marched over to him and rolled him onto his back, discarding my improvised weapons.
“Who are you?” I barked. “Why are you people after me?” He looked up at me, but didn’t say anything. Man, I hated being mean, but I was going to have to. I grabbed him by his collar and hauled him up, glaring into his eyes. “Start talking or I get indiscriminate about what I break. Why?!”
“B-bounty,” the man blubbered. “We recognized you when you came into town, thought… Thought that we’d take it.”
“And you thought you could take me?”
The man’s eyes scrunched closed and he looked away. “We thought you wouldn’t be so tough without your gear, so we were gonna mob you while you were in the shower. Oh, god, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
I didn’t have time for his apologies. “How much? How much is the bounty?”
“T-twelve grand, New Brockton coin. Dead or alive.”
New Brockton? “Is Tattletale offering it?”
He shook his head quickly. “N-no. Some bitch that lived in Fairfax. She… She wasn’t there when you-”
There was a noise behind me. I spun to look, only to find a woman with a red bandanna over her face. “Bossman,” Emi said quickly, stepping inside.
I nodded once before turning back to the man in my grasp. “Do you work for Nexus?”
I shook him a little harder. “Do you fucking work for Nexus?!”
“N-no, man. I-”
I shoved him to the ground. It was all that I needed to know. $3,300 was a good annual wage for New Brockton coin, if you were living there. It would go a bit further here, unless you wanted the quality of living that came from New Brockton. $12,000, and I’d seen between four and six people so far. Two or three grand per person wasn’t a bad number for a day’s work, and if they’d mobbed me while I was in the shower…
“Shit’s fucked,” Emi said, making the understatement of the year.
“Yeah,” I said softly. “How’d you find me?”
“Followed these guys,” she said, glancing down at the guy. “Kept on losing them, but I followed the sounds of fighting. You’re not that far from the hotel, actually.”
Was I? I had to have run at least a half a mile, maybe a full one. My pattern must not have done me as many favors as I’d have liked. My eyes fell on the heavily deformed tea kettle. Yeah, it hadn’t done anyone any favors.
“Did you all find who we’re looking for?”
She nodded. “We were on our way back when we heard the crash. We arrived just in time to see you–”
I faintly heard someone nearby said “Waste em!” Without thinking, I shoved Emi hard before diving for the still-motionless woman.
I didn’t make it before bullets began to tear through the building, splintering wood. As I dragged the woman down to the floor, I heard her scream. It only took a moment to see blood. No time to think, or even find out where she’d been shot. If our new opponents began shooting towards the ground, we couldn’t save her anyway.
I quickly crawled back to Emi, who was suddenly pale. I didn’t see any blood, though. “Gun,” I whispered.
She quickly reached into the back of her shirt and pulled it out, offering it to me. “You want some–”
“No,” I said, cutting her off. The bullets were still flying; what sort of automatic weapons were they using? Two weapons with a low cycle rate, but too regular to be semi-auto. That was a lot of lead flying. “Stay here.”
The rounds weren’t coming from the side I’d come in from, so I crawled quickly to peek out of the hole. Nobody. Small favors. I slipped through and began to creep, keeping myself low. I had to take these guys out fast; I could already hear more screaming elsewhere, and not all of it from fear.
As I reached the edge of the house, the firing finally stopped. I peeked around the corner and saw two men struggling with the ammo drums on a their pistols. Calico M950, hundred round drums mounted on the top rear of the weapon. No pistol grip, so it wasn’t the M950A, and no stock, so it wasn’t the M951. They must have modified it for full auto.
The things you notice in a spit second when your life depends on it. Just like how I saw another figure wearing a blue bandanna over his face charging surprisingly fast, his fist raised.
That was all I needed. I dashed out from behind my concealment, not bothering with the pistol — it would be more hindrance then help at this point, potentially putting John in the line of fire.
I made it to the closest asshole as he was finally getting the drum released from the weapon. My hand gripped the weapon and brought it up, while my leg lashed out against the side of his knee, resulting in a loud crunch and a scream.
As I twisted his arm around, I heard a heavy thud, accompanied by a snap, a scream, and the sound of a body hitting the ground. Since we seemed to be so intent on breaking bones today, I drove my knee up into his elbow, snapping it easily.
I turned to John, noting a third bandanna-clad figure running. “You two alright?”
“Yeah,” John said quickly. “Are-”
“Grab the guns. Inside.” I turned on my heel and hurried back to the hole in the wall without waiting for a response. Too much to do, and not enough time.
As I stepped back inside the kitchen, Emi stood from the woman’s form. “Only got her arm. She should be okay.”
But there were a lot of people who wouldn’t be okay. Bullets were indiscriminate as to their targets — they’d keep going until they lost momentum. With how thin these walls were, there could be a whole hell of a lot of people who served as the stopping point.
Emi’s hand was covered in blood. Good. I marched over to her and grabbed her wrist, wiping her hand on my face. A little added intimidation factor would do me a world of good right now.
John and Kathy stepped inside carefully. “Shit’s gone pear-shaped,” he said softly.
“Very. We speed through it now, though. First–”
More footsteps outside, and heavy panting. It could be Brenda, but I couldn’t take that chance. I turned and crouched.
A Warden cadet came into view, and immediately I was blasted through the table, hitting the opposite wall hard enough to make it crumple, what little plaster remained on it flying everywhere.
There was the sound of Emi teleporting out, and I looked up just in time to see her shoving the female Warden cadet hard into the wall. As I scrambled to my feet, I watched as she grabbed the woman and swung her around so that the woman’s face hit. A grab of the hair and a yank sent the woman to the ground before I was even at the hole.
Emi quickly lunged down to punch the woman in the face. The both of them yelped, Emi swinging her hand in pain.
“Elbows,” I barked. When were they going to listen? John and I were the only ones who should be punching people in the face — I was conditioned for it, and he could alter his density.
Emi lashed out with her elbow, striking the woman in the temple. That got the cadet to curl into a ball, covering her head.
I heard more footsteps and raised the pistol in my hand just in time for two more cadets to round the corner and feeze in their tracks. “On the ground,” I barked, finger on the trigger. “Get on the ground!”
The two of them quickly complied. It was one thing to face off against another parahuman, but having a gun pointed at you… Only Brutes tended to have fearlessness at that.
Another cadet slowly peered around the corner, his hands raised above his head. “Hey! I surrender!”
What? “Then get on the ground you idiot!”
“N-no can do!” He stepped further in, lowering one hand to adjust the messenger bag that he wore. “First aid kit, there’s a woman sc–”
“Inside,” I barked, motioning with the gun. “No funny business, either. Just treat her and move onto the next.”
“Right, thank you, Mr. Jordan, sir.” He moved quickly, his head lowered. That was one less thing that I had to worry about, thankfully.
I turned to the two cadets with their hands on their heads. “Who’s your handler?”
“Ken Townsend,” one of them said, trying to sound calm with limited success.
That… didn’t help me in the slightest. “Where is she?”
“He,” another voice said behind me, making me whip around. The armor that he wore was stripped down a bit, not so much protection on the shoulders, and colored red. His hands were likewise raised above his head. “Relax.”
Relax? I felt like I’d just stepped into a world where black was white and wildlings performed puppet shows for kids. Like I could relax right now. “Were you here for me?”
“They were,” he said with a calm nod. “I think it’s safe to say that it would be stupid for them to try and fight you now, so I’m pulling the plug on this mission.”
I took a shuddering breath, looking around. I wanted to laugh, and I didn’t know why. “Yeah. Alright. Okay.” I took a step towards him, anger welling. “You know better. If you’re a handler, you know better! The moment that the bullets started flying, you all should have been trying to take down anyone with a gun!”
“We didn’t know who was shooting,” he said in that same calm voice. “It could have been you.”
“Bullshit, and we both know it. I would never, never fire a weapon blindly into city limits! Ever! The moment the bullets started flying, you should have made a concentrated effort to lock down the fucking combatants. And an M950? That’s a very noticeable gun! So don’t give me that!”
I looked back to the cadets on the ground, rage flowing through my veins. “Your job is to protect people! You failed because you wanted to go after me! I’m willing to bet that you were willing to wait to see if they finished the job for you. Now people might be dead because of you!”
I turned back to Ken, my face twitching from fury. “We’re leaving. You and your cadets, you’re now blind to everything that we do, you got it?” He nodded. “If I hear that you harass anyone that we deal with, or if you stand in our way at all, even so much as don’t get out of our way fast enough, I’ll find you all. You got me?”
“I got you.” How the hell could he be so calm? “You do your thing, we’ll focus on helping everyone here. That’s only fair for you not hurting them like you did those others.”
Those others? Did he mean the other cadets, or the people that I’d been fighting today? It didn’t matter.
“Form up,” I barked. Within moments, John, Emi and Kathy were clustered around me, Emi handing me my halberd. I noted that John was holding the sword. “We’re leaving.”
Ken made a good show of stepping out of our way as I lead us away. Once he was out of sight, though, it was easy for the anger to fade. I never held onto anger for long, anyway. It all went into the void by the time we were two houses away.
“Red,” I said, looking to Emi. “Blue.” I looked to John. “Head back to the hotel. Find out what happened to our other member, then secure my gear. Collect any weapons you find along the way” I looked back to Emi. “Get the papers. Bring them to me.”
I looked to Kathy. “We’re going to finish what we came for pronto, then get the hell out of here.”
“Right.” Kathy turned, leading the way. Emi and John hurried off, John lowering his density to run faster, Emi teleporting. She, at least, stopped at the people out front, grabbing the guns and their ammo.
That, I was fine with. Something, at least, was going right today. I might not be angry any more, but I still had plenty of adrenaline running through me, and the prospect of talking to Nexus’ crew wasn’t a happy one.
“Jordan,” Kathy said softly. “Your shirt. Are you okay?”
I glanced down, where there were three streaking burn holes in it. I lifted it enough to catch a glimpse of the powder burns on my stomach. When had I gotten those?
Right, the uzi. I dropped my shirt again, nodding. “We’ll make it out, then patch me up.” Besides, it was helping. I must have been a terrifying sight as we hurried down the street. A halberd in one hand, a pistol in the other. My face streaked in blood. Burns from muzzle flash visible on my stomach, and blood running down my shoulder and back from the glass that was probably still embedded in my skin.
I just got that skin, too, and it was already being ruined. Son of a…
Still, anyone who saw us, even the guards, moved to hurry out of our way. Kathy took a slightly odd route, presumably to avoid letting the guards know where we were going. I wasn’t even sure how long it was before she stopped on a door and pounded on it.
We heard a whimper inside, but that was it. She tried the handle, but it wouldn’t turn.
“Cut it,” I snapped, taking a step back. I really hoped that she had the right place.
Kathy adjusted herself and moved her hands until I heard the whir of her power. A moment later, she used the collection disk to begin to cut the door away in a straight line like a buzzsaw, firing the blast portion of her power down the street. At least that didn’t appear to be hurting anything.
A bit over three quarters of the way down the height of the door, she stepped back, bowing to me ever so slightly. “After you.”
I rolled my eyes, but still kicked once, splintering what was left of the door. As we stepped inside, my eyes struggled to adjust to the light difference, but I could still make out a handful of people pointing guns at me.
“We aren’t here to hurt you,” I growled. “If anything, we’re here to help.”
“Bullshit,” someone said. “I recognize him. That’s Jordan!”
Yay. Recognition. Maybe it would make things easier. “Yeah, so if I wanted to, I’d be making you all scream like everyone else that’s tried to hurt me today. But that’s not what I’m here for.”
I looked around at them, my eyes adjusted to the point that I could clearly see the six people. “Who’s in charge here?”
There was a long pause before one man lowered his gun and stepped forward. “I am.”
I nodded slowly. “What’s your name?”
I glanced to Kathy, and she nodded. “He’s not the one.”
One less thing to worry about. But I had to stall a little. Wonderful. “Alright, Charles. Listen. I’m having a really rotten day.”
“You don’t say?” he asked, more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“I do say! People have tried to attack me with my halberd, a sword, shoot me, one person tried to dribble me, and another put me through a wall and tried smash my head like a watermelon.”
Charles took a breath before nodding. “The Machine. They’re in the area, a few towns. The local ones focus on gambling and prostitution, some loan sharking, too. They’re making a push into organized crime, and usually they don’t do too bad of a job at it. They aren’t smart, but they aren’t usually dumb. If they’re attacking you, then they must have left their brains at home today.”
Good to know. “How many are here in town?”
He shrugged a bit. “Dunno. I’ve never bothered to count.”
Dang. Alright, moving on. “What’s Nexus think about them?”
A few of the people here reacted, getting more nervous. Charles, though, shrugged a little. “They don’t step on our toes, so the boss hasn’t seen it necessary to take care of them yet. They buy some of his product, so for the moment he’s looked at it that it might be too costly to put the screws on them.”
I smiled a little, handing the pistol over to Kathy. That made people relax a bit. “I’m glad that you’re being so forthcoming.”
He shrugged. “He said to be honest with you.”
What did that mean? Didn’t matter. “Well. I’ve tried not to get on his bad side.”
Suddenly, Emi appeared next to me, papers in hand. Suddenly, most of the people were on edge again. I slowly looked across all of them with a raised eyebrow until people started lowering their guns.
Charles, though, didn’t so much as blink. The man had nerves of steel. “That’s appreciated.”
“But here’s the thing.” I leaned on my halberd. “And you’ll have to forgive me, I’m not exactly in the best of conditions to be explaining. But the thing is, I might accidentally step on his toes. And with someone like him, taking the attitude of begging forgiveness is better than asking, that isn’t such a good idea.
“So I thought that I’d offer you a little something something, let him know in advance that if I fuck up, it’s nothing personal. That’s why I’m even here in town, you know?”
Charles looked at Emi, raising his own eyebrow. “I take it that it has something to do with those papers?”
“Yep.” I looked to Emi and nodded once. She almost skipped over and handed them to Nexus’ man as if she did this several times a day.
Charles grew silent as he quickly scanned the papers. Once he got through all four pages, he began from the top again, taking his time. Five long minutes passed as he read them more carefully.
Finally, he turned back to the others. “Hey, put your guns on the table over there. He’s alright.” They hesitated. “Do it,” he barked, and they complied.
“Well,” he said, turning back to me. “This was quite… informative. I’d accuse you of being full of shit, but… I gotta admit, that’s some good evidence right there. Damn good evidence. I trust that you haven’t told anyone?”
That was one of those phrases that they’d warned me about; if anyone asked you that, then they were probably going to try and kill you soon. Still, I was willing to take his question as what it meant on the surface. I didn’t have the right mindset to play games.
“No, nobody. We were doing something else when I found out, and we’ve completely dismantled the operation. I thought that it might be a good way to let your boss know that if I mess up and disrupt his deal, I’m sorry.”
“A peace offering,” Charles said thoughtfully.
“Yeah, something like that.”
He nodded, a thoughtful frown on his face. “Well… I’ll make sure that the boss knows. I’m sure that he’ll appreciate it. Hell, he might even owe you one. So, I tell you what.
“Let me get in touch with him and handle things, and then, say, next month, why don’t I meet you in Cairo. Do you know where that is?”
“Egypt?” Emi asked sarcastically.
Charles smirked. “It’s a little town up northwest of here. There isn’t much to it, but I own a place outside of town. My own little vacation villa that I use for fishing. Say, on the eighth, why don’t I meet you there? I’ll be alone, you can bring your crew to back you up if you don’t trust me. How does that sound?”
It still sounded like a perfect place for a setup. But I nodded. “I make no promises, but I’ll think about it. With everything that’s happened here, I’m eager to get the hell out of the area and stay out.”
“I can’t blame you for that. But even if Nexus doesn’t want to thank you for this…” He lifted the papers. “I do. You’ve gone through a lot of trouble to help us, and got put in a bad spot for your trouble, so I’d at least like to offer you something as an apology.”
“It’s appreciated,” I said, and was surprised to find that I meant it. “For now, though, I have a lot of wounds that I need to look at.” I looked to Kathy. “Let’s get out of here.”