Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Daily Story 104: An Appointment in Samarra

I realize something is wrong when there's a gunshot in the alley and I nearly jump out of my skin. I'm always jittery after a job, but it's worse this time; Bean gave me some drugs to calm me down and they haven't done a thing. The shot was probably just a mugging, or some kid showing off, but my heart is racing and I'm picturing the entire SWAT team breaking down my door. I head to the window to look and the alley looks clear... but Bean's car is across the street. He's had more than enough time to get to it, he was supposed to be going and meeting up with Nick, the third member of our team.

The more I think about this the more nervous I get. The prototype teleporter is worth enough to make us all rich, but what if that's not enough for them? What if they don't want to split it three ways? I tell myself I'm just being paranoid, but that seems to be further evidence... if this stuff isn't calming me down, what exactly did Bean give me? I'm looking for somewhere to stash the teleporter just in case when the doorknob wiggles, and suddenly I can hear the blood pounding in my ears. Next there's banging, someone trying to knock the door in - there's nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. There's just one option. Snapping the teleporter into place around my wrist, I push the button just as a shot rings out and blows the lock clean off of my door.

I land, hard, against a dumpster in the alley below - I must have phased right through my wall. I was hoping it would take me further, but at least I'm out of the apartment and in the open. I run to the back of the building but as I get there I see someone coming around the other corner - and now I know for sure I've been betrayed. Even in the dim light I can see he's in one of the military-castoff catsuits Bean got us to wear on jobs, and that means it's either Bean himself or Nick - we're wearing the only three suits like that in the city.

I reach for my gun but realize too late I've left it in my apartment - he draws and fires as I turn to run and he gets me right in the side. I feel the bullet tear through me, flaming swords of pain radiating through my body. I fall, rolling out of his line of sight. He's going to come and finish me off, I know it. I have a field-hospital quality medkit in the apartment, but that's not going to do me any good... unless I can teleport back in while they look for me out here. I worry that I'm risking appearing in a wall or something, but I have to hope that whoever designed this thing took that into account somehow. I slam the button, and land almost exactly where I wanted - in the lobby of my apartment building by the mailboxes.

I peek around the corner and see Bean heading down from my apartment. Perfect. He'll be going outside, and Nick will say he saw me out there - so they'll never suspect that I'm back up in my apartment patching myself. At the last second, though, he sees me and pulls his gun.
"What the hell are you doing here?" He yells, gun pointed right in my face, "You just scared the crap out of me!" He starts to lower his weapon - he must have seen that I left mine upstairs so he knows he has the upper hand - but then he sees the teleporter and he points the gun at my face again.
"Take that thing off of your arm. What do you think you're playing at here?"
That's the answer. I have an ace up my sleeve! I call his bluff, put my finger on the button again, and he lowers the gun. He can't risk losing it.

"Look, let's just both calm down," he says with a smile. "We're friends here."
If I had a gun I'd shoot the double-crossing bastard right now. "Friends don't try to poison each other, Bean. Something to help me relax, huh? What did you give me? What was it?"
He looks around, trying to feign confusion. "Man, I swear, I just gave you the same stuff I take for myself. You... you must be having a paradoxical reaction. Like hyperactive kids, you know? Give them a coffee and the caffeine calms them down."
He's actually trying to Gaslight me. Like I'm going to forget that he was just lurking in my apartment, that Nick just shot me. Still, I can turn this on him. I nod, like I'm agreeing with him, and as he lowers his guard I lunge. It's a lucky hit, and the gun flies out of his hand.

We wrestle for a minute, the gunshot wound in my side threatening to knock me unconscious with pain every time he bumps it, and I get an arm around his neck. He's grabbing at me, but he can't pull me loose and he gets weaker with every second. Finally he stops struggling, stops breathing, and I let him drop. The way to my apartment is clear, but I realize I have a chance to just finish this now. I take his gun and head outside. Circling around the back of the building, I see some movement at the far end - Nick must be looking for me still. He comes around the corner and I'm hoping it's dark enough that he'll think I'm Bean but instead he reaches for his weapon. I fire off a shot and he stumbles, dropping out of sight. Now my nerves are getting at me again; do I go towards him, with no cover? What if I only grazed him, or if he circles around the front of the building?

Whether or not that's what he's planning it seems like a good idea, so I head to the entrance. I wait for a moment but there's no sign of him and I'm feeling lightheaded from the blood loss... and maybe from whatever Bean slipped me. If I pass out without patching myself up I'm as good as dead. I head inside, stepping over Bean, and stagger to my door. I can't get it open and everything is going dark around the edges. I hammer on the door, slam against it with my shoulder. Finally I settle for shooting the lock off and I fall inwards, collapsing on the floor. The medkit is in the bathroom, a million miles away. I can't make it, can't even stand, and as everything goes dark I realize I must not even be in the right apartment - after all, didn't the lock get shot off earlier?