Mel and Smith gasped for air as water poured through the large gap in the barrel. Of course it wasn’t airtight; why would it be if it was meant to be a guest room? The river had swirled in through the cracks in the hull and only a tiny amount of air remained by the time Mel had the good sense to crack the glass window floating above water level. The leaks continued, but breaking the glass any further meant being showered with the shards and perhaps even tipping their makeshift vessel fully underwater.
On top of the Cathedral of Sainte Decius, a man with a long nose lay prone, gripping his weapon so tightly that his right hand ached. In the last two days, Smith had been threatened, shot at, tossed into a mysterious bureaucracy, shuffled along into a pile of socks, given a gun from the sky, forced to run for his life and finally, most distressingly, he had run out of cigarettes. Filled with an abundance of nerves, his hands shook and he had to grip the gun with two hands to keep it still.
Despite all of the adrenaline and fatigue, Smith raised the handgun, unsuited for sniping as it was, and focused on his target. In a voice he hoped the abomination would never hear, Smith whispered “Death”.
Carla thought she was opening her eyes, based on the fact that she could see again. Then again, it didn’t feel anything like opening her eyes usually felt. Her body felt cold and stiff, like what she imagined waking up from a coma must feel like.
In front of her, Carla saw a bloody stain on the ground. Continue reading
Mel was still tired after sleeping, but this was not unusual for him. Ever since he was a young boy, his parents had trained him to expect danger around every corner. This practice of constant vigilance left him groggy and unfocused most of the time, especially when his father would come into his room in the middle of the night, liquor on his breath, with a long wooden staff in his hands with which he could wake and break his boy until he was a man who could carry on the heritage of his name, untainted by the Redshirt goons breathing down his neck that Rei Okabe would never tell his son about until maybe someday they could break the whole damned cycle of money and corporate violence and finally their plans would all come to fruition and the family could-
It was late afternoon on the tenth of the month, the first day that everyday civilians traveled from Earth to Papyrus, when Mel finally saw some sign that he and his niece might ever return home. Lying in the woods in the center of a nearly-overgrown and then recently traveled path that the two had found themselves on was a torn up piece of stained cloth. Mel picked it up and sniffed at the red stain to confirm his suspicions.
Maybe she’d acted a bit too quickly.
Carla did not have grandparents, at least not any she’d ever met, but from what she’d learned of her family their fatal flaw was a penchant for rash decisions. Her mother had been kicked out of the house for getting pregnant and her father, well, he’d gotten her pregnant in the first place. Then he had to go and die, leaving Carla nothing but his genes.
Well, that and the hat. There was always the hat, except when it wasn’t there, and that was now. Because like an idiot, Carla had decided to blow up at her uncle and storm out without taking her dad’s old hat.
Smith left with a single file folder. On the bus home he looked at the assignment. It looked like one of those 3-D pictures you were supposed to stare at cross-eyed, a jumble of random dots with no clear writing.
As soon as he closed the door into his apartment, Smith checked his phone to see if he had any messages. Manolios had returned the little Nokia with a knowing smile, but it had obviously been upgraded while in his care. There was a tiny camera attached to the back and linked into the phone battery. Smith had heard that the Redshirts were at least a decade ahead of civilian technology, but he’d never expect something as mundane as all this.