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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 34: Brown 112
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It took Derek a moment to realize that Jim had asked him a question, and he realized that he didn’t know what it was. He was staring at the bodies of three dead men, men whom he had killed, if not with his own gun at least by directing this mission. Of course, they had chosen a life of violence, and were at least complicit in threatening to kill everyone in the city and probably a good part of the country. It still bothered him that he’d done this.
“I’m sorry, what?” he responded to the question in the air.
“Their radios,” Jim said. “Should we take them?”
Derek thought for a moment as to why they might want the terrorist’s radios. “To monitor their communications, you mean? That’s probably a good idea. Is that something you can do while keeping in touch with us?”
Jim nodded, and Derek nodded. “One should be enough. Hopefully when they find the bodies they won’t realize that the one radio is gone, because once they do it becomes pretty worthless.”
Of course, he did warn them, didn’t he? He told them to put their hands up or something, surely. What was it he said? Did he give them the chance to surrender? He thought he must have done, but it all happened so fast he couldn’t be certain. This was so like and yet so unlike those video games, or those movies. It seemed so real, like those boys who were dying at that camp, only this time he was the killer. He tried to contextualize it, to emphasize the differences between Michael’s misguided rampage against a few kids who played a game he thought was deadly and his surgical strike against terrorists threatening to destroy London. He couldn’t escape the feeling that this was exactly how Michael felt and what Michael did, killing the people who threatened to destroy a lot of other people just to get what they wanted.
He wished he hadn’t killed Michael. He wished he hadn’t killed anyone. Of course, Michael was trying to kill him. The first person he had killed, Montressa, had been trying to kill him. If the terrorists blew up London, they would kill him, too, and a lot of other people. This was self-defense. All these killings were self-defense. He had to defend himself.
Like Michael had had to defend himself from the dangers of demons using the game to get to him through his friends.
It was a ridiculous analogy. It wasn’t like that at all. He was not at all like Michael. He was an agent of Her Majesty’s government, working to protect and defend the free world from those who would destroy it. Real people, not demons, were the enemy.
Of course, he had also fought demons, so maybe he wasn’t so different as he wanted to think.
“Sir?” the question came, breaking into his musings, and he looked at Lieutenant Calloway. “Which way, sir?”
Rousing himself enough to look around, he bit his lip.
“We’re not so loud as we might be,” he said, “but I think we’re loud enough that if there were other terrorists on this floor we’d have gotten their attention. I think it’s time to go up.”
Calloway nodded. “There’s a stairway over here,” he said, walking out his side of the room. Derek followed, and saw the heavy fire door of the stairwell, a bright yellow sticker smiling above the crashbar. Jim reached for it.
“Stop,” Derek shouted. The soldier turned toward him quickly, fully alert for trouble, then looked at him, puzzled.
“What is it?” he asked.
Derek stared at the door. Was it just a coincidence, or was it serious?
“It’s the smiley face sticker,” he said.
“What?” Jim was clearly annoyed by this.
“There’s a smiley face sticker over the handle on that door.”
“There was one over the crashbar of the other door, the one which had the bomb behind it. I saw it when I closed the door. Now, maybe it’s a coincidence, but I haven’t seen those stickers on any other doors, and it would be strange in the extreme if the same kind of sticker was on exactly two stairwell doors on the same floor, and one of them had a bomb behind it but the other did not.”
“You think this door is booby-trapped, like the other?” He pointed at it as he spoke, incredulity in his voice.
Pete spoke up. “It makes sense,” he said. “We don’t know how many terrorists are in this building, nor how much explosive they have, but they aren’t going to put a bomb on one single door, and they aren’t going to be able to rely on memory for however many people they’ve got to avoid tripping their own bombs. The best way to handle it would be to mark the rigged doors with something that would be immediately and easily seen, but would seem natural to anyone unaware that it was the marker. Why not smiley face stickers?”
Obviously Calloway was still having trouble with the idea that Derek knew what he was doing. He accepted the idea from Pete readily enough, shrugged, and continued. “All right,” he said, “no doors with smiley stickers on them. We’ll find another. There’s the lift,” he said as he waved his gun down the hall.
“No,” Derek said slowly, “as much as I’d like to ride instead of walk, let’s stick to the stairs for now. There are eight staircases, and if they’re all booby-trapped, we already disarmed one, so we know that we can get out. Let’s try the next.”
There was no sticker on the next stairwell door, but Derek and Pete took shelter while Jim opened it. It proved clear.
“All right,” Derek said. “Going up.” He led the way up the stairs to the next floor.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #226: Versers Adapt. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: