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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 48: Brown 119
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Derek’s first shot brought down an enemy while he was still assessing the situation. There were five--four, now, thanks to a well-aimed kill--but he would need several more good shots if he had any hope of killing them all on one power pack. The next shot ought to be good, he thought, because the laser gives no report, so it will take a moment before the terrorists look away from their falling mook toward me. It had been that quick that he found a second target, that the first was still falling when he pulled the trigger, but already one of them had shouted and was spewing forth some noise he took from the accompanying gesticulations to be announcing his presence. He should do the same.
As he pulled the trigger for his second shot, he spoke into the headset loudly. “Cavalry’s arrived, boys. Could use some help, though.” The second shot was not as good as the first, and he had to squeeze one more out of the gun to bring down his second terrorist, but then he had to dive back behind the wall as automatic weapons were brought to bear on the hallway.
By the time he managed to get back on his feet and return to the corner, the shooting had stopped. Jim, well-served by his distraction, had killed two more, and the fifth had his hands raised and his gun on the floor at his feet. As Derek approached, Jim posed the question already running through his head.
“So, what do we do with him?”
He still needed a moment to think about this, but he was working on it.
“First, Pete, take his radio, and disable it. We don’t need it, but whatever we do next we don’t want him communicating with the boss.”
“Smash it?” Pete asked, and Derek hesitated.
“I’d rather not smash such things, if there’s an alternative. Take the power supply out, if that’s easy enough. And do the others, too. We can dispose of them somewhere that will at least make looking for them a bad idea.” He continued thinking. “You,” he said to their captive. “What do I call you?”
Now it was the prisoner’s turn to hesitate. He probably doesn’t want to give away too much about himself, Derek thought, so we can’t use it against him.
“I am called K. C.,” he said; Derek was not sure whether the British accent contained traces of something else.
Not bothering to wonder whether K. C. stood for something familiar or foreign, Derek continued. “Please remove your vest.” Seeing hesitation, he continued impatiently. “Come on, if we were going to kill you quickly we’d have shot you in the head by now, and if we were looking to make you suffer we’d have shot you in the arm or the leg. Remove the vest. Also, if you’re hiding a knife, find it, and drop it on the floor with the gun.”
The knife appeared and was dropped, and once the man had removed his shirt the vest followed. Derek nodded.
“You can put the shirt back on. I just want to know that if you run you’re an easy target. Now, you can save us all a lot of trouble if you tell me where the bomb is.”
“The bomb.” It was not a question, nor a challenge, but a simple suggestion that he knew there was a bomb. “I do not know.”
That was possible, Derek mused, but it could be a lie. He decided he would attempt to read the man’s mind, to see if he could catch a thought about the bomb’s location. It took a moment, but he soon found a connection.
“Sir?” Jim was concerned about the delay.
“It’s all right, lieutenant. I’m sure I mentioned that I can do things you wouldn’t believe. Well, right now I’m shifting into a lie detector mode. He can lie to me, but I’ll know it.”
The expression that passed Jim’s face was less one of incredulity and more of surprise, but both were present.
“So if you don’t know where the bomb is, what do you know? Where is your command post?”
The man’s frightened thoughts were mostly concerned with getting out of this alive. Apparently he thought being killed in the blast that killed millions in London was fine, but being killed by a bullet as a lone captive was not. But as the question reached him, his mind shifted. An image of a man passed through in connection with the word command, along with a room, a conference room of sorts with a table and chairs, although the man, dressed in military fatigues and chewing a cigar, was standing.
“The commander is in an office on the thirtieth floor, belonging to a photography studio.” That seemed to be true.
“And do your people have any heavy equipment or fortifications or other gear somewhere else in the building?”
“Yes,” he said. “There is an equipment cache on the tenth floor, where there are some rocket launchers and other heavy artillery for use against attack.” He paused. Derek thought from the man’s mind that this was everything, or almost, but the man’s mind returned to his first concern. “What are you going to do with me?”
“I’m not going to kill you in cold blood, if that’s your worry. How many of you are there?”
Derek’s reassurance had not reassured the man, but he was now trying to count people in his head by finding their names or faces and imagining ticking them off on fingers.
“Roughly,” Derek added.
Pulling away from his count, he said, “About forty, maybe fifty.”
Pete whistled. “How did they get that many in here?” he asked.
“Obviously they came in as patrons of various businesses, probably wearing the vests under their shirts, and shipped the weapons in as deliveries that never reached the supposed recipients. Once they and the weapons were inside, they armed themselves and started taking over the building. All right, K. C., you’ve been helpful. You’ll understand that I can’t really let you go, and I hope you’ll understand that I have no particular wish to kill you. After all, despite the fact that if everything goes as well as it can for me you’ll be spending a long time in prison, and if it goes as well as it can for your boss you’ll be dying in a blaze of heat, it’s still possible you could do something good in the world. So we’re going to lock you in one of these offices, tied securely and maybe drugged if I think it necessary, and when we finish, assuming one of us survives, someone will return and release you. I realize that’s a gamble, and that if we fail you might die before anyone finds you or even realizes you’re alive somewhere, but on the bright side if we don’t make it back you’re not going to starve to death, because your bomb will kill you long before dinnertime. So. Jim. Pick an office, and let’s make our guest comfortable. He’s going to be there a while.”
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 #235: Versers Infiltrate. 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: