Chapter 3 – The Night After

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Chapter 3 – The Night After

Paul Mahoney, Staff Writer

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While she watches the television, I give Midori the food and decide to go into the bedroom. On my dresser are my gun, my commlink, and my advance. I divide up the money, a bit to the rent, a bit to food. I take a second, then double the money I divvied up for food. I’ve got a mouth to feed other than my own now. Not enough to cover rent and food for the month, let alone incidentals. 

I take a look at the gun and the commlink. How easy it would be to take the gun, finish the job, and report to my employer that the other team members tried to skip out, maybe I could even claim the other half of their pay, as well as mine. I pick up the gun before remembering. This is not who I am. This is not what I do. I’m not a monster, I’m a professional, and professionals have standards. A client who calls a kid, even a genetically engineered one ‘an advanced piece of biotech’ is not who you want to work for. If you want an assassination, you call for people to do the wetwork. And not on kids.

What hits me next is that anyone on my team could be planning to finish the job. I shared my address as part of this little mutiny, stupid, stupid, STUPID. I can’t believe I made such an amateurish mistake. I’m better than this, yet I still thought that they would keep their word. And yet, I hear a heavy pounding on the door, one it can’t possibly take much longer. I grab my gun and my ‘link and walk to the living room, and the door comes open, lock broken.

In comes that woman, Panzerfrau, I move to aim, but with machine reflexes, she points an SMG at Midori, only looking utterly focused on the task at hand. An instant before she squeezes the trigger, something breaks that concentration. She drops the gun and kneels down.

“What am I/are you doing?” They cry out at the same time, just as the gun begins to slip.

While Midori curls up, Panzerfrau continues, beginning to genuinely emote;

“What am I becoming? I had a code to keep me from doing things like this! I’m not like this.”

“Are you trying to spill your guts here?” I say, finally catching up with what’s going on.

 

“Well-I, I, I suppose- I suppose-, it’s- it’s just been so long since I really thought about who I was about to kill before I did so, what I was about to do. It’s easy to act quickly with boosted reflexes, but no easier to think about what you’re doing.” She responded, gaining composure.

 

“So you got anything else to say about yourself? Think you didn’t say enough already?” I ask.

 

“Well, if you’re going to ask so nicely, I might as well tell. I was in the Bundeswehr in the late 2020’s, I had signed on out of desperation, I was starving, no-one was hiring someone like me and the Bundeswehr was offering a bonus to those who sign on immediately and another if signed some form I didn’t read back then.” She stops.

“And that led to now how?” I respond.

She resumes “Well, not long after I was out of training, the Eruption happened over here, and in the chaos after the collapse of the US, NATO, and EU, the first of the border skirmishes started. There was a dispute with the Czechs over some piece of land in the middle of nowhere near the border, and eventually, someone shot someone else and then I was deployed there.” After pausing to take a breath, she continues “Sometime near the end of 29’, a grenade landed right where I was, and, unable to get out of the way in time.” 

“And?” I say

“And next thing I know I’m awake in a military hospital more metal than meat. Turns out that thing I signed meant that I had given them consent to rebuild me if I was ever crippled and send me on another tour. Once the war was over and I was discharged, it wasn’t clear what I was to do. After a brawl one night ended with three gangers dead, some guy came up and offered me a job to steal some prototype from Airbus-ThyssenKrupp. Like many, I developed a code of honor over time to stay sane and human. And here we are.” She finishes.

“If you want me to be your shrink, you’re going to have to pay me,” I respond.

“Maybe I’ll just make you do it.” She sasses back.

“So, can you put the guns away?” Midori says, finally speaking up, her voice cracking and unsteady

Silently, I drop my pistol back in the bedroom and Panzerfrau puts her SMG back in its sling.

“Don’t think you’re off the hook for telling me your life story.” I say “You still seem to be a borderline cyberpsycho barely kept in check by your street samurai code of honor bull.”

“Then I at least know you’re not a total idiot. I wouldn’t trust me.” She responds. 

“So, how do you think we should deal with our charge?” I say.

“Don’t drag me into this, all I expressed was interest and decided not to kill her, I never said I was going to help you with your new mouth to feed.”  She firmly replies.

“Well, something has to be done.” I continue, “And I don’t think walking out on a job, even one like that will reflect well on our reputation.”

“I can hear you two you know.” Midori deadpans, having regained her composure.

“Well, do you have any bright ideas then?” I respond.

“I don’t know, maybe FIND A REGULAR JOB?” She shouts.

“Maybe you should have suggested that to me FIVE YEARS AGO!” I shout back.

“I DON’T KNOW THEN, MAYBE DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN SHOUT AT ME!” She screams

“MAYBE I WILL!” I finish, stomping out the door.

After half an hour of tromping the streets outside, I realize that I’m not going to get anywhere like this and call my fixer.

“Hey, H, I’m going to need some work soon, you got anything?” I ask over the line.

“Whatever happened to the job I gave you for today?” He fires back.

“Well, there was a complication, and I think I have a team now, the other people from the job,” I state.

“Fine, give me the rest of the night, I’ll find something for you and those other guys.” He finishes with as he hangs up.

I quickly fire off a text “Should get some work soon, you want in?” To which I get responses: “Sicher”, “Okay” and “Sure” from the others, most of them following up saying they are glad that they could avoid looking for work with their reputation.

I begin to make my way home, and swagger in the still broken door.

“I found work,” I say to the room.

“I know” comes in response from both Midori and Panzerfrau in bored, slightly mocking tones.

“Just shut it,” I tell them.

“It’s just potential work ‘soon’ anyway.” Panzer replies.

“Maybe I should’ve followed through on the original job and just left afterward.” I deadpan.

“What is wrong with you?” Midori almost shouts.

“Ugh, it’s after ten, I’m deliriously tired, Panzer, you go home and Midori, sleep on the couch or something, I need to go to bed,” I say, the exhaustion of the day finally creeping into my voice.

While Panzer leaves, Midori just says “Okay, dad.” voice dripping with sass.

While lying in bed, I stay up for who knows how long thinking about that file I read. Who or what on earth is sleeping in my living room. I opened the file again and found mention of genetic material from some kind of scaly, wide-eyed, gilled man. Another section shows a gaunt, hairless man with an almost canine head. Something about a ‘scavenger gut’ and ‘Anthropophagy’, whatever that means. The rest of the file implies more creatures. God, what the hell did they really make? How could such things exist? Why have I never heard of them before? Is there something to the urban legends of ‘Net sites that can kill a man just by looking at them? Are the worse ones true?

Eventually, I fall asleep, questions still turning in my mind. I don’t usually put much stock  In my dreams, but something’s different this night. I am in some kind of dank, slimy hallway made of a strange, green soapstone filled with gold flecks. Something is in there with me as I wander the hallways, twisting and turning in strange, nonsensical ways, paths with five right turns in a row that don’t intersect, or angles that look acute but act obtuse. It feels like something is there with me. Eventually, the halls dissolve away as I wake up.