Bitter Reality chronicles Andrew Sol's first few months in Paris.
CONTAINS COARSE LANGUAGE, VIOLENCE AND GRAPHIC SEXUAL REFERENCES
In the city of Paris, France, there was a small bar. It was cold, the air was smoky and possessed a stillness of a place where men entered, but didn’t often leave. The walls were all set in a wooden shack style, with varnished floors, walls and tables stained with spillages that should have been cleaned and burn marks from customers who couldn’t find a tray. The lights were cheap and give everything they touched a yellowish tint. Hunched over tables, drinking pints of cheap alcohol and smoking cigarettes, several of the regulars drunkenly slurred their words in an imitation of conversation.
The barman; a fat, balding man in his early 40s with glasses perched upon his nose, was sat bored behind the counter, listening to the calm, smooth jazz he had playing quietly out the speakers. He looked at the clock on the wall, 23:37. He was fed up, he needed sleep but he had to remain awake for the no hopers drinking at the table in the corner. And the hunt. After their little “gathering” to discuss their nights activities, they had left to enact these activities. Though, many were doing the work the local law enforcement were too squeamish to do, he thought, some, he wasn’t afraid to admit to himself, made his skin crawl. He simply tolerated it through pure business sense, they all brought large groups and thus, lots of money for his otherwise failing bar. The barman was dragged from his thoughts by the sound of a bell chiming above the door and the sound of heavy boots on wood. In a small bar in France, a man walked in, a thin, weedy man with long black hair and skin that hadn’t seen the kiss of the suns rays in a long time. He had the face of a young man, still not into his early 20s. His clothes were all dark, consisting of jeans, hastily dyed a faded midnight blue and frayed and distressed. His black overcoat, long in the body, was the kind that smugglers and men with something to hide wore, containing many internal pockets and a hood. This was a boy that was trying to hide who he really was, though for what purpose was unclear to the barman.
“Sorry kid, we’re about to close.” a blatant lie, but it might deter potential trouble with his sort of people. The stranger looked at the barman and walked purposefully towards him.
“Hey kid, you deaf? I’m closing up for the night.” The kid leaned towards the barman and removed his hood, revealing himself to be of a typical Asian descent with dark grey eyes. He fixed him with the single eye not covered by his long, dark fringe.
“Right, what do you want?” the stranger, at last, smiled, and when he spoke it was heavily accented and slow, exposing his foreign origins even more.
“Single vodka. And some information.” He said plainly. The Barman raised a single eyebrow quizzically and laughed.
“Seriously kid, can I even serve you? You look about 16. Hell, maybe even 15.” He said in an effort to make this newcomer as unwelcome as possible.
“Well, can you hold hunt meetings?” He said in a hushed voice, and the tone he used was clear that he thought he had a chance to blackmail the barman. The barman simply laughed.
“Kid, go home. Wherever that is.” The barman told him and pointed to a sign above the bar. “No ID means no sale.”
The stranger grumbled, reaching in his pocket. “How’s this for ID?” He said, pulling out notes. “20?”
This brought a smile to the barman. “Yes, this seems to be in good order.” The Barman poured his drink and gave it to him. “Now, what was that thing about information?”
The stranger downed his drink in one gulp and handed the glass back. “Where’s the hunt heading?” He asked.
“They should only be a few streets away”, he said dismissively. “Try going through Rue Lamartine and follow the sound.”
Nodding to the barman as a show of thanks, the stranger left through the oak door he emerged from. When he left, the barman rang the bell above the bar. The drunks, content with their own conversations, suddenly looked up.
“Out guys, I’m closing up” He told them.
After getting rid of them, The Barman poured himself some Whiskey. It was going to be a long night, he realized.
Where was Rue Lamartine?
The question went through his head as soon as he left the dank pub. Why didn't he ask for directions? He’d been so concerned with keeping his cool (a task he had failed in anyway, he realized) he made stupid mistakes like this. What can I do? He thought. Can’t go back in, but I probably won’t find it wondering endlessly. Irritated, he decided he should just try to find it himself, and spent 10 minutes walking through the streets, the weather turning from bitter cold to light rain as he walked along the seemingly endless roads. It was starting to rain heavier, the water pooling on the roads and running off his coat. Think, he said to himself. Do you remember any signs? Then it hit him, he remembered a sign when walking along Rue Mendelssohn. Smiling, he began to run up the street towards the sign. He was halfway up the road when he heard them.
They were faint and distanced, about 8 houses away, but they were in the vicinity of his location. Realizing this might be the hunt; he threw his hood back up and increased his pace further still, sprinting to reach the site. As he ran further down the road, taking a left and finding the surrounding houses becoming more destitute, he heard the sounds more clearly. It was human laughter, mingled with the shouts of the angered and the screams of the agonized. He was struggling now, his body protesting at its relentless punishment. His boots, worn and losing grip, slipped on the rain-slicked streets and he fell to his knees, panting to catch his breath. He forced himself to get up and walk the final few blocks and turned into a shadowed alleyway.
It was an area where the truly hopeless stayed, often occupied by the homeless and the addicted. The alleyway was littered with refuse, beer bottles, bin bags and the like either covering the place with a carpet of debris. The large green compactor at the entrance was damaged and overfilled and the half empty silver cans caught the moonlight. Both houses, whose walls made the alleyway, were either out, or too cowardly to investigate the disturbance further. At the end of this alley was a turning, and after that turning was the origin of the noise, 2 people, all dressed to conceal their features, were viciously attacking a man. One, the tallest and, he presumed, the dominant one, was dressed in a black hoodie and grey trousers. His skin was freckled and his hair was wiry and sliver-white. The one to his left, was shorter, bald and possessed an African complexion, a thick scarf covered his mouth and nose. He wore a vest that exposed his heavily muscular arms, only possible through the abuse of steroids. He had seen their kind before; thugs, probably trying to get the guys money.
Hiding behind a nearby bin, he watched, as he did he got a better look at the victim of the attack. He was about 30, with scruffy blonde hair and a goatee that would of once been the same colour, his face was battered and bloody; one eye was bruised and swollen from repeated attack and his nose and gums leaked his own blood. His coat was open, exposing his shirt, originally white with a symbol he had seen in an elements book; it was stained deep red in his own blood. His trousers, heavy worker man's trousers, were ripped and torn.
Bilious anger simmered beneath the surface of his skin, and he emerged from his hiding place to get closer, sneaking close to the soaked walls of the alley, passing from hiding place to hiding place; the bins, the steps, even a wrecked storage container. He stopped when he got a few feet from them both, and he reached inside his coat, removing an item that helped him many times in Japan: 8 inches of sharpened steel, a hole drilled in the blade to carry an air bubble into the bloodstream and a handle wrapped with high quality leather for personal comfort with a small crow skull charm on the end. His combat knife was the same one he recovered from the building before it completely burned down, the place he took his first lives. Though he hardly needed it, as he possessed a far deadlier weapon, ending them using a blade felt right; it appealed to his sense of fair play. The stranger smiled despite his surroundings and the act he would commit. All the times he told himself he was doing this simply because it was the right thing to do, he still couldn't deny he would enjoy this.
Springing from his hiding place, he leapt into action, stabbing the tallest thug through the back of the neck and tearing it free, a fountain of blood emerging from the wound. His partner, panicking and desperately flailing to stop this newcomer, tried to block the blow with his forearm, and embedded the blade in his wrist. The Mugger howled in agony and wrenched the blade from his attackers grip. Thinking fast, the stranger looked for a nearby weapon, and upon the ground saw a bottle. Scooping it up, he threw the glass at his head, and his aim was true. The green bottle hit the right of his head and shattered against it. The burly man fell to the floor, unconscious and bleeding profusely from his right temple. The emerald glass mingled with the deep crimson pouring from his arm and head. Knowing he was as good as dead, the stranger took the man’s arm and tore the blade out with little resistance, evidently too weak offer any resistance. The stranger almost pitied him as he wiped the blood off the knife using the man’s shirt and replaced it inside his coat.
The stranger turned his attention to the victim of the brutal attack by the muggers, who was by now huddled in the corner and scared for his life, evidently sensing menace from this newcomer. Defying his expectations, instead of killing the terrified man, the stranger offered his hand.
“Don’t worry, I’m not gunna kill you.” He said firmly. The scared man reluctantly grabbed his hand and pulled himself off the floor, wiping his face on the arm of his coat. “What’s your name?”
Still worried, the man stuttered: “ Flo-Florentine.” he said. “My name is Florentine.”
“Florentine? That’s an odd name.” The stranger mused. He noticed that Florentine was desperately looking for a way out, and sighed. “It doesn't matter. Do you know where I can find the hunt?”
“The hunt?” Florentine puzzled. “I’m on my way to them now, come with me” He said.
They walked for a while through the night, the rain easing up until it had almost completely stopped, and the stranger asked why the men had attacked him. Florentine was part of the hunt, and him and a group of several others had attacked a drug den a few nights back, killing several members and putting the place to the torch. The two men attacking Florentine were part of the drug den and saw Florentine’s face in the havoc of the raid, and, to get revenge, had tried to learn the names of the others who attacked the den. “Thanks for killing them, they were going to fuck me up big time.” He said appreciatively.
“Your welcome Florentine.
“Just call me Flow, everybody does”
“Ok Flow." The stranger halted for a moment before asking his next question: "Can I ask, are you an elemental?”
“Saw the shirt then? Watch this.” He said, pointing to a puddle to their left. Subsequently the puddle on the floor began to ripple inwards, condensing in the center until it was a small ball of liquid, no larger than a tennis ball. For several seconds it floated, suspended a few feet off the ground, before dropping back to the concrete with a splash. Flow shrugged. “It's water, still not great at it though. Can you use an element?”
“Plasma” He said, “But I’m not great, only learned I could about a month ago.”
“Plasma eh?” Flow said, amused. “That’s cool. What’s your name, kid?” The stranger smiled.
“I’m Andrew.” He said. “And I've traveled a shit ton of miles to hunt the guilty, so lets find the hunt.”
They both smiled and ran through the dank alleys until they arrived at the sign: “Welcome to Rue Lamartine”
Stepping out the Pub, they were ready to do what needed to be done. We had a tip off, and we needed to enact their vengeance. Walking along the roads, through alleyways and parks. There were 7 of them. Jack, the eldest and the leader, wore thick dark blue chinos and brown trainers. He wore no shirt, instead opting for heavy bandages across his chest. He had a shock of bright blue hair, white eyes and a scar running down his chin and to his throat. He spent his time as he walked sharpening his steel dagger.
Almost always by his side, William wore a black jacket, with a white t-shirt, drainpipe jeans and a black beanie. His hair was bone white and his eyes were completely black. On his back, he carried a katana in a sheath. Amy stayed a few paces behind them, her bright pink hair, tied into a ponytail, flowing in the calm night wind. She garbed herself in denim shorts, implausibly small, a pair of black tights and a red, long sleeved, implausibly tight top, printed with the word “Isolation”. On her face, she wore a pair of square rimmed black glasses and a blue scarf around her mouth, spending her time as she walked fiddling with the pistol in her holster. Next to her almost always was Matt. Garbed in blue jeans, a black hoodie zipped up to the top and a pair of headphones, rock music blaring out the cheap technology. He was completely bald, with piercing green eyes.
Almost always strolling out in front vacantly, Flow spent his time practicing with his ability, creating small balls of water to rest on his palm, despite repeated claims that he was just “showing off”. One of he main members accusing him was Danielle. Just like him she was also practicing her elemental ability, propelling her forwards across the road, she always described it as a useful trait, at least until she could afford a bionic lower body. Her chair was plain and unadorned, no details marking it different from any other. She wore a long, black dress, with bare feet. Her hair, tied into a flowing ponytail, was deep, bloody crimson and her eyes were golden amber. Her thin, elegant hands never left the automatic pistol on her lap. The final member of the group, garbed in almost all black clothing, was Andrew Sol, keeping himself to himself and staying silent.
“So, explain again what these guys have done?” Flow asked, absent-mindedly conjuring a larger water orb in his palm. Suddenly the water orb flew from his hand, hitting him and coating his face in water. Danielle grinned.
“Told you? Weren’t you listening? These guys are traffickers.” Flow wiped his face, annoyed by her irritable nature. “So were killing them.”
“Right.” He said. “And the point in throwing water in my face was?” Flow asked. This was followed by his legs giving way, causing him to fall flat on his face.
“Satisfaction, Florentine” She said, emphasising his name mockingly.
“Fuck sake. I told you to stop doing that Danni.” Jack sighed angrily, helping Flow up. “What’s the point in joining in with the hunt if you spend most of your time pushing Flow over?”
“He’s a dumbass! Why did you bring him along” She spat bitterly. “More to the point, why the hell is he with us?” She gestured towards Andrew. “We don’t know him, how do we know we can trust him? All we know is he’s from Japan and apparently a plasma elemental.”
“Whoa what the hell? What have I done?” Andrew Angrily retorts.
“Kid, your about 16. The only person who knows anything about you is Flow. Your seriously shady, you’re extremely new here but can speak French well and your so thin and weak looking if I pushed you over you’d snap in half. Are you even an Elemental?”
“Fine then, how’s this?” He said, the air around his right hand distorting and rippling with heat. In one flash the air around his right hand burst in a flash of blue fire. Before disappearing as quickly as it was conjured. “See?”
“It doesn’t mean shit kid. So you can use plasma, how do we know you won’t kill us as soon as you get the chance?”
“I haven’t done anything yet have I?” He replied, irritated. “Plus I traveled several thousand miles to get here, don’t flatter yourself thinking I've come all this way simply to kill you guys.” Gesturing at all the group.
“Shut up guys before I mute you both!” Matt snapped, tearing out an earphone. Both Andrew and Danielle grumbled and they all walked (or in Danielle’s case, rolled) towards the house.
For the next 20 minutes, the gang shirked through the alleyways and parks, avoiding the lights of the streets. The only things they saw were women of the night plying their trade on the corners and drunks, thrown out the bars and drinking their cheap alcohol on the park benches. Nobody would remark on their passing, all too intoxicated and caught in their own thoughts to care.
Pathetic. Andrew thought.
Finally they reached the house. The house was in a state of disrepair, the small garden overgrown and littered with rubbish. The house was a standard, 4-bedroom place with a driveway with a cheap car, repaired haphazardly and covered in grime. The house’s lights were switched on, with all the windows hastily covered with various colored curtains or fabrics haphazardly stapled to the windows. At the end of the drive side, was the door. Around the house was a 6 ft wall, with a small tree growing close to its west side. Gesturing for the group to stop, Jack turned to them.
“This is it, the place.” Jack told them. “Kid, go up on the wall and check for anybody looking out.”
“Alright.” Andrew responded, running around the corner to get to the wall. Jumping onto the tree branches, Andrew swung himself up onto the tree and crouched to the wall to check for any men watching at the windows. Nobody looked out; lights were on, curtains drawn. Perfect. Just how long were had they been doing this for? He thought. Months? Years? In his past, he always panicked about getting caught, so did Melissa.
God I miss Melissa. He thought.
He pushed this thought away to the back of his mind.
”All clear.” He whispered, signalling to the gang.
They all quickly emerged from behind the wall, sneaking behind the car. Leaving them behind, Jack ran to the back entrance ahead, testing the door quietly, but it didn't give. Locked. He cursed under his breath, pushing his finger against the keyhole, focusing his attention to the problem, the lock began to smoke a dirty, black colour, heat rippling playing around his finger and the lock. After an angry hissing noise, Jack tried the door again and it swung open easily emitting blaring rock music as the door swung open, and they all instinctively followed towards the house. Halting outside the ruined door, he addressed them all the plan.
“Ok, Danni, stay here and guard the door,” whispered Jack, producing a grunt of irritated acknowledgment from Danielle as she cocked her gun and checked the clip.
“Amy and Kid, come with me, were going in the front.” A smile creased Andrews face in response, the combat knife finally leaving his jacket, while Amy lifted the gun from the hip holster, removing the safety catch with a loud click.
“Matt, Flow and Will, go to the front entrance and kill any trying to escape through there.” All 3 nodded, Will removed the katana from its sheath, Matt pulled his headphones out and grabbed his carving knife that he had used so many times before and Flow put his bladed punch dagger onto his right hand.
“Go.” Jack said, taking his steel dagger, his fingers curling around the handle. The 3 ran to the front door along the wall, sneaking below the windows as a precaution, they still didn't completely trust Andrew. Danielle reversed until she was out the door frame, capable of letting Jack, Amy and Andrew from getting out in a hurry but able to gun down any trying to escape, not that she expected any to get out. They were thorough.
Andrew couldn't help but smile, the hunt had begun.
Moving with a silence that belied his heavy frame, Jack ran through the hallway into the first room he found, a dwelling like a living room. The walls were bare and the floor was little more than unvarnished wood. Over the far side of the place was a cracked glass door, out to an overgrown garden. The only furnishings it had were a large table, several old chairs facing exactly away from the door and an old TV at the very end. Upon the chairs sat 3 men, all of them hard at work. Two of them, the ones closest to the doorway were using rudimentary chemistry sets, heating ingredients. The one closest to the door was mixing and heating a chemical the colour of rich red wine. The one in the centre, presumably a heavy taker of the formula he was making due to his occasional twitches in his left eye, was, likewise, mixing another formula, this one white as fresh snow, occasionally putting his thumb over the end to collect a bit to sample, like a drinks mixer would to check the taste. Next to him, on the table, he had placed a gun. The final one, the furthest drug creator, was mixing a tiny vat of both of these substances. Next to him there was a small mould, plastic and worn with heavy use. Jack had to hold back the urge to murder them all and call Andrew and Amy in with an impatient wave of his hand. Backing away from the doorframe, He told Andrew to wait back near this room, while he and Amy searched another room.
The room next to it was barer, however in this room, presumably a kitchen at some point, someone was baking the drugs into their shape in an overused oven. In the corner there was a large sofa and a ragged, skinny man asleep on it, clutching a shotgun as he slept. Turning to face Amy, he whispered:
“Amy, go help the Kid with the other room, I can handle this one alone.” Amy nodded and silently moved to the living room’s doorway.
“Kid, I want you to sneak behind the closest guy, and when I say go, slit his throat and duck, can you do that?” She asked. Andrew grinned and immediately positioned himself behind the mixer of the red liquid so he couldn’t be seen. He turned behind Amy, who signalled back using her hands, counting back the seconds.
Three. Two. One. Go!
As the last finger curled down to Amy’s small palm, Andrew leapt into action. Putting his hand round the guys face, his fingers dug in to his cheek. Finding purchase, Andrew slammed the knife home into the man’s throat, and he spluttered and choked. Satisfied that the man was as good as dead, he ripped the combat knife out the man’s neck, a fountain of blood bursting from the wound like pressurized water from a burst pipe. Remembering Amy's next instruction, Andrew dropped to the floor. The bullet left the gun with a hard bang, travelling along the barrel and entering the second man’s head, who at this point was fumbling to get his weapon and kill the intruders. The man was dead, falling onto the chemistry set and crushing many of the tubes. The drug left the shattered containers, mixing with his blood and running off the table in a pink liquid mix. The final man tried to escape through the door, seemingly trying to force his way through the glass. Amy didn't let him get that far, she ended him, with a single bullet through the head, his brains painting the window with a red-grey paste.
Hearing shouting upstairs, Amy’s next course of action was to go into the other room, where Jack had left to kill the other 2 men in the kitchen. Following her, Andrew walked to into the room. The man on the sofa was stabbed in the throat had rolled off in his death spasms, falling to the floor onto a still increasing pool of his own blood, seeping through the floorboards. The unfortunate man cooking the drugs wasn't stabbed. His head had been smashed through the glass of his oven. It had then been pulled out and his burnt, glass covered head was slammed in the door frame with such violent anger it was barely recognizable as a face. He couldn't say he pitied him. Jack was in the corner, wiping the blood from his dagger on a tea towel.
“Amy, cut the power.” Jack commanded her.
Amy turned away from him, stepping over the corpse face down on the floor. Standing on the chair the ragged man slept on moments before. Amy reached a plastic, stained yellow cupboard. Grabbing the sides of the door, Amy removed the plastic cover to expose a small, metal circuit box. Jumping off and over the dead man’s body, she turned around to face it. Amy lifted her arm to point at it. Amy’s breathing slowed, becoming heavier. Her eyes stared at the device, intently focusing on the circuit box. Around her arm, sparks and lights began to sputter around Amy. Suddenly they focused into a miniature thunderstorm around her hand, before leaping from her lithe fingers towards the steel metal box. The lights in the house became brighter for a split second, before the bulbs shattered in a shower of sparks. The heavy, intense rock was cut abruptly short. Andrew heard shouting upstairs, followed by the thud of heavy footprints on wooden floors.
Working on instinct alone, Andrew hid at the back of the room, followed by Amy. Unlike them, Jack made no effort to conceal himself, relying on the pitch black to keep him unseen. Within a few seconds, 2 men were running down the stairs. The first one, a burly man in his 30s, with a bald head and a scar across his forehead, was wearing a stained white shirt and black leather trousers and clutching his rifle in his arms. The other one, a man in tracksuit trousers and a black coat was holding his pistol in both of his hands to keep it steady. And they though they could protect themselves. It was laughable. Really.
Jack began to breathe heavily, focusing his concentration and energy on the men barreling down the stairs. He didn't need to focus long. All of a sudden an intense red glow began to emulate from their guns. He was heating their weapons to extraordinary temperatures. The angry hiss of wet matter on hot substances followed, along with agonized screams as men’s hands and arms were burnt on the weapons they entrusted their lives to, their flesh peeling from their limbs. Terrified, the men ran for the closest exit, desperate to get away. And ran directly into Flow, Matt and William.
They didn't last long.
In one swing William decapitated him using his katana; the man’s severed, hairless head falling to the floor in a shower of blood. Flow’s victim didn’t fare much better, his bladed Punch dagger hit the man square in the temple, gouging his brain, leaving him to bleed through his wound, unable to do anything. Watching this all, Jack smiled at the slaughter. Getting up, both Amy and Andrew began to walk towards the back door.
“Right you two.” He said, pointing to William and Matt. “Go check upstairs for more of them.” They both nodded and went to do their duty. They were only about 5 minutes before they reemerged.
“Nobody else in here.” William told them, “We should just go.”
Walking through the house back to the front door, Jack spoke:
“Whose gunna torch the house?” He asked.
“How about the new kid?” Matt suggested. “Might as well.”
Jack grinned at this. “Ok then. Kid, care to do the honours?”
Andrew detoured into the living room, and after a second of focus, projected a large ball of roiling plasma in his hands, throwing it into the wooden table. The wood caught alight immediately, and began to catch the carpet alight. Satisfied that it would eventually spread to other areas, Andrew left the house, catching up with the others in short time. They made there way back to the pub, they could all do with a drink.
I’m doing the right thing.
That is always what Sol thought, and on this hunt it was no exception.
It was almost a month after Andrew first entered the city and tagged with the hunt, finding and excising the degenerative scum that occupied the city of Paris, and every one of his previous hunts was just a case of cleaning the streets of more filth that local law enforcement failed to do so.
However this one was different.
The weather was unpleasant to say the least, it was pouring with rainwater and strong winds blew and whipped at their coats. They had just left the dank, rotting, greasy pub they met in to discuss the next place to raid. Though discuss was an incorrect term, as any objections to what Jack felt was the best course of action were verbally crushed.
“Theres these guys, 2 streets up from here,” Jack told the hunt, as they were assembled around the table. “This one first off: Alex Vochade, Fucking murderer, killed his wife, a policeman and hospitalised some guy called Markos Flint, an old member of the hunt.”
Jack reached into his trouser pocket and removed a crumpled piece of paper, flattening it out on the table.
“His bounty is a thousand euros.” He went on, draining the remains of a pint before continuing.
“This next guy is Mitch Walters.” He began, pointing firmly to the picture on the table. “1 account of murder, 2 on theft and 4 accounts of damaging government equiptment. He has a bounty of 10,000 euros.”
He sighed, and smoked his cigarette, breathing in the smoke, before breathing it back out, savouring the nicotine.
“This final guy, Karl Vanderos, an immigrant from Sector 1 and a human trafficker. He’s been wanted for a while. He’s got a bounty on his head for 5000 euros.”
”We could take him down easy. What do you say?”
As they all looked at each other, everybody wondered who would take the plunge and speak first, until after a few seconds of waiting, Amy spoke.
“Ok, lets go.”
As they walked, Amy and Jack were discussing a previous night’s hunt, talking about how they were getting better at controlling their elemental abilities.
“I swear I tapped his brain!” Amy exclaimed to Jack. “He was totally paralysed.”
Amy had opted to alter her method of dress due to the weather, garbing herself in a navy blue jacket too keep her warm. Likewise, Jack also put on a black slick raincoat, buttoned up to keep the rain off him.
“Sometimes it just takes a while for someone to finally die. You didn’t cut his synaptic link, you haven’t trained long enough to be able to.” Jack told her.
A small way away, Andrew strolled almost casually, at odds with the excitement building up in his body. These hunts were the only thing that gave him a sense of fulfilment, just like cleaning the streets did back in Japan. Though back then it was to avenge Melissa’s death.
I miss you.
He shook the thought away, uncomfortable remembering the painful memories of his betrayal, and instead focused on the mission ahead.
Next to Jack and Amy, scraping a blade across a small sharpening block he kept on his person, Henri strode forwards. His face was thin and his eyes were sunken like a man in the throes of addiction. His short ginger-orange hair was shaved close to his scalp and he owned a full, sunset coloured beard. He wore a blue denim jacket, unbuttoned and showing brown shirt he wore underneath. His trousers were pale grey and covered in a curious netting pattern lined in black. He was an old veteran of the hunts.
To get there, they began shirking through a series of whitewashed alleyways stained and littered with rubbish and oil drums, roads cracked and potholed, the streetlamps fizzing in the rain slick air and the parks, muddied from the rainwater and strewn with cans. At last, they climbed over the wall of the park, ending up just outside the house of their quarry.
It was a mess, the car on the drive was in pieces, one of the wheels was removed and the glass was smashed. The front garden had a fire from a large oil drum with the top crudely cut off, bellowing out black smoke. The stench of burning oil was almost overpowering. Closer to the house they got, they realized this place was obviously still inhabited, though the new owners had put it to new use as a hideout. The windows of the house were either covered with curtains, smashed through or boarded up crudely to try an keep the drafty night air out. Dirty yellow light, emitting from crude bulbs was visable through the windows. Next to the door, thrown aside, was a large plank of wood, no doubt once used to bar the entrance to the house. The brown, varnished door was smashed in with a hole through it.
“How are we going to do this, then?” Henri asked Jack.
“Why don’t you tell us? You've got all the info on this.” Jack responded. Henri seemed to straighten his back slightly and grinned.
“Ok then.” He said arrogantly. “Ill take down the guy in that bedroom. The kid can take care of the living room.” He pointed at the visible light through the window and then to Sol to indicate his plan. “Jack, go to the other door and take out anybody you find along the way. Amy, go to the circuit box and overload their power.” He finished with a happy sigh. “You all fine with that?”
“Alright, I guess that works.” Sol finished, most of his excitement drained by Henri’s smug attitude. “Lets just get this done.”
Amy ran around the right side of the white house and quickly found the house in a sheltered alcove, carefully removing the panel. She gave the rest of the hunt a hand signal to indicate she was ready to do it on the order.
Once signaled, Jack, Henri and Andrew all ran through the house, carefully maneuvering around the wrecked door to find their way into a hallway. Sol watched Jack and Henri tiptoe up the wooden stairs. Breaking away, he turned to another room with a dirty, flickering orange light. Sol wondered about this for a second, before dismissing it to focus on the task at hand.
Stepping through the doorway, he saw the living room. The walls were painted a deep blue and the floor was carpeted off white, probably done by the previous occupants. In the corner was an old fashioned fireplace, soot blackened and still in use, burning the cheap wood that was used to board up the house. Inside there were 2 ripped and tattered sofas, on one, facing away from the door, sat a man in his mid thirties, with medium length blonde hair and glasses. He garbed himself in a blue coat and a pair of black trousers, likely part of a suit. Curiously, next to the sofa, was a houseplant, which intrigued Sol. Upon the other sofa there were bundles of fabric and cushions, most likely used as a bed by one of the occupants.
He slowed his breathing, forcing himself to keep calm as he drew the knife from his coat. Stepping into the carpeted living room, Andrew made no sound as he loped forward towards the unaware man. In one motion Andrew came behind the fugitive and pressed his dagger up to the man’s neck. He was going to savour this…
Suddenly, Andrew was knocked away from the man, and fell onto the thin carpet with a muffled thud. Perplexed, Sol looked around, unsure what had pushed him away. His eyes fell to the plant and he realized, jutting from it he saw a rapidly disintegrating branch, as thick as a single Euro gold coin and too realistically heavy for the simple foliage to support itself.
Plant elemental. Andrew thought. Forgot to tell us that, didn't you Henri?
“Please.” The man said, his voice wheezing and pained. “I’ll give you anything you want but please let me go.”
Sol grinned at his pleading; his outburst had obviously drained him. “I’m afraid I can’t, you’re a wanted man, but because you’re being so polite, Ill make it painless.”
His eyes widened in fear; “Please!" he begged, but it was too late.
Andrew charged his ability, his palms tingling with energy. Within less than a second he created a ball of roiling blue plasma, spitting hatefully in the cool air. Using a simple gesture, Andrew projected the plasma ball towards the man. In desperation he tried to use his own element to block it, but the thick branches he rapidly mutated dissolved almost instantly into vapour, slamming into his chest and burning through his heart and lungs. He opened his mouth as if to scream in agony, but no sound came out, and he collapsed to the floor.
Satisfied, Andrew replaced his dagger in his jacket and left to find the other members, only realizing as he left the fire lit room that Amy had already cut the power. Creeping up the stairs carefully. Andrew got to the second room, occupied by Henri, who was frantically searching for something through stacks of stuff in the room’s corner. A small way away, a man was laying upon the wooden ground, face down, a rapidly growing pool of blood emerging beneath him. Creeping In, he readied himself, drawing his dagger from his coat.
“What are you doing, Henri?” He asked. Immediately, Henri turned around with an angry expression on his face, he hadn't counted on someone discovering what he was doing.
“Why do you care?” He retorted defensively.
“Why are you so defensive about it? What are you looking for?”
“I’m taking back what those bastards stole.” He snapped, gesturing towards the corpse.
Moving away, he returned to his search, eventually finding the object of his obsession after tearing out several drawers from a chest. What he removed suprised Sol.
The trinket resembled a wristband in form, strung around using many black insulated wires platted together until they resembled a thin plastic rope. At either end seemed to be screw attachment to firmly clasp it to its wearers wrist. At regular intervals on the bracelet were small, simple metal and Jewell trinkets. They resembled seeds in shape, but on closer examination each had a clear division. On either side seemed to be 2 polished emeralds, each seed the mirror image of one another. They glinted in the moonlight from the windows as Henri turned it in his hands.
For a moment he simply stayed there, a satisfied smile slowly creeping across his sunken features, before rolling up his denim sleeve and affixing it to his wrist. As he locked it to his arm, Andrew began to notice that the little emeralds began to faintly glow a rich, vibrant green, becoming brighter and brighter until it shone like a green torch in the dark of the room. His eyes widened, he knew what this was.
Elemental Conductor. Andrew thought.
"Is this the only reason you told us about these scum? So you could get your hands on a fucking conductor!" Andrew snapped, doubtless annoyed at the pointless reason they embarked on the hunt.
At that, Henri broke away from his almost childish obsession with the bracelet and shouted to Andrew.
"That Fucking conductor was taken from me by that grubby bastard downstairs!" Henri violently retorted.
Ah bollocks to it, I'm gunna see what jack's up to. Andrew thought, casually walking down the carpeted hallway towards another room, glowing a feint flickering orange of a naked flame. Passing through the doorway, he was confronted by Jack, and he apparently wasn't amused by their shouting.
"Keep your fucking voice down, Kid." He warned. "I'm pretty sure these guys we've killed aren't the only ones here, I can feel it."
Sol's eyes narrowed in irritation at Jacks warning. "How many have you killed here?" He asked.
"2 Guys, Why?" He asked, genuinely confused by Andrew's interest.
The information flashed through Andrews mind, information flashing through his brain as all the pieces finally slotted together. This was why Sol felt uneasy, this is why he didn't trust Henri.
They had been sent to kill 3 men. So who was the fourth man that Andrew killed?
"Wait, if you've killed 2 guys, and Henri's killed one, and I've killed one, that's 4 guys. Who the fuck was the 4th guy?"
Jack leaned in, his breath smelt of alcohol. "Why the fuck do you care? If hes in a house full of scum, hes probably scum."
Knowing he wouldn't get much more of an answer than that, Sol walked downstairs and crept through to the living room where he killed the plant elemental. Kneeling down, Andrew removed his handheld phone from his trenchcoat's inside pockets and turned it on.
Switching it to camera mode, he took several pictures of the dead man's face, before deleting the majority of the more shaky ones to leave only one of either side of his face and a profile shot. Once he was satisfied, he swapped it to its internet capabilities, before using the public criminal database.
Using the phone, he filled out the form, attaching the profile shots of the unfortunate man, his elemental "type" and giving a rough estimation of height and weight. After pressing submit and waiting several seconds, the phone responded with a low tone "dun" alerting that an error message was received.
"Error 021, the following information does not correspond to any records of known criminals, please check the information you have submitted and try again."
That cant be right. Andrew thought. He decided that maybe he made a mistake, so decided to check all the criteria he found, even widening it by removing the pictures and even widening margins in the guesswork columns. Each time it flashed as a selection that yielded no results.
This unnerved Sol a great deal, if it wasn't coming up on the system, that meant 1 of 2 things. Either, whatever crimes he did commit he was never discovered for, or (and this one flashed as more likely) the man was completely innocent.
Before he could mull over the implications of his actions, the familiar thud of booted feet walking down the stairs resonated through the house, before the door was slammed open and Jack filled the doorway.
"We're done here. Grab your stuff and go."
"He was innocent." Sol responded morbidly, the weight of his actions sinking in. "I've checked the records, he was guilty of nothing and I killed him."
At this, Jack finally snapped.
"Kid it doesn't fucking matter if he trafficked people, if he smashed cameras or even if he raped a donkey. Innocence is bullshit. Everybody's done something."
Sol was genuinely taken aback by this outburst but tried to remain an unfazed look. In response to this, Jack simply laughed.
"If you wanna play gunslinger, I don't care, but if your hanging round this place, burn it down afterwards yeah?"
Still torn up inside over the innocent man he killed, Andrew simply nodded in response.
"Meet us at the police station when your done. We wont wait forever and we all just want our portion. Don't show and we'll just split yours." He grinned, resulting in a twinge of anger in Sol.
Satisfied, Jack walked towards the door, his heavy footfall fading away into the background. Upstairs, he could hear Henri banging about upstairs, no doubt looking for more items of worth.
Alone in the main room of the house, one definitive fact flashed through his brain. A simple, undeniable fact.
Henri knew. He set this up to get the conductor.
Sprinting from the room, Andrew got as far as the fifth step before he heard the horrified screaming of a little girl.
His mind flashed. Suppressed memories split and broke free, arriving in a wash of emotional recall.
For a second, he was back in his dark apartment in sector III. The carpet beneath his feet turned to wood and the pale green walls of the hallway transitioned into a grime smeared white, shelves forming in the dark room laden with tins and other myriad ingredients. But most of all, the girls screams weren't that of a little girl.
His mind reacted with the familiarity of the situation, and he ran through the cramped flat, bursting through the screen door, vaulting a table and knocking over chairs in his living room in his desperation to prevent the inevitable, even as part of his mind knew the redundancy of such an act.
Turning a corner, he emerged into the hallway to be presented with the sight of the door open. Two men were present, one in a jacket and shades was stood in the doorway, holding Melissa with his arm around her neck and placing a handgun barrel flush to her temple while she cried and screamed. The other one dressed in a blue-white uniform typical of the soldiers of the IWU and had an SMG trapped to his hip.
"You brought this upon yourself, the pair of you." He said with vindication, a grin creeping across his face.
No, Ill stop this.
Walking forward, Andrew was stopped as the soldier met him, the mans fist connecting with his face with a sickening crunch that broke his nose. Stunned, he slumped against the wall, a small river of blood coming from the wreck of his nose. Melissa tried to squirm free at the sight of her boyfriend's assault only to be cut short by a swift blow to her stomach, winding her and causing her cough and splutter, tears streaming down her eyes.
"We didn't want to have to do this. Well Li here did, he never did like you, do you?." he continued, turning to his companion with an amused expression. Li reacted with a sadistic grin.
"We begged you to see sense but you refused. We can't leave leads alive." He continued, reaching round to pull the casing back, priming it in a painfully slow motion, prompting Melissa to react in startled horror.
"Wait." Said Li angrily. Andrews thoughts flew with dreams of the soldier stopping their torment or helping their escape.
As he turned to Melissa with a lecherous expression, those dreams went up in smoke as it became clear an even more terrible fate was about to befall his girlfriend.
"It'd be a shame to waste a girl like her. I want some fun first."
Terrified, she turned to her captor's face, who merely gave a simple shrug, before throwing her roughly onto the wooden floor in front of Li and pointing the gun at Andrew's head
"Knock yourself out."
Pure horror and fear etched themselves into Melissa's otherwise beautiful face. She screamed with renewed vigor as Li grabbed her by the collar of her shirt and began to tear through the flimsy fabric, ripping the front of her shirt off and exposing her bra. She wept silently as she awaited what was to come.
Realizing that the other man was busy watching Melissa's torment, Sol struck, slamming his shoulder into her attacker in an attempt to stop this horrific act. As he did so, the gun was fired, and Andrew was met with a sharp lance of pain as a bullet embedded itself in his arm. Both of them slamming into the wood flooring, Li got up first, dragging Sol by his collar over to where his girlfriend lay, still too shocked to move, before throwing him into the wall kicking him in the stomach, forcing the air out of his lungs and making him breathe in short, pained breaths. Continuing with his brutal assault, he punched him in the face before finishing with another swift blow to his gut. Andrew coughed up blood as the other man walked over to Sol, placing the barrel of his handgun firmly against his temple, Li put his face close to his ear, and whispered venomously:
"I was gunna put you out cold before I did this, now you can watch as well." He said, ending his comment by slamming his fist into Andrew's pelvis.
He cried out and screwed his eyes tight, trying to desperately keep his tears back and refrain from seeing his girlfriend being violated. As he did so, the suited man walked over to him slowly, pressing the barrel to the back of Andrews head, while his left hand reached over his head, jamming his fingers into Sol's eyelids and forcing them back.
"Watch! You piece of shit!" The other man said, smashing his fist into Andrews stomach.
His eyes darted around the room, before their gaze met and they both saw in each others eyes the reality of their situation and what was to come. His grey eyes flashed with guilt and fear while her icy blue eyes swam with horror and desperation behind a veil of tears. Unable to stop it, Andrew sobbed silently as he was forced to watch her torment.
The memory faded and the sensations of the present returned to him. His skin was coated in a cold sweat and he was kneeling on the stairs.
The screaming hasn't stopped.
Vaulting the stairs 2 or 3 at a time, he burst into the landing, following the sound of the screaming child. His eyes darted at each door, before coming to rest on the 2nd door on the left. With little time to act, Andrew pushed the handle down before slamming the door open.
The room was painted a very pale, almost white purple, while in the corner was a small bed with pink duvet and pillows. Upon the bed was the origin of the terrified screaming. A young girl, no older than 10, was sat upright, utter terror etched into her face scrambling into the corner of the room in a desperate attempt to stay away from her attacker. She had long red hair, heavily freckled cheeks and piercing green eyes. She dressed in simple purple pajamas.
In front of her however, Henri turned to face Andrew, a sadistic grin plastered to his face. Andrew noticed after a few moments that his elemental conductor was glowing brightly, whatever he was about to do, it wasn't good.
"Henri, the fuck are you doing?" He shouted, unnerved by what may happen next.
Henri turned to look at the young girl. "Dealing with scum. There's shit all point in leaving her in a house full of corpses." His smile broadened. "This way she can see her father again."
"SCUM!?" Andrew exploded, finally at his wits end. "She's 10 for fucks sake. Leave her alone, I'm taking her to the station."
His smile faded but his malicious intent was evident in his eyes. "Or what? You're gonna stop me, kid?" He pushed Andrew backwards, seemingly goading him into attacking. Henri laughed. "You? The little Japanese brat who wants to be a hero in Paris. Get the fuck out of here you know nothing, angsting, whiny little shit."
At that goading Andrew's hands, balled into fists, lashed out, hitting Henri in the nose and causing him to stagger back several steps. Before he could recover, Andrew went in for a second punch, and was rewarded with a sharp, bone snapping crack as his nose broke. Getting over the assault, Henri lashed out, hitting Andrew in his side with enough force to knock him to the ground.
Henri then proceeded to wrap his hands around Andrew's neck, evidently intent on choking all life out of his body. As Henri's grip increased, more air was forced out of Andrew's lungs and his vision began to grey. Desperate and working more on pure survival instinct than anything else, Andrew pushed his hands into his attacker's chest and, with a sensation like pins and needles in his palm still noticeable over the burning cramp in his muscles from oxygen deprivation, channeled his elemental power.
Roiling plasma energy released itself through Andrew's pallid hands, burning through Henri's chest, turning muscle, meat and organ into vapor in the air. A pained gasp escaped from Henri's lips and his grip on Sol's throat relaxed. His eyes glazed and his mouth ran with a thin river of blood, before he collapsed.
Using all his strength, Andrew pushed the heavy plant elemental off himself, noticing his trenchcoat and shirt was stained crimson with Henri's blood. Still panting and with his vision still spinning, Andrew sat up, receiving a wash of nausea as his body tried to pump the oxygen rapidly around his body. His head ached to an almost unbearable degree and he looked back on the events that lead to this.
This is a total fucking mess. He thought. How the hell am I supposed to explain this to the others!?
The distraught child on the bed brought his thoughts back to reality.
As he looked at her sobbing face, her tears running down her freckled cheeks, Andrew felt immediately an overwhelming sense of guilt. Acting on that guilt, Andrew walked over to the bed and sat down.
"Hey, shh its ok, I'm not gonna hurt you." He whispered, trying to calm her down.
She tried to scramble away from Andrew, further backing into the corner.
"Shh, please. I'm going to get you out of here." She looked up into his face and he tried to smile non threateningly. "I'm Andrew Sol, whats your name?"
"Ari...Arianna." She said between sobs. "Wheres my dad?"
Andrew paused, the hairs on the back of his neck rising. "What does your dad look like?" he asked reluctantly.
"He... has blonde...blonde hair and glasses." She responded, slowly calming down.
With that utterance, Andrew's mind rewound to his murder of the plant elemental, his desperation was clear, his fear was justified, he wasn't worried for his own life, it was Arianna's.
No. He thought. No. No. No. No. NO. This is fucking bad. What am I gonna say?
Reviewing the situation in his head, he decided his best course of action was to lie.
"I'm sorry, we weren't fast enough. He was killed by one of the guys raiding the house."
Her eyes widened and tears started to build up in her eyes. "Daddy?" was the only word that escaped her lips before she descended into crying uncontrollably, buring her head into her knees. Feeling bad, Andrew did his best to act caring, placing his hand on her shoulder.
"Did you, uhh, know that man?" He says sensitively, gesturing towards Henri's cooling corpse. "The one trying to attack you, I mean."
She looked up, tears still glazing her emerald green eyes. "He...He used to know my dad." She said while sniffling. "It was a fight at a party. Dad...did nothing to deserve this." She trailed off before bursting back into unintelligible sobs.
Understanding that there was little point in digging up more information from the distraught child, Andrew decided it was time to go to the station.
"Arianna, we should get out of here, I'll take you to the station." He said lifting himself from the bed and standing over her. "Get changed, I'll leave the room."
"Okay, but..." She responded, still sniffling and crying.
"What is it?" Andrew said as non threateningly as he possibly could.
"Can you.. can you get rid of the bad mans body, please?"
Andrew smiled politely. "Of course."
Walking over to the dead body, Andrew grabbed both of Henri's clammy wrists and pulled towards Arianna's still open door, straining at his heavier weight. It was then he noticed the elemental conductor strapped to his wrist. Turning to Arianna, he asked:
"Did your dad have a bracelet covered in green jewels?"
"Ye...yes." She stammered.
Nodding, Andrew unscrewed the clasp keeping it around the corpse's arm and threw it to Arianna, landing next to her on the bed.
"I think he would of wanted you to have it." He finished, before returning to his previous action. Dragging Henri through the doorway and taking a right, he eventually propped the criminal's against the landing wall.
Turning away, Andrew shut Arianna's door, before walking back to Henri. Staring into his dead eyes, Andrew whispered venomously to the corpse.
"You...Fucking...Bastard. You orphaned a child over a fight at a party?" His anger slowly swelled until it eclipsed all rational thought, and he unsheathed his combat dagger.
"The only regret I have towards you, is that I can only kill you once." Andrew finished, burying his combat knife into Henri's now useless windpipe.
Withdrawing it from the cooling body, Andrew stabbed the corpse again, into Henri's temple. He then proceeded to repeatedly embed his blade into the criminal's body, each time angrily hitting home with more fury. After about the 6th cut, Andrew dropped the knife to the floor, realizing the absurdity of his actions.
Breathing heavily from exertion, Andrew picked his blade up and cleaned it on Henri's denim jacket, before placing it inside his trenchcoat once more.
Leaning up against the wall, it was only a few minutes before Arianna emerged from her room, wearing a pair of jeans, bright green wellies, a thick dark blue puffa jacket and a grass green beret. Her father's elemental conductor was clasped to her wrist. On her back was a rucksack containing some clothes and books, the contents weren't enough to fill it.
"You've got everything you need, right?" Andrew Asked.
"Mhmm." She said, worriedly staring at Henri's bloodied body.
"Ok." He said, grabbing her hand. "Lets go."
They gingerly stepped over the corpse and continued down the stairs, being careful in the lightless hallway. They eventually turned towards the back door, before opening it and walking out the front garden.
After taking a left, they continued to walk for 10 minutes before Arianna stopped and sat on the pavement.
"Tired?" Andrew asked.
She nodded sleepily and he decided to let her rest for a few minutes, sitting next to her. As she relaxed, his phone vibrated and he recieved a text from Jack.
"You two have five minutes to get your asses down here or your getting fuck all."
Andrew sighed at the text, before replying.
"For fuck sake, I'm on my way."
As he flipped the phone back in his pocket he stood up.
"Alright, lets go." He responded. He received no answer or any form of acknowledgment from Arianna.
"Come on." He said, kneeling down to her level. "We gotta get going." Again, Andrew recieved no response.
It was at that moment he noticed the slight snoring noises coming from her.
Oh, for fucks sake. He thought, picking her up and carrying her so her head rested on his shoulder the rest of the journey.
As he continued throughout the myriad streets of Rue Lamartine and traversing one of the many large parks, Andrew could see the brilliant white and polished glass of the police station in the distance, with the two familiar figures of Amy and Jack leaning against the transparent surface, both smoking and in the midst of conversation.
It was only when he was 10 meters away they looked up and saw Andrew, carrying Arianna in his arms while she slept. At the peculiar sight, both Jack and Amy just stared at him, confusion at the situation leaving them both dumbfounded.
"Why have you got that child, Sol?" Amy asked, staring at him with wide eyes behind her glasses.
"You know the guy I killed?"
"You mean that plant elemental?" Jack responded.
"Yeah, him." Andrew said, unsure as to how to go about the next part. "Turns out he has a daughter. I'm taking her to the station, the authorities should do the rest."
His arms tired, Andrew tried to shift Arianna in a more comfortable position, causing her bracelet to become noticeable. Jacks eyes widened as he noticed it from when it was clasped to a very different wrist.
"Wheres Henri, Kid?" He asked slowly.
Andrew sighed, hesitating before speaking. "He knew the guy I killed, turns out this raid was an attempt to steal an elemental condu..."
"That's not what I asked!" Jack shouted, disturbing Arianna's sleep and bringing her to wakefulness. "Where Is Henri Vaurien?" He whispered.
"Don't avoid the question you son of a bitch or I'll..."
"The bad man's dead."
Everybody looked at Arianna in grim understanding that it was the truth. Scared, Arianna buried her head into Andrews shoulder once again, and began to sob.
"He tried...He tried to kill me!" She wailed in between sobs. "But Andrew stopped him."
She looked up at Andrew with big, tear filled eyes before whispering two words.
Trying to comfort her in her grief, Andrew hugged her tighter as she wept.
"There, there, your safe now." He said kindly.
Bored, tired and still in slight disbelief at Andrew, Amy decided to get on with what needed to be done.
"Look can we just get this shit done? I'm tired and hungry and right now I just want to get some sleep."
Narrowing his eyes at Andrew, Jack simply gave up. "Fine, whatever. We'll deal with this clusterfuck of a situation later." He eventually decided.
Still holding her, Andrew walked into the station just behind Amy and Jack. They approached the main desk, manned by an overweight man in a police uniform scarcely big enough for him.
"I may as well get this done now." Andrew said, approaching the desk.
"State your buisness." He resignedly stated, not looking up from his notebook.
"I have a minor here who's been orphaned." Andrew replied calmly. "Her dad was murdered."
Looking up from his work, the man behind the desk looked at both of them analytically.
"I see." He said, leaning towards Arianna. "Whats your name?"
"Arianna Molière." She said, keeping calm and helping the officer how to spell her surname.
"Okay Arianna, how old are you?"
"Ten years old."
Asking myriad other questions, the policeman turned his chair towards a computer next to him and began to fill the information into the database, after a few moments of typing, he turned back towards Andrew and Arianna.
"Do you mind waiting in the lounge area until we're finished?"
"Alright." Andrew concluded.
Stepping away from the main desk with Arianna still clutched tightly to his chest, he saw Amy and Jack step forwards impatiently, no doubt in a rush to collect the bounty, and decided to stick around to take his share.
"Me and my two acquaintances are cashing in on the bounty of 3 criminals: Alex Vochade, Mitch Walters and Karl Vanderos. Their corpses are located at number 21 Rue Edmond Gmereck."
Once again turning towards his computer to input the information and request confirmation of their deaths, the man similarly asked Jack and Amy to enter the lounge area while they processed the information.
Slowly they made their way towards the lounge. It was a quiet room in general with several plants dotted around the area. The walls were white and almost medically clean, With a window that would show a nice view in the daylight and a clock on the opposite wall ticking away. Around the room were several cushioned chairs and a low square table covered in myriad different magazines. In one of the corners a man in a suit was sat relaxing, reading a newspaper that obscured his face.
Trying to relax, Andrew reclined in the chair, taking off his bloodstained trenchcoat and throwing it over the back of the chair. Arianna sat to his left, twiddling her thumbs before reaching for a bright kiddy magazine hidden beneath several others. Deciding to pass the time, Andrew decided to search through the glossy papers, finding a magazine on elemental ability, several pornographic art books and many copies of the euro zones's "official" newspaper, the Vallarian Post. He tried to read it, but after he found an article on the RWA, threw it back on the table, disgust mixing with hatred at their portrayal as "honorable freedom fighters"
10 to 15 minutes passed before the 3 vigilantes were called into the main hall, and addressed by the same overweight policeman.
"We checked and there where you say they are, the bounty's yours." He said handing the bounty money over the counter, each wrapped in 1000 euro bundles.
Splitting it 3 ways, each member took away 5,300 with the remainder 100 taken by Jack. Satisfied they had what they came for, Amy and Jack left the station for their respective homes, while Andrew went back to the lobby with Arianna, noticing absent mindedly that the stranger with the newspaper had left. Becoming intensely bored in the waiting room, Andrew took another look through the stack of magazines and began to read an article on better reaching your maximum elemental potential, before being called back to the main hall.
"Right, we´ll take her away now, kid." The officer said dismissively.
Nodding, Andrew knelt down to Arianna.
"You´ve gotta got with these people now, ok? They´ll take you to the orphanage and take care of you."
Trying her best not to looked scared, Arianna smiled.
"Okay." She said, before walking over to the desk officer and being taken away.
Sighing, Andrew left the station, and took 5 steps out of the door before the phone in his pocket went off.
As the phone rang inside Andrew's pocket, producing an artful rendition of a Mozart piece, two things became apparent to him. The first was that he had given his new number to no one, had phoned no one and the only time he had ever used it was earlier that night to establish the plant elemental´s innocence. The second fact was minor but somehow more bizarre.
He had never set his phone to play Mozart when it rang.
Hesitant, he slowly reached into his coat pocket to be confronted with a brand new, top of the range mobile that functioned more like a pocket sized data slate than a simple phone. The number on the screen was listed as private and Andrew decided to hit accept.
"Who is this?" He demanded.
The voice on the other end of the call was distorted to heavily disguise it.
"Akira Taiyō, I presume." Even through the various voice alteration filters, his smugness was audible.
Andrew hesitated for a moment, confused as to who would know his birth name, and by extension who would buy a top of the range phone and hide it in his trenchcoat.
"You must be mistaken, My name is Andrew Sol." He lied. "Who the hell..."
"No its not." He interrupted while simultaneously avoiding the question. "Your birth name is Akira Taiyō, Andrew Sol is just a pseudonym you used when you arrived in Paris."
It took all of Andrew´s willpower not to just hang up and destroy the phone. Gritting his teeth, he decided instead to find out as much as he could from his mystery caller.
"Ok, yes. Now, Answer my question. Who the fuck are you, how do you know who I am and why did you hide a phone in my pocket?"
There was a slight pause. "Let's just say I've got friends in high places." He retorted. "Now, I heard about what happened with the vigilante you killed not much more than an hour ago. Henri Vaurien, was it?"
"Shut the fuck up." Andrew said defensively.
"My, My. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" He baited.
"My mother's dead." Andrew sighed. "Seeing as you obviously know a lot about me, you probably know that already. Now, considering you tracked me down and went to the trouble of buying a state of the art smartphone so you could slip it into my pocket just to talk to me, even when you could of antagonized me face to face, can you at least tell me what the fuck you want?"
"Calm down Akira. I just wanted to commend your actions in ridding the world of a Ghost_K informant. I would of done it myself but I have had other affairs to deal with of late."
"How do you know all of this?" Andrew asked. "Are you a government official?"
His tone became more serious through the various distortion effects. "Like I said, I have friends in high places, and unlike the late Henri Vaurien I don't have an ulterior motive to removing criminals. I wish to reward your efforts. I shall provide you with extremely comprehensive, classified, information on some of the most deplorable criminals that dare to tarnish my dear sector." He continued. "Such as Ghost_K employees and sympathizers."
"And in exchange?" Andrew asked reluctantly.
"In exchange?" The man on the other end of the phone call laughed. "I would like you to kill them for me. For that simple act alone, I would provide with you a means to remain within your new found home, free of the threat of extradition."
"Okay, so let me just piece all these facts together." Andrew sighed before continuing. "You're offering me information on some of the biggest threats to Europe's security, coupled with a permanent visa in exchange for nothing more than the deaths of a few choice individuals? How come I don't believe you?"
"Your end of the bargain is to kill them, that's enough. Consider the fact that I placed a smart phone in the pocket of a stranger and ask yourself: 'What could you possibly offer me that I don't already possess?'"
Suddenly feeling stupid for his attempted negotiation, Andrew gave up and made his decision.
"Fine." He said, growing irritated. "I accept your cryptic offer. But how am I supposed to contact you?"
"You won't." The distorted voice replied. "I will contact you, keep this phone and follow my instructions. If you outlive your usefulness, lie to me or try to sell me out, I will see to it that you suffer until the end of time itself."
"Understood. But could you at least give me a name?"
There was a long pause and for a second Andrew had thought that his caller had ended the call to avoid the question, finally an answer was uttered by his caller.
"My name is René Martain."
|K21 - Twisted Deliverance · K21 - Clouded Rectitude · K21 - Bitter Reality · K21 - Bleached Delusions · K21 - Blinkered Discord|