Chapter 4: Aftermaths

Previous: Heist, Part 1

Sharp splinters of pain pulsed from Gonzalo’s wound with each step he took. Since this was his second time this day, he had to override his safety restrictions to order a double hit of epinephrine. As it started to hit his system, Gonzalo assessed the situation.

Given his injury, the green-haired girl was running faster than he was, but he had a couple of advantages. “Robin. Intercept, please” he muttered into his mouthpiece. Robin was one advantage. The other was that he looked like a sprinting cop with a drawn gun. People were mostly ignoring his quarry but were clearing out of his way.

He’d only been running for a handful of minutes when he stumbled to a halt. He still had a clear path to his target, but the pain was intense and he just couldn’t get his legs to move. He passively noticed his gun gliding into position and his finger squeezing the trigger. The resulting thunder startled deep-seated instincts and his legs started propelling him towards the girl again.

It took at least a second before he realized what had happened. He had just shot an unarmed girl in the middle of a crowded street, in broad daylight. He felt he should be praying but couldn’t quite remember how that was done. As Gonzalo reached his victim, he observed the tip of his gun vibrating at high speed.

By the time his gun went flying out of his hand, all of his attention was focused on trying to still those tremors. By the time he looked down, the girl’s foot was back on the ground and her arm was raised and pointed at him. By the time the three gunshots rang out, his face was still covered by a look of confusion. By the time Robin’s van ran over her, he was no longer properly processing everything he saw. By the time his had hit the pavement, he was no longer seeing much at all.

Kat shifted uncomfortably on the mat. She had tried to explain to Diki that she wasn’t in the mood for this, but had just been told that “If Ella and Patrice can sit still for thirty minutes, then you damn well can too,” in that stern voice that permitted no dissent.

And so she sat, shifting her weight, staring at the painting of Chenrezig and trying not to dwell on the chaos of the previous day. It was hard, though—there was a lot of chaos to dwell on. That said, Chris was going to be back soon, and he would figure things out. What if—

Nope. She was drifting. Back to Chenrezig and his smug face. Hm. She probably should think about Chenrezig in that way. It was kind of smug, though, sitting there all serene, mocking her turmoil. She should probably be doing Mahākāla instead, not that she would suggest that to Diki. It would just lead to yet another meditation session and Kat just wanted this to be over with.

With a sigh, she tried pulling herself back into focus. She was mildly embarrassed by how tranquil Ella and Patrice looked. They were definitely doing better than she and Chris did at that age. Hell, they were doing better than she was right now. Maybe Diki had learned from her failure to instill proper decorum in the two of them. Or maybe, they were just better kids. The latter was more likely. After all, they were better kids.

The bell interrupted her rambling thoughts far better than Kat had managed to. Diki leapt to her feat and proclaimed the word Kat had been waiting for: “Breakfast.”

Pain. For a time, it was the only fact he knew. Then enough came back that he realized that he could scream. He tried. A low groan emerged. A figure leapt up and started saying something to him. The face was a dark brown blur but he made a guess as to who it was. “Robin?”

With concentration he managed to piece together the response. “I’m here. How are you feeling?”

Gonzalo tried to chuckle but it came out as another groan. “I’ve felt better,” he rasped. He tried to order his system to give him painkillers but it wasn’t responding.

Robin started to say something else, but was pushed aside by a man in a white lab coat, who started fiddling with something attached to his arm. Ah…there’s what he needed. His vision started to blur and then go black.

There was still pain this time, but it was a more manageable amount. The thirst, though: that was intense. “Water” he croaked.

This time Robin shouted “Doctor” before coming over and grabbing Gonzalo’s hand.

Gonzalo tried to squeeze the hand, but it shot him a pulse of pain. He tried again: “Water.” Robin just smiled down at him.

He waited until the doctor entered the room and then tried a third time, but got a shake of the head in response. “You are on an IV. It’s giving you all the water you need. No taking anything through the mouth for a time. Now, how are you doing?”

Gonzalo groaned. “Everything hurts.” He paused. “But, it’s a seven, not a ten.”

“OK.” The doctor nodded and smiled at him. “Now, I need to run some tests. Let’s start with an easy one. Do you remember your name?”

Gonzalo sighed but complied and confirmed that he did remember his name, could add small numbers, could follow fingers with his eyes and that yes, it did hurt an enormous amount when the doctor poked him there. After what Gonzalo felt was an unreasonable number of tests, the doctor told him he could talk for a bit but needed rest soon and left the two of them alone.

Once the doctor left, Gonzalo turned to Robin. “Rob, we need to get back to work!” He tried to sit up but the searing pain dropped him back to the bed.

Robin grimaced, then put his hands on Gonzalo’s shoulders and kissed his forehead. “No, you need to rest. You’ve been shot four times and your face is on every news bulletin in the state. It was hard enough smuggling you back to base, since if you went to a regular hospital, the cops would be there in a heartbeat. You are not going back out there any time soon.”

“But, what about the—”

“Al’s been put on the case. When you’re feeling better, you’ll be helping me run back end support, since they still want our expertise for this, but you can’t go out into the field.”

Gonzalo exhaled and tried to melt into the bed. That hurt almost as bad as the gunshots. The world was descending into pure chaos and he was stuck in a hospital bed, hoping that arrogant heathen would solve things for them. Anger started to boil up at being unable to do anything. Then, he forced it back down. There was one thing he could still do.

Gonzalo started to pray.

Kat opened the door to Chris’s grizzly stubble and sheepish grin and was immediately in the air being crushed. Kat put up with it for about a second before “Okay. Enough. Put me down.”

Chris guffawed but put her on the ground and waved to the rest of the room. “Hey, everyone.” He walked straight to the nearest couch and flopped down and looked back up at her. “Seriously, K, you okay?”

Kat rolled her eyes. “I’m…” she paused for a moment and bit her lip, “better than I was yesterday.” She nodded and grinned. “I’m doing fine, all things considered.”

Diki turned and looked at the kids. “Ell. Patrice. Why don’t you go up to your room?”

Ella just stared at her. “C’mon. We want to hang with Kat and Chris, too.”

“No, Ella. Now.” Ella gave a bit of a snort but grabbed Patrice’s hand and stormed upstairs. “I figured you’d want to talk shop and don’t need your delinquency corrupting them.”

Chris nodded. “Okay, Kat. Let’s see what you got.”

Kat tossed him the pouch and Chris started examining the contents while Kat spent the next hour handing him tools and making bad jokes about callipers.

It was nearly time for dinner when Chris finished and looked up. “Okay, so most of these are reasonably valuable jewelry, probably worth a few grand all together. These two, though, they’re something else.”

He held up a silver medallion with a carving of a Chinese-style dragon on it. “I can’t figure out much more without taking this apart, but this has some sort of high energy power storage in it. Think a high-end expensive battery. What it’s connected to, I have no idea.

“And this one,” he showed her a gold ring with three bands of rubies that each could rotate independently. “It seems to be jammed full of electronics. Additionally, one ruby on each band seems to have a voltage difference with respect to the others. Combined with this notch here, I’d say it’s some sort of combination lock. There’s only about twenty thousand possibilities so I can probably just brute force it given some time.

Kat nodded and stood there for a time, trying to think through the implications but no pattern was emerging.

Chris sounded hesitant when he looked up at her and said “Kat, I think I have a theory…”

Ave woke up only minutes after being run over. The cops weren’t even here yet. She ran a diagnostic routine and was informed that her neck was broken. That would complicate things. It was time to call home.

“Grand Seeker Ave Luna reporting. Ambushed by hostiles and wounded. Need a police coverup. Also, it looks like I’ll be out of commission for a day or two, but I’ll want a full strike team for when I’m ready. At least 40 operatives.” Her report over, Ave turned off her pain settings and went back to sleep.

Next: Chapter 5 Coming June 1

2 thoughts on “Chapter 4: Aftermaths”

  1. the juxtaposition of science horror (the graphic visceral nature of the cybernetic implants) and the spiritual realism (the apparently catholic praying, the mention of Mahākāla and Chenrezig) and its mystery is incredibly refreshing. like the becomings of something akin to Shadowrealm but toned down and much more easily digestible yet at the same time more exciting, it allows for more tension when you can’t just rely on a healer mage to fix everyones wounds, but still allows for the magic of the unknown to shine through. as well, the culture and street level perspective, the use of the docks with their cranes and cargo and dock workers, helps inject life into the story and make it breathe and not remain just a series of plot points or gimmicks to attract a reader. this is enjoyable writing so far.

    1. Thanks Brendan.

      Yeah, the religious stuff wasn’t initially a part of my premise or its core themes but it wound up emerging when I started thinking about who all of these characters are. The thing is, in the real world, an awful lot of people are quite religious so in any story set in the real world, if you want a realistic set of characters from a spectrum of walks of life, several of them should be religious. There’s a spectrum, too. I’m not sure how well I portrayed it, but Diki and Gonzalo, for example, are both very devout and care about their religion, whereas Kat is more Buddhist out of habit.

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