It turned out that I was right about how close my new shadows were. As soon as I had walked a few steps into the crowd, they were everywhere. I only saw five, but every time I turned around, one of the five would be in a different place.
I dived deep into the crowd, but they still followed me. My plan was to see if I could lose them by the time I made it to a subway station. I had seen one on the way there. If there was a checkpoint between where I was and the station, I was more than prepared to simply drop my revolver and its piddly remaining four rounds of .38 Special. Maybe they had deliberately given that idiot such a shit gun so that when he inevitably got disarmed, I wouldn’t have gotten anything good.
The plan to double back the way I had come was dashed when I heard the helicopter blades. I looked up and saw that a group of three black helicopters, one Huey and two Little Birds, flying towards the consulate and pachinko parlor. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw people sitting with their legs hanging off the sides of the Blackhawk. That could only mean special forces. I rubbernecked long enough to avoid arousing suspicion, then headed down the street in the opposite direction.
As I did, I saw multiple police vehicles and two Bearcat armored cars marked with Kanji and the Roman letters “SAT” on the sides rush by. All of them were heading to the pachinko parlor and Consulate I had just shot up. Thankfully, I had gotten to a subway station soon after I had seen my first LAV. The look on my face was mildly interested/concerned (or at least I hope it was) as I watched a cop car and three green Humvee-like vehicles drive past, M2s cocked and manned. Then I followed everyone else down into the subway.
The station was crowded. At first, I thought it was because there was a checkpoint in the station. That would make sense, right? Then I looked over the sea of heads of people going down the steps. There was no checkpoint. Oh God, I thought, Is this how it normally are? No wonder there isn’t a checkpoint here.
The crowd was like a crushing force. I had to fight it just to make sure I was able to pay. I had to fight it again when the next train came and it was going in a completely different direction than what I wanted. Then I had to fight it a third time to get on the right train. That train was standing-room only.
The quarters were so cramped that I instantly gave up on trying to avoid having my gun grind into anyone. I spent a long time desperately hoping certain parts of my anatomy behaved and trying to find a position that would lead to as little unwanted contact for everyone as possible. Of particular note was the businesswoman in sunglasses who was right behind me, trying awkwardly not to look at me.
I also scanned the area for people wearing earwigs and casual business wear. Of course, everyone seemed to be wearing casual business wear, and it was really hard to see if they were mic’d up. I sighed. This was the worst thing ever.
Still, the subway ride wasn’t going to be too long, and when I got out I’d be only twenty minutes away. Still, at each stop, I’d have to brace for the rush of people leaving. It would move me like a fucking tidal wave and I’d have to brace for impact every time I heard a ding. Finally, on the third one, I could go with the flow.
As the crowd pushed me forwards, I noticed that at the top of stairs, a group of JSDF and local officers were randomly scanning people with wands. I sighed. Well, having the revolver had been fun, but it was time to let go. I reached into my pants, decocked it, made sure it was on safe, and then simply let it drop. The din of people talking and a train taking off masked the metallic clatter as it hit the floor. No one even knew there was even a gun.
Luckily for me, they were distracted by a huge baby-faced man of European descent to check for the papers I didn’t have. I continued walking, breathing a sigh of relief that I hadn’t been stopped. Then I suddenly realized I had seen the giant before.
I turned around. The man looked a lot like a fellow student back at NIU. Ulfric Trollbjorn was a baby-faced psycho who was famous among the assorted terrorists, psychopaths and criminals of the Academy of Military Science and Shadowhaven for how many people he had killed with his bare hands. If you told me you had seen him rip out people’s spines out like the Predator or took a man by both ankles and pulled him apart like a whishbone, I’d laugh and say I’d seen him do worse. If you said you’d heard a more disturbing sound than his high-pitched, weirdly innocent giggle that he gave whenever he found something amusing (I hadn’t really got a read on his sense of humor, he rarely talked,) I’d call you a liar. Needless to say, I made a double-take.
At first, I breathed a sigh of relief. The attitude was all wrong for Ulfric. Ulfric was childlike but obviously scarily intelligent. This guy, however, seemed normal. Where Ulfric would either be wearing his default grin, have some sort of hangdog expression, or be gleefully dismembering people, this man was arguing with several JSDF soldiers, his hands moving animatedly. Another even bigger giveaway was that the man was speaking. Ulfric spoke. Hell, from what I could tell, he spoke every language known to man like a native. The problem was that on a good day he could only seem to speak a sentence or two at a time.
“Oh!” a woman said as she bumped into me. “Sumimasen!”
I waved her off, then continued to stare at the Ulfric look-alike. Everything about him looked exactly the same as Ulfric. His buzzed hair, his sheer massive size, how he was built like a slightly more muscular-than-usual runner, and his baby face were all the same as Ulfric’s. I stared at him for a while. There was no way this man could be anything other than Ulfric’s twin. I refused to believe there were more than two baby-faced giants in the world.
I shook my head and began to walk away. “None of your business, Nate,” I said. “None of your business.” This was definitely not something I needed to know about.
A few blocks later and the crowd had mostly begun to clear out. I then began to notice that there were people following me. I first noticed it when I looked in the reflection of a small electronics store. Pretending to watch the TV’s news report (for some reason, it had a picture of a cartoon UFO on it,) I noticed some familiar faces I had seen on the train, one woman, two men, all three wearing businesswear and sunglasses. I suddenly realized that the woman had passed me when I was staring at the Ulfric-impersonator. She had also been standing behind me on the train.
It was probably nothing, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Not today. Not after a Military Attaché had attempted to poison me. Not after a bunch of his friends had stormed a consulate just to kill me. Not when those friends were from an organization that had been famous for training ninja back in the day. I began dodging them.
I lost them quickly. All it had taken was going through another shopping mall, this one a lot seedier. Then I was on my way back to the dump.
When I got to the dump, a nasty thought occurred to me. These were people who had hacked into my abandoned cPhone in two hours, something that should be impossible. They were obviously really good with tech, and that woman had been extremely close to me on multiple occaisons…
I checked my pockets. There was a small plastic strip that hadn’t been there when I had put on my pants this morning. A red dot blinked away cheerily. Shit.
I sighed and entered the dump. As I did, I tossed the tracker into a pile of rotting food and hoped it sank deep. Then I went to find John. I figured I had five minutes until a Defenders team showed up and shot me to death.
I had not been looking for even a minute when the business lady who had bumped into me jumped out from behind a pile of garbage and hit me in the face with something. There was a flash of white and I was suddenly looking up at the woman aiming a very familiar revolver right at my face. “I believe you dropped this,” she said, smiling evily.
“How did you know…” I asked.
“Later,” she said. “Get up.”
“Ok,” I said, following her orders, “but you should know, if that gun is the same one that I dropped, it isn’t loaded.”
“Ok,” she said as I got to my feet, “then rush me.” She pulled the hammer of the gun back, her finger resting on the trigger. When I didn’t, she sighed. “Did you really think I was that stupid?”
“No,” I admitted, “but considering how I got it, I could always hope.” Unless this woman had decided to go on a rampage, that revolver still had four of its five shots left. Not a lot of margin for error, but more than enough to ruin my entire day.
“Where are we going?” I asked. She motioned deeper into the dump. I followed her orders.
“So,” she asked, “why did you even come here?” I noticed that her voice seemed slightly nervous.
“I don’t know,” I said, “why do you want me alive?”
“Leverage,” she said. “If you were us, would you want to fight the combined might of the British Empire? We keep you for a while and negotiate for peace.”
“And what about Mayu?” I asked. “I thought you started this because you wanted her dead. Or at least some of you wanted her dead.”
“I’m not informed about that,” she said. “Why did you say you came here again?”
I was trying to think of a lie when we both suddenly heard a series of muffled pops. I turned around to look her right in the face. “Oh, I was going to meet up with my friend, John Marshall. Did Nakashima tell you about the program we went to?”
Judging by how her face went pale, she had. Just as she glanced in the direction the shots had come in, I made a grab for the revolver. It went off, but I had knocked it out of her hands. She kicked it away.
That’s when I made a mistake. I dived towards the gun, thinking my opponent would as well. I miscalculated, landing a few inches. Before I could adjust, I heard the click of a safety being disengaged. “Don’t do it!” I heard my opponent say. I froze. “Put your hands on your neck,” she said, breathing heavily. “Interlace your…”
She was cut off by the sound of a silenced pistol unloading. Not daring to look up, I asked, “Hey John, is that you?”
“Who else would it be?” John’s voice asked. I could hear him moving towards the corpse and me. “The Dragon’s Teeth? Aliens?”
I at this, I got up and looked John right in the eye as he kicked away a pistol from my attacker, a silenced Glock still trained on the corpse. “Knowing your luck,” I said, “Both of those are in our near future.”
“You realize,” John said, looking directly at me, “I could shoot you and say one of them did it?”