Monthly Archives: May 2015

His suit chimed.

Agent Aird is an exceptional resource.

Agent Aird comes highly recommended.

Agent Aird is distinguished through initiative.

Dr. Grace Li offers a personal commendation.

Agent Aird is successfully on track to obtaining his A-5.

He was also dying in a dumpster.

The exceptional, highly recommended Agent Aird had been awake for an hour. It felt like days, and every sound that led to nothing stretched his wait. He’d sent a priority distress alert when his eyes first opened, but until his partner acknowledged it, and according to his goggles, she hadn’t, here he stayed, trapped in rancid bags of trash.

It’d been said that men were best known by their garbage. The dog shit priming his heels for when he finished sinking through molded curry gave all sorts of insight into these residents: they were assholes, in case attempted murder left too much doubt about it.

His suit chimed. He’d fought five broken ribs and a shattered leg to pull his goggles from their pouch on his calf; he would answer every ping it sent, whether or not they had news.

« Administering 87 (12%) – confirm/deny? »


He lowered his goggles back to his collarbone right as the arms of his suit hissed. The hundred, tiny needles pinched to bring a familiar, jolting high, and then dulled to a lucid hum.

« 87 (4%) administered. Next recommended dose: 17 minutes. »

This text was how he tracked time. The 87 could blunt severed limbs to a reasonable ache without the 85’s constipation, but like the rest of the 80 series, and unlike the 90s, it didn’t repair damage and wasn’t designed for extended use.

He hadn’t requested the 90 series. Those were for suits who got caught or were too stupid to think of a way out. Masked suits, in other words. Deployable.

Agent Aird anticipates and learns from others’ miscalculations.

He shouldn’t have borrowed her mask. Fading was already his second nature, and the edge a mask offered provided nothing if he broke his own illusion. The room upstairs was a mess; the most management-friendly explanation placed what happened on him unsettling the wrong pile of dirt. He knew better, but his alternative theories refused to ignore that that person had been neither one of them nor a civilian. If he’d been wearing his goggles instead of trying to make nice with subordinates, he would have an answer by now.

« Administering 14 (100%) – confirm/deny? »

Agent Aird blinked to deny and lowered his goggles again.

The 10 series moderated moods. His suit had sensed frustration, compared it to his physical health, and decided he was disadvantaged if he needed to hide. The fading technique relied on a calm mind, which didn’t come easily to rookies or closet panickers. As suits were no small investment, and following the mantra adopted from their parent company, the Agency picked salvage over surrender and developed a would-be Zen-state Viagra. He didn’t need it. He put his theories on hold, agreeing to look into them after he escaped this wet egg stench.

The last hiss of his 87 reserves ended with a whimper. There’d been no acknowledgement of his distress alert. His suit offered him the 14, and once he more, he blinked to refuse it. He could wait.

For seventeen long minutes, Agent Aird endured. By the eighteenth, his body realized how hard he’d hit the trash. A tremor started in his right thigh, and a pain near his spine thrummed down his torso.

« Administering 14 (100%) – confirm/de– »

He turned off the chimes.

Bracing took his whole focus. He didn’t notice the voice until it was outside the dumpster, muffled by the closed lid. No one else spoke. It must have been a phone call. So now he had to die quietly lest he alert the damn civilian, because if this was a person from his team, they would be saving him.

No sooner did the thought occur than a rusted screech of hinges cried out. He whipped his good arm to block the sun, but not before its light rented into his eyes. The pain sparked havoc through his limbs, like every nerve had ripped along an old wound. It ended just as violently, buried by a newfound weightlessness. The syringe he’d also failed to notice needling his jugular then pulled from his neck and dropped beneath the curry.

“… say Pa Ma foot –” Blather. “– cash tay marred.

Not English. He told his good hand to reach his goggles and translate, but the weightlessness worked too well. He overshot and hit himself.

“Ban Prussian fawn, cash neuf.

French. Was there another language he should have expected? The five words of it he remembered from grade school and movies bubbled to mind, and at the silhouetted figure he strained to see, Agent Aird mustered a frail, disarming, “Bonjour.”

The lid shut. The voice moved a step away, never missing its beat.


Before he’d been chained to a furniture pyre at the top of his list of extenuating circumstances, he called it impossible to screw up on matching senior Agents to their rank. The upper tier took to promotions like they came with vows to uphold the stereotypes: A-5s were too giddy over having authority to use it less than excessively, while A-4s, who were arguably better, imagined every fourth word was a coded slur. He had yet to meet an A-1, but the rumors promised twelve, hulking gods. Personal experience with his A-2 confirmed those rumors that any of them running their assigned facility on only a handful of Adderall and bi-nightly therapy sessions was underworked. With so many ranks leaping over each other to be the most choleric, it was almost inspiring to hear them agree that A-3s were undisputedly the most self-centered.

An A-3’s responsibilities began and ended at their case, and they had as much interest in other Agents’ affairs as they did in revealing their own. This was a rank guided by avoiding inconvenience, which gave them a unique logic behind saving colleagues from death one minute, only to lock them back inside a reeking vault the next for talking.

There’d been an A-3 listed at this area. This was not them. Agent Aird went for his goggles, and had the pair this time when the sun violently returned. Once the stream of colored dots across his eyes waned enough to see, the silhouette gave way to details of a man propped over the edge. One hand, the hand holding a phone, draped loosely over the dumpster’s rim. The other stayed lifting its corrugated lid.

He was in his forties, this rescuer. His head cast a triangular shadow, and in his gleaming aviators was the haggard reflection of a buried suit. These mirrored lenses rested on a nose that looked broken more than once, above a jaw bearing its own shade from two days’ worth of growth. This stubble matched the black fuzz looming over his creased forehead, and darkened the already grim lines around his mouth to a permanent, unsurprised wince.

“Agent Aird,” the figure told him. “You’re in my garbage.”

Agent Aird’s tongue felt too numb to talk. He made it work.

“I’ll need,” he huffed, “to see your ID.”

Those grim lines tightened. Agent Aird felt an immediate, cold sweat despite his current inability to feel. He was about to sputter an apology and lather his request in more pleading when a sudden understanding of the gesture swept over him: this man thought this was funny. The tighter wince was there to smother a grin, which un-smothered as soon as the man recognized Agent Aird’s enlightenment. Without a word about it, he obligingly tossed the lid to support itself against the building, and then retrieved a card from inside a scuffed jacket that would have been black three years ago.

“A suit who asks for facts before he makes his decision.” A-3, the card confirmed. Agent Benoit Talbot. “We should throw more of you from windows.”

Rude frog.

“Thank you, sir, for your timely intervention.”

Had he been allowed to finish the ceremonial gratitude, he would have next explained how he’d arrived here. Instead, the A-3 moved on to producing a cigarette, jamming it in his mouth, lighting the snack, tucking his lighter back into its pocket, and exhaling a long, plume of smoke, all while refusing to put his phone away. Agent Aird cut himself off by coughing, and Agent Talbot, seemingly content with this, ordered, “Skip to the part where you thought he was an Agent.”

The man spoke like a cartoon, through his nose and in a leaden accent that clumped his words and hit as much pluralization as it missed. He also claimed to want an answer, but without the apparent intention of listening to one. While this wasn’t French that Agent Aird had ever heard, as far as whether Agent Talbot was an A-3, it couldn’t be more obvious than if he closed the lid now and never returned. Hoping to avoid precisely that, Agent Aird continued.

“You’re referring to the gentleman…” Those lines tightened. He changed his phrasing. “… the individual upstairs.”

Agent Talbot’s reply in its entirety was to wait on his elbows at the dumpster’s rim, perched. More smoke curled from the cigarette’s red tip. Again, Agent Aird continued, grateful for the weightlessness’ effect on a clenched jaw. The upper tier demanded respect.

“He asked about my case. He wanted to know how many were on the primary team, who was managing it –”

“The NCA.”

This was his turn to ask a question.

“If you’ll excuse me, Agent Talbot –”


The noise caught him off-guard. Agent Aird recovered just as politely, with a pleasant but curious, “Sir?”

Bo. Tal-bo. Ignore the last T.” When Agent Talbot now exhaled, he switched to saying, “In fact, ignore the name completely. Jason. Benoit. Ignore the last T.” Some ash flicked between them as a multitasking indication towards Agent Aird, and to knock the burnt excess into the waste. Agent Benoit Talbot, lacking two of his three last T’s, added, “You won’t impress me with formalities when all I can ask myself is what that is on your arm.”

Agent Aird checked to then report, “Fish, sir.”

“Mm.” This simple conclusion bored the man. “You were saying something.”

“Yes. About the NCA’s involvement. That’s protected information,” Agent Aird reminded. “I understand you’re an A-3, and I can provide you the details you need, but if you’ve obtained access through means I wasn’t made aware of, outside of legal protocol, I’m not sure I can cooperate – wait, wait!”

“Jason,” Agent Talbot overstressed, mid-reach of his cigarette hand towards the dumpster lid, “I have things to do.”

“I understand that, sir, but – wait,” he nearly snapped. Agent Talbot waited. The lid was now half-closed, shielding Agent Aird’s head from the angry sun. “I was dropped from a sixth story window by someone who more than presented at an A-5 status. The only reasons I’m alive are the dozen adjustments to my suit’s shock absorption last month, not landing on my head, and wearing something that’s kept my insides inside on impact. I’ve had to remain this way because my subordinate failed to address my distress alert, and because I extended my deference to higher ranks to someone who isn’t part of the Agency. I can’t feel the pain, but I’m sure I’m still dying for my mistake. You’ll have to forgive me for being sensitive.”

This became the longest handful of seconds he’d endured yet. He watched himself in Agent Talbot’s mirrored lenses, looking too young to be taken seriously, gawking with his mouth open as if he had more to say. It may have been why the A-3 stood frozen. That, or the thrill of leaving him to rot was a lot harder to ignore than Agent Aird felt comfortable imagining.

“Your subordinate,” Agent Talbot finally said. “Karla Chai. A-6 Deployable.”

Agent Aird blinked up at him.

“You’ve seen her?”

It would explain how –

“Put your goggles on.” Agent Aird didn’t waste a moment doing as he told, further inspired by the A-3’s relenting decision to re-open the lid. Once he had, the man now standing over the dumpster rather than leaning on it said, “Find case DTD 05.”

Agent Aird did this, too. Across his goggles’ interface appeared the large, loud word of Classified. Underneath was a plainer notice reading, “Case lead: Benoit Talbot.”

“I don’t understand,” he admitted.

“You want to talk about protected? About access outside of protocol? Everything in that file is for my eyes only. When I’ve finished, I’ll pass it off to whichever A-5 who wants to feel special by archiving high level documents, but not before. It’s a simple system, one you’ve bruised by intruding on my case, in my room, and in my garbage.” The humor in Agent Talbot’s voice about this from earlier failed to appear at its second mention. “You spoke to him. Cooperate, or he discovers your suit has had those shock adjustments, and that you’re still here.”

The ball landed in Agent Aird’s court. He worked through this information.

“This really is a DTD site?”

Agent Talbot reared back, like he was ready to take off and slam the lid after all. He didn’t go through with it, but his tone changed again to something near patronizing. He flicked away his ash and said, “My boy doesn’t lie. He gives half-truths. Being on the case is an old favorite. What did you tell him?”

“That my target is being tracked at her regular establishments, and that her latent abilities require physical distance as a precaution.”

Apologies were best made through actions. Agent Aird’s had been accepted, as evidenced by Agent Talbot leaning his elbows on the rim once more.

“Keeler.” The novelty of the A-3 knowing everything had worn thin. “You realize she moved.”

“Yes, sir.”

It’d been brought to his attention.

They had come full circle, because the ghost of another smile quickly hid behind a smoke screen and innocent, “Do you know where she moved to?” Not waiting, Agent Talbot finished, “516. One floor below. She claims she got a better price.”

“You spoke to my target?”

“Ben sir.” That was more French. “Since we’re all doing it. But my question is, given the number of little details you don’t appear to have, where did you get your information?”

Agent Aird prided himself on admitting faults. It sped up being able to fix things when he bit the bullet early. Right now, he recognized he’d been distracted by trying to process an A-3’s actual ribbing to see where this was going. Agent Talbot’s aloofness waned, and when his grinning wince tightened now, it took on an air of concentration. These changes were slight and almost imperceptible with sunglasses blocking the man’s eyes, but Agent Aird paid too close attention to miss.

For whatever reason, the A-3 was more concerned by this than by what had happened during Agent Aird’s DTD encounter.

“From the working case file, sir.”


“Two days ago.” And it was gone. The instant those words hit the air, Agent Talbot stopped caring, leaving Agent Aird flapping in the breeze as he waited for the reward that wasn’t coming: the full story. “If something is wrong with my case, I’m obligated –”

“Your case is safe, only missing your target’s proper whereabouts. Stay out of 616,” Agent Talbot said. He crushed his snack on the dumpster’s inside wall and dropped the butt down a corner. Agent Aird might have protested this if he wasn’t more immediately concerned by the A-3 reaching for the lid. “Thank you, Mr. Aird. You’ve been very helpful.”

The hollow slap of this rotting grave closing drowned out his yells, but the even worse sound of a phone being answered while footsteps moved away shut him up entirely.

Jason laid his head back on the trash bags.

Agent Aird’s deference to higher authority can come at personal expense.

He noticed his suit had been trying to ping him. It quietly rumbled against his collar.

« Administering 14 (100%) – confirm/deny? »


But maybe.

Was there a dragon?

The only reason Alex stayed in the lobby was to make sure they weren’t coming back. Once he had, he headed straight for the hall on the left – chin down, hands inside his pockets, moving until any eyes keeping track lost sight of him – and went that way until he hit a corner turned towards the mansion’s guts again. He stopped there and leaned against the wall, relieved at finally having one behind him.

“So that was…” Yeah. He leaned his head against the wall, too. “Fucking artists…”

I warned you. ‘Pack of dicks’, I said.

“I thought you meant they’d laugh at my sense of style or something, not flip out ‘cause I can’t recite the zodiac.” Was there a dragon? His one shred of knowledge on this thing had vanished. “Forget it. I’ve got bigger assholes to worry about than her asshole friend.”


“The Agents.” Xander took the dumbest stuff as compliments. “Tell me you have something on them. Anything.” The sooner they nailed this theory on who these swarms were after, the better. He didn’t get a reply, though. When the reason for that dawned on him, he ground his knuckle into his forehead, trying to smother the thudding aches. “Thank you, Xander, for being the bigger asshole, even though you had no reason to help me outside of your giant, caring heart.”

Xander flopped around in his tribute, enjoying the praise, but eventually reported, Nothing new.


Surprise, surprise – I can’t hunt Agents where there are no Agents to be found. His fist clenched. Did make progress on this, though.

“Wh–” And he dropped, collapsing on the tile as he choked, “– furh –”

I told you. You had ten minutes. As he sat with face planted on the floor, hacking from the pain across his ribs, Alex vaguely remembered those words. It’s 8:13, which means you got an extra seven.

“Thanks,” he rasped, “for being so patient with your shot to my lungs.”

Yeah – I mean, I’m not gonna be rude about it. We were in the presence of Terrance SheridanOh, was that what made the goddamn difference? Hey. You’re still down there.

He had ten minutes to fetch a drink and nine seconds to get up after he didn’t. Alright. There was their schedule. He climbed awkwardly to his knees.

“Happy?” Great. Talking hurt. “I can’t leave until Beth’s back, genius.”

I can wait. But owing to your poor decision to save Pequods ‘til after the gallery – oh no, sorry, fucking ‘Roasters’ – you better hope she’s here in the next three minutes. His torso went numb. Xander had taken it for a bit. Aw, you fuckin’ baby. Quit flattering yourself. You’ve walked into doors harder.

“Doors don’t aim,” he chewed off. But he stood, annoyingly aware of how it’d changed from ‘effort’ to ‘instinct’ over the years. The silence hinted someone was waiting on gratitude for that, too. “This doesn’t count as training me.”

You took a surprise hook, coughed a little and hopped up. When this started, you once cried ‘cause I said I was gonna slap you, then slapped you. Alex didn’t cry – At this rate, I’ll have you crushing bricks with your head by the time you’re thirty.

At least one of them had a dream.

He limped along the rest of the gold-soaked hall, past the brightness that the corner had offered. The windows being left behind were covered by those same, thick curtains, but there’d been a dotted line of squashed, yellow skylights on the ceiling. Lemon-shaped skylights. ‘Lemon light’. Yeah, he got it. They didn’t keep leading him, so except for a white square ahead he guessed was a lit room, the hall sank to black fast.

Alex hunched more, not liking the mood of this. He tried to lighten it by murmuring, “You’ve been here six years and I still have to take it day-by-day. Don’t remind me that you’re staying for the next four.”

Probably only two now.

He slowed to a crawl. That wasn’t lighter.


Or thereabouts. Probably two.

His mostly digested juice-flakes turned to ice.

“A month ago, you told me five.”

Key words: a month ago. My energy’s not as shit this week, but we all have our good days.

… Fuck.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck –”

That’s out loud.

I don’t fucking care,” he spat. The hall was empty anyway – whatever. He checked though, despite himself, and brought his voice down just in case. “How did your death date drop by three years? We went over this!”

Xander had been very specific that based on how fast he was losing strength, he wouldn’t be able to take control after five more years. Five.

I high-balled you. The guy sounded too calm. Call me crazy, but I had a feeling that otherwise, you were gonna cry and shit your pants. His lungs sucked in a cold gasp. Breathe, dumbass.

Right. He forgot when he switched to pacing around, tugging at his hair since it came the closest to strangling this unstrangleable

“Why are you telling me now?”

As in, ‘right now, on top of all the other stresses’.

I had to eventually and you brought it up. Plus you seemed chill. That’s usually my perfect storm to tell you shit. That wasn’t what that movie was about. And we’re on a ground floor, so it beats telling you on the sixth storey and watching the panicked defenestration. Xander made a noise damn close to a huff. Shall I add this to your list of crap I’m not allowed to talk about?

No.” Crushing his knuckles against his head wasn’t helping anymore. He gave up and let out a ragged sigh. “No, I – just… I needed to hear it, alright, but you could’ve put it better – or waited or… something.”

You want ten minutes of foreplay for ten seconds of news. I’ve literally finished explaining I don’t have that kind of time.

“Your voice isn’t going anywhere,” he shoved back. “Alright, sorry. It’s fine.”

I know it’s fine. I’d like to have these conversations on the first try, but again, shit-pants.

Because he was the one stuck with the Agents. They weren’t just going to drop from their next-level nightmare to an angry but survivable chase for him, and Alex had long since accepted he couldn’t unlock Xander’s subconscious, psycho, death hound, berzerker strength. They were the same person, so it used to make sense thinking they could do the same things. It didn’t happen like that. He’d squeezed a few techniques under his belt, but every other fight left him counting on self-possession or muscle memory.

“I can’t even see suits.” There’d be a second spy later, if one hadn’t crawled in already. Eventually, they’d notice Xander wearing down. Or maybe they had. Maybe the Frenchman knew and was running out the clock with these cheap attacks, and this was all just their grand scheme. “You have to make sure I can do this. I don’t care how.”

Ooh. Was that free rein?

“No brick smashing.”

The number ‘two’ echoed in his mind. He’d sworn five years wasn’t long enough. It’d only been half of one since Xander floated the Death Date theory, but they were talking then about a vague ‘sometime possibly’. Three months passed before it changed to ‘the foreseeable future’. As Alex had mentioned, the date tweaked again last month. His updates were getting faster, if nothing else. By Christmas, he might even hear the whole truth.

He hoped to hell it wasn’t something like ‘tomorrow’. The thought pitched a wave across his stomach.

Their last ten feet to the room was silent, but walking in had him grateful for the break from more goddamn gold. Now he could go blind from all the white. A glass tower sat at the middle of the bedroom-sized roof, shining down a sickly clean pillar that bounced more light off the whiter walls. Squinting helped him find a see-through box by its edges and the wires it hung on. The box had then been stuffed with scraps of whitest paper.

He guessed that was the art.

Thinking of you.


The thing’s name. Xander angled him towards black letters on his left. ‘This installation serves as a pseudo-functionalist revisioning of legacies. The obituaries collected within its cube embody our memories over time, left to fade to obscurity under the sun of new horizons.’ He paused. The fuck is this kitschy shit?

Alex blinked away the light’s glare. The farthest wall had twin black ovals painted on, just outside the sun laser’s reach. More details came as he adjusted to the brightness.

“Those are eyes.” He glanced at the rest of it. White walls, ‘memories’… “This is supposed to be a skull.”

I bet the asshole who made it went home and jerked off for ten hours about how profound he was, then jerked it again to holler’s doors and the phrase ‘avant-garde’. Oh, how I love being here instead of my humble coffeehouse. There’s nothing I enjoy more than art. Maybe I’ll even get to see some!

“It isn’t that bad.” The skull gave the room kind of an adult Playplace vibe. He felt a smile touching his face, a little proud over figuring it out. “I like it.”

You also liked the dragon-horse. ‘Scuse me if I don’t read into your opinion.

Another entrance was at the back, where the skull’s right cheek would be. Alex headed there, more upbeat. It led into shadow territory again, but he could probably open a window. There’d been tons around and he doubted Terrance cared.

“Since when did you become an art snob?”

Since the best art became the blurbs.

That got his second grin going. To it, Alex said, “I don’t understand how you like everything I hate, but as soon as I take an interest in –”


The sentence died inside his mouth. Bile pooled under his tongue as a man stepped from the hall and into the skull. It bubbled with the sharp taste of acid as he and Alex locked eyes.


He heard a sea of meaning hid behind the man’s ‘oh’, almost as much as from the kid who walked in next and muttered, “Told you.”


Alex tore through every face he’d ever saved in his pit of hyper-memory. Thousands flashed across his mind, scrambling to match.

The man was going gray and wore a leathery grimace. The kid had just ditched his teens, with a patchy lip of fuzz as proof. They were the same height, both wearing an orange shirt and tan pants, their black logos smeared by grayish paint or plaster. In their hands were stuffed tool bags, as if they’d packed to go home.

He had never seen this pair before but they knew who he was. And they knew he knew what they were.

He felt his blood freeze.

Ask ‘em where they hid the talent in this fuckin’ place. ‘Challenges norms’, my ass.

He couldn’t swallow. He couldn’t move. Out of options, Alex waited for them to start.

There! With his eyebrows – the kid did a… thing. The man understood what it meant and seemed to reply through silence. The kid turned to watch the suddenly fascinating hall, leaving his older friend to hitch his breath before he spoke.

“We’re closed.” The skull echoed those words at them. “What are you doing here?”

His throat had dried but he got out a rough, “I’m… a guest.”

“We’re closed to guests, too.”

The man passed between firm and wary. Firm, Alex accepted – hell, he welcomed anything that decided the pecking order fast. But ‘wary’… His arms tensed.


“I’m waiting for one of the artists,” he said.

“Which artist?”


“Beth what?”

“I don’t know her last name.”

That grimace deepened to a frown.

“Then describe her for me.”

‘Describe her’. Why?

Xander was paying even less attention than the kid now staring at the floor, so he didn’t plan on holding out for advice. He steadied himself, remembering to breathe and that no one was attacking anybody yet. They were normal people in a normal conversation.

“Brunette,” he listed. “Freckles. Overalls.”

The man pulled back, lowering his head and rubbing it like a war captain who’d heard his reinforcements died.

“That’ll be Keeler.” When the man looked him in the eye again, Alex didn’t miss the effort it took. “Guest or not, we have a gallery to set up and limited time to do it. You, I want keeping to this area. Don’t touch the exhibits. Do we understand each other?”

“I – yeah.”

“Good.” Giving him a clipped nod, the man moved away as the official end to their discussion. He swatted the kid next. “Carbon, go.”


Not once had the kid so much as glanced at him, and as if they were still testing the waters, they lingered where they were. The man finally herded the pair off, disappearing the way they came like this route wasn’t worth it anymore.

At least he didn’t have to hunt for a wall to drop on now.

“I hate this place,” he gasped, dropping. “I hate this room, I hate this skull, I hate strangers and I hate the darkness.”

I dunno. It’s not so bad once you get into it.

“Did you not pick up on any of that?” He dragged himself across the wall, hand over hand, aiming for the lobby – and exit. “Those were them!”


“Yes, ‘them’.” He straightened long enough to do air quotes. “You know. ‘Them’?”




No –”


“Shut up and let me finish,” he hissed. Alex staggered into the hall with the skylights. “‘Them’, meaning the other people after us. The non-Agents. The anti-Agents.”

Ohhh. You mean the group indistinguishable from ordinary citizens that you constantly order pre-emptive strikes on.

“It’s that or eat a fireball.”

Or lightning. Even Xander’d found that uncomfortable.

I’m gonna go ahead and say this like it’s news: you’re paranoid. This is a symptom of it.

Alex glared into space.

“It didn’t seem off for them to be lurking around? They didn’t act like they were planning shit?” He rewound the past five minutes. “They asked about Beth.”

They asked you to name Beth, which they would’ve done for anybody you said. ‘Who are you here with? Joe? Who the fuck is Joe, you lying prick? Oh, Joe Knob? My apologies, sir. Clearly you have high connections.’

It was that easy, huh?

“I know you can’t tell when it’s not about Agents –”

Fine. Let’s play your game. Xander took over his right arm purely to add a flourishing hand gesture. Imagine they’re exactly what you claim they are. Imagine they’re super strong and dangerous and have all the fun stuff you whine about. Marry that to this basic fact: they’re gone. His fingers wiggled in unfathomable excitement. If they’re up to shit, it’s got fuck-all to do with you. If they’re not, I’m saving their asses from your crazy one.

Alex dug his feet into the ground and curled his lip.

“Don’t talk like you’re some hero when I’ve still got a suit’s blood under my nails.”

Yeah, I’m saving that. I like to keep trophies from my murderin’. Speakin’ of which… His spirit fingers quickly balled into a jazz fist. You are again over your allotted amount of time.

And then the fifth voice erupted.

OI!” Alex snatched his hand back. Xander let him. The weight of a slur of noises blasted through the white room, roared across the shadows and hammered into his head like an avalanche. “CAWKFAK!

The word slammed his ears.

‘Cockfuck’. Well – good work, everybody. I’d say that’s the end of people trying. Xander punched Alex anyway, then full took control, really dawdling on when that included his torso. Almost as loud, he answered, “Can I help you, dick docker?

“So now you believe me.”


He would take that as his ‘yes’. Xander replied by releasing his stomach. The pain barely had time to hit him before it became the last thing on Alex’s mind.

A fleshy, bald-headed, pink sack of beer guts with four – oh, fantastic – tree trunk arms thundered out into their hall. Its bloodshot eyes swiveled over the space, and as it gushed air from its nostrils, torrents of drool leaked from its teeth. The goddamn second it saw him at the corner, under the first lemon-shaped skylight going back, it howled again, louder.

Alley-FAKKIN’-xan-dah!” It also had an orange shirt and tan pants, with two extra holes torn for two extra limbs clawing out, looking too meaty for its stubby legs to lift. “Ya killed a hawl lot’f m’friends, ya li’l shitcant.

Xander had to translate for a moment, but then he said, “Cool. Anyone I’d remember?”

“Ya fakkin’ shit,” it screeched. The veins down its damp neck were pulsing. Nearly bursting them, the moist beast whipped its head towards the white room. “OI. Do I haft’a do everythin’ m’-fakkin’-self? Get y’cants out ‘ere ‘fore I shove ‘em up y’cant-eatin’ queen!”

He’s gonna squish real good. Alex’s shoulders turned, angling into a coil. His arms hung loose, one pointed at the moist beast and the other obscured behind his waist. Xander liked keeping the hand he used to rip jaws off a surprise. Four arms. His knuckles cracked. Hope he has room to fit those up his ass, or this’s gonna be unpleasant.


Hiya, folks! Just popped in to let you know that TOKoR’s listed on Top Web Fiction, where you can vote for the story with a few, quick clicks! Every vote earns a warm fuzzy, ’cause we can’t put a price on your support! ;-)