The huge hall was crushed by the weight of cold metal and concrete, striking with aggressive elegance. Only in some places, the rays of the sun gnawed through the frosted windows, trying to warm up and make this place happy, but this is as vain as saving a seriously ill person in his terminal stage. The smell of gunpowder married with vital oxygen, instilling fear of the inevitable. It's unlikely that anyone can stay here for a long time, only if this person didn't absorb this suffocating atmosphere with mother's milk or didn't know life from this angle, without searching, and importantly, without demanding other alternatives.
You know — you're no good
You know — you're no good
In all corners of the free multi-square meters were lifeless copies of representatives of the engines of civilization, painted in circles with numbers. The heart is worth practically nothing, only the head is worth 10 out of 10. Soon one of them will tremble slightly, pierced as if in the center of the forehead by a cry of cotton wool. The rest of the "comrades" have to humbly wait for their turn to be pierced by the deadly thread of the bullet's flight path.
— How is he doing, Garrett? — the young man asked his friend, straightening his face with a golden wings frame.
— So far there are no complaints, the percentage of hits is at the level of 85-93%.
— For several days in a row... when will he get his peace, what do you think?
— After what happened, it probably won’t be any time soon. Unless he "burns out" again. Today his stamina score is much lower than two days ago, despite such precision of hits, so I guess it's just a matter of time. The main thing is that he doesn't plan to attack us, — Garret said the last phrase in a whisper, afraid of provoking an unexpected trigger to the side.
Even though his exoskeleton allowed him to quickly retreat, it’s still such an honor to be a living target. In response he only received a satisfied smile, inspiring a mixed sense of awkwardness and security.
— No, he won't. No one raises a hand against their gods unless they're completely disappointed. But, fortunately, not yet.
Metallic footsteps sounded nearby.
— Well-well-well, someone can’t sit in his office? — the blond walked over to the guy with a smile on his face.
— Oh Mr. Lee, I...
— I told you I'm just Lee now, Garrett! You're bossy now, not me, hahaha, — he laughed into his fist, — It’s me who should call you “Mr” now!
— I can't get used to it, Lee. In addition, you're still listed as the main CEO.
— Here are the miracles of bureaucracy, my friend! They will make a nightmare and ignore it, but then will leave it “in reserve”, despite the presence of alternatives. How is our "Juliet" doing?
— What exactly did this nickname stick to you, he’s a guy... — the red-haired guy answered, rolling his eyes, defiantly adjusting his glasses, and gently hinting him in disagreement with such a choice of password name.
— Hawk, I understand everything, but after that conversation with him, I simply cannot refuse such an interesting associative link! In addition, the boy loves Shakespeare very much, and this work is one of his favorites along with Macbeth. So inspiring! When he asks me to close my mouth, I'll stop.
— Hey, you, be careful with the last one! I'm not going to lose you in the second round! Live at least a couple of decades for yourself and my happiness!
— What's wrong with you, stop spouting bullshit!
— Guys… it looks like he’s already finished. I don’t hear the sounds of shots, — Garrett interrupted this unnecessary chatter, pointing at the figure that stood below.
The boy was breathing heavily and tiredly, standing in front of a pile of "killed" mannequins. Some of them were almost impossible to identify due to sintepon lacerations. The prototype blaster fell to the dull concrete with the sound of cheap plastic toys. A couple of teardrops stained the floor in dark graphite, and a heart-rending scream rang out from his throat, so tearing from the all-consuming horror of awareness that you take away this heavy oxygen from people who don't deserve it.
— Oh no… meltdown again… — Garrett prepared everyone with genuine sympathy for another repetition of the unpleasant spectacle, — Who will come to him this time?
— Your turn.
— Understood,— said Hawk, pulling a mini-pistol from his belt, simultaneously filling it with some kind of ampoule and slowly descending to the suffering one.
Slowly approaching the source of the scream, a huge bead of sweat broke out at Hawk's temple. What if Garrett is right, and now he'll rush in his direction, knocking down all the bones of the chest? Luckily the boy was too immersed in mental pain to somehow react to the environment.
— What's happened, dear, bad times again?
Your lips move but I'm not listening,
this really matters to me,
actions as silent as your own words,
I'll do what's necessary
The boy only whimpered softly in response and slowly turned in his direction. The tear-stained eyes glittered. This is how the eyes of children shine, who didn't receive love, and then immediately offered it as a New Year's gift in installments at a wild percentage per annum.
— You call me? Are your thoughts bothering you again? Did you even sleep today? Did you have breakfast? You know you can't go to the range if you haven't had breakfast.
— I have no appetite. Slept badly, — he answered hoarsely and quietly.
Shoulders trembled at the kind of calm questions which couldn't remember the last time he'd heard anything like that, except for a few people.
— Well done! You slept at least a couple of hours compared to last night! — Hawk cheerfully answered, doubting himself whether it was worth it, but judging by the look of the teenager, he did the right thing, — Let's go to sleep now. You gave more than 100%.
The guy carefully covered the boy's eyes with the wide palm of his left hand, knowing perfectly well how much he was afraid of injections. The unpleasant click of a mini-pistol hinted at the opening of the ampoule.
— You already know, but I repeat once again: now a mosquito will bite you and you will calmly fall asleep until dinner.
— Better finish me off, Zach… I'm tired to live...
— Don't say those things! It’s hard for you right now, but I promise — everything will be fine. — Hawk aimed the point of the needle at the boy's shoulder to give the much-needed injection and breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that the boy's body relaxed slightly in his presence.
— It's true?
So naive, but so sincere. From day to day.
— How could it be otherwise?
He disliked that sound of the medicine pouring out in a swift puff when the trigger was pulled, bringing back unpleasant memories of the past.
Spaceship. Weightlessness. His "Ubermensch-everything" then, somewhere in the very distant past, was insane. He turned hostages into nerdy mutants with a weapon similar in specifics, but with the same nasty zilch. Involuntarily you adopt the analogy, trying on the guise of a harshly radiated essence. Now in front of him is a person who is standing back from him, offering zero resistance. A person who can simply be destroyed with a great desire. From such power own feelings become uncomfortable.
He didn't like this puff. To nausea.
— Does it hurts?
— A little…
— You are a real champ! I'm very afraid of injections. Sleep well, Andy… — Hawk picked up the instantly limp body in his arms, after which he shouted towards those standing on top, — That’s all, folks, he’s ready!
— Wow, he didn’t do anything this time! - Garrett said in surprise, looking at Lee's peaceful face.
— Little by little he gets used to it, and his strength isn't the same anymore. Soon it will go into a phase of devastation, and this is much worse. In any case, we have him under our supervision.
— The only thing I can't understand is why did you both decide to bring this guy to Landmark City? He's a killer...
— I mean, classmates also offended me at school, called me a “bookworm” and something like that, but I wasn't interested in them either and this didn't provoke me to destroy almost the entire school!
— He didn't want it either and he didn't plan to. It's just his evil joke is out of control...
The room's walls are like liquid plastic. Sometimes it seems that the end and edge of it aren't visible, getting lost in the nooks and crannies of floorboards, carpet and washable wallpaper, a TV remote control, or apartment keys. And sometimes it, pulsing, shrinks over and over again, bringing the feeling of how you're suffocating and your neck and legs are numb. Time in the room also magically turns either into sand or into salt crystals, but it hurts very painfully in the crown of the head, which Franz Kafka never dreamed of. The blue walls became dirty square sheets of puddles, which made the soul so damp and disgusting that couldn’t wait for the mold to appear. Only mold can give at least some illusion of warmth.
Larkin had never been so chilly before. It's a pity that it's not a cold, he would be happy with such a scenario. Alas, he was consumed by hatred and the horror of what he saw. Hatred for those people. Self-hatred. All the problems that previously interfered with him and brought trouble have lost their strength because a much more disgusting one has replaced him.
He tried to talk to his sister Jen about it. He tried to break this wall of silence and mystery that cannot be hidden. After all, he saw everything. He knows everything. But all he got was a reproach and expulsion from the room with total disregard. Telling all this to parents? They won't believe him. They will only say: “Your jokes have already crossed all the lines of decency and morality, Andy!” and they will put him under house arrest for several months, at worst, they will refuse him for good and send him somewhere far, far away to some camp, where they will “break” him and make him an average statistically favorable and convenient resident of Canada.
But the worst thing he saw at school. Laura Mackney, his angel, his ray of light, his meaning in life, held the handle with THEM, laughed with THEM, and kissed THEM cheek! Back then he almost vomited, but to be honest he is nauseous now too.
He had never been so pissed off before.
His fingers were forever counting the crumpled banknotes and coins from his piggy bank, which fell by the strength of the brave ahead of time. The amount is small, but it doesn't matter, he has already managed to "borrow" a few hundred from his father. He will return it to him, as soon as possible.
It was scary to use TOR for the first time in this case. If this value isn't enough, or he will be declassified? Deceived and doesn't get what he needs? No way, there was a worthy seller! Good ratings, excellent reviews. Tonight, at a personal meeting, he will receive everything he needs. After all, it's necessary to save his angel, his ray of light, his meaning of life. After all, it's necessary that Jen “wake up”, understand everything and apologize for being rude earlier. After all, you just need to wrap up such a joke for the first time in your life, for which everyone will be grateful.
He looked back at the dirty blue wall to the “board of honor” where his idols hung. A team of young guys of 6 people against the backdrop of cool cars from the future and eternal summer. He always admired them, deep down wanting to become the same. Larkin tried not to miss a piece of single news with them, cut out articles from magazines, and collected their merchandise, which was released by some companies. Ah, if it were possible to run up and rush forward and get inside the poster, where there's real life!
Sweet jealousy conquest quench my thirst
Take me away from the agony
It's a struggle to manage a smile
While I'm so hungry
Suddenly, the electronic alarm chimed, reminding him of the time of his upcoming nightly meeting, and the digitized voice of Axel Manning exclaimed:
“Wake up! It's time for action! Go! Go! Go!"
Larkin stopped shaking. Even managed to smile a little. After all, why he should worry now since a sign from above confirms the correctness of intentions?
Outside support has never before been so right on time.
Andy didn't know where he was now. The veil covered his eyes, his ears were ringing inside. Blinking slowly, he tried to come to his senses and gradually began to realize that the landscape, although slightly, was changing: the darkness was rhythmically illuminated on the sides with neon stripes as if it were a passage through some kind of underground endless tunnel.
— Woke up? Good, — a calm male voice was heard from afar.
It became unease. Where is he and who's speaking?
Looking around in a detached way, he self-identified himself sitting in a car seat, in a women's plaid sundress and leather jacket, which he found in a parent's closet as a symbol of his mother's buried youth. The wig, the same color of industrialized brick as his natural hair, tilted slightly, which forced him to fix it automatically. The brilliance of pistols nearby was painfully imprinted on the cornea with their destructive consequences.
— It suits you! — a second male voice was heard, already more cheerful than the previous one.
Larkin became more frightened. Not only did he just go through a wild hell, but he obviously fell into the hands of some perverts, and now fate will be played on him to the fullest. Although after what he did, the outcome seemed logical enough to refute.
— Ok, never mind... do with me what you want ... I don’t need anything anymore ...
— Don't worry, we won't hurt you! Would you like a drink?
A bottle of Pure Canadian with a hint of mountain blackberries popped up near his seat. He felt so thirsty that sipped it at this moment, but he was ashamed to ask for more. Through the buzzing inside their head, Andy realized that these voices were painfully familiar. Looking carefully in front of him, he saw men sitting next to him in suits like twins, behind exceptional cases of differences in hair and the color of designer glasses.
— It can’t be… like… what…
Later there was an opportunity to rise sharply, as well as to fall while slowing down, then you can easily understand those feelings that Larkin experienced when he finally saw the recognizable features of these faces. Facial features that smiled every day from the poster in the mornings and evenings, seeing off to Helios and Morpheus in order. The facial features that just now gave him a glass of water. Facial features that infect him to create all sorts of good and not stupid things. Last fatal stupidity. Andy wanted to scream with joy like in some stupid MTV move, where a typical resident of America, who saw Xzibit at his door which came to pump his car, but there was no moral strength left for this.
— I see that you're glad to see us, Andy!
— How can I not to ... Mr. Hawk, Mr. Lee, you are my idols, like the rest of the Alpha Team! Ah… wait, how do you know my name?
— How can we don't know the most famous prankster in Canada?! There are often broadcasts about you after a round of bad news! Just a breath of fresh air!
— You're exaggerating, Hawk, it's not so bad in ou town...
— Maybe not, but sometimes looks like one giant green melancholy swamp! — Hawk wanted to continue the topic, but Lee raised his hand, giving a sign to be silent.
— What?! Am I so popular here?! — Larkin blinked his eyes in surprise and choked on his syllables.
— Sometimes it happens that in your country you're just an ordinary citizen, who sometimes causes chaos, but in another country or maybe even literally in a neighboring city, even for one person, you will be the whole universe. Yes, Andy, here at the Landmark City people often talks about you.
— Aha! All your jokes, pranks, your phrases are quoted! You burn it out! — Hawk tirelessly encouraged the boy, beaming with his positive vibes.
— Sadly but now everyone will know me as a murderer… — Larkin finally caught that wave of pain that made him tremble more.
I'm doing it all wrong...
I didn't want that at all...
It would be better to kill me...
Flashbacks slashed through the meat, getting to the nerves. He just wanted to make the world a little better. Save his angel from danger. Sister from shame. He even had to endure all sorts of “hugs” and nasty slimy lips. But in the end, he received numerous reproaches, curses, and contempt from the inhabitants, the look of Lori, full of horror and disgust, the detached coldness of his parents, and Jen also charged a few slaps in the face, promising that she would kill him with these bare hands.
— Hey! Come on! You just shot the director by accident, anything can happen, the main thing is that your friends are safe and sound, and you fulfilled your goal! You notably brainwashed those assholes, if don't look closely, they look like fried eggs under ketchup!
— What?! I'm hungry, don't you?!
— Not in this case! To me, their melted brains looked like a poached egg in barbecue sauce.
— It is also an option!
— Geniuses think the same way, —- Lee said proudly.
— No, it’s just that both geniuses need to have dinner as soon as possible! By the way, Andy, what's your favorite dish?
Larkin was shocked by this type of conversation. Is it possible to talk so calmly about the people he killed, as if they were some food, and that this provoked an appetite? His idols were not so "white and fluffy" guardians of justice as he always believed.
— Nose up, Andy, — Lee continued softly, watching the guy begin to whimper, — You're sitting here in a pretty dress all upset, thereby upsetting us, our hearts are breaking! No, I can't help but agree with Hawk, the dress is wonderful, looks like modern Juliet.
— Juliet has a gun!
— Why… I’m not Juliet…
Lee cleared his throat, adjusted his glasses, looked intently into the boy's eyes, and began:
— To be or not to be, that is the question ... — but Larkin himself didn't let him finish, and continued to quote further:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
In the end, Andy was finally exhausted and wearily leaned back on his sofa to the applause of men.
— Do you know why I cited that Shakespeare monologue as an example, Andy? I rarely meet young people who feel his works so deeply. I rarely meet those who generally know something about his work, especially by heart. Even now, after reading the passage, I see the strength and confidence, in that dilemma that Hamlet struggled with. Andy, what happened a few hours ago looks like a bloodthirsty crime only to a simple layman, but in fact, you're a real hero. Yes, a couple more people were injured, there is no need to deny the human factor. But I assure you that if you delve into the biographies of those whom you "hooked", then it may be for the best. Don't be offended by your sister and don't worry about it, she has already suffered so much. I think she will soon realize that you have done it here for good. Do you remember what you said recently?
— What… what did I say? — Andy's eyes widened as it began to dawn on him.
— "Hello. There is a situation - my sister was raped. I need your weapon." Andy, weapons like this don't sell for the pennies you offered. But your goal was priceless, which is why I sold it to you. It could have been solved in a more civilized way, but you understand that the world of a young girl will never be the same after that, and only the death of these Untermensch somehow compensates for this loss. You'll see, time will pass and Jen will if not say "thank you", but at least know how you are. You're special. We need such a talent like you.
I never said you're no good
I never said you're no good
I never said you're no good
You're not just anyone
— Until then, you're coming with us. Don't worry about your reputation! You might get a bad name in East Geckle, but we'll make sure the world doesn't think you're trash. They don't delve into anything! — Hawk waved it off, — Moreover, haven't you dreamed of being on our team? We will support you and help get through the past. You will still laugh at this! Here is an example: Jan, if you followed the news, used to go completely off the rails, but now everything's fine! Not without my help, of course...
— So Axel and the others don’t count anymore, hmmm?
— Of course, they count! Well... you know...
— Ok, ok, I’ll praise you again. Good job.
Covering his face with his hands, Larkin burst out laughing, realizing that there were no more ways back. But at the same time, some kind of heavy mountain fell off the shoulders like a titanium block, giving freedom and a perspective on something ... more interesting? The best of the best?
— I told you you would laugh at this! — Hawk summed up under the affirmative nod of his partner.