Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Thin Line

Matt was fully aware that if he paced across the waiting room one more time, he would probably erode a hole in the floor.

Sadly, that wasn't a joke with him. He was really hard on material objects. A side effect of his magical gifts, there wasn't much mundane he could keep for more than a few weeks before it started to break down. Clothes, computers, cars...

He groaned, leaning his head against the white hospital wall. The car. Moments after his entropic space-folding trip, the radiator had blown, the gaskets failed, and the exhaust system rusted through, venting smoke from every direction underneath the car. Such a nice vehicle, utterly ruined by the backlash of his spell.

And now, with the little girl in critical care, undergoing emergency surgery, it might all have been for nothing anyway. He didn't mind having played hero, even though it wasn't his style, but for him to go to so much effort and the child die anyway? No way.

Fuck that.

There had to be a way to bump the odds in her favor. He couldn't affect living things in any positive way, but what about probability? Isn't that what entropy really was, after all? Just Lady Luck finally bitch-slapping something? With his level of power, he should be able to tip the balance for the little girl's survival chances. Right?

He tried to feel confident about it, but his doubts weren't fooled by the bravado. Matt knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he tried this and failed, it would have dire consequences. He'd probably kill the poor girl and maybe even several people nearby. he was in a hospital, after all, and he was hard on folks even when they were healthy. The sick and the invalid? He was like a pizza delivery by the Grim Reaper himself.

"I should get out of here."

Unfortunately, that wasn't an option either. Bringing in the girl in the condition she was in had flagged some Nurse Do-Right in ER and she'd called Security on him. He wasn't in any actual trouble, but he was being "held for questioning" regarding the patient and how she'd been injured so badly. Matt tried to tell them the truth, but no one was listening. This was a late night hospital shift in the South; it was easier to make him sweat in a locked waiting room than take five minutes and get his statement.

The lock on the door wasn't a challenge. A quick spell he'd made up on his own would pop that, but he didn't dare touch his magic. It always had a side effect. He would have gladly paid that price himself rather than risk the people here, but that wasn't his call to make. The effects of his magic were completely outside his ability to control.

Sometimes it was a nose bleed. Other times it was someone nearby slamming into a parked car. In a building full of people on life support, he didn't dare take that chance.

Of course, he knew a dozen non-magical ways to get out of a locked room. Score one for Dad's lifelong training again; he could pick a lock with a thumb tack or jimmy a window with a rolled up coy of the Watchtower. But none of those were the point right now.

There was a girl fighting for her life upstairs and if he left, he'd never know if she made it through. He wasn't sure why he cared about that enough to stay; he just did. He'd saved her, damn it. He had to be sure she survived. Maybe that was foolish.

Maybe he didn't give a damn if it was.

That's when he heard it. A low, muffled thud, like someone hitting a feather pillow with a baseball bat. Score two for Dad's teachings; he instantly knew what that sound was.

A silencer.

"The hell?!?" Matt hissed under his breath and pulled out one of his pistols. His didn't have silencers. They were loud. Loud, magical, and ludicrously violent. He grinned at that thought, knowing that if his hunters had tracked him here already, his guns would rip through them like tissue paper. Red, zealous tissue paper. Splat.

Looking at his gun, Matt then cussed quietly. His pistols would go through the walls of this hospital just as easily. The people hunting him might deserve to feel what ballistic decompression of their organs felt like, but no one else here did. Reluctantly, he holstered it. Okay. So no guns. Lovely.

He also didn't dare call forth his sword; it was an ethereal construct and more importantly, charged with angelic celestial energy. The moment he brought it out, his hunters would be able to sense it. Surprise might be the only weapon he had right now.

It really pissed him off to have to holds back like this. The Order never held back. They never cared who got hurt or who saw them using their gifts. They were soldiers of God, after all; that made everything all right. Property damage? All in the name of the Lord. Terror and coercion? All in the name of the Lord. Killing innocent witnesses to cover their tracks? All in the name of the...


Matt knew what the sound of the silencer meant. There were only four people in the hospital who'd seen or talked to him. The head nurse, the second one who'd called security, the rent-a-cop who'd walked him down here to this room, and the little girl.

"No way in Hell." His eyes went dark as he put both hands on the door and pushed. He had a little bit of magic that wasn't entropy-based - physical enhancements that took their own sort of toll but always on him. That was acceptable. No one else needed to get hurt. No one else.

The door gave way at its hinges and lock plate. He felt his strength spell flow down both arms, forcing the metal security door to rip apart, shattering outwards and and falling with a thunderous crash to the tile floor beyond. It made a loud noise but it wasn't nearly enough. He had to get their attention before they killed everyone else in the hospital.

Fury rising, he closed his right hand and let his sword happen. It blazed to life, a wave of heat scalding his palm fiercely. Painfully. This weapon really hated him, and he couldn't blame it. But it also didn't have any choice but serve him right now. And right now, its best service would be to broadcast his location to the Knights in this building.

Matt ran to the main hall of the security level, looking to its far end at the only door leading into this level. With massive strength still coursing through his arms, he drove the sword into the floor, leaving it buried halfway to its hilt in the now-sundered tiles. Then he let go of it and dashed over to stand right beside the entrance.

His trick worked perfectly. The door flew open only a few seconds after he reached position, two Knights in their usual charcoal gray suits and shiny silver guns pouring out to see only an empty hall and his burning blade all alone in the middle of it. Then Matt struck!

The rear Knight was still in the doorway, a very unfortunate place for him to be. Matthew shoved the entry door back shut as hard as he could, catching the agent between it and the door frame. The sound of half scream/half shattering bone alerted the Knight in front as his partner died instantly. Messily.

The remaining Knight pivoted quickly and tried to bring his gun to bear but it was too late. Matt's hands were already moving. One for the pistol, the other for the wrist holding it. Matt felt something wet under the fingers of his left hand; the man's cuff was stained red. It was the telltale mark of a gunman standing too close to someone when he executes them. That only fired Matt's rage higher.

"You son of a bitch." His voice was cold, but his temper was white hot. One squeeze broke the Knight's wrist, grinding all the delicate bones within it together into a consistency like lumpy oatmeal.

The Knight howled in agony, remaining just aware enough to draw a combat knife out of his jacket with his other hand. The pommel was engraved with a crucifix; the blade was burnished gray, inlaid with silver, and flecked in red. "Abomination of God!"

Matt let a moment's dark amusement take him as he pulled the gun free and pointed it at the Knight. This pistol had a silencer, a piece of equipment that both muffled sound and limited the penetration abilities of a handgun. He aimed it right at the knife as the agent drew it out of his suit jacket, a thin line of fire that would send his bullets straight through the blade and into the fanatic's chest.

"Damn right I am." Matt didn't stop firing until the clip was dry. In his mind, he could see the bodies of the people upstairs. The nurse on duty, slumped like a scarlet rag doll over her console. The head nurse, crumpled in the back of a maintenance closet where the Knights had questioned her about his location. The security guard, his throat slit by this twitching meat sack, bleeding out thirty years of failed ambitions and simple Southern dreams on the stairwell half a floor up.

He didn't know how he knew these things. He just did. The images were as clear as if he were watching them on a screen. In violence, he was finding lucidity. Terrible, fatal lucidity.

But there was no sight of the little girl, just a premonition of danger. Immediate danger!

Matt leaped over the sprawled, shredded corpse and skated on a crimson pool all the way to his discarded sword. It filled him with its immortal hatred at him killing two more members of the Order. He filled it right back with his limitless not giving a shit.

All that mattered now was getting to the girl. The entrance door was stuck shut by the gelatinous remains of the first Knight torso, but magical strength handled that just fine. His potent enhancement spell wouldn't last much longer and when it failed, he'd be as brawny as Snuggle the dryer sheet teddy bear for the rest of the night.

No matter. The Knights were dead; he just had to get to the girl. He just had to stop whatever threat she was facing. Then he could crawl off and whimper as his muscles tried to eat themselves until dawn. It was ugly, but it was a price he was willing to pay. Just don't let her be hurt.

Please, don't let her be hurt.

By the time he got to the hospital's emergency OR, Matt could already feel the spell fading. His shoulders were in agony and soon that would spread to the rest of his body. He'd put the sword away; it wasn't worth feeding the blade's existence while he wasn't fighting. He threw open the door to the OR's observation room and ran inside...

...to see a tall man in a long coat standing at the room's plate glass windows. Past them, there were two doctors stitching closed a young girl. Her EKG looked stable, her color was better than it had been when Matt arrived. She appeared to have made it through the surgery all right.

And the man was pointing an ornately engraved Order of Saint Michael, Archangel handgun directly at Matt's chest from under his right arm. The figure wasn't even looking at him, but the aim was flawless. Matthew was flatfooted, utterly caught off-guard. He could see the man's face slightly reflected in the window - older, distinguished, and seemingly emotionless.

Matt had nowhere to go. Nowhere to dodge. One shot, and it would be all over.

"Damn it..."


Erisraven said...

Aw, darn it. Just can't give him a break, can they?

Zay said...

As much as I don't want to see him go splat.. I have to give this one to the jigglely order members. ;)