On impact, the windows and walls imploded as if the oxygen was sucked out from the uppermost floors of the storage tower. Gas-masked troops were deployed to secure street level exits. A number of others swarmed the emergency stairwell. A third strike force was dispatched from a chopper. They rapelled into the rooftop crater. Sam Spikone had managed to empty at least half a dozen clips, and launched most of his incendiary devices before he heard the whine of the unmanned aerial robot drone above him. He fell through the vent of a ceiling airshaft with a couple of armed, black-uniformed men in close pursuit.
Bullets zipped past his head and shattered the fluted concrete pillars as if they were made of glass. The smoke was nearly blinding, but he made out a light at the end of the long room. He kept close to the ground. The air was thick with soot. Shapes wavered in the heat. His throat burned. If he could only reach the exit, he might be able to get out of the inferno before the troops cornered him, but he couldn't tell where the shots originated. It was as if he took fire from all sides. He retreated behind a stack of cardboard boxes ahead of several gunmen equipped with air tanks, respirators and thermal goggles. They were closing in on him. Several other shadow-figures blocked him from his intended destination. At the back of the loft was a warren of rooms, as if someone had set out to build a two story structure complete with bay windows and a French-quarterstyle balcony inside the storehouse without a plan, as if they had worked in the dark by intuition alone, and had abandoned the project after they realized how demented it had turned out, like a child's tree-fort version of a human scale rodent habitat. The first level consisted of a number of partly apportioned interiors, including one with a multi-bulbed mirror vanity, the kind you might find in an actor's dressing room. On the second level there was the bare skeletal structure of what must have been intended, given all the exposed plumbing, as a bathroom or kitchen.
Three gunmen came around the corner. There was something all too familiar about the layout of the rest of the workshop. As he back-peddled, and lost his balance he recognized the torn, bloodstained chair, the defaced pornographic magazines scattered about. Despite the fact he was nowhere near the Ineran Corp. infirmary, nowhere, as far as he could tell, near the Fortean College campus, it exactly duplicated the laboratory in his dream. Every detail was the same as he remembered from his nightmare: the operating table was identical; the gurney with all the surgical equipment could not have been more closely matched. The only things missing were the dwarf clown, the glowing red brain, and the headless torso.
Part of him wished the person that walked in behind the figures with the chemical warfare-type masks was the government scientist. The last thing he expected was the dark figure to remove its rubber and glass headgear, and shake its black hair free. Like he had done the night of the senior class raid on the freshman dorms, he prostrated himself at the young woman's feet. It didn't matter that three sub machine gun barrels were leveled at his head. His rescuer, Tammy, would save him. She was his guardian angel, the talking doll that had befriended him when no one else would. He was about to get brained for a crime he hadn't committed, like some agricultural animal, and she was the only one who could vouch for his complete innocence. A kind word from her was all it would take. If she wanted to, she could wave the SWAT units off, send them back to their barracks. He reiterated his eternal allegiance to her. Like the night at the ice-age boulder, he told her that her every whim was his command. His abilities were limited, he readily admitted as much, but there must be something more useful he could do for her than sacrifice his life for such a trivial cover-up. He was more valuable to her alive. In the grand scheme of things, there were no bounds to what he might do, if she would only keep him around ... just a little while longer.
"It's your show," Tammy told him. She sent everyone but Garry and Katie out of the room, reached into the zippered thigh pocket of her hip-hugging, black, military-style jumpsuit, and handed the kid with the makeup and dog collar a loaded pistol. "Play it any way you want." He wouldn't have to die alone. One among the three of them could go down with him. The kid would have the opportunity if he so chose to kill any one of them before the two others were able to fire back, but it didn't have to end that way. The gamble was that more than likely whatever kind of survival mechanism he possessed would kick in, and he would rather try and save himself than take a bullet. He might make a grab for her, but Tammy doubted it. More than likely, he would opt, for his hostage, to seize a challenger to her affection. Between Garry and Katie, which did he least like? Both of them stood in his way. The kid, she suspected, really had it in for Garry, but if he earnestly wanted to save his own skin, Katie was by far the clear choice for the getaway. Considering she was Tammy's lover, he would rightly figure he had a much better chance with her as his human shield.
Somehow, given the dire circumstances, Garry assumed Tammy might show a little more emotion, after all there was a pistol pointed at her girlfriend's head -- but she didn't flinch. It was as if she had seen it coming all along, knew exactly what was going to happen next, like she had a crystal ball inside her head --, like what followed was preordained, foretold, and there was nothing left for her to do other than go through the motions, play the scenario all the way out.
Even Garry had to marvel at the young woman's gall. He rolled his eyes and threw his rifle to the floor with both hands. The weapon skittered across the linoleum of the laboratory. The clatter was all the distraction his training partner needed. It was as if they had practiced the maneuver beforehand with just such an opportunity in mind. Tammy had enough time to raise her gun to eye level, take aim, and squeeze off a round. Only five yards at the most separated them. The shot hit its mark. The kid sank to his knees, mascara tears streaming down his cheeks. Tammy had done what the sniveling twerp had least expected, and without the slightest reservation, cold-bloodedly shot her girlfriend in the heart. The bullet had passed through Katie's chest and out the shoulder blade. Her lifeless body lay draped over Sam's thighs as if he was a latter day, cross-dressing madonna.
If not for the garbled barrage of signals, codes, and formulas that unconsciously overwhelmed the young man with a sense of higher purpose and direction, he would not have known what to do. If not for Dr. Edward Vincent's voice, as it assailed his inner mind with machine-to-machine-like screeches that pierced his ear, his consciousness might have rebelled, repelled by his latest directive. Instead, he was given over to his involuntary reflexes, and reborn somewhere deep inside himself as a primeval straw man. In his netherworld he and Tammy were like two totems manipulated by a shaman dwarf in a plastic clown mask. Her body was inlaid with rhinestones like the spangled statuette of a reinvented fertility goddess, a radiant, white full moon for a belly.
In his unconscious mind the two of them were placed side-by-side under a durian tree at the edge of a sparkling lake. Ahead of them, in the mist, he could hear the sound of splashing water, and girls' laughter. Five others beside Tammy Mori swam nude in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall, five gorgeous women, they played in the water like unearthly apparitions, without the slightest regard for the impending disruption of their blissful revelry. The voice inside his ear told him they were accursed creatures that had fled from their lofty abode to partake in earthly delights. The voice told him to go to them. The fallen angels would embrace him. They would seduce him. If he did not continue on his present course, and put the pistol in his mouth and pull the trigger, he would never enjoy the unimaginable pleasure they offered. "Go on, son," the machine-like voice of the government scientist encouraged him. "No more pain. That's what you want isn't it -- for the pain to go away? Just take your clothes off. Jump in." If he withdrew from his present position at the beachhead of the unreal waterhole among the equally unreal nymphs, Dr. Edward Vincent insisted he would have no other choice than to send the kid back to the Tetragon inverted city for further modifications.
-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011