15 Minutes

Epilogue

I arrive with the second wave. The boy’s biomonitor led us straight to the rundown warehouse on the fringes of the barrens before signal was cut short. Place looks like nothing much, wouldn’t expect it to. Hidden in plain sight: bad neighbourhood and broken windows. Crumbling concrete walls, corrugated steel shutters and a flimsy chainlink fence around the periphery. But look closer. Padlocks on the doors, new. Small holes in the walls one storey up, ostensible signs of dereliction and decay, but positioned far too conveniently to be anything but pseudo medieval murder holes. No doubt a cursory sweep for wireless transmissions would have shown motion sensors on the fence. Cameras? Somewhere. They knew we were here long before we could stage any quiet assault. Luckily that wasn’t the plan. Whoever owned this building knew their business, and gunfire inside tells me they’re not afraid to protect it. I don’t want to think about what waited for the boy inside.

Ramirez had seriously miscalculated his prodigal thugs. Instead of the promised dramatic standoff under city lights they had forged an alliance with their intended rivals, and the boy’s cover had been blown, the one thing Ramirez had promised me could never happen. It had been a mistake to ever let the boy get involved, but I had no other way to keep my eye on that Aztlan snake.

The Dunning-Kruger hit was a work of art. The footage we had of the destruction of Hughes and Deaton would keep the rest of the execs under our thumb for as long as we needed them and I had Ramirez to thank for that. But this error was unforgivable.

Forgotten instincts surge through me as I step from the van flanked by my two bodyguards, and in through the still-smoking entrance. Following the hastily constructed floor plan on my commlink, sticking to zones marked safe by the assault teams, I head towards the now visible, yet weak transmission from the boy’s biomonitor, the signal blockers in the outer walls useless against internal communication.

Flatline, recent. Major trauma. The readouts come thick and fast. I block the feed, distraction from the task at hand. Haste essential.

A body, facedown in the open doorway. Large, afro-carribean. Clean overalls, clean hands. Growing puddle of dark blood. Signal very weak now, internal battery only.

“Clear!” Comes the call. I step inside. Have to fight not to turn away immediately. I take in the details. Surgical tools, used, inexpertly judging by the mess. Jars, filled. Boy… Gary, mutilated.

Dead.

His passing had not been easy, someone had gone to great lengths to ensure that. Probably the psychotic Frenchman. Look closer. Cigarette ash. The thief.

An alert on my ’link. Medical team have arrived. I step silently out of the door, watch them charge down the corridor and in to the room. One, the younger, recoils momentarily. The other, more experienced, coldly surveys, then commands.
“Secure those jars. We need him in a vat immediately”
Sprays the body with disenfectant, a choking cloud of sterility. Extendable stretcher from bag, powerful UV lamps on each corner provide further cleanliness.

I watch them go, self driven stretcher guided by the two medics. High level response vehicle, ought to have a bio vat on board, or at least facilities to get to one before critical deterioration occurs. I speak at last.
“Two vehicle to escort them. Make sure they get where they’re going”
Bodyguard nods. Eyes flicker as command is relayed.

I had no need to be here, really. Sentiment? Unlikely. More likely a base determination to stand on the sidelines no more. Ramirez would pay. But first…

Adrenaline, fight or flight, fading with the sound of sirens, smothered by the silence of a dead battleground and the murmur of a living city. No, not fading, crystallising.
No need for flight.

Emotion at last. Anger. Inevitable, Infinite. Unquenchable.

To: all available contacts, sources and resources. Everything you have. All your tricks, all your tools. Follow to the ends of the earth and beyond.

No rest, no respite. No peace.
No peace for the people who did this to my son.

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PurpleSteve

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