The door almost takes my nose off when it slams shut. I am leaning on a twelve-year-old and listening to blood drip on the floor around me. She looks up at me.
“I told you. I’m just going to take a seat here if you don’t mind.”
My back hits the wall and I slide down, leaving what I can only imagine is a gruesome red streak. The holes aren’t holding back the blood as well as they were before.
“Hey doc!” I say it as loud as I can, which isn’t very loud. “Sorry about the last time we saw each other. Wasn’t personal, just a contract. Chairman told me you’d turned evidence, he lied. Declan talked him out of it, don’t know how.”
There’s no response. No movement behind the door.
“Doc, I could really use your help.”
“Sir, please.” She says it. She sounds sincere. She wants him to help me. I mouth ‘thank you’ at her. She shakes her head.
There’s no sound.
“It’s alright kid,” I say, leaning my head back, “you tried. Go on. There’s a key in the car for my apartment, if they aren’t there already, there’s some cash. Go on the run or something. I’m just…I’m just going to close my eyes for a minute.”
I do. It feels good. Then the deadbolt unlocks, loudly, and huge hands heave my body up. I giggle.
“Weeee!” I say and the doc grunts, disapprovingly.
“He’s in shock.” His voice is gravelly but calming, he’s a perfect fit to be a doctor. I feel my feet drag on the floor and hear the door close, then there is a bright light above me and I hear scissors clacking.
“Holy shit…” Doc breaths out the words, prodding the holes.
“I know!” I say, trying to look. He shoves me down.
“Hold his head!” He growls, and small hands force me to stay still. “There’s only one round inside him. Roll him.”
I giggle again as I am lifted off the table.
“Small fridge, the packs marked A neg. Go!” The small hands disappear, and doc’s face appears over me.
“This is going to hurt, a lot. You should probably be dead. I’d have preferred that.” I snort and smile at him.
“Me too doc, me too.”
He presses a bottle to my lips and holds my head up. I drink. Then I cough, loudly, sputtering the whiskey everywhere. He lays my head down and I hear him guzzle from the bottle. This is my third time on his table and I remember someone telling me if doc was drinking, you need to start praying.
“Wait!” Docs face hovers into view again. “No, not you. Her.”
He grunts and is replaced. I feel something prick my arm. Blood, precious blood flowing in from a little plastic bag. Things are about to get messy. And really, really painful.
“How did you do all that?” I motion to the holes, where somehow the blood had stopped coming out like it’s supposed to. Well, it’s not supposed to but you know what I mean.
“Really?” She asks. I nod, urgently.
“I may not have another chance.”
She shakes her head and holds both her hands over my head, palms facing each other. As if she was going to cover my ears or something. I wait. The air between them shimmers. I’m pretty sure I am about to die, that’s probably it. But the shimmering is only between her hands. It starts to churn, impossible. It’s like…a tornado, whirling and gathering speed between her hands. A self-contained whirlwind.
And I do the only sensible thing. It’s a display of magic or something equally ridiculous. I can’t process it. I open my mouth and start to make some sort of noise that’s a cross between a shout and a croak, that builds.
“And that’s enough of that.” Doc says, covering my open mouth with a face mask.
For the second time in barely as many hours, I feel the embrace of the darkness. This time it’s not comforting or relaxing. I feel as if I am buffeted by winds, spinning and whirling endlessly in the pitch black.
It isn’t possible.
But it happened.
Maybe I’ll die.
God, I hope so. Otherwise I’m going to have to confront that after all this. And I just, don’t want to.
Finally, after an eternity of whirling about, the darkness becomes dense and I feel nothing.
The light is absolutely blinding. The light at the end of the tunnel. It is time to go. I lift my hand to try and shade my eyes, but the light seems to penetrate it as if it were tissue paper.
“God?” I ask.
“No, idiot. It’s me.” Doc’s voice is hoarse and tired. “But to you, yes. I am God. Don’t move.”
I move. It hurts.
“What the hell did I just say? You’ve been out for almost fourteen hours now and I’ve been digging in you for most of it.”
“Not to do that.” I blink at the overhead light, trying to make it stop existing. I use all my mental powers and it moves away. Success!
No. Doc’s moved it. Close enough to mind powers, though. I will take it.
“He’s awake. Mostly.” Doc grunts and I hear heavy footsteps leave the operating theater. Which is, of course, Doc’s basement setup. She appears. The magic girl, or something. I remember that. I remember a lot of things.
And I remember the three bullet holes.
“You lived.” She says. Observant little snot.
“Thanks to you. You stopped the bleeding. Unless I’m imaging things.” Please be imaging things, please be imaging them.
“I stopped it.”
“She manipulates the air, idiot.” Doc is back. And pleasant as ever. He rolls a chair to the side of the table, eases me up and lifts a cup to my mouth. Water, this time. I drink. “Best surgical assistant I could have wished for. Girl saved your life more than once, more than I did. Can’t imagine why she’s taken a shine to an asshole like you, but she has.”
“Language!” She says. Doc waves a hand and grunts. It’s his primary means of communication for the most part.
“How is that even possible?”
“I don’t know. No one bothered to explain it to me either, one day people just started trying to kill me.” She offers. It’s a terrible explanation of magical powers, might even be the worst but I’ve only ever heard one. I don’t have much of a benchmark to compare it to, as explanations go.
Doc grunts and sniffs, wiping his nose and busying himself with bloody pile of gauze. I know that look. We used to be friends before the whole thing where I tried to kill him. He knows something.
“Doc…” I lift myself onto my elbows, ignoring the pain from the already deep purple bruises. He grunts and tries to avoid eye contact. Then he sighs and gives in. Terrible at poker, Doc would be. If he played.
“Agency has been hunting them for years. Kids like her. I’ve never seen one this advanced. They never make it that far. Agency gets them around eight or nine, she’s had four more years of development.”
“I’m right here,” she says. “Please don’t talk about me like I’m not. Thanks.”
“Right. She’s strong for her age. Agency would be afraid of that. Don’t know why they sent you after her. You’re maybe the tenth choice for a job like this.”
I glare at him and he shrugs back, I mean he’s not wrong. He was nicer than the Agency was. I drop the glare and sigh, sharing my shame.
He snorts. I should have killed him back then. Then I have another one of those rare thoughts.
“Hey kid…what’s your name? File didn’t have one.”
She looks really…happy? To be asked that? Christ, what the hell has this kid been through?
“Natalie, I go by Nova.”
I hold out my hand and she takes it.
“Nice to meet you properly, Natalie slash Nova. Thanks for saving my ass.”
She frowns. This is going to be all sorts of fun.
“Sorry.” I say. There’s a long silence and Doc pokes my leg.
“Oh!” I forgot. “You can call me Avery.”
She releases my hand and seems pleased with that.
“Now what?” She asks. And I am reminded that she is a twelve-year-old. She’s killed sure, but she’s still a kid. A competent killer of a kid.
“Agency won’t quit. You can try running. Probably have a better chance alone. Unless you’re going to plug the kid now and be done with it.” Doc offers. I look at him, horrified. “Some killer you are.”
He shrugs at Nova.
“Sorry kid, just one of the options. Apparently not though. Bleeding heart assassin, that’s a first. So, split up and go on the run.”
He shakes his head at me. Angrily. He even backs away from the table. He won’t have it.
“Or…what?” Nova asks.
“Don’t listen to him kid. Go on the run. Now. Get out of town. Far away. He’s about to say something crazy and I’m going to knock him out again.”
“Or we kill the Chairman.”
Doc doesn’t move, just sits there as if any slight twitch will bring a cruise missile down on his quaint little hidey hole. As if not moving will mean he didn’t hear it. It’s like being an accessory to treason in our world, toxic treasonous idea. It burns anyone it touches. But I’ve never liked the Chairman and I certainly have never been all that smart.
“Get out. Now!” Doc stands, quickly for such a big guy. “Out, out, out!”
Nova tries to say something at the same time I do, something to placate Doc while we work out what to do next. We don’t have time to say anything because that is the moment the breaching charge goes off in the upper level. There’s a lot of heavy footsteps.
“Fuck!” Doc says, ignoring the glare from our little friend. He wrenches on a large panel of surgical equipment and materials, the shelving pulling open to reveal a metal cage of weapons. He shakes his head and grabs a short-barreled shotgun for himself and a handgun for me. I point at the bandages and he curses again, throwing a bottle of pills that rattles as I catch it.
“Take two of those and call me in the morning, if we make it!”
I obey. But I take four. I obey twice.
“Nova. Stay here.”
She looks around the basement with zero escapes.
“As opposed to…?”
“Smart ass.” Doc grumbles. “Come on Avery, time you earn those stitches.”
Oh good. I check the handgun and stuff spare magazines into the bloody remnants of my pants.
“Isn’t there an oath about this?” I point the handgun at his weapon and he grins, a rarity for Doc.
“Sure, first, to do no harm…unless the fuckers are already in the house.”
We both roll our eyes and turn to the stairs where a small, metal cylinder bounces down the steps.
“Flashbang!” It comes out of both of us at the same time. We have no time before the device goes off with its trademark flash and bang. It’s right there in the name.
And all hell breaks loose.