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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 36: Brown 113
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 35: Slade 103
As Derek stepped out of the stairway, he peered at his new surroundings. It seemed wrong to him. Finally he said something about it.
“Who puts a shopping mall,” he asked, “on the twenty-fourth floor of a high-rise office building downtown?”
“It’s a feature,” Pete said. “I’ve heard the ads, all about how you can look out over the city while you shop. It’s not so bad if you take the lifts, and there are eight of them, so apparently it does pretty well.”
Derek shrugged. It still did not make sense to him, but apparently that was what was here, so there was no point debating why. Besides, they had a job to do, and his part in that at this moment was to decide which way to go.
Before he had more than glanced around, the decision was delayed. There was the clear sound of someone running, and coming in their direction. “Cover,” he said, and he ducked against the cage front of a closed clothing store, his laser at the ready. He heard the stairs door close, and guessed that Pete had dropped back behind it. He did not look for Jim.
A very frightened looking man in slacks and a button-down shirt with a loosened tie came into view. It was evident he was running from someone. He zigged toward them, but apparently did not see them before he zagged down another path.
It was only seconds before the pursuit came into view, two men carrying automatic weapons, one in military fatigues and the other in street clothes.
“Freeze!” Derek shouted as he aimed the laser at them. As the barrels of the automatic weapons started to turn his direction, he opened fire; he heard Jim do the same. The terrorists shot back, but were in truth no match for them, even with their protective vests.
Following his protocols, Jim approached the slain men cautiously, kicked the guns out of their reach, and then confirmed that they were both dead. He also appeared to be keeping a wary eye open for someone else.
“They’ll have heard that,” he said.
“Yeah,” Derek answered as he walked over to look at the dead, and then added, “but they probably won’t think twice about it. If they keep in touch with each other at all, these guys told someone they were chasing a hostage, and anyone who heard the gunfire would assume that they got him. Speaking of which, I guess he’s gone.” He began rifling the pockets of the man in civilian clothes.
Jim glanced down the other hall. “I don’t see him. There’s no point looking for him, sir, as we can’t offer him protection or safe conduct, and our mission is to find the bomb.”
The terrorist had a wallet containing a prepaid bank card but no identification, some keys, a pistol tucked behind his back, a spare clip in a pocket, and a book of smiley stickers. “Well, look at this,” he said more to himself. No one did, but he pocketed the stickers. Then to Jim, “Yes, I wasn’t suggesting otherwise. I just thought we’d be less likely to shoot him later if we knew where he was, and we could at least warn him about the doors. But it’s time to move on.” He looked around, but realized once again that it didn’t matter which way he went. The bomb could be anywhere.
“But not here,” he said, finishing his thought aloud. “Let’s go upstairs, before they start looking for their missing people.”
“Are you sure, sir?” Callahan asked.
“Of course not,” Derek said. “But time seems to be important here, and I would think that if we were on the right floor, they would have responded to us by now. Anything on the radio?”
“No, sir. Occasional bits, but at present we don’t seem to be known to them.”
Derek nodded, and headed for a staircase not far from them.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #226: Versers Adapt. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: