The doors of the Pen opened out into the bright sun of early afternoon. The concrete plaza outside reflected the sun back up and made everyone but Goldberg squint. Two sides of the plaza, one opposite them and one to their right had walkways one flight up and there was a set of concrete stairs going up just outside the door.
“Well, I’ve got to get back to my office to finish up grading papers,” Joy said facing toward Goldberg. “Remind me later never to make an assignment due on Friday.”
“Now where have I heard that before? You are clearly taking council from a wise man. And I’ll… I’ll stay in touch. Ok?”
“You’re cute when you are stoned and awkward.”
Dan slapped Goldberg and turned toward the bikes they had rode down on earlier. “I’m done, dude. Time for me to turn in and call it a day. Try not to blow up the house or if you do, try not to wake me up.”
Goldberg turned to Joy as the group broke up. “So, I’ll see you later?” his eyebrows gave away the neediness in his eyes, obscured behind the rose-colored sunglasses.
“Maybe,” she said, fingers straightening out his new haircut. “Now that you look presentable.”
“Yeah, well… This really hot hairdresser gave me this nice do. I think she was coming on to me too. She kept pressing her boobs into my back.”
“Ah, you noticed that, did you?” Joy put her arm around Goldberg’s neck and pulled him down for a long kiss.”
“You all need to get a room.” Sarah said and turned to go with Teague. The two climbed the stairs that led to the upper plaza, leaving Joy and Goldberg to their kiss.
Dan wheeled his bike over to Molly. “So where are you off to?”
“I don’t know, really.” Her face darkened. “I guess I’ve got to figure out my life again and Joy was going to take me shopping later, but until then, I’ve really got no place to go.”
Dan looked around with eyes blazing red. “Hey, well, you can hang out at our house.”
She sniffed. “Really?”
“Yeah, sure. You know how to get there from here? You just follow…” He pointed up the stairs where Sarah and Teague were climbing but then looked back at Molly. She looked clueless and more than a little cute. “You know what, it’ll be easier if I just showed you.” He walked his bike to the foot of the stairs and hefted it up to his shoulder with Molly bouncing behind.
Hidden in the void between the wall of the student union and a planter holding a shrub, Mr. Aye opened his bag. Inside he found, among other things, two guns. One was a longer-barreled version of a revolver with a scope. Kind of a cross between a handgun and a rifle. This, he knew, was a medium range sniper rifle, at least in his trained hands, and with low-powder, subsonic ammo, as quiet as he could get. The other was a longer version of the dart gun he’d used earlier. More gas for more punch, better barrel for longer range, but still not lethal.
At that moment, with both guns in his hands, the door one tall floor down and across a paved courtyard Goldberg and his pack of idiots wandered into the sun. “So much for catching them in the glare,” he mumbled. “At least Carl got the head count right.” The group formed clumps, then pairs. Goldberg was entangled with one of the girls with funky hair.
Mr. Aye’s eyes squinted. Veins appeared on his hands as he squeezed the guns tighter than necessary. Without looking, he dropped the dart gun back into the bag. He crouched behind a planter and steadied himself against the concrete. Through the scope, he could see Goldberg’s smug, smiling face.
“Wing him,” Mr. Aye mumbled. “Well, accidents happen.”
He went into his shot ritual. Feel and mold your biology. Breathe out, hold it, wait for the heartbeat to finish.
Ba-bump. Squeeze. Explode.
Hot expanding gases created a shock wave in a tiny space. Lead jerked into motion, propelled by the gas and the wave, down a tube lined with swirling groves. The tube was tight and the swirls cut the sharp point’s outer flesh, twisting it. The pressure from the explosion did not relent, and the pointed lead projectile continued to accelerate. Twisting and pushing until it finally reached the end of the tube. It screamed spinning through the open air at fantastic speed toward the unsuspecting flesh of its target.
Goldberg and Joy continued to kiss. After a while Joy broke it off. “You know, this whole make-out as we are parting ways thing is really not my style.”
He smiled “Not really mine either, but I’m willing to make an exception.”
“It’s not like I’m evaporating. I’ll see you again tomorrow.” She chuckled as his hands were inadvertently tickling her.
“Yeah I know. I just can’t shake the feeling like you are going to disappear or something.”
“Well you are just going to have to get over that. Besides, I’m going to take Molly to get some clothes tonight after I finish grading papers.” She glanced over to where Molly was following Dan. “At least, that’s the plan. You boys will just have to deal.”
“Sounds to me like you are ‘doing your hair’ or something.”
“Well! What! Ever! You have fun getting lost, but here’s something to remember me by.” She jumped into his arms and gave him a big, playful kiss. Goldberg wasn’t ready to be attacked like this and he stumbled back a good number of feet until he hit the front of the Pen. By reflex alone, he quickly twisted Joy in his arms only by a few inches. He noticed the sound of a fire cracker and Joy jumped. With a naughty smile she said, “Whew! Goldberg! You pinch me like that again and I might have to give you a spanking!”
She kissed him again and Goldberg thought, “what pinch?”
Up on the upper plaza, Sarah Grimaced and spun. “Ouch! Fucker!” She held her left butt right butt cheek and crumpled to the pavement.
“Sarah! You ok? Baby?” Teague crouched down and put his big hands around his girlfriend as she sat on one cheek and winced.
“Yeah, it’s just… Ow! What the hell was that?”
“What was what?”
“I just had this really sharp pain in… well… my ass.”
Dan came up the stairs with the bike over his shoulder and Molly in tow. “Man, you could at least have gotten more than a few feet away before you start talking about me.”
“Can the crap, stoner. I think Sarah might have dislocated her hip or something.”
“Uh… ow… Actually, it felt like … Like being shot with a rubber band or a pellet gun or something. It stings like crazy, but I’m ok, I think.”
“Really baby? Who would do something like that?”
Dan looked around the scene. He narrowed in on the planters that lined the path where the plaza wrapped around the student union building, becoming a balcony. “I’m just pitching, but maybe you should ask the guy with the gun over there?”
“Where.” Teague’s voice dripped with chained rage.
Dan pointed before he thought better of it. “Dude’s right there. Between the bushes. Just walk along the wall behind the planters and he’s right there.”
“Right there! Oh for shit sake. Are you blind or something? He’s hidden in the plant fucking thing right there.”
Teague took off mumbling, “Stay right here baby.”
“Teague!” Sarah shouted. “Don’t hurt him! You’ll get suspended.”
“I’m already suspended.” Teague said. He squinted and followed Dan’s directions, running full steam.
Dan looked at Sarah and said, “Really?” His face clouded with loss. “Ah crap, there goes the season.”
Wedged in between the potted bushes and the student union’s wall, Mr. Aye manipulated his bolt action sniper rifle, ejecting the cartridge. They had moved at the last second, but still, it was a dead-on hit. Or it should have been. But a look though the scope showed those two still sucking face.
Mr. Aye finally raised his head from his sight to see Teague barreling towards him. He stood and calmly reached inside his jacket with his left hand while his right stayed in position on the sniper rifle. His hand came out in a flash brandishing a black semi-automatic that looked small in his meaty hand. The shot was almost casual, and dead on target. Teague’s shirt exploded in a scorched rip, exposing his bronze chest between his pectorals.
A second shot ripped the shirt slightly to the left, but Teague kept coming. He stepped right up to the man and grabbed him by the throat. Two more shots went into Teague’s chest before Teague grabbed the gun and his hand.
“Dude. Stop with them fucking bee bees.”
Wind had to force its way through the constriction in Mr. Aye’s throat before being formed into words, and even then, it also had to get through the bandages that now covered most of the assassin’s face. “What Bee Bees?” He croaked out.
“Oh, you’re funny now. You shot my girlfriend in the ass and now you owe me a new shirt.”
Mr. Aye’s eyes flicked over to where Goldberg and Joy are just now separating. “Looks like she’s stepping out on you then.” He tried to point with his eyes, but the way the big angry football player held him limited his motions.
“What the fuck did you just say?” Teague’s eyes bulged out at the man dangling in his hand. “You know I’ve been told today that I have an anger management problem. They think I’m the same out of control street punk that came in last year, getting in trouble and shit, but you know what I say? I say I’m being really fucking understanding here.” He shook Mr. Aye by the throat and said, “Do I look like someone with an anger management problem? I should kick your ass into paste, but I’m not. You know what I’m going to do?”
“Yeah, well, I’m not totally sure either. But I am resisting the urge to throw you off this fucking balcony. It’s not even a thing.” Teague looked at Mr. Aye for a long moment. “You familiar with the concept of Karma, mother fucker? It means that if I do what I want to do and beat the ever-living crap from you, that I put a black mark on my own soul or som’thin’ like that. But you see, Karma also says that you get what’s coming to you in the end. Maybe not today, but some day, the bad man pays.
“Now here’s the deal. You… are a Fucker. A bad man. You shot my girlfriend with your pea shooter and you ruined a perfectly good shirt. It’s pretty well established that your karma here is pretty dirty. You have some shit coming your way some day and some time, hanging over you like… like a fucking thing that hangs over you until it falls and wrecks your day. But you know what? I have the will and the means to help you out with that. Right now. You can pay right now instead of having it over your head, waiting to take you. So, what do you say? I’m feeling like being an agent of Karma. How’s about we lighten that load you’re carrying around with you?”
“Merp!” the big man squeeked with nothing but his toes lightly tapping the ground.
“Great! I thought we could work this out. Now here’s the deal. I’m going to punch you, but not in anger. This is Karma for you and for me, an equalizing of the scales. So I’mma hit you just once, but believe it… I’m going to make it count. You fucking deserve that.” He reached back his enormous arm and said, “Say hello to karma, ya asshole!”
From where Carl waited in the car he could see the punch, hear the wet, meaty slap it made and feel himself cringe at the result. No stranger to fights, Carl had an expectation of what a punch should look like. This one seemed all wrong. When a fist hits someone’s face, there is always an interplay between the two objects, a negotiation of breaking strength and kinetic energy, not that he’d think of it that way. In other words, even at its most lopsided, the face gave a little back to the fist, either by slowing it or diverting the blow. None of this happened here. The fist just plowed forward toward a point three inches past the plane of Mr. Aye’s face and came back out. Carl could see the mercenaries head snap back, but it wasn’t enough, especially since the big black man’s other hand held Mr. Aye’s throat steady. It was brutal and quick, like a piece of machinery stamping out a hole in sheet metal. And when it was over, the black man simply dropped Mr. Aye and walked away. No rubbing of knuckles or massaging of forearms.
“Holly fucking crap!” Carl started the tan sedan and hopped up the curb with a loud scrape. Mr. Aye lay like a pile of meat. He carefully drove past the wooden benches and concrete planters that lined the balcony and rolled to a stop next to him. A practiced hand threw the car into park as he popped the door open and stepped out. The guy that had thrown the sickening punch was walking away and Carl had no desire to get his attention. He walked around the car and opened the door to the back seat.
Once again, he had to get an unresponsive Mr. Aye into the car. This time he didn’t even try to be gentile and instead relied on leverage. He unrumpled the big man’s body and rested his face against the seat cushion. Putting Mr. Aye’s ass on his shoulder, Carl pushed against a concrete planter with all his might, causing Aye’s body to fold and scoot across the back seat. His face provided the foothold for this action and it both scraped along the seat and supported his whole weight. Soon enough, the meaty body was in the back of the car and Carl slammed the door. “You’re welcome, you comatose piece of shit. You’d better not be dead.”
[Author’s note: Sorry for the wait – again. Lots of life issues plus a lot of anxiety about this particular episode has not been a great combination. I’m also now dropping it when people are least likely to be reading, so I’ve farked this along numerous vectors.
How’d you like, arguably, the first time the team went into action together? Not exactly the X-men, eh?
I know I say this every time, but if you like what you are reading here, please spread the word. Voting for me on top web fiction is extremely useful, as are likes and follows.
The story is getting a lot more actiony as the gloves come off, so hold on to your hat. I’ll try not to have such a long pause between episodes again.
Thanks for reading and Stay Weird.