This is part 2, as it were, of the narrative I started HERE, as part of my ongoing attempt to keep the words flowing and fend off laziness and despair.
No plan, no editing, no nothing… just GO. So, here I went.
“Christ, you two. Good thing you got out of there clean or else I’d have some serious tap dancing to do for the Director.”
“I know, boss,” I said, slumping softly into the padded chair across the desk from Raymond Howitz, Prime Agent of our Division. With his graying, near buzz-cut and obsolete horn-rimmed glasses, I always felt like I’d been called to the principal’s office in 1962. The fact that such an archaic head sat atop a body I knew could toss me around that office like a rag-doll did little to ease my discomfort. A soft moan escaped my lips as I settled my bloodied and bruised body into some semblance of comfortable.
We’d barely made it through the door into the bullpen when he’d bellowed for us. Not like he didn’t know we were coming: our trackers were routed directly to his desk display. He knew where anyone in his Division was at any given time.
Made for an interesting social life.
I turned my head as far as my neck would allow. “Thanks, Jules. I said tomorrow.”
“You’d better thank Jules, Jimmy,” he answered for her. “Without her, you’d be an John Doe DOA in tomorrow’s blotter. What the hell were you doing without backup?”
“I had backup,” I said, slowly returning my eyes forward. “I knew Jules wouldn’t let me down.”
“You’re lucky I know you’re a fucking idiot and decided to keep tabs on you. For fuck’s sake, Pietr could have killed you, instead of keeping you alive long enough for me to catch up to you.”
“She’s not kidding, Wilson,” Howitz said. “Radmanoviz is—was—a fucking animal. You’re lucky he was slumming it and didn’t have his security team with him. Not that I’m not glad he’s off the stream, but damn it, I’d rather have done it a little cleaner than this.” He waved his hand in my general direction. The flow of air hurt my face, but that might have been my imagination.
“Sorry, boss. I saw an opportunity to get him alone and had to take it. Trust me, I’ll think twice next time.”
“Hell, I’d be happy if you’d think just once,” Jules said, slapping my shoulder from where she stood behind me.
“Ahh,” I winced at the contact. “Boss, I’m going to need a few hours—”
“Right,” he interrupted me. “Get down to rehab and we’ll talk again tomorrow. Salazar,” he looked at Jules, “help your partner up and drag his ass outta here. Since he’s out of commission, you’ve got some paperwork to get started on.”
Jules gripped me by the shoulders from behind—a little rougher than necessary, I thought—and lifted me up.
“You know how much I hate paperwork, Jimmy,” she growled in my right ear as she turned me to the left and propelled me—again, a little more energetically than necessary—toward the door of the office. It slid open into the wall, and we exited back into the bullpen, that administrative hell of glass-top desks and mind-numbing screens of endless scenarios and deployment options dreamed up by ATHENA.
“I think I’d like ATHENA to go offline for a while,” I said to no one in particular as we passed through the empty bullpen. This time of night, nobody else was around.
“She crunches forty trillion possible causal outcomes a second, remember? She doesn’t take breaks.”
“Well, I do,” I said, making my way out into the corridor leading to the rehab section.
Yeah… A couple hours in there, and I’ll be right as rain.
Jules flipped my legs up onto the table after I lowered my aching body onto it.
“Fuck, Jules!” I said. “Are you really that pissed off?”
“Yep. See you in the morning,” she pressed the large, red button next to the bed and the table beneath me started to glow as a clam-shell cover slowly descended to cover me with a matching glow. I heard her heels click across the room and with a flick of the switch the lights went out.
And so did I.