Old Man

He stumbled and fell hard into the bookcase. He hardly felt the impact as the continual waves of pain from his side preoccupied his thoughts.

“Lucky shot… that’s all… fucking lucky shot…” he said under his breath between winces.

He slid slowly down to the floor and sat there against the bookcase, trying desperately to catch his breath. The room was dark. Which made seeing hard enough without the fog that rolled in from the street. In all these years he never dared come to this side of town. The tattered buildings, mounds of debris, and decaying bodies never enticed him.

He was an accountant. They needed him. At least until they got themselves killed.

A large figure loomed up from the darkness and kneeled down next to him. “How are you doing?” he said.

“Eric… how… the fuck… does it look like… I’m doing?”

Eric grinned, “Yeah, but you’re too old to die on us now.” Eric pulled out a wad of cloth and a package of pills from his coat. Popping out one of the pills Eric shoved the little white capsule into his mouth and held it closed until he swallowed. Next Eric pressed the wad of cloth against his side. “I don’t have anything to adhere this so you’re going to need to just keep a hand on it.”

Flashes of light and the boom of gunfire rang out in the street.

“Don’t worry,” Eric said, “Vanessa has them pinned down real good. Nothing is going to get past her.”

Everything was starting to get dark for him. He knew he had lost a lot of blood, but he couldn’t resist the weight of the darkness pressing in on him. He was getting old.

As he slowly started to slump up against Eric he started to recognize the room. It was a library. A library he remembered. He had been here before. Back when he was a kid. He could see it now. All nice, bright, and clean. People hanging around talking or reading cheerfully. And the books! So many wonderful books.

He used to like books.

Wake up!” Vanessa said quietly to him as she tapped his foot.

He was awake immediately but didn’t move. Moving too quickly could get you killed. Slowly he cracked an eye to scan his surroundings. The last thing he remembered was being in the library.

Outside of Vanessa he could sense no immediate danger. Opening his eyes fully he slowly pulled himself up. Shooting pain coursed through his body, but he managed to keep his expression to a wince.

You should be more careful old man. That wound, while only minor, is just going to get worse unless we can get you patched up.

Whatever Eric had given him had worked well. He was still in pain, but he could move about now. “Where’s Eric?

His body is downstairs just outside the front doors. Fat bastard didn’t even see it coming… told him to hurry up.” Even though Vanessa and Eric didn’t get along, he knew her attitude was masking the pain. Eric was a good person. To lose him, to lose anyone, was a hard blow.

The room they were in looked like a lab of some sort. All the walls were split in half, bottom half solid, top half glass. Spread around the room where tables, chairs, terminals, filing cabinets, and a ton of other equipment. Paper was littered everywhere.

Vanessa was sitting on a box over by the glass doors to the lab. Her head bowed to be just under the glass partition of the wall. As always she was tense, ready for anything.

He rolled over and got up into a crouched position next to Vanessa. Trying to keep his movements slow and gentle. Even then he couldn’t smile. “Where are we?

Don’t know. We couldn’t carry you far, so we hauled you a couple of buildings down. Looked like a good spot to hide.” Vanessa paused. “Until we got inside.

After the realization at the library, he was remembering things. Places mostly from his childhood.

We must be in the DroMC Research building,” he said.

Vanessa turned and looked at him. “How in the hell do you know that?

Standing up he said “I used to play near here as a child.”

Vanessa’s face now turned to alarm and shock, “What are you doing?! Get DOWN!” she practically hissed as he grabbed at his arm.

“Don’t worry, we’re safe here in the labs,” he said as he brushed away her hand. “You saw a blue light when you went through the doors right?”

“Yeah… So, what? Some of these buildings still have funny lights on,” Vanessa said as she craned her neck back and forth looking for an attack.

“That’s the inorganic shield. It disrupts all non-organic electrical systems. They shouldn’t be able to find us or get us here.”

Vanessa stood up and casually waved her handgun at him. “Fucking novices. You shouldn’t take such risks. If they find us, we’re dead. They do have human agents after all.”

He left the room and headed over to an outside window. As he approached he could see the billows of smoke and the flashes of light in the distance. He could feel the heat from Vanessa as she stormed up next to him. She had a right to be angry. That probably would have been a stupid move if he wasn’t so sure of the truth.

“I doubt they will spare the precious few organics they have to come after us. We’re just small potatoes compared to their real targets. When I was doing their numbers I got opportunities to see their plans, their goals. It was hard to keep things hidden so they built up just enough resources to mount this assault. They don’t have anything to spare right now.”

“If that’s true, then we might have a couple of days to get out of here. Earth?”

He snorted. Earth. “They would disintegrate us when we get into orbit. No. Luna would be our only hope.”

“The Moon? Are you crazy! It’s nothing but a cesspit. They’d rob us, rape us, and leave us in a ditch the moment we got there.”

“What more do we have to lose? We’ve already been robbed, raped, and left in a ditch,” he said as he swept his arms out for emphasis.

“Fine old man. Luna it is. Just don’t be thinking I’m going to be hauling your ass around if you go down again. Now, do you think you could lug your ass down to the garage and help me find something to get out of here?”

He smiled. It shouldn’t be, but this was exhilarating. The most excitement he ever had in his dull life.

Lance Terry Hildebrand