7:30 am


"Open up," said the dentist. But the man in the chair was having none of it. He squirmed and turned his head, trying to bury it inside his left shoulder.

The dentist sighed and gestured with a nod; instantly, four guards from outside the room pushed in through the door and grabbed the patient by his arms and legs, holding him down. He kicked and fought mightily, but he was no match for their strength, not in his current weakened condition.

He finally gave up, and began to sob.

"It won't take long," said the dentist. "Not if you don't fight."

And indeed, the patient seemed to let the last of the fight seep from his body, going limp. The dentist's pretty assistant brought the restraint over, slipping it on top of the patient's head so that his eyes were shrouded in darkness, his ears encased in thick leather, banded in steel that bolted to the back of the chair. Almost in tandem, the four guards bolted the patient's legs and arms into steel shackles, locking him to the chair.

The dentist again gestured, and all but one of the guards backed up and left the room; the remaining one locked the door and posted himself in front of it while a second guard fastened a similar lock on the outside.

"Now then," said the dentist, "Let's see those teeth."

His assistant dutifully cranked the handle on the side of the restraint, forcing the patient's mouth open. He instinctually tried to resist, but felt his jaw giving way, and instead let the crank do its job. Tears ran down his face, pooling inside the mask around his neck.

With a few "hmmms" and "oh my"'s, the dentist did his thing, poking and prodding inside the patient's mouth, every so often a small tingle or jolt as metal touched metal. And then he stepped back to converse with his assistant and the guard. The patient struggled to hear the conversation, but within the confines of the leather mask, it was all but impossible, everything reduced to murmurs this far away.

Suddenly the dentist was in front of him again, face close enough that the patient could smell the antiseptic on his breath.

"Well," he said, "it looks like we're going to have to do some extractions."

"How many?" the patient tried to ask. His question emerged only as a groan, saliva running from the corners of his mouth. The dentist seemed to understand, however.

"Half of them," said the dentist.

*I'm not sure exactly how "freeform, anything goes" this is allowed to be; but here it goes...*

Shit like this always make me feel sick. On the other side of the two way mirror from where the dentist was readying his implements, I look at the man standing next to me.

"Is all this really necessary?" I ask him as I light a cigarette despite the "No Smoking" sign affixed to the back of the door, "I mean...damn."

I look back to the dentists surgical suite through the glass, and wince as he picks up a particularily nasty looking device.

The dentist picks up a particularly nasty looking device (that the patient cannot see, of course) and brings it towards the chair. The patient visibly tenses, struggling in vain against the steel shackles. His jaw begins to shake.

"Easy now," the dentist says. "This will all be over soon."

As he turns the device on, the microphones in the room crackle with static for a moment.

"It's for your own good."

As he leans in, there is a sudden power surge. All the lights in the office blow out, plunging the room into darkness and kicking the microphones offline. Through the soundproof glass, there is no sound or visible movement. Inside the room itself, there is nothing but the sound of breathing. Breathing.

I flick my zippo on again and calmly take a drag on my smoke.

"Good electrics in here, innit?" I ask no one in particular while using my left arm to feel the comfortable lump of the revolver in my shoulder holster.

I look for the man that was in the room with me by the light of my zippo while trying to remember the combination to my briefcase lock (not that it matters, because I lost the briefcase in a boat upset in Delhi three years ago, and in moments of stress I think about that instead of what is going on around me and then try to deflect the remainder of my worry with feigned nonchalance and dry wit).

The lights flicker back on after just a few seconds. Certainly no more than ten.

The cigarette falls from your mouth.

Inside the chamber, the dentist, guard and assistant are... well, it's hard to say where one begins and the other ends. Body parts are strewn about the room, and the heads are ripped off at the upper jaw and stacked on the patient's chair, which is otherwise empty.

On the wall beside the open door, written in blood, is the number 2301.

Which, you suddenly recall, is your briefcase lock number.

"Bloody hell..." I whisper, almost inaudibly.

The zippo snaps shut and the revolver is in my hand in one motion. I can't decide whish is worse...the whiskey I drank too much of last night, or the tequila in my pocket flask I was sipping on the way over here.

"Call 911, " I say to the man that was standing next to me as I head for the open door, cocking the hammer on the gun, "and don't touch anything!"

I do my best Jack Bauer/Solid Snake, despite the buzz of liqour in my brain, as I step through the door.

"Call 911," you say. "and don't tou..."

You fling the door of your little observation chamber open and immediately in front of you is the patient, hands soaked in blood, moving already.

"...ch a..."

There is a blur of motion, and behind you the other guard collapses to the floor. You dimly realize that he has been shot.


You look down, and there is blood on the handle of your revolver, not your own.


Your mind wrestles with the impossibility of what just happened even as your body begins to piece it together. Nerve endings finally register the removal of the gun, and its replacement in your hand. Ears finally begin to ring with the sound of three rapid gunshots. Eyes... they tell you nothing but that the patient remains standing in the doorway, a revolver-shaped imprint on his left hand, where the blood wiped off. No, not standing; still in motion, a single fluid motion that no doubt began when he extricated himself from the chair, and will perhaps end only when he is dead.

"Come on," he says, disappearing around the edge of the door. "There's not much time."

Either certain you will not shoot him, or daring you to do so, he lopes down the adjacent hallway, heading for the Emergency Exit, trailing drops of blood behind him.

"Sounds like a plan," says a voice. "Maybe he's got something to drink."

"Yeah," you hear yourself saying, and then you realize that you are alone. It must be the booze talking.


I give my head a shake and run down the hallway after the patient, still at the ready as my old training kicks in and instincts long fuzzed out by drink and late nights worm their way up to the surface.

It's not the first time I've heard voices while drinking, but they always sounded like my own. This was clearly different. This was from inside, but not all the way inside like my nagging doubt or my rabid self deprecation.

"This is stupid," I mumble, trying to figure out why I haven't shot him three times, center mass, like my instincts were telling me to do. Shooting him in the back? Trust me, my conscience has dealt with worse.

"Oi!" I shout to him half heartedly while raising and lowering the gun a few inches in rapid succesion, trying to convince myself to pull the trigger and knowing somehow that I shouldn't...that I should play this out, "OI!!!"

I bite my lip and wrinkle my nose, lowering the gun away from him and pointing it off at an angle to the floor.

"Oi! Nutter! This is the wrong way to play it! What the f*#k mate!?!"

I keep following him, realizing how good a drink would actually be right now. Now that I remembered the briefcase combination I distract the manic part of my brain by thinking instead about the greasy food I had gotten at the kebab stand late last night. Or had that been early this morning? If the media ended up involved in this, I'd wish for a clean tie when the cameras show up.. This one had condiments on it.

One more time in front of the cameras and they'd pull my license for sure. I couldn't let that happen.

I let off a shot at the floor as near as I can get to the patient's feet.

"Oi! Stand right there and don't move!"

Without stopping, he turns and begins to walk backwards, staring at you now.

He says

"We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole."

and you know it's a quote from something, somewhere. A poem. You can hear the line breaks. And you've heard it before. Long ago.

No, "ago" is the wrong word. It doesn't taste right. Separated by time, but not...

"Give it up," says the Voice. "Let's get sloshed."

The patient keeps walking backwards, staring you in the eyes. He gestures again, beckoning you. Does he want you to follow him, or to kill him?

I think to the empty pocket flask inside my worn out sport jacket and lower my gun...a bit. I jog to catch up with him.

"This is stupid," I say; maybe to him, maybe to myself, maybe to the Voice...maybe to no one, "you had better know what you're doing."

"Alright mate...we'll do things your way for now. You better not be havin a laugh."

"Nothing funny about it," says the patient. Ex-patient. He picks up speed and drops to the floor as if he were sliding into home plate, and just after he does so a door swings open and a guard steps out, gun leveled. The patient skids right into the guard's legs and takes him down, sending the guard spinning face first into the floor and shattering his nose. The guard does not move any more.

The patient, again in one smooth movement, does a somersault and flips himself up onto his feet, continuing to run towards the elevator. It seems as if he'll run right into the doors, but just as he reaches the end of the corridor there's a DING and the doors open for him.

Only now does he stop, out of necessity. He turns, presses one of the buttons, and watches you jog towards him. It doesn't seem like he's planning to hold the doors for you, but you know that you can make it in time. Have made it in time already, in fact.

Dimly, by the way he casts his eyes gently upwards, you can tell that the patient is listening to something, or someone. Something you can't hear.

"What a lunatic," says the Voice in your head. "He probably hears Voices in his head."

"*Only crazy people hear Voices in their heads*," I think to the Voice in my head.

As soon as the door closes, I level the Colt Python at his forehead, more out of habit than out of some attempt at threatening him. He's too fast for me. He seems to know that things are going to happen before they happen. I'm a failure anyways. I always have been. Married, then divorced. Father, then ignored. MI6 to regular military to private merc to washed up cop to private investigator....

Pretty much the lowest of the low at this point. All that's left is tube security and I'll have hit bottom. And that's exactly where I'll end up by the time this is over, I can tell. Any "powers that be" in this blasted city are out of patience with the crap I get into. The barely explainable shootings, the missing evidence, the fines, the cussing about the ignorance of the cops to what's *really going on* whenever a camera is pointed my way.

I'm getting what I deserve, that's what this is. Karma, divine justice...whatever the hell it's called. She was right that day when she left with our son all those years ago. I really did amount to nothing.

And I'm all out of friendly faces in this town.

"Shut the f*#k up," the Voice tells me, "I'm the only Voice you should be listening to, and the only friend you need. You can't trust your opinion of yourself when you're like this. You need another five drinks. Just listen to me...I'll get you there."

I blink the sweat out of my eyes and squint against the hangover, trying my hardest to just put a bullet through this nonces face and get this over with.

"Bloke...we gotta find a drink. I'm feelin kinda dry here" I say to the ex-patient as I lower the gun.

But I keep my finger hovering over the trigger. I take out the pocket flask and drain the last swallow of tequila, letting it linger on my tongue like communion.

"What are we on about then...if I'm in for a penny, may as well be for a pound. And what do you know about Delhi and my briefcase?"

You realize you're heading down, into the sub-basement. You've never been there before, and you can't even get the elevator to go down there without a proper retinal scan. Yet here you go.

"I ain't never been to Delhi, and I don't know anything about a briefcase," he says. "As for drinks... sure, I'm game. If we live through this."

It occurs to you that maybe he can't see the future.

"Not clearly, at any rate," he says. He smirks a bit and looks at you. "No, I don't read minds either. Just a good guesser."

The elevator dings, and the doors slide open. Before you is a great expanse, high ceilings and far walls just beyond the reach of the single light over the elevator door. It looks impossible, like some sort of staging area, or...

"Prison," he says, stepping out of the elevator. "Or something like. And no, I don't know what for. They don't talk about that."

As if to indicate who "they" are, he taps the right side of his mouth, then points upward, walking forward into the darkness, expecting you to follow. His voice echoes throughout the chamber.

"I can hear them, through my fillings. That's how I know that they're not here now, not following us. Not yet. I only had the one, at first. Cavity. The rest I added myself. Got a drill at home in the garage. Tin works best. Hurts a bit, but you get used to it. Now I get sixteen channels. Better answer that."

Your cell phone rings a half second later.

It rings once.

"So you *do* hear Voices. Turns out I've got one of my own."

It rings again.

"Did the Voice tell you the code? The one you wrote on the wall back there in that geezers blood?"

It rings a third time

"I've been trying to remember that for a few years now."

It rings a fourth time, and right before it goes to my voicemail I click the answer button an my three years outdated mobile.

"Yeah? Who's this?" I ask somewhat insolently.

A tinny computerized voice says "Password."

It has to be. 2301.

There's a click.

"Hello." It's the patient, or someone who sounds just like him.

"If you're listening to this, then you're where I think you are, and when I think you are, and who I think you are, and I'm standing next to you."

The patient crouches down next to you, waiting patiently.

"In a few seconds, you're going to be faced with a decision. Which way you go, that's up to you, I don't care. But you must choose. And you must not let anything stop you. Not them. Not me."

The patient scratches in the dusty floor, still waiting.

"I may die here. I'm not sure. Hell, you may be dead already. I can't see that clearly. But the point is that if you are alive, then you must stay that way."

The patient stands and dusts himself off.

"In a moment I'm going to ask you who this was. You need to lie to me. Say whatever you want, but don't tell me the truth. I don't know if you can trust me."

The message ends and automatically disconnects.

The patient looks at you and smiles.

"Who was it?"

"Telemarketer. Life insurance. If I had anyone to leave it to, with the way today is going, I'd have bought too."

I look at him while he stands there brushing dust off himselft, thinking about condiments and cigarettes and having a drink. Thinking about fast cars and extra ammo and late nights at the diner after the bar. Thinking about...well, thinking about anything but who I just spoke to and the conversation that transpired. I hope I can hurry up and decide whether to shoot him or not; a drink would help.

"Look mate, I don't know if I can trust you," I tell him as I cock the revolver and point it at his forehead again...

..."*I don't know if I can trust either of them*," I tell the Voice in my head...

..."so give me a reason why I should...sharpish."

As you point the gun at his forehead, your eyes focus behind him for a moment, and there in the distance, at the edge of shadow, you can see another guard aiming at you - which of you two is not clear. It would take only a tiny adjustment to send the bullet past his head, rather than through it.

"Well, shoot one of them," says the Voice. "You heard the man. Choose."

I adjust by a minute degree and snap off one expertly placed shot at the guards head. In the same motion, I grab the patient by the front of the shirt and drop to my right knee, dragging him to the floor with me.

All in one fraction of a second:

I scan for cover that provides a view of all the exits I am aware of.

-I curse my ex-wife for not staying.

I listen for running feet, crackling radios, or the slide action of a gun.

-I curse myself for being such a failure that she left me.

I glance to the patient, making sure he's low enough to keep him from leaking.

-I curse the bottle, I curse the pain, I curse the day I was born.

I flip open my cell phone and call the last number that called me.

-I think about my son, and wonder where he is right now...hoping it's somewhere wonderful where dreams come true instaed of nightmares.

"We're gonna be on the news now...you know that right?" I ask no one in particular.

-I bite my lip and wish for a drink and scan for someone else to put a hole in.

The guard's head snaps back as you catch him right in the forehead. From the awkward way he limps to one side before collapsing you're certain it was someone you have talked to before. Fred? Ted? Something like that.

"Irrelevant now, because he's dead," says the Voice. "Hey that rhymed."

You dial the number as you crouch, listening for other noises, but there's nothing. No doubt, someone heard that shot. You're going to have to move quickly now.

There's a faint ringing in the distance, deep in the shadows.

"Let's go, this shit just got real, mate," I snap off at the patient.

Keeping the gun in my right hand and the phone in my left, I stay low and run for the sound of the ringing.

"Start talking, I need details now!" I grate out, both to the Bottle and to the patient.

The patient runs alongside you. You get the feeling you're holding him back.

"Fine," he says. "But first I have a question for you."

The phone stops ringing. You reach down and dial the number again to be sure, and sure enough, the ringing starts again. It sounds close by.

"What?" you growl.

The patient smirks.

"What year do you think it is?" he asks.

"If you're going to get all Sylvia Plath on me, you're going to make me wish I'd shot you when I found you to bring you here. I still don't know why I'm helping you break out after all the trouble I went through to bring you in. But since you're asking, it's 2010 and we all know that. Now get on with the details, and I'll say again...make it sharpish, yeah? F*#king Americans, and your question-with-a-question...shoulda stayed home I should have."

I take out and shake the empty pocket flask and put it back in my pocket, mumbleing "soon old friend, soon" then look back at the patient expectantly, clearly projecting his impending demise with my glare. My grip on the revolver tightens, my pulse quickens, and I think about breaking bones twisting necks automatic weapon fire the smell of cordite cover disintegrating under a heavy barrage close combat training SMASH i just broke your teeth.

I grin, trying to suppress my baser urges.

He seems impressed at something.

"I guess you were wrong," he says to himself. Or maybe not to himself, per se. Then he looks at you and nods.

"Right. So we're in new territory here then. Wonderful. For starters, let's find that phone. I assume that's what we're following? The noise? Whose phone is that, anyway?"

He pauses, but only for a moment, as if not expecting an answer. Then he continues.

"How much do they tell you? I mean, did. About things. Like me. Like why I was here. Like what they were doing. Like about Voices."

"Don't worry about the phone...I'll worry about the phone. As for what they tell me, not much. I'm an independant contractor. All I know is they said 'find this guy and bring him in'. It's something I've only done for them once before. Their cheques clear, and that's all I really cared about."

I poke my head up from behind whatever we're hiding behind and make my way, still crouched over, in the direction I last heard the phone, after gesturing for him to go first.

"Enough of this, I'm not interviewing for a job, see? It was me that asked you for details, not the other way around."

"Just trying to figure out what you already know. I wouldn't want to cover algebra if you're already doing calculus."

He pauses for a moment, and then half under his breath, adds "and maybe you are." You don't think he's talking about calculus.

You reach a wall. There's a dim outline of where a door used to be, now recently bricked in with cinder blocks. Over where the door used to be is a narrow slit, far too small to climb through, and it's from this that you can hear the phone. The phone is definitely on the other side of that wall.

"Figures," says the patient. "Couldn't be easy, could it."

He starts following the wall to the right, looking for another door.

"Couple people say it started a few years ago. Some people say it started way before that. Two that I know of say it's always been. The Voices, I mean. Some people don't like the Voices. That's why I'm here. And that's why you're here. You're a patient too. You just don't know it. Or didn't. Until right now."

He gestures expansively.

"Everyone in here is a patient. Everyone except one guy. We need to find him."

"We need to kill him."

My mind is clear. My conscience...is another matter. Perhaps that's because my mind is clear. I am motivation. I do not pause. I do not consider. I move. I have always moved. I am never wrong. And I've never had a Voice, any voice. My mind is clear.

I am not a patient. I am the doctor. And right now I'm leaning against a brick wall, watching a cell phone. I know I must wait, and so I wait. One more ring. It rings.

Finally, I move, no hesitation, no movement wasted. I am economic, mechanical, and full of the thing always denied to humans. Purpose.

And I answer the cell phone.

"Hello, my good friend."

"What do you mean I'm a patient? If I were a patient, would I have this?" I hold up the gun and wiggle it back and forth.

"But getting back to Voices," I say as I examine the brick work to see if it was mortared or just stacked that way, "I think I've always had mine. Well, as long as I've been on the booze anyways. Since she left me a couple years ago. So that fits one of your timelines, don't it? I'm usually too drunk to notice that it's not really my own voice though."

I find a bit of a gap, just enough for the blade of my folding knife, and just as I'm about to flip my phone shut and put it in my pocket to pull out my knife and wedge it in, I notice the screen goes from "Dialing..." to "Connected...", so I put it back to my ear.

"Who's this then?" I ask with an audible sneer in my voice.

"I'm the man your friend wants to kill. I'm your friend. I can help your...problem."

"I've got a number of problems right about now mate, you're going to have to be more specific. I don't remember having any friends left, and I received a call from this number not long ago and it wasn't you on the line. Either way, if you're on the other side of this wall I'll be with you in a sharp minute and we can continue our stimulating discourse."

I wedge my knife between the blocks and slide it back and forth. As I suspected, no mortar. A rush job. Block it up and hope. As I snap the phone shut I wrench the knife down and towards me, coaxing out one of the cinder blocks far enough to grab it by the bottom edge. I holster my knife and gun, and pull.

The wall comes tumbling down at me, and I step to the side to see what lies behind the cinder blocks, pulling the Python out and putting two more bullets in as the dust settles. It's weight comforts me, but a drink would be better.

The blocks crash to the floor, a pile waist high between you and a steel door.

"I suppose we could go through there," says the patient. "Give me a hand and we'll clear a path. Then we'll worry about that door."

He begins stacking the cinder blocks into a pyramid, off to one side of the door.

I smile. A slight, small smile.

But they're close, and I'm running out of time. I finish the work on the room, carving a small passage into the wall, buried like a needle in a haystack among the other inscriptions, some mad, some important, just waiting for the right person to find. But this one...heh, while others were important, this is essential. I know it will (had been?) be found. Then I move quickly up the stairs, not missing a step. I pass by the door leading to the tunnel and make my way up the rest of the steps, toward the light. I open the door and step through.

I holster the gun for the umpteenth time today and throw my back into moving cinder blocks.

"My first job was a bricklayer, " I mumble, booze sweats becoming more prevalent on my forehead, "back when I was 14. I hated bricklaying, but it was that or wash minicabs."

"*I like it when you get nostalgic*" the Bottle tells me.

"Yeah, well I don't," I say aloud, not even caring now if I look crazy or not. This whole morning has been crazy.

"How are we gonna get through this door?" I ask the patient, "It's awfully metal."

"It will open," says the patient. "Unless they're all dead."

He looks at you.

"Sorry," he says. "I haven't introduced myself, have I?"

"Not really, but then again neither have I. My names Jack. Jack Anders. I'll be honest mate, *who* you are is getting less and less important to me in the face of wondering *what* you are."

I wipe the sweat from my forehead with the cuff of my jacket.

"And what do you mean...unless *who* is all dead?"

I check the time on my watch.

"Unless the walkers are all dead. Ones like us." I explain. "We are thoughts caught in a physical prison. What the Vedic tradition calls Chita ... Mind stuff," I say as I gesture towards my head. I form my hand into a fist and rap the ends of my knuckles off my arm emphatically... "Prana ... Dense mind stuff."

"I'm Eddie." I say with a wry smile, but my memory and thoughts have become so mercurial I'm not even really sure it's true. So I smile with the little inner joke.

I point a tatooed finger to his watch that he seems so interested in. "Time is not linear you know. It's not just flowing in one direction. It goes every direction at once. That's why we can't stop. Besides, we've got to kill the beast."

I pause to catch up to some of the voices in my head; hesitate as I sift through the information.

I put a hand on Jack's shoulder, stopping him from barging through the door. "It's always polite to knock first," I say as I knock. With the introductions out of the way, I step aside and watch the door.

The door slides open. One man is standing there, wearing dark jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt. From the bulk, he might be wearing a vest underneath. You can't really tell. His face is buried beneath two months of beard and dark, dark eyeglasses.

"Eddie? Is that you?" he says. "Do you remember me? Jack? Jenna's husb-- ex-husband. Maybe not. We met once. At that restaurant. The one where..."

He trails off as he steps forward into the light to make sure it's you.

"It is you. Thank god. And... well, I don't know who you are, but if you're with Ed then you're in trouble too. Come on, we have to hurry if we want to catch the next train. Jenna and Steve are there waiting."

He pauses for a moment to listen to something.

"Yeah," he says to nothing and no one, "but there's nothing I can do about that now."

"Come on."

He turns and walks towards the staircase just beyond the door.

"You *are* getting all Sylvia Plath on me, aren't ya? Prana this, mind stuff that. In my line of work there's an objective, a protocol, and a time limit. Simple. All the same mate, I'm in this now."

I think back through half remembered facts, tainted by bias and insecurity and liquor. Sweet liquor. I don't really remember this guy, but that doesn't mean I haven't met him. I've let a lot of things slide over the last few years. I tune in old skills and build a picture of him in my mind with no beard, snapshots of what he would have looked like a year ago...two years ago...three years ago...four...five...long beard eyepatch shaved head long hair facial scar swami robes swim trunks no shoes playing a guitar.

Nope. Couldn't place him.

If he was here in America, and knew Jenna's name, then chances were he knew me or had read my file somewhere. It was highly unlikely that someone on this side of the pond would say both our names in one sentence, and I'd gone to considerable lengths to make sure no one could tie the current ("*new? f*#k that...I'm just getting older*") Jack Anders to my past. None of the people from the past would admit to knowing me anymore anyways.

There had been a lot of whiskey and a bit of tequila between last call and now, but it makes a thought come back to me as I go up the stairs with Eddie and this unshaven chap. The phone message. I'd barely understood when I listened to it leaving the bar last night...this morning...whenever that had been. It cut in and out. She was rambling. She sounded high. I flip open the phone and call my voicemail, listening to it again intently...lagging behind on the stairs.

As the message comes to an end, I turn and look at the doorway we came through and the bricks we'd just moved.

"*I tried to tell you to give it up and just go with it...come on, let's get sloshed already*" the Bottle says to me.

Without looking back up at the men on the stairs I drop the phone without noticing and cock the hammer on the Python.

"Someone better get me a f*#king drink sharpish...or there will be f*#king murders."

The bearded man rambles on and on as you walk up the stairs. It becomes clear that he is very addled and confused, alternately calling you Jack and referring to himself as Jack, as if he can't quite tell the difference. You peer more closely. Lose the beard, drop twenty pounds, lose a few years...

The Voice in your head parses his original greeting over and over and over...

Eddie? Is that you? Do you remember me? [It's] Jack, Jenna's husb-- ex-husband. Maybe not. We met once.

Eddie? Is that you? Do you remember me?
Jack, Jenna's husb-- ex-husband?
Maybe not.
We met once.

Eddie? Is that you? Do you remember me?
Jack, Jenna's husb-- ex-husband? Maybe not. We met once...

Is that you? Do you remember me? Jack, Jenna's husb-- ex-husband?
Maybe not. We met once.

Is that you? Do you remember me?
Jack? Jenna's husb-- ex-husband?
Maybe not.
We met once.

Do you remember me? Jack? Jenna's husb--

Do you remember? Jack? Jenna's husb--

Jack? Jenna's husb--

Jenna's husb--

But that's insane.

"Join the club," says the Voice.

Besides, occasionally Eddie is Jack, and you're pretty sure Eddie is Eddie.

Whoever Eddie is.

You reach a landing; the stairs continue up, but the bearded stranger (Jack?) stops there before the door.

"No no...*I'm* me. Plain and simple," I say outloud.

"You weren't talkin to me...were you?" I pointedly ask the bearded man, "but whatever, it's on now so let's f*@king go. I've got this cracking addition to the team right here (i wiggle the pistol again) so I'm not really worried about all this. I've lost track of a few years at the bottom of a bottle, but I'm not about to let that get in the way of this reunion or whatever it might be. If there's answers then I want them. And if Jenna's involved in this, I'll pull her ass out of it and let her get back to dodgeing my calls. Right then?"

I look thuggishly to the door, then to the stairs continuing up, then to Eddie, then back to the gun.

"I'm really only good at one thing, so sort me out with an objective and enough with the cute stuff," I look to ole burning beard, "and you mate could do with a shave."

"Jack" seems distant, unfocused and yet focused. He plods up the stairs, perhaps hearing what you're saying but certainly not reacting to it.

Eddie also seems quiet, as if he's somewhere else.

Your phone rings. You recognize the number. It's "Eddie."

You answer.

"So yeah," says Eddie's voice. "You might want to duck."

Seizing the opportunity of the distraction, I make my move. People on the phone curl their body inwards, sheltering the phone for reception. Jack the Younger stands on the landing. I attack from below, with my feet wide on the stairs so he does not see the charge. No shadow, no movement, and no warning. Coming from underneath, like a shark, I know I can strip the gun and do what needs be done. I don't like it, but it has to be. Two steps more.

Jack ducks. His eyes become alert. In ducking, he has lowered himself and is braced. My angle of attack relies on taking him standing. Damn! I change targets and slam against his gun arm and shoulder. We crash together, but even the years of drinking can't supress his nature. He rolls well with the unexpected blow and has created space between me and his core, but not so much that he has given me an arm to break. I feel the scramble of balance. The gun and the phone go flying in opposite directions, skidding across the floor. The gun is part-way towards older Jack and the phone is near the stairs.

Jack the Younger is braced for battle, but I got the drop on him -- barely. This could have gone much better. I disengage and run for the gun. Jack the Elder steps well and reacts quickly. I'm two steps from the gun, but if I drop to pick it up -- I'll surely be levelled by the Elder Jack. Damn he's good! I fake the dip and step out a toe, spinning like a soccer player I hook the gun with my left foot and spin left. I dodge right, passing the gun back into position for my right foot.

As I turn I can imagine the crowd! Green grass and goalposts and the warmth of the sun. Jack the younger half covers the stairs. With a defender right on me I have a moment. I stare at the open part of the stairs and the disoriented goalkeeper. Summoning all my strength I swing my leg and strike the gun letting the follow-through lift me and turn me like I'm ascending to heaven. The gun is struck well and rockets off my foot towards the gaping hole and the bottom of the stairs. I can't stop to see if I score; moments are too precious. I let the momentum of my kick spin me around as I rush towards the stair, the phone, and the beast.

I think to myself, "*well self, he told you on the phone he didn't know if he could trust himself*" and I pull out the holdout piece from my ankle holster.


I rush him as I pull the trigger, three times in rapid succesion. All three slugs take him up the back of his left leg, and as he falls on the stairs I pop one more into the back of his right knee. BAP!

I kneel down with my left knee into the back of his skull and press the little barrel behind his ear as I pick up the phone and put it back to mine. The bearded Jack stands there looking at me as if he expected all of this as part of his day and is waiting for a bus or something. I keep my eyes on him and my knee on Eddie.

"Next time call a mite earlier mate," I say into the phone, "now how about you tell me where to find Jenna?"

There's no reply from the phone; apparently it was another recording.

On the ground beneath you, Eddie groans, but not nearly as much as you'd expect for someone who's just taken four bullets in his legs. There's also not as much blood as you've come to expect. Strange.

The other "Jack" grabs the other gun and walks up to you both.

"We really don't have time for this," he says. "We need both of you."

He looks at Eddie.

"Especially you. You know that."

He gently pushes your knee from Eddie's head and lifts him up on his shoulder, supporting his weight. The climb up the stairs is going to be slow going now. Although Eddie seems to be supporting some of his own weight.

"I hope we make it in time," says bearded "Jack."

But three steps up the staircase, there's suddenly an enormous flash from above, followed by a sound that nearly blows your eardrums out. The shock wave knocks you back and to the floor, and pieces of staircase begin to rain down from above. Only after the fact do you realize there's been an explosion, up on the subway level. If you'd been there when it happened... If Eddie hadn't...


Jack's phone rings. He recognizes the number.

It's the doctor.

"What?!?" I yell into the phone.

"Just checking," he says.

In the background, you can hear a yell, and then gunfire.

You're 101% sure it was Jenna that yelled.

The line goes dead.

"Shall we author our fate, or be at it's mercy?"

Gingerly, I test my weight on the stairs leading down. Leaning heavily on Jack Scruff I begin to hop down the stairs. I feel the apprehension above.

"The way above is closed to us. We must descend deeper before we can surface." I wince as I bend my right leg too much. "We can't stop moving. Although I wouldn't mind hopping past an infirmary." In some ways the pain helps me focus on the voices. Dull pain from the shoulder, and from the taser, the pain in my leg, and even the muzzle burn behind my ear -- all help me to hear clearly what I need to hear.

Blood has begun to soak my left shoe and makes a squishy sound as I continue, with the aid of Ol' Jack, down the steps.

"Count yourself lucky," I say to Eddie as I follow them down the stairs, "I can't remember the last time I shot to wound. I can tell we need you alive, but if you go for my gun again I'll put one in your face."

"*Gettin reeaally thirsty here old chap*" the Bottle says to me.

"Oi...me but older...gotta drink?"

Jack Scruff hands me a pocket flask...*my* pocket flask actually. I take the one in my jacket pocket out and compare...yup, exactly the same. Except his has a small dent in it like it stopped a small calibre bullet or something, and it was a bit more scratched up.

"Lookin forward to that," I mumble as I put mine back in my pocket, careful to make sure it sits over my heart. I take a long drink of some good scotch from his and hand it back.

"When did we switch to scotch?" I ask him, "Know what? Nevermind...I'm going to try and get some answers from this doctor."

I call the doctor back.

The doctor's number goes to voicemail. He's obviously far too busy for you.

Approximately two landings down, Eddie suddenly gets a blast of static in the back of his mouth, and pauses. Now that you look closely, you can see the dim outline of what looks like a door, off to one side, cleverly concealed on the wall. There appears to be a recessed handle, something like an aircraft door, the one you're not supposed to open while the plane is in flight.

Bearded Jack, without hesitation, walks over and pulls on the handle. There's a sucking sound, as if releasing a vacuum, and then the door -- four inches thick -- comes slightly out and rolls to one side with a metallic sound.

Through the door, you see a hallway, well-lit by what seems like LED lighting. It stretches for at least 500 or 600 feet, with no apparent doors or turns. It's not clear if this is part of the same facility you just left below, or something different - certainly nothing about it seems to match up: color scheme, materials, lighting.

Even the sound is different. As you step inside, there's a low hum, and what sounds like hidden speakers come on. Muzak starts playing: Garota de Ipanema.

The doctor's voicemail seems to skip a beat as you pass through the door, and suddenly a voice starts reciting menu options.

Press 1 to listen to new messages. Press 2 to...

"How can we pass this up?" says the Voice in Jack's head.

Jack hits 1.


"J-Jack? It it's Jenna. I'm in some kind of trouble please don't be mad but you're the only person I can think of to help me I don't know why either because you're still in London probably but something tells me that you're the one I should call, if you get this, please call me back at....damn Jack I don't know the number to this phone! Steve?! Do you know Eddie's number?! Jack you have to help me somehow. I got lost in the subway tunnels. The train stopped. There's people after me Jack! People with guns! I'm locked in some kind of warehouse or something underground and we're sealing up a door with bricks! I don't know what to do Jack..."

End of Messages.

Press 7 to erase message. Press 8 to save message. Press 9 to return to main menu.


Press 7 to erase message. Press 8 to save message. Press...

I hobble down the corridor with my eyes closed, slipping off into the dark. Without fluorescent lighting, this hallway is free from the usual ambient buzz. My right hand traces along the wall, leaving dirty, bloody, grubby smears. My senses are tuning and I listen for the control panel, oblivious to the fact that my blood-muddy handprints will lead everyone else to it as well.

"I'm with you" speaks the voice in my head. Yes, yes you are. When the connection is clear and focused... "I'm the bait." I reply back to her as a soft whisper. "Follow me and you can catch it as it hunts." I pause for a moment.

Stopping a few hundred feet up the corridor I lean on the wall and open my eyes. Jack is with me. I couldn't hope for a better bodyguard. He almost seems to feel bad about shooting me. It's funny that I didn't remember that part until it happened; now it all seems so necessary. My mind is so aware, but so distant. Looking back on the corridor I see the trail of blood.

"I'm going to need to find a Doctor. And don't worry about any more altercations Jack, I promise that I'm your chum." I deliver the joke as dead-pan as I can. My pause along the corridor awakens the voices, warning and urging. This is no time to be glib, or to rest.

I steel myself; close my eyes and continue onwards. I let my fingertips hover over the wall, only brushing softly occasionally. I listen intently for the discovery I hope to make.

As you pass one of the wall panels, identical to the others, something about the texture of it makes you pause as your hand trails across it. You stop there, fingers splayed. Tiny raised bumps, invisible, especially now that your blood is upon them, but heated just a few degrees warmer than the rest of the wall. Visible to infrared, or detectable by touch.

One patch per finger... thumb's a bit off, so you adjust.


You tap your index finger, then your middle finger, then pause, and then press hard with your thumb...

The lights in the tunnel go off.

A hundred feet up the tunnel, on the left, one of the panels has a tiny slice of light at the bottom. It is otherwise pitch black.

I hobble forwards in the darkness, letting my eyes adjust as much as they can. My vision has gone grainy, with tiny multi-coloured dots making patterns in the darkness. Just then I wonder if I am seeing the background noise of the universe, like some distant transmission. The light under the door is pulsing, almost swirling. You wouldn't notice it at first -- like the grainy vision, or the warmth of the controls, but there it is.. real and not imagined. The beat is not mechanical, but organic. A flutter rythm before the beat that is beautiful in its imperfection. It is pulsing, beating like a heart.

I can hear Jack shuffling in the darkness, and continue to move forwards.

"How about a hand here," I finally say.

I press 8 to save the message as I follow Bearded Jack and Eddie.

Just as the lights go out in the hallway, I can't help but do the calculation based on what I perceive to be Eddie's body mass. He doesn't have long before he bleeds out. He needs to be tied off. As he slumps in the darkness, I take off my belt and my tie.

"You need more than a hand mate," I say as I find him in the dark and start tieing off his legs...the left one right below his groin with the belt (I make a new hole with my knife so it can be tight enough) and the right just above the kneecap with the tie.

"I've never seen anyone walk away from a bullet in the back of the knee before," I mumble to him as I use my teeth to get the knot tighter, "How's your vision? Are things going black and grainy? If so we need to get you to doctor now...ignorant tosser."

I help him back to his feet and let him lean on my shoulder.

"My ex-wife's in here somewhere you know," I continue on, "and this bloke up here in the dark, I think he knows where. It's all going like a Moorcock novel now, innit? I'm sure we'll meet a talking fox next."

I realize at that instant how god dman smug I must actually sound to other people.

"*Don't sweat it, "the Bottle tells me, "it's part of our charm*"

Eddie seems in remarkably good shape. Much better than you thought he would be. As you bandage up one of the wounds, the slug falls out on to the floor. There's a little fresh blood afterward, but not as much as there should be.

Bearded Jack wanders up beside the two of you, eyeing the slit beneath the door. He pulls out a heretofore unseen knife of what appears to be Japanese design, and fits it under the door, twisting. The gap widens, just enough for someone to get their fingers underneath.

"Thanks for the sentiment." I say as I gather up the slug and put it in my pocket.

I limp along to the light and tear a long strip off the bottom of my shirt; wondering for a moment what ever happened to the towel. Kneeling in front of the door I hesitate.

"Did we try knocking?" I quip. I laugh to myself at some unheard response. I clean my hands and stick them under the doorway, tucking my rag into the pocket with the spent bullet. With a mighty heave I pull up. After a moment of intense effort the doorway budges a few inches and a mechanism engages. The door slides up all the way and all but disappears into the ceiling.

It opens onto a small vestibule leading to a landing. The vestibule is small - perhaps six foot square. The high ceiling makes it feel bigger than it is. A closed wall with a transparent window separates the alcove from the landing. "It's a hologram from the other side," I proclaim with no evidence to support that assumption.

I move in closer so that I can survey the landing from the alcove. The alcove is quiet as I peer through the window. To the right the landing drops away to a ramp. The ramp is wide and descends as far as I can see. The floor of the ramp is covered in a black rubber "no-stick" mat. The mat doesn't go quite to the edge of the hallway leaving a four inch strip of corridor on each side. A metal kickplate borders where the landing ends and the ramp begins.

To the left a set of wide, well-lit stairs rise out of view. The lights are similar to the LED system used in this area.

Directly opposite us is a door. It is closed, but there is a keypad to the right of it. Sticking out of the middle of the keypad is some kind of ornamental or ceremonial dagger. Four large neo-classical stone vases with flowers and greenery occupy each corner of the landing. The one to the right of the door is smashed and dirt spills out into the middle of the room. Purple flowers are crushed by a mass of footprints - some appear to head up the stairs, while others go through the door. An iPhone lies in the middle of the pile of dirt.

"How do we get in there?" I ask, turning to my right to address a blank wall. Maybe there is a mechanism to open up the other side of the alcove? Things just aren't coming clearly to me.

I wait for a response, but nothing comes.

I look at the dagger, cocking my left eyebrow. Nothing's shocking...not anymore. I recognize it from a dozen sketch books and two poorly done paintings in me and Jenna's old flat back in London. She used to have dreams about it all the time. Well...*a* dream. Just the one really. Same every time, barring a few variations on the theme. Her and a bunch of others being led into the ground in ancient Egypt to be sacrificed for the Pharaoh's immortality, and in the end she tries to defend the other women and dies killing their attacker.

"*The window might be shatterproof, but they did a shitty job mounting it. Remember Belgrade? Two monthes of infiltrations and not a ram in sight...*," says the Bottle.

"Finally something familiar," I say, "let me get this one."

I front push kick the window. It spiderwebs, but the metal wires running through the glass hold it together. It folds almost in half with the momentum of my kick and pops free of it's frame, landing on the landing with a dull sound that hardly satisfies my urge to break things and hear them shatter. I step through the opening. I grip the knife and do what Jenna described once, in one of the variations of the dream. Turn it just so to the right, just so to the left, and then slide it down. It clicks and drops into a groove down the middle of the keypad, between the keys. I push it all the way in to the hilt, and the double door drops back and swings inwards revealing it's vault-like thickness. I yard the knife free, carrying it in my left hand.

"*Give Eddie his phone back*," I hear the bottle tell me. I kick the iPhone gently out of the dirt across the floor to where Eddie and Older Jack are just now coming through the window.

"Must be yours...innit?"

I look at it. Is it mine?

Behind the double door is what amounts to a large walk-in closet, though with another door on the opposite end. Rows of shelves and hooks line the long walls, covered with all assortment of random items: clothing, pocket change, the occasional weapon, money, a flask of alcohol, pills... anything and everything that might be taken from someone on their way into... prison?

You all seem to dimly remember being here once, though the details aren't clear. It certainly seems as if you came through here going the other way, once. Traded everything you had for simple paper robes, and then walked down the ramp, down... down... you don't remember whether you went of your own accord or not. You only remember down. Some carrying flashlights, some not.

Based on a rough calculation of where you are, where you were, and where you want to be, you're pretty sure that the ramp leads into another part of the facility you just left behind. You're equally sure that down is not the way to go, this time.

I gather my gym bag and, passing up on some more dangerous weaapons, some pepper spray. An odd choice indeed considering that I've been shot, tazed, shot, and burned all in the last few hours. But, I don't question it. I've learned that much. I scan the clothes, stopping on a silk blouse and crepe pants neatly folded on a hangar. I sniff the blouse. My eyes go wide. Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. I take the clothes --- we definately want to meet up with her again.

"The bag with the money." I say out loud. "We need that bag." I unzip the bag, checking on the considerable fortune. It is slightly diminished by my earlier distribution. I grab a stack of money and toss it to Jack Scruff. The other Jack eyes me as I zip up the bag. "Sorry, only one per customer."

I check the time on the iPhone and shake my head. I'm having a hard time making sense of things again. I close my eyes and listen, my mouth forming shapes but not sounds. I open my eyes and reach for the pills. Without glancing at the bottle, I open it and pop three pills. They really do "pop" as my mouth is still formed into a circle. I chase the pills with some of the contents of the flask, wondering when we switched to Scotch.

I begin to climb the stairs.

"Look at all this lot," I mumble as Eddie goes for the gym bag, "whole bloody field kit in here."

I grab a close fitting zip up duffel bag and start putting things in it. Tear gas canister, smoke grenades, two 9mms and ammo (one goes in a shoulder holster that's hanging on a hook and fits me without adjustment), bullet proof vest (which also fit me...odd since those have to be custom jobs)...then I stop when I see the MP5s on the rack at the back of the walk-in.

I eye Eddie as he hands Bearded Jack the bundle of cash, then say to Jack as Eddie pops pills, "What kind of people they strip this kit from?" as I lock and load an MP5 and toss it to him, then grab the other for myself.

I put the punch dagger on my right hand and flex my fingers till it settles nicely against grooves in my fingers. I take everything else even remotely weapon like and it goes in the duffel too.

"*People like you*", the Bottle tells me as I pack. I grab the flask of booze just as Eddie sets it down and slip it into my back pocket, leaving the other one in the inside breast pocket of my jacket, right above my heart remembering the bullet dent in Other Jack's. I put the tattered and threadbare sports jacket on over the vest, brush off my left shoulder, grab the duffel full of clips and sharp things and things that go boom and head up the stairs after Eddie, feeling much more comfortable now.

From the collection of stuff here it seems that about two-dozen people have come through here, give or take. Either that, or this is an incredibly elaborately staged fake.

The staircase through the other door resembles the one you nearly died in. The key difference here being that there doesn't (yet) seem to be any sign of impending explosion. Up seems to be the way to go. From the distance between landings, you'd guess that it's about 5 landings up to where you want to be.

"Bonkers is no replacement for experience," I tell Eddie as I pass him on the stairs and move upwards in a crouch, the small black submachinegun's shoulder strap done up tight and the barrel leading the way. I count the stairs, I gauge distances, and I keep one ear on each end of the stairwell. Older Jack takes up a trailing position watching our rear as we advance.

"Tell me something Eddie," I whisper as I go, "who exactly are you? And no cute stuff this time around. I don't want to shoot you again."

I glance back for a split second at the look of either confusion or hurt feelings on his face.

"That was a joke mate," I tell him as we proceed up the stairs, "I'm not going to shoot you. Not *this* you anyways. But I did get a call from you telling me that you don't know if you can trust yourself, so at least lay *something* out for me."

"*Don't bug him," the Bottle tells me, "he's busy listening too.*"

Then I hear it. The very faint sound of a hinge that needed greasing yesterday, up at the top of the stairs. I use my left arm to press Eddie back against the wall and train the muzzle of the MP5 up the gap to the top.

"*Who can't I trust here?*" I ask the Bottle.

"*Not the guards,*" it replies.

I motion to older Jack that there are two of them, they're up there, and I'm going without him while he watches Eddie.

Two flights of stairs now...they go by quick and silently. At the bottom of the last flight I pause in the shadows like a cat. As they come into view, one of them shines his flashlight down the dim stairs. A single shot from the MP5 takes the light out, the next gets the guard in the chest, the next in his the forehead. I lunge foreward and upwards, one single shot takes the second guard in the right foot and the next his right hand, and then I'm upon him. The gun swings free of my hands on it's strap, my left hand covers his mouth and slams him into the wall before he can even fall as my foot pins his falling flashlight to the floor, breaking it and dropping the landing back into the half light of rarely used stairs.

Four seconds after the dull *thwap* of the first silenced shot. I put the punch knife to his left eye and draw a single drop of blood.

"You're going to tell me the layout of whatever's behind this door, how many guards, where they are, and where they're holding my wife or I'll take out your left eye. Then I'll move over to your right. Then I'm going to cut you, and I'm going to keep cutting you until you tell me what I want to know. Start now..."

I release his mouth and grab his throat. He tries to jerk free and I grind my foot into his...the one I shot...and cover his mouth again while he screams.

"You only get to try this once more," I breath into his face, "don't mug yourself."

Movement out of the corner of my eye...Eddie and Other Jack at the bottom of the top flight. Eddie makes to move up, Older Jack stops him.

"He's real good at this," Beard Jack says, "and I have to stay out of sight."

I remove my hand from the guards mouth and grab his throat again. He spills it all. Everything he knows. He doesn't know much, but he knows the floor's layout, who else is on duty and roughly where they should be. He doesn't know where Jenna is, but he knows they have a few detainees in one of the blocks on this level.

Without a word, I stab the punch knife into his left temple and give it a twist. As he falls, I strip his belt from him and roll him down the stairs with my foot.

I nod at Jack Beard and he helps me roll the body of the other down the stairs after we remove his belt too. I use one of the broken flashlights to break out the overhead flourescent tube to obscure the blood on the floor from a cursory glance, and then toss both down the stairs as well. I put one belt on, and hand Jack Not Me the other. I put the radios headset in my left ear and listen to see if anyone heard anything. Radio silence...at least for now. But this way we can track where they are as they call in

I look at Eddie. He seems unsettled, but surely it's not from the killing. Not after what I (sorta) saw him do in the dental suite.

"All right Eddie?" I ask him.

I nod, but my expression remains sad as I look at the lifeless eyes of the guards. "We could have used their voices Jack." I speak his name tenderly, as if lingering on it will allow me to connect to him.

"The beast is a creature that travels by thought. He's a doctor, a teacher, a priest -- who can walk through the walls of time and is not bound by shell you call a person, or limited by place. He hunts in pus, and blood, and bile. When you confront him, your bullets won't do you much good." I continue to move up the steps, allowing Jack lots of room to secure our position. I shift my weight to take the numbness out of my leg. I removed Jack's field dressing back where we kitted up. Bullets won't do much good, I think to myself.

"Me ... I'm the bait chum for his desires. Fear, pain, anger, helplessness. You can't destroy him Jack, nor can I. It's up to others." I think of Steve and Jenna but don't say anything. "I just have to stay alive long enough to give them a chance. Seems like you've become my protector. For that ... I'm grateful."

"It's coming soon." I know it is true; gathering like the anticipation of a storm -- I know that Jack will have to fight like he's never thought before. The smell of smoke fills my nose and my eyes water. Is it fear that makes me cry, or is the psychic smoke burning at them. The knots in my stomach and tingle in my thumbs tells me that it is fear.

"I feel a pricking in my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." I point farther up the stairs.

I watch Jack move around the room with stealth and purpose, wondering how the violence breathes life back into him. I see the lethal warrior, but all the voices talk about is his sorrow and suffering. They often say the opposite to what I see.

"For the record Jack... I didn't kill those people in the room. That was the beast."

Eddie, in particular, notes that his leg seems to be feeling much better. He has no idea really how that works, but he's not particularly surprised. The blood seems to have stopped completely, and one of the other bullets has worked itself out at some point.

Bearded Jack seems almost too quiet, almost on autopilot. One might even think he was not himself, these past few minutes. But he seems to shake something off and "rejoins you" once the guards are dealt with.

"This is going to seem strange, once we go through here," says Bearded Jack. "I... I don't know that it can be explained, really. But I know what's behind here, and all I can tell you is that it does get us where we need to go. To Jenna. To the others. Can you trust me on that? I have to know, before I open this door. And it has to be me that opens it. That's how it happ-- that's how it has to be."

"I've yet to meet something that can't be stopped by bullets Eddie...but I wouldn't be surprised if today I do. Forget about that though...bullets stop guards, and guards sound alarms, " I look to Bearded Jack, "I'll back your play, mate."

Eddie just nods, looking me up and down like he's surveying some strange animal or something. It's a common reaction; put a handful of civilians in a room with someone like me and they eventually start trying to stay as far form me as possible. It's how I lost Jenna, it's how I've lsot countless friends. You get to the point where you only associate with others you work with, and only then on the job. Afterwards, you don't want to sit around and talk about the choices you made...who lives and who dies, who dies in which way...did they have kids? Were they a husband? A wife? A son? A daughter? Did they have dreams and ambitions? Or were they just faceless and nameless steps in the protocol? Afterwards it was all questions whereas during there weren't even answers...just solutions, quick and expedient.

Afterwards it's just you and whatever kills your pain. For me it was the Bottle.

I take the flask out and have another nip, motion for Eddie to get behind me, then get back into my breach position and nod for Jack to open the door.

Jack opens the door.