The Wake-Up Call
Chapter 1.34: Refocus
After it seemed like a lifetime the door finally opened and there stood a large, well-built figure in the opening surrounded by a blindingly bright, white light. It was like standing on the entrance to the afterlife only to be confronted with a thuggish doorman holding a lethal handgun. Hetch's tired eyes took a while to focus on the view before him and he wished he hadn't. A fat bunch of bloody fingers clasped his coat and pulled him inside, the door was kicked behind him before the barrel was pressed against the back of his neck. It was clear that his captor was either nervous or psychotic by the way the gun trembled against Hetch's spine. Hetch's mind raced through all the people he knew that wanted to point a gun to his skull. The room seemed to close in as his senses, stimulated by an adrenaline rush, assessed it.
"I knew, sooner or later we would meet again" said the man through gritted teeth.
"If you want it, take it" replied Hetch holding the case away from his body.
The gun clicked.
"It's all your fault!"
Hetch noticed the hospital bed in the far corner surrounded by a myriad of live support equipment.
"I am going to kill you."
"You're not going to shoot me in the back, are you?"
"No!" grunted the man, "In the face. I want you to see you beg for mercy and know who killed you."
"Josh Weller" replied Hetch calmly
"Hmm. Smart kid. Now lose the case"
The case crashed to the hard floor tiles and fell on its side.
The gun moved away from Hetch's neck and this was the signal to turn around and face his captor.
"Look, there is 100,000 in credits in there" said Hetch attempting to make a trade.
There in front of him covered in sweat with bags below his red eyes was Josh Weller. The same man Hetch and Splice had visited in his apartment but this seemed like a different person. His upgraded body contorted with anger was tense and looked ready to lash out in a violent outburst at any moment. This was alcohol-fuelled grief.
Josh snapped his teeth together while he glared towards Hetch. The stewardess was on the bed submerged by a wall of medical tech and the sole reason for her critical condition was standing before him offering a case of cold, synthetic credits. His fist shook and the gun rose slowly towards Hetch's face.
"I should fucking shoot you right here and now!" he said.
Hetch stood frozen to the spot, but this wasn't fear, it was defiance.
The gun was forced into Hetch's mouth and his head tilted back.
"What's the plan?"
"Plan. Kill me, take the case and leave Corena? " said Hetch pushing the gun barrel away from him "or, stay here and wait for the McKaffs?"
"What about I kill you then see what happens?" said Josh wiping sweat from his forehead.
"You have 3 minutes."
Josh glanced at the case.
"Why do you think I'm carrying this tracking device in my pocket?"
Josh held Hetch's throat and aimed the gun between his eyes.
Slowly Hetch reached into his pocket, gripped the message device in his fist and lifted his arm up. Josh glanced at the disposable device mostly concealed in Hetch's hand. This was it. Hetch dropped like a stone and rolled backwards. Josh fired the gun and they both rolled towards the wall. The weight of Josh crushed down on Hetch as he frantically tried to free himself and avoid the next bullet. Hetch gasped for air, kicked and desperately wanted to bench-press nearly 300 lbs off him, but it was no use. The room began to fade again, the colours grew muted and grey. The sound of the life support system gained in amplitude as the last few drops of air were squeezed from Hetch's lungs. The bio-enhanced muscles mixed with adrenaline and pure hatred were impossible opponents.
In a few brutal moments it would end. Hetch would be snuffed out like all the others. Trimble in the McKaffs' office, the cop in the alley, Splice and Wheeler and nearly the stewardess. That was the only consolation in these last dying moments, that she survived the fall from the fire escape; for this small mercy he found relief and death would not hold as much fear and regret now. He wished at that moment to believe in reincarnation, to be reborn as one of the privileged few to live in a place like the Eldora Tower and never see the monstrous side of human nature. To be protected from pollution, random acts of cruelty and countless crime scenes.
The credits didn't mean a thing neither did the case. He did not find Nirvana, but he did find his own little piece of enlightenment.
Hetch gripped the device tightly and rammed it into the eye socket of Josh. A splattering of blood was followed by a hellish scream of pain. The tormented figure of Josh recoiled across the floor into a ball. The force of the attack had popped the eye and its twisted victim was attempting to stop the bleeding. Hetch's head convulsed back and forth as his flattened windpipe slowly began to taste air again. He dragged himself towards the case, took it in both hands and struck the skull of Josh. His suffering was over for the time being. The large lifeless ball unrolled slightly and came to rest on the cold, bloody floor. The case slipped from Hetch's grip and he dropped onto his knees and looked at the hospital bed.
He was thankful for the tech. That slow, periodic beep sound gave him hope. It was a sign that she was still alive. He approached the bed and took a long, careful look at her body. It was peaceful, no severe injuries, no amputations or visible signs to remind him of the accident on the rusty fire escape. Then he realised the respirator breathing for her and intravenous drip in her arm. The man-made hardware connected to her battered body was cold like the case. He would trade that 150,000 in an instant to take it all away and hear her voice again.
The truth hit him hard.
In his reach was the means to escape his old life, to restart again. But he was willing to give it up and continue his old ways of street survival, digging through polluted factory complexes looking for anything he could salvage in order to pay for a mass produced meal from a floating junk food barge. He dreamt of becoming a hardened criminal, someone invoking fear and respect from those around him, never worrying about where the next snack was coming from or sleeping in trash containers because he couldn't afford the rent. In the past he thought he had hit rock bottom only to find a lower rock. The prospect of becoming like Mewco would have sent chills down the spine of a horror book, but it did hold certain advantages. Resources.
Hetch picked up the case, hit the panic button on the wall, looked at the stewardess for the last time and closed the door. It was time to leave, to get out of this line of business before he ended up like all the others.
To be continued...