Techno Fail

Eric Cooper is about to discover something that will set in motion events he cannot predict, with the stakes being incredibly high...

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3. Shattered Suburbs

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"... and then came that shot." Andrew said. "Fucking bullet, nicked my ankle, hurt like hell. I enjoyed killing that bastard." Eric couldn't help but laugh. The older man had started to recount stories of his younger service days, ones that predated Eric's own service. "Them death squads were brutal wankers, never get caught by 'em, we were told it was better to slit our own throats than let them catch us. Things they used to do to women too..." Andrew shook his head. "Put them out of business, one by one." By now half the bottle of whisky was depleted, and Andrew grunted. "So, you quit the service."

Eric stirred his glass. "Yeah. I was tired of it. I was tired of killing and not seeing an end to it. I wanted a normal life."

"Do you miss it?" There was a knowing gleam in Andrew's eyes.

"I... " Eric pursed his lips. "Sometimes. I know we made a difference, here and there, and yeah, it was exciting, at times."

Andrew leaned forward. "And then you went into IT!" He exclaimed, slapping his thighs. "Knew you were good with the computers, but didn't think you'd fancy being stuck in an office every day!"

"It's peaceful enough, at least it was." Eric mused. "It's safe."

"Was safe, and let's be honest, safe is another word for boring. Right..." Andrew heaved his frame off the sofa. "I need a piss, taxi will probably be here any minute, won't thank me if I piss over their seats."

"Never change Andrew." He replied as he finished his own drink. He could hear Andrew's footsteps as he started up the stairs.

The doorbell rang. Andrew was muttering.

"I'll grab the door!" Called Eric. He stepped out into the hallway, and caught his toe against a bit of threaded carpet, stumbling into the banister. The clumsy act saved his life.A bullet smashed the glass of the porch door, having just punched a hole in the wooden front door, and Eric hurled himself to the floor as another sprayed still more glass everywhere.

Andrew had made it upstairs, and was cursing. "No fuckin' thief is taking my stuff..." Eric could hear him mutter. If it was a thief...

The front door shuddered, hard, then again. Whoever was outside was trying to kick it in, and a third, particularly hard boot achieved that goal. Eric was on his feet by the time the door broke open, and had ducked back into the living room as the porch door gave way.

"Get the fuck out of my house!" Yelled Andrew. Even at his age, he started to come down the stairs at a fast pace.

"Andrew, stay upstairs!" Eric shouted, hoping the attacker would prioritise and go after him. After all, I'm the target...

He kept close to the wall as a pistol swung round and several gunshots fired off, hurting Eric's ears and sending plumes of fluff from the sofa and cushions into the air. The attacker strode with practised confidence into the room, and Eric's training kicked in. With his left elbow he struck for the assailant's face, grabbing the for the gun with his right hand. The attacker was wise to the move and slipped backward, attempting to get a clean shot at Eric, but Eric stepped forward and to his left, throwing a right hook that forced the attacker to dodge to his right, where he stumbled backward against the coffee table. Wrong-footed for just a second, the assailant couldn't stop Eric from landing a punch to the face. It was now that Eric noticed a few things. The attacker was male, wearing a black balaclava, and was wearing a tatty dark green coat that was zipped up to the neck. The man fought back, shoving Eric against the wall and drawing his weapon back up...

Andrew appeared, his face like thunder. He held in his hand a thick glass figurine of an elephant, that he brought down with a satisfyingly wet crunch against the attacker's face. The attacker grunted in pain and staggered backward, firing his pistol again. Eric re-joined the fray and snapped a kick at the man's left shin, then drove his left fist into the man's face. The attacker tripped over the table and fell back upon it; it smashed under his weight and sprinkled the carpet with shards of glass. Before he could get his bearings, Eric stamped on the man's left hand, causing him to let go of the gun. Kneeling down, Eric delivered two more quick punches to the man's face, and then added a third for good measure, before scooping up the weapon, pointing the business end squarely at his face.

"Andrew, are you alright?" He asked without looking away. The attacker's balaclava was starting to look damp where blood from a broken nose was seeping into it.

Silence reigned. Stuck between keeping watch on the mystery attacker and checking on Andrew, Eric stepped backward, continuing to do so until he saw the blood. Resolving himself, Eric took another couple of steps back, and laid eyes on the body of his former commander. Andrew's dark green jumper was stained, with blood pouring from a wound where the bullet had punctured his right lung.

Anger rose in Eric. It rumbled up within him and his fingers tightened ever so slightly on the trigger. He looked back at the assailant, who had sat up but hadn't moved. The man's eyes were errily calm.

"Give me one reason..." He began, stepped back toward him. "Why I shouldn't kill you."

"You want to know why? Because I know why you're so scared."

"You came here to kill me, you killed my friend, and if you want to live through the night, you'll tell me why."

The man's demeanour was haughty. "I won't talk. I have dealt with threats before."

Eric took a deep breath, considered his options. There was no way the shots hadn't been heard - the assailant's gun had lacked a silencer, and the commotion would have attracted attention. That meant by now the police had been called, and they would respond quickly to reports of gunfire. How had he been found so quickly?

One thing at a time...

"Get up."

"Fuck you. I am going nowhere."

"Oh really? So you want the police to come here and find you?" Eric retorted.

"And you don't?" Sneered the man.

"No, I don't, and I think you know why, so get up, now."

Sirens kicked up in the distance. They looked at each other.

"You know who I am yes? You know what I'm trained to do."

The man's eyes narrowed. A choice was being weighed up.

"Fine." He said after a moment. He hauled himself up, and Eric was sure to keep the business end of the pistol pointed squarely at him until he had ushered the man outside. Eric followed him, taking note of the black cab parked on the kerb outside.

"Your car?" When he didn't get a reply Eric jabbed the man in the back with the gun.

"Yes."

"Give me the keys, take them slowly out of your pocket."

"They're in the ignition."

"Keep walking." Replied Eric. He walked around to the driver's seat and noticed the keys were still indeed still in the ignition. His attacker had planned on a quick getaway. Realising that Andrew's neighbours were peering through the windows (but wisely choosing to remain indoors, given the recent sounds of gunfire), Eric popped open the trunk, and gestured with the gun. "Get in, now."

"What?" The attacker was momentarily perturbed. One look into Eric's eyes and he resolve faltered. The man glared at him but wordlessly climbed in. As soon as he was inside Eric pistol-whipped him, then shut the boot hard, and jammed his backdoor key into the lock, twisting it and breaking it, making it virtually impossible to somehow open from the inside. It would pose a challenge to open from the outside, but that was a bridge Eric would have to cross later.

With the sirens getting louder Eric climbed back into the driver's seat and closed the door. There was only one other place he could turn do now, he just hoped he wouldn't be exposing anyone else to danger.

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