In which things turn orange; we meet the wider cast; thousands of taxpayers sterling is saved in demolition costs and Samuel has to run a lot.
Samuel ran. It was amongst a number of things he had become accustomed to in recent weeks, along with people trying to kidnap him, mind control of small to medium-sized mammals and extreme acts of violence aimed directly at him. He was still deciding whether or not he liked guns. As another crack echoed from behind and a nearby wall showered him in brick-dust and plaster he added another point to the ‘not at all’ tally. It was substantially larger than the pro-gun tally.
More gunfire brought him back into the moment. He sped up, using his last burst of energy to take a running leap at the fire escape ladder in front of him, pulled himself up and diving through the open door, which slammed shut behind him. He looked up from where he lay, exhausted, to see a pair of feet filling his vision. Attached to the feet was a man he knew only as Roger.
“I see you made it then. Well done mate,” Roger grinned down at him, before bending down and proffering a hand towards Samuel’s prone form. Hoisted to his feet, Samuel gasped his thanks and took a chance to view the rest of the room. It was a dilapidated space, probably a living room in someone’s past life, but now it gave off more of an air of death than life. Peeling brown wallpaper, boarded up windows, now sporting a few bullet holes (for which Samuel was eternally grateful due to the lack of holes in his own body) and a few pieces of broken furniture on the bare floorboards. If anything, the bullets improved the look of the place.
“Come on Sammy, we’d better get out of here. I’m mightily adverse to bullet wounds,” Roger’s calm voice cut through his reverie and suddenly he was aware of the noise of the pursuit again.
“Does this mean more running?”
“I’m afraid so Sammy!” exclaimed Roger, grinning again, “Last one to then rendezvous point is a bloody corpse!”
Samuel thought Roger had probably missed the lesson on light-hearted situational responses at school. Perhaps that was how he stayed so bright in every situation. He only had one setting, and it was a sort of witty, dry optimism. Roger led them through the back rooms of the abandoned house, back out into the empty housing estate. It was an old housing development somewhere in central England, part houses, part tower blocks, but all hideous. Now for the running, Samuel thought. Why am I always running?
Ruggedly handsome, light sandy hair, tall, fit and ruthlessly efficient, Roger had been his partner for a few weeks now, and he was glad of it. He’d been taken good care of since Roger came along. It turned out he was distantly related on his mother’s side, and the man took even a small amount of shared blood to heart. Now, as they took off through the empty streets he wished he was as tall as his companion. There was no keeping up with him as he powered ahead, shouting back to Samuel:
“Hurry up mate, we haven’t got a lifetime!”
Why did he have to go and say things like that? Once again the sounds of their pursuers were catching up to them. They didn’t have far to go now if Samuel was remembering the map correctly. Take a left down the next road, Butcher’s Row was it? Then through an alley at the end of the street, right on to the main feeder road from the motorway, then into the old council building where the others were waiting. Or was left after the alley? He’d know soon enough. The dark entrance to the covered short cut loomed ahead like a waiting mouth, and as they thundered towards it Samuel wondered if they’d emerge from the other side, or if their actions had been preempted and curtailed by their enemy. Hopefully not, he thought as the darkness swallowed them whole.
Meanwhile, back at the council building…
“What’s taking them so damn long?” Simon looked up as yet another yell from Rachel echoed around the vacant atrium. He sighed, and closed his notebook. While he was reserved, calm and meticulous about everything he did, his sister was rather the opposite. Loud, quick to action and sometimes rash, they nevertheless made a good team. Both had the light brown hair and sharp, narrow features common to their family. He looked across to where another of their party, George, was sitting and exchanged an eye roll.
George was in charge of their making things go bang. He was good at his job. The plan was to stop the inevitable pursuit by blowing the building, which was scheduled for demolition anyway. Simon watched as the big man tied the last of the fuses and set them into the detonator. This was going to make for some serious fireworks. He turned back to his sister, who was whispering something to the other two men with them. Probably about guns. He didn’t know them by name, only that they were ex-soldiers, possibly SAS, or marines.
“Hey, you three, get over here a moment will you?” Simon called across to her, “I need to go over a few details.” They traipsed over, still conversing. He thought he heard something about ‘magazine capacity’ and ‘stopping power’ and rolled his eyes again. They stood around him, George bringing up the rear now that he’d finished preparing his pyrotechnics. Simon stood up.
“OK. You all know what we’re here for. Roger and Sam are going to come charging through that door at the front there with the data, but most likely a whole entourage in tow. We need to be ready for it. Are we ready? George?” He looked at the big man, whose shaved head glistened in the sunlight beaming through the skylight.
“Good and done boss. Up to you lot now,” His deep voice echoed around the room, and the big man smiled knowingly.
“Wonderful. Time to get in position then. Rachel, over to you,” he picked up his notebook and made his way to the back of the hall as his sister sprang into action, directing the others to the positions she’d planned out. He was about to settle back down to get down his thoughts on the existential of the non-reality of the internal and external self when they his radio began to squawk.
“Here they come people. Get ready.”
Some way down the street
They’d made it through the alley without any problems. It was just the other side that went wrong. They’d turned right after (he’d remembered correctly), only to realise their pursuers had found themselves a vehicle and were rolling up over the crest of the hill behind them. Running probably wasn’t going to cut it this time. They ducked into the first doorway they came to and Roger kicked in the door. Crouching down and catching their breath, he pulled out his radio.
“Come in giraffe party. Giraffe party, do you read me?” Roger spat into the radio between gasping breaths, “We have a couple of motor based problems on this end requiring assistance. Otherwise plan is on time. Over.”
There was a gap filled only by the sound of the approaching van outside and the hiss of the radio, until:
“This is giraffe party, we hear you. What sort of assistance do you require? Over.” Simon’s voice crackled through the small speaker.
“Your sister would be more than adequate. Over,” Roger winked at Samuel, who didn’t even raise an eyebrow. He still didn’t understand how this lot stayed so calm in such crazy situations.
“We see your problem. It’s being dealt with. Over and out,” Simon’s voice came again and the radio noise cut out. Roger looked at him.
“We’d better keep our heads down mate. Things are likely to get pretty messy out there with Rachel in charge.”
They lay down, and as predicted, things got a little messy. Gunshots erupted from the bottom of the hill where the old council hall was, quickly returned by their eager pursuers. Suddenly there was a roaring noise and the world turned white, then orange, then flickered a bit red. Something had exploded. By the lack of gunfire following the event Samuel concluded that it was likely to have been the pursuit vehicle. This was confirmed when a wheel from the van rolled, rubber burning, through the open door, falling sideways and rotating until it was still. This was of course to be expected after any disaster involving a wheeled vehicle. The universe demanded it.
They were just taking their hands off of their heads when Rachel’s cheerful head popped through the door opening.
“Not to alarm you two, but there are a whole load more of them coming and we should probably skedaddle before they catch up,” She beamed at them and her head disappeared again. They looked at each other, then jumped up and followed her outside. She was waiting, rifle at the ready, motioning them down the hill.
Samuel realised it was time to run again. He was resigned to it by now. They set of fast down the hill, Rachel bringing up the rear. As they neared the building two men slid down cables on either side of the building and began collapsing hefty rifles. Clearly part of the plan had changed. Simon emerged from the main doors, book in one hand and pistol in the other, three pens tucked into his shirt pocket. These people really were weird, Samuel thought.
“Nice of you two to join us. Now if you don’t mind we haven’t any time for chit-chat or catching our breath,” which was a bit off, thought Samuel; Simon hadn’t even been running, “We need to get out the back of the building as quickly as possible.”
Roger spoke up as they jogged through the entrance hall, “Everything’s in place I assume?”
“You can be sure of that. George fixed it up good and proper.”
“Fantastic. That man could blow up parliament if he put his mind to it.”
“Now Roger, don’t give him any ideas,” Simon smiled, “Our lot were more interested in stopping it as I remember.”
By now they had worked their way through the building to the delivery entrance. Samuel noticed an odd-looking doorbell apparently stuck on to the frame with glue. George saw him staring and winked. Suddenly it made sense. The big man raised a hand, poised by the button and Samuel saw his mouth form his least favourite word for that day.
He pressed the button. They ran. The world changed colour again.