7.3 Not Quite

by Matt P.

Walter and Ryan moved in to the next room smoothly, with Ryan moving in an almost crouch and Walter coming in over his shoulder. From behind them they heard the angry, pained grunting of the man they had left zip-tied in the hallway. But the room they had come from, with the files and the writing on the boards, was clear. Walter reached up to his jacket, and to the radio that he kept there—it was tied to the police band, and Ashland had a radio that would receive it.

“10-31, Officer involved shooting, five miles north of County Road 15, near the creek. Unknown number of suspects, all suspects signal 1. One suspect is Code Red, send a bus. Ashland, watch your six,” Walter rattled off in to the radio. A 10-31 was an emergency call, with all units standing by to respond; signal 1 meant the suspects were armed and dangerous, while code red was referring to the gun shot wounded man. Like many police departments, the Border PD used repeaters throughout their service area—they immediately began receiving acknowledgments. Walter waited, and then heard a double click that he knew was Ashland signaling her own receipt of information without transmitting over the radio.

“Work our way back to the front from our side, so we have the exit at our back and can’t be circled,” Walter murmured softly to Ryan, who nodded. They began to advance through the room, their rifles shouldered and ready. As they reached the door Walter heard a snap behind him, and stopped and turned quickly. He waited there, sighting the reflex sight to see what moved; Ryan stayed watching the door to the next room, trusting Walter to cover is back. Walter was prepared if it was someone trying to come behind them, or if there was a threat in the room they had missed.

He wasn’t prepared for when the door flew off the hinges, slamming in to the wall next to Walter with a clang that could probably be heard from space. A figure started to step through it, and Walter only took long enough to make sure it wasn’t (improbably) Morgan or Tania before he began squeezing the trigger on his rifle and firing at it. In the span of a heartbeat Walter had landed three shots into the heart, and none of them had apparently done any good.

“Ryan, incoming!” Walter shouted as the man charged. In the instant before the man got to them with almost impossible speed, Walter saw it was Handgun. Something had happened to his face—it was sharper, more angular somehow, and twisted in to a fierce and almost feral look. Blood was no longer coming out of his leg, and his wrists didn’t appear to be cut up at all from breaking out of the zip tie.

Then Handgun was in front of him, and Walter threw himself to one side in a roll. Ryan, trusting the warning, did the same the other way and spun to bring his own rifle up. He blinked, and cursed. “Pure Border,” Ryan grunted. He stepped forward and reached out in a way that Walter recognized from Morgan and Tania—and Siobhan—summoning their own Faerie swords. He filed that one away for later. After a few heartbeats there was a three foot long sword in his hand that looked almost like a Roman gladius, but made entirely out of a shimmery gray/silver material that all of them seemed to be made out of.

Walter fired a quick three shots in to Handgun’s throat and jaw, which sent him reeling and distracted him, but didn’t kill him. Walter watched as the gaping wounds that the 5.56 NATO rounds blew in his head filled in with bone and flesh and sinew; like watching the first Indiana Jones movie in reverse. It was, Walter had to admit, one of the most disturbing things that he had ever seen.

Handgun started to turn to him, but then Ryan was on him with his sword. He lashed out in a vicious slash designed to decapitate the man, but Handgun was damned fast. Not that Ryan wasn’t—he had been damned fast last year during the fight at the High School, and seemed faster now—but the other man was easily his match. Handgun jumped back and only suffered a cut on the chin as a result, but interestingly this one didn’t heal immediately. The man hissed and brought a hand up to his chin, as if surprised.

“Yeah, Broseph, welcome to Border,” Ryan taunted, moving to engage again. Once again Walter fired off a couple of shots to distract Handgun and let Ryan get in, this time two bullets hitting Handgun one per knee. It caused the man to slump a bit, but he turned it in to rolling his body forward and closing the to Ryan to get under his slashing blade. Ryan surprised him again by how strongly he pushed back against the charging man. Walter cursed and, lacking the ability to summon a definitely not magical sword from thin air, pulled his own knife out of his sheath.

While Ryan and Handgun grappled, Walter jumped forward and tried to ram the KA-BAR in to the fighting man’s heart, but he moved at the last second and Walter ended up stabbing him in the side of the stomach. Blood spurted out, but less than Walter would have expected—it seemed thick, like it came pre-coagulated. “Oh come on,” Walter grunted, as he tried to work the knife up. Instead he took a pained backhand from the man to his ribs that sent him sprawling and gasping for air; if Handgun had been in a better position, it probably would have broken ribs or a collapsed lung. “Shit,” he groaned, rolling over and pulling himself up.

Ryan managed to get a better grip, shifting his arms and twisting his body to throw the man to the ground. He followed the throw by pouncing, moving to the kind of ground work frequently seen in Mixed Martial Arts—or Army Combatives. “Get the knife,” Ryan grunted as he fought with the man to try to get him in to a lock. “Cut off his fucking head!” Walter grabbed his KA-BAR and moved over just as Ryan managed to get the man in a lock, every muscle in both of their bodies bulging as they fought for control.

Walter brought the knife down in a brutal chop to the back of Handgun’s neck, and bit bit deep. The man screamed, crying out in genuine agony and fear for the first time since the fight had begun, and it was a terrible sound that Walter figured would add to the litany of his nightmares. Even worse, as Walter brought the knife out to do it again the wound began to heal again. He put all of his strength in to the next blow and got most of the way through the mans neck. He torqued his shoulder in to it and began to saw, in a horrifying rush of dark blood and squishing sounds that he never wanted to hear again. Finally, with a horrifying wrench of strength and spray of blood on the both of them, Handgun’s head fell away and fell to the ground.

Ryan grunted, flopping back and breathing heavily as the energy seemed to flood out of his body; Walter did the same, and shook his head. “What…” he began, before they heard the rush of footsteps which heralded the arrival of others.

“Jesus Christ,” Ashland’s voice called as she came from the hallway the whole fight had fought in. “What the fuck did you two get up to?”

“He was…” Ryan panted, “Not quite dead the first time.”