In any battle, it appears the victor of the first must be the loser of the second.
This all started with Black crouched on the end of my bed, waving a glowy thing in my face. It being roughly 3am in the morning by my estimation, my initial response was a mumbled “Fuck off.”
He made an exasperated noise and shook me. I finally opened my eyes. “What the hell, Black, have you ever heard of knocking? What do you...”
He pushed the glowy thing closer to my face, making me go crosseyed. I realized it was my iPhone.And then I saw what he’d been trying to show me. Static. I sat bolt upright and grabbed it, trying to find the affected feed while he watched crouched on the end of the bed. A few seconds later I realized, it wasn’t one camera. It was all of them.
Which meant one of two things, neither of them good. I was good and awake now. I grabbed my coat from the corner of the desk, put it on over my pyjamas, and rummaged in a drawer for my taser.
“Black,” I said, my voice slightly muffled by said taser while I frantically put shoes and socks on. “Can you get out of the house unnoticed?”
“Good.” I reached under the bed and pulled out a bulging black backpack. “This should have enough in it for a week. If I don’t make it out by morn, I mean sunrise, keep it and keep running.”
He pulled it on without comment. No “but you’re coming with me, aren’t you?”. He understood.
And then I was alone in my room, and hearing noises coming from the basement. I gritted my teeth, slipped on my own backpack, and started forward, as quietly as possible. The noises were smashes of glass, with a rhythm of purpose behind them. Whoever it was wanted me to hear. I went in anyway.
The sharp smell of spilt azoth hit my nostrils, and there, sitting on the bench as if he owned it, was a face I hadn't seen in a long time. A Smugface. He looked up as I entered and tipped a reagent bottle over with a finger, and it shattered on the floor sending an explosion of white powder across it. "Oops," he said, completely unapologetically. "Butterfingers." And then he smashed another. He'd taken them out of the cabinet and lined them up one by one.
I took a step forward, and he removed a familiar pistol from it's holster and pointed at my chest. Left handed. I stopped moving forward.
"My best friend is blind because of you," he said conversationally, returning his gaze to the bottles and knocking over another, gun still trained on me. Smash. "Another is dead. Complications." Smash. "And a third is still in hospital." Smash. "She gets discharged ooooh, two hours ago. So I suppose that was a bit of a lie."
"What do you want," I replied. The state of the lab hadn't escaped my notice. The rats had been released. Machinery dismantled and papers scattered. And the entirety of my azoth store had been splashed over every surface. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled in foreboding.
"Mostly, I want you dead. But since that's not allowed to happen yet," he said in a mocking tone, and I guessed it was a specific order from a higher up. "I guess I have to settle for this." His right hand reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a lighter. He grinned at my expression, and flicked it. I moved forward instinctively, and he shot the wall behind me far too close to my head. The sound echoed in the confined space. I stopped.
He touched the flame to the dark liquid, and with a whoomph it caught like alcohol. While he did so I did something incredibly stupid and tackled him. The gun clattered across the floor, but he kicked me off easily, and threw the lighter at me. It bounced off my head and disappeared somewhere in the hungry, eager flames. As burning papers drifted and I tried to stop being winded, he took out a black walkie talkie and spoke into it. "Now, Hati."
A portal to the Path opened up behind him, and I charged at him with a fire extinguisher grabbed from under the bench and ready to be used as a club. He tipped himself backwards into the Path like some weird trust exercise before I could reach him, and I threw it at him only to watch it bounce off the wall with a clunk as a few black leaves crumbled. I cursed.
And then the fire was a more pressing problem. It was already getting difficult to breathe. The fire extinguisher was useless against an azoth fire as water against the Greek kind, I knew, hence my attempted usage of it as a weapon. Knowing I had copies of my work elsewhere, I raced out, slammed the door shut, and called 111.
I didn't have copies of everything. I removed what I could, tossing it out of the window until the smoke became too thick to see through and my coughs rasped painfully. Then I exited by the same method myself, shortly before the fire department arrived, who berated me for my flippancy and treated me for smoke inhalation. They couldn't save the house, and many things of value to me are gone.
Black never appeared at the rendevous point.