Settling Tabs
rating: +38+x

“Hello, Eddies Ice Cream, our special-”

“Dead men dance.”

“W-what? Sir, I think you have-”

“ACC 119998256”

“…just a moment…”

“…”

“…I'll patch you through.

“…”

“Central Records. Department?”

“Intelligence.”

“Transferring.”

“…”

“This is Intelligence, how…oh goddammit, what do you want Harken?”

“A target confirmation, that's all.”

“…our records state you have all the mission-critical target information you need.”

“Side-mission, very hush-hush, just came up.”

“Uh huh. Sure. Next, tell me the dispatch came from Elvis himself.”

“Just gimme a goddamn yes or no, fucking would you?”

“…Target?”

“Subject of Interest #B112674, MC&D operative 'Boomer'.”

“…Do you have a theorized location?”

“The former Ford plant closest to my current location.”

“…Yes. I'm not even going to ask how or why-”

“See ya.”

“Wai-”


Kramer glared at the note taped to the box sitting on the table. She should have been paying more attention, but she'd had to neutralize a unexpected incursion of Church operatives, and she'd been so gassed out she could barely stand. Now every organic bit felt bruised and sore, which didn't help her mood, reading the note.

Kramer-
Something came up, had to run out. Coffee's in the pot, and there's a danish in the box. Save me an éclair. If I don't check in by noon or so, have them pull my identichip and send someone. If they can't, then I guess there's no real reason to worry. Please don't hurt anything important when I get back.

Harken

She sighed, opening the box and absently nibbling a pastry as she walked to the tiny kitchen. True, with direct (if limited) willful control of most of her major bodily systems, she didn't have a lot of need for caffeine, but the ritual itself was sometimes more important then the actual materials. She flopped on to a gray couch, glaring at the clock. She hunched lower in her sweatpants and hooded pajama top, sipping the scalding hot coffee.

“Noon, Harken. Then I find you, and break whatever you have left.”


Crouched in the middle of a searing morning sun, Harken was suddenly seized by an involuntary shudder. He shook it off, refocusing on the long, squat building on the other side of the crumbling parking lot. Deserted, some broken windows, weeds slowly eating the gray sea of blacktop, it looked like a lot of nothing. Harken shifted slowly, blinking the sweat from his eye. The area behind the old guard shack had looked like such a good idea in the dim fog of the morning, but the rising sun had turned it in to an oven. Still, he dared not move. Boomer had a sixth sense for danger like an insect.

He peered through the crack in the thin shack walls, watching the old security shutter at the loading dock. It'd been nearly three hours since the fat man had left, and Harken was starting to give up hope. He might have shifted out already, gone on to the next site. Which would put Harken in hysterical danger, as Boomer loved to blow his old work sites as a parting gift. Still, this felt right. The big man was still here, still lurking. He'd seen-

There.

Waddling up around the back, shady side of the factory was the bulky outline of the tubby lunatic. Watching him in the cool dark shadows made Harken's hand squeeze on the lump in his suit pocket. Sweat rolled down his back, his face, but he felt none of it now, eyes widening despite the salty sting. Boomer leaned and grabbed the handle of the security grate. Probably a few hundred pounds, the big man hefted it like he was opening a window. He slid inside, letting it fall back with a crash, echoing across the empty black space.

Half an hour later, Harken slid across to a broken window like a shadow.


Boomer hefted the last of the oil drums in to the old cargo container. It was the last batch, and even with all the fun of building and testing bombs, he was tired. He twisted the last of the wires in to place on the top, and started setting the remotes. This was so much better then just doing cars or popping an office for Mr. Dark. Those nice church people were paying good, and Mr. Dark wouldn't need to know, so what was the harm? Besides, they liked big bombs, burning bombs, the kind he almost never got to make anymore. His thick lips split in a grin, remembering his first firebomb…how the house had burned…how his step-brother had screamed, skin flowing like wax down his-

A small, sharp ping rang through the abandoned factory floor.

Boomer whirled around, shockingly fast for such a big man. A few yards away stood a panting, sweaty man wearing a dirty suit. He held what looked like two sets of brass knuckles, with knife blades attached, the right hand pointing up, the other one down. His eyes glared with hate, mouth tight in a humorless grin. He pointed at Boomer with the right-hand knife.

“You broke my fucking jaw.”

They stared a moment, then Boomer heaved a spare drum lid like a discus at Harken. Harken twisted, but caught the edge with his arm, grunting at the sharp pain. Boomer was already moving, dashing to his workbench. He felt around frantically, keeping the other man at the edge of his vision as his hands scrambled over the bench. Harken followed hot behind, ducking cleanly as Boomer tossed a hammer. As he closed the gap, Boomer suddenly whipped up and lashed out with a length of pipe. Harken dropped low, feeling it swish near his head, then lashed out at Boomer's thick ankles with the knife.

Boomer yelped, then kicked out, catching Harken off guard, tipping him off his feet and sprawled to the ground. The fat man wheezed, a keening cry leaking from his flabby lips as he saw blood start to drool down his leg. He rose the pipe like an ax, and brought it crashing down at Harken's prone form. Harken rolled and raised his steel-banded fist, catching the pipe with a resounding clang. Boomer stumbled back, Harken twisting to his feet even as he felt his hand going numb from the impact.

Boomer swung the pipe two more times, Harken easily keeping out of range, glaring at the fat man. He pulled the pipe back, tipping it back like a bat, waiting. Harken crouched, slipping forward with an oily smoothness, feinting with the knives, watching Boomer cringe and slide back. The blood from the first wound has slid down the blade, drooling in to Harken's clenched palm, his own feverish heat making the handle feel like a hot, slick eel as he brought it forward. It was a bad thrust, but still dug a furrow on the side of Boomer's vast belly, bringing another keening shriek.

Harken pressed in, slamming his fist against the slash, again, and again, the steel band widening the wound with each strike. He brought the left knife down against Boomer's thigh as the big man smashed his fist against Harken's head. The agent was sent sprawling, but Boomer nearly fell, clenching his thigh, watching the blood well up between his fingers, oozing on to the floor. His head swam, running in too many directions, the sweet-sharp pain of slivered and punctured flesh filling his head with screaming.

Harken rose, shaking his head, spots swimming in front of his eyes. He flipped his right dagger, now holding both down, his hands numb and slick, feeling the bruises already forming in his palms, the underside of his tongue feeling sharp and prickly from panting. Boomer stumbled up, panting, holding his leg, looking at Harken. They stared, and for a moment, Harken saw a crying, cringing child, trying to shatter a world he hated and didn't understand.

He hissed something, coiling to strike out again, looking at the exact spot on Boomer's flabby neck where he'd bury his knives. He was just getting ready to do so when Boomer started to giggle through clenched, bloody teeth. Harken froze, staring at the oddness of it, watching as the big man brought up his hand clenched around…something, some little mass of-

deadman switch.

FUCK.

He started sliding back quickly, wanting to get clear, but unwilling to turn his back on the big man. Boomer wheezed and giggled, hobbling deeper in to the cavernous building. “Huh. Huh huh. F-fuck you Harken! Come and catch Harken! Little baby! Huh!” Boomers broken, blubbering taunts were overshadowed in Harken's ears by the soft, sharp “ping” of a hand-sized piece of metal hitting the ground.

Running now, uncaring if he caught a bullet in the back at this point, there were several seconds of silence, Harken feeling as if he had a helmet of his own sensation on. Bruises on his face, palms, back. Lungs burning. That sharp tang of pain under the tongue from breathing too hard, sweat and blood in his eyes, feet stinging with every slap on the hard concrete floor, the glow of light from a window like the light at the end of a miles-long tunnel, a-

and suddenly lifted, deafened, the window approaching much too fast, legs trailing like useless streamers, a burning, searing wave at his back, and now through, tiny razors slashing over him, feeling disconnected, discontinued, dis…something or other, the ground warm and welcoming from the old air, and sleep now.

He woke to the sound of crackling and smoke, and for a second assumed he'd fallen asleep at the bonfire again, and that mom had tapped him awake to go home. Reality snapped back in to focus with a sickening, grating lurch, and Harken curled up slowly, hissing. Somewhere, he could hear the dim whine of firetrucks…so he couldn't have been out for too long. The trench knives felt slimy and hot in his hands, so he dropped them, wiping his face and seeing his hand come away bloody. His face was a mass of glass cuts, it seemed.

He groaned, trying to fish out his phone, hand feeling sore and about as flexible as an old tree branch, chest and back feeling like he'd been crushed between two massive frying pans. He stumbled away to the relative security of a treeline, watching the smoke and fire rise quickly. Somehow, mashed his fingers to his phone in the right sequence, coughing and swallowing down a upsetting amount of blood.


“Fuck, Harken, what the hell?”

“Sorry.”

“What the hell did you do? Where the fuck are you?”

“I had a lead on Boomer. I just…thought I should follow it up.”

“You could have died! The fuck are you thinking? We work as a team for a fucking reason, we back each other up, we inform each other, we-”

“I'm sorry, Kramer.”

“We try…what?”

“I said I'm sorry. It was stupid. I…I just felt like I had to.”

“…Is he dead?”

“…Probably not. Blew the building, I cut him pretty bad.”

“Are you ok?”

“…I'm alive.”

“Not what I asked.”

“…I'm functional. You of all people should appreciate that.”

“…command is going to be pissed.”

“Actually, I don't think so. Looks like something big is in the works. Lots of bang here, but it looks like even more was shifted out already. Someone wants something to explode pretty big, pretty bad. I'm going to call the cleaners after you, let them handle it. I'm sore.”

“I bet.”

“Can you come get me? I'm at that old Ford plant on ninth. Look like a cop.”

“Sure.”

“…My hands hurt. I think I need to lie down.”

“Sure, Harken. Just stay put.”

“…thanks for not threatening me with additional bodily harm.”

“Who needs to threaten. It's assumed.”

“Have I told you today that I love you, Kramer?”

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