"Ryan…what did you do?"
Ryan was looking guiltily down at the stairs – the remains of, rather – and couldn't help but wish to grin. It had looked so flimsy, and that little screw was all that needed to be touched, and boom, the stairs leading down to the tunnels were history. And the sight of its collapse, along with a Willy that almost stepped out into thin air before noticing the lack of metal under his foot made him pull it back, was a sight that he would remember for years – provided he lived that long.
Ryan found that, with all the sad and tragic events happening around them, that humour and laughter was the best way to deal with thing, and that was including, but not limited to, making Willy's job as hard as possible. Willy, however, did not find this amusing, but what could he do? He had made a promise to Ryan's father, and he was bloody well going to see it through. Besides, the kid was great, unlike some other teens he had met. He had to suppress a shudder when he remembered a particularly bad one.
"Now we have to take the long way to get to Jotunheim," he said, growling when he realized he had – once again – pronounced the name wrong. "And we're surrounded by rioters and looters. Just great."
Ryan thought for a second. "But what if some robbers or someone are waiting down in the tunnels? "
Rioters and looters are, after all, one step up from robbers, because the rioters and looters just looked for trouble in general, rather than specific targets like robbers did. Besides, robbers had a tendency to be a bit…crude.
"Well, I can handle a robber or two, but a whole crowd? No, sir, no way in hell." Willy put down his bags and crossed his arms. He closed his eyes and made a humming noise.
Ryan raised an eyebrow. "What're you doing?"
"I'm thinking, you idiot."
"Weird way of thinking, humming like a bug-catcher."
Willy didn't really like the malicious way Ryan was attempting to be humorous. Granted, he was a teenager and predisposed to cruel humour, but not to this degree…right? He couldn't remember being so mean himself when he was Ryan's age, but then again, he never had time to develop a sense of humour. He'd been busy working in a fruit parlour.
The sounds of the riot could be heard through the thick steel walls. The only stairs leading somewhere was up, and that was not somewhere Willy wanted to go in case Wolfe's men were looking for Ryan up there. A thought hit him like a train. What if they were patrolling down in the tunnels as well?
Well, that pretty much killed my plan, didn't it?
He stopped humming."Well, looks like there's only one way to…J now."
He made sure to avoid the word. A "j" isn't supposed to be pronounced like a "y", it just wasn't natural. For some reason, the fact that the name came from a language where the English "j" sound didn't even exist in the alphabet completely escaped him.
"And that is…?" Ryan asked.
"The middle level, I guess." Willy sighed and picked up the bags again. "Let's go."
He decided to punctuate the sentence by kicking open the door. Unfortunately, the door was designed to be completely air- and water-tight when closed, so it didn't go "crash". In fact, it went "doing", which was accompanied by a pained cry and Willy jumping up and down on one foot.
Ryan laughed and pulled on the handle, which opened the well-oiled door nearly without a sound. Well, there was sound, but that was from the rioting people screaming, glass being broken, water dripping from holes in the ceiling…
"That's how you do it," he said and walked out, carrying the bundle and a bag. Willy followed, grumbling.
"No sense of style these days…damn kids."
"It seems that they have gone underground. Our men were a bit…heavy-handed with their friend, after all."
"If by heavy-handed you mean murdered, then I agree."
"I apologize. I shall immediately—"
"You shall do nothing. I have grown tired of you and your failures. I have found someone to replace you, in fact."
"And you do know what that means, don't you?"
"Sir, please, if I can just—"
"Silence. Now, if you leave this place within ten minutes, I will let you live."
"…yes, sir. Thank you sir."
"You are aware that he might reveal our secrets?"
"Of course, but I do so hate ending a partnership on bad terms. See to him, will you?"
"Look at this…amazing how quickly someone would resort to stealing as long as someone says 'your leaders are dead, we're in control, me-he', isn't it?"
They were looking at a shop window that had been smashed, the security grate torn apart and the drapes set on fire.
Why would they set the drapes on fire?
Ryan wasn't looking at the shop. He was looking at the glass ceiling, which was starting to look vaguely like a spider-web now.
"I'm not sure I like the look of that glass," he said slowly. Water was leaking from it in rivulets.
Willy felt inclined to agree. Others didn't, apparently, because some were pointing at it and laughing, holding beer and whiskey bottles.
"Me neither, let's just get out of here."
Moving on, they walked by various scenes of destruction and mayhem, Willy not knowing whether he should shield Ryan from seeing it, but then again, he had already knocked someone out with a lamp, and he couldn't really imagine burning drapes and graffiti on statues being any worse. He glanced at Ryan. The boy had – thankfully – stuffed the bundle away in one of the bags. Something like that could draw much unwanted attention. But just carrying several bulging bags in a neighbourhood that had gone to hell quicker than a drunk would empty a bottle of gin on a warm day would probably do the same.
A commotion close to the tunnel they had to go through drew their attention – and everyone else's.
Two men were arguing, one of them wielding a wrench and waving it around in the other's face. The one being waved at practically radiated anger, his face growing redder and redder as he spouted nonsensical gibberish. Willy picked out the occasional words like "wasn't me" and "innocent".
Wrench-Man would have none of this.
"Shut up! I know you're with that freak Wolfe! Just admit it!"
Red tried to say something, but Wrench-Man beat him to it.
"My brother was in one of those subs! He hadn't done anything, yet you bastards killed him! And for what? Just what the hell is this 'good cause' he keeps bullshitting us with?"
"What's this all about?" asked Willy, perhaps a bit too loudly, because the two – and several others – looked at him.
"Stay out of this, yobbo; this is between him an' me."
Ryan recognized the voice. It was the man he had met outside the transit hall before it was flooded.
The man seemed to recognize Ryan as well, and nodded. Ryan nodded back.
"What's wrong, then?" asked Willy, wanting nothing more to just walk by and bring Ryan to safety in Jotunheim, but his conscience – damn thing – refused to let the two men club the living shit out of each other. Well, one of them would beat the living shit out of the other, in any case.
"This guy—"he said and jerked the wrench in the other's direction. He flinched. "—is one of Wolfe's cronies. He says he's not, but he carried this." He held up a card. It had an outline of a wolf's head on it. "They say it's his mark."
"That's ridiculous, that could just be the logo of a company, don't be stupid," said Willy, not believing that a partner of the one who had killed hundreds upon hundreds of people just a few hours ago would walk among the people whose friends and family had been murdered.
"Screw that. Better get this one and make an example of what we're gonna do to 'em if they as much as dare to step outside Valhalla!" shouted another man, stepping out from the crowd that had gathered around the scene.
"But we can't just—"
"That sounds like the kind of talk that'd come from a friend of this one," the man said.
He was burly, the type of burly you would most likely die instantly of once the words of insult left your mouth. Willy did not feel the need to point out the stupidity of the action they were about to do. He gave the accused an apologetic look and went to step around and into the tunnel, tugging on Ryan's sleeve as he went.
"Wait," said Ryan and walked up to Wrench-Man, who was looking more and more uncertain. "What was your brother's name?" he asked.
Wrench narrowed his eyes in suspicion before answering. "Tom."
"Do you think Tom would want you to do this? Kill a man, just because you think he was involved in his death? What about your wife, what would she say? Or your son?"
Ryan didn't know where the words were coming from, but it felt good to say them. He didn't feel any anger for the panicking man being threatened. Mostly because he didn't look like the type to kill people, but looks could fool you.
Wrench seemed to consider this, and Ryan decided to strike the killing blow.
"Would it bring your brother back?"
Wrench dropped his iconic weapon and stepped back, blinking.
"I almost made a mistake. I didn't even think of what Moira would think of me…and Matt! If Matt knew what I'd done…I…" He stepped away, leaving the suspect in the ring of people alone with the burly man. Before stepping completely out, he put a hand on the burly man's shoulder. "Let him go, Patrick."
"Just leave him! Get the hell away," he shouted at the suspect, who wasted no time in running away, leaving several disappointed bystanders sighing and aw-ing. Wrench left the circle and walked into the tunnel.
Patrick stared first after Wrench, and then after Suspect. He grinned. "What you don't know…" he said and ran after Suspect. The others followed, hooting and shouting.
Willy shook his head. "Poor guy." He looked at Ryan. "That was some impressive psychology there, kid. How did you guess he had a wife and kid?"
"I met them earlier today…before the transit hall was flooded."
"Oh, I see."
Some of the passer-bys who had not gone with the others looked at Ryan and Willy for a moment before leaving. They whispered and pointed, especially at Ryan. They heard snippets of the conversations. "That's Kane's kid…I wonder if…just as bad as…his father…"
As they walked through the door and into the glass tunnel that connected the leisure and shopping district with the one containing the hospital and other medical businesses.. Ryan hated this particular district, because the dentist he went to had his clinic there.
About halfway through, they encountered Wrench again, this time just staring out into the ocean. Neon lights on the side of the buildings advertising for toy stores, perfume shops and ecologic boutiques coloured the water in an array of different nuances. He saw their reflections in the glass.
"I didn't thank you properly, kid," he said and held out a hand. His moustache quivered, and Ryan realised he was holding back tears, just like he had been doing for a long time now.
"What's your name?" was the first thing Ryan could come up with.
"The name's Frank. Frank Kilpatick."
Ryan shook his hand and gave his, after which Willy did the same.
"You know," said Frank, "I can probably think of fifteen jokes right now concerning the name Willy. More if you gave me ten minutes."
Willy laughed, making sure to sound as sarcastic as possible. "Oh great, we have a comedian in our midst. Nice one, Ryan, really."
"Oh come on, we all need to have a good laugh every now and then," said Frank.
Curiously, despite the obviously Irish-sounding name, Frank did not sound Irish at all. In fact, he sounded like a full-blooded American.
He must be married in…or even worse, an…immigrant.
The word made Willy's mouth taste bad. He was not too fond of immigrants, Irish ones especially. He didn't mind Irish people in general, but the ones that came to America just to take and take and never give anything back. He was willing to make an exception for this one though, since Ryan seemed to like him.
Despite having only known the man for a few hours, and his name for less than five minutes…oh well, that's Ryan for you.
"Listen…don't you live in those fancy apartments up in Sunny Valley?" asked Frank.
"Yeah," said Willy, "but we decided to hunker it down with a friend of mine instead. The looters have started to pick over the place, and he lives in Jotunheim, and you know how the people down there are, eh?" he asked, elbowing Frank a little in the side.
"I live in Jotunheim," said Frank. His tone was serious, but his eyes and face showed that he was actually amused.
Willy failed to pick this up. "Oh, I'm sorry, I—"
"No, no, I know what you were going to say. Looters don't dare to come to Jotunheim because we're the toughest bastards on Earth." Frank smiled. "And it's true too, I might add. I'm headed home as well. Wanna tag along? The cowards may not be so tempted to jump us if we're three, right?"
Neither of the two failed to see the logic in the sentence, and agreed.
To get to Jotunheim – without the submarine transit system that is – one would have to cross through the medical district, the business district containing all kinds of offices, several apartment complex districts, another shopping district…and so on.
"It's going to take a while, though," said Ryan, wondering how Frank and his family had made their way to the transit hall on foot on such short notices.
"I see what you're thinking, kid," said Frank.
"You do?" asked Ryan.
"Yup, and I've got an answer for you: Service access tunnels."
"Oh no…" groaned Willy.
To be continued…
Well, on Monday I'm leaving for Barcelona. I'll be gone for a week, and I probably won't be able to update neither this nor Kane's Field, so…well. Bye.
A comment on the anonymous review I got just recently. Apparently, I have ripped off the plot of the video game Bioshock and added my own (poor) twist. Well, I can say right now that I have not – in fact – played Bioshock. Yet, that is. I plan to buy it and play it sooner or later. Anyway, I've taken a look at plot details and such for Bioshock, and – surprise, surprise – I don't think the plots match at all. I don't have genetic manipulation, I don't have Little Sisters and Big Daddys and I certainly don't have a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. In fact, the only similarity between them is the fact that the plot takes place in a city under water. The names – I noticed that several of them were similar – but that was a result of a random name generator I found on the net since I had trouble coming up with them. I suppose I picked rather poorly, but seriously Randomguy or whatever you call yourself, get your facts straight before you say I steal ideas. Why don't you show me something you've written before claiming my stuff is a rip-off?