Wasted Chapter 11
It was drizzling by the time Reno got home, and it wasnt helping his mood any. He slammed his way inside and threw his jacket on a chair. The action sent a jolt of pain running through his bad arm; hed forgotten about that particular injury. He swore and rubbed it. Oh crap, hed forgotten to pick up painkillers that day
He yanked open his refrigerator and dug out a can of beer, hoping wryly that Rude would get shot too, so he would see what being an invalid was like. God knows the bastard deserved it, after all the little errands hed forced Reno to run. Not to say that it hadnt been amusing, threatening Hojo and then messing with the rookie
He took a gulp of beer and wandered over to the kitchen table. He sank down in the chair, thinking about everything hed learned that day. What was Rude up to? Obviously something to do with Hojo. His probable human experiments, perhaps?
Come to think of it, what was Hojo up to? And why had the scientist covered for him when Tseng had bust in on them? Tseng hadnt necessarily believed that Reno was an aspiring scientist, but hed let it slide, and that was all that mattered. Hojo hadnt come up with that scientist shit just to be nice. It had almost seemed like a passing thought, like maybe Hojo thought itd be a better idea to have a Turk as a friend than an enemy.
Idiot, Reno thought as he downed his beer. Nobodys friends with a Turk.
Suddenly he heard something outside. A loud thump. It was hard to tell, the rain drowned out any other noise, but he was certain of it. Something was outside.
He drew his nightstick and crept to the door. Dusk was just drawing near, and the gathering darkness limited his vision. After a moment, his eyes adjusted, and he crept out the door. Not a soul in sight. But he knew he hadnt imagined it. He stepped back to the house and, with a last glance around, went in.
Pressed against the wall of Renos condominium, Elena breathed a sigh of relief. Her ankle throbbed, and it had been stupid to stumble around in the dark, but she hadnt been caught. Next time, shed have to be careful not to trip and make a noise
The door burst open again and Reno grabbed her by the throat. Elena froze, rooted by terror as he slammed her into the side of the house. Before she could move, he brought up some kind of weapon and held it an inch from her throat. She could feel searing heat.
Youd better have a good explanation, sister, he said in a terrifyingly calm voice. Scattered raindrops fell from the sky, but he took no notice and waited calmly, almost detached.
Elenas breath was coming in sharp gasps. Please she whispered. Dont kill me.
He drew back from her with a snort of disgust, thankfully removing the weapon. Im not going to kill you. Maybe beat you half to death, but not kill you.
After a moment, Elena realized this was a joke and cracked a weak smile. I guess youll want to know why Im here.
I guess I will. He switched off the weapon and shoved open the door, suddenly becoming the easy-going man shed met before. Here, lets get out of the rain.
She followed him inside and immediately bit back an appalled gasp. Reno, apparently, did not live neat. Beer cans and empty plates of food littered shelves and even the floor. If Elena didnt know better she would have sworn everything was arranged in some kind of absurd formation, as though the resident was actually proud of his collection. Clothes littered the floor as well, elaborating the cluttered appearance. Perhaps adding to the effect was the small size of the place. Even from her vantage point in the front hall, Elena could see the residence consisted only of the small living room the front hall led to, a kitchen further out, and probably a single bedroom. Reno didnt apologize for the mess, merely swept a stack of magazines off the table before sitting in a chair. Elena did too, with some difficulty.
Whats the matter with you? Hed noticed she was limping.
I tripped outside and hurt my ankle, she explained, a little shamefacedly. It was stupid
Without another word, he got out of his chair and knelt by her feet. This the one? he asked, pointed to her right ankle. When she nodded, he slipped up her pant leg and probed the injury with surprising gentleness. After a moment, he stood up again.
Ill be back, he said shortly, and left the room.
Elena sat in her chair, nervously tapping her fingers on the table. It had been a bad idea to follow him, and an even worse one to try to sneak a peek into his house. Spying was not a game she was used to, but she would have to use more sense than this in the future.
Besides, hed almost killed her when hed found her outside. Elena wasnt sure why he hadnt, come to think of it. If it was only because he knew who she was, then shed had a close call. Shed only met the guy today and she already wished she hadnt.
Reno returned, tossing her an ice pack. Its only a sprain. Put that on and it should reduce the swelling, he instructed.
She did what he said as he sat back down. Hed retrieved his beer (either that or gotten a new one) and was now watching her warily. You can start explaining now, he said.
Elena thought fast. Tseng told me to make sure you got home okay, seeing as youre injured and all, she lied. And, well, to make sure you didnt drink too much That was partly true. Tseng had spoken to her about the drinking habits of both Reno and Rude, and to keep an eye on them. Hed never mentioned actually following them, but Reno didnt have to know that. Reno raised an eyebrow. Drink too much? Me? He downed the last of his drink, then crumpled the can and threw it against the wall. It bounced off and landed on the floor with a clatter. Now theres one Ive never heard before.
Elena didnt say anything, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Here she was, sitting in the (extremely untidy) kitchen of a man she hardly knew, and who was an obvious alcoholic. Not only that, but she was lying to him, partly because of necessity, but mostly out of fear. The look in his eyes, when hed caught her, had been real. She tried to put it out of her mind, but she couldnt help searching his face, looking for some hint of what shed seen. Nothing. She wondered if shed imagined it.
Well? Renos voice yanked her out of her thoughts.
I got home okay, he said impatiently. You gonna leave or not?
Shed followed him on foot. Could you give me a lift to Sector 2?
He smirked. Youre out of luck, babe. My car and license were yanked a while ago. Driving while intoxicated. Those authorities were full of shit.
Then what can I do? Elena asked, feeling frustrated.
He sighed and stood up. Ill walk you as far as the train station. After that, youre on your own.
Elena nodded, but she was worried. She didnt often take the trains at night because of the many dangers of a young woman traveling alone. Now she wasnt sure which would be safer, going alone or in Renos company. Still, she couldnt very well refuse his offer without offending him.
It was now thoroughly dark, as they discovered when they set foot outside again. Rain was falling steadily by now, and the bad weather only made it more difficult to see. Without her companion, Elena soon would have been hopelessly lost. But Reno seemed to know these streets well; he led her through alleys and across junkyards without hesitation. He said nothing about how far away the train station was, in fact, he said hardly anything at all. Occasionally Elena would stumble because of her bad ankle, but he would invariably catch her before she fell.
His touch made her uncomfortable. The fact was, Elena didnt know Reno well, and she wasnt sure she wanted to. He was a drinker, and worse than that, he scared her. She couldnt forget the look in his eyes, when hed grabbed her by the throat, like he wanted to kill her. No, almost needed to. Putting away his weapon -whatever it was- had seemed an immense effort for him. It had been the same with Rude, when shed joined the Turks a few days before. The way hed looked at his while flexing his fist in that black glove after Tsengs intrusion, shed put the incident out of her mind, sensing that Rude was unwilling to discuss it. Still
Reno, she said finally, trotting to keep up. The strain made her ankle throb, but she ignored it. What is it Im missing?
He glanced at her. What?
About the Turks, she pressed. What is it thats different?
He hesitated. She was certain of it. What the hell are you talking about?
Theres something different between me and you, Rude, Tseng. What is it Im missing?
Reno missed a stride. For a moment he didnt say anything, then he sighed and looked at her. Things were different, when we were rookies.
Perhaps youd care to explain? she said sharply. He was hiding something, she could tell by his voice, even though it was too dark to see his face.
We were trained differently, Reno said shortly. With methods not practiced now.
Why not? she demanded, trying to match his pace. I should be trained the same way you guys were. Im going to be facing the same situations you are, going the same places you go. Who knows? I might even enjoy it. Again Reno was silent. How could Elena know he was thinking of the last female Turk, who hadnt even survived her training? Lynn had been made to endure extra torment the others hadnt suffered, such as rape and ridicule and-
No. Elena would not enjoy it.
I just want to keep this job, she said softly. Reno turned; in the darkness he could scarcely see her.
He was about to tell her no, the last thing she wanted was to keep this job, when it suddenly happened. A barrage of bullets tore through the air. Reno, who immediately knew what was happening, grabbed Elena and threw both of them to the ground, shouting, Get down!
The angry sound of gunfire didnt slow or stop. Elena pressed as low to the cement as she could, terrified. It was pitch black, making it impossible to see where the gunfire was coming from. Not only that, but the pounding rain mixed in with the gun retorts- no chance of hearing where they were coming from, either.
Reno grabbed her by the arm. We need to run for cover! he shouted above the roar of the din. Theres an old shopping mall to your left. On three, we go!
Elena nodded, then realized he probably couldnt see her. Okay. Was it possible the gunfire was coming closer? Elena couldnt tell. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps, and her own pounding heart seemed louder than everything else. She used to her hand to push her rain-soaked bangs out of her eyes.
One! Reno yelled. Two! Three!
Elena jumped up and dashed to the left. She realized with alarm that Reno wasnt beside her anymore. She slowed just a bit, but he came up from the other side and shoved her, yelling, Move, goddammit!
The wall of the shopping mall loomed up before she was ready. Elena nearly slammed into it, using her palms to stop herself. The impact shook her, but Reno was already yelling again.
Against the wall! Here, this dumpster. He dragged her behind the giant metal trash bin. Normally Elena would have thought twice before hiding behind a seething mass of garbage, but at the moment she wasnt particular. Finally, the gunfire momentarily stopped. Reno crept close to her. She realized he was panting, too. Theyre looking for us, he whispered.
Listen, keep moving. Dont let them get a clear shot. Use this. He pressed something cold and hard into her hand. She shook her head, sending drops of water flying into Renos face. I cant.
You cant even use a gun? There it was again, that note of derision in his voice, as though she wasnt even worth mocking.
She grit her teeth and pulled away from him. I can figure it out.
Okay. Quickly he guided her fingers through the motions. This is the safety. You flip it back when youre ready to shoot. Triggers here. Pull it to fire. Got it?
Yeah, I got it. She wasnt sure if she did, but she knew that was what he wanted to hear.
Good. He leaned closer, his breath grazing her ear. Run for the front entrance of the mall. Ill cover you. If we get separated, keep going. Ill go first, but you have to keep between the wall and me. Wait a few seconds, then follow me. Understand?
Yes. Elena fingered the gun nervously as Reno dashed out into the open. She silently counted to ten, then followed.
This area was a bit easier to see, thanks to the weak glow of a few streetlamps further up the road. Elena could vaguely detect Renos outline as he motioned her behind him. She obeyed, making sure her back was kept to the wall of the mini-mall. Her face was wet with rain and sweat, even though the air was freezing. Her hand trembled as she held the gun. She didnt fully comprehend what was happening, or why. Why would someone try to kill them? Reno seemed pretty calm about it, though. Was this something that often happened to him?
Suddenly there were shouts- they were found. Elena jerked back against the wall, shaking so badly it was a miracle she didnt drop the gun. She swallowed hard and closed her eyes.
Up ahead, Reno had his nightstick out, eyes warily scanning the area for unseen enemies. Like Elena, he wasnt sure what was happening, but years as a Turk had prepared him for situations like this. Hed rather have Rude at his back than the unreliable rookie, but he had to make do with her.
A shape materialized out of the darkness In front of him. Reno had just enough time to register the muzzle of a machine gun before Elena suddenly screamed from behind him. They were hemmed in.
Reno threw himself to the ground as the machine began firing madly. Cursing, he thrust out his arm and found the leg of the gunholder. With a grunt of effort, he yanked the man down.
The man shouted in surprise as his gun flew out of his hands. Reno grabbed him by the collar and pressed the nightstick to his throat, silencing him before he could make another sound. The corpse was still jerking and twitching with electricity as Reno jumped up.
Elena was standing over a corpse of her own, gun still smoking in her hand. She was pale and looked to be in shock, but unhurt.
He didnt see me, she explained dazedly, clutching the wall as though for support. He was coming after you, I think. When he went by I pulled the trigger. Hes dead now.
Shed saved his ass, if that was true. Why did you scream? Reno demanded bluntly. Elena lowered her eyes.
The retort scared me, she half-whispered. It was deafening and it threw me back. I thought Id been hit.
Any respect shed won from him quickly evaporated. He was stuck in a life-threatening situation with a rookie who didnt have a clue as to what she was doing. Now there was a comforting thought. He was amazed she hadnt shot herself yet. Well, there was plenty of time for that. Their night was far from over if there were more gunmen, as Reno suspected.
He took a quick evaluation of the corpses. Both were definitely men, with broad chests and stocky limbs. They were each armed with at least one automatic gun. More interesting, however, each was clothed in black from head to toe, as though to blend in with the night. Black silk masks obscured their faces, and gloves covered their hands. No signets of emblems of any kind were visible on the clothes; if they were part of any organization, they wanted to keep it secret.
He wanted to take a closer look at the bodies, but there was no time. He glanced at Elena. She seemed to be recovering a bit.
Pull yourself together, he said brusquely. We have to go. Theres more of them out there.
She nodded and straightened a little, taking a deep breath. Im ready, she said, sounding a little stronger than before.
Goody. Follow me. He ducked low and crept along the side of the rain-slicked wall. Elena shivered and wiped her sleeve across her face. My uniform is going to be ruined, she thought, then was immediately horrified with herself. She had just killed a man, and she was worried about her clothes? How pathetic.
Besides, professionals didnt care about the state of their uniform, they just got the job done
They rounded another corner and were assaulted by bright light. They had reached the front entrance of the shopping mall, and the area was flooded with street lamps. The darkness that was their cover had fled.
The shopping mall wasnt very large, but it was expansive, with a brick-lined walkway leading up to glass double doors. To each side of the doors were small leafy bushes along the walls. Opposite the mall was all open street lined with parked cars and dumpsters- plenty of places for a sniper to hide.
Shit, Reno said in a low tone. He was certain there were more enemies out there, but he had no way of telling how many. It could be anywhere from two to thirty, and they were as good as discovered. Get the doors, he hissed to Elena.
She ducked behind him and tugged at the handles while Reno watched the street for signs of movement. The last thing he wanted to do was turn his back on their unseen enemy.
They wont open! Elena cried, her shrill voice penetrating the silence like a siren.
Break the glass! he snapped, annoyed with her.
She looked shocked. Reno, thats breaking and entering!
He half-turned to yell at her. Dammit, Elena-
An explosion of gunfire nearly knocked him off his feet. Reno grabbed Elena and dove into the bushes, landing hard on his broken arm. He swore violently as the attack went on. The force of the bullets shattered the doors, sending fragments of glass flying through the air. One piece caught Elena on the side of her face, leaving a nasty cut. But at least they didnt have to worry about breaking and entering anymore.
Come on! Reno shouted when the barrage finally slowed. He dashed into the building, Elena close behind.
The mall was empty, of course, since it was after-hours. The power was out, bathing the entire vicinity in darkness. The escalators had stopped, becoming regular stairways down to the lower level. Stores lined the walls; display windows were darkened and quiet. The store entrances were blocked off by locked roll-down gates.
Reno noticed all this in an instant, immediately realizing their options were few. This way! He leaped over the railing and dropped to the frozen escalator. Elenas eyes widened, but she was too afraid to go around to the top of the stairs, which were at the opposite end of the room. Reno knew she was afraid hed leave her.
She hesitated a moment more, then a stray bullet struck the railing close to her left hand. She gave a little scream of terror.
Hurry! Reno said impatiently.
She gripped the rail with one hand, quickly swinging over the stair well. She almost fell, but Reno caught her and steadied her.
Up above, several black-clothed men peered over the railing. Upon spotting them, one yelled to his comrades.
There! Kill them!
Almost before the words were spoken, Reno brought out his nightstick and shot a ball of energy toward the above railing. The railing exploded, burst out in resplendent light. Chucks of marble crashed down around them as a portion of the upper floor broke apart.
Reno grabbed hold of Elena and tugged her down the last of the stairs. From behind, there came the sound of orders being shouted and the groans of dying men.
Hes scared, Elena finally realized. The men in black whoever they were- were trying to kill them. She and Reno could both die before the night was over. The thought was strangely comforting- one way or another, it all had to end before morning dawned. Then it occurred to her that she was in shock.
Wait, she said, stopping. Reno looked back at her impatiently.
What? Did you break a nail?
She ignored his sarcasm. I think we lost them.
Not for long, he warned. We need to keep moving.
Who are they? He seemed to know more about what was going on than she did.
What do they want?
I dont know! And if I knew what they wanted, Id give it to them. He shook his head. Except its pretty obvious they want us dead. Suddenly he tensed, as though listening carefully. He grabbed her arm and hauled her forward. Someones coming!
They were in the food court, Elena realized. Empty tables and chairs surrounded them like a forest. Around the outskirts of the tables were various food-chain stores. Elena saw a McDonalds sign to the right. The food court was not quite as dark as the rest of the mall- a large skylight on the ceiling let in a spare bit of moonlight. Rain still pounded above, and the sound provided dull background noise, like the roar of a waterfall. She heard no footsteps over the noise of the storm. She had no idea how Reno knew someone was coming, but she didnt wait to see if he was right or not. Following his lead, she ducked under a table. With Reno there too, it was a tight fit. When she moved to make room, one of the chairs scraped loudly on the tiled floor. She felt, rather than saw, Renos withering look.
When all was silent once more, she at last heard what Reno had already noticed: The slow tread of footsteps. She swallowed hard and tried to make herself smaller. The slight pressure of Renos hand on her shoulder warned her not to move.
At length, a single man, armed with the blinding beam of a flashlight, came into view. Elena was still for a moment, but then she suddenly realized this was not one of the men who had been chasing them- in fact, he was a security guard.
Reno! she hissed. Hes not one of them!
Of course not, he answered softly, yet scathingly as usual. They wouldnt split up. Not when there are Turks to deal with.
He can help us. Elena started to crawl out from under the table, but he stopped her.
No! he ordered. Dont move. Wait.
Surprised at his vehemence, she did as he said. The guard shined his flashlight around the food court.
Whos there? he called sharply. Give yourself up now.
Elena tensed, but did nothing. We havent done anything wrong, she reasoned silently. So we dont need to come out. Of course, Renos weird electrical weapon had destroyed a good section of the upper floor
She almost missed what happened next.
A dark shape, as black as the blackness surrounding them, suddenly appeared at the guards side. Before Elena had time to cry out a warning, the guard let out a strangled sound of alarm. She could just make out a gloved hand clamped over his mouth. The guards flashlight clattered to the floor, spilling a ray of light over Renos left arm. He stiffened, then slowly eased it out of the light.
This the one we want? said the man hiding the struggling guard. Elena could see other men in black, illuminated by the glow of the flashlight. One looked different from the others; instead of a black glove on his left hand, his was silver. Elena wondered why.
No, the one with the silver glove said dismissively. Kill him.
Elena looked to Reno, but he only gazed back at her, expressionless. When she realized he wasnt going to do anything, she cocked the gun with trembling hands. Reno made a move to grab the weapon, but she had already pulled the trigger.
One of the men collapsed, clutching his leg with a garbled curse. The silver-gloved man, the apparent leader, bent and inspected the wound. When he rose, Elena shrank back. He was looking right at their hiding place.
Theyre here. It was a soft, certain statement, and Elena realized with a sinking heart that she and Reno were going to be found. And then killed. The fallen man clutched at his leaders pant leg, groaning. Without looking at him, the leader made a slashing motion with his silver-gloved hand.
Immediately another gunman moved in and fired a few rounds. The injured man fell back, lifeless.
Elena began to tremble.
Split up and search the area, the leader ordered. When you find them, bring them to me.
The group of men disassembled, splitting off in all directions among the tables. The one man holding the guard made a sudden motion, and the guard slid wetly to the flood. The gleam of the flashlight showed blood on his throat.
Move! Renos angry whisper jerked her out of a momentary daze. She saw that he had moved the chairs aside to clear a path for them to the next aisle of tables. Clutching the gun, she crawled after him, not daring to breathe.
She wondered how angry he was with her. Surely he was furious because she had alerted the men to their presence. She saw now that her valiant effort to save the guard had been pointless, and only resulted in another death. She resolved to think first in the future. If there was a future.
Once under the next table, Reno whispered: Well try for the wall. If we can reach it, itll be one less angle for them to attack from. If need be, well split up. His eyes darted to the gun in her hand. Good thing youre learning how to use that. That wont be the last man youll kill tonight.
She missed the cynical sort of compliment. Why did that man kill the guy I shot? she questioned. Werent they on the same side?
He would have slowed them up, Reno said impatiently. They couldnt have that. Suddenly the nightstick was in his hand. Lets go.
As she followed him, Elena couldnt help but wonder: What would Reno do if she was shot herself? Would he help her, or simply leave her to die? Or, worse yet, kill her himself? Could- no, he definitely could. Would he do such a thing?
Already he was good distance ahead, gesturing impatiently for her to hurry. Elena hesitated. She didnt trust Reno, didnt like or even know him at all. But he was the only one she could count on to get her out of this mess, and maybe give her an explanation.
In her moment of indecision, she saw him draw back and swear silently. Confused, she opened her mouth, but words left her as one of the men stepped down the aisle between her and Reno, searching. Elena shrank against the table legs, frantically pulling back the safety on her gun. A tremor ran through her, as though she was shivering, and Elena knew she was more frightened now than shed ever been. If she fainted which she vaguely wondered if she was about to do- she had little doubt Reno would leave her behind.
The man paused, glancing about quickly. He started to move on, but then he looked under the table and caught sight of her. She heard his quick intake of breath, ready to alert the others. She raised the gun hastily, but Reno leapt up like a cobra, looming over the man. There was an instant in which Elena froze with horror, and she couldnt say who she was more afraid of, the gunman or the black apparition she knew to be Reno. Then the Turk struck, and the gunman fell limply to the floor. Elena sucked in a trembling breath, looking up at Reno wordlessly. He motioned for her to get up.
Make a break for the wall, he said softly. Ill come behind you. Dont hesitate to shoot, but only if you need to. Its too loud, and youre almost empty.
She nodded quickly, breathlessly. Too fast. Everything was happening too fast!
Just the, a beam of light swept over them both. It was the leader, his silver glove0 flashing in the glow of the flashlight in his hand. For a moment Elena wondered where it had come from, then recalled how the guard had dropped it to the floor.
She froze in the light, like a deer in the path of an oncoming car. Reno did not; wrenching the gun from her hands and firing quickly.
Never mind what I said, he shouted over the noise of the bullets. Go!
Elena had already realized by this time that only a fool would fail to obey any of Renos orders that night. True, he scorned her, disliked her, laughed at and ridiculed her, but he was not acting on his emotions that night, nor any personal feelings. He had become a killing machine, acting and reacting purely for his and her, she had to admit- survival. The man she disliked and distrusted had disappeared as though hed never been, and in his place stood the most ruthless, yet most coldly intelligent man she had ever known. Anything he said to her was only to be obeyed with alacrity, or she would endanger them both. She knew this, by now.
But she had started running before the command left his lips.
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