Knox Pashaa: Chapter 12

Knox’s lungs hurt as he exited the smoky office into the gambling parlor. The large Bolmorrean who stood guard was against the wall and covered with blood from multiple wounds. The sparse clientele also lay dead around the gambling tables. The bartender was across the bar, gun still clutched in his lifeless hand and blood dripping down onto the red carpet floor. Knox almost gagged when he saw him but left the room, the image of death was imprinted in his mind, but he left before the gravity of it set in. He had no intention of hanging around with a bunch of dead people. He was soon running back down the hallway and down the stairs of the building towards the ground floor.

As he ran the pain in his left shoulder nagged at him but he didn’t bother to look down. He knew he’d been hit with one of the bolts. He held the place where he’d been struck and could feel the burning wound deep in his skin. He crashed into a concrete wall as he rounded the corner of the final stairwell. How many of them were sent? Were they sent for him or Riza? Would there be more outside? How many would there be? These questions ran through Knox’s mind as he took the stairs two at a time. The metal door at the end of the bare, ground-floor hallway was blown out. The Enzaki who stood guard was lying with twisted metal and blaster wounds. Knox shuffled past him and out into the alley beyond. He glanced sidelong to see if anyone was waiting beyond, but he saw no figures. Only the quiet streets and the hum of generators.

He cursed to himself as his mind jumped to his options. Where would he go now? Riza had been willing to get him a ship off-station but now that free ticket was dead. He would have to find a new ride, go somewhere far away, possibly back to Mirraa where he could hide out with his relatives. Just as long as it wasn’t his mother, he’d be fine and content for a long while without interference from Fubari assassins. They must have been pretty pissed about that story. But how would they have pinned it on him? If the story ran with an anonymous reporter credited than he shouldn't need to deal with this flack. He cursed to himself again and moved to the end of the alley.

His mind was beginning to cool and he now regretted not grabbing one of the guns from the gambling parlor, either from one of the assassins or the dead bartender. He’d gone too far now to go back. If he did he might find himself on the wrong side of a reinforcement party. As it was, he made along the side streets and back towards the turbolifts. It was still the middle of the night cycle and most of the beings were asleep. The streets were just as deserted as when he arrived. The red light and the hum of the air system in this massive space bore down on him. He didn’t glance back to see the red smoke of the billboard spilling across the street behind him.

Rounding the street corner he saw the elevator station entrance beyond. If he made it there at least he might get away from the scene of the crime and up to the higher levels. Paranoia over radios and communications and other hit squads hiding behind any alcove or corner stalked his mind. He figured more must be arriving soon if they had learned that their other team was KIA. He hustled in his wounded agony, his shoulder burning and his lungs still tight in his chest. What did they put in that billboard smoke? Never mind. He continued straight for the lift station.

He approached the end of the block when a small black vehicle, the kind used for utility transport in the lower station levels, rolled slowly up and stopped in front of the lift station. Knox halted in his tracks. Doors opened and three figures stepped out. A Ventoshi with an eyepatch and a ballistic rifle, a Bolmorrean with broken tusks, and another Fubari with a metallic arm gleaming in the red light. Knox stood in place, unmoving. He could hear them.

“Drive around the block and see if you see anything,” the Fubari said through the open door to the driver. “I had hoped that those three could handle a little resistance. I guess they ran into trouble.” With that, the three closed their doors and the truck drove on down the road leaving them left by the station entrance. Knox backed further into the shadows.

The Fubari continued. “You stand guard,” the small being said up to the massive Bolmorrean. Then he pointed a metal finger at the Ventoshi. “You take that street, and I’ll go around this block from the other side. If you see anyone suspicious, ice ‘em first, the cops won’t be around for another half hour.”

“You got it, Klen.“ The Ventoshi said before the Fubari hurried on his stubby legs down the street the truck had come from.

After a moment Knox could hear the Ventoshi speak with the Bolmorrean. “Do this, Veen, do that, Veen. He’s the worst.”

The Bolmorrean shrugged with his four arms crossed. “He’s paying us, Veen, there’s worse ways to make a living.”

Knox had been sliding backward along the building, his suit coat rubbing against the brick. He was halfway to the next block when the fabric snagged on the coarse building material and he fell back with an oomph.

“Hmm, I think I hear someone suspicious over there. I’ll see ya, Telk.”

The Ventoshi began walking in his direction.

“You should stop using our names, Veen” the Bolmorrean said in a parting word.

“You should just stop using your mouth.”

Knox’s subtlety had given way and he clambered up and began running away down the street.

“HEY! YOU THERE! STOP!” the Ventoshi yelled after him. A moment later a peppering of bullets followed by the dull thumps of a silenced projectile rifle reached Knox. He didn’t stop running and, pivoting on his heel, he turned back down the street he had come from. There was another elevator station somewhere in this damned basement and Knox was intent that that should be his goal. As he made way back over his previous steps he saw another small figure round the block ahead of him, the shining arm told him all he needed to.

Knox didn’t wait to see if the little guy saw him, but crossed the street towards another alleyway. He bolted into the shadows like demons were at his back. His chest heaved as though he were in cold air and sweat wetted his fur. The alleyway was just wide enough for him to run down, but it seemed to make no turn or offer any cover by way of refuse bin or obstacle. The only hope he had was a fire escape ladder that dangled a few yards ahead. With a deftness, he swung up to it and climbed despite the pain in his shoulder.

“There he goes up the ladder! Get ‘em!” A voice followed him from the alley.

He was nearly at the first landing when unbidden bullets twanged and ricocheted off the walls and off metal of the fire escape. Something white hot grazed his back, but he kept climbing, making it to the first landing. A strange potted fern sat on the riveted metal planks of the platform next to dark glass windows drawn with thin blinds. Knox took the moment to see the Ventoshi at the bottom of the ladder.

He cursed, grabbed the potted fern and hurled it into the closest window. Both shattered in a splash of glass and ceramic, much to the dismay of the fern, and Knox dove through the disturbed blinds. A piece of glass cut his face as he entered the dark apartment.

Crashing to the floor he got up as the lights turned on. Looking over he saw two Muintir of unknown gender in a torn water bed look down with shock at him. One of them had reached over to the end table lamp while the other had its arms wrapped around the other.

“Sorry!” he said as he got up and made his way through the threshold into the living room and unclasped the locks to the door into the hall of this unknown building. He ran through bare hallways lined with doors to various apartments. Through his desperate wanderings, he came to a section of the building where the walls were blown out and connected to a ramshackle bridge outside. The bridge beyond was cloaked with fog from the billboard which was still spilling across the street.

His flight across the bridge was swift as it made way over the street below to the building across the way. At the other end was a closed metal door. Knox banged on it and tried the handle, It was locked. No answer came from within. He cursed again.

Moments later the Ventoshi appeared from the fog, smiling with his toothy, wolfish grin.

By Jason Pratley

Jason Pratley joined the team sometime in 2013 when he created the concepts for the gods of ODR. He has since become the Writing Director and de facto loremaster for DDG. Check out some other stories and content at jvfpp.wordpress.com and goodevilcomic.com