by Joel Gn
Saturday, December 13th 0100 ZULU
Reflections of incandescent spotlights swirled madly on the dance floor. The crowd was cavorting in a dispossessed state of euphoria. Malcolm sat by the bar counter, his thin, wrinkled fingers fiddling with the cluster of red pills on the table.
“Try it, you will feel the difference,” said the blonde waitress, whose tawny eyes were beaming with seductive anticipation. She polished a triangular glass until it glinted in front of Malcolm, who blinked at the sudden optical intrusion of light.
Malcolm took all the pills into his mouth, hoping the dosage would eradicate his torrid despondency. They stung his tongue with a bitter tinge, and he cringed in a fit of momentary discomfort. The waitress offered him a glass of liquor, which he drank with little hesitation.
The potency of the mixture heated his lungs. His mind was driven into a plethora of convolutions, but he felt no pain. Noises from surrounding sources converged into a single whisper, and images faded into a gradual blur.
Malcolm lost himself in the dance floor, swaying and prancing with the gaiety of a child. His mind was trapped within a cage of artificial liberation. His eyes searched for the waitress, but there was no one serving by the bar. Ecstatic yet weary, Malcolm wobbled out of the club, as he emptied a bottle of beer on his face.
A sudden constriction gnawed at his throat. Malcolm coughed out black drops of mephitic blood, and his lungs contracted violently, causing him to lose his breath. He gasped wildly for air, vocal chords numbed by the inflammation. His face turning pale, Malcolm fell to the ground, writhing and inhaling for a final breath of life.
Saturday, December 13th 0200 ZULU
Since he was young, Burner had dreaded the confines of the dark.
He sat outside the backdoor of his house, situated along the alleys of the metropolis. Overwhelmed by fear and despair, he wondered if there were figures lurking within the shadows, waiting for an opportunity to seize his soul. Burner held a knife in one hand, his left thumb brushing against the tip of the blade. The road ahead was bleak, and he desired to end his life.
A towering figure stood in front of him. It was a man, and he carried a well-trimmed gray goatee. He bore a tattoo of a black dragon on the scalp of his clean-shaven head, and his eyes were masked from Burner with a pair of sunglasses, the images on the lenses indicating light from a remote source.
“Go home, it is late,” the man spoke with a deep baritone. There was a dim light behind him, and Burner could see men and women dressed in a similar fashion, with malicious expressions and cacophonous sniggers.
“I do not have one. Not anymore,” he replied.
“I see. Suicide is not the answer to your troubles lad. Why leave the world when you were destined to become its bane?”
The man offered his hand to Burner. He ruled those people. They stared at him with blind adoration and untarnished cruelty, a replica of his influence and aura over them. Their pale skins were canvasses for strange cryptic symbols. Burner could hear jeers and mocking laughter, but the man before him remained stoic and composed.
Burner gripped the man’s palm in a firm handshake. He had finally found what he was looking for.
Saturday, December 13th 0300 ZULU
“Dead for at least two hours,” said Dr Jansen, the forensic investigator of the Narcotics Bureau. He had conducted a routine examination on Malcolm’s corpse following the discovery of the body. The victim had ostensibly suffered from a drug overdose.
“The problem is, “ he continued “ this isn’t your conventional heroin or cocaine. It is PX60, a basic alkaloid stimulant derived from extraterrestrial sources.” He adjusted his spectacles as he explained the details to the principal investigator, assistant superintendent Matt Cairo.
The veteran cop grunted with disdain when he heard the report. There was a time when drug cases were much simpler. The people who traded it were deprived youths who yearned to make a quick living with small underground syndicates. Unfortunately, the discovery of planetary systems with novel life forms generated an increase in the Earth’s import of alien substances, among them organisms capable of producing more deadly drugs.
“For a better world, my ass.” He muttered to himself, before lighting a cigarette with his grubby fingers. He hated the complications in such cases. He believed it gave him more wrinkles and exacerbated the condition of his receding hairline.
He stared at the lifeless body of the man. The skin had flaked and turned a pale blue. Spontaneous degradation had occurred on the onset of death, causing the eyeballs to melt and maggots to gestate within the oral cavities.
Cairo heaved his broad shoulders and turned towards Chris Leno, the stocky Hispanic rookie who was assigned to the case. The young cop had an impressive track record in the academy. A talent for multiple weapons, photographic memory, and a broad knowledge in criminal psychology, he possessed the potential Cairo was looking for.
“This is yours, son,” said the superintendent. “I want more than biological evidence of dead bodies, this is the fifth incident in the past week. Somebody is out spraying dope and I demand to know who it is, so don’t let me down, boy.”
Cairo walked briskly towards the police shuttle parked a few yards away. The vehicle’s pneumatic launchers were in their vertical position, preparing for a take-off. Together, with Dr. Jansen he entered and the doors closed in behind them, leaving the medical team to deliver the corpse back to the pathological laboratory for an autopsy.
Chris sighed as he surveyed the entire clean up. He knew his problems had only just begun.
Tuesday, January 5th 2300 ZULU
It is believed that before you die, you will see your entire life before you.
Burner swore he had experienced it, as the bullet rammed into his right shoulder, searing his flesh in a ricochet of blood. The impact brought him to his knees, fresh crimson blood flowing profusely from his open wound.
Gabriel stood in front of Burner, appalled at the young apprentice’s recklessness in risking his life for him. He was a desolate vagrant, and Gabriel took him under his care. He knew little of Burner’s past or even his real name, but the latter’s quick reflexes and sharp mind impressed the triad leader, and he had Burner along in all his dealings.
This meeting with a prospective client was no exception. They brought the goods, but the customers decided to use the payment to hire assassins.
Gabriel rained nitrate bullets on the assailant with his dual piston handgun. The ammunition was modified to induce paralysis upon immediate contact with the target. The man, trembling at the impact of each shot, collapsed to the ground, motionless. Gunshots could be heard around the compound, as the operatives of the triad sought to eliminate their opponents.
Gabriel held Burner in his arms, imploring him to stay awake. Burner made an attempt to whisper, but consciousness was eluding him. He lost his grip on his mentor’s hand and closed his eyes.
Thursday January 7th 2000 ZULU
Burner opened his eyes, only to be blinded by the lamp installed on the ceiling.
He squinted at the glare and turned his head, assessing his surroundings. It was an enclosed compartment, with steel walls and no windows. A laboratory was located directly opposite his bed, partitioned by a wide glass panel to keep the occupant within view.
Burner wondered how long he had been asleep. He made an attempt to move his hand, but he winced as the pain tore through the arch of shoulder.
“I suggest you don’t move too much, at least for today.” A winsome fair-skinned woman entered through the door beside him. Her brown hair was tied in a ponytail, thus accentuating the contours and features of her svelte frame. She took a lab coat from the hanger at the door and proceeded to the laboratory. With her back facing him, the mark on her neck was clearly visible to him. It was identical to the black dragon that Gabriel had on his head. The girl’s name was Noelle; she was Gabriel’s daughter
“Forty-eight hours in comatose. My father was worried that you might not pull through.” She stepped out of the laboratory and walked towards him, her gloved hands holding a tray of surgical tools. Her facial expressions remained placid and genteel, and Burner wondered if the girl ever had a sense of humor.
“You are not going to put me back to sleep again, are you?” he said, watching her extract a tincture of blue viscous liquid from the micro tube with a tranquilizing needle. Burner had an inherent phobia of needles, but her delicate execution of the procedure seemed to alleviate any form of mental dissolution.
Noelle spaced her fingers between the veins on his wrist and patiently delivered the jab, her eyes observing the nervous response evident on Burner’s shivering fingers.
“Antibiotics and recombinant enzymes to accelerate your recovery.” She replied, removing the needle from his swollen epidermis. “You will feel drowsy, but by tomorrow you should be able to walk again, if all other physiological factors remain stable.“
Noelle studied the biosensor readings next to his bed. It was a computer that processed the information brought by the pulse sensors attached to the patient, aiding her in the monitoring of his condition. Upon switching the device to safe mode, she smiled briefly at her patient and exited from the room.
Burner felt lethargy overwhelm him again. He closed his eyes, drifting into lifeless slumber.
Monday January 11th 1600 ZULU
The Labyrinth was the largest platform within the underground habitat of the triad. Constructed five meters below sea level, it was fitted with insulation devices to prevent unwarranted transmission of radar and other forms of detection equipment. Fitted with self-sustaining laboratories and quarters, it became the convening area for the members of the triad. Many of the operatives took residence here, devoting their time to the planning and manufacture of the illegal compounds. Such clandestine architecture prevented the law from weeding out the root of rampant crime that pervaded the entire city.
The routes and tunnels in the Labyrinth were linked in a complex network, and Gabriel was temporarily misguided by the similar designs on the doors. He found the entrance to Gabriel’s study, and placed his palm on the scanner door.
It was of an austere, minimalist design. Apart from a large writing desk and a couple of shelves, the only decorative item present was the rhomboid carpet on the floor. The black dragon, the symbol of the triad was painted on it with immaculate detail, its serpentine physique contorting to reveal an “S” shape.
“Come, take a seat,” beckoned the triad leader, pointing to a chair opposite the table. He was standing, causing Burner to feel a little embarrassed upon taking the seat.
“Do not worry, boy,” he continued, sensing the young man’s discomfort at his leader’s apparent stance. “You are my guest today, because you have saved my life.”
Copyright © 2005 by Joel Gn