The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Thirty-Nine part one
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday January 26, 1995
They chose a room near the back of the Blue Bell motel and paid for a month in advance. The TV was on, its volume turned all the way up but no one was watching. Zeth knelt on the floor near the nightstand; he was stripped to the waist revealing a body that was a network of fresh scars and old tattoos. The parts of his Springfield M21 sniper rifle were laid out on a pillowcase before him. Piece by piece, part by part he went through the weapon, cleaning and checking it. His dreadlocks were loose, hanging in front of his eyes; he didn’t brush them aside. After ten years in the military and he could clean and assemble a weapon in the dark, but this was more than simple maintenance to him.
This was a ceremony, a rite of the gun, a petition to whatever power looked after assassins and soldiers that his weapon would not fail and his aim would be precise.
His pistols were already cleaned and oiled and sitting by the phone, Zeth always saved the M21 for last.
“Blast. Blast. Blast!” Jason Magwier strode out of the bathroom, he was wearing an apron that said ‘KISS THE COOK’, dishwashing gloves and protective goggles. Everything was smeared with a gelatinous, ochre-colored fluid. He held a wet lump in his hand, more of the fluid dripped from it, spattering the carpets.
“What did I tell you?” Zeth said without looking up from his work.
“I had to take the chance.” Magwier held the wet lump up to the light, it was almost the size of a man’s fist and translucent. A grub-like shape squirmed within it.
“And now the Monarchs know we’re here.”
“They knew anyway.” Magwier shook the lump in his hand like a snow globe and glared at the shape swirling helplessly inside. “This is their latest attempt to make a grand entrance, how could I not be here to try and trip them up?”
Zeth smiled as he took a moment to peer down the barrel and through the sight, “Grand entrance, I like that. It’s like saying the bombing of Hiroshima was a fireworks show.”
“You never could appreciate an ironic metaphor.”
“I just don’t understand why you can’t just remember what’s going to happen.”
“It’s not accurate.”
“It was accurate enough before.”
“We weren’t here before were we?” Magwier set the lump down on the nightstand, “I’m too close to that…building, too close to my past and future.”
“You mean you’ve been here before?” Zeth sifted through his equipment. “Is this another of your little surprises?”
“No I mean I am here now, another myself. He should know better.” Magwier grabbed hold of the 9mm handgun sitting beside the phone and brought the butt of it down on the lump. It smashed like crystal, clear fluid spilled out over the nightstand. A second blow crushed the blood-red grub.
Zeth got to his feet, his eyes widening, “Hey! I just cleaned that!”
“What?” Jason Magwier seemed stunned. Zeth grabbed the pistol from his hand, “Sorry?”
Zeth walked into the bathroom to get a washcloth. The stench made him recoil momentarily, the odor of spilled Drone blood always made him think of melting plastic.
A Drone. Zeth thought as he ran a washcloth under the tap and then wiped the slime from the handle. He turned to look at the body in the tub; its feet tied together, its arms bound behind its back. The throat was cut, the eyes put out, its gray jumpsuit was slit up the middle to reveal ceramic plates and clear tubing. There was no blood of course, just pale orange fluid. All that work and all we got was a stupid Drone. We should have brought Jared, he can smell an Avatar at twenty yards.
“Uh.” Magwier poked his head into the bathroom, he had pulled the goggles down around his neck, “Sorry about the gun.”
Zeth shook his head, “I can’t believe I’m missing the biggest poetry slam of the year for this.”
“This is important. The Cause is all.”
“And all for the Cause. Yes I know.” Zeth said, “Do you ever feel like we’re just running in circles?”
Jason Magwier’s dark eyes filled with sadness, “The story of my life.”