The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Forty-Three part three
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday January 26, 1995
Blood loss, the smell of gunfire and a relentless enemy, it was like Khe Sanh all over again. Zeth stumbled over the seven inert Drones piled in the doorway of the storage room. He breathed through his mouth, hating the smell from them. The Drones’ faces were blank but just in case he took a moment to crack open each of their torsos and crush what he found inside. With one arm nearly numb it wasn’t easy, but these things were known to play possum. He sure as Hell didn’t need that now.
By the time he had harvested and stomped flat seven lumps of jellied silicone and plastic, night had fully fallen. That was the way Zeth liked it best, no fickle shadows and unreliable twilight just darkness on darkness with the occasional shaft or collection of lights to mark the borders.
Right. He thought, Time for a quick inventory.
His one-armed bandage job was already soaked through, but the bleeding seemed to have slowed. He had half a clip left on the UZI so he retrieved a pair of the Drones’ sidearms. Zeth grimaced at the sight of them, cheaply made things, as unremarkable and disposable as the creatures wielding them.
At least in Vietnam there had been backup, the guys in his company and the Army’s chain of support and command. Scary and purposeless as things might have gotten back then at least he never felt alone. Working for Jason Magwier in his war against the Monarchs often meant Zeth might find himself on his own at a moment’s notice – sometimes for weeks at a time.
There were other followers of Magwier’s cause, but they only seemed to come in two varieties; shifty or unbalanced. Zeth always seemed to find himself either trying to shepherd them or survive them.
In the end he had tired of war and fled Vietnam for the Byzantine wonders of Olathoe – the secret city. He paid his way from Outlander to citizen by working as an assassin. It saddened him to think that no matter how many changes he put himself through he still always ended up with a gun in his hand.
Zeth stood still, barely breathing, his eyes straining. This had been far too easy. The Monarchs didn’t recoil from an enemy just because they’d lost some Drones and Avatars.
Are they so eager to have their prize that they won’t waste a moment’s thought on some poor insignificant soul like me?
Or maybe Magwier succeeded already? Zeth shook his head at the thought, No. I doubt it.
He inhaled sharply and then ran for the stairway. Kicking the door open he risked peering down. Flames cast an irregular light across Zeth’s face; smoke was filling the air. It looked like they were trying to either flush him out or burn him up. Zeth doubled back to the window and started to climb out onto the fire escape. A hail of gunfire sent him retreating back inside.