Intercosmic - Chapter 29 - Respect The Shooter

 

“We should just get a human, one of theirs for one of ours,” I hear one Enka whisper to the other as I wash my hands.

I could pretend I didn’t hear anything, but they’re already looking at me. I give a small wave and smile as I exit the bathroom. I know they don’t mean any mean harm, at least not to me. I’ve been drinking with them all night, learning their history and mourning their loss as if it were my own. When my brother Evan died, I wanted revenge. He did it to himself, but I wanted someone to blame so bad. Sure, they don’t know a human did it, but the likelihood is pretty high.

The drinks being passed around are alcoholic, but closer to wine than anything I would normally drink. I assume it’s because of their diet, and not just taste. Some of it is acidic, almost like sucking on a lemon, but others are sweet; I enjoy the middle ground. I’m not exactly getting drunk from these, but there’s something going on that I’m unfamiliar with. Weightlessness, euphoria, I don’t know what it is. I know it’s not a downer like normal alcohol, I feel somewhat energized. Almost hyper focused on trying to memorize and understand everything they say to me this evening. Who is doing well in school, who got a new job and who decided to leave Mars; none of these are relevant but they’re stuck in my mind now.

That might be why I’ve noticed the same yellowish vehicle ride by the bar at least three times this evening. A woman sings a song on the bar counter in a frequency my ears can’t fully pick up, but the rest of the crowd here this evening seems to be moved by the performance. I clap solemnly with everyone else as she’s helped down from the bar, simply playing a respectful part tonight. The car passes the window again, slower this time; nobody else seems to notice. Then again, nobody is watching as far as I can tell.

The feeling of fear, adrenaline, and anticipation flow into my body simultaneously as I watch the car make another pass. This time they stop and the car drops down to street level. One man exits from each side. I can recognize the guns before the first shot is fired. A reflex that should have been dulled by now kicks in and reminds me who I am.

“Everyone, get on the fucking ground,” I don’t recognize the words as my own.

The nonviolent Enka seem more shocked when the first gunshot echoes through the building as glass shatters a second follows dropping the fragments to the ground. They’re using laser rifles, modified for a bigger blast radius, slow to recharge. Every six to ten seconds another shot blasts off. Difficult to hear over the sounds of chaos as people take cover, flipping tables. Another shot rings out burning a hole in the wall behind the bar where bottles of liquor sat not minutes before. Now, my moment to strike, I pop out and manage to fire off three quick shots with the small pistol I had become accustomed to carrying. I wait for another shot, before returning fire again. Their shots are less frequent now, I must have hit one. They could be trying to trick me, but anyone who turns the car off during a shooting like this isn’t smart enough to pull off something like that.

The shots fire and I take off on my run towards the exit around the tables, chairs and bodies that have become an obstacle course. I’m fast enough to make it as they scurry back to the car. I fire a few shots towards the thrusters and the legs of one of the shooters. The gun just isn’t strong enough to do any real damage to the car but I can hope it gives them pause. The sound of metal scraping across the street alerts me to the man crawling towards the laser rifle blown away by the vehicle thrusters. He screams out as I step on his ankle, ending his crawl. I can tell from the dark red stains on his pants that I hit him somewhere in the thigh. I contemplate, what I should do now. I could leave him and go after the other who has managed to get the car started, but I couldn’t catch him on foot. Sirens have started to sound; the police shouldn’t be far behind so I need to make a choice face. They were probably still at the hotel investigating the murder.

Almost as if on cue a voice from the crowd of Enka speaks up, “kill him,” a few gasps in the crowd follow. “It’s what your people do right?”

This is the first time I’ve fired a gun at any living thing since Xioshaa, and now voices are calling me to kill again. They argue behind me as if the decision isn’t mine to make. All while sirens come closer and closer, I’m frozen in place when I was so sure just a few minutes ago. Inside, I’m wondering if I have the ability to kill anymore. I wasn’t sure I could shoot a gun until I fired it. I didn’t fire for some trifling war I never asked to be part of. I fired to protect these people, maybe I can still do some good. Would killing this man be good? I’m sure he deserves it, tonight isn’t the first time he’s done something wrong. If I let him live, I’m sure he’ll make more poor choices. But who am I to decide who lives or dies? Am I no better than Creed and his superiors?

My thoughts return to the current moment as the gun is pulled from my hand. I don’t fight it. I let it go. I don’t have a need for it anymore. Renan was always going on and on about fate, and destiny. Perhaps fate put that gun in my hands because this was part of my destiny. Perhaps fate put that Enka from earlier in my life. I bought him a drink earlier, and now he’s taking the gun away from me.

“You should run,” another Enka says to me.

The sirens are almost here, I nod and take his advice. Several thanks and pats on the back follow me as I move through the bar’s patrons before I can make my way to an alley. If I can get to the hotel, I should be fine. There’s no blood on my clothes, no gun. Any thoughts of escape are ended when I’m stopped almost immediately by an officer. I don’t resist as he tosses me into the wall and roughly searches me. I don’t resist as he bands my wrist together behind me. I don’t resist as he leads me back through the cloud proclaiming to have the shooter. Other officers seem to listen to the words of the crowd stating I’m innocent. I envied their community, but it seems they’ve accepted me as part of it. Even as he trips me on the way to the car I just smile, somewhat proud of my actions tonight. Somewhat glad that I’ve been accepted so completely by these people.

I protected these people tonight, I haven’t anyone in a really long time. I fired a gun, when I was sure the only thing, they could bring was harm, yet these people were grateful for the actions I took tonight. I can still do some good in the world. I just have to avoid jail first.

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