Blue Ash Crisis (2018/2019), Fiction, Novels

Blue Ash Crisis: Chapter 2




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Chapter 2

Bang Bang Bank

Exposed brick lines the peeling walls of the dingy apartment. Three men and a girl spread a pair of floor layouts atop a ratty table. “I am telling you, it’s the perfect time to strike. There is already an anti-police demonstration going on. It will be a turkey shoot.”

“I don’t like it,” a younger man said. “I don’t want some Mr. Johnson knocking on my door some years from now with a score to settle for his corporate masters.”

“You can just move on like snakes on ice. Get out of the country, disappear, have a better life. I bet we won’t even need to dust anyone.” The other three show in the large lenses of his green mechanical eyes. “You in?” They nodded at each other and shook hands. “Good.”

Apricot rested her head on the backrest of the cold black wooden bench. The clouds overhead reminded her of fluffy cotton balls. She swung herself upright and moaned, “I need a good story right now. I will be in trouble if I don’t turn in a paper tomorrow.” She sat upright, reaching for a partially eaten soggy double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and a fried egg. “The Bureau of Education sent me a text stating that if I didn’t improve my grades, they would shift me to the labor field, and I don’t want to work in a factory for the rest of my life.”

Bonni sat cross-legged next to Apricot and hung her heel off her foot. Coffee from her uniform blends with salty smells from nearby fried food. Taking a nugget out of a small pouch, she dipped the tip into a teriyaki and mayonnaise carton.

“What about today?” asked a black-haired man seated across from Apricot. A half-eaten hamburger lay in his hand. “I got a couple of photos of the crime scene. They’ll be perfect for your story.”

Next to him, a younger girl picks at a bowl of salad. “She needs a good article, Sato.” Apricot met Sato Takoma while studying. Although he is several years older than her, the two are still in several classes together. Beside him, Machi, his little sister, has also become her friend. Several years younger than Apricot, Machi hoped to become an engineer. She had long been suspected of wanting to be close to Apricot to gain favor with her father. Though this was not the first time Apricot had been acquainted with Machi. During her years at primary school, Machi was a few years under her. She had always seemed like an entitled brat, and after she met her, her opinion remained unchanged.

Apricot glanced at Bonni, whose grin seemed so deep it might just slip off of her face. “Remember that secret I wanted to tell you, like those police were at the robbery this morning. As I mentioned, they appeared troubled.”

Behind her thick black glasses, Machi’s icy green eyes rolled. “I think there is a straightforward answer.” Before she had finished speaking, she takes a bite out of her salad bowl. Her twin tails sway back and forth on her back as Apricot and Bonni wait for her response. Machi then swallowed and said, “Most likely the killing of several people.”

Bonni picked up another nugget and gestured towards Machi with a stabbing motion. “Aren’t you surprised that so many people died? According to Eerie Truths Monthly, there have been many reports of monster sightings. It is impossible for one person to cause so many deaths. She may not have been human at all. I bet,”

“Monsters!” Machi exclaimed, cutting Bonni off. “Ha, she was a crazy person who was hopped up on some pills,” Machi responded, chortling at the thought.

Apricot cut in, “I think it’s an odd thing for Bonni, but I can’t write an article about it.”

“But why appear everywhere now? I remember when everyone thought witches were just fairytales.” Bonni protested.

“There is a great deal of superstition in our society. People still pay homage to Obojo, the money god, whenever they expect a raise.” Machi snapped.

“Something weird is happening! Sato, don’t you agree with me?” Bonni reached over Sato’s lap and stroked him. A heavy red blush adorned Sato’s face as he stared into Bonni’s doe eyes.

A quick kick on Bonni’s leg by Machi forced her back into her seat. “He’s a photographer, not a journalist. And witches are fake, too. The entire thing is a bunch of ill people playing hocus pocus,” she said.

“This may sound like a tabloid story, but who knows what’s lurking in the shadows? We have no way of knowing whether monsters are buried underneath the city.” Sato rubbed his head with a grin. A piercing gaze from Machi made Apricot giggle before she jabbed Sato in the ribs. “Ack!” he exclaimed. “But Machi is right, I am a photographer. If I were to see something and snap a picture, it’s front-page news for sure,” he muttered as he rubbed the pain from Machi’s playful blow.

“This is not tabloid news. It is absolutely innovative.” Bonni shook her head before she turned her attention to Apricot. “This is the journalism that makes people famous,” Bonni said. “Imagine Apricot. They would always remember you as the woman who exposed Blue Ash’s monster invasion.”

With a finger against her lower lip, Apricot said, “Well?” she thought as she watched Bonni’s face. “I need more information and a second source.” She replied. “Thanks for the tip, Bonni. If I get more information, you can bet I’ll write a piece on it.”

“Ugh Apricot,” Machi groaned. “Don’t encourage her to be this absurd.”

“Apricot, come on!” Bonni whined, “My idea is perfect.” Bonni’s mouth and eyes widen at the sound of sirens. Several police cars swerve past, causing the wrappers on the outside table to tremble. Sato immediately pulled his phone from his pocket.

A smirk spread across Apricot’s face as she felt a slight sense of guilt for feeling so happy. “Hey Sato, what’s your police scanner telling you?” she asked. “Could this be something I should write about?”

As she grabbed Sato’s shoulder, she lept out of her chair to examine the screen. Sato manipulates his finger through a black and blue application. The board has several alerts, most of them minor, a few about a protest, and a report regarding the emergency. His finger sailed on the alert. Apricot couldn’t read the text despite her squinting. A moment later, “Yeah.” He said, “A bank robbery happened nearby.”

“A bank robbery would be perfect!” Apricot shouted as she pumped her fist. “Sato!”

“Are you thinking the same as me?” Sato raised from the table. “Here’s fifty marks, Machi,” Sato said, pulling out a few shiny emerald cards. “Sorry, but I think you’ll have to get a ride home.”

Machi blew a whiff of air. “Yeah, I understand. You always ditch me like this. I am used to it.” She glanced back at Bonni, who is grinning with predatory eyes. “Wait!” she cried. “Don’t leave me with Bonni! She is nuts!”

Bonni laughed softly. “I’ll take care of Machi for ya.”

Apricot ran to Sato’s bike, waving to the two girls. “Sorry to take off like this,” she said. “Later, I will call you to tell you how it went.” Bonni waves back as Machi slumped into her seat, cross-armed.

The siren’s clamor battled against the thunder of the trail rider. As Sato controlled the crimson and white sports bike with expert technique, Apricot clasped onto Sato’s back. As he careened through the two onward lanes, cars rushed by. With Sato pulling on the throttle, the gaps between the white lines of the street became a flicker. “Sato,” Apricot yelped. “Doesn’t this seem a tad too fast?” As time passed, the swishing of automobiles had progressed from being measured to more of an instantaneous response.

“These things can go down quickly,” Sato remarked. “Don’t want to miss a thing.” Apricot stared up ahead at a near wall of cars. A shriek escaped her throat as Sato cranked the brake, forcing the motorcycle into a skid. A harsh odor of scorched rubber filled the air as Sato came to a halt behind a truck. “Ah damn. Looks like we’re stuck in traffic.”

Hopping off the bike, she pats Sato on the back. “Sorry Sato.” As she sauntered off, his head tilted to the side. “Thanks for the ride.” She said. “I will catch you later.” Apricot giggled, holding up his camera in the air as she twirled down the road.

“Yeah, can you get a good shot for me, will you?”

Apricot spun around and faced Sato, replying “You bet.”

She ran along the slick, dirty street, sprinting as fast as she could. It is a game of inches and steps that keeps traffic moving through the clogged metropolitan corridor. Apricot’s heel is seared in pain as a screech roars from behind. During mid-fall, she held the camera in the air, Apricot fell on her side while scraping against the asphalt. After regaining her bearings, she discovered a blue bumper inches above her head.

“Oh, my gosh!” As Apricot pushed up off the ground, she heard, “I am so sorry, I, I.” She looked up to see a man stammering out of the open driver-side door. “I didn’t see you, Miss? Are you okay?” Pulling the lens cover from the camera, her heart dropped. She lifted the camera without noticing the man. Looking it over, everything appeared to be in proper order, much to her relief. While brushing off-street dust, she let out a tremendous sigh. Sticky wetness covered her palm as she ran her hand down her thigh. It covered her fingers in a delicate smear of red, and blood appeared on her elbow and knees. Except for these minor scratches, nothing else appeared amiss.

“Miss?” the man asked again.

Apricot said, “It’s alright,” taking flight toward the sounds of sirens with little concern for her own safety or that of the man’s; she’s on a mission, after all.

Rioters blocked Apricot’s path when she approached the source of the piercing sirens. “I hate it when they do this kind of crap. Leave the police to do their job.” In Blue Ash, mass protests broke out for reasons not completely understood by Apricot. As far as she understood, Okabe had taken steps to separate itself from the Uchellan mainland. This resulted in the Okabe family gaining direct control over the police. There has been a less than a positive reaction from the public since they perceived it as privatization of the police.

Apricot reached into her pocket to retrieve her state journalist badge. After she didn’t find it, she went to her purse only to find that it’s gone too. As she glanced over at her person, she realized she had left her purse at the restaurant. She imagined that Machi or Bonni had spotted the purse lying on the seat by now. Looking at the swarms of protestors, Apricot said aloud, “Great.”

People carrying placards and signs drowned her in the flood of people. The heat, smell, and sweat brought back memories of a packed concert. Fighting the tide, she made her way toward the police line. She waved her meager hand, outstretched among the many, to get the guard’s attention. “I am a journalist. Please let me in,” she pleaded.

A police officer glanced at her before shouting over the deluge: “Sure kid, you got a press pass?” She clung to a barricade as she got closer, trying to keep from being snatched up by the mob.

“I accidentally left it behind because I was in a hurry to follow the sirens.”

“I’m press, too!” shouted a man in a business suit.

“Sure kid, I’ll let you through after I see a press pass. Without it, you won’t be coming over the barricade.” the Officer said.

“I am a reporter.” Another woman yelled beside her.

“Please, officer!” Apricot begged.

Using a stern hand, the official gestured. “You’re not tricking me, you punk. Now run before I arrest you for misleading an officer.”

Apricot blurted out in a panic, “What is the official statement of the police about the robbery?”

“The state has decided not to disclose whether this was a robbery miss. Once we have a better understanding of the situation, we will provide further information.” the officer replied.

“Is there anyone inside the building?” Apricot asked, pulling a scratchpad from her pocket.

Redness spread crossed the police officer’s face. Suddenly, he yelled, “Back off, everybody! Disperse!”

“Sorry,” Apricot bowed swiftly before she pushed past the crowd of crazed protesters. She retreated, weighing her options carefully. Negotiating with the police while surrounded by agitators is not a good idea. As Apricot peered back at the swarm, she felt a release from the adrenalin rush she experienced during her escape. This sudden realization slightly soured her emotions. They might have allowed her entry if not for these crazy protestors, she mused.

“Oh well, I can at least get something for Sato,” she remarked while she raised the camera. She watched the protesters fight the police through the viewfinder. With batons bashing in heads, the black-armored officers moved through the pack.

“Looks like I got out of there just in time.“ Apricot squeezed the button. The shutters spiraled with a click and opened just as quickly, capturing the moment on film. Her smile grew wider as she realized Sato would be pleased with the shot. Although, if she walked backward a few steps, she might frame the scene better. Suddenly, she trips. She threw both of her hands to the side as she fell backward, catching herself. The camera pulled on her neck as it dangled midair.

Her clumsy footwork obstructed a metal grate at her feet. She kneeled down to fix the grate, just as a delightful idea came to mind. A network of tunnels used for runoff beneath the metropolis connected all roads. Apricot thought the tunnels would be a good way past the protesters. She threw the grate aside with a grunt. While she descended the rungs into the tunnels, she beams.

The captain shouted through a blue and white bullhorn, “Come out with your hands up.” An entire team of officers surrounded the bank on all sides. The rest of the police remained on the blockade as the disruptors attempted to gain ground.

“Get back or I will shoot!” yelled the officer as the barricade collapsed in half. With a shaky hand, he pulled out a pistol and screamed, “Back up! I said!“ As the rebels make their way through. A young woman of similar age looked at the barrel. He levels it at her head. Wide-eyed, she froze inches away from the gun. The moment between the two soon broke when another man grabbed the officer by the arm.

“Murderer!” cried someone in the crowd. As the officer elbowed the man in the face, he drew back into his friend’s protection.

The police chief said, “That’s enough rabble,” while standing next to a policeman. “Gas these sons of bitches.” A group of officers in riot gear marched toward the group holding long pipe cannons. As the police called out a holler, they released several canisters. As they rained down, metal projectiles knocked an unknown number of people to the ground. Rolling upon landing, they emit a dense cloud of milky brown smoke. As they soon covered the protesters in a cloud of poison, they screamed. To avoid the spreading wall, they trampled on top of each other. Their clothes reeked of the toxic fumes as they breached the plumes.

When the bank’s mirror glass door opened, the police in front chatted with each other. An unknown man stepped from the shadows with a girl coiled around his arm. He held a gun against the girl’s lower jaw. With a kiss on her cheek, he held his lips close to her ear. He said with a gruff voice; the characteristic of an excessive smoker, “Now darling, remember what I said to you? If you move or say a word, I will spray your face all over the room. You got that?” The woman nodded her head, tears welling up in her eyes with no sign of a struggle.

The policeman lifted the radio receiver from his chest. “Get me a sniper on him, fast.”

“Put down the gun, Sir, it will be to everyone’s benefit if everyone gets out today.” said the captain.

In response to the captain’s words, the man laughed loudly. “I will put the gun down and even give you the girl.” Several officers approached the stairs with guns drawn. “Back up, you shit heads. Back up!” he roared, pulling the gun from the girl and pointing it towards the crowd. “Get back or else!” he exclaimed. The man presses his gun into the lady’s jaw, moving her spongy skin as he does. “If I see a boy in blue,” He said to the police. He pointed the firearm back at the officers. “Well, we wouldn’t want to turn the front of her pretty face into a scarlet fountain, would we?” He pointed the gun back at the girl. “Move back I said! Go, now, do it!” As he turned the gun back to the officers, he waggled the barrel.

“The gun is off the girl. Take the shot.” Said the police chief over the radio.

A bullet thundered from the adjacent building. The charge soared overhead through the man’s face. In an instant, the image of the hostage and the man flickered away, leaving only a small softball-sized orb at their feet. “Wrong move, assholes!” replied the man over the bank’s intercom speakers.

“Shit!“ said an officer as an explosion erupted from the bank’s front. A wave of heat and wind drove shards of debris across the ground, hitting several bystanders. Along with several officers who cracked under the pressure, the remaining protesters fled for their lives.

When the ground rumbled, Apricot huddled to her knees and screamed. As cables dangle from the walls, the shadows dance with the rocking lights in their metal cages. She felt her pounding heart through her shirt as she grabbed her chest. Near her are the metal rungs that mark the exit. After the booming shook her to her core, she couldn’t get to them fast enough. The sight of blue skies through the metal escape hatch bars relieved Apricot. As she scrambled up the steps, she pushed the surface grate open.

Apricot grew a smile as she surveyed the dirty backstreet lot. The lot was full of trash bins filled with recyclables. After she got herself back together, she realized she was behind the bank, since there was a tall brick wall with razor wire surrounding the back lot. As Apricot slithered out of the hole, the metal grate slammed shut with a loud clank. She watched police pull people from rubble-strewn streets that were engulfed in smoke. “Was that a bomb?” she asked. “What bank robbery would use bombs?” Apricot questioned aloud. It seemed absurd that something like that could be true. According to Boken’s Sword, the most likely answer is the simplest. Apricot remembered the rule. “If someone were to use a bomb, why would they do so?” she considered.

Her hands fidgeted as she felt an overwhelming sense of tension. “Could this be a terrorist attack?” She gritted her teeth, swallowing hard, watching this entire incident spiral from irresponsible to dangerous. “You can’t let your nerves get the better of you, okay? If you want to be a reporter, now is the time to act like one,” she coached herself.

Apricot held the camera up to her face to see that the viewfinder was black. The camera cap hung from the lens of the camera on a strand of white string when she removed it from her eye. She returned the camera to her eye and saw a hazel eye staring back at her. The eye had teeth surrounding it instead of lashes. “What the?” Apricot asked under her breath.

With an odd cartoon-like tone, the teeth shut into a grin and said “Hello.” She screamed and tossed the camera. Shaking from the shock, she covered her mouth with her hand. Hearing glass shatter, she looked towards her feet. Sato’s camera lay broken at her feet.

Apricot bent to lift the mangled camera. As glass pieces fell into the street from the lens, a small sob escaped her nostril. A tear ran down Apricot’s cheek as she whispered, “No.”

With the creek of the back door, “Don’t move.” Commanded the voice of a young man. Apricot looked up to see a man with a pistol. When the man bobbed the barrel, she felt pale. Apricot followed the gesture by standing up. Her feet shot up when she observed the chili yellow eyes of this man with a strong jawline looking at her. “He is remarkably handsome,” she thought.

“Now, why would a girl be out here?” he asked.

Apricot held up Sato’s broken camera and explained, “I am a journalist, and I’m trying to get some photos for my article.”

“It seems you need a new camera,” snickered the handsome guy. “You think I am some kind of idiot?” he replied. “You went through the sewers to get here, right? That’s filthy. Were you sent by the police? Got a wire?”

Apricot’s heart sank in despair as she shook her head. “No, I’m just a journalist.”

“Sure, like you would tell me, anyway.” Looking at the barrel, she felt as if the chambered bullet was interrogating her; more like a rabid dog on a leash waiting for the command, looking for an opportunity to bore into her stomach, all too happy to do its job.

When he continued, it broke her heart. “There is one way you can prove you don’t.” He pointed his pistol at her chest and raised his head. “Take them off.” Her face grew flushed as the order rang in her head. Her fingers brush against her shirt, and she breathes deeply. As she swallowed, she averted her eyes. “Go ahead,” the man said with a perverse gleam in his eye. In order to remove her undershirt from her skirt band, she removed her coat from her stomach.

The man lowered his gun and said, “Wait.” Looking down, he turned his gaze to the ground. “You don’t have to do that.” Apricot wondered if it was a trick. Then again, even if it was a trick, he would shoot her, regardless. She lowered her shirt down to her stomach. Apricot hears a clank against the brick wall as the man pushes against the door. He turned to her and said, “After you.”

When she was close to the door, she did not know if she was going to live or die. She found it humorous. She could draw on her first-hand experience of the robbery. It was like the coin had flipped, becoming the story instead of reporting on it. This would be the story of her life if she survived. Maybe even a book deal. Her face brightened at the prospects. “What do you have to be so happy about?” he asks. “Got a sick fascination with being taken hostage?” At that moment, after glancing at the gun aimed at her, all joy vanished. With such paltry words, he snuggly placed the fear of death in the mind.

“What in the hell do we do now?” asked a man holding a pistol. Apricot noted he looked younger than the handsome man, a late teenager, twitchy too; this makes him dangerous.

Her captor shook his head. “I don’t suppose we can just walk out the front door. There is an opening in the back. Heh, the reporter girl, found a way out. If we slip out, though, I am sure we will get chased.”

A lady was resting against a bank teller’s desk. It looked like she had either a resting bitch face or was poised to tear someone’s head off. Her mature and smooth face suggested she was in her late twenties or even early thirties. However, unlike the other guys, she did not carry a weapon, but the long jacket she wore could conceal an arsenal. “Well, isn’t this great? There’s a bunch of police in front of us, bright eyes is upstairs drooling like a madman, and now we’re holding this kid hostage as well. That wasn’t the plan. What the hell was he thinking?”

“A bomb, Diago is insane.” the young man wailed. He rounded in a circle, carefully maintaining cover from the front.

Apricot was sitting on the floor of the decorated bank. The polished marble floor in the lobby had a large crack she attributed to the blast’s remnants. Several windows around the room were broken, allowing smoke to enter. Even though the smoke was diluted, it still burned.

Rather than get involved in the bickering, Apricot decided to just sit back and watch. But their complaints raised more questions. Among the many things that disturb her, one stands out. They were robbing a bank, but what were they hoping to gain? As soon as they introduced the Emerald Mark, paper money was no longer used. As a result, she could no longer bite her tongue. Obviously, she had to know. “So, what were your plans?” Suddenly Apricot erupted.

The handsome man glanced at her as the other two watched each other. He smiled half-heartedly as he said, “I told you she was interesting.”

The other guy laughed nervously. “Apparently, we gained a funeral instead of a hefty retirement plan.”

“Maybe you could turn yourself in; I mean, it wasn’t your idea to make the bomb. Turn on that… Diago guy. He does not seem to be that interested in you,” Apricot suggested.

Taking a measured step towards Apricot, the girl gives a blank stare. She produces a thin rectangle from her side. The slab opens with a click, revealing a flat spring-loaded blade. She bends down next to Apricot, letting the flat of the blade rest on her cheek. “Comedian, keep talking and I’ll carve a smile all over your face from bloody ear to bloody ear.”

An uncharacteristically calm chuckle escaped the handsome man’s lips. “I kind of like the comedian.” He said. “We need some humor. May as well be her.” As she touched the tip of the blade to Apricot’s cheek, a shallow cut appeared. Apricot’s brown eyes catch hers, as the woman warns her sharply. She yielded the blade to her palm and rose to her feet.

“She might be right.” The nervous man snorted. “I don’t want to die. I mean, uh. I had nothing to do with the bomb. It was all Diego’s idea. Heh, I mean, how can you explain that?”

“Diago, what is he doing up there?” the handsome man said. “I knew deck jockey was just a plug head. Should have never trusted him.”

“Surely, he will still come through for us,” joked the young man. “I mean… he set that bomb up… with the holo-sim from upstairs. Think he has a way of getting out of here?”

The calm, handsome man looked over at the girl with the blade. “Only one way to find out.” She said.

“Okay, I will check on our little decker, see if he’s done,” he said, jumping from the desk and reaching out to Apricot. She questioned her own sensibilities as her heart fluttered. “I want a body as collateral. Hey reporter girl, mind being my shield?” He grabbed Apricot’s hand and lifted her to her feet. “Come on, it’s this way. Just follow me.”

The handsome man had led Apricot upstairs to the second floor of the bank. From the mezzanine, she spied the police outside out of the corner of her eye. The wreckage was worse than she had expected. While Apricot felt more at ease with the handsome man than she did with the lady below her, the gun pointed at her head told a different story. “So, just down the hall. I don’t want a sniper to blow my head off, so please walk in front of me?”

The man huddled up next to her, compressing himself against her lower back. When she felt the chest of the man against her rear, a blush appeared on her face. Outside, she saw several police officers with their guns drawn while others walked around casually with papers in their hands. There were fewer people in the crowd than before.

In the corner of the back office, a girl was crying, with tears streaming down her face. Her sobs accompanied a man working on a computer. Besides his pistol, he has a camera setup on the desk with several cables stretching from his hands and several metallic pieces hanging out from his fingers. They clicked on the keys, typing with brisk speed. Apricot almost vomited. This twisted thing was once human. Unlike his former self, now he looks like he was something otherworldly. “Are you almost done, Diego?” the handsome man asked. “That light show you put on pissed off the cops.”

“Did I?” the deep voice exclaimed, cackling. “I wasn’t aware.”

The handsome man pounded his fist against the table. “Yeah, now get it in gear, there’s no time to lose.” he snapped.

“What? But the party just started.” He grinned. “They got some great countermeasure electronics,” he said. “I got through the first two phases. The buried treasure looks nice. Anyway, the vaults downstairs are unlocked. Load up what you can. The tunnels will be open in a few minutes. I wasn’t expecting this. However, if you give me some time… I think I can find something more valuable. They equipped this place with naked body scanners. You can bet those images are worth something, too.”

“Pervo, we need to get on a bank train NOW to get out of here,” the handsome man yelled.

“Tanj! You ain’t no fun.” Diago looked up from the computer. The inlaid eyes made Apricot uncomfortable. She was sure that he had to undergo a special surgical procedure for those to be implanted. “Including where you gonna go? You don’t think the tunnels are swarming with police by now?”

“Just get it done.” Growled the handsome man.

“Are you a runner?” Apricot inquired. It was utterly shocking to the black-haired lady in the corner. Apricot had heard stories about people who did such things. The crooks had to go to certain locations to gain access to closed systems, not the normal kind of theft. These individuals usually leave a trail of destruction behind them, which did not sit well with Apricot. It is imperative to remove witnesses. With some technical knowledge, they can move in a way most others cannot. Most of the time, they sell their goods on the black market.

Diago glances at Apricot from his screen. “Those eyes, they’re wrong,” Apricot thought. “Like dolls in the shop windows of Akubashi street.”

“Who’s the girl?”

He patted Apricot on the butt and said, “Hostage like yours.” A chill ran down Apricot’s spine. Her first impulse was to slap the man, but she composed herself. “A reporter.”

“Oh, yeah, buddy, if that one doesn’t get creased soon, I’m going to reconfigure her myself. Expert witness, you know joy boy.” She didn’t understand everything he said, but she gathered the gist. This would be a serious threat. Apricot could tell from the other girl’s eyes that she thought much the same.

Apricot felt the handsome man press the tip of the cold barrel into the back of her uniform. “You worry about our escape.” Apricot isn’t sure how to react. The handsome man seems to have a sense of morality. She had the impression he didn’t want her killed. Still, she knew it twisted her emotions into knots. As he drives her towards the hall, he says, “Don’t let the blue boys blow off my head now.”

An angry voice exploded up from the base level. “Kneel!” A retinue of commands followed.

“Ta hell is that!” Diago shrieked. The handsome man, who held out his gun, pushed Apricot to the ground.

Through the marble ceiling, ghostly figures tumbled to the ground. Light reflected off their cloaks and mirrored their surroundings. “All but for the shimmering, the cloaked figures would have been invisible,” Apricot thought. The cloaks fell off, revealing them to be armored police pointing their guns at the suspects. A mechanically synthesized voice said, “Got ya.”

The handsome man replied, “You did.” His body spun around while a blade flicked from his spinning torso and he cut into the armored collar with the knife. The knife blade scraped against the black kevlar. Then the soldier’s rifle butt impacts into the man’s head, knocking him to the ground.

Diego jumped onto the table, smashing his seat against the wall. His arm swung, launching the computer into an officer. The cables shot back into his left hand. He points his right hand towards the officer’s rifle. ”You fool!” he hissed. A mechanical groan caused his forearm to split open, revealing a hidden uzi. “Rat-a-tat,” boomed the gun. Apricot covered both ears with both hands as she sank to the ground. The horror of this moment spread to her when a smoking bullet fell between her knees. With a louder scream, she crescendos the many ricochets.

As far as she could, she kicked away from the smoldering bullet pressing against the wall. “Ahahaha!” Diego cackled. Suddenly, her back sank into a pair of arms. It was an officer in a cloak covering her, wearing a gray and blue-hosed mask. The cloak was bright on the inside. Fabric acted as a screen, which displayed bodies around the room and made the walls appear translucent.

Apricot watched as the red silhouette of the handsome man swept his foot, knocking the other officer to the floor. “I got you, honey!” a muffled female voice said. As she leaned back, the officer lifted her through the wall. While doing the impossible, Apricot felt a tingling sensation all over her body. With Apricot clutched tightly in her arms, the officer plummets to the ground like a swooping bird. When she landed with a heavy thud on the pavement below, she realized she was thrashing and screaming.

As her mind raced with questions, she shook her head. The largest of them was “What just happened? Did they just leap through a wall?” Apricot looked up into the iron blue mask while cradled in the officer’s arms. A brilliant red gleam glistened in the mask’s eye shields. On the sides of the soldier’s neck shield, there are two air hoses.

The police officer set Apricot on her feet and said, “It’s all right mam, you are safe now.” The officer’s hands were on the clip on the side of her mask as she raised to her full stance. With a hiss, it clicks as she raises the helmet, which allows her long black hair to cascade out over it.

“She has white irises,” Apricot thought to herself. “That’s rare.”

“Are you all right? Hun?” she asked with a rural mainland accent. With a slack jaw, Apricot watched with wide eyes. “I’d like to thank you. Through your little sneaky escapade, I could enter the back door unnoticed.”

She saw another officer jump through the wall with the black-haired woman. He unfurled her and asked, “Mam, do you need any medical attention?” She just wailed in his arms.

“This is the life of a police officer, so dangerous.” She said without meaning to.

“You were lucky to miss.” The officer replied, “I haven’t seen many kids walk out of something like that.”

She broke out of her trance before turning to the armored woman and saying, “Forgive me.” She bowed as low as she could. “Thanks for saving me. You have my gratitude.”

A smile spread across the officer’s face as she said, “All in a day’s work, miss.”

With a clipboard in hand, a uniformed man approaches her. “And apparently you’re a student, too.” The uniformed man said, looking at Apricot’s worn-out uniform. He asked, “What were you doing in the bank?”

Apricot realized she was being filmed as her heart sank. As she gnawed her nails, she muttered, “That’s a funny story…” The officer laughed as she recounted how she became a hostage.

“Press huh, well, I will have to inform your superiors so they can decide what to do. Apricot, you understand me,” he said, waving his finger.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Good girl, say something nice for me. Got it? So would you mind coming with me? Let’s get your account on file, so you can be on your way.” he said.


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2 thoughts on “Blue Ash Crisis: Chapter 2

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