This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Beyond the Darkside

Darkside security shoved Evan through the airlock of his home and the black hover car detached and drove off as soon as it sealed. 

Evan imagined it ending up in a dark, shadowy hanger filled with identical, non-descript cars used by his tormentors. He picked himself up off the cool floor and muttered, “Thanks for the ride, assholes.” He wanted to feel more vindicated in his verbal assault, but it felt as hollow as his stomach. After three weeks of almost continuous medical testing that doubled as torture, his sudden detachment from the hospital bed and its machinery severed his connection to the IV lines that sustained him during his stay. He could not remember if there was anything worth eating in his refrigerator.

Once he punched his code into the keypad, Evan hit the command to open his rarely used front door. Even from outside, Evan could hear the air scrubbers in his house working overtime. The only reason for that was someone had been in his home. “Lights on,” Evan commanded, and the interior of his home lit up with the cold indifference that only electric light could achieve. The floor of his normally sparse and clean home was littered with debris.

The casual collection of clutter that he had gathered during his time on the moon was strewn about. Furniture, specially designed for the moon’s low gravity, was smashed and torn with a thoroughness that suggested a considerable amount of time was spent dismantling his life. “Well at least they did a good job,” Evan said to himself as he went further into the house. He barely registered the door sliding shut when something heavy struck him in the back of the head.

He tumbled forward, tripped over the busted remains of his favorite chair, and fell face-first into a small pile of old-fashioned paper books. Evan rolled onto his back and looked up in time to see his attacker remove the hood of his stealth cloak. The disembodied head of Caleb, one of Marcus’s goons, looked down at him with a crooked-toothed grin.

“What the hell?” Evan asked as he ran his hand over the back of his head and scurried backward until he ran into the wall. 

Caleb growled and stalked forward. 

Evan could barely detect the outline of the man’s body, and trying made his stomach turn. Stealth suits were illegal for civilian use, but that hardly deterred Marcus and his crew.

“Hold still, you little bastard,” Caleb complained. “Marcus said I could pummel you as much as I wanted as long as I don’t kill you.”Debris flew across the room as Caleb’s invisible hands cleared a path to Evan.

“Why would he do that?” Evan asked as he looked for a way out. “I was close to getting Marcus exactly what he wanted. It’s not my fault that Aldric went insane.” He picked up the remains of an imported statue from earth and tossed it at Caleb’s floating head. The Statue fell short and bounced off the big man’s chest, causing the world to ripple around the impact point.

“I don’t care whose fault it is, you little shit,” Caleb growled as he stomped forward, crushing whatever unfortunate bit of Evan’s life got underfoot. “Marcus says you’re a liar and a welcher, and he doesn’t like either, so I get to bust you up.” 

Evan appreciated that he would not see the end coming, though he wondered if his blood and bone would damage the gloves of the stealth suit and make it inoperable. Perhaps Caleb’s bloody fists would float through the house like a horror movie special effect. The absurdity of the image made him laugh.

The air in front of Evan’s face shook and shimmered like a blast of heat escaping a furnace. A low ringing sound, like an enormous church bell struck far away, accompanied the shimmer. A string of enthusiastically shouted swear words followed close behind. Evan looked past the dissipating disturbance and saw Caleb’s head cursing as he stumbled backward.

“You broke my hand,” Caleb shouted. “I’ll kill you.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Evan insisted and scrambled to his feet.

A look of pure fury blazed across Caleb’s floating visage. A large, black revolver appeared from out of nowhere and aimed at Evan’s head.

“No!” Evan yelled. He held a hand up in front of him, palm facing the thug as if it might ward off the bullet.

Caleb pulled the trigger. The sound of the gunpowder exploding in the casing was deafening in the small, airtight home. 

To Evan’s ears, the sound registered as a muffled, drawn-out cough. Time slowed as he watched the bullet slowly leave the barrel of the gun. He desperately tried to move out of the way, but the same stasis that held Caleb and his gun kept him in place. His mind remained free of the morass, but terror filled it as he watched the implement of his death approaching an inch at a time.

Time returned to normal as the bullet smashed into something in front of Evan’s hand and ricocheted to the side, burying itself in the foam-insulated wall of his bedroom. The same distant ringing of a bell echoed through the room before the silence of the two men’s shock swallowed it. 

Caleb yelled and pulled the trigger again and again until he emptied the magazine was empty. 

The bullets bounced around the room until they hit something soft enough to absorb their energy. The peal of distant bells assaulted Evan’s hearing almost as thoroughly as the crash of gunfire, but he dared not move lest the miracle saving him ended.

Caleb pulled the trigger and got nothing but the click of the hammer striking an empty chamber. the two men looked at one another in shocked disbelief. 

Evan looked at his hand, checked his body, and said a little prayer to the God he did not believe in. 

“How?” was all Caleb said.

“I don’t know,” Evan responded, “but I think you shot yourself.” He pointed at the slowly growing red spot that hovered twelve inches below Caleb’s disembodied head.

“Son of a bitch.” Caleb ran his invisible hand over the spot and its bloody outline appeared to Evan before the big man fell over dead.

Evan crawled to Caleb and checked the man’s neck for a pulse. “Shit.” He got to his knees beside the corpse. “What the hell is going on here?” He felt around until he located the stealth suit’s zipper and slid it down, breaking the seal and ending the stealth protocols in the process. He pulled aside the slick, elastic material and grimaced at the gunshot wound in Caleb’s chest. It was bigger than he expected, and the edges were ragged and torn. It was nothing like what he had seen on the holovids. He always thought the amount of blood and gore was exaggerated for entertainment purposes, but they did not hold a candle to reality.

Feeling a bit ghoulish as he worked, Evan rifled through the pockets of the dead man. A pack of gum, two extra clips of ammunition, a long-bladed pocket knife, and an unpunched ticket to the Morrison City Museum were all he had tucked into his pockets. There was no wallet, no identification, and no hovercar keys. How was Caleb supposed to get out of there once he finished his job? Evan looked around the shattered room and spotted his keys sitting on the kitchen counter. “It’s bad enough you wanted to kill me, Caleb, but stealing my car is just low.”

Evan stood and stepped toward his keys when a sound stopped him short. It was quiet, barely noticeable, and if it were not for the air scrubbers being on an off-cycle at that moment, he never would have heard it. He turned slowly until he stared at the large window that allowed him to look upon the crater-riddled lunar landscape behind his house. It was the one real extravagance he allowed himself. In the lower right-hand corner, he located the source of the gentle snapping sound that stopped him in his tracks.

The thick, chemically treated glass was designed to handle micro meteor impacts from the outside, but the stray bullet tumbling through the air when it hit left a deep gouge on the inside. Another sharp crack sounded, accompanying another little fissure forming in the glass. An emergency patch kit was kept in a locker in the garage for just such an event. 

Evan doubted the manufacturer had ever considered gunfire, so he stepped back, turned, and ran for the garage door. 

The crack expanded with a high-pitched pop as the crack spread across the glass from one corner to the opposite.

Evan almost reached the door when the glass exploded outward. Air raced through the hole left behind, desperately trying to fill the void surrounding the moon. The rushing air swept up his shattered belongings in the rush to escape and scattered his possessions across the pale grey soil of the lunar surface. 

Evan grabbed the countertop as he lost his footing. His feet left the ground as the escaping error dragged him toward the glassless window. He held his breath and waited for the end. He understood the inevitability of his death, but he wanted his body found intact, inside his home, not outside, burned to a crisp.

When the rush of the escaping environment ended, Evan still held onto the counter, very much alive. The air around him shimmered violently and grew opaque in the process. He continued holding his breath, too afraid to risk his own mortality on the possibility that the odd barrier surrounding him retained oxygen. The point became moot as his lungs burned and ached for relief. Evan wanted to take a slow, cautious breath, but the moment he opened his mouth, his reflexes took over and he gulped in as much air as he could.

Evan released the counter and looked at the flickering wall of light around him. Where had it come from? What was happening to him? The bubble grew darker, and he instinctively knew his salvation had a time limit. He walked to the garage and stepped through the airlock. His inexplicable air cocoon disappeared as the air filled the void inside. Evan took a deep breath of the slightly chemical-scented air of the garage, and for the first in months, he did not care that the air scrubbers in that part of his house were imperfect. The slight taint was a potent reminder that he was alive, and that was well worth the discomfort.

The wailing alarm of the environmental breach rang in Evan’s ears as he went to the tool cabinet. Stocked with everything a modern, lunar garage would need, Evan rarely touched any of it, and there were some items he could not identify by sight. Hidden in a small metal box at the bottom of a drawer, a second set of keys for the hover car waited for him. He pulled the keys from the box and returned it back to it’s original space with care. He doubted anyone would notice if the box were out of place, but he didn’t want to leave any clues behind.

The keys were not needed to use the car, but he needed to disappear for a while. Selling the car for a little quick cash required turning over the keys, so into his pocket they went. As much as he loved his car, his big, safe car, it was a liability that he could not afford. DarkSide security, a ruthlessly efficient organization with more real power and authority than the local magistrate, thought he tried to kill Aldric, and now Marcus seemed intent on calling in his marker. A little time off the grid might do Evan some good.

Once Evan was settled behind the wheel of his hover car, he fired up the engine, opened the garage door, and lowered the force field before he backed down his driveway and onto the street. His own security cameras would capture the big sedan’s direction unless Caleb disabled them earlier, but that could not be helped. He would take a circuitous route, but cameras were everywhere, so it would do little more than buy him a little more time.

As Evan drove away, a DarkSide security officer in an insulated camouflage suit outside the scientist’s property line noted his leaving. The mottled grey surface did not offer the same invisibility as the stealth suit, but it allowed him to blend into the landscape while the shielding protected him from the freezing nights and blistering days. That the thinner man left the home surprised him. He punched the code into his transmitter and signaled a watch officer in the command bunker that Evan was alive and on the move.

Series Navigation<< Beyond the Darkside – Chapter Thirteen

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