It all happened so quickly, but I had experiences with such encounters before. In the apocalyptic world, you always needed to prepare for a sudden event. This could go from perfectly fine to life and death in an instant. That reflex I had been gradually cultivating kicked in immediately. As soon as I hit the ground, I rolled out of the way. Whether the man thought he had hit me or just didn’t care, by the time he looked back, I had already slid around the corner, out of the reach of their guns.
These guys weren’t interested in me anyway. “Everyone! On the floor. We’re robbing this place, so don’t be heroes!”
They were just looking for money. I could relate, but they were going about it all wrong. Perhaps they thought a restaurant would be less dangerous than a bank. They were probably thinking that the stuff they could take from rich people’s pockets would be every bit as rewarding as a place like a bank. Then again, most people used credit cards these days. I couldn’t imagine hawking some jewelry would be worth it. Unless there was something they were specifically after, and they were using the robbery as a means to cover it up.
“Cecelia… can you see through the security cameras.”
“They’re wired! Did you think everything everywhere was just wireless?” Her tone was more mocking than I liked.
“Never mind then, we’ll just have to do this the hard way.” I crouched down, trying to get a peek around the corner. “What about Caleb? How long would it take him to get the guys and come here?”
“Based on the GPS location on his phone, he’s ten minutes away. I can’t tell you how long it’ll take him to get here.”
“Text him anyway.”
I was looking through my Perco. I had the shield that could protect me from one shot. If I got these guys by surprise, I could probably take them, but in the corner of the restaurant, I was in full view of everyone else. If I popped out, I would be seen. Even if I could get to them, I wasn’t confident. I also wasn’t a hero and didn’t want that kind of attention. Fighting off three armed guys single-handedly was exactly the kind of stuff I didn’t want to become known for.
I wished that I head more of the Stealthcos. If I had one of those, this wouldn’t be a challenge. Then again, activating active camo in this world would probably draw eyes. Cecelia couldn’t mess with the cameras unless I got into their security room. At that point, even I could delete security footage. That didn’t even point to the fact that this was a fine restaurant with a clear dress code. If Mizuki was here, there could be any number of rich and powerful people. The kind of people that might become curious over a boy who could deflect bullets. Whatever I did, it’d have to be hidden.
“Everyone, on the floor! Line up!” One guy was gesturing wildly with his gun.
“Jewelry! Credit cards! Cash… in the bag.” A second guy was moving from person to person, collecting money.
Had I been thinking too hard about this? Were they just seeking money? My eyes landed on Mizuki. She was in the back of the line, lying down with her hands on the back of her head. She looked somewhat pained. Someone next to her noticed the pained look on her face and tried to help her. This seemed to draw the notice of one of the men with a gun.
“Hey, what are you doing?” He demanded, waving his weapon threateningly.
“This girl is sick.”
“Hey, isn’t that her?” The other guy with a weapon asked.
“Shut up, idiot!” The one with the bag snapped.
They were after Mizuki? Just my luck. Why would someone be after some girl with cancer? The armed man kicked the one protecting Mizuki, sending him flying back. He then reached down and grabbed Mizuki, picking her up by her hair. The hair came right off her head, and it was the first time I realized that she had been wearing a wig. I had only seen her twice before, and I hadn’t realized she was bald. It must have been the best wig money could buy.
She was far sicker than I had thought. Since she was in and out of the hospital, I had thought that she was only at the beginning stages. She had also said that her cancer treatments were going well. She shouldn’t have lied to me. I didn’t realize until I heard the thud that I had hit my fist against the wall. Why did I feel so angry all of a sudden? This is why I didn’t want to owe people. I didn’t owe her. It was none of my business. Nothing changed.
“Who’s back there?” They had heard my thump, and one of the men was walking in my direction.
The man with the wig in his hand threw it away with disgust. Many people gave the man a scornful look, but he was unmoved. He grabbed Mizuki by the arm and forced her to her feet.
“Come on, we’re going.” The man with Mizuki in his arm started shoving her to the back kitchen.
“Just a second…” The guy seemed to be fixated on my corner.
Were they kidnapping her or were they taking her back there to execute her? If I didn’t move that second, by the time I found out the truth it might be too late.
Cursing my luck, I stepped out from behind the hallway. The man hastily raised his gun, but when he saw a young boy, he let out a breath.
“Oh, it’s you. I was wondering where you got off to. I didn’t think my gun hit your head. You got good reflexes kid. Oi… what’s that thing on your wrist. Are you holding out on us? Give it here.”
The Perco was bulky and I hadn’t pushed it back under my sleeve. This guy noticed it immediately. Waving with his gun and gesturing with his hand, he beckoned me to hand it over. As if I would ever do that.
“P-please don’t kill me. I don’t want to die.” I spoke desperately, my hands up as I walked closer to him.
“Shut up! Drop that watch in this bag. Don’t make me show you how to do a proper pistol whip so you don’t get back up.”
“Oh, please… no! Please…” I kept moving toward him, my hand out in front of me. “Just take it! Please.”
“H-hey wait, stay back!”
He only started to get suspicious as I continued my approach rather than keep my distance. He was too late though, as I was already close enough. Shaking my wrist with the Perco toward him, I launched out with the other hand, striking him in the throat. He let out a croak, bring his gun that he had lowered up. I struck his wrist, and then ripped the gun from his hand. Whether it was reflexes or strength, I was better than him.
He looked on in shock as the gun was taken from him with ease. My impulse was to kill him, but I just managed to stop myself, lifting the gun and slamming it hard on the top of his head. With my added strength, he collapsed like his string had been cut.
“That’s a pistol whip.”
I declared, stepping over him. I reached the dining hall just as the doors swung closed from the other two men who had dragged Mizuki into the back. I moved swiftly to the kitchen, ignoring everyone on the floor. Some had seen me take down the guy, but the view had been limited and most people didn’t realize the gunned man was down. There was some mumbling and confusion, especially across those that were less cowardly.
Raising the gun, I kicked the door into the kitchen and stepped in. My eyes immediately fell on the man holding a gun to Mizuki’s head. I didn’t know how he knew I was coming, but he had turned and grabbed her like she was a hostage. I only caught her eyes warning me a second too late. As the door closed behind me, the guy who had been holding the bag lunged at me. He had a kitchen knife in his hand. Rather than dodge it, I lifted my hand and cut it.
With a thunk, the knife dug into my palm and I closed my fingers on it, keeping him from pull the knife back away. Blood oozed down my arms. Mizuki’s eyes widened in shock, and even the other man’s mouth fell open. My assailant stared in shock, not having expected me to do something so crazy and reckless. When I pointed the gun in his face, he nearly went cross-eyed.
He let go of the knife, raising his hands defensively. I forced my aching hand open, and the bloody knife fell harmlessly to the ground.
“Well, well… we each have a hostage.” The man behind Mizuki spoke. “I don’t know who you are, kid, but you don’t want to die today.”
“Neither do you,” I responded. “It’s too bad you’re touching my companion.”
“Heh… look, if you kill my guy, I’ll kill her, so-”
“Okay.” I pushed the gun right into the guy’s gullet and pulled the trigger.
There was a shot, the bullet went through his brain, splattering the walls and ceiling. He didn’t even have time to react before he was dead.
“Y-you…” The other man was stunned to see his friend suddenly die. “You k-killed…”
“The thing is… you can’t kill a man that doesn’t exist, and when a man is dead, he’s nothing.” I grabbed the wrist of the corpse, then stashed it into my inventory.
The body suddenly disintegrated in front of them before it even fell to its knees. Seeing his friend disappear like spoke caused him to freeze even longer. I lifted my gun and pointed it at him. When he realized what was about to happen, he let out a cry.
I pulled the trigger. That’s what I learned in the apocalypse. Once guns were pulled, you do, or you die. It’s the hesitation that kills you.