Eleven Months Before Impact Day
Half an hour later, we were crouched down behind some bushes off the side of the road, and I wasn’t any closer to knowing what she had planned. I didn’t even know where we were.
“Okay, where is this?” I asked.
“Well, I was thinking about your whole night-time vigilante thing, and I know that you can’t die or anything, but you’re not exactly Wolverine, right?”
“No, definitely not,” I said. “I heal way slower, and my bones are definitely not unbreakable.”
“Right. So I thought you probably need a few tools to make life a little easier for you.”
Well, that was unexpected. So tonight was about helping me with that? That was… surprisingly sweet of her.
“Well for starters, a bulletproof vest,” she said, and I winced. I had definitely not enjoyed being shot. “Also some crowd control gear, since I know you don’t want to kill anyone you don’t have to.”
It felt weird, having someone be supportive of what I realised was a fairly ridiculous idea. It was a good kind of weird though, kind of like… the antithesis of loneliness?
“And we’re gonna get that here?” I asked, still not entirely sure where here was.
“Well, not here here. It’s actually across the road.”
I turned slightly, looking over my shoulder at the large, well-lit building across the road. It was a storage facility, where people rented lockable spaces to keep their junk in.
“So what are we doing here?” I asked. “Also, um, how are we going to get any of the stuff that’s in there?”
I also wanted to ask why she thought we’d find what we were looking for in a storage facility, but I assumed she had a reason for it. She was too practical to just hope for a random chance.
“We’re… kind of going to steal it,” she said quietly.
“I don’t know how I feel about it,” I told her. Stealing wasn’t exactly the shining start I wanted for my anti-crime career.
“Hear me out,” she pleaded. “Across the road, in that storage facility, a dirty cop has been stockpiling his own little collection, probably to sell it illegally later.”
“How on earth did you find that out?”
“Because the guy was one of my mum’s boyfriends for a while, and I always do a little digging on the ones that stick around more than a week.”
Boy, that was a sobering reminder of just how unstable her life was. Even still, all she was thinking about was how to help me. I felt incredibly lucky, and just a little mad.
“Damn,” I said, not entirely sure what else I could have added.
“Hey, it came in handy this time,” she said brightly. “So, guilt-free, right? This stuff’s better in your hands than not being used.”
She did have a point. She also knew exactly what to say to reassure me, and I wasn’t yet sure if that was something to be happy about, or worried.
“I don’t suppose your plan extends to us actually getting our hands on this stuff, does it?” I asked, looking over at the building again. “These places aren’t exactly light on security.”
“I have a few ideas,” she said, undeterred.
“So, the real problem we have,” she said, excited, “is the security cameras. Believe it or not, they’re all being watched by one guy. Or girl, I guess. There are a few guards on patrol, but they’re easy to avoid. The only problem is if the camera guy sees something, and calls them over.”
“How do you know all this?” I asked, feeling a little like I’d just stumbled into a heist movie. Which probably wouldn’t have been so bad, except that I’d never stolen anything in my life.
“I cased the joint,” she said proudly.
“You think you’re so cool right now, don’t you?”
“How long did you say you can hold your breath for?” she asked, ignoring my teasing.
“What? I don’t know, like twenty minutes? I get a little dizzy, but-“
“Twenty minutes is more than enough,” she said, grinning. Then her expression grew serious. “Now, this part is a little dicey, but bear with me, okay?”
She looked genuinely concerned, but whether she was worried I would judge her, or tell her I hated her idea, I wasn’t sure. It made me dread asking what the next part of her plan was.
“Have you ever heard of a drug called Fentanyl?” she asked, her voice hushed.
“Figures. It’s mostly used as a painkiller, sometimes an anaesthetic, but in 2002, a weaponised version of it was used to knock out a bunch of terrorists in a hostage situation.”
She said it so casually, like that was a completely normal thing to know. I had no idea how to respond.
“And that helps us because…?”
“Well, Fentanyl isn’t actually that hard to get, and I’m more clever than I look,” she said. I had to think about that for a few seconds. Was she actually suggesting…
“How did you get your hands on medical anaesthetic?”
“Best not to ask,” she said quickly. “I spent a lot of time on the library computers at school. Used someone else’s login. And now, I have this.”
She pulled out of her bag a small, black object, and handed it to me. It was a phone, fairly old, and powered off.
“A crappy phone?”
She’d never owned a phone, since she didn’t have any money, and her mum wouldn’t ever get her one. It didn’t seem like she was announcing her sudden acquisition of one to me.
“Just the case,” she said, a little too satisfied with herself for me to not be suspicious. “Inside it is a dispersion mechanism for a modified Fentanyl gas.”
If it had been anyone else, I wouldn’t have believed them. I was still having a hard time believing she’d been able to manage something like that, but the earnest look on her face was very convincing, and there was really no reason for her to lie about it.
“And it won’t hurt or kill anyone?” I asked, giving her the same courtesy of belief she’d always given me.
“There’s like, a fifteen percent change it could be fatal,” she said, looking away.
“Chances go down if we call an ambulance, just to make sure. And tell them to have naloxone handy.”
“Where did you learn all this stuff?” I wasn’t sure whether to be worried or impressed. Either way, I was glad she was working with me, and not against me.
“Nowhere as fancy as you’d imagine,” she said, shrugging. “Anyway, all you need to do is go up to the security room, get him to let you in, then release the gas and hold your breath.”
“Seems like there’d be easier ways…”
“I’m sorry, do you have a better plan?”
“Fine, fine. How am I going to manage getting into the security booth? I can’t imagine they just let anyone in.”
She wouldn’t look me in the eye, biting her lip the same way she always did when being forced to do something she didn’t want to do.
“Well, he’d have to be a real monster to turn away a teenage girl with a stab wound, right?”
I almost laughed, but caught myself just in time. I was seeing a side of her I’d never seen before, clever and calculating, and every surprise made me feel a little closer to her, no matter what it was.
“When did you turn into a supervillain?” I asked, genuinely impressed with her. “I never would have thought of that, but it’s brilliant!”
“What makes you think I haven’t always been like this?” she asked, finally meeting my eye, a little of her confidence returning.
“Well, this is gonna be one Hell of a date, if nothing else,” I said, stretching out. “I’m assuming you brought the knife?”
I could see now why she’d given me a change of clothes.
“I try to be memorable, if nothing else,” she said, digging around in her backpack again. She actually did pull out a kitchen knife, and I felt a slight discomfort in my stomach. She looked concerned again. “You sure about this?”
“I’ve lived through worse,” I said, trying to sound casual about it. Truth be told, I knew it was going to hurt, a lot, but I was willing to suffer it, and I didn’t want to say a bad word about her plan.
“Once the guy is unconscious, get right out of there, and meet me at unit E17. We’ll bust open the door, grab as much as we can carry, and book it.”
“Don’t the cameras record?”
“Not tonight,” she said. “While you’re knocking out the guard, I’ll be introducing the server to an electromagnet. I’ve already fucked with their external connection, so none of the data will be copied off-site.”
“You really do think of everything, don’t you?”
“I have my moments.”
She smiled at me, and I felt my heart flutter. That could have easily been because of the knife she was holding, though.
“Alright, let’s do this,” I said, gritting my teeth and pulling the hoodie over my head. “Right in the gut, hard as you can.”
“You know, if Sadie saw this…”
“Just stab me, you wimp.”
“You’re a true romantic, you know that?” she muttered.
She pulled the knife back, grabbed my shoulder, and drove the blade into me, just as hard as she could.
Next: If It Takes A Thousand Lifetimes