There’s calm before every storm. Pretty cliché but it’s true nonetheless. Diane is tangled around me one Saturday morning and I’m watching her sleep in lieu of getting up. I think she woke up awhile ago, but she’s been humoring me the past five minutes. I’m leaning in to kiss her cheek when a loud banging starts at the door.
“Mmm, it must be the new kitty tree for Boris,” Diane hums sleepily, stretching like a cat and revealing a swathe of smooth skin where her night shirt rides up. “I’ll go get it.”
“I’ll get it,” I promise and make a move to get out of bed, but she stops me.
“No,” she tells me, her eyes more awake than they had been moments ago and her mouth a serious line. “The new papers are still in the works and I still have to redo your dye job. It looks like you poured bleach on your head,” she mutters while tugging a strand of my hair.
“But I did pour bleach on my head,” I pout. A few weeks ago, we started to get moving on my new identity. I dyed my hair. We found a guy who forged papers. Soon we were going to start me with responding to my new name—Phillip Havermeyer—and I was not looking forward to it. After twenty-five years, I’m pretty damned partial to John Forrester.
Diane wraps her light, pink bathrobe around her. “Now stay here,” she commands. “I’ll come back with coffee and we can snuggle.”
I make a show of looking put off—guys don’t like snuggling, it’s not manly—but I’m secretly a sucker for it. Diane knows it and uses it far too often to her advantage.
Overall, after my mental breakdown a month ago, I have fallen into living Diane like a duck to water. Sure, I’m itchy as hell to leave the house—which is why I might have done a hack job of dying my hair, in desperation to leave—but I know I can’t. I spend a lot of the time doing some repair work around the house. Diane’s even taken to bringing old computers that her friends had been throwing out so I can work on them. I’ve also been helping to repaint the master bedroom, so that, as Diane puts it, it becomes more ‘ours’.
Sometimes the prospect of staying here scares me. I mean, I am an escaped government experiment, and, although we’re taking every precaution, that sword still hangs heavy overhead. I would much rather be far, far away. Luckily, Diane seems agreeable to moving to Canada, which I plan to bring up again once my papers come in, and then we’ll start over in British Columbia. John and Diane might actually be a thing and it sends a warm thrill through me.
This thrill is quickly chased by cold dread as I hear the telltale pop of a silenced gun.
In minutes, I’m down the stairs. I turn the corner to the front door and my previous cold dread doubles. Framed in the gold dusted morning light is a man I have never seen before, but hate immediately. His mousy brown hair is tamped to his head by a military issue beret. He has a thin mustache that curls up at either end, following the lines of his crazed smile. He’s broad set, much like me, and the grey-and-black camouflage does little to mask the dozens of weapons stowed away on his person. He has one meaty arm hooked around Diane’s neck, nearly lifting her off her feet, and the silenced handgun is pressed to her temple.
There are tendrils of smoke rising from the barrel and, as I step closer, I can see the bullet hole in the ceiling above.
“It didn’t have to happen this way,” the man says with a rough accent that I can’t place. It might be Russian twisted by a southern twang, but I can’t tell. Not like that’s top priority. Right now top priority is Diane. “I didn’t want anyone else to get hurt. You’re making this tough on me, John.”
“Who are you,” I demand, assessing my nearby surroundings for a weapon. In the rush downstairs, I only pulled on my shoes and jeans. I’m still shirtless and only have my lab-made power as an available weapon. The lamp on the side table beside me looks promising. I let the power course through me and I lift one hand so the bastard can see the electricity jumping from finger to finger. “I asked you a question.”
“I’m Dr. Merkan,” he says and tightens his hold around Diane’s neck so that she wheezes. My heart threatens to give at the sound. “Most just call me The Commander. I’m the –how do you say it—head of security of Weapon X.”
I swallow thickly, hearing the name “Weapon X” like someone stabbing into old wounds.
“I’ve come to take you home, John.”
Without warning, the Commander blows Diane’s brains out. I see it in slow motion, his finger twitch on the trigger, Diane’s eyes widen as she feels it, and then everything being blown all over the door and the small window beside it. The Commander drops her lifeless body to the floor and it plops with wet, fleshy sound.
“That’s what you looked like John, when they gave you to me and Killbrew. You’re our child and it’s time you came home. No more distractions.”
“no,” I say, my heart ramping and my chest tightening. Seeing a comrade fall had always been disorienting, but seeing Diane crumple is debilitating. “No,” I say louder and begin backing away. “no, I won’t go with you. You murderer.” I spit the last word out like bile from my mouth.
The Commander only smiles. “I’ll cut you a deal,” he says graciously and waves his hand over Diane’s body. “I’ll take her and save her, make her like you. What do you say? Come with me and you get your bitch back.”
I feel the electricity bubbling inside me like hot water in a pot. It’s frothing at the edges and everything in me is singing with the intensity of it. I look at the Commander, dead in the eye, and say lowly, “Over. My. Dead. Body.”
Without Diane in the way, I have no qualms of letting off a pulse of electricity so strong that it blows out the windows in the front of the house, including the bay window in the living room. The Commander is thrown through the door and he hardly issues a grunt as he lands on the front lawn. I step through the hole in the wall, preparing another shock to fry him where he kneels. Then I look up at the veritable army staring me down from behind him. There’s a tank poised dead ahead, flanked by at least twenty men on either side. I can see the dark shape of a sniper on a rooftop two houses away.
The Commander rises to one knee, laughing, and spits blood from his mouth. He looks at me, but it’s only with one eye. The other, a glass eye, had been blown out by my attack and has rolled into the daffodils.
“No is not an answer, kiddo,” The Commander says, sugary sweet. “Kill him, boys.