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Risky Business

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Earth, January 14th, 2039. 9:17 p.m.

Nigel Bell looks around frantically as he makes an unsteady turn into his personal parking spot. The building he sits in front of is his own, the words ‘The Bell Tower’ visible in bright neon letters some 20 stories above him. Once the engine was shut off, Nigel practically hurls himself out of the door, whirling around to throw it shut behind him as he made a mad dash for the entrance. He drops his briefcase in his haste, but doesn’t even turn back to consider picking it up. Once inside, he points at the first member of his private security force he sees. “You there. Watch this door. If anyone tries to come through here, shoot them on the spot. I don’t care if it’s a man, woman or child. No one comes through. Understood?” Before the security guard could even affirm the order, Nigel was past him, keeping his head low and not addressing another person the entire way to the elevator. The employees usually had all gone home by 9:00, so any pairs of feet he does see have those shiny black boots the security team wears. “No one comes in… no one…” he keeps muttering to himself as he pushes his palm against the scanner beside his office door.

“[Access Granted]” Nigel slips inside and resets the scanner, which only he and select members of his staff can access. Once at his desk, he sighs, sitting down to catch his breath. Using his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his brow, he stares at his ceiling, taking a few thankful gulps of air to replenish his depleted energy. Pulling his phone to him and clutching the receiver close, he slowly pushes the button to link the one-way intercom through the building’s halls. “L.. *ahem* ..Listen up. Things didn’t go the way we wanted them to tonight. We were supposed to secure that specimen for the Doctor, he paid us a lot of money to see that done, and someone really messed that up out there. Now we can’t point any fingers… ahem… after all, it’s hard to say which side started the hostilities first… but the fact remains that the specimen was front and center, and now he’s dead… and all of its friends could be after us right now.” He pauses to wipe his sweat and take a breath, punching a command into his laptop with one hand. “I’m putting this building on lock-down, and hopefully you’re at least all competent enough to hold off any intruding forces until the good Doctor and his people send us some backup.” Nigel sets the receiver down and goes to his window to look over the city, starting to feel a bit more safe atop his fortress. Then the phone is suddenly ringing again. He turns to it slowly. “That can’t be him already…” Moving back to his desk, he reaches out as if in slow motion, picking up the receiver to put it back to his ear. “Hello?”

“Mr. Bell. It’s a relief to hear your voice.” The man on the other end of the phone, Nigel knows without a doubt, is the Doctor. Having never seen his face and knowing him only through name and voice, at this point he’d know it anywhere. “I’m being told the target we had in mind is no longer with us. A terrible shame I’ll admit, but thankfully there are others. More importantly, your team survived, so there’s still a chance to make something of this whole-“

“Yes sir, I agree wholeheartedly.” Nigel’s eagerness spills out of his voice, his breath shaking as he tries perhaps too anxiously to make things right. “My team and I couldn’t be more ashamed of that debacle, one I assure you will never replicate itself in these circumstances. We’re primed and ready to track down our next target at the whisper of a command. There’s just one thing… the subject had… has… powerful friends. Friends that might know where I’ve gone, where we’re currently hiding. It probably won’t take them long to piece together that my name is literally on the building. I’m not one to beg, sir, but if you could just-“

There is a sharp noise on the other end of the phone, like something glass being dropped. It’s enough to quiet Nigel down, at least long enough for the Doctor to resume command of the conversation. “You misunderstand me entirely, Mr. Bell. I’ve already got people taking care of any associates that might be looking to exact revenge. Not to say they shouldn’t, as your men did do all the shooting. Still, they aren’t the problem you should worry about. Further still, new mutated targets are not what I had in mind for your team’s next – and I’m sorry to say, final – assignment.”

Nigel stands up abruptly, feeling a small tremor in the floor under his feet. He can hear gunfire far below, back down at the entrance he came through. It ends almost as quickly as it begins, but before long more floors of the building also come to life with flashes of booming gunfire. “W-what’s happening, sir? What did you do?” Nigel opens the laptop on his desk, pulling up the camera feed for every floor. In a 3rd floor hallway, a pair of guards train their guns on the stairwell entrance. There is a sudden burst of pitch black smoke, clouding both men from view. A moment passes and it vanishes completely, not even a wisp of the smoke left behind, revealing both men motionless on the floor.

“I wouldn’t say it’s anything I’ve done, Nigel.” A lighter flick now can be heard on the other end of the phone, coupling with the distant and growing gunfire in Bell’s other ear. “If I can’t trust a task force to take these things off the streets physically, hell easily, then I need to take a different approach. I now may have to fully sacrifice my anonymity and come forward as a helping hand to make the rest of them believe I’m there to help. More men with guns would only drive them into hiding, it has to be me. I have to draw as big a number of them as I can out into the open so we can deal with them all at once. Unfortunately for you, the first step I can take to attain that goal is eliminating their most recent and daring threat. You understand… ‘enemy of my enemy,’ and all that.”

“You can’t do this! We had a deal! I’ve been funding your research! I’ve been taking these things, these people, off the streets for your experiments! I’ve done things that could have me thrown in a hole and forgotten! I’ve given everything for you!” Nigel’s sweat pools at the collar of his shirt, his eyes darting between the laptop screen and his office door. On the 18th floor, a team of six men wielding automatic weapons exits the elevator, filling the hall and taking different vantage points, covering both the elevator and the stairs. Another team of six is in the stairwell, passing floor 19 and taking position outside of Nigel’s office on the 20th. One of the men with access to his office, his head of security Ellis Walsh, sets up right beside his door. 

The Doctor doesn’t say anything at first, but when he does, his voice is much lower, a bit less polite as it had been and taking on a more sinister undertone. “Yes you have, Nigel… and now you’ll give everything for them.” There is a click, and then a dial tone, as Nigel drops the hanging receiver in shock.

“Contact!” One of the guards on camera opens fire on the stairwell door, but another cloud of smoke explodes into view next to him, this time visibly cutting him down with something silver, metal, shiny. Nigel covers his mouth with one hand, watching on in horror as the rest of the men begin popping off shots, chipping pieces of the doors and walls away but seemingly unable to hit anything of merit. The black smoke disappears and appears four more times, cutting through the rest of the men on that level in about as many seconds. Whatever it was, there was only one team between it and Bell. Ellis Walsh nods to the furthest member of his squad, also the youngest, sending him down to the end of the hall to check the stairwell.

The younger man makes it halfway to the door before the black smoke reappears on their floor, cutting him off from the group. One of the other men is closer, and he is very suddenly pulled into the cloud, momentarily swallowed up from view. There is a scream as he body is thrown back out, a sharp blade buried in the top of his skull. This time a figure is visible, both to the men and the camera, inside the cloud. It throws two shiny metal objects at the pair of guards now closest to it, dropping them both as Walsh raises his weapon, targeting center mass on the silhouette and squeezing his trigger. The clip unloads into the black smoke, Ellis and Nigel both hoping to see pieces of something come out the other side. Instead the cloud and the figure both dissipate, revealing that it has actually left the youngest man unharmed, but now Ellis has accidentally shot him to death. He watches the poor kid look at him in true confusion as his body falls, and he hardly notices the smoke reappear between him and the door. This time the camera picks up something finally: it looks like a woman with a helmet, but Nigel realizes it’s the person’s hair. It’s a woman. “It’s one of them…”

The unknown woman stabs Ellis in the side of the neck with another of her sharp blades, then grabs his sidearm up out of its holster. Ellis falls to the ground against the wall, clutching his hand against his bleeding throat, as the smoke finally falls away. The woman, no longer vanishing away immediately, crouches down in front of the gurgling man, taking his face gently in her hands and smiling at him. The camera feed suddenly cuts before anything else, and a chilled Nigel rips open his desk drawer, pulling the .38 revolver out of his desk and aiming it at the door. “You devil bitch! You think you can bring down everything I’ve built! You killed Ellis! You and that psycho ‘doctor‘ can go to hell!” He squeezes the trigger four times, expending half his ammunition through the solid door. At first nothing happens, then…

“[Access Granted]” The door slides open, revealing Ellis Walsh, standing there completely unharmed. “Ellis?” Nigel’s face relaxes, and in a moment of confusion, he lowers the gun.

No sooner is the barrel aimed at the floor, then Ellis is gone in another explosion of smoke, blotting out the doorway and reappearing again inches from Nigel. Momentarily half-blinded by the cloud, his gun comes up at his arm’s full length, firing another panicked round well and truly past her at this distance. Her own sidearm – or rather, Mr. Walsh’s – buries itself in Nigel’s gut and fires once, punching a muffled shot all the way through his back. Ellis’s face gives away nothing, feels nothing, and slowly it begins to shift its bone structure, crunching and popping back into the young woman’s face. Another kind smile is given to Nigel as blood trickles from his mouth. One of her brilliant round emerald eyes blinks, and there is a feint shutter click as her optics camera snaps a photo of Nigel’s weak, bleeding face. “What… are you?” He coughs blood, some of it misting her cheek, as the revolver falls from his fingers and he instead raises his hand to clutch at her frilly hairdo.

Pulling the gun away from him, the woman kicks him hard in the sternum, sending him almost flying back against the window pane. It cracks like a spider’s web, buckling nearly to complete fragments under his weight and momentum, as he cries out in pain and coughs up more blood. “I’m everywhere,” the woman says, turning the pistol over in her hands. She almost seems to lose herself for a second, gazing at the thing like she wants nothing more than to understand it. In that moment, her face shifts some of its features back to that of Walsh, but the strange assassin recovers, aiming the weapon at the window. “I’m everyone.” Nigel’s strangled cry is barely audible over the gunshot, as the window shatters and allows him to fall back. He tumbles end over end, the wind coming up to take the air from his lungs. In his last moments he can hardly scream, hardly think, only a small ping of irony among the fear, as he sees his fallen briefcase getting ready to catch him.

Back up on the top floor, the phone rings again and the woman turns, picking it up and humming softly at it. “You did very well,” the Doctor says, unfazed by how she uses the phone. “We have one last thing for you, then we’ll discuss the next step.” She stands there for a moment, swaying back and forth slightly, before her eyes blink and flash, sending her system coding. Without needing the next instruction said to her, she begins typing rapidly on the laptop, pulling up and closing different windows before any regular person would have time to read them. There is a download window, and once it is complete, the Doctor continues through the phone. “Things are going to be moving much more smoothly from now on, and we have you to thank for that. Well, you and the financially humble Mr. Bell. Our account with him is settled, I see, so your work there is done. Come back home, NBD-003, and we’ll have a nice little thank you all wrapped up when you arrive. How does that sound?” She hums her aimless little tune again, smiling as she puts the receiver down. Looking around one last time at the mess, she teleports away, leaving almost no trace of herself behind…

…save for the bit of her hair still clenched in the dead man’s hand.


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