I take the steps two at a time, flying up the decayed staircase into the darkness above. Dirty vibrant colours seep in through the smudged windows of the building. A slamming thud resounds down the stairwell, a door flung shut. Neon flashing across my retinas, I draw my Strayer Voight Deadshot .45 from its holster within my coat, preparing to corner my prey.
I reach the top of the stairs, a solid metal door blocking my path.
End of the line.
I reach for the door handle, slowing my breath, readying myself to burst through. There's probably a cross-hair aimed at the other side of the door. Might get hit, might not. Best to be prepared for the worst, ready to act after that red-hot slug of lead has ripped into my body.
Kicking the door open, I advance onto the rooftop, my body taut, blood thundering through my veins. The cityscape looms above, towers of metal and glass leering down, blocking out the night sky beyond.
My quarry stands on the opposite side of the rooftop, a lithe person dressed in black all-in-one climber-suit. A skull-hugging mask covers their face – could be a man or a woman...
I level my pistol at the person, edging cautiously closer. They don't flinch or move, except for a slight tilt of their head, seeming to express mocking disdain. I move closer.
There's no loud blast of sound or muzzle flash proceeding the projectile. It rips into my body, sending me reeling back, sprawling onto the ground.
My breath rattles around my chest like a solitary data-chip in a beggar's tin. I look down, expecting to see blood spreading out from an entry wound – but there's something else...
The hilt of a dagger protrudes from my torso. I've seen this object before, touched it, held it.
Suddenly, the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle falls into place.
I've been played for a fool.
A few days earlier...
I toss the knife from hand to hand, the weight of it like the familiar hand shake of an old friend.
“Used one of these during the Middle East Nuclear Crisis – mine had a few more notches than this.” I place the weapon back on its ornamental stand.
“Dr Obadiah helped create the phase-technology inside that weapon,” the young woman utters sheepishly. Her white lab-coat is slightly oversized, her blonde hair bunched tightly against her scalp, her shoes clunky and functional. Quite unremarkable.
“That was some breakthrough,” I comment. “Guys used to tell stories of cutting into the armour of tanks with their blades. The gene-lock on mine played up a lot – wouldn't activate because it didn't recognise me. Just ended up using it like a normal knife.”
The girl doesn't reply.
I turn, casting my eyes over the small laboratory. Coils of wire and components of varying size and shape litter the surfaces, intricate tools scattered amongst the mayhem. The chaos of a genius.
“Will he be here soon?” I ask, breaking the silence.
As if in answer to my question, the door creaks open behind me, a small middle-aged man entering the room. His frizzy grey hair frustrates me – unkempt hair makes my skin crawl.
“The device was stolen at some point in the last twenty-four hours,” the short scientist states with no introduction as he bustles about the lab. “No security footage, no obvious signs of a break-in.”
“Can you elaborate on the function of the device?” I ask, repressing the revulsion and annoyance I instantly feel towards this man, unable to draw my eyes away from the flaky skin on his scalp.
“I'm sorry but I really think – ”
“It is a black cuboid box,” the scientist interrupts, “each side measuring about two feet across, with a black rubberised plate on top and an instrument panel on one side.”
I smile broadly at the man, then turn and head out of the door. I haven't got time for this kind of nonsense.
- x -
She catches up with me as I walk out into the grimy alleyway.
“Please, I'm sorry – he's under so much stress.”
I turn, looking at the young woman's earnest face. She could be quite pretty with a little effort.
“Why do you care so much?” I ask. “What's in it for you?”
“He's my doctorate advisor. I need him to sign off on my training, and if he has a meltdown before I get that signature...”
“I'll make sure you get half of the payment up front,” she pleads. “And I'll get you two thousand extra.”
“That's a lot of data,” I say. And I need it. Three month's rent to pay and there's always bullets, booze and food to buy.
“It won't be a problem.”
The door opens, Dr Obadiah stepping out. He shuffles over, watching me beadily.
“Is he going to do it?” he asks.
“Yes,” answers the girl, looking into my eyes imploringly. I say nothing, resigning to surrender. It's a well-paying job. I really don't have a choice.
“Good,” he replies, turning and heading off down the alleyway.
“Goodbye to you too,” I mutter under my breath.
“Thank you,” says the girl, smiling with relief.
“Don't worry about it,” I reply. “Let's go back in – I'll need to inspect the lab.”
She leads me back towards the stairs. I feel a twinge of unease but shake it off like an unwanted embrace. What could possibly happen that I haven't seen before? Only time will tell, I guess...
Did you enjoy this prologue? Do you think you can solve the mystery? Comment below and stay tuned for more updates on the next Tweet RPG adventure, 'Time to Die'!