SHORT STORIES: Another Night, Another Nick

Short Stories (5)

Lena brought the blade up to the side of her face, blocking the strike from her opponent’s sword. She shifted her feet to keep herself steady before backing away from the man: Sono. One hand held her weapon just in front of her, ready to block should he choose to attack once more. She certainly wouldn’t put it past him, considering that she and her partner had been sent after Sono and his buddy Martel for failure to catch them alive.

“Shotai!” she called. On the other side of the large, well stocked warehouse storage room stood a tall man. He was muscular, with dark tan skin, sporting a myriad of black tattoos that skittered across his arms. His deep auburn hair was shaved at its sides.

He turned to Lena at her call: “What?”

“I’m really ready to be done here, huh?”

Shotai shook with laughter as he nodded, “Of course. Think it’s dragged on long enough.”

Lena pushed back a few stray pieces of black hair that had escaped out of her long braid to behind her ear. “Alright then.”

She quickly lunged out at the man in front of her, landing a few quick cuts to his arm. He backed up, pressing his wounded arm to his chest.

“You fucking–“

Lena moved forward once more, cutting off his speech. She brought her short blade up in front of her again as she made to sweep Sono’s feet out from under him. She managed to catch him in a moment of pain and distraction, sending him dropping to the ground.

Lena smirked as Sono landed with a loud thump. Her expression quickly soured as she felt a sudden stab of pain race through her leg. Sono had managed to drive his blade through her canvas pants and directly into the end of her leg flesh, just narrowly missing the nerve connectors that joined her prosthetic lower leg to what was left of her natural limb.

Sono let out a sharp laugh, looking up to see his handiwork. He was met with a fast and harsh punch to the face. His hand, which had been tightly gripping the hilt of his blade, loosened and hit the floor with the rest of his body.

An unconscious Sono was far more preferable, Lena thought…

“You asshole!” Lena bit out. She lowered herself the rest of the way to the ground, propping her knee up so she could get a better look at it. A curse slipped out as she saw where the blade was. It was embedded at least a good couple of inches into her skin, though through a stroke of luck it had missed the connectors; something she would not want to have to explain to her mechanic.

A lack of  severe damage to the nerve connectors would save her a world of pain. Repairing the connectors that actually made her prosthetic leg work was a complex and time-consuming process involving reconnecting new wires if needed and attaching the connectors to her nerves that remained in her flesh leg.At least her mechanic wouldn’t have too much to hold over her. Only a knife to the knee. That might worry Winter into more of a frenzy, keeping her from lecturing Lena on how she needed to be more careful with her leg.

Lena pushed herself up off of the ground, sliding her own blade back into its holster that was strapped across her back.

Just across from her, Shotai was finishing off his own opponent. He sported a few fresh scratches and a large bruise on the side of his face, but Martell was also freshly knocked out on the ground. Martell wasn’t much shorter than Shotai was, but Shotai had had the upper hand in skill. He made sure to restrain Martell’s hands behind his back, seeing as the two men would be delivered to Avis shortly.

Shotai dragged the unconscious man across the room and let him drop unceremoniously to the floor. Avis certainly wanted the two men back alive, but she’d never said they had to be in perfect condition.

He eyed the blade sticking out of Lena’s leg, blood still dribbling down her exposed skin. A low whistle sounded as he offered her a hand. “Did it nick the connectors at all?”

Lena shook her head, grabbing the offered hand and heaving herself up. “Nah. But it’s still a knife in my leg. I’ll have to leave it in for right now so we can get these two idiots to the meet point.” She shifted where she stood, groaning loudly as she did so.

Shotai placed a hand on her shoulder before she could move anymore. “I’ll get Sono restrained.”

He leaned down next to Sono and pulled out a bundle of durable cord that he had used to restrain Martell. He tightly worked the cord around Sono’s hands, pulling it securely several times to make sure if the other man did wake up (which was unlikely) he would be unable to get away. Once he was back on his feet, he pulled Sono up with a bit of work and slung the man over his shoulder.

Lena bent down and took hold of Martell as best she could. “We can drag him out together,” she said. Shotai used his free hand to grab hold of Martell’s other side and the two made their way out of the warehouse, Martell’s limp body dragging along on the ground in between them.

Lena winced every few steps, trying to keep her leg as stiff as possible as they moved out onto the street.

“Meet point isn’t too far from here, should be ok,” Lena said. Avis had chosen their meet point specifically so she could get her hands on the two men as soon as Lena and Shotai had them subdued.

They made their way to meet point without running into anyone else, walking along relatively quiet streets. Shotai couldn’t help his worried glances at Lena every once in awhile. She shot him a pained grin in response.

“Gotta make payday first. Then we can worry about the little stab to my leg.”

That pulled a hearty laugh from him. “Of course you’re more concerned over the money than yourself.”

Lena hiked Martell up a little bit more, getting a tighter grip on him. “That’s what I’ve got you and Winter for.”

There was no arguing that fact. Shotai often worried over his close friend and partner’s well-being, along with that of Winter, the mechanic in their odd little trio. That wasn’t to say that Lena was careless at all. But considering their work, they did wind up worse for the wear at times.

“No reason to make us worry more,” Shotai said. They rounded the corner of the street and headed down just a bit farther before both let go of Martell, letting the man drop to the ground. He was quickly followed by Sono, who was deposited no less carefully.

“Heavy bugger.”

“Figures,” Lena said. “You never get a real skinny guy to carry.”

She let out a groan as she leaned back against the brick wall just behind them. The meet point was along a quiet back road that was really only used for deliveries to the businesses whose back entrances lined the street. Thankfully, during the day; not at 1 am. And most certainly not deliveries such as Lena and Shotai’s latest catch.

Lena had to hand it to Avis, at least for her choice of meeting point. A good deal of the people that they dealt with went for some really weird places to meet at the end of a job. They had seen their fair share of Vroni’s cityscape, more than they had ever wanted to. Dive bars seemed to be the favorite place of choice, considering they were often crawling with “unscrupulous” individuals, drinks were flying, and noise levels were high. They’d even had a very pleasant meeting occur just south of a main sewage pipe for the city. That particular job – one they hadn’t taken in the end – sounded just as repulsive as the location.

She offered Shotai a wry smile. “The payout from this job will be worth it at least.”

Shotai scoffed softly at her, rolling his eyes. “You know the pay for this is pretty basic. Nothing too special and definitely not worth you taking a knife in the leg.”

“Well, saying that makes me feel better,” Lena said. She knew what the pay was and yeah… it wasn’t a big job. It was a simple “catch these guys who owe me money and I’ll pay you reasonably”. Nothing too big or complex, it was supposed to be an easy job for some extra cash.

And clearly that hadn’t gone to plan.

Shotai shook his head with a laugh at her expense. “I suppose the money will make up for some of your pain at least.”

“I’m sure it will.”

Light filled the back road as a dark car pulled in. Lena glanced towards it, sticking one hand out far enough so the driver would see. She waved a bit, not moving from where she was against the wall. She wasn’t exactly keen on jostling her leg around even more. The car drove down and rolled to a stop just in front of them.

The door to the front passenger seat opened and out stepped Avis. She cut an intimidating enough figure with her height and stark white skin, especially in the dimmed light of the road they were on. She moved around the front of the car, a pleasant smile pulling at her lips.

“I see you two managed to grab my old friends,” Avis said. She nudged at Martell with her foot, pushing him up by the chin to look him over. “And they’re alive at that.”

“That’s what you wanted,” Lena said. Of course they were alive. She and Shotai weren’t known for not delivering on their jobs.

Avis let Martell’s face drop back to the ground as she held up her hand, gesturing for her driver to get out of the car. A burly looking man in dark sunglasses jumped out and immediately set to picking the two unconscious men up. They were quickly packed away into the back of the car, Avis clearly satisfied. The driver moved behind Avis and slid back into the front seat once he was done.

Avis looked to the duo in front of her. “I see you didn’t get off without some trouble,” she said, gesturing to the knife.

“Just a bit,” Lena said, “I’ll get it taken care of once we finish up here.”

“Of course.” Avis pulled out her phone and thumbed across the screen several times. She glanced to Lena’s leg once more before dropping her gaze back to her phone.

Shotai’s brows scrunched up a bit. He couldn’t help but to notice Avis’ extra attention to Lena’s wound.

“I’ve transferred you the units for the job and just a bit extra,” Avis said. “Think of it as reparation for the leg.”

Shotai and Lena shared an unconvinced look. “Just like that?” he asked. Extra pay on a job was uncommon.

Avis nodded. “Just like that. Your names came to me highly recommended by some of your regular clients. I pay for good work and that’s what you gave me.” She slid her phone back into her pocket and gave them a curt nod. “Thank you for the delivery. I’ll be in contact again if anything comes up, yes?”

“Course. We’ll look forward to your call,” Shotai said. All being said, Avis was certainly someone that they’d want to work with again.

She turned on her heels and got back into her car before it pulled away, leaving Shotai and Lena in the dim street lights once more.

“Huh. That was weird,” Lena said. “Not complaining though.”

“Damn straight not complaining.” Shotai pushed off the wall and positioned himself just in front of Lena, his back to her. “Money is money, no matter how wary we might be of it.”

Lena blew out a small huff of air. “Course it is.” She tilted her head in confusion, causing some loose hair to fall in her eyes. “What are you doing?”

Shotai turned his head just enough to meet her questioning gaze over his shoulder. “Going to give you a piggyback ride home.” He stretched his hands out behind him and leaned down just enough that Lena would be able to grab his shoulders.

“No way.”

“Up, kid,” Shotai said. There was little room for argument in his tone. “It’s going to be better for you. And I can hold it over your head forever.”

Lena grumbled under her breath about stupid best friends as she grabbed onto his shoulders, letting her weight be supported by him as he stood up straight again.

“Now how hard was that?” He asked. She could hear the huge grin in his voice, the little shit.

Once again he started walking, leaving the back road behind and making his way towards the more populated and well-lit main streets, only a few minutes away. Their back alley delivery was left behind as they moved further away, nobody but them any the wiser to it.

“Guess it wasn’t that hard.” Lena grumbled in response.

All she got back was a full body laugh, causing her to bounce on his back. She rolled her eyes but loosely wrapped her arms around his neck so she could be a bit more comfortable on the way home.

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