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[April 2010 Vignette] Physicus' Vignette

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The long, winding road out to Lonely Point was always quiet, but in the late evening the sounds of the city were entirely washed away by the pounding of the sea. The place was well named, Zakitaj reflected as he trudged along the coast; it was easy to believe, if he shut out thought and memory, that he was the only man in all the world. It was a peaceful feeling, but only for so long. For the most part he enjoyed, even needed company, despite all the stresses it brought.

”In .01 miles, turn right,” the flat voice of his suit reminded him. He sighed; this would all be much easier if he ever took the time to learn to drive, but in one month in Freedom City he’d found plenty of other things to occupy his time. Besides, the support provided by his suit made walking easy, and he knew the back roads well. Lonely Point he hadn’t visited before, but Google Maps was always helpful, and his suit’s calculations filled in the gaps.

He was out on that lonely road to a place named lonely for the same reason he went most everywhere: someone had called for help, and he was the kind of person who answered with more than just words, no matter who was asking. It had been a test; Murielle Lefevre, dealer of five thousand dollars worth of Zombie Dust, one of the few that had escaped him and left havoc in her wake, had asked to be saved. He’d gotten the dust back, and that was unacceptable to her employers. But she wasn’t ready to die, so she turned to someone she knew was fearless.

The little hollow where she’d asked him to meet her was just off the main road, a square monument to the African-American soldiers of the Great War. The great pillar in the center, adorned with names in brass, was surrounded by brick walls as though it were the wick inside a lantern. He stepped past the walls, then froze; on either side of him sat a metal keg, hidden from outside view by the brick. His suit did not block the unmistakable scent: gasoline. And then Murielle stepped out from behind the monument, an RPG clutched in her hands. ”April Fools,” she said, but there was terror in her voice.

When the missile left the weapon Zakitaj was already in motion, flipping backwards and away from the imminent explosion. But he had walked into the trap, and it would not surrender its hold so easily. A deafening roar sounded in his ears for a millisecond, then was blocked out by his suit’s protective mechanisms. Before he could finish his acrobatics he was in the air, bricks smashing into his suit, an even deadlier flood of hot concrete air behind them. His suit shone like a second sun as it tried to absorb all the energy thrown at it; he spun like a top and thrashed his limbs like a ragdoll. Then he hit the ground.

Murielle stepped into his blurry vision, shaking all over; she’d never killed someone before, but it was the only way she could redeem herself in the eyes of the cartel she had decided not to abandon. He did not stir as she bent to examine him; she tried to pull his helmet off, but the suit’s seamless construction held together even after the pummeling. And then the first searchlight came on, harsh and bright in their eyes. The whine of sirens and the whirr of rotors appeared from the silence, and above them all a voice rang out: ”FCPD! You’re surrounded! Put your hands in the air!”

What qualified as a prank? Zakitaj pondered that for a moment. Did tricking a criminal and surviving what no policeman could have survived fall under the category of “mischievous act”? When guns were involved, things probably went beyond “mischievous” and into the more adult “deceptive”. But he was only an alien; his sense of Earth humor was still developing. This would have to do. He looked up at Murielle, who stood rooted to the spot. ”April Fools,” he whispered.

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