His assailant was just firing blind, and Jack flattened against the wall and squeezed off a couple return shots while Roy tumbled back into the entryway below. Jack’s head snapped around in alarm after the subject disappeared again.
“I just tripped! I’m fine!” Roy yelled back from the floor at the bottom of the stairs. “Get after the bastard!”
He heard and again felt the subject heading down the hallway. Advancing up the stairs and working around the corner, he found a long line of closed doors, no cover, and yet another corner at the end of the hall. He tried the light switch, but the hall remained dark.
The back of his brain calculated and determined it a lousy gamble. He took it anyway, then dive-rolled as the subject came back around the far end and let fly with more wild shots. The only lighting was a reflection through a window from a street light, so the muzzle flash blinded him for a moment. He froze where he lay and waited, Beretta pointed down the hall, ready to react to the next sound or sight.
The next sound came, but it was again footsteps fading into the distance, warning of yet another long hall to traverse on the other side of that corner. He picked himself up, headed down the corridor, discovering it considerably darker than he expected. He stopped, his back to the wall, ready to round the corner, and listened. Nothing. He came around and saw…
A shadowed figure with a gun in one hand and something else in the other. Reflexes took over. He fired three times, while his memory recited the practice range litany.
One in the heart,
And two in the head,
The figure, a large man in strange armor, stood unmoved in front of him holding a military dagger in a guarding pose. He was averting his own weapon upward rather than returning fire. A transparent water-like surface glowed brightly, radiating outward from the dagger perpendicular to the floor, acting as a shield. Jack’s three rounds stood mid-air, stuck in that surface.
They’re really dead, his mind insisted on finishing the rhyme with lame tenacity.
The bullets clattered to the stone floor at the apparition’s feet.
Facts began registering, somewhere in the back of his mind. The floor a moment ago had been carpeted, but the bullets and his ejected brass had both struck stone. The walls had also somehow turned to antique stonework. The subject had been Caucasian, and dressed normally, but the man in front of him was jet black and wore armor, helmet and gauntlets unlike anything he ever saw. He was also significantly larger and older than the criminal Jack had just been pursuing.
Jack continued to train the Beretta on the stranger, who kept his dagger held out before him, but multiple thoughts were yammering for attention inside his skull.
One gibbered, It’s not the perp it’s not the perp it’s not the perp it’s not the perp…
My bullets didn’t hit him! a second protested. That’s impossible!
You just fired on a spook, and now, you are going to die, calmly explained a third.
Jack finally found his voice. “A… goddamn spook!”
The armored figure shook his head… and then, spoke with what sounded surreally like a Scottish brogue. “What would an Earther guardsman be doin’ here?”
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