Double Tap is an illustrated short story set in a fictional world of magic and suspense. It serves as a bit of a prototype for a possible future, larger project, and I'm getting it out there for the following reasons:
- To see if anyone is actually interested in the things I write.
- To get as much feedback as possible, no matter how good or bad.
- To give people an idea of the kind of thing I want to do.
All feedback and questions can be directed in the comment's below, or my tumblr or deviantart. All characters and world concepts are copyright Jack Harvey (I.E me). Most of all I hope you enjoy it.
A Percy Evangelyne Story
By Jack Harvey
A Percy Evangelyne Story
By Jack Harvey
Percy Evangelyne picked at his teeth in a vain attempt to dislodge a rogue piece of tobacco. It had been a while since he had been placed in the field. Oh, he had served his time in the past for sure. Proved his worth under pressure, but he still worried that prolonged office work had left him rusty.
Percy shouldn't really have been here. He was officially attached to the codebreakers now, but the service was light on agents at the moment, and they needed one at short notice to deal with their little problem. Percy didn't really mind, he'd been hankering for some proper field work for ages. He would have just liked a bit of an advance for a job like this, that's all.
He looked at his pocket watch, cool gold against his green skin, and he scratched the carefully groomed branches that grew out of his scalp. Percy was an earth born human, that is to say his features take on the qualities of that particular element. His colleague, Aric Silver, who was now testing his patience, was a water born elf, and this was reflected in his blue skin. Percy questioned the wisdom of pairing up two elementally touched agents, but Woodrow Henderson, head of the service, insisted they didn't have time to be pedantic. He was stubborn, as all dwarfs were.
Out of the smog of Hightower's streets he finally saw Aric approach. He was a handsome, tall elf. Always wore a shirt unbuttoned once at the top, complemented by a pinstriped waistcoat. He'd been in the service longer than Percy had, but then again, elves did live much longer lives. Despite him finding some of Aric's more unsavory characteristics distasteful, the two were as good as friends. It had been a long time since they'd worked together.
“Well?” Percy asked, propping another cigarette between his lips.
Kaizen businessman. We're not sure if he's been in contact with anyone in the service, but we do know he has been gathering intel for at least six months.”
“Takasugi Taro.” Aric said, his cool smooth voice a contrast to the edge Percy felt he was walking. “He'd assumed the identity of a
“Takasugi Taro.” Aric said, his cool smooth voice a contrast to the edge Percy felt he was walking. “He'd assumed the identity of a
“The Kaizen Empire? Fuck. The way Woodrow was talking I thought we were dealing with the Fudelists.”
Aric winced at the profanity. “The Feudelist Bloc may be Avalon's most immediate threat, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the Kaizens seriously, especially if the two decide to pally up.”
“So that's it then?” Percy said with a grim finality. “Wetwork. No detention or interrogation, just pop pop pop. The old double tap?”
“Double tap,” Percy repeated as he pulled out his pistol to check it was loaded and in working order. “Once in the body, once in the back of the head. Don't you remember your training?”
“I remember my training,” Aric scoffed, as he pulled out his own antiquated broom handled pistol and checked it. “They just never called it that in my day. Why you youngsters always have to come up with fancy new names for things I'll never know.”
They had begun to traverse the alley now, out onto the gaslit road. Percy smiled, Aric didn't look a day older than he did, but the elf had lived through The War of 3000 Mages, The Industrial Revolution, and a multitude of civil wars on the mainland. Percy was a baby to him.
“No need to question my ability Percy. It's you I'm worried about. Have you ever had to pull the trigger?”
“Fortunately not, and personally, I'd like to keep it that way. That's why Woodrow wants you doing it. Should be second nature, you used to go around beheading cyclopes single handedly when you were in the Rangers back in the day right?”
“Back in the day,” Aric grinned, “Not as commonly as you'd think.”
“And anyway, I suppose with this Takasugi Taro being Kaizan makes it all a little personal doesn't it? After what the empire did to your people during the purges?”
“Not my people,” Aric noted. He was referring, of course, to the still debated question that there was any common ancestry between Aric's elven people and the elves of the Kaizan islands.
They waited for the last of the traffic to finish before they crossed the road. Up ahead was the office that Takasugi Taro worked at, supposedly doing overtime. He was always the last to leave the building. It would be then that the grizzly business would take place.
“I hate this,” Percy said, watching Taro's silhouette flitter between the yellow light of the building's windows.
“Our's is not to question why Percy,” Aric said with confidence, and he heard the click as Aric thumbed back the hammer of his pistol.
Percy nodded and gulped. He knew that if Taro didn't die tonight then he would be absconding by air tomorrow with untold secrets. The realms were already on the brink of war again, the last thing he wanted was Avalon at a disadvantage. Yet he knew to grow accustomed to this business would signal the end of his empathy. He would become like Aric.
The lights of the office extinguished. Percy counted the seconds. On cue, they watched the back door, leading off into an alleyway. Illuminated in the distance was the great statue of Urac, God of Order, looking down in judgment.
“Right then,” said Percy, thumbing back the hammer of his own pistol. “Lets do this.”
Another alley, another block of flats. It wouldn't be long until Taro noticed them following. It would have to be now.
“Just have to hope he doesn't have any spells up his sleeve,” whispered Percy.
“There was nothing in his file,” muttered Aric, who turned to make sure they weren't being followed.
“Be seeing you in thirty.” He nodded, then disappeared across the street.
It was now down to Percy to tail Taro, to keep an eye out for unexpected moves whilst Aric flanked him. It was standard wetwork procedure, to keep the target distracted so that he doesn't see his real killer coming.
Percy's mind was awash with doubts. Who was Taro? A kind man, a gentle man? Was he a killer himself? Did he have family? Children? Percy thought of his own two mothers, deceased now, and his mind quickly leaped to thoughts of his own mortality. Could Taro have a concealed weapon? An enchanted artifact? Maybe he did indeed know a spell or two, Percy did.
Too late for doubts now. His brisk steps brought him closer, his breath in the cold air blowing back into his face. He could see Taro's short hair now. His stocky frame. He had to know, surely, that his time had come.
Hand on pistol, heart in mouth, Percy stared intensely at his target. The path where Aric and he would both intersect was mere inches away. Would Taro turn in confrontation? Try to run? Seconds now. Taro's head turned just slightly, Percy could only see his small broad nose, his eyes were in shadow.
Aric strolled into view, hand behind his back. Taro turned. Aric lunged, pistol raised, and Percy prepared for the crack of the gunshot.
Like lightning another figure came into view. A blur. They kicked Aric in the arm, which threw him into the alley's brick wall. Percy didn't have time to think. It was a trap. Taro turned, his own gun raised, and Percy whipped out his and they both fired blindly.
Percy felt the round bore through his thigh. Unlucky, it had hit the artery just south of the groin. A fatal wound. What was going on around him was just noise now. He was losing too much blood. Unlucky, so damned unlucky.
He pressed his hand to the wound, but that did little to stem the bleeding. His feet caved and the slippery wet ground greeted him about as well as one would expect. He fought to remain conscious. If he didn't get medical attention soon he'd be a gonner. Little hope on a covert operation, but Percy would never have lasted this long without his own tricks.
Early in his career he had been doing field work in the Wendinga forest, the largest conclave of the Spirit Lands, and seat of the high council of druids. As an earth born he had a natural talent for earth magic, but he was no druid. During his time there he had met Gendenwitha, an old druid master, wise of the art. Though she was not so old that she could not teach the young and impressionable Percy a thing or two. “Both in the bedroom and in the field,” Aric used to joke, missing the irony that he was centuries older than she.
It was the latter that was important to him now. Above all else the peoples of the Spirit Lands were healers. Healers of the land, healers of the self. Though Percy had always been far from grasping their ways, Gendenwitha had taught him a ritual that had kept him alive many a time, though the situation had never been as dire as this.
“To be one with the land is to be one with one's self,” Gendenwitha had said. “To control the self, one must become one with the land.”
To the Spirit Landers, this had meant hearing the wind between the trees, or seeing through the eyes of the hawk. Yet Percy had come from a life of brick and iron. No hawks or wolves would be of help to him here. Though the Druid's often took inspiration from nature there were more dimensions to them than that. It was becoming one with everything that gave earth magic it's true power.
Through blurred eyes Percy saw Aric in peril. This assailant was clearer now. She was female, a Kaizan like Taro. She wore a tight woman's blouse, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and pinstriped trousers. Practical shoes. Her hair was tied up in the style of her people. She fought like a brawler, no finesse here. The flurry of uncalculated blows against Aric were taking their toll, but, for the slender elf that he was, he was holding his own. No doubt his stubborn refusal to ever acknowledge a woman could fight like a man was proving a hindrance here though. Aric was a principled man after all.
His mind awake, Percy knew he had to act now. “To be one with the land is to be one with one's self. To control the self, one must become one with the land.” He drew a breath, blocked out the pain. He would have to become one with his land if he hoped to draw upon that natural earth magic. He needed a focus, something to ground himself to.
He thought of his adopted mothers. The lady and her bodyguard. The had taken him in, despite their age, despite their relationship, and to hell with what anyone else had thought. He thought of the freshly cooked biscuits of his youth. He felt the smooth pages of new books they always brought him every birthday. He remembered the warmth of their hugs on the day of his graduation.
He felt the pain of their passing far to early in his life, but for the age they were surely a happy ending. He remembered the love they had given him when his true father cared so little. When he left him at the orphanage not even old enough to say a word.
Percy felt joy, happiness, pain, regret, grief, relief and comfort. All the sins and virtues of his world. He was one with it. He was one with the land, just asGendenwitha had taught him.
The rest was easy. Slow blood, mend flesh, renew life. Through the muffled sound of trading blows Percy felt the bleeding stop, his heart calmed and readied itself. The flesh around the wound knit itself together, the artery rejoined. Fragments of bullet ejected themselves. Then that was that, he was alive. Earth magic, the most complex, but mundane of magics.
Taking a few moments to center himself, Percy had noticed that Aric and the woman had stopped fighting. She struggled, but Aric had restrained her against the wall, his pistol to her head. The two were both bloodied, and she looked like she was just moments from breaking out of Aric's grip and giving him another beating.
Percy shook his head, looked at Taro's bullet ridden corpse. The old double tap? Yeah right. Yet still the worst was to come.
“Thought you were a gonner there Percy.” Aric said, trying to hold the girl still.
“Old earth magic trick,” he said dismissively. “Well what are you waiting for?”
“What?” asked Aric, shocked. “She's just a girl Percy, we can't just kill her.
“She's a girl thats just kicked your arse Aric.”
She shouted something in Kaizan at Aric, who in turn said something back, also in Kaizan.
“I didn't know you could speak Kaizan?” said Percy, unconsciously trying to put off the grisly deed.
“You can't? I thought you were supposed to be a codebreaker?”
“I know the language to read, not to speak,” he limped forward. “Probably the opposite in your case. Look, she's a Kaizan agent. I don't like it either Aric but if Taro goes, so does she.”
The two babbled something to each other again. It sounded as though Aric was trying to encourage her to trust them. Idiot was probably trying to negotiate, Percy thought.
Then something caught his eye. A red line running down the girl's arm.
“Aric wait. Turn her over, let me see her left arm.”
Aric shoved her around. She seemed to have calmed a little now, struggled less. Aric still kept his gun trained to her forehead though. Percy looked at the elaborate tattoo that ran down her athletic and well toned arm. A dragon, surrounded by roses and thorns.
“Oh fuck, she's a Dracomon.”
The Dracomon were a Kaizan criminal organization that had long ago originated as dragon slayers. Where most of Kaizan society had been associated with finesse and subterfuge, the Dracomon instead excelled in the art of brute force, both on the battlefield and off. It was rumored that they still illegally hunted the now protected dragons, not for honour or gold, but for their blood that had now become common as a powerful narcotic.
Aric and the girl traded more words. For a moment Percy thought it was going to kick off again. Instead, both of them calmed down and Aric lowered his pistol.
“It's all been a terrible misunderstanding,” Aric said with a little too much joy. “It seems that we've been working at cross purposes. She was also here to kill Taro. She thought we were here to protect him.”
Percy hardly felt the relief that Aric did. Sure she wasn't a Kaizan agent, but she was part of a violent criminal organization. How did that make things better?
“Listen,” said Aric diplomatically. “I'll take her back to the station house, see what she knows about Taro. You stick to the plan and dispose of the body.
“Take her back? Aric she's a Dracomon. See those flames on her arm, they earn those for every enemy they kill.” Percy looked at the girl through squinted eyes, trying to determine if she could understand what they were saying. He braced himself. “Who knows what she's learned from Taro? A criminal is just as dangerous as an enemy agent.”
“What are you trying to say?” Aric's voice was part disgust and suspicion.
“You know what I'm trying to say.” Percy spoke the words slowly to bestow meaning. Kill her, he thought. He wanted to mentally project that to Aric. She was part of a group that thought pulling someone's eyes out was a good way to mark territory. He couldn't possibly understand why Aric thought letting her away would be a good idea.
“No,” Aric said. “I don't believe I do.” He motioned to the girl and they began to walk away. “Stick to the plan and dispose of the body. Meet us at the station house when we're done.”
Percy realised that he could do it now. With their backs turned. Pop pop pop. The old double tap. Aric could do little but complain once the deed was done. However, Percy remained frozen in place, he realised there had already been one too many deaths tonight.
Takasugi Taro was now on his way to a government listed landfill where the workers didn't ask too many questions. Percy stopped off at a public toilet to clean up the blood on his trousers in order to likewise avoid any awkward questions. Within minutes he was at the station house, an inconspicuous building listed as a solicitors.
He greeted the tired agent who was posted at the door. He was a man Percy didn't recognise, but then again he had been in the codebreakers for a while now. He asked if Aric had arrived with the girl, and the agent indicated the affirmative.
Percy met Aric upstairs.
“Well?” he asked him.
“Her name is Ando Yoshiko. She says that her organization had been tracking Taro for quite some time. He'd been responsible for the deaths of several Dracomon superiors, and that he was to pay with his life for this slight.”
“She sounds like a lovely girl.”
“Don't be obtuse. Now that Taro's dead she herself can't exact the appropriate retribution. She says that to return to the Dracomon would be to return dishonored. She's genuinely considering jumping ship.”
“And you believe her?” Percy stated, amazed at Aric's perceived gullibility. “The Dracomon don't fuck around. If she'd been truly dishonored she would have already killed herself.” Percy looked around. “Where is she anyway?”
“She's just powdering her nose.” Aric nodded towards the toilet. “I understand your reservations Percy but just think about what this could mean for the service.”
“That's what this is all about is it Aric? Loyalty to the service?” Percy pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. “More like loyalty to your bedpost. I thought you were supposed to be celibate?”
“I am!” gasped Aric, shocked at such an accusation. “Not by choice, but I am.” He began to undo the second button on his shirt. He was getting a little warm now after coming in from the cold. “That doesn't necessarily mean that a drink is off the cards.”
“I knew it.” Percy almost laughed but was too frustrated for that now. “I knew it wouldn't take two minutes for you to turn on that Aric Silver charm.” Percy checked his gun.
“Percy, she's only a woman, she's harmless.”
“Aric, she's a cold blooded killer! And even if she wasn't, I've seen the wonderful, terrible things women are capable of. She had you dead to rights, why can't you accept that?”
“She caught me off guard.”
“She was stronger than you.”
Aric folded his arms. Percy shook his head and sighed.
“I respect that woman too much to know we can't let her get away alive.”
Aric gave a brief laugh. “Not your call to make. I already sent the message to central, I'm awaiting their response now.”
Percy and Aric looked gravely at each other. Their friendship was beginning to be pushed to it's limits.
“Aric, trust me.”
“Give me one reason to.”
Percy didn't need to answer. Within a second the building shook, and they heard what sounded like a jackhammer coming from the vicinity of the toilet.
The two agents ran to the door. Aric got there first, tried the handle. When it didn't work he give the door a couple of kicks, the third one bringing it down.
There was a craterous hole in the toilet wall, big enough to fit a person through, and no sign of Yoshiko. Painted on the wall in blood was a message in Kaizan. Aric ran to the breach, looking out for any sign of the girl. Percy was more taken by the message.
“No sign,” Aric said. “What does it say?”
“I thought you knew Kaizan?”
“I never learned how to read it. You're the codebreaker, you figure it out.”
Percy recognised the symbols from the Kaizan's unorthodox alphabet. “Well, first symbol denotes an apology, sympathies. Second is dismissive. Personal dislike. Third symbol is masculine, that of the male gender.”
Aric didn't seem to understand. He shook his head at Percy to indicate his confusion.
“Sorry, I'm not into guys.”
Aric's face turned into a moody frown, which quickly gave way to anger. He pulled out his pistol from it's holster and ran for the door. “Come on, she can't have gone far.”
Percy wanted to laugh, “Oh, so now that a dates no longer on the cards Mr Silver doesn't care for her life any more, is that how it is?”
Aric, humiliated that he'd been taken for a ride, still understood how petty he was now being. He put his gun on the table, and the two men wandered over to the window.
“What do we do now?”
“Hope she was telling the truth? Hope that she was only here to take care of Taro?” Percy slapped Aric on the shoulder. “Not a lot we can do now really, she's long gone.”
“We're going to look like a pair of fools for this aren't we? I'm going to look like a fool.”
“We'll leave it off the report,” Percy smiled. “Tell the agent downstairs that a gas valve blew and took out the wall.” All in all, he was relived that a difficult decision had been taken away from him.
Aric didn't like the idea of lying to the service, but the two would be on thin ice as it was. “You think they'll buy it?”
“Who knows, who cares? Right now I need a stiff drink and a few good reasons to remind myself why I don't hate you.”
Aric smiled. “First rounds on me then?”
Percy slapped him on the shoulder again and they grabbed their coats. Percy hit the lights, and in the darkness, wondered which of the two men was worse. The one who let a trained killer get away because he wasn't able to see past her gender, or the one who was willing to put a bullet through a young woman's head because he was?
Copyright Jack Harvey 2014
Copyright Jack Harvey 2014