Read Kingdom: The Complete Series Online

Authors: Steven William Hannah

Tags: #Sci-Fi/Superheroes/Crime

Kingdom: The Complete Series (3 page)

BOOK: Kingdom: The Complete Series
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Mark tries to murmur a
plea for his mother's life; all he can manage is a weak whimper before the
pistol barks again and again, shot after shot crashing into his body. He jerks
and spasms as each bullet hits him.

With each shot he sees
the ugly end of his life: just another life, a tax paid for the King's utopia.

Everything comes back
to the King, eventually.

The shots stop and he
lies twisted and broken on the floor, eyes glassed over. He can feel his own
heart pounding in his chest, fighting for life. Beside him, the shooter bends
down and picks up his prone comrade, still clutching his ribs, and helps him
up. Putting an arm under his shoulder, the shooter begins to carry him out,
muttering something under his breath.

Mark lifts his head; it
feels like it's being weighed down with bricks. His janitor's overalls are
covered in tiny black holes, as though a hundred men have extinguished their
cigarettes on him.

But there is no blood.

Bit by bit the numbness
leaves him, and a deep trembling fills his bones with spreading heat. The
janitor grunts and forces his lungs to take in a shuddering breath, then heaves
himself up. He aches as though he has been running for days, his muscles stiff
and heavy; but solid.

He feels strong.

The shooter stops,
halfway out the door with his friend over his shoulder, and turns. His eyes are
cold with doubt as he sees Mark, one hand on the plaster wall to steady

come on...” the man whispers.

The injured man leaning
on him begins to twist away in terror.

not normal mate,” he groans. “Just get us out of here.”

hell with this,” he barks, and produces the pistol again. He quickly drops the
magazine from the gun and produces a second from his coat as the first clatters
on to the floor. He slams it into the pistol and racks the slide back, before
pointing it at the janitor one-handed and unloading another magazine into his

The shots hit Mark like
heavy punches, knocking him sideways, backwards, doubling him over. Crashing,
screaming gunshots fill his ears like cymbal strikes. Strobe-light flashing
blinds him with every shot. He is pushed back steadily until he is braced
against his own broken window, hanging onto the sides with grim determination,
tensed and ready.

Then the room is filled
with the sound of hollow clicking – the sound of an empty pistol. Mark looks
down and sees the same thing: bullet riddled overalls, but no blood. He flexes
his chest outwards and takes a breath, relieving the built-up tension in his
muscles. As the air floods his veins once more, he feels himself relax.

Seeing the fear in his
attacker's eyes is all that he needs. He strides forward across the silent room
and pushes the bloody-grimaced shooter back with such force that he crashes
through the wooden door and tumbles into the next room screaming; the injured
man that he was carrying drops to the ground, mumbling and grasping at his

Mark steps over him and
crosses into the kitchen. Lying on the wooden floorboards in a halo of wooden
splinters is the shooter, hand clamped on his chest and teeth bared in pain.

Mark glares down at the
shooter and bends to pick him up; he shies away as though Mark is on fire.

couldn't you just leave me alone?” snarls Mark.

Hands on his collar, he
lifts him into the air until his feet are off the ground.

the hell -” he manages through strained breaths as Mark looks him in the eyes.

ruined my life,” he says, his voice low and trembling with anger. “The King is
never going to leave me alone now – or my mother. He's never going to let me
live in peace.”

Mark clutches him by
the neck, the skin around his chin bunching up like a slack jumper. The man's
feet are off the ground and he is staring down in horror at the janitor, who
holds him in the air with one hand. Mark's vision begins to blur as a rush of
blood goes to his head, the vodka igniting his temper.

couldn't just leave me alone, could you?”

Sirens blare outside,
announcing their presence; Mark stops squeezing and the wolf's eyes roll back
with relief.

The building is filled
with the sound of organised men shouting orders. He hears the metallic clatter
of firearms being loaded and readied, and the crash of boot-heels on concrete.
His head begins to swim and his focus fades as the alcohol burns in his veins.

Time is running out.
Mark stares into the frightened eyes of the shooter and urges him:

King. Where can I find him?”

tell...” the man mutters, trembling.

Mark leans over him and
repeats himself, gobs of spittle dripping from his snarling mouth.

can I find the King?”

the man manages, and Mark roots through the pockets of his leather jacket. The
footsteps echo from the stairwell and into Mark's flat through the open door.
He hears orders being shouted.

Mark finds a small card
with an address and a set of dates on it. He slides the card inside his
overalls and walks back into the hallway.

He stops.

He finds himself under
the gaze of a heavily armed squad of soldiers wearing dark face-masks.

move,” says the front soldier. Behind him is a hallway filled with assault
rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers in the arms of unflinching men without
faces. The injured man lies on the floor to Mark's right, pretending to be

Through the gaps in
every face-mask, Mark sees very human eyes looking back at him. He sees
uncertainty in them, and takes a deep breath.

have things to do first,” he says, looking through his own empty room at the
broken window. “I'm sorry.”

The front soldier gives
the order:


The air explodes around
him, and Mark raises his arms and throws himself at a sprint into the room as
shots catch him in the back and ribs, knocking the wind from him again,
throwing him into the wall. He hears them flood into the room behind him,
screaming commands as he runs.

Leaping onto the
windowsill like a prowling cat, the cold evening air kisses his face. He looks

Three stories, then the
cold, hard concrete of the alleyway.

Mark hesitates, and the
soldiers make the decision for him.

A volley of shots hit
him in the small of his back. His scream is cut short as he is thrown flailing
out of his window, into the silence below. The janitor, his tattered overalls
streaming behind him like torn flags, plummets to the concrete.





the Clock


stares into the varnished wooden floor, trying to avoid the gaze of the King
across the desk.

Between them, embedded
in a cabinet, is the harsh light of a television screen, playing the news at a
low, mumbling volume. Watching it as the seconds pass, the King points and
sighs like a concerned mother.

"Goodness me, look
at this violence."

Chloe sees the aerial
recording of a bridge over the River Clyde, all twisted metal and broken
concrete, brown murky water churning around the supports as bodies are pulled
out by armed soldiers. With a soft chuckle, the King reaches for a remote and
turns the television off.

The room is cast into

see what happened there? Soldiers had a guy cornered on the bridge. Next thing,
entire bridge collapses. Now what on earth could have caused that.”

Chloe says nothing, her
mind filled with images of Jamie struggling out there in the smeared grey city
with soldiers flooding the streets.

Interrupting their
silent thoughts, a silver phone buzzes and lights up on the desk. Chloe jumps
and suppresses a gasp. The King lifts the sleek mobile phone to his ear whilst
keeping his dark eyes on Chloe.


Chloe hears a garbled
voice filter into his ears like water. His emotionless face cracks into a grim

him up immediately.”

He places the phone on
his desk, making sure it is at right angles to the pens and pencil laid out
like sleeping soldiers. Leaning back in his leather chair, the King steeples
his fingers. The cold light offered by the desk lamp seems to pass through him,
leaving nothing but a silhouette.

"Guess who's
here?" he asks her.

Chloe refuses to let
her fear show. Beneath the desk, her knees are shaking and she has crossed her
feet to stop them tapping on the wooden floor. Her thin jawline is clenched to
stop her teeth from chattering together.

she asks through clenched teeth.

The King gives her a
curt nod and hums to himself.

on his way up.”

she says, trying to avoid being drawn into a conversation.

very early, don't you think?”

good at his job."

he? Is he so good at his job, that he can get four cars to the garage without
my man at the garage seeing him
the cars?” The King leans forward
into the light. "He hasn't gotten me one car let alone four, Chloe.”

The realisation sets in
and Chloe feels her stomach go cold. The King smiles, satisfied by the fear in
her blue eyes.

the plus side,” the King whispers, "I hear they pay quite well for blonde
girls. Maybe we can find you a buyer with more
tastes -"

isn't right," she feels the dam burst and the outrage comes pouring out,
her voice shaking. “He's a good man, he worked himself to the bone for you. All
he wanted was to get away from all of this."

me? On the contrary,” the King cocks his head and smiles, “I believe that he
did this all for you. You should be blaming yourself for your current

There is a muffled
knock at the door before she can reply, and the King holds her gaze. Chloe
fights against the overwhelming urge to turn around and look; she locks eyes
with the King and holds his stare as footsteps fill the room behind her,
feeling the ice in his eyes seeping into her chest like pneumonia. 

King,” a coarse voice announces itself. "This is your man."

the hood off.”

The King motions behind
Chloe, and there is the sound of fabric tearing, followed by a deep gasp.

The name slips out of Jamie's bloodied mouth like a secret.

She hears her name and
can no longer help it. Twisting in her chair, she turns to see him -

On his knees.

With a gun to his head.

Her smile fades to
fear. “Jamie?”

Behind him stand a
firing squad of men with shining black pistols and sub-machine-guns. They have
all clasped their hands around their guns, giving them the air of respectful

Jamie, his jacket gone
and his white shirt stained with flecks of blood, smiles at her as a single
droplet of claret fluids runs from his right nostril and stains the top of his

made it,” the King says, scraping his chair back with a cutting whine and
standing at his full height. He walks past Chloe, letting a dry, cold hand
brush over her neck, making her shudder away.  “Vince at the front door said
that you needed to see me. He said you had a 'game-changer' for me.”

Jamie nods, saying
nothing else. His hands have been tied behind his back with something and his
head lolls with his shoulders – he seems out of breath, his hair wet and his
face shiny with perspiration as if he had ran a marathon. He just nods.

man at the garage hasn't given us the all clear yet,” the King says, standing
over Jamie and looking down upon him. “You haven't gotten me my cars, have

The King rests a large,
ringed hand on Jamie's slick hair and looks at him with something resembling

got you something better,” Jamie assures him.

One of the men sneers
and mutters: “A nosebleed?”

He barks a sickly laugh
until the King shoots him a look that silences the room, one hand still on
Jamie's head. He looks down at Jamie again.

did you get me, Jamie?”

me loose and I'll show you,” Jamie urges him.

The King seems to weigh
this up and then, hanging his head down and shaking it, takes his hand from
Jamie's skull.

"Cut you
loose," he says to himself, rolling the words over like a cigar between
his lips. He motions to one of his men out of sight and is handed a small,
heavy knife so sharp that it seems to hum as it moves through the air, cutting
the silence apart.

He weighs it in his
hands, and then paces behind Jamie with heavy, echoing footsteps.

"Ok. I'll cut you
loose, Jamie," he says, his voice coarse with regret.

Jamie sees Chloe, tense
and trembling on the edge of her seat. He sees a questioning look in her eyes,
and gives her a brave nod as her eyes drift to the King standing behind him.

Jamie feels the King's
fingers slide under his jaw and tilt his head back.

am actually very sorry about this,” laughs the King.

The knife catches the light
in the corner of Jamie's eye, and he hears a scream leave Chloe's mouth. She is
leaping out of her seat towards him, despair painted across her face.

Then she is frozen.

Sound fades to silence
as though Jamie had paused a video of this very moment, and he feels his
heartbeat quicken. The King is suddenly a statue, and Jamie squirms out of his
hold and stands up on aching knees. He turns and wraps his bound hands against
the King's frozen knife, cutting himself free with a thief's finesse.

His heart pounds in his
ears as he feels time begin to accelerate again, the sounds growing like a
pressure in his skull. It feels as though he is trying to grab onto a single
moment and hold himself there against an ever quickening river current.  His
nose runs red with fresh blood and he wipes it away as he moves forward and
grabs Chloe around her waist. Jamie forces himself to slow down, to take a deep
breath and calm himself: as he does, time slows again.

second has passed.

Chloe feels light to
him in his new, timeless world, as though she is made of paper. He lifts her
and turns to make for the door. In the second that has passed, the King has
noticed his absence – his eyebrows are arched in surprise as the knife passes
through thin air.

The flow of time rages
against Jamie as he moves towards the door. It feels like he is swimming
upstream, exhausting himself the harder he goes against the current. With every
breath, fresh blood splutters from his nostrils – he can taste it in the back
of his throat. Chloe is draped over his shoulder in a fireman's lift, getting
heavier by the second.

He needs more time.

As he passes the
executioner's squad at the door, he grabs a pistol from someone's hand and
turns. Time is building up in his skull like water at a dam, aching to burst.
He turns around and points the pistol at the King – at his head.

Then at his heart.

The trigger is heavier
than he can pull.

Jamie points the gun
downwards and pulls the trigger.

Flying in silence like
an arrow, the bullet blows the King's knee to splinters. Time begins to seep
through the cracks in Jamie's concentration, and a silent scream escapes the
King's mouth, getting louder with every passing moment like an approaching

Jamie throws himself
and Chloe through the door and slams it shut.

The crash of the wood
brings the flow of time with it.

He hears screaming and
shouting muffled by the door. Chloe's ear splitting cry continues as he puts
her down. Her wet, red eyes take in their surroundings and her mind goes blank
as the scream trails off. Her jaw is slack.

-” she begins.

ask." He takes her hand and pulls her down the corridor. "Just

They flee down a narrow
corridor that smells like medicine, lit with cold white lights and old, chipped
plaster. Clamouring voices surround them as though they are caged in by riots.
The crashing of doors being thrown open echoes down the corridor. Jamie drags
Chloe down an open stairwell into the gloom of the lower floors.

They barrel around and
around, down into the damp darkness where the lights don't quite work.

took me up nine flights of stairs,” says Jamie. “Keep count.”

With his mouth slack
and hanging open to breathe, Jamie can taste the blood from his nostrils
dripping into his mouth with every step – he wants to throw up, coughing up
bile as he breathes.

Orders ring out above
them, and the battle-cries of an eager hunting party follow them down the
stairwell. A burst of sub-machine-gun fire erupts like lightning from above,
and the couple flinch away from the banister as it explodes, coughing splinters
at them.

heading downstairs," comes a voice.

the exit down," yells another. "Use the shutters."

you hurt?” Jamie tries to turn and ask Chloe, but she's pushing him to keep
going; she nurses a bloodied arm marked with splinter-cuts.

stop running,” she pushes him forward.

They can hear the
staccato crash of boots on the stairwell above them now, countless footsteps
pursuing them into the depths. Jamie feels the fear like a hot iron band around
his heart – he's sweating, breathless, his nose is gushing claret blood that's
stained the front of his shirt like a red tie.

Heavy clangs begin to
rhythmically punctuate the sounds of the chase.

that noise?” she wheezes as they run.

don't know.”

The floor count in his
head finally reaches nine and he leads Chloe away from the stairs, down a
hallway that he remembers the distinct smell of: tobacco and gunpowder –
probably where the King's guards live.

There are no windows
down this hallway – the only light is artificial.

much further...” he begins, but he trails off.

The sound of their
footsteps fades to nothing as they come to a breathless stop.

The hallway should end
in a wooden doorway to the lower levels. Instead, there is a single, featureless
slab of steel blocking their path. Jamie runs a hand over it, fighting to get
his breath back. His hand leaves a bloody smear across it.

Chloe hits the metal
with a clenched fist.

trapped,” she whispers.

Jamie turns and points
the pistol back down the hallway, towards the stairs. He waits for movement,
trying to urge time to a halt again – but nothing comes. Each second arrives
regardless of his efforts.

Chloe asks him. He can hear the fear in her voice. "What do we

get us out of here, don't worry."

BOOK: Kingdom: The Complete Series
7.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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