Read Kingdom: The Complete Series Online

Authors: Steven William Hannah

Tags: #Sci-Fi/Superheroes/Crime

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BOOK: Kingdom: The Complete Series
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Mark feels a tickling
sensation in his nostril and tries not to screw his face up – he tastes
metallic blood on his lips and fights the rising bile in his stomach.


His
vitals are off the chart, doc.”


Then
pour it in, we're going to lose him either way,” he can hear the female doctor
tearing a packet open, flustered.


Wait,
stop. I think he's awake -” the soldier begins.

Mark doesn't hear the
rest – his throat is suddenly burning with the pure alcohol being poured down
it. He should be choking and spluttering, but his body welcomes the warming
fire. Before he can control himself he is quenching that incredible thirst,
gulping it down. Where it should be extinguishing the heat in his belly, it
seems only to stoke the flames until his entire body is tingling.

He has felt this
strength before: just after the fire hit him.

He feels strong.
Powerful.

Mark opens his eyes and
sees the soldier running downhill towards the cargo-helicopter's cockpit. His
entire body is shackled beneath heavy metal bands and two white-coated doctors
are kneeling over him, frozen in the moment.


Get
us close to the ground,” the soldier's shout is so desperate that they hear it
over the rotors.

Mark grunts and lifts
his arms, tearing the steel bands as though they were paper. The doctors reel
back and scramble to their feet as he grasps the metal around his neck and rips
it out of the floor. They run for the aid of the soldier as Mark's legs shatter
their bonds and kick away the last shackles around his ankles until he is
rolling free on the floor.

Getting to his feet,
Mark wipes the dried blood from his nose. His desperate thirst directs his eyes
to the pile of clear fluid pouches beside his make-shift prison bed, and he
lifts one of them above his open mouth and bursts it with his hands like a ripe
fruit. Surgical alcohol pours down his throat and he drinks it like water as
the strong scent of spirits burns his nostrils.

Every drop makes him
feel stronger, faster. He opens his eyes and finds his vision wavering as
though he were caught in a heat wave, objects blurring in and out of focus as
he extends a hand to keep himself steady.


Don't
move,” the soldier is pointing a grenade launcher at him from the far end of
the helicopter's loading bay.

Mark frowns at his
captor, standing with the two doctors cowering behind him. In the pit of his
stomach he can feel the helicopter losing altitude.


What's
wrong with me?” asks Mark. When they don't give him an answer he shouts it
louder. “What's
wrong
with me?”


You're
dying. Your body is trying to digest itself and metabolise alcohol,” the female
doctor peers over the soldiers weapon. “You need to keep ingesting alcoholic
fluid until we can find a permanent way of fixing it.”

As she speaks, Mark
feels the alcohol swimming in his brain. His fingers feel fuzzy, his eyesight
begins to kaleidoscope with colours and shapes. He cannot distinguish between
the helicopter moving and his own drunken stumbling.


If
you let us take you in,” says the soldier, “we can help you. You'll die,
otherwise. We're not the bad guys.”


I'm
not the one pointing a grenade launcher,” he slurs, smiling at his own joke.

The soldier doesn't
move to begin with, but after a moment of thought he lets the weapon drop until
it is pointing at the floor.


Ok,”
he says. “We had to assume that you were dangerous – we found you in a room
full of injured men who had shot at you without effect – you took out an elite
strike team with your fists. You've scared a lot of people.”

Mark, swaying back and
forward, is not listening: he is looking out one of the numerous windows in the
cargo bay. Outside he can still see the landmarks of his own city: the Hydro,
the crane down at Finnieston, the tower at the Science Centre.

He's still within reach
of the King.


I
can't let you take me in just yet,” he says, his eyes distracted by the scene
outside the windows. Suddenly, the grenade launcher is back up.


You're
dying, you need our help.”


Dying,”
he points out. “Not dead. I have something to take care of first.”


The
King?” asks the soldier.

Mark nods, still
staring out the window.


Yes.
Where are we right now?”


Doesn't
matter,” the soldier says, shrugging. “Talk to me. Why do you need to reach the
King? Who is he?”


As
if you don't know,” says Mark, and steps back as if bracing himself for a
sprinting race.


I
don't,” the soldier repeats. “Tell me and I might be able to help you.”


Follow
me,” Mark smiles, “and you'll find out. Hold onto something, by the way.”

The soldier wastes no
time with disbelief: he drops his weapon and grabs a red safety harness from
the back of the cargo bay. He fastens it around his waist, and as Mark begins
to run the soldier puts an arm around each of the doctors.

Mark hits the side of
the helicopter at a sprint, his elbows up to protect his face, and his stomach
flips as he tears through the tough metal and finds himself flailing through
frozen thin air, clouds the colour of dish-water spinning above him.

Screaming, Mark flips
through the air like a broken bird as the city rushes up to meet him.

 

 

The helicopter's
interior is buffeted by a howling wind from the torn wound in the vessel's
side.

Trespasser One shouts
into his earpiece as he fastens safety belts around both of the doctors.


Command,
we have lost Target Four. I'm preparing to pursue.”


I
told you not to inquire about the King, Trespasser One,”
the
voice of Command barks in his ear and he flinches.
“You have disobeyed a
direct order.”


You
think he'll survive that?” the female doctor shouts over the engine's roar.


I've
seen him survive worse,” says the Trespasser, ignoring Command's shouting.


If
you catch up with him,” says the doctor, “then make sure that he drinks
something with alcohol in it, he's living on borrowed time.”

The soldier finally
unfastens himself and begins to struggle uphill towards Mark's make-shift
escape hatch. As he does, the voice in his ear begins to speak over the rush of
air.


Trespasser
One, break pursuit and stay on that helicopter, we're bringing you back to
base.”


Negative,
Command,” the soldier shouts as he clamps one hand around the jagged edge of
the hole, pulling himself towards it. “I will not break pursuit, this man is a
primary objective. I can still convince him to come in alive and willing -”


Negative.
Trespasser One, your orders are cancelled: Target Four is to be eliminated, a
task assigned to Fourth Squad. You are to return to base. Take these orders
under pain of termination yourself.”


Eliminated?
He was a primary objective, now you want to kill him? Just because he's going
after a criminal who has him by the balls? Is that what it is? When I became a
Trespasser, taking out guys like this King character was
exactly
our
kind of mission. We used to take down warlords; now you're protecting one?”


I'm
not hearing a 'roger', Trespasser.”


And
you're not going to,” he shouts, looking out of the torn hole in the metalwork
at the city speeding past below him. Gritting his teeth, he tears the
communications unit out of his black armoured helmet and wrenches himself out
of the helicopter.

The wind tosses him
around like a paper bag until he narrows his body and speeds towards the ground
like a missile. With the wind pulling at his armour and his mask's visor
misting with the altitude, he reaches back over his shoulders and pulls a set
of twin cords.

A canopy of tough black
fabric explodes from the back of his armour, and he tenses his arms at a right
angle and pulls his knees up. The parachute cords in his hand buck with the
wind, pulling him away from his target; then he gets a grip on it, and his
cheeks puff with the effort of keeping the rectangular canopy taut.

The city drifts up to
meet him as the cold air bites at him through his armour. Trespasser One's
predatory eyes scan the cityscape below, an endless miasma of silver roads and
grimy tower blocks, sparkling glass and the blurry mess of the river running
through it. He picks out the single dust-cloud coming from a fresh crater and
grunts as he pulls the cords that way, gliding over the rain-smeared twilight
city towards his target.

 

 

Episode
5

 

The
Throne Room

"Jamie,
stop.”

Chloe's pale hand grips
his wrist, adding her own trembling to the shaking pistol in his hand. Down the
barrel and along the hallway sits the King on his staircase-throne, flanked by
his suited guards. The King rests his chin on his fist whilst blood leaks
through the torn knee of his trousers and onto the floor.

The King gestures to
her, his voice flat with boredom.


I'm
with her on this one.”

Jamie spits through his
teeth and prods the pistol forward with each word.


Stop
speaking,” he turns to Chloe, his jaw clenched, “I said I'd get us out of this.
I can.”


Your
brain,” she whispers, “you'll die.”


We
don't know that for sure.”


We
saw it on the news – he's not lying this time.”


I
don't see any other option.”

Jamie narrows his eyes
down the sight, his vision tunnelling around the figure of the King. Chloe's hand
is trying to pull the gun downwards, throwing his aim off.

The King waves his
hands as though opening a business pitch.


If
you shoot me, Jamie -”


I
will,” says Jamie.

The King's eye twitches
at the interruption.


If
you shoot me, Jamie,” he repeats, “then my men will gun you down along with
your little insurance policy. Nobody wins. Lose-lose.”

He feels Chloe flinch
against him. Jamie says nothing: there is no sound except for the plastic
clatter of the cheap pistol in his jittering hand.


Unless,”
the King lifts a single finger, “you use your little ability, in which case me
and my men are in trouble – but what use is a weapon that you can't use, Jamie?
You may as well pull the plug on your own life support machine.”


You're
willing to risk your life on an assumption?”


An
assumption backed by evidence, Jamie, is not an assumption. Consider this: if
you use your power and it turns out that I'm right, and you die, then what is
going to happen to your defenceless little maiden? I was telling her earlier
that blondes are quite popular with the buyers.”

Jamie takes his eyes
from the King and looks down to see the fear and anger in her eyes: Chloe is
staring the King down aside him, fixing him with the quiet, outraged stare that
she gives Jamie when they fight.

She stops pulling the
gun down, and Jamie steadies his aim. His eyes burn as he stares his master
down, and the pistol stops trembling.


Then
make me an offer, King.”


My
offer...” the King chews his tongue while he thinks, before clapping his hands
and spreading them out. “Ok: for your consideration, my offer. We get you to a
doctor and find out how to stop your, uh,” the King motions to wipe his nose,
“then we figure out a way to turn your power into profit. I'm still not sure
what it is that you're doing, but it either involves time or speed. Both of
them are useful to a thief. Or an assassin. Perhaps a spy? You'd be
unstoppable.”


I
want to retire,” his voice is steady. “I'm done with all this.”


You
can't retire. Those bastards in black with the helicopters, they're hunting you
down. I can hide you; I can make you disappear. Give me a year of your life,
Jamie,” says the King. “Just one year, and I can make you rich beyond your
wildest dreams. Then, after that year, I give you a new identity; Chloe too. I
give you both one way tickets to somewhere sunny and you both go and find a new
life together. Just one year, Jamie. That's all I ask. In one day you've almost
managed to turn the tables on
me
of all people. Think what we could do
together, with three hundred and sixty five days.”

The silence begins to
buzz with the distant sound of helicopter blades and gunfire. He turns to
Chloe, the fight gone from his eyes.


I'm
sorry.”


Don't
apologise,” she says.


All
I ever wanted was a normal life for you – to give you a home and a new start
somewhere that nobody knew us. Instead I gave you this.”

The clash of helicopter
blades gets louder, accompanied by the rain-on-tin rattle of gunfire and the
hissing streak of missiles. The King looks up in confusion. Chloe's hand
squeezes his, the pistol grasped between them.


Jamie,
it was either this or the streets. We chose the King – we made the decision
together.”


It
was only ever meant to be short term -”


I
just want us to be happy, Jamie. I don't want us to die here.”


Then
we won't -” Jamie flinches as an earthquake shakes the building, dislodging
dust from the ceiling and sending tremors up his shins.


What
the hell is going on out there?” shouts the King. He looks up at one of his
men. “I thought they'd rounded up all the targets except Jamie. Carl, get on
the horn and demand an answer, I want to know why I was lied to, and why the
fighting is so close to my offices. He gave me his word that this wouldn't
happen.”

Outside, somebody is
shouting. The King motions for the men to pick him up – it has gone strangely
quiet, as though a ceasefire has been called. For Jamie, the only sound in the
world is Chloe whispering into his ear.


I've
never seen you as miserable as you were working for the King. Don't put yourself
through that again. Do what you have to.”

The King shouts over
their whispered nothings:


There's
some commotion outside, Jamie,” the King is held between the two men now,
wincing as his wounded knee swings back and forth. “Come with us and we can
sort this out in my office. Come on, it's time to go.”

Jamie hasn't broken eye
contact with Chloe, nor has the gun dropped.


You
sure about this?” he asks Chloe. A single droplet of blood leaks from his nose
and falls to the floor.

She nods, and presses
herself against him.

Jamie pauses. He can
make out the words being shouted outside. There are sirens, orders being yelled
over the top of the chaos – but one voice sticks out, as though it were
stronger and clearer by its own virtue. The words resolve themselves out of the
mess:

The King.

The King hears it too,
his name being shouted in the streets.

His men have
one-handedly levelled their sub-machine guns at Jamie and Chloe, and the King
is patting at their shoulders to get him up the stairs. One of the suited men
frowns as his earpiece fills with garbled sound.


King,”
he looks up at his master, “we've got trouble in the street. Armed units have
engaged a target.”

The King screws his
eyes shut in frustration.


If
those idiots can't handle a few weirdos or whatever then what the hell are we
hiding for? Whatever, the offices are locked down and no law is coming up here,
let's get upstairs. Jamie, bring your little insurance policy and come with
us.”

When they don't answer,
the King turns back, an eyebrow raised.


Jamie
-” he begins.


Consider
this my resignation, King,” he says.

The word falls like the
hammer of a gun. Jamie tenses up, and Chloe shrinks into him as though she is
trying to bury herself between his ribs.

The King sighs and
rolls his eyes, waving a hand.


So
much potential down the drain. Shoot him.”

Jamie's finger pulls
the trigger tight and the hallway erupts with the barking of gunfire and the
strobe-light muzzle flashes. His nose begins to spew blood as the bullets slow
and stop around him, hanging in the air like raindrops.

 

 

Mark groans as he
emerges from the crater of broken tarmac and dust that he has left in the road,
and finds himself in a street filled with scattered, frightened onlookers. Some
of them are pointing – others shouting. One or two are pulling phones from
their pockets, trying to catch a glimpse of him in their cameras. He looks up,
realigning his sense of direction, trying to find his destination -

His destination.

He frowns, pulling the
card out of his overalls and squinting at it as his eyes adjust to the low
light. The building marked on the card is on a street that he knows well. His
eyes catch the large red office building in the distance, the marker of the
street's end, and he focuses the strength into his legs and leaps into the air
with an apprehensive grimace plastered across his face.

Mark soars for a few
seconds, just like before. His stomach flips as he passes over buildings, the
cold air stinging his eyes as he ascends.

Then the wind takes the
speed from his spread-eagled form, and he begins to fall as though he were
getting heavier and heavier. Wincing and tensing his stomach at the sickening
lurch of his fall, he bends his knees and puts his arms out as though to catch
himself.

The ground rushes up to
meet him – this time it is a tiny car park, and the concrete shatters into a
spider web with him at its epicentre. His knees crack on impact as dirt and
stone fly up around him. Car alarms go off and he flinches.

In the distance the
muffled noise of a helicopter changes tone from a calm chopping wind to an
angry, scraping whine. The hackles rise on his neck, the familiar feeling of
being hunted.

Looking around, Mark
feels a surge of adrenaline kicking in: he's nearly at the address marked on
the card that he liberated from the King's thugs.

He leaves the car park
into a street full of scattered, panicked people,  and begins walking down the
middle of the road. Onlookers put a hand to their mouths and point, as more
phones emerge to capture his every move.

Mark stumbles onward,
his head still swimming with alcohol. Coherent thoughts form in his mind as
long as he is focusing on them – otherwise, words and images dissipate like
smoke in a breeze before he can grasp them. He is walking on auto-pilot,
trusting the burning strength in his muscles to get him there.

Sirens bark behind him
and he turns, an annoyed expression flickering across his face, as a large
black van screeches to a halt. Dark-uniformed soldiers in face masks emerge,
forming a firing line in layers, expanding to fill the road like blooming,
black flower.

More vans begin to herd
like lost cattle behind them and Mark sighs in frustration and turns back
towards his goal. Men are shouting at him as he moves, yet he swaggers away
from them without a care.

A warning shot cracks
into the ground and the road at his feet coughs up a plume of dust. Flinching,
he turns and spreads his arms out as if demanding an explanation.


Seriously?”
His red eyes pan around the ever-increasing line of soldiers aiming rifles at him.
“I'm trying to do your job.”

A loud speaker crackles
and whines to life, so loud that Mark feels it vibrating in his lungs.


Put
your hands on your head and get on your knees, or we will open fire.”

Mark scowls and turns
away, regarding the clustered pedestrians. They huddle around dropped shopping
bags, clinging to one another in their winter coats. All eyes are on him.


Can
you believe them?” Mark asks the audience as he motions his hands towards the
soldiers. “I'm going to take the King into custody for them and they're trying
to shoot me. I wonder if they're on his payroll too. You.” Mark points to a
mother clutching her child against her chest, her face gaunt with fear, “you
ever heard of the King?”

She shakes her head.


No?
Sure you're not just saying that because you're afraid?”

Mark looks her in the
eye, his head bowed. She looks away, and he has his answer.


I
wonder how many similar answers I'd get.”

He turns back to the
firing line, now a street filled side to side with black-clad soldiers.


If
you hadn't noticed, we are living under a dictatorship in this city. Nobody
will even talk about it out of fear. Well that changes today.” Mark runs his
hands through his hair, taking a deep breath and composing himself, trying to
think straight through the drunken haze. “Now I'm going to walk down this
street, into a building, and I'm going to drag a man out. He's a warlord, a
criminal; a tyrant. You're going to arrest him. Then I'll surrender.”

The loud speaker whines
as it bursts into life again.

BOOK: Kingdom: The Complete Series
4.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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