Business to Take Care of in Manhattan: Paul's Promise
A Deus Ex Short Story
By Mrs. Denton
"Go. I'll slip out on my own," Paul told his brother, JC. While he was surprised and alleviated that he had managed to escape from the cell they were holding him in, there was no place for emotions. They needed to act, and they needed to act fast. With some final words, JC took what he needed and continued on his mission. Who knew if that was the last time he would ever see him? His training pushed the thought out of his mind as he decided to focus on the task at hand-taking some information from the doctors' datacubes that might be helpful for Tracer Tong, loading up on medkits, taking back his weapons, getting a temporary fix using the MedBot, and getting the hell out of there. He hurried as he did that, as the killswitch was still active and he was starting to feel weaker. His muscles ached as breathing began to increase in difficulty. But his life wasn't the only pressing concern-in Manhattan, a woman waited for him.
Taking care to not be perceived by any remaining guards, Paul sneaked away-stealth being his specialty-and avoided confrontation. He didn't want to kill anyone-he knew the UNATCO troops and even the Majestic 12 guys were just doing their jobs and following directions and had no real idea of what was truly going on. Besides, he had also made friends with some of the UNATCO guys-if they weren't dead already-and it wouldn't be a fun experience to have to take care of them. And even if he didn't, he could not afford to take any serious hits in his condition.
After finally making it out of headquarters, he made his way towards the North Dock where his friend Harley Filben was. After Harley hooked Paul up with a speedboat ride back to Manhattan, Paul took a cab to the neighborhood where his woman lived. During the taxi ride, he had to conceal all signs of his pain and weakness and act as normal as possible. Whenever his health declined, or the pain got overwhelming, he would apply a medkit, pacing himself so they would last. He knew it would take hours before Jock dropped JC off in Hong Kong, came all the way back for him, and then dropped him off. He worried about the time-there were probably less than 14 hours left. But he had to do this. This was important.
Upon arriving at the apartments, Paul paid the taxi driver and made his way up to the second floor using a ladder outside. He had to sneak in through her bedroom window-any security guard or camera catching sight of him at the main entrance would be terrible for both of them. Once outside her window, he slowly knocked. Nothing. But the lights were on inside. Maybe she had gotten freaked out?
"It's Paul," he said.
Within moments, a woman with long, dark brown hair wearing a surprised expression opened the window to let him in.
"Paul? What are you doing here? I was so worried about you-"
She was interrupted by Paul's lips pressed against hers, his entire palm resting on her cheek, fingers caressing her behind the ear. She moaned and closed her eyes, kissing Paul back as her hands rested on his chest.
"I don't have much time," Paul said, pulling his lips back. He gave her a serious and woeful look.
"What do you mean? What's going on?" she asked, trying to understand the pain behind those glowing blue eyes.
"I need to sit down," he replied, pulling away from the embrace before taking a seat by the bed. She followed.
"Paul . . . ?" she gently asked, her brown eyes filling with concern. "You're starting to worry me . . ."
He looked at her. "Remember that thing I talked to you about?"
"It's real. All of it. God, I took a big risk telling you everything I knew, but I knew I did the right thing. Anybody else would've laughed. But you didn't."
"Of course not," she replied. "But you're telling me the whole conspiracy-"
"Yes. Majestic Twelve, the payoffs at UNATCO-urgh," he continued, interrupted by a groan of pain. He instantly bent over and clutched at his side, where most of the pain was coming from.
"Oh my god, are you okay?" she asked, placing her hands over his.
"Listen, they got me. They know I'm working for the NSF. They've activated a killswitch for betraying the Coalition-it's supposed to shut down my augmentations and kill me. I have around twelve hours or so."
"Wait, what? Oh my god, Paul," Bebe cried, her expression woven with acute melancholy. Her eyes widened and watered up.
"Bebe," he groaned, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her face to his chest. "Don't worry about me. Luckily, there's a man in Hong Kong who might be able to help me and JC. He's on the run, too."
"I don't want you to die," she replied, crying into his chest. He held her tighter and kissed her head.
"I won't die. I'll make it, I promise," he assured her. "Tracer Tong is the most talented biohacker in the world. Apparently he's discovered a way to reverse-engineer the virus as well as shut down the killswitch. There's still a chance. But if not, I just wanted to tell you how much I love you."
She broke down into tears and embraced him, pain swelling up inside her chest and her eyes. "I love you too, you have no idea," she cried, not wanting to let go of him.
Paul felt her grief as his own, so he held her and kissed her head again, sighing. Silent tears rolled down his face, baring his teeth to contain the pain inside and outside. But he wasn't ashamed. Around her, he could be vulnerable, stripping away the aggressiveness of his exterior. She was the only one who saw him for who he was. Bebe was extremely perceptive, so she picked up on it, and wiped her tears and kissed his cheek and lips. Paul moaned and slid his fingers into her hair as he kissed her back. In their weakest moments, they had to be strong for each other.
"But I refuse to believe that you won't make it out of this," she said, her voice quivering. She raised the sleeve of her shirt to wipe away Paul's tears. "I believe you're going to make it. You're the . . ." she trailed off as her throat tightened, looking into his eyes. He met hers with attentiveness.
"You're the strongest man I've ever met," she continued, her voice breaking, and more tears ran down her face. She looked down in shame at her own emotionality.
Paul looked at her, his heart aching. He certainly didn't want to die-Bebe gave him a reason to carry on. Since the death of his parents, finding joy in life was an almost empty quest that resulted in ephemeral results. But all of that changed when they met each other.
"And you," he replied, taking her face in his hands, despite all the pain he was feeling. "Are the most amazing girl I've ever met."
"Paul . . ." she began. "I have something to say." She looked up at him.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I'm . . . pregnant," she said, scarcely believing it herself.
"Bebe? Are you for real?" he asked, his eyes widening.
"Yes, I can show you the test," she replied. "I just didn't know how you might take it, with everything going on. I-"
Paul's heart began beating in a happiness he never felt before.
"I'm going to be a dad," Paul said, the air taken out of him, but overjoyed. "Oh Bebe, you've made me the happiest man on earth."
"I love you so much," she said, relieved and ecstatic.
"I love you too!"
He held her tight, his arms wrapped around her body. His hand gently held the back of her neck as his other arm circled around her waist. She held him tightly as well, and soon, their tears of sadness turned into tears of joy.
"You've given me a reason to keep on living," he said, holding her in his arms. "You already did. But with this child, I . . . I realize how crazy it would be to give up. I want to stay with you and watch him or her grow. I won't give up. I'll do anything it takes to stay alive-gaahh!"
"Paul!" she gasped as he bent over once again. He scrambled to produce a medkit from his trench coat and applied it. His nanites quickly metabolized the medicine. He instantly felt a bit better-enough to stay afloat.
"I'm fine," he said, letting out a sigh, and sat down again. She acknowledged this. Then he smiled softly. "I've always wanted to be a dad."
"And I've always dreamed of being a mom," she replied with a tender smile on her face.
"Get over here," he playfully groaned. She smiled and was happy to oblige.
He laid down on the bed and pulled her over to him, and she rested in the crook of his arm, her face on his chest. They laid there for a while, staring up at the pale ceiling. Laying down and cuddling felt good. It was as if his pain had disappeared for a moment. He allowed himself to relax, for there were still hours before Jock came back.
Then he started thinking about the future. She did too. But being the more extroverted one, he spoke first.
"I don't know how far this rabbit hole does," said Paul. "But I'm sure there's more. I don't know what JC's getting himself into, but whatever the world comes down to, I'll find you. I might have to spend some time in Hong Kong, if I'm to get any better. The question is, do you want to be with a wanted man? I mean, you have your friends, your family, your job . . ."
"Whatever the world comes down to, I would follow you anywhere," she replied, looking up at him. "That was clear to me even before we got engaged. I'm sure my friends would understand. I could always get a job someplace else. And my family, well . . . they know you're a good person. We'll just have to see how it goes, but I'm not leaving your side. In fact, I wish I could come with you."
"Not right now, it's too dangerous," he said. "If they see you with me, it's over for us both. You'll lose everything. Wait until everything simmers down. I'll contact you under an alias once I'm in Hong Kong and keep you posted. I'll plan everything out. Don't worry about anything."
She nodded. "Okay," she said. "I understand. I'll act like nothing happened, go to work tomorrow, and wait for your message."
She got up and walked to her bathroom mirror, where she opened it and took out all the medkits she had.
"I want you to take this," she said, giving him the packages.
"Thoughtful as always," he said, and stuffed them in his trench coat. "Thank you, babe."
The next moments were spent discussing the future, getting Paul ready, and loading up with more things. Paul needed to get to Smuggler somehow and try to sneak into his apartment for the last time-which was now a crime scene-but it was too risky. He had to stay alive for his child. Still, he would figure out a way.
Before leaving, Bebe stood by the window with Paul. It was now time to see him go and plunge into the unknown. The man that she loved may or may not come back. She knew things were going to go down-things outside of her control. So her only option was to accept it, believe in the possibility of Paul's survival while preparing for the worst, and to stay strong. However, when demanding situations in the past had come up, she rose up to the challenges of life. She was the rare flower that bloomed in adversity.
"I will promise to take care of our child no matter what happens," she said. "He or she will carry a part of you. I will wait for you, Paul."
"And I will come back for you and the baby," he said. Raw emotion permeated his eyes-a resolution, a faith that seemed to drive this newfound strength to live. There was melancholy there, too. Such eyes were the eyes of a man that cared so much it hurt. "I promise."