The white and blue complex stood imposingly over nearby shoplots, its windows resembling many rows of grinning white teeth. The skies above looked a depressing hotchpotch of cumulonimbi and lightning, its chilly wind biting through my tattered sleeves. The peculiar scent ubiquitous before rainfall now permeated the air, mingling with those of automobile exhaust and rotting vegetation. Rotors of an autogyro reverberated menacingly through the greyscale atmosphere, as did growling thunder, screams from countless sirens. A foreboding atmosphere to the bees' nest.
"Don't think it too bad. The whole place should be minimally manned, now that most of them should be at the scene or on patrols."
Her voice bore a mild shade of malignance mixed in her usual stoic. We stood under a bus stop across the two-way street from the main entrance to the Metropolice Headquarters, command centre of the city's arm of law. 'Unrelenting, unbiased, and unique' went large blue blocks on the white entrance façade. The first word stood on top of my mind; unrelenting... hopefully this wouldn't hold true.
"Alright. You know what to do. I'll stay out here until I see fit, with... my mode of transport. Half-hour tops. I'm running on a very tight schedule..."
I daren't butt into her mocking; she held her dagger gun such that it only just bulged out from under her khaki overcoat. I'll give myself up, hand myself over to police custody, then break down and confess to some crimes I did, and then... away to a life behind bars.
Better than ripped into pieces by her daggers, I guess.
Shuffling warily towards the guard post, I already had the male officer in-charge eyeing me suspiciously. She'll grab her weapons when security focussed on containing me during the interrogation, and then leave the city. Leave me too, to rot in the Southern Penitentiary for my crimes... I might as well confess to my actual crimes, now that I'll end up being slammed into gaol any way.
"Halt, citizen. Don't play the fool – there's a criminal's on the loose. Surely you've heard about the Federal –" I cut the full-bodied voice with my own wailing:
"I... I'm the one you want! Take me in! Please, just put me in cuffs and do whatever you want with me!" (I immediately felt that the last portion should have been reworded...)
"..." (The officer must have felt the same).
He stood forward with a dumbfounded, disgusted expression. The officer donned a dark blue uniform of the police force, had a light brown complexion and black hair, a medium build slightly shorter and broader than mine, and spoke with a lack of urgency.
The cuffs clicked in place to mark my capture. Some old folk song playing on the guard's post radio jeered on. The clement lamento suited the situation, but an unseen idiot inside the post, possibly another guard, garbled it up with his boisterous voice.
"Better stop doing substances, friend. Doesn't make you a big, burly criminal, no matter how high you get."
"No, wait. I'm not high – I'm the person who escaped the van, I'm telling you!"
"And I'm Inspector-General Oldman. Enough; let's get you inside the lockup so when the real deal comes along, he couldn't smash you into pulp for trying to impersonate him."
'Oldman' pushed me into slow walk, his large grip on my shoulder as we walked across the tarmac parking bay, and into the air-conditioned building. I kept quiet, knowing he had enough of a mere addict's delusions, and hoped to make a better diversion later. Oldman then pressed me down onto a dark blue fibreglass seat while he went over to the counter manned by a sole female officer. Quite a petite one, donning a light blue head cover, having a slim build and a similar, but lighter brown complexion.
"Aren't you supposed to be manning your post?" went the lady in a light, proper tone.
"Aren't you supposed to be watching out for hotspots, like, ahem, yours truly? Relax; no sane person would walk up to HQ now," Oldman's tone smoother than earlier.
I suddenly hoped for the city that these two only represented the very tail hairs of the police force. They chattered away, not giving a care to me or the sound of a motorrad's engine approaching and then turning off outside... hmm?
The automatic glass doors slid open, letting in a strong, wet draught and... green girl in an oversized police officer's uniform? As if she read my mind, she glanced over emotionlessly, eyes dipping momentarily to her left hand on her black gun belt turning her attention to the two officers.
"Officer... Mekar reporting from Special Branch. You have no idea how relieved I am that this man got rounded up... thought we'd have lost you after that incident."
"... please show identification, Officer Mekar," came a less melodious variant of Oldman's voice, the man now straightening up.
"I'd show them if I still had them. I just barely escaped from a burning van's wreck, the one transporting this... man over here. We came under attack halfway down the Federal, and... along with the driver – poor man, he didn't make it. I didn't even get his name – all the papers on me went up in flames."
"..." her comical appearance topped off by the terrible story stunned the three of us silent for minutes. Oldman finally began approaching her, an arrest in mind, when she suddenly burst into an infuriated tone:
"Look. Peace Hill funds and trains you lot, but you guys can't even use a computer to verify my identity? I had to commandeer an old motorcycle here, rush to beat the rain and report, and I get this kind of treatment. Officers, this will go onto your rap sheet. The IG would definitely hear about this."
"Ah! Sorry about the suspicion, Officer Mekar. Security protocol and all that, because of the havoc outside. The only working, er, vacant computer in the station is in the room just right up the landing. Right this way," blurted the officer at the reception like a demure machine gun, as she knocked into various objects in manoeuvring out of her desk to green girl.
"Very well. Our man here has some very interesting ties with firearms as well, his latest consignment thankfully intercepted by customs. It would be good if we used them in... obtaining a fuller testimonial afterwards.
... wait, 'obtaining a fuller testimonial afterwards'? She planned on interrogating me? How dare she! What for, what guns? After all this crap, she still couldn't give up her sadistic game of cat and mouse, and planned to tease out yet more deviated pleasure from my pain? What have I ever done to you?
I looked up at her with a start; her eyes now shone of malicious intent, her lips curving slightly upwards into a somewhat evil smile. Oldman slapped my back, got me up on my feet and motioned me to a metal door with a sliding peephole. Wa-wait, you guys don't actually believe her yarn, right? Her disguise, her tall tale... how could you not see through it?
The door firmly held its place when first pushed inwards, but gave with a loud crack on the second try. Oldman pushed me into the dim room lit by a single light bulb, and forced me down onto a wooden stool by a large metal table. I don't want to be at her mercy again... why, green girl, why?
The thick shadows of the dismal room swallowed me up as the metal door slammed shut.
I deftly typed in instructions onto the keypress, my scouring the police's evidence database encumbered only by the lack of privacy. The officer at the counter had followed me in here, and showed me how to work the pile of metal boxes and wires, and the glass screen that showed moving images in full colour.
As I located my arsenal from amongst lesser weapons, my lips curved upwards into a silly smile, threatening to give my nervous streak away. I had only heard the term 'computer' mentioned offhandedly once from some faraway land. Everything else came from overhearing customs officers' banter, hospital staff chit-chat, fished up from the depths of my imagination, or gleaned from colourful brochures detailing this modern land. Petaling City... I will definitely remember these three days for a long time.
I even managed to distract her away from verifying my identity. Luck, or ong, as the locals called it, ran free-flow so far... I took a deep breath, and hoped for even more. My next manoeuvre would be the riskiest of them all.
"You know, the suspect would definitely loosen his lips if we showed him the guns he was supposed to acquire. I mean, a guilty person would speak out straight if we shoved his crime into his face."
"... you suggest we actually show the suspect these weapons? They look highly esoteric to me; I can't imagine wielding them," said the officer as she rolled a trolley to a safe and retrieved the weaponries wrapped up in airtight plastic bags.
"Yes, thankfully I have been trained well in handling these sorts of firearms... I presume these are empty?"
"Yes, as per S.O.P. Make sure you wear these gloves if you plan on handling them out of their bags, though. Forensics made so much noise over that the last time, and Sergeant Kaduk lost his stripes just because of that."
"Oh, alright. I will," I said, slipping on the sterile white latex gloves on one hand, pretending to have some difficulty in doing so as I loaded the Woodsman with a deft, unseen move in my other hand.
"There. Now, let's get that guy talking," I pretended to shoot with it, mouthing a bang, to which the officer giggled. These bullets will set me back. He'll pay for them, alright. He'll definitely be paying for them, I thought as I pocketed the live gun.
Oldman had been steely silent through the minutes (hours?) that we waited in the dim, cold room. The small concrete chamber looked and felt just like the back of the van, sans window. A singular incandescent light bulb hung over me, its light diffuse to further amplify my despair and hopelessness. I had no seat to sink into, so my back slumped and my shoulders drooped low, my dangling fingers feeling prickly after hanging down for so long.
The knocks on the metal door startled me; my sadistic executioner had arrived. The curtains, this is it, fine (as in al fine), finished. Poof. A miserable speck of nothing finally ends its tenure long after it had already stopped existing. Nothing to see here, move along...
Oldman braced my head and held my view away from the newcomers. Shuffling noises, boots on concrete along with sounds of plastic bags... what?
Darkness returned as swiftly as it left – again I jumped, but Oldman's hand continued to weigh down on my head. A sudden bright flash of intense light shone into my eyes, nearly blinding me. My eyes stung as I blinked them to keep them open; the interrogation. It has begun!
"Now, tell me. What is your name?"
Her sneering, lofty voice rolled like velvet through the gloom. I had not even regained my bearings when she shot her next question:
"Not talking? Perhaps... this would loosen your tongue."
I heard some metallic contraption click – the blade gun? I'll talk, I'll talk!
"I-I... my name i-is..."
"Answer me, loud and clear! I want all this on tape later, and it'd better be audible!"
"Stop playing the fool with me, c-crim... suspect! I asked, what is your name?"
She slammed her hand on the metal table, the bang exceptionally loud. It even startled Oldman into letting his vice-like fingers loosen into a soft grasp, before his hand slid off entirely. If even her allies faltered, how much worse would I fare as her foe...?
I heard a male groan... and then a heavy body falling down onto me before sliding off onto the concrete – Oldman?
"Zul? Are you –" the female officer from earlier enquired timidly. Her voice became an abrupt shriek as the hand slammed down with another ferocious bang. She then sounded like she gasped for air, and fell with a thud of bone on hard concrete.
Cloth ruffled in the dark. Hey, what's going on...?
"Don't you dare get up from your seat. Sit. Good, now close your eyes..."
I did as told, fearing the worst. Instead of a bullet through my skull however I had some sweat-soaked cloth thrown into my face, of which the former I scrambled to remove in shock.
"N-no! Don't move! Don't move until I tell you to!"
Green girl's voice had an embarrassed quality, but her temperament showed no sign of relenting from its earlier fury. I decided to close my eyes shut tight as the sound of clothes ruffling came again. I felt sensation return into my limbs and fingers, became aware of my rapid, shallow breaths slowing down and felt my body's fatigue and aching stomach again, as if the sudden turn of events had brought me back into reality.
"... okay, check, check... ah. Phew. Now, I want you to wear that attire over your clothes. Don't do anything funny, or you won't live to regret it. Be quick!"
The voice returned to its usual cool, uncaring tone, with somewhat rushed and still furious edges. I did as she told me, noticing that I now donned the officer's suit she had somehow nicked earlier. Just about my size, too. As soon as I done up the infuriatingly delicate silver buttons I felt her tugging on my hand, swinging my body and my right cheek into concrete wall.
The slit opened; a gash of light pierced through the room's inky dimness, showing green girl's brown eyes scanning the surroundings. The two large brown circles settled, satisfied, and the door slowly opened. The light showed green girl in her more typical attire: her dark green riding clothes without the weathered khaki overcoat on top. I got pulled to follow her, one hand placed on her shoulder. She seemed to assume a pose alike a captured prisoner's as a brilliant precaution against any odd officer about in the station.
We went down the landing towards the brightly lit main hall, where an officer justified green girl's apprehensive actions. The officer, clad in only his singlet and briefs, pushed the limits of the meaning of 'odd' though – perhaps 'hilarious' described him better. Green girl and I struggled to contain our laughter as he stood by the counter at the main hall, angrily cussing to himself until he saw us.
"That boy! Cheek on him to beat me up and steal my uniform! Good that you got him... say, where's everybody... and you, you're new here?"
"Ugh, can't we go lock me up already? I thought we had already finished interrogating me but you blue dogs still want to gossip? I want my lawyer when we get to the cells..." said green girl in a dejected tone before I mouthed anything coherent.
We made good progress by slowly walking past the undressed officer, silently heading towards the exit, until he suddenly grabbed onto the green girl's shoulder.
"Uh, hey. Lockup's that wa–"
Green girl gave the man a fine right hook, flooring him. She then grabbed my wrist and pulled me out of the building and into the compound. The rain had lightened up, and I clearly saw her motorrad, its front light swivelling in our direction.
"Wa-wait! I thought you were only going for your weapons?" shouted a familiar, squeaky and tinny voice.
"Shut it! We've only a few more minutes before they sound off the alarm!"
"He's coming along?"
"All part of the plan. Don't stand there dumbstruck, man; get on if you don't want to be left behind!"
Common sense dictated that I hopped onto the motorrad's long seat, grab a tight hold, and trust her driving skills to get us past whatever blockades await us. Pride and the lack of trust however shouted against me even going near her. After all the pain she put me through, who knows if this would become another of her ploys to pain, and possibly kill me?
"Hey, hurry up! Don't screw up everything when it's all going so well..."
Her voice drooped towards a fatigued slur, like the sluggish voice she had in the hospital ward, after she had paid for my medical expenditures, and had sat over my unconscious person for two straight days, possibly without a wink of sleep. I...
No, I can't! I don't know what you're up to, but I won't just walk into another one of your traps! I hadn't a choice the previous few times, but I won't be so easily fooled this time around – oof!
Green girl had kicked off from her motorrad to tackle me onto the hard tarmac; a bullet ricocheted just feet away, its trajectory most likely through me if I still stood. She then recovered with lightning speed and lunged at the male officer from the interrogation room, giving him a powerful kick in the south, where it hurt most.
The man collapsed, his gun (I recognised it as the M1911) falling close to me. Green girl ran back to her motorrad fallen onto its side, kicking the gun into my grasp.
"Cover me! I'll need to right up our escape... hopefully it isn't too damaged."
I now held the gun; green girl stooped over her ride, righting it up hurriedly. I could easily take her down now, with just one shot. It need not be aimed at her. I could damage her ride to disable any escape. Yet whenever I raised the gun against her, I thought of how her shots always somehow missed me, or at least my vitals. With her calibre, those kinds of misses should never occur. Even when half-asleep she could still aim on the mark, just from hearing me get too close for her comfort.
Huh. She never meant to shoot to kill me at all, simply because if she did, I'd be gone from the start, right from the mountain encounter already. I breathed in deeply; even if I got suckered into another trap of hers, well... we'll see.
I snapped back to my senses just in time to take aim at the three bungling officers, now a yard away. Their hands flew up and stayed there, their expressions frozen even as I stepped towards the now-righted motorrad. I still kept my aim at them as I mounted the plush leather seat, and would have fell off if I hadn't suddenly grabbed hold around green girl's body. The motorrad's engine roared, its front lights piercing through the evening fog, and we found ourselves tearing down towards the Federal.
"Thanks, I owe you one... didn't expect the tranquilisers to be that weak. That aside, we'll have to make it out of this city! Now, is the highway a good way?"
"... uh, yes. Keep at this road, and turn... there. Good. As long as we go along this road, we'll eventually reach the outskirts, and be out of Petaling."
"If only our situation were that simple, a straight road out. We're going to run into some blue boys along the way. The pistol's yours if we make it – consider it repayment."
Time became irrelevant as we sped on; I felt as if in a dream, the cars in our way nearing us dangerously, getting overtaken and then suddenly left behind and out of sight, over and over. Things felt like in the midst of piercing the shroud, a bubble escaping a fluid in accelerating ascent, a hero fleeing the shadows on his mount... every shot at cruisers too near us felt so surreal, that I didn't even feel the recoil from the gun, or hear the wailing sirens. Even the number of rounds... 8? 10? 20? I lost count...
The asphalt under us soon became dirt road, and we slowed to a more conservative speed. Still quick nonetheless; the police bicycles failed to come closer than a few metres, the sight of a gun enough to scare them off. As we neared the city border, we saw that the police had locked down the main gate, cruisers, armoured vans, sandbag blockades and even a landed helicopter all but ensured that we need not even consider that route. Instead we took a sharp turn towards the wood nearby, scaring away the few unwary foot patrols there.
"Bet you didn't expect me to be this tough on-rocks," chipped in the tinny, hollow voice of the motorrad. "Remember the time we went through the ruined city with that crazed man? The one who shot himself after we left?"
"I think you meant 'off-road', Hermes. Yes; the roads there were horrible. You constantly complained that I was driving you too fast and hard on all that rubble, and preferred I walk through, I think."
"A-argh, Kino! Don't spoil my moments!"
Driver and motorrad descended into laughter and taunts befitting their camaraderie. After a long pause as we exited the wood and rode through the sunset-stained prairies, I finally broke the silence in a wavering voice: "I'm Joseph."