Steel Instinct

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Chapter 4

“Heeeeey, baby!” a voice calls out.

Kalama is lying on a freshly cleaned bed. She slowly opens her eyes. Frederik is standing over her with a grin on his face. Kalama sits up abruptly.

“I... Ummm...” says Frederik, grimacing, “I wouldn’ do dat if I you.”

“Where am I?!” Kalama shrieks.

“Hey, hey, calm down... Yer at m’ house, eh?” Frederik says.

Kalama stares around. The room she is in is spotless. Frederik is dressed up like a doctor. Kalama can’t help but scream some more.

“No, no... Keep calm... You might rip da stitchies,” Frederik says.

“Do you mind explaining to me what you did?!” Kalama asks.

“I no good at confrontations!” says Frederik, shaking his head, “I no good ‘t’all. I save you. You look ded, I save you. Took da bullets ou’, yes? Stitch you up, I did. Ya could’ve died. I save you. See?”

“I know you! You’re not a doctor! Much less, a surgical doctor!” yells Kalama, “I bet you butchered me!”

“No license, yah. I know stuff. I can do stuff,” Frederik says, shaking his head, “I been ta colly. Got far. Got thrown.”

“You CAN’T operate on someone without a license! You should have taken me to the hospital!” Kalama yells.

“I sorry... I know...” Frederik says, hanging his head sadly.

“I have to go,” Kalama says.

“Go? You need heal!” Frederik exclaims.

“No, my sister’s life is on the line still,” Kalama says.

She tries to get up, but she is still very sore. She winces in pain, trying not to scream. Frederik watches her sadly. He sighs.

“It hurt for ’while,” Frederik says, “You hurt bad... So many...so many bullets...”

“They’ve got Abby tied up in there somewhere!” Kalama argues.

“You no good weak, says Frederik, “You be strong later.”

“The only reason I lost was because I lack a gun,” Kalama says.

“Mmm... Fine,” says Frederik, shrugging his shoulders, “You won’t go far.”

“Oh yeah?” asks Kalama, “We’ll see!”

Kalama makes her way to the door. Frederik watches her. He smiles at her. Kalama glances at him as she’s about to open the door.

“What?!” asks Kalama.

“You still pretty,” Frederik says.

Kalama opens the door. She leaves Frederik’s home. It is already nearly midday as Kalama had been unconscious for quite awhile. She winces in pain, looking up and down the road.

The other people walking down the city sidewalks stare at Kalama. She is still wearing the clothes she wore to Ms. Gray’s house. The clothes are torn and bloodied. Kalama also looks pale and fragile from loss of blood, but none of this concerns her.

Kalama’s mind jumps to the first thing necessary to complete her mission. Her wallet is of absolute most importance currently and it is still back at the apartment. Kalama swiftly weaves amongst the other pedestrians as she heads back to her apartment. She opens the door and steps in to be greeted by silence.

“Where did I leave my wallet...?” Kalama wonders out loud.

Kalama passes by her laptop. She then does a double take and grabs the laptop off of the table. Next, she finds her purse. Sure enough, her wallet is tucked away inside.

“My permit should be relatively up to date...” Kalama mutters.

Kalama pulls several cards out f her wallet to check them. She finds her gun permit card and looks it over. Kalama tucks everything back inside after nodding. She then puts her laptop in a carrying bag and her wallet in her pocket.

“They’ll get what they deserve... NOBODY messes with Kalama Ijsbrand and gets away with it!” Kalama says and leaves the apartment.

The bell on the door to the local ammunitions shop jingles. The cashier looks up from his cash register. Standing there in the doorway is Kalama. The cashier looks her over curiously.

“May I help you?” the cashier asks.

“I need two of your finest pistols,” Kalama says, approaching the front counter.

“You look like you’ve just been dragged out of a gun fight,” the cashier comments.

“Yeah, well, maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t,” Kalama says.

“Do you need me to call an ambulance?” the cashier offers.

“No. I told you what I need,” Kalama says, “Two of your finest pistols.”

“Right,” says the cashier, glancing at the back wall, “I don’t have any particular favorites. All the guns we sell are top notch. Might I see your permit?”

Kalama slaps the permit down onto the counter. The cashier picks up the permit and reads it over. He nods and hands it back. After that, he selects two silvery pistols from the display.

“These might suit you well. They’re good for fast shots when you’re in a pinch. I’ve heard customers leave good reviews about how much safer they feel at home with even just one of these around,” the cashier says, “You’re not a gangster, now are you? I’ve been warned not to sell to gang members.”

“No, I have no gang. I just need to fend off a few people who seem to want me dead,” Kalama says.

“Oh, sounds like a matter the Police should get involved in... In the mean time, though, these guns should hold them off,” the cashier says with a nod.

“I’m FINE! Please do NOT get the police involved!” Kalama says.

“Hey, if you don’t want help, that’s on you, I guess. I was just concerned,” the cashier says, ringing up the price, “That’ll be $500.”

“$500?!” exclaims Kalama and peers inside her wallet, “Umm... I... I seem to be a bit short on cash...”

“Ah, well... I can’t drop the price... Perhaps I can interest you in a returned pistol? It’ll cost you $50,” the cashier says, canceling the transaction.

“I might as well have a look,” Kalama says with a shrug.

The cashier reaches over and grabs a cheaper looking pistol. This pistol looks a bit chipped and dirtied. The barrel is also slightly crooked. Kalama sighs sadly and pulls out $50.

“Alright, I guess I have no other choice...” Kalama says.

“Don’t you get paid much at your job?” the cashier wonders, “We could always use another hand here if you need a second job.”

“I do get paid, but rent is expensive here,” Kalama says, “I’ve got a sister to take care of... She’s not independent yet, and I don’t think she will be any time soon...”

“Ah, yeah... Well, if you need any repairs on that pistol, I’ll give you them for free,” the cashier says, accepting the cash, “Oh, and, good luck! Those thugs keep getting guns somehow. Must be a black market or something around these parts...”

“Thank you,” Kalama says, taking the gun.

“...I suppose you have ammo?” the cashier asks after a short awkward pause.

Kalama groans in annoyance. She pulls out a $20. The cashier heads to the back and grabs $20 worth of bullets for that particular model of pistol. They finish the exchange and Kalama leaves with a gun and some ammo.

Back at Ms. Gray’s mansion, Ms. Gray is awake and furious. Around her are the gunmen who attacked Kalama a few hours prior. Ms. Gray’s pet foxes are seated at either side of her chair. In her hand is a shotgun.

“Ma’am!” one gunman exclaims, “You’ve got to understand!”

WHAT?! WHAT IS THERE TO UNDERSTAND THAT I DON’T ALREADY KNOW?!” asks Ms. Gray, pointing her gun at him.

“T-this intruder... It couldn’t have been Abby’s sister!” the gunman says.

“AND WHY NOT?!” asks Ms. Gray.

“She was a ginger! Abby is a blonde so wouldn’t her sister also be blonde? Or a brunette?” the gunman inquires.

The other gunmen quiver in fear. The gunmen don’t even dare look Ms. Gray in the eyes. The two foxes growl aggressively. The foxes lick their jowls expectantly.

“A ginger, huh...? You might have a good point...” Ms. Gray says, lowering her shotgun, “TACOMA!”

Tacoma comes running in as fast as he can. He’s wearing just pants. The gunmen step aside so he can approach. The foxes shut their mouths and sit up straight.

“Yes, ma’am...?” Tacoma asks.

“...where’s your shirt...?” Ms. Gray asks.

“I... Uh...” says Tacoma, “I took it off...”

“Tacoma, I have a question that I think only Abby can answer. Do you mind asking her for me and then reporting back?” Ms. Gray asks.

“No, I don’t mind. What is it?” Tacoma asks.

“Ask Abby if her sister is a ginger,” Ms. Gray says.

“Why does it matter...?” Tacoma asks, wincing as if expecting to get slapped.

“Because,” says Ms. Gray, “These gunmen say they shot a ginger early this morning that broke in. They claim it couldn’t have been Abby’s sister.”

“Oh! Uh, yeah, I’ll go ask her right away,” Tacoma says.

“And if the answer is yes...” Ms. Gray says, reaching her hands out to pat her foxes on the heads.

The gunmen gulp nervously. Tacoma nods his head. He turns and runs out of the room. Quickly, he makes his way back to the room where Abby is tied up.

“Abby...” Tacoma says, entering the room.

Abby wakes up. Tacoma closes the door behind himself. He walks up to Abby and removes the muffler. She blushes heavily.

“Tacoma, w-why are you half n-naked...?” Abby asks.

“I didn’t have time to put my shirt back on. Ms. Gray summoned me. I dare not ever be late to attend to her needs,” Tacoma says.

“You look so hot!” Abby squeals.

“Shhh... Shhh... Ms. Gray cannot know about our continued relationship...” Tacoma says.

“W-why are you here if not to tease me?” Abby asks, staring at Tacoma’s abs.

“Remember when I came to check on you last night?” Tacoma asks.

“Yes. I remember,” Abby says.

“Ms. Gray wanted me to ask you if your sister is a ginger...” Tacoma says, wringing his hands nervously.

Abby becomes abnormally quiet suddenly. Her eyes grow large with fear. Tacoma tilts his head slightly, confused. He takes a step back.

“Is she...?” Tacoma asks.

“Y-yes...” Abby says, starting to cry.

“...I’ve got some bad news...” Tacoma says, biting his lip nervously.

“No! Please... Please tell me she’s okay!” Abby wails.

“I’m sorry... Your sister is not coming...” Tacoma says.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” wails Abby.

Tacoma waits for Abby to finish before tying the muffler back on. He casts another sad and longing glance at the young woman before leaving. He locks up the room like before and hurried away to Ms. Gray’s chamber. The gunmen are still being held at gun point and snarled at By foxes.

“So... Tacoma... Is our person of interest a ginger?” Ms. Gray asks.

“Abby reacted very strongly when I asked her the question. She says that, yes, her sister is, in fact, a ginger,” Tacoma says.

Tacoma winces as a few gun shots resound around him. The gunmen fall dead. Ms. Gray casually blows the smoke from the barrel of her pistol and tucks it away. The foxes rush forwards and begin devouring the dead bodies.

“It’s okay. I have tons of gunmen,” Ms. Gray says upon seeing the horrified look on Tacoma’s face.

“I... I... Uh...” Tacoma mutters, putting a hand behind his head.

“Speak up, Tacoma,” Ms. Gray says.

“If it is true that Abby’s sister is dead...” Tacoma says, gulping nervously.

“I didn’t see a body in the dumpster where I was told I could find it,” Ms. Gray states.

“...she’s alive?” Tacoma asks.

“As far as I am concerned,” says Ms. Gray, “My gunmen will not be permitted to fire potentially fatal shots at any ginger women just in case,”

“Because we need her alive, right?” says Tacoma, “She’s no use to us dead,”

“Exactly,” says Ms. Gray, “We may never come across an easily bait-able hacker ever again.”

“...She’s back! And she’s furious!” a gunman reports through a communicator.

“...Tacoma, I need you to get Abby in a car and drive as far away as possible. I’ll come find you later,” Ms. Gray says.

“Huh? But...but why?” Tacoma asks.

“Because, if her sister finds her, she’ll rescue her without helping us!” explains Ms. Gray, “We need to make sure she is willing to help, first.”

“Alright...” Tacoma says.

Ms. Gray tosses a set of keys to Tacoma. Tacoma runs off to get Abby. As he is running to get Abby, Kalama has broken the new security code and is invading again. Ms. Gray sends secret code to her gunmen by ear piece not to fatally injure Kalama.

“Abby! Abby, we have to go!” cries Tacoma, entering the room again, “Right now!”

Abby looks confused. Tacoma grabs her and makes a mad dash for the garage. Kalama, who is entirely unaware of this trick, is searching the hallways for Abby. A few gunmen show up to slow her down.

“ALRIGHT!” asks Kalama, “WHERE IS ABBY?!”

“We’re not telling you!” one of the gunmen argues.

“I’ve come prepared this time!” Kalama warns, raising her pistol.

The gunmen fire over Kalama’s head to startle her. She merely ducks and then stands up again. She aims her pistol at the chest of one of the gunmen. The gunmen fire at her again and she fires her own gun.

“ACK!” the gunman cries out and falls.

“SHOW ME ABBY OR I’LL KILL ALL OF YOU!” Kalama yells.

“We were not ordered to surrender!” another gunman states.

“Very well, then,” Kalama says.

She quickly shoots each gunman down. They collapse in a pile at her feet. Kalama steps over the dead bodies and continues further into the building. By this time, Tacoma has gotten Abby to a car.

“W-where are we going...? What’s...? What’s happening...?” Abby asks.

“I’m taking you somewhere else for now,” Tacoma says.

“Why?” Abby asks.

“Ms. Gray’s orders,” says Tacoma, “We’re going far away, so it might take her some time to find us,”

“S-so you’re saying we’ll be alone...?” Abby asks.

“Sure. If you follow my orders, I’ll even let you have more than one room,” Tacoma says with a laugh.

“All I really want is my sister...” Abby says, shaking her head.

“She WILL come. If she’s as clever as you make her out to be...” Tacoma says.

“I b-believe in her,” Abby says.

Tacoma straps Abby in snuggly. He then hops into the driver’s seat. Kalama, back inside the house, has only progressed a little down the hallway. Once again, she is surrounded by gunmen.

“Surrender!” the gunmen say, “We’ve got you surrounded again!”

“Oh yeah?” taunts Kalama, waving her pistol around, “Well, you should see your buddies back there. They’re all dead or crying out in pain!”

The gunmen fire to the side of her head. Kalama dodges to the side. She regains her balance and aims her pistol. The pistol is out of bullets and needs a refill.

“Not so tough now, now are you?!” one of the gunmen taunts.

“Look, I just want my sister back. Is that too much to ask?” Kalama asks.

“We’ll take you to the boss, but we won’t take you to your sister,” one of the gunmen says.

Kalama puts her pistol away as it is no use empty. Reluctantly, she allows the gunmen to escort her to Ms. Gray’s chamber. The foxes have just about finished up their meal and are sitting in a pile of bones and blood. Kalama stares at the mess for a moment before turning her gaze to Ms. Gray.

“Greetings... We have yet to meet,” Ms. Gray says, reclining in her chair.

YOU!” yells Kalama, “YOU BETTER GIVE ME MY SISTER BACK!”

“Hah hah hah... You’re a tough woman. I like that about you. I admire your strength,” Ms. Gray says, “And it seems you possess yet another ability that I need...”

“Your men nearly killed me!” Kalama yells.

“Yes, I know... They have met their proper punishment for their crime against you,” Ms. Gray says, waving a hand at the pile of bones.

“You killed them?” Kalama asks.

“Honey, honestly, it pained me to do so...” Ms. Gray says, “But I’m sure you know well enough that sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do to get anything done.”

“What exactly is it that you want from me, anyhow?” Kalama asks, crossing her arms.

“There are some terrible people in this world... They like to put other people down, like to make them look bad. Keeping a good reputation gets hard with people like that hanging around...” Ms. Gray says, “And I’m just a single mother, trying to run a company...”

“Get to the point. I don’t require the full back story,” Kalama snaps.

“I need your help... You are a hacker, aren’t you?” Ms. Gray asks.

“That’s a secret,” Kalama says, “Even if it were true, I wouldn’t tell you.”

“I mean, you kind of spilled the beans when you hacked into my system...” Ms. Gray says, “Flaming Ice?”

Kalama takes a few steps back. She nearly steps on the foxes. The foxes bark in surprise and rush back to Ms. Gray’s side. They stare at Kalama, curling their tails in.

“I will, of course, return Abby to you alive if you are willing to help...” Ms. Gray says.

“I need to see her. I need to know that she’s okay,” Kalama says.

“Well, about that... I let my top agent have her. He’s likely long gone by now...” Ms. Gray says, “But as I said, you help me delete the negative comments about me from all websites, and she will be returned alive!”

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