A Job to Do
The wind whistled in my ears, making my mouth feel dry and sticky, as we rode on at an insane speed, still dogged by our relentless enemy. For my first time on a motorcycle, I cant say that I was enjoying the ride. I had been nearly thrown off and run over by a bus, been shot at, been chased by the Manila police, and was still being pursued by a crazy man who just wouldn't give up.
The fact that Aaron was driving was the only thing keeping me sane!
Aaron. He had saved my life so many times, and through all the horrific madness of the past week, he was always there—calm and protective, at my side. It still surprised me how cool and calculating he could be in the face of danger. Fear makes me freeze and become bewildered, but with Aaron, it wakes him up; makes him faster and smarter. I suppose that is all my doing, with all the physical and mental enhancement drugs that I practically spoon-fed him.
No, you just loaded the gun. The words Aaron shouted at me, that day we first went on the run, still hurt. A part of me tells me that I didn't know, that I was just doing it for the science, which is true—and what I told Aaron. But deep down, I know that I chose for it to be that way—to be ignorant of the facts even though they were staring me in the face. I'm just starting to get used to the fact that Aaron could kill me in less than 3 seconds, if he chose. All thanks to me and years of training.
Still, after all we'd been through—now that I know who he truly is—I would trust him with my life, and right now, I had to.
My arms tightened around his waist as I clung on for dear life. Behind us, I could still hear the whine of the motorcycle driven by our pursuer. Even with Aaron's skill we couldn't shake our tail. We drove into a farmers market of sorts, and I was suddenly jerked into reality by the fact that we were being shot at.
Instinctively I ducked my head and tensed into as small a form as possible, pressing up against Aaron. He made a sound and put on an extra burst of speed as we sped past, and out, of the line of fire. Suddenly banking sharply, Aaron brought us around in a U-turn and gunned the engine directly towards the man chasing us for a pass-by. Drawing out his gun from the waistband of his pants, Aaron opened fire and didn't stop shooting till he hit his target. The man, who had been shot in the shoulder, sagged and losing control of his bike, crashed into a fruit stand where he was hurled roughly from his seat and into the crates of produce. Looking back, I noticed with instant relief, that he didn't get up.
Aaron gave a cry and dropped his gun where it clattered on the pavement, and I noticed, for the first time, the graze on his shoulder—a shot that must have passed just inches from my face. With concern, I surveyed the rest of his body and noted a much more serious gunshot wound on his thigh. Unable to stop myself, I touched it lightly, and my fingers came back red and sticky with blood.
"It's alright," he responded, brushing it off.
It is not alright.
"Pull over", I cry. With the immediate threat gone, my only thought is to get Aaron treated. "Pull over", I repeat, in a gentler tone.
"I've just got to us to the water." He says softly, and he drops a hand to claim mine in a comforting grasp.
I am not okay with this, but I trust his judgment, so I hug him to me all the tighter, shifting my hand that's free, to brush his and cling to his fingertips like a child.
The minutes tick by and we drive on.
Gradually I perceive that we are slowing down. My heart drops as I notice that Aaron's head is drooping and he seems to be fighting to keep the hand of his injured arm on the handlebars. After another attempt to re-grip the handlebar, his hand slips off altogether and he left it to hang loosely at his side. Placing a hand on his shoulder, I tried to peer into his face, my eyes filled with worry, but my seat behind him prevented me from doing so.
Every fiber of my being screams for him to pull over so that I can help him. Every fiber of my being wills him strength.
Come on, Aaron. Stay with me.
I am just about to ask him again to pull over, no, to demand that he pulls over, when I hear the throaty whine of a motorcycle behind us, and my heart drops once more as I see that the man, now bloodied, bruised, and dirty, is still hot on our heels.
I cant believe it. Just die already!
"Aaron!" I cry.
He looks back and I can feel his body tense and see his jaw clench, as he too sees that we are once again being pursued.
With an effort, he swings his arm back onto the handlebars and we once again speed away, closely followed by our assailant.
We weave, in and out of the streets and pathways, driving down alleys and through busy market places, but as the chase drags on, we are slowing and our enemy gains. When we are almost side by side, I look at Aaron in desperation, but his head hangs loosely and he is entirely unresponsive.
It seemed he was on the very verge of unconsciousness, using every last ounce of his strength to grip the gas and stay in his seat, clinging to that small thread of consciousness just by sheer willpower.
I have never felt so alone, as in that moment.
We were now driving directly side by side with our assailant, and my blood ran cold as I looked into the soulless eyes of the man whose mission was to kill me and Aaron. I wondered briefly what life he had left behind when he first took his blue and green pills. Did he have a wife? A child? Had he joined on his own will, or was he forced?
But my time for reflection was up. The man whose name I did not know, and who I probably would never know, was shifting in his seat, getting into position to attack.
I had to act, and now.
Quickly unbuckling my helmet, I swung it erratically at the man seated on the motorbike beside us. He easily swerved to avoid it, and I was nearly thrown to the pavement as the momentum of the swing knocked me off balance.
I was stuck in an awkward position, half on my seat, half falling off, clinging to Aaron with one hand and the bike with the other, when the man once again brought his bike beside ours. It was then that I realized that I was in the perfect position to kick him, so, rearing back my foot, I struck out at him with all the force my position would allow. I hit him squarely in the ribs, the force of my kick causing him and the bike to swerve drastically to the left.
Straight into a cement pillar.
The momentum from the speeds we were traveling at caused the bike to twist and splinter in mid air, leaving behind a wreckage and heap of metal. I didn't have time to look at the body, but I knew, instinctively, that that's what it was. No one, not even a super-soldier, could survive that.
My relief, however, lasted but a moment, as in the next I realized that we were heading straight for a cement wall.
"Aaron, Aaron, Aaron!" I screamed, hoping that he would put on the brakes, but he was unresponsive. Making a split second judgment call, I clutched the limp body of Aaron to my chest, and leaned back my weight to the side, causing the bike to topple and us to fall to the ground. All three of us, the bike, Aaron, and I, slid across the pavement, our momentum propelling us forward. Thankfully the bike drifted in a different direction, so that Aaron and I were not crushed by it.
We hit the wall hard, feet first, and for a moment, my world was pain. My legs burned from sliding on the pavement, and my bones throbbed from the hard impact against the wall. Beside me, Aaron also writhed in pain and rolled over onto his back. The crash seemed to have jolted him awake from his semi-unconsciousness, for it was his movement that brought me to reality again. Rolling onto my side I looked at him.
"You okay?" I asked breathless, failing to hide the grimace on my face.
His eyes were closed in pain, but he nodded, not able to catch his breath and form words. Again, his hand came up and fumbled around blindly for mine. A small smile spread on my lips and I met him halfway. He let out a breath and relaxed his head against the pavement, the tension on his face melting, when his fingers laced between mine.
We clung to each other's hand, supporting each other, and willing the strength we had such precious amounts of ourselves, to flow into the other.
Presently, I looked around. Behind me, the piece of scrap-metal that was previously a motorcycle, still lay where it fell, smoking slightly. Just beyond the tire, I could just see a bloodied and lifeless hand. I was suddenly alerted by a sound off to my left and, turning, I saw a middle aged Filipino staring at us and the wreckage we had left behind. Beside, and slightly behind him, stood a small boy I took to be his son.
The older man's eyes met mine.
"Will you help us?" I asked, hardly daring to hope that he would, much less understand me.
The man looked back at the body beside the motorcycle.
"Please," I repeated, my voice sounding foreign in my own ears.
He looked at me again, swallowed, and then slowly gave a small nod.
Letting out the breath that I was unaware that I had been holding, I fell back onto the hot pavement and closed my eyes. I could have fallen asleep from exhaustion and slept for a day, right then and there in the sweltering heat on the pavement of some wharf in Manila.
But there was still work to be done.
My hand was still locked in Aaron's so I tilted my head to look at him beside me. He had passed out, his body unable to hold on any longer. He looked so peaceful, even innocent. His body was limp, his eyes closed, his facial muscles relaxed. The only movement came from the steady rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. The temptation to curl up beside him and close my eyes was great. I just wanted to be done. Done fighting, done scheming, done running, but I knew that, if Aaron were in my place, he would never stop until I was safe.
"Don't worry Aaron," I whispered to the man beside me. "I'll take care of us."