Flynn Archer, with mention of Aiden Parker
Time & Place: Who knows?
Flynn was starting to wonder if this was the world’s most elaborate practical joke.
Okay, so his real “quarters” were lower rent motel nice, and he actually got a TV, but the TV was satellite with no local channels, so he still had no idea where he was. Also, he was locked in his room every night at eleven, and they made sure there wasn’t a single way to access the lock from the inside, so he was indeed stuck. They weren’t going to make the same mistake twice.
He managed to discover a couple of things. The no windows thing was a continuing theme, and eventually he had to ask about it. He got some bullshit feng shui answer that made no sense, as feng shui was very much in favour of windows. As for what they expected of him, he had a sinking feeling he was being roped into some weird Awmay/Scientologist crossover scheme.
There were other people here, wet behind the ears and fresh faced in a way only comfortable upper middle class people were, and they said they were “trainees”. It seemed Flynn himself was a “trainee”. In what, exactly? He’d done the short order cook deal, he had his food handling card (okay, under the name Jason Collins, but it still counted), so he felt he should be allowed to skip orientation. He talked to a lot of these little kids, and he found out not only was he the old man of the group (average trainee age: twenty), but he was the only person who ended up here not of their own accord. All the other trainees came here because they wanted to, because they thought this was a way to “give back” to the world. They were from Ivy League schools, MIT, and they could tell him virtually nothing about Eidolon except it was the most bestest thing ever in the whole wide world. Okay, that was paraphrasing, but it captured the general mood. Eidolon was, according to Up With People 2.0, a cutting edge humanitarian agency that also worked with cutting edge technology and “alternative real world solutions“, but it sounded like PR buzzwords regurgitated for naïve ears.
The “trainees” were assigned a “personal facilitator”, and his was a perky, plain faced brunette named Mindy. They were supposed to answer questions and take requests, although Flynn found that to be false advertising. He never got answers to his questions, and while he requested a Tom of Finland air hockey table, it had yet to show. After sitting through yet another orientation film extolling the virtues of super wonderful Eidolon, he told Mindy he really needed to talk to Pierce, because he just wasn’t putting up with this bullshit much longer. She stared at him with her big, moon cow eyes, and said, “It’s been a day.”
“Well, it feels like eight years.” And it did. Loss of personal freedom had that effect on him.
After the orientation film, he was sent with about a dozen trainees to a small room with padded gym mats on the floor. He knew what this was going to be long before the thick necked, muscle guy with a face like a cow pat appeared, dressed only in a gi and hair gel. He introduced himself as “Sensei Poulin”, which just made Flynn shake his head. He was whiter than an albino’s inner thigh, and on top of that, he just radiated an asshole vibe that made Flynn want to nut punch him and spit in his drink.
According to Big Stupid, everyone in the room had some level of offensive or self-defense training, and his job was to assess their abilities. Flynn glanced around at the other trainees, wondering what any of them could do, and finally said, “While I was fucking your mother she told me you wet the bed until you were twenty two, but she blamed that on the inbreeding.” There were mostly gasps from his fellow trainees, although someone in the back snickered. When Big Stupid glared at him with his porcine blue eyes, Flynn pointed out, “You said you were assessing our offensive capabilities. How was that?”
There was the slightest twitch in his lantern jaw, but Big Stupid fought his emotions down like a trooper. “I think you’re the first volunteer, Trainee Archer.”
He couldn’t say he didn’t see that one coming. When your mouth wrote a check, you usually had to hope your butt could cash it. With a sigh, he levered himself out of his folding chair and stepped onto the grungy blue mats. “You know, I’ve actually killed a person. Do we really need to be doing this?”
More gasps, although not so many this time, probably because most of the kids in the room thought he was joking. Big Stupid had this look in his eye that suggested he knew he wasn’t. He was eying Flynn like he would a rabid dog. “Could just have been luck. It’s best we find out now.”
Flynn had a sneaking suspicion this guy was supposed to make an example of him. He bet he could too. Guys with no neck were usually good at kicking ass, and little else.
Flynn stood loose, trying to remember the stuff he learned from the tae kwon do classes his dad made him take as a kid, and then he gave up. It didn’t matter; Big Stupid had to be better at this than he ever could be. He couldn’t fight him on his terms, not successfully. He had to get Big to fight on his terms. The question was how.
As if to prove that, Flynn waited for Big to make the first move, a chop towards the face, and while Flynn got an arm up to deflect it, it was a feint, and his real move, a left upper cut, connected. Flynn saw stars, and as he staggered, Big Stupid swept his legs out from under him and sent him sprawling on his back. “Lesson one,” Big Stupid said, crowing to the crowd. “No matter your skill level, there’s always something you can learn.”
Flynn wiped his mouth, sure he could taste blood, and got up to his feet. “Sucker punch. Can’t do it twice.”
Big Stupid gave him a self-satisfied smirk, and threw another lazy punch towards his face, which Flynn blocked with his forearm, but this time he was ready for the left handed hit and blocked that one too as Big launched a kick that hit him in the side of the knee. Of course the knee buckled, and as he dropped to one knee on the mat, Big planted a solid kick to his chest that put him back down on the floor again.
“Lesson two,” Big said. “Even when you think you’re ready, you might not be.”
Flynn was really tired of looking at this ceiling, and on top of that, his chest now hurt. He was going to bill Eidolon for the bruise he was sure to have after this. “Okay, now you’re pissing me off.” He rolled up to all fours, then got to his feet.
Big Stupid’s smile was smug and teasing. “You’re free to sit down.”
“So are you. What are you waiting for?”
He sighed in a tolerant, amused way. “As you wish.”
Flynn stepped forward, as if he was going to make the first move, but Big was fast, and he threw a punch that Flynn already knew was a faint because of the way he hadn’t stepped into it. On each genuine hit, Big had shifted the weight to the balls of his feet; on the feints, he kept the weight on his heels. So Flynn didn’t bother to block the blow. Instead, he decided to kick a field goal between Big Stupid’s legs.
He connected solidly with Big’s balls, and he let out a sort of pained huff as he doubled over, allowing Flynn to grab his head and send it down to meet his upraised knee. Big’s face crunched against Flynn’s kneecap, and Flynn shoved him down to the mats. “Lesson three,” Flynn told the shocked faces of the trainees. “Even a dick ass who calls himself a “sensei” can become smug and stupid. And here’s some other shit this butt clown probably won’t teach you. No fight is clean, and there are no rules. None. The faster you can end a fight, the better, and no matter how big or more experienced your opponent, if you’re willing to do anything to survive – and I mean anything, kiddies – there’s a good chance you will. Points are not handed out for technique or Marquis of Queensbury rules, and if you’re waiting to launch your “big” move, you’ll never get the chance to use it.”
Big Stupid had shoved himself up to his hands and knees, shaking his head, hand unconsciously snaking down to his bruised dick. He was panting, suggesting he was trying to breathe through the pain. Did that ever work? “Also, learning how to take a beating and roll with it is as valuable as learning how to hand one out. ‘Cause, no matter how dominant you are, you will get hit, and you will lose fights. You gotta learn to go with it, and learn from your mistakes. Oh, and one last thing.” Flynn approached Big Stupid, and when Big looked up, Flynn punched him in the nose. There was an audible crack, and he exclaimed an almost incoherent curse as he rolled onto his back and grabbed his face as blood seeped between his fingers. “The nose is the most broken bone in men’s bodies. There’s a good reason for that.”
Two thick armed goons appeared, their faces as inexpressive as Easter Island statues. He wasn’t fighting them, mainly because there was no point. “Also, learn to recognize when you have no chance of winning a fight, and find an alternate way of obtaining your goals. With that, it looks like I’m gonna be spending a night in the box. Sensei Archer out, bitches.” He flashed them a two fingered peace sign which could pull double duty as an offensive hand gesture, and followed one of the thick armed goons out, the other following right behind him, making him the center of yet another ‘ugly’ sandwich.
To his surprise, they led him back to his quarters, but as soon as the door opened and the first goon stepped aside, he saw he had a visitor. A tall man with walnut colored hair and the bland, square jawed handsomeness of a reporter on a network news show was sitting in the room’s lone armchair, his dark suit impeccable and his hazel eyes unreadable. The man – whom Flynn mentally dubbed Captain Haircut, due to his undoubtedly expensive but still not flattering ‘do – simply nodded at the goons, and they left, closing the door behind him. “You look a bit overdressed for a hit man,” Flynn said.
Captain Haircut raised an eyebrow at that. “You really think we’re the bad guys, huh?”
“Good, evil, I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I’m being played here, and I’m sick of it. Do what you’re gonna do so I can get out of here and get on with my life.”
Captain Haircut gave him a disappointed look that would have been more at home on the face of his dad, if his dad wasn’t a dismembered copse. “We have an agreement. We keep Aiden safe, you work with us. That little display in the training room didn’t appear to be working with us.”
Flynn flopped on his bed, deciding to stare at this ceiling for a while. He rubbed his jaw, and felt a lump forming. Goddamn it, he was going to have to ask Mindy for an ice pack, wasn‘t he? “I have no evidence you’re living up to your end of the bargain. And these games you’re playing suck.”
Haircut shifted in the chair, and Flynn glanced over at him, wondering if he was going to pull a gun. But Haircut pulled out a phone, which he dicked with for a moment. What a time to send a text. Finally, he turned the phone towards Flynn, and a small video was playing on the tiny screen. His heart caught in his throat as he realized he was watching Aiden from a distance, loading a suitcase in a car. He sat up and reached for the phone, but Haircut held it back. “As you can see, we’re moving him somewhere safe, somewhere where the Russian mob will never find him.” He snapped the phone shut, and tucked it back in his pocket. “And, in spite of your asshole behavior, someone here wants you to succeed, Flynn. You’re being moved up to advanced training, which means you will be reunited with your boyfriend sooner, as long as you play by the rules.”
There were so many things wrong with these statements he almost didn’t know where to begin. “What do you mean someone wants to see me succeed? Who?”
Captain Haircut stood up, pulling on his sports coat to straighten out any wrinkles. “Finish advanced training, and find out.” He rapped on the door, and one of the goons waiting outside opened it to let him out. Before the door closed, Flynn said, “Could you cryptic that up for me? That made too much sense.” He knew Haircut heard him, but the only response was the shutting of the door.
Well, they’d proved one thing. They had access to Aiden. But were they protecting him, or just keeping him in reserve to use as a threat against him? Flynn wished he knew, but he also knew that, until he figured it out, he had to keep Aiden safe.
Goddamn it, he hated these no win scenarios.