SIX MONTHS EARLIER; 12.10pm
Holy Shit! The pain is almost too much. Every time it gets worse! My teeth feel like they're turning in their sockets!
I feel like I've been turned inside out... but then I've arrived. I rose from the Machine and stumbled to the car.
TWO tried to apologize and I couldn't be bothered to re-assure him. Does he not understand anything? We dumped a couple of oil drums in the trunk and he had something to say about that too! Does he think he's in charge or what?
FOUR followed soon after and I jumped in the back. He whacked the roof of the car as he followed me in.
‘Well? Did you find one?’ I asked FOUR.
He nodded: ‘Yeah, no problem. It worked out quite neatly actually.'
In the car on the way to the Office, I sat and surveyed the passing landscape. I was worried about finding a doctor, but trusted FOUR's words. I was convinced that it didn't have to end up the same way; that things could still be different. I wasn't just a programmed robot like the Machine, predestined to fulfil a role with no independent action. That song was still going round my head and I knew it would come on the radio soon. I was sick of it, but if I am independent, I could stop myself from giving ONE a hard time, couldn't I? This would be my test:
The song came on and I could see them enjoying its catchy melody. I clenched my teeth and tried to stop the volcano within me from spewing forth. But no chance.
When we got to the Office, I took control of the situation. I didn't want FOUR to get shot and resolved to do all I could to change that.
We left ONE in the car and strode into the Reception area. I struck the Security guard, then got the Receptionist to open the door to the vault's fire exit, and took FOUR through.
I could see FOUR almost collapsing with fear and I had to physically hold him up as we negotiated the dark, narrow stairs.
Fear. Four feeling fear? It was disgusting. Any emotion was alien to me except anger. But fear? Fear was for children and cowards.
FOUR sank onto the steps and sobbed like an orphan. It was pathetic. I stood there in the gloom wanting to slap him but I held myself back.
'Come on then.' I said and then moved to the door to the anti-room. It wasn't locked and I kicked it open and charged into the vault.
I started firing as I ran into the darkness, and immediately hit the first guard.
He fell like a sack of shit without even getting to his gun.
But the others wouldn't be so easy.
They'd be in the vault-room and would know we were coming. FOUR sank to the ground and whimpered: 'I can't do it . . . I just can't . . '
I pulled the pin on a smoker and chucked it into the vault-room, then shot out the lights and ran over to the entrance.
Under cover of the smoke, I charged round the corner and just kept firing. Those extra-long clips were working out well, but I was still having to reload every minute.
I ducked back out, put in a new clip then came back again, getting the other one too. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Fish, that's all they were.
I knew there were a couple more but it was all quiet, so maybe they were actually in the vault.
I took the plastic explosives from FOUR and crawled to the vault door. I slapped the plastic onto the hinge, pushed in the pin and flicked the switch.
There must've been another guard still alive. He fired at me, so I took my Uzi and sprayed the whole room with bullets. I saw the guard fall as I jumped behind the desk with FOUR. The plastic exploded and the room filled with debris and smoke.
I jumped up and wrenched the vault door to the ground and a cloud of smoke billowed out, thickening the smog hanging in the room. I peered into vault:
My eyes were streaming and I couldn't see a thing, and whoever shot FOUR could be waiting in there for him. 'Am I doing it different from last time? Will I get shot instead? Fuck it!'
Behind me stood FOUR, looking around nervously, his shot-gun cocked and ready. I patted FOUR on the arm: 'I'll go in FOUR, you stay here.' I entered the Vault and looked for the bag. I heard FOUR say something about it not making any difference but was distracted by the sight of the sports bag lying in the corner.
As I walked in and reached for it, I heard a noise from outside, then gun-shots. The booming reverberation of shotguns in a confined space. I ducked as shot ricocheted around the vault. When the shooting stopped, I slowly emerged from the vault and found FOUR flat on the floor next to another security guard.
They were both wounded and bleeding badly. I helped FOUR to his feet and we made our way slowly upstairs to where TWO was waiting.
I was angry. I hadn't managed to change anything. Everything was fucked and I wondered how I was to find FOUR some major medical attention. Another guard tried to intervene as we made for the car, but I saw him and his partner off with the Uzi. Nothing was going to stand in my way.
FOUR was spraying blood all over the car and I couldn't stand to look. When a patrol car made chase, I was happy to distract myself by perforating the police car with bullets, until the occupants were dead and the car crashed into a lamp-post.
I watched ONE and TWO disappear in the Machine while settling FOUR on the back seat of the car: 'You're sure it'll work out for you?' But FOUR was slipping in and out of consciousness and made no sound. 'I've rigged the machine so you can lie where you are. The car was going to come back with you anyway. You'll be back in five minutes' FOUR winced and shook his head, then passed out again.