I have to get out of here!
Clay bolted out of his bed, but froze.
I don’t know how Fulbright’s tracking us down… Running won’t do anything.
He was going to have to try a different angle.
So Clay and Apollo stayed away from the apartment until Monday. Clay ran out of his room, startling Apollo.
Apollo furrowed his brow. “What? Why would he do that?”
“He thinks that I figured out who he is. Whatever that means.”
“Clay, you’re not making any sense.”
“I know, and that’s what’s frustrating me the most. I’ve never met the guy and yet he’s trying to get me killed.”
“When did he start targeting you?”
“When I got the launch canceled.”
“I thought the-”
“Yes it is! But there was a bomb threat and I don’t like bombs!”
Apollo gave Clay a startled look. “Okay okay, god. You need to go to the police.”
“But I have no proof.”
“Well you can at least try.”
“They’re not going to believe me.”
Apollo threw his hands in the air. “Then I don’t know what to tell you.” He picked up his briefcase. “I have to go to work. I’ll check into this there.”
“No you won’t.” Clay muttered.
“I said you won’t. You’re just going to go running to Athena and complain about how crazy I am!”
Apollo rubbed his temples. “Never mind then.” He left and Clay was alone.
Okay I just need to get out of here first.
He drove to the park where he made his first call to Director Cosmos, and was hit with a wave of nostalgia.
So if I avoid Fulbright, he’s going to drag Apollo into this… but if I stay where I am, he’ll kill me anyway.
It seems like it would be extremely detrimental to Fulbright if I figured out who he really is, so that should be what I focus on.
C’mon Terran, what did Director Cosmos tell you about the launch?
“A bomb threat? But a random person can’t just waltz into a launch site!”
“You’d be right, but this isn’t just some random person.”
“Sir, what do you mean?”
“This person also caused the HAT-1 Incident 7 years ago.”
Clay’s eyes widened and he stepped on the gas.
Cosmos looked up from the papers he had been signing. “Terran, what are you doing here?”
“I think I figured out who made the bomb threats!”
“And how did you manage that?”
“A detective by the name of Bobby Fulbright has been trying to kill me ever since I got the launch canceled.”
Cosmos rested his chin on his hands. “And you think this Detective Fulbright is doing this because he made the bomb threats.”
“It doesn’t make sense any other way.”
“We’ll have to go to the police about this…” Cosmos stood up. “Quickly. There may be hope for this launch after all.”
The two rushed down the hallway. They ran into Aura who smirked at them.
“Wow, Director Cosmos. You’re not even riding your segway. Must be important.”
“Incredibly.” Clay said. “We figured out who made the bomb threat. They’re the person who was responsible for the HAT-1 incident.”
Aura’s ears pricked up. “Do tell.” She fell into stride with the two other men.
“We think it’s Fulbright.”
“That dope of a detective? I’m not even completely sure he can operate that gun on his belt, but I’ll bite.” She turned to Clonco. “Tell Ponco she’s in charge.”
“Okay Miss Aura!” The robot took off down the hallway.
“We can take my car.” Aura said. “I know the way to the police station like the back of my hand.”
“We should probably-” Clay was cut off by Aura’s glare.
“We’re taking my car. That’s final.”
Good god did Aura drive like a maniac, running through yellow lights and barely slowing down for stop signs.
Apollo would have a heart attack if he was here…wait.
Clay pulled out his phone.
You’re still at the Agency right?
A car slammed into the passenger side door. Clay expected that he’d die, but surprisingly, the car just flipped over to its side.
“God dammit!” Aura yelled. The driver side door was pinned to the ground. “Clay, get out there and see what’s going on.”
Clay was suspended in the air by his seat belt. He unbuckled it and went tumbling into the other window.
“Director, are you alright?” Aura was shaking Cosmos, who had passed out. “Hurry up, Clay!”
“I’m trying!” Clay pushed the passenger door open, but jumped back in at the sound of a gunshot.
“Of course it is!” Aura swore under her breath as she pulled out a gun.
“Why do you have this?”
“A girl needs some protection. Now get out there and get him to leave us alone.”
Clay nodded and climbed out of the seat once more, pointed the gun once he could see Fulbright. He hid behind Aura’s car.
I have to get to the police station.
“What’s going on?” Someone yelled from behind a car that hadn’t been flipped over.
“See that blond guy over there? He’s trying to kill me. Get the police now.”
The woman nodded and pulled out her phone. “Hello? I’d like to report a shooting at…”
Alright the police are coming.
“Oh Mr. Terran!” Fulbright called out.
Clay swallowed. “What?”
“I bet you think you can escape!”
“Not particularly.” Clay’s phone buzzed. It was Aura.
Clay took a deep breath and peeked his head around the car. Fulbright wasn’t even trying to conceal himself.
He doesn’t think I can do it.
Prove him wrong. Now!
With a speed Clay didn’t know he had, he picked up his gun and shot.
It missed its mark and it hit the headlight of Fulbright’s car.
“Why don’t you try again?”
He’s trying to make you mad…
Clay took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. He could do this.
I can do this.
Right in Fulbright’s shoulder. He screamed as he went down.
Clay took off running.
He’s not gonna catch me, he’s not gonna-
A bullet buried itself in his arm. Clay’s steps faltered as he grabbed it with his good hand.
An alleyway came into view and he threw all of his weight to the right.
I have to keep Fulbright here until the police show up.
Clay peeked his head around the corner. Fulbright had his back turned, his hand gripping his shoulder. Clay had a clear shot.
He took a deep breath and aimed the gun. Once he was ready he pulled the trigger and a shot rang out.
Fulbright turned around and looked at the trashcan to the right of him. It had a smoking hole in it.
Clay hid against the alley wall and sighed.
Why can’t I be a better shot?
When he stood up straight, there was a red stain on the wall and Clay was reminded of the bullet in his arm.
If I leave it in, I’m going to die.
From what he remembered Fulbright had the smallest gun in existence. The wound wouldn’t be big enough for Clay to just pull it out, but it probably wouldn’t go too deep.
Clay peeked around the corner again. The coast is clear.
Here goes nothing.
With a deep breath, Clay began feeling around his arm for the bullet wound. It took a while for his fingers to brush against a spot that sent a sharp pain shooting through his arm. He poked the spot and felt the bullet move.
Alright Clay, just get in there and pull it out. If you take too long, the pain’s going to set in…
Clay’s breathing was unsteady as he silently counted to three. His fingers dug into the wound, while his legs buckled. He leaned against the wall and bit the sleeve of his shirt to keep him from screaming. The feeling of his flesh tearing sent tears rolling down his face.
The bullet slipped out of his grip.
His thumb and forefinger pinched the tiny piece of metal and pulled it out.
Rolling the bullet around in his blood-slicked fingers, Clay tried to steady his breathing. He almost threw it down, but remembered the ballistic markings lessons Apollo had given him.
The bullet was deposited into his pocket. The now gaping wound in his arm was bleeding profusely.
Get to the hospital.
Clay took off running. Fulbright didn’t shoot, or he just wasn’t around. Either way, Clay was grateful. As he made his way through the streets, blood was running down his arm. His legs were beginning to grow weak, and Clay was forced to slow down. He couldn’t go on much longer.
He wasn’t too far from the Anything Agency. If he hurried, he could get there in five minutes. Clay forced himself to run as he tore through the streets.
Once he knocked, he leaned against the wall, unable to stay standing.
Apollo answered. “Clay, what are you doing here?”
“I need your help.” Clay tried to walk in, but fell to the ground.
Athena and Trucy came running at the sound of Apollo’s shouts.
“Athena, can you get me the first-aid kit?”
“And Trucy, I need you to get me some paper towels and call the paramedics.”
“O-okay…” She ran off.
“God Clay, what happened?”
“I was shot, and I pulled the bullet out, and I’m in a lot of pain.”
Apollo knit his eyebrows together. “Why’d you pull it out?”
Clay let his head lull to the side so Apollo couldn’t see his face. “I dunno. I guess I panicked.”
“Here you go,” Trucy handed Apollo the paper towels.
Apollo muttered a quick ‘thank you’ as she ran off, and pressed them into Clay’s arm. “Who shot you?”
“Fulbright. After he rammed into the car I was riding in.”
“He’s been trying to kill me ever since the launch was canceled.”
“Here,” Athena tossed the first-aid kit to Apollo.
He coaxed Clay’s arm out of the sleeve and pulled out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and a few cotton balls. “Alright, I’m gonna put some peroxide on your arm. It’s probably gonna hurt.”
Clay nodded and braced himself. Apollo gingerly dabbed the open wound and Clay took in a sharp breath.
“Sorry,” Apollo pulled out the bandages and started wrapping them around as fast as he could. Once he was done, he lead Clay to the couch. Apollo turned to return the paper towels, but Clay grabbed his arm. Apollo turned around.
Apollo smiled sadly. “No problem.”
“I-I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t helped me.” Clay held out his arms.
Apollo rolled his eyes and hugged his friend. “You would’ve done the same for me.”
The door opened and Phoenix walked in. He stopped and stared at the pale, shivering man lying on his couch. “Who’s this?”
“This is my friend, Clay. He got shot so he’s resting here until the paramedics come.”
Clay was struggling to stay awake while Apollo and his boss spoke in hushed whispers.
“Why did he come here?”
“He collapsed once he got here. I don’t think he had much of a choice.”
“How did he know how to get here?” Phoenix asked.
“I don’t know. There wasn’t really much of an opportunity to ask.”
There was the sound of footsteps approaching Clay. A hand shook his shoulder. “Hey, you awake?”
Clay opened his eyes. “I wouldn’t die on your couch. I’m not that rude.”
Apollo laughed and pushed Clay lightly.
Sirens sounded in the distance and Apollo looked up. “Looks like the paramedics are here.”
Someone knocked on the door. Phoenix answered.
“We received a report that someone was shot?”
Phoenix gestured to Clay who was leaning on Apollo’s shoulder. The paramedic took Clay and lead him to an ambulance where he laid down. He could hear Apollo talking to another paramedic.
“Can I please ride in the ambulance? I-I don’t have a car.”
They must have said yes because Apollo walked to the front of the ambulance.
There was a blur of movement. Someone was taking his blood pressure, another was pulling the bandages from his arm and applying some type of medicine Clay didn’t recognize.
Another paramedic was telling him to stay awake. Clay figured that was probably a good idea, but his eyes were just too heavy. He was drifting in and out of consciousness the whole ride to the hospital.
Clay tried to clear his vision by blinking. “Wh-what?”
“Do you still have the bullet?”
He nodded absentmindedly and tried to pull it from his pocket. The paramedic told Clay to lay down and pulled it from his pocket.
At the hospital, Clay was wheeled into a room, Apollo at his side the whole way.
“You’re gonna be fine…” Apollo kept repeating. After about the fifth time, Clay figured he was probably saying it more to himself than anything.
“I mean, I’m pretty sure the bleeding stopped.”
Apollo eyed the bandages on Clay arm. “Yeah… that’s good.”
The two sat in silence and Clay eventually found himself dozing off.
. . .
Clay awoke to find his dad sitting next to him. “D-Dad? What are you doing here?”
“What do you mean ‘what am I doing here?’ I’m here because you got hurt!”
Clay smiled. “It’s just a flesh wound.”
Geo smiled. “You’re not taking this seriously. Clay, you almost died.”
“Did I?” Clay was grinning like a mad man. “Well ‘almost died’ isn’t the same as ‘actually died’. So I’m considering this a momentous occasion.”
“I swear to god Clay, you’re going to be the death of me.”
“Do you mean the ‘almost death’ of you?”
Geo groaned while Clay laughed.
Once he regained his composure, Clay asked, “where’s Apollo?”
“He’s giving his statement to the police.”
“Do you think they’re going to ask me too?”
“I don’t know. The police haven’t come asking for you yet.”
Clay nodded and pressed his lips together. “Do you know what happened to Aura or Director Cosmos?”
“No one’s told me anything. They didn’t even tell me how you ended up here.”
Clay’s eyes widened. “Oh, I should probably tell you then…” He explained the situation to his father who nodded slowly while he listened.
Apollo poked his head in halfway through the explanation.
“Hey, you’re awake!” He sat down in the chair on the other side of Clay.
“I figured I’d grace you with my presence. I heard you were being questioned.”
“Yeah, Ema interrogated me which wasn’t much fun.”
“She’s not too bad…”
Apollo cocked an eyebrow. “Really, when have you met her?”
Clay pretended to sneeze then said, “I’ve seen her around town, and it didn’t seem like she hated life too much.”
Geo cleared his throat.
“Oh right. I was telling Dad how I ended up here.”
“Have you gotten to the part where you scared the shit out of me?” Apollo asked.
Clay shook his head and proceeded to explain everything to his father. “And then his boss came in and was probably wondering why some stranger was bleeding out on his couch.”
“What I want to know is what you did to get this Fulbright person breathing down your neck,” Geo asked.
“Well the launch got canceled and Fulbright thinks it’s because I found out who he is.”
Apollo knit his eyebrows together. “What do you mean ‘who he is’?”
“That’s what I’ve been wondering too. Where is he by the way?”
“No one knows. Ema says he disappeared.”
Clay moved to get out of the bed.
“What are you doing?” Apollo asked.
“I’m ready to leave.”
“You can’t just leave. The doctors haven’t discharged you.”
“I’m fine. Look they patched me up and everything!”
Apollo frowned. “Clay, come on now…”
“I’ve been here long enough.”
“You’ve been here for three hours.”
“Clay,” Geo placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Why do you want to leave all of a sudden?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Fulbright’s roaming around. He’s going to kill us!”
“Wouldn’t staying here be safer?” Apollo asked.
“No, he’ll find us. I don’t know how, but he will.”
“Then we’ll keep watch.” Apollo suggested.
“He’d squash you like a bug.”
“It’s true. He almost took me out, and I weigh like, fifty pounds more than you.”
“We’re not breaking you out of the hospital.”
“You don’t have to break me out. You just need to get me discharged!”
Apollo and Geo looked at each other. They were probably debating how insane Clay was.
“How about we talk to the doctor?” Geo asked. “We’ll see what she has to say.”
Apollo summoned a nurse and requested the doctor. After about twenty minutes, the doctor showed up. She and Apollo talked for a few minutes.
“So?” Clay asked.
“She says you need to stay here over night to make sure you’re stable.”
“I’m stable! I’m as stable as you can get!”
“Well try telling that to the doctor.”
“I think I will!” Clay pressed the call button.
“Yes?” A voice on the other side asked.
“I’d like to speak to Doctor Li’ev please.”
“Doctor Li’ev says you can’t be discharged until tomorrow.”
“Doctor Li’ev isn’t going to change her mind.” The nurse hung up and Clay crossed his arms.
“What did I tell-” Apollo started
. . .
A few hours later, Clay was still awake. Apollo was staring out of the window.
“Hey,” Clay said.
Apollo looked over. “Hey yourself.”
“Is there any way someone could track our location?”
Apollo creased his brow. “Um… there’s that app on our phones that tracks them if they’re lost. You put in the phone number and it’ll show the phone’s location.”
“Fulbright can track us with that. We need to delete it.”
“O-okay.” Apollo looked down at his phone. “Where’s your phone?”
Clay swore under his breath. “I don’t know. I must’ve dropped it somewhere.” He sat back and rubbed his eyes. “Do you know what happened to Aura and Director Cosmos?”
“Nope, I had a hard enough time coaxing Ema into giving me the information on Fulbright.”
“I’ll have to ask if they bring me in for questioning.” Apollo looked over at Clay’s father who was asleep.
“Do you think Geo has a tracking app?”
“Nah, Dad’s never been one to give over personal information.” Clay closed his eyes. “Do you think we could keep Fulbright out if we slept in shifts?”
Apollo shrugged. “I dunno we could try. I took a nap a while ago so I’ll take first watch if you want.”
“I thought you were already keeping watch, and now you’re sleeping on the job?”
“Well I was under the impression that Fulbright was going to squash me like a bug so… y’know.”
“Ha ha. You’re so funny.” Clay let out a long yawn.
“You should probably sleep.” Apollo said.
“Probably.” Clay leaned back. “Yell if you get stabbed.”
“I’m pretty sure that was a given.”
. . .
Clay woke up the next morning to a knock on his door. He was alone. “Y-yes?”
“IV change.” The nurse called out as she opened the door.
“Um, there were two people here earlier. Do you have any idea where they went?”
The nurse pursed her lips. “I’m pretty sure they left about an hour ago. They said they were coming back.”
“Another question. When can I leave?”
“You’ll have to consult Dr. Li’ev. She’s doing her rounds right now.”
“So I won’t get out for a few hours then.”
The nurse paused. “Most likely.”
Clay laughed. “I like you, you don’t bullshit- er, pardon my language.”
The nurse smirked. “I’ve found being honest is better for the patients.” She turned on her heel and walked out of the room.
Once Clay was left alone, he realized how bored he really was. His ears pricked up when there was a knock on the door.
The door opened and Fulbright walked in. Clay’s breath caught in his throat.
“What do you want?” He whispered. Fulbright held up a phone. “Aw, you found my phone. Your kindness is making me blush.”
The phone was thrown at Clay. He caught it, unamused.
“Call Mr. Justice,” Fulbright pulled out his lighter/gun.
“Why would I do that? You’ll just kill him too.”
“I’ll kill you and use your fingerprint to unlock your phone.”
Clay slammed his fist into the nurse call button.
Fulbright slapped a hand over Clay’s mouth. Trying to break free, Clay made any sound he could.
“Sir, are you okay?”
Clay screamed as loud as he could.
“I’ll be down there right away.”
Fulbright pressed the gun to Clay’s head and pulled the trigger.