Chapter 5: It’s Relative
The bad guys were dead, that was about it.
They were thugs that so routinely ambushed people to rough them up and steal from them, at gun point, that Rivaldo knew precisely when and where they would be. Meanwhile, the good guys were heading to find two more.
Of course, the reality of the situation wasn’t as heroic. Nino and Rivaldo weren’t vigilantes going after criminals on behalf of some innocent victim, over the pain and misery that was being caused. Nino and Rivaldo were, essentially, retaliating for an attack that had been executed upon Nurio, who was actually another such petty criminal.
Still, reality is for the living to shape, and the dead to regret.
Nino was living, and from his point of view, the two of them had had no intention to absolutely kill. In fact, if a gun had not been a part of the fight, they probably would not have done so. Nino certainly wouldn’t, he had no weapon.
They have no one else but themselves to blame, Nino thought, while following Rivaldo in a jog across the streets of his city, into poorer more dangerous districts. This fight isn’t mine, this gun isn’t mine, I’m here because of them. They pulled me in.
It was a convincing argument that positively worked.
Meanwhile, even if Nino was new to that world, there was room, he felt, for thinking things through.
“Do we really need to hit the others, Rivaldo?”
“Absolutely,” Rivaldo said immediately, making it sound like it was personal, which was what concerned Nino.
“If we want to send a message, I think they will have gotten it, don’t you think?” Nino asked.
“You dunno them enough, brother,” Rivaldo said, “the rest of their crew, yeah, but those four are way too close. They’ll just come after us, no matter. If we take down these other two, though, we’ll be left alone.”
“The attack on Nurio was personal. They know I’m not with any crew and that my retaliation is personal,” Rivaldo explained, running a bit out of breath. “Their crew and Nurio’s crew will then just shrug and not pursue this further. If they come after me, Nurio’s crew will get involved as retaliation. They’ll chalk it out to these four getting themselves hurt.”
“You sure?” Nino asked.
“Pretty sure,” Rivaldo said, with convincing confidence.
“So…we’re going to kill them?” Nino asked, struggling with the righteousness of it.
“They need to be out of commission, at least,” Rivaldo said, “long enough for their crew to calm them down from what just happened to Junior and Tércio. But I mean, they’re probably armed so yeah, we might need to kill them.”
Right, Nino thought, sighing, it’s their own fault.
It sure wasn’t Rivaldos’, he was just trying to save his brother’s life. It wasn’t Ninos’, he was just trying to keep Rivaldo alive. That only left them to carry the blame.
Rivaldo stopped to lean against a wall. He peered over the edge while Nino stopped behind him, to catch his breath.
“I don’t see them,” Rivaldo said. “They should be inside, I guess. You wanna stay here and watch while I go check it out? You can text me if–”
“No,” Nino said, pretty much immediately, “we should go together.” Nino was all too aware of the eyes around them. They were tired, breathing nervously, and Rivaldo had blood on his shirt, they looked too suspicious to just stand around on ceremony. If they were going to survive, they had to keep moving.
“Alright,” Rivaldo said gladly. “Let’s go.”
Nino followed him into the rundown building that amounted to roughly two and a half floors. It was truly the calm before the storm, the long yet few minutes it took for the two to climb decrepit old stone stairs, past faux walls filled with graffiti and urine, to reach the room where they found the other two.
Nino could hear them yelling at each other while following Rivaldo up to them, they seemed to be playing a game of some sort.
Nino couldn’t help but consider the stark contrast between that place of living and his own. His home, compared to that of Rivaldos’, already provided a strong contrast but seeing how someone truly poor lived was very different to hearing about it.
Good lord, Nino thought, I feel depressed just being here.
They opened the door, which had a broken lock and cranky hinges, to find a group of four people in a room that looked much better than the rest of the building. It was relatively cleaned up and packed with four personal computers. They were all occupied with people playing.
They all had headphones, and three of them didn’t have a direct line of sight to the door. The one who had was quick to notice them. He raised an inquisitive expression towards them, but before he could speak, Rivaldo ran towards the guy to the left with a brandished knife.
Nino opened his eyes, shocked that Rivaldo would rush into a group of four. He stabbed his target who instantly screamed of pain and alerted everyone else. The one guy that had seen them beforehand drew a pistol while trying to get up out of the chair without falling, which enabled Nino to be half-a-second faster.
The gunshot was so loud. Again, Nino’s ears rang, and he couldn’t stop himself from blinking. Opening his eyes, he saw his target had fallen back. Nino turned his pistol to the right since the one in the middle had jumped out of his chair to tackle Rivaldo, which meant he had no gun.
It was an impression Nino drew without thinking. Still, he was afraid to blink and miss something, so he squeezed the trigger while focusing all of his willpower on keeping his eyes open.
Keep the eyes open!
He hit that guy on the neck. It wasn’t like Nino imagined it would be in that there was no explosion or implosion of any kind. There was just a small squirt of blood followed by a faint gasp of dreadful realization.
The body immediately went limp and fell dejectedly over the chair and desk.
Nino was then himself punched. He lost his bearings but focused on keeping a good grasp on the pistol, which was good because whoever punched him tried to grab it. In the midst of all the action, though, Nino could only think of the looks they had gotten on their way into the building.
The gunshots’ll attract people, we need to go, Nino thought, alarmingly.
In desperation, he head-butted the man that had been playing in the middle and yelled out for Rivaldo.
“We need to go, man!”
The man who was trying to overpower Nino suddenly opened his facial expression in painful shock. Nino noticed Rivaldo behind him, shoving the big knife into the man’s sides. He contorted his facial expression giving Nino the impression he was twisting the knife.
Breathing rashly, Nino pushed himself off the man’s grasp, losing balance and landing on his butt.
Rivaldo was yelling out curses while pulling the man down to the floor, to stab him even deeper, but Nino was still thinking. The other pistol!
Nino ran around the computers and found the first guy he had shot lying on the floor, next to a fallen chair with a broken leg, bleeding out the back of the head. Nino had hit him in the eye.
Wincing horribly with a shake of the head, Nino reached down and swiped the man’s pistol.
“WHAT THE FU**??!?!”
Nino looked under the table to find Rivaldo, crouched, holding his hands up in front of someone who was standing.
Damn, damn. Nino thought for a couple of seconds about what to do but the emergency of the situation, the likelihood the guy holding Rivaldo at gunpoint would just press the trigger, it all collapsed upon Nino.
Giving him courage.
The only strategical thought on his mind was that the gun with the greatest likelihood of having bullets was the new one.
The man screamed some kind of question but Nino didn’t hear in the middle of the concentrating on being prepared for the gunshot. He stood up and shot twice.
Only after the man was on the ground did Nino process he had hit him in the chest and then mouth.
Rivaldo cursed in a very usual way that roughly translated to “holy sh**!”
Nino ran back to him and handed out a hand, pulling Rivaldo up. He handed him the old pistol.
“Check if it has bullets, I dunno how,” Nino said quickly, and a bit too clearly when one took into consideration what the situation was.
Rivaldo swiped the pistol and did something to it, ejecting the magazine.
“You shoot like a fu**ing Olympic champion and you dunno how to check the ammo,” Rivaldo said, with a very nervous laughter, while checking the bullets. “Four left,” he added.
Nino took it without asking and handed him the new one.
“We gotta go,” Nino said, accidentally using Japanese. “Sorry, I mean–”
“Duh,” Rivaldo said, already having turned while pulling Nino by the shirt. “Pick up your head sh**, let’s go.”
Nino then realized his hat and glasses had fallen off, probably from the punch. He picked them up and ran after Rivaldo who headed towards one of the windows.
Are we ever getting out of here? Nino questioned, guessing the four guys were known to the neighborhood, or at least the fifth. Or that whoever was shooting guns would not be met with any kindness of any sort.
Who were the other two? Nino thought, climbing out the window into some kind of thin aluminum-covered platform that connected to another building. Who was that last one?
Would the extra three kills ruin Rivaldo’s expectations for there not to be a retaliation?
Focus, Nino thought to himself.
He had to be in the moment. Things were done and over with, the only priority on his mind at that moment should be survival.
Both their survival.
These are journal entries from the protagonist of the comic book Aegis Omega. If you’re not familiar with the story, I invite you to change that and read up on it:
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