True Sight Is Timeless

He would look in the mirror often, that had been the deal.

“You will look yourself in the mirror until you’re not surprised by what you see.”

After a few weeks of trying, he made a schedule. He planned his mornings so that they would be the same, but it still surprised him to look at himself. He ate the same breakfast, he slept the same hours, and after a long while, he even bought copies of his clothes so he would dress the exact same.

And yet, it was surprising. The brightness of the hair, and its straight and short presence on a face trying to be round. Cutting it short enough that it looked the same whether it was combed or not didn’t help, it still looked oddly unique, and sometimes foreign.

He took pictures but it wasn’t the same thing.

What he saw in the images were momentary grasps of things that did not look like what he saw in the mirror. It was the same person, yes, but his existence wasn’t there. So often he looked happy when he wasn’t, sad when he was fine, pained when he was just tired.

His reflection showed him the truth of it, but at the same time, it manipulated him. Every time, he was uglier or handsomer than he expected, looked better or worse than he expected. And every time it would impact on him, making him smile or frown, no matter how much effort he put into keeping his expression stoic. The inside of his eyes would emote, there was no controlling that.

What even was that? He didn’t notice that in other people.

After one year of trying, he went back to her, his master. Desperate to understand and pass the challenge, yearning for the slightest of clues that would allow him to understand what was so special about one’s reflection.

“I can’t,” said the one-eyed man. “I am always surprised by what I see, for I never expect it. Teach me how not to be surprised.”

The old wise woman looked over him with greyed eyes, seeing more than she should, and she scoffed.

“Accept it,” she said. “Do not expect anything, simply accept what you see, and you will not be surprised. For I promise you that in this world, there are things far more beyond your knowledge, beyond your control…than how you look. To yourself and others. That is something all of us know, but that you still need to learn.”

And the man understood.

Different clothes again inhabited his closet, and facial hair was again allowed to grow. Sleeping schedule relaxed and so did his morning routine adapt better to each day’s demands.

And every day he would look in the mirror still. Deeply and interested.

And no matter what he looked like, he would nod in acknowledgement and say:

“I see.”

 

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True Sight Is Timeless

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (12)

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Chapter 12: Nino’s gift.

It took them a while, too long of a while, but they eventually reached some kind of warehouse complex. Without stopping, nor mindful in any way of how Nino was desperately gasping for air, Rivaldo ran towards a specific warehouse.

He finally stopped into a crouch, leaning over a big container. Nino tripped as he was stopping, falling and tumbling once against the container. Rivaldo got his arms in the way to keep him from hurting himself too much.

“SSshhhh!”

Or to keep him from making a huge noise, that was also a concern.

Trying to keep his heavy, long-torn breaths from being too loud, Nino wheezed against the container, trusting Rivaldo to give some feedback on what he saw.

“There’s two guys chatting in front of the place, I guess they’re guards. Big place like this, I guess they’re not just keeping my mom and brother, they must be keeping everyone they’ve kidnapped.”

Nino tried to joke by asking him what else he could guess, but all that came out was a coughing laugh.

Rivaldo sneered at him.

“Sssh!”

Then he looked back out.

“I’ve done a gig around here before, there’re other entrances, one on the side, connecting the different buildings, and one on the back, so you can park there.”

“oh…kay?”

“You’ll attack them from here. Shoot at them. I’ll surprise them by going around.”

Nino glanced at Rivaldo, realizing he was telling him to be bait. It was left in the air whether Rivaldo meant to attack and participate in the fight, or try to stealthily take people away while Nino dealt with the firefight alone.

“Give me two minutes and then start.”

Rivaldo pulled back and sat next to Nino, looking at him. He seemed to be on the verge of crying and had a face that seemed to be keeping that from happening by focusing on the action.

“Okay? You understood?”

Nino stuttered in between short breaths, and feelings.

“Ye-yeah.”

Nino didn’t know why he didn’t protest. Why he didn’t complain. Maybe it was because he just couldn’t think of a better alternative. He was the one with the gun, and he was a better shot.

Maybe it was because it was Rivaldo asking, and Rivaldo was Rivaldo, his greatest friend, the one he could trust the most. Rivaldo knew Nino like no one else did and wouldn’t just use him as bait, even for his family, he wouldn’t just leave him to die.

Would he?

“Okay.” Rivaldo took a breath, leaning his head against the would-be wall that offered them cover. The container.

He put a hand on Nino’s shoulder.

“Like I said. It’s…it’s really bad, but I gotta try. We gotta try.”

Nino sighed and smiled helplessly.

“For Rita’s sake.”

Rivaldo smiled sideways at Nino, proud beyond belief.

“Yeah. Yeah…no matter what happens, Nino. You’re the best man I know, I wouldn’t choose anyone else to be with me here.”

Nino shrugged with a chuckle.

“I wouldn’t be here for anyone else.”

Rivaldo head-butted Nino lightly and cursed gladly.

“You know how to reload the pistol?”

“Show me again.”

Rivaldo was antsy and in a rush, but he quickly showed Nino how to reload. Afterward, he took another breath. Nino had mostly recovered, to the point he was breathing normally.

“Okay?”

Nino smiled and shrugged.

“Okay.”

Rivaldo bowed his head down in gratitude and then ran off in a crouch. And Nino started counting.

With each count, it was as if his heartbeat quickened. His breath tried to shorten, but he wouldn’t let it.

Breathe. Breathe. Squeeze. Keep your eyes open.

Nino did his best to mentally prepare himself. The warehouse’s main entrance was a couple hundred feet away, it was a long distance when compared to his past experience.

He had to do it, though. He had to get their attention and survive long enough for Rivaldo to get into position and attack.

Or to get Rita out.

Why didn’t I ask which he was going to do?

Nino sighed, knowing full well it was because he didn’t want to know. Was Rivaldo truly sacrificing him? Was Nino okay with being sacrificed like that? In a situation where there really was no other alternative, if they wanted to get Rita to safety.

How would Nino feel when he found out which was which? Would he even find out, or die too soon to realize which was which? Perhaps that would be better.

No, Nino thought, sighing again. Better would be for us both to survive. Even if he plans to get Rita out unseen, he’ll come back for me.

The two minutes were up.

Go!

Nino hesitated, his heart skipping a beat. However, he growled at himself and turned his body. That got the rest of the nervous system on board since it knew its body was seen and now fully in danger. Survival now dictated fight rather than flight.

Nino aimed, reflexively blinking one of his eyes, and squeezed the trigger.

One of the men bounced away and against the warehouse’s wall, right after spraying it in blood.

His friend cursed and drew a gun, but Nino hit that one in the chest. He bounced off the warehouse’s wall and began to bleed out.

Nino blinked and shook his head as if bringing his thoughts back.

Whoah, Nino reflected, and even his thinking sounded like a numb echo before the effect of the gunshots.

Shouts then came from the warehouse, and the door opened soon after. Nino shot twice, hitting the wall right next to the door twice. The second shot grazed a hand.

It might be a false impression, but Nino felt as if he could see better. His vision was tunneled, but everywhere he focused, he could see very clearly. His hands, his shoulders, the tiny tilt of his head, everything assumed a firmness of stance that revealed knowledge he could not explain, but Nino felt an inordinately high confidence that whatever he could shoot, at that distance, he could.

The door was suddenly flung open by a kick and three bodies holding four weapons, since one of them was wielding two pistols, unloaded a flurry of bullets over Nino’s position.

Nino took cover and crawled away as the gunfire started to bite into the container, stubbornly trying to blow its way through the cheap steel.

Nino then realized he had taken a reactionary shot as the door opened, and killed one of the three by hitting him in the neck.

“Huff huff.”

Nino leaned out at the other end of the container to catch a glimpse of roughly five men shooting at his position. Two of them instantly noticed him and turned their fire on that end of the container.

Nino panicked for a moment, seeing no way out, but then he noticed how some gunshots were hitting the floor or even the containers beyond him.

They were hardly managing to hit the container.

Rivaldo said he’d never seen someone like me, Nino remembered, trying to gain courage. He looked around and saw that there was a container facing him, which was closed with a padlock.

Nino shot the padlock twice, breaking it. The door whined and slowly opened. Nino could reach it in three steps.

I gotta try.

Surrounded by gunfire, Nino stepped back and then ran. He dove, shooting twice more into the amassing crowd of enemies. He landed and tumbled into the door’s cover. He stepped back before the trailing bullet fire could push it closed and strafed to take cover behind that new container.

He ran along it, recounting his shots.

Seven, he thought, reaching the end of the container. Before they could think of him doing that, he came completely out of cover, took aim and shot.

He was farther away now and ventured three shots. He wanted more, but the kickback from the pistol sent his third shot way out of control, so he stopped there and took cover again.

Still, two more were dead, and a third was injured since his wild shot had still hit the man in the leg.

Whoah, Nino thought again.

It was too much, now. Nino could feel it, especially with how he lost control on the third shot, that he was not simply lucky.

Somehow, Nino knew very well what he was doing.

NEXT


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:

http://aegisomega.tumblr.com/post/109010046366

Also consider checking out my Patreon. You can follow these updates weekly over there:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2551383

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (12)

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (9)

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Chapter 9: Bros before Blood

It was a Friday evening, and they had just finished dinner. It was roughly nine o’ clock when the doorbell rang, which was something that hadn’t ever really happened before.

“Who’s that?” Aiko asked, curious and concerned, due to the late hour.

Nino’s father furrowed his brow, knowingly, and set off towards the door. Nino followed, of course, chasing the little possibility for a situation that would engage his adrenaline.

His father had only to look through the peephole for his face to contort with utter disgust and offense.

“You son of a bitch,” he voiced, venomously, while taking out his phone. He then noticed Nino, and Aiko at the door of the living room. “I’m calling the police. Get up to your room, Nino.”

“What? Why?” Nino asked, instead of obeying. “Who is it?”

“Get up to your room, Nino!” He looked aside, “yes, police? I want to report a break in, he’s outside my door, and I fear for my life.”

His father raised his voice a bit too much at that point, apparently, because that’s what probably alerted to Rivaldo that there were people at the door already.

He just yelled.

“Nino!”

Nino didn’t even recognize the voice at first, but once he repeated, Nino reflexively opened the door.

“No!”

His father closed it immediately, and violently. Nino caught a glimpse of his friend before the door slammed shut. He looked far more grown up than Nino did, and he looked absolutely relieved and happy to see his friend, for what small instant it really was.

It was the very next moment that both Nino and his father noticed the door hadn’t actually shut the whole way through. A crack remained open, Rivaldo had blocked it with his foot.

“Nino, I need your help!”

Nino opened his eyes in shock.

“No!” His father yelled, punching at the door, trying to close it. “We had a deal! Get the off my fu**ing property, NOW!”

A deal? Nino thought, looking over at his father, whose face was already growing red.

“I can’t tell you why, Nino, I can’t tell you for what, but it’s dangerous. I’m in danger. And people might get hurt.”

Aiko yelped from behind as his father blew off a scream. A roar of rage. He opened the door and made to attack Rivaldo, but he stepped back and reached for the back of his pants, intimidated. He didn’t even grab anything, but it seemed like it didn’t matter. Nino’s father was unfair, not stupid, he promptly pulled back and closed shut the door.

He had just wanted to back Rivaldo away.

“Dad, we should hear him out. He looks like he’s in serious trouble,” Nino pleaded, glancing back and forth between the door and his father.

“Yes, trouble he got himself into, no doubt! How many times do I have to tell you, these cockroaches make their own bed, we’re not responsible for when they finally catch on fire!!”

In the past, Nino had often cowed. But in the present, Nino was a grown man who had killed people. Smiling derisively, scoffing, he faced his father.

“He’s not a cockroach, Dad, he’s my best friend!”

His father’s hand squeezed the phone so hard the screen started flickering.

“If he’s your friend, he’d leave you alone.”

“Why?” Nino reacted, squinting his eyes in curiosity. “What’s this deal you made?”

“Everyone, please calm down,” Aiko pleaded from the side, sadly. “You’re…you’re father and son.”

“Are we?” His father asked, slowly and questioningly. “Doesn’t feel like we are. I do everything for this boy, give him everything I have, and he wants none of it, he’s ready to throw it away.”

“It’s not like that, Dad, I just don’t want my friend to die! Not if I can help.”

“The only help you can really give him is to put him in jail,” his father said. “He will drag you down with him otherwise, you’ll become just another rat, fighting for supremacy of the gutters in this damned country.”

“Dad, geez,” Nino reacted, sneering, “please calm down. I just want to hear him out. I’m a grown man, aren’t I?”

His father flinched, taken aback.

“What?” He asked. The screen on his mobile cracked beneath the pressure of his grip.

Nino found he was no longer afraid of the man. Why had he ever been? He could not beat him in a fight, nor would he try, really. He smiled, trying to keep the situation light.

“I’m past eighteen, you should trust I know what I’m doing. Let me hear him out and don’t call the police, c’mon. I don’t mind discussing it with y–”

“Hear me out first, then,” his father said, or rather demanded. “You leave with him, you take whatever you want from this house with you, because you will never come back.”

Nino lost his smile for a moment there, surprised by the escalation of the situation. His mother cringed from the doorway, bringing a hand to her mouth. Probably because, being someone who actually really socialized with Nino, she knew how headstrong he had gotten in the recent years.

To his credit, his father’s contempt had taken him to tears. He wasn’t crying out of helplessness or sadness, but still, tears were making down his reddened cheeks. Nearly steaming from their heat.

“You change your name,” his father continued, “You forget about me, and you forget about your mother. No matter how much I care about you, son…” his father choked on the word, clearly having a hard time saying what he was saying. “I-I will not abide, protect, or in any way support a criminal like Rivaldo.”

“Dad,” Nino pleaded.

“Like you,” he added, and that really did it.

Nino noticed how his father was looking at him, and finally realized how he was seen. He glanced aside at his mother, who was crying, so very not used to that level of dramatics.

One point of view would be that Rivaldo had caused that household to reach that situation. To break apart in that manner. Another point of view was that Nino was responsible. That was how Nino saw it.

If Rivaldo wasn’t around, if he hadn’t been involved in what he was two years past, and now, then maybe their house wouldn’t have broken down, sure. But Nino would still be Nino, and he cared a lot more about people than he did the law.

That was just the truth in his heart.

Nino cracked a helpless smile.

“I’m sorry, dad. I… will abide, protect, and in every way support the people I care about. That means you guys as well, obviously, but right now, Rivaldo might need me more than you do. That-that’s all.”

His father clenched his eyes and threw the phone at the wall, breaking it, and duly startling Aiko.

“You’re your own man,” he said, poisoned. “It’s your decision.”

At that, his father left the hallway, heading to the stairs.

“Honey, please, we don’t have to–”

He stopped and looked at Aiko, accusingly.

“It’s not your fault,” he said, opposing what his eyes were saying. “However, unless you want to be responsible for your son hurting people…it’s what it is.”

He left at that, walking up the stairs. Aiko lost strength in her legs and sat down on the floor, in disbelief.

Nino sighed, opened the door, told Rivaldo he’d be right out, and then walked back to Aiko, his mother. His smile dropped, her pain was something he couldn’t ignore.

“Mom…I’m sorry about this.”

But at the end of the day, she would still be alive. She would still have her husband, and friends and life. She didn’t need him as much as Rivaldo probably did, coming to his house like that.

The situation had to be deadly serious.

“I just don’t understand,” Aiko complained, weakly, “how did it turn out like this?”

“I dunno,” Nino said sadly. He hugged her as meaningfully as he could, “I wish it hadn’t, if that means anything.”

“How is your father just…allowing you to go…”

“He can’t stop me,” Nino confessed, with a sigh. “It’s…I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, this is something I just need to do. I can’t abandon him, I can’t abandon my friend.”

“But you can abandon your parents?” She said, both angry and sad. Her voice somewhat muffled by the grief.

“I’m not. I would come back if I could but look at you. And did you see dad? Maybe he’s right, maybe it’s for the best, I don’t know. I just…”

He sighed again.

“I just know what I need to do, mom. No matter how much I love you, and how much I’ll miss you,” Nino paused to blink and shed his own tears. It was hard, it was impossibly hard, but going on like he had seemed impossible.

He knew where he had to go. Nino felt it, in the core of his being, what path he wanted to take. That meant turning his back on his father, but more terribly, on his mother. It was hard, but he would do it.

The alternative just felt so much worse.

“I just know what I need to do…”

NEXT


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:

http://aegisomega.tumblr.com/post/109010046366

Also consider checking out my Patreon. You can follow these updates weekly over there:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2551383

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (9)

The Forgetful Elephant

The Forgetful Elephant

The Elephant woke up at the bottom of a ravine. And rudely, too, for he found a pack of dogs biting at its bum.

The startled and confused Elephant promptly shook them off and stood up. He did not remember how he had gotten there. In fact, the Forgetful Elephant did not remember anything.

Standing up, the Forgetful Elephant discovered that his hind leg was badly injured. For that reason, he decided he would go and try to find out who he was and what had happened to him. He chose a direction and followed it.

He first found the wild pig. His mighty tusks were red with berry juice. He greeted the wild pig and asked if he knew him. The wild pig said no, but that taking the other direction, he would come to find a snake, and snakes know a lot.

The grateful Elephant then walked back and took the other direction, considering how lucky he had been to so quickly find out he had picked the wrong one.

The snake was enjoying the sun on top of a rock. Its skin was yellow and dry, anxious to be shed. It did not stir as the inquisitive Elephant came close. Again, he asked her if she knew him and again she said no. She told the downtrodden Elephant to try over the other side of the river, for she knew of a horse that talked about Elephants. The reinvigorated Elephant thanked the snake and headed to the river.

When the hopeful Elephant got to the river, he sought the help of a crocodile. Its jaws grinned like twisted fate. The crocodile told the Elephant he could not carry him, but vowed not to eat him and told him the water was shallow enough for him to cross. So the trusting Elephant crossed the river, only to be attacked by the treacherous crocodile.

Fortunately, the endangered Elephant survived the fight by hitting the crocodile with his mighty trump. But the betrayed Elephant did get hurt and so left the river even more injured than he was before. Still, he did not waver and continued on.

The limping Elephant made its way out of the Savannah wastelands where he had woken up, marching onwards for what seemed forever.

The exhausted Elephant experienced the prairies, and lush forests, as it sought after this horse. It had to fight further, the poor Elephant. But he also ate things he loved and drank of water he much enjoyed. In time, the adventurous Elephant grew used to the limping, and accustomed to the injured hind leg as, alone, he braved the lands, meeting more and more animals in his quest to remember. Witnessing sights that challenged imagination.

The raven, its feathers black as night, told the Lost Elephant what direction to take. As did the squirrel, its tail like a wandering wave, and the bunny, its snout possessing a life of its own. The wild cat, its eyes merciless, warned him off the territory of its pack, and the spider, its voice all-knowing, told the wandering Elephant where to find this mythic horse.

Finally, the persistent Elephant found the horse. The horse, a mare, was galloping along, enjoying a run. Its fur was brown, with spotted marks of beige, and it danced to the wind as if it was an extension of her. The despairing Elephant asked her if she knew him and the mare said yes. She called him Chichinak, which meant big and proud, and told him she thought he was dead.

The mare told Chichinak, the shocked and forgetful Elephant, that he had broken a leg, and because of that, had made the journey to die. Because you see, Elephants are more attuned to death than your average creature of nature. When they feel it is coming for them, they journey to their graveyard. And his was just next to a ravine…he had gone there to die but had tripped and fell over. It dawned on Chichinak that his assumption that the fall had broken his leg had been wrong, it had been broken long before.

“But I have now walked so much more,” Chichinak said to himself. “I went to die, and yet, have lived on for so much longer. I gave up on life over this wound and now have experienced what I would have missed. The wound was not the end I thought it was.”

Chichinak thanked the Mare and marched off, not towards the graveyard, where his old self, the injured Elephant had been left to die, but towards other lands, and other adventures…as a new Elephant.


This short story comes directly from Shadow Conclave, my ongoing webnovel, where it made an appearance as part of a character’s background. You can read Shadow Conclave here: https://shadowconclave.wordpress.com/

The Forgetful Elephant

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (8)

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Chapter 8: Inevitable

Life became a blur.

Nino never saw Rivaldo again, they didn’t share a seat during the court case nor did Rivaldo even show up back at the school. Rita, likewise, did not show at their house again.

It would only be months later that Nino would learn Aiko, his mother, was still contact with Rita. And it would only be years later that Nino would see Rivaldo again.

Until that day, life was a blur. Nino had indeed the ability to be a good student. A respectful and obedient son and he had not lacked motivation when it came to his mother. The sight of her after his days in prison, distressed and in a personal upheaval that he had never witnessed, had scarred Nino in a weird way.

In fact, it made him feel even worse than what the policemen accomplished, in that alleyway of destiny, where his and Rivaldo’s life had been allowed to continue, and their pursuers’ had not.

Nino did not want to see Aiko like that ever again, and that motivated him to stay out of trouble which, much as it was hard to admit, was far too easy. Easier than it had ever been.

For different reasons, albeit still sad ones, Rivaldo’s absence was truly impactful in the way everything stabilized and became safe for Nino.

Boring and uninteresting and unimportant.

For Nino had other abilities, abilities that would have otherwise gone undiscovered, had he got his whole life living as in those two years. Nino’s ability to keep a cool head in situations of great stress and danger would have brought no attention upon itself. His strong stomach would have, at best, be a sign that Nino could put his studying proficiency to good use as a doctor of some kind.

Had things always occurred as they had in those follow years, perhaps they wouldn’t have felt so empty. So devoid of meaning and impact.

Grades. Parties. Soccer games, watching and playing. Video games, movies, none of them added anything and none of them impacted anyone.

Nino threw himself at relationships. He was especially interested in getting in the middle of that of others; chatting up the girl until she was enamored with him enough to experience sexual relations, sometimes without telling the boyfriend.

It was the one behavior Nino had that contained any thrill to it and wasn’t a hundred percent abhorred by his parents, who justified it on his age and teenage flair.

However, Nino realized he was just doing it for the danger when he was attacked the first time. The exhilaration quickly exhausted itself in the few seconds it took Nino to drop the attacker, knocking him unconscious.

It wasn’t the same thing. And now unable to lie to himself, knowing he was pursuing relationships for the sake of breaking them, he felt too ashamed to continue.

His mother would be heartbroken.

Nino did not feel a darkness inside him. He had no desire to kill or hurt anyone, but that day, however distant and intangible, had stuck to him impressions that had become a stronghold in his heart.

He had skipped a few steps, Nino knew. There was the playground scuffle, fighting back against a mugger, the soccer match brawl involving a knife somewhere, and then came steps D through L or something, and after all those, came shooting five people dead.

Nino never talked to anyone about it. His father didn’t want to hear it, his mother wouldn’t like to hear it, and Bruno and his other friends didn’t believe what they heard, not that Nino had described any feelings to them.

“The thing that surprised me the most was the look on their faces. I didn’t see the first couple of them, but the others…it’s not like they’re angry. They don’t scowl from beyond the grave, they’re not smiling or even crying, it’s just this…surprise. This shock.”

Nino paused, looking up from the computer.

When all else fails, go to some anonymous forum board online and put it out there.

“Nobody’s expecting it, I think. Even when there’s so much pain, even when you get them right in the head, and they don’t even have time to think, the realization still hits them, and the brain reacts without personality or will, it just reacts. If there’s any tears it’s from the pain of dying, from the fear, because the moment they die, the expressions just flattens…surprised that it actually happened.”

Nino nodded at him, with the same easy smile he carried with him wherever he went. He knew for a fact he had only lost it that day, in the alley, when he had been robbed of any and all agency. It was funny how the lawmen had filled him with more dread and desperation than any mugger or criminal ever had.

“No matter how certain, I don’t think we ever accept we’re really dying. I think we’re always surprised.”

Nino submitted the comment and waited. He was in a thread of posts following someone who had posted “I am a professional assassin, and I have killed over thirty people, ask me anything.”

Obviously, it was probably false. Someone commented to Nino.

“Cool story, bro, any question in there?”

Nino chuckled and wrote, “I guess the question is: is it true? I’ve only killed five, and two by surprise, so I don’t know, that’s too small of a sample size.”

The supposed assassin never replied, and Nino was happy about it. In a weird way, he preferred that it was the case with everyone, and not just with the ones he had personally killed. That would make it worse.

Because that look of sudden, shocking realization on their faces had been all too real and, without question, relatable. That’s how Nino would look if the cops had killed him back in that alley, he was sure of it.

Time went by. He laughed, having fun enjoying a life more blessed than many, but Nino was haunted by that day and everything he had done. And not particularly in a bad way.

It had been nothing like in the movies, but it was still close to them, and his imagination, than his normal life. Going after bad guys for the sake of a friend, making sure they never mug or hurt anyone again.

“The thing is, that’s not exactly true,” Nino found himself writing on yet another day, on another forum. “I mean, I could always go be a vigilante, nothing’s stopping me. But I’m not going to put my life on the line for people I don’t know.”

“That’s screwed up, man,” said someone in reply, “if you care that much, you can like join a kind of town watch, make some citizen’s arrests, at least help out with small crimes.”

Nino laughed, that man was clearly from the northern part of the world.

“Where I live, even someone just stealing a pair of ten dollar sneakers is most likely packing a pistol,” Nino explained, shaking his head with a smile. “At the very least they’ll have a knife, and it’s not just for show, they will kill. So no, it’s not that simple.”

“Damn, that’s screwed up, where do you live? Africa?”

Haha, I wonder where this guy’s from, Nino thought to himself, in jest.

“Sure, why not? Anyways, as I was saying, I’m no hero. I know that much by now. But I also know I can put my life on the line, I even liked it, but I don’t want to now. That means there’s a reason.”

“Obviously, you’re gay for this friend of yours.”

Nino laughed again, not regretting taking part in these anonymous online forums at all. They were violent and super mean, but anonymity was a fantastic feeling.

“That might just be it.”

While Nino was pretty sure he wasn’t gay for Rivaldo, the statement still would hold true.

There was a movie the two watched one, and a particular scene that they idolized. The protagonist shows up at the house of a childhood friend he hadn’t seen in years. He tells him he needs his help immediately, he can’t tell him why or with what, but some people are going to get hurt.

His friend pauses for just a second before asking if they’re going to need a car.

That kind of loyalty and brotherhood was what the two had always looked up to, and always sought to foster. And it was, frankly, beyond morality and any sense of righteousness.

It was a scary thought, really. It’s a damning thing, for the real character of a person to be dragged into the light. But there comes a time in everybody’s life, if they’re lucky when that happens.

That one even where they are faced with a choice that puts everything on the line, the status quo of their everyday life and so much more, stating that things cannot continue both ways. A fork in their lives that forces them to go one way or another.

Nino’s father did his best to not let that day of shootouts and killing be that event for Nino. Did his very best throughout those two years to guarantee that they would indeed be several decades, if not a century, by keeping that choice away from Nino.

But for some, it is as inevitable as the rising of the sun.

Or in our case, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, or the chance meeting of two mothers, that decades later result in Rivaldo reaching out to the only man he can absolutely trust with everything in the world.

“Nino, I need your help. I can’t tell you why, I can’t tell you for what, but it’s dangerous, and people might get hurt.”


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:

http://aegisomega.tumblr.com/post/109010046366

Also consider checking out my Patreon. You can follow these updates weekly over there:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2551383

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (8)

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (7)

PREV

Chapter 7: The Ultimatum.

Nino had always been level headed and had always expected to be level headed. He handled being robbed without despair, bullied without drama. He handled the pressure of tests and his father’s expectations with the ever-present, ever-pressed awareness that his life was a good one.

Those two cops, however, had convinced him that no. Life was not good. His head was in a panic and his thoughts disheveled. He would do anything to survive the situation, with Rivaldo.

Yet, even swamped by fear, his mind still came through. These cops hated street thugs. They hated them.

“They attacked us, okay??” Nino said. He wasn’t really angry or vindictive, but he felt he needed to be, that’s what they would understand. To that effect, he tried to redirect his anguish and re-purpose his desperation. “They killed his brother! Or came damn near close, he’s in the hospital, they were just going to go at him again. And they’d come at us, too, what were we supposed to do? Who do we go to?!”

On that last part, Nino hatefully tried to stand up towards the nearest of them, who promptly kicked him back down. Nino took the hit and exaggerated a bit on how much it hurt.

Lying on the floor, he whimpered, beaten and crying. Nino whimpered, attempting to do it as ravenously as possible.

“We tried to do something on our own…” he confided amidst tears. “What else are we supposed to do…? I don’t know, neither of us knew. We just–…please don’t kill us.”

Nino glanced, peeking at the cop to see what his reaction was. As much as he was still irreverently lacking compassion, he seemed to believe Nino.

Nino didn’t need their compassion. The cops didn’t need to like or approve of them, or to want to help them, or to be sad or anything.

He just needed the officers not to kill them.

They looked at the other guy.

“So? Any o’ dat ring a bell?”

Either because it really was confusing, or because he knew it was true. Or maybe it was due to him knowing that any of the people who had died could have done that and he just wasn’t sure about it. For whatever reason, he hesitated on the reply.

That doomed him.

“I don’t know, man!” The guy tried. “It’s the favela, a lotta people get hurt!”

“Yeah, but only a few of them do the hurting, scumbag. Whatever,” Nino heard a scuffle on the floor.

“Get outta here, you animal,” the officer demanded.

Nino heard running, scared they had decided to believe him. Then, a gunshot sounded out, either after or before the guy’s dying yelp.

Nino didn’t flinch with the sound of the gunshot, which might have been a problem, but the officers didn’t notice.

“And these two?”

The leader snarled in annoyance.

“I guess we take them in. Maybe they got the right people and they’re safe. Maybe their parents are decent.”

“We don’t have any proof that they killed anyone,” the man nearest Nino noted, a bit too calmly.

“We have this one’s confession,” the leader said.

“You know the judge never likes those confessions, though. Guy might not do propely officially, once he’s safe.”

The leader walked next to the officer standing next to Nino. He could hear his footsteps.

“What’s your point? We should just kill them? C’mon. If we’re sure they’re scumbags, sure, who’s to say who died in a firefight? But c’mon, you know as well as I do maybe these’re just some kids retaliating. It sucks but it’s how things are. If they got us fooled, ey, there’s always another day.”

“Your call, boss. There’ll always be another day, for sure,” he said, kicking Nino back down as he, in his attentiveness, had crouched up to a partly firm kneeling position.

“Damn right,” the leader said.

Nino continued crying. He was afraid of showing relief, lest that be somehow interpreted as a sign he had successfully fooled them. Besides, he was about to be arrested and that meant that what he’d done was going to be public.

His parents would find out.

Nino was torn about the despair he felt over his father knowing and the sadness over his mother knowing. Despite everything he’d gone through, now, he just wanted to die and be gone from the world. He didn’t want to face his parents.

But the cops didn’t care. He was thrown into a police van along with Rivaldo and driven to a precinct to be processed.

Nino gave out his name, his parents were contacted.

Despite the dread, regret didn’t cross Nino’s mind. Everything was terrible, horrifying, but what else could they have done? Nino’s only option, to not have been there, would have been to abandon Rivaldo to his fate.

He would be dead, and that, Nino would regret.

Yeah…no matter what happens, I’m sure that would’ve been worse, Nino thought to himself – told himself – trying to be convincing. He mostly succeeded.

By the time his father arrived, by his own, Nino had run out of tears, and energy. He had played the encounter over in his head a thousand times and he had seen no way out of it. In that situation, the best thing was just to stay quiet and take what was coming to him.

He was alive. Rivaldo was alive. His father, despite being stern and hard, was not some gun-toting maniac after his life. So Nino was truly without fear when the man finally arrived.

Nino kept his eyes down, in defeat. He was sure his father’d want to see that. His father liked seeing Nino aware he had done wrong, and ashamed of it, it was much better to not being convinced he had screwed up.

“It will be easy getting you out of here,” his father finally said, after a tense pause. “You’re a minor. And you were being chased by people trying to kill you. Whatever happened was in self-defense.”

Nino nodded, in agreement but also in the understanding that that would be his story. He waited for longer seconds, finding it actually odd. His father was no enemy of awkward silences, but he always put their weight on Nino. He’d ask the question and wait, however long, for a response.

This time, it was on him. It was a weird feeling.

“…tell me, Nino. Is it really my son that I’m getting out of prison?”

Nino raised an eyebrow and looked up at his father. Out of a thousand speculations, he had not expected that to be asked.

“Or is it really Rivaldo’s friend that’s just using me?”

Nino flinched. Those were harsher words that had ever been used on him.

“Is it really Aiko’s son who I’m getting out of prison? Or is it just another piece of filth that’s using her to get back on the streets? And cause people more pain?”

Nino glanced down in defeat. I guess I deserve that but… Nino hiccupped, the question being too much for him.

“I’m your son,” Nino said, dejectedly. “Aiko’s my mom.”

Nino flinched back heavily startled. Everyone in the cell did, and most of them were hardcore criminals, but nobody saw his father’s outburst coming. He spammed and rammed his hand against it. His voice went uncontrolled, a tone Nino had never heard before, even if it wasn’t loud. Or especially because it wasn’t loud.

“You. Are not convincing!”

“Dad…” Nino said, pleadingly.

“You prove it, damn you. You’ll have to prove it…”

His father turned and walked away before Nino could say anything, which wasn’t hard, Nino was stunned enough that his mind went blank.

One of the thugs sharing his cell whistled.

“Damn, man, your father’s intense,” another one said.

“You call that intense?” Yet another said, “my dad’s waiting for me back in prison, he’s probably gonna kill me for going back in.”

“Hey, at least you got someone,” the whistler said with a longing sigh. “All I got coming for me is whatever reject the state’s picked to be my lawyer.”

Nino had not gotten the why question. On top of that, the intensity had indeed been unexpected. Or maybe not the intensity but…the words themselves.

I guess it’s stupid of me to think dad’s just gonna act the same over this, Nino thought to himself. I didn’t just skip school, I didn’t get into a normal fight. I got into a firefight and five people died. More after the cops got involved.

Nino shook his head and sighed, massaging his hair.

Hope Rivaldo’s doing well.

Nino was forced to spend a few days in prison. The worst of it wasn’t the living conditions, not at all, but not being visited by his parents. He hadn’t seen his mother yet, and that worried him. Did she hate him that much all of a sudden?

He wasn’t sure he could handle that. The day did come, on the third one, when he did get a visit. It was very unexpected.

He had expected to find Aiko, since they called his visitation a she, but Rita showed up instead. She looked even more tired than usual, if that was even possible. Distraught and broken, she breathed in-between talking. Nino had the impression it was to keep herself from breaking down and crying.

“Thank you, Nino. You’re…a good friend.”

Nino gave her a sad smile. Even if it was sad, it was still a smile, he hadn’t had one on his face in days, it felt reminiscent and good to smile again. He was thankful for that.

“Nurio’s dead,” Rita said quickly, as quickly as she could. “He…couldn’t survive the wounds.”

Nino lost the smile immediately. “I’m so sorry,” he said, looking away. “Is Rivaldo…how is Rivaldo?”

“He’s doing okay,” Rita sniffed, “or as much as he can, with the news…but you both will get out of prison. Same excuse-uh-reason. Your…father is helping.”

“Helping Rivaldo?” Nino asked, “that’s…wow, I never thought–”

“Nino, I’ll just say it,” Rita interrupted, in a way that almost had her bursting. “I…listen, you’re good friends. Everyone knows that. But Rivaldo…he’ll doom your life, Nino.”

Nino opened his eyes in shock.

“I’m begging you, because nothing I say gets through to him, I told him so many times not to get you mixed up in his– but you. Maybe you’ll listen.”

“Auntie–”

“Don’t call me that!” Rita near screamed, immediately embarrassed by it. She glanced around, and breathed hard again, trying to maintain control. “You need to look after yourself and your family. Trust me, boy, you won’t be able to do that and look after Rivaldo. Just…forget about him. Forget about him for good.”

Nino had no words. He expected this out of his father, maybe out of a despairing Aiko, even if it would have been uncharacteristic of her, but out of Rita?

“Forget about me, too!” she added, flustered. Then she stood up and left before Nino could say anything.

Nino stared blankly, eyes glossed over before the shock of the moment.

But you said I was a good friend…

Something inside of him was shattered. Wasn’t he a hero? Hadn’t he saved Rivaldo? Yet, his own mother was against what he did? Against them?

Nino had avoided regrets for three days, but right then, he found doubt that they did exist, he had just held them back.

Did I really…not do the right thing?

NEXT


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:

http://aegisomega.tumblr.com/post/109010046366

Also consider checking out my Patreon. You can follow these updates weekly over there:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2551383

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (7)

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (6)

PREV

Chapter 6: Hard to explain really

Fighting for one’s life is not the adventure people are often convinced it is. Nino was not, in any way, shape or form, enjoying himself. However, for reasons he did not have time to try to know, he also wasn’t panicking or despairing.

There was no time, or care, to indulge in introspection over what he had done, and was doing. The only thing occupying the mind was the all-consuming focus on losing their pursuers. On surviving.

“Holy sh**!” Rivaldo yelled as a bullet missed him, hitting a wall instead. The two turned and continued their serpentine run across makeshift alleys that were nearly natural formations in-between rotting buildings. “These guys are crazy!”

“Just focus, man,” Nino said, quickly running out of breath, “do you recognize anything yet?”

“No!”

Nino frowned and picked a street at random again.

The truth was they were lost. They exited the room straight out into the street, only to be immediately welcomed by a group of seven assholes that very murderously chased after him, yelling at them to stop and that they were very very dead.

By the time they put enough distance between them, they were lost.

“We can’t keep running forever,” Nino said.

“Cops gotta show up some time, they’ll stop shooting at us then,” Rivaldo pointed out.

“I don’t know about that, man. Over here!” Nino took a shot back. He was adamant not to spend bullets, in case they ran into some kind of dead end and had to actually fight back, but there was a chance they could lose them in the next neighborhood, from what little Nino could see, so he took a shot back to delay their pursuers a few seconds.

The next street split four ways. Rivaldo took the lead and picked one of them, Nino followed. Both of them sprinted faster than before, to try and disappear before anybody saw which street they took.

“Keep going, keep going.”

It was strange to see people’s reactions to a half-chase-half-shootout passing them by. They didn’t ignore it, obviously, but there was a clear lack of panic to them. As much as they stopped what they were doing to make sure they cleared out of harm’s way as fast as possible, there was a definite habitual nature to how they did so.

Some were even cracking jokes.

We won’t be able to lose them, Nino considered, there’ll always be someone to tell them where we headed to.

“Do you recognize anything yet, man?” Nino asked.

“No,” Rivaldo said, apologetically, “we need to turn and fight before we run out of breath.”

It wasn’t something Nino wanted to do, but Rivaldo was right, they needed to.

This is getting crazy, Nino remarked, shaking his head at himself.

Nino began looking for a decent place within which to ambush their pursuers. Instead, however, they ran into a group of policemen.

The four cops looked more like soldiers than anything else. They were brandishing sub-machine guns and wearing bulky uniforms, helmet included. Three of them whipped their guns at them, and Nino and Rivaldo immediately threw their pistols away and dove at the ground.

The cops yelled out anyway.

“HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACKS, MOTHER FU***ERS!”

“Please,” Nino said.

“FACE DOWN! FACE DOWN!”

Rivaldo and Nino did as they were told, which didn’t stop the police officers from arm-wrestling them into being handcuffed and having their faces a bit scrunched up. They were interrupted, however. Nino couldn’t see exactly how but he knew by what.

“Drop your guns!”

Bullets were shot instead. Those policemen were notorious for having quick trigger fingers, they had to if they wanted to survive. Nino heard screams, knowing at least one of them belong to someone who was already dying, while the others tried to run away.

“Go go! Five, watch these two.”

“Not a problem,” replied someone.

Then, finally, things calmed down. Nobody wanted to get anywhere near what was happening, now that the law was involved. A particularly violent branch of the law, to say the least.

“You in the sunglasses,” the voice said from above, kicking him in the ribs, “tell me what’s going on.”

Nino gulped. He hadn’t had time to think, he didn’t expect to be questioned so soon.

“Hey,” he called out, kicking Nino again. “I said tell me what’s going on.”

“Hey, man, leave him alone,” Rivaldo said.

“What the fu** did you say to me?”

What followed was probably the scariest thing Nino had experienced the whole day. It is a very different thing to have one’s life completely delivered unto the hands of someone who will answer to no one, and suffer no consequences, should he wish to end it.

By the time his colleagues returned, Rivaldo was unconscious from the short but effective beating he received for mouthing off. Nino was crying.

“Who’s that?”

“The only one that didn’t shoot back,” another voice replied, and a body landed on the floor near Nino, moaning in pain. “Everyone else’s dead. He keeps saying these two attacked them.”

“These two little fu**s? Seriously?”

“Three and eight’re making sure,” the leader said. “Any idea what the fu**’s happening?”

“I dunno, this one wouldn’t answer, this one threatened me, so you know–”

“Right,” acknowledged the leader.

“Now he’s sobbing like a baby, I guess we gotta wait?”

“Wait?” the leader asked. “Wait for what?”

Nino felt a powerful hand yank his hair to lift his head back. His sunglasses were removed and broken in front of his face, in one hand. Nino couldn’t help but whimper.

“One more whimper and I’ll fu** up your pretty face so bad you’ll never frown again, got me?”

Nino tensed and nodded, duly intimidated. There was nothing to say about it, or to think about it. For as long as Nino had had agency, he had been okay with the new world he was in.

Right then, however, Nino could do nothing about his situation. He was at a complete and utter mercy of men he didn’t know and obviously hated him for putting them and their friends in danger, or for other reasons Nino wasn’t aware of.

“Name and gang.”

His name. His name could help.

Nino hesitated, however. His full name could help, but it would also get him in a lot of trouble. One thing was telling his dad he had skipped school, another was his parents finding out everything he had done.

What had he been thinking? Living in another world? Thinking in another world? As all three worlds came crashing together, Nino was forced to realize that had been a weird and especially odd mental lapse.

There was only one world Nino lived in. Only one.

“Hey–”

“Nino!” He yelled out. “Nino, uh, no gang.”

“No gang? You walking around with an unregistered gun and you got no gang? Lie to me again and–”

“I promise!” Nino said, “that gun belongs to one of them, alright?! They fu**ing jumped my friend and me. We fought and…okay, we killed them, in self-defense! Self-defense!”

“HE’S FU**ING LYING!” a voice yelled out from the ground, nearby. “They fu**ing walked right into Adam’s home and shot up the place, they attacked us!”

“What? No,” Nino argued, crying.

“Alright, this is how you guys’re gonna play?” The leader asked. “I know you’re idiots. Obviously you’re morons, but seriously, are you sitting in an interrogation room? Am I wearing a tie and giving you mean faces while my partner offers you some juice?”

Five snickered at that.

“Alright, kid, I dunno if you really care about your friend so here’s what I’ll do.”

The leader must’ve gestured outside of Nino’s sight because at the same time as a gun barrel rested against his cheeks, so did another one rest against that of Rivaldos’. The man made sure to turn Nino’s head, so he was forced to notice.

“I’ll count to three, asshole,” the cop said, angry and impatient. “You don’t level with me, you both die.”

“No no, please don’t please no, please–”

Nino had his breath cut short, and thus his whimpering, by a kick to the sternum. His head was let go at the same time, and he hit the floor with it kind of hard.

Then a hand squeezed against the side of his neck and forced his head up again, a barrel of a pistol shoved against his right ear as if it was attempting to be a cue tip.

“Two,” he counted. “One…”

NEXT


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:

http://aegisomega.tumblr.com/post/109010046366

Also consider checking out my Patreon. You can follow these updates weekly over there:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2551383

Aegis Omega – Brother in Arms (6)