Berlin, Germany 2021
Joe and Nicky were less than ten feet from the blue sedan when it exploded in a blazing hot ball of fire. Pain hit Nicky full in the chest and face seconds before the bomb’s shockwave shuddered the ground and propelled him backwards. He hit something hard and unforgiving, his head snapping back against it before flopping on the ground, left arm trapped and snapped in half beneath him. Felt the sticky wetness of blood in his hair, on his face, no doubt a head wound.
Consciousness started fading and became a precarious thread he struggled holding onto; the amount of damage his body endured clouding his normally sharp senses. Even after almost a millennium of countless injuries and dying on repeat, the pain was still sharp and remorseless. Shrapnel exited holes before closing, the slow progression of broken skin and bones mending gave him some relief. He welcomed that feeling, a humbling reminder that beneath the invincibility he was still human.
Aside from the shrill ringing in his ears, he heard nothing. Not the flames licking and devouring the remaining shell of the vehicle or the cries of others caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everything moved sluggishly, his own body along with those scrambling to help, as if caught in a slow-motion film. Shattered glass and shredded debris littered a large radius around the car, more people than Nicky realized affected by the blast.
Too many innocents, more lives lost and for what he wondered. Was the attack deliberate or coincidental that he and Joe were standing by that car bomb at the exact time it was set to go off? There was no political unrest in Berlin or Europe, but surprisingly and blissfully peaceful. Nicky surmised it linked with their less than fortunate mishap with Merrick and the prevalent interest in capturing them that followed. Even with Copley’s efforts to erase their tracks, more nefarious corporations pining for a taste of immortality didn’t relent.
Joe would be furious.
As if the film finally caught up with real time, Nicky searched frantically for his love through the chaos of fire and smoke and screams. He choked on the stench of burnt flesh and blood, clotted in thick smoke. So many people, onlookers and victims, and Nicky felt the unease of discovery settling like bricks in his stomach. He needed to find Joe and get away.
Shouting out Joe’s name he pushed upright on shaky arms – the left one weaker still. How slow he was healing this time around was a faint nagging at the back of his mind, but the unknown of Joe’s wellbeing blundered any more thought of it.
Find Joe. Get out and find a safe place to hunker down until they could figure out who started the attack.
Several feet away with far too much blood pooled around his unmoving body. Nicky’s heart stopped and lodged in his throat with the crippling dread of death finally taking Joe from him. There was always the grounding reality of one day they wouldn’t wake up again. It wasn’t death that frightened Nicky, but the risk of Joe passing before him, leaving him alone with nothing to live for and unable to die.
Nicky started toward Joe, eager to touch him and feel his chest rise and fall with breath, to press his lips against Joe’s and feel their warmth on his. He should’ve woken up by now and Nicky couldn’t get to him fast enough.
“Joe! Yussuf, destati—”
The sudden squeal of brakes followed by boots hitting pavement stopped his mission of reaching his love. He twisted round, gun raised and trigger-finger contracting purely from reflex of facing similar dilemmas in the past.
Nicky killed one of the men by shooting the combat-clad soldier in the neck before the other five armored bodies surrounded him and blocked his view of Joe. Dismay crept up his spine and seized a furious cry from his throat. Steel-toed boots and rifle butts lashed out from all directions before he had the chance at shooting anyone else. One relieved Nicky of his gun by crushing his wrist. Another boot caught him across the temple and his vision flashed white before he crumbled flat on his stomach, wrist still trapped, small bones grinding together painfully.
He barely caught his breath when the end of a rifle struck his cheek. Blood pooled on his tongue and he spat it out as a gloved fist careened toward his face, but he caught the hand and twisted before impact. Broke the assailant’s arm at the elbow, white bone glistening in stark contrast against the black suit. The man screamed and stumbled out of the circle, but the others just formed a tighter cage around Nicky.
When he caught the glint of steel cuffs, the terror of being captured again renewed Nicky’s fervor at fighting his way out by throwing punches and kicks at any solid piece of flesh.
Immortal or not, he was no match against 50,000 volts of electricity.
Nicky choked on a scream; the tortured sound stuck behind clenched teeth as his muscles seized. It only lasted seconds, but the convulsions and pain rendered him defenseless and his limbs worthless. His arms were wrenched back, and metal snapped around his wrists. Hands hooked around his elbows, hauling him off the ground.
“What about the other?”
“Leave him, he’s dead! He’s no good to her.”
Hysteria erupted out of Nicky, his cry a wretched, broken thing. He needed to see Joe, needed to dissuade any notion that his love was truly gone. This couldn’t be how it ended. After countless deaths over the centuries, being dragged away from Joe’s body left on the side of the street was the worst possibility.
“No, no… Joe! Joe!”
Frantic for a glimpse of Joe, he twisted and thrashed, craning his head around. A hand clutched the back of his neck and pushed him forward, slamming his face onto the hood of a black SUV. He gnashed his teeth, tensing his body for battle despite the chains and iron grips of his captors.
They must’ve sensed his motive when a gloved hand tangled a fistful of Nicky’s hair before smashing his face against the hood again. The reverberation clanged in his skull as a gray haze crept around the edges of his awareness, slowing getting bigger. Like an over-inflated balloon seconds from popping. His head meeting the SUV’s hood a second time popped the balloon and he fell down the dark hole into nothing.