As the world started to take shape again, Ulman tried to ignore the loud ringing in his ears.
“Urg,” was all he brought out. He could not tell if it was out of pain or frustration. Miller had explicitly warned him to be careful. And yet, here he was sitting on the floor after being hit over the head.
When his vision cleared, Ulman pushed himself up on the wall and padded down his body. At least his gear and extremities still seemed intact but as he reached inside the side pocket he stopped. Just before his head had connected with something hard, he had carefully placed the memory stick in there. The one that Igor had given him, and now his pocket was empty.
A low growl escaped Ulman. “Asshat.” Then he pushed off the wall and walked out into the station. Given how clumsy Igor was, he was hard to miss when a shape that looked exactly like him collided with a woman at the other end of the platform.
“Hey, Igor!” Ulman shouted and, lo and behold, the person turned around. Had Igor not hit and stolen from him, Ulman would have almost felt sorry for the …“Idiot.”
A moment later Igor fumbled at a door and disappeared inside. Of course, Ulman had to follow. He had to get the data back, and it was a safe bet to assume that it was with Igor. So he pushed through the crowd at the station. At first, keeping his tone kind as he asked them to step aside, until eventually, his already thin patience ran out and he simply elbowed them aside with a grunt.
Why was it so hard for people to listen to him anyway? No, they had to try and knock him out, because that’s always fun. Ulman cursed inwardly. As if that was not enough, Igor had to take shit that The Order had payed for.
“No, why can nobody ever simply say >>oh thank you, nice stranger, you are very handsome and very brave.<<?” Ulman rambled under his breath as he reached for the VSV behind his back.
Then he nudged the door open with his boot, cringing at the sound that it made. He needed to concentrate, Ulman told himself as he scanned the room. So far the entry area seemed to be clear, so he took a step inside.
“Come on, Igor,” Ulman called out in a sing-song. He needed to draw him out. “Don’t be shy. We’re all friends here.”
There was no response and Ulman walked deeper into the room. It was dark but not so dark that he needed his goggle. He just hoped that Igor wasn’t hiding in some shadows and would knock him out again. “We’re all friends in here,” Ulman called out – trying to sound cheerful. “I am not even mad.”
No … mad wasn’t exactly the word Ulman would have used. Fucking pissed seemed more fitting.
“Every relationship has its ups and downs.”
In exactly that moment, a high-pitched scream echoed through the room. Ulman’s blood froze as he realised that it had been a child, and a moment later this was confirmed as his flashlight revealed Igor: standing in the middle of the room while pressing a revolver against the head of an innocent boy.
Ulman knew that he could not shoot right now; there were too many things that could go wrong. Furthermore, he wanted to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed near the child. Taking a deep breath, Ulman calmed his nerves but still aimed his gun perfectly.
Better safe than sorry … he just needed to be faster when the moment came.
“You don’t want to do this,” Ulman began to talk, his voice calm.
However, Igor seemed anything but … Instead he started laughing frantically. “You know nothing!” Evilness was oozing of every single note, so much that the boy may have realised how bad the situation was and started crying.
“We can work this out,” Ulman tried to stall for time. He needed to act quickly, and he needed to be sure about it as well. He could not risk ending the kid’s life. “The Order can pay you double.”
“You think this about money?”
As he spoke he pressed the child closer to him so Ulman did not respond.
“No, it is much more than that!” Igor continued. “This about power, dominance and supremacy! I have it all now!”
Ulman’s finger gently applied pressure to the trigger. He knew exactly where the trigger point was, and he wanted this to be clean and efficient.
“The world has never seen a bigger evil than me!”
The laughter that followed was cut off when Ulman fired his gun. The bullet danced beautifully through the air and missed Igor’s head by a fraction – exactly as Ulman had intended. Instead he watched as his hair was trimmed a little.
In his fright, Igor released the child. “Run!” Ulman shouted at the boy and watched him disappear into the safety of the station. When he turned back to Igor, he had dropped onto his knees – tears streaking his face.
“Did you really think that you can defeat The Order?” Ulman asked as he walked up to him. The closer he got, the better look he got at his face and the snot underneath his nose. A pathetic sight.
“Please, don’t hurt me!” Igor began to beg but Ulman remained unimpressed.
“The data,” he interrupted his annoying pleading. “Please.”
“Of course, of course.” Igor began to dig the pockets of his dirty trousers. “You are such a fine solider, I should have never tried to betray you.”
Putting his gun aside, Ulman took the memory stick and shook his head. “Honesty makes you rich, but she works slowly,” he responded wisely – maybe one day Igor would understand. “I will give you one more chance though.”
Ulman did not have the heart to discard such a poor creature.
“You are a saint …” Igor’s voice cracked as he spoke these words, clearly overwhelmed by the generosity Ulman offered him. “… You are the best thing in this bleak and dark world.”
“Now get out of my sight,” Ulman responded and watched as Igor scrambled to his feet and dashed for the darkness. Maybe Igor would learn his lesson and never cross The Order’s path again.
And so, brave Ulman turned around with the intention of delivering the data as fast as possible to Polis but as he walked back to the main platform of the station a crowd had formed.
“That’s him, Mama!” When Ulman turned towards the source, he saw the little boy he had just saved. Now, however, everyone turned their attention towards Ulman. They started to call him a hero, a saviour, a knight in shining armour who had saved the Metro. It was clear that those who did not want to be with him, wanted to be him.
However, Ulman knew to be modest, after all he was a simple man just doing his job.
“… and that’s exactly how the mission ended,” Ulman finished his report, sitting in Miller’s office. He had to admit that he was quite pleased with it – it had action, heroics, a saved child, and was as far from the truth as humanly possible.
“Hmm … that’s very nice, Ulman.”
Ulman froze mid movement. Miller’s voice had been far too calculated. Nevertheless, he couldn’t back away now, so he responded with natural ease … “Thank you, sir.” … but feared for his life.
“It doesn’t exactly explain why you came back smelling like a cesspit.”
“No, sir, it does not,” Ulman stated because it did not.
“Or why half of your weapons and gear are missing.”
Maybe he still had a chance to add that bit, oh I just remembered I gave them away to the poor, so they could buy food.
Miller went on, “Or how about why the mayor never wants anything to do with Rangers again!”
“I can’t read minds.” He shrugged.
Miller sighed and leaned forward. “Let me ask you something,” he began, his voice rising with each word he spoke. “Did you, by any chance, fuck up?!”
“What gives you that idea?” Ulman responded, his tone calm but he was pleased that he managed to add a slightly offended note. “I just told you in my report …”
“Which is worse than the horse shit in those romance novels that you like to read!”
“Those are very relaxing to read!” Ulman responded, truly offended this time. A moment later he added kindly, “Maybe you should try it, you seem stressed.”
Miller took a shaky breath and closed his eyes. “Ulman …” Then he rubbed the bridge of his nose. Maybe Ulman had finally managed it – driven their commander to the brink of insanity. “There are a lot of things that stress me but right now you are at the very top of that list! So, will you shut up!”
Making an incredibly wise decision, Ulman did.
Then Miller collected himself and began to talk again. “Your mission would have been easy, and it should have happened like this …”