The Hustle, Part III



Also Featuring:


Scene Title The Hustle, Part III
Synopsis Kenner is presented with a new job offer.
Date April 19, 2019

All Donald Kenner can hear are screams.

The roar of an engine is drowned out by the screams of just shy of a dozen people crammed into a bullet-riddled Humvee screaming down the fire-lined streets of Washington D.C. The chop of helicpters overhead is felt more as a vibration in Kenner's sternum for how low they fly. He can't be sure whether they're allied helicopters or not. Buildings on either side of the road, once tenements, are now gray and brown slouching piles of burning rubble, stones from their walls and foundations litter the road, each one beneath the Humvee's tires causing the vehicle to jostle and bounce. No one is secured inside, let alone Kenner's wife who sits with a white-knuckled grip in the passenger seat, one hand fastened to the handle of the door, the other to a handgun in her lap.

A shriek of a rocket-propelled grenade cuts through the screaming, as does the thunderous explosion that erupts in the street in front of their escape vehicle. "Hold on!" Kenner screams as he clutches the wheel tightly with both hands, plowing through the shower of asphalt debris that pockmarks the windshield with cracks, through the dust cloud and flames that wash over the vehicle's exterior and leave an acrid stink in the air in their wake. Through the smoke, Kenner can see a checkpoint up ahead, a well-lit roadblock of concrete barriers and concertina wire, flood lamps and mounted guns. It wasn't there yesterday, before the bombing began. The checkpoint sits at the mouth of the bridge to cross the Potomac, to get out of D.C. before they're all caught in the hellfire between Mitchell's forces and the resistance.

An unintelligible scream erupts from the back of Kenner's throat as he slams on the brakes, cutting the wheel sharply to the right and trying to pull a complete 180-degree turn. He winds up sideways, crashed into a fire hydrant, water spraying up into the air in a sudden geyser. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckget down!" Kenner howls, seeing the checkpoint gunner training his sights on the Humvee. Kenner exhales a deep and strangled cry as his eyes wrench shut and hands fly away from the wheel and up toward the driver's side window. As gunfire erupts, so too does the howling crash of water as the stream of the hydrant lashes through the air like a whip, striking the gunner from his perch and knocking him clear out of sight. Smaller arms fire pops through the air, the Humvee takes a few hits, but mostly it seems to be directed somewhere else. Kenner feels his wife take his hand and squeeze tightly. First he watches the column of water turn like a serpent and strike at another soldier, then he looks to his wife with wide and confused eyes.

That wasn't him.

Seven Years Later

Kenner's Apartment

Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone

April 19th, 8:54 pm

The white-walled apartment overlooking the Red Hook market from the third story across the street isn't special. No photographs or paintings hang from the walls, the only furniture is a ratty rust-colored recliner that was here when Donald Kenner moved in, where he finds himself seated right now, a beer in one hand and a portable radio in his lap, antenna extended up and at an angle away from him. A handful of boxes are stacked by the apartment's front door, some on the counters in the unused kitchen. The only light in his apartment spills through the street-facing windows that have no blinds or shades, a jaundiced yellow light of old streetlamps and one flickering red neon sign.

«…marks the second day of failed talks between the United States and the EU. Secretary of State Catherine Chesterfield and the public relations director of the SLC-Expressive Services Agency, Alice Shaw, spoke at length in front of the EU's provisional Council for Evolved Rights in an attempt to broker a deal that would restart trade negotiations between the EU and the United States.»

As Kenner listens to the radio, his eyes are focused distantly on the ruined skyline of Manhattan visible past the well lit rooftop of the Red Hook Market, his brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown. Taking a sip from his bottle, his thoughts are his own and his worries the same. Though they are, in part, reflected by the news broadcast on the radio.

«The EU, citing concerns of human smuggling of SLC-Expressive citizens out of the EU and into the United States, called the US' lax border control "reckless and irresponsible in the face of the growing threat of Evolved extremism in the world."»

Kenner closes his eyes, exhaling a frustrated sigh. The tension at his temples has been needling its way into his muscles for hours, building into a headache he doesn't even have any aspirin to relieve. At least, none that isn't hastily packed away into a box somewhere.

«Secretary Chesterfield left the conference early after reminding the council of the United States' policy on accepting asylum seekers and quoting a line from the UK punk band Sex PistolsGod Save the Queen. The meetings are— »

Having heard enough, Kenner turns the radio off and moves it out of his lap and onto the floor, spilling his beer on himself in the process. "God— fucking dammit," he curses to himself, hopping up and out of his chair, arms out to the side and lips pressed into a thin line holding in a scream of frustration. Kenner closes his hands, flexes his forearm muscles, and then as he releases them the beer steams off out of his clothing, evaporating into the air. He sighs, shaking his head and making a slow-footed progress to the closer-sized bathroom nearby.

Kenner doesn't bother to turn the light on when he goes in, setting the now empty beer bottle down on the back of the toilet and flipping up the lid. In the moments of silence provided by taking a piss, Kenner's mildly drunk mind wanders back to the conversation at the bar the other night. The dire state of things on the radio helps hone his memory to a point, bringing Richard Ray's words into a clearer focus than they were after a few glasses of Scotch.

"I started this, and I let them run it. I needed time away, and I trusted them to put things right."

Kenner closes his eyes, teeth clenched together.

"I just hope that my faith was well-placed, is all."

The sudden knock on his front door has Kenner nearly zipping himself up into his pants. He startles, hastily moving out of the bathroom but then lingering in the middle of his apartment, listening to the noises of the tenement building and the hallway. He can just see the shadow of two feet outside of his door in the brightly lit hall. The knock comes again. Tense, head throbbing with a stress headache and mildly buzzed, Kenner stalks over to the door to his apartment, only now regretting that the door doesn't have a peep hole. He moves beside the door, back to the undecorated refrigerator and asks, "Hello?"

There's silence, for a moment, followed by a muffled. "Don?" He doesn't recognize the voice, not at first anyway. Reaching back behind himself, Kenner turns on the kitchen sink to a steady stream, then clenches his fist and draws the water toward himself, tapering down to a knife-like point as it continues to grow in size as water accumulates from the pipe. He keeps that blooming spear of water at his back when he moves to unlock the deadbolt and chain, then slowly opens the door a crack to—

Illuminated by a narrow column of light from the hallway, Kenner looks up to the broad-shouldered figure standing on the other side of the door. One eye narrows, his mouth contorting into an expression of disbelief and confusion. "Mortlock?" Kenner croaks out, releasing the water to return to the sink.


"I thought you were dead."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License