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midnight fistfight

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All the dragging and banging against pavement has left the skin of his arms and hands torn raw. They're not even leaking blood at this point, the goop is clear. Plasma? Dime thinks the clear stuff is called plasma.

At least he put on thick canvas pants this morning. The guys who caught him clipped his ankles together in the same fashion as his wrists but the most he's getting on the lower limbs are mean bruises and cracked knees. His legs are wet only because he was rudely dragged through a puddle approximately twenty yards back.

The big white guy who has a grip on Dime's right arm stops at the threshold of a warehouse's big double doors. The interior is lit with a bit of flashy flashy in the rafters and a bit of low lighting from lamps on the concrete floor. Dime has to squint to make out the shapes of people moving around inside, but making his eyes focus that hard causes his headache to spike so he stops, tries to relax his shoulders as much as he can, drops his head to hang loose and pathetic.

"Found a rat, boss," Dime's personal dragging companion announces, then pulls Dime into the warehouse. The metal track for the door scrapes Dime's legs as he's dragged over it. He grits his teeth against a muffled yelp of pain.

A pale white man who seems to be seventy percent extremities unfolds himself from the open passenger side of a car parked inside the building. The dragging oaf stops a yard from the vehicle and Dime tries to twist around so he can at least get his knees under him.

"None of that, now," a wispy voice says and then Dime's head is yanked back so his face is towards the roof and his neck is twisted at an angle. His hair where this gangly freak of nature is pulling at it feels like it's about to be torn straight from his scalp.

Dime's eyes water. He meets the shiny gaze of this Boss guy's optic implants and wishes he had just stayed home.

"Looking for some cheese, rat?" Boss asks. Croaks. His vocal cords aren't working smoothly, feel grating on the ears. The man's got plated-eyebrows over his technological marvel of an eyeball set and they waggle up and down at Dime. "Found some poison traps instead."

"Fuck," Dime groans. "Are you for real?"

That earns a couple of chuckles from the men idling in the room. Boss chuckles too, but it's from a mouth baring too many shiny teeth down at Dime's face so it doesn't seem to be coming from a place of mirth.

"Come on," Dime tries. "I got friends around, we can avoid bad shit if you just let me go."

"Check the heat," Boss says. Someone runs off, clangs loudly up some metal stairs.

Dime closes his eyes. Of course, they have security cameras. Of course, his intel was so horribly wrong that they have security cameras.

"No heat!" Someone yells from up on high, Dime assumes from a security hub on the second floor. Dime's head is shook gently as the Boss tsks.

"You got nothing, old man," Boss croaks, and this time his grin is very much in a gleeful fashion.

Boss twists his fingers in Dime's hair some more, makes Dime wince at the pull. "Little gray to be doing this shit, huh? They hire grandpas now?"

Dime bares his teeth up at the man. "Survived this long, haven't I?"

The plated eyebrows wing up, catch the light from the flashing strobes set in the ceiling. "Not gonna survive longer."

"You should be asking me for tips here!" Dime tests the hold the big guy has on his arm. It's still rock-solid with no give. "I've lived! I have spoiler sheets!"

Boss guy tosses Dime's head away from him and Dime just about moans at the relief of his neck not being twisted like that anymore.

"That why you were sulking around?"

A cough from somewhere back in the dim light; Dime can't place who made it from his still-twisted position. Then a deep, careful voice says, "Skulking."

Boss whirls around. "What was that?"

Whoever it is replies quickly, "Absolutely nothing."

"No he's right," Dime says, "the word is skulking not sulking."

Boss whirls back to Dime, strobe flashing across his dumb eyebrows. Then he lifts a hand with all the fingers replaced by mechanical work and cracks it across Dime's face.

# # # #

Dime recovers his wits and vision after he's been strapped securely to a DIY throne constructed out of chilled beer cases and a lot of tense truck straps. He presses the back of his head against the cold metal and it helps his headache a little.

Doesn't do much for his neck though. He focuses his eyes on the gun turret set on a tripod just in front of him and grimaces.

While he was dazed from the smack to his head the warehouse was apparently cleared. He can't see anyone moving around but hears shouting and thumping out around the vans parked in the loading yard. Boss' croak is among them, soft indistinct commands that Dime can't make out the specifics of.

Clanking footsteps start to his left; he twitches his head slightly in that direction to see two men walking down a flight of metal stairs side-by-side, and a third man lagging behind them.

"Aw, the rat's waked up," one of the men says, flashing a mouth full of chromatic-plated teeth that are stark on his pale face.

Dime shifts in his seat so he can brace himself for a hit. The gun beeps on its tripod and the muzzle tracks his movement.

He freezes and stares at the gun. Shit.

The other guy, the one who has organic teeth but both legs are springs with a glowing liquid cooling system twisted around the struts, laughs at him on his way out the open door.

Shiny teeth guy follows, leaving Dime alone with the guy still meandering down the stairs.

If he can lure the guy between him and the gun he might have a chance of getting free. He thinks. Probably not, but worth a try.

Dime eyeballs the last crony; the guy's younger than him by a fair amount, so unless he's stupid then Dime's probably screwed.

The guy comes to a stop just behind the gun, stops fussing with his phone to look Dime in the eye.

Okay, Dime's screwed because this man is definitely not stupid.

The man's face is impassive. He's got dark brown skin and a sharp jawline, short black hair slicked back and his body from the neck up at least is either all organic or very well camouflaged. Likely the former, because it costs a lot of money to make mechanical enhancements look human.

Dime feels annoyed by the scrutiny. He snarls. Then the gun beeps at him and he stops.

The man heaves a sigh and carefully turns his face up to look at the ceiling. Dime blinks, then looks up too.

The flashing lights are methodical but not bright enough to really illuminate the roofing. He catches glimpses of metal, some rounded parts, and some wiring.

"When the lights go out it means the guns are powered down," the man says, and Dime jerks hard enough for the gun pointed at his face to beep again.

That man's voice is the same as the one that corrected the Boss' word choice earlier. Dime stares at him. "What?"

The guy slides a card from his phone case. It's blood red and looks a lot like the override cards the pigs use on everything to force shutdowns. Then he swipes it against the back case of the gun tripod and what do you know, it powers down slowly with a piteous final beep.

With the muzzle aimed at the concrete floor instead of Dime's face, he can relax his shoulders a little. He tenses them right back up when the man steps around the gun though.

The card has been hidden again, and the man uses organic fingers to pick at the clamps keeping the straps pulled taught across Dime's right arm. They loosen, then slither away to fall to the floor after only a moment of effort.

Dime automatically lifts his arm to test it. The man grabs him by the wrist and slams his arm back down onto the cold beer box, leans down to get really close to Dime's face.

"If the lights are flashing then they're coded to shoot anything that moves," he says, tone conversational. He breathes on Dime's cheek like some weird freak.

Then he releases Dime and turns, meanders out of the warehouse like he's just going for a casual stroll.

"Fucking what," Dime whispers.

Engines start outside. Some of them drive off immediately, others idle for a while to the sound of doors slamming and the crew hooting at each other.

Dime sits carefully still listening to the pounding of his heart until the final car leaves and all is quiet.

He eyeballs the guns up in the ceiling. He still can't make out the details but there's probably a lot of them if each flash is for one gun. Lots and lots of guns, he's going to be full of so many holes he'll leak after one sip of water.

Maybe if he sticks out a foot to test it? He wouldn't be thrilled, but a foot is easily replaceable, especially if he gets the payout for what he came here for.

While he contemplates acceptable losses a long beep sounds from the room upstairs. It sounds like it's in agony and Dime tenses against a flinch.

Then the entire room goes dark. Lights in the ceiling, the lamps on the concrete floor, everything.

He waits for a count of ten. All is silent in the warehouse, only Dime's ragged breathing and the soft clicking of the roof guns cooling break it.

"Shit, I'm gonna have to blow that guy in thanks, aren't I?" Dime says, then uses his freed hand to get the rest of the restraints off of him.

# # # #

First order of business is to see what the hell he's doing, so Dime drops to the floor and starts to tentatively slap at the concrete. He finds the tripod to the powered-down security gun and a couple empty bottles before he knocks over one lone lantern; he clutches it to his chest and twists at the base until it flickers on.

He can't tell much with the rest of the lights off but he thinks this was originally a weigh-station for midsize shipping trucks. There's a glint of metal along the back wall that could be consoles, and it's a good a guess as any what they're for.

Dime places his prize lantern onto the ground and pokes at the security gun on its tripod. The cable controlling it with the security system is easily unplugged from the back casing, so he starts with that. Then he starts twisting at the screws keeping it on the tripod to see if he can separate it.

It doesn't take long to figure out this isn't going to work. He shakes out his right hand to get rid of the sting of uncooperative metal and then picks back up the lantern, peers into the dark, and tries to think.

If he were stolen packages of chemicals, where would those assholes shove him?

The cold boxes he was strapped to are a good place to start. And bonus, the lids aren't even latched down; he just has to dig his fingertips under the lip and yank to make the cold metal separate, and then he can-- well, then he can get a really good look at an assortment of human arms and legs crammed messily into the cold box.

"Great, this is the one I was sitting on." Dime drops the lid and it lands skewed, he can still see freezer burnt flesh through the gap.

He shoves at it with his free hand. Then he puts the lantern back onto the floor and shoves at it with both hands. The lid keeps popping up, like now that it's free it just doesn't want to go back. He tries leaning his weight and it shifts a little. Maybe if he sits on it again and bounces?

A car engine pulls up outside. The headlights cut through the darkness through the small windows set into the huge garage doors along the wall behind Dime. He pauses, listens.

Car doors open and slam. Someone laughs, a murmur of an annoyed snipe, then someone else with a younger voice says, "Did we leave the lights off?"

Dime ducks behind a pile of cardboard boxes stacked precariously on top of a rickety metal desk. The metal desk is three feet off the ground and gives him a clear view of the door if he peers under it, which means they'll see him too.

He looks around for something better but then the huge doors slide open and the spotlights set up to illuminate the loading yard outside blind him for a moment.

"What the fuck?!"

Dime twists and dives behind the cold boxes full of corpses. He bangs into the open box as he goes and the lid flies clear off and lands with a loud bang onto the concrete.

"We can see where you went, dumbshit!" One of the men shouts. Dime peers over the edge of his barrier and can see the group if he squints.

The two white dumbasses who taunted him on their way out are back; there's also a pale teenager looking like they're about to puke, and Dime's dark and mysterious savior stands behind all of them with one hand over his eyes and his jaw clenched.

Dime reaches around his protection and gropes inside the opened box full of body parts. The leg he ends up grabbing has a bit of a slime-feel to it and gives him the impression he's holding a frozen sponge that happens to have a foot attached.

He lobs the limb at the group of creeps and then runs to his left where he can see the dim outline of the staircase going up to the security room.

The leg he threw hits someone with a thunk and whoever it is screeches. Someone makes a vomiting noise. Someone else bellows "Shoot him," and an automatic rifle unloads a clip into the warehouse, bullets ping off the metal walls.

Dime manages to get to the stairs without getting hit. He's in full dark, hopefully they can't see him. He goes up the steps on all fours trying to be light on his feet. The thuds of his boots on metal don't do him any favors. He keeps one eye on the group of armed assholes as he climbs.

The teenager has a revolver in one hand and a horrible stance to go along with it. They aim the muzzle without looking down the sights towards the dark and yank on the trigger. The desk Dime originally tried to hide behind topples, the boxes it was holding up land heavy onto the concrete and sand-like contents spill out all over the place.

Dime gets to the top of the stairs just in time to see his benefactor rip the revolver out of the teenager's hands and smack the kid in the back of the head with an open palm. The two other idiots are stepping inside now, riles ready to fire while they peer into the dark.

He keeps his face towards the threat and tries to slide his feet while he backs in through the open doorway of the security room.

"You knocked over the bug things," one of the guys says, he nudges the sand with his boot and then looks up at the ceiling like Dime's going to drop down onto him like a spider.

"There's no way out of here except the front!" The other guy shouts. His steel-coil legs give off an eerie glow from the spotlights outside. "Get out here and we'll just tie you up again, no harm."

"He threw a fucking foot at me, there was some fucking harm."

"Okay, we'll smack you around a little cos ya got a leg up on Sammy. But we won't kill ya!"

Dime's backed fully into the security room now. Even if one of them managed to produce a flashlight to swing around they wouldn't be able to see him so long as he stays crouched like this.

He looks to his right and sees an open door leading to a room full of couches and fridges. He looks to the left and there's a thick metal door with a security pad set over the knob. He creeps that way cos it's more interesting than a break room.

"Aw shit, the bugs are getting into Boss' collection!" Sammy shouts. His leg-coil friend barks out a laugh, and Dime can pick out the voice of his Hero say something but not make out the exact words.

Dime tests the knob to the door. It turns easy under his hand and the door swings open. He skitters into the room and gently closes the door behind him.

This room has uncovered windows that face the loading yard so there's a bit of light for him to see by. The walls are covered in metal shelving units, the center of the room has more metal tables like the one downstairs. On top of the tables are various packages, some sealed shut and some ripped open.

No windows happen to look out over the main room where the danger is, so Dime straightens up to get a good look at what is on the table. There are bottles of liquid and bottles of pills. Rolls of blotter paper and bags of eyedroppers.

He picks up a bottle at random and squints at the label. Nothing he recognizes, but lots of syllables and a weird rhythm of consonants. He decides to take that bottle and shoves it into the pocket of his coat, then picks up another bottle to consider next.

"What the fuck is going on?" Dime's Hero shouts. Dime crams his current bottle into his pocket too and starts to scoop anything with an official label into his remaining pockets.

"Just call the Boss!" Sammy yells. He sounds like he's out of breath and a little panicked about it. Some rifle fires a bit, a total clip's worth maybe, then it stops and someone yells in pain.

The table is now cleared off and Dime's pockets are full to bursting. He drops back into a crouch and slowly opens the door back into the security room to check for danger.

No one is upstairs, but there are more upset noises down in the warehouse proper. Also, the glass along the wall to the security room has somehow shattered inwards without Dime hearing it which makes him rub at his left ear a little in irritation.

He crawls out into the room and skirts the mess of glass on the floor. Then he peers out into the warehouse to see the pile of the so-called bug things heaving over the corpse of Sammy. His friend with the leg-coils throws his gun at the mess and then turns to flee, shoves past the teenager and Dime's Hero.

Said Hero shouts after Leg-Coil, "It'll get to people in the street if we don't keep it in here!"

Leg-coil's rapidly fading voice shouts back, "Like I give a shit!"

Dime's Hero swaps out clips on his rifle and aims it at the writhing mass. The teenager ducks behind him right when he starts to fire.

The thing doesn't look like it's bothered much. Where the bullets hit there are ripples, but the crunching and wet slopping noises don't slow down and the corpse is almost gone entirely into the mess.

Dime smacks around on the security console, presses buttons, and twists knobs. Nothing reacts to his desperation. He skitters sideways to a new set of buttons and tries those, same result.

There's a switch on the wall that Dime hasn't tried yet. He leans over and swats it, and a beep happens somewhere behind him. He turns and looks, there's one single flashing light embedded on the top of a monitor attached to a stand over a desk.

The teenager downstairs shrieks and the gunfire cuts out. Dime feels around the monitor for anything to press and finds three buttons along the side. He mashes all three at once and the monitor turns on.

So do all the lights in the room.

Dime runs back to the wall of broken glass. The lights on the floor and the ceiling are all powering on.

His hero is back to shooting the mass of metallic bug things and corpse parts. The creature is starting to wobble its way to the open door. How it is managing that movement is a mystery, but then guns in the ceiling start to whirr and Dime decides to table his curiosity in favor of bellowing "Roof guns!"

Dime's Hero grabs the teenager and yanks them back from the open door just in time for the guns to come to life. The creature thing pancakes to the concrete under the force of excessive security measures and a healthy amount of ammunition.

Dime crouches back down while the guns keep firing. He doesn't think there's anything else he can do here. He doesn't have a weapon, and if that weird thing decides to crawl up the wall it can probably eat him next.

Mind made up, he crawls on all fours into the break room. There's a window over one of the sofas, cracked open to the night air. He shoves it open wide enough to crawl through and slithers out onto the ledge without looking around.

A spotlight flashes onto him and holds steady. He manages to keep one hand gripped on the window so he doesn't tumble out backward but it's a close thing.

"Police! Hands up!" Someone shouts immediately below him.

"God fucking damnit, fine," Dime says. He releases the ledge and drops out of the window onto the cops below.

# # # #

The cop he lands on is more cybernetics than human meat so even though he knocks her down he does more damage to himself than her. His shoulders were already in pain from being dragged around, but now he thinks they're both borderline dislocated at the joint. However extreme the injury will turn out to be, the pain leaves him gasping facedown on the asphalt.

A cop in riot gear and a full-face helmet hauls Dime up by his left arm. He gets to his feet, but he has to lean on the cop to get that far.

The cop he landed on gets herself up too, her face's white skin is flushed red and her eyes are narrowed. She grabs the sleeve of his coat on his right arm and yanks.

"I just fell from a great height, be a little gentle," Dime tells her. She yanks harder so his sleeve slides down his arm enough to strain his shoulders. He tries to twist away but a sharp pain that radiates up his neck makes him go still again.

Somehow they get his coat off without releasing him. He's sweat through his shirt and the night air hits him like a blast of cold even though the temperature itself is probably more on the scale of balmy. Dime does his best not to shiver. He thinks it might do something horrible to his injuries if he does.

The cop he landed on holds up his coat with one hand and wobbles it like she's testing its weight. She maintains eye contact with Dime the entire time.

"I get cold," Dime says. He's done this all before, he knows if he rolls his eyes at her he's going to get a beating.

A different cop with their own full gear on comes up to him and starts to pat him down. Touching his knee makes him wobble, he leans heavily against the first cop to manhandle him just to keep his balance.

"No guns or knives," the painful toucher announces. Their voice sounds deep from inside the helmet.

"Never touch the stuff, officer," Dime says, tries to get his breath back.

They don't let him recover. With the two cops in full riot gear, one on either side of him, he's marched around the back of the warehouse, past the dumpsters and sealed metal crates stacked haphazard against the property wall and the building itself, right onto the sidewalk of the street. Then he's more dragged than marched down the sidewalk to where all the cop cars and SWAT vans are parked.

One lane of the street is entirely taken up by law enforcement vehicles. The other lane is still open to traffic, but some cops must be directing the cars because he can't see any head-on collisions, just careful batches of cars going one way and the other.

The warehouse gives way to the loading lot and the stacked shipping containers that Dime tried to use as camouflage while he skulked around. It's sparse enough to see the hullabaloo at the front from the street, and that's how Dime spots his Hero and that damn teenager still there shooting at the weird liquefied corpse ball.

"Hey! Run!" Dime shouts at them. The cop following behind him smacks him in the back of his head and he lurches forward.

The cops dragging him make him get upright again with quick yanks on his arms and when his vision clears from the sparks of white he can see the teenager hauling ass in the opposite direction from the cops, but his Hero is still fucking standing there being all heroic and martyr-like.

He's dragged to the open double doors of an empty van and thrown inside. He doesn't really know what way is up but these damn people seem to not have the same issue because before he figures it out he's chained to the wall of the van direct and the cop he landed on is throwing his coat onto the floor in front of him before wandering off.

He's not alone. He has a guard, rifle trained on him, but the young man is looking towards the warehouse. Dime breathes through his teeth so he doesn't vomit.

Someone wearing a reflective biohazard tent and with a huge metal tank strapped to their back walks past the open doors. A hose is looped over their shoulders, their feet drag under their heavy burden.

A couple of the cops politely clap as the shambling tent passes. A high-pitched voice shouts "fuck off!" at them.

Dime still feels like he's gonna hurl but he's going to ignore that for now. He tries to use the leverage from his restrained arms to lean out the back of the van, and he can just see the door to the warehouse, the roiling meat mass, and his Hero standing maybe five feet away from it calmly shooting his rifle into it.

The tank-wearing person walks right up to Dime's Hero. Said Hero says something to them and then backs up a step. The hose is aimed directly up, a valve on the nozzle pulled back, and a burst of snow-like substance puffs out and floats off into the air.

Antifreeze? No, the other one. Anti-antifreeze. Whatever it is, it's supposed to cool things down super quickly, like mech joints and advertising billboards about to blow.

Now that no bullets are pounding it into submission the sludgy thing starts to get active. It puddles clear goop around it and looks like a mound of meat rolled in gravel, but it's also pulsing like it's got places to be but hasn't quite figured out how to get there yet.

Anti-antifreeze person aims the nozzle of their hose at the roiling mass and begins to hose it down with whatever is in the tank on their back. The mass quivers under the blast but stops advancing.

Dime's Hero lowers his gun from the ready position with his head quirked. The anti-antifreezer tilts their head back and the Hero nods in answer. Whatever is going on is apparently what they want it to do. Then Dime's Hero removes the clip from his rifle and drops the entire contraption to the ground like it's a piece of trash.

Dime is getting the feeling here that this Hero of his isn't on the up-and-up with this whole crime thing.

His musing is cut short as another tank-harnessed person in full gear approaches Sal from behind. Because of the angle Dime's in he can't see where they came from no matter how he cranes his neck. They pat Dime's Hero on the shoulder and jerks their helmeted head towards the street, then slides past to join their anti-antifreeze compatriot and join in on the hosing.

Dime's so-called Hero scrubs at his face with both hands. His shoulders heave with a deep breath or a sigh or something. Then he turns towards the street and looks straight at Dime with a very blank and serious set to his mouth.

That absolutely is not a good thing, Dime decides. He swings himself back into the van and groans as the weight comes off his shoulders. All right, they're not dislocated, just bruised to hell and back. Maybe a pulled muscle or two.

The cop guarding Dime takes one hand off his assault rifle to gesture across the street, towards the warehouse. "Think it's finally dead?"

Dime stops trying to stretch his shoulders out. It's futile anyway since both wrists are cuffed to the van's wall. "Sorry, what?"

"That thing? Is it dead?"

"I don't even know why the hell it was alive in the first place," Dime says. He shakes his head.

The cop's shoulders go up a bit, his light face flushes. "So it might still be alive?"

Dime doesn't want to give this kid the idea that he thinks they're a total dumbass, but he doesn't know how to keep this impression of his to himself.

"Why don't you go say hello and see if it answers back?"

The absolute child in a cop uniform puts his gesturing hand back onto his rifle. The muzzle moves a little in Dime's direction but falls just short of being outright aimed at his face. More like his unprotected kneecaps. His kneecaps are definitely in danger here.

Dime's Hero comes around the van and stops right at the open door. His arms are crossed and he looks at the kid cop with raised eyebrows, cuts his gaze to the rifle, then back up to the cop's face.

The kid's shoulders go down and so does the rifle muzzle.

"I'll take it from here," Dime's Hero says. His voice is scratchier than it was earlier, probably hurt himself with all the yelling. Now that he's not in the dim light or forcing Dime to look at him through a concussion squint, he's even more unfairly good-- and young-- looking than before.

The kid steps away. Doesn't go all the way away, but far enough for Dime to decide he's safe to air some grievances.

"You're a filthy pig," Dime tells him.

His hero rolls his eyes and leans against the van's door. "And you're a fucking moron."

Dime tests the hold of the cuffs again. Pain shoots up his shoulders and neck to settle at the base of his skull. "Did you know they'd strapped me onto fucking body boxes?"

Now his Hero has a bit of a grin on his face. It makes all those angles on his jaw look even more handsome, damn it. "Yes."

"You are a sick individual," Dime says. Sure he can say he's been beaten up and that's why he's feeling so crappy, but really when faced with this guy here Dime just feels old. Bruises take forever when you're in your thirties, but the wrong side of forty? He's going to be creaking right into his grave.

"Any other adjectives to assign to me?" His Hero asks, still with that grin. "I did make it so you could get away after all."

Dime's lip curls. "Fuck you, pig. No way in hell you're getting a blowjob now."

Finally that grin drops off. Dime's Hero blinks at him, then asks, "What?"

A man wearing a formal suit and tie, his red hair slicked back and his tanned skin buffed to perfection, saunters up to them from somewhere Dime can't see. Behind the van he's in? Everyone seems to come from there.

The man has his hands in his pockets and a relaxed set to his shoulders, a little grin on his face. Dime's Hero stiffly salutes.

"Sir."

This very important and salutation-worthy man nods his head once. "Lieutenant Salazar. I see your cover was unnecessarily blown."

Dime permits one solid thunk of his skull back against the van's wall. This just keeps getting worse and worse and worse.

"I could've let the weird creature thing crawl into an intersection to play in traffic and kept my cover," Lieutenant Salazar says.

"No, no. It's just nice to know you're a failure now," the important man says. "Gives me the warm and fuzzies, you know?"

Lieutenant Salazar's jaw twitches. "Happy to oblige, sir."

The important man nods again. "You're lying."

"Always, sir."

"Can I get out of here before I'm forced to vomit all over both of you?" Dime asks them. "This love-fest is gross."

Both of them turn to Dime. "And who are you?" The important guy asks.

Dime tries to smile but he's pretty sure he's just baring his teeth. "Delegate agent for a merc, and no I won't give a name. I'm paid to not give names."

The man looks Dime over. "Did you find what you were looking for?"

"Probably, but if you find any boxes or bottles with a hell of a lot of syllables on them you let me know, okay?"

Lieutenant Salazar holds out a hand like he's warding off evil. "He isn't part of the gang, they caught him on the cameras and dragged him in. I think they were going to quarter him after the job tonight."

That's news to Dime! "What did I do to deserve that?"

Lieutenant Salazar shakes his head. "It's not what you did, it's what isn't on television."

Dime squints. "The entertainment satellites have been down for weeks?"

"Exactly."

Dime wants to go home now. "I want to go home now."

The important guy looks Dime over, then shrugs and wanders off back around the van and out of Dime's line of sight. Lieutenant Salazar watches the man go for a bit, then he must be far enough off because he steps forward to get close enough and fuss over Dime's handcuffs stuck to the van's wall.

Dime can see the man's pulse thrum in his neck. His mouth is a little dry now, he swallows compulsive-like.

"I'm going to escort you to the line, then you get out of sight." A click of metal, and the tension keeping Dime's arms behind him releases. Dime's arms swing to his sides, numb and not responding. "You hang around and someone's gonna shoot you for fun."

The pins and needles in Dime's arms start, so Lieutenant Salazar helps him stagger out of the van and grabs his coat from the van's floor, then leads him across the street where tape is set up and a grand three onlookers are gathered to peer at the commotion.

Dime tries to move one arm and it's pained, but he can make a fist. He uses that fist to reach in front of the Lieutenant and grab his coat.

"You are a weird pig," he says.

"Sure."

"Absolutely bonkers."

Lieutenant Salazar shrugs. "That's me."

They arrive at the tape. Dime ducks under it and the Lieutenant stands there to watch.

"Thanks for letting me go," Dime says and starts to cram his partially-cooked noodle arms into the sleeves of his coat.

"Anytime."

His coat is on crooked, but at least he's warm again. he eyeballs Salazar, affable and handsome and apparently a really shitty undercover cop, and comes to a decision.

"Let me know when you want that blowjob and we'll work it into my schedule, okay?"

Salazar blinks. "Wait, what?"