I glanced around the hall. White walls, blond wood baseboards and doors, bright fluorescents overhead, thin green carpeting that looked “all weather” and “expensive” all at once. Bob was far ahead of me, and after picking up my battered pistol, I jogged to catch up. Doors lined both sides of the hall, and occasionally one would have a window through which I would catch a glimpse of a very typical looking office. Way up here, and they still worked in cramped little boxes.
At the end of the hall was a set of double glass doors emblazoned with the Packers logo. On the other side were theater-like rows of chairs. There was a shuttered bar at the back and a massive curved window at the front. Pushing through the doors, I walked down to the floor-to-ceiling glass and looked down. A long, long way down, the manicured field was lit up bright as day. In a few months, I’d probably have to pay a whole year’s college tuition just to sit one game up here.
The things people will spend money on.
There were two blue barrels along the back wall by the bar, and I decided to refill. “So, how close are we?” I asked Bob.
He shrugged. “If you’re worried about time, don’t. We run until it’s done, which is probably around five. So about another twenty minutes or so. The actual goal we’re going for is a lockbox on the roof that contains the prize check. But I’d worry less about time and more about the sixty plus people hunting for you. None of them are quite the caliber of Ms. Frank, but you really don’t want to be diving out of any windows up here.”
I sneered at him, set the pistol on the bar counter, and dunked the Vanquisher. The cool water felt damn good on my scratched up arms.
Which is why I was bent over a bucket with my arms up to my triceps in water when someone came rushing in through the opposite doors.
I hate it when that happens.
I dropped down to crouch behind the bucket as water hissed overhead, losing hold of the Vanquisher in the process.
Gunless, under fire, and I couldn’t even draw my backup which was…I rose enough to get my eyes over the top of counter and looked around. Too far away.
The shooter was still at the far end of the room, though down a step and working his way towards me through the aisle of chairs, coming closer. I rose, snatched the pistol off the bar as water flew towards me again, and ducked down behind the barrel, my back to the wall. I looked around for inspiration. None, and Bob was standing far away, trying to stay out of the fight and dry. Water impacted the wall over my head, showering me like rain.
Could I accumulate splash damage?
I leaned out from behind the barrel and returned fire, managing to wing one close to his head before we both dropped down again to our respective cover. Me behind the barrel, him below and behind the chairs about six feet in front of the barrel. Water sliced past my elbow and I risked a glance out to see he’d stuck his soaker between two of the seats. I crunched myself further into the small space between the barrel and the wall.
The idea came to me quickly, and I grinned.
Talk about thinking outside the box.
I’d been sitting, and a few wiggles got me crouched behind the barrel, feet flat on the floor. I tucked the Triple Shot in my satchel, put my hands on the rim of the barrel and pushed.
Full of water, the barrel was massively heavy. I gritted my teeth and HEAVED, thought about all the hours lifting weights, sparring, and climbing with Tim. C’mon you son of a bitch, GO OVER!
Bob shouted “Hey wait! Sto – “ about the time that my plan came to fruition. The barrel went over with a room-shaking thud and a splash, a wave of water gushing out and flooding the chairs in front of it. I fell back against the wall and pulled the pistol from my bag with shaky hands, aimed it at where I thought my assailant was. “You can come out now.”
He rose, his clothes hanging dark and soggy on his frame. “I…” he seemed to be at a loss for words. I motioned towards the doors with the pistol, and he headed for them, seemingly shellshocked.
I rose, grabbed the spilled Vanquisher off the floor and filled it at the remaining barrel, then looked over at Bob. “Uh, c’mon?”
He had his head in his hands. “Oh my God,” he said, sort of a moan. The hands came away from his face and he looked furious. “Do you have any idea what you just did!”
I looked left, then right, confused. “Tipped over a barrel?”
“You just ruined this box! Do you know how much this is going to cost me?!”
I looked around at the ceiling. None of the little black bowls were hanging from it. “Wasn’t me.”
He covered his face with his hands again. “Oh my God…”
The boxseats were pretty much carbon copies all the way around the bowl. A couple dozen yards of cramped hallway, boxseats, rinse and repeat. I was a little surprised we didn’t encounter more resistance, but it was a big stadium, and they were probably weeding themselves out by fighting amongst themselves.
I wasn’t going to complain.
Not until the firefight two boxseats further down the hall.
I shouldered through the door and immediately ducked down by a seat to escape the water that lanced towards me. Bob was not quite as quick on the reflexes, and took three large streams in the torso before retreating behind the glass doors. “There he is!” someone shouted.
I leaned out from behind the chair and snapped a stream off the window, adjusted my aim and soaked out someone ducked down in the bottom row. They’d been shooting away from me, but they were an easy “kill.” The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy. Movement caught my eye. Third row, advancing. Leaned the other way. Back row, also advancing.
They were the closest threat and I stood, rushing forward and left – towards the bar – shooting with every step. They turned towards my strafe just a little too slow, and I striped them across the chest, then shifted my aim towards the chairs. I hipchecked the bar painfully and bounced off, backpedaling for the far doors at an angle, pulsing water at the third row. At the end of the aisle I stopped and looked for my opponent. Still in the third row, crouched down, waiting.
I walked down to the third row and began stalking forward, keeping ready and loose, telegraphing the next moves in my head.
“I will shoot you,” he said. Looked like he was in his middle twenties. In reasonable shape. Athletic shorts and a t-shirt. Probably a college student. Probably played sports.
Probably didn’t think outside the box.
I didn’t say anything, just kept advancing.
“I WILL shoot you,” he repeated. I think he knew he was outclassed, because he sounded like he was working himself up to it.
I had the Vanquisher shouldered the whole time, and I made it well inside his range and mine before he made his move, bringing the soaker up from his side to point at me. I held down the trigger as I vaulted left over the seat back, drawing a line from his shoulder to his hip as I dove out of the way of his shot.
The armrests were NOT soft when you land on them, and I rolled off to land on the floor with a thud. Oww….
He approached, a concerned look on his face. “You ok?”
I dragged myself to my feet. “I’m good.”
I limped to the end of the aisle as he and Bob passed each other at the doorway. The door closest to me opened and someone charged in, leading with a watergun of their own. Standing next to the door, it was a simple matter to shoot them in the side. They skidded to a stop and glared at me. I shrugged, and then leaned against the wall, watching them through hooded eyes. Damn I was tired. And sore…
The cut across my stomach burned as sweat slid over it, and my leg ached with every step. And that was in addition to every other scrape, scratch, bruise, strain, and general soreness I’d collected through twelve hours of running and gunning all over Green Bay Wisconsin. I was looking forward to this being over, but I was looking forward to the twenty grand way, way too much to quit.
Bob approached. “Gonna be alright?”
I pushed off the wall. “Never better. Let’s get this over with.”
My few “kills” between there and the stairs were routine, nothing out of the ordinary. Boring even.
I soaked a guy stepping out of an elevator, sprayed down a couple making out in front of the window over an endzone – why pay all this money and get this far to get caught unaware, seriously, does football mean THAT much to you? – and shot a woman in the back as she was walking down the hall.
Bob unlocked a door on the left side of the corridor and looked back at me. “If you didn’t want to jump out any windows back there, you really don’t up here.”
The staircase wrapped around and around and around the inside of the shaft, and we were both breathing pretty hard by the time we reached the door at the top. Another key, and Bob pushed the door open. Lukewarm wind curled around us, whipping at my hair and drying the sweat on my bare arms as I stepped out onto the catwalk.
About four feet wide, corrugated metal, waist high rails on all sides, it was attached to the back side of the stadium. The parking lot lights twinkled dizzyingly far below. A few hundred feet maybe, I didn’t know. Metal stairs climbed the back side of the boxseats extension, leading onto the roof a few dozen feet up.
From below, I could hear the sounds of feet hammering the stairs we’d just climbed.
I followed Bob as he jogged up the steps, seemingly aloof to the drop off just beyond the railing inches to the right. While I’d been perfectly happy to risk my life earlier in the day – driving at insane speeds, swimming a klick into the lake in the dark, jumping through third-story windows and off bridges – but the void so close by made my stomach queasy.
The roof of the boxseats was metal, maybe fifty feet wide, with a lit path fenced in by those same waist-high railings leading down the center. The door below slammed open, and I picked up the pace to a full out sprint, pushing past Bob.
I had a feeling I’d be running right to the very end.
I was right.
The fence widened into a clearing to encompass a massive HVAC unit a few feet before the roof ended, and I stood next to the machinery, breathing hard.
Nowhere left to run.
I pumped the Vanquisher to ensure full pressure, checked the Triple Shot. Along the path, figures advanced towards me.
Taking their time.
Where did I have to go?
There were no words, no banter or threats, no taunts or jeers as I had expected. This close to the end, I didn’t want to draw out the coming inevitability, but I thought someone else would.
I was wrong.
The action started suddenly, with the man in the lead charging forward, water leaping at me. I sidestepped to the side of the fence, holding down my own trigger, and though I didn’t hit him the way I was aiming, he ran into my shot. My hand worked the pump automatically, and I vaulted the railing, stepping out onto the roof unprotected. The edge was a few yards away to my right – I could fall and roll and not go over – but my stomach still lurched like I was walking on a wire.
I ran at the group clustered a few yards away, shooting all the while. I ducked, juked, sidestepped, pumping as I strafed by, and not one of the streams caught me. Past them – halfway between the group and the distant Bob, I dropped to a crouch, evaluating.
They were out. Done.
I’d been expecting a big boss battle somehow, but I’d just gotten average people, just liked I’d gone up against all throughout the day. I rose shakily and walked back along the railing, feeling exuberant and exhausted.
It was over.
The lead guy coming back extended a hand over the railing. “Good game.”
I shook and chuckled. “Yeah. Glad its over though.”
A voice from the back of the group was all the warning I got. “Not quite.”
The hand around mine gripped tightly as water sliced past his elbow. I hadn’t gotten EVERYONE. I sidestepped, dragging him along, keeping his body between me and the shooter like a human shield while I fumbled around my pack for the grip of the pistol in my satchel.
The seconds dragged on like years, and I rejected probably a dozen options and choices within each one, my brain skipping clinically and efficiently from possibility to possibility.
I let myself fall, collapsing backwards, dragging his arm down and banging the funny bone off the railing. Holding my full weight, that had to hurt. A LOT.
He howled and let go, and I rolled left, painfully onto the Vanquisher, but also freeing my satchel. I drew the Triple Shot in less than a second and fired past my knee at the new guy who’d pushed to the railing.
I expended all the pressure pouring water into his chest.
I rocked to my feet, and tucked the pistol back in the bag and transitioning to the Vanquisher.
No one else shot at me.
No one else seemed in a talkative mood after their diversionary tactic failed. They went one way, I went the other. At the clearing, I sat down, back to the railing, and just relaxed. It felt good to just sag out and let something else support me.
Bob approached. “Would you please get back behind the railing? Knowing you, you’ll fall and cost me even more.”
“Thanks for the consideration,” I muttered and clambered back over.
He reached into one of the crevices of the HVAC unit and withdrew a small safe, which he unlocked. Inside was a check.
My heart started beating faster, and I leaned over his shoulder to watch him fill it out. “Samantha Calloway, correct?”
“Yup.” My voice sounded excited.
“And it’s now the twenty seventh?”
“I think so.”
He signed the check with a flourish, shut the box, and turned to hand it to me. “Congratulations. You’re the first winner of a uSoak tournament. Good job.”
I took the check with shaking hands. “Thanks. Much. A lot. This is…wow.”
He smiled. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”
“I won’t. Thanks. Again, really, thanks.”
Bob shook my hand. “Let’s get going. I have to clean up a couple of your messes.”
I had to laugh at that.