Disclaimer: I try to keep the science sound, but DO NOT TRY AT HOME.

Note: I have this story already finished and beta read in its entirety. But since it's pretty long, I don't want to publish it in bunch, so I'll try to publish the chapters on a weekly basis.


Old Friends

Rain was pouring heavily onto the streets of the city, turning the streets into small, trickling brooks with glittering surfaces that reflected the light of the street-lamps. Few people were out, not only because of the weather, but also due to the hour of night, so little that, compared to the usual masses that could be seen by day, some parts of the town seemed almost desolate.

Thus no one took any particular notice of the man who was running down the alleyway as if his life depended on it – which wasn't so far off – mainly because there was no one there who could have noticed him. When he stepped out of the small side-street and onto a larger and more illuminated one, he stopped just in time to not run off the sidewalk. Desperately looking left and right, he spat out a "Shit!" that could as well have been a sneeze, before, after a quick look over his shoulder closely followed by another, slightly more elaborate curse, he started off to his right, running as swiftly as he had before.

Someone watching this scene would now be wondering, where the man was running, or what he was running from, but that would have become obvious right away, as three more men came around that very same corner, evidently following the first. They were far closer than their victim would have liked and the object of their interest now desperately tried to bring some more distance between him and his pursuers again, but he soon found that going onto the broader street had been a mistake.

Back in the alleyways he had been able to dodge left and right, going in a slalom through shorter, narrower streets with dustbins and cars scattered around which could be used as cover. This larger road now already went straight for several rows of houses, with a neat tidy sidewalk of about three inches between the houses and the street, but no cars and no dustbins, not even as much as a garden fence, only the occasional lamp post, one of which he nearly ran into.

By day this might not have been that much of a problem, because then there would have been people around, but right now the three men following the first had just raised the average of pedestrians in this particular street by a factor of four. And as that they now suddenly had a clear view on their target, so they decided, much to the dismay of the other man, that they could once again use their guns freely.

The man being pursued noticed this when he suddenly heard the sharp sound of gunshots behind him, muffled by the continuously heavy rain, yet far too close. Once more he got aware of the sheer blankness of the street and its evident lack of cover. The next side-street was still two or three houses away and the doors all ended directly onto the sidewalk, so he couldn't even have ducked into a doorway.

Desperately he quickened his pace, to at least reach the corner, when a sharp pain erupted in his right thigh and the floor lunged at him in a nauseating way. Before his brain could process what was happening, he already crashed onto the pavement, which was accompanied by a sickening noise in his left wrist and sudden, yet short dull pain, where uncovered skin met with raw, wet asphalt.

The pain had already subsided by the time the man was aware that he was lying on the ground, but he was well aware that in his case that was not a sign of little or no damage done, but one of beginning shock. That overall wasn't a good thing, yet right now the fact that his brain was suppressing all signs of pain did come in handy. Somehow he managed to scramble to his feet and was positively surprised when he noticed that although it felt a little wobbly, he could still put weight onto his injured leg. Maybe he hadn't been hit that badly after all.

But there was no time to run anymore, for the footsteps of his pursuers were already directly behind him. Facing the inevitable, he prepared himself for the fight that was unavoidable now, and, while he still wasn't up to his full height, turned around on his good leg, throwing his fist blindly with full force at whatever happened to be behind him.

He got lucky with his first punch, hitting one of the attackers squarely somewhere below the ribs, which sent the goon hunched on the floor to rethink his last meal. The element of surprise gave him the chance to orient himself and he took his turn a little further to ram his knee into the adversary on his left,with the intention that he could keep his colleague company, but the goons also had had time to adjust to the change in situation. While the second of the attackers obediently grunted in pain, the third grabbed their victim by his arms, violently pulling back his shoulders, which gave his partner time for payback in the shape of several strong, well aimed blows in the poor fellows midriff.

Although straining hard against his captors grip, the man had no chance to escape the violent beating and after a few hits, he gave up struggling. This, most likely subconsciously, caused the goon behind him to let go ever so slightly, but enough for the victim to notice. Just as the next punch came at him, he went on his knees, throwing his whole weight into the motion and effectively pulling down the man who held him, smashing him straight into his companions fist.

This was distraction enough for the battered victim to scramble to his feet and make a run for it, down the street and around the corner. The alley he ended up in did not have much more to offer in terms of cover than the street he had just come from, except that street-lamps were scattered more scarcely along the road and the surroundings therefore less illuminated. But as he came around the corner, the man already spotted something much more promising.

Right next to the door of the first house were several post boxes, which indicated that the building held several flats. Yet there was no doorbell anywhere to be seen, so that most likely was on the inside. And that hopefully meant that the outer door was open. Seeing it as the only chance it was, he did not even slow down, but slammed right into the door, which gladly opened for him and closed behind him with a soft click.

Shortly afterwards angry shouts swept in from the street, but just as they had come, they faded again, and when everything stayed silent the hunted man let out the breath he hadn't noticed he had been holding. In relative safety from his pursuers he could get to the next task: getting help. Going out again was out of the question, not only because it was still raining heavily and because there was the slight chance that he might run into his assailants again, but also because now that the adrenaline rush was fading, he suddenly felt strangely tired. Besides there was no need to get back into that ungodly weather when he was in a house full of flats where people were living.

Steadying himself against the wall, he reached up for the bell-board, slamming his hand squarely onto it and every key within the range of his fingers, in the process leaving dirty, bloody smears on the gray plastic and the white wall below. Now he could only hope that he had managed to chase someone out of their bed.