18 Jun 60%
The rental e-scooter was rolling quietly in the bike lane, basically driving and gently steering itself, with minimal involvement on my part. I had time to look around. I was especially wary of newer Teslas and any other cars maneuvering nearby, but so far nobody had tried to run me over.
The dull cloudy city sky started getting darker as the evening was settling over Toronto. The air was still, humid and unpleasantly viscous. It felt like the storm was coming. The weather had matched my mood perfectly, I thought with some dark satisfaction. I was alone again, and my future was as bleak and uncertain as it could be. My “event horizon” had collapsed into the next 20 minutes, because I had no idea what would happen after I got to wherever it is I was going.
The scooter was approaching its destination, taking me to an empty street somewhere not far from Downtown, in the low-rise area that had rapidly gentrified in 2000-s. I could see the CN Tower ahead, rising above the city’s skyline. On the left side of the street there was a long row of narrow and neat townhouses built in a doubly fake Victorian style – an inept modern parody of the original style which was itself an eclectic revival of several earlier architectural styles. But the light in the fake Victorian windows was real, and real people were having dinner or watching their favourite NetFlix Prime shows. Those windows were glowing with comfort of pleasant casual conversations about nothing in particular. I had never been so lonely in my life. I felt like there was an expanding space-time rift between me and the normal life behind those windows.
On the right side there was a low fence with several railroad tracks, intricate signals and switches beyond it. The scooter finally stopped. I got off and looked around. There were three shady characters not far from me, quietly discussing something. They were all wearing similar baggy pants and hoodies of indeterminable color. Something changed hands, and one of them left in the opposite direction without looking back. I think they were dealing drugs. Shit… I quickly looked the other way, but it was too late.
“Hey, you!” one of the two remaining guys said. “I think you want to buy something off me, don’t you? I have good shit.”
“No, sorry, i don’t want your shit. I’ll just go away.” I said meekly, thinking about troubles just piling up on me on this very unfortunate day.
“Oh, I think you do. And I feel you are lucky to have exactly the right amount of cash in your pocket, am I right?” he said, blocking my way, his buddy slowly moving around me to box me in. I don’t know why I did what I did next. Maybe because I was sick and tired of being on the receiving end of whatever the universe had been throwing at me that day? I have really surprised myself. You see, I had a meager blue belt in Karate, going to a local Goju Riu dojo twice a week because it was less boring than a gym, just to burn off calories and get some cardio going. I was clumsy and had no hope of getting any good at martial arts, but that wasn’t my goal, so doing it was fun, for the most part. I had never even sparred full contact with anyone. I needed to get where I was going, so I couldn’t run, and as he pushed me on my shoulder to magnify the intimidating effect, the anger of today must have got hold of me and I didn’t even think about what I was doing.
Moving back with his hand that was pushing on my shoulder, I shoved his hand down from above with a circular motion of my left hand. Then without wasting time moving my hand back for a proper punch, I suddenly unbent my left elbow in a backhanded Jodan Uraken Uchi strike which was not very strong but caught him completely unprepared. As it landed on attacker’s unprotected nose it must have hurt a lot, but was more distracting and disorienting than debilitating. His eyes sparked with surprise and pain, he started to raise his hands for a retaliatory strike, which I would not be likely to survive in one piece, but as my hand was already near his face, I grabbed his neck on the way back, and helping with my right hand pulled it down, simultaneously raising the knee with all my power, which admittedly was not much. Just like we practiced at the dojo.
As he was off-balance and completely unprepared even for my half-baked effort, I slammed my knee into his face (or his face into my knee, depends on how you look at it) in Hiza Geri. I think it is supposed to land on his ribs instead, but I was OK with his face too, especially when it emitted a satisfying wet cracking sound when it connected with my knee. Now that must have really hurt a lot. Even with the very modest skills I possess, getting my rapidly accelerating knee and his sorry face on a collision course had accomplished what my fist might not be able to achieve.
Thoroughly disoriented, blood pouring from his nose, eyes wide with pain, he fell down with a satisfying thud, rolling and moaning on the dirty pavement, as his buddy stared. It all happened as if in slow motion. I could not believe it worked. I was supposed to run away after that, as sensei had taught us, but I just kept staring, stunned by the unexpected effect of my own actions. And I had nowhere to run anyway. As the drug dealer rolled on the ground, his hoodie’s back climbed up and I saw a gun sticking from a concealed holster in pants. I quickly bent and pulled it out, then jumped back a couple of steps and aimed it at the second guy, who was just beginning to realise what was happening. I guess he frequently tested the product they were selling.
“Freeze, asshole! Don’t you dare moving!” I said, adding several colourful Russian expletives from my arsenal. “Today is a very bad day for me and I’ve had it up to here with everybody trying to kill me and I swear I will shoot you balls off if you give me a reason to!” I growled, as I was trying to inconspicuously look at the gun I was holding, trying to figure out if the safety was on or off. It looked like a Beretta M9 or something similar enough for me to not be able to tell the difference. The safety should be on both sides on the back of the gun, and of course the levers were in their bottom position, engaged. I swept my thumb over as the spring-loaded safety lever popped up, revealing a small red dot. I felt better for a moment, until I realized that there might not be a round in the chamber. I racked the slide, which was much heavier than I expected, emitting a loud click-clack sound that, as we all know from Hollywood blockbusters, precedes emptying the whole 15-round magazine into the bad guy.
He must have watched those movies, because he ran away surprisingly fast. He either remembered to run from a shooter in a broken zig-zag pattern or was too scared to run straight. Or maybe he was just stoned. Either way it was fine with me. I wasn’t going to shoot him anyway. I don’t know if I could. Realising that my gun knowledge is not extensive enough to eject a bullet without sending in a new one, or whether it was even possible, I shrugged and pressed on magazine release button, catching the falling magazine with my left hand. Then I pulled the slide again and the bullet fell onto the pavement. I released the locked slide, inserted the magazine, and decided to keep the gun. Things being the way they are, it might be useful. I picked up the bullet from the ground and put it in my pocket for now.
I looked in both directions, making sure there was nobody around except for the now faintly moaning drug dealer. I quickly bent down and yanked the holster from his pants, while he cowered in terror, thinking that I came to finish him off or seriously kick his ass again. I clipped the holster with a gun to the back of my pants and hopped over the fence. Well, not exactly hopped – to be fair I rather awkwardly climbed over it, taking care not to drop my gun. No hopping was involved. I crossed four sets of railroad tracks as instructed, and came to the pole which had a green box on one side and a blue box on another. I had no idea about the purpose of either, but being a good boy I did what I was told, opened the green one and saw a cheap phone taped to the bottom of the lid. I detached it and turned it on.
As soon as I did, it blipped and displayed a message: “Move close to the south tracks and wait for the next freight train. I will manipulate traffic lights so it will slow down to a walking speed. Mount the first gondola car you see and hop inside. I will tell you when to jump off”. I had to google what “gondola car” means, as the only things by that name that I recalled were those slender Venecian boats and I could not imagine a train hauling whole cars of those things, it was absurd. Apparently it was just an open-top rail car and on the photo it had a small ladder on its side.
I always loved watching freight trains. Now I got to ride one.