Whisky arrived back to Station St and found the white van still in the same place he left it. He felt a slight flutter in his stomach – another new sensation on this strange day. He looked beyond the van at the rubble that was once Newport Haven Terminal. The idea of being nervous would never have crossed his barren plane of emotional diversity a few weeks ago, but he had never faced a situation like this. His prior existence, before Walter Wallace, any risk or threat or decision was met by his ability. He was the best trained and best equipped of the Citadel Soldiers and his decisions were simply logical. Doubts and malfunctions were to be referred to a superior. His existence was never in danger; death was distant, irrelevant.
But none of that existed any more. Now he had abandoned protocol and sought personal endeavours. He had developed an instinct of right and wrong; weighing up variables outside the parameters of Citadel’s interests. But where had this got him? He walked into the wrath of Sam Tank, out of his element and backpedalling through lies and disobedience. He had covered his tracks in the moment – Sam couldn’t pin anything on him but it would not take much for Sam to check back with Boss and find that Whisky had received orders to stay on site and leave the tracking of Walter Wallace in the time of crisis.
He reached the van at a walk, after having sprinted through the back streets from the hospital. He hopped into the driver’s seat, immediately starting the vehicle and swinging it round in a single point U-turn. He did not like the idea of relying on Sam’s suspicions. The man was meticulous, always on. But he was struck by the swift exit Sam had taken at the hospital. Midway through grilling Whisky Sam had hurried off. What was he doing before Whisky had arrived? What business did Sam have hands on with Walter Wallace?
Whilst running back to the van Whisky had planned to use the time to consider these issues. But he had barely left the hospital when he received the transmission from Chips. Apparently his partner required assistance; most likely he had detained a suspect, and was expecting Whisky to be waiting around the back of the building. He had then received a second, more despairing transmission suggesting Chips had lost the suspect – Suspect exiting! No escort!
The memory of Sam Tank became an afterthought as Whisky pulled up around the back of the terminal. The place appeared deserted; most of the remaining reporters were still lingering on the other side of the building. Then he noticed two separate signs of life. The first was a reporter and cameraman lurking around the edge of the rubble suspiciously; the second a shadowy figure emerging from it only 30 yards away.
Chips hobbled out of his hiding place with blank determination. His suit was torn and covered in fine debris, his face and hands and any skin seen through the tears in his clothes were bloodied and burnt and he cradled his left arm as he limped on what was likely to be a broken ankle. Whisky hurried out of the van to meet him but Chips swatted him away as he offered to help.
“Don’t fucking touch me.”
Whisky backed off, at a loss for action. He had abandoned his post; such desertion was unheard of. The reporter had picked up their scent at this point. It was not ideal that Chips was walking in public in such a state.
“Ah, excuse me, sir...” the reporter said, quickening his pace and signalling to his cameraman. “You understand this is a crime scene? May I ask what you are doing here?” It wasn’t ideal for this to be caught on camera. Whisky surveyed the area, barely 50 yards visibility in the fading twilight, nobody within the immediate vicinity. “Are you the shooter who sh-”
Whisky’s punch was sharp and effective. The reporter dropped in a heap. His broken jaw would prevent him talking for a few months even if he remembered what hit him. The cameraman poked his head up from behind the lens, alarmed. “Th- th- this is live, man. It’s on-”
“-No it’s not.” Whisky stole the large camera away from him, causing the man to stagger forward before releasing his grip. He slammed the machine onto his knee, snapping it open and removing the hard drive. He looked at the cameraman and hesitated. He did not like this growing indecision; there never used to be any decision. Behind him he saw Chips had almost reached the van. This was no time for pity. The cameraman had fallen to his knees and looked up pleadingly. Whisky slammed the hard drive into his face and headed back to the van.
He walked back to the van at a steady pace. The violence was still a very real part of his character and it had calmed him down to act with such conviction. He reached the driver’s door and tossed the dented hard drive onto the back seat. Chips was rigid, staring straight ahead as if they were on another shift tracking Walter Wallace. He clearly needed urgent medical attention but the crowded hospital was no option.
“Let me tend to your injuries,” Whisky said.
“I’m fine.” Chips was blunt and unenthused.”I shot at the boy. He is responsible for the attacks. He got away; knows too much. We need to kill him.”
Whisky remained silent. So the suspect was Phil “Hippy Flip” Stevenson, the youth from the jail cell. Whisky found himself immediately sceptical. Though ambitious and motivated, Phil was primarily harmless. Chips also had a grudge against Phil. But Whisky had more pressing issues. His partner seemed to have decided not to address Whisky’s shortcomings and it would not be wise to counter his logic on such fragile foundations. He avoided the moral issue, instead thinking of the possible hit practically.
“Is the suspect injured?”
“Shot. Right buttock. He will be in hospital by now. Simple break and enter to finish the job.”
“You shot at him.” Whisky said, not as a question but an open ended thought process. Chips tightened a little and finished the thought by turning on the radio.
-believed to be crushed by the final structural collapse. The identity of this assailant remains a mystery though police are taking a statement from the youth as we speak and we hope to hear more about the unproven allegations towards Citadel Inc, parent company of CitaRail. We-
Chips flicked the station off again. “We need to put an end to this.”
Whisky nodded. He didn’t agree at all. If his escapade into the hospital had been risky, this would be suicide. Even if they could kill Phillip – which would be most probable – it would only compound suspicion. On top of this he wanted to spare the youth’s life, knowing he was harmless and incapable of causing such mayhem. Yet contradicting his partner was out of the question. He needed to be the voice of logic that he had ignored only an hour earlier. No soldier should make decisions beyond their jurisdiction of knowledge. Sam Tank would see the fault in Chips’ logic; Mark Tanenworth would refer them to Boss; Boss was easily swayed by bloodshed. Sam was the smart choice.
“We should call Boss.”