Deepest Cuts

A science fiction story in Jeremy Hunter by Gary Bloom

Characters: Jeremy Hunter

Hunter ducked under the heavy pipe swung at his head. The lug was a bit too slow, a bit too weak to heft something so large. Jeremy followed it by lashing out a devastating kick at the man's right elbow. Buckling inward, he heard a sickening crunch as bone cracked. Rough edges poked through the skin.

Taking advantage of the man's stunning pain, Jeremy stood up quickly. Jamming his head up into the thug's chin, he knocked the man out. Another one down.

Catching the pipe as it fell, Hunter spun around just in time to catch a thick black chain. When there were eight men standing, the chain had an easier time finding its target. Now that there were merely three, it was easy to deflect.

"I really think you need to put that down," he told his attacker.

"Oh do you now? Let's see what you think of this, then!"

In one motion, the thug yanked the chain back in, spun his body, and as if swinging a baseball bat, launched the weapon back out again. So focused on Hunter, the lunk missed one of his compatriots scooting in from behind. Jeremy didn't.

Squatting down, Jeremy Hunter did something he wished he'd been able to do earlier - let his opponents defeat each other. Ready for anything, except what actually happened, the rear foe caught a chest full of chain. Smashing his throat, the galoot fell hard, but not before tangling and dragging the weapon away.

Having been hit more than once by the cold, black links, Hunter was pleased. Raising the pipe again, he came down on one arm, and then another of his enemy. Howling with a primal scream, the man was defenseless. Jeremy elbowed the thug's nose up and backwards, fracturing cartilage and piercing ocular bone like glass.

Turning to find one remaining opponent, the vigilante paused. Regarding the suddenly worried man coolly, he considered suitable retribution. When this evening's ordeal had begun, Hunter happened upon a gang beating on two youths who refused the invitation for initiation.

The boys had run off, leaving Jeremy to face eight burly attackers. Livid, they made up in ferocity what they lacked in training. They fought for nearly half an hour, during which they guaranteed assault and murder for the entire block. Jeremy now looked around him at the necessary carnage.

"Most of your friends are dead," he said. "The guys who live won't walk again."

"So it looks like I'm in charge now, hot shot. Thanks. Now, I know you ain't feeling so hot. Me, I'm gonna rebuild, but first, you gotta die."

Amazing the battered hero, the lone ruffian rushed forward. In response, Hunter dropped the pipe. Crouching down, he speared forward, burying a shoulder in the man's gut. As they hit the ground, Hunter placed his forearm firmly on the man's throat.

"You probably figured I'd be offering you a choice at this point." Hunter shook his head as the man grunted. "You're waiting for me to offer you a chance to live."

The no longer brash thug nodded franticly. Pushing down violently, Jeremy crushed the windpipe and ended the conversation. With the sound of sirens in the distance, he dragged himself away from the scene. Let the police clean up this mess.

Four blocks away, Jeremy Hunter staggered down the street. Bracing himself with a hand against a building wall, he stopped. Reaching back to feel a painful spot at the back of his head, the gloved fingers of his right hand came back bloody.

"Damn," he spat, "haven't been hurt like this in a while. Should have let this one go." He shook his head, making himself dizzy. "Kids might have gotten out of it alone."

Pushing himself forward again, Jeremy allowed his left fingers to continue grazing the wall. He'd need to stop again soon. Breathing had become a bit too difficult.

"Ribs are bruised," he rasped. He spat again, a pink tint to his saliva. "I wasn't built for this much."

He'd taken on eight men. After pushing beyond the brink, Jeremy Hunter walked away with his life, but also found a limit. He needed a place to recuperate. There wasn't enough left in him to make it all the way home.

"That might do," he muttered, finding an abandoned house around the corner. He stumbled down the road and knocked on the door. Nothing. Pushing inside, he lurched down a set of sunken living room stairs. Augmented eyes helped navigate the inky blackness. Moving away from boarded windows, he used the last of his strength to push a worn couch from the wall. Crashing on a stained carpet, the vigilante finally succumbed to exhaustion.

In the shadows half way down the block, a man smiled. He was too well trained to let a sound loose, but laughed on the inside. The mighty Jeremy Hunter had earned his rest tonight. Pulling out a phone, he quickly made a call.

"Yes, it's Rupert," he said, walking back up the street. "I've got some interesting news."

He smiled as he spoke steadily and softly, striding with purpose. Explaining everything that he'd witnessed, Rupert Poulsen recounted numbers, weapons and tactics. He also updated them on the vigilante's final condition.

"They weren't trained," he demanded. "It was very sloppy. Eight of them, disjointed like that, they had no choice. We plan, coordinate, and train. We can do it."