Three shots in rapid succession rang inside the store. Lucero felt like someone had punched her in the kidneys but years of training and kicked in and she quickly retrieved her pistol from her ankle holster. She’d thrown Colton to the floor as soon as she saw the first guy reach for his handgun. She acted fast, but not fast enough to avoid at least one of those bullets. She knew someone had hit her, but didn’t have time to worry about petty details like pain.
The female employee was screaming as from somewhere and Lucero quickly scanned her field of view for the perpetrators however the customer counter was blocking her view of the store and the gunmen. Colton started to stir thus rocking her body a little, and she hissed out for him to stay down and stop moving.
“Ms. Lopez,” an Asian male voice called out from the other side of the counter. “Throw out the gun I know you hold. There is no need for you to die today. Leave boy and we’ll let you live.”
“Show your face and I’ll give you my answer.”
Wood splinters whizzed by her ear as a shot fired off from the other side of the counter. Lucero returned fire with two of her own shots. She heard a man grunt and curse after being hit.
“Very unwise Ms. Lopez. You’re in over your head. You can’t protect the boy. It’s unfortunate timing that you were here.”
Lucero knew they didn’t have a view of their position behind the counter and hoped they were guessing at where to shoot at her before. They had pistols, not machine guns, so she wasn’t too concerned with them blindly wasting all their rounds shoot through the cash wrap. If they were here to kill Colton, they had to get a visual on him.
Colton had rolled out from underneath her and practically humped the cash wrap. A quick glance at the female employee told her that the girl was curled up in a fetal position in a clear view of the shooters and yet hadn’t been shot as far as she could tell.
Lucero heard shuffling and expected someone to come around the counter within seconds. If they were professional, which she suspected, they’d perform a two-man clearing technique and she knew she had one chance to stop them. No sooner than she finished that thought An Asian male in his early 20s dove in a forward martial arts roll around the edge of the cash wrap. It tempted her to shoot him first but noticed his hands were empty. Instead of pulling the trigger on the rolling ninja she aimed up towards the counter and pulled the trigger as the other Asian male came around the corner in a professional shooter’s stance for clearing a room.
Lucero put a hole between his eyes and quickly aimed towards the first guy and pulled the trigger center mass just as he pulled his trigger. She flinched but quickly realized he wasn’t aiming at her.
Colton opened his eyes and realized he wasn’t at work anymore. Aside from a dull ache in his head, he felt superb. He looked around the hospital room and quickly realized he was alone. He reached up with a free hand to his head and felt a bandage on the side of his scalp.
“So… I guess that wasn’t a bad dream,” he muttered.
He heard a faint knock on the door and a nurse came into the room a squeaked out a startled sound when she saw Colton staring at her. “Oh! You’re awake.”
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” a smiling Colton said.
The nurse looked to be the same age as Colton, perhaps a few years older. She was a cute blonde with a nice enough chest that he could tell she had a great rack although the scrubs she was wearing hid most of her body features.
“That line gets old after a while. Maybe you should try Arnold Schwarzenegger next time.”
Colton scrunched up his face and winced from a sharp pain above his right ear. “I’m not sure saying, My nipples are very sensitive, works in this situation.”
The nurse burst out laughing and quickly covered her mouth with her hand. Colton couldn’t help but notice that she had very cute dimples. “No! You goof. I was thinking… I’m back.”
“I’m not sure that’s famous enough. He usually said, I’ll be back, but I doubt I want to come back here, but perhaps you can tell me where here is?”
“Oh,” the nurse blushed, “I’m Natty. I’m your nurse at NCMC.”
Colton smirked and winced again. “Your parents named you Natty? Are you sure you’re not Naughty?”
Natty blushed and broke into another laugh where she covered her mouth once more. “No… It Natalie, but my friends all called me Natty.”
“Hmm. I like Naughty better.”
Natty winked at Colton. “Maybe you have a tumor.”
“It’s not a tumor,” Colton tried to say in his best Arnold voice.
Natty laughed and changed out his IV bag checked his vitals before heading for the door.
“Oh, Naughty Nurse,” Natty turned back to look at Colton. “Do you mind telling me what happened?”
“You took a knife to a gunfight.”
“I think that’s Indiana Jones, but I didn’t have a knife.”
Natty giggled. “No. I guess not.”
“So, what happened?”
“How would I know? I’m just your nurse. Give me a second and I’ll let the doctor know you’re awake.”
“What about my family?”
“It’s after midnight and your girlfriend went home. She would probably have stayed if we let her, but it’s against hospital policy. Plus, you weren’t dying.”
“No problem,” Natty said with a wink.
“Do you want me to get you anything while I’m out?”
“Other than my girlfriend?”
“Other than your girlfriend. Do you want your mommy?” Natty gave him a big grin.
“It would be nice, but I’ll live I guess. Isn’t the room supposed to be filled with people when you wake up in the hospital?”
“Maybe if you would have woken up during the day—”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes after I let the doctor on call know that you’re awake. You have a few cops waiting in the lounge area down the hall. I assume they are here for you?”
Panic gripped Colton’s chest. “What — what do they look like?”
Natty shrugged and gave him a funny look. “I don’t know… cop like?”
“That helps a lot. Do me a favor. Can you not let them know I’m awake?” Colton gave her a pleading look. “I’m not feeling up to answering questions right now.”
Natty looked uncomfortable and glanced at the closed door and back. “I need to tell the doctor on call.”
“No. That’s perfectly fine.”
“He might talk to the cops and let them know you’re awake.”
“I don’t want to cause you to get in trouble.”
“Pfft. I won’t get in trouble not talking to cops, but I would if I didn’t call the doctor.”
“That’s fine,” Colton gave her a grateful smile and Natty relaxed and smiled back.
“I don’t like cops either. I can understand you not wanting to talk to them. I’ll talk to the doctor and see if we can give you a full nights’ rest before letting them in here. Does that work?”
Colton gave her two thumbs up. “Perfect. Thanks, Naughty.”
Natty blushed. “No problem. Try to get some rest. It’ll probably be a while before the doctor comes. We’re kinda understaffed today.”
Natty washed her hands and was drying them when Colton remembered to ask something. “Oh. Are Lucy and that detective all right?”
Natty shook her head. “I can’t talk about any other patients, but we haven’t had the mortuary pick anybody up.”
Colton sighed in relief. “Right. Thanks, Naughty. That takes a load off my mind. I’ll talk to you later.”
After Natty left, Colton pulled up his personal stats and saw that this health was down to 73% and a list of injuries displayed which confirmed his suspicions that he was shot in the head and in the upper right arm. After carefully reading the gibberish that probably made sense to a physician, he concluded that he was shot once, but the bullet ricocheted off a bone and then impacted his head. All things considered, he felt lucky to be alive.
Colton wondered what would happen if he moved his health all the way to 100% and quickly dismissed the whole idea. For one thing… cops. Since so many people knew someone had shot him… it would be stupid to heal himself magically. His personal stats showed he was on a painkiller of some type, which would explain why he hadn’t noticed his shoulder had a bandage on it. He couldn’t even feel discomfort at all.
He dug into his settings and realized that his system was muting the pain receptors automatically and didn’t know if it was a default setting since he’d never looked too deep into the whole interface before being shot at work. There was so much he didn’t understand about having root access to his life. He wondered briefly about God and quickly dismissed the whole notion. It didn’t matter if there was a God or not at this time. He’d always figured that if he lived a good life and treated people fairly, then everything would work out in the end. Just in case there was a God, he thought a good life would cover his shortcomings.
As it stood… he had the unique opportunity to mess with a few settings. He ticked up his health to 75%. He wasn’t sure what would happen but figured a small increase wouldn’t make things too noticeable. Once he mentally clicked accept, he felt the veins in his left arm with the IV, contract and draw fluids from the IV bag. It was a weird thing to watch since they set the IV for a specific draw rate. The drips came quicker, and he watched the IV bag drain a quarter of its fluid before resuming the original draw rate. During the drain, the drops were falling so fast it looked more like a stream coming into the IV line than the slow drip.
Colton confirmed with a quick glance that his health had improved slightly, but he was still suffering from a concussion. Honestly, he couldn’t see any difference from the list of injuries at first until he noticed that a contusion on his hip was no longer on the list of ailments. He hadn’t looked at his hip to verify he had a bruise there, so he doubted it made a difference if he tried to look now, but he looked anyway. He couldn’t see anything on his hip, so he didn’t know if it did anything or not.
Colton wouldn’t exactly say sitting in the room by himself was boring since he was looking at his stat sheet, but he started wondering what he could and couldn’t change. When he discovered that it listed his penis measurements—
“I mean… who wouldn’t?” Colton snorted. Being as cautious as he could, meaning not cautious at all, Colton ticked up the length from 16.5 cm to 19 cm and mentally confirmed the change.
There are only a few times Colton can remember feeling so much pain in his life. Imagine sticking a thousand needles into your penis and then pissing on an electric fence. The latter being something Colton was stupid enough to do as a child. That wouldn’t even come close to the raw nerve pain he felt as his penis lit on fire. His throat was raw before he realized he was screaming, but luckily he passed out after only two or three minutes of mind-numbing torture.