It was May 8th, 2020 for the third time, and Ryan had already caused two traffic accidents.
He blamed the people of New Rome for this. The city’s inhabitants were as nervous as coffee addicts in the morning, and drove their cars like monkeys out for his blood. Moving on the walkway would have been safer.
Thankfully, he had saved right before passing the ‘Welcome to New Rome’ sign at the end of the highway linking the city to the rest of the Campania region.
Driving his highly customized red Plymouth Fury, Ryan stopped right before a tank truck would have hit him to the left, dodged a Bliss-addict meth-head, and then finally reached New Rome’s strip.
Owing to its reputation as the largest metropolis in Italy and a ravaged Europe’s capital of sin, New Rome was quite the sight. Built around the shores of the gulf of Naples years after Mechron’s drones bombed it to oblivion, it had the tallest buildings Ryan had seen since the end of the Genome Wars. None held a candle to the Dynamis Tower north of town, a glass spire symbolizing the company’s power over the region; corporate money had built New Rome, a city with no gods nor kings. Only money.
At the left of the driveway, Ryan could see the pristine Mediterranean Sea, glittering with the sunset while a distant island cast a long shadow on the horizon; on his right, he could glance at the countless casinos, gambling dens, and luxury hostels who drew so many tourists to the city. He even glimpsed the famous Colosseum Maximus, a modern replica of the old world’s Colosseum.
This district truly deserved its name of the Golden Coast.
Ryan himself attracted a few glances from tourists since he drove in his Quicksave costume. He covered his adorable face with a metal, mouthless mask with two rounded glasses for eyes, and his black hair beneath a black top hat. Add to that a navy blue trench coat, a purple shirt, blue pants, black gloves, and boots, and you became style incarnate.
The outfit was hot to wear, and not very practical for fighting, but it looked amazing. To Quicksave, that was all that mattered.
As he continued moving north towards his destination, Ryan noticed a few eye-catching publicity boards. One of them portrayed the superheroine Wyvern, a beautiful amazon of a woman with shoulder-length black hair, sharp greyish eyes, and a white bodysuit, showing off her muscles with a green potion in the background.
‘Want to be as strong as Wyvern? With our Hercules Elixir, what Hercules did in twelve labors, you will do in an afternoon!’
‘One hundred thousand euros, only at Dynamis!’
Meh, everyone wanted to be a Genome these days, even the shadow of one. Then again, who could resist superpowers-in-a-can? Ryan hadn’t, although he had taken the real stuff, not a cheap knockoff giving just a fraction of a real superpower.
His life had been a rollercoaster ever since.
Driving in front of a cliff tourist spot and a Miami-like beach, Ryan reached a tourist district, full of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. The place smelled of drugs and alcohol, but it didn’t look seedy either. The worst neighborhoods were in the north, from what he had heard.
Having memorized the city’s map, Ryan quickly found the place he was looking for; an unremarkable pub located between an Italian restaurant and a closed nightclub. Parking his car nearby, the courier stepped down and opened his trunk.
Never good at organizing stuff, the young man had left all his belongings in a chaotic mess. His tools, computers, and weapons formed a mass of metal almost overflowing from the car; although none compared to his white rabbit plushie, the most devastating tool in his arsenal.
After searching, Ryan quickly found the black briefcase he had been hired to deliver, seized it, closed the trunk, and then entered the pub.
It was something of a cozy place with ten tables, only a third of them occupied. He briefly noticed some Latin muchacho trying to impress his date by levitating a coin in the air—he must have wasted fifty thousand bucks on a knockoff elixir. A balding, wrinkled old man with tanned skin stood behind the counter, looking at the newcomer suspiciously.
“Hello, local humans, I come in peace!” Ryan addressed the carbon-based lifeform called a barman. “Is this Renesco’s Jolie Wrangler?”
The man behind the counter glared at him. “It’s written on the front door. What do you want?”
Why did the bar’s title involve both French and English words, while the barman sounded like a true Italian? Multiculturalism struck again! “Then you must be Renesco!” Ryan handed the poor fellow the briefcase. “I’ve been hired to give you this! It’s full of mushrooms and a bomb, but I didn’t open it this time.”
“This time?” the barman frowned. “Are you…”
“I’m Quicksave,” Ryan introduced himself, tipping his hat. “I’m immortal, but don’t tell anyone.”
“Man, you said it loud enough for everyone to hear!” someone jeered at the back, the few clients laughing.
“That’s your power?” the barman asked, unimpressed. “Immortality?”
“It’s part of a package deal,” Ryan replied.
“Whatever,” Renesco grumbled while he seized the briefcase. “I’ll tell my boss and you should receive your payment soon.”
“Good to hear!” Ryan replied, a hand on the counter. “Hey, look, since I’m here, have you seen a girl called Len? Black hair, blue eyes, Marxist-Leninist?”
“Never heard of her,” the barman said with a shrug. “If you’re looking for a girl, try a brothel.”
“That’s not really the type, but thanks anyway.” Knowing her, Len was probably hiding in some underground Kremlin bunker. “Any place where you can buy custom genius tech? Homemade?”
“Try Rust Town in the north, if you’re brave enough. You can always find interesting stuff at the Junkyard, but it’s full of cutthroats and Psychos nowadays.” The barman looked at Quicksave head to toe. “They’re going to eat you alive.”
Ryan shrugged, while he heard someone enter the bar. The temperature seemed to suddenly drop a few degrees. “Renesco?” the newcomer asked.
“Yes?” the barman replied, frowning.
A second later, an ice spear tore out Renesco’s throat and nailed him to the back wall.
Ryan tried to activate his time-stop, but a sharp icicle hit his chest at astonishing speed. It pierced his bulletproof jacket and his ribs like a spear, then came out on the other side; leaving a gaping hole where the lungs should have been.
The room erupted in screams, as projectiles shredded the tables and clients alike. Struggling against the sharp pain in his chest, Ryan collapsed on the counter but managed to glance at his attacker.
The newcomer removed his hoodie, revealing his face… or rather his lack of one. He looked like a walking, skinless skeleton with vestigial muscles, skeletal fingers, and frozen eyes. An unnatural, chilling mist came out of his mouth and nasal cavities, transforming into ice weapons.
A Genome. Considering his physical mutation, maybe even a Psycho.
“Adam sends his regards,” the killer rasped. The muchacho man in the bar’s back tried to telekinetically throw a chair at him, but the hostile Genome grew an armor of ice over his bones. A few icicles later, the Spanish guy and his date had their face redrawn in a cubic style.
“I will get you…” Ryan dramatically raised a finger at his murderer, blood flowing from his mouth, “on my next save...”
The undead froze him alive with a wave of his hand, and all went dark.
It was May 8th 2020 for the fourth time, and Ryan was pissed.
Three times! Three times he had died trying to make this damn delivery!
Then again, that was what he got when not paying attention. With the exception of his save point, his powers needed a conscious action to activate; his enhanced timing sense, in particular, didn’t kick in until after he had lived through events once already.
Ryan didn’t mind dying, since he had gotten used to it after the first two dozen times… but dying so soon? Less than two hours after establishing a save point, three times in a row? His loops usually lasted days, allowing him to try new and interesting stunts; while repeating the same things in quick succession bored him to death.
This meant war.
Ryan entered his autopilot mode, his mind wandering off while his body repeated all the actions of his previous save. He only stopped and regained full consciousness as he reached the bar.
Instead of entering, Ryan remained in his car, waiting for his killer to show up.
He didn’t have to wait long, as the assassin walked out of a street corner, hands in his pockets and his ugly face hidden beneath a hoodie. It said something about New Rome that this crook didn’t draw attention, as he entered the Jolie Wrangler.
There was only one rational, responsible way to act.
Ryan moved the car right in front of the pub, set an ACDC song on the radio, and then smashed the accelerator.
Pedestrians screamed in panic, some leaping out of the way as the car drove into the Wrangler’s entrance. Having been reinforced specifically for this kind of stunt, the Plymouth demolished the wall and hit the assassin from behind before he could attack. The collision propelled the hostile Genome against the counter, like a deer on the road.
Quicksave briefly looked around, in case he had accidentally hit any of the clients; he had been very careful to position himself in an angle with nobody but the assassin on the path, but you could never know. Thankfully, he hadn’t harmed anyone, and the Spanish muchacho was too busy holding his terrified girlfriend in his arms to throw stuff at Ryan.
Good. He wouldn’t have to reload again.
“Hey, guys, I’m Quicksave!” Ryan told the shocked clients, as he stepped down and moved behind his car. “I’m immortal, but don’t tell anyone!”
“I’m calling Security!” Renesco shouted while hiding behind the counter.
“Don’t bother, I will be done in a minute!” Ryan replied before opening his car’s trunk, unconcerned. He looked at his weapons, trying to find the right one for the job.
The pisto-gauntlets? Too intimate.
The gauss rifle? Too quick.
The shotgun? Tempting, but overdone.
The rabbit plushie? Far too powerful.
The baseball bat?
Bat it was.
Ryan whistled while playing with his chosen weapon, approaching the assassin as he rose back to his feet, using the counter as support. Any other person would have died, but all Genomes possessed enhanced physical abilities.
“Who the fuck are you?” the undead assassin hissed angrily, trying to manifest his armor of ice over his body as he did in the last loop, but too stunned to focus. “An Augusti?!”
“Nah, I’m just a courier,” Ryan said, trying to think of a good one-liner. “Sorry, can you give me your name while you still have teeth?”
The skeleton responded by raising his hand, unleashing a volley of ice shards.
In response, Ryan lazily stopped time. The world turned silent, everything gained a purple hue, and the icicles froze in midair.
Eh. Froze. The courier memorized that pun for later.
“Yeah, you took me by surprise last time,” Quicksave said, as he moved around the path of the attack until he was right in front of his target. Neither clients nor the enemy Genome could move, trapped between two seconds. “Not gonna happen again.”
When time resumed and the world regained its colors, the skeleton kissed the aluminum bat intimately. The undead Genome lost a few teeth since his jaw was tight. Must have been his first time.
The attack tossed the killer to his knees, and another strike introduced him face-first to the ground. Ryan started beating him up to the tune of Highway to Hell, singing to himself. Between the shock of being hit by a car at full speed and the blow to the head, the enemy Genome couldn’t mount a resistance. Also, it seemed he had some frozen blood below the bones and vestigial flesh.
“I feel like the healthcare system, beating up a helpless granny.” Ryan shook his head in disgust at the assassin, before hitting him again. “Look at what you made me do!”
The wicked fossil couldn’t offer a good excuse, so Quicksave continued his assault. His unnatural resilience would allow him to survive far worse, and considering he had killed Ryan once, the courier didn’t feel bad beating him up within an inch of his life.
“Drop your weapons!”
Ryan turned around, three men in black riot gear pointing energy rifles at him from behind. They surrounded his car, while they proudly displayed the ouroboros symbol of the Dynamis corporation on their chests; probably members of Private Security. A crowd of civilians had gathered outside the bar, looking at the scene while maintaining a respectful distance. Some had even started taking pictures.
“Hey, I’m just trying to help!” Ryan protested, waving his bloodstained bat in surrender after kicking the assassin with his boot one last time.
“You blew up my bar!” Renesco protested, emerging from behind the counter with a crimson face.
“Oh, you want money?” Quicksave quickly searched inside his trench coat as three red circles appeared on his mask, before bringing out a wad of banknotes worth fifty thousand euros. “Here, have a treat!”
Renesco looked at the money, grabbed it, counted, and then made a conflicted face. “That’s more than enough to pay for the repairs,” he told the guards. “The guy on the floor tried to attack us, the other weirdo came to help.”
“You have a license?” one of the security guards asked Ryan, who shook his head. “You’re a vigilante? An Augusti? Company Genome?”
“Nope!” Ryan replied.
“Well, if you don’t have a license, why shouldn’t we take you into custody alongside that bone guy?”
“What, you want money too?”
And Ryan threw a bribe at him.
The security captain grabbed the wad with one hand, counted while keeping his weapon aimed at Quicksave’s head, then chuckled. “You think you can buy our honor with that?”
Ryan threw him a bigger bribe.
“Better,” the Security guardsman said, putting the money in a pocket full of grenades. He lowered his rifle and had his two compatriots gently grab the assassin, after punching him in the gut. “I’m glad we helped make the neighborhood safer today.”
“Me too,” Ryan replied. “Me too.”
“Renesco?” The captain asked the barman, as his men carried the assassin away. “Don’t forget to pay your monthly subscription. We won’t always be there to protect your establishment.”
And on these wise words, the trio left without looking back.
“Do you always carry wads of money on yourself?” Renesco asked Quicksave, astonished by the surreal scene.
“When you cause as much collateral damage as I do, it’s a real time saver,” Ryan replied, the baseball bat still dripping with blood. “Who was that skeletal fellow anyway?”
“Ghoul, a Psycho from the Meta-Gang. Elixir junkies who have been hitting places like mine recently.” Renesco glared at Ryan, then at his car, and then back at its driver. “Now, get the fuck out of my bar.”
“Uh, not until after I finish the damn delivery.” Ryan handed the briefcase to Renesco, not really caring about the attention he brought on it. Quicksave always delivered; no matter how many deaths needed!
The barman’s eyes flashed with recognition, and then confusion. “I don’t get it,” Renesco said, as he grabbed the briefcase. “You aren’t paid half of what you spent in the last minute.”
“It’s not about the money,” Ryan replied. He looked around as if worried that anyone listened, then whispered into Renesco’s ear.
“I’m just bored.”
The man looked at Ryan in silence, while the courier whistled to himself as he returned to his car, driving under the sunset towards new adventures.