There was a soft buzzing on his wrist, a silent alarm from the watch he wore to keep from waking up Stephani. A quick tap turned it off. He laid on his side for a moment, staring into the darkness, gathering all of his strength and willpower to pull himself out of bed. Carefully he placed his feet on the floor and lifted his heavy body off of the mattress and crept out of the bedroom, quietly closing the door behind him, he could hear Stephani turn in the bed as he did. He walked down the short hallway of their apartment to the bathroom, the light seemed so bright, the toilet sounded so loud, and his arm felt so heavy as he brushed his teeth. It was hard for him to look in the mirror, he hated how tired he looked. It appeared as if his whole body just sort of sagged with fatigue. He had been in the best shape of his life just a year ago, now his all but featureless torso drooped as if gravity found pleasure in affecting him more than the rest of the world.
It was 2:44 when he turned on the bright, stale, kitchen light. He lost count scooping coffee into the coffee maker, but a few extra tablespoons wouldn’t hurt. As the water bubbled and brewed, he stripped himself of the shirt and shorts he slept in and stepped into the dark blue coveralls he wore to work every day. Changing in the bedroom would wake up Stephani so he made sure to lay out his work clothes on the couch every night before he went to bed. The coffee maker made its final spurts and sputters as it finished brewing the only relief he had from his painful existence. It’s only four hours, he told himself. Then I can go back to sleep.
He laced up his boots and grabbed his work badge. The plastic ID card had a faded picture of him, half worn away from swiping it through the security lock every day. The picture reminded him that he needed to shave the thin layer of fuzz on his head that had grown in over the past month. “A. Jackson” the card read, 77645301 was the number he had committed to memory. He had written and typed that number so many times in the past year that it felt like more like his name than his name.
He pulled out a paper cup and a plastic lid and poured himself a coffee to leave with. It seemed wasteful at first, but Stephani had convinced him to buy disposable cups after he had lost his fifth travel mug. He hated that he had grown so forgetful. He threw his wallet and phone into his messenger bag and slung it over his shoulder. Keys in hand he carefully left the apartment and locked the door. It was 3:26 still, dark out. The bus stop, which was no more than a small rectangular sign on a pole, was less than a block away and if it were on time, which it usually was, it would be there in about four minutes. One of the selling points for the apartment was that it was on the bus route, he and Stephani shared a car he owned and he could have driven into work every day, but the bus got him there on time and dropped off right outside, plus the ride to work was one of the few things he enjoyed. It was easier for him to drink his coffee while he was on the bus and he could read the news and whatnot on his phone.
There was never more than seven or eight people on the bus this early. Occasionally Friday mornings would have a few extra drunks passed out towards the back, but it was Monday and the long, brightly lit bus was as vacant as ever. He gave a curt nod to Frank, the driver, as he swiped his bus pass and headed to a seat near the front, comfortably away from any other passengers.
The first sip of coffee was the worst. It was bitter, no doubt from the few extra scoops he put in. His stomach churned and shuttered in violent protest, but he kept drinking it. He pulled out his phone, deleted a few spam emails and scrolled through a news app to see if anything interesting had happened since he last scrolled through. Nothing. He focused on getting down his coffee, he would need the caffeine to make it through the morning.
In fifteen short minutes the bus stopped right outside of Galex Tech Manufacturing, the plant was a large, ugly, concrete facility. It’s most defining featuring being its existence. He walked through a gate in the chain linked fence that, as far as he knew, was never locked, and swiped his security card at a terminal next to a plain metal door.
Welcome Jackson, Axl the blue screen on the security panel then prompted him for his ID number. Clocked in. 3:58 am 8/17/2071. It read after he typed it in.
The door, the only door he knew the building had though he assumed it had others, opened into a long narrow hallway. This hallway was lined with small desks, each desk divided with a partition that went all the to the low ceiling. He walked down the hallway past chairs with backs turned to him, people who had just started their shift and those nearing their end. He found his spot at desk number 44 and sat in the plain, black, barely padded chair. He thought back to his first day, the only day in an entire year he had spoken to his supervisor, a short grey-haired man who wore a white shirt and khaki’s as his uniform.
“You push the green button to start,” He said. “You’ve got 5 minutes after clocking in to
get started. When you push the green button an L bracket will fall into the tray on the right. Thread three screws from this bin into the three holes in that L bracket and drop it in that slot. If you can’t handle that, either we’ll let you know or your key card won’t work. If you come to work and your key card doesn’t let you in, well, that means don’t bother coming back. We’ll email you your schedule. Any questions?”
Axl had none at the time and none now. It was pretty simple. You show up, sit down, hit the green button and put the screws in, drop it in the slot. He only ever saw the supervisor when he was giving that same explanation to a new hire, if they asked too many questions, he’d ask them to leave. Axl put his bag under the desk and, screwdriver in hand, pushed the green button. An L shaped bracket, about six inches long on each leg fell into a tray on his right. He took three screws out of the bin on his desk and screwed them into the bracket and dropped in in the slot to his left. As soon as he did, another bracket fell into the tray. He never wondered what they were for or where they went or where they came from. It didn’t matter anyway. All that mattered was that three screws got screwed into the L bracket and dropped in the slot. After 4 hours the brackets stopped dropping and it was time to leave. For now.
Axl worked a split shift, 4 am to 8 am then 4 pm to 8 pm. The schedule was hell, but it was the best paying job he had found since moving to Dallas. The bus ride home was always livelier. A lot of people would be headed to work as he was leaving and the ride could easily take twice as long. If he were lucky though, he could get home right as Stephani was getting ready to leave.
“Good morning,” he said as he came through the door. He did his best to sound cheerful.
“Hey,” Stephani replied from the kitchen table. “How was work?” she asked. She was drinking coffee and scrolling through something on her laptop.
“It was work,” he said. Again, trying not to sound too depressed.
She stood up and stretched. She was wearing a light-colored blouse and some black slacks, normal attire for her office job. She worked as an investment analyst, something Axl didn’t know much about but anytime she talked about work he listened and learned what he could, though most of the time she talked about inter-office politics rather than the work itself. She wore her blonde hair in a ponytail with one wavy bang styled and loose. She smiled and hugged him, pushing up on the tips of her toes to give him a kiss on the cheek. He was happy he made it home before she left.
“Thanks for making coffee,” she said.
“Of course,” he told her. “Couldn’t live without it.”
“Are you going back to bed?” She asked.
“Probably, Monday’s are the worst.”
“Well I made you a sandwich for lunch, so you’d have some food when you wake up, it’s in the fridge. If I don’t hear from you by noon, do you want me to text you to wake you up or let you sleep?”
“You can wake me up, I’ve got some errands to run today. I’d like to try and get to the gym too.” He told her.
She gave a sly smile and poked his stomach. “You could probably use it,” she said jokingly. “If you’re at the store can you grab some trash bags? We’re almost out.”
“Sure,” he told her.
“Thanks,” she gave him another kiss and packed away her laptop. “I’ll see you tonight.”
“Have fun at work,” he said.
“I’ll try, love you.”
“Love you too,” he told her as she walked out the door.
He turned off the coffee pot and took off his boots and coveralls. His eyes felt dry and tired, heavy and begging for sleep. It pained him to waste the day sleeping but nothing he could think of doing grabbed his interest. He decided on a hot shower before crawling back into bed.
There was a soft buzzing on his wrist, a silent alarm from the watch he wore to keep from waking up Stephani. Only Stephani wasn’t there, she was at work and the soft buzzing on his wrist was a text message from her, waking him up so he didn’t sleep the day away. He had hung blackout curtains to keep the room dark, it was the only way he could sleep during the day, but it was disorienting. So many times, he awoke in shock, confused as to why Stephani was gone or worried he overslept and was late to work. He felt groggy, worse than normal, not that normal felt any better. He stared up at the ceiling in the blackness of the room, the ceiling fan, and light fixture slowly taking shape as his vision adjusted.
Finally, he lifted his watch to check the text message. “Sorry to wake you, your company is on the news!” it read. It was from Stephani, sent at 10:04 AM. Axl tried to go back to sleep but he couldn’t. Maybe there was too much caffeine still coursing through his veins, maybe he had gotten enough sleep already, it didn’t matter, either way, he was awake now. He rolled over and grabbed his phone from the nightstand and pulled up the news article Stephani had sent him.
“Galex Tech Manufacturing wins bid for new police protection equipment.” The title read. The article itself was little more than a press release, nothing indicated that he would be doing anything other than putting three screws in an L bracket, aside from a sentence that read “We are confident that improvements in human-based manufacturing methods will allow us to keep up with supply and demand.”
It was a sore spot for a lot of folks in North America. AI technology grew rapidly in the late fifties and it took a lot of manufacturing, blue collar, and, most importantly, white collar jobs with it. There was a big push in Washington for a universal income to help offset the job deficit, but ultimately it was decided that universal income went against the spirit of capitalism. Regulations were then put in place that limited the use of AI and robotics in manufacturing administration as well as how much of that technology American companies could use manufacturing in other countries. Unemployment plummeted to historic lows and the job market exploded as more and more companies simplified jobs offering many people what they called an “AI Assisted Position.”
As far as Axl knew his position wasn’t AI-assisted, but Stephani’s was. She spent most of her day reading books, browsing the internet, or gossiping with co-workers. She gave presentations of monthly and quarterly reports but most of her work was done by an AI. This was the loophole many companies used. It had become a necessary evil as America would have rapidly fallen behind otherwise. The “AI Assisted” model had caught on so well that most of Europe and China had adopted it too. It kept the majority of the population “working” while still allowing for steady advancements, though there are many purists who argue that the model was holding America back.
Axl didn’t care about any of that though. He tried to care at one point, it was too overwhelming. Both sides had their positives and negatives, but he was only one person. He wasn’t going to change the world with one dumb, uninformed, comment on the internet. All he cared about now was sleep and if he wasn’t asleep all he could do was plan for the next time he would be asleep. He had about six hours before he had to go back to work now and It would be the most miserable six hours of his day. He couldn’t build up the motivation to get to the gym, but he did find the time to shave his head. He decided to let the beard that was coming in to keep growing. He wasn’t sure what Stephani would think but if she didn’t like it he could always shave it off.
In the three years they had been together he had stayed clean shaven for the most part and she seemed content with that. When they had started dating she told him that he was the only man in the pacific northwest without a beard. After she graduated they had moved to Dallas where she had a job lined up. It had taken Axl three months to get the job at Galex Tech and every day since he struggled to justify keeping the job. The schedule was grueling, but he insisted it was okay, he was responsible for half the bills and he refused to put any of that burden on her.
He ended up spending the rest of his afternoon applying for jobs. The problem with finding a new job wasn’t getting an offer, it was the offer they made. The vast majority of companies had switched to a system called GainStar, it was an algorithm that weighed several factors about the applicant against the company and determined what a profitable rate of pay would be. Galex Tech intentionally advertised itself as a company that didn’t use GainStar and their offer to Axl seemed to good to be true. Considering the schedule, it was.
He had gotten eight job offers before he left for the bus, all of them less than half of what Galex Tech paid him. After arriving back at the ugly concrete factory, he spent the next four hours putting screws into L brackets. When his shift ended Stephani came and picked him up, they got dinner from a Thai place on the way home and a few hours later he was asleep again. He woke up next to Stephani, made some coffee, put some screws in L brackets, fell asleep, woke up alone, put some screws in L brackets came home, and fell asleep again.
There was a soft buzzing on his wrist, a silent alarm from the watch he wore to keep from waking up Stephani. It was Friday, he didn’t know where the week went but he was happy that it was almost over. He had slept poorly, he thought it had to be anxiety, he had checked his watch at least five or six times throughout the night, worried he was going to sleep through the alarm.
Tired eyes, hot coffee, empty bus. Three screws per bracket. He tried to imagine what part of the police equipment needed these L brackets and how they could need so many of them. He had read an article at some point about how they would be using what Galex Tech called “Power Armor.” It was more or less an exoskeleton that gave police officers in crime-ridden areas greater protection from small arms fire, as well as increased speed and enhanced strength. Axl had never seen any of this armor, but he figured the L bracket must have been a crucial part if they were making so many of them.
After his second shift Stephani came and picked him up. He was exhausted, but knowing he wouldn’t have to go to work for two days invigorated him, just the thought of getting to sleep for eight hours straight sent a chill of excitement through him.
“You look happy,” Stephani said when he got in the car, picking him up from the late shift.
“It’s Friday, it’s hard not to be happy,” he said.
“Tom and Susan want to meet over at Highlight for a beer do you want to go?” She asked. “I can drop you off if you’re not feeling it.”
“I’m definitely okay with that,” he said. Tom and Susan were friends Stephani had made, Susan was her co-worker and Tom was Susan’s Husband. Tom was around four years older than Axl, but he was a good guy and he and Axl shared a lot of the same interests. Susan was a little abrasive, but the same could be said about Stephani so she didn’t really bother him.
The Highlight was a fairly small bar near the firm that Stephani worked at, He felt bad making her drive all the way to come get him then drive them all the way back, but she never complained, she seemed more excited by the fact that he was actually going out. He found himself oddly excited as well. Since working at Galex Tech he had grown increasingly introverted, it seemed the energy required for social interaction had been constantly emptied by the strange sleep schedule he had grown into.
“Hey hey!” Tom greeted them when they approached the couple at the bar. “Good to see you, buddy, it’s been a while. What have you been up to?”
Axl shook his hand and smiled. “Oh, just working,”
“I know how that is, have a seat first round is on me, whatcha want?”
“What are you drinking?” Axl asked.
“Pale Winds Ale, it’s an IPA,” he said.
“I’ll have one of those,” Axl didn’t really like IPA’s but he figured worst case scenario he could at least steer the conversation towards the beer they were drinking. Stephani and Susan had started gossiping about work before they had even sat down. They had margaritas and when Axl finished his beer he ordered one too.
Axl listened with the slightest bit of contempt as Tom went on about the latest video games he had been playing and the time he actually had to play them. If he had the interest, Axl would have time, but his constant exhaustion left him wanting nothing but sleep, a feeling that weighed heavily on him after just two drinks. He hadn’t slept between shifts, and he had barely slept the night before. He had no way of quantifying how many hours of sleep he was operating on, but he knew it was slim to none. After too much bar food and a third drink, his eyelids felt like lead weights. Stephani was quick to pick up on it and wrapped up their conversation. She was good at knowing when they should leave, and he always appreciated it.
“Are you okay to drive?” he asked.
“Yeah, I only had one drink,” she said. “Plus, it’s not like you could drive if you wanted to,”
“Hey, it takes a lot more than three drinks to get me drunk,” he said.
“I’m more worried about you falling as--”
“Hey, hey!” she was interrupted by a man that approached them in the parking lot.
Axle immediately stepped in front of her. The man was short and wiry with wrinkled, pock-marked face, his clothes were stained and tattered. If they had been paying attention they would have smelt him coming.
“You got money?” He asked. His tone and stance were uncomfortably aggressive. “Like ten, twenty bucks?”
Axl went on high alert, more awake than he had been in months. He stepped forward, making the man step a few paces back, putting distance between him and Stephani. The parking lot was dark but as the man moved more towards a street lamp, Axl realized he was holding a knife.
“Stephani, get in the car,” he said firmly, hoping she hadn’t noticed the man’s weapon. She complied quickly. “I ain’t got no cash man.”
Axl wasn’t in the same shape he was a year ago, but at six foot one, two hundred forty pounds he hoped he was intimidating enough.
“I just need a few bucks man,” he pleaded. The man had a desperate look on his face, “What about her? What about your girl?” he waved the knife and took a step towards the car.
Axl took no chances and swung at the man, bringing a wild overhead swing hammering down on his shoulder, the homeless man coiled inward trying to avoid the blow. He could hear Stephani screaming something from inside the car. Axl rained blows down on the back of the man’s head as he wrapped around his torso trying to push him to the ground. Axl thought he felt the knife try to pierce his side but he couldn’t be sure. After a solid hit to the back of the head, the homeless man loosened his grip and stepped backward dazed. Axl rushed forward and brought his right hand into the man’s face as hard as he could.
The next several hours were a blur, police asked him questions, a paramedic looked him over, and the homeless man was taken away on a stretcher. The police had found the knife, it’s blade was snapped in half. Axl’s coveralls had been cut open near his hip, but he was clean of any wounds.
Tom and Susan had come out after they heard the sirens, along with many other patrons. A lot of people spoke to Axl afterward including the bar owner, but he processed none of it. The drive home seemed to take forever, Stephani fought back tears the entire time. It wasn’t until they were safe in their apartment with the door locked behind them that she finally let go, sobbing into Axl’s shoulder, berating him for being so reckless.
What was I thinking? How could I be so stupid that could have cost us both our lives.
There was a soft buzzing on his wrist, a silent alarm from the watch he wore to keep from waking up Stephani, but he was awake before it went off, he couldn’t remember the last time he was asleep. There was coffee and a short walk to the bus. It was Monday, or is it Tuesday? He thought. He couldn’t remember Saturday or Sunday. Every time he closed his eyes he saw the man with the knife. He had thrown out the coveralls that had been cut open, he didn’t have the patience to fix them and no matter how many times he washed them they still smelled like the man in the parking lot.
His fist and arm were still sore. He could feel the homeless man’s flesh against his hand, the thud as it pounded against his body, how his knuckles popped as he unhinged the man’s jaw with his fist.
Welcome Jackson, Axl the blue screen on the security panel prompted him for his ID number. Clocked in. 3:59am 8/24/2071
L bracket, three screws, left slot, green button. There was a soft buzzing on his wrist, a silent alarm from the watch he wore to keep from waking up Stephani. What time is it? It was 2:40 am, he couldn’t remember the time between shifts, His eyes were dry and bloodshot, he didn’t drink any coffee, it didn’t matter, he hadn’t slept, and he wasn’t going to. It was just agonizing hours of darkness as he lay sweating in bed.
“I saw you,” a man said. Axl didn’t remember sitting next to the man on the bus or the man taking a seat next to him.
“What?” Axl croaked out.
“I saw you take that knife, it broke on you, against your skin.”
Axl looked the man over. He was older, late fifties maybe, haggard wrinkled skin covered with a salt and pepper shadow of a beard. He wore a navy-blue truckers hat with the words Boxing is Art embroidered in white on it. His gray sweatshirt and sweatpants were stained but not as noxious as they appeared, what he wore on his feet used to be white and probably passed for shoes at some point.
“You fight like a eight-year-old girl though,” The man continued unprompted. “Learn how to throw a punch and a guy ten times that bum wouldn’t stand a chance against you.”
When he clocked out Stephani was there to pick him up, that was the late shift? She looked upset, in a way he had never seen before. It made him very uneasy.
“How was work?” she asked him, her voice was cold though she was trying her best to sound normal.
“Same as usual,” he rasped. His voice had all but lost its richness. I must be getting sick, he thought. “You?”
“Oh, you know,” Her voice quivered and she nervously tapped the steering wheel. “It was about as you’d expect.”
She turned on the radio to avoid conversation. Axl couldn’t quite piece it together but whatever was on her mind wasn’t good, but she clearly didn’t want to talk about it right now, so he left her alone. It wasn’t until they were safe in their apartment with the door locked behind them that she finally let go, sobbing into Axl’s shoulder. He shook his head in disbelief not sure what he was witnessing of if he had already witnessed it before.
“I’m sorry,” she said between sobs. “I’m so sorry.”
“What’s wrong? Please just calm down and tell me what’s wrong.” He grunted through dry vocal cords as gently as he could.
She stepped back from him, her face was red and wet with tears. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared down at the floor as if the words she meant to speak were scrawled on the carpet below them.
“I…” She lost her words and her voice quivered. She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. “I’m going back to Seattle to live with my mom.” she was in tears again by the time she finished her sentence.
Axl couldn’t find any words for himself, there was no script scrawled across the carpet either. He brought the small woman into his arms. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” he said trying to comfort her. He held her close and tight. He noticed across the room next to the couch her suitcases were already packed. She had made her decision and her plans, a lesser woman might not have said anything at all, much less say anything in person.
There was a soft buzzing on his wrist, a silent alarm from the watch he wore to keep from waking up Stephani, but she was gone, and he didn’t need the alarm because he hadn’t slept. He didn’t know how many days it had been since she left but it didn’t matter anymore. There was coffee, the bus, three screws and L brackets. He scrolled through his phone, but the words and pictures meant nothing.
“I need to get you into fighting shape,” The man sitting next to him said. It took a moment for Axl to realize who he was talking to. It was the man with the hat and the gray sweats from before. “You look awful and tired; a good workout would put you to sleep.”
Hundreds of mean words came to Axl, he had no patience and even less for the old man sitting next to him on the bus.
“It’s hard when a woman leaves you, trust me, I know better than most,” the old man said.
“Please leave me alone,” Axl snapped.
The man simply stood up and moved further down the bus. Axl felt the guilt wash over him, he had never been so rude to someone he didn’t know but before a few weeks ago he had never been in a fight and he still had a girlfriend who loved him. The bus stopped, and he was home, he didn’t remember ever getting off it, to begin with, or if he had even worked that day. It was the end of his second shift he’d be home, alone, for the next eight hours or so he thought. His phone rang, it was Tom.
“Hey bud,” he said. “It’s Tom.”
“Hey man, what’s up?” Axl asked, sounding as if he had completely forgotten what excitement was.
“Let’s go out for a drink, my treat, I’ll come pick you up say, uh, thirty minutes. Just you and me.”
“Sure,” Axl responded. It sounded like the worst idea ever, every part of him screamed no but his mouth had betrayed him.
“Awesome bud, I’ll see you soon.”
Axl changed his clothes, he felt tired, but not in the way he felt before. Now that he was suddenly moving with purpose again, the weight bearing down on his shoulders from a lack of sleep was suddenly real and everything he did pained him in ways he didn't know possible. His jeans were loose, his shirt felt baggy. He looked at himself in the mirror and saw his gaunt face and a thick, wild beard. Nearly a half inch of thick dark hair had grown on his head. There wasn’t much more he could do to look presentable before Tom showed up, but he had tried his best.
“Hey man, it’s awkward I know but I’m just gonna say it, I’m sorry about Stephani,” Tom said on their drive to the bar.
“It’s okay, I appreciate it.” His heart fell into his stomach. There were a lot of memories he had hoped to forget but they all came back with the mention of her name. He took a deep breath to collect himself.
Tom was four beers in. Axl had barely touched his. “I’m telling you though, Dallas has the worst homeless problem, probably in the whole US,” Tom said. It wasn’t a conversation Axl really wanted to have. “GainStar man, you’re lucky Galex Tech is the only company in city that doesn’t use it and it’s not that it pays so low either, man. The real problem is that it disqualifies people from jobs before they even get a chance. It’s fucked up. They’re desperate.”
Axl remembered the look in the eyes of the man with the knife. The desperation was terrifying. “I think I need to bounce, man,” Axl said. “It’s pretty late and I haven’t been sleeping well.”
“That’s cool man, we can head out,” Tom said.
After he paid his tab they left the Highlight and walked towards the parking lot. It was too familiar; a chill went down his spine. His eyes darted around looking for the man with the knife. A nervous sweat beaded on his forehead.
Axl jumped, his heart started pounding in his chest.
It was Tom, “Hey, look at that,” He said pointing across the street. “Get that fucker!” Tom shouted.
Axl’s heart was still racing, he looked across the street and saw a Police officer wearing the new Galex Tech power armor kicking a homeless man lying on the street. It was the first time Axl had seen the power armor, it was a sleek exoskeleton painted blue. The frame ran along the arms and legs of the officer and attached by various pistons and motors to a backpack that had a flashing red and blue light.
The man on the ground was wearing a grey sweatshirt spattered with blood and grey sweatpants. His navy-blue hat on the ground beside him. Axl didn’t remember crossing the street and barely remembered catching the fist of the officer swinging at him, but he’d never forget the feeling of the metal fist crunching within his hand and the officers scream as the bones snapped inside. An awkward punch to the exoskeletons shoulder sent the heavy piece of machinery toppling over. He could hear Tom shouting but couldn’t make out the words. He put the man in sweats on his shoulder, he felt as light as a feather.
“Where?” Axl asked.
“Right, down that alley,” The man said. Axl started running faster than he had ever run before. “Left,” Tom said. “Right… Right… Left… Here.”
When he stopped they were in the shadow of a massive skyscraper on the outskirts of downtown. Heat blew out of a vent from the building, it smelled foul, but it was warm. The other end of the alley was blocked by a large dumpster. Here tarps and boxes made the homes of several people who would otherwise be homeless.
“Can you walk?” Axl asked.
“Yeah, set me down.”
Axl set the man down on his feet gently.
“Thanks, my name’s Vaughn Scholtz,” he said unprompted.
“I need to get out of here,” Axl said.
“You’re about as good as conversation as you are at fighting, aren’t you?” Axl just stared at him waiting for direction. “Take a right then two lefts, that will put you at the bus stop, you’ll get you to your place in about an hour.”
“Thanks,” he told him. “Axl, my name’s Axl.”
It took more text messages than Axl had sent in the past six months to convince Tom not to say anything to the police and even then Axl wasn’t sure if he’d stay quiet. For the first time in weeks he actually read the news looking for anything regarding the incident, but nothing had come up. The thought occurred to him that maybe they wouldn’t believe the officer when he tried to explain that a man crushed the fist of his armor with his bare hands, but he couldn’t be sure.