The bullet had pierced Frank’s ribs.
But he didn’t know that.
All he felt was the pain.
He saw the blood as it darkened his shirt. Which organ suffered the weight of the wound didn’t matter to him at that moment. He knew he would die if he didn’t make it to the end of that hideous alleyway.
Dying here wasn’t an option.
He had to push through it.
Another shot rang out.
Frank ducked, stumbled, held his hand to that hideous wound.
Those bastards wanted him dead. If he didn’t make it to the room in the back of that abandoned warehouse, his days would come to an abrupt end.
He couldn’t let that happen.
The disgraced hitman moved down the alley as fast as his weight and wound would allow. Frank considered firing at his pursuers, but he knew that would only slow him down. No, he needed to save his energy.
So he pushed onward, shoving aside overflowing garbage cans and random garbage in an attempt to slow his enemies. He couldn’t see them, but he could hear their footfalls. They weren’t too far behind.
“You can’t escape,” one of them called out.
Frank knew these alleys like the back of his hand, to use a terrible cliche. He had run these streets as a child, ducking bullies and outwitting cops.
He had the advantage.
All he needed was to reach the warehouse, descend to the basement, and access to the back room. Then he could reassess the situation and try to put everything back in order. Before it all went to hell.
But he still had a ways to go.
“Come on, Frank,” he told himself. “Push through this. You’ve done this a few dozen times. You can fix it. You’ve got this.”
Another shot rang out.
Frank felt the bullet breeze past his forehead.
A few inches to the left and he’d have found his brains mixed with the alley’s abundance of trash. He ducked, weaved, and spied the entrance up ahead.
Using the last bit of energy he could muster, Frank threw himself into the splintered wooden door. His body spilled into the warehouse, sending dust spiraling toward the ceiling.
Blood leaking from his gut, he pushed himself off the floor. He could see the entrance to the storage area across the expanse of the main room.
A burst of hope filled his body.
Outside, the footsteps drew closer, the rabble of his pursuers grew louder.
His pursuers knew they had the upper hand.
No sense trying to hide it.
Another shot, but that hit something overhead. They wanted to toy with him, let him know exactly how this game would play out.
These goons were the hunters, and Frank Terminal was the prey.
Nothing more, nothing less.
A dynamic as old as time.
Still, Frank pushed ahead.
He stumbled, tripped, and grimaced as he made his way through the warehouse. His tormentors laughed as they watched him struggle.
“Let him run,” one of them said in a smug voice. “He’s not going anywhere. There’s only one way in and out. He’s history.”
Not quite, Frank thought.
Finally, he reached his destination. Sensing he’d run out of gas, his pursuers decided to stroll toward their target. Some of them peeled away from the pack to check out things inside the warehouse at their leisure.
Using this to his advantage, Frank kicked open the storage room door, staggered inside, and climbed a ladder to the basement below.
He grimaced; each step hurt worse than the last.
There, in the middle of an otherwise empty room, stood a glowing green triangle. The magical device defied gravity, floating several feet above the ground.
Frank placed one bloody hand on the triangle.
“Would you like to load your previous save?” a friendly female voice said. “Doing so will erase any unsaved data. You will lose any progress.”
“Yes,” Frank told her. “Restore previous save.”
“Thank you,” she replied. “One moment.”
In the warehouse, the thugs closed in. But Frank had already started to dissolve. When they finally reached the storage room, they found it empty. Frank, had vanished into thin air, which caused plenty of confusion.
For Frank, the world turned black.
Then, like magic, he arrived inside the storage room tucked within the basement of that grungy warehouse. Restoring his previous save allowed him to travel back twenty-four hours. Before the gunshot.
Before the pursuit.
Before he bungled the rescue of his only daughter from the clutches of a gang of drug-addled murders. He had another chance to get it right.
“Save progress,” he told the glowing triangle.
“Data saved,” the female voice told him.
He closed his eyes and sighed.
“Let’s try this again,” he said.