Hitbox Vol. 1 Finding Your Sea Legs Part 24

It’s a few days into Zach Thomas’ self imposed injury exile before he hears from the one person he expected to see right away. They’ve been bad days. He had to cancel his sessions with his trainer Simon Brant and the man didn’t believe him when he told him he was injured. It took everything he had and finally a picture of his bandaged knee to convince the man not to drop him as a client.

Lorelei stopped by twice to change his bandages and clean the wound but she hasn’t had time to stick around and talk. Both times she stopped she was on her way to work and was in and out within twenty minutes. She promised to stop again soon with her crew so they can meet but she hasn’t said when. Something to look forward to could work wonders for him. All they talked about other than his injury was how amazing his loft is.

For years he was on his own and he got so used to it that he thought he preferred it. The last couple days have proven that’s not the case. He’s terribly anxious for any conversation, any human interaction. He has an amazing apartment to relax in but he can’t use the workout room and he doesn’t want to sit around playing video games or watching movies anymore. He’s spent way too many years sitting around doing so. Playing some game through for the tenth time seems like a complete waste.

Being unable to move around encourages his worst habits. Soda and snack cakes are breakfast. Lunch and dinner aren’t any better. The slight progress he’s made losing weight evaporates and he actually starts to gain weight.

When Nowak finally calls, Zach practically jumps up and down on his one good leg. “Can I stop by kid? I want to have a talk with you.”

Immediately accepting Zach waits impatiently in his living room. He knows how long it takes to get from Nowak’s place to here but it seems to be taking a lot longer. He’s almost given up when there’s a knock at the door.

He considers getting up to answer but his sore underarms give him pause. “Come in, it’s not locked.”

Stumbling through the door, Nowak looks like he hasn’t showered since the last time they saw each other. His eyes are red and Zach’s pretty sure he catches the aroma of alcohol on him. He didn’t sound drunk on the phone but that seems to have changed. He looks around the place, clearly surprised how nice it is. “Nicely done kid, this place is great. No wonder you got out of our dump of a building. How you feeling?”

Pushing himself into a sitting position Zach lies. “Not bad. Lorelei has me on so many pain pills that I don’t feel much. I’m just getting bored sitting around here with nothing to do.”

“I get that. Sorry I haven’t called until now. I’ve been in the lab pretty much since I took off the other night. Trying to fix your suit up so you have protection over your knees and elbows. I found some bulletproof material I can make a joint out of. They’ll strap around your joints over the rest of the suit. Not easy to shape how we’ll need them and I’ll need to get some measurements from you but this won’t happen again.” Zach can make out a cheap measuring tape tied around Nowak’s waist like a belt.

“That’s awesome. There’s no huge hurry though. Lorelei says I won’t be able to put full weight on it for a few more weeks. After that she wants me up and around for at least a couple more weeks before I go back out. I’m out of commission for at least a month.”

Nowak puts a hand against his forehead. “Ya, that okay. I just, well, I just needed to know it was ready. I let you down and you got hurt because of it.”

“What do you mean you let me down? I’m the one who decided to go into that bank. I decided on being a vigilante in the first place. You were pretty much telling me right from the start I’d end up dead.”

With a chuckle Nowak says, “Well, overall that’s true. You said you needed something over your knees though and I said it’d be fine. You were right, I was wrong. You got hurt because I was wrong. That can’t happen. My job’s to figure out the dangerous stuff and solve it before it’s a problem. Besides, you didn’t even want to go to that second bank. I pushed you to do it because I was so convinced my gear could handle it and it seemed like an opportunity. I was wrong about so much.” He makes his way to the couch and sits. He’s sweating bad and he keeps wiping it away with his sleeve. The temperature’s spiked over the last few days but even with that Nowak’s still wearing long sleeves.

“You can’t blame yourself for this, I messed up. All the technology works great. The helmet’s amazing, the shock gun and rod are incredible, even the suit worked great. I just got hit in the spot there wasn’t any suit. I’m glad you’re fixing the issue but don’t worry too much. I don’t want to make getting shot a regular thing but I’m okay. Have you been drinking while working on this stuff by the way?”

Nowak brightens up as Zach praises his gear. That quickly shifts when the alcohol comes up. He looks down, chuckling under his breath. “No, stopped off on the way over here for that. I was kind of nervous to see you kid, wasn’t sure if you’d be pissed and I was kind of pissed at myself. Needed a drink to give myself the courage.”

“That’s alright. Want something? I have a ton of stuff in the cabinet above the fridge. I’d have a drink with you but I can’t drink with the pain meds I’m on.”

Shaking his head, Nowak leans back. “I’ve had enough. Thanks though. Just wanted to come by and tell you I solved the problem and make sure you were okay. I’ll get to work on the car and the boat security to make sure it’s all ready by the time you get back out there. In the mean time, relax.”

He pauses at this point and heads for the kitchen. “Maybe I will have that drink after all. I don’t do well with people getting hurt kid. I have a son who, well, let’s just say someone hurt him and he’s never been the same. I don’t want to go into it too much, but you’re a good kid. You went into that place and put yourself in danger to help strangers. Not a lot of people would do that. Feel good about it.”

Now Zach really wishes he could have a drink. “I’m not sure I helped. A guy got shot in the first bank. Innocent guy, paramedic said he’d be okay, but they also said he might never use his right arm again. I can’t even imagine. A bunch of the robbers in the second bank are dead. I sit around here and I have nothing to do so I think. I keep thinking if I’d stayed out of it maybe those guys would have taken the money and left. Maybe everyone would have been fine.”

The cabinets in the kitchen squeak as they’re opened. “Sure, or maybe they’d have executed every hostage in there so they couldn’t identify them. There’s no way to know what would have happened. You can’t think that way. You did what you had to and everything worked out pretty well. You’re worse off than most anyone else in the place. Feel proud of that.”

Nowak comes back with a drink, straight whiskey. Apparently his turning down a drink was only really turning down Zach making it. He plops back on the couch near Zach. “I’ve probably had too much to drink. Mind if I hang around awhile? Watch some TV or something until I sober up?” That won’t be anytime soon if he keeps drinking.

Desperate for company, Zach’s glad to have him stay. They sit around watching TV but after an hour Zach’s phone rings. Not a lot of people know the number so he’s a bit surprised. He answers the unknown caller to hear Linus Setterberg on the other end. “Hey Zach, good to talk to you. Your driver told me you hurt your knee. Bad sprain or something? How’s it feeling?”

Well handled Beth. “Not too bad, taking some pain medicine. Using crutches to get around but it could be worse.”

“Glad to hear it. Everything okay with the accommodations? Good food, good apartment, all of that looking good? Want me to send a doctor over to take a look? My personal guy’s good.”

“No complaints and not needed but thanks. The place is beautiful. I’d like to stay here for awhile actually.”

“That’s not a problem at all. Hope you’re up and around real soon. I’m actually calling because the board got back together this week and I told them about you coming back to the company. They weren’t thrilled, I told you they wouldn’t be. They can’t stop it though and there are a few in your corner. The next board meeting isn’t for three weeks but I want to meet for lunch before that if you’re up to it. We’ll get something to eat, go over a strategy for how you’re going to approach things. It’s my treat of course. What do you say?”

Without being able to think of an excuse to turn the man down, Zach agrees to lunch two weeks from Friday at a, “great little Vietnamese place,” Linus knows. After hanging up the phone, Zach sits there staring at the TV but not really watching. He’s glad to have lunch with Linus. He realizes how much he needs to be around people that matter to him. He just hopes he doesn’t mess up rejoining his company as bad as he messed up his start to being a vigilante.


 Part 23

Volume 2 Commitment Shock Begins December 31st


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