Brother Tom did not like the look on my face. I'm not sure why. I was smiling my happy smile. Much later I overheard a new troop ask one of the vets "Does Gardener ever smile?" His question was greeted by silence, then one of the old timers replied "Kid, you don't ever want to be around when he smiles." One of the others added "When he starts smiling people die." Then they began arguing about if whether or not my eyes changed color too. I quietly turned, walked away, and when I was sure no one was looking at me I laughed.
They thought I smiled because I enjoyed killing. The killing wasn't what made me smile. In fact that part rarely registered with me. I smiled because of how good it felt to walk the edge once again. I did not feel more "alive" as much as I felt completely focused. Everything that made me -- me, all the software, all the hardware, began running at total capacity. All the internal bullshit, all the nagging pains in my body, all the doubts disappeared, and I knew. I mean I knew what had to be done. Usually that meant killing pieces of shit masquerading as human beings. I was okay with that. I was especially okay with it right now.
I reached back, gripped the hilt, and slid the sword that Freya had given me from it's sheath. I had learned through practicing this move that if I did it exactly right it sang a very nice metallic zing song as I did. I loved that. I smiled a little more and Brother Tom's eyes widened a whole lot. Not for very long. My right hand gripped the hilt next to my left, I pivoted and swung into him. His head separated cleanly but the wood used in building his throne was made of better stuff. I left the blade buried in the wood and drew both the Ruger and the Colt firing as I did. Elder Bobs soul was only a step or two behind his leader, as were the rest of his loyal brethren who had been seated with us.
I looked around the room and inhaled the smell of blood and gunpowder. My work here was done. Perhaps two seconds had passed. It was time to move. Loco and Ricky were staring at me, well they could still earn their keep. "Rickey! Block the door." I wanted one of the picnic tables in front of the door we came in through. "Loco! On me." I retrieved my sword and headed for the door Carol had gone through. Loco understood what I wanted. I hoped Rickey did. Loco went through the door and cut right. Once that would have made a difference. It didn't anymore. As soon as he did the door jamb and part of the wall exploded. Someone had a shotgun. That meant I had next to no time to clear it before they recycled. I dove through, somersaulted, and halfway through it slammed into the woman who had just fired the shotgun.She went down in a heap and I got a good look at unshaven legs and stained underwear before I shot her.