The sewage stink trailing after him felt like a waving flag. He headed back to his room without any detour, and took a long shower.
After an hour, he had reduced the bar of soap to an ungraspable sliver, and drained the shampoo bottle. He also used the shower to wash his clothes and dried them over the towel bar.
He couldn’t carry out his plan naked, so he spent the time watching TV. Sleep threatened to overtake him–his eyelids kept dropping involuntarily–but he had to press on. The emotional impulse to help felt more important than finding his identity. Perhaps it had something to do with his former life–it might lead him to breaking open his brain like a piggy bank, so he had to follow it.
At two in the morning, Rion redressed. His clothes were wrinkled like corduroy, but dry enough to wear. He grabbed his gun that he had set out before and left.
At first he held it up to his chest like a police officer. Then he realized that a passing hotel employee wouldn’t appreciate that, and tucked it behind his back. The hallways were dead silent–all the conventioneers had gone to sleep for the night.
He skulked up to Room 103 and leaned into the door. No sounds. Everyone asleep. Good, everything was like he had expected.
He stuck the card in. It made a beep too loud for Rion’s tastes and flashed green. He pulled down the handle as gently as he could, and opened the door enough to slide his body through.
He shut it. It made a loud click as it locked. Rion froze.
There was a rustle. A man groaned.
Rion looked for a place to hide. He dashed into the bathroom, and closed the door almost all the way. The room light came on.
“What was that?” said Memory.
“I dunno,” Paul said, slurring his words.
“I think it was the door.”
“Better fucking not be one of the guys with a prank.” A pause. “Christ, it’s two in the morning.”
Some sheets crunched together. Paul was getting out of bed. Rion pulled out his pistol and gripped it until his knuckles turned white.
Through the crack, Rion saw Paul, in nothing but pin-striped boxers, walk up to the room door.
“Hello?” He peeked through the peephole.
Rion curled his fingers on the pistol grip over and over.
“Don’t see anyone,” he muttered and walked back into the bedroom. Rion pulled open the door and stepped out.
“Stop,” Rion said coldly. He pointed his gun at Paul’s back.
Paul whipped around, saw Rion and the gun, but didn’t react.
“What th’?” He was too groggy to understand the situation. He stepped back and held up his arms.
“Stop. Stop moving,” Rion said.
Paul stopped. “You… what’s-yer-name… Rion. What the hell is this?”
“This is over. No more of this. You stay away from Memory.”
“What?” He squinted, confused.
“I want you to get out of here. Right now.”
Paul paused. “What are you doing, kid?”
“I’m serious,” Rion said, anger creeping in his voice. He gestured to the open suitcase on a chair. “Start putting your clothes on and get out.”
“Seriously, what are you doing? What are you trying to do?” Paul stepped backward.
“Stop moving!” Rion said. “I don’t want to shoot you.”
“You don’t want to do this, kid. Just turn around and walk out.”
Paul cocked his head. “What, do you expect me to walk out? Then what? You run away together? What are you trying to achieve here?”
Memory said, “Baby, I swear I had nothing to do with this.” She clutched the sheets around her.
“I know,” Paul nodded. “Even you could come up with a better plan than this.”
“Shut up!” Rion said. “Quit treating her like that. She doesn’t deserve that.”
“Why do you even care?” Paul took another step back. He was halfway across the room now. He must have been planning something. Maybe getting a baseball bat, or his own gun.
“I said stop moving. I mean it. I will shoot you.”
Paul took another small step. Even with a gun in his face, he still did whatever he wanted.
Paul wasn’t listening to his threats. He thought Rion was bluffing. It was time to prove him wrong.
Rion lowered the barrel’s angle. “I’ll shoot you in the leg.”
“If you fire one shot, it’ll wake up everyone. You’ll never get out of here.”
Rion’s eyes widened. He didn’t think of that. He didn’t know if the gun would be loud. If someone woke up, they’d alert security, and he’d be arrested.
But it would take time for someone to wake up, phone the concierge, phone the police, and for the police to get here. More time than Rion needed. Paul was again trying to manipulate the situation his way. There would be no more of that.
Rion straightened out his arm and fired.
The gun clicked, sounding like a light switch flipping. Nothing happened. He fired again and again. All it did was make a noise like a snapping glass rod.
Rion looked up like a scared cat. Paul was already rushing at him.
Paul shoved Rion to the floor. He skidded on the carpet, scraping his back, and dropped the gun. Paul grabbed him by his collar and picked up the gun.
Paul held Rion against the wall by his neck and shoved the gun in his face. “What the fuck is this? Trying to hold me up with a plastic ray gun?” He smashed it against the wall. It fell apart like a poorly constructed children’s toy.
“No!” Rion shouted. The best clue to his identity, a piece of his past, was destroyed.
Paul tossed the remnants away, as Rion clawed at him.
“Two in the goddamn morning,” Paul muttered and backhanded Rion. He felt a surge of raw energy, like a light flash. Blood pooled in his mouth.
“Paul! Stop,” Memory shouted, still in bed.
“Shut up. This little fucker broke into our room at two in the morning, while I’ve got a fucking hangover. Even after bothering me before.” He hit Rion again with an open-handed slap.
Another adrenaline surge of power, like a shot of coffee. He felt bruises and tears swelling. In desperation, Rion clutched onto the hand holding his shirt and bit into the knuckles.
Paul cried out. “You little shit.”
With a smooth motion, Paul threw him aside. Rion ricocheted off the door and collapsed. Then a fire exploded in his ribs. Then his head. Then his arm. Something cracked. Then his gut. Over and over again. He heard some feminine pleas, some masculine grunting, but nothing made the explosions stop.
Then there was a pause. The door opened, slamming a sharp corner into Rion’s thigh. Paul kicked him again. Without the door at his back, Rion rolled into the hall, landing face up.
Through a swelling eye, Rion looked up. There was a foot swinging toward his head.
Then Rion lost consciousness.