Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Featured Writer

I was on a hostile node, and a half-dozen Dahakeen were chasing me. With guns. Quite big ones. I didn’t have a weapon at this point, having lost it in the factory complex that I was now hot-footing it away from. Well, ‘lost’ is a bit of a stretch. I had it taken from me by a guard. He ripped out the firing mechanism in front of my eyes. The idiot then turned away to place the clip down on a shelf. When he turned back, he met my cosh coming the other way. On reflection, he was probably the one who tipped the Dahakeen onto me. What made it eerie was the fact that there was no noise of gunfire, just low thuds, followed by patches of tarmac ahead of me glowing cherry-red and splintering, before they would explode. I thanked code that Dahakeen couldn’t run and shoot straight at the same time.

I scrambled through the half-ruined doorway and bolted towards the stairs. The building was oppressively dark, but my eyes were slowly compensating. I threw myself onto the first floor landing, and carried on up. As I turned to start up the next set of stairs, there was another barrage of thuds, and a ripple of explosions as significant chunks of the structure exited this mortal realm. I had made it about halfway up the stairs when I heard another thud, and felt a bright, screaming pain in my leg. A microprojectile had whipped through my foot and exploded in the stair beneath me. My calf was a mess, laced through with thick shards of wood.

I pulled myself back up, and forced myself up the stairs, round onto the landing, and up onto the next flight. My leg was hurting like hell, but I couldn’t stop. I looked up, and my heart sank. About half-way up the flight the stairs disappeared, only to restart about a metre higher. No way I could jump it with my leg like this.

Then she stepped out, framed by the diffused light of the window behind her. She saw me, and didn’t hesitate, but descended as far as the gap, and held out a hand. I scrambled to the drop and caught hold of it. She hauled me over the gap, and upright. She fitted her small shoulder under my arm, and with her help, I walked. We made it to the top of the stairs, then round onto the landing. I collapsed there, gasping from the pain of walking on my ruined leg. I looked up at her.

She grinned down at me, her skin looking ash-white in the half-light, the shape of her face clearly defined against the shadow. With an easy motion, she ripped the activator on a health patch, and slapped it over my wound. She turned, reached into the shadows behind her, and withdrew a gun. It was not as big as the one she had across the back of her long jacket, but was plenty big enough for my tastes. The barrel on her weapon looked like it would be able to swallow my arm. Below us, past the broken stairs, the sounds of the dahakeen were easily audible. They were searching for me, and would not take long to reach this landing, even with the broken stair.

She saw my worry, and pressed a slender finger to her lips. They were the darkest red I’d ever seen, like cochineal. There was a bang, and she looked up, suddenly, and moved slowly to the stairwell. For several seconds, she just stood there. Then, slowly, she returned over to me. Sidling closer, she pressed her lips almost to my ear, the only sound the gentle rustling of her coat against the floor.

“I can get you out of here. Trust me.”

Sliding the gun around from her back, she tapped a control, and it whined, as capacitors accumulated charge. She winced as the sound grew, before smiling at me one more time and jumping over the gap in the stair. Her arrival below was suddenly punctuated by a ripple of explosions, and the harsh, high report of a mass driver.

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