Author : Emily Stupar

The rain swirled over tiles and across rooftops before spreading like drapes down the sides of each decrepit building. Lights from the richly populated northern quarter dyed the clouds a deep purple and orange, giving the two fugitives in the west just enough reflection to navigate the unplumbed depths of pools and puddles.

The young woman cradled the smaller boy in her arms and he did the same to his bleeding leg, clenching his teeth to keep from crying out.
She turned a corner to find a wall taller than her head, but short enough for her arms. They slid to a halt, ankle-deep in water, and she locked brown eyes with the boy. “Up there, okay?” He nodded, tears welling up at the thought.

His wounded right leg making him clumsy, he planted his weight in his sister’s hands. “One, two, three!” she grunted, and he found himself on his back atop the wall, next to a crumbling roof and a pile of discarded bricks.

A clatter of metal limbs echoed through the streets behind them, followed by red and blue lights ricocheting across the raindrops. The girl’s stomach dropped and she leapt, intending to push off from a protruding slab of concrete and pull herself to safety.

The false foothold gave way and she landed hard on her knees. The mechanical pursuer appeared behind her, sliding on four legs into the wall in its haste to turn the corner. She twisted back to her feet, every muscle contracting in a spasm of terror. It launched itself at her, jaws ready to close on her throat.

She waited until the glinting figure was airborne before dropping to the ground and rolling to the left. With a grinding crash, the creature slammed headfirst into the concrete. A cascade of bricks landed squarely on the back of its head and neck.

The girl had already planted a foot on a more secure piece of piping and vaulted herself up beside the boy. She scooped him into her arms and shimmied along to a rooftop.

They were met by a semi-circle of guns and frothing machines, yelling orders to stop, freeze, get down! She slumped, falling once again to bruised knees, careful to pad the jolt to the boy’s leg with her arms. He turned his head away from their captors.

“Did you see the bricks?” he whispered up to her. “I got that hound so good.”

She nodded, ignoring the shouts and stomping boots. “You did great,” she managed, and then the two were torn apart, bagged, and shipped away by gloved hands.

The rain continued to pound in the ears of a sole observer, crouched in an upper window.

“Fuckin’ Techmen,” she grumbled to herself. “The girl might have made it if she didn’t have a wounded kid dragging her down.”

The woman moved to another window so she could look at the mechanical corpse of the hound. The only thing that outweighed her desire to raid the tech on its body was her fear of being caught by the Techmen or, even worse, other scavengers.

“If they had made it twenty more steps,” she told the empty room, “twenty more feet and I would have gone down there to help. I could have saved them, if I wanted. But then again, I do pretty well on my own.”

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