“Hey.” A gentle, familiar hand touched my shoulder. “Sun’s down, it’s time to go.”
“Thanks Miranda.” I said, rolling out from under the truck where I’d been sleeping the daylight away. It was a touch morbid to rest inside a body bag but they were proof against ultraviolet radiation and honestly I was a walking corpse anyway. I had forgotten how great it was to have someone who could look out for me that I could trust, I slept soundly knowing Miranda would be watching out for me. “We ought to be there at around midnight.”
“Are you sure you want me to stay here?” She asked, a touch of concern in her voice that I wouldn’t have been able to discern had I not been able to feel her emotions as easily as my own.
“Yes, you would only slow us down out there. Besides, I don’t want to risk you; this is likely to get nasty pretty fast.” I looked at her and found myself wondering how I had been able to survive without what she gave me.
“Ok, but you need to get back to me as soon as you can.” I could feel her allowing me to feel fear, compassion and sorrow without emotion taking me over. “I don’t want to lose you to the bitterness again.”
I touched her hand and smiled a genuine smile, “Yeah.” For just a moment I felt something else, but then it was gone. “I’ll be back before sunrise.”
“Take care.” She said, smiling at me like I imagine my mother would have.
“You as well.” I replied, smiling at her as though I imagine I would have had she been my mother. “I don’t expect trouble but…”
“Oh please.” She said with a laugh, “You always expect trouble.”
“Fine.” I said, mildly annoyed. “I expect trouble and that’s why I want you to stay back here. If anything big happens you should be far enough away that you’ll be able to-“
“Get away?’” She interrupted, “Escape and go where?”
“No, not escape. I can tell you haven’t done anything like this before.” I said with a grin, “I’m leaving you and most of the muscle out here so you can come in and bail me out if I get into shit I can’t get out of.”
Her eyes widened in mild surprise, “Really? I thought you were being all over-protective… isn’t the rear guard the most dangerous position?”
“Only when you’re running away.” I said, wondering what movie she’d seen that gave her that bit of insight. “Right now it’s a lot safer than walking straight into the lion’s den like we plan on doing.”
We were on a mild rise above the city, and it was an unsettling sight. Broken shambled about aimlessly, making me wonder just how long they could continue to be mobile until something gave out. Burnham had designed this disease quite well it seemed. What could burn below was doing so, bright orange flames belching black curls of smoke that blended into the darkness of the night. Those flames were the only lights visible.
“Why hasn’t the government stepped in to do something here?” Miranda asked, her voice reflecting the disbelief I could feel from her when she surveyed the scene.
“I don’t know. My first guess would be they tried and failed. I said, grimly cataloging the number of vehicles that had been destroyed. “I’m honestly surprised they haven’t called in an airstrike.”
A burst of automatic gunfire drew my attention and I squinted, trying to focus in on the spot it had come from. As one, the entire group of Broken turned and moved toward the sound. It was frightening to think about that many of them moving all at once. Of course I could use my Power on them, but that would destroy any innocent survivors there might be too and would leave me ravenous and exhausted.
I wasn’t completely unwilling to sacrifice survivors, but it was a last resort that would leave me vulnerable and in the hands of humans who would most likely be unfriendly at best. In this particular time and place I was walking a razors edge. I had to be careful.
Besides, I didn’t necessarily need to use my Gift for this exercise. I had enough weapons to arm a small police force and a highly trained group of mercenaries waiting to pull me out if things went south. I began to buckle on my gear, black flak vest over long sleeved black spandex shirt, twin silenced 9mm pistols in shoulder holsters, thin black leggings made of Kevlar webbing, throwing knives in a thigh sheath on the left and a collapsible night stick on the right.
My only truly unconventional pieces of attire were my shoes; black Vibram soled toe shoes. I liked to be able to feel the terrain and I could move with almost absolute silence wearing them. It wasn’t as though I had to worry about bruising my feet on rocks. I wiggled my toes, making sure they were settled and suppressed a chuckle. They did look sort of silly.
“Holy shit…” Cor said, watching as the Broken began to run toward the center of the city. “What exactly is your plan? You do have a plan right?”
“We’re going to have to play this close Cor.” I said, switching my attention to him. “I hope you know how to run because I don’t plan on moving slowly.”
“What?” He tore his gaze from the burning city and its throngs of undead.
“Keep up. I don’t want to leave you behind.” I said, crouching and giving Miranda a languid wink before leaping from the hillside in a bound that covered nearly a half mile. He landed about a hundred yards behind me, aggravation carrying over the Mindlink.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” He asked, exasperated. “This isn’t a fucking game, you can’t just run in headlong without a plan-“
“I do have a plan. To run in headlong.” I snapped, “There’s no guarantee I’ll have another chance to get by all those damn Broken so if you have a better idea tell me right FUCKING now!” Not wanting to lose momentum, I was already leaping again heading for a rooftop this time.
“Well. No. But that doesn’t make this any less insane.” He said, following my leap with one to match.
“Then shut the hell up and watch my back.” I said, “And help me keep a lookout for something that doesn’t look like it’s been overrun with Broken.”
“What? Why? Just exactly what do you think you’re going to do? Just kick in the door and demand their surrender?”
“I was just going to kill them all.” I said, “Why ask for surrender?”
Cor hesitated while we landed and jumped again, “Was that a joke or are you serious?”
“They have fucked with the wrong whelp, and this bitch is out for revenge.” I said, “Wait, look left.” I landed on a rooftop and Cor was only a few seconds behind me.
“You think this is their stronghold?” He asked, and I gave him an ironic smile. The building in question was a high chain link fence topped with a triple row of barbed wire surrounding a warehouse that took up half of a city block.
“I don’t see any Broken inside the walls, do you?” Although he was on the opposite edge of the roof, the Mindlink made him sound as though he were standing next to me. “Besides, there’s one other thing that sets this building apart.”
He looked for a minute and then sighed in understanding, “Lights. There are electric lights inside.”
I listened carefully and could hear the low thrum of a diesel engine underneath the cacophony of other sounds that fractured the quiet of the night. I circled the warehouse, easily leaping from rooftop to rooftop, trying to pinpoint the location of the generator by feeling the vibrations it made.
“Renyovalia, we only have a few hours before sunrise. We should move quickly if you want to escape.” I could feel the tension in his sending; he was afraid. I didn’t know if it was fear of the sun, fear of the unknown or fear of fighting but I didn’t care.
“Shut up Cor, we have four hours until sunrise. It’s time for you to be useful.” He had been with me for days now and I’d never seen him use his Gift even once. “Their generator is on the first floor of that parking ramp. From here I can’t see it but I’d bet there’s a fuel tank right next to it. I want you to Shadowstep over there and shut it down. Once they come to investigate we can evaluate whether to kill them and retrace their steps or move in on another entrance.”
I shifted slightly, positioning myself to get a better view and almost didn’t notice a rush of air passing my face. Behind me a chip of a brick chimney broke off and the whine of ricochet made me drop to my stomach. Several more silent bullets whined as they hit the edge of the rooftop, mere inches from my face but there still wasn’t any sound of a gunshot. It was pure luck that I’d avoided being shot the first time, but now I was relying on skills gained from a lifetime of survival. This was my game.
“Cor?” I reached out through the Mindlink and found it dead. Shit. Either he had been shot or someone out there was using something to block me. Whoever these Breakers were, they knew something about my kind. That was enough of a red flag for me to tread far more lightly than I had initially intended.
Since they were shooting from a distance with a silenced rifle I imagined they were likely using night vision. Well. I could do something about night vision. Even though my Gift was becoming more and more unstable, I still refused to shy away from it completely. It was a part of me and I needed to be able to trust it even if it was becoming a wild, untamed thing.
I took a small flashlight from a pocket on my vest, turned it on and rolled it across the rooftop. It bobbed for a moment and when I heard the snap of a bullet hitting the brickwork I lashed out with a thread of Power. Instead of only destroying the flashlight, I took a pumpkin sized section of roof with it. The dazzling light of my Gift would have certainly blinded anyone looking through an augmented scope. Even as I tamped down the wild rage of Destruction I knew I’d only managed to bypass the first challenge.
Before my adversaries had time to recover, I ran with blinding speed, leaping off the second story rooftop, sailing easily over the chain link fence and tucking to roll to my feet a mere hundred yards from the warehouse. I kept my pace, barely breaking stride and covered the distance to the parking garage in seconds. An easy leap took me to the second level and I was weaving between concrete pillars, slowing my pace gradually.
The generator was right where I thought it would be. In moments I had located the kill switch but I hesitated. Was I really going to try and do this alone? Had they actually killed or disabled Cor, not just shut down the Mindlink? Up until this point, I hadn’t considered what had happened on the rooftop.
I had only been reactive; if someone really had blocked the Mindlink that meant there were other immortals here, and that meant trouble. If they were actually using bullets that could kill one of us that quickly and silently, that could be even worse. A door opened, spilling a beam of electric light into the parking garage and I ducked behind the generator.
Heavy footfalls tromped over to the other side of the machine, the glare of a headlamp illuminating the instrument panel on the side. “Still got half a tank of fuel.” A man’s rough voice said in clear, unaccented English. The click and hiss of a radio letting me know he was reporting this to someone inside.
“Any sign of intruders?” A voice came over the radio, audible to my enhanced ears.
“Nah. Whoever it was across the street either Smith got ‘em or they took the hint and fucked off.”
“Good. So no sign of the target?”
There was a hesitation, “I don’t think so. Smith says they dropped a flashbang and messed his optics. You don’t think that’s her do ya? One way or another she’d have reduced this place to rubble right? She aint known for being subtle. There was a brief blip of chatter but-”
“Do a perimeter sweep. A serious, full perimeter sweep. Use the serum to make sure she’s not hiding somewhere and then report back to me.”
The man sighed and clipped his radio back onto his tactical vest. I narrowed my eyes and gave his outfit a closer inspection, there were no sigils or insignia on it anywhere. When he pulled a vial of faintly glowing green liquid and placed it into an injection gun I froze. This wasn’t just a highly trained mercenary, nor was he some operative from a government agency. He was a Hunter.
Specifically designed to destroy my kin, Hunters were a genetic experiment taken to the extreme. The architect behind their creation was a man actually codenamed The Architect by The Tribunal and he had been slain some weeks ago by Hex. Well with a little help from a few others, myself and Svenka included, but without Hex, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Now some things fell into place. This place wasn’t an accident. The Mexican military not being involved wasn’t an accident, the sheer number of Broken in the city wasn’t an accident. This was an elaborate trap and I, being the blind idiot I sometimes am, had walked straight into it. Of course, they didn’t realize I was here yet and with luck they wouldn’t until it was too late.
I whipped one of the throwing blades from my thigh sheath and threw it underhand, taking the Hunter in the throat. He grunted and pulled it free, the wound seeming to be more of an annoyance than anything else. Before he had time to do much more than turn to look my way another knife was in the air and I had a pistol in the other hand.
He brushed the knife flying toward his face aside as one might a gnat, but I was already firing. My target wasn’t him, but the injector gun in his left hand. He realized my ploy too late, growling in anger as it shattered in his hand. The Hunter flung my knife back at me and brought up his sub machinegun. Taking advantage of the wall behind me, I kicked off the cement and kicked him in the chest so hard that I heard his sternum shatter.
His body flew backwards and smashed into a concrete pillar. He slumped to the floor of the parking garage, his gun clattering from limp fingers. I ran to his side, grabbing the tactical bowie knife from its sheath on his hip and savagely hacking his head from his shoulders. There was no way I was taking chances with a Hunter. His blood was a slow, sluggish trickle of glowing emerald ichor.
I hefted the knife with approval. It had good balance. I stripped the sheath off his belt and added it to mine, carefully cleaning the blade before sliding it home. I also grabbed his radio and crushed the other vials of serum that were in a pocket on his chest. No reason to leave that shit for anyone else to use. After a short search, I also turned up a single key. Hopefully it would open any door I needed to bypass quietly.
After a quick scan of the area, I decided I was still in the clear. The door opened with the key I had appropriated from the fallen Hunter and I slipped into the hallway, squinting against the light. My vision adapted rapidly and I moved down the hallway, looking for a staircase down. Instinct told me what I was looking for would be hidden and hidden usually meant down.