Through Fire – Snippet 43

I Am Crying All Inside

A guard suddenly appeared in front of me, materializing out of a side hallway. I killed him, jumped over his body. Jonathan LaForce leapt next to me. He shot someone out of my line-of-sight. I gathered the person would have killed me, otherwise.

“More guts than thought,” he said, as if he approved, while I was shooting the next man.

There were people pouring in after us, but I didn’t know who they were. I knew who Jonathan was and he knew what my objective was. “Simon?” I said. “I don’t know–”

He nodded and gestured. “That way,” he said. “The deeper levels.”

We ran forward and got caught in a gravity well that lifted us. Other people weren’t following us, but were fanning all over that floor. There were sounds of burners going off, and screams and swearing.

As we landed on the floor above, moving our feet to the safety zone to avoid being pulled up yet another floor, LaForce said, “There are other prisoners.” And as he started at a cautious trot down the hallway in front of us, he added. “There are people on this level who were headed for execution. A lot of the people who chose to help–” He didn’t finish. He didn’t need to. Throughout history friends, relatives and sympathizers of prisoners had broken them out of prison. We ran down a hallway. LaForce burned a lock, kicked a door down, ran in. I followed He fell almost immediately into a grav well, and I burned the man who would have burned him. Then I jumped into the well.

Other people came up behind us. I swept upward with my burner, but they seemed as fast as I was and jumped out of the way.

At the end well, Jonathan moved from dropping to running with unreal speed and I followed suit as best I could, running alongside him, down ever narrowing corridors. This area was, surprisingly, unguarded; all pursuit behind us, manifested mostly as the sound of pounding feet in heavy military boots.

I turned and did another sweep with the burner, but our pursuers got out of the way. A couple returned fire. Jonathan LaForce said, “Merde!” and I turned in time to burn two men who stood in front of a ridiculously armored door.

Jonathan was kicking at it, but I turned my burner to hot beam and melted the lock, to lend assistance.

The door opened suddenly with a sickening sound of rusty metal.

The room inside was bigger than a cell. It didn’t look like a cell, either. It looked like an amphitheater set up for media presentations. There were several holo pick-ups all around.

In the center of the room–

It took me a minute to absorb, to understand this was Simon.

They’d made him kneel at what looked like another laser guillotine. I don’t know how. He wasn’t bound. He might have been drugged or otherwise incapacitated. I screamed, “Simon,” but he didn’t turn.

Before I could lift my burner, before I could do anything, there was a buzz of the laser blade activating, very loud in the silence. I realized not only had no one in the room reacted to our arrival, but there were no sounds behind us. It was as though everything had stopped — but nothing could stop the laser blade.

It descended very fast and yet it seemed to take centuries.

Simon didn’t react. When the blade touched his neck, he twitched and made a sound that was more than breath, but less than a scream.

His head rolled. His body fell. One of the men who’d been standing by moved very quickly, grabbed the head and lifted it, so the holo pickups would get it. The expression looked blank, save for the eyes, which still appeared to be trying to focus. The neck dripped blood. More blood ran down the white uniform sleeve of the guard, as he proclaimed, “Le roi est mort.”

Suddenly, the entire room came to life. Guards headed for us at a gallop, Madame who, in her medals, had been watching the execution with a dignified expression of sorrowful wrath, broke pose and said, “Seize them.”

Men behind us grabbed our shoulders and held us tight.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Jonathan said, “Merde,” and moved, a blur of motion so fast that I couldn’t track what he was doing. He elbowed someone in the solar plexus, and I had a vague idea that he put out the eyes another with the fingers of his other hand. Then he shot the man holding me, “Run,” he said.

I shot the two men he had incapacitated before they could recover enough to make trouble, and then shot the man still holding me at close quarters. I don’t know why they hadn’t killed us. But they hadn’t. Perhaps they wanted us for the guillotine.

They were fast but I was faster. And stronger. And possibly smarter. Or maybe they simply suffered from the instinctive recoil that prevents males from seriously injuring a female.

I became a whirlwind of death. In Eden there are varying levels of dueling, and the most basic one is “bare hands.” Bare hands can be to first injury or to death. Responsible parents have their children trained. My parents had had me trained for an unusual reason. While I was faster, stronger and smarter than most other children and they couldn’t be afraid I wouldn’t be able to defend myself, they were afraid I’d get in a fight and accidentally kill someone, unless I knew what killed and how to prevent myself from doing it.

The training had gone on for years, and most of it was acquired at an instinctive level, particularly the self-defense when threatened. Now that instinct kicked in. I kicked, gouged, bit. Once the men holding me had been disabled, they were shot. Then I killed enough of the ones in the hallway to clear a path for us. When Jonathan didn’t react, I realized he was stunned, whether by my speed or my lack of restraint, I didn’t know. I didn’t really care. All I knew was Earth has odd social rules.

I reached over, grabbed his arm and pulled. “Run!”

For a moment I worried he was wounded or wouldn’t react. But he did and, as I started running, pulling him behind me, he caught not only my speed but the import of my dodging and ducking so the men in the sidelines could not grab us.

We ran and dodged. I heard him fire his burner twice. I also heard people fire their burners at us. It didn’t matter. We were moving too fast and weaving too much for them to get an easy fix on us.

We left the prison by a side door, and I scrambled up a wooded slope, all the while pulling Jonathan, all the while keeping an ear out for pursuit.

At the top of the slope, I pulled him behind a rock and fell on my belly. He flopped down beside me, breathing hard.

“Are you hurt?” was his first question.

I shook my head, and he gave me a careful, squinting glare. “Are you sure?”

I nodded, trying to comprehend what we’d seen. Simon was dead. My entire mission; everything I’d come back to Liberte to do, had failed. Thoughts pushed in, all related to that that one theme. If Simon was dead, Liberte was powerless before the invasion that was about to happen. If Simon was dead, there was nothing I could do to stop the killing. As helplessness and grief and a sort of despairing rage washed over me, LaForce said, “Good. You run now.”

I turned in shock. “You’re hurt?”

He shook his head. “Nothing that matters. But if we run in different directions–”

“No,” I said. “I will not let you sacrifice yourself for me.”

“But you’d sacrifice yourself?” he said. “For me, for the Patrician, for Liberte?”

I blinked. I started to say I wasn’t sacrificing myself for anyone, but he repeated forcefully one word. “Run.”

I stared for a second, and then he said, “The longer you stay, the more likely we’ll both be caught. They’re organizing pursuit. They’ll be here. If your similarity to the Patrician’s guest has been noted, you’ll be hunted house to house. Being with you will make me less safe. Now run.”

I could hear voices and footsteps behind us, coming up the slope.

I ran.

While I ran, my mind analyzed the situation. Run in zigzags so they won’t catch me. Get as far away from the palace as possible, far enough away that no one would think I was the same person. Find a crowd. Meld.

All this was done more or less by instinct and without thought. I ran through the grounds of the palace, avoiding the sounds of humans without pausing to think or analyze them. I ran to the furthest point of the garden as fast as I could. I scrambled up a dimatough wall, vaulted it, and ran straight out, as far from the palace as I could go, towards the low lying area where the working people were.

Did I consciously run towards the motel I’d used with Brisbois before? Not on purpose. Perhaps my subconscious guided me there, because I’d been safe there before. But if I’d considered it at all, I’d have thought of the danger. The more you repeat an action, the more likely you are to be caught at it.

When I found myself in front of the motel, no one was here who looked like they might be searching for me. I was, at any rate, far enough from the palace, it would take a while for them to get here. Almost as important, we still had the lease for the room, and, well, there was a good chance I could…. What? Pretend to be someone else? Certainly pretend to be asleep. At any rate, the chances of any pursuers choosing to break into this particularly room… I verified the camera was still broken by the entrance, and then I punched the code into the door and stepped in. Three steps, and I looked up and froze.

Brisbois and someone else were in the room. I didn’t see the someone else clearly because he was half in shadows and because I was staring at Brisbois in disbelief.

“About time you got here,” he said. “Come in and shut the door.”

I went in. I shut the door. Which was when I realized he was pointing a burner at my heart.