** Friday, 20 March 2020 5:30 a.m.
“Noah!” Laney called as he ran way ahead of her. She was completely exhausted. “Slow down!”
By the time Laney caught up to Noah, he had stopped behind an abandoned white delivery truck, in front of a tall building that must have been undergoing construction, with its last few floors baring its metal framing structure, the wind blowing through the paper sheet covers on the windows on several floors.
He was looking around furtively.
“D-did we lose them yet?” Laney asked, gasping, rubbing her hands over her arms in the freezing cold, as her clothes were still wet from the rain.
Noah looked intently at the holographic glowing heads-up display (HUD) hovering above his left forearm, tapping a few keys seemingly in mid-air. “I wouldn’t count on it,” he answered.
The rain had abated, but it was still dark. It seemed like they had run deeper into the city. Laney creased her forehead as she looked around. She still didn’t know where the hell they were.
The whole city looked deserted—more old-fashioned cars were stopped in the middle of the streets, some having crashed onto other cars, or onto building facades with faded, cracked brickwork, fallen rusty bicycles dotted the road, a vaguely iconic-looking red double-decker bus lay on its side at the far end of the street, almost out of view. There was also no trace of any other people around, not even animals. She couldn’t hear any crickets or birds, and the only things wandering the streets were scraps of wet paper and rubbish, blowing around randomly in the wind. Several doors to apartment buildings across the street had been left swung wide open. It was as though everyone had left in a hurry and had just dropped everything to leave right away.
“What…happened here?” she wanted to know, half-dreading the answer to her question.
“This is the dead city. Ground zero,” Noah replied.
Laney swallowed. “Ground zero…for what?” she asked.
He sighed, exasperated. Then as if it was no big deal, he relayed, “The global cascade bomb that nearly obliterated all organic life on our world sixty-seven years ago.”
“Th-the what??” Laney gasped in shock, horrified. Her eyes widened, as she took a second look around. So, everyone didn’t leave right away. They just…vaporized? She shivered in dread all over again. “D-do we need to worry about…like radiation or something?” she asked uncertainly, as she had like zero knowledge about bombs.
“This type of bomb has a different residue, not quite radiation. Although theoretically, the mean lifetime of the active element would have decayed decades ago,” Noah explained almost absently, then he shot her a slightly annoyed look. “Look, can you keep up?” he said. “We’ve already missed the rendezvous window and we’re nowhere near where we need to be.
Laney braced her hands on her knees, still trying to catch her breath, and she shot him an annoyed look right back. “Hey, we’ve been running all night,” she said, haltingly. “I don’t know about the Laney from your world, but this one is not a triathlon champion.”
He creased his forehead, stopping short not looking at her, but just shrugged. “Come on,” he motioned, leading them through a gap in the broken wire fence surrounding the construction site, and toward the fire exit door on the side of the building. Then he took something out of his jacket pocket and crouched down by the door. He attached some type of gadget under the knob and fiddled with the HUD on his arm again.
Laney creased her forehead, watching him. “What is that thing on your arm?”
Noah glanced up at her, before replying briefly under his breath, “It’s new tech.”
She heard clicks and whirrs and then a soft shush as Noah popped the door open. “Let’s go,” he gestured her inside first, himself looking around cautiously to make sure they weren’t being followed, before he went in and shut the door behind them.
Laney looked up the ominous flight of steps in the dark, making a face. “This isn’t any better,” she told him.
“I’m not getting much signal down here. We need to get up higher,” he said, pocketing his gadget, and starting up the stairs.
She groaned. “I’m pretty sure I can’t do stairs right now. Can’t I just stay down here and wait for you?”
Noah was already a good fifteen steps up ahead of her. “Your choice,” his disembodied voice floated down.
She made a face, looking around the creepy, pitch dark stairwell then shivered again, before jumping to, and following him up. “Alright already,” she grumbled. “Too bad I don’t have a Fitbit,” she mused aloud after a while. “I’d probably get all the ‘Daily Climb’ badges in no time.” She paused to breathe. “I’m guessing…you guys don’t have Fitbit here.” She paused again, “I’m guessing you guys probably don’t have a lot of things here.”
No reaction from Noah.
She tried to peer up at him. She couldn’t even tell if he was still up there. She shook her head to herself, mumbling, “And I guess you’re not one for small talk—so totally not Jake Donovan.” She sighed, continuing up the stairs again. “You know,” she called up to him, “not that slogging up a million steps and running for my life isn’t super fun,” she said sarcastically, “but it would be nice if I actually knew why I’m running for my life. Like that guy back at school, you know that ’assassin’ that you beat up—”
“You’re welcome, by the way.”
She blinked with a start. So, he was still up there somewhere, she thought, creasing her forehead. “Seriously, I don’t even remember—where the hell are you?” she interjected, trying to peer up at him again, “what happened after you activated the quantum shear. Like, so I remember…you beat up the guy, then you took out one of your gadgety things, and then…” she pursed her lips, trying to recall, but for some reason everything beyond that, and before she appeared at the river, was all a blur. “I don’t even remember when we got separated.”
Noah suddenly appeared out of a dark corner. “This way,” he motioned her to follow him out onto an empty floor. There were plastic sheets still hanging off the ceiling, cobwebbed woodwork benches in one corner, sawdust under a thick layer of actual dust looked to cover the floor. “Should buy us some time,” he said. “The trackers will be expecting us on the ground. Most of them will be on foot.”
“Most of them? What, the others can fly?” she mocked, then caught his even gaze and cleared her throat. “Right…” she shrugged, feeling ridiculously ignorant. Who even knew what kind of technological advancements they had in this world? she wondered. And if the gadgets that she had seen so far were anything to go by, all bets were off.
“Save Yourself”, Book 1 of “Selfless”, S. Breaker’s new Sci-Fi/Romance series, is available on Amazon and the Kindle Unlimited now! bit.ly/SaveYourselfBySBreaker Check out our Facebook page for updates on this book.
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