“It’s okay,” I say out loud after some time has passed, trying to comfort myself. “I’ll get him back. I’ll get him back, I’ll get him back.” I repeat this mantra over and over again as the streets flood with black and white uniforms. They slide down ropes thrown over skyscraper walls, one after another after another and another, like cockroaches streaming out of an old shower drain.
And it makes me so fucking angry, not because I can’t get up to escape and find Fix and Eli, but because I’m so pissed that this fever dream is my life. Every day, I deal with this sort of shit every goddamned day and I’m so sick of it. Whoever’s idea this was for a world, please go fuck yourself, I pray silently. Just, if there is a god listening and you’re responsible for all this shit happening to me, you have my permission to fuck off. Amen.
Heavy footsteps break me out of the one religious moment I think I’ve ever had. I look around frantically, trying to see how many guards are approaching. Bright spots in my eyes cloud my vision and I can’t see, so I just stare up at the sky and try to look through my peripherals.
“Hey!” I hear faintly through the cotton stuffed in my ears. “There’s one over here!” and an ugly black helmet shoves itself into view. I stare up at it unable to see its face through the dark visor. It has a gun strapped to its back and holds a baton in its hands...I’d like to think its something harmless like a taser, but part of me knows that it’s something much worse.
“Is it alive?” I hear as a second one shows up to peer into the face. The first guard jams a fat gloved finger into my neck and completely misses my pulse. When it doesn’t feel anything it takes off the glove and cups its hand in front of my nose.
“What are you doing? It could be infected,” says the other one.
“Eh, I don’t think so. Doesn’t have those yellow splotches. It’s alive though, barely,” it stands up and clicks a button on the end of its weapon which glows blue with some weird energy.
“Wait a second wait a second,” says the second guard. “Let me deal with it. Maybe it can tell us where the residents evacuated to.”
“Fine, I’ll give you two minutes,” the first one deactivates its weapon and steps away.
I notice that this one is much shorter than the first, almost my height. All of their voices are distorted by their helmets so I can never tell their gender, but I think this one is female. She grabs me by the front of my shirt with one hand, picks me up off the ground, holds me up against a slab of uprooted concrete just as I’d done moments before to Fix. Karma, says the voice in my head--I tell it to shut up. I’m still half blind and my body just dangles listlessly in her grasp. I’m getting more and more frustrated with this paralysis by the second. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have one of these assholes shock me.
“I hardly see how this is necessary,” I say. The helmet leans forward to level with my face.
“What’s your identification,” she says robotically, completely ignoring me.
“See, I may have hit my head a little too hard back there,” I reply. “I’m having trouble remembering. Or seeing, or hearing well, or moving... actually I could really use some first ai---OH GOD!” My chest explodes with an intense burning and piercing sensation. I look down to see the end of her baton jabbed between my already fractured ribs, sending who knows how many volts of electricity into my veins. The muscles in my arms contract as the current rips through my legs and out the bottoms of my feet. The shock wrestles its way through the tendons in my shoulders and neck and I open my eyes wide, all my senses suddenly overloaded as I regain control over myself. I don’t know how to describe the emotional response, it’s definitely not relief or joy, it definitely does not feel good, but at least I can connect with my body again, and that makes me....I don’t know. Just glad to be back? Even though it hurts like hell.
“St-st-stop!” I stutter, my vision going in and out of negative. “Stop! Fucking, HOLY SHIT LADY I SAID STOP!” Without even thinking about it I grab her wrist and crush it into pieces through the thick black leather glove. She drops the baton and releases her grip on my shirt, her back arches in response to the pain. I bend down and catch her weapon with my other hand before it hits the ground and shove it right into her throat. There’s a tiny piece of skin there underneath her helmet where her undergarment is supposed to connect and that’s exactly where I make contact.
She collapses on her knees, my hand still wrapped around the baton in her neck. I put my foot on her chest to pull her off of it and kick her back onto the ground. It leaves a wide open hole that crackles around a busted metal structure that used to be her vertebra. Automatons, I think. Those cheap fucks! I’m at least worth a few real live soldiers aren’t I?
“You wanna be next buddy?” I ask the second guard. I flip the baton in my hand and press the button on top, turning it off. I prefer not to use these fancy weapons with their effects, I like fighting the traditional way: brute force, hand to hand combat. The way god intended it to be.
He grabs his gun and opens fire. I duck as the bullets hiss over my head and grab the body of the female to deflect the deadly spray. The bullets ping off of her armor as he unloads an entire magazine into us both. He stops and frantically begins to switch out his ammo; I take this opportunity to stand and dust myself off.
“Okay,” I say. “I’ve had enough.” I completely defy my own rule on not using fancy weapons, reactivate the baton and slam it into the ground. The current flows through the asphalt and straight into him lighting him up like a glow stick. He just collapses, no words, no response, no dramatic pose like you see in movies when someone gets electrocuted, just shuts down and drops to his knees, then his hands, then his face.
I’m not going to lie, I feel fucking fantastic. I mean, yeah I’ve still got my injuries, but whatever this baton thing did to me, it put me on a whole new level. My body feels electric and connected, I can feel every individual muscle contract and release, every synapse in my brain join in the right time and the right place, every signal, every heartbeat, every chemical reaction, it’s all alive and aware and in sync with whatever I’m supposed to be, a soul or a pilot or program or consciousness or whatever.
As much as I’d like to stay here and feel the electricity in my body, I’m out of time. The guards begin to twitch and hum, wires slowly pulling them back together as they resurrect. The hole in the neck of my first victim has already disappeared and her eyes snap open....I’d rather not stay for round two.
I jump over the slab of concrete and race over to where I saw Fix take off with my son. I run over a steeply sloped incline and slam to a stop right in front of the metro station. I’m greeted by a semicircle of guards, armed to the teeth with all sorts of fun things, all standing by the entrance as if they knew I was coming. They’re decorated in lasers and automatics and strange glowing shields, some of them holding weapons I’d never seen before. The two guards I’d just put down take up the area behind me and I panic as I realize that I have nowhere to run.
“Drop your weapon, hands on your head!” The guards point all of their weapons at me and my clothes light up with various colors of laser sights. I drop the baton, put my hands behind my head, and get down on my knees. “On the ground, now!” They say. I slowly lie face down on the asphalt and once again clasp my hands behind my head.
Three guards run up to me, one grabs my baton, one of them just stands close to watch, while the last one cuffs my wrists. It puts its knee into my back and holds me down so that the gravel bites into my chest and my face. “We’ve been looking for you for a long time, Eden,” it says quietly so only I can hear.
I spit back at it “the name is King,” and it scoffs. With one hand it grabs the metal bar between my hands, with the other it grasps my shoulder and shoves its fingers into my neck, then hoists me back onto my knees so that everyone can see my face. I lean my head back and smile, I want them to remember what I look like.
“Listen up,” it says as the rest of the soldiers focus their attention on us, a dozen black bug-like helmets glistening in the sunlight. “This is the syndicate leader, her men are probably here too. You have my permission to destroy any syndicate members you find here as you see fit,” and he sinks his fingers into my neck and I gasp in pain.
“Do not get them confused with residents,” he continues. “Those with signs of infection can be eliminated, the rest are to be transported out of here, safely and humanely,” and they all respond with corny phrases to show that they understand. This is surprising, normally they demolish any area that has reports of infected, without checking to see if its true or not, or evacuating survivors. That’s what happened to the last city I was in. Why are they sparing this one?
“Take her back alive,” and it shoves my head back onto the ground. I crack my teeth on the asphalt and my mouth fills with the taste of my own blood. I may have been a little too confident here.
I glance up to see the other two guards approach me, one of them pours a bottle of something foul into a rag. It squats down in front of my face, grabs the top of my hair and pulls my neck back, then shoves the dirty cloth in my nose and mouth. It smells like ether, like the inside of a hospital room. I take a nice long breath and let the chemicals flood my brain; I feel everything in my body relax, but the wave of unconsciousness does not follow.
“Hey, what’s taking so long? Hurry up and move, let’s go” says the other one. The rest of the guards begin to shift their feet nervously.
“She’s not out yet,” says my guard quietly, and I can tell it’s confused.
“What do you mean?! Stop fooling around, grab her and move out.”
“I--” it stops short. I start laughing, I can’t help it. It sounds all garbled coming through the cloth, and he just presses down harder as if to keep it all inside of me, but to no avail.
“What’s so funny?” It asks me, then shouts back to the rest. “There’s something wrong, she won’t go under” and I laugh a little more. The bug sounds terrified.
“It’s fine, just grab her and go,” barks the one who had held me down before. He has to be the commander, he has a red Legion eagle painted on the front of his armor. I can tell by his bulking form that 1. he’s male and 2. one of their more advanced automatons. Even his own soldiers seem intimidated by him.
“I’m not taking her while she’s conscious!” It barks back. When my guard turns at its waist to tell them so, I can see that it’s carrying three grenades on its belt. It’s my lucky day.
“Then find another way!” shouts the commander. I’m tired of watching these idiots drag this out. I ball my hands into fists, pull as hard as I can and rip the handcuffs apart, my face still pressed into the cloth. I spring into a crouching position, pull my head out of his grasp, grab the shiny black helmet and ram my forehead into the glass, shattering it on impact. Underneath is a young male face, partially covered in skin, partially covered in metal. They didn’t even bother to finish building this one. Without a second thought I reach through the helmet to the back of his neck where the kill switch is left unguarded, rip it out, and watch him power down. In the split second it takes for the others to rush me, I grab all three of the grenades off of his belt and detonate the first one right in the middle of us all.