Ch. V, p.2

. . .

‘Recording…’

Arms pulled on him, wrapped around his chest. Two black lumps lay immobile in the distance, dead creatures, growing smaller behind the trailing silhouettes of his feet. Nothing seemed to be following, but there was a lot of yelling above him… The arms hoisted him up, holding him roughly.

Not my time… His eyes began to shut. He had felt the searing heat of the wound as it cauterized earlier, small machines in his blood burning it shut, but there was a lot of black liquid spattered on the floor, and the walls, and… Not my time. Not yet.

“Sherrad!” her voice cried.

I knew she’d come… for me… Everything was so hazy.

“He’ll be fine! Get back in the security room!”

“I’m coming to help!”

“Get back in the goddamn security room!”

They went on, but the voices were dull and muddled, pounding against his brain. He couldn’t tell what they were saying anymore.

But it’s okay… We’ll all be… fine…

Feet pattered back up the stairway, growing quieter as they went, and soon the whole world was consumed by darkness.

. . .

God damn it Sherrad, she thought, running up the stairs, the boy’s twisted and bloodied form burned into her mind. But she felt it was her own fault.

Her feet pattered swiftly from one step to the next, lithe motions sending her to the top of the stairs where she came once more to a twisted, metal door. She glanced down the stairs at Dominic, holding his unconscious companion over his shoulder and walking backwards, gun trained on path behind him.

She bit her lip and ducked through the cold metal portal, trying to figure out what to do. How did I let this happen… Damn it. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a dark figure ducking out the front door of the dimly lit lobby.

“HEY!” She shouted and ran after him. Then she yelled into her headset, “Dom, get Sherrad out of here. I’m going after Doctor Marrus.”

Immediately, Dominic replied. ‘Are you serious?’

“He just left the building. This may be our only chance.” She weaved past detritus covering the floor and swept through the cluttered entrance. A long walkway extended in front of her and the dark figure was dashing towards the end of it, cloak flapping at his heels. But there was nowhere he could go.

. . .

“Shit shit shit shit shit!” Frank Marrus looked back over his shoulder; someone was definitely chasing him, and they were really, really fast. He looked forward again. “Shit!”

The metal pathway ended, dropping precipitously into a shadowy valley ahead. His feet scrambled to a stop and he shot a quick glance downward. The horizon was red with the setting sun, but there was still enough light to see a sloping hill of dirt below, sliding into empty desert. He looked back again and realized this was his only chance to escape. He jumped.

His lungs seized, body surging with energy as he hurled towards the ground. Then the most curious thing happened... Time seemed to stand still.

For a moment, he could see himself, suspended, clenched tightly and waiting for impact. But he felt a sort of thickness to the empty air, as if he was pressing against an invisible membrane that bubbled and closed around him. Light morphed and shimmered, blurring hazily, and then… A rush of auburn leaves, swirling all around him in a magnificent eruption of color, light and form exploded from the dark earth, suddenly lit with the rays of a fiery sun overhead.

Undulating waves distorted the world like rippling water, and he felt himself touch upon a soft hill. Then time sped up. His feet crashed into the ground and he rolled, his body rebounding and spiraling through the air like a ragged doll. And just when it seemed it would never end, gravity dumped him unceremoniously onto the dense ground with a deep ‘thud,’ unsettled leaves swirling all around him in rustling dance.

Out of breath, but alive, he looked up: the platform was gone and trees waved back and forth overhead in its place. He leaned forward into a kneeling position, his body aching with the fall. But before he even had a chance to feel the world around him, a second body came crashing down in a rolling blur of limbs and displeased utterances, landing, quite possibly, even less elegantly than he had upon the crunchy forest floor.

For a moment, the slender figure lay immobile, face down in the leaves and grass. Then it picked itself up and stood, looking around. Frank stay crouched and hidden beneath his cloak, which had shifted to match the uneven shape and color of the leaves. He wanted to just watch, but his leg was beginning to cramp and had to shift his weight. Immediately, the figure spun around and stalked carefully towards him.

“Doctor Marrus?”

She’s a woman… he realized. He began to squeeze gently on the destabilizer, still wrapped around his hand, but changed his mind. She was only a few feet away now...

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