A Memory – Out of the Frying Pan

We made it to safety. Of sorts. The drop ship – badly damaged, leaking air – grinds to a shuddering halt. Nose deep in the soft, blasted soil.

The wailing of children brings me to the present. A quick check, they’re fine. I try the rear hatch. Jammed. With several attempts and curses, I give up and try the secondary side hatch. Still no luck. I rig a quick charge, stand back and blow the door off.

The stench overwhelms the children.

Sickly sweet, the smell of charred flesh, vegetation. Fires burning unchecked. Pensive, unsure. I shut down and run on autopilot.

Ignoring their protests, I scoop Elizabeth and Roland out of the transport, running to the nearest transit station. Mentally pulling maps of the local area from my implants, following lesser used routes. The devastation astounds me. Such a short time, but so much annihilation. But I let it bother me not. The children are the priority. I’ll get them to safety and contact Bill when I’ve accomplished that.

Movement comes from behind. Furtive-sounding steps. I duck around a corner, and throw a grenade. Pace picking up just as I hear a man’s scream cut off suddenly by the muted explosion of the anti-personnel charge.

I reach my destination and stop. Blinking in a stupor. The children crushed to me, wailing in pain, fear, or a combination of both. The crowd milling and crying. A cacophony of human misery. I scream. An ethereal sound of my own grief, fear and anger. Strange to my ears, issued from my vocal chords.

“Focus,” comes a voice full of grief, hoarse from screaming. It takes a moment to realise it was mine. I close my eyes, Elizabeth trying to pull away from the over-tight embrace, and center myself. Awareness hits me like a Nyx impacting a station; I know where to go.

Taking a deep, calming breath, I loosen my grip on Elizabeth, and make my way to a transporter I’d seen en route to the station. Checking to see there are no witnesses, I break in, seat the cargo and begin hot wiring the vehicle. The engine roars in to life, the thickening crowds of desperate humanity left behind.

A short while later, I park up at the end of a nondescript industrial district. Some calm restored, fraying slightly at the edges. Odd looks from passers by and stop. A bloodied, soot-covered woman with a wild look in her eyes stares at me. I reach for a weapon, she mirrors my move. We stand, glaring, unwilling to move. Then the realisation dawns. This is my reflection.

I suppress a shudder, filing the data for later review, and carry on my journey. This has been the longest day for a long time, and I just want to get somewhere safe. Or close to until I can formulate a plan.

At the end of the road, a very normal looking warehouse stands. A sense of menace emanating from the high fence with razor wire curling high on the top of it. But I ignore the sense of foreboding and press the call button at the gate. Automated sentries tracking my movements with the loving attention of target matrices everywhere.

The gates swing open, a pallid man in a guard uniform steps out, flanked by more heavily armed drones, “what do you want?” His heavily accented voice coloured by distrust. He looks from me to the children, “well, out with it.”

I hiss, pulling my daughter closer, “I’m here to see your boss. He owes me a favour,” I respond, pulling the struggling child with me as I step around him. The man’s arm lifts suddenly, a compact pistol aimed at my head. Something about my smile – perhaps the glint in my eyes – makes him hesitate. His eyes go distant, then he nods, gesturing for me to enter.

And so, with a glance at the guard, I enter, the man a few steps behind.

“Why have you come here, little rabbit?” The voice issues from nowhere. For a moment I think it’s in my head. A faint whisper of movement, the voice sounds from another direction, “have you bought me pretties, little rabbit?” Another shift, behind and to the left. Quick as a viper, a slither of silver light extends from my hand. He screams.

“I have no time to play with fools, puppet. I need a fast vessel. Right now.” I turn, glaring in the shadows, the glint of metal jutting from the thigh of the greasy, abdominus form slowly revealing itself as my eyes adjust to the darkness. He hisses, the lights flickering on. I step closer, leaning on the dagger embedded in his thigh, twisting a little, “now, do we have an accord, or shall I begin chopping things off? I want a fast ship, nothing more. If that’s too difficult – once I’m done with you – I’ll move on to the next person.” He whimpers and nods, gasping in pain as I yank the heavy blade from his flesh. “You may want to get that seen to, dear. There’s a lot of filth in this warehouse,” I sneer.

Soon, my children and I were safely ensconced in a somewhat rusty Frigate, making our way to what I hope will be a safe place.

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