Jàl closed his eyes against the deafening screams of the games protagonists. A map of the city materialized in the blackness. Behind closed eye lids, a partial map of the area materialized. Pieces of vital information gathered from this latest escapade were quickly added to the incomplete street view. The digital map shimmered then refreshed. Jàl computed alternative routes to escape the Verge.
“Now is not the time to zone out.” He heard Roake’s anxious cries.
“Damn it Jàl. We need to move.”
“Follow me.” Jàl’s eyes shot open. He tugged on the sleeve of Roake’s armoured vest. The new route led deeper among the tangle of ancient, discarded metal atrocities. Stopping at the base of a tower of precariously stacked scrap metal, Jàl swung open a long rusted door and pushed Roake inside. He clambered in behind, bumping into Roake in the process.
“Through there,” he said pointed across her body at the opposite side of the multi seated auto. The tower of refuse shook. Jàl glanced over his shoulder. The monstrous bulk of a Verge slammed into the closed door. The monster’s foaming mouth covering the glass petitioning the two parties with slobber.
“The door’s stuck,” The sound of Roake’s voice strained as she pushed against the opposite door handle. J al felt her body crush against his as she braced her back, raised her leg and grunted. Jàl turned to watch. The tower of rusted autos stacked precariously above rattled as Roake’s foot collided with the door. The dull creak of breaking glass from behind caused the hairs on the back of Jàl’s neck to stand. Ignoring his curiosity to look behind, Jàl leaned tight to Roake.
“We really need to move,” he urged the Lieutenant. The sickening odour from the monsters drifting into the broken window.
The Death Squad Lieutenant leaned harder into his body fighting for leverage. Roake’s efforts forced Jàl closer to the broken window and the threatening Verge. Claw like fingers raked across his scalp. A shiver ran the length of his spine.
“Now would be a good time to bust open that door.” Jàl spoke rapidly trying to fight down the rush of adrenaline he felt from creeping into his voice.
A loud roar escaped Roake’s lungs. Her foot shot forward. The rusted hinges holding the door protested as they gave way. The door inched open. Roake rolled off her feet, launching her body, shoulder first into the bare metal frame. The door scraped open and sagged.
The sharp claws swiped at the side of Jàl’s head. The contact forcing him to dive into Roake. Roake’s head collided with the partially closed door. The weight of Jàl’s body crushing her into the rusted metal. The combination of bodies crumpled into the partial opening.
“Shit,” Roake started. She untangled from the mix of limbs and climbed to her feet. A stone wall covered with weird painted pictographs confronted the pair. Roake swayed, facing the wall, her hand clamped to the side of her neck. Blood seeped between her fingers from a wound opened near her implant.
“You alright?” Jàl asked scooting past the Lieutenant. His hand grabbed for a tarnished knob protruding from the frame of a wooden door set in the wall. The knob twisted. Jàl yanked on the handle pushing the door inward.
“After you,” he barked at Roake, literally throwing her through the opening. The darkness on the interior of the building cut into slices by shafts of stray sunlight leaking down from a patch work roof. Jàl grabbed Roake’s hand and pulled her across the room and away from the screeching Verge waiting on the out side of the wooden door.
Pausing for a brief moment, he closed his eyes and probed his mind for a layout of the building. His attempt failed. His knowledge of the world he was trying to recreate too minimal. Swinging his head he surveyed the interior with the help of the beams of light. Doors studded the exterior walls on all sides. In a effort to out distance the Verge, he set a course for the door farthest away from the alley where the pair entered.
Splintering wood indicated the arrival of the Verge into the dark interior of the building. Jàl pulled harder on Roake’s arm. The two stumbled across the floor. Digital dust floated up from their movements adding to the darkness filling the air.
The next door consisted of rust streaked metal. Jàl tried the handle. The door swung out. Shoving Roake ahead, he paused and turned to look back. Dark silhouettes flitted among the dark and dust. The high pitched noise of the Verge tore at his eardrums.
Jàl stood in the doorway. He pushed past the piercing screams and forced his mind to concentrate. His brows furrowed while he locked his eyes and his thoughts on the approaching Verge while a trio of the monsters sulked through the dust.
Jàl clenched his fists. His face reddening as he narrowed his thoughts to stopping the monsters. A clawed hand sliced the dust inches above his face. Jàl stood his ground, his body rigid, his mind focused. The large flat jaw of a monster with its glassy round eyes materialized from the dust inches from his face.
Staring into the Verge’s eyes, Jàl noticed a twitch in the monster’s features. The raised claw paused in the air. A growl of frustration joined the eery cries of the trio, their movements stopped. Jàl held his concentration. From the corner of his eye he caught the raised claw slowly start to descend toward his head.
The sizzle of ions proceeded a red hole that appeared in the lead Verge. The air tingled. A second monster fell. Then the third toppled to the dust covered floor. A hand yanked Jàl’s shoulder pulling him clumsily backwards. His footing failed as the floor raised up to catch him. A plume of dust puffed outward. His vision obscured, his ears recording the sounds of the creaking metal of the rusted hinges of the door closing followed by a loud scraping of metal on metal.
He sat crumpled in the pile of dust waiting for the air to settle. His breathing deep as he struggled to slow his rapidly heart.
“Thanks Roake,” he finally muttered. “I did it. Did you see. I stopped them. Mind you it was only for a second, but…”
“That certainly was impressive. You were almost beast bait.” An unfamiliar voice answered.
Jàl jumped to his feet. His head spun, his eyes probed into the settling dust seeking out the strange voice. The dust settled enough revealing an oddly clad woman bent over Roake. The woman’s hands on the open wound on his friend’s neck.
Jàl bent near the woman. His fingers touching the blood leaking from Roake’s wound. Rubbing the sticky liquid between his fingers he pondered the scary reality. The blood was real. Tangible. Roake may be right. They could possibly die in this computer generated world.
His gaze settled on the woman who shot the Verge. “Who are you?” Jàl asked when the surprise wore off.
“Your lucky angel, it would seem,” the woman replied. “This is one nasty cut your friend has. Help me get her to her feet. We need to move. More of the beasts will be sure to come.”
Jàl grabbed Roake and with the help of the stranger, she rose to her feet. A dazed film clouded her eyes. Blinking away the confusion, she glanced at the new woman and then Jàl.
“Who is this?” Roake asked.
Jàl shrugged his shoulders. His confusion as apparent as hers.
“My lucky angel, it would seem.”
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