But I’m not staked to a wall.
“I need an evac!” I shout into my comms. “Now! Nemesis has gone AWOL!”
Before I’m done shouting, the sound of rotor blades fills my ears.
Below, a roar.
She knows I’m running. She’s enraged.
I lean over the edge to look. Nemesis breaches the breaker wall with ease, crushing concrete underfoot. She’ll make short work of the apartment building to get at me. I have seconds.
My feet pound over the concrete roof as I sprint toward the far side of the building, where the helicopter is descending. “Don’t land!” I shout. “Just pull up next to the building!”
“What are you going to do, jump?” the pilot asks.
“That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” I say, and I pour on the speed.
I stumble a few steps as the building shakes, but I stay upright and on target. Once we’re in the air, we can head out to sea, head north, and go from there. Give me some time to figure out how to handle this.
Ten feet to go. Four steps and an easy jump.
I’m about to leap, when, “WILL!”
The voice is loud in my ear. Makes me flinch. My left foot catches the back of my right leg, but I’m moving too fast to stop. I shove off the roof, rise into the air, and—
My shin clangs against the metal rail.
I pitch forward, momentum carrying me out toward the helicopter—where my head strikes the metal skid, twisting me back.
Gravity does the rest, pulling me down.
Nemesis rises up beneath me, mouth open wide.
My fate is sealed.
Fuck that, I think, drawing my pistol and placing it beneath my chin. You’re not going to kill me, too.
I pull the trigger.
[error] G.E. Process Termination 765.67 (<NCC001974>)
Crash Dump Detected
[warning] Process Recovery: failed (1)
[warning] Process Recovery: failed (2)
[warning] Process Recovery: failed (3)
[fatal] Process Unrecoverable 765.67 (<NCC001974>) CORRUPT
[panic] Runtime 537382 Unrecoverable Error
[info] Process 765.67 Iteration Complete
[info] Reaping Environment...
[debug] Environment Reclaimed
[info] — INITIALIZING —
[info] Genomic Matrix: 6385-H26
[info] Loading Scenario: JR-00126 – FROM ABOVE - EXTENDED
[info] Environment Selected: H26-Terra
[info] Rendering Environment...
[info] Runtime 537383 Starting
“That’s it,” I say, looking at the red staining the front of my new Tac-suit. I want to decapitate someone. Want to put a laser through the chest of all the simps giving me sidelong glances. I stow my anger. Wouldn’t do any good to have an uptown detective roughing up a bunch of lowers because he dropped god-damned ketchup on his god-damned Tac-suit.
“Priest,” Rehna says, and then she notices the red on me. She scans the hot dog joint for the dead or dying, and she looks relieved when she finds no bodies on the floor. A smile spreads when she notices the hot dog in my hands, slathered in ketchup. “Slick.”
“You want something?” I ask. My synthetic arm packs a punch, but it isn’t always great with precise tasks. Like squeezing a ketchup bottle. What it excels at is punching things. Rehna’s got a pretty face. I’d hate to ruin it over a ketchup stain.
“Got a lead,” she says.
I wipe at the ketchup with a napkin. “Not in the mood.”
“Dab it,” she says. “With something wet. You’re just making it worse.”
I’m about to verbally parry and strike back, but I manage to hold it in. She’s just being helpful. She does that a lot. She’s a good partner. Puts up with me. I take her advice, dousing another napkin in water and dabbing the red off. The Tac-suit can stop bullets, and it can protect me from the vacuum of space or the ocean’s depths. But it’s not immune to stains.
A minute later, the stain is gone. Mostly.
“You can put a patch over it. Something bueno.” Rehna sits down across from me, elbows on the table. “Okay if I talk now?”
Cleaned up and still hungry I slide half the hot dog in my mouth and bite down.
“Bet that lack of a gag reflex has come in handy, huh?” she says.
I laugh, and then choke. I need to cough, but I don’t know whether to chew through the urge or regurgitate half of my lunch.
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