Runner, part 1

Posted: January 19, 2013 in End of Times, Fiction

The truck thumped as she sped out of the parking lot.  Turned too soon.  Bounced from the curb to the street.  The tires chirped.  She let the weight of her foot mash the accelerator to the floor.  She held the steering wheel with her left hand.  Blood oozed from the puncture wounds on her arm.  The wheel was blood-slicked in no time.  With her right, she fished the memory unit out of her bag.  It had come from Archives, and if anyone knew where the man from the recording was, it’d be in the files she’d taken.

She clutched the memory unit between her teeth and pulled her computer out of her pocket.  She dropped it from her mouth into her waiting hand.  The computer beeped, telling her that it had linked with the memory unit.  The roads were clear enough that she might have been able to do things the hard way, but she was grateful for the little things at this moment.  She headed for her home – she didn’t know where she was headed yet, but she needed supplies.  Fresh pain as she steered.  She needed medical attention too.  The first-aid kit under her bathroom sink would have to do.  After the museum, she wasn’t feeling like trusting people to protect her.

“Play Anders Johnson interviews,” she said aloud.  The computer beeped.

“… Look, you bookworms ain’t exactly proving your brains here,” a gravelly voice complained.  Anders Johnson was a consummate survivalist.  He had seen more of the End Wars than anyone.  It was a good bet that he’d have seen the man she was looking for.  “No, I don’t care,” the voice complained.  “What do you need mikes for anyway?  I ain’t interviewin’ you.”  The watcher smirked.  She hadn’t stolen the data for the humor, though.

“Search references: combatants,” she told the computer.  The thing beeped, and the playback jumped.

“Whaddaya mean, who fought?  The bad guys were from Hell!  The God damned horsemen of the Apocalypse came into the God damned world!  Everyone fought!”  A deep sigh.  “Look, you ever hear that expression ‘I’m a lover, not a fighter’?  Always hated that.  Well if you weren’t a fighter, you were dead.  At the end of the war, everyone alive was a fighter.”  Silence.  “You bookworms have probably catalogued more demons than even I woulda seen – .”

“Search references: augmented humans,” she told the computer.  The thing beeped again, interrupted Johnson’s speech.

“… Boosted.  Ya know, augmented.  This monastery in the middle of the woods in the middle of the mountains had a damn robot vehicle!”

“Next reference.”  Beep.

“… Looked like a washing machine, one o’ them exercise treadmills for a leg, th’other was just a bunch of shit.  Fell on those Hellhounds like an avalanche of angry trash.  Guess it was, when you get down to it.    There was this red light…”  She stopped listening.  The red light sounded familiar, but the man was not made of junk.  She’d come back to that.

“Next reference.”  Beep.

“… Started seeing some of the army’s, what they called Enhanced Units.  War an’ Conquest were turning some of ’em on each other, and these EU’s would rip each other apart.  Then the Horsemen got bright.  Turned them on the regular infantry.  These giant sized soldiers wearing a full tank worth o’ armor and holding weapons that shoulda needed mounting in their hands… ” Here, Johnson trailed off.  After a moment: “I seen one o’ them shoot down an Apache with a damned hand held SAM launcher.  Shot it with a full-sized missile!  And another EU just grabs the chopper wreck outta the sky, and takes a couple o’ the rotors like swords.  It started chopping up people.  No grace or nothin’, just swinging for the fences, left-right left-right.  Limbs and half-people and heads.  Blood spraying like a damned Sam Raimi flick.”

“Next reference,” she sighed.  She was nearly home.  Beep.

“…  He just ran at one of the EUs.  All speed and chrome.  Dented all to shit, sure, but just runs up the EU, jumps on its knee, springs up to about head height.  That’s a good fifteen feet up.  Tucks ‘imself into a cannonball as he rises.  Gets right up in the face o’ that enhanced soldier, then uncoils like a striking snake.  Both feet into the face of the EU.  Shattered the faceplate, caved in the skull.  Another comes up behind the guy as he falls, using a tank barrel like a club.    Takes a golf swing at where this thing is gonna fall.  All I could think was, he fought the good fight.  This regular sized man falls as the barrel of the tank comes up.  The man belly flops onto it.  Curls right around the fuckin’ thing!  Hangs on while the EU finishes the back stroke.  Drops straight down onto the giant’s head.  Braces feet on the collar bone, drops in a textbook Figure 4.”  Sipping noises.  “I’m damned sure the little guy’s arms won’t reach all the way.  But they do anyway.  I wasn’t close enough to see how.  I mighta missed the whole thing, but this angry little cuss was glittering like a disco ball.   So he does up his little chokehold.  Then he stands straight up.  On the shoulders of the giant.  Didn’t let go o’ the head.  Ripped it clean off.  Well, maybe not clean, such as it were.  Was an awful mess…”

She paused the playback.  Had to be him.  Had to be.  She pulled up to the apartment building.  The darkness was oppressive, but there was no sign of anyone.  Not that that meant anything.  There had been no one at the museum either.  She stopped right in front of the stairs.  Couldn’t be safe to stay more than a few minutes.  She slid the computer and the memory unit into her pocket.  Pulled the backpack over her shoulder.  The watcher grabbed her keys and ran up the stairs.

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