I started heading on foot towards The Outpost. My hopes of finding either Enell or Uly had diminished to almost zero, but perhaps they had been thrown clear of the blast themselves and were already on their way back. I could only cling to that and put one foot in front of the other in the snow. Again. At least I had shoes this time, and though they provided limited protection, I probably wasn’t going to get frostbite for a while.
I stumbled upon a main road that linked the City and Outpost, and tried to follow along its side. The road itself was covered in snow and ice, and had evidence of recent traffic. Trudging through the snow at the roadside proved exhausting, however, and I resigned to walking along the road at risk.
Midday came and went, not that I could tell through sheets of thick, white cloud. Snow had started falling anew; a light flurry. Gratefully, there was no wind. It was quiet, save for my noisy trudging through the snow.
Finally, my luck ended: a light-armoured vehicle appeared at high speed behind me, which made me spin around too quickly on the snow and ice, and I fell to the ground. The riders had spotted me from tens of metres back – I was hardly camouflaged against the snow. The driver slammed on the brakes, causing the vehicle’s huge tyres to skid and swerve noisily on the thick ice and compressed snow. The business end of a Taser wire rushed past the space between my arm and my torso, and I was about to breathe a sigh of relief when a second one hit me in the shoulder. After a split second of confusion, my body was no longer my own. I convulsed and fell to the floor, my heart palpitating irregularly. I wondered whether this was how Stephen felt when he was having one of his attacks.
I dropped onto hard ice via my left knee, but didn’t really feel it until about ten seconds later. I jerked about on the ice like a fish out of water, making O shapes with my mouth, my body trying to reset itself after the overloading of my wiring.
Someone was standing over me. Maybe two. A man I didn’t recognise, trying to make poor excuses for his lack of accuracy to his mate. One of them tried to pick me up by himself, but my leg let out a sharp spasm and kicked him in the ear.
“Fucking fuck, fuck sake,” the man complained, dropping me back down the thirty centimetres he’d managed to pick me up. I felt the impact this time on hard ice. The air jolted out of my lungs like gas from a newly-opened can of beer.
“She was five bloody metres away,” the other man sighed. So I kicked the wrong guy. “Where were you aiming for fuck sake?”
“We swerved! I only missed her because we swerved.”
“We’re on ice, idiot. You fired too early.”
“Don’t call me idiot.”
An extremely loud beep sounded from the vehicle behind them, before the guy with the high standards and desperately in need of a kick to the face fell to the ground. Half a second later, he was lying on the ground next to me cutting his own variety of irregular dance shapes. His slightly incompetent friend yelled and fumbled to unstrap his gun from his off-hand holster.
I had managed to regain enough control to roll slightly away from his electrified friend and avoid a wild slap to the face.
Mr. Slightly Incompetent finally removes his gun and points it in the direction of their vehicle. He fires a number of times in the general direction, clearly not able to see who he’s firing at. I sit up and catch a third man I don’t recognise pop up in the driver’s seat. Young Slightly shoots him squarely in the face, a perfect ten on the range, and certainly no points deducted for hesitation.
As soon as it happens, the gun hits the floor. Mr. I. realises who he’s shot, and he forgets his training. He runs, skids, trips, and arrives at the vehicle. I stand up, eager to get away from my flailing companion and help whomever it is that’s come to my aid. I walk, ungracefully and conspicuously, towards him – and he’s so distraught by the loss of his friend that I have been forgotten.
I find Jaycee in my pocket and thread her through my fingers. I pull my arm back and punch straight forwards. Mr. I. goes quiet and slumps forwards. Out from the other side of the vehicle pops up a familiar face.