Logan cursed under his breath. He should have known she would try something like this. The girl was young and stupid. She was willing to take risks to get what she wanted but had no idea how dangerous it was. He parked the truck near the drug store where the traffic cam was that they hacked earlier. He should call for backup before he went in, but he feared he might already be too late. He phoned Krit first, but there was no answer so he left a message. He tried Syl, but again he got only an electronic voice telling him to leave a message. Frustrated he told Syl to call when she was available since he'll be going on his own to rescue Asha from South Seattle. Then he hung up annoyed.
He had to find Asha before she ended in a ditch somewhere. He still could not believe her stupidity. He had to make some hasty decisions and he hated rushing into things without a plan. From a map of the South of Seattle he deduced that Asha might try and get into the administrative buildings near the main warehouse district. That seems to be the most likely position for someone in charge to hole up in. It was more secure than the other buildings and walking distance to the warehouses and the liqueur store outside which Logan now sat contemplating his next move. If they holed up in the office building the gang leaders can inspect their wares without much hassle, plus drop by for some booze before they returned to their hideout.
Logan made up his mind and got out of the truck. The truck was a valuable asset to the Eye's Only community but he had no other choice. He had to leave it to go in and find Asha. He just hoped Krit and Syl would get his messages soon so that they can come and help.
He had to be cautious when he entered this area. Luckily he had his exo so he could move more freely. He headed down the alley next to the liqueur store in the general direction of the office building.
The building was only two blocks away so he hurried along hoping no one spotted him. He was halfway along the first block of warehouses when he heard gunshots in one of the nearby buildings. Logan snuck closer to a door. A woman screamed. Logan didn't think he jumped forward and kicked the door open. Miscalculating the power of the exo he fell over backwards from the reactive force of the kick and rather awkwardly sat flat on his butt. Struggling back to his feet he noticed a man to his right, he fired two shots. The man dropped like a stone. He took two steps into the building where he saw a man holding Asha's arms behind her back. Before he could react something heavy hit him on the head and everything turned black.
Max was extremely nervous. She felt uncertain an insecure. She's been gone for two years. Two years in which Manticore tortured her, almost killed her and transformed her into an even more awesome killing machine, the one thing she hated most about herself. She was anxious to see Logan but somehow she felt like a freak now more than ever. She was also a bearer of bad news. She had to inform Logan that he would have to hack into Manticore again to save her life. If he failed she would die again, this time for good.
She suddenly realised she's been standing in front of Logan's door far too long for comfort. Luckily he had a floor all to himself otherwise she would have received some curious stares. Squaring her shoulders she knocked. Immediately she regretted it. She should have used the sky window, surprised him while he was working at his computer. She heard the squeaking of wheels then suddenly the door opened and it was too late...
Hannah screamed, Max took a step back in surprise. Hannah tried to retreat, lost her balance and tipped over backwards in the wheelchair. Max recovered first.
"Hannah!" she reached down and lifted Hannah and the chair back in an upright position.
"Are you all right, I didn't mean to scare you" Max said as she knelt down in front of Hannah.
"I really did not expect..." Hannah said trying to stabilize her breathing and heart rate.
"A dead person knocking on your door." Max smiled at the older woman who relaxed a little.
"No I really did not expect that" she said, holding her beating heart.
"Mind if I come in?" Max said smiling. She never expected to find Hannah here. Why did Syl not tell her? Why was Hannah here? Why was she in Logan's chair? She hoped there wasn't any trouble. At least Hannah seemed to be safe. Max would not let any harm come to her, the woman saved her life.
"No come in, come in. I was just cleaning a bit" Hannah said rolling backwards.
Max lifted an eyebrow to the wheelchair as she entered the familiar apartment.
"You first, being in a chair due to a foot injury is not as big as rising from the dead. I'll get us some coffee or something stronger perhaps." Hannah said still slightly shocked.
Max laughed. Her tension form before eased a little. "I think I'll go with something stronger. Logan around?"
"No he's out. Not sure when he will be back. I could call him if you want?" Hannah said heading into the kitchen.
The front door suddenly burst open. Syl came storming in. She was vivid.
"That stupid boyfriend of yours ran after some skirt into South Seattle" Syl said heading towards Logan's office.
"He's not.." she stopped herself. South Seattle, that was a bad sector.
"We're not going to have enough time" Syl said as she was trying to hack Logan's computer.
"Doesn't matter" Max said, "Move!"
Syl moved away from the computer with a frown. Max typed away and was in Logan's files before she had the chair under her.
"Wow how did you do that?" Syl asked impressed
"Know who your dealing with" Max said.
"Yeh right!" Syl said sceptically giving Max a friendly shove.
"He never changed his passwords" Max said while she opened a map of South Seattle.
"Stupid, very stupid. I'm gonna break his bones. So where is he?" Syl said leaning in for a closer look.
"His last search indicated he was looking at these warehouses. Here, that's where I would start" Max said pointing at the mentioned structures.
"Good location, right in between everything. Hannah, you driving?" Syl threw the car keys in her direction. They fell right in her lap. Hannah looked at them like they were poisoned.
"Don't worry, we just need you to keep the engine running." Max reassured her. She and Syl could easily fall in when things went wrong. Others like Hannah needed more time to process events. "Come on, it'll be okay." She helped Hannah to the elevator.
Syl just shrugged nonchalantly before turning to the door. "I'll call the others, let's go!"
Logan felt cold. His head throbbed. He was lying on something wet. He tried to sit up without opening his eyes, since he feared it might make his headache worse, but as soon as he lifted his head he hit a metal grate. He opened his eyes to find himself in a ditch with water flowing steadily along. His hands and legs were tied and the metal grate covering the ditch prevented any escape since it severely restricted his movements. He was thoroughly trapped.
"Ah the cop's finally awake." He heard a man say from somewhere above. There was a slight echo, like someone speaking in an empty room, so he could not accurately discern the position of the speaker. "Nice n cozy officer?" They all laughed as a man stepped onto the grate above Logan's head.
"You thirsty?" he asked then turned to someone else. Hey D, popo is thirsty, give him some juice. There was the sound of something opening before Logan felt a rush of cold water filling the ditch.
"Leave him alone, he's not a cop!" Asha yelled, Logan presume somewhere to his right.
"Quiet blondie, you'll have your turn," the man standing on the grate said looking down on Logan with a sadistic grin.
Logan had to lift his head. The water was rising fast.
"Andy! What are you doing. General Davis and his boys will be here soon. We must prepare for the fight." Logan heard the man approach but he could not see his face. He heard the metallic scraping of a gun hanging from the man's shoulder.
"Just havin a little fun, sides, the general won't show till full dark. Cowards like fightin in the dark. Ait that right popo." he chuckled.
"Ten if you want in on how long it's gonna take him to drown" someone else said from the direction Asha spoke earlier. "I say the blonde will last longer. Women, so stubborn." Logan heard Asha swear through a gag, the men just chuckled.
The man with the gun approached the grid and looked down. He was a big man. The weapon resembled an AK47. "20 on the blonde" he said, "with ice!"
Everyone cheered. Logan closed his eyes and focused on breathing. He hoped the General would arrive before the water overflowed the grate. A sad hope, since the general would probably not hesitate to shoot him.
"Slow down Hannah, I think we'll get out here. Any word from the others?" Max said as she opened the car door.
"They're prepping for the assault. I don't think they'll be able to join us." Syl said apologetically.
"I understand." Max looked around and pointed Syl to a building nearby. "You take that one, I'll take the warehouse next to it. Meet in the alley." Syl nodded and headed out.
"Hannah, keep the engine running." Hannah just nodded. She was looking in all directions to make sure it was clear. Max suddenly felt sorry for her, she knew it was clear, her sensitive hearing already told her that. But Hannah was scared, not being as young any more. She regretted bringing her along, but they needed someone to keep their car safe. It was their only getaway.
"Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to you, I promise." Max reassured her before heading in the direction of the warehouse.
When she neared she saw an unconscious man lying next to the building Syl entered. Max smiled, her sister did not let anyone wait on her. She ran next to the wall, her Manticore boots barely touching the ground. She smelled food as she neared the door. Some sort of soup perhaps. She didn't even realise she hadn't eaten since the day before, neither has she slept in almost a week, but those were concerns for another time. First she had to find Logan.
She saw an open window and jumped up to grab onto the windowsill. She peeked over the side. Some thugs were cleaning their weapons and dressing up. Seems they were preparing for a big fight. Max did not quite understand, and didn't really care. She jumped in kicking the first man under the chin knocking him right back against the wall. The next man she punched in the gut then slammed his face into her knee knocking him out. The two others pulled up their guns and fired. She dodged grabbed the gun from the one man and slammed it into his face. The other kept on firing, hitting his buddy without care, but Max was already running towards the wall. She jumped, kicked against the wall and slammed her whole body weight into the shooter. Max gave him a solid right hand fist to the face. He lay still.
She heard footsteps heading in her direction. More thugs were alerted by the gunfire. Good, Max thought as she jumped out the window again and ran along the outside of the building. Should keep them busy for a while giving her a chance to sneak in from below. There was a door just a few paces ahead. She stopped in front of the door and listened carefully with her enhanced hearing. She heard some mumbling from a person that was gagged and footsteps of two others. They were alert walking in careful circles waiting for the attack. She also heard another man breathing heavily with the sound of water flowing slowly.
Max opened the door silently and crept in carefully. The room was fairly empty except for some old storage crates stacked near one wall. There was a blonde woman lying on the floor in the middle of the room. Her hands were tied and she was gagged. A few steps from her there was a deep ditch filling with water. The two armed men were circling the woman as they scanned their surroundings for potential trouble. The distance between the two men would make it difficult to take them both out at the same time. Max looked around and found a brick near the old storage boxes. She was quiet and kept to the dark spots so that the men would not see her. She ran forward, taking the men by surprise throwing the brick at the one man's head. The man was more alert than she expected, he lifted his arm just in time to protect his face. He was only stunned temporarily. Max dived into the second man while his attention was on the first. She knocked the gun out of his hands and punched him hard in the face. She just had enough time to dive behind some boxes when the second man, recovered from his brick injury and started firing.
Max laughed. It's been a while since she felt real exhilaration from a fight. It felt good. She glanced out to her opponent who stopped firing to reload. He was fumbling around in his clothes looking for another cartridge. Max casually walked out from behind the crates. She was about to make a snooty remark on his poor planning when she noticed the ditch filling with water. Logan was struggling to keep his head above the waterline. He had to press his forehead against the grid to breath. Soon he won't be able to breath at all when the water overflowed.
Furious Max ran forward and lifted a section of the grid out of the ditch with such force that it went flying into the wall several feet away. She jumped into the water and lifted Logan out of the ditch like he was a rag doll. He breathed deeply then coughed more out of relief then due to swallowed water.
He looked up at his rescuer, "tha..." he stopped breathing before he could finish his words. He just stared at her. Max could not help but smile. There were times when she was sure she would never see him again.
There was a loud grunt and a woman's outcry. Max looked up to see the thug had kicked Asha who had rolled over his lost cartridge. He must have dropped it earlier when there was gunfire upstairs. Just then more thugs came through the door at the back. Presumably the same ones that left earlier to see what the gunfire was about. Max grabbed Logan by his collar and dragged him behind some cover. That pulled him out of his stupor. "Max be careful" was all he could say before Max launched herself back into the fray.
The first man she got hold off went flying across the room. She felt the burn in her leg as a bullet grazed her but she ignored it and kept on going. She jumped over the next man using his shoulders for leverage then elbowed him in the kidney as she landed behind him. Then she spinned around and kicked the next man in the face. She twisted sideways to dodge another spray of bullets while turning to punch another man in the gut. She took the same man's gun and used it as a bat to whack another thug out of her way. The only man still standing was the one she originally threw with a brick. She walked towards him. He dropped his now twice empty gun and lifted his fists to fight Max. A wise man would have dropped his gun and ran. He was not a wise man.
Max moved so fast before he could even think of landing a blow or dropping his hands Max ran next to him moved her arm under his uplifted fists and used his own arms as leverage to lift him of the ground and slam him onto his back. He was a big man and the fall reverberated through the largely empty room. He grunted. Max circled him waiting for him to stand up again. He granted her wish and staggered back onto his feet.
"Let's dance" she said then started moving around him like a fox. Every time he tried to turn to get her she would be somewhere else. She slapped his face, punched him in the kidney, the chin. Then kicked him in the knee, punched him in the face again. Soon he was in excruciating pain from numerous blows as well as drunk and staggering from turning in circles the whole time. Max laughed, "What's wrong tough guy. Can't catch a girl. What would the boys say of you now, pathetic!" She punched him with a solid right hand and he went down like a rock.
"Remind me not to piss you off" Syl said as she entered the warehouse. "I see you found them." She walked over to Asha to untie her. Max went to help Logan. He was trying to lean on the crates as he stood but his exo suddenly shorted and he fell down again, his legs kicking an awkward jig.
"Ah dammit," he cursed, turning the exo off.
"Not waterproof I guess" Max said as she crouched next to him.
"I thought..." He didn't really know how to continue but Max understood. He was overwhelmed. "Let's get out of here" she said, but before she could help him there was a sudden burst of gunfire all around them.
"A hell, it's the military. We gotta get out of here, and fast!" Asha yelled as she staggered to her feet.
"Sorry Logan," Max apologised before she lifted him like a sack of potatoes, onto her shoulder. Syl ran ahead to clear a path for them.
Max could run but not fast. Logan was not the heaviest man but still a significant weight. They tried to head back the way they had come but the military had already brought their vehicles and men into the area. The only way out was through the labyrinth of dockside warehouses and storage containers.
"Ah shit, shit!" Asha would say as they ran along, gunfire following close behind.
Max kept her pace when suddenly a shiver ran through her body. She stopped to compose herself.
"Max?" Syl asked, "I'm coming, keep going," Max said as she started off again.
"Shit!" Asha said again as she looked back towards the warehouse they just left, now crawling with military personnel.
"Oh shut up will you!" Syl said irritably. She fired a few rounds at the thugs that rounded one of the corners. Unlike the untrained bandits, Syl did not waste bullets. One or two per opponent, and not a single shot more than what was needed.
Logan held onto Max not just not to fall off but also to make sure she was still there. He still could not believe that she was alive. As they ran Logan felt another shiver run through Max's body. He instinctively knew she was on the verge of having a seizure. She stopped walking and leaned against some storage crates outside a building. Syl stopped again and came back to assist.
Max slowly lowered Logan onto the ground and tried to resist another shiver. Syl placed a protective hand on her shoulder, but Max brushed it off.
"No, go! We're just slowing you down. Take the girl and get out of here. Well manage. Go"
Syl hesitated. "Go now!" It was said as an order, a command. Syl grabbed Asha by the arm and ran. Asha squealed but could not break the grip of the X5 and was therefore dragged along mercilessly.
"Are you ok?" Logan asked stupidly as the two women went around a corner.
Max ignored the question and pointed at a storage crate that was covered by a piece of large plastic. "Think we'll fit in there?"
"Tight squeeze but it might work. Won't they find us?" Logan asked eyeing the crate sceptically. Small spaces and heights, not his favourite things.
"They'll be too busy killing each other, 'sides nothing in these old crates but junk. Good stuff was fenced long ago." She headed to the old crate and lifted the plastic to get to the wooden cover. The wood was mouldy on the outside but dry inside. Another shiver took her so she took a moment to compose herself then helped Logan inside. She fell in beside him as another shiver took her balance.
They lay next to each other in the small confines of the crate listening to the fighting all around them. After a few minutes the rain started up again and the gunfire was muffled by the drops splattering on the outside of their shelter. Logan placed his arms around Max and held her tight as she fought against the seizure pulling at every muscle in her body. It was painful, but for once, she did not care.