35. Cole

Something metallic was digging into my ribs, but I didn't want to open my eyes. There was too much pain. In both ears I heard whispering. Many voices were murmuring, excited and urgent. There was a faint breeze.

I squinted, opened my eyelids a sliver. The world was a thick, glowing bank of green fog. I could just see that I was wedged between a van and a car. I twisted my body and slid fully to the ground, legs exploding pain. The green fog rushed in, pulsing in time with the pain. I blinked once, twice, trying to clear the wisps of green. The denser patches almost looked like people. Beneath the voices, I heard a faint, rapid tapping. Frowning, I shut my eyes and tried to focus on that noise as it echoed from several directions.

I sent out a pulse and, finding several automobile batteries closeby, drained each. I moved from vehicle to vehicle on my hands in a half-crawl, half-slide. I passed through vague, shifting green shapes and tried to ignore their insistent, ghostly voices. With each recharge, the mist faded and the faint tapping noise resolved into the rat-a-tat of automatic gunfire, sharp but somehow distant. I saw my entire body was charred, streaked with grenade smoke. The ambulance had broken both my legs, but they had already begun to heal. I leaned against a compact car, panting with exhaustion. I'd hardly crawled thirty feet. Eyes closed, I felt little sparks flashing back and forth across my many wounds, soothing aches and re-knitting bone. I guess stranger things have happened.

I was sinking back into numb unconsciousness, pleased that the voices were falling silent, when the squeal of rubber on asphalt rang out, shrill and close. Peering over the hood the car, I saw the ambulance weaving wide arcs between parked cars, front fender dented but still moving a high speed. The sound of metallic hammering rang out as bullets dinged its side. The sound set my heart racing. To the right, two groups of about ten Reapers each were converging on the entrance to the parking lot. They formed a red wall bristling with gun barrels. Most of the guns were tracking the ambulance, firing relentlessly. Either they hadn't seen who had control of the ambulance or they didn't care about firing on their own man.

I was tired, bone-tired. But Trish was counting on me. Injuries be damned, I wasn't going to let her down. Amazingly, as I tucked my legs in under myself, I found they held my weight, if painfully. I shuffled forward in a crouched half-step, hands sliding on the car to brace myself. My electric reserves were completely empty, all charge having flowed to my injuries. But I was mobile.

I moved down one long row of parked cars in a crouch, draining batteries as I went. I wanted to flank the group of Reapers at the lot entrance but there wasn't much cover. As I sidled up to the front of a blue Toyota, placing my palm on the hood to pick up a little extra voltage, one of the Reapers whistled an alarm call. The attention of the group turned to me.

Windshield glass rained down in small, jagged shards. Cursing, I filled both fists with energy and stood, firing into the group of Reapers. Red-hot pain shot through my legs but I kept my balance. A pair of figures fell immediately to two lucky head shocks. Instead of scattering, the rest held their ground, some still facing the ambulance, which was now circling the back of the parking lot, a small, speeding target.

Another grenade went up in a high arc. I crouched behind the Toyota again, legs burning and skin tingling with the memory of recent bullet wounds. As the grenade descended I pushed forward a wall of energy, deflecting the projectile back toward the cluster of Reapers. It exploded a few feet short of the group, driving the nearest men backward and scattering the rest. I caught a glimpse of two upright metal shields. Unbelievably, they were setting up more turrets.

The air hummed and whistled as bullets whizzed over my head. I fired back a quick series of larger blasts. The Toyota was beginning to smoke. After two long, crouched steps, I dove for the next car, advancing on the Reapers' flank. I took a few hits but they healed as I pulled from the car's battery with my right hand and fired poorly-aimed shots with my left.

The blue Toyota burst into flames, a charred metal carcass leaking wisps of smoke and tongues of flame. Through the smoke I saw the ambulance's flashing red and white lights. The driver had swung around the opposite end of the lot, pulling directly into the turret's line of sight.

A piercing shriek of laughter cut through the gunfire. "Yes! Nooooo! Yes! Yes, yes!" crowed the Reaper before honking the ambulance horn. The engine revved. If the ambulance rammed the scattered group, the turrets would be destroyed. Then I could chase the vehicle into Zeke's trap.

Despite its squealing tires and batshit-insane driver, I saw that the ambulance would never make it to the turret. The living wall of red was re-assembling. Three men in front kneeled, facing the ambulance and lifting rocket-propelled grenade launchers to their shoulders. Their neighbors were loading their rifles, while others let fly with automatics. Those on my side continued firing through the remains of my cover.

I stood up, roaring in anger. Lightning flared white-hot in a loop from my shoulders to my hands. I shoved a portion of the energy outward. The car rolled in front of me as a shield until a grenade sent it spinning.

Arms down and palms out, I set the lightning free. Between intense flashes of white, the remaining dozen Reapers were lit red by the ambulance's emergency lights, approaching from the left. With each successive flash, fewer Reapers were standing.

I walked toward the group, free-flowing energy blanketing my numbed mind with its white intensity. I fired. Again. Again. Again. Each bolt drained me. With each measured step, my head felt more empty of energy and more crowded with whispers. The quiet murmur had become the hum of a thousand chattering voices, the sound of a busy party just this side of the grave. I took another step forward. Two rocket-powered grenades flew in opposite directions, one impacting the mall storefront and the other sailing skyward and detonating in the air. The sound of their explosions was muffled; my ears were now full of voices. Some were the shouts of the few remaining Reapers, but many were the voices of the dead. I saw the outlines of green ghosts swarming the parking lot, some sticking to the bodies of dead Reapers, others pushing shopping carts or carrying children on their shoulders. Still others laid on the ground, vomiting brilliant green tar. I waded through the ghosts like a tower of lightning in a cold mist.

Twenty seconds of bullets bearing down on me. Twenty seconds of steady walking into a wall of death. All I saw was green ghosts, red flashing lights, and bursts of white lighting. All I felt was weary. Cold fear for Trish, and a deep-seated weariness. Men collapsed before me like dead grass in a windstorm. Weapons clattered to the ground, still firing as dead fingers twitched in dead hands.

The ambulance was billowing smoke as it barreled down on the group from my left. The Reaper driving the ambulance was no longer laughing. Perhaps she was some sort of squad leader, wearing white instead of red. Looking more carefully at her pale skin and mass of curly red hair, I saw the face of what once had been a beautiful young woman, a nurse. As I watched, she was shot in the throat, leaving a pulsing, bubbling mesh of red meat and black tar. She raised a fist to her mouth, biting at her fingers. There was a uniformed ghost sitting beside her, reporting into a translucent CB radio.

I sidestepped as the ambulance rolled over the bodies that had been gasping at my knees. The last Reaper standing was lifted from his feet and driven into the turrets before crumpling, crushed under the tires. Blood splattered against the red cross emblazoned on the ambulance hood. The turrets were cast aside, bent and useless.

I raised my right arm, trembling. I hoped I had enough energy left to blow out a tire. I squared my shoulders in an attempt to steady my shaky aim. The ambulance fled the parking lot exit, crashing through a low-hanging sign.

From behind, the concussive blast of a grenade exploding lifted me from the ground. I was just barely conscious of my body sailing forward into the street. Slamming into the side of a parked semi-truck, my vision went black. My ears rang as I slid to the ground. My fingers gripped asphalt, cold and wet. I opened myself, pulling for whatever energy might be there. Finding the truck's battery, I drained it dry in an instant. The ghostly roar of voices quieted to a steady hum.

The feeble current brought in reports from the parts of my body that had gone numb. Everything was in pain, a deep, tired ache. The lids of my eyes hurt as I lifted them. The world was tinted gray. From one eye, I saw a steady red flash just down the road through a haze of mist. The ambulance was on its side, halfway up a fire hydrant that was spraying water everywhere. The body of the dead lady-Reaper hung out the driver's side window, face mercifully covered by a blood-stained scrap of her lab coat.

"Trish? Trish!" I croaked. It was a weak yell, closer to a groan. I clutched my side, wheezing. The stretch of cold pavement to the nearest undrained car battery loomed, seeming to fall away a mile into the distance. The ambulance might as well have been on the Moon. Surely more Reapers were on their way. Coughing up blood, I somehow managed to get my cell phone to dial Zeke.

"Z, get over here. Mall... mall at Fifth and Archer."

"On my way, brother."

The world was dim and gray and the voices were murmuring. Water from the hydrant was pooling everywhere. I began a slow crawl toward the overturned ambulance.

Just a bit more to go before we let Cole enjoy the relative peace and quiet of the entire inFAMOUS game plot. If you've made it this far, why not drop a comment in the meantime? Thanks!