“Huh?” Olivia twisted around. She jumped up with a stifled shriek at the sight of the knife sticking out of her back, about two or three inches from her spine. She grabbed for it. I don’t know if she’ll bleed more if she gets that knife out. It might be plugging the wound a bit. Or it’s tearing her up on the inside more. Less thinking, more decision making, she’s still bleeding a lot.
Nomad swatted her hand. “No. Keep that knife still,” he ordered. Shit. That’s not a small amount of blood. Fuck, it’s not just her back. Leg too. I’ve got about a minute until the elevator gets to the top and we get moving again.
“But, but-” she began, eyes wide.
“Olivia, trust me.”
After a moment she jerked a quick nod and leaned against the wall, keeping her weight off of her injured leg.
“Alright, hold still, Olivia. Calm, deep breaths,” he ordered as he knelt down to check her left calf, where a nasty knife wound seeped blood. Make that stop. He drew his own knife and cut the fabric of her pants away from the wound.
“Um, Chris?” asked Olivia, one hand on the knife. “Is it… bad? Should I do something?” She’s seen enough people get stabbed or shot to know what’s going on.
“It’s fine,” he said. I think. The blood dripping from the knife in her is concerning. Not as much from her arm, considering the length of those two cuts. The cut to her face isn’t bad. “Just keep your wing out of the way.” After looking around a moment for inspiration, he ripped the bandana off his face and wrapped it around her leg. Should I keep her talking? That seems like a good thing to do. “That knife hurt?”
“Can you still function?”
He finished the knot on the bandana. Don’t have anything else. It’ll have to do. Fuck, I hate winging it like this. Wait, I was breathing on that and we have nothing to clean out these wounds right now. Fuck. Nothing I can do about it now.
“There. Think you can stand?”
Olivia stood fully upright, putting some weight back on her injured leg. “It’s fine, I think.”
“You sure? How fast do you think you can walk?” The comm in his ear connecting him and Delta started buzzing with static. Got five seconds until that door opens up top, and there’s still that knife to deal with. He motioned for her to back up as he pressed himself against the opposite wall. “Don’t stand in front of the door, it’s about to open.”
She nodded. “I think I can walk. Running might hurt. It’s kind of hurting a lot now. My back is still bleeding,” she stammered, her voice shaking slightly.
Adrenaline wearing off. Fuck, we had to run into Clone when he had an iron weapon, didn’t we? At least Delta got him, Ortega, and that fire dude separated. Fire dude could make small fires from thin air. This would normally concern Nomad if he were alone, but he figured Olivia could deal with fire easily enough. I just have to turn into gasoline. Not water, gasoline.
The elevator doors opened with a ping. After a moment, Nomad poked his head around the doorway and saw an empty hallway. “Hear or smell anyone close by?” he whispered to Olivia.
She shook her head, then hissed softly. What? “Um, the knife is gone,” she said.
I’m just gonna repeat myself here. “What?”
“Damn. Out of the elevator.” Didn’t know Clone could just get rid of his clones like that. I know his consciousness is spread over all the clones, so he can only really control two or three at a time. Getting rid of a Clone to him is like cutting off your hand. Nomad led the way out, stopping at a corner in the hallway of a four way junction.
“Nomad, you hear me?” asked Delta over the comms.
“Yeah, I hear you now, give us a moment,” he responded. Olivia tilted her head at him with a confused look. He tapped his ear and said to her, “Delta’s on the comm.” Olivia gave a small smile. That cheered her up.
“Yeah, I know I am. The other ferals are actually loose,” said Delta.
Nomad froze. “What?”
“All of the ferals were released.”
“All of them? Did you do that?” That was only Olivia’s cell that was supposed to open. Delta had wired it so they’d think a couple on the mid level had malfunctioned and released the ferals.
“No! I don’t think so. Unless Skulker fucked up my directions somehow.” Ben had gotten a job as a cook in the cafeteria, just as Chris had a job as a guard for the institute’s security. I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do to my foster father when this is done and over.
“That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in either of you, you know.”
“Hey! When is the last time I fucked up like this? I put time into my work-”
Nomad cut her off. “Delta, Olivia’s wounded, we need to get moving.”
“Fine. Get her out of there. I’ll tell you if anything else happens.” The comm went silent.
“Alright,” he said to Olivia. “The other ferals are loose.”
“I know. I heard. Um, both the comms and the shouting and shooting,” she answered.
Gunfire? What? Nomad listened to his surroundings for a moment. He heard faint popping noises, but nothing he would have noticed had Olivia not pointed it out. We are deep in the facility. No reason not to believe her.
“Alright, we need to close that wound. Turn around, hold still.” As she complied, he looked around for anything that might be suitable for soaking up blood. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Crap.
As with her pants, he cut away the shirt on her back around the wound.
As he worked, Olivia said, “Hey Chris. Um, they were, um, they were offering to find out who I was.”
“You mean you pre-trigger?”
“Yeah. I just… maybe…” she trailed off.
“One, we’re committed now. They’re going to keep you in supermax security after this. Two, Delta’s been trying to leech their info on you. You’ll have to talk to her, but I think she’s already got a good estimate of what they know as well. Don’t worry, we’ll help you figure it out.”
The blood made the shirt stick to her back as he sawed off the last bit. Is that shrapnel I see next to her spine? “Olivia, anything else hurting beside the knife wounds?”
“My arm, but that bleeding has kind of stopped. The one on my cheek still stings.”
“Nothing else on your back?”
“No, nothing,” she said, a touch defensively.
Good enough. Major wounds right now. He removed his guard jacket, cut the midsection of the jacket in half, then bundled the whole thing up, minus the sleeves. He passed it to Olivia.
“Here. Tie this around your midsection. Put as much of the cloth on the wound as possible, then tie it as tight as you can while still breathing. If you can, apply pressure with a hand after you’re done,” he explained.
He kept lookout as she followed his instructions. Of course, she’ll hear or smell anything coming long before I figure it out. “We good?” he asked once she finished.
“Um, yeah, I think so.”
“Alright, we’re heading to the maintenance building on the west side of the facility. Got a way out there.” He led the way down the nondescript hallway to the right of the elevators.
“No!” blurted Olivia. “Guns and screaming down that way. No.” I concur.
“Um,” began Nomad. What’s the quickest way now? Wait, the other way leads to the guard barracks. He spun around and pointed out the opposite direction of where he’d been heading. Olivia nodded after a moment. I’ll take it.
Going down towards the main entrance, away from the others with a getaway car. Damn it, there was a nice tunnel leading to the garage and everything. We’ll make due. “Um, some people ahead of us,” said Olivia. “They’re running this way.”
“Yeah.” Dumb question. The civilians should be evacuated at this point, only guards here. Wait, all their communications are fucked by what Delta did. They might be getting slaughtered by the dozens of rioting ferals in here. Worry about it when we’re out of here.
He spun around. The oncoming guards, the guard barracks and central security, or a feral fight. No good options here.
“How many?” he asked.
“I, um, I don’t know. Four to eight. They’re really close now.” Fire starter should be on the mid-levels. We can do this.
Nomad turned and aimed down the corridor. He and Olivia began advancing. Half a dozen guards, Ortega included, rounded the corner in front of them.
Ortega sees me. Fuck. Got about thirty seconds until I’m out of commission if I keep in eyeshot. Ortega’s power let him piggyback on other peoples’ perceptions and alter them, but it took him a moment to do that. His control was not absolute, but letting Ortega make Nomad feel anything resembling, say, tear gas was something to be avoided.
Behind Nomad, Olivia hissed. No, no, bad. He shifted to liquid without firing a shot as his vision began to blur. That’s not supposed to happen. Nomad withdrew, wrapping a tendril around Olivia’s wrist and tugging as the guards began to fire. Vertigo is setting in. It’s not just the five simple senses, oh no. He can fuck with your spacial awareness and everything. Olivia resisted for a moment as several bullets hit Nomad. Getting harder to see, she needs to get moving, right now. She eventually yielded, and followed him to behind the corner.
There we go. I can see properly now. Nomad immediately shifted back to human and shot a couple bullets back around the corner at the pursuing guards. He didn’t hear a scream, but he did hear the boot steps retreating. He tried sticking his head around the corner to gauge what they were doing, but three bullets whizzing down the hallway persuaded him otherwise.
Can’t stay here. He looked around after firing another couple of blind shots around the corner, more to keep the guards from advancing than actually hitting someone. Idea! Ventilation. Need to keep them where they are, there’s a nice vent above them. He shoved a rifle into Olivia’s hands, along with a spare magazine. “Keep them occupied,” he ordered.
“Wait, what?” asked Olivia.
“Shoot at them, keep them there,” he said.
“But-” began Olivia.
The longer this takes, the more likely the situation is to change, and that’s never good. He shifted to liquid and flowed through the vent above him. More light came in from another vent about twenty feet ahead of him and around a bend. He flowed towards it.
There we go. The guards remained in cover, firing the occasional shot in Olivia’s direction. Nomad’s senses were kind of like having his face suspended in the middle of his liquid body. He could put his “face” in a tendril, but preferred to have a wider view of what was going on.
He checked over the various guards. There’s Ortega. Let’s do this. Unless one of them has a lighter, I don’t think they can hurt me. He braced himself and burst through the vent covering, flowing out after it.
He slammed down on the first two guards before they had a chance to react. They smashed into the floor as Nomad concentrated himself on them. The others had no time to react as Nomad shifted his attention to Ortega.
Ortega and the remaining guard beside him backed up a few steps, shooting a couple times before Nomad dragged the two he had grabbed behind him forward. The rest of Nomad lunged, engulfing Ortega. Go to sleep. Go to sleep. There we go. No oxygen for you.
Nomad released the three guards, Ortega included, and turned to the two he had knocked down. Olivia swatted one to the side as the other scrambled away. Well that makes my job easier. Nomad caught the scrambling guard and subdued him as well.
After reverting to human form, Nomad said, “Thank you, Olivia.” She smiled weakly and nodded, leaning against the wall. Some blood oozed from her calf. Reopened the wound. At least the back injury is somewhat closed. Maybe. “You alright?” he asked.
“I’ll be fine,” she said, short of breath. We’ll patch that up later.
“Come on, we’re almost outside.” He offered an arm for support. “Oh yeah, what happened to my rifle?” he asked as they walked.
She turned her head towards a busted rifle, bent about thirty degrees in the middle, behind her before catching herself. You’re joking. “I, um, I broke it. I’m really sorry.”
He sighed and paused to reach down and grab one of the rifles dropped by the guards. “Thank god for standard issue,” he murmured. I’m using the same weapons and am in the same uniform as the rest of them. At least this ammo I’m lugging around will still work.
“I… I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to-”
“Olivia, it’s alright, it wasn’t even mine.”
“Oh. OK.” Damn, you’re limping badly. Why did you charge those guards?
They came to a set of broken glass doors. A smear of blood streaked across the floor, trailing off to a side corridor. Not going that way. The two exchanged a glance before climbing through. Nomad could now clearly hear the gunshots and screams, both human and inhuman, all throughout the area. Something outside in the night bellowed.
“Almost there,” said Nomad. It’s a quick, two minute walk normally. This will probably take twenty minutes and another fight for our lives, but less talking and more walking.
They stepped down the broad staircase leading to the main facility. “To the left,” he said, indicating the path next to one of the empty guard booths. They walked as quickly as possible, Olivia’s limp getting worse and worse.
“Van ahead,” panted Nomad, pointing towards the maintenance building in front of them. She’s heavy. And I think any girl will slap me upside the head for thinking that, but they’re not the ones half carrying Olivia, so they can fuck off.
“Something is coming towa-” said Olivia, over the sound of a couple spent shell casings crushed underfoot.
A rasping shriek to their right cut her off. Down the central path to their right came a feral.
Nomad would have called it an ostrich, if ostriches were nine feet tall and had a set of useless wings in addition to arms. The feral shrieked again, revealing about four human teeth embedded in its upper beak. A two foot long neck stretched out of its distended and twisted humanoid torso, with the odd feather jutting out of its skin. In fact, the only areas without patchwork feathers were the skinny yet otherwise human legs. Ew.
Nomad glanced at Olivia. She’s pale, her fingers are shaking a bit. She’s in no shape to fight. Well, she could probably cut this thing wide open right now, but that might reopen one of her knife wounds and I think she’s lost enough blood. He readjusted his grip on his rifle.
Two shots rang out from somewhere behind Nomad. The feral flinched as one hit it in the gut. Olivia faltered, looking at a guard tower next to the maintenance building. Forward planning is paying off. The feral backed off with another threatening shriek.
“Skulker’s covering us. Get to the van,” gasped Nomad, spurring Olivia onward. He eased her off his arm and checked his rifle. Please don’t be jammed. He aimed at the feral as he backed away. The feral circled, keeping its distance. It’s not trying to kill us? That’s convenient.
Miya opened the back doors, plastered with ads for the repair company they’d stolen the van from, for Olivia and Nomad. Gears, in only street clothes and his mask, started the engine as Nomad and Olivia climbed in the back. Nomad slammed the doors shut behind him.
“Outta here!” yelled Gears as Nomad sat back on one of the two benches lining the sides of the van.
“Wait, Be- I mean, Skulker,” protested Olivia.
The feral outside rammed the back of the van, jostling the occupants inside. The impact punched a wide, three inch deep dent in the back door. Thank god the only windows are in the front of the van. Miya, Olivia, and Nomad scrambled away from the door, further into the van. Nomad aimed his rifle at the door. Olivia flinched as something exploded outside.
After a second, the passenger door opened and Skulker climbed in. “Outta here!” said Skulker, slamming the door shut behind him. Gears hit the gas.
“Um, where’s Delta?” asked Olivia.
“What happened to you?” asked Miya instead of answering Olivia’s question.
“Delta’s in her own car. She’ll meet us at the motel. And Miya, she got stabbed a couple times. Grab that first aid kit under the bench.” Miya nodded.
The van drove down the empty streets. They dressed Olivia’s wounds as best they could in the back of a moving van, expecting at any moment for Gears or Delta to announce the cops were on to them. Other than Delta’s brief call to tell them she had gotten out of a nearby parking lot safe and sound, no one said a word. We’re not out of this yet.
Delta had reached the cheap motel ahead of them, and she monitored the area around it as Gears pulled into the parking lot.
“OK, no one is at their windows right now. You’re good to go,” said Delta as the van came to a stop. Thank god for techies and thermal vision. Olivia and two guys with grinning masks kind of stick out. Miya hadn’t assembled a golem; one less thing to move around and keep track of.
They piled out of the van, Skulker taking the driver seat to dispose of the van with several cans of gasoline elsewhere in the city.
They hurried into one of the three motel rooms they’d rented. Not as shitty as the other ones, we’ve been here for a week or so. Delta opened the door for them as they helped Olivia up the stairs. Inside, Delta had her helmet off, but still had a shock baton close at hand.
Chris took a position by the curtained window. “Alright, we’ll need to stay on our toes, keep an eye out for-” Chris was cut short when Olivia wrapped Miya, Amanda, and Rob up in a bear hug, lifting them off their feet.
“I missed you guys so much,” Olivia whispered. Miya gurgled, and Olivia relaxed marginally. Having been hugged by her before, I know that is a painful experience right there.
“Olivia. Need… to… breathe,” managed Rob, his mask dangling from a pinned hand.
She finally released them with a “Sorry,” still about hip to hip with Amanda.
Amanda twisted her back and said, “We missed you too, Olivia.” She wrapped an arm around Olivia’s waist.
“You cryin’?” Rob asked Olivia with a grin. Chris felt a smile form on his own face. Olivia wiped her eyes and ducked her head. Yes. The answer is yes.