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The alleyway was pitch black. With the shadows of the adjacent buildings and the darkness of the night sky concealing her, she finally allowed herself to breathe. She swallowed deep, shaky breaths as she attempted to recover. She couldn’t remember how long she had been running, but the pain in her legs and the labored force she required to perform the simple act of breathing made her feel as if she had been running for days. Perhaps she had.

Eventually, her breathing returned to normal, and it was then that she realized how quiet the cold night air was. There were no cars on the streets. No couples whispering sweet nothings to each other under the night sky. She wasn’t surprised. The war had changed things. It was hardly safe to walk these streets during the daytime, much less at night. Only rebels like her dared to brave the darkness now.

Suddenly, the sound of clanging metal permeated the silence. She quickly reached for the handgun secured to her worn leather belt. But as her eyes adjusted to the lack of light, she realized there were no enemies lurking in the shadows. Only a scraggly, old tom cat, searching for dinner in the bowels of a dented aluminum trash can. She let out a sigh of relief. The ragged and filthy cat cocked its head in her direction, examining her with a single, glassy yellow eye. She noticed the scar across its left eye socket and unconsciously lifted her hand to touch the still bleeding wound on her own forehead. She was lucky. She had barely dodged the knife that was aiming to skewer her right eye. She wondered how many claws this cat had dodged before he lost his eye.

As the cat sifted through the trash, desperately searching for something edible, she assessed her other wounds. A cut on her arm, a bruised rib, a busted lip. Nothing too serious, but enough to slow her down. She couldn’t let them catch her. She had heard stories about those who had been captured. She would prefer death.

By the time she finished her inspection, the rustling had stopped. The cat had disappeared. To where, she did not know. That wasn’t important now. Though the moonless night concealed her now, morning light was fast approaching. She needed to return to base. There, she would be safe.

Slowly, she peeked around the corner of the alleyway at the empty street. Store fronts and flickering street lights were all that occupied the space. This was her chance. She rose to her feet, preparing herself to leave the temporary sanctuary. She inhaled a deep breath and ran.

She didn’t stop. Not when she heard the shouting. Not when she heard the screeching of tires. Not when she was blinded by the lights of Enforcer vehicles. Not when she realized she had been too slow. Fooled. Trapped. The only force that stopped her was the bullet that pierced her back.
As she fell, she caught a glimpse of the sun rising in the east. Then, everything went black.





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