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My feet pounding against the hard ground echo in my ears almost as loudly as my heartbeat. I push myself faster, harder - I have to get out of here. I begin coughing and hacking, my lungs begging for clean air, and yet all I can supply are short gasps of horrid contamination. I can feel the tears sliding down my mud-caked face, but they go ignored. All I want is to lie down, to rest, to wait for my brother... But I hear gunshots behind me, and the burn of my muscles intensifies.
I briefly glance backwards, and I'm terrified by the sight. I can see the CCDs – those are 'Close Combat Devices' - gaining on me, with the Paladins – those are like policemen. Human and stupid - right behind them. The CCDs aren't too much trouble, if I can keep my speed up, but the Paladins have their shiny new weapons, and if any of them can aim worth crap, I'm toast. I veer down an alleyway, ducking under a collapsing building. Ashes are starting to float down around me, so I yank my goggles down and keep racing on.
I have to hold my breath when I find a niche to hide out in, between buildings and underneath debris. I was far enough ahead that my enemies didn't see me duck in here, so they race past after me. I fiddle haphazardly with my boots, frustrated that they aren't working. I glance around, looking for some sort of tool I can use to tamper with, but I find nothing. I sigh silently, annoyed, as I pull out my hair clip. The trinket is old and worn, a yellow pin with a once-shiny pink heart on the end. A girly, useless thing, but a memoir of sorts from our parents, mine and Luca's. And hey, it comes in handy in times like these.
I unclip it and jam the end into the gears of my boots, twisting and prodding, until with a small 'sproing!', the wheels popped out. A small grin makes its way onto my face. Now I can skate, instead of run. That'll be good - it won't let up on my legs any but I can go way faster.
And perfect timing, too. I hear the mechanical voice of the CCD before I see the thing, but I don't feel any particular want to see it anyhow, so I tip my toe to the ground and push off, flying past the bot. Red and blue lights flash around me when it catches sight of me, and I know instantly the Paladins are tracking its location. I'll be found soon if I don't hurry.
So, naturally, I hurry. The wheels on the bottom of my boots slide easily against the concrete, with just enough bounce for me to swiftly leap over debris. I move quickly, skating towards the city's border. An abrupt swipe of my hand to the device on my goggles activates the scan functions. It's a useful little device, invented by my brother. It picks up on any discrepancies and immediately determines whether or not it's a viable threat. It has an x-ray function as well, to spot any hiding enemies.
In essence, it's my life line. The scan calculates for a moment, and informs me in a rather precise manner that a Paladin is waiting just outside the city gate, BioRifle at the ready. I scowl, pulling a disposable VoltSpear out of my back pocket, deftly flicking my wrist to extend it, and turning up the power with a slide of the thumb. I tuck into myself, down into a squatting position. Coiling my arm back, I speed past the gate, flinging the VoltSpear directly into the unsuspecting Paladin's chest. He starts to raise his rifle before the electricity kicks in and he tumbles down with a start. I grin.
It was just lucky, really, that it was a Paladin and not a robot. Paladins are mere humans, and despite having the gear, they tend to make all sorts of errors. Which, of course, makes my job easier to the twelfth power.
Focusing ahead of myself, I plot out a course. I need to head to the Oasis... It's the safest spot. It isn't really the kind of Oasis you'd expect, I suppose. No lovely pool of water with palm trees and delicious little coconuts to eat... No, the Oasis is actually an underground hideout protected by a Wave-Rave – I'm not sure of the scientific name, but it's close enough. It lets out radio waves that screw with the machines' functions. They light up like an old time rave, thus the name. It's the safest place within a thousand kilometers of here. If there's anywhere Luca would have headed, it's there. I can only pray for the best, that Luca is alive and safe, and that the Paladins haven't gotten a hold of him. If that's the case... It's all over.
I grind to a halt in the desert about a mile outside the city, and as I look back, my heart runs over with sadness. My city is gone. My home, my memories. Burned away like trash. The fire still rages, I can see that, and I hope deep down that the Paladins are trapped in the flames somewhere.
With one final stare at my lost city, I turn around and speed towards the Oasis entrance. My hopes rise as I enter the safety of the Wave-Rave. “Just you wait, Luca,” I say to myself, “We'll give 'em hell.”