For Them and Not – Conclusion

Part 9

Map found the stairwell and feeling like he had nothing left to lose he ran back up to the roof.  He hoped that if he was fast enough he would have the best chance at the only attack he could come up with.

He sprinted across the damaged roof draining his last reservoir of strength and ignored the pain the best he could.  As he approached the edge of the building he heard the crash of the creature trying to get into the apartment he escaped through moments earlier.  Before he reached the end of the roof Map jumped as high as he could, readying his axe.  He swung up at the apex and came down on the creature with as much force as he could.  The axe sunk deep into the thing’s head as the jolt of impact spread through Map.

The swing along with the added momentum from the jump was enough to crack the thick skull of the monstrous creature.  It twisted its head and wrenched the axe out of Map’s hands straining his already sore limbs.  He was perched awkwardly on the creature and had to stretch out to keep his balance.  It had somehow survived the blow and Map didn’t have an escape plan.

He moved to jump, to get away any way he could but the creature reached up and grabbed Map with one of its immense claws digging into him.  Map kicked at it blindly.  His adrenalin and stubbornness was keeping him struggling.  The creature snapped its jaws as Map kicked at it.  It followed Map’s legs like a donkey following a carrot on a string.  Its head turned to aid its chase and the handle of the axe came close enough for Map to grab it.  Map pulled as hard as he could not worried that his arms felt like they could snap at any moment.  He didn’t manage to get the axe free but he did shift the creature’s weight and with a groan and crash the fire escape dropped out from under them.

Map was luckily still on top of the creature as it hit every fire escape landing on the way down tearing them free form the building in a snarl of bent iron.  Map tumbled helplessly behind the turmoil.  He watched as the creature and the tangled mess of metal hit the ground.  A split second later he landed on the remains of the creature and blacked out.

Static hummed in his head.  It came in waves and added to the sensation of swimming. The static cut in and faded out – then again – and again.  It started to hurt and he wished it would stop.  He found it hard to think.  He tried to open his eyes and almost passed out again.  His leg was shattered and his arm was hanging painfully out of its socket with a funny bend in it.  Many of his ribs were broken and a stray bar from the fire escape was sticking out of his side.

“Alice,” he managed to say.  A short burst of static replied in his ear.

“Alice, I don’t know if you can hear me but I am in rough shape.  I think I can move but it hurts.  You have to send a team in to clean up if I can’t finish this.  There are two left and they are still building that thing.” Map coughed.  He was almost relieved to feel the pain from the fall when he stopped.  He tasted copper and spat leaving his teeth and lips stained red.

Map checked the leg that hadn’t been shattered.  It seemed fine outside of some bruising and swelling.  There were small lacerations but he couldn’t feel them.  His protected arm was fine too.  It was beat up but it bent the right way.  His left leg was useless.  He ignored it and focused on the metal bar sticking out of him.  He touched it gingerly and winced.  He tugged at it and had to wiggle it to pull it free.  Fortunately his armor had absorbed most of the impact and it wasn’t too deep.  He judged that no organs were fatally damaged.  He was bleeding but not enough for him to lose consciousness right away.  He used a sharp edge of the destroyed fire escape to cut a strip of cloth from his pants and stuffed it in the wound.  He cut more strips and used them to tie the bar he took out of his side to his shattered leg.

Map rolled onto his side that had fared better in the fall and supported himself on his two less damaged limbs.  He moved slowly and carefully off the dead creature and away from the remains of the fire escape.  He used the wall to pull himself up and slammed his dislocated shoulder into the brick popping it back into place.  The arm was numb and still hung at an odd angle but it was more out of the way.  Map found another metal rod, pulled it free and used it to hobble his way to the center of the park.  He used the scattered tress for support and fell a couple of times but he eventually managed to make his way to the two creatures who were working on the structure.

It was almost as tall as the trees around it and wide at its base tapering up to an abrupt uneven peak.  It seemed to be constructed out of materials the creatures scrapped in the area and electronics Map didn’t recognize.  He didn’t have much to reference but it contrasted against the equipment Map was used to seeing at the base.  The sheets of metal used to cover it were randomly shaped and didn’t line up properly.  There were gaps where some of the panels met and Map could see the moving parts inside.

He didn’t dwell long; he still had two creatures to deal with.  He limped to the first closest one.  It didn’t react to him.  Its focus was the structure.  It was placing components while the other creature covered them with sheets of metal.  They worked slowly but deliberately and seemed to Map to be close to finishing their task.

Map swung the bar at the first creature.  The impact was less impressive than Map had hoped.  The creature ignored the attack and continued working.  It was as obvious to it as it was to Map that he could do little to hurt it in his current condition.  He tried again and tried jabbing at it but he didn’t even manage to slow the creature down.  Map leaned against the structure trying to regain some strength and come up with a plan.  He could feel the hum that echoed through it.  He imagined all the little parts inside moving towards a singular goal. The idea came to Map through the hum.  It resonated in him and filled him with excited energy.  The pain lessened as adrenalin charged though him.

Map straightened and hit the structure as hard as he could   He didn’t cause any damage but the ring from the impact caught the attention of the creatures.  He swung again and again breathing heavily from the effort.  Both creatures turned to face him.  They didn’t look to be designed for fighting but Map recognized the readiness to attack in their posture.  Map yelled and swung again.  They made low rasping sounds and moved closer to him.  From the creatures’ reaction Map knew that crippling the structure was the answer to stopping whatever was going on.  What he didn’t know was how he would cause enough damage to delay the creatures.  Map couldn’t contact Alice but he knew the protocol.   If contact was lost with the asset a Cleaner Squad would be called in to sanitize the area.  Since the introduction of the operatives troops were rarely used in actual combat.  Usually they helped with evacuations and maintained the parameters of invaded areas.  Still they were nominally trained for combat and Map knew they would easily be able to handle these two creatures out in the open.  Map’s goal was to prevent them from finishing construction on the structure before the squad could get there.

The creatures started to turn back to their construction.   Map hit the structure again to keep their attention and the bar hit one of the gaps in the surface.  Map reached out and touched the surface.  He felt the hum again.  Reaching back he thrust the bar as far into the gap as he could.  He could hear the machine struggle with the foreign object and could feel grinding reverberate through the bar and into his hands.

The creatures went mad and charged at Map.  He was defenseless against them.  One of the creatures slammed into him knocking him to the ground while the other wrenched the bar free from the structure.  Map saw smoke and a viscous liquid pour out of the structure as the bar was pulled free.  The hum that the structure made was now an audible grind.  Map could do little but use his uninjured arm to try and defend against the attack.  He was weak and the world spun around him as the creature bludgeoned him.  Each blow spread the pain in through his body.  The creature that pulled the bar free joined the assault.  Map struggled but couldn’t defend himself against both creatures.

His vision narrowed and each impact made it harder to concentrate.  His arm slumped to his side.  There was nothing he could do but hope he had managed to stop whatever the machine was built to do.  His radio crackled to life in his ear.  He could hear Alice but, though the sound was clear he couldn’t make out what she was saying.  He managed to pick out troops and something about Ox.  Map thought the young operative would do a good job.

The End

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2 comments

  1. Well Ben, it was quite a ride. I guess we always knew the future wasn’t a bright one for Map but it still stung to finally read it.

    1. You knew it for sure, but I wonder if someone who hadn’t know would have guessed it too. In a way I like to think Map got what he wanted. He wouldn’t have been happy as a third wheel.

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