I wiped the dirt and sweat from my eyes, staring at the piece of paper clutched tight in my hand.
I had no time to reflect on my good fortune so far. Shoving the paper back in my pocket, I pulled my plaspistol from its holster on my hip, firing a pair of quick bursts toward the shout.
The room lit up as plasma from their own high powered rifles ripped into the wall to my right, the metal plate sizzling, the acrid smoke making me cough. I ducked and dove behind a pile of rubble as another blast blazed through the spot I had previously occupied.
I risked a quick glance over my cover and caught sight of Maximus as he strode into the room, the gears and servos on his cyber-armor whirring noisily.
"Face it, Kindrow, there is no way out for you. Hand it over and we'll let you live."
I knew there was no way they would let me out alive. "Maximus, I have it. I have the last one. And there is no way in hell I'll just hand it over to you or your goons."
I ducked as a bolt of plasma exploded against the rubble, the heat from the blast blurring my vision.
"That was your last warning shot, Kindrow." Maximus roared.
I took the cue and crawled to my right, toward an overturned table. It would not even withstand one blast, but I was counting on getting there without them seeing me. I held my breath and dropped to my stomach, crawling across the filthy ground, wincing as I watched a centipede the size of my forearm crawl out from underneath a nearby piece of fallen wall. I shuddered but it moved on, as did I, reaching the fallen furniture without drawing any attention to my new location. Peeking my head around its side, I took stock of the situation.
Three of them, Maximus and the pair of bounty hunters he had employed ever since learning that I had information as to the whereabouts of this piece of paper. I felt my pocket, it was still there. One of the hunters knelt, his hands rummaging through a large pack I had seen him lugging around. Afraid I knew where the situation was going, the hair on the back of my neck stood up as my fear became reality. He pulled what appeared to be a large metal football from the pack and, setting it upon the ground, pressed a button on the thick metal wristband he wore.
Silently the football unfolded, and within seconds a large hound stood in its place.
I let out a slow breath through my nose. This had just gone from bad to worse. Sitting with my back to the table, I tallied my options. I reached down to my belt, fingering the lone plasma grenade, and then grabbing my other pistol instead. Casting one final glance around the table, checking their positions, I rose, pumping my own plasma into the air, running for the next pile of rubble, trying to place a ton of fallen steelcrete between me and my adversaries. I was rewarded with a yelp as I dove for cover, rolling back to my knees, stopping inches away from the face of the cyber hound.
I had enough time to curse before the metallic monster was upon me. I got an arm in its jaws, keeping it from my throat and grit my teeth as the metal blades in the beast's mouth bit through the thin fabric of my shirt and into my flesh. With my free hand I pounded upon the side of its head, making plenty of noise but not succeeding in loosening its grip. While the hound tried to wrench my arm from its socket, I desperately sought either of the pistols I had dropped when it lunged at me. With an audible crack, a white hot sensation shot up the arm the hound had in its mouth.
I screamed and at the same instance my other hand fell upon the butt of one of my guns. Shutting out the pain in my broken arm, I pressed the guns barrel against the dogs side and pulled the trigger, ignoring the scent of burning clothing and hair as the beast blew apart, flinging shrapnel everywhere. A piece grazed my cheek and I could feel the blood begin to drip down my face. My left arm hanging uselessly, I dropped the pistol and reached for the grenade.
"Its time for you to die Kindrow." Maximus bellowed, sounding like he was on top of me.
I activated the weapon, closed my eyes and flung it toward the sound of his voice. I did not wait for the impact or the explosion. I scooped up the pistol, and, with my broken arm dangling at my side, I made a dash for the door. I had almost made it when the blast lifted me from my feet, propelling me through the open doorway. I landed hard, the wind knocked out of me. I lay still for a minute, my breathing finally coming in less of a ragged gasp and more of a wheeze.
From my position on the ground, I surveyed my handiwork. The room was no more, a pile of fallen walls and broken steelcrete panels the only indication that something had ever been there. I was not surprised that I could not see any sign of Maximus or his hunters, but I rolled to my knees, testing my legs as I stood up. They seemed to support my weight so I glanced at my arm and the blood drained out of my face. The flesh was mangled, a piece of loose bone sticking out at an odd angle. It took me nearly five minutes, in which I passed out twice, but I managed to get what remained of my shirt off and slung about me to make a sling.
Moving rocks had me glancing at the pile of rubble, signalling to me that it was time to move. I felt for the piece of paper in my pocket again, the rough, reassuring surface reminding me what was at stake. Slowly I made my way through the maze of tunnels that had led me down here, following the markings I had laid out to aid in my retreat.
I had made three turns with countless more to go when I heard the shout from behind me.
It was Maximus, and I took it as my cue to put on as much speed as my broken body would allow. It was not much, but I managed to make it out of the ancient network of disused tunnels and into a throng of people going about their dismal lives.
A man, coveralls streaked with grease, grabbed ahold of my good arm as I tried to push through the throng. "You okay, mate?" He asked.
I tugged free of his grasp and pushed on. Most people gave me a wide berth and I felt the looks being cast my way as I made my way towards Sektor One. The air here was as thick with soot and smog as the streets were with people and the wealthy few, well, what could be considered wealthy in this hellhole, had managed to obtain respirators. They gave me the most space, afraid I would bleed on them. If they only knew what I had in my possession.
I heard my name shouted again and I pushed on, angling my way into the center of the mass of people, hoping the guards would not notice me as we pushed through the gates that led to Sektor One, and the homes of everyone that lived in the Hive, rich or poor.
What little luck I had left was on my side and I made it through, ducking down a side street as soon as I managed to make my way to the crowds edge. I stumbled as I broke free, steadying myself against a graffiti strewn wall. Killroy was here indeed.
Maximus bellowed my name again, and I heard shouting coming from the gate. I stared long enough to watch a guard go flying and people to scatter before I loped down the alleyway. I watched the ground as I came from the alley, looking for the telltale sign.
Only three more streets until the wall. I pressed on, and made it to the wall before I heard the sounds from my pursuer again.
I ignored the order and staggered along the wall, searching for the panel that would end this all.
I finally found it, and glancing over my shoulder one last time, the vision of Maximus, the right arm of his cyber-armor completely missing, revealing a bloody stump where his hand should have been.
"Don't you dare!" He growled.
But I ignored him, removing the piece of paper from my pocket and entering the final Salvation Code into the panel, causing hydraulics hiss into life after nearly half a century of disuse. The doorway opened and my last sight as I fell through the opening was of that bloody stump lunging through the closing doorway after me, blood dripping on the gleaming floor as my lungs filled with clean air.