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200 Words at a Time, The End

Thanks to helped my story make it the final round.  I’m super happy to finish it off.  The whole challenge has been insanely fun.  My favorite challenge ever, for now anyway.   Go to here, to read more.

I picked up my own story this time.  It felt right, and dammit I wanted to know to know what was up the ring.

Galactic Mercs

First part by Me

Another shot glass slammed down as Toops flashed her big, black eyes at me. “Are you going to black out.” Her tone as dry as the desert planet we had left.

“I never black out. “ I grinned motioning for another shot. “I’m only resting my eyes.”

Toops rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “Yeah, I believe you, Lancer. I really do.” Her scarred fingers pushed her still full glass back and forth across the metal bar top. “Didn’t you say we have a man coming in to offer us a job?

“You handle all the contracts. I’m your simple minded muscle.” I winked at her. “Me big man. Me hit things hard.” The burning fire scalded my throat as I took another shot.

Her hand snapped out faster than my eye could follow. Those strong fingers crushed mine into my palm. “Do not call for another shot. I swear I will break your fingers right now.”

A hearty chuckle rumbled up my throat. “Alright, alright boss lady.”

My fingers were released. “We are partners.”

“You say that now, but once the client gets here you’ll change your tune.” She couldn’t deny it. It was true.

Second Part by Athena

The mark joined us not too long after that. I know they’re supposed to be clients, but I can’t help thinking of them as marks. Lancer likes to think of us as noble ruffians, taking on jobs to help the weak and disenfranchised. Truth is, we take on the jobs that pay the most. Sometimes that means we take the client for a bit of a ride.

Lancer was right about one thing: when the client arrives, I play boss. Pretty much have to; no one would buy me as the hired muscle – at least no one with all their bits in tact. Marks are always weary of a girl without a purpose. They’ll buy me as the brains, but not the brawn.

Lancer brought this one in. I let him do that once in a while because it makes him feel like we’re equal partners. More importantly, it makes the marks think that I’m hot stuff. They’re so lucky to get me, I send one of my peons first to see if they’re worthwhile instead of going myself. Doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s a much bigger payday.

Part Three by Ely

The man they called Helix walked into the bar, the sunlight rushing past his entourage, harshly drowning out the dank ambiance so welcoming to the regular patrons. I had met him through an old corps buddy whom I usually only call upon in the most dire of business droughts.

As predicted Toops straightened out immediately, her strength radiating from her core, demanding an elevated level of respect. She had a knack for nonverbal communication, in more ways than one.

“Not exactly discreet is he,” She said in a disapproving whisper.

“It’s a paying job. Rodge made it sound like it would be of particular interest to us.” I finished under my breath as the group neared, my lips spreading into an awkward greeting. I am just the muscleor I’ve had one too manyor both.

“Ms. Toops I presume,” Helix smiled, suave and somewhat greasily as he took her hand. He was dressed in a slick suit, all grey, matching tie, extravagantly out of place in this corner of the ‘verse. His three companions were obviously hired security.

“All presumptions aside, where they belong, I’ve heard you have work suitable for our expertise.”

Helix’s slimy smile grew, looking to me with positive regards to my choice of partners.

Part four by Paul Baughman

As soon as I saw Helix’s smile I mentally doubled the price we’d ask. I’ve seen smiles like that before. They never bode well. I also made a mental note to have a chat with Lancer. This buddy of his needs a talking to.

“Let’s move to a table where we can talk in private,” I said. I didn’t wait for an answer, I just turned away and headed for a corner table I had reserved earlier.

When I slid into one of the back chairs, I could tell Helix didn’t appreciate me turning my back on him. Lancer eased himself into the other back chair leaving the mark to have his back to the door.

“Well,” the slimeball said heartily, “what are we drinking?”

“We’re here for business,” I said, “what’s the job?”

“Nothing wrong with a little social interaction, is there?”

The way he said it, I knew exactly what kind of interaction he thought he was getting here. I tripled the price.

I tapped my ring on the table until it drew his eyes. It was just to derail his thoughts. Not many knew what it represented, so I was surprised when his eyes widened.

Part Five by Me (again)

“You’re the Hatchet.”  Helix eyes got wider and wider as he stared at Toops.

On the inside I let out a groan.  That woman’s bad temper was always getting us in trouble.  And, she was too proud of that ring.  “It doesn’t matter.  This is business, right, Helix?”

“You work with a murderer, a killer.”  Helix face flushed red as he stood up knocking the chair back.

To that I shrugged.  “I’m a mercenary not a priest.  You going hire us, or do we need to move on.”

Helix gave a rough shake of his head.  “Screw both of you.”  Without another word he strode out the bar.

Toops phone beeped and she took the message with a smile.  “Well, that’s good news.”

“Oh yeah, does it stack up with you being stupid and losing us a job.  Cause, that was pretty brilliant.”  I tipped my head toward the doorway our client had left through.

Her lips curled in a vicious, pleased smile. “I got a job for my sideline.  And, I now know why Helix didn’t want to work with the Hatchet.”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“I just got hired to kill him.”  She said on a grin.

 

 

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Bound in Chain, Part 4

Suell pale gray eyes rested on her.  He let out a long sigh.  “You aren’t going to trust me if I don’t answer.”

Neela knew it wasn’t a question.  She waited.  For once in her life, she found she had patience.

“Do you know how I came to be born, Alaget?”  Suell asked in calm, soothing tone.

She shook her head.  “I know little of you Woellian culture, High Lord Suell.”

“Of course not,” He muttered.  Those strange blue hands ran through his fight hair mussing it out of place.  “Woellian live to serve the Leader Females.  It isn’t cultural behavior.  It is pure instinct.  A proper Woellian would crawl over broken glass at a single spoken word.  There is not questioning, there is no doubt.  All of them are united in their loyalty, and commitment to them.   They exert a subtle control over us.”  His brow wrinkled very slightly.  “Their morals, their beliefs are yours.  That’s why our society is so liberal in some respects.  Deviate behavior isn’t a threat when we all believe as one.”

“In a way there are three genders for them.  Male, female, and leader.  Leader females are a breed apart.”  His eyes turned inward the pale gray darkening.  “Beautiful, strong, brave, intelligent, deadly, protective, and leadership instincts to their very cores. “  Suell stopped speaking.

Neela wriggled in her seat.  In a few minutes she’d learned more than she’d ever known of the Woellian.  Yet, none of this answered her question.  “Thank you, High Lord.”  She stood up to leave.

His hand snapped out with blurring speed.  “Please sit, I’ll tell you the rest.”   He didn’t speak again until she was seated.  “My mother was born with a genetic flaw.  Many Woellian are our genetics are weak prone to random mutations due to damage inflicted on us a long time ago.  Sometimes we adapt in marvelous ways.  And, sometimes whole generations die from horrid diseases.”

Qwe-Fale-eiaa, my mother, was told she wouldn’t be allowed to breed.  They couldn’t risk the disease from passed on.  However, she wanted children.  She pointed out to the leader female in charge of the Qwe that if she managed to breed with an Alaget the child wouldn’t be flawed.   Qwe Leader Female didn’t agree.  My mother, who was once a high rank, grew angry and spilt off from her people.  She probably had a tendency to be an eiaa in her.  Otherwise, she never would be able to defy a leader female.  She searched out a male Alaget willing to accept children dying until the managed to breed one who might go insane before adulthood.”

Neela bit her lip.  “I don’t understand.”

“My mother was an eiaaEiaa tend to breed other eiaa.  My mother’s defiance doomed me.  Yet, if she hadn’t rebelled I’d never been born.”  His eyes flickered with red, his face growing taunt across his delicate bones.  “No one should have that right over others.”

“But,” Neela started without thinking, “didn’t this prove the Qwe leader female right.  Breeding was a bad idea.”

Suell’s face slackened as his mouth hung open. Then, he laughed.  “Perhaps, you are right, Citizen Neela.  But, I’ll never agree.  Do you trust me now?”

“No,” She said.  “I’m beginning to have faith you do not lie, High Lord Suell.”

“Good, someday I hope to earn all your trust.”  He tipped his head at the door.  “You may go and rest.  If you are hungry let someone know.”

As Neela dragged her weak body out the door, she began to hope.

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Bound in Chain, Part 3

An hour later she’d been bathed, dressed in a flowing dark blue dress, flown in a land ship, and taken up an elevator to a penthouse.  As the slick doors soundlessly opened the slave master shoved her forward.  She tried to gain her steps but her bad leg slide out from her.  A cry echoed against the glass and steel entry way as deformed leg twisted under her.

Two Alaget males reached down and pulled her up.  One lifted her into his massive arms and the other opened the door.  “Suell, she’s here.”  The man’s voice rumbled against her side.

He stepped from a door still wearing the black suit from earlier.  “They took their time.  Why are you carrying her?”  Those gray eyes started to take on a red tinge.

“Slave master shoved her.  Her body isn’t strong on the right side.”  He motioned to her disfigured body.   “You said to make sure we reduced her discomforts.”

Suell gave a tight nod the red fading.  “Neela, when do you want to start your training? Would you ready for it tonight, or would tomorrow be better.”

She blinked several times. “I don’t understand.  Are you giving me a choice?  You brought me, High Lord Suell. You may do whatever you want.”

He ran the shockingly blue hand through the mass of white.  “I brought your services.   In that I had no choice, but I will not treat you like filth.  Anyone who does so is merely someone covering their inadequacies.”  Those gray eyes looked into hers for the first time.  “We need to talk.  Are you hungry?”

Neela felt herself almost annoyed at him.  Truly, she was grateful to not be a mere chattel, to be beaten when convenient.  But, she had already resolved herself to that life.  It seemed she needed to realign her thinking once again.  “No, High Lord Suell, I am fine.”

Suell grunted.  “Put her in office, I’ll be there shortly.”

The man strode forward her legs swinging as they made it down the corridor to another set of doors.  He opened the second one to a sprawling office decorated with potted plants.  The bright blues, greens, yellows, and oranges told her they were probably from Knilt-on, Woellian home world.   He settled her into the heavily cushioned lounge across from the desk.  “Don’t get up.  He’ll be annoyed you didn’t listen to him when gets in here.”  The man left her.

Neela felt relief.  She didn’t know where she stood with these people.  Never before had she’d been this nervous.  She expected to be a slave, but now she wasn’t sure what she was.

Suell walked into her peripheral vision and passed her to sit in the large wood and cloth office chair.  “I’m sure you have questions.”

She suspected this was an opening, but she didn’t know the protocol.  Instead, she bent her head, waiting.

He let out a loud, heavy sigh.  “Ask your questions, please.  Stop standing on ceremony.  I have no patience for it.”

“Well,” She paused, and swallowed hard.  “Are you a half-breed? I mean, I know Woellian fight slavery constantly.”

His whole body flinched.  “Yes, I am.  I’m also an eiaa.  So, I don’t share their views on things.”

Eiaa, doesn’t that mean stupid, worthless idiot.”  Neela pale brow wrinkled up in puzzlement.

He shook his head.  “Only to an Alaget.  In Wol it is the rank of someone who can’t connect to the mind of the leader females.  If you can’t connect you aren’t a Woellian.  As far as they’re concerned.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”  She felt bad that he wasn’t a full one race or the other.  And, on top of that he was some reject.

He shrugged, “An old wound.”

“Why did you want me?  You could have hired the services of any guild doctor.  And, you wouldn’t have to swallow the cost of training me either.”  Neela had no illusions that she was anything special.

“All that is true,” Suell waved a hand out.  “However, my noble house often goes on long engagements assisting my grandmother who is the ambassador to Amon.  No guild doctors were willing to be removed off world for any long period of time.  And, Woellian doctors tend to treat flesh wounds too casually and often to lead to unnecessary deaths with my Alaget employees.  And, in all honestly if I train, and pay you a modest salary it works out to very close to what I’d pay for a guild doctor.  I have one on staff due to the militant nature of our work.”

The news was rather startling.  The Nobles’ organizations, regardless of what type, didn’t do anything off world usually.   The political situations had to be watched closely.  One never knew when an ally or enemy would go for the throat.  One of the reasons she feared for her brother.

Suell tapped a data pad a few times.  “It seems you can be scheduled for training sometime tomorrow.”

“Why wouldn’t you make me infertile?”  The question forced its way out of her.  Neela wanted to ask, but had been very afraid.

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Bound in Chain, Part 2

“A doctor,” her father asked his tone full of wonder. “Truly?” His voice a bit muffled against her hair.

She nodded against his chest. “That’s what the SPB told me.” SPB being the Slavery Protection Board.

He pulled back to look at her. “And at least that is one good thing to come out this disaster. Are they going to send you through the slave lines?”

“Yes, I need to be lined up with the rest. They put some restrictions up for me.”  Her hearted ached knowing she was in such a mess.

A whip crack broke her way from her thoughts.  The slave master, however, was yelling at some alien slaves further away. Everyone in her line was for trained slaves, or exceptionally skill ones.   Another master voice spoke from behind.  “A client has asked to see you before the bidding. He may buy you early if any of you strike up his interest.”

Neela hated him.  Only the most powerful nobles would be allowed to check out slaves before bidding.  The man could have whatever he wanted.  A snap of his fingers and it would be his.  Her stomach turned.  She felt sick.

Once she saw him all such feelings faded under utter shock.  He was a Woellian.   Yet, he had to be one of rare half-breeds.  An unheard blending of two species, Alaget and Woellian.   Most children never were born, and only a few were making it to adulthood.   He must be one.  Their race abhorred slavery and often worked to free the Alaget’s fairly gotten slaves.

And, he was even dressed as an Alaget noble.   The form fitting trousers, long mid-calf vest over a tighter shirt was the highest on Alaget fashion.  Woellian only wore the most bizarre of outfits defying any logic.   With the blue skin, gray eye, and white hair he couldn’t be anything else.  He also had that delicacy of feature that no Alaget could have.

“High Lord Suell, this is the subsection you wished to look at. “   The plain dressed slave master seemed nervous, her eyes flicking over the slaves.

Suell gave a very slight frown.  “I have no interest inspecting them.   I told you I wanted to look at the one slated to be trained as doctor.”  His voice icy with utter disdain.  Nothing exceptional in that, Neela thought.  Nobles tended all talk that way with people below them.

Slave master twitched.  “Lord, it is Neela Giy, the fourth one down the row.”

He gave a curt nod and strode down to her.  The gray eyes stopped at each of her disfigurements.   “What is the price on her?”

“The auctioneer was going to start at a thousand ig.”  Slave master bounced from foot to foot.  “But, he didn’t think he get less than two and half thousand.”

Neela tried to keep herself from gasping at the staggering amount.  That equaled her father’s wages in a year.  And ig, intergalactic currency meant off world money could be used.  She knew unguilded doctors were valuable, but this was a shock.

Suell didn’t seem off put by this amount either. “Fine, I’ll pay it.  I don’t want any objections later.  Have her dressed properly delivered to my home.”

“SPB ordered to have her made infertile after the bidding.”  Slaver master tone quavered and her body posture slumped back.

His eyes flashed to red.  Terror ripped into Neela’s gut.  Hunting red, the Alaget called it.  Always a bad sign that Woellian temper had been provoked.  “She never went to the bidding.  Therefore, you can ignore that order.  And, if that is not enough for you, you can ask Alac-Hil-Yil about it.”

Slave master stiffened as her eyes widened.

Neela wished she knew more about Woellian names.  She knew their names function as title, job, and rank.

“I will do as you asked, High Lord Suell.”  Slave master tone dropped to low and rumbled.  “However, expect to be hearing from the SPB about your behavior. “

Suell smiled flashing his too sharp looking teeth.  “I hear your warning.  Do as I ordered.”  He gave Neela a bow and strode away.

Before his back was fully out of view Slave master’s hand crushed her arm.  “Come on.  I need to follow my orders.”   The contained rage of that statement made Neela flinch.

“What’s going to happen to me?”  She whispered.

Slave master shrugged dragging her back toward the containment buildings.  “I don’t know.  And, I don’t care.  He won’t kill you.  The SPB wouldn’t like it.”

Neela didn’t feel reassured he didn’t seem to be worried about what they did and didn’t like.

——————-

Author’s Note –

Okay, fail on my part my beloved blog readers.  This post is extremely late, inexcusable late.  I could blame the holidays, getting new glasses, life etc… However, doesn’t change the fact it was late.  To make up for it, I’ll post next week late Wednesday evening instead.  

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Bound in Chain, Part 1

Bound in Chains is from the perspective that we haven’t had quite yet in my blog.  A slave who is serving the Nobles and Citizens.  Someone not well regarded enough to be a member of society.  Also happy Thanksgiving or happy Thursday depending on your location.

Neela foot scraped against the ground. She walked in a long chain of her fellow Alaget. The rough shapeless sack matched all the one around her. She used her good hand to force the loose tendrils away from her face. In heart of hearts she hoped to avoid this. A day ago she had stood before the slavery board to beg to be free.

The seven council members sat around a half circle table. All of them with the crystal fine features, which marked heavy genetic tinkering of a noble. The head of the council a round faced woman with russet hair and brown eyes. High Lady Cirl was her name. “I’m sorry Mistress Neela Giy, but there is no way we can reverse the ruling.”

“But, my mental score is nine. That is way over what one would consider a slave.” The bitterness of that never left Neela’s heart. Four points above a slave rating. Her intelligence was almost the same rating a minor noble.

High Lady Cirl shifted uncomfortably. “I realize. If your intelligence had been a ten we would have gladly looked over your physical, and constitutional scores. But, they are very low.”

Neela had looked at herself before. On leg warped and shorter the other, her face lumpy on one side, and arm so shrivelled she didn’t truly have a hand. To make matters worse her heart had too few valves, and her lungs too small. Sickly and misshaped made her a one in both of the other scores. “What use can I even be as a slave? I can’t do hard larbor.”

“Yes, that’s why I insisted we add an addendum to your slave documents. You won’t be used for anything rough. And, you’ll receive training in an intellectually stimulating professional. It won’t add to your debt, or be taken out of your wages. And, you’ll be provided with medications, proper room, and won’t be overworked.” High Lady Cirl sat up straight. “Anyone failing to comply will result in earning my attention, and annoyance.”

As mild as that sounded Neela knew it was a threat. First Chair, or head councilor of the Slavery Protection Board was a dangerous political opponent. “There is no agreement I may free myself in the standard time, then?”

Second chair cleared his throat, and shot a glance at High Lady Cirl before speaking. “No, your scores are simply too low. There is no chance we would allow you to go free. And, you won’t be allowed to breed. After you are purchased you are to render infertile.”

Neela mouth dropped open. Never before had she heard of such a strict reaction. Were her physical ailments so horrible? “And, what profession will you recommend for my owner?” A wince at her tone. As far as they were concerned she was a slave. Slaves needed to be respectful.

High Lady Cirl let the tone pass unmarked upon. “A doctor, you already have more empathy than most of those we train. And, there is technology to assist with you being one handed. A surgeon most likely not, but for every day concerns, and less vital problems you would work. Besides, replacement limb research is going well, perhaps one day you shall have a hand.”

Small comfort that. “Well, I suppose I should go say goodbye to family then. Since, you’ve decided.” Neela couldn’t believe this.

“Perhaps, it was wrong for your family to care for you, Mistress. Most slaves ranked people who have families never meet them. Unless, their family buys them.” High Lady Cirl waved her hands. “A kindness, unfair as it may have been.”

Having nothing to say to that statement, Neela had walked out of the conference room. Her parents waited with her older brother. They all shared the same honey blonde hair, and solemn gray eyes. A rarity in a citizen who almost uniformly were brown of hair, eye, and skin. “It failed.”

Her parents didn’t say anything except envelop her in a hug. Pata, her brother, snarled. “This is wrong. I’m a noble.” Not fully true, he had the rank, but not the genes. A minor noble, and probably would end up serving in another noble’s business as a reliable flunky at best. Neela often thought her brother over estimated how powerful his ranking of ten point two really made him. “I’ll buy you.”

Neela sighed. “They’re going to make me a doctor. That’s an expensive slave. I doubt you’ll be able to afford me.”

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Walking in Shadow, Part 6

I dropped.  A tug as ripped them back stumbling toward the walls.  “Gulla, get away from the door.”  Her energy drifted to the center of the room.  Then, I let the bombs explode.

It was strange.  At first, there was no noise.  Everything was being thrown around.  The air seemed to be on fire as bits hit me, and cut into my flesh.  Then a strange soundless roar rose up. Once it faded I could hear the screams.  To my amazement even if the walls blown out there wasn’t much damage.  I took cover, and fired several shots.

The men panicked with no one to lead them.  Many fled.  Gulla’s gun fired as they ran. When, they got closer her knife slashed out. Some escaped, most died to her rage.

I limped over to her.  Blood ran down her body, her hair singed, but her eyes wild with excitement.  “That was unexpected.  Why did everything blow up?”

My gaze flicked back to Gabion. “He knew you’d come here.  He set up explosives.  I destroyed denator, but I realized we were overwhelmed.  I used my power to set them off.  After killing Gabion, of course.”

“One problem, did you ruin the medical supplies.”  A burned, bloodied brow lifted as Gulla laughed.

“Start looking,” as I turned to search I realized a massive metal rod in my leg.  My body braced against a counter, and tugged it out.  “Ouch,” I muttered.

A pleased whistle echoed over the room.  “A sealed medical lab back here, no damage outside the door.”

“Good, let’s get it and go.  I’m injured, your injured let’s go.”  My thumb flicked up toward the door.

Gulla chuckled.  “Keep yourself together.  We’ll go. Grumpy.”

“Keep myself together.” I repeated.

She grinned as the door whooshed and slide open. “You are kind prone to stuffiness and panic.”  The room was sprawling with no dust.  A wall of gleaming, glass cabinets stood out on the far wall.

Instead of entering I took a defensive stance by the door.  “Yes, I’m a fussy old woman. Go in, I keep guard.”

Her footsteps quiet as she made her way to the other side. “You don’t need to keep guard.”

“I think I’m done with surprises is all.”  Not that any time with Gulla wasn’t typically a surprise.

A sharp shout, as her feet raced back.  “I got the cache.”  She shook the box. “Let’s go.”

A smile forced its way onto my face.  “Let’s try to get back without any more injuries.”

“What’s the fun in that?”

<<<The End>>>

 

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Walking In Shadow, Part 5

“Not surprised you can’t hit.  Nobles think genetics make the fighter, when it is really killing, and a little brain power.  Your men were always short on that weren’t they Gabion?”  One could taste the loathing in Gulla’s voice.

Gabion the name echoed around in my head.  Gabion, could he be the one who killed her parents?  He must be.  I pressed myself against the wall allowed myself to sink into memories. Gulla powerful mental presence always pushed on my mental barriers. If I could pull of her memory of I could find him. There, he smiled down at her as a small child.

A half barked laugh, “Smart enough to kill your parents.  Maybe, they weren’t as smart as they always claimed.”

There I had him.  A tall, wide framed he stood in the back.  A device in his hands as he seemed confident and cool.  That worried me.  My instincts screamed to hurry, but I forced myself to move slow.

“They made the mistake of trusting you.  I won’t be making that one, ever.”  All the youth gone from Gulla’s voice.  It made my heart ache.  “Aren’t you going to attack?”

“I’m waiting for your friends to arrive.  I knew you’d be running out of supplies soon.  Especially with how strong your little rebellion has gotten.”  Apparently, he underestimated Gulla’s impulsive insanity.  If she could get away with only going out with me, that’s what she do.  If I’d let go out herself, she would.  Backup, a term she was utterly unfamiliar with.

The device in his hand was visible as I crept near him.  An automated trigger, he had something rigged to go off.  I needed to take out the device before anything else.  He shifted on his feet.  “Stay away from the walls, and doors, remind the troops.”

It won’t matter soon, Gabion, I thought to myself.  I’d have you soon.  My blade flashed out and the device shattered as I brought an elbow hard into Gabion.

He took the blow and rolled back.  A smirk on his lips.  “I knew she had a friend.”

Gulla liked to deal with taunts, I could care less.  I swept my blade down.  He scrambled out of the way.  “Fire, you eiaa, fire.”

The clang, and the echo of bullets were a tad distracting. I ignored it.  He pulled a gun.  The shadows and I were one as I ducked.

He cursed.  He lost sight of me.  A flare of gunfire as he shot at where I had been.

Still a bit blinded, I struck out my leg to trip him. As he fell I kicked hard. The blade snapped out cutting it into armor.

A shot hit me in the shoulder hard.  Another hack at, and I caught his hand.  Blood welled out as I heard the crack of bone.  Another shot caught me but from behind.  My eyes narrowed as I lowered onto him.  As we both started punching each other. A blow caught me in the face.  My finger wrapped around his throat.  Forcing my power through my fingers I slowed his heart. Each beat a struggle now.   His body began to thrash, one last desperate attempt to live.  I wrenched his neck.  He went still.

The fight still went on around me. They were taking controlled shots.  And, from what I could see they were edging around to flank her.  My gun started to fire.  However, they were ignoring my attacks.  Too many, in fear I reached out and found the edge of the demolitions.  I hesitated. What if Gulla got hurt?  I couldn’t bare it.  A cry of pain killed my concern.  They’d kill her either way.

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