Skip to content

Month: February 2017

Chapter 19 – It Was My Fault

Ten Months Before Impact Day

I arrived at Rachel’s house a little after 2am, not quite as careful as usual given how late it was. The chances of her mother still being awake were so slim it was almost not worth considering, but the consequences were serious enough that I wasn’t willing to be entirely reckless.

I crept up to the back door, gently pressing down on the handle so it wouldn’t make a noise. It slid down barely a centimetre before stopping, and refusing to move any further. I tried again, surprised. It’s locked? The back door was never locked; Rachel made sure of it.

Not willing to give up, I went around the side of the house to Rachel’s bedroom window. It didn’t open up far enough for me to get in that way, but at least I’d be able to talk to her.

I rapped lightly on the window, waited a few seconds, then rapped again. The curtains inside were tossed sluggishly aside, and Rachel’s half-asleep face greeted me, thoroughly unimpressed. When she realised it was me, she brightened a little, but she still looked adorably sleepy.

She slid the window open as far as it would go, which wasn’t very far, and beamed at me, brushing her wavy hair out of her face.


“The door is locked,” I whispered.

“I know. Mum locked it,” she said apologetically.

“Because of the other night?”


Well, you did kind of drug her…

“Shit, I’m so sorry,” I said, feeling a little responsible. She’d only done it to help me, and I couldn’t even imagine living under her mum’s draconian rule.

“Nah, it was my fault,” she said calmly. “But, uh, I’m not really sure what to do about it.”

“Kind of hard to come back from that, I guess.” I was sympathetic, but also a little annoyed. It was already hard enough to spend time with her…

“She’ll forget sooner or later,” Rachel said reassuringly. “Drinking tends to have that effect.”

“What do we do until then?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You make a pretty cute damsel, at least,” I teased her.

“Oh, shut up.”

“Maybe you can tunnel your way out with a spoon.”

Rachel shifted uncomfortably, glancing back over her shoulder at her bedroom door. I placed my hand on the open part of the windowsill, and she rested hers on top of it.

“I hate this,” she said miserably.

“Yeah, me too.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Please, don’t be sorry,” I said, feeling bad for her guilt. “I just wish things could be better for you.”

“What about you?” she asked, taking me by surprise.

“What do you mean?”

She looked away, but her fingers dug into the top of my hand. When she looked back, I could see reluctance in her eyes.

“I hate to even bring this up, but… Charlie, you tried to kill yourself, remember?”

“Are you still worried about that?” I asked, not sure how to react. My life had changed so much, it almost felt like that had happened to a different person. Seeing the look on her face, it only dawned on me then that it wasn’t the same for her.

How would I react if she’d told me the same thing?

“Well, I’m not worried about you killing yourself, obviously,” she said, trying to force humour into her voice. “But I am worried you aren’t happy.”

“Do I seem unhappy to you?”

“No,” she said, “but you didn’t before, either.”

That hit me hard.

“Trust me, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been,” I told her. It was the truth, and I always felt it the strongest when I was with her. Even in that moment, on opposite sides of the window, I felt happier to be with her than anything else could have made me.


“I promise.”

“I’m really glad,” she said, smiling peacefully. Once again, the fact that she just believed me meant so much.

“I kinda just want to go kick your front door in,” I said. She smirked, a wistful expression on her face.

“You’d only get me in more trouble, but it is a very romantic thought.”

Instead, we just sat there, connected through our hands, trying to pretend that was enough for us. As happy as I was to be with her, I didn’t want this to be the only way we could spend time together. I wasn’t sure I could handle it.

“I want to get you a phone,” I said suddenly, as the idea rushed into my head.


“I don’t know,” I confessed. “I could buy some cheap prepaid thing, and then at least I could call you.”

“And where are you gonna get the money?” she asked. “You don’t work.” As grateful as I was for her common sense, that wasn’t exactly the reaction I was hoping for.

“Maybe… maybe I’ll talk to Mark about it,” I said, considering it for the first time. I didn’t like to lean on him, or anyone else, but for Rachel’s sake…

“You sure that’s a good idea?” she asked, sounding surprised.

“No, but… Well, what’s the worst that could happen?”

“I don’t know…”

“Would you mind if I at least tried?” I asked, not wanting to do anything that would make her uncomfortable.

“I guess not,” she said.

“You’re allowed to say no,” I told her. “Or yes, or whatever. You’re allowed to mind.”

“I trust you,” she said, her dark eyes shimmering in the starlight. “And you’re right, it’s not like things could really get much worse.”

“Let’s hope not,” I said.


Next Week: This Definitely Will Not Be Fun For You

Chapter 18 – This City Isn’t Yours Anymore

Ten Months Before Impact Day

That night, I pulled out the bag I’d acquired from the storage unit, and locked my door. I was worried it would come across as suspicious, since I didn’t do it often, but I also couldn’t risk anyone walking in on me.

I hadn’t yet had a chance to properly go through the spoils, and I was eager to start thinking about how I could make use of most of the unknown objects I’d thrown into the bag.

Sadie sat on the edge of my bed, watching with a sort of morbid curiosity. She refused to say anything about it, or anything at all, but she obviously didn’t want to just ignore what I was doing, either. Well, that was fine with me.

I unzipped the bag, excited to see what treasures would be revealed. I was not disappointed.

Tear gas grenades, handcuffs, bulletproof vest, batons, pepper spray… all standard crowd control gear. Sadie had no reaction to any of it, until I pulled out what was very obviously a handgun. Then, she actually hissed.

I turned it over in my hand. It was heavier than I’d expected, but surprisingly easy to hold. Maybe not something I had any intention of using, but I felt like if I ever needed to, it would have been possible.

“Do I even want to ask where you got that from?” Sadie asked, hugging her knees to her chest.

“Stole it from a dirty cop, if you must know.”


Ignoring her sour expression, I stripped down to my underwear, sliding on my arm and shin padding, then pulled on a new pair of black pants and tied up my boots. I put on a plain black shirt, then struggled with the bulletproof vest until it was comfortably sitting on top.

The grenades came with a handy belt holster, and the baton clipped to that, handily enough. The handcuffs fit neatly into the baggy pockets of my pants.

I managed to fit black hoodie over the top of it all, covering up anything suspicious-looking. I wrapped up the look with black leather gloves, tucked the ski mask into another pocket, and climbed out the window.

Sadie made a coughing noise, and I looked back at her, but she didn’t say anything. She just stared at me with her big, brown eyes, judging me silently. I ignored her as best I could and crept away from the house.

Next step was figuring out where to go. I couldn’t just keep picking random directions from my house, or someone would be able to figure out my general location, and if someone recognised me…

I went back in the same direction as my first encounter, keeping out of the light as much as I could. I didn’t know what I’d fine, but I was hoping something would come up. It wasn’t like there was a shortage of gang crime in the city. I wondered briefly if Rachel had managed to get her police scanner working.

Inspiration struck, and I realised I did know somewhere I could go. In one of the shadier areas of the next suburb over, there was a bar that had something of a reputation for being a meeting place for one of the smaller gangs. Police had tried raiding the place a few times, but somehow the place was always mysteriously empty when they did.

I jogged most of the way there, then slowed to a walk a couple of blocks away to make sure I didn’t arrive completely worn out. It took me about forty minutes, even weighed down with the extra gear, which wasn’t too bad.

I crept up on the bar from an unlit side of the building, ears perked and listening for any indication that I’d been spotted, pulling the ski mask over my head.

Even from outside, the bar was incredibly noisy, despite the solid concrete walls. From the sound of it, there was some kind of sports game happening, and a lot of drunk people were yelling enthusiastically about it. Given the time of night, it must have been an international game.

There was a window above me, and I jumped up to grab the ledge, pulling myself up just enough that I could see inside, hoping nobody would be staring out the window with a game on the TV. Thankfully, everyone was facing the other direction, and as dark as it was outside, they might not have seen me anyway, unless they were looking for me.

For the most part, the patrons seemed like completely average people. They didn’t have that shadowy aggression that accompanied the gangs of the city, and I was starting to have my doubts about the place. Maybe there really wasn’t anything going on…

My arms were starting to get sore, but I hung on just a little longer, determined to give it my best effort. Just a little later, my patience was rewarded.

A couple of very suspicious-looking men in dark suits emerged from a back room and made their way to the front of the bar, whilst everybody else very deliberately avoided looking at them. For a brief moment I considered following them, but instead decided to take a gamble that there were more of them in the room they’d just left.

I dropped back down to the ground, and followed the wall around to the section of building. There was a wooden door that seemed like it would open right into the room, and another window, just as high up as the first one.

Worth a try. I jumped up to look through the window. As predicted, there was another half-dozen people inside, sitting around a table, talking in hushed voices. I only needed one look to know they were exactly the sort of people I was looking for.

What’s your excuse, police?

One of them glanced up, catching sight of me in the window. There was a look of confusion which quickly spread to the others as they followed the first guy’s gaze, and I swore. Six angry men stood in unison, and began to move towards the door.

No element of surprise for me, then. That was okay, I was in the mood for a good fight. Of course, even the most proficient martial artist knows six against one is bad odds, but hey, what was the worst that could happen? It wasn’t like they could kill me.

The door slammed open, and a large handgun emerged first, already twisting towards me. I throw myself into it, knocking it to the side and taking the person holding it by surprise. They must have expected me to run. I felt the pistol drop behind me, and I surged forward, hooking my leg behind their ankle as I slammed into them with all my body weight. They toppled over backwards, and I kept moving over them, scanning the room.

Five men were still moving towards the door, and every single one of them was holding a gun. Great plan, Charlie. I couldn’t afford to keep still for even a single second. Thankfully, with them all standing so close together, it would be harder for them to get off a good shot.

Unfortunately, against six armed men, I didn’t have a lot of room to play nice. I was going to have to take them down hard; all they needed was once chance to end the fight, and I knew they weren’t going to take it easy on me if they got it. Immortal or not, a shot in the head would put me out for a while.

I kicked backwards, my heel catching the guy I’d knocked over in the face. I could tell from the impact I didn’t have to worry about him getting up any time soon. The sensation of kicking a face hard enough to knock someone out was far from pleasant, but I didn’t have the luxury of being timid, not with five guns in my face.

Still moving forwards, I brought my knee up into the groin of the man directly in front of me. He bucked immediately, and I elbowed the side of his head, slamming his skull into the wall. He dropped like a sack of bricks, but I was already moving past him, unhooking the baton from my belt.

I drove the tip of it right into the next man’s sternum; the impact to his solar plexus was enough to drive the wind out of him. It distracted him long enough for me to shift my grip and slam the side of it into his throat with enough force to send him staggering back, choking and struggling for breath.

Three down. Not fast enough. The back of a pistol collided with the side of my head, stunning me. It was followed up by a brutal punch to the gut, but thankfully the bulletproof vest absorbed the worst of that impact. I grabbed a can of pepper spray as he raised a gun to my face, and sprayed him right in the eyes. He grunted loudly and dropped his gun, stumbling backwards and rubbing his eyes. Good enough.

I managed to duck under another punch, thankful the close quarters meant being hit was more likely than being shot. Baton still in hand, I jabbed a man in a pressure point on the back of his leg, and he dropped to his knee almost immediately. My next blow caught him in the back of the head, right in the soft part at the base of his skull, and he collapsed forward, limp.

With five of the six thugs effectively dispatched, the last guy had a clear shot, and before I could do anything, he took it. The shot was deafening in the small space, and it hit me right in the chest. Two others followed. The force of them knocked me off my feet.

I couldn’t remember ever feeling an impact that powerful before; it felt like it sucked the entire life out of me. I could barely see, my lungs felt completely empty, and my entire torso ached. I had no sense of balance or orientation, and panic washed over me.

The guy got cocky, standing over me with a sneering grin on his face, gun pointed down, right at my face. I didn’t know exactly what would happen if he pulled the trigger, and I didn’t want to find out. Summoning the last of my reserves, I kicked him in the ankle, distracting him long enough for me to grab the gun and wrestle it out of his hands. I tossed it aside, then grabbed his arm, using it to pull myself up. He reacted quickly, punching me in the face, and I staggered back almost before I’d managed to regain my balance.

He lunged towards me, the anger visible on his face, and my body was almost too sore to move. He grabbed my shoulders, forcing me backwards, but instinct kicked in and I twisted sideways, allowing his momentum to carry him past me.

I kicked him in the back of the leg as I shoved his back, and he fell face-first. Before he could get up, I kicked him in the head, then dropped on him, pressing my knee into his back. I pulled out a pair of handcuffs and used them to bind his wrists behind his back.

The guy I’d pepper sprayed was starting to recover, and I grabbed the baton again, slamming it into his throat. He staggered back, and I hit him again, on the side of the head.

Fucking Hell.

The whole skirmish had barely taken a minute, but it felt like an age. I stepped back, suddenly exhausted.

At that point I realised I had absolutely no idea what to do next. Tie them all up and leave them for the cops? There was nothing the police could charge them with. I couldn’t just leave them out cold though, could I?

This is about sending a message, remember?

“Tell your bosses, this city isn’t yours anymore,” I said, trying to sound intimidating. I wanted to follow it up with something badarse, but couldn’t think of anything.

Weary, I trudged back out the door, before any of them recovered enough to start round two. My body was sore all over, but it was still an improvement on the last two times, and I wanted to keep it that way.

I thought about going home, but it wasn’t where I really wanted to be. What I wanted was to talk to Rachel, to tell her what had happened. I wanted her to be excited for me, in a way I knew nobody else would be. I wanted to share my victory with her. Any why not? There was nothing stopping me.


Next Week: It Was My Fault

Chapter 17 – You Will Be Safe, Won’t You?

Ten Months Before Impact Day

Aidan and I ate dinner together most nights, but it was rare for Mark to join us. Usually he ate much later, reheating whatever was around and taking it back into the study with him. Whenever he did eat with us, neither Aidan nor I really knew what to do.

The three of us sat in relative silence, Aidan and I glancing over at each other every so often, just to confirm that yes, it was awkward, we both felt it. Mark seemed completely oblivious to it, though with him it was always difficult to tell.

I’d always thought of Mark as a strange-looking man. He was kind of elongated, thin and long without being particularly tall. His short hair was starting to turn grey, and he looked perpetually tired, but never weighed down by it. His mannerisms were almost always slow and deliberate, as if he were making a point of every slight movement.

“You’re in a much better mood today,” Aidan said to me, trying to break the silence.

“You think so?”

“You do seem a little less dour than usual,” Mark chimed in.

“I don’t even know what that means,” Aidan complained.

“He’s calling me gloomy,” I translated for him. Aidan nodded, then snickered. I glared at him.

“I would say more melancholic,” Mark said, as if they were radically different concepts. I think he was just trying to annoy Aidan.

“Dad, we’re having dinner, not writing an article,” Aidan snapped. He was always a little touchy about vocabulary.

“And you have done a wonderful job with it once again,” Mark praised him, diverting the conversation.

“Oh, it was nothing.” Aidan was suddenly embarrassed. He was easily the best cook in the house, and even though he clearly enjoyed it, he always treated it like a chore.

“So, Charlie, what brought on this sudden shift in persona?” Mark asked, surprising me.

My mood had improved, that much was certain. A couple of months ago, I’d been depressed to the point of being suicidal. A lot had changed since then. Mostly with Rachel, and with my burgeoning scheme to make the city a safer place. Neither of those were things I was comfortable discussing with my adoptive family.

“I seriously don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied.

“Well, you definitely seem different,” Aidan said. I really wished he’d just keep his mouth shut.

“Perhaps a special someone has entered the picture?” Mark ventured, his probing grey eyes locking onto mine. It took all of my self-control not to react at all.

“We tried that angle already,” Aidan said.

“We?” Mark asked, his curiosity shifting.

“Liz and I already asked, I mean,” Aidan clarified, embarrassed again.


“Don’t you think it’s weird how he says ‘we’?” I asked. Aidan glared at me, so I smiled sweetly back.

“Weird? Not at all,” Mark said, and Aidan’s sigh of relief was almost audible. “Noteworthy, though…”

“What are you trying to get at?” Aidan snapped, shrinking down in his chair.

“I believe Charlie is trying to deflect the focus on the conversation onto you.”

Dammit, he’s right.

“Y’know, if you and Liz are like, dating or anything, you can just say so,” I said.

“We are definitely not dating,” he said.

“Well, that is disappointing,” Mark said indifferently. “You two always look so comfortable together. And how about you, Charlie?”

“How about me what?” I asked, wondering if I could get out of this without lying. Mark could always tell when I was lying, and beside that, I didn’t want to lie about Rachel. I just wasn’t ready to have a coming out conversation with two straight men.

“Do you have a boyfriend at all?” Aidan pressed, tasting revenge. I’ve told him too much.

“No, I don’t have a boyfriend.” And if you keep pushing, I’ll punch you so hard-

“Well, it’s better for both of you to focus on your schoolwork, of course,” Mark said. “But do remember to enjoy your youth before it gets old.” He chuckled at his own joke; he was the only one.

“Why do you always talk like such a weirdo?” Aidan demanded.

“He doesn’t want anyone to forget that he’s a writer,” I offered.

“Doth my tongue offend thee, dear child?”

Aidan just rolled his eyes.

“So, what about you, Mark?” I asked, changing the subject as far away from Rachel as I could. “You don’t often have time to eat with us.”

“Well, I just so happened to have wrapped up another story. And besides, if I didn’t eat with you both once in a while, you’d forget what I looked like entirely.”

“Would that really be so bad?” I asked, my smirk challenging him to fight back. Amusement twinkled in his eyes, but he didn’t say anything.

“Working on anything interesting?” Aidan asked.

“I like to think everything that I work on is interesting,” Mark replied vaguely.

“Interesting to us, he means,” I clarified for him.

“Ah. Well, no, not unless either of you have suddenly developed an interest in local politics.”

“Nope,” I said flatly.

“Not really,” Aidan added.

“Then I am no good to either of you, I’m afraid,” he said solemnly.

“Aww, don’t say that,” I comforted him. “You’ll always be good to us, so long as you keep paying the bills.”

“Charlie!” Aidan cried, mortified. I just laughed.

“Well, I am glad to be of use in some way, at least,” Mark replied evenly.

“Dad, she’s only joking.”

“A lot of truth is said in jest,” Mark said, feigning offence, then lightened his tone. “Truthfully, being able to provide financially for the two of you is very important to me, so I’m not in the least offended.”

“See? He’s fine,” I said, vindicated.

“Well, now you can make yourself useful, and clean up,” Aidan said, scowling at me.

“Ugh, fine,” I grumbled. It was only fair.

“And will tonight be another late night out for you, young Charlotte?” Mark asked, making me freeze up.

I regained my composure, twisting around to glare at Aidan. He threw his hands up in a display of innocence, a look of genuine surprise on his face.

“I didn’t say anything!” he protested.

Crap. Left with no way to avoid it, I decided to opt for playing it cool instead. Maybe if I acted like it was a totally normal thing to do, he would believe it.

“I might step out for a bit of fresh air later, I guess,” I said nonchalantly.

“Well, be sure to take your phone with you, just in case,” he replied mildly.

That’s it? That was almost too easy. It seemed suspicious, but I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

“Seriously?” Aidan asked, clearly unimpressed.

“I trust her,” Mark told him.

“I don’t think it’s about trust,” Aidan argued.

“And when you’re a father, your opinion on the matter will carry an equal amount of weight,” Mark replied dismissively.

“Hah!” I laughed victoriously at Aidan.

“But you will be safe, won’t you?” Mark said to me, his tone and expression serious.

“Yes, Mark.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear it.” He pushed his chair back, and stretched out. “Now if you’ll both excuse me, I still have plenty of work to do.”


Next Week: This City Isn’t Yours Anymore

Chapter 16 – I Get Bored

Eleven Months Before Impact Day

I banged on the door to the security room, hunched over, my free hand pressed against the gaping wound in my stomach, praying it wouldn’t heal too quickly. It hadn’t hurt as much as I’d expected, but that didn’t mean it didn’t still sting.

A few seconds later, the door opened, and a very confused middle-aged white guy with uneven facial hair was staring down at me. I could understand his confusion; the security room was pretty far in, and I’d had to take a very specific route to get there unnoticed. Rachel had planned the whole thing out, of course.

As soon as he saw my stomach, and the hands covered in blood, his confusion turned to concern. I almost felt bad for tricking him.

“What on earth…”

“Please help me,” I croaked, playing up the pain I was in. I grabbed the doorframe for support, leaving a bloody handprint. We’d already discovered my blood evaporated after a while, so we weren’t worried about forensic evidence.

“What happened? Are you okay?” He grabbed me gently, guiding me into the room, letting me sit down in his chair.

“There was… a man…” I said, slumping, as if it were getting harder to support my own weight, even sitting down. “I think… I got away…”

“I need to call an ambulance,” he said, more to himself than me.

“Already… did…” I said, clumsily pulling the fake phone out of my pocket. “Just need to… lie down…”

I collapsed forward, holding my breath, and holding down the one functioning button on the fake phone. He caught me, too distracted by me to notice the gas slowly filling the room.

“You poor girl,” he said, his tone that of a worried father. He probably had kids of his own. I really hoped he didn’t react badly to the gas.

Out of the corner of my eye, I realised he had a window open. I really needed him to close it, or the gas would take a lot longer to fill the room.

“It’s cold,” I said weakly, aware that the wound was already closing up. Please don’t notice. “Could you… close the window… please?”

“Of course, of course,” he said, quickly getting up to close it. “I think I have a towel, just keep pressure on the wound until the ambulance arrives. Oh, that smell…”

Shit. Think fast, Charlie.

“I think… Sorry, I think the knife… might have hit my colon,” I lied, through gritted teeth that were only half acted. The wound was healing, sure, but the ache was going to last for a while yet.

“Well, if you can stay tough until the ambulance arrives, I think I can deal with the smell,” he said, sounding a little guilty.

You don’t deserve this.

“You’re a good man,” I told him. “Sorry to be doing this to you.”

“Don’t you worry about it. You’ve been through enough tonight as it is.”

I didn’t say anything after that. I just held my breath, waiting for the gas to do its job. I had actually wondered if it was safe for me to inhale it, but we hadn’t had a chance to experiment.

It only took a few more minutes before he was too delirious to realise he was being drugged, and only a few more after that until he was out completely. It was almost a relief to see him that way, peaceful and calm. Not that it did anything to ease my guilt.

I dropped the phone case on the floor. It would break down into unidentifiable dust after a while, hopefully letting me leave without a trace. A few fingerprints maybe, but I’d been pretty careful.

I opened the door and slipped out as quietly as I could, shutting it behind me to make sure the gas stayed in the room. There wasn’t enough to kill him; it would wear off long before that, and once we were out, we’d call an ambulance anyway.

I made my way towards unit E17, like Rachel had said. She’d mapped out a path for me, to make sure I avoided the patrolling guards.

She was already there waiting for me, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed, smiling at me. My stomach hurt, but when I saw her, it did a little fluttery dance. She was so cool.

“How’d you go?” she asked, but before I could answer, she pulled me in closer and kissed me. Much as I hate to admit it, I immediately turned red. “I’m sorry about stabbing you,” she added.

“Totally worth it for that,” I said, smirking. “That guard… he didn’t deserve that.”

She sighed. “I wish I could have thought of another way. I really do, but that was Athe safest thing I could think of, for them and for us.”

“I know,” I said, squeezing her before pulling away. “I appreciate your help.”

“So, you ready?”

“The sooner we’re out of here, the better. How do we open the lock?”

“What you don’t know how to pick a lock?” she asked, mocking me.

“You do?” She grinned. “Of course you do. Why am I not surprised?”

“I get bored,” she said defensively. “It’s not like I have a TV, or the internet. I don’t even have a phone.”

“We really need to get you out of that house more,” I muttered.

She crouched down in front of the lock, pulling a couple of small metal pins from her bag. What didn’t she have in there?

“It’ll happen,” she said, distracted. “But for now… Got it!”

She turned back to grin at me, and I’d never seen her look so proud. I gave her some quiet applause.


“I am, aren’t I?”

“Show off,” I said, rolling my eyes.

We rolled up the door, and a light flickered on, illuminating the small space. The two of us stared, momentarily stunned by the small arsenal laid out before us.

The unit looked like somebody was stocking up for an apocalypse, or a small war. I didn’t realise the police had that much weaponry. I had to marvel at just how much he’d managed to steal, though.

To my delight, most of it was non-lethal. A cache of firearms wouldn’t have been at all useful to me, so I was glad to see plenty of things I recognised as being designed for crowd control, rather than killing people.

“Alright, let’s grab as much as we can,” Rachel said, her eyes lighting up a little.

There were several large black backs sitting in a corner. We grabbed one each, and began stuffing them full of as much as we could cram in them. When we literally couldn’t fit anything else in, we zipped them up, throw them over our shoulders, closed the roller door, and ran. Rachel led the way, still knowing exactly how to get through without being seen.

We didn’t stop running until we were well clear of the storage facility, collapsing against a wall several streets down. The two of us just lay there, struggling to catch our breath, occasionally glancing over at each other and just grinning.

“How’s your stomach?” Rachel asked, when she’d finally started breathing normally again.

“See for yourself,” I replied, lifting the bloody top up, revealing an entirely unscathed stomach. It didn’t even hurt anymore.

“That’s incredible,” she said. She reached over and touched the area where the knife had gone in, tracing her finger along my skin. Then she realised what she was doing, blushed profusely, and pulled her hand away again. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“…’s okay,” I said, also mumbling.

Another awkward silence followed, until the sound of distant sirens snapped us back to reality. We exchanged worried glances, and silently agreed it was probably time to move on.

I pulled the bloody top over my head and wrapped myself up in the hoodie, glad for the extra warmth. Rachel was pointedly looking away as I changed, so I snuck up behind her and rested my hands on her hips. She jumped, but didn’t pull away.

“Thanks for figuring all this out,” I said, as she twisted around to face me. We were roughly the same height, which meant our faces were right in front of each other. I could feel her warm breath on my cheeks.

“Thanks for trusting me,” she said, sneaking her hands into the front pockets of my hoodie. It had the added effect of pulling us just a little closer together.

I leaned into her, enjoying the feeling of her body against mine. She tensed up a little, but then tilted her head slightly and pressed her lips against mine.

We stayed that way for probably a lot longer than we should have, given the circumstances, but neither of us were willing to pull away.

“I’m starting to see the appeal of that kissing thing,” I admitted, a little reluctantly.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said, picking up my bloody top. “We should toss this in a random bin. Did that security guard get a good look at you?”

“Maybe,” I said. “Would have been hard not to.”

“Maybe the drugs will mess with his memory. Just in case, how do you feel about getting a new hairstyle?”

“Do you not like my hair the way it is?”

“Just trying to be practical,” she muttered. “I think it’s cute.”

“Well, I was hoping the lack of a stab wound would be enough to exonerate me, but I guess a new look wouldn’t be the worst thingin the world…”

“For now, let’s just get this stuff home and hidden, okay? We should take one bag each, in case one bag gets found.”

“Good thinking,” I said. “And, you know, thanks. For tonight.”

“We can have a proper date next time,” she promised. “But I’m glad you didn’t have a terrible time.”

“With you? Never,” I said.


Next Week: You Will Be Safe, Won’t You?

Bonus: If It Takes A Thousand Lifetimes

98 Years Before Impact Day

After five years of training, she was finally ready. She’d been challenged and pushed and passed every test, and now, at long last, she was ready. Ami was to be deployed on her first mission, with Gabriel as her supervisor.

She understood now why’d he’d done what he’d done. She knew why her family was dead, her home reduced to rubble. She knew why she and her brother had been spared, brought to this city, given new lives.

For five years, she’d trained to fight, to protect her new home, her new family. To survive in a world mostly reduced to chaos and death. She’d studied, watched and learned, and gotten used to a life she’d never chosen.

She made new friends, growing to respect Haylie, the AI that ran the city’s infrastructure, and Alice, the girl who looked younger than she was, but was actually older than pretty much everyone. She’d started performing, and had a small following of fans. Everything was going well.

“How are you feeling?” Gabriel asked, as the aircraft hovered over the bow of the sinking cruise ship.

“How was this thing even still running?” she asked, looking down at the 150-year-old technology below them.

“Dedication and luck,” he said. “Ships like this are one of the few places still safe from humans. Their populations will do just about anything to keep them floating.”

“Reminds me of home, a little,” she said. “Small, isolated community.”

“Fewer inhumane medical experiments here,” he said dryly.


“You’re clear on the objective?” he asked, resting a hand on her shoulder.

“Talk to their leaders. Offer them new homes and lives within Genesis cities, in exchange for any tech or resources we can salvage before the ship sinks.”

“And do it fast,” he said. “The longer you take, the less we get.”

“Yes, sir.”

Taking a deep breath, she leapt out of the aircraft, creating a telekinetic cushion to break her fall. A few panicked glances were shot her way, but most people seemed more concerned with getting to lifeboats than worrying about an intruder.

The combat bodysuit felt comfortable around her, and her swords were a reassuring weight on her back. She wasn’t expecting any danger on the ship, but it always paid to be prepared.

Floor plan memorised, she made her way immediately to the captain’s cabin, brushing past any panicked civilians she met on the way there. A pair of guards stopped her, guns raised.

“Don’t take another step,” the one on the left said, in perfect French.

“I was wondering if there was anyone still protecting this scrap heap,” she replied, in passable French.

“If you’re here to scavenge, you can wait until we’ve evacuated,” the guard on the right said.

“Actually, I need your help,” she said. “I couldn’t care less about scavenging.”

“We’re not exactly in a position to help,” the first guard said.

“Just let me talk to your captain,” she insisted.

“No,” the two guards replied in unison.

Rolling her eyes, she wrapped them both in telekinetic energy, holding them in place. They were so weak, it barely even felt like a strain. She strode right past them, opening the doors without moving a muscle.

The captain whirled, taken by surprise, and three other guards raised their weapons, aiming at her head.

Boring, she thought.

All three guards found themselves disarmed, their weapons floating uselessly above them. The captain’s eyes grew wide, and he backed away.

“What do you want?” he demanded. The two door guards stormed in, only to be disarmed just like the others.

“To make a deal,” she said.

“We don’t have time,” he insisted.

“Hear me out.”

“Talk fast then,” he said, not really having much choice.

“I can fix your ship,” she said.


“I have more than a passing understanding of engineering, and the equivalent of an entire team in manpower. It won’t even take long.”

“What do you want?” the captain asked, sceptical.

“How many trained soldiers do you have on board?” Ami asked.

“Around eighty,” the captain said. “Why?”

“In about forty minutes, someone is going to board this ship, and come looking for me. I need you to kill him.”

“We’re not assassins,” the captain protested.

“He is,” Ami said coldly. “And incredibly dangerous. So your options are you either lose your ship and half your population, or you keep both and help me kill a murderer.”

The captain looked around at his guards, still frozen in place. He took a deep breath, swallowed, and nodded.

“He’s dangerous enough that you need our help?”

“He’s dangerous enough that I’m not taking any chances,” she said.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll give the order.”

“Give me command,” she said. “I can use your soldiers more effectively than you can, and I know what he’s capable of.”

“Y-yes, ma’am.”

“Give them twenty minutes to prepare. I’ll be fixing the ship.”

He just nodded, and handed her a headset. She gave him a fake smile, walking out of the room and freeing the guards from her telekinetic prison.

“I will kill you, Gabriel. If it takes a thousand lifetimes, I will kill you.”