2304: Fortunate Sons

Posted: April 26, 2013 by Kelly in deathmatching, fortress, stories

2304: Fortunate Sons

Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord

Their boots are loud on the pavement behind her, clearly audible even over their shouts and the sound of her own heartbeat. She knows she’s bleeding, feels the throb of the wound in her thigh, but she ignores it. She’ll have time to worry about it later, or she’ll run out of time to worry about anything at all, ever again. She rounds another corner, deeper into the fortress maze. It’s her favorite fortress, the North-West one. Close to home. She’s had many a victory there. This is her homeground, and this preliminary match is supposed to be a formality, at best.

And yet she’s running, carelessly flinging herself around corners to put distance between herself and her final two competitors. Robert Lahey, ex-military man, good with a railgun, bad with people, slow in his draw but flawless in his aim. Christian Sykes, convict, sloppy with a flak-cannon but fast, so very fast. Individually they pose no threat to Valentina, but together they’re lethal.

The problem is that they aren’t supposed to be together. There had been nothing in their files to suggest that Sykes and Lahey would get along well enough to form an alliance, let alone an alliance that could hold. And yet here they are, two against one. Odds that she doesn’t flinch at on any given day, but today hasn’t been in her favor so far. Out of seven kills so far only one is on her name. Sykes and Lahey are a force of nature together, scoring four kills in the first hour, and another two in the second.

She bares her teeth in a grin and forces herself deeper into the fortress, their voices calling out to her from far too close by. They’re not even trying to be stealthy anymore. And why should they? They’ve got the upper hand, the undefeatable duo that should not be, and all she has are her guns, her wits and a leg that’s going to give out long before she can risk seeking out a regen point. She’d be cocky too, if she had been in their shoes. The only thing she has over them right now is fortress experience, and she’s going to need every shred of it.

“Come out, pussycat!” Sykes hollers behind her. He sounds wild, crazy, and for the first time in years Valentina wishes she had decided to participate in the bootcamp, just to gage with her own eyes where his weakness lies. She’s seen hour after hour of footage, and yet she seems to have missed crucial facts in her preparation, not in the least regarding his unexpected alliance with Lahey.

“He’s going to kill you, you know,” she whispers, glancing directly at where her probe hovers. It’s cloaked, invisible to her eyes, but she knows how it moves by now. “He’s going to kill you when you least expect it… he’ll ram that railgun right in your back and rip your spine out where you stand.”

There’s a delay of several seconds, but she knows Stender relays her taunt when Sykes howls behind her. “I’m going to piss on your corpse, bitch!” He shouts behind her. His voice is distorted by the distance. Two hallways, at most. Close quarters, where his flak canon will tear her to shreds if he gets her in his sight. She hears a thunk behind her, and she imagines it’s Lahey, hitting Sykes in the back of the head.

“Stay focussed. We kill Marin, then we’ll duke it out between us. Eyes on the prize, my friend.” Lahey sounds gruff, but in control, the way he had in all his interviews. The contrast with Sykes’ rage is jarring.

“When this is over I want to see the fucking footage of how this alliance came to be,” Valentina tells the probe hovering to her left.

“If you survive this,” Stender says. He almost sounds bored, which tells Valentina that he’s worried, and that Hugh is probably egging him on. Valentina arches an eyebrow at the probe, not gracing him with further response.

The hallway stretches out in front of her, ending in bright light. The fortress courtyard. She grits her teeth and pushes forward, forcing herself into a sprint while Lahey and Sykes close in behind her. Just a little further, and she’ll be less vulnerable to Sykes’ flak cannon at least.

Behind her Sykes cackles, and she knows he’s rounding the corner. She can hear him flick the safety of his gun as she throws herself outside. She lands on her knees and elbows on the cold stone of the courtyard, just as the blast of the flak cannon thunders overhead. She feels the searing heat of the shrapnel as it cuts into the stone beside her.

“Nowhere to hide now, Marin!” Lahey calls out behind her. She rolls to the side and pushes herself to her feet, ignoring the sharp stab of pain in her thigh. Later. She’ll deal with that later. She has less than twenty feet to gain speed, but that’s alright. She’s done this with less. A treacherous voice inside her tells her that it’s been years since she last tried it. She pushes it aside. Self-doubt is for dead people.

She sprints forward, racing towards the wall in front of her. Too high to climb, they say. She can almost hear Stender inhale sharply. She’s four foot away from the wall when she leaps, her left foot hitting the wall perfectly while she pushes off with her right, propelling herself upwards. For a breathtaking moment the ledge seems too far away. Inches maybe, but enough for her to fail. Then her fingers curl around the edge and she’s six feet above the ground, pulling herself up onto the ledge while her feet scramble for purchase. She rolls over the ledge just in time to hear Sykes screech.

“Bitch! Come down here so I can kill you!” He fires another shot at her, shrapnel burning its way into the wall below her. Useless, in the open space of the courtyard.

“Where is she!” Lahey roars behind Sykes. Val’s grin is replaced by a wince as she rolls onto her wounded leg. She can feel the blood oozing from it, the wound made worse by her antics.

“She ran up the fucking wall, man. Right up the fucking wall like a fucking spider or something.”

Her fingers close around her gun, slowly easing it out of her thigh holster, just as Lahey steps out into the courtyard. “Bullshit,” he says. She imagines him taking in the height of the wall and thinking of her wounded leg. “Did you lose her, you worthless piece of shit? Did you?!”

“No man, I’m telling you she ran up the wall! Right there, that wall!” Sykes fires again, sending a spray of shrapnel over the edge. Valentina holds her breath, pushing herself farther away from the ledge. Sykes might still do damage by accident.

“Well… this was a fucking waste of my time.” Lahey mutters in the courtyard beneath her. She resists the urge to peer over the edge to see what he’s up to. She can hear Sykes pacing back and forth like a mad bull, and she can hear the whir of Lahey’s railgun, charging. One… two…

“We need to get up there, man. There’s gotta be stairs or something. She’s up there, I’m telling you, she’s u…”

Lahey pulls the trigger, cutting Sykes off for good. The shot thunders through the fortress, the bullet burying itself deep inside the wall. Valentina rolls into action, dropping off the ledge in the time it takes Sykes’ headless body to sag to the pavement.

Lahey stares at her wide eyed, swinging the barrel of his railgun towards her. One… two…

“Too slow, motherfucker.” She grits out, her gun in hand. She squeezes the trigger once, twice, three times. Two of her bullets hit him in the neck, above his armor. The third lodges itself in his skull. His railgun clatters to the ground, followed by the man himself. Seconds later Val follows, falling to her knees with a wince.

“Guess you’ll get to see the footage after all.” Stenders voice tells her. She glares at the now decamouflaged probe.

“Shut the fuck up and send a pick up, you useless piece of shit,” she grouses, pressing her hand to her thigh.

“Such language. Should I be worried that you’re slowly turning into Huey?” There’s mirth in his voice now that the battle is over.

“You’ve got me. That’s my lifelong aspiration, to one day be as pretty as Huey.” She rolls onto her back and stares up into the blue sky.

“Stay awake, will you? You’ve got the media to attend to when you get back.”

“No rest for the wicked…” she mutters, “Seriously though, fuck this match and fuck all alliances. They never last. I wish these dumb fucks would stop trying.” She kicks out at Lahey’s corpse. It sends another spike of pain through her leg.

“You can’t blame people for trying, Val. And look on the bright side, you won again and no one was bored. A glorious victory if ever I saw one.”

A few feet away from her the feet of headless Sykes spasm, his body not yet caught up with the inevitable.

“Yeah… glorious. Come pick me up already, ok?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s