Cyberpunk Challenge: Nightfish Part 13

Story Part 9

Sohl started moving, as fast as he dared to with the low light confusing him, making him see giant plants in front of him, when they were really smaller and strides away. Just as he reached Blue, his mind caught up with him. His father and the other man both carried shock rifles. Sohl had never seen his father holding any weapon before, didn’t think his father even knew how to use one.

By the door, he found four children: three boys, all under twelve, and one girl who was only six. All four were in their sleeping clothes, scared to death. One of the boys was fidgety, only a few seconds away from a panic attack.

“Have you seen my mother?” Sohl asked. He figured they might know her better by her first name. “Have you seen Lentia, or my sister Septima?”

None of the children spoke, but two of the boys glanced toward the door.

“Stay here!” Sohl ordered, as he rushed inside. He hated the complete darkness that greeted him. “Mom! Septima! Can you hear me?”

“Sohl!” His sister’s voice returned to him, along with a baby’s loud cry. “Do you have a flashlight?”

He did, back in his room. “No, just reach out and guide yourself with the wall.”

“I can’t! I have the baby and its things!”

Sohl started across the corridor. “I’m coming to you! Walk toward my voice! Where’s Mom?”

“Can’t you hear her? She’s banging on the doors on the far end, but the people inside aren’t answering! How can anyone sleep at a time like this?”

The first thing Sohl thought of was the solar cells on the roof. If whoever attacked them had used EMP grenades, the sudden electromagnetic disruption might have reached down to affect the people living on that side of the building. The people might be dazed, unconscious or worse.

He reached his sister. “Sep, take the baby outside. The children out there, start leading them up the stream. I’ll go find Mom and catch up to you!”

“What about my friends in Green?”

“I’ll try to get to them too, but first Mom!”

Septima brushed past him, the frightened baby still wailing its lungs out.

Sohl kept his hand against the wall, starting a near run toward the far end of the building because he knew time was short.

A flash of light caused him to wince. Half a second later, he heard the boom of an explosion and felt the shockwave throw him onto his back and tumble him for yards. Fragments of hard and sharp poly-crete, the material used to 3D-print the building, battered, scraped and became embedded in Sohl’s thighs and legs. There was no pain, not yet, but there was darkness as the blast faded away, and darkness also in his head as his consciousness faltered.

#####

“Move!”

Sohl had gone blind. He couldn’t hear anything but a loud buzzing that sounded as if bees had invaded his ears.

“Move!”

His legs were moving, but he didn’t think he was controlling them. Stagger… crash into brush… fall over… face in dirt.

“This way! Come on!”

The voice, distorted, like trying to shout through an ocean. Talons ripped into his arm, pulling at him, a giant eagle taking him into the sky.

“Move!”

One step, two steps. Legs burning, leaking… Why were his legs wet? Stepped in something even wetter… bad step… tipping over… splashing… gasping for breath.

“Sohl, get up! Get up!”

The eagle shrieked… came in for another pass, to carry him into the hills… No, it wasn’t an eagle. It was the baby crying, still crying.

“Move!”

His mother’s voice. She wrenched at the front of his shirt, dragging him with her. He took steps, had to be careful because of the rocks and pebbles in the stream. Another splash, not him this time, but close.

His mother let go, running through the stream with the screaming baby, yanking a small form up. “Get up, keep moving! Keep moving!”

Sohl didn’t like the feeling in his left leg. It burned, but burned cold. He was scared of that feeling, as if his leg was dying and would fall away from his body.

“Fuck, Sohl! I’m going to kick your ass if you don’t start moving right now!”

That wasn’t his mother, he realized. It was Septima, herding him and the children through the stream. He mumbled words, tried again. “Where’s Mom?”

Splashing, all he heard was splashing. The small form was crying. It was the little girl. Sohl sloshed through water, rocks and mud to reach her. He tried to pick her up, but that dead, sinking feeling came back. It felt like his leg was trying to detach itself from the rest of him, wanted to stay behind forever.

He clenched the little girl’s arm, hearing her scream because he’d gripped her too hard. His grip loosened. He moved toward the sound of the wailing baby, dragging the girl along because her tiny legs couldn’t keep up, dragging her like a weightless doll.

“Sep, where’s Mom?” He tried again, but he had no voice, had no coherence because his dead leg was draining everything out of him.

Shoosh!

The sound of a shock rifle, but that couldn’t be because they were in the stream now, away from all the big buildings where the fighting was taking place. The fighting… Everything came back into focus. The priests had lost the Holy Flame because they’d been shot down. His father had a shock rifle in his hands. Rory had his electric lance.

“My bow!” Sohl gasped. It wasn’t over his shoulder anymore. He’d lost it in the explosion at Blue Building. “Sep, where’s Mom?”

The shock rifle; somebody was shooting at them. They wouldn’t get very far with the baby screaming its lungs out.

Sohl crouched, feeling a jolt of pain in his thigh, his left thigh. He tried to remember the little girl’s name but his mind was still out of the game. “Listen, listen, you have to catch up to them, okay? You go on, okay?”

He pushed her. He had to because otherwise she wouldn’t have moved; would have only stood there crying at him. The girl fell into the water. She got back up and splashed her little legs away, while Sohl dug his hands into the streams until he found two rocks almost as large as his fists. He moved out of the stream, brushing against leaves and branches, hoping his sister didn’t come back right away.

Splashes were coming, big, heavy splashes that meant at least one man was running. He had to be an enemy, otherwise he wouldn’t be shooting a shock weapon at children. The man had a light. It had a strong beam, for a second pointing ahead toward where the others had run, but not at Sohl who was hiding in the plants. More splashes followed.

It was just like hunting, Sohl compared, a waiting game, and he was gifted with explosive lateral movement. The man kicked water, closer, closer, passing Sohl’s spot without looking to the side. Sohl used his good leg to propel him out, a desperate lunge with his arm stretched out. He wanted to smack this man on the head, as hard as he could, and he was close, but the rock struck high on the shoulder, close to the neck. The man grunted and fell, with Sohl falling on top of him, with one rock left, but in the wrong hand.

The man was strong, severely strong, enough that he pushed at Sohl and sent the young man flying away from the stream and onto the bank. Sohl crashed on his elbow, adding a new hurt to his already aching legs.

The man stood, pointing his bright light at Sohl’s face. “Fucking kid!”

“Don’t touch him.” Another man said, splashing water until he stood by the first one.

“He just tried to kill me with a rock!” The first man rumbled. “I’m going to break his fucking hand!”

“You touch him and you don’t get paid!”

“His legs are shredded! Who’s going to buy him like that?”

“That’s not your problem. He’s a kid and we’re here to get kids. Don’t matter what shape they’re in when we find them, as long as we don’t add any damage ourselves. Stun him and let’s go catch the rest of them!”

The second man splashed away.

“Fucking Blitz.” The one who stayed mumbled. He shined the light in Sohl’s face again. “It’s your lucky day, kid. Any other day and I’d take your fucking head off. I hate to break this to you, but your legs are gone.”

Sohl tried to remember details of the man’s face, of what he wore, what kind of gun he carried, anything he could. He noticed a small camera on the man’s broad chest, next to where the flashlight’s loop was. He’d called the other man Blitz.

“I’ll give you a good stun, kid.” The man menaced. “A real good stun!”

He made an adjustment to his rifle, before he pointed it at Sohl’s leg. With the gun’s barrel, he pushed hard at an open wound, making Sohl scream, but that was nothing compared to the pain Sohl felt when the man squeezed the trigger.

#####

This is the conclusion of the initial story arc in the Nightfish novel. You can download a free PDF of this story arc at my site Raymond Towers Dot Com, under the Freebies / Cyberpunk page.

I have one more post featuring how I came up with the overall structure for Triumph City. After that, I invite you to follow along as I describe the world-building I came up with while using Paul Gallagher’s dice rolling guide. That series will be titled Cyberpunk Challenge: Augmented Reality. I already have a post by that name, showing where you can get your copy of the guide as a Pay What You Want title.

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