Not Alone in the Dead City

Martina crouched low as she picked her way through the dead city, sprinting between scattered debris. It was hard to tell what used to be a street and what used to be a building and what used to be a body. She popped out from behind a twisted rail switch, wrenched up from the ground but still clinging fast to its crossties, and charged fifteen meters before sliding beneath a half-collapsed overpass. The mask filtered out the smoke, but not the stench of mildew.

She controlled her breathing and listened carefully for a kink in the silence. There was none.

She had only her sidearm. Her rifle would have slowed her down, and if anyone saw her, her best course of action would be a one round exit anyway—six-shooters have been doing that job for 1,000 years; her handrail was up to the task. Although, she’d much prefer not to have to resort to that if she could manage it.

Focus.

Out for four. Hold for four. In for four.

She rolled out from under the overpass and ran beside the pocked and darkened remains of brick wall, high stepping over bloodied hooded figures who had served as the paint for the wall’s macabre mural. No one had hauled off the bodies—not an execution then; self inflicted. Martina caught her boot on a loose piece of chain link and tumbled headlong across the gravel, her handrail slipping from her grasp and clattering into the open.

Shit. Focus damnit.

She pressed her palms into the ground to pick herself up and heard a hollow clang. She brushed away the accumulated specs of pulverized city to reveal a manhole. Score one for the good guys. She pried it open with her fingers and lifted the lid. Carefully, she turned and prepared to set it down softly—

“I wouldn’t go down there alone if I were you.”

She dropped the heavy lid with a thud and instinctively took a firing stance, though her sidearm was still in the dirt.

“God damnit, Rico! What the fuck are you doing here? You’re gonna get us fucking killed!”

He smirked that stupid lopsided mouth of his and saluted lazily. “No I’m not. I’ve been alive for as long as I can remember. It’s all I’ve ever known, really. I’m not about to die now. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”

“You’re such an—“

“Inspiration? That’s very kind of you, but really it’s not necessary.”

Before she could get another word in, Rico had slung his rifle to his back and disappeared into the sewers.

“Stupid fuck,” she mumbled to herself. She replaced the manhole cover, retrieved her weapon, and found a spot to hide. She’d cover the exit, but if he was anxious to get his ass killed, he could have at it. She lay prone in a bit of shade and kept her eyes on the sewer. “Fuck him.”

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