Hammer Blow

When finally the pair stumble out of the ruins of the building and into the open air they pay no attention to their surroundings. Rather, they pause for they are both in need of the respite. Dana checks the wound to her flesh; still plenty of blood, exactly what she feared.

Sanjiv meanwhile sucks down air. He’s not as young as he used to be and though he isn’t about to admit it, there is a tear in his flesh from that leap which nearly cost him his life. A ragged piece of protruding metal that forms the mesh into which the concrete would have been poured and the sections slotted was the cause. Still, he isn’t about to make a big deal out of it. What he does need is to find out where they are and how to get away as fast as possible.

“Location update.”

“You are on the south side of the building. Updated data suggests your best way out of the complex is through the building to your north east.”

“What is it?”

“Status: abandoned.”

“Then what was it?” Sanjiv is aware of anger creeping into his tone. He suppresses it for the moment and hopes to instead use it to help fuel his need to push forward through the pain, when it arises. He is convinced that it will. He’s suffered enough injuries during his life and has become well versed in how they afflict him as a result.

I should have seen this coming! How? He offers no reply. His decision is made. This is his fault. He should have been more careful and urged Dana to do the same, but he didn’t. Now she’s bleeding and… Shit, she’s bleeding! Need to tend to the wound. That’s what we agreed.

The middle aged man turns toward the other former Datastar, she’s in a squat and being propped up by the outside wall of the building that almost became their tomb.

“We need to sort this.” He says as he goes to examine the wound. It’ll be the first time he’s done so. Before he gets the chance the director slaps his hands away. His eyes go wide, an incredulous look flashes onto his face resulting in his wide eyes issuing a silent query to the woman.

“We… haven’t… the time. Let’s… get…”

Sanjiv will hear none or it and stops her refusal in its tracks with a shake of his head. A snarl appears across Dana’s face in response, but the middle aged man doesn’t care. This is meant for her own good.

“That’s… an order.” The director uses as an excuse meant to dismiss his intensions.

Unfortunately for Dana, the middle aged man chuckles in the face of her arrogance. At any other time it would have sent him into a rage, her too. But not right now. Right here, at this moment, her demand strikes him in a completely different manner to how it otherwise would, hence the chuckles. If he were not in mild pain they would be even more than that.

“I’m not an agent. I don’t have to follow your orders Dana.” The smile remains across his face as words he’s wanted to say for years, but in a very different tone and manner, spring from his lips.

For her part in this dance, she wouldn’t call it an argument, the director smiles too. Alas, hers quickly morphs into a stifled round of coughing. It makes her sound sickly as well she is.

“Steady.” Nothing else is said until her coughs eases. Once it does he continues, “If you’re unwilling to accept aid does that mean we’re moving?”

“Of course it fucking does. Now give me a hand.” Without pause Dana reaches for Sanjiv who, at any other time might consider leaving her. To do so now would be cruel. They are in this together. Whatever the reason for all this is and who they are being hunted by are questions for another time.

 Why did they stop firing before you jumped? I don’t know. Answer the question you’ll know the reasons for everything. What does that mean? Sanjiv finishes helping Dana up and without another sound from his subconscious he launches into a struggle filled half dash heading north east of their initial position.

The building they’re heading for is unremarkable, but clearly it is without a doubt not a ruin which has suffered from the effects of a raging fire. And thankfully, the small courtyard area between their point of origin is exactly that, small. They reach the door to their goal in no time. Sanjiv tries the door only to find it’s locked. He groans angrily at the revelation only to quickly prop Dana up against the wall and then begin barging the door with his shoulder. The door resists, as he expected it would; the pain caused by the blow throbbing through his shoulder. His conclusion is that it’s a welcome distraction from the dull ache of the tear.

“You’re injured.” Dana blurts all of a sudden shocked by the reveal that Sanjiv is bleeding. Right after she feels what can only be termed as regret; for Sanjiv has clearly kept this from her because he deemed it necessary, and that makes her feel dreadful.

“It’s nothing. Now…” He slams shoulder to door. “…let me…” Another shoulder barge; this time followed by a larger swelling of pain for his efforts. “…get this door…” Sanjiv never finishes for on this quick succession of triple barges the door explodes inwards.

The middle aged man stumbles through the opening narrowly avoiding falling flat on his face. He thanks his lucky stars and quickly hurries back to Dana only to find she has a panic stricken expression on her face.

“What is it?” The middle aged man queries confused and concerned, the wrinkles along his brow illustrating the emotions the look on Dana’s face brings forth in him.

The director’s response is not to say a word but rather raise her arm. Sanjiv follows its pointing outstretched index finger. The discovery is not as miraculous as he might have imagined. Rather, it is quite predictable really; the marching advancement of the faceless grey figures. At the sight of them he feels compelled to urge why they cannot be afforded more than a marginally positive development before being thrust back into the fray. There is no answer, as he expected. So he grabs a hold of Dana and hauls her, rougher than was his intention, inside.

The director lets out a squeal. She had not been expecting what had come and regrets her outburst instantly. That is until the director reminds herself that their pursuers know where they are. The revelation strikes as Sanjiv slams and begins to barricade the door with some abandoned detritus piled close by. To him its presence feels a little convenient and yet he casts the thought aside in favour of bracing himself against the blockade across the door as it starts to bounce back and forth in its frame.

“Where are we?” The director queries while hobbling.

“Your escape route can be found on the other side of the building. Hurry, pings are closing on other access points. They will converge on your location if you remain in place.” The Doctor Tabar AI advises without answering the question Dana delivered unto it.

“Time to go Dana. They’ll be through any minute.” The former male Datastar announces while leaping from the junk he’s blocked the door with. Once clear he grabs her hand, throws her arm over his shoulder so they can break into a half jog.

“No wait. Something is wrong.”

The middle aged man pays no mind to her exclamation. Because of that they manage nine steps. Then Dana digs her heels in. For her efforts she is almost torn off her feet. Sadly this results in a massive jolt of pain from the wound to her flank. Somehow she suppresses the scream but manages to refuse to take another step.

“Why have you stopped Dana? We can’t delay. They are right on our tails. We have to get out of here.” This is the closest the director has seen Sanjiv to panic and it is nothing like when they’d been Datastars forced to watch events unfold, helpless.

“The AI, it didn’t answer my query. It gave instruction I didn’t ask for, why?”

“Does it matter? We need to run. If they catch us…”

“What Sanjiv, what will happen if they catch us?”

“They’ll kill us, you know that!”

“Will they?” The director asks suspicious, one eyebrow raised.

“Of course they fucking will! You’ve been hit. What clearer proof do you need that they’re trying to kill us?” The middle aged man doesn’t want to say it but he will if she gives him no choice but to.

“Then why didn’t they shoot us back in that courtyard?” The director is offering a rational point but Sanjiv currently couldn’t care less. Why’s, if’s and but’s are best saved for after; once they know they aren’t going to die. From experience Sanjiv knows that if you issue such questions in the field you tend to never see the next sunrise. He is fully aware Dana might not know that. She doesn’t work out in the field, but Sanjiv does. That is why he shouts, “Who the fuck cares!”

“Stop, think, for just a minute…” Dana is begging he complies. If nothing else so that he might help her ascertain as to whether the suspicions rattling around in her head are founded in any way or not. Are they even suspicions? I don’t’ know!

“Pings are closing, rapidly.” The AI announces interjecting and cutting the director off.

“We have to get moving Dana. Please.” Sanjiv offers his hand to her. He needs her to take it, regardless of if she wants to.

The look in his eyes tells him everything she needs to know; he is not a part of this. She nods, without realising it, and takes his hand. He yanks her forward, pulls her close to him, the door behind them detonates inwards, Dana curses, Sanjiv does too, but they both continue to flee as best they can.

Passing room after room the AI indicates which turnings they need to make and where. The guidance offered by the brain clone of Doctor Tabar is incredible. It reminds Dana of what resource could have been available to her had the AI not been insistent regarding following Sanjiv.

Once more bullets begin to whizz and zip past them. They both duck, instinctively so as not to get hit, but show little sign of stopping. Naturally, due to them stooping to present smaller targets, their pace slows a tad as they continue to conform to the directions offered to them.

Randomly, Dana gets a glimpse at an interior of one of the rooms they pass. Immediately it strikes her that something is wrong. It isn’t abandoned at all, like the AI had claimed. Rather, its choke full of gear and not the civilian kind either.


The man doesn’t hear his name being called, even when Dana resorts to doing it over and over. The clatter of gunfire is too much; it drowns her out, as does the pounding of his heart and the voice of the AI giving him directions.

He turns another corner, hauling the director along. They cross a threshold, enter another corridor, he turns again. Bullets narrowly miss his head; he curses but doesn’t hear it. Then they turn at a final junction only to barrel into a large open room where they come to a skidding halt.

“What the fuck? This isn’t an exit!” The middle aged man exclaims enraged, confused, lost.

In his chest his heart beats at such a tempo he fears he might be to go into cardiac arrest at any moment. Ignore your heart! We need to get out of here!

“Sanjiv, listen, we’ve been played.” The director begins to explain without being sure as to what she is saying.

“What do you mean?” He pushes Dana away from him, so that she is at arm’s length, to look her dead in the eyes. He feels a betrayal coming.

“Access point needs insertion. Drop me in I’ll release the lock to aid your escape.” The voice of the AI interjects at just the right moment to make Sanjiv forgets why he’s looking Dana dead in the eyes. And so instinctively he instead listens to the AI, pulls her chip but only after having it visually conveyed to him where the device needs to be inserted. Several seconds later it’s done. Yet, Dana for some reason is screaming no. The screams reach his ears too late. Out of nowhere the faceless grey figures appear all around them, guns levelled and ready to fire.

“What’s going on?” Sanjiv queries looking to Dana for he hasn’t a clue why she screamed, only that she did. He gets no reply, her face twisted in defeat as she raises her hands in surrender.

The lights, ones Sanjiv hadn’t been aware of the presence of, blink out en masse. They plunge the room into darkness leaving the middle aged man to wonder what might come next.

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