START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST SECTION
Armand woke up on his back. He turned his head to the side. His ears were ringing, but he could still hear. People had come out of rooms down the hallway. They were talking, putting their hands to their mouths, pointing at burnt skin and screaming. Some just stood around, hovering like ghosts.
He pushed with his legs, moving himself back to the wall. They were on the way, now. All of them. T.S. and Soul. Local cops. Planetary militia. The whole show. And of course, the Stellar Core heavyweights. In a place like this, the corp would do what it wanted. They’d have him in an isolation tank ASAP. Yes they would. All to themselves. Waterboarding first. For a while.
Armand pushed back against the wall and used an elbow to get his body upright. He was a bloody mess. He looked down at his torso. That alpha had really done a job on him. He was hit several times in the gut and the upper leg. Maybe more. It's over. He looked up and closed his eyes. Yeah, that was some alpha.
Finch on guns. T.S. at the helm. Armand fought to clear his mind. He was a little hazy. There was another. Somebody. That girl. That cowboy girl... Finch on guns... That means Soul will be coming. Jesus. Soul will be coming, and there will be no holding him back.
Armand shot off a hasty scribe. It flashed across Soul's retina in lightning blue characters:
[Armand: get kel out fisrt].
[Soul: hang in there]
Out of the corner of his eye, Armand saw one of the deltas move, crawling for the opposite wall. There was a short-haired college kid down the hall. Braver than the rest, she was coming over to help them both. Armand raised his left hand palm-out to her. He shook his head and waved her back, drawing his pistol, letting her see it. The girl stopped dead in her tracks and half-turned, looking for a place to hide. In the middle of that moment, the delta lifted his head groggily, saw Armand, and reached for his sidearm.
—— —— ——
“Armand’s moving.” Soul was watching the feed but talking to T.S. “There’s blood coming out of his right ear. I don't know if he can still hear. There’s a delta in there with him that’s starting to move." Soul selected direct audio to Armand and said, "Raise your left if you can hear me.” Soul went silent and waited.
Tirion was reverse-thrusting down as the Recluse approached the campus. The waypoint marker was dilating. He could see the parking lot and make out the quad. “Kel, you on the roof yet?”
“No.” In that split-second transmission they could hear her breathing hard.
Tirion turned to Soul. “How’s he doing?”
Soul said, "Sorting things out," his eyes glued to the upper right monitor.
—— —— ——
Armand and the delta were only ten feet apart, sitting with their backs against opposite walls. Armand raised his arm for another shot. He couldn’t aim. It was hard to hold his head still. He fired two shots that went wide right, hitting the wall two feet from the delta's shoulder.
The delta fired one into the floor. There was blood coming out of his nose and he was firing left-handed, trying to steady his arm on a raised knee.
Armand tried to brace the pistol with both hands on his knees, but sitting like that almost made him pass out. He dropped his knees and held the pistol centered against his stomach, middle finger on the trigger, index extended. Point-shooting, he fired three times hitting the delta once in the sternum. The delta’s pistol dropped, soundless, to the blood-sponged carpet.
Armand relaxed his grip. His body was numb and cold. The college kid was watching from around the corner down the hall. Crazy chick. He beckoned weakly with a few fingers.
She hesitated, looking both ways like a 5-year old crossing the street, then began tip-toeing in his direction.
Armand spat a string of blood.
BACK TO PART ONE: SECTION ONE
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