Gunfire in the distance. Figures trading punches. The rumbling of explosions. A metallic body running in the distance. My body screaming at me for every step I take as I sprint forwards.
Karina, Lamar, Jones, and R8PR are behind me, but we’re all running as fast as we can and gaining on the giant mechanical man trying to run away from us.
Blyth is running away–actually running away. It’s absolute madness to me. In the middle of a battle, a guy who’s stronger than me by magnitudes is actually running away.
It’s absolute madness–until I see the scene around me.
The secret base is collapsing around us. The bottom floors are self-destructing beneath us. If this floor gets blown up too, then… Oh, that’s why he’s running away.
We leave the hallway and enter what looks like a hangar bay, albeit eight stories under the earth. There’s strange pods littered around and people running into them. There’s war machines that look like tanks or mechs, but I don’t have enough time to look at them for how closely my eyes are following Blyth.
All of these Ascendant baddies are running away around us. One of the gray-hooded men enters one of the pods, and then the whole thing turns into a blaringly loud vehicle. It sprouts a drill and then digs into the rock wall– and far far away from us.
Blyth is surely trying to escape, but it’s too late for him. I’ve already caught up to him!
I leap up and tackle Blyth with all my might. It knocks him off balance and he topples to the floor, but it’s also ridiculously painful and sends me skidding on the concrete as well.
Scraped knees and ruined pants… And near-death experiences with annoying villains… But I get up, brush off my jeans, and raise my fists.
Blyth stands back up and shoots a laser eye my way. I narrowly dodge.
“Running away to fight another day?” I ask.
“The Ascendants have a plan you won’t even comprehend,” Blyth says. “It’s bigger than you or me. We have a prophecy to fulfill.”
I take his moment of ranting to lunge and attack him at his few remaining fleshy bits–
–And he grabs my by the neck and hoists me into the air.
“Y’know I… always hated your company,” I say through choked breaths.
Blyth laughs. “Anything else you want to tell me to break my poor heart?” he asks. “Did you tell all your friends never to shop Blyth again, is that it?”
“This is so much bigger than corporations. This is a matter of the future of mankind. The planet is in turmoil, Morgan Harding. We’re damned, and we did it to ourselves. The Earth is dying. The Ascendants are its salvation.”
Getting kind of… hard to breathe…
“You know what? I changed my mind again,” Blyth says. “I’m going to kill you after all.”
“Can… you… not?”
“I bet you thought your life was going to play out completely differently, didn’t you? You thought you’d stay in some dead-end job the rest of your life. You thought you’d coast by, get married to that fat girl over there, have two kids. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? Normalcy?”
I’d speak, but my throat is currently being crushed.
“It’s pathetic. Technology gives us limitless potential. We can become masters of domain. But urchins like you are holding us back. In fifty years, not a soul will be alive who will remember her name. How does that make you feel?”
Once again, can’t reply to you, genius, you’re choking me out.
R8PR… where are you….
Eyes… going black…
Life flashing before… Is that Ruri…? Why… Her…
I’m writing on the ground, panting, clutching my throat. Gasping for air. I hear a shriek, but I can’t tell if it came from me or someone else.
When I finally look back up, I see R8PR, holding back Blyth with both his hands over his face. He’s zapping him with a surge of electricity through his highly conducive metal body. He’s not stopping. He’s just giving it to him, and he’s screaming.
R8PR lets Blyth go and he falls to the ground. He gets back up, swears, and grapples at the robot. But the robot holds him back.
This is something else.
In fact, R8PR isn’t entirely himself right now. He has a robot body he hijacked, and about six arms in total that have been wired onto himself. Each of them throws a punch, and each of those punches lands a dent in Blyth’s body, and each punch sends a volt of electricity into him.
This is a curb-stomp battle.
R8PR’s expression, which comes entirely from the emotions in his LED eyes, remains completely neutral. But with every blow to Blyth, it looks less neutral, and more menacing.
This robot, the most dangerous creation alive–is what everyone told me back when he first met. He’s the number-one fugitive in Atlanta. Maybe the world. And he’s my closest ally.
Punch. Zap. Punch. Zap.
The first sentient robot, making full use of his abilities for the first time.
Blyth is already out; he’s completely unconscious despite still standing. I don’t know how much of the man is left at this point, but it’s clearly not as much as R8PR had hoped. He slowly stops his attacks, lets his foe rest, and lowers his arms, all six of them.
Blyth is gone, but still standing. Just… motionless.
R8PR grabs his neck and–
I look away. I hear metallic tearing sounds and that’s enough for me.
The scene goes quiet.
Any remaining bodyguards or soldiers lay down their weapons and get on the ground. Motokawa’s men continue to swarm the room and shout orders.
R8PR looks at me stares at me with those neutral eyes a few seconds more, and then shuts down. His body, too, stays standing.
Lamar and Karina rush up to me and lift me to my feet. Karina puts a hand on my cheek and gives a small smile.
Jones drops her knife and looks at our ally’s handiwork. She says nothing. She doesn’t look at me.
Yuri Motokawa passes me and says, “We did a good job.”
The pain overwhelms me. I pass out. Third time today.