Short Story: The Forgotten and the Mad, Part 2

Written by: Eevi

“Look man, I told you not to bet on black again,” she chortled back at her anguished companion. He groaned once more, collecting the various coins and packs scattered about the bunker floor into a single pot. Renrue enjoyed practicing her English with Agent Parker—but, not as much as she enjoyed watching him lose. The burly man let it get to him, every loss affecting his judgement further, every coin-toss a moment of excitement and chaos leading to further frustration and despair—truly a fascinating experience.  

“Alright, fine; red. Bet on red,” Parker grunted, tossing down one of his few remaining ration packs. “Well? Toss it.”

Ren smiled, flipping one of her coins haphazardly into the air. She wasn’t cheating—at least, not conventionally. Luck just always seemed to smile on the young Qhurothi, for a while anyway. Shifting priorities left or right, adjusting the trajectory of weapon’s fire, pushing the odds ever so slightly in her favor—all easy, simple for the voidtouched alchemist; Ren’s problem was knowing when to quit. The coin clinked and bounced off the concrete floor, coming to a firm stop on red right as the screaming started.

A colonist—human male, adolescent—blitzed into the room, looking for something, anything, he could use as a weapon. Agent Parker was already moving, his beaten and battered ACS thumping along the concrete like a stampede as he positioned himself to hold the hallway for the fleeing civilians. They were slow, slower than they should be. Four days of running and hiding will wear down anyone.

Not Ren—and not Parker; no. She grabbed the nearest elderly-looking person—bound to be in charge of something, she assumed—and asked in her sweetest, most sympathetic and ill-timed voice possible, “good friend, please explain to me what is happening? I would like to aid you if I—”

The colonist spat in her face.

Graciously, Ren opted not to rend him in twain. “Good friend, I understand that you are angry at the Hegemony, but, as you can see I’m not with—”

He spat in her face once more before wriggling out of her grip and taking off down the hallway. She noted Agent Parker chuckling at her expense over their local communicators. “Good try there, Specialist. Maybe next time don’t shake him so hard, eh?”

“Or harder,” she spat back, tripping out into the hall over a dropped toy of some kind. Maneuvering in human buildings was always a challenge for her—even in military-built structures designed to accommodate Heavy-class ACS usage; hell, even the Agent’s cannon managed not to scratch itself on the ceiling. She was, simply, too tall. Now that she thought about it further, perhaps the humans didn’t appreciate being pulled up to her level.

She’d try kneeling next time—or, maybe not. Her leg was still healing from that awful bite the other day. Maybe the humans would not mind if she spoke from a chair.

The last group of the humans were fleeing down the escape route and the barriers were holding. She smiled at them as they passed, as she had been instructed. As usual, they either did not seem to notice, or they reacted with surprise—as well as disgust, confusion, and anger; there was always anger. Lately, fear had been the predominate emotion evident amongst their faces, but that was to be expected.

Her communicator buzzed unpleasantly with static, bursts of sharp painful noises. Eventually, they coalesced into a voice. “Ren are—can you—Agent, if you can hear—your position—overrun. Evacuate to point gamma. We’ll try to—ship. We think—good luck.”

Renrue and Agent Parker exchanged glances, nodding their agreement. A few minutes later, as the first of the bugs began scratching at the last barrier, the pair were off down the hallway as it filled with flames behind them. The captain had said ‘ship.’ That was good enough for them.

Their human charges were kind enough to hold the barriers open for them—ah, no, wait; the locking mechanism was stuck. Luckily, Ren knew how to fix it. Between the flames and the additional security doors, the humans would have time for a breather before…

“Ah, friends. Yes, could I have your attention—yes, over here—thank you! Your attention for a moment, then you can all get back to relaxing for a few minutes before I open up the other doors and we start running again!”

Oops, that was wrong. Screams and wailing; always a bad sign.

One of them, the same man that had spit in her face, stood up angrily. “Don’t you have a plan to get us out of here? Aren’t you with the Board?”

The crowd agreed, cries of “where’s the ship?” and “what good are you,” or, Ren’s favorite, “stupid greyback,” resonated throughout the cramped bunker room.

Ren smiled back at the man as she reached for the door controls—Agent Parker’s voice sighed heavily over her comms. As the doors opened, she drew her odachi, its flaming generators eager to roar. “Yes. Specialist Renrue Leung, Cinderfane Paths. My specialty is combat. My plan—also combat.”

Agent Parker made a show of revving his booster rockets in anticipation as the humans stared at her in disbelief.

“Get ready to run.”

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