Mal’s legs pumped beneath him as he sprinted over the cracked asphalt.
He could hear air filling his lungs and expelling with a whoosh.
He was gaining on his target.
He eyed the surrounding buildings, abandoned factories and warehouses. A lot of places to hide. Which was why he was directing his prey towards the docks. Flush him into the open. Mal knew that’s where Ephram waited, and no one could beat Ephram this close to so much water.
Mal felt energy tingle on his finger tips, begging to be released. But he held it in, he didn’t need it right now. Everything was going fine without extra force. Just as they were about to reach the docks, the man veered to the side, crashing through a wide window. The sound of glass tinkling around him as he used his arms to protect his face.
“Dammit,” Mal cursed under his breath as he turned to follow the man through the shattered window. It was dark inside, almost pitch black except the glow of the moon behind him. Mal scanned the interior, all the exits were boarded shut. There was no escape. Mal felt the tingling of energy on his palm and let it build up until sparks shot from his hand to bounce off of the ceiling beams, it lit the room in a shower of sparks, showing broken pallets piled high in the corner. Mal stepped forward, harnessing more power as he walked.
“It’s useless to run.” Mal’s voice echoed through the empty warehouse. “You know what I am. You know what I can do.”
“Border scum!” came the terrified answer.
The target was definitely hiding behind the pallets.
Mal gave a scoffing laugh. They always needed to get in one last barb. Like it would give their life further meaning to be defiant to the end. Didn’t they know that no one really had free will anymore.
“I might be scum, but I’m the scum who’s got you cornered. So why don’t you just come out here.” Mal really didn’t want to have to wrestle the guy out from behind the boards. He had just re-entered the field after a shoulder injury and it would be a bitch to injure himself again on his first active mission. He could feel the energy sizzling on his hand, traveling up his arm as it tried to escape his hold.
“Mal, what’s your status?” Dante’s voice sounded in his ear comm.
“I’ve got a rabbit.” Mal didn’t bother lowering his voice, it didn’t matter if the man heard him. In some cases, it helped mess with the target’s mind, made them easier to catch.
“Do you need assistance?”
“No, I have it handled.”
“Transpo is loaded. We’re just waiting on your deposit.”
Mal took a step forward, bringing his hand up, ready to release a small burst of energy. He would just collapse the precarious pile onto the man and pluck him out from underneath. Best way to catch a rabbit.
But the man darted out from behind them, shooting wildly with a gun he pulled out from his waistband.
“Shit!” Mal dove to the side, throwing a burst of energy in front of him to divert the bullets. He missed one and it hit his side as he fell to the floor. With a hiss he pressed his hand to his ribs. When his hand came away wet he grimaced. From the feel of it, he had just been grazed, but the guys were going to rag on him when they saw he got hit on his first active mission in two weeks.
He pushed himself up, brushing the dust from his pants. He walked over to the fallen body of the man.
“Shit,” Mal said again, this time a resigned oath. The deflected bullets had hit him right in the chest. Dumb bastard. He should have just come quietly.
This base of resisters had been big, two dozen men and women who defied the general. Mal had already hauled five of them to the transpo himself. But they had been alive. He hated it when he had to collect bodies.
He bent down to enter the stats on his wrist unit. Recorded the time of death and scanned the ID chip, it was probably a fake, but it was protocol. Mal never breached protocol. He stood with a sigh, wiping the blood from his hand absently onto his pants.
He stuck his hand in his pocket, his fingers brushing a piece of warm metal. He pulled it out and looked down at the broken charm. It was small in his calloused hand. Tarnished, the fake gems had almost completely fallen out. It was worn in places where his thumb had rubbed over and over. But it still held that distinct figure eight, an infinite loop. A promise that no matter how hard it got, this wasn’t the end, there was still time to stand back up.
The story doesn’t end when you’re knocked down, not if you get back up.
He tucked the tarnished charm back in his pocket and clenched his teeth against the ache that wanted to take up residence in his chest. Then he bent down and lifted the body over his shoulder.
“Got the final deposit,” Mal said into his comm. “Mission completed.”