"Where do we go now?" My question seemed stupid as it hung in the air. Where was there to go, really?
"I say we find the quickest way out of this city, pick up any survivors we can on the way out." Snack Isle Man sounded confident, like he'd been trained for this at the police academy. "My name's Brad, by the way. Now stick close, if you want to make it out alive."
It seemed funny for me to follow a cop now that I had Special Forces training, but it did feel good to let someone else take the lead. That was something I wasn't very good at. I saw my knife on the ground and scooped it up before Brad noticed. As far as he was concerned, I wanted to be just another civilian he had to extract. I noticed something was off. We were missing one hulking corpse. Calder was nowhere to be seen, and I was sure Cook had taken care of him. I stowed my intrigue and went on following. We strode out the door and Brad hugged the wall, trying to stay low. He drew his weapon, a nine millimeter pistol. Not bad for civilians who get out of hand, but nothing to be used against an organized force. The whole city looked like it was bathed in fire, some smaller buildings reduced to rubble and much of the street torn up. Larger skyscrapers remained hollow shells of themselves.
We crept to the side of the building, towards the alley I first encountered Calder. We skulked down, keeping our heads low and stopping at the corner to check if the next street over was clear. That's when something caught my eye. Something moved, just a flash of movement, behind a burned out car parked along the street. I halted Brad in his tracks and gestured to the car.
"Did you see something?" His voice was a whisper. He was smart, but silent gestures would have been ideal.
"Something moved behind that car. Let's check it out."
"You stay put," he ordered, "I'll check it out." He approached the car with his weapon drawn. His voice boomed as he approached the car. "Whoever you are, I can help you. Just come out from hiding and I'll get you out of this city. You have nothing to fear." His last word echoed off the smoldering buildings as he stood a few feet from the car, as if fear was taunting us, always coming back no matter how hard you fought it. "Alright, you've got three seconds before I come get you. Three. Two. One." I saw it the moment he said one. A few blocks down the street in a half wrecked warehouse, a long barrel protruded from one of the many vacant windows. It shifted ever so slightly to the left, centering exactly on Brad. I had to act fast. I charged him, pulling him to the ground. As we went down, the person behind the car stood up. A gleaming figure emerged from hiding. He wore a pure white suit of armor, polished to perfection and covered head to toe in either plate or flexible synthetic armor. His helmet's visor was tinted deep blue, opaque from the outside. More importantly, however, he was about to kill us with the pure white assault rifle he was holding.
I sprang to my feet and grabbed his rifle as he raised it to fire. In one fluid motion I slammed the rifle into his chest with my left hand and grabbed my knife with the other. I rammed the blade into his throat guard, expecting a cushy layer between the plates of his chest piece and his helmet. Much to my dismay, however, the knife glanced harmlessly off, barely leaving a scratch in his armor. This was some good tech. The soldier broke my grip on his rifle and kicked me in the chest, sending me staggering back. He took aim at my head, but Brad was on his feet now. He fired off three shots, slamming the enemy in the head, but the small rounds hardly did more than my knife to the tough plate armor. It was enough to shake the guy up, though. He lost his balance, and I struck. I bent at the knees and charged straight to him with my shoulder. I planted my foot between his the moment I made impact with his gut and wrapped my hands around the back of his knees. I picked him up, took three steps driving him back and slammed him down firmly into the broken pavement with a perfect tackle.
I stood up and kicked his rifle to the far side of the street. Brad came over with his gun trained on the soldier's head. He still didn't know about the sniper, though. A bullet streaked past his head and he hit the pavement, escaping death's clutches by fragments of an inch. The soldier was getting back to his feet and I needed to act fast. I picked up the soldier's assault rifle as he charged me. He got to me before I could get a shot off, ramming his fist into my gut and forcing a painful oof! out of me. The sniper had to have chambered another round by now, and the soldier began to back up, giving his buddy room to shoot. I caught on and caught him by the wrist, pulling the soldier in front of me at the last instant. The bullet caught him straight in the head, not piercing his armor but definitely giving him a brutal shock from the impact. He dropped like a rock, and the second muzzle flash had given away the sniper's location. I sprayed a few rounds from the rifle straight at the window, and surprisingly landed a few on the sniper. They didn't pierce his armor, but I saw the rifle's barrel sink back into the window. This rifle was surprisingly accurate.
"On my six," I ordered Brad. It was funny how quickly our roles were reversed. We made a dash for the next street over, emerging from the alley into a ruined neighborhood. I looked back at a terrifying sight. Ten soldiers dressed in pure white armor were on our tail, ready to tear us to pieces. They flew single file through the alley, running faster than any armored man I'd ever seen. They had to have chip implants. The closest one fired off a burst, rounds panging off the ground around our feet. I returned three shots, bringing our pursuers to a crouch, and darted to the nearest house. It was a tall, narrow three story home made of brick, just like those around it, but not attached to them. Every floor had been burned out, but the structure of the building remained intact. Perfect.
I picked up speed and called over my shoulder. "Hey Brad, any chance you could get through this door?" A smile played across his face. He charged ahead, picking up speed straight towards the wooden door. At the last second he leaped and twisted midair, throwing his shoulder into the door. The thing exploded into a shower of splinters, falling all around Brad in the foyer. He got to his feet and ran down the hallway, emerging in a back room. He got to work on the back door, fiddling with the locks to try to get out again.
"Get that open, but we don't run until I say so." My voice sounded so much more confident than I felt. In an instant a plan formulated in my mind. The enemy had used fire based weapons on much of the city, killing the residents but leaving the structure of the buildings intact. That just might be the key. I scanned the walls as I backed down the hallway, finding what I was looking for halfway down the hall. A thick pipe snaked along the floor, up the wall, and into the next level, where I knew it did the same. This pipe carried gas to the upper levels, just like it did in every other house. If the fire bombs hit when nothing was burning gas that meant the pipes would be intact. I bashed the pipe with the stock of my rifle again and again, until finally a leak sprang. I charged to the back room, the enemy pounding up the front porch just behind me.
"Got that door open, Brad?"
"One second….alright there it is." He pushed the door open and stepped outside with me following, but I kept one foot inside. The enemy soldiers rushed through the hall, four going upstairs, the other six charging down the hall, spotting us just before they reached the middle. That's when I fired my weapon. Enough gas had built up, and the whole hall erupted in flames. The supports of the ceiling, so close to the gas pipe, groaned and gave way, sending two upper floors crashing down on the soldiers. I shut the door and Brad and I bolted across the back yard. We hopped the fence and made our way from the heart of the city into the suburbs, hopefully leaving the storm troopers behind.