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It was around dinner by the time we closed in on the jewelry shop, but I didn’t feel like eating at all. My stomach was clenched so hard and was shaking so much I was afraid to open my mouth lest I bit my tongue. We were at the corner of the street, and Katarina had stopped me and began to pull out her weapons. She had used a mirror to peek around the corner.

“They have six out front. It’s difficult to say how many they have on the inside.” Katarina whispered. “Ok, here’s the plan. You need to get them to chase you. Get them over to pass that ally way right there. Then, I will pick them off one at a time. Most of them don’t appear to have guns, and those that do will probably miss.”

“What do you mean, probably miss!”

“I don’t make any promises!”

“You…”

“You’re the one who wanted to do this. Be grateful you have a bodyguard willing to take such a risk. If I didn’t think we could do this, then I wouldn’t be willing to try it.”

“I like the mayor’s plan better; we sneak in and activate the robot and let it do the work,” I said worriedly.

“I’m not saying you can’t try that, but you can either come in the front or the back. Either one, they will notice.”

I looked around and then nodded across the street. “You see that fire escape leads to the roof. We climb up it, then take the roofs over. We jump down and enter from up on top. Right?”

Katarina narrowed her eyes at me and then sniffed. “My plan would have worked too.”

I was beginning to get the feeling that Katarina wasn’t much of a strategist as well. She was good at shooting things and knew when to keep low. That was about it. The pair of us snuck to the fire escape I had indicated, Unfortunately, I was too short, and after jumping embarrassingly a few times and failing to reach, Katarina ran at the wall, wall running up three steps and grabbing the first rung of the raised ladder.

She then swung back and forth, acrobatically swinging herself up onto the metal ledge with only the slightest thud. With a click, she slowly lowered the ladder. Okay, she had some other skills as well. The ladder creaked as it went down, and every second of it left me feeling dread and worry. When it touched the bottom, I nearly rushed to the top, frightened the Bling had heard the noise, and were now coming to the corner to check. It wasn’t until I was on the roof that I calmed down, perhaps making more noise than I should have. Katarina checked with her mirror, and she found that the bandits hadn’t moved at all.

“Either they didn’t think it was a threat, or they’re too blitzed out of their minds to understand.”

“Blitzed?”

Katarina blushed. “Bandits tend to do a lot of drugs. It’s the big difference between them and wastelanders. They were no longer able to face the cruelty of this world, so they succumbed to vices to avoid coping.

“I see…”

The pair of us began to make our way from roof to roof, slowly approaching the two-story building that made up the jewelry store. We were on a four-story building next to it. On top of that, the jewelry store had a parking lot around it, putting an extra five meters from the jump. At this position, We could see another two bandits in the back.

“What now, genius?” She demanded.

At least I had been upgraded from Idiot. It’d be nice if it wasn’t dripping with sarcasm though.

“There is a line running from this building to that one. We’ll climb to the midpoint, and then drop a rope and slide down. Then… pray they don’t look up.”

“Pray? Hmph… I don’t like to leave my life in the hands of deities.” She growled.

“Then, what do you suggest?”

Since you won’t be the distraction, I will.” Katarina sighed. “I’ll start shooting them. They’ll all come as soon as they realize they’re being attacked. They won’t be focused above them while they think someone is attacking ground level. You need to climb across, drop down, get in the building, and activate it before they capture me.”

“What makes you think they’ll capture you?” I licked my lips. “They may just shoot you.”

I was worried she might get hurt. She seemed surprised when she realized this.

“Haven’t I mentioned it before. Females like me have a lot of value as sex slaves. They’d want to sell me to the slavers… probably after using me for their fun first, just like the last bandits we met.”

“R-really…” I felt even less like I wanted her to go.

“It’s the plight of growing up in one of the colonies. Ready access to gene splicers and laser treatments means most women in colonies are beauties compared to the waste.”

“You’re a colonist?” My eyes widened in shock.

“Tsk…” She looked away. “Idiot… only you would be surprised by that.”

Without another word, she was already running away, heading back toward the ladder. I went to call after her but covered my mouth as I remembered the bandits just under me. Instead, I reached into the pack and pulled out a rope. Only now did I hope that it could handle my weight. I had never considered this kind of thing when I hastily stuffed it in my backpack.

Looking down, I could only gulp at the four-story drop. This was a feat that Katarina could probably do with ease, yet I was the one who needed to climb across this cable and drop down like freaking spiderman. I had just been brainstorming! We could have come up with a plan! Even while I mentally complained and berated myself, I still tied it to the rope as best I could, preparing myself.

I had only just got the knots tightened when I heard a gunshot. A man down on the ground fell to the floor. It looked like Katarina’s aim was as good as always. There were shouts, and everyone started to run down the street in the direction the bullet came, using a stack of cars as their barricade. The two in the back ended up going into a building behind the jewelry. I realized that there must be a path that wrapped around and came out at the side. Anyone approaching wouldn’t be able to see the pair. They were likely the real attack, an ambush from behind. I wanted to run back to warn her, but I didn’t even know where she was hiding at the moment. If I got that robot working, this would all be worth it.

Holding on to the rope, I did a running jump. It was like ripping off a band-aid. If I went slowly, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to handle it. The rope tightened and thankfully didn’t break. The wire was covered in something somewhat slick, so the rope slid nearly half the distance before friction stopped it. I reached up and grabbed the wire, walking along it with my hands. I moved as quickly as possible until I was over the building. Then, I grabbed the rope and started to let out slack.

I was hearing more gunfire, and it sounded pretty busy below. More people seemed to have come from inside the building. That was best for me. The idea of sneaking into the building by myself was terrifying, so every person less was another safety net. I let out slack in a panic, falling too quickly. My hands got burned painfully, even through the gloves I was wearing, and I did the last ten meters as a free fall. By pure chance, the rope stopped two feet from the roof with a snap.

I felt my hip bones creak at the jarring fall. Pulling out the machete, the only weapon Katarina allowed me to carry, I cut the rope. If the fall caused my front to ache, the two-foot fall onto the concrete roof now hurt my back. Fighting a groan, I worked myself to my feet. I didn’t know the progress of the battle. The gunfire seemed to be diminishing. She could have already been caught by now, or worse, dead.

I went to the door on the roof to open it and realized it was locked. What was with my shitty luck! I was just about to curse when my eyes drifted to the side. There was a giant hole in the roof where it had collapsed in. With a sigh, and rolling my eyes, I quickly moved down from the roof, entering the building. I was now on the second story. I turned into a hallway and stopped short.

There was a man at the end of the hallway. However, he was looking out the window with a gun in hand. He must have been their lookout and sniper. He didn’t hear me come down, although I wasn’t going to take any chances. I moved forward slower from this point forward, turning off as quickly as I could manage. I found a stairway and crept down it.

The deeper I went, the more ridiculous I found this plan. We had no clue where the security bot was. They could have moved it or even thrown it out. I was essentially wandering randomly in hopes I found my saving grace. Perhaps, the mayor’s plan wasn’t so bright anymore.

“Are they coming back? Did they kill that shooter?” A man’s voice came from the room next to mine.

I carefully peeked out the door I was in, to see the main lobby of the jewelry store. The smashed display cases made an L, and I was in the back corner behind them. There were three bandits still in the lobby, but they were all peering out the window, anxiously waiting for their men to return with whatever they caught. My eyes ended up landing on the security bot. It was on the other side of the room, lying on the broken counter, propped up like some kind of idol. I was certain that was the bot I was looking for.

“Damn! Three dead, at least. I’m gonna put that guy’s head on a spike!”

“It was a woman, I think.”

“I’m gonna rape her to death!”

“What’s with the double standard?”

“Shut up, Gary.”

I carefully slipped out into the lobby, hiding behind the case as I made my way over to the bot. I was feeling more and more panicked with each step as the fate of Katarina was unknown. I ended up moving too fast, only to trip over something, stumble, and hit the ground with a thud. I looked back, and in horror, I saw a woman sitting there that I hadn’t noticed before. She was sitting in one of the cabinets under the display with only her feet sticking out. Our eyes met. My hand tightened on the machete. I had no choice, I had to stop her from crying out.

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