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“What is going on?” I demanded. “Why is the Syndicate here?”

Jacques shot an inquisitive eye toward Sovereign Gunner, who looked like she had just eaten something bad. “Our lack of a codex wasn’t the only reason we were motivated to abandon the area. We also had news that the Syndicate was going to make a move on Argos city. It’s their modus operandi. They send people into the city, trying to secure alliances, acquire information, and sabotage, and then the army comes in and takes a nearby location that will allow them to launch an attack on the city. It stood to reason the mall would be an excellent spot to set up base to launch an attack.”

“That’s not the only reason, is it?” Jacques made a face.

She winced. “They may be looking to breach the colony. Few colonies have remained as untainted as the Nove colony. It’s sure to possess advanced technology from the prewar area.”

“So, the blockade is true?” I demanded.

“It’s hard to say…” Jacques shrugged. “The colonies were designed to last a hundred years. Few managed to achieve it successfully, but the Nove colony has. Their interaction with the outside world is set to a minimum. Even if they were blockaded, they could last years.”

“Years, the Syndicate has if they take this location.” Sovereign Gunner responded as she opened up her desk and a keypad rose out of the desk. “However, if they fall, I don’t intend to join them! Damn them for attacking now.”

I shook my head, still confused. “Why would they attack you guys? This place is well defended. If they just waited until you all left, they could have attacked during the ensuing bloodbath.”

“Think about it, Daniel. If you were going to take a city, when would the best time to attack be? When a single raider group possessed the area after already trashing it, or at the point when every major power was collected in the same place and distracted.” Jacques explained.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I just wanted to deny what was happening. This was a really dangerous situation. I had thought for once I was going to be able to escape a situation without a fight, but it looked like it was impossible now. As I felt my chest constrict, a small alcove opened up, the bookshelf on the other side of the room parted to reveal a rack of guns. Sovereign Gunner ignored the pair of us and immediately began selecting an assortment of weapons.

“You guys can keep speaking until they are blowing down the door.” Sovereign Gunner picked up a large gun and cocked it. “I plan to get out of here. Are you coming?”

“Power in numbers?” Jacques offered. “Adversity makes strand bedfellows, it seems. I’ll help myself to some guns.”

“Help yourself.” She responded, walking away and heading to a door that was hidden behind the  

My eyes darted to Hazel who was still lying unconscious in the cryochamber. If I grabbed her now, I could still teleport out of there and take her home. Then, I could return back to safety with Kiera. Yet, there were two problems with that. The first was that there was no way to do this without exposing my ability to Jacques and Sovereign Gunner. The second was that I’d be abandoning Katarina and Red to whatever happened.

“Daniel, Allons-y!” Jacques had already grabbed several weapons from the wall.

I reached out and grabbed a pistol. There were other weapons, but I didn’t have much experience with rifles and larger guns. When I wasn’t in power armor and being directed by an AI, I just didn’t have the confidence with them. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to carry my sister if I had a larger gun. I went to follow Sovereign Gunner, but then Jacques grabbed me. I shot him a look, before grabbing several clips and handing them to me.

I blushed as I loaded one clip and pocketed the rest. These weren’t anything so fancy as the auto-regenerating smart guns and turrets. If there were any, Sovereign Gunner made sure to grab them before offering us the remaining scraps. The two of us finally started to move, although Sovereign Gunner was already moving down a hidden stairway in the back. At this point, the facility was shaking with a boom every few moments, and the sound of shouting and gunfire had grown much closer.

I quickly scooped up my sister. There was a time where I wouldn’t have been able to carry her on my life, but I was much stronger after the Allmighty injection, and I had so much adrenaline shooting through my body that I could probably pick up three people her size if I had to. I decided that I would work with the others to escape. At the very least, I needed to warn Katarina and Red and help them escape. Once they were safe, I would jump away with my sister. If things got bad, there was still time.

The other reason I didn’t pull my sister back right away was because of a small fear deep inside. What if she couldn’t be brought back? I had no clue how Marsh and his raiders had taken her in the first place. She hadn’t had a Perco when she was brought over. Of course, neither did I that first time, but I always had felt that was a fluke, or some kind of calling. When it came to my sister, I wasn’t sure if she had sorcery or not. It was supposed to be rare, and while Kiera had it, I didn’t know about anyone else.

In short, my decision had originally been too rushed, and if I had returned to my world only to find my sister had been killed in the transfer, I’d never be able to forgive myself. I wasn’t going to make that decision a second time unless I had absolutely no choice. With Jacques practically pushing me out the door, I didn’t have any time to check her status either.

“Do you want me to carry the girl?” Jacques asked as he noticed me holding my sister.

“Absolutely not!” I responded, pushing past him.

He gave a laugh, scratching the back of his head. I ran past him down the stairway as fast as I could carry her, and Jacques followed from behind. I had hoped we’d come out into a fortified space, but no sooner did the door at the bottom open than we walked right into the line of fire. Jacques grabbed me and yanked me down behind a pile trash. I nearly dropped Hazel, but gunfire went flying overhead where I was just standing.

As I looked up, I could see Sovereign Gunner kneeling and shooting over the trash pile like it was a barricade. Jacques quickly ignored me and started giving her covering fire. I tried to reposition my sister, but quickly realized that given she was taller than me, I could hold her crouched at all. I had no choice but to put her down behind cover.

“Sovereign!” A person cried out.

We turned behind us to see that a group of slavers and various other resisters were at the end of the hallway. They were the ones who had been exchanging fire with the Syndicate while helping people escape. I could see there was an open grate at their feet. It was another sewer system! They were escaping through the underground corridors. No wonder Sovereign Gunner had went this way.

“I’ll provide cover,” Jacques declared, “Go take your sister!”

I nodded, and was just about to grab her when I heard another shout. I looked the other direction, and that’s when I saw Red and Katarina. They were farther up the hallway, hiding crouched in a storefront that was taking heavy fire. There was a group of armed men that were moving forward, and they’d be right on top of them in less than a minute. I ground my teeth, shaking for a moment.

“Take her!” I cursed as I pulled out my gun. “Both of you go! I’ll draw fire.”

I knew the decision was dumb, but I had no clue what else to do. I couldn’t watch as Katarina and Red were captured, or worst, killed as I ran away with my sister.

“Daniel, wait!” Jacques shouted, but I knew if I waited I’d only talk myself out of it, and then it would be too late to do anything.

With a shout, I ran out from the cover, shooting wildly at the group. “Katarina! Red! Move!”

The men seeing me running forward had paused their movements, but as my bullet struck one of their vests and bounced off, they quickly took cover. The fire on the location allowed Katarina and red to move from their location to somewhere farther back in the store. They kicked open the door that would let them outside. Hoping that it was enough and they’d be safe, I quickly looked to dive under some cover, but just as I was going to do that, a bullet struck me in the chest.

The one-use shield cracked as I was thrown to the ground. It didn’t pierce me, but I still felt like I was hit with a sledge hammer. Before I could do anything else, I felt to hands grab me. I tried to fight them for a second, but they started pulling me away from the enemy. The enemy started renewing their firing, but I was pulled back into a small side alcove. It wasn’t as much cover as I had before, but it was enough that we weren’t in immediately danger.

However, getting out of the current situation would be tricky.  I looked up, still a bit dazed, to see Jacques was my savior.


“Didn’t I say I needed your abilities, non? I can’t let you die on me just yet. However, try to avoid making any more stupid decisions.”

“Th-thank you.” I responded, my feelings for Jacques suddenly feeling complicated.

He had tried to kill me once, and now he was saving my life. This world really was a strange place. As I sat up, I realized I had dropped my gun when I was shot. Jacques rolled his eyes and handed me another gun.

“I see you lost Veronica too.” He frowned, but then his eyes widened.

I looked the direction he did, and my mouth fell open. I had just seen Hazel walk by. She had stood up, and seemingly in a daze had walked away from cover. Jacques shot a look back at Sovereign Gunner, who gave a helpless shrug as if to say it wasn’t her fault. She had been focused on escaping and didn’t realize the girl had woken until she had walked out.

I immediately lunged out from the corner. “Hazel!”

Hazel turned around, and at that moment I felt another strike in my chest. This one didn’t have a defense. Blood exploded out as I collapsed to the ground, striking Hazel across the face. A horrified look appeared on Hazel’s face, but it was suddenly replaced with fury. She turned back to the man who shot her like she was going to rip him apart, but the man merely grinned, lifted his rifle at Hazel, and then fired.

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