The truck swerved hard to the right as Taylor jerked with the impact of the bullet. A low concrete wall sprang out of the darkness towards them and SMS flung his arms over his head. The front grill of the truck crumpled inwards and SMS, who hadn’t had time to put on his seatbelt, was thrown up onto the dashboard and against the windshield. It shuddered and cracked, but somehow held.
SMS’s head was ringing like a bell, but his instincts of self-preservation were blaring warning sirens, telling him to move. He reached for the door handle to get out of the truck, wondering briefly why the handle was so slippery before realizing that it was because of the blood on his fingers, streaming out of cuts on his forearms. On the third attempt he managed to shove the door open and wrestle himself out onto the pavement. His legs wobbled, but he steadied himself against the concrete wall the truck had hit, gritted his teeth, and straddled the wall, climbing onto the other side.
Taylor was already out and met him behind the wall. Blood was dripping down from her left shoulder and the wound in her leg had already soaked her pant leg all the way down. With her hair, her facial piercings, and her injuries, she looked like a rave-scene zombie. She was gasping and grimacing, but was somehow still holding her submachine gun.
“Run,” she ordered SMS. “Keep something between them and you. I’ll let ’em go past, and then I’ll hit them from behind. Go. GO!” Without giving him time to argue she kaleidoscoped the light around herself and vanished from sight.
SMS stumbled away from the wall, trying to hunch over and keep himself low to avoid being seen. He could hear the pounding of footsteps in the parking lot as Innis’s specials pursued him. He stumbled across a narrow patch of grass then across a street, heading for a gap between two buildings on the other side. A car’s headlights swept across him and the driver blared her horn, swerving and narrowly missing him. He pressed on, expecting a bullet in the back at any moment.
Just as he reached the far sidewalk he heard the report of a gun and the pavement beside him exploded in a puff of gravel and dust. He dove into the shadowed alley between the two buildings and looked back over his shoulder. Brenda Bailey was standing up on the low concrete wall, holding Baldwin’s shotgun. She took aim again, and SMS ducked.
He heard the shot, and then a scream that wasn’t his own. He looked up to see Taylor reappearing between himself and Bailey, the light around her shimmering in a vibrant rainbow dance of lurching waves of colour. The invisible woman, waiting in ambush, had taken the shot aimed for him. She sank to her knees, then fell to her face, and was gone.
Bailey leapt down from the wall and shoved Taylor out of the way. She had already taken three bounding steps towards SMS, reloading the shotgun in the process, before SMS regained his senses and turned to continue running.
His flight was blind, now. SMS sprinted down the alley, ignoring the sharp protests of pain from his hand and his forearms, overturning garbage cans behind him in the hope of slowing Bailey down. He came out of the alley onto a busier street and jumped recklessly into the traffic, dodging an oncoming bus and leaping in front of a minivan, which slammed on its brakes. A shotgun blast ripped through the minivan’s front bumper. SMS heard the muffled screaming of the driver.
He vaulted the containing wall around a grocery store parking lot and ran around to the far side of a long line of parked cars. Staying low, he doubled around between the cars and popped his head up for a quick peek to find his pursuers. He couldn’t see Bailey, but one of the others—a tall, thin black man nicknamed “ET” who could superheat his fingers, if SMS remembered right—was at the retaining wall, scanning the parking lot to find him.
A tickle in his ear lobe signified an incoming text. It was from Cyber. “Cross the gap!”
As SMS received this, he saw Cyber jog up behind ET, say something, and point to the other end of the parking lot. ET looked in the direction Cyber was pointing, and SMS took the opportunity to sprint across the aisle into the next line of cars.
“Bailey’s at the far end,” Cyber texted next. “I’ll draw them both the other way if I can.”
SMS peeked out again and saw Cyber signalling ET to follow him as he ran across the parking lot towards the corner of the grocery store. Cyber’s voice floated through the air: “I saw him go this way!”
SMS waited, crouched behind a car, bouncing on his knees, pulse pounding, breaths short and shallow. He saw a bus coming down the street and spotted a bus stop on the sidewalk maybe 20 metres away. If he could make it there unseen…
“where’s bailey?” he texted Cyber.
“Not sure. She didn’t buy it.”
SMS scanned the parking lot, watching the bus out of the corner of his eye. Where had she gone? It looked clear, but…
The bus pulled up to the stop and opened its doors. SMS couldn’t wait any longer. He jumped out from behind the car and dashed out of the parking lot towards the bus. From five metres away, as if in slow motion, he watched the bus close its doors and turn out into traffic. He shouted, “Hey, wait!” and pounded on the side of the bus with his fist. The jolts sent pain through his arm. He was still bleeding…
The passengers at the windows looked out at him in sympathy, but the driver ignored him and drove off. SMS bent over, hands on his knees, panting. There was a commotion behind him, people gasping and shouting, and he turned to see Bailey emerging from the parking lot, eyes trained on him and shotgun held ready.
He took off down the sidewalk.