TOMORROW, THE FORGOTTEN
Sarah stumbled and fell again, cutting her palms on the forest floor. She raised her hands and stared at her palms, struggling not to cry.
“Get up!” Temi shouted, turning back to look at her, eyes wide. She looked beyond Sarah and gasped. “Now!”
Wincing, Sarah got up, wiping her palms on her roughed-up jeans. Her blouse was torn in the left shoulder, and her right ankle throbbed. Biting back sobs, she ran. They had to keep moving. Stopping meant death, or something worse.
Temi held out her hand to her, pulling her up the inclined forest ground, dodging round trees and jumping over tree roots jutting out of the ground, aiming for the dense tree-line ahead. “Just a little more Sarah,” she said. A sound; rotors in the distance, and Temi shouted “Move!”
A missile streaked towards them just as they flung themselves over the ridge at the top. They scrambled for cover behind a tree just as it exploded, lighting up the forest a fiery orange-red, the impact sending shock waves through the forest. Sarah screamed and they both closed their eyes against the blast. Temi opened hers a moment later and turned to Sarah. “C’mon, we have to move! Quickly, before they-” A sound cut her short, and her heart fell. “Oh no,” she breathed. “The Sweepers. Quick!”
Sarah got up, pain flaring in her ankle. She screamed and fell again.
“Get up Sa-”
A metal tube landed into the ground with a loud thunk in front of the sprawled Sarah, and her eyes widened. She looked up at Temi, her eyes pleading , as five more tubes surrounded her rapidly; hands, legs, mid-point between her legs, creating a long hexagon that surrounded her completely. Temi shuffled backwards as force-fields appeared around Sarah, buzzing with energy. Red LED lights on the tubes began to blink in countdown in sync with a beeping sound, gathering speed as Sarah raised one hand within, pleading and screaming silently. Whirls of colour played across the surface of the force-field as the beeping became one long sound, and then the force-field disappeared in an explosion of earth and forest floor, taking Sarah with it. Temi threw herself backwards, turning in mid-airt into a forward roll and getting up, running.
Move girl, move.
She refused to look back. Arms and legs pumping furiously. She saw a manhole cover propped open in front of her.
You can make it.
The tubes slamming into the floor in pursuit, gaining on her.
She flexed her fingers in her gloves as the whole world faded away, her senses focused on the tunnel in front of her. Time slowed.
Temi slid across the floor and found a foothold on the ladder leading down. She looked up as tube landed in front of her, and she heard a distinct thunk behind the manhole cover. She didn’t wait as two more tubes landed on either side of the tunnel; she held on to the ladder’s sides, her soles on the outside, and she slid down as she counted down in her head. She didn’t look up as the force-field formed above her; she landed at the bottom, turned around and ran towards the light in front of her. She flinched as she heard an explosion and the sound of wrenching metal behind her. Temi threw herself into a forward roll, twisting as she regained her footing on her haunches, left palm on the ground. Nothing behind her now but wrenched metal. A wire hung from the ceiling, throwing sparks; the bulbs dimmed twice, and then steadied. Temi got up slowly, taking stock; minor scratches, but nothing serious. Her K-Bar knife was still intact in her combat belt, as well as her kyoketshu shogei; a knife with a curved blade attached to a weighted chain. She got up and exhaled. No way back now. She would have to find her way from here.
She turned and ran.
She’d been walking for close to thirty minutes when she came to a metal door with a keypad beside it. She tried the handle; it wouldn’t budge. She took out her knife and pried the keypad out of the wall, revealing the wires within. She pulled them out, toughed them together, and an alarm started on the other side as the door popped open. She pulled it open and stepped onto a white corridor.
She had to move fast. Soon the place would be crawling with Sweepers-guards.
Hearing footsteps coming from the branch off on the left side of the corridor in front of her, she ran forward, knife in hand; reverse grip.
Temi leaped just as the gun hand came into view, and then the whole of the Sweeper came into view. She slammed her knees into his chest, pinning his hand to his body, riding him to the ground, stabbing him in the neck. Slamming his head on the floor, she rolled off his corpse and grabbed his gun; a Glock 17. Sheathing her dagger, Temi racked the slide and then checked the clip. Satisfied, she took his radio and key-card, and then ran towards the end of the corridor. Stopped at the end and peeked around the corner. Clear. She moved. A door opened on her right and she shot the person who came out, not stopping to look; in this facility, anyone not strapped to a bed or locked in a chamber was the enemy. Running steps at the end of the corridor, and then two guards ran past. A third ran past, did a double-take, and saw her. Tried to call out to his colleagues; she dropped him with three quick shots. Increased her speed towards the exit, and then threw herself to the right as a rifle appeared. Squatting, she shot at his leg as it appeared. The guard screamed, falling forward. She shot him in the chest and head. Automatic rifle fire drove her into the closest room; a lab with the lights out. She shut the door and hid behind it, counting down in her head. The door burst open, and she shot the guard through it as he came in. She dragged him in, picked up his rifle as she tossed her spent pistol aside, and then checked the clip and slide. Checking quickly, she took a couple of flashbangs and a frag grenade. Putting these into her utility jacket, she peeked, and then stepped out, rifle in front of her. The alarm was still on; how long until they sent the Sweepers? They should’ve bee-
Shots behind her, and she dropped on her haunches, spinning, rifle coming up, squeezing; one semi-auto burst. The lone guard fell. She turned and checked the corridor; a four-man team making their way towards her. She took out the frag grenade as they raised their rifles and began firing. Pulled the pin and tossed it, covering her eyes. After the explosion, she came out and turned right. Two more corridors and she would come out at the next possible point of contact with the Sweepers. Two guards; dropped. At the next second corridor, she checked. Four of them, ready, waiting for her to pass so they could shoot. She took out a flashbang, threw it, and then covered her eyes and ears. Came out, killed them all. Checked her clip. Halfway done. She slammed it back in; no time. More would be on the way.
Forward, and then left. Two guards; dropped. A scientist with a scalpel; dropped. A guard; headshot. Two more guards, and she shot them as well. Squeezed the trigger; click. Reached out to take a rifle off one of the dead guards, and gunshots drove her back. She pulled out the last stun grenade and threw it, then ran out. Threw herself forward, picking a pistol as she rolled back onto her feet. Shot them all, dropped to one knee and brought down the Sweepers running behind her, heard the click of her spent weapon and rolled forward, bringing out her K-Bar knife. A guard ran forward, gun up. Temi threw herself to forward and to the side as he shot, blocked his gun hand, sliced his carotid, caught the gun with her left hand as it fell from his dead fingers and threw the body at the guards in front of her. Emptied the clip in them, turned and threw her knife, burying it in the throat of a guard behind her.
In the stillness that followed, Temi looked at her hands. Blood; not hers.
Move girl. Move.
She was close to the exit now; she knew. She turned round the corridor, through the circular foyer that branched off into different corridors-
-and her hand came up reflexively, blocking the kick to her ribs. She turned, punched, kicked low, missed, was kicked in the back. She fell forward and got up. Eight Sweepers roughly surrounded her; two behind, six in front. They all carried batons; no rifles or pistols. In their black combat uniform, black berets and multiple weapons, they were any intruder’s nightmare on any given day.
“I’m flattered,” Temi said, “no guns for me.”
“Commander Temi,” said the squad leader, stepping forward. “You know this is the end for you. There is no escape.”
“Really?” Temi said, smiling. Come on, closer…closer.
“Yes, really. You know how this works; now come with us quietly.”
“And if I don’t?”
Subtle change in the stances of the men as the squad leader smiled. “Well, it has been a boring few weeks, and everyone has been itching for some action. And who better to provide it than the leader-sorry, EX-leader of the Sweepers?”
“You people do not understand anything, do you?” Temi said. “Morons.”
“What was that?” the leader said, leaning forward.
Temi punched him fast and hard, twice, in the throat, crushing it. As he choked on his own blood, she released the catch of her kyoketshu shogei, letting the blade fall as she held the chain. Flicking her wrist, she caught the handle of the blade and sliced open his throat with a downward slash, and then an upward slash, flicking the blade outwards and releasing it, letting the chain play out as she spun. She caught the chain and swung, slashing the cheek of the guard to her right, spinning and dropping as she re-directed it at the other one behind her, burying it in his throat. She pulled it and he crumpled, hand going to his throat as blood spurted out of his cut throat. She spun, swinging the weapon as the others tried to stay out of range; she twisted, looping the chain under her left armpit, across her back and over her right shoulder, redirecting it at the guard with the slashed cheek, twisting to let the chain play out fully, stabbing his heart. As he held onto the hilt, Temi did a 360-degree side kick, burying it deeper. She pulled it out as he fell, and then turned to face the remaining five, settling down into her stance.
“Now, which one of you wants to die first?” she asked.
Five of them circled her, knives drawn. They were good; she knew this because she had trained them.
She was better.
One of them moved.
Feinting to his right, she spun and flipped, twisting in mid-air as she swung the weapon, slashing behind the knees of the one closest to her, who yelled in pain and lashed out at her with his knife. The chain looped around his knife hand and Temi pulled from behind him as he fell on his knees, forcing his knife against his own throat. Flicking her wrist, she pulled the chain, the momentum causing the guard to spin as his own knife sliced his throat. She spun, ducking under a diagonal slash, blocked, one two three, kick to the knee, looping her chain around the arm of a Sweeper as he thrust his knife at her. She jumped backwards, pulling him as she kicked him in the ribs, causing his knife to fall from numb fingers as she smashed the side of her foot into the side of his knee; she caught the knife, following him down to one knee as he fell, bringing it up and beneath his falling head. He impaled himself on it, the blade passing beneath his chin and through his mouth. Untangling the chain, Temi got up, delivering a spinning roundhouse kick to the head of the onrushing guard, knocking him aside. She wove around two downward slashes, keeping the other guard in sight; she spun on her right foot- a spinning back-leg sweep-and in one fluid motion, continued the spin, left leg rising as she went into tornado kick, left leg kicking out the knife as her right crashed into the side of the head of the other guard, knocking him off his feet. Landing, she spun and threw the weapon, burying it in his throat as he lay on the floor, pulled it and turned, doing a side-flip over the one closest to her, her hand lashing out as she slashed his throat. She landed, facing the last guard who was up. Swinging the weapon, she advanced as he stepped back, eyes wide with realization of his fate. On its downward swing, Temi redirected the blade with her boot, stabbing his throat. For what seemed like forever, he stood, disbelieving, gurgling as he tried to speak. Temi yanked the chain and his corpse fell as the blade pulled free of his neck.
Time to go.
Temi wrapped the chain of the kyoketshu shogei around her hand, knife held in reverse grip as she ran towards the exit. She pushed open the door…
…and she had to shield her eyes from the bright light-how long since she’d seen sunlight?
Blinking, she turned to Sarah. “C’mon! We have to get out of here now! The forest is over there!” she said, pointing.
“I know, I know. I’m trying. My leg hurts so bad…”
“Quick, we need to…”
Behind the one-way mirror they watched her; two humanoid creatures with white eyes, occasionally looking at the beeping monitors that surrounded her. One of them carried what looked like a glass board.
“Still stuck in the same loop, is she?” one of them asked. They were both dressed in a leather one-piece bodysuit.
“Yes,” the other answered. “I don’t know why she doesn’t try something different; does she think she can win?”
“Hmm…fascinating. Like a…what is that creature the humans used to be so fond of?”
“Yes Zorg, hamster. What date is it? Their date?”
“Ah. What is it they say again? Merry Christmas.”
In the room, the monitors continued to beep.
Dec 27th, 2012.