Feet slapping against the sidewalk and his breath coming in ragged gasps as he did, legs pumping as fast as they could manage. He slipped and hit the ground hard but bounced back, rolling through the fall and ignoring the pain that shot through his arms and legs. Pieces of gravel stuck in fresh cuts and scrapes while blood dribbled down his legs.
“Watch out!” someone shouted as he dodged between the pedestrians, tucking his small form between moving legs and knocking a briefcase out of a man’s grip. The man cursed at the boy as he disappeared in the crowd. He stooped down to pick up his briefcase and stood back only to be slammed into by a man in full tactical gear and carrying a carbine. He shrieked and fell away, briefcase smashing open. Twenty boots stomped over papers, some on the man’s legs.
“Get the fuck out of the way!” one of the men roared, leading the charge after the boy. They pushed anyone that got in their way and continued the chase. At a clear spot in the sidewalk, one of the men took a knee by a fire hydrant and raised his rifle. The suppressor muffled the noise to a dull crack rather than a roar, still more than loud enough to scatter pedestrians. Bullets harmlessly winged off the sidewalk and brick walls.
The boy stumbled at the gunfire, turning as he ran to wave a hand at the fire hydrant. Water exploded out as the pressure built, one of the enormous hydrant nuts striking the trooper in his chest with a wet thunk. Ribs broke, the man went down gasping as floating rib fragments tore into tissue. No one stopped for him.
“Go!” the point man roared, watching the boy disappear down an alley.
The boy knew he’d made a mistake. It was a Friday and Friday the restaurant at the far end shipped in fresh food for the weekend. A white cube van was wedged into the alley almost too perfectly while men unloaded from the back doors.
He skidded to a stop and tried to clamber up the hood of the truck. His feet slipped on the smooth surface. He wasn’t tall enough for it. He dove to crawl under, but thick hands grabbed him and threw him back to the pavement, hard.
“Hey, what the fuck?” The driver of the truck leaned out his window and one of the soldiers fired a controlled burst into the heavyset driver’s chest.
The boy wept at the pain, the blood, everything that was happening. Tears streaked through the dirt on his face, cutting perfectly clean lines through the mess.
“Little shit!” the point man shouted, kicking the boy in the lower back with a heavy combat boot. The boy cried out in pain and curled up against more blows. None of the other men stopped their leader, they’d lost six friends to this boy.
“Drowned by an eight-year-old, goddamn it. What a fucking way to go.” The point man sneered at the boy, letting his carbine rest on the strap to dangle by his side, unholstering a pistol from his thigh.
“Hey. Back the fuck up.”
The voice was clarion clear in the alley and the entire troop turned to face the new threat. She wore her own black combat boots, these were laced with bright pink nylon laces. Her neck bore a tattoo, two winged sandals around a name they couldn’t see. She looks like a college kid.
The soldiers would have snorted at her if she didn’t also have two polished black handguns in holsters. One on her right thigh, the under her right shoulder. That made them nervous. The closest could see the etched winged sandals on the butt of both weapons. They knew who she was.
“Language, madam.” The British voice filled the alley, half the soldiers turning to see a man in an impeccable suit standing on top of the cube van. He wore a perfectly tailored gray suit with a matching vest, in one hand he held an open lighter while his thumb played over the flint.
“Our little girl is all grown up, leave her the fuck alone.” The man that stepped out was a large man, broad in the shoulder and carrying a light machine gun over one shoulder. His beard was a bright red and touched his chest while his hair was crew cut short. He grinned from ear to ear at the gathering.
“Kid. Come to me.” The girl with the matching pistols knelt and waved the boy to her, gently pushing him behind her. Glances were shared between the men, nervous glances, as they eyed the party of three.
“I know who you are.” The point man said, licking his lips and unconsciously twitching his finger against the slide of his pistol. “I know all of you. You’re why we brought him.”
One of the younger men stepped up, letting his rifle fall to his side on his strap. He placed his hands out, palms down, and the street shook as he did. Cracks appeared along the pavement and chunks began to rise to his control. He grinned, cocky and full of himself.
The sniper’s bullet that hit him was a complete surprise to almost everyone. They hadn’t see the woman that had been following them along rooftops, toting a long rifle, now set up across and above the street. She took even breaths, sucking in her bottom lip and resting her finger on the trigger. Watching the men through her scope. Watching the body drop and the pavement return to level.
“Thank goodness you brought a showman. Whatever shall we do?” The large man with the light machine gun said, bouncing the weapon down into his hands so it was level with the group. “Weapons down, lads.”
They hesitated. One man cursed and went for his gun. The girl barely moved, just waved a hand. The trooper was thrown into the brick wall and did not get up after he hit the pavement. The others froze in place, watching her nervously.
The point man’s finger stopped tapping against his pistol. Then slowly, very slowly, he bent down and placed the gun on the pavement. As well as unslinging his rifle and laying it down. His men followed suit.
“Shame. Now face down!” The big man said. The purple haired girl ignored him, kneeling to look at the boy. He trembled as she took his hands.
“Who are you?” the little boy asked. She smiled sweetly at him and holds out her hand, palm up, to create a small whirlwind.
“I’m just like you.” She said, watching his eyes light up. She takes something from her pocket and presses it into the boy’s hand.
“If you want, we will protect you. No more running from them, you’ll be safe.”
He opened his hand to look down at the crumpled dollar bill, dried blood marking up the paper now in his hand. He looked at the large man with the big gun, the prim and proper man in the suit that gently bowed his head, the woman coming from across the street with the long rifle. Then to the dollar.
“You give me that dollar and we’ll protect you until our dying breath. That is our promise. If you don’t, we’ll take you away from them and help you escape.”
She was nice to him. He hadn’t had anyone be nice to him in a long time. The others were scary, angry. He was tired of running.
So he pushed the bill into her hand and left his hand in there. She smiled at him and squeezed his hand. They stood together and the group backed away from the collected mercenaries while sirens blared in the distance.
“The Agency won’t stop!” the point man shouted from the pavement. “We’re coming for you, Nova!” He spat her name.
“I know.” She says back. “We’re waiting for you.”