Allspades leapt forward into his loping run, and immediately fell flat on his face. A cloud of dust puffed up from the floor of the ruined library and forced its way into his throat. His lungs were too weak to force it out in a single cough. He could feel the dust scratching its way up and down his throat as he lay on the floor hacking and wheezing until his lungs burned and his stomach was threatening to force its contents up his throat if he coughed even one more time.
Finally he was able to take a clean breath and he gasped hopelessly on the ground as he gratefully refilled his lungs. The sky above him had grown noticeably darker in the time he was stuck on the floor. He raised a hand to his face and made a fist, but now he could feel the difference. The grip he had now could barely crumble a snowball, let alone crush steel.
The light had robbed him of his strength. He didn’t feel weak, and his arms and legs weren’t tired, but he was no stronger than a normal man.
He felt a ball of lead drop into his stomach. Without his strength, he’d be lucky to make it three blocks before he was shot down. He didn’t stand a chance against the army King had brought into the city.
Allspades stared at his hand for a second longer before he picked himself up off the ground. “Like hell,” he said through gritted teeth as he pushed himself to his knees and then to his feet. “I’m going to sit here just because of some bullets.”
He took a deep breath. He started to walk towards the entrance of the library; with each step he started to move a little bit faster, and by the tie he had reached the entrance he was at a dead run. He could see the headlights of two Humvees coming from either direction, but their lights hadn’t reached him yet, and he was across the street and down another before they saw him.
Almost immediately he missed being able to take to the rooftops. The streetlights had been shut down and he could barely see the stars through the concrete canopy over his head. He could only keep track of the buildings by the light breeze flowing through the space between them.
He’d heard gunfire before the sun set, but now the city was silent save for the light hums of car engines making their way through the blocks surrounding him. For the moment, he kept running.
King had always been straight forward; as smart as he was and as clever as he could be when he needed it, there had never been a better option than taking the most direct route to the most important person. Whether he had Allspades kick it in or he was able to calmly walk in and talk his way through the problem, he’d never liked any entrance more than the front door.
If his goal had been destroying the city, he’d be heading for the mayor’s office. If his goal had been killing the heroes, he’d be going for the Council’s Headquarters. But he’d been talking about changing people’s minds, about proving they don’t deserve protection. That meant he was going to aim for something bigger, something that showed the way normal humans could cooperate with walkers. There was only one place in the city that he would have found appropriate.
Allspades could feel a little bit of his strength returning, but it only let him go a little bit faster. He took the first right he could and started towards Beck Industries.
The wind picked up, pushing him forward just a little faster and cooling him down just enough to make the sweat dripping down his face leave freezing trails behind them.
Beck Industries was close, but not close enough to avoid meeting the patrols. He saw the reflection of the headlights through the windows across the street and hid in an alcove between two buildings. It wasn’t an alley; it wasn’t wide enough and it was only a dozen yards deep; just enough to hide a couple of trashcans.
He ducked behind one of them now. Despite the smell flooding the space, he took the chance to catch his breath. He watched as the across from him slowly grew brighter until nearly its entire length was lit up. And then it slowly crept back towards the front of the building.
And then it froze, and his heart, which had just begun to calm, started racing. The Humvee’s engine quieted and one of its doors popped open.
There was a mild grumbling. As a pair of heavy boots plopped onto the ground and trudged their way into the alley.
“Don’t forget your flashlight!” an older man’s voice called from within the car.
The owner of the boots grumbled some more but there was a click and a narrow beam of light struck the back wall of the alcove.
Allspades started breathing through his nose and stopped his leg from fidgeting. By the time the owner of the boots was halfway to the trashcan, there was a cramp building up in his right leg; it was begging him to move it and ease the pain, but even the slightest movement would scrape against the ground and give him away.
Silently, Allspades hoped that the owner of the boots would be as careful in his search as he sounded. With each heavy footfall that hope grew slimmer and slimmer until it would only take the mercenary glancing to his left to see Allspades standing there.
He couldn’t afford to wait any longer. If the mercenary saw him, the cramp in his leg would keep him from reacting fast enough to keep from getting shot.
Allspades kicked off the wall behind him and leapt straight for the mercenary’s gun. With his right hand he went for the mercenary’s face, and with his left he went for the gun.
The mercenary was bigger than him, and without his strength he’d never have a chance in a fair fight. But the force of his tackle was enough to knock the mercenary down and slam his helmeted head into the opposite wall.
He wasn’t unconscious, but he was dazed. Allspades took the changce and ripped the gun from his hands. The other doors on the Humvee opened, and Allspades leveled his stolen rifle at the entrance of the alcove.
It had been a long time since he used a gun; he’d only taken one on missions when it was considered absolutely necessary and barely used it half the time then. But throughout his years in the Cards he had had the basics of most firearms drilled into his head.
He stayed low to the ground and kneed the mercenary onto his side; with any luck they’d be too worried about hitting their comrade to fire. At least at first.
Allspades braced the assault rifle against his shoulder. The first time one of the other mercenaries peaked around the corner, he squeezed the trigger and fired a short burst at them.
He caught one of them in the shoulder, and another ducked back to check on him. That left only the older man until the other returned.
Allspades didn’t know how many rounds the gun had, and didn’t want to risk finding out. He fired another burst towards the last mercenary and charged forward.
A little more of his strength had returned. Enough so that when he reached the entrance to the alley, he was able to leap on top of the Humvee. He knew the mercenaries would be turning towards him, so he let his feet drop out from under him as he landed on the car’s roof and rolled forward and to the other side. He turned around and shot another burst into the Humvee’s shifter.
There was a brief shout form the other side of the car before he started moving towards the tower again, dropping the gun as he went.
There was a brief scuffle behind hi as the older mercenary went to check on his comrades’ wounds. He hadn’t even bothered to try firing at Allspades’ back.
The path to the tower was clear, and Allspades charged straight past the parked Humvee and into the front door.
There was a ding from the elevator and Allspades ducked behind the receptionist’s desk. But there were no footseps.
Slowly Allspades peaked his head over the edge of the counter.
“allspades.” The voice came from behind him and he whipped around, fists raised.
Allspades let out a deep sigh.