The humming had reached the maximum pitch. Moments later they exploded with a thunderous crashing roaring blast of sound. He was thrown head over heels, tumbled along, the repulsor field on his bodycart only adding to the tumbling.
Finally it ceased. He stood, dizzy and sick, and unstrapped the bodycart. He would not wear one again unless it was absolutely necessary.
He bent over and put his hands on his knees. He needed a moment to let the world stop spinning, to let his stomach stop churning. He was going to be sick, but he did not have the time to be. Just wait.
He looked up after a moment. He needed to continue the chase, needed to find the artist and kill her. He spotted her after a moment, lying face up in the hall. Was it too much to hope that she was dead?
The artist lay face up, staring at the ceiling. She couldn’t hear anything. Well, she could. It was coming back slowly, but she could also feel blood trickling down her cheek. She had likely ruptured an eardrum, which would make sense with the odd echoey quality of the sound.
She rolled over onto her stomach and pushed herself up. The blast had thrown her, hurt her, tumbled her head over heels. It had been disorienting, but nowhere near as bad as that infinity, that gap out the bottom of the coils.
She stood, and ignoring the pain in her leg for the moment, looked around. She had been thrown down the hallway. The hallway itself was damaged. There was a massive hole, a ragged tear in the metal some ways down where the blast radius had ended. The sniper was charging down the hallway towards her, his face grim.
She turned and ran off down the hallway, ducking into a side tunnel and ducking her head began to pump her legs as fast as they would go. If she could get to the rail station she would be able to escape.
The sniper saw her turn the corner and increased his speed. He couldn’t sprint as her mechanics wouldn’t tire but his genetically altered muscles would, if not for a long time. He needed to pace himself. Hopefully her injured leg would allow him to make up ground.
He swung his arms in time to his boot steps as he ran.
The artist looked back. Yes, the sniper was still chasing her. He would not give up.
He had not replaced his pistols it seemed. That was good. He could not shoot her then. She felt foolish for not noticing the lack of pistols during their earlier fight.
She turned around again and dropped into a roll to avoid the beam that she had almost run into. She couldn’t look back, had to keep looking forwards, focus on the chase.
Her leg twinged again but she gritted her teeth and forced it to move, to pump up and down, pounding on the metal grating as ran. Her feet clanged, clanged, as she ran, pounding out a beat, the rapid random noise providing a counterpoint to her steady breathing.
She had been running for what felt like hours but she knew it to be only minutes. She was almost to the rail station. She could have been there already, but she had not wanted to take a more crowded route; the crowds may have slowed her down, or gotten injured. Neither was a pleasing prospect.
The sniper ducked under the beam and looked past the artist. A large space opened up ahead of them. The rail station.
He cursed himself for not realizing where she had been going; if she managed to get out there then there would be no catching her. He summoned more energy and sped up.
He managed to catch her just as she reached the edge of the tunnel. Before she could jump out he leapt and planted both feet in the small of her back. She went flying down onto the tracks and was bounced back into the air by one of the many repulsor fields.
He leapt down after her, measuring his jump carefully so as to use the bounce of the repulsor field to his advantage. He bounced and fell towards her, body aimed like a knife.
She spun, and seeing him threw herself backwards into the repulsor field behind her. The field caught her and threw her forwards through the air out of the way of his fall.
He had to adjust quickly so as to land without breaking his spine, but quickly flung himself back into the repulsor field to fly after her.
He chased after her in a series of incredibly long jumps across the cavernous space. Each leap took them dozens of metres before they launched again. She reached the far wall and began to climb it; he aimed for a point above her and crashed down onto her shoulders.
The two of them fell to the floor only to be bounced around again by the repulsor fields. Every time that they landed they were flung in another direction as he slammed his heels into her chest and she clawed at his legs.
Soon she was gasping for breath with a broken rib and he had large gashes down his thighs, but neither tried to disengage.
The next landing flung them apart between two repulsor fields. They sprang to their feet as one and began to circle.
“Why do you chase me sniper?” she asked, wincing as she placed her left foot.
“I chase you because one of us needs to die” he replied, waiting for an opening.
“Then why not let me kill you now?”
“Because there would be no art in that”
“I thought that you were no longer an artist sniper”
He stared at her, determined not to let himself be distracted like he had in the power changer.
“I don’t know what I am anymore. But one of us must die, and it will be done in a way to honour my past and your present”
She nodded seeming satisfied. He launched himself at her again. They traded blows for a few moments before breaking apart.
“You cannot beat me at this sniper. Not while you fight fair, not even with your tricks and traps. I am injured now; when you face me uninjured you will die. Why delay?”
The sniper did not respond.
Before he could leap at her again the repulsor field beside them began to hum more loudly. It meant that a railcar was coming soon. He debated trying to crush her under it and getting to safety. He opted for the latter.
He dove as the railcar, a single one, screamed through. He felt the wind tear at him, pull at him, try and suck him along in the wake of the vehicle, but he managed to avoid that by clinging to a cable from the ground. He looked up to see the artist doing the same thing.
The wind faded with the railcar and the two started circling again.
“You know that you can’t catch me, can’t match me. All I have to do is avoid you for another day or two until my leg heals and then you will never be able to beat me”
Her continued taunting was losing its effect; he was getting better and better at tuning the words out.
They began to dance again, trading punches and kicks. The sniper felt the blood running down his legs; he knew that he was beginning to slow. But the artist’s breath was coming harder and harder; she too was slowing. Which of them slowed a fatal amount first remained to be seen.
They stepped back and the artist looked at him for a moment. He crouched to massage his legs, still alert.
But it gave her an opening. He had known that he could react in time to a charge or an escape, but she instead reached behind her and pulled a knife from the back of her neck.
“I would have used this one you before but I had no time until now. You cannot beat my knife with your fists sniper”
Much as it galled him to admit it, she was right. He could not disarm someone with her speed like he had the youthful thug. It looked like she might be about to win. But he would go down fighting.
The artist stared defiance at the sniper, hoping that he would back down. She could barely breathe from her crushed ribs, and was finding it hard to stand, to think. She needed to end the fight quickly.
The repulsor field two over began to pulse. That meant that a railcar was coming. But it was too far away to affect their battle.
Or was it?
The railcars came by at high speeds, but then they left. And it would be near impossible to track where one went.
She waited, counting the moments until it would arrive, timing it based on the last one. The sniper watched her, seeming to know that she was trying something.
Then it was there, speeding along. She leapt into the repulsor field. and the sniper moved to follow but he was too late. She flew through the air to land on the top of the railcar. It knocked the breath from her and hurt her damaged ribs even more, but she was on top of it now. There was no way that he could catch her.
She looked back and saw him, a little man standing forlornly among the tracks, the pathways of giants, as she sped away into the dark tunnels of the Arc.
The sniper watched her go. It was done then. She was gone. He had failed.
He turned and began the walk back to the platform, a long walk that would be filled with regrets. He had failed, and now he would be leashed, controlled, followed by the hounds of the Director.