He ducked under the next blow and did a handspring backwards using his momentum to bring his feet up in a devastating double kick. She managed to dodge the worst of it, but it still sent her sprawling. Unfortunately he also was out of position for a follow-up and could not re-engage until he bled out the remaining momentum in another handspring. It was a move that he had been taught to use as a last resort, only when he stood little to no chance of winning and needed only to escape.
That was not why he had used it here. He had used it because it gave her a chance to charge forwards, to engage him, or to flee. Either one was a win in his books.
She chose to charge him.
He landed the handspring and bounced back towards her. They met like two mountains crashing into each other, slamming against each other and scrabbling for purchase.
She had not expected his charge and so he managed to grab her arms. They wrestled, feet scrabbling, and he began to push her back. Her left leg began to give even though she tried to keep it steady.
Suddenly her face twisted in pain and he forced her to her knees. He kept the pressure on, bending her back, back, trying to snap her in two. It was not a clean kill. It was not an artistic kill. It was not painless, or easy, or efficient, or well planned. But it was a kill. That was what mattered to him.
The artist looked up into the face of the sniper. He showed no emotion. His face showed no anger, no rage, no pain, no joy at finally beating her. For she accepted that she had been beaten. There was no way that she would escape this.
But his face showed nothing. Nothing at all. It had not showed anything during the entire fight except maybe a tiny bit of determination at one point or another.
But now it showed nothing. It gave away nothing. It was a blank slate, an empty hole, a void, nothing.
“Why?” she managed to croak as her spine bent backwards and her vision began to tunnel. She could barely hear her own voice; still deafened.
“Why?” the sniper repeated as he increased the pressure. His voice came to her as if through water, muffled and indistinct.
“Why do you kill for them? Why do you show no emotion? How did you become what you are from what you were?”
The sniper’s looked at her, startled at her words, and his eyes clouded over. He did not reduce the pressure, but his focus had slipped. He mouth moved, forming a word. It was not what she had expected, but she could use it.
She slammed her head forwards as hard as she could. He saw her coming and he moved his head backwards, but she still hit him.
She hit him hard enough to knock the earpiece out of his right ear.
Sound flooded his world, all from the right ear. This close to the coils the sound was overwhelming. He twisted away from it, trying, trying to fight the pain of his injuries and the sound.
He let go of the artist’s hand to grab the earpiece and put it back in before he realized what he was doing.
He caught the earpiece, but a fist crashed into his chest. He flew backwards with the force of it and slid to a stop on the catwalk. He had let himself be distracted, and this was the price he paid.
He managed to get the earpiece back in before she was on him, grabbing him around the neck.
He grabbed her around the neck too, and they began to squeeze, trying to choke the life out of each other.
The artist was stronger now. The implants in her fingers whirred and clenched, tightening on his throat. His muscles had been enhanced, but his fingers couldn't match, and she had had the better positioning.
He began to lose vision, and so tried to roll for the advantage. As they rolled, vying for position they strayed dangerously close to the coils. He threw them the other way and to the side to avoid them. But his action ended with their heads hanging over the edge.
The world fell away as he stared at the artist, her hair framing their faces. Through the gaps in the hair he could see infinity, the end, the edge of everything.
There was nothing beyond there, nothing at all. Just the whirring, and her face, the hair, and the endless gleaming silver receding into the vastness.
The artist tried to ignore the edge of everything beyond the sniper’s head but she could not. She was losing control of herself, losing to the fear of falling into that never ending silver with the droning, the whirring, oh the whirring!
The sniper’s fingers began to loosen on her neck, and that was good enough for her. She let go and rolled away from that edge.
Springing to her feet she winced as the pain shot up her leg again, but she could not let it hinder her now. She jumped across the gap and ran for the door.
The sniper blinked at the sudden lack of hair and then threw up as the blood rushed back to his head. He forced through the blackness. He could not let himself faint.
He pulled himself to his feet and looked after for the artist. He saw her across the room, running for the exit.
He began to ready himself for the jump after her when he realized that he could hear a whining noise. The pitch of the machines was changing, moving past the range that he had blocked out. It was getting louder slowly as less and less of it was blocked.
But he knew that range. That was the range of a machine that was getting ready to explode, either from damage or from some kind of overload.
He didn’t have time to collect himself, not even the nanoseconds he had planned on taking. He leapt and ran for the exit. He did not have time to plan his course; if the rubble twisted he would break his leg and die in the blast.
The artist looked back. The sniper was following her. But there was something odd about him. There was fear on his face. Fear that she had not seen the entire time she had fought him.
It took her a moment before she realized that the pitch of the machines was changing. She gritted her teeth and redoubled her efforts to run as she realized what that meant.
The sniper passed the edge of the rubble. It would have to do.
He activated the repulsor field on the body cart and threw himself forwards onto his stomach. The field activated, buoying him inches above the ground on a frictionless cushion of magnetism.
He paddled with his arms as fast as he could, flying away from the power changer. He passed the artist but didn’t have time to stop and kill her; any blow to her would have lost him his own momentum.It was a matter of luck now whether he lived or died. Behind him the noise of the coils reached a crescendo.