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The man takes the credit chit from her hand and sneers.

There's a Mako gun in her hand, a Mako gun pulled from the loose grip of a dead guy back at Tarsus. It’s moderately heavy. She doesn’t remember picking it up. She’s blanked that out.

The man takes the credit chit from her hand and sneers. “Did you really think I was gonna tell you-” the man starts, and then chokes on the gunshot wound through his throat.

She bites down on her tongue without feeling it and puts a second shot to the right of his heart. The third goes slightly to the left.

Accuracy and aiming. Under pressure. These critical lessons, will help you, in your future- future- future careers-

The two other thugs shut the fuck up real fast. They stare at Alex with expressions of vague shock.

“Motherfuck,” someone says.

She should run.

Like they do.

One dives towards a nearby metallic crate. His limbs are splayed and uncoordinated when he hits the ground, his eyes locked on the wide-torn hole in the center of the other dead man's throat.

She doesn't hear the shots, not hers, nor the last man's. His jacket is tight around his shoulders, and it pulls and limits his shoulders as they tense every time he fires.

The first of the shotgun shells cuts across the side of her own leather jacket. It stings.

Observe yourself. Be aware of yourself. YOU are your greatest weapon.

The second shot comes from behind a dumpster. It blows straight over her head. The shotgun makes a swift kerCLINK noise, the grey molded form of the nanite shell dispensing and clinking on the ground. The thug pokes his head out and sweeps the barrel around and points it at her head.

She stares, comparing the red on her side to the concept of the two dead guys.

Your self is your greatest weapon. Take care of it.

Where in training was the word why?

The shotgun makes a clink, and then a shot, and then she’s on the ground. A floating hunter seeker shoves her aside, two armed SSC men brushed the hunter seeker away.

The dirty pavement scrapes at her palms. She’s level. She’s looking at the complacent, condescending look baked into the dead guy’s eyes, hands curled around a Mako gun, on the carpet next to the vent in the middle of the ceiling falling in-

It seems abstract.

But she did that.

I did that, she thinks, detached, then the hunter bot hits something vital and someone screams and all the other noise things come online, just like that. The pattattat of police guns, racking and echoing and compounding off the tight alley walls. Vehement frightened curses. Shotguns.

She pushes herself to her feet – the scuttle of her shoes, the cluttering of dislodged flakes of blasted away concrete-

She pushes herself to her feet – the electric unheeded warnings from the hunterbot, and the hovering hum, and the wind and electricity and the Inclinator-

She pushes herself to her feet and tries to cover her ears, but it’s all too much. She can’t block it out. Her palms sting and gravel gets in her ears. She falls and the sound punctures until she can feel the stabbing of every shot in her head. Something's wrong with her. Everything is on a multiplier. The acid smell of burning smoke. The soft feel of dead bodies under her feet. A Seeker dashes across the basketball court and takes two rounds to the chest. A Seeker falls on the woman behind Alex. A seeker – a hunter – an areo? The detonation, and all she can do is run. Shoot and run, and everything is so damn bright, the coffee signs and the neon and the light, everywhere. She doesn’t know where she’s going until she there, half crying, slamming the elevator button at the entrance to the Tarsus academy. It opens, miraculously. She squeezes through the doors the second they part, fighting her way over to the floor controls through a haze of water and smoke. She presses it- “Security lockout” – and presses it – “Security lockout” – and “Security lockout”, and again and again until her fingers slip free from the keypad, covered in – tears? blood? She presses the button with blurred vision until she can’t stand the distant fading sound of gunfire and the Security Lockout, Security Lockout. She can't stand it, so she slides down to the floor, and wraps her arms around her knees, and buries herself there.

And eventually, it does get quiet.

It does get quiet.

It’s quieter, but then again, there’s no one there to tell her it’s going to be okay. The SSC are- and Tarsus is- and Billie is- And even her parents are crumbled away. There’s no one in the world she trusts right now to find her, so she sits there, and tries not to breathe, and tries not to think. She sits, and holds herself, and shakes.