Art by Mackenzie Holman, 2021.
I held the stolen bag tightly in my arms as I ran down the crowded streets of Lower San Francisco. Hover vehicles and repulsorlift speeders whizzed past as I made my way down the metallic sidewalk. Behind me I could hear the pounding footsteps of police officers slowly closing in on me, their NC-15 rifles drawn. I took a sharp left and ducked underneath a fluid pipe, turning quickly into a narrow alley.
Underground cities like Lower San Francisco had these pipes everywhere to carry water from the refineries nestled against the oceans. It was there that the underground metropolises got their water supply, from refined salt water. The main reason we’d started carving out cities underground was overpopulation, but some say it was just an excuse to get some of the “unsavory” people out of the government’s way as they hoped to create an ideal utopia aboveground.
All I knew was, the lower cities tended to be a lot more unsavory.
I reached up and grabbed another pipe right above my head, mustering enough upper-body strength I had to lift myself up on top of it.
“There he is!” an officer yelled as the patrol rounded the corner, “Stun him!”
An officer opened fire and a blazing green bolt of energy collided with the pipe. I struggled to keep hold as the pipe’s plastic shell shattered and pressurized water began spraying out of its open end.
I managed to scamper up the rest of the pipe as the officers below were hosed with dirty water. I reached the roof and glanced down at the officers cursing and scrambling to their feet.
“Good thing you guys got a bath!” I shouted. “You were starting to smell!”
“Get that damn kid!” an officer yelled over the spraying water.
I chuckled as I raced across the metal-plated roof. The stolen bag was still in my hands, and it’s leather straps were trailing behind me like my own rebel flag. I jumped across a gap separating two roofs and continued running, the sound of my boots pounding against the metal echoing with every step.
The communication gauntlet on my wrist made a quick noise, and I clicked the orange button on it’s panel.
“Hey there. A bit busy right now,” I managed to say as I jumped across another gap.
“Busy indeed,” a voice replied from the device. “You caused quite a commotion down there. What’d you do, set off a Y16?”
“Very funny, Sal,” I slid under another fluid pipe. “Are you ready for the pick up?”
“Locked and loaded,” He replied. “And Cayden, be careful with the package.”
“I’ll try my best,” I ended the transmission.
I glanced over the edge of a building just long enough to see several officers pushing their way through the crowds below. I looked back up just as a figure propelled itself from the ground below. I rolled onto my side and ducked behind a radiator. A rocket trooper had landed on the roof, an elite officer equipped with a jetpack, shining black armor, and a beta-class “punisher” rifle.
“No sign of anyone up here,” he called into his comlink.
Just as he was about to jump to another rooftop, my gauntlet flashed, emitting it’s notification sound.
“Not now Sal! Not now!” I hissed.
The trooper turned back towards me. “There you are!” He aimed his rifle and fired.
I dove out of the way, performing an awkward somersault and barely missing a blazing bolt of energy whizzing past my head. I jumped back up to my feet, drew my blaster, and fired. The small blast harmlessly ricocheted off of his armor’s metal plating.
“Reinforcements to the southern downtown rooftops!” the trooper called into his comm.
I charged straight towards his legs just as he was about to reload his gun. The trooper activated his jetpack, hovering over the rooftop and carrying me with him as I desperately latched onto his legs. He grunted, kicking me in the chest, and I was sent tumbling to a nearby rooftop below.
I groaned, taking a moment to lean on an air filtration system. I most definitely sprained my ankle. I tightened the bag over my shoulder, and my hands shook as I loaded another energy cartridge into my blaster.
“Damnit, Sal! You gave away my position!” I yelled into my gauntlet, watching the trooper hover overhead.
“Sorry, kid,” Sal’s voice responded. “Where are you at? We’re gonna’ have to improvise here.”
“South side of the city, near Farsight,” I leapt behind another radiator as the trooper fired, scrap metal flying into the air in a shower of sparks and smoke. “Will you be here in time?”
Sal chuckled, “You think I’ve won all of those speeder races for looking pretty?”
I was about to say something snarky in return but was interrupted by the sound of an all too familiar repulsor engine.
“Got to go!” I yelled over the enginet. “I’ve got more friends on the way…”
A large shape began to come into view, slowly ascending to the height of the rooftops. The roaring engines of the troop transport vehicle blasted me off my feet as it landed on the roof to my left. It’s main landing hatch opened and a dozen armored soldiers exited, their guns drawn as they surveyed the area.
“Whatever’s in this bag better be worth it,” I muttered into my wrist comlink. “I’ve got a whole squad of ‘em up here!”
“It must be valuable then,” I could practically hear the greed in Sal’s voice. “I’m getting close! Be ready to jump!”
“Jump?” I yelled back.
“Hand over the bag!” The squad has me surrounded, their weapons aimed at my head. A leading officer stepped forward and I could see his brooding face through the slits of his helmet.
“Sal…” I started to back away as they continued forward. The rocket trooper landed on the roof, activating his jetpack just before he landed.
The officer gestured for his troops to hold their position, then turned directly towards me.
“This can be finished a lot easier, kid, if you just hand over that bag.”
My gauntlet crackled with static and I heard the roaring engine of a racing speeder approaching the bottom of the building, “I’m here Cayd. Jump now!”
“You know,” I said to the officer, “I’d love to stay and chat but… I have places to be. See ya!”
I closed my eyes and took a leap of faith off of the rooftop.
I hit the leather back seat of Sal’s open topped, souped up 3021 racing speeder.
Sal shifted into gear and we took off racing down the street, leaving the battalion of troopers and their officer behind us.
“Did you close your eyes when you jumped again?” Sal made a quick turn onto Jarvin Street, his mess of curly black hair whipping around him.
Sal rolled his eyes, the type of gesture that for some reason made girls swoon, although the dirt on his dark-skinned face probably didn’t make him look any more attractive.
“You have the bag?”
“Do you think I’m an amateur?” I replied.
“You did just take a blind jump off a two story building…”
“Whatever. Let’s get to Anya,” I said, “and fast.”
“You didn’t even have to ask.”
The speeder’s engine roared to a crescendo, and we’re sent zipping through downtown, the slums and streets of Lower San Francisco whizzing past us. The bright street lamps, market stalls, and dingy establishments faded into blurs around us as Sal navigated through traffic.
We took another sharp turn, drifting past a fruit stand, narrowly missing its shopkeeper. Sal shifted into reverse, whirling around the intersection, and shifted back, sending us lurching forward at a ridiculous speed.
I turned behind us and was able to make out three police speeders passing by the fruit stand, narrowly missing a hover bike passing in the opposite lane.
“We’ve got company!” I shouted to Sal over the engine.
“Grab the gun in the back!” he called back.
I bent, leaned forward and dug underneath the seat, finally lifting up the heavy frame of a 555 sniper rifle.
“This thing’s huge!” I remarked.
“You’re expecting to be able to shoot ‘em with that tiny little pistol of yours?”
I made a face and loaded the rifle with a clip. I swung its barrel around, resting it on the back seat, and aimed it at the approaching speeders. My finger hovered over the trigger, looking for the perfect opportunity. The speeder entered my sights, and I took my shot.
The police speeder was sent slipping into the air, careening onto its side as it crashed into a nearby building sending sparks, debris, and scrap metal everywhere. A direct hit: I’d hit its repulsors.
“Nice shot!” Sal yelled, turning the wheel to narrowly avoid a loose turbo-engine. “Next time, less debris that I could potentially hit!”
We took a sharp left turn into an alley and the speeder suddenly screeched to a stop. “Get out!” Sal jumped out of the racer.
I hopped out of my seat, the sniper rifle still in my hands, and scanned the alley for any potential threats. We appeared to be alone, albeit a few piles of trash and faded graffiti. Sal beckoned me forward, and we ducked into an intersecting passageway. I heard the police speeders whizz past behind us, still continuing down the main streets.
Sal pounded on a metal door, and it immediately slid open. A young woman with frizzy, red hair and goggles stepped out into the darkness outside, a set of custom goggles resting on her forehead, grease covering her pale face.
“You’re late!” she had her arms crossed and was glaring directly at Sal.
“Sorry, Anya,” Sal apologized, “blame the kid.”
“It’s good to see you, Cayden. It’s been a while since we did that job in Los Angeles II,” Anya said to me warmly. Then she turned to Sal, “Inside. Now.”
“No matter what I do, she still hates me…” Sal muttered, wiping off some of the grime on his face, and we followed Anya into the building.
To be continued…