The piercing stitch in her side and difficulty getting enough air made it clear her long run was nearing its end. Her pursuers were designed to be patient and methodical hunters, but she was the one who'd eventually taught them caution. The small band to which she'd belonged had survived as hunter-gatherers, and by looting Pre-Rupture (P-R) ruins for goods they could trade to the elitist isolationists of the fortified Enclaves. So when they'd found the partially unearthed entrance of a large P-R complex that looked as if it had been entombed beneath a mountain of sand and silt since the massive tidal waves of the Rupture, the rest of the group had been overjoyed. She'd had misgivings, but they were amorphous, shadowy things. Nothing that would have convinced the others to pass by. Besides, she'd had...other considerations, which had long since left her desperate for a major find. Gentle teasing that her worries were needless from Zachary, the only one she allowed close, was all it had taken to weight her call in favor of other considerations over caution. She'd agreed they should go in.
Now almost all of them were dead, and her own time grew short. As she ran on, she allowed herself one regret-laden thought "The others deserve a better epitaph than: She agreed, and so we died." Were it not for the duty every fiber of her being demanded she complete, the woman would have long since turned and fought to take some of the creatures that had killed the others...killed Zachary down with her. She knew it was a foolish, overly emotional desire. That the things hunting her, however modified, were just animals. Doing what they'd been bred and set in place to do by creators dead for decades. Knew it wouldn't bring back any of the dead comrades, who'd deserved better than being kept at arm's length for years. As if she were somehow better than them. It still didn't change the fact she wanted to see each and every one of the creatures hunting her dead. Seeing Zachary go down beneath a mound of bristly gray fur and rippling muscle, cutting and rending the beasts a handful at a time with the cutting and crushing planes of force he directed, as he tried to save Maria; the youngest and newest member of their little group had torn the woman's heart to pieces. She could no longer imagine a world without his wry grins and terrible puns. Couldn't imagine a world which lacked the feelings of safety, security and contentment she'd discovered in his strong arms. Had no desire to imagine a world even bleaker and meaningless than this one now felt. Were it not for the fact she'd be betraying his hope, turning to fight is exactly what the heartbroken woman would do. So instead she ran on, oxygenating her muscle fibers, reducing the buildup of lactic acid and other fatigue poisons as she cannibalized the last of her fat reserves for the energy to stave off systemic collapse and strengthen the protections about her precious cargo.
For all that, still the hunters slowly yet surely gained on her.
Finally, the woman's keen dark blue eyes spotted the sign which told her the race was almost over. Faded by the sun, its metallic components rusted to the point of disintegration, the lettering that proclaimed the half-collapsed building beside it and its adjacent rectangle of flat, badly broken and weed-interspersed black stone the "H-l-day -nn." The mostly sound front half of the former temporary lodgings facility served as their band's current base of operations. As she darted from the calf-high green and silver grass of the plain which abutted the line where the ruins of the small dead town ended and wilderness began, the woman caught sight of a telltale glint atop the building's roof. As the closest of her pursuers left the cover of the grass perhaps two hundred feet behind her, a loud "zzzil" sound, followed by the loud crack of air rushing in to fill the small tunnel of vacuum just created. Lastly the woman's keen ears detected the far quieter sizzling and popping as the hunter's front half was seared to blackened and split bones, as less durable tissues boiled away. This new attack gave the hunters a brief pause, before they took up the chase once more. Long enough for the woman to sprint up the stairs to the second tier of rooms, where midway down the line to the left a door was being held open for her. Just as she bolted into the room and the door was slammed and secured behind her, the woman heard two more "zzzil...CRACK" discharges, another hissing boil of flesh, and an anguished howl.
Tottering to one of the beds they'd rendered fit to lay on with their own materials as if she'd aged fifty years in the last few seconds, the woman carelessly shucked off her bulky backpack to land beside the bed, before gingerly lowering herself onto the bed and her back. When she finally spoke to the middle-aged woman in the room with her, the woman's tone was flat and her statement succinct "The others, except Lynn I think, are dead. We woke a large pack of Neo-Canids from Long Sleep by accident. I killed several, but given my...circumstances, had to run. Go help Jason, Maya. He'll need your help once they realize he's alone."
To her credit, Maya didn't waste time on extraneous questions. She just asked "And you? What are you going to do if any get in here before we get back while you're...indisposed?"
"I'll kill anything that tries to hurt Zachary's newborn son if it takes me rising from the dead to do it. GO!" Diana answered. Then she screamed, as the labor she could hold in abeyance no longer began in earnest.
Technology, time and space travel, alien speices, genetic engineering, or alternate universes.
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