Chapter XII: Lockdown

My pace was cautious and steady…

Crawling through the ventilation system proved to be a lengthy affair; it felt like it had been so long since I had seen light of any sort. The thin taps crawling nearby kept me aware of Gina’s presence and so I comfortably moved on.

“Wait…”

Gina immediately halted as I spoke, my voice echoing within the wide tunnel of the pipe. I had almost taken myself out as I paid little attention to the sudden drop within the ventilation shaft, a small vertical descent where the pipe moved down briefly to the next floor. Carefully, I slowly waved my hand around the space in front, identifying exactly where the drop was and just how large it may have been. Gina waited patiently; allowing me the time to make sure all was well before we moved on.

“All right… there’s a drop here, it must be to the next level of the pipeline. I’m going to head down and see if it’s safe.”

“Okay, be careful.”

Our words were quick and silent. Noise was to be avoided as much as possible; whoever was searching for us would best be unaware of our position. I inverted my position in place, now with my feet towards the drop and my hands theoretically where Gina remained. Slowly, I backed myself down, first letting my legs hang down, then pushing my torso back towards the fall. I ran my hands against the pipe’s walls, using them as a frictional control for the speed of my descent. Fortunately, the fall was shorter than I expected and my feet made immediate contact with the next lower level of the tunnel, leaving me in a standing position.

“It’s a small drop; just give me a moment to find the next segment…”

I crouched down, searching the darkness for the continuation of the ventilation tunnels. My hands had become my investigative tools, what my eyes could not see, they revealed. I found that the path to take was in the opposite facing direction from where I had arrived. Once I returned to a crawl and entered the following tunnel, I let Gina know she could continue.

“You’re good to go Gina.”

“Okay, I’m coming right now…”

A few seconds passed and I quickly found Gina just behind me, ready to move on. I crawled ahead, wondering when the tunnels would end, or if they ever would…

A dim luminance made itself known up ahead, fading in to view down the lengthy path.

“There’s a light up ahead, maybe it’s a way out.”

After informing Gina of my observation, I sped ahead in a dash of hope, increasing my pace as I approached the aura of light. When my distance decreased, I slowly found that the light was emerging from a grated cover below. Though I had not reached it yet, it looked like an exit to a well-lit area. Hasty in my movements, I failed to notice the amount of space I had created between Gina and myself. Thinking more cautiously, I slowed to a stop and whispered back.

“Gina, are you there?”

“Yeah, don’t worry about me, keep going.”

The sounds of her movements were now coming into range; I used them to gauge how far ahead I was. When I was comfortable with her distance, I moved on once more, heading to the grated cover. That is when things took a turn for the worse.

It was a very brief moment; the screech of the ventilation pipe’s siding caught me by surprise. As my mind identified the cause, I was unmoving. A segment of the tunnel had given way and all that I saw was the distant floor of an empty space. I fell straight to the ground, as did some of the ventilation pipe’s padding. Having landed on my head, it was a brutal impact and I lay still for a few seconds, just trying to catch my breath.

“There’s one!”

Though the voice was unfamiliar to me, its tone spoke volumes of which side it was on. Though I felt a little numb from the fall, I was able to raise my head and find two figures at the other end of the floor. We were on one of The Miraxis Index’s empty floors, and the figures stood at the top of a descending staircase. I only had a moment but I learned all I needed to know. The figures were donned in black uniforms; some white text ran along the upper-right of their chest. They were both armed with firearms, and one held his pointed straight towards me from afar.

He fired his weapon just once, his accurate aim resulting in a bullet to my chest, though by the time of impact, my body had entered its Miraxis Form. My natural armor and blade made themselves known. The bullet deflected straight off of me, flying towards a nearby wall before sinking back to the barren floor. I tried to get up, but I must have injured something during my fall, I just could not raise my body. Any attempt to do so caused painful stinging. Noting my temporary paralysis, the two figures held down their weapons and briskly approached.

“Marlin!”

The sudden call of Gina caught my attention, and that of the two men. Looking out of the hole that had been created by the ceiling’s structural collapse, Gina glanced to the armed men, and then back to me. She immediately lowered herself from the ceiling towards me. She faced me as she dropped, looking away from the men as if ignoring their presence. In midair, she entered her Miraxis Form and lightly glided downwards. Falling straight to her knees, she placed both of her hands upon my abdomen. At first, I wondered what she was trying to do, but when I saw that scarce golden glow running through her arms, I was thankful of her arrival. She held her position and kept her eyes forcibly closed, pushing all her energy into healing me.

“That’s both of them, are we clear to engage?”

“It doesn’t matter-“

The brief exchange of the two men had left my mind as I kept a focus on Gina’s healing.

“A couple more seconds…”

Her voice was tense as she conducted her unique ability, my body revitalizing as she miraculously healed it of all problems. Distracted, my heart jumped when I spotted one of the distant men holding out his handgun towards Gina.

There was no time to react…

The first shot rang out, echoing about the walls. The bullet flew towards Gina, thinly slicing the very edge of her arm as it grazed by. It left a slim line of exposed flesh. Her reaction was minor; she flinched and squinted even harder, yet she ignored the pain of the cut to finish her work on me.

I saw the aura fade as her healing process was completed, but things happened too quickly to be avoided. I made a movement to get up, firmly grasping Gina’s arm to try to swing her behind me.

However, I was not fast enough…

The second shot was taken, and though the man’s shot was far different from his first attempt, it hit its intended target. With Gina bent over on her knees, having healed me entirely, she could not evade the speeding bullet, particularly as she had been facing away from its origin. It collided with the back of her right thigh, straight into the limb. The bullet entered her flesh, entirely piercing the skin and immediately exposing a release of deep red blood. From her position, Gina immediately turned and fell to her back, pulling her leg to herself in pain. She grasped the injury with both hands and let out a quick, agonizing scream.

Gina was my priority, but I knew that I could not tend to her while the enemy stood by. I unsheathed my blade and rushed to the two opponents, leaping from my position to a full sprint. They were close enough that my sword beat their guns in speed. One of the men threw a punch towards me; using my free hand I blocked his attack and threw his arm up, leaving him exposed for only a moment. I took advantage and with a violent thrust, pushed blade directly into his chest. Now filled with insatiable rage, I turned my body, and linked the pulling of the blade with a spinning slash against the other remaining target. Neither foe had a chance to react... While one held his bloodied chest in a terrible expression of disbelief, the other fell straight down with a disturbing lack of reaction, having immediately died from the slice across his entire body.

Filled with sudden gruesome images, I threw my blade to the ground and rushed back to Gina. Those dark thoughts became wild anxiety. She was now sitting up in serious pain.

“Gina… Just… Give me a minute-“

With one hand, she held her wound tightly, holding her thigh towards herself in total shock. Her other hand covered her face as she took wild breaths. I moved her hand away as I placed mine upon her injury, instantly feeling the unnerving sensation as unimaginable amounts of blood continued to gush out upon my hand. In seconds, my palm was bathed in the red liquid, warm to the touch. Holding my hand against the opening helped to slow the loss of blood, but surely not the pain.

“Gina… Listen to me carefully. I know it hurts, but I need you to listen for a second, okay?”

Though she still shook in anguish, I found a strained nod in her movements.

“You have to put both of your hands on the injury, use your power to heal yourself.”

Immediately, Gina rushed both hands to her injury, holding it tightly against herself. Strangely, nothing appeared to be happening, but when I interfered and placed my own hand upon both of hers, I saw the great glow I had hoped to witness once again. It was as if my power had combined with hers. With my other hand, I tightly grasped her ankle to keep her leg still.

Her pained movements slowed as the healing commenced; she finally lay her torso down and placed her head on the floor. Her breathing returned to a normal pace but she still awaited the end of the process. Suddenly, the sound of a metal object falling to the hard floor rang about; her healing had removed the intruding object. I found the bullet on the ground, having fallen just beside a pool of fresh blood.

Her healing ability had pulled the projectile out, but the pain would still remain for some time. She finally let go and let out a deep, contained breath. She raised her hands to her head, but had to stop her movement as she noted the blood all over her palms. All the while, I removed my Miraxis Pack and yanked the shoulder belt off. I checked its sturdiness and once confident, tightly wrapped the belt around her wound. Tying together the remnants of the belt, I was able to reattach the Miraxis Pack to myself.

Having been a length designed to hang over a shoulder, I was able to wrap the belt around her wound several times before latching it together. This tight fit fully stopped the bleeding, and through careful control of my hands, I slowly bent Gina’s leg to observe the effects of the injury.

“Ow!”

She cringed as I moved the limb; surely, it would be painful for quite some time. Needless to say, she had lost much blood.

“Sorry…”

I gently straightened her leg and lowered it to the ground, keeping it still as I visually studied it for any other injuries or effects. Other than the obvious injury, everything seemed well, though I knew not what the costs of the wound would be.

“Gina, please don’t move. I need to take a look at those men for a moment.”

Tragically, Gina turned her head towards me and nodded in despair.

“Yeah, okay…”

Though at the moment she appeared well, it would take some time to determine the physical and possibly mental consequences of her injury. She was fortunate to have the healing abilities she had obtained, yet even those otherworldly powers were unable to undo the devastating shot she had taken to her leg; her ability operated on time, and she needed more than we had. I would learn that time itself was limited in its ability to heal.

As she recuperated in silence, I picked up my weapon and made a dash to the bodies of the two men I had eliminated. I stopped in my tracks upon finally reading the text on their uniforms.

“Miraxis?”

Speaking to myself, I fell to a knee, getting quite close to one of the victims as I observed all there was to see. The black uniforms did indeed display the text, “Miraxis”; we were being hunted by facility personnel. That also meant that it was likely that Sir Dusk’s visitors had been these apparent Miraxis officers. Why would they turn against their own?

Beside the particular man I searched, I found the weapon he had used to shoot Gina, but there was something quite surprising about it. It was no Miraxis weapon, no special Endis firearm or spectacular magnum of any sort. It was just a normal handgun. It seemed that these Miraxis officers were equipped with non-Endis weapons, for reasons I could never guess. Though I was grateful Gina had not been shot by a blast of Endis, I also dreaded that a modern handgun had taken distributed the shot to her thigh, of all places.

I was distracted from my observations when I heard a wince from Gina. I turned to see her trying to stand up; grasping her leg in sudden renewed pain. I rapidly returned to her.

“Gina, please. Just rest, give yourself time, you can’t move like this.”

“We don’t have time; we just don’t have time Marlin.”

“There’s always time-“

“Not now! Not if we want to survive! … I’ll just slow you down-“

“You know very well I won’t leave you Gina. Say what you will.”

Now alongside her, I slowly lowered her back to the ground, leaning her against the nearby wall. After my last words, she seemed to gaze to me as I kept her still on the rough floor below, her eyes beaming to me with such stillness.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why won’t you leave me and just go?”

I sternly shook my head to her confounding assumption.

“Gina, that’s never going to happen-”

“I didn’t ask that, I asked you why?”

Now that she sat well, I got back up to my feet. Taking a step back for the sake of space, I let out an elongated sigh. The situation had finally reached my head, for I knew I would never be able to move Gina in her state, and I knew just as well that more Miraxis Officers were on their way.

“You know why Gina…”

Some frustration was clear in my voice. I had not intended for it to flow through my words, but as I stood there, glancing between the two ends of the floor, everything flooded to me. I had no idea where to go and more importantly, no way to move Gina, at least for a while.

“Marlin please, it’s best if you go, you can escape, and you can-“

“I’m not leaving you!”

The strength in my yell was enough to unsettle myself, but the truth was, I did not want to hear such nonsense. I would never escape without Gina. That was the end of that, there was nothing more to say. As a result of my reaction, Gina held her head down. Maybe I had upset her with my tone, but some things were meant to be taken harshly, for they were honest. After that outbreak, she remained contained to herself. As I wondered, something about her self-quarantine came across as unusual.

Still glancing between the two ends of the floor, I finally decided to take a look as to what awaited on either side.

“I’m going to check the stairs for a moment. I’ll be quick, I won’t leave the floor.”

With the unexpected response of silence, I moved ahead to one of the floor’s ends, first to the stairs where the officers had awaited before. When I reached the descent of steps, I looked back out of a constant fear that more officers were on the way. Clear, I finally took a couple of steps down just to peek to the floor below.

I was completely baffled to find that there was no floor below, or at least, these stairs did not head to the floor. All that stood there was a blank wall, a dead end. These stairs were pointless, but if so, where had the Miraxis officers come from? I returned to the area we were stranded upon and crossed the gap to the other end. When I passed Gina, I only looked over to her momentarily as I passed. She was unmoving, I hoped she was resting from her injury as she sat with her head hanging down and her eyes closed lightly. I left her alone on my search for a way out.

At last, there was a bit of luck for us. What I discovered was another descending staircase, and though it also did not merge with a floor, its path held something much more significant, an elevator. Strolling down in front of it, I observed the elevator; its doors closed yet its presence welcoming. I did not approach it, for I had no intent on leaving until Gina was with me.

“Hey Gina! There’s an elevator here, we can get out!”

I yelled over the sight of the stairs, since I had taken a few steps down, throwing my voice loudly to the floor above. My words were somewhat blissful, for the elevator gave me the hope that all would be well.

After a few seconds and no reply, all those feelings washed away. I sprinted back up the stairs to Gina and as I made the short trip to her, she still remained deathly still.

“Gina, what’s wrong?”

I lowered into a crouching position and studied her closely. Gently, I turned her head to mine. Slowly, her eyes opened once more, though there was something about the way she looked at me that felt so empty. It seemed as if she was letting go, she succumbed to the pain. With my hand still upon her face, she revealed a dim smile.

“I’m just a little tired Marlin. Don’t worry about me.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

To my words, she lifted her hand and placed it upon my arm; she was clearly straining, as her movements were slow and awkward.

“I just need some… sleep.”

“Gina?”

She closed her eyes once more; her grasp upon my arm weakened. I let her fall into that slumber, but I watched her breathing carefully. She lay her head back and let out a deep sigh. All the while, I held her hand and checked her pulse. Her heartbeat felt weak and slow, and that prompted me to action.

Looking to the end where I had spotted the elevator, I decided it was time to move. Carefully, I tried to pull Gina to her feet. She was in no position to move at all; I was forced to seat her back gently upon the floor. As I pondered my next move, something extraordinary occurred just before my very eyes. While she sat still, unaware of her body’s actions, Gina left her Miraxis Form. Her forms straps and buckles faded as she had returned to her original state without her abilities. The event frightened me, but it was followed by an occurrence more astounding then itself.

A strange humming sound emitted from Gina, but it was not her own chords that had struck that note. As the hum grew to a constant tone, a golden aura began to form around her. I instantly recognized that it was the healing state that she had obtained from her abilities, her very own unique power. Her body had put her to sleep and entered a full recuperative process, halting all systems to allow the most necessary function to conclude its work. But she was no longer in her Miraxis Form. How was this possible?

The healing continued and I collected myself. However, the calm would not last long and I was frustrated to hear the distinctive sound of the elevator’s doors swiping open just a short distance ahead. I was still in my Miraxis Form and I would have to be wary that no matter how minor the oncoming threat may be, Gina had no armor or defense of any sort. She was now in her most vulnerable state and I would have to stop the enemy before it reached her.

I looked to confirm that she was still with me, the softened lift of her chest the only sign that she was breathing and well, the golden glow showing her uninterruptable recovery. There was nowhere to keep her safe here; I needed to keep myself between her and the enemy.

“Up here…”

The sound of a voice and many footsteps climbing those stairs… they would forever haunt me. A small group of officers emerged from the distant stairs, pausing as they looked to Gina and me. By the time they had prepared to engage in combat, I had already obtained one of the handguns from the officers I neutralized previously. Now, with my Endis blade in one hand and the formidable firearm in the other, I gave the men little time to react.

“Eliminate them, now!”

The first officer called out; throwing a pointed hand to me as his compatriots moved ahead. It was his fatal mistake. I pointed the handgun straight to his chest and took a direct shot. The recoil from the gun was unexpected, but as the bullet made the lengthy trip, I learned that the weapon’s power was well worth the pushback. Unprepared, that first officer fell back, clutching his breast where the bullet had impacted; tumbling downwards towards the stairs. There were three more men to deal with.

I knew not how many shots a magazine of that particular firearm contained, but I saw it fit to reserve the ammunition anyway, slipping the gun into a pocket as I rushed ahead with my blade. I kept an intended path as I headed to the men, ready to strafe in the direction of any oncoming shot, ready to stop Gina from taking any more harm, I had already failed to protect her once.

My instincts were accurate and as one of the men paused to take a cheap shot to my fallen friend; I leapt to his side to deflect the shot. Harmlessly, it ricocheted off my arm, flying to one of the floor’s walls. Unfortunately, there were two more men ready to take shots. Panic instilled within me when I realized that maybe I did not have the ability to protect Gina as I needed, and as I slashed across the first opponent with my sword, I immediately sprang into another attack.

I could feel it rush through me; I knew that my special ability was just moments from making itself known once again. With one of the men down, I aimed to the more distant of the two remaining and with all of my effort, threw my blade in the air towards him. Before I knew of what the weapon had done, I pulled back a tight fist and prepared to fight the sole officer closest to me. I heard a pained exclamation from the foe who had taken my sword to his body, but the hit he took may have been fortunate compared to the officer I was just seconds from hitting. When I threw my fist forward in a lunging punch, I saw the twisted red aura light up my arm in spectacular fashion. I knew it would be a hard hit.

A loud, almost disturbing crack rang out, as my empowered fist collided with the man’s head at such speed; it actually appeared to snap his neck as it sent him falling to the ground like a lifeless doll. I dashed over to grab my sword from one of the corpses and then made my way back to Gina. I paused and took a deep breath. That would not be the end of them, but if I could defeat all that approached, maybe I could take Gina to the elevator.

More footsteps…

Another group of officers approached from the stairs, this time with batons instead. I was fortunate, for they must have been unaware that my biological enhancements had left me essentially invulnerable to blunt impacts and only damageable by sharp objects. Using this to my advantage, I saw the surprise on their faces when they saw me sprint towards them, holding my blade back to prepare for one mighty swirl.

Showing the true colors of these men, one yelped and scrambled backwards down the stairs, too afraid to meet his fate by my blade. The other four, of which I counted as I approached, stood their ground, three holding blocks with their batons as the fourth one loaded his handgun. I noted his intent to shoot me and moved confidently ahead. They had no chance, no chance in hell. My speed had built up so greatly that when I held my feet straight to swing around, I actually slid for several meters. As my blade crossed ahead, from right to left, it took all but one of the men. Those blocking with their batons discovered that their weapons, if not themselves, were one piece no more. One specific opponent met the blade with his face, and the blood that ruptured about was horrifying.

The remaining figure stood his ground, cocking his handgun and aiming straight to my head. Within an arm’s reach of him, I struck my blade downwards, closing my eyes as he took his shot. I felt a thin sting upon my forehead but it quickly faded, the bullet bouncing off my skull without having made any difference. I also felt the collision as my sword embedded itself within the officer’s shoulder, leaving a terrified expression as he fell to the floor before the stairs. He slipped into a puddle of blood from one of the victims nearby, and he contributed to the red lake, as he lay unmoving.

These men were running to their own deaths, helpless to my power, but how long could I hold out? When I turned back away from the stairs, I saw the one thing I was most afraid of. There were two officers heading straight for Gina. How had they come from the staircase with a dead end? The reasoning did not matter, for I pulled out the handgun and ran back to stop their approach. While sprinting, I took a well-aimed shot to one of the officers. I missed my intended target, though I did catch his arm. In his flailed halt, I was able to shoot once more and take him out with a fatal bullet to his head. His body fell straight down, and the other officer, unaffected, ran on. His intent was to reach Gina.

I was very close to him and as I awaited the time to strike, I became rushed. I heard footsteps again, but this time, many more. They resounded from both sides of the floor. I swung from a distance, barely clipping the target but nonetheless, killing the man very close to Gina’s resting body. Now beside her again, I looked over once more. I did not know how long she needed to remain in her state, but I only hoped that it would not be more than another minute. I would find out that even if she had healed in just one minute, fate would have never been swayed.

There were about a dozen officers emerging from the stairs belonging to the elevator. One took a shot at me and I narrowly dodged it by ducking. I glanced back and caught the sight of at least eight officers on the opposing side. Most were armed with firearms. I held the handgun tightly, taking careful shots as I pressed the trigger. Several gunshots rang out, and an equal number of opponents fell to their deaths. One firearm capable foe remained in that group and I took a shot from the hip to ultimately dispose of him.

I made another mistake…

When I turned and aimed directly to the one man whose firearm faced Gina, I felt his eyes turn to me and then back to his helpless target. Confident in my accuracy, I pressed the trigger moments before he did, but one of the two bullets of destiny did not fly. A loud click rang between the walls; a handgun was luckily out of loaded ammunition…

However, it was not my fortune.

My heart skipped a beat. I had no time to react. The officer’s shot was well aimed from his distance. The bullet penetrated Gina’s upper left arm, just as the shot she had taken to her thigh. She released a cry of pain, though the golden aura continued and her eyes never opened. I rushed to her, dropping the handgun to the floor in a mad dash to witness another mistake of my own making. A couple of the officers ran to me, trying to intercept my path. In a leap of fury, I pulled forth my arm and swung to the side with my elbow. The first officer most assuredly lost the connection to his jaw. The second one was taken out by the soaring body of the first; flying back in an unbelievable impact. None of this took my attention from that girl.

“Gina!”

A few more shots echoed about, and after a couple of thin bounces from my body, one missed me entirely. It ran straight into Gina’s ribs, creating another source of terrible pain and blood.

Another agonizing squeal twisted me more. I fell above Gina, on my knees above her body.

“That’s enough! Hold your fire…”

One officer called out to the others and their slowed footsteps approached from afar.

“No…”

The golden glow of Gina’s internal healing process died down. It had not completed its work; her body was out of the willpower and energy to fix up those wounds. When it entirely faded, heavy breathing followed and her eyes opened wide.

By now, her arm was red with the flow of blood from the shot to her arm, but that was not the hit to worry about. Darker blood flowed from the lower area of her chest; the bullet had gone all the way into her abdomen. Who knew the damage from that penetration? I pressed a hand to the injury, but it only caused more pain. After a strained movement, she sighed and spoke quietly.

“Marlin… It’s okay.”

It was incredible that she had even lasted that long. Her voice was thin and wavering. With her right arm, she shook wildly as she grasped my hand. I never thought it would have come to this; I found myself drained of life, so suddenly the weight of this girl fell upon me.

“Gina…”

“I’m sorry…”

She spoke in such a grim whisper, but what I heard was the sweet, melodic voice of the girl I met in the dormitory hall, just mere days before. With the only power she had left, she held my hand as tight as she could and looked to my eyes with a longing I had seen so many times before.

“Thank you… Marlin… I-”

Her voice cut out as a terrible cough emerged. She was in the heaviest of pains, and the bullet had possibly penetrated a lung. She had not finished her words yet she decided there was one thing she needed to do. With her trembling palm, Gina reached up to my face and rubbed my cheek. Her voice shook its way to my ears.

“I’ll never forget you…”

As she let go, she winced and released her aggravated arm from its hold. Her body slowly lowered, and I felt that last, lifeless hold on my hand as she went down. There was a brilliant smile still somehow upon her face, and it was unforgivable for her to drill that image and burn it into my mind forever. I lost control of my own emotions and I felt my own tears emerge for the first time in so long.

“You can’t go…”

A withered voice came out; I choked on my words. I found my own tears falling upon Gina. Somehow, she found the power to speak one last time.

“I love you…”

Three words… That was all that she said, and all she wanted to say. That smile was killing me; I never wanted to see anyone show that expression ever again. I felt her palm open upon my hand, for all her strength was gone. Her smile slowly faded, and as her eyes moved to a lengthy closing, it was almost as if that beautiful blue shade had faded, and her spirit was there no more.

She was gone. Gina… My best friend, my only connection to my past and my hope for the future… it was all gone. I placed my hand to her chin, but there was no life to sense, nothing to feel but my own agonizing, terrible failure. It was all over now; I had lost her.

“You may leave the girl, we need at least one alive-“

“You will pay for this; you will all pay for this!”

With one last stroke of my dear friend, I slowly stood up and briskly wiped away those unwanted tears.

“Do you hear me?”

I held tensed fists as I trembled in my stance. I looked to the officer that appeared to be in charge, gritting my teeth and glaring with such vengeance within me. I was in control of my actions no more.

“Boy, you have nothing to fight for, give yourself up, for the good of us all. You owe at least that to The Miraxis Corporation.”

“I owe nothing to you senseless imbeciles. Nothing. This place has done nothing for me. The things I’ve come to terms with… are the things I’ve now lost forever.”

I broke from my stare to make one more glance to Gina, her body bathed in blood she never deserved to lose. Another wave of anger washed over me.

“Just surrender-“

“Never…”

The officer looked to his men, there were about half a dozen by him, and another group behind me. He raised his brow and shrugged in disbelief.

“So be it… Kill hi-“

I refused to allow this man one more word. A deathly sensation like nothing I had ever felt flowed through my body. I yelled as I lunged forward with an uppercut, my arm glowing with that red light that revealed its true power. When my fist smashed upwards against the officer, it had such speed that he launched into the air, careening into the other men beside him. The group behind me moved up and I whipped out my blade to strike them in one swift slice. I took a couple of them down and the few that remained were neutralized through wild and unleashed impalements. I was breathing with such haste that I felt I would pass out in my movements, but I no longer cared. There was nothing left to stay for. If I went down in that battle, it would have been for the better.

With only the remains of the first group remaining, I picked up a couple of firearms lying on the floor and moved to shoot quickly. With no focus on my aim, I pressed the triggers like a maniac, shooting bullets wherever I sensed a threat. Shot after shot after shot, I felt that I was losing my mind. When both guns ran out of loaded ammunition, all was silent.

There were bodies all around, no officers left to take on the fight. The barrels of the handguns were billowing smoke, and I threw them to the floor in misery.

When I felt that there were no more foes on the way, I dropped heavily to my knees, and threw my head in my hands. I felt my lips tremble… I just wanted to cry, I wanted to unload all of my entire being until there were no more tears to shed, but I could not. My last tear had fallen to Gina, my last hope had been her final smile, and the last light I had felt inside my very soul was her presence. All was nothing…

Slowly, I took my hands away from my face. I looked to the stairs; the descent where that cursed elevator entrance awaited, and I made my decision. Gina and I intended to escape The Miraxis Index and that was exactly what I planned to do.

“It’s not over, not yet-“

When I made another look to Gina, I stood up and approached her lifeless body. I bent down and observed her injuries. Aware that it was too late to make a difference, I still made an effort to end her constant bleeding. I used her own waist buckle to cover the hole on her body, and using a segment of the sleeve of her shirt, I tightly wrapped up the injury on her arm.

I held her wrist as I tended to the injury; with my fingers tightly wrapped, I sensed the impossible. Immediately, I dropped what I was doing. I held my hands up in disbelief and took a look around. Had I just felt what I had? Slowly, I placed my hand upon her wrist once more.

Nothing… I thought for a moment I had felt a sign of life, but there was nothing. My mind played tricks on me, and I felt the approaching, eternal haunting that I would suffer from the loss of Gina. Containing my emotions, I continued to apply care to her arm.

Again… but this time it was clear. I swore I felt the faint yet present pulse of her heart. There, holding her wrist once more, I kept as still as I could. Seconds passed, and I found nothing again; then suddenly, another beat… Was she still alive? The length of time between the heartbeats was ludicrous to trust, but I needed something, anything to believe that Gina was still with me. With a glimmer of hope on the horizon, I decided to rush my movements and move ahead. Maybe there was a way to save her, bring her back from the realm of the dead. I needed her.

As gently as I could, I lifted her up and held her in my arms. She was still coming with me in this last escape. I began to step forward, a cautious approach to the stairs. I kept a tight hold of her and tried not to drop her from my grasp.

Step after step, it felt like I would never reach the elevator, but as I stepped down those thick stairs, the open elevator welcomed my approach. My haste quickened and I made the last movements into the machine. Once inside, I settled my steps and lowered myself to a crouch, all the while still holding a friend likely lost to me.

The elevator slowly shut its doors. I closed my eyes, disconnecting from the world around me, hopeful that the elevator would take me somewhere different, elsewhere from my previous ventures.

After some time of quiet rumbling and a thin vibration, I sensed something. Though closed, my eyes could see that the light had gone from the elevator. When I opened them, I confirmed this and began to feel uncomfortable. The rumbling seemed to fade away, and the shaking mechanisms slowed to a halt. I heard the elevator’s doors gently swipe to the side.

I had arrived somewhere…

I only began to feel fear when I heard that tone I had heard too many times before, the tone that was always accompanied by an otherworldly presence, whether as a figure or an event. Still carrying Gina, I fell forward as the elevator seemed to tilt drastically, something turning it downward with alarming strength. I had no grip, and no way to hold on.

I fell into nothingness, and as I felt that fall hasten, I lost my hold of Gina. Wherever I was going, her body was heading there as well. Maybe this was the end; for a moment, I actually wished that it were. I had lost my only light in the darkness of this world. Yet, no matter how glim, I held some hope within me, hope that the light had not yet faded, and that I would be able to make it burn once more. It was the kind of hope that she had taught me how to feel…