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Death came from above



Siouxsie pondered the smouldering red glow on the horizon. It could be a sign of the impending dawn, a sign that this impossibly long and traumatic night was finally ending. The surreal glow overhung the city they’d finally left behind. For all she knew, the red smudge in the sky meant fresh fires were burning.

Summerhawk had liberated an expensive h:chip from the factory on his way out. He didn’t mean to steal it. When he’d heard of the uprising, he didn’t have time to disengage the h:chip from his neural circuits before rushing home.

In hindsight, they’d have never managed to get out the city without it. The h:chip interfaced with the city’s main AI-bots, thus enabling them to avoid the marauding vigilante patrols—both neopig and human. It even somehow gave them advanced warning that the Pont Butin bridge would be hit by the neo-mafia, although Summerhawk didn’t want to think too closely about what the implications were of how it knew.

Ironically, having the h:chip meant that Summerhawk and Siouxsie had access to better guidance than anyone else who was also trying to flee. Most humans wore expensive innerlink-enabled m:chips that, amongst neopigs, only the highest echelons of the neo-mafia could possibly afford. But these commercial m:chips were far less intelligent than the industrial-quality h:chips. Summerhawk didn’t doubt that the h:chip partially attached to his brain was cleverer than he was.

Despite being astonishingly well-equipped, it had still taken Siouxsie and Summerhawk most of the night to get clear of Geneva. Siouxsie had hoped they’d be safe once they were out of Grottes, but the fighting had spread throughout Geneva by then.

And now, just as dawn was indeed preparing to break, they were clear of the city, watching the dancing shadows of its towers from a safe distance. Momentarily, they were lost, bereft of a clear plan. What should they do next? Where could they possibly go?

Siouxsie suggested finding Summerhawk’s family. She knew that it wouldn’t be long before nowhere in Switzerland was safe for their kind. She realised they’d all have to leave. Soon she would be a refugee two times over. This time at least she wasn’t alone.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a strange sound coming from Summerhawk; a snort that was part disbelief and part sheer terror. She looked across at him sharply, and saw his pupils were hazy. The chip in his head was talking to him again; over the last few hours, she’d come to recognise when this happened.

What was it telling him now? Nothing good, she was sure. Then he snorted again.

“No! They couldn’t… They wouldn’t…”

Suddenly he screamed at her “Get down!” Before she had time to react he had slammed his body into hers, knocking her to the ground and shielding her. “The orbital las…”, he began.

But before he could finish, the atmosphere around them came to life. It sizzled with electricity. A ghastly humming filled the air with terrifying potential.

Then the humming abruptly ceased, and a white laser beam appeared out of the clouds above the distant city.

Death came from above. The city exploded.

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