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Flight Path

I should have known better. It was late. I was already tired. All I wanted was to crawl into my hotel bed and rest. But I foolishly decided I should venture into the Ruins just one more time, expending the last vestiges of my energy in the forlorn hope of actually uncovering something valuable for a change. Rummaging through piles of dusty, broken regocrete blocks for something worth more than a quarter-credit, I barely noticed when my eyelids started to droop. "Just a few units more," I said to myself...

...Until the next thing I knew, I was jolted awake by the sound of an energy bolt sizzling just past my head, grazing my right ear. "FRELL!" I hollered, scrambling backwards, crablike, stumbling to my feet, wrestling out my own firearm, craning my neck desperately trying to spot my assailant.

Oh, frak.

Oh frak oh frak oh frak oh frakkity-frakking frak.

He found me.


(Okay, technically I didn't know whether Zoffix was a he, a she, an it, or a they. Frankly, I had more pressing concerns than grammar just then.)

Even while scanning furiously for a handy exit--any exit--I automatically returned fire, but it seemed to slide off Zoffix's armor. His next shot, meanwhile, caught me square in the right shoulder, knocking me back and numbing my arm despite the protective suit. He'd probably missed me on purpose the first time; it's no fun if his victims don't know what's coming.

I tried faking a fall, then scrambled desperately to one side, chucking bits of crumbled masonry as far as I could in the other direction. For a unit or two it appeared to work: Zoffix turned to follow the sound, giving me a chance to flee. And flee I did. Ducking into the ruined remains of a doorway, leaping over a still-sparking cable, pushing over a tall pile of debris to collapse behind me, with Zoffix's mocking laughter echoing in my ears.

He caught up with me effortlessly, of course. Zoffix is too gorram fast. I knew he'd gotten close enough when I felt a solid impact in my left side, before I even heard the >zap< of the firearm. Wincing with pain, I fired back blindly, not even looking behind me, just to buy an extra microunit of time. Zoffix sidestepped easily enough, but in that extra instant I spotted something that might just give me a chance. Some sort of floor vent, with the cover slightly askew. I literally dove straight into the narrow opening, scraping myself up something awful, then pulled the cover on and scurried backward into darkness.

I tried my best to stop gasping for breath.

Units passed.

And then I heard the crunch of footsteps outside the shaft. And I also heard--was Zoffix whistling? Sadistic karkhead.

A shadow fell across the grate I'd so hastily tried to lodge back into place. The whistling stopped. So did the crunching. I clutched my shotgun tighter, my finger on the trigger, willing it not to shake (with only moderate success).

Another unit passed.

A deep chuckle sent a shudder down my spine.

A shadowy face appeared at the vent opening.

It grinned.

I fired.

The impact blew Zoffix back, but I wasn't fool enough to think it had killed him. I doubted it would even slow him down much. So I kept my grip on my gun as I kicked my way out of the ventilation shaft... and I was proven right almost immediately. I spotted the pile of black cloth just a couple of meters away when I emerged, and it was already starting to rise. So I shot at it again, and fled.

No more time for subtlely; I just bolted directly for the main station. Maybe, if I actually ran right inside the kriffing Security office, the gorram guards might feel like trying to do something about this murderous lunatic.

I was within sight of the edge of the Ruins when another >zap< announced my latest failure to escape. It missed me--melting a nearby pipe into slag--but at this point I had no idea whether Zoffix had actually missed or was just toying with me again.

I had to do something different.

I drew a deep breath, spun around, and charged directly at Zoffix, screaming at the top of my lungs and squeezing the trigger over and over and over, firing again and again and again. I have no idea whether any of my blasts struck him at all. In my head, I suppose I must have thought Zoffix wasn't used to anyone intentionally heading towards a fight with him. Maybe I imagined him so startled that he'd start running before he even realized he was doing it.

Yeah, right.

Naturally it didn't work out that way. Zoffix shot me almost negligently, point blank, square in the chest as my momentum carried me past him. My supposed battle cry morphed into a whimper of pain... but my armor absorbed the brunt of the energy, and I just kept running full tilt. I zigged and and zagged at random, my mind a blank, unable to think of anything I could do to deter this killing machine without a small army (which I didn't happen to have handy).

It was quite some time before I realized Zoffix was no longer chasing me.

To this day I have no idea why Zoffix allowed me to escape with my life. It certainly wasn't because I posed any sort of threat to him. Maybe he just got tired of chasing me, and decided to look for easier prey.

I try not to dwell on it.