"Do you see them," Kristen asked. It was the fifth time in as many minutes. Dressed in a ragged cotton flower print dress, the front drenched in blood courtesy of its former owner, she was like thousands of others. A pillow stuffed up by her stomach filled some of the loose fabric giving her the almost comical appearance of a child attempting to mimic a pregnant woman if the blood hadn't been so disturbing.

She carried a one-armed doll, also covered in sticky crimson. There was much of it to be found since the Authority had begun shelling the outer neighborhoods. Entire city blocks had been demolished and building were broken and shattered by the constant mortar fire back and forth. Sometimes there was nothing left of the people who had lived inside them but a stain on the wall. Sometimes there was more, and that was worse. The rotten hot stink of a person's insides filled even the most shattered room. There was no shortage of gore to use for props.

"So...," Kristen said. "Do you see them?"

Meifen sighed. Dressed from head to toe in black with her dark hair tied into a tight ponytail, she peeked out around the corner and shook her head.

"I can hear them but I can't see them yet."

"So why don't we move closer?"

"And if they see both of us?"

Kristen shrugged.

"Exactly," Meifen said. "Just be patient."

"It'd better work."

"It will. If you do your part."

A minute later, the crunch of tank tracks eating up pavement got closer, accompanied by the high pitched whine of the turbine motor. Meifen poked her head around the corner and saw an armored personnel carrier turning onto the street surrounded by Earth soldiers. Their helmets were sky blue, the color of the Universal United Human Authority, over gray urban camouflage. Each carried a standard UUHA-issue plasma pulse rifle, marching with wary precision, glancing up at the hollow windows above for any sign of enemy weapons.

Meifen pulled herself back and watched Kristen take deep breaths, the excitement brightening her blue eyes. A wide grin spread across her face and her posture was such that she seemed ready to sprint out and meet them right then.

"Ten seconds," Meifen said. There was no need to whisper, the engine was deafening. "Get your game face on."

Kristen huffed in two gulps of air and her eyes began to water, lips trembling. As Meifen peeled herself away from the wall, Kristen swallowed a deep sob. By the time she circled around behind, Meifen was certain Kristen would be in a full blown fit of crying.

Moving through the building was easier than going around and Meifen stalked over the rubble from the collapsed upper floors with the grace of a cat, still keeping low to ensure she wasn't seen. Right on cue, a shriek cut through the night air and Kristen came running up the street, cradling the doll in her arms like a terrified mother.

The Earth soldiers formed a quick line in front of the vehicle, going down on their knees and taking aim, calling out in several languages for her to stop. The shouts and were chaotic and Meifen couldn't understand a word they said but their posture told her everything she needed to know. Still, they were sloppy, leaving no one to guard the rear.

While Kristen held their attention forward with her desperate cries, Meifen inched around behind, the Desert Eagle supported by both hands. Eight soldiers plus whoever was inside the APC. She had seven rounds loaded and two spare clips. Almost a fair fight.

Meifen lingered in the shadows, taking care to aim her first shot. All of the soldiers were men and though their skin varied in shade, their builds and height were almost identical. One had an extra stripe on the back of his helmet and she assumed he was an officer or some kind of squad leader. Leveling her weapon, it glinted in the dim moonlight and caught Kristen's eye, knowing she was visible.

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