Fourteen

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Fourteen

"It's still there. We've watched closely for any sign of fading. After 16 years, it's still present as ever."

-Dr. Freed, confidential correspondence to Wesley Brooks


College kid bolted, ditching his laptop and making a break towards Dixy street. Marlee and I sprinted after him.

"Got him running towards Dixy," I barked into comms.

"We're in route," Wes replied.

Our techy Ace was not a fast runner, but he was resourceful. He pushed people out of his way, knocked down bikes, and cut through a hidden side alley.

I leaped over a wayward bike as we came out onto the next street. At my side, Marlee dodged a stumbling person. "How did he know?" She asked.

I'd wondered the same thing. To this Ace, we were nothing more than teenagers enjoying a day off. We'd given no further indication that we were anything but. This was the first recon mission. He should have been more worried about the police force than a few teenagers out for the day.

Unless... "Comms may be compromised," I said into the mic. "Go dark."

Feet flying across the pavement, I rushed after the guy. He lurched around a planted tree on the sidewalk and jumped into the street.

I followed. Tires squealed and a horn blasted. I whirled to narrowly avoid getting rammed into by a sedan. Painfully, the front bumper still clipped my hip.

The driver spewed curses at my back.

Marlee had gotten cut off by the vehicle. "I'll circle around," she yelled after me.

The car had slowed me down--another thing that worked to this Ace's advantage. He ducked into another alley.

Barely avoiding the corner of the brick building, I ducked after him. My breaths came out in gasps, my throat already tasting of iron. Not good enough. I told myself. You have to be better. I should've had this guy already.

The lanky Ace scaled a wire fence and slammed onto the dumpster on the other side. An old mirror resting against the dumpster fell and shattered.

The toes of my shoes dug into the rungs as I climbed after him. The electric curved wires at the top meant nothing as I'd watched the guy touch them a moment before. They were simply a deterrent for those unwilling to test them.

Halfway over the top, the Ace surprised me. He whirled, gripped the fence--

--and the electric wires underneath me flared to life.

The resulting shock shot all the nerve endings up my left leg. I listed sideways and fell, back first, onto the dumpster.

My breath left in one sweep. Leg numb, I rolled off the dumpster and practically fell to the ground.

The shattered mirror dug into my palms. I jumped up, my brain processing the surroundings automatically.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Use them to your advantage.

There was a rusted fire escape next to the dumpster. A broken, crooked rung jutted out from the lowest part. On the other side of the alley, a yellowed mattress and rusted bike leaned against the building.

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