Chapter 22

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Quixxa's blood was already boiling.

"What do you mean you can't?!" She hissed, leaning towards Jonah. "You've got guns. You've got explosives. You've got grenades. You can help."

She showed her teeth in a growl.

"You just won't." She snarled.

Jonah leaned back a little, adjusting his grip on his weapon.

"Quix, it's a fool's errand to try and break him out." Jonah said. "The best we can do is stay put and wait for him to post bai-"

"Coward!" She shouted, planting her palm in his chest and shoving him back.

Quixxa watched the whole group of mercenaries stiffen and lock their eyes on her. She didn't care. She was blind with rage, and she knew it. The searing heat of wrath was welcome in her blood. She knew where he was being held. She knew what they had planned for him. And these worthless, feckless humans did too. These humans, who claimed to be better than the Market she'd protected them from, whose guns were just for decoration, and whose valor was for their nationalist military alone.

They weren't worth their salt.

But she was. She'd made a promise. And she wasn't going to break it now.

Quixxa seethed.

"You won't even help the person who needs and deserves it most!" Quixxa shouted, turning towards the door and starting to leave. "So much for doing what's right."

"Quix, you go after him, they're going to kill you. Don't you get that?"

"They're gonna kill him, and if I can't save him, I'd rather join him. You're the only ones who can help," she hissed. "And it looks like you haven't got the balls to do it."

She jerked the door open, gave them the finger, and slammed it.

Rage seethed through her veins. She already knew it was more than likely a fool's errand to try saving Runt, especially alone.

But no one else was coming to help.

He'd have come for her.

She was going to repay the favor.

~

Jonah cursed.

"Boss, we gonna go get her...?"

"No." he snapped. "She wants to piss her life away, that's her problem. We've done our job."

His soldiers shifted uncomfortably.

"Take R n' R boys." He said loudly. "We're gonna be leaving tomorrow, we need to be on top of our game."

His men started to shuffled away.

And he knew they weren't happy.

Maybe not angry...

But something didn't set right. Not even inside him. Something seemed bitter, familiar, like a specter resurrected. He didn't know what.

He didn't want to know, either. He plodded over to the couch and sat down suddenly, leaning his rifle beside him.

The soldier on the couch beside him nodded at Jonah as Jonah glanced at the tv.

It was a news cast being hardwired in from New Medina's news station.

... fourth car bomb today. Riots have been reported in every district, and the governor is reportedly considering martial law.

He bowed his head.

"Turn that thing off." He said.

"Boss..."

"Just shut it off."

~

Isolated shafts of yellowed light illuminated the sand storm in violent hues, tongues of fire lifting ashes into the storm, and flickering streetlights casting their glow on troubled streets.

The howl of wind and sand around Quix deadened the sound of angry screams and clashing batons. Riot police had formed a line between a storefront and a mob, bottles breaking like grenades over the shields as the mob worked itself into a frenzy to rival the sandstorm in the dim light. But the roar of gale-force winds and city-shaking violence wasn't enough to drown out the storms inside Quixxa's mind.

Not even close.

Quixxa sat beside a vehicle with her back against the steel. She was watching the violence with the disdain of a predator to its prey as she unscrewed the cap on a bottle of pure alcohol and stuffed a rag into the top. Flames and fears danced in her eyes as she prepared, donning her MLA uniform and shrugging off her innocence.

It was a reign of hate in the city, and if she was to survive, she had to belong.

She had hoped to have help. But Jonah hadn't offered it.

He hadn't even offered her a gun.

Quixxa hardened her jaw and cursed. It wasn't just the MLA. It was everyone. Jonah, the police, the whole city was coming to a rolling boil in their own evil.

She swallowed, feeling a bitter tug of guilt.

She knew she'd probably contributed.

But Runt...

Runt had not.

She had to join the riots. She had to load her gun, put up her bandana, and join the front lines. But this time, not because of orders. Not because of Marcen. Not because of the Pink Market, not even because of her.

Because of Runt.

Quixxa looked back at the riot police.

Soldiers in full body armor scurried out of the store with armloads of looted goods, hurrying towards their riot vans as the mob screamed themselves hoarse against the storm, watching as their food and water was drained away into the ever-gaping maw of New Medina's corrupt government.

She grit her teeth, slipping the bottle into her backpack and rubbing the grip of her gun apprehensively.

There was no 'right side'.

Only right and wrong. Good and evil.

And what they had planned for Runt was evil.

Her stomach boiled as did her blood, sickness and rage driving her to stand up and set her goggles back over her eyes. His hopes had fallen into the hands of the same police that sold Springers whole to the Pink market for disassembly. The same police force that looted behind riot walls. The same police that looked on as MLA terrorists committed unspeakable violence, and waited in the wings as embassies burned.

There was terrorism that lived in the shadows, the MLA...

But there was just as much evil that lived in uniform.

At least, on New Medina.

And until the day that she could lay eyes on a new world, on Runt's Promised Land, where evil wasn't a hulk but a husk, she couldn't pick sides. Only pick her battles.

And in this one, she'd picked Runt.

And that meant standing against the uniforms.

Quixxa bent over and lifted her backpack.

A small plastic box clattered out.

She paused and looked at it, and it bit at her soul as she did.

It held her new life, pardon and all.

She swallowed, feeling a chill run down her spine.

It meant nothing without Runt.

Quix bent down and scooped it up, stuffing it back into her pack as she zipped it shut numbly.

Getting Runt back was her only thought. And if she had to break the law to get him...

She could only hope her pardon counted not simply as forgiveness, but permission.

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