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MADDIE DUEWELL hefted the axe and yanked the fire pull. She retraced her footsteps back in Peter's direction—and Darryl's. No alarm rang out, another strategical calculation by Darryl in case Peter managed to get free, she figured. Rows of computer servers filled the room, so instead of sprinkles turning on, a foggy mist descended from the ceiling, chocking the room full of a smoky haze. Even better.

She hastened her pace. "You're too late." Darryl crowed. "The rebirth of the world has begun." A chill blew through Maddie's body upon hearing the words. The smoke retardant hissed from special vents overhead. She crept down the far row, deeper into the room, darkness multiplying.

***

The foreign hiss rising above the hum of cooling fans brought Darryl out of his VR immersion. He pressed the button on his glove, slid the visor onto his forehead, and cocked his head to one side—listening.

The foggy mist thickened.

Peter's eyes belied the faintest direction to the aisle where Maddie had fled.

Darryl spun around.

Maddie screamed as she swung the axe at his head.

***

The hearty blade chopped through the VR visor, and stuck into Darryl's skull, bone crunching with finality. Sparks shot. Blood spurt at Maddie, splattering her face. He reached for the axe, but his gross motor skills fell short. Staggering, red rivers streamed off his chin, soaking his shirt. "You bitch! I'll—I'm gonna—You're gonna..."

She took a step back, then charged forward—kicking him in the crotch with all her might.

Darryl's knees buckled, and then gave out. He fell to all-fours, hands slipping in his own blood pooling on the floor, grappling for the axe.

Peter nodded his head approvingly at Maddie. She took a step back, turned, and retreated down a row of computers. The next moment, she returned with the fire extinguisher, and raised it overhead.

Darryl crawled, hunched over, arms and legs shaking.

"Die, asshole."

Maddie widened her stance and threw down with all her might. The extinguisher bashed the back of his skull—Dong—clanged to the floor, and rolled, stopping against a computer rack.

Darryl collapsed, pushing the axe into his forehead when he hit the floor, blade sinking in with a sickly squish. Blood sprayed Maddie's bare feet, but she didn't care.


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