Write to Rank: Your Choice

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Jack sat in the second-floor food court of the Rebel Ann Mall. The place was packed, full of people and chatter and heavy with the scent of grease. He bit into his chicken burger and glanced out over the balcony, idly checking out the main entrance on the ground floor.

No sign of the freak, he thought, relaxing. It's safe.

"Hello Jack." A voice - smooth, pleasant, and perhaps a tad amused.

Jack's head whipped around. A man stood by his table. All in black, with a trench coat hiding the vast array of weaponry he surely carried. He had immaculately styled hair and a faint smile that failed to reach those cold, empty eyes.

"You have a choice," the man told him, as if they were the only ones in the food court. "Dead or alive. Either way, you're coming with me."

Jack swallowed hard. Then he tossed his half-eaten burger at the man's face. Without hesitation, he leaped from his seat, grabbed the balcony rail, and vaulted right over the edge.

Air rushed by him, the sensation of floating while caught in freefall. Then he hit the floor, the impact jarring his ankles, knees, pain shooting up his legs. A gasp tore free, but he pushed through the hurt and stumbled into a run, bolting for the entrance.

Two women had just walked in; they stood in his path, lingering before the doors. He shoved them aside, ignoring their startled cries, and reached out to push open the –

Light exploded in his face, a hot blast of air slapping him right off his feet. Next thing he knew he was flat on his back, his ears ringing, choking on acrid smoke. What-?

People screamed, but their voices were distant. For a moment, Jack knew only a muted shock. Then he heard it.

Crunch.

Crunch.

Crunch.

Boots stepping through shards of glass.

Jack scrambled to his hands and knees, his hands leaving bloody handprints. Then he was on his feet. He looked wildly about. The entrance was now a smoking hole in the wall. And – crunch, crunch – the man in black walked calmly towards him across the glass and rubble strewn over the mall floor.

The man reached into his coat, and pulled out a grenade as casually as he would his wallet.

Fear spiked through Jack, and he bolted without any further thought. Through the ruined entrance, out onto the side walk, and straight across the busy street. Cars swerved to miss him. He didn't care.

A boom and a wall of heat slammed into him from behind. He stumbled. Tires squealed. Passerby shrieked.

Jack ran.

He reached the far sidewalk, dashed past the window of a pizzeria. Its glass shattered behind him as bullets punched through. He didn't stop. Didn't dare.

The choice had been made.

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