Of an Endless Hunt

Part one: All the World Will Be Your Enemy

The sign above her door said “4521”. In conversation they called her The Witness. But she only thought of herself as Amy.

She didn’t know how they had taken her. It had been as she was walking home from school. Calla, the one person in school still willing to talk to her, had been with her. Amy remembered a lull in the conversation, looking up at the sky, seeing the last trails of a cloud drifting in boundless blue. When she looked down, she was in the laboratory, and the testing had begun. That was five years ago, if her captors could be believed.

Part two: Rites of Passage

Rupinder sipped his drink. “Take, or don’t take, what you want. Stay or go as you please. We won’t stop you leaving.”

The words processed in her brain. She remained silent.

“However,” he said, placing his Coke next to the unopened can on the counter, “we are the only thing shielding you from the Foundation’s search. Do you know how long escaped humanoids evade them, alone? Three days. Rarely longer than a week. And if you don’t assist us, we see no reason to assist you.”

Part three: Riddles From The Dark

The world was a forest of bookshelves. She stood in a clearing, on a raised stone platform, so that she could see the stacks stretching to the distance, farther than seemed possible. Around her, people explored the rows. Some sat at tables, speaking softly to one another, playing board games, fiddling with rusted devices, or just reading alone. Further away, in other clearings, what looked like small shops and restaurants had been set up.

And, she realized, few of the people were human. A hundred different forms wandered the shelves, some that wouldn’t come to her knees, some so large their heads rose above the stacks, and every size in between. There were things like humanoid insects and reptiles, creatures half made of metal, living shadows, creatures of moving wire, floating particles circling glowing orbs, suits of armor, multi-armed men, a hundred other things. She stared, jaw gaping.

Part four: Living Through Shattered Glass

Grey smoke drifted from the trees ahead. Frowning, she pushed forward. She could smell the fire now, the sour scent of embers. Her mouth had gone dry. She swallowed, and almost felt her throat cracking. Between the foliage, up the hill, there was movement.

She ducked behind a tree just as two men in black body armor walked past. They were talking quietly. One laughed. Both held guns.

The town ahead looked like a warzone. Four helicopters were perched in the still-smoldering dirt around the buildings. Most of the homes had been blown open, the furniture inside scattered and burnt. Craters scattered the earth. And everywhere she looked, there were bodies.

Part five: The Prisoner

The air outside was freezing. Five of them stood in the yard. Amy had buried herself in a puffy green parka, but it hadn’t helped stop the shivering. A bulging backpack hung from her shoulders. The second was Rupinder, who looked completely unbothered by the cold, dressed in jeans and a thin sweater. Next were the Nish-Hyet. Amy had avoided talking to them since her arrival, and they her. At the moment they looked human, and oblivious of the weather.

The final member was an East Asian-looking woman who, in Amy’s week long stay with the group, hadn’t said a single word. Like Amy, she wore several layers of clothes. Dark coats, gloves, a hat. Her face was twisted in discomfort, but she hadn’t uttered a word of complaint.

They stared into a hole in the universe

Part six: True Places Never Are

Lightning rippled, thunder erupting before the bolt could vanish. The boat rocked with the noise. Amy stumbled, fell to her knees, pulled her way back up. The Sister had been tossed as well. The Queen was pulling her back up. The transformed Nish-Hyet paced back and forth, gnashing their teeth. Their claws raked nervously at their skin. The ship trembled in the wind.The gale swept over her like a river of needles. Mist soaked her skin. Another flash of lightning. The clouds were close now. So close. She turned, saw the Queen say something unintelligible.

And the storm struck.

Part seven: ...And Whenever They Catch You, They Will Kill You...

She whispered three words in a long-dead language and gestured her left ring finger down. A bead of red light erupted in the darkness in front of her, illuminating what looked like smashed concrete. The light followed her hand as she turned it, revealing more of the area- a disused, collapsing parking garage. Bugs the size of her fist fled across the concrete as the light touched them. She stood, dusted herself off, and continued guiding the light around. A few cars still sat in the garage, crushed into flat tin by boulders that had fallen god knows how long ago. She looked up through the hole in the ceiling. The night sky was completely black.

The light fell upon a door on the other side of the room. She began crawling over the shattered cars and debris, cursing as she felt her shirt catch on a piece of loose metal. Soon her arms and hands were covered in black dust that made her skin blend in with the surrounding gloom. When she touched the doorknob, it left a dark handprint.

Part eight: Wasting

In this room there was no time. No testing to mark the days or weeks. No meals to count off the hours. How long had she been here? A week? A month? More? At first she’d tried counting her sleep cycles. They’d begun to blur together before she reached five, the division between reality and unconscious slipping away. The only moments of clarity were when she was yanked away to another universe, hunted like an animal. Even if she escaped the creature, she always returned here. To the Foundation. She wanted to scream. She wanted to slam her head against the wall until she felt her skull crack. But it wouldn’t do any good.

Part nine: Ride the Dragon

Four and a half years since she accepted the request to join the Foundation. The first seven months had been training, breaking her down bit by bit and reforming her into a weapon. Then, as soon as that was finished, they pulled her trigger. She tried not to remember that first mission. That wound, old as it was, was too raw to touch, too deep to just lock up in a glass case. The Warden, just 14, staring down at a wounded Coalition shoulder and sending enough electricity through his body to power a house. Touching a man and feeling him shudder as his body turned to dust. The sound of an empty building after everyone inside it had become a body.

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