The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Forty-Six

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Em had enough energy to get them to the ground safely. It was anything but a soft landing, but they made it nonetheless.

Winded and dizzy, Em didn’t stop to catch her breath. She grabbed May by the hand and ran.

“Where are we going?” May cried, stumbling to keep up.

Em couldn’t run and talk at the same time. She paused, meaning only stop long enough to wheeze out a reply when she spotted her.

The Loyal woman rounded the corner of the hospital. Her stance said she was ready to fight, but she hadn’t spotted them yet.

“Shit!” Em dragged herself onward. May took up the slack, keeping a firm grip on Em’s hand as she ran.

“Stop!” The Loyal shouted from behind them.

The pair darted between parked cars and across the street. An oncoming truck laid on the horn as they cut dangerously close in front of it. They weaved through the people leisurely going about their day and ducked into a narrow pathway between two storefronts.

“This is crazy,” May panted. The path wasn’t wide enough to allowed them to run side-by-side, so she followed as closely as she could behind Em who staggered and tripped along the way. “What do we do?”

“We need… to leave…” Em huffed, bracing herself against the building walls for support. May’s mind was already racing, trying to figure out what she would do if Em lost the strength to keep running altogether.

The crunch of gravel sounded from behind her. The Loyal had found them. May’s eyes widened with panic as the woman raised a hand. She was armed with something, but May didn’t intend to find out what it was.

“EM!” she shrieked, launching herself onto Em’s back. They spilled forward without a moment to spare; something whizzed past them in the space where they had stood only seconds before.

With a renewed rush of adrenaline, Em wrestled her way off the ground. She moved fast – the way she had when she had punched Kane. In an instant she had manifested a small, sparking cluster of energy in her hand. She turned, heaving her shoulder like she was throwing a punch and launching the orb at the Loyal. It collided with the woman’s chest, an electric-sounding snap reverberating up the close set walls of the path as the impact sent her rocketing backwards.

May rose in time to catch Em under the arms as she wavered on the edge of collapse. Heaving with every ounce of strength, she barely managed to haul Em out into the open on the other end of the path where they collapsed behind the building in a heap.

“I.. can’t…” Em gasped, her face cinched with panic and pain. “Need more… time.”

Searching the space around them, May looked for anything they could use to defend themselves. Then, her eyes landed on Em’s hip. Knowing that Em had only needed time to rest, hospital staff hadn’t bothered to relieve her of any of the equipment she had on her person. May reached down and unclasped the bear spray from its holster.

Em laughed weakly. “Get the bitch, babe.”
Heart racing, May stood with her back against the wall at the entrance to the path. She could hear the Loyal woman grunting as she pulled herself to her feet. She swore, her voice rough and gritted through what was no doubt a considerable amount of pain. May held her breath and listened to each step, biding her time until the last possible moment.

The footsteps drew closer. May armed the cannister and pulled the collar of her shirt up around her nose. With her grip firm, May whirled around the corner, coming face to face with their pursuer. The woman was clearly surprised, and the split second she hesitated bought May the time she needed. Her finger pressed hard onto the trigger and a cloud of putrid, burning spray shot straight into the Loyal’s face.

Even from where she stood, May could feel the bite of the spray as it quickly filled the narrow passage way. The woman shrieked in agony, clawing desperately at her eyes. Before May could think too much about it, she saw an opportunity. Raising her knee, she kicked out with as much force as she could muster. Her heel caught the woman in the gut and sent her toppling backwards again.

“Holy shit!” Em gasped. She was standing, albeit hunched and frail-looking. Coughing, May secured the cannister and ran out to grab her.

Together they hobbled behind the row of shops until they found a route Em recognized. Keeping a low profile, they moved carefully through town, taking alleyways and quiet roads until they finally made it back to headquarters.

Matti leaned out from the booth just as the girls stumbled inside.

“Guys?” he asked, his face flooding with concern. “Are you okay? What’s going on? I thought you were at the hospital.”

“Close the door, Matti… Hurry!” Em wheezed, sliding to her knees and into a coughing fit.

Matti bumbled, torn between doing what she said and knowing that the bay doors were to remain open whenever the team was on a call. May stepped up, slamming her clenched fist on the door’s down button.

As the doors rumbled to life, she ran back to Em, who shook her head. “Go grab what you can… Need to move… now.”

May didn’t argue. She left Em with Matti and sprinted up the stairs to the dorms.

Even though he wasn’t supposed to leave the booth, Matti crossed the floor and hauled Em up in his arms.

“What happened to you?” he asked, holding on to her gingerly.

At that moment, Dom ducked in under the closing bay door.

“Yo, Matti!” he shouted. “What gives? You know the door- Oh, shit.” His eyes landed on Em. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Mattie admitted helplessly. “They just stumbled in like this.”

Dom helped Em stand, watching her closely. “You’re supposed to be at the hospital.”

Em coughed and shook her head.

“What do you need, Em?” he asked, rubbing gentle circles between her shoulder blades. He knew her well enough by now to know that arguing would get him nowhere.

“To leave,” Em spluttered in reply. She took a sharp, gasping breath in and coughed again.

“Leave?” Dom looked to Matti who could only shrug helplessly. “Leave where? HQ?”

“No, leave Tenna,” May answered, rushing down the stairs as quickly as she could. She had haphazardly crammed whatever of their belongings fit into the pack. Anything she may have missed was going to have to stay. “We need to get out of here now.”

“Why?” Matti gaped incredulously. “What happened?”

“No time… to explain,” Em wheezed. She clutched at Dom’s shoulder, her eyes pleading. “Please, Dom. Help.”

Dom hesitated. He glanced from Em to May and sighed.

“Okay,” he relented, hoisting Em into his arms. “May, toss the pack into the truck. Matti, I need the keys.”

They did as instructed. As Dom secured Em into a seat in the truck, May rushed back to grab the keys from Matti.

“If anyone comes looking for us, we were never here,” she told him sternly. Matti opened his mouth to argue but she didn’t give him the chance. “Please, Matti. Just trust me, okay?”

Matti didn’t look convinced but he nodded nonetheless. “Whatever is going on, please be careful.”

Giving a quick nod, May bounded back to the truck and slid in beside Em. She braced herself as Matti hit the switch, the doors rolling upwards.

“Drive, Dom,” May said, her jaw clenched. “As fast as you can – drive.”

Dom hit the gas. Em’s head rolled against May’s shoulder as he spun out of the courtyard and into the main street. No one spoke as the truck maneuvered the streets as quickly as possible without running anyone down.

May slumped in her seat and exhaled. Her heart was still pounding in her ears when she heard the screech of tires from behind them. She twisted in her seat in time to see a dusty motorcycle righting itself after making a sharp turn onto the road. It lurched forward – May could just make out the Loyal’s hair streaming out from beneath the helmet.

“She doesn’t give up, does she?” May cried, ducking low behind the seatback.

Dom glanced in the rearview mirror. “Is that who you’re running from?”

“Yes!” she yelped. Beside her Em groaned.

“Shit, okay,” Dom growled, passing a car in front of them with entirely too much speed. “Hold on.”

He shifted gears and punched it into high gear. They tore out of town, down along the tree-lined road that wound down the mountain.

The motorcycle’s engine roared from behind, gaining ground frighteningly fast.

Em lifted a hand and placed it weakly on Dom’s forearm. She didn’t say a word, but he seemed to understand her anyway.

“Right,” he grunted with a nod. “The scenic route it is.”

He wrenched the wheel, turning the truck at a violent angle and sending it careening for the forest.

May had no time to react – all she could do was scream.

[Read Next Chapter]


Ko-Fi May

Banner art by @flowerveil

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