“Heart” challenge response, by Jason Ryan

Melissa looked from the gaping wound in her chest to the still-beating heart in her hand, and said, “Fuck.” The lights danced before her eyes and her vision began to flicker. The world was vibrating violently. Her breath came in short gasps as her numb fingers pawed at the edges of the wound, “This can’t be good.” She muttered. Slumped against a bolder, she tried to focus but that just seemed to make her vision even worse. Cursing under her breath she kicked at the dirt to push her back tighter against the rock to give as best cover as possible. “Brick! Brick! Did you see him?” A crackle answered in her earpiece, “I didn’t get anything on the scope Pale, he’s blocking my thermal and Envirol. Are you alright?”

Melissa blinked her eyes rapidly until they refocused. She concentrated on her breathing and listened for the sound of rattling. Gazing down at the hole in her chest, thin wires and tubes poured out and hung loosely, connected around the artificial pump that lay bare in her palm. Her hand was slick with a dark viscous fluid that was also leaking from her wound, now caked with the dirt on her fingers. “He shot me in the fucking chest. B-but, he missed my harness.” She spit on her ‘heart’ and carefully began to tuck it back into the hole. The cracking voice answered; “He’ll try to collect you. Prob’ for parts or to hack your brain for intel. This guy’s a pro.”

Mellissa stared at the wires between her fingers tracing them back to her heart. No shit. A cold shiver ran down her spine. The thought of her artificial body being taken apart piece by piece was an unnerving thought to say the least. “Don’t worry pretty lady, I wouldn’t see anyone else walking around on those legs of yours.” Brick laughed loud in Melissa’s ear. “Fuck you, Brick.” She growled. “He hit my power supply, I’m switching to battery. Get back to the pave low; I’ll have about twenty to thirty minutes, tops.” She could still hear the grin in his voice when he replied. “That’ll cost extra.”

Sizing her situation Melissa made a note give Brick a bonus and an ass whooping if she got out of this. He had always been there for her every step of the way. It broke his heart when she had started merc’ing, but a girl’s gotta eat. Melissa pulled out her boot knife and cut her shirt all the way down the left side. Winding it at the ends she then placed it over the hole in her chest she pulled it around her back and tied it under her arm. This was slightly difficult as only her thumb on her left hand seemed to respond to her commands now. How could I’ve been so stupid? She cursed at herself. I’m supposed to be a pro, one of the best. How could I have been so careless?

With her shirt off she inspected the damage closer. The edges of the wound were singed from the impact of the round and flaked with frayed Kevlar. Her left breast was completely destroyed; her shirt was darkened by the leaking wound and looked completely alien from her naked right breast. The skin graphs were becoming stained as black as ink. Maybe I’ll have them outfit me as a man. I’m sure that would wipe the smile off Brick’s face… Focus. How long have I been sitting here? My mind… I’m drifting. Wake up. If you’re going to get out of here alive, you have to remain focused. Where is my gun?

The rifle lay in the dust on the other side of the trail in the open. She had been running to the extraction point when the sniper had ambushed her. It seemed like forever to the other side of the trail and there was no cover between her and the rifle, the sniper could be anywhere. She still had her pistol but her right eye was fuzzy with static. She would not be able to do much with it unless someone would be short range. Then she heard something.

It sounded like loose pebbles bounding down the cliff face. Did she hear it? The hot sun was high and there was hardly and shadows to be seen in the canyon below. Which clip should I load? Hollow point? Micro-EMP? She had been running very fast. Could a meat bag have made the shot? Or was it another ‘borg? Fuck. This has been one hell of a day. Focus. Damnit.

She slipped a clip from under her pouch and, as painfully quiet as possible, traded it for the one already loaded. Guiding it in slowly the clip made a soft click that seemed to shatter her eardrums. She listened intently for a response. Nothing. Where the fuck is Brick? There was the sound again much closer. It could have come from the left or directly in front of her boulder. She let a breathless sigh as she flicked the pistol’s safety off and tightened her knees and thighs. As she stood she whirled around bringing her pistol over the bolder directly in front of her only to have her wrist seized by two very powerful large hands. They bent her hands directly toward the sky in the instant Melissa squeezed of a three round burst. She gave a sharp cry as she could feel the joints snap and suddenly she was drug over the bolder and violently flipped onto her back. She didn’t have time to blink before the butt of a rifle came crashing down onto her forehead turning the world into forever darkness.

As Brick surveyed the scene he had last received Melissa’s signal all he could find was her dusty rifle and a thick pool of black fluid. It painted the red ground black and splattered all over the bolder. She must have taken cover here. His repeated unanswered calls had warned him to prepare for the worst, but being here now, he couldn’t prepare for what he had found. Nothing. There were no tracks leading up or down the trail, there was no sign of struggle, there was nothing but her lonely rifle. Watch for traps. Melissa could have left it for a pursuer to find. In a pinch she could be very inventive. After looking it over and throwing a rock hard at the stock, Brick walked over and picked up the rifle. Turning it over inspecting it he saw nothing but scratches from the years of hard use. Pulling back the bolt he found the tip of a pinky lodged in the chamber. It was Melissa’s fingernail polish. His face cut a grim mask and his eyes became dark. Coldly he threw the rifle down into the dust and gazed the canyon below over and then back to the rifle. She is still alive then. His mind was empty except for repeating the words again and again. She’s still alive and I’m going to have to make a tough choice.

 

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Submitted for the 11/09 challenge, “Heart.”

This story was written in response to the prompt, Melissa looked from the gaping wound in her chest to the still-beating heart in her hand, and said, “Fuck.”