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Day Fourteen: Gauntlet

Berek took a deep breath. He held the small black duffel bag tightly under his arm, counted slowly to three, and dashed across the courtyard.

This was, he knew, inadvisable for three reasons. One, the entire fifty-yard expanse was littered with softly blinking pressure mines. A solid step on one of those and he would be a pale red mist from the waist down.

Secondly was the gunfire. The courtyard was, like most courtyards, open and without much cover. As soon as he came into the open, he knew the auto-turrets would kick in and drop him within seconds.

Third was the contents of the bag itself. He hadn’t been told what the contents actually were, only that it was a small electronic device, invaluable to the resistance, and far more important than he was. In short, crossing the courtyard was almost certain death. But it was the only way out. And if Kirk did his part, the chances of Berek being turned into a quivering red paste were lower. Slightly.

The guns opened fire on his second step, and revealed a spherical distortion pattern around him. Violet impact waves flashed into visibility like rain on a lake. There was a hollow, echoey thumping noise when a bullet hit, and a flash of light as its kinetic energy was transformed into something far less dangerous.

Kirk was on the job. Excellent.

Berek deliberately slowed to a leisurely walking pace, high caliber impacts smacking into Kirk’s force field with increasing ferocity. Every few steps there would be a bright and noisy explosion as the field tripped a mine in his path. When he got to the other side, he knew Kirk would be furious for taking so long.

He stopped, admired the view for a moment, and then walked on.

The force field held, and when he looked back he saw a clear path of black and burned ground where he had walked, littered with the leaden remnants of bullets. “Nice,” he said, and passed out of the courtyard into the building across the way. It was an abandoned apartment complex, broken and ruined, but with a thousand different places to hide. If it weren’t for the obstacle course of death in the courtyard, they could hide there for years. As it was, there was only temporary shelter to be found.

Berek heard sneakered feet slapping their way down the stairs. The sound would cut out for a moment, followed by a thud as Kirk jumped down to the landing. He skidded into view, a skinny kid who was maybe fourteen years old, but who had acquired the cynicism and world-weariness of someone three times his age.

“What the hell was that?” Kirk asked.

“Was what?”

“You know what,” he snarled, stepping up to Berek and poking a finger in his chest. “That nice stroll down the garden path you were taking? Do you know how much effort it takes to hold up a shield under those conditions?”

Berek patted him on the head. “I knew you could do it, kid,” he said. “And now so do you.”

“Oh. An object lesson.” He crossed his arms. “Gee. Thanks, teach.”

“You’re most welcome.” Berek hefted the black bag. “Come on. We still have a ways to go before we can deliver this.”

Kirk grimaced, but didn’t say anything else. He pulled an energy bar from his pocket and started to eat, regaining energy for the next gauntlet they would have to run….

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