Flash: Cleansing Team (Part 1) – Target Down

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Silence reverberated in Andros’ abused ears. He blinked rapidly to clear the spots from his vision. His team had thrown everything short of a nuclear bomb at the Unnatural, and if one included the rail-gun Parker carried which required the two-day output of a plant to charge, a fission bomb just might count. Maker bless the Taurusian energy technology.

Mortar and structural building pieces dropped with dull thuds onto the rubble from the destroyed walls and floors that used to make up the 33rd to 38th floors, churning dust clouds that tried to force their way past his lips. Andros refused to breathe, because the plaster bits would set him coughing. His broken ribs couldn’t take much more. He wanted to reach for the emergency oxy mask in his backpack, but that would require taking a hand off his projectile gun and neither hand would leave the overheated weapon. His lizard brain was not yet assured of the Unnatural’s death.

He cautiously sidestepped through the debris, keeping his team and the broken body of the young woman in sight. She was the youngest Unnatural they had ever fought, and, strangely, the most experienced. The cleansing team had been on her as soon as she was sighted emerging–less than six hours from alarm to annulation. They chased her from a sprawling boarding school where the wealthy and powerful trusted their children to the soaring ‘scrapers of Trade Landing nearly three hundred miles from the point of origin, leaving four team members behind, dying or disabled. They never let her heal, never let her think. They knew what was needed to get it done. She was their fourteenth kill in three years. Not the most heavily active cleansing team, but not an inactive agricultural planet team either. They were sharp without burnout.

The clatter of the ejected cartridge sounded tinny, but clearer. He could need to retrieve the mildly radioactive container later; heavy metal from expended uranium was not easy to come by and their accountant would have his hide. He snapped the replacement into his right hand, the independent-minded extremity willing to move for a reload. It had its priorities in order, breathing second, killing first.

Andros’ eyes were drawn to the blood running down her arm. The bright red artery and nearly blue vein liquids traced rivulets from a shattered shoulder, where brilliant white bones poked out through torn skin and muscle, pooling at the indents along her knuckles, creating an interwoven tribal tattoo like Dreanna wore. Still more than fifty feet away, the swirling dust eddies fooled his eyes into thinking her hand twitched. Once down, Unnaturals never got up again.

The fingers stretched and gripped a stone on the rubble pile she had landed on, a light glow emanating from the hand. Andros heard a whine start. His mind knew he was too far from his teammates for his damaged ears to hear, but refused to acknowledge the whimpering was coming from him. Cooking flesh battered his nose as he started shoving the ammo into the still too hot gun.

(words 513; first published 4/1/2014; republished new blog format 7/7/2019)