I could hear the dull booming sounds roaring in the background. They were still distant for the moment, but growing closer. Shit. I had to move fast.
I scampered through the deserted streets, a small corner of my mind loving how empty the city felt. All the civilians had been pulled back already, leaving nothing but empty buildings behind.
Off to my left was the glass-fronted window of a jewelry store. My crowbar sailed through the big glass plate like it was made of sugar. Not quite empty, I grinned as I helped myself to a very sparkly tennis bracelet, draping it over one wrist.
My little ransacking was interrupted, however, by a rumbling noise from behind me. That wasn’t a mortar shell! It sounded far more… mechanical. I turned, and ducked around the corner of the building just as a tank came crawling onto the street.
Curses! The rebel forces must have moved faster than I’d anticipated, and they were already in the city! I leaned against the wall, sucking in breath as I tried to formulate a plan.
On one hand, I liked my own skin. I took good care of myself. Ate well when I could, got in exercise, used moisturizer. I didn’t want to ruin all of that by putting new holes in my hide.
On the other hand, though, I knew that this was a one-time opportunity. This could be the score of a lifetime. If I could pull this off, I would be set for life. I could retire, get out of this war zone, go live someplace by the ocean and drink away the rest of my days in peace.
I took one last, deep breath, and made my decision. First Federal Credit was only a few blocks away. I was fairly confident that I could make it there, get into the safe, and be away with my haul before the bombs reached this place. And besides, if the rebels were already here, this wasn’t likely to be ground zero for the firefight. Right?
Breaking into a loping run, I hurried down a few alleys, cutting corners until I came out onto the Financial District. Some bombs must have already fallen here; debris and rubble made piles on the street, obstructing the path. I’d have to do some climbing.
Thanking whatever gods were around that I had kept up my cardio exercise at the gym, I struggled up over the fallen pile of shattered concrete. I could once again hear the mechanical grinding of tanks from behind me. Dammit! The rebels must have decided to try cutting through the Finance District. I just had to get into the bank, just on the other side of… this…
I had reached the top of the heap. But what I saw on the other side made my heart jump up into my chest.
Marching around the corner at the far end of the street were soldiers, dozens of them. But these weren’t the rebels in their comforting browns and grays. These men wore black, armored uniforms, with matching helmets; carbines were slung over their shoulders. This was the National Army. And I was pinned.
I turned around, thinking that I could retreat, but the rebels had entered the street at the opposite end. Only this big pile of debris blocked the two armies’ sight of each other. I scurried down a couple steps and waved frantically to the rebels.
“Soldiers!” I mouthed, no wanting to speak aloud, but making exaggerated motions over the hill. “The Nationalists are here! You need to retreat!” And let me hide so I could just get my money! I added inside my head.
The sparkling of the bracelet, still looped around my wrist, must have caught the attention of the rebels. They paused in their advances, pointing at me and conferring among themselves. “Yes!” I prayed fervently. “Retreat!”
A moment later, however, the soldiers did just the opposite. Raising their weapons and letting out yells, they charged forward, towards the rubble, towards me! The turrets on the tanks swung around, and I screamed and covered my ears as they fired shells over the blockage at the Nationalists on the other side.
The attack, although barely organized and haphazard, caught the enemy army unawares, and I heard shouts and cries of dismay from the far side of the rubble. They didn’t seem to be returning fire, and the soldiers were cheering as they shot over the tall mound of wreckage.
A large soldier came bounding up to me, loosely holding his rifle in one hand. “Hero!” he greeted me, grabbing my arm and hauling me upright. “You have saved us from ambush!”
“Er, yeah,” I replied, scratching the back of my head. “Sure, that’s what I was doing. Anyway, I’d better be on my way-“
“Nonsense!” the rebel soldier interrupted. “I am captain here, and I say that you will drink with us in our camp tonight! Much rejoicing! You must be new scout, guarding and saving us from attack. A true war hero!”
The man held up my arm in the air, and the other rebels around us gave an unorganized cheer. I pasted a smile across my face and waved back at them, cursing inwardly. I should have left the whole place when I had the chance, I thought to myself.