2036, SoCal Metro, U.S.A.
Ivan loped easily through the reddened landscape of overdrive. He’d pay for it later, if he survived, but he needed to get closer to the complex. He spotted the enemy rising up from behind a parked car, arm moving overhand in a slow throwing motion. He fired offhand, the three burst round throwing the figure back. He couldn’t spot what had been thrown, but sprinted forward along the fence, away from where he’d been sighted, not that that throw was likely to have been on target.
The explosion blew him through the flimsy wooden fence and tumbling down the concrete wall of the dry riverbed. Concussion grenade, not shrapnel; were they trying to take prisoners? He managed to twist around and land more or less on his feet, sliding in the sand deposited by a flash flood last spring. He couldn’t hear any pursuit, but with his ears ringing that meant little. He could hear himself gasping for breath, and tried to at least quiet that. He eyed the lip of the tamed, channelized ‘river’; would it be more effective to climb up closer to the house, or come up behind the attackers? Closer, he decided, and staggered off to his right at the best pace he could maintain, still catching his breath, hoping for more speed later. His body armor had protected him from the bullets of the…police? Army? Whoever. Humans. He was shaken and exhausted, but still functional. Still with a mission. Drive off the attackers so the leaders and the scientists could be evacuated. They’d had barely a few minutes notice from the orbital facility, when that was attacked. Enough time to throw out a screen of soldiers and start the evacuation.
As the youngest of the soldiers, Ivan had been placed far out as a spotter, but neither distance nor his youth and inexperience were insufficient to conceal the truth from himself. We’re not driving them off, and none of our vehicles have gotten past them. I need to close in. I can’t help, way out here. He didn’t let himself think about how many of the cadre must have already been killed. The nighttime clouds brightened abruptly as the full moon found a thin spot at the edge of the cloud cover. He was going to be very visible, very soon. He threw himself at the wall, the slanted but smooth concrete refused to give him a grip for a moment, but his toes in the tough glove-like shoes caught and he started up. As the moon shone out brightly, he rolled over the lip and sprinted toward the nearest patch of darkness.
There was no alarm. His ears had recovered enough that he could hear the usual city background buzz now. No local noise. No more shots. Am I the only one left? He was still outside the three block area of apparently unconnected buildings that made up the Cadres’ Headquarters. His orders had been to stay well out, but the absence of resistance was ominous. Moving cautiously toward the nearest warehouse, he thought about his brother soldiers. Surrendering was not possible, they were genetically engineered beyond the parameters of human. The humans would kill them without compunction.
He flinched back and threw himself flat as the searing blue white flash was chased by a blast front, then squeezed his eyes shut, jamming his fingers in his ears and opening his mouth to exhale as low pressure followed overpressure. We didn’t have any thermobaric bombs. Damn them! If the scientists had gotten down to the blast shelter…but they had been moving to the vehicles. Maybe they had gotten out the other side; as poorly connected to obvious escape routes as it was, it may have gotten thinner enemy coverage. He rolled back to his feet and this time ran away from the maze of warehouses and offices that had been his home for most of his short life. He could hear near sobs in his heavy breathing. Anyone that had not escaped was dead. If he could work his way out of the city and north into the hills, to the safe house they’d dubbed the hill fort, he’d have a chance. Anyone that escaped would rendezvous there.
Two miles from Headquarters he hit the limit of his energy and endurance. He managed to crawl in between two parked cars, more or less out of sight before he collapsed altogether. For a while he lay still letting the pain wash through him as his body labored to catch up with the waste products of metabolic overdrive, then with shaking fingers he started peeling off the body armor. From here out he’d have to pretend to be one of the humans’ slaves, one of the ‘improved’ chimpanzees. Fortunately the SoCal Metro area had the highest population density of the ‘ichimps’ on Earth. Bunch of rich humans wanting a high status servant. Demeaning, but with a higher life expectancy than the ichimps doing orbital construction. Unfortunately, since the orbital construction companies had realized that ichimps could handle the work, but weren’t subject to OSHA or Workmen’s Compensation regulations and didn’t get salaries or retirement plans, and weren’t allowed to sue, the price of ichimps had skyrocketed and their use as servants was becoming a bit rare down here.
With an angry grimace he felt for the chip under the skin of his upper arm, and with a hard pinch, activated it. The possibility of the soldiers operating undercover as ichimp slaves had always been a possibility. At twelve years of age, he had reached his full adult height, but not yet filled out; he looked much like the slave race. The programmable chip in his arm was highly illegal, but undetectable from the real thing by any means short of surgical removal.
He didn’t have any of the usual garb of either servant or orbital construction worker, but if he bundled the armor into the camouflaged quilted jacket he’d worn over it, his pants and the silky undershirt would pass muster; no one much looked at ichimps anyway. If the Cadre was dead and gone, he’d be able to infiltrate ichimp society while he thought about what to do. For the rest of his life. Alone. He started walking.