The two of them just stood there for a long moment, simply staring at each other.
Of course, who could blame her? Tranz-D had seemed so empty and deserted, even after the alarms, it was still so devoid of life until she spotted some armored figures marching down one of the halls, so she was surprised that this stranger had not only appeared out of the blue, but also just happened to stumble upon her hiding spot. Enduring some two weeks in hell had certainly taken its toll on the guy: dirty, tattered clothes, disheveled hair, and dark circles under his eyes gave him a crazed look that, combined with his sheer desperation, she found shocking, almost frightening. The double-barrel power pistol he pointed at her wasn’t very encouraging, either.
Of course, Justin wasn’t too happy about the power pistol this strange young woman was aiming at him, as well. After enduring so many days in this ungodly hellhole, he had begun to despair of ever seeing another living human being again, even Max. So he was also a trifle confounded by this turn of events. Whoever she was, she didn’t look like she could have been here for too long; her light blue hoodie, and baggy, multi-pocketed pants looked comfortably warm, and very much intact if a little worn. Not one strand of her straight black hair, which was slightly spiked in front, was even slightly out of place. She looked alarmed, but not terrified; definitely hadn’t been here for too long.
The two of them just stared at each other, waiting for the other to do something.
“Who the hell are you?” Justin finally managed.
“Alex-…” she trailed off, looking first sheepish, then outraged, saying, “Hey! I should be asking you that!” Then she seemed to think better of that, asking, “You’re not with the guards, are you? I didn’t do anything, I swear!”
“You know,” Justin began, “I really don’t think now is the time for—”
His words died in his throat as he saw her violet eyes bug out in shock and horror as she muttered, “… the fuck…”
Justin didn’t give her any more time, his mind making its own paranoid quantum leap from her horror to the thing here most likely to inspire that kind of reaction, sidestepping her gun to duck into the closet, dragging her along even as she turned that gun and instinctively started blasting whatever just came around that corner.
Even against the alarms, and her shots, Justin heard that digital voice, which to him had become the voice of Fear itself, start in with “INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT!” and bringing its fully-charged super-laser to bear on them.
The closet door barely slid shut in time for the intense energy beam to splash off it.
“What the fuck was that!?” the woman demanded.
“That’s NK-525, and it’s been trying to kill me for days!” Justin told her as he trained his own pistol on the controls and blew them away just as the shit hit the fan outside. He shoved her aside and fired up his laser staff as he reached the vent shaft, telling her, “And it’ll kill you too, missy, if we don’t get outta here!”
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Saving your ass,” he replied as he threw the grill aside. “Now get in there. That door won’t last long against that kind of firepower!”
With the door behind her getting hotter by the moment, she decided to trust the stranger, who seemed to know what he was talking about. At least for now.
“Move your ass!” Justin shoved her even as she crawled into the shaft, barely dodging as she kicked back at him.
“Hands off!” she muttered, having somehow gotten hung up in the vent opening. Outside, the thing this man called NK-525 was hammering away at the door, and she didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know it was going to give at any moment. Those robot guards had been trouble enough, and she had a stitch in her side from all this running, now she was becoming frantic in her efforts… Then she realized that she was hung up on her shoulder bag and shoved it aside with hasty chagrin.
“Hurry!” Justin knew from experience. “It’s almost through!”
Whoever she was, she was over half a foot taller than him, and not as skinny, so she was having a hard time in the narrow shaft.
“Next time we do this, I go first…” Justin grunted as he finally entered the vents. There seemed to be no way to stay ahead of that killer robot for long, but at least it would take a moment longer for that super-laser to recharge. “Can’t you go any faster?”
“I’m going as fast as I can!” she shot back. “How the hell do you stop that thing?”
“How the hell should I know?...”
Justin, fearing that he wouldn’t make it, shifted, spreading his legs and firing his power pistol back down the shaft, bringing some of it down behind him.
He became even more desperate when she got stuck for a moment getting around the corner. Small as he was, even he found the shafts a tight squeeze. Selfish as it sounded, even to himself, now he wished he had thought of that before he sent her in first.
Much as he feared, NK blew the door off its tracks before he was all the way around the corner. The woman cried out in alarm and started wriggling even faster. In the end, collapsing part of the shaft, in spite of the lost ammo, probably saved his life; even with the obstruction, and part of the ruined door leaning on top of the opening, it only took the Enforcer a moment to draw from its data tracks and figure out the Intruders’ strategy from past encounters. The fallen section blocked the first couple shots, buying Justin the extra few seconds he needed to struggle around the corner.
The two of them continued to work their way down the shaft, NK spouting its usual warnings about how there was no escape and resistance was futile.
“Don’t you dare try anything funny back there, either,” the young woman told him. “I’m armed, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah, so am I,” Justin muttered, having somewhat more urgent matters than this stranger’s booty on his mind as they made their escape. “And if you think about farting, I’ll shoot your ass…”
Chapter notes: a narrow escape