[4.]

She wakes with thick, pained joints and a crick in her neck. It hurts when she sits up, rubbing at her eyes, but it hurts worse as her pounding brain cycles through the last two days on autopilot.

Menace is still unconscious. Bunker comes to visit when he can, though she never has anything new to tell him other than that the implants seem to be taking. She keeps constant watch over the kid, keeps him as warm and hydrated as possible as the hours slip away. But. . .her supplies are dwindling. She needs to make a chems run, or risk having him slip away, too.

That is not an option. He has to live. He. . .he has to. No matter what, she is going to make sure that he does. She didn't waste all this time and all these meds to watch him die.

So, she packs. She has some gear, some weapons, tries to work through the aches in her bones as she prepares to go. Without realizing it, she keeps close tabs on that table, that kid, and hesitates when she reaches the exit staircase. Her head is buzzing. Her eyes are stinging. Even the dimmed lights seem too bright, and, as she glances over her shoulder again at his quiet, unresponsive body. . .

It hits her square in the chest. Hard. Fast. It startles her, makes her miss a breath as her expression darkens with distaste. Because. . .well, shit. She might not want to leave him here alone.

Actually, that is kinda ridiculous. Her building is hidden, protected, and her alarm drones would never let anything happen to him should he be discovered. She shakes her head and swears under her breath, punching in her barrier codes with more strength than necessary. Menace is. . .a means to an end. She saves him, and the gangers will let her be in fucking peace.

She buckles her arm guards and tries to ignore the distant gunshots, the light tremors snaking through the pavement. It all sounds tame enough. Nothing to worry about, as she pauses on the street corner. But, as her squinted gaze takes in the horizon, grayish and swollen with bruises. . . She sees the smoke.

Usually, smoke is no cause to panic. Like the fights and the blood, smoke haze is pretty standard living here. But these clouds. . .are thick, pale green. She tastes something bitter on her tongue as the breeze blows in, and her blood runs cold.

Because, it tastes like rot and radiation, and the only gangers who use those poison grenades are the Manticores. They must have taken the Meds District. . .which means that. . .

Shit. It pretty much means that she is outta luck. Manticores aren't exactly generous, hospitable. . .or willing to trade with the engineers who supply their enemies with weapons. She scrubs her fingers across her skull, trying to think as she glares into those clouds. Were the Butchers still occupying that district, she would have no trouble at all getting what she needed. Now? Now. . .well, she has no choice. She has to get the chems, and the Meds District is the ony place that has them.

She grits her teeth and unclips her rebreather mask. Just in case, she usually has it hooked to her bag when she goes outside. She slips it over her mouth and nose and then checks the spare blades at her wrists, her throat tight with nerves. Going into enemy territory without her drones is going to be suicide.

But her floating bots are well known. . .and well hated amongst the neighboring blocks. Her marksmanship is unique, like a signature, and the Manticores would rape her and then rip her to pieces when they saw her with those machines.

So, she needs some help. Whether she wants it or not. Clenching her hands, she moves down the crumbling sidewalk with her deep breaths rattling through her mask. Getting that help. . . She has no idea where to even begin. Maybe, the Hounds. . . But she doesn't want to owe them any more than she does.

Maybe, as long as she sticks to the shadows. No one even has to know. . .