Chapter 7 - On the Rooftops

“Jake!” Crimson screamed, horrified. Luckily, she had her riffle tucked in her bag- but those Cyborgs would surely stand the pain. It would just be like small bullets attacking the NYX- no harm done.

While Crimson scurried to help, Jake was already managing some things himself. He twisted his arm, and with quite a force, he flipped the Cyborg holding him back down to the ground; unconscious. He then run against a wooden wall and Crimson joined him.

Jake and Crimson back up against the wall, their weapons raised. The cyborgs were coming, the deep heavy clumps of their metal feet echoing in Crimson’s ear. Her arms was shaking, the revolver she held giving a rattling sound. “Focus!” Jake snapped, holding his blaster expertly. “You need to be calm to fight. No regrets. Just think of your life.”

“Be calm, fight and not regret but think about my life? What do you think I am! A multi-tasker?” Crimson yelled at him, unsure.

“For God’s sake- just do it!”

Crimson paused, before giving a curt nod. Her hand stabilized and she was ready when the cyborgs busted in. Their lasers were charged and loaded, the high pitched buzzing cutting off as each blast fires off.

The two rolled away, Jake starting to fire at the incoming waves of cyborgs. Crimson rolled towards the one focused on Jake and tied a rope around it’s foot. She then ran, yanking the rope and making the cyborg slam into others.

Sparks flied from broken wires, as the two dodged incoming shots and fired their own. Jake shifted into a Cyborg, loading up the pistols in his arms and firing wildly. Crimson slipped here and there, making sure to hit the human parts off the cyborg. The cyborgs were in a frenzy, not knowing which one if then they should focus on.

“Not so smart even with your tech, huh?” Crimson mocked, her sly grin resting upon her face. When the cyborgs turned towards her, Jake came from the back, knocking a few of them out. Movie style, Crimson lifted her gun and started firing, not caring that her bullets were bouncing around everywhere.

The cyborgs charged up and shot at her, but Jake grabbed a metal arm and refleceted the blast. The two were dodging left and right and shooting, a wild joy in their eyes when the room suddenly got tense.

The cyborgs stopped moving, collecting themselves into an orderly line. Crimson and Jake tensed, walking to each other, feeling like something was amiss. There was a deep clanking from behind the Cyborg, and the spinning of wheels. From the corridor stepped a gigantic Cyborg. He was an equilibri but with Cyborg parts! He was two times as tall as Jake, and much more muscular. His roar rang in Crimson’s ears, like the growl of a hungry hyena stalking it’s injured prey.

“Okay, any Plan B in your head, brain?” Crimson asked Jake, who was busy fiddling with his blaster. He had ran out of bullets, and surely he had not enough time to reload the gun- not fast enough to even prevent himself from dying.

“Okay, then,” said Jake, facing towards a small grey hut with a wobbly ladder attached to its red-tiled roof. “We run to that hut… and climb it. Your leg is fine, right?” Crimson nodded instantly. “Okay, then. We run.”

He sprinted towards the ladder and climbed it with ease, as if he were a monkey of long arms and skill, and swiftly landed on the roof. He shouted, “Crimson- now!” Crimson nodded and ran. She was good with ladders, having a lot of experience climbing and falling from her family’s stack of Deckhouses. To be honest, they were rather faster and much more agile than the Cyborgs themselves.

But, of course, their only problem was the Equilibri-Cyborg monster. And it was hot on their trail.

The two were chased between the zig-zags of house-tops and between the long-forgotten church bells that don’t mind not ringing when it wanted to. The monstrous roar of the beast shook the city, as if it were an earthquake, and the groups of half-robots shuffled in groups for safety, the rhythmic tempo of their toes tapping neatly like a theme for a drum.

Soot and ash and rubble flew in the air like jets in a battle. It snowed on Crimson’s frizzy ginger hair. She sighed- it would take a very long time to take out all those bits and pieces from her unique bundle of hair. The dust kept getting inside her eyes, distracting her.

Additionally, Crimson knew she shouldn’t- most people wouldn’t- but she kept looking back; a habit of hers. She couldn’t stop looking at the ferocious Alien that ran like a marathoner. Questions sprung in her head like blooming roses in the spring, or that was just her usual curious brain working its gears. Either way, it was really slowing her running down.

“Faster!” Jake yelled, noticing the delay of Crimson’s speed. “I see an alley, just by the corner there! I don’t think the Equilibri can get in there!” But the Equilibri was both smart and heard every word Jake had said. It listened intently and understood. With ease, the great beast ran to the two’s left, trying to catch up and halt them midway.

“Shortcut!” Crimson shouted as she turned towards a house on her left, leaping and sprinting at every second. At a glance, she didn’t see Jake behind her; she was on her own now. Maybe the monster had instead gone for her- a bait, or distraction? Crimson did not know. All she knew was to keep running… and running… and running-

She froze as she came to the edge of a roof, and the edge of a ever-falling-forever cliff.

Rock skidded down her feet. She wasn’t fast enough to react to what happened next- but within her slow five seconds of realizing she was on the edge of a roof tile, three things: the monster was right behind her so there was a strong possibility she was going to fall down with it. Two, she had not explained fully to her parents and her brother about her whereabouts and is about to face death. Three, she had not found any addition information about the Ashi Stone.

She would die doing nothing.

How would she even be remembered?

“Oh, Crimson Roth,” the people who knew her would chant after her passing. “The heroine who died doing nothing. We died doing nothing too.”

Oh yes, the Doomsday Clock. Damn it.

But none of those from her five-seconds-list happened. Surprisingly, she found Jake pulling her far to the side, the two of them rolling and tumbling all over. Perhaps they were quite far from the roof by the cliff, because the sound of the Equilibri-Cyborg’s groaning were far behind her.

The two were in the empty alley Jake had briefly mentioned before… and Crimson landed on top of him. Instantly, she jumped in surprise, helping Jake to get up. “Oh God, I’m so sorry for…” She shook her head, both dizzy and disturbed of what happened before. “That was embarrassing. But thanks for saving my butt.”

Instead of receiving the compliment, Jake clutched his in-betweens. “Ah… I think I crammed my groin. Human groins are so thin! No wonder being a Jeblob was way better. They were nothing but goo and you just slip everywhere in peace-” he stopped himself when he saw Crimson’s playful pout. “No offense to you humans- but it-”

“Okay, let’s save the talk for later, it’s getting out of hand,” Crimson said. “Now that everyone is technically on our trail, we should get a disguise. I think it’s pretty unwise if we come back to the Stone and present ourselves with our revealed identities.”

She spotted a clothing store not so far away and requested the cheapest scarf in season. When Jake asked Crimson why she didn’t get him one, Crimson said, “You can take form of anything, brain.” She tied her hair in a bun and wrapped her long red scarf around her head and mouth- like an Earth hijab.

Along the way, while walking past the cobblestone streets and uneven century-year-old buildings, Crimson began to chatter away again. “So how in the world did the guards get you and all?” She placed her hands inside the dirty pockets of her Aviator bomber jacket.

“While you weren’t looking, I was just walking around, examining some bits of the city. Two Cyborg guards caught me without my metal parts or so and instantly grabbed me by the had,” he explained. He quickly added, “They had those kinds of grenade guns the Equilibri we met in the library had. I didn’t dare do anything but shout out your name.”

“That was… alarming.” She suddenly became interested in her shoes, looking down. “So now we’re fugitives here. I’m a fugitive back home and technically for the Intergalactic Law Department.” Crimson laughed. “I couldn’t just wait another two years to be an Aviator. It just gets so boring!”

Jake said, “It isn’t just you who wants to get a special job. I wanted to become the part of the Gregorax Architecture League but apparently I didn’t have the skill- especially after the invasion-” and he abruptly stopped there, remembering the traumatizing series of events that happened back in his home-planet .

Crimson placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, but quickly removed it. Jake stared at her awkwardly. “Oh, that was nothing. Just a good pat. Good rub. Like what friends do… even though we were just friends for… like… A day?”

“Tell me about it!” Jake laughed, surprised that his reckless friend knew. “We met in a cell and all. The aliens must’ve mistaken me for a chameleon or something. I often keep in disguise or camouflage in my cell so the Equilibri won’t actually remember I was in there.”

A pause.

“Is it just me or is this conversation getting really, really weird?” Crimson asked, shrugging.

“Apparently, yeah,” Jake confessed, his head turning away from Crimson.

After the short talk, they became very silent. The sound of their shoes were the only sound they heard- the rest was from the buzzing city center from such a distance. Crimson desperately tried to find a small snack bar or restaurant- her stomach was grumbling harshly. Soon enough, Crimson started mumbling- Jake pretty much ignored her weird state.

There were times that Crimson would spot a small inn, hoping there were food. But the diet of Cyborgs were way different than average humans like her. They ate a lot of carbs and protein instead of vegetables- an unpopular favorite of Crimson’s- and drank a bunch of meat. And the menu kept repeating for the rest of the walk.

While silently skipping on the road, Crimson suddenly thought of Otis, his soft cheery voice coming to her mind. She smiled at the thought of him, that young kid who always looked up to his sister. That soft red hair too- she envied greatly.

Her thoughts ran back to the time she taught him how to ride a bike. All kids always started with normal, not-so-super red bikes that the government gave out for free each year. Otis had always wanted his own bike, and with a glad heart Crimson not only brought one for him but taught him how to ride a bike.

“Okay, hold on steady,” Crimson had said all those years back- maybe she was still twelve that time, and Otis had only started Elementary school. “You’ve gotta be equal with both your left and right side- you don’t need to be nervous. Lean slightly to the front for more acceleration, that’s it! There we go…”

When Otis had complained several times, the only thing Crimson had said was, “You’ll get better soon. Everyone needs a bit of practice, will and skill. You’ll get the hang of it. You will- and I know that.” Otis had just nodded, his grin stretched out across his faintly freckled face in pride and hope.

That sentence… “You’ll get better soon.” Crimson never got better. She knew she was still that same reckless girl from all those years before. And that fact she kept under wraps, like her face.

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