“Aimee, right here!”
It was Daniel’s voice; she found the source of his voice. He was just in the alley across from her. Relief washed over her.
“Stay where you are,” Daniel said, “wait till it’s over.”
Aimee complied with his suggestion. The wall to her right exploded in fragments of concrete and brick as an automaton was crushed into it by the mechanical arm of a sentinel. Aimee did her best not to scream as she fell on the ground; the debris was falling over her. She heard Daniel call her name, then disorder, confusion, and shouts of war were the only thing that rang in her ear. She heard metal against metal, and opened her eyes. A deft sentinel was fencing against an automaton; the dark goggle of the sentinel made him appear dangerous and invincible, his bronze mail shining with the spasms of sun rays.
She bit her lips to prevent herself from making the noise that would give her position to these fighting machines; she squirmed and pressed her body closer to the ground as they were fencing closer to where she was, in fear they would trample her. Quietly, she scrambled to her knees when they had moved some inches away from her, deeply concentrated in the fight. There was an intersection behind her; maybe she could escape if she merged into another road. However that would separate her from Daniel. She didn’t have any other choice, she had to stay alive. When she was on her feet, she made a dash for the open road. She hoped Daniel was in a better condition and situation than her.
A bullet wheezed past her right ear; that froze her dead on her tracks. She didn’t move, instead she looked over her shoulder and saw the sentinel with his arm outstretched, pointing a gun at her. “Stop there insurgent,” he ordered. “Nobody who dares wander the grounds of the Trade during cleansing will remain unpunished.” A heap of metal scrap was on his feet, lifeless, and spilling dark liquid on the ground. He pressed his finger on the trigger and she waited for her fatal death.
However, nothing happened. He had run out of bullets and was now dislodging the sword from the automaton’s body. Aimee took this opportunity and ran up the open road, in hopes of finding somewhere with people where she could mingle and pass unnoticed. So this dreadful scene was what Shkein called “cleansing”? Destroying automatons designed to protect the population and producing fear and oppression was part of his plan to control the North? The sentinel was now closing the gap between them, and Aimee’s legs would not go any faster.
She felt a tight grip on her shoulder, and moments later she was whirled around by the sentinel and pushed back onto the ground. She fell hard, grazing her elbows as she tried to stop herself from skidding backward. The sentinel cocked his head and flashed a grin of silver teeth; he approached her with sword in hand and murder in mind. In a desperate attempt, she turned on her belly and crawled away on her knees. The sentinel was following her with measured steps, enjoying the feeling just moments before killing somebody, not a something. Her heart raced and pumped adrenaline to her body; she reached a crate and groped for something against the sharp blade of the sword and blood thirst of the sentinel. Her fingers curl around a long wooden stick, half protruding from the crate. She hoisted her limp body up and pulled the stick to free it.
The sentinel laughed and brandished his sword with dexterity, pulling it back, ready to take the blow that will end her life. Aimee freed the stick and swung it sideways, hitting the sentinel on the right side. He yelped in pain, but continued to hold on to the sword, finally thrusting it at Aimee. She dodged it swiftly and slammed the wooden stick on his right shoulder, his hand loosened on the hilt and he swayed a bit because of the pain. However, he was still flared up by the challenge.
Aimee was not amused, but terrified. She had trained herself in the art of sword-fighting but she thought she’ll never get to use it. She was now applying everything she knew for the sake of her life. The sentinel lunged forward again. Aimee sidestepped him, the blade sliding just inches past her, and crashed the stick on his back, making him arched back in a grotesque and excruciating way. He dropped to the ground, unconscious, and released his sword.
Aimee was still wary at her easy victory. She nudged the sentinel with her feet and confirmed her triumph. His black goggles had fallen from his face, revealing the young face beneath the anger. She felt pity, “you’re just a boy playing pirate,” she whispered sadly. She had clearly overpowered him in the fight.
Aimee dropped the stick next to the young, unconscious boy and hid the sword. She strained her ears to try to hear conflict noises, but there was nothing. The “cleansing” was done apparently. She started walking toward the direction of the Chaser, praying to the Lights that Joseph and Daniel were alright and that what happened to her today would never repeat itself again.