He wouldn't fail her. Not this time. There'd be no-one left to mourn him.
He burst out onto the overwhelming brightness of Wharf Street. The sun off the water of the inner harbor gave him sun-cats from his optics. The LCD readout was lost in the glare. The polarizers hadn't kicked in.
Across Wharf Street and down a small hill, a little green and white ferry pulled in to the dock, disgorging an overweight man in a grey suit and a redhead in furs. Tourists out of place in Victoria's balmy April morning. The whole scene looked like a miniature scene he'd find in the wax museum across the inner harbour. The place he'd first set eyes on Claire. In those days, they'd both been whole.
A squelch of static erupted from his left and instinctively, Shun ducked and rolled, cursing himself as he went tumbling down the hill.
He came up, wincing slightly at the scrape across his elbow. He could feel the bruise rising across his neck and jawline already. But it didn't feel broken. He opened his mouth to minimize the sound he made from his heavy breathing. At least it was grass, he thought Ten seconds earlier or later and he'd have gone tumbling down concrete or gravel.
Four times, Shun had taken the contract. Three times he'd won the game, pushed the time to safety. And the purse had increased exponentially. If he could stay alive long enough, outrun the Tracker-units, he might have enough to buy Claire's freedom.
Above, three enormous shadows came to a stop, lit by the rising sun. Shun went very still, gauging the red and silver behemoths above. Two of them were Striders--sleek metal and made for speed. The third was a bloodhound, fur bristling with all sorts of sensory inputs. It was the tracker. One of the Striders howled, long and hollow. And the tracker barked harshly, cutting the other pursuer off.
They weren't acting in concert. That suggested other backers, other parties testing their creations.
Shun moved slowly, hugging the shadows, depending on the glare that fouled his optics to do the same for his pursuers.
The tracker would switch to other senses if it hadn't already. Shun edged down to the cement and crept to the side of the dock, easing himself over the edge into the icy grip of the water.
"What're you doin there, son?" the fat man asked. Shun felt his eyes widen in shock, felt his survival percentages drop drastically.
The redhead elbowed the man and hissed at him. She'd recognized him for what he was. "But I don't wanna go to Dim-Sum!" She shouted, her voice an annoying nasal harangue. Shun could have kissed her for the distraction.
The Tracker barked again and all three of the shadows howled in unison.
Shun slipped seamlessly into the water...