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The Dying Seconds napisao Harvey O' Brian

Chris checked the blaster at his side as he leaned back against the wall. Satisfied that it was operational he activated his visiplate and studied the readout. Three minutes. Three minutes remaining before the transport arrived at the drop zone. If only he could survive. If only he could hold on for three more minutes.

He knew they were out there, waiting. He knew he had to make it through some rough territory before he got there, and every step of the way they would be waiting for him to make the one mistake that would cost him his life.

He looked around him at the battered and torn war zone that had once been part of Dublin city centre. Burnt out shells of shop fronts and ruined buildings surrounded him. The age of advancement had ended in chaos, tragic, but now a fact of life and there was nothing he could do about it but fight for the Northside to the best of his abilities. He wasn't a young man, but experience sometimes counts more than energy, and there were several hits clocked up to his tally even as he scanned the area.

He took a deep breath and dived from the shelter of the wall against which he had been standing. It exploded in a thousand pieces. They were upon him. He rolled over and sprang into a low crouch. He spotted three blurry forms diving for cover and fired a warning blast over their heads, then turned and ran for Middle Abbey Street, hoping for shelter in the Eason building.

He made it to the corner, then flung himself into the ruins behind a low wall of charcoal-charred rocks. He could make them out down towards the river, scurrying behind the rubble like rats. "You'll never take me alive you Southside scum." he shouted, and made off through what was left of the building. The retort of their blasters followed.

He was out of range and under cover, but the shots brought down plenty of wall so he didn't stop running until he had reached the corner of the Ilac Centre. These places all had new names now, after insignificant politicians with too much power and ego. They called this Robinson Plaza as far as he could remember, but that made no difference to him. He knew the old names, and the old streets, and the old ways around them.

The countdown continued inside his helmet. Two minutes remaining before the armoured carrier touched down and dusted off almost instantaneously. If he got past the Ilac he could make his way to Parnell Square easily enough, and then he would be in sight of the drop zone, the grounds of the old Black Church. But between here and there was the Ilac, still mostly intact, and probably serving as shelter for a Southsider squad or two.

He wasted no more time. The countdown continued. He ran to the corner of the mall and pressed himself firmly against the wall. His breathing was fast and shallow, his heart was racing. He took a deep breath and ran full pelt beside the wall and along the street, expecting blaster fire at any second.

But none came, and before he knew it he was at the bottom of the Square. He paused briefly to check the area. He was wide open to crossfire from O'Connell Street, the Ilac and the old Rotunda here. No time to waste. He had to keep moving. He pushed all his strength to his leg muscles and made for the Church.

His lungs heaved for air and his body screamed for mercy. His feet pounded heavily on the ground and he was nearly sure he could hear boots clattering along behind him. He didn't dare risk a glance over his shoulder. He remembered his father's coaching for the Community Games when he was young, "Look straight ahead, don't worry about the fella behind you, just go."

At the top of the hill that led him out of the Square, he tossed himself sideways and rolled over to face his pursuers. But none came. No further sound of boots, no blaster fire, nothing. The sweat was rolling down his face, his legs felt like lead. He wasn't sure if he could make it. Then there was a tremendous screaming noise in his ears and he looked up at the sky. The transport!

He staggered into a run, adrenaline alone keeping him in motion. He was almost there. He could see the rectangle of rubble ahead of him that was once a proud church. The ship was hovering above it, getting closer to the ground every second. The countdown inside his helmet was ticking away the final digits. It was almost over.

Suddenly there she was. She leapt from the old Wax Museum, her bright silver uniform clinging tightly to her young body. He was distracted enough, and saw the blaster too late. She pressed the contact and he felt the pain of a thousand red hot needles piercing his heart. His eyes bulged and he gasped for air, but none came. Chris Collins, the Northside Avenger, fell dead on the street.

The young woman pulled the helmet from her head and ran to the prostrate body. "Jesus.

Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins!" she cried, "Oh my God, Paul, Sean, get over here, I think he's had a heart attack. Call the ambulance"

Several others appeared from around the small, garishly lit Laser Wars play area and stared. Paul Garvey, accounts, knelt down and attempted to resuscitate him.

"I told you we shouldn't have brought him", said Sean Leonard, advertising, "He'd have been better off in the pub sucking on a few pints or playing cards or something."

Garvey kept hammering away at the dead man's chest, but there was no response.

"Poor bastard", said Pat Bracken, junior exec.

"It's like I said", said Leonard, "auld fellas can't play these games, they just don't have the imagination."

But in the dying seconds, Chris Collins, senior partner, the Northside Avenger, brushed past the Southsider woman in the nick of time and sprinted for the descending ship, knocking the blaster from her hand. Amid thunderous incoming fire from the Southside Ion Cannon, he ran and he ran, so fast he felt his feet hardly touched the ground. The ramp was extended, and he could make out the light coming from inside the ship, so bright, so welcoming. He hurled himself at it just as it reached its lowest point, grabbed onto the safety rail and began to pull himself up as the ship blasted off again. With one last look at the small group of angry Southsiders standing below him, he got to his feet and walked proudly into the light.

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