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Codexing Against Blood: Prologue

Shit, she’s right on my tail. I can’t shake her!

The man ran full speed down a crooked street. Looking over his shoulder, he stumbled on debris, tumbling hard with a roll across the ground. Sharp concrete chunks from crumbling buildings sliced his skin while he slid to a stop. He cried out from the pain along his arms and legs. Already he was battered from fighting against the child that followed shortly behind.

Gasping for air, he clawed the dirt beneath his fingertips. It was the end of the line for him. He knew once the girl locked on to him, there was no escape. Her skills exceeded his tenfold, despite his adult years of practice.

The sound of crunching footsteps several feet away made him stiffen. The sensation of death loomed ever closer. Trembling, he turned to face the predator.

There before him stood a small petit girl. Her eyes grey and empty watched him closely. She wore a black leather bodysuit that hugged her tightly. Each step she took was controlled and calculated. The wind tossed her silver hair about while she giggled softly. There’s no way a girl her age could be such a skilled hunter.

She’s a shapeshifter. There’s only one person who could be this talented. “I know who you are. Attaché, the academy's lapdog.”

The small girl tilted her head with an eerie smile.

“Oh, seems you’ve heard of me.” She stopped a few feet away, “Saves me time.”

Her actions didn’t fit the child’s innocent appearance. It was uncomfortable. Pushing himself up slowly, he grunted.

“I also know what you can do. You can shift your appearance, extract information, and manipulate anyone on a whim. It won’t work on me.”

Barely standing, he held his side. His breath was laboured and shallow. Without touching his ribs, he knew they were broken. Even his shirt was blood-soaked. Snarling at the girl, it took everything to keep his voice even.

“If you came looking for the weapon, give up. You can beat me, torment me, or do whatever you want. It will not cave! I’m ready to die.”

Attache’s smile faded, her expression hallowed and unamused.

“And yet, you ran. If you were ready, you would’ve accepted it gracefully. Come, let’s be civil. You have something I need. I can pay you handsomely.”

The man spat at the ground between them.

“I have nothing to say. If you wish to kill me then do it!”

Attache smiled and started to circle the man. “There is no need to kill you. Just tell me what I need. Tell me where the weapon is.”

About to reply, something held the man in place. Sweet whispers crowded his mind. Her words sang a melody that gently coaxed him to reply. It caressed him tenderly and asked him once more to tell her what he knew. It took him a moment to realize her power. Quickly he shook his head to break from the spell. She was stronger than he thought.

A small flicker popped up in front of him. A small blue digital square hovered in the air. Small glitches flickered around the flat screen weakly while displaying his current status. A warning flashed with a count down to when he would lose consciousness. He glanced at the health bar as it depleted, followed by a black bar shrinking his health. The wound damage he sustained was too much. Closing the screen, he selected a gun that was stored in his inventory. It materialized into his hand from nothing, rendering the gun with blue fuzzy chunks. It completed the physical form of a standard M9.

Aiming at Attache, the man glared with hatred. “No! Your skill won’t work on me no matter how high the talent is!”

Attache stopped, raising her hands to her face level. Her voice shifted from a sultry adolescent to that of a small child's. Cowering, the child's face scrunched up in fear and bewilderment.

“P-please no… Sir, don’t hurt me.”

Blinking the sweat from his eyes, the man blinked hard. Was this a real child or an illusion? A small tear ran down Attache’s face as she stared at the gun. It was convincing. For a moment, he believed that this could be an innocent child. Confusion and doubt ran through his mind, tricking him. This wasn’t real, was it? In an instant, the child’s fear was replaced by concern. She took a few steps forward.

“Please…Tell me. Where is the weapon?”

The gun shook viciously in his hand while he watched her. Shaking his head viciously to break the siren’s hold, he screamed back.“STAY BACK!”

“It doesn’t have to be like this. We can join up as a team. We’re the good guys and just want to cure this plain.”

“No! NO! I won’t tell you! No one will ever find out who they truly are!”

Attache changed her demeanour, lowering her arms with astonishment. Widened her eyes, she spoke softly in her normal voice. “They? The weapon is a person?”

Shit! I slipped up big time!

With no further words, the man pulled the trigger. His aim was true, striking the girl in the head. Unfortunately, it was a mirage. The image of the child glitched, disbursing into thousands of coded cubes. The presence behind him caught his attention too late. A sharp sudden pain lodged into his hand, knocking the gun out of his grip. A small dagger pierced through his hand. Three more daggers caught his clothes, pulling him to the ground. They were long and slender, effectively pinning him into place.

Unable to use any more strength, he collapsed unto his back with a heavy thud. Tears streamed down his cheek, blurring the vision of the pale girl standing over him.

“At least kill me quickly.” It was a pathetic plea, one he knew the answer to.

“I can’t do that. You have the information I need and until I retrieve it, you’ll be my captive.”

Closing his eyes, he relaxed. There was no other choice now. Quickly he opened the message he had long prepared weeks ago and sent it off. At least his wife would get a proper goodbye. Next, he opened his inventory, the shifting screen barely rendering in at all. He took out a single pill for such occasions and swallowed it.

Attache noticed too late, lunging for his throat to stop him. Punching at his chest in hopes to dislodge it, the man smiled as he coughed from the impacts.

“You and your enemies will never find them. This war will come to an end and neither will be the victor.” Attache growled, pulling at his shirt.“Where are they?!”

“You will never gain control this plain. Only they can.”

With a gurgle, the pill burst within him. Attache barely dodge the sudden vomit of acid that spewed from his mouth. His body and the ground around him began to disintegrate, sinking into the corrupted land beneath.

Standing a few feet away, Attache could only watch. There went the only real lead she had. It had taken her years to finally learn his name. Cursing, she ran her fingers through her hair. Where on earth could this person be?! All this time she was looking for an object that thousands speculated about. A key, a bomb, maybe even a mythical computer chip; all of which were wrong.

Looking up at the sky, Attache could see the Ever Tree pulsing in the distance. The purple hues lit the world around even from such a far distance. With a quick scan of the area, there were no traces of life forms around. With the body's limbs remaining, it wouldn’t take long for one to appear.

The other plains wind howled through the vast land of broken buildings covered in strange purple vines and plants. Would her superiors see this as a failed mission or a successful one? Although she could have killed him and taken the mutated organ that stored his memories, he was more valuable alive. The fact that he could withstand her manipulation and her psychological attacks was impressive. Truly a terrifying mutant.

A small green chatbox from her teammate popped up in front of her view.

“Did you find anything? I’ve been looking for ages and I can’t get a signal on this guy.”

Attache scoffed, looking back at the remains. And he never will. “No, I didn’t. Let's call it a day. Let command know we couldn’t find what they were looking for.”

“Right. See you back at the academy.”

As the screen closed, a horrific cry sounded off in the distance. Looks like the unknown creature will be eating plentiful tonight. With one long glance at the warped and corrupt land in front of her, Attache couldn't help but feel sorrow. What did he mean they could never control the land? Does that mean they can’t find a cure for its corruption? Did this person have the ability to stop the entire mutant war?

Scoffing with a frown, Attache opened a portal door back to the real world. How many more years will she find the next clue to the weapon? Only time would tell. In the meantime, her duties at the academy would keep her busy. It was the start of a new year and she was in charge of recruiting. Dropping the shell around her, Attache’s body transformed back into her original body. The layer of green cubes shifting down her body in a fast scan, she walked through the portal.

Before it closed, she turned around to spot several beasts running towards the body. Brushing an amber dread from her unreadable face, she made sure to watch them eat the evidence left behind. Attache was now the only person who knew about the weapon. She wanted to keep it that way.

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