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Whap. There is no doubt about the sound. Above the clattering din of the Steyr, I could hear the sound. An instant later it is overlaid with the dull wet noise of Scot's body hitting pavement with the peculiar signature of death. Anguish rises in my throat for a moment, but no more; this scene is too familiar. Anger follows, and in a moment of blind fury I throw myself over the barricade towards the manhole and the site of that last impotent ricochet. I heard it hit him. I saw the flash. Fucking chroman isn't playing by the rules, of course; that's the whole reason for this godawful mess. New York altered, not just the limiteds but the whole fucking mod, a-fucking-1 on the lethality scale.

Shouts and hands try to restrain me, but it is too late, and I'm too far gone now-I know if I stop to return, out here in clear zone, I'll be roachfood. The manhole beckons, still dark. I dive for it without hesitation. The bottom is concealed by shadows, but I manage to roll and not hit anything important. The Steyr is clutched above me, safe and dry, and the bottom is fairly soft- perhaps earth, perhaps rot, it's hard to tell. The smell is the same as everywhere. I have a moment of panic as I realize I can't tell which direction the bastard went, but the world is merciful; there is only one tunnel out, through which I throw my body.

I suppose there's really no explaining why I went. No one goes under and comes back unchanged, if they return at all. I stop, panting heavily, and listen; the sound of slithery flight is audible. A death's head grin, and we're off again, fitted stones in the walls of the tunnels rushing by in the sound of my burning breath.

Around the next corner, there is a slight wrongness to the darkness, and the Steyr speaks of its own volition, projectiles whining down the tunnel. The muzzle flash lights a corpse hanging from the wall, its bleached, stripped skill still sporting a yellow hardhat and leather toolbelt neatly draped about its rotting midriff. The Con Edison logo is still clear above the eyesockets that stare peacefully through the madness. I snarl in frustration and brush past.

The bland is in the tunnel! I feel him following me, and Mode makes querulous advances, unsure of how to respond. Flicker pours black around me and the Shell displays it, gripping the darkness with all hands and wrapping it around me. I stop moving, hoping to entice Mode into lockdown, but it doesn't work. The reset cycle jitters on, the environment outside that of Mode's expert conflict programming. What to do? I feel City around me, urging me, but to what I cannot say. Fear elevates my gut and I blindly scurry through a right-hand turn. I can hear City's denizens about me as they rouse themselves from their sleep of maintenance. Chittering, scurrying, they wash past towards my trail, towars the bland following me there. They will see the proscription he carries. They will enforce City's directive. I stop, sliding in the muck, and wait. Much noise, much motion, then a brief blaring violence of the gun comes. Once, long, then again, then nothing. Silence. Moments later, the invisible masters of the underdark slide past me, unhurried this time. City feels to me, and I quiver with the realization. I can walk now. I look up as I do, searching for a manhole to lift me from the world. It is many blocks before I find one.

Fucking bots. The tunnel is alive with them, and they're too small and numerous for the Steyr to help- I waste its ammo in one long burst, waving it around the mob. Many fall, smashed backwards and into the muck by the impacts, and broken metal and plastic and silicon flies about me as the gun roars its hunger. Then it is empty, clicking softly on an empty magazine, as they are within feet of me. I turn to run, stumbling once and losing the now- useless gun before pelting back down the underground as fast as I am able. There are various crunching noises behind me, but when I look back there is nothing but blackness. The corpse of the Con Edison man grins at me in pity as I flee past it, fear driving my feet-there, there's light ahead, the manhole I came down...I leap convulsively, throwing my hands out to the sides of the hole and pulling myself from the earth in a quick usage of my last strength I burst from below, rolling on the street and shouting to prevent them shooting me in reaction and fear. There are answering yells, and as I run for the wall I hear bullets whine above me and an inhuman roar of pain/damage from behind. Then I am at the barrier, clawing, and I roll over the top, hitting my head painfully on a bit on unnamed junk before crashing to the ground and vomiting. Fucking chroman.

They're pissed I lost the gun, of course.

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