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“I knew I was not alone. They would never leave until every last one of us was gone.” Sawyer Russo has sworn to protect humanity, and as a Watcher she’s done just that. But the Bots and Carbons that took her city are evolving, and they start picking the Watchers off one by one. One last rescue mission will change everything. When someone betrays them, the line between friend and foe is no longer easily drawn. Sawyer made a vow, and she will fulfill it, even if it means ending the person who deceived them, no matter who it might be. It all comes down to one choice… Who can she save? And who does she have to let go?


Chapter 1

Chapter 1

I knew I was not alone. They would never leave until every last one of us was gone.
From the edge of a rooftop high above the boulevards below, I breathed in the cool damp air as my eyes monitored the near empty streets. Whispers of rain threatened to erupt from the melancholy sky above, as if to echo the sentiments of this place. The ruined city, once a place I called home, was now nothing more than a pile of rubble thanks to the Bots and Carbons roaming the streets. Buildings had been torn to pieces leaving gaping holes in those that still stood, uninhabited but for a few survivors. It was not a livable place, not the refuge I’d known ten years ago, but it was my reality. And now, as my eyes scanned the dark metropolis before me, I clung to the feeling of freedom before the burden took over me. The silent promises I had made and had yet to fulfill.
Quiet and cold as it always was, the darkness hung like the night even at the peak of daytime. Smog and cloud lingered over the city leaving us in a constant state of gloom, with the threat of rain always hanging over us. The only light that shone in this dark city was Sub 9, the enemy’s headquarters. The lone building lit up in the distance as I stood bathed in darkness, hidden in the shadows. Darkness was my friend, my confidant, my ever constant reminder of who I was and my purpose here.
I was invisible to those below me, but I saw them. All thanks to Adam, a scientist with a fascination for Robotics before the war broke out.
“All clear and ready to go, Sawyer?” Sam’s voice startled me as it reverberated through the ear piece.
“Yeah, all good.” I clicked on ‘The Eye’ and it blinked to life over my right eye. “I’m turning you off now.”
“Aww come –” My earpiece was muted before he had finished his argument.
The six Bots that marched below me lit up green through The Eye. Their oversized steel frames were hard to miss as they stomped through the city streets looking for survivors. Most towered over me with ease and at nearly four times my weight they were hard to take on alone, but their boxy structure and heavy feet made them easy targets for our weapons. Although they weren’t swift and agile like the Carbons, they were still dangerous and had to be eliminated if we hoped to survive another day.
Another two Bots were a mile away and four more were stationed just past them shining green on the little lens over my right eye. They were indispensable and a constant entities in this city. The Carbons, however, were saved for the more important tasks and hadn’t been seen in weeks.
No matter how human-like the Carbons looked, they all had one flaw—a microchip at the base of their skull. They were carbon copies of us, hence the nickname, but despite their obvious human appearance, they were not of us. They’d become the deadliest foe mankind has ever known, and my constant enemy for the past 10 years.
I was a part of a team searching the streets of Cytos. Watchers. Together we eliminated any Bots and Carbons that crossed our path. Twelve Bots tonight. Twelve to eliminate. I’d fought more than this at once; twelve was nothing to me.
Standing, the wind pushed me onward but I held steady, waiting for the right moment. My lungs filled with the damp, cool air that surrounded me as my long dark hair, tucked behind me threatened to escape, but I pushed it back. I never feared being seen for I was a shadow. I was head-to-toe covered in black, unseen and unheard, even to my own companions.
I checked the line again, mostly out of habit. Then I leaned forward and let gravity take me over the edge as the butterflies moved from my stomach to my throat as they did every time despite my fearlessness. Free-falling ten, twenty, thirty storeys before the belt around my waist tightened. The line tethering me to the building held strong as I glided effortlessly to earth.
I dropped the remaining ten feet. My feet didn’t make a sound as they hit the pavement. Bots could sense human presences, but they hadn’t spotted me. Yet. They walked closer, oblivious as I crouched and hid behind an overturned trash can. One breath in, I took my gun out of its holster. One breath out, I steadied my aim. I knew exactly where to shoot. One more easy breath, and I squeezed the trigger. Once, twice, six shots in all and they were down, and easy kill as usual.
Wasting no time I sprinted north, staying in the shadows. I caught my reflection in a passing window. My small frame and pale complexion did not match the assassin that lived inside of me. My cheeks flushed with adrenaline as my legs pumped harder and harder, pushing me forward through the shadows.
I’ve enjoyed the anonymity of it all. Living to prove everyone, including myself, wrong.
My gun was out and ready. Two more guns were strapped across my back.
“You can never be too careful, Sawyer,” my dad had repeatedly said, ever the cautious one. He wouldn’t recognize his own daughter if he saw me now. But he wouldn’t see me. He’d been dead, along with everyone else I knew, for what seemed like forever now.
Turning west down an alley I rounded the corner, and came up behind the next set of Bots, exactly where I’d expected. Only two. They turned to me as I walked out of the shadows and I shot them before they had a chance to take another step. The bullets hit their chests dead center. We’d found out—well, Adam found out—that the center was where their control panels were. One shot to the middle of the chest and it’s sayonara.
Four more to go.
I picked up my speed, adrenaline coursing through my veins. My steps matched the beat of my heart. My pace softened as I approached the next corner. Peeking around the bend I instantly saw something was different. They were not alone. There was a Carbon with them. They didn’t come out that often anymore, especially not with just a few Bots for protection. Once they’d realized we could track them, target them, and were picking them off one by one, they’d stopped coming out. We were not entirely sure why as their thousands outmatched our hundreds easily. The few Carbons we were able to eliminate only swayed the numbers by a small amount; we were always outnumbered, and likely would be forever. The Bots, however, were always expendable as many were unskilled, having originally been made to serve humans, not kill them.
The Carbon sensed me before I was close enough to fire. The Eye might have helped us see better, but our weapons weren’t as advanced as theirs and they limited us greatly. My aim was good. Better than good, actually. But at that distance it would have been a challenge even for me.
The Carbon ordered the Bots to separate, two on each side. They were hoping to surround me, but they were no match for my training. She had already raised the alarm to their headquarters, detailing their coordinates and requesting back up, that I was sure of, so I had to be swift and decisive.
Sprinting hard I returned to the alley, knowing they sensed me but didn’t yet see me. I still had the upper hand. I doubled back and turned down the next street, hidden as I passed the Bots. The Carbon would sense me coming, so I stood a better chance one-on-one without the Bots to deal with. I stepped out from the shadows and loosed two rounds. Two Bots went down. The other two retreated, frantically searching for me as I strode back into the shadows. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. They walked into my line of sight then they were dead. Might’ve been fun if it hadn’t become so routine.
There was no time to gloat however as the Carbon was unusually fast and on top of me before I could move. Her weight knocked me onto my back hard. I kicked my legs up and threw her off, but she was agile and quick, she landed on her feet with cat like reflexes before I could pull the trigger to end her. She picked up a metal rod and swung, aiming for my head. I rolled out of the way in the nick of time, but I was not so quick on her second strike; pain shot across my ribs and knocked the wind from my lungs causing me to double over.
Willing my body to move I was barely to my feet when another strike landed with deadly precision. My leg buckled under the pain as my head whipped to the side, sending out a spray of crimson blood. Stars flashed before my eyes. I couldn’t see for a moment and was forced to rely on my other senses. Twisting my body back I aimed an elbow to her face. It connected with substantial force. As my eyes began to focus again the Carbon staggered back. Her nose was no longer straight, but no blood flowed out. Carbons did not bleed. I took the moment of distraction and sprinted to create some distance.
Her energy pulsed right behind me. She was gaining on me fast. Too fast. Carbons were normally decent runners, but I was superior and had never been caught.
Her hand brushed my back and knew I couldn’t outrun her, so I dove down to my knees, skidding a few feet on the wet pavement as she flipped over my back, surprised by the sudden stop just as I had hoped. My gun was out and ready before she hit the ground. One shot to the head was all it took to incapacitate her, but I knew it wasn’t over. I reached for the knife tucked into my tall boot, turned her over, and made a swift incision at the base of her skull. My eyepiece lit up green and it was only then that I realized she hadn’t lit up before. That’s why I hadn’t seen her from the rooftop. Instinct had taken over when I saw something was different before, but she didn’t light up. Only now, as her chip was exposed, did The Eye detect her. I quickly removed and destroyed it.
More would be coming soon, and there was no time to waste wondering what had happened with my hardware. I had to see Adam right away; that Eye must have been malfunctioning. I took off at top speed, racing down the streets unseen, not slowing down until I was in front of that familiar building. A pile of rubble to the untrained eye, but buried twenty storeys underground was the hidden haven we called home.

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AJ Eversley

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