by Clara Howard, ’19
Assistant Portfolio Editor
A figure leapt across the gap between buildings on 6th Street, landing with a roll on the rooftop of Hayes Financial. He came to a stop and lay flat on his belly, breathing in the gritty smell of the city and feeling the rush of relief of solid ground beneath him.
A few seconds later, though, there was a thud and whoosh of air as a second person landed beside the first. From her roll, she bounced right up onto the balls of her feet, full of adrenaline and reckless laughter. A loud whoop escaped before he shushed her with a smack to the knee.
“Are you trying to get us caught?” he asked, glaring up at his partner. “They’ll see you if you keep jumping and yelling like that!”
She grinned and rolled her shoulders. “Wow, and to think your dossier said you were a risk-taker.” She dipped her head almost comically down to look him in the eyes. “What’s the fun in playing things safe?”
He tugged her down to sit on the rooftop next to him. “We’re not here to have fun, Striker, we’re here to do a job.”
Striker rolled her eyes and glanced around, taking in every inch of their surroundings. “Whatever. Maybe when you stop letting that conscience of yours get in the way of things, you’ll be better at knowing when to follow orders and when to let loose.”
The boy flinched, pulling his hand away and pushing himself up to a sitting position. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
His partner shrugged, keeping her gaze carefully away from his face. “Just that everyone knows you’re not really into this kind of stuff, so we’re all just wondering when you’ll finally break and just quit.”
He was silent for so long afterwards that Striker glanced over at him, unsure whether what she had said had affected him. She found him staring out at the skyline, thinking, she presumed, about what she said. Not about to break the silence, she turned her own eyes to the buildings behind them, waiting and watching.
“I’m not a quitter.” The intensity in his voice drew her eyes back to him. When their gazes met, he held the stare. “I’m not a quitter,” he repeated, “so stop rooting against me.”
She nodded, surprised that suddenly her throat seemed to have closed up. She swallowed, and then coughed, before replying, “Okay.”
He looked her over carefully before nodding himself. “Okay. Now, let’s go steal this bad guy’s software and get the fu—”
A gunshot rang through the air, pinging off one of the metal generators next to them and cutting off his words. The two flattened themselves to the floor, Striker cursing under her breath as bullets continued to fly over their heads. She smacked her partner’s arm and gestured for him to follow her. In an army crawl, they pulled themselves towards the roof-access door into the building. Reaching under her shirt, she pulled out her gun and stood, her back to the boy. “Get that door open now. I’ll cover you.”
He swallowed and went up on his knees, digging a keycard from the side pocket of his cargo pants, trying desperately to block out the gunfight going on above and around him. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” he muttered, sticking it into the slot on the door lock before typing in a few lines of code on his phone. The thin cord connecting phone and card was pulled taut, and the numbers on his screen raced to find the exact combination.
“Any day now,” Striker growled down to him, aiming yet another bullet at their pursuers. As she pulled the trigger, she heard her partner whisper-shout in triumph, and felt relief hit her. Glancing down at him, the two exchanged a grin as he pulled his hacking thing out of the lock and turned the handle. He heaved open the door, turning to pull her through when another shot fired and she stumbled, grunting as she fell against the door.
“Striker?” He reached for her as more shots rang out, and the bullets continued to ricochet off the metal surfaces around them. Ignoring a garbled, pain-filled shout, he grabbed her and hauled her through the heavy metal door and slammed it closed behind them. He looked down at her. “Striker, where’d they hit you?”
Wincing, she turned out of the circle of his arm and leaned against a wall. “Shoulder. I think it’s embedded.”
He looked at the back of her jacket and nodded. “There’s no exit wound, so yeah, it’s embedded. What do we do now?”
“We keep going,” she retorted, looking at him like he was crazy. “The boss isn’t going to give us a break just because I was stupid enough to get shot.” She glanced around the small lobby they were in, weighing their options. “We’re taking the stairs,” she decided. Striker pushed at the door handle with her hip, glancing at her partner. “I don’t want any more surprises.”
The trek down the stairwell was tense. Striker led the way with her shoulder still bleeding. She held the gun in her left hand, aimed high with the safety off. Her partner followed, his heart pounding with each step. They stopped at the executives’ private floor, he behind the door, his hand on the knob, and she at the frame, pistol ready. She nodded, and he eased the handle down, swinging the door towards his body. Striker waited 17 seconds before moving into the opening, her gun cocked as she walked forward silently.
They reached the CEO’s desk and, as her partner went immediately for the computer, Striker stood by the windows and looked towards the ground.
“What’s our exit plan again?”
Striker glanced back at him and went to stand at his elbow, her hip against the desk and her body facing the open doorway. “Well, it was going to be the same way we got here, but that’s shot,” she replied.
He smirked and flicked his eyes up to hers. “Nice.”
She shrugged and turned away. “I’m thinking the stairs are our best bet. We don’t have rappelling equipment and I don’t trust the elevator when we’ve got pursuants.”
His fingers flew over the keyboard, copying and draining and doing all sorts of computer things that she didn’t understand. She glanced between him and the door, the small hairs on the back of her neck rising a bit. “How much longer?”
She opened her mouth to reply then suddenly they heard the stair door shut. Striker stared at him and he swallowed before moving his fingers even more rapidly over the keys. They heard whispers and then silence, and she cocked her pistol.
“Thirty-two seconds,” he whispered.
“Not good enough,” she whispered back.
“Well it’s where we’re at.”
Again her reply was cut off at the sight and sound of two men inching towards them, guns raised and firing. They both ducked down behind the desk. She popped her head up and fired, hitting one man in the knee and another in the upper thigh. “How much longer?”
“Twenty-one.” He winced as a bullet caught the edge of the monitor, shattering the plastic. “Well, zero, now.”
She looked at the mess and nodded. “Grab the flash drive. We’re running for it.”