As Kitsune leapt throught the city, she could feel a storm coming from the west. She would have to deal with these new renegades quickly. At least they seem to be able to handle themselves, when they’re together, anyway. One can attack and one can defend. Easier to break a team than one person.
They were standing by the lake when she arrived. Deciding against the surprise approach, as much as she wanted to hurry things along, she walked quickly up to them. “We have to do this quickly, so what are your names?” Kitsune said quickly.
“Dianzi Moshu, miss,” said the man. Kitsune noticed he had a cybernetic arm and leg on the same side as the cybernetics on his face.
“Criana Vahsi, and you don’t get a title from me,” said the kid. To Kitsune’s surprise, it was a girl’s voice. She had been assuming the kid was a boy due to the shorter hair, the baseball cap, and the strength. Basically distracted by looks.
“Nor should I, Criana,” Kitsune replied, and then looked at Dianzi and said, “Did you just escape?”
“Right. There’s a place to the east, Steel Solutions Firm, where you can hide out. It’s got some food and water. I’ll meet you there once the storm’s passed.”
“Are the storms more dangerous now?” Dianzi asked.
“No, I… just have to do something.” Kitsune began to walk away.
“Miss?” It was Criana, “What’s your name?”
“Kitsune Sentoki, the Fox of Chicago.” She leapt.
Kitsune could hear the distant thunder. She would have to hurry, the Collapse had sped the storms up. Already she was getting shivers. She had to find somewhere to hide. Where didn’t the soldiers patrol? Quick, quick! She didn’t have much time. There! That building’s safe, but wait, no basement. She kept leaping. Thunder roared as she made a jump, knocking her off balance and causing her to miss the roof slightly. She scrambled up and kept running as the rain began to fall.
There, that one has a basement. She leapt to an open window on the ground floor and climbed through. As the rain fell harder, Kitsune ran down the stairs the the basement. She stumbled as thunder roared right overhead, and then quickly huddled in the corner.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” Kitsune began. Whenever there was a storm, she would recite this verse, Psalm 23:4, and by the end of the verse, she would speak whatever words came to her. She never paid attention to what she said, other than that it was a prayer to God, for the storm and anything else. It was a method her Reverand had taught her before the Collapse.
After who knows how long, the storm abated, and, with it, Kitsune’s prayer. She stumbled up the stairs into the light of twilight. Had it only been a few hours, or was it not even the same day? Her stomach suggested it was the day after. Before the Collapse, her friends would help her through and after the storms, but now they were all dead or missing. Now, she would have to find one of her safehouses.
Getting her bearings, she knew she wasn’t too far away from one, and began walking there. If there was a patrol, she would just have to wait for it to pass. She didn’t have the energy for leaping, let alone fighting, but she got lucky. Up until right outside the safehouse, that is.
She was just a few yards from the door, when a patrol rounded the corner just ahead of her. Thunder and lightning! She lay flat in the closest doorway. The gunfire stopped, they were probably getting closer. She tried the door, but it was locked. She could hear the soldiers calling for backup, but then silence.
Thunder and lightning! But in the opposite direction. Kitsune peeked out of her doorway and saw the countess from before. She was dodging around using her black cloud form, which looked more like a swarm of black creatures from this distance. It looked like she was trying to find an opening to attack, but couldn’t, so Kitsune made a stupid move.
She pulled out her kanabō and wrapped on the wall, shouting, “You guys going to miss a chance to shoot the Fox or what?”
One of the soldiers turned around, and immediately the black swarm rushed through him, and then each and every other soldier, one by one. They each put their free hand to their neck and collapsed. The countess stood in the middle of them, facing Kitsune.
“Who are you?” asked Kitsune.
Seemingly on a whisper of the wind the countess replied, “Pretenders to the throne will fall like the rest of the world.” And then she rushed away in her black swarm.
Kitsune hurried into her safehouse and found her store of food. Since she knew reinforcements wouldn’t be long, she ate quickly, but when she finished and carefully walked outside, there was only one, unarmed soldier, and no corpses.
“She said to tell you that not all patrols are the Doctor’s. Mention the Countess to any patrol you encounter. If they’re hers, they will respond, ‘Pretenders fall at the sight of royalty,’” he said, and then walked away.