Midway up the staircase, Aidyn paused to rip a cloth tourniquet from her shirt. She draped the fabric over the bloody gash in her left arm just above the crease of her elbow. One-handed she tied the cloth underneath and used her teeth as opposition to pull it tight. The cloth squeezed against the open wound, blood gushing out and staining the blue fabric black. Aidyn suppressed the cry of pain in her chest and exhaled through tight lips to sustain her stealth. She glanced up the next stairwell at the nothingness. She noticed a door to her right with a plaque labeling it the 4th Floor. Sachio might be in there.
Aidyn suppressed the door handle. It clicked open and swished silently. Through the crack, she saw an abandoned office level. Desks disheveled, papers scattered in chaos, light fixtures dangling form the ceiling. The whole floor dark under the emergency protocol. Red backup lights but still so many shadows.
She opened the door more hoping to slip in, but the hinge squealed like swine. Aidyn stopped the door and cursed under her breath. So much for stealth. She slipped into the carpeted office. Offices with closed doors on the right looked ideal for hiding hostages.
She called out, “Satch?” in a whisper and instantly regretted it.
Down a ways she heard papers shuffling and caught it in motion just as a boot slid behind a desk. Aidyn readied her knife.
“All right, boys. Come out!”
Behind that desk, a six foot tall man in rags stood from hiding. And from behind fourteen other desks, his partners joined him.
Clearly outnumbered, Aidyn cursed again. “SATCH, are you HERE?”
Clobbering footsteps charged Aidyn from the left. Before she had a chance to deflect, a burly man slammed into her and dropped her body onto a nearby desk. His move triggered all the men to advance. Aidyn saw them closing in and turned on her back, kicking the man that tackled her. She broke his nose with her boot. Blood splattered upward and he tipped backward. Aidyn rolled backward off the desk, landing on her feet with a hair flip.
A bald-headed man reached over the desk to lay hands. Aidyn pressed her back against the office wall and thrust her feet into the desk, kicking it into the bald man’s waist. He doubled over in pain. Aidyn stabbed him in the back of the neck and rolled over him, kicking another man in the face before landing on her feet and charging another man. She ducked under his punch, punctured his gut with two fierce jabs of her knife and rolled between his legs when another man reached for her hair.
Shooting to her feet, a man caught Aidyn by the throat and shoved her back into the wall. She choked momentarily before fury overrode fear and she drilled her knife into his arm. He yelped, releasing her. Aidyn ripped her knife out and stabbed him through his larynx. She watched life drain from his eyes before he fell away and three guys rushed her.
She blocked a punch with both arms, threw one of her own that missed and was kicked back into the wall. She coughed up all the air in her lungs, and let her knife catch the next punch. The guy screamed when he saw the double edged blades sticking out of his knuckles. Aidyn ducked beneath another punch, ducked under the guy’s arm and jumped, kicking him in the back. He fell into the other two and her knife ripped clean out of his hand.
Aidyn fell to the floor hard. Someone behind her grabbed a fistful of her hair and dragged her backward by it. Growling in pain and anger, Aidyn sliced his hand. He hissed at it, but kept dragging. Aidyn propelled her feet off the carpet, over her head and kicked the man in the face. Jolted, he released her and she landed on her feet before him. Two punctures to his neck and the man collapsed to the ground, squeezing his opened artery as blood squirted through his fingers.
Another man threw a punch. Aidyn crouched and turned her back to him, nabbing him in the thigh. Blood gushed, he went down. Aidyn spiraled on the floor and swept a man off his feet. Another she kicked in the back of the knees, and when he hunched down, she leaped onto his back unleashing hell into his jugular. He dropped and Aidyn landed standing over him.
A fist crushed Aidyn in the face. She fell to all fours as pain spidered up her skull and down her neck. Blood pooled in her mouth, oozed from her lips. His foot swung up into her sternum, launching her body off the floor and back down a few feet away. Coughing, gasping and spitting blood, Aidyn identified her target and reflected his confidence. She lifted herself to her feet. He swung, she dodged. He swung opposite and she dodged. Again, she blocked. Twice in succession, her forearms bruised at the crushing impact of his knuckles. She opened her arms and clocked him in the face, but it was her knife that made impact. The man blinked, blood trickling down the side of his head.
A crushing kick threw Aidyn into the wall. Before the guy could close the gap and kick her again, Aidyn rolled forward to grab her knife out of the dead man’s head. He had fallen near. She ripped it out with a squelch, got to her feet and, screaming, propelled herself off the edge of a desk onto the man that kicked her. Her legs wrapped around his neck. Holding onto the dangling light fixture, she twisted and snapped the man’s neck. He fell from beneath her. The light ripped from the ceiling and dropped her to her feet. Sparks exploded and the fixture fell to Aidyn’s left.
Three men rushed her. She threw a punch that landed, ducked beneath another, popped up and clocked him good. She blocked a kick with her shin, ducked, and spun out of the circle of men. She fell back onto a table to throw a guy away with her feet, but another rushed up right behind him and threw her back to the desk with a harsh knee to the chest. She slammed hard. He grabbed her wounded arm and twisted it backward. She resisted his strength, screaming with everything she’s got. She rammed her knife into his side. He grunted but remained focused on depressing her arm. Aidyn groaned, feeling her elbow at the breaking point. She kicked her feet up onto the man’s thigh, flipped over herself and landed so her arm straightened. She shoved her knife through the guy’s forehead, forcing him to release her. He dropped.
The slice on her arm from the previous floor bled profusely through the tourniquet. Rivulets of red trickled down her forearm.
Roaring, Aidyn thundered toward one of the last guys and kneed him with such impact he lifted off his feet and shot through one of the office windows. Glass shattered, something squelched and he cried out in agony.
Aidyn turned her wrath to the last man standing. He sliced her across the chest in a bad throw with a pocket knife. She jumped back, dabbing her fingers at the searing on her chest. Fresh blood and pain kicked her into overdrive. She swung her knife, he dodged. He swished, she averted. Both their knives whooshed through air, both their moves quicker than their opponent’s, neither landing a mark. Growing weary from blood loss, Aidyn calculated how much time she had left to find Sachio. Not enough to be missing her mark. She growled and threw her entire body into the guy, tackling him to the ground. She landed a stab to his gut. He grunted, throwing her off of him. Aidyn fell to her back and lie there, realizing the handle to his knife stuck out of her chest.
The man ripped Aidyn’s knife out of his gut. She knew it sucked by the way he swallowed his grunts, the way the reverse hooks ripped flesh on their exit. He got up, holding her knife, stumbling from side to side regaining his focus.
Aidyn forced herself to sit. Then stand in a hunch. Shuddering breath on bloodied teeth with the blood loss made her nauseated and dizzy. She gripped the handle against her chest. In a clean yank she ripped the straight edged knife from her right clavicle. Blood expectorated from her mouth in a cough and gushed from the wound. Suppressing the urge to scream in agony, she instead exhaled a slow, shallow breath and turned the man’s knife on him.
The man blinked in haze. “You’re a tough one, aren’t ya?”
Aidyn gagged on her own blood. She spat a puddle on the carpet. “Get on with it.”
The man lunged forward, stabbing. She blocked his arm, punctured his bicep in a quick jab. He grunted and sliced for her face. Aidyn ducked and went for a jab at his waist again. He knocked her hand away and kneed her in the gut. She grunted and turned just in time to miss another stab at her chest. In all her last strength, she punched him in the face. He licked his wound and came back. She ducked under his rapid slashes and deflected a punch before kneeing him in the gut. He doubled over and she stabbed him upward through the chin.
The man went stark still. Aidyn pushed the knife up into his head, forcing him to stand full height before she ripped the knife out. His mouth fell open and blood flooded his face. She drilled the man’s knife into his skull only by an inch. When it didn’t surpass that, she hammered it in with her palm then turned sideways and kicked it the rest of the way. He fell sideways with glossy, lifeless eyes.
Aidyn collapsed back into the wall. She caught her breath and unleashed a long overdue howl of pain.
The only reason to keep fighting. She bent down for her knife, left behind the bodies and exited the fourth floor headed with a bloody trail behind her to the fifth.