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Chapter Forty-Six

"Hurry," Katya said, pushing the girl ahead of her down the twisting goat path. She'd heard one explosion and one more burst of firing and now all was quiet. She took that for a bad sign.

"I can barely walk," Natalya said, sobbing. "My feet are bloody."

"Your whole body will be bloody if you don't run," Katya whispered fiercely. She'd ordered the girl to take off her high-heeled shoes; they would be impossible on the narrow, steep, trails. But the ridge they were on was covered in rocks that had torn the feet of both of them to ribbons.

"Katya," Lydia said, calmly. "Situation report. It looks like Mikhail and the MI-6 man have both been taken down. The good news, such as it is, is that only one of the Russians is still alive. He's looking for you, but isn't directly on your track yet."

"How long until ..." Katya panted, wincing as the rocks cut further into her abused feet. It was like the time that one pimp bastard had whipped her on her soles. But she was doing it to herself, which almost made up for it.

"At least seven more minutes," Lydia said. "I've made it clear that you're badly in need of support."

"Tell them to hurry," Katya replied.

"I have," Lydia said. "Let me remind you, the mission is to recover the primary."

"Yeah, I know," Katya snapped. "But I can't get my money if I'm dead."

They'd reached the second level below the switchback that the firefight occurred on and Katya stopped, winded, when they did. Natalya slumped to the ground, clearly willing to die rather than run anymore.

"This is no good," she muttered, looking up the hill.

"Katya," Lydia said. "He's found something. He's headed down the trail. The Americans say that he's following you, somehow."

"Tell them it's probably the blood from our feet!" Katya whispered fiercely. Looking up the hill she could see the flashlight, clearly. "We can't run anymore!"

"Then I suggest you figure something out," Lydia said with maddening calm.

"Easy for you to say," Katya said, looking around. There was a culvert, but since they were both trailing blood ...

"Natalya," Katya snapped. "Get down on your hands and knees."

"Yes," the girl said in total resignation, doing as she was told. "I will die now."

"The hell you will," Katya replied. "I don't get my money if you die. Now, trying not to scrape yourself up and leave a trail, keep your feet off the ground and crawl into that culvert."

"Why?" Natalya said.

"Because I told you to, you little whore," Katya snarled. "Get. And when you're in there, crawl as far back as you can and keep quiet."

Katya had retained her shoes, barely, by carrying them by the straps. Now she sat down and, wincing, donned them again. Once they were on and Natalya was climbing into the culvert, she started tottering down the road, painfully.

"Katya," Lydia said, with a note of confusion. "Predator says that Natalya has gone to ground and you are moving very slowly down the road. What are you doing?"

"Buying us time," Katya snarled. "Try to use it wisely."

* * *

Bezhmel spotted movement and turned off the torch, letting his eyes adjust for a moment. There, one figure.

He ran uphill on the road for a moment until he spotted a narrow trail and then took it as fast as he could without breaking an ankle. Part of the time he was on his ass, sliding down the steep hill, but he reached the road just behind the stupid little bitch tottering along on her high heels.

"Stop," he said, panting. The fight, and the chase, had worn him down; he wasn't in the same shape he'd been in when he left the service. "Stop," he repeated, turning the torch back on and spotlighting the little whore who was still trying to hobble away. He'd seen the blood; her feet weren't going to carry her far.

The girl turned around, wincing in pain from the light of the torch and held up her hands.

Not the right girl. But she would know where the other one went.

* * *

"Where's the other girl?" a man's voice barked from the far side of the light.

Katya screwed her eyes shut against the light and fell to her knees, head bent and hands covering her eyes.

"Please, sir," she begged, tears rolling down her face. "I don't know what is going on. I know nothing ..."

"Where's the other girl, bitch," the man said, coming closer. The torch was lowered and she could vaguely see his outline in the reflection. And the glint from a pistol that was centered on her forehead.

"She left me," Katya whimpered, pulling her hands away a little but still keeping her head down. "My feet, they were so hurt. She ran away, down the road ..."

The torch came up and the man strode forward, looking down the hill.

"I don't see her," he said.

"She was there ..." Katya said, reaching under her left armpit and pressing a valve four times in quick succession. Then she pushed, hard, on the small packet under her skin and let the drug take her.

She wasn't sure what was in it. The American doctors had talked about pseudo-adrenaline and oxidizers and steroids and man-made endorphins until her head was reeling with unfamiliar terms. But they had given her one demonstration under controlled conditions so she would know what to expect. All she knew was that the world seemed to slow down and she suddenly felt light, the pain of her muscles from running, and the pain of her feet, drifting away as if they were nothing. She also felt strong and graceful, as if she could dance off the face of the world and drift away into space.

Last, but not least, she felt angry. But, then again, that was how she always felt. And now she got to let it all hang out.

* * *

Bezhmel held the torch in his left hand and the pistol in his right, tracking back and forth down the road. The light from the torch was bright enough to clearly reveal the far switchback and there was no girl in sight.

He started to turn back to the little whore that had lied to him and got one brief glimpse of her rising up off the ground then ... she seemed to blur.

* * *

Katya struck the man's gun-hand with the side of her fist, hard, spinning both gun and torch away down the hill. There was a complicated disarm she had been taught, but in the grip of the drug all she could think to do was smash. So she smashed.

She roundkicked upwards into the man's stomach, causing him to double over in agony at the drug-enhanced blow, then kicked him again in the face on its way down. She got a sick satisfaction from the crunch of bone and the splash of blood as his nose pulped. The second blow felt like it broke something in her foot, but she could care less. They'd told her that she'd only have thirty seconds, at most, under the full effects of the drug and she intended to make the most of it.

* * *

The little whore was supernaturally fast and so strong it felt like being hit by a professional kick-boxer. Bezhmel was trained in hand-to-hand combat, but this was like fighting a rabid mongoose. He had been taken totally off-guard and couldn't even start to defend himself as blow after blow came out of nowhere....

* * *

Dropping her kicking foot and stepping forward, Katya actually turned her back to the man, then spun on one foot, driving the side of her clenched right fist into his right temple, then spinning back the other way for an identical blow to the left. That one was assisted by the fact that the man's head had been punched in that direction.

She punched down with one heel into his instep, driving the stilletto all the way through to the sole of his boot. Then, as he doubled over in agony at the pain, she punched up with her elbow to strike his jaw. She heard a crack, that time, that might have been neck vertebrae. She hoped not, she had more mad to get out. Hopefully it was just lots of teeth.

For now, in this time and in this place, she could let out every scrap of hatred seared into her soul. This man, this fucker that worked for the Albanians, he was every man who had ever raped her, every man who had ever beaten her, every man who had ever touched her. And she intended to take her full time, sped up as it was, on this one man. It might be the only chance she ever got.

* * *

Bezhmel was out on his feet. His eyes were blinded from the head-blows, a TKO in any boxing ring. But this wasn't boxing, and the woman clearly wasn't going to go for a simple technical. It was all that he could do to manage to stand, to try to raise his arms in pathetic defense, as insanely powerful blow after blow struck from the darkness ...

* * *

Katya, feeling the effects of the drug starting to ebb, kneed the man in the groin, then punched into the solar plexus before he could even start to double over. Doubly bent, his neck was wide open and she drove one rock-hard, enhanced-strength, elbow blow into the back of his neck, dropping him to the ground.

The Kildar had told her that that was often a killing blow, but the man still was writhing in agony on the ground. Oh, well. That was easy enough to fix.

She raised one foot and drove the narrow tip of her hated stiletto heels into the top of the man's neck, just below the skull. The blow sunk the stiletto all the way up to the base. The man twitched once, much like a pithed frog, and then was still.

She looked up, startled, as a helicopter raised up from below the level of the road and slid sideways towards her. She had been so concentrated on the beating she gave the man, she hadn't even heard it approach. A spotlight suddenly came on, panning around until it caught her in its light. She had to shield her eyes, again, at the brightness.

The helicopter slid sideways, again, lining up its wheels with the edge of the cliff and Katya could faintly see movement behind the spotlight. She wasn't sure who it was, but she didn't really care anymore. She'd had her fun. If it was more of the Albanian motherfuckers, they could damned well kill her, but she was never going back into slavery.

"Hey, Katya," Killjoy said casually, walking out of the light. He was scratching under his armor and if he was perturbed at the sight of a woman standing on the back of a man's neck with her high heel shoved all the way through to his esophagus it didn't show. "Whatchadoin?"

"Your job, motherfucker," Cottontail replied, finally pulling her stiletto out of the man's neck. Even over the rotor-wash, there was an audible "pop." "About time you showed up. Reinforcements my ass."

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