The hovering transporter automatically course-corrects and rushes past Lukas, only barely missing him. Its passenger sounds the horn, having realised what happened but far away already, and the sound echoes between buildings while he continues, out of breath, to the next intersection where he darts across yet another street. The hood of his raincoat is pulled so tightly around his face that he nearly has tunnel vision and combined with his protective rain mask and the rain itself, it is hard to gauge the distance and speed of the oncoming traffic.
The grey sky above is riddled with explosions as government fighter planes shoot rockets loaded with silver iodine into the approaching cloud belt. The particles cause the water molecules to freeze and drop as the clouds disperse their payload of acid rain above the suburbs of London before they can reach the government district in the heart of the vast city.
The rockets shout out their snap-crackle reports overhead as Lukas dashes across a square that’s now empty. In the middle of it he passes a featureless slab of marble which many years ago perhaps had been a statue of some prominent man, but which had since withered away in the polluted downpours. Everywhere people had taken refuge, indoors and in the tunnels, to avoid having their frail bodies suffer the same fate. Only a select few braved the weather and although there weren’t many rich people in this part of the city, he ran past a few officials walking hurriedly along the sidewalks under the reinforced umbrellas their porters held up for them.
Lukas makes his way across another few streets and through an old covered archway between two decommissioned buildings. Rain drips down from holes it has eaten through the roof above and a few droplets land on the glass-covered eye slit of his mask as he makes the mistake of lifting his gaze. Whilst wiping them off he almost stumbles but recovers without losing his stride and continues down the path his enhanced optics illuminate ahead, only visible to him. The cornea implants show him the shortest route to Ella’s last known whereabouts where she, just before the rain started, unexpectedly had gone offline.
He gets closer to his mark but also further into the suburb’s commercial district where traffic is heavier. Drones whizz as they pass between him and the fighters overhead and his field of vision is filled with lights from shopfronts and marketing holograms along the way. An advertisement for a bionic arm, up to ten times stronger than a human one, flutters on the sidewalk ahead of him as it’s projected into thin air and disturbed by the rainfall. He sprints through the lights, blinded for a split second, and continues towards his goal.
Ridding his eyes of the hologram, Lukas can see how the light grows brighter as he nears the intersection in front of him. A brightness more grounded, warmer, than the one he just ran through rages there ahead. He can smell the disaster now and the noise grows louder as he approaches. Fires dance in the reflection of every window from this angle and suddenly, the wind draws him towards the epicentre. The fire devours oxygen from all around and encourages him with a surge of air to race towards what might be her shadow there among the flames.
Traffic has come to a stop here but few of the handful of impeded travellers dare defy the rain. In a sprint he dances across transports that have turned dark inside, no longer hovering above ground, whilst the surviving passengers panic inside in their helplessness. On top of the vehicles, hooded and masked, he runs the course of immobile hovercrafts to the source of this electrical eclipse now lit by natural light.
She lays there and might have been crying but it’s impossible to tell in this weather. She is in pain and he leans over in protection against the punishing rain. She does not have a rain mask and is bleeding from her legs. The wrecked transport behind her is on fire and Lukas sees what is left of its two passengers, killed by the recent explosion. She moans in acknowledgement and exhales in incomplete relief, calming herself and closing her eyes to the drip. On the side of the transport opposite, abandoned with its doors ajar, he sees the hole made by the missile, having come in at an angle a few meters in front of Elle only to detonate in the vehicle behind her.
She sits up and assesses herself in his flickering shadow. Trying to move her legs she whines in pain and throws her eyes around her. Ella centres on herself at last and for a brief moment she is gone completely in the study of her feet and legs. The fire roars but the noise of the city in the horizon, its lights and high rises never out of sight, approaches them in a soar. The creaking metal of the engulfed vehicles hisses when drops that land on it are vaporized and the streets around them now abruptly grow more animated. Suddenly, they hear a door opening, then another one. From corners and crevices, the intimately scrutinising eyes of the citizens of London observe the carnage that surrounds them before they fall upon the two figures in the eye of the firestorm. Lukas stands above her in a protective yet helpless posture, poised, as their eyes lock and at that moment they both know that they must go.