Worldfarm One excerpt

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cover of Worldfarm OneKeith stumbled through the field of (what the Hell am I running through?), realizing he had become completely disoriented in the high grasses. Chuck Means had run after him, lug wrench swinging, and Keith had hoped to lose him in the field and backtrack to the Viro. But Chuck had managed to cut him off each time he tried to cut back around him, and now he wasn’t sure which way the Viro was. And somewhere behind him, Chuck was still coming.

Keith was in much better shape than the older Chuck, and had been less exposed to the copi fumes, so he was soon pulling away in the high grasses. Then, he snagged his foot on another furrow of dirt, the same way he had a dozen times since entering the field. Other times, he had been able to catch himself, but not at a full-tilt run. He went down, grasses slashing at his face and hands as he fell forward and thudded into the dirt.

Chuck was on top of him at once. But he also tripped over the same furrow of dirt, just as he had raised the lug wrench over his head to strike. His sudden imbalance forced him to flail wildly as he fell, and he landed almost on his back next to Keith.

The two of them wrestled loudly in the crushed grass, kicking up copious amounts of dust, coughing, cursing wildly and flailing at each other. Neither of them were experienced close-quarters fighters, so mostly they just rolled about trying to get each other around the neck with their bare hands. But Chuck was already losing his stamina to the younger man, and soon Keith was able to free up a hand. He swung it down at Chuck’s head, and it smashed his mouth (much lower than where he had been aiming), leaving a smear of blood from his lip halfway to his ear. Chuck bellowed and rolled, clutching his mouth, and Keith took the opportunity to free himself from Chuck’s grasp and run.

As soon as he was up, Keith jumped straight up to get a better look at where he was. He saw the edge of the field, and his Viro, much closer than he’d thought it was, and ran in that direction. In moments, he was out of the field a few meters from the Viro, and he brought himself about in a wide arc to get to the vehicle.

He saw something out of the corner of his eye, and turned to see if Chuck had gotten out of the field already. His eyes didn’t manage to lock and focus on what he did see… he barely identified a thin black shape swooping at him, like a spinning bird… before it hit him on the side of the head with an impact like running full-tilt into a brick wall. Keith was aware only of pain, disorientation, confusion, and finally, friction across his chest and face. He responded to the pain first, reaching up to cradle his head. The act of reaching forced him to roll over on his back, and only then did he fully realize that he was lying in the road. But the pain was blinding, numbing, and try as he might, he couldn’t manage to concentrate enough to even hope to stand up.

He stared about groggily, looking for something to help him up. He saw the lug wrench nearby, and painfully realized Chuck had thrown it at him and knocked him off his feet… but it was too far away for him to reach, and too small to help him up. He saw the Viro, also still too far away to reach. Then he became aware of a shadow crossing over him. He squinted up into the morning sunlight, but in his stunned condition could not make out who belonged to the silhouette over him.

The shadow moved away from him then, but a moment later, it came back. “This may not be old Chicago,” the shadow said, “but we still take care of our problems the same way.” The shadow shifted, its arms raised over its head, and Keith realized the shadow was holding the lug wrench in its hands…

 

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