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Author's Chapter Notes:
mightier than the sword
Running into Justin and the others had slowed Max down enough for Shades to start catching up.

Had just come around the corner in time to see them, then a strange robot, turn another corner. He heard shouting and laser fire. And a menacing digital voice declare:


Upon getting his first, brief glimpse of NK-525, and hearing that distorted, inhuman voice, he felt a nearly overpowering— but perfectly understandable— compulsion to about-face and run in the opposite direction.

What the fuck can I do against that?…

In his mind’s eye, the guard’s gun was still pointed at his head. Only this was much worse, and time was running out. That thing around the corner seemed to him death incarnate. He knew Max, and the others trapped over there, were in mortal danger, but all that came to mind was grim speculation about how many times he had cheated death lately, how little luck he must surely have left by now. How every time he dared to think he was in the clear he was confronted with an even greater threat, and Max’s words (I still believe you’d help me…) stung more than ever.

It was hearing Max’s battle cry that snapped him out of it.

All that was left was to figure out what to do.

He had originally turned to flee, but had paused for a moment in his hesitation. Now he looked at the aisle next to him, all the while trying to ignore the fear that that mechanical monstrosity would somehow notice him. It was in the midst of his frenzied thoughts that he noticed the shelf sections, how perfectly aligned they were, and remembered a peculiarly mischievous idea he had had years ago.

It didn’t seem like much, but, having no weapon that was any use against such an enemy, it was all he could come up with.

Back then, he had relented, somewhat taken aback by the mere thought of how much of a mess it would cause, but now he decided the time had come to sate his curiosity. The shelves here were about as tall as the shelves at his old middle school library, and crammed with books. Wondering if he could even budge such weight, he pushed experimentally against the nearest shelf. He had to push pretty hard, but he could make them wobble.

Then, leaning against the shelf with all his might, he pushed with his legs.

Max, I won’t let it… I won’t…