The other puncher pulled her helmet office. Smith was surprised. You didn’t often get female punchers. She was pretty in a rough kind of way. She didn’t look very old, maybe twenty, but weathered already. Quarantine zone refugee, almost certainly. She smiled.
“You’ve got the rooftop view, how’s everyone else doing?”
“Hard to say. I know that Thompson got eaten by the runners. Everyone else is somewhere in the buildings, except for the ox down by the gate. I wasn’t expecting the runners. Not so many anyway.”
“No one was. They wanted us to go through the buildings.”
“How’d that work out for you.”
“I’m out here, aren’t I?”
“You’ve done the rooftop routine before.”
“Yeah. Not here. The producers don’t like it. Last time I ran right over one of the snipers.”
Smith grunted, laughed a little. He knew what she wanted. She stared at him.
“Nothing, just…you’re Skullcrusher Smith.”
“I just never thought I’d be in the same tournament as you.”
“You’re making me feel old.”
“You are old.”
That was true. Smith would be thirty seven next month. He was the oldest active puncher by at least five years. It wasn’t a profession that lent it itself to longevity.
“What do you want?” he said.
“Terrific. Me too.”
“We can help each other.”
“That’s not how the game works.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you should have thought about that before you climbed up here.”
He laughed at that and stood up. Stay down too long and he’d cool off, cool off and he’d slow down, slow down too much and you ended up as zombie chow. He looked over the edge of the building. The runners looked up and clawed at the wall, tried to climb. They were far enough from the tanker that he hadn’t caught their attention.
“We’re wasting time up here,” he said.
“This is a three key tournament. No reason that we can’t help each other get them.”
“The producers won’t like that.”
“Yeah, well, fuck those assholes.”
“All right,” he said, “what did you have in mind?”
“We take a straight roof run to the turnaround. You go in and grab the keys, and I’ll take the runners away from you. We meet back up at the gates. I’ll even let you go first.”
It was a good plan. It would probably be against the rules if this thing had any, but hey, like the girl said, fuck the producers. Smith put his helmet on. He didn’t figure the plan would survive contact with the other punchers. But it was good enough for now. Someone running distraction was always good.
The only real problem was the main roads, or what had been main roads. The gaps between houses and buildings to the turn around was usually less than ten feet, more than close enough for them to make the jump between them. But the main roads were thirty or forty feet across, at the very least.