"Shush," Max said with a half smile. "We'll be fine." He slipped under the barrier through some shrubs. He looked back before throwing himself off the edge.
Sara stayed frozen, unable to turn. Heart thudding, she took two, three steps forward then broke through the bushes to find a platform. Max stood there, eyes gleaming in the haze. With a triumphant pose, he waited. The sliver of fear in her stomach turned over, but she gingerly pushed the branches aside. They lapped at her skin, their leaves the teeth nibbling at her flesh. She pressed through in a sudden rush, but stopped when the cold steel met her.
"Come on, darlin', it's nothing!"
She hit the ground, sprawled forward. He was at her side in an instant, pulling her to her feet despite the short stabs of pain in her arms. She didn't sob though, instead she forced a laugh. "I am my father's daughter."
"Not even joking."
She took a bow, almost tripped doing that and burst into laughter.
A low growl filled the air.
"Be quiet," Max hissed.
She fell silent, though the giggles pressed at her lips.
A single white beam cut through the haze. The rumble intensified, becoming a roar of engines, the whirr of propellers. The drone cleared the small garden above, the light pouring over the railing, shrouding them in shadow. It continued its patrol, vigilant and focused.
As soon as they couldn't feel its engines anymore, Max grabbed her hand. "Let's get moving."
All the laughter had drained from her, but Sara followed him anyway, despite her initial reluctance. He wouldn't have paid her any mind. He was on a mission. He had things to show her.
His words, not hers.
He followed the curved path along the edge of the building. To their right, the towers lorded over everything. The high-rises stood like beacons of a forgotten world, long dead and abandoned. Steel plates held the things together while the forever darkened windows coolly stared out over the world. To top it off, immense spheres dangled over their city and she couldn't help but wonder when the ball was going to drop.
His phone sparked to life, throwing out a jaunty tune that left him spinning and checking his timer. He cursed, grabbed her hand and pulled hard.
She ran with him, looking up as she did so. She realized she had no idea what time it was, but that with this burst of adrenaline, she wouldn't be able to sleep anyway. Tomorrow's shift was going to be a bitch.
"Sara!" Max shouted.
For a moment, he didn't know how to respond. Then slowly a grin spread across his face. "We're here."
With a slight flourish that only proved he wasn't as clumsy as her, Max revealed a set of stairs that led down to the abandoned highways. They stretched for miles above them, floating on the fog like those fairy tales you're told as children. All the bravery drained from her. "We can't."
He rolled his eyes. "Come on. We don't have much time."
"What if we're caught? What if there's a gust of wind and we're thrown off? What if--"
"It's safe. I've been here a dozen times?"
This time, she had nothing to say. A thousand variations on the same theme played in her head, each one more furious than the next. When it came down to it though, all she could say was, "Without me?"
"For you, babe."
"Look, I'd love to get into it with you right now. But, first, let's get out there. Otherwise, you'll ruin my surprise."
Sizing up the unwavering roadway, she said, "I'm not going to die for your surprise."
"Yeah yeah." He tugged her ever so slightly.
She reeled from him, the anger flashing in her eyes. It tapered away just as quickly. The same ringtone blared again and Max didn't bother grabbing it, shutting it off. The color drained from his face and he turned to the towers.
All at once, they sprung to life in a cavalcade of lights. Like the breakers all being thrown on at once, they became a live, screaming thing. Music leapt from the yellow eyes that dotted the structure. Sara could almost hear laughter, drinks being poured. She leaned further, took a step toward Max, toward the highway. As the lights ran up to the top, the orange waves dotted the spheres, spreading through them and shifting, pulsing like what she imagined the oceans used to look like.
She placed a hand of Max's shoulder, though he wasn't looking up. The muscles in his back were all bunched up and his head hung down.
"Well, so much for my surprise."
"Would've been better down there."
"Maybe, but I think it's worth it."
"Really?" He looked up.
She brushed his dark hair from his face, rested a hand on his cheek. "Definitely." She smiled.
"Walk with me?"
"I could be persuaded."
He rose, brushed off his shirt, and offered his arm.
She took it.
They stepped onto the highway.