Groggy sleep drifts away bringing senses; the smell of sweat, the sound of breathing, the feel of warmth, the bitter taste of blood…eyes open wide from sedation. She awakes to find herself lying partially dressed with an oriental man craning over her. In anger and fear, she grabs at his throat with both hands and wraps her legs around his torso to stop him escaping. The oriental man struggles against the surprising strength of the women until he begins to writhe passively from muscle memory. In disgust, the corpse is pushed away, rolling off the side of the bed and onto the floor with a dull heavy characteristic thud. She stares momentarily in bewildered at a barcode imprinted on the underside of her left forearm, then refocuses on viscous red liquid trickling off her right hand from a nosebleed. Hurriedly she dresses in the ill fitting white garments strewn around the metallic grey-blue cell in a seemingly staged fashion; then searches through the dead man’s clothing, folded neatly on a chair, in the corner left of the door. She finds a snakeskin wallet, which shakes within her grasp as a sudden noise comes from the door.
Motors hum, quickly drawing the grey-blue door into its housing. The barrel of a gun cautiously enters then dwarfed by two bulky black male hands supporting it. Adrenaline pumping, she athletically springs to full height from her crouching position and kicks the figures wrist against the doorframe with a crunching noise, matched by a painful growl. The firearm clatters on to the floor as she lunges into the doorway and kicks the bulky guard in the head sending him staggering back against the opposite wall of the dimly lit corridor. The African man shakes his head slightly and launches himself aggressively back into the cell with a war cry; blood vessels bulging at his neck. Apparently loosing his footing, the guard then falls silent, slumping at the threshold to the cell. A sliver of smoke trails from the suppressor as she fearfully grabs the Oriental’s dull brown overcoat and heads out along the narrow grey-blue corridor to the illuminated emergency exit sign. Slamming her body weight into the door she realises it is fast.
A disturbance draws her attention to behind her as the cell door begins to repeatedly close on the guard’s torso. She freezes watching then turns back around trying to figure out how to open the fire escape. The guard’s eyelids flicker as a wincing expression grows over his face. Stepping back, she shoots the lock off at point blank range before giving the metal emergency bar a resounding kick. Motors drone as the fire door slides sideways allowing the cold night air in. The African rolls over quietly reaching for his ankle holster. As she puts on the flapping brown overcoat to keep warm she notices that the tight white garments she is wearing underneath have strangely increased its temperature in response. Male voices shouting from behind draws her attention once again back along the narrow corridor and to the African straining on the floor. She drops to one knee hearing a rush of air by her ear and offloads a second round this time into the African’s cranium; brains splatter into a fine red mist as the bullet embeds into the wall beyond with metallic twang.
Feeling light rain on her face she exits into a dark side street heading towards a group of homeless people gathered round a fire. Guards file down the narrow dim corridor checking out each room and subsequently disrupting the fowl mouthed occupants. She clicks the safety on the black Howler UM17 before placing her hands inside the overcoat pockets and taking a look over her shoulder. Nothing. She hurries a little as the storm breaks above, flicking the ridged collar up. One of the senior guards frowns in lack of recognition at the African man slumped on the floor then heads to the open fire door. Taking another glance over her shoulder, she stops and begins to warm herself by the fire as a shadow appears behind her then retreats from the rain. She shies in relieve before taking a sharp breath in. The senior guard now with his suit blazer over his head shouts inquiring if they saw anyone, promising a meagre credit reward. She and the only apparently aware homeless man shake their heads reluctantly in the darkness. The guard retreats once more and closes the fire door.
After paying the sober homeless man twice the meagre reward, she came to a main road, mingled with a crowd of rowdy pub-crawlers and found solace in the constant din and cheap alcohol of, UV, an aptly illuminated nightclub; making the skimpy white garments she was wearing glow. Yet, she was still disturbed by the knowledge that she had no prior memory before waking and that who ever wanted her dead may find her at any moment. Who was she, where was she and why was this happening? The barcode on her forearm made her head spin even more than the alcohol, her first thought was a tattoo but then she had a feeling she wasn’t inclined to tattoos which lead to it being an actual barcode making her property, a slave. What kind of world was this? It felt alien and hostile, like she belonged somewhere else, far away, but every time she centred on something in the past she lost her trail of…
…And the more she thought the less she felt she comprehended. In resolution, she knew that she had to get off the streets, somewhere warm, dry and safe. The hotel key card she found in the Oriental man’s wallet seemed an ideal solution until she thought it through. She needed to pick up a man or a woman even and go back to their place, the way she was dressed, it didn’t seem that too difficult to achieve.
Richard Bryant wakes with a hang over, half way through a news item about terrorism. Rolling out the puddle of self-drool, he realises his hands and legs are tied behind his back. Squinting against the artificial lights in the apartment, he reads the clock in the bottom right corner of the television screen. He looks over to a dark pile of equipment sitting on the surface of the open plan kitchen. The shower then draws attention as an athletic woman with long black hair steps out wearing a towel. “Never trust a natural blonde.” He slurs. The offending wig is thrown at him underarm as she flicks on the kettle and opens the fridge. Bryant nudges himself up into a sitting position against the wall. “You going to untie me now?” The woman doesn’t reply with her head deep in the fridge. He glances to the news channel now reporting the brutal murder of a businessman when the screen goes blank. Bryant frowns at the TV then the woman. “What do you want? Rachel…” He remembers her telling him. “If that is your real name.”
She strolls over to him and shows her left forearm. “What’s this?”
“It’s a barcode.” Bryant frowns smelling her mild halitosis. “Damn off-worlders.” He then mutters to himself.
“Yes but what does it mean?” She interjects.
“It says you’re an android.” Bryant tilts his head and looks into her soulful brown eyes. “You’re an AI.” He airs with curiosity.
“I’m human.” ‘Rachel’ stands with determination and returns to the kitchen area. “You’re a clone.” She echoes but with more spite.
“No. You must understand I’m very much sober.” Bryant replies distracted as he watches her pick white underwear from the washer-dryer and get dressed with her back turned to him. “I never said you were an android.”
“You called me an AI.” She turns around straightening out the white sports bra.
“Its an expression for people with a CNI.” He blows some of his blond hair out of his face.
“Continue.” Rachel replies placing her hand on the Howler UM17.
“A cybernetic neural interface embedded in their cerebral cortex, a kind of human friendly remote modem. They’ve been going on about it for years, its fairly experimental technology even now, unstable, insecure; AIs are illegal on the entire planet, easy to detect.” She frowns. “You managed to turn the TV off and I don’t think it turned off by itself. Can I assume you’re the murderer they were talking about or you going to tell me what this is all about?”
She sits on the work surface eating a bread roll. “I woke up and I can’t remember who I am or where I am.” Rachel airs emotionally. “With this barcode on my arm…and I’m not a robot!” Rachel cries standing and waving the UM17 around.
“Easy. Robotics isn’t that far advanced unless you count the electronic pets they have now. You’re not artificial.”
“Coming from a clone that isn’t reassuring...” she stuffs the last bit of the bread in to her mouth.
“Regalians are more stable than Humans.” Bryant’s perfect face smirks coldly.
“Who do you work for?” Rachel aims the gun at him, a red laser dot landing between his eyes. “You must have a large income to afford all this.” She refers to the surroundings.
“It’s just a safe house. I work for the Government, subcontracted out. I’m the lead Slicer.” He airs arrogantly drunk.
“I ensure the Central computer system is secure, I wrote most of the programming myself.” Rachel sits back onto the kitchen surface. “You still haven’t answer my question, what do you want from me?”
“I need your help.” Bryant scoffs slouching against the pillows. “Sleep it off. I can wait, for now.”
“Ah!” Rachel puts the UM17 into Bryant’s side as he reaches for the black equipment on the kitchen top.
“Hey we trust each other now, don’t we?” Bryant’s voice sounds friendlier with a more sober tone.
“Hardly.” Rachel counters drawing back her Howler UM17. Bryant takes off his ultramarine blue jacket and puts on the black body armour underneath then fits a headset on.
“Amnesia is just short term you know, people who have it still act the same way as they would normally.” He airs pulling away from the idea of helping her in reluctance.
“There’s more to it than that. Who ever put me there clearly didn’t think twice about killing me and I couldn’t say much different to you now seeming what I have told you.”
“Indeed, well if you’re right the oriental guy you killed must have found out to.”
“I was sent there as an assassin…” Rachel realises.
“The barcode on your arm and the wig were probably done to disguise you as one of the sex droids. ‘Accidentally’ killing him in some exotic role-play, it happens more often than you would think and could easily be explained away.” Bryant nods to himself. “Then all they would have to do was simply switch you back again with a real sex droid and no one would be the wiser.”
“But I woke and strangled him anyway.” A lump forms in her throat.
“Then the African guy came in to stop you from talking. I wouldn’t delve on it to much, it was either you or them.” He says coldly as he pats her on the shoulder.
“Why me though and why did I wake at all?” Brant holds his head annoyed at the continuous questioning.
“For the first point, I’ll need to take some mugs shots of you to run through the missing persons list, people disappear everyday and for the second point…I don’t know…the technology must be still be in its infancy.”
“Oh no I’m coming with you, you’re not leaving me here.” Rachel spots quickly due to the mention of photos.
“Well I’m not promising anything further…have to jack in but not here it’s too dangerous, you alone would be venerable, with me the head Slicer we’ll pose more of a threat. Get a large coat with a hood to cover up your face from the cameras, its cold still so it won’t stand out too much.”
“Right.” She acknowledges moving to the cupboard.
“Wait, first I’ll have to scan you down first to check you haven’t got any trackers. Get on the bed a moment.” He picks one of the attachments from the black body armour and commences to slowly scan over her body.
“This material is strange?” Rachel mutters to herself adjusting the size too small sports bra.
“Its thermal gorse. Athletics and extreme sportsmen use it. You could have just kidnapped a woman you realise.”
“Hey I was drunk remember.” Rachel smiles invitingly.
After walking for approximately twenty minutes from the blustering utopian centre, they reach run down, desolate and forgotten streets. Rachel hadn’t really noticed the change at first until she could only spot a stray dog, searching through a pile of smouldering rubble. “What is this place?”
“The Northern Quadrant. It used to be an affluent area centred on low-tech industry, then about five years ago it declined, crime rose, the rich simply left and migrants moved in. The councils have been promising regeneration ever since, whilst the police avoided the area completely.”
“So remind me, why have we come here, again?” Rachel quips.
“The best place to hide is somewhere unexpected, unmonitored and which no one gives a damn about.” Bryant winces as he scouts round a corner.
“Meow” A ginger cat purrs, rubbing its self against Bryant’s trouser leg. Rachel smiles crouching down to pick up the cat, before being ungainly pulled across the empty box junction.
“I hate cats!” Bryant remarks as the cat chases after them playfully.
“They’re cute.” Rachel tugs back her arm.
“They’re freeloaders.” He counters grabbing her arm again. The cat stops and watches as the two enter a decaying storage deport through a hole in the wall.
“Let go!” Rachel sounds defiantly flinging her arm into something soft and warm. A bulky skin-headed man grunts from the blow to his solar plexus.
“Sorry.” She airs politely patting him on the back as he cranes over in pain.
“Time of the month.” Bryant quips before pulling her backwards through a dank doorframe. She was about to ask what that meant until she turned around to see a vast market picked out by shafts of dawn light entering through cracks in the ceiling. A dense mass of shady characters moved before them in a fluid fashion amongst stalls managing not to brush up against each other.
“How did that guy get so big?” She refers to the skinhead she just put down.
“Muscle grafts.” Bryant remarks absently as he moves forward, the ocean of people open then close behind him.
“Hey wait up.” Rachel calls over the constant whisper of trade. A synthetic arm reaches out at her from a stall tugging mischievously at her hair before letting go. The female Indian merchant laughs heartily directing sales banter at her even thou she disappears again into the crowd. “You’re not trying to lose me are you?” Rachel inquires as her head pops over the screen of a laptop. Bryant looks up distracted yet doesn’t answer listening to the electronic squawks coming from the modem. She brushes past the fat bearded store holder to take a look. “This is why we are here?”
“Keep your voice down.” Bryant responds as his fingers glide over the keyboard. “It’s the safest location to jack in. It’ll take me a sec to run some subroutines before I can access Central data without being traced though.” Rachel sits down subdued and waits.
There is a flash. “Anything?”
“No.” Bryant replies flatly seeing no match in the missing persons list to the photo he just took of her. “They must have wiped it from the files…this could mean that the government is involved.” Then again, maybe it was arrogant to assume that his security measures were unbreakable. Bryant’s fingers race once again compiling data streams.
“You like?” The bearded store holder inquires in German, to the performance of the laptop whilst winking at Rachel.
“What did he say?” Rachel asks failing to understand.
“Its good.” Bryant replies off hand ignoring her.
“Good!?” The store holder scoffs. “I only sell the best!”
“Let me try one more thing…” Bryant smiles as the store holder shrugs and turns to another customer. Blood trickles from Rachel’s nose.
“I don’t feel to well.” She airs dropping to one knee, Bryant shifts in his chair just as the laptop shatters into a million pieces.
“Get down!” Bryant cries landing on top of her. Suppressed rounds rain into the store as an Italian man with a ponytail wades through the crowd aiming a recoiling UM20. The figure stops to reload as the crowd disperse silently. Bryant grabs what is left of the laptop and wrestles to retrieve the disk as the German store holder returns fire defending what is left of his goods. A couple of the large calibre rounds land in the assassin’s chest with little effect. “Come on!” Bryant shouts at the unconscious Rachel as he drags her. The Italian man slaps the slide on his UM20, chambering the weapon and fires. Three bullets rip right through the German’s neck, the corpse of which immediately slumps down, trapping Rachel’s legs. “Damn!” Bryant cries drawing his sidearm whilst trying to kick her free. The assassin treads over the wounded and the dead who were caught in the crossfire. One waits till the figure passes and fires with her last strength into his back but to no avail.
“Hey!” The female Indian merchant cries in distraction. The Italian man turns toward, before flying backwards against a pillar.
Bryant manages to get Rachel free. “Don’t you die on me!” She grunts as he lifts her over his shoulder. “Thanks.” Bryant nods to the Indian woman cradling a UM180 Pulse Cannon. He moves over to the assassin and crouches to investigate.
“Its an infiltration droid…old model…I recognise the face.” The women’s one eyebrow lowers. “I guess you’re not worth that much.” Bryant looks round to see her now in two minds about killing them and collecting any possible bounty on their heads.
Rachel wakes. “I’m fine!” She calls, defiantly rolling off his back. Given the idiotic distraction Bryant smoothly picks up the assassin’s UM20 and takes out the Indian woman’s shins.
“What you do that for?” Rachel sounds lying half limp on the dank floor.
“I was repaying a compliment.” Bryant drops the empty UM20 and looks to her. “Can you stand?” Rachel rolls on to her front and struggles.
“Here.” Bryant wraps her arm over his shoulder and helps her up.
“What’s that smell?” Rachel inquires over the sound of flowing water.
“Don’t ask!” Bryant replies as he kicks a rat out the way, slipping slightly on the smiley green floor. “From what I could get on the Central computer, Syntek and UM are collaborating in a ‘Sleeper’ project. Using AI tech and UM weaponry to create an ultimate assassin, I think you are a or possibly one of a prototypes and that they intend to use Regalian genetical engineering techniques to build the full production bodies…” He stops then turns right. “…And unless I’m mistaken they could infiltrate anywhere, then ‘sleep’ until their target comes into range, then they become active.” Bryant finds a ladder and leaves Rachel at the bottom to check it out. “Probably use them for industrial espionage, retiring the competition or even for military campaigns.” He lifts up the manhole cover to find a burnt out car parked above blocking any exit. “Damn…and the high levels of government must be involved.” The manhole cover is slide back into place.
“But you said that AI’s could be easily detected.” She calls up before making a muffled grunt.
“Yes but that’s wishful thinking.” He replies coming back down. “AI tech combined with GEM would be practically undetectable. The entire population of Regalian could be turned into mindless drones…” He stops feeling something cold and hard pressed against the back of his neck, he looks round. A Jamaican man with dreadlocks smiles then blows blue smoke into his face.
“Welcome to the Regal Liberation Front my friend!”
“Where’s the girl? She’s injured.” Bryant replies trying not to cough.
“Ah she be fine man!” He holds out the smoke. “You want some medicine to?” Bryant shakes his head, causing a couple of the armed men with berets to laugh loudly.
“For a terrorist you’re fairly laid back, Rex.” Bryant remembers seeing his face on the new cast earlier.
“My name ain’t Rex man!” Rex looks to the others then back again. “Up there maybe, down here its Captain E-Z!” Rex laughs and stamps his foot with amusement. Bryant ignores him and begins to walk in the direction they must of come from.
Rex coughs intestinally making two rebels block his path. “You in deep shit now man…and the water is getting higher! You don’t just walk, you understand?”
“Hey I came down here looking for you, didn’t I?!” Bryant lies turning around. “You catch what I was just saying?”
Rex pouts. “Most of it.”
“Well the part you missed is I have a plan to expose it all…and the real question is; are your balls big enough for the job?”
Rex nods putting his arm around Bryant’s neck. “Hey I like this man! What you need?”
“What you got?”
Rex turns on the lights to an underground hanger bay, in the centre of which an aerodynamic black starfighter lays collecting dust. “A Ground Assault Hawk Gunship, fully laden…some serious hardware man. I ain’t really got round to using it yet.” Rex licks his lips watching Rachel run up to the starfighter and climb amused into the front cockpit.
“Is she going to be alright?” Bryant asks itching a plastic on his forehead.
“You fooling man, you’re honey there is hypoglycaemic! All she needed is some sweet sugar.” Rex nudges him with his shoulder.
Bryant looks embarrassed by his forlorn sign of affection towards her. “Five syllables I’m impressed…Will it fly?”
The starfighter suddenly becomes airborne answering his question. “Hey! Hey!” Rex shouts waving his arms as dust gets thrown up by the stabilises. The Hawk sets down again on its hydraulic gear. “This on loan man from the Peacekeepers! You better bring it back without a scratch!”
“I will!” Rachel calls over.
“Would you like anything Sir?” An attractive flight stewardess inquires craning with a forced smile. The seated man’s attention is drawn from staring blankly out across the wing. Their eyes meet as he visibly thinks.
“Nothing, thank you.” is emitted weakly from his thin dry lips barely sounding over the hum of engines.
“Very good Sir.” She smiles again after putting on an interested expression and turns around to find the bodyguards eyeing her from behind their shades. She holds onto the back of a seat as the refitted APV increases altitude towards the tallest of the skyscrapers, the UM tower. Turbulence increases likewise as the jet slow to a hover. The gear lowers as the vessel turns into the wind then smoothly descends onto the landing pad. Guards rearrange themselves tactically around the Armed Personnel Vessel as the door opens breaking the corporation motto printed on the side.
“This way, Sir.” One bulky male calls over the high pitch whistling engines. The scientist steps into the bright daylight causing the pale flesh around his eyes to crinkle. A large metallic suitcase handcuffed to his left hand is raised to a more comfortable position before being paraded across the windswept rooftop, man handled down a staircase then into a lift. The poorly presented scientist finally arrives in the packed conference room slamming the metal suitcase upon the end of the long black table in frustration. Simultaneously a car bomb explodes far below, the burning metal carcass flies up and twists in the fireball as the nearest two cars also ignite. A Police siren adjoins the cacophony of alarms, car horns and screaming. The female cop exits through the drivers scissor door and rushes towards the injured almost getting run over by a second squad car screeching to a halt.
“Are we safe?” An American businessman inquires as a crowd has formed observing the incident from the window.
“Perfectly safe…” the slick haired women is interrupted by the slight shockwave, however continues undeterred. “Gentleman, please.” The crowd turn away from the window and head back to their places.
“Can I get this off yet?” The scientist coughs involuntary, rubbing the reddened flesh around his wrist as the natural light dims. Water in the jug begins to ripple again as the room quakes.
The female cop grabs her radio to call for medical backup as her eye line follows the cloud of thick black rising smoke. “We have a situation here!”
Attention is drawn to the doors as guards burst in, then to the windows that being resonating loudly. Daylight dapples then fades as a Ground Assault Hawk Gunship decloaks inches from the glass. “Get down!” One of the guard cries slamming the slide of his UM20 whilst shoving the scientist unceremoniously to the floor. The large calibre cannons snarl armour piecing rounds, ripping bone, sinew and cement apart then punch them straight through the skyscraper; splattering remnants out the other side. The Hawk tilts and tears out the entire floor of life before levelling within the swirling heat of its engines. Fire sprinklers are set off as the starfighter nudges its nose cone abruptly into the building. The emergency hatch hisses with pressure differential then thuds onto the wet carpet.
Rachel unrecognisably dressed in full black combat gear resurrects from the cockpit to locate her objective. Producing the Howler UM17 sidearm, two suppressed 9mm rounds are fired in quick succession. The scientist once playing dead now screams in agony clutching at his arm. “Go! Move it!” Rachel looks up disturbed as voices come from the stairwell. She offloads a third round putting the scientist out of his misery then grabs the suitcase sprayed with his blood and heads back to the Hawk. A stun grenade explodes as a similarly dressed figure appears from the remains of stairwell. “Freeze!” The armed guard shouts before a wet sheet of paper importunely flies up blocking his visor. Two stray shots strike her in the shoulder as a second armed figure appears and opens fire. Rachel ducks picking up the emergency hatch and uses it as a makeshift shield. The suitcase is stuffed into the second cockpit before she finally gets out of the line of fire.
A Police air unit flies by taking out the lower port engine. The starfighter jolts sliding out of the skyscraper and begins to fall backwards. Rachel grabs the stick in a blind panic opening fire accidentally up through the buildings water tanks and blowing up the APV. “Fall back!” One of the armed guards cries as the tanks rupture pouring out a torrent of water, sending them headfirst down the stairwell. The Police air unit turns around for another second run when the plunging Hawk disappears…
Rachel comes through the door and places the heavy metal blood stained suitcase next to Bryant. “Your very trusting having your back to the door.” She lets the ginger cat she had found again after running over ground from the hanger to the RLF central command; drop to the floor.
“Excellent.” Bryant turns around and picks up a scanner. “I’ll get started on this.” He smiles at her.
“So everything about this whole ‘Sleeper’ project will be held in that one suitcase?”
“Well that’s the theory.” Bryant replies scanning the suitcase for bombs.
“You mean you don’t know?!” Rachel questions worried sitting down and watching the cat lick its paw quietly under the table.
Bryant cracks the handcuffs off then starts on the locks. “Are you alright?” He asks in a diversionary manner.
“Well I got shot twice...” Rachel is amused playing with his feelings. “…In the shoulder but with the body armour Rex gave me, I hardly felt a thing…you’re not going to ask me how many people I killed then?” Rachel’s voice wavers.
“I wasn’t intending to.” Bryant replies coldly opening the suitcase, and looks through the wad of papers inside.
“How can you be so cold?” She frowns.
“With great difficulty!” Bryant shouts throwing the papers in the air and sliding the suitcase onto the floor. A machine clatters out from the suitcase and breaks. “Damn! Useless! Nothing!” Rachel sits silently watching the papers float to the ground.
“What about the machine?”
“Its just a holographic projector!” Bryant replies running his hands through his hair.
“I had to shoot a guys hand off to get that…is that it then?” Rachel asks depressed whilst wiping away another nosebleed. Bryant holding his head looks to her. A smile creeps over his face.
“I could kiss you!” He exclaims loudly.
“What?” Rachel winces from the decibels.
“I don’t believe I didn’t see it at first!” Bryant picks up the suitcase ecstatic.
“Are you going to tell me or do I have to beat it out of you?”
“Any necessary data for the ‘Sleeper’ project would be massive, inconsiderably far too large to hold and be easily transportable in a mere suitcase.” Bryant laughs slightly manically.
“Ok you’re scaring me now!” Rachel airs flatly.
“The DNA of the carrier! The data is encrypted onto the carrier’s DNA!”
“Are you sure?” Bryant looses his trail of though momentarily.
“Well there is only one way to find out!!” He sets the suitcase down and starts swabbing up the splattered blood.
“Is there enough?” Rachel inquires as the fire sprinklers had washed off a lot of the blood.
“More than enough. I can just run it through a low-copy cloning cycle to be sure. The police use it all the time to catch criminals.” He puts the swabs into a lab machine and switches it on. The screen hums then glows a sky blue as readings scroll out. An incredibly dense DNA strands begins to form, and a test tube fills up with cloned blood.
“How long will it take to decode?”
“A while!” Bryant responds with little calculation.
“I don’t think we have that long.” Rachel warns feeling something subconsciously. A klaxon starts up as something brushes past Bryant‘s leg. He looks under the table to see the ginger cat playing innocently.
Rex bursts in. “There’s vessel coming in, what ever your going to do man you better do it fast!”
“What about the Hawk?” Bryant inquires picking up the cloned blood sample.
“It needs to refuel man!” Rex replies before leaving.
“Hey! Captain E-Z have you got some wheels?” Rex reappears at the door.
“Yerh man! It’s armoured man, second left down the corridor. Good luck!” Rex throws him the keys causing Bryant to accidentally drop the blood sample.
“What now?” Rachel panics.
“I’ll inject into my blood stream!” Bryant replies panicking a little himself.
“I wouldn’t do that if I was you, the guy looked pretty ill!” Rachel grabs him.
“I don’t think we have much choice in the matter!” He unwraps a syringe and injects what is left of the sample into his arm then hooks up some equipment. “I’ll crack it on the way now move!”
A silver Viper sports car de-alarms with a flash of amber. “You drive!” Bryant throws her the keys before rolling over the hood and getting in the passenger scissor door.
“WELCOME NEW DRIVER!” An artificial female voice airs from the dashboard as the ginger cat hops into the cramped backseat.
“I don’t know how to drive a car!” Rachel calls to Bryant, who responds by selecting; ‘D’ on the central gear stick.
“Right pedal!” The high performance auto revs up spinning its wheels, then punches them into the back of their seats, hitting its roof on the opening garage door in a shower of sparks.
“CAUTION: SPEED KILLS, SLOW DOWN!” The onboard computer warns as Rachel screeches onto the busy metropolitan street in a cloud of tire smoke.
“We’ll ignore the pleasantries.” Bryant mutters to himself; switching the audio function off before looking up. “With the traffic!” He shouts at the oncoming vehicles. Rachel hits ‘S’ and turns, dodging an articulated lorry. “You learn fast!” Bryant observes before returning his full concentration to cracking the cipher. A fireball explodes in the rear view mirror.
“We got company!” Rachel cries in anguish. A UM42 military assault craft flies through the flames, dispersing the thick black smoke with its stabilisers. Bryant flicks back the eyepiece of his headset and taps a couple of touch sensitive buttons on the dashboard. “What you doing?” The UM42 weapons open fire. Rachel turns to avoid being hit as an invisible energy shielding absorbs the blast.
“It’s got all of the optional extras!” Bryant replies flicking his eyepiece again as the boot pops up and a rear mounted cannon returns fire.
“Hold on!” The Viper races through a red light. A car pulls out into their path and gets rammed out of way, sending it spinning into a lamppost. “Sorry!” Rachel calls over her shoulder before fixing her eyes on the road-ahead closed signs leading into a tunnel. “Which way?!” A missile blast lands to the left sending shrapnel into the shields. “Which way!!??” Rachel screams whilst chopping through red and yellow chevron barriers, looking to the off ramp.
“The off ramp…no the tunnel!” The Viper’s suspension wines at the indecision and fools the UM42 into missing the tunnel entrance completely.
“You could of just said; shake them!” Rachel switches the window wipers on by mistake, then the headlights. A construction worker glowing a brighter yellow, waves his arms frantically at her before diving over the central divide. The menacing silhouette of the UM42 reappears in the rear view mirror as the Viper crashes through more barriers. Rachel hits ‘S’ again as a gantry explodes, collapsing down and narrowly missing them. A smoke screen is then activated as she accidentally brushes her hand on the dashboard. The UM42’s shields crash through the collapsed gantry with little damage and thrusts blindly into the cloud. “It’s gaining!” She cries fearfully over the sound of rushing air as the UM42 exits the smoke screen. Distracted Bryant looks over with his left eye and presses the central screen with his finger, misjudging the distance. The mounted cannon aims into the wall then is corrected upwards. Chunks of the ceiling begin to rain down upon the UM42 giving the desired effect.
The concentrated sound of rushing air stops as the Viper races onto the surface. The tunnel collapses in a cloud of dust behind them then explodes. Rachel swerves as a large chunk of concrete lands in front of them. A Police car then an air unit joins the chase firing on the now slower UM42. A truck ahead is purposely hit and jack-knifes across the lanes. Rachel takes the hard shoulder, skidding; the rear wheel raises a wave of soil from the embankment before screaming back on to the tarmac. The tire then burst and rides on the rim before auto inflating. “Are you finished yet?!” She questions facing denser traffic ahead.
“Nearly there!” He sounds strained. “But there’s something jamming my signal…and it has to in close proximity!” The Viper’s shields fail under the barrage of weapons fire, the armour now taking the brunt. “Ahh!” Bryant’s face contorts feeling a sharp pain in his left arm.
“Are you hit?” Rachel glances over.
Bryant looks behind him to see the ginger car scowling at him. “What the?!” He draws his sidearm and shoots the cat, which bursts into flames filling the cabin with smoke. Rachel manages to increase the air con whilst activating the hazard lights. A second Police air unit joins the chase mistakenly just in front of the UM42 forcing it to take evasive action and run head long into side of a heavy cargo transport slowly manoeuvring out between the skyscrapers. Rachel loses all control as something blows under the bonnet; the Viper turns suddenly and flips over repeatedly at high speed. The Viper finally lands on its roof skidding to a halt. Rachel screams as the UM42 comes careering towards them. The UM42 crashes down, bounces off the tarmac, explodes mid air, then grinds to a stop just short of the Viper. “Women drivers!” Bryant says feebly rubbing his eyes, with his hair on end. They hug each other upside down and laugh glad to be alive.
The roar of a Ground Assault Hawk Gunship then grabs their attention in the opposite direction. “Did you do it?” Rachel tries the door vainly.
“I don’t know the equipment is smashed.” Feeling a sense of weightlessness they look at each other confused as the Viper begins to lift gently in a graviton field. Rachel struggles with the jammed door again, as Bryant tries to hold her back. “No!” Everything suddenly goes black…
Bryant looks down upon the whole of Regal for the first time in his many lifetimes: the wide green and blue expanses of land and sea, the wispy white strands of high altitude cloud and a dark scar forming the hub of New Belarus. He didn’t feel awe as he had once expected, but fear. What had been his home for so long was now filled with realisation. Bryant had gained eternal life and lost his soul. Hundreds of years working for a utopian dream, that never was. He hoped Rex luck not really knowing whether he survived or not. The planet was now in open turmoil. All off-worlders were evacuating from the surface as to external embassy staff were being exiled as diplomatics failed. The Peacekeepers could only remain neutral in the matter as the Regal were far in advance even for the might of the Titan Class Carrier, Flagship. SS Impregnable; that had just arrived three minutes ago from the Hope System responding to the incident.
Although he hadn’t been questioned yet for any intelligence, which he anticipated the humans would sooner or later; the Regalian government had already denounced him as a traitor. An overwhelming anger grows towards his cold heart until something rubs up against his leg. Rachel appears smiling as a faint reflection against the bright orb. In that moment, he feels warmth once more looking from his infinite past to his finite future. He was after all now mortal, but he had held no regrets. Bryant turns around and runs his hand through her long black hair. It was only one lifetime, but it would be the richest of all.
The massive carrier engages its main propulsion drive, which resonates through the hull as the vessel breaks orbit. Escort fighters whiz by the control tower then over the flight deck, disappearing amongst the stars. Exiting the gravity well of the planet the capital ship prepares for hyperspace. ‘Rachel’ whispers her real name into Bryant’s ear just as the command is given. Within an instant the Impregnable and her entourage leap into the immense depths of infinite space.