Martha raked her face with her fingers, struggling to stem the flow of sweat. No matter which way she swung the craft, she couldn’t shake the pursuit. The constant wailing of sirens was addling her brain. For God’s sake. Stop the racket! In desperation, she shoved the joystick sideways flinging the hovercraft into an alley, narrowly missing an advertising hoarding, then let it plunge ten floors causing her stomach to lurch threateningly towards her mouth. There! She spotted it. A subterranean parking place concealed in the gloom. She let the craft coast into it. Stilling the motor and cutting the power, she took her head in her hands and let out a sigh of relief.
Don’t cry victory too soon. Her pursuers had got close enough to score several hits, smashing the tail bumper. It would have broken loose were it not for the electric cables that clung to it. Fluttering behind the craft like a crazed bird, it screamed, ‘Here I am! Look! Here!’
She crouched behind the dashboard, her fluorescent prisoner’s garb a dead giveaway, as a snub-nosed police ship ghosted by. You did well to ditch that tracking bracelet. She’d lost precious minutes sawing it off. For all their search lights probing the gloom and their fancy scanners, the police seemed blind to her presence with the power off and the bracelet gone.
As the patrol drifted away, its powerful rotors kicking up a whirlwind of dust, Martha took a knife to the prison jumpsuit and cut her way out of it. She shivered at the cold on her skin. There are dirty overalls under the seat. Sure enough. There they were. She hurried to put them on, her shoulder aching where the guard had stunned her. Pulling a balaclava over her shaven head, she donned a mask to ward off the dust. Check the damage. The moment she opened the hatch a stench surged up to greet her. Careful. It’s dangerous. One glance at the ground showed her why. The place was littered with years of refuse tossed from the buildings above. The filth would have been bearable were it not for the host of creatures slithering and crawling through it.
She hadn’t gone three steps when the voice screamed, Watch out! Whirling round, she discovered a tiny craft gliding silently to a halt only yards away. It bore no markings, not even the obligatory ID. Her hand flew to the stunner stuffed in her belt as she sidled inch by inch towards the safety of her craft.
The hatch of the other craft hissed open and a tall woman emerged dressed in a dark green suit with a matching beret askew on her head. That’s not a colour the police use. The woman didn’t seem armed, but with all the implants on sale on the dark web you could never tell.
“Looks like you could do with some help,” the woman said, her tone surprisingly amiable.
She didn’t look like an agent. She didn’t sound like one either. An agent would have had her on the ground face down in the creeping muck by now. Watch her every move. She’s a slippery one. Martha’s fingers tightened on the stunner. “I’m fine,” she lied, then winced as her bruised shoulder brushed the hatch.
When the woman’s hand moved to her pocket, Martha whipped out her stunner and took aim.
“Easy does it,” the woman said, raising both hands in the air. “I’ve got a tube of analgesic cream in my pocket.” You must be joking. Martha stared at her in disbelief. “For your shoulder,” the woman clarified.
However did she know? That the woman sounded sincere troubled Martha. Don’t let yourself be fooled. True. It didn’t compute. Anyone lurking in those depths was necessarily up to no good. Smuggling, trafficking, murder, rape. You name it. “What do you want?” Martha asked, not lowering her stunner. That’s a stupid question. Of course it was, but the woman intrigued her. Maybe, as a woman, she might understand her plight. You wish!
“The safety of you and the child,” she said, her lips curving up in a smile.
Told you! She’s an agent. Martha cursed under her breath. How else could the woman have known? Do it! Now! “You just signed your death warrant,” Martha said, squeezing the trigger. A violent shock flung her backwards against her craft knocking the air from her lungs. She hung there, pinned to the hull, struggling to catch her breath. The noise must have woken the child because it began to cry. So much for the long-lasting sleeping draft. The rogue chemist had lied.
Get ready. She’s coming. Martha struggled to comply, but the force field nailed her to the hull. However did the woman do that? “Sorry,” the woman said, relieving Martha of the stunner but not releasing her. “We can’t have you killing the only person in this dismal pit who cares.”
Lies. All lies. If only it were true.
Leaving Martha immobilised, the women stepped into the craft where she could be heard clambering over the seats. At first the child’s crying got louder then it abruptly ceased. Oh no! She’s killed it. “My child!” Martha screamed, finally finding her voice.
When the woman emerged cradling the infant, Martha was relieved to see it was unhurt. Don’t get your hopes up.
“It’s not your child to have,” the woman said, pausing a moment to stare at Martha, pity in her eyes, before continuing to her own craft.
Stop her! Rage boiled in Martha as she was forced to watch the woman carry off her child. “Give me back my child,” she pleaded. It’s not fair. Tears coursed down Martha’s cheeks. It had all been in vain.
The woman disappeared into the other craft only to reappear without the child. Martha cried out in despair, struggling to get free. “You’re not well,” the woman said, coming closer. “Surely you know it was never your child. You stole it. Like the three others.”
Read the ‘sister’ text, Broken.