No matter which way Mat swung the craft, his pursuers followed, their sirens wailing.

For God’s sake. Stop that racket! 

Why don’t you cease your babbling, mother! Mat shoved the joystick sideways, bouncing the craft off an advertising hoarding before plunging ten floors. 

There! Quick.

You’re nuts. That’s far too narrow. 

Do it!

Holding his breath, he inched the craft into the subterranean parking place, stilled the motor and cut the power. Phew! That was close.

Don’t cry victory too quickly, child

Whatever had he done to merit such a mother? He crouched behind the dashboard hiding his fluorescent prisoner’s garb as the snub-nosed police ship ghosted into view. 

You did well to ditch that tracking bracelet

Now you tell me. We’re lucky I knew what to do. Once the police drifted out of sight, he took a knife to the jumpsuit and cut his way out. Stripped to his boxers, the cold sent goose-bumps shivering over his skin. 

Overalls are stashed under the seat.

He sniffed, his nose wrinkling. You might at least have provided clean ones. He hurried to put them on, pulled a balaclava over his shaven head and donned a mask to ward off the filth. 

Check the damage, boy. But be careful, it’s dangerous.

Dangerous! Where wasn’t dangerous in that world? A stench surged to greet him the moment he unlatched the hatch. The car park was littered with fermenting gunge, a perfect breading ground for a host of poisonous insects. 

Watch out! 

Whirling round, his hand flew to the stunner stuffed in his belt as a slim woman emerged from a tiny craft. Dressed in dark green, she wore a matching beret. 

That’s not a colour the police use. 

You think I don’t know. He eyed the woman with distrust and disgust. Why did it have to be a woman? They made him feel so unsure. She appeared unarmed, but with all the implants on the dark web you could never tell. He whipped out his stunner, just in case.

“Looks like you could do with some help,” the woman said, undaunted by the weapon.

She didn’t look like an agent. She didn’t sound like one either. An agent would have had him face down in the muck before he could open his mouth. 

Watch her every move. She’s a slippery one. 

Takes one to recognise one. Mat tightened his finger on the trigger. “I’m fine,” he lied. That the woman sounded sincere had him troubled. Could there be cause for hope?

Don’t let yourself be fooled. 

Who do you take me for? Anyone lurking in those depths was necessarily involved in smuggling, or rape, or murder, or worse. “What do you want?” he asked, not lowering the stunner. 

That’s a stupid question. 

Of course it is. But the person intrigued him. As a woman, she might just be receptive to his cause. 

You wish!

How could you possibly understand? You’re barely a woman, let alone a mother.


Her snarl shook him to the core.

“The safety of you and the child,” the woman replied, her voice soft in comparison.

Child? Told you! She is an agent. 

Damn you. Why are you always right? The faint hope he’d placed in the woman faded fast. 

Do it! Now! 

Mat struggled to resist, but his finger squeezed and he fired. The blast took him by surprise. It flung him backwards against his craft and from inside he heard the cry of a child. 

She mustn’t take the child. 

He would have obeyed, moving to stop her, but a force nailed him to the hull. 

“Sorry,” the woman said, relieving him of the stunner. “We can’t have you hurting the only person who cares.”

Don’t listen to her. She lies. 

Mat wanted to agree, but deep down he wished she did care. Surely someone had to.Immobilised, he watched the women step into the craft. Once she was out of sight, the crying ceased. 

Oh no! She’s slaughtered it. 

“My child!” Mart screamed, panic seizing him. When the woman emerged cradling the infant, he breathed a sigh of relief. 

She’ll still kill it.

It’s you that lies. Leave me alone. Leave the child alone.

“It’s time we had a talk,” the woman said, pausing to stare at Mart, pity in her eyes, before continuing to her own craft.

Stop her! 

“Give me back my child,” Mat pleaded. After all the sacrifices he’d made, it wasn’t fair.

If you weren’t so weak, you’d have stopped her

Blast you, mother! Tears of anger and despair coursed down Mat’s cheeks. He was not weak.  He wasn’t. There were just things you couldn’t do.

The woman reappeared without the child. Mat, or was it his mother, let out an inarticulate cry. 

“Did you really imagine that a fragile boy like you,” the woman said, coming closer, “beset as you are by your mother, could ever raise a child, especially one that is not yours?”

Read the ‘sister’ text, Broken Bonds.

(829 words)

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