"It is happening to me now. I can`t run away from them…"
She said it way too loud and was not happy about that. A man passing by, gave her a short glance, his eyes drilling deep into hers. She turned to look as he was going away, but it seems he was not paying more attention. Is it a riffle in that bag on his shoulder?
Some static in her ear.
She could almost imagine a face of her friend from Metro.Comm.Net on the other side of the line biting her lip, trying to control the level of her voice. At least this was what silence "sounded" like.
"Calm down. You know they have a software that reacts on a stress level in someone`s voice, installed in all comm-lines."
Her voice, even modulated with a small piece of hardware bought on illegal market, hand made and put in her communicator by seller himself, was supposed to cover and hide few things while using ever-on-alert network of Metro.Net, sounded weird in her ear. She was amazed of a self control her friend developed after years working in Metro.net.
"And try not to do anything stupid…"
"But they are around me and I can feel them. I can`t see them, of course, but I can feel them all the time… When I turn on a stereo, when I use my computer, drive my car… everything is strange… Even as we speak now…"
"This communication is secure as long as we are not taking it too long. I will need to disconnect in…28 seconds. I will call you tomorrow, same time. If you are not available, then just…"
"I know what to do."
"Ok, then. I will call you."
The line was dead before she even tried to say anything. Well, she didn`t even know what to say. She was able to control her paranoia and go through everyday life without leaving suspicious traces. But two months ago something happened. Suddenly, something was wrong. What triggered that? Something she bought on illegal market, software she used for forbidden purpose, something she said over comm-line…? She didn`t know. But suddenly everything changed. She was doing the same things that she did for last 5 years. As she was told, because it was her task in a group. To stay away from "publicity" as much as possible. Until her time comes. But subconsciously, she felt some flaws in lot of usual things she did. The feeling is as if someone was looking at her over the shoulder. Once it started, felt like it was constant. She started to pay more attention, even checked and re-checked all about the perfect public image she built for herself. Everything… but one thing.
Her friend in Metro.Comm.Net
They never met before because it was not meant to happen. Not until time for it comes. Paranoia attack kicked hard; what if her friend is someone who serves as "hunter", someone who is payed to hunt down people like her? Someone who doesn`t even have to be payed… a software installed on intelligent servers in Metro.Comm.Net…
With that thought in mind, she turned to a backstreet passage, a shortcut to her small appartment. Sounds of city traffic and lights stayed behind her but it was not completely dark. There was enough light to see a concrete walls on both sides and empty cans and bottles all over the place. Enough light to see a man entering passage in front of her. She stopped. It was something strange in a way he was looking at her direction, then he slowly moved toward her. His right arm lifted a bit, a dim reflection from something he held. She turned to go back but the other one was standing on the only way out of this trap…
She looked at him again, fear rising in her stomack, mouth dry.
"Don`t," he said, "there is no way you can…"
His chest exploded from something shiny pushing it`s way through. He tried to say something more but a hand came out of darkness behind, covering his mouth. Shiny thing dissapeared from men`s chest and he slowly fall down the wall. Behind him, she could not see properly, was another man. The one that looked at her on a street just a few minutes ago. He was looking at her again…
The man behind her!!! She turned to look – he was still there but looked somehow… unplugged… like in a deep trance…
"Don`t worry about him. It`s android. Metro.Comm.Net always send their assets in pairs. A Master and a Puppet. A Master has a special way of maintaining communication with Puppet, something implanted in his brain. Now, when a brain is dead, a Puppet is kinda lost."
She was still unable to say anything. Shock from seeing a man killed in front of her tied her tongue in a knot. But her thoughts were fast. She looked at thing he was holding, looked like a sword, covered with blood. A sword. A sword… A sword!?
He must have seen expression on her face because he started to talk again.
Metro.Comm.Net has alerting devices all over the city and they can locate any usage of electro-magnetic weapon in a matter of seconds. Even the firearms. Even if it is silenced. So I am using this to ice them." He already wiped a blade and put it in his long bag.
"Hurry, we must leave now, soon they will realise it was not malfunction in connection. They will send tactical forces and this is the last place you would like to be when they arrive…"
He was holding her arm, pulling her out of passage.
"Here, this way…"
illustration by Philip Straub, found here;
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