Tracking Down An Old Friend and a New Lead


“The government is meant to be for its people! For too long we have languished under a government that does not care for its people. The politicians that the people elected due to their fear and hatred have used the fear of the people to create a system where they hold absolute power. Power over your bodies, over your money, and even over your choices. We proved that fate exists when we created it in the form of a government more powerful than it’s people.” Annah heard her own voice playing like a record in her mind. It was the day she had lost the rebellion, the day she had watched as all of her comrades fell around her when they attempted to storm the government tower.

The resistance she had been leading fell that day, and even though the leaders of the rebellion survived, the ideas motivating them did not. Every council member lost something when they were forced to surrender. She had lost her wingsuit, Cal had lost his data spike. She didn’t know what her other two members had lost since they had gone into hiding in the aftermath, but she was sure it was something just as vital to their skill sets. Aside from their belongings that were taken from them, the survivors also lost their will to continue fighting. They were powerless against the government, so instead of trying to change it, they went into hiding, staging personal rebellions against the law to assure themselves that they were still free.

Annah pulled herself from her thoughts about the past and started to focus her energies on what she needed to do next. She had two more suspects that she needed to track down before they could have a chance to cause some major damage to the city. Annah had never known Heron as well as the other two suspects, which caused Annah’s intuition to blame Heron for the imminent attack. Of course, she couldn’t leave any stone unturned, and it would be a lot easier for her to actually find Artemis, so she decided she would go after Heron last.

The next step would be to find some transportation- if she wanted to conduct a proper search for Artemis, she would have to leave the residential zone at some point. She wasn’t hopeful that she’d be able to find a car of her own, since she was in possibly one of the poorest residential districts in the whole city.

The city was organized into large square zones orbiting the government tower, and the closer to it the buildings were, the better they were. It was obvious that any amount of money the government had went to showing off their wealth, and ensuring that they could live in comfort. There were several zones separating the residential slums from the wealthier areas, there was an industrial zone, where the only work for people living in the slums could be found. Then beyond that was a commercial zone, where there were stores aimed at catering to all audiences, a neutral zone between poverty and the most wealthy. Of course none of the truly wealthy would ever dare show their faces in that zone. They would rely on their servants and even robotic aids to purchase anything they needed. Next, there were the business and the second residential zone. These sections of the city were nearly as pristine as the tower they surrounded, and housed the wealthiest members of society.

Of all the zones, Annah knew that Artemis would not set up her gig in the commercial zone. Instead, she would be most likely to do whatever she was up to in the industrial district. Artemis was an infamous club owner before the war, but she had a habit of setting her clubs up in the strangest locations. She claimed that it brought in the right crowd for her tastes, but Annah always thought it was just another way for her to avoid conforming. So where everyone else went for hard grueling work, Artemis would go to play. Annah gave up on her search for any kind of vehicle she could drive, as she suspected there weren’t any cars in the area. Instead, she headed for the nearest transport hub.

When she arrived at the terminal, she entered the farthest industrial district from her as her destination. The train system ran above the city, so Annah would be able to look out the window and spot any districts that had high activity for this time of night. The next train arrived moments later, and as she boarded she casually glanced at the clock until she heard the hiss of the doors sliding closed behind her. The train had more passengers than she had anticipated, but it was still empty enough that she could move around unaccosted. Taking a seat near the end of the car, she leaned against the wall and peered out the window while she waited for the train to depart.

With a shudder of the cabin, the vessel began to pull out of the station, and Annah was pressed back into her seat by the rapid acceleration of the train. “Looks like someone else in this district called for a ride,” she mused aloud as she noticed the train bypass the ramp that lead to the skyway.

When they reached the next station, the rest of the passengers in the cabin stood up as the train came to a gentle stop. When the doors opened to the night air, they stepped out into the limited freedoms of their lives. A brief moment between their jobs and their homes where the government held no influence on their lives.

After all the passengers had exited the train, a group of four men dressed in uniform black outfits and carrying silver cases boarded the train. They quickly spotted Annah sitting in her seat and began to whisper amongst themselves as they found their own. She managed to pick out a phrase, “She’s not supposed to be here.” There was a palpable air of tension surrounding the group as they looked the train car over with a textbook military precision, ensuring that they wouldn’t be caught off guard.

The train pulled out of the station and ascended the ramp onto the skyway, quickly reaching its top speed, and Annah began her search for any section of the city that seemed unusually busy. Her search was suddenly interrupted as she heard her name, “Annah Krie.” One of the men spoke, introducing himself as the leader with his initiative, “Do you have any last words?”

“Go away,” Annah answered nonchalantly, pretending to ignore the man, “Can’t you see I’m trying to enjoy the view?” She kept her eyes glued to the window but paid careful attention to the reflections, watching for any moves from the group while she continued her search.

The man, taken aback by Annah’s reaction, didn’t respond for a second, which allowed Annah to spot the sector she was looking for. There was an industrial sector which had an unusual stream of lights heading towards it. Government ordinance mandated that every factory needed to be shut down by eight PM. Seeing as it was nearly two AM it was obvious that the lights weren’t people heading in for work. Annah then flipped around in her seat to address the man who had spoken to her first, “Sorry, now that I’m not so distracted,” she spoke while signaling the train which stop she wanted to disembark at, “Was there something I could do for you?”

“I guess they weren’t wrong when they said you were a bit crazy,” the man said, popping his knuckles. He had an extremely scrawny build, making it clear that he was joining the new resistance because he didn’t even have enough to feed himself. The other members of his team didn’t look much better. Two of the others looked sickly and had greying hairs, showing heavy signs of age. The fourth member was by far the youngest, the boy looked to be no older than sixteen, and certainly had no business carrying around the bombs that Annah suspected was in the cases.

“Why are you even here?” Annah asked slowly. “It’s pretty obvious you weren't sent to kill me. No offense. And bombs are usually used for taking out big targets.”

“Well, there you have it. We need to see how effective the new compound is. So we’re gonna blow up the train to make sure not a single drop is wasted.”

“Hit a strategic target while you’re testing something new. Not a terrible strategy when you’re limited on resources. Whoever is running the new resistance is pretty scrappy. Makes me think I trained them.” Annah pried, hoping for a hint.

“Wouldn’t know. Never met him in person.”

“Go figure. Well, you know that I’m no fan of this regime we live under, but blowing up this train won’t accomplish anything. Save your test for another target.”

“Those aren’t our orders,” the youngest chimed in. “We have to blow up the train. That’s our mission.”

“That won’t hurt the government. Only the people who live in the city. And even then, that pain will only be temporary. And you’ll be branded as terrorists for the rest of your lives. Please. Don’t do this.”

“If we win, we’ll go down in history as the heroes who sparked the revolution,” one of the sickly men retorted. “I’ll take that over dying old and alone any day.” He opened a case, revealing a timer that began to count down starting from two minutes. “If you want to get off this train, I would do it quickly.”

“Two minutes isn’t enough time to make it to the next stop!” Annah said urgently. “You’ll all be killed in the blast!”

“That’s the idea. We don’t got much to live for anyway, General,” the leader spoke, “But our families might get to lead better lives for our sacrifice. Can you say you wouldn’t make the same choice?” The rest of the cases snapped open, each with a timer in synch with the first bomb; one minute and forty seconds.

Annah racked her brain, trying to discover the best course of action, and she had to do it quickly. Every second she spent thinking was one less she would have to put her plan into action. It was obvious she didn’t have time to fight the bombers and stop the bombs, but she couldn’t do one without the other. The bombs were going to detonate, and she had already wasted fifteen seconds trying to think of a way to defuse them.

As Annah decided on her course of action, she sprung up causing the rebels to leap away from her thinking that she was on the offensive. Instead, she kicked open the door that separated the cabin from the outside world. The noise from the wind was nearly deafening, but it didn’t stop Annah from diving straight through the door onto the next car. Drawing her pistol, Annah aimed at the coupling holding the train cars together and emptied the clip. The train came uncoupled and the cars at the back began to decelerate, creating a widening gap between them.

Annah didn’t have long to savor her escape, before she saw the leader leap across the gap carrying his bomb. He barely made the jump, and tumbled to the floor near Annah’s feet. “Have to finish the mission,” he wheezed.

“It’s not just about the tracks, is it?” Annah said moving to grab the case. She needed to get it off the train, and fast. “There’s something on the train that needs to be destroyed, isn’t there?”

“Research. They’re transporting wreckage,” the man said jumping back to his feet and drawing a knife, “And that means you’ve got one minute left to get the hell off this train before you disappear with its contents.”

Annah unsheathed her own knife not ready to give up without a fight. “There’s only one thing getting off this train.” Annah gestured to the bomb, and then rushed towards the terrorist. His reactions were slow and easy to predict, so it only took a quick feint with her knife followed by a forward sweep of her legs to put him back on the floor. She then rushed past him and scooped the bomb up and flung it out of the car. It landed on the tracks with the timer reading fifteen seconds remaining.

Annah could hear the anger in the bombers breathing as he stood back to his feet, “If I don’t succeed in destroying that wreckage then my family gets nothing! Do you hear me?! Nothing!” Annah didn’t respond to him, she just watched him out of the corner of her eye as she waited for the bomb to go off.

Flames erupted as the timer on the devices reached zero, shooting heat and shrapnel from the train high into the sky. The track itself was rended in two from the explosion, leaving a chasm between the ends of the tracks. Fortunately for the city below, there wasn’t a single chunk of the train left intact to demolish any buildings as it fell. Instead, a rain of metal shards fell to the earth below skewering and impaling the ground. “You think you’d at least get a participation award.” Annah shrugged at the man who had slumped into a seat holding his head in his hands.

Annah turned away from the open door of the compartment and moved to a seat. The train descended the ramp coming level with the streets before pulling into the transport hub in the industrial district. She gave a glance over her shoulder at the man who was still holding his head and had begun rocking back in forth in disbelief. Shaking her head and rolling her eyes, Annah left the train and ventured on to the streets. It was easy enough to spot her destination even from the street level since the glow of Artemis’s club was illuminating the sky.

Following the artificial sunrise, Annah soon made her way to the club, wondering just how many people her former ally had managed to coax out of the shadows to come to her venue. As Annah rounded the next corner she saw a short line leading into one of the uniform factories. Annah joined the queue and waited patiently to enter the building as it rumbled with the bass from the music playing for the guests as they danced.

Every time the doorman opened the door the lights of the dance floor spilled out onto the streets and the sounds of the cheering crowd roared, demanding to be heard. Before long the queue had advanced enough, and Annah was the next guest in line to enter the club. She waited for the bouncer to open the door, but he simply stared at her stone-faced until she spoke, “All full in there or something?”

“There’s enough room. You’re just not a regular so the owner is gonna have to interview you, to make sure you aren’t trying to steal company secrets or anything.” The man spoke in a flat tone.

“Well, when can I meet her?”

“She’s just finishing up a separate meeting. I’m waiting for my partner to come out so he can escort you to the meeting room. Wouldn’t want you getting lost or anything.” The bouncer replied snidely.

The door then opened from the inside and a scrawny man motioned for Annah to follow him. “She’ll see you now.” He said as Annah left the line, and entered the building.

The interior of the building was fairly plain allowing the most room for dancing, but there was a set of veiled booths at the back, and along the walls, there were coils and coils of wire that fired arcs of electricity across the ceiling providing a strobe light effect to the club.

Her escort ushered her towards one of the veiled booths, before pulling aside the curtain so that she could comfortably step into the seat. When she had taken her seat she found a familiar face sitting across from her as the bodyguard closed the curtain. “It’s been a long time, Annah.” Artemis’s silvery voice rang out from behind her crimson painted lips.

“Too long if you ask me.” Annah smiled coyly, “Especially if you’re starting up another resistance without me.”

“Oh come on Annah you know I’m not the leader type. I’ll join just about any rebellion, but I’m not great at starting any kind of trouble.” Artemis chuckled.

“Well, in that case, did you join any rebellions lately? More specifically one that just reeks of terrorism?” Annah continued pressing

“What is this? An interrogation?” Artemis broke out into full-on laughter, “I mean seriously, you haven’t even asked how business has been.” Her eyes then narrowed as she focused on Annah’s robotic arm, “And that is definitely new.” Annah opened her mouth to speak but Artemis cut her off still beaming, “I know I know, it’s gonna be a long story. But you’re not gonna get another answer out of me until I get to see it in action. And that’ll put some of my suspicions to rest if you show your peak form”

“Cage match or brawl?” Annah said knowing how much Artemis loved to watch exhibition fights.

“Something big must really be at stake in your mind.” Artemis teased gently, “You hate showing off.”

“Which is why you always make me do it if I need a favor.” Annah sighed, “Come on, I am on a bit of a clock here.”

“Alright, you got it. Since I’m feeling generous, it’ll just be you versus one of my prizefighters. One on one. Should be a cinch.”

Annah started to roll her muscles out limbering up so that she wouldn’t be tense during the fight. “Center stage I hope? If I’m showing off I wanna go all out.”

“I knew it. You’d never half-ass anything for me!” Artemis beamed brightly and pressed a button on a remote installed in her arm. There was a slight shudder, and a circular arena rose from the center of the room. There was a completely human girl standing on the ring as it rose, “Do you have any idea how hard it’s been trying to find a replacement for you? She’s close” Artemis gestured to the girl in the ring. “Strong, but not quite as smart as you.”

“Trying to soften me up so I get knocked on my ass?” Annah chuckled feeling a lightness that she hadn’t recognized since her rebellion had reached full momentum.

“It’s worth a shot.” Artemis conceded, “Maybe I just wanna see something new.”

“Not if I can help it!” Annah called over to the booth as she jumped up into the ring. She started to size up her opponent, and it was obvious she really was one of Artemis’s prizefighters. As far as Annah could tell, the girl was completely muscle. Perfectly toned for speed, and agility. This girl probably spent the majority of her daily life training to fight and Artemis would definitely pay her well if she put up a good fight against Annah. “She’d probably try to marry the girl if she beats me.” A murmur escaped Annah’s lips, as she rolled her mechanical arm, as if to make sure it hadn’t fallen off.

“We have a special treat for you tonight ladies and gentlemen! Center stage an impromptu fight between two of the best fighters I’ve ever known!” Artemis’s announcement rang out, and the cheering club went silent to look at the ring.

“You all know our reigning champ. The unstoppable amazon I like to call Princess.” Artemis paused for a second to watch as the fighter glared towards the speaker, “It riles her up.” She cleared her throat before continuing her introductions, “And new to our humble ring this evening, is a woman that some of you may recognize. If the Cyberhawk’s reputation doesn’t precede her then she’ll surely win your hearts tonight! No pressure, love!” She sang as a holographic number five appeared between the two fighters

It quickly counted down to zero, and a loud bell rang out as Artemis shouted, “FIGHT!” And as if on command the pair in the ring leaped towards each other, closing the distance in a single bound. Annah struck first, leading with an obvious feint which was swatted aside as her opponent reversed the aggression and fired a basic cross across Annah’s shoulder. The blow grazed her as she tried to move out of the way and it was obvious from the force the “Princess” wasn’t holding anything back.

Annah spun away from the haymaker following the cross and drove the back of her knuckles into Princess’s side. It was a defensive maneuver without Annah’s full force behind the attack. It did, however, push her opponent away from her giving both women room to breathe. Annah intended to take a moment and analyze her opponent’s motions, and see if there was an obvious habit that she could exploit. However, she didn’t have a chance to think before the Princess had resumed the offensive with a leaping longfisted strike. Annah deflected the blow across her mechanical arm, and countered with a quick jab to the shoulder.

Annah swept her leg forward, and caught her foe’s ankle dropping her onto her back, but Artemis’s prizefighter simply used her momentum from the fall to roll back to her feet driving a forceful uppercut into Annah’s jaw, the blow staggering her. As she was reeling from the strike she could hear the Princess launch her next attack. Instinctively Annah shot her arm up to shield her face and felt her rival’s boot smash into her knocking her backward onto the ground.

“Think!” Annah whispered angrily to herself, chiding herself for trying to put her brawn before her brains. She slowed her breathing down, calming her nerves as she watched the amazonian girl readying to strike at her again. As her heart rate slowed and she allowed her mind to overpower her instinct, she saw it. Her advantage was in her opponent’s strength. If Annah couldn’t overcome Princess with direct force, she would simply need to use the amazon’s strength against her. By the time Annah had finished this thought she barely had time to react to the full force punch that was flying her way. Annah twisted her torso and leaned away from the punch, allowing it to fly past her. Using an open-handed strike, Annah struck at the other woman’s elbow forcing it to extend fully into a straight arm. Then Annah added to Princess’s momentum by shoving her along her back. The motion caused the amazon to lose her balance and fall forward over the arm that Annah was still grasping onto. As Annah let go of her opponent’s arm, the fighter fell face first onto the ring. Annah relentlessly chased the Princess’s fall with a swift punch to the jaw, the metal fist easily knocking her out.

“The Cyberhawk wins!” Artemis shouted over the intercom, “I gotta admit, I was really hoping she’d get slapped around a little more.” The girl’s sing-song voice teased. “I suppose you’ll want your reward now, hmm?”

Annah hopped down from the ring, her adrenaline still flowing at full force. The crowd immediately began to swarm around her, all yearning to get a closer look at Annah and her mechanical arm. Annah gently pushed her way through the crowd back to Artemis’s booth and climbed up inside. “You know with a little training she’d be pretty unstoppable in there.”

“But where’s the show in that?” Artemis cooed, “After all it is for entertainment purposes, where’s the fun in her just clobbering anyone who steps in the ring with her.” A rarely seen serious look crossed Artemis’s face, “Looks like you weren’t joking about that terrorist cell. Anything you wanna tell me about a certain train exploding?”

“That’s what I was coming here to ask you about. I have to stop them.” Annah said deliberately, “They have the plans for separation. They want to fracture their island to escape the government.”

“Yeah, you scrapped that idea for a pretty good reason if I remember correctly. Who would want to share a broken island with the people who had ruined their way of life? Do you think they’re capable of actually pulling it off?”

“Hard to say for sure. If I had to guess though it’s only a matter of time before they try it. The train was just a test anyway. Figuring out how powerful their new compound is. If that’s only their first public step, then I-”

“We” Artemis interrupted, “No way I’m letting you go chasing after a terrorist organization without getting my own slice of the action.”

“Fine, in that case, we” Annah emphasized, “Need to find more information about this group. They’re really good at hiding their tracks it seems.”

“Doesn’t mean that they’re perfect. And as you might have suspected, they did try to recruit me. Thing is, they approached me at a public bar, and got themselves arrested. Up for a little prison break?”

“You’re joking, right? Breaking into a government prison isn’t exactly the best way to stay off anyone’s radar.”

“Exactly! We want to get on the right radars. Break this guy out, and we’ll have a guaranteed in with the group. Besides, you know it would be fun!” Artemis was pleading with Annah at this point.

“You’ve been cooped up in your club too long, huh? You sound like you’ve got cabin fever or something. Besides, there’s no way to know which prison he was shipped off to. Why don’t we try some of our old channels and see if we can find some sort of group or meeting? It’s not like it’ll be hard for us to prove we don’t like the government.”

“Boring!” Artemis exclaimed, “But probably the best option we’ve got at the moment. See what I mean about me being a terrible leader?”

“Look, we can cover more ground if we split up to find this recruiting center or whatever it’s called. How about we meet back here in an hour or so and discuss what we’ve found.”

“That’s fine but here.” Artemis said passing over an earpiece to Annah, “We should have some way to get in touch if we find something sooner. Alright.” She then continued, hopping out of her booth and whispering something to one of her guards who climbed up into the seat she had left vacant. Annah slid out of the booth behind her, and the pair exited the club and parted ways for the time being searching for any signs of the terrorist group.


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