The crowd was screaming, and the security of the dead speaker had drawn their own guns the instant the shot rang out, looking around as Annah had done trying to locate the source of the shooter. Fearing more shots, however, they also ducked behind cover. Annah quickly pushed her way through the crowd towards the building Artemis had fired the shot from.
After wading through the panicked crowd, Annah flew into the five-story building running towards the stairs. As she entered the stairwell, she could hear muffled voices as they echoed down to her from the upper floors. She vaulted over the railing rushing up the stairs towards the sounds from above. As she rounded the landing onto the fourth floor, the voices fell instantly silent, and Annah froze. They hadn't moved in the slightest during Annah ’s reckless charge. Had she sprinted headlong into such an obvious trap?
She turned around to leave but found herself face to face with two rebels restraining Artemis who was supporting a cut across her brow, and a piece of tape across her mouth. Annah’s friend was fervently kicking against the man and woman holding her prompting her female captor to strike her across the face with the butt of a rifle. “Stop your squirming traitor. We need to talk to your friend here.” She then gestured to Annah’s who remained silent as a few more rebels entered the room
“You’re coming with us Cyberhawk. If our revolution is to succeed then we will need to free your mind.” They spoke prompting a glare from Annah.
“My mind is my own and I won't enslave myself to your lethal ideals just to prove that I am free.” Annah’s scowl deepened, “There was a reason I was against your plan the first time I saw it.”
“Then you should have buried it along with the man who developed it.” the woman holding Artemis spoke up, “That is your greatest sin. You swore you would fight to free the people, but you unilaterally removed the one chance of freedom that they had. Freedom but only on your terms. You’re no worse than the tyrants you claim to hate.”
Before Annah could respond, Artemis stood up abruptly ramming the top of her head into the angry woman’s chin, and Annah could clearly see a fire in her eyes. As laid back as Artemis was, she could be extremely quick to anger when anyone attacked someone she called a friend. Everyone turned to face Artemis, and her other captor moved to subdue her, but Annah was already in motion. She flew forward striking the man in the face before he could touch Artemis.
With the two nearest to them, knocked down, Annah thought that perhaps they could escape the trap she had so carelessly wandered into, but her hopes were dashed as she heard the sound of several rifles being pointed directly towards her. Annah slowly raised her hands over her head understanding that she was cornered. During the scuffle, Artemis had managed to pull the tape off of her mouth just to say, “I’m so sorry.” before the rebels surrounded and bound the pair of women.
“Good to see you’ve still got some fight in you Cyberhawk.” the man Annah had punched mocked her, “You’ll need that if you want to break free.”
Annah remained silent understanding that she could not reason with this group. Instead, she was already trying to figure out how she was going to escape. Annah and Artemis were pulled up to their feet and the rebels directed them to the stairs ordering them to walk. As they neared the ground floor Annah could hear the commotion outside as the police were searching each building for the source of the shot. “So where's your escape route?” Annah said curiously, “Because I am not going back to that jail just because your little band of terrorists doesn't have enough brainpower to formulate a complete plan!”
“You underestimate us. And it's obvious you do because of your current situation that you don't really appreciate the weight of what you accomplished.” The woman snarled as though Annah’s very existence offended her, “You by no measure were the first rebel, but your approach was unique. Every plan, every operation meticulously plotted every outcome considered. That attention to detail is your legacy and that's why we will succeed. We all think like you did.” She then ushered Annah towards the elevator, “In.” She uttered a simple command and Annah curiously stepped in with Artemis close behind.
A few more rebels crowded into the elevator and then the doors closed leaving the group in a tentative silence. Artemis was the first to breach the treaty, “So, now what? The police can check elevator cars too you know?” She was met with silence and the sight of the other rebels tensing up.
Artemis tapped her foot impatiently her demeanor demanding an explanation. Annah grabbed her shoulder and started to say, “I think we’re about to find,” her voice was suddenly empowered by adrenaline as she felt the floor fall out from beneath her, and she finalized her sentence “Out!” It was a short fall and instinctively Annah rolled upon landing to negate the impact upon her joints. In the dimly lit underground, Annah could see that they were standing in the sewer system.
The rebels who had been prepared for the drop were already standing and composed before the next group dropped down after them. Artemis, however, took a bit longer to collect herself having been unprepared for the fall. “What kind of escape route is this!” She exclaimed as she finally clamored to her feet atop the metal walkway.
“A convenient one.” The male leader spoke as he dropped into the hallway. We've been building this network for some time now, and I'm sure you'll appreciate it when you see the scope of the project we have started.”
“Only one question,” Annah quizzed her captors, “What do you do about any maintenance workers who end up in your tunnel”
“It’s simple really. When the oppressed see our way of life, they can’t help but join our cause.”
“Then show the world! If you have such a glorious way of life, then show the world what you’re capable of.” She heard no reply, but instead, she was ushered down the tunnel, and began to walk her way along the narrow path. It was clear that the renovations of the tunnels were progressing smoothly from the sound of the work machines that she could hear all the way down the tunnel.
Fifteen minutes later, the party approached what appeared to be a dead end in the tunnels, but as they came closer they were able to see instead that there was an opening just beneath the railing. Annah leaned down to look through it and saw a massive chamber. of sorts crowded with people. They all looked ragged and worn out, but at the same time, not one person carried a frown upon their face.
“Can you see it Cyberhawk?” The woman who had restrained her spoke, “True happiness is achievable contrary to what you believe. You just have to be willing to sacrifice enough to take it.”
“If this is possible then show it to everyone!” Annah demanded, “You won’t need to rebel if you can actually support this way of life for all of the people you claim you’re trying to liberate.” Annah hesitated to see if any of her captors would respond before continuing on, “What you have won’t work for the full population will it? If you only save five percent of the population, no matter how happy they are, you have failed.”
“You would know all about failure wouldn’t you.” The same bitter woman taunted Annah, “You needn’t worry about what our plan is, you’ll be locked up until after it’s finished. If you survive the separation then you can join our new civilization when it is born.”
The woman then directed a grizzled soldier to take Annah and Artemis away, “Lock them up securely. They have a general idea where our city is, so we can’t let them leave.” The soldier saluted to her and then ushered the duo down a hallway opposite them. Every step down the tunnel gave a slight metal ring as the grates beneath them shifted to accommodate their weight.
After they rounded a corner the soldier spoke, “General. I thought you were dead.” Annah paused and spun to take a closer look at the man
“You were a part of my rebellion!” She said recognizing his face, as one of the soldiers she had seen cut down in the heat of battle, “How are you here? I saw you die.”
“Keep walking and we can talk more.” He said directing them to take a left turn, “Apparently I was lucky. The bullet that hit me missed my heart by about a centimeter. Any further in either direction and I wouldn’t be standing here. Ms. Krie, I want you to know I have no desire to actually blow the city apart, but I do want to keep this city as a refuge from those who need to escape the city above.”
“Have you tried discussing that with the people running this show?” Artemis chimed in, “Maybe they can see that there’s another option than just fighting to the last breath.”
“That sort of conversation might be seen as dissent, and anyone who dissents from the grand council’s methodology has to prove they deserve a spot in the new world.” The soldier frowned. “If you ask me the government that’s forming here is just as authoritarian as the one up there. The difference is that they are trying to provide for everyone here instead of just lining their own pockets.”
“Do you remember what I used to say about corrupt governments?” Annah laughed cynically, “If you overthrow a corrupt government with an iron fist, it’s only a matter of time until that same corruption regrows within the new government.”
“Repair don’t start over.” The soldier nodded, “That idea works if a system is built on a good set of ideals. Tell me, if you had actually finished your rebellion would you have taken a seat in the tower?”
“That was never my life. I couldn’t do something like that, it’s not in my blood” Annah shrugged, “I always just thought of myself as a sort of custodian who wanted to clean up the trash in their system.”
“Just through this door.” The soldier said gesturing to a hatch. He spun the wheel on the door and opened it up revealing an open sky above, and an open channel where the storm drains could feed out into the ocean.
“What is this?” Annah asked looking around, “This is outside. Not a prison cell.” She turned back to face the soldier who had lowered his gun
“You’re absolutely right, now punch me in the face for good measure. It’s their fault for only sending one guard to escort two trained assassins. I have a dream where both cities can live in unison. And that can only happen if we aren’t labeled as terrorists. Please find a way to stop the rift.”
“Thanks.” Annah said with a smile, “Although, you probably wanna empty your clip into the door after you get back up. It’s less suspicious if you actually fire some rounds at us.”
“Thanks for the advice general.” He said relaxing. “I’m ready when you are.” Annah threw a fast jab into the man’s face breaking his nose. She then kicked him back into the hallway and slammed the door shut behind him. A second later she heard his rifle roar to life and a hail of bullets flatten themselves against the hatch.
“Come on Annah. Let’s get going.” Artemis urged pulling on her arm, “We need to get as far away from here as possible and figure out our next move.”
“I think I know what our next move is,” Annah said starting to run up the channel towards a ladder that led back to the street level. “Don’t you think that was a little too convenient? They send one soldier with a pair of two highly trained assassins, who aren’t bound very securely?” Annah demonstrated by using her mechanical arm to break out of the bindings, “And that soldier just happens to be someone who fought in the last war?”
“That’s not impossible, but I can see why you would be suspicious.” Artemis offered, “He seemed like he genuinely had a hope for a peaceful future.”
“That’s the other thing. I don’t remember much about him from before, but I do remember one thing, he thought that the best way to win the war was to commit a genocide against the wealthy. He harbored such a hatred for the people living in the center, that there is no way he would be content living alongside them. I think this whole plot I so conveniently stumbled upon is a ruse to keep me chasing my tail until their real objective is completed.”
Annah undid Artemis’ restraints and they ascended the ladder, back to the street. “What made you suspicious of the plan?” Artemis asked as she climbed up to the landing, “I had no suspicions until you brought it up.”
“This group was inspired by my actions five years ago. They use some of the same tactics, but they put their most important plans out in the exact same way I would. That makes it obvious that I would find out about it. And yet they sit here saying that they can’t let me discover what they’re up to. Sometimes if all the pieces fit too easily it’s because someone’s been machining them to fit their schemes instead.”
“So what are they actually going after then? And what’s our next step?” Artemis asked narrowing her eyes.
“Well, they are developing a new way to blow stuff up, so they do have a target. And it might have to do with some wreckage that was being transported on a train. And that cargo was headed straight towards the tower.”
“Annah, no way! We can’t go there!” Artemis interjected, “There is no way we’re getting into the tower.”
“I need more information, and that’s where I’m gonna find it. I need to figure out what the government is working on, so I can figure out where the terrorists are going to attack. Oh and another thing. The Force for Island Liberation? No one would name their group that. Literally no one.”
“I guess you’re right. I mean cyberangels had a nice ring to it, but it didn’t exactly relate to what we were trying to do.” Artemis laughed, “But don’t distract me! Do you have a plan to get into the tower?”
“Would you be okay if I had a plan to figure out a plan to get into the tower?” Annah said slyly, causing Artemis to groan, “I need to go talk to Barten again. He’ll be able to point me in the right direction if we use the correct phrasing.”
“Sometimes, I hate your method of making plans,” Artemis said as they started to walk to the nearest transport hub. “This is not gonna go well, I can feel it.”
“Believe me, if we had another choice I would go with that first. I have no desire to go anywhere near the tower. Five years ago sure I wanted to storm the place, but now I would try anything else first. Dead ends will drive a person to extremes.”
As they boarded the first train into the station, Artemis fell silent, admitting that she agreed with the course of action they were taking. Annah then pulled up a directory and set their destination as the Edge of Infinity where Barten worked, and soon the train was speeding back towards the start of Annah’s investigation.