A tall, well-built man, wearing a black suit marched into the Arcadiapolis Police station. The cluttered room, filled with officers, fell silent.
“Governor Hitchens,” a tubby man stood out of his chair. “You didn’t have to come out here. We have the situation under control.”
“Chief Stevens, if you were competent enough to handle this type of situation, then I would happily have stayed at home. My wife was making pancakes.”
“Sorry, sir.” He said. “We have sent out two units to apprehend her.”
“Good. I don’t want her hurt. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes. Perfectly. Sir.”
“She must be sectioned and analysed.” Such a waste.
“Sir,” a man sitting in front of a large holographic screen, spoke, “Officer Jenkins has attempted to hijack a cab.”
“What!” Chief Steven’s said.
Hitchens craned his head to get a look at the screen. “Bring up CCTV.”
“Yes, sir.” The man nodded. “Load CCTV from Central Park.” He commanded the computer.
His eyes were glued on to the video stream of Anna using her gun to hijack the vehicle and get in.
“What are you doing Anna?” he muttered quietly.
“She’s locked in the cab.” Chief Stevens said. “Units will be there in sixty seconds.” He smiled triumphantly. “She’s not going anywhere.”
Panic rushed through her. She was trapped. Soon to be arrested and imprisoned in a lab for research. Poked and prodded until death. A miserable fate. Her mind only thought of her baby. Sirens emerged in the distance.
She waved her hand in front of the sensor again, knowing it wouldn’t work. She hunted around the car for anything she could press or use to try to open the door. Nothing. The vehicle was on complete lock down. She looked at her defeated self in the mirror.
“Arrgghhh!” She punched the ignition sensor. She could feel the burning gaze from the officers in their hovering police cars as they approached.
“I can’t let this happen!” she screamed.
“Officer Jenkins,” the computerised voice from the car spoke, “I sense that you are distressed. In times of distress, it is best to stay calm. Studies have shown that music has a calming effect. Shall I play some music for you?”
Anna could feel herself turning red. She removed her gun from the holster.
“Play this!” She pointed it as the dash and pulled the trigger. She closed her eyes, expecting a burst of bright light, a small explosion, something – but nothing happened.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
She had forgotten that even her weapon was linked to the lifeline and was programmed wirelessly. They must have deactivated it. The small row of LED lights on the gun were flashing red.
She thought back to her training days and remembered a cool little trick that she and Alesha had learned. She removed its battery from the bottom and snapped off the little black wireless transmitter. This would stop the signal. She put the battery back in, and the LED lights were now a static green. It had reset.
She pointed it at the dash. Take two: “Play this!”
A sharp blue beam shot out and surged through the dash. She used her arms to shield her face from the impact. The screen flickered, then turned off. The cab came crashing to the ground. Smoke emerged from the dash. She felt winded from the rough landing. The sudden urge to vomit came over her. That was either the stupidest idea ever or complete genius.
“Officer Jenkins!” A loud voice arose from outside. “This is the Arcadiapolis Police Force. You need to step out of the vehicle with your hands up.”
She looked out of the window and could see four uniformed men pointing their guns at her. She found it hard to breathe.
“Come out with your hands up. We will not warn you again!”
She looked at the dash:
She used the bottom of her gun as a hammer and battered the ignition sensor until the plastic broke off, exposing wires.
“OK… How hard can this be?” She grabbed the wires and joined them.
“Black and red… No… black and blue… No… red and blue…” The engine hissed, and the lights suddenly flared up. “Yes! Can’t believe that actually worked.”
She grabbed hold of the steering wheel.
MANUAL OVERRIDE flashed on the screen.
She slammed on the accelerator, and the car’s wheels began to spin aggressively. A large cloud of smoke emerged, along with the strong smell of burning rubber.
“What the hell is she doing?” Hitchens asked, staring at the screen. He felt his eyes burning. “Order your officers not to shoot. I don’t want her hurt, and I don’t want to cause a panic.”
“With all due respect sir, she will escape if we don’t bring her down now.” Chief Stevens challenged.
“You heard my orders. Don’t shoot. Get your men to follow her.”
“Where do you think she’s going?”
Hitchens slanted his head as he watched the cab rocket up into the sky. A twisted smile formed on his face. “I believe she is going to rescue her baby.”
“The Selective Sleep Centre?”
“That place is guarded. She’ll never make it in.”
“Annabelle is no ordinary person. You underestimate her.”
“She’s going to face at least three armed guards at the Centre, and two of my units are following her. I am sure we can handle one little girl.”
“You’ll need more than that.” He sat down. “It’s not easy getting into the Arcadipolis Academy, and she excelled further than all of her peers. In fact, she went further, mentally and physically than anyone that had ever walked through those doors. Although she chose not to become a field agent, she is skilled enough to be one of the best.”
“So, she has always been dangerous?”
“No. This is the mystery. Selective scored her high nineties, predicting that she would be a civilised, successful woman. Loyal. But I guess something changed down the road. We have seen this occur a few times within the general public but never in an Academy Graduate. Especially not in one of her calibre. We need to analyse her to help prevent it from happening again.”
Chief Stevens’ eyes widened, “Do you think she could be—”
“Don’t even say it!”
Hitchens stared at the wall in deep thought for a moment, “Get me David on screen now.”
“Sir,” David said, now appearing on screen. His face was red, and he seemed out of breath.
“You know why I am calling you.”
“This is about Anna…” he replied, “Sorry sir, she is going through—”
“I know David, I know. But you are fully aware that nothing or no one can come in the way of the greater good. Victory and peace did not transpire without their battles and sacrifice.”
“I understand, sir.”
“I am sure you do. Bring her in. And do it quietly.”
“Sir, are you confident that David was the right choice,” Chief Steven’s said, “Considering that he… you know…”
“That is exactly why he is a perfect choice. He’ll be able to convince her to stop, and he won’t let her get hurt.”
Anna swerved to avoid cars flying 40 feet above the ground. The legal flying height. All vehicles were programmed to never exceed that height, except Police vehicles and Ambulances. She pulled the steering wheel towards her. The cab lifted higher, “Yes! Guess I’ve completely messed this thing up.” She floored it over the traffic and headed towards the Selective Sleep Centre. Two units still on her tail.
Her wrist began to vibrate.
“Great! How am I gonna explain this one?!”
“Anna! What on earth are you doing?”
“David! I… I am sorry…”
“Ok, I get that you’re upset, but this is insane!”
“Insane… Really? I think insane is letting them kill our baby – our baby!”
“Are you even listening to yourself?”
“Yes… I think I am, for once!”
“Selective does not make errors, and it filters the good from the bad, and that is why the world has finally found peace—”
“Yeah, I know the script, it’s been drilled into me million times – I just don’t agree with it anymore!”
“You know what you are saying is going to get you killed, right?” There was a short pause. “They’re probably already listening in to what you are saying. See those two units behind you.” She looked in the rear-view mirror, “They are ready to shoot you down. Let me help you. I am two-minutes-away.”
“You really want to help me?”
“Then hold them off me while I get our baby.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Damn it, David! That’s your son in there. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?” Another short pause.
“Of course, it does… But it doesn’t mean as much to me as protecting our world. That, I’m sorry to say, is much bigger than him.”
“And what about me? What do I mean to you?”
“Anna, listen, I’m sixty-seconds away from you. You enter the Selective Centre Zone, they will shoot you down. Please don’t do anything stupid.”
“I’m sorry David… But stupid would be believing in this mechanical god that we made to rule us. Stupid would be for me to ignore my natural motherly instinct. Stupid would be me not protecting my son when he cannot protect himself.” She smiled, and a tear rolled down her cheek. “End call.”
David stared at his wrist as the transmission terminated. He felt lost and dismayed. It was as if he had just been hit by a truck.
“David, have you got her in sight.” Hitchen’s asked with panic in his voice.
“Sir, I… I am coming up right behind her.”
“Great. She can’t get to the Selective Centre. Is that understood?”
“Sir, she’s not complying…”
“I know David. We heard everything.”
“Sir… I’m not sure how to proceed.”
“You proceed how you would if this was any other person. She has broken the law and is not about to stop.”
But she isn’t just any other person…
“Have I made myself clear?” No response. “David, can you hear me?” He didn’t respond. His mind was cluttered with images of Anna. His wife. His love.
“You have left me no choice. I will instruct the two units to take her down.”
“Wait!” David shouted, “I’ll do it. She’s my wife. I’ll do it.”
“Good. I knew you would do the right thing.”
He was now right behind the cab, “I’m sorry…” he muttered under his breath. His eyes locked onto Anna’s, who, he could see, was staring at him in the rear-view mirror.
“Do it now!” Hitchens yelled.
“Yes, sir!” David spun his vehicle around, now facing the two units.
“Arm weapons!” David commanded the computer in the vehicle. The chrome front grille lifted and two long nozzles emerged. I can’t believe I’m doing this!
“Although I had hoped you wouldn’t pull something stupid like this, in the back of my mind there was a niggling thought that your love for her might influence you to behave ludicrously,” Hitchens said. “Love is a dangerous fixation. It can influence you to do things that you would not normally do. It’s like a disease with no cure.”
David used the controls to aim for the units and began firing. Bursts of blue lasers shot out of the nozzles and hit the units. They returned fire. David manoeuvred his vehicle in a way that they couldn’t get a clear shot.
“David, you fool. You had everything going for you. You blew it.” Hitchens continued. “There are another five units heading towards you. ETA sixty-seconds. Their instructions are to bring you both in, dead or alive!”
“Well, then I better stop wasting my time talking to you! Sir.” He abruptly cancelled the call.
“Call Anna!” he instructed his wrist phone.
“David!” Anna said. “What are you doing!?”
“Do you really think that I would let anyone hurt you?”
“But… they’re gonna…”
“Don’t worry about them, or me. I will hold them off as long as I can.”
“I know. Now go. Move!”
He continued shooting at the two units. They soon took enough of a beating to lose the ability to fly. They crashed down to the ground one after the other.
“There’s more on the way… I don’t know how long I can hold them off. Get our boy and get out of the city.”
“What about you? I can’t just leave you here!”
“I am not giving you a choice. Get our boy and get out of here now! Don’t make this all for nothing.” He cancelled the call. He looked at the flock of black police vehicles in the distance. They flew in perfect synchronisation. In the shape of an arrow, they stormed towards him.
He gripped the controls tightly. He took one last glance in the mirror at the cab, which was now at a good distance.
“Come on boys. It’s playtime!” He began firing at the units. They manoeuvred better than the two units he battled earlier. They returned heavy fire.
Anna could see the fierce battle in the rear-view mirror. Her knight in shining armour. She knew he would fight valiantly with all that he had. Tears rolled down her face. Guilt overcame her, crawled all over her like pins and needles. Suffocating her. They would eventually kill him. This was inevitable. If not this unit, then certainly the next squad they would send. They wouldn’t stop. Not now that the two of them had threatened the very thing that they cherished the most.
Smoke emerged from the engine of the cab. It began to descend.
“Damn it!” All the lights turned off. It plummeted and crashed into the Selective Centre building. She screamed in agony. The winded feeling came back, only stronger. Her head had hit the dash. Blood seeped from the cut on her forehead. She could hear footsteps. As the smoke cleared, two male figures holding guns surfaced.
“We have been instructed to take you in alive, but dead is also acceptable.” One of the men said. He fired his gun in the air. An electric surge burst out and hit the ceiling.
“Relax Sparky!” Anna said and wrestled out of her seat. She crawled out of the cab and stretched her back. The man removed handcuffs and walked towards her. Anna put out her arms. As he reached for her, she lunged forward and grabbed his gun. She spun him around and used him as a human shield. She used his arm to point the gun at the other guard and pressed his finger on the trigger. The current surged through the man, and he fell to the ground. She spun the man around again and kicked him in the face. Knocking him unconscious.
“Sorry guys – it wasn’t anything personal.”
She snatched the security pass that the guard had dangling from his neck and ran through the building. The card gave her access to all the rooms.
Her heart dropped. Her legs felt heavy. She could see a plastic cocoon. An incubator. She knew about them but had never actually seen one. A hard-shelled bubble. A baby prison that kept them alive while they sat on death row. The room, except for the incubator, was empty. The floor was a gleaming white, as were the walls and ceiling. The colour matched so flawlessly that it was difficult to tell where the walls ended and ceiling began.
She didn’t need to read the names David and Annabelle written on the incubator. She knew who that baby belonged to. It was hers. She could feel it in every part of her body. A sentiment of unconditional love. An affection that far transcended logic and reason. She placed her palms on the incubator and stared in at a beautiful baby boy. He lay asleep, peacefully oblivious to the horrible world that existed outside. An artificial atmosphere of protection that ironically resembled the comfort and security of the womb. His little toes wiggled. A cheeky grin formed on his face while he slept. Maybe he’s dreaming. It was David’s smile. She recognised instantly.
“You’re so perfect… You’re so beautiful,” she mumbled. Her eyes filled. She lifted the incubator off the table. It was surprisingly light. “You’re probably safer in here for now. Let’s get out of this hell hole!”
She ran through the building towards the exit. With no clear plan in mind, a sudden panic overcame her. The cab was destroyed. There were no other vehicles in sight. It wouldn’t be long before this entire place would be swarmed with police.
Her eyes caught sight of a building close by.
M-CORP RESEARCH FACULTY
How convenient. Scum bags! She thought. They must have something I could use.
She stormed over to the building. She peered around the wall and saw a security guard sitting at his external station, gazing into space. She put the incubator down behind the wall. Out of sight.
“I’ll be right back honey.”
She walked towards the guard, who suddenly inflated. His back straightened. His eyes snapped out of their trance.
“How can I help you… officer,” he said looking at her officer’s uniform.
“I was hoping to come in and steal one of your vehicles and get the hell out of this dump!”
“You’re excused!” She suddenly leapt in the air, spun around and launched a powerful kick to his face. Her heel impacted his jaw and sent him flying to the ground. Out cold.
She ran back and grabbed the incubator. The car park was bursting with vehicles. Before she attempted to boost one, she stared back at the sign.
M-CORP RESEARCH CENTRE
This is the cream of the crop. The cutting edge of technology, right? They gotta have better than this heap of junk.
“Hold on baby; we’re going inside.” She ran back to the security guard station, where the guard lay unconscious. She climbed into the small cabin from the window and removed his gun from his holster. Just need to borrow this.
She performed her little trick of hacking the gun’s security feature and leapt back out.
Soon as she walked into the building, she was faced with two security guards stood by the reception.
“Can I help you?” the smartly dressed reception lady asked, peering over her thickly framed glasses.
“No, not really.” She raised the gun and shot one of the security guards on the leg. Then pointed the gun at the other guard. “Don’t do it!” she said as he attempted to remove his gun from his holster.
“Why does no one listen to me!?” She fired at his leg, sending him screaming to the ground. “So unnecessary!”
The reception lady screamed and used her arms to shield her face.
“Relax, they’ll live!” She approached the desk. “Which is more than what I can say for you if you don’t open the door.” She pointed at the door leading into the research centre. The lady leant forward and pressed a button, and the door hissed and slid open. She then covered her face with her arms again.
“Thank you. Finally, someone cooperating.”
She walked into a room filled with people, wearing long white coats, rushing around. Holographic screens scattered all around the room. Bright spot lights in the ceiling. She walked through like she was invisible. They all seemed like zombies. Oblivious to reality.
Glancing around, she noticed “VEHICLE TESTING LABORATORY” written above a door.
She scanned the badge and let herself in. The door slid closed behind her. Perplexed faces of two men sitting at a desk faced her.
“Erm… can we help you?” one of them said. His name tag read Hank.
Her eyes were fixated on a large black vehicle further in the room. Its sleek body was glimmering. It looked more like art than it did a vehicle. A well-balanced blend of beauty and beast.
“What on earth is it?” Anna said, staring in awe.
“This… this is black beauty,” the other man said, name tag ‘Ed’. “Its—”
“Excuse me,” Hank interrupted, “We still don’t know who you are or what you want. This is a restricted area—”
“Does it fly?” Anna asked.
“Of course, it flies… erm, who are you?”
“I am going to need to borrow it,” Anna said pointing her gun at the men.
“Yeah… sure why not…” Hank said. He looked down at the incubator, “You’ll probably be pleased to know that it comes with auto seat resize.”
“Sounds fancy,” she said and marched towards the Black Beauty.
“The seats will resize to… you know, cater for your incubator.”
“Great! Am I going to have to hot wire this thing?”
“No… it hasn’t had the security package installed.” Hank kicked Ed under the table, “What? She’s got a gun!”
“Yeah, and you got a big mouth!” He then looked over at Anna, “It’s never been tested!”
“I’ll be sure to leave a full review!” She hit the button to close the door.”
“Hello,” a computerised voice emerged. “Welcome to Black Beauty Version 1.0. The vehicle is in test mode.” Anna put the incubator in the passenger seat. The seat resized to fit the incubator safely. Two metal belts rose from either side of the seat and secured the incubator tightly.
“Start engine.” The engine hissed and the vehicle lifted off the ground. “
That was easy.”
“Warning!” the computerised voice spoke again, “Auto pilot not available.”
“Perfect! I prefer to drive anyway.”
“How is she planning to get out of here?” Hank asked.
“Arm weapons!” Anna commanded. The car’s grille rose and eight large nozzles extended out. “Wow!” she said as she looked at the screen which was displaying a 3D animation of the nozzles extending. “Black Beauty, what were you made for?”
“War, battle, conflict.”
I knew these M-Corp scumbags were up to something. “Fire weapons!”
All four nozzles shot out explosive lasers. The wall of the lab was destroyed, exposing a clear escape to the outside world.
“You had to ask!” Hank responded to Ed’s earlier question. They crouched down behind the desk.
“We… We better call security!” Ed muttered.
“No? You think?!”
Anna pressed down on the accelerator button on the steering wheel. Black Beauty rocketed out of the building and into the sky. Anna had never experienced travelling this fast in a vehicle before. Not even their specialist officer vehicles had this sort of power. M-Corp was a private security company. Evidently developing weapons that surpassed anything that the government or the police had. Not that it mattered now. She was a criminal with a death warrant on her head.
She screamed as she felt a strong impact behind her. She struggled to keep control.
“Show me rear cameras.”
The screen displayed three units coming up behind her fast. They fired again. She swerved. They just missed.
“Oh no! David…” visions of him getting shot down rushed through her mind.
Her body jerked forward from another hit. She put her hand on the incubator, “It’s OK baby… It’s going to be fine.” She pressed down harder on the accelerator button. She got sucked into her seat from the force. The three units were left behind. She could see the wall in the distance. The so-called great wall that protected their perfect society. A symbol of strength. A warning to those who threatened the right way of life.
Going over the wall would be near impossible. The auto security detection system would shoot her down immediately. This thing is pretty fast. But still, doubt it would make it. It looks like the only way out is through the wall! There you go again Anna – another stupid idea!
Her wrist buzzed.
“Well Anna, it seems that we underestimated you. Or overestimated you, depending on which way you look at it.”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to stop this preposterous behaviour. Hand yourself in, and I will see what I can do at the courts.”
“David… thanks to you, was shot down.”
“No!” Anna screamed.
“Yes. He’s dead! So, I need you to stop this now! Before anyone else gets hurt.”
“Go to hell! Cancel call.”
Tears streamed down her face. Her head spun. That familiar feeling to vomit overcame her again. She felt deflated.
Don’t make this all for nothing… David’s words played on her mind. She couldn’t give up now. After doing all of this.
“Black Beauty, arm weapons.”
Sharp red beams shot out of the wall. The automatic security system had detected her.
Black Beauty was far more agile than anything else that she had ever flown. She descended rapidly and at full steam, heading to the lower half of the great wall. She began firing. The lasers caused a magnificent firework display but didn’t manage to create a hole for her to escape.
“Damn it!” She hit the steering wheel with her palms. She steered the wheel to avoid hitting the wall. “Do you have any other weapons?”
“Two untested missiles detected.”
“Great. Fire them up!”
She made sure she was at a good distance from the wall before turning back around to face it again.
The windscreen displayed a 3D animation of the nozzles sliding inside and two larger barrels emerging.
“Warning! Missiles will be fully armed in 10 seconds…”
She suddenly felt the vehicle rock as two police units soared past. Her heart pounded as she saw two more in the rear camera. They were approaching fast. She was surrounded.
The screen displayed the countdown for the missiles.
She couldn’t wait that long – the police would shoot her down in less than a few seconds. She didn’t have time to re-engage the standard weapons. Cache 22!
She put her palm on the incubator as she watched the menacing police vehicles race towards her from both directions. They had planned to trap her before shooting her down.
Predictable… But effective never-the-less.
They shot out bright lasers. In a panic, she pushed the steering wheel towards the dash. Black Beauty suddenly nosedived, just merely escaping the lasers. By some fluke, the lasers shot at the other units that were behind her.
She could see the explosion and cloud of smoke behind her. She couldn’t have planned that better.
“Yes!” She shouted ecstatically, “Fire!” There was an ear-piercing hiss as the missiles were launched. A line of thick grey smoke trailed behind as they rocketed toward their target.
“Please work… please work!” she chanted.
She put her arms in front of her face, shielding herself from the bright light coming from the explosion as they hit the wall. She turned her head and could see two police units approaching behind her. When she faced forward, she was still confronted with bright light. No clue as to whether the missiles had created enough damage for her to escape through or not. The police units approaching weren’t going to wait around for her to find out.
Wait for them to shoot her down or risk flying through the gap. The gap that may not exist… not great options.
She had to make a choice now. She put two fingers on her strawberry lips and then placed them on the glass of the incubator, “I love you… I know it feels like we just met, but I have known you forever. I have carried you. Given birth to you. Watched you grow. I have seen you grow up to become a man – a great man. A noble man, full of courage and honour. A warrior, just like your father.” She peered at the gleaming gold wedding ring on her finger. “I am so sorry David!” She pressed down on the accelerator. Her body was sucked into the seat as she soared towards the light.
“Sir, she’s flown into the blaze!” the police officer said over the feed to the control centre.
“I can see that you blithering moron!” Hitchen’s yelled. “You had one job!”
“Sir, she had a pretty advanced vehicle. Haven’t seen anything like it.”
“Yes. Seems like one of M-Corp’s little secret projects. We will look into that later.”
“Get closer. Did she make it through?”
Anna closed her eyes, partially out of fear but mainly because of the overwhelming light. What sort of missiles were they?!
She could feel the heat. Smell burning. But within a few seconds, a cool feeling came over her. The pressure and bright light faded.
Am I dead? Is this what death feels like? Calm – cool – peaceful? She dared not open her eyes.