BetaForce – EchoCell 01
12:45 June 19th, 2049
North American Zone, East Coast Metroplex, Sector 23 (Old NYC)
A bullet ricocheted off the road sign just centimetres from the boy’s head. Biting down a curse he jumped over the footbridge’s safety barrier and onto the hard shoulder of the road below. “Bullets,” he thought, “they’re shooting ACTUAL bullets at me!” Darting between the slow moving traffic, he glanced behind him as the armoured thugs of the Unity’s enforcement division reached the side of the road. The first shot had probably been a warning shot, probably. The next one though would definitely be aimed at his head, as would the next 20 or 30 in the burst; UniCops were not known for subtlety or conserving ammunition.
The day had started pretty normal all things considered. Waking up at seven, washed and changed by half seven, at school by eight fifteen ready to begin another day of indoctrination and training. He had never stood out at school, keeping his head down and avoiding trouble; the standard survival tactic for anyone growing up under the Unity’s watchful gaze. During lunch break, a pair of UniCops had turned up at his school. Now Toby Smith, or Tobs to his friends, had never done anything to even warrant the attention of Sector PD, let alone Unity’s very own “secret police.” When one of his friends ran up to him on the playground and told him that the UniCops were looking for him, he knew that he was in serious trouble. Everyone knew that if the UniCops came looking you got lost; anyone they took in “for questioning” was usually never seen again. That’s Toby had vaulted over the school fence and ran. That’s when they had begun chasing him. Overall, the day was turning out pretty lousy.
Down here, at street level, the congested traffic and crowded buildings might give him an advantage. Ground vehicles would be hard pressed to make it through the traffic and flyers would be unable to manoeuvre between the towering skyscrapers and arcologies. After the Unification War, the Unity had rebuilt the devastated Manhattan Island in order to house the refugees from the continent’s interior, fleeing the ecological devastation being inflicted on the former US heartlands. It had meant to be a showcase for the new regime but like most things the Unity promised, the reality was different from the newscasts. Forty years after the original was destroyed, Manhattan Island was once again a towering collection of buildings cramped together on a small and overcrowded island.
All that stood between Toby and relative safety was the drone lane. A section of road reserved for the sole use of automated cargo drones. Huge articulated lorries, often three or four trailers long, and travelling at up to 100 kph. Controlled entirely by computers and using satellite navigation, they stopped for nothing, even if a pedestrian was in their path. Only the largest corporations could afford to operate the behemoths, and even then, licenses were only granted to those corps that were on good terms with the Unity. Taking a deep breath, Toby launched himself in to a gap between a pair of Allied Technologies trucks. Legs pumping furiously, he was halfway across when he realised he was not going to make it.
Time seemed to slow down to a crawl and in crystal clarity he could make out every detail of the truck’s grill rushing towards him at bone crunching speed. Instead of leaping out of the way in a futile attempt to get clear, he boy jumped up. His left foot planted itself firmly on the front of the bonnet, thrusting downwards and propelling him up and over the front cab, onto the trailer behind and landing on all fours. Toby looked at his hands in amazement as he crouched on the roof, scarcely believing what he had just done. He’d always been athletic at school but jumping over the cab of a truck moving nearly a hundred kilometres per hour to land safely on the trailer behind was practically impossible. He was still trying to process the thought when a spray of bullets caught him directly in the leg. Losing his footing, he slipped off the side of the fast moving truck and sailed through the air. His head connected with the concrete wall of a building with a snap of breaking bone and his limp body rebounded into a side alley. It landed in a dumpster, half filled with stagnant water and trash, quickly sinking below the murky surface as the dumpster’s lid slammed down, nudged with the force of the body’s fall in to the dumpster.
“Did you see that shot?” One of the UniCops asked as they forced their way across the road stopping traffic, “sent that punk flying.”
“Our orders were to take the kid in alive, dipshit. Not in a body bag,” his older partner retorted, obviously not impressed by the rookie’s over-enthusiasm.
“The brat resisted arrest; you know what these muties are like.”
His partner did not respond, he had already reached the pavement near where they had seen the body hit the wall. There was no sign of the kid, not even a blood splatter or trail to follow. He pressed a stud on the collar of his helmet, activated the built-in communicator. “Central, unit 219 reporting; we’ve lost track of the target.”
“Unit 219, sat scan reports that his ID implant is still transmitting in your vicinity.” The operator on the other end said after a few seconds. “We put it within 50 meters of your current location. Can’t narrow it down any further, we’ve got some interference from the buildings.”
“Received Central,” he responded with a sigh. “You check that way, I’ll go this way. Stay in radio contact and for chrissakes, use your damn blaster. We need him alive.” As his partner stalked off, he muttered “damn rookie” under his breath.
Back in the alleyway, a head bobbed up out of the water gasping for breath. Toby lifted the lit and pulled himself out of the dumpster, sitting slumped against it on the floor. Gingerly, he felt his forehead, where only moments before the bones of his skull had been crushed inwards, and let out a shudder. “Ok, that was new.” Things like that had been happening recently. Cuts healing faster than they should, not being burned when touching a hot pan. But nothing like getting his neck broken and his skull crushed in yet still being able to walk away from it just a few minutes later.
“Hey you!” Zap! A blue bolt of energy struck the ground at his feet. “Freeze!” One of the cops, the rookie, stood at the entrance to the alley with his hand blaster drawn. Toby was beginning to suspect that he could take a bullet but he wasn’t so sure about the stunning energy of a blaster and he had no intention of finding out. As the cop began to advance, Toby reached for the nearest object, a lump of stone, and hurled it at the cop’s helmet. The stone shot through the air and smashed into the visor which shattered with the impact. Screaming in pain, and clutching his now broken nose, the cop looked at the boy with murderous intent in his eyes.
“You little shit, I’m gonna enjoy making you pay for that!” He howled as he drew a combat knife and charged at the boy. The two grappled in the mud, the knife at the boy’s throat. Momentarily stunned by the ferocity of the attack, Toby locked eyes with the cop as he tried to hold him back.
The look in someone’s eyes that wants nothing more than you to be dead is a cold thing, something that can chill you to the bone the first time you see it. This was it; this was where he was going to die. Alone, sopping wet in a filthy alley; murdered by a psychotic cop at age fourteen. It was at that point that Toby snapped. “Fuck that,” he thought, “I am not going to let it end like this.” With a howl of rage, he hurled cop against the wall as if he was nothing more than a rag doll. The cop struck the wall hard and fell to the floor, dazed, dropping the knife.
As the cop groaned, Toby stood up and grabbed the knife, holding it awkwardly. Logically, he knew that his only chance to escape was to make sure that the cop couldn’t follow him. However, for a fourteen-year-old boy, even one in his situation, that was an option that was difficult for him to choose. Pausing for only a few seconds, he tucked the combat knife into the back of his pants under his sweatshirt and ran. The guns he left behind because he knew they could be tracked and they most likely could only be fired by their authorised owner anyway.
A figure in combat fatigues watched the fleeing boy through a pair of old binoculars from a nearby fire escape. “Echo Four to Echo Two, target is heading your way.” He said into a headset microphone. “He’s going to run into some trouble before then. Is your distraction ready?”
Toby ran out into the next street and raced down the pavement trying to put as much distance as he could between him and the cop. As he turned the corner, he glanced behind him to make sure the cop wasn’t following him and ran headlong into the cop’s partner. The boy was knocked to the floor by a vicious punch to the head. “That’s enough running for you kid,” the cop muttered as he shot Toby with the blaster. Toby screamed as the electrical energy coursed through his system, paralysing his muscles.
“Toby Smith, citizen ID 7115202 dash beta, you are charged with violation of the genetic security act,” the cop began as he drew out a set of manacles. “You will be taken into custody where your mutations will be analysed. Once your abilities have been catalogued, you will be terminated.” He crouched down to look the boy in the eye, his tone softening slightly. “I’m sorry; your file says you’re a good kid. Maybe if you hadn’t ran you could have been recruited, but the law says runners get executed. Them’s the breaks unfortunately.”
The cop was reaching down to cuff Toby’s hands behind his back when the blast of a horn caused him to turn around just in time to see a cargo drone swerve from its assigned lane, through the safety barrier and onto the pavement. Toby, still paralysed, was unable to move as the hulk bore down upon them and he could only watch as the cop leapt to safety, leaving him in the path of the runaway behemoth. At the last moment however, the truck swerved to the side following the cop. With a sickening crunch, it ran headlong into him, leaving behind a bloody smear on the pavement. With another blast of its horn, the drone crashed back through the barrier and rejoined the flow of traffic as if nothing had happened.
He was still trying to make sense of what had just happened when he was enveloped by a white glow. A fraction of a second later he vanished leaving behind no trace that he was ever there.
A figure watching the scene from a nearby footbridge spoke into a throat mike. “Echo One, this is Echo Two, package is delivered did you get him?”
Several kilometres away and over two hundred meters underground, a man stood over an unconscious Toby, a tranquillizer gun in his hand. “Package received Echo Two. Good work people, everyone get back to base. Oh, an Echo Three, we need to have a word about that distraction of yours.”
Posted on Friday, June 27, 2008, in BetaForce, Fiction and tagged cyberpunk, darkfuture, Fiction, future, hero, heroic, magic, mutant, mutants, police state, sci-fi, superhero, supers, totalitarian, young, young hero. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.