KnM Blade - In Destiny's Way

Kixi Rajki, a professional high speed racer, is a seemingly average citizen of the United Systems of Sol in the 31st century. Going by the alias of Kay Blade, she is also a secret agent for an underground resistance cell intent on bringing down the powerful freedom restricting government. Mako Jhasmin Zaneca, alias eM Blade, and Kixi's lover, recently trained up as an agent, is also an expert computer slicer and hacker in her own right. She must accompany Kixi on what will be her first mission, and with all certainty, an extremely dangerous mission. Choosing arrest in order to save her lover, the two narrowly escape death, and consequently trigger in motion an unprecedented course of events. Unwittingly, her actions will forever change the balance of power, and with it the face of humanity as a space faring species.

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9. In The Thick Of It.

Chapter 4 : In The Thick Of It.

 

With the first of Celestia City’s skyscrapers fast approaching, it meant we had long since traversed back through the city limits. Crossing the periphery also meant a swift return back into the confines of the Grid— that quickly confirmed, as all comms devices, gadgetry fitted to our bodies, together with our vehicle’s communications instrumentation, promptly returned back to life.

Gradually, as we passed through the outskirts, the familiar surroundings of Celestia City’s myriad skyscrapers once again absorbed our immediate vicinity, with it, briefly melting away the sunlight into darkness. The sunbeam from the sky above began to flicker as our hovercar rapidly increased in altitude. In the time it took me to hit the main skyway that would take us onto a direct course toward Argon Central District, like more than one time, we were greeted by the pouring rays of the morning sunshine.

I couldn't help but smirk as our Skycom vehicle parted crowds of cars like a knife that cleaved cleanly through melted butter, our mere presence signifying power and authority. I guided the hovercar with aggressive speed, the kind of sheer piloting audacity that let everyone know that approaching them in a Skycom vehicle wasn't a polite request to move. Through the cleared lane, we came at such breathtaking speed, that the other skylane users took a collective sharp breath, feeling the sudden displacement of air as we passed.

While maintaining our present course and speed, our on board navigation estimated our time of arrival to be a little under an hour, before we made it all the way into the heart of Skycom Corporation’s highly secure, but still busily sprawling centre of command. We had time to kill. eM seemed relaxed which was a good thing, so I whipped the highly advanced comms device on my wrist to life to make contact with Ālrai.

In utilising a 2048 bit encryption algorithm, the possibility of it being deciphered by anyone in authority should it be intercepted, was extremely low risk. In order to hack the complexity of the code, it would call for the most powerful computers, and although such task would inevitable be doable, achieving it in such a limited window of opportunity was near impossible. Put plainly, albeit to Skysec getting lucky and intercepting my transmission the moment I made it, by the time they ultimately deciphered the signal, our mission would be long over and our communication redundant.

"Ālrai come in Ālrai, this is Kay Blade do you copy?" I spoke into my small comms device which began chirping a small series of squelching like sounds, and only moments later, a hologram ten centimetres in length visually protruded from my wrist.

"How you doing Kay Blade?" The voice of Ālrai's holographic image being generated from the comms device on my wrist crackled to life. Although a small hologram, his live form hovered in the air before me. I splayed my fingers from my other hand out, and the image of Ālrai grew larger, as big as fifty centimetres, so that eM could also catch a good glimpse of the man.

“We're on our way to Argon Central District now, as per the plan for Mission Project X.”

"Yeah I assumed you would be. How's eM Blade pulling along, this is her first mission right?" Ālrai' asked tilting his head while pressing his lips together.

"Yeah it is. So far she's doing well." I twisted my wrist slightly in eM’s direction so that Ālrai's holographic form loomed out closer to her.

"Hi Ālrai." eM cheerfully waved at him.

Ālrai and I were close friends, and by no means was I trying to be brief with him because I wanted to end the communication as quickly as I had initiated it. However due to our obvious time constraints, I immediately got to the nitty-gritty.

"Circle the vicinity of Argon Central once we are in. Do it discreetly like I'm sure you know how to. There is always that off chance that something might go terribly wrong, and we get ourselves busted. If it were to happen, we will send a distress signal. However do not do anything rash like attempt to rescue us, because you know already that you will have no chance. Simply report back to base. You got all that Ālrai?”

"Yeah affirmative Kay, got it." He answered lifting his head.

"Great." I nodded as I answered him back, and then ended the conversation by terminating the transmission.

The moment the holographic image of Ālrai vanished into nothing, eM smirked and tucked a curled string of her hair behind her ear. She then leaned in close and peered over my shoulder, a few wild curls of the tips of her hair brushed against my ear. “Looks like we are getting close. I’ve noticed more Skycom hovercars just like this while glancing out to starboard. Peering over to port doesn’t seem any different.” She observed as she eventually fell back into her seat.

“Yes eM, your observations would be accurate. The deeper we go towards Argon District, the greater the Skycom presence.“ I said turning my head slightly over to eM, but still maintaining my vision on the heavy sky traffic ahead. “As this is an executive's hovercar with all the necessary clearances, we can just fly right into their main parking area on one of the lower levels.” I continued meekly.

“I get that it won’t be overly populated Kay, but what about the fact that neither of us are actually dressed as executives or business women?" eM asked looking at me with her eyebrows raised questioningly.

"Well… Yeah… As far as our appearance goes, we both look like walking armouries.” I deliberately brushed off her concerns, giggling in the process. “Whoever sees us is gonna think, what the fuck! But rest assured eM, no one will see us." I blew on my nails and brushed them along my hair, then flipped part of my blonde hair over myshoulder so that any streaks caught the light. I liked showing off my pride where it was appreciated, well at least that was what I thought I was doing.

However I immediately realised that my lame attempt at sarcasm had totally backfired. Blood began pounding in eM’s ears. Her heart thudded in her chest. Her hands shook. Her feet tingled. Her vision disfigured, as if she were looking through a fish-eye lens. She took a long, slow deep breath, then completely sunk herself into the hovercar’s cosy bucket seat. She clutched the sides of her seat, her hands wrapped so tightly around each side, that her nails dug into her palms. All of a sudden, breathing was hard. Really hard. As if she’d just ran some sort of marathon. She took a quick hurried look at me, and then back at the traffic in front of us.

Shit! I mulled over at the thought upon observing eM’s anxiety and nervousness increase twofold. Knowing how imperative it was to keep everything together, I continued speaking as if nothing had happened, smiling reassuringly. "Oh, you don't need to worry about anything I just said. eM that was meant to be a joke."

Sounding almost as if it were a riposte to my own prior botched up sarcasm, somehow my clever use of adroitly manoeuvred the conversation back from having became a hindrance on her part. "Just relax and stick with everything I do and say, and you'll be fine. In terms of parking, we have access to a small private parking space. We drive in through the main area and then from there, we drive in the private area which is reserved for high ranking executives— in this case us. No one but us should be in there, so no one will see us get out of this hovercar once we are parked."

“Kay I must say, that at times you've got a strange sense of humour— many a time at the most inappropriate of times, Grant riposted.”

Having faith once more that her confidence had been restored, I breathed a sigh of relief at that, and began slowing down as we neared the exit that would then lead us over to Argon Central District. On the exit's approach, in order to prevent a collision with the busy flow of the opposite direction's oncoming traffic moving to the left of us, I executed a sharp dip in which I then swung the hovercar sharply to the left. Passing swiftly underneath the endless flow of movement, as far as guiding a hovercar in busy traffic went, it was a simple textbook case.

I accelerated once more— momentarily, for it wasn't long until the massive complex of superstructures loomed largely ahead of us. Eye-catching; the tangled nexus of kilometre high buildings, interconnecting platforms, and interweaving spiralling masses, stood out from among the other many tall closely packed skyscrapers endlessly surrounding us on our final approach to Argon Central District. 

 

At 10:30 hours.


"There it is, eM— that's it. The central headquarter building of Skycom Corporation. Lovely isn't?" I said cocking an eyebrow, snorting.

“Charming indeed.” eM raised her lip a little, while squinting her eyes and furrowing her brow.

Despite our obvious sarcasm, the complexity of Argon Central District's architecture was nothing short of marvellous.

Rays of sunlight were still rising over the district, lighting up the morning sky; the buildings turned a bright brilliance of reflective metal and glass. Distant but yet visible, despite the brilliant show of display; distinctively peaking out above the great number of megastructures; standing out in all its glory; the central building, and inevitably the one we were headed for.

I turned to face eM, her eyes fixed dead ahead too, for a moment amazed, out over into the distance, also glancing in awe toward the structures of Argon Central that were softly shining against the backdrop of Celestia City's morning sky; it seemed a fortress of light to the naked eye.

The 300 storey superstructure well over two kilometres in height, got thinner the higher it rose, like a giant knitting needle in the sky. In all its majestic grandeur, this was not only the centre of USS governance and military command, but also the focus of advanced research facilities and technologies— thus why we were going there in the first place. The superstructure and all the monstrosities surrounding it gave off an aura that I would've rather missed out on.

As we got closer, I gazed out into another all too familiar ill fated object far out into the distance. The Celestia Interplanetary Arena in the light of day was truly a sight to behold. Sitting above older structures below it, it towered above the many skyscrapers that were tall, yet under a kilometre in height, in the nearby cityscape of where the colossal two kilometre structure we were headed for stood. Around the arena, the air was charged with energy; the massive dome which was in the heart of the city brilliantly reflecting the rays of the sun, like the rest of the jungle of concrete and glass that surrounded it.

On most days, the arena was surrounded by tourists, crowds of spectators, and the much condemned violence that took place from within its bloody walls. Though drawing large crowds, the Games at The Celestia Interplanetary Arena were used chiefly as a deadly punishment for dissidents, refereed by President Atul Drex. It also served as entertainment, for a select group of others in power, to sentence those who they deemed criminals of the State to death.

Various forms of deadly gladiatorial games took place at the Arena which was also nicknamed the Coliseum. Many had fought in that very arena; fought valiantly against all odds. Yet few if any ever survived. Countless of souls had perished there; many unjustly. Games such as bladed combat, light vehicular warfare battles, jousting, one-on-one combat, and combat against multiple opponents were common.

The bloodshed from within what was considered a legendary structure by President Drex, was a barbarity reminiscent of that of the Roman Empire three millennia prior. Outside of the violence, occasionally, the President or others of high supremacy would summon large crowds to the Arena, to hear announcements that were simultaneously broadcasted throughout the entire Sol System.

To the far right, and now only getting a visual with the naked eye, stood the Argon Refuelling Tower; a complex of numerous massive red towers which rose skywards to meet incoming ships. The President's personal transport was one such ship that was a common sight of the ships that docked there to refuel, as well as Cerberus' USS Zephyr.

Far below, our actual landing spot was located on level 40 of the tallest building. Upon selecting the preprogrammed landing coordinates that were stored in the vehicle's navigational computer, we automatically began slowing down. Although our preprogrammed course did feel like it were taking us on a tour of the complex of elaborately designed buildings.

To the contrary of landing, the hovercar actually rose in altitude flying over Twilight Park; a fairly nice park, with expertly mowed grass, neat rows of trees, quaint benches, and a playground. All in all, it was nothing remarkable, except that it was 200 stories off the ground, situated on a terrace of a 250 storey residential building where predominantly Skycom employees, their families, and members of President Drex's sole political party resided in. They called it Twilight Park because the combination of nearby buildings and overhanging balconies, meant that it only got direct sun just as the day was coming to an end.

"Okay eM. Just sit tight, the autopilot will take us in. Remember, no one can see us through the heavily tinted glass." I said reassuringly, placing a gentle hand over my girlfriend's lower arm, just as the hovercar initiated its slow preprogrammed descent. And as it did so, the brightness of the morning sunlight faded into twilight, vanishing like the effects caused by a lunar eclipse; we were now covered by the shadows of the many other skyscrapers that virtually obscured the sky above.

The hovercar's autopilot brought us in for a smooth low descent to level 40 of the monstrosity 300 storey superstructure. Even from this height, the city below seemed so far away— like another world, those ant-like people down below, and all their business or problems, were of no more a consequence than the temporary static that decided to randomly blare on our vehicle's HUD which we subsequently ignored.

The true size of the superstructure became apparent as the hovercar guided itself closer and closer, running down the vertical length of the seemingly endless building. Finally the vehicle's automatic guidance system kinked us slowly to the right, then straightened again, kinked one last time before doing a full turn to starboard towards the building's entrance. Now only a minuscule speck against the glassy grey bulk of the superstructure, the hovercar glided gracefully toward one of several rectangular hangar bay openings, and was finally swallowed by it. A lake of metal closed off the entryway, and our vehicle vanished as if it had never existed.

Our immediate vicinity was dominated by the presence of other hovercars; moving in and out or parked. The ubiquitous influence of both business and military personnel that hurriedly moved along as they went about their own daily tasks, was immediately felt.

However, the preselected course I had selected would have us directed to a private section, and more importantly, take us well away from the hectic scurry of the main area of the hangar— but not before first passing through a series of other densely populated sections.

The corridors narrowed the farther in we travelled. The traffic became heavier, but the presence of other slow moving hovercars were few bar none. Instead it consisted primarily of agents, soldiers, business personnel, technicians, and mechanicals that bustled around us. Intent on their own assignments, they ignored us completely, only a few of the business people sparing our hovercar a curious glance. Yet as we travelled farther and deeper into the bowels of the gigantic building, we found it increasingly difficult to maintain an air of casual indifference.

Almost at our prearranged destination, that section was for the most part military free, used by top end executives, programmers and computer maintenance crews that from there, had access to private lifts giving them direct access to the computer mainframe room located over a hundred floors up.

The hovercar stopped momentarily as we reached a restricted area. In front of us, stood a thick black metal sliding door large enough to allow two average sized hovercars to pass through abreast. Any concerns that I may have had about the possibility of being denied access, quickly dwindled as a series of clanking noises followed the door slowly sliding open. From there, our hovercar moved forward, the door automatically sliding shut behind us once we were through.

Compared to the parts we had already passed through, this confined area was relatively small with barely enough room for six or so hovercars to fit. Upon our own ingression, I spotted a sole vehicle stationed on its own, ours automatically slotting in beside it where it then sat listlessly in the small bay. After quickly scanning and confirming the absence of any life forms in the other vehicle, I nodded affirmatively to eM, giving the go ahead that it was safe to exit from our own hovercar, hence us both steadily getting out.

I picked an out of the way spot that would give me a decent view of anyone who came and left the small area, and took a moment to straighten myself up, brushing a hand through my hair, before I turned to face eM.

“Okay eM. It's possible that someone could come through that door at anytime, so let's hurry up and get the rest of our weapons on us.”

I could feel the tension building up once again from within my girlfriend. But it was to be expected, since now, we had both officially stepped foot inside the heart of enemy territory— I feeling no different myself.

Wasting no time, we sheathed our katanas over our backs, and then clipped a variety of other weapons such as knives and grenades onto our belts, as well as a handheld anti-ballistic deflector shield unit.

"You look so lovely eM. Like a death machine from hell." I said patting her over her shoulder, my voice almost bordering on a chuckle, but my words speaking only the truth. "Just stick close to me at all times, follow my instructions, and you'll be fine. C'mon, let's go." My lips curled into a smirk as we set armoured boots on the surface, and trudged toward a door which led through to a small low lit corridor.

With blasters on hips and at the ready, we eventually reached a wide bank of lifts. I breathed a sigh of relief. Normally the computer controlled transport would be capable of taking us directly to the level the computer mainframes were situated at to a verbal command— except we didn't have access codes that would grant us right of entry.

There was a nervous second and a brief delay before I finally spoke. "Okay eM, do your thing. Slice that lift's code so we can go up."

At best, it had probably been about two minutes since eM had gotten to work at slicing the lift's control panel— felt like fucking ten. "eM can you go any quicker?" I called out impatiently.

"I'm going as quick as I possibly can. The code in this lift's console is fairly complex." She shot back unimpressed at my burst of impatience.

"Well try harder, it's only a matter of time until someone walks past and then I'll have to— fuck dammit, someone's coming. Just keep at what you're doing. I'll take care of this."

I carefully wandered back across the short corridor, discreetly taking a peek around the corner. Someone indeed was coming. I was able to heave a small sigh of relief, at least for now, upon realising it was no soldier or agent. A young woman, dressed in full business attire approached.

It was inconceivable, that the woman, black haired and of average height and build, would present us with an obvious problem. I didn't want to silence her permanently— but knocking her out cold ought to do it I mused.

Steadily I fixed my eyes on her. I realised that possibly, she may have been led astray by an inaccurate map. Her gaze was glued to her handheld device, her back facing me— my perfect opportunity to neutralise her.

Not allowing that opportunity to pass, I quietly snuck up behind her, and forcibly pulled her into me after I placed one hand over her mouth, while using the other to hold a knife to her throat.

"Scream and I'll slit your throat, got it?" I hissed in her ear, angrily, as the woman immediately showed signs of a struggle by clutching both her hands close to her throat.

“Please... please don't kill me. I was just lost, I didn't mean to—”

"Shut the hell up! I won't kill you if for one, you shut up, and secondly you don't try any funny business." I brusquely said into her ear cutting off her pleas. "However if you resist, all I have to do is press this knife down on your throat and slit it clean." I sneered a scornful warning.

"Okay, okay, I'll do whatever you say... just... please... don't kill me." She begged, her eyes scrunched tight in anticipation of something bad.

"Well, you can start by shutting that fucking mouth of yours. Shut it now!" I barked, demandingly, aggressively turning her around, dragging her back over to where eM feverishly worked away slicing at the lift's console. She presumably had gotten the hint to shut her cake-hole, as she didn't utter another damn word.

"Today already eM, you done or what?" I growled impatiently.

"Almost, just another minute or so. Just a couple of more wires here and there. Oh... and... umm... her? What are you going do with her?" eM asked, dreading to think what I would do to the woman who's fear was etched all over her face.

"Knock her out cold is what I'm gonna do." I snarled, removing my knife away from her throat, and using the hand that had been on her mouth to cup the back of her neck to push the woman down. After forcing her onto her knees, I grabbed both her hands— painfully jarred both her arms behind her back, before lifting them, and placing both her hands over her head.

"I don't wanna die!" A great tremor overtook the woman as tears raced down her cheeks. "I don't wanna die. I wanna see my two little kids again... please." She could hold the heartbreak no longer, and she fell to the floor in a disheveled heap as her grief poured out in a flood of uncontrollable tears.

"I'm not going to kill you. I'm just gonna smack you hard on the back of the head with the butt of my gun. At worse you'll wake up later with a ringing headache." I said uncaringly, as I grabbed her by the back of her collar, hoisted her up, and made her kneel upright on her knees once again.

A tightening of her throat and a short intake of breath followed. I then readied my gun to hit her across the back of her head, when eM hollered out to me. "Kay the lift is ready. We can go up now."

It was only a momentary distraction. I looked up at eM to acknowledge her, looked back at the woman— swoosh, I found myself taking a step backwards as a bladed weapon came slashing for my throat, hitting the neck armour of my suit. I stood in stunned silence— in disbelief, my eyes wide open, giving the woman a chance to drop her weapon and run.

My state of shock was short-lived though, the clinking of metal on metal as the knife dropped onto the floor snapping me out of it. "Freeze don't move!" My blaster was drawn and pointed at her before I even finished yelling out the words.

Yet she ignored me, fearfully running for her life.

In knowing that she would only warm security of our breach— that ultimately thwarting our plans, jeopardising the mission and comprising us; she had to be stopped at all costs. My finger pulled the trigger in a flash— there was the shriek from my own blaster, and it punched a cauterised hole clean through the woman's chest on her left side. She dropped, her body went limp, then lifeless.

"Oh fuck!" I yelped as I ran towards her. Smoke slithered and writhed out of a gaping hole in the woman's back. I knelt down on one knee beside her, turned her around, only to be horrified upon seeing her lifeless eyes peering directly into mine.

I placed my fingers on the side of her neck— hoping that with some miracle, however minute it would be that I could find a pulse. None came. I felt nothing but coldness— the women was dead.

eM had come running towards me. She looked straight at me, my eyes were a bottomless pool of darkness, she knew, but she could not help trying to find the bottom. There was a bundle of sorrow swimming in them and she wanted— needed to do something to help me.

"I didn't mean for this to happen eM. I just killed an innocent woman, a mother. What have I done?" I gulped, the gun clattered out of my other hand. I dropped fully down on my knees, followed by my shoulders sagging down, terror-struck. “I'm... a monster…”

eM just stood there not knowing what to say. She looked at me, her eyes seemed darkened and drilled into mine. I couldn't help but think— I'd never seen such dark eyes with so much light in them.

"I thought my blaster was set to stun. It happened all so quickly. How did I not see it coming?" I then just covered my mouth with my hand, still trying to come to terms with the gravity of the situation. My eyes seemed black, but not soulless nor lifeless. Instead they were like two pristine stones of onyx, that lit up with a purple flare when touched by the dim light that surrounded us.

“We need to go Kay. I don't know what else to say. She attacked you in self defence and you murdered her in cold blood, even though it was an accident. In the end, you had to stop her or compromise us and you succeeded." eM shook her head, speaking in the negative, her downcast eyes telling me what I already knew. "I don't think I could have fired the shot if it were me. So I'm glad it was you, as if it were me, she would have gotten away and then we would both have been in serious trouble.”

I looked up at eM, acknowledging her with a slight nod of my head, and slowly got back up on my two feet. I grabbed both of the dead woman's legs, lifted them and began dragging her still lifeless form over to the lift. Her body, similar in size to mine, slid through effortlessly across the gunmetal grey flooring— her mouth gaped open, her head joggled slightly as it trailed from her shoulders, her hair spread by its length behind her head, with her limp arms and hands following behind the rest of her deceased torso. Thankfully, due to the fact that the wound had been cauterised, it didn't leave a trail of blood.

"I guess we best move along then. We'll dump her body on the level we're going to. The one you'll be doing the hacking on. Besides, there will be security forces up there which we will have to neutralise which translates to killing. Might as well add her body to the collection of corpses." I said in a deep cold voice. For a moment, it seemed that eM might have thought that that comment had been a lame attempt at sarcasm. It wasn't, and she didn't laugh as we entered the lift with the woman's dead body, and with a quick swoosh, the lift door slid shut.

I studied the operating panel, then tried to sound at once knowledgeable and important as I spoke into the pickup grid. Instead, I sounded nervous and scared, but the lift which eM had already sliced was a pure-response mechanism, not programmed to differentiate the appropriateness of emotions conveyed vocally. So we were now on our way, proceeding to rise over 100 floors up to where the main computer servers and mainframes were situated.

With a couple of minutes to spare during our ascent, I took the painful opportunity to search the deceased woman for some identification. I had an itching impulse to want to know who she was. In the 31st century, carrying IDs in the form of a card, passport or document was considered archaic. Everything was contained on the tiny microchip implant on our wrists. However I was searching for something else.

eM curiously wondered what I was doing, frisking the deceased's body, but didn't even whisper a word. It took a few seconds to find something of interest— a tiny pad like device, but it was no comms device. It was just a screen, used to store digital images— precisely what I was rummaging for. I closed my eyes, took in a deep long breath and exhaled it slowly as I turned it on.

I was filled with trepidation. My heart was thumping so loud that I was sure eM could hear it. In front of me, I could see her mouth moving, words flying past my head. There was just one question popping up in my mind. What have I done? In my logical mind I knew the water was calm, but my imagination was running wild, with rough waves tumbling angrily, pounding the shores. Also, with the lift's cramped metallic walls all around me, it felt like I was being cornered and trapped, with nowhere to go. And then I looked down at the image on the tiny screen.

A man, two young kids, and the woman— now deceased by my hand. I dropped the image pad and covered my mouth— shocked— blood running cold.

“Oh my God eM, she was telling the truth. She was a mother. I just killed that man's wife or partner, along with the children's mother. No! No! No! No! How the fuck did I screw this up so hard?”

My eyes bled with pain, a solemn tear fell down my cheek, however my body looked calm compared to how tangled my mind was. eM remained silent, not knowing what to say. She had never seen me like this before; broken, distraught, shattered. Tears stained my face, moans escaped my lips through the suppressed sound of hiccups. I was not a cold blooded killer, yet in the heat of the moment, I had engaged myself in that very act. And as far as things went concerning the violence, we hadn't even warmed up yet, for a team of security officers awaited at our target destination.

An unsettling feeling began welling inside me. There's was something wrong beyond having killed this innocent woman— but I couldn't quite tell what it was. I felt as though I had entered a house with the gas stove left on; the atmosphere was dense and strange, thought apparently invisible to my eyes.

And then a flash— a bright light engulfed my vision; distorting the very fabric of time, or at least that's what it seemed to my mind's eye. Whatever was happening, felt like an eternity in the few actual seconds it lasted in the realm of reality; like riding a storm, taken away by a tornado of winds; I lay frozen in the rift of time, no longer a torrent that moved linear in one direction, but rather it stood still, suspended at a point in time— before me, my childhood— a loved one long departed— mother.

My mother was perhaps my number one favourite person in the entire universe. There were plenty of reasons for this, including her unconditional love for me and my sibling Imogen, her constant sacrifices in a bid to ensure our happiness, her inner strength that made our society a better place to live, and her immense wisdom buried deep within her soul just to mention a few. She was simply a precious gift to me.

Mother had a kind and caring heart, very rare in the society we lived in. She gave birth to both my sister and I, and shared her heart, warmth and love amongst all of us without favouritism whatsoever. How she managed to do this was still a mystery to me.

Cooking great food was among the list of things my mother loved to do. Growing up, I was always excited about meal times because they were real treats.

When it came to physical appearance, my mother had striking features able to turn heads even in her advanced age. Her long brunette hair always left her friends red with envy during her youthful days. She had a slim physique, not because she was born that way, but because she chose to be healthy.

Whenever any of us fell ill at home, mother would move heavens and earth to ensure we received good treatment and care during the entire period. Her compassion for the sick was commendable; she would come up with home remedies for the sickness and spend time making sure we were comfortable all through.

Lastly, my mother loved lending a hand to the less fortunate whenever there was an opportunity to do so. She was a member and contributor in at least two charity bodies that helped many people ranging from the sick, the poor, and those oppressed by culture among others.

She was my greatest inspiration—

Before me, a woman. I looked at her with a listless expression. Her skin was an unsightly pale colour and I could see her body shaking slightly. She was lying on the floor with her face shifted slightly to the side. Her breathing was heavy and shallow; I could see the rise and fall of her back with every laboured breath. It took a moment for it to register in my brain what I was seeing, or more that my brain was refusing to process the information set before me. From her body flowed a deep crimson liquid. As I looked closer the familiar colour stained her legs that slipped out from a simple white dress that was faintly stained in the same colour. I could see now that blood was present on almost every visible part of her body. I cringed and balled my fists so tightly that blood threatened to fall from my own palms.

"Mum?" My usually cool, confident, and unwavering voice seemed meek as it echoed through the room. With a swift step forward I made my way to the fallen woman only to be stopped short by an invisible wall. I ground my teeth and slammed angrily against the barrier with my fist. "No!" I cursed as I moved, and gently followed the perimeter of the restraint with an extended hand.

Much to my frustration the barrier extended completely around my mother allowing no access point for recovery. The barrier could not even be penetrated from above, which the butt of my blaster pistol confirmed. "No mother don't leave me again! No! No! No!" I cried out aloud but to no avail.

A most heartbreaking situation in every sense; emotionally shattering; this a mere reminder of what it had felt like— and now the predicament of me having done the same to the loving mother of two sweet children indifferent to what I once was.

Bewildered and dazed, I snapped out of my hypnotic half conscious state— the trance broken, I grunted in disdain upon my hasty return to reality; I missed my mother so much. The experience had felt like hours; a temporal distortion; a fracture in the spacetime continuum— only several seconds relative to the real world had elapsed.

My heart started pounding at an increasingly rapid pace. I checked my watch. It was gradually approaching midday and we were yet to arrive at our intended destination. I turned to look at my girlfriend.

She put her loving hand on my shoulder to comfort me, although it really at this stage was pointless. I was a warrior and in charge of this crucial mission. In the grand scheme of things, this was a minor error in judgement, and one that would have little or no consequence on the overall outcome of our primary objective.

"I'm gonna have to somehow contact her family at a later time, and tell them the truth of what happened here. The undeniable fact is, that I'm the one who's fault this is, so it's my duty to confront them, despite the obvious fact that they will totally hate me and want me dead." I said gulping, lifting my head up eying eM as I spoke. Turning off the small screen and pocketing it securely, I felt as if a dozen needles danced their way across my forehead.

"But rest assured my sweet love," I continued reassuringly, "that I would never allow the dead part to happen to me. However I feel that they need to be told the truth, otherwise I don't think I can live with this guilt, and worse still, it would make me a tyrant no better than these Skycom Corporation scum." I declared as I once again looked down upon the slain woman.

Taking and lifting her left arm, by scanning and reading her microchip implant, I made an attempt to discover her identity. I clicked a button on my scanner, and a holo hummed to life, a full colour, high resolution display of her image and her name— Helen Jane Jamison, floated before me. Upon request, the names of her children, her partner, and where she lived where also furnished.

In the time that it took me to absorb, then download all that information over to my own scanner, and lastly upload it onto my own secure cloud device using my own 2048 encryption key and algorithm, we had arrived at our destination. Just as the holo vanished into nothingness, the lift doors hissed open as it came to a gentle steady halt.

"We're here." eM said tapping me over the shoulder as I was already getting up.

I took a quick peep out to make sure no one was around before I slowly emerged out of the lift, waving eM over to do the same. Leaning over back into the lift, I bent down stretching an arm out over to Helen's body. After I slid my hand under her head, I placed a sturdy grip taking hold of her by the collar, and dragged her body out of the lift. Her body moved smoothly and effortlessly across the shiny metallic flooring, where I lay her down on to her side across the opposite wall. "We'll leave her here eM. Let's get moving."

The clanking of our boots on the metal flooring sounded muffled and far away, like someone else was walking elsewhere in the area. The corridors here were narrow. The light greyish colour of the walls, along with the transparent lighting that seemed endless as we walked down the corridor, worked effectively in brightly lighting up the area.

Eventually we approached another service lift that would take us one level up to where the computer mainframes were. There was little doubt that security officers would be guarding the entrance. I stretched an arm out to the side signalling for eM to stop, followed by placing my index finger over my lips indicating for her to not speak.

In retrieving a small insect like camera, I released it in one of the ventilation vents that would take it through the ducting system and over to the level above where the security officers were. My scanner's little holo once again hummed to life as the little insect like camera flew towards them. Alert looking guards and energy gates seemed to be everywhere we looked. We could see all of them, but they didn't notice the small bug flying around them— thinking it would be nothing more than just an annoying insectoid bug if they eventually were to spot it.

Uncomfortably aware that the longer we stood frozen in place, the sooner someone was bound to come over and ask unanswerable questions. I studied the images of the security guards being transmitted by my insectoid drone above, and searched frantically for a course of action.

"Are you sure this is going to work," eM whispered, leaning toward me.

"There are four of them. They appear to be lightly armed. But still it's four versus two. Once we exit the lift, we'll run straight at them. They'll be caught by surprise. eM you take the one on the far right. I reckon I can, since we will be surprising them, take the first and maybe the second one out quickly, and then go one on one with the last one. We need to make this swift and quick." I concluded just as I turned off my scanner and the holo images of area above vanished into nothing.

"You ready?" I asked eM who nervously nodded the affirmative.

"Good. Let's move," I said as I pressed several buttons on a side panel to call down the service lift. It descended flawlessly and without anyone else on it to greet us, which was encouraging, as we both retrieved our katanas, readying for combat.

The small platform like lift had a rudimentary console connecting only to the level above, and, although not necessary, l punched in codes to light up the interior. Hydraulics whined as we rose together, not seeing much beyond the glow panels and downlighting in the ceiling.

As the lift door swished open, we saw only narrow ramps bordering a bottomless ventilation shaft. These walkways, several levels of them, ran parallel to smooth curving walls which led to a single door at the far end— the computer mainframe room.

Katana drawn in one hand, gun in the other, with the element of surprise on our side, we charged straight out of the lift for the unsuspecting security officers. The first one went down, never standing a chance as I shot him across the chest, dead.

Panically, the other three responded, clumsily reaching out for their blaster rifles. But such was my own genetically enhanced speed, as was the case with eM, that we were up and close to them before they even had a chance to use them.

Holstering my gun, I launched myself performing a summersaulting move that was nothing short of stunning. Involving several well executed flips in mid air, I mercilessly slashed at the next closest guard, cutting him cleanly across his midsection, and subsequently ending his life.

The next one managed to get a shot in at me, firing, but I managed to twist my body a tad, just in a nick of time, allowing for the plasma bolt to sail straight past me— almost, as it ineffectively skimmed the side of my armour protecting my torso. Instinctively I raised my sword in a defence position, deflecting his next deadly blast aimed at my chest, ultimately causing it to ricochet back at him. A utter high-pitched piercing sound followed, the man dropped his weapon and shrieked in pain from the burn that had resulted from blaster fire from his own rifle.

"Say hello to your comrades for me in the afterlife." I spat out as, without any hesitation, I lunged my katana straight through his chest. Anger radiated from me like a bulb as I first used my weapon to pierce his heart, and after I was done with that, I lay a powerful boot onto his chest, pushing him back as I yanked my bloodied blade out of his deceased form. The guard slowly fell back, dropping, and leaving gruesome streaks of bloodied crimson on the wall behind him.

I turned to face eM who had managed to get close enough to her opponent unscathed. After also having had to deflect incoming fire with her own katana, she had slashed at his arm, disarming him, causing him to fall down onto his knees.

“Please don’t kill me." He squirmed in agonising pain, clutching his injured arm with the other. “I surrender, I surrender, please." He pleaded— falsely, as subtly he readied a small concealed blaster in which with all intents and purposes, would use it to take out a heedless eM.

I cursed under my lips, at her reluctance to kill him before I yelled at her: “eM, what the hell are you doing. Kill him now!"

Yet she just stood there, her katana held out a metre or so in front of him, hesitantly. "Do it or he will kill you!" I snapped out warningly.

“No Kay. He is unarmed and the last man down.” eM unwisely protested.

“What the fuck eM, are you fucking kidding me?" My face turned purple as a plum at my girlfriend's sheer ignorance. "He won’t hesitate to kill you at the first chance he gets. Fucking kill him now, that’s a damn order eM, do it now!” In the time it had taken me to spill out those words, the man had risen back up on his feet and raised both his arms in the air.

“I don’t know what you are talking about, clearly I surrender. Look my hands are up in the air girl.” He must have realised at the last moment that my pistol had been firmly trained on him. Yet I had seen what an inexperienced eM hadn't seen. The small two shot blaster pistol's butt; it hung out over the top of the back of his belt just above his waist line; where his good arm and hand had been slowly floating towards before he had put his hands up.

“Fuck you arsehole!” I spat out, shooting him point blank between his eyes. The man slumped to the ground dead, smoke that rose from the charred hole in his head followed.

Just as if she couldn’t believe what I just committed, eM completely froze and stared at me; befuddled. “You killed him in cold blood Kay, Why? You made a scene about that women—"

“Oh dear, here we go again eM. Did you just not fucking get that or something? Really are you on another planet girl?” I holstered my weapon and cracked my knuckles, menacingly, walking right up to her so that we were now less than a metre from one another, facing each other.

“But he put his hands up in the—”

“He only put his hands up because he saw or realised that I had my gun pointed at him. He was going to kill you and would have done so because you hesitated to kill him when you had the chance. Kill or be killed eM! And as for Helen, she was an innocent. These guys on the other hand, are our enemy and will stop at nothing to kill us."

My holler reverberated in her ears like a clap of thunder, such was my rage. It was a roar of pure anger, as I reached out for the side of her head to tap my knuckles over it several times; like trying to knock some sense into her, adding, “He most certainly did not hesitate.”

Yet I wasn't done as I then clenched my fists, forcing myself not to get violent, biting my tongue, literally. “We eM are deep inside a high security Skycom building. To them we are the bad guys. If more of them show up, they’re not gonna come in and welcome us with open arms— it will more like with open fucking guns! When you fight, you fight to kill. Understood?”

Anger was that feeling that could drive us insane. Like a light switch. Push that wrong button and something could send electricity in your spine; like unwanted energy, and exactly what eM's ignorance had caused me now.

Turning slightly towards the door we had come in from and then facing her again, I didn't even wait for her to respond. “Do not fucking pull any of those bullshit stunts again eM, because if you do, the next time you might actually get us both captured or killed. Got it!”

I was very frustrated with my girlfriend, very much yelling down her throat. I had never spoken to her in this manner before. Yet at the present moment, she had given me no choice. I felt absolutely gutted in having to do it to her, paining me immensely from the inside. I stared at her and saw it in her eyes. I had for the first time, genuinely hurt her feelings. I emitted a long deep audible breath as I momentarily dropped my head down— shamefully, and then glanced at her again placing one hand over my forehead, and the other on my hip, regrettably frustrated that I had spoken to her in the way I just had.

I proceeded to gently take hold of her wrist. “Look eM, I didn’t mean to get angry at you."

However eM gasped and jerked free of my hold. “No, Kay. Go away! Leave me alone! I get it. I’m useless. You think I’m a failure and a loser." She said fixing me with a stare that could freeze water instantly, before turning her back to me.

“Look eM, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I spoke to you in that way. I really didn’t mean it.” I moved closer and eM quickly backed away.

With her fists clenched, I was the last person she wanted to talk with right now. “You're so mean. I said leave me alone Kay!"

"Excuse me! No, no, no. eM, please don’t be upset at me.” I said, my voice sincerely apologetic. I stepped forward placing my hand on her shoulder. Yet again she pushed me away.

“I said leave me alone. Don’t talk to me anymore unless it has to do with this job.” I could see the first signs of teardrops forming in her eyes as she briefly turned to face me, before once again turning her back on me.

In the middle of a vital mission deep inside enemy territory, I didn’t need this from her right now. With the momentary silence between eM and I, all around me, I could hear mechanical screeches and squeals coming from somewhere. The echoes and shadows of the sounds broke through my muted musings.

"eM, why won't you talk to me?" I was determined to get her to listen to what I had to say. "eM?" I repeated, persisting, spreading both hands out in front of me, pleading to her.

eM turned around to me again, was about to say something, and then turned away in an attempt to hide her shock from me, but her eyes glistened with the pain of my betrayal.

I inhaled sharply shaking my head, thinking about the mission and eM, questioning— had I made an error in judgement regarding eM really being ready for this? The thought raced through my head, but now wasn’t the time to think about it. We were in the thick of it, and I had a blood-curdling hunch that the worse was yet to come.

I stepped over up to eM, took hold of her shoulders and swirled her around, forcing her to face me. "eM please listen to me. I know you’re thinking a thousand and one things right now, but you need to get it together— we need to get it together. Don't be upset. I love you with all my heart, but you need to understand that if I pretend that things are okay when they clearly are not, then I wouldn’t be showing my true love and affection for you.”

Frozen, eM didn't blink, and in the depths of her gaze, she remained slack-jawed with surprise. She could not respond.

I stared deeply into her beautiful eyes. "eM, I know I said many things to you that I didn't mean... I guess... I got carried away by saying some of those things to you. We all make mistakes not trying to understand each other, and admittedly enough some of my words did hurt in some way. I know that deep down our love for one another is mutual, and that you will forgive me for my harsh and cruel words. For that my dear love, I'm truly sorry."

"I know Kay." eM replied softly.

Having been close to tears, eM sniffled her nose, then pushed me into her, and hugged me tightly. “I’m sorry I hesitated. You were right to be angry at me. I won’t do that again, I promise.”

“Good eM, good. If you want, we can discuss this more at a later time. However right now, we need to go so you can do your thing, the thing that you are as far as I know, the best in the whole of the Sol System at doing— that is, slice into Skycom's computer mainframe which is over there down that narrow passage way. Please let’s go there now, and do what we came here for, because the sooner we do it, the sooner we can get as faraway as possible from this place."

I winked an eye at her as we released one another from our embrace; she gestured for me to lead the way to the computer mainframe room. “After you Kay.”

Mainframe computers: as had been the case for over a millennium in our ever expanding technological society, companies and corporations alike, relied heavily on a mainframe computer for various applications; including such things as bulk data processing, process control, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning, and financial transaction processing. Using proprietary operating systems, similarly, to the first mainframes of the early twentieth century, those of the thirty first century were also room sized and housed in large metal frames. Although that's about as far as the similarities went. Mainframes were big because of the tremendous amount of power needed to operate at an interplanetary level; The Grid being one such example; and primarily that corporate operations ran efficiently above all things. Skycom Corporation being the most powerful in all of Sol was most certainly not exempt from this.

"Okay eM we're here." I said as we stepped through the door and into the dark room lit by the hundreds, maybe even thousands of live cables, connectors and plugs. The room itself resembled a jungle; man made; alive; several stories high; many machines of computers stacked up on top of each other forming one gigantic arc. I gazed upwards in awe, watching the live streams of currents flowing endlessly over interwoven hanging cables.

"Go do what you reign supreme at." I grinned at her, finding it necessary to flatter her a little. Truth be told, she was the best slicer I'd ever known— and what better way to boost her confidence a tad after the course of the previous bloodied events.

She scampered over to the nearest terminal, plugged a few of her gizmos in, and began to work on it, typing away furiously at the screen.

The familiar rhythm of beeping blended perfectly with the scattered sounds of the other sounds blaring throughout the room and nearby area. The sound of typing on the holo-keyboard was faint but present, and eM's fingers moved like blurs across the projected keys. I leaned over for just a moment, looking over with my crystal like blue eyes, scanning the screen, before once again looking away, deciding the better and not to distract my girlfriend, who's continuous use of her hands on the several floating holo screens joined the plague of noise.

"I'm gonna wait outside and keep a look out." I said, deciding best to leave her be rather than watch her intimidatingly. I made myself useful in the several minutes that passed, by gather a couple of blaster rifles from the dead security officers laying on the floor.

"Come on you piece of shit," eM urged in the meantime, her voice through clenched teeth, and a hand gave the computer terminal a smart whack. Slicing wasn't as easy as it was cracked up to be. eM growled loudly as this fact made itself evident. "Damn you all to hells." There were thousands, no, millions of codes that could fit. And she had to narrow it down to one. What she needed to do was notch it down to ten or less numbers. Then she could make random combinations and eventually get in.

The thoughts crossed the young woman's mind as she feverishly hacked away.

The computer's holo images flashed red in objection to the commands, and it was hit again. "Come on..." Finally one of the floating holoscreens announced that she had gotten in. "Yes!" She said, smiling as she prepared to download the heavily sensitive data in question. Her triumph was then followed by a laugh. "So easy a child could have broken into this."

Her fingers moved even faster as the easy part started. Quickly, she inserted a small storage disc into the terminal, downloading the target data. The computer subsequently asked for a series of confirmations, which ultimately agitated eM.

Ten minutes had then passed and I began feeling edgy, dreading that company might be on its way.

"eM what's taking you so long?" I called out, certain that my fears had come true, having heard noises. Someone or someones was definitely approaching.

"I'm done. I've got everything we need on a disc. No idea what it is though, but the dudes back at Arjian will work it out for sure. I'm just uploading it all to our secure cloud just in case. Lots of data, should be done in around a minute." eM shouted out and began to finish up with the last transfer of data faster, her hands a blur of white as she went into overtime.

"Great." I acknowledged her as I quickly realised that a group of soldiers were on their way up. I darted back into the room where I watched, as she operated what appeared to be an incredibly complex computer console with ease and confidence.

eM turned her attention from a larger screen to a small readout near the larger screen. Data began to race across it too fast for me to see, but apparently eM somehow made something of the schematic blur. Finally the blur of data ceased, and the specifics regarding what we had come here for had been uploaded to Arjian's secure cloud. eM hurried over to me, as a message flashed brightly over the screen, then a loud beeping noise followed to confirm the task was indeed complete.

“Excellent work beautiful, but looks like we have company!" I gasped tossing one of the rifles at her. "Let's get into position, a firefight unfortunately is unavoidable.”

Having realised the breach, the small team of elite fighters, presumably Skysec soldiers, would come up cautiously. Having been genetically enhanced at birth, both eM and I had speed on our side, and however minimal, it still gave us some advantages in areas such as leaping abilities.

Using the lift would be far to risky, knowing that the moment they came out that door, that they would be sitting ducks to our assault. Instead, they would be coming up the fire escape staircase in which its door was parallel to the same lift eM and I had entered the floor from, allowing for them to take the necessary cover.

With sirens blaring, and spinning red warning lights flashing the intruder alert, eM followed as I sprinted at lightning speed towards the fire escape door, my handheld anti-ballistic deflector shield hummed to life as I activated it. With the exception of my head, lower legs and feet, the shield was designed to protect my forward facing body from incoming blaster fire.

Still a floor down, and heading towards us, I managed to vaporise several of the soldiers who were coming up. In such a confined space, the explosions from my grenades were deafening, as I ducked my head behind the shield, and saw that further down, the stairs lead to some shafts and vaults that ran much, much farther than the eye could see.

However more soldiers came up, three of them, determined— and we were out of grenades. A gunfight followed, my shield held firmly as both eM and I returned fire, with my girlfriend taking cover behind me as she fired her weapon. The exchange of gunfire continued relentlessly for the good part of at least another thirty seconds, pockets of charred holes inevitably began to appear on the walls around us.

"Fuck! eM fall back, take cover!" I yelled— an incoming grenade even more powerful than the ones I had tossed earlier, came straight for us just as I managed to take out one of the three men. He toppled backwards down the stairs, dead.

eM dived for cover outside of the door, while I felt the full brunt of the impact as the sheer force of the explosion harshly threw me backwards and back out the door. My shield however did absorb most of the explosion, saving me, as I slammed and slid across the floor, my body armour doing enough to keep me unscathed. The shield then flickered off as it consequently malfunctioned.

There was a subsequent blast overhead as the door to the stairwell blew completely open, and the two remaining soldiers came charging through the door, blaster rifles at the ready.

Getting up and falling back down the shaft that led to the mainframe room, eM and I took immediate cover. From the sound of it, one of the soldiers was wielding a plasma rifle. Military issue. Firing the vicious little beast looked and sounded like a rapid fire roman candle, a dotted stream of orange bolts hissing through the air and turning bits of catwalk into slag.

We were pinned back, at least for now. I wisely decided that any further energy should be dedicated to getting ourselves as far from that weapon as possible.

"eM, fallback into the mainframe room!" I shouted over the top of my lungs.

“Stop!” the soldier ordered, firing a burst of shots ahead of eM in an attempt to cut her off.

“You still think you can get me after I've already killed a dozen of your men? Even if you get lucky and take me down, I'll blow your arse up and take you with me!” I huffed, while eM took a defensive position on the shaft's wall across the opposite side to me.

“I’m a soldier. Soldiers finish their missions.”

“You work for Skysec. You’re a rent-a-cop for a corrupt organisation. Let us go and you'll live another day."

“Hands where I can see them!” he ordered, stopping at the long narrow shaft's opening, maintaining the higher ground and keeping us in his sights.”

Cornered, both eM and I raised our hands, turning to face the soldier. Distantly, there was a rumble as the air conditioning finished reinitialising.

“So, you are the infamous Kay Blade? Who's the other girl?” he said.

“You’ve heard of me, huh?”

“Of course. You're the most wanted criminal in the entire Sol System."

“Wow! I'm honoured.”

"And your streak of crimes against the State ends now. Who's the girl?

“She's my partner.”

“Yeah, and why is she in here with you... Wait... Let me guess. You brought her here to hack into our computers and steal information— she's a slicer right? Because she may be dressed like a warrior, but she sure don't look like a fighter.”

“That's a lovely presumption—”

"Shut your mouth Kay Blade. You are going to give me any devices you used to copy the data you stole, what you’ve discovered, and what you were planning to do with it. If you found some way to upload the original data or a duplicate elsewhere without our knowledge, you will show me, and give us the names of any other parties who may now have it. If and when you cooperate, we’ll see where we go from there.”

“Cooperate? What with Skysec? You must be stupid if you think that I would believe for even a single second that I won't be executed if I surrender. Yeah we've stolen some information, but hell if I'm gonna tell you anything. Fuck you cunt!" I hissed and spat.

The soldier shifted the weapon’s aim and fired, striking the ceiling directly in between the two walls that eM and I were standing at. A spray of sparks followed.

“You open your foul mouth one more time to do anything but cooperate, and I'll turn your slicer over there into a sack of dead meat.”

I stood silently, measuring the soldier with my gaze. The only sound was the occasional hiss and sputter of nearby damaged circuitry.

“Well? What are you waiting for? Surrender now!” The soldier growled.

"Actually, come to think of it, I murdered single handedly, all these guards and soldiers. That's right I did it, not her, the slicer. Only reason why you want me alive for now, is so I can tell you what data we stole, and what we did with it. Cooperate with you? I don't think so. Oh and by the way, the slicer is my girlfriend and hell if you or anyone else is gonna lay a hand on her." I fumed, snarling, the threat directed to my girlfriend sparking off a burst of anger.

And before either soldier could register, in a heartbeat, I was running straight for the lead soldier, anger triggering my enhanced abilities, making the sprint toward him a blur.

Stunned, it gave eM the additional time she needed to make her run towards the second soldier, while I hammered the lead soldier across the bridge of his nose with the butt of my katana's hilt, then followed up with two more blows to the side of the face. He dropped his plasma rifle as I took hold of his head, bashing it painfully into the base of a nearby console, before knocking him down to the ground.

Yet the soldier being a lot stronger than my slender feminine form, rolled backwards, defiantly, and sprung back to his feet.

“That’s enough, Kay Blade. You are out of options, and you have no place to run. Either you do as I say, and give me what I’m after, or you die along with your slicer-girlfriend or whatever she fucking is."

“Oh...” I said, spitting a mouthful of blood, that a result from the earlier blast near the fire escape that had violently thrown me back. “And like I said before, there's no point surrendering if ultimately I'm gonna die anyway."

The soldier tightened his grip on a knife he had managed to retrieve, stepped forward, but hesitated. He looked up to see me spinning my katana, readying a strike at him.

“Whatever you are doing, stop immediately, or you die right now!” he ordered, futilely. We both knew all too well that he was powerless to stop me.

I smiled a bloody grin, while the soldier backed cautiously away, knife held ready. Yet I didn't strike with my katana— not immediately. Instead I executed a powerful roundhouse kick, the kick connecting perfectly, knocking him down once more. Then without further ado, I released my katana, and from on top, lunged the blade straight through his heart.

I turned and saw eM. She had pinned the other soldier she was fighting on the wall after she had rushed at him in a mad blitz. He too had dropped his weapon. The man managed to land three good punches before eM gained control, grabbing him by his vest and throwing him aside.

He was helpless as all eM had to do was stab him. The knife was in her hand but she just stood there, again not sure, again hesitating. And it all happened too quickly after that. The man reached out and grabbed her, pushing her into him, succeeding in stabbing her across the side of the hip area. Having anticipated what would happen, I had already lunged myself in the air, katana drawn, decapitating the man with a single strike, cleaving his head off cleanly.

Although I had stopped the soldier from finishing her off, I was too late, my actions to reach her in time proved to be in vain.

I quickly spun around to face eM. She staggered backwards, both her hands clutched close to the side of her hip. Leaping over to her in a single bound, I dropped my katana, catching her in my arms just as she was about to collapse onto the floor. Her face a pale white, her eyes wide open from shock, my worst nightmares had come to fruition— stabbed, eM had been wounded.

I held her in my arms, slowly lowering myself so that I could gently bring her down on the floor. She tried to speak as I lay her flat on her back, but couldn't.

"No! Oh my God no!" I bellowed frantically. Looking around us, I saw all the bodies scattered on the floor— slain.

"eM hang in there. It's just a stab wound, I'm gonna attend to it now." However a chill ran through my spine as she yelped the instant I placed a hand over the wounded area. It made me shudder as a freezing cold wind would wake someone. My blood ran cold and a bead of sweat dripped down my face.

"Fuck! Shit! No! eM, I'm going to slowly remove the top part of your armour which means I need to roll you over a little. Just bare with me okay." Frightened, eM simply shook her head in acknowledgement, her eyes wide open in shock.

She began to shiver, a natural reaction caused by the combination of her fear and the actual wound; I did what I needed to do, slowly moving her in the desired position, removing her upper body armour. The soldier had used a reinforced stiletto blade, probably made from Damascus steel. It was immediately evident, that had eM not been wearing a reinforced armoured suit, that the knife would have punctured several more internal wounds beyond that of the blade's entry point into her flesh, making closing the stab wound an almost impossible task. As a consequence, stab wounds from a stiletto generally resulted in mass bleeding, requiring prompt surgery— an option she clearly didn't have at the moment.

"It's not that big of an injury, fortunately the blade missed all vital organs, but it's bleeding. I can stop it, so please just stay calm." I said as I unclipped a small med kit attached over my belt.

"This is gonna sting or hurt a little, so here, bite on this with your teeth." I said, as I handed her a small rod which I also had retrieved from my med kit for her to bite on.

To nobody's surprise, eM's body twitched violently, spasmodically kicking her legs while I applied the necessary aid to stop the bleeding. Her struggle was fearful and agonising at the same time. Emotionally it hurt me enormously, having to watch my sweet love's pained facial expression as she bit ever so hard on the rod. To her credit, she valiantly held the pain I was forced to inflict on her in, while I successfully stopped the bleeding.

"There you go, brand new second hand." I said sarcastically, trying to cheer her up. However it was more than obvious that she wasn't going to get far without being carried, and doing that would make an escape impossible, as now I could hear more soldiers on their way up.

"Honey what's wrong?" She asked, seeing clearly that I was freaking out. I sat their helpless not knowing what to do and too scared to even think.

"I don't know what to do," I replied in a way that matched her own frantic voice.

“I can't move and more soldiers are coming. You need to go without me Kay.”

“No, I can't leave you here.”

"Be rational Kay, if you stay with me, you're going to get captured. You can still escape and save yourself. You are one of the best agents that Arjian has, the Resistance needs you. Go now Kay, leave me." She mumbled incoherently through her hands and choked on her sobs.

"No I can't. You mean more to me than any damn Resistance!" A solitary tear trickled down my cheek.

"I know, but it is pointless for you to get captured now and face a definite execution when you can still do much more. This is how it is meant to be Kay— Kixi. Perhaps one day we'll be reunited again in the afterlife." She continued unconvincingly as her sobs became gut-wrenching that tore through her chest.

However valid her point was, I simply wouldn't accept it, shaking my head. My love for her— our bond was too strong. I retrieved my comms device and sent out a decoded distress signal to Ālrai, who I assumed would still be flying around in the vicinity of Argon District. As I destroyed the comms device, the harsh reality that, assuming the signal reached him, that only a rescue effort, no matter how impossible the odds against us were, would be my only hope— our only hope out of this mess.

"My fate eM is tied to yours. We are in this together, bound together for eternity. If we die, we're going down together as one." I smiled at her as she smiled back, weakly. Tears escaped my eyes as I remained on my knees, lifting eM up slightly so that I could tightly hold her weak form in my arms.

I could hear her heart beating faster than it ever had. She was scared, very scared as I slowly brushed a hand through her hair. "It's okay eM, it's gonna be okay." I whispered in her ear. "I'm with you. I'll always be with you— until the end of our days, until the end of time."

Shivering just a little, her heartbeats began to slow, no longer racing, returning back to normal. Her lips were cold as I put the fingers of my free hand gently on them, touching them softly. She looked at me in despair, that for the first time in my life I felt a sense of helplessness. It made my heart choke with tears of losing something I've always wanted and fought for.

Taking my hand off of her lips, I took hold of one her hands, and held it tightly. "eM—Mako Jhasmin, you truly mean the universe to me. You rock my world and I love you, forever." Wiping the tears off of her face, I leaned and kissed her slowly as I finished my words, both our eyes burnt with passion with it possibly being our very last.

"I love you too Kixi," she spoke very softly using only my real name and her breath. She smiled, and even if brief, finally she was relaxed. She had asked me to abandon her, but deep down she was content of my brave decision to stay with her. Love wasn't something that could be taught. It could be observed but unless it could be felt, one could never truly know. When eventually it would hit, one knew that it was there. In our darkest hour, both Mako Jhasmin and I knew we had it. This was true love at its finest.

A tremendous explosion drowned out the muffled sounds of our breaths. It blew parts of the wall near the fire escape door clean across the room, sending metal fragments flying in all directions. Several of them struck a nearby terminal, sending fragments of it flying to the floor. In the wake of the minor cataclysm, a squad of armed and ready soldiers entered through the blown portal.

An instant later, eM and I were surrounded by at least a dozen soldiers, all of whom had their blaster rifles trained on us.

"Freeze don't move. Both of you, hands in the air now!" I gently lowered eM to the floor, laying her down as comfortable as I could, and then complied to the soldier's demands without hesitation.

Just as several of the soldiers bent to inspect the immobile bodies of their fallen comrades, the two soldiers in the centre moved over to the side, allowing for an opening.

And then there she stood. Cerberus.

Tall and slender, fear followed through her footsteps. The cloud of evil which clung tight about this particular women, was intense enough to cause hardened soldiers to back away, menacing enough to set them muttering nervously among themselves.

With eM laid on the floor, and I being down on my knees, Cerberus, appeared like the tower walls of a huge skyscraper. Director and head of Skysec, Skycom's security forces, and a very powerful business woman and warrior, she answered only to the supreme ruler of the government, President Atul Drex, and to the actual CEO of Skycom Corporation himself, Gabriel Skyhawk. Standing there glaring directly at me, she tapped the end of her baton across her free hand. Despite the white shiny colour of her short length bobbed hair, she wasn't that old. The Director, as she was also known as, was in her mid 40s, an age considered quite young in the 31st century where the average lifespan was around 120 years. To all intents and purposes, the gleaming gloss of white in her hair was all cosmetics.

“Kay Blade, finally I get the pleasure to meet you in person. It's been a long time in the reckoning." Cerberus then moved in closer, while continuing to tap her baton over her free hand, her lip curling in disgust. "Now you will answer to me and account for all your countless crimes against our corporation, the government, and the citizens of this entire system.”

“You can torture me all you want. I won’t break.” I defiantly retorted.

However Cerberus' malicious smile never wavered. “I can see your vitality will never waver.” She said thrusting up a finger, her fingers then plucked at the air like a spider testing its webs. “I know I won’t break you physically, but before I have you executed, I will break you mentally. Even if it may not yield us any information, I most certainly like to practice.”

“I’m an elite warrior, I can handle anything you throw at me.”

“Yes, but I bet you can't handle hopelessness. Look around. You can't escape and will be tortured without function. The Drex government, thanks to this corporation grows stronger by the day. Your Resistance will never have a moment to breathe nor gain its footing against our ultimate war machine. This uniform is just a skin we wear, you see. A shell. It’s not just about law and order. It’s about total control. We will always come back for it. No matter how hard scum like you work to beat us back, we are an infection inside this star system's bones, as well as countless others. And we will always surge forth when you least expect it.”

“You’re wrong,” I spat, gritting my teeth. “This system like the many others you speak of, is home to good people. There’s more of us than there are of you."

“It’s not about numbers or percentages. It’s about faith. The few of us have infinitely more faith than the many of you.”

“I have faith in the Arjan Resistance and the many allies that we will acquire.”

Cerberus chuckled. “And that faith will be tested.”

“Your face will be tested when I kick in your teeth and kill you."

"There it is,” said Cerberus, snapping her fingers so hard that it sounded like a bird’s neck breaking. “A vital spike of anger and hate. Born of the hopelessness I’ve just planted in you. A terrible little seed. I can’t wait for it to grow its wretched tree and bear its ugly fruit. You Kay Blade will never get your chance to kill me, and once I'm done with ridding your filth from existence, you, like your insignificant Resistance will be forgotten— I won't be."

Cerberus' eyes were filled with nothing but hatred and murder as she spoke— her intention clear. She would be giving absolutely no mercy to neither eM nor myself.

 

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