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“Found her.” Jens looked up from behind the monitor, a massive grin on his face.

“Who?” Tay asked as she walked into the garage, Gren trailing along behind her.

“The surveillance tech.”

“We’ve been busy while you were at the pub,” Gren said as she reclaimed her perch on the bench.

“Who?” Tay spoke around a yawn and pulled a chair over.

“The person in charge of the transit cameras,” Jens said a little crestfallen at Tay’s muted reaction. “They have this office they call the pod where all the cameras and the live feeds from across the metro network get piped through. I was searching for a way in, so I reached out to some of my friends, and they put me in contact with a tech called Agata.”

“You’ve spoken to one of the train people?” Tay asked.

“Not in person, but through a message board. She’s paranoid, not that I blame her. From what I can tell I don’t think she’s a radical, but she’s also not a party member. Either way, we need to find her because right now she’s scared for her life. She was on duty when it happened and watched the whole thing, but when she tried to raise the alarm, the militia shut her down. Get this though, the cameras were supposed to have been off that morning, but the night shift didn’t hand her the order. So, when it happened the cameras were running, and she just let them roll.”

“That’s a hell of a risk.”

“One she felt she had to take. Not many people would have been brave enough to put their necks on the line like that.”

“You sound impressed?” Tay said.

“I am. She made a quick decision, but she knew that as soon as she did the militia would be on her. Part way through her shift she just got up and left, took the footage with her, and just kept moving. She hasn’t been home and has been off the grid since yesterday. I’ve asked her to work with the collective, but she’s nervous. Thinks it will put a target on her back. She already has one though, but I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. A part of her still believes that if she hands the footage over to the government, that they’ll go easy on her.”

“It won’t go like that, she has to realise that, right?” Tay said. “If the militia gets hold of her, they won’t be gentle. They’ll take the footage, destroy it, and then kill her for having seen it.”

“So what, she’s going to die anyway, so she may as well hand it over?” Gren said.

“What other option does she have?” Tay gave them both a chance to answer. “We can help her. Hide her in the towers, maybe get her a new identity. Can you get hold of her again?”

“I can try, but I think we need to talk to her directly,” Jens said.

“Great idea, where is she?”

“Like I said, she’s on the move.” Jens pulled up a map on his monitor and pointed at an intersection of lines. Tay dragged her chair around to look at it but couldn’t decipher the squiggles.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

“It’s a node map,” Gren said slipping from the bench and coming to stand between Tay and her brother. “It only works like a real map because this node is probably to the east of this one. They have a fifty to a hundred-metre range; the green ones are wired to each other, and the rest are independent. Some overlap, but we only know that from users that are active in both nodes.” Gren took the mouse from Jens and dragged the map over. She clicked on a node icon and a text box popped up. “This one’s on Occupation Road, and this one looks close, but it’s on Norfolk. It’s a popular route, so the downtime for users is limited. It’s better to think of the map more from a time perspective than spatial.”

“I have no idea what that means,” Tay said. “Just tell me where she is.”

“She’s on a bike,” Jens said, “but she’s following a node trail. She’s scared and doesn’t want to be out of contact with her friends, so she’s jumping from node to node, taking the shortest route. When she gets there, she sets up and starts talking. When we created the node structure, we coded anonymity into the system. A message might travel via a dozen nodes and a hundred carriers, but it won’t store any information about the journey. However, I can interrogate a node directly and see what devices are active in the area. Anyone else tries it and the nodes self-destruct. Don’t tell anyone that by the way, it’s a secret.”

“Jens,” Tay said.

“I can see when she pops up and predict where she’s likely to go next.”

“Okay then.” Tay stood up and clapped her hands. “What are we waiting for?”

“What?” Jens said, tensing up. “You want me to go with you?”

“Go outside? Yes, Jens.” Tay pointed at the garage door. “You’ve spoken to her, so let’s go and find her. We can bring her back here and stash her in one of the towers.”

“I’ve got things to do,” Jens said, sinking into his chair and focusing on his monitor.

“I’ll go,” Gren said. “Jens, send me the locations and Tay and I will scout them.”

“Gren,” Tay said, “this could be dangerous. This Agata is right to be scared, I mean the militia must be hunting all over for her.”

“But they don’t know where she is.” Gren ran past Tay and into the next garage, leaving Jens alone with Tay.

“Are you okay with this?” Tay asked. “Sending your little sister out there?”

“Like Gren said, no one else knows where she is, and Gren knows what to look for.”

“What does she look like then?”

“A woman.” Jens shrugged. “A bit older, I think. Techy, her profile says she likes plants.”

Tay took a moment to look at the smartest person she knew. She had no right to be disappointed, he was doing his best, but she still expected a little more. “What does someone that likes plants look like?”

“I don’t know, but Gren will know who she is.”

“Has Gren met her?”

“No,” Jens said. “But she’ll be obvious.”

“I’m ready,” Gren said as she poked her head into the room.

“This is going to be a pain,” Tay sighed. “Come on then, let’s go.”

“Wait.” Jens opened a draw and pulled out a petty cash tin. He popped the top and counted out some money before handing it over to Tay. Gren tried to intercept the transaction, but Jens pushed her hand away. “Get a cab, it’s quicker than a bus.”

“Thanks, dad.” Tay took the money and stuffed it into her jeans pocket.

Gren was shrugging into a red backpack with a yellow tassel dangling from the zip.

“Are you bringing your homework?” Tay asked.

“Supplies. It’s quicker to catch a cab from the North Gate,” Gren said, before ducking under the garage door. Tay hurried to keep up with her, but Gren was darting past people and jogging in the gaps.

“Gren, hold up.”

“Tay, we have to get to her before they do,” Gren said, pointing to the ramp leading up to the street. “We should be able to catch her if we hurry.”

“Has it occurred to you that we might be walking into a trap?”

“Tay, I am an expert in not getting seen. We’ll scout the area before going in, and then be extra careful. Trust me, you’ve got nothing to worry about with me around.”

Gren flagged down a tuk-tuk and gave the driver directions. He baulked at the long journey, but Gren held her hand out and Tay handed over the money. The driver nodded glumly as he waved for them to climb into the open cab behind him. The engine whined, and they clung to the straps as the driver pulled out into the traffic.

“How’s the nose?” Gren asked as they narrowly missed a small van.

“It only hurts when I breathe,” Tay answered as they were surrounded by a swarm of vehicles. Traffic was heavy and would only get worse as they tracked across the sector.

“You should go to the clinic. They don’t charge much, didn’t when I took dad there.”

Tay looked over. It was easy to forget that Gren was still a kid.

“I haven’t seen him around for a while?”

“He’s vanished again, off drinking somewhere.”

Gren didn’t sound like she missed him being away. With him gone, it was just her and her brother.

“I don’t like being in the flat on my own,” Gren said, answering the unasked question. “I sleep in the garage most nights, but it’s okay. I prefer to be busy.”

“It won’t always be like this, Gren.”

“Is that what you tell yourself?”

“Fair point.”

“I didn’t mean it harshly,” Gren said. “I know you want to get away and go to Central.”

Tay sighed and sat back. “It’s not much of a dream though, is it? Same shit there probably, just nicer.”

“I’d be sad if you left.”

“Then I’ll take you with me, you and Jens.”

“I’d like that, but I know what Jens would say.” Gren smiled knowingly.

“That the fight is here?”

“He’s a bit obsessed, isn’t he?”

“Your brother is built for what he does.” Tay looked at the back of the driver, wondering just how much he could hear over the straining engine. “It’s like, did you ever watch the athletics on TV?”

“Not my thing, but I know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, your brother is the best at swimming, champion, setting unbreakable records but ask him to run or throw something and he just can’t do it. He’d trip over. The spear would end up in his foot.”

“He would.” Gren nodded. “Have you ever seen him run?”

“No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in the sunlight.”

“If you ever do, don’t laugh.” Gren wagged a finger at Tay. “You’ll want to, but you have to promise me you won’t.”

Tay put a hand over her heart. The tuk-tuk driver gave a blast of his horn.

“I’m envious of him,” Gren said.

“Why?”

“Because he knows what he wants to do, and he’s great at it. I haven’t got a clue what I want to do. I’m like you, just floating about.”

“You’re nothing like me,” Tay said and Gren was taken aback by her sharp tone. “You can do anything. You’re smart and switched on in a way that I can’t even get. Your brain operates on another level to mine.”

“You’re smart, Tay.”

Tay snorted. “I’m not. I wouldn’t remember my own name if it were any longer. I might have had more to it, but forgot.” Tay screwed her face up and pretended to think deeply. “Taygor? Tayara?”

“Not Taylor?”

“Oh yeah. That’s what I mean though, you can make that jump but to me, it’s lost in the noise. My head is like a swarm of bees buzzing. I go to bed, bees, wake up more bees.”

“That sounds terrible, Tay.”

“I’m used to it. One thing stops it, well two things I guess.”

“What’s that?”

“Water,” Tay said, touching the side of her head. “Doesn’t matter what sort, just has to be flowing. Rain or even in the shower, as soon as it hits me, they stop, and it’s so quiet, I don’t hear anything. Same by the river. I go there sometimes just to look at it. Something about it just relaxes me.”

“I didn’t know that. Where do you go? Can I come with you next time?”

“There’s a spot I like with willow trees growing right by the edge. The smell can get a bit ripe, but if you can get past that then it’s perfect.”

“What’s the second thing?” Gren asked after they had gone for a while without talking.

“That one’s a lie, just pretends to be a solution.”

“Oh,” Gren slipped the bag from her shoulder and set it on her lap. Tay watched her, waiting for her to say something, but Gren unzipped the bag and pulled out a gun.

“What the fuck?” Tay pushed it back in the bag, then thought better of it, taking it from Gren and hiding it by her side. The driver kept his eyes on the busy road.

“Gren?” Tay hissed.

“I thought we might need it.”

Tay looked down at the weapon. It was bright red with a dragon embossed on the barrel, its open maw forming the muzzle. Mounted atop the dragon’s back was a small hopper.

“What is this?” Tay asked, intrigued by the strange design.

“It’s a pellet gun,” Gren said and tapped the hopper. “The pellets go in here and this at the back,” Gren turned the gun so Tay could see the hilt, “is the power control.”

Gren thumbed a small button on the hilt, an indicator light turned red and a number four flashed up on a thumbnail-sized screen. She pressed a button on the left and the number changed to a three.

“Gren, this is really cool, but I don’t think it will be much use,” Tay said. She expected the kid to look disappointed, but Gren shook her head.

“It’s got a magnetic slide, so it’s super powerful. Five really hurts. I accidentally shot Kevin with a five and he cried for an hour.”

“Gren!”

“What? He got in the way. He’s lucky it wasn’t higher, ten can puncture the skin. Don’t use ten. I’ve been practising with it and I can shoot cans around corners.”

“Put it back in your bag, Gren.”

“No, you should have it,” Gren said and pushed the gun into Tay’s hands. “If things are getting dangerous, then you can use it to protect us.”

“If we need it, I’ll ask. Just put it away until then.” Tay was sure the only good it would do was to make the enemy laugh.

They held onto the straps as the driver turned into a side street. The wheel on Gren’s side lifted before slamming down as the driver straightened up. They picked up speed and raced down a quiet side street. A pub came up on the left and Gren got her phone out ready.

“Slow down, please,” Gren shouted. The driver eased off and glanced over his shoulder.

“You want me to stop?”

“No,” Gren held her phone out, pointing it at the pub, while the tuk-tuk slowed to a crawl.

“Are you getting out?” the driver twisted around to look at Tay. The left side wheel scraping against the curb.

“Eyes on the road!” Tay shouted. The driver scowled and turned back.

“Got it. You can speed up again!” Gren said.

The engine’s whine picked up as the tuk-tuk took off. The driver pushing for speeds he had only dreamt about before.

“Did you get it?” Tay asked as she held on and tried not to flinch as they narrowly missed a van going the other way.

“Yep,” she grinned over at Tay. “That’s one of my nodes. Installed it two months ago, and it’s still going strong.”

“You get everywhere,” Tay said. This wasn’t a part of the sector she ever remembered coming to. Well-kept townhouses mixed with apartment blocks and the odd little park glimpsed from the road.

“Update from Jen’s. He just spoke to her. She’s at the fellowship cafe on Gibson Square?”

“Mate,” Tay shouted to the driver, “is Gibson Square far from here?”

“Three minutes. You want to go there now?” the driver said, looking over his shoulder, just when Tay would have wanted him paying attention to the busy road.

“Please.”

“Wish you’d make up your mind,” the driver grumbled.

“She might have gone by the time we arrive?” Gren said.

“It’s a place to start.”

“This is important to you, isn’t it?”

“It was too much, Gren. I’m fed up with people thinking they can do what they want, that we don’t matter.” Tay’s voice lowered to a whisper. “She mattered.”

Gren exercised some of the wisdom that people her age are seldom credited with and didn’t ask.


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