Bloggies, I have to apologize. No fresh Saoirse story tonight, the next instalment will have to wait for next week. I’m posting something I wrote some time back (2014 if I’m not mistaken). Iain definitely still heard this one.
It is still first draft. I’ll turn my focus to it at some point.
Vanya the Terrib
Vanya the Terrib locked her front door behind herself. She sank the small electronic key into her lightweight white leather handbag and descended the stairwell. Down and down and down. Nine stories of stairwell, from the small apartment she occupied – lightly – to the minimalist, lamp-lit gardens and the road. Where the bus was waiting. She climbed the single step and listened for the barely audible “blib” with which the bus registered her identichip and connected to her account. She found herself a spot to stand and held onto the handrail as the bus slid into soundless motion on its bearing-chains. And she watched the city slide by, its lights swimming in the liquid gloss of the night.
Another workday. Or work night, depending how you wanted to see it. She checked the contents of her handbag mentally. It wasn’t a good idea to open it in public. In any case it didn’t contain much; her apartment key, her identichip, a bit of lip gloss. And her ideas booklet and stylus. It was the latter that was the riskiest item.
The bus slowed and slid to a noiseless halt in front of the great building of black glass. Vanya stepped off and took note of the second tiny “blip” with which the bus fare was calculated completely and withdrawn from her account. And she headed towards the building of glass and moved through the sliding door as quietly as the bus that left behind her .
Her boss had called her in for a new assignment. She was working on two, currently; but you never resisted when more work was offered, as the Service could replace you at the drop of a hat. She stepped into the glass elevator, touched the correct image and waited. And stepped off it again as it arrived at its destination, three hundred stories above ground level. And walked through the deep plush carpet, and touch-opened the door to the office of her boss.
Brendan Connor rose from his spot behind his desk to greet Vanya. He was only one rank below the top; working for him was supposedly an honour. Despite his youth his achievements in the Service were remarkable. He had received the Lancer Medal twice in the last two years, and the Senning Prize once, at a time when he was seventeen. By now in his mid-twenties, it was practically certain that he’d be succeeding the General-in-Chief of the organization when the old man retired.
“Miss Terrib,” he greeted her. Vanya had to smile. Brendan Connor was a very formal person. And it also reminded her that he knew less about her than he thought; which was great. But she wasn’t even going to follow this train of thought, as the hypno-enhancers in this building were always running on full tilt, to facilitate reading of thoughts to this not-fully-talented young man.
The fact was, he was no mutant. He was just an ordinary human throwback, albeit with a brilliant mind. And to survive in the world of 2347, you had to be at least a mutant in two separate capacities. Ordinary humans had a very tough time.
He knew it, of course. It didn’t make him happy. She had read off his mind, on several occasions, the desire to father offspring that carried at least a number of mutations – but he was antisocial; while brilliant at his job, he’d never be able to persuade any lady – much less a mutant – to carry any offspring for him.
She glanced out of the window-walls of his luxurious office, at the untainted night sky.
“Miss Terrib,” said Connor. “You are currently working on two assignments. I have removed them both out of your portfolio.”
What! She stared at him, electrified. With what had she deserved that?
“Not due to any inefficiency on your part,” he assured her with a smile. The superior smile that came with being the Chosen One. “You can be at ease. I have delegated your two assignments to Janie Marioid and Nexus Beckham.”
She refrained from asking why; merely listened to him, her violet eyes intent.
“The nature of tonight’s assignment allows no distraction,” explained Connor. He handed her a chip.
Vanya connected the chip into her ideas booklet. The small screen lit up, and several warning screens and code slots popped up. Vanya patiently applied her signature with her stylus, adding a couple of extra security loops to prove that she was authorized. And the first instruction appeared on her booklet.
A name. Michayl Ran. That was all.
She raised her large eyes to Connor once more, not asking.
“It’s all we have on the criminal,” he said. “His name.”
2. Michayl Ran
If you worked for the Service, you worked odd hours. Vanya had had her required daily four hours of sleep just before going in to see Connor; which meant that now, at 22h, she was as most others were at eight in the morning.
Going back to the apartment was not appealing. One name. They had given her one single name. There had to be hundreds of Michayl Rans. She didn’t even have an indication whether the man she was looking for, was alive today.
It was a maddening assignment. She could presume that her orders were to find the man; or possibly, find out about him. What was he wanted for? Was he a criminal, or a key enemy? Where could she start finding out more?
She had reflexively scanned her superior’s thoughts for any information he was not disclosing. Once again the man had been too slow for her; she had received quite an insight into his mind before he’d drawn the shutters. It was of course rude to the point of a civil offence to pry into another’s thoughts. But pure humans, the kind without any genetic modification, were generally easy to dodge on this. Even the sharp first-in-line of Sanity Inc, the secret service organization that hid behind the image of an asylum.
And that fast scan of her superior’s mind had revealed nothing extra. They had not briefed him. They had only told him the name, instructed him to give it to his most talented agent, and impressed the importance of the mission on him.
It had been an important insight. He was not hostile at present. He had accepted that he was the top candidate to follow in the role of the General-in-chief. He had stopped seeing every last underling as competition – for now. This was a relief; it meant that he wasn’t about to sabotage her.
But it brought her no closer to any answers. Vanya checked into an all-night café and bought herself an espresso and a ring pasty. She pored over the name that was by now deleted from her ideas booklet and engraved in her mind. Michayl Ran.
There was commotion outside the glass of the café. Vanya looked up with mild interest, chewing on her ring pasty. There were cops in blue fluorescent uniforms, arguing loudly with somebody. And then they entered the café.
“V. Nascale, Third Class Citizen!”
Vanya stared at them in surprise, miming the perfect reaction of an uninvolved onlooker. She deliberately blanked her mind, then pulled a shield across, of her alternative persona, Violet Garret.
She’d been too slow. One of the policemen walked straight up to her, holding out hand links. Vanya’s violet eyes stared at him in innocent shock; but the shock on her insides was real. Here was a master mage. The Force only employed those for first-degree criminals.
Her thoughts in turmoil, she compliantly held out her wrists to be chained with the thin silver wire, and her hands taped with the tiny receptor electrodes. The café lady gaped at her in shock as she downed her espresso and allowed the police to lead her away, out of the glass doors to their small vehicle.
Vanya allowed herself to be bullied into the tiny four-seater. The car folded its pods in under its belly and took off in a swarm with the other four police cars; the cop who had followed her into the cabin, held the remote to her hand-links high, where she could see it. She relaxed, accepting that all resistance was futile. And she forced herself not to wonder to herself what this was about, what she was being arrested for, and what lay ahead. A mage could read you like a white screen; and the police officer under whose control she was, was such a man. Quad or quint mutant, at least.
The small vehicle in which she was caught with this dangerous officer of the law, and the driver, veered away from the swarm with a signal and turned to the right, down the bright streaming light tunnels of the City. She iced. This could only mean that she was being taken to the maximum security unit. She watched in her overview mind how the rest of the swarm returned to the police headquarters to report in successful and wait for the next order. And then she tentatively touched on the mind of the driver.
The result was an instant rebuff.
“Oi could have you arrested for that!” snapped the driver, glancing briefly at her. She had to smile. She was already arrested.
The small vehicle followed the light patterns of the city for what seemed an eternity; then suddenly it veered upward, and tumbled away, through a release passage, into the black night.
Vanya scowled and stopped herself from wondering where they were going. She’d heard of a prison unit in some far reaches of the City; perhaps it was easier to take the shortcut through open space. But the vehicle steered well away from the City. The lights of the huge metropolis fell behind, and for the first time Vanya saw the City as it was, a floating structure of light, metal and glass in the fathomless blackness of space.
And the vehicle continued curving away. Away, even, from Luna, the City’s mother anchor planetoid.
She didn’t dare to ask. She didn’t want to know. From second to second her thoughts were being monitored, not only by the mage officer but by the feedback of the hand-links to the small apparatus the mage held in his hand. She didn’t dare to glance at him, either – behind the impermeable polyrene mask there had to be some person, some identity. She would have looked for his eyes, to determine the degree of mutancy, if she’d dared. But…
They fell through the night for a very long time. It was frightening, not having any real point of reference other than Sol – the large sun, nearly the size of a copper dc, a doublet coin. No up or down; left, right were interchangeable.
She knew beyond doubt by now that they were taking her off-site. She had heard rumours of high-security prisons and work camps as far as Luna and even Mars; and she had heard whispered insinuations of more, of interstellar prisons. Why – no, she should not even wonder. It was too dangerous.
And then the car curved towards a blue-green sphere, with something like haze surrounding it.
Vanya had been keeping so still that she didn’t have any more rigid to go to. But her back stiffened significantly when she realized that they were taking her to Earth.
Surely, whatever they thought she had done couldn’t possibly be that vile? She had heard, once, of a criminal who was so corrupt that he was condemned to Earth. For life – which wasn’t expected to last long beyond that.
And for the first time something strange reared up in her. She wanted to live! At least she wanted to know what her crime was! She cleared her throat to protest, and instantly the electric shock from the hand-links zinged through her, derailing her fine-tuned senses.
“You stay quiet,” growled the huge police officer next to her. “Speak when spoken to. I didn’t need to say it.”
Vanya watched the blue planet approach. The whole thing didn’t make sense to her. She could see craters and deserts where the radioactivity had rampaged on; but she could also see amazing green stretches, and wondered what creatures might live in those green hells. And then the car was crashing down towards the ground, faster than comfort. Primal fear gripped Vanya and she squeezed her eyes shut. The police wouldn’t send their own officers to their deaths, particularly not a mind mage of the first degree.
The horrible sensation of falling stopped. Vanya opened her eyes, hyperventilating. They had come to a halt in front of a very strange structure in the sunlight. A squat, four-story building made of what looked like square rocks. It did have glass, but sparingly, as windows only. She wondered why.
The hatch opened and the huge policeman bullied her out of the cabin, and led her rather roughly, her arm in his iron grip, towards the entrance of that building. He pushed her in through the door and man-handled her towards what looked like an elevator – but a strange one, made of metal. The thing had no doors. Until they were inside, when the doors suddenly appeared out of its sides and closed, squealing. Metal doors. You couldn’t see where you were going.
The police mage punched something into the small touch-panel and the rickety thing ascended. Not smoothly. It felt as though it were going to fall apart any moment. It sounded the same. Vanya breathed cautiously; the air here was somehow thick and heavy. She wondered how much atomic heavy metal she was inhaling and how long she could breathe like this before she died from it.
Earth. Planet from distant nightmares. Here she was; she couldn’t believe it.
The horrible elevator arrived on the fourth floor. The doors squealed open. Vanya was pushed across an expanse of raw cement, and towards a metal door. The officer grabbed the handle and pushed it. And the door swung open.
The police mage gave Vanya a rough shove into the room and released her. He placed the remote control onto the large executive desk and nodded briefly at the person behind that desk, and left the room, closing the door behind himself. Vanya stared after him in surprise; and then she looked at the man in front of her.
This certainly gave a new dimension to the concept of under cover work! A thousand questions. And a very dark suspicion. Had her boss found a neat way to get rid of the only mutant who ever questioned his authority?
The grey-haired man smiled, picked up the remote and glanced at it, and sank it into his pocket. He got up from his executive chair – an old, weird-looking chair, but nevertheless executive – stood towering. An impressive, intimidating height. And looked down at Vanya, and extended a hand.
“I’m Mick,” he introduced himself. “Michayl Ran.”
… and that’s enough for tonight, otherwise you’ll get hyper. 😀