The Anvil stares blankly at Granny Chun—not much different from most of her male body’s expressions. “I think you better fill me in. From the beginning.”
Chun grins. “Of course. But we need to get out of here.” She points to the far side of the floor, about a hundred metres across the other side of the market. “I’ll fill you in on the way.” She starts walking, wending between broken stalls, darting into the dust and smoke. The Anvil glances back at Violet in her rear compartment. The little girl has drifted off to sleep with her thumb in her mouth. The Anvil smiles (still somewhat neutrally), and follows Chun into the haze.
“Your name is Angelique Bester,” says Chun as she moves, weapon raised and at the ready, swinging back and forth as she targets the surrounds. “Of course, you are the fourth wife of multi-billionaire Alfred Bester. Or at least, you were.”
The Anvil’s internal scanners have mapped the entire floor. There are no potential hazards or attackers anywhere. She lets Chun carry on her checks—she seems to be enjoying herself. “I assume my husband and I don’t get on.”
Chun’s laugh echoes throughout the level. “Of course, understatement of the year. You were married for six years. Not a bad run, all things considered. Violet is five. She was the best thing to come out of that union.”
The Anvil frowns. “And where do you come in?”
“Of course, I was your nanny.”
“A nanny with covert ops experience?”
“Of course, I had to start somewhere. Nannying is a pretty tough business you know.”
“So, why is my husband after me? And why am I now a man? Or a male armature, I should say.”
“Of course, your split with your husband was unamicable. He wanted Violet, you wanted Violet. He had the money. I suggested you gear me up and I’d hide with Violet in the waveruins, and that you go big with the augmentation. And here we are.”
The Anvil stops. “So, this is just a child custody issue?” she says, disbelievingly. “That doesn’t explain why I chose to become a man. Or why I needed to get the most powerful armature body around. Or the death squad we just fought.”
“Of course, I never said it was just a custody problem,” says Chun. “It’s never just about the obvious stuff.” She faces the Anvil and grins. “Best let your memory sort it all out. Of course, I don’t know everything, you know.”
The Anvil can feel some of the old memories surfacing, like spectres breaching a dense miasma. The constant arguments with Alfred. Violet crying as her mother and father fought. Discussions with Granny Chun in the rooftop garden. Discreet enquiries about rebirthing. There is still considerable fog, though—an impermeable mist that curls and twists and surrounds her whenever she tries to remember.
They reach a stairwell, twisting upwards to the higher living levels and down to the watery depths of the underbuilding. Dim glowglobes hang in the air at every flight. Vagrants in dirty blankets lay sleeping in groups up and down the stairs. The smell is raw and foul with body odour and offal.
“We go down,” says Chun.
* * *
The bubble transport lifts off from the raging waters, foam and surf cascading off its shining, silver hull. Shin-Cho nurses his injured arm and bruised jaw delicately, while rummaging for medical supplies in a nearby wall cabinet. As he reclines, a hologram appears on the console in front of him. A tall man, balding, with dark eyes and a permanent scowl.
“Mr. Bester,” says Shin-Cho. “I suppose you want a report.”
A dark eyebrow rises on the hologram’s gaunt face. “What happened?”
“It appears your wife has hired or bought a synthetic armature to protect your daughter. And as you suspected, the nanny had the little girl secreted away all this time. Your wife was not present, so I suspect she’s still in hiding.” Shin-Cho grimaces as he feels the ugly purple bruise extending up his jaw to his forehead. He pumps a halo-stim into his arm to dull the effects of the nagging concussion. “If I’d known about the armature I could have prepared my team better. It scanned as human until it fired up—we’re talking top-grade bioscreen dampener. Very expensive.” He pauses, dropping the used halo-stim to the floor. “My entire squad was wiped out. Twenty veterans. Killed by a synthetic and an old woman.”
“Maybe I should have invested in someone better.”
Shin-Cho’s brow creases. For a moment his eyes flash darkly. Then he’s all business again. “With the right intel we would have geared up appropriately. My team would still be intact.”
Bester’s hologram smiles. “Well, we can’t have you being ‘inappropriate’, can we? Let’s get you an upgrade.”
To be continued…
Missed earlier instalments? Click here.
What is ANVIL?
ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.
Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.