The Anvil struggles groggily to her feet. The room is silent. “What did I miss?” she says.
Lady Chao and Granny Chun are still kissing.
“Somebody want to fill me in on this development?” says the Anvil. Violet runs over to her and grabs her leg protectively. Sarain’s EMPG is at the Anvil’s head again. “No fancy moves,” says the oversized mercenary.
Chao and Chun separate. Chao blushes and steps back, realising the entire throne room is watching. “Of course, it’s good to see you, too,” says Chun with a wink.
Chao straightens her sleeves. “I knew you were at the District 7 tower,” she says. “We’ve been keeping tabs on you and Bester’s daughter since you arrived a few weeks ago.”
Chun smiles. “Of course, you didn’t drop in for a visit?”
Chao’s demeanour is fashioned in stone. “I’ve been very busy.” She steps back to the throne and sits. “Place the armature, the midget and the girl in separate holding cells. I will interrogate Chun.” A number of wry smiles around the room immediately disappear under Chao’s sullen stare.
Jayle winks at Johnston and whispers “I’m sure that will be a long discussion,” emphasising ‘long’.
Big Jimmy crosses his arms. “I’m not a midget,” he says. “I’m shorter than average.”
The powered manacles on the Anvil’s hands and feet match her glowing neck brace. The gentle hum of control atrophiers are a constant reminder that while held here she is unable to activate her strength, weapons or regenerative capabilities. It doesn’t prevent her assessing the cell’s capabilities and weak points, however. After a few minutes she gives up: it’s obvious she’s stuck here with no way out.
The cell is small—each wall five feet long and eight feet tall—with a steel bench and toilet on one side. The door across from the bench is a seamless part of the wall, with the exception of a tiny transmetal window at head height. The cell is completely sound proof.
The Anvil thinks about her predicament. She has a burning need to get Violet to safety. But how? She is frustrated not only with her inability to carry out the task, but with the infuriating lack of memories to go with it. Aside from the few visions she had earlier, no fresh recollections about her daughter have come forth. She’s still not sure how she feels about the child.
Was Angelique Bester a doting mother? Or was she just married to Bester for the money? No matter how much she tries, the memories remain locked away like diamonds in a security vault. Locked away, much like the Anvil is now.
Big Jimmy paces left and right in his spartan cell, muttering to himself. “Never should have agreed to take them out in the Clarissa,” he says. “Knew all that money was too good to be true.”
Every once in a while he feels for his magnum, but it’s not resting on his hip where it usually is. “This will look nice on my wall,” he says, mimicking Jayle’s higher pitch. “When I get out of here I’ll show you where it’ll fit nice, sister.”
Violet sits on her bench, nursing her teddy and sucking her thumb. She’s not sure why she’s here, or where the Anvil and Granny Chun have gone, but she’s sure they will return for her soon. She lays down and goes to sleep.
Olsin checks the tiny cell window to see the little girl asleep on the bench. She shakes her head. “I don’t get how that kid is so calm,” she says, glancing at Hanx, the other guard. “If I was that young, I’d be freaking out right now.” Olsen runs her fingers along a long facial scar, then through her blonde tresses, and rebalances her carbine in her other hand.
Hanx, a tall wiry fellow with a shaved head and silver eyes, leans against the wall, smoking an e-cig. “Forget it,” he says. “That’s not your problem. No way either of them is getting out of here. Just relax.” He inhales the e-cig, exhales a plume of nothingness. “Be thankful you weren’t on the fireteam that got funked going after these guys.”
The rooms of Chao’s secure quarters are huge, lavishly adorned in a mishmash of Chinese, Japanese and Korean stylings, taking up an entire level of the building. There are no windows—peaceful holographic visuals from a forest with Japan’s Mount Fuji in the background are projected just above the surface of the surrounding walls.
“Of course, I have to ask,” says Chun, cradling a cup of shoujiu in one hand as she reclines in a hovering portachair. “What do you intend to do with the Anvil and Violet? Oh, and Jimmy, of course?”
Chao downs her cup and places it on a hovering tray. It fills, as if by magic, via a very expensive subluminal nutriment processor, invisible to the naked eye. “You’re not really in a position to ask, Chun.” Chao drinks from her refilled cup. “But if you must know, I intend to negotiate with Bester regarding the girl.”
“Of course. The others?”
“The armature can be rebirthed. It’s an expensive piece of hardware that shouldn’t go to waste. As to the little fellow, he can join my organisation or a death match. I don’t really care one way or the other.”
“Of course, very generous of you.”
There is a long and uncomfortable silence that follows. Chao sits in another portachair opposite Chun, crossing her legs and fingering her cup aimlessly. Chun keeps her eyes on her captor.
“Why did you leave?” Chao’s voice has softened, almost a whisper.
Chun leans forward, smiling whistfully. Her face is a mass of lines and memories, each crease a dedication of years. “Of course, you know why, Chao. You were focussed on your business interests. I was focussed on myself.”
“So, you became a nanny to the stars.”
“Of course, as good a job as any. Believe you me, being a nanny for hire for overbearingly pompous rich people can be pretty stressful.”
Another pregnant pause. “We could have had children.”
Chun sighs. “I don’t believe that it would be ideal to raise children in this…environment.”
Chao stands, all business again. She places her cup on the hovering tray. “And I suppose dragging a child through the waveruins and out to sea was ideal.”
Chao rolls her eyes. “Lady Chao, I appreciate the drink, but I think that perhaps our business is at an end.”
Chao scowls. “I agree.”
Four armoured guards stride into the room and take position around Chun’s portachair. “Of course,” she says. “You always were very efficient.”
Shi-Cho flexes his new fingers. He can feel the power cascading through his limbs and body. He still looks human, but the fiery plasma and enhanced cyberaugs below the surface make him much more.
“The prototype M-series armature,” says a miniature holographic Bester, projected from the console of Shi-Cho’s interceptor. “Easy to acquire since I own the company. I won’t bore you with the specs. No doubt you’re absorbing them now.”
Shi-Cho’s eyes glow momentarily as the inlink feeds data directly to his synapses. “Now this is more like it,” he says.
“Good dog,” says Bester. “Now go and get my Violet back.”
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.